Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What is Going On?

A friend has been asking for my take on the current mess in this Republican primary season—the clown show, culminating in the nomination of the chief clown--the GOP’s Mussolini, Donald Drumpf. The reason I have refrained thus far is that I am unsure I understand what is going on. I mean, the GOP has with some frequency nominated and we have elected idiot-savants, or just idiots. Look at St. Ronald of Reagan, and The Shrub as your prime examples.  That the body public rejected what many viewed as the prime candidate this year, Jeb Bush, should have come as no surprise to anyone.  I mean, did anyone really expect the folks out here would buy into yet another member of the Bush clan??
But even beyond the obvious, I remain unsure of how someone as goofy and unqualified as The Donald could possibly have come this far.  Mainly, my uncertainty stems from what I observe, both here and in other countries.  Here, for example, we see two candidates, The Donald on the one side, and Bernie on the other side, both attracting a large group of disaffected voters. In Bernie’s case, especially, he has attracted a fairly large group of young voters. The Donald may also be appealing to this same group, but he also seems to be attracting blue collar. So, what is going on there?
Well, I think that our growing income inequality, wherein the top 1% seems to be gathering up all the money, and our pols seem intent on increasing the pace at which they so gather, by reducing the tax rates of the already rich, is a central part of the overall phenomenon. The others, those being left behind have begun to notice that they can no longer participate in our economy like they used to do. Everything is now a stretch, including especially housing.  And because our large corporations remain firmly fixed on unit cost, as distinct from quality, they remain fixed on outsourcing labor to anywhere outside the US of A.  And so, the laboring classes remain without consistent sources of work, and therefore income.  Mind you, the Government has little to do with this issue. It is almost entirely a derivative of the commercial entities in our country.  It is of course true that NAFTA and other similar trade pacts provide the slippery slope down which we are all sliding.  But the phenomenon of jobs seeking low worker pay has been happening for decades, well before NAFTA. The textile industry moved from the Northeast into the South, and thence to places even farther South, and thence to China. Meanwhile, our Corporate CEOs, sat around boardroom tables, sucking their thumbs and counting their grotesque salaries and bonuses.
Workers of the world have begun noticing that, as their jobs disappear, CEO pay packets keep increasing, and they have begun thinking—“what is wrong with this picture?”
Now, the issue of income inequality is not solely a US phenomenon. If you go to British, Australian, or European news outlets, you will discover that income inequality has entered the political dialogues occurring in those places also.  In Britain, the Labour Party has been fighting for some time with that nation’s “conservatives” and not winning, despite the obvious fact that “conservatives” seem not to care about the middle and lower classes, and keep focused on the tax rates of the rich. A recent issue of the Australian Independent media posted a column on this subject:
Should we be concerned that the corporate tax rate is more important than a low paid worker with a disability being able to take his little girls to the pictures one weekend? Or should we be more concerned about the Turnbull government’s $29 billion cut to Education over the next 10 years?
The agony of choice; tax cuts to companies and those earning above $80,000 a year, or providing a better education for a young man’s daughters. Tax cuts versus education? Which to choose? It is clear which alternative the Turnbull government prefers.
That we should even be debating such a choice, highlights how corrupted our system is, how corrupted is a government that would put corporate tax cuts ahead of our childrens’ education.
Malcolm Turnbull is making the wrong choices for Australia’s future. He wants big business to have a tax cut and he wants to cut funding from every school in the country. That demonstrates a corrupted system in ways that should shock us all.
There is not a scintilla of evidence to show that corporate tax cuts stimulate growth. There is, however, a mountain of evidence to show that putting more money into the hands of the low paid will generate economic activity.
The entire issue of winners and losers in a fiat currency nation is itself, appalling. We can provide incentives for business and educate our children without having to compromise. We can implement a state of the art health system. We can provide proper care for the elderly. We can employ every person who wants to be employed.
We can spend the money to make these things happen, without causing inflation, without borrowing, without threatening the value of our currency. We can do all this if we wanted to, if we cared enough.
But that’s not how the system works.
The System is the problem. We need to make the system work for us, rather than against us. We have much to fear but it is not fear itself. It is loss of control. The choices we face in the coming election should be about regaining control, taking back what is ours.
Our democracy is skin deep. We have surrendered our rights to a plutocracy that now controls our daily lives. It is more evident than ever.
We need to fix the system.”
In Britain, the arguments about Scotland remaining within Britain, and the arguments raging about what is called Brexit (British exit from the EU) are all about winners, losers, and immigration.  The arguments sound a lot like what The Donald has been screaming, and not unlike what Bernie Sanders talks about.
So, despite the vast differences in philosophy (to the extent that the Donald can be said to hold a governing philosophy) The Donald and Bernie are attracting potential voters, because those voters are disaffected. They believe the system is rigged against them and they are ready to abandon ship. They want someone who is different, and Bernie and The Donald are as different as they get.
What does Bernie promise? Well, Bernie attacks the governing elites, especially the financial systems of our country (and the world) and the large corporations who work so zealously to reduce their tax burden, even at the expense of the working poor. Corporate CEOs, and, especially, financial system CEOs seem to care not one whit about the effects on the working dudes in our land. When Romney spoke of that 47%, (Romney's told a private gathering of $50,000-or-more donors that nearly half of Americans believe "they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them" and that "my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.") his comments sunk his campaign.  Bernie speaks to that same group, as does the Donald. The difference? Bernie says that the system works against them. The Donald says the same thing, with the difference being that Bernie will focus on relieving The Donald and his friends of some of their money to pay for the system changes (e.g., free college tuition, health care) he advocates. The Donald essentially blames the Government and immigrants streaming into our country uninvited. The Government keeps fighting stupid wars, fails to police our borders, and signs on to stupid trade deals, which he will repudiate.
So, the disaffected in our nation are attracted in increasingly large numbers to candidates who promise radical change, and who promise, in a sense, to throw the rascals out (whether the rascals are Mexican druggies, or financial system CEOs, who are running our country into the ground doesn’t seem to matter. These folks want large scale change and also want their jobs back. Thus, when Hillary visits West Virginia coal country and tells folks the truth—that their jobs will continue to disappear as other energy sources are developed—it is a truth they do not wish to hear. They prefer instead fiction that pleases their world view, which is why Fox News is so important in this story. Fox preaches the plight of the very rich –Rupert Murdoch is very rich, so he is preaching his own case. The folks who listen in rapt attention to Fox, The Faux News Network, they are listening to a narrative that they want to believe—that the Government is their enemy, and their only hope is to dump the current government and bring in a new set of rascals, rascals chosen by Rupert and the Koch brothers.
One problem in all this, of course, is that Rupert and the Koch brothers don’t like The Donald, because he is unpredictable. They remain uncertain whether he will side with them on money issues, or go a different path. So, they prattle on about the evils of the current government, while still not quite endorsing The Donald.  Rupert and his buddies must be feeling a bit schizoid at this stage of the game. The Donald meanwhile, and Bernie meanwhile continue to go on yelling that they have the interests of the disaffected at heart and only they have any answers.
The same sort of folks voted on Scottish independence, and will soon vote on Brexit. The Scots decided narrowly to remain British, and the question is still open on whether Britain will remain within the EU.  Here, we remain in a catatonic state, awaiting the November results, still in a state of disbelief, kind of like suspended animation, waiting to see whether we all need to move to Canada before they build a giant wall and get us to pay for it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Spotlight on Catholics

Spotlight on a Corrupt Catholic Church
We watched the film, Spotlight the other night. A fascinating film with fine acting and very tight writing. But the amazing aspect is what the film tells us of the Catholic Church as an institution. It suggests corruption at the core, and perhaps all the way to the top. The initial portrayal by the church was that a few bad apples had been at work. What the following investigations revealed is that the church has been following this corrupt practice for generations, perhaps centuries, and it has never done anything about it.

I don’t know what a solution might be to such a widespread problem.  Perhaps, if the church hierarchy objected to secular remedies (20 years in prison??), then they might have embarked on their own. The church is famous for its monasteries, for example.  Why couldn’t the church have built monasteries all over the world and then sent errant priests to those monasteries for lifelong devotion to prayer, and never let those priests back into society? That would have been ok by me (recognizing that I don’t count).

But the film also makes me wonder about the theological implications of this bizarre church order.
For example, what were the priests and their bosses thinking when first the priests engaged in the practice of raping little boys, and then their bosses took no serious remedial actions? Did they, for example, think/believe that God doesn’t pay attention to such minor matters, being so busy at managing the universe???  But, if that were true, then what is all this prattling on about crap like who’s eating meat on Fridays, or who hasn’t been to confession lately??? Surely, if God is too busy for rape, then she could not care less about who eats meat on Fridays. Or perhaps, the priests really, deep down, do not believe in heaven or hell, or even God herself?? And if that is the case, then what does all this say about the thing called organized religion, of the Catholic sort?? That it’s all a gigantic joke on mankind? I mean, I already understand that religion, all religions are really death cults.  That is, they focus on the single most fearful thing facing all humankind, i.e., creatures who think—and that is death.  They all promise that death is not the end, but instead the beginning of an afterlife world, in which everything is perfection.  Unless, that is, you screw up . . . because then you don’t get to “live” there.  Now, if you can get folks to believe that, then they will follow you anywhere.

Thus beginneth the lesson about religion.