The Mythology Of The ‘Moral’ America

I know a lot of people are getting hell-bent over the current discussion on torture (I certainly have). But certain elements of this discussion have concerned me, mostly the idea that America has lost its ‘moral compass’ during the Bush years and through the torture and extraordinary rendition scandal.

To this, I simply respond What moral compass? America, in it’s 220 years of existence has succeeded precisely because it’s geo-political and economic strategies have no moral element to them. The short-sightedness of this debate is that the Bush years were some sort of anomaly in the trajectory of American goodness, while the truth is the narrative of America has been one of human rights abuse, economic exploitation, and disregard for the lives of non-Americans.

A small smattering of America’s ‘moral compass’ just from the past 50 years:

    • Covertly overthrew President Salvador Allende in Chile and replacing him with Augusto Pinochet who would kill and torture over 100,000 people
    • Currently providing over $3 billion a year in military aid to Israel while it systemically cleanses greater Palestine of non-Jews
    • Currently providing over $3 billion a year to Pakistan and Egypt, despite wide-spread human rights abuses and lack of democratic rights
    • Spearheaded efforts to impose a UN Blockade to Iraq, leading to an estimated 200,000 deaths in the late 1990′s
    • Currently providing over $1 billion a year to Saudi Arabia, including $3 million dollars of electro-shock devices used to torture inmates and political prisoners
    • Funded and headquartered in Georgia the School of the Americas Assassins (currently named the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), which trained and armed ‘anti-Communist’ fighters in Latin America. These have included dictators and gross human rights abusers such as Bolivia’s Hugo Banzer and Panama’s Manuel Noriega.
    • Overthrew the democratically elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq in 1953 and replaced it with the dictatorship of the pro-Western Shah
    • Funded the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, including Osama Bin Laden, to fight the Soviets in the early 1980s
    • Provided Saddam Hussein with the chemical weapons he would use to kill over 100,000 Kurds

And that’s just a brief list, not including America’s involvement in Vietnam, the bombing of civilians in Cambodia and subsequent rise of the Khmer Rouge, the use of nuclear weapons against Japan, or the funding and arming of Contra death squads in Nicaragua.

See Also: Cliff May And Jon Stewart, Newt Trapped On Torture, Fox News: Khalid Sheik Mohammed Not Waterboarded THAT Much, It Does Not Work, But It’s Fun!, Torture, Schmorture, Obama’s personal morality and Israel’s security, Two Views on the Torture Debate, More on those terror truth commissions, A Seriously Broken Moral Compass, Right Wing Extremism: History is Repeating, It’s about reclaiming our soul, If Americans Will Not Defend The Geneva Conventions, Reining In the Arbitrary Executive, Thomas Friedman: Torture and Invading Iraq Have Prevented Another 9/11, American Naivete & the Ugly Truth, Good Faith, Use Of Torture Is A Matter Of Context, and Torture: May Christians endorse some form of it?

[tags]torture, using torture, american moral compass, the moral compass of america, moral code of conduct, george bush, american history, cold war, is america a moral country, list of american actions[/tags]

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This isn’t Wall Street


A strong and healthy press is one of the most important institutions to a free and open society. In this age of information and rapid expansion in human progress, when millions can come together around to world to create the greatest concentration of knowledge in history, it is shameful that we allow the watchdogs of progress to starve.

Journalists fill the margins of history for the most part.

The vast majority seek no great credit or lasting fame. They live in small towns. They’ve worked the same couple papers for the last fifteen years. They go to school board meetings. They interview the hospice nurse Joanne and they talk to Bob her dying charge with the nasal cannula, and this is one of the last great ways Americans are able to preserve their sense of community.

Because the information age has isolated us with the same rapidity that it has allowed our knowledge of the world to expand.

This isn’t about saving a few big players who keep their boys in the White House press room. This isn’t about one glorious act of investigative reporting that makes it to celluloid.

Though there’s a place for that kind of reporting and that kind of journalism in the world, too.

And this isn’t about preserving a few big newspapers chains. We could do with fewer of those and more locally owned operations in this country.

No.

This is about all the small town papers that don’t have the breathing room to let their reporters dig up the petty crimes, the nascent criminals masquerading as pillars of the community who left in the dark become monsters.

It’s about the embezzling of $200,000 by a school board that goes unnoticed, or the shattering silence that meets the cry for help of a marginalized border community as it is exploited by an unregulated dairy industry while the pesticide factory across the street pumps poison into its aquifer.

It’s about the modest reporter who records and exposes ineptitude in the daily act of asking questions, or the quietly intelligent city editor who encourages the hounds to dig around where there is a faint odor of malfeasance.

Keep the little monsters in their little ponds from becoming big monsters in big ponds. This is a good way to ensure we have a healthy society.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about institutions that are, “too big to fail.”

I’ll tell you what a few of those are: Journalism, education, law enforcement, and the military.

Journalists aren’t in it for the money. The few of us that are married don’t have children, because we can’t afford it. Going into PR or becoming the mouthpiece for a well-established non-profit, that pays. But it’s not journalism, and journalism is a craft. Few will want to learn it or pursue it honorably and ethically if it’s impossible to make a living while doing.

No one’s asking for a blank check or a free ride at the papers I’ve seen. This isn’t Wall Street. They’re just looking for a fair shake — from Google.

As someone commented on a recent column by Maureen Dowd, “Google should somehow partner with the content providers not out of charity but because they won’t have anything worthwhile to search for in a few years if they don’t fork over some of their profits.”

The newspaper industry and by proxy print journalism — paper and electronic — is dying an unnecessary death, like a man in an ER who is left to slowly perish because he does not have insurance.

And that’s a shame.

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I Once Performed Fellatio On Bill Brasky Behind A Jiffy Lube

“So anyway, Brasky would put on a white tie and tails and walk his cobra through the park on a leash. He named the cobra Beverly, and he taught it how to fetch and dial a phone. But then one day it bit the maid. So with tears in his eyes, Brasky had to shoot the maid.”

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A Love Letter To Reddit

Dear Reddit:

I love you. You are my sexy internet significant other. But this madness with the subreddits has got to stop before it destroys your relevance and usability.

Subreddits became a sexy solution when Reddit became overpopulated and divided among tastes and preferences (Namely the: I hate politics/Why isn’t every post about Ruby on Rails community). But the sexiness quickly died down because subreddits became so dichotomous — where the hell are you supposed to put up content that is funny, a picture, and a WTF? You can’t cross post to three subreddits, and you’re likely to get your posted deleted if it has anything political injected into the post. A lot of content has no home on the current Reddit set-up, which is both frustrating and debilitating to someone new to the community.

Further, the subreddits have led to an oligarchy of power and moderation. If you look at the top 10 most popular subreddits, they are moderated by the same 3 or 4 individuals. What’s worse is its become common practice to ban users and domains from subreddits without any cause or communication. So, if you become the target of one uber-moderators vindictive wrath (and trust me, there are some very spiteful fucks running the show), your chances of Reddit accessibility are dismal.

So, what is the outcome? The most popular subreddit, Pics, is somehow both over-moderated and yet the biggest purveyor of crap and duplicates on Reddit. Cross-posts and repeats become common place, thus increasing the homogeneity of content across the board. Likewise, the same couple of individuals are able to dictate content and control over the majority of Reddit.

This situation reminds me of Slashdot in 2002. At the height of its popularity, it decided to reign in its community system using a surface level democratic system of moderation and karma. But what really happened was more of a virtual feudal state, where the nobles of moderation debilitated creative content and destroyed the fabric of the community, driving off users in droves. I fear Reddit is on the verge of repeating Slashdots mistakes.

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Who are you people?

Nothing says getting out of a recession like keeping up the behavior that got us into it in the first place:

In the first quarter of 2009,

The U.S. economy shrank at a pace of 6.1% in the first quarter

Yet…

Purchases by individuals rose at an annual 2.2% rate, the first time personal spending rose since the second quarter of 2008.

But…

Personal income decreased $29.1 billion, or 0.2 percent, and disposable personal income (DPI) decreased $10.5 billion, or 0.1 percent, in February, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $17.2 billion, or 0.2 percent.

So, let’s get this straight. Personal income decreased by approximately $30 billion, the GDP shrank by 6.1%, and yet people are spending 2.2% more than they were a year ago? Are you people trying to get your god damn flat screen TV’s foreclosed?!

See Also: Confidence Is Up, The disconnect of my economy with the money economy, What Good Is Modern Finance?, GDP Falls 6.1%, GDP falls 6.1% in the first quarter. What does that mean?, Weaker Than Expected GDP, Team Obama Miscalculates US GDP Growth By Nearly Half a Trillion Dollars, Not Depressed Yet, The rising specter of unemployment, The End of Capitalism?, and Tuning Back In to the Economy.

[tags]economy, personal income, contraction, recession, behavioral economics, spending money, personal consumption, gdp numbers, first quarter 2009, april 2009, economics, individual spending, expenditures, disposable income, consumer spending, 2009 stats[/tags]

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