Friday, February 26, 2021

A record decrease in human population—the Coronavirus—Biden's main redeeming value

 

By Steve Otto

The Coronavirus has now reach an epic 500,000 people dead. It is hard to wrap ones head against such a statistic. All of the major news outlets have posted what I am posting now. So I don't have a lot to say about it t hat is new.

It is hard to live in a day and age where simply going to a local bar for a little company and entertainment is a lethal gamble. Many of us just sit at home and wait for this whole thing to end—and now some say the end my come as late as next year. Still other experts are saying things may get to normal as early as this Summer.

My wife has just died, so sitting at home alone is not much fun. Then again, I have not yet been hit by that virus. If I do get it, I could be the end of me. I would not like to be among those statistics. For those among the half million there will be no next year—no going back out and finding a new normal. For those folks it is game over.

Again there is little more to say about that. About 100 years ago we had the Spanish Flue. I wasn't born yet. So this is my first major epidemic and my fist taste of a major human die off. I have read about the Black Death and I know that was worse. However, for those who lost their lives in this pandemic, it doesn't really matter if earlier epidemics were worse. For them this epidemic was as bad as it can get.

From NPR (National Public Radio):

 

"More than 500,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S.

This week President Biden is asking Americans to mark the 500,000 deaths with a moment of silence at sunset Monday. He's also ordered flags on all federal buildings lowered to half-staff for five days.

The disease has killed at least 100,000 people in the past five weeks and was the leading cause of death in the country in January, ahead of heart disease, cancer and other ailments, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation....

 

....... "The massive number and the loss of those people from our society has not been acknowledged," says Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones, an epidemiologist and past president of the American Public Health Association. "We cannot think these people are disposable and dispensable and that we can just get along very well without them. It's those kinds of blinders that sap the strength of the whole society."

"There's much that could be learned, much that would be added if we were to honor people's lives and to invest in people's lives,' she adds."


Since President Joe Biden has come to office, we don't have the drama and non-sense we got from Former President Donald Trump. Biden has taken aim at the Coronavirus pandemic and his actions have been straight forward.
So far Biden has been pre-occupied with the pandemic and the insurrection by right-wingers (many who are both far-right wing nuts and Trump fans).
And yet, not everything is getting fixed, especially when it comes to foreign affairs. According to ABC News:

 

"The Biden administration will continue recognizing Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of the country and won’t negotiate anytime soon with President Nicolás Maduro, keeping a policy approach for now similar to former president Donald Trump's, which had the support of many Venezuelans in the United States."

 

So no changes there. And that position is ridiculous, supporting a man who never won an election—none, not any kind of election. But there will be a few changes, according to Foreign Affairs:

 

"These maladies predated Trump, of course. President Barack Obama’s administration had to design international agreements such as the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal in a way that would avoid the need for formal ratification, because the world knows that the U.S. Senate has been unable to approve a multilateral treaty for nearly 15 years, even one modeled directly on U.S. domestic law. But Trump’s “America first” populist nationalism has cut deeply into the foundation of American foreign policy, as his administration called into question long-standing alliances, embraced authoritarian rulers, denigrated allies, and withdrew the United States from a wide range of international agreements and organizations that it founded."

 

Then there are the maybes. According to the BBC:

 

"US President Joe Biden has talked by phone with King Salman of Saudi Arabia as he seeks to put relations with America's old ally on a new footing.

He "affirmed the importance" the US "places on universal human rights and the rule of law", the White House said.

Mr Biden made the call after reading a forthcoming US report into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The report is expected to implicate the king's son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He denies involvement.

Mr Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, pursued closer ties with Saudi Arabia."

 

So he has shown concern, but no real action yet. Will he wimp out to the Saudis as all the presidents before him. If I were a betting man, I would put my money on yes. But I'm willing to see what happens.

As for that virus, I have avoided death so far. I hope to get vaccinated and I hope things get back to normal by next Summer. I have confidence in Biden when it comes to the virus and him doing the right thing.

On foreign affairs and other issues I have very little confidence that Biden will do the right things. But if he gets anything right it will be a step in the right direction—even if it is just a little step.

 

 COVID Memorial

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Epic Battles in Practical Ethics: Stoicism vs Epicureanism—And yes...I have taken a side

 

By Steve Otto

When I started college, at Newman University, in Wichita,  had to take a course on ancient civilization. That might seem interesting but it was the ancient philosophers who had all the interesting ideas. I have to admit that I did not know that much about these ancient philosophers and their relationship to Karl Marx. Despite being a Democratic Socialist, many of us also consider ourselves to be Marxists at least theoretically.

Marx had written a dissertation on the difference between the philosophy of Democritus/ Δημόκριτος and Epicurus/ Ἐπίκουρος. In an introduction to his dissertation on the difference between The philosophy of Democritus and Epicurus he admits that these two philosophy, have never been given their full respect. He admitted that he had to chose one philosophy over the other because he was writing a dissertation. He said he had to chose one over  the other.

So I had read Marx's views on these ancient philosophers. I had also realized that these philosophers had developed important views on philosophy and life itself. Since that time I have found that many young Marxist find little they need in these ancient philosophies. In fact, not long ago a young Marxist wrote to me and said that modern Marxists have developed philosophy beyond the needs of the earlier philosophers that they no longer have any need for those ancient philosophies. But I'm not convinced of that. The earlier ancient philosophers laid the ground work for what we are trying to decide today.  

Now let 's fast  forward to an article I read recently, "Epic Battles in Practical Ethics: Stoicism vs Epicureanism."

It just so happens that the author's name was not on this article, so he/she/it was not someone I could find. Why it was not signed I don't know. But I haven't found the author's name yet.

Since reading the ancient texts of Epicurus I have considered that my religion, if there is such a thing. The author of this above article is clearly an enthusiast of stoicism.  According to Wikipedia:

 

Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. It is a philosophy of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world. According to its teachings, as social beings, the path to eudaimonia (happiness, or blessedness) is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or by the fear of pain, by using one's mind to understand the world and to do one's part in nature's plan, and by working together and treating others fairly and justly.

The Stoics are especially known for teaching that "virtue is the only good" for human beings, and those external things—such as health, wealth, and pleasure—are not good or bad in themselves (adiaphora), but have value as "material for virtue to act upon." Alongside Aristotelian ethics, the Stoic tradition forms one of the major founding approaches to virtue ethics.[1] The Stoics also held that certain destructive emotions resulted from errors of judgment, and they believed people should aim to maintain a will (called prohairesis) that is "in accordance with nature." Because of this, the Stoics thought the best indication of an individual's philosophy was not what a person said but how a person behaved. To live a good life, one had to understand the rules of the natural order since they thought everything was rooted in nature.

 

I have rejected the Stoic world view, which I believe is close to the US conservative movement. In many ways people might find me a hedonist. And Epicurus, in my opinion, is simply not a hedonist. Aristippus is a good example of a hedonist. He took part in all kinds of pleasures. I have some hedonistic tendencies. But I have also insisted on trying to make the world a better place. It was Marx who said that “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.”

 

So perhaps I have a unique view of the philosopher's view of the world. While the author of that article clearly takes the side of the Stoics, I take the other side. So to some extent, the Marxist side does resemble Stoicism. And yet I have taken the Epicurean side. Right or wrong, I have taken a side and I do not regret that.



Sunday, February 14, 2021

Do we jump on the anti-Trump bandwagon?

 By Steve Otto

 As I watch the impeachment trial, over former president Donald Trump’s spectacle in Congress, back on January 6, a few things go through my mind. A lot of liberal Democrats are chomping at the bit to find Trump guilty. It is easy to jump on the anti-Trump bandwagon. But the problem is that I’m not really a liberal. I’m a democratic socialist and maybe even closer to a Marxist.

I was a high school kid in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Those were remarkable years. A cultural renaissance took place. Then there was a new left Marxist movement rising from one campus to the next. There were peaceful protests. There were also two Marxist leaning movements that took up guerrilla war fare, the Weather Underground and the Symbionese Liberation Army. Between outright insurrection and peaceful protests were those in the middle, such as the Yippies. The Yippies[1] and similar groups tried to cross both the hippy cultural movement and the new left. In the long run, they were not treated much different from the insurrectionists. There have been examples of the US government trying to send a message to those who would use any kind of violence, even vandalism, that such activity will be met with the most extreme punishment. Rebellion from the left would NOT be tolerated AT ALL!

But now, in Congress, we are seeing our government dishing out the same message to people on the right—some of them on the far-right, so the rightwing insurrection will not be tolerated AT ALL. These rebellious factions are on the right and far-right—so far to the right, we are just about dealing with fascism that is not all that different from the movements we saw in Spain and Italy before World War II. As with Europe, our US fascists have a charismatic leader, Donald Trump.

So while it is tempting to jump on the anti-Trump bandwagon, I can’t help fearing that doing so will some day come back to haunt some of us who have not always followed the pro-government rules. There were about 5 people killed. But considering the size of the insurrection, with a few thousand Trump supporters, most of the damage was just petty vandalism. They did hit some people and they broke some windows, but does the government really need to arrest EVERYONE who went into the Congress that day? We need to really think about what we are doing when the calls come out to round up the small time peopleespecially the misguided. 


[1] Steve Otto, War on Drugs/ War on People, (Ide House, Los Colinas, 1995), p. 105-109.


Monday, February 08, 2021

Whew! Another Super Bowl—LV

By Steve Otto

It  was Super Bowl Sunday again. That happens every year. There is little to nothing political about football. But Super Bowl has been turned into a tradition and its own holiday. It is a little like Black Friday. There is the game, and there is a half time extravaganza. Unlike such holidays as Thanksgiving, the Super Bowl is only as old as foot ball and I'm not sure it is even that old.

For this year we had Super Bowl LV.

According to Wikipedia:

 

"Since 2004, the game has been played on the first Sunday in February. It is the culmination of a regular season that begins in the late summer of the previous year.

The game was created as part of a 1966 merger agreement between the NFL and its rival the American Football League (AFL). It was agreed that the two champion teams would begin playing in an annual AFL–NFL World Championship Game until the merger was completed in 1970. The first game was played on January 15, 1967, after both leagues had completed their respective 1966 seasons. After the merger, each league was re-designated as a "conference", and the game has since been played between the conference champions to determine the NFL's league champion. The NFL restricts the use of its "Super Bowl" trademark, and it is frequently referred to as the "big game" or other generic terms by non-sponsoring corporations."

 

So it is no where as old as Thanksgiving. It is not as old as Christmas or New Year. However it is a big deal. This year Tampa Bay 31 beat Kansas City 9.

There are some plugs for our imperialist military, such as USAA (military insurance) has a special lounge at every Super Bowl for the military. Then there are Discount NFL Tickets for Military.

There are shows such as Air Force Bombers from Dakotas Will Do Super Bowl Flyover.  

Of course I am not happy with that. It is a celebration of imperialism which I oppose. However that is a small part of the Super Bowl. The biggest pro-capitalist part of this holiday are all the Super Bowl ads. The are mostly at half time and they are so built up that they make news every year. I have written several times how much I hate commercials and their deceptive nature.

There was no commercials when I visited Cuba two years ago. They were not on TV and I rarely saw ads everywhere like they have here. They do advertize a beer, Bucanero, that is everywhere. Ironically the beer is hard to find in bars and stores.

I didn't watch the game. I probably would have enjoyed the half time-show, but I didn't watch that either. If you watched it, that is fine, it's sports and entertainment. I have nothing against foot ball, I just don't find it interesting.

If you like football, watch it and have fun. And you can hate the military ties and commercials like I do, and enjoy at least most of the show.


This year no Budweiser ads.

Saturday, February 06, 2021

Unfamiliar Ground: Bracing for Climate Impacts in the American Midwest

 

By Steve Otto

For the last five or six years, we have never had more than 6 inches of snow. It was not always like that. When I move to Wichita, KS, when I was 13 years old, we often had more than a foot of snow. We often had large drifts of three feet or more. I had to be careful driving because I could get stuck in a snow drift. NO MORE. With climate changeglobal warming, whatever people want to call it, we don't get deep snow anymore. At least we haven't in many years.

I have read where cities creat bubbles of their own heat. I'm sure Wichita does that. All around this city, there are deep snowsbut not here. Here we don't get much snow. The school kids haven't had a "snow day" off school in more than five years. They may not get one in the next five years.

There are still politicians as Donald Trump, who refuse to believe in global warming or climate change. I'd like to know how they explain the weather changes I have seen in my lifetime. I have read of people who are moving away from Western states because the increasing fires are making it hard for them to breath the air. They are moving away because they don't believe it will ever get better. And yet there are still politicians who try to tell us that these changes are a myth.

For those of us who see the changes and watch them happening before our eyesthere is no myth about it.

 
Yes...winter. But during the day it is so warm the streets melt all the snow.

 

From Inside Climate News:

Reporters from across the Midwest explore the climate risks and the strategies communities are using to adapt.

 


By Dan Gearino

Think of a Minnesota with almost no ice fishing. A Missouri that is as hot and dry as Texas. River and lake communities where catastrophic flooding happens almost every year, rather than every few generations.

This, scientists warn, is the future of the Midwest if emissions continue at a high rate, threatening the very core of the region’s identity.

With extreme heat waves and flooding increasingly making that future feel more real, city leaders have started looking for ways to adapt.

......For the rest click here.

Some thoughts on the new stimulas checks.

 This is mostly from my brother John Otto:









Sunday, January 31, 2021

Are the Hippies and Yippies of today part of a conservative revolutionary movement?

By Steve Otto

I remember one party I had, in the 1980’s, where I told people to dress as their least favorite dictator. I dressed up like Ronald Reagan. He always wore a suit, so I wore a suit. My friends came to the party and asked, “Why are you dressed up like that?” Then I answered, “Roland Reagan dresses up like this.”

The point here is that a suit and tie used to be what most conservatives wore. Some of them wore a baseball cap, even if it had something different from baseball. A few wore clothes that indicated they like car races, like the Daytona.

During the 1970s when I came of age, hippies were usually to the left, some liberals, some Marxists and some anarchists. They wore unconventional clothing. That included sandals, blue jeans, tie die shirts, long hair, beards and at times they wore face paint, just as Jerry Rubin did on the cover of his book, “Do It.”

He had long hair, a beard, a head band and at times he dressed like a guerrilla hippie. He was a member of the Yippies in his early years. But later he became a conservative and he changed his clothes into—a suit.


So there we saw it—hippie clothes, left-wing, suits, right-wing or conservative. Now we look at conservatives today and we see a different pattern.

Readers can click on the pix to make it bigger.

Jacob Anthony Chansley, AKA Jake Angeli, and also known as the "QAnon Shaman" was a part of the January 6, storming of the US Capitol. In the picture above he is standing next to a man who has long hair and a beard. Chansley has an outfit that resembles something a 1960s Yippie would wear. He has a hat made of animal skins and horns. He has face paint on, and he calls himself a “Shaman.” All this points to the clothing of a 1960s or 1970s hippie, anarchist or some kind of left-wing person. But he is far to the right—a conservative. And it used to be hippies that would follow non-Christian type beliefs, such as Shamanism. He is not the only conservative who dresses more like the old 1960s radicals. And the event he took part in, resembles the actions of a 1960s radical. An example of that was the Free Speech Movement at the University of California in Berkeley.

According to Calisphere:

 

“The Free Speech Movement (FSM) was a college campus phenomenon inspired first by the struggle for civil rights and later fueled by opposition to the Vietnam War. The Free Speech Movement began in 1964, when students at the University of California, Berkeley protested a ban on on-campus political activities. The protest was led by several students, who also demanded their right to free speech and academic freedom. The FSM sparked an unprecedented wave of student activism and involvement.”


The students took over Sproul Plaza and occupied the balconies of Sproul Hall, a campus administration building, holding FSM banners and an American flag.

If there is one thing similar to such actions today, it is that Government officials do not take well to such people taking the law into their own hands. The FBI kept secret files on FSM leaders. Voters elected Ronald Reagan to "clean up the mess in Berkeley."

There were other protests taking place, in the ‘60s, around that time and according to Wikipedia, there was a backlash against these actions and a wide variety of protests, concerned citizens, and activists were lumped together.

And…

 

“Earlier protests against the House Committee on Un-American Activities meeting in San Francisco in 1960 had included an iconic scene as protesters were literally washed down the steps inside the Rotunda of San Francisco City Hall with fire hoses.”

 

Today authorities are trying to arrest every person who took part in the actions of January 6.

So what does all of this mean? Is this just a fashion trend? Or is it more significant? I don’t have all the answers. It seems as if the hippies of today are conservatives. The action on the Capital, this January, is almost revolutionary. It is hard for me to imagine what Donald Trump was actually thinking. Did he really believe he could overturn the election results and put himself back in office for the next four years? Only he knows the answer. In a way, I have to admire Trump’s ability to draw in working class people among his supporters and he even won the support of what seems a lot like modern day Yippies—revolutionaries NOW of the far right.

Of course I oppose everything Trump tried to do to this country. He and I are complete opposites. However he was able to draw in a large section of the proletariat and lumpen proletariat to a completely anti-worker bourgeois platform. For conservatives that ain’t easy—or at least it shouldn’t be.

I always considered Ronald Reagan the nation’s best con man. He lowered the working people’s wages, took away a lot of their rights and they loved him for it. Trump is a con man in the same league. He also conned the working class, and even now with being out of office, I strongly suspect he will keep at it.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Cam Gentry 1949-2021—Feminist, Liberal, Wife

By Steve Otto

My wife just died so I am writing this obit for my blogs. I have written obits for my other friends, such as Tim Pouncey. But I was married to Camillia (AKA Cam) Gentry, so this is more difficult. Cam died January 21, 2021.


Cam spent her life time as a librarian. She was a librarian at Wichita State University for many years and then she was a librarian at the Dorothy Bramlage Public Library, in Junction City, KS. After that she went to the John F Kennedy Library at the Hutchinson Community College, KS. For most of her last years she worked at the hospital libraries for Via Christi, first at St. Joseph and then at St. Francis, here in Wichita. She has a Masters in Library Science. We both have lived in Maize, KS for the last 20 years or so.

Cam and I met at Kirby’s, a popular bar in Wichita, and for most of our lives it was  our favorite place to hang out and meet friends at. We met in the early 1980s and we got married in 1984. Cam and I had different politics. She was a liberal and I am a Socialist. But we do agree on a lot of issues. For example we both hated Trump and voted against him. Cam had always been a feminist and activist. She was also a Democrat. She was very politically active. In her early years she was a member of National Organization for Women (NOW). She did clinic defense for the abortion clinics in Wichita. She was a member of Freedom of Choice Action League (FOCAL) which shut down and ZAP which grew out of FOCAL. Both organizations were dedicated to clinic defense. She participated in the 2004 March for Women's Lives and the 2016 Women’s March in Washington DC. She was a liberal Democrat and never missed voting. She worked for and supported many Democratic candidates. She mostly supported progressive candidates. She really liked supporting progressive women.

For a more complete look at her life with me click here andsee the full-length obit.

 Here is a favorite song of Cam's:



Services have been postponed until spring or summer due to the coronavirus. At this time no service are currently planned.

Clint Gentry also contributed to this article.

To see Cam’s Wichita Eagle Obit, click here.

And at Wulf Ast.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Martin Luther King Jr. Day! -Speeches

 Yesterday was the official MLK Day. While I didn’t post yesterday, I am posting today. Here is an important speech of King’s:



Friday, January 15, 2021

Trump and the US government are taking part in murder

By SJ Otto

The US killing machine goes on. The US is just about the only industrialized nation that STILL uses the death penalty. Not long ago I saw an opinion piece by a writer who commented on a fellow school mate who was writing an analysis of Fidel Castro. The school mate was looking at what he considered the good things about Castro. But the author of this piece immediately stated that Castro was responsible for many people’s deaths. His attitude was that this leader murdered people, so there was no redeeming value in his regime at all. What surprised me most of all, is the idea that it is communist leaders as Castro who kill people—not capitalist leaders, such as President Donald Trump. Trump has been on a killing spree lately using the death penalty to kill people and he has sped up the process so he can put lots of people to death. So what difference does it make whether someone gets killed by a communist leader or a capitalist one? The results are the same. The person who is executed is dead. Regardless of the reason, the person dies.

So for many people there was little surprise when Lisa Montgomery, 52, was executed by lethal injection at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, and pronounced dead at 1:31 a.m. January 6.

 

According to CNN: 

 

Montgomery was the first woman to be executed by the federal government since 1953 and was the only woman on death row.

The Supreme Court denied a last-ditch effort late Tuesday by her defense attorneys who argued that she should have been given a competency hearing to prove her severe mental illness, which would have made her ineligible for the death penalty.

She was the 11th federal death row inmate to be executed by the Trump administration after a 17-year hiatus in federal executions.

"The government stopped at nothing in its zeal to kill this damaged and delusional woman," her attorney, Kelley Henry, said in a statement. "Lisa Montgomery's execution was far from justice."

 

I have read lately from various pundits that more people “have died under communism that any other ideology.” But how many people have died under the capitalist system we call the USA. The US has had two Indian wars. That cost a lot of people their lives, especially Native American Indians. Sure this country was at war with them. But the Native American Indians were being driven off their land and their way of life was being destroyed. And, at times innocent women and children were killed when US soldiers raided the homes of the Plains Indians they wanted to pacify.

Then there was slavery. Run-away slaves were often hung—that is to say they were executed. It is easy to brush off executions since we normally execute murderers in the US. But not everyone executed here has committed murder. Certainly the run-away slaves usually murdered no one. 

Then, during the Indian wars, US calvery often attacked villages that had just women and children. None or nearly none of those people were combatants.

According to Smithsonian Magazine:

 

“Jeff Campbell worked for 20 years as a criminal investigator for the state of New Mexico. He specialized in cold cases. These days, he applies his sleuthing skills to a case so cold it’s buried beneath a century and a half of windblown prairie.

“Here’s the crime scene,” Campbell says, surveying a creek bed and miles of empty grassland. A lanky, deliberate detective, he cups a corncob pipe to light it in the flurrying snow before continuing. “The attack began in predawn light, but sound carries in this environment. So the victims would have heard the hooves pounding towards them before they could see what was coming.” 

Campbell is reconstructing a mass murder that occurred in 1864, along Sand Creek, an intermittent stream in eastern Colorado. Today, less than one person per square mile inhabits this arid region. But in late autumn of 1864, about 1,000 Cheyenne and Arapaho lived in tepees here, at the edge of what was then reservation land. Their chiefs had recently sought peace in talks with white officials and believed they would be unmolested at their isolated camp. 

When hundreds of blue-clad cavalrymen suddenly appeared at dawn on November 29, a Cheyenne chief raised the Stars and Stripes above his lodge. Others in the village waved white flags. The troops replied by opening fire with carbines and cannon, killing at least 150 Indians, most of them women, children and the elderly. Before departing, the troops burned the village and mutilated the dead, carrying off body parts as trophies.”

 

This certainly is gruesome enough. There have been people executed for either political reasons or suspected acts of disloyalty to our government. Such is the case of Sacco and Vanzetti, the four anarchists executed for their alleged part in the Haymarket Affair and Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg. None of these people committed outright murder and politics were the main reasons for their executions.

There are also the other wars such as Vietnam. Over a million Vietnamese died in that war. Did most of them really want the US to stop them from being communists? Was the US right to insist that capitalism prevail there?

After the Nicaraguan Sandinista Revolution, capital punishment was outlawed. Capital punishment is still on the books in Cuba, but no one has been executed in several years. So it would seem that the US government—especially under Trump, is and has been quite murderous. The rest of Europe has abandoned capital punishment, but the US keeps on killing people.

There was plenty of evidence that MS Montgomery was mentally ill. She was not completely sane. So our system of government executed a person who was mentally unbalanced. Once again, our government is murderous under Trump and the system has allowed it. It is hard to say why Trump has such a lust for blood, but it speaks badly of the US justice system that such executions are taking place. This is just about the only place left on Earth where people are executed, with the exeption of the hell holes this country has propped up such as Iraq.

 



Thursday, January 07, 2021

Trump may be an ass hole—but he is making history

 

By SJ Otto

These are strange times and Donald Trump is a strange president. He is not only far to the right, he seems to be coming unhinged. Some of us wondered if he was able to handle the job of President. With the help of his cabinet members and other aids he has been able to do the job.  All of those aids have helped keep him in check. They prevented him from doing impulsive things that could have been dangerous.

His tirade against the elections results—which includes his assertion that the election was stolen from him, seems to make him look delusional. Can he really believe what he is saying? That is the hard question. Did he really believe he could come out ahead if he created a putsch by his followers? More and more the president seems to be lacking the needed sanity to do his job.

This also shows how US democracy has huge limitations. How could such a man get elected? How did he manage to stay elected? Most Republicans saw him as a loose cannon when he was first elected. Most of them didn’t like him at all. But he supported the Republican agenda. He promoted that agenda far better than the Republican Party believed would happen. After his firsts year in office—the party was sold on Trump.

His supporters are mostly working class people who are deeply dissatisfied with the US political landscape. Bernie Sanders and many news pundits have compared Trump and Sanders for appealing to the poor, working people and disenfranchised. They are political opposites and yet they appeal to the same class of people. According to Axion:

 

The bottom line: Many Sanders voters see Trump as having paved the way for a President Sanders.

  • Sanders supporter Jamal Jilao said, "I hope the time of being fearful of using executive orders has been laid to rest."

That article included other interviews with several voters including David Small:

  • "He's always toed the same line," said voter David Small. "The poor and disenfranchised will feel like they have a real advocate."

 

But Trump is the opposite of what working people or poor people really need. He is a corporate lackey and not a working class hero. His followers are a strange group of people who seem almost mesmerized by this leader. He and his followers resemble a cult. And while his followers are working class, he is a $billionaire.

Trump has proven that the system has huge holes in it. Trump is unfit for the job and yet he has hard core supporters who idolize him as a hero. Those people are largely responsible for getting him elected. They wanted a leader who is willing to shake up a system they do not trust. In some ways Trump is little more than a common thug. His followers often say: “he talks the way I do.” How does he talk? He is unrefined, blunt and he pushy back hard against his critics and opponents. He lashes out at his enemies and makes no apologies for his actions. He is the fist president, in my lifetime, which refused to congratulate the winner of the election that he lost.

Many of his followers are thugs who have no problem getting in a fight. Some are thugs, pure and simple. There is a similarity to these followers and the kinds of people Adolf Hitler recruited to create a political movement. That is not to say they are straight out fascist or Nazis. The point is that Trump supporters are following a strategy that has been used in the past.

Trump is the most undemocratic US leader in the last century, or maybe even in the history of the US. The system is broken and Trump has proven that. All our politicians and news pundits will stand around scratching their heads trying to figure out where they went wrong. But US democracy has always had its limitations.


The Electoral College was developed at the beginning of the history of the US in the 18th century. The idea was that people are not smart enough to elect a president directly. The founders did not trust the American people so they came up with the idea that the voters would elect electors who could vote against the will of the people in case they made a mistake. The electors are supposed to be smart enough to put a check against the individual voters. It is antiquated and three times now the Electoral College allowed a president to get elected with a minority of the popular vote. That is likely to happen again. 

The entire Republican Party should share the responsibility of this president. They enabled him to mislead the nation and they did it in order to promote their far-right agenda. Trump allowed Republicans to pick three Supreme Court Judges. He appointed people to cabinet positions who often opposed the very institutions they were put in charge of. For example Betsy DeVos was appointed secretary of education. She opposes public education.

An example of Republican style corruption was Trump quietlyending a rule intended to protect low-income Americans from predatory high-interest payday loans. So this and other actions were welcomed by Republicans and because of such actions they supported Trump. By year two Trump had won over the party and most of them gave Trump solid support.





Tuesday, January 05, 2021

The Coronavirus Pandemic is still the big news story of 2020 and January 2021

 By SJ Otto

Now that a vaccine is available, I will get one—eventually. I have no plans to sit outside someplace and wait over two hours to get that shot. I’m too old to sit there and wait for any kind of medical action. If it is about an hour or less, fine—it could even be about an hour and a half.  But not several hours.

I’m used to wearing a mask by now when I go to a store. I have rarely gone to bars since this pandemic started. But Kirby’s is the only regular place I used to go that practices masks, social distancing and spraying things down to sterilize the place. It ain’t perfect, but it is more than most bars do.

We still have a few people who claim that all the hype around the Coronavirus is a hoax[1] and all the masks, business shut downs and social distancing is unnecessary. At the same time hospitals, in California, are turning away patients from such things as car accidents and heart attacks. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life time. It would be fine with me if it never happens again as long as I live. And I mean I hope we have no more of these pandemics. In the short run I hope to avoid heart attacks and car accidents. This is a bad time to need to be hospitalized or taken some where by ambulance. I’m 65 years old, with diabetes. I have trouble breathing due to bad congestion. My chances of surviving this disease are not all that good. This virus is a major event in this century and it will go down in history as such. This has been a difficult year (2020) and for the next few months it will be just as difficult. By next year this may be over. In the mean time, those of us who are still acting sane need to hang on and wait it out.



Pix from coronavirus | Definition, Features, & Examples | Britannica


[1] Media personality Claudia Stauberd and Alex Jones of Infowars are examples of right-wing conspiracy fools who rail against all the safety precautions taken by our government to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Spirituality has not been dependant on religion

 By SJ Otto

For a lot of people spirituality is connected to religion. It is all about a belief in god. But not all religion is directly connected to god and the afterlife. For the strictly religious people religion and spirituality are just about the same thing. Then there are atheist and those Marxist who consider themselves purely materialist and for those people there is no such thing as spirituality. For some of them, there is no difference between spirituality and superstition.

But I am not convinced of either of those beliefs. I do believe there can be a sense of spirituality for those of us who are basically atheists, or atheist leaning.

Many religions have a secular side to them. Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism and others all have a secular branch. As with Buddhism, there are some who believe in a god and afterlife and some who’s practice is strictly a way of life—or a philosophy of life.

Taoism started out strictly as a philosophy. But some people mixed in the ancient Chinese religions with it and created a new religion out of it. The philosophy now gave the religious people a guide to live by, so they could please their god(s).

I was in El Salvador one year and I met a Chinese woman who shared my interest in Mao Zedong (毛泽东) and Maoism. She told me she thought there is spirituality to Maoism. I have heard that from others who take an interest in Mao. From some Maoists/ materialists such an idea is blasphemy. But not to all Maoists. After all, Mao took inspiration from Lao Tzu(老子)and Mencius(孟子). It would seem as if Mao took some of his inspiration from people who some would describe as spiritual. Some people treat Confucianism,[1] as a religion, even though it does not deal with god or the after life. Mencius was a pupil of Confucius.

A few years back, I was under the care of a psychologist. I told her how much I like going to the country and enjoying seeing nature. When that happens I am in the woods, away from civilization and away from human kind. I enjoy seeing nature, the plants, fish, frogs, crawdads, clams and all of those animals that take care of themselves without the help of humans. That is nature. The psychologist told me this was a form of spirituality. I agreed.

I looked up a few definitions on web sites about spirituality. On Wikipedia:

 

“The meaning of spirituality has developed and expanded over time, and various connotations can be found alongside each other. Traditionally, spirituality referred to a religious process of re-formation which "aims to recover the original shape of man",[note 2] oriented at "the image of God"[4][5] as exemplified by the founders and sacred texts of the religions of the world. The term was used within early Christianity to refer to a life oriented toward the Holy Spirit[6] and broadened during the Late Middle Ages to include mental aspects of life.[7] In modern times, the term both spread to other religious traditions[8] and broadened to refer to a wider range of experience, including a range of esoteric traditions and religious traditions. Modern usages tend to refer to a subjective experience of a sacred dimension[9] and the "deepest values and meanings by which people live",[10][11] often in a context separate from organized religious institutions,[12] such as a belief in a supernatural (beyond the known and observable) realm,[13] personal growth,[14] a quest for an ultimate or sacred meaning,[15] religious experience,[16] or an encounter with one's own "inner dimension".[17]

 

On a site called Taking Charge of your health & well being I found this as part of their definition:

 

“Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life.”   

 

The part that says something is “bigger than ourselves” is where spirituality can apply to a philosophy of life and not just a religious belief. The two main philosophies I live by are Epicureanism and socialism. Epicurus(Έπίκουρος) had a lot of similar beliefs to both Karl Marx. But the biggest difference was that Epicurus did not encourage people to be involved in politics. He discouraged such practices and said people should try and live well on their own. It was all about one’s self. Marx said the opposite.[2] that it was not enough to just explain the world, as most philosophers, but to change the world.

Originally I was raised a Catholic. By my high school years I had picked up on Liberation Theology. Pope John Paul II, head of that church during the 1980s, tried to destroy Liberation Theology during his reign. He eventually revealed that he was in league with Ronald Reagan and the CIA. After that I dropped that religion (Christianity and Catholicism) all together. Since high school I have had agnostic tendencies. I studied Hinduism briefly in high school and after Catholicism I studied Druidry. So I have had those religions to give me some inspiration and ideas. But I ended up taking a more atheistic Marxist oriented look at life and I have rejected all religion.

So on a personal level, I look to Epicurus as a philosophy—a way of life and I look to Marx and socialism as inspiration to change the world. Likewise I have other inspirations, such as the plants and animals that live in the woods, the streams and lakes where I live. Duidry and other forms of pagan religion take a lot of inspiration from nature. And nature is where I get some of my ideas on spirituality. Humans can learn a lot from the animals and plants round them.  

 

I get a sense of spirituality from nature. Pix from Labor Day—not much of a celebration to me,
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[1] From Confucius (孔夫子).

[2] “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” – Karl Marx