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The Danger of Private Power of Corporate Oligarchs Backed by President Trump and Congress: Warnings from Franklin Roosevelt

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

As we enter into what I think will be a very eventful and peril filled 2018 I think that it is to take heed of the warnings of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke these words in his Four Freedoms speech. I think they are worth pondering as we go into the second year of the Trump Presidency and the increase of autocratic rule worldwide. Roosevelt said:

“I suppose that every realist knows that the democratic way of life is at this moment being directly assailed in every part of the world — assailed either by arms or by secret spreading of poisonous propaganda by those who seek to destroy unity and promote discord in nations that are still at peace.”

Sadly a large portion of the American populace neither seems to understand or care about these threats to our Constitution and democratic way of life. I will return again to that speech early in 2018 but tonight I wanted to share a couple of other thoughts by him from his Message to Congress on Controlling Monopolies of April 1938 which I think are appropriate for us to ponder at this critical time.

“Unhappy events abroad have retaught us two simple truths about the liberty of a democratic people.

The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism—ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.

The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living.

Both lessons hit home.

Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing…”

His speech in its entirety can be read here: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=15637

When I read Roosevelt’s words I am concerned.  It appears to me that what he spoke then is perhaps even more true now. In the past year we have seen the consolidation of power in the hands of the great corporate oligarchs of our time, speeded by the executive actions of the Trump administration and the legislation of the Republican controlled Congress.

His words are a warning to the wise…

Have a great day,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Peril of Private Power: A Warning from Franklin D. Roosevelt

roosevelt2

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Since I posted about Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union address and the Four Freedoms yesterday, I thought that I would follow it up with just a couple of truths from him:

“Unhappy events abroad have retaught us two simple truths about the liberty of a democratic people.

The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism—ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.

The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living.

Both lessons hit home.

Among us today a concentration of private power without equal in history is growing…”

Sounds to me like he was well acquainted with our President Elect. A warning to the wise…

Have a great day,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Bigger than Jesus? The Super Bowl at 50

  

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Judy and I watched the Super Bowl with friends last night at our version of Cheers, the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restuaurant. Now for Judy, she wasn’t doing much watching, as she is an artist and has no interest in football, she drew. For me the game is more of a social event. If pressed I would watch the game at home, but even so football for me is just a sport. Football, for all of its popularity is not the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, the church of baseball. 

Now speaking of church, if you look at the polls, the United States is one of the most religious nations outside of the Middle East in the world. But despite the fact that polls generally report that about 40% of Americans attend church weekly, actual church, or religious service attendance according to multiple studies is actually closer to 18% or about 52 million people a week, and that is all denominations. If the pols were right that 40% figure would be about 120 million people a week, but people lie to polls. 

According to pre-game estimates some 189.9 million Americans will watch the game. The total amount of money that will be spent on the game will exceed $15 billion. That number does not include the amount of money that will be spent on gambling, online betting, or Super Bowl pools. The National Retail Federation estimates that the average view or partygoer will spent about $82 on food, decor and team apparel. My friends, that is a lot of people and a lot of money, and if you measure faith by spending, that is a lot of faith. As Feregi Rule of Acquistion number 104 states “Faith moves mountains…of inventory.” 

But let this sink in for a moment and think about what this says about our culture. I mean really, the Super Bowl celebrates power, celebrity, money, and violence. Please do not get me wrong, I do think that football, like all team sports can teach good life lessons, the value of teamwork, hard work, and excellence. But that being said, there are many instances at every level those who promote the game teach the wrong lessons. In college many players are given a pass on academics in order to maintain their eligibility to play the game. The use of Performace Enhancing Drugs plagues the game, and drug testing regimes of the NCAA and NFL are woeful. Acts of violence committed off the field by players, and sometimes even coaches are commonplace, and many go unpunished or with a slap on the wrist. If everyday people committed these acts they would not be rewarded with massive contracts, and in some cases sponsorships that pay great amounts of money. Even so there are many players who are outstanding citizens who lead exemplary lives, and who give back to the community. One can never forget them even as we offer legitimate critiques of the football culture at many levels.

Then there is the physical cost to many of the players, those crippled so badly that they can only walk with great pain and difficulty, those that suffer from CTE and other brain injuries, including various forms of dementia. It seems that every moth that more and more of these stories are coming to light. The late Ken Stabler, the legendary quarterback of the Oakland Raiders was the latest big name player to be known to suffer for this. The lives of many NFL and even Super Bowl greats are littered with such tragedy, and until recently the NFL did little or nothing for the men whose on field performance and sacrifice made it what it is. One has to wonder how different we are from the ancient Romans who rebelled in watching gladiators slaughter one another, with little hope of survival. 

But all that being said, the Super Bowl and everything associated with it is great entertainment, even when the game is not that great.  The truth is that as for teams playing in the Super Bowl I had no dog in the fight, and I was not impressed with either team’s offense. Neither Peyton Manning or Cam Newton were impressive, Manning because he is not what he once was, and while the Bronco’s defense was outstanding, Carolina played a conservative game never took advantage of Cam Newton’s running ability. Thankfully the game was not a blowout, and it did hold my interest, but it was nowhere close to being one of the greatest games ever played.  Denver won, but despite that I was not impressed. I have seen a lot better played football and Super Bowl games. 

But then maybe that is a metaphor for where we are in our society. We spend our time and money to be entertained watching a game that profits the NFL, which since the 1960s has been tax exempt, and its Fortune 500 advertisers, much more than it does the players who sacrifice their bodies and minds on the gridiron, or the stadium employees who work for a pittance at every NFL venue do, even when the game fails to measure up to the hype.

By the way I wonder just how much money Payton Manning was paid to say that he was going to “drink a lot of Budweiser” after the game? I mean really, a rich guy like Peyton drinks a crappy mass produced beer? But then there is no accounting for taste, and it could be the effects of one too many concussions. But I digress…

But as Rule of Acuisition number 69 says, “Ferengi are not responsible for the stupidity of other races.”  I think that the NFL has figured that one out. Who knows, maybe unlike the Beatles, the Super Bowl might actually be bigger than Jesus. I doubt if you will hear Roger Goodell or anyone in the main office being quoted as saying that, as it might be bad for business, and that would be tragic. 

Anyway, until tomorrow. Have a great day.

Peace, 

Padre Steve+

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Hank Williams Junior’s Free Speech Violated? Give me a Break… it was Business doing what is best for Business

 

“After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision. By pulling my opening Oct 3rd, You (ESPN) stepped on the Toes of The First Amendment Freedom of Speech, so therefore Me, My Song, and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE. It’s been a great run.” Hank Williams Jr. announcement Thursday after ESPN announced that he would no longer be featured as the intro to Monday Night Football

Back when I was in college I did something incredibly stupid simply because I thought that I was being funny.  I had a part time job as a Peer Counselor with the Educational Opportunity Program.  The program was to help kids from poor families with not so great educations get a chance at college. Some kids did well and others didn’t.  My wife Judy was a student in the University’s program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students.  The office that ran the deaf program was called Support Services for Deaf Students or simply SSDS.

Judy had a roommate named Kendra and the three of us came up with some pretty sick jokes. In fact I learned sign language more to tell jokes with Kendra more than any other reason. Since Judy was “just hard of hearing” I used some sign with her but mostly to help her understand in difficult situations as for the most part she functioned as a hearing person despite having a 77% hearing loss.   Judy is also an artist and a cartoonist. One day we came up with a fake flyer for a parody of SSDS.  We called it Support Services to Dead Students.  Judy did the drawing and all would have been well had I not gotten the less than brilliant idea to “spam” the flyer out. Now this was way before e-mail and Facebook or any other social media.  So I went to a copy store and made about 50 copies and took them to work. I put them in messenger envelopes and sent them to most school departments through the internal school mail system.  I thought that it was hysterical and I must have let slip to someone that I had pulled this off this prank. Anyway a couple of days later I was called into my boss’s office and was told by him that he knew that I did it. He felt that it was deeply offensive and that I could resign or be fired.  I ended up resigning and my boss was grateful.  To be truthful it had nothing to do with the EOP students we were poking fun at the deaf students. Yes it was still crass and insensitive but I didn’t think that I would lose my job over it. I thought that it was a funny parody. My employer didn’t.

I learned a hard lesson. No matter how funny I thought that my parody was that it didn’t mean that my employer had to keep me on. What I did embarrassed my department and paid the price for it. Was anyone harmed? No. Was it malicious? No.  Could it be interpreted in ways that I didn’t intend it to be? Yes. Did it reflect on my lack of judgment? Yes.  Did my boss have a right to terminate me? Yes.  Did I learn? Most of the time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eF6vCv13bw

Now of course Hank Williams Jr. made a complete ass of himself on Fox and Friends Monday morning.  Not only did he compare President Obama with Hitler but he went into a rant that just made him look like an angry idiot.  He called Obama “the enemy” and in making the Hitler comparison really made light of the Holocaust.  There is little that any American politician on the right or the left can do to be compared with Hitler.  Even his Fox friends who are not known for their love of Obama looked really uncomfortable as Hank ranted on.

Now to get things right I will defend people’s free speech rights and I don’t have to agree with them. If one decides to compare any American President with Adolf Hitler Joe Stalin, Pol Pot or the Ayatollah Khomeini he or she can say it without fear of being prosecuted by the State for doing so and if he is I will defend his right to that speech, even if I think it is hateful.  It may be hateful and ignorant to do what Hank did but there is no law against it and if he was prosecuted for it by the government I would defend his Free Speech rights.

That being said if one is the face of Monday Night Football as Hank was ESPN then there are risks to acting like an idiot. The producer of that show and the NFL had a right to end his relationship with the show.  It is about business, other companies with that advertise on Monday Night Football don’t want to be linked to the “H” word.  If they had not ended the relationship it would have been bad for business.

Let’s face it using the Hitler analogy tends to get people fired and it is not about free speech it is about business.  There are probably hundreds if not thousands of “conservative” commentators, bloggers and journalists who have made the Hitler analogy frequently on the internet and in print. It is protected Free Speech.  In fact when George W. Bush was President left wing bloggers and columnists frequently played the Hitler card against him. .  However none of them were the face of Monday Night Football and generally they work for employers that make money by criticizing Obama and the Democrats or Bush and the Republicans so they keep their jobs.  Remember each business determines what is good for their business.   Monday Night Football decided that Hank was now bad for business.

Hank is now saying that he decided to leave Monday Night Football “with his rowdy friends.” He said that what happened to him was a violation of his free speech rights. Now it seems like most people with the exception of Hank and Sean Hannity think that ESPN was within its rights to end their relationship with Hank.  If I recall one of the key conservative tenants is that employers are the ones that set the conditions for employing people.  The right to hire and fire at will is something that conservatives and Libertarians love.  Firing and shunning celebrities for doing stupid, ignorant or hateful things or even for benign associations is a sport in this country if a business deems the celebrity’s actions bad for business.

Let’s just go back 50-60 years, the McCarthy hearings and the Hollywood “blacklist” which tarred and feathered many actors, directors and others involved in the film industry being associated with the Communists or other unpopular causes at some point in their life, even if they had renounced that association.  Those people were not allowed to work, many for years simply because their loyalty to the country which had nothing to do with their acting abilities was questioned and producers fearing audience backlash simply blacklisted them.  Some of the many people blacklisted included Orson Welles, Burgess Meredith, Eddie Arnold and Edward G. Robinson.

Then there was an actress named Hanoi Jane Fonda, daughter of Hollywood icon Henry Fonda who had the dumb ass idea to go to North Vietnam, make anti-American and anti-war statements and be photographed on an anti-aircraft gun within a mile or so of the Hanoi Hilton POW camp.  She couldn’t get work for several years and when she did start working again, many people, me included boycotted her films and I still won’t watch them.  She was able to say what she wanted but she suffered the consequences and is still one of the most hated Hollywood celebrities in conservative circles.

There are so many other examples where celebrities have been fired or shunned because of their actions. Here are a few:

Gilbert Gottfried: Tsunami jokes got him fired as the voice of the Aflack Duck.

Megan Fox: Canned from Transformers due to Hitler remarks.

Madonna: Fired from her Pepsi sponsorship when the American Family Association boycotted Pepsi after Madonna released her controversial “Like a Prayer” music video.

Michael Phelps: After getting caught smoking dope was dropped by Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes.


Mel Gibson: He was shunned after making anti-Semitic comments during a DUI arrest. His career has not been the same since.

Whoopi Goldberg: The Sister Act star got canned from her Slim Fast spokesperson job when she made double entendres about President George Bush at a John Kerry fund raiser.  She was also shunned by Kerry after it.

Sharon Stone: Dropped by Christian Dior inChina for suggesting that Chinese earthquakes were caused byChina’s treatment of Tibet.

The Smothers Brothers: Their hit comedy was cancelled by CBS for their controversial statements about racism,Vietnam and politics.

The Dixie Chicks: While touring “Old Europe” the country singers lashed out at President Bush and the Iraq War.  They were not fired but lost a huge number of fans in the process. The fans shunned them. They lost money and have not regained their former popularity.

The list can go on but I think I make my point. If people want to claim that business are free to do as they please and hire and fire people for whatever reason they deem fit on one hand, then they shouldn’t  that their Free Speech rights are being violated.  It is a two way street.  Think about it. If you are a business owner or in management and one of your employees does something that you think reflects badly on your business and may hurt your business would you fire them? You bet your ass you would and it doesn’t matter for what reason politics, religion or even your sense of humor.

What old Hank did was so stupid it defies imagination but he could say it. Fox didn’t cut away as he shot off his mouth, he wasn’t censored.  While his words and tenor were unbelievably stupid they were not illegal.  However I don’t blame ESPN for firing his sorry ass.  Hank is no victim of political correctness he shot his own balls off and I don’t care if he works ever again or he overcomes this and his career recovers.  However, he can say what he wants and believe what he wants and if he was prosecuted by the government for voicing those beliefs I would defend his Free Speech rights.  But that is not the case here.

Now I do have a lot of strong feelings about the often capricious ways that businesses use their liberty to mistreat or silence workers for speaking their political and religious beliefs in the workplace.  However if one wants to say that businesses should be free to do what they want to increase profits and market share without government interference then one has to expect that businesses will do best for business. Profit and not Free Speech is their number one concern.  Many celebrities and ordinary citizens have found this out before Hank; he can just join the club.  Heck, I’m no celebrity but it happened to me too… boo hoo Hank. Boo hoo. I’ll cry in my beer with you.  Wow that rhymed.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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