The Many Faces of Allen: Dulles and the Beginning of the CIA…. or the Deep State

We are now nearing the seventy-five year anniversary of the end of World War Two. The participants in this war are slowly vanishing. Official secrecy in the Allied Powers, now including the records of the Soviet Union since its demise in the 1990s, are becoming more publicly available. As history sorts out the lead up to the war, its prosecution and, for this blog, the end of the war and what was planned for the Post War world, be aware the stories about this time period do not agree. We must be aware the first versions offered the public by those involved lacked full accuracy for various reasons. Those who wanted their own records to reflect favorably were often in a position to invest in, advise, influence, intimidate and, indeed, even write their own accounts of what transpired at the time. Then, historians always have a bias. What really happened and how should we judge it and the men who perpetrated it? 

While first hand accounts are invaluable for many reasons, with one of those reasons to allow history to sort out the motivations and moral choices of those writing their own version of history, self-reporting of one’s own history may not be as honest as history requires. Churchill, Nixon and Trotsky are powerful individuals who have offered their own views of the life they experienced and the meanings found in events and decisions experienced or taken by them. These must be parsed with other views, after which the historian extrapolates the thesis useful to her views and then builds a case to explain this position.

In my many years of researching and teaching the Post War world, I have come to be frustrated by many decisions we, the United States, made on the ground at the beginning of that time in what I feel were often made in the context of political expediency. Claims were always made, though, that either indecision, or absent a decisive action, the United States’ security would be imperiled. But, often those working for the United States were only interested in their own skin.

One such person who pampered his skin, in my opinion, was Allen Dulles. After much effort to dissuade myself that Dulles was more interested in his own image and the arrogant interpretation of the world’s preferred paradigm as he saw it, I have been unsuccessful. Though an airport is named for him (correction made July 20th……..while I thought it might be his brother when first writing, I left this one unresearched while finding all those other links….I have perhaps almost as much animus for John F., too, and I’ll leave this and my sentiments unchanged in the post, even though I now know the mistake) , that he was head of the CIA and has been venerated in many Conservative circles, I find his actions and his personae if not repulsive, at least not worthy of the accolades that have been laid at his feet. I would rather start a historical funeral pyre to purge the bad history and cleanse the record….as I see it. But, as I will quickly be venturing into NAZI history at the end of the war, I best not talk about book burning.

As is often the case in getting to this blog, I began somewhere else, looking for information on a living individual on the Internet only to be directed to a deceased person. The name of Karl Wolff was the track I was following in my recent efforts, about something I can no longer recall now. This led me to Allen Dulles, a person I have hoisted on earlier occasions and for whom I hold poor thoughts. The Dulles Brothers, a duo that held great power within the Republican administrations in the Cold War, each had responsibilities that put them at the pinnacle of decision-making and influence. This blog will focus on Allen, the younger brother who ended up heading the CIA. Before it was the CIA, when covert spying began in the “ungentlemanly” eras of World Wars One and again in World War Two, Allen worked in Switzerland at the US Office in Bern.  In the Interwar years, he worked for a stint as a lawyer in perhaps the most powerful law firm in the country, and perhaps the world, Sullivan and Cromwell, LLP. After World War Two, he continued his rise within government intelligence to become the longest serving head of the CIA.

dullesHistorians run the gambit on Dulles, from the extreme of calling him a psychopath, to a Neo-Fascist in support of reestablishing NAZI control over German industry after the death of Hitler, others simply selfish and an egoist, while some give him credit for his strong anti-communist views that, even though his ethical choices may have been suspect, made him a great patriot. There are those who accuse him of involvement in the assassination of JFK! I lean towards the more progressive assessment of his exploits and wonder if history should not hold him accountable at least for insubordination, possibly treason, and generally making decisions primarily in the name of US business interests that harmed the world for generations. There are many books that support that view, thankfully. Not my favorite person.

wolffHow I returned to Dulles again in this blog, as I said, was due to Karl Wolff. The dead Wolff, for whom I was not initially searching the web, was born into the gentry in Germany prior to WW1. He was the perfect Aryan, tall and blue eyed. One of the highest ranking German NAZIs to survive the war, he avoided prosecution (at first) because of his involvement and connections to Allen Dulles. Most accounts of Dulles’ contacts with and treatment of NAZIs support the position that he was sympathetic towards a system that allowed the business interests to influence government policy making. The German government of the 30s and 40s suited this description perfectly. Too, their industries were connected to his clients from his law firm days and there are accusations that he was more focused on protecting their interests than those of the United States. Also, through his connections in Europe, utilizing the “Rat Lines” established to get NAZIs out of Europe at the end of the war, many prominent NAZIs escaped prosecution at Nuremberg. Wolff most certainly was one of these.

As I followed this thread, which found sources that took me to accusations as radical as involving Dulles in the Kennedy assassination, to his support for such covert operational failures of the Operation Sunrise in Italy in 1945, and the Bay of Pigs and Gary Powers U2 mission in the 1960s. He was also involved in covert nation-building in Indonesia, Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Angola, the Congo, Vietnam, Laos and elsewhere, for example. We are still reaping the consequences of these disastrous incursions. Such diverse institutions as the Libertarian Cato Institute and individuals like John Kenneth Galbraith, were critical of Dulles. PX 82-5: JKG 1961 PortraitI especially liked Galbraith’s view of Dulles, as it is so close to mine: “In the space of a few months in 1959 and 1960, Dulles, as head of the CIA, showed himself to be a master of disastrous ineptitude  OR Those who have thought he was foreseeing the Cold War and those who thought he was helping to cause it were both wrong. He was just being Allen Dulles. 

The handling of Operation Sunrise is both indicative of the nature of Dulles’ approach to world politics from his viewpoint, it also allows us a microscopic view of how the CIA, which would later come under his leadership, would use its covert power to make decisions, or to influence presidents to support them, in ways that did not always serve the best interests of US citizens. At the time of FDR’s death in 1945, he was aware of Dulles’ insubordination and was moving towards possibly prosecuting him for treason after the war, claimed Glen Yeadon, the author of the book, The National Hydra in America  What can be claimed for certain is that Dulles was insubordinate in secretly working for a separate peace in Northern Italy, using Wolff as the German connection to the SS and the Wehrmacht to accomplish this, contravening the agreement made between Churchill, Stalin and FDR that surrender was to be unconditional. Dulles wanted the conditions of German NAZIs embedded in the transitional government of Italy and Germany to work as a buffer against communism and to protect the industries of each country. Stalin learned of this and some historians contend that this was a major factor in beginning the Cold War.

History will need to continue looking at the role of covert operations to determine their effectiveness in both the near term successes we have sometimes enjoyed, but also to expose those disasters and to evaluate whether the long-term implications held against American interests, sometimes for generations, because of the clear understanding by the local populations of US involvement in the deaths, destruction and manipulation of either economic or political decisions within sovereign nations. This has been asked before in our history. In 1961 the President’s Board of Consultants on Foreign Intelligence told President Eisenhower, “We have been unable to conclude that, on balance, all of the covert action programs undertaken by the CIA up to this time have been worth the risk or the great expenditure of manpower, money and other resources involved. Allan E. Goodman, “Reforming U.S. Intelligence,” Foreign Policy (Summer 1987): 124

151013-warren-dulles-tease_wfydhhWe are presently waging a most serious infowar, to fall back on the most conspiratorial of characters, Alex Jones, to describe the American Intelligence Agencies. President Trump has called their actions into question. The concept of  “Deep State” is being too often aired. Knowledge that JFK and LBJ administrations had a special place and group, which as called the 303 Committee after the number of the room in which it met, that authorized over 300 covert operations is troubling to me. This morphed into the 40 Committee within the Nixon administration, with Dulles’ pal, E.Howard Hunt and his Plumbers causing all their problems. Also at that time, the CIA covertly bombing Laos and venturing into Cambodia and fueling the conspiracy rumors that will not go away.hunt Hunt even confessed on his deathbed that LBJ authorized the killing of JFK. We have much to answer for and getting the truth out to the public is more problematic than it has ever been. Stay tuned….

These sources have fascinating information about Dulles that signifies his controversial place in American history:

https://erenow.com/modern/the-devils-chessboard-allen-dulles-the-cia/5.html

https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/kent-csi/vol37no1/html/v37i1a05p_0001.htm 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/entertainment/books/1979/09/09/allen-dulles-under-the-harsh-light-of-history-operation-sunrise-the-secret-surrender-by-bradley-f-smith-and-elena-agarossi-basic-books-234-pages-1195/385b6bff-080c-4ba2-8e3d-dd554c13ef59/?utm_term=.f94e9242cb58

https://books.google.com/books?id=-nj4RLdHCU0C&pg=PA22&lpg=PA22&dq=operation+sunrise+dulles&source=bl&ots=yU-fU06dBn&sig=RAFkIm1wpN5f58iPzTiD-76t42U&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjSp6jv-qjcAhVxkeAKHciLBp44KBDoATADegQIAxAB#v=onepage&q=operation%20sunrise%20dulles&f=false

https://object.cato.org/pubs/pas/PA118.HTM

http://www.larouchepub.com/eiw/public/2005/eirv32n31-20050805/eirv32n31-20050805_054-the_nazi_rat_lines_time_to_rid_a.pdf 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eCPkIiJGV0 

http://www.stephenhalbrook.com/law_review_articles/operation_sunrise.pdf

https://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/16/opinion/16iht-edrev.html

https://ce399fascism.wordpress.com/2011/05/15/i-walked-with-an-ss-obergruppenfuhrer-allen-dulles-and-karl-wolff/

https://www.nytimes.com/1994/12/11/books/a-patrician-for-the-cia.html

http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1973-2/seventeen-moments-in-spring/operation-sunrise-crossword/

https://consortiumnews.com/2013/06/06/how-wall-st-bailed-out-the-nazis/

http://spikethenews.blogspot.com/2015/05/operation-sunrise-and-western-perfidy.html

https://www.jstor.org/stable/4383422?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

https://www.archives.gov/iwg/declassified-records/rg-263-cia-records/rg-263-zimmer.html

https://www.salon.com/2015/10/15/every_president_has_been_manipulated_national_security_officials_david_talbot_investigates_americas_deep_state/

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Watergate and Nixon (again, speaking to the future..as we mishandle the present): The Quote from my Last Blog from Santayana is Right on Track

Our Founding Fathers spent months deliberating on how best to share power, how best to insure the survival of the republic. Their hopes were for the future citizens to take what they had given it and make it better based on their philosophy (love of knowledge). They were the true progressives and students of the Enlightenment.

When the Founders gave power over education to the states in order to keep the centralization of information out of the hands of the Federal Government, it was a noble idea. Similarly, Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” of the markets in capitalism assumed that hand to be a noble and moral one. Yet, shortly before that time Thomas Hobbes said life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” I know of one’s life who is also solitary, nasty and brutish, but he is really rich…and his life has been far too long by double in my opinion. If we read our history and want to avoid reliving it, do we need to know about these men, and perhaps we need only go back to the 1970s and Nixon, or only to 2017 and to some of the American press’s reference to Nixon in comparison to the Russia Probe to learn some valuable lessons about this country from these two segments of our recent history. Learn, you 37% of America behind your Willful Wall of Ignorance, before it is too late for the rest of us.

It is not getting better in the country, in my opinion, and the platform, the internet, that allowed the Russians to influence (steal?…how will history look at 2016 over the next twenty years? That is the most critical question for the world and one that, answered incorrectly, will not be a good thing) the election, is allowing the Republicans to abuse their power again, to obfuscate (sorry, Louie Gohmert that that word was so difficult to pronounce…it is a tongue twister) and for many, including the president, to deny that there is any truth to what is being uncovered. Any truth. 

Truth? A useful component in historical literature. It is based on empirical evidence and the acceptance by a useful number of people to make it legitimate. Note, though, that despite those attempts at recording the past, conspiracies are always part of citizens’ reactions and they will not go away I am afraid for us in this era. For those of you in the future, there are many like me, today….who are worried. History had many lessons for us, but, like many times in history, the wrong people were in charge of the gavel, the scepter, the printing press, the leaks, the tweets, the ax. 

bromanceIn a recent VOX article from last year, we can use this excerpt from it to go forward with this blog…”the Comey firing could help Trump consolidate his support among conservatives and Republicans”. By recent, I mean relatively recent in historical terms, when things were just heating up and Comey had just been fired. The article compared the lead up to Watergate and arch Conservatives disdain for Nixon at that time. Up until then, the Right, or at least the more extreme Right, was not a fan of the man because of his opening up to China, changes in taxation, acceptance of some liberal ideas, etc. When Watergate started to erode the power of the GOP, though, they attacked the Press. Santayana, where are you? Or this, from the New Yorker in 2014. This is no surprise and history had already started its warning to us these short several years ago. Not enough are learning from it, though. Again…Note this from a Washington Post article from 2017: 

After five men in suits were arrested during a burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel in June 1972, the reelection campaign of President Richard Nixon quietly polled about perceptions of the news.

“If it is proven that high-ranking Republicans were involved in the break-in” or mishandling campaign contributions, the poll asked, “do you think this will make you less likely to vote for President Nixon or won’t it have any effect on your vote?” (in an election that would occur five months later) In what must have been reassuring to the Nixon team — the Committee for the Reelection of the President — two-thirds of respondents said that links between the break-in and high-ranking Republicans wouldn’t affect their vote. (Nixon won a landslide victory)

As things heated up for Nixon, the article points out the feelings of the American electorate in another poll, which found, “In June 1973, Harris asked whether Vice President Spiro Agnew’s 1969 comments about the liberal Eastern media unfairly slanting the news was accurate. A third of respondents said it was.”  That same third seems to be alive today.

Listen to Jesse Helms, not one our best examples of a representative of democratic ideals, or of the truth in 1974, “the target is really not Nixon himself or this or that aide, but, rather, the ‘new majority’ threatening to break the liberal hold on political power. Sen. Helms echoed the charge. “Watergate,” he told [Clarence] Manion in the fall of 1974, “by a process of selective indignation, became the lever by which embittered liberal pundits have sought to reverse the 1972 conservative judgment of the people.

Clarence Manion? Do you know him? He is a valuable individual to study in an historical context. For fifty years now we have been watching the Republican Party claim that the press is liberal in its bias, that it is unfair to the Right in the United States political sphere, that its powers are not good for democracy and that the 4th Estate is an instrument of the Democratic Party. In those fifty years, I have witnessed that attack growing more concerted and insidious, and is now on the verge of the complete destruction of the republic with the complicity of 37% of an ignorant public.  That portion is being at least as greatly damaged, at least in an economic way, as I am in another way with my liberal hopes for individual rights, the rule of law and the well being of the most of the republic’s citizens’ well-being being trampled. This is no accident. It was planned from Nixon forward, even if those now in its noose do not have the awareness of their own suicide. Santayana, you were right on the mark. More education, I say. Perhaps more regulation, too.

So, Clarence, in history who were/are you? manionOne view   It seems you are a true Conservative that is perhaps finds itself in the Political Museum at present. You had liberal origins in support of FDR and the New Deal, and it seems this would seem implausible when measured against where you ended up. When FDR intervened in the Second World War you challenged him and moved away from his program. Your connections to the Eisenhower presidency as a Democrat for Eisenhower, led to a position in his administration to spearhead strengthening states rights, but also to his firing you for challenging what you thought was his executive overreach. You returned to Indiana to begin your own Conservative radio talk show. Though a highly intelligent man, Dean of the Notre Dame Law Faculty, it seems he was integral to the long line of individuals who took to the air waves to voice their positions about American politics from the Right. After him, and Reagan, and the dismantling of the Fair and Balanced Rule, we have added Limbaugh, Beck, O’Reilly, Alex Jones and many, many others to the Newspeak of America that gives us Trump. He must bear some historical relevance and complicity, as he championed Goldwater, barry-goldwaterwas a John Bircher and railed against government overreach, Social Security and what he perceived as the blocking of religious values by the Liberal Left. 

His radio show eventually made to television for a time. Guests on the show included Goldwater, General Douglas MacArthur, Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond, Harry Byrd Sr., Henry Regnery, and Stan Evans, all key players in the rise of the conservative movement. https://rightfrequency.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/clarence-manion-bridge-to-goldwaters-movement/ 

Not only is this disturbing about the assault on American jurisprudence and liberties for the individual when he supported, even led, such organizations as the John Birch Society, but he had a son, Daniel, who followed in his Conservative footprints, was in league with Helms, and was finally, in a controversial appointment, confirmed to the Judical Branch. This occurred in the Reagan era of this country’s further descent to the right. The son’s opinions, in my opinion, chew on the Constitution in a most disturbing way. He is still there on the bench.

scandals-4x3Returning to the Vox article:

The result,” he (Manion) told his listeners, “is that a gullible public is caught in the talons of a power that ironically disguises itself as freedom.” Lyons echoed the charge, arguing that Watergate had indeed exposed a dangerous concentration of power — but in the press, not the executive branch.

As the rest of the nation followed the unfolding story of corruption and cover-ups, the Watergate-as-liberal-conspiracy narrative quickly took hold in conservative media. After listening to the Lyons interview, Paul Harvey, the radio personality, repeated the attack in his nationally syndicated broadcast. How, he wondered, could the American people accept an all-powerful media capable of turning “a prosecution into a persecution”? And when Sen. Jesse Helms appeared on Manion’s show, he railed against “the incredible New York Times-Washington Post syndicate, which controls to a large degree what the American people will read and learn.”

This attempt to spin Watergate as “persecution” obviously required downplaying the underlying crimes. This, too, was done easily enough. Nixon himself called the Watergate break-in “a crappy little thing” in a private Oval Office conversation in early 1973, and there was some of that in the conservative media as well. Publisher Henry Regnery greeted the accusations by observing: “I can see no grounds for impeachment, or even to get worked up about.”

Why would Democrats and the media take the extraordinary step of colluding to take down the president, given that they hadn’t tried to take down Eisenhower nor gone after Nixon so intensely in his first term?

We can easily see the connection between the tactics of Helms et al back in the 70s and the contemporary attacks made by the GOP, Trump and his supporters on the Russian Investigation headed by Mueller. 

Returning to near the end of the NYTimes Opinion piece by William Davies this week to bring us completely up to date for history’s sake:

What happens if sections of the news media, the political classes and the public insist that only sovereignty matters and that the complexities of governing are a lie invented by liberal elites? For one thing, it gives rise to celebrity populists, personified by Mr. Trump, whose inability to engage patiently or intelligently with policy issues makes it possible to sustain the fantasy that governing is simple. What Mr. Johnson terms the “method” in Mr. Trump’s “madness” is a refusal to listen to inconvenient evidence, of the sort provided by officials and experts. 

I wish he would have addressed the methods of dealing with such celebrity populists. Or the ways a country could insure that the “complexities of governing” are fully known to the electorate and that we all need to listen to all the evidence, even the “inconvenient evidence” of the sort provided by “officials and experts.” Could he discuss how we identify well-qualified officials….and experts? Seems returning to some form of Fair and Balance Doctrine, not the kind claimed by Fox News, could get us closer to this goal.

Review of the book, The Right Frequency in 2013 by a now defunct Midwestern Progressive site. Another review  Author Fred Lucas on his book on CSpan Its Site

Another excellent piece in Vox 

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/11/uses-division 

https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/5/12/15630372/watergate-impeachment-conservative-public-opinion-trump-history 

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/even-the-biggest-scandals-cant-kill-party-loyalty/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/watergate/timeline.html?noredirect=on

http://www.prairiefirenewspaper.com/2013/01/book-review-the-right-frequency-the-story-of-the-talk-radio-giants-who-shook-up-political-and-media-establishment-by-fred-v-lucas 

Don’t Get Rid of those “Old” CDs: “Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes”

OR

Hiding in Plain View: The Conflict Between the Individual and His Efforts to Remain Independent from Government, Institutions and the Powers of Economics is at a Threshold Moment “WE” are Possibly Missing

As usual, my daily wanderings, sometimes on foot along a beach, sometimes in the car or sometimes while perusing the computer options- FB, WWW, email, etc.- bring me to thoughts on the modern world. That perspective of this world, always with an attempt to ascertain its roots and whether our ancestors have faced similar problems and possibly had a useful opinion about a possible solution, leads me to dichotomies. These are the tensions between tradition and “the new”, capitalism and socialism, romanticism and rationalism, the state and the individual. Of course, this is a tough sell and a tough slog to take on. So, let me assuage you with this observation and comment…

hanI’d like to look at the ideas of a “new” philosopher on the block who embodies the conflicts described above and is a perfect example of the world order that produced him,  the Post War World that saw the conflict of these ideas force solutions that are now untethered from that earlier tension and are in a state of flux. His name is Byung-Chul Han, and as you can see from his name he does not hail from the normal roots of Western Philosophy. I think this is a good thing. In fact, he was born in South Korea, migrated to Germany as a teenager not knowing the German language and he is now teaching in Karlsruhe and Berlin at the philosophy departments of these institutions and has been opining about the state of the modern world in writing over twenty books over the past couple decades. His two main languages are Korean and German, with German his working language, though still his second language. His Eastern roots are a real positive in exploring Western philosophy, as the West has put an awful lot of faith in the individual and the tension that individual has with his community in discussing philosophical perspectives. Han allows us a broader interpretation and perspective because of his background.

My introduction to Han came through Jackson Goode, a former student in Charlotte and now great friend and citizen of the world who has recently graduated from college, traveled a bit afterwords and is now contemplating what direction life will take him and what control he will have over where he wants to go. It is that exciting time of life for him when the lanes of choice are myriad, but also like an out-of-control, ambiguous Robert Frost poem on steroids for the whirl of options and doors available for him to open.

Han is someone we can all look at to make sense of the world we are traversing -for those in Jackson’s shoes (perhaps the most important group to address the world’s status and impact on them); those who are settled to a large degree in life and are approaching middle age and are perhaps wondering about wandering and maybe aren’t so sure now whether they still do have control of it all; and for those of us in my category, taking stock of all we’ve learned, assessing that we still are ignorant of too much, and hoping to make some sense of what is happening for our own sakes while also in keeping in tune with the general principal of humanity’s need to explore.

For my usual history lesson, it is compulsory to place the ideas in that historical context. We’ll find, again, these intervals in history are not new. The world has changed radically in the past and there were strong reactions to the changes wrought from many quarters as individuals and groups sought to protect their status while others understood and took advantage of the new situation. Not always did the good guys win, which is a poor statement for an historian, who should just report on what happened and give as many causal impacts on the change as possible for the reader to consider without injecting his bias. But, the West has always been slanted in its perspective, too, so having this East/West kind of man like Han involved allows for fresh eyes.

The philosophy schools that have tackled existential questions and Man’s place in the universe are as varied as the generations and places found in time and areas on the earth. Each has a Genesis-style story, though the nature of man in that story is perhaps most unique in the Western perspective in that we have elevated ourselves in existence to claim superiority in the hierarchy of existence~didn’t God create us in his image and present the world, the Garden of Eden, to us for our enjoyment? This conceit permeates so much of the modern world, and American perspectives in particular, that we need to take our lenses far away from the present and the West to get a more clever and nuanced understanding of how Mr. Han views the problems and disposition of today’s world. He is sort of offering us a warning like the Romantics did in the 19th century or those other individuals who felt consumed by the world around them and wished to stake a warning sign in an attempt at protecting one’s individuality and uniqueness. Perhaps, too, we need to contemplate the Native American appreciation of the spirit in all and the responsibility to seven generations hence, or bow to the god in us all as do the Balinese Hindus.

This is most ambitious, but let’s try to keep these things in mind when considering Han and his views and what is happening to the world: 1) economic exchange is always part of any community’s existence and some method of accepting the method of exchange has to be adopted; 2) the individual is always ultimately alone in dealing with existential questions, though she always seeks help (indeed many communities require compulsive acceptance of dogma) from other individuals in making sense of ‘life’, with history demonstrating there will always be authority claiming dominion over the proper understanding of the tension between the individual and his community; and 3) the very nature of human activity is one that looks for innovation, creativity and control of the future.

In the West, if we look at the past five hundred years or so, we see a continuous tension between the individual and her community. Economically, the models used have been… nobility in charge of the peasantry, imperialistic competition and expansion, mercantilism, slavery, the inception of capitalism in the fledgling industrial world fomented by new technology, socialism, corporate government control, today’s global internet, and now the very inextricably interconnected world. The existential tensions that followed along with the economic options are similar- Protestant work ethic, predestination and the assumption that God made the world for Man’s benefit; Counter-Reform and Papal Dominion; dissolution of the Earth-centered universe paradigm; Realism and Rational Explanation based on Empirical Evidence alone; Romanticism and Transcendentalism; Darwinism vs. Mysticism; Materialism and Consumption; Psychology of Man; Big Brother; Dystopia.

Man’s creativity, innovative nature and seeking control of the future has created many technical revolutions in those five hundred years: improved weaponry and the killing distance; the printing press and the democratization of knowledge; the steam engine and electricity and all manner of labor-saving tools; the internal combustion engine; new metallurgy and plastics; nuclear power and the digital era to name some significant ones. All of these have impacted history, sovereignty, culture, philosophy and psychology.

The point is that man is always examining his lot and has yet to come up with a single door for all of us to go through to receive ultimate wisdom about a how and why. Of course, there are many groups who claim dominion over that knowledge and wisdom, but there is no central authority in charge..at least not for me. In fact, the formation of the union of the United States of America was aware of this and wrote into our country’s fabric the necessity of limiting any central authority’s role in a person’s life.  In fact, the most powerful country in the world today, the United States, has emphatically claimed that democratic choice is the best option and that the individual has a significant claim to his own life’s ambitions that must be protected only encroached upon by the government with ever the wary eye of the individual tempering that encroachment based on the rule of law. This brings me to an earlier philosopher who was preeminent in the 20th century.

For those of us in my age bracket, one of the favorites of our early adulthoods was Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás  ~George Santayana to us. santayanaThough his views have been challenged since his death, that is the lot of all philosophers. His maxim: “Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes” may or may not be useful in the contemporary world in which we find ourselves, as remembering the past is something that can be hijacked and rewritten, much as Orwell wrote about it in Newspeak in 1984. In the year 2018, some of us have lived in the pre and post digital world, while others have lived only in the digital age, perhaps making them fundamentally different from the former. The latter is not attracted to antiques, to CDs, to the same approach to quality viewing and listening as we older Baby Boomers aspired to when we still had the full capability of hearing and seeing without technical assistance from some apparatus. We now have, again, the usual generational splits that bring about distinct preferences in how to go about life, where you buy, how you listen and learn, seek entertainment, follow leisure, gain acceptance, meet a mate, etc.

But, keep in mind that in every shift in history that involved technological changes, the “new” was usually adopted quickly and the old abandoned, or at least altered or appreciated in a very different way. It was only after the deficiencies of the new were discovered that society lamented the jettisoning of the quality or uniqueness found in the previous iterations. If you had an appropriate system to listen to your record or CD, you could recreate or at least closely simulate the room or hall in which the performance first occurred. You were trying to be with Mozart as he played or conducted his work. Earbuds and the Cloud just don’t do it for me, especially when ambulating along a forest path, or worse, a busy city thoroughfare.

It is not so easy to access the quality of a sound studio or concert hall by downloading files from the Cloud. And to listen through earbuds is that other issue. Many accept the portability and convenience of small and light over the quality of simulating as closely as possible the live performance. Also, note that many of those latter digital kids have returned to analogue recordings for their warmer, richer sound, or even the CDs which had improved in quality to rival the analogue over time. At least you could have the actual control, the proprietary ownership in your hand. I laud those Millennials who have taken to the Analogue craze and who seek LP records, typewriters and such museum pieces from the pre-digital world in their attempt to recreate the long walks in the quiet as Jane Eyre may have done. The Cloud is not something they seek for ease of portability of information. They worry about the loss of control, of ownership on many levels. While, there is the obvious convenience and portability associated with the Cloud, those Millenial Luddites think of what is most important to them and not what is most expedient. Expediency has its price tag.

There are also references we can complete in linking technological impacts on historical eras. The reactions to industrialism’s impact on the distribution of labor by Luddites, the Romantic reaction to Rationalism with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as a wonderful example of what happens in the extremes of this tension, the Mysticism of late Victorian England that was experiencing growth, economic diversity and class separation of a different kind that pitted religion against materialism, the dystopia-laden literature that surfaced after the devastation of the Great War and so on into the Post War world of the Cold War. We are now splintering, almost literally, into many factions that technology is both the cause of and prime supporter of its continuance. How the impact of this new digital technology will shape the 21st century is a moving target for economists, consumers, politicians, philosophers and anyone, really, who worries what is coming next and how should I comport myself within its sphere.

From books about the end of history after the fall of the Soviet Union and China’s lurch to capitalism, discussions in some spheres have now turned towards the return of authoritarianism or the end of capitalism. In writing about democracy and the idealistic world, Santayana opines, “What renders man an imaginative and moral being is that in society he gives new aims to his life which could not have existed in solitude: the aims of friendship, religion, science, and art.” He was the inveterate optimist always. He hoped for a world ruled by decency,  intellect and tolerance. In the 1930s he wrote of America, a land he both loved and feared, “Americanism was at first revolutionary, and it still strives to throw off, as useless parasites and impediments, all the older traditions of mankind. But, it has itself become a tradition: it has developed a soul that would impose itself on all human nature, and make all human souls in its own image.” It is as though he was rewriting the Genesis story from an American hegemonic position. MAGA, perhaps, would not surprise him.  For him, though, Man, the patriot loving his country, should not pursue his own selfish interests, but should embrace what comes from mixing ideas. Sounds like immigration would be a good thing to him. He would not be in favor of Ayn Rand and Rand Paul and Paul Ryan, to make the Ayn-Rand-Paul theocracy complete in his assumed denouncing current practice in many quarters. Our Willful Wall of Ignorance that denies facts, denies climate change, denies the benefits of genetic mixing and claims to cure the flu by prayer would have caused him great concern. The Timocracy and Plutocracy combining in many of the world’s nations now would have also motivated his pen.

Some thoughts from other writers related to this blog’s theme:

Globally, only one in four adults works full time, and agriculture remains the largest employment field by far. Less than half the world has an internet connection, and the majority of job growth since the Great Recession has been precarious and in low-skill areas. Experts in automation point to white-collar work as the next victim of the automation revolution, and the World Economic Forum has described legal, administrative, and financial services as likely to suffer serious disruptions in coming years. The decline in traditional employment has certainly led to a push for flexibility, retraining, “developing competencies,” and otherwise taking on an inability to prepare for shifts in the market as a personal shortcoming rather than a symptom of capital’s voracity, but the extent to which workers have bought into the image of themselves as “entrepreneurs of the self” remains debatable. In any case, the threat of automation and other forms of streamlining point less toward a future of achievement subjects running themselves ragged in a hamster wheel than one in which, to cite Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe, “the tragedy of the multitude today is that they are unable to be exploited at all.” https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/media-and-transparency-an-introduction-to-byung-chul-han-in-english/#!

Wolfgang Streeck, who writes, in How Will Capitalism End?:

 Life under social entropy elevates being optimistic to the status of a public virtue and civic responsibility. In fact, one can say that even more than capitalism in its heyday, the entropic society of disintegrated, de-structured and under-governed post-capitalism depends on its ability to hitch itself onto the natural desire of people not to feel desperate, while defining pessimism as a socially harmful personal deficiency. 

‘Matthew principle’ governing free markets: ‘For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken even that which he hath.’ Matthew 25:29. This was first described as a social mechanism by Robert Merton in ‘The Matthew Effect in Science’, Science, vol. 159, no. 3810, pp. 56–63. The technical term is cumulative advantage.

A problem with democracy

It is here that discussion of the crisis and the future of modern capitalism must turn to democratic politics. Capitalism and democracy had long been considered adversaries, until the postwar settlement seemed to have accomplished their reconciliation. Well into the twentieth century, owners of capital had been afraid of democratic majorities abolishing private property, while workers and their organizations expected capitalists to finance a return to authoritarian rule in defence of their privileges. Only in the Cold War world did capitalism and democracy seem to become aligned with one another, as economic progress made it possible for working-class majorities to accept a free-market, private-property regime, in turn making it appear that democratic freedom was inseparable from, and indeed depended on, the freedom of markets and profit-making. Today, however, doubts about the compatibility of a capitalist economy with a democratic polity have powerfully returned. Among ordinary people, there is now a pervasive sense that politics can no longer make a difference in their lives, as reflected in common perceptions of deadlock, incompetence and corruption among what seems an increasingly self-contained and self-serving political class, united in their claim that ‘there is no alternative’ to them and their policies. One result is declining electoral turnout combined with high voter volatility, producing ever greater electoral fragmentation, due to the rise of ‘populist’ protest parties, and pervasive government instability. [7] https://newleftreview.org/II/87/wolfgang-streeck-how-will-capitalism-end 

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/dec/30/psychopolitics-neolberalism-new-technologies-byung-chul-han-review 

Han

A Post for the Future..of Humanity: I Know Many of Us are Bone-Tired of this Topic, for those of You in the Future Who Read This, note how many got it right as you are judging those who got it wrong.

Rational Truth?: It Has Always Been Elusive…and, It Has Always Had Its Opponents

“I’ll be honest with you,” he says, “if I’m wrong, I need to be institutionalized.” Wolfgang Halbig 

The quote above, from Wolfgang Halbig gives you a little bit of insight into one of the participants in the uncovering of information about the root causes and possible solutions to the Sandy Hook shooting that took place a short time before Christmas in 2012. It altered the individuals in that town irrevocably, most especially those who lost family members to the tragedy. Would you, those reading it in 2018 as these articles and words are rebounding around the country and world to make sense of how to deal with incidents occurring at present, come down supporting Halbig’s words, or those of Leonard Pozner?

It will require that you spend a minute reading (and listening) to an attempt by the BBC, one of the world’s most respected news agencies (it pains me to have to make that claim, but I stand in support of its coverage while so many do not), to make sense of what is going on in America surrounding our citizens’ reaction to this deadly and incomprehensible shooting. 

Incomprehensible…impossible to understand or comprehend; unintelligible…Unintelligible….not being capable of being understood. Not being capable…ah, here we get to the root of my blog this time.

The country at present is experiencing one of its terribly low ebbs, some are opining that we may not be able to climb out of this hole. There are so many sides to the issue, so many vehement and violent voices discussing and spitting at each other that it is hard to see how we come out of the other side intact. For those of you reading in the future- (as this blog presently has on a few dozens of people who occasionally link in and I think my main purpose in writing it is to sort through my understandings and record them to assist me in looking backwards, forwards and to sort out the moments as they occur…for myself)- I hope you know that we resolved this peacefully through the ballot box and the legislative process. For now this blog keeps me working through my love of history and hopefully on track to being a better person. Mary and I took a pledge not to get sucked into he media blare going on, though I am doing enough of that for our preservation. Part of my thoughts on both are that we all need to engage in our community in the ways we can to help each other make it, whether it be the small town, the large city, the country, or the earth, better. Another part of my thoughts take me to other places, mentally and physically. I know that our current method of communicating takes us into the World Wide Web, the blogosphere and that everything we clicked may, could, be available to future miners of that Internet record. For today and the future, here is a look at our attempt in 2018 to make sense of “the Truth.” Note the Footnote at the bottom related to the country’s immediate response to Sandy Hook 1

If you’ve acquainted yourself with Messrs. Pozner and Helbig, and you are reading my blog in 2018, you are incensed with the efforts of Helbig to abort the facts, to dispute the truth, and wonder why he spent so much time and money (as well as profiting from crowd sourcing on the web) contributing to his poor mental health. If you are reading this from the future and have researched further, hopefully you found that he was indeed institutionalized, and also that the laws over the years, decades (centuries?) found a rational solution to the Sandy Hook-type problem that became more of a pandemic for the USA in the decades from the 1980s up through and continuing into 2018, which hopefully (for those future readers) contributed to the election results in November of this year, as well as the one in 2020. I have inserted an excerpt from an article about those who became conspiracists after Sandy Hook at the end of this blog…

For the future readers, know that the majority of the voting public, contrary to the Electoral College results in 2016, did not want Mr. Trump and the horrible choices he made in individuals and policies to impact you as he has. I know you are still looking back to this time to see why we did this to you. Let me also note that, when it became apparent to the scientific community, beginning early in the 20th century for some, but publicly available to us all by the late 1950s and 1960s, that there was a concerted effort to act on making policy changes at that time. If you look at the video clip of Robert Reich, from this week using a quick history lesson as to why the Republic Party of 2018 is acting so foolishly, dangerously and irresponsibly, you get a little taste of our immense frustration for those of us living through the present time.

For future readers, know too that there is a majority of the United States who don’t even know who Alex Jones is, but there is a critical minority who believe what he says. This is a dangerous problem. Should he even be allowed to spread his information on this infowars.com platform? Did he lose his suit brought against him by those harmed by Sandy Hook and the lies and conspiracy theories spread around the web and by Jones? How has the Supreme Court fared in your assessment. Some of us are most frustrated with their decisions regarding the First Amendment. Did it get any better? I, for one, am praying it did.

 For future readers, you know that Scott Pruitt, the EPA chief appointed by Trump has just resigned. Know that the majority of us were horrified by what he did to the EPA, as were those scientists who spent their lives trying to sort out what is best for those communities on this earth, including your future community. His posted reasons for his “resigning” were that it was becoming too damaging to his family’s health and well being to withstand the “assault” taking place on his reputation.  Let it be known that there were many of us who believed he needed to be prosecuted on many levels. I don’t think you, reading in the future, will be satisfied in noting that he did not serve time for anything, not for his falsehoods, his deplorable ethics, his nepotism, his breaking of existing laws related to the expectations of Executive Branch regulations and laws, and certainly not for the damage he has done to the world’s scant and finite resources. You are right to ask why not. Please do not spare the Republican Party and its primary leaders in your assessment. Do not put all of the blame on Donald Trump, he is the symptom, not the cause.

That there are so many problems facing us in addressing the rational truth and how it is to be discussed and disseminated, I am dubious we will find a solution. If you are a future reader, I hope you did not find that we turned to splintering further, that more authoritarianism was the fallback choice for the political will of our voters. I hope we did not continue splintering into little cadres, growing into huge groups of followers, who stood behind their walls of “knowledge” as they saw fit. I think many are behind a Willful Wall of Ignorance, but how does one breach such a wall? Other voices call for engagement and discourse as in this quote from an Immigration Lawyer in Colorado dealing with our present debacle related to those seeking asylum on our southern border from Latin America, “If all of us in the U.S. would be willing to actually listen to each others’ sincere concerns and do our best to answer each others’ questions, instead of just yelling at each other or retreating to our corners of the internet (left OR right) where everyone already agrees with us – well, I think we’d move our nation forward a lot more effectively.”  Eric Pavri

He had recently penned a concise explanation of immigration law and how it must be applied to the current border issues facing our country, as it has for decades. We presently have not shown a kind voice and hand to those asylum seekers, in my opinion, if you are a future reader. I hope we resolved it in a humane way.

I am dubious you, the future, will see how we did manage the 2020s and the short decades beyond that one. I doubt you are reading from Miami, or many other places. I apologize we did not do what we could, and should, have done.

1   “Internet sleuths immediately took to the web to stitch together clues indicating the shooting could be a carefully-scripted false flag event, similar to the 9/11 terror attacks, the central tenet being that the event would be used to galvanize future support for gun control legislation,” the story stated.

He returned to the theme several months later on his radio show: “I’ve had the investigators on, the state police have gone public, you name it – the whole thing is a giant hoax. And the problem is, how do you deal with a total hoax? How do you even convince the public something’s a total hoax?”

Later he said: “Sandy Hook is a synthetic, completely fake with actors, in my view, manufactured. I couldn’t believe it at first. I knew they had actors there clearly but I thought they killed some real kids, and it just shows how bold they are, that they clearly used actors.”

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/jul/4/alex-jones-sued-by-husband-of-slain-sandy-hook-sta/ 

https://www.facebook.com/BigThinkdotcom/videos/1613269808785137/ 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_OxSZp1m_4 

Eric Pavri

February 12 · Colorado Springs, CO

The full text of Eric Pavri’s explanation of immigration law as it stands/stood in 2018:

I’m an immigration lawyer. I know that many of my Facebook friends, who are good and intelligent people, honestly have questions like the following: Why don’t all these immigrants just become legal, and do they get all kinds of public benefits?

I hope you’ll read what I wrote here in the spirit in which it was intended, which is to cut through the BS (from poorly-informed but loud voices on both the left and right) and simply provide correct information so that people can decide for themselves what is right and best.

I recently wrote the comment below to a Facebook story from a local news channel, about a teacher here in Colorado Springs who has DACA.

********************************************************

To several of the commenters on this thread – first, I want to acknowledge that asking why people don’t just become citizens, or whether people without legal status can get public benefits that U.S citizens cannot, are legitimate questions. If they are asked in good faith, no one should mind you asking them.

Therefore, let me answer your questions. Please know that I am well-informed on these topics, as an immigration lawyer for the past 8 years, the past six of those in Colorado, and currently the Director of Family Immigration Services at Catholic Charities of Central Colorado (most of you know us best as the organization that runs the Marian House soup kitchen). You may verify those statements by entering my bar number (44591) on the Supreme Court of Colorado website (http://www.coloradosupremecourt.com/Search/AttSearch.asp) or viewing our Catholic Charities website (https://www.ccharitiescc.org/).

First, as to why young people who have DACA haven’t just become citizens:

To become a U.S. citizen (other than by birth), one must first become a Lawful Permanent Resident (“green card” holder). Only after five years as a Permanent Resident can you apply to become a citizen. Thus, the obvious next question: how does a person become a Permanent Resident? There are three primary options to do so:

1) Family-based petitions. This means that a U.S. citizen or Permanent Resident parent, spouse, adult child, or sibling files a “petition” for you. Depending on the category that you fall into, the wait will be anywhere from 1 – 22 years (yep) before you can use that petition to take the next step – applying to become a Permanent Resident (background checks, medical exam, more fees, etc.). That works for people living outside the U.S., but for those who have been here, it may not be possible if they entered the U.S. illegally, even if they were minor children when they did so.

2) Employment-based petitions. A U.S. employer can similarly sponsor you, but generally only if you are in a profession requiring an advanced degree or unique skills (doctors, software engineers, world-class athletes to coach professional sports teams, etc.). Even then, the potential employer must generally also prove that they made good-faith efforts to hire a U.S. citizen for the position, but no qualified applicants applied.

3) Diversity visa lottery. Every year, the U.S. government selects 50,000 people worldwide who enter a lottery and pass background checks to come to the U.S. as Permanent Residents. This lottery, however, is only available to people from countries that traditionally send few people to the US – so, for example, people from countries such as Mexico, the Philippines, China, Guatemala, India, El Salvador, and other countries that send larger numbers of immigrants to the U.S. do not have this option.

Extra note: The current Administration has actively sought to eliminate or dramatically limit Options #1 and #3. The new term being used in the attempted re-branding of Option #1, family-based immigration, which has been the basic principle of U.S. immigration law for over a century, is “chain migration”. If those two options are in fact eliminated or curtailed, legal immigration to the U.S. will be significantly reduced.

The KEY POINT to all of the above: If you do not qualify for one of these 3 options, then there is no “line” to get into to legally become a Permanent Resident and eventually a U.S. citizen. So, if you are not fortunate enough to have, say, a U.S. citizen spouse or a graduate degree in computer science, you very likely can never become a citizen of the United States.

Second, one commenter above asked why President Obama, when he established DACA in 2012, did not just create a path to citizenship for these young people at that time. The answer: earlier that year, Congress had for the 11th year in a row failed to pass the Dream Act, which would have done exactly that. The President acting through his authority as head of the Executive Branch cannot create a path to Lawful Permanent Residency (and eventual US citizenship). Only a law, passed by Congress and then signed by the President, can accomplish that. So President Obama on June 15, 2012 created the more limited DACA program through Executive Action – which is why President Trump, as the new President, was able to end the program, also without an act of Congress, last fall.

Finally, as to the question of immigrants receiving public benefits, only a U.S. citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident (green card holder) can receive almost all types of public benefit – including Medicaid, Medicare, SSI disability, Social Security payments for seniors, TANF, and food stamps. The irony: most undocumented immigrants work under made-up Social Security numbers and so receive a paycheck from which Social Security, federal income taxes, and state income taxes are withheld, and of course they pay the same local sales and property taxes as anyone else through retail purchases, pass-through costs of apartment leases, etc. Same of course goes for the 800,000 current DACA recipients, who are authorized to legally work in the U.S. But none of those employees, despite paying IN to the system, will ever receive those public benefits listed above, that are paid for by the money withheld from their paychecks. So they are propping up our federal and state government entitlement programs because they pay in but won’t ever take out.

The following are the public benefits that undocumented immigrants can receive in United States:

1) Public education for children in grades K-12. This was definitively established by a 1982 Supreme Court case, Plyler v. Doe. The Supreme Court in its reasoning explicitly stated that it would not serve the overall public good of the U.S. to leave many thousands of children uneducated.

2) Emergency room services, but only to the point where the patient is considered “medically stable”, at which point he/she is released. These services are not free, however, as in my job I meet hundreds of immigrant families who sacrifice over years to slowly pay off high emergency room medical bills.

3) WIC assistance. This is for milk, food, etc, and available only to pregnant mothers. The rationale is that the children in the womb will be U.S. citizens when born, and therefore it is in the long-term economic best interests of the nation to ensure that they receive adequate prenatal nutrition to improve their chances of being productive citizens in the decades to come.

4) Assistance from police if they are the victim of a crime and call for help. To their credit, the vast majority of our Colorado Springs law enforcement officers take their duty to protect all people seriously. Chief Carey of the CSPD and Sheriff Elder of the EPCSO have made clear that their officers can’t do their most important job – keeping us safe by getting dangerous criminals off our streets – if a whole class of people (undocumented immigrants) is afraid to call 911 to report crimes that they witness or are victim to.

5) Assistance from a fire department. Rationale, besides the obvious moral one: If your house was next to that of an undocumented immigrant family, would you want the firefighters to let that house continue to burn, putting yours at risk of catching on fire too?

And that’s it. Those, to the best of my knowledge, are the only public benefits that an undocumented immigrant can receive in just about any part of the United States. As someone who directs a small office that works with hundreds of low-income immigrant families per year, know that when I see the precarious economic situation of many of these families, I’d help them access other benefits if they could. But they simply can’t. Now, children of undocumented parents, born in the U.S., are U.S. citizens under the 14th Amendment (the one that declares that all human beings born on U.S. soil are citizens – this was passed immediately after the Civil War to forever end the legal argument that African Americans were not U.S. citizens). As such, those children can qualify for the same public benefits as any other U.S. citizen, if they qualify through economic need or disability. But their parents or undocumented siblings cannot.

I hope that this information has been useful to those willing to read through this long (for Facebook anyway) explanation. Please know that even this long summary leaves out a ton of detail — there are tens of thousands of pages of statutes, regulations, internal federal agency procedures, and court decisions guiding how all of this is interpreted and implemented. But please take my word that I honestly believe that no detail I omitted for conciseness changes the basic points above. And I’d be happy to answer questions if you have them. Like I said, I don’t mind honest questions, and I believe that legitimate questions asked in good faith deserve well-informed, accurate answers. If all of us in the U.S. would be willing to actually listen to each others’ sincere concerns and do our best to answer each others’ questions, instead of just yelling at each other or retreating to our corners of the internet (left OR right) where everyone already agrees with us – well, I think we’d move our nation forward a lot more effectively.

 

 

Eric Pavri

February 12 · Colorado Springs, CO

I’m an immigration lawyer. I know that many of my Facebook friends, who are good and intelligent people, honestly have questions like the following: Why don’t all these immigrants just become legal, and do they get all kinds of public benefits?

I hope you’ll read what I wrote here in the spirit in which it was intended, which is to cut through the BS (from poorly-informed but loud voices on both the left and right) and simply provide correct information so that people can decide for themselves what is right and best.

I recently wrote the comment below to a Facebook story from a local news channel, about a teacher here in Colorado Springs who has DACA.

********************************************************

To several of the commenters on this thread – first, I want to acknowledge that asking why people don’t just become citizens, or whether people without legal status can get public benefits that U.S citizens cannot, are legitimate questions. If they are asked in good faith, no one should mind you asking them.

Therefore, let me answer your questions. Please know that I am well-informed on these topics, as an immigration lawyer for the past 8 years, the past six of those in Colorado, and currently the Director of Family Immigration Services at Catholic Charities of Central Colorado (most of you know us best as the organization that runs the Marian House soup kitchen). You may verify those statements by entering my bar number (44591) on the Supreme Court of Colorado website (http://www.coloradosupremecourt.com/Search/AttSearch.asp) or viewing our Catholic Charities website (https://www.ccharitiescc.org/).

First, as to why young people who have DACA haven’t just become citizens:

To become a U.S. citizen (other than by birth), one must first become a Lawful Permanent Resident (“green card” holder). Only after five years as a Permanent Resident can you apply to become a citizen. Thus, the obvious next question: how does a person become a Permanent Resident? There are three primary options to do so:

1) Family-based petitions. This means that a U.S. citizen or Permanent Resident parent, spouse, adult child, or sibling files a “petition” for you. Depending on the category that you fall into, the wait will be anywhere from 1 – 22 years (yep) before you can use that petition to take the next step – applying to become a Permanent Resident (background checks, medical exam, more fees, etc.). That works for people living outside the U.S., but for those who have been here, it may not be possible if they entered the U.S. illegally, even if they were minor children when they did so.

2) Employment-based petitions. A U.S. employer can similarly sponsor you, but generally only if you are in a profession requiring an advanced degree or unique skills (doctors, software engineers, world-class athletes to coach professional sports teams, etc.). Even then, the potential employer must generally also prove that they made good-faith efforts to hire a U.S. citizen for the position, but no qualified applicants applied.

3) Diversity visa lottery. Every year, the U.S. government selects 50,000 people worldwide who enter a lottery and pass background checks to come to the U.S. as Permanent Residents. This lottery, however, is only available to people from countries that traditionally send few people to the US – so, for example, people from countries such as Mexico, the Philippines, China, Guatemala, India, El Salvador, and other countries that send larger numbers of immigrants to the U.S. do not have this option.

Extra note: The current Administration has actively sought to eliminate or dramatically limit Options #1 and #3. The new term being used in the attempted re-branding of Option #1, family-based immigration, which has been the basic principle of U.S. immigration law for over a century, is “chain migration”. If those two options are in fact eliminated or curtailed, legal immigration to the U.S. will be significantly reduced.

The KEY POINT to all of the above: If you do not qualify for one of these 3 options, then there is no “line” to get into to legally become a Permanent Resident and eventually a U.S. citizen. So, if you are not fortunate enough to have, say, a U.S. citizen spouse or a graduate degree in computer science, you very likely can never become a citizen of the United States.

Second, one commenter above asked why President Obama, when he established DACA in 2012, did not just create a path to citizenship for these young people at that time. The answer: earlier that year, Congress had for the 11th year in a row failed to pass the Dream Act, which would have done exactly that. The President acting through his authority as head of the Executive Branch cannot create a path to Lawful Permanent Residency (and eventual US citizenship). Only a law, passed by Congress and then signed by the President, can accomplish that. So President Obama on June 15, 2012 created the more limited DACA program through Executive Action – which is why President Trump, as the new President, was able to end the program, also without an act of Congress, last fall.

Finally, as to the question of immigrants receiving public benefits, only a U.S. citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident (green card holder) can receive almost all types of public benefit – including Medicaid, Medicare, SSI disability, Social Security payments for seniors, TANF, and food stamps. The irony: most undocumented immigrants work under made-up Social Security numbers and so receive a paycheck from which Social Security, federal income taxes, and state income taxes are withheld, and of course they pay the same local sales and property taxes as anyone else through retail purchases, pass-through costs of apartment leases, etc. Same of course goes for the 800,000 current DACA recipients, who are authorized to legally work in the U.S. But none of those employees, despite paying IN to the system, will ever receive those public benefits listed above, that are paid for by the money withheld from their paychecks. So they are propping up our federal and state government entitlement programs because they pay in but won’t ever take out.

The following are the public benefits that undocumented immigrants can receive in United States:

1) Public education for children in grades K-12. This was definitively established by a 1982 Supreme Court case, Plyler v. Doe. The Supreme Court in its reasoning explicitly stated that it would not serve the overall public good of the U.S. to leave many thousands of children uneducated.

2) Emergency room services, but only to the point where the patient is considered “medically stable”, at which point he/she is released. These services are not free, however, as in my job I meet hundreds of immigrant families who sacrifice over years to slowly pay off high emergency room medical bills.

3) WIC assistance. This is for milk, food, etc, and available only to pregnant mothers. The rationale is that the children in the womb will be U.S. citizens when born, and therefore it is in the long-term economic best interests of the nation to ensure that they receive adequate prenatal nutrition to improve their chances of being productive citizens in the decades to come.

4) Assistance from police if they are the victim of a crime and call for help. To their credit, the vast majority of our Colorado Springs law enforcement officers take their duty to protect all people seriously. Chief Carey of the CSPD and Sheriff Elder of the EPCSO have made clear that their officers can’t do their most important job – keeping us safe by getting dangerous criminals off our streets – if a whole class of people (undocumented immigrants) is afraid to call 911 to report crimes that they witness or are victim to.

5) Assistance from a fire department. Rationale, besides the obvious moral one: If your house was next to that of an undocumented immigrant family, would you want the firefighters to let that house continue to burn, putting yours at risk of catching on fire too?

And that’s it. Those, to the best of my knowledge, are the only public benefits that an undocumented immigrant can receive in just about any part of the United States. As someone who directs a small office that works with hundreds of low-income immigrant families per year, know that when I see the precarious economic situation of many of these families, I’d help them access other benefits if they could. But they simply can’t. Now, children of undocumented parents, born in the U.S., are U.S. citizens under the 14th Amendment (the one that declares that all human beings born on U.S. soil are citizens – this was passed immediately after the Civil War to forever end the legal argument that African Americans were not U.S. citizens). As such, those children can qualify for the same public benefits as any other U.S. citizen, if they qualify through economic need or disability. But their parents or undocumented siblings cannot.

I hope that this information has been useful to those willing to read through this long (for Facebook anyway) explanation. Please know that even this long summary leaves out a ton of detail — there are tens of thousands of pages of statutes, regulations, internal federal agency procedures, and court decisions guiding how all of this is interpreted and implemented. But please take my word that I honestly believe that no detail I omitted for conciseness changes the basic points above. And I’d be happy to answer questions if you have them. Like I said, I don’t mind honest questions, and I believe that legitimate questions asked in good faith deserve well-informed, accurate answers. If all of us in the U.S. would be willing to actually listen to each others’ sincere concerns and do our best to answer each others’ questions, instead of just yelling at each other or retreating to our corners of the internet (left OR right) where everyone already agrees with us – well, I think we’d move our nation forward a lot more effectively.

Time Deixis and Thomas Hardy; “who holds that if way to the Better there be, it exacts a full look at the Worst”: Was He Trying to Hide In Plain Sight While Living His Life?

Who Was the Real Thomas Hardy? Are there lessons for us today from his approach to living and describing life?

thomas-hardyOne of the things I most relish about retirement is the loss of calendar references in daily life. I am forever confusing what day of the week it is, as well as the date associated with the day. That is sometimes problematic in my oft-thwarted attempts to delve back into life as it was in the 19th century, devoid of instantaneous news that feeds of a “reality television” premise of first is foremost and “if it bleeds it leads” motivations. The necessity of keeping up with life sometimes finds us “looking at the Worst,” though we avoid it as much as we can. Or, trying to limit those other frustrations from the modern world that the multitude of apparatuses necessary to navigate one’s daily life cause: the constant need to find a plug to charge the visibly dying phone charge, the need for a new App that will cost another $4,99/mo, the news cycle story warning of security risks and financial losses looming on the Internet, or the damage I feel is done to my psyche and the mind’s ability to gather and process information because of abdicating those skills to an algorithm that tells me where to eat, what I like, what is the best and how to find all of these “things”. Ah Mr. Hardy, how was it for you a hundred and twenty years ago, in 1898? He was fifty-eight at that time, well into the success as a writer he was enjoying, and would enjoy for the rest of his life.

Here is a writer of novels and poetry who lived in the present, but aspired to the past in so much of what he did. When he began writing, he set much of his work in the decade of the 1840s. Yet, he also counseled and consoled his audience, be that the city-dwelling reader of his works, or the younger writers and poets who sought his sage advice, on life in his contemporary present. He died a few miles from where he was born, using the world of Dorset for much of his perspectives on life. He interviewed surviving soldiers from the Napoleonic Wars for his material, and perhaps for to fuel his vision of the Better world.  He even provided us with a map of his metaphorical world built on his “real” one, the county of Wessex, the Anglo-Saxon name for his southwest England. What was his Better world? Writers, economists, politicians, scientists, inventors and such have all contributed to that discussion. Hardy was among the best of the writers. But, was he happy, was he true to himself? Who was he really, and do we have any right in asking that question?

While Mary and I traveled through Ireland, looking at that country’s contributions to literature were central to our interests. We plumbed and mined the counties, the book stores, the tourist offices and anything we could find online to extend our quest of knowledge and understanding of the regions, and the people who lived there and the perspectives they acquired and passed on in the time they had on this earth. Hardy wasn’t, of course, Irish, but in a book store in Cong, searching out information and texts related to the the filming of The Quiet Man, based on a book looking at the aftermath of 1916 Uprising and the shift that event took the nation of Irish into in their approach to nationalism and a new, independent identity. On the shelves a biography of Hardy caught my eye. It was twenty-something Euros, not a bad sum, but two things prevented my purchasing it. Space on our shelves at home and its weight pitted against the restrictions of airlines as to how much weight we could have in our carry-on luggage. The banalities of confining choices in one’s life. I noted it and put it back and then did what I often hate about the modern world, sought it out online once we got back to a place with Internet connection. I found it at Abebooks for just a few dollars and shipping costs and it was waiting for me upon our return home. Hmmm.

I am now deep into its pages and loving the evocative descriptions that assist me in my quest of looking backwards myself. The author, Ralph Pite, wrote this biography in 2006. There are many biographers of Hardy, all relying on the ones he ghostwrote and had published after his death. Of course they are useful, but, if Hardy was trying to hide in plain sight during his lifetime, then certainly those words were only a part of his picture we can know. Too, his wife and close friend spent a long time burning his notes, manuscripts, diaries and such that would have given invaluable first-hand perspectives on Hardy. He was purposefully elusive and that is the point of this blog. Are we all, and do we have a right to that privacy?

The Guardian and New York Times gave some slight praise for Pite’s attempt at analysis, though they voiced their reservations and criticisms of the biography. Here are some others written at the time;

‘Pite uses new critical techniques and perspectives to make his point . . . He is a subtle reader of Hardy’s work and applies his impressive reasoning to the man as if he, too, were a kind of text’ Daily Telegraph

‘An impressive, and impressively human, book, Pite’s skill is in balancing the larger sweep of Hardy’s life with a sense for what happened at the edges. Like his subject, Pite takes risks with what he reveals, but the detail is always enlarging. Hardy, and his times, seem bigger for this work’ New Statesman

‘In portraits, Hardy habitually looks downwards or aside, avoiding direct contact. In this biography, Pite has caught his subject’s eyes and held his gaze’ The Times

Hardy was one of those perplexing individuals who seemed to relish the tension between the sexes in all of his work, but perhaps never satisfactorily solving the problems found in that tension in his own life. He may have even been called out by the #Metoo movement if they had the power then they have today. Hardy was notorious for his relationships with younger women throughout his life, and he married Florence Dugdale, a woman almost 40 years his junior, shortly after, Emma’s, his first wife, death. This is a man who did not want to extend the vote to females and who chided Florence with threats of where he was going to be buried in Dorset. He knew it was going to be next to Emma and between her and Florence, but he said he was going to be ever slightly closer to Emma and the final distance would be determined by his mood. Maybe he was poisoned by Florence to finish off his eighty-eight years. Also, the country decided on his final resting place to a degree, in a way that Hardy would never have sanctioned. His ashes were interred in Westminster to much pomp and ceremony, while his heart is the only part of him buried between his two wives.

In his more famous books, completed just before the date 1898 of which I am pondering, he might be accused on not being a happy man in spite of his success with his writing. To quote from one of my sources: “Nor did he seem by nature to be cheerful: much of the criticism around his work concerns its existentially bleak outlook, and, especially during Hardy’s own time, sexual themes. Incredibly prolific, Hardy wrote fourteen novels, three volumes of short stories, and several poems between the years 1871 and 1897. Hardy’s great novels, including Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891)tess-of-the-d'urbervilles-screenshot and Jude the Obscure (1895), were all published during this period. They both received negative reviews, which may have led Hardy to abandoning fiction to write poetry.”

In Tess, he describes her in such a way as to be the metaphor of the idyllic young woman. Yet, he sets her up to be controlled and sampled in a man’s world, to be betrayed by a person we thought much better of, simply because she had been defiled by another man. Hardy, who loved Stonehenge and the Druid history of England, ends this novel there. He called his other novels Wessex novels and spent his time writing about the rural folk of this part of England that had been bypassed by the major railroad routes: Dorchester became the end of a line and the other major lines went south and north of the county in their stretch to the West. His audience was the city-dweller, and he was criticized by both for either having the country folk use language too refined for their education level, or for exposing caricature-like portrayals of those country folk that offended them. He gave in to the readership in attempting to make the farmers and shepherds more “folksy” than they deserved and sought out the lifestyle in Dorset for much of his life on a continuous basis in spite of spending swaths of time in London each year.

After the year 1898, Hardy turned more and more to poetry for his literary expression. In the words of biographer Claire Tomalin, the poems illuminate “the contradictions always present in Hardy, between the vulnerable, doomstruck man and the serene inhabitant of the natural world.” Hardy’s lyrics are intimately and directly connected to his life: the great poems of 1912 to 1913 were written after the death of Emma on November 27, 1912. Some of these works are dated as early as December 1912, a month after her death, and others were composed in March of the following year, after Hardy had visited St. Juliot, Cornwall, where he first met Emma. Tomalin described Emma’s death as “the moment when Thomas Hardy became a great poet,” a view shared by other recent critics. Hardy’s Emma poems, Tomalin goes on to point out, are some the “finest and strangest celebrations of the dead in English poetry.”

In our travels, we have enjoyed those towns and regions that once flourished and then some incident or advancement that did not infiltrate the towns’ environs caused it to be diminished and perhaps abandoned. To visit Pompeii, Ravenna, Verona, Florence, Brugges, Vienna and other cities who either consciously or serendipitously suffered abandonment and then revival at some later time, is a treat. One can imagine life in a foregone era in those places, as the present world has not been allowed in. In fact, some of these are protected by the nations in which they are found and the World Heritage appellation adds to their importance. Hardy made his own contributions to our love of the past and we always look forward to a new iteration of his work in film. I, for one, really appreciate the tug of war he fought in his life between that which had occurred prior to his birth and how to honor it, while imbibing in all that was new and wonderful around him at the time. Can we adequately judge him just by his work, and is that enough by itself to satisfy us?

The Shadow On the Stone Tenebris picture

The Shadow on the Stone

      I went by the Druid stone

That broods in the garden white and lone,

And I stopped and looked at the shifting shadows
   That at some moments fall thereon
   From the tree hard by with a rhythmic swing,
   And they shaped in my imagining
To the shade that a well-known head and shoulders
   Threw there when she was gardening.
      I thought her behind my back,
   Yea, her I long had learned to lack,
And I said: ‘I am sure you are standing behind me,
   Though how do you get into this old track?’
   And there was no sound but the fall of a leaf
   As a sad response; and to keep down grief
I would not turn my head to discover
   That there was nothing in my belief.
      Yet I wanted to look and see
   That nobody stood at the back of me;
But I thought once more: ‘Nay, I’ll not unvision
   A shape which, somehow, there may be.’
   So I went on softly from the glade,
   And left her behind me throwing her shade,
As she were indeed an apparition—
   My head unturned lest my dream should fade.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3653210/You-must-be-selfish-to-be-selfless.html

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2006/jun/03/biography.thomashardy 

https://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/18/books/review/Wineapple.t.html

https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/ralph-pite/thomas-hardy-the-guarded-life 

Justice? OR  Mercy?: Should We, Can We, Learn to Love Better?

The confluence of several incidents, thoughts and exposures to ideas in the media has brought me to this blog. The first thought came from the most recent culmination of thoughts about community and the individuals who live in any defined community and their relationship to each other in forming that community. I asked what are each’s responsibility and on what principles are those responsibilities founded? This seems very pertinent in today’s perspectives related to that question. Related to that was another recent conversation with friends who are relocating to the island of Bali and near the community of Ubud, a place Mary and I found to be a wonderful example of life well-lived. I was mentioning to their children that they would find it usual for the Balinese Hindus to greet you in the manner of greeting a god, as they are greeting the god in you. That very particularly Balinese Hinduism, filled with their artistic flair and their calm beauty and understanding of life, strikes visitors to that paradise as soon as you enter into the rural communities. The third element in this confluence exercise appeared Sunday morning when listening to On Being, that fabulous podcast presented on PBS by Krista Tippett.

In the podcast, two individuals were interviewed based on the theme, Getting Proximate to Pain, and Holding to the Power of Love. As Mary and I have spent some time this spring in Europe, with abundant historical references related to historical and religious incidents in the cities we visited, it became apparent to us that Western man has worked too hard to achieve justice and has left mercy outside of their homes on too many occasions. Too, the Western religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, are central to our understanding of Western history, culture and behavior in general. Our very mindsets often are inextricably tied to the tenets of one, two or all three religions.

Yet, each is distinct, even though they grew out of the same roots and share so many branches. I feel the tree that results is a mutation of the original rooted plant, with so much pruning occurring since the original messages were given the people contemporary to their first utterings that it is sometimes impossible to reconcile the original message with today’s followers’ positions on them.

Judaism is unique particularly because its adherents claim to be God’s chosen people. This requires determining who is a Jew, how do you become one and then being exclusive as to the responsibility God has placed in that relationship (unsurprisingly, this has caused great problems for Jews themselves, as well as those who are their adversaries). They do not need empire, as they are defined as unique and special in God’s eyes wherever they are. Christianity and Islam, though, are proselytizing religions, seeking to expand numbers, to show the way, to convert those unaware and to gain in ever larger numbers and areas. This tension has created much of the world’s history.

All three have the problem of interpreting meaning and determining what is the true nature of God’s expectations for us, the living. That problem, along with Man’s very inquisitive nature, has answered it in many ways, including agnosticism and atheism and putting our faith in scientific answers to the problems the world presents us. Religious solutions are useful in that they promote community in a way that is critical to any individual. It is this perspective that drives the Tippett interview.

This turns out to be the most difficult to determine and to reconcile between each of the three religions, as with all the other religions in the world. The many followers of the three, two of whom branched off at very specific times because of an individual claiming special status with the Lord of the three, have continually interpreted the language of the religion, how it arrived on Man’s doorstep, in what context it should be understood, and how, in fact, you should live your life was all claimed along history’s path, up until today, where we still are making new claims of understanding. The two men in the discussion, each representing a different religion, sat down easily to discuss solutions.

My own recent engagement with Krista Tippett took place in one of those PBS moments, where you had to extend your car ride by pulling off and parking, completing the show before proceeding to the main purpose of that car ride. For me, it was in the Maine town of Rockland, on my way to a nice breakfast at the Brass Compass, a favorite of mine and Mary. In order to continue listening, rather than park on the street and proceed into my huevos rancheros, I first went down to the harbor and looked out at the morning’s activity as the sun was rising on the calm waters of the lobster boats and pleasure crafts, some of which were busying their decks for the day’s activities. 

Like all things Krista does, it was done with aplomb and humanity, with really great quality questions leading the discussion towards meaningful reflections on life. I will briefly introduce them, attempting yet again to do so in the specific brevity that is often elusive to my posts, and then hope you will have time for your own “spot on the harbor moment” to listen to the full hour. It will be worthwhile, I promise you.

The main tenor of this blog’s discussion is to emphasize the need for us to embrace the”empathic experience of other people’s pain” to meet the tension of another person’s anger, to understand, to seek mercy and to live a life that embraces the challenges aware of that mercy and not to seek only justice. The two men, Rami Nashashibi raminashashibiand lucas-johnsonLucas Johnson, are extraordinary in all that this word encompasses, in their commitment to love of humanity, respecting tradition, history, elders and the community, and their methodology and message in meeting the world’s problems head on, through community work and public discussion. Again, the blog is called, Getting Proximate to Pain, and Holding to the Power of Love

Their discussion opens up with a reference to the era, now fifty years ago, when King and Malcolm X were walking the streets, speaking to the wind, attempting to deal with the infrastructural issues that had formed the community and presented us with the problems they were then addressing. These men are directly the descendants of that effort to continue these two men’s missions, which means we need to understand that time, their message and to attempt to correctly interpret each. At the time that they lived, there was much spin on what they were doing, much as the spin continues in an attempt to control the message today. If we listen and learn, then go out and act as they two implore and inform us as to the possibilities of doing so, we may have a chance. I am dubious, but I am listening and appreciating their efforts.

 

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The message of King and Malcolm X, of love, of equity, of restructuring the edifice that controls the distribution of each, is discussed so well, with such eloquence, that just listening to these two men, and of course the constant humanity of Tippett, is so affirming. They will talk about the corner stores in the inner city, the “returning citizens” as they called the recently released incarcerated black men, their own confrontations with the system, and all of this is done with such compassion, such aplomb and humor, that the minutes fly by. The hour you devote to this is going to be one of such enjoyment. Get your favorite drink, hot or cold, set up an hour’s worth of treats to accompany its consumption, find a comfy place to be, be that in a window seat or in the car seat in front of your own harbor scene, and enjoy. Happy Fourth!

One of the important individuals who influenced the two men is Vincent Harding. Here are some quotes from him….

“love trumps doctrine every time” “How do we put these things together to create a more perfect union?”  “What does it mean to be truly human?” “What is our purpose in this world, and is that purpose related to our responsibilities to each other and to the world itself? If we teach young people to run away from the darkness rather than to open up the light in the darkness, to be the candles, the signposts, then we are doing great harm to them and the communities that they have come out of.”Vincent Harding

Stumbling Through Life: Pericles, Greece and Sending the Second Boat. Can We Expect Our Second Boat Soon?

Recently when finishing the shopping at the local supermarket and heading for the door, I passed a box of books that the market provided for customers to freely drop off books they no long need or, for those like me passing by and seeing an interesting one, to pick up a title. Most of them were from the “most seen” list, books that have been popular, easy-reading fiction that rarely catch my eye. But, in the line of about twenty-five books in the box was one by John Lewis Gaddis, On Grand Strategy, published 2018.

gaddisJohn Lewis Gaddis is a professor of History at Yale, the author of “The United States and the Origins of the Cold War,” “Strategies of Containment,” “The Long Peace,” “The Landscape of History,” “Surprise, Security, and the American Experience” and “The Cold War: A New History.” His “George F. Kennan: An American Life” won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in biography. I have read the majority of his opus and his work was critical to IB students on the Twentieth Century history sections. His writing is concise, focusing on rational analysis of events and leaders in the context of the time period, aspiring to build causal explanations that follow logical arguments, and built on the premise that man’s actions can be explained. I would be interested to have him analyze the current state of politics in America, as it seems so illogical on many levels, given that an irrational narcissist is sitting in the Oval Office. I will use this most recent book, On Grand Strategy, which, though coming out this year, unfortunately makes no mention of Mr. Trump (perhaps he, like most historians, wants to give some distance of time to allow for all the documents and the proper context to present themselves). It does look at events and individuals from the Golden Age of Greece, to Napoleon, through the Civil War and to Vietnam to explain his theses, which are the necessary elements, developed from rational processes needed by leaders to attain success for their plans or policies. There is a   video of a symposium discussion of the book’s contents with Gaddis in this link.

In the first part of the book, where he covers the 5th century B.C. in Greece- the invasion of that land by the Persians under the leadership of Xerxes, the building of Athens’ walls afterwards and the ensuing war with Sparta, the Delian League, and the demise of Athenian greatness that followed– I found much to ponder in today’s world, and therefore my title to this blog. I had not had the Delian League on my mind of late, but I have often thought, especially during my teaching career spanning forty years, that the United States was acting much like Greece had during that earlier time. Even recently those thoughts again arose in my conscience, as the US delegation discussing the support for mothers’ milk as the best option for new borns was torpedoed and the US used aggressive bullying to bring any country that resisted in line. Athens mishandled their democracy, their philosophy and their allies through the Delian League, and I always thought we were heading in the same direction at the end of Cold War. In the Twenty-First Century, we have not learned the necessary lessons, I fear, and perhaps we are entering the End Game the Athenians also did not anticipate. In stumbling across Mr. Gaddis, I can return to this thought. It seems even more pertinent to today’s discussion since November of 2016 and our handling of allies, bombastic demands of “the other” and inability to see the future with clear vision.

To follow Gaddis and me, let me set up some analogies and causal tools he used in the book. After opening the book with the description of Xerxes’ huge folly in inadequately understanding the invasion of Greece (he was avenging his father’s defeat at Marathon just a little over a decade earlier with somewhere between 150,000 and a million and a half men), Gaddis continues with an introduction of Isaiah Berlin, a Twentieth Century Philosopher/Historian from Oxford who had escaped communism and Stalin’s Russia after witnessing, at the age of eight, the Russian Revolution. Berlin loved the Greek poet Archilochus of Paros, using his fragment quote from a poem, “the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”  He later turned this fragment into a book on philosophy called, The Hedgehog and the Fox.

To summarize, a hedgehog is a person who is committed to a specific ideology, or to a theme, or to a position that has been researched, consumed or culturally assimilated, all of which afterwards it is difficult to accept alternate positions. These individuals are passionate in the defense of their ideas and can often hold an audience and elicit followers. The fox, on the other hand, weighs the situation, looks at the various options open to him, analyzes, evaluates and ranks his choices as best as possible, and is willing to choose the lesser of two evils or the better of two mutually exclusive goods. He is pragmatic and sometimes is evasive in committal. Often his pedantic nature can lose an audience, even though his advice is worthwhile.

Gaddis sited a study done by an American political psychologist, Philip E. Tetlock, who compiled over 27000 “predictions” about politics made by think tanks, professors, governments, institutions, and the media from the late 1980s until the early 2000s: the experts. These were grouped as either foxes or hedgehogs by the very experts who self-identified themselves as either based on Berlin’s criteria. After ascertaining the validity of each’s predictions in corresponding to the actual outcome in politics, surprisingly it was found the hedgehogs were as valuable as having a blind ape throw darts at a target. Conversely, the foxes were surprisingly adept at getting it right. It did not matter as to their ideology, liberalism or conservatism, or any other potential bias. It mattered as to methodology and being open to options. It turns out the social sciences, those involving the outcomes from men’s minds and hearts, are unreliable in predicting or opining based on deductive methods that fit into grand schemes. Analysis and critical thinking require being open to as many variables as possible.

To quote Gaddis here: “Tetlock’s hedgehogs, in contrast, shunned self-deprecation and brushed aside criticism. Aggressively deploying big explanations, they displayed a “bristly impatience with those who ‘do not get it’.” When the intellectual holes they dug got too deep, they’d simply dig deeper. They became ‘prisoners of their preconceptions,” trapped in cycles of self-congratulation. These played well as sound bites, but bore little relationship to what subsequently occurred. Oh how we desperately need some foxes in Washington, D.C. at this point, as the hedgehogs are everywhere and are burning down the state. 

Xerxes was a hedgehog, too. He did not take into account the huge size of his army perhaps being a disadvantage; or that the Spartans’ ability to hold a small pass and to die to a man doing it would have an adverse effect on his schedule and on his army’s morale; or that simply getting into Athens and burning the temple would not force the Athenians’ hand; or that his huge navy and rowers were no match for a group of sailors not simply fighting for pay, but for their homeland . Those are not an exhaustive list of his mistakes as outlined by Gaddis, either. He utilizes pages 10 through 14 in the book to explain them.

It would be my hope to emulate F. Scott Fitzgerald’s description, also found in the book, of first-rate intelligence when confronted with difficult issues. He felt this person has “the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still have the ability to function.” Gaddis points out the Berlin also illuminated this issue. He felt that ordinary experience is filled with “ends equally ultimate…, the realization of some of which must inevitably involve the sacrifice of others.” Sometimes two desired “goods” are mutually exclusive and unattainable and you have to choose. We often resolve this by stretching out our ambitions over time. Berlin also felt people could be both foxes and hedgehogs, and were better functioning if they understood this.

I am more of a fox in my approach to ideas and knowledge, almost agnostic in comprehending and proclaiming what I know. I do know that holding two opposing thoughts in one’s head is useful, as well as confounding. But, unlike the Javier Bardem character in No Country For Old Men, I am aware that you cannot absolve yourself of your moral responsibilities by flipping a quarter to make decisions. Any decision made, using history and contemporary context, must have a moral compass. A compass that is aware of the Darwinian nature of man, the need for fairness to oneself as well as the community, and one that focuses on long term implications that survive long after the decision is made are all paramount in the final act. Piggy banks, painting your house, changing the oil in a car, eating well, attending to your appearance and such, all deal with this arrangement with the future. Then, just like the Javier Bardem character, shit happens you did not and could not plan.

Political and military leaders have the same choices, though theirs involve more people and sometimes a shorter time frame. Elections in a democracy have consequences. Look at Mitch McConnell and his dissembling and duplicitousness regarding Supreme Court justice choices. His morality is completely subservient to his choice of power. November of 2018 could be disastrous for him, just as November of 2016 gave him the opening he had stalled for in his pursuit of power earlier. Now, in 2018, he is acting totally against the logic that he offered in 2016. Military leaders act defensively or offensively. The choice of action is often dictated from the opposition, as it was after Pearl Harbor, or the attack on Poland by the NAZIs, or by the invasion of South Korea by the North in 1950 when Truman and Acheson seemed to say their wall of defense excluded the Asian territories, other than the Japanese, Taiwanese and Philippine islands. Various factors forced Truman to reconsider that wall once Stalin okayed the invasion of South Korea by Kim. How strange we are still prosecuting the results of that decision nearly seventy years later. It has not be resolved, either militarily or politically.

thuyc-1024x657After Xerxes was defeated by the Athenians at the Battle of Salamis and their following victories, the Greeks settled into a period of calm, though they still feared the possibility of a return Persian assault. Athens built up their walls again, rebuilt the Parthenon in all its glory, and disturbed the Spartans with these policies. This was a time of Pericles, Athens’ Golden Age. Gaddis explores him from the hedgehog and fox perspective, brilliantly analyzing the decisions that were exemplary of a Grand Strategy from the good moral mind of a fox, while also exploring the hedgehog nature of Pericles’ demise and poor decision-making as Athens built up the Delian League.

The Delian League was a group of city-states which, unable to afford the size of navy necessary to protect them from an invasion, depended on the alliance with Athens and their navy to ward off any threat. Of course, the Spartans did not have wall and felt their army was enough to protect their interests, so they were not part of the League. Other Greek states were also outside of the treat area, like those in Sicily and those in western Italy, known as Magna Graecia. These would present problems for Athens that were not resolved well. (Again, think to Trump’s comments about decrying the scant payments made from our allies in their defense by the United States)

What followed was the Peloponnesian War, from 431 to 404 BC. The analogy of a tiger and a shark, or an elephant and a whale, is used to describe the prosecution of the war: the Spartan army versus the Athenian navy. Unable to engage each other with their strong points. While each city-state had a distinct advantage in one phase of military power, it would seem strategically aligning to present a impregnable threat to invasion would have been advisable. But this would have relied on trust, something in very short supply in the Greek psyche. As Gaddis put it, “a quality with strikingly shallow roots in the character of all Greeks”.

In looking at the long term- in this case Gaddis was assessing the post-Xerxes Greece of Sparta and Athens- he felt Sparta, with its strong army had not altered the disposition of what they always were. But, Athens, once they built the long walls to enclose Athens and Piraeus, their port, they were giving up their agrarian roots. If invaded, the surrounding territory would be razed, either by the Greeks in retreat or the invaders as retribution, and everyone would withdraw into the walled city to wait out the threat. The expense of a navy required much communal financing and personal sacrifice towards its maintenance-far more than the simple army of a hoplite soldier. And, the Greeks would have to develop trade and relationships with those “barbarians” (a Greek word), allowing them to inhabit the city in great numbers along the way. Immigration without citizenship followed.

Over the ensuing decades, as Sparta and Athens danced the circle towards war, smaller skirmishes brought the interests of the two giants into conflict. One, in 428, brought the island of Lesbos into the mix. Athens was allied to them through the League, but the high cost and the distaste the islanders felt against Athens led them to repudiate their allegiance and to seek help from Sparta. The Athenians, fearing that inaction would lead to further problems elsewhere, blockaded the port city, Mytilene. These inhabitants sought help from Sparta, who promised it but did ultimately not supply any. The following summer the city capitulated to Athens. The Athenian assembly, headed by Cleon, feared further defections, so they accepted Cleon’s recommendations that the men be slaughtered and the women and children sold into slavery. They sent a trireme to notify the Myltilenians of these orders.

After the ship sailed, the assembly had second thoughts. It was pointed out by some citizens that the Athenian empire was a free community. If a person was free and felt oppressed, of course they would revolt. Why was it useful to kill someone whose life would be useful to Athens. The assembly voted again and narrowly decided to halt the first order. A second ship was sent to overtake the first. The first plowed along slowly, as Thucydides writes, “upon so horrid an errand.” The second, plied with ale and barley cakes, ate while they rowed and slept only when relieved by another rower. They gladly made haste to prevent the horror. The second boat arrived just in time, even though the first boat had just arrived and delivered the message. No massacre took place, though.

When Melos, a longtime Spartan colony which had remained neutrality in the Peloponnesian War, was approached by Athens to submit to Athenian dominion, the Melians asked why. The Athenians told them “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” The Melians refused, hoping the world would see that this is not how things worked and that Sparta would send aid- it seemed Athens should be shamed into the right course. They were disappointed on both counts, eventually surrendered and were slaughtered to a man and the women and children sold into slavery. The city was repopulated with Athenians. The Athenians, in their prosecution of the Peloponnesian War under Pericles and the later handling of Melos, have been discussed and sometimes judged by historians. They were acting as hedgehogs at this time, for sure.

Gaddis believes that the democratic habits of deal making, compromise and tolerance served the United States well when it came to holding the Western coalition together during the Cold War (beginning dates are debated, but from the 1940s until 1990). Today  Europe and much of the world is as it is thanks in large part to the Marshall Plan and NATO, and the policies of containment. I am hoping there is some symbolic sending out of a second ship, a second November election two years later in other words, to save the democratic reputation of America. If anyone asks for a portion of ale and barley cakes, please give them some.

Gaddis also says that “Fear, after all, can be genuine without being rational. And as Sigmund Freud once pointed out, even paranoids can have real enemies.” We have too many fearful citizens fed by Fox News behind their Willful Wall of Ignorance. I know I am an enemy of a most irrational, paranoid man.

https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/the-long-peace-by-john-lewis-gaddis/ 

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/apr/30/book-review-on-grand-strategy-by-john-lewis-gaddis/

https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/97/05/25/reviews/970525.25mcmillt.html?scp=179&sq=george%2520kennan&st=Search  

David Brooks, Again….???: Now He Thinks He Knows What a Conservative Is, I Beg To Differ

david-brooksIn Brooks’ most recent opinion piece in the New York Times, he attempts to define the background of historical Conservatism, then morph that into today’s Trump voters as being Conservatives, and then attack Trump as not being a Conservative. His background on Conservative, in my opinion, is sketchy. I do not believe he is anywhere in the room in analyzing and putting his stethoscope on the right body politic, as his attempt to link voters and the goals of the GOP to Conservatism of the ilk he describes in the first part. These two conflations do not mash for me. Then, Trump.  Trump, I agree with Brooks, is no Conservative. But, he is dealing with the GOP in such a way as to cow them and keep them in line. He has done much for their causes, while at the same time destroying much of our Conservative and Liberal values which have articulated our nation’s policies for these past centuries. Where do we begin….

He early on asks two questions that I feel are inadequately addressed: Where do conservative loyalties lie? How can we serve those loyalties in these circumstances? Brooks’ attempts to paint the Conservative agenda historically would lead one to believe they are all pollyannas, smiling from their dinner tables and pews and singing Kumbaya. No, they are presently a combination of many things: Libertarians, Hobbesians, Burkeians, Capitalists, Evangelicals, Racists, Underemployed Rural Laborers, and many people fed up with the system that has developed in Washington, D.C. that ignores the American little man. The issues driving all of these vary from security, to right to life, to plutocracy, to White Supremacy, to Christian moral dominance, to Isolationism, to States’ Rights. The Venn Diagram that includes all of these does not exist. What did exist is a disdain for Hillary Clinton and a lack of education in too many to vote for what is fair for all and best for their own individual welfare in the option. Poor access to good knowledge is the prime problem in this country, one that is missed on David and not addressed in this piece. It may never be based on the status of politics at present, for it serves some individuals to maintain a low standard of national understanding of the issues in order for them to remain in power.

Leviathan_by_Thomas_HobbesIf you look at the Hobbes model of Conservatism, one that David Brooks has discussed in the past, even likening Obama to this model, you recognize more of what is espoused in the Conservative base today. Hobbes felt individual man was always in a constant state of warfare against his fellow man and needed a strong state and leader to keep him in check. It is not new to Brooks, though his continued attempts at being a psychologists have gotten him into trouble in the past, and are continuing into the present, it seems. It is clear to me that the fear mongering began by the GOP from the Reagan era forward has taken root and those roots are deep into the body and soul of American politics today. It may be impossible to do a simple root canal to eradicate them, as they now reach into the very brain of the nation. If you use Limbaugh, Beck, Alex Jones, Buchanan and the host of other politicians and pundits too spread fear and the need of a strong military and police, then many will claim to be victim of a weak and spineless government and vote authoritarian. trump_leviathan_djIt is not Trump’s fault that he exploited this field of play. Trump is playing mostly to that base, many of whom are not true Conservatives of the economic or plutocratic sense. Evangelicals have taken Trump’s power to appoint as preeminent in their desire to strengthen their values within the federal government. They are loathe to accept much else he is doing, but take this one caveat and stick with him. The Beltway Republicans have been eviscerated by Trump and they are the ones working hard to claw back into power. It is these leaders, those who formerly firmly held the reins in the GOP, who are most at odds with the direction of the party at present. They now risk irrelevance for decades to come if something is not done soon. 

It appears we are looking at a midterm election that will ask the electorate to either accept or repudiate Trump on all state levels. I fear the system is not pliable enough to measure the full-throated power of the opposition to Trump, and perhaps there really is a significant and sufficient majority of this country that actually feels his words, deeds and policies are to their liking. I hope not. 

Brooks quoted Roger Scruton in his piece, “The question of which comes first, liberty or order, was to divide liberals from conservatives for the next 200 years.” in referencing the origin of the division of power and goals in American politics. Brooks continued, “The practical upshot is that conservatives have always placed tremendous emphasis on the sacred space where individuals are formed. This space is populated by institutions like the family, religion, the local community, the local culture, the arts, the schools, literature and the manners that govern everyday life. 

Individuals being formed? GOP individuals? If you are a Latina kid, raised in a Catholic background, speaking more Spanish than English, does the GOP value her? If so, what must be said of recent comments and actions related to their plight on the Southern border and their being ignored and diminished in nearly every GOP-controlled state education system? The institutions he has listed like local culture, the arts, the schools, and literature, have all either been starved, cut, curtailed, criticized or censored by too many voices in the GOP. This takes away your right to govern or to at least claim they are important to you. And, where are the cultures of the Islamic immigrants of the past three decades, those of the South and East Asian communities that have arrived over the past two generations, the Africans who have fled the upheavals found there since the 1960s when the colonial/imperialist systems that dominated fell to revolutions or reality? We have changed our genetic nature within the time period since World War Two, just as we did in the influxes of peoples from Europe in the late 19th century (even as other regions’ emigrants were restricted). We have always been a country with a template to offer guidance and support to new comers and to those citizens adjusting to the changes in technology that impact family, religion, local community and local culture. Change is always accompanying, and sometimes irrevocably altering, traditions. How they survive is the nature of this arrangement. If the template is secure, those new ideas, new citizens and new gadgets will fit into the new America.

Brooks opined that George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” and, in Britain, David Cameron’s Big Society conservatism fizzled because of naked capitalism. They never took hold, so they never fizzled. It seems they were slogan fig leafs that did not adhere. Naked capitalism consumes its young. It is not interested in those values, and in this I agree with Brooks. It is a government’s job to regulate that simple goal of profit and to add values to the concept of economic exchange. Even Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand controlled his market. It was a Christian hand, though. I don’t know what a Christian looks like anymore based on what I’ve seen in the Trump Era. I agree that “radical individualism” is doing harm. It is the Ayn Rand type of individualism that is deeply engrained in Paul Ryan and Rand Paul, as well as many in the Tea Party. The Republican Party is in trouble…….. or is it?  That seems to be the simple question.

Who Is Sarah Huckabee Sanders?: Would You, Should You, Can You Ask Her to Leave Your Business? History will have a fine time sorting this one out.

sandersEver since the comedy act, Sean Spicer, left the White House Press Secretary’s job to be replaced by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the world has been exposed to her handling of the POTUS’s actions, tweets and comments. While many of Trump’s White House staff have either been fired, resigned or indicted, Sanders continues, along with some other very suspect individuals, to support the feckless, often insupportable policies of this man.

The recent incident, where she was asked to leave an restaurant, called the Red Hen, in Lexington, Virginia, has brought out voices of derision and support across media. Stephanie Wilkinson, the owner, told the Washington Post Sanders had already been served when she approached the press secretary and asked her to step outside. “I was babbling a little, but I got my point across in a polite and direct fashion…”  “I explained that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty and compassion and cooperation. I said, ‘I’d like to ask you to leave.’” Sanders, Wilkinson said, replied: “That’s fine. I’ll go.” The press secretary walked out and others at her table followed. Wilkinson said: “They offered to pay. I said, ‘No. It’s on the house.’”

The restaurant owner expressed no regrets, telling the Post: “I would have done the same thing again. We just felt there are moments in time when people need to live their convictions. This appeared to be one.” Sanders’ father, Mike Huckabee, was less generous in letting his feelings be known and tweeted, “Bigotry. On the menu at Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington VA. Or you can ask for the “Hate Plate”. And appetizers are ‘small plates for small minds’.”  Nicely done from someone who aspired to the presidency. The lack of decorum in communicating thoughts, feelings and opinions in today’s media is most dispiriting. 

Sarah Sanders was tapped by Trump because she is loyal and is able to deflect much of the questioning aimed at her. What is her reasoning behind supporting a president who has lied nearly 3000 times, without remorse, since assuming office? She apparently is happy with his decisions that support her religious views. That he has appointed conservative judges is also important to her. The pragmatism of supporting, in such an duplicitous way, the words and deeds of the president, though, have cost many of Trump’s supporters dearly. Will she be judged likewise by history? She certainly will be judged and is being judged, by her current role in condescension, snide attacks on the Press Corps, duplicitousness, dissembling and even lying. The Press Corps is obviously fed up with dealing with her and getting nothing from their days at the White House other than that monotone wet blanket she is so adept at throwing over the fiery truth.

What is her track record? After Trump sought to discredit Comey and the FBI, Sanders was questioned on a tweet she had sent during the 2016 presidential election that “when you’re attacking FBI agents because you’re under criminal investigation, you’re losing”. After Comey accused Trump of lying about the circumstances in which Comey was dismissed, Sanders defended Trump: “I can definitively say the president is not a liar and I think it’s frankly insulting that question would be asked.”

On June 27, 2017, during a press briefing, Sanders criticized the media, accusing them of spreading “fake news” against Trump. Sanders cited a video created by James O’Keefe (O’Keefe is a fraudulent manipulator of videos to slant the message he wants conveyed in a dishonest way). Although she was unsure of the video’s accuracy, she said “I would encourage everyone in this room and, frankly, everybody across the country to take a look at it.” 

In August 2017, Sanders said President Trump “certainly didn’t dictate” a statement released by Donald Trump Jr. regarding the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians. Sanders also said that President Trump “weighed in, offered suggestion like any father would do.” In January 2018, President Trump’s lawyers wrote to the special counsel investigation that “the President dictated” the statement released by Donald Trump, Jr. In June 2018, Sanders was asked by the media to explain the discrepancy in the statements, but she repeatedly refused to answer the question, saying: “I’m not going to respond to a letter from the president’s outside counsel … We’ve purposefully walled off, and I would refer you to them for comment”, as well as also: “I’m an honest person”

Here is a highly incomplete list of Sanders’ misadventures with the truth:

•August 2, 2017: Said Trump didn’t lie when he claimed the Mexican president called to praise his immigration policies, or when he said leaders from the Boy Scouts of America called to praise a speech he gave at the National Scout Jamboree. (Neither call had occurred.)

•November 1, 2017: Said immigrants entering the United States on diversity visas aren’t vetted. (They are.)

•November 2, 2017: Denied that Trump called the U.S. justice system “a joke.” (Hours earlier, Trump said of the justice system, “What we have right now, it’s a joke and it’s a laughing stock.”)

•February 20, 2018: Said, “The president hasn’t said that Russia didn’t meddle.” (He has.)

•March 27, 2018: Said there has been a citizenship question “included in every census since 1965, with the exception of 2010, when it was removed.” (No citizenship question has appeared on the full census form since 1950.)

Bryan Sanders, her husband, says: “All I know is that Sarah is never going to do anything that violates her conscience… She’s never been asked to do something that violates her conscience.” John Fea, a professor of American History and author of a book on Evangelical support for Trump, says,    “Evangelicals are a people of hope, not of fear.” Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been an advocate of fear, as have many in the GOP for decades. Fea says there are alternative options for Evangelical Christians and points out about a dozen times when they chose poorly in his article. When Sanders had the opportunity to tell of her being asked to leave the restaurant in Virginia, she used the Press Secretary’s Twitter account, an abuse that could be prosecuted- one that was based on power and retribution. It appears she was trying to use her position of power to influence the public in a way that could endanger the business venture of the Red Hen restaurant. This White House flaunts its power in despicable and often illegal ways without any remorse or action taken by the GOP-led Congress to rein it in. Sanders is the Great Enabler for Trump and an example of a poor Christian, in my opinion. What would Fea say about her?

But, was it correct for Ms. Wilkinson to refuse service to anyone? What standards can be allowed by the public, and the courts, to refuse service? Does the Supreme Court need to adjudicate gender, race, religious, civil rights of all kinds, and the political preferences of business owners in deciding whom they feel are acceptable in their places of business? I am uneasy with all manner of discourse and the divisions we have fomented through the debasement of language and the truth. I do not, though, hold the Democrats responsible for this development. I will be one of those judging Sarah Huckabee Sanders long after Trump has faded into the irrelevance he so richly deserves. I would not invite her into my home, but would serve her if she came into our business. I agree with Elijah Cummings. Others have different thoughts on the matter.

Interesting views on this topic, both in print and on video:

https://theslot.jezebel.com/the-complicity-of-sarah-huckabee-sanders-1825597216 

https://vimeo.com/155396614   harvey jones science center, at Sarah Huckabee’s Alma Mater, the same as her father.

https://www.har-bervillage.com/museum-history.html 

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/04/27/sarah-huckabee-sanders-profile-feature-2018-218014

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jun/23/trump-press-secretary-sarah-sanders-ejected-virginia-restaurant-red-hen-lexington

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/sarah-sanders-red-hen-trump-kicked-out-restaurant-virginia-lexington-white-house-press-secretary-a8413701.html 

Hedy Lamarr: Women’s Movement’s Saddest Victim of the 20th Century?

hedy-lamarrKnown to many as the most beautiful woman in the world, Hedy Lamarr spent most of her years fighting to be the person she really wanted to be, but was constricted by contemporary convention and a male dominance that confined her to a life that was only partially realized. Born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler on November 9, 1913, in Vienna, Austria, to a wealthy banker father and musician mother, both of Jewish background, she morphed into other characters and took on a new name once she came to Hollywood. A maverick with strong ideas and actions befitting an exciting and interesting woman, she was pigeon-holed into a pinup role throughout her life. She was not happy with that choice in the end.

Recently, a documentary about her life, produced by Susan Sarandon and directed by Alexandra Dean, was aired on PBS. Its title is Bombshell and it gives a fuller description of her life beyond Hollywood, the place where much of her fame arose. The privileges with which she grew up and in a city of the post Great War that was now the capitol of a much reduced republic- after being one of Europe’s grandest empires- saw her family pulled in directions by the new politics of extreme socialism in Vienna, growing nationalism and fascism within Europe, and a very liberal approach to social issues in much of Europe. Vienna was the city of Klimt, Freud and Schnitzler. Jews who had lived for generations in Vienna were more progressive than elsewhere, with many converting to Catholicism to gain favor in society. The delicate balance that had survived generations in Vienna during the empire ruptured after the Great War. In this time, the political atmosphere polarized and stumbled towards civil war in the early 30s. 

In this city and time period, Hedy grew up and became a teenager. She was always precocious and her father gave her great leeway to pursue her interests. As a teenager she became interested in cinema, with Vienna being the home of one of the most influential studios in Europe and the world. While not exhibiting great acting talent, her beautiful looks attracted attention in every corner of the industry and she was given parts in several films. To expand possibilities for herself, she moved to Berlin where she was signed by a Czech director for a film that made her infamous even while still in her teens. It was called Ecstasy in English and contained the first nude scene in cinema, accompanied later in the movie by an orgasm being shown to the audience. It was condemned in many circles including the Pope, banned in the States for a period, though considered an art film by some. Her name was notorious, though, for she was the object of both provocative scenes in the film.

Not long after that film, Hedy returned to Vienna where she met a man some years her senior. His name was Fritz Mandl, also of Jewish extraction, and he was one of the most powerful munitions manufacturers in Europe. She fell in love and began what appeared to be a magical married life with travel, huge homes in the city and country and, at first, no need to pursue her career further. Her husband’s jealous control of her world and his suspicions about her actions, though, made her a prisoner of his whims and her life evolved into one that required her only to show well at his parties and to support him without questioning. That was never going to be the person Hedy could accept. Her biggest revelation concerning her husband was his involvement in supplying the new regimes of Mussolini, Hitler and Franco with the munitions they would need to control their populations and to make plans for further conquests, in the case of Hitler and Mussolini. It was not unusual to have figures like Mussolini at the dinner table after a day’s hunt in the Austrian countryside property, as well as the likes of Freud and other Viennese notables. Hedy fervently despised the Fascist/Nazi ideologies.

She attempted to escape two times before donning a maid’s uniform and having one of her maids stand in for her in her clothing (drugged in her bed to give her time), and riding into freedom on a bicycle with jewelry stuffed into her clothing. She divorced from France and got onto her life, which would be a return to the screen (there are several versions of her escape, and Lamarr’s versions told later in life cannot be deemed completely reliable as she was doing image control by that time). She fled in the late 30s, just before the Anschluss and the introduction of the strong anti-Semitic laws in Austria that were welcomed by the majority of the population. Lamarr’s mother remained in Europe and for several years Hedy used her influence and money to get her out of the region. She first managed to get her to London and finally to America, but not until after the war. Being an arms dealer kept Mandl from the concentration camps. Lamarr never again referred to her Jewish heritage after she left Austria.

lamrrIndeed, her meeting with L. B. Meyer, who was buying up European film talent on the cheap in the late 30s on a swing through Europe at the same time as her escape, convinced her that she needed to be in America. Though he did not offer her enough to satisfy her in their initial meeting, she manipulated the beauty-struck Meyer on the Atlantic crossing on the Normandie she planned to a T. He signed her to a contract she could accept on the Atlantic and he changed her name in the process from Kiesler (too German) to Lamarr (on the suggestion of Mrs. Meyer, who liked a recently deceased actress by the same last name). She got off the ship in New York an instant star.

The way Hollywood used Lamar (and other females) would have and does rankle the #Metoo movement. Lamarr’s often responses would have been supported by all the actresses today. Today’s actors have successfully asserted themselves in today’s world with similar confrontations, where instead Hedy was branded, controlled and forced into submission by the Studio system. She ended up frustrated with her looks as her defining feature, though she also succumbed to their appeal through countless plastic surgeries for the rest of her life. She did not go out in public in her later life because of the poor transformation. The blessing and curse of her beauty was only too aware in Lamarr’s consciousness.

These links from the NYTimes, Vanity Fair and PBS give a clearer expanded story about her life, though they conflict on some points. With the recent documentary expanding on the quiet genius she possessed, with the focus on her wartime efforts to assist the navy in hunting down German ships, particularly submarines that could be hunting down the eventual ship carrying her mother across to America, she patented an idea she came up with playing with ideas at home after filming at the studio all day. Her relationship to Howard Hughes so impressed him with her thoughts, designs and potential that he provided her with instruments and support for whatever she came up with during this time. On Aug. 11, 1942, United States Patent No. 2,292,387 was granted to Lamarr and a colleague, George Antheil, for their design. But persuading the Navy to take it seriously proved insurmountable. Pentagon bureaucracy, coupled with the fact that the design’s co-inventor was a movie star, resulted in their idea being ignored. Hedy’s folly may have been in assuming men in government might overcome their prejudice that a beautiful woman could not have brains and imagination. But she lived to see similar versions of her invention be put into common practice, and in 1997, Hedy Lamarr, at the age of 82, and George Antheil (posthumously) were honored with the Pioneer Award by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She would not come out in public and it was her son who accepted it on her behalf. She did call in the middle of the ceremony, though, embarrassingly.

The video clips of interviews with Sarandon and Dean, or just with Dean, and the one looking back to the appearance of Lamarr on the Griffin Show in the 1960s are most illuminating. Griffin had several guests, centrally Woody Allen. Allen’s comments expose him as the rightful target of the #Metoo movement today and his comments are despicable and not deserving of Lamarr, who fields them in the weary acceptance she had by then adopted for everything that was lobbed her way as the figure of beauty without brains. She was treated as an object and that was all. Griffin was only interested in exposing the elicit side of her biography and would not accept that her “autobiography”, which she disowned when it was published, was not the version of her life that she accepted. 

She died not quite penniless, but certainly not enjoying the stature of the a star, with the respect she deserved. Recent attempts at rehabilitation have improved her image and she may eventually get the credit for her frustrated involvement in the #Metoo movement before it actually came into existence. Let’s hope so. More links and videos below…..

https://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/18/books/review/hedys-folly-by-richard-rhodes-book-review.html?module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Sunday%20Book%20Review&action=keypress&region=FixedLeft&pgtype=article

https://www.pbs.org/video/interview-director-alexandra-dean-jv58lo/ 

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2017/04/hedy-lamarr-documentary-clip

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=px3Z7XTgudQ 

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/bombshell-hedy-lamarr-story-film/9906/

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/bombshell-hedy-lamarr-story-full-film/10248/ 

https://www.netflix.com/watch/80189827?trackId=14277281&tctx=0%2C0%2C94386c29-ce87-4fe9-a829-4915e95e0173-27815220%2C%2C

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2ILXKGK0VQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvZBNSxuSuo   background history

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muYlAsUDibE  griffin allen 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBkJhS0u83A sarandon

https://womenandhollywood.com/tribeca-2017-women-directors-meet-alexandra-dean-bombshell-the-hedy-lamarr-story-29cd30827353/ 

https://www.thehairpin.com/2013/08/scandals-of-classic-hollywood-the-ecstasy-of-hedy-lamarr/ 

https://youtu.be/tQhsZg54jFg

https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/hedy-lamarr-bombshell-documentary-inventor-movies-biography-a8246371.html

https://www.encyclopedia.com/women/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/lamarr-hedy-1913-2000