Monthly Archives: May 2014

DISUNITY

You would think that after inhabiting this planet for at least tens of millions of years, man would learn to live side-by-side with each other in peace and harmony. You would think that the evolutionary process that has supposedly brought man to a more advanced, civilized existence, would also produce enough wisdom to promote a more cooperative and benign state of affairs among the world’s nations. You would think. Sadly, however, as we all know, just the opposite is more likely the norm. Rather than living in a spirit of peace and cooperation, we live in a world populated by terrorists thirsting for the blood of innocents on a massive scale. We live in a time where tyrants and despots cause the wholesale slaughter of their own people, or threaten other countries with war or military aggression. If there’s an evolutionary process going on, it seems to be one of regression rather than advancement. So let’s examine some of the cases and causes of major disunity among the 7 billion people that currently populate this planet we call Earth.

Libya might be a good place to start. Libya was the one instance where our current Administration was willing to use force to assist the Libyan people in overthrowing one of the world’s worst despots who had ruled them for more than 3 decades. His name was Muammar Gaddafi, and he was a really, really bad guy. When the Libyan people finally rose up against Gaddafi, it looked like the rebellion might be doomed to failure until the U.S. began bombing Gaddafi’s military forces, thereby ensuring the success of the uprising. Gaddafi was killed and there was great cheering and celebration as the Libyan people tasted freedom and liberty for the first time in decades. Now fast forward to today when there’s no more celebrating in the streets. A very weak central government has resulted in Libya being broken down into a series of tribal fiefdoms, with each tribe having its own tribal dictator. Some are despotic Islamic terrorists and all the tribes appear to be at each other’s throats. There’s no more dancing in the streets, as the the hopes and dreams of the rebellion have turned to dust. Add to that the murder of our Ambassador to Libya and 3 of his aides that occurred a few years ago, and you have a prime example of a country in an advanced state of devolution.

Another prime example of disunity is the fiasco in Iraq. George W. Bush ordered our invasion of Iraq in 2003 because Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein could not be allowed to have weapons of mass destruction in his arsenal, including nuclear bombs. Now, unquestionably, Saddam Hussein was another really bad tyrant who had slaughtered tens of thousands of his fellow citizens if he felt they, in any way, opposed him. But the trouble was, no weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq. We did remove Hussein from the world stage, but at a terrible price. Over 6000 American military and civilians were killed during this 10-year war. Another 30,000 Americans were so severely injured that their lives are effectively over. Things like brain injuries, blindness, lost limbs, etc. About 150,000 Iraqis also lost their lives during the war. And we also spent close to a trillion dollars, chasing WMDs that never existed. So what is the result of investing so much blood and treasure to pursue phantom WMDs and remove Saddam Hussein from office.

Similar to Libya, Iraq is totally fractured today. Different factions of the Iraqi populace, (Shia versus Sunni) are at war with each other. Almost daily occurrences of terrorist bombings kill scores people. Going shopping at the local market means literally risking one’s life. More than likely, a car bomb is set to go off. Al-qaeda terrorists now occupy large sections of the country. So once again, all the joy and celebration of of ridding the country of Saddam Hussein and his thugs have totally evaporated. Afghanistan is another country where the U.S. is involved in a similar war that is still on-going. So far, about 2200 Americans have lost their lives in that never-ending debacle. We’re scheduled to remove most American forces by the end of this year, at which time Afghanistan will likely, once again, devolve into a state of tribal dysfunction. The beat goes on.

In Syria, another tyrannical dictator named Assad has already murdered (sometimes with the use of chemical warfare) about 150,000 of his own people in order to maintain power. He supposedly crossed the red line in the sand that this Administration established when his forces used chemical acids to to destroy his opponents. Nevertheless, there was no American military response. Just a lot of finger waving an indignation. The problem is that the American public is too weary and drained by the prolonged military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has absolutely no desire for further military adventurism in Syria. So the killing continues there unabated.

Also on the current world stage is another murderous tyrant named Vladimir Putin who has achieved the first military annexation of European territory since the end of WWII. I’ve written extensively about Putin’s thuggish actions, so I won’t rehash previous entries, except to say that he is obviously getting away with the occupation of chunks of the Ukraine, with virtually little response from the U.S. or its European allies. In the Pacific, a brutal, murderous regime in North Korea terrorizes its citizenry. The dictatorship in China continues to militarily threaten Japan, South Korea, and other Asian countries. And, of course, the most dangerous regime of all, the Islamic fanatical tyranny in Iran, is inches away from acquiring nuclear weapons. ¬†And Iran’s leaders are just fanatical and crazy enough to launch nuclear bombs against its perceived enemies such as Israel and the U.S. Kind of makes you tingle all over, doesn’t it.

I could go on about more instances of humans behaving very badly; but I’m sure you all get the picture. Perhaps I should have titled this entry as the devolution of the human spirit.

 

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ADVOCATING FOR THE POOR

I’ve written before about how Lyndon Johnson initiated the war on poverty in the U.S. 50 years ago. Now, 50 years later and trillions spent, about the same number of people, percentage-wise, in this country are still mired in poverty. To say nothing of the billions of people on this planet also living in the most desperate squalor. Especially in Africa, Asia and South America. The thing about poverty is that one is not only forced to live under the most inhumane conditions; but it deflates one’s spirit and self-worth the way a pin prick would allow the helium to come oozing out, thus deflating a hot-air ballon. So, is there anyone out there of major importance who is speaking out on behalf of the plight of the poor. Certainly no one in this country, including President Obama. But there is one figure on the world stage that has now became a major advocate for the world’s impoverished; and that figure is newly inaugurated Pope Francis.

The new Pope, who had previously worked closely with those down-and-out in Argentina, has made some recent declarations that have had U.S. right-wingers and those who believe in laissez-faire capitalism, quite upset. First he indicated that trickle-down economics was a bad thing thing that especially victimized the poor. A BAD THING? Why, trickle-down economics, where a few people who are highly proficient in manipulating our capitalist system become so rich that they’re willing to let a few shekels trickle down to the rest of the peasants, is the heart and soul of the Republican Party’s platform. How can that be a bad thing? The Pope’s proclamation had a number rich, Catholic donors to the GOP, almost apoplectic. Catholic, right-wing demagogues on Fox News like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity were near having total meltdowns.

Next, Pope Francis had the temerity to state that there there should be a justifiable re-distribution of wealth from the rich to the poor. OH MY GOD. Now he’s really gone too far. The Koch Brothers and their ilk began labeling the Pope as a Marxist, if not an out-right Communist. Asking the rich to part with some of their wealth to enable the poor, why that was just plain, out-right subversive. How could the Pope even call himself Catholic. Everyone knows that if people are poor, it means they’re just too lazy or too unambitious or too stupid, or perhaps all three, to make something of themselves. As a result of the Pope’s heresy when it came to statements regarding capitalism, Francis was forced to, at least partially, walk back some of these “jarring” proclamations on wealth re-distribution. Otherwise, how could rich, catholic, right-wing capitalists the world over, live with themselves.

In any event, I thought it might be worthwhile to examine what poverty looks like here in the U.S. since few topics have more myths, misconceptions, stereotypes and distortions surrounding them. The notions that poverty affects a relatively small number of people, is primarily confined to minorities living in the inner-cities, and results because people don’t work hard enough, are flat-out wrong. Research has indicated that nearly 40% of Americans between the ages of 25-60 will live at least one year below the officially designated poverty level. The number rises to 54% if you include those that are just at, or slightly above the poverty line. Also, nearly half of all American children will, at some point, live in households that require food stamps to be able to put food on the table. And, contrary to myth, only 10% of those in poverty live in extremely poor inner cities. The rest can be found throughout a variety of urban and suburban landscapes, and especially in small towns across rural America. Also, instead of mainly minorities, two-thirds of those below the poverty line are identified as being white, a number that has been consistent over several decades.

Well, you might say, especially if you’re a Republican, what about the huge benefits the Government supposedly lavishes on the poor. Again, a myth. Contrary to political rhetoric, the American social safety net is extremely weak and filled with gaping holes. It has become even weaker over the past 40 years because of continuing budget cutting measures. The U.S. stands alone among first-world industrialized nations in failing to provide universal health care, (even under ObamaCare), affordable child care, free or low-cost college tuition, or reasonably priced and decent low-income housing. That’s why, Europe, for example, has a far lower poverty rate than the U.S. Those who are mired in poverty, are often shocked to find how little Government assistance is available to ease their dire circumstances.

Finally, the myth that the poor are too indolent to improve their living standards should also be put to rest. The vast majority of the poor have worked or are currently working. The problem is that they usually lack the job skills and/or education to find employment that pays decent wages. And because we have a generally lousy economy, it’s extremely difficult those that lost their jobs in the latest downturn to find new offers. Couple that with the millions of jobs U.S. companies have shipped overseas so they can pay even lower wages, and the plight of the working poor, becomes even more dire.

Now one must recognize that the definition of poor in this country is a lot different than what it means to be poor in a place such as Africa, for example. In this country, the poor may live in the most squalid of quarters, but they do have a roof over their heads. Most will likely have color TVs, cell phones, computers and perhaps even a car. In Africa, vast chunks of the population don’t even have electricity, let alone all the assorted gadgetry. Many in Africa experience such abominable sanitary and living conditions that their average life expectancy is about half what it is in this country. But the one thing that unites all the world’s poor, is the way poverty drains the human soul of any feelings of self-worth. So, ¬†since no other world figure seems to be up for the job, it would appear that Pope Francis needs to continue to be a strong advocate for the world’s impoverished.

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