Monday, May 24, 2010

Arthur Brooks. of the American Enterprise Institute [originally and more accurately named the Keep the Ultra Rich Rich and Screw Everybody Else Institute] published a screed today in which he declares [apparently ex cathedra] that the new culture war is between those who believe in free enterprise and those who believe in an “expanding and paternalistic government”. He continues this forced choice false dichotomy at length. This is rather like the salesman at a used car lot offering customers a choice. “You can buy this junk heap of a car at my price or destroy the American auto industry.” At least some of his customers might realize that there are a few other alternatives available to them.

What the anti regulation crowd really want is quite simple, and for them, quite attractive. They want to turn America into Mexico. In Spanish, an old saying goes, “Los ricos son los ricos y los pobrecitios son los pobrecitos.” In English, "The rich are the rich and the poor are the poor." The operative word here is the verb, son. It refers to a permanent state. In other words, the rich are rich forever and the poor are poor forever. In spite of Mr. Brooks Olympian declarations, this is not what made America a great and wealthy nation. Economic mobility is what made us great and wealthy. Fixing the system so as to create a new class of nobles who are entitled to their wealth forever is not a good idea. France attempted this with the ancient regime and you know what happened there..guillotines anyone?

Jefferson’s idea of a natural aristocracy was iffy at best, but at least he intended that those who were able to rise would, and those who were above their ability would sink. No government by, for, and of the rich.

In the dreams of the American plutocracy, the very few ultra elite will form a new aristocracy while everyone else will become their peasant class of illiterate workers. No thanks. I prefer a well regulated free enterprise system in which naked greed and corruption are least somewhat controlled. This is much like a well regulated militia. Somehow, the advocates of unbridled gun ownership and heavily armed, self appointed “patriots” overthrowing the government whoever they feel like it, miss the “well regulated” part of "militia". It applies to free enterprise too. There is a world of opportunity between zero regulation and socialism, but that’s hard work and takes effort. It is so much easier to rant and howl about only two extremes and not have to work at actually thinking about the situation.

It appears that the American Enterprise Institute sends its headhunters to beer bashes at American universities and colleges. Imagine what would happen to their mindless ideology if a studious or scholarly recruit arrived. God forbid anyone working there actually thinks things through or offers a realistic set of alternatives.

Think I‘m exaggerating? Check this out: a confidential report that Citigroup initially circulated only to it's wealthiest customers. Those reports, since leaked, plainly discuss the power of the Plutonomy in America, and how it would only strengthen, as long as "the rest us" (the non-plutonics) could be kept in the dark about the Plutonomy existence, its role, and its over-arching control in the American Economy.

A brief excerpt: v4) In a plutonomy there is no such animal as “the U.S. consumer” or “the UK consumer”, or indeed the “Russian consumer”. There are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take. There are the rest, the “non-rich”, the multitudinous many, but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie.

The report goes on to exult over the control the Plutonomy has held and expects to continue to hold over the government of the United States .

Now, generally despise the conspiracy theorists, but this report is from Citigroup. And no, its not like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that is, a fake. This is the real thing. why did Citigroup publish such a thing? They are so confident that they have nothing but contempt for the rest of us. They probably aren't even worried that it did leak. After all, they control both houses of Congress and even have an in with center left Obama. What do we think we can do? Maybe we can eat cake.
From a message to Bobby, with additional comment: Life could be so wonderful if it weren't for all the living we have to do. Yeah, the desert is not what it used to be. I really miss the quiet little place it was. Too many people and not enough desert now. I enjoy the variety of restaurants, and some of the stores are convenient, but I would honestly rather go back to the days when you planned to go down below to do serious shopping at least one day a month. It was a pain in some ways, but things were quiet and semi rural then.

Worst of all is the horrible light pollution. You can hardly see the stars anymore. Pele and Pele's Plume [aka Scorpio] are back, but so low in the sky you can hardly see them. Ummm... did you know that I have my own names for the constellations?

It may seem odd are first, until you remember that this is me talking. Then it seems normative...for me anyway.

Speaking of light pollution... why do some people, so many people, slash and cut the night with so many light sabers? Street lights, parking lot lights, mercury and sodium flood lights in their yards, what did the night ever do to them? All the high desert has become full of glare. No matter where I go to meditate, I am assaulted by wild and angry photons. Well, while smog is here in the evenings, it is more a smell and a headache than the eye burning attack it was a few decades ago. There is hope. If we could get smog reduced and the air less poisoned, maybe we can do the same for the Cathedral of Night that God built.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

On immigration and ethnic studies. Arizona, determined to drive out all that nasty Hispanic and liberal money, has added strict new regulations on ethnic studies in public schools. While they seem obvious at first glance, at second glance they sound in clinical paranoia. I have always had hesitations regarding ethnic/women’s studies. Well, I have since their inception, which I am old enough to recall clearly. I seems to me a better route would be to be more inclusive in American and world history classes.

I note that the apparent source of the bizarre “Cleopatra was black.” movement is a Black studies program at one university where the theory is aggressively professed by the instructor. Anecdotal evidence such as this is often quoted by those who fear such courses, but I have yet to hear any verifiable data regarding how accurate and or how divisive such programs are.

I recall as a student at San Deigo State the resentment I felt that female students had a special lounge from which the rest of us were excluded. Why wasn't there a male only lounge? I have no doubt that that was wrong, but do ethnic studies really promote the overthrow of the United States? Do they actually “track” students racially? The law refers to these and other abuses and at least one Arizona official defended the law saying these excesses do occur. If so, this is one retired school administrator who thinks that a new law is less necessary than appropriate supervision by school authorities. If passing a law is the only way to make Arizonan principals and superintendents do their job, something is very rotten in the educational system of Arizona.

In any event, it seems clear to me that Arizona is wildly overreacting to show the world that they are tough on tolerance. The fact that the majority of Americans polled support Arizona’s hard boiled approach to the immigration problem encourages them, but they should remember that at one time, something like 90% of Americans supported the Iraq war. At that time I said, “The day will come when America will look at Iraq and ask, ‘How did we get into the mess?’” I was right then and I am convinced that Arizona will one day say the same thing about its new attitude.

I also can't resist pointing out that Arizona and many Americans are bitterly angry that the federal government failed to deal with immigration. I recall that one of the few things Georgie Porgy tried to do right was comprehensive immigration reform. He was prevented from doing so by the same people who are now so bitter that the government failed to serve their needs by listening to them. If only Bush had ignored their demands to do nothing, they would now be happy that he had done something against their will. Ummm... so they are now mad at the government for daring to do as they demanded in the past and also angry at it for not doing what they are demanding now. OK. Makes sense to me!

I must add a point that angers me to the maximum. Hispanics are regularly attacked for being racist due to the name of one political advocacy group. I refer, of course, to La Raza. I am not a member and do not know much about the group's activities, but neither do those who use the name to bitterly attack Hispanics, including the Arizonan official I listened to earlier tonight. If he does know something about the group, he didn’t mention it. all he did was point out the “obvious” racism inherent in the name.

The problem is that the definition of the word “raza” is more complex than the automatically assume bigotry crowd think. The definition is as follows: Race, generation, lineage, family, clan: branch of a family.

In other words, while it is possible the members of La Raza are implying that they are racists by choosing this name, it is also possible that they are simply affirming their membership in an ethnic group [ie: clan]; their feeling that they constitute an extended family [The family of man? Well, the Hispanic sub Family of Man anyway]; or simply acknowledging that they share a lineage and a culture.

Of course, a certain type of person automatically assumes the worst of those who are darker skinned than themselves. I think this is unwise and says a lot more about the person making the assumption than it does about La Raza.

I don’t want to make assumptions either. It is possible that La Raza is making a racist claim. Does anyone know? If you do, I'd like to see the evidence.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Elena Kegan has been nominated as the next Supreme court Justice. I am not certain about her nomination, though I have something to say in general. While Bush was busy appointing the most reactionary right wing extremists he could to the court, I said that nominees should be neither liberal nor conservative, but moderate and centrist. Since I aspire to be a man for all seasons [great play by Robert Bolt], now that we have a president of whom I approve, I will repeat, we need nominees to the federal judiciary at all levels to be moderate centrists. Conservatives and liberals both have private political agendas which should not be allowed to so strongly influence the nation which is occupied the rest of us.

I think she might be a good choice since liberals are upset that she is not sufficiently left wing for them. Since I doubt that Obama would actually nominate a conservative, especially not one of those odd creatures who have taken over the name in recent decades, I am willing to assume that she meets my standards in this area.

This brings us to an area in which I am not in support of her nomination. I believe that judges with a known track record and experience in actually making decisions regarding constitutional maters should be considered. I know that Earl Warren and several others are said to belie this conviction, but I sincerely believe that experience matters and that a track record helps to identify the nominee as of a particular bent in making decisions.

I want to add that I have always felt of divided mind on the issue of nominees answering questions regarding decisions they might have to make. It seems to me that a general question does not obligate a particular decision, and that even if it did, justices are allowed to change their minds. When commentators agree that nominees should refuse to answer specific questions about specific issues, I am puzzled. This insistence means that you can ask anything about a nominee, except how he or she will do the job for which you are hiring them for life. Imagine hiring a teacher and not being able to ask them how they will teach or what their beliefs are regarding curriculum. It makes no sense.

On the other hand, could anyone in today’s polarized political atmosphere ever be elected if they did answer such questions? I doubt it.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Just a quick comment. Take a look at Europe, specifically Greece. State's rights advocates should be aware of the dangers of sovereign nations gathered in to a loose economic confederacy. The consequences can be devastating. We left our own confederation to make a more perfect union -- please note that unions are united. I agree with Franklin, "Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good."

For the entire text of the speech --

Freedom Fighter or Terrorist?

Once again we hear that “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist.” In this case it relates to the Middle East -- -- but the comment is universally made and is accepted to reveal a great truth. I disagree.

While is obviously true that what Israelis call a freedom fighter or a terrorist is often the exact opposite what the Palestinians call a freedom fighter or a terrorist, and vice versa, the two are entirely different states of being with different definitions. A freedom fighter is one who struggles to gain what he perceives as justice and, yes, freedom, for his nation or people. “Freedom fighter” describes the purpose of a person’s actions.

“Terrorist” describes the type of action taken by an individual. The purpose of terrorism is to bring about some result; usually political, sometimes moral, by inflicting terror and fear on a target group.

The two terms are clearly not interchangeable. It is entirely possible for a freedom fighter to abjure all terrorist actions. It is also possible for a freedom fighter to embrace terrorism.

I can’t call it extreme focus, since terrorism is always an extreme; but I use the example of a largely defused terrorist/freedom fighter situation to illustrate the case. Consider Ireland. Brutally invaded by the monstrously cruel war criminal, Lord Protector Cromwell, and held in savage bondage for centuries thereafter by the evil empire, Great Britain, Ireland’s people responded by fighting for their freedom. Sometimes they took legitimate and appropriate military action, sometimes they took terrorist action. Often the line between the two became blurred and confused. Nevertheless, the point is clear that one can fight for freedom with or without using the tactics of terrorism.

I have a deep emotional commitment to the cause of Irish freedom. I insist that Ireland must one day unite and become the one nation she justly deserves to be. Yet I condemned the terrorist actions of both the IRA and the various Protestant organizations that for so long caused what the Irish described as “The Troubles”. In other words, I supported the cause while condemning the more extreme tactics.

Consider Gandhi. A freedom fighter to be sure, but can anyone say he is a terrorist?

Note: I use the Irish example because so much progress has been made. a situation which existed in a state of mutual hate and terror/counter terror for centuries has moved to peaceful effort to resolve the issues. Thank you Bill Clinton, Rev. Paisley, and so many more. The impossible happened after 300 years in Ireland, it can happen in the Middle East, but let’s not wait quite so long.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Krista Tippett, on C-SPAN 2, talked about her book, Einstein’s God. Her points were complex and interesting, very non simplistic. Still, she made interesting viewing as she explored the vast ground between the fundamentalist extremists on both poles in the self declared war between the ultra religious and the ultra secular.

I recall a contest in which high school students were asked to make speeches responding to and defending their positions when answering the question, “Which is most dangerous, religion or science?” I was long out of high school and so could not participate, but I wished that I could, because my answer would have boiled down to, “Extremism in either is the danger. Neither is dangerous in and of itself.”

In our currently so polarized and emotional nation, it pays to take some time to think and reflect on what we share rather than to obsessively focus on what divides us. Even between Democrat and Republican, Progressive and Tea Partier, there is much more in common than in contrast. Unfortunately, it is easy to deny this. Especially from the right at this time we hear cries about conspiracies to destroy America and etc. Do these individuals really believe that Obama wants his daughters to grow up in an America which he has destroyed? What parent would want such a thing? We may fiercely disagree with how to attain security in this dangerous world, or how to promote American prosperity. but can anyone actually think about the situation and sincerely believe that either of the opponents actually wants to hurt this country?

No one despises Bush more than I do, but I know that he thought he was doing the right thing and was sincerely trying to make America wealthier and safer. The left wing nuts who still insist that he lead a conspiracy to destroy the World Trade Center are simply not thinking clearly.

The problem is, of course, that we are emotional creatures who can, but often do not, use our ability to think. It is so much easier to emote and react than it is to think and plan. Hard work is not always pleasant, though it can be, and thinking is very hard work. The brain accounts for a huge amount of our body’s energy usage--even when we are being emotional. Thinking burns up even more power; and free will can only exist as a result of thought.

I remember, when I was a freshman in high school, becoming angry At Barry Goldwater’s declaration that “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” I knew he was wrong, though I had not so thoroughly developed my sense of balance and my opposition to extremism. Today I say, he’s right. It is no vice. It is a mortal sin.