Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Quote of the Day: H.L. Mencken

"The most curious social convention is that religious opinions should be respected."-H.L. Mencken

Friday, May 26, 2006

Reflections on Thomas Friedman's talk

I saw Thomas Friedman of the NYT, and author of "The World Is Flat," Wednesday night at the World Affairs council of Philadelphia. He gave a very interesting speech that I would like to briefly review and comment on. It will have to be brief, as my Baccalaureate ceremony is literally in 20 minutes.

The first half of his speech was boring and predictable, being mostly a summary of his book. Thought it's an excellent book(even though I disagree with significant sections of his...), all he did was present his book's arguments orally. Big deal. I want to see him speak and say something original, not just read his book to me.

The second half, however, was much more interesting. He had a number of great lines that I can't quote verbatim because my notes are at home. He focused largely on energy independence and its relation to our security here at home. Pointedly, he demonstrated that our national security will always be risk when we rely on oil from such terrible regimes as Iraq, Sudan, Russia, etc.(even Venezuela, a Socialist state that I am highly critical of, by the way!)

He then delivered the best few lines of the night. He said that alternative energy is "red, white, and blue," or something that effect, pointing out that green energy will be a huge growth sector in the years to come. We need more wind farms, biomass, hydroelectricity, etc. It will both fuel economic growth at home, lead to our national security, AND protect the environment. It's pretty much a win-win situation. Too bad the idiots in the White House are too tied to oil to notice this.

To hammer Bush, he closed with one of my favorite lines: "This administration has a poverty of imagination, and that is hurting us dearly." Amen! It was nice seeing a mostly white, male, upper-class audience agree with this...

More later(probably Monday), after graduation...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The True Nature of Socialism

It won't surprise many of my readers to learn that I'm a Socialist(albeit a pragmatic one who is a registered Democrat and believes working within the contxt of the left/labor wing of the Democratic Party...). So I thought I would elucidate what Socialism means to me.

The Nation recently ran a piece by a DSA member, Ron Aronson, on why we need to talk about Socialism. It's an excellent piece which you need to read NOW. It's also worth reading the mail that the piece generated in last week's issue. It brings up lots of relevant questions about the dichotomy between liberalism and actual radicalism, which largely takes the form of Socialism on the American Left, and worldwide.

I wrote a letter in response to the piece and the mail it generated, some of which is VERY ill-informed about Socialism. Wake up, people! The Soviet Union died over 10 years ago! They betrayed Marx! There are TONS of DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISTS out here who never supported the Soviet Union! We believe in the Swedish/German model. Get a clue and read your history. And with that, here's my letter to the editor:

Socialism and democracy are far from mutually exclusive. In fact, the two go hand in hand. Just take a look at Sweden and the other Scandanavian states, or Germany. All are arguably democratic socialist countries, and they all are vibrant democracies. In fact, they are more democratic, in many ways, than the U.S. itself. Some of the readers seem to associate socialism only with dictatorial regimes. But communism and socialism are actually quite different ideologies. Democratic socialists such as myself believe that the Stalinists and Trotskyists of the Soviet Union betrayed Marx's legacy by forever making the public associate authoritarianism with Socialism.

In fact, Marx never called for authoritarianism, and there are numerous examples of regimes that have implemented some form of socialism in a democratic context. I urge interested readers to join the Demoratic Socialist of America or our youth sections, YDS, to learn about the ideology and meet other like-minded individuals. Join such luminaries as Cornell West, Barbara Ehrenreich, Gloria Steinem, and Christian Parenti in fighting for liberty, equality, and solidarity. More information can be obtained at or

In solidarity,
Ben Kreider
Former coordinating committee member, Young Democratic Socialists of America
Former co-leader, Bowdoin College Young Democratic Socialists

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Mother's Day and Consumerism

Mother's Day is tomorrow, and it is quite a worthy holiday. But I can't help but wonder if our country misses the point of such holidays. It seems like all of these "Hallmark holidays," while well-intentioned, ultimately just become excuses for crass commercialism. This is a shame, but it should be expected, given the rampant materialism in a hyper-capitalist society such as ours.

I'm sick of hearing all of the radio ads about having to buy your mother something for Mother's Day. Corporations want us to think that we have to buy people expensive things to show we love them. Now, I do buy presents from time to time. There's nothing wrong with that. But what is troubling is the way we have been programmed to buy things all the time to demonstrate our affection. I heard on the radio that the traffic around malls was terrible today. It's just rather disgusting how many people seem to buy into the propaganda of advertisers.

There are lots of other things you can do to show your mother that you care. Make her a nice card. Make her a craft. Simply spend some time with her and show her that you care. It often seems that we lack creativity, and that we feel the need to buy, buy, buy! What a shame.

On another note, The Nation just had a cover story about Moms, called "The Motherhood Manifesto." Joan Blades, one of the co-founders of, has also founded a new site called Moms Rising. She points out that being a mother is difficult in America today, as moms are discriminated against at the work place. On this Mother's Day, it's time to reflect on how much we value our moms, and to ensure that they get the respect that they deserve.