Sunday, July 24, 2011

Eleanor Roosevelt Quotes

Jeff St Art Show - Brady by paynehollow
Jeff St Art Show - Brady, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

I've just recently been reading about Eleanor Roosevelt and some of her quotes and was impressed and thought I'd share some of her words here. What would the world be like without our beloved, strong, smart women?

A little simplification would be the first step toward rational living, I think...

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself...

We have to face the fact that either all of us are going to die together or we are going to learn to live together and if we are to live together we have to talk...

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world...

The word liberal comes from the word free. We must cherish and honor the word free or it will cease to apply to us...

When you know to laugh and when to look upon things as too absurd to take seriously, the other person is ashamed to carry through even if he was serious about it...

For it isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it...

When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A trillion here and a trillion there...

Frist Center by paynehollow
Frist Center, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

According to a Reuters repot (citing a Brown University study), the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan total between $2.3 and 2.7 T-T-Trillion-with-a-"T" thus far and that costs will continue to explode when we factor in the care of the wounded and survivors of the killed. The final bill is estimated to be between $3.7 and 4.4 trillion.

Added to that, between 220,000 to 250,000 people have died from the warfare, with many more deaths attributable to the war indirectly, from the loss of clean water, healthcare and poor nutrition.

An additional ~365,000 have been wounded. 7.8 million people have been displaced/lost their homes.

This "war on terror" with fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq is our longest-running war and our second most costly (after WWII).

I feel compelled here to recall the giddy early days of our invasion in Iraq, where then-Secretary Rumsfeld estimated the cost of the Iraqi war at $50 billion, but that might be going to high, because others will help chip in and pay for it...

Rumsfeld (answering a question about the cost of the Iraq war):

Well, the Office of Management and Budget, has come up come up with a number that's something under $50 billion for the cost. How much of that would be the U.S. burden, and how much would be other countries, is an open question...

Oh, silly, silly, evil Donald! A few billion, several trillion, what's the difference?!

Unless you hold to that old-fashioned conservative notion that goes... "a trillion dollars here, a trillion dollars there and pretty soon, it starts adding up!"

And what is the debate going on in Washington right now, even as we speak (or write)? Why the GOP is insisting on $4 trillion in budget cuts. Hmmm, what COULD we possibly have done over the last decade to save ~$4 trillion? Oh, here's an idea! Why don't we NOT INVADE Iraq and Afghanistan. Why in the WORLD did the Democratic President insist on making that $4 trillion expenditure in the first place?! What was he thinking??

Oh, wait a second: It WASN'T a Democratic president who led us into this on-going $4 trillion + fiasco, it was a REPUBLICAN plan (one that too many stupid Democrats caved in on and went along with, despite an unprecedented public outcry against it).

Okay, enough with the sarcasm. My point is, if we don't want to be $4 trillion in debt, then perhaps we shouldn't have wrongly and foolishly invaded Iraq. Perhaps we should have been content in Afghanistan to do the initial retribution against those who supported the 9/11 attack and ended our role there.

I can't say how sickened I am by the GOP's preening about this massive debt when it can be largely laid at their feet.

Finally, it has been noted that the Bush-era protests against the war have gotten much more quiet since Obama has taken office. Charges of partisanship have been made. This is not the case, of course. We who opposed the wars, STILL oppose the wars. We strongly oppose Obama's own foray into invading nations in Libya.

But the reality is that Obama inherited these wars from Bush and we're IMpatiently waiting for him to deliver on his promises to end the wars.

But this is one of the reasons that the anti-war crowd opposes especially these sorts of invasions is precisely because, once you're there, it's hard to know what the right thing to do. "If we leave, the nation might collapse and mass killings might occur. If we don't leave, people are STILL being killed (the last six months in Afghanistan have been the deadliest for civilians, yet, according to a BBC report)." There is no good resolution to this swampy morass we were led into.

The analogy might be made to a forest fire. If some idiot started up a forest fire in a dry region and immediately set out to try to put it out... and KEPT trying to put it out and, after six months, the fire was still burning, what is the right answer? JUst leave and say, "Well, I tried..." or keep trying to put it out with no end in sight? It's not easy to leave, even though, leave we must. But the RIGHT answer is, "Don't start the fire in the first place." ESPECIALLY when that fire is going to bankrupt our nation and place us trillions of dollars in debt.

Bush started a fire, with the support of most in Congress. There is no easy way to put this fire out and no easy way to get out of the fire-fighting business. It's a lesson in WHY WE DON'T INVADE NATIONS or engage in nation-building-by-war in the first place. IF you're going to want a military, then have the decency to reserve it for protection against invasions.

As President James Madison noted...

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes... known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. ... No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Bible and Economics

Sunset Flowers by paynehollow
Sunset Flowers, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

Part of an ongoing series looking at all the many passages in the Bible that deal with wealth and poverty issues. You can see the links to the other passages in the series under the heading "The Bible and Economics" below.

The last post in this series was back in April, where I looked at the first 15 chapters of the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. Today, I'm looking at chapters 16 through 20. Because of the nature of the book, it's sort of a hodgepodge of this and that, but there are definitely economic/wealth/poverty themes found in this book.

Deuteronomy 16 begins with rules about remembering Israel's departure from the economic and social oppression/slavery they lived with in Egypt. As the passage continues, there are repeated calls to "remember that you were slaves in Egypt..."

Count off seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the standing grain. Then celebrate the Festival of Weeks to the LORD your God by giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the LORD your God has given you...

Celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress. Be joyful at your festival — you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns...

Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.

Deut 16:9-10, 13-14, 17

Then, there is a short point about appointing judges...

Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the LORD your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent. Follow justice and justice alone...

Deut 16:18-20

Chapter 17 offers some rules for kings...

The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.

Deut 17:16-17

Israel's rulers "MUST NOT" accumulate wealth? How very anti-capitalist of the author!

The first eight verses of chapter 18 tells us that the tribes of priests - the levites - were to have no land inheritance, but were to have food provided for them out of the surplus of the other tribes within Israel, and further outlines the rules regarding their special status.

Chapter 19 begins by establishing the concept of "Cities of Refuge," which were to be created equally out of shares of the land of each tribe. The purpose of these cities was to be a refuge for those who "kills a neighbor unintentionally, without malice." In modern terms: Manslaughter. The idea was to provide a place so that an angry family member won't kill - in anger - someone who killed another merely as an accident.

I mention this mostly because of the concept of shared economic burden, but also because it is an interesting aside into a penal system vastly different than ours and because our penal system costs so much in both lives and dollars.

Then, there is this one verse that deals with land ownership...

Do not move your neighbor’s boundary stone set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive...

Deut 19:14

Chapter 20 has some very interesting rules about going to war, rules that relate to how Israel was to pay for wars and about the size/formation of their military...

When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you...

The officers shall say to the army: “Has anyone built a new house and not yet begun to live in it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else may begin to live in it. Has anyone planted a vineyard and not begun to enjoy it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else enjoy it. Has anyone become pledged to a woman and not married her? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else marry her.” Then the officers shall add, “Is anyone afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his fellow soldiers will not become disheartened too.”

When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the LORD your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the LORD your God gives you from your enemies.

Deut 20:1, 5-8, 10-14

Not that I'm advocating that as a model, just pointing out the economic aspect of this approach to "defense" and expansionism.

This first verse (don't worry about the great size of the enemy's army) is touched on elsewhere, where God commands Israel NOT to strive to have a large standing army, but a small militia called upon in times of need only. The point there is to NOT trust in large armies that come at a great cost (economic and spiritual) for their defense, but to trust in God. This would stand in stark contrast to the norm in today's approach to defense, even amongst most churches, where the model is "More is Better, Most is Best..." when it comes to bombs and guns and other implements of destruction.