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educator's lament: part 1
“A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives.” – James Madison
Education is the cornerstone of democracy. The writings of both Madison and Jefferson are chock full of admonitions that only a generally enlightened public can hold at bay the forces of tyranny.
pluff mud slinging
If it’s hard, their solution is to just not do it. Maybe it’s only Republicans in Georgia that react that way. Jack Kingston, who’s now seeking a seat in the United States Senate, the gentleman’s club, complained bitterly when the Democractic Speaker of the House decreed that that body would be in session five days a week. More recently, Kingston has been joined by Judson Turner, the Director of the state’s Environmental Protection Division, who determined that protecting the marshes from pollution and sediment intrusion was just too hard and just wrote the whole thing off.
In the past several decades, a major force has entered the American political arena under an explicitly Christian banner. I’m talking about the Christian Right, which has aligned itself with the Republican Party. Has this alliance advanced the values that Jesus taught?
Jesus advocated for the poor and the outcast, and castigated mostly the privileged and the mighty. Today’s vociferous Christian political force supports the party that cuts programs to feed the hungry and to lift up the downtrodden, while protecting the interests of the fabulously wealthy.
see the evil
In today’s Washington Post, there’s an excellent op/ed about a threat to the integrity of our nation’s judicial system. That is, the piece is excellent but for one glaring omission.
Entitled “Keep politics out of the courthouse,” it is written by retired Chief Justices of two of our states’ Supreme Courts, Ruth McGregor of Arizona and Robert D. Orr of Indiana. McGregor and Orr give three examples of how altogether inappropriate kinds of political pressure have lately been brought to bear upon our “independent” judiciary.
ignoring the central battle
Usually, the President of the United States is the leader of the nation. It is a hugely important position, a single person embodying the whole of one of our three branches of government. With hundreds of congresspeople and a hundred senators, the president is the one person whose voice gets heard.It is only the president who has the “bully pulpit.” Particularly at times of national crisis, the president is the person to whom the nation turns for leadership.
I recently got embroiled with a friend over the eternal question of why nations go to war and whether the drive to fight is so embedded in our nature that we cannot avoid war. He shrugged off the question, since he felt it was kind of a silly issue. Of course, mankind will always be at one’s throat for one reason or another. Been that way since cave man days and will go on throughout the future. This response seemed so cavalier to me, a cynic’s view of everyday news…
2 presidents from illinois
Lincoln was elected president of the United States, but suddenly found himself effectively president of only a part of it. Obama was elected president of the United States, but suddenly found himself president of only a part of it.
Lincoln had just recently become president when Fort Sumter was fired upon. Obama had just recently become president when the other major political party “fired” upon him, planting rumors that he was not qualified to be president, trying to make him fail regardless of what he proposed.
The two presidents faced analogous challenges. But responded to them differently.
The 40 page section covering the Reagan Years in Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s book, The Untold History of the United States, provides enough documentation of chicanery, hypocrisy, doublespeak and sociopathy to confirm in spades those of us who were appalled at the time and to turn around all but the most dedicated Reaganites. These will flee into ever deeper depths of denial in order to keep mythology intact. So, while they stop reading, let us consider some of the disgraceful aspects and consequences of that time.
Who should Democrats and Independents vote for in the May 20 Republican U.S. Senate Primary? Before recoiling at the seemingly inappropriate nature of this question, please consider the following. Michelle Nunn appears to have the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat locked up. Unless voters want to cast votes in contested races further down the ballot there is little reason to participate in the Democratic primary beyond the public display of civic virtue.
Never mind that in the U.S. it has been become all the rage, since the supposed cradle of central planning, the U.S.S.R., crumbled. That raises suspicion about the sincerity of the opponents to begin with, but might be explained as a simple case of rivalry rearing its head. More worrisome is the realization that, in terms of man’s well being, failure may be what planning ultimately aims for.
In other words, planning on a grand scale looks to be designed to destroy the population for whom it claims to provide…
Why do so many Americans doubt the scientific consensus about Darwinian evolution and anthropogenic climate change? Although the temptation is to attribute these sentiments simply to religious indoctrination and corporate public relations, feelings of powerlessness and resentment may also be in play.
Consider the large differences in acceptance of different scientific conclusions in March 20-24 AP-GfK Poll. Where a mere 4% of respondents doubt the link between cigarette smoking and lung disease and only 6% doubt that mental illness is a medical condition affecting the brain, fully 42% doubted that life evolved through natural selection and 37% doubted that humans were responsible for global warming…
“Government should prevent an immoderate accumulation of riches.” — James Madison
In a previous post, we revisited Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic “Beyond Vietnam” speech of April 4, 1967. King, confronting head-on America’s “triple evils” of racism, economic injustice and militarism, challenged America to find its true values and “come home.” Polls and statistics suggest that, in the 47 intervening years, America has not “come home” and sadly is further from home than ever.
Politicians from both parties might perform public anguish about the student loan problem but it is painfully obvious that they just don’t get how serious it is. The most recent Congressional legislation tying interest rates on student loans to the several points beyond the interest rates on treasury notes might have looked like an important reform in Washington, where achieving anything bipartisan is hailed a great victory, but not to the 37 million young Americans who are on the hook for more than one trillion dollars in student loans that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. They owe an average of $29,000. In an economy that no longer produces enough decent jobs
“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” — Matthew 6:21.
On April 4, 1967, exactly one year before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King, Jr. made public his opposition to the Vietnam War, articulated in his iconic “Beyond Vietnam” speech. Presented at Riverside Church in New York City, “Beyond Vietnam” was the most controversial speech King ever delivered. In it, he confronted head-on America’s “triple evils” — racism, economic injustice, and militarism — and called for “a radical revolution of values” to restore our nation’s integrity. Afterwards, many supporters, black and white, abandoned him…
stupidity and crime of war
Before I fell asleep last night, my wife Jody read aloud to me from her copy of Barbara Kingsolver’s book The Lacuna. The passage she chose was a diary entry that opened:
“Tonight’s news: the Allies broke open the dikes along the Netherlands coast, letting in the open sea and drowning thousands of German soldiers in the flood. Like the Azteca opening dikes to drown Cortés and his men on the shores of Lake Tenochtitlan. But fiction is nonsense, the war is real. Tomorrow the farmers of Walcheren will wake to see a tide standing over their crops, the floating corpses of their cattle, every tree in the land scalded dead by the salt on its roots. The glory of war is so frequently disappointing.”
That’s what the spouse said when I wrote him how surprised and disappointed I was to discover that Michelle Nunn has gratuitously endorsed the XL pipeline from Canada, because buying oil from “neighbors” is better than from overseas, as well as to read a report that Nunn wants changes to Obamacare to allow cheaper policies for the young.
2014 and beyond
Do the 2014 elections look promising for the Democrats? Not so far as I can tell. Do the Democrats have a bold plan to inspire the American people to turn the House back over to them? Not so far as I’ve heard. Is there a solution available? I think there is. We’ve got a Supreme Court that just doubled down on its disgraceful 2010 decision in Citizens United, continuing in the new case (McCutcheon vs. FEC) to pretend to believe that opening the floodgates still wider for big money to flow into our elections does not corrupt our political system.
The modern oil industry, vertically integrated exploration, extraction, refining and distribution of oil on a mass scale, began no later than 1825 in Tsarist Russia. In 1825 Russia produced 3500 tons of crude and refined it, mostly into kerosene. By 1850 the Russian output had doubled to over 7000 tons. By 1906 Russia had a pipeline over 400 miles long stretching from the oil fields in Azerbaijan to the Black Sea port of Batumi, the first major pipeline in the world.
food For thought
How many of you are aware that Albert Einstein taught a physics class at Lincoln University (an HBCU in Pennsylvania) in 1946? In doing so, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist once said, “The separation of the races is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.” Another noted figure, Martin Luther King, once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” But we have become silent, for I don’t see the human outcry about where we are today.
guns and domestic violence
I’ve argued for some time that, if we are serious about preventing serious crime, then we address behavior at an early stage — i.e. when it’s just abusive and not the cause of serious injury. Now the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, has agreed that a proved abuser of another’s rights can be properly deprived of the right to own a tool, whose sole purpose is to perpetrate an assault from a distance. Mr. Castleman of Tennessee is prohibited from owning a gun because over a decade ago he was convicted of having abused a spouse.
40 days in georgia
There’s an exhilaration abounding throughout Georgia today. Hurrah, hurrah, the Georgia General Assembly is no longer in session. You can relax a little more this week. Almost as on cue, the Legislature again got little done. They confused some issues, angered a lot of people, scurried home quickly because of the early elections this year, and in general, accomplished little. But you can bet they did two things: they collected their pay, and put in more time toward their pensions. A compilation of what the lawmakers did this year was presented in the Sunday Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The one-page list showed only on three items did the Legislature accomplish significant changes, good or bad.
a book review
Eastern Europe and Russia – When the Soviet Union dissolved it left secret police and security personnel suddenly on the outs and without paycheck. Given their skill sets, for many, criminal behavior was the logical next step. The party apparatchiks were often out of work too but some were positioned to advantage. Prior to dissolution, national resources such as oil were sold abroad and the profits fed into the soviet system, keeping it alive…
so patently dishonest
Clever public relations officers working somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon have decided that henceforth the Guantanamo hunger strike will be termed a “long term non-religious fasting.” What’s more, rather than being subjected to forced-feeding the “non-religious fasters” are now being treated to “enteral feedings.” What are we to make of such obvious lexical fig leaves?
That the Crimean Crisis would be exploited by Republican Congressional leaders to criticize President Obama was inevitable. Politics hasn’t stopped at the water’s edge in the United States for a very long time. What wasn’t inevitable was the shamelessness of Senator John McCain’s denunciation of President Obama in a speech to the most powerful ethnic foreign policy lobby in Washington. In a March 4th address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Arizona Republican complained about a “feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in America’s strength anymore.”
act of cultural vandalism
An open letter to my elected, so-called representatives: This present Australian Government is trotting dog-like down the path to destruction behind its conservative counterparts in the US and elsewhere, bent on transforming us into a society where the environment, the economy and the national social conscience are left to the tender mercies of the free market and corporate “self-regulation”.
war in afghanistan
What would winning the War in Afghanistan look like? America has been at war there for 13 years and you would expect that after thousands of casualties and spending immense sums of our tax dollars something that could be deemed victory would have been achieved by now. Instead of that we are presented with soon to be retiring Rep. Howard P. ‘Buck’ McKeon, Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, chiding the America people and President Obama for not wanting to keep fighting the longest war in our history.
Instead of naming their new subdivisions the Dune Cottages, the Ocean Forest Cottages and the Riverside Cottages and then running their Dune Avenue down the Sea Island Spit, where the Loggerhead Turtles nest and 144 species of birds come to rest, making reference to the sea of effluent on which their cottages sit would be more honest, but it wouldn’t attract many new buyers for Sea Island Coastal Properties’ million dollar lots, would it?
Worthy of Comment
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