GOD IS NOT THERE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Go Tell It on the MountainGo Tell It On the Mountain

Written by: James Baldwin

Narrated by: Adam Lazarre-White

JAMES BALDWIN (1924-1987 AMERICAN NOVELIST & SOCIAL CRITIC)
JAMES BALDWIN (1924-1987 AMERICAN NOVELIST, SOCIAL CRITIC)

Go Tell It on the Mountain because God is not there.  Go Tell It on the Mountain because no one listens.  Go Tell It on the Mountain because no one cares.  James Baldwin rages against culture that makes one, what one is not.  Baldwin wins fame from a book that defines the chains of discrimination.  He explains why and how culture is a curse.  Baldwin tells a story that explains why being different denies equal opportunity.

Go Tell It on the Mountain is partly auto biographical.  It tells of the author’s remembrance of his childhood and formative years.  In broad perspective, Go Tell It on the Mountain shows how Americans are born as equals but deprived of potential by culture.  Though published in 1953, the truth of Baldwin’s observations about culture is institutionalized in America.

Baldwin writes a story about three economic opportunities for early 20th century black Americans.  They are announced by Baldwin as robber, pimp, or preacher.  Today, some believe blacks are still not suited for more.

STEREOTYPING
Only when human beings are treated as equal will stereotypes disappear.

Baldwin’s story is about two fathers of the same boy.  One is the natural father; the other is a stepfather.  The birth father is characterized as naturally smart.  He moves from the rural south to the urban north with a woman he does not marry.  The father is arrested for being at a store when two black men rob it.  Because the father is in the wrong place at the wrong time, he is sent to jail for trial.  The father is accused but not convicted.  He is so shaken by the experience; he slits his wrists and dies.  What would this father have become if he had not been arrested and jailed?  The innate skill of a human being may be a combination of genetics and environment but if one’s color says you can only be a robber, a pimp, a preacher, a sports star, or an entertainer; being smart is not enough.  Only when human beings are treated as equal will stereotypes disappear.

BLACK PREACHER
The irony of a stepfather/ preacher’s abuse is that he is biblically as sinful as most human beings.  (In retrospect, knowing that Baldwin is gay, one surmises how abusive a religious stepfather might be.)

The second father of the same boy, a stepfather, also gravitates from the rural south to the north but he is older and knows success as a preacher.  He is not characterized as particularly smart but he believes in God and talks the talk of a good man who will rescue an unwed mother and her child from a life of despair.  However, the stepfather is a martinet.  He severely punishes his wife and children for what he considers sin or disrespect.  The irony of the preacher’s abuse is that he is biblically as sinful as most human beings.  (In retrospect, knowing that Baldwin is gay, one surmises how abusive a religious stepfather might be.)

What makes Baldwin’s book important is its reflection on a part of American culture that denies equal opportunity for all.  A smart man kills himself because he is black and has experienced the hate and inequality of discrimination.  A preacher beats his wife and sons because he believes he has a right, given by God, to assay sin and punish those who violate his limited understanding.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY
What makes Baldwin’s book important is its reflection on a part of American culture that denies equal opportunity for all.
INSTITUTIONAL DISCRIMINATION
INSTITUTIONAL DISCRIMINATION

Being smart or being religious is not enough; particularly if you are a minority or a woman because cultures stultify individuality and restrict opportunity.  Individuality and opportunity are hindered by poor education and biases that are eternally engendered (institutionalized) by discrimination.  Blacks have shown they are more than criminals, preachers, sports stars, and entertainers.  And women have shown they are more than child bearers and housewives but America continues to struggle with equal opportunity for all.  Baldwin exemplifies America’s struggle in Go Tell It on the Mountain.

RUSSIAN REALPOLITIK

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Red NoticeRed Notice

Written by: Bill Browder

Narration by:  Adam Grupper

WILLIAM FELIX BROWDER (AKA BILL BROWDER-CEP AND CO-FOUNDER OF HERMITAGE CAPTIAL MANAGEMENT, NOTED CRITIC OF PUTIN)
WILLIAM FELIX BROWDER (AKA BILL BROWDER-CEP AND CO-FOUNDER OF HERMITAGE CAPTIAL MANAGEMENT, NOTED CRITIC OF PUTIN)

If only a few of Bill Browder’s facts and accusations are true, the realpolitik of Vladimir Putin shocks the senses.  “Red Notice” reflects on the diplomacy of Russian power.

In his book, “Red Notice”, Browder tells a story that implies Putin is a thug.   Browder infers that Putin will lie, steal, and murder with the brutality of Joseph Stalin, the cunning of Machiavelli, and the tenacity of Genghis Kahn.  Browder believes Putin uses his position as President to acquire wealth as second only to his desire for power.

Acquiring wealth is something Browder knows quite a lot about.  William Browder is an investment fund manager/partner who ventures into Russia at the beginning of glasnost.  Russian businesses and industries became private rather than state-owned enterprises at the end of the 20th century.

Beginning in 1996, Browder and his investors assemble a capital investment fund worth billions of dollars in 2005.  Browder began the fund with other people’s money.   The fund becomes known as Hermitage Capital Management.  As a result of his analysis, Browder’s investment group buys Russian assets at steeply undervalued prices.  He earns over two hundred million dollars per year for himself in 2006 and 2007.

BROWDER’S STORY OF HERMITAGE CAPITAL: 

In 2005, Browder is deported by the Russian government.  In 2006, Browder is black listed by the Russian government as a “threat to national security”.  In March of 2013, the bank that serves as trustee and manager of Hermitage Capital Management announces it will cease funding operations in Russia.  Browder gleefully points out in “Red Notice” that all of Hermitage Capital Management assets had been surreptitiously withdrawn in 2007.  Browder is presently being sued in absentia by the Russian Government for tax evasion.  Therein lays a tale of suspicious deaths, human greed, and conspiracy.

Browder assembles a great deal of evidence that suggests two people are murdered; that murder’ accomplices are paid a great deal of money, and that President Putin either sets the example for thuggish behavior or is complicit in a scheme that defrauds the Russian people.

DUTCH JOURNALISM’S INVESTIGATION OF THE RISE OF PUTIN:

SERGEI MAGNITSKY (1972-2009, RUSSIAN ACCOUNTANT AND AUDITOR VITIMIZED IN RUSSIA--WORKED FOR BILL BROWDER)
SERGEI MAGNITSKY (1972-2009, RUSSIAN ACCOUNTANT AND AUDITOR VITIMIZED IN RUSSIA–WORKED FOR BILL BROWDER)

The two alleged murders are Sergie Magnitsky and Alexander Perepilichnyy.  Magnitsky dies in the custody of the Russian government.  He is identified as an attorney in Browder’s book but research suggests he is not licensed as an attorney in Russia.  Magnitsky discovers a scheme by Russian government employees to recover taxes paid by Browder’s companies in Russia.  The scheme is based on charges that the companies that paid the taxes were illegally pilfered by Browder’s investment company.  The companies were transferred, without Browder’s knowledge or authorization, to shell company Russian owners.  These owners are found to be two officers in the Russian secret police.  The new owners suggest the companies they own have been pilfered and that they should be reimbursed for taxes that were paid to the government because of Browder’s fraudulent transfer of worthless assets.

Magnitsky and two Russian lawyers present evidence to the Russian government about the fraud being perpetrated by the two Russian officers.   The two Russian lawyers decide to flee their country when they believe they are going to be arrested.  Magnitsky believes facts speak for themselves; that he is safe, and the government will recognize and arrest the real criminals.  Magnitsky is arrested, beaten, and dies in prison.  The two officers, Artem Kuznetxov, and Pavel Karpov remain free.

MAJOR KARPOV EXPOSE:

ALEXANDER PEREPILICHNY (OLIGARCH THAT MAY HAVE BEEN MURDERED AT AGE 44 FOR EXPOSING RUSSIAN TAX FRAUD CASE ASSOCIATED WITH BROWDER INVESTIGATION)
ALEXANDER PEREPILICHNY (OLIGARCH THAT MAY HAVE BEEN MURDERED AT AGE 44 FOR EXPOSING RUSSIAN TAX FRAUD CASE ASSOCIATED WITH BROWDER INVESTIGATION)

Alexander Perepilichny was a Russian business man who defected from Russia in 2009.  Perepilichny dies at the front door of his residence in the UK.  Magnitsky was a forensic accountant in Russia.  Living in England in 2012, he contacts Browder to say he has evidence of how the Moscow tax office rebated taxes to the two government officials.  Browder contacts the chief constable of Surrey in England to tell them of Perepilichny’s evidence.  Browder accuses Russian officers of fraud, costing the Russian state $230 million dollars.

Three videos of the alleged fraudsters are created as evidence of the Russian officers’ fraud.  The evidence relies on their life style versus the income they receive from the Russian government.  In Browder’s book, this evidence is overlaid with the prosecution of Russian oligarchs by Putin with the inference that those oligarchs that do not offer money to Putin are at risk of being jailed.

SYNOPSIS OF THE MAGNITSKY CASE:

“Red Notice” is a powerful statement about one man’s view of Vladimir Putin.  As noted at the beginning of this review, “if only a few of Bill Browder’s facts and accusations are true…” Putin’s reputation, if not his power and wealth, are diminished.  At the same time, Browder’s ludicrously large capitalist windfall at the expense of the Russian economy, and two Russian’ deaths, does little for his reputation.

THE NATURE OF CORRUPTION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security

Written by: Sarah Chayes

Narration by:  Sarah Chayes

SARAH CHAYES (AUTHOR, SENIOR ASSOCIATE IN THE DEMOCRACY AND RULE OF LAW PROGRAM AT CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE)

SARAH CHAYES (AUTHOR, SENIOR ASSOCIATE IN THE DEMOCRACY AND RULE OF LAW PROGRAM AT CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE)

Unquestionably, Hamid Karzai and his administration were corrupt during his ten years as President of Afghanistan.  There is ample proof of corruption.  “Thieves of State” is a tiresome revelation by an author one admires for confronting state sanctioned corruption.  However, Sarah Chayes etiology for corruption is askew.

As Sarah Chayes notes, Mubarak’s government in Egypt was comparably corrupt.  Chayes ten years in Afghanistan and her ability to speak Arabic offer tremendous credibility to her observations.  However, her suggestion that corruption threatens global security is tiresome because “Thieves of State” exist in all forms of government, including the United States.

HOSNI MUBARAK (FOURTH PRESIDENT OF EGYPT 1981-2011)

HOSNI MUBARAK (FOURTH PRESIDENT OF EGYPT 1981-2011)

Most, if not all, governments have some level of corruption because their leaders are human.  In Afghanistan, Karzai protects his family’s interest by allowing his brother to sell land at high prices when it is virtually given to him by the government. 

TRUMP'S EMPIRE

President Trump chooses to stay involved in the management of his corporate interests around the world.  His justification is day-to-day management is in the hands of his sons.  How credible is that argument?

HAMID KARZAI (PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN 2004-2014) Karzai protects government functionaries that require bribes for favors because they are loyal to him. 

Trump has tweeted that loyalty, above all, is expected from the people who report to him.  Trump chooses to use government functionaries that are closely tied to industries that the government intends to regulate.  When does loyalty become more important than fair-dealing? 

Greed is a part of human nature.  It is disingenuous to think Vice President Cheney did not have an interest in seeing his former employer become the military supplier in the Iraq war. 

Money, power, and prestige motivate all human beings.  Societies only defense is government regulation but even that is subject to human nature and motivational force.

Rod Blagojevich (Former Governor of Illinois)

Desire for money, power, and prestige has no political party.  It is in the nature of all humankind.  Ironically, President Trump sets Rod Blagojevich free at the end of his presidency.

The irony is multifold. Trump is elected as a Republican, Blagojevich is elected as a Democrat. Trump is alleged to have tried to bribe a foreign head of state. Blagojevich is alleged to have tried to bribe a former President. Both choose use their elective offices to advance their ambition for more money, power, and prestige.

Chayes is absolutely right when writing about how important it is to listen to the general population about their government and its affect on their lives.  Only then can one gain some understanding of a nation’s corruption.  The consequence of human nature’s truths are dire.  Human nature’s truth, when added to an outsider’s cultural misunderstandings, can be catastrophic.

IED

Chayes suggests that an Afghani citizen will refuse to warn Afghani policemen of an IED “…because policemen require bribes to do their job”.  Chayes concludes “…corruption is a threat to global security”. 

This is a reasonable conclusion but what can an outsider do about it?  Correction of corrupt practices can only come from the people who are governed. America can only lead by example; not by force of arms. America fails itself and the countries it forcefully tries to change. Yesterday it was Vietnam, Iran, and Iraq– today it is Afghanistan.

KARL MARX (BORN TRIER, GERMANY 1818-DIED LONDON, ENGLAND 1883)

KARL MARX (BORN TRIER, GERMANY 1818-DIED LONDON, ENGLAND 1883) History shows that cultural outsiders destroy national comity and identity.  Marx was an outsider in the Russian revolution but he formed the basis for communism’s takeover of Russia.

Lenin, Stalin, and to a lesser extent, Trotsky (all indigenous Russians) changed the government based on an outsider’s machinations.  The same can be said of Mao’s China and Castro’s Cuba.  Change comes from an outsider’s interference; while revolution only comes from within.  The only consequential role an outsider like Chayes can play is publicizing indigenous public discontent.  That is the true value of her observations in “Thieves of State”.

Chayes points to a Nigerian oil CEO who makes $1,000,000 per year.  Chayes exposure of kleptocracy in Nigeria is only legally different from that which exists in the United States.  The difference is that kleptocracy in America is legalized by a stable government.  Robert Walker of Andarko Petroleum makes over $15,000,000 per year.  American tax subsidies and American tax policy subsidize the oil industry. THIS TYPE OF CORRUPTION IS LEGAL IN AMERICA.

US-POLITICS-TRUMP-CABINET

The American government protects CEO incomes that reinforce a widening gap between rich and poor.  At least two of President Trump’s cabinet are billionaires and most are multi-millionaires.  Few of the super-rich have much interest in, or concern for, the poor.

Chayes’ book would be more interesting if she had contrasted America’s corruption with Afghanistan’s.  She limits her comparisons to medieval Eastern, African, and European cultures.  Listening to “Thieves of State” is off-putting because America, like all nation-states, have some level of corruption; i.e. legalized corruption is still corruption.

HEARTS AND MINDS

Invading Afghanistan is understandable because of its role in harboring terrorists.  However, it is a waste of American lives to believe an outsider’s intervention will change the hearts and minds of an indigenous population.

If America makes the mistake of invading Iraq or throwing money at the Afghanistan economy, it is only we Americans who are to blame.    It is not only the fault of Afghani or Iraqi corruption.  It is the innate nature of humanity.  Fault lays at the feet of an outside country invading a foreign culture.

Respectfully, Chayes invested her time in understanding Afghanistan which puts her far and away ahead of most Americans but she misses the root cause of corruption which is unregulated human nature.  That is why many countries that have poor government regulation turn to religion. 

If a secular government cannot regulate human nature, Taliban-like martinets fill the vacuum with public executions or Mullah Dictates.  Neither secular nor religious governance is a guarantee of perfect human justice, equality, or equity.  Justice, equality, and equity must come from the desire of indigenous populations.

A CHILLING VIEW

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

the death of the adversary

 The Death of the Adversary: A Novel

Written by: Hans Keilson, Ivo Jarosy

Narration by:  James Clamp

HANS KEILSON (1909-1970)
HANS KEILSON (1909-1970)

“The Death of the Adversary” is a chilling view of the rise of Nazism in Germany.  Hans Keilson never mentions the word Jew or Hitler in his novel about the 1930s but notions of history inform the listener of what Keilson is writing about.  Names are not named because Keilson writes the story while hiding during WWII.  He flees Germany to join the Dutch resistance when denied the opportunity to practice medicine as a Jew.

The main character of Keilson’s novel refuses to believe his father or acquaintances at work and school of the threat of the unnamed adversary in Germany.  This anti-hero pursues his life as though the threat of Nazism would pass without affecting his life.  However, as events unfold, the anti-hero hears the radio voice of “…the Adversary” and begins to understand the underlying murderous intent of a charismatic political actor who will turn German lives upside down.

words matter
The realized terror is that spoken words by one actor can lead to a genocidal mania on the part of a chosen people.

Keilson writes of a speech given by “…the Adversary” to give the reader/listener some insight to the power of words in the hands of a consummate actor.  It is a terrifying realization both to the anti-hero and the reader/listener of Keilson’s book.  The realized terror is that spoken words by one actor can lead to a genocidal mania on the part of a chosen people.

There is relevance in Keilson’s story for events today.  Pundits and politicians use words to victimize and terrify immigrants, and minorities in the same despicable language of yesterday.

Next, Keilson tells a story of a meeting at a friend’s house where several young men congregate to discuss a local incident participated in by one of the young men.  The anti-hero’s friend is a woman who is employed at his place of work.  One of the young men is her brother.  It appears the young men are relatively close friends that choose to allow the anti-hero into their conversation.  One of the youngest tells of his recruitment in an obscure organization.  He volunteers to go on a night mission under the organization’s leader.

The recruitment is for a team of hooligans to desecrate the graves of a cemetery which one presumes is a particular ethnic graveyard.  The purpose is to defile the memory of a particular graveyard and the common beliefs which it represents.  Some of the participants are ambivalent about the mission but go along with the leader’s direction.  Head stones are overturned and graves are shat on.

GRAVEYARD DESECRATION
The anti-hero of Kielson’s story volunteers to go on a night mission under the organization’s leader.  The recruitment is for a team of hooligans to desecrate the graves of a cemetery which one presumes is a particular ethnic graveyard.
BATTERED SUIT CASE
Keilson recounts the love and guilt of his anti-hero by explaining how his father prepares a suitcase for himself, his wife, and his son.

Keilson recounts the love and guilt of his anti-hero by explaining how his father prepares a suitcase for himself, his wife, and his son.  The suitcase for the parents is preparation for the knock on the door in the middle of the night.  The parents do not plan to leave their country in spite of the danger which the father knows.  The suitcase for the son is for him to escape the country.  The son seems resigned to let life happen.  He is an anti-hero that is prepared to let events control his life; even though the consequence may be the loss of his parents.

The final chapters offer the anti-hero the opportunity to kill “…the Adversary”.  He chooses not to and history shows his decision to be both right and wrong.  It is right in light of the ultimate death of “…the Adversary” because of actions of others to stop his reign of terror.  It seems wrong because of the death of many (particularly the anti-hero’s parents), and his failure to confront “…the Adversary” before it was too late.

One is compelled to wonder about oneself in listening to Keilson’s story.  Who will choose to confront the adversary?  Who will “go along to get along”?

REDEPLOYMENT

Commanders say we do not shoot children, but children are killed.  Long range artillery and drones mask the consequence of killing. 

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

RedeploymentRedeployment

Written by: Phil Klay

Narration by:  Craig Klein

PHIL KLAY (AMERICAN WRITER, MARINE VETERAN WHO SERVED IN ANBAR IRAQ 1.2007-2.2008)
PHIL KLAY (AMERICAN WRITER, MARINE VETERAN WHO SERVED IN ANBAR IRAQ 1.2007-2.2008)

“Redeployment” is a work of fiction.  It is written by Phil Klay, a Marine officer who served in Iraq in 2007/2008.  (Klay is the winner of the 2014 National Book Award for fiction for stories written in this book.)  “Redeployment” is about military’ enlistment, deployment, redeployment, and combat.

recruiter
There is an unpaid price for a military recruit who goes into combat.  The price is unseen and unknown until after it is experienced.  Those who first join have no idea what is in store for them when placed in a circumstance of killing or being killed.

Joining the military, particularly when one is in their teens or early twenties, is often an escape.

Enlistment is often a way to escape (or transition) from parental control, poverty, or life’s rudderlessness.  For a few, military enlistment is an adventure, a career, an opportunity to get in shape, a chance to see the world.  For others, joining may be a family tradition, a romantic notion of defending one’s country, a desire to impress parents, guardians, or friends.

One of Klay’s characters joins because of financial help offered by the service to pay for an education; another character joins because of family tradition, another because it impresses his father.  Klay’s stories offer insight by explaining most reasons are too simple, or clearly misunderstood by new recruits.   

VIETNAM WAR
Klay’s stories show that training for combat is not being in combat.  Military training creates a sense of team entitlement, i.e., of being tougher, more unified, more capable and important than civilians.  Training is meant to break-down individualism.  Military training masks the humanity of anyone that is not part of the team. 

Orders are orders.  Hierarchy of command is inviolable.  If a commander orders flattening of a town, soldiers are expected to act without thinking and remember without conscience.  Soldiers are able to act by dehumanizing those outside of their team.  In Vietnam humans become gooks.  In Iraq humans become towel heads.  These are tricks of propaganda that allow short-term actions but often fail to leave soldiers’ consciences. 

Klay tells the story of a soldier who wants to know how many of an enemy are killed in a bombardment.  The soldier asks if there was an investigation.  The commander says no and sees no reason.  The soldier visits a behind-the-lines’ command post which cares for the dead.  He asks if a team will be sent to the site that has been bombarded.  The NCO asks if Americans were killed.  The soldier says no.  The NCO answers the question–“No, there is no investigation because we only concern ourselves with our own”.

BASEBALL IN THE VIETNAM WAR
Klay tells the story of the American financier that donates baseball equipment for Marines to teach Iraqi children how to play baseball.  The request goes up and down military channels despite the ludicrous misapprehension of what is really happening in Iraq.  A Marine officer is ordered to comply with the request to mollify the uniformed or ignorant financier’s request.

Another story is written about a civilian contractor hired to build a waterpower station in an Iraqi community.  The Marine assigned to oversee the utility installation is told by a local Iraqi that the pumping station being built will create too much pressure and blow-up the plumbing in town.  The Marine explains the problem to the civilian contractor, but it does not stop the project.  It is an assignment that is being paid by the American government whether it works or not.  All the contractor is concerned about is completing the job and being paid.  Klay offers more stories, i.e., equally appalling–examples of wasted dollars and efforts to rebuild Iraq.

Klay writes of the misunderstandings that compound America’s mistakes in Iraq.  There is the story of the Egyptian American recruit that speaks Egyptian Arabic but does not know Iraqi Arabic and must learn the difference on his own because the military believes there is no difference.

The character Klay creates who oversees the water plant construction and an Iraqi baseball assignment is also responsible for producing Iraqi jobs.  This Marine’s civilian subcontractors are often ill-equipped to do what needs to be done.  One of the opportunities is farming but the civilian subcontractor assigned to help knows nothing about farming.

Another story is of an Iraqi who starts a women’s clinic to help women in Iraq who need medical assistance.  However, because her clinic is not creating enough jobs, there is little financial assistance to expand the service.  Klay implies Iraq is a “Bizarro World” where no one seems to communicate understandably, and most act without accomplishment.

BIZZARO WORLD OF WAR

Klay implies the experience of becoming a Marine saturates the being of some soldiers.  Their experience in combat and the comradeship of belonging compels re-enlistment and/or redeployment.  Being a civilian becomes too unstructured.  In some cases, Klay suggests civilian life is threatening to a soldier with experience of combat.  Some redeployed soldiers become command officers that live in a world of only “us and them” with all of “them” as expendable sub-human beings.

America’s pending departure from Iraq is a betrayal of “you broke it, you fix it”.  America tried and failed.  In that failure, the realization is–“the fix” can only be made by Iraqi leaders.  Iraq’s dilemma is America’s forgotten lesson of Vietnam.

(Baghdad Bombing kills 32 and wounds over 100 on January 21, 2021.)Baghdad Bombin kills 32 and wounds over 100 1.12.21

In a final story, Klay writes of a Marine veteran horribly disfigured by an IED.  A Marine that joined and served in the same place and at the same time as the disfigured veteran is a close friend.  The uninjured friend stays in touch with his fellow ex-Marine.  They recall old times.  They are close friends, but the IED has so profoundly changed their relationship that the friendship has devolved into a friendship of un-equals.  Intimate civilian relationships, taken for granted by both before disfigurement, are now probabilistically experienced by only one of the friends.  Klay’s stories show that combat is a psychological, often physical life changing experience.

ICONIC IMAGE OF THE WAR IN VIETNAM
ICONIC IMAGE OF THE WAR IN VIETNAM

Klay is a veteran.  He seems to be saying it is important to understand what it means to become a soldier before signing up.  “Redeployment” is neither right or wrong, but it can be right and wrong.  The best civilians and soldiers can do is “try to do right”.

A MISOGYNIST SEA

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

A Room of One’s Own

Written by: Virginia Woolf

Narration by:  Juliet Stevenson

VIRGINIA WOOLF (1882-1941, BRITISH AUTHOR, A WOMAN AHEAD OF HER TIME)

Virginia Woolf is a woman outside of time.   As Woolf implies in the early twentieth century, women are drowning in a misogynist sea.  Woolf is born when female inequality breaches the existential threat with a first wave; i.e. Women’s Suffrage in 1920.  The preeminent feminist, Betty Friedan, is just born (actually, 1921).  (Friedan later writes “The Feminine Mystique”–published in 1963.)

“A Room of One’s Own” is a contemplation on why women are underrepresented as great poets or fiction writers.  With the exception of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Woolf suggests there are no 19th century women renowned for fiction.  Apocryphally, the unlikely story of Lincoln saying “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this Great War” is an apt coda for the insignificance of the public’s view of women writers.

EMILY DICKINSON (1830-1886, AMERICAN POET, PRODUCED 1,800 POEMS IN 40 HANDBOUND VOLUMES)

(As one listens to her complaint, one thinks about Emily Dickinson.  However, Dickenson did have a room of her own.)

Woolf wittily skewers male paragons of the pen and their misogynist comments about women.  She sets the table for an explanation of why there is no female Shakespeare’, erudite Johnson’, or Longfellow word smiths. 

Woolf’s point is that women had no money because they were dependent on men or family inheritance.  Often, young ladies are discouraged from college by their families who feel marriage and bearing of children are their primary duties.  Without educational support and few opportunities for gainful employment, women only had money if they inherited it or married a wealthy husband.  Without money, there is little opportunity for independence; without money, there is little chance of having “A Room of One’s Own”.

MeToo

There are many examples to support Woolf’s observation about money and the luxury of contemplation, having a room of your own.  Michel de Montaigne’s essays are spectacular observations of life and living but the key to his success is in wealth that allows him time for observation and contemplation of life.  He had a room of his own.  In Woolf’s lifetime there were few women who had such luxury.  Have things changed?  Maybe, but #MeToo suggests women’s independence and wealth still involves misogyny.

In the last section of her lecture Woolf notes women write fiction with a mixture of public disdain and admiration.  Disdain from implied colorlessness in writing but admiration for a twist in a story that suggests a first-time female author has potential.

MISOGYNY

Misogyny still roils the sea but more women writers have a room of their own.  The second wave is forty years in the future but Friedan steadies the helm-bearing toward equality.  At $.79 cents to the dollar in the 21st century, there is still a long way to go.

The frightening prospect of a Taliban government in Afghanistan is more threatening than wage differences in the U.S. The only concession they have recently made is to ban forced marriage of women. This is not to diminish America’s misogynist history but to show how backward and unfair the world can be to women.

However, for realization of potential, Woolf suggests the author needs to have a room of her own to have time to think and reflect.  To prove Woolf’s bona fides, she ends “A Room of Her Own” with short stories.  They are beautifully written and worthy of the theme of which she writes. 

As Aristotle once said, contemplation is the highest form of activity for the soul.  Woolf implies great literature; great fiction, and poetry come from authors who have time and a room of their own.

SELF-PRESERVATION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

God’s Bankers: A History of Money and Power at the Vatican

Written by: Gerald Posner

Narration by:  Tom Parks

GERALD POSNER (AMERICAN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST)

GERALD POSNER (AUTHOR, AMERICAN INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST)

“God’s Bankers” delves into the history of Vatican City to show there is little difference between religious institutions and any organization that puts self-preservation above ethics and morality.

Leaders of religious institutions are as capable of being corrupt and venal as any who manage organizations.  Just as some CEOs of private industry and elected officials of public institutions morally and ethically fail; some Popes lapse as moral and ethical leaders of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Roman Catholic Church has had both good and bad leaders.  From a willingness to look the other way, 6,000,000 Jews are murdered, mob money is laundered, and children are exploited.  No single organization, neither church, financial institution, or elected official is responsible for these immoral and unethical acts but many are complicit.

The Catholic diocese and its brethren have committed every sin known to man (gender identity intended).  The source of their perfidy is not unique to their religion or any system of belief or non-belief; i.e. the source is human nature’s drive for money, power, and prestige.  Popes, CEOs, and public servants are equally seduced by human nature’s drives that influence action.  Human nature is bound, like breath to life, to act immorally and unethically.

ROBERTO CALVI (1920-1982, ITALIAN BANKER CALLED -GOD'S BANKER- BY THE PRESS BECAUSE OF HIS ASSOCIATION WITH THE HOLY SEE)

ROBERTO CALVI (1920-1982, ITALIAN BANKER CALLED -GOD’S BANKER- BY THE PRESS BECAUSE OF HIS ASSOCIATION WITH THE HOLY SEE)

Gerald Posner begins his history of Vatican City with death, by suicide or murder, of Roberto Calvi in 1982.  Calvi’s death is related to the financial practices of the Vatican Bank (aka Institute for the Works of Religion or, sometimes abbreviated, IOR).  From Calvi’s Death, Posner takes church history back to the 1900s when the Vatican Bank is created. 

IOR HOME (THE BASTION OF NICHOLAS V.)


(Calvi’s death is related to the financial practices of the Vatican Bank (aka Institute for the Works of Religion or, sometimes abbreviated, IOR).

The IOR is meant to consolidate the land and money of Vatican City to preserve and expand the wealth of the Church.  

The Bank is a collection and distribution center for money donated, invested, and exchanged (legally or illegally) for preservation and expansion of the Holy Sea.

The primary purpose of the Vatican Bank is to preserve and expand the power and influence of Catholicism.  The fuel for that purpose is money.  Posner’s facts do not deny good works of the Catholic Church.  However, his story exposes the sinful nature of some wearing the robes of Papal authority, and many (employees and consultants) hiding behind cloaks of Papal secrecy.  Posner’s facts imply “being human” is the root of all evil with money as its fuel.

The purpose of the IOR is “to provide for the safekeeping and administration of movable and immovable property transferred or entrusted to it by physical or juridical persons…”  The IOR’s creation is meant to provide money for maintenance and growth of the Roman Catholic Church.  Income is intended to come from charitable activities of the church; paid for by parishioner and lay public contributions, and from legitimate business transactions.  However, Posner shows that charitable contributions and legal business transactions are not enough to sustain Vatican City and its global evangelist goals.

The drive for money is distorted by an implied license to commit any sin necessary to increase income and pay-off any who threaten exposure of illegal activity.  No crime seems out-of-bounds for the Church e.g. its complicity in Nazi occupation of the Balkans; a failure to confront German and Croatian isolation, transport, and murder of Jews; the use of the Vatican Bank to launder money for crime syndicates, the clandestine support of Nazi criminals in return for gold bullion (surmised to have been stolen during the war), espionage participation with American Presidents to subvert communist growth in Eastern Europe, Africa, and South America.  Many of these actions and non-actions increase the wealth of the Church at the expense of Catholicism’s morality and ethics.

POPE PIUS XI (1857-1939)

POPE PIUS XI (1857-1939. Pope Pius XI sells tacit support for the Nazis when the German people are taxed by Hitler to benefit Vatican City at the rate of an estimated 100 million dollars per year.)

Pope Pius XI is consumed by the desire to return Vatican City to a state and is willing to condone and support Mussolini to attain that goal.  Pope Pius XI sells tacit support for the Nazis when the German people are taxed by Hitler to benefit Vatican City at the rate of an estimated 100 million dollars per year.  Though late in Pius XI’s papacy, Hitler and Mussolini’s mistreatment of the Jews is denounced in a Decree that never sees the light of day because of Pius XI’s death.  His successor Pope, Pope Pius XII, fails to register Pius XI’s decree and refuses to condemn Hitler for the final solution during WWII.

POPE PIUS XII (1876-1958, FORMERLY CARDINAL PACELLI)

POPE PIUS XII (1876-1958, FORMERLY CARDINAL PACELLI, Pope Pius XII, fails to register Pius XI’s decree and refuses to condemn Hitler for the final solution during WWII.)

Posner brings us back to 1982 and the death of Roberto Calvi.  Calvi, as a consultant for IOR, launders money for the mafia during his tenure.  Calvi creates bogus charities to hide the transactions.  He recommends Vatican Bank investment in risky ventures that frequently fail.  On balance, until some of Calvi’s activities became public, the Vatican condoned his illegal activity; presumably because ill-gotten gains were greater than losses.  Or, the threat of money laundering exposure is a threat that would tarnish the image of the Church.

NAZISM AND CHRISTIANITY (FAITHS COOPTATION BY HITLER)

Though late in Pius XI’s papacy, Hitler and Mussolini’s mistreatment of the Jews is denounced in a Decree that never sees the light of day because of Pius XI’s death.  His successor Pope, Pope Pius XII, fails to register Pius XI’s decree and refuses to condemn Hitler for the final solution during WWII.

POPE JOHN PAUL II (1920-2005, FORMER POLISH ARCHBISHOP BECAME POPE IN 1978)

Pope Paul II does not come away from Posner’s characterization without some stains.  Though Pope Paul II is highly revered for his charismatic character and willingness to confront communism in Poland, he fails to unwind IOR and its nefarious operations or aggressively attack pedophilia of errant bishops.

ARCHBISHOP PAUL MARCINKUS (1922-2006, BORN CICERO, IL., DIED IN SUN CITY, AZ, PRESIDENT OF THE VATICAN BANK 1971-1989)

ARCHBISHOP PAUL MARCINKUS (1922-2006, BORN CICERO, IL., DIED IN SUN CITY, AZ, PRESIDENT OF THE VATICAN BANK 1971-1989)

Further, Posner notes Paul II’s support of the American Bishop, Paul Marcinkus, when his judgment is questioned in regard to the Vatican Bank.

POPE BENEDICT XVI (ELECTED 4.19.2005, RESIGNS 2.28.2013, THE PRESSURES OF OFFICE SEEM TO OVERWHELM THE PONTIFF)

Pope Benedict, Pope Paul’s successor, is equally tarnished for failing to confront IOR corruption and lack of regulation.  An additional note by Posner is that Benedict fails to expose a homosexual faction of the Roman Catholic Church that coerces the Papacy into promoting Bishops based on fear of exposure; i.e. rather than promotion for ability as members of the hierarchy.

ETTORE GOTTI TEDESCHI (2009-2012 PRESIDENT OF IOR, DISCHARGED AFTER POLITICAL INFIGHTING AT THE VATICAN OVER HIS THEATENED EXPOSURE OF MONEY LAUNDERING)

ETTORE GOTTI TEDESCHI (2009-2012 PRESIDENT OF IOR, DISCHARGED AFTER POLITICAL INFIGHTING AT THE VATICAN OVER HIS THREATENED EXPOSURE OF MONEY LAUNDERING)

In the end, Posner suggests IOR is becoming a more conventional bank with the support of the current Pope, Pope Francis.  The beginning of the end appears with Ettore Gotti Tedschi who became President of IOR in 2009.  Tedschi, an Italian economist and banker, begins the clean-up of IOR.  He is discharged in 2012 but not before a whistle is blown.

POPE FRANCIS (AN ARGENTINIAN, 266TH POPE OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, NAMED IN HONOR OF FRANCIS OF ASSISSI)

Today’s Pope Francis may be better than yesterdays but tomorrow is another day.  One doubts human nature will change.  Humans are unlikely to escape moral and ethical weaknesses.  An ethical bank, like an ethical church, is an oxymoron.  They both require money to operate and they are managed by human beings.

Steps have been taken to regulate the Vatican Bank and stop its use as a money-laundering center for criminal enterprise.  Francis has ordered the firing and replacement of IOR board members and improved the transparency of Vatican Bank transactions.

After Cardinal Pell is exonerated for alleged pedophilia, Pope Francis returns to Cardinal Pell’s recommendations for restructuring Vatican finances. One wonders how much of the accusations against Pell were initiated by the Catholic church’s resistance to oversite of Vatican finances.

As the ancient saying goes, “Fish Rots from the Head”. With Pope Francis, light is being shed on the perfidy of the Roman Catholic Church. The question is-will it be enough and will it change 100 years of IOR malfeasance; not to mention, the generations of sexual abuse by Bishops and Priests of the order.

POLITICAL DIVISION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a NationJEFFERSON AND HAMILTON

Written by: John Ferling

Narration by:  Stephen McLaughlin

JOHN FERLING (HISTORIAN AND WRITER, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF HISTORY @ UNIVERSITY OF WEST GEORGIA)
JOHN FERLING (HISTORIAN AND WRITER, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF HISTORY @ UNIVERSITY OF WEST GEORGIA)

John Ferling’s “Jefferson and Hamilton” illustrates the value of political division in the history of American government.  In 2016 a man and woman were vying for the highest office in the land.  Though Jefferson and Hamilton have no gender difference, they represent the boon and bane of political division today.

Today’s political conflict is over Covid relief.  Lines are drawn between leaders of two political parties–who wins?  John Ferling’s history implies it is the American people–as a result of compromise.

In the formative years of government, Ferling shows “Jefferson and Hamilton” as representatives of opposing parties who have a great deal to do with forging the future of America.

Both Jefferson and Hamilton are shown to be highly intelligent leaders with philosophies shaped by entirely different life experiences. Both are patriots but each sees the role of a national government differently.  Ferling notes that Jefferson is raised in an intellectual and upper middle-class environment while Hamilton is raised in the school of hard knocks.  Jefferson’s brilliance and farsighted thought is evident in his authorship of the “Declaration of Independence”.  Hamilton’s brilliance and farsighted thought is evident in his role as the first Secretary of the Treasury.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1755 OR 1757-1804)
ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1755 OR 1757-1804, 1st SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY)
THOMAS JEFFERSON (1743-1825, 3RD PRESIDENT OF U.S., PAINTING OF IN 1786)
THOMAS JEFFERSON (1743-1825, 3RD PRESIDENT OF U.S., PAINTING OF IN 1786)
THOMAS JEFFERSON AND SLAVERY
Though Jefferson is against slavery, he believes blacks are inherently inferior.  Jefferson slaves are property and, with the exception of the Hemming’s offspring, Jefferson refuses to release any slaves during his lifetime.

The fascinating value of Ferling’s book is how these two men, and their beliefs are built on life experiences that formed their characters.   Jefferson, through marriage and inheritance, becomes a wealthy landowner but lives life as a profligate who squanders his family fortune.  Jefferson graduates from William and Mary and becomes a lawyer.   Ferling explains that Jefferson believes his years as an American diplomat in Paris are the best years of his life.  Though Jefferson leaves Paris in 1789, he supports France’s revolution; even as it murders the royal family who supported America’s war for independence.  Jefferson believes periodic revolution is a good thing; despite the near-term consequence of “The Terror” in France (its human butchery and property destruction).

18th CENTURY MERCHANTS
Hamilton works for a merchant in the West Indies and becomes acquainted with mercantilism and the importance of business.  Because of Hamilton’s hard work ethic, he is supported by his West Indies employer as an émigré to America.

In contrast to Jefferson’s birth into a conventional American family, Hamilton is born out-of-wedlock in the West Indies.  Because of Hamilton’s hard work ethic, he is supported by his West Indies employer as an émigré to America.  Hamilton exhibits an extraordinary ability to get things done. With his West Indies employer’s financial assistance, Hamilton enrolls in King’s college.  He becomes a lawyer with ambition to participate in the formation of the American nation.

Both Jefferson and Hamilton are shown by Ferling to be in direct conflict on the purpose of the federal government.  Jefferson emphasizes State’s rights while Hamilton argues for strong Federal oversight.  Jefferson looks to the States for national defense while Hamilton argues for a standing army.  Jefferson opposes creation of a national bank while Hamilton insists on federalized control of the value of money.  Jefferson believes the economic future of America is dependent upon farming while Hamilton believes mercantilism. industrialization, and trade should be at the center of economic growth.

STATES' RIGHTS VERSUS FEDERALISM
STATES’ RIGHTS VERSUS FEDERALISM

Ferling’s characterization of these two scions of America implies Jefferson is a thinker while Hamilton is a doer.  Jefferson uses his formidable intellect to rationalize his racist beliefs while insisting slavery is a sin against man.  Jefferson seeks a life of tranquility and believes it lies in an agrarian way of life; i.e. away from war and urbanization. His ambition for high public office is hidden but surreptitiously pursued through association with like-minded Americans.  In contrast, Hamilton is a risk taker and pines for military command in the revolutionary army.

WASHINGTON, A LIFE
Ferling suggests both Jefferson and Hamilton underestimate Washington’s inherent ability to measure the value of subordinates and get things done through other people.

Washington chooses Hamilton as his military aide because of his organizational ability.  Hamilton resents Washington’s aloof treatment of him but sees Washington as a ticket to fame; i.e. a seat at the table in the formation of a new nation.  Hamilton appreciates Washington’s bravery under fire but considers him a poor strategist in war.  Hamilton’s relationship with Washington is utilitarian in the sense that Washington’s renown is a tool for Hamilton to accomplish his life ambition.  

Ferling contrasts Jefferson’s and Hamilton’s personalities.  Both are sensitive to slights.  Both act surreptitiously to accomplish their objectives.  Both have what some call libertine leanings with illicit female relationships.  However, Jefferson is reserved and patrician in conduct while Hamilton is outgoing and vociferous in public.  Jefferson is inclined to theorize while Hamilton acts.  The consequence of acting versus theorizing is exemplified by the duel with Burr that ends Hamilton’s life and allows Jefferson to become the third President of the United States.

SECREACYBoth Jefferson and Hamilton suffer from their secretive way of getting things done.  Jefferson loses his relationship with Washington by writing correspondence to a friend that is critical of Washington’s presidency.  Hamilton is openly hated and vilified by President Adams for his secretive manipulation of his only term as President.  Adams’ hate is magnified by Hamilton’s interference in Adams’ attempted re-election.

DONALD TRUMP (REPUBLICAN NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. 2016)Ferling makes a strong case for the importance of both Jefferson and Hamilton in forging the American nation.  One is reminded of the humanness of all leaders.  Trump is no Jefferson or Hamilton.  He is neither charismatic nor intellectual.  Like Jefferson, Trump is raised as an elitist, but without the intellect of either Jefferson or Hamilton.

 

After reading John Ferling’s book about “Jefferson and Hamilton”, one is convinced that America will prevail, even in the worst of times, which, to some, may be today.

STORIES OF AN ERA

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Decameronthe decameron

Written by: Giovanni Boccaccio

Narration by:  Frederick Davidson

GIOVANNI BOCCACCIO (1313-1375, ITALIAN WRITER, POET, AND HUMANIST)
GIOVANNI BOCCACCIO (1313-1375, ITALIAN WRITER, POET, AND HUMANIST)

“The Decameron” is a series of stories about the western world’s comic/tragic society.  Compiled or written by Giovanni Boccaccio in the 14th century, it recalls 100 stories told by seven women and three men over a period of ten days. “The Decameron” pictures humanity as directed by luck, avarice, and lust.  Each story implies human relationship is determined by circumstance, and informed by nature.  The circumstance is societal position.  Nature is the exigency of the emotive moment.

THE BLACK DEATHWritten during or after the spread of the Black Death (1346-53), “The Decameron” skewers belief that God determines one’s fate.  The stories range from raucous to sedate, and sinful to salacious.  Each story implies humans are like wood chips on an ocean.  Humans float into and away from society’s harbor; toward and away from each other, driven by happenstance and nature.  Men are often depicted as lustful beasts; women as lustful manipulators of chance and circumstance.  Corruption of morals is as evident in the priesthood as in the lay public.  In Boccaccio’s world, God may have created the universe but everything after the seventh day is driven by chance and nature.

INEQUALITY IN BOCACCIO
Women are generally shown to be weaker than men but clever and clandestine operatives.

All stories are of tradesmen, merchants, upper class men and women who have the luxury of exercising desires in life beyond the necessity of food to eat and shelter to protect.  Women are generally shown to be weaker than men but clever and clandestine operatives.  Women and men living above the level of abject poverty seem equally consumed by interest in love and lust.  Considering the history of human misogyny, love and lust may have been women’s principle source of security.  For men, love is riven with lust.  Love, most often, seems a fleeting distraction to men.

PRIESTHOOD IN BOCCACIO
The priesthood and upper-class laymen in Boccaccio’s time use the tools of wealth, power, and prestige to seduce women.  In contrast women use guile and sexual favor to clandestinely acquire wealth, power, and prestige

Neither the church or the lay public are shown to be morally superior.  The priesthood and upper-class laymen use the tools of wealth, power, and prestige to seduce women.  In contrast women use guile and sexual favor to clandestinely acquire wealth, power, and prestige.  The exception is the wealthy widow that has some control over the unforeseen consequence of chance.

The comic/tragic events of the stories offer a view of what it is like to live during the dark ages.  Power, not surprisingly, lies in the hands of men but the fairer sex is shown capable of co-opting power with charm and cunning.  Revenge seems equally distributed between the sexes but consequentially more severe for women than men.

There are some insights to history and society offered by “The Decameron”.  A clever decision by a military strategist is to refashion bows and arrows with smaller slits than common.  The result is that bow carriers on one side of a battle are unable to use arrows invented with smaller slit arrows.  But, wide slit arrows could still be used by soldiers with small slit bows.  This small bow and arrow innovation gave one side of the battle twice the ammunition of the opposition.

ARROW RELICS FROM THE PAST
There are some insights to history and society offered by “The Decameron”.  A clever decision by a military strategist is to refashion bows and arrows with smaller slits than common.

SEXUAL PREDATION (WOMEN AS OBJECTS TO FULFILL MALE FANTASIES)
Then and now, cuckolds and adulteresses share equal billing for shame and condemnation.  However, the double standard for men that wander, and women that survive adultery is shown as appalling unequal then as it is now.

More interesting insights are the rise of a middle class in the dark ages, and the early recognition of organized religion’s corruption.  God is still considered as all-powerful but organized religion is rife with the same sins of all human beings.  Women may have been treated as second class citizens but they still found ways to compete in the drive for money, power, and prestige.  Then and now, cuckolds and adulteresses share equal billing for shame and condemnation.  However, the double standard for men that wander and women that survive, adultery is shown as appalling unequal then as it is now.  Men are forgiven while women are brutalized (sometimes murdered) and left to deal with the consequences of childbirth and poverty.

Finally, there is the underlying theme of nature and happenstance that determine the course of life.  There is belief in God but only as Creator.  Humankind is on its own in stories of “The Decameron”.  Buffering by nature pushes and pulls humankind with chance circumstances of the day.  One household is decimated by the plague while next door neighbors are untouched. God seems to have washed His hands of what happens on earth.  Plans of man are perceived as changed by nature’s unpredictability; not by God.

THE PLAGUE
Buffering by nature pushes and pulls humankind with chance circumstances of the day.  One household is decimated by the plague while next door neighbors are untouched. God seems to have washed His hands of what happens on earth.  Plans of man are perceived as changed by nature’s unpredictability; not by God.

Though some may be entertained by this presentation of “The Decameron”, it is not to this critic’s taste.  It is too long.  It is delivered monotonously.  It elicits little laughter.  It ponderously consumes thirty hours of a listener’s time.  However, as noted above, it offers a remarkable picture of life in an era of western world’ upheaval (the current of the black plague) and change (from God’s plan to the unpredictability of nature).

FEAR ITSELF IS CLICHE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time

Written by: Ira Katznelson

Narration by:  Scott Brick

IRA KATZNELSON (AUTHOR, AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENTIST AND HISTORIAN)

IRA KATZNELSON (AUTHOR, AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENTIST AND HISTORIAN)

“Fear Itself” has become cliché and authors of FDR’s administration are as plentiful as pixels on an HD screen.  However, Ira Katznelson offers a sharpened image of a past and present that threatens American democracy.  Don’t succumb to panic. Life is life. It demands compromise.

The Biden/Trump differences in governance are legion. Today’s political climate is reminiscent of America’s civil war and great depression. Though Biden may or may not be up to the task, the nation needs a healer and leader more like Lincoln or FDR, than Andrew Johnson or Jackson.

SLAVE TREATMENT

Katznelson argues that FDR’s New Deal to pull America out of depression would have never passed Congress without support of the segregated south. He implies that FDR views murder and discrimination of blacks a lesser threat to American Democracy than failure of the American economy.

The threat posed by the fictional “House of Cards” President, Frank Underwood,
plays out in fiction and reality. One might argue that FDR sacrifices black America to gain political clout. America’s benighted pretender to a throne, Donald Trump, seems to endorse a similar morality.

Katznelson suggests economic stimulus from the New Deal accelerates recognition of black equality.

Maybe, but that is similar to President Trump’s rationalization for Saudi Arabia’s assassination of Khashoggi.

To assure the south’s support FDR ignores lynching and degradation of black Americans during his first years as President.  Similarly, President Trump willfully disregards the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

Because the south believes the New Deal poses no threat to their belief in white supremacy, they voted as a near unanimous block to support FDR’s administration.  Black discrimination and murder did not disappear then (or now) but the New Deal changes the course of history.

MARTIN LUTHER KING (1929-1968, PROMOTING EDUCATION IN THE 1950 S)

Some argue the New Deal bends the arc of the moral universe toward justice (a pronouncement in 1860 by Theodore Parker and made famous by Martin Luther King). Other’s may argue it prolongs discrimination.

Katznelson argues that the great depression and FDR’s response raises the power of labor through job creation and unionization.  A consequence is to create a march for labor’s special interests that influence public policy in a way that endorses democratic ideals of free trade and competition. 

Unions eventually get a seat at the table of major corporations and public policy boards.  With that seat, arguably, the arc bends toward justice.  Of course, there are many seats at the table that frequently out vote minority interests. However, as Katznelson notes–the door for Union influence is opened as a result of FDR’s administration.

Katznelson’s point is that principles of Adam Smith, promulgated for the private sector, are translated into the public sector as a result of the New Deal and America’s mobilization for WWII.  The myth of the invisible hand is extended to government.

Of course, the addition of competition to the public sector is dual edged.  Though it helps level the playing field between public and private interests, it opens a Pandora’s box of problems.  As the myth of Pandora’s box is known, only hope remains when emptied of its content.

The invisible hand is largely a myth, but competition is real. As labor and minorities gain power, their seat at the table allows them to be heard.  On the one hand being heard is a first step in bending the curve toward justice. On the other, the mythical invisible hand favors industry over labor.

MONEY

Money is power.  Most special interests that sit at a public policy table are focused on singular (usually corporate); not general public interests. 

Government agencies can have their funding cut at the behest of elected officials.  Katznelson notes how the southern bloc in the FDR years fails to support many social reforms because of their interest in separation of the races.

Only the fear of a common enemy seems to mitigate (not eliminate) discrimination in the United States. The “common enemy” trope is two edged. It is as likely to mislead as lead to moral and/or ethical decisions.

As an example of misleading the public, President Trump uses the “common enemy” trope to exaggerate immigrant criminality.

Southern Democrats begin siding with Republicans to combat unionization and equal opportunity for all.  Many of FDR’s attempts to create jobs are sidelined because they compete with private sector manufacture or offer equal opportunity for employment to minorities. 

Katznelson explains how the Department of Labor is stymied by Republican opposition and Southern representatives.  By insisting on State’s rights, the South can continue discriminating against minorities and private sector entrepreneurs can subvert federal interference in employment law.

WINSTON CHURCHILL (1874-1965_

Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech in Truman’s home town sets the table (a common enemy trope) for an American black list that ruins a number of American lives. 

JOSEPH McCARTHY (1908-1957)

Now that government policy is influenced by special interests, communist hunters like Senator McCarthy look for ways to exploit American fear of a communist takeover. 

The seeds for the Red Scare and the rise of McCarthyism are planted with the beginning of the cold war.

Katznelson’s theme is “Fear Itself” and how it is used to interfere with the moral universe’s curve toward justice. Katznelson explains how important a role the south plays in determining public policy. 

“Fear Itself” is Donald Trump’s hole card, his uncovered ace in a game of chance.  Trump gambles with the fate of America by creating fear of terrorism, Muslims, Mexicans, and immigration.

DONALD TRUMP (REPUBLICAN NOMINEE FOR PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. 2016)

Terrorism is real but Trump’s use of fear is disingenuous.  His ambition is the power and prestige of office; not protection of America from terrorism.  Trump is the Senator McCarthy of our time. 

Katznelson is another historian proving the irrelevance of history because we keep repeating ourselves.  We forget the past and blunder down the same path, tripping and falling, leaving more blood and pain borne by the children of our future.

America needs to invest in its future. A 3.5 trillion dollar investment today will raise the standard of living for all those who have lost their jobs in manufacturing. They are not just tech jobs. They are jobs for infrastructure repairs, helping working families cope with the rising costs of child care, jobs for care of ageing parents’ health, work force’ retraining jobs, and jobs in education for future generations.

The world is adjusting from an industrial to a technological revolution. That transition requires investment in those who have lost their jobs in industry. Child care, elder care, and training for new jobs in a changing employment environment is worth much more than a 3.5 trillion dollar investment.