By R.J. Huneke
In brief, there has been an overwhelmingly negative response to the United States President Obama from anti-liberal to liberal-minded conservatives that claim that the President is forever in the wrong because of his detrimental actions with regards to the two most vital areas of governing (in their opinion, not mine): Economics and Defense. It goes beyond having a progressive thinking, democratic, left-leaning makeup and extends an argument that only the conservatives in the US have a mind to protect Americans from terrorism, economic hardship, and all of the myriad threats that the world imposes on the country from without and within.
Though I will admit there are issues that I differ with the views of President Obama on – Guantanamo is still open, for one – I am a strong supporter of this leader who has often looked beyond the prevalent political parties and lobbyists in the US and fought for the betterment of the people, which is something that has been severely lacking in American politics in my lifetime.
I was recently asked to name one significant positive thing that the President has done to benefit Americans with regards to both Economics and Defense, the logic being that only a Republican and a conservative President could hold those two areas in any regard.
Here are a few of the things that President Obama has done to better the United States Economic and Defense state to date:
By Aaron Meltzer
To make one thing clear in the beginning of this post, the definition of class that is described and used in the post comes from Michael Zweig, a professor of economics at Stony Brook University.
In our current conception of the word, class is generally defined as a subsection of the income distribution. We speak of class as divided between the lower class-those on the lower end of the income distribution-, upper class- those on the high end of the income distribution-, and middle class for those in the middle. However this obscures the real use of class. Class is understood as an economic principle. As per the experience of the average person not everyone interacts with the economy in the same way. Given our consumer-based view of the economy it seems only natural to divide people based on their purchasing power.
In my opinion, there is little to be gained from understanding economic divisions this way. What more do we understand about the economy knowing that some people have greater purchasing power than others? To be sure it is not something that should be ignored, but whether it should be elevated to one of the main divisions of society is doubtful. When people understand the division the populace with respect to their interaction with the economy, division by income distribution is associated with wealth, opulence, and power. After all, in our modern world money is by and large power. It is definitely true that those with more money wield more power in our society, but where did they get this wealth? The answer is also obvious; the wealthy gained their wealth from their jobs and investment. Given more wealth means greater returns for investment, in a certain sense wealth can beget more wealth. What needs to be understood is the mechanism between the original wealth and the greater resulting wealth.
One such source has already been mentioned, namely a job. More specifically, the wealthiest tend to be the head of companies or societal icons. Focusing on the former, we take for granted today that CEO’s are paid well. How could it be any other way? However theoretically speaking a CEO could be paid less than their workers. If under the hypothetical scenario a union is particularly powerful, this is possible. However it has never happened. Why it has never happened is the key. It has never happened because the heads of companies wield power. Notice in the previous description our poor CEO was only poor because the union was more powerful than he or she was. Therein lies the solution; wealth is accumulated by the most powerful. Societal icons owe their power to the fact that those they work for earn even more money, and given their scarcity they can demand large wages from their employers. Hence, a more fundamental and accurate way to define class is by the power relations in the workplace. The power relation is specified for the workplace because that is, of course, the only place wealth is generated and hence the only sector we are concerned with.
Using this definition, Zweig proceeds to define the class structure of the US in the following way: those who have little power, characterized as people who simply do what they are told in the work place is the working class. These are characterized as assembly workers, secretaries, certain teachers and so forth. Those who have some power to control their workflow but do not own the company is the middle class. They are characterized as professionals, lawyers etc. Finally there is the Capitalist class, who control and give guidance to companies. That said small business owners can still be placed in the middle class since their market environment, and thus what they need to do to stay afloat is often influenced by actions of other larger companies. Zweig proceeds then, using various data, to figure out how many people are in each class. The result is startling: the working class makes up 63% of the populace, the Capitalists 2%, and the middle class the remainder. In this conception, it is clear that the working class is the majority of the populace. As a side note exactly how these calculations are done, how to count people who are not working, and the ambiguities around the edges are dealt with in much greater detail in Zweig’s book The Working Class Majority.
The aforementioned definition helps us better understand the world around us. No better example is the attitude of Occupy Wall Street. Their rhetoric mainly revolves around income distribution. It is the 99% vs. the 1%. However I hardly think that the protesters, people angry about how their wages are flat or declining while their bosses earn ever-bigger bonuses, are protesting against Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga is probably in the 1%, she is likely in the upper class, and so by the previous definition she should be subject to protests too. However in our updated definition, the protestors are actually angry with the Capitalist class, of which Lady Gaga (unless she owns some product line) is not a part. Henceforth with our new definition we can point out a specific section of the populace without exception that is the actual subject of protest and anger, whereas in our previous definition we had to provide exceptions.
In sum, our current conception of class does a great disservice to our society as it attempts to grapple with rising income inequality and declining living standards for the working class. The media and politicians propagate it by constantly referring to the “middle class” as the section of income distribution most people belong to. A truck driver making a decent living does not experience events and does not have the same interests as a lawyer in the supposed upper middle class. One grapples with a boss bent on cutting wages the other searches for clients to boost his income. While both may potentially be in the same (although admittedly different ends) of the same income distribution, their experience in the workplace is fundamentally different. The lawyer may not need a union while the truck driver does. The lawyer may see a steady income while the truck driver struggles with bills. One is, in reality, in the working class, while the other the middle class, and this difference in power readily explains the difference in income and experience better than any whimsical division by income.
Aaron Meltzer is an Economics and Computer Science scholar attending Stony Brook University.
As Texas already tests out unmanned aircraft drones over its controversial borders, New York City reaches out to allow for drones to fill its skies.
This is not science fiction, or 1984, this is reality, as Pix11’s Kerry Drew points out:
“In a recent email obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, an NYPD Detective in the Counterterrorism Unit asks the Federal Aviation Administration about the use of drones as a way to protect the city.”
The advantages to drone planes are that they can be much smaller than pilot bearing ones and therefore, can easily be more maneuverable and spy worthy. If a drone is found out and shot down, as has happened in US drones that have accidentally traversed into Pakistan, no human beings are dead because of it. The only loss is the many millions of dollars that are literally burned up.
A fleet of drones could carry enough surveillance equipment, missiles, and tasers to singlehandedly collect video, audio, and pictorial evidence to theoretically bring down any extremist caught in the act of bomb making, so long as they are within site of a window (even if they are on the thirty-fifth floor of a midtown skyscraper).
Using drones in this manner sounds like a no-brainer, right?
But what do these adept James Bond-like spy machines have for flaws? For starters, human beings – at this point the US military – run them; that is a big responsibility for an organization that continually overrides individual rational thinking for orders from higher-ups.
Who makes the biggest decisions? The politicians in power atop the chain of command do.
Human beings in government positions often are corrupt and in pursuit of personal interests and not those of the people they are meant to serve.
A pilot feels something – a conscience, perhaps – and ultimately is close enough to the situation when flying a plane to make the right call as to whether or nor to shoot.
Drones eliminate any closeness to a given situation, because the human controlling the plane is many miles away. Pushing a button to wipe out an enemy or their place is fairly easy when a superior officer is in your ear bellowing to “Fire!”
Teams of unmanned aircraft can systemically scale buildings, bridges, parks, and streets alike, in the pursuit of information. Everyone, inside and outside in the open air, can be photographed, cataloged, and infringed upon. The freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of privacy in one’s private home could all be forfeited in the name of national security.
But it seems that if you want privacy, you must have something to hide, right? So says those who do the spying . . .
The tug of war hurts.
The extremist right-wing politicians spurned their way into power, and it appears that they refuse to even negotiate politically with the other side (the left-wing). The Democrats have done little to help the situation in the US; they either agree to not negotiate with the Republican side (extreme and Tea Party laden as it might be) at all, or worse, they flounder like dying fish out of water amongst themselves, because certain agendas are not Democrat enough for them.
What does all of this generalization and summary of the complex political situation in the US actually mean?
Well, for starters the country suffers continually from a decades old 20th Century battle between the only two parties that are voting-wise worth a damn. And both sides are representatives of the super-rich colossus of Western society.
Only in America do the super-rich not only get every tax break and write-off and a disproportionate amount of income taxation, but they also hold all of the important political seats (themselves, or by those who they've bought).
President Obama is the first president since the 1980's to try and halt the growing gap. He is challenged at every turn by those from his own party and those in the opposing party. Let the man work
Think on this: the US is riddled with federal deficit and state deficit at nearly every juncture, yet the politicians continue to argue about what to cut from the middle and lower class Americans. Never mind that the disparity between the rich and the poor has grown every year from Reagan through George W. Bush (at times earlier too), but why does the income tax structure that is so much more even nearly everywhere else in the world provide such an unfair imbalance in the US?
Why do all of the millions or billions of little people have to make up for a deficit that could easily be written off with a marginal increase in the income tax of all of those who take in more than a few measly million US dollars a year?
The only answer I can come up with is ignorance. The politicians have kept the millions from marching on Washington D.C., because the majority of Americans do not request the most fundamental of tax changes: make the rich pay their fair share.
Spread the word. Please.
Written by Cassandra DeMario
Dr. Alan Gribben
336 Liberal Arts Building
Montgomery, AL 36124-4023
Dr. Alan Gribben,
I’m sure this is not the first letter you’ve received, nor will it be the last, but as a pre-service teacher I feel it is my obligation and privilege to enter the great debate you have started. I agree with you that there is offensive language within Mark Twain’s novel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Students exposed to the repulsive N word may be offended, like your daughter was.
In the introduction to your version you write, “We may applaud Twain's ability as a prominent American literary realist to record the speech of a particular region during a specific historical era, but abusive racial insults that bear distinct connotations of permanent inferiority nonetheless repulse modern-day readers.”
This is absolutely true. Modern-day readers do have this reaction. However, isn’t this the effect we want? As a future teacher, I want my students to understand that obscene words have literary merit. Readers are supposed to be disgusted and feel awkward about the words and subject, because that is the desired effect of the author.
As a literary scholar, you are probably aware of the obscenity trial against Lawrence Ferlinghetti for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” in 1957. During the trial, many literary scholars proclaimed the poem had no literary merit. The rhetoric was argued as repulsive, offensive, and unnecessary. However, the judge overseeing the trial, Judge Horn, deemed that the work has “redeeming social importance.” This set the precedent that repugnant language can be a valuable part of writing.
When I get to teach my students how to write a personal statement or write creatively, they will not be censored. I will teach them how to use language and when they can use certain conventions. They will be able to use obscene language if it enhances the meaning of their work, just as Mark Twain did. It’s important for students to know how to use obscene words because the writer’s job is to hold a mirror up to society. This is what I want to teach my students to do, but how can I if they believe obscene words should be omitted like you do? It is important for me to teach that the use of offensive words is a literary choice and tool to develop constructive work. Censoring our rhetoric will only devalue language and how it is used.
You are aware that the offensive words being replaced are important to this country’s past rhetoric. But do you know that these words are also important to today’s rhetoric? Students hear the N word in music, television, and movies all the time. Comparing the use of the word in Twain’s novel to how it is used in media today would be a great way to teach rhetoric, and explain how it changes over time.
Keeping literary works uncensored gives teachers the opportunity to show students the value of rhetoric and creative choices. They can learn how powerful rhetoric can be, and how they can use it in their own writing. I implore you to rethink your position on this issue, and realize the importance that obscene rhetoric has in writing and the teaching of writing.
This is a W2P Special Report: Free Speech is to be viable at all times, even when the twisted words of hatred (and politics) that are being stated are not pleasant to behold. But that is not to say that we have to continue to tune in and listen to the Talking Rhetoric-Spewing Heads that infuse their viewers/listeners with spouts of extremist right wing anti-government madness.
But wait, that sounds awfully one-sided. The reason for this folks is because we're talking about a one-sided argument. The most extremist left wing liberal does not go on to belch displays of fear/hate/war mongering shock jocking as does the Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Bill O'Reilly types. These loud-mouths spout insane ramblings, which are at times intertwined with confusing twists on half-truths, in order to shock and stir up more and more anger in their listeners to the point of overriding the rational portions of their (potentially already irrational) viewers/listeners' brains. Look up shock jocking and the psychology behind it. These madmen and madwomen are focusing hatred to make money off of their public and to warp these people to their narrow minded political views/agendas; the kicker here is that they constantly complain/attack the US system that allows for politics to play out politically and not violently, because they say it does not work (it worked for 8 years when Bush and the boys ran things).
The shock jocks do not incite violence, in most cases, directly. However, they work hard to undermine everything that is not 100% in agreement with their extremist views, and they leave the infuriated listeners to put together their own plans of violence to help a "broken" political system that cannot be fought against peacefully.
After the shooting of Giffords in Arizona, I have felt the need to speak out. It was not the words of the extremists, such as Beck, that caused a madman to shoot and kill innocent people at a political meeting; it was the work of a nut, plain and simple. But that nut clearly lived in an insane world where many other nuts are spouting such rhetoric of hate/violence that it is no wonder that the man used violence. There could have been a disgruntled nut job who sat in on the meeting naked, or went there with thousands of "No Health Care Plan" balloons to peacefully make a stink at a friendly meeting held by Giffords.
But we live in a world, according to the extremist Beck-types, where "nothing is fixable" when the right wing people are out of office; when there is no solution and you've convinced members of the public of this, what more can they do? Will they act out violently in frustration? Has their been any disgruntled nut jobs that have turned to violence lately?
Peaceful protests did not happen. We live in a televised world where the extremist nuts are the ones with millions of fans and followers, like Beck and Palin. They have the right to free speech, just as I do. So I suggest that we collectively shun the Evil Rhetoric and the Ones who speak/write such extremist hate-stirring words.
By R.J. Huneke
With the new editions of one of America's greatest writer's two most famous works, censorship infringes upon the freedom of speech rights that Mark Twain fought so vehemently for in his lifetime.
Apparently, with the Amendments to the Constitution, Americans have the freedom of speech until we die, at which time someone else can deem something you've written to be inappropriate, and since you cannot defend yourself, that someone can then censor the text.
This is the alarming reality that is thrust upon the new year in the US. NPR has just today released an Associated Press article (NPR.org) on the calamity that NewSouth Books, and Mark Twain scholar Alan Gribben, are bringing about in Alabama. It seems that no one in America is mature enough to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that Mark Twain originally wrote.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the fourth most banned book in the US, despite the fact many of the terms that cause it to be deemed inappropriate, were in fact used in a politically correct sense for the time, and it was published in 1885. In the spirit of Mark Twain I say FUCK political correctness altogether. The reality is this: the story has Huck Finn, a young boy, as its protagonist in a world where "nigger" would have been said more than the 219 times that it appears throughout the work. Twain depicts a real world that his young male adventures in, and he does not sugarcoat one of America's greatest works of fiction.
The reality that characters of slaves, such as the escaped "Jim", or characters of Native Americans, such as "Injun Joe" should be censored to children of any age over six is absurd. Why can a historical book of fiction, that correctly depicts a world that the protagonist lived in over a hundred and twenty plus years ago, not be realized as a historically accurate account of fiction by students in middle schools and high schools? Are Americans too stupid to be explained that the term "nigger" that is used by Mark Twain was by no means meant to be derogatory in any way? Did not Mark Twain seek to bring about sympathy for our African American brothers and sisters (and far ahead of his time I might add)? Would our young students still be offended if the historical works were explained to them from the onset?
Alan Gribben is working with NewSouth Books to release editions of Mark Twain's writing that will exclude the "N-word" and also change something as innocent as "Injun Joe" to "Indian Joe" and make "half-breed" into "half-blood". Why? "Injun" is clearly written this way to invoke an accent and not insult anyone. What is next? Are we to take every instance of violence that is seen through the eyes of a child, such as Huck Finn, and then censor that? Clearly our parenting and teaching do not factor into out kids' moral behavior as much as 19th century adventure stories written by perhaps the greatest American author and artist of all time.
I thank God that I grew up in New York at a time where I was allowed to read Mark Twain's masterpieces. And I read them uncensored. I hope that people will wake up, remember the First Amendment and speak out, so that my future children can also read significant pieces of literature uncensored.
Please continue to email Gribben about this atrocity and continue to spread the word that censorship is mortally harmful to art and literature in particular. He says that people email and complain, but skirt the issue because they do not use the "N-word"; well I say that if "nigger" is not meant in a derogatory matter then by all means include "nigger" in the emails to this farce of a Twain scholar.
The solution is not to censor the books so that schools do not ban them, it is to get the schools to open their minds and teach the uncensored American classics. Should others govern the way we live our lives? I have a feeling Mark Twain would have said, "Fuck no!" to that.
By R.J. Huneke
John Lennon was one of the most beloved, influential and spirited human beings to ever walk, sing or cry on this earth. "Imagine." John was not perfect; he was human. The former member of the Beatles crafted rock, blues and popular music, yes, but he also used his fame to help promote the very way that people think; he took on the norm and urged human beings to think beyond, to think for themselves and to think peacefully.
"Imagine." Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Gandhi before him, John Lennon attempted to better the lives of his fellow brothers and sisters across the globe, his fellow human beings. His messages of peace were so strong and echoing with the public that they terrified the US war machine, government and Presidency; they knew that John could inspire millions upon millions of people to think beyond the living strife that still permeates everyone today.
It was 30 years ago that John Lennon ceased to create wonder, laughter and smiles for his wife and family in New York City; it was 30 years ago that he stopped shaping notes, song and art in ways that will never be repeated; it was 30 years ago that he lived among us; but his spirit, his messages and his work linger on.
On December 8, 1980, a maniacal madman shot John Lennon in the back. It was 30 years ago, this week, that John Lennon was assassinated.
The music, the acts and the smile of John Lennon resonate just as strongly today as they did before he died; the man's voice reigns across Penn station; the man's messages form others' works of art; the man's warm smile is shown in myriad pictures and videos. The world is thankful John. Thank you.
For Yoko Ono, the family and immediate friends of John's that sorely miss him, you should know that the world is truly thankful for all that he did, and we are sorry that he was robbed from you. The moon is brighter, the books are more imaginative and the feeling of spirit is more resonant, here in New York and everywhere, because of John Lennon.
The election has brought change...again. Despite the W. Bush boys having eight years to damage the country, the Obama administration and his Democratic colleagues have been held accountable after just two years in power.
Now I give you Bill Maher: "Two years ago people voted for one type of change, now for the opposite. Is it any wonder this country can't dig itself out of the hole?"
Election Post will be continued...
China was one of the few countries to recognize that Keynesianism had a clear, and frankly correct, answer on how to counter a recession driven by a lack of demand.
There is, though, a ticking time bomb deep within the current Chinese system. While they have liberalized economically, they have yet to give any real power to the people politically.
Living with Rivals
The United States has never really known a capable rival. It is true that when the US was first created she had to carefully and diplomatically deal with the European powers who were easily more powerful. However, with the Europeans concerned with their own struggle within Europe, and the self-evident fact of the rising power of the US in the 19th century, it would not have been wise for any power to take on the US after a certain point. Granted a European power did try and go to war with the United States, namely the British in the war of 1812, they were not successful in their endeavor and the US only grew stronger relative to the Europeans. Not to forget the fact that relations with Britain quickly warmed with the Monroe Doctrine and the British support for it, now the US had a powerful ally it could rely on.
Fast forwarding to the Cold War, it may not have been obvious at the time but Communism as an economic ideology was bound to fail. The Soviet Union produced a quick economic miracle through forced industrialization, but a system with no incentive for hard work can hardly expect to last long in historical terms. On the other hand, the Chinese system, in the short term, presents no such inherent flaws. Politically it is as Communist as before, what with the strict hierarchy. However the Chinese have managed to make the system surprisingly meritocratic, and have thus produced competent leaders. China was one of the few countries to recognize that Keynesianism had a clear, and frankly correct, answer on how to counter a recession driven by a lack of demand. It is no surprise, then, that they have come out of the recession with economic engines roaring while countries like the United States, who only committed to timid stimulus plans, face years of a slow and painful recovery. Increasingly the Chinese have used this power to pursue their own national interests. Sometimes this is legitimate, like wanting a greater say in the World Bank. Other times they have unsettlingly display of immaturity, like the fight with Japan, and frankly the rest of Asia, over resources in the Chinese Sea that clearly belong to another country. Not to mention friction with the United States over human rights abuses that are inherent in an authoritarian state.
There is, though, a ticking time bomb deep within the current Chinese system. While they have liberalized economically, they have yet to give any real power to the people politically. People are still brutally suppressed, and Liu Xiaobo, creator of the ’08 charter calling for politically liberalization in China and recent winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is still in jail for demanding what we in the West view as basic human rights. Despite ongoing unrest, the Chinese population at large seems to be ok with the current system. We know from the history of popular revolts against a dynasty when it loses the “mandate of heaven,” that the Chinese people are perfectly capable of overthrowing unjust rulers.
So why did the Chinese people stop after the Tiananmen massacre, rather than continue? The answer lies in China’s astounding and sustained economic growth. Since the Tiananmen massacre, the Chinese government essentially made a deal with its people. Its people would stay out of politics as long as the Chinese economy grew at a rapid rate. To verify this we should see a large and sustained growth rate since 1989. The data is close enough; the growth rate in China has been at least 7% since 1991, and was usually over 9%. This type of growth rate for such a long period of time is the envy of the world, and rightly so. However, even if China sustains this growth for another 30 years, it will reach a limit quickly thereafter. That type of growth reflects how China is still an undeveloped country, and draws its economic strength from sheer numbers. Once China becomes a developed country, its growth rates will drop down from astronomical numbers.
Another question is how low can the growth rate goes until unrest builds up to an unacceptable level? So far it seems like China is already near that level. The potential currency wars have dominated the financial news recently. The cause of the conflict is that China keeps its currency artificially low, causing its products to be cheaper and thus increasing its exports. As of now that means that, for the United States, that its import-export imbalance is artificially high, creating a drag on growth. However, the Chinese refuse to let their currency naturally appreciate while accusing the US of damaging their economy because of the Federal Reserves low interest rates. This implies that China fears that if it does allow its currency to appreciate, its exports will shrink to such a degree as to promote unrest. The current system is unsustainable, as the imbalance is a widely cited cause of the Great Recession –David Frum has a great article on CNN explaining why (CNN.com) - and so it is either another crisis for the whole world, or just China. As you might imagine that doesn’t bode well for anyone.
The final question is, assuming there is a successful popular revolt for Democracy in China, would democracy change anything? I mean, in terms of the Chinese people’s civil rights of course it would, but in terms of possible hostility towards the US, would it defuse the inevitable rising power against current power hostility? The only example of a rising Democracy replacing a current Democracy on the world stage as the most powerful country is the US’s rise in the 19th century replacing Great Britain. However, the two countries were and are very close culturally, and the US in the 19th century didn’t particularly care about world affairs outside the Western Hemisphere. So the answer is that we don’t know and we can’t know. Democracies, so far, are far less prone to declaring war on each other. So perhaps it will lessen tensions, considering issues like human rights won’t be an issue. However, a rising power replacing a current power is still a rising power replacing a current power. In the end that power dynamic may be too fundamental to change. Lets hope the US and China can live with each other as rivals, or else the future will be very unpleasant.
Written by Aaron Meltzer
World 2 Philosoph (W2P)
is a Blog dedicated to the interpretation of current events & news going on in the complex world. Various minds take up the debate! Bring on the critical thinking and the sharp philosophy.