Sunday, March 31, 2024

Happy Easter! Presenting Portraits by John C.Metcalfe - March 12, 1961 - "Sundays" Memories... Open Memoir...



On Sunday mornings when I hear...

The church bells ring through the year...

I know that kindly folk most everywhere...

Are gathered for an hour of prayer...

I think that God, indeed, must be...

Most pleased His faithful folk to see...

With those in vestments, black and white...

Before the altar candlelight...

When congregations bow and kneel...

And in their prayers God appeal...

He surely will his blessings give...

That they their lives in peace may live...

And when they sing their hymns of old...

In tones of silver and of gold...

I think the echos angels try..

To take with them to heaven high...

I wish that through the weeks and days...

Were filled with Sunday's sacred ways

For it is very likely true...

That God would like it this way too...


Hi Everybody,

I found this poem this week... I had been going through books that hadn't been touched for many years that my great-niece had gotten down for me from a high book shelf... I hope to separate out and keep what I want and forward many on to charitable organizations to possibly be read by others...

I had a black Bible in my hand when I fell. I didn't recognize it and wondered whose it was so I was moving toward the light. I don't remember how I fell, but I went down and immediately tried to get up, and failed. I think it's been about ten years since I had fallen before, so I think I'm doing pretty good these days. The Bible had something written inside and I wanted to read it... It belonged to my aunt, my mother's sister. I supposed that the way the Bible came to me is that she had decided along the way that she would give "rooms" to each of us (my siblings). I was to have her bedroom furniture and, of course everything in it at the time.

There wasn't much written in the Bible, but it was purchased and documented when she and her husband were married. I found this poem, old and brown from age, clipped obviously from a newspaper, with a hand-written date at the top. I couldn't read it, the print was too small, but I laid it here by my computer, and used a flashlight close to the letters and read each line to type...

I could picture the rather small
white Baptist Church where we all gathered, just as the poem said... The bells would ring each Sunday bright and early to let the people know in New Geneva that the doors were open and ready for their time here with our Lord... 

We lived on the main street of town... There was just one... It was the road people would come from and to--a little village that had one point of historical reference and national notice. The home of Albert Gallatin, he was the Secretary of the Treasury under Thomas
Jefferson. And, he had built a home at the top of the hill coming into town called, Friendship Hill... It's still there and is a registered national landmark so feel free to visit someday... My aunt Maribel worked there after the home was purchased by a private individual and I was often there with her while she cleaned the home... Until, of course, it was put on the National Historical Register...

Maribel Wertz owned the Bible where she recorded her marriage to Warren. This couple was known to me quite well, since they babysat for me while my mother worked everyday. Their home was just down the street from ours in what we would call these days a duplex. I would image that it was once a large house owned by one family, perhaps. The only separation was an interior hallway where bedrooms were accessed for the part where my aunt and uncle slept. And, yes, I admit, I was curious enough when young, to see if the door in the hallway would open... Oh my, it was and led directly into a bedroom! I closed that door quietly and quickly as you can imagine!

The Easter events would have started on Good Friday and end on Easter Sunday. All of the hymns were well known to everybody. It was only in later years that we started learning the newer choruses, such as the one above, "He's Alive!" which is the song, when I awoke this morning, which quickly sprung to mind, realizing it was Easter... Thanking God for His Son!

The poetry, of course, brought on memories... It was a time that I hadn't even graduated from school, had not yet left my home each day to travel to a nearby town to begin working at West Virginia University. It was an insulated time, a quiet time. We had time to ponder the beginning of spring as we saw each bloom come alive with bright colors... Tulips were those that were selected to brighten the church. Either Ruth Black or my sister, Dee, would be playing for church and Sunday School. It was the time when our lives centered around the church... Perhaps at that time of celebration, we would have planned and held a family dinner where everybody brought the food in for all to share... Me, I normally stuck with the food prepared by my family... My Mom and her sisters were great cooks!

Now, I once again am living in the country, where it is quiet and forsythia and jonquils are out as always the first flowers to bloom for spring... I'll enjoy each plant, taking their turns to grow until they bloom and produce their beauty for all to enjoy... But the country has changed so much since the 1960s... Or perhaps, it is only that I have changed. I see the world differently than during my youth. I know that there are people who are at war, fighting for freedom that others are trying to take away from them... And, I know and recognize that it is happening right now... in America, rather than just in a foreign country where we didn't need to worry so much about...

It is a different world... But
I Believe God's Truth and Love Wins 
Over Hate, Violence and War!

My Favorite Scripture...

Jesus Tells Us To Love All
We are All Made In His Image

May We Worship Our Risen Savior!

His Truth Will Win... Always!

We have no place in the Battle of America...
of this world...
The Battle Belongs to the Lord
We speak Love; We Speak Truth
Never Hate--Never Violence

May Each of You Experience The Joy
Just How Great He Is!
He is Indeed Alive!
Today, Worship Our Father
God of Truth...Love...and Light!


Thursday, March 28, 2024

Robert J. Saniscalchi Presents MagNanoTron: A Bond of Brothers Thriller!


The local police called in the vast resources of the FBI. After close analysis of the crime scene, it was determined that the shooter had to come from the passenger side of the vehicle. After examining the type and amount of shell casings, it was suspected that a submachine gun, possibly an Uzi, was used in the assault. In all probability, there were two suspects: one male – the shooter – and one female, driving the BMW. Everyone was out, everywhere, searching for the killers. A few unlucky residents had the scare of their lives, because of the color and make of the car they were driving, but no suspects. The intense manhunt continued. 

A week later, in Maryland, it was a cold, gray, early-December day at the cemetery. Walter Beck was an Army veteran, with twenty years in law enforcement, and he was being buried with full military honors. His flag-draped coffin was slowly carried to the gravesite by his fellow CIA agents, while a crowd of friends and family, along with a large presence of police officers and agents, stood watching. A line of soldiers in full dress stood at attention, as a priest said some heartfelt prayers. 

Tanner had talked with the shaken family. Beck left behind a loving wife, a daughter getting ready for college and a twelve-year-old son who looked just like him. It was a sad, somber day. Afterward, the soldiers slowly moved into formation, mounted their rifles and fired off a salute. Tanner was flooded with emotion, and almost lost it when “Taps” was played, and the soldiers slowly and meticulously folded the flag. He had a bad taste in his mouth about the nasty spies who had shot Walter. He wanted to kill them all. 

In Fort Bragg, Androvski and Darious were on base, and working on the preparations for testing. Commander Ryan was in his office when he got a call from General Stanis. He was shocked to hear about the slain CIA agent, and that two operatives suspected to have a Russian connection were spying on the Devcom facilities. “Sorry to hear about this, sir,” Ryan said. “Do we have any leads on these creeps?” 

“Unfortunately, they got away for now,” Stanis replied; “the police, CIA and FBI are still searching. "Unfortunately, they got away for now,” Stanis replied; “the police, CIA and FBI are still searching. The president was briefed and has been assured that all assets for Magnanotron were safe and secured. Stanis told him, after looking through the details of the assault on the agent, that his gut tells him it’s the Russians, but he could be wrong. “Oh, and, as of midnight tonight,” Stanis added, “we’re going to DEFCON-three alert status.” 

“Well, sir, Magnanotron and the scientists are here on base, with hundreds of Special Forces troops,” Ryan replied. “I can’t think of a safer place in the world.” “Agreed, Commander,” Stanis added. “We need to keep Magnanotron on base for now, and get this spy thing sorted out.” Ryan sipped his coffee. “Devcom is good. It’s locked down tight and we got Army airborne troops over there.” “I will keep you informed, Commander,” General Stanis replied. “Please let me know how the testing goes.” The two leaders talked about the general’s hunch on the Russian thing. Ryan leaned that way as well, and had the same feeling; it had to be the Russians. 

At Delta’s quarters, the men were taking it easy. Blair and McDonough were playing the video game they would go nuts with, when Thomas Blacknal came walking in with a smile. “I’m back!” “Goddamn, look what the wind blew in!” Dudash said, as he jumped up from his bed. “Good to see you, Tommy. You look good,” Tex said with a smile. “I knew you would be okay.” “The doctors said the body armor saved my life, for sure. Shoulder’s still a little sore,” Blacknal replied, “but I got my mojo back.” Blacknal’s eyes grew wide. “You shoulda seen them nurses! They was mighty fine. Got me motivated, yes, sir.” Tex had to laugh, as everyone welcomed their friend and fellow soldier back home...


It all started when someone had carelessly thrown away his reminder of a recent event. There were just three words. But they were important key words: Magnanotron, Androvsky and testing. Reading the crumbled note, taken from the garbage, gave the spy all that he needed--that together with the obvious excitement that had been going on around him... He immediately reported...

Americans should know by now that the world has spies--everywhere. After all, we, too, have them... The only main difference I see is that America works to prevent harm insofar as possible. Other countries, those run by dictators, care about only one thing. Power and Winning. And, now, one of the world's foremost dictators had been keyed in on one of the most important military weapons that had ever been achieved! The dictator wanted it! And all the action is set in America...

It was 2010 when I first met Robert and read Bullets and Bandages. He was telling a story told to him by his brother... I don't think I will ever forget the fact that Robert was the one to write this first story, which set off a career in military fiction writing that continues, this time, with a fascinating thriller that I couldn't help but think, while reading, Oh, if it were only true... (Do a search by author to see reviews of his other books...)

You see, two scientists have been working on a top-secret level under a military contract and have achieved a major breakthrough. Testing had begun, first on a dummy, then a small animal, and, finally, on a human. Each level of testing was reviewed at the highest level--the President of the United States and he was making the final decision, based upon viewing what happened at each level of testing.

When it reached the final level of testing, of course, it was important that those who would be actually using the MagNanoTron would be those who did the testing. Special Forces DeltaTeam was the obvious choice. Readers quickly enjoy meeting each member of the team, while participating in the camaraderie during who will be...first... At the same time, this reader took special note that during all that was happening, there was a lot of prayer happening by various characters... This was an important addition for me... It helps to personalize that these are real people participating in something that could be very dangerous, yet, willing to do so because of what the result could be... Our Nation's Freedom.

Of course it was the scenes between the spy team members and the special forces that turns the book into a thriller... Especially when one of the scientist is kidnapped! Everybody knows that this one individual could recreate the MagNanoTron for that dictator's country! That was to be prevented! At All Costs!

Because of the MagNanoTron and its potential use, I have not shared much about what is actually happening. You have to read it to believe it... And, again, I say, wouldn't it be wonderful if it was really possible?! 

If you read military fiction, I'd call this a must-read. Thriller readers of all types will also be excited and, perhaps, exhilarated, as I was when the Special Forces Delta Team takes on the kidnappers! Do Check it Out!


Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Now Reading: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse's CAPTURED: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy - Preface/Introduction

Quite recently, my great niece started talking about her research about the highest level of corporations, explaining that there are only three major owners of most of our country's controlling everything!

Biden has also started campaigning about what he plans to do with corporations who are over-pricing basic family needs, including that packaging is getting smaller, or, even, potato chips are air puffed and fewer chips are provided per package...

I had not known the first information above. But, I was gratified to learn that Biden already knew what was happening with America's producers, especially, for foods. I've seen it--we've all seen it... And we all know that Covid can no longer be blamed for this price gouging! Action is required...

I've watched Senator Sheldon Whitehouse many times on MSNBC as he shares about what he's been doing at the congressional level. I've recently gotten his two books, the first of which I am now reading...

But, it is important enough to share, at least the Preface Introduction, because these issues are bound to be a part of the 2024 Presidential Election. You may want to check out his two latest books for your own reading. I'm impressed with the author and his future in America's Democracy!

By the Way, I am also reading James Patterson's fiction novel, Blowback: An American President Goes Insane... As you may have known from previous blog posts, I routinely am reading a fiction and non-fiction book at the same time... it works for me...

In the meantime, I have a number of books already read which I'll be reviewing... A couple which I'll be reviewing for Author Den's members...

  • AS THE FIRST EDITION OF THIS BOOK WAS published, Trump had just been elected. In the postscript I wrote back then, I expressed the hope that he might be somewhat independent, possibly working with both sides, possibly even disruptive in some good ways; I had hopes he might be honest and fearless. Boy, was I wrong. We have seen from the Trump administration stunning levels of corruption, flagrant and constant lying, and low appeals to racism and hatred. Our country stands for lasting principles, but is tarnished by Trump as a messenger of our own principles. Our ambassadors are ashamed to challenge misbehavior in foreign governments, with such flagrant misbehavior in our own. But even when—in the fullness of time—we are rid of Trump and his whole comic opera of misrule, we will still face the problem described in this book: the insidious creep of special-interest influence throughout our government. In fact, inchoate public frustration with the government’s capture by those interests may well have led to Trump. Not every corporation or industry is involved in this scheme. Many want no part of it. But the big influencers who are working to quietly capture American government, particularly those in highly regulated or polluting industries, have been disturbingly successful. This insidious power crept in on many separate fronts: •  the steady, years-long effort by Republican appointees on the Supreme Court to give corporate interests a dominating role in our politics;
  • •  the legislative lobbying dominance of corporate and industry interests, who outgun all other comers in Congress by massive multiples of spending; 
  • •  the evil of unlimited and dark money now dominating our elections (thanks to the Citizens United decision by five Republican appointees on the Court); 
  • •  the overwhelming advantage in administrative agencies of the regulated industry, leading to the well-researched (and oft-experienced) problem of “agency capture” when an industry dominates its regulatory agency;
  • •  the growth of a complex web of industry-funded, false-front organizations who inject deliberate streams of falsehood and anti-science propaganda into popular debate;
  • •  the slow strangulation of the civil jury, to spare big influencers accustomed to dominance in other branches of government the indignity of equal treatment in a courtroom;
and •  the steady partisan packing of the judicial branch with judges who will reliably rule in favor of gun interests, polluting interests, corporate interests, dark money, voter suppression, and a far-right social agenda (they may call themselves “conservatives” but this has nothing to do with being judicially conservative and everything to do with wins for big-donor interests). There’s one additional power that has become more notable: the power of weaponized fake news to manipulate the public. Not too long ago, fake news was for fun: the National Enquirer announcing that JFK and Marilyn Monroe’s secret love child was living in a salt cave in Utah, or that aliens ran a grocery store in Idaho. Weaponized fake news is different; weaponized fake news is the election day cover of the National Enquirer screaming, “HILLARY: Corrupt Racist Criminal.” This vast armada of influence can be deployed quietly, covertly, surreptitiously. The control of government by wealthy influencers is camouflaged behind webs of phony front groups and deployed through channels of anonymized dark money. Spending big money to support this apparatus is not an issue; for these big interests, the work of secret influence is a hugely profitable enterprise. The result is a campaign finance system described as “even more ethically unmoored than the one obtained before Watergate.” We are now closing in on one billion dollars in dark money spent in our politics since Citizens United. That’s a lot of powerful political artillery, packing a lot of influence. And understand this: it’s not just the dark money spending. Surrounding the direct impact of that political spending artillery is an even darker zone of influence, where the mere threat or promise of a spending barrage can achieve the desired political result. There’s not even the vague trail of an anonymous media buy to chronicle the deployment of that influence. This is the dark money double whammy: both secret spending and secret threats or promises. It’s big, and it’s wildly unbalanced in favor of big Republican interests. The three largest dark-money operations are run by the Republican U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, and the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity. A recent report by the bipartisan reform group Issue One shows them spending $130 million, $110 million, and $59 million, respectively, since Citizens United. The top Democratic operation comes in at $18 million. I’m what you’d call a climate hawk. I saw years of Senate climate bipartisanship before Citizens United. Now I see these immensely powerful, climate-denying, dark-money front groups, all likely funded by fossil-fuel interests. And I see no Republican senator willing to cross them. It reeks. Look also at how dark- and unlimited money can influence party leadership. Consider the 2016 contest for the Senate. Three Democratic Senate candidates stood a good early chance of winning Republican-held seats in 2016: Russ Feingold, a former senator, in Wisconsin; Ted Strickland, a former governor, in Ohio; and Evan Bayh, a former senator and governor, in Indiana. All were solid, experienced candidates; all were ahead in early polling. But then the big influencers came in, early and hard. The attack on Feingold began with $700,000 spent against him between July and September of 2015—more than a year before the election. That’s like strafing the other side’s fighter planes while they’re still on the airfield. Feingold got through his primary in April of 2016; over $2 million more in TV and digital spending was launched that month against him. From October up to election day, the bombardment was $11 million more. In August of 2015, the barrage began against Ted Strickland, to the tune of over $1.3 million—again, well more than a year before the election. When he won his primary in March 2016, another $1.7 million was launched, and from April to June more than $9 million more bombarded him. A further bombardment of nearly $13 million came in from July to September. Evan Bayh declared late, in July of 2016; in the next two quarters, $24.35 million bombarded him. The total “outside group” spending against these three Democratic candidates totaled almost exactly $70 million. All three lost their races. Their losses made the difference for Republicans to retain majority control of the Senate. So back to leadership. If you are the Senate majority leader because big influencers spent $70 million—often very early in the races—well, you won’t forget that. And you will certainly be aware of what that means for the future. I cannot prove the majority leader coordinated that 2016 bombardment to protect his majority, but it is by far the likeliest scenario. If that’s true, it creates a Senate leadership deeply beholden to the interests behind that bombardment, particularly if the leadership team believes that bombardment can be called in again whenever needed. That $70-million-on-demand alliance buys influence for those donors, perhaps even controlling influence. Perhaps even climate-change-denying influence. This is happening mostly behind the scenes. All the public sees is a Congress that won’t even consider addressing climate change, or fair pharmaceutical pricing, or banning dark money, or investigating whatever financial ties our president has to foreign interests, but that will pass sleazy midnight tax bills that pour money to big political donors. Think I’m kidding? The recent Republican “donor rewards program” tax bill added $1.5 trillion to our national debt and showered the bulk of it on wealthy and corporate interests of the sort most likely behind those hundreds of millions in dark money. That’s a big payback. Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson gave a $30 million political check; his interests received a reported $700 million windfall from the tax bill. A Texas oil refinery company gave $1.5 million; it received a reported $1.9 billion tax windfall. These two small examples in a flood of donor payback represent what one academic researcher calls “a vicious cycle in which growing economic and political inequality are mutually reinforcing.”* You use your money to buy the power to loot your country to get more money to buy more power to loot your country more … The people of America from coast to coast smell that something is out of whack; we smell a rat. So this machinery then plays a game of misdirection, to focus elsewhere those well-founded resentments. We are led down paths of anger, division, resentment, and scapegoating. And that gives us Trump. Getting rid of Trump and his creepy minions will help heal our body politic from the injury the Trumps have done to our country. But heal that injury, and this virus of surreptitious influence will still lurk, and will still cause frustration and mischief, until we also cure that disease. Like a patient with both a wound and a virus, our democracy will not return to good health until both the injury is healed and the disease is cured. The disease isn’t new. For as long as there have been governments, powerful private forces have tried to bend the power of government to their purposes. We think now of great political battles as Republican versus Democrat, or progressive versus conservative. We think of specific fights: polluters versus environmentalists; security hawks versus civil libertarians; tax cutters versus big spenders. But threaded through and behind those familiar fights is the long, quiet, persistent effort by forces who seek to turn the power of government to their own private advantage. When they succeed, their victim is the non-predatory majority who just want to go about their business without being robbed through their own government. Distracted by Trumpian theatrics, or by the clash of specific fights, we pay too little attention to this battle over government itself. Distraction is just what the big influencers want for us. They want to win this battle silently; no end-zone antics by them when they capture another agency or judge or policy. They just want the lucrative proceeds of winning. And they have been doing a lot of winning lately. My thesis in this book is that many of the things that frustrate Americans today about our government are the result of losing this ancient contest to the modern big influencers. This is not new. It is as old as corruption. It’s just the latest inning in a long, long game, and now it’s “game on” for us to fight back. Understand the problem. Get mad. Join the fight. We need a gentle revolution now in this country, because if the distraction, corruption, connivance, and misrule continue, we will get a not-so-gentle one later. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse December 2018 * Thomas B. Edsall, “After Citizens United, a Vicious Cycle of Corruption,” New York Times, December 6, 2018. * Martin Gilens, Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012).


Introduction IN THE SENATE, I SEE EVERY DAY how power works in the political sphere. I see who’s got it. I see who uses it. I see how they use it. I see the devices by which that power is applied. I see the schemes used to obscure who’s pulling the strings. I see the smokescreens put up to distract people so they don’t notice the string-pulling. This is my world; it is the ecosystem I inhabit as a United States senator. The legendary, Pulitzer Prize–winning author William S. White observed, “A senator of the United States is an ambulant converging point for pressures and counter-pressures of high, medium and low purposes.” What I see all around me these days is immense pressure deployed by the corporate sector in our government. Some of this corporate power is deployed in traditional ways. For as long as there has been government, there have been efforts by powerful forces to bend government to their private advantage, and to evade or prevent government oversight. For as long as there have been legislatures, there have been efforts to acquire influence over them. For as long as there has been regulation of industries, there have been efforts to control the regulators and to condition them to the interests of the industries they are designed to regulate. But some of what I see is new. I’ve had a close-up look at government—as a prosecutor, as a regulator, as a government staffer, as a reformer, as a candidate, and as an elected official. Never in my life have I seen such influence in our elections from corporations and their managers and billionaire owners. Their presence in American elections has exploded, indeed become dominant, as the campaign finance world has become virtually lawless. Never in my life have I seen such a complex web of front groups sowing deliberate deceit to create public confusion about issues that should be clear. The corporate propaganda machinery is of unprecedented size and sophistication. Never in my life have I seen our third branch of government, our courts, the place in our governmental system that is supposed to be most immune from politics, under such political sway. The track record of the Supreme Court in particular shows patterns that are completely inconsistent with disinterested neutrality. It’s always been tough to go up against the big guys. But for most of my life I felt we had a fighting chance. American politics has deep traditions of honor. There were always pockets of government that could be counted on to do the right thing. And there was such wisdom and safety in our American system of separated powers that corrupting influences could never take over completely. As a lawyer, and as a student of our Constitution, I believed that our American system would always protect us—maybe not right away, maybe not every time, but ultimately and for sure. I’m no longer so sure. Huge segments of the American public think things have gone badly wrong. Indeed, nearly three of every four Americans—71 percent—reported in a February 2016 poll that they were “dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time.” We see these numbers in action as voters across the political spectrum offer enthusiastic support to candidates pledging to change the status quo. How could this be? We’ve persevered through a revolutionary war, a civil war, and two world wars. We’ve endured massive expansions and great depressions. We’ve overturned slavery, brought women well toward full equality, pushed racism back, and recognized gay relationships. We invented automobiles, airplanes, telephones, TV, the atom bomb, and the Internet. Ours has been a tumultuous 240 years. What now, after all that tumult, has gone wrong? Abraham Lincoln reminded us at Gettysburg, over a field that covered the decaying remains of thousands of soldiers, both Union and Confederate, that it was our American destiny, and the prize of our Civil War sacrifice, that “government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from this earth.” The thing that has changed the most in our government, and the thing that to me best explains what has gone wrong, is that our politics is no longer “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Corporations of vast wealth and remorseless staying power have moved into our politics, to seize for themselves advantages that can be seized only by control over government. Organizations of mysterious identity have moved into our politics, as screens for the anonymous power and “dark money” behind them. Political campaigns are now run by new and alien organizations, super PACs and 501(c)(4)s, bizarre creatures unknown to our politics until recently. When I speak of corporate power in politics, let me be very clear: I do not mean just the activities of the incorporated entities themselves. The billionaire owners of corporations are often actively engaged in battle to expand the influence of the corporations that give them their power and their wealth. Front groups and lobbying groups are often the ground troops when corporate powers don’t want to get their own hands dirty or when they want to institutionalize their influence. So-called philanthropic foundations are often the proxies for billionaire families who want influence and who launch these tools to professionalize their influence-seeking. I count them all as faces of corporate power—just as they do themselves. The internal coordination behind the scenes between the politically active corporate entities, the billionaire funders, the right-wing “philanthropies,” the front groups, and the lobbying organizations is constant. The structure of this enterprise, with common funders, interlocking directorates, and overlapping staff, is emerging as a result of academic and investigative studies. From my perch in the Senate, I see it all as one coordinated beast. That is how it behaves, and that is how I’m going to treat it in this book. This apparatus may seem like a very complicated and unwieldy way for corporations to exert influence, but it allows them to give the public the old razzle-dazzle, running intricate plays with what appear to be many independent voices. It’s smart strategy. These forces are everywhere, and they are dominant in every area where their influence on government can be brought to bear. They are right now, as a practical matter, our unseen ruling class. When you are running for office, they can quietly back you—or your opponent—with literally unlimited funds, depending on how comfortable they are with how you’ll vote. (The cudgel of secret spending need not even be swung to have its desired effect; merely brandishing it can be enough to get the attention, and obedience, of a politician.) Once you’re elected and in office, corporate influence comes in the form of corporate lobbying—the behemoth on the legislative stage, drowning out all other lobbying competition by a spending ratio of more than thirty to one.4 As a bill moves through Congress, corporate lobbyists exploit procedural opportunities to accomplish the industry’s purposes out of view of the public. Once a bill becomes law, relentless industry pressure is brought to bear on the agencies charged with enforcement: appointment of industry-friendly administrators; visible industry “caretaking” of friendly administrators when they depart their posts (and visible “freezes” on those who weren’t so friendly); heavy lawyering of the rulemaking and enforcement processes, often as simple brute pressure to cause delay and cost; and sometimes direct kickbacks. All these avenues give special interests undue influence over administrative agencies, to the point of outright capture of the agency. When there is a legal challenge to corporate behavior, or a legal challenge to the way a law is administered, having business-friendly courts to hear the case becomes important. Here corporate influence in the selection of judges is brought to bear, business-friendly “training” for judges at luxurious resorts is offered, and corporate-funded entities that are not traditional litigants appear in court, sometimes in flocks, to amplify the corporate message. The Supreme Court can do more than tilt the balance in business-related cases: the Court can change the very ground rules of democracy in favor of corporate interests. And corporate forces are hard at work using their power to fix the judicial system to seize more power. Civil juries, the Constitution’s designated check on outsized power in the private sphere, have had their place in government shrunk to a vestige of their intended role, leaving corporate forces free to wheel and deal with the established, repeat players in government who are most amenable to their influence. Meanwhile, a vast corporate enterprise is busy constructing and marketing a pro-corporate “alternate reality”: climate change is an illusion; tobacco is not really that bad for you; lead paint only hurts poor children with negligent mothers; the ozone hole isn’t being caused by chemicals; various products’ association with cancer is unproven; pollution controls will cost way too much and hurt the economy; consumers should be free not to live in a “nanny state.” Corporations have become less willing to say these things themselves, so over the years they have outsourced the crafting and selling of this alternate reality to an array of dozens of front groups with innocent-seeming, respectable-sounding names. And corporate forces have acquired influence in an increasingly compliant and even corporate-owned media. What better way to propagandize the American public than through the “news”? It all adds up to massive tentacles of corporate power—particularly emanating from a few highly regulated sectors, including finance and fossil fuels—that are usually invisible or obscured but which are quietly and steadily having their way with government. Small wonder people are angry about a nonresponsive democracy. Contrary to the popular sentiment that government isn’t working anymore, government is working fine; it’s just working for the corporations. Congress today is working great at helping polluters; it’s working great at protecting hedge fund billionaires’ low tax rates; it’s working great at helping corporations offshore jobs, at letting chemicals and genetically modified stuff into your food, at creating tax and safety loopholes for industry. Congress is also working great at ignoring corporate misbehavior—until after a crisis has hurt or killed a lot of people. Even then, Congress has worked great at having taxpayers bail out the industry that caused the harm. And worst of all, government is now working great, in a vicious cycle, to change its own ground rules and lock in the control over government by big special-influence operators. People can feel like they are in a car that won’t respond to them, that the car is dangerously out of control, that the car is broken. But the problem isn’t the car; the problem is who’s now driving it. Regular people are no longer in the driver’s seat of American democracy. A corporation is not an inherently bad thing. In proper circumstances and within proper bounds, the corporate form is an immensely valuable proposition. But the economic ability to amass money can spawn a political desire to amass power. And at a certain level of political power, corporate forces can upshift into political overdrive and use their power to change the political system itself. Beyond just improving outcomes for their industry from the political system, they can make changes to the political system itself that lock in lasting advantages for them and protect their dominance. That overdrive is the most worrisome use of power. That’s where I believe we are now, and why I’m writing this book. Today there is virtually no element of the political landscape into which corporate influence has not intruded, and it is usually the strongest political force arrayed in any part of that landscape. You may not see it, because it is bad strategy for the purveyors of corporate influence to herald their victories; they are better off quietly pocketing their winnings than bragging about them, and they’d rather you not know how effectively they have rigged the game. But, visibly or not, our government has been captured. The “gradual and silent encroachments” that James Madison warned of have come in a corporate guise that Madison and his compatriots did not foresee and were not able to preempt.5 The big corporate interests now in control would like you to give up on government. The better solution is not to give up on the American government that generations of Americans fought, bled, and died to leave to us. The better solution is to take it back and put it to work for us. It will be a battle. Even if you do not now see a clean path to victory, remember the admonition of Rabbi Tarfon: “It may not be up to us to complete the work, but neither are we free to desist from it.” As citizens, this must be our work.

What are YOU reading these days?

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Please Welcome Joss Sheldon, Author of Freedom: The Case For Open Borders - A Book For Today's World!

 “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respected stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges.” --George Washington

I am honored to welcome Joss Sheldon to Book Readers Heaven, to talk about his book, Freedom: The Case For Open Borders... It was 2016 when I first met Joss through his wonderful book, The Little Voice.  It was one of those books that I got excited about, so, take a few minutes, and go check out my post to learn more... But first, Joss, would you tell us a little about yourself, your books, and why you chose to write the type of books that you do...

Because I wouldn’t know how to write any other type! I write about the things which I’m passionate about – to say the things which other public figures aren’t saying. My first book was about a conscientious objector in World War I. I was motivated to write that novel, because I was horrified by how British society was becoming more militarised in the wake of the Iraq War. People were beginning to use jingoistic language as a matter of course, referring to soldiers as “heroes” who were “brave” and who “defended us” –all without any kind of kickback or debate. The UK introduced an Armed Forces Day. The red poppy, a symbol used to pay homage to soldiers, was becoming ubiquitous – plastered across every newspaper, featured on sports jerseys, and even worn by presenters on the supposedly “neutral” BBC. 

So I wanted to provide a counterpoint. To speak up for the people who refused to go abroad and slaughter people in their millions. To glorify the activists who campaigned against war, and to champion the conscientious objectors who refuse to take up arms. To call them the “heroes” who were “brave” and who “defended us.” I’ve carried that passion throughout my career – telling the stories which aren’t being told, giving a voice to the good people and good causes which make the world a better place.

As I began to read Freedom, I was intrigued about your first major relocation to India to write. I remember back in highschool, I, too, had a dream of moving to Australia--I chose an English-speaking country for easier ability to begin working there for a living... As with many, however, I wound up staying within the area I was born. But have traveled quite a bit, thankfully, to capture some of the essence of different cultures... So, Joss, I'd love to hear more about how and why you went to India, and which of your books you wrote there... and, the good or bad or painful emotions you felt as you worked to live in a new location...

It was never a permanent migration. And I think that’s an important distinction to make. So much of the discussion about migration focuses on those people who move from one place, and then make a permanent home in another. Usually, it’s pitched as a discussion of immigrants coming here, taking our jobs and homes! But of course, emigration is another dimension – it’s about our right abroad to retire, or live in a place with cheaper housing.

And then temporary migration, nomadism, is yet another dimension--it's about our right to go on holiday, travel, study, tour with a band, follow a sports team, or receive healthcare where its more affordable. That was the case for me: I went to India to launch my career as an author, because I knew the cost of living was cheap. I could get by on just £5 a day. So I could live out there for 18 months, whilst writing my debut novel, and that cost around £2000 (when you include flights and visas). That bought me the time I needed to write. I couldn’t have ever dedicated 18 months to writing, unpaid, had I remained in Britain.

For my second novel, “Occupied,” I travelled around Palestine and Kurdistan--for research. And then I returned to my village in India to write that book. That was that. It was never meant to be permanent. I was a kind of nomad. As for the emotions: There were no bad ones! I felt so liberated, escaping my career to dedicate myself to something I was passionate about. I used to clean my teeth each morning, look in the mirror, and think “I’m happy.”And I meant it.

Joss, your enthusiasm for writing--and life--is exciting to learn about! I'm so thankful that you agreed to allow me to spotlight your book, as well as talk with me in even more detail than you have in your book. Personally, I was amazed at the scope, the breadth, and, yet, a totally comprehensive look at the situation which is. at a focal point, a book about Borders...but looking at it through the lens of personal freedom... I was enthralled as I turned the pages and saw how you began your book... My question is, is this your normal method for writing, or did you feel you had to build your case right at the beginning?

If people don’t like the first few pages of a book, there’s a good chance they’ll stop reading. So you have to catch a reader’s interest. And the introduction has to give a flavour of things to come – to set the scene. 

I like to fill my non-fiction work with stories, to make them easy to read and entertaining. And, likewise, I like to base my novels on real world facts and situations, to make them relevant. I like to blend the two forms together.

I'm glad to hear your thoughts on catching the reader's attention. Having read thousands of books, I can immediately tell the difference and weigh my options... Most of the time, I go ahead and read the book but having to read, say, about 50 pages and still be looking for something to hold my attention is, simply tedious... If I were reading it as a review, I would often highlight this issue, hopefully received as a critical recommendation for consideration...

I wondered about the short tale about not knowing which country someone lived in and its relevance to the weather... A bit of sarcasm, a delightful joke, or what meaning did you want to have set the stage for what was to come?

Do you mean the David Graeber quote at the beginning of the book? I love Graeber, he’s a big inspiration. So I’ll use any excuse to put a quote of his in my work! But yeah, the point was simple enough: For the majority of history, people governed themselves within their communities. They had very little interaction with the governments which supposedly ruled over the land, and which later drew borders onto maps. Such things were an irrelevance. People continued on with their lives. And with the exception of serfdom and slavery, most people had the right to go wherever they wanted, as though those borders didn’t exist. Borders really only became an impediment to movement around the time of World War I.

Almost immediately you hone in on 2015 and Donald Trump's beginning to speak about running for the presidency, citing Immigrants as a major problem. Tell me, was that when the idea for this book began? Did it have to do with the blatant false accusations he was making? Or was his speech just the icing on the cake of an idea that had been festering for awhile?

The point is that it’s not just Trump. He’s just the poster boy for the anti-freedom movement. But he has clones in almost every country. I’ve been more concerned about his so-called “opposition.” Trump and his ilk are saying immigrants are bad, immigration is too high, we need to take away people’s right to move, and spend a fortune to stop travellers going wherever they please. And his opponents are like, “Yeah, we agree: immigration is too high, and we do need to reduce it… Just not like that. And won’t you please tone down your language?”

None of these politicians are saying that immigration is amazing, that immigrants improve our economies and societies, that we should be encouraging more migration, and improving our freedom to move. Well, a few are in places like Canada, China and Japan – as I cover in a later chapter. But in most nations, these voices have been gagged. So I felt I needed to speak up. To be the voice of the voiceless. To widen the discussion, and the political spectrum.

I totally agree! It was only after Trump was in office and we began to see his inclination to "believe" Putin, or "fall in love" with Kim Jong Un,, that we saw his unhealthy behavior towards dictators!

While it is difficult for me to ask, what can you tell me about how America is being perceived based upon immigration issues piling up?

 I think the rest of the world has its own issues. I certainly know of people in Britain who thought you were mad to elect Trump. But then we elected Johnson, so it’s not as though we hold the moral high ground! People in the Philippines seem quite warm to Americans in general, and indifferent to international politics. But there are certainly people in those countries which have felt the full force of American military intervention which I’ll have a thing or two to say on that front!

When you begin to spotlight the need for free borders, do you know, and accept, just how long it might take to achieve such a goal? 

As Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” He was talking about ending apartheid, which must have seemed impossible for many decades. Then it happened in super-quick time. Female enfranchisement would’ve been similar. Activists spent over a century demanding votes for women, but as soon as the first few countries got onboard, lots of others followed suit. 

We see something similar with borders: Most borders were undefined for most of our history. Then there was a flurry of border making in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Passports came into fashion a little, fell out of use, and then were used as a tool for shoring up hard borders around the time of World War I. So that all happened fairly quickly. 

If open borders can become closed borders in a relatively short period of time, why can’t hard borders become open in a similarly short timeframe? When it happens, I doubt it’d take long, but the journey up to that point may very well take a while.

 I think we need to start the conversation, which is what I hope to do with this book. We need to ask people to think about things from their own personal perspective – wouldn’t you like to have the right to go and live somewhere cheaper, or somewhere where jobs come with longer holidays, or somewhere with a better climate? Then you stretch it to others: Well, if you think that you’d like that, don’t you think others would like it to? Why should we discriminate against other people on the basis of where they were born? Why not give everyone equal rights, regardless of their birthplace or nationality? 

One of the things that pops into my mind, because I know it exists, are these issues: Love of Self, or Fear of others; also greed and power-hunger... To me, these have grown so much that I wonder could we eliminate each individual's need for security and basic needs... I'm referring specifically to Maslow's hierarchy of needs... Even in America, many are struggling for food security and housing, which are the first of basic human needs. And, if they are not met, are we faced when continued death by these limits. Obviously I'm referring to Africa, Gaza, Syria, and countries in South America who are being run by drug cartels... 

Yeah, that’s why we need to frame it in terms of the self. How would you wish to be treated if you were starving, or homeless, or persecuted. Wouldn’t you want to have the ability to move somewhere else, where you’d be freed from that suffering? That’s how you build empathy. 

This, of course, includes the rights of Americans to emigrate. If an American is “struggling for food security and housing,” then they should have the right to leave, and make a home for themselves in a place where those things are cheaper or more readily available. There are lots of Americans here in the Philippines--mainly retirees. If they’d stayed in the USA, they’d be really struggling. But out here, they live like kings! 

I could never have bought a house in Britain. But I bought my first house in Bulgaria for less than a garage would’ve cost me in London. In the Philippines, I have a nice new house on 1.7 hectares of land. Emigration made that possible. 

Right now, we sadly have in America a man who negatively informs the response to immigrants. Even if Trump doesn't get elected, the individuals who supported him are so different than the people needed to open our borders, even in a rational, planned manner. I believe that our border system is also being politized. I used to tell thousands of students and teachers "where to go" as a classroom scheduler. Any bureaucratic process can be made to function efficiently. We should be doing this right now.

 You’re not going to win Trump’s hardest supporters over. But you could at least categorise them as “anti-freedom” and “freedom haters.” They’re denying us our freedom to move! You could challenge their authoritarianism; with their lawfare, aggressive guards, and border walls. And you could call out the amount they’re wasting on these things--billions of dollars of taxpayers money a year. We need to make these emotional arguments. It’s not enough to go on the back foot--defending foreigners for Trump. We must also go on the front foot--challenging Trump’s supporters for the anti-American hatred of freedom.

But my main target is the so-called “Moderates,” who’ve allowed their views and policies to be dragged towards those of Trump. Biden is spending more on border control than any other president in history--way more than Trump spent during his term in office. Biden and his peers are buying into this notion that people can be “illegal”, and that travellers should be stopped from crossing an imaginary line someone drew on a piece of paper once upon a time. And that’s deeply worrying – it means there’s no real opposition to Trumpism. So we need to broaden the conversation. We need to pull these Democrats back to what would’ve been deemed a moderate position in the past. 

And, in Britain, are we looking at a limitation of land by which decisions are made? Specifically, is there enough land there or in other smaller countries where many additional immigrants could be housed?

There’s an abundance of land all around the world. It’s really not in short supply. There’s around 48 million square kilometres of habitable land on planet Earth--enough for about 6000 square metres of land per person. 

We do have a shortage of housing in some places in the UK, but there’s a simple answer to that: Build more homes! And do you know who can help us to do that? Immigrants can! Immigrants are more likely to be of a working age, and they’re more likely to actually work. They’re the very architects, plumbers, bricklayers, electricians and scaffolders we need to build those very homes! 

We should also bear in mind that there’ll be even more land available in the northernmost parts of our hemisphere when climate change kicks in. Places like Canada, Greenland and Russia are going to have millions of square kilometres of land which wasn’t habitable before, but which will become liveable in the near future. There’ll be more than enough for everyone – which is fortunate because a lot of people who live near the equator will be forced to move away! And the good news is that Canada and Russia are already encouraging inwards migration. The Russians are giving a hectare of land away for free to anyone who moves to its Eastern Provinces. 

Historically, if we know that people who relocated to the United States, at the same time also forced indigenous people already living across the nation to lose their land so that eventually, they were forced to cluster, never to roam again as their nature and culture demanded, how can we delete the selfishness and "rights" that now people have?

I don’t think that “rights” are a bad thing. I’m arguing for the right to move. And that should include the right to roam for indigenous people.

In the UK, we grant gypsies a number of pitches where they can make camps, before moving onto another location. We don’t provide nearly enough, and those communities are subject to a lot of abuse. But it is something you could copy. If you did, that’d make life better for more nomadic people and for wanderers in general. 

We also have public pathways in the UK, where people have a right to roam. I’m talking here about footpaths which cut across fields in the countryside – land which is owned by private farms. That right was actually secured by mass trespasses–where people young and old marched across the countryside, demanding the right to access that land.

Wow! I love that concept. I have about 13 acres surrounding me, but I try to prevent hunters crossing... Movement could be from one of my own outside cat family and I don't want them harmed... Still...  You believe on an individual basis, most people will try to help others, I agree. But… are known obstacles really able to be reduced or eliminated?

As Tony Benn once stated, “Every generation has to fight the same battles.” We can eliminate some obstacles, and then others will appear. And then we’ll have to fight to remove those. There is no final victory, or final defeat. 

I’d like to think that technology should help though. It could help us to get international passports and international citizenships--working out how long we spent in any given place--to whom we should pay our taxes, and from whom we should receive our pensions. We could register online whenever we arrive in a new place – removing the need for border agents. We’re already seeing something like this in Estonia. And we’re seeing digital nomad visas slowly coming into fashion across the world. These things are all reducing those barriers you mention.

Thank you so much, Joss, for providing a bright spot of a possible future for all of us--those who dream about wanting a better place where we have chosen to spend our lives. Or, the thought that those who wish to relocate for whatever reason, is an exciting and hopeful future that could start happening...and spread! You started by saying that you write about issues that you are passionate about... May your passion begin to be shared here in America, simply by acknowledging that immigration was, has been, and should be again, what America is all about!

Friday, March 22, 2024

Freedom: The Case For Open Borders By Josh Sheldon - A Final Look...


Joss Sheldon is a passionate individual, a world-wide traveler who writes books based upon his own personal passion for issues he sees across the world. He wants a better world... He wants a world where each of us has personal freedom. A personal freedom that is not bogged down by those who live among us, who, for whatever reason, has chosen to purposely affect others in some negative manner. Purely because they want to. Or, worse, because they have been trained to, either by parents, teachers, religious leaders, or, politicians. Specifically the leaders of each country.

When Joss Sheldon sees or feels the distress, the pressure being put on others who have no control over their lives, he wants to fight back, on their behalf. Invariably this results in a new book. There are now eight books written, all on a similar theme... Why are there people who choose to disrupt the lives of others, in order for them to be totally happy? His basic instinct is to assume that there are ways to stop these unwanted intrusions. His latest book takes on the highly complex issue of Freedom. Then, honing in on a present, now headline issue, which has been either ignored, or purposely delayed so that it can be used purely for political reasons.

His approach for this book was to use a basic scientific approach of identifying the problem, researching the issue, verifying the pros and cons of his proposed solution, and making a recommendation. Sheldon then presents his "Case For Open Borders" to his readers across the world.

At the end of the book, I had accepted his hypothesis. However, I also immediately wondered if it was merely a pipedream. Then as I talked to my best friend about the book's concept, I threw out my own hypothesis... 

For hundred of years, we've heard people write or talk about The Second Coming... After hearing about those times when somebody made a formal claim, a specific date, and that date happened and yet Christ never came, I've pondered this for many years. And, after reading this book, my hypothesis is that, when each country has opened their borders to all people, regardless of race, religion or any other difference, then, we would have ALL accepted the Words of Christ to love our neighbor... and He would come to reign over Earth once again...

I watch The Last Word every time it is on, recording the full hour and watching it later. The above video popped up when I was looking for the song Let There Be Peace on Earth... Listen to the part where the Senator emphasizes the beating of a Black man and then his attackers were all set free...

The pounding point of his pen reminded me of a Good Friday gathering where the same concept was used to pound out the impact of the nails being hammered into the feet and arms of Jesus Christ.

The whole church was silent as the hammer pounded, each knowing that it was exactly how many hits it took to nail Jesus to the Cross... The effect now brings the same chilling awareness. The same sense of loss... The same realization that another Black Man had been chosen, beaten by four white police officers... And freed by a white jury... Once this is heard, once you realize just how cruel people can be to other people, I know that Open Borders will never happen in my lifetime... Will it happen in Yours? I believe God is watching America right now. I believe that those who have incited hate and division on false premises, lies, deceit and violence will be stopped! 

Do you hear the pounding of a pen by a democratic senator who witnessed that violence, that prejudice, that hatred, yet know that time has marched on, and very little has changed. And, in some ways, gotten worse. If you hear or see what has happened, and yet believe that Open Borders should be possible, then I encourage you to read Freedom: The Case for Open Borders. And, if you listen very hard, you'll begin to hear the birds chirping, the bees buzzing, smell the green grass of spring, see the beauty of God's World created for us and know that surely God Himself, the great I AM, wants to have America become a nation, perhaps one of the first nations, who will open borders in a structured, professional and controlled manner which shows that we Americans all truly love our neighbors as God asks us... And that, we will work in concert with all other democracies to begin to support and welcome all those who wish to come to America, without concern about being turned away...

This book begs you to reset any hesitations you have about the future and look toward an America that is truly a land of the Free... Even as recognizing that America is now free only to some...

ALL OVER THE WORLD, PEOPLE ARE CRYING OUT TO BE FREE! I believe this book is an excellent treatise of just how much people desire--and--deserve to live free. All over the world!