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American Values

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Saudi’s Prince reliably has been accursed of the murder of a Washington Post journalist. The journalist was a Saudi citizen and American resident who was lured into the Saudi Embassy in Turkey and not only murdered but dismembered.

For many Americans, the Saudi’s murder of this journalist is meaningless and unimportant. What happened was a half a world away to someone that many Americans have been carefully taught to hate. His death means nothing to them. He was a foreigner, an alien, not an American in their views.

But what if that scenario was different?

But I want you do something. I want you to suspend your thinking right there. I want to you imagine, instead, that the slaughtered and dismembered journalist was your son or brother or father or cousin or nephew. What if that journalist was a member of your family? How would you feel?

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Trump said America would look into the situation, but he considered the $100 Billion plus arms deals with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) more important. Making money was more important than human lives. Again, imagine your own son or father or cousin or nephew was the object of Trump’s dismissal of your family member in favor of his transactional regard for money and profit?

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How would you feel? What would you think if that journalist was your child or father or brother when Trump said making money was more important?

America must wake up. We have a president who cares nothing about human lives or Christian values. His only concerns are money and his fragile ego. Unfortunately, that plague of greed, which we see personified in Trump, infects much of our country.

Some things, like human lives, are more important than corporate profits. Some things require Americans to stand up and say NO.

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I grew up as a child of the Greatest Generation, the generation that fought the fascism of Hitler and Nazi and the nationalism of Japan. I spent most of my first 20 some years around American soldiers, seeing their commitments to family and country. They didn’t join the military for money or prestige. They joined because they believed in the historic American values of life, liberty and justice for all…not greed-is-good, transactional politics.

Human lives and our freedom to speak our minds, via freedom of the press, and to peacefully protest governments are written into the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. We must put aside our tribalism to remember our founding documents and what this great country has stood for worldwide over 70 years.

If you don’t believe me, read Ernie Pyles’ books on WWII.

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We are better than Trump. We are better than hailing greed and transactionism or historic Chinese style merchantilism first. That is what Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Franklin, Washington believed. We should too.

 

 

 

 

Written by Valerie Curl

October 11, 2018 at 7:49 PM

Netflix’s Korean Drama “Life”: A Review

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“To whom does your soul belong: the wealthy or the people

This is another Korean drama airing on Netflix. Originally produced by JTBC, Life depicts the story of public-spirited doctors and nurses against a corporate machine whose CEO’s sole goal is enormous profits, regardless of the consequences to everyone else, from hospital staff to the public.

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As the story unfolds, a large amount of corruption exists within the university hospital which has been kept out of the public eye. When confronted with this information by their new corporate masters, most fold. Yet, some doctors maintain their the personal ethics and integrity to fight back, believing that the medical profession should put patients’ medical care above profit.

Cho Seung-Woo, most recently of Stranger fame, as Koo Seung-Hyo, plays the part of the new hospital president, recognizing that the hospital is awash in red ink, seeks to turn the hospital finances around while at the same time increase corporate profits through some fairly shady means…while at the same time he becomes increasingly disenchanted by the corporation to which he’s given his allegiance. Bit by bit, over time, he becomes influenced by the doctors’ principled stance.

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Lee Dong Wook becomes one of Koo Seung-Hyo’s primary foes but who throughout remains confused as to what his primary nemesis, the new President, seeks to attain. He doesn’t necessarily appear to see the man as greedy and corrupt, but he’s not quite sure what game the man is playing. One day, he appears to be on the side of the hospital staff; the next on the side of the corporation.

Adding to Koo Seung-Hyo’s confusion is that fact that he learns from his paraplegic younger brother, Ye Sun-Woo, that the previous hospital director, whom Koo loved like a second father, placed government subsidy money into his personal bank account. Koo Seung-Hyo wants to know why that money was siphoned off and to what purpose, which leads him to do his own investigating…only to discover that the director’s death may not have been as reported. As for Ye Sun Woo, he uncovers not only where the embezzled money went but also the medical scam being perpetrated by the assistant hospital director, thus forcing the President, almost against his will, to relieve the man of his position and duties.

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The only person in the hospital capable of standing up to the new President…and figuring him out…is the newly elected hospital director Oh Se-Hwa, played by Moon So-Ri, whom the department heads chose. Although she was perceived the dark horse in the election, no other candidate has her strength of character, spirit and spine. She forces her will on everyone, including the new President, with whom she not only works but often dominates in their confrontations.

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Numerous other characters, with their own motives,are involved in this complex plot that pits corporate profit against human needs…and human love. As the battle rages within the non-profit university hospital, we see the two sides – corporate profits (and greed) versus humanitarianism – in stark relief.

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Few of the hospital’s department heads are innocent of one immoral crime or another, including a suspected murder, which leads the viewer to the obvious belief most of the department heads need to be replaced. But for all the greed that the hospital’s department heads engaged in, they all come together to fight against the greed of the corporation and its somewhat illegal tactics to turn the non-profit hospital into a money-making machine that caters to the wealthy at the expense of everyone else in the community.

This drama series exemplifies why I enjoy Korean dramas so much more than American TV. Unlike American TV, Korean dramas don’t rely upon a Marvel Comic Book hero to come and save everyone from the villain. Instead, Korean dramas rely upon ordinary human beings fighting back against the wrongs, greed and corruption Koreans have long seen within their own society and history. These dramas not only exhibit the multiple forms of greed and corruption that exists, but also the bravery, courage, integrity, and honor of those who fight back to create a better, more fair and decent Korean society for all.

As an aside, these kinds of dramas probably contributed to the massive protests against incompetence and corruption exhibited the Park Administration that led to its downfall. As American history notes, the popularity of early 1930s films in which pitted the average, hardworking, honerable person against the ego-entric wealthy undoubetdly helped FDR pass his legistation.

As Abraham Lincoln famously implied, you can only fool all the people for so long. Once the people’s blinders are lifted, they then will rise up against the greed for money, power and prestige as well as the corruption that they see surrounding them…even in such a seemingly mall place as a public hospital where greed, in all of its multiple forms, and profits are pitted against the public good.

Life is definitely worth watching.

Written by Valerie Curl

September 20, 2018 at 6:09 PM

Fulfilling the Dream of America

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As a pragmatic Democratic, I don’t care if your hail from the left, right or sideways. What I do care about it is my country and her people. For decades, we’ve accepted policies that put Wall St and capital over workers; that bailed out Wall St but neglected workers and home owners; that penalized bit players while letting the world-class con artists go free; that put large corporations ahead of average working middle and working class people and small businesses.

It’s time to change all that.

But none of that will change until the GOP is entirely, in every state and Congress. are voted out of office. As during the Great Depression, they must be shown that their ideas, policies and legislation does not support average working families but puts Wall St, large corporations, and the very wealthy ahead at the forefront of their policy decisions. It doesn’t have to be this way. What American workers suffer now, from stagnant wages to bankrupting health care costs to financially destructive education costs, at a time when education is vitally important to succeed, are the direct result of policies put in place, primarily by Republicans.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When Teddy Roosevelt (R-NY) entered the NY State House, he looked around and saw legislation and legislators being bought or bribed. He wrote in his autobiography that legislators succumbed to accepting money from those companies seeking to influence legislation in their own favor or legislators blackmailing companies via their votes that could negatively affect those companies. Although many companies complained about the blackmail, few knew how to fight it. Nevertheless, all of the legislative process was to the benefit of the politicians and not the people.

TR had a strong ethical nature. Although he grew up physically weak, he developed an ideal of what it meant to be strong…not just physically but also intellectually and morally. As a candidate for VP, many thought he would come round to their corporate thinking. However, as president, he proved them wrong. TR was a strong believer in capitalism, but he recognized that unless capital (ie Wall St & large investors today) was restrained from its worst impulses, the masses would rise up to destroy capitalism.

As a result, he pushed through measures in Congress that restrained unbridled capitalism and brought not only transparency to elected officials campaign finances but also measures to prohibit the kinds of bribery he saw as a NY legislator. He sought a fair capitalism that worked for employees as well as owners.

Some thirty years later, TR’s cousin, FDR assumed the role as the President of the US during the worst economic crises of the 20th Century, but it had been preceded by numerous equally bad crises during the previous century of unbridled capitalism. FDR actually was far from what today is considered left-wing. He was a confirmed capitalist, but he recognized as did his cousin, TR, that when the financial rules of the road were dismantled, chaos reigns. At the height of the Great Recession, economist El-Erian, then the Chief Economist of PIMCO, wrote that financial rules are as important as highway rules of the road. That without those rules, chaos would ensue as drivers would push others off into ditches, cause crashes, and drive recklessly in pursuit of their own agendas, regardless of the havoc they caused.

When you set back or view from forty thousand feet, you can see his advice works throughout an economy. The rules of the road allow everyone to get to their own chosen destination.

What FDR did….

FDR, as a result of the unbridled speculation of Wall St that caused he Great Depression (and the recent Great Recession), worked hard to break to choke hold that Wall St and wealthy capital had over the economy. He instituted every program he thought might help to put the economy back on its feet again. Some worked, as in the Ag Dept farming policies, and some failed. But through it all he maintained that whatever was good for average workers would benefit America as a whole and maintain capitalism as a founding principle of the US.

While FDR policies didn’t save the country…

His policies did prevent the economy from becoming worse. Gradually, the bread lines shortened and the number of teens, like my own father, riding the rails diminished. People found work again, even if they were jobs the government created like the magnificent public works projects that still serve the nation.

WWII highlighted the need for Equality

Jump forward to the Truman Administration. Accepting the founding principle that “All men are created equal”, Truman fully integrated the Armed Forces, perhaps because he recognized the tremendous efforts and sacrifices non-whites showed during WWII. His bravery caused all non-white groups to say, “Hey, we’re Americans too and deserving of equal rights”, from voting to where to live to the places we can eat and our job opportunities.

Republican President Eisenhower accepted that challenge.

I don’t know Eisenhower’s personal views on Civil Rights. However, given his WWII experience, it might be fair to say he saw the exceptional bravery of all minorities in fighting against foes who would have slaughtered them solely based on their ethnicity or religion or culture. Possibly as a result of that experience, he and the military command tried to change the racial, ethnic and religious divides that plagued the United States.

What it was like in the Deep South…

In the 1950s, a white person could not drive down a primary Black community street in a Southern town without seeing conversations suddenly stop and children freezing in place, with fear written on everyone’s faces. Their fear was beyond palpable. It reflected their reality: that at any moment any one of them could or would be strung up on a tree branch to die simply because of the color of their skin and the underlying desire for white supremacy.

White people had any number of excuses for their long-held belief that they were superior: Blacks were lazy, even though they worked 12 to 14 hours a day;  Blacks had inherent diseases, a common myth of the “other” to incite fear; Blacks cheated and stole, although no more true than for Whites; Blacks were undependable and drunkards, another common myth, specifically designed to denigrate them; and perhaps worst of all, Blacks were of lesser intelligence, even though their educations and educational opportunities were all too often undeniably inferior. All of these myths and delusions were handed down from one generation to the next, with few questioning them.

Thus the racism and xenophobia continued….

In the 1970s, long after the Civil Right Amendment was ratified, this still held true in primarily Southern towns and military bases. In Ft Knox, KY, in 1969, Black children were still segregated and sent to different schools from white children, although they lived in the same military housing complexes, just doors away from each other. And where white children who befriended neighboring Black children were labeled as traitors and much worse.

Both Nixon and Reagan could have stopped the racism and xenophobia, had they chosen. But both chose political expediency over moral values. Picking up lingering Dixiecrat and George Wallace voters to win was more important than the belief that “all men (i.e. people) are created equal.”

Now fast forward to the 2000s. The GOP, especially under the influence of Newt Gingrich took full advantage of these splits in America to promote himself, regardless of the harm he caused to the Republic.

Regardless of Nixon’s and then Reagan’s “Southern White strategy” that specifically sought to drive Dixiecrat Democrats into the Republican party – a feat it did extremely well after the Johnson’s Civil Rights Act and the widespread expansion across America of Movement Conservatism after the Goldwater presidential loss which took much of its ideology from John Birchers – the election of Newt Gingrich to Speaker of the House drove a spike into the heart of reality. As Speaker, Gingrich proclaimed that anyone who was not Republican was an enemy of the people; that all Democrats were communists who aligned with the USSR; that Democrats were enemies of the nation, and that no malignant name for Democrats was beyond the bounds. Once he became Speaker, he proceeded to end every office that provided the House with accurate scientific and government data because those non-partisan adjunct committees did not suit his own partisan grasp for power. As a result of that and other power grabs, he left House legislators without institutional knowledge. Thus, information was outsourced to lobbyists.

About the same time, Mitch McConnell, now the Senate Republican Leader, began an all out drive to overturn all of TR’s rulings on transparency and fairness in political donations. He not only sought to hide who was giving massive donations, he actively fought for the right of political, and more importantly corporate, donors to have 1st Amendment rights of free speech. This idea is totally against everything TR believed; yet, it has been accepted orthodoxy by today’s Republican party. TR would be turning over in his grave at how much McConnell betrayed his values. Mind you, it’s only been 100 years since corporations were handed any rights beyond the need of the company to manage litigation. Prior to then, the framers feared the monetary and influence power companies might use to pervert democracy in their favor and away from the rest of the people.

Reducing the power of the people.

In the 1930s, as a result of the Great Depression, FDR, via Congress, instituted a number of policies meant to help working class people. The SCOTUS at the time, also known as the Lockner Court, rejected many, if not most, of those legislative ideas. They put the wishes of corporate owners well ahead of workers. It was only after FDR lost his battle to expand the SCOTUS – and recognizing their own unpopularity – that the SCOTUS changed their rulings to allow the programs FDR put in place to be ruled Constitutional. Today, we are in this same place with a Court that for decades now has put the voice of corporations above the voices of average citizens, Yet, if you go back to read what the founders wrote, they all maintained that “corporate” power was anathema to good governance.

There are chapters upon chapters of so-called conservatives seeking to silence the voices of middle and working class people throughout the 1800s. Some succeeded, as with the Midwest demand for Silver coinage of the 1800s in order to break the strangle-hold of Wall St on farmers and small businesses. And others failed. But what must be acknowledged is that Americans, by large majorities, sought to create a better, more just and fair nation than they inherited.

Today’s Republican party chooses to unwind those hard-fought battles at every level for the sake of partisan power. The Framers understood that kind of greed and often wrote about its corrosive effects. Their letters, speeches, and newspaper articles often spoke to and align with the same concerns that Democrats raise today.

Returning to long held American values

We live in a far different world that the Framers could ever imagined. But one thing rings true from all their writings and still holds true today: all people regardless of race, creed, culture, religion, or ethnicity deserve equal rights and treatment under the law.

Lest we forget, the Declaration of Independence said: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

We must again take these words as a sacred duty to uphold for all Americans and seek to create a nation where those unalienable rights are within the grasp of every American, regardless of race, creed, ethnicity, religion, gender, or culture. If all those people were good enough for Thomas Jefferson to invite here, for James Madison to declare they needed equal protections, for John Adams to defend, they are good enough for us too.

Written by Valerie Curl

July 31, 2018 at 10:00 PM

Donald Trump is a national disaster

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I just finished watching the third presidential debate. Admittedly, many people will be swayed by what he said. However, any thinking person who has a modicum knowledge of economics and  national security as well as respect for all people, regardless of race, creed culture, gender or religion can upon reflection agree with him.

By and large, Trump repeated over and over that he would make America great again but without ever delving into how he would do so. On trade, he said NAFTA was bad, but the completely failed to explain how or what he would do to create better trade policies. Throughout his campaign, he has repeatedly called for isolationist trade policies which would be an economic disaster. The USA relies upon our exports for jobs and economic growth. Granted the TTP and other current proposals fail both the American people and other countries by putting too much power into the hands of major corporations – the reason Hillary Clinton does not support them – but international fair and free trade policies are needed worldwide, especially by mature economies like the US. To put it simply, US full employment cannot be supported without international trade.

On tax policy, Trump doubles down of supply side economics. His tax policy, outsourced to Steven Moore, a penultimate supply-sider who consistently ignores the demand side of the economic equation and is no economist, would increase the national deficit by trillions. Some say as much as $5 trillion. Since the financial melt down in 2007, the US has had an overabundance of supply but not enough demand. In other words, there’s plenty of product but not enough buyers. When wages are low or lowered (as has been the case since 2009 when companies lowered wages in the face of an oversupply of qualified candidates) wages, the demand side of the economic equation has gone down. If people can’t afford to buy, demand goes down regardless of the supply quantity. Thus, continuing the feed the supply side, i.e. Wall Street investors, does nothing to increase GNP (Gross National Product). The only way to increase GNP and, thus, GDP is to build up the demand side of the economic equation. Moore’s tax and economic policies, which Trump bought lock, stock and barrel, utterly fail this test.

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On National Security, Trump sounded smart when when you delve into what he actually said but yet again failed to propose any solutions, he’s frightening. Does he want an all out war in the Middle East – a la the Crusades? If so, that is one sure way to push moderate Muslims into the freedom fighter camps of ISIS and the Taliban. Imagine if you will an invading force in the US (intent on stealing our national resources to pay for the invasion). Would any American stand by and let that happen, no matter how moderate they were? Of course not. The same principle applies in the Middle East. Throughout history all over the world, people have always fought against a foreign invader, even when they strongly disagreed with their own government. It would be no different in the Middle East now. Moreover, Trump and his neo-con allies have chosen to make his foreign policy about a clash of civilizations – a clash of religions much like the Crusades. And much like during the Crusades, Muslims would come together, regardless of their internal conflicts, to fight off the invaders. Smart policy, which Clinton advocated, is separating the moderates from the extremists…and backing the moderates who see a better way forward for Middle East countries than a 12th Century ideology in the 21st Century world.

Additionally, the idea of Trump denying or ignoring Putin’s spying and hacking and interference with this election shows his incredible naivety. Of course, his financial records prove, as Newsweek and other legitimate media outlets have shown, he has a huge income stake in protecting the Russian (and thus Putin) oligarchy. Do I think Trump would take his order from Putin the way Mussolini did from Hitler? I don’t know; but I’m not willing that that chance, given that Trump is all about himself and his ego and his fortune even as he sells out other and stiffs his suppliers. Trump’s entire career has been one long running steam of conning and lying and cheating others including failing to pay his suppliers. Believing him is like believing in Hitler’s promise to not to invade the restof Europe after stealing Austria.

On issues of his personal morality and how he think about woman and minorities, what more needs to be said other than that he has offended everyone with his misogynist and xenophobic mindset. Even the uber conservative Utah-based Mormon (Church of Latter Day Saints) has come out against Trump in a public statement.They consider his words and ideas…and his behavior…highly toxic. No matter how much he denies his behavior, the numbers of people coming out against him for how he has behaved and what he has done keeps growing. As a result, he’s proven himself to narcissistic megalomaniac who refuses to accept responsibility for his own behavior. In his words, everything is the fault of someone else…and he is totally innocent. That may go over well in the modern Republican conservative movement, but it doesn’t necessarily sit well with a majority of people who have been raised to believe they have to take responsibility for their own behavior.

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On border control and minorities, polling shows that the list of minority voters switching from the Republican side of the ledger to the Democratic side ha gown dramatically since Trump became the Republican nominee. Beyond his polling numbers though is the fact that to implement his wall across the US Southern border and round up & deport every non-citizen (i.e. alien) would cost multiple trillions of dollars. Are you willing to agree to a major increase in your taxes to pay for it all…or are you going to shut your eyes and ears and put it on the national credit card and blame someone else for the outrageous deficit once again?

I could go on ad infinitum on the disastereous affects of Trump policies (or lack of coherent policies) but there is little  doubt that committed Trump voters will change their minds. To far too many of them, the world is made up of “us against them” which the GOP has pushed, in various and sundry dog whistles, for over 50 years.

Nevertheless, regardless of how reasonably sounding Trump came off sounding in this third debate, the fact remains that all of his ideas, from every perspective, are extraordinary expensive and a national disaster. Moreover, the fact that the national GOP supports and endorses this caricature of a human being shows the party has descended into the bowels of hell.

Clinton may not be everyone’s favorite candidate…and granted she’s been vilified and lied about by the GOP in the national media for nearly 30 years…but compared to Trump, she’s an angel. Her policies are reasonable, well-thought out, progressive, equitable, and fiscally sound. But, of course, that won’t matter to die-hard Trump supporters who choose to ignore the reality of the man and his ideas by focusing only on his fantastic rhetoric as a way out there circumstances.

 

 

 

Written by Valerie Curl

October 19, 2016 at 10:44 PM

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