Ruby Ramblings


Bail us out
January 30, 2009, 2:36 am
Filed under: Books, Politics | Tags: , , ,

I could go on for hours, but I won’t, about how the current US government bailouts are really one of the giant signs that the overarching American mentality needs a giant overhaul. Keep the people undereducated, con them into taking bad loans and consuming so much people have to buy storage units to keep the stuff they can’t fit into their houses they can’t afford, and then give giant rewards and bailouts to the companies running it all.

I heard a great idea on John Stewart last night. Use the bailout money to pay off outstanding consumer debt. Spread it out among families and give it to the banks to pay off car loans, student loans, and mortgages. Get the people out from under the crushing consumer debt that keeps most Americans immobilized (and hence depressed, uninterested in the rest of the world, undereducated, overworked, underinsured…..). This would put money back into the banks, and create a huge sigh of relief and rise in this apparently ever important “consumer confidence”. Sounds socialist. Maybe, but I don’t see how giving money to the people who already have way too much of it and handle it extremely poorly is going to fix anything.

There was an interesting story on NPR today about John Keynes, the person that the Obama administration has based their economic plan on. This is not a very reassuring thing. I don’t know enough about economics to know if his 1938 theory is a good one. He claims that the best way to pull a society out of a depression is to pour a huge influx of government money into the economy. Using his calculations, a minimum of 650 billion would need to be spent to pull the US out of it’s current pile of quicksand.

What worries me the most though, is that this man believed firmly in eugenics, had no respect for the working class, was a blatant bigot, and believed only men who had graduated from Cambridge university were intelligent enough to run anything of importance. What I want to know is when are we going to start looking toward leaders who are admirable in their entirety. I’m not interested in people who may have been brilliant economic theorists, but would have secretly lauded the holocaust.

What is it going to take before there is a mental shift where this country embraces the notion that if you want a good life, you have to live a good life. You can’t lie, cheat, and steal your way through life and expect to sail through with no mishaps. I would argue the entire consumer, strip mall lifestyle is the embodiment of that. Americans use far more resources, then most of the rest of the countries in the world COMBINED. These resources do not come from our own soil. It would behoove us as a whole to think about where they do come from.

Keynes most prominent work on economics  The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (Great Minds Series) .

Good story on DemocracyNow.org featuring William Grieder author of One World Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism and The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy.

New book from progressive economist Paul Krugman The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008.



The Future of America
January 27, 2009, 4:45 pm
Filed under: Politics, War | Tags: , , ,

Simon Shuma with Bill Moyers on the Future of America

Above is a link to a great video on Bill Moyers journal. Shuma is a British writer who toured America making observations on how the cultural landscape is changing, including the rise in the fear of “the other.”

The American FutureSimon Schama’s The American Future: A History

The US has harbored this myth of inclusion and moral superiority for decades. The myth of this being a welcoming land of immigrants is one created out of the convenience of the American people’s horribly short memory. The advantage of not having strong history classes in the public schools, is that what we don’t remember can’t affect us. How soon we forget that Andrew Jackson was the first master of ethnic cleansing long before WWII. The class and culture wars in the neighborhoods of Boston and New York, where each new wave of immigrants caused cries of the end of the country. First the Germans were going to destroy everything, then the Irish, now, as the woman in the video proclaims, “The Mexicans come with their diseases.”

Geography alone is an interesting factor in this perspective. Huge and isolated, we are both removed, and in a large way, protected from any country that might have a real problem with us. Our skewed and lacking view of the world comes in large part that the majority of Americans can’t afford to travel even if they want to. (I know that may be hard for some to believe, but remember that 90% of the wealth in America is owned by 1% of the people.) Now, this is a slippery subject, and I am not comparing poverty in America to poverty in a lot of other countries, because they are very different things, but 58% of all Americans will live below the US poverty line at some point in their adult lives.

And what does lack of exposure, combined with the memory of a time when you couldn’t afford groceries, combined with the fear of being in that place again – well, desperation, blame, and discrimination. In some people it inspires compassion and community, but I’m not getting the sense that we are leaning that way as a whole.

I read a lot of books about recent political violence, and I can’t help but get the sense that as an American, growing up in these protected lands, that, with the exception of journalist and soldiers, we really don’t have a clue. No one wants bombs dropped in their own backyard, but being privileged in this way has ruined our empathy, and our understanding. Put aside the moral highground, and notice that there is a lot more happening in the world then a bunch of people losing their houses to bad loans, at least if you live in a camper in Tennessee, as I do now, it’s not going to be blown-up while I’m in it. What I’m getting at, is that I have a real problem with a country that has never experienced war in it’s own neighborhoods, but has such huge opinions about it elsewhere.

I don’t think people really talk about war here. Sure there are political arguments about what Bush did, there are news reports on Gaza, but no one on the streets is talking about it. Life is the same here, shopping, work, dinner. Brush teeth, start again.

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” Benjamin Franklin



January Reads

I believe my bookie friends will agree, that almost as much time is spent on book websites as it is actually reading. As if it isn’t enough that I update what books I’m reading on facebook, on goodreads, and on Bookcrossing, but I also play games on Bookobsessed, and trade on Paperbackswap.

Then I saw a new way to post cover pics on the blog, and I can’t resist. I want to make a visual list of all the books I read this month. I want to see it, in full color, and not only that but I feel the need to make you look at it too. It’s like that contest in Elementary school where you bet yourself how many books you could read in one month, and if you met your goal, you got a coupon for a free pizza. Except with this I’m just trying to bully my friends into reading good books. :)

Books I read in January, all of them worthy of recommendation to you.

Post American WorldThe Post-American World

SnowSnow

OmnivoreThe Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

Snow FlowerSnow Flower and the Secret Fan: A Novel

BuddhaThe Buddha at War: Peaceful Heart, Courageous Action in Troubled Times

NamesakeThe Namesake: A Novel

Pity the NationPity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon (Nation Books)

EmbersEmbers

GeishaThe Life of a Geisha

God's PoliticsGod’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It

Short Stories 2000The Best American Short Stories 2000 (The Best American Series)

Grace Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith



Athena- The Goddess of Heroic Endeavors

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There is a statue in Nashville, inside the life-size replica of the Parthenon built for a fair in 1897, that stands almost 42 feet tall.  The statue is inspiring and quite impressive, the Goddess of heroic endeavors, also considered the Goddess of the “disciplined side of war.”  Whatever that is supposed to mean.  Her shield is called the “aegis”.  Like the Aegis destroyers, military gun ships, built in my home state of Maine at Bath Iron Works.  Aegis means something under protection of a powerful, knowledgeable, or benevolent source; mighty presumptuous don’t you think?
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On the way home from visiting this museum and taking pictures of the giant woman presiding over war and heroics, I listened to a story regarding the recent move toward using robotics in war.  The NPR story on P.W. Singer’s new book Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Centurydescribed a terrible future (and present) of warfar by remote control.  Has no one read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, The Machine Stops by E.M. Forester, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Heinlein? 

Anyone, anyone at all?

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The ramifications of using robots to do jobs that humans used to do raises insane ethical questions.  Sure it’s great to use robots to unarm landminds, saving life and limb of soldier, not to mention the local children, but what about killing by video game controls?  The army is actual setting up tactical video games in malls using the games to lure young men into joining the service.  It’s easy to disassociate killers from the killed in a video game.  No remorse, no guilt, and no immediate retaliation.  One of the issues talked about in the radio interview is how when you are two thousand miles away controlling a robot, you can create your own reality.  Singer describes a situation where they were controlling a gunman robot from afar, believing they were targeting the so-called Chemical Ali.  When they blew the guy up, watching him bounce several times as he hit the ground, they cheered and congratulated themselves on killing a person the US government considered a huge threat and major terrorist.  They found out several days later that the man was a civilian, with no connections to any terrorist groups.

What if we tried this the old fashioned way.  Send people out with shields, spears, and a funny looking headdress.  Make them look each other in the eye, and see how many teenage boys want to sign up then.

Currently reading:

The Buddha at War: Peaceful Heart, Courageous Action in Troubled Times
by Robert Sachs


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Quote: “May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness. May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. May they never be separated from the great happiness that is beyond suffering. May they dwell in great equanimity which is beyond passion, aggression, and prejudice.”

My old blog, including stories and photos from my ramblings around the US, Nepal, and Eastern Europe can be seen at www.myspace.com/therubycanary.




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