Saturday, November 22, 2014

Entering injun country and fighting hostiles

It's a fascinating photographic collection at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City. In 1867 photographer Alexander Gardner became part of the survey team for the Union Pacific Railway. Gardner had once worked in New York for Mathew Brady, who had produced so many iconic pictures of the Civil War.

While part of the exhibit contains photographs of Kansas City in 1867-68, Lawrence, Kansas and other areas, other photographs depict the myriad relations between the U.S. military, white settlers and the Indians that lived in the region. These are powerful images, both poignant and hypnotic. See “images.”

In 1868 Gardner went with the Indian Peace Commission held in Fort Laramie, Wyoming. The Commission was made up of people sympathetic to Indian culture and their way of life and those that wanted a “final” solution. It was, however, the beginning of the end for the Plains Indians.

The American Civil War was over and the “frontier” was about to be opened up to European-Americans on a vast scale. We were headed for the Pacific coast. (Still one of the best accounts on how the railroad opened the West and its consequences read Richard White's book Railroaded.)

A story for all of us in injun country

This is not an American story or just another sad tale about indigenous people worldwide, although it has directly affected native populations for a long time. It's really about values, economic systems and what we're willing to consider as alternatives in the 21st century. See 'tar sands' and accompanying video.

The U.S. military has used the expression “going into injun country” for a long time when embarking on our numerous military campaigns or entering an especially dangerous area within a country where we're usually not wanted. The problem is that more and more of us will likely be considered “hostiles” living in injun country by those few seeking some type of “final solution.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Economic America: A delusion wrapped in an illusion

We are the rich. We own America. We got it, God knows how, but we intend to keep it.
(Frederick Townsend Martin, a member of New York's late 19th century upper class)

Listen to your betters

I have learned how to cultivate my karma for success; a wealthy businessman told me. I've lost track of all the articles I have read on numerous sites, including Linkedin, about “making it.” Now I know how to write a resume so as to avoid age discrimination and what clothes to wear for all occasions.

So many articles on how to get rich, including pictures of beautiful people, beautiful mansions and beautiful yachts and so little time. Mark Cuban told me he gets his inspiration from reading Ayn Rand novels. There's hope. I read Ayn Rand novels when I was in college.

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country.... Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow....
(Abraham Lincoln, 1864)

Mirrors and smoke

My libertarian friends are fond of reminding me that America is a republic not a democracy. I usually thank them and only occasionally ask them if a republic can be democratic. Certainly, our 18th century Founding Fathers, a remarkable collection of human beings, were no democrats as we understand the term in the 21st century.

For the creators of the Constitution, they did not place “democracy” on a marble stand. When they spoke of democracy they meant preventing”mob rule” and the “triumph” of passion. Alexander Hamilton once remarked during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 that, “Your 'people,' sir, is nothing but a great beast.”

In the 21st century one of our favorite Horatio Alger stories is the self-made billionaire tale. It was Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda muse, that said, “You tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

Our billionaires in the U.S., overwhelmingly, receive their education from elite or elitist institutions, depending on your point of view, and a large percentage have advanced degrees. (See Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census2014). It's actually a perpetuation of a class and most definitely not the enlargement of an opportunity.

It's like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.
(Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone, a private equity firm, in response to the Obama administration proposal to close the 'carried interest loophole' benefiting the very rich, 2011)

“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place.”

Yes, we are living in a “wonder-land.” The information is readily available. For some it might begin with Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty. But there are many other sources less abstruse.

Corporate profits have risen five times faster than wages, while the middle class has not seen its wages rise in 15 years. College costs have risen 500 percent since 1985 while the consumer price index rose only 115 percent during the same period. At Harvard 11 % of the students receive Pell grants, while at the University of Texas 59% receive Pell grants.

Even with a less than perfect Affordable Care Act (hardly a radical idea in the developed world), health costs are going up, while family income is going down. The rich, well, they are “different” from you and me. They have their subsidies, which of course is a tax for everyone else.

Who loves you baby

I have seen examples of “capitalism” in a small rum shop in Barbados, in an Indian market outside of Quito, Ecuador and at a small hotel on the coast of Venezuela. In my own family there are small business owners, who employ people, pay taxes and who really do believe in responsibility beyond themselves.

With the “millennials” well on their way of becoming the new American serfs because of college debt and a broken economic system, I have wondered even more if we actually do believe in an educated citizenry, because freedom, liberty and opportunity for all is supposedly, at the very least, in our national interest.

Leaving aside for the moment secondary and primary school education, why is college tuition not paid for by its citizens? After all, we are seemingly happy to pay for the education of a professional military officer class. I suppose the question is mostly rhetorical.

Our republic is broken and nonsense about Ayn Rand and “dressing” for success are the distracting tales told by idiots and sociopaths.

The death of Sitting Bull removes one of the obstacles to civilization. He was a greasy savage, who rarely bathed and was liable at anytime to become infected with vermin. During the whole of his life he entertained the remarkable delusion that he was a free-born American with some rights in the country of his ancestors.
(The St. Louis Republic , St. Louis, Missouri, December 17, 1890)

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