Saturday, October 27, 2012

American History: The Era of Greed and Destruction

It is now 2012, and we are living in the first few years of a new era of American history.   Assuming that this country still exists, or even if it doesn’t in its present form, sometime in the future historians will be writing about this era as a specific era different in many respects from this country’s past history.  They will say that the nascent Era of Greed had its antecedents in the period following WWII, at a time when America was clearly becoming the greatest global power.

Looking back at the beginnings, they will say that the forces of today were beginning to take shape in Washington, New York and Chicago.  In Washington, we were finally digesting the New Deal, and coming to terms with changes engendered by the post war economy. 
The military industrial complex was getting its bearings, and had sponsored the first of many smaller “wars” in Korea.  The power in the Pentagon was afraid of being relegated to a back seat, now that WWII had been won.  They were still powerful, certainly powerful enough to have a second great general, beyond George Washington, elected President in 1952.  Later, nearing the end of his second term of office, Eisenhower actually took the time to express his version of founding father patriotism by warning us about the power of the Military-Industrial Complex (at term which he actually coined in his farewell address in early 1961, see his warning here:  Who would be in a better position to know about this than Ike?  He had lived within its grasp for an entire career, and, as President he was the Commander in Chief with probably the greatest understanding of military political power of any President in our history.
Around the same time, the University of Chicago Economics Department was starting a run of prominence in American economic circles.  Now under the domination of Milton Friedman, who joined its academic staff in 1946, and during the 1950’s led the formulation, with Friedrich Hayek, an Austrian economist, developed a monetarist philosophy of economics which has served as the basis for the Neoconservative movement in economics and has formed the underpinnings of our economy in many ways from Reagan through George W. Bush’s presidency and is alive and well in the present Congress.  Friedman was Barry Goldwater’s chief economic advisor, and in 1981 he was appointed as a member of Reagan’s Economic Policy Board.  He was the primary author of the “trickle-down” economic policies foisted upon us by President Reagan, and extended to the present by many key politicians, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan among them.
As an historical side note, the work of John Maynard Keynes, famed British economist whose theories form the basis for virtually all useful macroeconomic theory aside from Friedman’s meme, was attacked in 1962 with the publication of a pamphlet called “Keynes at Harvard” which attempted to directly connect Keynesian economists with socialism and ultimately with social wastage and communism.  Largely discredited, the pamphlet was circulated by many universities, as well as the John Birch Society.  It makes for some interesting reading, and has been the topic of heated debate and debunking.  You can find a modern, updated version here:  There is a relatively recent movement in economic theory known as Modern Monetary Theory which has appeared only in the recent past.  It could be the cornerstone of a foundation for real progress, and applies specifically to countries like the U.S. which have their own currency.  I would commend you to reading and going to the website:  It is a variant of Keynesianism which actually preceded it in theoretical development.
New York, from the earliest times in the country’s history of commercial enterprise and entrepreneurship, has been the largest geographic bastion of banking and investment in the world.  No other city even comes close.  New York is where much of the “innovation” in financial markets has found its beginnings, and been taken to where it is today.  In the 1950’s, the city was getting its post WWII bearings.  The New York Federal Reserve Bank, from its beginnings with passage of the Federal Reserve Act in 1913, has dominated as no other FED branch has.  Even today, its Board of Governors is like the who’s who of banking and finance in America.
Of course, this story could not be told without mentioning Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve and forerunner to Ben Bernanke, its present chairman, arch Friedman follower, an Ayn Rand toady, and financial power monger.  Alan was made Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors by Gerald Ford in 1974, and in 1987, became the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, considered by many to be the most powerful position in finance and economics in the United States, following Paul Volcker in that position.  I would recommend that anyone who is interested in Greenspan to read the Wikipedia article on him and his career (  It is most informative.
With the appointment of Mr. Greenspan, the stage had finally been set for a full blown neoconservative agenda; although the full brunt of its theory has only recently taken complete shape.  Interestingly, the libertarian side of the neoconservative philosophy took was formed at the end of the last century with the passage of financial deregulation passed in Gramm-Leach-Bliley, which established the ground work for the crash of 2007-08.
There has been much discussion lately in the media regarding the disparity between the wealthiest of Americans and the poor which has consistently grown over the past twenty years.  I won’t belabor the facts and figures, but suffice it to say that the separation between the very wealthiest and the those not so economically fortunate occurs within the first 1 to 2%, with the top .01% having truly incredible wealth.  This is a direct result of the political economic theories of neo-conservatism.  The country is now controlled by a plutocratic regime of government which is a nexus of the rich and powerful individuals, and the government controlled by their power and influence  (see: With the recent ruling of the Supreme Court referred to as Citizens United, this stranglehold has been nearly perfected, although it was not truly necessary to assure the continuation of this relationship, but simply to make it even less assailable.  Prior to Citizens United, corporate interests had never been viewed as having full standing under the First Amendment (freedom of speech) with individuals.
Interestingly, the major issue for America is the suppression of opposition by the oligarchies which control the American private economy (see:  The major oligarchies in America are finance (banking, investment banking, insurance, etc.), energy (producers of petroleum products, natural gas, etc.), health care (hospitals, medical practitioners, pharmaceutical companies, health insurers, etc.), media (owners of publications, television, radio, mass media, news and entertainment, etc.), agribusiness (Monsanto, Cargill, Archer, Daniels, Midland, etc.), corporate retail (Amazon, Wal-Mart, JC Penney, Kroger, etc.), information/technology (Microsoft, Google, etc.), communications (Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, etc.), transportation (GM, Boeing, Delta, etc.), and the Military Industrial Complex (Lockheed Martin, Halliburton, McDonnell Douglas, et al).  There are others, but most are fairly minor.  The single feature of an oligarch is market control by whatever means necessary.  Their power is made far easier to control for two reasons, control of the media (a member of the club), and control of legislation and elections through lobbies and political contributions.
There are many ways in which I could highlight the power of the plutocracy.  The easiest way to look at it is by examining the Federal Budget for this year (see:  One immediately is struck by the fact that the Military Industrial Complex, in testimony to its unchallenged power, controls more than one half of every dollar spend by the government in the “discretionary” budget.  This year it will consume more than $700 billion to execute its purposes.  It is even more striking is the fact that the amount spent is more than 45% of all military spending by all the world’s governments combined.  The primary informed critics of the MIC are Chalmers Johnson, and Andrew Blacevich, both of whom have written extensively on the topic and whom I heartily commend the reader who wishes to be more fully informed.
Let’s get back to the oligarchs.  The cornerstone of the oligarchy is its control over major media.  Only six corporate interests control over 90% of the media.  Media is defined as book publishing, newspapers, movies, television, radio, magazines, and internet sites.  The only one of these not under substantial control of the media is the internet, however the oligarchy has a major say in the regulations propounded by the FCC which has control of rules relating to the internet.  To check the real story of the media, I suggest you look at a site dedicated to telling the story behind ownership of news outlets, and, which clearly shows the level of control of this part of American (and, incidentally, foreign in many cases) oligarchy.  With this kind of grip on public information, it is nearly impossible for ordinary people to get real information.  Oh, the media does report on everything, but focuses on sensational and lurid topics more than digging behind the scenes to get the real truth to the public.  They virtually never tell the whole story of anything newsworthy, but rather craft their reporting to assure that little harm is done to the other oligarchs.
So, the American public, and even the global audiences, are mostly treated to unthreatening pabulum relating to the facts and truth behind our greatest threats and fears.
Frontline recently aired a show on the American security apparatus entitled Top Secret America, you can watch it online here: which was based upon a book of the same name written by Dana Priest and William Arkin (Dana is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter with the Washington Post).  This expose’ tells the story of the Bush doctrine developed immediately after 9/11, in conjunction with the CIA, and which has evolved into an effort led by the US government through 15 agencies, and which last year cost over $11 billion dollars, much of which was paid to contractors.  The participants include the FBI, CIA, NSA, DNI, HAS, among others, mostly clustered around the nation’s capital.  Parts of the program have resulted in abridgment of our Constitutional rights, and led to legally mandated invasion of privacy and accumulation of secret data on the majority of American citizens.  There is a massive database housed in Colorado which contains virtually all obtainable information on every person living in this country.  NSA has the power to listen to every phone conversation occurring in the entire world every minute of every day.  The “stop and frisk” law is a part of this evolving world of national security.  The progress on the program to date is extremely frightening to citizens who are aware of it, and it is likely to become much more all encompassing in the future.  The Obama White House is fully dedicated to the program, and anyone to be elected in the coming elections will sign on as well, regardless of office or relative power.  We get regular information on this situation which results in further psychological repression of those who might be opposed to any part of this government program, and it works in close cooperation with the MIC oligarchs, as many of the same contractors who work on the program are veterans and current contractors for the Pentagon.  It might as well be a part of the MIC because much of what the security apparatus does it does in conjunction with or in cooperation with the Pentagon.
The American plutocracy is also extremely concerned with climate change, but not in the way one might imagine.  They are opposed to the entire movement that espouses a scientific rationale to support the fact of changing world climate being accounted for by human activities.  Of course the oligarchs most concerned with the movement are involved in making huge profits in energy production.  On October 23, Frontline aired a program called “Climate of Doubt” which describes the major attempts to discredit the movement and the huge majority of climatologically dedicated scientists around the globe.  It is available here:, and is extremely informative and discouraging.  I would urge everyone to watch this program and to review the Wikipedia article on global warming which includes the views of skeptics and doubters.  It can be found here: .  This is simply another indication of aggressive disinformation foisted upon us by the plutocracy in an effort to control public opinion.
The issue for all of us in the 99%, the average citizen, is how to get good information on which to base our actions, whether personal, to protect ourselves, or political, to attempt to change the system back to a democratic system where every voice counts, and truthful and factual information is made available to all of us within easy reach.  The most important initiative that the public can take is to get involved in advocating for a change in the election process which would create fair elections and appropriate government to protect us from the immense harm that is being caused all of us by the predominance of the Plutocracy.  This action must start with changing the election process itself.  There have been many suggestions, but the most rational of those involve the creation of a Constitutional Amendment to change the process in several ways, and to eliminate the effects of money on the process, which is the critical factor in continuation of the plutocracy.  At present every election, federal, state and local, almost down to Dog Catcher, is controlled by the support of candidacies by moneyed interests.
So, here we are steeped in the New Era of American Plutocracy, with both major parties fully invested in what is being wrought to control the public, its actions, opinions, knowledge, etc.  It is only by a concerted action taken by all of us, essentially in unison, that will overcome what is being done.  I see the greatest problem as one of motivating those who prefer to ignore the problem to just “get along” and struggle to find a comfortable place which doesn’t require action or commitment.  It is clear that apathy and ignorance are our greatest enemies.  If we prefer to be ostriches and bury our heads in the sand, we will reap the whirlwind, something which many of us are doing.  Don’t be fooled into believing that the recent suits against the major banks are anything more than another passion play to make us believe that our interests are somehow being taken care of.  In the context of the massive ways in which we will lose in the future through the plutocracy, these are essentially meaningless.  If you have read what I have written, I recommend that you circulate it to family, friends, acquaintances, etc., so that they may become informed and involved.  Their futures depend upon it.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

WHY WE FAIL (The American Eduction System)

As a high school failure and a college drop-out, I proclaim myself qualified to comment on the society and its educational system that failed me. I propose to point out the failings of a system designed not to educate, but to indoctrinate. I had to spend thirteen years instead of the requisite twelve to finally escape Warwood High School, in a most provincial suburb of a most provincial city, Wheeling, WV. Then came the WWII draft and three years of active duty in the army, half of which was spent in the ETO (European Theatre of Operations) in combat. Initially, we were with the First Army under General Hodges and then with the Third Army under the infamous General Patton. I recall having seen Patton once in Nuremburg with his riding boots, pearl-handled revolvers and lacquered helmet, He had once slapped a wounded hospitalized soldier accusing him of cowardice, and this one incident set me to questioning the surrender of one’s self to the unreasoned discipline and authority imposed not only by an army with force, but also by a society with coercion. I had been persuaded by that society, primarily through its disciplined system of education, that not only was it permissible to kill, it was necessary and even admirable. Having by attrition attained the rank of Sergeant, I learned that true respect came not from enforced discipline but by example. Because of this, it was obvious that for the military as it was constituted, I was a misfit. However, it was a learning experience and what is more, it provided me access to higher education through which I might discover why I seemed so out of step with life around me. The generous GI Bill of Rights made it possible for me to apply for admission to West Liberty State College. Dean Jessie Pugh took one look at my high school transcripts and said, “You’ve got to be kidding.” I said, “No, the Army says you have to take me.” The Dean’s response, “Yes, but we don’t have to keep you.” And they didn’t.

At the end of my sophomore year, I concluded that college was nothing more than an extension of the high school and the society that had failed me. They failed me with their insistence that I should become not what my intuition indicated, not what I could or should be, but that my first obligation was to meet the needs of their society. With a curriculum established by professional educators under the control of politicians, under the control of a corporate cabal, is it any wonder that three in ten high school and four in ten college freshmen fail to graduate, either through abject boredom or as an act of resistance, as it was in my case. The questions to be asked, however, is not how or why we drop-outs have failed our system, but how and why our system has failed us; has failed to meet our individual needs. To answer these questions we must first arrive at a revised understanding of the purpose of education. In reviewing popular remedies for the alarming drop-out rate, the question of why we educate must be addressed before we can consider any rational question of how. Rarely, if ever, is the question of why addressed or even mentioned. It is simply assumed that the purpose is, first and foremost, to prepare the student for success in our questionable society, which unfortunately has defined success as nothing more than the ability to “make a good living”. This is achieved by tailoring our own needs to the corporate needs of industry. Any thought of self-fulfillment runs a poor second. This whole approach defeats what should be the true purpose of an education, which should be individual self-fulfillment, or self-actualization as Abraham Maslow termed it. Indeed, the current system leans more toward indoctrination than education.

It is a system designed to meet the sometimes questionable needs of the society as opposed to one that meets the essentially personal needs of the student. It becomes a system designed to equip the society with an adequate work force and a sufficient number of sycophants to maintain social stability, rather than to equip the student with an adequate means of gratifying his potential for personal achievement and fulfillment in concert with what innate talents he may possess, which is the only source of true happiness. How we do this is to address the emotional needs of the student as opposed to his intellectual needs. This is accomplished through an increased attention to the arts and social studies, which are the first to be cut or abolished in times of financial stress, for they do not address the needs of the corporate world, or so their need for immediate return on investment might indicate.

As I said, my college experience was an extension of high school in that after I had exhausted all courses in the arts and social studies that addressed the questions that had arisen as to the meaning of my life; I could see no reason to stay. I left immediately for New York for what proved to be a less than glaring success. On my return to Wheeling, I became a political hack, like my father, and a toll-taker on a state owned bridge. I married and within a couple of months the toll was discontinued and I was without an income. With Community Theater as my only salvation, I began a decade of misery with my failure as a salesman. As a fairly accomplished actor, I was approached by the owner of a local furniture store, who suggested that anyone who acted as well as I did, should make an excellent salesman. Well, I didn’t, partially because of his practice of bait-advertising and the fact that my empathy for others got the best of me and I could not force myself to act in what I felt was not in the best interest of the customer. This led to a series of attempts at selling, Insurance, twice, for the reasons stated; then retail sales, fired for objecting to the theft by management of twenty-five cents from my pay envelope to pay for flowers for the grand opening of a new store without my permission, which I demanded to be returned; Awnings, for which one of my designs had taken third place in national competition, the only time Wagner Awning and Manufacturing Co., the largest manufacturer of canvas awnings in the country, had ever received a mention. When I asked the manager what he thought, he grumpily told me that while I had spent so much time on that one little job; their top salesman in Cleveland had sold six larger ones. Then finally long-life light bulbs. I was told by my manager that if I made the calls, I would make the sales. I couldn’t even bring myself to make the calls. The problem is that, in our overly competitive and thus neurotic society, empathy is considered a weakness. thus a hindrance. The great loss in all this is that the wonderful uniqueness of the individual and the contributions he can make, are sacrificed to the crass needs of that society. The great irony is that a society that champions “the rugged individualist”, in most subtle and devious fashion forces him to conform.

A truly just society should be one that addresses the needs of its citizens, as opposed to the needs of a society that in turn ignores their individual needs. The creation of a society that allows for each individual the maximum possibility for fulfillment and happiness, should, therefore, be the broader aim and purpose of education. Probably the most significant danger of the present system is that it seems to have forsaken Socrates. For Socrates, the mere passing on and acceptance of traditional thought and practice, which is what most of the current curricula consists of, is not education. Not only does such a practice tend to suppress the innate curiosity the first grader brings to class, but it discourages the critical thinking that Socrates insisted must lie at the very foundation of education. Unfortunately with the current system, critical thinking on the part of the student, all too often, represents an actual threat to the teacher’s conditioned need to simply impart knowledge and is met by the teacher with dismissal if not hostility. Critical thinking is actually suppressed in the need to meet the requirements of the accursed “standardized testing,” which has become the only criterion in assessing the merit of teachers, students and indeed the system itself. This practice, of course, carries with it the temptation for the teacher to “teach to the test” and for both teacher and student to adopt the most direct and sometimes questionable measures to achieve the academic goals, measures that they will carry with them into the big world of corrupt competition.

My personal problem was that, there was simply little call or reward for the unique and specific talents I had to offer. I speak generally of the arts. While most all the focus in the present system Is on the intellectual needs of the student and, precious little attention is given to the equally important emotional needs, the student loses an opportunity to, by learning to control and use his emotions, discover and then develop his unique human potential. Unless the student can learn to deal with his emotions rather than live in fear of them, he is unlikely to ever experience the true happiness of fulfillment, an emotion that all too many never experience. He is likely doomed to a life that is mediocre at best, and one that cannot truly be called his own.

After all the failure, however, there came finally success. My life did indeed begin at forty. In 1965, after a decade of volunteering my artistic services to Oglebay Institute, a rather unique arts organization in Wheeling, the director of Performing Arts finally persuaded the Executive Director to hire me. In my interview, he asked if I knew anything about Creative Dramatics. I told him, of course, I did. Then agreeing to develop such a program for the local elementary schools, I left his office to go immediately to the public library to find out what Creative Dramatics was. For the next six years I alone conducted the program with great success.

It wasn’t until I was offered a full-time teaching position in the communications department at Bethany College, which I readily accepted over the objections of my Director, that I dropped the Creative Dramatics program but remained with the Institute concentrating on the development of a theatre program which they sadly lacked. So, here I was, a college drop-out doing two full-time, degree demanding jobs and enjoying it like I had never enjoyed life before. The teaching job lasted until I came up for tenure and a new President and Dean, both PHDs and ministers, did not appreciate my lacking a degree and being an infidel in a Disciples of Christ College. Although two-thirds of the faculty voted for my retention in an adjunct capacity, it was not binding and I was let go. It was probably for the best for I turned my full attention to the Towngate Theatre which I founded, and I remained its Artistic Director until I finally retired at age eighty-four. In my retirement, I have turned to writing and to date my poetry and essays have been published by more than eighty journals, magazines and anthologies. I might also mention that I have been inducted into the Wheeling Hall of Fame for my contributions to the arts, and irony of ironies, I have been awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. I became the very first to be so honored by the now and new West Liberty University. The lesson of my story, if there is one, is that there are more ways to live your life than the one society dishes out to you, And there is always a way to do what you were meant to do, even if it takes much blood, sweat and tears.
Note:  This essay is published with the permission of the author, Hal O'Leary


The idea that the pursuit of happiness might be an unalienable right was given to us two-hundred years ago by Thomas Jefferson, but how many Americans ever stop to think just exactly what that phrase implies? A right to the pursuit says little in the absence of an understanding of what constitutes happiness.  A right to the pursuit means little if our understanding of the phrase lies in conforming to the rhetoric of politicians who call for a car in every garage and a chicken in every pot. To equate happiness with, keeping up with the Joneses, is a complete misreading of what Jefferson intended, leading  less to happiness than to nothing more than an envy of one’s neighbor.

Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Marilynne Robinson said it best.  “We are to seek our well-being as we define our well-being, and determine for ourselves the means by which it might be achieved.”  In pursuit of that well-being, the unique talents of each individual must be discovered and developed.

Since there are no two individuals alike, each must find his own path, which is to be found in the heart not the head, for It is there one finds a true potential for self-fulfillment which  is the only true source of happiness. Only in this way, can you become the best whatever and whomever you were meant to be. 

To understand Jefferson’s phrase, we must realize that the right he speaks of is that of seeking  self-fulfillment without governmental intrusion into the heart. This, of course, does not take into consideration the societal intrusion in the form of peer pressure the head might succumb to.  Herein lies the folly and the great failing of a competitive  economic system that urges conformity in assuming that happiness  is to  be found in the acquisition material assets. We wind up competing for happiness in acquisition. It simply does not exist. The source for true happiness lies not without but within. In truth, by the amassing of the material, one becomes a prisoner of one’s possessions, confined and restricted by them in a need to protect and preserve them. The alienation that results leads to a distrust of others which is contrary to the essence  of humanity and any hope for happiness. The folly of happiness with no thought of sharing it is folly indeed. Nay, it is an impossibility. There is no sacrifice in the sharing of one’s uniqueness.  Indeed, the double source of happiness, the fulfillment that comes from  the exercise of one’s unique talents and the gratification that comes with the recognition of and appreciation for  the sharing of those talents with others, may result in the only true and lasting happiness free of the competition and envy that is found in the fruitless pursuit of a material advantage. 

Jefferson’s phrase places the one’s unique onus for finding a proper pursuit for happiness on each individual, for it will only be found within one’s self in the development of talents.
This short essay is published on this blog with the consent of Hal O'Leary.


For those of you disillusioned, disenfranchised American voters who might wish for a successful third party please know that we have one. However, it may not be the one you want or wish for. It’s not a party you can even vote for. Let us call it the Money Party. While its membership is extremely small, perhaps as few as one percent, and restricted to a select few international corporations along with a very select few wealthy individuals, make no mistake, it has managed to take control of both the Republican and Democrat Parties, making them both obsolete and insignificant. The Money Party does not represent the interest of America or your interest, nor does it owe allegiance to any nation. In fact, it would appear that we are now living under an entirely undemocratic system that Italy’s Benito Mussolini properly labeled Fascism. “America a fascist state? The man’s insane.” Isn’t that what many of you are thinking? But, hear me out in this, along with the vision and wisdom of our Founding Fathers: 

“The end of democracy and the American Revolution will occur when the government falls into the hands of the lending institutions and moneyed incorporations.”  Thomas Jefferson

Have we not indeed fallen?
“History records that money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit and violent means possible, to maintain their control over government, by controlling money and its issuance.” James Madison.  

It’s now referred to as The Federal Reserve. 

It’s not as though we haven’t been warned. More recently, of course, we’ve had Ike’s warning of the Military Industrial Complex, and if that were not enough, we suffered the assassination of JFK, who had the audacity to threaten the Federal Reserve System with Executive Order 11110. Look it up. Unfortunately, no president has since dared  to defy the Money Party in its quest for global military and economic hegemony with the hope of returning power to we the people .

One could and most properly should ask how this alarming situation was allowed to happen. It, too, goes back to our very beginnings. It rests on the age old question of whether or not we are, as the poet John Donne put it, “our brother’s keeper”.  Then back even further than that with the teaching of Jesus. “Truly I tell you that whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

 How did this most sensible and simple wisdom get lost in what should have been the intellectual evolution of our kind? For an answer, let us return to our beginnings as a nation and the creation of the Great American Dream. Freedom was the key to all that one could desire, to happiness. And that was great, but with the assumption that  we could determine for ourselves what constitutes happiness.  Unfortunately, this is where we went awry. That Great American Dream came to mean nothing more than the accumulation of material wealth. This, of course, meant that such wealth must be derived in competition with, or in many cases at the expense of, our fellow man. Thus, followed the ridiculous concept of “The-Rugged-Individualist” the man who needed no one, the man who would “build it” by himself. This, of course, was in sharp contrast to what John Donne and Jesus had in mind. 

Of course, not everyone wished to be or became the rugged individualist. There were those who recognized that we, not the individualist, but we, were responsible for the creation of what was to be the great promise of an equal and just future for all. It would happen only through cooperation. This meant that there would be not one but generally two approaches to its realization throughout the population. One would insist that man should be free and unfettered by a government which he often viewed as an obstacle to his quest for material gain.. The other approach, recognizing his brother’s need as his own, viewed his government as the vehicle for assuring equality and justice for all. These two approaches grew into what we now term the conservative Republican and progressive Democrat Parties.

To hear the parties go at each other, one would think that one or the other must have evil designs in their attempts to force their erroneous convictions on the other, when actually, neither is without merit.  The conservative’s initiative cannot be denied, nor can his preference for continuity and stability. These can be viewed as admirable and even necessary traits. On the other hand, who can deny that the progressive’s willingness to risk change leads to progress as opposed to stagnation, and that his concern for others benefits both the others and himself. There is no doubt but that any society can benefit from the wisdom embedded in both, provided they can work together collectively, with the moderates of each curbing the extremes of both. This is what the founding fathers had envisioned. So how did it all go so wrong? 

For the answer to that question, we must return again to the warnings of those same founding fathers and the Money Party they cautioned us against. With the assassination of JFK and the continuous fear it generated, the Money Party, playing to and dividing the extremes of both parties, gained virtual control of each branch of the Federal Government. Elected representatives of both the Republican and Democrat  parties became treasonable accessories to the abolishment of constitutional rights and protections with the use  of lies, propaganda and false flag threats including the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, 9/11 and Iraq’s WMD. The Money Party has increased its power and obscene wealth through manufactured fear in a climate of a perpetual war on terror, which, like the war on drugs, was never meant to be won.
With this knowledge, I will refuse to vote, and I would encourage you to do the same. The argument that one should, in this situation; vote for the lesser of two evils may not be a wise choice. In fact, you have no choice but to vote for evil, for any vote you cast, even for one of the minority parties, will, in effect, be for the greatest evil of all, the Money Party which has, through its corporate media, succeeded in diverting and dividing you, by confronting you with relatively insignificant issues like the deficit, immigration, pro-life, gay marriage and taxation.  If you will take note that the illegal war in Afghanistan which should be our first and main concern with its untold cost in lives and money, was only slightly touched upon by the Democrats during their convention and not even mentioned during the Republican convention. Your vote will be an indication to them that you are still buying the Great American Dream, and so long as you can be persuaded it remains viable, their position remains secure, and our future dim. 

From the lexicon of modern day politics, “bipartisanship” seems to have been dropped completely. Only if the progressives and the conservatives can come together in the common cause of denying the Money Party’s enslavement of both, can we yet be saved. But, it will happen only if, in a true spirit of bipartisanship, the progressive can allow the conservative to check his exuberance with reason to avoid folly and if the conservative can allow the progressive to initiate necessary change, again, with reason to avoid stagnation.

Note:  This essay is published by permission of its author, Hal Oleary.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Education: Important for America

We hear all the time how important education is to this country.  We need to heed the call for our citizens, states, counties, school districts, and federal government to push this issue up the agenda to second behind getting a vibrant economy, but barely second.  I love the outcries for action coming from all quarters.  In fact, this drum has been beaten so often recently that I think that some are becoming deaf to the message, or, perhaps, complacent.  It boggles my mind to see teachers being laid off for budget problems.  Just think what 2% of the national defense budget could do for our education system.  Maybe that’s just me, but I am not seeing a swell of actions to match the present dialogue.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pointing fingers or quibbling, far from it.

            I have an important point to make.  I believe that our modern educational systems have it wrong when it comes to understanding what their goals should be.  Of course I am not saying that proficiency in the “core” of education, English language, math, science, etc., are not important.  Far from it.  But, why are they important?  Why do we need to read?  Or learn how to manipulate numbers, or understand what is happening in the universe, climate, politics, etc.   We have “experts” to do all of this for us.  We can just work, earn, buy, relax, and let the world go by.  When we get sick, we go to the doctor and he tells us what to do to get well.  If we want to know about anything, we can “Google” it, watch the network news, or avail ourselves of scores of experts all over the media to give us answers.   We don’t need to do our own research or try to get beneath the surface, because this has been done for us.              OR DO WE?
            I graduated from high school in 1964, a reasonably good year, if we are willing to discount the facts that Kennedy had just been killed, and that we were launching into our most senseless military adventure prior to Iraq in Vietnam.  Life was simpler then.  No internet.  No Twitter.  No YouTube or Netflix.  Can you imagine?  If we wanted answers in those days, we had a limited number of media outlets to inform us – no cable and maybe ten TV channels along with radio, newspapers, magazines, and books.  These were our resources.  Summers in high school were spent with my grandmother, helping her and exploring the city (we lived in the “sticks”, she in the city).  One of my favorite things to do was to go to the main public library.  To me, it was a paradise of infinite possibilities for adventure.    My family loved to read, and I had caught the bug.  I started reading with Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, and then progressed to the Jack London classic, Call of the wild.  So, I went to the largest library in the city, stayed and read.  Each day I would head to a different section, sometimes fiction, sometimes science, or religion, or history, or….  Now I am a cardholder for the Library of Congress, to me one of the greatest institutions on the face of the earth, with nearly every book, magazine, newspaper, etc., ever written or printed, in any language.  What they don’t have doesn’t exist.  I have had many great adventures.  I like doing research on anything, and that is definitely the destination when research is to be done.  Of course, nowadays the internet is an incredible resource with more than a billion websites containing information, and, of course, disinformation, on everything and anything, including access to the Library of Congress.  Then there is the Gutenberg Project, Amazon, with vendors selling classics for mere pennies and Kindle downloads of full books.
Today, at the age of 66, I am still reading about 50 books a year.  I average about one a week.  I like to read everything, but my main diet is economics, fiction of all kinds, and history.  But, I kind of go where my heart leads me, and get nice recommendations from friends and family.  If I find an author I like, I generally read all or most of their books.  This sort of main hobby has worked out well over the years.  My goal is to know everything.  What a ridiculous idea.  But, a nice goal, so long as I can keep my obsessive compulsive behavior under control, and forgive myself for failure inevitable failure.  The way I figure it, the more I know, the better off I am.  When I go to the doctor, I can understand everything he tells me, and participate in a partnership with him in diagnosis and treatment, always asking questions.  I can understand what he is saying because I have informed myself by reading enough medicine to sort out what we are discussing.  Without this tool, I could easily submit to treatment or misdiagnosis that might make me worse off, or have side effects that hurt me, or pay for unnecessary and useless tests or medication.  Or spend far more time trying to heal than I have to.
            When I began to work in the law, my chosen field of endeavor for earnings purposes, I decided that I wanted to fully educate myself on the subject matter of my job.  So, I went to the local law library and read.  I took classes.  I talked to the top minds in the business to get answers to questions.  I threw myself into my own schooling completely.   Without enumerating the benefits, suffice it to say that this stood me in good stead from every possible standpoint.  I rose to the top of the profession and staying there until retirement.  And, I fell in love with the job.
            When my wife and I built our house, I researched home construction and picked my contractor by interviewing them to assure myself that they were up to snuff in construction materials and techniques.  When I cook, and I love to cook, I read recipes, study techniques, and devise most recipes myself.  Remember that I spent summers with my grandmother, and she ran a boarding house and cooked for many people two meals a day.  When I wasn’t at the library, I helped her in the kitchen, doing, watching and learning.  I only did odd jobs, but I learned amazing things.
            Everyone needs something of what I have:  a lifelong desire to learn.  What you learn doesn’t have to have a practical application.  Follow your heart and desire to know.  You’ll be amazed to find just how much of what you learn becomes handy to understanding the world and your place in it.  Life automatically gets better.  Not all learning takes place in books.  Learn from everything.  If you don’t understand something, ask questions of experts, read and research, find answers and don’t be happy just to get along, ignorant of how things work, what things are, how we got where we are, where you can go, and what you can do.
            When it comes to “formal” education, we need teachers who inspire us with a thirst for knowledge, any and all knowledge.   We need teachers who connect what they are teaching to real life situations.  We need teachers who engage, excite, and who can make better future citizens who care, understand and participate.  Just rote learning is nearly useless in creating life skills.  If what we learn doesn’t create a better connection to our world, it is essentially meaningless.   Most of all, if you are a parent, enthusiastically support your child’s efforts in school, become involved in their learning, let them know just how important they are and what they are doing in school.  They will inevitably become better, more rounded, engaged, and involved adults, and will pass on this drive for knowledge to their children and the others they meet in life.

What’s Wrong With This Picture, America?

I celebrated my 65th birthday a few weeks ago.  For several weeks before that day, I spent literally hours considering the meaning of the event.  My contemplation was occasioned by receiving my Medicare card in late March (Medicare starts the first day of the month you turn sixty-five).  I was very happy to get that card, along with the notice that the Medicare system would be deducting $127 each month from my Social Security check.  I started drawing my Social Security at the age of 62, the earliest age at which one may take their monthly benefit.  This was because I had, three months earlier, been forced to claim unemployment as a result of losing my last job, as a Title Officer with the National Commercial Division of a major title insurance company, assisting companies in doing real estate transactions around the nation, a job for which I was eminently well suited, and which I performed flawlessly.  Sadly, although I am one of the foremost experts in my chosen field of endeavor in the entire country, I was unable to find any kind of permanent employment after being laid off, and decided that I would stop drawing unemployment compensation after three months.  Although my monthly benefit would have been greater had I waited to turn 65, now, about two years following the near economic collapse, my decision looks very good, indeed, since that employment market is now even worse than when I made my decision, and promises to stay that way from some months and perhaps many years to come. 

As a part of my birthday contemplation, I thought of my family, of course.  My children are adults, each with children of their own.  I have two younger brothers who are at the peak of their professional careers, and many other loved family members in various stages of their lives.  Most, if not all, have expressed chagrin about what the country is becoming.  So, all things considered, I decided to write a regarding my birthday and send it to my family and friends.
Needless to say, I am an early Baby Boomer, having been born in 1946.  I grew up in Baltimore and its environs.  My family had only one car until I was about 12; we got our first television in 1951, a small tube, black and white set which was one of three in our neighborhood; my mother didn’t work, but focused on running the home, taking care of our family, and being a great mother.  We had one phone, a black one with a dial (push buttons wouldn’t even become available for a couple of decades).  Gasoline was about 14 cents a gallon, a loaf of bread cost about 20 cents.  We went out for dinner about once a year, as a family (no hardship, since Mom was a great cook).  When clothes became worn or frayed, they were repaired and handed down to the next in line.  Mom made our Halloween costumes, and they were great (to be fair, though, they should have been, since she was a professional artist).  We were happy.  We were solidly middle class.  We had everything we needed.  The streets were so safe in our neighborhood; we didn’t even need to lock our doors.  We not only knew all of our neighbors, but we were a real neighborhood, where people cared about each other and all adults saw that a part of their responsibility was to see to the safety of all neighborhood children and each other.
That was sixty years ago.  The world has changed.  America has changed.  We Americans expect to have nice cars (with lots of gizmos, GPS, etc.), cell phones (with lots of clever apps, of course), HD TVs, internet access, 500 cable channels, and endless other trappings of our spoiled American lives.  Are we wrong?  The answer is no, but.  But, like spoiled children, most of us tend to believe that we, as Americans, being such exceptional people, deserve such things; we believe it’s our birthright.  One of the problems with creating such social expectations is that once people think that way, the American Dream (the fulfilling of all of those expectations) becomes a right, not a blessing, not something we must work to have, but something we deserve, simply for being born American.  Further, we create the certainty that some, or even many, will become highly dissatisfied with their lives when that Dream doesn’t magically materialize.  How has our America become such a land of unrealized, and maybe even unrealizable, dreams?  Oh, I do understand that there are still many who are can and may experience those dreams, but those numbers are rapidly dwindling, and the numbers of those who are not likely to do so are rapidly increasing.
Who are those people who are losing their dreams?  In the last three years, more than five million of us have lost a major part of their dream called a home, as foreclosures moved them into the street, shelters, relatives’ homes, cheap apartments, etc.  Many of those (dream) homes were lost because these people lost their jobs, or had some catastrophic medical issue and no health insurance, or for some other of life’s vicissitudes intervened to destroy their financial security, or were simply sold an absurd adjustable loan by a loan officer or bank just looking for a quick buck.  Not since the Great Depression have so many been brutally and cruelly humbled by a national financial crisis.  As I write, the BLS tells us that there are 9% of us unemployed.  If we look at an adult employable labor force of about 180 million, this means that more than 16 million are officially not earning anything but a meager unemployment check, at best.  That number is not real.  The real number of people who are essentially unemployed is about double that, if we include the long term unemployed and underemployed.  As of this past February, there were about 45 million Americans using food stamps, and children comprise about 2/3rds of that number.  In addition, many families also utilize food banks and other government and non-government programs in order just to eat.  Many of those who have borrowed mightily to sponsor their college educations can’t find jobs (the latest numbers indicate that about 85% of new 2011 graduates will be forced to move back home).  About 1.6 million new workers enter the labor force each year.  In the last 6 months, the economy has generated about 230,000 new jobs per month.  At that rate, it will take about 28 years to achieve what our government tells us is “full” employment (about 4.5% unemployment, statistically, is considered “full”).
Meanwhile, we have a Congress that is agonizing over our national debt.  Sadly, this agony is totally misplaced.  We “own” the world’s “reserve currency”, which means that we are completely unlike the nations of Greece and Spain.  Our national debt doesn’t hurt us, unless we try to deal with it.  The debate is a pure political red herring; a distraction intended to focus us in an area of no importance.  As the nation with the world’s reserve currency, we can print as much money as we need to without causing inflation.  The Federal Reserve (FED) has printed about seven trillion over the past three years.  Most of it went into alleviating the effects of the deteriorating loan portfolios residing the major banks who caused the debacle of 2008 by creating massive numbers of completely irresponsibly sold mortgages.  They not only failed to properly underwrite these, but then securitized them by creating bond issues which were converted to tradable securities and hedged with billions in credit default swaps.  All of this failed, and after TARP was put into effect and about $350 billion spent to overcome the initial market problem, the FED bought more than four trillion dollars worth of rotting credit paper from the banks.  Even before that, since the Iran and Afghan wars were not budgeted by President Bush, the FED printed money to pay for these.  Not only are we not like Spain or Greece, but we are not like a household.  We don’t need to balance our budget.  We can’t go broke.  We can’t default.  It is not possible.  We can create as much money as we need to fuel a recovery.  So long as the money the FED prints is used to buy things of real value, there will be no inflation.  So, if we need stimulus, the FED could fund a bank for energy research and development, a bank for infrastructure upgrade, a bank specifically for education, fund the rehiring of teachers, fund all kinds of useful research.  Because each one of these things creates taxable value and additional taxation, the money would flow all through the economy.  People could continue to own and buy homes, send children to college, retire on time, etc.  So, don’t listen to the blather about the deficit and debt.  It is intended to create an atmosphere that allows all kinds of money to flow up the “food chain” to the top, as has been happening for years, while the rich get richer and you and I get closer to poverty and despair.
Well, it actually started with Bill Clinton’s administration, when the Congress passed Gramm-Leach-Bliley, giving the banks the right to become much more than banks.  This was a breach of the firewall between banking and other activities, such as investment banking which had been prudently put in place in the mid-1930’s by the passage of the Glass-Steagall Act restricting banking powers, after the then out-of-control banks had destroyed the economy in the late 1920’s.  Destroying this firewall especially worked to the benefit of the largest Federal banks, who, as members of the Federal Reserve System, gained the right to buy and sell stocks, issue bonds, become investment bankers, insurance companies, or anything else they wanted to do.  These massive banks can borrow endlessly from the Federal Reserve, at essentially the world’s lowest interest rates, play with their books, play in the markets, and generally control almost all financial matters under one roof, and, should they make some serious mistakes, we will bail them out, contrary to what we have been recently told following the latest round of financial reform.
Then the Bush administration came into office, and, about a year and nine months later, we lost the World Trade Center, Osama Bin Laden took center stage, and the Bush administration somehow convinced us that not only was Saddam Hussein acting to assist Bin Laden (not proven or even likely), but also had Weapons of Mass Destruction (proven to be false) which could threaten the very being of this country.  We started the War on Terror, sending troops to Afghanistan to root out Bin Laden, and started the second Gulf War to quash the Hussein regime’s WPM threat.  None of the associated costs (mega billions) of these military actions went “on the books” as we pursued this absurd strategy – as we know now, no WPM’s were ever found.  Then the Bush Administration pushed for a tax reduction, and passed an unfunded prescription drug plan to supplement the Medicare program.  They also sponsored a major expansion of our housing policy which resulted in massive growth of private housing financed under the auspices of the largest banks (selling securitized mortgage debt, a lot of which is now rotting on their books or the books of the FED, FNMA and Freddie) and substantially expanded the roles of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Oddly enough, though the resulting major increases in housing construction fueled substantial new employment in those sectors, the actual growth of overall employment during the Bush Presidency was incredibly anemic.  That’s because, along with other factors, many jobs held in manufacturing and other employment areas were being outsourced offshore, as American companies found it more profitable to ship their jobs elsewhere in the world where workers were paid a mere fraction of what American workers cost them.
What happened?  Ever since Eisenhower warned us of the dangers of the power of the Military-Industrial Complex, as he left office in late 1959, we have been seeing his prophecy bear fruit.  In 1963, we decided, under then President Kennedy, to take over the defense of South Vietnam, previously under the control of France, against a perceived Communist threat from North Vietnam.  Looking back, it is clear to see that this was the first of many military forays which would be “encouraged” by the MIC.  I would defy anyone to come up with an example of the clear necessity of the use of our military in the years subsequent to Eisenhower’s departure and Kennedy’s assassination.  We even know that the Soviet Union’s vaunted military strength during the Cold War years was greatly exaggerated by the CIA and others to strengthen arguments for the vast increase in our nuclear and conventional weaponry and general military strength.  Even now, when we are supposed to be experiencing a “peace dividend” resulting from the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 1991 collapse of Soviet Russia, that hasn’t materialized.  We are still spending hundreds of billions of dollars on Cold War style weapons programs, like Reagan’s Star Wars Space Missile Defense Program, which, in more than 25 years and after the expenditure of tens of billions, hasn’t produced any effective defensive deterrence which can be deployed in orbit.  Sadly, George Shultz recently disclosed that, during the Nuclear Disarmament Conference with the USSR which took place in October of 1986, in Reykjavik, Iceland, Russia actually agreed to full, verified nuclear disarmament, if Reagan would agree to scrap SDI.  Reagan refused – end of story. 
We’ve now spent 10 years in Afghanistan, and, lo and behold, where has Bin Laden been residing for the past five years?  Not in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan, where we spend billions in military and civilian aid to prop up a country with nuclear weapons and half of whose leadership can’t decide whether they like us or not, while their arch enemy India is actually a far more valuable friend, if Pakistan is one at all.  Since end of the Second Iraq War, how have things gone, that is after our “victory” which cost us many thousands of lives, nearly a trillion dollars, and left an unstable democracy in a tribal state which continues to be plagued by massive sectarian violence?  I’d say that Iraq might redefine the whole concept of “Pyrrhic Victory”, that is, if it weren’t for Vietnam.  And, finally, before moving on, allow me to mention a couple of other “national security” details.  How many of you are aware that the US has more than 800 military installations in foreign countries?  Just think how you might feel if another country wanted to locate one of their bases on our soil.  You just might not be very thrilled with the idea.  In fact, many of those who live close to US bases located in America are not entirely sanguine regarding the location of those bases, unless they profit from the fact of their proximity.  Or, think about the fact that we spend more than twice the amount of money as the rest of the world combined on our military.  Is there any surprise at the fact that we are counted on by our allies to be the world’s police.  Then consider that one fighter jet costs more than tens of millions dollars (the new F-22 costs $70 million per plane by the latest calculations) and think about what that those millions or even billions could do in infrastructure, education, basic research, border security, employment, etc.

Also consider the fact that this country is not ranked in the top ten among the world’s nations in life expectancy (49th last year according to our own CIA) and have a higher infant mortality rate than 45 other nations, all in spite of the fact that we have many of the best doctors, most successful pharmaceutical companies, largest and best hospitals, etc.  We are not ranked in the top ten educationally.  Our high school graduation rates are pathetic and dropping (nearly 35% don’t graduate!!).  We have a far higher percentage of our population housed in our prison system than any other country in the world (now more than 2 million inmates), and far more illegal alien residents than anywhere else.  Our crime rates are higher than almost anywhere else.  Illegal drug use is higher than anywhere else.  Yes, my fellow citizens, we are a truly exceptional country!!!
Now, let’s visit a little world history, but before we do, I want to make a thesis statement:  America is the largest and most successful imperial power in the history of the world.  Sadly, though, the follow up is that no great empire has successfully withstood the test of time.  We are also not going to be successful or exceptional in that regard.  Let’s look a bit at some examples in the historical records.  The first major empire outside of China was Babylon.  That city-state behemoth lasted around 1800 years (America, from Columbus to the present is barely 500 and our elite nation status perhaps 150 years at best).  It was the major city in ancient Persia, and the rule was not consistent, but the power emanating from it was.  It is hard to find even traces of it today, though most of the major structures were built with stone.  Or there was ancient Greece, which gave us Alexander the Great, Socrates and Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, and countless other historic notables and is now mostly famous for its architectural ruins.  It and Egypt were the chief competitors with Rome during the last millennium BC and the first five centuries AD.  Where are they now?  We know them now for many things, but the great empires that they were vanished centuries ago after being dominant “world” cultures and powers.  How about the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan and his scions?  This is now 1000 years behind us.  What about the Roman Empire?  Rome controlled about 90% of the civilized world at one time, running from Scotland south and east all the way to Arabia.  It had a total lock on commerce, and the only country that could challenge Rome’s authority or dominance was the Egypt of the Pharaohs, which, by the way, is also gone, but for the Pyramids.  After the fall of Rome, the greatest centralized power for the next 700 years was the Roman Catholic Church, which essentially sponsored all European monarchs from the early middle ages until their power started to erode during the Reformation.  During that time and later times, three European powers had massive empires, France, England and Spain.  Notice that, though these countries continue to exist, their empires are gone.  Each of these three lost their empires for different reasons, but, the point is that none could maintain them.  I think that very few Americans under the age of thirty today are even aware that, until this century, Great Britain counted India, Australia and South Africa, as well as a multitude of smaller territories, as parts of its empire, and now only Canada, very marginally, remains. 

But, wait, why do I claim that America is “imperial?”  Simple, it is obvious that we are, as a nation, control freaks.  When I hear the words “national security interest” I shiver.  When those words are used, they are intended to make us afraid that, somehow, our national security is under threat.  But, think about it.  In the past 100 years we have been attacked, with any success at all, on only four occasions:  during WWII, at Pearl Harbor, and in the Philippines; and once in Alaska over half a century ago, very briefly.  And, if you are willing to count it as an attack (I see it as simple terrorism, and unrelated to any other specific nation), the World Trade Center in 2001.  Three of these were “sneak” attacks.  In each case we had intelligence that could have prevented them and didn’t act on that intelligence in time to stop the threats.  We have bases in more than 40 countries.  We have an empire.  Whatever we don’t control militarily, we try to control economically.  We have an empire.
Why does this matter?  It matters because we are not the humble, “Christian” nation that many, if not most, proclaim us to be.  Americans have been led to believe in our nation’s inchoate superiority.  Simply being The United States of America does not make us superior to anyone, a priori.  A truly superior nation must prove its superiority.  We are not superior, but, at this moment we are dominant, and have serious competition even in that.  Global dominance should mean that we have the greatest responsibility, not just to our own citizens, but to the world in general.  We love to claim the moral “high ground” amongst nations, but only when it suits us.  The sad fact is that we are, in our dominance, some of the world’s poorest actors and greatest abusers among all nations.  I would challenge anyone to present a valid argument, on purely rational bases that the USA is a truly superior nation, especially on a moral basis.  As Clint Eastwood once famously uttered, “go ahead, make my day” by making a case for our superiority, other than militarily. Next you’ll say that I don’t love this country.  Quite to the contrary, I passionately love this country, always have and always will.  But, I am greatly saddened to see what pariahs that this nation has become, as a world force, life force, and home to all those who love it.
What I next want to do is to paint a picture of how we came to be attacked on September 11, 2001.  My guess would be that about 98% of our citizens still believe that the attack was heinous and unprovoked.  If, in fact, that attack was purely the successful plot of a terror network with its base in the mountains of Afghanistan, and directed by a Muslim jihadist with a long beard and a radical following who carefully and systematically, and successfully, plotted and carried out an attack on the Twin Towers in Manhattan, killing about 3000 of our citizens, then there must be major flaws with our security, and we know now from recent information, that the NSA and others simply didn’t do their job.  However, since that date, many of the details of this attack have come under serious scrutiny, and, regardless of many extensive investigations, in the ten years after the attack, much is yet to be successfully and adequately answered.  There remain serious doubts about the validity of the results of the official investigation.  Oddly enough, this episode is quite similar to the Kennedy assassination which occurred nearly 38 years earlier, and the government’s version of the reality is still in question today.  I am not saying either investigation has been proven wrong.  Regarding the World Trade Center, however, we do know that our intelligence apparatus did not do its job at the time, and, in fact, failed those three thousand people by not properly following important information which had been gathered prior to the date of the tragic attack that was later acknowledged could have prevented it.
Why, if Bin Laden did this treachery, was he motivated to lead such an action?  There are many seeds of jihad which have been firmly planted by America and many of its allies over the centuries.  I will only consider the modern era, beginning with the founding of Israel in 1948, and our subsequent and steadfast support of the Jewish population, consistently and steadfastly and to the detriment of the Arab populations of that region, and specifically within what was, prior to Israel being recognized by the UN in 1949 as a nation, Palestine, a predominantly Arab nation.  Ever since it was founded, Israel has had to work hard to maintain the integrity of itself and its boundaries.  The US has always taken Israeli’s side and perhaps that is the greatest reason why no final accord has yet been reached regarding the disposition of the Palestinian populace despite decades of effort by most American presidents and their administrations.  Of course, we have never been even-handed in our treatment of this situation.
The next greatest reason is because of our consistent abusive policies regarding the entire region.  We were heavily involved in support of the Shah in Iran, a dictatorial autocrat whose abusiveness towards his population was very similar to that of Syrian President Assad and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.  The Iranian Shah brutally oppressed his population, and that is why the Ayatollah Khomeini was successful in his revolution which resulted in the Shah’s departure, and why so many Iranians at that time engaged in anti-American protests.  Next, when Russia invaded Afghanistan, we armed and supported the Taliban in its success over the Russian invasion, but, immediately thereafter simply abandoned the nation.  It became clear that our friendship in providing support was only one of convenience, and we did nothing to assist them in recovering from the destructive results of the Russian invasion, however, of course, as with Iraq, we armed the very Taliban that we are fighting now.  Next, when Iran and Iraq became engaged in their war, in 1980, and because of the antipathetic relationship caused by the ascent of the Ayatollah, we decided to provide major military assistance to Saddam Hussein to enable him to beat back the Iranis.  Is the picture beginning to become a bit clearer?  So, we now begin to see the fact that America is only an ally of convenience, and, if its partner doesn’t obey what it wants, it either abandons, or attacks that former ally/friend.  Even now, we are engaged in nation building in Afghanistan, assisting a corrupt, bogusly elected leader and spending over a million dollars a day to do it, while our troops die, Afghanistan continues to be the world’s largest heroin producer, is vastly corrupt and tribal, and is home to proven natural resources worth trillions of dollars.  Even now, after declaring victory in Iraq, and after their formation of a democratic government, we choose to leave behind 50,000 troops, build major bases there, and major sectarian/tribal violence continues to plague that country.  What are our plans for the rest of the Arab world?  They are wondering where our imperialism will lead us next.  So am I.
Now, back to America, and its multiple oligarchies.   What is an oligarchy?  It is a group of wealthy companies and/or individuals who assert control over markets by exerting political influence.  America is rife with oligarchs.
First let us consider the energy oligarchy.  The price of oil is going up and will continue to go up, as the world’s reserves go down.  That’s simple economics, simple supply and demand.  When a necessary commodity is in short supply, there’s more money competing for less of it, and a price rise is inevitable.  But then, it is made far worse by the fact that our petroleum companies are given massive tax subsidies, get special treatment when they screw up (BP?), and are making greater profits than ever.  The same goes for most other areas of energy, and few, if any of these massively profitable enterprises are engaged in providing new solutions to our energy costs and production.  They are rich, fat, lazy, and abusive.  Get the picture?  This is what oligarchy is about.
How about food?   Except for very stringent restrictions on food imports, generally speaking (except, of course as to American companies producing food elsewhere and bringing it here), food is largely controlled by our agricultural conglomerates.  If you want to understand this, start reading packaging at the grocery stores.  You will note the amazing dominance of companies like Proctor and Gamble, Kraft, Nabisco, Coke and Pepsi, Hunts, Dole, and so many other giant corporations.  These megaliths dominate agricultural products, distribution, manufacture and packaging, and virtually every other area.  They all receive substantial hidden tax benefits and subsidies from their friends in Congress.  These companies are the reason why we are producing corn ethanol as a gasoline additive (actually mandated in many states), which is unbelievably inefficient, and results in the higher prices of all products utilizing corn and its various byproducts, a truly long list, in case you hadn’t noticed.  Large agricultural conglomerates are completely dominant oligarchs, on your grocery store shelves, and on Capitol Hill.
The media in this country is controlled by very few people.  If you closely examine who owns TV and radio stations, newspapers, magazines, movie production companies, etc., it is a very small group, many with interlocking boards of directors.  These companies control the “free” speech in this country because they control the advertising dollars which keep their holdings profitable.  In order to control the advertising dollars, they must not provide news coverage which threatens the interests which pay for them to exist, their advertisers.  This is why, if you have a large cable service, it is nearly impossible to get the complete, unvarnished truth about anything.  Sure, there’s public television, with wonderful shows like Nova, Frontline, and lots of other great specials.  How many of us even tune in.  How many are willing to watch C-Span to find out what is being said.  Most of us watch the four major news outlets (NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX, as well as CNN and MSNBC).  Check out who owns them.  Without going into great detail, suffice it to say that CNN also controls the Weather Channel, and General Electric owns NBC, which owns CNBC, MSNBC, and others, including the Golf Channel.  If you really want to get nauseous, just check the chart at this link:
Now we move to what is probably the second most powerful oligarchy in America.  That is the health care industry.  It is comprised of truly massive and powerful companies including huge multinational pharmaceutical manufacturers, which largely control the FDA and which manufacture, distribute and sell drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter.  There are about 19 very large drug manufacturers, worldwide, and of those, 11 are companies based in the US.  In 2006 alone, these companies averaged more than $5.5 billion in profits.  Once again, for further reading I recommend:  Then we have the care providers, whether clinics, hospitals, doctor groups or others.  Of these, aside from illegalities, the real prime oligarchs are the health networks which control, among them, many major hospitals and massive clinics.  For further reading  I recommend, once again, the Wikipedia article at:, it is entirely fascinating to see how we compare to other countries, and how other nations go about providing care for their populations.  In signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the spring of last year, our political leadership expressed wholehearted, unflinching support for the health care oligarchy.  It included no public option, no real cost control mechanism, no real rein on health insurance premiums (while establishing a mandate for all people to have coverage), or any other means for controlling the spiraling costs of health care.  As of 2006, we spend 16.2% of GDP on health care, and that percentage continues to grow.  What I find amazing is the number of politicians who say that that should be abolished in favor of a different methodology.  Of all the alternatives discussed during the bill’s journey through Congress, the single most rational, and popular one, according to polls, was the suggestion of Medicare for all (essentially the same as the Canadian single payer).  I’m not holding my breath, as the industry coffers are opening to support candidates during the next election cycle.
The last of the major oligarchies is the financial industry, led by the nation’s largest banking conglomerates.  We know that the financial markets are under the control of a fairly small elite of banking behemoths, many of which are located in this country, but whose influence stretches into nearly every country around the globe.  Literally hundreds of books and articles have been written about these massively abusive, controlling enterprises.  The financial collapse of late 2007 can be completely blamed on them.  The Great Depression, occurring about 80 years before, happened primarily because of the fact that the banks at that time had acceded to similar powers that they now have, since the abrogation of Glass-Steagall in favor of Gramm-Leach-Bliley in 1999.  Ask Ben Bernanke, he’s an economist, and an recognized expert on the Great Depression.  I would refer you to: which tells the entire, relatively unvarnished, truth about our banking industry, its power and control.  But, surely the easiest thing is just to realize that even after the passage of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in July of last year, the banks are presently making larger profits and handing out more massive bonuses than before the crash.  All of them are larger now than they were, more leveraged, and this is all happening during the lingering of the recession.  This is nearly impossible to believe, and yet it is true.  These massive organizations exert nearly complete control over our governance as it pertains to anything financial.  It is truly and deeply nauseating.  And we are, at present, completely helpless to curtail or even effectively modify it. 
There are other, smaller oligarchies in America, but the ones described above are the major players.  If the governance of a country is under control of the wealthy elite, it is termed a “plutocracy” or “plutarchy” (see  America is a plutocracy.  The greatest evidence of this, aside from the content of our 15,000 page tax code (about 2% of which applies to those making less than $100,000 a year), is the massive subsidies and other benefits conferred upon industry after industry, shamelessly by our legislators, both state and national.  The wealthy elite in this country don’t pick favorites.  If you look at where the election funding sources for any candidate, it is easy to see that all who are viable candidates receive money from the same sources.  There is a reason why the Citizens United case was decided by the Supremes in the way it was.  Even the Supreme Court, the grand arbiter of American justice and prime interpreter of the US Constitution, is a part of the plutocracy.  Sadly, just today, I read that a judge in Virginia has ruled that corporations may make direct, unlimited political contributions to any candidate, once again claiming that if their contributions are disallowed, it will violate their First Amendment rights to free speech.
My greatest desire in writing this article is to encourage my fellow citizens to look in the mirror and decide what they want the future of this country to be, for themselves, their families, friends, and neighbors.  There are seven billion people on this planet, and only about five percent are Americans.  Do we want to police the world, be there whenever there is a catastrophe, think that we need massive military spending, and many billions in foreign aid?  Or do we want to make a greater effort to restoring this country to a land where we live right, care about each other and what happens within our borders to a far greater extent?  All I ask is that my fellow Americans pay attention and realize that if we all act together, we can make a difference.  Stop listening to hollow campaign promises and political hyperbole.  Read extensively.  Find answers and think about solutions.  If we don’t do what is needed to restore this country to a land of real promise, we are fully to blame if it continues on its present path, as sad and sorry one, which will, in the near future, lead to far greater pain and sadness for us and the ones we love.