My Race

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The Book of the Week is “My Race, A Jewish Girl Growing Up Under Apartheid in South Africa” by Lorraine Lotzof Abramson, published in 2010.

Born in March 1946, the author grew up in Orange Free State in South Africa. Her ancestors were originally from Latvia. Many other fair-skinned people (hereinafter called “whites”) were descended from British settlers. The Afrikaners (descended from Dutch settlers) were the country’s ruling majority. They imposed apartheid beginning in 1948. They interpreted the Christian Bible in a way that depicted dark-skinned Africans (called Africans; hereinafter called “blacks” but the derogatory term is Kaffirs) as servants. All white families had sufficient wealth to employ at least one (black) servant.

The black population way outnumbered that of the white. The Afrikaners felt extreme pressure to oppress the blacks unmercifully, lest they revolt against any and all whites. The Jews were thus largely left alone. The author was the only Jew in her elementary school. She showed natural running ability at an early age, and after collecting a bunch of victories in footraces, she became a source of local pride for the community. So she was tolerated, even though she was Jewish.

In August 1961, the author was chosen to represent her homeland of South Africa in the Maccabi Games, a competition for Jews held in Israel. She met athletes of all different nationalities, including surprisingly, an Indian Jew. Under apartheid in South Africa, simply having a conversation with an Indian (or any non-fair-skinned person) was a crime, in public or in private.

The South African government used a divide-and-conquer strategy, outlawing assembly of ten or more individuals of dark-skinned tribes. The government fomented hatred of one tribe against another. Signs saying, “Whites Only” or “Non-Whites” were posted in all public places to indicate who was allowed where and what they could do. Whites would be arrested for entering a place bearing the “Non-Whites” sign. The police kept photos of protest-marchers (troublemakers– including whites). A person of any skin color who criticized the government would be punished.

In 1991, after serving 27 years in prison, (black political activist) Nelson Mandela was elected leader of South Africa. The whites were deathly afraid the blacks would wreak revenge against all whites. Mandela was forgiving, and didn’t hold a grudge against his oppressors. But he could’ve– as happened in previous decades when various other African countries achieved independence and a black person became the top leader. The South African whites were relieved as hell.

Read the book to learn much more about the author’s life and times and places.

Joy to MY World – BONUS POST

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If Donald Trump cheers up, this is what he’ll be singing:

JOY TO MY WORLD

sung to the tune of “Joy to the World” with apologies to Three Dog Night.

Giuliani was my bullhorn.
He was a good friend of mine.
I stood behind every word he said,
but our relationship changed over time.
Yeah, I HAD to draw the line.

Singin’ Joy to MY World.
It’s ALL me and rallies now.
Joy to my assistants E-RIC and Donnie.
Joy for my victory.

You know I am the King of the World.
I tell you what I’ll do:
I’ll take away the migrants and the Bidens and the laws
and I’ll get rid-of the states that are blue.

Joy to MY world.
It’s ALL me and rallies.
Joy to my assistants E-RIC and Donnie.
Joy for my victory.

You know I love the ladies.
With the media, I have such fun.
I’m never going to tire, I’m the top survivor,
and a witch-hunt victim but I won, a witch-hunt victim but I won.

Joy to MY World.
It’s ALL me and rallies.
Joy to my assistants E-RIC and Donnie.
Joy for my victory.

Joy to My world.
It’s ALL me and rallies.
Joy to MY World.
Joy to my MAGA rallies.
Joy to My world.
It’s ALL me and rallies.

Joy to IVAN-ka and Jared, too.
Joy to MY whole crew.

Joy to My world.
It’s ALL me and rallies.

Joy to MY world.
It’s ALL me and rallies.
Joy to my assistants E-RIC and Donnie.
Joy for my victory.

Joy to MY world.
It’s ALL me and rallies.
Joy to my assistants E-RIC and Donnie.
Joy for my victory…

Whistles From the Graveyard

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The Book of the Week is “Whistles From the Graveyard, My Time Behind the Camera on War, Rage, and Restless Youth in Afghanistan” by Miles Lagoze, published in 2023.

In 2009, the author joined the Combat Camera division of the U.S. Marines in the war in Afghanistan. Very few people will recall now, that in 2003 the George W. Bush administration aired an ABC-TV reality show (that was soon cancelled due to poor ratings) of his version of that war.

It seems U.S. presidents after Nixon have accepted the fact that they are in a fish bowl, so they have made legacy-oriented practices a point of pride, maximizing propaganda on projects for which they have wanted to be remembered, mostly through their privately-funded presidential libraries.

The most unethical presidents have kept materials to themselves, to be discovered after their deaths as a way to prove they were not just leaders of the free world– but king of the world (Nixon, George W. Bush, Trump).

After the Nixon tapes, the following wanted to be best known for:

  • Ford: the celebration of the United States’ bicentennial;
  • Carter: Camp David Accords– a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt;
  • Reagan: his bringing about the fall of the former Soviet Union (all by himself (!); never mind the heavy dose of his wilful ignorance and plausible denial of the CIA’s international adventures);
  • George H.W. Bush: America’s glory in winning the First Gulf War;
  • Bill Clinton: resuming the dialogue on national healthcare in a big way, and (the lies of) his administration’s giving rise to almost a decade of peace (except for a few terrorist attacks) and prosperity (including balancing the national budget);
  • George W. Bush: (the complete and utter nonsense of) his administration’s bringing democracy to Afghanistan and Iraq (good luck with accessing those classified documents);
  • Obama: pushing through national healthcare and getting rid of Osama Bin Laden (even he hired a videographer in order to make his entire administration a reality show, but king of the world? His political enemies accused him of going on an “around the world apology tour”);
  • Trump: building a wall (?) protecting the nation from a pandemic (?) However, he kept classified documents, and grabbed as much money and power as possible during his time in office, just in case a court rules that executive privilege would protect his every move only during his time in office.

Anyway, according to the book (which appeared to be credible although it lacked Notes, Sources, References, and a Bibliography), the author wrote that medical discharge from the U.S. military confers enormous monthly payments (compliments of American taxpayers) for the rest of one’s life. Some of the young men who volunteered to go to war, changed their minds about fighting, and wished injuries upon themselves in order to get medically discharged. Not the author.

Even so, the author was reluctant to use his gun during the few times when he was told to. Most of the time, he was a camera operator of footage containing frat-boy shenanigans; some of it cold-hearted, sadistic, disgusting, and always insane (mutilated bodies, cruelty to animals, etc.).

After he came home upon completing his four-year military contract, he and a friend decided to make a video of the war, which he posted on YouTube. He described his role as “The souvenir aspect of war tourism for the young and depraved of American society.”

Read the book to learn more about the author’s experiences, and how he and his military buddies fared after they came home.

When – BONUS POST

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The Bonus Book of the Week is “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” by Daniel H. Pink, published in 2018.

The author cited various studies that focused on timing, rather than the contents of events. The results of one study he cited, indicate a counter-intuitive aspect of human nature.

The study asked different groups of subjects to evaluate the overall moral character of a fictional man who was hypothetically their boss. Different groups were given different scenarios describing his awful and good behaviors. “Indeed, they [the subjects] evaluated a life with 29 years of treachery and 6 months of goodness the same as a life with 29 years of goodness and 6 months of treachery.” When the last 6 months were good, the subjects were forgiving, and seemed to forget the character’s past sins.

Religion might account for some of the study’s results; some evil people find religion when they have a near-death experience– like surviving a plane crash, or surviving a bullet that should have killed them. They believe that when they are baptized, all their sins are washed away. So they empathize with the aforementioned fictional character– their past criminality doesn’t count.

That could be why people elect politicians who are serial criminals, and why men in sinful or controversial fields of work– have an attack of conscience and turn traitor at the ends of their careers. Here is a little ditty about the collective mood in this country, notwithstanding the fact that the people gets the government it deserves.

ANOTHER DAY

sung to the tune of “Another Day” with apologies to Paul McCartney and whomever else the rights may concern.

Every day the media incite wrath,
at the news we glare,
politicians-wrap LAWyers ’round them.
They’re teaming up with corporate chairs.

It’s just another day.

Sidling up to donors,
they know how to schmooze,
dipping in the pockets of the taxpayers.

It’s just another day.

At the office where their powers grow,
they’re one big herd.
Doling out the Kool-Aid.
And we find it hard to trust their words.

It’s just another day.

baa, baa, baa, baa, baa, baa

It’s just another day.

baa, baa, baa, baa, baa, baa

It’s just another day.

So sad, so sad. Sometimes we feel so sad.
Unheard and harmed we dwell
till a less bad leader
comes to give us, a better sell.

Ah, can’t-wait.
Don’t stand us up.
Vote against the-bums,
but some stay,
and we continue to pay.

So sad. Sometimes we feel so sad.

As they plant another story for their favorite cause.
Their colleagues rally ’round them.
We find they don’t obey their own laws.

It’s just another day.

baa, baa, baa, baa, baa, baa

It’s just another day.

baa, baa, baa, baa, baa, baa

It’s just another day.

So sad, so sad. Sometimes we feel so sad.
Unheard and harmed we dwell
till a less bad leader
comes to give us, a better sell.

Ah, can’t wait.
Don’t stand us up.
Vote against the-bums,
but some stay,
and we continue to pay.

So sad. Sometimes we feel so sad.

Every day the media incite wrath,
at the news we glare,
politicians-wrap LAWyers ’round them.
They’re teaming up with corporate chairs.

It’s just another day.

Sidling up to donors,
they know how to schmooze,
dipping in the pockets of the taxpayers.

It’s just another day.

baa, baa, baa, baa, baa, baa

It’s just another day.

baa, baa, baa, baa, baa, baa

It’s just another day.

***

Read the book to learn of additional studies that show how doing certain things at certain times can make a difference.

The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty

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The Book of the Week is “The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, How We Lie to Everyone– Especially Ourselves” by Dan Ariely, published in 2012.

The author presented one way human beings think about ethical behavior in a given situation: the Simple Model of Rational Crime (SMORC). It says someone would do a cost / benefit analysis in order to decide, for instance, whether to park illegally because they’re late for a meeting. Of course, a major factor in their decision-making includes how likely they are to get caught, and if they are caught, how willing they would be to bear the consequences.

The author wrote that SMORC doesn’t take emotion and trust into account, so most people wouldn’t engage in that kind of moral reasoning. With only reciprocity as the sole consideration, an individual using SMORC would require contracts for almost every ethical dilemma. He would spend most of his life in legal battles and litigation; like, Howard Hughes, Ted Turner, and Donald Trump.

Although the author failed to distinguish between guilt and shame, he cited numerous behavioral-economics studies he and other professors conducted (on mostly American subjects) to learn the causes of dishonest behavior, and ways it can be curbed.

The author realized that in a matter of weeks, even he was getting brainwashed by the propaganda of his bosses, because he was receiving generous compensation for serving as an expert witness.

Two ways to reduce cheating included:

  • Having people read or sign an honor-code document (such as the Ten Commandments, or an agreement not to cheat on an exam, or a set of rules, which, if broken, would give them an unfair advantage) before completing a particular task, taking a test, or competing.
  • Having people put their signature at the top of a document, and then fill in the info (such as on an application or tax return), rather than fill in the info and then sign at the bottom.

Read the book to learn of additional ways society can spread more ethical behavior (yes, it can be contagious!) so as to stave off the collapse of modern civilization just a little longer.

Courthouse Crock – BONUS POST

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The New York civil fraud case against Donald Trump and Trump Organization will be rearing its ugly head again soon. Here’s a recap of it thus far.

COURTHOUSE CROCK

sung to the tune of “Jailhouse Rock” with apologies to the estates of Elvis Presley and Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, and to whomever else the rights may concern.

Went to watch a case in New York civil court.
Judge Engoron was there.
He’s a damn good sport.

Trump’s hate speech is distracting
and his intent is to sting.
He’s desperately trying to stay “still a thing.”

It’s crock. Everybody, it’s crock.
Everybody in the GOP bloc–
on the stand was courthouse crock.

Donald Senior played the Witch Hunt card.
Eric had amnesia. He hit back hard.
Don Junior’s emails went crash, boom, bang.
Such was the nature of the Trump Org gang.

It’s crock. Everybody, it’s crock.
Everybody in the GOP bloc–
on the stand was courthouse crock.

Don Junior said to the grilling at-torney:
“My daddy’s the best artist I ever did see.
I myself am delighted with our company.
Accountants shared nothing of the numbers with me.”

It’s crock. Everybody, it’s crock.
Everybody in the GOP bloc–
on the stand was courthouse crock.

The defendants put on an irrelevant show,
when the prosecutors asked, “Where’s this gonna go?”
Judge said, “Calm down, don’t inVITE a mistrial.
Just shut your mouth, ignore Trump’s bile.”

It’s crock. Everybody, it’s crock.
Everybody in the GOP bloc–
on the stand was courthouse crock.

The media tell us Trump’s act is a charade.
They give Trump due process. They give it in spades.
Trump thinks he’s being shifty and saying nix nix.
He wants a mistrial. He’s getting his kicks.

It’s crock. Everybody, it’s crock.
Everybody in the GOP bloc–
on the stand was courthouse crock.
on the stand was courthouse crock.
on the stand was courthouse crock.

Davos Man

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The Book of the Week is “Davos Man, How the Billionaires Devoured the World” by Peter S. Goodman, published in 2022. As the now-cliche joke goes, “You can tell Monopoly is an ancient game because there’s a luxury tax and rich people can go to jail.”

Yearly, about three thousand, super-rich people gather in Switzerland at a five-day conference called “Davos.” The least wealthy people there consist of journalists, academics, diplomats, entrepreneurs, activists and senior government officials. The billionaire-attendees (whom the author called “Davos Man”) pay lip service to the world’s social, economic and environmental problems, and behind closed doors, discuss how to profiteer in connection therewith.

In the last half century, Davos Man has enriched himself through making campaign contributions to politicians who have legislated:

  • monopolistic practices
  • tax cuts
  • excessive deregulation and
  • gutting of social programs.

The above favor powerful, rich people in Silicon Valley, New York City and Washington, D.C. Their propaganda campaigns brainwash the masses into blaming:

  • China
  • immigrants whom they believe are taking their jobs away, and
  • automation

for the working classes’ job losses.

The author argued that the common people in most industrialized nations of the world should blame DAVOS MAN and politicians, who are sometimes one and the same!

Davos Man– the modern-day Robber Barons– salve their consciences through philanthropic activities that are comprised of a tiny, tiny percentage of their businesses’ profits. Plus, the author contended that it is a Cosmic Lie that tax cuts pay for themselves by spurring spending.

During the COVID pandemic, the American Davos Man enriched himself through incestuous corporate / political relationships: “The United States had employed a Rube Goldberg contraption, with [Steven] Mnuchin’s slush fund [in the U.S. Treasury] funneled through Jamie Dimon’s bank [JPMorgan Chase], and Larry Fink’s firm [BlackRock] buying bonds on behalf of the Fed, allowing Steve Schwartzman’s private equity empire [Blackstone Group] to borrow for free.”

The English government convinced many of its people that through Brexit, their nation could decide its own financial fate. But Davos Man actually ended up collecting a boatload of their hard-earned taxes. Meanwhile, Argentina was defaulting on its loans for the tenth time in the last half-century. The aforementioned Davos Man, Larry Fink, blamed Argentina for the resulting disastrous losses of his clients at BlackRock. BUT– his firm was the sucker that lent it the money!

Anyway, read the book to learn of: Davos Man’s activities in various countries of the world– that resulted in skyrocketing wealth for him, and plummeting economic security for everyone else; why the author is still optimistic that the world can reverse the current, cold-hearted global financial climate in which inequality between rich and poor is ever-widening (hint: creative ideas on community cooperatives are in the air, but also– read Amy Klobuchar’s tome on antitrust issues); and the economic history explaining how Davos Man has become so rich and powerful.