The Fate of the Union
By R. D. Flavin

1-31-2014

     This past Tuesday night's 2014 State of the Union Address delivered by Pres. Barack Obama before a joint session of Congress (plus invited guests) likely garnered more viewers than Lifetime's Dance Moms at 9 PM, though as a new episode of FX's Justified was on at 10 PM, perhaps some without DVRs may not have stuck around for the final moments of the speech (or the Republican opposition response by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah against a background of “Tea Party Express” logos).  Though rapidly becoming outdated because of smartphones, tablets, and the Netflix "Elephant in the room," I'm sure the Nielsen ratings will prove that America still loves its politics more than, say, Supernatural, Property Virgins, or Celebrity Boot Camp, but I could be mistaken...  And, besides, everyone knows that fudging numbers is one of the basic components of our constitutional diet.

     Fortune Cookies remind us that we can't legislate morality.  We can't force anyone to help an old woman cross the street.  We can, however, enact laws which criminalizes knocking her down, stealing her purse, and voicing an opinion which could be regarded as a “hate-crime.”  As the philosophy of morality is ethics, the conceptualization and study of law is jurisprudence, and the enforcement of laws are conducted by sanctioned government representatives (hopefully with some level of “social control” training – and also with the “common law” allowance of certain actions when a private individual “believes” a breach of the peace is in progress and can avoid liability by successfully arguing such in court), we continually debate the ongoing changing of morals, ethics, laws, and why there's actually only a few items on McDonald's Dollar Menu which cost a buck – most now cost from $1.19 to $1.99 and beyond.  Maybe a name-change to “Value Menu” would be in order (or perhaps the term is copyrighted by the competition).  Congress has increasingly exercised a “stand-your-ground” position on a variety of moral issues which has significantly hurt the average American, as much ongoing and potential congressional legislation has been ignored or avoided to sustain a position which is best described as “poopy-diaper syndrome,” that is, Congress wants further cuts in food-stamps and with supermarkets constantly raising their prices, eventually a Republican will SNAP a Mickey D's Spurlock option, much like Reagan convinced us that a packet of ketchup was the nutritional equivalent of a single serving of a vegetable.  It's an unfortunate time for Burger King...

     The Old World Asiatics from Beringia down to Polynesia who journeyed to the New World by land and sea did so for a wide variety of reasons, yet even models which suggest following migrating animals don't equate feeding one's people with the accumulation of profit, wealth, and ...money.  That came later...  Sure, after thousands of years of development, some independent inventions occurred (agriculture and writing lead the list), trading networks evolved, and, with socially-indifferent inevitably, localized warfare increased.  Prestige items signifying personal wealth are known since prehistoric times, but owning a really cool axe or having some nice jewelry doesn't exactly translate into ...money (with the singular exception of the post-contact wampumpeag, see below).  Gold and copper were hoarded by opportunistic rulers which could be equated with wealth accumulation.  In those particular cultures most 'slaves' were used as cheap laborers (and religious sacrifices), control of certain land regions were deemed an expression of power, yet the closest comparison to our modern usage of the term 'money', would be the Eastern Woodland wampum beads, said to have been invented by a cannibal in New York ca. 1500, and the strings of white shells soon lost their currency (and significance) once Europeans showed up and could manufacture them faster and cheaper.  Money should be used as an agreed upon item representing wealth, with the exception of certain metal coinage which one could melt and reuse, and as such is artificial, illusory, and only sometimes an outward expression of wealth.  Uh, something like an “all money is wealth, but not all wealth is money” approach...  Often 'money' and 'wealth' may be interchangeable, but not always and the reasons are too complex and multitudinous to delve into here.  Skinny: Old World Asiatics and their descendents, as all humans have, recognized wealth, but European New World-invading opportunists wanted wealth and ...money.

     The purely economic investment of a 1623 failed-to-be-built fish-drying station at Gloucester, MA had ...a poor outcome.  Our Plymouth Rock “Pilgrims” were actually contracted to build docks and the foundation for whaling and other maritime trading activities, but ignored their financial responsibilities and begged some coin to not get killed by the locals.  Up and down the Atlantic coast deals and contracts were carried out to make some money from the New World, and our American 'slavery' began as debt bondage and indentured servitude.  Owing money was a founding raison d'être, though officially became racist after the 1655 Anthony Johnson vs. John Casor case.  There was plenty of cheap labor to build America through indentured servitude and in some respects with illegal migrant workers a current continuation of this, but slavery per se, used here as an African regarded as property, was the cheapest (and cruelest) means to ...make money.  America produced cotton and tobacco, but also speculated with maritime trade through the West Indies and the Caribbean.  Fishing and whaling were important in some regions and, naturally, subjected to exploitation and all the usual greed which is usually associated with the accumulation of wealth.  Our nation was truly founded to make money and all that freedom from this-and-that crap is for t-shirts and bumper stickers – it's always been about the money.  Well, there were a few independent homesteaders and early farmers who just wanted some simple and private land to survive on, but those pioneers seem to get overlooked today as the necessity of having close access to a village, town, or city became a requirement early on.   We were still at war with many Native Americans, as it was their land being taken, and living away from colonial communities was a risky choice to feed one's family.  Then, as the songs and statues tell us, Americans joined the land-grab game being played by Britain, France, and Spain.  England, which handled the finances of the settlements of the Atlantic coast, became the bad-guy Scrooge and America incorporated through a war that ran up some impressive debt for the period.

     The First Continental Congress was convened on September 5, 1774 at Philadelphia in response to the British punitive reaction to the “Sons of Liberty” who had disguised themselves as Native Americans on Dec. 16, 1773 and committed "the Destruction of the Tea in Boston," subsequently known as the Boston Tea Party.  This initial congress of American colonies (later, 'states' and 'Commonwealths') sent a letter to Britain asking for a change in tax laws, advised each American colony to set up its own militia (i.e., prepare for war), and agreed to meet again in the summer of 1975 to further discuss ...things.  As the American Revolutionary War had already begun with the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, the Second Continental Congress concerned itself with the practical matters of waging war and also, after a time, wrote, agreed upon, and adopted the United States Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.  There was much disagreement and discord, yet freedom from tyranny united the culturally diverse colonists into citizens of a new nation.

     The Second Continental Congress continued with irregular meetings, moving when necessary to avoid capture, until 1781 when the Articles of Confederation were finally and fully signed (after arguing about it since 1777), and the American legislative collective became known as the Congress of the Confederation, aka the Continental Congress.  It was the “Confederation Congress” which oversaw the end of our War of Independence from Britain, and after the election of Pres. George Washington in 1789, became known as the Congress of the United States of America.  Sure, the 'tyranny' of the current Congress is often regarded as politicians-behaving-like-politicians, but the ethically economic malevolence is there.  It's always about the money...  The USA started $10,000,000 in debt from loans owed to France, the Netherlands, and Spain.  And, as it has gone, wars cost money and always results in some making money, others losing money, and everyone quipping this-and-that in an attempt to avoid facing the money in the mirror.  Our ongoing usage of equating traitorous villainous with Benedict Arnold is an unfortunate tradition, as any mention of the heinous acts of our third Vice President of the United States of America, Aaron Burr, Jr., almost all involving money, should be the insulting equivalent of Godwin's Law.  Given a chance, too many would go too far for ...money.  Yeah, we return to Congress, but also the 2014 State of the Union Address.

     Talk of the environment is almost always about money and how to exploit nature without irreparable damage.  Yet, the damage is already profoundly sickening with toxic chemicals and non-biodegradables everywhere.  The previous givens of clean air, water, and land are all but allegorical today, as we've poisoned our planet since the Industrial Revolution and next-gen speculators are already thinking up ways to profit and poison off-planet, that is, mining the Moon or capturing a comet or asteroid for its minerals.  Actually, I guess we've had space-trash since the early '60s and whether one uses the terms debris or junk, it's still trash that's orbiting Earth that we put there and have no current plans to pick up after ourselves.  It's still cheaper to hide than to sweep above the Kármán line.

     Pres. Obama's choice to raise the minimum wage of certain contracted federal workers got the media in a frenzy, unlike the Dec. 23, 2013 “Executive Order -- Adjustments of Certain Rates of Pay,” which gave almost everyone in the government a one percent raise.  It's not the so-called “Executive Orders” which ought to merit extra attention, as there's the open and transparent approval of the Alaska-Texas pipeline and selling oil to other countries that should define what this most liberal of democrats actually supports.  The 2001 failed Russian-planned Afghanistan Oil Pipeline project started a war ...that continues (despite Rambo 3), and with the founding of the Taliban, perpetuates the damning of our culturally-progressive world.  Slightly used Segway; our economy?  Like jobs and groceries or taxes on tobacco and booze?  No, silly wabbit, nor banking regulations, Wall Street magic, or a general and more judicious tax-code...  Big fish eat the little fish and the little fish will likely be poisoned off the value menu as we continue to catastrophically pollute our waters.  Our economy should be concerned with balanced and sustainable growth, but all answers are faulty in and to one degree or another and even His Holiness Pope Francis seems to feel the need to become a passerby with the economy and voice suggestions rather than pronounce executive orders.

     I'm not an economist, though I've done some reading and spent a buck or three in my time, and I won't pretend to be competent enough to have an Archimedes' εὕρηκα heúrēka moment and announce a solution.  I'd expect Pres. Obama to be surrounded by the smartest and most reasonable advisers and staff, but it's always a messy madhouse backstage and despite fracking good intentions, it's apparent the Obama Reign is not the Green Woodstock of our time, but a continuation of ...how it is.  Sometimes I feel as if it's very nearly  un-American that I don't buy lottery tickets so more cash can be crushed.  I suppose being poor has its moments, though I should be able to do better than the too-poor-to-gamble excuse.  Like the state of the union, I'm fine and I'll do better next time.

Enjoying my low-salt salary,
Rick

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