Archive for May, 2008

The importance of open, honest reflection

Over the last couple days, I’ve randomly stumbled upon three TV programs that shared a common thread. I found it remarkable that these random programs shared any thread, particularly one so pertinent to the American experience today. The PBS series Independent Lens featured New Year Baby, filmmaker Socheata Poeuv’s tale of her family’s history during the Khmer Rouge revolution in Cambodia. The History Channel re-aired their emmy-nominated documentary on Blood Diamonds. Finally, Frontline/World featured a story on the development of a digital archive of the atrocities of the “disappeared” during the Guatemalan civil war.

Though none of the topics were new to me, what these excellent examples of television did illuminate was the need for a society to be able to openly reflect on its past. In Cambodia, though the Khmer Rouge is no longer in power (per se), many officials are former Khmer Rouge, making the victims reticent to discuss the past. In Sierra Leone, the perpetrators of the horrible mutilations and enslavement for diamonds were granted amnesty and financial gain in a deal to end a bloody civil war. That means the victims now get to live next to the monsters that maimed them, an officially-sanctioned horrifying reality. This quashes any catharsis. The bright spot, the archive in Guatemala, has faced fire-bombing from those that would conceal the past and a society that still does not speak of what happened. Hopefully, the existence of the archive and a current regime that seeks openness will help them overcome this hurdle.

Interesting, you say, but why should I care? First, it is always nice to find excellent programming on television and I am always happy to let others know that it isn’t all comparisons between adults and fifth grade students on TV these days. More importantly, I live in a society that is growing increasingly secretive. Open and free information, we are told, is a luxury we cannot afford if we want to maintain our society in the face of “terror”. In fact, just a couple weeks back we got a brand new classification for information from the government, the obnoxiously named Controlled Unclassified Information.

This is moving in the absolute wrong direction. We should learn from the lessons of Cambodia, Sierra Leone and Guatemala. Free information is the only way to preserve our society. Regardless of your political views, whomever becomes the 44th president of the United States must turn the tide in our society. It is our (dwindling) openness that makes and keeps us great. I hope you agree.

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New feature: Mantras

Those of you that have the unique pleasure of knowing me personally have, in all likelihood, heard me ranting and raving about the ineffective state of modern, mainstream journalism. During the days after the initial invasion and occupation of Iraq, I was heard saying, “Why doesn’t the New York Times just print, as a banner headline, every single day, ‘Where are the WMDs?’ What about ‘George Bush lied about WMD’ or ‘Colin Powell lied about WMD’?”

The argument from the msm and associated apologists is that it is biased to call the Bushies (or any politico) liars; it is assumed that politicians will lie. That is a load of crap. If you have a man saying something that you know to be patently false, anyone is within their logical rights (and if you are a member of the fourth estate, you have a responsibility) to call that person a liar. To this day, mine is a valid question, but this is not what is drilled into the American public’s collective consciousness. It occurred to me today that I wasn’t putting my 0’s and 1’s where my mouth is. That changes, starting now.

You will notice a new addition to the top of the sidebar: Mantras.

A mantra (or mantram) is a religious or mystical syllable or poem, typically from the Sanskrit language. Their use varies according to the school and philosophy associated with the mantra. They are primarily used as spiritual conduits, words or vibrations that instill one-pointed concentration in the devotee. Other purposes have included religious ceremonies to accumulate wealth, avoid danger, or eliminate enemies.Wikipedia: Mantra

These are key questions or comments, pertinent to American society, that until remedied should not leave the collective conscience. They aren’t all going to be political, but I’m feeling a bit feisty right now, so that’s where I will start, righting my old wrongs. If you have suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments section.

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Kansans must reject new coal plants

No, I’m not shilling for this political action group. I’m just a resident of Kansas who doesn’t want to see my state sell its citizens into dependence on arcane (and dangerous) technology, particularly energy derived from coal. Burning coal will only make the summer haze worse. Anyone that has spent the summer in this fine state knows we have a natural abundance of wind and sun. I’d much rather see us become the land of windmills and take a leadership position in developing increasingly efficient solar cells.

It is very easy to allow conversations of environmental issues to spiral into complicated event horizons, but these concepts really aren’t that complicated. Do you like breathing cleaner air or dirtier air? Would you rather risk your neighbor’s life digging in deep mines or would you rather capture energy that is just blowing by you or radiating on your face? Do you want your drinking water to be contaminated with mercury or would you rather have clean drinking water out of the tap? See, wasn’t that easy?

We are in an era where it is foolish and regressive to invigorate dying technology. Even the Rockefellers (yes, as in John D. and Standard Oil) are backing a coup d’etat over at ExxonMobil because of the BoD’s myopic focus on fossil fuels. ExxonMobil has been posting quarterly profits of more than $40 billion (that’s right, every three months!) for the last few quarters. During this same period of obscene profits, the ExxonMobil powers have developed plans to spend $25 billion on carbon-based fuels, while spending a measly $100 million to study climate change. But I digress…

Take a moment to let your representatives in Topeka know that you want Kansas to become a leader in clean energy (and that does not include the red herring of “clean coal”).

Update: Since I originally wrote this post, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed the latest attempt by the legislature to ram this old tech through. The fight isn’t over yet, as there is likely going to be an override attempt this week. You can thank Gov. Sebelius (and voice your opposition) by signing this petition!

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