Archive for November 27th, 2011

United States to begin licensing franchises

| November 27, 2011 | Reply
United States to begin licensing franchises

According to The Onion, United States government officials “announced plans Tuesday to increase revenue by offering franchise opportunities to entrepreneurs who wish to start their own United States of America.”

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The case for less-is-more democracy

| November 27, 2011 | 5 Replies
The case for less-is-more democracy

I have long been fascinated by the herd instinct of human animals. What could be more obvious than the fact that we mimic each other for all kinds of reasons, even for reasons that seem absurd to outsiders. Further, we follow each others’ lead even while we chant that we are “individuals.”

In reality, many of us panic at the idea that differences among the citizens. How dare some citizens question even some of America’s war efforts! That is “unpatriotic.” How dare some Americans encourage multi-culturalism! Gay marriage? Forget it. And don’t ever forget that the United States is the world’s greatest country—let us all say that in unison! For many of us, everybody has a categorical moral duty to fall in line on all matters relating to God and country.

Perhaps I find the topic of the human herding so compelling because of my own personal instinct to aversion to joining groups. For reasons I don’t understand, I instinctively rebel against many efforts to convince me to go along with “everybody else.” I’ve been this way ever since I can remember. Going along with the crowd is not something that gives me joy and comfort. Rather, it makes me feel wary and out of control. If people at my workplace were to announce that next Wednesday will be “Blue Shirt Day,” I’ll go out of my way to not wear blue. I perplex those who root for the home town sports teams and I don’t join political parties. I commonly hesitate to join in most displays of patriotism, including America’s warmongering. This is not to say I’m immune to such impulses, but it is fair to say that where many other Americans revel in community bonding, I tend to fight inner battles while questioning the need. Instead of joining in, I tend to question.

[More . . . ]

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Meanwhile, back in Rome . . .

| November 27, 2011 | Reply
Meanwhile, back in Rome . . .

Back in Rome, the Catholic clergy is working hard to protect Roman Catholics from such things as yoga and Harry Potter.

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Underlying assumptions of popular board games

| November 27, 2011 | Reply
Underlying assumptions of popular board games

Huffpo offers this broad view of what motivates the competition regarding some of the most popular board games. For example, the game of Monopoly encourages players to become the 1%.

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Wikileaks wins Australian version of Pulitzer Award

| November 27, 2011 | 1 Reply
Wikileaks wins Australian version of Pulitzer Award

Glenn Greenwald reports that in recognition for breaking stories like this, Wikileaks has been given Australia’s highest journalism award.

The Walkley Awards are the Australian equivalent of the Pulitzers: that nation’s most prestigious award for excellence in journalism. Last night, the Walkley Foundation awarded its highest distinction — for “Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism” — to WikiLeaks, whose leader, Julian Assange, is an Australian citizen. The panel cited the group’s “courageous and controversial commitment to the finest traditions of journalism: justice through transparency,” and hailed it for having “applied new technology to penetrate the inner workings of government to reveal an avalanche of inconvenient truths in a global publishing coup.” As I’ve noted before, WikiLeaks easily produced more newsworthy scoops over the last year than every other media outlet combined, and the Foundation observed: “so many eagerly took advantage of the secret cables to create more scoops in a year than most journalists could imagine in a lifetime.” In sum: “by designing and constructing a means to encourage whistleblowers, WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief Julian Assange took a brave, determined and independent stand for freedom of speech and transparency that has empowered people all over the world.” What makes this award so notable is that the United States — for exactly the same reasons the Foundation cited in honoring WikiLeaks’ journalism achievements — has spent the last year trying to criminalize and destroy the group . . . It is telling indeed that the U.S. — with the backing of its subservient allied governments — has devoted itself to the destruction of the world’s most effective journalistic outlet.

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Maintaining Order

| November 27, 2011 | Reply
Maintaining Order

How is it that Americans are so incredibly ignorant of many of these atrocities? How is it, for example, that most people do now know that in 1954 the United States overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran to install a Shah?

The following video should be required viewing for any American who barks that we ought to invade Iran or, worse yet, “nuke Iran” (I’ve heard both of these on the street). This is insanity from a nation that claims to love liberties and spout pro-life rhetoric.

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The Power of Nightmares

| November 27, 2011 | 2 Replies
The Power of Nightmares

I’ve  previously written about a BBC documentary called “The Power of Nightmares,” but I want to mention it again because it repeatedly seems relevant. The following are the opening words the documentary :

In the past, the power of politicians promised to create a better world. They had different ways of achieving this, but their power and authority came from the optimistic visions they offered their people . . . Politicians were seen simply as managers of public life. But now they have discovered a new role that restores their apparent authority. Instead of delivering dreams, politicians now promise to protect us . . . from nightmares.

While reading the following passage from The Happiness Hypothesis (written by Jonathan Haidt), I was reminded of the “The Power of Nightmares”:

When the moral history of the 1990s is written, it might be titled desperately seeking Satan. With peace and harmony ascendant, Americans seemed to be searching for substitute villains. We tried drug dealers (but then the crack epidemic waned) and a child abductors (who are usually one of the parents). The cultural right vilified homosexuals; the left vilified racists and homophobes. As I thought about these various villains, including the older villains of Communism and Satan himself, I realized that most of them share three properties: they are invisible (you can’t identify the evil one from appearance alone) their evil spreads by contagion, making it vital to protect impressionable young people from infection (for example from communist ideas, homosexual teachers, were stereotypes on television); and the villains can be defeated only if we all pull together as a team. It became clear to me that people want to believe they are on a mission from God, or that they are fighting for some secular good (animals, fetuses, women’s rights), and you can’t have much of a mission without good allies and a good enemy.

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