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Archive for March, 2010

 So, major outlets’ stories on the recent arrest of this “Christian militia,” this example of homegrown terrorism that is happening as a result of the irresponsibility of the republican leadership and its media mouthpieces, are refusing to actually use the word ‘terrorism.’   If they were truly neutral regarding Islam, then they should not hesitate to call Christian terrorism what it is, i.e., Christian terrorism, and the people who perpetrate it, terrorists.  This would be useful because it would point out that, amongst other things, violent extremists of whatever stripe are violent extremists.  Right now, CNN and co are working under the assumption that if a Muslim sets off a bomb in a market and kills 50 people,  he is a terrorist, but if a nice Christian guy sets off a bomb at a police officer’s funeral and kills 50 people, then he is a militiaman. 

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100330/ap_on_re_us/us_fbi_raids

By referring to these people using their own term “Christian militia,” the media are legitimizing them as heirs to the American colonial militia, which organized tea parties and other sorts of activities against the British.  Thus, this terminology falls right into the teabaggers’ idea of themselves as somehow heroes of armed resistance against a tyrannical DC government.

There are a few problems with this idea, however.  One, is that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Ben Franklin, and co, were highly educated, highly articulate, highly humane people who were well versed in the history of political philosophy, knew the Greek and Latin classics, knew the history of Rome and Greece, and knew more recent history (e.g., the English Civil War) extremely well, and whose sensible arguments won the sympathy of a great percentage of the British and French educated and elite classes.  In short, they inspired a majority of the most sensible people in their society that they were right, and that, in fact, the government of Britain under George III was merely acting in economic self-interest, rather than in the interest of the American people, when it was waging a war.  Thus, the American militias clearly had the moral high ground for most of their conflict.  (more…)

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So, I tend to agree with The Economist, which writes of the healthcare thing:  hey, at least it gets the ball rolling. 

What the bill does not do, is address costs.  IMHO, that would mean majorly capping what lawyers are allowed to get out of malpractise cases.  That I think is responsible for the lion’s share of runaway medical expenses in the US, and it’s entirely preventable, and profits very very few people (except the lawyers, and those involved in keeping the system afloat).  Now don’t get me wrong – I’ve seen that for centuries of western history, the lawyers’ ability to sue has been basically the number one guarantee of middle class rights, and the maintenance and incremental improvement of human rights for everyone.  The sad thing is that some lawyers’ excesses get the whole profession tarred as bloodsuckers:  it’s pretty easy to see how the public would latch on to this.  But really, their profession is the bedrock of democracy, humanism, all that both sides of the aisle in the US claim to hold dear (though the GOP has retreated from the idea of humanism, I think, of late).  I’ve written about that in my post “why the judciary is the only barrier between us and a return to the dark ages.”

But, thanks to the GOP’s (read:  big business’) ability to utterly distort the health care debate, and to use Fox news and co to turn at least 20% of americans into frothing-at-the-mouth baboons unfit to be citizens in anything like a democracy, Obama was forced to majorly compromise with at least one major industry whose interests were at stake, namely Big Pharma.  (more…)

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I was watching a speech by Newt Gingritch, and he was repeating the old republican saw that:  “if you work hard and are a responsible adult, who doesn’t ask for handouts, then you will do fine for yourself.”

While this is of course a sound idea under some conditions, the republicans neglect to mention the rather obvious fact that under other conditions, you can work your fingers to the absolute bone, holding three jobs, and still find that you cannot feed your family or pay your most basic bills.  In other words, depending on the economic realities of the time, and a lot of other factors, it is quite possible to work very hard, and yet not do very well at all. 

For example, there there were many people in early twentieth-century America who worked fourteen hour days, six days per week.  They worked very hard; under much more difficult circumstances than any hard-working American today (because there was zero social safety net prior to the Great Depression), and yet, guess what?  They lived in filthy shacks, crowded ten to a room, with no running water, no sewer system, no social security, no ability to save, inadequate clothing, no medical care, and not enough food to eat.

In fact, it is far more common all over the world today, for people to work very, very hard, and yet somehow, they find that their wages are not nearly enough.  Hey, Newt, now why would that be? (more…)

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It’s kind of unbelievable how many of my friends, and how many liberal journalists, write as though censorship _of any kind_ is somehow anathema to human life, when in fact, if they just took a minute and stepped back to think, they would realize that they are all very much in favour of all sorts of censorship.  They’re just not used to thinking of it that way– and this has led to some pretty big problems in our society, which need fixing quick.  So let’s look at the problem in a bit more detail…

Since the 1970s, the left’s knee-jerk reaction, which has since become very mainstream, about the question of censorship, has been to baldly state that “censorship is always bad.”  Just the other day on the Guardian, some commentator or other was saying the same thing about violence in movies, and violence in art:  “of course artists should be able to say whatever they want.”  It’s high time, I think, to ask, as a person on the left:  is this really the right ideological position to adopt?  Is this actually the best way of fostering humanism, rationality, science, dignity, respect, self-worth, respect for the environment, and all of the other core “liberal values?”

In fact, I would argue that the core “liberal values” are pretty much a direct application of eighteenth-century enlightenment values (i.e., those of the American and French revolutions, and of the Enlightenment), only now written in a 20th and 21st century context, where we have since realized that these should not be applied only to rich white men, but to everyone, of whatever colour, gender, sexual orientation, etc. 

This is not a minor issue, but is arguably rapidly turning American society into one which is not only violent, (where life is “nasty, quick, brutish, and short?”), but which is morally unfit to rule the world.  (more…)

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 Note:  If I were to write a novel, it would be about Dante.  It wouldn’t necessarily be any good, however, which is why I chose to write non fiction for a living.  The following excerpt is a tribute to not one, but two of my childhood friends who have recently and quite unexpectedly died in unrelated incidents several (but not nearly enough) years apart.  This is here just to help me to cope a bit.  The Platonist will return to his usual social constructivisim soon.  But now a moment to remember those warriors who have gone before us. 

            I was christenened Dante, the third son of my house to bear that name.  I am a magus; a wizard.  I am also fiorentini–a son of Florence.  I carry Florence in my blood; in my veins flow equal measures of pride in her promise and sorrow at her shames.  Nursed in my youth at the teat of democracy, I was weaned on the wormwood of faction and exile.  My father was killed on the order of Alessandro Albizzi—God curse his soul—when my beard had just appeared on my cheeks but before I had taken a razor to them.  That night I was forced to flee Florence for the first time—with my mother and sisters in the dead of night, in disguise and fearing for our lives.  Arriving at Siena, we eventually made our way to the safety of the papal lands at Bologna, and finally Ravenna.  Then the Albizzi pronounced a sentence of exile on the White Guelphs, and all of our property was confiscated.  Three years later, Alessandro died and the Alberti took control of the government.  We were allowed to return to Florence; with the help of my uncle we began lawsuits.  But thirty years later much of our property still remains in the hands of our enemies.  Bah!  Enough of my petty trials and tribulations; such as these many have bourne before me. 

            My real journey began on the third kalends of March, anno domini one thousand two hundred and ninety three, when I was thirty-five years of age.  Though by that time I had studied much, and was already famed in some circles for my mastery of philosophy and the arcane arts, I had also started a family, which for security had caused me to take a post at the scoule del liberi arti for boys and girls.  It was late in the afternoon, the fourth hour, and I was presiding over a disputation in rhetoric between a talented young woman named Celia Donati—a daughter of my friend the poet Donati, and our best male debater, Lorenzo Datti.  Our hall was on the first floor of the academia, with a row of windows open to the street.  The point in dispute was whether women should be allowed to become doctors of the arts, and Celia was having the better of it, if memory serves.  Lorenzo was constructing an elaborate syllogism based on the verse “and she weaveth, and spinneth, but no more”, from II Kings 14:7, using Eusebius’ commentary on Paul “how then when earthly kings may fall,” –I tell you this because it is a sign—when we heard a commotion in the via caminara below.  Naturally, we thought little of it – though I was about to signal to the head lictor to yell at the disturbers and ready his apples—when we heard the bell of Santa Lucia begin to ring the death knell.  At this, we all fell silent and crossed ourselves, but I knew no one who was ill, and so I thought little of it while I murmured the prayer. 

            Then, a messenger came in whose form will forever remain emblazoned on the eye of my soul. (more…)

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Dear business leaders:

If you are disturbed by the recent passage of healthcare reform, perhaps you might want to take away this little lesson:

The financial crisis of 2008 was the fault of big business’ failure to regulate itself. Greenspan and the ‘free marketeers’ were able to sell their radical no-regulation platform as long as the internet boom and the housing boom were keeping the economy super-bouyant. It’s easy to argue that regulation is stifling while the trend is good.

The problem is, that, inevitably, we’ll get to the top of the hill, the top of the roller coaster, and then things will start to look bad. And the less regulation that was in place during the ascent, means the steeper will be the fall. This was what Keynes and co discovered during the great depression, and was a major reason why the Fed and anti-trust laws got enacted in the first place.

The nature of the business cycle does not change: it will always be like this, and thus it will always need some regulation. It’s up to business to regulate itself, or rather to allow government to regulate it responsibly, when the going is good, so that when the going gets tough, we don’t have a major crash. (more…)

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“Hi, howareya!”

Sometimes I begin to wonder why it is that I am absoultely unfit for a career in business.  I have plenty of the necessary qualifications, but, the essential reason has always come down to this:  I cannot just shake hands with some dude in a suit, and say “Hi!  How are ya!” without having every ironic alarm in my psyche go off.

It’s always been this way.  I’ve never fit in, and they know it, and I know it.  If I tried to do a corporate job of any kind, it would be an obvious instant disaster.  American guys really do have this ‘hat guy’ mentality, which is at its core wholly jock, with a thin veneer of scholastic ability.  If you were disciplined at sports in high school, and got Bs, then you are ideally suited to business.  But if your abilities, or at least, if your critical thinking abilities, go much beyond this, then you just can’t do it.  Well, I guess that lots of people are too critically minded, and yet somehow they manage to turn that part of their brians off, so that they can conform.  (more…)

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