Bill Clinton, and bringing substance to the masses

So the word is out that Bill Clinton rocks at giving a speech (full video). For older readers, this is not anything new. However, I am glad that a generation of people younger than me, with no memory of Clinton (I was 10 1/2 when he left office), got to see him in this context. Sometimes you try to tell your kids or younger friends about an actor or an athlete and their greatness during your formative years- but they’re washed up or alcoholic so the same experience can’t be replicated. But with this speech, you can truly say “this, my friends, is why I like Bill Clinton.”

I should preface this all with the statement that I am not a Democrat, nor am I likely to vote for the President come November. However, I can, like many Republicans and independents, appreciate good speechcraft and a rare moment of substantiative discourse in this vapid, shallow election season.

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People are more important than profits

Thursday evening, I attended a screening of The Healthcare Movie, a new documentary exploring the divergence of the Canadian and American healthcare systems over the past half century. Documentaries like Sicko do rightly point out America’s inferior system- both in financial sustainability and quality of care. The important aspect missing from Sicko is history. Why does the United States not have the same healthcare setup as its economic equals? Why have so many politicians, from Ted Kennedy to Teddy Roosevelt, failed?

There has been historical opposition from the American Medical Association  and in the last fifty years, private insurance companies. The famous Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine (video) was part of an AMA campaign. Since the second Red Scare, connecting universal health insurance with the Soviet Union (or more recently, just saying “socialism” a couple dozen times) has been an effective method of stopping both universal coverage, as well as the initial, much stronger drafts of Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act.

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In the midst of history

Several years ago, in the summer before I started high school, I attended an academic summer program for gifted children. It was a collection of the best my generation had to offer- a collection of pure genius from all around the world.

There were many different classes one could take. Over the previous year, I had moved away from math and science, and became interested in politics and writing- if you read what I wrote at 13 from what I wrote at 14, the change in quality is substantial. I chose a global politics class, taught by an eccentric instructor, Karl, who specialized in the Caucasus, and before this class had spent a semester teaching in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Great discussions were the norm- things from globalization to weapons proliferation, the bloodbath in Chechnya and the stalemate in Israel/Palestine.

What truly touched me, and fills me with deep emotion, is a short video shot by Karl himself. It’s not on the Internet and I assume relatively few people have ever watched it. Simply put, it is history unfolding.

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Leave your fear behind

A way forward, past fear and intimidation

 

A few days ago, I got a package in the mail. It contained a pamphlet, one that is not famous like Common Sense by Thomas Paine, but in the modern world is deeply relevant and useful. It is, simply, a road to revolution.

From Dictatorship to Democracy is the distilled wisdom of Gene Sharp, an 84-year old academic who lives in East Boston. His life has been quiet- he has written no best-selling books, held no prestigious professorships. However, he is the world’s leading expert on nonviolent struggle. He believes that ideas and willpower are more powerful than guns. Through case studies, one learns that even in the face of the worst evil, nonviolence had been used and been used effectively. Fear is what keeps people in line, supporting their autocrats. But if you remove your support, your obedience, then dictatorships crumble before your eyes. Nonviolent struggle is a way to empower people, and give them a way forward, past fear.

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Paul Ryan: Catholic When Convenient

In a 2012 presidential campaign marked by vague promises regarding domestic and foreign policy, August 11th was a day that put ideas front and center. The selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential candidate brought a man with a strong, clear ideology into the mix. Whereas Romney has distanced himself from the work he did as an elected official, Ryan stands proud of over a decade of policy proposals and a radical vision for reshaping American institutions.

One of the most interesting parts of Ryan is the disconnect between the teachings of his Catholic faith, and the political and economic ideology he has developed. Firstly, let’s go over Ryan’s positions, and then the considerable criticism from Catholic circles.

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Hijacking the Cause of Justice: Trayvon Martin

The case of Trayvon Martin is constantly evolving and I do not claim to be an expert on it. What I can say is that the shooting of a unarmed individual four years my junior by someone who exhibited a long history of violent and impulsive behavior does not sit well for me. Nor does the subsequent investigation that treated Zimmerman as truthful and his claim of self-defense as correct.

This sentiment brought me to Oakland at 4pm- at the famous Frank Ogawa Plaza, where one of the largest occupations in the country had once existed before being violently expelled by the Oakland Police Department. A march had been called by various parties in order to raise awareness of Trayvon Martin and to pressure both state and federal governments to be more active in prosecuting Zimmerman and those that commit acts similar to his.

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Oscar Grant (formerly Frank Ogawa) Plaza; March 30th, 2012

Oscar Grant (formerly Frank Ogawa) Plaza; March 30th, 2012

A mural in the former Frank Ogawa Plaza, renamed after the man shot by BART police on New Year’s Day, 2009. It depicts the now-famous silhouette cast by protesters on top of trucks in the Port of Oakland. On November 2nd, 2011 during a general strike (the first since 1946 in the United States), well over 10,000 people brought the Port to a standstill for twelve hours.

Oscar Grant (formerly Frank Ogawa) Plaza; March 30th, 2012

A mural in the former Frank Ogawa Plaza, renamed after the man shot by BART police on New Year’s Day, 2009. It depicts the now-famous silhouette cast by protesters on top of trucks in the Port of Oakland. On November 2nd, 2011 during a general strike (the first since 1946 in the United States), well over 10,000 people brought the Port to a standstill for twelve hours.