Feb 25, 2006

How We Look at Things Shows Who We Are (well, mostly...)

Who's up to the challenge?
Art is in the eye of the beholder, much like watching & judging the figure skaters I suppose. Life often imitates art—or is it the other way around? Anyway, I think it’s good to live life creatively and with an open mind. This doesn’t mean that I have to accept everything thrown at me, nor that something which isn’t tasteful to me should be discarded or banned. I’m comfortable with other points of view, even if I totally disagree with them. I believe in individual liberty and I justify the need for freedom not by appealing to Natural Rights but to utility.

Freedom is a good thing because it promotes the “permanent interests of man as a progressive being,” wrote
J.S. Mill. Both individuals and society benefit if people are encouraged to think and act freely! Totalitarian cultures & regimes produce a certain kind of people, who are not very likely to be inquisitive and confident enough to seek change. Some of our practices today we think as normal and rational—like equal rights for all the races and genders—have been considered “abnormal” and against the “natural order of the universe” for much of human history! [Do you know that slavery still exists today? Yes, the selling of human beings!]
What's fragile?
I also subscribe to the Harm Principle, that is, a person can do whatever he wants as long as his actions do not threaten or harm others. Government’s interference with individual liberty in order to protect a person’s “own good” is not “a sufficient warrant,” as Mill noted. Of course there are those who argue that certain speech threatens the fabric of society and therefore should be purged. I simply don’t agree. Making others uncomfortable is no reason to stomp freedom and fee speech. Socrates, Galileo, and Jesus were among those individuals who irritated their societies. Yet, their non-conformist ideas benefited society, even helped transform it!

Being progressive liberals means that we recognize the need to keep the dialogue going and open, even if we don’t accept all that’s being put forward. The marketplace of ideas requires active thinking and constant evaluation, but nevertheless it’s an exciting exercise. Humans are capable of reason—we know this much—but they don’t always act in the light of reason. Obviously when you have to struggle for survival, you don’t have the luxury of a dabbling in philosophy; even serious introspection & reflection is out of reach when you’re dead tired. Modernity has brought leisure time and ..laziness; so, sometimes we’re slower in developing a better understanding of the world, and in building a better, freer, more rational society.

Age of Enlightenment?
Institutions (formal or informal) that propagate uncritical thinking, fear, and superstition have inflicted great harm to humanity. Yet, they too should have the protection of free speech, even if themselves are enemies of free (dissenting) speech!

Recently, I paid a visit to the Museum of Modern Art (
MOMA) in New York City where I spent several hours being challenged. Yes, it was a challenge to understand what the heck those artists were trying to tell me. I don’t know that much about art, and I often wondered whether the artist’s creation was a message to the world or an expression meaningful only to him and couldn’t care less what others thought about it. Anyway, MOMA has some odd-looking pieces that defy explanation and even description! But, that’s OK with me. I wasn’t there to buy artwork, not to adopt any particular artistic style as my favorite. However, I came out of the museum elated. If that art can do this to me, it’s worthwhile in my estimate.

Why do people fear something they don’t understand? It must be a primal reaction. It is, though, a political and cultural reality, and many people operate with such an attitude. I bet you that the reason some of the right wing-nuts who are opposing the port deal today is because they fear all Arabs; while the neo-con view of the world is 95% America, 3% water, and 2% “all other”. Further, we have too many bigots and racists in this country, and anyone who doesn’t realize this lives in a blissful parallel universe. I think I can speak for the liberals I know and for a great number of other progressives when I say that our objection to this deal has nothing to do with racism, xenophobia, or temporary insanity! It’s is the past conduct of those involved in the deal—both sides—that we don’t like. What is to like from cronyism, incompetence in handling national security issues, on one side, and helping terrorists move & hide their finances on the other side?

Tools of the Taliban?
I think the conservatives and the Taliban of all stripes are afraid of things they don't understand, that why they destroy other people's temples, art that is different than their brand, and, ultimately, they de-humanize the others. This de-humanization helps to justify all sorts of attrocious behavior. Sadly, even a democratic country like the US has demonstated such
terrible behavior in times of crisis. I believe that it is our duty as citizens to speak up; as a matter of fact it's our patriotic duty to criticize ill-conceived policies and question the rulers when they're wrong. We can't give up our civil rights, our hard-won freedoms in exchange for some unquantifiable security. In the end, those who give up liberty for safety not only deserve neither--as Ben Franklin said--but unfree people aren't safe from their own rulers! Think about it; history is a good teacher.

I become very skeptical when someone employs the politics of fear to try to "convince" me about the need for action, or, for me to give up something. The creation of the Devil has been one of the most ingenious inventions, for it has motivated & scared people into submission. The language used by those in charge (either of our government or our ..salvation) bears this stamp, "the evil empire," "the axis of evil," "the evil doers", etc. Bush has raised the stakes by asking us [when he asks anyway, which isn't always] to give up more than the previous generation during the Cold War, because now the war on terror has no end and is everywhere!

Come on, we have so many means at our disposal for making this life a meaningful one--meaning that every individual decides for him/herself. We can all be Renaissance persons to some extend; it takes an effort, but we don't have a good excuse for being lazy and not use the best tool we have at our disposal. [What's that?!!] We can create our own art and blaze our own trails. Otherwise, we'll spend our lives in perpetual immaturity. That can't be a good thing I reckon.

Pictures by GP from the exhibits at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City.

Feb 21, 2006

It Would Be Outrageous Under Any Name or Pretext. (It's All About Conduct)

Updated Post, 2/23/06, below
Our ports just became more vulnerable
Hillary is the President and we’ve just learned that she’s been illegally spying on Americans and she wants lots more executive power to “protect America” even if this means operating torture (overt or covert) facilities and “rendition” programs in violation of a bunch of “old laws that don’t apply to today’s reality.” That she has surrounded herself with a bunch of extremists whose main qualification is loyalty to her & her corporate interests. She has had long and profitable relations with Arab leaders whose countries have been known to support terrorism. Her family has close ties to the Saudis (where 15 of the 19 highjackers on 911 came from), and the only civilian airplane to fly right after that tragedy was the one to carry Saudis out of the US. Hillary lied to Congress and the American people to launch a very costly & on-going war in Iraq that has made America from the most loved country to the most hated one in the world.

Now, insensitive to the feelings formed in our country after 911, she’s giving control of all US major seaports to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The conservatives are outraged and are demanding the impeachment of the President for high crimes & misdemeanors, according to Artile 2, Section 4 of the US Constitution. After all, this conduct rises way above the bar set a few years ago when another President lied about a sexual tryst and was impeached for it. Can you believe it?

For a President that has been talking big about national security, he has shown utter incompetence and indifference to the needs of our troops & the veterans. Bush hasn’t done much to make our country safer. Sure, he can talk in the abstract about preventing terrorist attacks, but his policies show a different track. Katrina, four years after 911, revealed how unprepared and bloated with political cronies Bush’s administration is. Now he’s giving control to a UAE company, Dubai Ports World, not only our ports but much of the US Army’s movement of its military equipment—which flows out of two Texas ports.

Let’s see what the UAE/Saudis have been up to in the last few years. They have been the transfer point for nuclear material to Iran, Libya, and North Korea. They had been the only countries that recognized the Taliban in Afghanistan as the legitimate government. [remember that war & Mr. “Bin Missing”?] When the US asked for help to examine the financial transactions of Al Qaeda through UAE banks, they refused, just as they have been uncooperative with our investigations regarding terrorist attacks against us.

When the Chief Homelander, Michael Chertoff, was asked about it on CNN, he refused to explain why the administration has turned over control of operations at six of the nation’s largest ports to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates, a country with dubious ties to international terrorism: “The discussions are classified. I can’t get into the specifics here…As far as my agency is concerned, port security really rests principally with the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection.” OK, in other words, “stop asking, we know better!” Sure, I cannot see any reason why we would not trust this administration…

I don’t know what to make of the following facts: Papa Bush was in a business meeting with a brother of Osama Bin Landen when the 2 planes hit the twin towers on 911. Dubya’s first oil partner in Texas was a Bin Landen who later got killed in a private airplane accident. Strange coincidence. I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist/adherent, but if I were I'd say one of the Bushes may be the anti-Christ, hell-bent to bring about Armageddon. It could be good for business, especially for Bushco. And, if you profess to be a born-again Christian, who knows, maybe you'll get to see the good side of Rapture. It's a win-win situation!

So, what is your area of expertise?
Meanwhile, back in the real world, we have elected people who don't give a damn about the rest of us. And, having Americans, like FEMA'S Brownie, in charge doesn't exactly make me confident and secure. Why, Bush has surrounded himself with inccompetent people. Can you name one cabinet member (past & present) who's done an outstanding job? Has there been anyone who hasn't compromised his/her integrity?
I hear the laughter behind our backs, you know the kind, when the salesman thinks we deserve to be ripped off because we're stupid and we haven't done our homework....

Addendum (Updated, 2/23/06)
Bush hasn't vetoed a single piece of legislation since he took office, but he's ready to do so if Congress acts to invalidate the selling of American ports to a state-run company with dubious reputation. His spokesman, McClellan, lied again when he said that the top brass and the Secretary of Defense had been asked and approved of the action. Rummie came out and said he knew nothing about it and heard on the news this past weekend. Likewise for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace who also said that he found out about the deal over the weekend. The deal was concluded back on February 13th.

If there are any persons left who maintain the illusion that we're safer today, they should read
this. The US authorities failed twice to to detect a shipment of depleted uranium in a container sent by ABCNEWS from overseas as part of a test of security at American ports. The 15 lbs containers went undetected through the New York/NJ and Los Angeles ports. "If they can't detect that, then they can't detect the real thing," explained Tom Cochran, a nuclear physicist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, which lent the material to ABCNEWS for the project. Both containers were clearly labeled "RADIOACTIVE" when shipped from Asia to the US!

The race card
El Presidente, all the right-wingnuts, (and curiously, some progressives), have been trying to attach extraneous attributes--like racism--to this argument in order deflect the criticism and to make it easier to shoot down. What's unacceptable to me is that this adminstration handles security issues incompetendly. There is a huge public record out there about this, and most of us are very familiar & very uncomfortable with Bushco's policies regarding national security. [Those who care about racism, conditions of ..serfdom, and treatment of foreign workers, should
check out UAE.]

Further, the deal to sell our seaports--a very sensitive security gate--to foreigners has to do with ..security indeed. I don't care if the persons in charge are white, black, green or purple, as long as they're qualified and are thoroughly checked to meet security clearance because of the sensitivity of their work. We do just that throughout our sensitive areas of our government, non-citizens are often denied security clearance, and those who get it usually don't have ties or have abetted terrorists! Of course, we have to ask questions and exhibit an alertness the Bush administration lacks. This issue slipped by [
this is the timeline of the deal] for a week, when (as noted above) several key members of the US government weren't aware of the sale; some reports say that even the President didn't know until a few members of Congress raised objections!

Lastly, our concerns, much like our liberal attitude towards people, has to do with standards of conduct not with ethnic orgin, race, and religion. Why wouldn't you raise an eyebrow or two upon learning that the keys to our door were handed over to people & a country with a very questionable conduct? The blue-ribbon 9-11 Commission (to name one source) has documented aplenty the connections between UAE and terrorists.

Feb 14, 2006

Our Lonely Planet is the Only Home We've Got

Science and Common Sense Dictate Our Environment is at Risk
We got record-level snowfall this past weekend here in the New York Metro area. Actually I liked it; though I would have preferred a “snow day” on Monday too. It wasn’t too bad though, as the roads I had to use were OK, and I didn’t terribly mind working that day as I enjoy my job at the university. Thank goodness we didn’t need FEMA or the Homelanders. Any time there is some extreme weather, I can’t help but wonder about the state of our environment. Obviously there has been a warming trend in the last 30 years and all indications point to this phenomenon continuing in the foreseeable future. The question for us to ponder is whether this trend is the result of human activity or is it part of the earth’s cycle.

I believe it’s good to be a skeptic, though open-mindedness is necessary. Perhaps we can’t come up with a definitive answer as to the causes of global warming right now, but this doesn’t mean we should sit back and do nothing. Who can really argue that our energy needs and our wasteful ways do not produce huge amounts of pollution? Just on these grounds we have to sit up and take notice. Unfortunately, there is more
bad news. Humans have been responsible for dumping incredible amounts of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere (and in the oceans through absorption)—so much that we alone may be responsible for increasing the global temperature by 2-3ยบ Celsius. It’s a risk assessment, and it appears that we are at risk.

Granted, the earth has had temperature cycles in the past, but because of our species’ technological advances for the first time in geological history there has been such an influence on earth’s climate. NASA’s top climatologist, Dr.
James Hansen, has issued an alarm, “Multiple lines of evidence indicate that the Earth’s climate is nearing, but has not passed, a point or no return, beyond which it will be impossible to avoid climate change with far ranging undesirable consequences.” So, can we tip the balance to the point of no return? Dr. Hansen was one of the many scientists who participated in the New School’s Conference on Politics & Science this February in NYC, and all agreed that we have to be pro-active, and the US a leader, in reducing the emission of gases that contribute to global warming.

Of course, there are those (too many) who believe that we are living in the “end of times” [check the
Rapture Index], and there are those who believe in the divinity of the marketplace to regulate everything under the sun. We also have the socio-economic elites in power who gain so much today from lax environmental standards that they’re willing to skew the scientific evidence to fit their political agendas. NASA, NOAA, EPA and so many other federal agencies have been under pressure from the Bush administration to suppress data that’s politically inconvenient. Scientists have been assigned “minders” who monitor what the scientists say to the media & the public! But, it’s no secret that El Presidente Bush is no fan of science, and the Republican Party has started a war on science for good measure too. [Read Chris Mooney’s book on the subject]

When half of the people in the world don’t have access to clean water, when acid rain is destroying forests, when polluted air shortens lives, then we have lots to do to improve our housekeeping and stewardship of our lonely planet this side of the universe. We don’t have to wait to make it a better place to live in; it’s for our own good and it will feel superbly invigorating. For starters, we have to kick out those who’ve been partying at our expense and have been messing our house. Let’s pick up a broom and put it to good use…

Fishing for whatever bites the lure
Besides, I'm tired seeing them distort science, common sense, the English language, and ..hunting! Maybe it's their privileged, elite in-bred, upbringing that makes them unable to understand. For example, they think hunting is getting in an SUV, driving to a ranch, and shooting some farm-raised birds that were just released for their target practice! Oh yeah, and according to Barbara Bush (the elder witch) sleeping on cots in the Astrodome is like camping in the woods! Anyway,it was probably an upgrade for "those underprivileged people" ...Tsk, tsk.

Addendum: Bobby Kennedy has written a great book, Crimes Against Nature, exposing in detail the conservatives' attack on the environment. It's a must-read for those who want to understand how the economic elites and their advocates take over power (via Republican presidents since Reagan) and are placed in charge of the "common good" which in turn they plunder for the benefit of the big fat corporations and to the detriment of our interest and our health.

Humans have been around for only a few tens of thousands of years--a blink of an eye in geological terms--but we may be pushing Gaia to a "tipping point." There is a new book out, The Revenge of Gaia, by James Lovelock, who adds his voice to those who believe our Mother Earth is about to catch a fever that may last 100,000 years! Interesting stuff, even for a skeptic.
[my thanks to Elizabeth and Gus Karam for bringing this book to my attenton]

Feb 7, 2006

Cartoon Controversy Shows We Need More Liberals in the World

Who's Afraid of Offensive Speech, Art, and  Ideas? 

I believe in the freedom of speech. I am a thinking, rational person. I have my own set of morals and values, and, yes, I do find several things that other people say &do as offensive or disgusting. However, I do not see vile speech as an infectious threat, thus I do not need to inoculate myself by killing it as a “virus of the mind.” Being a liberal doesn’t mean I have to accept everything thrown at me. On the contrary, I have a very discriminating brain, which is skeptical but open. Being a liberal also means that I can tolerate expressions I don’t like. Want to know a main difference between liberals and the "Taliban of all stripes" ? Here it is: The Al Qaeda type wants to kill everything they don’t like; the American type wants to ban everything they don’t like. We liberals laugh at, we may get angry at, and we boycott stuff we don’t like!

As a liberal, I welcome being in charge of myself and accept the responsibility of my actions. I want to be trusted with all sorts of information, even exposed to ideas that may contradict my own point of view. I see life as something to be treasured, enjoyed (in the here and now), and take it as an opportunity to explore whatever is out there and tickles my fancy. I choose not to live my life trying to avoid offending the gods, be in fear of them, always try to strike a bargain with them. Nor do I think I have to resort to violence in the extreme to prove that I’m a worthy believer and a soldier against offensive speech, particularly against anything that offends the divine.

Who Accepts the Devil?

That is why I do not buy the argument, "the devil's out there ready to destroy us." The Devil does not exist; evil does! However, evil is perpetuated by humans alone. “The Devil made me do it,” is a lame argument in my judgment, though it’s been amply used, and, worse, many people even buy into it! How? Well, when they say that they want to kill offensive speech because it may incite violence. When they say that we must be protected from anything that threatens our soul and the "fabric of our society." In other words, we're not to be trusted with what they deem "dangerous material." Well, some of us are up to the task.

I don’t doubt that offensive speech can make people violent, but is this a good reason to limit speech? In this country we protect, as we should, the free speech rights of vile organizations like the KKK, the neo-Nazis, and all the other idiots--who are tryinng to appeal to the other closed-minded bigots since they can't put forth any thoughtful argument. They can't reach me. I am more suspicious of people who are after my soul than of those who are after my money. As for accessing my grey matter, they need to come up with some good rational argument to gain access.

Orwell's a Classic
I understand the world a bit, so I do realize that those
cartoons (originally appeared in a few European publications months ago and republished recently) featuring the Prophet Mohammed do offend a great number of Muslims. Art has been known to inflame and insult. Art is speech, and, like George Orwell said, “if liberty is to mean anything, it means the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear.” Those cartoons weren’t gratuitous in the abstract, but they had a point of view (I’m posting a couple of them for you to see here). I agree with Keenan Malik who wrote, “Far from censoring offensive speech, a vibrant and diverse society should encourage it. In any society that is not uniform, grey and homogenous there are bound to be clashes of viewpoints. Inevitably some people will find certain ideas objectionable.” I suppose that any cartoon that would critize the status of the (subjugated) women in a traditional Muslim society would also be provocative, insulting, and inflamatory to millions of people in the world today. Some of the rioters might be women too!

The Need for Liberal Democracies
Since there aren’t any liberal democracies in the Arab world, it’s hard to know how many Muslims find the on-going violent attacks justified. But, the lack of a liberal political system breeds intolerance and promotes a suffocating religious conformity. I want to emphasize the “liberal” aspect of the political system. Democracy is indeed a good political system since the majority elects its leaders; the people have to be consulted regularly & frequently; there is freedom of speech, etc. But, it is the liberal democracy which guarantees minority rights—be that of a small group or an individual.

We are fighting to maintain and strengthen our liberal democracy here in our country, something that the American “Taliban” (religious Christian fundamentalists) sees as a threat. For them liberalism is like the Devil who can manipulate the hearts & minds of the people. Again, it’s a “protection” thing—protects us from evil; and, the God’s emissaries know best. I believe that our Christian religious extremists have much in common with the Muslim extremists; the name of the prophet is different and God has written & delivered different versions of his book to the different groups which are utterly convinced only they hold the authentic copy.

Graphic Depictions of Violence
There are many brave persons in the Muslim world, like those Jordanian newspaper
editors who published the controversial cartoons while saying, “Muslims of the world be reasonable!” They were promptly fired and arrested! Here’s a great point by Jihad! I’m talking about Jihad Momani who wrote, “What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?” How true!

There are also reasonable religious leaders who have urged restraint. I welcome the comments of the Iraqi Grand Ayatollah, Al Sistani, who said that militant Islamists were partly to blame for distorting the image of Islam. On the other hand, the rioting continues, people are being killed, and there is no shortage of bigots who want to escalate the controversy; like the biggest Iranian newspaper that has launched a Holocaust cartoon competition! Who said that God made us in his own image… I wonder what exactly this means… With all the terrible things humans have been doing to each other, he probably has second thoughts about including this creation in his resume. But who knows for sure?
Effort Required
What I know through observation and reason is that the world would be a better place if we had more liberals in it. It would be better for the non-liberals too! They would be free to believe whatever they want and would have equal opportunities to offend the rest of us—as they do today in this country and in other liberal democracies. So, let’s make sure we protect this precious thingy we call liberty!

Feb 3, 2006

At least Three More Years of Darkness: Groundhog Says

Protection Against Mind Manipulation?
I know most Americans didn’t watch the President’s speech the other day, and those who did thought this guy isn’t doing much to improve the lives of the “average person.” I was playing the... drinking game, whereas I had to imbibe some alcohol every time Bush said his favorite phrases, terror, 911, freedom, democracy, to protect, etc. It was a trip let me tell you, yet, no amount of drinking can take the edge off the painful experience I go through every time I hear this man speak. It’s not his “nukelar” vocabulary—especially when he talks unscripted—but it’s the realization that our country is led by a bunch of selfish people. I’m not sure to what extend their incompetence stems from the lack of sense and sensibility, but it doesn’t really matter.

I always recommend George
Orwell’s books, like, Animal Farm, and, 1984. Although he wrote many decades ago, his themes have been very relevant today as well the past. In Animal Farm he shows us how a society can be organized, theoretically on merit and need, but in reality the elite is “more equal” than the rest. In 1984, he shows us how a totalitarian regime operates by using the politics of fear, the crushing of individuality, the spying, repressive conformity, the leader-knows-best, the re-writing of history, and Newspeak (when words have lost their true meaning as applied to reality).

So, we have a few people who are “better than others,” not by ability, but by ascribed status. This inner circle usualy has disdain for most of the commoners because the latter are easily deceived, especially when their emotional buttons are pressed; they further demonstrate their ignorance by voting against their own interests. The myth of socio-economic mobility is holding well, because who has time to check the facts? Have we realized that the actual income for 90% of Americans [yes, it includes YOU], when adjusted for inflation, has fallen in the last 25 years? Or, that the gap between the super-rich and the rest has grown exponentially in the same period? People like to hear about tax cuts, but how many people really know that we’re giving even more to those who already have lots, and we’re doing it by increasing our national debt, and by cutting services the rich don’t need/use but are essential for the “other” Americans? “We are not doing it, they are!” is often the retort. But I don’t buy it! We elected “them”; they act on our behalf though not in our best interest.

Hurricane Katrina gave us ample warning and when it struck it blew away the emperor’s clothes; those make-believe clothes that had been woven with much fanfare for four years, since 9-11.They needed more powers to protect us they said; we gave them such. They want even more, and have argued the Nixonian line, “when the President does it, it’s not illegal.” Meanwhile, the expanded bureaucracy suffers not from quantity but quality. For example, Horse playing is a good enough qualification to be hired as FEMA director. [OK, he did bring lots of money to Republican coffers too]. The remaining fig leaf cover was blown away too when Congress returned from its summer vacation, few days after the Katrina disaster, and the Republicans' first concern was to push a bill to revoke the estate tax! It’s the one I call, “the Paris Hilton gift,” since it benefits the children of the supper rich (less than 1% of Americans).
Double Talk, a.k.a, Newspeak
So, we have presidential declarations about this and that, but when they are compared to presidential policy they fall short or never materialize. Newspeak is “in”. He talks about the “Clean Air Act” and we get more pollution. He talks about “No Child Left Behind” and we have less education (most of it federally unfunded), especially in science. He talks about oil dependence on the Middle East [currently only 13% of our needs] and that he wants to cut this by 75% in 20 years, but his Energy Secretary just came out to say, “don’t take this figure literally.” Who really has the time to pay close attention to his energy bill anyway? Who notices his cuts in programs like biofuel, alternative & renewable energy? How about conservation, CAFE standards and environmental policy? The additional $70 billion he asked for the war effort when combined with the past and future expenditures for the Iraq war could have been spent on programs to make America less dependent on oil. That’s a debt I’d welcome, and whose payoff would be far greater and more universal in the benefits distribution.

The wealthy Romans—the ones who had power—felt a duty to keep the masses entertained, so they arranged for gore fests in the Coliseum. Our present day emperor, his senate, and the other patricians, act in like manner. OK, the carnage is kept overseas, where our legionnaires are vanquishing the barbarians, but the national myths are well fed and promoted. We are a remarkable country indeed, but we’re rapidly losing ground. We may have the best health care system in the world, but the question is how many Americans have access to it. Of course the capitalist system is a system of inequality (and this isn’t necessarily bad), but that’s why we have a government to make sense of it and not let it run amok. Personally, I don’t find it meaningful to say, “between Bill Gates and me we have a gigantic fortune!

Those in power would like us to feel superior and content. In the abstract, we do compare favorably to the best countries out there. We can say we spend twice as much on healthcare per person than others but we are the only advanced country that doesn’t have universal health care coverage—with more than 45 million Americans uninsured. Don’t they count? Where’s the compassionate conservatism? Who's worthy of compassion? I find it shocking that we’re
28th in infant mortality and, although climbing, life expectancy in the US is much lower than other countries. For the wealth and abilities we have at our disposal, we aren't doing as well as we should, and, most importantly, we aren't giving our children the best we can.

I’m offended by Newspeak too. They say one thing, they mean & do the opposite. The President talks to us like we’re like little children; well, maybe we are, but I’m fed up by the dumbing down. What’s up with the President’s anti-intellectualism and anti-scientific stance? Is he trying to be folksy, or is he a wolf in sheep's clothing? He had a chance (via ascribed status) to attend a first-rate school—not that he did much with this opportunity, but he didn’t have to. He came from a privileged family [a "dynasty" according to the very Republican Kevin Phillips--read his books] with connections to money and power. But, most Americans aren’t that fortunate. Yet, the President and his Praetorians in Congress don’t believe in using the power of the government to improve the lives and chances of the “average person.” Maybe they are the new Kalvinists [they believed that only some persons were “chosen” by birth, and there was nothing one could do to jump ship; Martin Luther and the Reformation attempted to change this]

It’s obvious that those in privileged positions are always afraid of the “masses.” In the fashion of a Machiavellian advice, keep the masses entertained; feed those masses myths & fear and they’ll leave you alone. They might even cheer you up. They might even buy into the idea that what you’ve got you deserve because you are special! Above all, you don’t want to give them the means to wake up, so you make it difficult for them to get a higher education by cutting billions in student aid/loans. Rip, rape, and burn as much as you can, for you don’t have to feel the ill effects of your actions; besides, the benefits are so great today that even if the ..unthinkable happens, you'll have more than enough to last several generations of your kin. Go ahead, and while at it, cancel the ..winter in the Northeast. Who needs it?

I believe that the quality of our politics is a reflection of the people involved. Further, that there is a strong correlation between the citizens’ level of education and the quality of their politics. Politics is what we do, from the family unit [like choosing to watch 12 hours of football on Thanksgiving as a distraction to family disfunction] to the national level. The question is how we use politics to better our lives, for the maximum benefit & for the greater number of people. Did I mention that our government made cuts in education for the first time in 10 years? At least “freedom is on the march” they tell us. Do you feel as free today as before? Come on, be honest, there is nothing to be afraid of (unless you're not a citizen, in which case please go away as I don't want any problems with the Fatherland Security Apparatus).