Daily Topics - Tuesday December 22 2009

deism imagesQuote: If the truth doesn't save us, what does that say about us? --Lois McMaster Bujold

Hour One - Is it possible to get the Senate to change on the filibuster rules in order for the Senate to be more democratic?

Hour Two - How long is it going to be before we realize what a mistake we're makingon Afghanistan?

Hour Three - How did the right wing steal Christmas? Richard Thompson www.thomasmore.org

Guest: Taking back Christmas...is Deism really the fastest growing religion in America? Jayson X Deputy Director of the World Union of Deists www.deism.com

Comments

Mark (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#1

As I promised yesterday, I am going to talk about how the current state of Africa cannot be separated from the effects of European contact, and how it is useless to try to extrapolate from that what North America would be like without European contact—since we have already seen the effect of about 500 years of European contact has had on Native Americans and their way of life. Yes, we can look at the Mayans and Aztecs and say, yes they were not without faults, engaging in human sacrifices; but then again during the same period Europeans were “sacrificing” people in the name of the Inquisition. We can also point to the lack of technological progress; but as noted in Jared Diamond’s book “Guns, Germs and Steel,” inventions such as the wheel, arguably the most important single technological development in history, did not occur everywhere at once, but traveled east to west and vice-versa across Europe and Asia, not south into “darkest” Africa, and certainly not across two oceans.

On the other hand, we know that Native Americans on the eastern seaboard and woodlands did develop fairly sophisticated civilizations independent of Europe, just as the Mayans, Aztecs and others did. We can only conjecture how the absence of European contact would have effected those civilizations and the ones that would have succeeded them, although limited contact that aided in the development of the land’s natural resources and introduction of “western” ways quite dissimilar to what occurred in Africa likely would likely to have seen further advancement into what we would regard as a “modern” state. Japan is evidence of a country that existed in isolation for centuries in a feudal state before the arrival of U.S. warships under Mathew Perry in 1852; it soon adopted the machinery of Western ways, but without sacrificing its cultural identity.

In regard to Africa, I once heard right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza compare the development of India under colonial rule to African states. His comparison was fraudulent for a variety of reasons. For one thing, India (from the east-to-west perspective) was repeatedly over the many millennia in contact with many civilizations and the current technological advancements. It was advanced enough that the British colonialists could not completely ignore the populations’ nationalism and personal aspirations, nor could it govern such a large populace on its own. The British were obliged to rule through a sophisticated Indian civil service, which they trained in the “western” mode. The British, alone among the European colonialists, did attempt this is in Kenya, which does enjoy rather more stability than other African nations. This effort to “civilize” Africans through the development a native civil service did not occur elsewhere in Africa where Europeans tread.

We can take, for example, the case of the Congo under the “caretaking” of King Leopold of Belgium. Like other Europeans ruling other made-up African “states,” Leopold saw the Congo as a repository of natural resources which he could use to enrich himself and his countrymen (curiously, despite the Congo’s wealth of mineral resources, the principle export was rubber). He didn’t give a tinker’s damn about “civilizing” the natives. We can’t understand the assaults on human dignity going on in the Congo today unless we understand that the Congo has been in this state for more than a century, thanks to its “civilized” European ruler. What Leopold and other colonial rulers were indifferent to was that the Africa was not made-up of “states” in the Western-understood version of the word; it was a vast amalgamation of tribes and tribal territories that had its own system of “governance,” which the Great Powers of Europe disrupted while it exploited the land and people as a “commercial enterprise.”

By “governing” the Congo in the European “method,” King Leopold and his henchmen did as much of the rest of colonial Africa was doing: torture, mutilation, murder, massacre, genocide, and general mayhem; Joseph Conrad’s novel “Heart of Darkness” is a good place to start if one wants to understand this from the European “perspective.” Far away from home, Europeans operated on the “If we don’t say anything, who will know?” brand of administration. Unlike in India, which had a large population in which to extort taxes to pay for a large bureaucracy, goods and services were simply stolen from the natives, so there was no need for governance save at the point of a gun, sword or cannon. Europeans couldn’t do it all alone, of course, so they might enlist one tribe through bribery to brutalize or massacre another, and vice-versa. The naked use of power through violence was the “blessing” of civilization handed down from Europeans to Africans. Everywhere in Africa these “blessings” were bestowed, during a time when non-whites were considered brutes and beasts destined to Darwinian extinction anyways.

Europeans taught Africans that “greed is good,” thus we see the powerful few hoarding the wealth of a nation’s resources instead of using it develop a nation’s society or economy on more equitable lines. Europeans also taught Africans “modern” agricultural and herding methods that flew in the face of many millennia worth of experience on a continent with an environmentally-sensitive arid or tropical forest ecology. We don’t need to see this as just the cause of the Sahara’s movement ever further south; Ethiopia, perhaps the only black African country to develop a recognizable-to-Western-eyes civilization on its own because of its proximity to the cradle of civilization, saw the introduction of an alien Western concept—Marxism—prove to be utterly disastrous for the country (Zimbabwe’s “Marxism” failed as well, for different reasons). The nation fell into famine, starvation and chaos because the attempt to break-up large farms into smaller plots meant that peasant farmers had to produce more on less land, quickly exhausting already weak soil instead of allowing some to lay fallow as they had done for thousands of years, and throwing millions into utter destitution.

Nels Nelsen (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#2

Our government is meant to be for the people by the people. In often we're told that in a democracy the people are the government.

When we talk about the government being corrupt, are we in turn ignoring that we the people have a tendency towards corruption.

Perhaps is just a naive question.

Nels Nelsen (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#3

Maybe the most important thing we can do as progressives is push and fight for Instant Runoff Voting. Locally as well as at the Federal level. It seems to me that I.R.V. will provide the lubricant for all subsequent issues for the progressive movement.

Lightshipclear (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#4

The most important and effective thing we can all do is to push hard and all together and persistently on Pres. Obama to vigorously enforce the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. He MUST become the "SHERMANATOR" and cut off the corporate power structure at the knees by "Shermanating" them!!! Until we get him to do this nothing good will happen - we're just pissing in the wind.

rewinn (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#5

The filibuster didn't stop the invasion of Iraq. When it came time for the self-proclaimed "Greatest Deliberating Body in the World" to actually look at the evidence and to choose wisely, it bowed to the known lies of the Executive.

The filibuster didn't stop W from putting crazy judges on the bench. The famous "nuclear option" fight ended up with the Senate approving several nutcases, and promising to filibuster only if someone was nominated who actually drooled on his bib at a hearing.

The filibuster protects a minority only when that minority is willing to use it, and liberals don't use it effectively. So send it back to the pro-slavery hellhole it came from!

DRichards (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#6

Keep the Nativity Scenes at Christmas!
December 21, 12:28 PMFreethought Examiner D.M. Murdock

http://www.examiner.com/x-17009-Freethought-Examiner~y2009m12d21-Keep-th...

Christmas: The real reason for the season?

DRichards (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#7

God gave us reason, Not religion.
www.deism.com

John Marino (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#8

Just read Naomi Klein's essay posted yesterday on common dreams. I think she is right. Opportunities can not be wasted. Obama had a huge popular mandate and support starting the year. Now he seems incapable and spineless. Moments in history where genuine change is possible are rare. Obama used the opportunity to make it to the top. And that's where the story ends.

DRichards (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#9

For those interested...
Deist Links
http://www.tvftm.com/

DRichards (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#10

John,
I can't figure out if the Democrats are spineless, or just playing their part (in a two party system where both are two sides of the same coin). When I consider that the democrat & republican leadership banded together to squash any third party recognition in the debates, I tend to think that they are both parties are pretty much the same and it's all just a game they play to make us think that we live in a democracy.

Nels Nelsen (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#11

Trust in the insurance companies everyone. I believe that the moment we're mandated to buy insurance is the same moment health insurance prices will sky rocket like never before. I doubt that any serious enforcement of price caps will ever take place.

I completely trust in the insurance companies.... I trust them to act as they have always acted... greedy, self-indulgent, conscienceless $&^%^!!s all of them.

Nels Nelsen (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#12

No doubt that there are "Democratic" politicians that have figured out that when a lot of people vote, they vote democratic... I'm looking at you Joe, Ben, Mary etc....

rewinn (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#13

Some theologian whose name I forget sid "Despair is the one sin that cannot be forgiven: not because God will not forgive it, but because the sinner will not accept forgiveness."

The parallel in politics is left as an exercise for the reader.

Zero G. (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#14

Both parties buy into the myth of "American Exceptionalism," which dictates that we can maintain and threaten military force, including first use of nuclear weapons, and everybody else must obey "international norms" (except our "friends like Israel.)

Obama’s Af-Pak War is Illegal
by Marjorie Cohn
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/12/21

Nels Nelsen (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#15

As Thoreau said "Government is best that governs least." Its obvious he lived in a time prior to the Supreme Court declaring corporations People.

He also told a friend who came to visit him in jail because of his act of Civil Disobedience, "Why are you in here?", Thoreau's reply "Why are you not."

brian a. hayes (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#16

i want a strong government that will protect its citizens from the corporate greed anger and folly. i want a strong government of real statesmen not corporate hacks in congress. i want a strong government that will uphold the separation of church and state.

Zero G. (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#17

This comes from the Society of Professional Journalists website:
http://www.spj.org/gc-index.asp

Geneva Conventions
collateral damage

Weapons, projectiles and methods of warfare that cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering are prohibited. (Protocol I, Art. 35, Sec. 2)

See carpet bombing, civilian population, civilian property, environment.

collective penalties

Civilians must not be punished for offenses that they personally did not commit. Collective penalties, intimidation and penalties against civilian populations are prohibited. (Convention IV, Art. 33)

***********************************

Even if our wars were legal under international law, which they are not, our methodology is illegal. We have dileberately bombed hospitals, power stations and transmission lines, bridges, tv and radio stations and broadcast towers, and other civilian infrastructure.

John Marino (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#18

Hey DR,

You are talking to the choir. I love Ralph Nader and have no problem telling people so. In 2000 I lived in NY and campaigned hard for him. He is a good man. Now I'm in Fl and I voted for Obama last year even though I have to hold my nose when I vote Democratic. I admit it was all very moving seeing America vote for a black man. And that just reinforces the point. It was a moment that should not have been squandered. 2009 was a disaster. An almost total failure of what could have been. And I find Thom amazing as he keeps coming up with scenarios that might play out and how we need to be active. The large majority of the country were right there ready for change and nothing happened. When I voted for Clinton in 92 I soon realized that I was suckered bad and said I would never do that again. The joke is on me and everyone who never get reality. Third party is the only choice but we need a good person. I haven't seen anyone with the integrity of Ralph Nader and am afraid that I never will again.

Food Fascist (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#19

What is they threw a war and nobody came............

How to Stop War? Someone needs to implement a curriculum devoted to peace within our education system including conflict resolution, and history of our unions, slavery, and authority and power complexes. We need to actively extend a hand out to soldiers thinking of signing up and get them to realize their other options.

Nels Nelsen (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#20

I understand the feeling of having to hold your nose to vote for a Democrat. I don't really look at it that way though, I think of it as voting against the Republican, and then the air seems a bit more refreshing at the polls.

rewinn (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#21

As to American Exceptionalism, here's an interesting article by Mark Levin:
http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2009/12/2009121613200705468.html

Zero G. (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#22

The Coalition for Alternatives to Militarism in our Schools:
http://www.militaryfreeschools.org/

Nels Nelsen (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#23

I pronounce the right wing party as Re-pube-lic'n

Too graphic?

Marty (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#24

From Bob Kincaid of the HeadOnRadio Network, I've learned to use his term: Re-PIG-lican.

Zero G. (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#25

My dad calles them publicans, but I say that gives bar owners a bad name...

rewinn (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#26

I prefer GOOPers, but only in print

Zero G. (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#27

Rewinn - That article is by Mark LeVine NOT Mark Levin.

Mark Levin published in al Jazeera, LOL!

Zero G. (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#28

I've used GOPhers and rethuglicans.

Nels Nelsen (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#29

Progressives need to take the opportunity now to get rid of unverifiable electronic voting machines wherever they still persist. We need to do everything now to strengthen the rules that protect voting.

Labor proceeds Capital - Voting proceeds Political Office

Roger L. Smith (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#30

There are several things that need to be done to return this country to a community of the people, by the people, for the people. The real task is to determine which of the problems need to be addressed first so that the others may follow. I liken it to the problems of a farmer. In order to plant the crops the tractor needs to be running, to get the tractor running you need to clean out the shop, to clean the shop you need to make a run to the dump, to make the run to the dump you need to get the truck running, to get the truck running you need the tractor to get the truck out of the ditch, but the tractor isn’t running. Which task to you attempt in the circle?

To my mind the first task that should be undertaken is one of tax reform. We have a system that is so biased against labor it should be a simple task to frame the issue of reform so that every working person in the country would be able to get on board. First income from ANY source is taxed at the same rate in a progressive structure. Eliminate the special rates that deal with capital gains, dividend income, etc. Also eliminate the SS and Medicare caps and tax ALL income to these categories. As it stands now dividend and cap gain income is not subject to SS and Medicare taxes. Increase the personal exemption to some factor of the federal poverty level (say 5 times). This in 2009 would be $54,150. Slightly less than the median income of Mississippi, which is $55,759, the lowest of any state. Then graduate the rates to those that were in existence prior to Ronald Reagan so that the top tax rate is somewhere between 75% to 90% on income over, some factor of the poverty level (say 50 times), which would be $541,500. These tax brackets could also be tied to the Federal Poverty Level.

This system would do several things at once. Everybody would be vested in seeing that the Federal Poverty Level income rates would be raised, Social Security and Medicare would be fully funded and the rates could be brought back down to where they were prior to the massive increases that were made to “cover” the baby boomers who have paid not only their parents benefits but pre funded their own. The incentive for the higher income people to increase their wages would be reduced and free up money to increase the work force, invest in their companies or provide healthcare.

I’ll save the Federal Sales Tax proposal for a future post.

Jan (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#31

I thought I'd heard it all until I got a Christmas card from a neighbor which, in essence, said that his wife has recovered from cancer but she would be dead now if the new health care bill had already passed. On a freakin' Christmas card. Help me!

Zero G. (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#32

Roger L. Smith,

Stipulating for the sake of argument your tax plan, you would get that through the senate how? You pose the problem yourself. But, there's a hole in the bucket...

Food Fascist (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#33

@Jan get your neigbhor to watch this: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sickaroundtheworld/

Food Fascist (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#34

@roger Yes, and the first item (and I have much experience and success in bridging conservatives and liberals together with this) is:

The food supply

Zero G. (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#35

Jan,

Not the worst Christmas card in history, however. That distinction belongs to Col. George S. Patton III.

Food Fascist (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#36

The World Watch Institute has now attributed 51% of all greenhouse gases to the production, distribution and transportation of the meat and dairy industry. This is in large part because 1) factory farms concentrate an overload of methane into a small area 2) methane, they claim is 70 times a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide 3) the clearing of forests upon which to graze the livestock primarily in the rainforest belt, let alone 4) 200 tons of carbon/ hectare rain forest is released into the atmosphere after being cleared, chewed or burned.

bobbler (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#37

I second the idea of getting rid of the voter cheater machines..

Other top priorities should be global warming and getting elected again (maybe revise campaign finance laws)..

I cant see [republican lite] Obama doing this stuff..

bobbler

Roger L. Smith (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#38

Zero G.

This would be a platform for the Party and eventually the Senate would be made up of people who would support the idea. Which ever party would ascribe to the idea would, with an educated electorate, soon rise to power w/o the need for huge donations from the corporate world

Zero G. (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#39

Video: Afghanistan’s Toking Troops Not Exactly Battle-Ready
By Noah Shachtman December 21, 2009 http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009/12/video-afghanistans-toking-troops...

rewinn (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#40

I liked the Thomas Moore lawyer. He wasn't a jerk, and he gave us something to think about.

Perhaps the solution to religious displays on public property is to have more of them. Let the deists, agnostics and atheists get off their duffs and put up displays too. Here in Washington state there's a minor controversy about after-school clubs on public property that propagandize for Christianity. The non-Christers should organize their own clubs, and let them fight it out by providing better service kids.

Food Fascist (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#41

@Zero G. What was it that General Patton said in this Christmas Card. We know what vocabulary he left with his parrot who just died only within the last 5 years or so I believe.

vici377 (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#42

Thom just wanted comments on instead of the freedom of religion argument..putting up a Kresh (sp?) that the man who did it was arguing freedom of speech as this was a public forum..I don't have a problem with that..I believe it is when they call for exclusivity..that there freedom of speech ends..just a thot....

Mugsy (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#43

Thom, I believe you're thinking of Trafalgar Square.

Jan (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#44

Food Fascist - Thank you for the link. What a crazy time this is!

DRichards (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#45

Re: Deism
I have found that Deism comes in many different "flavors". Most Deist I know use the term Nature's God.

Zero G. (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#46

@Food Fascist

In 1968 Col. George S. Patton III, son of the WWII General sent out a Christmas card with a photo of bloodied and mangled "dead gooks." Excuse the graphic truth.

Zero G. (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#47

Question:

What do James Hansen, Stewart Brand and Hans Blix all have in common? (And should it cause me to rethink?)

Mark (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#48

Thom talked earlier about 8th-grade thinking, and to me this so-called U.S.-Israeli cabal he mentioned soon afterwards amounts to as much. I happen to agree that the U.S. blew its chance to do something useful for Afghanistan long ago, but also let’s not forget that 9-11 was nurtured during the Taliban’s control of that country. Also, several other NATO countries have troops there; are they there illegally, and if so, why has the UN not declared it so? In regard to Israel, why is that some people do not call months of Hamas targeting of Israeli school children during a so-called “truce” with mortars “illegal,” but the Israeli eventual response so? Hypocrisy is something I have a hard time dealing with.

Food Fascist (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#49

@Zero G Woah! What was behind Patton III's thinking? What was his motivation? Was he an anti war activist hippy high off the summer of love and in rebellion? Or was was he depraved and being a smirky military brat?

Zero G. (not verified) 9 years 26 weeks ago
#50

Mark,

NATO lost its true raison d'etre with the fall of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Warsaw Pact. It is an organization in need of a mission.

Israel, (I'm Jewish, btw) I wonder what would have happened had David Rockefeller not twisted Latin American arms to secure the vote in the UN for the mandate in '48.

I think any dispassionate look at the Israeli attack on Gaza last year would look just like, well the Goldstone Report, written by a Jew.

"History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake. " James Joyce

Who Will Stop World War III?

Thom plus logo Back in 2001, after 9/11, Congress gave the president the authority to basically wage war anywhere in the world where there were governments affiliated with Al Qaeda, the radical Sunni Muslim group that came out of the Saudi Wahhabist movement. Iran is Shia Muslim, essentially the sworn enemies of the Sunnis.

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From The Thom Hartmann Reader:
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From Screwed:
"I think many of us recognize that for all but the wealthiest, life in America is getting increasingly hard. Screwed explores why, showing how this is no accidental process, but rather the product of conscious political choices, choices we can change with enough courage and commitment. Like all of Thom’s great work, it helps show us the way forward."
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From Screwed:
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