The Dangers of Subversive Propoganda from… Disney Movies?

I have a daughter who is now eight years old. Given that I have an inherent bias, just going by the endless and consistent comments from when she was just a baby, she is a beautiful  Young girl and always has been.  Like most girls, she fell in love with the Disney princesses and very quickly had all of them at both her mom’s and my house, along with the requisite Disney castles.  We have enjoyed them all, with her naturally having favorites, but she really did like Disney’s Mulan movie.  She didn’t seem to like to play with the Mulan doll as much as Arial or Cinderella, but there’s no doubt she enjoyed the movie. As kids are known to do, she’s watched it many, many times.

But for  current Vice President, Mike Pence, Disney is up to something far more nefarious than just entertaining and highly profitable children sounds. in fact, Disney is subversive Propaganda for your children, says Christian extremist, Mike Pence. He wants to convince you women should not be in the military & that Disney’s “Mulan” is propaganda to teach young girls it’s okay to be in the military. In fact, she can succeed and even achieve glory in battle.

Here is the piece Mr. Pence wrote on the dangers of Disney’s “Mulan.”  I have always been uncomfortable with the impossible physical attributes given to Disney’s female characters. It’s impossible for a woman to have a waist as thin as any of them. If you read the short Op-Ed from Mr. Pence, you will see his interpretation is very different from mine.

As a parent of a daughter just eight years old, who has already made comments about her waist size, which I assure you is anything but perfectly normal,  One has to wonder if she grows out of it or be detrimentally affected by this ‘body image’ issue that girls & women never really escape all her life? Just look at the magazine covers in the checkout line – nearly all unrealistic unless you happen to be a hard-core athlete, work out like a champion, have the right genetics, and/or are extremely cognizant of proper nutrition.

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But with the completely unrealistic body’s on most cartoons and Disney Channel shows with child actors, all of whom seemingly have ultra thin figures, and the dolls themselves especially, it is very easy to see how body image problems develop. These mostly unrealistic figures given to all Disney princesses can be confusing to a young girl and as they grow older.  It would seem natural to ask, why doesn’t my body look like that?

Continue reading The Dangers of Subversive Propoganda from… Disney Movies?

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The Trump Organization and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard

Donald Trump, as we all know, has business ties all over the world. This includes the Former Soviet Union, like Azerbaijan for example. It is well-known that Vladimir Putin is aggressively trying to recreate the sphere of influence the former Soviet Union used to have an iron grip on during the Cold War. The Soviet leaders decided, a common strategy in the days of old because the effect is a buffer between the USSR and their adversary in the United States and Eastern Europe. This is less important now given the satellites and other means to discover whether nefarious things are happening near your “frontier” as it used to be called now just a border.

The former Soviet states have slowly been reclaimed by Russia by placing their desired leaders in power by hacking, spreading misinformation disguised as news, and the new “weaponized trolls” that were very active in the 2016 Presidential election. Putin has been honing his techniques before attacking the US in what I feel is nothing short of a Cyber-Pearl Harbor, thankfully without the loss of life and damage to the US Navy. (New developments in this story breaking today.)

By now we all know that Donald Trump has been effective in marketing his brand and continues to build Hotels and golf resorts. Being familiar with building in foreign countries, Donald Trump is aware of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977  (FCPA).

According to that law, it is incumbent upon American businesses that is precisely what brings me to the former Soviet bloc five-star hotel in residence called the Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku. In 2012 the Trump Organization entered into multiple contracts with Azerbaijani developers, the Trump Organization made plans to transform the tower into an all ultra-luxury hotel with large guest rooms that would occupy the first 13 floors and the higher stories featuring residences widths spectacular views of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, and the beautiful Caspian Sea.

There are many oddities surrounding the development which are clearly explained in this excellent article in The New Yorker by Adam Davidson in the March 13, 2017 issue.
What I intend to focus on herein is the Trump Organization’s business partner in this venture. The Azerbaijanis behind the projects were relatives of Ziya Mammadov, the Transportation Minister and one of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful oligarchs. As stated in the New Yorker article, the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index rates Azerbaijan as among the most corrupt nations in the world.

Ziya Mammadov became the Transportation Minister in 2002, around the time the regime began receiving enormous profits from government-owned oil reserves in the Caspian Sea. Presumably this is how mamma dogs, who spent his career as a government official with the salary equivalent to about $12,000 became a billionaire.
Once Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president mother Jones, the AP, the Washington Post and other publications ran articles raising questions about Trump’s involvement in the Baku project. Interestingly, these articles referred to a series of tables sent from the US Embassy in Azerbaijan in 2009-10, which were publicized by none other than wiki leaks. In one of those cables, an American diplomat referred to as I have mamma dogs as “notoriously corrupt even for Azerbaijan.” Alan Garten, the chief legal officer for the Trump Organization, told reporters the Baku hotel project raised no ethical issues for Donald Trump as his company never engaged directly with Mammadov.

According to Garten, Donald Trump was involved merely as a licensor, allowing his famous name to be used by a company headed by Ziya Mammadov’s son, Anar, a young and well-connected entrepreneur. It is unknown the revenue the Trump Organization received from the licensing agreement, although his Public Disclosure pursuant to the election revealed he received $2.8 million apparently there was an additional payment of $2.5 million in 2012 though no other payments or income has been disclosed. Donald Trump also signed a contract to manage the hotel upon its opening for an undisclosed fee tied to the hotel’s performance. Once Donald Trump was elected president, Garten announced the Trump Organization severed its ties with the Baku hotel project and brushed off the transaction as mere housecleaning. Unfortunately for Donald Trump, Adam Davidson’s reporting tells a very different story about the Trump Organization’s involvement in the Baku project. “I was in Baku at the time, and it had become clear that the Trump Organization’s story of the hotel was incomplete and inaccurate.” Trump’s company had made the deal not just with Anar Mammadov, but also with Ziya’s brother, Elton – an influential member of the Azerbaijani parliament.” Elton even confirmed it in an interview he founded Baku XXI Century, the parent company that owned the Trump Tower Baku. When he was asked who owns Baku XXI Century, he called it a “commercial secret” but added that he “controlled all its operations” until 2015, when he “cut ties to the company.”

Further reporting reveals the Trump Organization was involved far more than initially revealed. In addition to the licensing agreement, it also signed a technical-services agreement promising to help its partner meet Trump design standards. This appears to be a contract allowing Donald Trump extensive oversight in the back to project the attorney revealed “we were always following their instructions. We were in constant contact with the Trump Organization. They approved the smallest details.” He continued stating Trump staff visited the site monthly in order to inspect & approve further progress. The article details the very extensive, almost micromanaging of the project, even Ivanka Trump’s involvement in nearly every aspect of the project from the landscaping, the paneling, the ballroom doors – all of which were of the highest quality and commensurate expense. Ivanka Trump even posted a photograph of herself wearing a hard hat on the side of the project, which was about half completed, and the caption reads: “Ivanka has overseen the development of Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku since its inception, and she recently returned from a trip to the fascinating city in Azerbaijan to check on the project’s progress.” Interestingly, Ivanka Trump declined to discuss the project with reporter Adam Davidson.

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Continue reading The Trump Organization and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard

Hurricane Trump… hold on!

A Barrage of lies and Propaganda… Un-American Policies Executed with the Incompetence Demonstrated Throughout Trump’s Campaign & That Weaken Our Security at Home & Abroad.

This is absolutely insane! This president seems to attack or alienate, disparage and weaken all of our most important alliances, the latest being with Australia. Of course, Republicans like Sen. Kori Gardner of Colorado refused to say anything but talking points regarding how they feel about trumps “diplomacy” with our allies – not our adversaries – these are our long-standing allies.

In 20 days we’ve seen conflict with Mexico – we’ve threatened to send US Troops into Mexico if they can’t address their drug problem, a personal insult to Germany’s Angela Merkel, our strongest ally in remaining in Europe, a public disagreement with the majority of the rest of the world as evidenced like that of Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who had the audacity to say Canada will welcome Syrian immigrants (mostly women and children) fleeing to escape the horror in Syria, a horribly hostile call with an ally that has been in every war with us since World War II – of all countries to fight with, we fight with our best ally.

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America & the World hold on as Hurricane Trump’s rapid fire barrage of hot-air has them scrambling: BNPS

 

I fully believe this is an intentional strategy from Steven Bannon, a strategy is to constantly change the subject with one controversial move or ill-advised tweet, in an effort to get the media to shift focus. That is precisely why Trump moved up his announcement of the Supreme Court nominee to distract from the Muslim Ban. Now we know that he may have, without Trump’s knowledge or consent, slipped into the “Modernization” of the National Security Council (NSC) a permanent seat on the NSC, while taking permanent seats away from the Direction of National Intelligence – the highest intelligence officer in the Nation whose job is to advise the President on Intelligence issues.

As you try to follow and think about the ramifications are of this machine gun of errors, it is almost impossible to keep up much less write a serious piece with links to the examples of the constant lies from this administration. I was glad Kellyanne Conway finally admitted that the President was offering “Alternative Facts.” It doesn’t take a genius to realize there is no such thing as alternative facts. In the real world these are LIES and correctly called lies. There are way too many lies to even keep up with them all, but let’s just look at the very first White House Press Briefing the Trump Administration had.

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In the very First Press Briefing by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, whose job is to speak for the President. Spicer too no questions but read from a statement excoriating the media and flat-out lied to the American People four (4) times:

  • There were 3-5 million votes cast by illegal in the election;
  • That it was the “Largest crowd in history” to have seen an inaugural ‘both in person and on TV’;
  • There were magnetometers on the mall that slowed people joining the crowd before; and
  • The Parks Service never used white grass protectors; making it seem like the crowd was smaller.

Taken in reverse order, it took just a few minutes to debunk the last lie from Sean Spicer’s mouth: 4) was proven a lie after a simple Google search revealed images shots of workers placing the white grass protectors on the ground during President Obama’s Inauguration in 2013. 3) Though the Secret Service generally does not issue statements demonstrating the President LIED to the American people, the did issue a statement to verify there were NO magnetometers on the National Mall. (2) Trump Inauguration was not even remotely close to either of President Obama’s inauguration and even George W. Bush after another peculiar electoral process had a larger audience.

Let’s be honest, no one in their right mind thought Trump had anywhere near the crowd of either of president Obama’s 2009 crowd of 1.8 million and 2013 was only 1 million. Just having functional eyes and a brain is all that one needs to discern that assertion is so completely ridiculous it barely deserves discussion. YET that story dominated the new President’s thoughts for at least a week. His thin skin is so bad that he has to make up a completely obvious lie, that no one outside Trump believes and points to the complete lack of any evidence whatsoever, that 3-5 million illegal votes were cast… otherwise he could have won the popular vote. The most laughable assertion he has made yet. It is no coincidence the Oxford word of 2016 is “Post-Truth.”

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I believe shorter, single issue posts is the way to try to keep up with the barrage of steps this “learn-on-the-job president keeps firing at us hoping there is no time to focus on one thing before the next distraction is manufactured by the big “ratings machine -DJT.”

I also think reposting other very well done posts is a great idea as well. The more the truth is circulated to defy the Trump Propaganda machine modeled after his idol, Vladimir Putin, and his use of propaganda and now fake news. Trump also has the first “news” channel that is solely devoted to making him look good, making everything Democrats do as evil and un-American, and freely spread the fake news and lies the right uses to confuse so people don’t know what to believe. All of us are guilty of echo-chambers because social media is designed that way… that makes the more extreme politicians attractive to badly misinformed voters and stoked by Right-Wing Media so we get “the party of NO.”

The same is true for Democrats though maybe not quite so bad – but I want democrats to really Stand for Something again – like being the party of the middle class in Deed and not just in word. The party left the unions… heck they let unions be weakened to the point of extinction. Now Corporate Interests dominate the media, political system, and they are executing their takeover of the Courts, which we see is the last line of defense in the brilliant Separation of Powers our Founding Fathers established. Unfortunately is has been slowly gobbled up and now serves Corporate interests rather than being “beholden to The People, alone.”

Democrats need to repay the GOP for the awful Republican treatment given to President Obama by the right – like Mitch McConnell saying on 1/20/09 that his “number one priority is making Barack Obama a one-term president.” Remember, that was said as the Country was hemorrhaging 800,000 jobs per month. He didn’t want to help the President that actually had an electoral mandate guide the country through the Great Recession. Thankfully he succeeded without any Republican help at all. Despicable.  As much as I despise Trump, I want him to somehow become a great president because that means American is doing well.

Unfortunately, the only evidence available is not encouraging. As a result, all Americans should watch like they never have before and educate themselves on what is really happening despite what ALL the Corporate media tells people. But this does not mean the Democrats should work to make compromises unless it pertains to issues that are actually good for America, and make him expend every bit of political capital on fights that distract him from killing Americans by just ending The Affordable Care Act (ACA or ‘Obamacare’) or starting a war with an adversary or even an ally because Trump’s has no idea to act with grace and diplomacy which he sees as weak… the rest of the sane world calls it good governance.

Trump Will Tell You He’s Keeping Us Safe from all the Terrorist Attacks Suffered Under Obama & Bush? Problem is, what attacks justify this Executive Action – which Republicans would have called ‘an Imperial fiat from King Obama’ while they are now silent as Trump equates the morality of America versus Russia. Guess he means the ‘Lone-Wolf’ attacks  the Muslim Ban would not have prevented.

This Blog is Changing…

The United States is the Only Country That Has Always Had a Peaceful Transfer of Power For Our Entire History.

That Said, There Will Always be a Cloud Over This Administration. For the First Time in Our History There Was Unquestionable Russian Interference in Our Free & Fair Elections

This is usually a tremendous day for the United States. There is always one party in the 2-party system, but everyone puts down their clubs to witness the peaceful transfer of power. I believe the US is the only nation that can say we have never had a coup, martial law or things we see in the so called Banana Republics where this is commonplace related to transferring power from one leader to the next.

It is with great discomfort that I write that our entire Intelligence Community (IC), the massive 17 agency apparatus meant to keep the Commander-in-Chief the best informed person on the planet. At this moment, as Trump prepares to take the oath – ready or not and there is plenty of news to suggest he is far from done. So far Trump asked President Obama if 50 or so staffers can stay around for what the President-Elect’s spokesperson, Sean Spicer, called “continuity of government.” This is an admission the Trump Team is not prepared to get to work at 12:00 noon today as they should be, they need Obama’s people to help show them how things operate on a daily basis. This is a sad statement of Trump’s overall preparedness for  the office. Nothing during the campaign or transition gave one the impression they are gunning for January 20th.

This is similar to Trump’s cabinet nominees being rushed through as fast as Obama’s were, but what is NOT spoken is the fact that all disclosures were submitted for review by the relevant committee the Monday after the inauguration so by the time the hearings occurred, the senators had all the materials well in advance of the hearing so the conflicts of interest can be explored and satisfactorily addressed. Mrs. DeVos, the nominee for Secretary of Education wanted to address questions to the nominee on her billions and whether any conflicts of interest were present in such a massive portfolio. But to this moment, as far as I know, she has still not provided her basic disclosure handed in by President Obama’s nominees on the day after the election in 2008.

The Cloud Hanging Over This Inauguration: RUSSIA.

This cloud will remain until the investigations are completed. We know from an article published yesterday that investigations into intercepted communications and inappropriate communication and Financial Transactions between senior members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials since around April 2016. An article published January 18, 2017 – just 2 days ago – in McLatcheysDC revealed the “FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into the well-established Russian attempts to influence the November election, including whether money from the Kremlin covertly aided President-elect Donald Trump.”

In addition to the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) were involved with the investigation for several months according to the article’s two (2) sources.

“Investigators are examining how money may have moved from the Kremlin to covertly help Trump win, the two sources said. One of the allegations involves whether a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners may have been used to pay some email hackers in the United States or to supply money to intermediaries who would then pay the hackers, the two sources said.”

That Russia hacked into the election and used their known pawn, Wikileaks, to make sure a daily dribble of sometimes embarrassing emails were leaked t o the Press on a daily basis to guarantee domination of the news cycle, which was achieved. This was known and included in a Joint Statement from the ODNI that there was “a consensus” that Russia was behind the attacks. Russia has long done conducted these cyber-ops in every former Soviet states to delegitimize the government to allow Russia to increase its old “sphere of influence” that existed under the U.S.S.R

Our NATO allies have been telling us this was happening regularly in the former Soviet spy agency. The US knew its old nemesis, Vladimir Putin has been trying to reestablish the old-Soviet sphere of influence. The election of an authoritarian figure like Trump has the entirety of Europe frightened as to Russian intentions to destabilize democratically elected Governments in former Soviet States. These former Soviet bloc countries have been subject to Russian cyber-attacks for years and the US knew it, but I sincerely doubt we ever expected the “oldSoviets” to conduct an operation of this magnitude against the United States election. But they did and it and, at minimum, delegitimize the electoral process and confidence American citizens have in that sacred democratic process. One could argue they are already skeptical of elections and participated at an embarrassingly low 47% d in that process in this of all years. That seed of doubt sown by the Russians is already a major success if it goes no farther but the investigation continues since April.

In the hacking realm, nothing more damaging than revealing what observers knew already: that the DNC clearly “greased the wheels” for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders resulted in enough Sanders’ supporters home on election day to have swung it in Trump’s favor. I hate to say that, not only have I suspected precisely this exact collaboration between the Russian Intelligence Service (FSB) and Wikileaks, I also suspected direct collaboration between Trump and the FSB – formerly known as the KGB where Vladimir Putin spent his entire career as a Soviet Spy.

This fact along with the well-known reality that Russia opposes everything the US and our European allies stand for based on the NATO treaty in place since the end of WWII. A very important alliance which has as the most significant part of the alliance – the Article V provision which means an attack on one NATO country is an attack on ALL NATO countries. Few realize that provision was only used once – after al Qaeda attacked the homeland on September 11, 2001. Those allies are still fighting with us today. This makes any notion that our NATO allies owe us something seem a statement in poor taste. Perhaps some behind the scenes discussions, but not for the Public Realm  and most certainly not appropriate for Twitter.

President-Elect Trump has been making statements that are completely opposite U.S. Policy and every president since WWII. It happens to be a complete 180 degree turnaround from consistent and bipartisan policy for 75 years. There have been no major wars in Europe partly because of the NATO alliance. Vladimir Putin sees it as a threat to his goal, which is to remedy what he calls the “greatest tragedy of the 20th Century: the fall of the Soviet Union.” Now he has an ally in the White House that calls “obsolete” NATO alliance

Eliminating the Sanctions placed on Russia after their invasion into the Ukraine and ultimate annexation of the Crimean Peninsula – the first time one country has annexed another since the Second World War. Trump has mentioned lifting those sanctions and recognizing the Crimean Peninsula as part of Russia. That will pay a serious debt, if one is owed, to Russia and  the oligarchs that we would know about if we had seen a tax return. But we did not for the first time in modern US History despite there being no law against disclosing part of that tax return for public consumption. This is a way to ensure our president has no conflict of interest that may be present if he or she were to owe billions in debt to foreign banks or individuals. We do know Mr. Trump owes $627 million to the Bank of China.

Foreign Blackmale

We know since President Obama met with Director of National Intelligence,  James Clapper, the individual who is in charge of all 17 intelligence agencies, on Thursday and President-Elect Trump Friday. During that meeting, the 2 page summary of the 35 page dossier that purports to lay out the Russian effort to obtain “Kompromat” or compromising information on a Presidential candidate.

After that meeting, James Clapper released a statement that led to another ill advised tweet in which Trump mischaracterized the information relayed to him, leading Director Clapper to issue a statement indicating Trump mischaracterized the information and that the IC (intelligence community) determined the dossier “crap & Fake News.” Like so many Tweets, that was definitely NOT  what the statement said. The DNI had to clarity in writing – a rare step by anyone in the IC – that the IC reached no conclusions as to the reliability of the information contained in the dossier (different from saying we have concluded it is not reliable).

More importantly it said no information from the dossier was used in any conclusions. We have to again look at what was not said. We know there’s an investigation looking into possible collusion between what is now our 45th President (just sworn in), and we have known since the before the dossier was leaked. That means the dossier simply corroborated (at least partially) other information that originally led to the investigation being initiated. Trump failed to notice the nuance and reading between the lines.

Regardless, a President was sworn in that is being investigated for potentially colluding with a foreign adversary that we know to have affected and interfered with the cornerstone of our Democracy – Free &  Fair Elections. The investigation also includes an alleged transfer of funds from the Kremlin to Trump. I hope there is nothing more to this than we already know… but I doubt it. I hope President Trump exceeds all expectations…but I doubt it. I hope there is not the corruption that seems imminent given the new President paid $25 million to settle a lawsuit for defrauding our fellow Americans. The President takes office with a 30% approval rating – precisely 1/2 the 60% of an immensely popular, now former President Barack Obama. We hope he succeeds because if he succeeds, America theoretically succeeds.

Time will tell. From this point forward, he now has to Govern the United States of America rather than campaign. Let us hope he studies more and tweets less. Most importantly, lets hope he does well for America.

Human Rights v. Human Obligations

Have you ever considered the notion of “human obligations” as a corollary to the term human rights? Not to suggest one is dependent upon the other by I cannot help but wonder how things may be different if certain human obligations were dealt with in the same manner as human rights have historically been addressed. This would obviously require careful monitoring, but imagine if every Citizen was obligated to prove he or she knows the basics of how our government works in order to vote. I know this brings up thoughts of the poll tax or IQ test to those that was only applicable to African-Americans, but this is different. Let’s use the basic civics test we require those attempting to become Naturalized citizens of this country who are naturalized are required to know and .are tested upon. If we require it of those we grant citizenship to, it is not unreasonable to demand that same basic knowledge from our citizens.

How delightful would it be if all those seeking to serve Public Office be required to have a certain level of education, degree, certificate or whatever we decide to call it in Political Science and the Art of Statesmanship & Governing before they are eligible to run for elected office? In fact let’s do the reverse, every person that has completed such training is automatically eligible for election process (if they announce an intention to Run). Wouldn’t provide a basic level of competence. We require training of lawyers, doctors, professors, mechanics, plumbers, electricians, etc. so why not those in charge of our own government?

Once they have successfully completed the appropriate education from an accredited Political Science department (like accredited law schools), all they need do is announce their candidacy for lower office. And then they must first have held a lower office and demonstrated an ability to fulfill those duties that in a way that warrants their eligibility for higher office. These need not even alter the existing constitutional age requirements for the certain offices in Congress & the presidency.

Is it mere utopianism to hope for an elected official feels a “Human Obligation” to have in mind the best interests of the People he or she represents? At this stage, it is so blatantly obvious our elected officials no longer even try to hide the fact that they spend up to 70% of the time fund-raising.

The Supreme Court has somehow found it appropriate to give Corporations the same rights that we individuals have in our Constitution. Combined with other case law, they are now permitted to essentially give unlimited funds to campaigns, PACs & SuperPACs with almost no disclosure necessary – at least not before the election in question.

It’s so obviously wrong that there is a significant movement to change the law to undo the damage, which was to essentially put the entire government up for sale to the highest bidder. Between 2010-2012, during which the Supreme Court rendered its controversial Citizens United ruling, spending on campaigns, PACs & SuperPACs increased by something like 1900%. Does anyone in their right mind not believe the donors are expecting ROI – Return on Investment – which is a concept they are very familiar with in business? I certainly hope that level of naïveté does not exist.

I think it may take a constitutional amendment to fully eliminate the blatantly corruptive influence money currently has on our government, which explains why is it: 1) so bitterly divided and vitriolic; and 2) unable to accomplish anything, leading to the lowest approval rating Congress has ever seen.

The lawmakers have benefited so drastically from these rules and we cannot rationally expect they would change those rules themselves. They certainly have not done anything thus far. On the contrary, it’s gotten much worse. If you study campaign contributions, PAC & SuperPAC contributions as well as lobbying activity, Wall Street exceeds the other big players combined.

Which simply means Wall Street owns both parties and why there is currently a strong movement within the Democratic Party to get away from Secretary Clinton’s real & perceived ties to Wall Street and that of her husband. Of course, it was Pres. Bill Clinton that executed the plan to make sure Wall Street knew Democrats were as willing to play ball as the Republicans, as long as they kept the campaign money flowing. And boy did they ever.

It such a dominant influence in current politics that things the American people almost unanimously agree SHOULD get done will not get done. They won’t even come up for a vote because the industry watchdogs Big Corporations have purchased in Congress won’t allow it.

Take the controversial gun issue: over 80% of Americans are in favor of universal background checks for every sale. Though I’m not certain, I believe the statistics for closing the show loophole are similarly overwhelming. But the power of the NRA and the gun lobby is immense & they OWNER the GOP.

Let’s investigate how much money the industry has made under the current president because of the constant NRA campaign of lies like, they’re (Obama, Harry Reid, pelvis);; literally coming for your guns and they’re going to imprison you in FEMA Camps”. It might make for interesting fiction if a majority of Americans didn’t believe it to be so. You may recall the proposed invasion of the state of Texas under the guise of “wargames” that was supposedly leaked by the military or something of that nature – and, of course, didn’t happen. I still see people saying Pres. Obama has time and will declare martial law, confiscate all weapons and retain power.

Then again, there are those that will argue till they’re blue in the face with as much passion as if they were fighting for civil rights that there is all a massive conspiracy to cover up the fact that the world is flat. Even though it’s mathematically impossible as the extra gravity accumulated the closer you came to the “edge” of the earth would be something like 9G’s. The Internet is an amazing and wonderful place but it’s also given something to do to those people who have that little bit of knowledge we all know can be a dangerous thing. And now with the technology they can organize, groupthink sets in, and suddenly we have militias and the most creative conspiracy theories one can consider.

This stemmed from an interesting thought that occurred to me when I ran across this quote from Alexander Solzhenitsyn:

“It is time in the West’s to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.”

Now I acknowledge having no idea the context in which the quote was made. He may have been referring to obligations as burdensome while I’m looking at them as a way to force citizens to realize the government isn’t here just to protect your freedom and allow you to take, take, and take. This is what happened with the fossil fuels industry for the last 200 years.

Think about this way: you find something in the ground that doesn’t belong to you, but that you essentially pay the government for the rights to steal from the ground – from the ground owned by “The People”. And they pay absolutely nothing for the right to exploit the resources of our, which we know it took millions of years to get there.

First of all, this exploitation of resources removes any doubt as to why fossil fuel companies have been among the most profitable the world has ever seen. Look at the business model! They get to extract as much of the resources mother Earth created over millions of years at virtually ZERO COST, and turn around and profit on it as if they created the chemical in their own laboratories and obtained the requisite patent. If that were the case, they have the right to have all of the profits (that’s the model of the pharmaceutical of big Pharma which is for another subject), but these guys take from the earth. Worse, what they take, and take and take from the earth has already done a great deal of damage in terms of the climate, and some will argue we are already too late without immediate & drastic measures that the fossil fuel industry will certainly oppose.

It’s happening right before our eyes as the developing countries (China, India & Brazil, etc.) are now fully developed and they unanimously realize how serious a threat climate change truly is. Of course they have no insane political party made up of politicians paid to deny the unambiguous science as we have here. Thankfully b/c it allowed them to take the bold steps (though not enough) that they took at the Paris Climate Agreement. The party that denies the science, also denies its beloved war making machine that has identified to climate change as a global threat. A real & true threat – a clearly defined strategic threat to the security of the United States of America. Despite this, half of our government refuses to even acknowledge it exists because they are so beholden to the Fossil fuel industry. They will protect that industry regardless of the cost to the American people and the environment we live in.

As I’ve said many times, the choice is ours. The only way in which we can exercise that choice is basically which party we vote for given the limited choice we really have. As always, would love to hear your thoughts, reactions or impressions.

Thanks and have a great day!

Check Your Perspective…

Thought Experiment… Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Think From Another’s Perspective:

A worthwhile Thought Experiment is to challenge yourself to view an issue from another perspective. Here is a 14 minute video that, if you really thought about it, would admit presents a perspective that is what I imagine is a very different perspective that you had of the topic. Was this true in you case?

Take this 13:38 and step away from the Echo Chamber in which millions of Americans elect to live their lives: 1) Engage in the experience of learning about and considering another’s perspective; 2) Now actually considering, really thinking about something a perspective that you never thought about that way before; and 3) Share your reactions, thoughts, opinions or suggestions in the Comments Section of the blog and which really supports the blog too so I kindly ask you to use this platform. (It’s just a click but it helps me immensely!) Congratulations on getting this far. Sincere apologies, unless I am wrong, I must pay for the ability to embed video on my page so click here for YouTube video (13:38).

Did your Perspective Change about anything? If so, what & how? I wouldn’t spend the time if I didn’t think there are subjects we need to make sure we really think about, done an thorough analysis of our reasoning to make sure it isn’t just going with the flow, a gut reaction or conventional wisdom – all without much though given to why you chose the way you did. Don’t feel inadequate as I believe only a small minority are that self-aware and analytical, quick to use critical thinking skills. Like many things it becomes a habit… a way of thinking and living in the world. These skills, which were important to our survival at one time, and that echo-chambers erode like all other unused muscles – hated atrophy! “Group-think” sets in and the analysis of what may be an important issue or life decision is over. The benefit of this approach is you don’t have to decide for yourself, you just turn with the swarm of fish that is the masses and have no really idea why. It’s not uncommon at all. I genuinely fear the school of fish analogy is sadly now the default setting for at least American society. This is my humble effort do change that. If you think you already see issues from a balanced perspective you…

May Want to Double Check…

One way is to take this short escape from your routine that won’t miss you and do what you normally don’t do because it’s human nature and it is SO easy to do – which is stay to that which you already know and are very comfortable without ever stopping to consider why you agree. Consider and analyze your reasoning. Really deconstruct it so you’re confident it’s sound and if you discover otherwise, you reconsider this is done without shame and should be done without shame. It is no different than preparing for everything we all have to do for anything we want to do well. Preparation is critical and this is why we demand it of doctors, lawyers, and ourselves whenever we give a proposal to our bosses, to prospective customers, and in other important events in life.

If you are Consider the reasoning of other’s that you respect but that may hold a different opinion so you can see it from her perspective. If you responded to that last sentence with, “I don’t know anyone like this.” you may be too far gone and will have to make an effort to meet people with different views. You will discover first that they are people too. Think about it this way: close to ½ of the voting public disagrees with you, but way more than half of those we deal with in life are nice, regular folks just making it through another day like you are. Meaning some would hate your politics, but you know they are not a monster – and neither are you. This sentiment is long dead in the current political climate… let’s hope that changes.

Online we act like civility and basic respect mandatory in face to face discussion is obliterated and it bothers me. There is never a way to exchange ideas or get someone to consider your perspective if you’re calling them names. No matter who started the bad behavior! If that happens, just disengage – no online rage (no one can see you anyway… I hope!)  Perhaps because the dialogue I am accustomed to is philosophical and legal. Philosophical discussion is typically pretty civil and pleasant. While arguing to a Court one is required to exercise decorum, civility & respect or the Judge will let you know it.

What constitutes “discussion” on the internet in general deserves not such a dignified label. It’s a childish trading of insults and will be ignored. People generally talking at each other not in anyway resembling a real discussion with an exchange of ideas. We have to remember that there are people that you respect and with whom you don’t agree on every important issue… you just don’t know it yet. It is because we have such complicated and very complex lives it shouldn’t surprise us that we reach many different opinions, but saying your opinion these days risks a nasty response and this is especially true online.

But again, like anything else, reason can be done properly or improperly. No one can tell you the answer, but you can be challenged to make certain you have given important issues appropriate thought and consideration. What if a young man or woman walked right up to you and asked very directly your opinion on an important topic?

Lives are hectic, but we must give ourselves time to think. We demand our children think before they speak or act, why not hold ourselves to the same standard? But the way one checked their opinions was discuss it with friends, parents, and teachers, along with anyone else available whose opinion we respect. Please read what Plato thought about taking enough time to think click here now.

If you want to read my continued thoughts just click. here.

Aristotle – The Four Ideas

 

Aristotle was born in 384 BC in Stagira, Greece where his father was the Royal Doctor. His death at 28 was in 322 BC, at Chalcis, Greece. He grew up to be arguably the most influential philosopher ever with modest nicknames like the master The Master, and simply “the Philosopher.” As if there were no others. He is probably best known for his first big job of tutoring Alexander the great, who went on to conquer the known world and unite all of the Greek city states which (and a great deal more) which had been constantly at war for centuries. Aristotle then headed off to Athens, where he met up with his mentor and teacher Plato, with whom he studied for a good dance and then branched out on his own to found the school known as The Lyceum. French secondary schools are called to the say are named in honor of errors Aristotle’s school. He used to walk around as he talked and his followers were known as peripatetic, or the wanderers.

The Father of Science – Then Known as Natural Philosophy

He is the unquestioned founder of science. Alexander the Great gave Aristotle carte blanche as far as scientific samples as the Hunters, fishers, etc. were at The Philosopher’s disposal. After gathering the specimens of from land, air and sea from anywhere in Alexander’s Empire and perhaps first true scientific laboratory. Aristotle’s Organon is thought to be the product of Aristotle’s students based on the lectures of the Master. Like Aristotle, it delves into every scientific field known and many Aristotle essentially founded. The treatise is full of errors along with the countless genius observations never before known to have been made by another human being. Most errors can be traced to the complete absence to any scientific instruments to study specimens. Aristotle had his eyes, his two hands and his unmatched brilliance and revolutionary mind.

The Organon was finally published by Andronicus of Rhodes in 40 B.C. Thereafter it was the textbook of (Western) science, or Natural Philosophy as it was called then as once a field is defined by the philosophers, a Scientific Specialty is born and Philosophy goes on her merry way to deal with the unsettled, harder questions humanity has yet to solve. For nearly 2,000 years Aristotle literally wrote the textbook Western Students would study until Sir. Frances Bacon published his masterful Novum Organum (New Organon) in the year 1620. Natural Philosophy would be guided by these two books and led to the birth of early science that blossomed into a massive tree of specialties but rooted in the minds of two geniuses. But the relevant questions to ask, the topics of investigation… the actual maps to lead us 2.500 years later to the amazing things we see today. The scientific method began here, the emphasis on evidence and observation rather than looking to the super-natural or superstitious phenomena.

Part of the misguided thinking that Philosophy is a waste of time, it is comical if you understand the thinking 25 centuries ago that has proven far more accurate that initially suspected. This is why most people look at philosophy as having done nothing, but in reality philosophy has given birth to every science ever created. If begins the questioning & the scientific inquiry, but once enough information, knowledge and date is gathered through the philosophical inquiry, the infant science (i.e. biology) is born. Meanwhile philosophy modestly marches forward to wrestle with the difficult and still under answered questions. Giving the appearance progress is never made. Simply put, if not for philosophy, the binary code & logic that is the basis of all computing so thank Philosophy for that Smart Phone.

Now science is so massive and the amount of knowledge available to us is so vast there is now a specialty of philosophy known as Philosophy of Science, for example. And there needs to be because there is so much science to follow that it helps to have philosophy take all of that knowledge and synthesize it into a body of work that continues to (1) educate people about the state of science; and (2) continue to point science in the right direction. I believe Philosophy should act as a guide and the conscience for science as for all other subjects.

For Aristotle, philosophy was about practical wisdom. Here are what you might call his four big practical questions he thought it important for Society to consider:

     1.   What makes people happy?

In the Nicomachean Ethics (350 BC), which got its name because they were a compilation of his lecture notes in this case edited by his son Nicomachus, Aristotle set himself to find the factors that led people to lead a good life… or not. We believe the good and successful people all possess distinct virtues. And he proposed that we should get better at identifying what these virtues are so that we may nurture and value the virtues in ourselves and honor them in others.

The Eleven Virtues: 1) Courage, 2) Temperance, 3) Liberality, 4) Magnificence, 5) Pride 6) Magnanimity, 7) Patience, 8) Truthfulness, 9) Wittiness, 10) Friendliness, 11) Modesty.

This was the basis of The Golden Mean as these virtues were always the middle-ground – or “The Golden Mean” – between the two separate Vices. For example, courage is the golden mean between cowardice and rashness. Magnificence is the golden mean between stinginess and all guaranty. Modesty is the mean between shamelessness and shyness.

Conversation was one of the key aspects of knowing how to live a good life according to Aristotle. He gave the example of the boorish man whose boorishness gave him nothing to offer because he lacks a subtle sense of humor. The Boor is basically useless for any kind of social intercourse because he contributes nothing and takes offense at everything. Others carry humor to excess. A buffoon cannot resist a joke whether appropriate or not. They will spare no one including himself or those with them, the embarrassment just for a laugh and will say things a man of taste would never even dream of saying. So the virtuous person is the golden mean between the two which is the individual possessing wittiness. Witty but tactful. We have a whole page (This does not look right on a phone – sorry):

  • The Deficiency                    The Mean                        The Excess    
  • Cowardice                              Courage                           Rashness
  • Insensibility                       Temperance                   Self-indulgence
  • Meanness (illiberality)     Liberality                          Prodigality
  • Stinginess/pettiness        Magnificence                    Vulgarity
  • Pusillanimity                    Magnanimity                       Vanity
  • Unambitiousness                  Pride                                Ambition
  • Lack of spirit                        Patience                           Irascibility
  • Understatement              Truthfulness                    Boastfulness
  • Boorishness                          Wittiness                        Buffoonery
  • Cantankerous                    Friendliness                  Obsequiousness
  • Shamelessness                     Modesty                            Shyness
  • Spitefulness               Righteous Indignation               Envy

Moral righteousness is a habit. Like all habits it takes practice and encouragement. Aristotle believes that people lacking in virtues should be recognized as unfortunate rather than wicked, pitied instead of punished.  They rather need better teachers & more appropriate guidance.

2. What is Art For?

The blockbuster art at the time of Aristotle was the Greek Tragedy drama. As Athenians would sit and watch tragic plays in open-air theaters all across Greece most would see a gory, horrible tragedy of a play by playwrights like Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles, who were household names at the time.

Aristotle wrote “The Poetics”, his manual on how to write great poetry. It was a rather rigid guide to how poetry should be written but some very useful tips the ancient philosopher gave are still seen in dramatic writing today.

What was the point of the tragedy, though? What is the point of the entire community coming together to watch horrible things happen to the lead characters like Oedipus in the play by Sophocles who, inadvertently kills his father, marries his mother and once he learns of his hideous misfortune, he gouges out his eyes in remorse and despair. Aristotle’s answer is Catharsis. A kind of cleaning where you get rid of the bad stuff, in this case cleaning up our emotions and supposedly getting rid of feelings of fear & tragedies remind us all too often that terrible things can befall good people, normal people, including people like you and me. Perhaps that is why the vampires, zombies and other gory fantasy television and film is so popular today?

Therefore, we should have more compassion & empathy toward those whose actions have gone disastrously wrong for them. Instead of what seems to be popular today, which is to look down upon the person as if they deserve their lot in life because of stupid decisions you assume they must have made. Of course, this view gives no consideration to the obvious role that luck, better opportunities given the upbringing, caring and involved parents that emphasize education, parents having the basic financial resources to care for child or children. These are thing that are unequally provided in this society as in every society. Aristotle believes we need to be collectively re-taught these truths on a consistent basis. The task of art, as Aristotle sought, was to make the profound truths of life stick in our minds. Perhaps because our conveniently insulated lives keep us away from anything unpleasant unless we elect to see it. The world is full of unpleasant things and those problems remain whether noticed or not.

3. What Are Friends For?

In Books 8 & 9 of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle identifies three kinds of friendship:

  1. Friendship which comes about when each person is seeking fun. Their chief interest is in their own pleasure and the opportunity of the moment, which the other person present provides.
  2. Strategic Acquaintances (think political friendships) – where each member is as friendly as need be only to get what they are seeking out of the relationship.
  3. Then there is the True Friend. Not someone who’s just like you, but someone who isn’t you, but about who you care as much as you do for yourself.

In the true friendship, the other person’s pain is your pain, their joys are your joys. This makes you more vulnerable, should anything awful befall this friend of yours, but it also strengthens you because it relieves you of the too small orbit of your own thoughts & worries. You expand your own life into the life of another and together become larger, more resilient, and more fair-minded. You share virtues and cancel out each other’s defects. Friendship teaches us what we ought to be and it is, quite literally, the best part of life.

4. How Do We Get Ideas Through in Such a Distracted World?

Like a lot of people, Aristotle noticed that the better argument didn’t always win the debate. Aristotle wondered why this was, and you know why an argument that consists of convenient bull shit can seem victorious over a beautifully and subtly argued, very detailed analysis of the complex causes of our current problems, etc. or something similar. Some silly phrase or soundbite, often called Talking Point will prevail because it’s simple and easy to understand versus a detailed analysis of a complex problem that naturally requires a complex analysis in hopes of arriving at an answer to the complex issue. Aristotle wanted to know what he could do about it so he decided to teach people how to win arguments. This was known as “Rhetoric.” The art of convincing others to agree with you.

This is what Aristotle notice drove serious people away from the inane debate that made up the talk of the masses (why do I hear an intense discussion over the Kardashians?). Aristotle expected more from society and wanted something more for society. He wanted thoughtful, serious, well-intentioned people to learn how to be persuasive so they get involved in the welfare of the people as a whole.

His Rhetoric enables one to reach those people who don’t agree with them already and, using reason and logic properly, would get the listener to see the wisdom in the position… or not. But at least the decision is made with more information. The goal is to ensure that reason would always prevail. That holding a position reason seems to defeat would not be seen as a defect of one’s character, just faulty reasoning.  This seems like a utopia as divided as society is now, when opposing views tends to lead one to believe the other has a character flaw – to put it kindly – simply due to an opposing intellectual position they hold. This would be especially helpful to get people in society to rediscover what it is like to keep an open mind. The loss of a debate is a win for the Greater Good so long a reason prevails. Unfortunately, that does not represent today’s political or cultural climate.

Aristotle does make some timeless points in his advice on rhetoric: You have to recognize, acknowledge & reassure people’s fears. You have to notice the emotional side of the issue. Is someone’s pride on the line, are they feeling embarrassed? In that case one needs to edge around the issues particular to that discussion accordingly.

Finally you also have to try and make it FUNNY, because attention spans are very short and you may have to use examples and illustrations to make your point, bring it to life and sink into the brain of the less naturally curious. Amazing to consider these words are from Aristotle’s pen over 2000 years ago, when there were no distractions compared to 2016. Yet even he discussed how to combat short attention spans and how using examples and illustrations can help get your point across and make it memorable. What do you suppose Aristotle would say of distractions today?

Conclusion: Metaphysics is the Problem

When people think of the word philosophy, rarely is their first thought how practical it is. That is unfortunate because the ancient Greeks were adamant that philosophy (literally translated to Love of Wisdom), not be an abstract endeavor to be done by tweed jacket wearing professors and the occasional self-actualized individual. The Greeks were adamant that philosophy is for everyone, a deeply useful skill that should be learned and practiced by all in order to help us live, and die well. Help us find the best way to run a government, when and why we should go to war, how to deal with race relations, how we can lift up those in poverty so they can help themselves, etc. etc. Perhaps it is not this way because we haven’t listened enough recently to Aristotle.

Most people think of Metaphysics when they think of philosophy, which reminds them of the very obscure & difficult philosophers and makes them turn away as fast as they can. Philosophy should be about how it can be used to help citizens live a more satisfying and useful lives and benefits society as a whole. Metaphysics is what the people that took a mandatory introduction to Philosophy class remember most… the endless discussion over the meaning of life. How the brain processes information? Free-will v. determinism? Why we’re here? Even whether we are here at all. It can seem like useless mental gymnastics for sure. It is this author’s opinion that Metaphysics has hijacked philosophy and nearly ruined it, leaving little room for the practical uses in our daily lives.

The Practical Use for All of Humanity

The origin of philosophy, as emphasized by Aristotle’s teacher Plato, is not an abstract endeavor but rather as a useful and practical activity that all members of society should use & practice. In fact it may be more important now than ever in America given the bitterly divided society we live in. It is apparent the masses are unmoved by reason & logic, but we went through the Enlightenment once and learned the power of reason so we can rediscover the virtue of those lessons once again. The United States of America was born out of the Enlightenment and must return to its Enlightenment roots.

Philosophers need to be Front & Center to remind our citizens the importance of critical thinking skills and show our Citizens to again use Reason and Logic to arrive at informed decisions rather than allow themselves to be influenced by campaign ads, Corporate media or just whatever society is giving its fickle attention to at the moment. Not only should Philosophers be here for the discussion, they should be forcing the discussion and forcing our elected leaders into this discussion so they can be held accountable for their decisions that have no basis in reason or logic unless you are on of his or her donors.

Philosophers should recall that Socrates called himself the “gadfly of the state.” Meaning he was always buzzing around the leaders and leading citizens questioning their decisions and the motivation for those decisions, whether those decisions were just and beneficial to society as a whole. Socrates asked so many questions of the wealthy and powerful in Athens, questions they considered inconvenient. So inconvenient, in fact, they put Socrates to death because of his incessant questioning (sometimes speaking truth to power is dangerous).

EVERY CITIZEN should be making sure their own decisions are properly thought out after investigating various perspectives so decisions are well-informed. Furthermore, that the leaders in government we send to represent our interests are also making well-reasoned decisions that benefit the people. Make them answer for their positions and their votes. This is what Philosophers should be doing for society right now… addressing the important issues, forcing society to think about them and to make sure to let their elected representatives know how they feel about it and hold them accountable to address the needs of “We The People” as opposed to their donors.

We must be sure to ask all the right questions, looking at society as part of a much Bigger Picture as opposed to a single issue so we arrive at the right answers to the right questions and don’t destroy ourselves in the meantime because of things like greed, the lust for power, or the unintended consequences of an important decisions. These are decisions we ALL face together and should make together as a society. It may sound like something we needn’t concern ourselves with right now, but I assure you… existential issues are closer than any of us think. And it’s better to find the right questions and the right answers to those questions earlier since the alternative may mean… well let’s just be early.