Posts Tagged ‘human rights’

More on Human Rights

21 July 2020

In my attempts to get better informed about the work of the Commission on Unalienable Rights, I looked at some of the videos of testimony which they received from experts in the field. One video I watched was a presentation (speech) made by Thor Halvorssen of the Human Rights Foundation (HRF).

Perhaps Mr. Halvorssen’s defining experience in this regard is given here:

On February 1, 2005, our founder’s mother was shot by the Venezuelan government while she was protesting their corruption in the streets. But no matter what Thor Halvorssen did, no one would take action to hold the Venezuelan government accountable.

Human Rights Foundation website

Here we have a relatively recent example of a modern regime gone suppressive. It didn’t make this transformation as noisily as, say, Germany in the 1930s. But nevertheless, it did.

Venezuela was a developing democracy. But it was also rich in oil. And with those riches (or so it seems), temptations. In fact, the national government had never been very stable. Like all “third world” nations with valuable natural resources, its governments were under constant pressure to grant special deals and play favorites, both in the world arena and locally.

But I do not, in fact, know that much about Venezuela. It is just that this is one of many nations across the planet where basic human rights are no longer protected by legal institutions (if they ever were).

Governments attract criminals

The point I have always made about this is that the general population creates, or tolerates, governments in the expectation that a certain level of organized violence is necessary to protect the people from criminal organized violence so they can get on with life. Governments, then, are the people’s last line of defense against criminal incursions, and so a constant target for criminal infiltration.

If you do not “believe” that such a thing as a “criminal mind” exists, then we have a problem. All I can say is that when people who are able to look do look, they find it. The phenomenon has been reported by so many different observers (even psychiatrists!) that I see no good reason to challenge it.

The idea that the “line” between what is criminal and what is acceptable has been moving over the years in favor of human rights is persuasive, but in the end, hollow. What we say has never matched that well with what we do. And that pertains to criminals in particular. If a criminal thinks that verbal support for human rights will make him more popular or acceptable, he’ll say he supports human rights. But he assumes that all people lie about what they really think, and he knows he does.

Crime and business

Even criminals need some way to sustain themselves, so they either find ways to latch on to more legitimate human activities, or they die.

There are many mechanisms of attachment. Some criminals work to become licensed professionals, then use that license to protect their criminal practices. Others find ways to get rich, then find activities – legitimate or otherwise – to invest in so that they can live off profits without having to work. Some aspire to academic positions where they can have influence in government and industry while avoiding responsibility for the actions taken by others based on their false data. And, some seek to rule.

Though human trafficking was always considered morally repugnant, the fact is that this activity could be indulged in legally up until quite recently in history, in most places. Likewise, wars of conquest. Realize that India was “conquered” originally, not by the British Crown, but by a business operating under a crown charter. This business employed its own soldiers, its own negotiators, its own bureaucrats. This still happens.

But where a business, criminal or not, can work in concord with the government of the territory in which it is operating, such an arrangement can be mutually beneficial.

Business and government

In the end, many of us come to the realization that government is a kind of business. It’s “business practices” are a bit “odd” compared to ordinary commercial companies, but they share all the same basic elements and mechanisms. In such a wise, large governments and large businesses may often see eye-to-eye on many subjects.

It might seem that, considering the above, a culture that wants to do well should very adamantly demand that business and government should remain separated as much as possible. This may be a valid argument, yet most people, in practice, find it just too demanding.

Just as I, in helping my church to gather data about psychiatry – by long tradition an outlaw profession – learn more about its individual members and thus tend to feel more friendly to some of them, so it works in government, particularly where it is mandated to regulate businesses.

Under this same concept, any political philosophy that required government to operate commercial concerns, or cooperate very closely with them, would seem fundamentally flawed.

Socioeconomic “rights”

Scholars of the subject of human rights distinguish rights which are essentially political (such as freedom of speech) with rights that involve access to services that are often provided by the business sector. These are sometimes spoken of when referring to the ‘social safety net.”

The thing about these “rights” which Halvorssen points to is that they can be provided (or at least appear to be) by regimes that do not grant citizens the usual political rights. However, in this wise, the population loses its legal power and authority to correct any socioeconomic omissions. He assures us that this has actually happened in places like Cuba.

These “rights,” then can be held in front of a population like a carrot, tempting it to allow authoritarian rule in exchange for their basic freedoms. This is the dilemma of the slave. That the authoritarian usually lies in this regard is often overlooked by persons who wish to be charitable to authoritarian regimes, particularly ones that seem to embrace “socialism.”

The proof, however, is in the pudding. And if the population is not allowed to speak and report freely on what is occurring in the streets and towns of the nation, then how are we supposed to know if the pudding is worthy of praise, or a total disaster?

Full version of my featured image, a drawing done in high school.

Slavery

On July 27, 2018, the Human Rights Foundation released a report entitled Authoritarianism and Trafficking in Persons.

Modern slavery is an odd phenomenon. The planet now is more or less fully populated. Three are plenty of people in every region, country, of the world, to do the work needed to produce items for local consumption and for trade. Yet living conditions are so bad in some areas that many people would rather leave as slaves than stay. I don’t think this was true of the old African slave trade to the New World. My impression is that most Africans back then were forced into slavery on pain of death. Nowadays, slaves can be procured using advertising techniques.

Modern slavery, though illegal, is for the most part operated by business-like groups, just as it has always been. Suppressive regimes assist mostly by tolerating these activities, creating conditions that people wish to escape from, and providing labor pools in the form of detention camps or similar operations. This is not to say that authoritarians do not benefit financially from these activities. But if they are true criminals, this is not even their major purpose in life. They are afraid of other living beings, and wish them to suffer, which makes the suppressive person feel safer.

The report gives three examples and also discusses the U.S. role.

In modern China (though this may have been going on for centuries, since it also happens in Japan), refugees from North Korea are used as slaves. In North Korea, people who wish to leave and succeed, if later captured, are kept in prisons. They may later try to leave again. Meanwhile the prisons function more or less as slave camps, propping up the North Korean rulers. In China, enslaved people work as sex slaves or merely domestic workers, or factory workers.

In modern Cuba, Cubans are trafficked into the U.S. and other places for a variety of purposes. Cuba also serves as a relay point for some countries in Africa. Cuba presents itself as a “spiritual” country, materially poor, but happy. But it is deeply involved in the modern slave trade, and the HRF reports that its leaders personally benefit from that trade.

In Thailand, an authoritarian regime allows fishing businesses and others to enslave workers from its own country as well as people from other places. Some of those products I am sure end up in democratic countries like Japan and the United States.

This report gave these three examples. I can only imagine how difficult it is to extract true data from an authoritarian country. The people there are under constant threats of reprisal if they complain. But we know very well that many other countries have similar problems. Per an HRF analysis, which is updated every three months, over half of the population of earth lives under authoritarian regimes, and so are subject to impoverishment and slavery with no legal recourse locally.

"poverty"
Two color print from linoleum blocks, made in junior high art class.

Is the planet lost?

Things look really really bad to me. But that doesn’t mean that the situation can’t be turned around. After all, all those enslaved and suppressed people come back after they die, and perhaps some of them will end up in a place where they have more freedom and opportunity, will remember, and will be able to help all the activists already working on this issue to do something about it.

However, we are headed into a techno-machine world that has traditionally depended on slavery to operate. This is because life in such a place becomes so intolerable that people will only stay if they are forced to. Though experiments were made to see if a population, Matrix-like, could be lured into a sort of “happy slavery” using entertainment and other gimmicks, this does not seem to work that well, at least not on Earth.

How do we preserve sanity as our population expands and our space contracts? Though our current Secretary of State can proudly say that the United States still “leads the way” in the field of human rights, that’s not saying much. We stand today as a huge consumer of illegal drugs, slave labor, and other items and services produced by criminals. And it is not the State Department that can solve that problem.

List of rights

Though it seems like an afterthought, the rights in the Universal Declaration (see HumanRights.com), are listed below in a shortened form used with children:

1. We Are All Born Free & Equal. We are all born free. We all have our own thoughts and ideas. We should all be treated in the same way.
2. Don’t Discriminate. These rights belong to everybody, whatever our differences.
3. The Right to Life. We all have the right to life, and to live in freedom and safety.
4. No Slavery. Nobody has any right to make us a slave. We cannot make anyone our slave.
5. No Torture. Nobody has any right to hurt us or to torture us.
6. You Have Rights No Matter Where You Go. I am a person just like you!
7. We’re All Equal Before the Law. The law is the same for everyone. It must treat us all fairly.
8. Your Human Rights Are Protected by Law. We can all ask for the law to help us when we are not treated fairly.
9. No Unfair Detainment. Nobody has the right to put us in prison without good reason and keep us there, or to send us away from our country.
10. The Right to Trial. If we are put on trial this should be in public. The people who try us should not let anyone tell them what to do.
11. We’re Always Innocent Till Proven Guilty. Nobody should be blamed for doing something until it is proven. When people say we did a bad thing we have the right to show it is not true.
12. The Right to Privacy. Nobody should try to harm our good name. Nobody has the right to come into our home, open our letters, or bother us or our family without a good reason.
13. Freedom to Move. We all have the right to go where we want in our own country and to travel as we wish.
14. The Right to Seek a Safe Place to Live. If we are frightened of being badly treated in our own country, we all have the right to run away to another country to be safe.
15. Right to a Nationality. We all have the right to belong to a country.
16. Marriage and Family. Every grown-up has the right to marry and have a family if they want to. Men and women have the same rights when they are married, and when they are separated.
17. The Right to Your Own Things. Everyone has the right to own things or share them. Nobody should take our things from us without a good reason.
18. Freedom of Thought. We all have the right to believe in what we want to believe, to have a religion, or to change it if we want.
19. Freedom of Expression. We all have the right to make up our own minds, to think what we like, to say what we think, and to share our ideas with other people.
20. The Right to Public Assembly. We all have the right to meet our friends and to work together in peace to defend our rights. Nobody can make us join a group if we don’t want to.
21. The Right to Democracy. We all have the right to take part in the government of our country. Every grown-up should be allowed to choose their own leaders.
22. Social Security. We all have the right to affordable housing, medicine, education, and childcare, enough money to live on and medical help if we are ill or old.
23. Workers’ Rights. Every grown-up has the right to do a job, to a fair wage for their work, and to join a trade union.
24. The Right to Play. We all have the right to rest from work and to relax.
25. Food and Shelter for All. We all have the right to a good life. Mothers and children, people who are old, unemployed or disabled, and all people have the right to be cared for.
26. The Right to Education. Education is a right. Primary school should be free. Our parents can choose what we learn.
27. Copyright. Copyright is a special law that protects one’s own artistic creations and writings; others cannot make copies without permission. We all have the right to our own way of life and to enjoy the good things that art, science and learning bring.
28. A Fair and Free World. There must be proper order so we can all enjoy rights and freedoms in our own country and all over the world.
29. Responsibility. We have a duty to other people, and we should protect their rights and freedoms.
30. No One Can Take Away Your Human Rights.

The New Barbarians

8 July 2020

This began with the question, “What happened in the 1800s?” You can see a timeline of events on my other blog, if you wish to familiarize yourself with the period.

The featured image is of my 1980 girlfriend wearing an Indian costume for Halloween. Sorry, sweetheart, it was the best illustration I could come up with!

Themes

Certain themes stand out for the period, also known as the “19th century.”

  1. Empire
  2. Technology
  3. War
  4. Genocide
  5. Exploitation

If our only problems were Empire and Technology, I would be relatively happy. However, they always seem to be accompanied by the other three. Always…always.

Empire

While the concept of Empire was slowly dying out in Europe, it was slowly growing in the United States.

In Europe, the most notable players were the Germans, Austrians and Prussians. Britain (the “United Kingdom”) of course actually maintained the grandest empire throughout this period. But you could see that it had grown weary of the endless struggle that seemed to be involved in maintaining unquestioned domination.

Not so, the Americans! While Europe consumed itself in seemingly endless conflict, starting with the Napoleonic Wars, America looked westward with the utmost enthusiasm.

The concept of “manifest destiny” was concocted to convince the power-happy overseers and the power-hopeful underlings that they were all on exactly the right track. While the aboriginal peoples looked on, shook their heads, or fought against it, and died.

Technology

Though we like to think of our electronic age as the quintessence of technical innovation, it does not match the amount of pure force leveled against the environment by the inventors, industrialists and armies of the 19th century.

Ushered in by the Age of Steam, gasoline power was already well on its way to dominance by the end of the 1800s.

Dynamite was invented. The use of structural steel, replacing wrought iron (Eiffel Tower), became more and more common in civil engineering.

Several agricultural machines were invented and put into use during this period, as well as the typewriter, the sewing machine, photographic film and camera, the phonograph, electric lights, and finally, motion pictures.

Psychology also took its modern form – a sort of behavior modification technology – towards the end of this period.

Still, most Americans were using the good old fashioned firearm to get people to do what was requested of them. Major bank and train robberies began to show up in this period.

War

Europe seemed constantly embroiled in war during this period. If it wasn’t Napoleon, it was the Turks (Ottoman Empire) or the Germans, or Austrians, or Prussians. Or maybe, sometimes, the Russians (Crimea).

In the U.S., there was the War of 1812, the Indian Wars, the Civil War, and the war with Mexico over (mainly) Texas, and the Spanish-American War. It seems our Army, Navy and Marines were constantly busy.

Troops also helped capture Hawaii for the United States, so that Dole could sell his pineapples in America duty-free. And if you think there is any other reason Hawaii is a U.S. State, look again!

We also wanted the Philippines and Cuba, but we only got Puerto Rico and Panama, as well as Florida. California, etc, had been captured earlier from Mexico.

Genocide

Empire, it seems, has never been averse to genocide. In the U.S. this meant, at first, the Native Americans, then later, black slaves – now freed. There were also other ethnic minorities involved, like the Chinese. Meanwhile, the Irish kept having problems with the British, presumably because they wanted to remain Catholic.

This was also happening to indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities in South America, Australia, Africa, and Europe.

Exploitation

Though much of what happened along these lines is covered under Genocide, we can often see beneath the killing the lust for resources that seemed to be inspiring it.

During the 1800s, this was still expressing itself mostly through agricultural commodities. According to Wikipedia, forest cover in the U.S. dropped from 990 million acres (estimated) before westward expansion to about 700 million acres at present. This was mostly in the form of clearing the land for monoculture (a newish term for one-crop industrial agriculture).

We also have a lot of mining going on in the 1800s (copper, iron, coal) which has always been a very polluting activity.

The 1800s also saw the rise of the “modern” labor movement (now entrenched in some areas and threatened in others). In those days, leading a labor protest was considered a treasonous act.

On top of that, all of the Americas used black slaves. It is difficult for me to decide exactly how much black slavery was driven by economic incentives, and how much by some deeper, uglier need for an ultimate “underdog.” The Hindus of India had their “untouchables” for thousands of years before Europeans figured out how to steal Africans for enslavement in the Americas. Why didn’t the white upper classes just work harder to enslave the white lower classes? I am guessing that someone decided that using Africans would be a better plan.

Now that that’s legally over, other forms of enslavement, such as debt slavery, are having a comeback. We also have “newer” forms of exploitation now, based on the “pioneering” work of Wundt and his “psychologists” which began towards the end of the 1800s. Now the powers that be can replace blatant lying and blunt force with “more refined” techniques of persuasion. Doesn’t make it any less criminal, from my point of view; maybe even more criminal. If someone pointed a gun at you, you could at least shoot back.

What of the Arts, Literature, Theater, Academia, the Civil Rights movement?

The best way for a wolf to hide is by donning sheep’s clothing.

People, left to their own devices, would include plenty of enjoyable activities in their lives, if history is any guide. The ruling classes have always appropriated the arts as a kind of escape, or cover, from what must be their raging consciences. After all, leadership is necessary. (I actually agree with that.) If it becomes difficult or unbearable, well, too bad – it still must be done.

In my brief search into the 1800s, I found that Jefferson had hoped that slavery could be abolished in the United States by the beginning of that century. The beginning! Slavery was a huge issue from the very beginning of the Union of States! Lincoln tried to handle it, but then he got shot. And, by force of social pressure, slavery was replaced by its somewhat obvious precursor, racism.

Racism was already a “science” by the beginning of the 19th century. But that – it seems to me – was only done to give racists better talking points. Even Jefferson, apparently, was oblivious to the fact that blacks had totally identical capabilities to whites, until he made the acquaintance of an educated black man in 1791. He marveled at this as some sort of revelation!

And so (need I mention it) it continues to this day. Some sort of seething madness remains alive in the population, seemingly incurable, seemingly impossible to wipe out.

The new barbarians

But when all is said and done, the United States became the home of the new barbarians. The United States now spends more to defend its political position in the world using military might than the next ten largest nations combined.

defense spending comparison courtesy Peter G. Peterson Foundation

And that’s only the military expenditures! What about propaganda, and other technologies of control? The “mental health” system in the U.S. makes over $200 billion a year. Could that be one of the newer methods? Total annual “health” expenses in the U.S., by the way, are over $3 trillion.

“Barbarian” comes from a Greek word imitative of unintelligible speech. The Greeks originally applied the term to the Persians, a culture of roughly equal stature to theirs (if not higher). The Romans, as their culture decayed, applied the term to the various tribes trying to move in on their lands. The great cultures of history (after they stopped being so great) have always been swept away by “barbarians” who in turn developed the next “great” culture. Is modern Western culture really that superior to that of the ancient Persians? Certainly, for most of us, it is more comfortable. There is something to be said for that. But will that comfort alone get us to where we need to go? Of course not!

The challenge

The chance we had – made possible in part by our new-found level of comfort – was to reach beyond the old hackneyed attitudes and expressions of our predecessors to find a new understanding of the human condition which would lead, for once, to a real improvement of the human condition. That chance – I fear – is quickly running out. I, for one, hope we make it. And if that makes me a “barbarian,” so be it.

Footnote

In viewing a newly-released report from the Commission on Unalienable Rights (established last year by Secretary of State Pompeo), I became interested in the distinction between the words “inalienable” and “unalienable.” I was reassured by grammarist.com that the words have identical meanings, and the different prefix reflects a change in English that occurred – are you ready for this? – in the 1800s. The article about this referred me to the nGram for these words:

Odds and Ends

28 September 2019

feet-on-the-train-20190928-058

This weekend the high temperatures fell below 70 (F). But I got on the train for my usual ride up to Folsom. They were getting the streets ready for the annual Farm-to-Fork Festival, featuring food, drink, and entertainment on the Capitol Mall, just blocks from where I live.

At some point in the ride, a young lady – very cute and wearing short shorts – boarded the train and sat down sideways in a seat a few yards in front of me. I couldn’t resist getting a photo of her feet sticking out into the aisle.

American River Parkway

As the Parkway goes into autumn mode, the scenes there are mostly predictable, but with little variations due to the season. The geese are flying around more and gathering on park lawns more. In this shot I also caught a ground squirrel standing at his burrow.

geese-and-ground-squirrel-ARP-20190928-071

The four does I had noticed earlier were split into two pairs today. One pair was right at the bike trail. I am surprised they come that close, but they must be a bit acclimated to humans nearby.

deer-ARP-20190928-074

The late-flowering yellow asters are about the only flowers left in these woods now. The big-flowered ones are particularly showy, but their range is very limited – that is, I only see them in a few places.

yellow-flower-ARP-20190928-061

The taller plants with all the flowers near the top are more ubiquitous. One field where they predominate is very bright with them right now. And I saw many more on my short walk over to West Sac.

yellow-aster-ARP-20190928-066

A new yellow flower joined these usual ones today. It is called Sundrops, or sometimes Evening Primrose. This one may have escaped from cultivation, as it is rare in the wild here. But it is a perennial, so once established it should continue to grow.

sundrops-oenothera-ARP-20190928-086

The Festival

I have been out of this scene for so long, it is a bit difficult for me to understand why these events attract so many people. It’s as if these people are constantly looking for “things to do” and ways to spend money. I don’t have to look for things to do or ways to spend money. My various interests keep me totally occupied. But that does not seem to be the case with most of these folks.

farm-to-fork-festival-balloon-lady-20190928-139

In this typical scene, we have beer being served in the background, and a street entertainer making balloon shapes for kids. The glass of beer in the hand of the woman in the foreground is typical, if anything, a bit small.

On stage at the bridge end of the Mall (nearest the river) a blues-rock act named Samantha Fish was performing.

farm-to-fork-festival-Samantha_Fish-20190928-102

This stage – and I suppose the performers using it – was underwritten by Bank of America. The festival is free to get in, so it must make back its operating costs from the sale of alcoholic beverages. Beer is extremely popular in this area. It probably is everywhere and I just have never paid that much attention.

Drake’s Barn

And thus another activity quickly becoming popular in this area – Drake’s Barn. This place has only been open for about a year now. Drake’s makes beer in San Leandro and has another taproom (bar) in Oakland. The Barn is located across the street from a housing development aimed at up-and-coming young people. I am guessing most of them work in Sacramento, as it’s very close to the main bridge that connects Sac and West Sac.

The Barn will be hosting a show of “electric art” next weekend, mostly light-oriented I think, and I plan to go over and check that out. So this weekend I walked over to the location to see exactly where it is and how long it takes to get there (about 20 minutes).

The place was full of kids playing – I guess that’s just part of the amenities there – while parents sipped their cold ones. I wondered what sort of lives these people lead, and what their futures will be like.

walk-to-drakes-barn-20190928-121-playground

Above you can see “The Barn” in the background. It is an odd-shaped flowing building made of numerous wood planks. Here’s a closer look, from the rear:

walk-to-drakes-barn-20190928-124-rear

I was keeping track of the time by taking pictures of my phone. However, I had my camera set wrong on this one, and the phone instead worked like a mirror.

walk-to-drakes-barn-20190928-130-me

On my walk back, I glanced over the side of the bridge at the bank below and saw two cats there. I’m guessing they are feral cats. The one I caught licking itself in particular looks a bit scary.

walk-to-drakes-barn-20190928-135-cats

World Peace Day

An event earlier in the week at my church was a small presentation commemorating the International Day of Peace, officially observed each year on 21 September. This was started in 1981. Costa Rica had a lot to do with getting the U.N. resolution written.

The guest speaker at our church event was Edrine Ddungu, formerly of Uganda. He personally witnessed the terrorism in Uganda instigated (apparently) by Idi Amin. His own father was brutally murdered, at which point he was quietly sent to live in Kenya and finally made it to the U.S. where he wanted to study at Sacramento City College.

He told us that his desire to play a leadership role in promoting interfaith cooperation and non-violence comes mostly from his desire to continue the work of his father. He is currently president of the Interfaith Council of Greater Sacramento.

The situation in Africa

Uganda could be considered to be at the center of a very bad scene in Central Africa. I don’t understand it well, but it probably has partly to do with a breakdown of civilization in Africa that occurred in ancient times which has been followed by criminal meddling from outside players ever since. The Portuguese were the first to arrive on the Atlantic coast. They almost immediately started slave operations there. But slave operations on the eastern coast of Central Africa (Indian Ocean) had already been active for hundreds of years, and these were non-European operations.

There seemed to have been an almost world-wide agreement that Africa offered resources that could be freely taken advantage of by any group that had sufficient organization and weapons. And that has been the pattern ever since.

All Mr. Ddungu can do now is return yearly to his home country with a bit of money and educational assistance. The general situation in the region is still largely out of control.

The continuing violence in Africa seems to be fueled both by a complete lack of moral compass on the part of any of the major players in the region, and by increasing demand from the rest of the planet for the various commodities that are produced there.

Of the handful of people who attended the event, several were not particularly aware of how brutal and desperate the situation in Africa has been. We saw the great advances made in South Africa and thought that perhaps the rest of the continent was on a similar path. Though this may some day come to pass, it certainly is not the current situation.

However, getting reliable data on what has really been going on in the region has been nearly impossible. So my characterizations of the current scene are guesses based on reports I have been able scrape up or ran into. I am not a student of African politics or economics. But to say that part of the world is in definite need of sanity would be an understatement.

Earlier in the year, Scientologist Tim Bowles had visited us to talk about his work in Africa. He described the experience of meeting with the leader of one of the many African extremist groups. The man was at the emotional level of a teenager, mainly interested to know if Tim had met any famous Hollywood personalities. These people have stars in their eyes. They think they can become rich off the world’s dependence on various strategic minerals found in Africa. My guess is that they care about little else.

While Tim has had some success at starting real human rights education in Central Africa, it seems to me that until the companies that deal with African suppliers demand compliance with basic standards of human decency, people there will continue to suffer.

It’s our job, then, to get to those companies and change their minds about how they deal with Africa. That racism has nothing to do with this is very hard to imagine. Yet racism is just another manifestation of the insanity we are confronted with on this planet. We must make the people we can reach saner. If we don’t, this planet will be lost.

How to Write a Constitution

29 May 2017

The title is a bit ostentatious, but it’s the best I could think of. Though I don’t really have the resources to give this topic justice, I was thinking about it, so decided to write a post on my Memorial Day time off.

I take for my reference the US Constitution of 1787. I hope the copy I have is accurate.

Talking about ostentatious: It starts, “We the People of the United States…” That’s nice, but probably a little broad. It should certainly mention who agreed to it, if not who actually wrote it. It is basically a piece of literature, so it could have an author.

Purpose

The preamble lists the things this government is to carry out:
Form a more perfect union;
Establish justice;
Insure domestic tranquility;
Provide for the common defense;
Promote the general welfare;
Secure the blessings of liberty…to our posterity.

This is important. These are the long-term and continuing goals and purposes of this government; they are its job. A group needs goals and purposes, and must sometimes be reminded of them. “General welfare” is a bit vague, but we’ll leave it that way for now.

Legislative Powers

I find it a little odd to bring this up first, rather than giving a more general overview of how the system was supposed to work. Too many incorrect assumptions could be made here; we need to spell this out better.

Article 0.

We propose that this nation take the form of a constitutional Republic. This gives us a layered approach to both policy-making and action. There are individuals at each level who represent, or preside over, a group of individuals at the next lower level. Every member of the system is not normally expected to interact with anyone above their level or below the level they supervise or represent in matters of official business, except under special circumstances. Every group at every level has the right to operate as it sees fit, and this right can only be overridden as described below. The assumption is that most people already know what to do or can figure it out.

Legislation:

The purpose of legislation is to set guidelines (policy, laws) that bind those at that level to act within certain limitations or restrictions. This document specifically covers the national, or federal, level, but is also meant to serve as a guide, or pattern, for lower levels.

I will not cover the details of Article 1 here, however, we cannot move on before inspecting Section 8.

Areas of legislative authority / responsibility:

  • Taxes, duties, imposts and excises (to be uniform across all states).
  • Specify outlay to pay debts.
  • Specify outlay to provide for the common defense.
  • Specify outlay to provide for the general welfare.
  • Borrow money.
  • Regulate commerce beyond state boundaries or responsibilities.
  • Regulate immigration.
  • Regulate bankruptcies.
  • Coin money, regulate its value, and establish standard weight and measures.
  • Establish Post Offices and post roads (ensure free flow of communications between citizens).
  • Offer limited patent and copyright protection to authors and inventors.
  • Establish lower-level judicial bodies (tribunals) as needed.
  • Protect the nation from piracy at sea.
  • Declare war, and similar war powers.
  • Raise temporary armies while maintaining a permanent navy.
  • Organizing and activating the Militia for certain purposes.
  • Rule over the seat of government.
  • There are more points, but these are the main ones…

Executive Power

Traditionally, the executives of history (kings, emperors, etc.) got to make their own rules. This was not just a matter of egotism. They had things to get done and they needed to be able to act. One of their favorite pastimes seems to have been making war. This had to change. The chief executive of a nation does have the “power” to make war, as the military is under his/her command. However, it was considered that war should be a matter of policy and not executive action, and this still seems the wiser route.

To further discourage executive policy-making, the Founders proposed putting the matter of who gets to run the Executive Branch up for a vote every four years. This seems rather arbitrary to me; why not whenever a majority or some higher ratio of legislators found it needful, but not more often than every four (or three?) years. But we shall leave this be for the time being. The point is: You can’t get policy continuity in the Executive Branch if the senior person is changing all the time, and that’s the way we want it.

Judicial Power

“Judges” have traditionally served a wide variety of functions. At their best, they act themselves, or by guiding a jury (or similar group of peers) to determine who the real criminal is when something goes wrong. As far as I can tell, they do not have a particularly high reputation in this regard. Like anyone else faced with a real criminal, the judge can be threatened when faced with a “hard decision” and forced to back down.

If judges cannot be depended upon to uphold the ethics standards of the group, then who can be? If a group is that far gone, there is little hope for it. But for now, let’s move on to Article 4.

States

This section (Article 4) goes over certain matters of equal treatment across state lines. After all, these states are all part of a Republic, and are supposed to cooperate with each other. You can’t have the police forces of two states in battle because their laws are different.

But I feel this whole subject of states is not taken far enough in this document.

Article 4.

The full and globally-recognized territory of this nation has been – and shall continue to be – divided into geographical regions known as “states” or “territories” based on a combination of historical and geographical factors. States have the right of sovereign rule within their boundaries, assuming the restrictions imposed by this document are respected. Territories have not yet attained the full rights of states, but may petition Congress to be granted these.

All policy (legislative), executive and judicial actions originating at the federal level of this republic shall not extend any further than the states, except under most extraordinary circumstances. Certainly, no federal law, federal action through any of its agents, or federal judicial decision shall apply to or be binding on any individual citizen (that being understood to include only real persons, not “private” entities created through legal means) unless that citizen has specifically requested such a bypass.

It is further expected that state governments will, in turn, deal only with county governments, and those only with municipal governments and those only with neighborhood governments (where that may apply), as this has proven to be more acceptable to citizens and more conducive to individual initiative and thus, the general welfare.

Private Enterprise. This does not mean that a private enterprise, operating across state boundaries and employing numbers comparable to numbers of citizens in a state, or producing things of value on a similar order to that of the combined production of all smaller enterprises within a state, should expect to be favored by the rights and protections afforded smaller enterprises by a state, simply by virtue of the location of their headquarters. Indeed, if any enterprise should grow to the extent outlined above, it can expect to be required to deal directly with the federal government in all matters where it must be treated as a whole, as in the matter of taxation.

The above summarizes the points that I think are important in the game of operating a nation. Though using the context of the US Constitution has limited my comments in some ways, the points I have mentioned are some of the most important. We have erred by overlooking them.

How divided is America?

11 July 2016

The on-screen news ticker in our mess hall (known to others as the “break room” or the “auditorium”) proclaimed today (among many other things) that Obama had said something about the US not being that divided.

The actual quote, from a video of a 9 July press conference in Poland was, “I firmly believe that America is NOT as divided as some have suggested.”
(The US President, by long tradition, refers to US citizens as “Americans” and the US as “America.”)

So, I thought, how divided is America?

I went about looking up some opinion poll results that might tell me something about this. Most of the polls I found are not that current. Apparently it still takes a good bit of time to create, organize, carry out and report on a large poll across a country or a planet. The sample has to be adequately randomized and all that…

Before I give you any figures, let’s go over some theory.

I suppose that most sociologists think that a person’s opinion about something is determined mostly by 1) his training and education and 2) a set of shared qualities often spoken of as “human nature.”

Point 1 is important without question. But what is point 2, really? You’ll have to figure out the Psychology explanations for yourself. My own study of church materials, though, bears mentioning. An individual, as you may be already aware, is a spiritual being. We can suppose that this being started out totally free to be, do and have anything it wanted. What we have today in “human nature” is the result of trillions of years of experience living with other beings, never totally aware of what they were or what we are. Humans find themselves today on a scale they are more or less free to move up or down on. This scale was derived from observation, not dogma. It is workable when used to predict behavior and attitudes.

Take for example political attitudes. High on the scale a being dislikes controlling others. Just below that we get a “Liberal.” And only a bit further down we have a “Conservative.” By the time a person starts to get really bored, his sense of politics begins to fall out, too. And a contentious person just likes to fight. At this point the being is rejecting anything most of us would call “politics” or a “political philosophy.”

But a being must move further down the scale to become a Fascist, or desire to operate as an insurgent, as the “Communist” has done.

When I speak of “suppression” I am referring in particular to one person or group trying to push another person or group DOWN this scale.

Most of us were raised with a “liberal” education. The majority of us fell lower subsequently, seeing Liberal values as ideals to be worked for. Democracy is seen as a safe, sensible approach to achieving those ideals. However, you have to fight for democracy! Or, do you really have to enforce it? Or, perhaps, trick people into accepting it?

All these attitudes and influences went into the creation and subsequent marketing of our “global government” the United Nations. Included in the marketing plan for this body was a document entitled the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was unveiled 10 December of 1948 in Paris. It is embraced by my church, as the right to worship freely is included in it.

The concept of human rights is not, strictly, “Liberal.” As the history of the subject reflects, human rights can be seen as much as a sensible approach than as pie-in-the-sky idealism. Cyrus the Great – 539 BC – is noted as an early proponent of this approach. However, Cyrus was, first and foremost, an emperor. And, strictly speaking, his empire only lasted 200 years. You can earn the respect of vast populations by respecting them. At least the Emperor should be able to afford to do this!

Be all that as it may, the attitude surveys I found deal mostly with the most basic human rights. These include the old Liberal rights of thought, speech and worship and the newer “social welfare” rights to food, clothing, shelter, health care, education. It should be noted here that Public Education, and many of these other “humanitarian” programs, are not ancient traditions in most lands of Earth. But on Earth, strong central governments are also a rather recent development, made possible in part by technological progress in fields like communication, transport, agriculture, medicine – oh – and, war.

The bell curve of the scale

Does the distribution of levels on earth actually fit a “bell” shaped distribution? I have no firm data on this. But imagine for a moment that you were totally free to move around on this scale as you wished and to confront or experience life at a level that seemed the most appropriate at the time. Where on the scale would you spend most of your time? At the middle, always fighting? Perhaps down below that a bit, in pain? Or above the middle a bit, bored?

Think of all the people you know that spend most of their time somewhere between pain and boredom. Could be quite a few. This even includes the angry Fascist.

It has been stated in the materials I have studied that about 2.5% of the population manage to secretly hang out around below fascism as, basically, insurgents or various types of criminals. It would be charitable to put the bulk of the population as high as the Conservative, but in the reasonably calm situation of answering opinion poll questions, we can imagine many would try their best to assume that viewpoint, or higher, up into Liberalism, if their education demanded it.

But you can see the problem with these polls, and with Presidential statements regarding “divisions.” Sufficient suppression can plunge a nation down into hatred and war. Sufficient relief can allow it to surge up into a peaceful Liberalism. But real education about real life could in theory stabilize a nation at a high level that it could not be pushed down from. In these polls concerning attitudes, people are not much divided, though their ideas display a range from Liberal on down. In polls concerning things that are theoretically provable certainties, we often see more even splits. Thus, the suppression of the truth has left in question facts that should be totally knowable. This is troubling, as people need certainty, and if the certainty of something is not plain to the face, beliefs and propaganda will be used to fill in the blank spots.

The Polls

Pew (Pew Research Center) has a project called the Religious Landscape Study. Data points for this study exist for 2007 and 2014. The results for 2014 were published late in 2015.

The Council on Foreign Relations must employ a lot of researchers, because it has published reports on various global studies concerning attitudes on human rights, among other issues. The latest reports I found date from December of 2011.

I fill in some odd bits from other sources.

Attitudes

What we see from these studies is a consistent percentage spread across related issues.

Support for the traditional human rights hovers around 3/4 of those polled, both US and global.

It goes way down for freedom of the press. The press is notorious for its misbehavior. When the question is reworded to ask about the freedom of the press “to report the news truthfully,” support for this concept goes up to 70% in the US, with a low of 41% in India, where “truth” and “the press” are probably seen by most as opposites.

Support for the “socialistic” or “nanny state” human rights of more modern times shows a bit more variation in societies. We can see education and propaganda at work here.

In China 98% support the right to a basic education, with similar numbers for health care and food.

In the US, 83% supported government responsibility for basic education, 77% health care, 74% food and 70% supported government responsibility for taking care of the poor.

These are still large majorities – you could almost say, consensus for all the basic human rights.

Similar support for “Liberal/Democratic” values are seen for questions asking about “equal treatment.”

From the Pew Religions Landscape Study, for example, we find 70% of religious people agreeing that all religions should be tolerated.

Beliefs about “fact”

Now let’s swing over into the subject of belief, and in particular, belief about how things “really are.” We know for a fact (not surveyed, though) that it’s often hard to discern basic, underlying cause. If the cause of an event or situation is a criminal that wants to keep itself a secret, it may very well be successful in doing so.

Spiritual and mental technologies are beginning to get around those old barriers of perception limitations and uncertainty. But most people still rely on belief, or “someone who knows” for the last word on many “facts.” The Bible, for example, remains a very widely-read book! And it’s not even easy to read (at least I don’t think so).

90% of US adults say they believe in God. That is an amazing consensus from such a diverse country! But of course, by most counts this one doesn’t matter, because this is entirely a question of faith. The implication, though, is that if science or my favorite expert doesn’t have an answer, I’ll take God’s answer.

Here’s an interesting question they asked: Do you feel a deep sense of wonder about the universe? 46% said Yes in the most recent study. What about the others?

Evolutionism versus Creationism was covered in this study, but not well. This is a subject that should be, at some point, 100% knowable. At some point. About 60% are convinced that “humans” have evolved over time, but only a third of US adults totally believe that Darwinian Natural Selection explains those changes. (A testimony to how bad a theory it is!)

A more recent poll conducted by Ipsos (a European marketing research company) and released on Monday, June 29, 2015 states: 56% of Americans believe UFOs are real. Good; that only leaves 44% to go. 79% believe life on other planets is plausible. But that’s a terribly-worded question. Same figures as above for Evolution.

The accuracy of the survey is estimated to be +/- 3.5%.

Public Policy Polling did a “Conspiracy Theory Poll,” results released April 2, 2013. This is only covers US voters. Poorly-worded questions, but:

37% think global warming is a hoax.
21% believe there was a cover-up of the UFO crash at Roswell (an absolute certain fact). This one shows how well certain groups have been able to keep the lid on this data.
44% think Bush lied about WMDs in Iraq (another total fact).
And 25% of US voters still think Oswald acted alone in killing JFK. For all intents and purposes it has been demonstrated that Oswald didn’t even point a gun at the President that day. But the US population is almost evenly divided on this question of fact, per this poll.

So you see that we are divided about facts that should be provable, but have not yet, in many’s eyes, been proven, while we are united in our desire for peace, tolerance, and taking responsibility for those less fortunate.

Where we are really being divided is in our perception of the truth. Suppression has failed almost totally to educate us out of our basic humanity. Though we are told every day that we are just animals, most people around the world believe we were created by the Divine, and probably always will believe so.

Where suppression on earth is working is in disconnecting us from factual data that should make certain truths quite obvious. Amazingly, many have connected with that data anyway.

Obama said nothing profound two days ago. But oh, has he failed to tell us so much that we really do deserve to know! Thus, he will be perceived by many as a liar. Better alive than truthful? I guess each must make that decision for themselves. I hope it is clear what side of that question I favor.

A State Senator Visits my Church

20 September 2012

Tomorrow is International Peace Day.

Peace One Day website.

My church wanted to acknowledge this day. And so a politician who works with our Youth For Human Rights group was invited to come to our church and speak to us. This politician is a woman.

Her audience was small, but we are good listeners. She decided to tell us about efforts being made to include women in the peace-making process. She told us that in the year 2000 the United Nations had officially committed itself to include more women in policy-making roles, and in peace-making. She told us that, more recently, the Obama administration had made a similar commitment. She was proud of these announcements. She felt they were something that we could build on. Women often feel the brunt of war, she said. They should have a say in making peace.

Like many people, I had never heard of the International Day of Peace. It was first declared in 1981, by the United Nations General Assembly. It was originally intended to fall on the opening day of the annual meetings of the United Nations General Assembly. Later, a Briton – founder of Peace One Day – got the idea to give the day a specific date, and the UN agreed to this on 11 September 2001.

The irony of this timing is so striking that it is hard to believe that it was a coincidence.

The site linked to above tells the story of Peace Day, starting with the campaign to give it a specific date, and coming up to the present. This year, the intention is to have a Global Truce on this date.

In the real world, peace work depends on a set of technologies loosely known as “conflict resolution.” Scientology has a technology to contribute to this subject. It is called “Third Party Investigation” and is described briefly in this post. You can find out more about this technology at the Volunteer Ministers website here.

When I don’t cry on hearing of more women and children killed, more cities destroyed, more threats of violence by national leaders, it is only because I get tired of crying all the time.

We can solve this. We just have to discover more effective things to do about it.

Here is something Ron wrote in 1950, and one reason why I consider him my friend:

There is a higher goal, a better goal, a more glorious victory than gutted towns and radiation-burned dead. There is freedom and happiness and plenty and a whole Universe to be won.

He who would not see it is far from worthy to rule. He would indulge his hates is too insane to advise.

How much can Man conquer? He loses if he conquers Man. He wins if he conquers his own fears and conquers then the stars.

(Dianetics p488)