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Monthly Archives: April 2010

I’m still musing over the “socialist” accusations that are flying wild in America. I am more tickled than concerned. I do not expect rationality or logic from the politics of my country anymore. Generally not from Democrats, almost never from Republicans. And the Tea Party, not even a tenth as cool as the dudes that threw crates of tea into the Boston Harbor. I insist they pick a more boring name.

But health care reform! Socialism! By God! The state is going to use tax money for citizens to spend with private insurance companies for treatment at private hospitals. Obviously private property is under attack. And the intrusion! You’re gonna tell me that health insurance can’t be dropped if I get sick? That’s as ridiculous as saying my life insurance policy can’t be dropped if I die.

“Okay, U.B. Drop the sarcasm. It’s just like a flag-burning commie to make socialism into a private property issue. We all known that socialism is really just another word for big government.”

So it has been said, many times. It only dawned on me today that there is one little group out there that might throw something of a monkey wrench into that argument. The anarchists! Yes, libertarian socialists is another word you can tag them with. They advocate for no government and socialism. I guess if you believe the media distortions anarchists must be complete oxymorons.

Or maybe the right are just morons.

Still kind of fresh to this whole blog phenomenon–both writing and reading ’em. I mean sure, I had one of those “livejournals” since way back when, but that was entirely private and self-serving. And I never got down with reading blogs until lately.

Stumbled across a blog today that just happened to take on an issue I had started writing about weeks ago but never finished, a discussion on “rights.” Had some “interesting” things to say. I don’t know, what else am I supposed to say but that I disagreed entirely.

Statement Uno: Government is not the source of rights, God is.

I know this is what Jefferson said, but I have to wonder. Is it really my right to own a gun because God makes it so? Search your Bibles for that one. I think I’m a pretty solid and educated Christian but I am at a loss to uncover where Jesus said anything like, “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Also kind of begs the question, if rights come from God, why did He wait until 1920 to let us know women had the right to vote…? And that would make women’s suffrage not a historical event so much as a divine proclamation.

Laying sarcasm aside, the problem is that too often people stop reading the Declaration prematurely. How about, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Now this I can follow.

Statement the second: Government (ideally, he says) does not give people rights, it only protects them.

What does that then mean? No rights are given? But checking my Michigan State Constitution:

“The legislature shall maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law. Every school district shall provide for the education of its pupils without discrimination as to religion, creed, race, color or national origin.”

I can’t see how the right to education was not given to me by government. Either education isn’t a “right,” which would seem to contradict the fact that all children are entitled to an education, or education isn’t “given” by the government, which would seem to contradict the fact that my K-12 education came from government.

Additional things that government gives us all, and provides to us: police protection, national security, FDIC, due process, prison (we’re all equally entitled to a cell), access to civil courts, a vote in elections… obviously these things are not just “protected” because unless they were given there would be nothing to protect.

Statement Three: Services and perks that the government gives to people, with particular regard to the new universal health care reform, are tyrannical socialism because *my* money is taken through taxes to grant them. (This is my favorite statement!)

Oh yes, those dastardly perks *I* have to pay for. I needn’t ask what “socialist perks” these are. Undoubtedly, health care, welfare, food stamps were all on the intended list even though they weren’t specifically listed.

I put a comment on this person’s blog, which sadly didn’t seem to go through. The question I posed was: “if your house was being robbed, and you called the police (i.e. government) to intervene on your behalf, would it not be “socialist” to expect me to contribute my taxes toward the police service you’re benefiting from?” Seems to follow, and who knows if I would’ve been corrected on this, that if the police are servicing you it would be your individual responsibility to pay for it. Cops should sent a bill after you call on them, isn’t that so?

Statement Four: Didn’t pertain to rights, per se., but rather drawn as a consequence of the “right not to be taxed.” If you could call it that. Basically, the dude said that if taxes were cut, especially for the rich, employment rates would skyrocket. Cited as an example: Ronald Reagan.

Pertinent, and worth looking at, even if I’m straying from the rights discussion, because you definitely hear this enough these days. FOX news is basically a sounding board for a return to Reagan years.

The truth of the matter is that following Reagan’s huge tax cuts in 1981 the unemployment rate did not plummet. In fact, unemployment shot up for the next two years and peaked in 1983 higher than what we’re currently facing. Reagan apologists say that the tax breaks “needed time.” But if the logic is: cut taxes for the rich and they’ll hire more people, what then were the rich doing with all that extra money, laying off their workers, for all those months?

Those tax cuts are what people remember. Ask your local conservative if they know what the letters TEFRA stand for. Betcha they don’t. But I do.

Less-simplistic and ideological economics offer better explanations and more realistic expectations. The recession probably had more to do with the Federal Reserve and irresponsible banking practices (deja vu!) The real fault of Reagan was just his naivety in pushing a tax program while the financial sector was going to shit. Well, thank God for deficit spending that got us out of that hump! Follows with the wise economic logic we practice today: if you need something just put it on your credit card.

Really no one misses the Reagan years, give us Clinton any day. Remember what he did? Cut taxes for low and middle income families, increased taxes for the rich. And did the rich lay everybody off because of it? Nope. Unemployment dropped consistently through Clinton’s presidency.

I might’ve received a public, socialist education but I did learn one good thing: math, the ability to read numbers.

In my last post I hinted that my next entry would be influenced by my current re-reading of Richard Wright’s Native Son. I’ve decided to follow up on that.

The story of Native Son follows the life of Bigger Thomas, a black young adult in the segregated city of Chicago. Bigger is hired as a chauffeur for a rich family. The white daughter of the family and her Communist boyfriend goad a very reluctant Bigger into a debauched evening where the rules governing race relations are broken. When Bigger carries the passed out daughter to her room he is nearly discovered by the mother (blind), which at the time could’ve lead to severe consequences for a black male, and in desperation to hide himself smothers the daughter with a pillow–accidentally then killing her.

The story has a focus on two areas of tension in society. First there is the oppression felt by the black characters of the novel, who acknowledge in varying degree of acceptance their marginalized status in society. Second there is the fear and suspicion of white society, who react both violently and angrily at what they see as danger posed by the intrusion of blacks that cross the segregation line.

In my eyes we are still living in a climate of mutual fear, almost identical to the society portrayed by Wright, with the fundamental difference that the axis of difference is no longer formal segregation, but accusation and counter-accusation of intolerance.

Lately we’ve seen an ebullition of “white fear,” claims that it is minority groups who are doing harm to an innocent majority and violating the principles of equality. Examples:

1. Rush Limbaugh claims that Sonia Sotomayor and President Obama are “reverse racists” and reflect the assumption of minorities into dominant political power.

2. Rush Limbaugh weighing in again regarding an incident on a school bus where black students ganged up on a white youth. In Rush’s words this is par for the course in “Obama’s America.”

3. Glenn Beck claims the president has a “deep seated hatred of white people.”

4. There are numerous arguments of “reverse racism” in university admission policies, including my neighborhood’s own University of Michigan.

5. On a more radical level, the KKK claims on its website that the practice of “cross-lighting” (“burning” they say conjures a negative image) is supposed to be a symbol of “freedom” and “commitment to Christian faith.” And that minorities have unfairly exploited the act for their own power gains.

Clearly things have changed since 1940s. The trend now, for those speaking on behalf of white Americans, is paint their race as new victims of racist exploitation. Things have changed for sure, but only in rhetoric. The social reality is disturbingly much the same.

1. Racial minorities are still more likely to live below the poverty line.

2. Racial minorities are still paid less for their work.

3. Minority schools are more under-funded.

4. Racial minorities are dramatically more likely to be incarcerated (they say there’s no affirmative action for prisons.)

5. Racial minorities are by far the largest block of hate crime victims.

6. Racial minorities are underrepresented with high school graduation, college degrees, etc. in education.

Statements claiming that whites are the subject of discrimination is nothing but a delusional fantasy and open lie. But it’s clearly a lie told with a great deal of conviction, especially to see the KKK join the bandwagon of white victimhood. A fantasy and a lie because truth would imply some consequences discernible to investigation. It’s almost a tautology, if whites were the victims of discrimination they’d be the victims of discrimination.

In psychology, when an individual co-currently denies their own attributes while seeing such attributes unrealistically in other people, it’s known as psychological projection. The reason Obama and Sotomayor are seen as racists is because these particular whites maintain but categorically deny cause for their own social superiority, and believe minorities will act accordingly. I think the most pathological case is Ann Coulter, who sees no contradiction in joining the Obama/Sotomayor=racists bandwagon, while making a vile career of virulent anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic logorrhea.

Racial motives lie in hiding; economic interests give them sanctification. There is no separating the arguments of “reverse racism” without also looking at arguments against “forced redistribution.” By “forced redistribution” they mean any policy undertaken on a public level to redress social inequality. “Forced redistribution” is just reactionary speak for social welfare and all tax collection (which is not spent on defense, policing, farm subsides, whatevs.) Although social welfare programs exist across racial lines, there are disproportionately more minorities who utilize these programs as there are disproportionately more minorities in poverty.

I’ll save the debate over the merits and demerits of a welfare system for another post. What interests me right now is the concept of force. By conservative standards already mentioned, force is what happens when a government agency shifts wealth from one group to another. But this raises a crucial question: what caused the inequal gap in wealth along racial lines? Somewhere along the line, something caused blacks and latinos to face double the risk of living in poverty–far too high to account for a statistical glitch.

In Richard Wright’s day the something, the cause of racial inequality was obvious. Blacks were denied jobs, housing, loans, legal rights, etc. If there was ever a case to apply the term “force” then segregated America is it. Institutional segregation is over now, yet there is a heavy trace of segregation. Civil rights laws ideally nullified the ability for whites to force discrimination. But speaking ideally, one might also say that anti-drug laws nullified the use of pot. People still smoke pot, no one denies that, but there is a societal tendency to deny that racial discrimination can occur in a post-civil rights society.

To me, the most logical answer to racial disparity is discrimination’s legacy, a reiteration of force by one group over another. Certainly there is plenty of data conducted by social scientists to support such a claim. It would also account for the rather stable level of racial disparity. This obviously has consequences for public policy.

If racism, expressed through social norms and practices, is the cause of racial disparity, then wealth is being unfairly distributed in America by artificial force. Essentially, the disparity is a “forced redistribution.”

Ideologically, the new era of white victimhood is Marxism turned upside down. The fashionable critique suggests minorities have used political power to claim the right over wealth without doing any work. Ironically, the exploiting class to the conservative comes away with less than the class being exploited.

Today I’m feeling rather defeated by my goal to make this a philosophy blog.

I’ve been reading article after article, blog after blog, trying to generate a train of thought that I can run with. But it’s getting late, someone else made dinner that I had to go eat, and now that I’ve returned to the computer I still see no prospects in sight.

It’s easy to write philosophy when you read philosophy. As evidenced by the fact that on the philosophical blogosphere just about every article references some work by Derrida, Deleuze or Spinoza. All references I do not have on hand; I refuse to Wikipedia anything for this site.

Academics are a notoriously quotable type. Easy when you have a university of resources at hand. Me, I’ve got a small public library to work with. So my chances of participation within the multitude is somewhat limited. Yes, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.

The other option that I feel I’ve succumbed to too often is to make glossy, polemic political commentary. While I enjoy polemics like an old wine, I have no aspirations to be a micro-sized Michael Moore. I think the media has produced enough “political entertainment” via Fox News, the Daily Show, etc. I don’t need to be another piss in that ocean.

Ideally, I would like to transverse a middle ground between the two approaches. Since I have never faced the corruptive power of philosophical academia (seems to me, you can keep it) I hope I am free to explore philosophy without needing to abide by its linguistic conventions. And hopefully I may keep this blog above the dreck and sewage of partisan politicking and superficial opining.

Sorry for just talking about blogging, instead of really blogging. I have just been distracted by life, and my reading has been mostly fiction. However, I am getting some thoughts reading Richard Wright’s Native Son. More than I’m getting from the works of Aristotle (boring.) Blog on race coming soon…?

And you thought a black president meant the U.S. has progressed in civil rights?

Well, Virginia says “let’s not get rid of our white robes just yet.”

Robert McDonnell is just audaciously racist or criminally stupid, perhaps both. What level of son-of-a-klansman douchebag does it take to proclaim to the entire state of Virginia a call to “understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens” in Confederate History Month?

Seriously, McDonnell, did you just forget that you have African-American constituents? Or am I onto something with my hypothesis that you’re promoting a sugar-coated celebration of ‘glohrious suthen’ racism?

Because “understand the sacrifices” is not an ambiguous phrase. It fails, by miles and miles, to denote the rather obvious fact of history that the “South” fought a war to defend what it considered it’s republican right to violently enslave Africans. Well, that is to say the phrase fails unless you happen to condone slavery.

But something tells me any black person who reads your proclamation, with even the slightest amount of self-identity and sense of history, is not going to sympathize with the “sacrifices” of an army that fought to keep blacks chattel for whites.

Freud said that subconscious desires always find a way to surface to the top. And time after time the Republican Party keep letting slip these poorly-concealed declarations of bigotry. Some still say America has “progressed” but in my eyes I see a conservative movement showing absolutely no shame in being racist assholes.

I’ve been sitting on this post for several days now, not knowing where to begin, or even if I should begin at all. Today is Easter, one of the great celebrations of my religion. But my day hasn’t been all going to mass, praying, and celebration. The news, NPR, has been on at my house all day, and a recurring news story has been that of the Catholic diosecan abuse scandal.

For certain, these cases of abuses and alleged cases of abuse are troublesome to me as an active member of the greater Catholic organization. The accusations of cover-ups and hush-ups is even more troubling to me than the cases of abuse itself. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

Another aspect of this growing story is people leaving the Catholic church. This has been on my mind constantly as the news reports. I’ve given it some thought and I cannot imagine, controversy or not, how a practicing Catholic could leave the church over this.

Although reasons are rarely given through the media, I can imagine that there are two real reasons people would leave: disillusionment with the Catholic church’s hierarchy, and a symbolic protest against it. As a practicing Catholic, I cannot follow either of these reasons to the end. We should all know that priests and bishops are capable of human error–even systematic error. Ordination is a sacrament, it imparts grace, but does not vaccinate one from error. In the same way our baptism brings us into the church but does not assure that we will remain in communion with it.

I cannot fathom trading in the mission and communal life of a Catholic for a not-small but fixable problem within the Church. Yes, it’s gross how those who are meant to act in persona Christi have harmed the most vulnerable members of the faithful. But to quit the Church altogether is to turn against the Eucharist, the community, the sacraments and the faith one once professed.

A passage from the Catechism sums a lot up for me, “From this it follows that if one member suffers anything, all the members suffer with him, and if one member is honored, all the members together rejoice.” Today I renewed my baptismal vow, a vow I made to become one with the Body of Christ (how all us Catholics view our place) and I refuse to be an amputation of that body even if it becomes grievously ill.