Showing posts with label ethics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ethics. Show all posts

Monday, October 15, 2018

Expropriation as a Remedy

I have been worrying about the dual economic disaster threatening America:

1. The skyrocketing federal deficit: In 2018, the federal government is spending over one trillion dollars more than it makes. Its cumulative debt has reached $22 trillion, which is 105% of its GDP. This year, the government spends about $315 billion dollars in interest to finance its growing debt. This is 8% of the total federal budget. Imagine how much our government could do with all this money - schools, infrastructure, health care, scientific research, space exploration, saving the environment, etc.

And of course, each year the finance charge increases. In time, financing the debt will become the government’s largest obligation. Eventually, the (near) TOTALITY of the government’s budget could be spent on interest payments. In sum, utter and total bankruptcy. This happens to countries from time to time - France before its 1789 revolution, Argentina, Greece and other countries more recently, etc. America is in a vicious downward spiral. Read more...

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Trump's Worst Obscenity to Date: Making Children into Orphans

Our blog hasn’t been very active as of late. Some have blamed us for “disengaging” just as evil is getting worse. The reasons for writing less frequently over the past few months are private and irrelevant.

Nevertheless, our country sometimes reaches such a loathsome new low, such an abysmal nadir of immorality, that I feel compelled to take up the pen again, if for nothing else at least in order to re-iterate some of the verities which most people of good will already know:

The Trump-instigated , Republican-condoned and FOX News-encouraged policy of child torture at the Mexican border is an historical event whose gravity is comparable to our World War Two Japanese internment camps. The break-up of families which effectively makes orphans out of thousands of children is comparable to the break-up of black families during slavery. As my wife said, this policy is a crime against humanity and it deserves scrutiny by international courts in the tradition of the Nuremberg trials, or at least the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Here are some salient, absurd or otherwise noteworthy points about this issue:

1. The Right’s immigration agenda is clearly and obviously motivated by one single overarching motive: To do everything in its power to maintain white supremacy. It is purely and exclusively a race war by non-military means. And to that end, the Right will stoop to ANY conceivable means. I have long believed that Trump’s instinctive sympathy for Russia has to do with the fact that Russia is the largest white country. Read more...

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Why do American Policemen Kill so Many People?

My home town of Sacramento just made the national (and international) news again. Sacramento has  enjoyed a good run lately: First, the   movie Lady Bird was one of the Oscar finalists. Both the movie and the director were hometown products. Something to be proud of. Then another recent  movie, The 5:17 to Paris, depicts three young men from Sacramento  who thwart an attempted terrorist attack on a European train. Two of them were in fact students at my university, and I met one of them.

And now, the trifecta is complete, except that  Sacramento’s third appearance on the world stage within a year is a tragic event: The utterly unnecessary killing of a young black man, Stephon Clark,  by two members of the SACPD.

So once again, I have to write about this  shameful feature of American society: For some reason, this country sticks out head and shoulders above other comparable countries in the number of homicides committed by cops. (I have written about this several times before. See Americans Killed by the Police and Violence, Racism and Law Enforcement.).

Here are some random comparative international statistics:

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Gathering Storm

I’m reading a marvellous book - Sean Carroll’s Brave Genius. It’s about the French Resistance movement during World War Two.

I’m not going to review this entire book. I just mention it because its first chapter evoked a frightening parallel in my mind: That first chapter is about the so-called “Phony War” which took place in Europe from September 1939 to May 1040, when the shooting war actually began:

Officially, World War Two began on September 1, 1039, when Hitler invaded Poland and the allies (France and Britain) declared war on Germany. However, what followed was what the French came to call the “Drole de Guerre,” or the “Phony War.” For over eight months, there was practically no fighting between the Germans and the allies. The major shoot-out began on May 10, 1040, when Hitler invaded the Netherlands, Belgium and France. This phase lasted barely five weeks and ended with the defeat of France. Read more...

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Is Trump's America Increasingly isolated, and are Americans Exceptionally Stupid?

A Dutch friend just sent me an article by Mars van Grunsven in De Groene Amsterdammer (Make America Exceptional Again).

Its main thesis is that America is increasingly isolated from the rest of the world, and that Trump is speeding up this process. It also discusses, as so many have done in the past, the presumptuous belief of many Americans in “American exceptionalism.”

My comments:

1. Isolation? The assertion that America is increasingly isolated implies a dichotomous view of the world: America vs. the rest of the world. But this is nonsense. America is just one out of a couple of hundred countries, some friendly, some hostile, some indifferent. America may enter into new sorts of alliances, with nefarious dictators such as the Philippines’ president Duterte. It is best to see America as a primus inter pares, in the near future maybe secundus or even tertius...just one of the world’s relatively large countries, also a flawed country, as many other countries are. So, not all that exceptional.

2. The Future? If a small country like North Korea can insulate itself and persist in its insane ways for many decades, surely a huge place like America will be able to continue its idiosyncratic culture indefinitely (its attitudes towards guns, sex, race, the economy, science, religion, the environment and everything else). Read more...

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump

 With Additional Research by
The title of this article is borrowed from a Dutch film which documents or alleges a worldwide web of criminal activities, with ties to the Trump organization. See The Dubious Friends of Donald Trump. These activities involve many men from the former Soviet Union (several said to be tied to or part of the “Russian Mob”). A helpful article is the Sacramento Bee, May 30, 2017; McClatchy Washington Bureau, Other sources include Mafia-linked Figures, Felix Sater, Forbes Billionaires, Trump and the Oligarch ‘Trio’ and The Diplomat.

What emerges is an incredibly colorful and complex worldwide net of criminal activities by shady characters from Kazakhstan, Russia, Israel, the Netherlands, the United States and elsewhere. These transactions involve billions of dollars in dozens of countries all over the globe.

The story reminds me of the Tintin capers I enjoyed so much as a boy, or intrigue a la James Bond and Jason Bourne, with a tinge of Don Corleone thrown in. I suppose this topic should be taken very seriously. But for now, just enjoy:

According to the McClatchy Washington Bureau, two fugitive oligarchs are accused of laundering Kazakh money in US real estate, some of it owned by Donald Trump. Read more...

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Dream of the Godfather's Hyman Roth has come True

“Michael, if I could only live to see it, to be there with you. What I wouldn't give for twenty more years! Here we are, protected, free to make our profits without... the goddamn Justice Department and the F.B.I. ninety miles away, in partnership with a friendly government. Ninety miles! It's nothing! Just one small step, looking for a man who wants to be President of the United States, and having the cash to make it possible. Michael, we're bigger than U.S. Steel.”
 (Hyman Roth, The Godfather II)

 After having written dozens of articles about Trump, Hillary Clinton and the presidential campaign during the year leading up to the election, I was hoping to get away from that tedious topic. And I have.

However, the media have not. The problem remains, and it is the media’s responsibility to keep reminding us daily that we live in an unacceptable situation: We have a president who should not be president. It’s that simple. The Trump presidency is upon us, but it is unacceptable. Read more...

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Against Nuclear War and Social Injustice

 The mission of Physicians for Social Responsibility is to help protect the public against threats to global survival, specifically nuclear warfare and proliferation, global warming, and toxic degradation of the environment. It offers testimony to Congress and delivers professional and public education. It is a national network with 50,000 members and e-activists, and it is the U.S. affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, winner of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. It is not necessary to be a physician to be a member or a supporter of this excellent organization.

One of the Sacramento chapter’s major functions is the Annual High School Scholarship Essay Contest. This was the 13th consecutive year that the contest was held, a period during which over $150,000 has been handed out.

The contest consists of responding to a prompt in an essay of 500 or fewer words. Each year a different prompt is used and the essays of past contest winners are posted on the PSR/Sacramento website at

This year’s prompt was the following statement by Franklin Roosevelt: “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” Read more...

Monday, April 17, 2017

A Conversation with Ata, my 103 Year Old Mother

Ata Kando

I watch Ata struggle with her blankets. She has returned from one of her numerous trips to the bathroom, trying to settle back in her recliner close to the window. My sister Juliette moved it there on her last visit, so that Ata can look out, although she cannot see much any more. Just spots, she says. My mother has grown thinner and smaller since last September. When she shuffles across the room, leaning on her wheeled walker, her hunchback is now so prominent, that she has difficulty looking straight ahead.

She breathes heavily, groans and sighs until she finally settles in her usual comfortable position. Then, her sweet smile returns and she is ready to engage with the world, which is now me, on my latest visit from America.

It’s a beautiful Dutch spring day and I ask Ata if she would like to take a ride to the beach that afternoon. But even brief day trips are no longer part of our routine. Her world is reduced to trips to the bathroom and to her bed at night.

A few years ago, when she was only 96, we could still go on overnights together to places like the Ardennes. As the years passed, our trips got shorter, but my visits to Ata were always fused with the joy of driving through beautiful Holland together.

This time it is different. Ata no longer leaves her recliner. She no longer reads, listens to music, or watches TV. She cannot smell the blooming cherry trees in front of her large bay window. Her extreme old age has sneaked up on both of us, as one by one, her senses have abandoned her. Read more...

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Is Patriotism Good or Bad?

 There is a lot of talk about patriotism these days. The new president wants to make America great (again).

 Also, I just read J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. It’s a pretty good book. The author describes with great honesty his feelings about his Appalachian origins, and his feelings about that subculture, as well as about America in general. He was a marine for four years and served in Iraq. He is an “enlightened” patriot. He gets teary-eyed when he hears Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”

So I am thinking: Why don’t I get teary-eyed when I hear that song? What’s the matter with me? I am an American, too!

And why do I admire Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49er quarterback who kneeled during the National Anthem instead of standing at salute? The vast majority of the public in the stadium booed him, and he might not be hired by any NFL team next season. His act of defiance was in support of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. He is paying a high price and I I find his behavior heroic.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Racism and Other Evils

 Since the presidential election, I have come to a point of mental rest and clarity: I am now convinced that the great division in our country today is simply between Good and Evil. After you weed out all the chaff and the noise, all the accidental aspects of specific issues, there remains one clear and simple fact: On one side are hatred, rage, racism, chauvinism selfishness, greed, violence, xenophobia, deliberate lies, deception and ignorance. On the other side are hope, compassion, acceptance, courage and goodwill. By and large, those who elected Donald Trump are on the bad side, and - yes, I’ll simply call a spade a spade - liberals are forever the good guys.

Flawed as we all may be, the political Right is immeasurably more evil than liberals are. The latter may often be incompetent, lazy, they may compromise their ethics and run for cover.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Cologne New Year’s Eve Sex Attacks

Cologne Mayor's Advice: Keep them at an 'Arm's Length'

I am leaving for Europe in a few weeks and as I am reading about the latest events in Cologne, Germany, I am wondering if I should stay away from train stations while I am traveling. On New Year's Eve, a large group of young hoodlums, described by the local police as having a 'North African or Arabic' appearance, made a coordinated effort to assault, rob and sexually molest numerous women around the 'Hauptbahnhof', the central train station.

I know from personal experience that even in Holland, one of the most well organized and civilized countries in Europe, the ‘centraal station’ in Amsterdam is one of the more colorful, combustible and dirty places you can find. My latest memory is of a young female drug addict peeing on the floor, oblivious to the throng of commuters walking past her. Read more...

Thursday, December 3, 2015

License to Kill: Deer Hunt in the Blue Hills

I like deer. They are elegant herbivores that often come in my yard to nibble on the birdfeeders and I often wonder how they survive the harsh winters in New England. I see them get thinner and thinner, and by the end of January, their ribs show through their matted coat, some of them limping, but always in groups, sharing the feed in the buckets that we put out for them, when we know there is nothing else for them to eat.

I like them so much that I have become involved in fighting against so-called ‘controlled deer hunts’ in my area. One hunt is underway in the Blue Hills, a 6000-acre state park near Boston. This hunt was proposed and approved by the Mass Department of Fish and Game, who did its own study and determined that there were too many deer in the Blue Hills, knowing that it gets most of its funds from hunting licenses. Do I detect the smell of conflict of interest here?

Why Blame Deer?

It is easy to blame the deer for things that people have no control over. They are blamed for spreading Lyme Disease, for causing collisions and for destroying the forest. But the only crime that deer are guilty of, is that they have the ability to co-exist with people.

Even though deer are hosts to ticks, they do not "carry" or "spread" Lyme Disease. In fact, they provide a buffer between the host (white-footed mouse) and humans by collecting the ticks on themselves, mostly adult ticks that usually are no longer infected. "There is no direct correlation between deer density and prevalence of Lyme disease", says John Rohm of the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries. “When the deer are killed, the ticks seek alternate hosts, such as pets and people.”

Forest growth is influenced by so many factors other than deer that it is hard to mention them all: acid rain, insect damage, disease, development, pollution, loss of soil fertility and invasive species. Even non-native earthworms have significant influences on forest ecology. But it is harder to shoot earthworms or chipmunks and field mice, than it is to shoot a deer, so they get the blame.

Many people believe that reducing the deer population will result in fewer car collisions. But over an eight-year hunting period in Millburn New Jersey, the number of deer-car collisions did not decline. Read more...

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Water Grabbing: How Saudi Arabia is Growing Wheat in Arizona

Although no one really knows how much oil is left in Saudi Arabia’s huge oil reserve, the Saudis probably won’t have to worry about keeping warm in the foreseeable future. It is one of those things that seem so unfairly distributed in the world, like beauty: some people are blessed with good looks and others aren't, it's just the way it is.

What the Saudis are not so blessed with are water resources. There are no permanent rivers or lakes and very little rainfall. The Saudi desert sits on top of one of the oldest and largest aquifers in the world, which only 50 years ago, contained enough water to fill Lake Erie, but due to a combination of greed, stupidity and arrogance, the country has managed to drain its ground water supply and now has to rely on expensive desalination processing to provide drinking water to its growing population.

When the nomad culture of the Bedouins still thrived, each tribe knew where to find the wells and springs. Take some water, then, move your herd, to give the springs time to replenish. But the lush oases depicted in the Bible and the Koran is a thing of the past. The powers that be decided that the country should become self-sufficient and began to grow wheat in their desert until Saudi Arabia became the sixth largest exporter of wheat in the world. The government began subsidizing mega farms, allowing rich land owners to drain as much ground water as they pleased, with the result that most of it is now gone. Read more...

Monday, October 5, 2015

Dutch Law Tolerates Child Marriages

One of the more disturbing aspects of the Refugee Crisis in Europe, is the 'child bride' phenomenon. For the past year and a half, at least 34 Syrian child brides have applied for asylum in the Netherlands, among them girls aged 13, 14 and 15.

As described in a recent article in the Dutch Magazine 'Elsevier', adult men who marry underage girls in their own country, can legally have their brides come to the Netherlands within the framework of 'family reunification', which means that the Netherlands is in fact participating in marriages that are often forced upon a child.

The basis for this is the Dutch Civil Code which says that: 'If a marriage is performed legally in the country of origin, is has to be recognized as valid', even though such a marriage would not be legal, if performed in the Netherlands. In other words, under this ruling, a Moroccan man living in the Netherlands can have multiple wives if these marriages were legally performed in Morocco, where polygamy is allowed. Read more...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Lives of Animals: A commentary on J.M. Coetzee's Novella

In October of 1997, the South African novelist J.M. Coetzee was invited to give a lecture at Princeton on the subject of human values. Rather than give a lecture, Coetzee began to read from his novella 'The Lives of Animals'. In his short story, Elizabeth Costello, an ageing novelist, is invited to give a lecture at a fictional college in Waltham, Massachusetts, to speak to the need for a change in consciousness in human attitudes and practices regarding animals.

So here I am, writing about a writer who writes about a writer trying to make her case. His is a brilliant approach to discuss a subject which is loaded with moral and ethical dynamite. Coetzee, who is a vegetarian, has become a vocal critic of animal cruelty and advocate for the animal rights movement. He wanted to be a candidate in the 2014 European Parliament election for the Dutch Party for Animals, the only party of its kind in the world, but he was rejected on a technicality.

In the story, Elizabeth's son John, is the one who has invited her to give a speech, which he regrets the moment he sees her at the airport. John's wife Norma dislikes Elizabeth thoroughly, both for herself and her opinions on animals, which she finds sentimental.

Of course, I immediately identified with Elizabeth, being an ageing woman myself, who lives in Eastern Massachusetts and who has been struggling with the issue of my relationship to animals for quite some time. Read more...

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Optimism Illusion

Some psychologists say that having an optimistic attitude can make you live longer and achieve higher rates of success, fight disease and even change the outcome of future events, but if you ask me, people who are always cheerful and optimistic make me suspicious and my first reaction is to question their mental capacity. You must really be blind if you can remain cheerful in the face of so much suffering in the world.

My husband calls me negative, a sour puss, always looking at the glass half empty, but I much prefer to look adversity squarely in the face, acknowledge it and then give it a good whack with a strong dose of humor. He, on the other hand, always has something good to say about bad things. If the house were on fire, he would find the silver lining in the smoke clouds rising from the burnt rubble. Read more...

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Texas Textbook Wars

In Texas, a series of new textbooks will hit classrooms this fall, which more than five million public school students will be using for nearly a generation to come. These new textbooks are filled with errors, omissions and revisions that promote a Christian Fundamentalist world view, courtesy of the Texas State Board of Education.

So what, you might say? What else would you expect from one of the most backward, conservative states in the Union, a hotbed of Creationism? Why bother write about it at all? The problem is that Texas is one of the biggest customers of publishing giants like McGraw-Hill Education. Together with Florida and California, they have roughly 13 million students in K-12 public schools and although California has more students, Texas spends more of its budget on textbooks. It literally rules the textbook market in the US. This fact and the Texas State Board of Education's relentless efforts to politicize textbooks in order to advance its religious agenda, has given the state enormous influence over what gets included in school textbooks in many states throughout the country. Read more...

Friday, June 12, 2015

King vs. Burwell: How The Republican Beast is Feasting on Ignorance

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is once again under attack by Republicans. Since its birth in 2010, they have tried to dismantle it, either piecemeal or as a whole, and have taken every opportunity to badmouth it, without offering any significant alternatives.

They first derided the ACA by pointing to the many technical problems that the website suffered from, which caused a bunch of delays. But when those problems got fixed and enrollment surpassed expectations, proving that Obamacare was a good thing, Republicans decided to challenge the constitutionality of the whole Act. When the United States Supreme Court upheld the Individual Mandate, they went after some of the provisions of the Act.

In Hobby Lobby vs. Burwell, the Supreme Court ruled that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for certain forms of contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated a federal law protecting religious freedom. Obamacare lost on that front. Read more...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: Thomas Jefferson’s holy triad. Democratic man’s three most sacred values, right?

Sometimes, when we want to say that something has great value, we call it sacred and we say that it is “more sacred than life itself.” But what is the relationship between Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Is there a hierarchy?

Some - for example Patrick Henry and the  New Hampshire’s motto - say that Liberty is more important than Life itself. Such professed idealism implies that it is your OWN life which you would be willing to sacrifice for freedom. But to most people, it makes a big difference whether the life to be sacrificed for a greater good is their own or somebody else’s.

Life is a poor example of a “sacred value,” even though linguistic convention often puts the words “life” and “sacred” together.