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In 1605,  Guy Fawkes and a group of conspirators attempted to blow up the British Parliament House, and, in the process, kill the members of Parliament and the Protestant King James. Their goal was merely political – they just wanted to restore a Catholic king to the throne. Fawkes was caught and ultimately put to death – after he confessed (under extreme torture) to treason and implicated the other conspirators. Guy Fawkes Day (November 5th) was then created as a reminder to the citizens of England of the horrific consequences, i.e. horrific torture, that would be dealt to any other persons who attempted to overthrow the government. Interestingly, Guy Fawkes Day now seems to be more a rallying day for people who despise the current government of England. It would seem that perhaps not everyone thinks that treason is a bad thing.

Which brings us to the current day.  Most of us are aware that over the past week or so the American public lost a great deal of money in the stock market. On August 8th alone the market lost over $1,000,000,000,000.00 (One trillion dollars). A good deal of this money was from 401k investments, upon the earnings of which many Americans hope – or had hoped – to retire. Now they have lost any not only the earnings they might have accumulated, but they also lost a good amount of principal too. How could this have happened? How could the entire world have become so frightened that a worldwide selloff was triggered? Was it simply because a rating agency (S&P) published an opinion that downgraded the U.S. from a AAA risk to a AAa risk? Or was it something else?

The events that led up to the S&P downgrade are indicative of a pernicious attitude among some people in our Congress. Clearly, one expects the opposition party to oppose the agenda of the majority party. That is the way democracies always work. However, our democracy is no longer a functioning democracy. The opposition gang decided to refuse to compromise until the 11th hour. They were playing “chicken” with the welfare of the country, like a bunch of ignorant children, unaware that they are playing with fire.  And the world is scared.

However, these were not children. They were intelligent men. They knew what they were doing. They were well aware of the potential catastrophic effects of their refusal to bargain in good faith for the “good of the country”. These men, who had all sworn to uphold the Constitution, had, with their eyes wide open, driven the bus over a cliff. Why? There is, of course, only one reason – wealth. The Party of individual wealth had decided that they owed nothing to the American people. Their loyalty was only to their own individual wealth – their businesses, their cronies,  and  their Party – loyalty to the Party was paramount (just like in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union). And they stayed loyal, until at the last possible moment – then they grudgingly made a miserly deal. But it was too little and too late. S&P had seen enough. These guys in the Party were not working for the people of the United States – in fact they were harming the people of the United States. And they didn’t care. S&P had no option but to advise their worldwide clients to beware because the U.S.A was no longer a stable country, and you could no longer rely on the government’s ability to pay its debt. All because of the uncaring, foolish zealots of the Party.

Today, the entire world is still feeling the aftershocks of this pernicious collusion in Congress. Today the economy of the U.S., Europe, and Asia are all weaker because of the fanatics who have been elected to Congress. The problem is apparent to the world. Congress has been seized by a group of fanatics, zealots,  and true believers in crackpot economic theories, and others who just want to profit from the collapse of the U.S. economy. How can a member of Congress, in good conscience, sell the U.S. economy short? How can these people, elected to do the will of the people, cause such economic devastation and still hold their heads high?

Legally, these activities are not treason in the U.S. However, they hardly indicate love of country, or a sense of duty. These people clearly have no feeling of empathy for the economic ruin their activities have caused and will continue to cause to millions upon millions of innocent Americans.

Call it what you will, but as far as I am concerned, T is for treason.

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A few years ago, John McCain brought up the issue of “Class Warfare” while running for President. He accused Barack Obama of espousing economic policies that amounted to class warfare. Perhaps McCain was sensitive to the issue because economic class warfare had been the policy of the previous Republican Presidents Bush and Reagan. Of course their economic policies were never described as class warfare, they simply destroyed the economy in order that the relatively few number of people at the top of the food chain could enjoy an extreme prosperity at the expense of most of the American population. John McCain’s fear was that, as President, Barack Obama would put a stop to these policies.Unfortunately, McCain’s fears were misplaced. Obama has done virtually nothing to change the fundamental economy of the United States.

Class warfare is nothing new. It only takes a brief look at history to realize that almost all warfare is class warfare. Consider, for example, a classic case: the overthrow of the Czar of Russia by the Communists. In the early 20th Century there were two distinct classes in Russia – a ruling noble class that included the Czar (by the way, the word Czar is a corruption of the Roman emperor’s title “Caesar”). The problem in Russia was the economy, i.e. the Czar and his family owned just about all the wealth and the people had very little. The people rose up against the Czar and his family, killed them all, and implemented a completely different economic system based upon an ideal of equality.

If we look further back in time to 1776, the American Revolution was a response to England’s class warfare. The King of England believed he essentially owned America – and he may have been right. After all, weren’t they founded as colonies of England and weren’t all the inhabitants subjects of the King? So what was the problem? It was excessive taxation. The taxes extracted by England from the colonists were a heavy burden and ultimately America rose up in class warfare against the King of England and all the royalty that owned the various colonies in America.

It wasn’t long after the American Revolution that a rebellion against the ruling class began in France; it was the French Revolution and it was a rebellion against the class warfare of the royalty of France. Like the uprising against Russian royalty in the 20th Century, things did not go well for the wealthy people of France.

Recently, we have witnessed the “Arab Spring” in the Middle East. In these uprisings it has always been a case of the poorer people rising up against their wealthy masters. It has been class warfare. From these and many other examples of past wars, including World War II, it can be seen that wars are usually caused by economic iniquity. Wars occur when the divide between the wealthy rulers and the common man becomes too vast, and it is seen that a few people at the top of the economic food chain are prospering mightily on the backs of the general population. It is the story of history and it is instructive to note that John McCain was and is very concerned about an outbreak of class warfare in America. But why? Does he know something most of us don’t? Probably.

One of the things that Senator McCain probably knows very well is that all members of the U.S. Senate and many members of the House of Representatives are multi-millionaires. They are not your typical Americans. Another thing that Senator McCain probably knows very well is that the American economy was deliberately transformed by Republican Presidents Reagan and Bush and a willing Congress. This was aided by the appointment of key people, for example, Alan Greenspan, to work in the key financial sections of the government, such as the Federal Reserve and the Treasury, in order to make the transformation from a country where all men were treated equally to one where the wealthy were treated as a separate, entitled class. Few people know the whole story of the downfall of the U.S. economy and how it was the result of many years of Republican, wealthy family favoring, economic policies. This sad story has been exposed on Public Television – and as a result probably seen by relatively few people. It can be seen here: Frontline.

Frontline revealed that Greenspan and his henchmen virtually destroyed the U.S. economy. Interestingly, Timothy Geithner was part of this group of people that deliberately created an uncontrolled marketplace that was doomed to collapse while it made a few people immensely rich at the expense of the average American. Inexplicably, President Obama chose Timothy Geithner to be his Secretary of the Treasury, i.e. Obama knowingly put the fox in charge of the chicken coop. We are by no means in a stable economy, even though we have avoided a complete meltdown. The wealthy class still rules and the Republican party is playing a dangerous game of chicken right now with the economy, threatening to let the country default on its obligations if any attempt is made to tax the wealthy. It’s class warfare alright, and its being waged by the Republican Party in order to benefit a miniscule minority of extremely wealthy Americans.

Any reasonable person would see that the wealthy class is playing with fire, confident that the under-class will cave in and obey. However, that isn’t true, it has never been true. That is the lesson of history from the American Revolution and even before: economically oppressed people always rise up. Look at the Middle East, look at Greece, look at Africa, look at the history of South America and Latin America. The problem is that the wealthy, upper class Republicans are blinded by their own greed and stupidity. They believe their flawed economic ideas will work, but their ideas are nothing more than pouring gasoline on a fire – you get a big flame for a short time, and then the fire dies out. It may well be that we are facing a major economic implosion because the fundamental problems that led to the previous meltdown have not been corrected. Indeed, except for Greenspan, many of the perpetrators of the meltdown are still in the game.

McCain was wrong about Obama, he is not an advocate of class warfare, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It always does when the wealthy class goes too far. Just look at history.

 

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Perhaps it’s an unwritten message from President Obama to Al Qaeda: Like Luca Brasi, Osama bin Laden now “sleeps with the fishes”. Of course the burial at sea also has the advantage of eliminating the possibility of creating a shrine to one of the most famous of the world’s terrorists, although it is unlikely he could compete favorably for the title of greatest terrorist of all time if we also consider Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan, Oliver Cromwell, Attila the Hun, or Josef Stalin. Perhaps he might deserve a more appropriate title, like Terrorist of the Decade. Soon to be forgotten, in two generations he will be nothing more than a footnote in history – if that.

However, there is a legacy he leaves behind that may affect the world for a long time to come: he taught us mistrust. Bin Laden’s message to the world was that he could not be trusted, nor could his followers. It didn’t matter if you knew them or not. It didn’t matter whether you were in the fight or not. It didn’t even matter if you knew what the fight was about or if you even knew there was a fight. You were in danger from bin Laden and his gang of murderers. It sounds like insanity, doesn’t it? Perhaps it was. Perhaps it is. Even so, it will have a lasting impact on how we live.

Anyone who used to fly on airplanes before 9/11 and who now flies on airplanes is well aware of bin Laden’s legacy. But it’s not only aviation that is affected. Governments around the world now take all sorts of measures to protect things that we never thought needing protecting; things like subway systems, sporting events, ocean liners, water supplies, natural gas depots, and so forth. The list could go on and on because during Osama’s attempted  reign of terror nothing was truly safe. Not that they ever were, because accidents happen all the time anyway. But Osama thought that he could force something to happen by his actions. However, Osama is gone and the political world has been little changed by the actions of Osama and his Al Qaeda followers.

Even so, his legacy is all around us – a legacy of mistrust. How long will it permeate world society? One can only wonder; however, there is another aspect of Osama’s legacy: the way he died. A U.S. Navy Seal Team surprised him in his home in the middle of the night and killed him in a heartbeat. Death from above.  This is terrorism turned upon itself. It wasn’t long after Osama was killed that another Al Qaeda leader, thought to be Osama’s successor, was killed without warning by a Predator drone, and only recently another Al Qaeda leader was killed at a police roadblock in Somalia. It would seem that the members of Al Qaeda have also received a legacy of terror from their leader. For the foreseeable future they must live with the knowledge that they might die at any moment without warning. He who lives by the sword…

It seems that all that Osama bin Laden succeeded in doing was increasing the uncertainty level in an already very uncertain world.

It is interesting to note that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan do not seem to have had much involvement with the recent losses experienced by Al Qaeda. This, of course, is to be expected. The Iraq War had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. It was an attack on Saddam Hussein by George Bush with a trumped-up charge about “weapons of mass destruction” that Iraq did not possess. Could it be that it was more likely revenge for Saddam’s earlier attempt to assassinate the first President Bush? Certainly Saddam was captured and hanged. But there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and Saddam hated Al Qaeda, so it wasn’t that. So far, the U.S. government has never given a satisfactory explanation of what the Iraq war was all about. We just know that it had nothing to do with fighting terrorism. Remember when Vice President Cheney was talking about a different kind of war that would be fought clandestinely? It would be our secret agents against Al Qaeda’s secret agents:

In 2001, Vice President Cheney appears on NBC’s Meet the Press and says, “We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful.”

I guess that wasn’t going so well and that’s why we sent the army into Iraq and Afghanistan. So far we have spent a little over 1.2 trillion dollars on these two wars (that’s $1,200,000,000,000.00 approximately). I guess that is also part of Osama’s legacy. We have spent our fortune conducting a traditional war against an untraditional enemy.  However, in the end, it was the spy vs. spy approach that killed Osama bin Laden. Nevertheless, couldn’t the cost of these two misguided wars be considered his legacy because that was the excuse the Bush administration gave for waging them? Of course these wars were not paid for by taxes (we borrowed the money from China), so now we are in debt up to our eyebrows and the national and world economies are teetering on the brink of another collapse. Could this economic catastrophe also be part of Osama’s legacy, although most certainly an unintended one?

On the other hand, who would have thought President Bush would act so irresponsibly as to conduct two wars for which he had no money? Come to think of it, since the US and world economic collapse was probably the last thing on Osama’s mind, it’s probably not right to say that it is Osama’s legacy. Let’s call it George Bush’s legacy; that would be more accurate.

So what did Osama accomplish? He made us mistrust each other more than usual. He temporarily increased the uncertainty in an already very uncertain world for everyone, including his own misguided followers.

Compared to George Bush, it’s not much of a legacy is it?

 

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About ten years ago, inspired by the movie, Jurassic Park, I began to wonder whether it might be possible to clone a mammoth, an animal that has been extinct for about 10,000 years. I figured that because some of these animals have been preserved fairly well in the frozen lands of northern Siberia, some of the DNA might be intact. It seemed to me pretty clear that Michael Crichton’s idea of getting DNA from a preserved insect that had bitten a dinosaur was a little far-fetched. However, finding intact DNA in a well-preserved mammoth might be more likely. So – I decided to write a novel about the idea. I figured that would be easier than actually cloning a mammoth…

Well, it turned out  that writing one’s first novel is not so easy after all. While the first draft was completed in 2001, I found that I really needed to rewrite it – several times. Then, after I had written the best version of the novel that I could – I put it aside, because I didn’t think it was good enough. A few years later, while living in Ireland, I decided to take another crack at it. So, I rewrote the novel again with major changes. I liked it a lot better this time and only rewrote it two more times before I thought it was ready to publish. (Come to think of it, it might have been easier to just clone the mammoth.)

The basics of the story never changed: a Japanese professor decides to clone a perfectly preserved mammoth, and like in all good thrillers, things start to go wrong. Then they go very wrong. I won’t tell you the whole story, but if you are interested, you can buy the paperback version, or if you have a Kindle reader, you can download it from Amazon by clicking this link. Now, I’m not writing this just to call attention to my book – at least not entirely anyway. I decided to write this because something strange, perhaps even eerie is going on.

While reading yesterday’s Irish Independent newspaper online (I love this paper, they have so much world news that the U.S. press ignores), I came across an article about cloning mammoths. It seems there is this Japanese professor who thinks he knows how to do it and plans to do so by extracting the DNA from a well-preserved mammoth that was found in Siberia. He thinks he could have a cloned baby mammoth in about four years. I wonder if he has read my book? I mean the part about where things start to go wrong and then they go horribly wrong? Probably not, I’ll bet.

A few years ago, cloning was pretty controversial, but the idea seems to have become accepted now. Even so, I don’t think we are being served cloned lamb or beef yet, are we? And, I haven’t heard of any cloned babies being born yet – but they certainly could be, I suppose. I think we have the technology. But the idea of cloning an extinct animal – seriously – that should be considered very carefully. Now, if we are talking about an animal that went extinct in the recent past, like the Passenger Pigeon, because people hunted it to extinction – well, maybe that would be OK. But animals that became extinct eons ago may present dangers that we haven’t considered. These animals are no longer a part of our world and reintroducing them might cause unforeseen problems. I don’t think the professor in Japan that is referred to in the Irish Independent foresees any downside to his project – and that is what worries me because that is exactly like my novel. Really.

Perhaps, we need to have some sort of international body that considers certain types of advanced research and allows or disallows certain experiments. I can think of a couple of physics experiments that would fall in that category. I suppose there are several other biology experiments, medical experiments, chemistry experiments, and even computing experiments (like embedding computers in people) that might cry out for some oversight beyond that of the individual experimenter.

Mary Shelley implicitly warned us about this topic a century ago when she wrote her novel, Frankenstein. So far, no one has taken her warning seriously. You see, we only take warnings like that after the fact.

Someday, that strategy will prove to be too late.

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Anyway you look a the recent shooting in Tucson, it is a tragedy. I suppose all Americans can agree on that. However, as the nation gets over the shock and grief of the murders, I suppose we will soon begin pointing the finger of blame. I’m here to help.

In order to understand what happened in Tucson, it is necessary to recall a little U.S. history concerning the treatment of people with mental disorders. At one time, many years ago, the U.S. government was actively involved in providing care for people who had severe mental problems. There were mental hospitals in most states that were funded by the Federal government. It was a rare sight to see someone staggering along the sidewalk, mumbling to themselves. Today, that is commonplace. Why? Because of a fundamental difference in philosophy among Americans. We have, in this country, pretty much two camps. One camp sort of believes that we, as a society, should all work together for the common good. This group believes in high quality public education, government support of health care, and so forth. The other group is the rugged individualists whose philosophy is pretty much “you are on your own”. They believe that people should take care of themselves and they don’t want their tax dollars being used to help someone who did not provide for themselves.

At one time, the people who believed that government existed to help the people were in power. They created a system of mental hospitals to provide the type of care for the severely mentally disturbed that families just could not provide. This was the American way for many, many years. But all that changed in the late 20th century. A severe blow was dealt to this system when, under President Reagan, the Community Health Centers Act was repealed. This was the beginning of the end of Federal involvement in mental health care. Times and attitudes were changing. The people were voting more for States Rights than for a strong Federal government. Eventually, the responsibility for the care of mentally ill people transitioned to the individual states to handle as each state saw fit. The move has been a disaster.

When the Federally funded mental hospitals were closed and the Community Mental Health Centers were no longer funded we began seeing something new. There were homeless people wandering in the cities. They were obviously mentally ill. They were unable to care for themselves. It is that way today. Perhaps 30% of the homeless people are severely mentally ill, unable to care for themselves, unable to cope with the system or life on the streets. When winter comes some die on the streets of exposure. And we do nothing, except look away.

So, what does this have to do with the shooting in Tucson? During the past 40 to 50 years many of the Republican dominated states of the American West have clamored for states rights – and they still do. During this time they have obtained more and more authority and become more independent of the Federal government. They make their own rules now. However, with this new-found authority comes new-found responsibility. The State of Arizona has its own policies on how to deal with the mentally ill.  It has its own policies on who can own a gun. It has its own policies on how much ammunition one can buy. The State of Arizona also has the responsibility to keep its citizens safe. It has the obligation to ensure that it is not negligent in allowing dangerous people to have the opportunity to commit murder and mayhem.

The State of Arizona failed, not because it couldn’t protect it people; it failed because it didn’t. If Arizona had a system of mental hospitals for the severely mentally ill the young man who caused so much harm would have never had the opportunity to do so. All the signs were there, but there was no system in place in Arizona to take action. The mental hospitals don’t exist anymore. Mentally ill people are now integrated into society. Why? Because it is less expensive than caring for them. It was a business decision by President Reagan and many other Republican leaders. Ultimately, it is a question of philosophy. What kind of country are we and what are our values? The truth is we are a divided nation. So we leave these questions to the individual states.

The court case will probably go on for a long time. There will be endless analysis of who said what and who did what. Even the parents will be called in and interrogated. Why didn’t they stop their son, they will be asked. As if they could imagine this would happen.  The finger-pointing will begin, as it always does. Some will say it is Sarah Palin’s fault. Some may blame Glenn Beck for inciting hatred on his TV show. Some will blame Rep. Giffords for not taking sufficient precautions. Some will blame the young man’s school and teacher for not taking stronger action. And everyone will be heading for cover, trying to avoid blame. However, the blame belongs to none of these because they didn’t have the knowledge or the power or the duty to prevent the disaster. There is only one entity that can be rightly and legally blamed because it failed in its duty to its citizens in so many ways.

Blame Arizona.

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