RIP, Dr. Death

Dr. Jack Kevorkian has died at the age of 83.

Kevorkian, who claimed he had helped about 130 people to kill themselves between 1990 and 1999, died at William Beaumont hospital in Michigan, close friend Mayer Morganroth said.

Nicknamed Dr Death, Kevorkian came to prominence in 1990 when he used his homemade “suicide machine” in his rusted Volkswagen van to inject lethal drugs into an Alzheimer’s disease patient who sought his help.

He had been hospitalised since last month with pneumonia and kidney problems, Morganroth said. An official cause of death had not been determined, but Morganroth said it was likely to have been pulmonary thrombosis. Continue reading “RIP, Dr. Death”

The American Parliament: our nation’s 10 political parties

Part two in a series.

Forgive me for abstracting and oversimplifying a bit, but one might argue that American politics breaks along the following 10 lines:

Conservatives, Progressives and the future of representative democracy: what would an American Parliament look like?

Part one in a series.

A little thought experiment for a Monday morning…

Over the past few years I have tried to make as much sense as I could out of the American political landscape. By nature, I’m a theoretically minded thinker, and the point of these exercises has been to try and articulate the structures, shapes, motivators and dynamics the define who we are so that I might develop better theories about why so that I might then think more effectively about how we might be nudged in a more productive direction. Facts → Theory → Action, in other words.

I have observed a few things along the way.

Skepticism vs. Denialism and how to tell the difference

I suppose, as a general rule, the human animal is built to prefer knowing to not knowing, but I have been struck over the course of the past decade or so at how much worse our society has gotten at tolerating uncertainty. It’s as if having to say “I don’t know” triggers some kind of DNA-level existential crisis that the contemporary mind simply cannot abide.

Perhaps this is to expected in a culture that’s more concerned with “faith” than knowledge, reason, education and science, but even our extremely religious history fails to explain the pathological need for certainty that has come to define too much of American life. Perhaps it’s due to fear. America is currently being slapped about by one hell of a perfect storm, after all: Continue reading “Skepticism vs. Denialism and how to tell the difference”

What would a progressive society look like? The Tricentennial Manifesto

The Tricentennial ManifestoOne of my lists is currently engaged in a fairly dynamic discussion about “what is a progressive?”

In thinking about the issue, I realized that it might help to ask the question a slightly different way: what would a progressive society look like? Maybe I can better understand what it means to be progressive in 2010 if I reverse-engineer the definition from a vision of the future where things work the way they ought to.

I have argued that the success of the progressive movement hinges on seriously long-term thinking. It’s not about the 2012 elections or the 2016 elections or even the 2020 elections – those fights are about the battle, not the war.

Instead, if we do things properly, if we concentrate on and win the war, what does America look like on our Tricentennial? The following 40 articles suggest some ideas. Continue reading “What would a progressive society look like? The Tricentennial Manifesto”

Predicting the 21st Century: Nostraslammy’s ten-year review

Ten years ago, at the turn of the millennium, Nostraslammy took a stab at predicting the 21st Century, with a promise to check back every ten years to see how the prognostications were turning out. Odds are good I won’t be able to do a review every ten years until 2100, but I figure I’m probably good through 2030, at least, barring some unforeseen calamity. And if you’re Nostraslammy, what’s this “unforeseen” thing, anyway?

Let’s see how our 22 articles of foresight are holding up, one at a time.

1: Researchers will develop either a vaccine or a cure for AIDS by 2020. However, it will be expensive enough that the disease will plague the poor long after it has become a non-issue for the rich and middle classes (although this is one case where political leaders might fund free treatment programs). The end of AIDS will trigger a sexual revolution that will compare to or exceed that of the 1960s and 1970s (unless another deadly sexually-transmitted disease evolves, which is certainly a possibility). Continue reading “Predicting the 21st Century: Nostraslammy’s ten-year review”

Tiller assassinated: anybody want to make a bet on who did it? – UPDATED

Note: Relevant updates will posted to the bottom. By all means, read all the way to the end, where it gets interestinger and interestinger.

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Dr. George Tiller was murdered at his church this morning. According to the New York Times:

Dr. Tiller, who had performed abortions since the 1970s, had long been a lightning rod for controversy over the issue of abortion, particularly in Kansas, where abortion opponents regularly protested outside his clinic and sometimes his home and church. In 1993, he was shot in both arms by an abortion opponent but recovered.

He had also been the subject of many efforts at prosecution, including a citizen-initiated grand jury investigation. Continue reading “Tiller assassinated: anybody want to make a bet on who did it? – UPDATED”

Let the economy die?! Rushkoff’s goals are noble but his plan needs work

A couple of weeks ago author and NYU media theory lecturer Douglas Rushkoff penned a provocative essay for Arthur Magazine. Entitled “Let It Die,” the essay explains why we should stop trying to save the economy.

In a perfect world, the stock market would decline another 70 or 80 percent along with the shuttering of about that fraction of our nation’s banks. Yes, unemployment would rise as hundreds of thousands of formerly well-paid brokers and bankers lost their jobs; but at least they would no longer be extracting wealth at our expense. They would need to be fed, but that would be a lot cheaper than keeping them in the luxurious conditions they’re enjoying now. Even Bernie Madoff costs us less in jail than he does on Park Avenue.

Alas, I’m not being sarcastic. Continue reading “Let the economy die?! Rushkoff’s goals are noble but his plan needs work”

The Scholars & Rogues Manifesto: what are we doing here?

It has been alleged that Scholars & Rogues is not, strictly speaking, a political blog. Sure, we write about overtly political issues and devote our share of time to things like media policy, energy and the environment, business and the economy, and international dynamics. Yes, we were credentialed to cover the DNC, but we don’t really do hard, insider, by god politics. Daily Kos is a political blog. Firedoglake is a political blog. Little Green Footballs, The Agonist, Politico, The Seminal – these are real poliblogs.

S&R, on the other hand, writes about music. About literature and poetry. About art. Education. Sports. Culture and popular culture. The Ramsey case and what it tells us about the state of media. And now that the election is over, S&R is writing about politics less than ever.

So really, what is S&R? Continue reading “The Scholars & Rogues Manifesto: what are we doing here?”

Mapping American progress

About three weeks ago, Jim Moss over at The Seminal laid the 2008 electoral results map over maps of poverty and income inequality. The visual comparison was illuminating, and Jim’s post got me to thinking – what if you did the same thing with a wider range of measures and rankings? What kind of picture would emerge? (Jim has himself expanded on the exercise in a couple follow-up postings here and here.)

So I spent some time digging, looking for data that may tell us something about how America is constructed at our current moment in time. Continue reading “Mapping American progress”

America’s Negro Cracker Problem: none of us are free

Part two in a series.

There’s a rising tide on the rivers of blood
But if the answer isn’t violence, neither is your silence

– Pop Will Eat Itself, “Ich Bin Ein Auslander”

When all is said and done, nothing communicates the racism and knee-buckling stupidity of all-too-wide swaths of our nation quite like video. So if you don’t trust me to tell the truth about these folks, maybe you’ll trust their own words.

Continue reading “America’s Negro Cracker Problem: none of us are free”

America’s Negro Cracker Problem: Ich bin ein Auslander

Part one in a series.

Listen to the victim, abused by the system
The basis is racist, you know that we must face this

In 1991 Pop Will Eat Itself produced one of the most damning comments on racism in society in the history of popular music. “Ich Bin Ein Auslander” was specifically aimed at anti-immigrant racism in Europe, but over the past 17 years it’s been impossible for me to hear the song without mapping its penetrating, undeniable truth onto our American context. Our black auslanders aren’t recent arrivals (although many of our brown ones are), but they nonetheless remain social, political, economic and cultural outsiders, and whatever progress they may have made in the several hundred years since they first arrived in shackles, only a fool can believe that the basis is no longer racist.

I said some time back, as the presidential election lurched into overdrive, that the heavy racist stuff was coming. Continue reading “America’s Negro Cracker Problem: Ich bin ein Auslander”

ArtSunday: “…to see and be amazed”: The LIFE and times of technology in America, 11/23/36-12/29/72

Part one in a series.

During its 36-year run, LIFE Magazine traversed a period of technological innovation and peril unsurpassed in the recorded history of humanity. As the first issue was released in November of 1936, a resurgent Germany was constructing the most awesome war machine the world had yet seen, a development that literally threatened the very future of the hemisphere. LIFE’s final issue went to press at the end of 1972, roughly three weeks after NASA’s last manned mission to the moon, Apollo 17, closed the books on a program that proved — theoretically, at least — that humanity was not inevitably bound to this planet.

The technological distance between these two moments is mind-boggling. Continue reading “ArtSunday: “…to see and be amazed”: The LIFE and times of technology in America, 11/23/36-12/29/72”

Buchanan, Kristol, Hannity and those ungrateful negroes: a banner month in race relations

I guess there’s probably nothing Earth-shattering about revelations that FOX News “journalist” Sean Hannity was BFFs with a white supremacist. I mean, even if you don’t expect it, it’s not the sort of information that’s going to turn your whole worldview upside-down, you know?

But the latest screed from Pat Buchanan almost buckles the knees. We don’t exactly look to Pat for enlightened thinking on race or, well, on anything. But even by his standards these March 21 comments are barely to be believed. Continue reading “Buchanan, Kristol, Hannity and those ungrateful negroes: a banner month in race relations”

Privacy vs. technology, freedom vs. convenience: it’s only going to get worse

Item: Citizens are concerned about online privacy and security. According to a new report from USC’s Center for the Digital Future, “Sixty-one percent of adult Americans said they were very or extremely concerned about the privacy of personal information when buying online, an increase from 47 percent in 2006. Before last year, that figure had largely been dropping since 2001.” These fears are well-founded.

The study, to be released Thursday, comes as privacy and security groups report that an increasing number of personal records are being compromised because of data breaches at online retailers, banks, government agencies and corporations. Continue reading “Privacy vs. technology, freedom vs. convenience: it’s only going to get worse”

Sen. Clinton and our War Against Women

In a NY Times op-ed today, prominent social analyst Gloria Steinem weighs in on America’s persistent gender and politics problem:

Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House. This country is way down the list of countries electing women and, according to one study, it polarizes gender roles more than the average democracy.

Steinem is right about a great deal in this analysis, and while I don’t agree with her that Sen. Clinton is the best candidate for the job of president, I share her frustration at the cynical, regressive gender politics framing the public “debate.”

Women really are screwed when it comes to their pursuit of leadership. Continue reading “Sen. Clinton and our War Against Women”

Why are we so afraid?

We were afraid long before 9/11.

As so many have observed, fear causes us to trade freedom for security, real or perceived. Fear makes us sheep, a lesson that’s not lost on those who seek to acquire, retain and extend power. Fear causes us to follow not those who’d deliver us from fear or its causes, but rather those who profit from it.

But why are we so afraid?

This is a question I’ve been thinking and studying on for some time – longer even than I realized. As it turns out I did a good bit of research in the ’90s that bears directly on the issue, and while I don’t claim to have a definite answer nailed down, I do believe I have a theory, and maybe it’s one we can leverage as we try to infuse the Republic with a bit more reason. It’s longish, but bear with me – hopefully the payoff will reward your patience. Continue reading “Why are we so afraid?”