Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Brainwashing of America

by Madeleine Kando

Peter Dreier has an article in the Huffington Post of September 5th, entitled ‘What Kind of Capitalism?’. What he says in this article is that there are two kinds of capitalism: the ‘no rules’ capitalism and ‘responsible’ capitalism.

If you ask me, he is giving new names to the concepts of ‘social democracy’ versus ‘liberal democracy’, even though the former seemingly points to an economic system and the latter to a political system.

America has always been a ‘liberal’ democracy. Many European countries are ‘social’ democracies. The difference is primarily in how much control the government has over excesses and inequality that capitalism inherently creates. Liberal Democracies are for less government and more individual rights, whereas Social Democracies subordinate individual freedoms to protect the rights of the group.

Even though some societies fluctuate back and forth between those two tendencies, America, right now, is moving ever more towards an extreme form of ‘liberal’ democracy. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the middle class is shrinking.

Can you believe that the 400 richest billionaires have a combined net worth of approximately $1.6 trillion? That is more than the combined net worth of the 56 million American families at the bottom half of American society. I you took the income of just ONE of those billionaires you could feed 140,000 American families.

In the 1962 movie ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, a platoon leader played by Lawrence Harvey is captured by the Communists in China and undergoes a brainwashing treatment which turns him into an assassin who is supposed to kill the American Presidential candidate. He is has lost his will and he has been brainwashed in believing that the Communist cause is just.

The Republican Party is engaged in a similar tour de force: they are brainwashing Americans by creating a false reality all-around.

Let’s take their mantra of ‘Big Government – big spending’. They love to point to the huge budget deficit and blame it on the Obama administration. It is spending too much on social services, they say. They conveniently ignore the fact that this deficit is a result of the Bush administration’s tax cuts, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the cost of trying to save us from an economic meltdown by bailing out banks, car manufacturers, etc.

Another good example of the Republicans’ knack for fabricating an alternate reality is their resistance tot he health care reform. The core of that plan is to reduce health care costs while providing coverage for everyone. So why are the Republicans so against it? Don’t they WANT to reduce the deficit?

According to Congressman Paul Ryan, one of the ‘Young Guns’ of the Republican party and the author of ‘Roadmap for America’s future’, the answer to our fiscal problems is to eliminate income taxes on capital gains, dividends, and interest and abolish the corporate income tax, the estate tax, and the alternative minimum tax. All these proposed tax cuts would benefit the rich, not the poor.

He wants to privatize Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. That’s his answer to the deficit: eliminate social programs and cut taxes for the rich.

He forgets to mention that cutting taxes would create a larger deficit. It would create a dog eat dog society where the rich are much much richer and the poor are poorer. This man keeps saying that America is a ‘culture of free enterprise’ and that we don’t want to become a European style ‘cradle to grave social democracy’, implying for some obscure reason that there is no free enterprise in a social democracy.

Just like in the movie ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, the Tea Partiers and Republicans are brainwashed by their leaders to do their dirty work. They are brainwashing their constituency into thinking that it is all the Government’s fault. Let’s just hope that they follow the movie's script by either committing suicide or come to their senses before they cause irreparable damage. leave comment here
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Islamophobia or Islamophilia?

By Tom Kando

As we just commemorated the 9/11 attack, there has been a worldwide flurry of Islam-related events:
(1) Florida pastor Terry Jones' threat to burn the Koran on September 11
(2) the protest by some New Yorkers against building a mosque near Ground Zero
(3) Dutch Islam critic (others prefer to call him an Islamophobe) Geert Wilders' growing popularity in the Netherlands
(4) etc.

The camps are predictably divided: those who are in the same frame of mind as Wilders, and those who, on the contrary, find such a frame of mind racist and repugnant. In other words, the politically INcorrect, and the politically correct.

Let me begin with the obligatory disclaimer, and then take a politically incorrect position, even though I am not a Wilders sympathizer: OF COURSE, pastor Jones must NOT burn the Koran (or any other book). OF COURSE, I am happy that he relented on his threat.

However, I find the antics of the politically correct preposterous. Once again, Western liberals – from California to Holland -are engaged in an orgy of apologetics, trying to outdo each other in assuaging, appeasing and embracing Islam culture, Islam groups and Islam faith, desperate to prove how unbigotted they are.

In Sacramento, some nutty Christian churches commemorated 9/11 by offering flowers to the city's Muslim community and by laying bouquets on the Koran, as a gesture of peace. On September 11! Nicholas Kristof in the Herald Tribune (September 13) equates the protest against the Mosque near Ground Zero with the internment of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps during World War Two! In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders is under criminal prosecution for spreading hate speech, and he may do prison time, just as he is about to participate in that country's new coalition government. The Internet is replete with twitter and e-mails calling for his assasination. Pastor Jones ended up not burning the Koran, but just in case, preventively if you will, demonstrators in Pakistan and other Muslim countries did burn numerous American flags during the past few weeks. Amazing, the double standard! US flag burning has been one of the world's popular passtimes for over 50 years. But that's no big deal, right?

What I see in New York is not an anti-Mosque frenzy, but an anti-anti-Mosque frenzy. There are thousands of Mosques in the US, where millions of Muslims worship in peace, but Christian Churches are forbidden in Saudi Arabia.

I know the arguments: WE are not supposed to stoop to the same level as "they" do. We are about liberty and tolerance. But isn't this another way to say that we are better? "They" are so inferior that they cannot be held to the same standards.

Whether liberals like it or not, there IS a problem. When the problem manifests itself, often violently, Western liberals' first impulse is often pacifist. When Khomeni's thugs took 60 Americans hostage in 1979, there were mass demonstrations on American campuses denouncing American racism and Iranophobia. The days following September 11, 2001, Phil Donahue and hosts of editorialists preached non-violence and denounced American imperialism.

What is this? I suppose part of it may be a genuine desire to deflate an explosive situation, to avoid a "clash of civilizations," to de-escalate. I respect President Obama's admonishion that pastor Jones' Koran burning might have put our troops in danger.

At the same time, the recurring tendency of the Western intelligentsia to burry its head in the sand or, worse, to engage in self-flagellation, is based on pure and simple FEAR. It is called cowardice.

There IS a problem. Yes, the vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists. But the vast majority of terrorists are Muslims. Nothing is for ever, but that's how it is now. In the 1980s, when I taught courses on Violence and Terrorism, most terrorists were Marxists. If only 1% of Muslims aspire to become terrorists, that's 10 million potential terrorists.

Also, just ask the 600 million female Muslims of the world if they enjoy their status.

This is not the time for Islamophobia, nor is it the time for peace flowers and Western Mea Culpa's.leave comment here
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Monday, September 13, 2010

The Comforts of Flying

by Madeleine Kando

There was a time in my life when I used to get a thrill out of flying. After all, it is an event that comes closest to what everybody has experienced at one time or another in their dreams: being able to fly. I still have those dreams. That one particular instant when your body leaves the ground and becomes weightless is exhilarating. It taps into a primordial memory of our species having been birds at some point in our evolution.

I still insist on booking a window seat every time I travel, just because I have a childish desire to look down on the world as if I was an angel or a bird. The last time I flew over the US I realized how enormous this country is. For hours and hours we flew over desert. For hours and hours we flew over farmland. It sure gives you a different perspective on things. I wonder what Galileo would have said, if he had been sitting next to me?

I know what he would have said. He would have asked why we, as a species, as a culture of progress, invention, enlightenment, discovery, allow ourselves to be cramped like sardines in these flying giants called airplanes? What possesses us to take a marvellous invention like flying and turn it into one of the most painful, agonizing experiences you can imagine?

The only people for whom flying hasn’t become a nightmare after all these years are the flight attendants. They have grown uglier, older, ruder, but that doesn’t bother THEM, it bothers the passengers.

Have you ever wondered about the reversal of roles on airplanes? The motto used to be ‘the passenger is king’ (making the flight attendant the servant by default). Nowadays, flight attendants take great pleasure in showing off their position of power by incessantly reminding us of all the things that we are not allowed to do:

‘Attention everyone: Federal law requires that you discontinue the use of cell phones and other portable electronic devises. Federal law prohibits smoking. Federal law requires that you fasten your seat belt. Federal law requires that you buckle up whenever you're seated. Federal law requires that you bring your seats upright and give any remaining drinks to a flight attendant. Disregarding these federal laws will result in your immediate, automatic ejection of this airplane, no matter what altitude it is flying at. Thank you for your cooperation’.

If you think that current flying conditions are bad, take a look at SkyRider’s proposed seating arrangement: passengers will be sitting on seats that resemble saddles, as if you were sitting on a horse. "For flights anywhere from one to possibly even up to three hours ... this would be comfortable seating," says the director of the company that is designing these seats. “Cowboys ride eight hours on their horses during the day and still feel comfortable in the saddle." So don’t forget your stetson, the next time you fly. ‘Heehaw’.

Ryanair, another reputable airline company, has been toying with the idea of standing-room tickets on short flights.

Another innovative arrangement coming down the pipeline is the “cargo class’ of seats. Passengers will face each other, like soldiers ready to jump out with their chutes strapped to their backs.

If you want my advice, get going while the going is good. Do your traveling NOW. Soon the only alternative will be to get either a quadruple amputation, take enough sleeping pills to keep you unconscious till the end of a flight or be ready to serve the rest of your life in jail after you have murdered someone on board. leave comment here
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Monday, September 6, 2010

The Bad Boys of Language

by Madeleine Kando

It is common knowledge that you are not fluent in a language until you know how to swear in it. When a large part of your vocabulary is made up of words that you are not supposed to use, that’s when you know you have mastered that language.

Young Philippino kids know this instinctively. They try to sound cool by using swear words even when they don’t know a word of English: ‘Okkay, you buhsheet. Okkay yankee buhsheet.’

As Steven Pinker explains in ‘The Stuff of Thought’, the historical roots of swearing are in religion. Swearing was a means to bind yourself to an agreement, which we now do by signing legal contracts. In earlier times God and Hell were very real to people, not just abstractions. By swearing that you would keep your word, you voluntarily submitted to punishment (the wrath of God) if you didn’t meet your obligation.

But the religious authorities didn’t like this trend of using God’s name for such mundane purposes as promising your neighbor to give him your daughter in marriage in return for his cows. They said: ‘Don’t take the name of the Lord in vain’. And that’s how swearing became taboo.

The other reason, according to Pinker, is that swearing is aggressive and conjures up negative thoughts. It is the human equivalent of the yelps and grunts of animals.

Other words that are taboo in most languages are words for bodily excretions. The reason for this is that blood, feces, etc, carry diseases. Therefore touching, smelling, ingesting, even talking about those substances is bad for your health. Hence they became taboo. You won’t hear guests at a fancy dinner gathering say: ‘Holy crap! Look at this shitload of food!’

Sexuality is also taboo, of course. Pinker explains that the reason for this is not necessarily prudishness, but the fact that having sex is pretty serious business. It’s not exactly like playing tennis Beyond the participants, there are the parents, the community and the potential future children who are affected by someone ‘doing it’.

Having sex is also more of a big deal for women than men. Women get pregnant, have to breastfeed… Women do not benefit from casual sex, whereas men do - emotionally and otherwise - since they don’t have to pay such a high price for it. This difference is the reason that men use sexual words more in swearing than women. It is less of a taboo for them.

Swearing is aggressive and using swear words is to show that you can withstand pain. That’s why in the army, navy and other all-male circles, there is more swearing, to show how tough you are.

Swearing has become less of a taboo in our day and age and there are a gazillion expressions that use swear words but are very innocent. They are ways to give more color to your diction. The person who taught me how to do that is my daughter, Aniko.

Because using the s-word will cause this blog to be banned for all eternity, I have replaced it with a less offensive word. Here are a few examples:

No tomatoes Sherlock.
He has tomatoes for brains.
They are like two pigs in tomatoes.
We were just shooting the tomatoes.
You are full of tomatoes.
I am in deep tomatoes.
I am tomatoeing bricks.
I am up tomatoes creek.
He beat the tomatoes out of him.
I don’t give a tomatoe.
He has tomatoes for brains.
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