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Archive for the ‘America’ Category

9 Day 4

 

Man makes law and when it has a backing it becomes law of the land. Man feels a need to pursue a course of action in which his strength derives from numbers. Has truth anything to do with it?

A US Senator has blocked a resolution to formally recognise the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War One as genocide. It passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 405 to 11 in October 2019. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said lawmakers should not “sugar-coat history or try to rewrite it”.

The resolution needed to be approved by both houses of Congress and then be signed by the president in order to be a law. Law can ignore the past as in the above case. But is it the truth?

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Draft dodgers scramble

To insult the Vet for what?

Vindman isn’t their man.

 

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Is my purple heart

Badge of shame in age of fraud?

Last trump for the dead.

Benny

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Whistleblowing is zeroing in on corruption entrenched at national level by one man. It has nothing to do with dogwhistle which is the last refuge of one (whose conscience has been dead,) use to call attention to his color. This post is on the first and shall begin with saying whistleblowing at its best is a form of public service.

It is a phenomenon as old as the republic. It’s a particularly American invention, based on the egalitarian presumption that any citizen or employee has the right to call out their boss or their organization for malfeasance. Whistleblowing can bring out both the best and the worst in us and our institutions. Now we are wondering if it could also unravel a presidency.

So far, the new lesson is frustratingly incomplete. The Washington Post reported Sept. 18 that an unnamed official working in an intelligence agency blew the whistle on President Trump after concluding that Trump pushed the new president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Trump’s domestic political rivals and to work with Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and Attorney General William P. Barr on it. We don’t know how Ukraine’s hopes for military aid from Washington might have influenced the exchange. But the whistleblower’s complaint has prompted the House to initiate an impeachment inquiry into the president.

the whistleblower who filed a complaint about Trump’s phone conversation with Zelensky belongs to a large and growing cohort of citizens who “[inform] on a person or organization regarded as engaging in an unlawful or immoral activity,” to quote the Oxford Dictionary’s succinct definition. Both authors(Mueller and Stanger)  recount the earliest recorded case of whistleblowing, from the Revolutionary War, but as Stanger discovered by researching old newspapers, the term “whistleblower” is relatively new. It began to appear regularly in leading American papers in the 1970s, in the years after Ralph Nader and Ernest Fitzgerald, a famous early Pentagon whistleblower, attracted a great deal of attention from the press.

What began in the ’70s has flourished since. Over the past four decades, Congress has repeatedly passed laws to encourage whistleblowing and protect those who engage in it, a category that seems to have grown steadily. We now have a small industry of groups and individuals who advocate whistleblowing, defend whistleblowers in court and help those who lose their jobs. Scores of regulations purport to encourage and protect whistleblowers from retaliation, in the private and public sectors. In the second decade of the 21st century, whistleblowing has become an established and effective American institution. And whistleblowers have led to the recapture of tens of billions of dollars from lawbreaking companies.

While reviewing Crisis of Conscience by Tom Mueller ( no relation of Robert Mueller) the writer points out to changes in attitudes with whistleblowing. He confronts the ugliness of the modern money culture, dating it to the Reagan era — but his criticisms are aimed at bipartisan targets, including Barack Obama and other Democrats who have normalized former public servants’ acceptance of huge speaking fees from big corporations. He suggests that the values of our modern Gilded Age have contributed to flourishing corruption, which can invite citizens who are uncomfortable with it to blow whistles.

This began in the 1980s, when rules were changed in ways that fostered a dramatic increase in inequality of income and wealth. Mueller recounts one such change that made possible the decisions of numerous corporations to use the windfall of the 2017 Trump tax cut to buy back shares in their own companies: By increasing demand for shares (however artificially), these buybacks pump up a company’s stock price, which is used by many firms to set the compensation of their executives.

Mueller notes that companies were forbidden by law to purchase their own shares until President Ronald Reagan’s Securities and Exchange Commission chairman, a former stockbroker named John Shad, orchestrated a change in the regulations. Shad was the first Wall Street executive ever to serve as SEC chairman. Since his rule change, Mueller writes, “public companies . . . have spent many trillions of dollars in share repurchases.” Just since the Trump tax cut, repurchases have exceeded $1 trillion. Proponents of the tax cut said it would lead to dramatic increases in business investment in new plants, equipment and hiring, but this hasn’t happened. And inequality has continued to grow.

Mueller’s subtitle describes the modern era as “an age of fraud,” a harsh conclusion that nevertheless isn’t easy to refute. Noting the rise of whistleblowing in recent years, he calls it “a symptom of a society in deep distress.” Revealingly, his extensive footnotes include a remarkable catalogue of books and articles that document the “increasing incidence of fraud and corruption in many parts of U.S. society.” One of the most important contributors to this literature has been Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard law professor and political agitator. Mueller quotes Lessig’s irrefutable judgment: “We have allowed core institutions of America’s economic, social, and political life to become corrupted.” The White House now appears to be one of them.

Most of Mueller’s very long book is devoted to original storytelling. His extensively reported tales of individual whistleblowers and their often cruel fates are compelling. He begins with a poignant recounting of the experience of Allen Jones, a slightly eccentric bureaucrat in the Pennsylvania state government who discovered and blew the whistle on an enormous fraud by Johnson & Johnson, which conned Pennsylvania and other states into overprescribing the drug Risperdal to hapless and often helpless residents of mental institutions and prisons. Risperdal, an “atypical antipsychotic,” was used to treat serious mental illness including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. It was no more effective than generic antipsychotic drugs, studies had shown, but it was much more expensive — and thus more profitable for Johnson & Johnson, which persuaded many states to buy a lot of it.

Jones’s tale cannot be briefly summarized. He ended up suing the company in Texas under the state’s version of the federal False Claims Act, a law that can provide significant cash rewards to whistleblowers. After a damning week in court, Johnson & Johnson gave up and offered to settle. Jones’s share of the $157 million agreement was nearly $40 million. But he had lost a marriage and 10 years of his life. His career as a public servant was long gone. People he had worked with turned on him viciously. He lives in a cabin in the Pennsylvania woods with no hot water, though the settlement afforded updates that put in running water and a toilet. He was bitter about the fact that Johnson & Johnson never had to admit wrongdoing or reveal how many people — a high number — were hurt by the side effects of Risperdal. “It is hard to fully trust anyone or anything again,” he told Mueller, 17 years after he blew the whistle.

(Ack:

Robert G. Kaiser fmr.WP editor’s review of Crisis of Conscience/Tom Mueller-Sept 27, 2019 2. Whistleblowers by Allison Stanger

 

 

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When New England pastor, lawyer and doctor Manasseh Cutler, 45, set out in 1787 for Congress in New York, he was making history: urging passage of the Northwest Ordinance, guaranteeing that the new Ohio territory – where his sons later settled – would ban slavery. By 1850, after deprivation, struggle and conflict, frontiersmen in Ohio opened the doors for many more pioneers. Idealism of man is remarkable. Think of Lot, Patriarch Abraham’s nephew who chose the fertile plains. His experienced eye told greenness of the fertile land made his life and his large flocks easier. Unfortunately if Lot settled for this spot so did so many settlers who wanted to strike rich without much sweat. The very social fabric of Sodom and Gomorrah were reworked by these pioneers. It was similar to what happened in Ohio.

And there are several inarguably admirable elements of Manasseh Cutler’s plan.Cutler and his supporters wanted the Ohio Territory, and eventual state, to be non-slaveholding, free within a nation where slavery was still legal. Their goal followed the tendency of the states in the North to repudiate slavery — at least within their own borders. Prohibiting slavery in new states extended that revolutionary logic outward. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 declared, “There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory.” Nor could the eventual states formed out of the Northwest Territory be admitted to the Union as slave states. Thus a moral border on the nation’s map, a firm resolve that the Ohio River separated two different ways of being American would test the direction the young nation would take. Harriet Beecher Stowe, who lived for a time in Cincinnati, shaped testimony about slavery she heard from free blacks in Ohio into “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The semi-frozen river the fugitive slave Eliza crosses to freedom in Stowe’s novel is the Ohio River, a geo-ethical line within an increasingly divided nation.

The Northwest Ordinance also stipulated that schools and education would be embedded into the new settlements. Ohio had a school system supported by public taxes and it had Ohio University, founded in 1804. Freedom of religion was also part of the Northwest plan and became law in Ohio two years before it would be enshrined in the Constitution, even as many of the old American states still had established churches, with financial penalties or civic exclusion of people of other faiths. It made a difference. In 1824 the first Ohio Jewish congregation was formed in 1824 — there wouldn’t be a counterpart in Massachusetts for another decade.

Folks on the famous side include Lewis and Clark (headed west), Aaron Burr (post-duel and mid-conspiracy against the American government), John Chapman (a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed, sower of fruit trees) and Charles Dickens (visitor to Cincinnati). The less famous characters include Harman and Margaret Blennerhasett, Anglo-Irish newlyweds who lit out for the territory because they were uncle and niece; the Revolutionary War veteran Rufus Putnam, whose frontier library tellingly featured Milton’s “Paradise Lost”; and Cajoe, an enslaved Virginia man who gained his freedom in Ohio, preached the Gospel and lived past his 100th birthday. New Englanders may have flooded into the free Northwest Territory, but they also streamed into slaveholding Georgia. Even as Harvard men were founding Ohio University, Yale men established the University of Georgia. The Connecticut native Eli Whitney developed his famous cotton gin on the Georgia plantation of a fellow New Englander, Nathaniel (also Nathanael) Greene, a Rhode Islander who had settled in the South and acquired slaves. Ohio and Georgia — antislavery and slaveholding, respectively — were both parts of the same nation. The two states were logical American outcomes, dueling creations of people from the same place.

And whatever praise Manasseh Cutler and his supporters might deserve, their designated Eden had an original sin: dispossession of the region’s native inhabitants — paradise lost, indeed. The Northwest Territory “teeming with wolves, bears, wild boars, panthers, rattlesnakes and the even more deadly copperheads,” recalls the Indians living off the land. Like the Persian empire replaced by the Greeks in the Classical Age the Indians did not leave much of recorded history so what we read is from the standpoint of the Occupiers.

Despite the Northwest Ordinance’s declaration that “the utmost good faith shall always be observed toward the Indians,” several indigenous nations refused to recognize the treaties that, under United States law, nullified their land rights. A confederation of the Shawnee, Miami and Lenape (Delaware) — led by their leaders, Waweyapiersenwaw (Blue Jacket), Mishikinaakwa (Little Turtle) and Buckongahelas — resisted the settlers’ advance. After several attacks, American officials dispatched troops, who built a new fort. Their effort resulted in a battle at the Wabash River (Nov. 4, 1791), which came to be known as St. Clair’s Defeat, a rout worse than any suffered in the American Revolution: 623 men and officers lost, plus an estimated 200 civilians. (Indian fatalities were estimated at 21.) But the United States won a significant victory three years later at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, where Gen. Anthony Wayne defeated Blue Jacket’s forces on Aug. 20. The Treaty of Greenville (1795) drew yet another line, one that demanded Indians remove themselves north and west of the Ohio Territory.

(ack:Review of David McCullough-The Pioneers/ John S Gardner July 4 2019/The Guardian 2. NYT Joyce E Joplin/May 13, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(News: A top US immigration official has revised a quote inscribed on the Statue of Liberty in defense of a new policy that denies food aid to legal migrants. So we have  a sonnet and a new title to celebrate it:-benny)

 

Lancet Anyone?

Not like the suntann’d squire of golf links

With executive rights whining from coast to coast:

Here at last foul mouthed, maniacal boast,

He reveals his true self and his links

To white supremacists Aryans and such kinks-

Tossed from tree mired in dirt ‘n ground frost:

Liberty shall no more be commended

Nor its strength restor’d, not until truth sinks:

Liberty for few is bondage for the whole,

Soul of nation so shall in shame suffer.

Show me what good has done for your soul

Than set the basest of the base to revere

And your vaunted freedom worse than a boil

Fouling and dragging down the body entire.

Benny

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Recently a high profile Saudi dissident went visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He never returned. What excuses the Riyadh government gave became curioser and curioser but no body. Here is another that defies explanation. Enlightenment in Europe as a principle would separate State from Religion. Afterall when the Pope of the Holy See in 800 AD endorsed the Divine Rights of kings it was Religion legitimizing the rule of one bandit king and his family the exclusive rights to plunder the state finances with impunity. After much bloodletting and religious wars the beacon of enlightenment succeeded in throwing light into dark recesses of man who would publicly establish a principle but see to that something far different takes control over the rest of the proceedings. That is history for you, in capsule.
Is our mind that complex? Wars for instance was not sought out as the ape ancestor had nothing to complain of than hunting and gathering on an unwritten principle: share and share alike.

Evolution can explain why humans exhibit aggression because it is a primal emotion like any other, experts say. Dogs have it and apes also show it. Emotions are to be handled and for a social animal like man, nature provides them a safety valve in context of other life forms. Members in the same group come to learn very early there is safety in numbers. Maternal instincts of mother and suckling baby in need, forge a bond held more secure on account of the genetic push. Emotions of a mother and her infant, both benefit by emotions. Emotions can run the gamut of aggression and fear when threatened by outsiders. Evolution has primed primates and men to express appropriately so the survival of each group is in the best interest of each member and also a collective responsibility. Think of brain as a muscle that is well toned by constant use. Bodily exercise and mental agility benefit from constant use. Body and Mind as one. Think of members of the same group with same goals and sharing of genes as one organism.
Man, given his tool making capacity, has relied on channeling his emotions in the ways he whittled a piece of flint to serve his every day needs. By breaking it off he might hone the edge as sharp as a surgeon’s knife. In making that fine artifact, he has dissipated his bad emotions as well as found a new thrill of making a useful tool.
Somewhere along the line it became a lethal weapon and a weapon of war.
The same evolution that made man separate jumped the realm of biology found a new use for the tool, his handiwork.
Primal emotions when given expression consciously make even a piece of bamboo or flint as weapons of war. The use of weapons may date back well before the rise of humanity, given evidence that even our closest living relatives, the chimpanzees, can use spears to hunt other primates. Man, as a social animal can rationalize his nature, his need to give vent to pent up aggression. Only he did not account for the destructive force he would unleash in evolving a simple weapon as a flint knife to the nuclear bomb that may wipe off all life from the face of the Earth. How did a flint as a tool to fell animals in hunt or skin the hides of animals or carve piece of wood became a weapon to murder? Blame it on his nature.

Biologists speak of ‘norms of reaction,’ which are patterned responses to environmental circumstances. For example, some male insects are more likely to guard their mates when there are fewer females in the population, hence fewer other mating opportunities. Natural selection didn’t just shape a fixed behavior, it shaped the norm of reaction — the nature of the response,”
In humans a bad idea when he can think rationally on it brings many advantages. Increasing his supply of food at the cost of one who is weaker is one way of doing it. Annexing a territory from a weak tyrant is worth the while of a chieftain if he has a superior force. He reckons that his success would silence others and make his position more secure. It must have come handy when others would take the same path to aggrandize themselves.
‘Just as compassion for your offspring increases your genes’ chance of survival, violent tendencies may have been similarly useful for some species’ observed biologist David Carrier, of the University of Utah(2012),” Humans certainly rank among the most violent of species.” In true nature-nurture fashion, though some kind of genetic preprogramming for violence, may exist in humans as a result of our evolution. The west has long felt as champions of liberty and free speech but when dissidents simply disappear in broad daylight it ought to warn all how a thin veneer of decency has coated modern man. It must sit oddly where civilization is on every body’s lips while civility is cut out from his heart.

Now in a very divided America evangelicals have come in droves to support President Trump. What excuse they have? They embrace Trump the policymaker, despite being uneasy about Trump as a man, says Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a prominent evangelical activist group. What kind of family Mr. Perkins has in mind, I wonder? When he supports a system the head of the family is fated to spend most of his waking hours into drudgery to the neglect of his family sounds hypocritical. He is more like the Popes of yore giving a thorough whitewashing of men whose moral turpitude knows no bounds. Never mind religion has a way of rationalizing Satan when he comes in the form of mammon. This is what Tony Perkins, Jerry Falwell Jr. and their ilk want to see in public life.
Benny

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