Archive for April 27th, 2011

A global empathy

| April 27, 2011 | 4 Replies
A global empathy

If you’ve lived in or spent any significant time in another country, you might have had to answer questions about why your country was doing certain things on the world stage. And if you took time to think of who was asking and how things appeared from their perspectives, your answer might be different than if you spent your life wearing parochial blinders.

I was in Korea when we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. I couldn’t answer the questions like, “Why is the U.S. doing that?” or the more common one, “Why are Bush and Cheney doing that?” And these from a country that enjoys (not universally) a U.S. presence and strong relationship with the U.S. I couldn’t answer not just because I was in the military for part of the time I was there, but also that I tried to understand how things looked from outside the U.S. I was, after all, a guest in their country.

Sam Richards, in this TED Talk titled “A Radical Experiment in Empathy” illustrates a message that I think that every single American needs to hear, whether xenophobic or not. I’ve lived all over the U.S. and I am continually saddened, if no longer surprised at how Americans view the world. “Speak English!” “But you’re in our country.” “Speak English anyway.” I am also saddened that I know many people that will not understand this video, which is all the more disappointing because despite my other challenges regarding the nature of humans though their arts, I do.

The message is simple: Step out of your tiny world and understand the larger world differently.

It should open some eyes. I really hope it does.

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Why they tell the truth.

| April 27, 2011 | 2 Replies
Why they tell the truth.

I was listening to local Christian AM radio station “Truthtalk KJSL” tonight while driving home (as an amateur anthropologist). I heard a promotional spot that caught my attention. It went like this:

Abraham Lincoln said: “No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar.” That’s why at KJSL we tell you the truth!

Oh, Really? Is that why?

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Preparing to run for President

| April 27, 2011 | 1 Reply
Preparing to run for President

There is no surer sign that someone is getting ready to run for president that the fact that they suddenly claim to be more strongly religious than they ever were before. You can now see this phenomenon with Newt Gingrich, who is trying to score political points by mouthing off about all the purported damage being done to the country by non-theists like me.

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Onion reports new Supreme Court Decision supporting unruly sports fans

| April 27, 2011 | Reply
Onion reports new Supreme Court Decision supporting unruly sports fans

The Onion reports on a new U.S. Supreme Court decision supporting the right of sports fans to be unruly.

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Newly released Wikileaks files show indiscriminate imprisonment at Guantanamo

| April 27, 2011 | 2 Replies
Newly released Wikileaks files show indiscriminate imprisonment at Guantanamo

David Leigh, executive editor at The Guardian, appeared on Democracy Now to discuss the lax criteria used by the U.S. to decide who should be imprisoned at Guantanamo. Here are a few excerpts:

Mohammed Basardah . . . [is a] Yemeni who was captured on the borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he was apparently trying to flee after the U.S. invasion and the fighting in the Tora Bora Mountains. Since he’s been in there, in Guantánamo, he’s won his freedom by apparently denouncing or implicating at least 123 of his co-prisoners. That’s an extraordinary number, and of course it does raise the question whether he has not been exaggerating.

. . .

The most saddening thing was the descriptions of completely innocent old men and young boys who were shipped off to Guantánamo for no very good reason, except they were rounded up in a dragnet. There’s an 89-year-old Afghan villager, who was picked up merely because there was a list of suspicious phone numbers in a satellite phone found near his compound, shipped off to Guantánamo, where they discover he’s not only very, very old and doesn’t know anything, but he’s also suffering from dementia and probably can’t even remember what day of the week it is.

Similarly, a 14-year-old boy, turned out, when he arrived there, to in fact have been kidnapped by pro-Taliban tribesmen and left holding a rifle while they fled around him. Even the Guantánamo commander at the time, Major General Geoffrey Miller, who’s a fairly controversial and rigorous figure, shall we say, who later went to the Abu Ghraib prison, even he wrote a memo and signed it, saying, “We don’t know why this boy is here. He really has to be got out of here and sent back to a normal environment, because he just—it’s completely wrong that he should be in Guantánamo.” You see innocent people being rounded up, shipped off, stuck there, sometimes for years.

. . .

[More . . . ]

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The Free Market Problem

| April 27, 2011 | 3 Replies
The Free Market Problem

Paul Ryan and his supporters are trying to sell their spending cut and lower tax program and they’re getting booed at town hall meetings.  They’re finally cutting into people’s pockets who can’t defend themselves.  They thought they were doing what their constituency wanted and must be baffled at this negative response.

Okay, this might get a bit complicated, but not really.  It just requires a shift in perspective away from the definition of capitalism we’ve been being sold since Reagan to something that is more descriptive of what actually happens.  Theory is all well and good and can be very useful in specific instances, but a one-size-fits-all approach to something as basic as resources is destined to fail.

Oh, I’m sorry, let me back up a sec there—fail if your stated goal is to float all boats, to raise the general standard of living, to provide jobs and resources sufficient to sustain a viable community at a decent level.  If, on the other hand, your goal is to feed a machine that generates larger and larger bank accounts for fewer and fewer people at the expense of communities, then by all means keep doing what we’ve been doing.

Here’s the basic problem.  People think that the free market and capitalism are one and the same thing.  They are not.  THEY ARE CLOSELY RELATED and both thrive in the presence of the other, but they are not the same thing.

But before all that we have to understand one thing—there is no such thing as a Free Market.  None.  Someone always dominates it, controls it, and usually to the detriment of someone else.

How is it a free market when one of the most salient features of it is the ability of a small group to determine who will be allowed to participate and at what level?  I’m not talking about the government here, I’m talking about big business, which as standard practice does all it can to eliminate competitors through any means it can get away with and that includes market manipulations that can devalue smaller companies and make them ripe for take-over or force them into bankruptcy.

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Dwindling numbers of newspaper reporters

| April 27, 2011 | Reply
Dwindling numbers of newspaper reporters

At Paper Cuts, you can see the carnage: America’s newspapers are laying off huge numbers of newspapers reporters. This is a major factor for the lack of news coverage.

Click on the Maps (for instance the 2009 map) to see how widespread the job cuts have been throughout the United States.

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