Social Criticism

Social Criticism


Is Religious Tolerance or Fundamentalism More American?

religious April 26th, 2022

Is religious tolerance or is religious fundamentalism a better description of America and what the founding fathers believed we should be?  Did you know that 55% of Americans believe that Christianity was written into the Constitution and that the founding fathers wanted One Nation Under Jesus (which includes 75% of Republicans and Evangelicals) (USA Today)? It is true that Puritan pilgrims came here seeking religious freedom, and that today we are one of the most religious of industrialized nations. In this blog, I discuss this matter briefly and bring in a dozen or so elucidating quotes that are relevant. Bill Maher and Dennis Miller add a humorous flavor as well.

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Crony Capitalism: Even Worse Than Raw Capitalism

crony capitalism April 14th, 2022

It’s not a novel concept to compare America to Rome, nor is it to see connections between an ailing, sclerotic, corrupt Roman Empire and our own republic. One thing they share is moral decay, foolish financial/military policies, and perhaps above all, political corruption. I am talking about the effect of money on governance. In modern parlance, crony capitalism. It is a thorn in America’s side because it hampers a democratic and horizontal diffusion of capital and resources amongst the tens of millions of small businesses. Worse than unregulated capitalism, crony capitalism claws at the beliefs that America is the land of opportunity and that we’re all in this together, making them myth. Indeed, as Nobel laureate and economist Joseph Stiglitz maintains, “One of the darkest sides to the market economy that came to light was the large and growing inequality that has left the American social fabric, and the country’s economic stability, fraying at the edges: the rich are getting richer while the rest were facing hardships that seemed inconsonant with the American dream.”

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The Enlightenment Luminary Voltaire on Ancient Philosophy

ancient philosophy April 2nd, 2022

I have spent nearly forty years of my pilgrimage in two or three corners of this world seeking the philosopher’s stone that is called Truth.” With those interesting words, Voltaire, the 18th-century writer, skeptic, and iconoclast begins an interesting essay about ancient philosophers. It is actually the submission to The Philosophical Dictionary, a project of tremendous importance to the Enlightenment, and it is entitled “Precis of Ancient Philosophy.” Alongside Denis Diderot’s and Jean d’Alembert’s Encyclopedia, published starting in 1751, France was churning out some incredible works of Enlightenment nonfiction. Considering this was during the reign of King Louis the whatever and Pope whomever, the use of the pen was actually dangerous business. We should all take our hats off to these men of great courage and vision. And be happy Switzerland existed.

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A Progressive Perspective on Justice (V&E-19)

a progressive perspective on justice March 31st, 2022

The following piece is entitled “A Progressive Perspective on Justice, Liberty, and Social Problems” and constitutes chapter 19 of the book Values & Ethics: From Living Room to Boardroom (itself based on an Internet-based talk radio show of the same name I did in times past). My influential and tireless partners in dialogue are Michael Ratner J.D., and Matthew Rothschild. Mr. Ratner is the founder of the Center for Constitutional Rights, an outfit that consistently fights for the rights of the downtrodden, disappeared, and despised. Matthew Rothschild was Senior Editor of The Progressive for years.

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Culture: Philosophers Kessler & Kingwell Interviewed

culture January 23rd, 2022

I want to discuss culture, not just because it has an academic fascination, but because it’s relevant to the way we live our lives. Many people in America even hybridize cultures— a Mexican American, a white-collar and blue-collar mixed nuclear family, a gay adolescent. This obviously equals certain advantages as well as special disadvantages. My first partner in dialogue is Gary Kessler, Ph.D., who has a Master’s degree in divinity and also a Ph.D. in philosophy. He taught comparative religion and philosophy at the California State University, Bakersfield. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University. I personally know his book, Voices of Wisdom: a Multicultural Philosophy Reader; its Sixth Edition was published in 2006. He’s working on a book called The Dark Side of Religion. Tune in to the interesting discussion of culture, sociology, environmental influence, cultural anthropology, and relativism.

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America’s #1 Satirist: Mark Twain Quotes

Mark Twain quotes January 11th, 2022

Mark Twain is up there with American luminaries such as Will Rogers, Lucille Ball, Woody Allen, Dorothy Parker, Ambrose Bierce, Betty White, Thomas Nast, Gary Larson, Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers, Charlie Chaplin, and Carl Reiner. This is, of course, a shockingly truncated list. Mark Twain quotes have stood the test of time for their penetrating, serious character as well as their satirical and humorous quality. Here are those in the Wisdom Archive, over 26,000-strong now! 

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America Desperately Needs Truth, Wisdom, and Critical Thinking

truth, wisdom, and critical thinking November 26th, 2021

America has a boat-load of problems. To open a newspaper any day of the week is enough to discourage anyone. Partisanship has reached nearly-fervid proportions. I fear we have little hope of seeing the forest for the trees when 45% of Americans don’t think Donald Trump should be tried in the Senate! Indeed, Trump may be the grotesque manifestation of a country that is sick, but the origins of what ails us are older than the huckster in the White House. What does this have to do with values? Truth, wisdom, and justice are not values that one can expect to apprehend if one sits around watching Fox News, “America’s Got Talent”, and football. If we want to improve, to thrive, to avoid disaster, the road is a tough one – much tougher than a trope such as “Liberals have been causing the decay of American society for decades now!” or “The most important thing in 2020 is to remove Donald Trump from office!”

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Knowledge, Education & Wisdom in Colonial America

knowledge November 17th, 2021

Philosopher/psychologist and distinguished man of letters, Daniel N. Robinson, says much about knowledge, wisdom, and education in the citizenry and the founders at the time of the Declaration of Indpendence and the crafting of the U.S. Constitution. It is very enlightening, and he takes pains to connect the state of affairs then with our horrible political, social, and educational predicament that is so clearly exemplified by corporations, Donald Trump as President, and social media bickering today. It’s not a pretty picture, but one worth taking a long, hard look at. I then follow up his incisive commentary on the Founders with quotes about knowledge, wisdom, and education in modern America. Recall that education is not just about keeping the economy rolling: “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty,” wrote the main architect of the Constitution, James Madison. And this is very important; as modern progressive author, Thom Hartmann puts it, “We need to begin paying attention to the wisdom of the Founders and Framers [of the United States] if our country is to survive.”

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Healthcare: Comparing the U.S. to the Leaders

healthcare July 20th, 2021

I came across an article that is so good, I have to take from it liberally. If the New York Times is miffed and wants me to take it down, sure, of course I will. But in the meantime, you will learn a lot about healthcare!  Basically, in this article, the authors, Aaron Carroll and Austin Frakt opine about two-way matchups between eight different countries when it comes to the healthcare systems they have in place to insure and care for the health of their respective citizens. This is like a round-robin tournament comparing the strengths and weaknesses of various healthcare systems to each other. The article does go into more detail, and is worth a read if you’re that interested. Let the games begin!

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Conservative Truth-Teller, Bruce Bartlett

conservative truth-teller July 12th, 2021

Bruce Bartlett is a most interesting man. He is a self-described conservative, but he claims to be a more traditional, principled conservative than the modern crop of neocons, Tea Partiers, and, as I would characterize them, gross hypocrites. He was a leading advocate and theorist about supply-side economics, also called “trickle-down economics.” However, he has since come to realize that the reasonableness of tax-cutting for the top tax brackets to stimulate growth has been misapplied, abused, and inappropriately resurrected by the likes of Bush, Trump, and so on. I aim to share a bit more about Bruce Bartlett, who I am calling a conservative truth-teller, due to his willingness to call spades spades and admit how far afield the GOP has gone since the days of Reagan. I think Reagan made many missteps and was not a particularly wise leader, but at least Bruce and I could agree on much!

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