Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
This letter (see down below), which has been bouncing around conservatives' inboxes and blogs for months now, is a real "everything but the kitchen sink" diatribe. It worries me that some Americans seem so outraged and frightened at so many things. They're seeing a different America than I do. My comments:
- George Soros, Al Gore, and Barbra Streisand (the Usual Suspects?) all have money and power, but there are people on the right, left and middle with lots of money who try to influence our country. America's monied elite is not solely a liberal group, not by a long shot.
- The whole "press 2 for Spanish" thing is an example of the free market at work. Hispanics have disposable income, too, and U.S. companies want their business, hence they try to make it easier for them to spend their money. That's capitalism. If there were 45 million American consumers speaking Swahili, you'd hear "press 3 for Swahili." Laissez-faire conservatives, take note.
- People who can't communicate in English are already marginalized, socially and economically. And they know it. Immigrant parents want their kids to learn English and enjoy the fruits of America and the English-speaking global economy, not speak their native language at school and be left behind. Indeed, we should assume that immigrants who were willing to abandon their native country, friends, family, and customs and endure untold hardships to come to America had nothing but the future on their minds; they were not thinking about what would be the easiest thing for them in the short term.
- Maybe America is in moral and ethical decline, I don't know, but by what measure? Who's to judge? The number of Americans who call themselves faithful, attend church regularly, practice abstinence before marriage, avoid illegal drugs, volunteer in their communities, etc. is no less than it was 20-30 years ago, and is by some indications even greater. Or is she complaining about our politician's morals, like Sanford's? Or perhaps Wall Street's morals? If so, she has a legitimate beef. Personally, I think it's a normal phenomenon for aging people to see change as negative and equal to moral decline. "Things were better back in my day," is something older folks have been saying for generations.
Contrary to the hell-in-a-hand-basket myth, take note that we don't lynch our fellow Americans anymore. We don't deny anybody the right to vote. We don't let children work in sweatshops all day. We protect our kids from pedophiles better than ever. We recognize that there really are workplace behaviors called "sexual harassment" and "racial discrimination" and we seek to minimize them. Almost all U.S. corporations now acknowledge, and sometimes even practice, the concept of "corporate social responsibility." Our rivers don't catch on fire anymore. We don't allow our old and infirm to wallow in isolation and excrement anymore. We don't ignore it when priests molest our kids anymore. I could go on, but you get the point. We might be declining in some respects, but America is getting a heck of a lot better in many respects.
- All I will say about Iran/Ahmadinejad is this: we can't debate this topic until you folks come out and say what you want. Why can't you be forthright about it? You want to start a preventive war against Iran. If you neoconservatives have the courage of your convictions, and you're certain talking to Iran is "appeasing a madman," then please don't dance around it. It insults my intelligence.
- If Tyson wants to give its Muslim workers day off, that's their right. It's America! What, would conservatives have Big Government step in and prevent them?
- The Jewel of Medina was indeed published in 2008. What, would conservatives have Big Government step in and force Random House to publish a book? Companies do cowardly things for PR/marketing reasons all the time. When they cave in to one of conservatives' demands, it makes them happy. When they cave in to some liberal constituency, or some whacky group, conservatives cry "moral decline!" In business everything comes down to profit. In a capitalist system, you have to take the bitter with the sweet.
- We can debate the science or practicality of environmentalism, but 99.99% of environmentalists believe that they are doing the right things for the right reasons. That is the very definition of personal ethics. There is no conspiracy.
- "I don't even feel like my vote counts, I am so outnumbered by those who disagree with me," she concluded. I hope to goodness she is outnumbered.
This letter was sent to the Wall Street Journal on August 8, 2008 by Alisa Wilson, Ph.D. Of Beverly Hills , CA in response to the Wall Street Journal article titled "Where's The Outrage? Really." that appeared July 31,2008.
Really. I can tell you where the outrage is. The outrage is here, in this middle-aged, well-educated, upper-middle class woman. The outrage is here, but I have no representation, no voice. The outrage is here, but no one is listening for who am I?
I am not a billionaire like George Soros that can fund an entire political movement.
I am not a celebrity like Barbra Streisand that can garner the attention of the press to promote political candidates.
I am not a film maker like Michael Moore or Al Gore that can deliver misleading movies to the public.
The outrage is here, but unlike those with money or power, I don't know how to reach those who feel similarly in order to effect change.
Why am I outraged? I am outraged that my country, the United States of America , is in a state of moral and ethical decline. There is no right or wrong anymore, just what's fair.
Is it fair that millions of Americans who overreached and borrowed more than they could afford are now being bailed out by the government and lending institutions to stave off foreclosure? Why shouldn't these people be made to pay the consequences for their poor judgment?
When my husband and I purchased our home, we were careful to purchase only what we could afford. Believe me, there are much larger, much nicer homes that I would have loved to have purchased. But, taking responsibility for my behavior and my life, I went with the house that we could afford, not the house that we could not afford. The notion of personal responsibility has all but died in our country.
I am outraged, that the country that welcomed my mother as an immigrant from Hitler's Nazi Germany and required that she and her family learn English now allows itself to be overrun with illegal immigrants and worse, caters to those illegal immigrants.
I am outraged that my hard-earned taxes help support those here illegally. That the Los Angeles Public School District is in such disarray that I felt it incumbent to send my child to private school, that every time I go to the ATM, I see "do you want to continue in English or Spanish?", that every time I call the bank, the phone company , or similar business, I hear "press 1 for English or press 2 for Spanish". WHY? This is America , our common language is English and attempts to promote a bi- or multi-lingual society are sure to fail and to marginalize those who cannot communicate in English.
I am outraged at our country's weakness in the face of new threats on American traditions from Muslims. Just this week, Tyson's Food negotiated with its union to permit Muslims to have Eid-al-Fitr as a holiday instead of Labor Day. What am I missing? Yes, there is a large Somali Muslim population working at the Tyson's plant in Tennessee . Tennessee , last I checked, is still part of the United States . If Muslims want to live and work here they should be required to live and work by our American Laws and not impose their will on our long history.
In the same week, Random House announced that they had indefinitely delayed the publication of The Jewel of Medina, by Sherry Jones, a book about the life of Mohammed's wife, Aisha due to fear of retribution and violence by Muslims. When did we become a nation ruled by fear of what other immigrant groups want? It makes me so sad to see large corporations cave rather than stand proudly on the principles that built this country.
I am outraged because appeasement has never worked as a political policy, yet appeasing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is exactly what we are trying to do. An excellent article, also published recently in the Wall Street Journal, went through over 20 years of history and why talking with Iran has been and will continue to be ineffective. Yet talk, with a madman no less, we continue to do. Have we so lost our moral compass and its ability to detect evil that we will not go in and destroy Iran 's nuclear program? Would we rather wait for another Holocaust for the Jews - one which they would be unlikely to survive? When does it end?
As if the battle for good and evil isn't enough, now come the Environmentalists who are so afraid of global warming that they want to put a Bag tax on grocery bags in California; to eliminate Mylar balloons; to establish something as insidious as the recycle police in San Francisco. I do my share for the environment: I recycle, I use water wisely, I installed an energy efficient air conditioning unit. But when and where does the lunacy stop?Ahmadinejad wants to wipe Israel off the map, the California economy is being overrun by illegal immigrants, and the United States of America no longer knows right from wrong, good from evil.. So what does California do? Tax grocery bags.
So, America , although I can tell you where the outrage is, this one middle-aged, well-educated, upper middle class woman is powerless to do anything about it. I don't even feel like my vote counts because I am so outnumbered by those who disagree with me.
Alisa Wilson, Ph.D. Beverly Hills , California
Friday, June 19, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
I'm glad somebody finally wrote a political article about zombies. Zombies deserve their due. I gotta admit, I love zombie movies, (and zombie lit, like World War Z) even though they've ruined so many nights of my sleep. Indeed I like most post-apocalyptic films. Sure, they're full of guns, but I actually don't mind, because it would be silly to argue that we need the 2nd Amendment in case the undead storm our homes and office to devour our flesh. (Right?) Why I really like zombie movies is that humans show their true colors when faced with an unstoppable zombie horde. The loud macho guy turns out to be a whining pussy; the hysterical, frightened girl turns out to be a calm, dead-eye shot when it counts; the loyal husband turns out to be a selfish coward; the pious priest turns out to be faithless; the dried-up cynic turns out to have hidden reservoirs of faith; and sometimes, the decent, selfless and brave guy turns out to be decent, selfless and brave.
But then there's the zombie. There are no highbrow zombie movies or novels, and admitting you love them amounts to a declaration that your tastes are unrefined. In truth, zombies should be boring. There are only so many things you can do with them, narratively speaking. They can't charm you, like vampires, or make you pity them as they relate their torment while in human form, like werewolves. They clumsily lope after you, hoping to feast on your flesh, and they have almost no personality as individuals. Instead, zombie mobs are just an undifferentiated mass of malevolence. What's remarkable is that a villain with such little complexity has thrived for so long.
And "thrive" does not begin to describe the status of the contemporary zombie. They've come a long way from their roots in stories of Haitian voodoo masters using magical powder to enslave unfortunate souls. Consider some recent developments: One of the big publishing hits this year is Seth Grahame-Smith's refashioning of Jane Austen's classic novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Later this month, Chicago will host its first ever Zombie-Con. The New York Times' Paul Krugman is obviously a secret zombie-phile; his blog contains multiple references to zombies. There are too many zombie comic books to list. Increasingly, we're seeing "zombie" used as an adjective in a widening variety of contexts, from "zombie banks" to "zombie computers" to "zombie ideas."
At the center of this cultural juggernaut of the undead, are the films. Zombie movies have been around almost as long as there have been movies. While some scholars point to the 1919 silent German film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari as the first zombie film (the zombie in question was actually a hypnotized mental patient), the first mainstream zombie picture was probably White Zombie (1932), starring Bela Lugosi. For the aficionado, though, the truly seminal zombie film is George Romero's low-budget 1968 masterpiece, Night of the Living Dead. Before that film, zombies were usually employed as slave labor, guided by the master who had created them. Romero reimagined them as a mob whose purpose was to destroy and assimilate all living humans. And to eat brains.
Although previous efforts certainly referenced current events (for example, the first film in the Nazi zombie subgenre, Revenge of the Zombies, was released in 1943, while World War II was still going on), Romero's films set observers looking for political themes amid the brain-eating. When Night of the Living Dead was released, many saw it as a metaphor for the Vietnam War or domestic social upheaval. Perhaps most notably, its male lead, Duane Jones, was black, a rare casting decision at the time. In interviews, Romero insists he was not trying to make a point about race. "We cast an African American actor because he was the best actor from among our friends," Romero said in 2008. "And when we finished the film, literally as we were driving it to New York in the trunk of a car, that was the night Martin Luther King was assassinated." Jones' character is shot at the film's end by a group of vigilantes who mistake him for a zombie. Romero's sequels became much more explicit in their societal critique; in Dawn of the Dead, the zombies mindlessly wander around a shopping mall, as if repeating the essential activity of their former lives.
But most people who love a good zombie romp aren't too interested in political subtext -- they want to see arms being gnawed and large numbers of the undead blasted to kingdom come. And they've got more opportunities to feed their (OK, I'll admit it -- our) zombie jones than ever. Wikipedia contains a long list of zombie movies made since the 1930s, and if we turn that list into a graph, we see that the genre has exploded in the past decade. While there may be more films being produced overall, any way you slice it, if you're a zombie lover, this is the time to be alive.
So what's going on here? Why is our love of zombies only growing stronger?
In part, it's because the subject the zombie most directly addresses is so universal. For all the metaphoric possibilities zombies hold, at their most fundamental, they are death itself, pursuing us through the countryside. As Simon Pegg, the co-writer and star of the zombie homage/spoof Shaun of the Dead, recently wrote in the Guardian:
Zombies are our destiny writ large. Slow and steady in their approach, weak, clumsy, often absurd, the zombie relentlessly closes in, unstoppable, intractable.
Their ineptitude actually makes them avoidable, at least for a while. If you're careful, if you keep your wits about you, you can stave them off, even outstrip them -- much as we strive to outstrip death. Drink less, cut out red meat, exercise, practice safe sex; these are our shotguns, our cricket bats, our farmhouses, our shopping malls. However, none of these things fully insulates us from the creeping dread that something so witless, so elemental may yet catch us unawares -- the drunk driver, the cancer sleeping in the double helix, the legless ghoul dragging itself through the darkness towards our ankles.
Metaphors aside, one can't examine the zombie phenomenon without addressing the genre's extreme violence. A vampire movie involves lots of skulking around and a few bites here and there. A zombie movie, on the other hand, will inevitably feature buckets of blood and dozens of zombies dispatched in almost comically violent ways -- limbs severed and bodies torn asunder. And that's not even mentioning the cannibalism.
The particular nature of the genre's violence may lie at the heart of the contemporary appeal of zombies in films and especially in video games. Imagine an action movie in which the hero repeatedly put a shotgun to the head of actual human beings and pulled the trigger. Even if they were very bad people, as an audience we'd come to feel that the hero was a sadistic freak, whatever the nobility of his larger cause. But not so with zombies, who are visibly human, despite their lack of consciousness and life force.
And in video games, you move from observer to participant. You can chop off their arms, blow off their heads, and generally engage in the most vicious kinds of violence one can imagine, and it's OK because, hey, they're zombies. Yet unlike the games in which you are fighting aliens or robots, your victims look basically human. When you play a zombie game, you get to act like a psychopath without saying to yourself, "I really shouldn't be enjoying acting like a psychopath." The zombie game allows us to indulge our inner barbarian without self-doubt.
There's so much more we could discuss -- an entire book could be written on the unending dispute over the relative merits of fast zombies and slow zombies, for instance. But since TAP is a magazine about politics, we must ask this question: Apart from the extreme violence, is the zombie genre fundamentally liberal or conservative? Does its increasing popularity serve anyone's political ends?
While one can certainly use zombies to express all kinds of ideas, I would argue that at heart, the genre is a progressive one. It's true that fighting off the zombie horde requires plentiful firearms, no doubt pleasing Second Amendment advocates. And in a zombie movie, government tends to be either ineffectual or completely absent. On the other hand, when the zombie apocalypse comes, capitalism breaks down, too -- people aren't going to be exchanging money for goods and services; they're just going to break into the hardware store and grab what they need (and if you think your private health insurer is going to be paying claims for treatment of zombie bites, you're living in a dream world). But most important, what ensures survival in a zombie story are the progressive ideals of common cause and collective action. A small group of people from varying backgrounds are thrust together and find that they can transcend their differences of age, race, and gender (the typical band of survivors is a veritable United Nations of cultural diversity). They come to understand that if they're going to get out of this with their brains kept securely housed in their skulls and not travelling down some zombie's gullet, they've got to act as though they're all in it together. Surviving the tide of zombies requires community and mutual responsibility. What could be more progressive than that?
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Sunday, June 14, 2009
I just finished reading the best-selling book The Omnivore's Dilemma, which describes in detail the use of antibiotics in industrial farms. I'm almost to the point where I don't believe any meat produced large-scale in the U.S. is healthy to eat, or good for the public health, or even cheaper for the people, when all the hidden health and environmental costs are factored in.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
The author, Lou Pritchett, is a well-known public speaker who retired after a successful 36-year career as the VP World Sales for Proctor and Gamble.
Lou Pritchett is one of corporate America 's true living legends- an acclaimed author, dynamic teacher and one of the world's highest rated speakers. Successful corporate executives everywhere recognize him as the foremost leader in change management. Lou changed the way America does business by creating an audacious concept that came to be known as "partnering." Pritchett rose from soap salesman to Vice-President, Sales and Customer Development for Procter and Gamble and over the course of 36 years, made corporate history.
AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA
Dear President Obama:
You are the thirteenth President under whom I have lived and unlike any of the others, you truly scare me.
You scare me because after months of exposure, I know nothing about you.
You scare me because I do not know how you paid for your expensive Ivy League education and your upscale lifestyle and housing with no visible signs of support.
You scare me because you did not spend the formative years of youth growing up in America and culturally you are not an American.
You scare me because you have never run a company or met a payroll.
You scare me because you have never had military experience, thus don't understand it at its core.
You scare me because you lack humility and 'class', always blaming others.
You scare me because for over half your life you have aligned yourself with radical extremists who hate America and you refuse to publicly denounce these radicals who wish to see America fail.
You scare me because you are a cheerleader for the 'blame America ' crowd and deliver this message abroad.
You scare me because you want to change America to a European style country where the government sector dominates instead of the private sector.
You scare me because you want to replace our health care system with a government controlled one.
You scare me because you prefer 'wind mills' to responsibly capitalizing on our own vast oil, coal and shale reserves.
You scare me because you want to kill the American capitalist goose that lays the golden egg which provides the highest standard of living in the world.
You scare me because you have begun to use 'extortion' tactics against certain banks and corporations.
You scare me because your own political party shrinks from challenging you on your wild and irresponsible spending proposals.
You scare me because you will not openly listen to or even consider opposing points of view from intelligent people.
You scare me because you falsely believe that you are both omnipotent and omniscient.
You scare me because the media gives you a free pass on everything you do.
You scare me because you demonize and want to silence the Limbaughs, Hannitys, O'Relllys and Becks who offer opposing, conservative points of view.
You scare me because you prefer controlling over governing.
Finally, you scare me because if you serve a second term I will probably not feel safe in writing a similar letter in 8 years.