National Self Esteem

There is no shortage of blog posts and online commentary about the US elections right now.  Despite being dedicated to under reported news, today I’m going to add just a little more to this excessively covered, global concern.

There is this long tradition in the United States that during presidential elections, candidates constantly play the patriotic card and use variations of these slogans:

The US has the greatest workforce in the world.

The US is the greatest force for good in the world.

The US is the greatest country in the world.

Yet anyone who studies history or labor statistics will find plenty of evidence contrary to these statements. Actually you don’t even have to study anything, regardless of country, when you read those statements you should recognize they aren’t true.  Yet election after election, the two mainstream ruling parties say these three over and over.

Watching speeches and debates between Obama and McCain or Biden and Palin, all of them make sure to spew these empty lines as if they’re trying to appease some segment of the audience that despite all logic and facts to the contrary, want to believe this is true.

Thankfully there are countries in the world were candidates don’t do this. Smaller countries, older countries that have weathered mass destruction and extreme poverty, they don’t bother repeating mantras about being the best and the greatest in the world.  Even the Finnish national anthem is about being one nation among many great nations of the world.

I wonder if I will live to see a major candidate in the US that finally stops pandering to jingoism and a mass superiority complex.  Besides being inaccurate, these types of statements help validate and continue destructive and failed policies and practices. I also hope this tradition doesn’t spread further in the world. Of course nationalism is not simply an American phenomenon and it isn’t going to disappear. But this rhetoric of we are the best, we are always right, everything we do is good; if a country is ever going to get better and a candidate make a real change, this practice will have to end.

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The Super Rich vs The Super Poor in the US

Normally I prefer to NOT talk about the US elections. I’m not very impressed or excited by the actions and promises of either candidate of the 2 parties that share control of the country.  Sure Obama says things I like better than the things that McCain says. But that doesn’t automatically mean I’m satisfied or impressed.

One of the big issues for me is poverty.  Gone is the one candidate who at least spoke the words “the poor” in his speeches and proposed policies (John Edwards), the remaining 2 candidates call everyone working families or hard working Americans, little buzz phrases that are just vague enough to make everyone think this candidate is speaking for them.   Meanwhile poverty in the US is on the increase, and also alarming, the wealthy class is more wealthy than ever in history and that gap between the two is wider then ever.  A fact that opens the door to many social, financial, and political problems.. yet there is little action or demand to put a stop to it.  (yes yes, both candidates mention their concern for CEO’s making so much money, I’m aware of that)

All this to bring me to my big recommendation of the day; the latest edition of Radio Open Source, where Chris interviews Chuck Collins.  While I’ve never heard of Chuck Collins, who is a specialist in the areas of US incomes, property, and economics, I found myself rewinding various segments to listen again.

You’ve heard it said before, though rarely do leaders or corporate media investigate it, the inequality boom in the United States is dangerous.  I highly recommend listening to this interview and soaking it in, it is the kind of critical thinking that we should be pummeling these candidates with.. obligating them to not just make the occasional lament, but to lay out a serious point by point plan for turning the tide and making it politically and hopefully cuturally a priority to preserve opportunity and keep the playing field of life and work from becoming an out of control thunderdome.

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Manufacturing Their Cold War

For almost 2 decades, the military alliance known as NATO has been expanding to include most of Eastern Europe.  Originally founded to oppose the Soviet Union and it’s allies, NATO leaders have insisted for the last few years that it is no longer to oppose Russia, but to fight terrorism and increase security.  Meanwhile many of the countries which border Russia to the west or were once part of the Soviet Union, have become members.  Everyone except for a few, including most significantly – Russia.  Still this didn’t stir up much conversation in the West, even if it does make the Russian government very nervous.

Meanwhile there is this very expensive and theoretical project known as missile defense, which this blog has been focusing on ever since it was founded. You remember, the missiles that would be positioned all over the globe in order to protect the United States and so-called allies from Rogue States and terrorist groups who might launch missiles against them.  This system would supposedly knock out the other missiles.  Tests have long proven either failures or inconclusive, but that hasn’t stopped the huge amounts of funding from the US congress.  Meanwhile the among the nation’s who would allow these missiles to be stationed on their soil there are, once again, Eastern European nations that go right up to the Russian border.  And yet again, it is nothing against the Russians, the US government tells us, it is merely a coincidence that missiles are installed in such places.

Now we have this pathetic situation in Georgia, which I’ll leave the explanations to more experienced sources out there. But now the threats grow louder and less concealed, the US says don’t do that and lines up with Georgia, for the first time in a long time painting Russia as the aggressor and enemy. – Immediately the issue of who is in NATO comes up, specifically by the very desperate and politically savvy Georgian president.  And then, coincidentally, the issue of missile defense is on the front page of the major newspapers.

If you are in the weapons manufacturing business, which includes the people who make missile defense, this is all very convenient.  The governments, the media, and the public, are finally falling into step with the type of scenario where you can get EVEN MORE funding for your missiles and maybe cash in as nations very easily slip back into cold war logic, which so many of them have wished to go back to anyway. (the good old days for some)

My more simple point: Pay attention not just to what is happening in Georgia. See the larger picture of who benefits and just what is being set up here.

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Work on the Candidate

Many of you know I’ve lived outside the United States since late 2001.  If I were trying to seem poetic or sentimental I would mention that it was 2 months after 9/11.  Or I would bring up the extreme difficulty and hostility I experienced trying to do research as a freelance journalist into the disappearing immigrants of Arab descent.  But thats not really it either, the reasons I left are more complex and less dramatic.

Still throughout the last 7 years I’ve often wondered if a change of president would make it more appealing to live once again in the US.  But I can also tell you that one thing I’ve figured out for myself is that the president is not what is wrong with the United States.  No the problems go beyond the white house and beyond politics.  So a change of president does not equal a change in culture… things don’t happen that quickly or easily.

Speaking with one of my most valued friends back in NJ today, he said to me “Obama mania is sweeping the nation man… its going to be great.”  To which I responded “Just because there is Obama mania does not mean things will be great.” Which is the response I feel I need to give more and more these days.

Like his profile? Sure why not. Plenty to like about that life and family history.  Like his speaking style? Most of the time, although if we’re honest with ourselves we know that 75% of the time he’s not really saying anything, just using the talking points and the slogans like advisors tell him to.  Like his politics? Im not sure about that anymore either. From Free Trade, to Middle East policies, to Criminal Justice, Barak Obama says less and less that I can actually agree with or that differs with the same old populist politics of the last decades.

Obama mania is sweeping the nation.  It starts to sound like any one progressively minded should lay down their arms and embrace the man in the name of getting him elected.  Yet I propose.. hell.. I demand something else.  I demand that you hammer this candidate with questions. That you scrutinize his proposed policies, his staff choices, his voting record, and the details of the lofty promises or the shady relationships with questionable forces. Don’t jump on the bandwagon, stand up and ask your candidate to explain himself.  Run him through the ringer, before its too late, and we end up with a man that owes favors to the same old powerful interests and politics we never actually wanted.

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