I’m kind of frustrated with my Email In-Box. These days it’s a major undertaking that I now have to have a little time for. I get about 500 unsolicited emails every day because I made the mistake of giving my address to the wrong website or two. Like FaceBook, for example. Fortunately, I’ve trained Firefox to weed out most of them, but I still need to wait for them to download. But, it’s the ones that are left after Firefox does it’s thing, that I want to mention this morning.
I’m politically conscious, probably like you if you’re reading this. As such, I get a lot of political emails that I DID solicit and I’m getting a little frustrated with THEM too. Here’s how they go: A little news item or talking point that I already know about some ridiculous and dangerous thing Republicans did today and then a plea for money to fight it. Some ask me to sign a petition and when I do, I’m sent to a donation page. They are ALL the same with the possible exception of the few I get from Al and/or Franni Franken from Minisota, who tell me little tid-bits about something happening in their family, or to wish me seasonal greetings for a holiday while not even mentioning money. I like those and I like the Frankens too. They’re a lot like my family.
What strikes me about these political emails, aside from their similarities, is that there are so many causes, and all of them are important. Electing more Democratic or Progressive Legislators, The Red Cross, DSCC, Courage Campaign, Emily’s list, Sierra Club, SLDN, Move-On, Human Rights Campaign, Amnesty International, Barack & Michelle Obama, any number of White House staff people, Change.org… the list goes on ad nausium. It occurs to me that we are spread too thin to make any real progress addressing the root causes of all of them. It’s about the money!
Collecting enough money from people who don’t have much of it, to fight the people who have an unlimited supply, to control most of life in the US. The people who own and/or control over 85% of the media we are exposed to, the gas we put in our cars, the food we put on our tables or grab on our way to or from our growing number of part time jobs. The people who are making unprecedented amounts of profit from slowly and methodically killing the planet and its inhabitants.
All of the problems we face as a nation can be traced back to one single thing. Profit! Lots and Lots of Money! Those numbers get more and more exorbitant as conglomeration of big industry continues. Now, that wouldn’t be a bad thing if it weren’t for the fact that big business is paying less and less for the labor that produces these products that are killing us, by sending production to places where labor is dirt cheap, there are no unions to protect workers, and there are no pesky environmental regulations to protect the environment and add to the cost of production. That wealth is not shared with anyone, it’s just collected and stockpiled.
I work at a Homelessness to Housing program that includes shelters for both men and women. In my shelter there about 100 men at any given time. They live in close quarters and they talk to one another. Our shelters are alcohol and drug free environments and we have to test the men periodically to maintain that. The men will sometimes have to pee in a cup. One of the managers I worked with, one day excused a fellow who claimed he couldn’t pee in a cup while someone else was in the room. I can understand that, but our experience has been that those tests are too easy to fake if they are not supervised. I’m not exaggerating here, within 14 days, 4 other men made the came claim.
It’s like that in the upper echelons of business too. Do you honestly believe that at opulent fine dining establishments, Business clubs like the Rotary Club or the Better Business Bureau, exclusive Golf Clubs, Yachting Clubs and the like, that these men and women don’t talk to one another? Of course they do. And, what do you suppose they talk about? The weather? Bar-B-Que techniques? Well, OK, maybe they do, but it’s what they ALSO talk about that is my point. They talk about money, how to make more of it, how to spend less of it, and how to keep it. Upper management people in the same line of work will naturally gravitate to one another just like in any social environment.
I’ve discussed gas prices with you a couple of times before. How oil companies do market testing on the price of gas for your cars. Over the last decade or so you’ve seen the price of gas get pushed up to over $4.00 a gallon. What happened, at that price point, is that we consumers stopped buying so much of it and began spending less money on vacations. Truckers who bring us our products were getting out of the business because there’s little or no profit in it. The profits had been shifted to the oil companies. It had an impact on business over-all, everywhere.
What that was, was a market test to see how much oil companies can get for their product. They all raised prices at the same time in the same amount. Do you really believe that all of those companies had the same thought at the same time without talking to one another? Oil companies found out what the market will bear. $4.00 is the price point for a gallon of gas. Anything more than that and the whole picture begins to degrade. That, and the growing presence of electric vehicles that use a LOT less gas. All this, while these oil companies are posting the highest profits in the history of business, year after year. It has nothing to do with the availability of crude oil or gasoline or speculation. It has to do with how much oil companies can get you to pay for their products.
I used to have Comcast, so I went looking for a cheaper way to connect to the internet. I’m paying about $50 bucks a month and I’m not bundling. I discovered that there is no less expensive alternative unless you bundle, in which case you’re paying more anyway, even if you don’t need the things you’re bundling internet access with. ALL of the companies that are offering the service are posting huge profits for it. Do you honestly believe that there isn’t one of them who had been able to figure out a way to provide that service for less money and still post a profit? Of course there is! But the standard for profit is no longer â€śDecentâ€ť! It’s excessive, and you, dear reader, are the schmuck who has to pay it, or do without. Do you honestly believe these CEOs don’t talk to one another?
Did you ever notice that a pack of gum or a candy bar costs about the same thing no matter who makes it or what the ingredients are? Soda Pop costs the same no matter which of the big companies produce it. You’ll find off brands that cost less at your big chain grocery store. They’re all made at the same place with the same labor and using the same ingredients. How is it possible that they can be sold for so much less? Do you honestly believe these people don’t talk to one another? Price fixing is going on almost universally in Big Business. The reason why there aren’t more class action lawsuits about it is because the content of a conversation over a cigar and a brandy, or at the 7th hole, is nearly impossible to prove. Plenty of evidence, but no proof.
Jimmy Fallon went out to the streets and asked people if they favored the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare. People overwhelmingly favored The Affordable Care Act because they didn’t know that these two terms refer to the very same thing! The men and women who stand to lose excessive profits from The Affrodable Care Act, have been able to change the language we use for it to re-name it enough so that the consumer really doesn’t know that they are the same thing.
People who have been taught to fear ObamaCare and are against it, actually like it when you tell them what it is. They like that you can keep your kids on your insurance plan until they are 25 years old. They like the fact that you can’t be denied access to health care insurance if you have a pre-existing condition. They like the fact that your coverage cannot be canceled if you get sick. They like the fact that insurance companies can’t stop paying for your care if you get a catastrophic illness and run up a huge medical bill because of it. They like the fact that if you really can’t afford the premiums you can get a subsidy to help pay for it. But, they will say that they oppose ObamaCare!
Money in politics is a big part of the problem too. And this affects Republicans and Democrats alike. The money comes primarily from big companies. Companies like the ones that will lose excessive profits from things like The Affordable Care Act, and have to settle for â€śDecentâ€ť profits. So much so that their employees in the Senate and the House of Representatives tried to kill it 40 times and shut down the government over it. Companies like gun manufacturers and their marketing arm, the National Rifle Association. The people of the US favor gun control at something like a 2 to 1 margin, yet nothing happens to address that. Because the guys with the big money say, â€śNO!â€ť You can’t have that.
It goes all the way to the White House too. The Obama Administration put up a website called â€śWe The Peopleâ€ť where you and I can put up a petition of our own and tell the White House what we want done, and if enough of us support the idea, the White House will go to work on it. 2 years ago the highest rated petition on the site was to Legalize Marijuana. I signed on and so The White House responded with an email to all of us explaining why they weren’t going to work on it. Big Pharma doesn’t want Marijuana legalized because it is such a powerful medication for a plethora of common physical and mental conditions that they sell drugs for, aside from being a lot of fun, AND a medication that seems to help people see through deception. There are a veritable cornucopia of companies that would suffer profits from people being aware of what is being done to them in the marketplace.
Law enforcement doesn’t want it either. It’s a cash cow for them too. If police didn’t have marijuana to deal with, they’d have resources to apply to crimes that have victims, and there aren’t nearly as many of those. They could work with a lot less and still be fully effective.
Same thing with Drone Strikes. People going to â€śWe the Peopleâ€ť said they wanted them stopped, but the White House said, â€śNO!â€ť Those remote control planes are a huge profit maker for Lockheed/Martin and about a dozen other manufacturers. That’s why we are continuously at war with SOMEBODY, SOMEWHERE. There are big businesses that will have to settle for DECENT profits if we stop. All of these folks pay the bulk of what it costs to win an election. Do you honestly believe that these people don’t talk to these legislators about what their interests are? Do you honestly think there’s no Quid Pro Quo involved? No â€śI’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine?â€ť
I’m a strong believer in what the Occupy Movement means. Granted it’s been trashed by misguided hippies and intentional anarchists, and the focus has been diffused to include every individual malady that is the result of what its original idea was. The original intent was to focus the nation’s attention on what the real problem is. That’s why so many of us from all walks of like, except the upper echelon â€śSuitsâ€ť, came out in the streets to support it all over the world. Too much money in the hands of too few people who are not being adequately supervised about its use and Abuse.
And THAT’S my point this morning. The more we are diffused by individual causes, the more scattered we are in our approach to revolution, the less effective we are. The power structure of the world, the â€śSuitsâ€ť are surely enjoying these skirmishes that we are all struggling with among ourselves. It takes the heat off of the real issue. The real issue is money and how it is being distributed in the world. Fewer and fewer people control it and it controls nearly everything that happens in the world. The longer we allow ourselves to be redirected to the smaller skirmishes and squabbles we are struggling with now, the longer we kick the can down the road about what the real problem is and that is completely OK with the 1%.
Here’s a starting place I’ve been advocating for years now. If we want these companies to be less powerful, we have to make them smaller so that they can be responsive to the needs of the people rather than the other way around. The only way to do that is to put them on a diet and get them to exercise more. Stop feeding them so much and not demanding anything from them.
MOVE YOUR MONEY! Big Banks and Financial Institutions are putting up the money for almost ALL of the things that are killing us. If you have an account at BofA, Wells Fargo, or any of the big banks, you’re part of the problem. You’re feeding the beast. Move your money to a local bank or credit union. If they don’t have money to buy your Senators and Representatives, those representatives can advocate for YOU instead of them.
Next is related to that. Avoid spending money at big chains and rely more on local merchants for whatever you can. That keeps the money in YOUR community rather than having it drained away and hoarded somewhere else. It will also keep companies from becoming so big that they can threaten the whole country with devastation if it doesn’t get its way. What we need to do first is to Starve The Beasts. The predators. Without the Beast bullying its way into everything, we can then address the skirmishes and squabbles if they will even be left to deal with. It’s the greed that’s at the center of all of it. Once we address the root cause of the lion’s share of the problems we face, most of them will dissolve on their own as the cause of them is dissolved. It’s all about the money!
November 10, 2013
Â· GLFranklyn Â· Comments Closed
Tags: civil rights, Corporate Greed, Democratic Philosophy, Economics, financial, Health Care, Media, Obama, Occupy Wall Street, Price Fixing Â· Posted in: Culture, Economics, Media, Politics
September 29, 2013 â€“ By Gregory Franklyn
Breaking Bad, a cable television series, is all the buzz in the media this week. Evidently, the season finale is tonight and expectations about what will happen are high. One commentator on CNN just said that his blood pressure is high, right now, waiting for it. The producers are likely having quite the day and have reason for heightened expectations about their ratings for this episode.
I’m not a fan of the show and can’t claim to have sat through an entire episode but it’s such a television phenomenon that I know, through osmosis, the basics of what it’s about. The main character is a former good guy, as we know it, who, through a succession of unfortunate events, feels forced to take drastic measures to provide survival for himself and his family. He decides to manufacture and sell Meth and the show is about the moral questions he struggles with and the relativity of right and wrong based on the environment in which it occurs.
The fact that it is bubbling up into the national consciousness is a testament to the program’s reach. That’s probably a good thing for the people involved with the show, but is it such a good thing for our collective attention? I understand that the show is addictive, so it’s likely in my best interests that I steer clear of it. I have plenty of those already.
The show challenges us to examine what we mean by integrity, morality, and right and wrong. The main character is presented as a sympathetic guy who viewers root for despite the horrible things he has to do to survive. A regular guy who was simply pushed out to the edge of his survival and had to make some choices about right and wrong, and moral or amoral. That seems kind of benign on the surface, but when you look at it a little deeper and place it in the social context in which it occurs, the present in the United States, it takes on an added significance. It’s almost prophetic in it’s approach.
In the present, our country is knee deep in a state of obvious moral confusion about what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s moral and what’s amoral. We are living in a state of continuous crisis where the US Government is paralyzed by it’s inability to come to consensus about what direction to take. The result has been a stagnation of our economy which is pushing most Americans out the edge of their survival. Much like our Breaking Bad Character.
Democrats gravitate towards collectivism, or a kind of watered down socialism to arrange for the things we cannot do individually, like build schools, hospitals, bridges, roads, power plants, water treatment plants, defense of the nation and the like. We favor regulations on capitalism that provide for such things as safety and fairness in the marketplace. We favor a Christian attitude towards helping people do things that they legitimately can’t do for themselves. Like differently abled people, people with terminal illnesses, people who have been displaced by an expanding marketplace for labor. People who have been adversely affected by circumstances beyond their control. We feel a sense of responsibility for them borne from our privilege and abundance. In a land where we have so very much, NO one should be left behind.
Republicans see that collective consciousness as a threat to individual freedom. The government isn’t there to coddle its citizens and take care of their every need. People should be doing most things for themselves and adapting to the change using what is available to everyone to participate fully in the resources available. If you’re not willing to contribute or participate, you SHOULD suffer for it because your refusal to contribute has adverse repercussions for the people who do. It’s a matter of accountability. That’s what freedom means. The Government doing those things for people that they CAN do for themselves, DOES create dependency and opens up the worst elements of socialism.
Republicans want the presence of a Government to be smaller and less intrusive into the lives of citizens, particularly business. Business is the engine of the economy and the marketplace should regulate itself naturally through survival of the fittest. If a business does not respond responsibly to the demands of the marketplace, it simply won’t be around for long. It’s about natural selection.
Both positions have merit. Both have elements of truth to them. I don’t think Republicans want us to descend into â€śDodge Cityâ€ť governance, with every man for himself and the biggest gun wins. And, I don’t think that Democrats want to bring about George Orwell’s 1984 either where everyone is exactly the same and lives for the state. But, it’s the polarization of Democratic and Republican principles that has crippled our Government’s ability to govern.
There are things that we legitimately need to have an authority to turn to when conflicts, particularly legitimate ones, arise. Our Government should be that arbitrator and we should be able to turn to our Government to resolve those things we cannot resolve among ourselves. Right now, we can’t do that. We really ARE out here in a moral wilderness and very much on our own. The Government cannot currently be counted upon to Govern.
It is quite busy, right now, going from one manufactured crisis to the next and nothing is able to move in ANY direction because of the polarization of political ideals. Extreme polarization! We have drift, we have mission creep. We are asked to determine what is moral or amoral, right or wrong, in an environment that is fundamentally akimbo to begin with. In that environment, morality is a very, very gray area.
Any scientist can tell you that any hypothesis you build on a faulty premise is going to be faulty. In computer technology terms it’s referred to as â€śGarbage in = Garbage outâ€ť. We have been disconnected from a moral compass that can tell us what is loving and what is enabling dysfunction. What is right and what is wrong. What is moral and what is amoral. It’s all relative now.
The end result is that you and I will be increasingly faced with the same kinds of choices that our Breaking Bad Character has to make. That show is bubbling up to the surface of our collective consciousness because it is reflecting what exists in the context in which people are watching it. Art reflects reality.
I think it matters that so many people are watching this show and I believe it influences viewers to challenge their perceptions about morality and right and wrong. If it weren’t for the context, I’d think that’s a good thing. But neither the show, nor the country exists in a vacuum. They exist together and I don’t believe that’s an accident.
It is moving the goalpost from a baseline that is generally agreed to, to a morass of gray where individual circumstances determine what is right and what is wrong for each individual and each circumstance. Is Breaking Bad giving us useful tools with which to navigate stormy seas or does it cloud, even further, our perception of right and wrong, moral and amoral? The show asks, what would YOU do? But it doesn’t make any judgments about what that might end up being. It simply ingratiates the viewer to the man making the decisions despite their consequences.
These are decisions we are going to be increasingly called upon to make for ourselves as our collective consciousness moves further and further away from a standard baseline we can generally agree on and our Governing bodies become less and less able to govern because of it. I wonder if what Breaking Bad is putting viewers through is useful or not? I don’t think so because it doesn’t challenge the premise for the hypothetical questions about right and wrong that the show poses. It moves the goalpost further into the gray.
There’s a parallel to that in the social context in which viewers are watching Breaking Bad. If you read the Constitution of The United States, today, it is barely recognizable as the foundation of what we meant by forming a more perfect union. It says that we respect individuality but, from the many, we are one. Yet, we are becoming less and less one and, I might go so far as to say that we are headed in the direction of anarchy.
The Constitution says we are guided by a bed of laws, but we clearly allow them to be discarded, and sometimes even openly broken, at our convenience. It says we hold everyone accountable to that bed of laws regardless of their station in society, but money and power routinely disrupt equal treatment under the law as if it didn’t exist. We, quite simply, have not come to a consensus about what a baseline is going to be. And so our perception of morality is relative to the circumstances in which it occurs. Just like Breaking Bad!
September 29, 2013
Â· GLFranklyn Â· Comments Closed
Tags: Current Events, Democratic Philosophy, Economics, Media, Politics, Republican Philosophy Â· Posted in: Culture, Current Events, Economics, Media, Politics
September 8, 2013 â€“ by Gregory Franklyn
Listen for just a minute and you can hear them. The drums of war are beating about yet another war in the Middle East region. What is happening in Syria â€śShocks the conscienceâ€ť, it is a â€śMoral Obscenityâ€ť, Secretary of State John Kerry says. It is the tone of his language that brings me to the conclusion that we WILL go to war against Syria and that we will do so sooner, rather than later, regardless of what may happen next. Just like Iraq.
â€śItâ€™s difficult to find a single sentence in Secretary of State John Kerryâ€™s forceful, and at points emotional, press conference on Syria that did not sound like a direct case for imminent U.S. military action against Syria. It was, from the first paragraph to the 15th, a war speech.â€ť – Washington Post August 26, 2013
It was disturbing to me to hear John Kerry speak like that given his history of caution about US unilateral intervention into the internal affairs of another nation. Not to mention his disdain for war in general. We know who John Kerry is, and he was elected to the Senate by the people of Massachusetts, based largely on his military heroism in Viet Nam combined with his opposition to war.
I have always liked John Kerry, I consider him a decent and trustworthy sort. Not a little bit of the reason I feel that way is because of his opposition to the War in Viet Nam, having actually been there and fought in it with distinction. That concept fits in with my view of the concept of integrity. He opposed the war, yet fought in it with distinction as he was ordered to do, and used the proper channels to oppose it.
That’s why seeing this behavior from him is so disturbing to me. His language is hyper-emphatic. It is, â€śMushroom Cloudâ€ť language that reeks of fear. Fear of something that we are not sure is happening now and, further, has not happened yet. He has clearly joined the camp of the â€śBush/Obama Doctrine of Warâ€ť! Don’t wait until a crime against the US has actually occurred. Go to war if you THINK someone might have the capability to do so at some point in the future.
First, I’d like you to notice a little detail about the language being used by literally everyone in Washington when talking about Syria. The word is â€śRegimeâ€ť. You never hear the word â€śGovernmentâ€ť about the organization headed by Bashar Assad. That language assumes that you agree that he is not legitimately the head of the Syrian Government. When enough people in positions of authority say â€śThe Assad Regimeâ€ť or â€śThe Syrian Regimeâ€ť enough times, it becomes the term we all relate to as what we mean when we refer to the governing authority in Syria, even though it is actually an opinion. A Western opinion. Notice how we do that to any foreign government head we’d like to get rid of. Think Iran, think North Korea, think Cuba. This is pure Frank Luntz gobbledy-speak on display.
I’m also noticing the similarity to the events leading up to the War in Iraq. The UN is sending inspectors to the region to determine what was used and who used it. Those inspectors are not even close to a determination at this point. There is a lack of universal clarity about WHOM actually used the chemical weapons. There is no question about what the US Media is telling the people of the US. What we are being told is that Assad is killing his own people with chemical weapons. It is presented as an indisputable FACT.
Guess what? Media OUTSIDE the US is divided about what actually happened. Great Brittan is NOT joining us in solidarity on this one. I wonder if, unlike us, the British have learned a lesson from what happened in Iraq. My point is that John Kerry is claiming as absolute fact, things that, everywhere else in the world, are in question.
We are not waiting for UN inspectors to make a determination. We’re moving ahead with plans to attack whether our REASONS turn out to be true or not. Our impatience about attacking Syria tells me that we want Assad out. The iron is hot, if we don’t act NOW, before we know for sure, what happened, our opportunity to overthrow Bashar Assad might evaporate,,, just like with Saddam Hussein.
Another â€śCoalition of the Willingâ€ť is being formed as I write and it is looking like the same coalition that stood with us the last time. It’s France, and they are beginning to doubt what they are being told about what is actually happening in Syria just like England.
The intelligence community, worldwide, is intricately intertwined with the Military and the military is intricately intertwined with the MIC (Military Industrial Complex). That sends up a red flag for me. The MIC depends on war for survival. If there isn’t a war, they go down in flames. It’s a very simple equation. The intelligence community has a survival interest in going to war and that’s where our information, about what is happening in Syria, is coming from.
It’s the urgent tone of what I’m hearing, particularly from Secretary John Kerry, that resembles standard operational propaganda. The TV is going in the background as I write and I just heard John Karry say something to the effect that this isn’t some tragic event happening in some far off place, it’s a direct threat to every American citizen. It smacked of high pressure sales to me. Desperate high pressure sales!
We are talking about a civil war. Taking sides in someone else’s civil war is a violation of international law and that may have a lot to do with why the US cannot get the UN to give the go ahead to an attack. Another reason that the UN is not on board may be the amount of legitimate questions as to what happened and who did it. There is no question in my mind this evening that there are ulterior motives at work here and that those ulterior motives are of our own making.
Why, one might ask, aren’t the countries surrounding Syria doing something about this use of Chemical weapons there? Don’t they have a LOT more to lose from their use than the United States does? Why is it that we are the only ones beating the drums of war? I find it interesting that US Media won’t show the burnt, dead, mangled bodies of American Soldiers, or even closed caskets returning from the wars we are already in, but seem so eager to show us the burnt dead mangled bodies of innocent Syrian citizens as if those bodies are any more or less burnt, dead or mangled than our own soldiers?
Everything I hear in the back-beats of these drums of war that have taken over the US Corporate Media scream that chemical weapons are not the issue here. It’s winning the civil war in Syria, and that, dear reader, is none of our business!