It’s No Fun If You Can’t Share   (2016Sep16)

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Friday, September 16, 2016                                              10:04 PM

When one group fights against another, someone wins and someone loses. We see this in the trouble-spots of the world—two sides which will fight until one or the other of them wins—beyond reason, beyond humanity, the absolutism of one group against another seems basic enough to overcome civility.

I’ve been thinking today of our strength as a nation—the melting pot that makes any one group a part of the larger whole—whether they like it or not. Immigrants to the United States know that the rules are different here—feuds from the old country don’t count here; authoritarian prerogatives once enjoyed by men over women, or one class over another—in their homeland—are forever null and void, here in the land of the free.

America has never fought for conquest or territory—only for the Right as we saw it (and a few mistakes, undeniably). And indeed, who could we attack? Where is there a country that isn’t already a part of ourselves? Reel off the role of the United Nations’ 193 countries—not a one of them fails to be represented by a segment of our population. Even those whose governments are seen as ‘bad actors’—their people, too, are a part of who we are—the Russians, the Chinese, the North Koreans, the Iranians, the Libyans, the Syrians—you name the place, and chances are high that the United States contains the largest number of any country’s population, outside of that country.

So, as we recognize that inclusion must be part of our domestic social policies, we also recognize that all nations are siblings—and that our nation is the glaring proof of that truth. We attract immigrants for many reasons—but I believe that most come here because, in the USA, you own yourself. Nobody tells us what to do. Nobody says we have to ask permission to try a new idea. We say whatever we want, and if you don’t like it, you say whatever you want back.

We take personal freedom very seriously here in America—sometimes, some of us even get a little crazy, pushing the bounds of propriety and safety merely to demonstrate the fullness of our liberty. In its own way, it’s pretty rough and tumble. But the acme of the ideal is not merely to have freedom—it is to accord it to everyone else, even when you don’t like it—even when it gets in your way.

And we certainly see abuse of the concept—many people are only too glad to take freedom, and less enthusiastic about giving it to others. Liberty isn’t always obvious—it doesn’t shout, it waits for you to notice it. Some people willfully turn away, and use ‘Liberty’ cynically, hypocritically, as a cudgel attempting to carve out their freedoms at the expense of others’ rights. But they will run out of hot air before America runs out of people who treasure its ideals.

In the end, our immigrant heritage not only strengthens us as a nation, it bonds us to all nations—not as a competitor, not as a threat—but as a family of humanity, all collected together in the great experiment of America. While our capitalists and generals may sometimes lose their perspective, and get lost in the struggle for power, remember this—all most of us want is to share our freedom with the rest of the world. We don’t want other countries to belong to us, we just don’t want to hog all the good stuff for ourselves—it’s no fun to be happy if you can’t share it with everyone else.

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Are You Done?

Saturday, August 24, 2013                   6:13 PM

Are you the final result? Are you as good as you get? Have you decided your days of self-improvement are over? I ask myself such questions all the time. And I think about my community that way, and my country, and my children’s futures. I doubt any of us has set our goal towards giving our kids exactly what we were given, no more and no less. Most of us, nearly all of us, want to offer our children something more, something better.

And I doubt any of us are completely satisfied with the various modes of commuter transportation—or our taxes, or our laws—really nothing has been made perfect. None of us take what we are here, now, as the best thing we can be—and all of us are actively striving towards betterment, not just of ourselves, but of our town, our state, our nation, and our world.

We want enough food, we want enough shelter, electricity, heat, medicine, and internet access for everybody. And that’s not all—we want the food to be better, healthier, tastier, etc. We want better homes and gardens, smaller bills, more say, and less restriction. But we want more freedom, too. We want more money, more government services, better schools. We want, we want, we want.

We all want, in our different ways—when we could be getting a lot more by wanting together. If people were more organized, things would be more efficient—but organization doesn’t appear out of nowhere. Organization requires leadership and leadership has power and power corrupts. That is why every historical effort to become organized has devolved into a power struggle between the manifest will of the people and the whims of the corrupted powerful.

Our democracy has never been a perfect thing—far from it. Its ability to protect us from ourselves has eroded over centuries of legislative conjuring and barefaced lobbying by business leaders. The land of opportunity has become a land of liberty, at least in comparison with some other places—that is, the freedom is still there, but the opportunities have started drying up. The unsettled lands have shrunk to virtual zero; the untapped resources are no longer possible wherever one takes a pick-axe to the soil, or a saw to the forest. We aren’t building many new dams along rivers these days, and for many reasons… indeed, most changes to existing dams are meant to make them less of a boundary to spawning fish and other life cycles.

So our ‘democracy’, in its present form, has become a rigged game being run by the majority shareholders of the capitalist system—if we wish to defend ourselves, we will require an organization that sidesteps our election system and our legislature. We will have to find a way for democracy to survive in a ‘land without opportunities’. Organization will be required—but how to make an organization that isn’t as dangerous as the one we now have?

Perhaps that is the real meaning of the famous quote: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Perhaps Thomas Jefferson meant that Liberty is always at risk, that we must scrap our government, our legislation, our entire national organization every couple of decades. Perhaps Jefferson saw the inevitable creep that would begin to gnaw on the boundaries of our liberty from the first day of our new government.

And perhaps that is the true reason for the Second Amendment—we were supposed to use it long ago, to overthrow the government before our government became too strong for even armed state militias to resist. We missed our chance—now the second amendment is just an historical novelty, a tattered rationale to support the firearms industry.

The American Dream, just like the USA itself, was founded on a well-spring of opportunity and untapped riches. Our present government, like modern capitalism, are both the unsatisfactory results of those initiatives when continued on into a period of shrinking opportunities and riches. We must organize. We must find a way to crowd-source our own destinies, before Sony and Pfizer, et al., figure out how to crowd-source us into a shiny new, digital thralldom.

If, like me, you feel that you’re not quite done yet, consider the difference between struggling for your own interests as an individual and struggling for change as an organized group. If the idea of public-service-oriented crowd-sourcing doesn’t scare the pants off most of today’s politicians, it’s only because they haven’t the vision to see how powerful such an initiative may someday be.

There are many organizations—tennis players’ organizations, advertising industry organizations, chess clubs, and such—an infinity of affinities, if you will. There are many corporations—and as capitalism-based organizations (with the rights of a person, no less) they have a great deal of power and influence. We have political parties which are supposed to be organizations to represent the opinions and interests of the populace, but which have drifted farther and farther away from that role, and closer and closer to becoming a rubber stamp for the interests of the biggest check-writers.

Henrietta and Dwarf by Anthony van Dyck

Henrietta and Dwarf by Anthony van Dyck

But there is no organization in defense of ordinary people. Many organizations will tell you they are exactly that, but all will be wrong to the extent that nothing exists without the influence of money—and each of those organizations will have specific interests they are ‘for’ or ‘against’.

Charles I with M de St Antoine (1633) by Anthony van Dyck

Charles I with M de St Antoine (1633) by Anthony van Dyck

I’m talking about a ‘People’ lobby. Its mission would be to confront and conflict with the business lobbyists, the religious activists, and any raise in the cost of living. It would ceaselessly push for a higher minimum wage, no matter what that wage is. It would hunt down and prosecute any big corporation that is milking the government of billions of dollars as part of its daily operation—and the Humanity lobby would call for audits of every single government contract, investigate all hints of improper influence and the least sign of selling favors.

In short, it would be the most hated organization the world has ever seen. The Humanity lobby would refuse to recognize borders and work on behalf of all people, people living in all countries, and people working for all companies. It would fund its own news service, with an eye towards ecological risks, inhumane employment standards, slave wages, and corruption and influence across the globe. Only one catch—every twenty years we have to take the leaders of that organization out to the back wall and shoot’em.

The Real Mother Goose is one of the larger collections of rhymes for children. It has wonderful pen and watercolor illustrations by Blanche Fisher Wright. This book was originaly published in 1916.

The Real Mother Goose is one of the larger collections of rhymes for children. It has wonderful pen and watercolor illustrations by Blanche Fisher Wright. This book was originaly published in 1916.

Fascism and Drug Policy

Veil Nebula

Wednesday, August 01, 2012         2:57 AM

Fascism Lives—And It’s Just Saying ‘No’

When Fascism first hit the world stage, it was hailed by many as an absolutism that would remove the unsightly wrinkles from our modern nations by insisting that each nation’s government had a right to categorize and control all the citizens of their nations. Today we call ‘categorization’ by its true name, ‘genocide’. We still fight governments over control of our lives, which has a tendency to creep up—but more importantly, we see few governments reversing their policies on surveillance and control—always creeping forward, but never moving back to the former, less-rigorous condition.

The governmental control over the Nazi’s lives was ultimately defeated, but it was defeated in part by America’s patriotic love of our ‘free’ way of life, which manifested itself as Americans’ willingness to cede control over their own fate and pull together to fight the enemy. Not only were military personnel expected to take orders without question—even the home front bought into the need for rationing gasoline, rationing food, blackout curfews, the Japanese-American concentration camps, metal and rubber drives, and even the presumed sacrifice of part of ones paycheck to buy ‘war bonds’ to support the government’s war activities. This was quite a different picture from the public response to the Viet Nam war, when our government’s military actions weren’t so fervently supported by its citizens.

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The modern ‘Free World’ is a more sophisticated arrangement. Firstly, while we roundly condemn any hint of genocide, we have nevertheless become a culture which clearly separates the rich from the poor, with the resulting effect of making us all 2nd-class citizens whose laws and activities are unilaterally determined by the smallest upper-class, proportionately, that history has to offer.

In this respect, western civilization has returned to fascism with but the one caveat—that we are all Jews now, at least insofar as our needs are being addressed by those in power. And I use the phrase ‘in power’ advisedly, since we can all agree that we live in a democratic nation in which no elected office-holder was given less votes than any other candidate. (Most of the time, anyhow.)

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But those in power are not these elected officials. The powerful are the super-wealthy, and the top management executives from the major corporations (domestic or otherwise), and the owners of mass-communication companies. Any one of the powerful may well be all of these things, but no one without at least one of these points of access is in a position to make a sea-change in the way our culture operates.

As a private citizen of no great notice, I will agree that I can vote for whoever I like at each and every election. But I will not concede that I am, therefore, influencing my country in any meaningful way. The candidates that make their way onto the ballots are chosen for me by both parties’ internal systems and are carefully chosen so as to play one against the other in frivolous, superficial arenas—while never brushing up against any substantive issue that might pit the citizens of our country against the wealthy-and-powerful’s established business and finance policies. The surface roils with issues of a personal nature, which entitle everyone to have an opinion, and to argue, before, during, and after any important choices are surreptitiously made for us by the ‘boys in the back room’.

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Secondly, our control over our own fate is tamped down severely by the incessancy of mass media, an entertainment industry that still pretends to inform us objectively and thoroughly. This ‘mass-media-amalgam’ has chosen to buy into the two-party democracy story-line, in an era during which neither party has done much in the way of serving the public, i.e. at a time when we need third-, fourth, even nth- party, candidates in our politics—local, state, or national. The Nazis called this ‘propaganda’. We call it ‘cable’ and pay for it every month.

Nothing is changed more than by narration. The rich and powerful decree to their enthralled news-reporting businesses what POV is to be used, and all the news is told to us as it is perceived by the powerful. No, it’s worse than that, it is couched in language that purposely presents an audience with a biased POV—not sharing the elites’ misperceptions, but misleading us as to the reality behind the news events. And while we are barraged daily with this drenching of nonsense, no substantive public debate can begin on the issues our elite would like to keep any attention from.

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Take this example. The gigantic downfall of the derivatives market was presented in the media as something that happened on the day they reported the plummeting of global markets that triggered. We are expected to believe that dedicated journalists had been haunting the offices and hallways of the executives in control of our financial institutions, and those running their corresponding governmental overseers. We are not expected to ask why none of this Credit Armageddon was reported on in the previous years, months or even days.

Here’s another example. DEA administrator Michele Leonhart recently responded to the question: “Why is marijuana bad?” with “Well, all illegal drugs are bad.” This condescension is meant to imply that all these bothersome details are above reproach, and always were, and always would be. The bitterest part of this ‘positioning’ is it’s implication that authority should not be questioned.

No, I take that back—even more embittering is that we citizens seem to stand still for them while they fit us with their ‘little peon’s’ driving-harnesses of oppression (Patent Pending). We are seeing employment figures rise by tiny increments over years of time. We are finding minimum wage employment, and being grateful for it. We have lost that American tradition of walking out on a job when our boss is too big of an ass. The only fear we need to fear is Unemployment—Liberty, sadly, takes the Silver in that race.

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Friday, August 03, 2012

8:49 PM

 

Let me come at the drug problem in a pragmatic way—maybe then I can change your mind… Are drugs dangerous? Yes. Without question. And, even, really dangerous, deadly dangerous—yes, drugs are dangerous.

Do we fear for our children’s safety? Yes, again. Yes we do. Ours are grown now, but all through middle school and high school we lived in fear of their safety. We still do, but it has become a more amorphous fear, the yang to the yin of our hopes for their success. But back in those school days—every night was a horror movie—no, a veritable Cineplex of horror movies running through our parental minds as we waited for the phone’s ring or the car’s headlights swerving across the ceiling, signifying that both of them were still breathing for one more day. And it wasn’t just drugs we feared for their safety’s sake, there are plenty of other fear-options—ask the parent of a teenager.

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To recap: Drugs are dangerous. They put our youngsters at risk every day, not to mention several types of adults—and the children they parent. It would appear obvious that drugs should be illegal. What is there to discuss?

I should like to discuss that which isn’t obvious—criminalizing drugs makes the problem worse. The drug problem has nothing to do with the law—well, no, that’s wrong—the drug problem has even bigger problems because of the law.

One of these additional drawbacks is the acquisition of great wealth by criminal organizations. The second drawback is that this black market economy is outside of both the domestic economy and the various governments’ (local, state, fed) taxation. When black market drugs are booming, none of that cash flow interacts with established businesses and NPOs. The money lost to drug lords is money that won’t be taxed by the government trying to control drugs with Customs, ATF, and DEA.

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A third drawback of criminalized drug policy is the surreptitious distribution methods that black markets require. By using secret, compartmentalized means of distribution, the destinations are unlimited—they include schools, social venues, bars, restaurants, and residential neighborhoods.

Taxed, controlled drugs sold only to adults (as with alcoholic beverages) would make the acquisition of drugs by minors more difficult. Plus, the loss of income suffered by black market drug suppliers would put them out of business, curtailing the flow of uncontrolled drugs to the ‘street and schoolyard’ locations. Plus, it would be difficult for them to match the prices on officially sanctioned drugs—so, even if they kept going, we would soon price them out of business. Their serpentine methods of harvesting, processing, smuggling, and dealing would cost far more than an aboveboard operation of the same commodity.

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We are afraid of drugs. We are especially afraid of drugs getting to our children. We want drugs to be illegal—they are too dangerous to allow the public to have legal access. It seems to make sense—but it doesn’t. What makes sense is for us to face the drug problem and stare it down. We need drug users to be visible, we need kids doing drugs to be visible, we need to treat addicts, we need to inspect the quality and purity of drugs being used. We need to study drugs as a part of our society.

Drugs are here. I could easily find a source for any illegal drug, if I wanted to. And everyone who wants to, finds a source. That drugs are criminalized doesn’t make them go away—it only drives them into the shadows where good people never look. Illegal drugs isolate the drug user from normal society—addiction isn’t treated until the most advanced condition presents them to the ER, half-dead already. And these separations of the drug-user/-abuser from the rest of us turn a mere black market into a full-fledged underground society, with pocket concentrations in the most underserved of neighborhoods.

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Would making drugs legal give our children the idea that we condone hard drugs? Not necessarily. The businesses would still have drug tests—getting a job, particularly one requiring responsible behavior, would still be out of reach for drug abusers. Traffic cops would still arrest drug abusers who drove while under the influence (just as with alcohol). Licenses, much like liquor licenses, would control the number of retail drug sales establishments and, more importantly, would be accompanied by regular inspections by the drug control authority (just as bars and nightclubs are inspected and restricted in the manner of selling and the rules of permissible customer behavior). The children themselves would be barred from any place that sells drugs or any venue that offers drugs for use, which would tell them, just as the liquor and tobacco rules do now, that these are dangerous substances that only adults can be responsible for.

But it would tell them one other, important thing—that the government doesn’t tell people what to do, even if it is dangerous. It would tell them that liberty includes the right to be an idiot—a truism that we see proved virtually daily on the news. Prohibition gave us a lesson in banned substances—it creates a criminalized society, it empowers outlaws and organized crime, and it doesn’t ever stop the flow of the commodity to market, because the market never goes away.

One other benefit would be to relieve the enormous pressure of inmates being held in prisons—releasing every non-violent drug ‘criminal’ would create a much needed reduction in our national prison capacity. I think it is high time we ‘grasped the thistle’ of drug abuse—to forgo our fantasies of a drug free society and begin the real work of having drugs in our society.

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