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No Divine Right of Kings in the USA

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On June 15, 1215, King John, having lost his war against the English nobles, signed the Magna Carta. King John claimed that as King he had the unequivocal right to govern alone every aspect of English society. The nobles disagreed and went to war against him. At Runnymead, the nobles won and forced King John to sign the Magna Carta which, for the first time, gave nobles the right of dissent or agreement on any monarchial decree, essentially meaning they could stop any decree by the King that they beleived was not in their interests. Although King John signed the document, he had no intention of abiding by it (kind of like the signing documents of disagreement Presidents use today). However in 1297, Edward I confirmed the Magna Carta which since has part of England’s statute law.

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In the 1600s, King Charles, influenced by the French belief in the Divine Right of Kings, sought to bend Parliament to his will. Inheriting a depleted treasury and after completing two disastrous wars, he again was forced to go to Parliament which he had twice dissolved because they refused to give him the taxes he wanted. By this time, Parliament had numerous issues in conflict with the King, including religion (Charles was only nominally an Evangelical Anglican), the rights of Parliament, taxes. and Kingship prerogative. By 1640, Civil War broke out between the two factions: those supporting Charles and those opposed. Charles lost his head, and, thus, the Divine Right of Kings ended.

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In the decades following, Parliament gave great sway to the King to determine national policy and his/her requests for funding; yet Parliament remained in ultimate control of al funding issues which inevitably limited what the monarch could do, aside from issuing highly profitable monopolies on trade, for example Queen Elizabeth’s East India Company.  She and her counterparts hoped, by investing in these companies, they would reap rich rewards.

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It was only until George III ascended the throne and the English parliament pushed their right of taxation that American colonists began to revolt. George III’s theory of Devine Right of Kings to determine policy met resistance.

The American War of Independence was the culmination of the civil and political American Revolution resulting from the American Enlightenment. Brought to a head over the lack of American representation in Parliament, which was seen as a denial of their rights as Englishmen and often popularly focused on direct taxes levied by Parliament on the colonies without their consent, the colonists resisted the imposition of direct rule after the Boston Tea Party. Creating self-governing provinces, they circumvented the British ruling apparatus in each colony by 1774. Armed conflict between British regulars and colonial militiamen broke out at the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775. After petitions to the Crown for intervention with Parliament were ignored, the rebel leaders were declared traitors by the Crown and a year of fighting ensued. The colonies declared their independence in July 1776, listing twenty-seven grievances against the British king and legislature while asking the support of the populace. Among George’s other offences, the Declaration charged, “He has abdicated Government here … He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.”

[*As an aside, many American colonists who continued to support King George moved to Canada to avoid being embroiled in the conflict.]

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Meanwhile in Parliament as discussions began regarding the relative virtues of the American Revolution, particularly in light of the French Revolution. Edmund Burke, often considered the father of conservatism, spoke up in favor of the American Revolution. He said, that unlike the French Revolution which destroyed every institution (law, deliberation, non-partisan legal courts, justice, representation, etc), the American revolution sought to retain all of those noteworthy institutions of which Great Britain favored: elected representation of the people, equitable taxation, equal representation…and basically everything he saw as part of the Magna Carta agreement. Moreover, he agreed that change was a necessary part of humanity and the human condition, and while he agreed that change was inevitable (aka the American Revolution), that unlike in France change must be measured and slow so as to bring to bring the greatest numbers of people along and thereby avoid great disruption as seen during the French Revolution. In his view, as we’ve seen, sudden disruptive change leads to a backlash. The public must be prepared.

Skip forward a hundred years.

The British parliament in the 1800s enacted policies similar to modern American GOP supply side economics. Dickens wrote about the harm those policies caused in Great Britain. But even his Christmas tale does not adequately represent the massive horrors of starvation and deaths that resulted from Parliament’s supply side economics policy. Hundreds of thousands of Irish citizens died as a result of starvation & millions in Britian were impoverished because of economic beliefs which absolutely mirror today’s GOP.

So okay, skip forward a couple hundred years to President Trump. For the first time in American history, we have an American president, who unknowingly or not, has chosen to practice the Divine Right of Kings. He, like George III, makes egregious decrees via Executive Orders and expects Congress to submit. I hardly think that Edmund Burke would agree, as someone who himself believed human progress toward human & civil rights was both a necessary and public right. In  truth, Burke argued in Parliament for the Americans, against both the Crown and Parliament. What Burke argued against was radicalism from wherever it sprang but not in methodical, reasoned progress towards a more just and representative government.

For Trump, his uniformed view of democracy and his exceptionally fragile ego that requires constant adoration are similar to that of Charles I and George III and so many CEOs today. Thus, his belief in “I control it all and can do as I please”.

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Like the House of Lords in the 1600 and 1700s, the current Senate repeatedly has bowed to whatever Trump wanted in order to gain what they wanted: lower taxes on the wealthy and extraordinarily conservative…as well as often unqualified…judges on the nation’s highest courts. A bargain made in hell for which Mitch McConnell is entirely responsible. But which will come back to haunt America in the future, as accepted rights, liberties, freedoms and humane progress come under increased pressure from the Courts to turn back the clock. While Buckley said conservatives should say No and stand “athwart history”, I believe Burke would have said let human history move forward carefully.

But let’s again move forward.  Per a NY Times report of last week: Trump is guilty of the same crimes, if not worse, than Nixon was guilty. Think about that for moment: a president who not only considers himself above the law but seeks to subvert justice and the nation’s highest law enforcement agencies in his own favor. Isn’t this exactly what George III did in the Colonies? Is that exactly what led to Nixon’s downfall? What makes him any different than the British Kings who chose their own privilege over the rights of the people?

Then today, we have the WH spokesperson saying the President has the authoity to do whatever he wants. How is that attitude any different than King John’s? How is it any different than King Charles’ belief in the Devine Right of Kings?

After the failure of the Articles of Confederation, the most literate and educated men met in Philadephia to create a new Constitution. In that document are the founding legal principles of the nation. One of which is that Congress – the People’s houses – holds greater authority than any president. They wrote the Constitution specifically this way because they lived through a Monarch who believed he had the right to do whatever he chose, regardless of the People. In their minds, the President, having been voted on by the majority of voters, had the right to veto any measure he beleived was not in the public interest. At the same time, the Constitution gave Congress the mechanism to override that veto if a 2/3s majority beleived strongly enough in the legislation.

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Even though the Founders feared a despotic populist like Trump and tried to guard against it, they knew that the People would ultimately make the final choice as to whether or not the nation’s democracy would survive…and they warned against its lose.

The US has endured two great tragedies that rocked the nation, the Civil War and WWII. Either could have destroyed the Constitution that our Founders spent so many long, hot days arguing to create. But enough people who beleived in democracy and unity and human values came together to fight for justice, equality, liberty and freedom that those fights for our nation’s survival triamphed. I believe this great nation will survive Trump’s authoritarian (dictictorial) tendancies because we are a nation of laws and justice.  For the most part, I beleive most voters agree with the the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence:

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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Edmund Burke understood exactly what American Colonists were saying. He understood they were expressing the same views that existed in the Magna Carta…and later in British Common Law. But what passes today for conservatism, having been philosophically bent and distorted by many different factions, ranging from corporate personhood (an idea the founders found abhorrant) to preferred religious beliefs to the subservience of the entire government to the unitary executive (aka the unlimited power of the President to control every branch of government, including those set up as poiitically independent branches, as per Dick Cheney – one of Nixon’s greatest defenders).

I doubt that Burke would agree with conservatives today. They certainly don’t seem to espouse his same beliefs.Nor do I beleive that Republicans today believe in our Nation’s fouding principles as well as methodical and rationally planned forward movement on human rights.

Today’s Republicans are proving to be more like King Charles’ defenders…and we know what happened to him…and them…in 1649.

 

 

 

Written by Valerie Curl

March 7, 2019 at 8:19 AM

Movie Review: 22 July

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No one can forget the horrific slaughter of Norwegian children by an armed nationalist on July 22, 2011, by a White Nationalist.

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Now Netflix has produced a film, 22 July, portraying the slaughter of 68 children and injuring 110 more. For me, personally, it was difficult to watch the film dispassionately, separating script, screen play, acting, and direction from the factual basis of the film.

I admit to my own bias: I find xenophobia abhorrent, anti-Christian, and just plain evil. I keep thinking about what my parents generation fought for in WWII. They fought not only against Nazism & Japanese incursions, but against the whole idea of Ethnic Superiority, whether it was White Superiority in Europe or Japanese Superiority in Asia.

Watching 22 July is a deeply emotional film that lays out, in stark contrast, the difference between those who wish to divide on the basis of race, religion or country of origin, and those who choose to bring everyone together based on a belief in our shared humanity. A belief that inspired the world with this sentence from the American Declaration of Independence:

“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.”

Although the United States has never fully accepted this value, as a nation we have progressively worked towards that goal. That is what makes this film so personally emotional for many of us. The slaughtered children were working for a more inclusive world that accepted all people as human beings, deserving of the same rights. But their murderer did not see the world, or humans, in the same way. He saw them as products of his ideological enemies.

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Anders Behring Breivik (Anders Danielsen Lie), like all racial and ethnic Nationalists that came before him, stretching back eons in history, truly believed the rhetoric that the “other” was coming to destroy their world, their way of life, their security. That myth, as documented by historians, perpetuated by tribal leaders or a Chief to drum up support to degrade another tribe’s humanity in order to justify invasion and slaughter or just to shore up the tribe’s support for him, goes back thousands of years to mankind’s early tribes. What better way to cement a leader’s position and popularity than to drum up a war against a supposed enemy? (For reference, in the rhetorical battle in the 12th C. between the two Popes, one of them used this same tactic to win. He created the Crusades by claiming the Muslims were the enemy of Christianity and called on all Christian nations to wage a Holy War against Islam in the name of Jesus Christ. As a result, he won the rhetorical battle for Pope.)

Al that said, it does not excuse what Anders did in murdering and injuring so many innocent children…but it partially explains why he did it. He listened and accepted what those on the radical right were (and still are) preaching. He is the product of their fevered quest for power.

Whether or not those on the far right, in the EU or the US or Middle East or elsewhere in the world, actually believe what the say is up for debate, but what is not debatable is that millions of people, like Anders, believe them.

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But what makes it difficult to review this film is because of the deeply emotional subject matter. Overall, the film deals with the subject of the murders and xenophobia fairly but perhaps too lightly. It is almost too surface skimming rather than in-depth, never going to deeply into the horrors and life or death struggles those children and their families endured. Yet, the story itself, so close in our collective Amemory, certainly yields more than enough emotion.

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After watching this film, however surface-level the subject matter was treated, this is a film that should be watched. Because regardless of the Far Right, Alt-Right, Trumpists, Steve Bannons and Steve Millers, and ISIS groups, we must find a way back to accepting our common humanity. Moreover, America must lead the way as we historically have done for the last 75 years. This film shows us exactly why.

Written by Valerie Curl

October 12, 2018 at 9:12 PM

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

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

Film Can Change the World…

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And Produce Better Outcomes

 

I hardly know where to start or what to write coherently. I have so many thoughts running through my mind as a result of my studies of history and my current fondness for So. Korea and love of its people as well as the current American political scene that I hardly know where to begin.

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I guess I should start off by saying that I will never forgive Obama, Geithner, and Holder for allowing all the banksters who perpetrated the 2008 financial meltdown. Those bankers, both those who headed their financial companies and those who conned the public, should have been held responsible, regardless of how long the investigation continued. I lost a quarter million dollars in my retirement funds as a result of financial institutions greed and lies at a time when I was nearly ready to retire. I’ve never recovered. As a society, we should never have stood for what happened to us at the hands of a bunch of greedy, amoral bankers. As a Democratic voter, I can honestly say Obama’s Admin was wrong!

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If I’d been younger, I might have recovered…but at 61 already? Not bloody likely. Added to my anger and frustration were the actions of Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Boehner following the passage of the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Bill. The bill itself was relatively meek, but Wall St, nevertheless, hated it because it required them to be more responsible for their actions, ie. larger reserve amounts, better reporting, etc. Hoping to win major donations from Wall St. firms, McConnell and Boehner went to Wall St. They specifically said we’ll overturn Dodd-Frank if you donate to the Republican Party. Pure quid-pro-quo.

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Republican Teddy Roosevelt, the first progressive president, witnessed the political corruption that infected politics. He wrote in his autobiography his experience in the NY Legislature, looking around at his fellow lawmakers either bribing companies for funds (if you don’t give to me, I’ll vote for this bill against you) or being blackmailed (if you don’t vote as we want, we’ll use our resources to defeat you). As a result of his changing views, TR believed the entire system…among many other areas of the economy to benefit workers…needed to be reformed. Although a firm believer in capitalism, he understood that the rules of road could and would be violated by greedy miscreants which could and would create revolution as they had in Europe. For example, he brought into being monopoly laws that stopped the consolidation of entire industry sectors into the hands of one or two companies. Moreover, he grasped that capitalism could not survive if workers revolted against the entire system as a result of their poor treatment by companies.

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He understood what Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, wrote in his two books. Being a great reader, he also understood the theses of Edmund Burke. Using both of their ideas, he set about changing American society in a way that reduced greed as well as increased workers’ ability to demand respect for their labor, working conditions, and lives. History books and writers of that era filled libraries with the conflicts of workers against greedy employers…and newspapers of that era were filled with reports of the failure of employers to protect workers.

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All of this leads us to what occurred prior to the last election in So. Korea. Many commentators stated that So. Koreans were so used to corruption that they, by the millions, weren’t holding protest vigils against the corruption of the Park Administration so much as its incompetency. Nevertheless, So. Koreans voted en masse against the conservative government led by Park. Since Moon Jae-In became president, he and his government have worked tirelessly to root out corruption, bribery, and influence buying. I applauded the Moon Administration for its efforts, even as I worried that the change in Administrations signaled another governmental purge that became almost institutionalized throughout Korea’s [Joseon’s} history. But the Moon Administration, thus far, has proven itself to stand by the rule of law (most of which accords to and has been adopted from the USA). In previous generations, those who had money and power could bend the law in their favor. But, I posit, the modern Korean dramas helped changed that dynamic.

Modern Korean dramas highlight, even as a subtext, the corruption of a system that failed to protect ordinary people in favor of the greedy and wealthy. I must add that greed as defined by Korean culture is not just greed for money but also greed for power, prestige, influence, recognition, and overwhelming personal and ego driven desire. Thus, the dramas highlighted the conflict between honest, compassionate people against corrupt, greedy people. In every case, greedy people failed in their schemes, even with the often painful help of their children to overthrow the evil greed of their fathers and family. The essence is that honor and respect for everyone wins over selfish greed, regardless of whether the drama was a historical drama or a modern drama.

What is little noted is how that subtext of continuous and historic corruption has influenced So. Koreans thinking today. In the 1930s, Hollywood produced many movies plainly showing how the corruption on Wall St, added and abetted by government, led to the Great Depression and its’ devastating affects on average Americans. As a result, Americans were broadly supportive of FDR’s policies, including Ronald Reagan.

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That is not the case today. While So. Korea dramas, especially over the last decade, exhibit how greed affected its’ society and eventually changed how people thought, American TV has perpetuated the comic book myth of a strong leader who would save society from the bad guys. Pure insanity!

There is no strong man who will save average Americans from the depredations of a greedy, self-serving corporate America and their abettors in Congress, much less bring justice to all. Super Man, Batman, and all the other comic book heroes are pure myths. The only thing that will save America is the hard work of rooting out greed in all its forms…and returning the nation to its roots: a nation founded on the belief that governments are “for and by the people”. Yes, everyday people who work hard, save, struggle to survive, have compassion for those less fortunate, and believe in equal justice and the rule of law.

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Today’s So. Korea struggles to achieve those honorable, equitable ends even as much of the USA marches backwards in ways that would stun Teddy Roosevelt….

Written by Valerie Curl

June 12, 2018 at 4:31 PM

Save me, please!

with 6 comments

I need some help. After reading about Trump’s proposed appointments and his transition team and what the entire GOP is planning, I am more than ever convinced it’s time to leave my beloved country. I may be too old and too sickened of heart to fight the coming battles for heart and health of our country. I am not a liberal by choice but by a heritage that goes back nearly 300 years to the earliest days of the MA and CT settlements.

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Donald Trump during the Presidential Debates

Many among my family fought in the Revolutionary War and one received a medal from General Washington himself. In addition, nearly every side of my family, from those in Missouri, Kansas and Ohio to those in CT, Maine, Illinois and New York, fought to preserve the nation and end the evil of slavery during the Civil War. I have the pictures. My grandfathers fought in WWI and my father and uncles in WWII and Korea. My cousins in Vietnam and now my step-children wherever they are needed. I am proud of my family and their contributions to this great country. As someone who has moderately studied the history of my country, I am thoroughly ashamed by what I see occurring.

As a result of what I’m reading and seeing, including much Ku Klux Klan graffiti on walls, stores, and elsewhere, I am becoming far more serious about leaving the US. This decision hurts my heart. My family smuggled themselves out of England to avoid the anti-protestant ideology of King Charles. Others, as French Protestants, escaped to Holland and then to the English Isles to keep from being slaughtered by the French King because of their religious beliefs. Others from Scotland and Ireland were sent as slaves to the shores of US colonies because they sought freedom from England and freedom of religion.

Current background info on Trump Admin:

His transition team consists of bankers/investment CEOs, real estate moguls, supply siders (aka tax cutters for the wealthy), the disgraced New Jersey governor (2 high level members of his staff are on their way to jail and he may end up there too) and a steel mill owner as well as a large number of lobbyists. (I guess this is his version of clearing the swamp as he said during the campaign.)

Proposals for Cabinet offices include:

A rogues gallery of climate change deniers, major bank CEOs, oil company execs, and lobbyists from various industries. Yet, not one recognized economist or labor leader or foreign policy expert. It’s said that you can tell a person’s character by the company he keeps. If this melange of characters represent Trump, then heaven help everyone who is not supremely wealthy.

Already proposed legislation includes repealing Obamacare (The current plan takes 2 years to phase out completely Obamacare) with no replacement worked out except previously rejected GOP ideas that increase costs and leave millions more uninsured; overturning the Dodd-Frank financial regulations instituted after the financial meltdown in 2008l – thus, leaving Wall St free to go back to the same old practices and activities that causes the Great Recession and global financial meltdown; eliminating the CFPC, the agency that prevents financial companies  and banks from cheating consumers as in the recent Wells Fargo scam case; rolling back or eliminating environmental regs (and maybe the EPA altogether) so companies can pretty much do what they want, in the name of profits, regardless of the harm to the environment and the residents; dramatically cutting taxes for major companies and wealthy individuals while raising them on middle and low income people; block granting Medicaid with no restrictions so states could use that money for whatever choose; decreasing Medicaid and Food Stamp budgets by almost a 1/3 (if I’ve calculated correctly), leaving many millions of children facing homelessness and starvation; cutting medicare benefits while raising rates; increasing the retirement age for Social Security…and trying to privatize the program (a la IRAs that have worked so well vs pensions); eliminate head of household and individual deductions on tax filings so median and lower income families pay more in taxes with fewer deductions; eliminating taxes on investment income (i.e. dividends and sales of stocks) that basically only help the wealthy; reducing to corporate tax rates to 12% while leaving small business tax rates at current levels (if not higher); dramatically increased deficit spending (now that Obama will be out of office) on infrastructure (built with Chinese steel, etc – which is why the Chinese commodities markets climbed dramatically today); a trillion dollar expenditure on a wall between Mexico and the US that will be put on the national credit card; mass deportations of undocumented aliens and overturning the Obama rule that allowed undocumented young people to stay in the country, provided they attended college and did community service or joined the military; overturn Roe v Wade that allowed women  in consultation with their doctors to control their own reproductive system; and end all funding to Planned Parenthood which serves low income and college student women with all manner of women’s health screenings including cancer and STDs, birth control and family education, and lest one need reminding no where in the Bible does it discuss abortion, although it admonishes over and over again the need to take care widows and orphans, the sick and hunger, the homeless and forgotten, the helpless and forgotten; and finally – most disgusting of all – require Muslims to register with the government (disgustingly ugly shades of Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews).

Getting back to real life:

If you naively think this extreme agenda won’t pass, I remind you that extreme far right Republicans now own both houses of Congress and soon the Supreme Court. The entire federal government will be under their control…and Trump, meanwhile, will rubber stamp all that they desire no matter the consequences to average citizens.

If Americans had any sense or knowledge of their own history, they’d see that the current Republican agenda smacks of the 1880s when workers were abused and killed on the job without repercussions, when full time workers lived in cold water flats because that’s all they could afford, when farmers were financially abused by Wall St banks and put out of business, when government sided with big business to steal private property for far less than market value, when small businesses were put out of business by government protected large businesses and organized business trade associations, and when collusion and corruption  – i.e. vote buying  – ran rampant through state, local and federal governments. But Americans don’t know their history…and don’t care to learn. They can barely remember what occurred ten years ago, let alone who the nation’s leaders are today. We’ve become a nation of idiots!

A strong and healthy nations is one with healthy and incorruptible institutions of government: legislatures, courts, law and justice. When belief in these institutions fail, nations fail. 

That is what is occurring right now and will be accelerated under a Trump adminstration. I can guarantee it. History provides ample examples.

Thus, my query:

I’m lucky in many respects in that I’m very old, retired, and a white person. But these GOP and Trump proposals which target the poor and desperate offends everything I was taught in Baptist Sunday school, offends everything Robert F. Kennedy taught me about caring for the poor and those left behind; offends everything I learned from the Old Testament Biblical prophets; offends everything I’ve read about Jesus in the New Testament – indeed it feels like Jesus is once again being crucified by the [money-grubbing] Romans and Pharisees; offends everything Jefferson, Madison and Washington wrote prior to the Continental Congress; offends Madison and Hamilton who wrote most of the Federalist papers; offends Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence; offends Franklin’s beliefs and ideals in a progressive republic; offends the very nature of a caring, compassionate and respectful humanity as Buddhists’ state. It offends decency itself.

I am no longer proud of this nation,  This nation that I have loved so dearly has now chosen a president who has gleefully stomped on every one of Ten Commandments, is vulgar and vile in speech and disrespectful of others in action, and cares nothing about anyone other than himself. If he is a symbol of what this country has become, then I want no part of it. While I hate leaving my beloved country, I all too much feel compelled to follow the precedent of my ancestors and leave.

So, my friends, help me if you will in finding somewhere in this world where compassion, respect, and understanding still exist. I am not wealthy…Wall St saw to that. As a result, many harmonious countries will not accept me as I don’t have the financial resources they require and I’m far too old now to start in business all over again. What I seek is peace and joy and contentment and respect for both nature and the people around me. If you will, please help me find such a place…and God willing, I can convince my family to go with me as I cannot live without them and the joy they bring me.

Written by Valerie Curl

November 10, 2016 at 8:53 PM

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized

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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