Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Crisis in America – A Blunt Discourse

The Senate trial regarding President Trump’s impeachment will soon be underway. To any discerning citizen of the United States, his guilt in matters of his articles of impeachment, as presented by the House of Representatives, is quite clear. This is thoroughly reinforced by the fact that the Administration has refused to hand over any subpoenaed documents to the House in its deliberations and is now being joined by the Republican-led Senate that has, to date, refused to bring forth witnesses like James Bolton who has already volunteered to give testimony. This obstruction can only be explained by the fact that there is something significant to hide.

If the trial proceeds in this manner and in fact the charges against Trump are summarily dismissed, this will undoubtedly usher in a new political era. If this mendacious and disturbed personality is allowed to continue representing this nation and its people around the world and permitted to continue to undermine supposed American values as a Democratic Republic, we may as well concede that the American experiment in creating a government by and for the people has failed.

It would suggest that we are perfectly content having a thug in the White House without sufficient mental capacity to conduct the reasoned, intelligent and the law-abiding functioning of government. It seems that the gradual and ineluctable ascension of corporate power into the political arena is nearly complete as evidenced by the fact that important government agencies essential to the well-being of the people have been subsumed by purely corporate interests. Corruption in government has become blatant and may prove to be irreversible.

We currently have government subject to the arbitrary fiat of a tyrant whose ties to the white supremacist movement should be alarming in and of itself. We currently have a government that cares little for the future, for the health and longevity of the natural environment and for basic human rights. We need to take better care of our people – all of them – if we expect our descendants to live in an environment supportive of a meaningful existence.

The question remains – will we, as a people allow this sad progression of events to proceed without our collective voice being heard? If this reprehensible individual currently occupying the White House is permitted to remain in his position and, more importantly, chosen once again to be our President, then we are collaborators in our own demise as a free and democratic people.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Australia is Burning and We Contemplate War with Iran?

Australia is suffering the seemingly endless wrath of severe fires and their accompanying firestorms. Many residents of this continent are being rescued by ships undertaking a massive relocation effort. There is little doubt that this set of circumstances are a direct consequence of human-caused climate change. This represents a clear and undeniable object lesson for the entire species on this beleaguered planet. This is a crisis of major proportions that needs to be addressed on a global scale.

Given the momentous significance of this unprecedented event, the supposed leader of the free world has essentially declared war on Iran, its culture and its people. He has gone so far as to threaten the aerial bombardment of the country of Iran even boasting that some of the 52 sites targeted by the military include places of deep cultural significance to the peoples of Iran – a clearly delineated war crime as outlined by international treaty.

This, in my mind, points to the absolute collective insanity of human societies in the modern world. For, we would rather remain mired in the destructive ways of the past and cling on to the worn and bankrupt ideologies bound to cultural and national identities rather to come together to face and resolve the most pressing issues facing all of the humankind.

War is, after all, a reckless and dangerous paradigm that speaks of the narrowest of thinking and depends upon extreme violence to resolve issues that are often contrived and manufactured by the powerful in order to maintain the status quo. Modern warfare leaves nothing but monumental carnage and destruction in its path. War effectively undermines the capacity of peoples from divergent cultures to come together to use human ingenuity, resourcefulness, creativity and intelligence to solve the ills that beset us.

If this is the path that is chosen, given the precarious nature of humanity’s viability on this wondrous planet, then future generations of humans will ultimately pay a horrific cost for this absolute lunacy.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

On the Nature of Subjective Reality

It is easy to convince ourselves that the reality we perceive exists outside of ourselves. This, however, is only partially true. The Scientific progress that has been made over the course of human civilization is a reflection of our growing understanding of the nature of the physical and biological universe that we inhabit. The sum total of the inescapable properties that have been discovered and those that are being studied, is representative of what I refer to as the “reality principle.” This reality principle exists as a fundamental aspect of the cosmos and, as such, is ever-present and is not dependent upon human existence for its sustenance.

However, with the dawning of self-consciousness that appeared during human evolution and that was a natural product of the growth of the complexity of the human brain, came the capability of the individual not only to assess his or her natural environment but also to interpret its significance and come to some conclusions regarding its value. Together with this quality of being, came another capacity that was an absolute requirement for a sentient being to co-exist within a chaotic universe. That corollary function was the ability to organize the incoming information (data) into an intelligible and comprehensible universe by imposing an apparent order to the chaos. This inner world represents a subjective reality unique to each individual human being. This subjective reality is shaped by many forces including genetic inheritance, cultural identity, external values transmitted by the greater society, individual life experiences and natural proclivities.

This need for order transcends the individual life and also embraces communal life; for it is the commonly held values and beliefs among individuals in the larger society that serves as the medium through which order is preserved and human civilization is possible. These communally-accepted norms are often collectively referred to as intersubjective reality – without it, social order would quickly devolve into chaos. It is for this reason that human civilization is a fragile state of existence. As an example, the American political emphasis on the supremacy of the individual even to the extent of the apparent absolute right to the individual ownership and use of deadly weapons, threatens the cohesiveness of the social contract as evidenced by periodic episodes of mass shootings.

For humanity, the evolution of self-consciousness has been a mixed blessing. It has on the one hand resulted in great strides being made in regard to our understanding of the universe in which we reside. Concomitant with these gains, however, history has documented the rise and precipitous fall of many human civilizations. In my mind, the ultimate test for the human kind will be in its ability to effectively embrace a global solution to the current climate crisis; for, in order to do this, the severity of the problem and the need for a solution would need to be incorporated as a fundamental aspect of the intersubjective reality of the entire species.

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.