Blog # 164       A COLLEGIATE CRITIQUE

The college, of which we presently write, would not evoke thoughts of campus life, tuition, academic standing or admissions policy; it is, in fact, the long established American institution, the “Electoral College.” Unique in the entire civilized world, this mechanism, established by the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, we maintain, gives the lie to our proudly advertised standard of “one man, one vote.” It, like an inflamed appendix, is a troublesome vestigial organ and best done away with.

“Democracy” is a word of Greek origin, representing the politically salutary concept of one man, one vote. [Today, happily, this includes women.] The concept has often proven to be inspirational, if not consistently accurate.  Athens, Greece, for example, where the word had its origin, is often represented to be the birthplace of democracy, but this representation is entirely fallacious; only those qualifying as “Athenian Citizens,” a minority of Athenians, could vote. The large balance of the population, classified as “foreigners,” captives and slaves were not afforded the franchise.

Just as misleading as an uninformed concept of Athenian democracy, with specific reference to our Presidential elections, is our celebrated American representation of “one man, one vote.” The 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the foundational basis for the mechanism called “The Electoral College” and is the exclusive method for their election. Pursuant to this mechanism, the voters of each State vote for “Electors” (assigned to the respective candidates) not the candidates directly, for said offices; a majority, 270 electoral votes, wins the top two offices. Each State is entitled to the number of Electors equal to the sum of the number of its Congressional  Representatives plus two, the latter representing the uniform number of Senators allotted to each State.

There have been several elections, including the most recent one, where, based upon this flawed mechanism, a President and Vice-President were chosen, despite the fact that the “winners” garnered far less than the number of popular votes cast for their opponents. We find this to be hypocritical and inconsistent with the most precious and defining feature of a democracy.

This contemptible mechanism has also led to an unhealthy practice in which candidates will center their campaign efforts on States which have comparatively more electoral votes (“swing States”) and relatively ignore other States with less, albeit equally entitled to access. It has also been used, in recent past history, memorably, by the Southern States, to accommodate their immoral exclusion of certain groups of people, particularly black people, from the right to vote.

There may, conceivably, be some measure of acceptable argument in the equal allocation of two Senators per State, irrespective of population, arguably, to assure that all national interests are fairly represented in legislation; but the utility and rationale of that unfair and undemocratic mechanism, the Electoral College, mandated for the election of our national leader, boggles the mind. The right of every American voter to vote directly for his nation’s chief should not be diluted or impaired by any undemocratic filter. –p.

Blog # 163 THE MOUNTAIN

We have always treasured a particular Buddhist teaching which profoundly describes the process of acquisition of knowledge and wisdom, making use of an enlightening and visual metaphor, a mountain. The choice of words in the teaching, from a pedagogical point of view, is brilliantly construed so that only after considered analysis (which is the point) does it convey the  intended message.

The expression, generally stated is: “When you first see it, it is a mountain. Look again and you do not see a mountain. The next time you look, it is a mountain.” The words of the lesson may, upon initial consideration, appear to make little sense. The next time (after some enlightenment on the subject) you will then, once more, see the mountain, but now you will see it with some understanding of what a mountain is. The evident conclusion is that man’s knowledge of himself and his world depends upon his learned wisdom.

There exists a common misconception among many, that the youthful time of life  is lacking in existential concern and mature responsibilities, and  is accordingly , carefree and untroubled; such people have undoubtedly, or conveniently, forgotten their own past.

As children mature, they are imbued with the highest standards of morality and justice by well-meaning parents and teachers; they ingest rigid, settled and orthodox standards of rectitude. These teachings later, as a practical matter, prove to be inconsistent with actual experience, and to that extent, prove disorienting. The young person, at this stage, in reaction, may be inclined to rebel against parents and  society with charges of hypocrisy and feelings of disappointment.  Some engage in specific reactive behaviors, or by joining fringe groups with the known reputation of being opposed to mainstream society. At this stage, any experienced societal acceptance of anything less than the traditionally imbued standards, understandably, is reprehensible, disappointing and confusing.

The concept of “compromise,” to the inexperienced, represents the cowardly and unprincipled surrender of first principles, which rule sanctimoniously above all other considerations; pity, empathy, forgiveness, equity and sympathy. When the fog surrounding the mountain starts to lift, the young idealist is, for a time, ill- equipped to adjust, by reason of his idealistic ideation.

Before long, the dense fog of inflexible expectations lifts, and as it does, the maturing person begins to understand that in the practical course of life, ideals are the moral aspiration of good people; goals  although striven for, are not always attainable, perhaps for understandable or forgivable reasons. The sincere quest for right principle is always the goal of the moral person but not always the final result of his action.

With acquired wisdom, one looks upon the mountain with a measure of empathy and understanding.

-p.

Blog # 162    DON’T ASK SOCRATES OR ROBERT BURNS

Even an occasional follower of plinyblog.com can confidently tell you that we have consistently disparaged aphorisms and all manner of pre-packaged judgmental guides and behavioral rules. Many of our writings (such as the previous one) have attempted to discourage the use of home-spun, traditional homilies as guides to behavior or judgment.  We have ardently and consistently supported the use of personal empirical experience, interpreted by mature wisdom as the proper (and only) guide.

In past writings we have furnished numerous examples of this species of pre-packaged and useless and misleading aphoristic travesties but cannot resist another illustrative example. It appears, strangely enough, to be a well- known homily regarding the treatment of the common cold. “Feed a cold and starve a fever.” The suggested procedure (which, surprisingly, we actually have heard) is that you should allow a person suffering with a cold, to eat freely, but, in the case of the development of a fever, food is to be withheld. These observations, which are totally fallacious, actually appear to be a misquotation of an equally ignorant direction, “If you feed a cold, you will (cause) starve a fever.”

So ardent are we in our continuing effort to discourage pre-packaged, aphoristic advice, that we will bravely run the ( likely) risk of being labelled  presumptuous in making the following critical comments  regarding two truly great and justly celebrated individuals, Socrates and Robert Burns. We, nonetheless,   would bravely and humbly ask the reader to generously consider the possible merit of our observations.

The great classical Greek philosopher, Socrates is famously known for his instruction, “Know thyself.” This basic principle of life is challenging, among other things, considering the reactive effect on our sense of identity, by the element of the perception of us by other individuals with whom we regularly interact. Additionally, so many centuries before the revelation of the unconscious mind by Sigmund Freud, as well as the advent of the modern day aspiration for self- knowledge and identity, we shall assume that the intended message is that we should strive to become aware of our strengths and weaknesses, the reasonable limitation of our own capabilities, as well as our natural inclinations.

The world renowned Scottish poet, Robert Burns, of far more recent vintage, penned the famous words, “Oh would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as other see us.” The underlying basis is that our assumptions about ourselves are significantly different from the views of other people.

But the judgments of others will, as a practical matter, each vary with the individual perception; still further, since perception is purely subjective, which of the varied perceptions will be enlightening, or more accurate than our own self- assessment. The sole redeeming value of Burns’ statement is perhaps that we should not believe that our assumptions concerning ourselves are necessarily binding on others.

Socrates goes private; “know thyself” is a call to the individual to look into himself for knowledge of his identity, a situation which can be precarious considering the element of subjective fantasy; Burns looks publicly for an alternative picture of us from others. The view of Jews by Nazi Germany in the first half of the 20th Century, or the view of black people in America by much of its white population during the 16th through the 20th Centuries, was very far from appropriate or enlightening.

Man’s obligation to develop and maturely discover himself and his environment should not be relegated to pre-packaged or canned wisdom. As a rational being, man’s life is properly to be lived in accordance with his empirical experience, as it currently unfolds, with the aid (only) of mature reason, and the presence of sufficient sensitivity for other human beings.

-p.

 Blog#161       IF IT LOOKS LIKE A FISH, AND SMELLS LIKE A FISH…

We have consistently expressed disapproval and personal annoyance regarding the reductive and arrogant pseudo-wisdom presumed by aphoristic statements; instead, we have always respected and encouraged the practice of empirical reason in making judgments and decisions. Lazy, “group- think” wisdom, albeit phrased in snappy down-home folk jargon, has the potential to initially sound wise and tempting, but should on no occasion, whatsoever, be exalted by a reflexive response.

The targeted “aphorism du jour” is “What you see is what you get.” This ignorant, lazy and reductionist statement is grossly misleading and is conceivably responsible for uncountable instances of error and injustice. A possible corollary is, “If it looks like a fish and smells like fish, it is a fish.” Such “badda-bim, badda- boom” reasoning is particularly reprehensible when applied to judgment making and decisional thought concerning human beings. Its limited value may reside in simple optics, such as a bowl of oatmeal, a bicycle or an umbrella; in such cases, what you see is what you get. Notably, regarding experience in the social arena, one soon becomes confirmed in the eternal validity of this admonition.

In the Hindu tractates, the word “maya” is employed to refer to the false and distracting detail of life’s surface impressions. Things, it advises, may appear to be present but are really not what they seem.

Added to the daunting challenge, to fairly and accurately evaluate others, we are confronted with the statement of William Shakespeare, who famously wrote, “All the world’s a stage and all the people in it actors.” We would hazard our personal sense of the statement, that it does not mean we all live on a theatrical stage with scenery, costumes and an artistically written script, but rather that the particular setting of our life, situationally assigns to each of us a part, or a role, to play (well or badly). If this is so, to what extent, are the perceptions of us, by others, as well as our own self-identity, affected by the traditional stereotypical images associated with that role.

The use of time-worn stereotypes to analyze others, of course, simplifies the challenge for those of lazy and superficial inclination. Additionally, it is a double-edged sword, useful in the manipulation or misleading of others.  The strategic false acquisition of the trappings of a well -known role or persona can be used to mislead a hapless dupe who relies on appearances, viz.,”what you see is what you get.”

Far more costly, as a result of such short-sighted perception, is the populist undervaluation of those individuals who are possessed with unique qualities of creativity and advanced intellectual prowess, who are  gifted with the potential to enhance the development and further progress of society.

It is exclusively the individual’s development of mature sensitivity and acquisition of sufficient wisdom, enabling the wise evaluation of his empirical experience, which makes possible a fair and accurate evaluation of others. As we have often suggested, great literature is a primary resource for the acquisition of such requisite wisdom by the acquisition of insight and an understanding of man’s universal nature and his eternal experience.

-p.

 Blog # 160        SPEAKING OF “CLOUDS”

The plural noun “clouds” evokes visions of soft, ethereal, foggy masses, floating above the planet, whose ever changing venue is completely at the mercy of the prevailing winds.

The traditional  meaning  of the word “cloud” has been hijacked in this  digital age and employed  to refer to the repository of information and data located and stored in the miraculous ether of the internet and available for access as needed by means of the individual computer.

In view of the apparent license to change the application of the word, we at plinyblog.com have taken the liberty of further extending the word “cloud” to a third application. As we will explain, this third innovative concept makes possible the miraculous facility to engage in actual conversation between the “user” and an unlimited elective choice of great minds of the past; please note, we did say conversation.

Conversation is, essentially an exchange of statements for responsive reaction such as a reply by responsive statement, a refutation or a reactive question. This innovative application of “cloud,” in fact, can be said to exceed the utility and marvel of its stated internet application, because, as we will shortly demonstrate, it is interactive, while the internet use  describes only a mono-directional activity.

Our use of the word, “conversation,” in association with such third cloud, necessarily relies upon the element of written language (just as the internet cloud relies upon transcribed data). Written language, of course, is a system of recognizably understood words or symbols which enable the reader to ascertain the meaning of the expressed statement.[  N.B. Written language must be taught, while spoken language can be learned by reasonable exposure to it].

In this third utilization of the word “cloud,” we essentially refer to the eternal existence and ready availability of books and literature. Their existence and location is to be found in the unlimited and prodigious output of untold numbers of great authors and available at any library or bookstore. Each great novel has its own self-contained cloud, representing its recorded repository of wisdom and entertainment for access by the individual reader; and as well, an available conversation in which he is invited to participate by his reactive response.

The written expressions of  great authors when read carefully, reveal their respective interpretations of reality, and their impressions, of man, the vicissitudes of his life and the human condition in general. .

A conversation, of course, requires not only such statements, explicit or subtle, but also a reactive response .The best authors are wisely strategic and skilled enough in their art to predictably elicit, even direct, by selected language and context, the intended reaction by the reader. Such reactive response itself, albeit unspoken, satisfies the final and necessary criterion for a “conversation.” This repository of brilliant written expression, awaiting  response, is the third category of “cloud” (the literary cloud) and is present and readily available in all good literature.

It is exciting to realize that such marvelous conversations can easily  be had at any time, with any of the great and universally  celebrated authors, Dickens, Faulkner, Dostoevsky, et al. which facility (literary cloud) has  been available since the fortunate advent of the printing press.

It is also eminently clear that this new category of cloud will not mar any plans for outdoor recreation, but will only serve to enhance them.

-p.

Blog # 159 NATIONAL METEOROLOGY

There is, eternally, a solid bloc of adamant American citizens, whether for selfish  business reasons, or simply from an innate disinclination to accept new scientific findings, which has persisted in its denial of the scientifically proven premise that man plays a consequential part in planetary climate change.

By contrast, with respect to” national” atmospherics, there can be no reasonable doubt as to the unfortunate pollution of our spirit as well as to our cohesiveness. We have suffered a fracturing or “balkanization” of American society into separate and distinct cohorts of individuals, each of which, respectively, share belief systems in common and eschew the society of other such groups with differing opinions. We have often written on this subject, observing that this sociological inclination has most unfortunately resulted in the complete destruction of the healthy and constructive practice of the debate of divergent points of view and a substantial loss to the democratic process. In the course of this modest writing we will attempt to discuss the possible etiology of this regrettable phenomenon.

Those of us of requisite age, may recall the national climate during the Second World War, a period of existential threat to the nation. Americans of every stripe energetically bonded together in common cause and displayed a magnificent effort to support the war effort; war bonds were purchased, manufacture was deployed to meet urgent martial needs, servicemen marched off to engage in our defense and national empathy was publicly expressed towards the families of the fallen. Radios broadcasted President Franklin Roosevelt’s encouraging “Fireside Chats”, movies and even children’s cartoons carried optimistic and patriotic messages. As young children we voluntarily collected metal and rubber findings towards the military need; in general, the entire nation was jointly and energetically united in the uniform wartime effort.

A similar phenomenon took place following the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Towers. There was a uniform national response of outrage, anger and to be sure, an undeniable climate of citizen cohesiveness. The sentiment was uniformly appropriate to the horrific event. Even firefighters and police were recognized and honored for their service to the besieged municipality, the City of New York.

Can it be the fact that it is only during a period of general or national peril that the climate of joint citizenship, shared loyalty and national bonding, the expected response, but that in the absence of such common exposure to danger, we naturally regress to a divisive and factional society?

We would choose to posit the theory that there is a need on the part of many individuals to assuage  personal feelings of insecurity and relative isolation by the reassuring comfort of acceptance derived from the feeling of fellowship and secure fraternity, resulting from a shared credo; most especially in joint opposition to other groups holding divergent beliefs.  But, what a price to pay for ersatz security!

A mature, reasonably self-sufficient individual, based upon his personal internal resources, acquired from his education and experience, has developed his own sense of personal worth and identity. He has internalized an acceptable belief system and is personally secure and not fearful of debate; should he find himself in error, he can make the necessary correction without personal jeopardy to his esteem.  “Group think” may furnish a degree of comfort for those who have not developed a mature sense of self and a personally satisfying rationale for life; but to the mature intellect, “preaching to the choir” is an unacceptable and useless waste of time; populist approval is deemed unnecessary and immaterial.

We have written extensively on the subject of the self-enhancing and fulfilling life style in which the reading of good literature and the pursuit of the arts and sciences creates the whole and independent citizen, capable of mature self-realization and independent thought. A nation composed of such citizens can be assured of eternally clear skies and most favorable climate.

-p.

Blog # 158        LET’S RESTORE AMERICA

The subject of ancient history, perhaps for reasons of convenience, is traditionally represented In terms of an agreed consensus as to epochs. Following the Paleolithic: Stone, Iron and Bronze Ages, we are guided to “The Dark Ages,” (Medieval Ages),” The Age of Enlightenment,” “The Industrial Revolution” and the like. Such generalized categories should properly be understood in fact to denote gradual trends, collectively described in analytical retrospective.

Just as evolution demonstrates a slow, steady march of progress toward a rational animal, homo- sapiens, so has society, in fits and starts, travelled the long developing road to modernity. The historical period known as “The Dark Ages,” characterized by ignorance, belief in superstition and constant warfare, is succeeded by the “Age of Enlightenment,” typified by a new emphasis on reason and ideas as the primary source of authority, rather than upon a third party external agency such as witches and other irrational conceptions. In lieu of burning heretics and witches, man began, constructively, to “burn the midnight oil” in the pursuit of empirical knowledge and self-enhancement.

Each age, apparently, has its respective share of atavistic individuals, who are resolutely opposed to advancement and progress in learning and who deprecate scientific inquiry as “unholy.” In our era, such phenomenon is evidenced by those who would deny evolution and as well, man’s consequential impact on climate change despite irrefutable proof of the existence of the two phenomena. As universally is the case, we have low information, “flat earth people,” who denigrate, and often impede, the exercise of efforts toward the goal of understanding ourselves and the planetary environment. Thus, we experience individuals who oppose family planning, research in the fields of cellular biology and genetics, evolutionary science, climatology, in fact all basic intellectual and scientific inquiry. They also oppose international relations and as well, aspirations for ethnic equality and social justice.

We have previously observed the balkanization, or fracturing, of society by the formation of insular groups of like-thinking people who eschew and condemn other such groups who think otherwise. The foreseeable result has been a complete break-down of civic amity and the complete inability of citizens of such insular sub-societies to discuss disparate views with others, a practice necessary to the success of a democracy, as instructed by our founding fathers.

Further estrangement and insularity is a result of the widespread practice of electronic communication and mechanical messaging, as opposed to personal interaction, between communicating members of society. Electronic conversation is akin to the transmission of data and far removed from the natural satisfaction resulting from the shared experience of human spontaneous interaction.

The dynamic, catalytic combination of the devaluation of intellectual prowess and the disrespect for academia, the depersonalization of interactive communication and the unfortunate fragmentation of society into insular cohorts of shared beliefs, has taken a substantial toll from society, resulting in an atmosphere of critical distrust and insularity and the loss of common goals and unified national aspirations. This created a void capable of being filled by low- information populism resulting in inevitable mismanagement and discontent. Such coarsening of American society was a necessary pre-requisite to the election of Donald Trump, an egotistical, ignorant, glitzy television game show host, to the office of the President of the United States, the leader of the free world. In the short period of his term, to date, his adolescent behavior has embarrassed the nation and confused foreign heads of state. His complete unsuitability for the office and irrational temperament has resulted in the forfeiture of our country’s role as accepted leader of the free world (apparently in favor of Germany).

Unprecedentedly, our nation, since the recent election, seems to be completely rudderless and vulnerable; considering the populist distain for education and intellectual achievement, and the resultant discord and coarsening of our society, it might well be said by future historians that we are experiencing a contemporary version of the dark ages.

Millions of literate and intelligent American citizens view this debacle with shock and great dismay. Books and brilliant articles have been published and eloquent lectures have been delivered, but the ardent citizen feels powerless to reverse the tide of this disastrous populist tsunami.

Unless we feel hapless enough to accede to this disgraceful status quo, we cannot wait eternities for an arrival of a new age of enlightenment. Instead, we must be patiently, emphatically and optimistically, pro-active, in a strategic and thoughtful plan of action to restore the United States of America to its former greatness; it is our historic duty and a moral` imperative. There are, conceivably, an unlimited variety of corrective steps and we must remain dedicated, optimistic and patient. Pliny’s suggestions are as follows:

  • Substantially increase the practice of real personal interactions with others and minimize the number of electronic communications.
  • Resolve to socialize with neighbors of divergent political belief; invite them and refrain from the expression of your political philosophy and world view. When comfort is achieved, discuss any subject with the express understanding that you both share the mutual desire to have a great and enterprising country.
  • Increase your reading of good literature, prominent newspapers and attendance at educative lectures (including TED talks on PBS).
  • Volunteer, preferably, with others, to perform some public service.
  • Invite others of different ethnicity to your home for dinner or barbeque.
  • Teach your young that they were born into their particular culture by random accident and eschew all “we” and “they” vocabulary.
  • Stay well informed and vote intelligently

-p.

Blog #157 BODYSLAMMING AMERICA

History has consistently demonstrated that the individual persona is profoundly affected by its perception of the thinking of the societal mainstream and its moral compass.

Today, Germany is a peaceful and just nation. One can however, summon up the recollection of a Germany in recent history which was incomparably different. In a nation which had produced Goethe, Schiller and Beethoven, its people were imbued with despicable hatred and prejudice against certain categories of people, especially Jews, and successfully indoctrinated in an immoral and warlike nationalism.

Another illustrative example took place in a period, later known as “The McCarthy Era.” In this period of the 20thCentury, our American population, normally composed of reasonably educated and enlightened people, was generally converted into a paranoid, fearful society by the over-blown threat of Communism as espoused by, the later discredited, Senator Joseph McCarthy and his neurotic disciples. The unfortunate metastasis of this false and unsubstantiated alarm wrongfully ruined careers and reputations of many good people and for some years damaged the character of our nation and threatened the civil and legal rights of its citizens.

During an earlier period in our  national  history, a very substantial portion of our citizens, especially those who resided in the southern portion of our country, otherwise good and god-fearing people, actually believed that black human beings were mere agricultural equipment. The Supreme Court of the United States, the highest legal authority in the land, ruled in the the Dred Scott case, {the Sainted Judge Taney}  that blacks were just chattels (property) and could legally be returned to their “legal owner.” Fortunately, in contemporary American society, civil liberties are, inarguably, the entitlement of every human being, although, at various times still not being applied to its optimum.

A dark, heavy storm cloud has recently settled over our nation, signaling an ominous roadblock to our continued progress toward our perennial aspiration for a perfect nation. A downplaying of the values of higher education and intellectual understanding of man and his environment has taken place, in favor of athletic prowess and populist diversions, such as games and inane game shows. Real conversation and human interaction has been replaced by electronic message; written correspondence has become a vestigial practice. Success has come to be universally understood to equate with the tally of accumulation of external goods, rather than the product of an internal analysis of self- worth value and rationally evaluated level of self- fulfillment.

Consistent with this coarsened atmosphere, it was almost inevitable that the election of a Donald Trump would result. Mr. Trump, an egotistical, ignorant, former host of a glitzy television game show, was the natural choice of the low information, flat- earth population that helped assure his success; many of which people were so mesmerized by his snake-oil demagogic promises of Valhalla, as to vote against their own vital interest, governmental assistance.

Predictably and factually, in the brief period of time since his inauguration, he has ignorantly caused embarrassment, internationally and domestically, and not unexpectedly has strategically abandoned his mesmerized, needy supporters in favor of billionaires and generals .He has eschewed all expected standards of proper behavior, speaking and acting in primitive fashion, on impulsive, rather than upon considered behavior. If more were necessary, he has chosen frequently to utter bigoted statements which wrongful action is felt to have served as a catalyst for the increase of late in hate crime.

The sole two traditionally protective institutions for the American citizen are the Courts (although somewhat disappointing of late) and of course, the invaluable media.

In this context, is it so very surprising, that at a Montana Republican Congressional election rally, the   candidate publicly chose to “body slam” a representative of the media? After all, really, aren’t all of our national traditions, at present, being body slammed?

-p

Blog # 156 A CANDID CONVERSATION

We have always maintained a consistent, idealistic and optimistic inclination regarding the future of our nation and ourselves, as its citizens. Most especially was this true during the period of our undergraduate and graduate years. Great energy (and some naiveté) fueled our hopes and expectations of a nation and world which exemplified our aspirations for peace and economic justice.

 

We have always been grateful for having been born in this country with its successful balancing of liberty with democracy, and where (at least after F.D.R.) programs of government responsibility to assist the needy and to oversee the safety and health of our country, were established.

The theme and design constituting the competent architecture of our government is, functionally and legally, described as “the separation of powers,” pursuant to which the three operating branches of government, executive, legislative and judicial are given specifically designated and circumscribed boundaries of authority and function; such separation to be enforced through the Supreme Court

In our undergraduate studies it so happened that the classic French satirical play, “Candide,” was assigned in two classes, French Language and European Literature. In this play by Voltaire, the main character, Candide, imbued by his professor with the philosophy that everything always happens for the best, nevertheless consistently encounters injustice, tragedy and disappointment; this is the basis for his (Voltaire’s) ultimate sermon on life, “Stay home and plant your own garden.”

As young idealists and consummate optimists, with rosy predictions of a better world, we were greatly shocked and disappointed by such literary advice, and wondered at the celebrated status which the dons of literature and philosophy customarily accord to M. Voltaire.

As fate would have it, following decades of steadfast adherence to an earnest belief in the optimistic future of our nation, politically and sociologically, we were confronted with two confusing and disheartening developments which severely challenged our erstwhile assumptions; they were the happening of (1) The Citizen’s United Case, and, (2) the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency.

  • {The Citizen’s United Case}. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has the authority and the vital responsibility to enforce the nation’s rule of law, as enunciated in the U.S. Constitution; among the most basic legal principles is the constitutionally mandated “Separation of Powers,” a foundational principle in the functioning of our democratic form of governance.

In the Citizen’s United case, SCOTUS ruled that a corporation was a “person” and as such has the right of free speech, inclusive of the right to donate desired sums of money to a candidate.

Every law school freshman can tell you that a “corporation” is a mere legal fiction, created to limit the liability of entrepreneurs; thus it can be a party to a contract, a named plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit and is, to that limited extent, a “person”, but only for this commercial purpose; It is clearly not a natural, or real, person with constitutional or any other rights.

The inarguable assumption is that if a law school freshman knows this, SCOTUS does, perforce

More shocking is the knowledge that, as strictly limited by Federal Procedural Statute, no case can legally be brought, to SCOTUS which contains a political issue, however minor or indirect. For this purpose a litigant has, since the establishment of SCOTUS, been initially required to file a preliminary, but decisive, petition to prove that the issue in his case has no political ramifications.   This strict, “black letter” precedential barrier has always been a permanent fixture in our appellate law. We were therefore very troubled by the Bush v. Gore election case, admitted and decided by SCOTUS, but absolutely devastated by SCOTUS accepting the Citizen’s United case and then rendering such an irrational and unprecedented decision;  by freeing the floodgate of unlimited corporate political contribution and thus making a Punch and Judy show of our heritage of representative democracy.

  • {The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency.} We have, on many occasions, referenced the statement of Thomas Jefferson to the effect that, a literate and informed citizenry is required for the success of a democracy. Trump, an egotistic, shallow, glitzy game show host, with the gift of demagoguery and style of a snake oil salesman. by non-specific promises of a utopia, won the vote of the low information, flat –earth segment of our population; who were so mesmerized by his rant as to vote against their own vital interest, government assistance. He was also supported by voters who were simply “fed up with Washington” and responded to the candidates solemn vow to “drain the swamp.” The facts following the election show a much wider, deeper swamp with sociopathic alligators, mostly oil businessmen, American and Russian who clearly place a value on profits, above the life and health of mankind and the planet.

Trump’s ignorant egotism, poor judgment and shallowness of mind, in this short period of time, has damaged and confused relations, foreign and domestic and has embarrassed the nation.

We are not quite ready to stay home and plant our own garden, but are seriously considering a letter of apology to Monsieur Voltaire.

-p.

Blog # 155 THAT RIVER IN EGYPT

The Nile River, the well- known, biblically significant, Egyptian waterway is said to flow geographically in two directions; its boundaries, however, are confined to that Middle Eastern Country. The river’s unrelated homonym, “denial” (my apologies) is by significant contrast, ubiquitous and possibly universal.

The noun “denial,” for example, is understandably employed to describe a common reaction to the sudden receipt of tragic news, prior to the gradual, sad process of acceptance of the loss, which slowly evolves later in time.

Denial also encompasses a refusal to overindulge, accept a foolhardy challenge, the rejection of an offer, the opting of a Spartan life for religious or philosophical reasons, and is always of elective service.

However, the focus of this note is a search for some insight into the basis for the adamant denial of empirically proven phenomena, most particularly, by literate and intelligent people, many of whom, by contrast, appear readily open to acceptance and retention of matters of irrational preconception.

Such adamant denial of empirically demonstrated phenomena, most especially, by literate and intelligent people, can indeed be puzzling. Our working hypothesis is that the acknowledgement of certain objective and demonstrative advances in knowledge might present a challenge to one’s socially inherited and long- held fundamental belief system; the latter being a defining ingredient in one’s the temporal identity.

A review of ancient history reveals that until the middle of the 17th Century, the universally accepted understanding was, consistent with the religious dogma of the time, that man was the center of the universe and that, accordingly, the Sun travelled around his Earth; those who chose to dissent from this belief, suffered the severe sanctions of heresy. The ultimate acceptance of the heliocentric functioning of the solar system put an end to such traditionally borne ignorance and to its denial of reality.

Even today, many self-described, “informed” people, when presented with newly discovered reality, will reflexively militate against its acceptance in favor of adherence to some earlier, often disproven, traditional belief. The ancient French expression, “Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose,” despite its contextual reference to royal governance, has meaningful application here as well.

Literate people who choose to deny the evolutionary history of our planet and its inhabitants {contrary to ultimate geological, biological, anthropological and biological validation} seem to persist in lichen- like adhesion to their life-long, social and religious belief in a narrative called “creationism.” According to such story, the Deity fashioned the world and all its inhabitants in the space of less than one week, and just in good time for a week-end rest. We are able, once more, to observe that even in the present era, adherence to traditional, supernatural belief, in many quarters, overrides reason. It is known that for many centuries man believed in a flat earth and in the actual existence of witches, demons and hobgoblins. There is much disappointment and frustration in the realization that the phenomenon of antediluvian transmission of dark- age dogma appears to subsist in the human psyche.

However, we would charge that the denial of man’s participation in climate damage is materially distinguishable from all other instances of the denial of evident facts; it presents a “hybrid” varietal of that ageless poison ivy bush of denial. One predictable parent of this hybrid denial is the human weakness discussed above, the fearful adhesion to older and familiar (disproven) assumptions. Added to this exemplar of tragically stunted growth, are the many sociopaths, cognizant of the truth, who shamelessly and despicably, value short-term profits as having a higher priority than the proper condition of our planet and the life and health of its inhabitants.

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