Lying With a Straight Conscience?

What might be the impact of politicians knowingly distorting facts? Most of us already know that in political debates,in political ads as well as in political stomp speeches facts are bandied, cited, used and quoted but not necessarily accurately.We can go to or wait for an internet or newspaper story to let us know what the true version is. But what we can’t do is see the impact it is having on the candidates. They are intelligent, informed and committed people, for no one endures the rigors of modern campaigning without being committed.They know their record, they know too the record of their opponent. Given that they want to win, I can understand how they would misuse facts with a straight face. What I don’t understand is how they live with it afterward.Either the campaign process has turned them into cynics, and I doubt that very much, or into robots where they do what their handlers and advisers tell them to–and given the pressures they are under, there has to be some of that. Underneath though,what reasons do they give themselves,and what does it do to them as individuals to essentially lie with a certain impunity. The winner will be rewarded, the loser will either campaign again or go on as if nothing happened.I couldn’t do this day in and day out and feel good, comfortable, clear, honest and true to my beliefs.They may be politicians–and sometimes I think that takes almost a different breed of individuals–but they are still human and still prey to pangs of conscience.And if that’s so, then how is all this lying going to affect their carrying out the duties of the office to which they will be elected?

A Hidden Network of Peace?

Nobel Peace Prize laureates are often unknown revealing a hidden network working for the good–In a matter of days the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced. Although 164 individuals and 33 organizations have been nominated, including Vladimir Putin and Bob Geldorf, the runners up are:
Hu Jia with his wide Zeng Jinya the most well known Chinese dissidents
Thick Quanq Do, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk
Lydia Yusupova, a Chechen human rights lawyer
Morgan Tsvangarai, the opposition leader in Zimbabwe
Ingrid Betancourt, the Colombian former hostage
Since no one from china or related to China has won the prize since the Dalai Lama in 1989, Hu Jia is heavily favored according to Stein Toennesson, director of the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo and a close observer of the peace prize.
China has already made its view on such an award public, warning the Nobel committee not to give the award to the jailed dissident. A spokesman for the Foreign ministry said the award should go the right person. Their concern is understandable given that the prize not only comes with a large purse, but can also lift an individual out of obscurity and bring the light of the world press upon their cause, much as it did for Aung San Suu Kyi since 1991. It is doubtful of course that were the Nobel committee to chose Hu Jia that the warning of the Chinese government would stop them. What is remarkable about this list, however, is not the warning issued by China, but the fact that most of these runners up are people only known in very small circles.It does not diminish their accomplishment nor their worthiness to receive the prize, but it does point that beneath the radar of public scrutiny and knowledge there is a network of people sacrificing themselves–for their work usually entails some level of sacrifice–for causes that make us proud to belong to the human race.

The Financial Package and US

I’ve been reading about the financial crisis and happily discovered it’s possible to understand the main outlines if one reads enough. One underlying factor hasn’t been mentioned and that is the interaction of the individual to the collective. We talk about investor relations to the market, or vice versa, but that puts it in terms of profit and loss. When you retain the same equation but re-label the participants as the individual and the collective, a picture emerges that helps us understand the need for action on the financial package. We don’t exist in a vacuum, our actions affect others, just as we are affected by the actions of many we don’t know. The point is that to preserve the individual there are times when the whole, the collective, has to come first, and that seems to be what many are having difficulty grasping. Self interest must cede to the collective good or else we all perish. Watching the U.S. House of Representatives vote on the financial package, which those who are against insist is a bailout*, I wonder if those who voted no forgot that there are times when self interest must yield to the public good. The stock market plunge right after does show how all of us bear the consequences of the decisions of a few—Not to quote Scarlet O Hara, but tomorrow is another day—assuming a few learn what they need to learn rather quickly.

*The $700 b package is not money given outright. It is mainly to buy problematic securities and mortgages, which have a still to be determined value, which will be resold in some way, and some of which, in the arcane world of finances, can and do earn interest.

Some Good News

Some news items remind us that despite our problems positive trends continue–It’s easy to look at any news site, listen to news show or read any paper and come away with the sense that the world is falling apart. An yet here and there underneath the troubles and the woes there are telling items: Polio has successfully been eradicated from Northern Afghanistan. In the Southern part polio still remains a problem, but a vaccination campaign is underway, one that includes some of the North as well in case there is contamination from its neighbor.In a globalized world where international travel is a norm, the eradication of a contagious disease in a small area is more important than it used to be. Another item with even deeper impact caught my attention. The philanthropic organizations of Bill Gates and Howard Buffett (son of Warren) gave $76 million to the U.N. World Food Programmme to buy surplus crops directly from poor farmers in Africa and Central America in order to feed people facing hunger and starvation. This is all the more noteworthy since Robert Zoellick the director of the World Bank also warned yesterday that the economic crisis of the developing world is affecting the economies of countries alrealdy suffering from high food and fuel prices. In fact if the financial crisis continues, Third World economies could really decline, for example their exports, most of which go to the West would be seriously curtailed, since the West would not be in a position to buy as much. It does make one wonder why other wealthy Americans aren’t taking Bill Gates’ example. That of course would only coumpound the good news, it would not change it. Mostly it would not change, that behind the headlines and the problems, there are trends, movements, events, acts, organizations,people, that at the very least compensate, and usually help us continue to go forward regardless of appearances.