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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 for 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.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

01-25-2023 - A Divided House, Fears & Hatreds, More Avoidable Shootings, Wealth Redistribution?, Another Letter, and Two 'Must Read' Columns

Lincoln and Douglas in 1858

 
A House Divided Cannot Stand


When Abraham Lincoln, in debating Stephen Douglas in the 1858 Illinois Senate contest (which he lost) said 'a house divided cannot stand ... ,' he meant that the split in the nation could not endure and that the country ultimately must go in either direction and not remain split. The issue then was the expansion of slavery into new territories.

The Civil War ostensibly remedied that ‘split,’ but really, did it resolve deeper ideological differences between the contending sides?  Nope.

The issue today is not one single thing, as it was in 1858, but whether the views of a minority of Americans should prevail over the views of a majority as to the role of government. That boils down to how well our government's structure enables the preservation of American democracy, the enabling of the people to make decisions in the best interest of the majority of them, one of the reasons the original thirteen colonies broke away from England in the first place.  

Should that structure (which includes an unbalanced electoral college, two senators for every state regardless of population, legal gerrymandering, all powers not in Constitution being left to the States, etc.) be revised in a more democratic direction or left as it is?  Until this is resolved by legislation or Constitutional amendment, we remain a ‘house divided.’

JL 

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Catering to the Right-WingEchoing South Pacific

A Federal judge recently ruled that that Florida’s Governor DeSantis violated the Constitution, stepping on the elected Hillsborough County (Tampa) prosecutor’s First Amendment rights, by firing him for saying that he wasn’t going to chase after violators of Florida’s abortion restrictions.  But the judge went on to say that he was not in a position to reinstate that fired Democratic prosecutor, enabling DeSantis to claim the decision as a victory for himself.   DeSantis manages to get away with many such violations, stepping on long-standing Constitutional rights.  What he does is never in the interest of the people, but always to lock in the votes of right-wing conservatives.  

So it is with the Republican majorities in the House of Representatives and many State legislatures.  Whatever appeals to those on the far right is what gets done.  Their votes are crucial to such politicians.

No matter how damning the clear evidence that is revealed in courtrooms and in the media every day may be, it does not change the convictions of right-wing supporters of Republicans in Congress and in State Houses, like DeSantis.  Why?  They remain motivated by fears and hatreds fed to them by those whose aims do not include serving the best interests of the citizens of this great country.

Even FoxNews' 'mea culpa' and Alex Jones' being destroyed in Court doesn't matter to them. If those fears and hatreds make them comfortable, they will believe anything.

These lyrics, written by Oscar Hammerstein II, from the ground-breaking musical ‘South Pacific,’ say it all.  And that is why control over what is ‘taught’ in schools is becoming a political issue in many parts of this country.

“You've got to be taught

To hate and fear,

You've got to be taught

From year to year,

It's got to be drummed

In your dear little ear

You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid

Of people whose eyes are oddly made,

And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,

You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You've got to be carefully taught!”

JL

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Two More Shootings and a Daytona Tragedy

This time in California.  We never learn.  The number of weapons in circulation and available in this country makes these tragedies possible.  Mental issues, vengeance, gang warfare … whatever … the availability of guns makes such killings possible. 


And I just read of the woman who walked into her terminally ill husband’s room in a Daytona Beach hospital and shot him dead.  They had earlier agreed to do this when the death of one of them became imminent, the family’s gun being more readily accessible to them than a less bloody fatal poison to carry out an agreed-upon murder and suicide pact. She was also supposed to take her own life as well but couldn’t quite bring herself to squeeze the trigger a second time.  This tragedy, and it is a tragedy, goes back to these retirees having a gun in the house to use in carrying out their agreement, like a common piece of household equipment. Washers, dryers, stoves, TVs, aspirin in the medicine chest, etc., guns … all ‘normal’ to all too many Americans.  That is wrong!  (She was arrested after an hours-long standoff in the hospital, where other patients had been endangered by this lady pointing her pistol at anyone trying to enter her dead husband’s room.)


The solution is very simple.  Strong gun control laws will reduce gun violence! 
Anyone who opposes such laws contributes to mass murders, gang shootings and makes possible events like the sad tragedy in the Daytona hospital.  They are accessories to murders like the two in California in the news right now.  And that includes members of Congress and State legislators.

No one wants to take away weapons from hunters, target shooters or even for personal protection at homes or businesses, and those rights must be preserved, but as a starter, the Second Amendment must be either repealed, replaced, or at least significantly modified by Supreme Court decision, and not in the evil and misguided direction of the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s 2008 misinterpretation of that Amendment. 

Poor Justice Scalia, it turns out, was unaware that he was Satan’s unwitting representative on the Supreme Court of the United States back then. That decision has caused hundreds, if not thousands, of unnecessary deaths in this country. Blood is on the hands of the Justices who voted to make them possible, but especially on those of the late Justice Scalia who wrote the opinion in D.C. vs Heller that, in effect, erased the first thirteen words of the Second Amendment.  

(We are the only nation in the world where there are more guns than people!)  

JL

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Great Wealth and What to Do About It – Redistribution via Taxation?

The January 23 issue of the New Yorker magazine includes an article about a wealth manager and her relationship with a particular client.   Forgetting the details of the particular situation written about, the article points up the truly unbelievable wealth which has been accumulated by some families and individuals in this country, and the steps, some entirely legal, some illegal, and some ‘on the fence,’ their wealth managers take to preserve this wealth for succeeding generations. 

I am not a communist, but no person should be able to acquire that much wealth in our country and pass it on to their heirs untouched.  That supposedly went out with the ‘Middle Ages.’  We no longer have royalty and aristocracy in our country. Families should not get away with having many billions of dollars of assets, and palatial dwellings all over the world. Taxes are supposed to have some leveling effect on the distribution of wealth in this country.  The jaw-dropping extent of such wealth may be the reason that in this, the richest nation in the world, poverty still exists and there are homeless people sleeping on the streets. 

From the unbelievably great wealth described in article, I get the feeling that such homelessness and poverty might easily be eliminated if a family’s accumulation of wealth were limited to something ‘reasonable’ like a measly five hundred million dollars or so, and the excess paid in taxes.  (Many corporate CEOs make close to that each year in their annual compensation, including bonuses and stock options, while many of their employees earn a minimum wage, or not much more than it.) 

Wealth redistribution, via taxes paying for government benefits for those who need them, is the logical solution.  Estate taxes were supposed to solve this problem but wealth managers easily find ways to avoid them so that money never finds its way into the pockets of the rest of the population.  It is just rolled into the family’s next generation, minimally taxed if taxed at all.  I feel this ‘leveling’ is something the government should be doing by its tax policy … and possibly why the Republicans in the House are united against properly funding the Internal Revenue Service.  

The wealthy donors who finance the candidacy of many in Congress  (and that includes some Democrats as well as Republicans) want it to stay the way it is, keeping the government (and that means the IRS) as far away as possible from their wealth and without the tools to get closer to it.

And don’t tell me that is communism

JL

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I Keep Writing Letters

Content of a Letter I sent to the Palm Beach Post on Jan. 24

The article in Tuesday's Post about Governor DeSantis' administration rejecting the new Advanced Placement course on African American Studies for use in Florida schools mentioned only one long-time Republican person of color switching to 'independent' because of that.  Every Republican Black official in Florida, either elected or appointed, should follow suit and switch their registration to either 'No Party Affiliation,' or Democratic.  At a minimum, they should not be supporting Governor DeSantis. Those that continue to do so have a serious problem with their priorities and should open their eyes.

I will let you know if they publish it.

JL

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Two ‘Not to Be Missed’ Opinions 

Find Time to Read Them

And speaking of the Palm Beach Post, two columns appeared in its January 25 edition.  One reproduced Heather Cox Richardson’s recent ‘Letters from an American’ blog posting explaining how abortion first became an issue during Richard Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign, a year before Roe vs Wade. Find it at https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/january-21-2023 or CLICK HERE.

The other, originally an opinion piece in the New York Times by former Senator Gary Hart, a failed seeker of the Democratic presidential nomination almost half a century ago, severely criticizes House Speaker McCarthy’s vengeful efforts to investigate the ‘weaponization’ of government against conservatives.  Check it out at https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/17/opinion/church-committee-republicans.html or CLICK HERE.

JL

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Two Items of Interest:

·       Email AlertsIf you are NOT receiving emails from me alerting you each time there is a new posting on Jackspotpourri, just send me your email address and we’ll see that you do.  And if you are forwarding a posting to someone, you might suggest that they do the same, so they will be similarly alerted. 

 You can pass those email addresses to me by email at           jacklippman18@gmail.com 

 Forwarding Postings: And of course, please forward this posting to anyone you think might benefit from reading it.  Google Blogspot, the platform on which Jackspotpourri is prepared, now makes that very easy.  If you click on the envelope with the arrow at the conclusion of every posting, (it looks like this:  )  ,you will have the opportunity to list a number of  email addresses, along with a comment from you, each of which will receive a link to the full blog that you now are reading, with all of its bells and whistles.  Or you can just tell folks to check out the blog by visiting https://jackspotpourri.blogspot.com or by providing a link to that address in your email to them.

Either way will work, sending them the link above or clicking on the envelope at the bottom of this posting. 

        


Have a nice day. 




Thursday, January 19, 2023

01-19-2023 - A Letter Gets Published, Political Junk, Headless Manniquins and thoughts on Millenia

                                                     *   *   *   * 

My letter to the Palm Beach Post published 0n January 19

“Every senior citizen in the State of Florida who voted for a Republican Congressional Representative in November should listen very, very, carefully to what those they elected are saying.  They will not vote to increase the government's debt limit, essential to the operation of our government, unless your Social Security and Medicare benefits are reduced.  Of course, a Democratic Senate and a Democratic president will not let it happen.  But listen very, very, carefully to what those you voted for in November are saying, and never vote for them again, ever.” 
     
Republicans are holding it as hostage until they get
their spending cuts, including Medicare and Social Security
                          

JL

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Political Junk – Defunding the IRS through Fear and Hatred

The Republican majority in the House is set on reducing financial support for the Internal Revenue Service.  Contrary to their silly made-up claim that the additional funds the Democrats wanted for the IRS were for the purpose of squeezing money out of middle and bottom-rung taxpayers, the money would be used to replace retiring personnel, pay for up-to-date systems and enable more audits to be made of the very, very, wealthy who often get away with murder when they file. When one’s real income is in the seven or eight-figure range, form 1040 can get very complicated and include a truckload of supplements, resulting in an auditing process requiring considerable human resources to conduct. And that costs money … which often is money well spent!  The G.O.P. wants to defund the IRS even further.  Right now the IRS is forced to stack its pending business in their cafeterias, waiting to be looked at. Guess for whose benefit!  The Senate and the President will stop them cold!

It’s those very, very, wealthy American ‘oligarchs’ who finance the campaigns of Republican extremists’ whose shenanigans personified by the MAGA movement and the House Freedumb Caucus enable them to get their way, as pointed out by Robert Reich in a recent column.

You might ask why so many Americans support measures which are clearly not in their interest like reducing Social Security and Medicare, and defunding the IRS.  The Republicans manage to convince them to vote for candidates with such unpopular ideas with two pitches: Fear and Hatred.  (Throw a little religious zeal in with that mix.)

When they speak, try to figure out which motivational button they are trying to push.  Fear?  Of whom or of what?  Hatred?  Of whom and why?  The answers may be one or the other or even both.

JL    

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Faceless Mannequins

One should not criticize the beliefs of observers of religions other than their own if any.   Such criticism should come from within that religion.  But the insistence on masking the faces of female mannequins in store windows by the Taliban in Afghanistan is silly.  They think not doing so might promote idol worship.  They felt doing it this way was preferable to headless mannequins, which might have serious political implications. 

   or  

It is up to other Muslims to try to correct this laughable restriction. 

JL

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Now here’s an item I’ve been playing with over the past few weeks and now that it is completed, I really don’t know what to do with it, so for better or for worse, it is being included in today’s blog posting.  Perhaps it might be educational?

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Millenia

No, not the defeated former president’s wife, but periods of one thousand years, ten centuries.  Millenniums (or Millenia) are a convenient although artificial division of time and here are some random thoughts about them.  Keep in mind that ten centuries are a very, very, long time.

If these comments appear too ‘general,’ that is because these thoughts come off of the top of my head, and are not the result of any research project.  I’ve used A.D. and B.C. suffixes, even though they are religiously based, but they are more readily understood.

                              *   *

The millennium which we have just completed (1001 A.D. to 2000 A.D.) started with the continuance, at least in Western civilization, of Christianity dominating all aspects of life while routine day-to-day affairs were being carried on by earlier feudal, or what remained of tribal structures.  There need not have been a border between ‘Church and State’ because equivalents of ‘states’ didn’t even exist back then.  But over its centuries, this millennium saw changes starting to creep in with more freedoms beginning to become available in thought, religion, economics and even government.  The Magna Carta (1215 A.D.) opened the way to  a limitation of a king’s power, and subsequently, the development of a middle class of merchants, traders, and a business class followed.  Christianity became more than merely Roman Catholicism when Protestants broke away. Minds were slowly opening up, resulting in the Enlightenment, the Renaissance, the Reformation, plus scientific and technological advances leading to the Industrial Revolution.  These creative forces resulted in inefficient feudal states morphing into nations, either peacefully or violently.  Change did not come easy or quickly. It took centuries.  Individual personal freedoms lagged behind but struggles to attain them were becoming more common. 

All of this occurred during that millennium within the context of a Caucasian, male-dominated European world, including North America, initially with little heed being paid to what was happening elsewhere on the planet, areas that the West considered only as places to colonize for their natural resources. Asian and African history in that millennium was protected by the isolation of these regions, although a trickling of commerce with China began over traders’ routes such as the ‘Silk Trail,’ eventually blossoming into what it is today.  This story will continue later with what is occurring in the following millennium, the one we are in now, but first, let’s go back in the other direction to the millennium just previous to the one we’ve described in the preceding paragraphs. 

                                      *   *

Here’s your ticket back to ‘1 A.D. to 1000 A.D.,’ stamped ‘Admit Bearer to the Dark Ages.’

Religion ruled the roost in that millennium.  These ten centuries commenced with the rise of Christianity, which added to the monotheism of the Hebrews, the ascendency of the Roman Catholic Church becoming the major force for the entire millennium.  There was the birth of Islam in its middle, a faith that acquired a great number of followers.  Religion identified people rather than any local leadership.  The only alternatives were 'Barbarians,' sweeping out of Asia periodically, to rob, rape, and pillage.

Travel was limited in those days, with ‘civilization’ focusing on the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, which served as a highway to anywhere worth going to.  A very, very, few traders ventured overland to the mysterious ‘Far East.’  Politically, there were cities and areas ruled by tribes, but only Rome continued its ongoing development into what resembled an empire, and even that did not survive past the middle of the millennium, falling in 476 A.D. to northern tribesmen. The Roman Empire’s Eastern branch, in Constantinople, lasted longer, however, developing into the Ottoman Empire.

What scientific and cultural accomplishments there were, usually centered in Greece and Egypt, did not spread widely, but they were sometimes preserved in those places.  Barbarian invasions destroyed what advancements had been made in other more ‘Christian’ areas.  Only the Roman Catholic Church survived, continued operating, and preserved some of what had been developed, but everything they did was in the name of God.  The Church was a constant and commanding presence these ten centuries outside of which, everything stood still and stagnated, giving this period the title of the ‘Dark Ages.’  Only when the succeeding millennium arrived, as described above, did this period evolve into the ‘Middle Ages,’ giving birth to change.

Little attention was paid to the rest of the world during those dark years, but fortunately, knowledge was developed and preserved in North Africa and of course, in Asia, areas immune from domination by the Church.  Algebra, for example, was developed in the Arab world at that time.  And the numbers we use today are ‘arabic’ numbers rather than the cumbersome X’s, V’s, D’s, and C’s of the Roman world.                           

                              *   *

During the many, many, earlier millenniums consisting of ‘B.C.’ centuries, the ones preceding the beginning of Christianity, the, people’s lives were fully occupied with survival. People were organized by family and tribe, agriculture, farming, and raising animals being the major activities.  Some tribal leaders were powerful enough to become emperors or kings.  

These were Biblical times, with Egyptian Pharaohs and Persian Kings.  Even the leaders of the Hebrews were called kings. Without addressing theological issues, the Bible is a valuable source document.  Without it, who would know anything about the Hittites, for example?  You might not care about Noah, but there indeed was a world-wide flood, probably the result of climate change, although not our man-made variety.  Read all about it in the Bible.  (Other documents, from other totally unrelated sources from other cultures tell the same story, confirming Noah’s dampening experience as related in the Bible.)

Intellectually, the Greeks early on established standards that somehow have continued to influence us to this day.  Unsuccessfully, the Romans had tried to adopt them, with 'Mars' replacing 'Ares,' for example.  Romans were copiers, not originators.  When James Joyce wrote a 20th century (A.D.) novel in this millennium about a Jewish Irishman, he patterned it after something written by a Greek in 700 B.C., two millenniums earlier, describing the journey of a still earlier fictitious Greek.  Greek culture is one thing that has endured.

There were engineering advances too, some of which we still do not understand.  Vast walled cities were built and of course, the pyramids were built in Egypt. Archeologists are still excavating all around the Mediterranean countries seeking to learn more about ancient history, what happened in those still earlier millennia, during which homo sapiens learned to supplement hunting with agriculture, migrated to more benign climates, found ways to communicate ideas, made tools, including inventing the wheel.

But what about our own millennium, the one of which only the first twenty-two years have passed, with 978 yet to go.  What will happen during those remaining years? One thing you can bet on for sure is that we won’t be having 244 more presidential elections, which would take us to 3000 A.D.

                              *   *

Here are my guesses as to what the rest of this millennium would look like.  Remember, we’re talking about this happening over the next nine and three/quarter centuries, so there is no necessary sequence to these developments.

  •        Male dominance will end, possibly replaced by female leadership with men becoming the ‘working’ class as is the case in some other species and surviving only because of their role in procreation.
  •        Western Europe and North America will no longer be the center of economic and political activity.  World leadership, and there will be but one world government, either peacefully or violently accomplished, by the end of the current millennium, will shift to Asia initially and then to Africa.
  •        Whatever government this turns out to be will recognize the danger of the planet destroying its population, or even itself, with the weaponry available.  They will take steps to permanently avoid such an occurrence.
  •        Racism will end, as intermarriage results in a close-to- common skin color for the world’s population. 
  •        A common world-wide language will develop, based on information technology.
  •        At great expense and loss of life, we will visit all the planets in our solar system, but establish residency on none, even temporarily, except perhaps as ‘prison colonies.’
  •        It will be confirmed that there are no other life forms in the universe like us, despite the Biblical idea that the Creator created us in his or her image.  (That really won’t matter because most religions will eventually disappear during this millennium.)  Earth people will not succeed in communicating with highly developed life forms in other parts of the universe which might turn out to be insects, or even prove to be vegetable in nature.
  •        Scientific and engineering advances, by humans and by the artificial intelligence structures they develop, will resolve or solve problems such as food shortages, climate change, energy sources, adequate housing, and most diseases will be readily curable.  Life expectancy will routinely reach well into the three digits, which will result in birth control practices to limit the population of the planet to a sustainable level. 
  •        The use that people make of the time available to them, in terms of thinking and planning, including the preservation and continuance of all of the planet’s knowledge and philosophical and cultural heritages, will determine the direction of millenniums which will follow ours. 
  •        People will have to devote themselves to activities other than recreation and entertainment, for which there will be plenty of time and opportunity.   Nevertheless, some will take this route while others will turn in the more constructive directions pointed out in the two preceding paragraphs.  This will be the basis of social divisions which, if not carefully monitored, can turn into political struggles.

There you have it.  Print it out, put it in a time capsule and pass down a message to your heirs to check it out in January, 3000 A.D.

 

JL

 

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Two Items of Interest:

·       Email AlertsIf you are NOT receiving emails from me alerting you each time there is a new posting on Jackspotpourri, just send me your email address and we’ll see that you do.  And if you are forwarding a posting to someone, you might suggest that they do the same, so they will be similarly alerted. 

         You can pass those email addresses to me by email at            jacklippman18@gmail.com .

·       Forwarding Postings: And of course, please forward this posting to anyone you think might benefit from reading it.  Google Blogspot, the platform on which Jackspotpourri is prepared, now makes that very easy.  If you click on the envelope with the arrow at the conclusion of every posting, (it looks like this: ), you will have the opportunity to list a number of  email addresses, along with a comment from you, each of which will receive a link to the full blog that you now are reading, with all of its bells and whistles.  Or you can just tell folks to check out the blog by visiting https://jackspotpourri.blogspot.com or by providing a link to that address in your email to them.

 

Either way will work, sending them the link above or clicking on the envelope at the bottom of this posting. 

Have a nice day.