Tag: values

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: A Non-Capitalist Response to the SOTU by UnaSpenser

Author’s Note: Hi everybody! Welcome to a participatory diary. That’s right, participatory. I’m offering this up as an exercise for everyone to try. The original text is  an explanation of the exercise and why I’m suggesting it, followed by a couple of examples. Then, it’s up to you to complete the diary. Add comments with your own examples and I’ll build out the diary with your content. Let’s see what the whole feels like when we make an attempt to respond to the State of the Union address together. When we make a conscious effort to dig into the principles we find buried in the speech and compare them to the principles we would like to live by, how aligned do they feel?

We’ve heard a lot of responses this week to President Obama’s State of the Union Address. What I find persistently frustrating with any US political speech the lack of unpacking the “capitalist”, “democratic” and “American Way” framework. Or rather, the lack of establishing the principles behind what is being said to see whether it’s fits with the principles and values that we hold.

I have not framed this diary as an “anti-capitalist” one. I am suggesting that regardless of how you feel about capitalism, you might find it useful to analyze what another capitalist is saying by setting aside the supposed common ground of capitalism and searching for what values are reflected in what is being said. Capitalism isn’t a value. It’s a type of economic system. When we identify as a capitalist, however, we probably attach a value system to that identity. What I’m wondering here is whether everyone attaches the same value system. Do you even know if the speaker has the same value system as you?

I am someone who gets frustrated when people try to make decisions or solve problems together without establishing their shared principles. “Capitalism” is not a principle. Principles are about values and beliefs. They are guides to how we behave, how we treat one another. You could claim to be a capitalist and believe that everyone has a right to food and shelter. You could claim to be a capitalist and believe that food and shelter are not rights, they must be “earned.” Those are mutually exclusive principles which two different people are claiming as part of the capitalist construct. If they simply greet each other as capitalists, it is possible for them to think they are aligned when they are not. This opens the door for misunderstanding, at best, and deception, manipulation and oppression, at worst.

Is that happening in this speech? The answer to that and the places where we feel it is happening may be different for each person. Hence, the participatory nature of this diary. What feels unaligned for me may feel aligned for you and vice versa. But, perhaps, we’ll find some common threads of values that we would like to see underpinning our governance and social life. Perhaps ….

Archetypal Lance

Oprah’s interview with Lance Armstrong was really kind of fun for me to watch. Armstrong is typifies the kind of attitude that all graspers and hustlers have. I’m sure we’ve each known this type of person both male and female. Cold, calculating, assertive, in control. These are the people that run our world, for the most part. Yes, there are noble people who succeed and do well and contribute and keep the world from falling some dark star. It much of our culture is gamed, fixed, how cheating is consistently rewarded and whistle-blowing punished.

In sports cheating is a bit harder than the rest of society but it happens. People get caught more in sports because it really doesn’t matter that much. I mean who cares if doping is common in big-time bicycle racing or baseball? For a fan the game is the same either way. But if Lance Armstrongs populate the hall of Congress, the Pentagon, the CIA, Wall Street, advertising and public relations and so on we suffer. I’ve seen it everywhere I’ve been in Washington big-time and small-time.

Is this new in human history? No, of course not. It’s a question now of balance-do we care enough about society to assert some contrary values to simply winning. WE often talk about “winners” and “losers” not about morality. Morality is essential to keeping society functioning and the more we fall away from some minimal standards of morality the less well society can function. We are voting with our values-every time we cheer torturers on TV getting information out of “bad guys” (meaning people who are a member of the group called “them”) we are making a statement about our values and, maintaining a moral atmosphere where the end always justifies the means.

Without a close examination of our values we cannot hope to solve any of our collective problems. Without a committing to some kind of value system we can’t easily maintain any kind of social system. These values do not have to be rigid and they don’t have to be throwbacks to the morality practiced by a ancient herding people in the Middle East or people who invaded the subcontinent of Asia.

We can come together and gather pieces of our broken conceptual frameworks and build something new. In fact, I’m convinced that we’ll do it-my only concern is will we be able to do it before the darkness gets to thick.

Short Attention Span Theater and the decline of Journalism

Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government

Freedom of the Press

“I am… for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents.”

— Thomas Jefferson to Elbridge Gerry, 1799

So Freedom of the Press, protects even the stuff, we disagree with.

You don’t have to like it, what someone says, writes, or legislates … or tactlessly expresses.

But they have a Right to do so none the less, according to our historic icon Thomas Jefferson.  

The pen, should trump, the sword.

Funny how “Money” got all lumped in with Free Speech, though?

Must of been all those Gieco “googley eyes” commercials

Because People Are Needlessly Dying

A friend of mine works for a right wing idiot. She sometimes shares with me their political correspondence. His politics usually doesn’t get any more sophisticated than generic right wing talking points. The stupid does, indeed, burn. But one recent exchange really distilled it, for me. I had forwarded her the link to my recent post about people who will die, if health care “reform” doesn’t include a public option. Because even if new laws bar private insurers from excluding people with pre-existing conditions, nothing now and nothing in the current proposals prevents private insurers from denying patients expensive life-saving treatments. The newspaper article on which my diary was based referred specifically to Nataline Sarkisyan, the seventeen-year old who died when her private insurer refused to pay for a needed liver transplant. And my friend forwarded back to me her boss’s response. Which was simply to ask how much a public option would cost, along with his typically mind-numbingly inane parrot-point about “unfunded mandates.” It took about a day for it to sink in. What kind of person, when told about a teenager who died because she couldn’t get life-saving medical care, responds by asking about the cost? What does it say about such a person’s basic human values? It’s hard even to respond to such a sick, soulless attitude. This man has daughters. But I guess if he has enough insurance for them, the rest of the world can go ahead and die. He doesn’t care.

Does Democracy Have a Future?

While in a discussion in yesterday’s essay We’re Not In Kansas Anymore  NLinStPaul asked me to expand my comments on the fact I believed that democracy cannot function the current cultural atmosphere and that we should hope that the oligarchs that run the joint can be wise.

To me this is an easy statement to make because democracy, as we have come to understand the term, is not a natural or common state of human culture. History and social science has shown us that most people inevitably follow authority and will follow authority. It also shows that power corrupts and that, in many ways, both the powerful and the weak cooperate in a kind of sado-masochistic scene (check out the Stanford Prison Experiment). People want and need norms and authority and will tend to gas Jews or torture prisoners if asked by the powerful to do so (see the Milgram Experiment). People will tend to conform to cultural views of reality even when it clashes with their own direct perception (see the Asch conformity experiments–you don’t even have to read about that to see how it has happened in this country particularly during the lead-up to the Iraq War).  

Freak Flag High

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Almost cut my hair

It happened just the other day

It’s gettin kinda long

I coulda said it wasn’t in my way

But I didn’t and I wonder why

I feel like letting my freak flag fly

Cause I feel like I owe it to someone

Yeah (sing the song brother…)

Now if uh, six uh, huh, turned out to be nine

Oh I dont mind, I dont mind uh ( well all right… )

If all the hippies cut off all their hair

Oh I dont care, oh I dont care.


cause Ive got my own world to live through and uh, huh

And I aint gonna copy you.

White collar conservative flashin down the street

Pointin their plastic finger at me, ha !

Theyre hopin soon my kind will drop and die but uh

Im gonna wave my freak flag high, high !

Jesus and John McCain

Some days I feel like I’m living in Bizarro World.  I’m reading the news from the usual sources, and I come across this beaut from ajc.com, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“John McCain is kind of like Jesus Christ on the cross,” Everhart said as she began the second day of the state GOP convention. “He never denounced God, either.”

John McCain is like Jesus?  Really?  uh… in what way?

Let’s see here.

Jesus on peace and war: blessed are the peacemakers.

John  on peace and war:  bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran.

Jesus on marriage: May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

John  on marriage: At least I don’t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt.

Jesus on sacrifice: go, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

John  on sacrifice: Since the beginning of their marriage, Senator McCain and Mrs. McCain have always maintained separate finances.  As required by federal law and Senate rules, Mrs. McCain has released significant and extensive financial information through Senate and Presidential disclosure forms.  In the interest of protecting the privacy of her children, Mrs. McCain will not be releasing her personal tax returns.

Jesus on respect:  do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

John  on respect:  Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?  Janet Reno is her father.

You get the idea.  Feel free to add your own observations.  Add your own spiritual advisor, deity, or scientific principle in comparison to the Maverick.  Have some fun.  Otherwise, in Bizarro World, we’ll all go mad and O.D. on Woolite.

The Journalism of Empire: an Exhibit in LA Times

Imagine a future in which the United States has been invaded and occupied by China.  Imagine that Chinese forces speeding through downtown Chicago open fire in an intersection and kill your son, as he sits in the passanger seat of your car.  Now imagine that the American Branch of the Chinese Government offers you money to make up for it.

Imagine that you say to the Chinese official holding out the cash, “I don’t want your money.  I want you to think American life is precious.”

According to an article in the LA Times headlined Blackwater shooting highlights a U.S., Iraq culture clash, you are weird and hard to understand; the product of an alien culture.

Bush: $170,000,000,000 more for the war; Cuts to housing, education, health care, environment…

Since that surge is working so well, I guess we’re just going to have to keep surging. Forever. According to The Hill:

This year’s battle over Iraq war funding officially kicked off Wednesday as Defense Secretary Robert Gates reluctantly offered a price tag for the first time: $170 billion for fiscal 2009.

Speaking at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Gates only gave the number after Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) pressed him, but rejected his own estimate right off the bat, calling it a number that “will inevitably be wrong, and perhaps significantly so.”

“I will be giving you precision without accuracy,” warned Gates.

Levin insisted that he give his best estimate for next year’s war-funding needs.

“Well, a straight-line projection, Mr. Chairman, of our current expenditures would probably put the full-year cost, in a strictly arithmetic approach, at about $170 billion,” Gates responded.

Of course, Gates made clear that the number could be wrong; and I’m guessing he didn’t mean wrong as in an overestimate. But the Administration is very conscious of the drain on our federal budget. Not the drain from the war, mind you, the other drain. On Monday, the Washington Post reported that Bush wants to do something about it. Like slash and burn. You know- the low priority stuff.

President Bush plans to unveil a $2.5 trillion budget today eliminating dozens of politically sensitive domestic programs, including funding for education, environmental protection and business development, while proposing significant increases for the military and international spending, according to White House documents.

Overall, discretionary spending other than defense and homeland security would fall by nearly 1 percent, the first time in many years that funding for the major part of the budget controlled by Congress would actually go down in real terms, according to officials with access to the budget. The cuts are scattered across a wide swath of the government, affecting a cross-section of constituents, from migrant workers to train passengers to local police departments, according to officials who read portions of the documents to The Washington Post.

And one very important person is already on board.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I hope we in Congress will have the courage to support it.”