Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Love Newt!?!

Newt Gingrich isn’t going to win the Republican nomination for President. This doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is why. He spends a lot of money and has a flawed personal life. He also has the temerity to believe in science and compromise. Oh my God, what is he thinking! Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t vote for Newt Gingrich unless the other choice was my cat, and even then I’d think about it twice. But I’d choose my cat over Michelle Bachmann in a heartbeat. I’d also not hold it against my cat that he licks his ass, as long as he was qualified to make the difficult decisions that face elected officials. I don’t care if Gingrich has had fifteen wives, I’m not marrying him. I’m also not concerned that he has money or with how he spends it. It’s not like my other alternative on the ballot is Mother Theresa (I wouldn’t vote for her if she was, but you get the point). I also am not offended that he sat on a couch with Nancy Pelosi to express his opinion regarding climate change … an opinion shared by much of the scientific community. I don’t know when compromise and cooperation became scourges to be avoided, but I’m not jumping on that bandwagon. Call me old fashioned, but I want my leaders to trust science and work together to solve problems. I’d feel a hell of a lot better if I was sure that the majority of Republicans felt the same way. I’d feel a hell of lot better if Newt Gingrich wasn’t one of the more palatable Republican candidates for President.

Live Video

It seems like I spend a lot of time watching live video feeds, most of them from places like Syria or Haiti or the New Jersey Shore … places that seem to be way beyond my control. On Monday I added an un-expected locale to that list: the inside of my bladder. It made me think about the similarities between my bladder and Syria. My bladder is closer and more Christian, at least nominally. Sightseeing in Syria is probably more interesting. The events in my bladder are more closely connected to my life, though, and there is probably a more active night life … in fact a little too active. Neither is seemingly beyond my reach, but holding it and flying for many hours into a nascent civil war seem equally foreboding. … besides, once I got to Syria I couldn’t take control anymore than I could indefinitely keep my bladder full. Control is usually an illusion anyhow. If I’m seeking to control stuff, I’m going to be spending even more time on the couch, or in the urologist’s office, watching live video feeds. I can’t control my children, but I don’t just sit around and watch videos of them all day. So … maybe I can do more than watch events unfold in Syria and my bladder. I’ll give it some thought as I play with my kids.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Love the Neshaminy School Board

The Neshaminy School Board finds itself locked in a battle of wills with the teachers union … a pretty nasty winner takes all type of battle … and that is whole the problem. The Teachers Union is supposed to be self interested. Their job is to look out for the interests of teachers. That’s OK. Teachers are allowed to be self interested. The fact that they work with children doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to be paid fairly or get good benefits. Teachers Unions should keep the long term health of the school system in mind if for no other reason than because it is in their interest to do so, but they are supposed to secure the best deal they can for teachers.

The school board is in a different position, or at least it should be. They aren’t supposed to be motivated by self interest. They aren’t supposed to do what is best for the board. They are supposed to do what is best for the school district as a whole (including teachers). They certainly are not supposed to be targeting the teachers union as an enemy. It should not be that a defeat of the teachers union is a victory for the School Board. Residents shouldn’t be lining up to declare sides. No one should be putting signs on their front lawn declaring their love for the school board. No one should be spewing venom against teachers on the facebook site and blog of a member of the school board, misleadingly titled as if they are official, and no one should be throwing insults left and right on their own “taxpayer” website. The School Board is supposed to be engaging in negotiations as if it is more of a partner than an adversary.

Unfortunately, the Neshaminy School Board is pretty adversarial. Unfortunately, people do have signs that declare their love for the Neshaminy School Board. Unfortunately, board member William O’Connor does have a blog and a facebook page, which seem to serve as places for people to gather and cheer on the board in their fight with the evil and misguided union. Unfortunately, Larry Pastor (a ‘taxpayer’ with a few dozen axes to grind), does have a site, ‘Taxpayers for a Fair Neshaminy School Budget,’ which is full of personal attacks, half truths, innuendo, and just plain old ignorance.

Many on the School Board and among their ‘supporters’ seem to think that the problem is that they aren’t getting their message across. They seem to believe strongly that they have the better of the argument. They may be right … but I don’t care. Message is immaterial when you behave in the way that the board and their supporters have. Approach matters. Process matters. Negotiations should be handled in good will. Compromise and cooperation should be the rule of the day. Insults and snide comments should not. The Neshaminy School Board has created a battle with the teachers union, and has tied itself to people like Larry Pastor who seem capable of little beyond insults and conspiracy theories. The Neshaminy School Board has vacated its responsibility of looking out for the best interests of the district as a whole, and has become a private interest in and of itself … an object of love and fealty. There really is only one way out of this mess. We need a new school board, one that will leave the destruction of unions to somebody else and just do its job. That is the bottom line. Larry Pastor would have to find someone else to insult, but the rest of us would be better off.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stupid Voters

In this opinion piece ( LZ Granderson asserts that our government is broken because of stupid voters. He is right … kind of. These people aren’t really stupid. They probably aren’t lazy either. They are more likely to be busy, confused, uninformed, angry, or afraid. You can blame them if you want, but you can’t stop there. The blame has to go beyond those who would vote for people who question evolution, belong to a movement called the “tea Party” but don’t know that Paul Revere wasn’t warning the British and the Constitution was actually written to strengthen the power of the federal government, and would openly refuse to employ people who belong to particular religions. The blame has to fall on the people that attract the support of these people by taking advantage, and even encouraging, their hate, fear, ignorance, or even distractedness. The blame also needs to be placed on those of us who bemoan that our fate is tied to the fate of these stupid people, and snipe and snigger at them. For the most part we have not recognized our responsibility in all of this. We need to do more than just bitch and moan. We have to try and help people get past their fear, hate, and ignorance. We need to help provide the resources they need to see past the opportunistic appeals of folks like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain. We need to stop looking down our noses at these people, and realize that they could be any of us. Politics can be bewildering, most of us are very busy, and there is plenty to get angry about it. It should be understandably easy to be hoodwinked. It should be understandably easy to help people avoid being hoodwinked. When it comes to this mess we find ourselves in, if anybody is stupid it’s not just the folks who elected Bachmann and Palin. In this mess, we’re all prime candidates for stupid.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Moving Desks

In September 2005, Martha Cothren, a teacher in Little Rock, took all of the desks out of her class room. She told each of her classes that they couldn’t have desks back until they told her how they could earn them. When the final class of the day was unable to answer the question, she opened the door and in came 27 veterans with the chairs. Mrs. Cothren told the students that they didn’t have to earn their chairs because the veterans had already done that. I’m sorry, but how did a veteran earn the kids their school desks? Why not have factory workers bring it in? They are the folks that built the desk. Is that too literalist for you? Then why not have construction workers bring it in? They have built the infrastructure that allows us to go to school and to have schools. You could always have politicians bring it in. No one likes politicians, but they set the course for the country. They make the decisions that determine where and when people go to war and help us avoid it too. Sometimes they even make decisions that help create better schools and more opportunities for our young people. They certainly get their fair share of blame when things go wrong. What about community activists? I’d let a smart person who passed on big money to help people out bring in my desk. Here’s a funny idea … what about teachers? I know it’s fashionable to look down at teachers as people who have failed or weren’t ambitious enough to even try other real careers and went looking for a job where they would get paid gobs of money for doing nothing … but they are the ones giving out the education. Of course there are always the students themselves. I know that it is easy to get through college and into graduate school. They just give away advanced degrees for free, but presumably students do something to further their own education. I have no problem for thanking soldiers for risking their lives. They haven’t, however, won freedom for America all by themselves. It isn’t a slight to them to not thank them for upholding democracy itself. People who risk their lives to do their country's dirty work should be recognized. But they shouldn't get truckloads of credit, or blame, for everything under the sun. Vietnam veterans didn’t diminish American democracy. The people who guided that war might have, but not the people who fought it. Likewise, people fighting in more acceptable wars haven't established American democracy all by themselves. The sum of all American accomplishments is not on the battlefield, even battlefields where we saw victory. In some way, the fetishization of soldiers is a response to the ill treatment they got after Vietnam. In some ways it is a byproduct of political movements that diminish the contributions of teachers, community activists, and the federal government. In some ways it is a just a sign of the extent to which we have reduced our democracy to symbols. I guess it is easier when America is just flags, soldiers, and football games. What I know is that telling school children that they owe their educations to soldiers isn't telling the whole truth. Many folks have worked to make education possible. Many folks need to continue to work to continue to make it possible, and to make it possible for more of us. Many folks should be recognized, not just the people who are sent out to solve problems with guns. I know it doesn’t make for as easy a lesson or as big an impact to have desks brought in by soldiers, plumbers, factory workers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, and musicians … but at least it would be the truth.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pregnant Male Cats

Today I have concluded that I am in danger of being just like just about everyone else. I want fortune to smile on me and whisk me away to a life of luxury … and I almost believe that it will. That point was driven home to me today in a conversation I had with my wife about our cat. Our cat, Jordan, is 13 years old. He used to be a truly fat cat … borderline embarrassingly fat. His fat dusted the floor. In his old age he’s not that cat anymore. He’s half that cat. Recently, however, he’s been rebounding. He ‘s hungry all the time. In order to keep him from eating everything in sight instantly and then throwing it up, we are feeding him a little bits almost all of the time. Today, just before dinner, as I gave him feeding number two hundred and fifteen, I joked that maybe he was pregnant. My wife laughed … and said “yes!!! … that explains it.” Then, for a moment, I wondered if it could be true. I saw myself on the Johnny Carson show with my old pregnant neutered male cat … and undeterred by the fact that Carson has been dead for half a decade … I pictured the endorsement dollars rolling in. For that moment I wasn’t worried about whether we will be able to move into the perfect school system before next year. I wasn’t worried about how in the world I will get my old over qualified ass a job. I wasn’t concerned about the electrical issues in the bathroom or the crumbling driveway, neither of which we can afford to replace. I didn’t even feel any anger toward the groundhog that keeps obliterating my vegetables. My pregnant cat would save the day. He could buy me a greenhouse. Then I realized I wasn’t any different from the folks I mock for believing in and waiting on the American Dream. I’ve been waiting for things to happen to me too. I don’t believe in the American Dream, so I’ve had to move on to the mutant pet dream … but it’s really the same thing. I want to believe that the world is a happier place than it really is. I want to believe that if I just attend to my problems, good things will happen to me. I want to believe that all I have to do is work hard and I’ll succeed. I want to believe that my old cat is going to be around indefinitely. Because I want to believe those things, I’m an easy mark. If there was a racket preying on people gullible enough to believe their male neutered pets can be pregnant, I’d be in trouble. I’d be in trouble just like all the Americans are in trouble who are being hoodwinked into defending a system that gives them the freedom to wait for a miracle. We’re waiting when we should be doing … celebrating a fantasy when we should be writing our own story. I guess we all have a choice to make. Every day we have a choice to make. So far I’ve been choosing to wait for feline in vitro. Maybe I’ll make a different choice tomorrow. What about you?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Cannibalization of The American Dream

You are a smart one … that is for sure. First, you notice that the industrial jobs that have sustained the American middle class and given some traction to the dream of upward mobility are disappearing. You see that they are being replaced with jobs that require more education and/or get paid less and come with fewer benefits. Next, you notice that corporations are less connected to Americans than they ever have been … that they are only really dependent upon them as consumers, if at all. Then you see that corporations and the super rich that inhabit their board rooms have a lot of money to spend on behalf of folks who look after their interests. You also take note of the fact that as easily obtained good paying jobs disappear, class differences solidify. They have always been present, but now you can see the hints of a caste system developing. The people that have money now, will be the people that have money in the future. That has always been true to an extent, but now it is practically gospel. Equality, equality of opportunity … whatever you want to call it, it is now nothing but a mirage. It is a mirage, but not just any mirage. It is a sacred mirage. People still believe in it. They cling to it. They cling to the supposed greatness of America. It might be because it is all they have left, but you don’t care. You know that you can use it to your advantage. You can sell the masses on Horatio Alger and Tom Monaghan stories. They will not only buy it, they will defend it. They will turn on anyone that challenges it … and you can make anyone who challenges you out to be someone that is challenging that American Dream. It is a perfect set up. When someone proposes taxes on the wealthiest among us, you can trot out the American Dream alongside your trickle-down economics. You can even label those who put forward such ideas as socialists waging class warfare … elitists trying to tear apart America. It is brilliant. You destroy whatever existed of the American Dream, and divide us into castes, and then cover it in red, white, and blue and have the very people you hold down rush to the defense of the system you have put in place to hold them down and keep you up. It is brilliant. It is working. Sadly, that is the bottom line. There’s not much else to say other than … congratulations.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

flattery IS everything

The more compliments a politician’s message includes, the more skeptical you should be. What is a compliment? Well, most candidates for Congress won’t have an opportunity to tell you how nice you look in your black polka dot dress or how you don’t look a day older even after twenty years. They do, however, have ample opportunity to heap praise on categories you may fall into. They have the opportunity, and they seize on it. This is why some go on and on about what a great country we live in and how much we have accomplished. We are a beacon of freedom built with hard work and non-stop innovation … and of course you are a huge part of that effort. It is also why politicians talk about the strength of the working class, the contributions of the brave men and women of the armed services, and the generous gifts that have been given and are still being given by older Americans. All of these compliments feel wonderful to receive, as long as you don’t notice what is not being said. Compliments should not be accepted as a substitute for real ideas, possible solutions to the problems facing our country, and even explanations. What a startling idea … an elected leader might actually explain something to his or her constituents rather than trying to charm or scam them into accepting it. Of course, for that to happen, we have to want more than compliments. We have to reward those who do explain by listening. We have to listen, and encourage constructive engagement by other politicians with those who have good ideas that they are confident enough to really explain. We need to shift our skepticism of compromise and constructive dialogue over to empty compliments. Ultimately, the onus here is on us … on voters. We will get what we ask for, or at least we won’t get anything we don’t ask for. So … if you want more than a shout out you’d better start asking for it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Golden Rule

Do onto others as they would have you do onto them. Do onto others as you would have them do onto you ... if you were them and they were you. Either one is a dramatic improvement on the traditional Golden Rule ... because in both scenarios we stop imagining that everyone is like us. Everyone isn't like us. All of us aren't like us. You don't treat a senior citizen as if they were thirty years old. You shouldn't treat a homosexual the way you, as a straight person, wants to be treated. If you used one of my Golden Rules you wouldn't stand in the way of one man finding love with another. You wouldn't be thinking about how someone else's relationship impacts you. Universal health care wouldn't be much of a problem for you under my Golden Rule either. The bottom line ... you need to be less selfish. It's not all about you. That's the essence of the thing, the glittery part of my Golden Rule.

We are fat

We are overweight. We are just too fat. I'm not talking about Americans and their hamburgers and slurpees, although that is a problem relationship. I'm not talking about individuals at all. I'm not talking about cellulite either. I'm talking about all of us ... collectively. Humans. There are just too many of us. Most of the problems we face today can be tied to over-population. Fracking, the economic crisis, global warming ... you name it and the root cause is likely to be that there are just too many of us. Politicians don't talk about it because there is no easy weight loss program. No Weight Watchers. No tummy tucks. No special shakes. The reason, of course, is that the 'pounds' you need to drop are people ... real people. If China had a problem with limiting folks to one child, how successful will anybody else be? A mandatory limit on life span probably won't get any more traction than planned genocide. So, it's a problem without an easy or palatable solution. There is no chance of short term voter satisfaction. So, we ignore it. We just throw on our track suit and head for McDonalds thinking of a way to justify super sizing.

Hope and Change

When did hope and change become dirty words? Maybe it was the same moment that compromise became synonymous with weakness. I have a feeling that the conflation of the interests of party & country and corporation and individual citizen have a role. I also think the blacklisting of logic and reason as elitist and practically un-American is involved. If you profit from the status quo, change is something to fear and belittle. If you don't believe in the power of human reason, hope might be hard. Hope is not belief. Hope requires agency. It requires imagination. It requires reason and understanding. It requires humility. Hope requires help. Hope is just an acceptance that things aren't perfect and never will be, but that together we can make them better. To me, that doesn't seem like something that should be controversial or the property of a particular party. It doesn't seem like a dirty word. It seems like something we all should want ... we all should have. It's too bad more people don't feel the same way, but I am hopeful that can change.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The remains of 9/11

By the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 there will be a piece of World Trade Center steel in every town, village, and hamlet. Maybe there will be a 9/11 kiosk in every mall, complete with its own piece of the towers that you can close your eyes and rub. Everyone wants a piece of 9/11. And why not ... mourning is easy. Anger is easy. Fear is easy. Reacting constructively, dispassionately, methodically ... that's a lot more difficult. So we haven't done it. Instead, we have distilled 9/11 down to a piece of steel and an attack on freedom. Anything else is just way too hard.

Of Ceilings and Floors in America

The myth of America is that there is no ceiling... no limitation that hard work and ambition can not conquer. The reality is that there is no floor ... nothing to stop people from being conquered when ambition and hard work aren't enough. All too often ambition and hard work simply aren't enough. There are plenty of ceilings out there. If your a man is a drug addict ... that can be a ceiling. Being born into a particular cultural reality and/or social strata can be a ceiling. Something as innocuous as saying "yous" when addressing groups of people can mark your position and make it hard for you to leave it. These ceilings make a mockery out of equality of opportunity. Beyond the sickening stench of irony and betrayal, it just doesn't exist. We are not free to succeed on our own merits ... our freedom really only gives us room to fail. The American myth of equal opportunity only serves as an excuse to allow people to fail. We need to choose. Either we are about letting people rise and fall on their own merits, in which case we need to provide a level playing field ... or we're not and then we can't justify inaction when it comes to helping folks by pointing to individual freedoms and opportunities. It's time to live up to the myth or let it go.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Did they really perpetrate 9/11 because they hate our freedom?

The people behind the 9/11 attacks were not just trying to strike fear into Americans. They weren’t just trying to kill Americans. They weren’t expressing their hatred of freedom and love and apple pie. They had other reasons for perpetrating those attacks. Terrorists often feel that there is no other way to accomplish their goals. It isn’t just that they like to kill people. They really do have goals beyond killing people and getting their hands on virgins. Really. I wouldn’t be surprised if many Americans can’t think of a single one, and with ten years having passed since the attacks, that is a real problem. How can we ever truly deal with the threat of terrorism if we have no idea why it happens beyond some foggy notion that everyone wants to kill us for our freedom. It is possible that things like a large number of unemployed men, a crippling colonial legacy, resentment towards Israel and our support of it, anger and resentment about our role in wars and other shadier activities, and any countless number of other things (how about the use of torture or indefinite detention) may be motivating people. It is possible that people may have real reasons for targeting us, and that some of them may either be our fault or within our control to deal with. Is it possible that we will ever recognize any of this and do anything about it?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lessons of 9/11

We showed those terrorists. We didn’t stand by idly while they tried to hurt our country … we helped them out. We launched our selves into two wars, one of them completely unconnected to the terrorist attacks used to justify it. We reorganized our disaster response system, and were unprepared for Hurricane Katrina. We boldly compromised our values by using torture and weakening the protections that those accused of crimes normally have in our system. We wasted resources hand over fist in an effort to prevent the kind of attacks that had already happened. More importantly we wasted an unprecedented amount of goodwill, and fueled hatred in a new generation of terrorists. Now, on the tenth anniversary of the attacks, we are well on our way to losing any sense of perspective concerning the events. As long as we see them as attacks by religious wackos who hated our freedom, we will have gained nothing from our loss and be every bit as vulnerable to future attacks regardless of how many new fangled scanners we develop or how many extra personnel we station around potential targets. The bottom line is that we have been our own worst enemy and it is a mistake that we would be unlikely to avoid making again.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hyperbole & 9/11

Hyperbole seems to have triumphed in the fight to tell the story of 9/11 … narrowly drawn hyperbole. We were attacked because we were free. We were attacked by crazy cowards. We are the light in the world, and were attacked by the forces of darkness. 9/11 was an attack on our nation. We are the greatest nation in the world, which is why we were the target of such a heinous attack. We have lived under the cloud of war for ten years.

We’ve all heard these statements or others like them. Statements that are remarkable in their narrowness and self focus. It’s as if we are the only ones ever attacked by terrorists … actually as if we should have been the only ones never attacked by terrorists. It’s as if we are above and beyond the pettiness of the rest of the world and any culpability in or for it. It’s also as if the killing ended on 9/11. If a soldier went to war and died in order to avenge the victims of 9/11, well that might count. But that’s the extent of our imagination on the issue. We just can’t make the connections.

The story of 9/11 isn’t just narrow, it’s overstated. We need to leave out the “greatest” and “evils” and the talk of “freedom” and “jealousy.” There was an attack. About 3,000 people died. The people who perpetrated these attacks blamed the United States for some of the troubles they were facing, such as: a strong Israel, the plight of the Palestinian people, American troops in Saudi Arabia, and narrow and limited economic development. Their cause was fueled by poverty, a large number of unemployed young men, and a real sense of powerlessness. In the wake of these attacks we fixated on punishing the perpetrators and screening people at airports, and made no real attempt to develop the goodwill that existed in the aftermath of the attacks and use it to attack the structural problems that give rise to terrorism. Our leaders instead used the tragedy as an opportunity to champion their ideological agenda and take care of what they saw as unfinished business. In the pursuit of these goals our leaders destroyed any goodwill that had been created, and tarnished whatever good image we had. We abandoned a realistic approach to the world that was based on compromise for a more idealized approach based on a rigid adherence to ideology. They also used the furor over 9/11 to weaken federal regulation of the economy and the environment in a way that favored corporations over individuals. That’s what happened. It wasn’t great. It didn’t involve much light or many beacons. It wasn’t evil either. It just was what it was.

I prefer this kind of straightforward retelling of the events of 9/11. It wasn’t the end of the world. It was important, very important, but only when you consider not only that one day but our reaction on all the days that have come after. It is more than just the loss of 3,000 lives. It is more than just daring rescue stories and heart wrenching tales of loss. It can’t be captured in a television special or a t-short or even a memorial centered on a twisted piece of metal … no matter how much hyperbole you indulge in. It is one piece of a much bigger story about how we relate to the rest of the world and how the rest of the world relates to us … a story that isn’t going to be told in the next few days … and is rapidly being obscured and shouted over. A story we should try to reveal before it is buried in an avalanche of hyperbole.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Kids' Book of Freedom

If you are looking for the perfect gift for your children on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 … look no further. You can buy the “We Shall Never Forget 9/11: Kid’s Book of Freedom.” There is simply no better way to help your impressionable little ones celebrate a terrorist attack. There is even a coloring page depicting soldiers shooting at Bin Laden, with the caption: “Children, the truth is, these terrorist acts were done by freedom-hating radical Islamic Muslim extremists. These crazy people hate the American way of life because we are FREE and our society is FREE.” Who isn’t looking to have their little ones think about the shooting and killing of terrorists? I’m hoping my five year old can color in the flames shooting out of the building and the people falling from the heights to their deaths. Red, orange, and black are some of her very favorite colors. And I’m so glad they keep it simple. I mean, imagine if they presented a more complete picture of Islam or talked about religious tolerance. What If they presented terrorists as people who commit these acts for a reason, and not simply as “crazy people”? What if they told the kids about the murders and assassinations committed by the American military over the years? Some wackos would even want our children to hear about racism and homophobia. There can’t be an asterix on “FREE.” We are the greatest country in the world. Anything that sullies that image is just inappropriate for impressionable youth. The “Kid’s Book of Freedom” is all my family needs, that is until they come out with the Abu Ghraib and Our President is a Communist, Fascist, Muslim, Foreign Born, Black Man coloring books. Hip hip hooray for America!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Tragedy of 9/11

September 11th was a tragedy. It was also an opportunity … one we missed. There was a moment or two where some serious and seriously productive international cooperation was possible. I’m not talking about military cooperation, real or faked. I’m talking about a cooperative effort to attack the structural causes of terrorism rather than using coercion and violating our own principles in order to kill a few terrorists and/or run them out of a country or two. We had an opportunity to try and broker real peace in the Middle East or help reduce the number of unemployed men in the Arab world. We had an opportunity to constructively engage bigger threats to American and world security, like Iran and North Korea. We had an opportunity to move away from a negative international image … the pushy, obnoxious, intolerant, swashbuckling America. We had an opportunity to wake up to our place in the world … a chance to learn empathy and our own limitations. We had an opportunity to foster meaningful change around the world. We passed all of it up to invade Afghanistan and then Iraq. We passed it up in order to spend money we didn’t necessarily have, to chase boogiemen that weren’t necessarily there, to pursue an ideological impossibility, and ultimately to spread fear and anger and create more enemies. The damage we have done with our ignorance and short sightedness is hard to estimate ... but is enormous and we will be suffering from it for some time to come. September 11th was, without a doubt, a tragedy. It is a tragedy that goes far beyond the horror of the lives lost on that one day.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

enough already with the small government stuff

The small government stuff is stupid. I’m sorry for being impolite and rash, but I’m right. It’s stupid, and it’s part of a larger trend of ideological masturbation. I listened to a discussion on the role of FEMA on NPR today. Someone from the Cato Institute was part of the discussion. While the other panelists talked about actual facts and figures, the dude from the Cato institute spouted ideology. He even said at one point that he didn’t know about whether FEMA was better run now, but that how well it was working was beside the point. His message was simple … ‘I want government to be smaller and it really doesn’t matter what facts or reason dictate.’ He likes his ideas, and he’s going to make the world fit them. It doesn’t matter that FEMA plays an important coordination role, a role it initially undertook at the request of states. It doesn’t matter that storms generally don’t adhere to state boundaries. It doesn’t matter that the Constitution was written to expand Federal Power. It doesn’t matter that it is pretty clear that leaving things to the market or the states, without any federal oversight, doesn’t work. I don’t get it … but I don’t understand why government would fragment as corporations head in the opposite direction. Why should Wal-Mart and Target be the only national entities coordinating disaster relief? Why do workers now need less government protection? Why does business no need less regulation? Has it been that long since the last financial crisis that was caused by a lack of oversight? Has the environment become less important? As China invests almost 10% of its GDP into infrastructure, why is now the time for us to move in the opposite direction. It just makes no sense, which is why the tirade against big government is always so full of angry rhetoric and pristine ideology, and short on the mean and dirty facts. If you want to curt FEMA and the Department of Education … you are stupid. You need to start trying to solve problems, or at least poke your head up out of the cubicle in your research institute and into the real world. If not, the rest of us need to come into your cubicle and tell you to stop or else. Even better, maybe if we ignore you then you’ll go away and take your ideological fervor with you.