Freedom / Liberty


The End of America:  Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot

Naomi Wolf is an outstanding pamphleteer. She makes the case that all ten steps to fascism are in play in America. Her arguments are clear, convincing and persuasive that an an organized plot is afoot to strip us of our freedoms and institute an American fascist state.

The ten steps to fascism, as outlined by Ms. Wolf:

  1. Invoke an internal and an external threat
  2. Establish secret prisons
  3. Develop a paramilitary force
  4. Surveil ordinary citizens
  5. Infiltrate citizens groups
  6. Arbitrarily detain and release citizens
  7. Target key individuals
  8. Restrict the press
  9. Cast criticism as “Espionage” and dissent as “Treason”
  10. Subvert the rule of law

Unfortunately, she made her case in the first half of each chapter, then filled the chapter out to make book length. This would have been a great 50 or 75 page pamphlet. There is just too much fluff to be Thomas Paine.

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(C) Symbol from http://www.copyrightauthority.com/Individuals who write music, poetry, prose, stories, research science and culture, design useful implements, and all the other creative activities need support to give them an incentive to undertake the effort to produce these works.

How does a society provide these incentives and support to encourage the development of culture? (more…)

Dublin, Ireland Street Scene 2006I’m visiting Dublin in the emerald isle for the first time, realizing that this place was under British rule for 700 of the last 750 years. I can’t help but realize that colonial rule doesn’t end well. It isn’t good for the natives, and in the end it causes lots of problems for the colonial power. Northern Ireland is still a terrible sore spot for both countries.
The people of Ireland were poor and starving under British rule. In about sixty years of independance, they have made this a prosperous land. I expect that Ireland will be, over the next sixty years, a better trading partner with England than it ever was as a colony.

Only those few who got rich by the suffering of others made out well in the previous regime – at the cost of their souls.

“Lets make English America’s Official Language” is the clarion call for many activists resisting America’s apparent polyglot tendencies. My recent post on what makes America special as a country showed how it is important that each generation of immigrants succeed and also speak English. Over the years politicians and guardians of American heritage have bemoaned that immigrants are not fluent in English. President Teddy Roosevelt said, “Every immigrant who comes here should be required within five years to learn English or leave the country.”

Well, a recent study by Douglas Massey at Princeton University and Ruben Rumbaut along with Frank Bean at the University of California, Irvine have found that this goal may take care of itself! In Southern California, their study shows that the children of Mexican Immigrants have lower Spanish fluency and better English, and their grandchildren mostly speak English as their first language. (more…)

Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain

Antonio Damasio has written two books in one: A tour of his field of active brain imaging science which provide new insights into the dynamic working of emotions and feelings, and a biography of Benedictus Spinoza who three hundred and fifty years ago published exquisite, but very disruptive insights into the nature of man.

The important thing is that Looking for Spinoza, in the end, brings its multiple theses together in a gratifying view of the human condition. It shows not only how much we now know about the function of feelings and emotions, and how they regulate the body. Damasio shows how exquisitely accurate Spinoza’s insights were.
At first, Looking for Spinoza seems a little disjointed – what do brain scans and symptomatic analysis of people with brain lesions have to do with seventeenth century philosophical writings? Well, it turns out, quite a bit. It seems that Spinoza, intuited the functional relationships between emotionally competitent stimuli, emotions and feelings that are only now are being rediscovered by neuroscience. (more…)


blocked
Originally uploaded by dario.agosta.

National governments have chosen to block internet content using tools blunt and sophisticated. China has been working with Google and other companies to restrict access to content that it does not like. The UAE has blocked flickr.com and other general interest sites as well as all VOIP services such as Skype. India has blocked *.blogspot.com, *.typepad.com and geocities.com/* . This action caused a storm of protest among Indian internet users. Will this protest be blocked?
The United States government, “the land of the free”,has collected international phone records of millions of Americans. Will snooping and control of our internet use follow?
All this is done in the name of fighting terrorism. There is no protection from bombers in blocking access to websites. Anyone wanting to send secret terrorist messages would use encryption or steganography. Web based communications is used to reach the masses – to put together demonstrations or strikes. These are not the tools of terrorists – these are the tools of legitimate political participation. (more…)

Prison Cell from http://www.flickr.com/photos/stillburning/Civil societies have a duty to protect themselves from the actions of members of the society who fail to abide by the rules of the society. In modern society, these rules are established by representative bodies (Congress) and enforced by the executive. Infractions of the rules are called crimes. A police force is often the agency that identifies the commission of a crime, a prosecutor specifies the charges and makes the case before a tribunal or court, and a corrections department carries out the actions prescribed by the court. Often, the actions consist of confinement to prisons for some period of time, financial penalties or probation.

Why do societies do this? There are several purposes, some practical, some with unintended consequences, and some to assuage anger and pique. Lets look at some of these effects. (more…)

First let us postulate that the computer scientists succeed in developing intelligent machines that can do all things better than human beings can do them. In that case, presumably all work will be done by vast, highly organized systems of machines and no human effort will be necessary. Either of two cases might occur. The machines might be permitted to make all of their own decisions without human oversight, or else human control over the machines might be retained.If the machines are permitted to make all their own decisions, we can’t make any conjectures as to the results, because it is impossible to guess how such machines might behave. We only point out that the fate of the human race would be at the mercy of the machines. (more…)

We have countries that are truly nations. Sweden, Norway and Finland are stereotypical examples, in that they are geographically integral areas that have a people who are linguistically, culturally, religiously and ethically similar. These nations also have sovereignty: the power of self rule.

Even these examples include interesting variations – For example post world-war two Finland needed to maintain its soverignty in the face of an overpowering neighbor: the Soviet Union. The Finnish President Paasikivi had to make a Faustian bargain. It’s foreign policies were constrained under a restrictive agreement with the Soviet Union that remained in place until the fall of communism. Finland, under this bargain was able to maintain neutrality, peace and control its own affairs at the price of standing by while much of eastern Europe was swallowed whole. In spite of Finlandization no one would identify Finland as anything other than a nation.

Empires are by definition not Nations. They are an amalgam of diverse cultures brought together for economic power, usually by force.

The British Empire brought together a wide variety of cultures through force for economic development and power. The mixture was untenable in the long term because there was too small a common shared interest. For example: Although many Indians learned English, most were Hindu or Muslim, and shared little of their worldview with the imperial Christian British.

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CheatingThe pressure on young people to be high achievers is immense. Only the smallest fraction gain access to the keys to success in academia and sport. When a substantial proportion making “the cut” have done so through cheating, the fabric of our society is in danger.

When acceptance to the most prestigeous colleges is dependent upon test scores, and many of the applicants have subverted the process, then truly deserving exemplary performers are denied access unless they also cheat. When ethical applicants are excluded because their honest performance in testing cannot match those who have the answers, we are selecting cheaters for the leadership positions in our society.

When our popular heroes in sports regularly are caught in using steroids, packed red blood cells and other prohibited substances to enhance their performance, this sends a message to our youth that not only is it OK to cheat, but it is necessary to do so to succeed.

When our school administrators and teachers design systems to stack the deck in standardized tests as part of the No Child Left Behind program they set a standard which condones similar actions on the part of their students.

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