SERENDIPITY re-blogged Sean Munger’s post on the president’s decision to abandon the Paris accord on climate change. Here’s a taste:
“Fighting climate change is not about choosing ‘helping the Earth’ over job security or economic prosperity for Americans. Fighting climate change is job security and economic prosperity for Americans.”
I don’t often write blog articles with the sole purpose of commenting on news items, but as a decision today by President Donald Trump deeply implicates climate change–without a doubt the most serious problem facing every American and every person on earth right now–I felt I couldn’t let it go by without at least a few words. My academic expertise is in the history of climate change, I’ve taught courses on the history of climate change (and wrote about them, here and here), and most post-academic career involves climate change, so I believe I’m qualified to speak on the subject.
Trump’s decision to abrogate the Paris climate change accord, at least where the United States is concerned, is not merely a strategic misstep (though it is), a betrayal of American trust and power…
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The post-soul alt-right budget proposal of Presidency of Donald Trump and his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, forgets – or never knew – what most people know:
Empathy is the most mysterious transaction that the human soul can have, and it’s accessible to all of us, but we have to give ourselves the opportunity to identify, to plunge ourselves in a story where we see the world from the bottom up or through another’s eyes or heart. – Sue Monk Kidd
The White House budget proposal fails the soul test. But it does makes us ponder something else about the human soul’s potential for darkness:
Everywhere the human soul stands between a hemisphere of light and another of darkness; on the confines of the two everlasting empires, necessity and free will. – Thomas Carlisle
Say “good-bye,” America, to Meals-on-Wheels. Say “good-bye” to empathy. Say “hello” to the post-soul alt-right world that forgets or never knew.
It’s enough to make an old soul cry.
America was a different place in the ’50s and ’60s. Posting the ’50s “Alka Selzer” ad this morning took me back to this ad for “Camels” on which my generation grew up.
Some things have changed for the better. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stopped this kind of real men ad, but only after real science researched the truth about cigarette smoke and cancer, resulting in successful lawsuits against the tobacco industry’s faux science. Is there a lesson here for today? Is faux science again trumping real science?
Goldman Sachs former partner “Steven Mnuchin, a financier with deep roots on Wall Street and in Hollywood but no government experience, is expected to be named Donald J. Trump’s Treasury secretary . . . .”. – NYT, Nov. 30, 2016.
Here’s a memory jogger about Goldman Sachs from 2012.
“THE WALL STREET TATTLER” – Gordon C. Stewart — March 15, 2012
How could he do this? Is Greg Smith a tattler? Or, perhaps, Judas?
How could one of Wall Street’s own go to the New York Times (“Why I am leaving Goldman Sachs”) to publicly denounce the company’s culture? “He just took a howitzer and blew the entire firm away,” said Larry Doyle of Greenwich Investment Management.“ (“Wall Street Exec Quits with Public Broadside“).
According to the LA Times article, Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein suggests that Mr. Smith – Goldman’s executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.- is a “disgruntled employee.” William Cohan, author of Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World, says that “there are lots of disgruntled people who leave Wall Street, and they don’t do this” (i.e. open their mouths.) “What I’m hearing (on Wall Street),” said Cohan, “is sour grapes. You just pigged out at the trough for 12 years and you don’t have enough sense to keep your mouth shut.” (underlining mine)
Keeping one’s mouth shut is the name of the game on Wall Street.
Conscience may have its place so long as you keep it to yourself. You can have a conscience on Wall Street, just don’t exercise it. You’re part of an elite gang. Whether on the Street corners of impoverished neighborhoods like Watts in LA and Bedford-Styvesant in NYC, or in the center of crony capitalism that is Wall Street, gang members don’t rat on other gang members. If you don’t like it, swallow hard and keep your mouth shut.
Goldman’s rebuttal to Mr. Smith’s statement -“It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping off their clients,” referring to their own clients as Muppets – hardly has the ring of strong denial. “We disagree with the views expressed, which we don’t think reflect the way we run our business.”
Hmmm. “…don’t think…”? Why not “don’t”?
It’s a rare thing for a spokesperson for a corporation with the best legal counsel in the world to say anything than a flat-out denial. “We don’t think” sets up the issue as a matter of perception, not fact. It’s Goldman’s perceptions of itself versus Mr. Smith’s disgruntled perception.
Mr. Smith’s refusal to live by the Wall Street gang code of conduct will lead to a barrage of attacks on his character calculated to divert the public’s attention from an institution that eats people’s investments and life savings to the Judas who is without integrity.
Goldman understands that for most of us the world is personal, not institutional. We don’t like tattlers and turn-coats, disgruntled employees who never learned the lesson of kindergarten that you never tattle on your friends. You don’t go running home to tell momma. Part of the code of the playground is not to tell.
What’s even more unusual in this case is that Greg Smith dealt in derivatives. Remember them? Derivatives – a complicated form of financial market gambling so convoluted that even the people who manage them can’t explain how they work – were at the center of the Wall Street meltdown in 2008. They were legal then. They are legal now. Goldman Sachs and the rest of the Wall Street gang of crony capitalism are still calling the shots with the highest paid Washington lobbyists money can buy.
Greg Smith is a Wall Street Judas who betrayed his gang not with a kiss but with a howitzer.
How could he do this? Why didn’t the guy who ate at the pig trough for 12 years just kiss and say good-bye? Why did he make his money and then break the code? Unless…unless…unlike so many of those who were taught not to tattle, Greg Smith couldn’t live with himself and decided not to run home to tell momma but to run to the New York Times. He’ll never again be allowed on the playground.
POSTSCRIPT, November 30, 2016: So much for the howitzer. Like Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” in 1939, Greg Smith was a hero. Donald Trump is no Mr. Smith. So much for “draining the swamp.”
“Blessed are you who are poor ….”
“Woe to you who are rich [i.e., opulent]. . . .”
According to the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau Report, 43 million Americans lived in poverty (e.g, annual income below $13,ooo for a one-member household).
President Obama’s decision to visit to Cuba and his call to end the U.S. embargo bring me joy. It’s time to “normalize” relationships between our two countries.
But what does normalizing mean between the capitalist super power and tiny island socialist republic 90 miles from the Florida coast? A return to normal or a new kind of normal?
The President’s speech this morning is disappointing. I couldn’t help thinking of Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the United States when he poked the President in the eye in a speech aimed at the American people. This morning Barack Obama did the same in Havana.
The President says he knows the history. He may. But the history he knows is different from the one the Cubans know. When he talks about opening up Cuba, opening up Cuban markets so that Cubans can buy goods and have 21st century jobs, he ignores the reason for the Cuban revolution. The Batista regime was a U.S. puppet. Havana and Veradero Beach were playgrounds for North American capitalists, elites, and businessmen who gambled in the casinos and vacationed on the white sands few Cubans – except for the table-servers, maids, bartenders – ever got to touch.
Cuba was not a democracy under Batista and his predecessors. It was a dictatorship – AND its economy was free-market capitalism with egregious disparities of income and wealth. The majority of Cubans were as poor as the masses in other Latin American banana republics.
An article in The Independent provides the history of the challenges and successes of the post-revolution Cuban government’s literacy campaign and Cuba’s highly praised universal education system.
Will normalizing relations return Cuba to the pre-socialist inequalities that caused the revolution in 1959? Will it mean a return to “normal” – in which the superpower calls the shots while the little brother watches our president embarrass him from center stage?
Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, March 22, 2016
As presidential candidates scramble to win Iowa, Senator Elizabeth Warren, in this opinion piece in the New York Times, reminds voters why the choice is so important.
Radio broadcast, January 31, 1933
Over fourteen years have passed since that unhappy day when the German people, blinded by promises made by those at home and abroad, forgot the highest values of our past, of the Reich, of its honor and its freedom, and thereby lost everything. Since those days of treason, the Almighty has withdrawn his blessing from our nation. Discord and hatred have moved in. Filled with the deepest distress, millions of the best German men and women from all walks of life see the unity of the nation disintegrating in a welter of egoistical political opinions, economic interests, and ideological conflicts.
As so often in our history, Germany, since the day the revolution broke out, presents a picture of heartbreaking disunity. We did not receive the equality and fraternity which was promised us; instead we lost our freedom. The breakdown of the unity of mind and will of our nation at home was followed by the collapse of its political position abroad.
We have a burning conviction that the German people in 1914 went into the great battle without any thought of personal guilt and weighed down only by the burden of having to defend the Reich from attack, to defend the freedom and material existence of the German people. In the appalling fate that has dogged us since November 1918 we see only the consequence of our inward collapse. But the rest of the world is no less shaken by great crises. The historical balance of power, which at one time contributed not a little to the understanding of the necessity for solidarity among the nations, with all the economic advantages resulting therefrom, has been destroyed.
The delusion that some are the conquerors and others the conquered destroys the trust between nations and thereby also destroys the world economy. But the misery of our people is terrible! The starving industrial proletariat have become unemployed in their millions, while the whole middle and artisan class have been made paupers. If the German farmer also is involved in this collapse we shall be faced with a catastrophe of vast proportions. For in that case, there will collapse not only a Reich, but also a 2000-year-old inheritance of the highest works of human culture and civilization.
All around us are symptoms portending this breakdown. With an unparalleled effort of will and of brute force the Communist method of madness is trying as a last resort to poison and undermine an inwardly shaken and uprooted nation. They seek to drive it towards an epoch which would correspond even less to the promises of the Communist speakers of today than did the epoch now drawing to a close to the promises of the same emissaries in November 1918.
Starting with the family, and including all notions of honor and loyalty, nation and fatherland, culture and economy, even the eternal foundations of our morals and our faith—nothing is spared by this negative, totally destructive ideology. Fourteen years of Marxism have undermined Germany. One year of Bolshevism would destroy Germany. The richest and most beautiful areas of world civilization would be transformed into chaos and a heap of ruins. Even the misery of the past decade and a half could not be compared with the affliction of a Europe in whose heart the red flag of destruction had been planted. The thousands of injured, the countless dead which this battle has already cost Germany may stand as a presage of the disaster.
In these hours of overwhelming concern for the existence and the future of the German nation, the venerable World War leader [Hindenburg] appealed to us men of the nationalist parties and associations to fight under him again as once we did at the front, but now loyally united for the salvation of the Reich at home. The revered President of the Reich having with such generosity joined hands with us in a common pledge, we nationalist leaders would vow before God, our conscience and our people that we shall doggedly and with determination fulfill the mission entrusted to us as the National Government.
It is an appalling inheritance which we are taking over.
The task before us is the most difficult which has faced German statesmen in living memory. But we all have unbounded confidence, for we believe in our nation and in its eternal values. Farmers, workers, and the middle class must unite to contribute the bricks wherewith to build the new Reich.
The National Government will therefore regard it as its first and supreme task to restore to the German people unity of mind and will. It will preserve and defend the foundations on which the strength of our nation rests. It will take under its firm protection Christianity as the basis of our morality, and the family as the nucleus of our nation and our state. Standing above estates and classes, it will bring back to our people the consciousness of its racial and political unity and the obligations arising therefrom. It wishes to base the education of German youth on respect for our great past and pride in our old traditions. It will therefore declare merciless war on spiritual, political and cultural nihilism. Germany must not and will not sink into Communist anarchy.
In place of our turbulent instincts, it will make national discipline govern our life. In the process it will take into account all the institutions which are the true safeguards of the strength and power of our nation.
The National Government will carry out the great task of reorganizing our national economy with two big Four-Year Plans:
Saving the German farmer so that the nation’s food supply and thus the life of the nation shall be secured.
Saving the German worker by a massive and comprehensive attack on unemployment.
In fourteen years the November parties have ruined the German farmer.
In fourteen years they created an army of millions of unemployed.
The National Government will carry out the following plan with iron resolution and dogged perseverance.
Within four years the German farmer must be saved from pauperism.
Within four years unemployment must be completely overcome.
Parallel with this, there emerge the prerequisites for the recovery of the economy.
The National Government will combine this gigantic project of restoring our economy with the task of putting the administration and the finances of the Reich, the states, and the communes on a sound basis.
Only by doing this can the idea of preserving the Reich as a federation acquire flesh and blood.
The idea of labor service and of settlement policy are among the main pillars of this program.
Our concern to provide daily bread will be equally a concern for the fulfillment of the responsibilities of society to those who are old and sick.
The best safeguard against any experiment which might endanger the currency lies in economical administration, the promotion of work, and the preservation of agriculture, as well as in the use of individual initiative.
In foreign policy, the National Government will see its highest mission in the preservation of our people’s right to an independent life and in the regaining thereby of their freedom. The determination of this Government to put an end to the chaotic conditions in Germany is a step towards the integration into the community of nations of a state having equal status and therefore equal rights with the rest. In so doing, the Government is aware of its great obligation to support, as the Government of a free and equal nation, that maintenance and consolidation of peace which the world needs today more than ever before.
May all others understand our position and so help to ensure that this sincere desire for the welfare of Europe and of the whole world shall find fulfillment.
Despite our love for our Army as the bearer of our arms and the symbol of our great past, we should be happy if the world, by restricting its armaments, made unnecessary any increase in our own weapons.
But if Germany is to experience this political and economic revival and conscientiously to fulfill its duties towards other nations, a decisive act is required: We must overcome the demoralization of Germany by the Communists.
We, men of this Government, feel responsible to German history for the reconstitution of a proper national body so that we may finally overcome the insanity of class and class warfare. We do not recognize classes, but only the German people, its millions of farmers, citizens and workers who together will either overcome this time of distress or succumb to it.
With resolution and fidelity to our oath, seeing the powerlessness of the present Reichstag to shoulder the task we advocate, we wish to commit it to the whole German people.
We therefore appeal now to the German people to sign this act of mutual reconciliation.
The Government of the National Uprising wishes to set to work, and it will work.
It has not for fourteen years brought ruin to the German nation; it wants to lead it to the summit.
It is determined to make amends in four years for the liabilities of fourteen years.
But it cannot subject the work of reconstruction to the will of those who were responsible for the breakdown.
The Marxist parties and their followers had fourteen years to prove their abilities.
The result is a heap of ruins.
Now, German people, give us four years and then judge us.
Let us begin, loyal to the command of the Field-Marshal. May Almighty God favor our work, shape our will in the right way, bless our vision and bless us with the trust of our people. We have no desire to fight for ourselves; only for Germany.
Source of English translation: Jeremy Noakes and Geoffrey Pridham, eds., Nazism 1919-1945, Vol. 1, The Rise to Power 1919-1934. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1998, pp. 131-34.
Source of original German text: “Aufruf der Reichsregierung vom 31. Januar 1933,” reprinted in Hans-Adolf Jacobsen and Werner Jochmann, eds., Ausgewählte Dokumente zur Geschichte des Nationalsozialismus, 1933-1945. Vol. 2, Bielefeld, 1961, no page number (Document 31. I. 1933).
“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” –Plutarch, ancient Greek biographer [c. 46 – 120 CE].
“The disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition is the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.” – Adam Smith, Scottish political economist, author, The Wealth of Nations, father of capitalism [1723-1790].
“The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly. The rich have always objected to being governed at all.” –G. K. Chesterton, English essayist (1874-1936)
“So distribution should undo excess, and each man have enough.” William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act 4, Scene 1.
“In the long run men inevitably become the victims of their wealth. They adapt their lives and habits to their money, not their money to their lives. It preoccupies their thoughts, creates artificial needs, and draws a curtain between them and the world.” – Herbert Croly, U.S. political philosopher [1869-1930].
“No person, I think, ever saw a herd of buffalo, of which a few were fat and the great majority lean. No person ever saw a flock of birds, of which two or three were swimming in grease, and the others all skin and bone.”–Henry George American political economist [1839-1897].
“The greatest country, the richest country, is not that which has the most capitalists, monopolists, immense grabbings, vast fortunes, with its sad, sad soil of extreme, degrading, damning poverty, but the land in which there are the most homesteads, freeholds — where wealth does not show such contrasts high and low, where all men have enough — a modest living— and no man is made possessor beyond the sane and beautiful necessities.” –Walt Whitman [1819-1892].
“We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” –Louis Brandeis, U.S. Supreme Court Justice [1856-1941]
“The form of law which I propose would be as follows: In a state which is desirous of being saved from the greatest of all plagues—not faction, but rather distraction—there should exist among the citizens neither extreme poverty nor, again, excessive wealth, for both are productive of great evil . . . Now the legislator should determine what is to be the limit of poverty or of wealth.”–Plato, Greek philosopher [427-347 B.C.E.]
“He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” – Mary, mother of Jesus of Nazareth, Christian Scripture, Gospel of Luke 1:52-53.