JUAN COMMENTS ON THE NEWS


"Our founding fathers ... our found fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more." -- Barack Hussein Obama II

For more on this topic seeInternational Affairs.


Next Some Words of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.--

The following are the words of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. inscribed on a plaque in Rockefeller Plaza, New York City.

I believe in the supreme worth of the individual and in his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.

I believe that the law was made for man and not man for the law; that government is the servant of the people and not their master.

I believe in the dignity of labor; whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living, but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living.

I believe that thrift is essential to well ordered living; and that economy is a prime requisite of a sound financial structure, whether in government, business or personal affairs.

I believe that truth and justice are fundamental to an enduring social order.

I believe in the sacredness of a promise, that a man’s word should be as good as his bond; that character—not wealth or power or position—is of supreme worth.

I believe that the rendering of useful service is the common duty of mankind and that only in the purifying fire of sacrifice is the dross of selfishness consumed and the greatness of the human soul set free.

I believe in an all-wise and all-loving God, named by whatever name, and that the individual’s highest fulfillment, greatest happiness, and widest usefulness are to be found in living in harmony with His will.

I believe that love is the greatest thing in the world; that it alone can overcome hate; that right can and will triumph over might.

When I first read these words, my initial reaction was one of pleasure. Then, given that Mr. Rockefeller must have been a republican, I looked for what had to be wrong with them. But I found nothing amiss and my admiration for his thoughts grew. I asked a friend of mine for an explanation.

He pointed out that Mr. Rockefeller died in 1960. The republican party then was a far different thing than it is today. Like now it was associated with the wealthy, but it had not yet sold its soul to fundamentalist Christians. These had been picked up when the "solid south" of the old democratic party broke off in a schism over civil rights for Americans of African descent. While pretending to have reversed itself on this position, the party has shifted to opposition to anything that would foster true equality for women and minorities of all sorts. Senator Trent Lott’s recent and not so recent blatantly racist remarks have revealed this pretense by him and by many other republicans that they now embrace civil rights.

For my friend, raised in a republican family, it was necessary to abandon this new thing and after some wandering in the wilderness, found himself with me as an independent, a member of no political party.

For more on this topic see Juan Comments on Politics.

Republican Deficits

During the two years of the Reagan administration and Bush I, the spend and spend Republicans produced gigantic increases in the federal deficit. This was broken only by the fiscal responsibility brought to bear by the Democrats. At the end of Clinton’s presidency there were huge budget surpluses and it looked as though the federal deficit would soon be paid off.

In Bush II, we turned back in the wrong direction. Instead of surplus there was deficit again, and at the same time they paid off business interests. Large tax breaks were given to the wealthy and a pittance to the rest. As usual the sequel was not as good as the original, and that wasn’t much.

"I believe that thrift is essential to well ordered living; and that economy is a prime requisite of a sound financial structure, whether in government, business or personal affairs."

For more on this topic see Economic Issues.

The War on Terrorism Misnamed

The war on terrorism isn't that general, rather it is a war against fundamentalist Muslim savagery. It is characterized by organized, non-governmental violence directed at the rest of the world. The groups involved have been facilitated or encouraged by some governments, however.

Islamic Conference Endorses Suicide Attacks

The 57 nations of the Organization of the Islamic Conference have unanimously endorsed suicide attacks on civilians in Israel. This came after consideration and rejection of a definition of terrorism that would have included all such actions.

These assaults against Israelis are acceptable, they claimed, because of Palestinian frustration. "We reject any attempt to associate Islamic states or Palestinian and Lebanese resistance with terrorism," the document maintains, while blaming it on the victims by insisting that its cause was "… foreign occupation, injustice and exclusion."

Although not stated, by extension of the argument, such attacks on civilians in the US or any other non Muslim country can also be justified.

For more on this topic see Juan Comments on the War.

Fundamentalism

Fundamentalist Muslims, Jews, Christians and others would tear the world apart, rather than moderate their irrational and obsessive claims to exclusive truth. That is not the way to the Almighty’s universal peace.

"I believe in an all-wise and all-loving God, named by whatever name, and that the individual’s highest fulfillment, greatest happiness, and widest usefulness are to be found in living in harmony with His will."

For more on this topic see Juan Comments on Issues in Religion.

Violence is the Problem

If it has not been obvious before, it should be now, that violence is the problem. It is absurd for terrorism to be punished less severely than espionage, for example. Both internationally and domestically there need to be some adjustments.

True, when non violent crimes receive the same level of penalty as violent crimes, the non violent crime seems to become more serious. But it also has the effect of making violent crime appear less serious.

Stop Putting Good People in Prison

Sometimes it seems as though society has lost its ability to make reasonable distinctions, pushing everything into extremes. The power of positive thinking has run amok when people act as though the strength of their belief is the proof of its truth. Prosecutorial zeal, within the law enforcement community and the general public, easily falls into this error.

It isn’t sex and violence that’s the problem, its violence; it isn’t drugs and violence that’s the problem, its violence. The right wing knows this. That is why they pair everything else they don’t like with violence. Prison is the right place for really bad people, violent people who intentionally kill and maim others, those who commit armed robberies and forcible rape, arsonists, bombers and the like.

It is not the place for many others, good people who have made a mistake, among them; drug users, prostitutes, drunk drivers, and non violent sex offenders. Sure, they must pay a price for their violations of the law, but it should be proportionate and appropriate to it.

It is particularly bad, and expensive, to mix these two populations. The not so bad only provide a new set of victims for the really bad folk in the prison.

Prison Trends

According to a Department of Justice report, nearly one in every 30 adults in the United States was incarcerated or on parole in 2007. There are substantial differences by race in the nation’s correctional institutions. More than 900,000 African-Americans are in prison or jail. The rate of incarceration for whites is less than ten percent of the rate for blacks in some states.

"I believe that truth and justice are fundamental to an enduring social order."

For more on this topic, see Juan Comments on Issues of Justice .

Community Service

Community service, it's not just for criminals. There are lots of different kinds of communities, in addition to political subdivisions like your hometown. And there are many ways to serve. Choose the community and variety of service that is most suited to your interests and talents. Giving money to a worthy cause is good, but no substitute for donating your labor.

"I believe that the rendering of useful service is the common duty of mankind and that only in the purifying fire of sacrifice is the dross of selfishness consumed and the greatness of the human soul set free."

Ecological Problems

Ecological problems include toxic wastes dumped on the land, into the water and pumped into the air, declines in wild bird, fish, and animal populations, and a loss of wilderness lands. The cause of these problems is human overpopulation and greed.

Can a rich person eat more food? Well, only a little more without getting sick. Can he eat better food, then? Well, it is "better" only in that he thinks it is. He can have a bigger house, but he can only live in one room at a time. He can have more things, but is it isn't necessarily "better" to have more things. He can be more powerful, but it does him no real good.

The cure for these problems is education and self-restraint.

For more on this topic, see Juan Comments on Ecological Issues.

Computers and Schools

We are at the beginning of a period of change in our world and in our way of life that will be as profound as those transformations initiated by the industrial age. At the heart of this revolution is the computer. They are about to become larger in capacity, smaller in size, faster, and cheaper, i.e., more powerful and more ubiquitous. They will enable enormous progress in scientific research and technological innovation in every area, including education.

In our schools, computers should deliver much of the instruction. It is possible to create complex educational programming that will effectively individualize instruction for each student. This will also enable quality education research to be done. Through programmed instruction the responses of the students can be monitored and studied in order to systematically improve the instructional materials.

For more on this topic, see Juan Comments on Education Issues.

The Right to Die in Comfort

Modern medicine has discovered how to relieve even the most severe pain. Yet the law may be used to sentence defenseless patients to agony, by withholding those drugs that can eliminate suffering. A dying person should be able to experience the end of life in comfort, without the interference of right wing religious fanatics. If they think that it is more holy to suffer, let them. But, by God, leave the rest of us in peace and in accord with our own beliefs and conscience.

"I believe that the law was made for man and not man for the law; that government is the servant of the people and not their master."

For more on this topic see Juan Comments on Medical Issues.

Stem Cell Research

Making a few embryos to collect stem cells is a good reason for cloning. The potential of stem cells in medicine is great enough to be worth the procedure. It is true that the embryo is destroyed in the process. But the embryo is so undeveloped that it is not a sentient being in the same sense as a human being. It is not unlike the many embryos that are lost in the usual course of pregnancy or left over in fertility procedures.

An embryo is life in the same sense that a hair follicle is life. Some people will argue that the embryo has the capability to become a full human being. Well, so does the DNA in the hair follicle if it is used in a cloning procedure.

For more on this topic see Juan Comments on Matters of Science and Technology.

Sex Is Good For You

Sex is good for you. Have plenty, but if you are going to involve someone else, make sure that the other person wants (not merely consents) to participate in the activity you have in mind. Also, take reasonable precautions against unwanted pregnancy and venereal disease.

Please ignore this advice if the church you belong to takes some other position. Alternatively, switch churches. They are the ones who equate sex with violence in movies and TV. What they think one has to the other is a true mystery.

For more on this topic see Juan Comments on Sexuality.

Non-discrimination Laws and Hate Crime Legislation Give No Special Status to Gays

It would also be a hate crime if someone were beaten for being straight. True, gay people don't go around beating up straight people. But the hate crime law itself would give no special status to Gays. It would make it a hate crime to assault anyone because of that person's presumed sexual orientation. Straight people also have a sexual orientation you know.

Non-discrimination laws make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. They would prevent straights from being denied employment for being straight or being fired if their straightness was discovered. Heterosexuals are not so very discreet about their sexuality.

"I believe in the dignity of labor; whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living, but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living."

For more on this topic see Juan Comments on Gay Issues.

What is a Family?

Let’s begin with adoption. The adults become the legal parents of a child who is not related to them or to their natural children, if they have any. Sometimes this person is fully accepted for the rest of his or her life as a member of the family and sometimes not.

It depends on the attitudes of the people involved. Some folks just can’t get over the distinction of not being a blood relative. The adopted child is a full member of the family when the parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins (and the adoptive child) all accept the adopted child as such. This group of people is a family when the individual members agree that they are and behave that way.

Two people who decide to live together in their old age are a family if they consider themselves to be so. When the various siblings, children and grandchildren (if they have any) accept this, the couple is also part of the two extended families. These groups of people are families when they agree that they are and behave that way.

In fact, any group of people can be a family of they want to be. It is not up to the government or any church, especially one to which these people do not belong, to tell them that they are or are not a family.

Human Race

When asked about our race, answering "Human Race" might be best. Recent studies of the human DNA shows cultural concepts of "race" to have no scientific counterpart. That is, human beings with varying skin pigments and other superficial characteristics are not separable into species as are birds or ants or bears.

Modern realities of transportation and commerce are creating one world. If we do it right, including everyone, excluding no one, it can be a peaceful world. Peace on earth, goodwill to all people everywhere, is a goal attainable.

How can we justify ourselves if we fail to try?

"I believe that love is the greatest thing in the world; that it alone can overcome hate; that right can and will triumph over might."

For more on this topic see Juan Comments on Civil Rights.

Separatism and Melting Pot

Some Native Americans choose to live on reservations and maintain their cultural traditions as nearly as possible. Others opt to merge into the general community. In a free society, individuals have a right to make either of these choices and either decision is worthy of respect.

Of course, there are consequences. The ancient form of life did not provide a level of affluence comparable to the Europeans, nor does it do so today. But those who meld with the majority tend to intermarry, lose their language and sacrifice their customs.

There will probably always be some Native Americans who will maintain a separatist way of life.

Some Black folks prefer to live in African American enclaves and resist acting like White people. Others select mixed communities and adopt majority cultural norms. In a free society, individuals have a right to make either of these choices and either decision is worthy of respect.

Of course, there are consequences. Those who choose not to adapt will face limited opportunities. People who decide to conform will forfeit aspects of their heritage.

There will probably always be some African Americans who will maintain a separatist way of life.

Of course there are many options in between separatism and melting pot, various degrees of partial accommodation to the general culture. All of these are as deserving of our appreciation as any other choice. Anyway, the US is more like a stew pot than a melting pot. The individual flavors are still discernable.

Bill of Rights

The first 10 amendments to the US Constitution, known as the Bill of Rights, are of special importance. They establish the rights of the individual that may not be transgressed by any level of government.

Legislative and executive branches at local, state and federal levels frequently attempt to expand their powers at the expense of the people. The courts and the American Civil Liberties Union are the prime defenders of the Bill of Rights.

"I believe in the supreme worth of the individual and in his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Although the government's power with regard to these rights is limited, self-control remains.

"I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty."

For more on this topic, see Juan Comments on Civil Liberties.

Connections and Influence

They say, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." "In college you make the friends and contacts who can help you over a lifetime." Sometimes this is called, networking. Others refer to it as establishing a support group. In political affairs it is known as access. There are clubs and other sorts of social organizations that exist in large measure to provide mutual assistance to their members.

Favorable treatment is available in little things as well. It can be as simple as being a regular and appreciated customer at a coffee shop. When they see you enter they prepare your usual order so you don't have to wait in line.

As a consequence, people who arrived before you have to wait a bit longer to be served. In every situation where one person is advantaged though the use of connections and influence, others are disadvantaged. Should this matter? Even if it does, can it be changed?

The friendly folks at the coffee shop gave you special consideration without your asking for it. This can easily happen with more important matters. Persons in a position to help you, who happen to be good friends of your parents, may smooth your way in the world.

Is this wrong? If so, what should you do about it? Is it possible for the world to function in any other way? Would some alternative be better?

You could tell the folks at the coffee ship, in a nice way, that you would prefer to wait your turn. But if it is a one-time thing, like getting put at the top of the waiting list for the Air National Guard in order to avoid being sent to Viet Nam, the damage to someone else is done before you even know it has occurred. Should you tell your well connected parents that you don't want them ever to use their influence in your behalf?

Consider the process of finding employment. It could be required that all positions, even the least significant, be broadly advertised and filled strictly by the best applicant. Such a procedure assumes that we are able to specify the characteristics of best. It is often difficult enough to define what would be adequate. That is, judgment usually plays a role in such decisions. This leaves the door open for influence to enter.

Certainly it is possible for me to avoid using influence and connections for myself or to advantage others. Those who use these avenues of access will disadvantage me, but this is probably the best that can be done.

"I believe in the sacredness of a promise, that a man’s word should be as good as his bond; that character—not wealth or power or position—is of supreme worth."

For more on this topic see Juan Comments on Matters of Character.

Who Has the Power?

The only real power any person has is over his own body, and then only if he is not restrained by others. The additional power a person may appear to wield is derived from other people doing his bidding (following his orders) for whatever reasons, most notably for money, but sometimes out of a sense of duty, or just to get along. That is, one person (or many) trades his personal power to another in exchange for something.

Who has the power? You do. Don’t be duped into giving your power away to the wrong people or on the cheap.

For more on this topic see Juan Comments on Politics.