Archive | September, 2012

The 47 percent is really the 1 percent.

22 Sep

Let’s be logical for a moment.

If I have something of value, to whom am I likely to give it ?  Someone who gives me nothing in return, or someone who provides me with a replacement form of value?

We know the answer.

It is a reflection of human nature. It is the art and science of the marketplace.

You got nothing; you get very little.

The federal government possesses something of value, namely the money in its treasury. Does it mostly go to the poor, who give nothing in return to lawmakers and don’t even vote? Or to the very rich, who bankroll elections and do vote?

True, there are some illusions worked into the system, like Obamacare, a healthcare system that seemingly benefits the poor – and in fact does. But not in the way that it benefits the all-powerful insurance industry.

What conservative describe as socialism in America is really a skilled, deft way of funneling tax money to the corporate world and the 1 percenters.  Of course, a great deal more money takes a direct route and never goes anywhere near the poor.

I’m not sure what conservatives call that.

Almost every highly successful business or businessperson spends heavily to finance elections. Conversely, if a successful business does not, it is likely to be crushed by competitors who do. Microsoft was a rare example of a corporate giant that stayed out of the political arena. When the Justice Department came after it on anti-trust charges, it changed its strategy.

The 1 percenters, be they people or corporations, need friends.

President Nixon was friends with Pepsi and brought it to Russia.

President Carter was friends with Coke and brought it to China.

The competitors of the two drinks stayed home and lost market share.

So when Mitt Romney speaks about the 47 percent who rely on government, he doesn’t let on that some of his ilk might be selling apples on the street if it weren’t for government support.

In summary then, if Congress votes to give every poor person in America an iPhone 5, it’s not because America is a socialist country. It’s not because politicians like poor people. It’s because the lobbyist for the cell phone industry, after providing great sums to politicians, had a very good day on Capitol Hill.

Who is apt to throw a bomb?

16 Sep




“Real anarchists don’t throw bombs,” the political science professor said while lecturing a class at a Lancaster County (Pa.) college. “There’s a large group of them living on farms not far from here. They’ve never thrown a bomb. Do you know who they are?”

The class didn’t.

“They’re the Amish.”

The professor went on to explain about organized groups who prefer to live without government.

It was an interesting exercise, separating violence and radicalism from a term that normally suggests only terror.

I thought about this lecture, given during a time of great unrest in the U.S., after reading a piece by Carlin Romano in the Chronicle of Higher Education. (I’d link to it but you have to subscribe.) Romano, a former journalist at the Philadelphia Inquirer, teaches philosophy at Ursinus College. He called his piece, “Getting to the Root of ‘Radical’ ”

In part, he takes a look at some of the clever definitions historic figures have given to political labels.

Here’s FDR:

“A Radical is a man with both feet planted — in the air. A Conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward. A Reactionary is a somnambulist walking backwards. A Liberal is a man who uses his legs and his hands at the behest  — at the command  — of his head.”

And Woodrow Wilson:

“By ‘radical,’ I understand one who goes too far; by ‘conservative,’ one who does not go far enough; by ‘reactionary,’ one who won’t go at all.”

Poet Robert Frost, according to Romano, said:

“I never dared be radical when young for fear it would make me conservative when old.”

Pretty good.

OK. So how should we categorize the thousand who have taken to the streets of Middle Eastern cities in anti-Western protests?

How about young, unemployed, angry, outraged, frustrated? I’m not sure there is any real politics involved. The non-political radical may be the most dangerous of all. Unlike the Amish, they will throw bombs.

– Lanny Morgnanesi


God and Man on a Visit To Russia

8 Sep

I like to think of Jesus as a man so I can marvel at his God-like brilliance and ability to see and express truth.

If you think of him as God, then his acts and works would not necessarily be worthy of attention. Pavarotti, after all, received no praise for humming a pop tune, nor Einstein for giving correct change to the paperboy.

A god can easily transform water to wine; it is much more difficult for a man.

For me, one of Jesus’ greatest moments was when he was approached by spies trying to trick him into sedition. They coyly ask if it was acceptable to pay tribute to Caesar. Jesus, quick on his feet, asked them to produce a coin, which carried Caesar’s image.

Then came the unforgettable, genius response: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

In my last post I mentioned a rabbi named Joseph Krauskopf and his visit to Tolstoy in 1894. Today I’d like to discuss Krauskopf and his response when Tolstoy asked him about Jesus.

The intelligence and poetry of the answer brought to mind the “render” response.

In Russia at that time, Jews knew little of Jesus and those familiar with him cared not much for him. But Krauskopf struck Tolstoy as a different breed. The American rabbi from Philadelphia was an early member of the reformed movement and, among other things, advocated moving the Jewish Sabbath to Sunday as a way to bring Christians and Jews together.  He believed that all religions – including his own — contained good and bad, and that the good should be practiced and the bad eradicated.

Some Jews, I’m sure, refused to consider Krauskopf a Jew.

“What is your belief respecting Jesus?” Tolstoy asked.

Krauskopf told the writer, “I regard the Rabbi of Nazareth as one of the greatest of Israel’s teachers and leaders and reformers, not as a divine being who lived and taught humanly but as a human being who lived and taught divinely.

Can we safely say that he who lives divinely is divine?

Sometimes we allow words and their interpretation to muddle or even destroy something that in its raw form and on its own is simply and clearly exceptional.

I would love to hear from others, Christians and Jews, on Krauskopf’s statement about Jesus.

Tolstoy, who wrote of aristocracy, had much in common with the Occupy movement

5 Sep

My work recently brought me to the writings of a reformed rabbi named Dr. Joseph Krauskopf. He lived around the turn of the 20th century. While not well-known today, he was friends with presidents and world leaders during his day.

In today’s light it is easy to categorize him as a visionary and possibly a radical. What may be truer is that free thinking and free speech flourished more then than now, and that others at the time were expressing similar ideas – equality and dignity for all, women’s rights, the end of poverty, a government hand in the inspection of food and housing, world peace.

In 1894 Krauskopf traveled to Russia and met with Count Leo Tolstoy, known now as a great novelist; known then as an incredibly influential, larger-than-life, cultish leader of humanists. Krauskopf, in utter awe of the man, recorded every facet of the meeting. The account is fascinating and revealing. In one exchange, the Russian asks the rabbi if he had read “What to Do,” a work of non-fiction by Tolstoy calling for the liberation of the oppressed.

Krauskopf had not, but said he did read “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina.”

Tolstoy, according to Krauskopf, described those books as trash and said he would prefer if the world instead read his “serious writings.”

But what I really want to report here is Tolstoy’s timeless description of the United States and its faults.

“You call yourselves a republic; you are worse than an autocracy. I say worse because you are ruled by gold, and gold is more conscienceless, and therefore more tyrannical, than any human tyrant. Your intentions are good; your execution is lamentable. Were yours the free and representative government you pretend to have, you would not allow it to be controlled by the money powers and their hirelings, the bosses and machines, as you do.”

I wish someone would read this from the podium at the Democratic National Convention, or from any podium for that matter.

What are your thoughts?

— Lanny Morgnanesi

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