The above link is to an Atlantic story that talks about how the social safety net actually increases the chances of taking the risk of being an entrepreneur. The evidence presented in the article seems to back this idea up. It personally seems like common sense to me. A safety net is not meant to provide someone with a comfortable middle class existence. It merely allows for survival in the face of economic hardship. If one knows they can take a risk starting their own business without facing abject poverty, it seems to me they would be more willing to take that risk.
There is a digital sign, very close to where I live, that lets the passerby know that 457 people have been killed on Texas roads this year. That is 457 people killed on the roads in the state of Texas only, in just over three months of one year. There were 2,877 victims during 911. So roughly one sixth of all of the people that were killed as the result of 911 have been killed through traffic accidents in the state of Texas this year from January 1st to March 24th.
Yet, no one is particularly troubled by this, unless of course they have been some how touched by one of these accidents in a personal way. Meanwhile when 911 happened we lost our collective shit, resulting in the invasion of a country that in no way was related to 911. That invasion led to far more death and destruction than 911 did. I am not saying 911 was not a horrible event. I am not saying that no response was necessary. I am only saying that if you compare the results of 911 to the results of what happen all the time, it didn’t warrant the kind of response that it created. We did not need to change every law in the land, drop bombs on other people, etc. We should have gone after the people directly responsible, mourned the dead in the way that we should mourn all people that have fallen before their time, and gotten back to business as usual.
I would imagine that most people would agree with this now, especially in concern with our ill advised adventure into Iraq. So why am I bringing this up? (And I’m even bringing it up again as I have touched upon this idea before. I am constantly reminded of this idea from the sign that I see every time I leave my house to go out into greater Austin.) Today over at Huffington Post the headline is about a plane crash in the Alps where right now 150 are feared dead. This number is less than a third of all the people that have been killed in Texas highways this year, and it is far away, so the chance of us knowing someone that died is even less. Yet, this is the HEADLINE at Huffington Post. I can only imagine what cable news is going to do with a story like this. I assume, and hopefully I’m wrong, but I doubt that I am, that cable news is going to have a fucking field day with it!
We live in a democracy. To have a democracy that functions efficiently, it is important that the citizens of the democracy can assess what’s going on and make educated choices concerning problems. Yet here in America, a sort of tabloid lizard brain runs the show in determining what is important to focus on. That is if you take the view that things aren’t being actively manipulated to keep us afraid and in the dark.
When horrible events occur, which with news cameras in almost every part of the globe, they are going on consistently in some form or fashion on a daily basis, we must try to maintain some kind of perspective on things. As citizens of the United States and as citizens of the greater world, what actually concerns us? What is a tragedy and what is a threat? Given that we as humans only have so much time in a day to devote to understanding the world around us, what is really important for us to know and what is not? When is something blown out of proportion to where it actually prevents us from making wise decisions? This does not meant that we should be callous to suffering. It only means that we should not let suffering blind us into creating other suffering in the world.
The way that our news media operates actually causes us to be less informed, as we are overloaded with the horrific and the sensational. Anytime a news story comes on one should ask, “Does this affect me and my life in anyway? Does this increase the likelihood that I am going to make better decisions about the world? If it does not, can I acknowledge that I am watching this for mere entertainment or escapism?”
I would prefer that all Americans quit watching TV news. If they can’t, I would at least prefer that they limited the amount of time they spent viewing it. TV news, even though I mentioned Huffington Post up above, is the worst at pumping up false threats, while ignoring real events that we should be learning about. However, if one is not going to stop watching TV news, I think people should at least take the right set of tools with them, as they try to sort through the insanity of the day.
Critical thinking is more important than ever. In a world full of information, it is those that understand how to interpret information that are going to stand the best of thriving in this world. Unfortunately our schools are moving more towards standardized testing, more towards rewarding the unthinking worker bee. These are the exact opposite of the skills that are truly needed in the modern world.
Today I was at a friend’s house watching the new History Channel miniseries about the Revolutionary War. While we were watching it my friend asked me why people wore wigs back in that time period. I had to find out and upon doing so found this article:
For nearly two centuries, powdered wigs—called perukes—were all the rage. The chic hairpiece would have never become popular, however, if it hadn’t been for a venereal disease, a pair of self-conscious kings, and poor hair hygiene.
The peruke’s story begins like many others—with syphilis. By 1580, the STD had become the worst epidemic to strike Europe since the Black Death. According to William Clowes, an “infinite multitude” of syphilis patients clogged London’s hospitals, and more filtered in each day. Without antibiotics, victims faced the full brunt of the disease: open sores, nasty rashes, blindness, dementia, and patchy hair loss. Baldness swept the land.
At the time, hair loss was a one-way ticket to public embarrassment. Long hair was a trendy status symbol, and a bald dome could stain any reputation. When Samuel Pepys’s brother acquired syphilis, the diarist wrote, “If [my brother] lives, he will not be able to show his head—which will be a very great shame to me.” Hair was that big of a deal.
The rest of the article is interesting as well. Eventually Louis XIV, King of France, and Charles II, King of England, also started wearing wigs. (Both of these kings were also thought possibly to have had syphilis.) Well once kings start wearing wigs it is only a matter of time until others do.
So basically you had a bunch of rich people that were fucking too much, got syphilis, started wearing wigs, and then they influenced a whole lot of other people to start wearing wigs. What is so funny is that judges used to wear wigs in the U.S. Judges in England still wear them. So you had and have all of these so called respectable people carrying on a tradition that in part started because of an STD.
It kind of makes you wonder what other respectable traditions have their basis in bullshit too…
I have been lucky enough to have traveled to Europe many times. I felt in reading this article, based on what I have seen, that there is a lot of truth to it. I have also been a lot of places where suggesting that America doesn’t do everything the best will drive people crazy. That seems batshit insane to me. It is like if you were on a really good football team and you saw another winning team in a different division. Wouldn’t you try to watch them to see how they were winning, so that you could be even better?
The fact is that other parts of the world do some things better than we do. Instead of being afraid of it we should try to learn from it and make our country better. Being a self-declared champion is meaningless and delusional.
Hat tip to my friend Liza.
The above article is from Huffington Post. The fact that the House GOP are again trying to stick it to immigrants would be funny, if it weren’t so hateful. The reason it would be funny is that they are unknowingly creating their own doom. Not only is it wrong what they are doing, it makes no sense politically if you look at the demographics that are coming down the pike. They have only been able to hold on to power as long as they have because of all of the gerrymandering that they have done to protect their seats. Eventually this tactic won’t work. As America becomes more and more of a multicolored nation, they are dooming themselves to eventual irrelevance.
Now that explains why it is stupid. Why is it wrong? Spend some time reading what immigrants go through in this country all of the time: How they live in fear, how families are broken up, how they are thrown into a labyrinthine injustice system that makes no sense. These are people. These are moms, dads, brothers, sisters, uncles, cousins, that mostly just want to live a life of decency and follow their dreams. Immigrants, dating all the way back to before the Civil War, have long been the scapegoat for America’s problems. Read about the American Party (or The Know Nothing) or if you don’t want to do that much work, watch Gangs of New York to see a fictionalized version. Here is the wikipedia page for The Know Nothing Party:
Hispanics are the targets now, but before it was Germans, Irish, Italians, whoever was the latest group of huddled masses looking for a new start. Well yes, going forward there needs to be some kind of sane immigration policy that actually works to keep people out that enter illegally, but these people are here and they aren’t going anywhere. We can either treat them with kindness or surrender to the powers of hate and ignorance. I know which side I would rather be on.
A family member just sent me the above article from Salon. It is about how many people in the world are increasingly viewing America as something to be watched closely, if not outright feared. Although I have traveled less extensively than the author, I have been in several foreign countries over the last few years and can vouch for the overall sentiment of the article.
I remember specifically being in England during the Bush years. Many people would be slightly cold and then sheepishly ask me what I thought of Bush. Once I explained that I voted against him and hated his policies, it was like a party had started. Shots and embraces came out, and suddenly I was everyone’s best friend.
So many Americans have no idea not only how the rest of the world views us, but also how much they know about us. When you go to foreign countries you are often asked deep political questions by average people concerning the U.S. Often these are questions that you are not sure if many of your own countrymen and women could answer.
My Dad has related to me many times a story from a trip to Kenya. He was walking down the street, in an area that was slightly impoverished, and a man walked up to him. After finding out he was an American, the man asked him, “So tell me about Jesse Helms?” Meanwhile I have gone out to drinks with girls here, during a U.S. presidential election, and been stupefied to find out they didn’t know who the vice-presidential candidates were. Now I know that I am drawing conclusions from limited experiences, but there are many more stories that I have personally witnessed on both sides that make me believe that the author of the above article knows what they are talking about. It’s strange out there…
A lot of people hate Congress, but what they don’t realize is that it has improved! What follows is the behavior of Senator Willard Saulsbury of Delaware as reported in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals. (Sualsburg was pat of the group that opposed the Emancipation Proclamation):
In the Senate, Willard Saulsbury of Delaware took to the floor to prevent a vote sustaining the administration on the suspension of habeas corpus. He could hardly keep his footing during a liquor-fueled harangue, while he inveighed against the president “in language fit only for a drunken fishwife,” calling him “an imbecile” and claiming that he was “the weakest man ever placed in high office.” Called to order by Vice President Hamlin, he refused to take his seat. When sergeant at arms approached to take Saulsbury into custody, he pulled out his revolver. “Damn you,” he said, pointing the pistol at the sergeant’s head, “if you touch me I’ll shoot you dead.” The wild scene continued for some time before Saulsbury was removed from the Senate floor.
Just remember what’s out there in the American bloodstream, right below the surface. Happy New Year!