I’ll start by noting that I’m about as liberal/progressive as they come. To be sure, the list of liberal/progressive causes I support is quite extensive including but in no way limited to: universal health care, universal college education, legalization of “drugs”, ending unnecessary wars, increasing foreign aide and support for the UN, and of course the obligatory increasing of taxes on the rich as well as corporations. So it clearly goes without saying that I support much of what the Occupy movement stands for and advocates. That said however, I just really can not see this movement accomplishing all that much. Here, allow me explain why.

First and foremost, I just don’t believe this movement has what it takes (at least in its current iteration) to reach a true critical mass to motivate real change. Yesterday I visited the Occupy encampment at my local state capitol where I found a dozen or so tents and a small collection of people milling about not doing much of anything really. If you’re sitting in a coffee shop a block away without a direct line of sight on the camp you wouldn’t know anything of significance was happening at all. There were no vocal protestors continuously marching up and down the city streets around the capitol building, there were no banners hanging off buildings directing people to the encampment or points of protest and there certainly weren’t any large gatherings of people listening to speakers with megaphones or sound systems.

Now this isn’t just any small town mind you, this is the state capitol we’re talking about, the place where our laws are made. The state capitols (and DC of course) should be one of the primary focal points for a movement like this and yet, there’s hardly anyone there let alone paying attention on the streets. Some might say “Well you just came on an off day when other things were going on or people were busy”. But you see that’s just the thing! I wasn’t there on an “off day” I was there on a weekend, Nov 5th to be precise, a day which was supposed to be a big anti-corporate bank day where everyone was closing their accounts and moving their money. And I’ll note again, it was a weekend, a time when you think more people would have the free time to make it to a protest. Unfortunately that didn’t seem to be the case and that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to why Occupy probably won’t accomplish all that much.

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Posted by: eseeders | October 3, 2011

Daily Grab Bag 10.3

Good reads from the weekend

Social Issues (Feminism, LBGT, Racial, etc.) –

An interesting post on how our culture constantly downgrades women with negative language in our common vernacular (i.e. the “like a girl” issue).

Even in death, gay teens are still mocked and derided in our communities.

Here’s a nifty comic that exposes the frauds that are crisis pregnancy centers.

Health & Medicine –

Promising first results from a Spanish HIV vaccine. It should be strongly noted that these are just preliminary tests and there is still a long ways to go before this is approved (if it even gets there) for widespread use.

Scientists may have determined a way to make you sober after a long night of drinking, still a lot of questions though.

Three meals a day, no longer the norm in our society for good or ill.

Domestic Politics –

A heckler at an Obama fundraiser calls Obama the “anti-christ). Fundies strike again!

Posted by: eseeders | September 27, 2011

Daily Grab Bag 9.26

Domestic News –

What’s the budget impasse in congress all about?

South Carolina Republicans… they do make you wonder about their sanity.

The tea party vetting process needs a bit more work me thinks.

Where does responsibility for yet another shutdown crises lie? Well the answer should be obvious.

The GOP: wasting time again on political games and keeping Americans out of work.

There are no GOP moderates left

Health –

Dr. Oz gets taken to task over recent allegations of harmful levels of arsenic in apple juice.

International –

Evidence would seem to indicate that Pakistan is aiding terrorists… what should we do about it?

Posted by: eseeders | August 23, 2011

Should Democrats Actively Court The Religious Vote?

Before continuing, be sure to first watch this clip from last Friday’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell guest hosted by Prof. Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC. The clip itself provided impetus for the writing of this post and will give ample context.

While the majority of the time I find myself onside with Prof. Harris-Perry, I fear that in this particular instance I must vehemently disagree with the Prof. In the clip referenced above, Prof. Harris-Perry appears to suggest that the progressive movement use religion as a tool in advocating for their polices thereby tapping into the religious fervor currently dominated by the Republican party. In support of this notion, Prof. Harris-Perry references a handful of examples from the last two centuries which benefited to an extent from religious arguments.

To be sure, religion plays a role in the daily lives of a majority of Americans, however religious arguments cannot and most importantly should not be used as a basis for ideas or policy proscription within the progressive movement. There are a number of holes in Prof. Harris-Perry’s thesis, most notable of which perhaps being her call to use the various faith traditions within the progressive movement as a foundation upon which the movement should build. The trouble with this is which faith tradition do you use exactly? Religions are inherently contradictory with each other and in many cases internally as well. The Christian’s just god is not the same as the Muslim’s just god which is not the same as the Jewish just god. Basing ideas or policy proscriptions within the progressive movement on any religious notions would do nothing more than create division, I would think that would be self evident. Indeed, if it is unity you seek, religion should be cast out of the question entirely replaced by the knowledge of the common bonds we all share, not only as citizens of our country but as brothers and sisters within the greater human society as a whole.

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Posted by: eseeders | August 2, 2011

On Autopilot: 112th Congress Goes On Vacation

We’ve just come through the mighty debt ceiling fight wherein the GOP continued their haphazard dismantling of government with nary a Dem to get in the way. That discussion and its results are of course well covered by all sorts of outlets however what I haven’t heard much talk about is Congress taking a pleasant little summer vacation. Now that’s all well and good when the economy is going gang busters and unemployment isn’t an issue but the simple fact is we’re no where near that right now and they should be working to fix that.

Let me just remind people that our country is currently bumping up against 10% unemployment nation wide and not ONE jobs bill has been brought before the House. Where is the rancor and anger over this? How is it that those who are in a position to make a genuine difference to unemployment in this country can take a five week vacation in the middle of this crisis? Is there someone out there that can explain to me the cognitive dissonance necessary to let something like this slide? The government has the power to influence the economic situation in this country and it is thus incumbent upon them vis-a-vis the Constitution, that they should take steps to remedy said situation lest we sink further into catastrophe.

Posted by: eseeders | July 10, 2011

The Insidious Nature of Low Expectations

Earlier today I found myself catching up on another back episode of Real Time with Bill Maher (if you enjoy political commentary I can’t recommend it enough) as I was driving back from Seattle, of course stuck in traffic. In this particular episode the candidacy of Jon Huntsman was brought up as one of the many topics addressed over the course of the show. During the ensuing discussion with the guests, a member of the panel noted how impressed he was with Mr. Huntsman for the mere fact that he said he “respected the president” and believed that climate change was real. The panelist also took care to note that such views as these clearly made Mr. Huntsman a moderate among the GOP thus making him a possible dark horse candidate with appeal to the independent voting bloc. Maher happily questioned the panelist’s tagging of Huntsman as moderate but unfortunately didn’t go much further into that particular discussion, I however, will.

Really, talk about low expectations. When did respecting the president and ascribing to scientifically demonstrated phenomena supported by empirical evidence become a laudable position? One should not be impressed by such a stance and nor should one receive a moderate moniker merely for holding such views. No, these views at a bare minimum should be required of all legitimate candidates for any public office as well as an acceptance of the theory of evolution along with all the other major scientific theories and principles upon which our world and universe operate. Now, it is not entirely necessary for one to be an expert on such matters but one should at least possess an educated layman’s understanding of each. Such an understanding demonstrates a faculty for critical thinking and an ability to analyze evidence in a rational, intelligent manner. Again, such abilities should be ingrained into the very foundation of a candidates character, how could their judgment on any matter of significance be trusted otherwise?

These low expectations are pernicious and as such must be fought lest we permit ourselves to be governed by ignorant fools or worse yet, zealots. It is incumbent upon us to hold candidates for office from any party to a significantly higher standard and to dismiss those that do not meet this bar as nothing more than the cranks and attention whores they are.

Sierra Leon, Darfur, Rwanda, Cambodia, Iraq (before and immediately after Desert Storm I) and Bosnia, all pertinent examples from the last three decades where the United States and the U.N. all had the capability to prevent genocide. Yet in only one (Bosnia) of those examples did we as a nation do anything and only after thousands of people had been massacred. For all the talk of standing up for human rights our nation and indeed the U.N. has a pretty poor record of protecting them. Too long this talk has been just that, talk, nothing but mere platitudes possessing not an ounce of substance. If you’re among the many out there who could best be termed isolationists in regards to international affairs then it’s a rather easy fix, merely shut up, don’t preach what you can’t or aren’t willing to backup. However if you ascribe to the alternative view of the United States as a leader on the global stage then you have a bit of a problem.

Now of course, advocates for the United States as a global leader are split into their own camps, the two leading and most notable being the Neoconservatives and the Liberals (those not of the isolationist bent). Again the neoconservatives have it fairly easy, everything for them is zero sum with every action we take on the global stage designed with us as the primary beneficiaries. The talk of protecting human rights for a Neoconservative is but another in a series of strategic moves on an insanely complex 3D chess board. Unfortunately for Liberals such as myself (and ostensibly the one currently in the presidency) we’re left to bear the difficult problem of conscience.

With some confidence I feel I can say most Liberals abhor the notion of war as a general rule unless doing so is in the aide of a good cause such as liberating Europe, Asia or the slaves. So when confronted with our record of genuinely protecting the human rights and the defenseless against genocide it goes without saying that from a Liberal’s perspective we have been miserable failures. Yet, our country has been presented with an opportunity to turn that around and to begin to bring about genuine change on the global stage. It is my contention that that opportunity has been taken in Libya and that we as the most powerful nation in the world have an obligation to do what we can to protect the defenseless and human rights the world over. We have talked the talk long enough, now it’s time we started walking.

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Posted by: eseeders | March 15, 2011

Social Networks and the DeEvolution of Friendship

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you just stopped trying? What do you think would happen if tomorrow you stopped calling/texting/messaging all your friends and only spoke to those that called/texted/messaged you first? And what if you did all this without first telling anyone you were going to do it? I’d wager, that for the vast majority of us in the here and now, very few in our circle of “friends” would notice we weren’t there, certainly not for an extended period of time. It’s my contention that this is due in no small part to the contemporary idea of friendship as portrayed by social media/networks such as facebook, myspace, twitter, etc. With ease of communication comes a great sense of complacency. Honestly now, how many of your 231 or 1074 “friends” have you seen in the last week or two? How many have you spoken to via phone or text? How many even have your number and you theirs?

When you pare things down like that, you, as with most non famous/rich people I’m sure, would probably arrive at a very small group indeed. Of course there is nothing remotely wrong with this, it has been this way probably for time immemorial. As social creatures we naturally aggregate into self segregating groups, some smaller, some larger depending on a number of factors. These very specific small groups of people are what we have, perhaps traditionally, always considered our friends. It’s these people who, if we were living in the 18th century we’d probably be writing letters to, they’re the ones for whom we’ve always bridged that gap of interminable distance. In terms of these friendships then, facebook and other social media merely makes it easier for us to stay in touch, something for which it is to be praised. It might also be suggested that it allows for one to rekindle lost/missed friendships or ones where perhaps there was not as much impetus as with some others. However, I feel that there may be a price paid for such connectivity, one that may outweigh its benefits, namely the devaluing of the idea of friendship.

My generation is the first to grow up in the internet age, it was upon our backs that it was built, we are the creators of the social network. It is also we that may be the first to experience and truly understand the pitfalls of our creation. In an era where the world around us travels at an unbelievable rate, it becomes more difficult to keep up day by day. Its times just like this for which we have friends, not to fix our problems but to provide the support, that shoulder, that safe place where you can stop and catch your breath before entering back into the fray. Unfortunately, it appears that the mentality of many has been warped with the advent of the social network and this has deanchored what it is to be a friend leaving it floating in the ether. There are those who’s conception of friendship begins and ends with a brief chat, a message or a wall post. Some may go a bit further perhaps going so far as a text exchange/phone call or perhaps even a very occasional group hang out. Such people in other circumstances would more than likely be described as drinking buddies or fair weather friends but to confuse them with actual friends in the past would’ve been silly. But this IS friendship for so many people nowadays where to me, these things are merely the first stage in the construction of something greater, or at least it should be.

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Posted by: eseeders | February 24, 2011

Why I Hate Twitter

Earlier today I found myself listening to the latest podcast of one of the many shows I frequent, perhaps Real Time with Bill Maher or Intelligence Squared or some other similar discussion/debate oriented programming. What program it was doesn’t matter so much, though I’m sure whichever it was it more than likely was terribly fascinating. However during the program in question, a comment was made in passing, one which was given little if any attention save for a snarky response, and yet it nonetheless stuck out to me.

If I recall correctly, the comment had to do with the notion that unless its less than 140 characters, the majority of Americans won’t pay attention to anything written. I believe the discussion in question was revolving around a recent article or book dealing with the current financial crisis and how said piece of long form writing possessed a great deal of insight regarding the aforementioned event. Why exactly has it become so difficult for Americans to take a few minutes out of their day to read something of genuine worth? I’m not saying that everyone should be fully informed on all the important topics of the day though I wish that were actually possible. What I’m getting at is the ever shrinking attention span of the general public.

I know people are busy, I know people have lives, but don’t you think you could maybe take half an hour or an hour out of your daily intake of Jersey Shore or Americas Next Top Model or Dancing with the Stars to read a little bit of something to do with current events or at least SOMETHING to expand your mind? What is happening to our country when college educated individuals are complaining to me that a three page double spaced essay or a five paragraph blog post is too long to read? A blog post! Seriously people, where’s the curiosity, where’s the thirst for knowledge and the desire to better ones self through the exploration of ideas? If college educated individuals are this bad I can’t imagine its all that much better in the general public. Read More…

Posted by: eseeders | January 11, 2011

A Crisis of Overconfidence

To me the notion that it takes a strong individual to know when they are out of their depth and an even stronger one to admit it and ask for help has almost always applied. Yet despite our parents having told us during our formative years that there was nothing wrong with asking for help it seems that, in the United States at least, this still does not apply. It seems as though no matter how hard an individual might try there remains a pervasive idea in our culture dictating that one must always present a facade of confidence lest you be ostracized and rejected by your peers in all sorts of circumstances whether public or private. We as a people must get past this idea that it shows weakness to ask for help or to admit your lack of knowledge, saying “I don’t know” should not be a negative mark against any person.

Why is it that people inhabiting our culture have such difficulty with this? Can you not see that it is this facade, this brash unwarranted confidence that gets so many of us into trouble in the first place? Such overconfidence was perhaps the critical linchpin in the economic collapse/recession of 2008. A similar sort of confidant facade has cost untold millions of lives in wars across the centuries all around the world as generals led men into combat without proper forethought because it was and still is a weakness to admit that you simply do not know or aren’t 100% sure and its not getting any better.

Recent studies have shown that while the United States is falling behind in virtually every educational category the world over, there remains one area where we dominate. Yep, students in the United States are number 1 when it comes to confidence, we’re 29th and 35th when it comes to science and math by the way. This problem is systemic in our culture, don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have a confidence about yourself but its even better to have a self awareness and knowledge of your weaknesses and limitations in ability. If you don’t have that kind of awareness, how can you ever expect to improve and grow as an individual and how can we as a nation expect to survive? If we don’t change things and teach ourselves to truly appreciate genuine doubt and the ability to ask for help we’ll just continue to create the same kind of people that were responsible for the economic collapse of 2008, you know, the one we’re still recovering from.

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