THEODORE ROOSEVELT: HOW WE OVERTHREW CORRUPT TAMMANY HALL

Internauta offre al Rottamatore, come a chiunque altro sogni di combattere la corruzione, la testimonianza di chi vinse una grossa battaglia contro la cupola del malcostume a New York: Theodore Roosevelt. Aiutato, come i  suoi quinti cugini Franklin Delano e Anna Eleanor, dal fatto d’appartenere a una famiglia del grande patriziato, a 37 anni il Nostro fu messo a capo del Police Board della metropoli. Il successo fu totale: governatore dello Stato a 40 anni, presidente degli Stati Uniti a 43, premio Nobel per la pace a 48. Ecco come raccontò la sua bonifica nella rivista Atlantic (1897).

“In New York, in the fall of 1894, Tammany Hall was overthrown by a coalition composed partly of the regular Republicans, partly of anti-Tammany Democrats, and partly of Independents. Under the last head must be included a great many men who in national politics habitually act with one or other of the two great parties, but who feel that in municipal politics good citizens should act independently. The tidal wave, which was running high against the Democratic party, was undoubtedly very influential in bringing about the anti-Tammany victory; but the chief factor in producing the result was the widespread anger and disgust felt by decent citizens at the corruption which under the sway of Tammany had honeycombed every department of  the city government.

The center of corruption was the police department. No man not intimately acquainted with both the lower and the humbler sides of New York life -for there is a wide distinction between the two- can realize how far this corruption extended. Except in rare instances, where prominent politicians made demands which could not be refused, both promotions and appointments toward the close of Tammany rule were almost solely for money, and the prices were discussed with cynical frankness. There was a well-recognized tariff of charges, ranging from two or three hundred dollars for appointment as a patrolman, to twelve or fifteen thousand dollars  for promotion to the position of captain. The money was reimbursed to those who paid it by an elaborate system of blackmail. This was chiefly carried on at the expense of gamblers, liquor sellers, and keepers of disorderly houses; but every form of vice and crime contributed more or less, and a great many respectable people who were ignorant or timid were blackmailed under the pretense of forbidding or allowing them to violate obscure ordinances, and the like.

In May1895, I was made president of the newly appointed police board, whose duty was to cut out the chief source of civic corruption in New York by cleansing the police department. We could not accomplish all that we should have liked to accomplish, for we were shackled by preposterous legislation, and by the opposition and intrigues of the basest machine politicians. Nevertheless, we did more to increase the efficiency and honesty of the police department than had ever previously been done in its history.

Beside suffering, in aggravated form, from the difficulties which beset the course of the entire administration, the police board had to encounter certain special and peculiar difficulties. It is not a pleasant thing to deal with criminals and purveyors of vice. It is a rough work,and cannot always be done in a nice manner.

The Tammany officials of New York, headed by the comptroller, made a systematic effort to excite public hostility against the police for their warfare on vice. The lawbreaking liquor seller, the keeper of disorderly houses, and the gambler had been influential allies of Tammany, and head contributors to its campaign chest. Naturally Tammany fought for them; and the effective way in which to carry on such a fight was to portray with gross exaggeration and misstatement the methods necessarily employed by every police

force which honestly endeavors to do its work.

Tammany found its most influential allies in the sensational newspapers. Of all the forces that tend for evil in a great city like New York, probably no other is so potent as the sensational press. If the editor will stoop, and make his subordinates stoop, to raking the gutters of human depravity, to upholding the wrongdoer and assailing what is upright and honest, he can make money.

In administering the police force, we found, as might be expected, that there was no need of genius, nor indeed of any very unusual qualities. What was required was the exercise of the plain, ordinary  virtues, of a rather commonplace type, which all good citizens should be expected to possess. Our methods for restoring order, discipline and efficiency were simple.  We made frequent personal inspections, especially at night, going anywhere, at any time. We then proceeded to punish those who were guilty of shortcomings, and to reward those who did well. A very few promotions and dismissals sufficed to show our subordinates that at last they were dealing with superiors who meant what they said, and that the days of political  “pull” were over while we had the power. The effect was immediate.

A similar course was followed in reference to the relations between the police and citizens generally. There had formerly been much complaint of the brutal treatment by police of innocent  citizens. This was stopped peremptorily by the obvious expedient of dismissing from the force the first two or three men who were found guilty of brutality. On the other hand, if a mob threatened violence, we were glad to have the mob hurt. If a criminal showed fight, we expected the officer to  use any weapon that was requisite to overcome him on the instant. All that the board required was to be convinced that the necessity really existed. We did not possess a particle of the maudlin sympathy for the criminal, disorderly, and lawless classes which is such a particularly unhealthy sign of social development.

To break up the system of blackmail and corruption was less easy. The criminal who is blackmailed has a direct interest in paying the blackmailer, and it is not easy to get information about it.

It was the enforcement of the liquor law which caused most excitement. In New York, the saloon-keepers have always stood high among professional politicians. Nearly two thirds of the political leaders of Tammany Hall have been in the liquor business at one time or another. The influence the saloon-keepers wield in local politics has always been very great, and until our board took office no man ever dared seriously to threaten them for their flagrant violations of the law. On the other hand, a corrupt police captain, or the corrupt politician who controlled him, could always extort money from a saloon-keeper by threatening to close his place. The amount collected was enormous.

In reorganizing the force the board had to make, and did make, more promotions, more appointments, and more dismissals in its  two years of existence than had ever before been made in the same length of time.The result of our labors was of value to the city, for we gave the citizens better protection than they had ever before received, and at the same time cut out the corruption which was eating away civic morality. We were attacked with the most bitter animosity by every sensational newspaper and every politician of the baser sort, because of what we did that was good. We enforced the laws as they were on the statute books, we broke up blackmail, we kept down the spirit of disorder and repressed rascality, and we administered the force with an eye single to the welfare of the city.

Our experience with the police department taught one or two lessons which are applicable to the whole question of reform. Very many men put their faith in some special device, some special  bit of legislation or some official scheme for getting good government. In reality good government can come only through good administration, and good administration only as a consequence of a sustained -not spasmodic- and earnest effort by good citizens to secure honesty, courage, and common sense among civic administrators. If they demand the impossible, they will fail; if they do not demand a good deal, they will get nothing. But though they should demand much in the way of legislation, they should make their special effort for good administration. A bad law may seriously hamper the best administrator, and even nullify most of his efforts. But a good law is of no value whatever unless well administered.

(Theodore Roosevelt , 1897)

THE RESURGENCE OF UNTRAMMELED POWER OF RUSSIA AND CHINA

When the Berlin Wall fell, its crashing din was heard around the world: and for millions of people it was music to their ears. This was not just any event—here was final proof that the evil and, what was equally important politically and economically, the utter impracticality of Communism could not be sustained because it ran directly counter to human nature. Its rhetoric, of course, like all propaganda, was positive and hopeful, but its reality proved altogether different. In practice, Communism created even more injustice, more absurdities, more practical problems, more suffering and death in history by far than any other economic or political system. Communism, and its historical partner in unequalled savagery, Nazism, will for all time remain lasting monuments of unexampled hubris, unreason, atheism, and unalloyed evil. If some men and women can be saints, these two movements show starkly that under their influence many more can become devils.

While history does indeed appear to show that the rich inherently seek ever more power and wealth at the expense of the middle- and lower-classes (without of course ever acknowledging such), the utopian image of Communism set up unique expectations of an everlasting earthly Paradise: where mankind would now be free of avarice, of cruelty to his fellow man, and of the naked lust for power. Communism’s power was that it proclaimed a new humanity. But in reality, of course, it could accomplish no such thing. For human nature doesn’t change. The old class structure was replaced by a new (Communist) class structure. The freedoms, and limitations, of the old system were swallowed up in an all-embracing savage totalitarianism.  Big Brother had arrived. The Utopia so blindly hoped for, and believed in, was revealed to be just another earthly hell from which millions sought to escape—so many in fact that Communism had to build walls to lock its people in, which is why its sudden, dramatic crashing downfall was the cause of such hysterical jubilation world-wide.

Now we see, in both China and Russia, a new era of libido dominandi—of the lust for power. Of course, they can’t and won’t publicly declare this—since when does evil ever speak the truth?  Still, evil, in its unconscious bow to goodness and reason, must pretend at least to operate under the highest motives; but its actions show unequivocally that power and domination are China’s and Russia’s twin goals.

Russia’s motives revolve around pure power. Putin (and Russia’s military) doesn’t want Russia to be thought of as a second-rate military power—and, being the little man that he is, personally wants to be accorded respect, as well as to be feared, by the world, but especially by the US. It wants a share in world dominion; and it chafes under the greater economic and military power (and he would add hubris) of the US. Putin is a small man with a large ego. He cares little about his own people or their future, otherwise he would develop, or allow to be developed, Russia’s economy in all of its diversity instead of making it depend entirely upon the exportation of oil and gas as it now does. In this Putin shows himself to be anything but a statesman, or to have any other real goals than power for power’s sake. He hears the siren call of libido dominandi. And in this he adds his name to an endless list of tyrants in history.

China has a similar desire to dominate. But unlike Russia, which is trying to relive the good old days of Soviet domination, China seeks world power in large part to make itself an irresistible economic powerhouse. It has now, and will have much more in the future, great economic problems at home it must deal with: lack of vital minerals, oil, gas, etc.; millions of homes, buildings, and schools that are unsoundly built and therefore vulnerable to earthquakes or other natural disasters; lakes and rivers dried or drying up; forests denuded; corruption top to bottom; pollution of unimaginable intensity and duration, etc.  China, for political as well as military reasons, doesn’t want to be dependent on the outside world. So it seeks regional domination in order to remain the economic engine of Asia, and will enforce that superiority militarily more and more over time. Its words do not match its actions: its rhetoric is peace and conciliation, but its actions spell confrontation and conflict. Once China gets used to exercising the full panoply of power throughout Asia, it will add world dominion to its desiderata.

The world fondly hopes, and fondly believes, that war, especially world war, is an outworn relic of a bygone era; that the human race, having endured so much suffering and death in the last century, has finally come to its senses and will neither engage in nor permit another such global tragedy.  But the storm clouds of war are slowly gathering once again. Communism, past (Russia) and present (China), is not yet finished cursing the world.  Incalculable suffering, in Europe near the former Soviet Union and in Asia, is only a misstep away. Tyrants—Xi Jinping of China and Putin of Russia—are strutting the world’s stage once again. The lessons of history have already been forgotten. And so, pronounced Santayana, we shall be forced to repeat them.

Len Sive Jr.

VOYEURISM AND THE FAILED AMERICAN EDUCATION SYSTEM

A few days ago at San Diego’s Woodland Middle School, in health class, 8th grade students were asked to stand under signs that indicated how far they would go sexually when they started dating. The signs read variously “Hugging,” “Kissing,” “Above the Waist”, “Below the Waist,” and “All the Way.”

So, here you are in 8th grade, at a notoriously awkward age, not yet dating, and you are to tell the entire class (and via rumor, the entire school!) how you might behave sexually in the future! This artful little game was something the “innovative” principal, Brian Randall, found in a community clinic, which was his defense in using it. (Randall’s logic: It comes from a community clinic; all things from a community clinic are educationally valuable; since this comes from a community clinic, it must be educationally valuable.) This exercise was billed as a way for parent-child communications to be opened up. How exactly that might happen was left unexplained.

And more to the point, how does this school arrogate to itself the right to ask questions proper only within the family (and most decidedly not in front of other students and staff!) or between a licensed therapist and his or her client?

I should like the school to put up signs for principals like Brian Randall to stand under (“I found this one at a community clinic, so it must be good”). Here are the signs: “I have not yet committed adultery, but I’m thinking about it,” “I have committed adultery, but regret it,” “I have committed adultery and enjoyed it,” and “Fidelity in marriage should be optional.”  This little game of mine, by the way, is “to open up communications between husband and wife.”

Just imagine this game: all the teachers are there, their spouses, the janitors even, perhaps a reporter or two (our rumor mill). And you must stand under one of the signs before the curious gaze of everyone present. Now it’s only a guess, mind you, but I think there might be one or two who would balk at playing this game, with privacy being the reason given.

Such “New Age” educational material is one reason why our school system is so poor; why we test almost last in comparison with other nations, developing and developed; why the media now broadcasts on a 5th grade level (news broadcasters, unfortunately, seem hardly better educated than that themselves!); and why we now see the dumbest productions on TV and in the movies.

Woodland’s descent into voyeuristic games in health class must surely be an indicator of the school’s overall intellectual quality. Do they teach Latin or Greek there, or French or German?  I would be very surprised if they did.  Can the students read good books (“Classics”) with both edification and enjoyment? Can they write well? Do they know how to diagram a sentence? How well prepared are they for entering high school? If Brian Randall’s use of logic is itself any indication, the intellectual strength of the school is on the short side of rigor and excellence.

The hard work of learning Latin in middle school or high school is today mostly just a memory, and yet those few students today who do take Latin easily outscore their non-Latin peers on standardized tests. The time taken to learn Latin rather than time spent on embarrassing voyeuristic “games” would aid a student incalculably more.

But one thing you can bet on from Principal Brian Randall, the path that should be taken to improve his school will not be taken. Why not? Because in response to parental criticism, he simply turned defiant and refused to take their criticism seriously.  In his mind there is no other truth than his own.  But as Socrates taught us two and a half millennia ago, real education is the search for Truth (not a defense of one’s opinions), but this presupposes humility and openness, neither of which Randall appears to possess. Since a school’s educational philosophy is largely determined by its principal’s, one may assume from Brian Randall’s defiant close-mindedness  that there is no great love of Truth at Woodland Middle School, and this would inevitably color what, and how,  a school teaches.

Our American education system is broken. One way to judge this is to look at the effects of science on our views of the universe. And what do we find? Science for half the country has had little discernible effect. 46% of American adults believe that the universe is 10,000 years old or younger. This view is called Creationism, which also advocates that God created the universe, as well as the first humans ( Adam and Eve), in just 7 days! It’s as if no progress in science has been made in the last 3000 years! Intellectually, there are many in the United States who are still in the Dark Ages! One often reads a lament about how we are not training scientists today. With Creationism believed so widely, one can see why the sciences have taken a back seat to unreasoning belief. The Bible is not and was never meant to be a scientific handbook. It is a book about God’s sovereignty (Genesis, Exodus)—a “Who the final authority is and our relationship to Him” and not a detailing “How the universe was created,” which is and ever will be a complete mystery, all the present and future scientific advances notwithstanding.

This simple fact, however, is too scary for the average Creationist to believe. Their faith is not strong enough to hold the sacred cup of mystery, their narrow minds too desiccated for the rich luxuriance of metaphor and symbol. Mankind is homo symbolicus; the Creationist on the other hand is homo timidus. But where there is no courage, there can be no true or lasting knowledge. The search for Truth is not for the faint of heart. To be numbered among God’s true followers is an essay in courage—and an adventure not of the spirit only but also of the mind. Only those who courageously  seek Truth truly live, truly embody the spirit of God. The fearful shall never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Woodland Middle School shows graphically how our education system is a failed enterprise. The reasons are many, however, and transcend easy criticism of Brian Randall. But he is surely part of the problem. He sets the school’s tone. In approving of a 14-year-old declaring publically what he or she would do sexually in the future is both pathologically voyeuristic, potentially psychologically harmful, inexpressibly inappropriate, as well as a bellwether of the continuing decline of the American education system.

Len Sive Jr.

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

SORTITION WILL HAVE TO WAIT FOR A GREAT LEADER WHO WILL RENEGE THE BALLOT DEMOCRACY

Choosing the Head of State in a parliamentary republic is a contradictory endeavour. Said kind of republic stays in a smallish number of countries. Yes, it flourishes in such an important system as Germany, with the ancillary context of Austria, then in some fifteen nations of Europe. Most Latin-American systems are modelled after the United States, the foremost among presidential republics; there the head of state leads the government too. So in non-parliamentary systems the popular vote elects a very relevant officer, who fully heads the Executive branch of government.

In a parliamentary republic the President (First Citizen) is the adjourned version of a constitutional (non-absolute) monarch, the one who reigns but doesn’t govern. He is a hybrid statesman who is not supposed to lead the majority party or coalition, so he can counterbalance the head of government (in case of need even topple him). Usually he is a high ranking but not dominant politician, who is prestigious enough as to be elected, however not in control of the political scene. The present First Citizen of Italy (Giorgio Napolitano) is exceptionally influential because of special circumstances. At 88, he will probably leave in a few months -this being the reason why here we deal with his office.

Not to have to choose this kind of president (i.e. a republican term-monarch) is one of the reasons why so many modern and advanced nations such as Japan, Britain, Sweden, Norway, Danemark, Netherland, Belgium, Luxemburg stick to the hereditary monarchy. Nowaday such hereditary monarchy is of course a perfectly illogical istitution, in view of the inferior quality of so many kings and queens of history. But those countries detest elected presidents.

In parliamentary Italy the perfect preconditions are given, theoretically, so that sortition should prevail as the way to choose a First Citizen:

a) our republic is demonstrably the worst political mechanism in the Western world. Changing it is imperative -most oligarchic politicians admit, or pretend to admit, this;

b) Italy is presently governed by a very brilliant, young (39) “turboPremier”, named Matteo Renzi. He has already proved to possess the will and the capability to radically renovate, even revolutionize the institutions. He undertook to abolish the Senate as a true chamber of Parliament.

We should reconsider the political role of great personalities against, say, the role of the collective will or of the Zeitgeist. Prophet Mohammed was able to invert history alone -his Islam transformed the disconnected, primitive, predatory tribes of Arabia into an imperial nation and into a great civilization. In our time a strongwilled Italian statesman could make the difference for sortition, should he decide to renege representative democracy. The combination on said preconditions might convince the Italian oligarchs to let a domineering Premier to introduce sortition, if only to select a First Citizen. Otherwise, in the absence of somebody resembling Mohammed, many decades will be needed for sortition to win.

Perfect parity among citizens to be sorted is impossible, given the chance that the lot chooses a simpleton or a criminal, or an otherly unqualified person. Therefore sortition should inevitably involve a restricted number of first-class citizens. For instance, if all of them were university principals, high judges or top administrators, nobody could oppose that the president choosen by lot were an ignorant.

However, we are dreaming. The chances are minimal that prime minister Renzi will decide to break the rules concerning the choice of the head of state. Other priorities will prevail. Sortition can only follow the utter discredit of entrenched habits, institutions, political climate and culture. Robber oligarchs must decide to accept the cancellation of representative democracy. Up to that moment their caste will go on bargaining the choice of heads of state who either are professional politicians or are coopted in the caste. Going to sortition can only be a Copernican revolution.

A.M.Calderazzi and Associates of www. Internauta online

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

ARGUMENTS TO WIN MINDS AND HEARTS TO SEMIDIRECT DEMOCRACY BY SORTITION

The hard truth is: in those advanced societies whose parliamentary/electoral mechanisms are long established , the immediate prospects of sortition are either next to nihil ,or very slight. The consensus still goes to passing sovereignty to elected, professional representatives. The technology to cancel such delegation to politicians is now available. It’s public psychology that lags.

Instead semi-direct democracy, either selective or not, is the intuitive alternative to both electoralism and autoritarian rule in countries that, in a definition of Oliver Dowlen, are “modern cases of extreme democratic breakdown”. If democratic breakdown is meant in a symbolic rather than strict way, then nations such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Argentina, many additional Latin American republics are places where sortition has some mid-term opportunities.

In these cases, the proponents of change should assign first priority to showing the failures of electoral democracy rather than to defending the superiority of any particular version of direct democracy. Sectarian infighting among advocates of sortition is worse than wrong, is self-defeating. So it’s perhaps pertinent that we list a number of common argumentations on the senility of the electoral process and philosophy.

 

Traditional democracies cannot be participatory. Active participation requires the trust that participating is likely to produce results. Over time democracy has been degraded to rule by career politicians. They do what they want and hold the people in irrelevance. The government has become so arrogant and overwhelming that we lack real liberty. People have literally nothing to say about public affairs.

It is now possible to contact and involve huge numbers of citizens who do not have access to the communication resources traditionally possessed by the established mass parties. The high likelihood of interactive links in all homes in the Western societies enhances the prospects of some kind of direct democracy. Sortition promises to be a very efficient mechanism for the selection of deliberators and of operational officers.

It’s not logical nor admissible that, 14 years into the Third Millennium, the political process stays unchanged as it was in the18th century. When Thomas Jefferson was president of the United States the trip from Monticello, his estate in Virginia, to the White House took three days on horseback. In 1831 the federal employees were in the U.S. 11,491; today they are several millions. And Internet is able to turn any giant nation into the cyber-equivalent of the Greek city-state. Rather than propping up tyrants, Internet can totally empower the citizens.

Direct democracy should be each citizen personally controlling the government from his home through a secure interactive network. Instead partisan politics, special interests and money behind them and behind candidates excavate beneath popular sovereignty. It empties it. In fact, direct (also semi-direct) democracy should be eliminating professional politicians, partisan politics, corruption and the role of money.

The enemies of change are used to warn that direct democracy is a highway to despotism. But history and political science suggest that common man, given the right circumstances, can be rational and discerning enough.

A geological change has happened in Western politics- the dramatic obsolence of the traditional institutions: political parties, establishment media, parliaments, lesser assemblies. Technology makes it possible to bypass them. Traditional mechanisms were deliberately designed three centuries ago so that popular passions were filtered before they could become legislation. Additional filters were added. Most filters are now superannuated. The parties are moribund, Parliaments are ponds of stagnant water.

 

The Fishkin theory

In 1992 James S.Fishkin, professor, Univ. of Texas, offered a scheme whereby randomly chosen citizens would be given the opportunity to deliberate. Fishkin proposed “a full-scale national random sample of 600 people gathered to a single site where they could question the presidential candidates”. In his opinion, that random sample would be a scientifically representative microcosm of citizens deliberating on issues. The precondition would of course be that a small group can be an accurate barometer of the public sentiment. Such a completely new form of semi-direct democracy supported by information technology would have randomly chosen average citizens doing the hard work of democracy that most of us don’t have the time, or will, or knowledge to do. It’s the way the jury system works. The 600 people could be described as a macro-jury, but the macrojury could be much larger, could be f.i. 600 thousand.

Twenty years ago, more or less, the American business magazine “Forbes” recapitulated: “Technology has rendered totally out of date the idea that authorities can control morality and culture. Politicians may still give speeches about everything noble, bur everyone knows that the talk is just reactionary gabble. The old political carnival, the old game of big promises on election day, soon forgotten in the enjoyment of power, is over”.

Futurologists Alvin and Heidi Toffler argued that “spectacular advances in communication technology open, for the first time, a mind-boggling array of possibilities for direct citizen participation in political decision-making. We the people must begin to shift from depending on representatives to representing ourselves”.

In conclusion, with most homes in advanced countries having a modem, the decline of the polling place is at hand. And when we can vote from home, it’s hard to believe that choosing candidates won’t be expanded to choosing politics.

A.M.Calderazzi and Associates of www.Internauta online 

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.