When we watch the evening news it’s easy to conclude that America is now a foreign country run by some unnamed corporation according to rules no one has ever heard of before. The America of our history books and all those Victory at Sea documentaries is long gone. It’s been replaced by the America of Ariana Huffington and FOX/MSNBC Sort-of News. A strange place indeed. In this inspiring TED Talk, Lawrence Lessig has a prescription to recover what we lost. The hard part is believing it’s actually possible…
We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim
Lawrence Lessig | TED | APR 13
________________________________________________________________________________ Lawyer and activist Lawrence Lessig spent a decade arguing for sensible intellectual property law, updated for the digital age. He was a founding board member of Creative Commons, an organization that builds better copyright practices through principles established first by the open-source software community.
In 2007, just after his last TED Talk, Lessig announced he was leaving the field of IP and Internet policy, and moving on to a more fundamental problem that blocks all types of sensible policy — the corrupting influence of money in American politics.
In 2011, Lessig founded Rootstrikers, an organization dedicated to changing the influence of money in Congress. In his latest book, Republic, Lost, he shows just how far the U.S. has spun off course — and how citizens can regain control. As The New York Times wrote about him, “Mr. Lessig’s vision is at once profoundly pessimistic — the integrity of the nation is collapsing under the best of intentions –and deeply optimistic. Simple legislative surgery, he says, can put the nation back on the path to greatness.”
For years now we have been listening to republican politicians and their eager media cheerleaders yak on about how we are robbing future generations with our profligate government spending. This canard is hammered into our conciousness whenever we see one of those deficit “doomsday clocks” ticking off how many trillions of dollars our kids will have to pay to get out of the debt hole we created. Paul Krugman takes on that argument today and he makes total sense. If we have a deficit problem in this country it’s a deficit of leadership and sound economic policy, not dollars…
Cheating Our Children
Paul Krugman | NYTimes | 29 Mar 13
So, about that fiscal crisis — the one that would, any day now, turn us into Greece. Greece, I tell you: Never mind.
Over the past few weeks, there has been a remarkable change of position among the deficit scolds who have dominated economic policy debate for more than three years. It’s as if someone sent out a memo saying that the Chicken Little act, with its repeated warnings of a U.S. debt crisis that keeps not happening, has outlived its usefulness. Suddenly, the argument has changed: It’s not about the crisis next month; it’s about the long run, about not cheating our children. The deficit, we’re told, is really a moral issue.
There’s just one problem: The new argument is as bad as the old one. Yes, we are cheating our children, but the deficit has nothing to do with it.
This brilliant article by Lewis Lapham discusses the period leading up to George Bush’s War on Iraq which cost a trillion dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives and accomplished absolutely nothing. It is well worth reading in light of recent statements by politicians and their TV cheerleaders advocating preemptive military action against Syria and Iran. When you hear a politician talk about the need for war you should always ask if they are planning to participate. Note — Don’t miss Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer” at the end…
The Road to Babylon
Lewis H. Lapham | Harpers | Oct 02
Misgovemment is of four kinds, often in combination. They are: 1) tyranny or oppression, of which history provides so many well-known examples that they do not need citing; 2) excessive ambition, such as Athens’ attempted conquest of Sicily in the Peloponnesian War, Philip II’s of England via the Armada, Germany’s twice-attempted rule of Europe by a self-conceived master race, Japan’s bid for an empire of Asia; 3) incompetence or decadence, as in the case of the late Roman empire, the last Romanovs and the last imperial dynasty of China; and finally 4) folly or perversity.
— Barbara W. Tuchman
When President George W. Bush in his January State of the Union address pronounced the sentence of doom on Saddam Hussein (“America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation’s security I will not wait on events, while dangers gather”), I assumed that he was striking at a target of rhetorical convenience. The war on terrorism was not going as well as planned (Osama bin Laden still at large, Afghanistan not yet transformed into a Connecticut suburb, bombs exploding every seven or eight days on a bus in Israel), and who better than the tyrant of Baghdad to stand surrogate for all the world’s evildoers? The man was undoubtedly a villain, a brutal psychopath who murdered children and poisoned village wells, stored biological weapons in hospitals, subjected his enemies to unspeakable torture, and imprisoned his friends in the cages of perpetual fear. Not a nice fellow. Who would not be glad to learn that he had retired from politics or died in a traffic accident? If Mr. Bush chose to express his disapproval in what he called “the language of right and wrong,” who was I to deny him his demagogue’s right to issue harebrained threats?
In another fascinating article Professor Bacevich explores the startling parallels in geopolitical strategy between Israel and its giant patron, the US. The major remaining difference is that so far the US has not surrounded itself with a wall. Yet…
How We Became Israel
Andrew Bacevich | The American Conservative | 10 Sep 12
Peace means different things to different governments and different countries. To some it suggests harmony based on tolerance and mutual respect. To others it serves as a euphemism for dominance, peace defining the relationship between the strong and the supine.
In the absence of actually existing peace, a nation’s reigning definition of peace shapes its proclivity to use force. A nation committed to peace-as-harmony will tend to employ force as a last resort. The United States once subscribed to this view. Or beyond the confines of the Western Hemisphere, it at least pretended to do so.
A nation seeking peace-as-dominion will use force more freely. This has long been an Israeli predilection. Since the end of the Cold War and especially since 9/11, however, it has become America’s as well. As a consequence, U.S. national-security policy increasingly conforms to patterns of behavior pioneered by the Jewish state. This “Israelification” of U.S. policy may prove beneficial for Israel. Based on the available evidence, it’s not likely to be good for the United States.
It is generally accepted that the reason why America launched the 2nd Gulf War was to eliminate Saddam’s non-existent WMDs. As this article points out, that may not have been the primary cause. In this letter to the architect of that conflict, Andrew Bacevich asks Paul Wolfowicz for an acknowledgement that the war and its underlying strategic premise was a mistake. I’m not holding my breath waiting for a reply…
A Letter to Paul Wolfowitz
Occasioned by the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war
Andrew J. Bacevich | Harpurs | 25 Mar 13
I have been meaning to write to you for some time, and the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war provides as good an occasion as any to do so. Distracted by other, more recent eruptions of violence, the country has all but forgotten the war. But I won’t and I expect you can’t, although our reasons for remembering may differ.
Twenty years ago, you became dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and hired me as a minor staff functionary. I never thanked you properly. I needed that job. Included in the benefits package was the chance to hobnob with luminaries who gathered at SAIS every few weeks to join Zbigniew Brzezinski for an off-the-record discussion of foreign policy. From five years of listening to these insiders pontificate, I drew one conclusion: people said to be smart — the ones with fancy résumés who get their op-eds published in the New York Times and appear on TV — really aren’t. They excel mostly in recycling bromides. When it came to sustenance, the sandwiches were superior to the chitchat.
Our new Secretary of State is famous for asking,”How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” I guess Bush and Cheney never asked that question…
The Last Letter
Tomas Young | TruthDig.com | 20 Mar 13
To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young
I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.
A resident of South Central L.A. decided to combat obesity by planting a garden instead of grass. This guy is not just a gardener. He’s a brilliant entrepreneur and an inspiration. Somebody introduce him to Michelle Obama, quick…
A Guerilla Gardener in South Central LA
Ron Finley | TED | Mar 13
________________________________________________________________________________ Artist and designer Ron Finley couldn’t help but notice what was going on in his backyard. “South Central Los Angeles,” he quips, “home of the drive-thru and the drive-by.” And it’s the drive-thru fast-food stands that contribute more to the area’s poor health and high mortality rate, with one in two kids contracting a curable disease like Type 2 diabetes.
Finley’s vision for a healthy, accessible “food forest” started with the curbside veggie garden he planted in the strip of dirt in front of his own house. When the city tried to shut it down, Finley’s fight gave voice to a larger movement that provides nourishment, empowerment, education — and healthy, hopeful futures — one urban garden at a time.
The last time I tried to sculpt something was when I was in High School. I got as far as making a sort of ‘bowl’ to store my paper clip collection. Next time you visit your favorite art museum take a few minutes to look at the sculpture. Try something by Bellini or Michelangelo. Take a look at the hands. Now look at this video…
Sculpting The Hand
Philippe Faraut | PhilippeFaraut.com | 17 Mar 13
________________________________________________________________________________ Philippe Faraut received his degree in woodcarving and the construction of French fine furniture from Germain Sommeillier in Annecy, France, his boyhood home. An avid traveler, Philippe’s destinations have allowed him the opportunity to study the cultures of many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, thus influencing his work in portraiture sculpting. After establishing residence in the Chesapeake Bay area of Virginia, he developed an interest in modeling the head in clay. Soon thereafter, he relocated his studio to New York State and began teaching sculpting classes.
Over the years we have all watched compelling videos about climate change. Speaker after speaker has illustrated how the planet is changing and how humans are probably a driving factor in why that change is occurring. In all that time I have never seen anyone present a concrete, tangible and achievable solution to the ecological problems resulting from climate change until this man and this video. In this compelling TED Talk, Allan Savory gives us hope that there may indeed be a light at the end of the climate change tunnel. Watch and listen…
How to Green the Desert and Reverse Climate Change