Archive for February, 2011

Honesty in reporting

Friday, February 25th, 2011

The only difference between being a ‘protester’ and an ‘insurgent’ is whether or not the reporting media company likes you. We in the west have been defeated by a genuinely evil idea: that a dangerous religion inhabits peoples’ minds, and must be destroyed. From the shrillest unemployed white female to the president of the United States, this is the implicit conviction governing every opinion of the outside world.

The irony is wonderful and terrible. The guiding persuasion is wholly that Christians are good, and Muslims are bad (or the other way ’round). These are faiths urging people, from identical principles,  toward the same God. In our country, the claim to Christianity is simply a lie. We feel something deeply in our chests. We’re proudly committed to our own righteousness. We base it on a book which clearly states: salvation in Jesus Christ demands an abandonment of all worldly wealth and the explicit, physical love of our enemies.

The future looks ugly, and most of us believe we have nothing to do with it. We think we’ll stand in our doorways with our guns and our Christian slogans; we’ll send out our boys to slaughter the infidel, and all will stay right with the world.

God help us, because we’re not taking care of ourselves.

Perhaps: a great president.

Monday, February 21st, 2011

There are some real problems with Mr. Obama. He chose to side with the super wealthy, instead of the American people. He could have taken seriously destabilizing action, as president, that might have lost him the next election, but would have put the country on a clear road to prosperity. That wasn’t his choice. He’s the commander in chief. He can order his officers to move the men at Guantanamo, even into buildings in the voting districts of his political opponents. His officers will move them. But that hasn’t been his choice, either. In short, he doesn’t govern like his predecessor.

So I find myself recalling Jesus’ advice to recognize people by their results and not their speeches. Mr. Obama is president of the United States. What’s happening in the world?

Our historic complicity with the now trembling Arab dictatorships is ugly and awkward. But imagine if the Republicans were in the White House. They would be sending billions to prop up our stooges, and putting our special ops on the streets to help ‘pacify’ their populations. This isn’t just a random example. Everywhere – Korea, Wisconsin – we see the naked aggression and inhumanity of our right-wing plurality being tempered by something else. Maybe history really is conducted by a few great people on behalf of an ignorant and undeserving public. Maybe this guy is one of them.

Conflict of interest – what?

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

The policy of letting our dictators ride out their various Arab uprisings is looking a bit iffy. It’s pretty tough, when you’ve been paying the bosses who shoot the commoners for fifty years, to hope the commoners are going to elect one of your good friends if they build themselves a democracy. So we want to be sort of careful about that ‘liberty’ and ‘human rights’ talk. But gosh, maybe they will build themselves some democracies and then, well, we still want to buy the oil, don’t we?

It’s a good thing embarrassment doesn’t pose any national vulnerabilities; just “whoops, sorry!” and I’m sure everything will proceed profitably enough. But it doesn’t give me anything I feel particularly proud of.

Straight talk on abortion

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

When people talk about abortion, they’re talking about themselves. When I get into the discussion, I’m no different. What we hear are emphatic voices: real emotional, real fast. Because these are our own lives we’re talking about now. The issue is our deepest belief about our personal experience. So we don’t really give a damn about unborn babies or the women who carry them. We just want to say ‘this’ about ‘that’ – and you’d better believe we mean it.

Abortion isn’t about an unborn life. It’s about an immediate life. If you’re calling an unborn child alive, you’re not talking about the thing you encounter when you wake up. You’re pledging fidelity to a concept, one that makes you feel something very special, deep, and important about who you are. But you’re not talking about something real.

If you’re talking to a woman who might have an abortion, you’re talking to someone real. Someone just like you. If you’re professing religion, or promoting what your own gut commitments compel you to advocate, please move along. She’s a human being. Care for her.

Big Brother and baby food

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

I know there’s something brilliant to say about this, but I’m groping through some bewilderment. It seems the president’s wife keeps saying parents should care for their children. They should breast feed them when they’re infants; feed them healthy diets as they grow up. Maybe not coincidentally, the government is developing incentive programs to encourage nurturing the nation’s young.

There are these Republican women who are furious about this. Who, they demand, has a right to suggest we care for our own kids? They’re our kids, dammit! If we want to feed them pig-swill and coke, we darn well will!

They must be right, I’m sure. The important thing about government in a democracy is it’s prevented from making laws regulating people. Isn’t it?

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Monday, February 14th, 2011

I imagine a rare day of winter sunlight, for a young man uncertain of himself. Hopeful every morning. Earnest in growing up. Bumping into close friends now maybe six months acquainted. Working hard to see everywhere at once. Then the girl assigned to the project unexpectedly, pretty and disconcerting. He isn’t taking her seriously, though, because these things don’t really happen to him, when they’re flirting over the books at the kitchen table, and she just pulls off her shirt, laughing, with eyes like a joyful cat’s.

I spend some long mornings with my wife. Years and years, we’ve slept together. I watch her curl up, stand, reach for things; her body tugging at mine across the room as if I were a sixteen year old boy.

Children aren’t burdened with the weight of memory – what a wonderful way to experience desire!

I watch my boys and think of this or that consequence. There’s a lot of ancient thunder and admonition against sex. I could tell them a few things about wishing we hadn’t. But then, those wishes are what make us pleasant to be around. Feel your blood boil, children. Live!

Campaign 2012 (4)

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

A working person who votes for a Republican is a stupid person. That’s a fact.

Republicans proudly condemn democracy where-ever it might promise freedom to working people. They howl against it in the workplace, warning that liberty from tyrannical bosses threatens their system of elite power. They stand up and denounce democracy in Egypt, claiming that when their favored candidates lose, the country will become a foaming enemy of the rich in America.

As Democrats, christian socialists believe democracy and liberty, everywhere and always, promote peace and prosperity. We accept our election losses without threat of violence. We deeply believe in the founding principle of democratic government: compromise. We pray the Egyptian people will succeed, against decades of despotism and American – Republican – money.

Common (stock) sense

Monday, February 7th, 2011

To know what something is worth, you need to know something about who wants it. You need to know how much money they have. You need to know if they can get it somewhere else. If people buy stocks because they hope to make money, it makes sense to think about how stocks might earn it. I’m aware of two ways: a stock can pay dividends, or the company can be sold for a capital gain. Mostly, it’s the capital gain people are after. We buy a stock today because somebody will buy it from us, for more, tomorrow – the way it worked with real estate a few years ago.

Historically, and today, the people who want stocks are, generally, people who already have lots of money. They get more money when governments make getting money easy. When they have more money, they pay more for stocks. For about a century, the accepted principle was, a stock is probably worth about fifteen years’ worth of company profits. Who knows where this came from, but it probably has something to do with interest rates and alternative investments. Anyway, for about a century, that’s what people paid, and when stocks got much pricier, they stopped buying until the price went back down.

Starting in the 1980s, when the US conquered the world, and its government started making money really easy for rich people to get, they began paying 25-, 30-, even 40- years’ worth of earnings for a company’s stock. Today, money is even easier, and the ‘whole market’ is valued at twenty-five years worth of company earnings. So if you want to buy stocks today, you need to wonder, as always, if they’re worth it.

Okay, let’s rearrange them later.

Friday, February 4th, 2011

A long time ago, a very smart guy named Max wrote about a phenomenon he thought would take over the world. He called it ‘bureaucracy.’ He was thinking bigger than the phone company. He noticed people mainly want to be better off than the next guy. He watched his contemporary institutions, endlessly hiring, promoting, and retiring people through various positions – enduring forever themselves. They were staffed from a wage-slave labor force, whose members contentedly spent lifetimes fighting for the next rung up the ladder. He saw no end to it.

The thing is, we’re not really in danger from Al-Qaeda, North Korea, or disruptions in the Middle East. Aside from the occasional explosion or anthrax-mailing, nothing is likely to happen. We’re vigorously running in place, and that’s satisfying enough. On-again off-again bomb threats are good ways to exercise the bureaucracy, and it strengthens with a workout. Our paymasters have achieved global accounting. Our militaries are wildly efficient. The mightiest minds of the thinking classes are all bent towards: keeping the system running.

Another smart guy named Karl said, ‘yes, but the system always starves people from the bottom up, until those in the middle get hungry, and then they throw a revolution.’ Max didn’t think so. He figured institutions could always print enough paper to pay middling wages; to keep things going. Dismal guy, from some points of view.

Oh he did, though, mutter something about a ‘charismatic leader,’ someone who shows up unexpectedly and charms everyone into flocking away from their institutions. I wonder what that was about.