Nov 25, 2016


May 25, 2015  Rota, Spain
Everywhere we look we seem to find evidence of corruption.  Here in Spain there are continuous cases of politicians, bankers, and businesspersons involved in shady and illegal transactions.  The United States is even more corrupt.  The corruption is virtually systemic although the media is a part of it all and therefore it doesn't get the attention given to corruption in Europe.  It is very common for ordinary people to wring their hands and complain about how rotten the system is.  And it is.

So there is a great temptation to blame the wealthy, the bankers, the politicians - those who are obviously benefiting from the corruption. But wait a minute.  I am going to assert that Western Capitalist society is corrupt from the bottom to the top - few people excluded.

There was a time when personal integrity was fundamental and so common that, those who had demonstrated a lack of integrity were virtually shunned.  I remember as a boy stories of people who walked miles through the snow to return a few pennies given in error as change during a transaction.

I was hugely impressed by the documentary movie on the American Civil War presented by Ken Burns. In it he read letters by soldiers on both sides of the conflict, written from the battlefield to their families.  Many of them were going into battle the next day in battles that could be expected to wipe out 80 percent of their infantry units. So the soldiers were saying goodbye with the expectation of almost certain death the next day.  In their letters, they spoke of their dedication to the cause for which they fought and of their loyalty to their comrades in arms. Their eloquence and nobility seemed so strange to our modern ears.

In those days, American was still a rural society and our personal values were those of a people who knew their neighbors.  We were people whose relationships were almost always with others that they knew. Strangers were rare and perhaps a little suspect until better known.  Here in Spain people lived in villages in which they knew everyone.  So the integrity of an individual was well known - and respected if worthy.

But over time, we became an urban society.  We deal continuously with strangers.  We pass through the street without knowing anyone that we see.  In small towns, some of the old culture lingers among groups of neighbors.  But in general, we are much more anonymous.  If we do something selfish, immoral or even illegal, those who see us will not know that.  There are fewer informal consequences for our actions.  If we are not officially caught with our hands in the cookie jar, we just got away with a cookie.

Gradually our personal values shifted.  We became more selfish.  It became a virtue to advance oneself and ones friends without much regard for the consequences of our actions on invisible others. Here in Spain, a person who knows how to play the system is considered a "listo"... a person who knows how things work and knows how to take advantage.  Being "listo" has both good and bad connotations, but the most successful people are generally the most "listo".

When I studied Law, my fellow students were there to position themselves to make a good living. There were a few idealists like me who wanted to make society more just, but most were there as a stepping stone to a comfortable life.  And who can blame them.  It is not a bad thing.  But law is based on an adversarial process where the lawyer does everything possible for the client on the theory that the other side is also going to do everything possible and in the legal battle, the truth will come out.  Well, in the real world, more money buys better representation and more money usually wins. Lawyers are accomplices in legal robberies.

Over time, lawyers have taken large corporate clients whose profits are frequently not in the best interests of the general public.  Whenever a corporation has some kind of crisis, they call in their lawyers and public relations specialists before making any kind of statement. This is the kind of corruption that draws public attention.

Our system is now so corrupt that reform seems almost hopeless.  There are few people in power who don't have a stake in the status quo.  The media seems dis-inclined to ferret out corruption. The corporations are firmly in control. And the executives of a corporation have a fiduciary duty to realize maximum profits for their shareholders.  If they were to reduce profits in order to reduce pollution, the executives could face lawsuits from shareholders. So nothing is going to change until the public becomes really enraged - but really enraged.

But at the same time, we need to look to our personal integrity. If we are willing to accept in ourselves actions which are self-benefiting although damaging to others, then we are part of the problem. So, lets get enraged but clean up our own lives first.

Jul 27, 2016

Bernie Sanders People - LISTEN UP! We need to understand what Bernie means by Political Revolution! READ THIS...

When Bernie Sanders told us that he wanted to create a "Political Revolution" many of us passed lightly over that phrase. Actually, it is a hugely important concept and absolutely the centerpiece of Bernie's whole philosophy. Since I am also a Bernie person, I want to expand that concept a bit to give us a better foundation to move Bernie's "revolution" forward.

First, let's distinguish the difference between a Revolt and a Revolution.  A Revolt is a change in government - a regime change - often accompanied by violence and turmoil. A Revolution is a shift in public thinking that automatically produces changes in culture and institutions. Revolutions are gradual because it takes time for a new idea to gain traction and become generally accepted.  The idea of Women's Rights is a revolution that is still in progress, but shows how a change in thinking very gradually produces changes in culture. The shift in thought automatically causes a shift in culture and institutions in a democracy.

Bernie's Political Revolution is a call for a whole new progressive political climate where we can address the many specific issues of: climate change; fracking; the TPP and TTIP; influence of corporate money in elections; high cost of education; health care for all; decline of the middle class; and on and on..... We are inspired by the possibilities.

Why can't we just tackle those issues with our current political system? Well, at the moment we can't even have an intelligent conversation about those issues. First we need to reverse the effects of an intentional campaign by the right-wing media. We are now well into the second generation of ordinary citizens who have been exposed to and influenced by aggressive right-wing hate media commentators like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, etc. Progressives like us are called "Libtards" and those folks proudly feel that they and they alone understand reality. Corporations now control virtually all of the public media outlets and so now we have major TV channels like Fox News that will give air time to the idea that climate change may not be real - or that Obama is a closet Muslim. CNN will present interviews of Donald Trump telling complete lies - while CNN totally fails to challenge those lies. There is very little real journalism remaining.Virtually all TV content is propaganda.

Corporations and billionaires like the Koch Brothers have funded public relations agencies, think tanks, and finally the media itself to present a constant stream of cleverly disguised propaganda - it would not be an exaggeration to call it brainwashing. This has been so successful that many members of the middle class are willing to vote against their own self interest.

Public Thought is now so thoroughly manipulated that Bernie Sander's Political Revolution will have to start by presenting an alternative to the powerful right-wing media.  Many of us rallied around Bernie's good ideas and felt that we were part of a movement - but alas, we are already progressives and a distinct minority. We have made a start, but we need to enlist many others, many of whom are believers in the right-wing ideology.  That means a long term campaign, mostly using social media since the corporate media will be opposing us. This revolution in thinking will depend on all of us working as individuals and in groups to be enlisting new supporters everywhere.  Conversing with friends, comments in social media - there are plenty of ways that we can make a difference. This article is one of my ways to contribute. It is important to note that our message is always best presented in a positive way even though we receive abusive comments from those who don't agree. Stupidity never knows that it is stupid and doesn't want to be told. The best approach is to find common ground and enroll from there.

We are not going to get this done in a few weeks nor perhaps even in the term of our next president.  But it is the only way that we are going to get the kind of country that will serve all of us and make us proud.  Bernie has promised that he will be providing leadership and direction.  His directions at the time of the Democratic Convention are to support and vote for Hillary Clinton.  This has not been well received by some of his followers, but he is right. To reach the goal of the Political Revolution, we must advance one step at a time.  The first stepping stone is to get Hillary elected.

We must appreciate that, no matter who is elected president, they will not be able to make very many changes initially.  I think there are some Bernie people who share a common desire with the Trump people - they want to see a strong leader come into the presidency and start fixing things. But it doesn't really work that way in our current government.

The minimum that we need from our next president is: appointment of progressive Supreme Court justices; maintenance of existing social programs like Social Security and Medicare; vetoing destructive legislation from an opposition congress; and advancement of any of the issues that inspired us during the campaign assuming that the political climate so permits.  If that president could also participate in the public awaking that we need as part of the revolution, that would be a bonus.

So why does Bernie want us to vote for Hillary? Well, simply because there is no reasonable alternative.  If we vote for a third party candidate, that candidate WON'T WIN.  And we run the strong chance that Trump will win.  There is a certain amount of Ego present in those who will vote against Hillary - "well, I have principles and did the right thing". We need to take a longer range view.  If Hillary is elected, Bernie can lead us forward towards the Political Revolution.  If she isn't elected, all bets are off.....

Here are some of the organizations that Bernie is founding to further the revolution: What's Next by Bernie Sanders