Monday, December 02, 2019

The Dumbing Down of America

As a nation, we are indeed in the midst of very troubling times. The current resident of the White House has clearly shown himself to be a demagogue espousing white supremacy and an individual with an extremely troubling array of personality disorders including pathological narcissism. His delusional state of mind has led him to believe that he alone is capable of deciding what is good for the nation while systematically discarding and demeaning the inner workings of government that are so essential for the successful implementation of well-reasoned and finely crafted public policy. His total disregard of the kinds of advice that a leader in such a position of global responsibility requires and his apparent inability to comprehend the nuances of complex issues has resulted in policy positions that have no real credibility. His unhinged contempt for the fundamental values that have heretofore sustained this Democratic Republic has injected a level of chaos and misdirection that seems to have no real historic equivalent or precedent.

To date, the implementation of his uninformed, misguided and essentially destructive point of view has resulted in the following –

· A decision to opt out of the Paris accords around Climate Change with signatories including approximately 200 nations based upon his conviction that this global threat is, a hoax in spite of the extreme weight of scientific data in support of the reality of this global crisis

· The cruel and insidious separation of immigrant children from their families at the nation’s southern border placing them in a horrific imprisoned environment so as to purposely discourage people fleeing from unsafe and violent circumstances from seeking asylum in the US. The lack of a reasoned policy around the issue of illegal immigration is purposeful and reflects a bigoted and white-supremacist point of view. This outlook also extends to Muslims worldwide

· An abysmal failure to address domestic gun violence, a clear demonstration of support of the use of torture in regard to the treatment of political prisoners and the legitimization of extra-legal killing on the part of military operations abroad

· The implementation of a crazy-quilt and chaotic array of trade policies that amounts to trade wars against a growing number of our trading partners. This chaotic state of affairs is a wholly predictable consequence of making policy on the fly without integrating the suggestions and advise from those with the appropriate experience and professional working knowledge

· The promulgation of foreign policy decisions made from conclusions drawn from uninformed sources with a complete disregard of the advice offered by experts from both the diplomatic core and the military establishment. The implementation of these initiatives has invariably led to disruption and disarray on the part of the nation’s career professionals and the international community at large

· The issuance of executive orders designed to undermine the regulatory policies instituted by the Obama administration demonstrating a blatant disregard for the progress that has been made in improving the quality of the natural environment. Apparently this President does not seem to have any concern for the health and safety of the American people or the sustainability of the ecosystem on which life depends. It should be remembered that this President was the same person who freely admitted to having conducted a fraudulent and prolonged investigation into the birth credentials of Barrack Obama for the sole purpose of discrediting a Black man with incomparable intellect and intelligence

· An apparently endless stream of abusive commentaries, blatantly false accusations, outright lies and distortions of reality - obviously a product delusional thinking and remarkable small-mindedness

· Finally, the illicit use of executive power to promote purely personal political ends and overt obstruction in regard to Congress’ oversight authority to the point of resulting in articles of impeachment being drawn against him.

In spite of all the incriminating and unassailable evidence that will be ultimately be presented to the US Senators during the upcoming impeachment trial, the majority of jurors is more than likely to allow this President to continue in office. Therefore, it will ultimately fall upon the electorate in the upcoming election to exercise their judgement and due diligence in choosing the next occupant of this office.

This President has shown himself to be not only completely inadequate for the powerful position he holds, but also poses a significant threat to the safety, stability and viability of a nation built upon democratic principles, the rule of law and a well formulated system of government with a balance of powers that lies at the very core of the nation’s Constitution.

He has effectively dumbed down the country to the extent that there is an entire major political party and a significant segment of the population that actually relishes and applauds this kind of leadership. This reality is exceedingly troubling. For, in any sane democratic society where the rule of law and justice prevail and the populace is sufficiently educated to make thoughtful and judicious decisions, such a disturbed, intellectually challenged, mendacious, bigoted, cruel, criminal and unbalanced personality would never have been chosen to fill a position of such enormous power and authority.

If we are not careful, we may end up with this man as President for a second term - a demagogue who will feel empowered to exercise power without the constraints ordinarily imposed by the Constitution of the United States.  This would certainly represent a new reality with the possibility of irrevocably transforming this country with no clear path back to the kind of country that the inspired leadership of Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Barrack Obama had envisioned.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Rule of Law in Serious Jeopardy

The United States was conceived by its founders as a Democratic Republic with its political structure carefully delineated in the nation’s Constitution. This model has held up for 230 years weathering many difficulties including a devastating and debilitating civil war that a significant region of the country has yet to overcome. The nation is currently in the midst of a deep and corrosive crisis that has left the country dangerously polarized. This kind of internal schism has happened before over such issues as civil and minority rights and the Vietnam War. However, the rule of law has prevailed in the past and preserved the union. Civil society especially in a democracy cannot thrive without the bulwark that a system of law provides.

What is particularly onerous about the current political climate is that the rule of law is in serious jeopardy. The evidence that has accumulated regarding the actions taken by the President over the length of his administration to date has ineluctably led to the House of Representatives conducting an impeachment inquiry. This inquiry has shown, through the sworn testimony of impeccable witnesses from the government, especially from the State Department, that the President has acted counter to his primary function as protector and defender of the U.S. Constitution, and, as a matter of fact, has put his personal interest and political ambitions ahead of his duties as President, obstructed justice on his own behalf and went so far as to directly intimidate a witness in the midst of her testimony.

In spite of this incriminating data, the Republican Party has continued to defend his actions with the serious implication that his continued unlawful behavior is acceptable, and he should be allowed to remain as the nation’s President. It is clear, at this point, that the House definitely will go on to impeach him. The leadership of the Senate is now in the possession of the Republican Party and its leader has already suggested the outcome of the forthcoming trail regardless of the evidence that will be put before them. If this outcome transpires, the message is clear – The President is above the law and immune to any consequences of his illegal behavior. This is a path we should not go down as a nation and a people. Without the rule of law, civil society cannot function. In effect, we would have a totally corrupt government with no apparent accountability.

Should the above scenario occur, it would then be up to the electorate to voice their disapproval at the upcoming general election. In my estimation, should this man be re-elected, the nation we have assumed to represent our values and democratic sensibilities will no longer exist. It would have been successfully supplanted by something onerous and inimical to our future prospects as a sane and sustainable society. In such a corrosive environment, “a nation of, by and for the people” will no longer be extant.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Homo Sapiens - A Flawed Species

The human world is immersed in a crisis that is none like any humanity has faced since Homo sapiens had its beginning in Africa when the species diverged from its common ancestor with the chimpanzee some six million years ago. Although human civilizations have experienced dramatic ascents and precipitous and catastrophic collapses over the thousands of years of ancient and modern history, those calamities were felt locally. For example, the disintegration of the Roman Empire in the fifth century and the fall of the Soviet Empire in the twentieth century had wide-ranging impacts contained within their immediate environments. Currently, however, the species faces dire prospects for the future on a global scale to the extent that the viability of the species may be at stake.

Since the end of the last ice age (approximately 11700 years ago), human societies and cultures have enjoyed a relatively stable planetary environment – the global climate has been moderate enough to allow for substantial and steady progress in advances of civilization especially in the areas of science and technology. This has allowed humans to grow in numbers to the current population estimated to be 7.7 billion individuals. It has been the general assumption, until relatively recently, that this moderate global environment would persist indefinitely into the future.

This assumption, however, is in serious question with the onset of climate change unfolding as a direct result of the kinds of human activities that, ironically, have made the life we have come to know possible. The dawn of the machine age – around the early 18th century with the invention of the steam engine – effectively supplanted human labor and allowed for the accelerated growth and expansion of human civilizations. The study of the past has shown that the planet has endured at least five catastrophic epochs that produced massive extinctions of species around the world - the latest occurring some 60 million years resulting in the eradication of the dinosaurs. Each of these protracted periods of time were accompanied by a dramatic change in climatic conditions that proved fatal for vast multitudes of species. The recovery from these events took many thousands of years.

In the twenty-first century humanity faces the prospect of yet another calamitous global epoch. This time, however, climate change is occurring due to the ever-increasing accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as a direct result of human activity. Already the collective impact of climate change is being felt worldwide.

Even with this knowledge in-hand, humanity has failed to respond to the degree that would have any meaningful impact upon an ominous unfolding of events. Any real corrective change in human behavior obviously requires a global commitment. In a sense, the progression of historic events will be a testimonial to the level of fitness of the species required to endure, overcome and forestall this pending crisis. To date the species is flunking this test.

One just needs to examine the evidence across the planet to see the grim picture that awaits us all. In the United States we have a cacophony of discordant voices that are chaotic, unfocused and banal in relation to the magnitude of the problem that confronts us. As a matter of fact, those in power are pursuing policy changes that would effectively increase the production of greenhouse gases. In Brazil, we have those in power who are determined to denude vast stretches of the Amazon forests – a vital global carbon sink – for the purpose of economic gain at the expense of the viability of future human generations. In the Middle East – an area of the globe in which human beings may be unable to live due to the projected increase in ambient temperature – needless violence and reckless aggression is continuing over relatively minor differences in religious beliefs and customs. Russia – a vast territory - continues to depend upon the export of fossil fuels for its economic well-being. Many countries in Africa are beset by a level of societal chaos – often inflamed by religious differences – that makes any focused attention to the problem of climate change nearly impossible. India and Pakistan remain embroiled in endless confrontation fueled once again over religious differences this time between Hindu and Muslim. Together these two countries account for over 1.3 billion individuals.

In effect, the human species seems unable to break free from behaviors that have their origin in the realm of unchecked emotions and essentially tribal affiliations. As a result, a considerable portion of the economic resources throughout the world are devoted to developing technologies for military purposes. The net impact of these actions is to dissuade the level of commitment and global cooperation absolutely required to effectively halt or mitigate the apparent inevitability of dramatic changes in earth’s climate.

Taking all of these factors in consideration, it is difficult not to conclude that Homo sapiens is a flawed species and may not be able to forestall the seemingly inevitable and dramatic decline of its numbers and preeminence on planet earth.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Fred Korematsu

Fred Korematsu

Fred Korematsu

Given the current political and national climate in regard to immigration and the status of the foreign born, especially people of color, the story of Fred Korematsu, a Japanese-American, is of special significance.

It has been over 75 years since Fred Korematsu was arrested on the suspicion that he was Japanese and therefore had not surrendered his personal freedom pursuant to Executive Order 9066 promulgated by the Franklin D Roosevelt (February 19, 1942) -   that directed the immediate and enforced internment of Americans of Japanese descent.  In reality, 110,000 Japanese-Americans were forcefully moved to concentration camps.

Fred Korematsu was walking down a street in San Leandro, California when police arrested him on Memorial Day 1942.  Korematsu subsequently admitted that he refused to comply with this order.  He was a welder by profession born in Oakland, California to Japanese American parents.
Following his arrest, when questioned at police headquarters, Korematsu at first lied about his own personal identity claiming he was Clyde Sarah and of Spanish and Hawaiian ancestry.  In fact, he carried with him an obviously altered draft card with false information.  Eventually, he told the authorities the truth and that his family was in what was euphemistically referred to as a, “relocation camp.”

After this admission, he was forcibly taken to the Tanforan Assembly Center – a former racetrack where 7800 individuals were being held along with his parents and three brothers.  He was placed in what used to be a horse stall with few amenities.  “These camps [are] definitely an imprisonment under armed guard with orders [to] shoot to kill,” Korematsu wrote in a note to his lawyer. “These people should have been given a fair trial in order that they may defend their loyalty at court in a democratic way.”

Over time, Korematsu became determined to challenge his fate in court having some confidence in the capacity of the court system to render a just verdict.  During his trial in Federal Court in San Francisco, Korematsu speaking in his own defense said, “As a citizen of the United States I am ready, willing, and able to bear arms for this country.”  He went on to say that he had registered for the draft and attempted to volunteer his service in the U.S. Navy.  He also stated that he had never been to Japan and could not read Japanese.  The judge in the case, nevertheless, found him guilty of disobeying the removal order and sentenced him to five years probation and was ordered to be taken back to the internment camp.

Although his parents and family were not happy with his decision to defy the Executive Order and despite the general impression that the occupants of these internment camps remained docile, historic evidence gathered since paints a very different picture.  In fact, there were acts of civil disobedience and reported unrest on the part of involuntary occupants in these camps.

Beginning in November of 1942, Korematsu was given leave to live and work outside the camp – this was a partial freedom granted to younger “detainees” of working age.  Finally, in January 1944, near the end of the war, Korematsu was given indefinite leave from the camp.

During this time, Korematsu’s lawyers brought his cast to the Federal Court of Appeals. that ultimately upheld his original conviction finding that Executive Order 9066 was constitutional.  Subsequently, his case came before the US Supreme Court - Korematsu v. U.S. - in October of 1944 and on December 18, 1944 the court upheld the constitutionality of the Executive Order in a 6-3 decision claiming that at the time of the internment there was a “military urgency.”

Three justices wrote minority dissents. Justice Robert H, Jackson wrote, “The Court for all time has validated the principle of racial discrimination in criminal procedure and of transplanting American citizens.” Furthermore he stated that, “The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need.”

After the war, when the Korematsu family returned to Oakland, they found their flower nursery in a pitiful state having been neglected by the tenants.  Thousands of detainees felt that on release they would have nowhere to go; therefore, they decided to remain in the camps until they were ultimately closed in May 1946.

Korematsu subsequently married, had kids, and finally moved back to California.  In 1981, evidence was uncovered that the U.S. government had presented fallacious evidence to the Supreme Court in Korematsu’s case and had effectively suppressed information as to the loyalty of Japanese American citizens to the U.S.  Finally, his case was brought back to the federal court in 1983 and his conviction was thrown out.

Following this favorable decision that vindicated him, Korematsu became active in the arena of civil rights and civil liberties.  He lobbied Congress to pass the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, that offered compensation and an apology to former wartime detainees. In 1998, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Before his 2005 death, he filed a court brief in support of the civil rights of Guantanamo Bay detainees before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2010, in a tribute to his unflinching and courageous actions in support of basic civil liberties, California made his birthday, January 30, Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Inherent Fallacy of White Supremacy

The inexorable rise of the so-called “nativist” movement in the United States that began as a consequence and a reaction to the popular election of the first African-American President, Barrack Obama, has its basis in the underlying current of white supremacy that has been thoroughly embedded within the American psyche even before the birth of the Republic as evidenced by the institution of slavery.

It must be remembered that the current President of the United States, Donald Trump, is a champion of the white supremacy cause and instigated the knowingly false investigation of the legitimacy of President Barrack Obama’s birth records claiming that he was not-US born and was, in fact a Muslim. When challenged about this behavior, he freely admitted that he was guilty of pursuing a lie. So deep-seated is this belief in the supremacy of the white race that its followers have no hesitation in choosing this essentially amoral and unscrupulous individual as their president.

The United States of America is facing a choice that could determine its future destiny and viability as a Democratic Republic. The relatively recent history of the apparently meteoric rise and disastrous collapse of Fascist Germany and Italy under the aegis of the deeply disturbed leadership of Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini, respectively, demonstrates just how dangerous a path we are on. Both these leaders professed an impassioned belief in the absolute supremacy of their race and pursued a policy that consisted of the elimination of those determined to be inferior – those culturally, religiously and racially distinct – within their borders. In fact, the rhetoric of the current President and his administration bears alarming similarities with those who openly espouse the superiority of the “white” race.

If White supremacy is successfully used as the philosophical basis of policy decisions within the United States given the remarkable diversity of its people, the ramifications of this political agenda will be unsettling, destabilizing and ultimately disastrous. In fact, this belief has no foundation in science or objective reality. The DNA evidence alone, clearly shows that the idea of a pure race has absolutely no legitimacy. Quite to the contrary the origins of our species, Homo sapiens, in Africa, and the historic migration of our ancestors clearly demonstrate a mixing of genetic traits to the extent that even Neanderthal genes are found within the human genome.

The adherents of white supremacy like all true believers in inflexible dogmatic principles are blinded to any evidence that may suggest that their beliefs are fallacious. Human history has clearly demonstrated that civilizations that have pursued a course directed by purely ideological constructs that are not wedded to reality have invariably ended in dissolution.

Monday, August 05, 2019

The Nation in the Year 2019

This nation is in the midst of a deep, dark and apparently abiding crisis. This reality seems to have been existentially expressed with the indiscriminate and horrific mass killings in public places within a single week, In Dayton Ohio and El Paso Texas, of innocent people in the midst of living their lives.  These events happened within days of each other. The impact that this has on the nation that has endured numerous events of this kind all over the country is not being fully appreciated; for, it places a deep, dark and abiding cloud of uncertainty and fear in regard to freely engaging in public life in this country.

These series of events, however, is not the cause of this crisis but rather a symptom of a far more pervasive malaise that haunts this nation. Over the short span of this nation’s history, people of color are quite familiar with this level of anxiety that has haunted them through many generations. Now, it seems, that seething bigotry, hatred, violence and fear that haunts so many of our citizens has spread towards immigrants in a nation of the descendants of immigrants. This hatred and fear have become so blinding that it has begun to terrorize the entire population.

Although this aspect of American life has been with us as long as I can remember, it is now being aided and abetted by the national leadership. We currently have a government that is essentially under the control of powerful corporate interests under the aegis of a President that operates without a moral compass; that seems to have a distorted vision of this country that denies the vitality of its inherent diversity; that puts commercial interests above all else; that exacerbates differences between the nation’s people for purely political ends.

We currently have a government whose agencies are directed by individuals that have little or no interest in the public good, and, in fact, are promoting policies that undermine the very laws that instituted these agencies in the first place. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is an excellent case in point.

We have a government that has been corrupted by the monies and directed wealth of private and corporate interests to such an extreme that we now have privately-run prisons for profit, fossil fuel companies who are more than willing to place the entire global human population in jeopardy in order to ensure their continued profitability; the corporate-directed dismantling of environmental regulations put in place to protect the public health and well-being and a massive military-industrial complex that is diverting vast resources away from addressing the real concerns of the people.

This crisis has been incubating within the national psyche for a long time. For that reason, there is no easy remedy; it will not be resolved through the leadership of any one person no matter how adept, eloquent, persuasive and well-intentioned. The time of healing and national reconciliation is long overdue. As a people, we need to come to terms with who we are and, most importantly, where we have failed. We need to choose wisely; we need to insist that those who want our political support are truly invested in the public good. We must insist that the government’s business must be divested from powerful and wealthy interests. We need to truly embrace the idea that every one of us is of equal worth and deserving of true equality in both law and custom. We need to foster and insist upon smart government that has a clear vision of the future with an undeniable moral compass.

If we are truly a democratic society based upon a system of law and a longing for justice, then the future is in our hands to shape as we must. If we elect to let the current force of history to move unamended, our future as a people may be in serious peril.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Time for Waking Up is Now

We, as a people, are being beset on a daily basis by the ravings of the man that represents us here and abroad as our President. He is obviously a severely emotionally and mentally disturbed narcissist and a deranged personality driven by his own personal demons. He has so thoroughly embraced white supremacy that he distorts the reality of the human experience through that lens in spite of, and possibly because of, the wondrous diversity of the country in which he lives. He is also a man who has such a narrow intellectual grasp of complex issues that he is quite incapable of understanding them – the most startling example of this is his “position” on climate change.

To follow the lead of such a personality is to invite folly. He, however, is not to blame – he has always been quite transparent in regard to his views, and his behavior should come as no surprise. To knowingly ascend to the divisive nature of his message, is to set in motion a potential tidal wave of unfettered emotions born of fear, anxiety, uncertainly in regard to the future and hatred that could engulf us all. Through the impetus of his own beliefs, he has managed to lift the veil that effectively obscured the real nature of the divide that has inflicted this country for so long. As all civilizations that have risen and fallen in the tortuous arc of human history, we are faced with many contradictory forces that have come to shape our national character.

In my mind, the paths available to us as a nation are clear. We can either denounce the notion of white supremacy and embrace in its stead the belief that all Americans are deserving of true equality and a legitimate place at the table; or, we can abandon what we claim is our heritage as a free people and let hatred and ignorance claim us once and for all. We can either integrate clear thinking and scientific analysis in formulating national policy for the purpose of resolving deep-seated issues; or, we can choose to accept far-reaching decisions based upon an uninformed and prejudicial rationale and supported by spurious and distorted data.

We can acknowledge the darker aspects of our history – the enslavement of an entire people based upon the color of their skin; the near genocide of native Americans for the sake of national expansion and the great harm done to many peoples around the globe to preserve economic hegemony. Or, we can continue to pretend that we are an exceptional people and accept the deep divisions within our national fabric as a matter of fact.

We can either make the decision to embrace a slow but necessary healing process – true reconciliation – or embrace the irrational pronouncements of a madman; the choice is ours to make.