Monday, August 1, 2011

Budget Deficit

“While I appreciate the extraordinarily difficult situation President Obama’s lack of leadership has placed Republican members of Congress in, I personally cannot support this deal.” So begins Mitt Romney’s dissent of the approaching compromise between the Democrats and Republicans in Washington. While I do agree with the general sentiment of Romney’s statement – President Obama hasn’t shown a particularly discernible display of leadership - I can’t help but feel it is for entirely different reasons.
This country is in shambles. What once started out as a democratic nation has evolved into a plutocracy; it's ridiculous. For a country that is decidedly "poor," it's quite amazing how rich certain individuals are - there is a greater concentration of wealth in this country than there ever has been. Yet the Republicans (and their Tea Party brethren) vehemently oppose any increased taxes on those making over $250,000 a year (how soon we forget the $800 billion bailout), but also desperately want a "balanced budget" (as evidenced by this obvious plea for attention @ Washington).
Speaking of this 21st century Tea Party movement, the basis for their resurgence is not wholly similar to the ideologies of their 1770s genesis. While increased taxes no doubt played a factor, the larger point of the matter is related to taxation without representation, a fact often ignored during this current economic crisis.
According to a 2010 American Values Survey (, over 80% of the Tea Party movement identified themselves as Christian; a 2009 Gallup poll stated roughly 75% of Americans have some religious affiliation ( If the U.S. truly claims to be a "Christian" nation, then it should practice what it preaches: how can the wealthiest individuals stand idly by as their American brethren increasingly fall to the wayside? Isn't a popular Christian edict to give to those in need? Jesus teaches, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” The Koran reads, “Righteousness is this: that one should give away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin… and the needy.” But why, then, has the nation's deficit continued to decline for the past 10 years while the richest Americans have become more concentrated?
Make no mistake, the Democrats deserve a fair share of the blame with their constant truckling against the seemingly intransigent GOP, but cutting spending can only provide so much. You've got to spend money to make money, and we'll have to dig this ditch a little deeper before we can fill it up again.
There are a few things this country can do to make things better - making cuts to military spending is certainly one avenue worth exploring; the aforementioned tax increase on the wealthy is another (or just simply letting the Bush Tax Cuts, finally, expire). Also, why has this nation not adopted a VAT? Pretty much every developed nation across the globe has, so why not the U.S.? Changes definitely need to be made, and in order to get to where we need to be, this country certainly needs to make a few sacrifices.
So when Romney goes on to further state that “President Obama’s leadership failure has pushed the economy to the brink at the 11th hour and 59th minute,” he is being somewhat disingenuous. President Obama’s failure as a leader has, for the most part, been exacerbated by the intransigence of the opposition, namely the Republican Party.
In closing, I’ll end this entry with a recent quote from Rep. Jan Schakowsky: "In battle, when you accidentally shoot your own it's called "friendly fire." When you deliberately shoot your own, it's called "fragging." Republicans, stop fragging the American economy."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Moby-Dick; or, A Blog Post

            In the middle of chapter 36, chief mate of the Pequod, Starbuck, questions the motives of the ship’s captain, Ahab. Though he makes clear that he is willing to stand in the face of death, Starbuck professes, “I came here to hunt whales, not my commander’s vengeance” and that “to be enraged with a dumb thing . . . seems blasphemous.”  Starbuck acknowledges the notion that the white whale, Moby-Dick, simply acts in accordance with its nature - nothing more, nothing less. In return, Ahab articulates one of the defining themes of the novel, as well as giving a glimpse into the psychology of his character:  
All visible objects . . . are but as pasteboard masks. . . . How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall . . . I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and . . . I will wreak that hate upon him . . . Talk not to me of blasphemy . . . I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.

Taken at face value, Ahab is arguing that even though the whale appears to act on a purely instinctual level, there is a pool of intent, an a priori sensibility, which rests behind its mask of unreason.
This smoldering harangue against the white whale also reveals an unrelenting, punitive temperament boiling within the captain; he has grown bitter, hardened with old age. In the same passage, he proclaims, “Truth has no confines.” According to Ahab, neither beast, nor spirit is above retribution. It is this incendiary drive for revenge, or justice, which has eroded the captain’s prosperity. Consider the end of chapter 34: “So, in his inclement, howling old age, Ahab’s soul, shut up in the caved trunk of his body, there fed upon the sullen paws of its gloom!”
Masks and the idea of digging beneath the surface are critical motifs in Moby-Dick. Throughout the novel, Herman Melville creates a series of situations where first impressions and initial perceptions often lead to false convictions. The precept of looking beyond the exterior is first hinted in the beginning of chapter 3. Ishmael enters an inn and catches sight of a large oil-painting. “So thoroughly besmoked, and every way defaced . . . it was only by diligent study and a series of systematic visits to it . . . that you could any way arrive at an understanding of its purpose.” This assessment of Ishmael’s is further reinforced at the end of chapter 7 when he ponders, “. . . in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air. Methinks my body is but the lees of my better being. In fact take my body who will . . . it is not me.” Though more transcendental in implication, the basic idea presented therein remains wholly relevant to Melville’s theme.
As Ishmael pondered the depths beyond mere surface level, he failed to heed the musings of his own ruminations. Upon first laying eyes on his mysterious roommate, Queequeg, Ishmael convinced himself that his roommate was a heathen and would, potentially, kill him. Because of his ignorance regarding the strange habits of his foreign friend, Ishmael immediately assumed the worst and confessed he was “as much afraid of him as if it was the devil himself.” Eventually Ishmael comes to rectify his blunder and befriends the Kokovoko native. In the former half of chapter 10, he muses, “Savage though he was, and hideously marred about the face . . . his countenance yet had a something in it which was by no means disagreeable. You cannot hide the soul. Through all his unearthly tattooing, I thought I saw the tracings of a simple honest heart...”
The story of an old captain’s vengeance with the whale who took his leg is a front. Like the many fragments that constitute the whole, Herman Melville’s narrative is littered with sapient metaphors and profound allegories, and requires discernment well beneath the surface. Deep down, beyond the flesh and away from faith, Captain Ahab is searching for the truth. He is imprisoned by his own need for answers, searching for a revelation swimming in a deep blue body of water. “How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall,” he asks. “To me, the white whale is that wall . . .” Bound, burdened and beset by this tempestuous quest, Ahab continues to sail upon the flukes of the belly of the beast, kept afloat by the old adage that “the truth will set you free.”