27 September 2007

Virtue ethics and the candidates

My main philosopher-king man KA has put forth a hypothesis, based on virtue ethics theory, that John Edwards is the best candidate for President. While I think that Edwards is an excellent candidate (and I have posted about him previously, and have given him my hard-earned money), I think that perhaps there is a slightly better candidate from a virtue ethics perspective.

I speak of Senator Barack Obama.

While Keith correctly identifies the corruption inherent in the current system and John Edwards’ rhetoric challenging it, I believe the aspirations expressed therein are slightly off point. Politics is the “art of the possible” (Otto Von Bismarck), not the art of the ideal. The ideal would be the complete overhaul (overthrow?) of the current corrupt political system, replaced by a totally public-financed system that serves to elect the best philosopher-king, reigning over a thoroughly enlightened electorate.

The possible is something different altogether. The possible, although still highly aspirational, is the overcoming of the Bush Administration’s Manichaean divide of the world, and of our own nation, into those “with us” and those “agin’ us”, those on the side of “good” and those who align with the “evildoers”. It’s just not that simple. There aren’t white-hat good guys and black-hat bad guys (not outside of country music and talk radio stations). The world is a palette of shades of gray. However, this Administration has taken advantage of (and played upon) our fears to create a dichotomy between the good and the bad, between the virtuous and the evildoers, between the red states and the blue states.

I believe that Barack Obama is the best candidate to bridge that divide. He himself embodies many divides in our nation, being a multi-ethnic son of an immigrant father. He understands and speaks the languages of the streets and of the Ivy League, of the Washington power broker and the community organizer. Obama calls us all to our better angels, to become our best selves. And is that not the heart of virtue ethics?

Submitted for your consideration is an excerpt from Candidate Obama’s 2004 keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. If you can read this without emotion, then go vote for someone else.

It is that fundamental belief: I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper that makes this country work. It’s what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family.

E pluribus unum: "Out of many, one."

Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us -- the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of "anything goes." Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America -- there’s the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States: Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an "awesome God" in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

In the end -- In the end -- In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope?

If you go vote for Edwards, I won’t begrudge you one bit. But I would like for you to consider Obama also. At the very least, find a candidate in whom you can believe and place your faith and trust. Don’t shy away; don’t simply vote for the supposedly “inevitable” candidate. Choose wisely.

04 September 2007

And you thought flying coach was bad…

The state airline of Nepal, Nepal Airlines Corporation, had been having recurrent problems with one of its Boeing 757 aircraft (NAC flies the 757-200M); reports indicated that the de-icing device was repeatedly malfunctioning. The airline’s engineers were stumped, until the chief engineer, one PBS Kansakar, found inspiration in a dream. He discussed his proposed solution with top management, who agreed and implemented his plan last Sunday. The airplane is flying once again, and the passengers of Nepal Airlines can rest assured in the high-tech solution of Mr. Kansakar.

What was the source of the problem that the NAC’s chief engineer resolved? Was it an electrical short, tangled tubing, or some other devilish dilemma? No, apparently, the gods must have been angry. Lord Bhairavnath, or Akash Bhairab, the Hindu sky god, was for some reason not pleased. Thus, the corporation decided to offer a traditional sacrifice of two goats, one black and one white, to appease the sky god. An airline official later stated, “The snag in the plane has now been fixed and the aircraft has resumed its flights.” Now the passengers of Nepal Airlines can rest assured that their high-tech Boeing 757 is once again airworthy, because of the offering of a blood sacrifice to the Hindu sky god.

Most educated Westerners will find this story to be supremely silly, and perhaps a bit tragic as well – although one hopes NAC at least held a tasty goat barbecue for its employees after the ceremony. Because after all, we Westerners are far too sophisticated to believe in the existence of a deity that demands a blood sacrifice in order to be appeased and to grant safe passage into the sky for his adherents.

Aren’t we?

03 September 2007

A call to arms (figuratively, that is)

Prompted by my man Keith’s blog entry on the apparent run-up to a massive bombing campaign against Iran and my reading of the most recent analyses, I’ve been pondering what I, or any of us, can do about this.

Were I a member of the inner sanctum of the White House, the closest of advisors to President Bush, surely I could persuade him that this would be a monumentally, historically stupid thing to do. Help Iran’s younger, well-educated, mostly liberal and Western-friendly generation grow up in relative peace and reclaim their country from the nutcase mullahs, and we’ll have a generation of at least semi-friendly relations. Bomb them now, and we’ll create a generation of passionate enemies. For a more sensible approach to combating the Iranian threat, check out this op-ed by Senator Barack Obama - I especially like this statement: "While conventional Washington thinking says we can only talk to people who agree with us, I believe that strong countries and strong Presidents shouldn't be afraid to talk directly to our adversaries to tell them where America stands."

Apparently, that would be an incorrect assumption. Much blogosphere speculation has it that Karl Rove’s recent resignation was in response to his having lost the argument with Vice President Voldemort, I mean, Cheney, over whether to attack Iran. Some speculation also extends to Tony Snow’s resignation, although maybe he really couldn’t manage his family finances to be able to live on only $165,000 a year like he said.

So if Rove can’t stop Chenemort’s (that just sounded better than Voldeney) plans, and if the current plan really is to conduct an overwhelming air attack on Iran with the intent of bombing its military back to the era of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), is there anything that we ordinary citizens can do?

Much as I like the idea of impeaching Bush and Chenemort, there’s absolutely no way it could happen – and removing Bush without removing Chenemort first would be pointless. Politically speaking, you could never get enough votes in Congress to install Nancy Pelosi as President.

Can Congress stop this plan? Not directly. Bush has the power (if not the moral authority) to launch an attack all by himself. There’s no spending authority to revoke that could conceivably preempt the attack.

So where does that leave us? Can we, as citizens, affect our government’s actions? I say yes, and I hope I am right. Here are some modest suggestions to you, dear reader, to take up arms against this sea of troubles and by opposing, end them.

1) Call your Representative and Senators (even if they’re a couple of right-wing wankers like mine) and tell them to go on the record opposing this idiotic preemptive attack on Iran. Call, don’t email – emails come in by the thousands daily and are easy to disregard, but direct phone calls are much less frequent and thus have more impact. The House switchboard is 202-225-3121, and the Senate switchboard is 202-224-3121. Congress can’t stop it, but if enough members of Congress vote on a resolution expressing their outrage and opposition (especially if many Republicans join in), that would at least ratchet up the pressure and media attention on the Administration.

2) Alert the media! Write letters to your local newspaper or other media outlet and express your opposition in no uncertain terms to this impending debacle.

3) Start protesting now, not after the launch. Sign up with organizations like MoveOn.org, gather like-minded citizens, and stage protests around the country.

Can Congressional rebuke, media scrutiny, and public opprobrium actually change this Administration’s plan of attack and thus have the potential to change history? I don’t know, but I’d like to find out. How about you? Isn’t it time to reclaim government of the people, by the people, and for the people?