Aug 28, 2007

Dying in a Terrorist Attack Makes you a Hero. Dying from Your Government's Neglect & Incompetence Puts you on a Waiting List (maybe)

As long as we pursue stupid policies, more people will die from our own negligence than terrorists will ever kill.

One last gasp of summer before its semi-official end, on the Labor Day weekend. A new school year is upon us; this young 110 Congress (with many very old people in it) comes back in session with the Dems in charge but not in command. The Supremes will start a little later, in October, and I pray to ..Zeus that John Paul Stevens makes it another year on SCOTUS. Personally, I feel the excitement of having a new batch of students and a couple new classes to teach, and I do feel good that I'm able to do a few things I really like. I don't know if it's the best approach, but I often say that I'm fortunate not to live in wretched conditions that so many billions of humans experience in this 21st century.

Just two years ago, we witnessed the horrible scenes from the Gulf states,
notably New Orleans, LA. We shouldn't forget the deplorable response of our government to this disaster. Today, president Bush is asking for another $50 billion to pay for a few weeks' worth of a wasting war overseas--the total cost will soon surpass the trillion dollar mark. Don't tell me that we couldn't have invested this money more wisely--including making America safer through improving the living conditions domestically and internationally; I can think of many ways, smarter ways to spend our national resources. For instance, it'd take 1/5 of Bush's latest request to eradicate malaria in Africa for one year.

Any aid to foreign lands that actually improves the human condition it is in the best interest of the US. We can't kill enough terrorists faster than they're being made, often by our own actions. Being tough and powerful is good only if such are wisely used. Good deeds and good will are more effective than bullets in the long run. And, I'd guess cheaper too.

Obviously it's not only about money, but also of priorities. For example, we spend the most than any other country (percentage of GDP) on healthcare while we leave 45 million [their numbers larger than many countries] uninsured and many more under-insured. Most personal bankruptcies are due to overwhelming medical expenses, and most of those are from people who do have some kind of health insurance.

The scenes [often witnessed in underdeveloped countries] from New Orleans two years ago revealed an unpleasant truth about the US--a reality we have to face if we're to make progress. We should begin by carefully examining our national priorities. But, we all need to pay more attention and demand accountability from our leaders who we should elect after serious consideration. Elections have consequences, and it's a serious duty of every citizen to participate in the affairs of his/her nation.

The conservatives often said that they wanted to shrink the government so much that it could drown in a bathtub. In reality what they've done under the curren
t regime is to shrink the social services (like cutting S-CHIP) while increasing the size & scope of Big Brother! Spending money on a war of (bad) choice, while transferring wealth to the top-tier income bracket. No, we need health insurance, we need libraries, we need a good public transportation system, we need access to education, we need consumer protection, we need national parks, we need clean environment, etc.

I think we have our priorities all screwed up, and we often fall into the trap that we can't afford all those goodies. Well, let's see where the money goes, including the wealth that's shifted through tax policy. Let's have an honest debate about it. I understand that not every person has the same priorities, but I'm willing to bet that most Americans, given the facts, would not vote for a politician who promises to vote for a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage, while he also votes to build a bridge to nowhere for several hundred millions of dollars. What's more important, having true family values, like health insurance for kids & parents, or conducting unnecessary wars every 25 years on false pretenses?

The list goes on... Life too, if you're lucky!

PS. One year ago, I wrote another post on the anniversary of Katrina. It contains interesting facts about, and reactions to that disaster. Here is the link.

Aug 14, 2007

Is Carl Rove the Mother Teresa of US Politics? [editor's note: the testimony to his miracles have commenced...Sainthood to follow]

Scene One. Ext.-The White House. VO: Bush's Brain has just left the building.... Dick remains to finish job!

It seems that, at least in the public domain, credibility, accolades, popularity, acceptance, image, attention, etc, often have nothing to do with what a revered person has actually done in his life. If you stay around long enough, you're in the public eye [read: any publicity], there'll always be millions of admirers who want to rub shoulders with you and add to your fame by going hysterical over you.

When a person exits [pick any scenario here], there's also the tendency to mostly remember the good deeds while exaggerating the achievements. It's the Mother Teresa phenomenon--whereas mainly facilitating (a Catholic) death can lead to sainthood! Do you see this being repeated?

Carl Rove--also known as "Bush's brain,"and an "architect" of the neo-conservative wave that screwed up our country-- is leaving this failed administration. I say, good riddance! On the other hand, I wouldn't mind Rove staying and designing strategy for the 2008 elections. Honestly, I would... judging from his brilliant takes on the 2006 Congressional elections. Not to mention what conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan said about Rove.

While the deification process is already going on (including by the so-called liberal media), there are few of us who are passing the vomit bucket around. Why? Because we think winning a few battles at any cost isn't always worth it. In other words, the ends don't necessarily justify the means. Yet, the latter seems to be the case here. You seriously divide the country, by injecting fanaticism and falsehoods to motivate your political base. When you don't really care for anything other than achieving and using power to benefit your own narrow political goals, then you are not performing a service to your country but to your own boss and your own exclusive socio-political tribe.

This is exactly what Rove did. But, especially in this White House, the rewards and appreciation don't come based on serving the commonwealth, but rather the ruling elite. We've seen so many others--very incompetent persons in high political offices--who were promoted, given medals, or left the government with "honors" for plush positions in the private sector.

As much as I dislike those individuals who abuse their power and public benefits--particularly when they're entrusted to act in the interest of the commonwealth--I also don't like those who supposedly try to appear above politics by pretending they give an opportunity to all sides to express all points of view... First, not all points of view carry the same weight or validity. Secondly, more often than not we don't have a free and informative forum where we discuss the important public issues.

Usually what happens in the media is about the same narrow interests who want to maintain those socio-economic relations in our country. Needless to say, the status quo (the prevailing conditions) favors, well, the status quo. I don't know if it's a human propensity to want to exaggerate the positive and minimize the negative, but when it comes to a public figure, I think, we need to carefully examine his/her actions, and not re-construct an image to our liking. In Rove's case, unless you're a hard-core neocon and of the small class of beneficiaries, you can't possibly say that his tenure in the White House was a good thing.

But, success isn't an absolute value. Myth-making is still a thriving industry. Have you heard of memes? This is what's going on today. Once a meme reaches a critical mass, then it becomes part of the collective folklore. It doesn't really matter what reality is. The perception is what matters the most. All societies, to various degrees, are prone to creating memes and public myths. I won't go into the sociological/anthropological value of such practice, but in this 21st century America, I'd expect a little more sophistication.

Why, for example, we still give a public forum to people who have been wrong about almost everything? Where's the credibility? How does a person earn that? Where's the self-criticism? Where's the, "I'm sorry, I was totally wrong on this one"? Or, is it the celebrity factor that counts more than anything else? I think it often does! Sadly.

Yes, it's not only the Faux News that hires those talking heads to spew propaganda and engage in infotainment. I'm in the academia, and I've seen it too often for my liking. The likes of George Will and Bill Kristol [and more Carl Rove soon] that deliver commencement addresses, give lectures, etc, while they're maintaining their political views without being challenged on their very recent and certain pronouncements about, say, the war in Iraq...

Will anyone-- including the PhDs and other intellectuals--ever publicly challenge Dr. Rice on her assumptions, decisions and public statements? Shouldn't this happen when she's offered a forum to express her opinions? This is beyond being courteous. Charlatans must be exposed and ridiculed. If a person argues the world is flat, then, unless ships have fallen off the horizon, such claims must be challenged! Since, persons like Rice, Kristol, Rove, Rumie, Powel, Wolfie, et al--and all the other "experts"--have indeed told us the earth was flat, (in no uncertain terms nonetheless), why the heck do they still get to peddle their "expertise"? Ah, it's the celebrity factor. Oh, and to appear that we don't have a ..liberal bias!

I was just an undergraduate student when I learned that if an external power (that's imposed on the local populace) wants to establish peace and order, as in Iraq, it needs to have a monopoly of violence! In other words, it needs overwhelming force to freeze everything. Wasn't Condoleezza Rice, Ph.D, aware of this when she was making US foreign policy? When, I dare ask, applied ignorance is a disqualifier for further public exaltation? Is power, is single-mindedness, is stubbornness in light of contrary evidence a virtue? Is achieving a goal--no matter of its nature--a higher value, even if it's achieved by whatever means?

So, where do you feel like contributing today when you confronted with a Rovian reality? To the sheep's bleat, or to the vomit bucket?

PS. I had the same reaction with the almost-universal eulogy of Jerry Falwell when he died.

Editor's note: I know it's summertime and we should take it easy--enjoying the opportunities for fun & games and leisure time--but occasionally the conversation can degenerate into harsh political reality, because, heck, politics is what we do; it's what we've invented to get things done. When the test for "done" is a fork in my backside, then I pounce. OK, now I feel better; back to enjoying Perseid showers and Long Island teas. Happy rest of summer to all of you dear bloggers and readers alike.

Aug 12, 2007

Experts on (Eaves) Droppings

Part 1. You may not know much about Mugabe of Zimbabwe, but this brutal dictator has destroyed his country. Yet, there are signs that our country has something to teach him. After all, under Bush's doctrine, the US should export some of the goodies we enjoy here. Stop, don't pop the bubbly just yet. Mugabe made a domestic surveillance law, like any other dictator who wants to control the private lives of his "subjects." All in the name of national security of course! This "interception of communications bill" will give his government the authority (as if it needed a permission) to eavesdrop on phone, internet communications, and read all mail, electronic & regular. Bush's actions have been an inspiration to our enemies and all the enemies of democracy & freedom. Nice legacy Dubya!

Part 2. I was drinking my morning coffee when I read this and I laughed in a way that coffee came out of my nose! So, be warned. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez is going to Iraq to offer advice on how to build their judicial system! Need to say more?....

Aug 8, 2007

Why Summer is so Special...

The journeys (some real, some imaginary) of summers past were mostly great experiences.

The past year was the hottest on record, while the winter of 2006-2007 was the warmest. Maybe this doesn't mean anything other than New York becoming Florida in a few years, but I suppose it's good to know what the heck is going on, and whether it's good or bad. If it's bad--as the consensus of the scientific community says--then what can humans do to to help, especially if we are responsible for causing or adding to global warming. Scientists who don't work for the energy industry (or for BushCo) tell us that we are responsible. The earth might be doing its own thing, but we're the only modern species that have had such a great impact on the global environment since the industrial revolution.

But, this post is about the past. The personal past that resides in your memory cells. What was your early summers? What was so special about them? I think everyone has fond memories of summers while growing up. So, let's hear about your stories... [comments section open]

First, summer meant time off--not just a short break from school, but a long one when a kid could actually see himself/herself grow up, through experiences and even physically. I had more scrapes & bruises in the summer; they taught me to suck it up and deal with them, and they were usually badges of a good time. I had time to do stuff, to be myself. I had time! Yet, that elusive time flew by faster than anything else. After the 4th of July, it was like counting down, from freedom to bondage.

In the summer, I didn't have to answer questions like, "how's school going?" or, "what have you learned lately?"...

Did you happen to meet new people during this season? Chances are you did, like most of us. New friends, perhaps a new amore entered the picture. Did you have to say "goodbye" to that person in September? That sucked!

We are who we are partly because of our memories. That's why I tell my friends to create memories every day if possible. I mean, create something, experience something that you'd want to take with you in the future. And, when you look back, you can remember the many good things; it's wonderfully satisfying, don't you think? For me, it's the many little goodies that make a big difference in life; usually it's not the big (and rare) events that determine personal happiness.

So, do you think summer was special for you? Care to share?....