Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi….

Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.

This rallying cry by the Republican Party reminds me of the three quotations from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” that almost anyone can remember even if they had never read the play…”Hale, Hale, Hale”.   You can sound literate even if you are not.  Most Republicans keep saying  Benghazi over and over again whether they have read and remembered the facts about the incident or are just Shades from the Republican Party who have passed over from another century or on another planet in another solar system.

Another idea that just occurred to me is that Benghazi is an Arabic word, so by chanting Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi…, those Republicans with the fifty cent haircuts can sound like they are experts in all matters related to the Arabic world, and their history and language.  Rep. Darrell Issa should be named Chairman of this select committee because having made his fortune from car alarms, he is easily alarmed at all things related to the Democrats, and with a Arabic heritage, he might be able to add some other Arabic words to the Benghazi chant.

There should be Republican women on the committee because while they may not have 50 cent haircuts, they might hold hearings for the men on the committee so that they can educate the men regarding the special needs and powers that women have that men do not such as bearing children, getting pregnant or not during rape.  These subjects stumped the Republican men during the last election, so if  such subjects have any bearing on the Benghazi hearings it would be well to have the men informed.  Who knows whether the men involved in Benghazi attack might have been angry at their women because they all had arguments the night of the attack.

One last item should be mentioned, which has not made much news on CNN and Fox, is that the Ambassador and his three other assistants were warned ahead of time that the embassy at Benghazi was not secure and to go there before it had been upgraded was extremely dangerous.  The Ambassador was dedicated to his job like many of the news reporters who have been killed reporting the news.  It is a tragedy that people are killed in the line of duty, but life is never secure and free of tragedy no matter where we live or what we choose to do as an occupation.  The fact that Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State during the tragedy and may decide to run for President of the United States should not be used as the reason to continue to hold useless and wasteful hearings just to thwart her political goals.  The House of Representatives should hold hearings on their own failures during their last four years — failure to extend food stamps for hungry families — failure to continue to provide low interest loans to college students who are in need — failure to provide the money to rebuild our infrastructure for the past four years — and finally spending extensive vacations so that the House of Representatives business was not completed.  How many live were lost in their fight against doing anything positive for the health, welfare, and lives of people who have suffered because of their dereliction of duty.

 

Extreme Poverty in the United States

Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.

I recently viewed a TV special on poverty in the Portland, Oregon Metropolitan region where families were interviewed about their attempts find long term employment so that they could feed and house their families. It was the most depressing film I have ever seen on the subject. I know about poverty first hand because I grew up in a family of eight during a time when my father was in ill health due to working eighteen hour days as a contractor on irrigation projects during the great depression. We did have one advantage the people in the film did not have. We lived on a farm which we took out of the sagebrush as part of the homestead act which no longer exists. Under this act we paid $80 for 80 acres of land. We not only had to clear the land, but over a period of seven years, one had to make improvements such as building a house, improving the land and be able to make a living on the land.

In the film about poverty in Portland, Oregon, the unemployed people do not have the opportunity that we had to grow our own food, build our own house, and live in a place without the constant threat of having to move out and live in shelters or in their cars. This depressing film showed people evicted from their apartments or homes because the jobs they had were no longer available because the economy had gone from bad to worse starting in 2008 or earlier. Over and over, the people being interviewed stated that they had always worked and enjoyed working, but because of the 2000 depression they lived under the constant threat of being on public assistance which the latest US Congress failed to extend before they recessed to go home to their states. The grand bargain that Rep. Paul Ryan(Republican) and Sen. Patty Murray(Democrat) got passed in both the House and Senate voting did not include extending unemployment for these unfortunate people who will have to live out or their cars, or in a public shelter, or try to get food from the volunteer outlets which do not have enough food to go around. These people are not the mythical 47 per cent that Mitt Romney was deriding in his speech to the wealthy. They are people living under the constant threat of starving and living in unsanitary conditions. The primary reason for this problem is that we have allowed our largest corporations to relocate in foreign countries in order to escape having to pay taxes and pay workers a living wage which includes pensions for retirement. In the community where I live, we have a Wallmart Superstore being built, not because we need the store, but because one wealthy land owner got on the city counsel and was able to get approval for this ill advised project. The city violated the open meeting laws by passing this project without the people of this community approving or having an opportunity to vote on it. Wallmart is the face of corporate America which likes to claim that the United States is the wealthiest nation in the World, but that wealth extends only to the millionaires and billionaires, and not the other 99% of the population of the United States.

The Confiscation of Pensions by State and Local Governments

Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.
If you have been reading the press and watching the news lately, you may have noticed that cities like Detroit and Chicago and states like Oregon have looked to use pensions as a means of balancing budgets. Pensions were set up so that workers of all kinds could invest part of their salaries in a pension which was controlled by law with fiduciary experts who were supposed manage those pensions, with strict guidelines governing the actions of the managers who could be sentenced to prison terms for fraud and other misdeeds. One of the states leading the move to provide pensions for public workers was Wisconsin, until Scott Walker became the Governor, and decided to use those monies to balance the state budget. Scott Walker is a member of ALEC, a secretive organization made up of Corporations, Lawyers, Legislators, millionaires, billionaires, and mostly Republican Senators and Representatives, at both the State and National levels.

Cities like Chicago and Detroit have confiscated pension funds through bankruptcy and other means to build sports arenas. A federal judge ruled that in the instance of bankruptcy, that a city such as Detroit could confiscate pension funds to pay for the misdeeds of organizations such as ALEC, city managers, corporations who set up operations offshore to escape federal regulations and taxes, and use pension monies to pay for the misdeeds of others. In short, it appears that retirees, and union workers have no rights to the money that was set up for their retirement.

Several administrations, starting with President Reagan and including Presidents Bush, President Clinton and President Obama have turned a blind eye to the plight of union workers except when looking for donations for campaign funds. We have Raume Emanuel, the Mayor of Chicago, Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan and also the former Superintendent of Chicago Public Schools who have denounced Public Schools in favor of Charter Schools where teachers must work ten hour days and are not allowed to join unions. Supposedly the teacher’s unions protected inept teachers from being fired, so the way to fix the problem was to create Charter Schools and work to eliminate unions including teachers’ unions and industrial unions as well. In addition, since our industrial complex has been sent offshore where workers are paid so little that they cannot feed their families, that leaves the few existing unions pension funds to be plundered by persons like Walker and Emanuel in order to build sports complexes in both Chicago and Detroit as well as in other cities.

In order for the Republican Party to gain traction they have lost in recent elections, they have refused to raise the minimum wage, and have allowed corporations to fire workers who try to join unions. One of the most prominent of these is Walmart, which until recently had been a member of ALEC, until it withdrew its membership because it feared more adverse publicity because it sells more guns than any other corporation. The latest Republican fiasco is to eliminate unemployment for workers who have been unemployed for more than a year. This will leave people who have not been able to get jobs in the United States because those jobs have been shipped offshore. Like WallmartMcSrooge, we have RepublicanMcSrooge, a party which has abandoned the Middle Class workers in the United States.

Reincarnation–Fact or Myth

I have found this a very interesting topic over many years. It is not one that is treated as a serious issue particularly in the scientific community which views life as a biochemical state made up of atoms and different compounds, but with no spirit or concept of an afterlife. Since I started out as a liberal arts major and ended up with a background in physics and mathematics, I tend to bridge both worlds in my thinking. I have many books on the subject of reincarnation and have read many accounts of near death experiences in which people have been declared clinically dead and yet survived. Many of those who survived recount experiences in which they viewed their operations from the ceiling and heard themselves declared to be clinically dead. Others recount experiences of going through a tunnel toward a light in which they were greeted by friends, relatives and counselors who told them their mission in life was not yet finished.

Many of the major religions accept reincarnation as part of the cycle of life where one works out problems they have before they are accepted into a permanent state where it is no longer necessary to reincarnate. Most Christian religions accept the idea of Jesus of Nazareth as a soul worthy of resurrection without the need to reincarnate. Buddhists, depending upon the particular version of Buddhism, view the quest for enlightenment as a means to attain a state of permanent reincarnation. Buddhism is based upon the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who sought enlightenment, rather than to follow his father as the ruler of a state or region in eastern India. I have no intention of going into the various versions of either Christianity, Buddhism, or the Islamic religion. The topic is too vast for my purposes which is to discuss briefly the concept of reincarnation which is permanent state of existence where birth and death as we know it is no longer necessary. Wikipedia has an excellent overview of Buddhism which you can read if you are interested. My interest and reading has been primarily devoted to Zen Buddhism and to the Tibetan version of Buddhism.

One of my favorite books is a compilation of Zen thought, ZEN FLESH ZEN BONES, A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings(1957 and 1985) compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki. It consists of a series of Koans which are thoughts designed to help the unenlightened to become enlightened. Here is an example of having attained enlightenment: MUDDY ROAD

TANZAN AND EKIDO were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling.

Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.

“Come on, girl” said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.

Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. “We monks don’t go near females” he told Tanzan, “especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous, Why did you do that?”

“I left the girl there,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”

Another book I found of great interest was written by a Irish Priest who left Ireland and spent ten or more years studying with a Zen Master in Japan. The book is entitled: CHRISTIAN ZEN: A WAY OF MEDITATION, by William Johnston. He was amazed that he could ask any question without fear of reproach by the Zen Master, who would usually answer much like Tanzan did in his answer to his fellow monk. William Johnston was amazed at the manner used by the Zen Master to enable the Priest to answer his own question for himself. He stated that if he had stayed in Ireland as a Catholic Priest he would never have thought through the answers to his questions in such depth.

Another author I have read extensively, was Ruth Montgomery who wrote many books on the subject of reincarnation, including one entitled Strangers Among Us(1979), and one entitled Aliens Among Us(1985). In the book Strangers Among Us, she discusses people who she calls Walk-ins, as enlightened beings who are permitted to take over the body of an adult being who wishes to depart and has given permission to an enlightened being, who has undergone many reincarnations, to come back and work on a specific task without going through rebirth, childhood, and adulthood. Ruth Montgomery started out as a journalist and turned to writing books on many topics related to reincarnation. Among her associates were Edgar Casey a medium who worked with a medical doctor to help develop cures or treatments for diseases of his time. Casey had many books written by others based upon various topic he discussed over many years one entitled Edgar Cayce on Atlantis, compiled by Edgar Evans Cayce(1968) his son and who was the Director for the Association of Research and Enlightenment.

There are so many authors who have written upon this subject that I will not attempt to name them all, but I must at least list some of the books in my personal library which relate to the topic of life and other lives.

Gina Cerminara, Many Lives, Many Loves(1963), Lobsang Rampa, The Third Eye(1956), Carlos Castaneda, The Fire From Within(1985), George Gamow, One,Two,Three Infinity,…Facts and Speculations on Science(1988), Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics(1976), The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, translated by Edward Fizgerald(1962), Kahlil Gibran, The Profhet(1923), and R.G.H. Siu, The Tao Of Science, An Essay on Western Knowledge and Eastern Wisdom(1957). My list is short because it is up to the reader to explore this topic and come to their own conclusions. If you choose to explore it, you will come across many more authors, skeptics, who deny any afterlife. It is up to you. I hope you enjoy your journey.