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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 Aug 31, 2015, 8:42 am (all times Eastern US)
Cost of the War in Iraq
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Reuters News
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in eastern Congo ambush

Exclusive: Citi aims to boost equities
franchise amid industry shakeout

Myanmar's president signs off on
law seen as targeting Muslims

China praises Taiwan war contribution
as official arrives for parade

Ukraine's parliament backs draft
law giving east special status

China to open high-speed rail
link to North Korean border

Two U.S. F-22 fighter jets arrive in Poland
as part of European training mission

Japan eyes defense budget hike to
fortify island chain facing China

Thai police hunt two bombing
suspects after weekend raids

Fred becomes second hurricane
of 2015 Atlantic season

China party says no disrespect
meant with Jiang sign removal

Arizona mother accused of
drowning twin sons in bathtub

Refugee crisis suddenly
Merkel's biggest challenge

Thai police issue two new arrest warrants
after raid finds bomb-making materials

Cambodia says no plan to take more
refugees from Australian detention camp

China property developers to buy
back Tianjin blast homes: Xinhua

Philippine Christian group ends
protest blocking Manila highway

U.S. considering sanctions over
Chinese cyber theft: Washington Post

Texas secessionists launch petition
drive for vote to break away

'The Storm Makers' puts Cambodia's
sex-trafficking under spotlight

Clan warfare trumps diplomacy
in Mali's fragile north

Texas teen dies of rare
brain-eating amoeba infection

Five more California inmates
diagnosed with Legionnaires' disease

Obama changing name of Alaska's
Mount McKinley to Denali

Four Libyan soldiers killed in new battle
with Islamist fighters in Benghazi: medics

University of Texas moves statue of
Confederate president Jefferson Davis

Hurricane Ignacio weakens,
forecast to just miss Hawaii

Obama to rename North America's
highest peak as Denali on Alaska trip

Christie defends plan to monitor
immigrants like FedEx tracks parcels

Unprecedented migrant crisis
forces EU to seek answers

US national security advisor warns
Pakistan on recent militant attacks

Islamic State destroys part of
Syria's Temple of Bel: monitors

Man falls 40 feet to death
at Atlanta baseball stadium

Egypt sets Oct election date, after
three years without parliament

Suspect in Houston officer
shooting to appear in court Monday

U.S. presidential hopeful Sanders
gains ground on Clinton in Iowa poll

Obama invites Pakistan PM
Sharif for October visit

Egypt to hold parliamentary
election starting October 18-19

U.S., allies conduct 20 air strikes
against Islamic State: U.S. military

Nigeria's security agency says arrested
20 suspected Boko Haram chiefs

Iran nuclear deal now
backed by 31 senators

Gunmen attack remote Pakistan
airport, kill two engineers

Europe trades blame as migrants'
bodies pulled from Mediterranean

Christie says criticism of FedEx-like
immigrant tracking is 'ridiculous'

Swazi police confirm 13 die in
crash en route to royal ceremony

Germany calls for more European
solidarity in refugee crisis

Scioli expands lead in Argentina
presidential race, runoff seen

Two dead, massive outages after
windstorm slams Washington state

Greek leftists say they would apply
bailout but fight to ease pain

Migrants in Hungary seek traffickers
on trip 'from death to death'

Putin pumps iron to show Russians
his healthy, wholesome side

French PM says to stick to
reforms despite party heckles

Sudan's Bashir to visit China
despite international arrest warrant

Four civilians, two police officers
killed in attacks in southeast Turkey

Islamic State targeted in 22 airstrikes
in Iraq, Syria: U.S. Military

Boeing uses its clout to
control supplier consolidation

Democratic Senator Merkley airs
support for Iran nuclear deal

Iran jails two people for 10
years on espionage charges

Irish government says Sinn Fein must
help ensure IRA put 'out of business'

Thousands troop to Philippine highway
for third night in Church protest

Migrant boat sinks off Libyan coast,
kills at least seven: official

After autopsies on refugees found in truck,
Austrian police presume they suffocated

Brazil's crafty Senate boss
helps keep Rousseff afloat

Sharper forecasts may help avert
repeat of Katrina disaster

Hungarian police detain fifth
suspect for migrant deaths in truck

Fire at Saudi oil workers compound
kills 11, injures more than 200

Mystery man in Bangkok bomb
probe 'never said a word'

Malaysia's Mahathir calls for
'people power' movement to topple PM

Italy's Renzi brushes off
concerns over Senate reform drive

Swiss reject Indian request
for help in arms case

Houston police officer killed
because of uniform: county sheriff

Egypt summons UK ambassador over
criticism of Al Jazeera trial

Huge protest in Tokyo rails
against PM Abe's security bills

French PM booed by young Socialists as
party split over pro-business policy

U.S. national security adviser discusses
militant attacks in Pakistan talks

Saudi-led coalition air strike kills
36 Yemeni civilians: residents

Malaysia's ruling party promises huge
rally to trump anti-government protests

Dutch plan tougher asylum policy
as migrants flock to Europe

Ten years later, 'unbowed' New Orleans
reflects on Hurricane Katrina disaster

Afghan forces regain control of a
symbolic district in south

India's Modi accepts defeat on
contentious land decree, will change law

China investigates former
chairman of Wuhan Iron and Steel

Brazilian weekly says Lula
lobbied for Odebrecht in Cuba

Fan dies after fall
in Atlanta stadium

Pressure mounts on Malaysian PM
as protests spill into second day

Bid to lift Guatemala president's
immunity advances in Congress

Beijing battens down, cranks up
propaganda ahead of war parade

Man faces capital murder charge
in killing of Houston deputy

American arrested on Sierra
Leone 'blood diamond' charges

Republican Christie proposes tracking
immigrants like FedEx packages

Man arrested in killing of Houston
deputy, faces capital murder charge

Suspect arrested in shooting
death of Houston deputy

Fed's Fischer sees inflation
rebound, allowing gradual rate hikes

Black Lives Matter marches
on Minnesota State Fair

Refugee children, close to
death, found in van in Austria

Burkina dismisses election
candidates linked to ex-president

Construction accident closes
down major San Francisco freeway

Thousands rally in Beirut
against political leaders, rot

European ministers agree more railway
security, urge Schengen changes

Three refugee children found
critically ill in Austria

South Sudan rivals trade
accusations over new fighting

'Good reason to believe' inflation
will rise: Fed's Fischer

Greek opinion polls show Syriza
leads but by narrow margin

Hungary detains three Bulgarians,
one Afghan in migrant truck deaths

Hollande, Merkel, Putin back
bid for new Ukraine ceasefire

Christian group occupies Philippine
highway for second night

Three children found in critical
condition on refugee truck: APA

Austrian police pin hopes of
identifying dead refugees on cellphones

Buffett's Berkshire takes $4.48
billion stake in Phillips 66

Like New Orleans, second-line
parades struggle but survive

Myanmar bans parties from
criticizing army in state media

Chad executes 10 Boko Haram
members by firing squad: sources

Erika no longer a tropical
storm, loses steam over Cuba

Police kill bystander when New
York undercover gun buy goes bad

Protesters begin to gather
in Beirut before major rally

Iran's Rouhani says military power not
affected by nuclear deal: state TV

Yellen ally pours cold water
on rule-based monetary policy

Malaysia's Mahathir joins
protesters calling for PM to go

China grants amnesty to mark
anniversary of WW2 victory

Amnesty calls for police restraint
ahead of major Lebanon rally

Turkish jets join U.S.-led
coalition strikes on Islamic State

Suspect in custody in ambush
of Houston sheriff's deputy

Satellite images confirm Syrian
temple destruction: U.N.

Erika dissipates as tropical
storm: National Hurricane Center

Turkish jets take part in U.S.-led strikes on
Islamic State for first time: foreign ministry

Military plane crashes in
northern Nigeria, killing seven

Russia says Ukrainian
hostage freed in Afghanistan

EU parliament chief attacks
'cynical' states over refugee crisis

Poll lead for Greece's Syriza narrows
as Tsipras presses for new mandate

Funeral for slain Missouri teen as
family questions police shooting

Libya arrests three suspected
smugglers over migrant boat disaster

Thousands rally to pile
pressure on Malaysia's PM

Dozens of young Swazi women
die on road to royal ceremony

With rhythm and reverence, New
Orleans marks 10 years since Katrina

French journalists probed on suspicion
of blackmailing Moroccan king

IMF's Lagarde says restructuring
should suffice for Greek debt

Thai police arrest foreign
man over Bangkok bombing

Controlled explosions
shake Afganistan's Kabul

Egyptian court sentences three
Al Jazeera journalists to prison

Obama heads north to Alaska, where
drilling decision looms large

North Korea agrees to talks
with South on family reunions

Ashley Madison courted several
buyers, landed none before attack

Lebanon should investigate use
of force in protests: Amnesty

Anguish of 'disappearance' continues
across the world, say campaigners

Local Syrian ceasefires break
down as shelling resumes

Nigeria says uncovers Boko
Haram spy ring at Abuja airport

Hurricane Ignacio rolls
across Pacific toward Hawaii

Ceasefire breaks down in
three areas in Syria: monitor

Tropical storm losing strength as it
nears Florida, 20 dead in Dominica

Houston sheriff's deputy
fatally shot at gas station

Kentucky clerk seeks Supreme Court
help to deny gay marriage licenses

Pensioner killed in Venezuela
supermarket melee, opposition says

New Mexico's prosecutor charges
state official with embezzlement

Los Angeles committee gives support
to bid to host 2024 Olympics

U.N.'s Ban defends China parade
trip after Japanese concern: Xinhua

Biden beloved by top Democrats;
his candidacy, not so much

Man who shot Virginia journalists
identified with 9/11 attacks: sheriff

Exclusive: Russia's Kaspersky threatened
to 'rub out' rival, email shows

Oregon priest goes missing
after hidden camera allegations

White supremacist admits to three
Kansas murders, seeks acquittal

Columbia University seeks to end lawsuit
by accused student in mattress case

Venezuela's Maduro to visit
China, Vietnam for finance deals

Tropical Storm Erika losing its
punch as it heads for Florida

Obama to name James O'Brien
hostage affairs envoy

Wild week for
markets ends quietly

Former New Hampshire prep school
student not guilty of rape

Former Arkansas treasurer
sentenced to 30 months for bribery

New York TSA agent charged with
molesting traveler in bogus search

Syrians fear for relatives
after Austrian migrant tragedy

Obama reassures Jewish groups
on U.S.-Israel relationship

Greece's Syriza to win election
but face setback, polls show

Chicago school closure battle
intensifies with hunger strike

Trial reset for Baltimore man
charged with cutting hose in riot

Planned Parenthood goes to court
to fight funding cuts in Alabama

Judge orders former Ohio
deputy treasurer to prison

Iraqi PM orders easier access to
Baghdad's Green Zone as protests surge

New Turkish cabinet includes opposition,
but little policy change seen

Democratic support for Clinton at
lowest since 2012: Reuters poll

U.S. court hands win to NSA
over metadata collection

U.S. confirms Islamic State computer
expert killed in air strike

Rebekah Brooks returning to
News Corp as UK chief: FT

Magnitude 5.5 quake shakes
buildings in Peruvian capital

Obama: U.S., Israel in talks 'for
months' over security cooperation

Central African Republic armed
group frees enslaved children

French Socialists see reason
to hope with Greens in turmoil

Nationalist and pro-Kurdish opposition
given Turkish cabinet posts

Virginia governor calls for gun
controls after journalists shot

Web campaign raises $67,800 for
Syria refugee family in a day

Libyan drownings, truck of
corpses drive up migrant toll

Erdogan approves new Turkish
interim government: statement

Bangladesh arrests two more suspects
over killing of secular blogger

Biden backers eye gay support,
money for presidential bid

North Carolina policeman won't face
retrial in fatal shooting of black man

Kenyan gets 15 years in prison in U.S.
for funding Islamist militant groups

White supremacist defends killings,
says Jews must be stopped

White House says disagrees with court
decision blocking clean water rule

Dutch must end 'Black Pete'
racial stereotypes: U.N. body

Republican Rubio attacks
China's Xi ahead of visit

Court ruling on NSA data collection shows
program is constitutional: White House

Evacuation of wounded in
Syrian areas delayed: sources

Europe questions border rules
after train attack, migrant moves

Slain Virginia TV journalists
shot both in head and body

Inmate left to inhale own feces
can sue NY prison officials

No suspect identified in shooting
death of Georgia university student

Mozambique journalist
killed in drive-by shooting

Oklahoma day care probed for
drugging kids to get them to sleep

Saudi-led air strikes kill 10
people in central Yemen: officials

Appeals court upholds protest
ban on Supreme Court plaza

Wellington boots from Glastonbury
donated to Calais migrants

Virginia television journalists shot
in heads, bodies: medical examiner

U.N. plans new Libya
talks next week in Geneva

Shooting death of student at
Georgia university investigated

Forget goals, get back to nature to save
planet, says Indian conservationist

Georgia university investigating
fraternity's alleged racist taunts

U.S. court rules for government over
NSA metadata collection program

Virginia teen gets 11 years
for supporting Islamic State

President Obama to meet with
German President Gauck in October

U.S. says committed to transition
away from Syria's Assad

It's a boy! Washington zoo
gives details on new panda cub

Switzerland says regrets envoy's
display of Netanyahu cartoon

Austria, Libya count dead as number of
migrants crossing Mediterranean soars

China to parade high-tech weaponry in
signal of strength, and shop window

Florida Governor declares state
of emergency ahead of storm Erika

Iranian ship and crew escape after 5
months in captivity off Somali coast

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