The Nightly Show

How will America ever get over the racial divide? It’s going to take honesty, bravery, and humor – with an emphasis on the “get over” part more than the “racial” part. It’s going to take a venue where the bizzy blur of daily events has some space where people can breathe, think, listen, and then react – and feel comfortable enough to laugh about it.

Just when the limits of humor were tested with the Charlie Hebdo attack, which left us all to question not just what is right but what is funny, along came The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. It proves once again that Comedy Central isn’t really all that funny sometimes, which is the highest complement anyone can give it.

The Nightly Show is 100% Real, and sometimes it just hurts. We need that more than a laugh.

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Why Economics?

For all the thousands of words forming complex observations, theories, and predictions it takes a really simple question to stump Barataria. Buried within just the right blank stare of a few words is often hidden some basic wisdom that questions the assumptions long taken as unprovable facts. Isn’t the Emperor naked after all? Such a question came in response to a recent post, as posed by “kikila”:

Finally (I hope) someone who can explain why the economy is important to me!

It’s less of a question than a question about the fundamental underpinnings of our world. Why does economics matter? He elaborates, “I have a theory that this is intrinsically linked to ideology and the false concept that a free economy = freedom (the mainstay of the neo-liberal line for decades). Moreover, that ideological systems have coopted the notion of democracy, linking the idea of political involvement directly and indelibly with the idea that one day, eventually (you say 2017) the economy will begin to benefit (the) people.”

More like centuries of not-so-neo liberal thought, but let’s dig in. Why should we care?

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Do You Get It?

The Charlie Hebdo comics raise a lot of questions. Is it acceptable to deliberately offend people? Does free expression trump hurt feelings? Should there be an exemption for faith, a place where speech should be limited?

But there’s an even more immediate question: are the comics funny?

Not being French, I’ll never understand the French sense of humor. It tends to be deep, biting, satirical, and … well, not exactly laugh-out-loud. Good satire is often not really funny as much as painful, after all. Then again, bullets are even more painful.

Was that last comment satirical or just in bad taste?

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Je Suis Charlie

Another terrorist attack by Islamic fundamentalists strikes at a great Western institution. More than fragile human bodies, the target is picked out of revenge and the sense of fear it is supposed to instill. But this time, it was not a seat of power or finance that was hit – it was our values.

Free expression is a central value throughout the western world, only accepted after centuries of struggle and violence. It is something that we hold as a “certain unalienable right” at the core of who we are as a people. What exactly that means, however, has been an important question long before these anti-Western reactionaries committed their despicable act.

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Strategy as Leadership

Leadership.  There has been a lot of talk about it lately, or more to the point the lack of it.  In common talk it is defined as “Doing or standing for the things I like” far more often than is useful.

There is a horrible lack of leadership everywhere in the developed world right now.  Can anyone name a powerful nation with good leadership?  Perhaps you can name a few businesses that have it, but not many.  How about social leadership? Religious leadership?  Are there more than a few people in rich nations anywhere who have a strong following that is capable of getting done what they want or need to?

Then again, the lack of leadership is hardly surprising.  It is not about a charismatic figure that molds the masses to action – it’s about getting things done.  That requires strategic thinking, and strategy is something horribly under-appreciated.  I might chalk that up to excessive selfishness or a failure of moral character in our world, both of which are issues.  But upon reflection, it seems to come down to a lack of understanding of what Strategy is and why it is important.

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Taking Care of Creation

A new year is a time to rethink, reset, and recommit. 2014 was a year of transition, where the foundation of a new economy laid in 2013 put grew into the structure that will shelter us in the coming years. But there is more to life than just the economy – and indeed as a reflection of values an economy needs solid direction and purpose.

Enter the need for real leadership, as shown at least in the West by Pope Francis. He has been a consistent champion of the poor and the ravages of a selfish world looking out only for wealth. Beyond that, he is now positioning the Catholic Church to be an advocate for a world that takes care of all of creation. The message is perfectly consistent yet so life changing that it’s hard for many to absorb. But it’s perfect for the new year.

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2014, ex Machina

If you had to sum up 2014 in one short sentence, what would it be? Barataria is a blog of social commentary and observation in the largest sense, which naturally includes a lot of politics and economics – the places where the citizens of this great nation express their true values. So for the the purposes of this humble effort, one thing comes clearly to mind for this year:

The system largely works.

That may sound horribly pro-establishment, especially with the terrible failures of the system that made the news this year. Police brutality went unpunished as many people came to fear that there is an open season on their families simply for having the wrong skin color. The Republicans took the Senate easily with a record low turnout, an expression of apathy more than direction.

But this points to the power of the systems we have as much as the successes do, and why the goals looking ahead have to be about getting control so that these mechanisms do what we need them to. The systems work – as they didn’t at all in 2008 and sporadically after that – but for whom?

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