Ghosts from the Nursery

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The Book of the Week is “Ghosts from the Nursery, Tracing the Roots of Violence” by Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S. Wiley, published in 1997. The authors cited scientific studies to support their assertions about the links between the increasingly younger ages at which Americans are committing increasingly more frequent horrific crimes, and the social and cultural trends that are driving this alarming revelation.

At the book’s writing, in the United States, criminal justice system spending was three times (!) the entire healthcare budget. The authors argued that the seeds of criminality in humans are planted in the womb rather than in early childhood, as previously thought.

Environmental factors, such as a future mother’s or father’s consumption or inhalation of toxic substances, alters the reproductive mechanisms in a fetus’ brain cells. If the fetus’ environment is neglectful, chaotic or hostile– people are raucous, or physically abusing the mother-to-be– it stands to reason that the child might have behavioral problems later on. These problems could range from hyperactivity, impulsivity, attention deficits and learning disabilities to criminality.

The range and extent of damage done varies with the time frame in which the abuses occur. It has been found that any amount of alcohol drunk by a potential father or mother can adversely affect: spermatozoa and ova weeks before conception, the zygote, embryo, fetus and then the child’s health thereafter. Maximum visual damage is done to the brain of a fetus, when the abuses occur during the limited time, for instance, in which the neural connection from the retina to the visual cortex is made. Language skills develop or fail to develop, similarly.

The opposite is true, too: a nurturing environment will maximize benefits for the child (even in the womb!) when parents’ soothing or happy voices are heard by the fetus during his or her audiological development. After emergence from the womb, the baby can recognize his or her mother’s, father’s or others’ voices. Preverbal memory (an emotional vibe emitted by parents and others– a mood felt by the fetus and then infant and then child) stays with everyone through their entire lives. Parents have been shown to display the same behaviors their parents did with their own babies and children.

The authors mentioned several European studies that showed the incidences of juvenile criminality and suicide increased with an increase in unwanted pregnancies. That’s obviously a can of worms. But, since reams and reams of data have been collected from decades and decades of sociological, psychological, medical and legal studies worldwide, perhaps a multi-pronged approach applied locally would help– instead of commissioning more, additional expensive studies for the purposes of procrastination and patronage.

HOWEVER, one particularly rich vein of data on how to invite failure of the multi-pronged approach at the federal level of poverty-fighting (and on a related topic, crime-prevention), can be found in the administration archives of the late president Lyndon B. Johnson. A 20/20 hindsight look at the enduring actions he did take, are unfairly omitted from the history books that show an anti-liberal bias. His administration saw the start of Medicare and Medicaid and the passing of landmark civil rights legislation. BUT, these great accomplishments were overshadowed by conspiracy theories that he plotted the assassination of JFK and of course, his role in a needless war.

Johnson had grand plans to eliminate poverty at home, but shortly after he came to power, he decided to send Americans abroad to fight a war that led to countless deaths and ruined lives. And continued to rationalize why it needed to continue. Johnson’s anti-poverty programs weren’t given sufficient time to succeed because they became starved for funds.

That is why this country has regressed on the social-programs front: Every American president has sold his soul to the MILITARY [Currently, that military is fighting a war at the Mexican border instead of overseas; a future post of this blog will elaborate on this].

The only president fully justified in diverting significant taxpayer monies from improving conditions at home, toward fighting a war, was FDR. Since WWII, alpha males with hubris syndrome have been funding military actions whose long-term costs outweigh the benefits.

As a final insult that indicated that Johnson had major control issues, was the fact that he cruelly teased his own Democratic party by withdrawing from a 1968 reelection bid at the last minute, leaving the field to a few other candidates, and uncertainty in his wake. He also gave his political opponents a golden invitation to smear him in so many ways.

Granted, there are countless other vicissitudes of history that come into play with any president’s actions, but as is well known, campaign-finance regulation in America has become horribly eviscerated in recent decades, so the increase in financial influence of special-interest groups other than the military, has also played a role in this nation’s shifting priorities.

Be that as it may, the United States’ practices fly in the face of reason by bringing in a “pound of cure” (after the fact!) via a complicated, expensive bunch of bloated, bureaucratic government services (special-education, welfare, foster care, criminal justice, etc.). Instead of an “ounce of prevention.” One specific program has been found to be the most effective solution thus far in preventing crime in the long run: infant home-visitation programs, because the problems are dealt with early! This was the conclusion of a criminology team who submitted a report to the U.S. Congress in April 1997.

Clearly, different levels of government can implement more of a combination of social programs and legislation in order of what works best pursuant to all those scientific studies (preferably longitudinal ones), regardless of costs, limited by whatever the budget will reasonably bear; instead of going the easy, greedy, or power-hungry, politically expedient (and fraught military) route.

A grass-roots movement would have to hold officials’ feet to the fire on that– perhaps appealing to their egos by giving them a legacy via a footnote in the history books crediting them for getting it done. This, while keeping political patronage to a minimum (It used to be called “honest graft” but has reached excessive levels in certain regions; time will tell whether upcoming elections oust the “Tammany Hall/Boss Tweed” contingents.).

So, for instance, a hypothetical mandate for a large, diversely-populated city might consist of:

First, an infant home-visitation program;

Second, no-charge universal pre-kindergarten program;

Third, stricter background checks and bans on specific firearms and loophole-closing;

Fourth, a community-policing program (that does not involve military hardware) like those mentioned in this blog’s posts, “L.A. Justice” and “Riverkeepers”; and

Fifth, imposing and enforcing a legal maximum to class sizes in early-childhood education.

If additional funding is found (for whatever reasons), there could be other kinds of education programs that deal with issues such as: teen pregnancy, sex education, birth control, substance abuse prevention (all possibly as a part of the high school health-class curriculum), parenting classes, family planning, welfare-to-work, at-risk youth centers, and job training– again, prioritized from the most to the least effective outcomes.

Anyway, read the book to learn much more about research results on this topic, and the authors’ suggestions on crime prevention via focusing on ways to improve outcomes in connection with pregnancy and child care.

Misfire

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The Book of the Week is “Misfire, Inside the Downfall of the NRA” by Tim Mak, published in 2021. This volume told the all-too-frequent story of alpha-male executives with hubris syndrome, who use their employer as their personal piggy bank, and bankrupt them. That of the National Rifle Association (NRA) was just the latest in a series of such scandals in recent decades.

As it began to go belly up, the NRA had 76 people on its board of directors, a few of whom were celebrities. They received no salary, but took ridiculous advantage of their expense accounts, and at the same time, and, in an obvious conflict, some were tasked with overseeing the NRA’s finances.

A power vacuum that started in the late 1980’s allowed Wayne LaPierre to assume the most powerful executive position in the organization by 1991. His colleagues– the NRA’s officers, and executives of its outside communications agency — manipulated him in order to form a cult of personality around him. This way, they, too, could partake of all the first-class travel, shopping and host of other aspects of a luxury lifestyle through their outsized salaries and expense accounts.

After the Sandy Hook elementary-school shooting in December 2012, the NRA became even more sociopathic, throwing up distractions in its messaging. It was already aggressively– as it had been since 1977– defeating every bit of firearms-restriction-legislation it possibly could using not only its money, but also its ability to influence politicians and voters through its network of priceless, powerful contacts; even to its own financial and reputational detriment. It argued that politicians should seek to improve America’s mental health system, and that everyone in the country had a right to own a firearm for the purpose of self-defense!

Countless, cowardly politicians have caved under pressure to the NRA’s demands; they voted against even weak proposed laws that would restrict gun acquisitions and gun usage, that would hardly have made a dent in sales of firearms, because they wanted to get reelected. As is well known, the NRA was a monster-sized lobbyist and political donor. It had a mean-spirited cancel-culture: publicly shaming its ex-employees on social media if they criticized it, even years after their employ.

Beginning in April 2019, a decades-long power struggle resulted in an orgy of litigation between and among the NRA, its communications agency, and its law firm, whose main go-to executive had become besties with LaPierre. That executive, too, was availing himself of the benefits derived from financial crimes of excess typical of these kinds of organizations.

Read the book to learn all about it. Wayne LaPierre has been just one (of those countless who are actually caught!) of a few poster boys whose financial crimes borne of excessive greed have been exposed, but sooo few organization leaders such as he, are punished for their misdeeds. Here are a few others, who were actually punished (and the year in which they went to jail):

2005, Dennis Kozlowski

2005, Bernie Ebbers

2006, Jack Abramoff

2007, Richard Scrushy

2012, Bernie Madoff

And here is the song they sing when caught:

I TOOK IT EASY

sung to the tune of “Take It Easy” with apologies to the Eagles.

Well, I got out on BAIL.
You can’t put me in JAIL.
I got SEVen sins on my mind.
Whistleblowers betrayed me.
Prosecutors flayed me.
My lawyers are close friends of mine.

I took it easy.
I took it easy.

Don’t believe the evil liars who say I’m guil-ty.

I live it up while I still can.
I hid my assets. Then it hit the fan.
I found a place to make my millions.
I took it easy.

Well I’m STILL your leading male.
I’m just too great to fail.
My claques, flacks and sycophants all aGREE.
I DID nothing wrong.
I’ll delay this CASE so long you’ll give up on punishing me.

Come on, payyy me,
my bonus and sa-alary.
I have no doubt that friends in high places are gonna SAVE me.

TaxPAYERS lose. I win.
You’ll never catch ME again.
So eat your heart out. Look at ME grin.
I took it easy.

Well, I got out on BAIL.
You can’t put me in JAIL.
I got NO remorse on my mind.
No matter how much you hover,
you’ll NEVER recover, all the money you say is not mine.

I took it easy.
I took it easy.
Don’t believe the evil liars who say I’m guil-ty.
Come on, payyy me,
my bonus and sa-alary.
I have no doubt that friends in high places are gonna SAVE me.

Oh, I got it easy.
YOU’RE the one who’s slea-eazy…

Suez

[Please note: The word “Featured” on the left side above was NOT inserted by this blogger, but apparently was inserted by WordPress, and it cannot be removed. NO post in this blog is sponsored.]

The Book of the Week is “Suez, 10 years after Suez, questions are still being asked…” by Hugh Thomas, originally published in 1966. This volume was penned by and through the eyes of a British journalist.

In 1875, on behalf of the British government, Benjamin Disraeli purchased a controlling interest (45%) of shares in the Suez Canal Company. By 1956, a little less than 25% of the imports, and about 33% of the ships passing through the canal, were British.

There was arrogance all around, among the top leaders of countries involved in the Suez Canal Crisis: Egypt’s Nasser, Great Britain’s Eden, France’s Mollet and Israel’s Ben Gurion.

Other leaders, such as America’s president Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles refrained from a hawkish stance for their own country, letting the British and French make fools of themselves in sending troops. The author described the whole episode thusly: “… the spectacle of over one hundred thousand men setting off for a war which lasted barely a day and then returning has few parallels in the long gallery of military imbecility.”

Eden was ready to fight the Egyptians when Nasser declared he was nationalizing the canal’s holding company, which was based in Paris. The declaration meant that Nasser would charge dues on ships passing through.

The international contract governing the canal stipulated that Egypt would own the canal itself in 1968. The Treaty of Constantinople, signed in 1888 deemed the canal an international waterway. Nasser could be removed as a custodian of sorts only “for cause” but arguably one cause could be the fact that, beginning in 1951, he banned Israeli ships from the canal.

One other piece of documentation associated with the canal included the United Nations Charter’s Article 51. It was kind of a worthless passage, as its provisions were unenforceable unless nations agreed on how to interpret it and chose to abide by it. That passage said military action was justified if any entity took over the canal.

Eden came of age in the generation who fought in WWI and was of the mind that appeasement didn’t work on Hitler. Wiser world leaders whose experiences and intelligence differed, knew that Nasser was no Hitler. Eden’s cabinet ministers were men of different ages, some of whom disagreed with him.

Britain’s options included resolving the complicated dispute with the assistance of the United Nations (UN), or the International Court. Britain’s troops stationed geographically nearby (in Malta, Port Said, Libya, Jordan and Cyprus) were unprepared to fight a war in or near Egypt, and it would take a few months to move supplies, equipment, etc. to where they needed to be. The Soviets were supplying weapons to the Egyptians, and those weapons would be superior in the event of an air war.

The European government officials who were dovish, argued that it was wrong to use force just to safeguard oil supplies, and that the conflict should be settled through the UN. The situation became more complex (as though the propaganda war, Hungarian suffering and upcoming elections in Jordan and the United States, Britain’s lingering pro-Arab stance and France’s sending arms to Israel weren’t enough) when, in the second week of October 1956, there occurred a border skirmish between Israel and Jordan. About a week later, Israel attacked Egypt.

Yet another set of conditions on paper by which specific nations agreed to abide, came into play: the 1940 Tripartite Pact stated that when lands around Israel (pursuant to the geography of 1950) were crossed by people with war in mind, both Britain and France together were obligated to take some kind of action.

Read the book to learn more details of the diplomatic and political events leading up to and during the conflict (or war, as interpreted by some), its exciting conclusion, and the death tolls of the parties involved.