Friday, July 26, 2019

The Guess Who: On the Johnny Cash Show (1970)

The Guess Who: On the Johnny Cash Show (between June 7, 1969 and March 31, 1971 on ABC-TV), which was broadcast at the Ryman Auditorium, formerly the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee). This episode aired on October 21, 1970. Here the Canadian rock band, originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, sing “Hand Me Down World” and “Share the Land,” which are tracks tracks 3 and 5, respectively on the album, Share the Land, released on October 5, 1970.
Via: Youtube

The Guess Who

Burton Cummings: lead vocals, keyboards
Kurt Winter: lead guitar, backing vocals
Greg Leskiw: rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Jim Kale: bass, backing vocals
Garry Peterson: drums, backing vocals

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Don’t Look Now (1970)

Creedence Clearwater Revival: “Don’t Look Now ”is the second track on Side 2 of Willy and the Poor Boys (1970). Who will take the coal from the mine?/Who will take the salt from the earth?"
Via: Youtube

Trump Governs Through Spectacle

The Cruel U.S. Administration

“For the trouble with lying and deceiving is that their efficiency depends entirely upon a clear notion of the truth that the liar and deceiver wishes to hide. In this sense, truth, even if it does not prevail in public, possesses an ineradicable primacy over all falsehoods.”

Hannah Arendt [1906–1975];
“Lying in Politics” in The Life of the Mind (1978)

An article (“Trump’s Day of Terror;” July 12, 2019), by Matt Ford, in The New Republic explains what the mass immigration raids are hoping to achieve. It is not to solve the immigration problem, but to both instill fear in the “other” communities of undocumented immigrants, and to also assure his supporters that he’s on the right track in his campaign of cruelty. Ford writes:
The Trump administration forecasts its deportation raids not to make them more successful, but to instill fear in disfavored communities and to signal to his supporters that he’s doing just that. Trump constantly strives to slake his base’s unquenchable thirst for harsher policies toward immigrants. I’ve written before on how the border itself, and all the social ills that Trump ascribes to it, acts as a white whale of sorts for his presidency. The Cops-like show drama of the upcoming raids is red meat for Fox News viewers and Breitbart readers alike.
It does not matter to such people whether or not these immigrants are a security risk or what their lives are like or what they are escaping; what matters, and the president and his administration says so, is that these persons, including children and babies, need to be removed and deported back to where they came—even if where they came from is dangerous, even if where they came from is dangerous because of blunders in American foreign policy—the kind that hurts the poor, the working class and the non-wealthy. 

No, none of that matters for people like Stephen Miller, “the immigration warlord” who counsels Rasputin-like the president, who Ford says, “governs through spectacle.” Nor does it matter for his base of fans. Yet, there is a real problem in such callous and superficial thinking, one that is bound to fail. It is hard for me to fathom why anyone in the working-class would want to support this wealthy president, when his economic policies are aimed solely at the wealthy. He takes from the poor and gives to the rich.

The working-class is being used and duped, since the working class has few “friends” in Washington and none among the Republicans. This reason alone makes me doubt that Trump & Co,—who grew up with silver spoons in their mouths, who never suffered hardship, and who disdain the poor—give two hoots for the working class. No, they care as much for the working class as they do the other desperate masses of people trying to make a better life in America. For them, it is all about political spectacle; and it matters not for these “wealthy ones” that its policies are cruel, that its policies are immoral, that its policies are unjust.

Can you imagine what could happen if the nation’s leaders considered as good the virtues of love, of truth, of mercy, and of justice? If it would welcome the stranger with respect and treat him or her with dignity and with kindness? Can you imagine the outcome? Such small gestures alone would move the nation in a completely different direction than the one it is now going. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

HIAS & ADL: Witnesses at the Border (2019)

HIAS & ADL: Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL): Two prominent Jewish organizations with broad social justice mandates, and with long histories in advocacy (HIAS; 1881 & ADL; 1913) join together in a common cause to act as Witnesses at the Border, that is, the U.S. southern border with Mexico. I agree that the status quo is not good; there has to be a better way than the cruel tactics—of mass detention, forced family separation and deportation—currently employed by the U.S. government agents (“only following orders”) against people crossing the border. The vast majority are simply looking for a better life than the dangerous one they would like to escape in Latin America. Some die of heartbreak, having given up any hope.
Via: Youtube & HIAS & ADL

Freedom to Do Good

Latent Goodness

There is an oppressive goodness found in the Bible, in that humans are instructed to follow a number of rules and laws in order to be viewed as “good.” There is also, at times, an oppressive goodness found outside it when authoritarian human-made institutions, even in western liberal democracies, tend to make other rules and laws to limit the freedom of its citizens.

These laws are now increasing, often on the pretense of security or any other considerations viewed as important to the state. Although not nearly as restrictive as those found in theocracies or theocratic-like states, both tend to view the restriction of freedom as a “common good.” Of the two world systems, however, I still prefer the liberal western state, founded on the principles of the Enlightenment. It is the nearest one can now get to achieve the principles of human freedom, dignity and goodness.

This does not mean it can’t be improved or made better in our modern times. Let’s consider a thought experiment. That there is the freedom to be good, because that is what humans see as good and beautiful. Being good out of fear of punishment is no doubt effective, but it is nowhere near the same as being good, because the notion of being good is a better way to be.

Both work, but in different ways: the former, because of tradition, and of the fear of not meeting the dictums of an authoritarian deity and his many representatives here on Earth; whereas the latter gives individuals the freedom to decide for themselves, autonomously as is humanly possible, the ways of goodness, which are many. The moral imperative to do good is a moral imperative that is not one of religion alone.

The basis to do good is found in human freedom, the lack of which contributes to many societal ills. Confirming such thinking is Albert Einstein, the great physicist and humanitarian, who said as much in his commencement address (June 6th, 1938) to the students and faculty and other guests at Swarthmore College, a private liberal arts college in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania:
This conception implies one requirement above all - that every individual should have the opportunity to develop gifts which may be latent in him. Alone in that way can the individual obtain the satisfaction to which he is justly entitled; and alone in that way can the community achieve its richest flowering. For everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom. Restriction is justified only insofar as it may be needed for the security of existence.
This is an ideal, undoubtedly and hard to achieve, since humans are either beholden to a religious idea or to a state idea, more often than not a learned response, but not always. There are also people who are not in any way good, who are inherently selfish in a pathological sense, and who see no need to do good for others. There are many factors that come into play, yet I sense that such people are very small in number, and such persons should not set policy for the whole. They are, for reasons that are not always clear, destructive and dysfunctional, and cause chaos around them. Such persons are separate and exceptional cases and need to be viewed in such manner.

We are here talking here about the vast majority of persons, who have a desire and want to be free to develop their latent gifts; these are people who want to be individuals within a community, who want to be part of something beyond themselves, and as a result to do good. Freedom of goodness, to be good and free, is in many ways like walking a thin tightrope between the two large edifices of Religion and State.

But as Einstein has noted above, it can be done if you believe it to be true and necessary and find it a desirable and enviable way to live.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The Flip Wilson Show: Diner Sketch (1972)

The Flip Wilson Show and the Diner Sketch (NBC; March 16, 1972) with Flip Wilson as the owner of a diner, Tim Conway as a truck driver, and Bing Crosby as a plumber.
Via: Youtube

The Temptations: Ball of Confusion (1970)

The Temptations: Ball of Confusion (1970).
Via: Youtube

The song remains relevant today, as our society continues to shrink into regressiveness, segregation and intolerance, providing the opposite of openness and clarity, while only a few benefit from all this chaos and confusion.“Ball of Confusion” is a single, written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong; Berry Gordy Jr’s Motown released it as a single on May 7, 1970. The lyrics describe clearly the times it was written, I would say; and yet it seems to feel current today. In some ways, things have gotten worse in our society, with little hope of it getting better. I know that I am “preaching to choir here,” yet, we must continue to not only have hope, but to also work by every means moral and necessary to make it better for everyone. It takes leaders with vision, for the people perish for a lack of vision. This much we know and see and feel.

Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)
by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong

People movin' out, people movin' in.
Why, because of the color of their skin.
Run, run, run, but you sho' can't hide
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
Vote for me and I'll set you free
Rap on, brother, rap on.
Well, the only person talkin' 'bout love thy brother is the preacher
And it seems nobody's interested in learning but the teacher
Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration, aggravation,
humiliation, obligation to our nation
Ball Of Confusion that's what the world is today (yeah, yeah)
The sale of pills is at an all time high
young folks walkin' 'round with their heads in the sky
Cities aflame in the summer time, and oh the beat goes on
Eve of destruction, tax deduction,
City inspectors, bill collectors,
Evolution, revolution, gun control, the sound of soul,
Shootin' rockets to the moon, kids growin' up too soon
Politicians say more taxes will solve ev'rything, and the band played on.
Round and round and around we go, where the world's headed nobody knows.
Great googa mooga, can't you hear me talkin' to you, just a
Ball of Confusion that's what the world is today. (yeah, yeah)
Fear in the air, tension ev'rywhere
Unemployment rising fast, the Beatles new record's a gas,
and the only safe place to live is on an Indian reservation,
and the band played on
Eve of destruction, tax deduction,
City inspectors, bill collectors, mod clothes in demand,
population out of hand, suicide too many bills, hippies movin' to the hills
People all over the world are shouting end the war and the band played on.
Round and round and around we go, where the world's headed nobody knows.
Great googa mooga, can't you hear me talkin' to you, just a
Ball of Confusion that's what the world is today
Let me hear you, let me hear you, let me hear you
Ball Of Confusion that's what the world is today

Monday, July 22, 2019

Bob Dylan on CBC Quest (1964)

Bob Dylan [born in 1941] performs solo for the Canadian show “Quest” on CBC-TV, recorded on February 1st 1964.
Via: Youtube

00:06: The Times They Are a Changin’ 02:43: Talking World War III Blues 07:36: Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll 13:01: Girl From The North Country 16:20A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall 22:22: Restless Farewell

Bob Dylan on The Studs Terkel Program (1963)

Bob Dylan [born in 1941] on “The Studs Terkel Program” (May 1, 1963).
Via: Youtube & Open Culture

Bob Dylan had just finished recording the songs for his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, when he traveled from New York to Chicago to play a gig at a little place partly owned by his manager, Albert Grossman, called The Bear. The next day he went to the WFMT studios for the hour-long appearance on “The Studs Terkel Program.” Studs Terkel [1912–2008] is a wonderful interviewer, a master of allowing others to tell the story.

Dylan sings a number of his songs on this program:

1) Farewell
2) A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall 
3) Bob Dylan's Dream 
4) Boots of Spanish Leather 
5) John Brown 
6) Blowin' In The Wind

If you think about it, Dylan’s songs are about freedom of one sort of another, about the basic freedoms and human dignity, which are more often than not denied us humans. An injustice done in the name of law, whether religious or secular, remains the same injustice. The human need for freedom is never fully realized—the freedom to be the way you see yourself.

When agents of the government and agents of religion act as they do in a cruel manner, by denying human freedom, they do so for a number of reasons, but deep down (often way deep down) they know that none are just; all reasons given are cruel, a betrayal of anything that is good in them. But they do not see (or feel); or perhaps they deny what they see (or feel) as good.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Have You Ever Seen the Rain

Creedence Clearwater Revival: “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” is the fourth track on the album Pendulum, released on December 9, 1970.
Via: Youtube

Yes, the song is about the loss of something good, something beautiful, something true, as this video shows. This song has particular meaning when you get older, since the memories of the losses of what was good and beautiful and true in the past become stronger with the increasing decades. We tend to not appreciate what we have until it is absent, no longer present, and this happens only after it sinks in, that such times, such persons are no longer present and they exist as they do now only rooted in memory and nostalgia. This makes us sad, and tears come to our eyes, because we know that what was is gone, never to return. Have you ever seen the rain/ Comin' down on a sunny day?

Bob Dylan: Live at the Gaslight (1962)

Greenwich Village Cafes

Bob Dylan:  Live at The Gaslight (1962), Wikipedia writes  is a live album including ten songs from early Bob Dylan performances on October 15th, 1962, at The Gaslight Cafe in New York City’s Greenwich Village.”
Via: Youtube

In an old building, dating from 1883, was a coffeehouse located at 116 MacDougal Street in Manhattan, The Gaslight Cafe [1958–1971]. It was home of the Beat poets and folk singers, who had something to say.

It was here that Dylan wrote and first performed A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.” (This is the same song that Patti Smith sang on behalf of Dylan at the Nobel Prize Ceremony on December 10th, 2016; she did a masterful and beautiful interpretation.)

The 10 song-set that Dylan performed on the night of October 15th were finally released as an album on August 30, 2005. Nice to hear a young Dylan performing; he was already writing good poetry.

Live at The Gaslight Album Cover; Bob Dylan [born  on May 24, 1941] was 21 when he performed these songs, many of which he wrote himself.

Barry McGuire: Eve Of Destruction (1965)

Barry McGuire [born in 1935]: “Eve Of Destruction” (1965), written by P. F. Sloan in mid-1965, during the Vietnam War, says all you can about war in a short song. It is the title track on the album of the same name.
Via: Youtube

This song can apply to all wars in the modern age of warfare, which began with the First World War, and which continues today. It will continue until the thinking changes; if it doesn't then either humanity kills itself in a nuclear war or, in a better alternative, humanity realizes that wars will never solve anything, and that life is worth living.

Patriotism, which is essentially tribalism under another name, is not worth dying for, especially if one considers that the tribal leaders are the chief and perhaps the only beneficiaries of war.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Google Doodle: Mike Collins Recounts Moon Mission

Moon Landing

Google Doodle: Mike Collins recounts the U.S. Moon Mission of 50 years ago. It was at 3:17 p,m. EDT (or 20:17 UTC ) 50 years ago today that NASA landed  the Eagle spacecraft (“the lunar module”) on the surface of the moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin followed by walking on the moon. Mike Collins, in the command module, was orbiting 60 miles above the moon surface. Google writes that the next stage in the moon program, after a long absence, is about to begin: “NASA’s new Artemis lunar exploration program will land the first woman, and the next man, on the Moon by 2024. With innovative commercial and international partnerships, NASA will establish sustainable lunar exploration by 2028. Using the Moon as a stepping stone, NASA is preparing for humanity’s next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars. Click here to learn more.”
Via: Google Doodle & Youtube

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Fortunate Son (2018)

The Working Class

Creedence Clearwater Revival [1967–1972], or CCR, as they are widely known are the music behind this “Fortunate Son” video composition. It was put out by the record label (Concord Records/Fantasy Records), which “own” the rights to the rock band’s songs, as a way to celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary. This song is the first track on the flip side of the album, Willy and the Poor Boys, released by Fantasy Records on November 2, 1969. A protest against class differences and how they play out, it is written for the common people of America, the soul of the nation, the working class. That’s most of us. It ain't me/I ain't no fortunate one.
Via: Youtube

Willy and the Poor Boys 1969 album cover.
Courtesy: Wikipedia

Apollo 11 Remembered 50 Years Later (2019)

Moon Landing

First Steps: Neil Armstrong, commander of Apollo 11, descending the ladder on the lunar module on July 20, 1969, at 10:56 pm EDT; Buzz Aldrin, the lunar module pilot, followed 15 minutes later. That event was viewed by an estimated 450 million people, then about 15 per cent of the world’s population. This is a polaroid image of slow scan television monitor at Goldstone Station. . 
Photo Credit: NASANASA image S69-42583

I do remember the excitement of the moon landing and the moon walk, on that Sunday 50 years ago, which our family watched on our large wooden box black & white TV, having a prominent place in our living room. For many, it was a period of optimism, in pushing of boundaries, not only physically but also mentally; it was a good time for a 11-year-old boy to be alive.

Later on things in my mind would change. My awareness of the war, the civil rights movement, and workers rights, and the women’s liberation movement would increase my understanding of freedom and individual dignity. There is no denying freedom’s importance, whose importance increases when there is less of it.

For that brief moment in time, however, I wanted to be an astronaut; I wanted to work for NASA. Neither happened, but I did end up as an engineer, having taken many science courses in college and in university. The moon program was a good part of the inspiration. Then I moved away from it altogether after I learned more about the fundamentals of freedom as I grew older, and the space program was understood in a different light.

For more on my thoughts of that day, go [here].

Friday, July 19, 2019

Bruce Springsteen: War (1986)

Machinery of Destruction

Bruce Springsteen [born in 1949] & the E Street band perform another version of “War” (1986); this performance takes place a decade after the end of the Vietnam War, but the song’s powerful message resonates, as it should until all wars are ended and made unnecessary. There is a reason that people are still talking about the Vietnam War, particularly the many vets who took part in it.
Via: Youtube

Edwin Starr: War (1970)

Machinery of Destruction

Edwin Starr [1942–2003] performs“War” (1970). It is the title track on the studio album, War and Peace, released on January 1, 1979. (WarIt ain't nothing but a heart-breaker/(War) friend only to the undertaker/Oh, war it’s an enemy to all mankind/The point of war blows my mind.

This song, written by the Motown duo of  Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, was produced during the height of the Vietnam War [1955–1975]. Wikipedia notes:
Starr’s version of "War" was a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1970, and is not only the most successful and well-known record of his career, but it is also one of the most popular protest songs ever recorded. It was one of 161 songs on the Clear Channel no-play list after September 11, 2001.
The Vietnam War and the Iraq War [2003–2011], have both been shown to be useless and wasteful wars that the United States embarked on, achieving nothing of any value. War is one of the greatest evils of humanity, perhaps the greatest; it has no known value of good. It brings only death and destruction. Patriotism that leads to the ultimate sacrifice seems too high a price to pay.

Who profits from war? Certainly not the civilians whose country is invaded by another country or, in a few cases, by a coalition of military forces. Millions died in the Vietnam War, including almost 60,000 American soldiers, but the great majority of those dead were Vietnamese civilians; and in the Iraq War, 4,500 U.S. soldiers died in battle, but again a similar high number of the dead were civilians, in this case upwards of  two million Iraqi civilians died as a result of the U.S.-led invasion.

Bear in mind that this was a war that America launched without U.N. Security Council approval—an illegal war by the standards of international law. It was also an immoral and unjust war, and yet years later the major players who advocated for it are unapologetic and are defiant in the face of solid evidence. Such says much about these people.

In the end, many say America did not win either war, including some of those who initially advocated for the American-led invasion of Iraq. The Iraq War has been compared to the Vietnam War, as it should. Both wars cost America dearly in lives lost, in money wasted and in lost prestige in the international community; but of course the nations that the U.S. invaded have borne the greater cost.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Disney Heiress Advocates For Disneyland’s Employees

Dystopian World

Disneyland, the “Happiest Place on Earth,” is not a happy place to work for most of its employees, says Abigail Disney, granddaughter of  Roy O. Disney, a co-founder of Walt Disney Company. Abigail Disney is an American documentary filmmaker, philanthropist, and activist; she holds a doctorate in English Literature from Columbia University.
Via: Youtube & Democracy Now!

Abigail Disney shares her thoughts on what she discovered after talking to regular Disney employees. This is reported on Democracy Now!, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan González. In a transcript of  the news piece (“Happiest Place on Earth? Meet the Disney Heiress Speaking Out Against Disneyland’s Abuse of Workers;” July 17, 2019), the news site writes:
Abigail Disney, the heiress of the Disney fortune, is once again speaking out against the company’s unfair labor and wage practices. She recently spoke to Disneyland employees in California, where they shared their experiences with the theme park’s work environment. In the past, Abigail Disney has criticized Disney CEO Bob Iger’s obscene salary and the drastic pay gap between Iger and other Disney employees. Abigail Disney also testified in May at the House Committee on Financial Services during a hearing on strengthening the rights and protections of workers.
For the record, “Iger took home more than $65 million in 2018. That’s 1,424 times the median pay of a Disney worker, ” Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! reports. Of course, that's obscene; it is beyond obscene; a new word ought to be coined for people like this, who think that this is good and normal.

As for me, I went to Disney once about 20 years ago; and that was enough. It was over-priced and not worth the long waits in line. Truly, I kept wondering what all the fuss was about. I really do not understand why any parent would want to go there. I was happy to get out of the “happiest place on Earth.”

More important, it is good news, indeed, that the heiress of a Disney founder has the goodness, decency and a conscience to speak out for the less fortunate. Bravo.

For more, go to [Democracy Now!]

Most U.S. Veterans Say Recent Wars Not Worth Fighting

The War Machine

Disrupting Daily Life: An Iraqi woman reads a book with child on her lap as U.S. Army Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team search the courtyard of her house during a cordon and search in Ameriyah, Iraq.
Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo, Sgt. Tierney Nowland, 2007.

eterans of the United States military say that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a waste of time and not worth fighting, joining the consensus of the greater American public, says an article (“Most Veterans Say America’s Wars Are a Waste. No One’s Listening to Them;” July 12, 2019) in The New Republic, by Scott Weinstein, who writes:
The “Long War” that began on September 11, 2001, added to veterans’ already-outsize role in the American narrative. Worship of military service has become an indispensable cog in every politician’s and corporation’s endearment strategy. But on the actual subject of war, almost no one in mainstream politics is actually listening to “the troops.”
That’s the main takeaway from the Pew Research Center’s latest rolling poll of U.S. veterans, published Thursday, in which solid majorities of former troops said the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria were not worth fighting. The gaps between approval and disapproval were not even close to the poll’s 3.9 percent margin of error; barely a third of veterans considered any of those conflicts worthwhile:
Among veterans, 64% say the war in Iraq was not worth fighting considering the costs versus the benefits to the United States, while 33% say it was. The general public’s views are nearly identical: 62% of Americans overall say the Iraq War wasn’t worth it and 32% say it was. Similarly, majorities of both veterans (58%) and the public (59%) say the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting. About four-in-ten or fewer say it was worth fighting.
Veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan are no more supportive of those engagements than those who did not serve in these wars. And views do not differ based on rank or combat experience.
The only meaningful variation pollsters found among vets was by party identification: Republican-identifying veterans were likelier to approve of the wars. But even a majority of those GOP vets now say the wars were not worth waging.
And, yet, the politicians in Congress, with the exception of Independent Senator Bernie Sanders and Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraq veteran, have thus far failed to heed either the troops or the general public, still stuck in their war machine.What will it take to think in a different way? Body counts and images of dead bodies do not seem to matter. To tell you the truth, I am not sure what will move the hearts of politicians.

How about the fact that the American defense budget is unsustainable? In an article (“America’s Indefensible Defense Budget;” July 18, 2019), in The New York Review of Books, Jessica T. Matthews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace from 1997 until 2015 and is now a distinguished fellow, writes that 60 percent of the federal budget’s discretionary spending (or unrestricted funds)  is allocated to defense.
If the United States faced acute threats, allocating 60 percent of the government’s unrestricted funds to defense might be necessary. We do not, but we still spend more on defense than the next eight largest spenders combined—China, Saudi Arabia, India, France, Russia, Britain, Germany, and Japan—and four of those countries are treaty allies. The disproportion has held for decades.
This means much less money for everything else. That means taking money away from badly needed domestic programs.This is what happens when you have decades of war; war becomes normalized and itself becomes a justification, as does funding the military programs to sustain. And what about the successes, you ask. Well, there is not much to write about or boast about, Matthews notes:
During this nearly thirty years of sweeping diplomatic withdrawal, America has been engaged in conflict for all but a few months. It has undertaken nine large-scale military actions, including three of the five major wars it has fought since 1945. Of these, the brief Gulf War of 1990–1991 was a clear success. The war of choice in Iraq was a catastrophic mistake. The now eighteen-year-long war in Afghanistan will almost certainly end in failure—if we can ever bring ourselves to let it end. Afghanistan is the longest war in American history and, with Iraq, the most expensive (in real dollars). We have spent more on reconstruction there than we did on the Marshall Plan (again, in inflation-adjusted dollars), with almost nothing to show for it.
This is a sobering thought, or I hope that it is. What a waste of money; what a waste of human effort; what a waste of human lives. And for what? To show and prove America’s military might, which then ratchets up the need for other nations to imitate it. It’s a race to the bottom, where brutality, cruelty and inhumanity are seen as virtues, wrapped up in religion, flag and country. I would say, that war might be the most evil invention of humankind. War is a crime against humanity, since its powers to harm are phenomenally great. Its effects are immediate, long-term and universal. 

It touches the physical, social, emotional and psychological person in a way that exceeds our understanding. It wreaks misery on individuals and families. Its total costs are incalculable, and I am not here talking only monetary. Have there really been any “good” wars? Isn't it true and factual that one war lead to another and so forth in a never-ending cycle of wars, conflicts, violence? There is really no moral justification for war.

A leader, particularly of a powerful nation, ought to think gravely about such things before signing the executive order for war. One would hope that he would also ask himself, with a clear and honest conscience: What will this war, for the most part, accomplish? If it is to bring unwanted death and misery to millions of people, he should consider other more humane options.

For more on this article, go to [TNR]

For more of my views of war, from 2010, go [here]

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

In a War With Iran, All Sides Lose

International Conflict

An open letter (“Iran’s Reformists: ‘This War Will Have Only Losers’”; July 9, 2019) directed to the American People, and published in The New York Review of Books, by Iran’s Reformists (Mohsen Aminzadeh, Mohammadreza Khatami, Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, and Mostafa Tajzadeh), says something so obvious that it is surprising that it has to be said at all. Yet, it does.

It says:
The consequences of waging another Middle Eastern war will be catastrophic not only for our country, Iran, but for the United States and its regional allies. It will lead to untold human suffering, environmental disaster, and a prolonged conflict that will forestall the possibility of peaceful coexistence and prosperity in the Persian Gulf area for decades to come. As veteran members of the reformist movement in Iran, we are also concerned about the mortal blow that even a limited military conflict with the United States of America will deal to the democratic movement of Iran. We can already feel the restrictions that the crisis of the last two years has imposed on the fragile civil society and peaceful political activity in Iran.
Do you think anyone in the White House is listening? Or ar the hawks salivating at the prospect of killing their “enemies,” and also economically cashing in on such a conflict, justifying the human suffering as a necessary cost? Or is it a gain, when there is money to be made for a few during wartime? Are there any peacemakers to be found at the White House? In sufficient number at the U.S. Congress? Is it possible to think that the Iranian people are as human and their lives as worthy as that of the American people? the Israeli people? the Saudi people? the Christian Zionists?

War will not bring reform to Iran. Has war ever solved anything in the long-term? No, only the opposite, in that it disrupts lives and makes normal such disruptions and cruelty for decades to come. People will always remember the misery and the cruelty. How can it be otherwise? There is no escape, except for the small minority of wealthy people in countries that are at war who can always move elsewhere. Not so for the great majority, who are stuck in their nations in which they live and work. They have no other options.

It is time to stop the sabre-rattling. I think that would be a first good step. So would talking to each other. The U.S., under President Trump, recently initiated direct talks with North Korea, which no one expected; why not with Iran? Think about what peace between the two countries would bring, including trade opportunities, business relationships and much more in the way of personal relationships and friendships.

For more on this matter, go to [NYRB]

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Thoughts on the First Nuclear Bomb Test

Destruction Testing

Trinity Test: July 16, 1945, at 5:29:45 a.m. (Mountain War Time)
Trinity Site:  Alamogordo Test Range, Jornada del Muerto (“Journey of Death”) desert. 
Yield: 19–21 Kilotons
Image Credit: Berlyn Brixner, LANL.
Source: Atomic Archives

It was 74 years ago today in the southwestern part of the United States, in a remote desert in New Mexico in the early morning hours of July 16th, 1945, that the United States successfully tested a fission or atomic bomb. Code-named “Trinity,” this was the fruit of the Manhattan Project [1942–1946], which at its peak employed 133,000 people (mostly construction people, plant operators and military personnel) and cost $2 billion, or about $23 billion in 2018 dollars. Perhaps it’s more; it is hard to really know, other than to say that it is a lot of money earmarked for destructive use.

It was directed by J. Robert Oppenheimer [1904–1967], a theoretical physicist who led a core team of scientists, including many well-known and distinguished theoretical physicists. Notably absent was Albert Einstein [1879–1955], who was denied security clearance, likely because of his vocal pacifism. Yet, it was Einstein’s name at the bottom of the letter, written by fellow physicist Leó Szilárd, which Einstein soon sent to President  Franklin D. Roosevelt on August 2, 1939, warning that Germany might develop atomic weapons.

While primarily an American initiative, Canada and Britain were also involved in the research and the supplying of materials for producing a fission bomb. After the successful test in New Mexico, it would be a few weeks later when the U.S. would drop two atomic bombs on Japan, first on Hiroshima (with an estimated population 350,000) on August 6th; and then on Nagasaki (with an estimated population 263,000) on August 9th.

The result was an estimated 200,000 dead and injured, which is a conservative estimate. It might be closer to 400,000 dead and wounded. Precise figures are not easily determined, given the chaos in the aftermath of such a destructive event. Needless to say, it was a great loss to Japan. Five days later, Japan surrenders. and the Second World War is over. It is the only time one nation has used atomic weapons on another; let’s hope that this remains the only singular case.

Oppenheimer soon regretted what he had helped unleash on the world. A scientist who had held high ethical standards (after all, he studied for 10 years at Ethical Culture School in Manhattan’s upper west side (the private school still exists today), he had become a scientist in the service of human cruelty. In an article (“The Agony of Atomic Genius;” Number 14, Fall 2006, pp. 85-104.) in The New Atlantis, Algis Valiunas writes the following:
As Life magazine proclaimed the Los Alamos physicists superheroes of scientific intelligence, Oppenheimer was lamenting the subservience of science to innate human cruelty in an address to the American Philosophical Society: “We have made a thing, a most terrible weapon, that has altered abruptly and profoundly the nature of the world ... a thing that by all the standards of the world we grew up in is an evil thing. And by so doing ... we have raised again the question of whether science is good for man.” This public admission of personal despair at the moral collapse of the modern world’s leading intellectual enterprise could not be more nakedly penitent. The heartbreak of everlasting loss is unmistakable here: with the creation of the atomic bomb, the world will never again be what it once was. Modern science had permanently altered the nature of moral and political life.
As we have seen it has, with the start and continuation of the nuclear arms race with no end in sight. As for Einstein’s participation, it was only in sending the letter to the president. Even so, he was put on the cover of Time magazine for its issue of July 1, 1946, perhaps in recognition of getting the whole ball rolling. Although he later voiced regrets for doing so, given what he knew, it seemed like the wise thing to do at the time. Einstein, however, remained as he always was, “a convinced pacifist,” which is what he wrote in a letter (“On My Participation in the Atom Bomb Project;” September 20, 1952) to Kaizo (“Reconstruction”), a Japanese publication:
As long however, as nations are ready to abolish war by common action and to solve their conflicts in a peaceful way on a legal basis. they feel compelled to prepare for war. They feel moreover compelled to prepare the most abominable means, in order not to be left behind in the general armaments race. Such procedure leads inevitable to war, which, in turn, under today’s conditions, spells universal destruction.
Under such circumstances there is no hope in combating the production of specific weapons or means of destruction. Only radical abolition of war and of danger of war can help. Toward this goal one should strive; in fact nobody should allow himself to be forced into actions contrary to this goal. This is a harsh demand for anyone who is aware of his social inter-relatedness; but it can be followed.
I agree; social pressures to conform in many matters are always present, but in  matters of conscience, and it is always better to think about such questions beforehand, these social pressures and the need to conform to them, ought be resisted, and without much hesitation. Again, this can only happen if you have had the time to think about such ethical and moral matters and see how they fit into your over-all moral thought life.

For more of my thoughts on this subject, go [here].

Monday, July 15, 2019

Fritz Haber: The Amoral Scientist

Lack of Morality

I remember hearing about Fritz Haber [1868–1934] when watching a documentary a few years ago about him and his wife. A chemist of great promise and prominence, Haber was awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918. He is credited with two important scientific discoveries: one good for humanity; the other bad for humanity. For Haber, it seems, that he considered both in the same way—as some sort of scientific puzzle to solve.

This thinking, combined with a blind arrogance, led to his downfall. If history judges Haber in this way, it is justified by his actions. It is easy to say that science is amoral, but it is another thing to say that a scientist is amoral. Fritz Haber was such a man.

An article (“The Amoral Scientist;” July 8, 2019), by Matthew Wills, in JStor Daily says the following:
Fritz Haber was the chemist who figured out how to synthesize ammonia out of atmospheric nitrogen. Once chemist/engineer Carl Bosch applied this to an industrial process, it allowed for the virtually limitless production of fertilizer. This was an unparalleled boon to agriculture, which had previously depended on guano and other substances to replenish soil. For this, undoubtedly one of the most important discoveries in chemistry, Haber was awarded the Nobel in 1918.
Then, there is the other side of Haber:
Fritz Haber was the driving force behind the German use of chemical weapons during WWI. His wife, Clara Immerwahr, a noted chemist in her own right, “pleaded with Haber repeatedly not to work on techniques of chemical warfare,” writes S. Ramaseshan in his short biography of the “amoral scientist.” But under Haber’s enthusiastic leadership, Germany initiated the modern era of chemical warfare by deploying chlorine gas in Belgium in April 1915. By some reports, 5,000 people died.
Clara Immerwahr was the first woman to earn a doctorate from the University of Breslau, in 1900. In 1901 she had married Fritz Haber; it was not a happy marriage. Soon after hearing this, and perhaps noting her husband’s amorality and his lack of concern for human life, Immerwahr shot herself with his pistol; she died in the arms of her 12-year-old son, Hermann, in the garden of their mansion in Dahlem, a borough in southwestern Berlin; she was 45. Thirty years later, in 1946, Hermann killed himself.

The next day after her death, Haber, ever the German patriot, left for the Eastern front to continue his war efforts on behalf of Germany, as a 2012 Smithsonian article on Haber puts it, “to initiate another gas attack, against the Russians." But Germany’s defeat, the need to pay reparations and the resulting financial crisis took the tarnish off his fame. This, and the rise of racial nationalism and fascism, forced Haber, the German-Jew, to leave Germany shortly after Hitler and the Nazis came to power, leaving in August 1933.

He worked briefly in Cambridge, England, and while there, Wikipedia writes, “Chaim Weizmann offered him the directorship at the Sieff Research Institute (now the Weizmann Institute) in Rehovot, in Mandatory Palestine.” On his way there, Haber died of a heart attack, at a hotel in Basel, Switzerland, on January 29, 1934; he was 65.

For more on Fritz Haber, go to [JSTOR Daily].

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Howard Zinn’s ‘Three Holy Wars’ (2009)


“Whenever I become discouraged (which is on alternate Tuesdays, between three and four) I lift my spirits by remembering: The artists are on our side! I mean those poets and painters, singers and musicians, novelists and playwrights who speak to the world in a way that is impervious to assault because they wage the battle for justice in a sphere which is unreachable by the dullness of ordinary political discourse.

“The billionaire mandarins of our culture can show us the horrors of war on a movie screen and pretend they are making an important statement (‘War is hell,’ says the general as he orders his troops forward into no man's land). But the artists go beyond that, to resistance, defiance.”

Howard Zinn, The Progressive, July 2001

Howard Zinn’s “Three Holy Wars” (2009) discusses three wars that America considers sacrosanct: U.S. Revolutionary War [1775–1783]; the U.S. Civil War [1861–1865]; the Second World War [1939–1945], which America joined on December 7, 1941.
Via: Youtube & The Progressive

By holy, Howard Zinn [1922–2010; a native of Brooklyn, NY] is not here referring to any religious aspect, but, rather, how wars are given sacrosanct status. In much the same way that religious dogma and ideology creates an accepted view of history, wars also create  the idea of a people and a nationalist narrative to support it. In other words, wars are used for nation-building, and all such wars toward this effort are “just,” because the cause itself is “just.”

Such narratives, however, run contrary to greater human ones, the inviolability and dignity of human life. The basic premise of war is contrary to the basic premise of human life—survival. Wars are destructive and kill people; and wars benefit the few, who are primarily often the wealthy business interests. Who gets what? Who does war chiefly benefit? Has anything changed since then? Zinn says: “We try to pretend in this country that we are all a big happy family.” This is hardly the case, except for those who deny the reality by pretending otherwise, by conjuring up a fake narrative to justify acts of aggression and violence, often in the pursuit of profit.

It is pretense of the worst sort, because it ends up with people being killed for no good or just reason.  Did even the Second World War achieve its ultimate aim, with 50 million dead? Have we gotten rid of fascism? of racism? of further wars? Zinn says something that I agree with: “War cannot be accepted, no matter what. […]. In between war and passivity, there are a thousand possibilities.” The problem is that political leaders often lack the imagination to think in other ways.

This idea sounds strange, because it is not today common; it is rare, it is true. But not so rare among thoughtful people like Howard Zinn and other left wing intellectuals and progressives. Doing something the same way it has been done will only lead to the same results. War will always lead to deaths; expecting something different is insanity. Well, it’s time that we elect leaders who do think differently, who are not committed to wars.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Noam Chomsky Speaks in Boston (2019)

Just Thinking Out Loud

“One of the great achievements of the doctrinal system has been to divert anger from the corporate sector to the government that implements the programs that the corporate sector designs, such as the highly protectionist corporate/investor rights agreements that are uniformly mis-described as “free trade agreements” in the media and commentary. With all its flaws, the government is, to some extent, under popular influence and control, unlike the corporate sector. It is highly advantageous for the business world to foster hatred for pointy-headed government bureaucrats and to drive out of people’s minds the subversive idea that the government might become an instrument of popular will, a government of, by and for the people.”

Noam Chomsky, Optimism over Despair (2017), p. 125

Noam Chomsky Speaks in Boston: Chomsky [born in 1928 in Philadelphia, Pa] is considered the founder of modern linguistics. After spending 62 years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Chomsky joined the University of Arizona in fall 2017. He is currently a laureate professor in the Department of Linguistics in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. In addition, he is the Agnese Nelms Haury Chair in the Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice.
ViaYoutube & Democracy Now

Democracy Now writes: “On April 12, 2019, hundreds of people packed into the Old South Church in Boston to hear the world-renowned dissident and linguist Noam Chomsky speak. In this hour-long special, we air an excerpt of Chomsky’s speech and his on-stage interview with Amy Goodman.”

This man speaks well on many areas, including on fascism, ultra-nationalism, corporatism, and on America’s great shift to the right, economically and politically. Chomsky says something important about how the working class has had no real representation in Washington the last 40 years: “Since the 1970s, since this neoliberal period, both of the political parties have shifted to the right. The Democrats, by the 1970s, have pretty much abandoned the working class.…The Republicans have shifted so far to the right, that they went completely off the spectrum.”

Is this not true? Yet, many try to find fault with Chomsky for one reason or another, focusing on his mistakes. Well, to be blunt, we all have made mistakes; and we have changed our minds as a result. If you are a public intellectual, as Chomsky is, you will get some things wrong in what is a long and distinguished career. No one is immune from it; it is just that Chomsky’s mistakes will be scrutinized more harshly, particularly by those who fear what he has to say. Such a list is long.

No matter. Chomsky's strengths are many, most notably his sharp analytical mind, one that questions the status quo, an independent and original thinker far ahead of his time. He also believes what he says, and that counts for a lot. Such people are rare. It is hard to ignore what he says, because what he says makes sense to people like me. Chomsky makes it intellectually acceptable to be skeptical of the status quo, which is a good position to find oneself in, especially if one is unhappy with it. Change never comes from happy people.

All in all, I find Chomsky a breath of fresh air in a world populated by politicians, business people and other public speakers, insufferable windbags who spout nonsense and other fabrications, making illusions and building deceptions. By doing so, they feign interest, but are not saying anything of any importance to the common people. Watch this video and find out what this man has to say. He comes  as close to the truth as one can get, and yet makes it accessible. This is not easy to do.

For more on Noam Chomsky, you can go to []

Friday, July 12, 2019

Art & The Artististic Vision

Art for Thought

Wassily Kandinsky: Composition VII, 1913. The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow. Painted in 1913 when Kandinsky lived with Gabriela Munter in Munich, Germany. Kandinsky said this was the most complex piece he painted.
An article (“Art is Good for Your Brain;” June 28, 2019), by Jessica Jacolbe, in JSTOR Daily, reports on the finding that art is good for your brain. In the field of neuroaesthetics, neuroscience is put to work to better understand how art affects our brains, not only when artists are creating it, such as the painting by Kandinsky above, but also when we are viewing this wonderful work of art.

Jacolbe writes:
Noted neurobiologist Semir Zeki documents how art can stimulate “conceptual relations” in our mind, and not just reactions to the visual art in front of us. According to Zeki’s findings, experiencing any sort of beauty, visual or musical, literally impacts the decision-making areas of our brain.
Experientially we know this as true; now neuroscience and the scientific field of neuroaesthetics is confirming what humans have felt all along. That the mind enjoys, craves beauty, however and wherever it might be seen. Related to beauty is truth, although this is not easy to prove. Art might not be the truth but it brings us close to it. Not everyone wants truth. Bearing witness to beauty ought not mean one cannot denounce horror. In my mind, both are linked; both are possible. The horror is the absence of beauty; the horror is never abstract. It is always real. It is always cruel.

When beauty breaks through the gray walls of horror, in comes the possibility of truth. This is where art raises the possibility of truth that facts alone cannot create, that literalists and fundamentalists find difficult to appreciate. That when we view art, we ourselves are engaged in the artistic process, that it shapes our brains, opening new ways of seeing, ways that are far different than when we are doing something else. Perhaps anything else. Artists are rare, and original artists even rarer; and it is equally true that the artistic vision is unfortunately rare, because so few develop it.

For more on this subject, go to [JSTOR Daily].

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Big Yellow Butterfly at Lake Wilcox


Big Yellow Butterfly at Lake Wilcox: It looks like the eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), which, Wikipedia says, is quite common in our geographic area. Lake Wilcox is a half an hour from where we reside. This yellow beauty is also common to the eastern United States, where it is a familiar sighting, Wikipedia writes: “It flies from spring to fall, during which it produces two to three broods. Adults feed on the nectar of many species of flowers, mostly from those of the Apocynaceae, Asteraceae, and Fabaceae families. P. glaucus has a wingspan measuring 7.9 to 14 cm (3.1 to 5.5 in). The male is yellow with four black "tiger stripes" on each forewing. Females may be either yellow or black, making them dimorphic. The yellow morph is similar to the male, but with a conspicuous band of blue spots along the hindwing, while the dark morph is almost completely black.”
Photo Credit: ©2019. Perry J. Greenbaum

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Fowl Play at Mill Pond

Urban Wildlife

Mill Pond is close to our house, in Richmond Hill, a short drive by car; and only 30 minutes by foot. It is a beautiful green space in the midst of a nice suburb; one of the attractions for us are the ducks (Anas platyrhynchos), geese  and two swans (Cygnus olor), who we have named George and Georgina. It is the Canada geese (Branta canadensis), however, that are in largest abundance. We have befriended them, and they are not fearful of us or our presence.

All Photos: ©2019. Perry J. Greenbaum

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Our Backyard Raspberry Bushes (2019)

Fruit of the Bush

Much to our surprise and delight, our backyard has a number of raspberry bushes (Rubus idaeus). They are in various stages of being ready to pick. This is wonderful, since this year we do not have to make our annual trek to a farm nearby, a family ritual, to pick raspberries. We can do it in our backyard. Let’s call it “Greenbaum Farms,” a tiny urban farm, home to bees, butterflies, birds, hares, yellow irises and raspberries. Perhaps even some fresh milkweed.

All Photos: ©2019. Perry J. Greenbaum

Monday, July 8, 2019

What Darwin Never Knew (2009)


What Darwin Never Knew, is a 2009 documentary (almost 2 hours long) produced by NOVA, a PBS-TV show, originally aired on December 29, 2009, 150 years after Darwin’s original theory on natural selection shook the scientific world; it is narrated by Lance Lewman.  
Via: Youtube

NOVA’s website describes this documentary as follows about Charles Darwin [1809–1882], the English naturalist, famous for his important contribution to the theory of evolution, and particularly how natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution—an idea that we now take for granted, but which was earth-shattering 150 years ago; NOVA writes:
Earth teems with a staggering variety of animals, including 9,000 kinds of birds, 28,000 types of fish, and more than 350,000 species of beetles. What explains this explosion of living creatures—1.4 million different species discovered so far, with perhaps another 50 million to go? The source of life’s endless forms was a profound mystery until Charles Darwin brought forth his revolutionary idea of natural selection. But Darwin's radical insights raised as many questions as they answered. What actually drives evolution and turns one species into another? To what degree do different animals rely on the same genetic toolkit? And how did we evolve?
     “What Darwin Never Knew” offers answers to riddles that Darwin couldn't explain. Breakthroughs in a brand-new science—nicknamed “evo devo”—are linking the enigmas of evolution to another of nature's great mysteries, the development of the embryo. NOVA takes viewers on a journey from the Galapagos Islands to the Arctic, and from the explosion of animal forms half a billion years ago to the research labs of today. Scientists are finally beginning to crack nature's biggest secrets at the genetic level. The results are confirming the brilliance of Darwin's insights while revealing clues to life’s breathtaking diversity in ways the great naturalist could scarcely have imagined.
Without a doubt, Darwin started a revolution in science, and it continues today, increasing our knowledge and understanding of our world and the species, including humans, that populate it. Today there are numerable branches of science that have developed over the years as a result of Darwin's original ground-breaking theory, On the Origins of Species (1859), including evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology and evolutionary sociology and biosociology.

For the full transcript of this NOVA show, go to [PBS-TV].

To read a copy of the original 1859 edition of  On the Origins of Species, go to [Gutenberg].

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Sometimes We Have to Carry Others

Human Lives

An article (“Carrying a Single Life: On Literature and Translation;” July 5, 2019) in The New York Review of Books, by Teju Cole, summons forth the idea how writers of literature can help raise the value of a human life—all human lives in our shared humanity, “our fellow citizens”—by having the courage to voice their conscience about injustices, about not viewing as important physical differences, by understanding that we cannot do it alone; that we are not alone, even if and when we feel alone.

By doing so, by risking persecution in their host nations, such writers help move the readers of such literature from indifference to making a difference. It might take some time for the action to take place, but take place it will, when it is necessary to save a life, when it is necessary to carry someone across deadly waters, if not literally, then figuratively, or financially. Cole, novelist, photographer, critic, curator, and the author of five books and currently the Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing at Harvard University, writes:
I offer this: literature can save a life. Just one life at a time. Perhaps at 4 AM when you get out of bed and pull a book of poetry from the shelf. Perhaps over a week in summer when you’re absorbed in a great novel. Something deeply personal happens there, something both tonic and sustaining.
How much I agree with this passage; I, like many, have had such personal experiences when reading a great novel. It has moved me in a certain direction with particular insights that were not known or thought of before reading a particular novel. Perhaps it takes a certain temperament, but many I know would not care, have not changed at all. They have remained in the same place for decades, certain in their views. It sounds troubling. Such persons are closed, walled off from human experiences. Fear and complacency go together. People are tired; people are stressed; people are depleted. People are bored.

Perhaps I could suggest that they should read more good literary fiction. Great literary fiction that stirs the heart and mind. It can make you understand thousands of different persons, who are unlike you, but at the same time very much like you. There is a shared common humanity, if you are looking for it. That being said, I agree, up to a point; a novel can move individuals, singular people—joined with others—into doing good and making sacrificial offers for humanity, for others.

Cole, an American born to Nigerian parents, writes about a current example of such persons taking personal risks and defying the laws of the land:
A young woman from Bonn named Pia Klemp is currently facing a long-drawn-out legal battle in Italy. Klemp, a former marine biologist, is accused of rescuing people in the Mediterranean in 2017. If the case comes to trial, as seems likely, she and nine others in the humanitarian group she works with face enormous fines or even up to twenty years in prison for aiding illegal immigration. (Klemp’s plight is strikingly similar to that of another young German woman, Carola Rackete, who was arrested in Italy this week for captaining another rescue boat.) Klemp is unrepentant. She knows that the law is not the highest calling. As captain of a converted fishing boat named Iuventa, she had rescued endangered vessels carrying migrants that had been launched from Libya. The precious human lives were ferried over to the Italian island of Lampedusa. The question Klemp and her colleagues pose is this: Do we believe that the people on those endangered boats on the Mediterranean are human in precisely the same way we are human?
Cruelty is the adversary of love. I would think that the answer is as clear as clear as can be, and we ought to applaud their efforts to save human lives. But not for everyone; not everyone thinks as I do, even when I think they should, because this is clearly a moral cause. And, yet, there are many cases of people acting morally without having read any literary fiction. They acted as they did, because they were likely taught at a young age that no human is superior to another. When this is stripped of politics, we can more easily see each human as a human being.

That each life, in the end, does matter. This might sound strange in this day and age, when differences are highlighted and politically exploited; when nations tightly control their borders; and when the wealthy live in grand gated communities and in large exclusive condos; and the poor, many immigrants or newcomers, if they are lucky, crowded in shabby subsidized housing and in rundown low-rent units. Such is the way it is; cruelty is the adversary of love.

In love, sometimes we have to carry others; sometimes others have to carry us.

For more, go to [New York Review of Books].

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Monarch in our Backyard (2019)


Monarch Butterfly, Perhaps: I am no expert in butterflies, but I do hope that this is a monarch (Danaus plexippus; the colouring seems a bit off, though), since scientists have said they are fewer in number. I took this photo this morning, while my wife and I were sitting out back with our coffees, and then this beautiful butterfly fluttered nearby and took a rest on our backyard fence. The milkweed seeds (genus Asclepias) that we planted a month ago have not yet shown themselves above ground as a plant. Perhaps soon.
Photo Credit: ©2019. Perry J. Greenbaum

Immigrants Didn’t Kill Union Jobs in America

The Working Class

An article (“Immigrants Didn’t Kill Your Union; Spring 2019), by Ruth Milkman, in Dissent, says that immigrants did not kill well-paying union jobs; corporations with their union-busting tactics are solely responsible.

Milkman writes:
Some of the biggest concentrations of Trump’s U.S.-born white working-class supporters in 2016 were in the Rust Belt. No one can seriously suggest that immigrants should be blamed for the massive wave of plant closings that swept across the Midwest starting in the 1970s. In this context jobs were not degraded, they simply disappeared. Yet as Linda Gordon showed in her recent study of the 1920s Ku Klux Klan, immigrant scapegoating does not necessarily have to be rooted in reality. Native-born “anger at displacement, blamed on ‘aliens,’ sometimes rested on actual experience but more often on imagination and fear stoked by demagoguery,” Gordon points out. “We know this because the Klan flourished in areas with few ‘aliens.’”
The right-wing anti-immigrant narrative has in effect distracted attention from the actual causes of declining working-class living standards. The white working class has every reason to be alienated and enraged by rising inequality and the disappearance of good jobs, but their anger has been profoundly misdirected. It should focus not on immigrants but on the deliberate actions of business interests to degrade formerly well-paid blue-collar jobs and to promote public policies that widen inequality. Rather than following the lead of Judis and Nagle (fortunately still a marginal position on the left) in opportunistically jumping on the anti-immigrant bandwagon, labor and progressives hoping to regain support from the white U.S.-born workers who supported Trump in 2016 should devote their energies to shifting the public conversation in this direction.
For the American working-class, the biggest issue is an old one—well-paying jobs. The discussion needs to be shifted and focused to where it belongs, the primary source of where such well-paying jobs can be found: employers, big businesses and the large corporations that employ thousands of people. Look and examine labor relations and  you will see how bad it truly is, how business has created a climate of fear. The weakening of unions coupled with automation and off-shoring are the chief reasons that the working class has been suffering economically the last 40 years.

The lack and the decline of such well-paying jobs is the real root of declining living standards—which includes poor health care—noticeable in the last few decades, among the working class and the lower middle-class. Yes, it is the economy; yes, it is about economic inequalities; and, yes, it is about economic injustice. The great majority of Americans can’t afford to live, are not making it, and are stressed about it. Working harder or longer is not going to solve their problems. This is a fool’s game.

The fault lies elsewhere, for one, in the way businesses conduct themselves. Such ought to be the locus of discussion and not some baseless distraction.

For more, go to [Dissent].