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Old 05-19-2006, 10:58 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Is this period in history worse, better, or about average?

Hi all.

I struggled with how to frame this post for General Discussion vs Politics. What I'd like to discuss is not the dissection of a particular issue, because that would be a Politics thread, but rather (after reflection on many issues) the overall state of...what to call it? Word Opinion? Current Affairs Temperature? Minutes to Nuclear Midnight? I'm not sure what to call it.

I read the news stories, and I can't help but feel that this isn't a good time for world peace, not to mention just the general "health" of the global community.

Granted, I know we're living in a culture of fear (yea, I used that catchphrase) where nightly news struggles its best to make us terrified of each other. Regardless of the side you take on political actions, I don't think we can say (certainly not clearly) that the world is a safer or calmer place than it was 10 years ago. Or can we?

That's really my question up for discussion. I'm 27, not 37 or even 57. I haven't really been around (and paying attention) long enough to say if this time period (roughly the last 8-12) years is good, bad, or indifferent.

I hear the Cold War, including such fun events as the Cuban missle crisis, was a lot of tense years. I understand that the active years of the black civil rights struggle was pretty tense. I've read some history of our country's experiance through Vietnam. I know there's always been "bad things" going on in the world; that it's not new.

Even knowing that, I can't help but feel like we're all sliding towards somthing particularly bad. The last thing I take from world news or current events is a sense that people are working together for a better future. I read articles like I posted below (btw, you have to read both parts; the report on badges *may* be totally false), and I feel like we're just revving up for another world war. Frankly, I'd rather not go through one.

What would you tell me:

Has the world always seemed like such a powder keg, or is it just me becoming aware that it seems so.


Article Spelling Out that ID Badges for Jews/Christians May Be False

Quote:
Iran report of Holocaust-style badges questioned
2006-05-19 12:01:29

The National Post is sending shockwaves across the country this morning with a report that Iran's Parliament has passed a law requiring mandatory Holocaust style badges to identify Jews and Christians.
But independent reporter Meir Javedanfar, an Israeli Middle East expert who was born and raised in Tehran, says the report is false.
"It's absolutely factually incorrect," he told The New 940 Montreal.
"Nowhere in the law is there any talk of Jews and Christians having to wear different colours. I've checked it with sources both inside Iran and outside."
"The Iranian people would never stand for it. The Iranian government wouldn't be stupid enough to do it."
Political commentator and 940 Montreal host Beryl Waysman says the report is true, that the law was passed two years ago.
"Jews should wear yellow strips, Christians red strips, because according to the Iranian mullahs, if a Mulsim shakes hands with a non-Muslim he becomes unclean."

The National Post cites Iranian expatriots living in Canada as its primary source on the story.
The Post story can be read here: http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/n...b1240f&k=32073
(You may have to highlight the link and copy and paste it into your browser.)

Original Article Asserting Iran Forcing ID Badges for Jews and Christians

Quote:
Iran eyes badges for Jews
Law would require non-Muslim insignia

Chris Wattie, National Post
Published: Friday, May 19, 2006

Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.

"This is reminiscent of the Holocaust," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. "Iran is moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis."

Iranian expatriates living in Canada yesterday confirmed reports that the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical "standard Islamic garments."

The law, which must still be approved by Iran's "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims.

Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth.

"There's no reason to believe they won't pass this," said Rabbi Hier. "It will certainly pass unless there's some sort of international outcry over this."

Bernie Farber, the chief executive of the Canadian Jewish Congress, said he was "stunned" by the measure. "We thought this had gone the way of the dodo bird, but clearly in Iran everything old and bad is new again," he said. "It's state-sponsored religious discrimination."

Ali Behroozian, an Iranian exile living in Toronto, said the law could come into force as early as next year.

It would make religious minorities immediately identifiable and allow Muslims to avoid contact with non-Muslims.

Mr. Behroozian said it will make life even more difficult for Iran's small pockets of Jewish, Christian and other religious minorities -- the country is overwhelmingly Shi'ite Muslim. "They have all been persecuted for a while, but these new dress rules are going to make things worse for them," he said.

The new law was drafted two years ago, but was stuck in the Iranian parliament until recently when it was revived at the behest of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A spokesman for the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa refused to comment on the measures. "This is nothing to do with anything here," said a press secretary who identified himself as Mr. Gharmani.

"We are not here to answer such questions."

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has written to Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, protesting the Iranian law and calling on the international community to bring pressure on Iran to drop the measure.

"The world should not ignore this," said Rabbi Hier. "The world ignored Hitler for many years -- he was dismissed as a demagogue, they said he'd never come to power -- and we were all wrong."

Mr. Farber said Canada and other nations should take action to isolate Mr. Ahmadinejad in light of the new law, which he called "chilling," and his previous string of anti-Semitic statements.

"There are some very frightening parallels here," he said. "It's time to start considering how we're going to deal with this person."
Mr. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly described the Holocaust as a myth and earlier this year announced Iran would host a conference to re-examine the history of the Nazis' "Final Solution."

He has caused international outrage by publicly calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map."

Iran does not yet have nuclear weapons, but Tehran believed by Western nations to be developing its own nuclear military capability, in defiance of international protocols and peace treaties.

The United States, France and Israel accuse Iran of using a civilian nuclear program to secretly build a weapon. Iran denies this, saying its program is confined to generating electricity.

cwattie@nationalpost.com
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Old 05-19-2006, 11:21 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Can you frame your question better? When you say "time period", how long does that encompass? Today? This week? This month? Decade? Is there a signfying event of the "time period"?

My general opinion is that regardless of how you parse up time, no period is more inherently dangerous, happy, peace-loving, warlike or fun-tastic than any other, especially if you mean on a global basis. There is ALWAYS someone that the US is concerned about - in the last 100 years, its been Pancho Villa, the Philipino rebels, Germany, Russia, Soviet Russians, the Japanese, Germany again, Italy, Romania, the USSR, the Soviet Bloc, Fidel Castro, Cuba, Columbia, Venezula, Niceragua, Angola, Egypt, Cuba again, Argentina, Chile, North Korea, North Vietnam, Pakistanis, Iraq, "terrorists" and Russia (again). My point is that globally, there is always someone stirring the pot and agitating. If you want to be specific to an area of the world, you can find periods of peace once you get to a small enough area.
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Old 05-19-2006, 11:23 AM   #3 (permalink)
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when i look at my world from the point of view from my shoes, it's very much very simple and very easy to answer it's just what it is.

I don't need to be wary of this group, scared to catch AIDS, some drunk driver plowing into the sidewalk... no i just see my world and that's it. It's neither good, bad, or average. It's just there.
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Old 05-19-2006, 12:05 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Is this time period worse?

Choose a time period (any whatsoever) and I can show you enough history about that era to make it look just as bad (if not worse) than ours.
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Old 05-19-2006, 12:46 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Being a part of the system and in the system I do not think we can get an objective enough perspective to ever judge better or worse definetively. History one might think we'd be able to judge, but it is written biasly by the winners as well. We're basically cells in a body, if each of my cells could think, I know that they couldn't know what was actually going on with my body. Everything would be colored by the cells around them. So I am essentially agreeign with Cyn, one can really only view one's own space, and even then one cannot (probably) look at it objectively enough to know whether things have gotten better or worse with how bad our memories really are, not even to mention our changing values of what is good and not. Really puts a hard spin on the nature of our reality and what truth can be.
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Old 05-19-2006, 02:49 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I'd say that at this moment we're at the pinncale of human society and where we are is better than most other times in a historical concept. I'm not sure how far back we want to debate the issue - My main sources of knowledge reflect the Western Societies that are based roughly around the Greco-Roman influences.

Realitically I find it very hard to believe that in my life time the world will suffer through a nuclear winter. On a large scale war (Russia, China, and America) I believe the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction are far too important for us to allow that kind of devastation. Even during the Cold War the USSR tried their hardest to show how tough they were without waging a nuclear war that would basically demolish the world.

On a smaller scale I still don't believe it's a problem. Yes, there could be a nuclear war. Iran's flexing its muscles, India and Pakistan (though that seems to be a bit of a stand still at the second), and those other places could cause an a-bomb to drop. Will it lead to a massive nuclear war? Doubtful. If Iran actually does attempt a second holocaust or attempt to drop a nuke anywhere in the world I feel certain the UN would cut the crap and knock them out of power.

At this moment we've got the best health care in history, the best sanitation, the best technology, etc. So in that regards I'd say we're better.

Of course it's debatable just to say 'Average' since no time on such a broad scale can be shown as better or worse since ultimately society is always fluid. In direct comparisons between different time periods, yes, I believe that we're far superior to the past, but then if you look at the past 100 years, that's far superior to the 100 years before it, and so on and so forth.

Also, all of this is very broad based on areas, time periods, etc. It's ultimately too expansive to be a reasonable question, but on the most general sense I believe we're at the best period of history that's been attained thus far.
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Old 05-19-2006, 05:28 PM   #7 (permalink)
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It has seemed worse from my perspective in the past. I was most fearful of my future during the mid-eighties and the Reagan administration. Before the cold war was won, it was hard for me to imagine any future where the United States was able to avoid an exchange of ballistic nuclear weapons with the "evil empire" of the Soviet Union. I imagined life on earth as we know it ending in a nuclear winter. It seems melodramatic now, but Reagan's motto and method of "peace through superior firepower" seemed one very small step from disaster.
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Old 05-19-2006, 07:22 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cynthetiq
when i look at my world from the point of view from my shoes, it's very much very simple and very easy to answer it's just what it is.

I don't need to be wary of this group, scared to catch AIDS, some drunk driver plowing into the sidewalk... no i just see my world and that's it. It's neither good, bad, or average. It's just there.
I disagree with this completely. It's okay to make value judgements and have opinions about things. We just need to be open to the fact we could be wrong.
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Old 05-19-2006, 08:19 PM   #9 (permalink)
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To answer this question, I simply posed a slightly different one:
"Is there any time period I would rather live in than the current one?"

I think we all go through the "It would be really neat to talk to [Jesus/Socrates/Lincoln/Li Po/Whoever]" phase, but then reality sinks in. Would I really want to give up the internet, toilet paper, cars, glasses, antibiotics, representative government, and all the rest of it? Technology plays a major role in shaping my opinion that our period in history is the greatest one to date.

Beyond that, however, we live in a period where (to my knowledge) the greatest percentage of the human race in history lives under representative governments. Smallpox has been eradicated. Internet and cellphone coverage around the globe is on the rise.

I would say that the worst thing about this time in history is that not all parts of the world have advanced at the same pace and we are now seeing the consequences of the exploitation that took place in bringing the great western powers into the position they now occupy. Living in subsaharan Africa today is probably not considerably better than living in Europe in the Middle Ages, for example. The best I can say about this sorry situation is that the wealthier half of human civilization no longer lives like this. Clearly, our goal for the future should be the eradication of starvation-enducing extreme poverty. In comparison with the past, however, I must conclude that having half the human race living in extreme poverty is preferable to having virtually everyone in that position, as was the case prior to the development of modern social security institutions.

My answer, then, is that we are living in the best time period (define how you like) so far in human history. I like to think my children will see a still better one, though.
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Old 05-20-2006, 08:09 AM   #10 (permalink)
 
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this seems to me a largely incoherent phase.
the kind of period that demonstrates the wisdom behind the old adage: may you not live in interesting times.
in some ways, i almost agree with politicophile insofar as to think about a time period requires that you take a huge range of variables into account--some of them, like the eradication (or at least treatability) of diseases that in earlier phases had been real scourges--some aspects of infrastructures development in the industrialized world (i like indoor plumbing and i like electricity, for example)--this isnt so bad.

before the rest of this post, i shuold note that other folk above have pointed out a problem with the op in its vagueness. the vagueness of framing results in vagueness of responses. what follows is necessarily also vague. nothing to be done. nothing? nothing.

to my mind, the single biggest problem that plagues this period is neoliberalism.
it is clear to anyone who looks, who is not blinded by the reasuring fiction of "free markets" that this economic ideology is a failure--one that requires a range of responses that have not yet really been worked out. neoliberalism is a catastrophe for the southern hemisphere in an obvious sense--it is also a catastrophe for much of the industrialized world. it is a catastrophe for the united states--but here, we continue to operate in a bizarre, dysfunctional ideological bubble within which neoliberalism continues to not have a name and "news" is oriented around the avoidance of structural consequences of this ideology.

one example for the u.s. among a legion of possibilities: the american educational system has been geared toward reproducing a class organization that no longer obtains---the basic reason for this is transformations in the organization of industrial producton beyond the boundaries of nation-states. the dominant ideology in the states does not and cannot address these transformations, primarily (i think) because to address them would entail a critical relation to capitalism--one that the corporate media is not interested in encouraging. the mindless cheerleading for capitalism is like the passengers on the titanic applauding a particularly attractive turn of phrase by the ship's orchestra as the ship begins to break apart. i am sure that such transport and applause feels nice, and that one can affirm one's sense of well-being by doing it, but the applause changes nothing about the macrosituation and could be seen as a kind of collective delusion that can be understood--from a distance--as a direct reflection of a sense of powerlessness in the face of it.

anyway, the educational system in the states is geared toward reproducing a class model that is already 40 years out of date--there is little hope (without a radical rethinking of how the system is organized) of adjusting to the new situation as a system, and so you have the prospect of american social reproduction producing increasing levels of dysfunction. what are kids supposed to do from what were working class areas, who pass through schools funded locally and which are therefore designed to reproduce a vanished class order? where are they going to go, what kind of future awaits them? the military? gigs as guards in an expanding prison-industrial complex? it seems to me that neoliberalism is selling out the futures of a vast segment of the society in which we live, and this as a direct function of its absurd view of the state as agent of irrationality--but more profoundly as a function of the refusal to even see--much less address--structural problems.

to even start to change the educational system, it would seem to me that funding for schools needs to be removed from the local level and allocated equally across then by states. on the basis of this centralization of funding allocations, system/programmatic adjustments would become possible in a timely fashion. but for the american right (that inceasingly marginal segment of american paleo-politics) this would smack of socialism. better to build more bible schools in church basements. maybe theswe folk imagine that a neo-imperialist american military would absorb these folks. that is delrium.

soemthing needs to be done.
the consequences of not doing anything will be kinds of social turmoil that will make the worst of the late 60s seem like a walk in the park.
the possibilities of fascism loom very large.
the outcomes of this flight from reality, this refusal to face structural problems, are and will be nothing short of obscene.


the neoliberal dismantling of states as regulatory mechanisms, both at the levels of economic activity and--particularly--at the level of regulating social reproduction: both are revealing their disastrous consequences.

the dismantling of economic regulation does not usher in some brave new world of heightened competition, but rather functions to open up economic space for highly concentrated forms of activity. the american model is one of centralization, standardization and exploitation of economies of scale. this model is marketed as "free"---with respect to the southern hemisphere, "liberalization" means the wholesale destruction of local economies. take agricultural production, for example. neoliberalism is a simple extension of colonial-style economic dependeny-under the aegis of neoliberlaism, country after country that had been able to feed themselves now find themselves having to import food--there is no reason for this---there is no reason why ghana, for example, should have to import basic foodstuffs. except neoliberalism, which is more about the dumping of american agicultural-industrial overproduction than anything else.

one could argue that the same economic ideology is behind the curent "problem" of migrant laborforces (documented and otherwise)---a way to deal with it is not to fence borders, mobilize the military to walk back and forth near the fences, or to make arbitrary declarations about the national language (all neofascist-style responses) but to undertake the development and implementation of models for econoic activity that encourage and sustain local autonomy.

this period is transitional. it is difficult because, at bottom, the scope of curent types of economic activity are no longer confined to nation-states and nation-states (and the ideologies through which they operate) have not even started to come to terms with this basic fact. basic changes in ideology are coming, but right now it is impossible to tell what they will look like. so there is no way to tell what the future will bring. so it is impossible, really, to know what this period will end up looking like in the longer run. i think it will be the endgame for neoliberalism, a period of extreme polarization and injustice. if there is a future, folk there will look back at this period and wonder how reasonable people could have been so stupid. at least i hope this is the case.
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Old 05-20-2006, 10:04 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roachboy
one could argue that the same economic ideology is behind the curent "problem" of migrant laborforces (documented and otherwise)---a way to deal with it is not to fence borders, mobilize the military to walk back and forth near the fences, or to make arbitrary declarations about the national language (all neofascist-style responses) but to undertake the development and implementation of models for econoic activity that encourage and sustain local autonomy.
I am confused by your discussion of neoliberalism especially as it pertains to third world economies (our neighbors to the south) in comparison to the U.S. I am so lost that I don't even know what questions to ask for clarification but then I have no formal training in economics.

One thing seems clear to me though and that is that the economic system here is extremely attractive to those from the countries to the south of us and they are coming here in great numbers searching for a better life (or at least a means to make money) which they cannot easily get in their countries of origin.

The poor populations of these countries are increasing rapidly and the inclination to migrate north to the U.S. seems to be increasing. I don't understand why you consider the building of fences or other means to try and control the millions of illegal immigrants to be a "neofascist-style" response. Without large scale changes in their home countries, which we have little control over, what other method of immigration control do we have?

Twenty years ago under the Reagan administration approx. three million illegals were granted amnesty and now we have about 5 times that many or about 15 million. If we don't control the border and grant amnesty again will we have 5 times 15 or 75 million illegals in twenty years? Is this a good thing?

Sorry about the threadjack but the other immigration thread seems to be dead so I thought I would reply to your post here since you brought it up.

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Old 05-20-2006, 10:23 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
Is this period in history worse, better, or about average?
I don't have a clue what the future will bring but up till now I think my generation (Babyboomer) has had a much easier time to live in then my father's (WWII) generation.

I have had to struggle very little while he went through many large scale events (changes). Going from an agricultural system to an industrial one, WWI, the Great Depression, and WWII. He lived in more interesting times and my generation has had it pretty easy for the most part so far.
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Old 05-20-2006, 10:43 AM   #13 (permalink)
 
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fistf: the underlying claim is that the same mutation in capitalist organization that is and has been ravaging the southern hemisphere is also ravaging sectors of the american population--particularly in what once were working class areas. i dont think i made that clear enough. mea culpa. hopefully, this is enough to enable you to sort out whati was trying to say.

as for the "attractiveness" of the american mode of oranization--well, if "structural adjustment" and other such american export treats have the effect of destroying (more or less autonomous) local systems of production, it follows that this destruction creates what marx called an "industrial reserve army"--what you would call "immigration"---the solution to this "problem" is a different development model. i dont see anything in the fact of migration patterns to the states that implies anything beyond the symptomatic level---that is, the attractiveness of the american system at the moment is a function of the consequences of that model as they are displaced onto other regions of the world. reaction to the fact of thematter rather than aything like an endorsement of either the model or the country within which it is dominant.
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Old 05-20-2006, 12:26 PM   #14 (permalink)
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We are absolutely 100% better off in virtually every respect than any generation that has gone before - all around the world, but especially in the West and parts of Asia/Australia, standards of living are higher, people live longer, have access to food and medicine, have few incidents of war, crime is down, etc. There is no way to argue otherwise.

I think the one thing where we may have it worse is when it comes to the risks. We do have the power to destroy this world - via nukes, pollution, environmental degredation and so on (not that we will but the potential is there) and that upsets a lot of people. Personnel satisfaction goes up and down, but obviously a lot of westerners are spoiled and consequently, discontented in some parts of their lives.
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Old 05-20-2006, 02:53 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Is much better for many peoples but ;when one turns their gaze on the African continent , one often feels as if the situation there is a harbinger of the not distant future of Mankind.
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Old 05-20-2006, 03:04 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Is much better for many peoples but ;when one turns their gaze on the African continent , one often feels as if the situation there is a harbinger of the not distant future of Mankind.
Uh... Can you back that statement up? What could reasonably make you think that civilisation is going to collapse into what's going on in Africa?
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Old 05-20-2006, 03:09 PM   #17 (permalink)
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roachboy: I agree that there are pockets of poverty in the states such as our inner cities and Appalachia (where I'm from) but nothing that compares to that I have seen in Mexico. I was impressed with the competance of the technical workers in Mexico and believe that they are catching up fast, heck, my Dodge Ram truck was built there.

But as corrupt as our system is I believe that theirs is much worse and holding them back plus they have a huge growing population of underclass to handle. The construction sites I was on there seemed to be way over-manned and they had 2 or 3 times the number of workers to do the same tasks that we use in the north of course their wages were much lower. I suspect that the government was putting pressure on the companies to hire more but there are so many of them needing work.

In the states we are losing our blue collar jobs and even some technical jobs due to companies finding it more profitable to have this work done in other lower paying countries. I don't know what we should do about this if anything and the Mexicans and others from poorer countries coming here seem to be finding wages that they are satisfied with.

The U.S. has been the land of opportunity for those wishing to work hard and better themselves and I hate to see this change but how much of the overflow from the south can we handle? Surely opening our borders to all and granting everyone amnesty cannot be good for us in the long run.
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Old 05-21-2006, 03:19 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Since this is the only period of history that I am alive in, I would have to say that it is the single best period of history. All the rest are lacking one critical ingredient for me to really care about them - me. Now, that sounds incrediby self centered, and to a point it is, but honestly, what other period of time can one have any sort of complete bone deep sense of than the one in which one lives?

Truly, for all of us alive, it is the best of all possible worlds because it is the only possible world.

Live it.
Love it.
It's just a planet.
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Old 05-21-2006, 03:42 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by The_Jazz
Can you frame your question better? When you say "time period", how long does that encompass? Today? This week? This month? Decade? Is there a signfying event of the "time period"?
As written in the op, “time period” was defined specifically as the last 8 to 12 years.

Quote:
Originally Posted by billege
That's really my question up for discussion. I'm 27, not 37 or even 57. I haven't really been around (and paying attention) long enough to say if this time period (roughly the last 8-12) years is good, bad, or indifferent.
Quote:
Originally Posted by roachboy
before the rest of this post, i shuold note that other folk above have pointed out a problem with the op in its vagueness. the vagueness of framing results in vagueness of responses. what follows is necessarily also vague. nothing to be done. nothing? nothing.
If you feel the question is too vague to answer, perhaps the use of the back button would be advised. Or, instead of sharing your opinion on post's quality, you could respond to what you feel the question means.
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Old 05-21-2006, 05:36 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Students of history have pointed out that an improvement in station and condition across a population as a whole tends to foment rebellion. If the peasants' spirit is kept consistently crushed, there is no threat to the status quo... but give them a taste of prosperity, let them improve their lot in life, and they don't know when to stop. A similar analysis has been made about economic disparity and Depression-style market collapse.

Quite inexplicably, we've got both of these happening at once, it seems. The middle and left of the curve is flattening out while the right side climbs ever higher.

By most accounts I'd say that this period of time is better than most, but I expect for it to get much, much, worse within my lifetime.
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Old 05-21-2006, 06:05 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Only history can determine history.
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Old 05-21-2006, 08:33 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Quote:
By most accounts I'd say that this period of time is better than most, but I expect for it to get much, much, worse within my lifetime.
I agree, we may be riding high at the moment, but I look for an adjustment.
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Old 05-21-2006, 08:35 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Val_1
Only history can determine history.
No my friend,
It's who edits the books
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