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Saturday, May 31, 2008

AMERICAN CONSERVATIVES' PARANOIA

Since the end of World War I, American conservatives have undergone some important changes in both belief and practice. Yet one recurring characteristic of those professing to be conservatives has been constant: Paranoia. When they have held governmental power, this has often led to abusive persecutional practices on their part. Many of these practices have made unnecessary victims of innocent people. I shall explain.

By its very nature, conservativism wishes to preserve law and order and all that which has been already established. It wishes to protect the population from outside harm and also from what it views as moral decay. It resists change for the sake of change, and it fights any challenge to the established order or hierarchy. So far so good, from the standpoint of preservation. But when conservatives have allowed fear and emotion rather than concrete analysis to shape their thinking and formulate their policy, time and again they have employed political persecution against those who don't see eye to eye with them. That is where they have repeatedly broken the boundary of acceptable practice.

Near the end of World War I, the Bolsheviks gained power in Russia and established their communist state, the Soviet Union. This sent chills up and down the spines of many American industrialists, manufacturers, and even some members of the press. Small time criminals and professed anarchists were rounded up and imprisoned or executed, some of them deservedly so, but some perhaps not. All it took was the label of "anarchist" or "Bolshevik" to turn public and judicial opinion against an individual and ruin his standing or career. American conservatives applied this labeling technique with great zeal.

Following World War II, communists gained control of China and the Soviet Union began its strict control of the smaller countries of eastern Europe. Worse yet, it began to export revolution and even developed its own atomic bomb, an event which shocked and terrified the entire U.S. In 1950, with Russia's backing, communist North Korea attacked capitalist South Korea and nearly overran the whole country before U.S. and United Nations forces pushed the North Koreans back. Before long, wild allegations and accusations of hidden communists in our government betraying secrets began to circulate and were spread with reckless abandon by conservatives. One notable conservative, Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), claimed to have a list of active communists and "fellow travelers" (those unwittingly or naively aiding communists) working within our State Department. Paranoia spread like wildfire as McCarthy and his fellow conservatives began making allegations of communists under every bed. The Republican Party began a campaign of trying to paint all Democratic opponents as being "soft on Communism" and therefoore a threat to our national security, using this charge as a tool to get elected. While there WERE a very small number of spies in our government at the time, most of those accused had been active much earlier, in the 1930s and 1940s, and by the 1950s were out of government. Many of those accused were innocent, and nearly all were blacklisted from jobs and suffered terrible economic losses because of wild and reckless allegations made by McCarthy and his conservative allies. When McCarthy next accused the U.S. Army of being full of communists, he was finally exposed for the demagogic fraud he truly was, and his and the conservatives' influence waned. But by then, their paranoia and persecution had wrought untold suffering.

Today, we are once again seeing much the same fearmongering and paranoia being exhibited by American conserevatives as in the past. Instead of anarchists or communists under every bed, they are now finding "terrorists" under every bed. Those publicly disagreeing with the conservative political stand now find themselves wiretapped or unable to board airplanes. Their patriotism is questioned. In extreme cases, some being suspected of having "terrorist ties" have even been yanked off of foreign streets and flown to foreign interrogation and/or torture centers without being charged officially. Some have even ended up prisoners in Guantanamo, and all have been unable to defend themselves. None have received a proper trial. This represents an outright repeal of habeas corpus rights which were first establ,ished in western law by England's King John all the way back in 1215! The victims of these excesses by the current conservative Bush administration have even included two wholly innocent foreign nationals. Once again, conservative paranoia has crossed an unacceptable line, and again, it is high time this paranoia be replaced immediately wuth reason and justice.

Next week: The Metamorphisis of American Conservativism

REMEMBER: JUNE 4-JULY 4, DO NOT BUY ANY CHINESE MADE PRODUCTS! (See my first blog).

Sunday, May 25, 2008

OUR BROKEN COUNTRY AND HOW WE CAN FIX IT! (II)

Our seemingly madcap, self-indulgent obsession with materialism has caused us to neglect many other important aspects of our society. In pursuit of wealth, we ignore current events and resort to excesses to procure that wealth. Businesspersons routinely cheat on taxes and many laborers steal from their companies. Our moral compasses appear to be broken. This is disturbingly evident even in the behavior of our churches and especially in some of their public postures. In the case of the Catholic Church, there have been a huge number of sexual abuse cases which have come to light. Worse yet, the church's bureaucracy for many years ignored these and tried to cover them up. There have also been numerous cases of sexual misconduct and even pedophilia among ministers in fundamentalist churches, and blatant profiteering engaged in by other churches. Still other churches have embarked on a course of near persecution of certain groups such as gays and those choosing abortion. Churches are broken when they engage in activities like this, and especially when they ally themselves with political parties or groups to forcibly impose their biases on the population at large. Much of this activity contradicts the teachings of Jesus, who taught that people should hate the sin and forgive the sinner. According to the Bible, God declares homosexuality to be an "abomination" but nowhere does He urge the persecution of or discrimination against its practitioners. Jesus said countless times to watch over and take care of the poor. Not once did He ever advocate war on behalf of His church, nor did He ever preach that more should be given to the wealthy or that the poor should be shunned and neglected. Yet many fundamentalist churches in the modern era have espoused war and have allied themselves with political movements blatantly favoring the wealthy while looking down on the poor as lazy and undeserving. This appears to be a harmful contradiction between scripture, values, and practice. Churches should provide moral guidance to their flocks, not political directives. They are at their best when dealing directly with their congregations, not becoming enmeshed in or tainted by political parties or movements. Church congregations must influence their leaders and remind them of this, or churches will become hopelessly compromised and failures as institutions.

Our public education system is broken today too. Roughly half of inner city blacks and barely over half of inner city Hispanics or other minorities finish high school. Across the board, reading, math, and science scores are down. Relative to other countries, we are slipping downward and this trend must STOP and REVERSE. Teachers must be given the legal authority to impose and administer discipline. And PARENTS must spend time with their children after school, helping them with and seeing that they do their homework, each and every night. This means not watching that particular TV movie, sitcom, or sports game on occasion. Helping our children grow in knowledge can be every bit as entertaining and far more beneficial than time wasted on mindless babble in front of the TV screen. This is absolutely vital.

With a record number of single-parent families today, many kids are not getting the TLC and parental input they desrve. Given today's economic hardships, it is not easy for parents to tend to all aspects of their child's development. Nonetheless, children need direct input and supervision from their parents on a daily basis, particularly regarding their education. Many parents are working two jobs and this makes it even tougher. But direct quality time with each child is an absolute necessity. Simply sticking kids in front of a TV screen for babysitting isn't good enough. Fortunately, most schools and churches offer invaluable programs for kids outside of school ranging from religious instruction to community aid to athletics. These activities also provide for needed socialization and should be pursued whenever possible. They can provide much-needed moral and educational background necessary for well rounded growth.

Yes, our country is broken in many areas. But our situation is not hopeless. I have outlined a number of problems and possible solutions these past two weeks. Undoubtedly, you can find many others. But the essential and universal element for success here is benevolent, other-directed ACTION on OUR part. We can no longer afford to pursue only self interest or self fulfilling activities. We must start to act for the public good; the more we go the extra mile for someone and something other than ourselves, the sooner we'll see things start to turn around and mend. And the better off we'll all eventually be. But it's up to each of us. What are you waiting for? Take a step, get a move on, and ACT! :)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

OUR BROKEN COUNTRY AND HOW WE CAN FIX IT!

Our country is seriously broken. Not irreparably, but seriously. Our government is broken (that should surprize nobody). Our churches are broken. Our schools are broken. Our media is broken. Our economy is broken. Our corporations and major institutions are broken. Our FAMILIES are broken. It seems that everywhere you look, you see things not performing as they should or as they once did. It is no wonder that a recent survey revealed a whopping 82% of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. It is, and that is a shameful indictment on the culture and times we live in. Yet we are not powerless; we can and should be able to right many of the wrongs we see. To do so, we must first examine the causes of our problems and then take action to correct them. We CAN do this, and we MUST!



The United States was once the unchallenged and unparalleled leader of the world. Our education, work ethic, standard of living, and products were the envy of the globe. Much of this sheen has dulled or disappeared in recent years. We can and must get it back.



How have we reached our present state of affairs? There are, in my view, a number of causes which have individually and collectively gotten us off track. First, we are awash in a pervasive materialism today. We have as a nation always strived for new and better products. But today, this striving has corrupted our values and permeated our national psyche. We MUST have the best clothing, cars, electronics, homes, furnishings---and we must have them NOW! Cheap and easy credit has fueled the fire of our desire. This compulsion to buy, buy, buy at all costs has led us as individuals into record levels of debt and personal bankruptcy. Worse than that, though, it has led our country into massive foreign debt. 25 years ago, we were the world's largest lender. Today, we are the world's biggest borrower, and those to whom we are indebted may not truly be our friends. China is using the huge amounts of cash we are giving them every year to build up its military. Saudi Arabia and the other OPEC states are siphoning off our money in an ever rising and unbelievable rate. Our debt is an ever-tightening noose around our neck, and it is lowering our standard of living. We are stealing from future generations and dooming them to a liftime of indebtedness, as they will be the ones eventually paying for our comforts and excesses of today. I don't know about you, but I don't want to end up being a rickshaw puller for wealthy Chinese tourists in my old age, nor do I want to be a servant to visiting Arab sheikhs! When severely shortsighted and misguided politicians give tax breaks to the wealthy and increase government expenditures through corporate welfare, this only adds to and accelerates the problem. And when politicians award multimillion dollar earmarks to businesses within their communities, that, too, compounds the problem. The root cause of this excessive materialism is plain and simple selfish GREED. For, unlike in years past, when we carefully planned for the future and thought of the big picture, today we look almost exclusively at the here and now and of our own personal wants. Sadly, at some lost point, we drifted off the road of common sense into the ditch of me first, and everybody and everything else second. This is a disastrous route to follow, and we have to change our behavior and mindset. Think about it: The next time you reach for that credit card to buy a luxury item you can't afford at the moment, put that card back in your purse or wallet. The next time you're tempted to buy a big-ass, gas guzzling SUV for the sake of status, buy a smaller, more practical and fuel efficient vehicle instead. You're effectively stealing from your kids and grandkids if you don't. And the simple fact remains: If you don't have the money to pay for something now, you don't need it that much, at least not right at that exact moment! AVOID UNNECESSARY DEBT! When we start to follow this practice religiously, and then DEMAND our politicians do so too, we'll start to climb out of our economic ditch and back onto the correct road.



This impulsive, reckless, and self-centered behavior referred to above doesn't stop with our spending practices. It is also evident in our current lack of civility in politics, interpersonal relations and even on our highways. We have become so impatient and rude we have lost the art of compromise, and no civilization can last long if it doesn't agree to work together to solve problems. Rather than try to work with politicians of the opposite party for the common good, we routinely try to discredit or character assassinate them.That is not free speech. Rather, it is a free-for-all we can ill afford.Think about this the next time you're tempted to forward a vicious or personal attack email about a political candidate. You know the type: So and so is really a Muslim, or so and so's endorser hates Catholics, therefore so and so must too, or if so and so disagrees with our foreign policy, so and so must be an appeaser. Absolute nonsense! The best and only way to convince others of flaws a particular officeseeker may have is with FACTS and ISSUE POSITIONS, not with innuendo and distortions and outright lies. (SIDEBAR: If you ever want to verify the truth or falsity of something, go to http://www.snopes.com/ and key in the claim or statement. You'll see in a hurry there's a ton of deceitful and untrue statements and allegations out there). We are so quick to shout down and condemn, to honk horns, cut across lanes, and run red lights. We never think of the harm we could be doing. We need to slow down and THINK before acting sometimes. Above all, we need to THINK BEYOND OURSELVES. The world does NOT revolve around any one of us, and we need to remember that always.

As we see so many broken institutions around us, our natural reaction may be to ask: How in the world did this ever come about? It's easy to understand when you think of it: Our media has been feeding us shallow, incomplete, and slanted information for years. We no longer get complete, factual analyses on our network news. Instead, we get limited, he-said-she-said arguments (even though many issues are more complex than a mere two-sided argument and may have three or more viable successful alternatives), abbreviated sound bytes, and PR masquerading as spin . Networks have decided for us that it is more interesting for the viewer to watch conflict rather than discussion. Repetition is king on cable news networks: They deliberately repeat stories over and over and deliver them in the shortest staccato fashion possible. There is usually little breadth or depth in the typical news story. When several commentators are gathered to discuss a topic, the presentation is usually done in a confrontational manner. You can always count on the moderator to step all over the other speakers, cut them short, and steer the course of the "discussion" a particular way. This is neither news nor discussion, and we are being shortchanged as a result. Then too, today's media is obsessed with entertainment and entertainment figures. You don't get news stories anymore. Now you get sensationalism and "segments" which are preceded and succeeded by "what's up next" previews and the inevitable run of commercials. If news talking heads would cut down on the cutesy silly talking banter among themselves and the "what's next" previews, far more time could be devoted to actual NEWS and we would be far better informed! And then, there's the steady parade of the misfit celebrity of the moment. Anna Nicole Smith, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Tom Cruise, Britney Spears---NONE of these crazies are newsworthy, but we get a constant diet of them on TV and in print. By depriving us of depth and breadth, the media is severely shortchanging us. No wonder we elect so many idiots to public office, and with disatrous consequences! We MUST demand better and less frivolous news coverage! Write or email the networks as I have done and let them know you want them to stop force feeding us conflict, sensationalism, and irrelevant garbage! Tell them to raise the bar instead of constantly appealing to the lowest common denominator! With the problems we face today, we need all the background and facts we can get to dig our way out of this mess!

END OF PART ONE. Sorry for the lengthiness. I'll try to be briefer next week.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

DON'T BUY CHINESE GOODS JUNE 4-JULY 4!!!

The Chinese, knowingly and intentionally, export inferior and sometimes dangerous toys and products to be sold here in America. They undercut our manufacturers by illegally pegging the value of their money lower than it should be and by using slave labor. These practices have sent millons of American jobs over to China and have created a massive trade imbalance. Last year, for example, for every $1 of our goods they bought from us, we bought nearly $7 worth of THEIR goods! And what are they doing with this huge influx of cash? Sure, some of it is going into low-paying jobs for Chinese workers, but the vast majority of it is going directly to the Chinese government, and they're using it to rapidly modernize and expand their MILITARY!

We love to blame our government for allowing this to go on, but the REAL fault is OURS---we keep buying these Chinese goods! 70% of us feel Chinese special trading privileges should be suspended until they start trading fairly, and the Chinese government just blows off all attempts by our government to try to straighten this out. People, we don't need the government to fix this problem: WE CAN DO IT OURSELVES!

From June 4-July 4, DO NOT BUY ANY CHINESE MADE PRODUCTS! Just look at the bottom of everything you buy from June 4-July 4: If says "MADE IN CHINA" or "MADE IN PRC"(THIS NOW INCLUDES HONG KONG), just choose another product or none at all. You'll be amazed at the number of Chinese-made products, and you'll be equally amazed at the number of them you can do WITHOUT! For instance, who needs Chinese plastic Easter eggs to celebrate Easter? Use REAL eggs and benefit some AMERICAN farmer! (Just an example). And who needs Chinese-made American flags for the 4th of July? Buy AMERICAN made ones, or imported ones made by countries who trade FAIRLY with us! The point is, don't wait for the government to act---assume control and DO IT YOURSELF!

If 20 million Americans stop buying at least $20 each in Chinese-made goods between June 4-July 4, that is a $1 BILLION trade imbalance resolved IN OUR FAVOR---FAST! The Chinese will definitely get the message when a full 8% of their American export sales vanishes altogether!
Yes, some American businesses will feel a temporary pinch from a 30 day rise in stockpiles of Chinese-made goods, but the Chinese will definitely get a clue that they've GOT to change their act!

Remember---DON'T BUY CHINESE-MADE GOODS FROM JUNE 4-JULY 4!!!

PASS THIS MESSAGE ON TO ALL YOU KNOW, and let's send the Chinese a clear message that they must change their trade practices and that their continued arrogance and lawlessness will NOT be worth it for them!