If the public has to rely on authority figures to tell them what countries are authoritarian and why they may not recognize it in their own country until it is too late.
Violence can be prevented
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
If the public has to rely on authority figures to tell them what countries are authoritarian and why they may not recognize it in their own country until it is too late.
This has happened in many counties including Germany under Hitler and USSR under Stalin; it would be foolish to automatically assume it can’t happen in the USA without understanding the basic principles of how authoritarianism develops
Usually when many people think of authoritarianism they think of the most brutal dictators without thinking about how they got that way. This didn’t happen overnight and these authoritarians couldn’t rule without the cooperation of the people that follow them.
There are some exceptions but they don’t receive nearly as much attention as they could and should. Most credible psychologists agree that long term patterns of behavior start early in childhood and evolve from there. Authoritarianism is no exception whether it is those that are following orders or giving them or in many cases both. The researchers that have done the best job, that I know of, addressing how this applies to authoritarianism include Alice Miller and Philip Greven (some work from each is cited below). There are many more researchers that agree that child abuse leads to more violent behavior as adults, including domestic violence and paranoia but few of them do as good a job addressing how it leads to authoritarianism. There are also more researchers that address other aspects of authoritarianism but few that address how it starts. When children are abused they are much more likely to be raised in an authoritarian manner. Both Greven and Miller have explored how when children are “educated” by using corporal punishment to teach them right from wrong as well as to teach them the difference between accurate beliefs and false beliefs they learn to believe what they’re told whether it makes sense or not. This often starts before they even learn how to talk. In one instance Greven cites Larry Christenson who says “The bible… does not say ‘children obey your parents when they are right’ it says ‘obey your parents in the lord, for this is right’- even when they are wrong! (see Ephesians 6;1) the child who obeys a ‘wrong’ command will still bask in the light of Gods approval.” He also cites Roy Lessin who says “A parent’s directive does not have to be reasonable to be obeyed.” Another quote from Sarah Edwards says “that until a child will obey his parents, he can never be brought to obey God.” All these Christian educators recommend using corporal punishment to “teach” the child to obey and in many cases this is the same method they use to teach them to adopt the appropriate Christian beliefs. These types of educational methods are much more common than many people realize and they were even more popular a hundred years ago. They have also been used to teach children other beliefs including Muslim Jewish and secular beliefs. If this begins at a very early age the child may be more concerned about avoiding pain than about sorting through accurate facts from the beliefs that have been dictated to them. This pattern of behavior often stays with them throughout their entire lives.
This often escalates when they go to school; in many cases teachers have also used corporal punishment to discipline and even educate the children. This isn’t nearly as common as it used to be which may explain why some people are much less inclined to blindly obey authority. When the Vietnam War was initiated by the USA there was little or no opposition. It wasn’t until years later that the protest movement began. When Reagan fought several wars in Central America he relied on proxy armies that were controlled by client states but there was more opposition much earlier. This never received as much attention as the opposition to the Vietnam War partly because it didn’t involve using US forces which resulted in the loss of US lives; however the opposition arose much quicker from those that did protest it.
An authoritarian attitude is more likely when violence escalates throughout life without many if any efforts to change this. In school it may show in bullying and peer pressure where children are encouraged to conform if they want to fit in. this often involves going along with the leader who in many cases may attempt to ostracize anyone who doesn’t go along with the program. In college or in military academy it is often reinforced by hazing which plebes or cadets have to go through in order to get into a fraternity or the military. Boot camp is a form of hazing that encourages the cadets to obey without question. They are taught to accept what they are told no matter what and obey orders. This is a very important factor when it comes to understanding why people like Lynndie England wind up involved in the scandal at Abu Ghraib. She was surely raised in an authoritarian manner. According to the Guardian ‘She says her mother once hit her so hard with a table tennis bat that it broke, but considers that normal for West Virginia. "I mean, yeah, we were brought up right. If we were out of line, we got spanked. We got privileges taken away. We had to do chores, dishes. Mow the grass."’ What she refers to being “brought up right” is what Greven and Miller describe as child abuse that leads to authoritarianism and violent tendencies. When you combine early abuse with military indoctrination and peer pressure you wind up with a soldier that is much more likely to go rogue especially when that is what they’re ordered to do and that is what everyone else is doing. This is similar to what happened in Nazi Germany only on a much smaller scale. They were raised in an authoritarian manner and they followed orders.
Stanley Milgram did a series of experiments in the sixties studying obedience to authority. This experiment involved having two people who play teacher and learner. They would pick a slip of paper to find out which was which. One of the “research subjects” was part of the research team pretending to be a research subject; when they picked lots they would both pick a piece that said they were the teacher but the team member would say he picked the student slip. The real subject would be told the purpose of the experiment was to see how well the learner would learn if he received escalating shocks for wrong answers. This might raise alarm bells today to many people since this doesn’t seem like a rational way to educate people; however thirty five years ago as I said strict disciplinary education was more common than it is today so for them it may have seen more acceptable and the explanation may have been more convincing than the one I described or even that what Milgram described in his book. The experiment showed that a surprising number of people were willing to go to the maximum voltage even in at least one case when the subject was given the impression that the learner was dead. Greven expressed regret that Milgram didn’t look into the childhood of the subjects to find out if that had something to do with why they obeyed orders. In “A Matter of Torture” Alfred McCoy pointed out that this experiment was supported by the Office of Naval Research and he indicated he thought Milgram may have been working for the CIA. This experiment may have been an attempt to study obedience to authority for other reasons; perhaps to understand better how to ensure obedience in both the military and the CIA. McCoy also believes this may have been one of the research projects that the CIA did that helped them develop the torture techniques which were used in Central America and at Abu Ghraib and many other locations. This clearly indicates the possibility that those in power are studying psychology for the purposes of keeping the people under their control. This isn’t limited to obedience to authority; James Garbarino has also indicated that there has been research done to study psychology to help marketers to understand how to better appeal to children starting at a very young age. He mentions an attempt to raise ethical questions about this practice in the American Psychology Association which he seemed to be in favor of but failed to pass. Advertisers also pray on the authoritarian attitude. They count on the consumer believing what they’re told from what appears to be authority figures.
Once you recognize the authoritarian profile it may help to recognize it in many characters including fictional characters to recognize how realistic they are. For example in the God father they presented it accurately up to a point however sometimes they romanticized the mafia by omitting certain aspects. In the first movie when Vito criticized Santino for letting people outside of the family know what he was thinking it was in a authoritarian way but it was behind closed doors so it wouldn't impair respect that is considered due to an adult. However in God father two they presented both Michael Corleone and Vito Corleone as loving parents. Michael Corleone was presented a little more realistically when they showed him treating his wife in an authoritarian way but Vito was portrayed in a manor where he loved both his wife and kids loyally. A more reliable perception of the authoritarian manner of a Crime boss was portrayed by john Gotti in a prison tape which has been released to the public where he talks about some trouble with his grandchild. He uses graphic language to explain how he would straighten this kid out by teaching him discipline with force. He wasn't doing it in practice of course but it indicates how he almost certainly raised his own children. In other ways this may be an accurate way to portray the way acknowledgement of child abuse is often suppressed. If you read many memoirs or other reports of early childhood this is routinely swept under the rug. In some cases people like Miller and Dorothy Otnow Lewis have done the investigation necessary to look deeper and find the truth. They have often been accused of finding what they are looking for even when it isn’t there. Even if these two didn’t do this I’m sure there are cases where this has turned out to be the truth. In some cases investigated by Dorothy Otnow Lewis she searched for and found corroborating evidence including back up witnesses, scars from old injuries and hospital and police records of old incidents to back up many of the claims of abuse inflicted on people that often wound up on death row for murder. Furthermore in most cases the people on death row didn’t make the accusations in the first places or they did so only reluctantly after consulting with a psychologist. Most victims of child abuse from an early age are in denial and some of the text that Greven cites indicates that the advocates of corporal punishment know that abuse inflicted on children early on are forgotten and they count on it to justify their beliefs. They actually seem to believe that since children are too young to remember being “disciplined” that it has no long term effects.
If you review political activity and the biographies of many of the most powerful people you will often find clear signs of authoritarian attitudes if you know what to look for. One of the clearest and most extreme cases in the USA is Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon was paranoid manipulative and prone to violence with the control of the US military and nuclear weapons in his hands. According to Robert Dallek’s book “Nixon and Kissinger” ‘Nixon’s childhood was much more tumultuous and troublesome than he let on. Frank Nixon, his father, was a boisterous, unpleasant man who needed to dominate everyone-“a ‘punishing and often brutal’ father.” Edward Nixon, the youngest of the Nixon children described his “mother as the judge and my father as the executioner.”’ (p.5) there is ample evidence to indicate that Nixon was raised in an authoritarian way and to indicate that it followed him throughout life; and it seems as if many of the people in his administration were probably also raised in an authoritarian way although this book and most other books don’t review the early upbringing of most of them. There is enough in this book to indicate that Kissinger and probably Haig clearly were raised in an authoritarian way. Dallek only briefly covers Kissinger’s childhood, which was presumably harder to investigate since it was in prewar Germany, but he provides enough to raise some questions and there is more about his activities in his college life that clearly indicates an authoritarian attitude. Kissinger chose William Y Elliot, one of the two most powerful members of the government department at Harvard, as his mentor in college. Elliot was clearly an authoritarian. He made Kissinger stand there and wait while he finished his work when he approached him; then he said “Oh God, another tutee.” Then he gave him a list of twenty five books by Immanuel Kant to read and told him to write a paper on him. Kissinger surprised him by reading all twenty five books and coming up with a long paper that impressed Elliot. This led him to believe that Kissinger was a promising student, perhaps even a genius. A closer look at Kissinger’s record at that time and since then may raise some doubts about the quality of Kissinger’s “genius” work; however it may have appealed to another authoritarian that adopted the same beliefs. Elliot was a abrupt large southern politician and academic that staged cockfights in his spare time. It appears as if he was dominating and may have used coercion to get his point across. This shouldn’t be considered a desirable characteristic in the academic world where ideas should be judged based on their merit not on the influence of the advocate of the ideas; however I suspect that in too many cases this still goes on even today. I’ve heard of many other powerful people in the academic world that are almost certainly authoritarians or at least have some authoritarian characteristics including John Silber, Gregory Mankiw, Samuel Huntington, Philip Zimbardo, Condoleezza Rice and of course Henry Kissinger himself. Some of these people are still in positions of power in the academic world or the government. A more thorough review of how many people in the academic world may be helpful. I suspect it may raise doubts about many of the most controversial subjects and the way they’re being taught.
This is just the beginning of the authoritarian characteristics of both Nixon and Kissinger as well as many of the other people in his administration and the administrations of other presidents. They both believed in the escalating threat of violence to settle disputes and neither one of them knew many if any other ways to deal with situations. They often claimed they did but most of what they did was done behind closed doors; what they would tell the public would often be something like “we used shuttle diplomacy” or something but many of the documents and tapes that have been released since then indicates that mainly what they did is use intimidation tactics.
Daniel Ellsberg cited this excerpt from a conversation he had with Kissinger in his book ‘Kissinger said to Ellsberg “How can you conduct diplomacy without a threat of escalation? Without that there is no basis for negotiations.” Ellsberg replied “Well, Henry, a lot of negotiation, a lot of bargaining, does go on in the world without a threat of bombing.” ‘(“Secrets” p235)
The following excerpts from Robert Dallek’s book also indicates an authoritarian attitude within the Nixon Whitehouse:
What if a revolutionary state were in pursuit of a just cause and a status quo nation were serving unjust goals? A colleague asked Kissinger. “If I had to choose between justice and disorder, on the one hand,” Kissinger replied, “and injustice and order, on the other, I would always choose the latter.” (Robert Dallek “Nixon and Kissinger” 2007 p.46)
He (Nixon) told Haldeman that he was relying on what he called “the Madman theory.” He believed that the North Vietnamese would see him as ready to “do anything to stop the war. We’ll just slip the word to them that, ‘for God’s sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about Communism. We can’t restrain him when he is angry-and he has his hands on the nuclear button’- and Ho Chi Minh will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.” (Robert Dallek “Nixon and Kissinger” 2007 p.106) References to the “Madman theory” were made on numerous occasions.
During the trip to Europe, after he received reports of additional Soviet construction in Cuba, he instructed Haig to take a hard line with Dobrynin. It was a mistake to give Haig, a no-nonsense general with little appreciation for diplomatic subtleties the assignment. Or it may be that Kissinger anticipated Haig’s tough talk. Haig told Dobrynin that they were violating the 1962 ban on offensive weapons in Cuba and ordered him to dismantle the base or “we will do it for you.” Dobrynin flushed angrily, and said, “In a loud voice, ‘You are threatening the Soviet Union. That is …intolerable.’”
When told of the exchange, Nixon and Kissinger were “furious…You have exceeded your authority,” Henry shouted at him over the phone. “You can’t talk to the Russians that way. You may have started a war.” Kissinger knew better, but he felt compelled to reflect Nixon’s distress at Haig’s intemperate language. He was undoubtedly pleased that Haig had said what his position of greater authority precluded him from saying. (Robert Dallek “Nixon and Kissinger” 2007 p.229-30)
Nixon countered, with implicit reference to the twenty-seven-year Soviet domination of eastern Europe, “Small nations object to having their fate decided by larger ones.” He then softened his remarks by declaring that “we wouldn’t want to anger Albania.” When the laughter subsided, Gromyko exclaimed sarcastically, “That is a very noble intention.” (Robert Dallek “Nixon and Kissinger” 2007 p.395)
It is difficult to understand how anyone could work for someone as volatile and irrational as Nixon sometimes was. Most likely, Kissinger and others rationalized their collaboration as helping to save Nixon from himself. After all, he was a democratically elected president and they saw themselves as serving the national well-being by reigning him in. Yet what seems so striking in the record is how often the people around Nixon catered to his outbursts and flights of fancy rather than calling him back to reality by challenging some of his most unsavory and unenforceable demands. It was a way to remain at Nixon’s side but it was a disservice to sensible policy making. It also speaks volumes about the reluctance of high government officials to alienate a president and perhaps force their departure from an office they believe gives them the chance to shape history making events. (Robert Dallek “Nixon and Kissinger” 2007 p.316)
The last quote from Dallek may indicate that he was downplaying the authoritarian nature of politics or that he may have been implying that this type of activity wasn’t common in many other presidential administrations or perhaps he just didn’t understand the causes of authoritarianism. Kissinger could be just as authoritarian as Nixon and this may be typical of the behavior in many administrations but unfortunately most of this activity is routinely done behind closed doors. Many of those in power probably tolerated this type of behavior from Nixon because Nixon often used in to advocate for their causes. It is only when he became a threat to many other people in power that they started to turn on him. It is almost certainly common for many of the most powerful people in business and government to use coercive or intimidating tactics when it helps them accomplish their goals only they are usually more subtle. Many people may have thought that the problem with Nixon wasn’t that he was authoritarian but that he didn’t hide it well enough. Nixon wasn’t born into money; he was one of the few who rose through the political ranks from the middle or lower classes. This doesn’t happen if they provide too much of a challenge to the powers that be. However this wasn’t the case with Nixon. He could be presented as a man of the people since he wasn’t born into the upper classes. When it counted he still advocated the positions that the ruling classes wanted so this was acceptable.
The upper classes are some of the people with the most authoritarian attitudes. According to some studies cited by Melvin Kohn the classes that tend to be what he calls conservative authoritarian tend to be the highest and the lowest classes. This is mainly based on surveys of values conducted for his “Class and conformity” research project in the sixties; however as far as AI can tell if you look elsewhere you may find plenty of corroborating evidence. The lower classes tend to rely more on corporal punishment which was indicated in his research as well as the research of other academics and they are taught to obey but they don’t have as good an education as people from the middle or upper classes. People from the middle calluses often take jobs that require more self direction skills so they need more independence and authoritarianism is less likely to help in this. People from the upper classes are more likely to be taught in authoritarian manner but not in the same way as the people in the lower classes. They are often taught in a way that encourages them to believe that they will be entitled to rule later in life but first they must go through the proper education and submit to authority. Then when they do reach the point that they are in authority they expect others to obey them without question.
The fact that the system is in the control of a small percentage of the public should raise some questions about the authoritarian nature of the system. The Mass Media does little or nothing to explain how things work to the public because that would enable them to participate in the system more. The authoritarian nature of the presidency didn’t end with Nixon. Most if not all of the presidents since then have conducted foreign relations with little or no input from the public and in many cases without acknowledging the most basic principles of the subject being considered. The business community has an enormous amount of influence but unless there is an overwhelming opposition from the public their view are given little attention; instead the corporations present them with an enormous amount of propaganda and inadequate education to enable them to influence decisions.
The Carter administrations may have made some improvements, while there was still some pressure on them left over from the Vietnam protests and the revelations about the CIA, although not as many as the public was led to believe but the Reagan administration began rolling them back while many members of the public became more complacent and the CIA learned to cover their tracks a little better or at least they involved fewer US soldiers relying instead on foreign proxy forces. The Reagan administrations put many of the authoritarians left over from the Nixon administration back in power. This includes Alexander Haig who was there when Reagan got shot and made the notorious statement “I am” when someone asked who was in charge and Bush was still out of town in a blatant disregard for the order of succession; and Henry Kissinger who was named as the head of the Kissinger Commission on Central America; as well as Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. These people have all maintained the belief that the most effective way to handle foreign policy should rely heavily on the use of force or the threat of the use of force and the use of secrecy. Foreign policy is one of the most secretive aspects of the government of the United States; this is true much more for the citizens of the United States than it is for the rest of the world. The rest of the world often knows much more about what the USA is doing abroad than the citizens of the USA due to the fact that they have to live with it and they don’t rely on the US media for their information.
This even turned out to be true in Nicaragua where Oliver North became involved in the Contras. The version of the truth given to the public was mostly propaganda. The most reliable source for this information isn’t the debate cited below between Noam Chomsky and John Silber but it may give you an idea how this was distorted. This was a debate between two people who were portrayed as taking opposing sides without much if any research into the details and it apparently turned into a shouting match where Silber spent a lot of time accusing Chomsky of being a liar. A closer look at the facts will almost certainly indicate the true liar was john Silber. This transcript isn’t complete and I think the complete version may indicate Chomsky referring to the sources he cites in his books which he asks Silber to check and address. Even if this was from a different debate it is a good idea. If Silber is certain of his position then he shouldn’t have any problem checking the sources and refuting them properly but this hasn’t been typical of the way John Silber has behaved. He has routinely behaved in an authoritarian manner resorting to distortion tactics when the truth doesn’t serve his purposes. Noam Chomsky has, as far as I can tell, done a much better job citing sources including many from the government and the Newspapers that he criticizes. If he is distorting the truth then he can and should be corrected; however I suspect the reason this isn’t typically done is that even if he does, as most people do, make a few mistakes the majority of what he says is true; therefore a sincere rebuttal will also confirm the facts that he gets right. Instead the establishment relies mostly on propaganda and the complacency of the American public. If you want more information about this there is plenty of this available in Chomsky’s books some of which are available on line including “Deterring Democracy” which addresses this subject, there is a link to this in the Bibliography section of the blog table of context cited below.
Oliver North also provided his version of the Iran Contra incident in his memoirs “Under Fire: An American Story”; although I would advise skepticism of it. This doesn’t mean it is a good book that tells a lot about authoritarianism; in fact if you know what to look for it may show a lot about how the propaganda model could work and how authoritarianism works. Sorting through the details may help if you are familiar with Miller’s and Greven’s work on authoritarianism and how it starts at childhood; as well as the propaganda model which Chomsky and Herman describe in Manufacturing Consent and much of this is repeated in Chomsky’s “Necessary Illusions”, also available free on line with a link in the bibliography. North describes his parents as strict disciplinarians who teach their children to behave by withholding dessert from them when they misbehave; he claims the only time he remembers his father hitting him was one time when he said something disrespectful of his mother. This may not seem like a very strict punishment, to “withhold dessert”, many children including me didn’t get dessert on a regular basis anyway. He was raised in Texas if this was the extent of his punishment he must have had one of the most lenient parents in Texas hardly what I would call strict disciplinarians. It is far more likely that he is downplaying the punishment he received as a child and many of the other things he says in his book seems to support this assumption if you think about it. He also describes a detailed account of what he went through in boot camp and the typical behavior in the marines and how they kept the soldiers in line. Intimidation was routine and he often made it seem as if accepting what they are told from the authority figure was the appropriate way to sort out the truth from lies. When he was in trouble and he had to go to court he described how his lawyer said that if he was ever in a combat situation he would submit to his authority but in the court room North should follow his lawyer’s advice which is why he pleaded the fifth although he claims it was against his principles. He believed that he should accept the authority of his lawyer; the same was true when it came to wearing a uniform to court which he was opposed because he didn’t want to smear the honor of the military but a higher ranking military gave him a lecture and convinced him to wear it; once again he submitted to authority. The reason he wound up in all this trouble was that he routinely submitted to authority. He accepted the version of truth that the government gave him and accepted orders every step of the way. When he was in Vietnam he mentions that after he captured a Vietnamese and interrogated him he found out that “As far as they knew, Vietnam was all one country, and we were the aggressors.” He doesn’t seem to consider the possibility that they might be right which according to an enormous amount of historical data including the Pentagon Papers they were. He just accepts the version that was given to him by the authorities. This is the same when it comes to the war in Nicaragua; he just dismisses Daniel Ortega’s complaints about “American Imperialism” as boring ranting without trying to find out if there is much if any truth to it. As far as he is concerned there is “our version of the truth” which is right and “their version of the truth” which is wrong. He even acknowledges that they needed more security in El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras and other parts of Central America than they do in Nicaragua especially near the US embassy. He doesn’t consider the possibility that maybe this is because they’re angry at the USA for supporting a tyrannical regime in these other countries; instead he just claims that the Sandinistas protect them because they want to avoid bad publicity. Why don’t the countries that are supposedly friendly to the USA do this? This is typical of authoritarians who believe they’re supposed to believe what they’re told, whether it makes sense or not, from only the right authority figures.
Oliver North also wrote about how he found a book in the Chaplains office while undergoing marriage counseling. This was “Dare to Discipline” by James Dobson, founder of a group called “Focus on the Family” it turned out his wife already had a copy of it at home and he concluded that it was a very good book. This is one of the books that Philip Greven reviewed and criticized in his book spare the child. In an article from the web site for Focus on the Family James Dobson claims that corporal punishment shouldn’t be used until the child is 15-18 months old; then he recommends that parents start using it with a firm voice starting with mild slaps as indicated in the following excerpt. ‘Suppose a child is reaching for an electric socket or something that will hurt him. You say, "No!" but he just looks at you and continues reaching toward it. You can see the mischievous smile on his face as he thinks, I'm going to do it anyway! I'd encourage you to speak firmly so that he knows he is pushing past the limits. If he persists, slap his fingers just enough to sting. A small amount of pain goes a long way at that age and begins to introduce children to realities of the physical world and the importance of listening to what you say.’ The problem with this is that this tends to be the beginning and the use of corporal punishment tends to escalate from there. The child becomes desensitized to it and it requires more violence to get the same result. Dobson also indicates his bias by attributing mischievousness to the 18 month old who has a “mischievous smile on his face”. It is difficult to know what the child is thinking but he almost certainly isn’t trying to be rebellious since he almost certainly learned how to; however if he learns from the corporal punishment or other disciplinary measures that this is a contest for control as many advocates of corporal punishment seem to think then he may eventually develop that belief as a result of the corporal punishment. At this age he isn't going to understand the reason for not touching the electrical outlet any way; furthermore modern electric outlets are childproof; he seems to have cited an example specifically to back up his beliefs. Whether or not it is corporal punishment or other means to educate the child it will have to be repeated over and over again but with other means that involve more time explaining there are fewer side effects like more violence and authoritarian attitudes. When it comes to explaining things like this to a child it will be necessary to wait until he is old enough to understand and has some ability to communicate. Parents can rely on fear sooner but it comes at a high cost.
The fact that North found this to be appealing seems to indicate his sympathy to authoritarian beliefs. The fact that the military chaplain had it in his waiting room also indicates that he was presenting this to many of the other military parents who sought his advice. This implies that many military children will be raised in an authoritarian manner from birth. This escalates in boot camp as indicated before. I have seen several news reports of an incident from boot camp where the cadets were lining up in formation after a rigorous work out and standing at attention. One of the cadets collapsed from exhaustion or some other reason and the rest of the cadets ignored him and left him or her on the ground. This didn’t happen just once but several times and each time it happened, the news channel that was reporting it treated it as an isolated incident. This indicates that this may be much more common than many people realize. Cadets are trained to follow orders and when they are in training they aren’t supposed to do anything without permission or they will be punished. This means that they tend to hesitate before doing anything that might stand out like helping the cadet. If everyone else is at attention they stand at attention as well. This tends to teach people to conform and to obey orders instead of thinking for themselves. This was apparent when they tried to enroll the first girl in one of the most famous military academies. They put her through much worse hazing and abuse than any of the male cadets and she wound up leaving after it became too much for her. This is a situation where they were actually disobeying the highest authority which supposedly ordered them to allow her to participate but the traditional military command was running the academy and they made it clear that they were opposed to the new policy allowing woman into it. They didn’t stand up and take the blame any more than the highest authorities took the blame when Oliver North was caught. In both cases the lower ranks were left to take the blame which is a common Machiavellian tactic to protect those at the highest levels of power, unlike the “buck stops here” attitude that some leaders take.
One of the most extreme sources of authoritarianism is often religion. The truth in routinely dictated in religion in God’s name by religious leaders without much if any effort to find out what is true or not. This begins at an early age before the child develops any ability to sort out the truth from fiction; and it effectively prevents the child from developing this ability. This is often done by the parents not because they intend to do anything wrong; but because they believe it is right and that is the way they were raised. The official truth is allegedly handed down from God to profits and then the message is delivered to the people by the religious leaders often through coercive means. Some of the most blatant examples are the inquisitions where people were told the truth and if they dared to question it even with evidence they were intimidated and if necessary tortured or even killed. One of the most famous cases of this is Galileo; another common example is the belief that the body of Christ was literal. The forcing of adult to adopt the appropriate beliefs has been for the most part put to an end in the developed part of the world; however most of the people who have developed beliefs from this process have never reviewed them and corrected the mistakes that resulted from this process. Also there are still many people that believe this type of coercive education is still appropriate for children. Many of the leaders of Crusades or inquisitions were made Saints not for reasons that were understood by the people but for mysterious miracles or perhaps superstitions. Superstitions that are taught at an early age is a common way of maintaining authoritarianism; if the cult leader can control the superstitions and the followers make decisions based on these superstitions then the cult leader may be able to control the decisions of the followers to a point. Popes have a long history of dictating the truth; when they no longer had the military power to coerce they used other more subtle means and declared the pope to be the divine w\source of truth. This includes Pius XII who was considered to be Hitler's pope by many people. This wasn't quite true but it was close in many ways; he attempted to gain control of the schools and obtain veto power for teachers where ever he could get away with it. When he failed to maintain control while competing with Hitler, instead of advocating democracy, he maintained the authoritarian beliefs that enabled Hitler to unite the Catholics and the Protestants through intimidation tactics.
A clear description of how authoritarianism develops may be found in many of the biographies of major religious figures if they are reasonably accurate and if you know what to look for; including the biography of Padre Pio by Bernard Ruffin. This is no guarantee and if the biographer doesn’t provide the evaluation you may have to do it yourself which is the case with Ruffin’s biography of Padre Pio. Ruffin may not have realized it but he provided an enormous amount of material that describes how authoritarianism develops which someone familiar with the psychological profile described by Miller, Greven and others can recognize. Like North Padre Pio doesn’t remember being subject to corporal punishment but there I some evidence that he may have been or even if he wasn’t there was some emotional distress in the family and the entire area that he grew up in. Like North he was raised in a time and area where corporal punishment was the norm and it may not be uncommon to suppress this memory in many cases. When Padre Pio grew up he routinely said that obedience was the most important thing in his life sometimes even saying that if he was told to jump out of the window by a superior he would do it. According to family members there was at least one major incident which Pio may have been too young to remember well if at all. When he was a baby his father complained that he was crying all the time. This alone should raise the question of why; the answer they seemed to come up with involves the haunting by demons. On one occasion his father got so angry he grabbed Pio and started shaking him in anger and accidently dropped him on the floor; then his mother came in and grabbed him also in anger though not directed at Pio; and yelled out emotionally at his father. These types of emotional outbursts were common throughout the village he grew up in.
When he grew older he went to three years of the free school, taught mainly by uneducated volunteers, available to the villagers before going to a religious school because he said he wanted to be a priest. When he went to religious school they relied heavily on corporal punishment. In one case an anonymous false accusation was made against him and his teacher accepted it as fact and became so angry that he punished him with his fists and beat him until he was black and blue. This obvious miscarriage of justice didn’t seem to have done anything to slow down his blind obedience to authority. Then when he went to seminary school this escalated when his teacher would instruct them to do what they referred to as the “discipline” which meant that they were supposed to flagellate themselves on the back with a chain often until they bled several times a week to prove their loyalty. Padre Pio often preached that we should accept the punishment that God sent our way without any understanding of why. He believed that authority should always be obeyed and protected even when there was enormous amount of evidence that it was being misused. In one case when there was a scandal about someone trying to blow the whistle on a church authority figure his first impulse was to refute the charges but when informed that they were true he attempted to cover them up. He didn’t seem to believe that authority should be held accountable at all in most cases. There were some exceptions; he believed that Mussolini and Hitler would lose the war and suffer God’s punishment but he didn’t advocate preventing them by standing up to authority. Instead he seemed to be satisfied with allowing God to handle it which essentially meant allowing the Holocaust to happen then God would punish them after the fact. The implication seems to be that if authority figures lead us into unjust wars we should follow blindly and await God’s judgment. This type of activity has been going on for thousands of years and God has yet to intervene to prevent these things from happen or provide advice to enable people to avoid these disasters. Assuming this God exists by declining to communicate at best God is providing tacit support for the authoritarianism that is being implemented in his name. A closer look at this book indicates an enormous amount of psychological information that contributes to authoritarianism; however the vast majority of the attention that is given to Padre Pio is devoted to the mysterious aspects of his life which people don’t understand or in most cases can’t confirm. A closer review of the aspect that can be understood should be done before jumping to conclusions about the mysterious aspects. If they can’t narrow down the rest and perhaps eventually explain it at least this will lead to a more rational understanding of the things people do understand. By focusing on the things they don’t understand and accepting the explanations from the leaders who claim to understand people actually strengthen authoritarianism. As I said before if a cult leader can control the superstitions then he may be able to control the followers.
The United States and most if not all of the most powerful countries in the world are controlled by a few people who control the most powerful institutions within these countries that influence the lives of the public. These institution include government, religious, educational and business institutions. Most of these institutions are controlled by a small percentage of the public with a minimum of input from the public. Furthermore most members of the public don’t understand the issues well enough to control these institutions. In order to change this the public needs to be much better educated about all these institutions and the principles of how authoritarianism develop. Under the current circumstances this is an authoritarian regime and it will remain so until the public understands it better and acts to reform these powerful institutions. Doing so will require a much better education system for the public. Declining to do so is sure to lead to disaster perhaps sooner rather than later. The current political establishment is destroying the environment at a record pace and maintaining a constant state of war while using a massive propaganda system to prevent the public from knowing what is going on perhaps until it is too late.
For Excerpts from Philip Greven’s book “Spare the Child” see:
For excerpts from Alice Millers book “The Truth Will Set You Free” including the chapters on “Corporal Punishment and Political Missions” and “The silence of the Church” see:
For Guardian and BBC articles about Lynndie England see:
For debate between John Silber and Noam Chomsky see:
For article from Focus on the Family, discretion advised as indicated above, see:
The table of context also has excerpts from most if not all other books mentioned on this entry in the bibliography for this table of context of other blog entries see:
BP is just the tip of the iceberg
However for some reason they seem to be exaggerating this disaster and ignoring the vast majority of other disasters. There is no effort to explain why this leak is going on so long and they seem to be claiming that it is the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez every four days which makes no sense at all. If this well requires a pump to extract the oil they should just turn it off. If not what is causing all this oil to leak at such a rapid rate? Normal hydraulics wouldn’t do that and anyone who understands the basics of this should know this.
By exaggerating it and ignoring the other disasters they run the risk of manipulating the public when and only when it suits their purposes or losing the trust of the public even when there is a sincere threat and creating apathy.
They are doing a lot of reporting and virtually no rational investigating. They claimed they found oil off the east coast of Florida but it turned out to be from a shrimp boat that crashed so they dismissed it as irrelevant; what they rarely if ever point out is the fact that there are many more disasters that receive very little attention all over the world especially in the developing world. The disasters in the developing world get little or no attention here but they destroy millions of lives and leave them desperate and receptive to those with a grudge against the USA including terrorist organizations. The cumulative damage being done by the disasters being ignored is actually much worse than the exaggerations being reported by BP. This isn’t limited to BP it also includes other oil companies and other polluters of other sorts including the timber industry which is destroying the forests all over the world at a pace that is close to the destruction being done by the oil companies if not match it and it is also being ignored.
Another problem is the fact that they try to address the problem more like a public relations disaster than an environmental disaster. the Money they spend on ads telling the public they are addressing the problem hardly seems credible since it could be spent much more effectively if it went to the clean up process. They seem more concerned with convincing the public they’re solving the problem than actually doing it.
We need to rethink the way we do things or the planet will be destroyed. We need rapid development of conservation methods as well as much more reliability on wind solar and other safe forms of energy. This is a direct challenge to the capitalist ideology. The current power structure is putting society on a suicide track. There are people who know what the problem is and how to solve it but they don’t have the political power; there are people with the political power to solve the problems but the motivational structure set up for them in the short term is designed to prevent solutions. If this system isn’t changed there will be much worse environmental damage.
After typing in just a few words like oil spill, tanker explosion many more disasters turned up from the Google search engine and it is certainly still only a fraction of the damage being done. see the following:
In Democratic republic of Congo July 2010:
In Nigeria July 2010:
In Singapore May 2010:
In Perth Australia 1991:
On Great Barrier Reef off coast of China April 2010;
In Corona California May 2010:
In Oakland California April 2007:
In Los Angeles California 1947:
In Los Angeles California 1976:
In Foxboro Mass June 2010:
In San Antonio Texas May 2010:
In Galveston Texas 1990:
In Texas City 1947:
In Deer park Texas 1979:
Texas oil refinery May 2010:
In rural Texas June 2010:
At Port Arthur Texas Jan 2010:
In Houston Texas Oct 2009:
In Indianapolis Indiana Oct 2009:
In Nashville Tennessee march 2010:
For table of context of other blog entries see:
Saturday, 24 July 2010
Literacy in America and abroad
There are still too many people who can’t read or at least they can’t or don’t read very well and in some countries the illiteracy rate is much higher even for the most basic standards; therefore a large percentage of the public has to rely on those who can read and sort through many details to make many of the most important decisions for them.
This should be considered unacceptable in a sincere democracy and much more should be done to change it in a much more efficient way.
The implications of this are much more serious than many people realize. In the preface of Mein Kamph Adolph Hitler said “I know that men are won over less by the written than by the spoken word, that every great movement on this earth owes its growth to great orators and not to great writers.” He made it clear that he understood that the masses were not well enough educated about many subjects and therefore it was much easier for him to manipulate them by catering to their emotions. Part of the reason for this is because the masses weren’t taught to read well enough and sort through the details of any given subject; therefore they were more susceptible to the indoctrination tactics for many demagogues like Hitler who wanted to manipulate them for their own purposes. There may not be many if any demagogues quite as extreme as Hitler but there are still plenty of them around and many of them are much more insidious. By providing a better education to the masses it will enable them to recognize the manipulation tactics being used by many politicians, marketers, war mongers and other deceptive people. The quality of democracy is dependent of the quality of the education that the public receives and this starts with their ability to read and comprehend a variety of subjects.
The biggest reason why many people haven’t learned how to read as well as they need to is because the systems haven’t been created to educate them and many of the most powerful people who control the most powerful institutions are more concerned with maintaining their own power than with educating the public; therefore if the public wants to install a fairer form of democracy they need to take the initiative to improve their own education regardless of what those in power do. In many cases children aren’t taught how to read in the most effective way possible because their parents don’t understand how important it is due to the fact that they were never taught properly. Many people have come to take reading for granted; however the literacy of the majority of the public in some segments of society is actually very new. In many western societies literacy climbed up over ninety percent within the past couple hundred years as a result of the industrial revolution. Some of the countries with the highest literacy rates seem to be some of those that had communist or socialist governments that made a point of educating their own people. That doesn’t mean that they are the best educated in all fields but it is one important issue worth considering. It is also important whether or not many people continue to read after they learn how to and pay attention to important issues that affect society including the activities of the government and the methods used to coerce the public. There are several ways of defining this including functional literacy and media literacy etc. however it is very tough to maintain a clear standard and ensure that they’re all being measured by the same standard but there are some things we can be sure of if there is the political will and improve this regardless of the exact statistics.
One of the biggest reasons for children with learning problems involves early upbringing by their parents who use strict disciplinarian methods to teach their children. When parents use excessive force that often starts with spanking and escalates from there; it teaches the child to believe what they’re told no even if it is wrong. The child may be more concerned about avoiding punishment than about learning. If the child is traumatized by his parents it leads to many learning disorders and violent tendency; they also tend to accept what they’re told by authorities without question more and are less likely to sort out details and hold their leaders accountable. This doesn’t always impair the basic reading skills of the child but it may impair the thinking skills that enable the child to sort out mistakes and correct them. If the parent uses these strict disciplinarian methods to teach the child to read by rote the child will learn to read but it will be more like memorizing the process. This isn’t a problem unless it involves excessive coercive tactics. This type of upbringing is more common in the upper and lower classes than it is in the middle classes according to some studies some of which have been reviewed or conducted by Melvin Kohn and Murray Strauss. Parents from the lower classes are much less likely to have good reading skills themselves therefore they are less likely to teach them to their children and help them with their homework. In order to break this cycle it may require help and advice from those that are better educated and sincere about looking out for the best interest of the children. In many cases parents from the upper classes more likely.
One big reason why many people haven’t learned how to read as well as they need to is that many of the most powerful educational institutions have been controlled by the same people who control the political institutions and they have been influenced by business interests. When business first found that they needed a more educated public to run factories they encouraged more effective schools but only to meet the purposes they needed for them. Many of the most important improvements in many schools have happened at the local and grass roots level by the people. Unfortunately there have been many times in history where those in power have actively tried to prevent the masses from receiving a good education so they could maintain control over them and to prevent them from sticking up for their rights. The most blatant example of this may be when this was still a slave country and it was a major crime to educate black people. Now they are usually much more subtle when they try to withhold education necessary to improve literacy and they make more efforts to make it seem like they are doing something to improve it when they aren’t but it still goes on. One comment by Representative Harold Velde on the house floor in 1950 indicates his views, “Educating Americans through means of the library service could bring about a change of their political attitude quicker than any other method. The basis of communism and socialistic influence is education of the people.” This statement was made in reference to the Mobile library service for poor people living in rural parts of the country. What he fails to say is that by withholding education they are also leaving the public susceptible to capitalist indoctrination. Now they know better than to make such obvious statements in the open on the house floor but there are still indications that they aren’t trying to address the problem in the most effective way possible. They have provided plenty of bailouts for business during the current economic crisis but when it comes to education they say they can’t do anything because they don’t have the money and we have to cut back even more. The education system is financed by property taxes which enables those with a lot of money to have the best educations system available and those without to have little or no educational opportunities. This is a blatantly undemocratic system since it deprives the poor and the middle classes of the education they need to participate in democracy. It is often even worse when the USA deals with foreign countries; in 1981 the Reagan administration tried to block school supplies from going to Vietnam and they also financed the Contras in Nicaragua which often attacked schools and other soft targets to prevent the Sandinistas from educating their people. The USA also contributes to many wars all around the world which prevent countries from educating their people in the most effective way possible. Many of the targets of US military action are among the worst educated people in the world and instead of trying to improve this by providing educational assistance the USA often supplies weapons to dictators that suppress their own people. US corporations often receive the benefit by obtaining virtual slave labor all over the world as a result of this suppression. Those that don’t have good reading skills are much less likely to sort through the details and find out that most if not all wars have been fought based on lies. This enables them to submit without understanding to the propaganda that is fed to them from the government and the Mass Media.
This is affecting the quality of democracy by depriving the majority of the public of the ability to read and understand a large amount of material that the need to make many of the most important decisions to participate in democracy. Many people rely on what the Mass Media puts in front of them but those who have good reading skills and take the initiative to use them can check other sources many of which are much more credible than the Mass Media. We routinely fight one war after another based on what the government and the Mass Media tell us; however those that have good reading skills and take the time to look for more reliable sources about the causes of these wars may find that most if not all of them have been based on lies and never should have been fought in the first place. The public routinely bases their decisions at the polls based on the same sources and these sources don’t seem to try to do a good job covering the basics of any given subject so the public will have the information they need to make rational decisions about them. This is also true about the economy and just about everything the public does. Anyone that understands the basics of any given subject may realize that the most powerful institutions are distorting them so they can coerce the public. For example if people knew how to accomplish any given goal in the most effective way possible without spending a lot of money they could improve their quality of life without relying on businesses; however this isn’t considered good for the economy so the most powerful people controlling the major institutions don’t encourage it. They’re more concerned with the best interest of the business owners, who take a cut out of every transaction, than the consumers or workers. If the public was more capable of reading they could also do the research to find out how much damage is being done to the environment by the current capitalist overdrive system. If the public was better educated they could do much more to participate in democracy and the way the economy is perceived.
One of the biggest reasons this isn’t it being improved is the system of financing education in America and elsewhere is controlled by politicians who have an unstated interest in withholding education so they can continue to manipulate the public. One of the most effective ways they maintain a system where some people have access to a good education is ensuring that the education system is funded with property taxes at the local level. This might not be so bad if the majority of the public earned as much as they deserve but they don’t; the people that control the major institutions use that control to ensure that the workers aren’t paid enough and that the consumers don’t get their money’s worth so the business owners can make more profit. This guarantees that areas without much money won’t be able to afford to obtain a top rate education and the areas with a lot of money will have the best of everything. In some cases there may be rich communities that are building new schools even when the old ones are in perfectly good shape and poor communities that can’t even afford to pay for maintenance. This is done to ensure that the rich don’t have to pay more than they have to for the needs of the poor and it has the added benefit of leaving the poor without the education they need to participate in democracy so the politicians can continue giving them lip service while they make laws to benefit the corporations. They also use copyright laws to withhold information from the public unless they can afford to pay for it. This means even if the public knows how to read well they can’t access all the information they need in order to make the most important decision.
The communist and many socialist ideologies may not be perfect in all ways but they at least try to fund education in a fairer way than the capitalist ideology. According to Wikipedia the countries with the highest literacy rates are those that have had a communist or socialist government for the past fifty or more years. This doesn’t guarantee that they have quality education in other ways or that this applies to functional literacy but it is a positive indicator about the way they handle this function of government. Many of these governments have also been run by totalitarian states that use mass propaganda on their own people so their education in some cases may be more like indoctrination; however that could be the same in the USA if you sort through the details. One of the countries that seems to be doing the most to educate their own people and, according to Noam Chomsky and other sources, help educate people abroad and provide medical services is Cuba. Chomsky cites some incidents where Cuba sent teachers and doctors to Venezuela and Pakistan. He also cites a request for low cost fuel to the poor from the richest oil companies and the only one that responded was Venezuela who offered to give inexpensive heating fuel to people in the Boston area and if other companies followed suit to expand it. These countries are often demonized in the USA where they don’t provide either adequate health care or education. Support for education is one aspect that should be adopted if we are going to have a sincere democracy. One way or another we need to make education available to everyone in order to have a sincere democracy. The politicians are more interested in posturing than solving this problem; if this assumption was false they would have already done more to address it than they have done. The politicians are always making speeches about it and coming up with slogans but when it comes to the most important things they don’t do anything. Clinton was the so called education president but he didn’t do much if anything to add funds to education; however he did extend the copyrights so that the corporations could charge more for books and make sure that an enormous amount of information isn’t readily available on the internet. GW Bush passed the “No child left behind bill” which sounds good and if it actually accomplished the job it would be good but of course it doesn’t instead of funding schools properly and reforming them he focused on testing and punishment of those that don’t perform. One of the most common excuses is that you can’t “solve the problem by just throwing money at it.” This is true of course there is more to it than that but the follow up always seems to be not putting the money into it at all. It is also true that you can’t solve the problem by withholding money either. If they can find money to provide corporate bailouts and fight wars based on lies they should be able to find money to educate the public and if this was a sincere democracy they would. This won’t change unless the public takes the initiative to hold their politicians accountable.
For list of literacy rates around the world see:
For table of context of other blog entries see:
Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Copyright violators are thought criminals
Recent changes in the copyright laws in the United States have created laws so extreme that they should be considered a threat to the basic principles of Democracy.
It is interesting to note that Greg Mankiw is an economist, presumably a traditional capitalist economist. By declining to put his lectures on the web he avoids easy scrutiny from the public including many people that may consider other versions of the economy that aren’t designed primarily to benefit the corporations. If the scrutiny was allowed in the most efficient way possible the most rational theory could win out and it could be taught to the majority in a much more efficient way. This could mean educating the public about the flaws of Capitalism. In order for this to be effective in the long run though the majority has to trust the expertise of people like Mankiw and other capitalist economists. If other people with other ideologies teach other versions to the public starting with the basics and work their way up then the trust in the economic theories held by most capitalist economists could collapse. This will be more effective if it is free and many of the major capitalist industries continue to fall apart like Enron and WorldCom. It will be tougher for the capitalists to persuade the public if the public begins to understand the issues and realizes the flaws in the capitalist overdrive system. This doesn’t mean capitalism will be completely abandoned perhaps just the flawed portions. This wouldn’t be limited to professors teaching economics; by allowing the lectures to be available to everyone then it will open up all classes to more peer review and enable them to improve the lectures and avoid having students exchange notes which may not be as reliable or subject to peer review.
Copyrights are also being used to make it harder for the public to access a lot of educational material that would help make it easier to prevent violence and at the same time the multi-national corporations are subsidizing an enormous amount of demagoguery that is counterproductive and does the opposite. Many rational researchers, including Dorothy Otnow Lewis, Alice Miller and Murray Strauss have tried to get air time to explain to the public about how child abuse contributes to violence. They have had a hard time getting much if any air time and on at least one occasion they have had a hard time getting publishers to print and promote their books. Murray Strauss had to sign an agreement to let the publishers have the rights to his book in order to get them to promise to publish and promote it but due to corporate mergers it was orphaned and he had to threaten to sue to get the rights back so he could go to another publisher where he finally got it published and obtained what he considered much better promotion. This is described in more detail in the introduction to his book which is available on Google books; a link to this is in the bibliography of the table of contents bellow. Robert McChesney expressed some of the same concerns about Media reform when he wrote “Rich Media Poor Democracy”. The following is a quote from his introduction expressing concern about how the publishing companies aren’t handling important nonfiction: “When Andre Schiffrin and the New Press acquired the paperback rights I was delighted, for I knew of Schiffrin’s commitment to publishing serious nonfiction- the sort of nonfiction that big publishing houses, almost all of them subsidiaries of the largest media conglomerates, have increasingly come to neglect. And books that question the legitimacy and desirability of the corporate media system for a self-governing society are hardly sought out by these conglomerate-owned houses.” At the same time while credible researchers are trying to get their point across and have to hand over copyrights to get much if any promotion there is much more promotion for an enormous amount of counterproductive propaganda, like Nancy Grace, Jerry Springer and many other trash shows, that teach the public to believe that punishment after the fact is the only idea to consider. This means that the only free content on the subject available to those who can’t afford to buy the books on the subject or who aren’t inclined to do so for one reason or another is counterproductive leading the public to make some of the most important decisions in their lives based on lies. If not for the copy rights some people who are more sincere than the corporations could do more grass roots education to help solve these problems with violence.
Some of the work done by people like Alice Miller and Philip Greven also indicates that the abuse of children leads to the virtual indoctrination of them. When taught through strict disciplinarian manners children learn to believe what they’re told whether it makes sense or not due to the fact that they’re more concerned about avoiding punishment than learning how to think rationally. This could explain why a large percentage of the public accepts the absurd claims and superstitions promoted by the government and the Mass Media and they may have a hard time understanding that they’re being manipulated. If this information could be presented to the public in the most effective way possible without the interference of copyright laws it could do a lot to help strengthen democracy as well as reduce violence.
In some cases there have been books written to expose what the government has been doing illegally. These have been available to the public if they pay for it of course and to a much lesser degree it is available to others. The Mass Media has often made a brief mention of these books; however they rarely ever give the public enough information to understand what is in them unless they go to the source and they often take them out of context. In order to have a sincere democracy the public needs to have the access to the information they need to hold their elected officials possible and anything that interferes with that or makes it harder to access this information for a large percentage of the population is a threat to the quality of democracy. Obviously there should be fair compensation for those that do the research but that doesn’t mean the only way to do this is the extreme copyright laws we now have. Once the information is out there it should be made available to the public in the most efficient way possible. If this was done in the past and there was a way to finance it then what ever was done in the past would have been far cheaper for the public than the way it has happened. For example there is overwhelming evidence that the Vietnam War was fought on false pretexts. If the public was informed sooner they could have stopped the war sooner saving thousands if not millions of lives and they could have put in a better set of checks and balances to make sure it didn’t happen again. This didn’t happen and not only did the Vietnam war go on way to long but it was followed by many other wars and covert activities by the government that were also based on lies. This has led to the constant state of war where the government has the right to spy on the people but for “security reasons” the people don’t have the right to know what the government is doing. By making more of the best books, including “the Peoples History of the United States” as well as many other books written by good authors including Zinn, Chomsky, McChesney etc. available for free to the pubic it would improve the quality of democracy drastically and enable people to be more educated about the most important issues. Instead these authors may have had to agree to surrender copyrights to get published and receive any promotions then information the public needs was only available to those who paid for it while lies that lead to war are free.
Another problem that should be mentioned is the fact that this could be in violation of the first amendment which states that “Congress shall make no law ……. or abridging the freedom of speech…” the extreme version of copyrights prevents people from spreading educational material for a long time leaving it in the control of those that control the copyrights. This is as usual subject to interpretation and enforcement. The US Supreme Court has a history of interpreting the right to free speech in a way that seems to benefit those with power. For example when they decided Buckley v. Valeo they decided that money equals speech which gives an enormous amount of power through speech to those with money and very little to those without. Here once again they have allowed the multi-national corporations to maintain control of the copyrights at the expense of the majority. According to the Declaration of Independence; “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”. The vast majority of the public haven’t given their consent to the creation of these extreme copyright laws; in fact according to books written by both Robert McChesney and Eric Klinenberg when the public was informed about what the government was doing with copyright laws and the consolidation of the Mass Media those that understood it overwhelmingly opposed them. It is reasonable to assume that if the rest of the public were educated about the subject that this trend would continue. Once the majority of the public understands what the congress and the multi-national corporations are doing they will almost certainly oppose it. The only way to find out for sure though is to educate them. This education shouldn’t be controlled by those that have a history of manipulating the public in the past though. It should involve more peer review and people from different beliefs should have equal opportunity to get their views across.
A more rational way to compensate those who do the work needs to be considered in order to solve this problem. In the Capitalist overdrive system we are now dealing with we are only supposed to consider the capitalist ideas dictated by those currently in power. In a democratic system we should be able to consider a larger variety of ideas and whichever one works best should be implemented. If the Capitalists are right as they claim about their ideas being the best they have nothing to worry about by allowing the scrutiny and discussion to happen. There may be some cases where their ideas will stand up to scrutiny but if they don’t then we shouldn’t allow them to push them on us at the expense of the majority.
If the thought criminals can overthrow the thought police then perhaps we can have a sincere democracy if it is controlled by an educated public.
For additional information about the basics of copyrights and possible attempts to make them even more extreme on an international level see the following:http://anarchism.pageabode.com/jacobian/acta-and-intellectual-property
For articles about Myriad gene patents see the following:
For articles about AIDs drugs and the fact that the corporations are attempting to withhold the right to produce to prevent the public from knowing how inexpensive drug production is:
Free on line library mostly classics from Upenn:
Free Press has done some good work on this subject:
For the full HTML version of this blog with table of context see:
Saturday, 19 June 2010
The Decline and Fall of the American Empire
The current system of government is on an unsustainable path, for several reasons, and it a matter of time before the system collapses. This will either happen in an uncontrolled and destructive manner or we could reconsider the way our society is run and find a way that will be sustainable, preferably a way that is much fairer for the majority of the public which will no longer leave so many people disenfranchised. We are now in the process of repeating many of the mistakes that have been made by many other societies that eventually led to their own self destruction including the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Romans, Mayans, Angkor’s and more. These civilizations left behind many monuments and other evidence of their society; in some cases the records weren’t very well kept in others they were better kept but there is still evidence that they all collapsed for many of the same reasons. These reasons involve corruption, internal conflict, and wars with other countries. These things are all present in our own society and they are all escalating at an unsustainable rate for one reason or another. There is one other element present that has never been present before, environmental destruction and technologies including nuclear that could destroy society entirely. This could lead to total annihilation; however there is also something else that is present that could avert this. There is now a better educated public in some segments of society that understands how to correct many of the biggest problems. Unfortunately these people aren’t the ones in power and the beliefs they hold challenge the authority of those who are in power. In order to avoid the self destruction of the current society it will be necessary to remove those who can’t be trusted to control society from power and allow those who make decisions based on a rational and accurate perception of reality. I’m not talking about a 2012 scenario where on any prophetic date destruction will come to society; instead I’m referring to the current events that those with the appropriate education should be able to see happening right now.
Partial lists of oil spills, this doesn’t cover the vast majority of smaller spills which surely have an enormous cumulative effect nor does it cover other types of pollution:
Statement from Lawrence Summers and reviews from several sources:
After typing in just a few words like oil spill, tanker explosion many more disasters turned up from the google search engine see the following
In Democratic republic of Congo July 2010:
In Nigeria July 2010:
In Singapore May 2010:
In Perth Australia 1991:
On Great Barrier Reef off coast of China April 2010;
In Corona California May 2010:
In Oakland California April 2007:
In Los Angeles California 1947:
In Los Angeles California 1976:
In Foxboro Mass June 2010:
In San Antonio Texas May 2010:
In Galveston Texas 1990:
In Texas City 1947:
In Deer park Texas 1979:
Texas oil refinery May 2010:
In rural Texas June 2010:
At Port Arthur Texas Jan 2010:
In Houston Texas Oct 2009:
In Indianapolis Indiana Oct 2009:
In Nashville Tennessee march 2010:
Saturday, 5 June 2010
JFK and McCarthyism
In his book “JFK and the Unspeakable” James Douglass reviews what he considers a possible motive for the assassination of JFK by some people within our own government. There is certain to be some doubt about this but many of the most important parts of this book may not involve whether or not JFK was assassinated by a government conspiracy; instead it may be some of the activities the government was conducting before and after JFK’s death and the motives behind them. This includes the war in Viet Nam as well as many other cold war activities and other activities that continue to go on today including the war on terror and the war on drugs. The cumulative effects of all these activities are much more important than the life of any one person, even JFK. Douglass isn’t the first one to speculate and write about the possibility that JFK may have been killed because he may have been planning the end of our involvement in Viet Nam nor is he necessarily the most detailed researcher into the assassination; however he has covered some of the potential contributing factors, assuming he is right, of the motive behind JFK’s assassination and even if he is mistaken many of these factors are still important for other reasons. However even Douglass probably doesn’t cover some of the most important contributing factors nor can any single researcher. There are certainly many different factors affecting both the Cold War and the assassination of JFK. When it comes to the assassination of JFK the most important research isn’t what Douglass or any other conspiracy theorist has done; it should be what the government has done and presented to the public in several reports including the Warren Report, the Clay Shaw trial transcripts and the House Select Committee on Assassinations. If they provide a rational explanation that stands up to scrutiny it would probably be more reasonable to believe them unless there is strong evidence to the contrary. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case though. If there were only a few minor mistakes that would be understandable but the Warren report alone has serious problems with it. These are easy for most people that take the time to read it to see.
It would be better if you read it and found out for yourself; however it would also help to have a few highlights to look at that are easy to see and remember which I provided in a link below and this is backed up with links to the government reports and other sources. One of the most widely known researchers into the subject is Jim Marrs; although I haven’t trusted all of his work there is one thing he clearly got right. In the beginning of his book he starts by saying “Do not trust this book. In fact, when it comes to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, don’t trust any one source or even the basic evidence and testimony.” This statement would work well for many of the activities of the government, the CIA and many of the most powerful corporations and other institutions. There have been many cases where the official version for many events including the assassination of JFK hasn’t made sense or there have been multiple contradictory versions. In the case of the assassination of JFK none of the three versions listed above provide the same version of events as the others and if you look at the many conspiracy theories you’ll come up with dozens if not hundreds of explanations. In this case it would be best to organize the information in the best way possible and trust the details that can be confirmed by multiple sources the most. In most cases it would be helpful to take note of the source and whether or not it is an official document confirmed by many people or the testimony of a single person which may carry less weight. In fact as indicated above what is more important than who killed JFK are the wars that preceded and followed the assassination and figuring out how to prevent future wars and strengthen democracy by educating the public about their own government.
Most conspiracy books focus on the details of the assassination with very little attention to the social factors that may have contributed to the motives behind it and many of the other factors that may be related. It may help to understand the basics of several different subjects in order to figure out what happened to JFK and what led to many of the covert activities and wars conducted by the US government. This is true even if the connection isn’t immediately apparent. Related subjects include the early upbringing of children and how it could lead to the escalation of violence, the class systems and how they are used to control society and the typical operating methods for military and espionage organizations as well as other subjects that may turn out to be relevant.
In order to understand what happened and why it will help to keep in mind the environment that people lived in during the cold war shortly after WWII. The majority of the country was still very concerned about another world war and there was a lot of panic going on. There may have been a situation where a large portion of the country may have had a large case of post traumatic distress disorder. This was a time where the public was being encouraged to believe that the USSR was the evil empire with some justification and that communism was part of that. The part about communism being part of that may have been largely based on propaganda; although it wasn’t perfect that doesn’t mean that communism was synonymous with totalitarianism as the public was led to believe. This was done in a similar manner to the red scare that began during the end of WWI and continued into the twenties when the American Protective League was active. In the fifties it was more extreme due to the threat of nuclear attack and the recent memory of what Hitler had just done. A large amount of the behavior during this time period was based on panic without much rational thinking or many if any attempts to find out whether the “red scare” was justified. Some threat from the USSR was of course justified but it went much farther than that an many of the people behind the “red scare” turned out to be as much if not more of a threat as the USSR. They led to many superstitions that could be, and were, manipulated by many demagogues. Part of this problem was encouraged by the upper classes who were accustomed to having power over the majority and was often raised to believe that this was their right. Part of the problem was the violence that many people learned at an early age and it just escalated in anger without scrutiny. People who act out of anger are much less likely to think rationally.
As indicated in other entries violence tends to escalate starting at a very early age. People who are abused as a child tend to be more likely to be bullies and, in some cases the targets of bullies. This often tends to escalate to hazing and other violent crimes as an adult. People with violent backgrounds are more likely to think of violence as the solution to problems and they often believe that intimidation is the only way to hold people accountable. People with abusive backgrounds are less likely to feel empathy which may enable them to stand up to a crowd that is going along with a call to war based on emotional grounds. Alice Miller covered this in her books and a lot of this has been confirmed by many other academics including Murray Straus and Philip Greven. They have found that many of the social characteristics found in the Germans during the time period leading up to WWII are also present in many other societies although not necessarily to the same extremes. This has made many people more prone to fight one war after another for thousands of years. This has also led people to be much more obedient to authority than they otherwise might have been. A small percentage of the public has reviewed this but it affects a much larger percentage of the public without their realization, in fact many of them are much more likely to be in denial of this problem and act out of anger. Many children that are taught to accept what they’re told without question from their parents often transfer their obedience to authority to other higher authority figure including the government and employers or the beliefs of the crowd. These children become much more dependent on the approval of their peers and they are often much less willing or able to challenge beliefs when there are obvious flaws with them. This makes them more prone to believing the scare tactics that were used during the McCarthy era and they’re much more likely to support military action without understanding it.
People in the military are more likely to consider violence the appropriate way to handle any given situation since that is the way they’re trained. They are also much more inclined to obey authority without question due to their training. Boot camp is designed to train them to obey orders without question and to maintain loyalty to the chain of command. One of the most extreme cases of military people obeying orders without question was the case of Iran Air Flight 655 where the order to shoot was given by a computer. There was obvious evidence available to the eighteen soldiers on board to indicate that this Air Flight was a civilian flight not military but they were trained to follow orders then once they were implicated they presented a version of the story that justified their actions as best they could. This is just one example where strong bias prevents people from coming out with the whole truth; this is even worse when there isn’t clear evidence available to the public. There have been many cases where the military has misled the public with blatant lies and misinformation about many conflicts and there was some indication that JFK may have intended to put an end to that despite the fact that at times he was involved in these lies as well. It has often been claimed that JFK was assassinated so that they could start a war in Viet Nam; however it seems hard to believe that the military would do such a thing solely for this reason. A closer look seems to indicate that there may have been much more than just the war in Viet Nam that led up to this though. Prior to JFK’s assassination the US government was involved in many interventions around the world under three post WWII presidents and it appears as if JFK may have been reconsidering this approach after the Cuban missile crisis almost led to a nuclear war that could have ended life as we know it. There was a lot of evidence to indicate that many of the generals involved in the decision making process including members of the Joint Chief of Staff thought the only way to settle the cold war was to win it perhaps by using nuclear weapons if they could do this successfully. This may not have been just about the Viet Nam war or the conflict in Cuba but the entire cold war and a quest for global domination. Interventions that happened during or prior to the JFK administrations included the installments of governments sympathetic to the USA in Congo, Iran, Guatemala, Laos, Viet Nam and more countries. They also involved a failed attempt to overthrow the Castro regime. There is little mention of the fact that the support for Batista helped lead to the popular support for a revolution that enabled Castro to take power. Nor is there much discussion about the fact that many of the displaced Cubans were formerly loyal to the brutal Batista regime and they’ve been involved in many activities since then that suppressed democracy in countries like Nicaragua and the Watergate scandal. JFK indicated that he might be more sympathetic to governments that help the poor more in Congo, Indonesia, Laos and perhaps even Viet Nam. In Laos he supported a neutral government that had more popular support than the Capitalist government previously installed by the Eisenhower administration. There may have been some concern that he might have done this in many other parts of the world including Viet Nam, Central America, Africa and other countries around the world. JFK indicated in his “peace speech” at the American University that he would be open to more negotiation with the Soviet Union and other non military methods to solve problems that wouldn’t lead to more wars or the threat of nuclear activity. This contradicts the beliefs of many that the only way to solve problems is through the use of force or at least the threat of the use of force that often leads to escalating violence. Many people are taught this from birth and they are often very reluctant to consider any other way to accomplish their goals. This mentality leads to much more reliance on force to maintain authority than education or open discussion and it sets the ground for greater potential to settle disputes with war and other violent conflicts that often lead from one war to another and with the escalation of technology this often means that the wars tend to be more destructive as time goes on. There have been many people who have indicated that those in power don’t share information about the covert activities that lead to war including Daniel Ellsberg and Victor Marchetti. They have both indicated that only those who are raised or indoctrinated to maintain silence for security reasons should be allowed to have access to many of the most important facts about the decision making process. At one point after Daniel Ellsberg expressed concern about the morality of the Viet Nam war Joe Johnson allegedly told Charles Bolte “We can’t invite Ellsberg to any more of our meetings. He’s lost his objectivity.” This seems to be a common attitude about the military for many people. Consideration for the people that are being killed or tortured is interpreted by many people as being unwilling or able to make the hard decisions but denial of the damage that war does is considered objective by many people. This is the mentality that enabled people in Germany to escalate violent activity until it led to the holocaust and it is the type of mentality that enables the military to use chemical weapons, land mines and the threat of nuclear weapons on massive amounts of civilians. Taking their points of view into account is considered biased; however many of these people have family members who continue to fight guaranteeing that the violence will not stop until the concerns of all involved are addressed. This is why the Viet Nam War went on for so long and why so many other conflicts continue to escalate. Those making the decisions often only consider one side of the issue and those left out have no choice but to submit to their authority or to rebel and risk being labeled a terrorist. In order to reduce or eliminate war there needs to be a much more open decision making process. This can’t happen if the only people allowed to be involved in the decision making are the so called hawks who think that violence and espionage is the only way of addressing the subject.
Understanding the differences between classes may also help to understand how the cold war came about. There is a long history of ruling classes controlling the majority. In most cases this was through royalty that was raised to believe they had the divine right to rule. Many people have been led to believe that with the creation of democracy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries this was reduced however a closer look at the history doesn’t back this up; instead the royalty was often replaced by republics controlled by the few who were educated and had control over the most powerful institutions. A close look at how some members of the royalty have been raised in the past and comparing it to how some of the upper class people in the present could help clarify this. One of the clearest examples of how the ruling class believed they were entitled to rule over the masses was Alexandra Romanov who often talked about how her son Alexei was entitled to rule over the masses. She was often quite clear about how it was the divine right of her baby to rule over the public because they were taught to think that way from birth. It is rare to see where the leaders talk in this manner any more since this is clearly no longer socially acceptable. However this wasn’t always the case and a closer look may indicate that the members of the ruling class may have learned to be more diplomatic about their beliefs which may essentially mean they learned not to talk this way in public. There may be a few cases where they allowed things like this to slip or when talking in private someone may have leaked this information but there is still a strong class difference and the upper classes still seem to believe they’re entitled to rule the lower classes. This has been indicated in the history of the US when the unions often tried to strike for better wages the upper classes often called in strike breakers and relied on the help of the government that was often much more inclined to protect the business interests than the interest of the masses who had little political power. One of the clearest examples was the Ludlow Massacre which was swept under the rug and instead of acknowledging responsibility the upper classes increased their philanthropy in some cases to maintain better public relations and convince the public that they are indebted to the upper classes. This type of activities was clear when the trusts were at there most powerful at the beginning of the twentieth century and when they rebuilt their power again at the end of the twentieth century after consolidation but it was also present when Kennedy was in power. Douglass describes how the steel companies made a deal with Kennedy and the unions where they essentially agreed they wouldn’t raise their prices if the unions would agree to a lower raise. The workers actually wound up giving up more but the owners were the ones that were disappointed with the deal. Then a representative of the biggest steel companies came to Kennedy and gave him notice of their plan to raise their prices anyway. They presented this as a done deal. Kennedy considered this a breach of their agreement. He called the unions informed them of this and then he proceeded to use the power of the presidency to ensure that the companies that raised their prices would be boycotted by the military establishment forcing the big steel companies to back down. There may have been many people that considered Kennedy a class traitor; in addition to standing up to big steel he also indicated he wouldn’t support many repressive regimes as much as past presidents. This isn’t hard evidence that the people from the upper classes were involved in his assassination of course; however it does provide evidence of a hostile environment and it indicates that some people may have had motive to resent his hold on power. Surely the majority of the upper classes wouldn’t have had anything to do with the assassination but if there was a minority that was more inclined to participate and a larger number of people that may have helped without realizing what they were participating in it makes it a little more likely. This still doesn’t provide what many people would consider a strong enough case for an assassination conspiracy; however if you consider the activities of the CIA and the methods they had already begun to use and continued to use long after the assassination it may be a stronger possibility.
The pattern of behavior of the CIA was first developed shortly after WWII and it was influenced by activities that actually happened before WWII. Alfred McCoy described how the covert mentality evolved starting with the Philippine war and how it affected the US policy in other areas up to the current day. This was actually a relearning of the same tactics that were used by past civilizations to control their populations including tactics used during the Inquisition and when the Roman and Egyptian empire were in power. The USA and the USSR both developed something similar to empires where they dominated over client states which helped them maintain power. The people of the USA were routinely told that the USA was fighting to defend democracy at home as well as abroad but this wasn’t what actually happened. If the CIA was fighting to defend democracy they wouldn’t have conducted most of their activities in secret. A true democracy allows the public to have the information they need to make decisions as well as a good education to enable them to sort through the details. This means that the way to defend democracy involves educating the public not keeping secrets from them. Instead of educating the public the CIA went where the power was which usually meant the ruling class of any given country and in some cases it also meant the criminal organizations and drug dealers. The CIA has a history of propping up the most powerful land owners and suppressing the masses. This was apparent when they overthrew the governments of Iran and Guatemala in the fifties which had more popular support than the governments they installed. They did this in many other cases including Laos where Kennedy supported the neutral government against the wishes of the upper classes the military establishment and the CIA. They also did this in Viet Nam first with the reluctant support of Kennedy then after his death they escalated the war killing thousands if not millions of innocent people. This type of activity continued into the seventies, eighties and nineties when they supported the tyrannical regimes of Chile Guatemala, El Salvador and many other countries. One indication of whether or not there was a legitimate democracy of many countries is the quality of their education and their literacy rates. If the CIA was supporting education in the countries that they supported that might indicate that they were supporting democracy but this doesn’t seem to be the case. In “Manufacturing Consent” Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky reviewed the double standard used to present the US government in a much more positive way than the governments that are opposed to the USA. In some cases like in Nicaragua they claimed that the elections were far fairer than the ones in the governments supported by the USA including El Salvador and Guatemala. None of these had good literacy rates at the time; however they claimed that the Sandinistas were trying to implement better education programs to better enable the people to participate in the elections while the governments supported by the USA were suppressing their people in many cases this also involved mass murdering of thousands of people. The killing in Nicaragua doesn’t seem to have been nearly as bad although it was presented in the Mass media as being much worse. This was of course twenty years after the killing of JFK; however it demonstrates the typical behavior of the USA and the CIA and how they operate abroad. They have also supported governments that suppressed their people, sometimes with death squads in many other countries including Iran under the Shah, the Philippines, Chile, Indonesia, Viet Nam and more. If the CIA was teaching the public to participate more in a democracy there would have been no need to do it in covert ways. This would have involved setting up schools; therefore one of the most important things to consider about the CIA may be not what they are doing but what they aren’t doing which is helping to educate the public to strengthen democracy. Recognizing this doesn’t involve sorting through any conspiracy or secret activities.
Whether it was the Joint chiefs of staff or the CIA or other military institutions there was numerous indications that many of the people involved in the decision making process were inclined to use chemical weapons, nuclear weapons and many deceptive tactics to accomplish their goals no matter who they may have hurt. Douglass has argued that many of the leading members of the Military Industrial Complex including the Joint Chief of Staff wanted to win the cold war if necessary by nuclear war. When they thought it may have been a possibility to defeat the USSR by a first strike they may have been willing to do this even though it would clearly have resulted in the death of hundreds of millions of Russians and Chinese as well as the destruction of the environment. They didn’t seem to believe that it would destroy the USA although this was almost certainly false. It is virtually guaranteed that the damage would have eventually destroyed the USA even if the USSR didn’t fire off any nuclear weapons as they probably would have even at that time. According to several sources, including James Douglass and Daniel Ellsberg, the claim that the USSR had more weapons was false and they thought they might have been able to conduct a first strike big enough to prevent the USSR from launching any missiles. However the USSR managed to develop enough weapons to prevent this scenario before Kennedy was killed. The implication was that some people may have wanted to pursue this course of action only if they could win however once the window of opportunity passed they were no longer willing to pursue this possibility.
There was also a declassified document, Operation Northwoods, that Douglass cites that indicates that General Lemnitzer and perhaps others were willing to instigate a war on false pretences with Cuba. JFK rejected this plan and replaced Lemnitzer so it was never implemented; however many people believe that there may have been other people that thought these types of activities were worthwhile and that the CIA may have used them for other circumstances. In fact there have been many cases where false pretences were used to start or escalate wars or help with propaganda. In Viet Nam there was the Gulf of Tonkin incident; in the first gulf war there was a false story about the Iraqis stealing incubators and allowing babies to die; in the second Gulf war there was the false assumption of weapons of mass destruction and the distorted story of Jessica Lynch. Even if Operation Northwoods wasn’t implemented there is ample evidence to indicate that the US military and the CIA was inclined to use similar tactics.
A close look at the official version clearly indicates that at best the government did a grossly incompetent job investigating the assassination and accepted an explanation that clearly doesn’t make sense. Instead of trying to investigate the assassination in the most effective way possible at time they clearly seem to be hiding something. The most likely explanation for this is, as many of the conspiracy theorists indicate, that some people from within the government were involved. There have also been attempts to blame it on the Mob, Castro or the USSR; however none of these organizations would have had the resources to participate in the cover-up. In fact some of the people involved in the investigation which clearly appears to involve a cover-up were elected or appointed to much higher positions including Gerald Ford who was nominated to be Vice president without facing a national election and inherited the presidency and Arlen Specter who spent several terms in the US senate before finally losing the primary recently.
There isn’t enough evidence to know exactly what happened to JFK or all the conflicts that followed it but there is an enormous amount of evidence to indicate that the government of the USA hasn’t been honest with its own people. This isn’t compatible with a sincere democracy and these activities should be exposed in the most effective way possible. One way to do this would be a sincere Truth and Education Commission that is conducted with the participation and cooperation of the public. If this is done it should be carefully planned and done without violence or panic. It may be hard for many people to do this without panic but that is exactly what the USA government and the Mass Media have been encouraging the public to do for the past ten years during the war on terror. It would be far more effective if the truth was exposed on a careful and controlled basis. The control of this shouldn’t be with the government instead it should be with the people and the people should do their best to understand what is going on and set up a democracy based on accurate information available to an educated public with an open government that no longer operates in secrecy.
For additional information including some of the most important highlights as well as links to free online government documents JFK speeches and related websites see:
For the full HTML version of this blog with table of context see:
Saturday, 22 May 2010
Are job losses good?
If they’re productive jobs that help improve the lives of the majority of the public they certainly aren’t.
If they don’t benefit anyone except the business men that profit from them that may be a different story though.
Should we continue assuming that the Capitalist system is the most efficient when it eliminates teaching jobs that are needed for the lower and middle classes and creates advertising jobs to promote items that have little or no benefit to the public?
(This is a follow up entry on the previous entry titled “It’s the economy stupid…. Have the corporations created a capitalist cult?” found in the table of context link below)
If the capitalist system really is as good as people claim then a closer look should only confirm that; however it is clear that many jobs aren’t being created or are being eliminated that are beneficial like environmental protection jobs or educational jobs to help the lower or middle classes. Another problem is that the beliefs that the government is inefficient and should do as little as possible tend to be presented in a very selective way. When this means cutting programs for the poor it is often portrayed as wasteful but if the government spends money that bails out the corporations of helps them conduct business more effectively it is often done without complaint or much public comment. The biggest example is the military which is considered above reproach and is often used to fight wars that often seem to be more concerned with protecting the business interests of the multi-national corporations. The government has also been used to break up strikes, subsidize the railroads in the nineteenth century and the internet in the twentieth as well as many other institutions then when they are profitable they have been handed over to the private sector. In fact the government has recently been used to protect the media domination of a handful of corporations when a few low budget companies tried to create micro radio stations that tried to compete with the incompetent radio stations that are no longer giving the public what they want. It seems that a closer look indicates the concerns about big government are only raised in a large manner when it is used to protect the majority from the corporations not the other way around.
As discussed in the previous post about the economy and other entries the current capitalist economic ideology was developed over the last couple hundred years through propaganda that was given to the public without much scrutiny from the opposing sides. When people of different beliefs tried to get their points of views across they were often demonized without addressing their arguments in a rational manner. This happened during the McCarthy era, when the American Protective League was active or even in the nineteenth century when there were lecturers talking about “Acres of Diamonds” and other speeches controlled by the upper classes. For the most part the ideology that has been presented to the public hasn’t been a fair one based on a rational discussion of the details of different ideologies therefore it would be unreasonable to assume that other beliefs have been discredited since they haven’t been addressed in a rational manner; however if they have been discredited in a rational manner as many capitalists claim then a second look should do so again and there is no reason not to take that second look.
Neither the Capitalist ideology nor the Communist ideology as they were practiced by the USA or the USSR has done what they claimed to do. In both cases those that control the system receive the majority of the benefits; while those who don’t control it, or in most cases even understand it, pay the price. A close look at the best details of each might help develop a better ideology that will benefit the majority instead of just those who control the message. In order to do this it will be necessary to educate the public about the details of both and allow them to understand and ratify the final product.
The Communist belief is that all people should be equal; the Declaration of Independence also says that “that all men are created equal”; this implies more in common between the two beliefs than many people have been led to believe based on the propaganda. One of the core beliefs of the communist ideology is “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. This is worth considering on its own merits without demonizing it. The capitalist beliefs system doesn’t embrace this belief for some reasons that are at least partially reasonable. The basics of capitalism is that people who work hard should be rewarded based on the merits of their work. If they work harder and or if they have better skills they should be paid more which is reasonable. Unfortunately this isn’t always the way it works as many people seem to imply. The statement “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” seems to imply that those that need more should get what they need and those that can work harder should do so yet if this is put in practice many people may not bother to work too hard since the benefits of their work may go to those that need it more regardless of who works harder. So putting this belief in to practice without scrutiny won’t provide the incentive to work as hard as people can. Another way of interpreting this principle could be that since some people are accustomed to living with a certain life style their needs should be higher than those who are accustomed to living with less. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be dismissed in its entirety though; instead it should be considered carefully and interpreted in a rational manner when it fits. In some cases there may be many people that will work harder if they think the system will provide the benefits to themselves and society as a whole in a fair manner. Neither the Capitalist system nor the version of Communism implemented by Joseph Stalin has done this. In the case of Stalin and his collectivization programs he took the decision making out of the hands of the local farmers who had experience and incentive to work as efficiently as possible and put it into the hands of bureaucrats who knew little or nothing about the subject then tried to cut back on the benefits to those who did the work without any input from the people at the local level.
The capitalists in the USA and other counties rightfully criticized this but they didn’t point out the fact that this wasn’t what was intended by the people that developed the Communist ideology. It served their purpose to demonize this and say that this proves that communism doesn’t work. They continued to use strike breaking tactics that turned the lower classes against each other and keep wages down and they used the fear of war at various times to demonize Communism in a manner that didn’t look at the principles. The supporters of the capitalist system claim that free enterprise will provide the competition and incentive to encourage people to work as hard as they can. Presumably those that work the hardest make the most money. In practice this doesn’t work the way they claim though. The people that control the system routinely manipulate the public with their control of the system which enables them to use divide and rule tactics. The control of the system also enables them to prevent small businesses from starting up in many cases or drives them out of business. The competition has been eliminated in most industries leaving monopolies or oligopolies controlled by a small percentage of the public. No new business can hope to start up a department store that can compete with Wal-Mart or many other industry giants; these industry giants have enough power to manipulate the consumers and the workers as well as any small businesses that want to get started. This has turned into multi-national corporations that often have more power than many third world countries and they also have much more political power with the people running the biggest countries. This essentially means that the checks and balances that were intended in the constitution were eliminated by the consolidation of these corporations and the distortion of the only provides candidates that support this corrupt system. The capitalist system doesn’t provide incentive for many if any jobs unless they enable corporations to make a profit off of them. The exceptions that happen in the USA are not because they adhere strictly to the capitalist system; instead they are the cases where they make exceptions for reason or another. These exceptions have often been because of public support that overcame the capitalist ideology or in some cases it was done because the business community had something to gain from it. One example of this is when they found that they needed educated people to work in factories they supported education but only enough to benefit the business interests. Other improvements to the education system came because of public support often despite the objections of the politicians and the business leaders.
There are some cases where the best way of accomplishing the best results may involve cooperation by the government to do certain jobs that the private sector doesn’t do as well. The assumption shouldn’t be that we should automatically trust the private sector especially when there are so many examples of cases where the private sector is suppressing wages and destroying the environment without providing an adequate education for many of the lower and middle classes. The private sector doesn’t automatically provide necessary social programs for the poor and in the absence of these programs many social problems tend to get worse. When this happens there have often been many calls for building more prisons and standing up for Law and Order or fighting wars to protect our society. These are considered nonnegotiable yet they don’t work. There is an enormous amount of evidence to indicate that when governments in the past have addressed problems before they escalated by educating the public or addressing violence at an early age it can reduce crime in the long run. Some of the social programs that have been targeted for cut backs have been the most successful at reducing crime in the long run while the prisons that are considered above reproach waits until these problems are much worse and tends to be less effective. They lead to putting a much larger number of people in jail where they aren’t productive providing more cost to the public than the social programs that are being cut would have. This doesn’t mean that many of the most violent people should be let out of jail since many of them continue to be a threat to society; however if the social programs were in place when they were children did their job in the first place they wouldn’t have become violent in the first place. This means that long term prevention programs need to be put in place before prison population can be reduced and violent offenders need to go through real rehabilitation programs before they should be released. The capitalist system doesn’t do this. The most effective way to accomplish this may be a public education program to teach members of the public about the most effective ways of raising children and social workers that provide direct help for the most at risk families. In the long run this will be much cheaper than maintaining the massive prison system that only treats the symptoms while ignoring the causes of these problems.
One of the most important things that the public needs is a good education in order to address the inequities in society. The current education system does very little to educate the public about many of the most important issues that affect our society including war. We have been taught that the USA has always been fighting for a good cause which most of us want to believe but unfortunately this is often not the case. Most if not all of the wars the USA has been involved in the past have included lies that often weren’t exposed until after the fact and even then they usually aren’t reported widely enough including in schools. This essentially leaves the majority of the public unprepared to hold the government accountable for the most important activities in our lives and present a serious and continuing threat to democracy. The biggest war controversy was of course Viet Nam. Most people are aware that there was a lot of controversy over it but they may not understand why. The war was supposed to be to defend democracy against communism; or at least that is the impression many people have been given. This impression is false. The USA set up a puppet regime that was loyal to the USA; with the support of the USA this regime decided to cancel elections when it was clear that they had little or no popular support; then when it was clear that they couldn’t gain any support a coup was carried out with the support of the USA and the CIA. From there it escalated into a war to suppress democracy in a country that didn’t want anything to do with the western world after living under colonialism under France. This country was no threat to the USA and most if not all the justification for the war was based on lies including the escalation that resulted from the gulf of Tonkin incident. There are still many cases today where politicians consider the fact that they supported and in some cases even participated in this war to make them more qualified to hold office. There are also a lot of voters who believe this based on the assumption that the USA was on the right side of this war as well as every other one they participated in. If it was reported that politicians in Russia were promoting their participation in the invasion of Afghanistan in the eighties as a qualification there would be outrage in the USA and rightfully so. Yet when you consider the details it is clear that support of politicians who favored the war in Viet Nam it is essentially the same except for the propaganda that was given to the American public. This is just one of many examples where the public isn’t being told the truth about many foreign conflicts the USA has been involved in. This includes manipulations in Iran, Iraq, Congo, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba, Chile and many other countries. These wars and participation in lower level conflicts weren’t done for much if any benefit for the public; instead they were fought mainly for the benefit of those in power. There is plenty of information available for those who take the trouble to figure out what is being reported from other more sincere sources, many of which I have included in the bibliography who often cite government documents or admissions that are not well reported but are undisputed.
There also needs to be more education about many other subjects including the civil rights movement and the fact that the vast majority of improvements haven’t been instigated by the government but by the people. In most history books and classes they usually teach that the politicians implemented many of the biggest changes in society; what they often fail to mention is the fact that they rarely ever do this unless there is a lot of pressure from the public. In fact more often than not only don’t the politicians implement these changes on their own but more often than not they initially resist them and agree to make them only when they realize it is in their own best political interest to do so. Many other authors including Howard Zinn and Martin Luther King Jr. have done a much better job explaining this to the public.
There also needs to be more efforts to educate the middle and lower classes in the most effective way possible. The current system doesn’t do this. The current system provides funding at the local level which guarantees that those that live in poor areas will have little money for quality education. These are the people that need it the most. The capitalist system claims that anyone can work their way up the class system but this is clearly not true and in order to change it there has to be more equal access to education. Depriving the poor of educational opportunity, for one reason or other, guarantees that they will be stuck in the lower classes from one generation to the next. The current use of copyright laws is also designed to benefit those that have the copyrights and often means that the poor can’t have access to many of the books or other educational material they need to address this problem. With current technology it is virtually free to make as many electronic copies of many books if the public has access to computers. A change in the copyright laws could make much more information available to a much larger percentage of the public at virtually no extra cost. The current system is inexcusable corporate welfare as Robert McChesney has indicated on several occasions. It is rare where anyone comes out and says that they want to deprive the poor of education so that they can manipulate them but there have been a few notable exceptions where people have done so or come close to saying this. The reason this isn’t discussed much is of course because that it doesn’t sound good to come out and say it if that is what you want so they usually do it without saying it or say it in a confusing way that can be interpreted differently. One of the most notable times where this was said was when Woodrow Wilson said "We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forgo the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks." This was also stated or implied when they were trying to maintain slavery of the blacks or prevent them from obtaining their civil rights. They often tried to outlaw the education of blacks and when that didn’t work they often tried to accomplish the same goal in other ways by either preventing them from going to schools or having access to libraries. This is one of the things the civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther king, tried to overcome by educating the public. In some cases they indicated that the civil rights movements must be communist, for one reason or another, when they attempted to educate the poor. They have also indicated that unions are communist when they attempt to stick up for workers rights. The implication is that it is communist or tyrannical to stand up for workers or students rights. In 1950 Illinois Representative Harold Velde, former FBI man and chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee, said “Educating Americans through means of the library service could bring about a change of their political attitude quicker than any other method. The basis of communism and socialistic influence is education of the people.” This statement was made in reference to the Mobile library service for poor people living in rural parts of the country. This took place during the height of McCarthyism when anti-communist propaganda was at its peak and efforts were being made to control the education process to make sure no one understood the truth about either communism or capitalism. This ended when Joseph Welch said “Senator McCarthy have you no sense of decency?” after this happened Senator McCarthy’s popularity ended and the rabid anti-communism slowed down but there was never any attempt to correct the beliefs drilled into the heads of the public by using intimidation and scare tactics. Many of the people that may have supported some aspects of communism didn’t push them and attempt to sort through the details to avoid starting the anti-communist witch hunts over again.
Reforming the education system and many other problems with democracy would be much more effective if we truly did have a free press instead of one controlled by the same corporations that corrupt the government. Robert McChesney has also reported extensively on this; other people that have written on this include Noam Chomsky, Ben Bagdikian, Erik Klinenberg and other people that work with McChesney at Free Press including Josh Silver and John Nichols. The current media system is far more concerned with ratings and selling advertising than with informing the public. In order to have a truly free press the people that are well informed about any given subject need to have an opportunity to get their message across to the public and the public needs to have a chance to express their concerns in a fair way. The current system doesn’t do this. By charging for the use of the air ways or requiring the Mass Media to give air time to others chosen by the public we could have a much more sincere reporting system. There also needs to be more investigation from journalism that holds the corporations and the government accountable about any given subject which the current system isn’t providing.
Another example is the protection of the environment. The current capitalist system doesn’t require the major corporations to pay as they go for the damage they do to the environment. This enables them to obtain profits by taking the resources from the land without restoring what they are taking as they go or worrying about how much pollution they cause in areas where the local populations have little or no political power. This is leading to the stripping of many of the forests and the polluting of the environment for many of the most desperate people around the world and it also leads to dealing with many dictators that allow the resources of their countries to be stripped for the benefit of the multi-national corporations and the profit of the dictator without providing any benefit to the local populations. In fact not only don’t they benefit from industries but they have their environments destroyed and their old ways of life are often destroyed leaving them in destitution. In one extreme memo (link to source below) that was disclosed to the public Lawrence Summers, former chief economist for the World Bank, said “Just between you and me, shouldn't the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Less Developed Countries]?” this was later explained as an attempt to be ironic and attempt a thought experiment, there were also claims that it may have been written by someone else in his name although I’ve heard no explanation why he didn’t immediately deny it in that case. If this was followed up by efforts to avoid global pollution it might be reasonable to assume that it was a thought experiment intended to lead to a solution; however that doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead this “ironic thought experiment” seems to have been turned into standard policy.
Even in the US the public can’t count on protection from the damage being done to the environment as recent coverage of the Gulf oil spill has indicated. A closer look at this coverage may indicate that in many ways the damage is even worse than what is being reported not just in the gulf but around the world. Most of the coverage about this disaster has been repeating the same things over and over again without elaborating or offering solutions but if you pay close enough attention there have been some hints of bigger problems. They had a brief reminder of the Exxon Valdez spill and the long term effect this has had to people in the area. Many people, including fisherman and other people without much political power, never received much if any compensation for the damage that was done twenty years ago and the environment still hasn’t fully recovered. The current spill is in a much more populated and more vulnerable area. Since there is more life of all kinds in the gulf than there is in Alaska there is more at risk. BP is already trying to avoid responsibility and if they do what Exxon did without opposition from the public they’ll succeed. Another problem that has been barely indicated in the coverage is the fact that there have been over 2,500 other oil spills. This was mentioned briefly on CNN without elaborating on what time frame or where these spills were; nor did they say how big they were. The recent show on sixty minutes mentioned that their expert had experience in at least twenty other oil rig disasters. This implies that there are many more environmental disasters than the public is being informed about. The mass media has made a point of telling the public that the tar found on the Florida Keys isn’t chemically the same as the oil from the current disaster. This seems to imply that the public shouldn’t worry about the tar balls, which for all the public knows, might be from another environmental disaster that has received less attention. There should also be a better explanation about why there is so much oil that continues to leak into the gulf. The way it is being reported seems to indicate the spill is ongoing at a large rate; which when you consider some of the basic principles of the subject, doesn’t seem to make sense. The initial spill, which presumably involves a leak from the storage tanks or a tanker at the rig, is understandable and serious but they shouldn’t be continuing to pump oil into the gulf weeks later without some kind of failsafe to shut of the pump assuming it is being pumped. They didn’t explain what is causing the oil to continue to leak but basic hydraulics shouldn’t cause it to leak at a high rate unless there is something forcing the oil out. The fact that the oil is a little less dense should cause it to lowly leak without the help of a pump but this should be easy to shut down. If they explained the basics of the subject to the public it would be easier to understand this. Do they have a new high tech pump that continues to pump at a massive rate without a failsafe? Is that absurd conspiracy theory about using this to stop oil drilling true? This is hard to believe but they certainly are doing something wrong in the way they are handling the subject and reporting it which makes little or no sense at all.
This problem is certainly not limited to oil spills but it surely includes issues like deforestation and air pollution and much more. Without a better reporting system or other accountability system these disasters are guaranteed to continue going uncorrected until it is too late. There has already been way to much damage to the environment and not only is there little effort to fix the damage done in the past but there is little effort to prevent future disasters. If the multi-national corporations are allowed to continue conducting business as usual then the whole world will have to pay the price for their profits and eventually it could lead to much more damage destroying civilization as we know it.
The capitalist system also doesn’t handle charity in a very efficient manner unless someone is making a profit out of it; and then the primary concern is often to make money not to conduct charity. There is much more talk about charity than there is actual effective charity that helps the poor or other worthy causes. In the current system many of the things that are done for charity do little if anything to directly help the cause they claim to be advocating. For example if there is a walk for hunger or something like this there is an enormous amount of effort for people to ask for sponsors, they make a lot of effort to go for a long walk and there is a lot of media coverage. None of these things directly help the cause. Yes they collect some money which is better than nothing but there have been other efforts to do the same thing that would be much more effective that have been shot down and demonized as socialism. It would be much more effective to collect money if the public could vote on whether or not a portion of their taxes could go for this cause or any other cause and they could be done with open books so that there could be scrutiny. This idea is often shot down by many of the same business interests that criticize all programs for the poor and often benefit from the desperation of the poor. If the poor are hungry and they have little or no unemployment insurance they are at a much worse bargaining position to negotiate for good wages which may be what the corporations want. Many of these social programs often reduce the dependency of the middle and lower classes on the institutions controlled by the upper classes. This enables the upper classes to use divide and rule tactics more effectively; which keeps the majority under the rule of the few. This doesn’t mean we should allow the poor to live on the dole without accountability but it could include a safety net that prevents excessive poverty and helps educate people that need retraining for new jobs when the economic system changes and some people are thrown out of work. For example this could include some programs that could retrain people for green jobs or teach people about cleaner energy like household solar panels or geo-transfer heating and cooling systems that don’t leave them dependent on the corporations. If more money that is spent on corporate subsidies, prisons and military was diverted to charity for effective causes that help the majority it would prevent many of the social problems that lead to crime wars and other much more expensive problems.
There could also be more done to provide financing for research on subjects that benefit the public. The current capitalist system doesn’t fund much research unless it is designed to help corporations make more money or to help the military fight wars and in some cases like the experiments done by Philip Zimbardo and Stanley Milgram study ways to maintain authority over the public. The choices for research projects are rarely as open as they should be to have the most positive affect. In many cases corporations often do their research in secret which means they often duplicate research some of which involves abusing animals. Peter A. Singer has looked into this and found that in many cases the research that has been done in secret wouldn’t pass ethical standards especially since in many cases it isn’t even done for important causes. In many cases research is done to develop cosmetics for profit but not done for other causes that may have more impact on the health of the majority of the public. If research was open to the public in a social system then there would be less ethical problems since they wouldn’t be done in secret and the researchers could share the information dramatically reducing redundancy.
The capitalist system also tends to create an enormous amount of jobs that do little or nothing to benefit the public; instead these jobs are created mainly because they enable the people that run the corporations to make more money. One of the most extreme examples is smoking which not only doesn’t benefit the public but it makes their lives much worse and eventually even kills them. This particular case started as a social activity that people thought was cool or something; when the tobacco companies realized this they created one of the most effective advertising campaigns ever to expand this impression so that many more people picked up the habit based on false assumptions. Then when it became clear that there wasn’t any benefit instead it was killing people they initially covered it up. There continues to be a massive effort to give the public a distorted image about the social and health implications of smoking for the profit of the tobacco corporations. This is just one example where advertising was used to create a market for something that didn’t have much if any value to the public. Thanks to the Buckley v. Valeo ruling and the control over the major institutions that control the mass Media those with money have more rights to influence the system than people without money but more sincere intentions. A good economic system should be based on input from everyone and it would encourage jobs that improve the quality of life. A common counter argument is that whether it is about smoking or eating fatty foods is that the public should have the right to choose for themselves. This is true; however in order to make rational choices they should have access to the information they need to make those choices; the people that claim the government shouldn’t mandate food labels, which may be more accurate, don’t seem to have objections if the corporations provide a distorted promotions of these products. There are many subjects where the public doesn’t have that information now. This includes the decisions to fight war make choices about the environment and many other things.
If there are a large amount of jobs eliminated because the public has access to accurate information to make their decisions and they decline to purchase products or services that they don’t benefit from in the long run this could actually help strengthen the economy for products and services that are worthwhile. If a job is eliminated in the tobacco industry and that person gets a more productive job then he may be doing something that brings profit to the business and provides a worth while service for the consumer. If the consumer needs this service then he will be less likely to stop purchasing it and the job will be more secure assuming there is a proper incentive system for everyone involved. Some jobs that might be reduced if the public was better informed about the subject include gambling, insurance, advertising weapons manufacturing etc. This could involve anything that society doesn’t receive as much benefit from as they’re led to believe. Gambling is one of the clearest examples which provide little no benefit for the consumer. They claim it is for entertaining purposes but for many of the most devoted gamblers this clearly isn’t true; they do this because they want to win and they’re hooked. If they understood the fact that the gambling institutions have to rig the game in order to cover their expenses and make a profit they would be much less likely to continue gambling. Insurance works on the same principles as gambling only this is for a necessity. Health care and other benefits from insurance may be a necessity but the majority of the bureaucracy shouldn’t be. The more money insurance companies spend on advertising, lobbying, adjustments and other administrative costs plus profits the less there is available for health care. Every time you see a commercial for health care or any other type of insurance you should think of that as money that isn’t being returned to the consumer. It is virtually guaranteed that if we took a closer look at other systems run by other countries we would find they are such more efficient than the American system which is full of waste and massive profits for the insurance companies without providing nearly as good a deal for the consumer as they could and should. Insurance costs could probably be cut in half without reducing quality if it was reformed in an honest way.
The upper classes with an access to a good education have much better information available to them to make their choices including, in some cases, the education about subjects that involve manipulating the public. This includes political science, marketing research and some psychology courses. If the upper classes have the education about political science to manipulate the voters about politics and fiscal ideologies then they can control the votes of the masses against their wills. The same could be said for marketing to understand which way to present their products to the public in a manner to sell as many as possible. More often than not this involves deceiving the public one way or another. This could also include the research that Philip Zimbardo and Stanley Milgram did to understand obedience to authority. In all these cases the most effective way to overcome these deceptive tactics would involve educating the public about the manipulation tactics being used for one reason or another. This will enable them to recognize and avoid fraud in several forms.
The public hasn’t received an accurate impression about what socialism or communism is supposed to be about any more than the public in the USSR was given an accurate impression about what capitalism is about. In the USA this began in the nineteenth century if not earlier and escalated whenever communism appeared as if it might gain more support. Some of the people that advocated Communism claimed that there would be no need for violent revolution in the USA due to the fact that the USA allowed free speech and wouldn’t object to letting people review the ideology; unfortunately this hasn’t proven to be the case. Red scares escalated after WWI when the Russian revolution resulted in something that called itself communism. This led to the emotional attacks carried out by the American Protective League and censorship and harassment of people like Eugene Debs, Sacco and Vanzetti and others. Sacco and Vanzetti were executed for a crime which they may have been implicated for political reasons according to many people. Eugene Debs was put in jail for exercising his right to free speech during WWI. Red scares escalated again after WWII during McCarthyism. During McCarthyism they came up with a pamphlet called “One Hundred Things You Should Know About Communism” which was full of lies and distortions. A large percentage of the public was coerced into believing in the Capitalist system and hating the communist system without understanding either one of them. In both cases anyone who wanted to review the issues in a rational manner and educate the public about other ideologies was harassed, deprived of employment or suppressed in other ways and in the most extreme cases perhaps even murdered. If we are going to have a rational, fair and democratic system in place we should allow the free exchange of ideas whether we agree with them or not. In many cases the ideas many people believe in aren’t based on rational through but intimidation and manipulation tactics. If one system or another is more worthwhile then a rational review will confirm that. If none of the existent ideologies is perfect then a rational review could lead to finding the best of multiple systems and coming up with the best one. This review wouldn’t mean allowing tyranny instead it would involve allowing the democracy and free exchange of ideas that we’re already supposed to have. This shouldn’t mean only that we have the freedom to agree with the powerful but no freedom to reform the system for the benefit of the majority. Contrary to what the anti-communist people claim Marx was never opposed to democracy; quite the opposite he thought we should have a democracy. Just because the USSR wasn’t democratic doesn’t mean that Marx wasn’t. In his Critique of the Gotha Program Marx said “Freedom consists in converting the state from an organ superimposed upon society into one completely subordinate to it.” This doesn’t mean that we should accept Marxism without scrutiny or assume that anyone who advocates democracy while out of power will back it up when they gain power but it does indicate that the public has been misled and should review what they’ve been told before coming to final conclusions.
The bottom line is that in a free democratic society the public should understand how the most important institutions are run and they should be able to make the most important decisions based on an accurate perception of reality not propaganda.
Statement from Lawrence Summers and reviews from several sources:
To read the writings of Marx yourself and come to your own conclusions regardless of what the opponents or advocates claim see the following:
Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program:
The US Constitution:
Partial lists of oil spills, this doesn’t cover the vast majority of smaller spills which surely have an enormous cumulative effect nor does it cover other types of pollution:
One Hundred Things You Should Know About Communism pamphlet:
For Howard Zinn's commentary including reference to comment by Harold Velde:
For the full HTML version of this blog with table of context see:
Thursday, 13 May 2010
Should everyone have equal rights to free speech or should those with more money have more rights to free speech as the Supreme Court seems to have decided?
What else should be considered when deciding these issues?
In the Supreme Court ruling for Buckley v. Valeo in 1976 the Supreme Court essentially decided that when it comes to political speech that money equals speech. This means that rich corporations or people can spend unlimited amounts of money one way or another to get their political point of view across to the public but the majority of the public can’t spend much if any money to have an influence on this process. This means that the right of those with large amounts of money to lie to the public and go unchallenged by the truth is more important than the right to provide both points of view unless the other point of view is also supported by another rich person who is willing to spend an enormous amount of money.
This ruling combined with the fact that the biggest media companies have gone through a massive consolidation process over the last thirty years has enabled a small number of corporations to dominate the messages that are delivered to a large segment of the public. The majority of the public doesn’t have nearly as much rights to free speech that gets through to a large segment of the other members of the public; instead they can talk to a few family members and friends and get their ideas across to a much smaller amount of people many of whom may be heavily influenced by the Mass Media and the ideology they promote with little or no opposition on a large scale. This has enabled the multi-national corporations that control the Mass Media to use it for indoctrination purposes and deprive the public about many of the most important facts they need to make decisions about any given subject.
The public has little or no direct control over what the Major media outlets broadcasts. They often claim that competition will provide what the public wants since they will have the choice to watch which ever shows they like but if the broadcasters don’t show the public what they want to see the choice is either watch what they do show or watch nothing. The Mass media doesn’t much if any educational material that is of any value about many of the most important subjects like violence prevention, the activities that lead up to many wars, environmental destruction and many other things. Instead they often broadcast information that often does more to confuse the public than to educate them about these issues. In most cases they appeal to the emotions of many members of the public; if they do provide experts to discuss any given issue these experts are chosen by the Mass Media with little peer review. In many cases the Mass Media may choose experts that suit their own purposes if they have an agenda which may or may not be easy to see. One of the most blatant cases is the way they treat crime. They often cater to the fear of the public and present this in a very dramatic manner which incites emotions from the public. They rarely ever allow many of the most credible researchers of this subject to let the public know what they have found out about the causes of crime that could be prevented including the fact that child abuse at a very early age is a major contributing cause to long term violence and other crimes. If the public knew this then they could do more to initiate more child abuse programs and dramatically reduce crime; instead they act out of anger and spend much more money building prisons which has had some impact on the short term reduction in crime but the majority of the reduction in the long term is from reduced child abuse. This is also true about many other scientific subjects including archaeology, astronomy and many other fields. If you look in the library for good book on any given subject you will almost certainly find material that is much better than what the Mass Media is presenting to the public.
The Fairness Doctrine once provided a better system although it almost certainly wasn’t implemented in the most effective way since the public wasn’t well informed about it and there probably were some doubts about whether it was being implemented properly; but instead of fixing the problem they eliminated it giving the owners of the Mass Media an opportunity to present propaganda with no checks and balances. In the late sixties and the early seventies this was part of what enabled the government to require the tobacco companies to withdraw advertisements from TV since they wanted to avoid putting warnings on their advertisements about the dangers of smoking and they didn’t want the public to hear the Public Service Announcements warning them about how bad tobacco was for their health. The fairness doctrine was, or should have been, used to ensure that the public would hear about the dangers the tobacco companies didn’t want to tell them about. This probably wasn’t handled as well as it could have and in this case it led to the withdrawal of TV ads and the tobacco companies used other means to advertise where they wouldn’t have to comply with the Fairness Doctrine or provide the warnings for a couple more decades. This wasn’t perfect but in the eighties the Reagan administration eliminated even this and at the same time the media was consolidating leading to a steadily decline in the quality of what is being presented to the public on TV and from other media outlets.
Even when the Fairness Doctrine was in place those that spoke out in favor of peace or for the rights of the lower classes never received nearly as much attention as those who spoke in favor of war and capitalism. In fact in many cases it has become a crime to speak out in favor of peace and against Mass Murder which is essentially what war is. The assumption has always been that we have to fight against an enemy which is evil so those who spoke in favor of peace are often accused of appeasing the enemy; however in many cases they are also telling the truth and after the panic has died down the evidence has often supported this. Not only are there many cases where an incident was faked or exaggerated like the Gulf of Tonkin incident or the Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq but there have also been many incidents where our own government has instigated the violence that preceded the violent conflict. This includes coups in many countries that were carried out by the CIA or other organizations including the support for Ngo Dinh Diem in Viet Nam, the support for the Shah in Iran, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Batista in Cuba and many others. If people didn’t have to rebel against these tyrants that had power with the support of the USA they wouldn’t have led to revolutions that installed tyrants opposed to US policy. There is something seriously wrong when the people that are opposed to Mass murder are labeled criminals while those that carry it out are hyped up and considered heroes.
This same problem happens when people speak out for the best interests of the lower and middle classes in some cases by advocating programs that help educate the poor or protect the environment. When a program is designed to help the poor it is often labeled socialist entitlement and demonized as inefficient. In many cases there are some inefficiencies in these programs but the way to address them is to review them and fix them not demonize and eliminate them assuming they serve a worthwhile goal. There is an enormous amount of evidence to indicate that if the poor and lower classe4s are better educated they will be more productive and less likely to participate in crime or other counterproductive behavior. Money spent on education could dramatically reduce the amount necessary for prisons and increase the amount they pay in taxes if they’re more productive. It will also enable them to stand up for their own rights better which may be what some people don’t want. Money spent to protect the environment will be just as good an investment since we are dependent on the environment for our survival it will have to be addressed eventually. If the biggest businesses continue to obtain high profits by ignoring the damage they do to the environment every one will eventually have to pay the price. In both these issues and many more the best interests of the majority of the public is being ignored by the Mass Media in favor of propaganda that enables the multi-national corporations to increase their profits in the short term at the expense of the long term security of our society. The current system is already collapsing at least partially now; It may be possible to create some short term fixes that will enable them to maintain the current capitalist system but it will lead to more damage in the long run. The most effective way to address the issues should involve allowing people from different points of view including those that are better educated and truly have the best interest of the public in mind have a chance to get their views across.
Coverage about corporate or military corruption tends to be much rarer or it doesn’t happen until the amount of money lost as a result is much higher. When this happens it is much less likely to result in cuts to programs that benefit the corporations and military or if they do they often replace them just as quickly with other programs that benefit the corporations and military. This is usually done in confusing ways that the public doesn’t understand. Since corruption in these types of programs is often covered up they tend to be much worse and the damage is usually harder to detect; when the inefficiency is exposed it is often blamed on a confusing bureaucracy. The most powerful; institutions are often much more complicated than they need to be and they conduct an excessive amount of their activities out of the public eye. Even if the information is available to the public it is often in places where the public doesn’t know to look unless they are familiar with the bureaucracy. There is far more money being wasted on what is often called corporate welfare than the more widely known welfare for the poor but it is done in a more confusing way so that it is easier to demonize the poor when they need someone to blame for problems and the current media system often does this. Regular welfare is a problem that needs to be addressed; however that shouldn’t mean just abolishing it; instead they should expose the details and fix it. In many cases the corruption often labeled as corporate welfare isn’t doing the majority of the public much if any good at all; instead it is solely designed to benefit those with the political connections alone. In many cases these programs really should be abolished; but without the resources available to investigate on it and report it this rarely happens. In the cases where there is a benefit for the public then it should be explained to the public but those that understand it and want to do so rarely ever get the chance to speak through the Mass Media. In some cases where tax money goes to something that does have a legitimate benefit for the public it may not actually get to the public unless they pay for it a second time. Examples of this may include when there is research done with the help of a government grant to a private institution and the result of that research produces a drug that is patented and the private company gets the patent and the public still has to pay extra for the brand drug due to the fact that the patent effectively gives one company a monopoly on that drug for a significant period of time. In other cases the research may result in a book that is copy written and controlled by the private corporation as well. In both these examples the public foots the bill for the research but the benefit from it is controlled by the holder of the patent or copyright.
In the late nineties there were some micro broadcaster that attempted to respond to the low quality of the material coming from the Mass Media but they were stopped from having even small radio outlets by the government which wound up defending the rights of the few major companies to control the airwaves without requiring them to do any thing to address the concerns of the public. This essentially means that the government was using regulations to protect the oligopoly currently in place. Which means that “Big Government” was used to protect “Big Media” when they need it; but they weren’t there to protect the people that wanted small media or equal right to get their point across to the public. When the first amendment was added to the constitution it was done so to prevent the government from controlling the media and eliminating accountability to the government; now the corporations have control over the media and excessive control over the political process. This means that the original intent of the first amendment has been violated by the current process. The right to free speech on a large scale is reserved for only those with control over the media or massive amount of cash and in some cases if people with enough cash challenge the current system they may not even be able to buy advertising if they don’t meet standards decided by the Mass Media.
In most cases this hasn’t involved infringing on the rights of people to speak in their own home as some of the most extreme tyrants have done in the past but there may be some indication that in a few rare exceptions even this has been infringed on; or at least there have been some accusations of these incidents when it comes to challenging the government. It is difficult to know whether many or any of these claims have much if any legitimacy since there hasn’t been a rational sincere investigation into them in most cases. This include incidents where the government has spied on the peace protesters in the late sixties and early seventies against the Viet Nam war and again in the eighties against the wars in Central America, including the support of the Contras during the Iran Contra controversy. Some admissions have been made by the government that they were spying on the protesters and there is some indication that some efforts were made to intimidate them. More extreme claims have been made about the investigation into the assassination of JFK. The evidence of this seems weaker to most people and if there is some legitimate claims to them then there has been a successful attempt to confuse the issue and prevent people from knowing what happened. Even without what some people would consider solid evidence of intimidation there is evidence of incompetence and a cover up of something in the Warren Report and the House Select Committee on Assassinations report which contradicts it in many ways. In fact neither report makes complete sense; so at best this is evidence of incompetence.
Never the less the bigger problem is what is reported to the masses and whether or not it is an accurate way of addressing the most important facts that people need to make the most important decisions to effect many of the most important issues. First of all it would help to keep in mind that if everyone speaks up at once then no one will hear any one so every one will be censored which often seems to be what is happening on many of the talk shows that have people talking so fast at the same time. The assumption that we should be opposed to censorship all the time isn’t quite so simple as a quick declaration then letting the same people cover the same material over and over again. Under the current circumstances those who are doing this are effectively censoring every one else then when people complain they accuse them of trying to infringe on their right to speak. This effectively means that one segment of society can drown out the rest of society.
Should every one have equal rights to free speech? It certainly sounds like a good idea and to some degree it should be implemented but most people don’t have the education necessary to make many of the most important decisions. This doesn’t mean that the masses shouldn’t have a chance to get their points of view across though; typically in the past when the elite have claimed to stick up for the rights of the masses they have rarely ever done as well as they have claimed. Ideally there would be some effort to hear the points of views of the masses, perhaps mostly at the local level, so that they can participate in the system and also an good effort to give the most educated people a chance to speak.
Should every one have a right to choose who they will listen to? In many cases some of the people that are addressing the public don’t seem very credible to many people and many of us don’t want to listen to those that aren’t credible. In some cases including my own the people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have very little credibility and if there are more credible people that have a better track record of making sensible arguments I would rather listen to them. This doesn’t mean that it is the best interest of everyone to listen only to those they agree with since this would eliminate some of the most important scrutiny we need. Those who agree with us often think the same way and it helps to consider the point of views of others that might, in some cases, be better at catching our mistakes. Also if people like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity are getting a lot of attention it will be important for someone to fact check them and correct their mistakes so that they don’t develop a strong cult following that can le4ad to some very bad decisions.
Should academics have more rights to speak about the subject they specialize in? If so should they be subject to peer review and should they be required to show the work behind their conclusions? Ideally we would have academics that have done the research necessary to find out more about many of the most important subjects. If we need to make decisions about any given subject including the environment wouldn’t it be more reasonable to listen to research that isn’t controlled by the oil companies? If there is going to be a sincere and successful democracy we need to make decisions based on the most accurate facts possible without corrupting influences. Ideally we would have many different academics speak about their research and show the work that led to their conclusions. The Experts wouldn’t be able to cover everything in front of a large audience but they could provide and online set of references for the public to review. Ideally they would also find some time to answer the questions that the public may have about the subject they specialize in. If we’re going to give them more than the average time to speak to a large audience they should be willing to show the work behind their claims, respond to questions and the public should have the opportunity to review it at their own leisure.
Many Media reform researchers and historians that have looked at history from the points of view of the lower and middle classes including Howard Zinn, Robert McChesney founder of Free Press and many others have already dome a lot to address this problem but the majority of the public hasn’t had much if any chance to listen to them; in some cases the most credible sources have been demonized as part of an effort to preserve the status quo.
To read Buckley v. Valeo Supreme Court ruling see the following:
For the Free Press web site run by Robert McChesney, John Nichols and Josh Silver see the following:
For Howard Zinn’s web page see the following:
Tobacco ban on TV advertisements
For a sample of articles about rejected ads see the following:
For additional comments on this subject see the following:
For the full HTML version of this blog with table of context see:
Friday, 7 May 2010
In a true democracy the election process should be controlled by the public not the candidates or a press that isn’t accountable to the public.
No business would ever allow the job applicants to decide how the interview process should go and decide which questions they should answer; why should we continue doing this to elect our political representatives?
Election reform will also require media reform and education reform so the public knows how to make some of the most important decisions that control the country and the world.
The way we elect our representatives has become an absurd satire so ridiculous that almost everyone should know there is something seriously wrong. Elections no longer spend much if any time discussing the issues nor did they ever spend nearly as much as they should have. Instead they spend all there time discussing one absurd scandal after another. The best chance the public used to have was when someone was involved in a scandal they used to say they don’t want to distract from the issues and they would try to steer the discussion back to the issues but even then they spent more time saying they wanted to discuss the issues than they did doing so in productive manner. Now they rarely even do that. Right now the control of the election system is in the hands of those running for office and the Mass Media both of which are financed by the multi-national corporations. This has virtually eliminated democracy in the USA which was never as democratic as they made it out to be. In order to fix this the public needs to learn how to set up and control a new system that enables them to make most of the important decisions based on well informed perceptions of how democracy and the major institutions of our society are run. If the government and the biggest corporations keep most of this information away from the public there is no way this can be done.
In order to have successful election reform we need media reform too and this should create at least some media that is directly accountable to the public. Robert McChesney, Ben Bagdikian and several other authors have written about how the media has deteriorated over the last several decades as well as the problems with the media since it was created. The current media system is financed by advertisements and this gives control over the media to the major corporations. This creates a clear conflict of interests when it comes to the possibility where we may need the media to investigate wrong doing by the major corporations. Many of the collapses of business over the last decade and the environmental disasters should make it clear that the current media system isn’t working. There was plenty of evidence that these disasters were coming but they were ignored until they got so bad they caused major collapses in business and damage to the environment that was much worse than it had to be. If these problems were investigated earlier the cause of the problems could have been exposed to the public before they got nearly as bad and they could have been stopped. These are just the tip of the iceberg if you think about it. If you go down a list of different subjects that the media could help inform the public about one subject after another you may find that they hardly even try to do so. They have a small number of media spokesperson that often seems to act as if their right to free speech should be above reproach but they are under no obligation to give any right to free speech to anyone else. This effectively enables them to present themselves as experts by default since they don’t give many if any other people a chance to speak on all subjects despite the fact that they seem to no little about many if any of them. One of the biggest examples which I have discussed on several other posts is the lack of attention they give to people that study the root causes of violence and how they start with early child rearing. Instead they provide an enormous amount of demagoguery from people like Nancy Grace that manipulate people’s emotions.
The mass media has been doing little if anything to provide the most important information that the public needs about the election of candidates: they spend little time interviewing them about the issues or fact checking the information in a trustworthy manner. Robert McChesney and the others from Free Press have argued that we need a new class of journalists that are independent and perhaps subsidized by the public one way or another. They have argued that this should be done through the government. If so then this new class of journalists should be accountable directly to the people who are financing them and they should pursue issues that the public wants them to pursue as well as the most important issues that affect the public. There may be some important issues that affect the public that many people may not be aware of if a good journalist finds this and brings it to the attention of the public then the public will benefit from it and learn to appreciate it. If this is going to be done successfully it will have to be done simultaneously with election reform and education reform since we will need trust worthy political representatives and an educated public in order to make this work.
Ideally a good media system accountable to the public would investigate many of the most important issues and political and corporate corruption as well as educate the public about many of the most important issues including violence prevention war prevention nonviolent social issues and the sciences including information about the damage being done to the environment and global warming. Shows could be aired that invite many of the best academic experts on any given subject to discuss the details starting with the basics of any given subject so the public will understand how to make important decisions about that subject, As it stand now the public is dependent of the corporations that own the Mass Media for this information and they provide a perception of reality that is designed primarily to protect their own bottom line regardless of what is best for the public. A good media system that is accountable to the public should be open to scrutiny in most if not all cases; however one exception that is worth considering carefully is the press shield law that protects the sources of a good reporter. If this is maintained then the reasons and purpose of the law should be explained to the public so it isn’t misused. This is supposed to enable a credible reporter to act on information they receive in confidence from people that may be worried about retaliation from a criminal organization, corporation or government that is involved in wrong doing and wants to keep it secret. One of the most famous examples of this is Deep throat from the water gate scandal other examples could include people that blow the whistle on pollution issues and want to keep their jobs. The purpose of this is to protect those that blow the whistle on wrong doing from retaliation from powerful institutions that have excessive control over the lively hood of the public or in some cases can even threaten the lives of whistle blowers. Unfortunately it is often used for other reasons to leak information for a political cause or even to retaliate against whistle blowers with impunity. An example of this might be when the name of Valerie Plame was allegedly leaked to the press for political reasons when her husband Joseph Wilson criticized the Bush administration. The reason for the law shouldn’t be forgotten and it should be kept in mind that this could be used either to protect sincere whistle blowers or to achieve political goals in secrecy. It won’t be easy to find a middle ground on this and ultimately it may rely on the credibility of those enforcing it. In the long run if most of the most powerful institutions conduct their business in the open without secrecy at all there may be much less need to use this protection at all but until then the public needs credible people to enforce it properly for the right reasons.
There will of course be some concern about how this will be paid for an initially this may cause some resistance but when you consider how much it has already cost the public to go without a credible media it may become clear that it is much more expensive to do nothing than to finance a media that is accountable to the public one way or another. If you consider the amount of money that could have been saved if the financial disasters that cost many people millions if not billions of dollars over the last decade of two you may find that this alone is more than financing a accountable media and this isn’t the only way the public could save by having a media accountable to an informed public. The public would save on many other subjects as well. If the public was informed about many of the reasons we went to war over the last hundred years they could have prevented many wars saving thousands of lives and billions dollars that were spent for these wars as well as the money spent rebuilding after them. Billions of dollars could be saved on the reduced crime rates including violent crimes if the public was educated about how violence escalates from early childhood. An enormous amount of money could be saved by preventing environmental disasters like the oil spill in the gulf as well as many other environmental disasters including the deforestation problem and climate change. The more subjects you look at the more you may find that many of the most important decisions being made by the public are based on false facts and they’re costing billions of dollars and thousands of lives; the cost of a credible media would surely be much smaller assuming it is done right. That doesn’t mean that it will happen with the first try though it is virtually guaranteed that there will be some trial and error necessary to get it right but the potential benefits would surely be worth it. Reviewing the way some of the other governments in the world as McChesney and others have done may help reduce the mistakes made along the way since much of this trial and error may have already been done but the majority of the public isn’t aware of it. It would also help to have input from a variety of academic sources about any given subject s that the information given to the public will undergo peer review.
In a sincere democracy the candidates for office should go through a job application and interview process that is directly controlled by the citizens. This may not seem very easy or for some people it may not appear to be even possible but if some of the details are worked out carefully then perhaps a good first try could be made and even if it doesn’t work the first time it is virtually guaranteed that we can come up with a system better than the current system. The reason for this is because the people controlling the current system don’t even seem to be trying to create a system that is democratic; instead they seem to be trying to convince the public that the system that favors those in power is best for everyone by using an enormous amount of propaganda. The public should control the interview process starting by setting up a reasonable job application that candidates should be required to fill out in order to qualify for the ballot. No business would ever hire a job applicant that refused to fill out a job application when asked by the potential employer yet for many candidates with political connections this is standard procedure. Vote Smart has been providing something similar to a job application for candidates already. This could be a good starting point; either by using their existing system with the participation of more people or reviewing their methods for ideas to start a good job application system. Unfortunately there seem to be a lot of candidates including some with the most name recognition that haven’t been filling out these applications. These people should be informed that if they aren’t going to inform the public about their positions on policy in the future that they will no longer be eligible to represent the public. In fact they aren’t really representing the public as it is if they don’t let them know where they stand on the issues. They should also be required to show up at a certain amount of interviews that are organized by the citizens groups and answer unscreened questions from the citizens. Ideally the citizens would attempt to do their homework as well so that they are prepared to ask relevant questions instead of silly questions like do you wear boxers or briefs which may be funny but they don’t help choose the best candidate for the job. The method used to decide what questions to ask and who should be able to participate in the interviews with the candidates will need some organization and screening since it won’t be possible to have everyone interview the statewide and national candidates. This could be started at the local level for local candidates then the system used to interview local candidates could be used as a starting point to set up a statewide and national system. This could either be done by rotating which area gets to interview statewide and national candidates or they could each send representatives to a regional board that controlled the interview process.
A system run by the public would be much better than the current system but in the short term it may be necessary to decide whether or not the candidates who have been flooding the airwaves with political ads should be allowed to continue to do so. This is partly based on the Supreme Court decision equating money with speech. This decision should be reviewed by the public not the courts since they haven’t proven to be sincere about it. This decision clearly gives preferential treatment to those with money at the expense of those without money. Under this system the right of those with lots of money to present a distorted perception of reality to the public is more important than the right of people with much less money but sincere intentions to correct the mistakes or in some cases out right lies. A new system should be considered carefully that gives more considerations to the public’s right to accurate information about important subjects and the equal right to free speech for everyone not just the rich. The current system gives the rich the right to flood the public with propaganda and little worthwhile information. One way to address this in the short term until the free speech issue can be resolved on a more perminate basis could be to ask the candidates to pledge not to use many if any ads in the future and to participate in the public interview process. If the candidates agree to this and the public agrees to boycott those that refuse to do this in favor of those who agree to participate in a fair uncorrupted system. The current system has all the characteristics of bribery only instead of calling it bribery they call it campaign contributions and lobbying.
Citizens groups could be formed at the local level to interview their local candidates including the mayors, state representatives and school board members. They could prepare an application similar to the one provided by vote smart or if they choose they could come up with one of their own. They could elect some people to moderate the interviews for candidates of various offices perhaps on a rotating basis and if they have multiple interviews they could have different people moderating them. This could familiarize them with a good interview process and it could be used as an example of how applications and interviews for state wide and national candidates could be prepared. Each citizens group could send a representative to a larger county board that would control the elections for counties and for local representatives of the national congress. The county groups could send representatives to a statewide election group that will control statewide applications and interviews. These board members might set up the interviews but they should allow some input from the public and when it comes time to carry out the interview they should invite a larger number of people to participate in it. There should be a process set up where people would have a right to send in their ideas at their convenience and the public should have an opportunity to ratify the new system.
Ideally there would be participation from academics specializing in relevant subject in these citizens groups. There are already a lot of academics doing plenty of research into any given subject and they are reviewing each others work in the academic community but this work isn’t getting through to the majority of the public. Instead the politicians and media people are screening the majority of the information given to the public and if they feel the need for an academic source to back up their beliefs they often choose one that they feel they can rely on for their own purposes with little or no peer review when they present information to the public. This method is extremely biased and is leading to a public that is constantly making their decisions based on propaganda except for a small percentage of the public that takes the initiative to do their own research to find out what is true. To put it bluntly this ensures that many of the most important decisions are based on a bunch of lies designed to benefit a bunch of corrupt people that control the media and the political system. This is quite clear when you look at a few issues like the environment and violence prevention. When it comes to violence prevention as I have indicated in other entries they are manipulating the emotions and prejudices of the public instead of explaining the true causes of violence that often start at a very young age when children aren’t taught right then it steadily escalates. If the public was taught right about this they could solve the problem at an early stage instead of waiting until some adults are so violent that they can’t be controlled without keeping them in jail. In the case of the environment it is very similar; the cost of the damage to the environment is rarely if ever figured into the cost of doing business unless there is a major disaster like the oil spill in the gulf. If this happens it is already too late. If the public were educated about this they could have set up a system that prevented this or set up a quick process to clean it up in the few cases they couldn’t avoid it. Or perhaps if the relied more on wind and solar after the public was educated about the subject there would be no risk of the spill if they no longer need to drill off shore.
In order for this to work it would be best if the public was willing to listen to these experts as well; under the current system many members of the public have been spending so much time listening to demagogues that they don’t know how to tell the difference between a reliable academic and someone who is trying to manipulate their emotions. This may not be easy to change in the short term but it is important to try because one way to guarantee that we fail is to give up without trying. In the long run this may require a better education system and many parents may need to learn how to prepare their children for school better if they haven’t already been taught right by their own parents. This may not be easy since many of these people think they already know how to do these things but they weren’t taught right the first time around so they respond with emotions instead of thinking things through carefully. This won’t change over night and many people may have to reconsider their preconceived ideas if this is going to work.
Instant run off elections will also help third party candidates have a chance. Under the current system the public has been given the impression that only the people from the Democratic Party or the Republican Party have a chance and to vote for anyone else is a waste of a vote. If this is true it is only true because the public accepts the false premise given to them by the political establishment and the mass media. Both these parties have been controlled by party operatives who are accountable to campaign contributions from the same multi-national corporations that also own and control the Mass Media. This essentially means that both the political parties and the Mass Media are influenced or controlled by the multi-national corporations; which creates no more than the illusion of a democracy; if the public wants to get their way on any given issue they need to organize on a massive scale to overcome this corruption to make small changes which could be overturned as soon as they go back to business as usual. By having Instant Runoff Election then the members of the public can put third party candidates that participate fairly in the process ahead of the corrupt members from both the major parties. This has been tried on a small scale in some towns they could learn from this to work out the details for using it on a larger scale.
Proportionate representation and comparisons with other countries forms of government could also help reform our system. As it stands there may be some trial and error ahead in order to find a system that works best; however some of this may have already been done. By looking at the systems used in other countries they can learn from their mistakes and avoid many of the worst mistakes that might arise otherwise. Better planning could go a long ways to make the transition much smother. Also it should be kept in mind that the original constitution was never ratified directly by the people and there are still a lot of problems with it. That doesn’t mean there aren’t good things about it of course there are but there are also bad things some of which have been corrected including the fact that woman and minorities didn’t originally have the right to vote and the majority of the public isn’t familiar with the constitution at all; instead many people are taught to worship it without understanding it even though there are still flaws in it. One of the biggest flaws is the fact that the Senate has two members from each state regardless of how many people are in that state. This is blatantly biased yet some consider it sacred despite the fact that the constitution was never ratified directly by a public that understood the document.
Voting machines should also be subject to confirmation and scrutiny. There should be a way of confirming the votes that the people understand; this means that there should be a paper trail; however this doesn’t mean that new technology can’t help do things more efficiently as long as its accuracy can be confirmed. One possibility could be to use bar codes and a written ballot that would be printed out by a computer and the voter could look at it then drop it in a box. This could mean that the voter could punch his/her choice into a computer and then review it before pressing a button that would print out his ballot which would have his choices written along with a bar code. Then when they do an initial count it could all be done by computer by reading the bar code for quick results but the ballots would be saved and if there was any doubt then they could be reviewed by hand. They could either do a sampling if there is a large margin or if they chose for any reason they could review the entire election. When reviewing they could read the results by hand and periodic checks could be made to make sure the bar code reading was accurate as well.
A sincere reform effort should be done by the public from below not from above and these suggestions, while better than the current system, shouldn’t be considered perfect; however it could be a good starting point and others could and hopefully will provide their own ideas so that they can be compared and the public can choose the best system based on a thorough review of many ideas.
Ultimately one thing that should be kept in mind is that a true democracy that is of the people, by the people and for the people needs to be controlled by a public that has the education and information they need to make the most important decisions influencing our lives.
This means that instead of continuing to find excuses why we can’t educate the middle and lower classes in the most effective way possible we need to find a way to educate the middle and lower classes as well as reform the election system.
For project vote smarts web site see the following:
For the Free Press web site run by Robert McChesney, John Nichols and Josh Silver see the following:
For the web site of stop big media.com see the following:
For Media Matters with Robert McChesney see the following:
For additional comments on this subject see the following:
For the full HTML version of this blog with table of context see:
Saturday, 1 May 2010
Are the lower and middle classes responsible for “Class warfare” as many members of the Mass Media often claim or imply?
In order to know for certain whether or not it is the upper middle or lower classes responsible for class conflicts some of which lead to violence and even real wars it will take time to sort through the details; but it seems pretty obvious to me that the view that the lower and middle classes and some radical elements are solely responsible for the class conflict won’t hold up to much if any scrutiny. The lower and middle classes almost certainly do the vast majority of the work in society; but the upper classes receive a much larger share of the benefits. Even though this is clear to me and presumably many other people it will still help to review the details to figure out what if anything to do about it. One of the biggest reasons the upper classes receive the lions share of the benefits from the work done by society is because the control the most powerful institutions and the have education they need available to them however this isn’t the only part of the problem that needs to be considered.
A review of the history of the conflict between the classes will help understand this better. Unfortunately the history books controlled by the most powerful institutions have been influenced by the upper classes and many of the most extreme conspiracy theorists or rebels tend to exaggerate in the other direction but a few more credible books include “The People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn; “Lies My teacher Told Me” by James Loewen and "Policing America's Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State" by Alfred McCoy. These books indicate a history where the most powerful people in the USA have routinely pursued one course of action, that often involved suppressing the rights of the poor at home and abroad, and told the public another story that indicated they were protecting democracy. They are well sourced and collect a large amount of information that has been available for a long time but not widely presented to the public. Many members of the public have been aware of small portions of this information since they had to live through it but the information that has been taught by the Mass Media and the history books tend to demonstrate a strong bias in favor of the richest members of society. This isn’t limited to the history of the USA; there is evidence of class discrepancies that go back thousands of years; however the history of the USA has been recorded better and to some degree presented to the public than the rest of history. Also the history of the USA is more applicable to the current class conflicts in the USA and around the world since right or wrong the USA is the sole remaining superpower.
One of the biggest misconceptions about the USA that contributes to class conflict is the assumption that the USA is a democracy; this is false it is a republic. The US constitution has often been glorified as being almost or in some cases entirely above reproach. This should also be considered false. In fact even the founding fathers who many consider above reproach didn’t think it was perfect. Thomas Jefferson once said that the dead shouldn’t rule the living. As he indicated in a speech at the end of the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin also had reservations about the constitution but they signed it because they had to start somewhere. The original constitution didn’t allow woman, Native Americans or blacks to vote. In fact the majority of the control at that time was a small percentage of the white males most of which owned property. In many cases those with less property or political power wound up having to fight for their rights all over again. One of the earliest examples of this was Shays rebellion and as time went on there was the civil war, woman’s suffragette movement, civil rights movements, environmental movements and more. In most if not all of these movements they had to fight or debate against the most powerful entrenched segments of society which until recently consisted of whit males who rarely did much if any thing to help other political factions unless there was something it for them. The most powerful business men have often brought in labor from other parts of the world and hired security forces and often even used political connections to obtain help from the police or National Guard rather than allow wages to increase for the working classes. In many cases they would have almost certainly saved money by negotiating higher wages instead of using a lot of money to hire security and truck in labor from other parts of the country or even world. They have at times even resorted to violence that would have been considered mass murder if not for the fact that they had political power. This isn’t something unique to the USA; in England they once applied the death penalty for a poor person who stole a rasher of cotton from the rich and they forbade the poor from hunting in the kings’ forest. This essentially meant that just to survive for many poor people meant that they had to break one law or another. Many people now claim that we should get over it since these things happened so long ago but in many cases in some parts of the worlds similar things are still happening and the things that happened decades or even hundreds of years ago helped set up today’s institutions which maintain the class differences. Also when the upper classes find it suits their purposes they routinely use historical balances of power to justify their hold on power as part of tradition and precedent; the get over it request doesn’t usually come up until the lower classes start bringing up the problems with history that contradict the glorified versions the upper classes present.
Controlling or influencing the most powerful religious educational and media institutions is one of the most important ways the rich maintain their power over the lower classes. They control a large percentage of the information the poor need to make many of the most important decisions of their lives and they often present it in a distorted way which tends to favor the rich in subtle ways that many people have a hard time recognizing. The celebrities from the upper classes are often portrayed as beneficial especially businesses while the concerns of the poor are often ignored or presented in a way that makes them look bad. They use their control or partially influence over these powerful institutions to control just about everything we do. The most powerful businesses are controlled by a small percentage of board members or CEOs; in many cases the board members are just rubber stamps for the CEOs many of whom may serve as rubber stamps as board members of other companies. The consumers and employees are not entitled to know many of the most important facts about many business transactions. They have a much more difficult time obtaining a fair deal if they have a problem. They may often have to rely on lawyers or accountants who charge a lot of money interpreting a complex system that most people don’t understand but one way or another it provides the lions share of the benefits to the upper classes whoa also have the most influence making these confusing laws. It is often considered beneficial to stand up for business; but rarely ever considered beneficial to stand up for consumers. That doesn’t mean it is portrayed this way though; they usually come up with a explanation about how the market protects the consumer by providing choices or competition. The problem is that the competition, if there is any, is usually controlled by many of the same corporations creating oligopolies that don’t compete in the most important matters that benefit the consumer since they would lower the profits for the corporations.
In a truly democratic country the public would have more influence over many of the most powerful institutions especially since there are many cases where people from the lower classes have often given up their lives and continue to have their environment threatened by the activities of many of the most powerful corporations. The assumption that only the business owners should have the information they need to conduct business is highly undemocratic and is an invitation to wide spread fraud which has been happening for hundreds of years. In most cases they aren’t exposed until after it is to late to do anything about it; but the incidents in the past should indicate that unless something is done to change the fact that corporations are allowed to conduct most of their activities in secrecy, until a disaster happens and then avoid more than a token amount of compensation for the victims, then it is virtually guaranteed that more of this criminal activities will happen in the future. They have often made laws to protect the consumer when it was necessary to appease the public but then they allow the corporations to act in secrecy so that there is no way they can enforce these laws making these laws almost meaningless.
One major contributing factor to the class conflicts is what some academics including Melvin Kohn call conservative authoritarianism and self direction. Conservative authoritarianism refers to the belief that authority should be respected often without question; in the strictest cases the followers will obey orders no matter what like the Nazi’s obeyed their leaders. This isn’t necessarily this extreme; when they are led by leaders with good intentions that have the best interest of the public in mind this would in theory lead to a well organized group of people working for a common cause. The problem is that throughout history there have been few if any leaders that really did have the best interest of the majority in mind; and even if they did that doesn’t mean they know enough about all the relevant subjects especially in the modern complex society, to make the best decision. Self direction is the ability for people to work on their own and figure things out for themselves. Kohn has found that the highest and the lowest classes tend to value conservative authoritarianism more; however they don’t necessarily do so in the same manner. The lowest classes tend to obey authority and believe what they’re told even in many cases when it doesn’t make any sense. They often tend to teach this to their children as well; this is one of the rare cases where they are the authority figure since they are at the bottom of the economic ladder in the adult world although in many cases they look down on people of other races perhaps for prejudicial reasons. The members of the higher classes tend to teach their children to respect authority more as well but they have the expectation in many cases that they will be at the top of the economic ladder when they work their way up under the instruction of their leaders. These leaders tend to teach their children to maintain the current class system. Regardless of which class it is the belief in conservative authoritarianism is generally taught at a young age. This is often taught with strict disciplinarian methods that often begin before the child even learns to talk. In many of the most extreme cases the child is punished with harsh methods before he understands why he is being punished. Other academic sources have done more research into this subject including Alice Miller, Philip Greven and Murray Strauss; many of them have found that, in the most extreme cases, this type of child rearing leads to dysfunctional behavior and blind trust in the authority figure regardless of whether or not they are right. Murray Strauss and Alice Miller as well as Benjamin Spock have stated that any physical discipline of children is counter productive in the long run. This leads to more violent behavior later in life and it teaches children to conform and obey authority with little or no scrutiny. This type of child rearing prevents children from using discretion on their own and learning to figure things out for themselves. It also prevents them from developing the thinking skills required to hold their leaders accountable. Children that are raised in this way are much more likely to accept ideological belief systems as being above reproach without actually understanding them; therefore if there is a problem with the belief system they won’t be able to recognize and fix it. This type of child rearing is one of the biggest and least recognized obstacles to a true democracy. In order for there to be a true democracy the public has to have access to the information they need to make decisions and they have to have the capacity to think rationally about it and come to reasonable conclusions. Melvin Kohn and other researchers have also found that schizophrenia is much more common among the lower classes and those that are abused the most ass children. They don’t all agree that child abuse is the cause of schizophrenia but they do agree that even if it isn’t it makes it much worse and leads to more emotional problems and violence later in life. Trauma early in life often leads to much less capacity to rise up in the class system and ensures that many of the people from the lower classes and their descendents remain there. This also contributes to anger which makes divide and rule tactics more effective leading people to blame other races or creeds for their problems preventing the lower classes from uniting and helping to correct the most important problems in a class society. This leads to many people in the lower classes to following beliefs that are clearly against their best interest. People with conservative authoritarian values are more likely to accept the argument that certain members of the lower classes are responsible for the class conflicts and they often take the side of the upper classes even when it is against their own best interests. They are more likely to accept the claim that the upper classes deserve the lion’s share of the credit for creating the corporations that provide the necessities of life and jobs. People with more self direction skills are more likely to believe that they deserve a bigger share of the benefits from the work done by cooperation among the workers and the owners. This enables the upper classes to turn the two sides against each other using divide and rule tactics. The people with conservative authoritarian values are often rewarded with a modest raise of the ability to keep their jobs abut usually no more than the upper classes need to provide to get them back to work. In order for their to be a better balance their needs to be more people raised to have self direction skills necessary to think independently instead of blindly following orders. In many cases if those with conservative authoritarian values are told to do something wrong they will keep on doing it that way until they are told to stop. In many cases if they have a problem they won’t be able to figure out how to solve it even if it is relatively simple. This could be the result of insecurity developed as a young child. When they challenge authority as a young child they may have been subject to severe and often violent punishment. This leads to more concern about avoiding punishment given out when disobeying authority than it does the ability to figure out how to solve the problem. Even if they do see the problem they may be to insecure to speak out against authority. They may not even remember what caused the fear of punishment consciously but they react to it anyway. This is because if it happens early in life, the first few years, chi8ldren often forget the details but this is the time where they develop many of the personality characteristics that develop throughout their lives whether they remember it or not.
A sincere democracy requires more people, if not all people, that have the ability to think for themselves. This will also be required to solve class conflicts in the most effective way possible. Teaching self direction skills means relying more on nonviolent ways of raising children and spending time with them. This often means letting them make small mistakes and learn from them then explaining things to them. Many parents that were raised in strict disciplinarian ways may not know how to do this so they may need help, assuming their willing to accept help. This may seem like more work but in the long run it takes much less time to raise children properly than it does to deal with them when they become dysfunctional adults one way or another. Either they get involved in a violent crowd a cult or they become less productive and wind up causing other kinds of problems.
Ideologies have often contributed to the differences in classes and the way they’re understood or not understood. Part of the problem is that many people don’t truly understand what the most well known ideologies mean. This leads to what I consider a difference between rational ideologies which are based on a clear understanding of the beliefs and cult ideologies which are based on the way they are presented to the public by their leaders often in an emotional way. In order to understand the difference it will help to consider the literal meaning of most ideologies and the way they are used in practice. This may not be as easy as it sound initially since many of the people that define these ideologies rely on the way people use them and people that use them don’t use them consistently. The easiest way that I know of to address this would be to look at the literal meaning of many of these ideologies many of which are made up of suffixes and prefixes. This could start with the word ideology itself. This is a word made of the word idea with the suffix ology. The suffix ology means the study of in this case the study of ideas or an ideology is essentially a belief system based on a group of ideas. These ideas can be defined in an organized fashion so that people will have the opportunity to understand them and use a consistent definition. Unfortunately this isn’t the way it is done with the general public. People in the academic world may do this but the message delivered to the public often tends to be from demagogues sometimes like Joe McCarthy.
The three most well known fiscal ideologies are examples of what happens when the definition given to the public is confusing and often contradictory. This has a major impact on class conflicts. Capitalist is based on the word capital which means those with the most money. It has often been said that the new “Golden rule” is that the person with the gold makes the rules. This seems to be the way things work more often than not in the USA unless the public provides a major amount of organization in order to get their point across. Other wise the leaders seem to continue consulting with their contributors and political operatives to figure out how to make decisions and what to tell the public to keep them compliant. In practice the belief in capitalism seems to be that the private industry can do everything best and the government is incompetent. This isn’t actually the way it works but they present it this way. In fact in many cases throughout history the major corporations have relied on government help to build up their power. The railroads obtained property through huge government giveaways. The Mass Media received the rights to the airways from the government then when small operators tried to use micro-radio they relied on the government to protect their oligopolies. When there were strikes from unions throughout the history of the USA the government almost always took the side of the businesses in many cases using the police or National Guard to break up strikes and get people back to work without improving the living standards of the workers. The concern about Big Government doesn’t seem to get much air time until Big Government stands up for the rights of the poor of the environment. Then it is redefined in a confusing way that seems to make it sound like they are infringing on the rights of the poor not the other way around. Another problem with the complaint about the government being incompetent is that they are often incompetent because of political appointees who are sometimes chosen at the request of those that do the complaining about the incompetence. In other words in a confusing round about way the people that complain about government incompetence may be partially responsible for it. If we had election reform and a more open government there might be more competent officials hired based on qualifications instead of patronage. Letting those that don’t want government to be competent make the decisions won’t help things.
Communism and Socialism are also ideologies that have been misrepresented and badly understood. Communism is based on the word Commune which is a group of people living together. The earliest versions of this that I know of involved making decisions as a group and sharing the benefits among all. This may have worked out fairly well in many less known cases on a small and local basis. When it was put into place by the Soviet Union it was done by a dictator in a manner that didn’t take into the consideration any input from the people doing the work and it was a total disaster. This wasn’t the version of communism that many people including Karl Marx described but Marx’s name was used by Stalin because it served his purpose to make him seem legitimate by those who believed in Marx. It also served the best interest of the believers in Capitalism because they could demonize it. Socialism is very similar; it is based on the word social which means people working together. Both these ideologies have broad potential definitions and they are presented to the public in a way that suits the purpose of those that have the most political power and demagogues that serve their purpose. Both these ideologies are supposed to stand up for the rights of the poor and the workers as well as students. It is hard to say that the poor, the students and the workers shouldn’t have rights so many of the demagogues use a round about way of distorting these ideologies to get their distorted message out. This doesn’t deliver a clear message but it confuses the issue and enables many politicians to accomplish what they want. In order to address this; the public needs to review many of the ideologies many of them thought they understood. Those that see problems with theses ideologies or at least admit they don’t understand them will have a much easier time with this. Some people with conservative authoritarian values may have a harder time with this. In many cases they have had catch phrases drilled into their heads for years and they equate this with understanding even though they are often full of contradictions.
In order to set up a rational fiscal ideology it will be necessary to sort through the details. Deciding that the government should either do everything or nothing sounds simple but when it comes to putting it into practice it isn’t that easy and despite the rhetoric of many of the advocates of all the most popular ideologies none of them do this. The capitalist ideology has never been entirely run by businesses nor should it. Recently when they broke down as many of the regulations that they could it lead to an enormous amount of corruption and they proved that the corporations without any accountability could be as bad as a government without accountability. The current system isn’t doing much if anything to accomplish many of the most important jobs for the majority including educating the poor and middle classes, protecting the consumers and protecting the environment. The claim that government is incompetent is true as indicated before but it is partly because they aren’t open and they have been corrupted by the corporations. Some of the governments like the USSR and China didn’t apply their ideologies in a manner that protected the poor either but they may have had some good ideas that are worth considering. Some of the other countries may have had more success than these two countries and in some cases some of the countries in central America and other parts of the world may have tried to implement more reasonable versions but they were unsuccessful due to the interference of the USA and the CIA. If not for the interference they probably wouldn’t have been perfect but they would have at least had a chance to try some better ideas. Finding a good middle ground between the two may involve reviewing the way both USA capitalism and the Socialism versions of other country’s work as well as considering new ideas if it doesn’t appear that one of these systems provide the best answer. Assuming that the way people do thing in America is the only way to do things is foolish especially with all the damage being done to the environment and the non stop wars we keep fighting.
The biggest difference between a cult ideology and a rational academic ideology may be whether they organize the information and check the facts or they use hype and propaganda to advance an agenda which most people don’t understand.
The biggest difference between a cult ideology and a rational academic ideology may be whether they organize the information and check the facts or they use hype and propaganda to advance an agenda which most people don’t understand.
Many wars including the cold war, the drug war and the war on terror are also primarily class conflicts. Throughout the centuries the decisions about war have almost always been made by the upper classes but the lower and middle classes are the ones that do the most fighting for them while the upper classes obtain most of the benefits from the wars assuming there are benefits from the wars. If there wasn’t so much effort put into fighting one war or another there would be much more benefits from the work that people do. Instead of fighting to destroy things over and over again they could build more and keep what they build then set up better education systems tha benefit everything. Instead war is one of the most powerful methods the upper classes use to maintain power over the poor.
In the case of the cold war it was based on a distorted interpretation of ideologies and the threat of a conflict with the USSR. This conflict never turned into a active battle; at least not on a major scale. Many sources that have been revealed since then indicate that many of the conflicts during the cold war weren’t against the USSR as we have been led to believe but against many poor countries that had much less military or espionage resources. In other words the USSR and the USA have both taken advantage of those countries who are easy prey. In both cases they often claimed to be standing up for the best interest of the local people while they were actually suppressing the closest thing they had in these countries to a popular movement supported by the local populations. One of the clearest cases was Viet Nam which was fought to attempt to install one puppet government or another under the claim that they were fighting communism. The USA also over threw the governments in many other countries including Iran, Chile, Guatemala, Nicaragua and more. They never did much if any thing that they should have done if they were fighting to defend democracy like providing education to the local populations or asking them how they wanted to run their countries.
The drug war was misrepresented just as badly if not worse. This was actually started when the cold war was still going on and it was often influenced by the cold war in the early days of the drug war. As indicated in the entry about a truth and education commission the CIA has been involved in tacit approval of drug running when it was done by the allies of the USA including in Nicaragua where it appears the CIA was partially responsible for the rise of the crack cocaine epidemic. This doesn’t mean they did it intentionally but when it became clear that there was a major problem developing they continued to allow the allies of the CIA to run drugs to the USA to raise funds for the contras which were made up of the old Guardia that previously ran the security for the country when Somoza was in power. Somoza was a dictator who relied on the Guardia as his death squads to maintain power and suppressed the rights of the poor. This meant that the CIA was involved in allowing drugs in that mainly affected the poor in the USA in order to support an organization with a history of suppressing the poor. The combination of the war on drugs and the war on communism has destabilized and weakened governments throughout the America’s and other parts of the world and most of the damage has been done to the lowest classes.
The war on terror is also against the poor mostly. There are some people with money that receive a lot of attention but the vast majority of them are poor people that have been suppressed in their own countries and raised with fanatical ideologies that are no more reasonable than the distorted ideologies presented to the public of the USA. Many of these people are so desperate that they have little or nothing to live for which is part of the reason they rely on suicide bombers. In stead of trying to address the lack of education they have and the fact that they have little or nothing to live for the USA is maintaining a constant state of fear to keep people in control of demagogues who manipulate their emotions.
The biggest problem with class conflicts is the lack of education available to many of the middle and lower classes. Part of the problem is the way education is financed. For the most part it is financed at the local level. This means that towns with plenty of money can afford a good education but those that need it the most can’t afford it. The upper classes often have a disproportionate control over what is taught as well and they even use unreasonable copyright laws that are now in place to prevent people from having access to many of the most important books they might need unless they can afford to pay for them. In order to address the class conflicts this discrepancy needs to be addressed in the most efficient way possible. This could be done by revising the copyright laws so that they are available for a much shorter time, perhaps the original fourteen years with an option for a single fourteen year extension. There could also be something done so that the people that get their pay through copyrights can get just as much by selling a larger volume at a lower price. This is an option that is much more practical with modern technology that enables people to copy material for little or no costs. Study groups can be used to help students learn from each other and lectures can be recorded and be made available to everyone. A lot more can be done if the decisions are being made by those that benefit from doing this in the most efficient way possible instead of allowing those that benefit from withholding education to make decisions.
The environment has also been handled in a manner that is primarily designed to benefit the upper classes. The biggest environmental disasters tend to happen in the areas where the people with the least political power live and the benefits for the business goes to the rich as usual. The opposition for power plants is much higher in areas where the rich live even if it is for clean power plants like wind turbines. In Nantucket Sound there is an enormous amount of resistance to the wind turbines primarily because they are trying to put them in an area controlled and used mainly by the rich. They may have some legitimate concerns which should be addressed but the point is that when they put a much larger number of power plants that are worse for the environment in poor areas there is little if any concerns for any of the considerations of those with less political power or education. These wind turbines would probably do much less damage to the environment than the coal plants and the nuclear plants already in place throughout the countries and they could cut down on pollution and global warming with much less cost to society; however they are in the backyard of the rich whom are often put above reproach no matter what the costs.
Recent disasters in the coal mines and the off shore oil drilling disaster have both led to dead workers from the lower classes and they are both threatening the environment in areas where the lower classes and they are both in industries that are designed to benefit primarily the rich. The way it has been reported by some of the members of the Mass media seems to indicate that some of the biggest problems is the way it will affect business and interfere with profits. There have been stories about how the oil companies are waiting to start drilling in another location and it was put off, stories about how this will affect shipping in the Gulf coast and stories about how it will affect tourism and the money they will lose due to lost business. The damage to the environment seems to be important to some only if it effects the bottom line for their business. One company that sells soap has been quick to use the damage to the environment to sell it’s products and present itself as friendly to the environment. This is an example of where the environment is being used primarily to find another way to make profit for another corporation instead of figuring how to protect the environment first and make profit second they continue to put profit first. These aren’t the only people expressing concerns though; there are other people that are more concerned about the damage that it will do to the environment and how it will effect wild life whether or not people profit off the fish or impact the profits in another way. These people may get attention in the short term and obtain some improvements at least for a little while but in the long run those with the most political power may erode those improvements since they tend to have the power when the public isn’t paying attention. Unless the system is reformed any solutions may only be temporary.
The term illegal alien alone is part of a conflict between the classes. If they are illegal what is their crime? In many cases it may be that they were simply born in the wrong country and wanted a better life for themselves in the most effective way possible. Many of these people come from countries that don’t have as many rights as the USA and in many cases part of the reason for that may be due to the interference from the USA government and the CIA. Thirty or forty years ago the USA welcomed immigrants at least to some degree and they taught in the schools that we welcomed the poor the needy and those fleeing from repression. The history books were full of claims about people who fled repression in Europe for class or religious reasons and found a better life in the USA. This wasn’t always as good as it was made out to be, they often omit cases where they come to the USA then tried to suppress those with less power than them including the native Americans who were almost wiped out, however there was a lot of truth to this in some cases. If we applied these rules retroactively we would have to send every back to Europe. This is of course not practical nor will it solve any problems but demonizing foreigners won’t solve problems either.
The problem with immigration is part of the way we are conducting a new global society in some ways but in many ways it is also the same problem the Romans had with their empire. Both the USA and the ancient Romans treated foreign countries and their citizens as second class citizens and pretended they were doing what was best for them at the same time. Part of the current problem with the borders is the problem they are having with drug gangs killing each other and sometimes innocent people are caught in the cross fire. In order to understand the drug problem it will be necessary to understand the problems previously indicated with the CIA’s involvement with drug dealers while fighting the war on communism. This is a continuation of policies that covered up the causes if they implicated the most powerful people in the USA including the CIA. The best way to solve the immigration problem will involve doing the best to expose corruption in these foreign governments even when it involves activities by the USA government and it’s agencies and correcting them. Instead of conducting activities to suppress communism the USA should rely more on the help of organizations like the peace corp. to teach people how to look out for their own best interest. If security is needed it should protect the schools and the peace organizations not just the best interest of the corporations. In to many cases the people fleeing suppression abroad are doing so partially because the CIA and American corporations are supporting the local dictators.
In many cases the upper classes have often ridiculed the lower classes and demonized them without looking to close at why there might be problems with many members of the lower classes. Both Hitler and Pius XII as well as many of the people debating the constitution over two hundred years ago claimed that they couldn’t allow the mobs to rule themselves because they were so irrational. If they are right about some of the members of the lower classes it may help to consider why the lower classes are so irrational and if it is due to lack of education. A closer look will clearly indicate that part of the reason is because of lack of educational opportunities which are controlled by the rich and another part of the reason is because they are constantly being manipulated by demagogues. Many members of the lower classes are more susceptible to influence from demagogues because they are often raised in strict disciplinarian manners that often result tin conservative authoritarian values. These child rearing methods are what they learn from their parents but it is also partially a result of what many of the religious leaders taught them with the attitude that they shouldn’t spare the rod and spoil the child. What this means is that the upper classes are often depriving the lower classes of the opportunities they need to learn then they ridicule them because they are ignorant. Many of the worst crime committed by some of the members of the lower classes almost certainly wouldn’t have happened if the upper classes weren’t depriving of the opportunities they need to get ahead.
Nepotism is also a clear indication of problems between the classes. Without even looking hard it is clear that many of the most powerful politicians come from powerful families that give them name recognition and the power they need to get ahead and obtain office. People from the lower classes are much less likely to have these opportunities. They often say that anyone can be president but that clearly isn’t true. At least four of the 44 presidents to date were related to other presidents that previously held office. This include two sons of presidents, one grandson of a president and one distant cousin of a president. Many of the senators are also sons of other senators or other powerful people and in the case of some of the most powerful generals including Norman Schwarzkopf and Douglas McArthur had powerful fathers. It is clear that privilege has often been passed down from generation to generation. The USA has claimed that it provides opportunity for everyone unlike the countries that used to have royalty but this clearly doesn’t work in practice. If they implemented some of the social policies that were advocated by some socialists they might have accomplished something closer to fairness but instead they demonized socialism without understanding it. Unless there is more done to educate the lower classes and break the cycle the claims of equality will be mostly if not all propaganda.
Racism has often influenced class conflicts. In many cases the people of different races have often been used as scapegoats for the problems with society. In most cases the people with the most power are in the best position to either address these problems or divert the blame; unfortunately more often than not they divert the blame. They often do this by latching onto a real concern then exaggerating it and playing on people emotions. Bigotry is also involved between the classes as well. In many cases the upper classes have been bigoted against other races but when it has suited their purposes in the past they rely on them for cheap labor to compete with the lower class people of their own race, usually white. They often create bigotry among the lower classes and they often blame each other instead of realizing that they are both being used by the upper classes. This is much more likely with people who have conservative authoritarian values and trust the claims by the most powerful people in society so when they look for someone to blame it is often people of other races even if they are in the same position.
Research about social values and how to market towards the public also contributes a lot to class conflicts. The benefits of this research is generally given mainly to those with educational opportunities first then in some cases a small amount of it may make it’s way to the majority but this is often mixed in with propaganda and many of the lower classes don’t have the education necessary to tell the difference. This is even true when the research is done by people with good intentions, presumably including Melvin Kohn and Murray Strauss and many others, but there also some people that do there research in a manner that is clearly unethical. This includes the research done by Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo and others. The research they do is clearly designed to learn how to understand manipulation tactics. If the majority of the public was taught about this then it would have done more to help the problem than hurt it but that isn’t the case. The research done by both Milgram and Zimbadro was only presented to the public on a limited basis but those who wanted to use it to manipulate the public almost certainly paid much more attention. Research done by Kohn and Strauss could also be used to understand manipulation tactics but it wasn’t designed for that purpose and in both these cases to the best of my knowledge they attempted to get this information to the public using a flawed system that didn’t work very well. The biggest problem with the research that Kohn and Strauss did doesn’t seem to be with them but with the system to educate the public.
It seems pretty clear that the closer you look assuming you do so sincerely the less credible it seems to put the bulk of the blame on the middle and lower classes when the upper classes have the most power and control over the system. However if the middle and lower classes gain more power over the system they should assume more responsibility to make sure it works right without diverting the blame.
Ultimately the best way to resolve these class differences in a fair way would involve input from everyone not just the upper classes and the poor and middle classes should have the education they need in order to express their concerns in the most effective way possible.
To read Ben Franklin’s speech at the end of the Constitutional convention see the following:
For the full HTML version of this blog with table of context see:
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