Posts Tagged ‘charlatans’

Who needs a wall?

November 19, 2016 Leave a comment

If we really wanted to stop illegal immigration, we wouldn’t need a wall. If we really wanted the unknowable millions of illegals to return home, we wouldn’t need to round ‘em up.
All Congress would need to do is pass a law that jails those who employ illegals. Those employers would be fined—which would help balance the budget and reduce the national debt—but they would have to serve time. First offense: one year. And I don’t mean the lowly foreman. I mean everyone up the line to the top. It’s high time for CEOs to stop ‘taking responsibility’ while claiming no knowledge and suffering no consequences. [There might be a temporary building boom owing to the many new prisons needed]
We need not be draconian about it. Our wise Congress would surely include a provision to issue permits to allow the hiring of some illegals to, for instance, harvest tomatoes. [Or build new prisons] But to make sure illegals aren’t taking jobs away from hard working Americans, those workers would, by law, be paid at least minimum wage.
You may argue such a law would add yet another interfering governmental agency. Not at all. We could re-purpose immigration agents currently employed in keeping ‘em out, because no one would be coming in.
It could be that easy, if our government officials were really interested in addressing illegal immigration. And if the people that hire undocumented workers were equally interested. Once Congress passes such a law, we could sit back on our easy chairs, sipping (add your beverage of choice) and watch those many million unfortunate people return home. Keep in mind, though, we would be also watching the collapse of the US economy.


Could Bob Dole ever be an Eagles fan? I hope not.

June 12, 2016 Leave a comment

I am an Eagles fan and yes, it is frustrating. They haven’t won a championship since 1950. Even worse, I became an Eagles fan during the seventies, when they put on the field some horrendous teams. Fortunately I have some escape valves. I root somewhat for the New England Patriots. They became my team when I lived in Boston and first started to follow football. This lasted even after I moved to the area, until I switched allegiance to the local team. I also have a sentimental attachment to the Green Bay Packers; because they are from a small town and are owned by the townspeople, they feel like a sort of national underdog. I would think they should be considered America’s team. But make no mistake: The Philadelphia Eagles are my team.
Some people have been Eagles fans for life. They revel in it, they paint themselves green, tailgate at games and make the team a central part of their life. However, I doubt any of them would unconditionally support Nelson Agholor, a wide receiver recently accused of rape by an exotic dancer.
There have been a few instances where women have accused well known, affluent athletes of rape hoping to make a financial killing. For Agholor’s sake, I hope that is the case. Alas, those are the exception. A teeny, tiny exception. Overwhelmingly, women claiming to have been raped have been raped. And then they are made to feel responsible. They are accused of bringing it on themselves by drinking or dressing in a provocative manner or being an exotic dancer or even of being a whore. Rape is rape. There are no extenuating circumstances. None. Zero. No respectable Eagles fan would condone Agholor’s alleged behavior.
Which brings me to Bob Dole. This is someone I respected. Senator Dole, who ran for president in ‘96, seemed a responsible, sober public servant. Whether I disagreed with his views or not, I respected him, till a few days ago.
Bob Dole just said “I’ve been a Republican all my life, and I know that both candidates are flawed, and Trump has done some things that would curl your hair, things that he shouldn’t have said…I mean, what am I gonna do? I can’t vote for George Washington, so I’m supporting Donald Trump.”
I would have hoped Mr. Dole would have said: I have been a Republican all my life but I have also been an American all my life and while I cannot support Mrs. Clinton, my conscience, common sense and abiding love for my country will not permit me to support Mr. Trump.”
That’s what a decent human being would have said. What this Eagles fan says about a player who commits heinous acts or says odious things.
Being a Republican or a Democrat is not like being a sports fan. We aren’t rooting for a team, we are voting for our future.

I draw inspiration from the debates

October 29, 2015 Leave a comment

I’m not a “professional engineer.” I have a post-graduate engineering degree from the world’s foremost engineering school, I made my living as an engineer and yet, according to the authorities, I’m not a professional engineer. To become one I would have to pass a test. I would have to be certified as one to bid on government work .
I dare say that the same legislators who reasoned that the public requires the extra protection afforded by a test certifying a minimum level of competence, wouldn’t consider consulting a physician who hadn’t attended an accredited university and passed the required boards or a lawyer who hadn’t passed the bar.
And yet, it has never occurred to them—at least no law has been passed—that anyone aspiring to become a legislator or a governor or the president of the United States, should first be certified as competent to hold such a post. That anyone who wants to write our laws, influence our economic policy, even decide whether we should send our children to war, should have demonstrated a minimum level of knowledge or competence before becoming eligible to run for office. It seems they’d rather ascribe to the ‘everything is fair in politics’ dictum.
This helps explain why we have reasonably competent doctors, lawyers and engineers but the same can not be said for those holding political office.

What does a statesman need to know?

October 19, 2013 Leave a comment

     I just learned [Thanks to Stephen Kinzer’s “The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War] that the Dulles brothers, who were in charge of overt (State Department) and covert (CIA) foreign policy in the fifties, were corporate lawyers. It gives me agita just trying to digest the idea that a background in corporate law can prepare one to run State or the CIA.

     Once given charge of American foreign policy, the Dulles brothers set out to redress their corporate defeats. First they went after Iran’s Prime Minister Mosaddegh, who’d nationalized oil company holdings of Dulles’ former corporate clients. The 1953 coup returned oil interests to the Dulles’ clients. And, oh, by the way, in exchange, it gave the Shah absolute power.

     Then in 1954 they deposed Guatemala’s President Jacobo Arbenz. He was a danger to another client, United Fruit, a company that at the time owned 40% of Guatemala’s arable land.

     The Dulles brothers didn’t stop there. They concocted the domino theory, fanned the cold war, refused to met with Stalin’s successor Malenkov, botched the Hungarian revolt, betrayed our allies after the Suez canal nationalization, got us into Vietnam after they refused to accept Ho Chi Minh’s victory and on and on, with the Bay of Pigs fiasco being the final straw. Is it all in the past? Not a chance, their legacy lives on—see Iran and Cuba and, well you get the idea.

     I earned an advanced degree in engineering from a very prestigious university and yet, to conduct engineering work for the state, county or city, I’d have to be licensed as a professional engineer. For that I’d have to pass a difficult, multidisciplinary test and be licensed by the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs. I understand, just like I understand that none of us would want to see an unlicensed physician when ill. Our medicines and medical procedures have to be FDA approved. If we want tax advice we seek it from a Certified Public accountant. In short, our government has seen fit to protect us from our own gullibility and from charlatans eager to take advantage—no matter how charismatic they might be—by requiring most professionals to demonstrate knowledge and competence by passing a test. Unless said charlatans seek public office.

     Why don’t the same licensing principles apply to those who write the laws or set policy? I would much prefer that my alderman, councilman, congressman, senator and president, regardless of sex, race, religion, culinary preferences or anything, have demonstrated reasonable knowledge of local, national and global history and geography, economics, business, law, science, and most important, that rarest of skills, common sense, before being allowed to run for or hold office.

Take Shelter. It made me think. Not a review

March 3, 2012 1 comment

“Take Shelter” is a film that, as of this writing, is rated 92% in the tomatometer—average critic rating of 8/10 based on 145 reviews—and 82% on audience response, based on 10,970 responses averaging 3.9/5 (Rotten tomatoes is a great place to find film ratings )

All in all pretty good.

I don’t like reviews that give away parts of the plot but this is a discussion of what the film might mean, so consider this a Spoiler Alert.

Take Shelter is the sort of film that is difficult to recommend, to know whether it is ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ It keeps you involved and guessing throughout and afterwards makes you think. So I’d vote for it being good. I’d heard a lot about the superb acting, but acting is a subject for a different blog.

Take Shelter made me think, among other things, about Noah. Consider what Noah’s actions made his family, his friends, his neighbors think. Surely someone ordered by God to build an ark had to be mad, and yet, Noah ‘knew’ he had to build it. So, is this a lesson? Does the Bible tell us we should pay attention to seemingly crazy people doing crazy things?

Curtis LaForche (Michael Shannon) has dreams of impending disaster, all involving storms. Apocalyptic storms, including raining oil. Not a good thing in spite of the energy crisis. The name LaForche itself is peculiar enough to suggest some meaning. Unfortunately I don’t know what. (Maybe LaForche stands for ‘The Force.’ Or more likely ‘The Fork.’ If it means something in French, I didn’t figure it out.)

Curtis’ dreams are so vivid that after a nightmare where his own dog bites him, his arm hurts the rest of the day. That makes it different from a regular nightmare. And the warnings are explicit: don’t trust even those who you hold closest, your dog and your best friend. Even Curtis’ wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain, who seems to appear in every other movie) appears ready to attack him with a knife in one of his dreams. But in this dream Curtis shakes his head, maybe because he can’t believe his wife capable of such a betrayal. Or maybe because, even in his dream, without her there is no point to life. And indeed she sticks by him, in spite of his obvious descent into madness.

Not that Curtis hasn’t considered that he is indeed going mad. After all, he not only is suffering from these awful nightmares, he also experiences hallucinations, mostly involving birds. Curtis visits his mother—not a frequent occurrence—who was diagnosed a schizophrenic in her 30s; Curtis is 35.

He also secretly reads about mental diseases, takes back of the book quizzes, asks his physician for medication and goes for counseling but, at the same time, he believes the dreams. He builds his ark (or shelter) in spite of the consequences, going deep into debt, loss of his best friend, loss of job. He remains undeterred.

Why? In one of his dreams, he loses that which he loves most, his deaf daughter Hanna (Tova Stewart). He sees that as his duty, not to save mankind or the worlds fauna, but to save his family. He says as much to his wife when he can no longer avoid sharing his fears.

But when the dreaded storm finally materializes, it is only a tease, a garden variety something, maybe a tornado that passed near bye. After emerging from the shelter, we see a neighbor picking up small branches and a repairman working on a transformer. But this storm is only a test of faith.

This leads us to the only character that is rock sure absolute: the psychiatrist (Science?). The doctor is firm. He doesn’t sugar coat it. He prescribes medicine Curtis must take immediately, suggests a vacation to break away from his everyday surroundings and insists that after the vacation Curtis will have to receive intensive treatment. He will need to be committed into a facility.

What does it all mean? What is the writer/director (Jeff Nichols did both) trying to tell us?

The world’s asylums are replete with people who hear the voice of God. (Which is where I believe they belong.) A few, of course, escape that fate to become prophets or, more likely, charlatans. So is Take Shelter trying to tell us we should not dismiss people with such strong premonitions? People of such strong and unequivocal faith?

It is a relevant question. Years ago most every government or government wannabe blamed communism or imperialism or colonialism or fascism or capitalism for their troubles. Nowadays religion—lets not confuse God and religion—has retaken a more central position. The Iranian power structure—since Khomeini in the 1979—calls the US the great Satan. And the Iranian theocracy has acted accordingly, and with impunity. Others, such as former senator and current GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, openly state that Satan has infiltrated US society and that we need to follow God’s rules, not those of man. That is his stated plan if he is elected president

I don’t see much difference between these two views, both based on an unbending and unflinching belief in ‘sacred’ texts. That these texts espouse opposite views or that they are ascribed to the very same God doesn’t trouble either side; nor that these texts were written by men.

And so we get to the end to the film. The coming apocalypse. Did they die? Did we all die as well because we didn’t listen? Did the LaForche family succumb to the storm that had been foretold because Curtis didn’t remain adamant about his visions? Because he failed the one simple test? Curtis gave away his dog, he dismissed his best friend but he stuck to his wife. He confided in her, he trusted her and in the end, she betrayed him: she used the mild storm/test of faith to convince him he needed help, she led him to the psychiatrist, to the beach and to his failure.

How lonely, how solitary the visionaries lot.