Dec 31, 2010

2010: A Year of Political Misfortune, Some Gains, But Still Better Than the Alternative

We've come to the end of yet another year. I know marking this particular day is man-made, but in measuring time we get some perspective on life and how our limited time is used up. Was this a good year? Obviously the answer isn't a simple one, but it may be easier to answer it if we focuses on the political developments here in our country.

In 2010, a Democratic president delved into his 2nd year and a House that will soon be under Republican control. This blog has been very critical of the way president Obama handled many issues important to us. We got the reversal of DADT, financial and consumer protection reforms, but the GOP got benefits for the super rich, the top 2% of Americans. I think a strong president with big majorities in Congress could have gotten a lot more for the middle and lower classes, and for setting the priorities for the future.

The unemployed got some more benefits, the super rich even more, most of the banks were bailed out, Wall Street is giving record-breaking bonuses, and the deficit grew even bigger.

On the other hand, we can't forget what it could have been under a McCain/Palin White House. Seriously, we can't forget this. I do recognize that the "lesser of the two evils" isn't very appealing, but in practical terms it makes a huge difference. We may not be sailing into the desired direction, but we are still sailing and we can still see the horizon. Do I need to explain what the McCain/Palin alternative would have looked like?

Long after a president leaves office, and for some 30 years afterward, his Supreme Court appointees rule on important issues that affect the lives of US citizens (and not only). We could have had a 7-2 SCOTUS conservative majority today--something that would have taken decades to undo. 

Another thing we have to remember is that a president has influence on the kind of narratives we use as a country. You want more of the American Taliban? Vote for a conservative president. Yes, it matters a great deal who are the people in positions of power, public policy implementation, education, science, etc. I don't want conservative ideologues, who prefer a theocracy to a secularism, creation myths to theory of evolution, astrology instead of astronomy, ignorance instead of the scientific method.

Enjoy the holidays, and come back for some more political fighting--fighting for a progressive America.  

Dec 14, 2010

So, We Never Forget (What the Republican Party Stands For)

Jon Stewart sums it up well. Giving an additional 3% tax break to the super rich is way too important, more than anything else on the agenda, so the Republicans blocked all legislative activities before they got their tax deal from Obama. The Dream Act, the repeal of the DADT, and even setting a fund to cover the health care expenses of the 9-11 first responders, all are secondary. Tsk, tsk.

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Dec 8, 2010

Bernie Sanders Amazing Speech and the Plantation Mentality

Since Aristotle, it was understood that extremes of wealth and power is not good for a society--especially a society whose mission statement is to serve the people, that is, the majority of the people not the small elite.

Of course, there is a connection between wealth and power. The interests of the upper wealthy class are well represented in our government and we have an economic policy that reflects this. That's why even when the majority of the American people are against extending the very costly tax breaks to the top 2%, our government is held hostage to the narrow interests of the few.

Since, earlier this year, the Supreme Court decided that corporations can spend any amount of money on political speech, the cost of doing the business of democracy is going to go up, as if it's not in the stratosphere already. How are the voters to decide? Where do they get their information about important issues? The influence of big money could be made less of a dictator in our politics if the people had good, relevant, and timely information. But, this would also require that citizens are engaged, informed, and able to make rational decisions. We have a complicated system of government that promotes gridlock and lacks proper accountability.

Have you noticed that good journalism is diminishing? That media outlets are increasingly dominated by talking heads who blurb opinions without deference to the facts and the truth. There are few sources, like McClatchy News, and, of course, NPR and PBS. Concerned about the deficit, and believing that the truth has a liberal bias, Congressional Republicans want to completely eliminate subsidies to public media, because, they figure, who needs news organizations to inform the public....

When in comes to income inequality and distribution, we have left the company of the advanced, wealthy liberal democracies and are drifting closer to states where elites plunder their countries' resources and abuse their peoples. The plantation mentality is a way for the elites to keep the other classes from realizing their true condition. Controlling the narrative--the story telling, and the issues we discuss as a country--through the media and political leadership has been an effective method.

The video of Senator Bernie Sanders's is an eye-opener, and, I bet you, is news to most Americans. However, I don't expect it to reach the majority of our citizens. Sadly, too many people in the plantation only hear the stories that the elites have preselected for them, while others have bought into certain myths and now suffer from confirmation bias.

Dec 3, 2010

Guess: Is the GOP a Deficit Hawk or a Peacock? They Have Money for the Rich but Not for Hungry Kids

The House passed the bill extending the tax cuts to people who make up to $250,000 a year--this includes the first 250,000 of all taxpayers that make more than that. But, the Senate Republicans are giggling because they won't allow this bill to pass the Senate unless the tax breaks include the rich. Now, why isn't this something Obama blurts out every time he opens his mouth these days?

The best way to infuse cash into the economy is to give it to people who'll spend it right away, not those who'll save it. The unemployed will spend those checks, the rich will save it--because they buy what they want anyway without waiting for the extra tax breaks to do so!

Now the White House is negotiating with Senate Repubs to extend the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy in exchange for extending unemployment benefits. It's crazy! The WH shouldn't be working behind the scenes but in front, pointing out that unemployment benefits are more necessary for boosting the economy (and giving relief to those who need relief) than the very expensive (and long-lasting) breaks to the affluent!

We expect more from Obama--not more than what he promised as a presidential candidate! We don't expect much from the conservatives and this Republican party, other than block any worthwhile bill--like the one to extend free healthy meals to kids! Oh, no, we don't have money for that, they said. But, we do have pocket money for the rich to buy more shrimp cocktails. [by the way, the $4.5 billion this healthy meals program needs is basically a re-allocation of money not extra spending.]

Nov 21, 2010

Pope Benedict in Favor of Universal Health Care! He Also Discovers Positive Uses of Condoms

Suddenly Pope Benedict has heard from God, I guess. It's interesting to see the contortions of the Catholic hierarchy--that's been adamant against condoms--trying to explain the Pope's latest edict that condoms may be appropriate in some circumstances! Just a few months ago, Benedict was saying that condoms are worse than AIDS, and that they do lead to more venereal diseases! Whatever this prince of darkness discovered in the recesses of his own delusional mind, it should be applauded if it leads to progress.

The Catholic Church is a force to be reckoned with, because it has many millions of faithful behind it. Any good deed and any statement in support of a better society should be acknowledged. For example, the Pope recently said that universal health care is a right not a privilege and that all advanced liberal-social democracies must provide it! [Catholic News Service] This is exactly what the progressive community has been saying, so I'm glad to see more people coming aboard. I think the Church should make this a priority and call upon political leaders to push for true universal health care coverage--especially here in the US where many conservative Catholics vote for "the party of NO."

Of course, health care includes family planning and abortions, but we'll take the Church's latest view on condoms and health care as a step toward progress and a more enlightened society.


Nov 19, 2010

GOP Hides the Huge Tax Cuts to the Rich Under the Guise of "Tax Cuts for Everyone"

Extremes of power and wealth aren't good for a country that aspires to have a system and a government that serves the people, not the elites. Those who want to maintain such disparity of wealth distribution are buying off our government, but not without the help of millions of Americans who vote against their own economic interests when they can least afford it.

Alan Grayson may have lost his reelection bid earlier this month, but he will be remembered by the progressives because of moments like these:

This Nicholas Kristof editorial asks, what country do we aspire to be? Indeed:

"Would we really want to be the kind of plutocracy where the richest 1 percent possesses more net worth than the bottom 90 percent?
Oops! That’s already us. The top 1 percent of Americans owns 34 percent of America’s private net worth, according to figures compiled by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. The bottom 90 percent owns just 29 percent."

Nov 4, 2010

Election 2010 and the Aftermath. Much Will Depend on the Learning Curve of President Obama in the Next 2 Years

Probably you've heard that the GOP took control of the House in Congress in a "historic" collapse of the Dems. Nothing unusual really. In the last 80 years, in the first midterm elections the party in the White House always loses seats in Congress. Only twice there was an exception: FDR in 1934 (Great Depression), and GWB in 2002 (War time). 

The opposition is always more energized and it shows at the polls. This election was decided primarily by turnout. The economy and the perception of ineffectiveness/weak leadership were the other reasons.

Did you watch Obama's speech/analysis of this election? “We were in such a hurry to get things done that we didn’t change how things got done,” What?! No, Mr. President, the Democrats lost because:

1. The economy still sucks even though Wall Street is doing fabulously well. More importantly, you didn't explain to the public that 8 million jobs were lost before you took office; that another 3/4 of a million were lost in the first 3 months after you got into office--before your policies went into effect; that 40% of the stimulus money went to save jobs like school teachers, firefighters, and police. Needed projects to shore up our crumbling infrastructure also helped with keeping unemployment down and stimulating the economy. Same for extending unemployment benefits. Many economist have argued that your stimulus wasn't big enough.

2. That you failed to pass a health care reform bill as you had promised, because you wasted one year trying to convince Republicans to support a watered-down bill (none of them did anyway), and you gave your electoral winnings to DINOs (like Max Baucus) to gamble away. You failed to explain that even this health care bill gives coverage to millions more Americans, prevents insurance companies from capping coverage and dropping people for pre-existing conditions, and allowing students to be under their parents insurance until 27 years old. But, where's the public option? Also, most of the already insured saw their coverage premiums go up.

3. You alienated your progressive and most active political base by scorning groups that raised lots of money for you, hoped you'd end DADT, DOMA, take the country out of 2 wars and bring the troops home.  You took bad advice from people like Rahm Emanuel, who don't understand that progressives may not go to the other side but they can stay home on election day.

4. You didn't push for immigration reform. Hispanics are heavily pro-Democratic but they have to see someone fight for good, sensible, and practical reform of our broken immigration system. 

5. Do you know why you lost the independents' vote? About 20-25% of the independents are "floaters"--move from party to party within a short span of time. Some 10% can be moved by rational arguments, like reasonable people who evaluate the evidence and make a rational decision. Unfortunately, most voters aren't moved by rational arguments. They are moved by impressions, perceived results, and strong leadership.

A Different Electorate

This electorate was older, richer, and whiter. Blacks didn't come out to vote like they did in the past--their percentage in the voting public dropped precipitously. Hispanics didn't vote either in big numbers--except in Nevada! They had a reason there: Sharon Angle and her racist, xenophobic ads.

As for compromise the Dems  and the president are ready to accept, it's a dubious thing. The Repubs aren't interested; their number one priority is to make Obama one-termer! The latter already bought into their talking point: extend the Bush tax cuts. These tax cuts will go to the top 2% of Americans and will cost $1 trillion. Sure, cut the government, they say to balance the budget. First, it can't be done--enough of these deficit peacocks. Secondly, what are they going to cut? Seriously? What part of the discretionary budget will they cut? Is the defense budget on the table too? 

Compromise is part of politics. Our own political system is partly the result of a compromise. However, facts are pesky things that get in the way of an opinion. A conversation and possible compromise between rational parties should start on a factual basis. Compromising with the flat earthers by agreeing that the earth is a ..square serves no good purpose.

There are positive outcomes from this election too: The Tea Party as the spoiler to the GOP hopes of capturing the Senate. There will be a fight now between the teabaggers, their supporters and the pragmatists like Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Also, the "blue dogs" Dems were disseminated. If Obama plays it smart--like FDR did in the 1930s--he can blame the conservatives for gridlock and, more importantly, he can point out who's on whose side. Who's is promoting the interest of the people and who's promoting the interests of big business and the rich. Can't wait for another government shutdown... 

I've talked with many people who are disgusted by politics, who believe that our two corporatist parties have the same agenda and it doesn't really make a difference. I share their frustration but I don't share their conclusion. It's beyond obvious to me that elections matter. A preliminary analysis by Think Progress shows:

Here is a snapshot of the GOP Class of 2010’s extremism:


- 50% deny the existence of man-made climate change
- 86% are opposed to any climate change legislation that increases government revenue


- 39% have already declared their intention to end the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship
- 32% want to reduce legal immigration


- 91% have sworn to never allow an income tax increase on any individual or business – regardless of deficits or war
- 79% have pledged to permanently repeal the estate tax
- 48% are pushing for a balanced budget amendment

To be continued.....

Oct 30, 2010

Vote for Sanity on November 2, 2010

Politics is often the outcome of the possible under the circumstances and the people involved. The outcome can be a compromise that isn't appealing. We progressives have lots to complain about, but, again, what is the alternative? I don't want to say we have to accept what comes our way, but this is a critical election. It won't be the end of the world, obviously, though if the Republicans improve their standing, we'll see more gridlock.

If the GOP wins the House, expect investigations on whether Obama is a ..Muslim non-citizen. Expect more of the same bad ideas and policies that got us into the Great Recession under president Bush. Expect an Extreme Makeover! This article by Think Progress is an eye-opener.

  • A Judiciary chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who has hinted at impeaching President Obama.
  • Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who opposes the existence of the global warming committee he would chair!
  • The subcommittee that controls monetary policy would be headed by Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), who has called paper money "nothing short of counterfeiting"
  • Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who apologized to BP during the oil spill for a $20 billion "shakedown," would control national energy policy.
  • And, several others, like the tea partisans who are running for the House and the Senate; they will obstruct and destroy. The only goal publicly stated will be to make Obama one-term president. "There will be no compromise," is their mantra.
Vote for sanity, because we can't go back to failed policies and have this very conservative and backward-looking Republican party have power. I know, most people are concerned not with happened but with what's ahead and who's going to lead the country into a better place. But, the past tells you where you're coming from, and if it's the ..Dark Ages, you wouldn't want to go back.

I was going to write summary of a very nice article in Rolling Stone magazine titled, The Case for Obama, but you can read it on your own. I recommend it.

This election will be decided on turnout. Only a minority turns out to vote in midterm election, and the more energized side usually wins. The election of 2010 may be decided on local issues and personalities, but it will have huge national political implications. Even though campaigns aren't necessarily about reasonable arguments and intellectual discussions, what we're having today in this polarized country is a choice between insanity and mediocrity, between the nuts and the mainstream, between 19th century ideologues and 21st century pragmatists. Between darkness and 1 photovoltaic watt.  The latter choices aren't the ideal, but I'll take them given the options available to us.

I'm voting for sanity.

Oct 17, 2010

Polls Are a Snapshot of the Moment, and Right Now the GOP is Winning the House

An outside observer may wonder how the Democrats, having won overwhelmingly in the last election, can be blamed for a bad economy and government inefficiency. The stimulus money failed to convince Americans that this expensive action was worth it. It's hard to easily demonstrate that things would be worse hadn't been if these monies hadn't been spent. As for the gridlock, well, you know which is the "party of NO."

However, in reality American politics are unique in many ways. One is, that under our system of checks & balances, the lack of (appropriate) accountability. The executive is separate from the legislative branch, hence the President does not control the actions of Congress. Throw into the mix a quirky tradition of the Senate--the filibuster--and you can have a small minority obstructing at will and with impunity. 

Of course, the Republicans were never going to accept president Obama's legitimacy. It's no accident that there are so many "birthers" in the GOP Congressional delegation.  Apparently they're poised to capitalize on the effects of a bad economy--one they helped to create--and weak presidential leadership.

Midterm elections traditionally are bad for the party in the White House. All else being equal, there are a couple factors. One, that the opposition is more energized while the core supporters stay home. Two, the 10-15% of floating non-ideologues and low information voters, who have left Obama's 2008 winning coalition and are generally frustrated with gridlock and lack of clear policy from the administration.

There's a consensus today, as a snapshot of the electoral mood that the Republicans (and their tea party allies) will win enough seats [218 need for majority] in the House to control it. That's unfortunate, but the White House and the Dems hopefully will get the correct message from this: Do not try to win the minds and hearts of those who didn't vote for you in 2008. These voters will never come over. Be true to what Obama-the-candidate ran on, as most of the country still supports that agenda. Show clear objectives and demonstrate strong leadership.

This GOP has no future, unless the Dems keep shooting themselves in the foot. The Republicans will soon find out that the tea parties are their greatest enemy, because not only prevents them from winning the Senate this year but also pulling the party further to the right--where most of the country isn't! More on this later..

Oct 8, 2010

Jackson Katz: Men, Masculinities, and Media. It's Time We Pay Attention to What Its Being Said

In comparative politics an important variable and a good indicator is the status of women. If you don't know anything about a country, ask the question, what is the status of women in that society? The answer will give you a very good idea of how advanced this country is.

While the US is an advanced liberal democracy, we still have serious problems, like violence against women--a problem that often is wrongly labeled as "women's issue." It's an issue that should concern all of us, as it is all of us who have to work to solve this problem. 

We are all here because of mothers, and despite having women in close proximity in our lives, treating them with respect and as equals leaves much to be desired. Honoring Mothers By Improving the Lives of Women, as I wrote back on Mother's Day, is the only enlightened course of action.

Yesterday, I attended a very interesting & informative speech by Jackson Katz [click on the link for useful resources] of MVP Strategies, an organization that provides gender violence prevention training. Most men instinctively would say that they're not abusers so they don't really need to know how not to abuse. Well, it's true, most men are decent human beings, but the question Mr. Katz raised was, if we are against abuse then why most men remain silent when they witness abuse or hear abusive language? 

It has taken many, many years to make some common practices uncool because most people wouldn't tolerate them. We have to change our ways and elements of our collective culture when it comes to gender violence and verbal abuse. Many laws can say one thing but if society doesn't change, there's a crisis. Same with the civil rights movement, whereas the laws were on the books but states (and the majority of their citizens) refused to accept the good principles in the Bill of Rights, and adopt common decency towards every human being.
Being politicos as we are, and given this being a pivotal election season, we should closely examine the messages and statements of those who want to be elected to Congress. We have to ask the conservative religious candidates what do they mean by "a woman must submit to her husband"? What do they mean by "traditional ways"?

Also, what kind of culture and message does Linda McMahon bring to our discourse? Why haven't we seen her being challenged about the kind of message she was putting out while being the president of wrestling entertainment?  Jackson Katz, I've heard, will remedy this soon. [check the Huffington Post this weekend]  I've seen a preview of what WWE has been doing with women on its shows and it's ugly.

Stay tuned, and be alert!

Oct 1, 2010

Simple Truths & Clear Messages. The Tax Cuts: Who Gets them and Who Pays for them.

Simplicity is not always possible when it comes to complicated issues, but without people being informed their impressions about reality affect their behavior, including how the vote--if they do--which is a problem for the Democrats this election.

Our president has the intellectual ability to grasp complicated issues but he needs to improve his message, because he doesn't speak to a captive audience in an academic auditorium. The noise by Fox, the Tea parties and the GOP paint Obama and the Congressional Dems as ineffective leaders. It's incredible, isn't it, that Superman hasn't fixed yet all the problems Republicans have helped to create over a decade, so, therefore, the GOP is asking to be put back in (more) control of the legislative agenda!

The video above is a clear, concise illustration of the issue of tax cuts and their effect on our budget. Such messages have to increase in frequency until the election, November 2nd.  Of course, many races will be decided on local issues and personalities, but their effect will be felt nationally for many years to come.

As soon as we see good signs that the White House is coming out actively campaigning and refining a good message, we had both the prez and his veep chastising the Democratic base as whiners and too demanding. What the hell? The White House, instead, should take a good look at its failure to push through many elements of the progressive agenda candidate Obama promised and asked the country to support. He has disappointed much of his most active members--usually the ones who volunteer and come out to vote in midterm elections!  

Obama should be saying that he'll try harder to lead the country in a more progressive direction. This was the message he ran on and the country responded enthusiastically.  It was not just about voting down the incompetent, corrupt, and disastrous Republican rein, but it was about universal health care, end the wars, energy independence, immigration reform, controlling the excesses of Wall Street, etc. All these issues still have the majority support of the country. Maybe with the imminent departure of key high-level White House staff, the president will re-evaluate his strategy and message.

There are 4-5 weeks left during which things can change. The country still doesn't trust the Republicans and don't like their new (old) policy proposals. But, uncertainty about the future and present economic stagnation make voters uneasy. Some reminders and comparisons are necessary to be made soon. In politics one should always ask, what's the alternative?

Sep 29, 2010

Remember Carl Sagan's Cosmos? It Aired 30 Years Ago this Time. He Popularized Science and Hooked Many of Us in Awe!

Thirty years ago almost to this day, PBS aired Carl Sagan's COSMOS and made history. Science and its fruits were finally presented in such a way that most people could understand and, yes, be in awe!  I didn't have a VCR or a way to record this program except put an old tape recorder next to the TV and capture the sound. Listening to those tapes years later I still found the series extremely interesting.

"We wish to pursue the truth where ever it leads..." Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan had a gift of taking complicated scientific subjects and explaining them to the public. Some scientists criticized him for over-simplifying science, but he understood that the great scientific discoveries and knowledge should be something excites everyone. We need more of this, and we should have academic programs specializing in the Public Understanding of Science. Not only because, after all, it's public money that supports much of science, but because science is the best tool we have for understanding the world around us. Not to mention that we live longer, better, and healthier lives because of science.

Until the 17th century, the Church controlled knowledge in Europe. Of course, controlling knowledge is one way to control people. Any alternative theory was deemed a threat to the status quo. Free thinkers are a threat to dogma and absolutism. The more a person learns, the more questions he asks, the more chances that freedom and free inquiry will become a necessity.Knowledge is empowering. 

I often have to pinch myself when I see that, despite all the learning opportunities and tools we have at our disposal, so many Americans remain willfully ignorant. How else can you explain the war against science, and the scientific illiteracy of our fellow citizens?

If a specific knowledge is claimed by anyone, then the starting point should be, which kind of knowledge is better? The one arrived at by inquiry, evidence, and rational thinking, or the one that "feels right" or secretly revealed to the select few and can't be challenged? 

If you dare to learn, ask, how do you know the things you think you know? 

Like Hitch says, claims without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

Sep 25, 2010

The Arrogance of Those Who Did Bad and the Need for Strengthening the Middle Class

It's amazing that those people who are saved by the government are also against government--not just inefficient government--but scream against the expanding powers & scope of it. On This American Life [link to follow when they make this segment available], I listened to a segment about Wall Street people who never ever want to acknowledge (not even to themselves) that they screwed up and their companies & jobs had to be salvaged by a big government bailout!

Edvard Munch's Vampire. [yes, there's an analogy somewhere here]
Most Americans are under the impression that the marketplace is the best mechanism for everything and that pure capitalism is the order of all things. No, the state has lots to do with the marketplace. For one, it protects the businesses, creates opportunities for new entries, regulates behavior to protect consumers, and ensures competition. All these are desirable qualities. The fact that there are failures should lead us to examining the causes and improving the performance of our institutions.

The Republicans run on a platform of limited government, which may be a good principle as an alternative. Personally, I'm in favor of efficiency, honesty, transparency, accountability, all in the service of our commonwealth--or, put it in another way, in service to the people of our country. But, what is the best way to serve the people? Leave it to the "invisible hand of the market" only? Not sufficient and might even be dangerous without the appropriate safeguards.

Like any other country, we have powerful myths. Yet, we often should check with reality. For example, do we live longer than other advanced countries? Are we more educated? Do we have more leisure, are we less affected by crime, are we happier? If not why not? 

Most advanced countries seem to have decided that a strong middle class is necessary for a better quality of life and for the political system to serve the people, not the elites. Extreme concentrations of wealth and power in the hands of the few isn't good. Greater such inequalities exist in dictatorships and less advanced countries than in advanced liberal democracies, who rely on their government & the laws to correct injustices and lack of opportunity.

Aristotle who was very critical of democracy--the common people participating in the decision making process of their polity--but he thought it was the best regime to promote the interests of the many. He argued for a government bound by popular consent and one that serves the middle class. He was in favor of a Republic, as the framers of our constitution were. But, he was adamant about having a strong middle class, not extremes of power and wealth.

Now, guess what, those responsible for royally screwing our government and the country (not to mention other countries) want to be in power again--and they may be able to capture the House of Representatives. Their "new" ideas are those old ideas about giving tax cuts to 2% of the population, less regulation in Wall Street, and, oh yeah, no consumer protection, or creating opportunities for those who need their government to represent the people's interests.  

How's this for a new Republican idea, their energy saving proposal: construct all roads downhill...

Sep 20, 2010

Apparently God Can't Intervene When Priests Bugger Boys in His Church. The Pope Just Covers the Evidence, Offers Regrets in Hindsight. All is Well Then. No?

In Africa, a new wave of witch hunt is going on and many Christian churches are taking advantage of the superstitions. Even children are sometimes accused of demonic possession if a parent suddenly dies. Other individuals are hunted down because they are either possessed by demons or are witches/warlocks. Religious leaders offer solutions to this problem of witchcraft and the devil's doings. The gullible faithful believe and obey, and they flock to the churches.

What's wrong with this picture, you may ask. Some in our society would dismiss such problems as endemic in primitive societies. Yes, the more primitive a society is the more ignorance and superstition exists. However, even an advanced society can be fertile ground for superstition and idiotic beliefs. Actually, our own country has many unscrupulous leaders who peddle such nonsense, and, incredibly, there are millions of Americans who buy this crap and want to shove it down our throats.

If I can convince you that there's a curse on you, then I offer you a remedy, that I (or my reps) can lift this curse for a fee or for strict obedience... then, I'll have a great scheme going for me. Not going to happen because we have modern people with enough education and smartness? Not so fast... It has happened over and over again, and it's happening right now, here in the US, Europe and every other country.

So, everyone is born with original sin--religion has convinced people of that. But, don't worry, there's a solution to this problem. There's somebody whose father sacrificed him to pay for the sins of others and to prove that his father loves us. {I love you, therefore I'm going to kill someone for your benefit} Then you can communicate, telepathically, to him that you accept him as your lord and savior so the curse can be lifted. This curse was placed on you because the very first couple ate the fruit of knowledge and was kicked out of paradise. Ever since, all humans begin in guilt/sin and it's up to them to beg, bargain for salvation. Easy, if they pay up (support the church and its minions) and listen to God's reps on Earth.

I suppose since every single person at time of birth bears the scar of sin is why the murder of children to pay for the sins of their parents is acceptable--in a Biblical sense of course, because modern civilized societies have a more rational approach, thank God.

Now here's this Pope--whose church's dogma proclaims that he's infallible in matters of faith--telling us that atheists are responsible for evil-doers like Hitler and Stalin. Really, Mr. Pope? I don't know, but I'd think any monster doesn't kill in the name of atheism, and even if he did, he doesn't represent the non-believers. Yet, the Catholic Church, and all major religions have officially sided with monsters in perpetuating crimes against humanity, over and over again.

If a child is raped, I want the perp to face criminal charges in a civil court of law, and not judged only by God after death. Oh, yeah, how should I interpret the practice (and often the official policy) of the Church covering up the crime and exhorting the victims to remain silent?

As long as people remain sheepish and in abject fear, any scam is possible. I had hoped that there wouldn't be too many of them at the dawn of the 21st century.  Being lectured by a schemer is too much to bear. It's not accidental that the Christian story is analogous to that of a shepherd and his flock of sheep... They want people to be sheep that serve the interests of the master, are fleeced, and eventually killed.


PS. I hope it's clear, but if it's not, I'm singling out the Catholic Church for perpetuating a scam. All religious institutions, organizations who profess to know something they don't and who provide remedies for imaginary ailments are preying on the gullible, the ignorant, the weak, and the fearful.  

Those who would argue that so many smart and educated people can't be the types I describe here for accepting religion, I have to say that humans have the ability to hold contradictory beliefs in their brains, and, secondly, intelligence is many things... A person can be a brilliant scientist mapping the genome sequence but see a waterfall and think that Jesus has a message for him.

Stupid Rules: Can't Film or Make Sand Castles in Public Parks! [and, what the public shouldn't know]

This situation provides an interesting point of discussion about the role of government. What should the government do before, during, and after a disaster like the 206-million-gallon leak in the Gulf.  Seriously, should the government regulate and supervise certain economic actities? How is the public good being served? Assuming the government works in the interst of the public.

The video above demonstrates that government can have silly rules--like not filming or digging a few inches of sand in national parks, or that special & narrow interests have prevailed. It could be incompetence too. Why shouldn't the public know how well BP is cleaning up the spill on our beaches? And, shouldn't our government want to be transparent about such things?

Sep 17, 2010

Tea Parties + Republican Morass = More Disfunctional Politics

It seems that the tea parties have some success in the Republican primaries this year, producing nominees that are way out of where most Americans are politically. The teabaggers may represent a growing movement but I think such reactionary and rather extreme groups don't have much lasting effect once crises subside. Unfortunately, the Republican Party is being pulled further to ultra-conservatism and to a political base that's small and shrinking.

Irresponsible leadership, careless rhetoric, and promoting crazy ideas eventually comes back to bite you. The GOP will not compete for control of the Senate this year because of the teabaggers. Moderate Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) said today that if the moderates are endangered in the GOP, the party cannot be a majority party. In the northeast, ME has the only Rep Senators, while in the House there are zero from New England, and only 2 if NY is included. This may change in this election and the next, but this region--and for that matter most of the country--is not moving in the GOP's direction.

Think of the major policies, ideological stances, and the candidates on the Republican side. Do you see the majority of Americans being attracted to them in the future? I want a modern Republican party, one that promotes science, is tolerant & cosmopolitan. If it promoted fiscal responsibility in an honest way, it could be helpful. Please, don't tell me about Repubs being for fiscal responsibility since Nixon..  All have been big spenders and deficit peacocks... all show but no substance.

The budget cannot be balanced by cuts alone. Revenue is needed too. And, giving a trillion dollar tax cut to the rich isn't right and won't help either.  As long as the GOP runs on an anti-government platform, it should remain out of government. In a free and advanced country, the government is of-by-for the people. The "for" means the government serves the interests of the people not the elite's.

Did you hear about a country that 1 in 7 people live in poverty? Where the middle class wages have remained stagnant (adjusted for inflation) since 1973? Where almost 50 million people are still without or limited health care?... That's 1 in 6 with no health care insurance. Where infant mortality in some states is much higher than Cuba's and Iran's? Where the gap between the rich & every one else has increased and now it's bigger than the so-called Gilded Age?

Ah, freedom! It's a nice thing to have. But, it has to be connected to meaningful choices and opportunities.

Now let's observe how the Dems will screw this up once again. They should take the fight to the Republicans. Despite the former being played like a rag doll by the GOP during the first year of the Obama administration, they have to remind the voters who's responsible for this mess, that a wrecked economy can't be fixed in 18 months, and that this ultra-nutty GOP cannot be trusted with the keys to the government.

Sep 3, 2010

Those Who Wrecked the Car Want the Keys Back.... (Some Thoughts on the November 2010 Election)

It's the economy, stupid. September has been good on Wall Street but no so good on Main Street. Anywhere between 25 and 35% of our working force has felt the effects of unemployment since the Republicans were in office in 2008. The latter are saying now that the Dems haven't fixed the problems of the Great Recession in 1.5 years that they created when they controlled the government.

Unfortunately there's a big percentage of Americans who have short memory and float from side to side and often decide elections. They are low information voters, moved by impressions of power and outcomes. For the life of me, I can't see why voters would return control of the House to the Republicans. The congressional GOP has one strategy: to frustrate any Dem initiatives and make Obama one-termer. The hell with the country. Controlling one chamber (the House) will produce more dysfunctional government. Indecision, delays, bad laws, inaction, and a protraction of the economic crisis all are bad for Obama in 2012 and the Dems.

We can consider ourselves a bit lucky that the biggest threat to the Republican party right now is the tea parties. If it weren't for the teabaggers wrestling control from key GOPers, the Dems would also lose the Senate this year. Take for example Dem Harry Reid in Nevada. He would be trailing by double digits today if his opponent wasn't such a nutcase. Instead he's ahead by a couple points. 

Now, what has the Dem in the White House and those in Congress done? Not much. They have managed to alienate their most reliable and active base--the progressives and those groups that believed the country would finally get bold leadership to pull it our of the morass the conservatives had sunk us in. But, no such bold leadership came despite huge majorities, a huge electoral win, and high approval ratings when Obama took office in Jan. 2009. 

Drildo. Many voters will be satisfied (one way or another) in November
I've written lots on this wasted opportunity and how the Dems have been incompetent in managing their good fortunes after the last general election. Let's look to the future now. But, in a democracy with popular elections there has to be some kind of strategy, good communication with the public, and, yes, a clear & bold policy. The president usually wins public fights with Congress if he knows how to play the game. He has to be out there every day saying articulating a clear policy while pointing to the obstructionists. The current president should see how Clinton played the Republicans when they shut down the government via their congressional leadership.

The economy will be a major factor in this election and it ain't getting much better between today and election day. But, from Labor Day on the voters pay more attention to politics and begin to form their opinions. 
  • Bigger than 5% points in polls by end of this month will be insurmountable by election day. Time to act is now.
  • In a low turnout midterm election the more energized base produces huge advantage. Thus far, the Dem leadership has failed to energize its base. Why? Because, they shied away from legislation (jobs bills, tax breaks for the rich, immigration, etc) even if there are big majorities in favor of such bills. The Times has an article on college voters, here.
  • Obama must set forth a clear agenda now and make a promise to implement it one way or another. He should establish clear objectives and send a clear message to the Republicans and Dems that he's going to be a stronger leader than he's been so far.
With fewer Dems in the Senate and a minority in the House it's imperative the Dems show more solidarity. Their electoral fortunes in 2012 will depend on this. And, the country will be better off. The Republicans are going to have a brawl with the teabaggers one of this days or the GOP will cease to exist as a party that represents a big chunk of the country. Tea party candidates are way out of the mainstream and I don't think they can sustain their initial success, but then again they may capture the GOP whose white, southern (regional) stronghold is shrinking.

The bottom line is who can convince the voters that they can do a better job with the economy after the November election. In theory there should be no contest, but in reality... well, we're seeing it right now. I just think there's a small (and getting smaller) window for the Dems to stem their loses and retain control of the House. Yet, I wouldn't hold my breath on this one.

Aug 23, 2010

The Principle of Tolerance And Free Expression (but with a twist)

Let me be controversial for a moment...    

One group of people fervently holds beliefs that dismiss any other group's fundamental tenets therefore this group is deemed as a threat to the latter's survival--physical or cultural. Really, isn't this the true reason for opposing the expression and practice of other religions? It's the fear that their values are so different than the prevailing ones and that those values will dilute or poison the good established socio-political culture.

How about the various laws against proselytizing? How could a religion tell the infidels about a good thing they're missing out if prevented from preaching openly and acquiring new members? [definition: proselytize] It's the dominant religion that uses the state to safeguard its own faithful from competition. The Founders understood this danger when they established the principle of separation of church-state. The courts have also ruled on the Establishment Clause.

I do believe in the First Amendment. Freedom of religion is part of it, as freedom of expression is too. Free speech means that people can argue about ideas, or just pronounce their beliefs without offering any proof. But, they can't prevent others from doing so. Here's a fundamental point: Respect for the right to free speech but no idea or belief system should claim immunity from criticism or evaluation. This concept is hard for many to accept. If I haven't examined my own ideology, my own cultural directives, how could I be "open to a dialogue" when confronted by people with different claims? 

If I happen to be a tolerant person, I could accept others' religion to exist on the principle of tolerance but without evaluating their claims--unless I say, I know they're going to hell but that is their choice, those fools....  All major faiths claim the only true path to salvation while condemning others. And, here's the crux of the matter: Faith isn't up to rational thinking and critical evaluation whereas revision is possible or desirable. The dogmatic approach demands devotion, acceptance, and that a few special persons understood God's absolute commandments. 

The Muslim organization that wants to build its cultural center, including a mosque, near the WTC has the legal right to do so and if this offends other people and organized religions so be it. Can you imagine how different our country would be if we made "being offended" a legal principle? Anything you do or say can be found offensive by a number of people. There would be no wealth of art, literature, music, fashion, etc. Granted, not everything out there is fine by me. I found many things offensive. What I don't like, I boycott not try to ban it legally. Of course, I'm talking about adults who have choice, not children. 

Personally (adding to being controversial) I believe that all religions are fundamentally wrong. They pronounce edicts, deliver judgments, and construct arguments on the idea they have captured the only absolute truth--and only them can possess it. All major faiths (at least) are misogynistic. Their holy books contain passages supporting slavery, killing of the apostates and members of other faiths, promote blind obedience, superstition, and ignorance.

Humans have established more civil societies because they created the secular state and chose not to strictly obey the commandments in their holy books. I do prefer a more thought-out, rational, appropriate for our enlightenment-era society. Can you imagine the world whereas we killed adulterers, those who left a faith, those who worked on the Sabbath or wore the wrong clothes, ate the wrong foods or broke their fast, that we could beat our slaves, murder children for the sins of their fathers, commanded women to be man's property while we cut their clitoris once they became teenagers, etc, etc,...

Aug 12, 2010

Mike Huckabee, Bucking the GOP dogma, Backs the DREAM Act and Sensible Immigration Reform Unlike Flopper J. McCain!

I don't agree with most of Mike Huckabee's but on this instance he's right. "When a kid comes to his country, and he’s four years old and he had no choice in it — his parents came illegally. He still, because he is in this state, it’s the state’s responsibility – in fact, it is the state’s legal mandate – to make sure that child is in school. So let’s say that kid goes to school. That kid is in our school from kindergarten through the 12th grade. He graduates as valedictorian because he’s a smart kid and he works his rear end off and he becomes the valedictorian of the school. The question is: Is he better off going to college and becoming a neurosurgeon or a banker or whatever he might become, and becoming a taxpayer, and in the process having to apply for and achieve citizenship, or should we make him pick tomatoes? I think it’s better if he goes to college and becomes a citizen"

What is the future US national makeup?
Unfortunately our country lacks leaders who will speak the truth on the immigration issue.Of course there's the short-term political calculation, especially by the GOP, that caters to xenophobia, racism, and ill-conceived notions of citizenship. Most go for the easy and visible action "enforcing the law and reinforcing the border, but we're spending a disproportionate amount of money and resources for a problem that can be addressed otherwise. Right now, the system is broken so any one-way while the US is addicted to cheap labor.

The immigration issue will return after the November elections and I'll devote plenty of space to it here. So, stay tuned. 

Aug 8, 2010

Don't Build the "9-11 Mosque"... But, then (to be fair), Remove All Churches from "Sensitive" Areas Around the World Too!

Is the US a Christian country? I mean it in a legal, constitutional sense, not that the majority of its citizens are Christians. According to our Constitution, and the intent of the founders, the US is a secular country that separates religion from the state, whereas the government cannot favor one religion over another, and that every person here can freely choose to take any religion or laugh & scorn all of them. This is a fundamental American right. Why should we turn it into a privilege?

If this country respects this principle, then a church, a mosque, or an altar to Zeus can be built. The same rules should apply to every religion, sect, or any fantastical organization--not only to the "privileged" ones who happen to be Christians. 

Soon the discussion centered around the issue of whose hat was the best

I hear a lot about respect. That the Muslim center (which will include a mosque) is disrespectful to the victims of 9-11 by being built some 2 blocks away from the site. What is the rule here? I don't see the reason for objecting--other than our government shouldn't be subsidizing any religious organization by offering tax-free status. But this should apply to all religions. 

You do know that all the main three Abrahamic religions (and most others) are mutually exclusive, right? Every single one of them professes to hold the absolute truth and the only way to salvation. All those outside this faith are condemned to go to hell. When any of those religions dominated the government it usually implemented persecutions against the infidels and the non-believers. This isn't respect. It's dogmatic. Therefore, every religion a priori is against the others. 

Interestingly enough, all three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) entertain the justification of guilt by association. Children could pay for the sins of their parents. Also, that God can deliver collective punishment. We were told by some popular American preachers that 9-11, and hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for the gays, feminists, ACLU, and the godless hedonists.  So, yeah, collective punishment, because all are guilty of some kind of trespass....

I'm wondering whether the serious crimes some Christians have committed, some via the official Church establishment should prevent churches from being built near "sensitive" areas, like Jerusalem. The "offensive" principle should apply there too, no?
Even if I think that religion is adopting a belief system with certain obligations without reference to evidence or reason, many people do need religion so I have no problem people expressing their faith--as long as it does not being imposed on me. Fear and the need to be saved makes people behave. If hard-core criminals (many in prisons) find a god that makes them a better person, all the better for the rest of us too. If a believer gives more to charity or avoids law-breaking because he things God is watching, then it's just fine by me.

A Duke University study [link to the NYT article] just came out suggesting that contemporary mosques are a deterrent to terrorism! If it's true, then I'd say, built more of those damn things as fast as you can. Otherwise, young hot-headed Muslims may seek other venues, or may be more prone to be recruited by the jihadist fundamentalists. Obviously there is a problem with the old Islam as it was with the old Christian church. Islam hasn't had it's Protestant Reformation but there are moderate voices in it--those voices and organizations we should support and open a dialogue with.

When will the demonstrations outside the Pentagon will commence? What, you didn't know there's a mosque in there?!!  Tsk. 

Marxism needs to be revised. Religion isn't the "opium of the people" in that it may sedate reasoning but I think it's more like crack cocaine! It can make some weak people so excited as to do some crazy and stupid stuff.

Aug 5, 2010

SHAMEFUL! And, the Democratic Leadership in Congress is to Blame!

The Dems are afraid to tackle the immigration issue before the Congressional election this November so they sacrifice decency and common sense to the even more ridiculous Republican demands. The House failed to pass a bill that would give health care benefits to the 9-11 responders. The bill received 255 votes for and 159 against. Shame to those 159 politicians who voted against giving benefits to people who rushed to the scene in NYC and later worked at the site for the rescue/recovery/clean up effort. The Bush EPA, told everyone that the air at the World Trade Center disaster zone was OK to breathe. The Giuliani City Hall, and the Pataki state government failed to give adequate protection and alert the workers & emergency responders.

But, wait a second. Isn't 255 a bigger number than 159? How come a bill that gets a majority like this fails to pass, you ask.  Well, because the Dems brought it under a rule that required a 2/3 super majority to pass! Why? Because the Dems did not want to confront the issue the Repubs were raising: We should not pay for health benefits for any undocumented worker (I wonder how many there could have been) who without proper papers rushed to the scene to help out, got injured or breathed in the cancer-causing polluted air. Those bastards, they should die for helping out without having the proper visa!

Yeah, this is the absurd and obscene reason the Repubs used to oppose this bill. Oh, and to shield big business from paying taxes in the US. The bill was to be funded by ..ending the tax loopholes the multinational pharmas use to avoid paying US taxes

What a shame, shame, shame!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
I Give Up - 9/11 Responders Bill
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Aug 4, 2010

Immigration and the 14th Amendment

Have you heard about the 14th Amendment? It gives citizenship and all legal rights to anyone who is born in this country. When it was adopted, it meant to enfranchise people who had been born here but were discriminated by the political & legal system, on the federal and mostly state levels. Now some conservatives, including many state Republican parties, want to repeal this amendment because they say illegal immigrants shouldn't be rewarded by having babies here!

First, babies to illegal immigrants is not a problem but it's a distraction. It's a rallying point for the conservatives and the tea baggers. It may be beneficial to them short term but it'll help put this GOP on the sidelines in the future. The Hispanics especially favor the Dems by 65-70% at the ballot box. The immigration issue will further solidify this block behind the Dems in increasing numbers. Much like other immigrant groups that have favored the Dems for generations, because they found their way via the big city political machines controlled by the Dems. In addition, the Latinos are a growing block. In about a generation, the Caucasians (white Euros) will be a minority in the US.

The present day anti-immigrant stance isn't new. The Know Nothing Party and others had expressed the same views targeting the Irish and other "inferior European immigrants."  As one framer put it at the time, "we are entirely ready to accept" that under the proposed amendment, "children born here" of immigrant parents "shall be declared by the Constitution of the United States to be entitled to civil rights and to equal protection before the law with others." In two landmark decisions, the Supreme Court verified this "clear constitutional mandate" of birthright citizenship, ruling in 1982 that the "fourteenth amendment extends to anyone, citizen or stranger" regardless if "a person's initial entry into a State, or the United States, was unlawful." [source]

Just a few minutes ago, there was a piece on NPR where Young Americans For Freedom and that awful Ken Blackwell [we go back to Ohio, 2004] talking about the disillusionment with Obama's "hope message" and how younger people are giving up on the dream of change and whatever. Oh, and, yeah, Obama is a socialist, anti-freedom, anti-market system, and the best thing that happened to ..conservatives!  How do these people manage to convince anyone beyond their immediate cadre of interested parties is amazing. 

In the abstract, we can talk about conservatism, like we can talk about religion, and debate the philosophical points. Yet, I want you to keep in mind this: How do the vast majority of conservatives (and the faithful) understand and practice their  The present-day Repubs stand for what public policy? And, when they had control of the Executive and Congress, what did they do? A year and a half ago, when Obama took office, the country was a short step from economic (and not only) depression. Since, the Repubs have done everything to oppose everything Obama and the Dems have proposed.

So, the conservatives want more religion--the kind that goes against self-determination--more transfer of wealth to the top 2%, more wars & huge military budgets, they're anti-immigrants (legal or illegal... because, after all, those people aren't the ideal Americans, right?),  want less safety, fewer programs designed to help the least fortunate or the sick, and they promote ignorance by attacking science and the scientific method.

Our Government Represents Whom Exactly?

We as the electorate have to be smarter. It's not about class warfare--this war appears to be over in the US, and the elite has won it. But, just think how many adverse actions against the vast majority of Americans our government has taken in order to benefit the few and big business. Why? Because, too many of us fall for the smoke & mirrors of skilled magicians, also mainly known as Republicans. 

It's amazing that important issues are reduced to bumper sticker expressions and, worse, mentality. Sarah Palin writes notes on her palm and proudly displays her ignorance. Taxes are bad, she says, never bothering to explain why she wants to keep the tax breaks to the top 2%, which will add trillions to the debt. [Pew Center's analysis]

We also think we make money, and that high salaries and fortune are a birthright for Americans. Only 1 in 10 make more than $100K a year, less than 2% make twice as much! At least now, the majority is for letting the Bush tax cuts (to the very top since the early 2000s) expire this year. But, the Republicans convinced the public the "death tax" (large estate taxes) was a bad idea, while under 2% of Americans would be subject to this!

Rand Paul is the leading Repub Senatorial candidate in Kentucky and he's saying that we don't need the federal government to have safety guidelines "because no one will apply" for jobs in a dangerous mine! Another idiotic statement ontop of many others by this Tea Bagger, who's probably a young-earth (loony) believer!

Elizabeth Warren has been a consumer advocate for a long time now. She should be the head of the consumer protection bureau created by the recent financial reform signed into law. But, she's deemed controversial because she has said the banks & financial institutions screw consumers via their 30-page small print incomprehensible clauses they include in their agreements. She is a Harvard professor who teaches contract law and she's said she can't understand what all of the fine print! 

Yeah, I want to be free from government regulation. I don't want a nanny state. I don't want to know...  It feels better if I'm screwed by the private sector than our government, doesn't it?! Look, I don't want a nanny to take care of me, unless I'm sick and unable to take care of myself. But, I do want information so I can make good decisions. And, by the way, those who don't like big government when it comes to consumer protection, they like it when the use government to shove religion down our throats, and use the monopoly of violence to tell me what kind of sex I can have and what to put into  my own body!

Jul 20, 2010

Those Lazy Bastards Want More Free Government Money...

It seems that economists agree on the need to extend the unemployment benefits not only to help millions of Americans who can't find a job but also stimulate the economy by putting money into the hands of people who are going to spend it on necessities. Of course, there are some who abuse the availability of this government assistance as it happens everywhere when people can exploit loopholes. The greater benefit has to taken into account.

Also, it's easier to see the abuse of the people who play the system. Yet, the larger abuse or the sweet deals that are struck behind closed doors are hidden from public view. The image of a lazy drunkard who's on public assistance alienates and creates a personal experience that makes the public skeptical about the need for certain social programs. But, who knows that just 2% of the taxpayers (yeah, those super rich) got a tax break under president Bush that cost the US Treasury $678 billion? That's OK, while $33 billion to extend unemployment benefits is not? Who needs what?!

I'm fed up with the deficit peacocks--who are supposedly concerned about the national deficit--and they keep arguing for more tax cuts and services. There is no way the deficit can be eliminated by cutting services, unless we become like Somalia. [see the video on this blog's sidebar].  Revenue comes from taxes, either from the taxpayer or from taxing goods and services.  On the national stage at least, it's been the Republicans who have created huge deficits by giving the store away to the wealthy & powerful.

One more thing about cutting services. Yes, there's waste and inefficiency, and corruption in the government & its various functions. The important question here is, who needs those services? Who needs the government of, by, for the people?  And, guess what... It's the big players that go to the government to cap their liabilities, weaken consumer protection, kill competition, maintain low wages, privatize profits  and socialize the risks of doing business.

No country can be strong if it has poor financial practices, but the sane thing is to be prudent. While the times are good, it should save and invest, but when there's a need, then it should spend. When I'm healthy and productive, I save and I invest, but when I'm sick or out of a job, I run a deficit. It's this simple.

Jul 5, 2010

Stay the Course? The Continuation of the Afghanistan War Is Obama's Choosing

The ridiculous Republican chair, Michael Steele, has put his foot in his mouth when he said that the Afghanistan War is something the current president initiated. However, it is the sitting president that makes the decision to keep or disengage the US from this conflict. Obama seems to want to pursue a very costly war with no end in sight, and no real chance for turning Afghanistan into a stable country.

Fareed Zakaria raises some very important questions in this video. I agree with the basis of his argument, that this expensive US war involvement should end, sooner than later. 


Jul 3, 2010

Patriotism for the Benefit of the Commonwealth

As we celebrate Independence Day with fireworks and lots of displays of our national flag, patriotism, obviously, is emphasized. Besides the emotions of love and pride, patriotism should include other rational and practical aspects. 

"Love it or leave it" is a moronic statement uttered too often by the "ultra-patriots"... who are usually not progressive beings. Summarily stated, no change would have ever occurred if people lived by that motto. The Pew Center's recent poll on patriotism shows some interesting views among Americans.

We have to remember that patriotism is not blind devotion whereas reasonable criticism, evaluation, and corrective action are absent. The flag represents certain values, above all the rights and privileges we enjoy in this country. But, we didn't arrive here by divine ordinance--we got here after a long trek filled with trials & tribulations, and because many people fought for those rights.  Of course, the journey continues as there are still strong forces for regression, prejudice, and willful ignorance. 

For all the advancements and great achievements the US has managed, we are not the freest country, the most educated, the healthiest, the richest (per capita), nor do our people report one of the highest happiness levels. We're stressed, have too much poverty, too much suffering (health care included), too much militaristic, too wide income disparity, and too much violence.

So, clearly there's much to be done. This country was built on rugged individualism but also on the strength of our secular institutions embedded in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights included. During times of crisis, the national makeup of a country is revealed. The choices the people make are paramount. 
Ancient Athens became too powerful, too rich, and too arrogant. As Athenians believed they were invincible, they overextended themselves. The defeats came, and crises ensued. This, in turn, challenged the confidence of the citizens and their democracy. As things worsened, Athenians gave up all those values and practices that had made their city-state great.

The US must avoid the same path. American exceptionalism must be checked, and the neo-cons who exaggerate it must be defeated. The Tea Parties [as we now know are basically groups of conservative Republicans and other extremists] lack the characteristics of the protest movements of the 1960s & 70s. The former are for a minimal government that's impotent to help the less powerful in our society, while the "radical" movements of the past were more altruistic--about civil rights, gender and racial equality, and an end to imperialism.

Enjoy the holiday weekend and enjoy life in general. Just remember, we can't be tourists in our own country. We have to help progress continue.