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Obama's Pragmatism
I think I’m beginning to understand Barack Obama’s concept of pragmatism better. Pragmatism is the name of a school of philosophy. The major point to understand is that, in the pragmatic view, we have to continue working hard at “business as usual,” regardless of what we believe is ethically right or wrong. As I understand it, Obama’s current philosophically-inspired position is that economic success is the major gauge of his leadership, simply because that is the way everything works in our civilization. Many aspects of our system are repugnant, probably as much to Obama as to some of those reading this, but according to his pragmatism we can’t get away from things as they are.

Obama’s is a deeply thought out attitude and not the same as a policy of continuous expediency. He demands that we throw ourselves into the world as we find it. I think he would say that any other attitude amounts to shirking our (his) responsibility to run the country for the good of everyone, including the good of people we detest.

This attitude can be compared with the one advanced by Victor Frankl in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl survived life in Auschwitz while following similar principles. I recommend Frankl’s moving and disturbing book without reservation to anyone who would try to see human beings as we are, inextricably connected to the world around us. In some ways the philosophy of Frankl is the antithesis of the agonized lament, heard in Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit, that “Hell is other people.”

I’m not sure I can entirely accept either Obama’s pragmatism or Frankl’s grim determination to follow the road on which we find ourselves. Nevertheless I believe these are ideas that we need to take seriously, particularly in light of the current president’s apparently deep commitment to principles such as I am awkwardly trying to characterize here.

If Obama succeeds in getting himself voted in for another term, it will be interesting to find out what he does with his second four years. He may not change his policies, but I’m hoping he will start to explain, in much greater depth, the decisions he is making and the logic he follows in making them.

—Ralph    |  

Wiki-Leaking Bank Information
For anyone interested in learning more about Wikileaks, how it operates, its ethics and an example of the character of one leaker, I recommend watching this video. Probably because of server overload, the video may take up to about 15 minutes to begin playing. It’s worth the wait.
—Ralph    |  

USA Has a Right-Sided Bias
This week’s diplomatic spat between the US and Venezuela illustrates the built-in U.S. bias against leftist governments.
(Reuters) - Venezuela condemned on Thursday the United States’ revocation of its ambassador’s visa. […]

In the latest flare-up between the ideological foes, Washington withdrew the visa of ambassador Bernardo Alvarez on Wednesday in retaliation for the rejection by socialist President Hugo Chavez of Obama’s nominated U.S. envoy to Caracas.

Chavez had blocked [U.S. envoy] Larry Palmer’s arrival, after the diplomat accused Venezuela’s government of close ties to leftist Colombian rebels. [Palmer] also alleged declining morale and growing Cuban influence in Venezuela’s armed forces.

It’s easy to see why U.S. foreign policy is always so strongly biased against leftist governments: there are still substantial remnants of U.S. anti-communism, the pillar upon which most of Washington’s foreign policy rested from the beginning of the Cold War, around 1947, until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Throughout 44 years of Cold War polarization, a strong tradition of U.S. anti-leftism became deeply rooted. And even though 20 years has now passed since the collapse of Russian communism, there is still a fixed expectation, both at home and in the rest of the world, that the U.S. will always oppose leftist governments such as Venezuela’s, while glossing over the faults of rightist states like El Salvador, to which

the United States has sent more than $1 billion in military aid […] in the last decade, and $2 billion more in economic assistance.
Anti-communist habits of thought also help explain why, two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, U.S. press and media still retain a strong right-sided bias. A reflexive “anti-communist” miasma of condemnation subtly permeates the atmosphere when any domestic policy appears to lean leftward.

As long as reactive hatred of communism and reactive fear of terrorism combine to lock U.S. political dialog into a tiny pen, there’s little hope we’ll hear sensible policy discussion any time soon.

—Ralph    |  

Ease of Use
Republicans no longer care how obvious they are about passing legislation exclusively for the benefit of the wealthy. They have no further need to hide this or anything else, because the likes of Beck, Hannity, O’Reilly, Limbaugh and hundreds of other right-wing radio and tv presenters all over the country are able to spin whatever their favored politicians may happen to say into electoral gold.

This wonderful ease of use of the populace is just one of the many miracles made possible by having so large a proportion of uneducated and under-educated citizens. Remember that the American economy is driven by consumption. You only have to know how to eat.

—Ralph    |  

What is a Conservative?
What exactly is an American conservative, anyway? I can’t think of a description that fits the present range of candidates. Is a conservative…
  • A religious fundamentalist who is fanatically opposed to abortion for any reason?
  • A wealthy individual trying to get his taxes reduced by giving money to a politician who promises to cut all taxes?
  • A person opposed to government spending (except for military, CIA, Homeland Security and “Black Ops” spending)?
  • An advocate of “white power,” also opposed to social services and immigration?
  • Someone who believes in “personal responsibility” (except when his or own family needs some kind of help)?
  • A politician who tries to block any legislative proposal advanced by Democrats, including legislation he or she has previously sponsored?
  • Someone who believes “Barack Hussein Obama” is secretly a Kenyan Muslim?
This is, of course, an ironic post, but it also contains a serious question: is there any common set of beliefs shared by self-described American conservatives?
—Ralph    |  

Reality vs Human Nature
We often hear that “reality has a well-known liberal bias.” Public opinion, on the other hand, has a well-known bias in favor of ignorance and jingoism. The truth is usually evident, but will not be accepted until much later. This is especially true when the truth turns out to be unpleasant or (even worse) expensive.
—Ralph    |  

Angry with Barack Obama?
I get pretty disappointed, even angry with Obama because he has neither ended the wars nor closed Guantanamo, but then I have to remember how much I hated Lyndon Johnson for his horrible war in Vietnam. Because of the massive public reaction against that war, in 1968 Johnson did not run for a second full term in office.

But now we remember Lyndon Johnson as the president who moved the Civil Rights Act of 1965 through Congress, and signed it.

It’s true that Barack Obama isn’t the most popular president, and that he’s not helping other Democrats. Those are the unfortunate facts. But we can still hope that the legislation Obama and this Congress have passed will help the country over the long term.

—Ralph    |  

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com

Cached Sep 2, 2014, 2:12 am (all times Eastern US)
Cost of the War in Iraq
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Reuters News
Australia to step up formal
partnership with NATO at summit

Eric Cantor to join investment
bank Moelis as vice chairman

Burger King has maneuvered to
cut U.S. tax bill for years

Insider traders in U.S. face longer
prison terms, Reuters analysis shows

Doubts over whether Detroit
bankruptcy plan gets job done

U.S. business lobby says concerned
China antitrust probes unfair

Fiji says Syrian rebels want
compensation, removal from terror list

Rights group slams Thai detention
of child migrants and refugees

Hong Kong police arrest 19
in pro-democracy scuffles

Fast-food workers to launch
intensified protests across U.S.

China replaces Communist Party leader in
coal-rich province amid 'corruption problem'

Tunisian deputy survives
assassination attempt

Ukraine accuses Russia of 'undisguised
aggression' as rebels advance

Lesotho PM calls for regional
peace force after 'coup': aide

California high school drops mascot
criticized by Arab-American group

U.S. forces carry out operation
against al-Shabaab in Somalia

Guantanamo detainee transfer to
Uruguay unlikely before vote: official

Actress Jennifer Lawrence contacts
authorities after nude photos hacked

Afghanistan expected to send
defense minister to NATO summit

Pro-independence Scots narrow gap
to victory ahead of vote: poll

Exclusive: From Seoul to Mexico City,
pressure mounts to ease U.S. oil export ban

Brazil's Silva looks
presidential, but not a shoo-in

Amid foreign crises, Obama takes
solace in U.S. economic turnaround

Iranians play role in breaking
IS siege of Iraqi town

Iran's Zarif 'quite optimistic'
of Iran nuclear agreement

Obama notifies Congress of ordering
air strikes in Iraq's Amerli

Detained Americans in
North Korea seek U.S. help

U.N. to send team to investigate
Islamic State crimes in Iraq

Cubans angered by new
consumer import restrictions

NATO to create new 'spearhead'
force to respond to crises

Nasty, brutish and artsy?
Neanderthal hashtag engraving found

Afghan talks on unity government
collapse; crisis deepens

Pricing is key for new heart
drugs challenging cheap generics

German euroskeptics chide
Merkel after state surge

Al Qaeda in Yemen executes three
'spies' for guiding drone strikes

Islamists in Iraq driving
large-scale atrocities: U.N.

Syrian army, rebels fight on
Golan where peacekeepers held

Battle lines drawn in struggle for
influence over Turkish judiciary

Libyan parliament reappoints PM as
government loses grip on ministries

UK's Osborne taking tougher
view on EU membership: report

Britain 'deplores' Israel
decision to claim West Bank land

Florida power utilities fear
return of ?Green Governor' Crist

U.S. inflation
bonds back in vogue

Factory activity in Europe, Asia
cools; demand lull a concern

After deadline, Iran says held
serious nuclear talks with IAEA

Japan and India vow to boost
strategic ties during summit

Libya's elected parliament asks Abdullah
al-Thinni to form new government: lawmaker

Central European PMIs point to
slowdown as sanctions hit sentiment

Philippines foils car-bomb
plot at airport, shopping mall

Bosnia police detain 13 Serb ex-soldiers,
police suspected of war crimes

Turkish foreign ministry summons
U.S. envoy over spying report

Britain to pass new laws to counter
homegrown Islamist fighters

Libyan government says has lost
control of most Tripoli ministries

Islamic State poses global
threat, Iraqi minister says

Both sides guilty of atrocities
in Iraq fight: U.N. debate

Fighting goes on near big Ukrainian
city, Poroshenko slams Russia

South Africa's Zuma leads talks
on Lesotho political crisis

Australia leans toward buying Japan
subs to upgrade fleet: sources

U.N. debate on Iraq hears of
atrocities committed by both sides

Three children stabbed to
death in Chinese school

Disruptive Hong Kong protests loom
after China rules out democracy

Top Chinese university warns against
criticizing Communist Party: journal

Pakistani protesters clash with
police, soldiers secure state TV

Foreign Minister Timmermans is Dutch
EU commissioner candidate: Dutch paper

North Korea tightens grip on
phone SIM cards used by tourists

Pakistani protesters push closer
to PM house, force TV off the air

Dozens of Turkish police detained
over 'anti-government plot': media

China gives Microsoft 20 days to
provide explanation in anti-trust probe

Fighting erupts between Syrian
army, rebels on Golan Heights

Clashes in Islamabad as
pressure mounts on PM to resign

China's AgBank chairman to assume
provincial party post: government website

Dozens arrested at Made in America
music festival in Los Angeles

Hong Kong pro-democracy activists heckle
China official day after vote ruling

Judge temporarily blocks law that could
close all Louisiana abortion clinics

Explosion fells building outside
Paris, killing at least four

NY storms end Electric Zoo music
festival, halt U.S. Open, delay flights

After unrest over shooting, Ferguson
police now wear body cameras

All five aboard small plane killed
in crash at Colorado airport

Israel claims West Bank land for possible
settlement use, draws U.S. rebuke

Three killed, two injured in small
plane crash at Colorado airport

Celebrity chef Todd English charged
with intoxicated driving in New York

U.S. urges Israel to reverse planned
West Bank land appropriation

Rebels in Central African Republic
expel government ministers

U.N., Fiji say no word on location of
peacekeepers abducted in Golan Heights

Obama faces bipartisan criticism
over his foreign policy

Several Yemeni soldiers killed in
al Qaeda attacks in south Yemen

Jubilant Iraqi forces break
two-month siege of Amerli: officials

Putin calls for talks on east Ukraine
'statehood'; rebels fire on ship

Al Arabiya airs video of man it
says is British hostage in Yemen

Suicide bomber kills 37 in western
Iraq: police officers, medical official

Libyan armed faction takes over
U.S. embassy annex in Tripoli

As Islamic State fighters begin to
blend in, defeating them no easy matter

Grappling with history,
EU tests unity, new faces

Four members of suburban Chicago
family found shot to death

Pakistan PM still surrounded by
protesters after deadly clashes

Mogherini must win over doubters
as EU foreign policy chief

Thai ruler Prayuth gives top
cabinet posts to junta inner circle

Merkel's CDU wins Saxony state vote,
Eurosceptics surge: exit polls

France arrests suspected jihadist
minor before departure to Syria

Scottish nationalist leader dismisses
claim of sinister campaign tactics

Somali warlord agrees to talks,
boosts government peace efforts

U.S., foreign fighters in Syria pose
'very serious threat' to U.S.: lawmaker

Islamist rebels attack intelligence
site in Somalia, 12 killed

Aftershock hits
California's Napa Valley

Austrian conservatives pick
Schelling as finance minister

Israel says shoots down
drone over Golan Heights

Pakistani opposition to press on
with protests until Sharif resigns

Six soldiers dead in suspected
al Qaeda bombings in south Yemen

Lesotho's deputy premier in
charge after PM flees 'coup'

Iraqi forces, militias enter
besieged northern town: officials

Moscow, Kiev swap troops as Ukraine
port girds for pro-Russian assault

Iran says possible response to new
U.S. sanctions could not be 'pleasant'

Poll shows Britain's UKIP to win
parliamentary seat after lawmaker defection

Car bomber, gunmen attack security
site in Somali capital: police

Several Swiss banks pull out
of U.S. tax program: paper

China slams door shut on full
Hong Kong democracy in 2017 vote

Polls say Scotland will spurn
independence, but are they right?

Turkish deputy PM Babacan to maintain
oversight of economy: officials

Macau 're-elects' new leader as
authorities stifle democratic rumblings

U.S. planes strike militants
near Iraq's Amreli, airdrop aid

Fukushima fallout: Resentment
grows in nearby Japanese city

Fighter 'War Machine' sent to
Nevada to face assault charges

EU wields Russia sanctions
threat but timing vague

Sinkhole that proved popular at
Corvette Museum will be filled

Modi seeks Japan's help for
'inclusive vision' on first big trip

F-16s dispatched for unresponsive
pilot of small plane near D.C.

EU names Tusk, Mogherini to top
jobs, ready Russian sanctions

Six people die in fire at
North Carolina mobile home

Girl digging on Oregon beach dies
after sand hole collapses on her

Philippine peacekeepers rescued
from militants on Golan: U.N.

22 miners rescued from Nicaragua
gold mine after landslide

Heavy fighting in Libya's
Benghazi city; airport hit

Hundreds march in Ferguson to
protest police shooting: local media

Sam's bid to be first openly
gay NFL player on hold

Obama, Harper discuss NATO summit,
Iraq in phone call: White House

Bahrain detains Shi'ite rights
activist on arrival at airport

Car tied to suspected threat
against Obama found in Connecticut

Tunisia says 36 migrants dead in
latest Mediterranean shipwreck

Pressure mounts on Pakistan leader
to quit as protests continue

U.S. to push for coalition to fight
'cancer' of Islamic State: Kerry

Pakistan police fire teargas on
large crowd demanding PM resign

French prime minister, booed, hopes
Socialists can bridge divides

African, Somali troops retake
town on way to rebel stronghold

Captives held by Islamic State
prove tough quandary for Obama

California governor lauds passage
of 'historic' sick leave bill

EU chooses Polish PM as chairman,
Mogherini to run foreign policy

Swedish police clash with counter
demonstrators at extreme right rally

Iraqi and Kurdish forces bid to
break Islamic State siege of town

No resolution of Gulf Arab
split after ministers meet

Celebration in Liberia slum
as Ebola quarantine lifted

China and Hong Kong poised
for showdown over democracy

Nearly three dozen trapped U.N.
peacekeepers safely rescued in Golan

Ukraine says Russian tanks flatten
town; EU to threaten more sanctions

India says Pakistan border clashes
'extremely serious and provocative'

Campaign manager for Kentucky's
McConnell resigns, denies wrongdoing

Islamic State militants behead
captive Lebanese soldier: video

UK's Cameron says he's 'nervous'
over Scottish independence vote

At least ten dead in clashes as Yemen's
Houthi rebels try to seize key road

Taliban suicide bombers hit
Afghan intelligence agency

California lawmakers end session with
bills on plastic bags, gun control

Fiat-Chrysler sees New York stock
market listing on October 13

China's Xi urges army to create
strategy for information warfare

Iran nuclear talks to continue on
fringes of U.N. assembly: Ashton

Lesotho PM says army staged
coup, military denies

Polls show wide support in France
for changes in 35-hour week

Lesotho military says "no
coup", respects constitution

Florida schools make play for
scholastic chess curriculum

Ethnic strife blurs Myanmar's
first census in 30 years

EU leaders to threaten extra
Russia sanctions, agree new team

Turkish president Erdogan appoints
divisive aide as economic adviser

Egyptian court sentences Brotherhood
leader Badie to life in prison

Death of man after New York police
restrain him ruled a homicide

Ukrainian cargo plane with seven on
board crashes in Algeria: ministry

Indian police charge ex-minister,
Malaysian tycoon in telecoms scandal

Gunfire heard in Lesotho as army
moves on police in apparent coup

Firefight erupts between militants and
Philippine peacekeepers in Golan Heights

California passes plastic bag ban,
would be first such law in U.S

Saudi king warns of terrorism
threat to U.S., Europe

China tells journalists to
learn 'Marxist news values'

California says to appeal against
teacher protection lawsuit

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