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JDPriestly's Journal
JDPriestly's Journal
December 17, 2014

We assume, perhaps safely, that our the torturers working for our government are the "good guys,"

and that the people being tortured are the "evil-doers." And so, we and many Americans think the torture program was OK. Maybe it wasn't even torture, many think.

But even if that is true today, to judge the ethics and morality of the torture program for its universal and ultimate value, we have to ask, what if the tables are turned?

What if the people doing the torturing, the people trying to find information through torture or "enhanced interrogation" are the "evil-doers"? And what if those "evil-doers" are as convinced as we are that they, not we are the good guys?

What then?

If torture is OK because, after all, it is being used to help the good guys, then can the "evil-doers" justify it by arguing that after all, they are in fact the good guys and therefore it is OK for them to use torture?

Laws have to be applied universally or at least written and obeyed as if they should or could be applied universally.

There can't be one law for the good guys and a different law for the evil-doers.

There can't be one code of behavior, one set of rules for good guys and another for evil-doers.

That is a big mistake that we make.

We don't want to be tortured or to have our soldiers tortured. We should not be torturing others. One law should apply to all.

December 9, 2014

Comments about keeping the freeways open for emergencies are well taken, however

I am struck today by the proximity of the release of the torture report and the demonstrations against police brutality.

Maybe we are, finally, getting to the point at which we can just say no to the brutal use of force by authorities in our country at various levels of our society.

I hope that some of the people who support the NSA wiretapping, surveillance and eavesdropping programs will stop and ask themselves whether we want a government that is capable of torture of prisoners who have not be tried, of killing suspects with chokeholds and barrages of redundant bullets to have the kind of alll-encompassing knowledge about our communications that the NSA programs permit.

I for one do not.

The convergence of CIA overstepping demonstrated by the torture programs, local police overstepping as demonstrated by the killings of Brown and Garner with the scandalous NSA data collection programs is just enough for me. Somewhere this kind of power has to be checked and checked drastically.

Our government from the national to the local level needs to answer to us for its treatment of suspects and of our information.

December 9, 2014

Problem is the GDP does not reflect median income.

The bigger and more trade deals, the lower the median income compared to GDP in the US. That is how it has worked so far.

U.S. real (inflation adjusted) median household income was $51,939 in 2013 versus $51,759 in 2012, essentially unchanged. However, it has trended down since 2007, falling 8% from the pre-recession peak of $56,436.


We are comparing GDP which measures dollars per individual human being (per capita) of $53,000 per person with per household income of $51,939.

Having lived in Europe, I can say that comparing GDPs is like comparing grapefruits to tangerines. In some countries, small children and babies are commonly cared for by their grandparents or other relatives, for example. There is no monetary transaction to contribute to the GDP of that nation. Same with work on farms. If family farms are the rule, the work of many of the family members does not contribute to the calculation of the GDP. GDP is not just products sold and their value but also services sold and their values. In many countries, services are provided for free and do not count toward the GDP although those same services would be bought and sold and contribute to the high GDP in our country.

Thus, GDP can be a very misleading number and what is more, our GDP compared to the household income in the US reflects the terrible disparity in wealth in our country, a disparity that grows with each trade agreement and our trade deficit. Why is the trade deficit related to our declining wages, living standard and household income? Because the trade deficit represents jobs and wages lost to other countries.

The US trade deficit is much too large.

The reason is that the oligarchs who profit from "free" trade, that is from being able to import products into the US without exporting an equal value in products from the US, take their profits outside the US mostly in small countries in which tax rates are, thanks to their small populations and therefore relatively small infrastructures, governments, etc. and do not pay taxes commensurate with their role in the US economy. They do not pay for the roads that transport the foreign-made goods to markets. They do not pay for the social structure, the schools, hospitals, the lifestyle, etc. that make the US a good place to sell their products.

The rest of us buy the cheapest item offered unable to control where it comes from because almost nothing we need to buy is made in the US.

The GDP of the US does not reflect the loss in living standard that Americans have experienced and are experiencing at an accelerating rate due to free trade that profits the wealthy and leaves other Americans behind.

WASHINGTON - The U.S. trade deficit fell slightly in October as exports rebounded while oil imports dipped to the lowest level in five years.

The deficit edged down 0.4 per cent to $43.4 billion, a drop from a revised $43.6 billion in September, the Commerce Department reported Friday.


While China, Russia and Germany have trade surpluses -- pretty large ones, we have the largest trade deficit in the world.


The last thing we need is yet another trade deficit.

December 3, 2014

My grandparents were farmers. They did not have "savings" sitting around, but they owned

land which they sold to their son. They had "savings" in the sense that they owned something that they could sell. Prior to the 1930s, a good percentage of Americans owned land. It was not so unusual.

Conservatives think that we are still that kind of agrarian society in which if you work hard, you can "save," that is accumulate property or money that you can hand on to your children and that will support you in your later years.

The industrial revolution changed that.

As a society, we did not respond to that change until Teddy Roosevelt and the Progressive Party popularized the idea that working people, people who worked in industry should not have to work a 50 hour week and that child labor should not be permitted. Then, finally, in the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt instituted Social Security which is the savings that most of us have and rely on.

The Republicans still think we are an agrarian society.

Now we have undergone a technological revolution of sorts. The social changes that we need to respond to this new "revolution" in which computers do much of the work we used to do have not yet happened. I don't think we have even figured out yet how to respond to this age of technology. Jobs that used to pay well no longer exist or are filled by people who will work for a bowl of rice and a roof.

Bush talked big about the "ownership society." Remember? Everybody was going to be an an owner. That led to the mortgage crisis and nearly brought down the world economy. Most of us never got to own things, we just got owned.

Each new age, each new level of technology and innovation, as it sweeps across society requires a new kind of social organization.

This is what Republicans don't understand or don't want to admit.

People can't save because the system is rigged to make them think they need all kinds of things they can't afford on the wages that the system is willing to pay them. Our businesses rely for their income on the fact that people spend and don't save.

We need to change the system.

Some people are good at inventing new technology. We need some people in our government and leading our society who are good at inventing new ways to keep our society healthy and working in the technology of our time.

In short, and I know I repeat myself a lot: our new technology requires us to make some changes in our social organization. That's the job of Congress, but there will be individuals, creative individuals to whom we need to listen who will have ideas about how we can best live together in peace with all our new technology.

Right now, the richest, rich either because they are creative with things or because they are clever at accumulating money through sometimes devious means or because they were just born rich, are pretty much grabbing the money and holding onto it tight without doing much of anything of social use.

Even those who have charities are actually controlling where their money goes and trying to determine what kind of society we will have. They are not necessarily the best qualified to respond to technology with ideas about social change. It is a totally different talent.

So the reason that so many people have no savings and no way to support themselves in times of emergency or when they age is that our social organization and the way we allocate money as a society is outmoded. It no longer works.

We still think we are farmers. Most of us are not. There will be no farm to sell or to continue to live on with our children when we are in our 70s, 80s and 90s. (I'm already in my 70s.)

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