Sunday, July 22, 2012

Is it only me that thinks the world is on the brink?

There are so many reasons to worry about what’s happening to our world in our time.  What has struck me recently is how ignorant of what’s going on many of my friends are.  I am alarmed that so many take Fox News to be news; Fox News itself classifies its "news" as Entertainment.  Well, most of the TV outlets have committed themselves to making "news" entertaining rather than informative.  It is not a good place to look for what’s happening to our world. Most of us who get the news on TV are being entertained but not informed.

Reason for worry about how much has changed in American society appears in our better news sources every day.  Take today’s article in the New York Times by Gretchen Morgenson about Neil Borovsky’s experience as the person who was supposed to police the TARP program.  His new book, she says, tells us how Washington seems to be working these days; well, not working.  Borovsky found little interest in exercising the responsibilities of governance, and more interest in advancing one’s career.  So many of the crucial reforms were never enacted.

Another article in today’s Times, however seeming distant from the above topic, adds to my sense of alarm.  Janine de Giovanni describes how it is possible to live in a city where war is at the doorstep while affairs inside the city are unaffected by it – that is, until something happens that radically forces upon the citizens how serious and dangerous the broader situation is.  I have seen this in many cases:  Friends in cities on the edge of war have often seemed unaware of how much danger lurks nearby, until it breaks into their social setting, often suddenly and tragically.  

It is not merely that the world is a mess that worries me.  It is that so few people around me are paying attention.  I can’t blame them because we are all busy.  We have leaders that are supposed to be doing their part while the rest of us work, doing what we are supposed to be doing.  But as we worked and slept and occasionally looked up long enough to decide who we wanted to vote for, something tragic and perhaps ineluctable has happened:  the system we thought we were living under has been co-opted by powerful forces we had little knowledge of:  powerful interests, mainly in the form of great corporations.  In fact, corporations whose true interests are global not local have intervened in the whole process of governing.  We thought we had a representative government; we elect our representatives to represent our interests in our communities, cities, states, and the federal government, right?  But another kind of element – a whole industry in fact – has intervened in the process of legislation.  It is called lobbying; representatives of the powerful and wealthy members of our society, supported by the wealth of the corporations they control, has intervened to control our government in their interest.  Our “representatives” can’t represent us because they must first pay off the big interests – usually corporate interests – who paid for the expensive process of getting elected.  

That’s why our government is unable to put into place a health system  that adequately serves all our citizens; that’s why the gun lobby can shamelessly keep this country from enacting reasonable weapons legislation (even after yet one more tragic massacre takes place in Colorado); that’s why nothing much has been done to control excess in Wall street, despite the meltdown of 2008 that continues as banks that are supposed to be too big to fail report colossal losses in “one of the greatest financial dramas of all time” (Morgenson); that’s why, in fact, Congress can scarcely pass any legislation.

What is to become of this country? And of the  world?  The most tragic events in history can be repeated in our time – only this time it will be on a global scale.  And in the mean time everyone is busy with their own local and provincial projects.  The shock will come, as it often has, in places where internecine conflict engulfs whole cities, whole societies -- and suddenly, as if without warning.

In fact, warning signs are all around us.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A way to solve the global warming issue?

At least someone has an idea about how to solve the problem.  But is it feasible? 

What the heavens declare

One way to remind ourselves of how we fit in the larger scheme of things is to look at the scale of the universe.  
That is, into "the deep universe." 
For those of us who take the universe to be God's creation it is reason to marvel.   

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

More slander, but thanks to John McCain for challenging it

Surely we must all as Americans condemn the practice -- now becoming commonplace and even exploited in the political arena -- of slandering various individuals by means of innuendo.  
So thanks to John McCain for standing up for Homa Abaddin.
And to John Boehner

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What do you say when they tell you it's hopeless?

My first draft of what I wanted to say about the quotation below was so desparing that it had to be struck out.  I will let the quotation to stand as it is, for you to draw your own moral lessons from it as you prefer.    
The statement comes from one of the world's authorities on coral reefs, Roger Bradbury, an ecologist specializing in resource management at Australian National University:   
"the global coral reef ecosystem — with its storehouse of biodiversity and fisheries supporting millions of the world’s poor — will cease to be.  Overfishing, ocean acidification and pollution are pushing coral reefs into oblivion. Each of those forces alone is fully capable of causing the global collapse of coral reefs; together, they assure it.  The scientific evidence for this is compelling and unequivocal, but there seems to be a collective reluctance to accept the logical conclusion — that there is no hope of saving the global coral reef ecosystem.
You can't say it more clearly:  The global coral reef system is dying.
What do we say to that?  And are other conditions in our environment approaching such a state?  What is there to do about such trajectories? 

More reasons to worry about the outcome of this election

Some videos worthy of our concern:

On McCain's rejection of Romney as a possible running mate:  
What did McCain find out about Romney?

Robert Reich on the risks of electing conservatives in this election:  
It certainly seems dangerous; Can it be that serious?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The alarming scale of uncertainty in our times. Meaning what?

Rebecca Berg produced an article in the NYTimes [July 11, 2012], "Fear of Year-End Fiscal Stalemate May Be Having Effect Now" that provides a graph indicating the degree of uncertainty in the marketplace, based on the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index.  It stunned me because it shows that there is far more uncertainty in the current market than existed immediately after 9/11/01.  This market is more spooked by world conditions today than it was on the day of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

What can this mean?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Iran is readying for war?

The recent speech by Ali Khamenei [mentioned today only in one other place] seems reason for serious concern about Iran's reaction to the embargo.  Khamenei is suggesting that they are in the last days, when the twelfth Imam is supposed to return and usher in the Final Judgment.  The speech seems to be an attempt to prepare the Iranian people for war.
This kind of vision about the times was clearly implied in the language of Ruhollah Khomeini when he was calling for a movement against the Shah in 1979.  And Khomeini himself was sometimes spoken of (especially by his students) as "the Imam", a term that in that context vaguely implied that he was the long awaited Mahdi/12th Imam.  The ambiguity was deliberate.
Khamenei's  speech is a sign of a serious attempt to muster the Iranian people for a sacrificial war comparable to that  Iran was forced to fight the army of Saddam Hussein in the 1980s.  So it is reason to worry.  Iran is being seriously boxed in, and so the regime could take measures that could lead the country and the region into war.  
What I wonder is how this rhetoric can sell in today's Iran.  Khameini well knows how unpopular he and his clerical administration is.  He is not crazy, and this administration is  much more savvy than we sometimes take them to be.
We can all regard the many signs of instability and hatred in the world, of which this is one, as reason to hope that the world leaders will demonstrate restraint and wisdom.