Tuesday, May 25, 2010

BP and Public Anger

I've been listening to the media coverage of the oil  spill/spume/fountain in the Gulf. I've watched Louisiana oyster and shrimp boat owners and parish leaders on CNN and NBC and FOX castigate BP and the White House. The voices are desperate and accusatory and, in perfect concert, all call for culprits to blame, even if we can't figure out who is to blame. We need causes for effects. We are too lax in our regulations, we are too dependent upon fossil fuels, we are bound by corporate interests or federal complacency.

Here's the hard truth: we have a terrible, terrible environmental catastrophe. Blame means nothing. Action is all that counts. We are at a loss for a remedy. Helplessness is not part of the American mythos. So we do what we can do, and what is best for all involved. By this fact alone, we learn.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A few photos and a definition from the Mayo Clinic

■Delusions. In paranoid schizophrenia, delusions are often focused on the perception that you're being singled out for harm. Your brain misinterprets experiences and you hold on to these false beliefs despite evidence to the contrary. For instance, you may believe that the government is monitoring every move you make or that a co-worker is poisoning your lunch. You may also have delusions of grandeur — the belief that you can fly, that you're famous or that you have a relationship with a famous person, for example. Delusions can result in aggression or violence if you believe you must act in self-defense against those who want to harm you.

■Auditory hallucinations. An auditory hallucination is the perception of sound — usually voices — that no one else hears. The sounds may be a single voice or many voices. These voices may talk either to you or to each other. The voices are usually unpleasant. They may give a running critique of what you're thinking or doing, or they may harass you about real or imagined faults. Voices may also command you to do things that can be harmful to yourself or to others. When you have paranoid schizophrenia, these voices seem real. You may talk to or shout at the voices.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Baby and the Bathwater

Here's a simple analogy. Baby=government and water=corporatism.The Liberatarian Populists, though justly angry about bail-outs, still want to throw out the babies (local, state, and national leaders) and all that babies stand for, but do nothing else except put newer, colicky babies in their places. (Why do I think of Rush Limbaugh at this moment?) As a progressive, I want to keep our democratic, active, representative government (it is ours by the way, by Constitutional writ) but drain the tub of the dirty water of multibillion dollar corporations and their lobbyists.

My dear, dear, right-wing populists, don't you know that the Goldman-Sachs and Bank of Americas and Citigroups and BPs of the world would like nothing better than for you to continue to argue for "limited government"? For tax cuts? For fewer publically funded services in favor of private outsourcing? For thirty years we've seen the slow, remorseless decay of sensible regulation designed to protect the very middle and lower class people who are now suffering the most in this Great Recession. Big business coerced working men and women into supporting "Right to Work" laws which have essentially helped gut the labor movement. The pitch? Keep us profitable and competitive by giving up your reasonable salaries and benefits and right to negotiate, and we'll keep you employed. And what did we receive in return? Our manufacturing jobs were exported, our salaries stagnated, and we became a nation of assets managers.Trickle-down economics, which is still the overall mind-set of both conservative and neoliberal thinking, has become, as Jim Hightower calls it,  "tinkle-down" economics. Our social and political landscape, he says, is not right or left, but top to bottom.

I am not anti-capitalistic, by the way. I like to make all the money I can. I believe in business, in jobs, in market forces. I have never believed, however, that true, representative democracy and unfettered capitalism can survive together. We do need to re-distribute our collective wealth, not as a first step toward socialism, but to counter the re-distribution that has already taken place where all the money rose to the top and became so concentrated in so few hands that when those hands started to tremble,  the entire economy teetered on collapse. This is not a problem of too little or too much government, but a problem of a government that does too little to  protect the general welfare of the people (a charge directly given our government in the Constitution) and does too much to protect and shelter billion dollar corporations.  We took the survival of the elderly and poorest in our country out of the marketplace with Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. We took K-12 education out of the marketplace and promised opportunities for all children. We need to do the same with health care. We need to do the same with Higher Education. We need a public economic policy, not just a business and corporate economic policy.

I don't believe democracy has fully matured in America. We are still the children of the founding fathers. In fact, we may still very much be in our infancy. So rather than beating the drums of gloom and doom, of end times, of the death of liberty due to the very gift of liberty itself, the freedom to cooperatively govern ourselves through the institution of government, let's just take our baby of democracy out of this putrid bath water, dirtied by corporate greed and a complicit government, and throw away what really stinks.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Afghan Girls

I've been following a program on PBS that features school-aged children in various parts of the world. The series, entitled "Back to School," follows children in Nigeria, Benin, India, Afghanistan, Romania, Japan, and Brazil. (The program is available online.)

What struck me the most about the series is the acknowledgement, in the first episode, that if you are poor and female, the odds are against you in certain corners of the world when it comes to education. In many cases, the daily obligations of girls severely limit their chances for learning the basic skills of reading, writing, and math.

As we debate our future role in Afghanistan, I hope we take into consideration the fact that the displacement of the Taliban has opened up educational opportunities for young girls across the country. In short, this war, which begins its ninth year this month, is not just about keeping the Taliban at bay--it's also about giving a large segment of the Afghan population a chance to educate themselves, despite the horrific hurdles religious despots place in their path.

Perhaps we have a cause to fight for after all?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dissent and Consent

On my way home I pass a sign in front of a used car dealer in Lahoma, OK, that reads, "I'm 71 years old and hope to live long enough to see Obama not running my country." First, I'm glad the gentleman has lived to 71, and I hope he lives many more years. I'm not so sure about the "my country" part, though. The shrillest voices in the nation seem to be the "nativists," or "reclamationists," or, as I like to think of them, the Puritans. They are the "chosen people," the latter day Israelites who lay claim to the continent via divine convenant, versus the "strangers" (non-Puritans, non-whites, non-traditionalists, non-conservatives) who, via American mythology, don't quite belong in the ranks of true believers, much less in power, much less in the "White" House.

I watched the marchers in Washington, D.C. who held up signs equating President Obama to Adolf Hitler. They completely missed the irony.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ten Commandments: Redux

A Ten Commandments display is heading for the state capitol grounds, thanks to the effort, and promise of private dollars, from Rep. Ritze.

I would love to see the capitol grounds rife with messages of faith and hope and charity. As I’ve noted elsewhere, I truly admire both the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plains. So let's have a monument that encourages us to love our enemies, to pray in our "inner rooms," to "Do unto others" as we would have them do unto us, or urges us to stop judging others. I glory in the communal spirit found in the writings of Paul, who defined Christianity at least a decade before the writers of the Gospels, and embraced the core ideals of living out the Christhood in our everyday lives, no matter what our origins. What about "Love is patient, love is kind"? Unfortunately, the Ten Commandments are mostly negative and exclusive, a sequence of prohibitions meant for an older order. Paul says that, thanks to Christ's sacrifice, "the old things have passed away; behold news things have come." The message of renewal hasn't reached Oklahoma's legislature, and the Ten Commandments bill passed with over eighty votes in favor.

At least Rep. Ritze is going to pay for the monument out of his own pocket. But isn’t this the way all things in a democracy should work? A state legislator authors a bill that will allow him to pick up the tab for a religious monument to be erected on public property? This one smells to high heaven.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

(Redneck) English-Only Bill

Rep. Randy Terrill (R-Moore) continues to do his best to protect our fair state from unwanted, incipient, and highly dangerous influences, like bilingualism. With the support of his senate gringo, Anthony Sykes (R-Oklahoma City), House Joint Resolution 1042 is heading back to the House before it ultimately ends up on a ballot. Sykes, quoted in the Tulsa World, says, "The resolution states that English is the common and unifying language of the state and that all official actions of the state will be in English."

Rep. Terrill, of course, has a long history of protecting Oklahoma against "undesirables," authoring one of the most draconian anti-immigrant bills in the U.S. What is truly odd about all of this, though, is how our state legislators bend over backwards to make sure Native American languages are overtly protected against any potentially negative effects the bill may cause. But this sudden interest in the preservation of Native American tongues (admirable though it is) is nothing less than pure political pandering. The targets of the bill are clearly Spanish-speaking men, women, and children. The bill is not designed to benignly "encourage" non-English speakers to learn English; it is, rather, a blatant attempt to prevent Oklahoma (ironically a non-English name) from sounding a little too much like Mexico for the comfort of some.

Why do I have the feeling that Representative Terrill and Senator Sykes will not be attending any Cinco de Mayo activities this year?