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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 03/27/2011 - 04/03/2011
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Saturday, April 02, 2011

The essence of freedom is an informed citizenry empowered by critical thinking

as i am moving slowly here in dubai of a sunday morning and contemplating boarding the flight to kabul, i am reading glenn's post on the trust we blindly are expected to place in our elected leaders, in this case, obama...
I don't dispute that trust plays some proper role in deciding for whom one will vote. Part of the reason I advocated for Obama's election over John McCain's is because I believed -- and still believe -- that Obama was much smarter, more thoughtful, more intellectually open, and more knowledgeable than McCain. That Obama is very intelligent is not reasonably disputable, at least not in my view.

But there are other vital attributes that determine the quality of decision-making besides intellect: courage is one; an ability to form (and a willingness to defend) moral and ethical convictions is another; genuine empathy for others is still another. An amoral, cowardly, unprincipled genius is likely to make worse decisions than a stalwart, principled, moral person of average intelligence. That said, whatever factors one assesses, it's certainly legitimate -- when it comes to elections -- to form comparative preferences for politicians based on the trust one has in their decision-making ability.

But that's in a different universe than deciding that -- once they're in power -- you're going to relinquish your own critical faculties and judgment to them as a superior being ... .


But "thinking" that way is an absolute abdication of the duties of citizenship, which compel holding leaders accountable and making informed judgment about their actions ... . It's also dangerous, as it creates a climate of unchecked leaders who bask in uncritical adoration.


Even the most magnanimous leaders -- perhaps especially them, given their belief in their own Goodness -- are likely to veer into serious error, corruption and worse if they are liberated from a critical citizenry. Mindlessly cheering for a politician -- or placing trust in their decision-making -- is understandable a couple of months before an election when you've decided their re-election is important. But it's wildly inappropriate any other time. And subordinating your own critical faculties to a leader's is, at all times, warped, self-destructive and dangerous
why in god's green earth would one want to uncritically trust one's leaders without reservation...? the myth that they have some inherent superiority in their ability to analyze situations and make correct decisions is just that, a myth... might they have access to information we don't...? sure... might they be pretty smart cookies...? damn, i would hope so... but completely subordinating our ability to make sense out of what's going on and arrive at intelligent conclusions is abandoning the essence of our power as human beings, a power we abdicate at our great peril...

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Friday, April 01, 2011

Burning a Koran really pisses some folks off...

can't say as i blame 'em for being pissed altho' i do have a problem with mob psychology where innocent people end up dead...

it would be nice if the nutcase u.s. pastor who thought it necessary to perform such a reckless and intolerant act in the name of christianity had to face some serious consequences... at a bare minimum, he should be forced to go back and read the real message of christ in the gospels... i see people like him as evidence of the real evil afoot in the world...

Mob kills 8 U.N. workers in Afghanistan

Officials say a crowd of up to 1,000 people attacked the United Nations compound in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif, killing eight guards believed to be from the Philippines. The attack was sparked by a mosque sermon describing the burning of the Koran by an American pastor.


The rioting erupted after mosque preachers at Friday prayers -- the most important of the Muslim week -- sermonized against the burning of the Koran by an American evangelical pastor in Florida. After the service, up to 1,000 worshipers marched on the U.N. compound and overran it, police said.

believe me, i'm not recommending it, but i'm frankly somewhat surprised that the afghans haven't retaliated by burning a bible... can you imagine the kind of conflagration THAT would unleash here in the good ol' u.s. of a...?

meanwhile, here i sit at dulles airport in d.c., waiting for my flight to dubai where i will connect to a flight to kabul... woo-hoo...

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Light posting - heading back to Afghanistan

unusually high traffic the past few days at least for this low-traffic site... most of it's been going to the kill team post from last week...

anyway, mostly the same ol' stuff going on and i'm feeling like all i've been doing is repeating myself... however, i'm sure something will wind up kicking me in the nuts that i'll just HAVE to post on...

'till then...!

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A great obituary for a great man

go read it... it's damn good...

Bageant Moves On

We don't last, and there's no warranty

Joefred2 Joe Bageant and Fred Reed in Ajijic, Mexico, 2008

By Fred Reed

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Joe Bageant passes away

it's only been fairly recently that i became acquainted with joe bageant... i became an instant fan and now he's gone...

Joe Bageant, 1946-2011

After a vibrant life, Joe Bageant died yesterday following a four-month struggle with cancer. He was 64. Joe is survived by his wife, Barbara, his three children, Timothy, Patrick and Elizabeth, and thousands of friends and admirers. He is also survived by his work and ideas.

According to Joe's wishes, he will be cremated. His family will hold a private memorial service.

i'm at that stage in my life where i am starting to see my age-group peers pass on... i'll be 64 myself in december... i'm incredibly grateful for my health and the very active life i lead... joe will be missed...

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

The unrestrained power ... enjoyed by oligarchs is the single greatest political problem the country faces

glenn has a very important post up that captures the essence of what is happening in the u.s. and, indeed, in many places in the world where our super-rich elites are fighting to extend their privileged an largely unfettered access to power and money at the expense of any notion of the common good and, most nauseatingly, painting themselves as victims in the process...
Billionaire self-pity and the Koch brothers


I'm not someone who sees the Koch Brothers as some sort of unique threat. I mostly regard them as little more than a symbol of the death of democratic values in the U.S. -- the way in which the possession of vast financial resources is an absolute prerequisite to making any impact on the national political process, and conversely, how those without such resources are politically inconsequential and impotent (short of their fomenting serious social unrest).


There's no question in my mind that the unrestrained power over the political process and both political parties enjoyed by oligarchs is the single greatest political problem the country faces -- the overarching problem -- but in the scheme of corporate and oligarchical dominance, the Koch Brothers are a small part of that dynamic. Nor do I believe that they're motivated in their political activism by personal profit: for people with a net worth of $20 billion, there are vas more efficient ways to convert one's wealth into greater wealth than spending money to influence public policy; I think they're True Believers.


The political power of America's richest has never been greater, and the level of their responsibility and collective burden has never been less. Meanwhile, for ordinary Americans, the remaining remnants of their financial security and middle class comforts rapidly erodes. It's true that the U.S. Government has little regard for the free market: they intervene constantly in the free market on behalf of the nation's wealthiest and most powerful business interests; it's crony capitalism, corporatism: government run by corporations (or, as Dick Durbin said of the Congress in which he serves: "the banks own the place").

For billionaires to see themselves as the True Victims, to complain that the President and the Government are waging some sort of war against them in the name of radical egalitarianism, is so removed from reality -- universes away -- that's it's hard to put into words. And the fiscal recklessness that the Kochs and their comrades tirelessly point to was a direct by-product of the last decade's rule by the Republican Party which they fund: from unfunded, endless wars to a never-ending expansion of the privatized National Security and Surveillance States to the financial crisis that exploded during the Bush presidency. But whatever else is true, there are many victims of fiscal policy in America: the wealthiest business interests and billionaires like the Koch Brothers are the few who are not among them.


This strain of delusional self-victimization is not uncommon. One commonly finds those who are the strongest and most powerful convincing themselves that they are the oppressed and the marginalized. Many Americans believe that -- as they invade, bomb and occupy countless Muslim countries -- that they are the ones being victimized by the Muslim world, while many Israelis and their loyalists believe that the nuclear-armed, constantly invading, occupying and bombing nation is the real victim of aggression and militarism in the Middle East.

one of the things i like best about glenn is that he is almost always able to connect the dots... that he can place the koch brothers in the bigger picture of what is happening in the u.s. is invaluable... it's precisely the same thing that noam chomsky does so well and it's precisely that skill, ability and perspective that is in such short supply at a time when we so desperately need it...

being able to put the pieces together not only requires the skill of pattern recognition, it also means the ability to put things in a larger context... picking on the koch brothers without that understanding is only railing at symptoms and not the underlying disease...

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