Archive for October, 2008

Decision ’08 Presidential Results

Posted on 31 October, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

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Philosophy of BO.

Posted on 29 October, 2008. Filed under: US Elections | Tags: , , , , , , |

As a non-US American, or any other kind of American, my interest at the onset of the US presidential campaigns was to find the dove, rather than the hawk, and even early on the choice was clear. Having satisfied myself on that point, I then started looking at other differences between the two candidates. In the end, it came down to how they view the world.

I concluded that McCain is a Darwinist – embracing a work-your-way-to-the-top, survival-of-the-fittest philosophy. It’s all about me, me, ME! The problem with this being that, no matter how hard you work, how strong you are, there are only room for so many at the top. If you can’t get one of those spots, it’s tough luck, and you probably didn’t deserve to be there in the first place. It doesn’t recognise that your seat on the top perch is dependent on many other people’s sweat, tears, and yes, sometimes even their blood. And without them, your whole palace of cards would just come tumbling down.

Obama, on the other hand, is the guy who organises the community to go and build a neighbour’s barn. (Not as un-American as some would have us believe!) He sees the world and its people as inter-connected and inter-dependent. And it saddens me when I see some so-called Hillary Clinton’s supporters rallying behind McCain. Hillary gave us “It takes a village to raise a child.” This is essentially the same philosophy as Obama’s. I cannot think of a greater betrayal of Hillary than to go and support a man whose philosophy is anathema to everything she stands for! (Not to mention how uttering her name in the same breath as Sarah Palin’s is the biggest insult I can imagine.)

So, do I want to live in a world where it’s each one for him/herself, or in a “one for all and all for one”  world?

Just get me a horse and call me D’Artagnan!

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Beyond the labels.

Posted on 27 October, 2008. Filed under: Economy, The world | Tags: , , |

“As we make the regulatory and institutional changes necessary to avoid a repeat of this crisis, it is essential that we preserve the foundations of democratic capitalism — a commitment to free markets, free enterprise, and free trade. We must resist the dangerous temptation of economic isolationism and continue the policies of open markets that have lifted standards of living and helped millions of people escape poverty around the world.”

So sayeth George Bush, at a meeting with some G8 leaders to plan a summit to discuss the world’s possible economic meltdown.

Some of his European counterparts are feeling boisterous, saying that sweeping reform, and perhaps even re-writing capitalism, might be what is needed. But not Mr. Bush, knight of the mighty dollar, defender of the empire. No, a little whitewash is all that’s needed, he reckons.

The economic crisis, needless to say, is a source of great concern to many. When I listen to even intelligent people balking at the very mention of socialism, it amazes me. But not too much. I do understand. I know the very mention of the term, in the minds of many, equate grey, stoic uniformity. Food rations, bread lines and government issued toothpaste. Brezhnev’s USSR and Castro’s Cuba. Or even worse, Kim Jong Il’s North Korea!

Now I have no reason to believe that pure socialism is a good idea, and quite a few reasons to believe it isn’t. But then, I can say the same for pure capitalism.

My main problem with socialism is that it assumes that most people, given the opportunity, will behave responsibly and look out for others.

My main problem with capitalism is that it assumes most businesses, given the opportunity, will behave responsibly and look out for others.

I think most people, given the opportunity, look out for number 1. I also believe that, with a little nudge and push, people do care enough for others to look out for them, as long as it’s not too inconvenient.

I don’t want to go into a lengthy comparison or analysis of the two ideologies today, but I do want to vent a bit about what has brought us where we are today – capitalism. Concepts like free markets, global initiatives, etc don’t sound too bad. Greed does. And I believe it is greed allowed to run rampant that has brought us to the brink of this disaster. When enough is never enough, and more is more, and when people become so ruthless in their acquisition of wealth that they can build fortunes on other’s misery, we have lost part of our humanity.

In large part, the growth of wealth for some has been fed on credit. Debt is a vicious monster, that feeds on its own young. It is a trap often succumbed to as a result of our inability to distinguish need from want. It is the mother of modern banking systems, and it is collapsing in on itself. Indeed, “things fall apart, the centre cannot hold”.

The whitewash that Mr. Bush, and I am sure many others, are advocating, simply won’t do. It might offer superficial, short-term relief, but the cancer will remain. We do need broad, sweeping reforms, a total rethink of economy, ideology, and our view of self and other. I believe the answer is not in socialism, but in a hybrid. Not the kind of pick-and-mix economy we so often see, but a planned and well-thought out solution. It might not be the same for all countries, but certain principles of commonality will have to be agreed on.

This, in my mind, is as important as environmental change. Neither has a quick fix, both will require time, commitment and sacrifice, both will encounter immense resistance, and will need heroic statesmanship to steer through the sea of reluctance. But both, if not addressed, have the potential to radically alter “the world we thought we lived in”.

Let the thinking begin!

William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming”

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of “Spiritus Mundi”
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


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Dinosaurs and fruit flies

Posted on 25 October, 2008. Filed under: US Elections | Tags: , , , |

On Friday, Sarah Palin gave a policy speech outlining her and John McCain’s policy and commitment to supporting families of children with special needs.  A cause I applaud. Recent years have seen an unbelievable escalation in special needs, autism in particular being diagnosed with alarming frequency. The emotional, physical and material burden this places on families are tremendous, and especially in the case of poor and single parent families, devastating. I think it is crucial that the government reach out to help these families. (Is that terribly socialistic?)

Perhaps her speech would have carried more weight if her track record spoke to it, but she carries around the albatross of having slashed funds for a special Olympics programme in Alaska. But I guess that was before she herself was the mother of a special needs child. (A mean socialist, I am.)

The thing that bothered me most, though, relates to fruit flies. Government funding for research into silly things like fruit flies is just wasteful, says Mrs Palin. Well, go to an agricultural area and tell that to farmers whose crops are being damaged by fruit flies, I say. I guess she would say the same about funding research into Ips beetles. University of Colorado is spending, sorry, I mean wasting, some more money on those pesky little critters. But I’m sure that environmentally friendly Mrs Palin doesn’t mind that these 1/8 to 3/8 inch long babies are busy destroying entire forests. Of course, the real irony here is that it was a study on fruit flies that detected proteins that might help us to better understand autism.

The flies served to highlight a problem I have with Sarah Palin, and indeed, many other people. She basks in ignorance. For a woman raised by educators, she shows a determined lack of regard for the virtues of education and the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. With her attacks on the elite, and academics, oh no, sorry that was Ms Bachman, (how did I manage to confuse those two, I wonder?) she forces one to look at her life more closely.

Having led an interesting and colourful life, I, too, can only boast of a bachelor’s degree, which took me quite a while to complete, in many (not consecutive) years. So I will cast no stone, there. But it doesn’t seem as if either of her eldest two are interested in academically improving themselves, nor, indeed, is her son-in-law-to-be. Now to each his own, I agree, and not everyone wishes to go to college or university, but in my experience, in families that place a premium on intellectual pursuits and academics, it is the norm to venture forth to institutes of higher learning. Which leads me to believe that these are not important things in her or her family’s schema. In most people that would be their problem, not mine, but in a woman who strives to become vice president of arguably the largest power in the world, and potentially  its president, it sends chills down my body…

And that brings me to the dinosaurs. I am a Christian. I believe that God created the world. But God, in my eyes, is a God of order, not professor Dumbledor waving a magic wand. I, like many other Christians, and scientists, and Christian scientists, have a worldview in which evolution and Biblical creation not only co-exist, but support each other. And I really do not think it is unreasonable to ask Mrs Palin to tell us, once and for all, whether or not she truly believes that dinosaurs roamed the world until about 6 thousand years ago. Just a simple yes or no answer will do. Because if a member of the flat-earth society was going to occupy a senior office in the White House, wouldn’t you want to know?

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