Degrees of freedom and the distribution of freedoms

I am in China and I am being surveilled.  I am on a boat and I know there are cameras watching me.  If I use WiFi I cannot use Twitter or Facebook.  This comes to you via a cell phone connection.  I am not free to carry a gun.  I can watch CNN but Fox News seems to be unavailable.  I can walk the streets of big cities at night without fear of being harmed.  I am not as free here as I am in the United States.  The government here, I have always been told, is repressive.  I cannot build what I want wherever I want and cannot even live where I want to live without permission.  The skies in the cities are brown from air pollution. If I were a Chinese citizen, I might not be able to read whatever I want whenever I want.  If I am amongst the 99% of those covered, I can get decent health care from little to nothing.  If I am very wealthy I can pay for health care at a higher level than that afforded others.  If the government decides to build a new high speed rail line and they need my land to do it, they can move me.  I am compensated but I must move if they tell me to do so.  I can ride high speed trains that go to most ever region of the country now and will be everywhere very soon.  In the cities I can ride most everywhere on metro systems that are efficient and allow for comfortable—though crowded—travel to most points.


I can eat very good food. It is abundant and affordable. The governments controls agriculture though there is some room for farmers to make some money on the side. There is currently a project to increase the amount of money farmers are able to make.  All farmers are provided the best tools science has to offer.  The goal of the state is to feed well all of the people.  There are socio-economic classes here.  There are some very rich people who benefit from new economic policies that allow for capitalistic enterprise to exist.  A good portion of the profit is taken by the government and used to pay for infrastructure and other projects that are said to be for the benefit of the people.  My sense is that millions upon millions are benefiting from these projects.  China is rapidly building housing units and roads and schools and colleges and water systems and funding medical and agriculture and the other sciences at high levels.  The benefits of such do seem to be coming to at least most if not all of the people.


In China the president is chosen by the Communist Party.  The Party membership is about 20,000,000 in a country of 1.4 billion. Most of the people do not get to vote for those who run the central government.  People do choose some of their local officials but I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the central government has some say in these elections. I did hear, when in one of the cities we have visited, that the people pressed the local government to change the way in which students are selected for high school (one must achieve a certain score on a test to attend) so that more would be able to enter and that more high schools be organized.  The mayor pressed the central government for the changes and they are now being implemented.


I am certain that the school curriculum is made to shine a favorable light on the Chinese system of government and that westerners observing would say that the students were being propagandized.  I cannot say honestly that that does not happen in western countries such as the United States.  I do not remember anything good being taught me concerning alternative economic systems when I was a student.  I do remember the cons of communism and socialism being taught with nothing about what the pros might be, that nothing was ever directly said about the problems of capitalism though slavery did come up (hard to hide) and maybe something about poverty, the latter discussed not as a residual of capitalism but of other things that were not the fault of the system.


I can practice religion here but the state does not support it.  The ruling Communist Party is made up of people who are not religious, are communists in part because they see religion as harmful to the good of the state. They allow religion but they tacitly—and in way explicit—advocate against and do not allow religion in anyway to infiltrate the schools or other public institutions.  Pat Robertson. Mr. Graham, and Mr. Falwell and their followers would find it hard to get their names recognized for anything other than being deceivers and scoundrels.   I have seen no give your money to me for Jesus programming on TV.  Yes, what is on TV is controlled by the state and those who own media companies cannot broadcast anything they may want to over China’s airwaves.


I said before that the people do not vote for their leaders and that the government imposes restrictions on people’s freedom.  This is a difficult aspect of the current political system in China for an American to accept.  I am thinking a lot about the fact that I really enjoy much of what I experience here including the spirit of the people under what Americans like to call a repressive government.  It may be that the people are forced to pretend that they like the lives they are living but they do seem to be.  Perhaps they really do want to tell us that they would leave if they could.  If so, the acting is nothing short of magnificent. We have been in train  stations—everywhere, new and ultra-modern—with thousands upon thousands of people with nice suitcases and smiling children lovingly holding their Hello Kitty toys, their parents too seeming to be enjoying the prospect of spending their vacation time in enjoyable ways.  Whereas the tourist sites and the trains to tourist destinations were filled mostly with .foreigners when we first visited these same places 17 years ago, they are mostly about Chinese folk now.  We, foreigners, are outnumbered by hundreds of thousands to one at these incredible sites.  So much better!!!


I will write more. There is a lot to think about and probably some thick skin to try and dig under.  But I do have a sense that what is happening now in China is hardly all that bad.  In fact, I am impressed by what seems to be joyfulness and I do think this is genuine and has something to do with living in a country that is modernizing and not just for the benefit of a few, not so that some can make enormous profits while others suffer, but—should I say it!!!!!!—for the good of the whole—for the common good.

I heard an overwhelming response and woke up from the dream. The future, it seems, will be a nightmare.

I am probably striking out here, I think because I have not heard a bit of enthusiasm for my ideas concerning something akin to radical action in the form of a massive general strike or even a meaningful discourse toward action in the form of a push to find our way to becoming a humane society.  I know that there are already in place organizations and movements and there have been actions taken like the one I participated in when Jeff Sessions came to town but, really, I continue to see things getting worse very quickly and, no matter how bad things get, those who know how bad it is relying on the same old ineffectual reactions that didn’t save us from getting to where we now are.

I am not saying that my ideas for actions are necessarily best but I offer then at this moment in time because, if for no other reason, to provoke the kind of conversation that might get us somewhere so we can again be able to see hope for a better future.  For me, the current reality is intolerable and I feel like I am–and I am–contributing to the inhumane actions of an inhumane government.  Every time I withdraw from my retirement account, 20% is deducted.  That is my financial contribution to crimes against humanity.

Our collective contribution is our inaction or, at best, our mild response to a humanitarian crisis created in our name and payed for by our taxes.  Doing nothing or doing just a little–and that is what I am doing, a little–is, in my mind, complicity and I cannot stand being complicit in what is happening to real people as I sit here begging others to join me in doing something.

I alone am no good, no good in the sense that no action I take alone–well, I can think of some that have worked but I am not willing to sit on a street and burn myself to death–will have even the slightest chance of moving things in even the slightest of way.  I recycle because I believe that many others recycle and that this does make a difference.  I could refuse to pay taxes and go to jail and hardly anyone would much care let alone do something to get me freed.  I am not important enough that my arrest for civil disobedience would even make news.

I do not care to be a martyr.  I am not into martyrdom.  At all.  But I am wanting badly to be a part of some truly meaningful change bringing action that might have a chance to move us even a little step toward making things better.

I sincerely think that we need to strike out against the current order and I think this can only be done by bringing on disorder.  If we do not do such than the new order proceeds to do what it is doing in an orderly way and their way of doing things becomes the new and accepted normal.  Consider how daily body counts and huge the huge prison population have become just what happens here, no more, no less.  Or the taking of property by banks and loan companies after the banking industry with a helping hand from the government–the “people’s government”–destroyed the economy and made the people, not the banks, pay for what had been done.  We have accepted as normal low pay for teacher and the lack of access to decent medical care for many.  We still have the death penalty–who thinks it extraordinary to hear the some prisoner has been “humanely” executed?

Much that is bad has been normalized already.  Our president tried to make palatable the behavior of neo-Nazis and sexual predators.  I listened to MSMBC today and they did what they could to be properly objective and, in doing so, helped to normalize this president by treating him and his views with respect.

Things are not normal.  Or maybe they are and if they are than the normal needs to be seriously disrupted.

I have shared my ideas.

The American Principles Campaign

This is what Frank Cannon, the leader of the American Principles Campaign has to say about what principles mean to him:

After Justice Antonin Scalia passed away that February, President Obama swiftly nominated Merrick Garland to take his place on the Supreme Court. Scalia, a solid conservative, would be replaced by a progressive, and the makeup of the Court would be decisively shifted in the left’s favor. The media and progressive activists lauded Garland’s credentials and urged McConnell to confirm him immediately.

McConnell understood that he had a choice to make. In Article II of the Constitution, the Senate is granted the authority to provide “advice and consent” to the president on judicial nominations. Perhaps in a slight to Senator Harry Reid, who had eliminated the judicial filibuster for non-Supreme Court judicial nominees in 2013 and made the process much more partisan, McConnell decided to strip Obama of the Senate’s “consent” and hold off on considering a Supreme Court nominee until after the presidential election

McConnell drew fire from the media and outrage among pundits and activists on the left, but he held the line knowing the future of the Supreme Court — and the outcome of a number of issues conservatives cared deeply about, such as abortion, guns, and free speech — hung in the balance. His resolve helped drive incredible turnout among a Republican base that understood the election’s considerably high stakes. And based on exit polling, it is not an overstatement to say that McConnell’s decision to delay filling Scalia’s seat was a deciding factor in the election of President Trump.

This is why I do not think that we can either vote our way out of the mess we are in or write letter or conduct a thousand marches.  This is the mindset that must be changed but it is a self-serving mindset that has everything to do with those who have getting more–forever.  To accomplish this goal, anything is fair that moves this agenda along and anything that stands in its way destroyed including law that is fair and legislation that is truly for the common good rather than for the greedy.


Incivility in the face of inhumanity and insanity

About issues of civility
Maybe the truth of the matter is that we are not debating and negotiating any more. We are in the midst of a war, a civil war. Those on the other side are the other side’s enemy and not their fellow citizens. An ugly truth? But genuine truth? I have come to think so. How can one deal diplomatically with those who support policies that bring misery to other human beings? We have negotiated with such people for a very long time, allowed many to be sacrificed as we negotiated. What that negotiating has led to is Trump. End of discussion.

Likes dictators and

And last night at one of his rallies Donald spoke about ending the anarchy occurring now and reinstitution “law and order.”  He respects dictators and other authoritarian rulers and praised Kim for his ability to do well the difficult job handed him.

By anarchy, what might he mean?   He seemed to be pointing his finger at demonstrators protesting HIS policies at the border and their terrible treatment by the demonstrators of law enforcement.  I haven’t heard of any incidents in which law enforcement people have in anyway been harmed by demonstrators.

Perhaps he is saying that some demonstrations need to be prevented or put down if he does not approve of the ideas behind the demonstrations, ideas he does not like?  I do not think he is referring to the demonstrations that are his rallies where he gets his followers to froth at the mouth with his nastiness, where he encourages his followers follow the leader in irrationality and hatefulness.


Policing ideas and controlling public speech.  Dictators do this.  Authoritarian leaders do this… Kim took on a very tough job and look at how his people love him for forcing them to think as he wants them too!  They love him and who more than Donald Trump wants just that kind of unquestioning love, right?