Is it Important to know the sources of Truth? – Henry David Thoreau, Yes and Know

Maybe it has always been this way, but why does it seem so vital to associate an insightful aphorism with a famous person?

“Truth strikes us from behind, and in the dark, as well as from before and in broad day-light.”

Who wrote this? Henry David Thoreau.  Beautiful in its truth and simplicity.  But what if some insignificant playwright put these words on Thoreau’s lips in his play?  Would it be less insightful?

There is a plague of mis-quotations, mis-attributions, and quotation mills, (e.g. brainyquotes.com) who do nothing to verify what people add to their sites.  I see these un-researched and inaccurate quotes used by people of incredible ability because the Internet makes it easy to be wrong and believe you are right.

When I first started seeing these “quotes.” and discovered how few were accurate, I spent months trying to raise the alarm about quotes attributed to Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Winston Churchill, and other notable historic figures.  Even after blazing the trail to truth, people shrugged and continued their reliance on provably unreliable websites.

One personal experience, before the current craze, happened to me in Colorado, while I was on a month-long “Chautauqua” through the Rocky Mountains.  A friendly lady gave me a bookmarker with a quotation from Henry David Thoreau.  “Many men fish all their lives without ever realizing that it is not the fish they are after.”  Very touching and insightful, but a misquote by a writer, Michael Baughman, who wrote it in his book A River Seen Right (Lyons Press, 1995) p. 156.

He apparently paraphrased something Thoreau wrote in his journal, January 26, 1853:

“It is remarkable that many men will go with eagerness to Walden Pond in the winter to fish for pickerel and yet not seem to care for the landscape. Of course, it cannot be merely for the pickerel they may catch; there is some adventure in it; but any love of nature which they may feel is certainly very slight and indefinite. They call it going a-fishing, and so indeed it is, though perchance, their natures know better. Now I go a-fishing and a-hunting every day, but omit the fish and the game, which are the least important part. I have learned to do without them. They were indispensable only as long as I was a boy. I am encouraged when I see a dozen villagers drawn to Walden Pond to spend a day in fishing through the ice, and suspect that I have more fellows than I knew, but I am disappointed and surprised to find that they lay so much stress on the fish which they catch or fail to catch, and on nothing else, as if there were nothing else to be caught.”

I wonder, if today, this aphorism captures our current, self-absorbed culture?  Maybe today, the “fishing” is taking “selfies” and exposing every aspect of people’s experience and perspective on the Internet.  They get noticed but not notorious, or famous, or even infamous.  They become suicidal when virtual phantoms express disdain and scorn.

Everybody seems to be fishing for something, but what do they really want and why?

What they may really want is proof, and acknowledgment that they exist and have a value, and a meaning.  Why do they want it?  Maybe the disintegration of family, neighborhood, community leaves a void they cannot fill.  Maybe this secular dissociation leaves people feeling empty, afraid, and alone.

Could it be that what they really want is what families and churches used to provide:  love and belonging?

Sails or Sea Anchors? – Who Do We Need as Our National Leaders?

What happens when what always works does not?  What happens to leaders who are blinded by the momentum of power from past successes?  Equally fair, what happens to leaders who are thrust into power by overreactions to the establishment?  Answer:  nothing good.

A maelstrom of entropy is looming over us, the world’s only superpower.  Quixotic tilting against objectified “evil-minded devils” fills our bandwidths.  Our national cortisol has spiked to threatening levels.  Our unity as Americans has disappeared, deflated by our own in-fighting.  Mean-spirited feuding has become our national sport.

Why, in less than two decades, have we Americans let our powerful family disintegrate from compromise and cooperation into rabid rabble-rousing, closely paralleling the vicious personal attacks, and snipes that preceded the Civil War?  Has such hyperbolic, gladiatorial nastiness become the minimum standard for political success?  Has the anonymity of virtual communications emboldened us to self-righteously attack and degrade people we do not know?

The winds of political change are blowing furiously in all directions; sails of power are becoming sea anchors of defeat; populist cannons are blasting broadside the galleons of the establishment; long-time admirals of state are too far from the shores of reconciliation to avoid going down with ships of hubris.

Who is ready to transform our thinking, our attitudes, and our beliefs about one another?  Who is ready to turn our swords into plowshares, to make peace with our greatness, and to make room for other ideas?  Who is prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans and salute.  Isn’t anyone else tired of this war?

 

 

 

Is the FBI One Person? – A New Director Will Carry the Baton

I am no staff opinion writer for the Washington Post, but all the squabble over Comey’s firing dazzles me.  Was Comey the only person investigating?  Who is running the store now?  Nobody?  Isn’t the FBI still investigating?  The FBI is not one person, is it?

Will the new director or deputy director stop the investigation?  At best, changing directors or putting his deputy in charge is a very temporary delay.  Won’t Comey’s backup or replacement take the reins?  I am no lawyer, but passing the baton is not the same as stopping the race.

Doesn’t an obstruction block the way?  I do not see anything stopping.  Isn’t the point of all these inquiries to find the facts?  Don’t we really want the results?

As to Sessions’ actions, why don’t we see what he was asked regarding Mr. Comey?  Just as Comey was not the FBI, Comey’s dismissal was not dismissal of the FBI investigation.

Re the recusal:  No attorney general could operate within the critics’ broad theory that Sessions’ recusal of matters relating to the investigation, includes matters relating to anyone in the FBI.  I guess the Justice Department could add all sorts of knotty issues to the newly appointed special counsel’s agenda, conjoining the various conspiracy theories.  That way Robert Mueller’s name can fill the newsways for a while.

What I detect is a strong appetite for the process, per se.  The news media have a voracious appetite for spectacular “content.”  What good are results versus chances to publicly speculate, ruminate, accuse, and read minds?  Who could pass up  opportunities to castigate, lambast, and assassinate national reputations? – oh dear, the excitement, my heart, I think I’ve got the “vapuz.”

Democrat in Republican’s Clothing – George W. Bush

George W. Bush supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.  He has become an ersatz Republican elitist, who still thinks he is right to oppose President Trump.  He remains a sore loser, who did not get his way.  He is worse than the Democrats who continue to moan and groan because they lost the election.  George is a Democrat in Republican’s clothing.  It appears that his mission is not yet accomplished.

“Wolf in sheep’s clothing” is a term for something that seems innocent, but is a lethal enemy.  Nothing could be a worse disguised enemy than someone who pretends to be in the same political party, but who attacks the president, being not too careful in hiding his true feelings.

Who would want the return to elite political power more than GWB?  He was born, raised, and steeped in the rarified, upper echelons of the Republican party.

The Associated Press published part of a recent interview, at a book promotion in Simi, CA.  Bush asserted that receding from global interaction creates a vacuum that would be filled with “… people who don’t share the ideology, the same sense of human rights and human dignity and freedom that we do,”

On his assertion of what will fill vacuums:  Just exactly what countries does he mean?  Does he really think we have friends in every nation into which we pour money?  No, they still hate us, but they love our money.  Does he think adversarial ideology will take over Europe, Britain, Mexico, etcetera?  It must be much more complicated than I thought.

Whoever tries to fill the “vacuums” will do so at their financial peril.  Estimated total foreign aid by Russia and China combined was less than half of US expenditures.  If these evil forces had enough money, they would already have forced us to find other places to put our dollars.

What would be lost by focusing on our internal problems?  I read recently that our foreign aid expenditures total about 1% of our budget.  I also read that only 34% of our budget is discretionary.

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/aug/17/facebook-posts/pie-chart-federal-spending-circulating-internet-mi/

That means 1% is really 3% of our discretionary expenses.  With a total 2016 budget of about $4.15 trillion, $42.4 billion goes to “foreign assistance.”  (And everyone made a big deal about Trump’s proposed $54 billion increase in military spending; just 1.35% of the total budget.;)

In the interview, Bush stated that he, “… didn’t intend to criticize Trump when he said recently that a free press is essential to democracy. Trump has referred to the press as the “enemy of the people.” Bush said at the library, the nation needed an independent press, but added that it needs to be accurate.”

The “independent press” used to be 98% news, and 2% editorials; today, editorials are more like 50 to 100% from many sources on both the left and the right.  That changes the character of the press from providing information, to publishing propaganda.  This is an abuse of the public platform and audiences.  This is a perversion of journalism.

Wikipedia says, ” Journalism is the production and distribution of reports on the interaction of events, facts, ideas, and people that are the “news of the day,” and that informs society to, at least, some degree.”  Note that the word “reports” means relays, or conveys factual information about what happens, without interpretation.  Also note the chagrin of “at least some degree.”

Spin, commentary, opinions, editorials, exaggerations, conflation, are not reports.  Neither are unbalanced, “soft ball” interviews with only strongly opinionated, partisan, advocates or critics, selected to advance an ideological agenda.  (e.g. Fox, MSNBC, CNN) That is propaganda.

The BBC is the best example of journalism today.  They clearly delineate news from opinion, and entertainment.  Walter Cronkite is a shining example of the qualities of journalists, and the journalism of the past.  Persuasion is not the intent of true journalism.

What if a news source is not accurate, on purpose?  What if the “free press” is vicious, verging on hate speech?  What if their articles contain accurate facts, wrapped in overwhelming opinions, “newspeak,” “analysis,” and commentary that is clearly inaccurate, subjective, and savagely slanted in scope and innuendo?  What do you call an organization that is staunchly, and consistently opposed to the elected government of the USA, almost to the point of sedition, subversion, insurgence, even insurrection?  What kind of “free press” pounces on, and amplifies every mistake?  What good is a free press that fearfully, and angrily projects, and postulates every possible, negative, future outcome of executive proposals?  Does a free press overlook, denigrate, and downplay every positive possible scenario to extinction, or discredit?

I appreciate GWB’s talent as a painter; he was president during the most shocking attack on American soil since WW II.  His standard-issue ideas, elitist disloyalty, and blindness to the enemy within is not what we need right now.  We do not need disgruntled words from a veteran patrician.  But I do not mean to criticize him.

 

Illegal Voter Investigation – Mr. President, Please Let It Go

Mr. President:

A friend of mine shared a great piece of wisdom with me 35 years ago: “Something not worth doing is not worth doing well.”

I believe the President of the United States has plenty to do just fulfilling his campaign promises and doing his job.  Please find a gracious way to let go of this focus on the popular vote.  It is not worth doing.

Think of the effort and expense involved; the country needs every minute, and every penny devoted to national needs.  One of our needs is to get our country back together again.  Prolonging the rancor that drove so many Americans to distraction cannot make things better with your former opponents.

How about a cost benefit analysis?  Ask yourself, what would change?  What would be the gains?  What would be the costs, financially, politically, and personally?

  • If you are 100% right, or partially right and had a majority
  • If you are partially right and had less than the majority
  • If the investigation finds no significant voter fraud

Why give the enemy an opportunity to inflict more wounds in a fruitless battle?

Sir, you have already won the war.  Let us have peace.

The March? -Fog of Vague Purposes

Remember “Occupy Wall Street?” More currently, “Black Lives Matter?”  And the latest example, “Women’s March?”  They have this much in common:

  • Loose Organization
  • Diverse Membership
  • Aggregate Complaints
  • Unfocused Intentions
  • Non-Specific Proposals
  • Outdoor Meetings
  • Catchy Names

“Occupy Wall Street” was pretty much just news items about their encampment.  “Black Lives Matter” fails to note that Federal statistics show that 80-90% of murdered “black lives that matter” are victims of black killers.  Half of all murder victims, nationally, are black; blacks are less than 15% of the population.  Where is that protest and call to action?

In the context of this protest, do they mean “Black, Mexican, Muslim, LGBTQ, Women’s Lives Matter?”  Or do they mean “Black, Young, Men’s Lives Matter,” but this just happens to be a women’s march?  Just what do they mean?

It seems that the “Women’s March” was all about disappointment, fear, and frustration transformed into pink anger.  Disappointment that Hillary did not win, fear that women’s rights will be undermined, and frustration that women do not receive equal pay.

Trump became the effigy to blame for everything.

Misogyny:  How many participants, do you think, could cite specific instances when President Trump recently disrespected women who were not attacking him?  Where is the acknowledgement of the nonchalant treatment of wives and women by iconic presidents such as JFK, and Bill Clinton?

If the marchers are promoting equality for women, his business organizations reflect great respect for women by hiring them, promoting them into management and paying them well; sounds like equality to me.  Why not ask women who work for the Trump organization how they feel about their misogynist boss?

Immigration:  First, Trump got trapped in the “Newspeak” of the way we use “immigrant.”  Many foreign nationals, from many countries, apply for visas, “green cards,” and citizenship every year.  Those who gain permanent residence or citizenship can rightly be called immigrants.  A great number of Americans are immigrants or children of immigrants.

The proponents of unlimited immigration and aligned journalists fought to not use the legal term “alien.”  They insisted on substituting “______-immigrant” until it became commonplace.  The problem is that non-hyphenated, legal immigrants heard these “_______-immigrants” being criticized and threatened, and felt included in that group; they took personally the anger, fear, and distain.

By verbally lumping the “_______-immigrants” together with immigrant citizens, they built support for their open-borders philosophy.  If we had stuck with “aliens,” and “foreign nationals,” the citizens would not have felt combined with them.

Exactly, what did he say about Mexicans?  Not just the clips, the whole statements. He said that among the illegal migrants were, drug smugglers, human traffickers, fugitive criminals, including murders, and rapists.  Is that true?  Yes.  Trump’s opponents extracted this description and implied that he meant ALL Mexicans fit these profiles.

Muslims:  Trump wants to limit and vet prospective refugees entering the US from Islamist countries tied to terrorism.  He wants Muslim communities to help identify and thwart jihadist terrorists.

Women who live in Muslim countries might not be sympathetic with the complaints of the marchers; certainly, they would or could not march on their capitals protesting.  Why not ask Muslim-American women what they would face if they went home to Arabia and Africa?  What would you face going there as a Christian?  Count your blessings that you live here in America.

There are no government proposals or actions right now that threaten women; he just took office Friday.  All the rhetoric is about what could happen; what rights they fear might be lost; what affronts they fear they may face.  Fear is a factor, but not fact

The one thing that stands out to me is concern about reversing Roe v. Wade.  I understand opposition to abortion challenges.  I support safe, informed, reasoned choice for every woman.  So, focus on defending that right or you risk people writing you off as generally disappointed with the election results, and righteously irritated at the challenges of being a woman.

The last point is this:  What do you propose, aside from replacing Donald Trump?  Many commentators have shrugged their shoulders about the purposes of the march because the marchers are not clear about what they are championing.  It was a shame that all the time, money, effort, and commitment it took to get people on the streets ended in a fog of vague purposes.

How Much Equality Do You Want? – Animal Farm?

The Power of Words

Ayn Rand authored several books that captured the attentions of whole generations of rational American readers during a cataclysmic battle between individualism and collectivism.  She was born Jewish in Russia in St. Petersburg, in 1905; prophetically, this was a year of Revolution that began with the tsar’s Imperial Guard firing on a peaceful workers’ demonstration, killing 200, wounding 800, and ended with the formation of the first Duma (lower house of parliament).

The turmoil continued with the people and the aristocracy battling over the supremacy of the tsar.  Ayn grew up during the First World War, the rise of the Bolsheviks, the fall of the Tsar, the death of Lenin, and the union of the communist soviets.

She graduated from Petrograd State University in 1924, 2 years into the formation of the Soviet Union.  She came to the United States in 1926, and became a US citizen in 1931. She witnessed the collectivism of the USSR, and the rise of Stalin, from America, as the global depression suffocated economies and hope; as the world precipitated into war.

Her plays and books advocated reason over emotion, and individualism over collectivism.  Among my favorites are “Anthem,” and “Atlas Shrugged.”  “Anthem” describes a world in which there is no word for “I” or “me;” “mine” or “yours.”  All personal pronouns are collective.  She demonstrated the power of language in controlling the minds of people.

The Myth of Equality = Good

“Atlas Shrugged” tells the story of talented, creative, productive people whose individual efforts and contributions benefit average citizens; they profit personally from their efforts.  When these people are hounded and what they produce is confounded, and impounded, they escape to a hidden, peaceful, prosperous place populated by others like themselves.  They were “inequal” in the parlance of today.  Their society lost the benefits of their gifts.

George Orwell wrote a book, “Animal Farm,” which was required reading in my high school English class.  It tells the story of farm animals taking over the farm because of inequality.  They establish 7 commandments of “Animalism,” the seventh of which was “All Animals are Equal.”  The operation of “Animalism” proved very unequal.

A Call to Collectivism

Now we have lots of vague talk about “inequality.”

Question:  Where and when have equalities ever existed among humans?

Certainly, humans have been born all over the globe and across a wide spectrum of attributes, but nothing has ever been equal on any measurable attribute.  The only “equality” experiments I know of are utopian communes, and communist governments, none of which have had durable successes, except perhaps, to spread poverty and suffering equally among members and comrades.

The most glaring example of equality today, is North Korea.  I am sure the average American pines and prays to have that thrill of starvation and repression in the name of equality.  Oh, and some comrades are more equal than others.

The Absence of Definition & Context

The term “income inequality” is not a recent invention.  Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men, in 1754.  He describes two types of inequality:

Natural, Physical– differences one human’s body and another

Ethical, Moral – wealth, nobility, power, personal merit.

He proposes that natural, solitary man is a savage who lacks language, reason, and society. He is not motivated by fear of death, because he cannot conceive of it. He is only corrupted by social association with other men, causing:

  • Competition – best dancer, singer, strongest, fastest, handsomest, smartest
  • Self-Comparison with Others – ranking, e.g. second-best, IQ, “the Joneses”
  • Hatred – envy, jealousy, covetous, fear, anger
  • Urge for Power – dominance, entitlement, control

This led to the source and basis of inequality:  private property.

Angus Maddison, a respected economic historian tracked global income inequality of 25 nations since 1820.  His findings show increases in globalization were the major factor in disparity of incomes.  Retreats from globalization resulted in lower inequality.

The recent rants about “inequality” sound like envy to me.  Envy is not constructive.  The authors neither define equality nor any acceptable level of inequality; they also omit the context, methods and means of achieving less inequality; the ranters do not appear to have a clue about the sources of wealth, business success, or any idea what they are proposing.  This is evident from the example they have chosen to shock the reading public.

The Eight Richest People on Earth have wealth equal to half the people on Earth.  Sounds amazing, until one does the math or looks at who these men are.  Wealth is defined as: $Assets – $Debts.  It does not mean income.  These eight men have $485 billion dollars’ worth of valuable assets more than what they owe*.

Who What Arena Billions**
Bill Gates * Microsoft Computer Software           91.0
Amancio Ortega* Zara and Inditex Fashion Retail           71.2
Warren Buffett* Berkshire Hathaway Investments           73.6
Carlos Slim Helu* America Movil Telecom           49.4
Jeff Bezos* Amazon Computer Retail           67.2
Mark Zuckerberg* Facebook Computer Social Media           50.8
Larry Ellison* Oracle Computer Software           41.8
Michael Bloomberg* Bloomberg Investments           40.0

*Created their own companies

**Bloomberg reports as of 12/31/2016

I am not astonished at these numbers, nor that six of the eight are Americans, nor that five of the eight are in technology.  Look at what they have built.  Think of the services and products they have created and distributed to willing buyers.  Their wealth is the result of creating value for others.  All of them created the companies that represent most of their wealth.

What astonishes me is the fact that 3.6 billion people, (including children) own an average of $135 each.  Who do you know who has $135 total wealth?  Think; who owes more than they own?  Anyone who has a job, rents an apartment, has no savings, uses credit cards, and borrows money to buy a car, or go to college.  During the recent recession, plenty of people were “under water” on their mortgaged homes.  That is here in America; I am sure Asia, the Middle East, India, Central America, South America, and Africa have plenty of poor people with no prospects for improvement.  Whose responsibility are they?

It is unclear what the article is suggesting, but the point is lost on me.  It sounds like envy.

The only thing this article suggests to me is, that if you took every penny from the world’s 8 richest people, and distributed it among the 3.6 billion poorest people, they each would have $135 more than they have now, and we would not have the services and goods these eight produce.

Our Glass House

One thing that stands out about the debate over equality is the way Americans limit their geographic boundaries.  We seem to talk about inequality only within national borders.  Income and wealth disparity is greatest among nations.

If you want to silence a discussion of inequality, mention this: The USA has 4.5% of the world’s population and owns 33.2% of the world’s wealth. We Americans would have to give up 86.4% of what we have, to equalize wealth with the other 7.2 billion people in the world.  Is that what the authors propose?  I doubt it.

One estimate of the total wealth on our planet is $255 quadrillion dollars.  That would mean about $36,000 per person when divided by 7.5 billion people.  However, infrastructure, education, access, communications, logistics, culture, climate, security, resources, health, age, and many other elements are not evenly distributed or available.  Some societies do not allow women to own property or have money unless it is controlled by a man.  Other societies are so corrupt that what they have is stolen from them at every turn.

History suggests that even if all assets were evenly distributed, the money would soon be redistributed to the few who provide the goods and services for the many.

Bloomberg’s listing of billionaires includes 197 whose total wealth is $3 trillion.  I do not know what percentage of the world’s population that matches, but it is about 15% of the $20 trillion national debt of the USA.  That would be $2.86 for every person in the world; $62,700 for each man, woman, and child in America.  What would be the average wealth of an American if we subtracted $62,700 from their net worth to pay the debt?

A Bigger Pie

Consider this:  those who decry inequality pose it as a problem, but offer no solutions.  What would the authors of the inequality protest recommend to raise the wealth of the earth’s inhabitants without confiscating the value created by others?