Saturday, July 21, 2007

With what level of economic exploitation....

...are you comfortable?

My wife and I watched Blood Diamond last night. It is a good movie, with an interesting point. One criticism of western style capitalism is that it pushes economic exploitation into third world countries. While there is little economic exploitation in the United States (there may be some with immigration and a low minimum wage, but these can be serious topics for debate), the economic exploitation that should be in the US is now in other countries.

For example: criticism against Wal-Mart is that it sells very cheap products that it gets from foreign nations, especially China. Since the cost to make the products is so low, the store can pass that savings on to the consumer. In the process, the people that make the products receive very little for their work, hence the economic exploitation. But people in the United States are either (1) not aware of this portion of the free market equation or (2) do not care because the prices are so low. (At one point the giant retail store mainly sold products that were made in America but that was not economically viable for a large chain that aims for the lower classes.)

In Blood Diamond, the story goes that because there is a demand for diamonds (people in the west want them for their engagement rings and other forms of fancy jewelry), that countries fight for the ability of mine and sell them. In this economic process, Civil Wars emerge in Africa to wet the appetites of the West. (There is also a sub-plot that major diamond outlets in the West do not meet the demand for diamonds by keeping the diamonds in storage so as to artificially raise the price of the stone. By keeping some diamonds off the market companies can charge more for the diamonds which are on the markets-- there is more supply available but it could ruin the profit).

And yet, with Blood Diamond, there not a rejection of buying diamonds but a
"realistic" call to action- demand that consumers buy conflict-free diamonds, which would be similar to clothing lines advertising that the clothes are not the product of child-labor.

But this post raises the simple question: how much economic exploitation are you willing to allow in the marketplace in order to fulfill your lifestyle?

This would include clothing (shirts, pants, shoes), technology, food (soft-drinks, especially in plants are in South America, which may not let workers unionize), and shelter?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Damn you Walt Whitman II

My wife, daughter, and I attended the house where Walt Whitman was born but we did not go to the Walt Whitman shopping center across the street. I am sure he would endorse that center if he were alive today.

My wife would like it to be known that she breast-fed on Whitman's front lawn, behind a tree. We are quite sure he would enjoy that as it afforded both an earth-mother vibe and public nudity.

Interesting facts:
The ghost in the armoire: Rumor has it that there is a spirit in the house though it resides in a cabinet in the birthing room. Every once in a while, the armoire shakes without reason. It appears as if modern science has not made its way inside the home.

Sleep tight; don't let the bed bugs bite: Older beds had rope for a mattress (think hammock). Before you went to sleep you would tighten the bed. About the bed bugs, you would use hair from a horse's tail to prevent being bitten.

Whitman's voice: there is a recording of Whitman reciting his poem "America." He has a very rich, deep voice to match his large, burly frame. The inflections were very old-fashioned.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

May lead to an increase of glambling

In the past few days, I have seen a few commercials over and over. One is for Miraplex, which is a medication to cure restless leg syndrome.

At the end of the commercial, the company offers a few disclaimers. One line states, "If you you have an increased urge to gamble, for sexual activity, or other strong urges, please consult your physician."

An increase urge to gamble from medication?

"Damn you Walt Whitman!!!"

My wife and I ill be heading to the birth place of Walt Whitman either today or tomorrow. In honor of one of America's greatest poets, here is a tribute to Whitman by Allen Ginsburg.

"A Supermarket in California" by Allen Ginsberg

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for
I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache
self-conscious looking at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went
into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families
shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the
avocados, babies in the tomatoes!--and you, Garcia Lorca, what
were you doing down by the watermelons?

I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber,
poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery
I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the
pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?
I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans
following you, and followed in my imagination by the store
We strode down the open corridors together in our
solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen
delicacy, and never passing the cashier.

Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in
an hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the
supermarket and feel absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The
trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be

Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love
past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher,
what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and
you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat
disappear on the black waters of Lethe?

Berkeley, 1955

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Divine Intervention and Inspiration in Big Love

On the last episode of Big Love, there were two very interesting religious themes in the episode.

First theme: ho one religious group believes that another religious group is "cult-like." The second wife, Nikkie no longer wanted her son to attend a Catholic school after the school gave the son a Crucifix and the son played with it like he would any other toy. Rather than try to understand the religion, Nikkie just attacked Catholicism for its pagan rituals and belief structures, which is similar to how other members of the LDS, as well as other religions, view The Compound. This seems to be a problem with almost every religion. If you read the Supreme Court Case Santa Fe Independent School System versus Jane Doe, according to the facts of the case, a teacher in the school system told a Mormon student that the student belonged to a cult and not a religion (and therefore could not attend a Baptist revival.)

Second, and more interesting, Bill thought about taking a fourth wife and inviting her to live the principle. (One of the best lines in the episode was when a male friend of Bill's stated that that you could help it when you were "Sucker Punched by the Holy Spirit.") So far, Bill has not taken the fourth wife.

But this plot device raises an interesting question about divine intervention. The men on big love claim that it is inspiration that causes them to take another wife. However, only the men receive that inspiration. When the youngest wife, Margie finds out about Bill "dating" and meets the women in question, she tries to help Bill pursue the girlfriend because she believes that she is inspired to do so by the Holy Spirit. At first Bill denies that is the case, but Margie establishes that she too could feel the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Bill could not respond to that point in any adequate way. Yet, this confrontation between Bill and Margie seems to call into question the patriarchal society in which the family lives.

This seems to be an interesting discussion of faith, and a better plot device, than has occurred in recent other episodes.

It does leave the viewer with one major question about religion: how do you know when your faith is speaking to you? What are the consequences for the individual and the community in larger society.

This could be problematic for many reasons. Recently, a man from Houston, Texas killed a gay man. The killer stated that he acted after 1,000s of hours studying the Bible. He believed he was doing the right thing and G-D told him to do this.

When I lived in Texas, I heard a story about Jury duty whereby one juror wanted to convict the defendant because the juror prayed about it and G-D told him that the defendant as guilty.

Monday, July 16, 2007

How to lose your mond in 30 hours or less...

Recently, my wife and I moved from Texas to the New York City area. I drove; my wife and daughter flew. I left on the tenth and arrived on the telfth. My wife and daughter flew out and arrived on the thirteenth.

Highlights (or lowlights) from the trip:

1) Some where in North East Texas (while trying to reach Route 20) I ran over a turtle. I thought it was a leaf on the road. As I loked at it, I drifted a bit, realized it was a turtle but it was too late at that point. Sadly, my wife also killed one on a trip to Houston early in the week.

2) I do not know how I arrived to NYC. On the trip I noticed that my tires were low and needed air. Yesterday, one tire was almost completely flat. That tire contianed a nail and I needed to get a new one. Another tire has a gash in it (maybe from the turtle) and I need to get a new one tomorrow.

3) Surprisingly, I did not listen to my Ipod for the entire trip. Instead, I listened to AM radio only. (Though, for about two hours, I listened to an old tape made from songs that aired on WBER in Rochester, NY. The songs were from the late nineties, early oughts. The highlights from trip:
(a) Somehere around Birmingham, Alabama (which doesn't surprise me), a Christian Radio station allowed a women to discuss why true Christians should not read Harry Potter. Roughly, the argument is that the books are bad (because it features witches and wizzards whom are alays bad and pagan and good Christians cannot read anything that invovles Pagan images because it takes away from the message). it seems that those against Harry potter are not familiar with inoculation theory and would rather have people avoid it than try to understand it or deal with it. In terms of argumentation, it seems that these people would use inventional techniques from the bible and evangelical cultures and, beacuse of this, ould fail to persaude the larger culture. Rhetorically, it seems incest for arguments.

(b) I agreed with some Bill O'Reilly said. Luckily, I forgot what it was. Also, he attacked the San Diego Padres for hosting two promotions at one time: one was for gays and lesbians and another gave little kids hats. He said it was inappropriate for the Padres to do both at the same time. Though he is not anti-gay, it seems he just does not want them to have a public life. One caller challenged him on the fact that gays and lesbians are people too and what difference does it make. He said "Do you your children to see it... Do you ant to explain it to your kid." So it is okay to be gay but not in public.

On a side note. When the HSBC arena in Buffalo opened years ago, I went to a game against the Flyers. Throughout the night, the jumbotron showed to very attractive girls sitting next to one another. From the looks of it, they drank heavily throughout the game. The first time the camera man got them on the jumbotron, they waved, suggestively. The second time, they hugged. The third time: they stood up and they kissed. The cameraman dwelled on it for a few seconds and then turned to something else. The crowd applauded while the women kissed.

c) I listened to Hugh Hewitt for the first time. His ploy was to play out of context clips of the Senate discussion over Iraq and then asked soldiers how they felt over the comments. One thing I have always wondered: If the US has the finest fighting force in the world, then would discussions of how poor the Iraq war is going affect the troop morale? Either the first or second part is not true. Somehow, I would suggust it is the second.

d) Hannity seems to be the least intellectually honest of those that I heard. For example, on today's show, a caller stated that he taught college debate from a consertvative point of view and because of this they did well in tournatments. Now, I have taight debate many times and never realized it was possible to teach it from either a conservative or liberal point of view. The purpose of teaching debate is to teach invention, arrangement, style, delivery, and memory and not which ideological standpoint is True. But, Hannity seemed pleased that a professor "Hannitized" a student (one of the prof's students was liberal but learned to love big brother, er, I mean hannity.

Now, the intellectual dishonesty comes in over the point of education. Hannity hates "liberal indoctrination" of students but this example shows that conservative indoctrination is fine and even encouraged. Demonize one form of "indoctrination" but accept the other,

e) The fairness doctrine: I am against it as a form of legislation. However, they way in which Conservative radio hosts address the issue seems shallow at best. For example, hannity states that liberal would use it to censor conservative talk-show hosts. But, that would not be the case. It would only suggest that if a station gives time to one candidate it should for another. Even if it suggested that a radio or tv show should allow time for one liberal program for one conservative show, you still cannot reach the conclusion that liberals want to censor conservatives.

I am not expecting deep and naunced thought but maybe a little fairness.

f) Mark levin may tie Hannity for the worst radio host ever. On Thursday, Levin began his show with comments from the Democratic Representative that represents Ground Zero. While discussion what legal protections criminal and terrorist suspects should have, the reprsentative in question suggested that on September 10th, 2001 the government would not have been able to detain Mohammed Atta, one of the chief hijackers in September 11th. Levin could not believe this to be the case and decided that the democratic representative is not worhty to serve as a representative, the democrats are bad for the country, or whatever else you can think of.

Logically, Levin's comments present a challenge. Levin wants to detain (maybe torture, who knows these days), people before they commit crimes. What then becomes the determining factor in decieding who to detain: race? religion? color of the eyes? Whether or not the person possesses an Iphone?.

4) While I drove for 30 hours, I spent 1/10 of the trip stuck in traffic within Brooklyn and Queens. I left Staten Island at 4pm and did not reach my hotel in Suffolk county until 7:30.

Welcome to New York.

Reviving the Situation

Okay... it has been over one month since the last post; I do not know how long it has been since my last post.

It is time for a revival.

Daily posts begin today.