Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Why Should The Republican Party Be Preserved?

By Tom Kando

There are many discussions in the media (Meet the Press, even the liberal MSNBC, etc.) about how to preserve the GOP. “Reasonable” Republicans (as opposed to Tea Party extremists) like Bobby Jindal are quoted by pundits. Everyone agrees that the party must heed the country’s growing demographic diversity, court Hispanics, etc. Even multiple loser Karl Rove is on this bandwagon. The consensus is that otherwise, the Republican Party will become a regional, primarily Southern, white, male, non-urban, upper middle-class party, increasingly irrelevant to national politics.

First, I’d like to remind you that all the talk about the GOP’s demise is, like Mark Twain’s death, premature: Nationally, Republicans control the Supreme Court and the House. And at the state level they control more governorships and legislatures than do Democrats. Furthermore, they are clever and successful cheaters, as more and more states pass voter disenfranchisement laws and gerrymander their districts in such a way as to perpetuate rule by the affluent, white, conservative minority of the population.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Englishmen Can Be Rude, Too

By Tom Kando

There is always the widespread feeling that the British are classy. For example, Downton Abbey is wildly popular at this time, but the stereotype is longstanding. As are other stereotypes, such as the rude Frenchman, the jolly but sexually harassing Italian, the humorless German/Swiss (take your pick), the duplicitous Greek/Hungarian (take your pick), the miserly Dutchman/Jew (take your pick).

The British (and other Anglos, such as Australians and Canadians) usually come off relatively unscathed in these prejudices - probably because Anglo-Saxon culture still dominates the world, even though more and more precariously.

But I want to lodge a contrary note: My wife, my children and I have traveled around the world for decades, visiting dozens of countries, including Australia, Britain and just about every other European country. I must tell you: Many of the meanest people we have encountered over the years were English, or some other form of Anglo-Saxon. Here is a sample of our experiences:

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Many Worlds Theory

by Madeleine Kando

I heard a snippet on public radio the other day about a new technology that allows a viewer to change the outcome of a movie. Plymouth University researcher Alexis Kirke has developed a technique that reads the minds (and bodies) of the audience by measuring heart rate, muscle tension, brainwave activity and perspiration, to monitor their reaction. Several versions of a movie are shot in advance and depending on the audience's 'reaction', the appropriate version of the next scene if selected.

It's too bad this wasn't available when so many great movies were made way back when. I have always been in the habit of mentally rewriting the ending of movies. Take a movie like 'The Manchurian Candidate'. The Soviets capture and brainwash Raymond Shaw (played by Lawrence Harvey) to become an assassin for their cause. He is supposed to kill the US Presidential Candidate, but after unwittingly shooting his sweetheart who happens upon the scene, Raymond instead takes revenge and shoots his mother, who is the 'operative' in the plot. The movie ends tragically when Raymond shoots himself after realizing what he has done and has been forced to become.

I fantasized so many times about the ending of this movie. Marco, Raymond's army buddy, played by Frank Sinatra, opens the door to the small sound booth where Raymond has positioned himself, just too late to prevent Raymond from quickly pointing his rifle at himself and pull the trigger. Why the hell didn't Marco climb the stairs a bit faster? Read more...

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Is Hungary Creeping Back Towards Fascism?

By Tom Kando

I just finished reading Paul Lendvai’s book “Hungary: Between Democracy and Authoritarianism.” (Hurst and Company, London, 2012). The book is a well-documented account of the country’s political history since the fall of Communism in 1989. It confirms the bad news which we have been getting lately, namely that Hungary is beginning to exhibit fascist tendencies.

I am a Hungarian expatriate. I have been back to my birth country many times. I have been rooting for Hungary all my life, hoping that it will finally join the ranks of the free, prosperous West. But once again, the country seems to be turning in the wrong direction.

The history of Hungary in the 20th century (and before) has been a nightmare. Its location at the crossroads of warring empires has been a curse. It was trampled by invading Turks, Germans, Russians, Austrians and others. It has swung wildly from fascism to communism, from the role of oppressor to that of oppressed, from revolution and liberation to reaction. It was dismantled, and its size was reduced by two thirds. Miraculously, it survives.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Abortion, Animal Rights, and Levels of Consciousness

By Tom Kando

In 1973, the US Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion. Back then, the country was relatively rational. America was a modern, scientific, pragmatic country, not unlike Western Europe, Canada and a dozen other parts of the world. In the words of the Russian-American sociologist Pitirim Sorokin, we had a sensate, materialistic, empiricist culture.

Since then, a sort of counter-revolution has gained momentum. Over the past few decades, church attendance has remained stable or according to some reports, increased.  Creationism is as popular as ever. Nearly a century after the Scopes “Monkey” trial (1925), almost half the population continues to believe in it, and to reject evolution. Concern about climate change has declined a great deal since the 1990s (Gallup). Fewer people now accept the fact that man-made global warming has been scientifically proven. The number of pro-choice Americans is at an all-time low (Gallup). Clearly, America has become a less “scientific” and a more irrational, absolutist country. In Sorokin’s words, we have become a more ideational, faith-based culture based on belief rather than on fact.