Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Challenge to Understand the World

The great challenge I feel is to understand the world, and those living within it, taking nothing individually, but instead viewing it in context of the interconnections and causal interrelations that define us all. Lately I have forgotten this and have gotten all partisan about certain topics out of frustration and, probably, ignorance of the actual views of the 'other side.'

Everything is connected, and those connections define who we are. This is not some new-age BS, but an actual method to figure out why the Libyans welcomed the Pan Am 103 bomber, why we cannot solve the problems between Palestine and Israel, why Cheney seems so evil, etc.


When I wrote what I wrote yesterday about arrogance, I probably committed the error of oversimplifying the problem.

I forgot to note that Congress had basically given the go-ahead to the extreme levels of risk-taking seen when, during the 1990s, they removed regulations that had prevented such a crisis since the Great Depression.

Similarly, in an article in the NY Times, I read about the Homecoming of the Pan Am bomber into Libya, I was reminded just how multi-faceted that issue was, from his not entirely proven guilt, to the fact that the Libyans never believed he was guilty, to the fact that another situation a few years ago when Libya found several Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor guilty of infecting children with AIDS, Libya returned them to Bulgarian, where they were met by crowds, dignitaries, and were immediately pardoned. The truth is, we see their justice as less good than ours (and probably with good reason). The reality is, though, that we fail to realize all the interconnections between each action, and that everything that is done has a price, has people connected to all sides, and should be understood in terms of those interconnections before judgements are made.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Arrogance of Freedom Among the Wealthy and Powerful

We have seen the frustration experienced as families fail and banks and companies are saved from what would be a justified demise. We saved them because they control all of us and without them we would all be much worse off. We were helpless as banks demanded to be saved first, much like the rich were able to get the seats on the few lifeboats leaving the Titanic.

This arrogance exhibited among people who are paid enormous sums and are able to become so powerful that they ignore the society that gives them the chance to thrive is appalling. The arrogance is similarly exhibited by those who are able to take full advantage of the new freedom provided in a globalizing world. These high-flying people who move quickly, make tons of money, do so with confidence granted by a freedom from spatial constraints. They forget that all the networks, the satellites, the money, the planes, everything depends on the people who are constrained by space and who live in space, and who are used as virtual pawns by those who see themselves as spatially free.

As a geographer, I must object to the concept of Spatial Freedom. People are NOT free to do whatever they wish simply because they can move across boarders quickly. The arrogance of those who claim to command the global information flows and economies are not untouchable and I hope never will be. I believe these people must be made to account for the roles they play, to recognize that they have a role in and responsibilities for the global society in which they live. The idea that we are held hostage by banks and that the failure to save Lehman was a major failure in the recession policy of the past administration is disturbing because they are not free from spatial constraints, they just take whatever they desire and promptly beg for a savior when they have gone too far.

And who saves them? We do, the citizens of countries in the world, forced to live and work in the place we call home, subject so often to the whims of those who have the arrogance to claim that they are spatially free.

The Importance of Winning

Republicans right now are looking to break Obama on Health Care and think they can, which I believe is the principle reason that they will NOT compromise. This is not surprising on one side-since that is how politicians make their living these days-but on the other, Obama is so incredibly moderate, that they Republicans could have almost anything provided they agree to work together.

Unfortunately, Obama could either be another Carter or another Kennedy/Johnson. It is still unclear whether he will be an idealistic but ineffectual president or or one who is politically astute, has the potential to be ruthless, and has an overarching ideal for what he wants things to become. Johnson is, in many ways, my favorite president, for reasons I will explain if asked. The thing is, I still do not know what kind of president he is going to be. I really wish he would hurry up and reveal a few of his cards.

The Republicans being unable to accept compromise and require a win to work to resolve our problems will either marginalize them or destroy us. Thankfully they are not in power in any part of the government. Compromise only works when it is actually a choice between viable policies rather than the status quo and change.

A Thought on Terrorists

A quick word. How many of us have watched a movie in which a super-villain has done evil and then said that he should be done in because we all know he will escape and destroy more lives. Another thought: how many of us would kill Hitler, Stalin, Saddam, Osama, Pol Pot, Kim Jong Il, Ismael Haniya, Mugabe, if all that it took was tossing a bomb at him and then thousands of lives would be saved (likely saved)? What if he was among a group of children? I ask this because, when it comes down to it, people who are terrorists are those who believe that the ends justify the means, even if those means result in death for many innocents. Yet, would you throw a bomb at Hitler or some of his SS men even if he was in a group of kids? I think that many people would. I do not mean to justify or humanize terrorists or terrorism at all. I do think that we should attempt to gain a clearer understanding of ourselves and try to understand what we would do in a situation where we are fighting for something we believe in and choose whether we believe that the ends justify the means, being aware that that belief is what defines terrorists.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Swiss Banking = Simpsons

To anyone who has seen a lot of Simpsons Episodes, the following dialogue will be familiar.

In the episode where Springfield bans alcohol, Duff Beer creates a new product called Duff Zero.

Duff President: We believe that people drink Duff not for its alcohol content, but for its robust taste. For this reason, we have created Duff Zero, the non-alcoholic Duff beer.

Similarly, in an interview on the BBC about this current debacle between the US IRS and the Swiss Bank UBS, the Swiss Banking official said the following when asked about the future of Swiss Banking: people use Swiss banks because they know the product and the currency is stable, people want to work with people they can know and trust. It has nothing to do with tax evasion.

Right. Do you also read them for the articles?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Marching Toward Marginalization

I am exceedingly frustrated by the current health care debate in the United States for a couple of reasons. One of these is that it has stopped me from thinking and discussing about important international issues on which the fate of our country also hangs, such as getting out of the recession like other countries are doing, improving relations with China, figuring out how to deal with Russia, and, most importantly, having a successful election in Afghanistan. I am really upset about Karzai right now who is acting like another Chalabi (remember, the guy who Bush Jr. wanted to be President of Iraq). He just invited a murdering warlord back after he was exiled. He is becoming a professional developing-world democratic leader (i.e. the election is great as long as I win).

The health care debate is frustrating because it is highlighting the issues I have been having for quite some time with our entire public discourse system. As I mentioned in previous posts, the level of fragmentation in the media has led to us all believing different "facts." People were glad to accept these "facts" without thinking, meaning that no one questioned the idiocy of the concept that the government would actually kill people's grandparents. This is absurd. If people would step back and think about it for a bit, then they would recognize that "death panels" make no sense and that something must be fishy. The reality of today is, however, that Republicans want to win and will do so at any cost. I find this frustrating, as I found it upsetting when some liberals I know were upset (implicitly, never explicitly) that Bush's "surge" worked because they had to admit he had been right. Because of the win at any cost mentality, we are finding that we are increasingly divided. The Republicans WANT to break Obama, and they see this as a way to do it. Partisanship is good for business.

It is also good for the media. I will keep this point short: Lou Dobbs repeatedly brought up issues about Obama's citizenship, even after the question was long settled. Why? Keeping debates alive keeps pundits (our hired opinion-makers). The fragmentation that exists in the media means that they and everyone around the debate benefits from people screaming at each other in town-halls. We are bringing our country to its knees because we cannot sit down and recognize that: There is a problem, we need a solution.

In closing, I would basically like to rehash a point I made earlier. America has been made great by individuals working to build themselves and their communities. Solving their problems through sweat, blood, and tears. In the past, with several notable exceptions, most of our problems could be resolved through individual work. Today, however, the problems require a vast collective effort to solve poverty, climate change, conflict issues, health care, education, falling competitiveness, etc. Our rugged individualism makes us scream angrily and in frustration falsehoods at public meeting, while countries with a collective culture began to overtake us.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Republican's Claim Anger

People in this country seem to be against anything and everything that is changed. Republicans act all holy and say that this is an example of them being right. The rediculous thing, is that we are coming off of an extremely expansive government. Republicans are acting like they have the answers when what we need now is a solution that involves us all collectively, forcing us to turn to the government to organize and coordinate our fixing of our society. Why do the Republicans appropriate the anger as theirs? It is because they truly want everything to crash and burn so they can come back to the top. The tell lies about the health reform efforts whenever a couple of years ago, they lead an effort that cost HUGE amounts of money to reform Medicare. I am babbling incoherantly because I cannot believe that people believe the lies and idiocy they are spouting. I cannot believe that we, a country that has led the world, wants to stick our collective heads in the sand. I get people are angry about how the government stepped in to help the big guys and banks-this policy may well have been unavoidable-but it makes sense that this causes anger.

We as a country have always moved forward by being daring, strong, and forward thinking. We have been successful because of our individuality; however, we have reached a point where that ideal is sinking us into the ground. We need collective action, but we cannot get beyond our obsession with individualism.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Weirdness of Conservative Activism

NPR had a very interesting report tonight about the conservative crowds that disrupt meetings. The conservative movement fascinates me because they are refusing to deal with this with civility. They get up and say Obama is not an American citizen and yell and scream. They fight, complain, whine, and what is most fascinating, they do not know anything they are talking about. Obama is definitely an American citizen. There is clear proof. People are told weird stuff about socializing medicine which is not going to happen.

What I do not get is why there is no real discussion based on facts about different points of view on how to fix a serious problem. Conservatives have decided that it is a good idea to disrupt town hall meetings with screams, yells, boos, and false claims. They have become obstructionist, something that the Democrats did not even do while they were completely shut out of power. Most Democrats, for example, voted for Bush's appointees even though Alito should not be let anywhere near Justice in my, and many other middle-lefts, opinion. Instead they just kick and scream. If reform fails, Democrats will lose power and nothing will get done. We are teetering on the brink of oblivion as our country is in decline and has been since the 1980s. Instead of discussion, though, we just scream and shout and spout stupid things like claims that Obama is not an American citizen.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Aaaaahhhh Entitlement

A girl is suing her college in New York because she did not get a job and is claiming that she was entitled to one.

I am listening to World Have Your Say on the BBC right now and there are many people who are arguing that they have the RIGHT to a job just because they went to University.

This is one example of a society that claims entitlements and, what's worse, claims that we do things ourselves. Everyone in our hypocrite society, including myself, accepts entitlements and believes that we are entitled to many things. Believe it or not, this covers about equally conservatives and liberals, although conservatives claim more often that they are true individualists. Companies are terrible too.

I believe we need to take a long look at what we want our government to provide and have them provide it. Then, we need to decide that we accept the consequences of the government providing that service. We need to pay for that service and recognize that we receive it. I am sick and tired of people believing that they are entitled (such as the Don't Touch my Medicare lady who attacked Obama and Company's health plan) and yet do not recognize how much they receive and are dependent upon the government for service.