About my Blog

I am writing this blog from a radical political point of view. To be a political radical is to examine everything critically. It is about taking today's news, today's unmentioned news, history, or even just the way we think about ideas, and adding a totally new perspective to them. If you are a radical, and a socialist, like me, you will agree with a lot of what I have to say. If not, I hope I at least make you think about things that you previously took for granted. Most of all, I hope everyone enjoys this blog.

About Me

I have just graduated from college, where I wrote opinion pieces for my school newspaper. Though I started out a liberal, I have moved far to the left since then. Despite my politics being different from most people, many people found a lot of what I had to say interesting and insightful. I hope to continue challenging people to think here on my blog.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Mother's Letter to Newsday on the Recent Breast Cancer Screening Recommendations

Before I post the letter, I would just like to make a few comments. First of all, I am convinced that these recommendations were intended to allow insurance companies to deny coverage for mammograms.

Secondly, it is under capitalism that women can be treated like statistics instead of people. In the eyes of the elite, we are all statistics, and our fate is decided based on whether or not we produce a profit for certain companies (in this case, the insurance companies).

Without further ado, here is my mom's letter:

Thirteen years ago I wrote to Newsday in response to the National Cancer Institute’s review of mammogram    guidelines which were initially eerily similar to the current U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations for breast cancer screening. These current recommendations are telling us that women in their 40s don’t require mammograms, nor should women of any age perform self exams or even get examined by a doctor because these methods are not foolproof, and not enough women will be saved.

I am that “1- in-1,900 woman” who was saved by getting a mammogram at 41 years old when I was diagnosed with a virulent, fast-growing cancer that would have killed me if I had even waited another year.

My kids were four and seven years old when I was diagnosed. They are now 19 and 22, one a college graduate, the other a college sophomore. I’ve lived a very full 15 years since my diagnosis, watching my kids turn into fine young men, enjoying the company of my husband of 28 years, pursuing my passions, volunteering for causes dear to my heart: - pet therapy, helping foster kids, and fighting breast cancer.

For many women like myself, there is often no way to know whether we are at high risk for breast cancer. Younger women are at a higher risk for fast-growing cancers that require early detection to survive. Early detection can also allow for the cancer treatment to be less invasive and less traumatic.

To say that self exams and possibly even a doctor’s exam of one’s breasts are worthless makes no sense. Do these exams work every time? No, but they’re non-invasive, easy, inexpensive (or free!) tools that find many cancers, - certainly not worthless when a woman’s life is at stake. This task force may think women will follow these recommendations like sheep, but we’ve become educated and savvy. The current breast cancer screening methods may not be foolproof, but we are not fools.

How many cancers found are required to be significant when one of them ends up being yours? I’m not just a statistic, nor are the scores of women who won’t be as lucky as me if these new guidelines are adopted.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sometimes, Opposites Think Alike

In the U.S., liberalism is typically contrasted with conservatism. Conservatism is supposedly the ideology of anyone who sits on the right wing in the U.S. It is the religious right, the CEO's of major corporations, Rush Limbaugh, etc. It combines ideas about the government controlling of people's personal lives, with keeping the government out of people's lives, combined with pro-corporate policies. In other words, there is very little to hold it together as an ideology, it lacks the consistency of an ideology, because it is simply a proxy for ideas that the Republican Party meshes together and takes as their own.

Liberalism is in some ways even more contradictory outside of the marketplace, in that liberals want the government to stay out of our personal lives, and to have our personal lives controlled via law, ie. government.

However, I want to discuss something different all together, namely, the two views of the market and the government that dominate in this country. These are referred to as liberalism and libertarianism (although it really refers to right wing libertarianism, since the term really only refers to opposition to government).

While liberalism consists of the belief that government should intervene to protect us from the market, libertarianism is the belief that the government should stay out of the market, and our lives, because we need to be protected from the government. Liberals believe government is good, the market is evil, libertarians believe that the market is good, government is evil.

Both ideologies are correct about what is evil, and wrong about what is good. To repeat a quote I've used before from the communist manifesto: "The executive of the modern state is nothing but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.” In other words, the market controls the government, and they are both evil for the same reason, namely, they are tools of the capitalist class. (This is more of a left wing libertarian position, anti-government, and anti-market).

In this sense, "conservatism" begins to make a little more sense than Rush Limbaugh when we realize that one of the instincts within it is correct, namely the libertarian opposition to government. Likewise, liberalism makes sense in that it isn't supposed to be "big government" at the expense of the people, so much as it is supposed to be government protecting the people from "big business."

Of course, both are wrong, in that in both cases, asking one to take care of the other is like asking an arsonist to put out a fire. The government cannot save us from the people that it works for, anymore than the market can save us from the government that works for it.

Even worse, the political parties that claim to represent these ideologies fail to do so. The Democrats pretend to oppose big business, but they are just as pro big business as the Republicans. Likewise, the Republicans pretend to oppose big government, but they are just as pro big government as the Democrats. For example, its hard to be more pro big business than Obama's trillions of dollars in bailouts, just as it is hard to be more pro big government than Bush's Patriot Act. Of course, these are not just acts of the president, both parties supported these acts in Congress, making them truly bipartisan affairs.

People instinctively understand this. That is why, even when they are ideological opposites, they tend to find themselves voting for the "lesser of two evils" or not voting at all. We tend to underestimate the act of not bothering to vote. We assume people are lazy, yet we forget that the political elite as convinced us to frown upon people who don't vote. Let's not forget how "important" the last election was supposed to be, particularly if you were for Obama. If not voting was not considered to be taboo, we'd probably have less than 20% of people voting during a presidential election!

In conclusion, regarding the market and the government, Many Americans have been divided along two ideological lines. They feel vindicated, because half of what they think really is true. They vote for political parties that they know don't even support their ideology, but they consider them the "lesser of two evils." Some of us try to oppose this farce all together, but are few in number and fairly powerless because most who see the farce for what it is, give up, and believe that if change via elections is not possible, then no change is possible. This system is ideal for the elite, because under this system, nothing ever changes. Ultimately, it is time for us to realize that change is only possible when we unite to revolt against this oppressive capitalist system, instead of siding with one half of it over the other.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What does it really mean to be Antiwar?

Imagine there is a country out there thinking of war. They examine the U.S. They see the many problems the U.S. has. They count the number of prisoners we have, and conclude, that since we have the most of any other nation, we must be the most oppressive country in the world. Incidentally, they claim that they have the most freedom of any nation in the world, and they hope to bring their freedom over here. They invade the U.S., and they occupy our country indefinitely. Oh, and by the way, they've killed a million of our civilians, making 9/11 seem irrelevant in comparison.

What would we say in this scenario? Would we simply say, "thank you for bring us freedom?" Or would we say "get out now!" Would we be justified in fighting back? Or would our soldiers be "terrorists" for fighting against those who "bring freedom?" Would we believe that they are in fact bringing us freedom? Or that they have some other motive? Would we say "clean up the mess and then leave?"

Of course, the reverse of this scenario is exactly what the U.S. is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. And yet few people have truly been antiwar regarding both since Obama has taken office.

Iraq, of course, is supposed to be "Bush's war." At this point, most Americans are against it. Nevertheless, Obama has quietly continued the occupation of Iraq (since occupying a foreign nation is not news, even when U.S. troops die). Newsflash, we aren't getting out anytime soon, at least we aren't if there continues to be no antiwar movement.

Afghanistan is the one that Americans on both sides of the political spectrum have consistently failed to oppose. Sure, more and more Americans want the U.S. to withdraw because it is a "quagmire" that we can't "win." This position did not constitute an antiwar position during the Vietnam war, and it does not now. Rather, this position is essentially, "we've lost, lets cut our losses." If you are rooting for the U.S. to "win," that means that you think that there is something to win, and furthermore, that that could have been won through war. By definition, you are pro-war.

The truth is, the invasion of Afghanistan was just as unjust as the invasion of Iraq. Yes, terrorists that had bases in Afghanistan attacked the U.S. However, let's reverse the scenario again. Some Americans, with support from the U.S. government, attack Cuba. Cuba now has the right to take over our country, kill civilians, and occupy it indefinitely, while deciding our politics. Right? I don't think so.

That neither Iraq or Afghanistan has been brought democracy at the barrel of a gun and that just about everyone in both countries is suffering, and may even be worse off than they were before, just adds to the absurdity. But simply condemning the wars by describing all of the sordid details or even saying that these are occupations and not wars is wrong. Both of these positions imply that these wars could be just.

They cannot. War is wrong, period. Far from being a crazy position, this argument is simple. If all people are created equal, we cannot declare otherwise. If it is wrong for someone to kill U.S. civilians, and it clearly is, than it is equally wrong for the U.S. to kill foreign civilians. If it is wrong for someone to occupy our country in the name of freedom, than it is wrong for the U.S. to occupy a country.

And, groups like Codepink, who support an "exit strategy," are pro-war and pro-occupation. To argue that the U.S. should get out after "fixing the mess," cannot possibly be an antiwar position. Obama has the same position, Bush had the same position. It is still the same position even if their timetables for withdrawal are quite different.

The only position that is antiwar and anti-occupation is "Get Out Now!" That includes everywhere, not just Iraq and Afghanistan, but a large number of other countries, ie. South Korea.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Capitalism May be a Bad Love Story, But Even Michael Moore Can't Break up with It

I usually don't write movie reviews, but obviously, Michael Moore's new film "Capitalism, a Love Story" is not a normal movie.

First of all, before I critique it, I highly recommend you go see it. Everything but the last few minutes of the movie is about the harm caused by capitalists. We're talking about everyone from kids who are jailed because a corporation bought of a judge to people kicked out of their homes, to airline pilots on food stamps. It doesn't really matter who you vote for, if you are amongst the 70% of Americans who do not like corporations, you will like this movie. And even if you do like corporations but want to here the stories of what Americans are facing today, you should see this movie.

Michael Moore concludes that "capitalism is evil and you cannot regulate evil." Only a socialist can make this argument, therefore Michael Moore must be a socialist? Right? Wrong.

What is socialism? It is when the community as a whole owns the means of production. In other words, we are talking about the factories and the machines that produce the goods. And ultimately, we are talking about democracy instead of dictatorship in the workplace, which Michael Moore explicitly endorses.

What fails to qualify as socialism? These so called "mixed economies" are not socialist, they are capitalist economies with a social safety net. Bernie Sanders is not a socialist, no matter what he claims. You can disagree with socialism. But being for a social safety net does not make you a socialist just because Republican politicians are declaring everyone to the left of Milton Friedman (right wing economist) a socialist.

Now, if you "cannot regulate evil," then socialism is the only other option. You could argue that capitalism isn't evil. You can argue that it is evil but it can be regulated. But you cannot conclude that the solution to a system that cannot be regulated is to regulate it.

What are regulations? Laws of course. A nation under the law is the perfect form of regulation. Laws come in many forms, including a bill of rights.

Why do I say all this? Because after saying that you "cannot regulate evil," Michael Moore mentions FDR's economic bill of rights, which, though never enacted, was supposed to guarantee basic necessities like food, healthcare, and housing. In other words, FDR's economic bill of rights is a series of regulations that are designed to save us from the excesses of capitalism. He even goes so far as to claim that this works in Europe. Of course, the workplace democracy that Moore proposes isn't the norm in Europe any more than it is here.

To me, if socialism is worker control of the workplace, and ultimately society, and capitalism is control by the elite of the few, then a call for regulated capitalism is the same as a call for benevolent dictatorship. I've noticed something funny about dictatorships though. Wishful thinking rarely makes them benevolent. The same is true under capitalism. As long as capitalists are in charge, they make the rules. They aren't going to make them to benefit us.

It's easy to criticize Michael Moore, but this is rather typical of many people on the left. I know I'm starting to repeat myself, but this is a recurring theme. The grass is not pink, 2+2 does not equal 5, and capitalism with a safety net does not make the workplace democratic, and its not socialism.

Update: It's worth adding that Michael Moore actually says in the movie that a system should replace capitalism, which contradicts what he endorses at the end of the movie.

For those of you who get my posts via email, you can comment on this and other articles at thesocialistidealist.blogspot.com

Friday, September 18, 2009

Civility is the New Silence

We've been hearing an awful lot about civility lately. For example, the huffington post reveals that Nancy Pelosi called for more civility. "We are a free country and this balance between freedom and safety is one that we have to carefully balance," she said.

The media has picked up where she left off. Joe Wilson shouting "liar," in the middle of Obama's speech, Serena Williams arguing with the referee and Kanye West dismissing Taylor Swift are the two examples that have been used of "incivility." No question, Kanye West behaved inappropriately. And no, its not good to curse at the referees, but its worth noting that Roger Federer did the same, and that baseball players argue with the umpire all the time, but that's another story for another post.

I'm not going to claim that we should all scream at each other, curse at each other, and start beating each other up. We should be nice to people. At face value, this is what the media is telling us. But we shouldn't assume that what the media tells us should be taken at face value.

At this point you may ask: What are you suggesting they really mean? The context Nancy Pelosi used it in is instructive. She doesn't want people complaining about Obama's health care plan.

But, aren't the Republicans behaving like a bunch of two year olds? Maybe. Certainly, shouting out that Obama is a "liar" right in the middle of his speech is ridiculous. And of course, even though Obama does say one thing and then do another, his particular objection about illegal immigrants receiving care had no basis in reality (even though they should, like every other human being, have a right to health care.

However, "stop being so uncivil" is a narrative that has been brought out before. Where do you draw the line? The media draws the line at anything that challenges the status quo.

Drew Bogner, president of Malloy College, wrote an op ed in Newsday today, talking about civility. In this piece, he combines looking at both sides of an issue, with being polite about sharing opinions. Like Nancy Pelosi, he also suggests that this "incivility" threatens to turn into violence.

In order to analyze something, we must determine what belongs together and what doesn't. Simply put, disagreement, impoliteness, (even if it is extreme and unreasonable) and violence are three very different things. People can politely agree to disagree, and people can be rude without being violent. And people can challenge the status quo without being nasty about it.

The reason the debate is framed this way is to silence dissent. If opposing the status quo is equal to being mean, which is in turn equal to violence, then we will all agree that we should put up with the status quo. But it isn't. When the status quo is unjust (the number of hungry people has passed 1 billion, according to the World Socialist Web Site, for example) we are right to oppose it. When this is caused by an oppressive elite, we have the right to oppose them. This opposition isn't polite. As a Marxist, I might argue for the overthrow of the capitalist class. There is nothing nice about it.

However, this doesn't have to be violent either. I would argue that the many simply need to see their power in numbers, and use it. The failure of the elite to control the vast majority is sufficient to cause a revolution. For example, anarcho-syndycalists have argued that a general strike could be used to cause the collapse of the system, simply because they decided to refuse to work for capitalists.

You do not have to agree with either the goals or the means in which that goal would be achieved to see the point. It's simple word association, and its not an intellectual exercise. The media is telling us that change= impoliteness= opposition= violence. Of course, there are many examples of this. Obama= socialism (I wish) is one of them. Free market= freedom. Anarchy= disorder= violence.

The important point is that there is no debate. You can make the case that Anarchy=disorder=violence. However, an anarchist would not agree with that statement. Anarchy itself is the absence of the state, not the absence of order. In other words, first, you ask yourself whether it is possible to have order without the state. Then, you ask whether disorder inherently means violence. If you have thought about it, and answered yes, than you can agree with that statement. But simply putting words together does not create a true statement.

In terms of "civility," it should be clear that being rude is not the same as being violent. And disagreeing with people is not the same as being rude. So lets speak loud and clear that we will not be silenced, no matter what our views are. If that makes us "uncivil" than so be it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Simple Case for Radicalism

The first question is: What does it mean to be a radical? I would argue that it simply means thinking outside the box. Very far outside of the box.

George Orwell tells us that simply thinking logically makes us radical. In 1984, he states the most obvious fact, 2+2=4. However, people in Oceania engage in "doublethink." In other words, they believe in two incompatible ideas at the same time, and therefore believe things that cannot possibly be true. Such as 2+2=5.

The protagonist, Winston Smith, is the only person (as far as he knows) who still believes the truth (including, 2+2=4). George Orwell was originally going to call the book "The Last Sane Man in Europe," but the publisher did not like that. By being the only sane man, Winston Smith was a radical.

How does this apply to us? In her autobiography, Assata Shakur uses an example that is as straightfoward as 2+2=5, but that even I didn't know until I read her book.

The 13 amendment to the Constitution is the one that ended slavery in the United States. Or at least, that is what we are taught in school.

Say to yourself the uncontroversial statement "slavery is always wrong."

Now, look several lines below to read the actual 13th amendment.

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

In case you didn't see it, let me highlight the relevant part of section 1.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

In other words, the 13th amendment does not ban slavery, it makes it Constitutional.

I rest my case.

Monday, August 17, 2009

One more thing About Health Care Reform

I'm putting this in a separate post since the other one is so long. Needless to say, healthcare is a big issue.

Anyway, the current system and any reforms that Obama proposes, empower management over the working class. They can keep lower wages while offering health care as a trump card. A job that offers health insurance might be more desirable than a job that with better wages and conditions but no health insurance. With a single payer system, healthcare is taken out of the hands of employers entirely. This makes it easier for workers to negotiate for fairer wages and better conditions, since they no longer have to worry about health insurance.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Single Payer is the Only Real Option

The debate has already been framed for us. On the one side, you have the right wingers, claiming that the government is going to have "death panels" to kill old people, and that they are going to ration our health care. On the other, you have the Democrats, claiming that "health care reform" is the only way to go. The system does not work, single payer is not possible at this time, and health care reform will save the currently broken system. Liberals are following along, talking about how important reform is, even if they support single payer.

The system is indeed completely broken. And the right wing claims about the government slaughtering your grandparents are simply ridiculous. But Obama's continually watered down health care reform, even if it were to end up with the "public option," (which it no longer looks like it is going to) is not going to fix it.

Before I get into what is wrong with Obama's plan, let me explain what a single payer plan would do. While the exact cost cutting would obviously depend on the plan, single payer systems in most of the developed world cost half of what they cost here in the U.S., while producing better outcomes. In other words, the country that has the most problems with waste are having that problem because of the private sector, not a supposedly bloated government. Intuitively, it should at least make sense that giant corporations would not be more efficient than government. Add to the fact that corporations are inherently working to make a profit instead of working for the public good, and its easy to understand why the private sector is the least efficient option.

Put simply, yes, you'd be paying more taxes, but you'd be paying half as much for healthcare overall because you wouldn't have to pay for insurance out of pocket.

And of course, it is a myth that you'd have no choice of doctors. Under this program, you could choose any doctor, today, your insurance company chooses your doctor. Also, the waiting times are a myth. Sure, if you're rich, you can buy yourself quicker care in the U.S., but most people wait a long time here too. As Julie Mason explains in the Ottawa Citizen, the U.S. media has fabricated a horror story about Canada's health care system (A reality check on a reality check). A woman who claimed she couldn't get immediate surgery for a brain tumor in Canada and therefore had to get care in the U.S. actually had a benign cyst. While her waiting time would have been completely inappropriate if she was dying from a brain tumor, it was perfectly reasonable because she was not. Of course, the most obvious question regarding a single payer system is: Why are we only talking about Canada? Occasionally, people will criticize the British system, but no one talks about the single payer system in France, Germany, or almost any other developed nation. I wonder if those systems work even better than the Canadian system. However, one thing is certain, people like it so much, they refuse to get rid of it. In Britain, Margaret Thatcher attempted to get rid of their National Healthcare System, but had the same success that Bush had in trying to privatize social security.

Also forget about rationing under single payer. The most significant part of single payer is how healthcare is treated as a right, not a privilege. In other words, rationing by private insurance is precisely the problem that we can get rid of with single payer. Private insurance companies can deny you coverage for any number of reasons, such as a prexisting condition (ie, you have MS, like the author of this post). Of course, this doesn't include the almost 50 million Americans who don't have healthcare at all. But if you have coverage, you could end up with the worst of both worlds, you pay a huge proportion of your paycheck to healthcare, and then not have any money to pay for getting sick when they decide not to cover you.

Here is what would happen if we did in fact have a public option (It appears that Obama is scrapping the idea). For starters, it would only be available to a small percentage of Americans. Because of its limited size, (Jeff Sher estimates on counterpunch that it will cover about 10 million people Jeff Sher: Making a Mess of Health Care Reform) most Americans would be forced to buy private insurance. However, the existence of both options, along with the government being unable to negotiate drug prices, would increase costs instead of reducing them. Of course, these costs would be put on the backs of American workers, because they would be forced to buy insurance under Obama's plan. When Hillary Clinton came up with a similar idea, I felt that this was worse than the current system, and I still do. At least when you pay taxes, it is supposed to go toward the public good. As a general principle, I don't think this is necessarily true, seeing as nearly half of our tax dollars go towards the military. However, in other countries, it has been proven that a single payer system works as a public good.

On the other hand, forcing people to buy private insurance is no different than if the government decided to force everyone to buy a Nintendo Wii. I use this example, because most people who are 30 or over don't want a video game system. The public is no longer pooling their goods together, rather, the government is forcing people to buy a private good. This doesn't fit into a liberal ideology of the government providing for the public good, or a conservative free market ideology of keeping the government out of the market. Personally, I see the government helping the corporations as the anti-democratic status quo.

The government forcing you to buy health insurance is not the only problem with Obama's plan. He is suggesting that he will cut costs. This effectively means that the government would cut medicare and medicaid. Conservatives would suggest that this is likely because government is evil. I will suggest that this is likely because 1. The elite tends to use recessions as an excuse to "cut spending" which always refers to important social spending. 2. Obama can get away with it because he is not a Republican. When liberals complement Clinton on "balancing the budget," do they notice that he did it by cutting social spending, ie. "ending welfare as we know it?" Worse still, I would bet that this would occur regardless of whether health reform passes. In other words, the real "rationing" is completely unrelated to the health reform being proposed.

The cost cutting and forcing everyone to buy insurance appears to still be on the table. The public option does not. Obama has been backing away from the public option over the past weekend. The important thing to understand is that this has nothing to do with public opinion, and certainly nothing to do with spinelessness. If Obama decides not to put a public option in the final bill, it is because he never intended to have it in the first place. This is an old game the Democrats are playing. They put something on the table, let the Republicans rant and rave, and then say that because of Republican ranting and raving, they can't do what they set out to do. From 2004-2006, they complained that they needed a simple majority in Congress, then, when they got that, they complained that they needed 60 Senators, and the presidency, and now that they have that, they claim that there are "blue dog" Democrats who are really Republicans, and that they need a super duper progressive majority and the end of the Republican Party.

Why are the Democrats really siding with the insurance industry? It's because they get the same donations the Republicans who are ranting about socialism get. It's because Obama himself has been bought by big business, and in this case, the insurance industry. According to the Center for Responsive Politics Obama has received $19,462,986 from the Health Sector (Top Contributors to Barack Obama | OpenSecrets). When we realize the obvious, easily researchable truth that it is not just Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats being bought off by the insurance industry, it should be obvious that all the politicians do their bidding. To assume otherwise is to believe that while Republicans are heavily influenced by campaign contributions, Democrats are somehow immune. The reality is that both Obama's "reform" and the status quo serves the health care industry and hurts the American people.

Friday, August 7, 2009

New Rule: Thinking You're Smarter Than Everyone Else Doesn't Make it So

This was too long to post on the huffington post. I imagine that this "new rule" is the one that Bill Maher will do tonight on his show. Anyway, here is a link to it: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-maher/new-rule-smart-president_b_253996.html

He basically says that Americans are stupid, and that the "founding fathers" were wise to oppose democracy. I sometimes like what Bill Maher says, and at least he speaks his mind. But I've always been annoyed when he insists that the American people are the problem, and not the elites who control them. And when I look at what is on the news, and what people are told, I'm impressed that people are as skeptical as they are. Here is what I was going to write:

It is elitist to sit there, and find the worst polls, claim that America is stupid, and then suggest that the framers were right to oppose democracy. Ask most Americans, and I think you will find they have some interesting things to say. The trick is that you have to look under the surface. Which statement is more insightful: "Iraq is located next to Iran," or "Both political parties are corrupt?" I would say the second. Even though the second statement fails to explain how or why, the first statement is simply trivia and provides no insight at all. Regarding Iraq, it is more important to oppose the American occupation than it is to locate it on a map. You are not intellligent if you can find it on the map, name all the cities, cite the history, and then conclude that democracy can created at the barrel of a gun.

The second problem is what people have been taught. For example, I think that people believe in creationism because they haven't been taught evolution properly. It is usually thought of the way Lamarck conceived of it, not Darwin. Lamarck thought that giraffes gradually grew longer necks because they stretched them in order to reach the tall trees. Darwin argued that instead, the giraffes with shorter necks died off, because they couldn't reach the trees, while a few who happened to have longer necks due to a mutation survived.

Whose fault is that? How many people who bought Lamarck's theory did so because they weren't taught the proper theory of evolution?

And then of course, we can't forget apathy. The intuition that politicians are corrupt, while simplistic, is correct. This causes people to give up, because they have been persuaded there is no alternative. Consequently, they don't pay attention to politics, and therefore don't know anything.

We ultimately have a choice. Either we can have an elite that looks out for their own interests at the expense of everyone else, or we can have democracy. What we can't have is an elite that looks out for the people's best interest instead of their own.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

This is a test of the email subscription service

Apparently, people who were subscribed to my blog did not get my last post via email. I'm not sure if it is working now (supposedly its based on what day it was written). If you receive this email check out my blog (http://thesocialistidealist.blogspot.com/) to see yesterday's post. If not, well, I'm still working on it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Obama is as Bad as Bush But....

To Sum Up:

If A and B, then C. That is how a philosophical argument works. Premise A is that Obama's policies are as bad as Bush's. Premise B is that Bush's policies were so immoral that he must be opposed at all costs. The conclusion, or C, is that Obama must be opposed at all costs.

Many progressives disagree with premise A, while conservatives disagree with premise B. However, what I'm arguing against is people that agree with both premises, and then create the conclusion that they must support Obama, by adding that premise A isn't quite true, Obama is a tiny bit better than Bush and the Republicans.

If you'd like to see what I wrote in response to a article that seemed to fit this "Obama is as bad as Bush, but, argument, read on. Otherwise, skip to the comments.

This post that will apply to some audiences more than others. Some (and some who read this) still actually believe in Obama's policies. They think that Obama's policies have been progressive thus far. I will discuss Obama's actual policies in other posts.

However, there are others, some who are liberal Democrats, and some to the left of liberal Democrats, who are dissillusioned with Obama. They see regressive policies instead of the progressive policies they thought that they were voting for.

One of the people who fall into the second group is David Michael Green. In past articles, he has mostly talked about how evil the Republicans are, and that the Democrats are the lesser of the evils. In his latest article on Common Dreams, he lists a series of Obama's policies that sound like they should have come from the Bush administration. However, several of the commenters, including me, felt that he was trying to rationalize voting for Obama in 2008, and doing it again in 2012. Here is a link to the article: Hey, Did You Hear That Democrats Won The Election? | CommonDreams.org

Many of the commenters, who supported a third party candidate, basically said "I told you so." I've certainly done that before. But I wrote something slightly different in response to this article. Here it is:

"I would like a liberal to just once, admit that it was a mistake voting for Obama. But they can't, because at the very least, they want to "vote against" a Republican in 2012.

People are afraid to leave, afraid to abandon positions they've held for so long. But I did. Back in 2004, I was a loyal Democrat supporting John Kerry. But then I started reading good websites instead of the lying New York Times, and I started to think about what it all really meant. By 2006, I was one of these disillusioned Democrats, still willing to vote for them. It was (and is) the last time. I have since realized that we have to criticize the entire economic and political system. I have realized that their aren't these rogue lunatics out there promoting fascism, but that the Republicans were working within the rules of the establishment.

It's not just my voting habits, but my political views themselves that have changed radically. I was a liberal, I am now a radical, a socialist.

And I am sorry, indeed ashamed, both of the positions I've held in the past, and the fact that I supported John Kerry and when I became old enough, voted for Democrats.

There, was that so hard?"

I can type and think pretty fast, and therefore, I wrote a large response in a few minutes. But you do not have to do that in the comments, some comments are a phrase or a sentence. So feel free to comment on my posts!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How to be a Pessimist and an Idealist at the Same Time

This is an introductory post. Well, sort of. Of course, no one can really write an introduction that sums up everything. So I'll simply start with some thoughts.

I've been thinking about my approach to politics and what makes it different from conventional political thought. There are many reasons why my approach is different. One of these is how I view the present and the future.

A quote from Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci states: "I'm a pessimist because of intelligence but an optimist because of will." I would state what I think slightly differently. Most people would think I'm a pessimist based on my view of the present. Yet most people consider me more than just an optimist based on my view of the future. They would call me an idealist.

Believing that the world is a terrible place, but that change is possible, is the strongest possible position to take against the status quo. Change becomes both possible, and necessary. Of course, such a view is dangerous to those with power. Consequently, conventional wisdom encourages people to take the opposite view.

The most extreme version of conventional wisdom is that the world is fine the way it is, but that even if it isn't, change is impossible. Of course, most people have a less extreme version of this view. Many people, particularly those who call themselves "liberal" or "progressive," strongly believe that the world is in need of change. But from this perspective "change" means making small adjustments to an otherwise acceptable status quo. By contrast, I believe that the system as a whole is fundamentally flawed, and cannot be fixed, but that a new system is both possible and necessary.

Let me make this more concrete. I'll take the example of the solution to the current financial crisis, and the immoral (and often illegal) banking and investment practices that caused it. A liberal would say "We need to regulate the banks. We let them get too far out of control, and that this caused the crisis." (If you are conservative, you might talk about individual responsibility, which is a topic for another post).

At first glance, it seems obvious that we need to regulate the financial sector. Indeed it is, if only it were that simple.

A more radical critic like me asks whether it is really possible to simply "regulate" the financial sector. What do we do if the capitalist elite controls the government? As Marx put it in the Communist Manifesto: "The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie." If this is the case, asking the government to regulate the financial institutions is a bit like asking the financial institutions to regulate themselves.

We can also look at this example to see different ideas about the future. Progressives might think that the only realistic solution is regulation. They would argue that a rejection of capitalism altogether in favor of socialism is far too utopian. A socialist like me would take the opposite position, and argue that to truly regulate these institutions requires that the capitalists be removed from power. In other words, I'm saying that we need socialism.

I'm not going to get into a whole analysis in this post about why I think we never really can (or never really did) regulate the financial sector. Here I'm simply trying to show that this is a radically different argument than we are used to. We like to think that things can work, and work fairly, for all of us. We even tend to think that they used to be fair back in the day, and that we've simply strayed a little bit. After all, if society used to be fair, then it can be fair again. I think that this is an illusion. It's bad enough that we don't know what is really going on today, because the media constantly lies to us. Why should we believe that we have an accurate understanding of what happened in the past?

Some look at the world and think it is fine the way it is. Others look at the world and think that it needs a few adjustments. People like me look at the world and suggest radical change.