THE NEW CIVIL WAR

There are several new books out on Lincoln which purport to reveal the true man behind the mask. To adapt a line from Shakespeare: “They have come, however, not to praise Lincoln, but to bury him.” These right-wing authors have ascribed the worst possible motives to everything Lincoln said and did. It is a revision of our history that in the wildest imaginings of my youth I would never have thought possible. It is also one of the surest signs of our nation’s current, and dangerous, state of being, our new “civil war.”

Disparate groups like the Tea Party, the NRA, the Republican Party, corporations, the largely right-wing  media, fringe groups like those supporting Clive Bundy, the KKK (a virulent white supremacist group), and other anti-government  groups and individuals, have declared war on our historical way of life. It is a new civil war, funded by, among others, the far right-wing billionaire Koch brothers.  And like the first Civil War, it’s a fight for the future, and soul, of America.

Below is part of a letter I wrote last year in response to these calumnies. It unmasks the preposterous image of Lincoln put forth by the right, by revealing  through a single incident–Lincoln’s ministrations to  a dying Confederate soldier–how uniquely humane a president he really was, and how utterly fortunate we were as a country to have had him as our president.  It is literally inconceivable to imagine any Republican today—let alone a Rand Paul, John Boehner, Clive Bundy, or the Koch brothers—heart-feltly ministering to their sworn, deadly enemies, “With malice towards none, and with charity for all….”

“Lincoln had served in Congress with many later Confederate leaders; they had been on friendly terms before the war, and Lincoln never abandoned their friendship even during the war. Given his nature and sensibilities, Lincoln would have had a very different form of “Reconstruction” than that which was instituted after his death. You are quite right to quote from the Second Inaugural as pointing out the path of reconciliation he would surely have taken. To say “With malice towards none” with the deepest sincerity (as he did) can only be done if it has already been embraced in one’s soul.
“What makes Lincoln our greatest American (and not just our greatest president) is that he was also a deeply loving and profoundly reflective Christian, who wrestled openly and honestly with those aspects of his faith which he could not understand, but who sincerely and reverently lived out that which he could understand. His was a costly and prophetic faith, to be relied upon to inform one’s daily thoughts and actions in all the myriad trials, sufferings, temptations, and uncertainties which everyday Life presents. But it was especially during wartime, with the horrific suffering and innumerable deaths of so many soldiers, both Confederate and Union alike, along with the death of Lincoln’s much beloved youngest son, Tad,  that deepened Lincoln’s faith the most, as he took upon his shoulders  the inexpressible grief and anguish of both the North and the South.

“To say that Lincoln was crucified by the war is only to speak the truth.  His was no tepid, bland “Sunday morning faith” that superficially satisfies so many Christians.  His faith burned hotter, and purer, tempered as it was in the intense fires of a fratricidal civil war, of brother against brother. I cannot think of another world leader, alive or dead,  who endured what he endured—nor one his equal in intellect, faith, charity, and humility, which makes his demonization by the political right so profoundly disturbing.  Moreover, Lincoln, unlike his many current denouncers, was absolutely incorruptible. His Tea Party and Republican accusers, on the other hand, have a long and sordid history of accepting cash for votes, from the NRA, JP Morgan, GE, Exxon/Mobil, et. al. These corrupt politicians, like Faust, have struck a bargain with the devil, while Lincoln alone stuck to the high, costly road of sacrifice, faith, integrity, and charity.

“The following anecdote, which not surprisingly was left out of these books on Lincoln, unveils the authentic Lincoln, the deeply humane, caring, and giving human being that he really was. I read about this incident a decade ago in a library in graduate school and here retell it from memory–faithful to the facts, but told in my own words.

“Lincoln had spent a long day at an army hospital visiting and comforting the many Union wounded and dying. As day gradually turned into evening, an exhausted and emotionally depleted Lincoln departed the hospital, climbed wearily into the presidential carriage, and  began the slow return to the White House, where  a late evening’s work  still awaited him. A hospital orderly suddenly ran up to the presidential carriage and shouted out, “There’s a Confederate soldier who wants to speak with the president.”  Lincoln, although clearly exhausted, stepped down from the carriage and with weary steps re-entered the hospital.

“The Confederate soldier was a young man, who, upon seeing Lincoln in the flesh for the first time, remarked naïvely, ‘You don’t look at all like the ape pictures I saw in the South.’  The two of them talked for some time. Then the young man asked if Lincoln would deliver a letter and heirloom to his family. Lincoln promised him that he would. Lincoln then said that he had pressing business still awaiting him, and was there anything else he could do for him. The dying soldier pathetically replied, ‘I was hoping you’d see me through (death).’ So this impossibly busy wartime president shunted aside all official business, and forgetful even of his own exhausted state, stayed with this enemy soldier until the very end, ministering to him and comforting him, weeping as he clasped the dying soldier’s hands in his own. True to his word, Lincoln made sure that the family received the young man’s personal effects.

Need I remark that this is exactly how Lincoln would have treated the South after the war  –with dignity, charity, mercy, and reason. What might our country have developed into with a Reconstruction based not on hatred and retribution but on mercy and charity for all?”

This incident clearly and unambiguously reveals what kind of president he really was: a deep-souled, caring, forgiving Christian whose tenderness, charity, mercy, intellect, moral stature, and self-sacrificing nature on behalf of the nation he was elected to serve—and harboring no ill-will towards the forces bitterly arrayed against him in an epic Civil War—are, so far as I am aware, unmatched in the annals of history, ancient or modern.

The destructive fires of our new “civil war”, which these revisionist histories of Lincoln are meant to stoke, continue today unchecked: ideological gridlock in Congress; hateful, petty Republicans calling for Obama’s impeachment every other week; lies and half-truths  on important political issues that are a staple of Republican incendiary rhetoric; adversarial politics of the meanest and vilest kind; the inability of the Obama administration to get its many, and important, appointments passed; votes openly bought in Congress in exchange for campaign contributions; a Congress meanly subservient to the wealthiest 1% while caring not a whit for the middle or lower classes. Two well-respected and very-influential political scientists, in fact, one from Princeton University and the other from Northwestern, in an empirically-based 20-year-long study of how Congress actually works, have openly declared thatour democracy is dead. “We are now,” they pronounced, “an oligarchy, a nation governed solely by the few on behalf of the interests of the wealthiest 1%.” And they have the irrefutable evidence of over 20 years’ research data to back up their claim.

“Our democracy is dead.” In these disturbing times, what we need are the intellect, courage, faith, charity and moral stature of another Lincoln to guide us through these turbulent and treacherous waters. The future of our cherished way of life now hangs precariously in the balance.

Can we still reclaim the dreams of our forefathers and bring good, honest, intelligent, and caring government to every American citizen? Can we both as individuals and as a nation seek truth, goodness, and beauty with unflinching zeal and steadfast devotion, working daily for peace and concord among all citizens while disavowing diatribe, division, and discord? Can we once again prove to a skeptical world that our once-cherished and highly-regarded democratic way of life is not yet dead and buried. That our democracy can justly represent all economic classes; that it can honor and aid both our poorest and most vulnerable citizens as well as our richest and most successful; and that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people can, like the immortal Phoenix, rise once again triumphantly from its own ashes!

Len Sive Jr.

HENRY NEVILLE: THE REAL SHAKESPEARE!

I am just an interested reader, but several things about the Neville authorship argument strike me as compelling. First, from what I understand, Shakespeare had small Latin and no Greek at school yet obviously is highly learned in both languages. He also knew no Italian, yet translated from Italian for one of his plays. Having spent years working on the classical languages myself, I know how hard it is to master them. Is it conceivable that William Shakespeare could find the time, money, and tutor to manage this multi-years’ task (even excluding Italian) along with all his other acting duties and responsibilities, etc?

Secondly, is it probable that our greatest writer would have come from illiterate parents, married an illiterate woman, and raised two illiterate daughters? And died without a book to his name and with no copies of his work? I just don’t buy it. I don’t know a single literate person who doesn’t own at least one book. Books are to writers what paintings (or copies thereof) are to artists, or musical scores to composers: they are absolutely necessary for one’s artistic growth. Or solace: Queen Victoria kept In Memoriam by Alfred Lord Tennysonby her bedside; that’s the power and importance of books. And yet our “Shakespeare” had none? That’s simply impossible! To live in a world surrounded by illiteracy on all sides and devoid of culture and ideas may be a life fit for a mere actor in those days, but hardly for our greatest and most profound writer.

Thirdly, as a struggling poet, fiction writer, and dramatist myself, I find the argument about Neville’s switching genres, and writing his most profound works due to incarceration and impending death for treason, to be wholly convincing. Writers don’t write in a personal-social-political vacuum–least of all a Henry Neville, a Lancaster, Parliamentarian, former Ambassador, and friend of Essex, the leader of the rebellion against Queen Elizabeth I, who had become quite tyrannical in her old age.

Nothing comes of nothing. Your personal situation added to constant re-readings of your favorite books, being drawn to new books and ideas that mirror your changed opinions or life-situation, with new understandings of your life and purpose arising therefrom, and thus mandating a change of topics to write about–this is just plain ole commonsense. This is how we grow and change–and how a writer’s life–or any artist’s life–changes also. An exquisitely sensitive man as Neville must have been must be expected to be changed by his new, tragic circumstances, all the more so given his depth and rare genius. (And these few obvious points regarding Neville’s authorship don’t even begin to touch upon the bookfulls of evidence in favor of H Neville as presented by Brenda James et al.)

Fourthly, Shakespeare’s works are endowed with high culture and an aristocratic and highly intellectual ambiance which would have been impossible for William Shakespeare to fake, let alone to acquire. Like it or not, we are to a very large extent determined by our socio-economic situation, then as now. The stamp of our upbringing only grows more visible over time. In days of old when the caste barrier was most impregnable, only those “to the manor borne” could’ve written about Princes and Kings and Queens so facilely and convincingly.

Fifthly, “Shakespeare” knew the world of commerce as well as the gentile world. Neville’s background fits the bill here too.

One last, intriguing idea: Neville’s Oxford Don (master), Henry Saville, was put in charge of translating parts of the Bible. Could it be that this is why the King James Version (KJV) is so lovely, that one of its writers was “Shake-speare” himself, Henry Neville. Nothing comes of nothing.

Len Sive Jr.

CORPORATE GREED AND INJUSTICE IN HEALTHCARE

John and Donna McShane, citizens of Alberta, Canada, spend part of each year on vacation in Arizona in their mobile home. In 2012, while vacationing in Arizona, Donna developed a bad cough; she was advised to go to the Western Arizona Regional Medical Center, in Bullhead City, for an examination. Since she had health insurance from AMA, which is owned by Manulife Financial, both of Canada, there was no hesitation in recommending that she enter this regional hospital for tests.

During her five days’ stay at the Western Arizona Regional Medical Center, she underwent different tests, none of which proved conclusive; and even spent 2 days in isolation on the fear that she might have tuberculosis. (She didn’t.)  After a five day uneventful stay in the hospital, she was released, with only a prescription for steroids for her troubles. Her total bill: $105,000!

That’s not the worst of it. Her insurance company, AMA, obviously not wanting to pay the hospital bill, said that, on closer examination, they had “found an error” on the McShane’s insurance application form regarding prescription medication, and as a consequence nullified their policy, making the McShanes, who live on $30,000/year, liable for the entire amount! This is an all-too-common subterfuge employed by insurance companies to keep from honoring a policy where large outlays are to be paid. And, unfortunately, they usually get away with it.

What are the notable points here? First, a simple mistake on an application, found only after a large outlay was to be paid to the hospital, is used as a pretence for cancelling their policy–although no such problem had been detected so long as the McShanes were paying into AMA! But as soon as AMA was faced with honoring their contract, suddenly the McShanes’ application came under the closest scrutiny and—surprise—was decreed wanting.

Secondly, it is nothing short of obscene that after only five days in a hospital—however, not in the ER or ICU, and not involving multiple surgeries, limb replacements, organ transplants, or other expensive, labor intensive procedures—the hospital could charge her $105,000.  Given what Donna McShane underwent while in the hospital—or perhaps one should say what she didn’t undergo—such a huge bill is simply incomprehensible.

Years ago I worked in a hospital in the Northwest and became good friends with one of the ER doctors. He was in charge of organizing lectures, at the hospital, for the physicians. For that year’s lectureship, he invited a well-known physician/professor from an Ivy-League medical school who was an expert on hospital pricing. What he said was unbelievable. Costs—the expert  used as one example open- heart surgeries—astoundingly, were arbitrarily set—literally “picked out of the air;” in this case a “cost” of $5,000 per valve. Not because it really cost that much—it didn’t. None of the costs he mentioned were grounded in reality. They were simply—incredibly—arbitrarily decided upon.

Let’s examine this $20,000 per day expense more closely. A bed at a nice motel might cost $70/night.  That’s a far cry from a hospital’s $20,000 per night, even granted the obvious differences between the two! (Indeed, is there even a super-luxury hotel that charges this much?) Clearly someone—or many people—are making lots of money with these super-inflated costs. As for me, there’s no possible argument that can make me believe that resting your head on a hospital pillow, plus a few tests, could cost $20,000 per diem!  By way of contrast, I see my doctors in Korea for about $4 per visit. I had an endoscopy in the hospital for around $100 dollars. I see both my orthopedist and his in-house physical therapist(s) for about $12 combined. These prices put into stark relief the absolute unreality of the hospital’s $20,000 per diem price tag.

When health care is left up to doctors, for-profit hospitals and clinics, and insurance companies, cases like the McShanes are rife; for their sole concern is how much profit can be made, while the health of the patient is always of secondary importance.

This is why health care is one of many aspects of our modern life that the federal government must take complete charge of–contra the Republican party’s no-government-at-all platform—in order to serve the greater interests of the nation and its denizens. Infrastructure, including the development of mass transportation systems and the repair of bridges, gas and electricity for homes and businesses, the funding of new forms of energy, well-maintained streets and highways, conservation, worker health and safety, the establishment of a livable minimum wage, affordable medications, etc—these are some of the areas in which, for the sake of our nation’s health, safety, and welfare, the federal government MUST take control. Corporations, with their eye exclusively fastened on profit, are unfit to control these vital sectors of our common life. The CEO of Exxon/Mobil put it memorably when he stated, “I don’t care about America, I only care about Exxon/Mobil.” In a nutshell, that’s what makes corporations so dangerous.

Aristotle, in his Nicomachean Ethics, Book 1, Chapter 13, states: “The true statesman…wants to make his fellow-citizens good ….” That is, or ought to be, the true aim of every politician. Today, however, the only thing politicians care about is how to make their corporate clients richer, how to extend the corporation’s (and its lobbyist’s ) power into every crack and crevice of our modern life—but clearly not how to make America’s citizens “good.” Yet until and unless we elect to public office men and women who do fully subscribe to Aristotle’s view, such manifest injustice as has struck the McShanes must continue to wreck and ruin the lives of countless others—all the while making the 1% even richer, more powerful, more callous—and more evil!

Goodness or Profit: Democracy or oligarchy: that’s our modern era’s strict either/or. We are in a fight-to-the-death. Either we win and reclaim democracy for America or we lose and become mere slaves of the oligarchic Corporate State. The choice is ours to make.

Len Sive Jr.

THE NEW DARK AGE

A young German, Diren D., an 18-year-old exchange student from Hamburg, Germany, was fired upon with a shotgun and killed while entering an open garage in Missoula, Montana: yet another death that can be traced back directly to the NRA and its Republican and conservative Democratic backers.

This death seals America’s reputation overseas as an irrational, gun-toting, free-wheeling country unrestrained by education, the rule of law, ethics, morality, or religion. It is becoming, and in large part already is, the land—not of opportunity as it once was (corporations in America who run all things have dealt a death blow to that once-heralded idea) but a land of right-wing fanatics, without culture, commonsense, education,  or any genuine spiritual formation.

Take a Nazi; subtract his Germanness; add a lethal dose of Christian Fundamentalism; invest him with extreme anti-rational individualism; subtract all traces of the humanizing effects of Western Culture and of a Liberal Arts education, and you have the new right-wing, Tea Party Republican fanaticism that is the equal of al-Qaeda in its antipathy towards our modern, Christian, constitutional, tolerant, and humane way of life.

This anti-government movement is not a simple return to the frontier-life of the Old West, as the notorious cattle baron Clive Bundy and his ad hoc group of assault-weapon-wielding thugs would have us believe, but rather a return to the Dark Ages, when chaos ruled, and reason, like Oedidpus, was by emotion self-blinded, and everywhere life was without the humanizing effects of culture that alone make us rise above our mere animal nature.

The mind cannot sustain itself by its naked self alone. Subtract 4000 years of culture embedded in a liberal arts education; reduce Christianity to either  strict literalism or convenient liberalism; and this is what prevails—man’s merely instinctual, irrational nature.  God’s once-proud creation has been tragically humbled by excess, greed, sensualism, unreason, and the paucity of true culture, logic, and authentic  spirituality.

Let no one underestimate the power of culture and of a genuine liberal arts education in humanizing our rough animal nature. Spirituality alone is insufficient. For we must always make choices, and choices depend upon reason, logic, culture, education, and commonsense.

We are now becoming more and more bereft of these all-important humanizing qualities. And as a consequence we are now entering our own Dark Ages, with its chaos, lack of respect for human life, fearful insecurity, obsessive greed, sensualism run amock, self-satisfied blind ignorance, and a titanic narcissism.

The Age of the Enlightenment, whatever ameliorative effects it once ushered in, has long been over. Darkness and Chaos increasingly exert their baleful influence on our once-praised and emulated American way of life.

Len Sive Jr

THE GREAT HOAX

“You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all of the time.”  Abraham Lincoln

A young professional athlete just got his first contract: 144 million dollars for 6 years! I did some calculating. That’s 24 million dollars a year, or 65,000 dollars a day, every day, for 2,109 days. A high school teacher, on the other hand, if well-paid, might make 65,000 per year. In a little over one month this athlete will have earned more than the teacher would have earned in 35 years of teaching. His salary would support 2215 teachers! Our society has gone mad.

This is the great hoax and it is we ourselves who perpetuate it. Nothing could be more absurd to any rational human being than the paying out of such exorbitant sums…to an athlete of all people, whose value to a society at any time in history, realistically speaking,  is only a little more than that of a fevered gambler.

It is one of the ironies of history that those who contribute the least to society earn the most. And those who contribute the most—nurses, teachers, care-givers, foster parents, writers, artists, poets—these all too often have to scrape up odds and ends of a living even though they are our society’s engine, and the source of all that is good.

Ask yourselves this: Your loved one is in the hospital gravely ill. Do you call up a rich athlete for help? The question answers itself. You rely on nurses and other care-givers; into their hands you entrust your loved ones. This single test tells us whose value is greater. Yet who makes more money? Who is more esteemed? And for what? What do athletes contribute to the advancement and welfare of society? Absolutely NOTHING.  They play games—sometimes painful games, but games all the same. And that’s it. That’s their total contribution. Nothing shows more clearly than this just how wrong-headed are the values of our society.

It’s all a big hoax. We have been brainwashed by those who benefit from sports—the owners first and foremost, then the athletes, the advertisers, the media, etc.—into thinking that sports are important, that athletes are special.

More repugnantly, education at the high school and collegiate levels is all too often twisted and defiled just to accommodate an athlete. Recently on the Internet there was a piece about the University of North Carolina, a top university, which had created non-existent classes just for its athletes to take and to receive an “A” from. An entire university twisted and bent into lying and deception solely on behalf of its athletes! Our society’s most important institution abused for the sake of sports. Plagiarism is a capital offence at universities—but lying and cheating on behalf of athletes is OK! Nothing shows more clearly, more emphatically, how off the mark our modern society is. Sports—to coin a phrase—are  just sports, nothing more.

The big hoax is that we’ve been brainwashed into thinking otherwise.

Len Sive Jr

THE EXXON/MOBIL FRACKING HYPOCRISY

“This type of dysfunctional regulation [of fracking] is holding back the American economic recovery, growth, and global competitiveness.”  Rex Tillerson, CEO, Exxon/Mobil, 2012

“I don’t care about what’s good for America. I care only about what’s good for Exxon/Mobil.”  Rex Tillerson, CEO, Exxon/Mobil

“Do as I say and not as I do.” (The hypocrite’s word of wisdom.)

“Poetic justice: An outcome in which vice is punished and virtue rewarded usually in a manner peculiarly or ironically appropriate.” Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary

Rex Tillerson has recently joined an anti-fracking law-suit which seeks to stop fracking near his Texas home on the grounds it lowers property values. Many see (long overdue) poetic justice in his joining a lawsuit to stop fracking near his house.

What is so interesting here is that he has been denying this affect on property values up to now in order to go fracking in anyone’s backyard whenever he desires to. His anger at regulating fracking when it involves your house or mine is reflected in the above quotation of Tillerson’s of 2012. As is so typical of corporations (ie, of their CEOs), they never tell the truth—certainly not the whole truth. He knew fracking was bad for property values, but that was never publically acknowledged  in order for Exxon to go fracking wherever it pleased.  Truth and Corporations never were on good terms. But now that fracking is scheduled to start near his house—well, that’s a horse of a different color. The hypocrisy here is incredible. But what is even more so is the rueful fact that no one is calling him on it. In vain do we search for an intrepid reporter to lock horns with him on this.

And no one is connecting the dots here, either. This is how corporations operate; it’s their modus operandi, their method of operation. In vain will you search the operations of your typical big corporation and see transparency, honesty, ethical behavior, and concern for the public and its welfare. Tillerson’s comment that he doesn’t care about America is crucial here to understand the mindset of a (especially large) corporation. It’s not just rhetoric for Tillerson. He’s deadly serious about that. And Americans praise corporate CEOs like Tillerson? Corporations are like a kingdom within a kingdom—with this qualification: they are often stronger than the country they reside in. FDR found out that many Fortune 500 companies were helping the Nazis DURING the war, but was powerless to stop them. THAT’S why large corporations are so dangerous: they are a law unto themselves. Tillerson’s credo: “I don’t care about America, only about Exxon.” Let Americans remember that the next time we hear the media—or Republicans—praising corporations and how important they are to our country.

 Len Sive Jr.

REFLECTIONS ON A WORLD GONE MAD (Issue no. 1)

1. Now that Obama has hit Russia with sanctions, we can see how “free enterprise” works in Russia’s  so-called democracy: If you are fortunate to be a friend of Putin’s, then you will find yourself owning, or the CEO, of one of Russia’s financial/banking sectors or of one of its  industrial, mining, or gas/oil  sectors. Putin’s multi-billionaire friends are everywhere to be found, his enemies, impoverished, cowed and/or jailed by Putin,  are nowhere to be found—at least not owning or heading any important parts of Russia’s economy, or wielding any significant political opposition to Putin himself. In Russia, Putin is all in all. He reigns over a comradeship of thieves, stealing the wealth of Russia and concentrating it in his own hands as well as those of his closest friends and allies.

This authoritarian government, run by and for Putin and his friends as if they themselves held land-title to all of Russia, was run the same way under Communism. Then, communist leaders and their friends, and other important officials, all became exceedingly rich, while the average (proletarian) Russian suffered the indignities of a cruel, unpredictable dictatorship heaped upon bone-chilling poverty and inadequate health care. These Communist leaders of the Proletariat were regal in all but name—just as now under (Czar) Putin.  Forget free enterprise, forget democracy, forget human rights. Putin, like Stalin, has in his political vocabulary only three (five-letter) words, whether in affairs at home or abroad: might, power, and force. That’s his escutcheon, which is also a summation of his personality. He’s an insecure, egocentric psychopath, hence he brooks no opposition, no contrary views. Ice-water runs in his veins. He’s a little man with a big swagger, rough talking and rough acting. He believes in, exalts, and worships violence. Reason, debate, inquiry are for him dead letters. Faith as the true guide to practical living he utterly rejects. Such is the present leader of Russia, a great country but ever in tears of sorrow and anguish, from Peter the Great up to the present day. For in Russia, there exists no clock: the past is the present, and the present is the past, and both are prologue to the future.

2. In Virginia Beach, Virginia, a six-grader saved a fellow student from serious injury when she saw him cutting his wrist with a razor and rushed over to him, grabbing the razor and throwing it away. For her swift, meritorious conduct—for the love of her fellow human being—what reward did she get?—suspension from school, and possible termination!

But the one person who clearly needs to be terminated is not our young heroine but the principalherself, for such an egregious decision of the first order. Since when do we punish noble acts? Where are our values? our commonsense? our fellow-feeling?  our kindness? Are we become so vicious, so right-wing a nation, so dumb of heart and mind that this little girl’s courageous, noble, and Christian act brings only official reprisals, and condemnation heaped upon her head? O America, America, for thee I do weep.

Len Sive Jr.

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY: THE PARTY OF WOOLY MAMMOTHS AND NEANDERTHALS

“At every crossway on the road that leads to the future, each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand men appointed to guard the past.” (Maeterlinck)

      “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” (Voltaire)

It is absolutely stunning that in the 21st century we have people who hold great power, many of whom also aspire to the highest office in the land, who are themselves intellectual, spiritual and moral throwbacks to the Wooly Mammoths and Neanderthals. To use another image, they are “flat-earthers;” and no amount of science is able to get them to see the earth as a “sphere rushing through space around the sun.” For them the earth is flat, the sun travels around the earth, and the earth is 5000 years old—and nothing, least of all science, can change a “flat-earther’s” mind!

Armed with an amendment sponsored by Republican Rep. Max Teeters, the Wyoming Republican Governor Matt Mead has just signed into law  a bill that prohibits state funding for the Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS)—an attempt by states to have uniform science standards nation-wide—because it accepts as facts both human-induced global warming and evolution. Does one weep—or laugh hysterically? Or perhaps both: first laughter at such insanity, then tears over such implacable, ideological ignorance as not even a lunatic would rejoice in. It is shameful beyond all reckoning, and shows just how ignorant and benighted are Republicans who hold political office.

Opposition to human-induced climate change has come from ( inter alia) the coal, auto, and oil industries, which have given hundreds of millions of dollars to fight controls on greenhouse gas emissions by secretly funneling money (for example) through (Republican) Think Tanks and other conservative organizations so as to give, deceptively, the appearance of intellectual inquiry, rigor, and debate on this issue. But it is all an elaborate charade. Yet again we witness how the wealthy and corporations diabolically influence public opinion in order to further their single-minded goal of unlimited profit and power—and the public weal, indeed the entire globe—be damned.

The NRA wrote and lobbied for and pushed through, thanks to overwhelming support by Republicans, a bill allowing guns on college campuses in Colorado. Never mind that unanimous opposition exists among police chiefs, professors, college presidents, and others directly affected by this bill. The NRA made sure that the bill, in the House, would pass over any and all objections. That’s what deep-pockets buy—unhindered influence. And that why lobbying as a source of influence, and the NRA, which uses lobbying to push it narrow objectives while ignoring the larger issue of public safety, are together America’s Public Enemy No. One.

The Right-wing speaks of “big government” and how it is taking over control of our lives. But the truth is, it’s big corporations, and organizations like the NRA, The (Right-wing) Enterprise Institute, and other ideological, conservative groups, that increasingly threaten the safety, health, and welfare of both our individual and communal lives—whose sole purpose is to increase corporate wealth and power.

Corporations far outstrip the government in reach and power, and thus are the real threat to our constitutional way of life—indeed, the danger of big government, by comparison, pales into insignificance. When year after year, now, the weather has become more bizarre and fantastically dangerous, not just in the US, either, but around the globe; and every credible scientific community unanimously cites human-caused greenhouse gases as the culprit—the super-rich and corporations still refuse to acknowledge the evidence because it would mean added costs on their part to lower such human-caused greenhouse gases. Forget what’s good for America or for the world; money is all their god—which is exactly why they are so dangerous.

If America is to move forward—and not backward; if it is to enter the 20th century (let alone the 21st) and provide affordable, and multiple, mass transportation systems for the whole nation (as ALL other industrialized nations have); if it is to stop human-caused greenhouse gases, and instead develop safe, renewable and sustainable sources of energy (and to hell with the auto/oil/gas/coal industries self-interested opposition); if  we are to have sane gun laws that make our nation safer rather than more dangerous (and to hell with the devilish NRA); if we are to focus once again on family, church, local (well-paying) jobs, education, and a rich and varied local communal life where small is decidedly better (and to hell with globalization, and bigness, and “made in China”—if we are to do these commonsensical things, then our great nation may once again thrive; but if we do not, it will surely die—slowly, painfully, and tragically.

Len Sive Jr.

ECONOMICS TRUMPS POLITICS AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Great Britain and Germany both refuse to isolate Russia or to boycott her exports: Germany needs her gas and oil, and German companies have invested 22 billion in Russia; and England wants her cash for its financial markets. Putin sees this economic opening and, utilizing it, is now pushing for a referendum in Crimea in 10 days’ time with which to cement his grip on power there and, with Russian troops still in Crimea, to continue pressuring the Ukrainians to abandon their drive for closer ties with the EU and US. Despite Kerry’s refusal to believe it, this is indeed a zero-sum game.

Interestingly, perhaps now the NSA’s interception of the German Chancellor’s phone calls, and the monitoring of Russia’s, wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Certainly Snowden’s aiding Russia by disclosing the reach of the NSA has made the world, as we have seen in the Crimea, a much less safer place now than before. And Snowden’s new friends (Russia and China) have revealed themselves to be far less concerned about human rights than the country which he forsook, indeed, to be eminently authoritarian and militaristic, with no respect for human rights. (China seized Tibet and committed, and still commits, grave human rights violations there; and both China and Russia freely commit abuses daily against ethnic minorities and political opponents.) The only country able to stand up to them, the US, Snowden has irrevocably weakened, making the world after his disclosures a much more dangerous place indeed. Edward’s vainglory and hubris blinded him as to who the real enemies are. Does he really believe that the US is a greater threat to world peace than either China or Russia? Edward forgot something very elementary about life: without prudence, one finds “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Again we see in world history how economics trumps politics: what ought to be done by the EU isn’t being done; and as a result Putin knows there is a breach in the wall of diplomatic sanctions for him to escape through. What might have forced him to withdraw due to the unyielding unanimity of the EU, he can now more safely afford to ignore given the disunity within EU’s ranks, and hence the lower level of sanctions threatened. The West has lost this crucial battle with a dictator who is no respecter of nations or of laws; and that will only embolden him further, and give sustenance to China’s hegemonic desires as well.

The world thinks in enlightenment terms; that is, that man’s sinfulness is an outmoded concept, a leftover of a bygone theological era; that one need only tie countries closer together economically, and eternal peace and prosperity must and will be the inevitable result. No: a leopard can wear a Brooks Brothers suit, but underneath, like it or not, it remains a leopard still. Russia has (and has always had) an authoritarian leader.  To appease such usually ushers in greater trouble later. Putin wants the power of the former Soviet Union redivivus. Great Britain and Germany have unwittingly aided him in his power quest, and in the process sacrificed the territorial integrity of The Ukraine—and shown Putin all too clearly that, so far at least, he has nothing to fear from the EU, which up till now has shown itself to be a weak and vacillatory body with no stomach for confrontation when and where it counts.

 Len Sive Jr.

THE INFERNO: ABANDON ALL HOPE ALL YE WHO SUPPORT THE NRA

The NRA (The National Rifle Association), after close council with Mephistophiles, and after rejecting out of hand Gabriel’s prudential warnings on behalf of the Lord, has lobbied the House to pass legislation allowing guns on college campuses. A more sinister, godless, diabolical bill could hardly be imagined. To allow 18 year olds the right to carry weapons, let alone on college campuses, is beyond all sane imaginings and is further proof, if ever one needed it, that the NRA is the devil’s own progeny and seeks to work his will of injury, terror, suffering, chaos, sorrow, and death whenever and wherever possible.

The NRA has long been the handmaid of the devil; it’s just that conservative Christians think about the devil only in ways suited to extend their narrow theological/political agenda; and liberal Christians don’t much believe in ontological evil. But evil surely exists. The NRA is proof, had we needed any.

The NRA—and its devilish supporters, including weapons manufacturers (like Remington Arms)—wants you to think of these issues of carrying weapons in political terms that obscure the larger religious dimension involved. What else would we expect from the Father of Lies? Under pretence of the 2nd Amendment, Satan hisses out his defense of weapons, which only cause 50,000 deaths a year (!); and when the NRA sees England’s negligible number of deaths each year due to strict gun control laws, the devil bristles and spews out irrelevant, sinister arguments. (Why is it that there is no general outrage over the huge number of gun-related deaths—in ten years 500,000 deaths! That’s the carnage of 10 Vietnam wars! But where is the outrage? Where?)

It is Dante’s Inferno, however, which brings home the fruit of the NRA’s satanic actions. For who in their right mind would give a weapon to an adolescent who may, and probably will at some point, abuse drugs and/or alcohol? Truly only Satan himself could conceive of something so diabolical, so sure to cost precious young lives on the threshold of adulthood. The Inferno would surely be the appropriate punishment for sowing so great a societal evil. Violence is not the path to the Kingdom of God. Christians are adjured to turn swords into ploughshares as the one true path to God. Weapons disbursed societally among our young, immature, often reckless youth is indeed Satan’s own plan to increase sorrow and the pain of shattered lives and families.

Profit über Alles again proves the surest path to Hell.

Len Sive Jr.

RUSSIA: SAME COUNTRY, CZARIST, COMMUNIST, OR “DEMOCRACY”

If  there had been any doubt—and I for one had never bought the idea that the Cold War was over—that doubt has been brutally confirmed. A tiger does not give up its stripes just on its (cunning) say so. Russia has never in its history been different from what it is today (save for that brief period in the early ‘90’s when Communism lay in tatters) :  a cold, anti-democratic, anti-free speech, anti-human rights dictatorship. (Putin’s symbolic democracy is just that. There is only one authority allowed in Russia, and that’s Putin’s iron fist.)

What to do now? Russia should be kicked out of its place with the EU and US. Trade agreements should be nullified. But more than that The West has few non-military options, and sending in troops is not an option.

Russia’s main source of income is its natural gas pipeline to Europe. Here again we see how the oil industry fuels wars.  They have bought off so many politicians that trying to develop non-oil/gas alternatives has largely failed, which failure has then led us into war after war in the Middle East, and renders any economic sanctions against Russia unimportant.

China is in the same position as Russia is. Thanks to Corporate Capitalism China has reached a position where it will assert its dominance in the region more and more. When business people make foreign policy rather than experts, so that profit and not prudence rules the agenda, then we see what happens, now in the Ukraine, or the Middle East, or in Asia.

The world experiences this over and over again. Journalists like Anthony Summers have exposed how capitalists like JP Morgan and Rockefeller put Lenin in power; and Henry Ford built for Stalin his first automated (car) factory.  (McCarthy and his thugs graciously ignored these and other facts of Communist/capitalist collusion when they began their anti-Communist witch hunts. As always, the rich and powerful, who create these international crises, escape intact.)

We saw the same Corporate collusion with the Nazis, both in the years leading up to WWII, and infamously even during it (Roosevelt was incensed, but even his hands were tied due to their wealth and power), and ignobly after the war. The grandfather of President Bush was a party to all this as well, in cooperation with the OSS, the fore-runner of the CIA, which absorbed thousands of SS Nazis.

When you have the rich rule, whose interests do we believe they will serve?—the poor? the sick? the elderly? the powerless?

When the rich, vested interests rule, misrule, corruption, and war are the inevitable results.

Len Sive Jr.

SICK UNTO DEATH: REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRANTS

Yet another Republican presidential hopeful, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, has a staff (we are asked to believe) that without his knowledge or consent was engaged in criminal political activity, including his deputy chief of staff and a chief of staff. A criminal investigation has shown how personal laptops, private email accounts, other computer networks, etc., were utilized in an elaborate scheme to conceal illegal campaign work done on county time. Like his political comrade, Republican Governor Chris Christie, Walker denies having any knowledge of his staff’s criminal activities. (Is there any Republican presidential hopeful who is aware of what his staff is up to?) But is any of this at all credible?

Is it at all believable that campaign work can be conceived, planned, and executed on behalf of a public official by his own staff, without his knowledge or consent? If so, what does this say about Republican governors, their leadership abilities and judgment of character, that their own staff, right under their noses, acts systematically, arbitrarily, and criminally without their knowledge? Supposing this (frankly impossibility) to be true, we may then fairly ask, Would you feel safe and secure having a public official represent you whose own hand-picked staff systematically operates outside the law, without his knowledge?

Of course, that’s a rhetorical question. While the governors are wilely enough to engage in such activity without an overt connection to themselves (or so they believe), it strains one’s credulity to the breaking point to think that their tight inner circle could, or would, engage in any meaningful political or campaign activity, let alone criminal activity, without the express approval of the person on whose behalf they are acting, and without him ever catching wind of it. To believe otherwise, let’s face it, is to believe in fairies, goblins, and witches on broomsticks.

The next time these ignoramuses say ‘I had no idea what my chief of staff was up to’, let us retort: Show me the broomstick, and then I’ll believe!

“ …while the remark of one of the founders of our government, that the whole art of politics    consists in being honest, is an overstatement, it remains true that absolute honesty is what Cromwell would have called a fundamental of healthy political life.” (Theodore Roosevelt)

Clearly, among Republican presidential aspirants—Ted Cruz, Paul Rand, Chris Christie, and now Scott Walker—honesty is what we don’t have, which is why our political life is sick unto death.

Len Sive Jr.

CONSERVATIVES DECRY “LIBERAL MEDIA BIAS”: HOW MONEY AND POWER CANCEL OUT THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH

Jennifer Rubin, a conservative columnist for the Washington Post, has decried the “liberal media bias” in its reporting of the Christie scandals swirling, like a deadly hurricane, around the New Jersey Republican governor. Tellingly, she doesn’t even address the scandals themselves—the likelihood of their having happened, or what these scandals say about Christie’s character—he, a presidential hopeful—no, she has not a single word of condemnation of Christie, only criticism of the “liberal” media for “hyping” (my word) the scandals.

It’s a combination of “hate and vilify the messenger” approach to unwelcome news, a tactic as old as western civilization itself; and, when you can’t defend against an accusation, create a diversion and hope that your audience won’t notice this sleight of hand trick where the topic has been changed and a red herring thrown into the arena of controversy in hopes of misleading the audience.

This has been the Republican response—there is only concern about whether Christie can ride out the storm and emerge a still-viable presidential candidate; but of Truth, there is not a single Republican concerned about Christie’s character. Why? Because money and power are the real goals of politics—truth, let alone character, means absolutely nothing. These become issues only if the public focuses on them; otherwise, they are completely extraneous and irrelevant.

This typifies the spiritual malaise of the Republican Party; it is the party of despair, of nihilism, of an inner rottenness that brings decay and death to everything it touches. It is the direct result of worshiping money and power rather than the God of Truth, Justice, and Goodness. It is the party of idolatry and, consequently, the evil idolatry subserves. It worships realpolitik  à la Machiavelli,  abjuring the ethical, the religious, and the spiritual. Hence the Republicans’ lack of concern about Christie’s character.  “Is he still a viable candidate” is all that Republicans care about, that and the oft-used red herring of a “liberal bias” in the press. But of Truth itself–God’s truth–not a single Republican defender can be found.  “People are just sick of politicians. And they are looking…for just an honest man.”  (Robert F. Kennedy)

Len Sive Jr

BOEING’S GAIN IS AMERICA’S LOSS

It was a day of mourning, and a day of shame. Using the sword of fear, Boeing’s CEO Jim McNerney, threatening to move Boeing if the machinist’s union didn’t ratify their new contract, successfully won the union vote, barely—51% to 49%. Clearly, the fear factor was the decisive edge: No one wanted to see Boeing leave Seattle—that was the sword of Damocles hanging over their collective necks. But for their (understandable) capitulation, they now lose their pensions. They are also forbidden to strike for ten years. It is a bitter pill indeed. This is yet another example of how  Corporate America, which is almost entirely Republican, has been ruining America, and continues to do so.

Once we were a great nation with a vision of life that thrilled the rest of the civilized world: “Give me  your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” But today, with Corporate America  re-making America along strictly class lines, with the 1% richest at the top, and 85% of the country  at the bottom of the pyramid , with a middle-class shrinking by the hour, we are entering  our own Dark Age, where money alone —and all the power, persuasion, and predominance money can buy—rules in the place of our older, formerly much-cherished, noble ideals of equality, prudence, compassion,  initiative, and opportunity.

Republicans, especially Tea Party people, like to liberally sprinkle their political discourse with “self-made man” images when in reality they neither assist those same “self-made men and women” on their assault up the fortified mountain of financial success nor aid them when they are forced to abandon their goal, by personal or family illness or tragedy, or being laid off, or seeing their factory move to China,  destructive weather, and other conditions or events beyond their control. Where then are these talkers of the glory of “the self-made”? The rich help the rich,  but no one helps the middle or lower classes.

McNerney has proven yet again that when the rich rule (with only a few exceptions like the Kennedys), they care only about themselves. Boeing’s workers must now pay more for health care as well as start all over again in saving a pension—while McNerney has had to live on a oh so meager 22 million dollars this past year! O How the rich they do suffer…!

In this particular series of pitched battles, once again the 1% have won handily,  with their war cry “Your pension or your job” striking  fear into the hearts of workers,  and paralyzing just enough machinists to win the voting  battle. But Boeing’s gain is America’s loss. Our once-heralded  country  of opportunity, unique in history, has become a nation like all the other nations, where only money, and not initiative or ability, rules. Like India, we now have our own caste system. America requiescat in pace.

Len Sive Jr.

LIARS, CHEATS, THIEVES, AND THUGS: THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IS SPIRITUALLY DEAD

“This is what separated us from you; we made demands. You were satisfied to serve the power of your nation and we dreamed of giving ours her truth.”  

Albert Camus

Today, Rep. Michael Grimm (R., NY), a former Marine and FBI agent, threatened to kill Michael Scotto, a news reporter for NY1, for his choice of questions during an on-camera interview. Scotto brought up the on-going federal investigation into the financial contributions of Grimm’s 2010 political campaign. This so angered Rep. Grimm that he threatened to break Scotto in two and throw him over the balcony (in the Capitol dome, where the interview was taking place). Although a popular member of the house, at bottom it turns out that Grimm is nothing but a thug. (Interestingly, he also opened a restaurant with a known associate of the Gambino mafia family.)

This isn’t the first time Grimm has “lost it”, either. While in the FBI, he had an altercation with a patron at a night club. He lied about being attacked by the patron, called in the FBI and NYPD, and waving his pistol wildly in the air, shouted out to those in the club that “All the white people could leave” (so he could deal with the patron and his friends).  We can now add racism to Grimm’s rap sheet. And he is a “representative” of the people?

Then we have New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie, whose staff gets involved in “dirty political tricks” and intimidation—with Christie’s personal involvement here all but a certainty, though of course he denies all knowledge of any wrongdoing. But the Hoboken, N.J., mayor whom he tried to intimidate makes a very believable, and therefore formidable, witness against him. And his high school friend and former appointee to the Port Authority, David Wilderstein, one of several taking the blame for the bridge closing, after he was fired said that he has proof that Christie knew all along about the bridge closings, despite his denials to the contrary. That Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Kelly, was a player in all this, reveals another side of Christie—whom he befriends and picks to be his closest political associates.

This all has a rancid “Nixon odor” about it, as when HL Hunt and Gordon Liddy (among many others) did Nixon’s bidding at the Watergate break-in (one among many “dirty tricks”), but who were also goons associated with the CIA (as Grimm was with the FBI). If nothing else, we catch a glimpse of the kinds of people hired, then under Nixon and now, by two of the most powerful government agencies in Washington. Clearly, a lack of moral character appears to be no handicap in finding employment with either the CIA or the FBI.

Then we have Republican intimidation on a grand scale—THE SHUTDOWN, engineered by Republican Congressman Ted Cruz, with the full support of his fellow house members, which caused several billion dollars worth of damage to an already fragile economy, hurt millions of Americans in the process, all in trying to kill Obamacare—already the law of the land—whose chief purpose is to provide affordable healthcare to every American. In other word, it’s one more battle in the on-going war of the super-rich against the faded middle-class and burgeoning lower class. We have nothing less than class warfare being waged. Republicans have their anti-liberal agenda which they are going to implement “come hell or high water” and the 50% of Americans who disagree with their “Everything for the rich and nothing for the poor” ideology can “just go to hell”. In their greed, inflexibility, class warfare, and hubris, Republicans remind me of the kind of intransigence and bitter enmity the senatorial class displayed which led to the downfall of the Roman Republic through two civil wars.

This on-going struggle against the middle- and lower-classes also mirrors, in a history closer to home, the ideological Ante-Bellum (pre-Civil War) mindset, of white versus black.  Today’s ideological Republicans fail, collectively and individually, to understand that the sick, the poor, the immigrant, and the elderly are an important part of our nation—not just the rich who are the face of the Republican Party. These ideological Republicans divide our one nation into two adversarial parts, Them and Us. And for our “One nation under God, indivisible” that spells death to our Republic—and a farewell to our sacred Founding and history.

The Republican Party is not only the party of the rich (whose one goal is to acquire absolute power in all three branches of government, both on the state and federal level, to enable them to become even richer), it is the party of dissolution and disillusion. But in the end such becomes merely nihilism. And then you can only attract to your party thugs like the Grimms, the Christies, and the Cruzes, among many others.

As it says in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no prophetic vision, the people cast off restraint.” The Republican Party has cast off all restraint, as we can see by how its members act and who they care about. For they have no prophetic vision…They are blind, stumbling in the dark. Their one god is wealth and the power wealth confers. But spiritually, inwardly, they are dead.

Len Sive Jr.