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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Fear, Hyundais, Kias, Conspiracy Theories, Ignorance and a New Short Story



Fear has always been a motivator in American politics.  Back when we were formulating the Constitution, sparsely populated agricultural Southern states feared domination by the more urban North.  Hence, we have inequalities in the legislative branch of our government with states with small populations having an equal voice as those with larger populations in the Senate.  Behind this was the fear of Southern plantation owners that their property, specifically their slaves, might be taken away from them.  This fear was behind every Presidential election from 1796 until 1860, a period during which Southern fear of Northern abolitionists was balanced by the Northern fear of slavery’s westward expansion, and during which peace was maintained only by a series of temporary compromises.

After the Civil War, Southerners feared the newly enfranchised former slaves and voted for legislation which would suppress them.  Northerners feared the influence of the hordes of European immigrants coming to the United States, far different people from the mostly Anglo-Saxon original settlers of the new nation.  Italians, Jews, Slavic peoples were feared for the differences they represented.

Mostly, we used to welcome "huddled masses yearning to breathe free." But some feared them then just as some fear immigrants today.

Into the 20th century, working people feared the dominance of business over their interests in the nation’s economy and voted for “progressive” candidates such as Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt.  In response to this, conservatives feared that giving more power to working people would lead to Communism, and fought unions and centralization of power in the Federal Government, preferring to leave it with the more easily manipulated state legislatures.

Today, there is fear of immigrants coming into our country, for both economic and social reasons.  There is fear of terrorism spreading here from the Middle East.  There is fear of economic insecurity for American families.  There is fear of climate change and nuclear proliferation too and what can happen if these issues are not properly addressed.  In a recent New York Times column, Maureen Dowd concluded by saying that “Hillary can’t generate excitement on her own so she is relying on fear of Trump to get her into the White House.  And Trump is relying on fear of everything to get him into the White House.  So voters are stuck in the negative muck:  What are you most afraid of?” 

And to that, I add, “So what’s new about that?”  Back in 1824 and in 1828, many folks voted for Andrew Jackson because they feared what reactionary John Quincy Adams would do  (some thought him an "anglophile"), and many folks voted for Adams because they feared what a populist wild man like Jackson would do. (Adams won with a bit of conniving in 1824 and Jackson won in 1828.)   The nation has survived them, and worse.   

   And even though Franklin Delano Roosevelt said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” in his First Inaugural Address 83 years ago, fear still seems to dominate our politics.  The text of that address, including FDR actually speaking his famous words about fear can be found by clicking on http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5057 His memorable words are spoken about one minute into the audio portion.  Be sure to turn up the volume on the link.
 Jack Lippman


A Michael Gerson Column

Last week, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson wrote an interesting piece entitled “The Trump Train is Fueled by Conspiracy.”  While aimed at Republicans, of which he is one, it should be read by anyone who is interested in the future of the United States.  Just click https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-trump-train-is-fueled-by-conspiracy/2016/05/23/22ab1d90-2112-11e6-9e7f-57890b612299_story.html to access it. 



Ignorance is Bliss and Also Loves Company

Ignorant people support ignorant candidates because of their inability to recognize ignorance.  Those who are ignorant of the intricacies of foreign affairs, international trade, monetary policy, economic matters, etc. feel comfortable with someone who shares their ignorance.  Doesn’t that make sense?  Ignorance loves company, and to some, is bliss, until that day comes when the truth becomes evident.



Never Buy a Hyundai!   Never Buy a Kia!

In several prior postings, I have alerted blog followers to the fact that parts for Hyundai and Kia automobiles may be manufactured by North Korean labor, in North Korea, in the Kaesong industrial complex just north of the border between the two Koreas.  That operation is managed by the Hyundai Group and it contains many South Korean manufacturing companies which take advantage of dirt-cheap North Korean labor available there.  That labor is provided by the North Korean Government which pays the workers a pittance in North Korean currency after being paid, usually in dollars, by the South Korean companies operating in Kaesong. The manufacturers of both Kia and Hyundai automobiles are also subsidiaries of that same Hyundai group and while most of the firms at Kaesong are “low tech,” at least one South Korean manufacturer there admits to providing auto parts made in North Korea to Hyundai and Kia. Don’t just take my word for it.  Check out the information by clicking on http://www.vocativ.com/usa/uncategorized/5-products-made-in-north-korea-that-might-sneaking-past-the-u-s-trade-embargo/

 In addition to footware (shown above), fuel pumps are also made there
Right now, the Kaesong Industrial Complex is “shut down” because of tensions between the two Koreas.  But this has happened occasionally in the past, and eventually, its operation will resume as it has always done previously on such occasions.  This is because (1) North Korea needs the money, (2) South Korea sees Kaesong as a possible key to an ultimate reunification of the two Koreas and (3) the Korean family which founded the Hyundai conglomerate which has undergone many, many corporate restructurings over the years, came from what is now North Korea and that family still has many connections there.

In all fairness to Hyundai and Kia, auto parts made at Kaesong might not end up in vehicles sold in the United States.  Still, they might be used in Hyundai and Kia vehicles sold elsewhere in the world.  I believe that the profits derived from the use of automobile parts made by cheap North Korean labor (far cheaper than labor in any other Asian country) at the Hyundai-managed Kaeson Industrial Complex in North Korea enable the Hyundai and Kia companies to price their vehicles wherever they may be sold, including in the United States, in an extremely competitive manner.

When I meet someone who tells me that they are purchasing a Hyundai or Kia vehicle (usually because they are less expensive than comparable cars), I make certain to tell them that they are indirectly subsidizing a rogue nuclear-armed dictatorship which makes no bones about the fact that it considers the United States to be its enemy and would not hesitate to attack us.  I question the depth of the patriotism of any American who, once made aware of these facts, knowingly purchases a Hyundai or a Kia automobile.  (And, sad to say, I have several close friends who fall into that category!)


Where Turneth the Worm

An Animal Story from the Cascade Lakes Writers' Group

Jack Lippman

Anna Lida lived at the end of the tunnel.  She wasn’t very sure whether she was a boy or a girl but it really didn’t matter, since all of the others down there were about the same, including her friend, Eartha.  The important thing was to get enough to eat.  Periodically, Anna and the others would work their way through the tunnel and come out amidst grass and soil, which contained all kinds of good things, animal, vegetable and otherwise upon which they could nibble. 

Early on, Anna wondered why she couldn’t move around more easily as the other creatures she saw who had legs could.  Easy to please though, she was content to accept the explanation that she and her relatives should be thankful that they had been given the ability to simply crawl about, and she was more or less satisfied to do just that, actually enjoying going for a nice wiggle around the yard occasionally. But down deep, both in her thoughts and underneath the soil where she often dreamt as she curled up to take a nap, Anna aspired for something better.  She often, in the depths of the tunnel, discussed such things with her friend, Eartha.  What was the purpose of it all, together they wondered.

One day a little boy with a small shovel came into the yard and started to dig a hole very close to the tunnel.  All of a sudden a lot of dirt came tumbling around Anna and the next thing she knew, the boy had her in his fingers and was putting her in a can with a little water at the bottom and some other wiggling friends of hers. A few minutes later the boy pulled Anna out of the can and stuck something sharp through her.  Before she knew it, she was at the end of a length of string being thrown into more water than she could ever imagine existed.  She wiggled, and wiggled and wiggled but could not get free from the sharp thing.  All of a sudden, a little fish swam up and tried to take a bite of her.  It missed the first time, but had pulled enough on her to pull her loose from the sharp thing.  Anna, feeling much better, and none the worse for being punctured by the sharp thing, swam away.  But her freedom was short-lived.  The fish swam after her and caught her between its teeth and ate her up for dinner.

But that was only the beginning of Anna’s adventure.  The next afternoon, another fish, much, much bigger than the first one, swam up to the fish which had eaten her up, and in one gulp, swallowed it whole.  Now a funny thing happened to Anna.  Even though her body had been all chewed up and digested by the little fish which was now being digested by the big fish, making that fish very happy, she was well aware of what was happening.  Anna Lida was a smart creature and figured this was going on in the part of her that was separate from her body.  

After a few days, something strange happened.  A big bird, like the ones she had hidden from when she saw them flying over the yard, came swooping down over the big water where the big fish lived.  Diving straight down, it grasped the fish into his beak and flew straight up into the air. In a few minutes, it landed on the branch of a tree where, between two nearby branches, there was a nest of twigs, grass and dry weeds.  In it were three baby birds.  Quickly, the big bird chewed up the fish and spit out its pieces into the open mouths of the little baby birds.  Even though it had been several days since Anna had possessed a physical body of her own, she knew what was happening because the part of her which was separate from her body was still working.

A few weeks later, the baby birds, now strong enough to try to fly, left their mother’s nest.  One of them flew over a field where some men wearing funny clothes, with spots on them to make them look like bushes, sat with long sticks.  When they pointed them, they made a “bang” noise and smoke came out of one end.  One of the men pointed his stick at the bird, made smoke come out of it, and before the bird even heard the “bang” sound, it was dead and fell to the ground. 

Then it started raining very hard and the men went away and left the bird on the ground, where it lay for weeks, slowly rotting away.  Anna felt terrible about this, because she had become part of that bird, from the first day its mother had brought the big fish which had swallowed the little fish which had swallowed her back to the nest.

But a few days later, lo and behold, a bunch of familiar crawling creatures, relatives of Anna Lida, found what was left of the bird.  She recognized Eartha among them. They nibbled at it until it was all gone.  Anna knew exactly what was happening because she had enjoyed feasts like that many times before and was very happy that some of the remains of the bird were now within the tummy of her friend, Eartha.  The only problem was that she had no way of letting her know, once they were back in the tunnel, that their souls were now merged.  But she would figure out how to do this, some way, some day.


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Jack Lippman