Dr. Forbush Thinks

Look at the world through the eyes of Dr. Forbush. He leads you through politics, religion and science asking questions and attempting to answer them....

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Location: California, United States

Friday, December 31, 2004

Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

When people talk about numbers the listener's eyes often glaze over. The knowledge of the phenomena often plays to the advantage of politicians. They know that whatever numbers they say will not often be challenged. They know this from experience and from history. Politicians can say the most outlandish things and the listeners will nod in agreement, not flinching at all with the absurdity of the numbers. This works even better if the numbers are larger than the average person deals with on a daily basis. Many people often confuse million, billion and trillion even though a billion is a thousand millions and a trillion is a thousand billions.

This fact is illustrated by the utter disregard the United States of America and particularly the Bush administration has for the victims of the latest natural disaster in Asia. There are so many ways that the numbers illustrate the inhumanity of the Bush administration.

How about the simple comparison of the expenditures on the Iraq conflict with the offer of aid three days after the tsunami struck? The Bush administration spent more than 87 billion dollars on the first year in the Iraq conflict. That corresponds to more than 1 billion dollars a week. The Bush administration offered 15 million dollars three days after the tsunami hit Asia. Isn't this number rather bleak?

Let's try another comparison. The British offered 15 million pounds about the same time the Bush administration offered 15 million dollars. That seems about the same in the average Americans mind, doesn't it? But the exchange rate for dollars to pounds is about two to one. Therefore, the British government offered about twice as much as the American government. But, they actually offered more of their resources than the American government did. If we compare the Gross National products of the two countries we would see that the GNP of Britain is about 1.4 trillion dollars and the GNP of the USA is about 10 trillion. So, Britain offered about 15 times as much as the US based on GNP. But, the USA brags about being the richest country on earth, which means that based on per capita earnings each person in the US actually makes more money than a person living in Britain. Finally, when the US realized that 15 million dollars was such a paltry sum they upped their offer to 35 million dollars. Likewise, the British upped their offer to 50 million pounds. So, not only did the British out do the USA on their contribution, but also they out did this administration by more than a factor of twenty when based on GNP or per capita earnings or just about any other measure available.

Maybe the Bush administration believes that people should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and fix their problems themselves. This is the traditional Republican rhetoric. So, this may be why the big strong economic power of the USA doesn't want to help out these poor third world people who are suffering this tragedy. But, if this is true, why did the Federal government help out Florida when they were struck by four hurricanes this year? Not only that, but fewer than 100 people were killed by those four hurricanes in Florida and the USA spent 11 billion dollars repairing the damage. Shouldn't the Floridians live up to the same standards that the Bush administration is asking of the victims in Asian? Of course, the 2004 election required the votes of the Floridians if Bush wanted to be re-elected, and he got them. Since the Asians don't vote in US elections, it doesn't matter if over 100,000 people died because of this natural disaster.

The point is, the Bush administration just doesn't care about the rest of the world. He has no feelings for those who are outside of our country and his economic class. The Europeans, including the British, have offered much more in the way of help than the USA and they deserve to be praised for their effort, while the Bush administration should be chastised for their lack of effort and lack of humanity.

They need to ask themselves, "What would Jesus do?"

Thursday, December 30, 2004

To Remove, Or Not to Remove

To Remove, Or Not to Remove

The election is over and I have been thinking about removing my bumper stickers.

It wasn't top on my list of things to do, so removing my "Defend America Defeat Bush" and my "Kerry Edwards" bumpers stickers would just have to wait. In fact, I haven't even put my new license stickers on the license plate yet, and I only have a couple of days left. I had thought that maybe I would do both things at once.

However, the other day I found some right wing propaganda in my windshield wiper. Obviously, my bumper stickers are still ruffling a few feathers. So, I guess I'll just have to keep them on my car for a few more months.

It seems that Bush's popularity will continue to fall over the next few months, and my Bumper stickers will continue to remind those who were sitting on the fence and finally went to the dark side that things could have been much better if they had only thought a bit longer about the evil that is currently lurking in Crawford, Texas.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Heifer International

Our Christmas tradition has changed over the years. In the early years we didn't have much money, so we bought inexpensive gifts for each other. This tradition may have continued longer than we thought it should.

As we started doing a little better we started upping the amount we would spend on each other for Christmas presents. And, each Christmas we would still budget out what we would spend on each other.

This year we waited until the last week before Christmas before we actually went shopping. The plan started out that the wife and kids would meet me after work and the family would takes turns shopping for each other. But, as they say, a funny thing happened on the way to the mall. It turned out that both cars were listening to the same radio program on the way to the mall. The radio show talked about a charity called Heifer International. The neat thing about this charity is that they provide a gift of livestock to a poor family in a third world country. The gift is worth more and means more than a gift of money. This is because the gift is used to help support the family.

So, when we arrived at the mall the kids began begging that we change our plan and use some of our budget to give a gift to a third world family. Of course, I was skeptical. I had to ask the kids if this was "really" what they wanted to do. The kids actually decided to use 80% of our Christmas gift budget to buy a gift for a poor family from Heifer International. So, we shopped the mall looking for inexpensive gifts and went home to make our donation.

When we got home that evening the kids ran to the computer looking for the website to make the donation. After misspelling "Heifer" several different ways we finally found the website: Heifer International

The most fun we had was picking out the gifts. We ending up picking out several things, because the cost of livestock in third world countries is much cheaper than what it would cost in the USA. A cow costs $500.00, a Water Buffalo costs $250.00 and a Llama costs $150.00. If you can't afford these, you could buy a flock of geese for $60.00, or a hive of bees for $30.00. Or, you could buy a share of any of these items for an even more affordable price.

I hadn't seen my kids so excited about doing something so good for someone else in such a long time. They even decided to pitch in from their own money to buy a trio of rabbits. I believe they really found the true meaning of Christmas in this gesture.

Heifer International

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Christmas Lights

I have never put up exterior lights, but I still admire some of the displays that I have seen. Long before the US went through the white light fad, the Europeans had been doing the white light thing. However, the best display I had every seen was done thirty years ago in Ohio. It was completely blue lights. These blue lights and about six inches of snow - provided by nature - together with the manger scene was awesome. I could have spent some time looking at it, except that it was 0 degrees F.

Brrrr..... Just thinking about it.

Target Rips Off Grandma

Just in time for the holiday season I have a warning for you. Gift cards are being used by corporations to steal money from you. There have already been stories about the money on your gift cards slowly trickling away if you hold on to the gift card for some time. But this time period is usually more than a year, so it doesn’t effect most of us. But, there is an even more insidious theft going on here.

My mother bought a Target gift card for my daughter last month. Things were a bit crazy last month, so we didn’t get to the store until just a few days ago. The gift card does not display the amount on the card, so my wife went to the service desk to ask them how much was on the card. To our dismay there wasn’t any money what so ever left on the card. The person behind the desk said, “Sorry, you spent all the money on this card.” My wife argued with the girl at the desk and got nowhere fast. My wife was told to call the help number on the back of the card.

The next day I called the help number on the back of the card. I was connected to someone who had the same computer that the woman at the store had. He found the same information and told me that I was out of luck. I said, “So, this means that the cashier must have forgotten to assign the money to the card and you are going to keep the money?” After thinking for a second the person asked me if I had the receipt. So, I explained to him that this was a gift from my mother. I wanted to say, “hence the name: ‘Gift Card,’” but I wanted to stay on the guy’s “good” side in case there was any chance he might be able to fix this problem. Of course I shouldn’t have worried, because he told me that there was nothing he could do without a receipt.

In hopes that my mother may have miraculously held on to the receipt I called her asking if she had. She told me that she had shred it long ago. But, she said that she had bought the Target Gift Card on her Target Credit Card. So, the people at Target must surely have a record of the purchase somewhere on their computer. So, my mother got on the phone in an attempt to straighten out the problem. She was told that she needed to numbers from my daughter’s gift card. This seems kind of silly, because the transaction should have both numbers of the Gift Card and numbers of the Credit Card.

Now, after calling back once again my mother was finally told that they could not fix the problem and she would be out the money she spent on the Gift Card.

So, my problem is with Target. Shouldn’t they have a way to access the transaction used to purchase the card. My mother should be able to prove who she is via an ID card in order to find the actual problem. Perhaps the cashier mistakenly put the money on her own gift card and slipped it into her purse. Perhaps the cashier completely forgot to put the money onto any gift card at all. Perhaps the cashier simply scanned the wrong card and placed it back on the rack where some unknowing customer gets a bonus when they buy the gift card. Whatever the problem, Target should have a safe guard in place to protect the customer. Whatever happened to the saying, “The customer is always right?” Apparently it isn’t used at Target.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Mel Gabler is Dead

In listening to the obituary for Mel Gabler this morning I heard a bizarre statement.

For those of you who do not know Mel Gabler, he was a Fundamentalist Christian textbook critic from by far one of the reddest of the red counties of Texas. He began his crusade back in 1961 by trying to get rid of “liberal bias” in school textbooks. Time magazine did a piece on him in 2001:

Time Magazine

In the NPR obituary they have audio clips of Mel and his wife Norma. One of the clips had the two of them explaining how liberals wanted the government to control everything because the liberals had made government into their god.

So, let me get this straight. Liberals believe that the federal government is their god? Or, is it the state government? Texans do have a reputation for hyperbole.

Now, when these conservative fundamentalist speak they don’t seem to use facts. Instead they seem to find a way to elicit emotion. So, in this statement Mel Gabler has been able to say a number of things. He says that liberals worship false gods. He says that the government is a false god. He is saying that individualism triumphs over community effort.

Wait a minute, Mel Gabler the Fundamentalist crusader is saying that patriotism for the US and Texas is like worshiping a false god?!

He should have thought this through a bit. But, it doesn’t really matter, because he knew that his audience wouldn’t think this through. In fact, fundamentalists are not allowed to do their own thinking.

But, this statement doesn’t even make Christian sense. Jesus taught us to love one another. Jesus gave us multiple examples as to how we should work together as a community to make everyone’s life better. After all, Jesus preached a form of socialism. However, when Saint Paul came along he toned down the socialist statements from Jesus and preached responsibility. The truth is most likely a combination of the two, but the Fundamentalist Christians tend to focus most of their energy on promoting Paul’s ideas with the name of Jesus. In fact they tend to use Paul’s name for Jesus: Christ.

Mel Gabler died Sunday and you can read one of his obituaries here:

Mel Gabler Obituary

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Who Knows War Better?

The Europeans know war more than any living American does. The last two world wars were actually fought on European soil. Americans went there, and some died, but most Americans were not faced with picking up the pieces and getting on with life. Those two wars helped to make clear what the cost of war is. The cost of war is more than just the cost of blood and treasure. The cost is the destruction of society and infrastructure. War is a lose-lose game. Even the winner of the war loses in the long run. The soldiers that fight and kill other human beings will never be the same. They have lost a bit of their humanity. It takes until the next generation for the society to be whole again.

In short war should always be about defense and in the case of the Iraq War the US was on the Offense - and it is offensive.

Christianity and Death

Christianity and Death

Some Christians argue that the State has the right to put people to death based on some warped view of Jesus telling us to render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar. The state also deprives a person of his life when the state forces a person into the military and subsequently the person dies in battle. This happened all the time through out history. The state paints it as patriotic, but the truth is: "If you would rather not serve its difficult not to."

Back to the death penalty. The state has the right to do what its laws say that it can do. If the law exists then it can be done. Slavery is proof of this.

However, Christians should be against the death penalty because Christians believe that a sinner can always be saved. Taking the opportunity away from that person should make us all feel sick in our hearts. This means that we are allowing the state to condemn this person to not only death but also eternal damnation. So, if sinners that have not turned to Jesus should not be put to death, then should sinners who have turned to Jesus be put to death? Does that even sound like a Christian thing to do? Should we beg a sinner to turn to Christ so that we can put him or her to death?

Christians who believe in the death penalty do not believe in a culture of life. Support our President in the culture of life and be against the death penalty!

The Persuaders

Our PBS station is a bit behind schedule. They just broadcast the Frontline program “The Persuaders” last night. The idea behind the show was to demonstrate how marketing is used to make people do what they don’t want to do. Well, actually the convince you that you do want to do something even if there was no way you were going to do it in the first place.

Does it sound confusing? It should, because marketing is a confusing line of work. People in marketing are in the business of convincing you to do something, most likely buy something. However, the science of marketing is also used in politics in order to convince you to vote for someone.

The show basically talked about how marketing firms work their magic. What are the good aspects? How is it done? What is the current philosophy? Where is modern day marketing headed?

I won’t go through the entire show, because that would be boring for most of you. But, if you want to find out more then click here:

Frontline - The Persuaders

The main points that I found both scary and obvious have to do with three main points.

1) Advertisers have stumbled into the cult following phenomena associated with some products. Marketers have studied Apple computer, Volkswagen, and other products of this sort. Marketers have conducted interviews with people who follow products this way and they have learned how to create new products with the same cult following. The main example of this is the Saturn automobile. Saturn manufactured the cult following based on what they learned from other cults.

2) Marketers have studied emotional response to products and ideas in order to establish an emotional response for the product or idea that they want to promote. For example, one highly paid marketing guru looks for a “code” that represents the common notion or “reptilian instinct” associated with a concept or word. In the show the idea of luxury is studied by a questioning a group of people about what they believe that luxury means. This is important, because people will pay extra for luxury items even if the items don’t cost more to make. Tacking the idea of luxury onto an item increases the margin on the item. People want to charge more for something without spending more for making it.

3) Finally, the marketers study the emotional response provoked by words. Two words could mean the same thing, but people have different emotional responses to them. The easiest example is “fetus” and “unborn child.” Both words mean the same exact thing. However when people hear either word in reference to abortion the have two different reactions. “Unborn child” makes people feel worse about ending the life of an unborn child. In fact, the word “abortion” was introduced in the same way over another equally valid term of “pregnancy termination,” or other possible terms. Abortion refers to the word abort, and people commonly only think of abort as to giving up on something that was initially good. The whole idea of framing language in these ways was described in George Orwell’s 1984. But, that orwellian prediction has come to fruition despite it’s early prediction.

Monday, December 20, 2004

America Says Bush is an Idiot

Bush an Idiot

So what? The majority of Americans finally realize that Bush is an idiot, but its 6 weeks too late...

Bush an Idiot

Blogs and Radio

Depressing as it may be people don’t like to think.

Over the last few weeks several people have been commenting on the success of talk radio. In fact, talk radio has become synonymous with the political right. And, over the last few weeks people have been asking why the political right has been so successful on talk radio, while the political left hasn’t been able to get their message out.

Many people have said that the political right has a well-oiled propaganda machine. They have one message and the hammer away on that message before they move on to the next one. But, that doesn’t explain the other half of the equation. Why do people actually want to listen to the message that is being repeatedly hammered home?

This is because the right has taken the tact that their message is emotional and not factual. They want you to cry and laugh, but they don’t want you to think. They change words to promote their case in an emotional way. They make subtle distinctions that turn arguments into emotional rhetoric.

For example, they have changed the phrase tax cuts into tax relief. This implies through the use of the word relief that people are under duress. This is actually not the case for most people. It is especially not the case for the people who actually get the tax cuts, but the message goes out and it is hammered away. The argument to keep taxes never comes up, because these people say that we need relief from the burden of taxes. So, the money that was being used to keep up the infrastructure and safety of our country gets taken away. Our country will now gradually fall into disrepair. But that’s OK with those on the right, because they will be dead by the time it matters. In fact, the right borrows money instead of raising taxes. In this way the wealthy are able to loan money by buying bonds. The country will eventually need to pay twice as much because they need to pay the interest on the bonds. The wealthy now pay less tax on the interest they make on the US taxpayer. Does talk radio explain this problem? No, because it take more than three words to evoke emotion.

The only hope that the left has is in Air America Radio. Al Franken has begun to evoke emotion with his talk radio show. His emotion is laughter. At some point the people in the middle who have recently been coaxed with fear and anger will realize the humor is an equally valid emotion. The future of our country depends on it...

Comet Machholz Update

Comet Machholz Update

I went outside to check on the comet Machholz once again. This time I asked the children if they wanted to see it. My son may have had the desire to get out of chores, but he wanted to stand outside and look for it. Of course, binoculars are the outil du jour when look for a comet. Telescopes are usually too powerful and all you see is a white cloud over the viewing area. When the comet is not bright enough to be seen with the naked eye, the next step is the binoculars.

Now, if you were to find a very dark area on a very clear night you would be able to see Mackholz without the aid of binoculars, but light pollution has infected most of the US, and especially most of the places that we live.

But, for the next month or so Machholz is there to be seen. It may get brighter, but it won’t get as bright as the comet Hale-Bop. And, whoever saw Hale-Bop would certainly be disappointed by the view of Machholz. But, there are certainly people who want to see this comet regardless, so I’ll give instructions for the next month or so.

Currently, at sunset or so Machholz is to the southwest (at least for the Northern Hemisphere) and gradually moves to the west as all things in the sky do. If you can identify the constellation Orion you are well on your way to finding the comet. The middle of Orion, popularly known as Orion’s belt lies on the equatorial plane. This means that the belt rises in the east and follows a path across the sky at an angle equal to your latitude. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere then you need to face south, and find Orion. As you look higher in the sky you will see the constellation of Taurus. The path of the comet Mackholz moves higher and higher into the sky to the right of these two constellations.

A good map can be found at:

Comet Map

A couple of days ago I was able to find the lower right hand star of Orion (Rigel) in my binoculars. Then by moving horizontally about three viewing areas of the binoculars to the right I found Machholz. Obviously these are not exact directions, because everyone’s binoculars are different. As the days go forward Machholz will get higher and higher in the sky.

Scary New Science

In a dark basement laboratory on a small Midwestern college campus new information has come to light. It turns out that wormholes exist. Wormholes had been predicted by Steven Weinberg twenty years ago. They are strange folds in the space-time continuum that could possibly make time travel possible. The issue is that creating a wormhole that goes to a specific time and place in space and time is not possible. Instead it is actually a totally random event. But the mere idea of a wormhole existing is a tremendous breakthrough.

What actually happened was the observation of radio waves emanating from a point in space that isn’t near any planet or star system. The chance of this radio emission actually being found was extremely small. The SETI project would never have found this because the wormhole opening was located in the middle of space many light years away from any star or planet. The SETI project would have been looking at sun-like star for earth-like planets in order to increase the probability of finding a signal from extraterrestrial life.

The discovery was a total accident performed by a first year graduate student. The graduate student had an experimental shift to search stars for radio emissions. The idea is to set the radio telescope on a target star and then listen to the radio emissions until the intensity of the frequencies can be determined. This process is done all the time. Since the earth is moving the telescope needs to have a motor running to keep the telescope aimed at the same star for many minutes until the data is collected. The graduate students forgot to turn the motor on, and the telescope began to search the sky as the earth rotated away from the star that was being looked at. What happened next was pure serendipity. The telescope actually found an interesting signal coming from the middle of nowhere.

This type of signal wasn’t the kind of signal that the graduate student or his professor was actually interested in. However, the student called his professor who called a friend who worked with SETI. The mistake of the student was studied and the exact position in the middle of space was rediscovered. The guy from SETI brought in his equipment to listen to the signal and to their surprise they discovered that the signal was actually being broadcast in English. I have part of the transcript that they were able to get from the signal:

Voice: Well, this is Sandy Ramsey filling in for Rush Limbaugh. We don’t know yet who is going to be able to fill his shoes here at the EMI radio network. We will miss him dearly, but he has more important things to do now. The future of this country and may be so bold to say this whole world now depends on his work with President elect Falwell. The American people now have the government that they can count on to get the world on the right track. Vice President elect Limbaugh will make sure that President elect Falwell will do the right thing. And, we all know that passing the “Respect Act” is the first action needed by this administration. After all, who can argue with respect? We want to make sure that those who deserve respect get that respect or they will be placed in re-education camps where they will be taught the meaning of respect. We don’t want any more Liberals disrespecting of elected leaders. And, I think I can proudly say that the prominence of the “Respect Act” during the debates was the key to winning this election. When Hillary disrespected President elect Falwell her numbers dropped and his went over the 50% mark for the first time in his campaign. This is because the American people won’t stand for disrespect.

We lost the transmission there, but we are certain now that there are more wormholes and the SETI project has now taken to looking at empty space as well as sun-like stars.

Friday, December 17, 2004



What is real?

It seems obvious to us that we know what is real. However, Rene Decartes wasn’t so sure. He spent quite a while thinking about how he actually knew that he was real and that the world around him was real. Lately there have been movies based on the idea that you could sit in a machine and meld your input and output thought activity in such a way that you could experience a different reality. It would be an artificial reality that you would be convinced to be real if you didn’t remember somewhere in the back of your brain that you were connected to a machine.

But, being connected to a machine is an extreme example of not being connected to reality. There are ways that people use to convince you that “Everything You Know is Wrong.” I put the phrase in quote, because Weird Al Yankovic has title a song “Everything You Know is Wrong.” The point here is that many people spend lots of money trying to convince you that “Everything You Know is Wrong.”

The obvious example is the commercials that convince us to buy what we don’t need. The perfect example is how soft drink companies have convinced us to pay for flavored sugar water. Then they convinced us to pay for flavored sugar water without the sugar. Then, they finally convinced us to pay for just the water. If 50 years ago someone tried to sell bottled water at the inflation corrected prices that they sell bottled water today they would be laughed out of the market place. But, somehow these people convinced us that we need to buy water at a huge mark up. And, it even says on the bottle that the water comes from a municipal water source. Imagine, we are really buying bottled city water at marked up prices...

So, should we even doubt that people have lied to us about other things?

The past election is the most recent example of how lies are able to convince a person to do something that is against their best interest. But these things have been going on for quite some time.

The whole idea of religion has been used to get people to do what the authority wants you to do. Talk about the ultimate spokesperson validating the laws of the land. These advertising campaigns were done before any truth in advertising laws even existed. If people are able to convince you to buy bottled water with the truth in advertising laws in force, imagine what people can convince you to believe when they are allowed to lie to you directly without any repercussions. We should remember that there have always been dishonest people. Why would we expect that religious people would be more honest about these things than anyone else? Is it because they told you that religious people don’t lie because they are men of God? Should you really believe the liar?

I am not saying that there is no God. I am not saying that every religion is dishonest. I am not saying that religious leaders actively try to deceive their followers. Many of these leaders have learned the laws and lessons passed down through the ages by tradition. They have no reason to doubt what they have been told. But, if all religious information originated with God, then why isn’t it all the same? One could argue that God proclaimed the truth then the information was passed down the line as if it were a game of telephone. Those who acquire the authority to enforce the teachings could alter the information all along the way for their personal gain. This could be true, and if it is then it requires people to be even more vigilant about their religion.

Fundamentalists know this well. Fundamentalists fear that the information could be misinterpreted, so they claim to live by the exact writings in their book of faith. However, most religious books have many conflicting readings and someone must decide somewhere along the line which way the religion is going to come down on the conflicting issue. An overarching philosophy must be determined early on in order to interpret conflicting readings.

This explains how modern Fundamentalist Christians have come down so strongly against the social teachings of Jesus. Jesus taught people to care for the poor and homeless, but Fundamentalist Christians have chosen to interpret Paul’s more conservative views on these issues. A knowledgeable person will recognize that Fundamentalist Christians quote Paul to refute the socialist teachings of Jesus. However, they are never honest about this. They quote Paul and use him as if he were saying that Jesus said this. This is because the Christian Church has been able to convince everyone that Paul and Jesus were on the same page.

Remember, everything you know is wrong...

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Health Care Redux

I have written about health care before, and I am sure that I will write about it again. This is because health care is an issue that pits the low tax conservatives against Christian values. Low tax conservatives don’t want to regulate government. They don’t want to pay anything to help the poor and disadvantaged. Christians on the other hand have a mandate from Christ to help the poor. Unless Christians come up with insurance plans for the poor funded through their collection plates it is hard to imagine how Christians can justify the callous nature of the conservatives who don’t care about the health of the poor.

The fact is that the cost of health care is rising. How do conservatives plan to make sure that the sick are cared for?

The current system denies those who can't afford care or health insurance. This is called rationing to those who can pay for it. It doesn't seem to be very Christian. How will the Christians accept this lack of Christianity by the conservatives?

I am guessing that once some Christians begin to experience this first hand, perhaps when people in their church begin dying because they don't get health care they will realize that conservatives don't really care about values.

Stepping Back for a Look

For the last few days I have been thinking about the results of the US Presidential Election. Right after the election I was shocked that so many people could be influenced by the lies of the Republican Party. But, then I thought about the situation a little more. In general people don’t like to change presidents during a war. So, being optimistic we can only hope that if there weren’t a war going on George W Bush would have lost. Unfortunately, the American people could not put the two pieces together. They could not ask why we are at war – because the president chose to put us into an unnecessary and illegal war. Unfortunately the politicians will learn from this and the US will enter more unnecessary and illegal wars in the future in order to hold the presidency.

But, with this victory the Republicans have given the Fundamentalist Christians a newfound power. I was listening to Richard Viquerie yesterday. He doesn’t want the fact that the Fundamentalists Christians and the Conservatives have gained so much power to become public knowledge. He is arguing that they are still in a minority fighting the battle of a minority group. This is because he knows that once the Conservatives are shouldered with the mantel of power they become responsible for what ever doesn’t work out. They want to keep the illusion of being powerless as long as possible to become as strong as possible. He even says that they don’t have a real conservative in the White House yet. Somehow he doesn’t realize that George W Bush is far more conservative than Barry Goldwater was in the 1950s. These people will not be happy until religion becomes merged with the government and people are put into jail for violating Christian religious laws.

But, what can be done so this doesn’t happen again?

For the lying politicians to be defeated honest politicians need to beat them in the next election. This is not going to happen until the subtle truth becomes a louder voice than the emotional reactionary rhetoric of lies that the Republicans have spread. This can not happen until people are able to recognize what the lies are and how the Republicans spread these untruths. Rush Limbaugh has been able to turn issues in to emotionally charge banter that people can pick up on in just a few minutes. You can turn his show on and hear to screaming of outrage that altar girls are allowed to participate in church. Don’t you know that the altar is a place for males only? What is this world coming too? In those few minutes you know that the altar is for males only because Rush is so upset about it. There should be a law and I am going to vote for the guy who is going to fix this problem. By the Way, he is the Republican running for office...

Obviously Rush doesn’t really care what happens in the Catholic Church, but I am just illustrating how any topic can be turned into outrage and get people to jump up and take action against the outrage. Since progressives or liberals or even libertarians don’t see the world in black and white there is no way to jump up shout about something with outrage. Instead, care and love for sinners and saints alike is what Jesus stood for. But, somehow the conservatives were able to take the actual compassion out of Jesus’ teachings. George W Bush used compassionate conservatism as a campaign slogan, but there wasn’t any reality there.

Exposing the lies of these guys is the only way to get the liars out of office. At first it may seem that no one cares about the truth, but exposing the lies is an a cumulative effect. When the public sees the lies over and over again they will eventually come to the conclusion that these guys lie. When tax cuts begin to cause the infrastructure to fall apart conservatives will become disillusioned. When the wealthy Republican donors choose money over social reform Fundamentalists will become disillusioned. In the long run American doesn’t really want to be run by a Christian form of the Taliban, so Americans will eventually stand up for themselves. But, the question is: “How much damage will be done before this happens?”

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Da Vinci and Mary Magdalene

The Da Vinci Code has exposed an interesting discrepancy between reality and perceived reality. As far as the general public is concerned there is standard Bible story that tells us who Jesus was, and how he lived his life. There are scholars who spend their lives studying the Bible, and the historical reality of the times of Jesus. So, when The Da Vinci Code makes some of it's unbelievable statements about Jesus being married to Mary Magdalene the public finds it hard to believe. So, when I wandered through Borders today I saw two books be hawked with The Da Vinci Code. By checking at amazon.com I found more than ten books trying to capitalize on the popularity of The Da Vinci Code.

Suddenly I am amazed. I paged through the two books I saw at the bookstore today. One was a rant about The Da Vinci Code having no basis in fact. It is all conjecture, and they go through parts of the book always pointing out the literal meaning of the Bible. Obviously some Fundamentalist Christian with an agenda to debunk anything that challenges the Bible published this book. The second book: "Secrets of the Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Burstein was quite interesting, but also slightly disingenuous. Paging through the book I found myself reading about Jesus' wife Mary Magdalene. In this book I found that the Catholic Church has said that she was Jesus' wife in its encyclopedia since 1967. If this is true, then why isn't it a widely known fact? It all has to do with perception and reality.

So, let me get this straight. The historical scholars have discovered that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene nearly fifty years ago. Nearly forty years ago the marriage was added to the Catholic Encyclopedia. In the mean time very few people actually knew about this. Then a popular book talks about this idea as if not many people know about it. Then scholars proclaim that this has been a well-known fact for nearly fifty years. Somehow this doesn't seem to be on the

Would Jesus Carry A Gun?

Basing your life on what Jesus did has got to be a problem with most Christians who plan to live their lives this way. Perhaps this was a reason why the Amish rejected technology. If you put technology into the picture then you have to think about what Jesus would do if he were alive with the current technology.

For example, one interested blogger asked me what Jesus would say today to people who arm themselves. Obviously during the time of Jesus most people needed to protect themselves 24 hours a day. Security for most people was almost non-existent. The wealthy and the leaders had the protection of soldiers and bodyguards. The rabbis and religious had been protected by way of superstition. Many people, including those who would do harm, believed that injuring a man of God would bring a curse upon you and your family. So, the average person would find carrying a knife or sword for protection a normal daily activity.

So, when I am asked if Jesus would carry a gun, I would ask whether carrying a gun could be equal to carrying a knife or sword in Jesus’ time. So, in Jesus’ time would the knife prevent an attack? The presence of a knife or sword would most likely deter an attack if the attacker knew about it. However, an attacker would most likely seek an attack when the potential victim was unaware. In our current time the situation is identical except for the change of weapons and the change in public security. In our current world, at least in America, people are relatively safe and have little or no need to carry any weapon. People regularly travel thousands of miles without a weapon. In your own neighborhood where people know you, you are even safer.

Considering the change in weapons between Jesus’ time and our current time we need to imagine the situation with both weapons. In the first case a thief may choose to jump his victim when he is unaware. The stunned person draws out his knife or sword. The attacker either believes he has a chance or he runs away. If the attacker continues his attack it is because he either injured the victim in his attack or he believes he has some advantage. If the two parties fight they will carry on until either the attacker gives up, or the victim gives in. Most conflicts of this sort will not end with much injury, and most likely not death. The exact statistics could actually be derived from criminals who use knives now days.

Considering guns instead one could easily imagine the same scenario. The victim is apprehended at gunpoint. In this case the victim either gives his money away or he pulls his own gun and shooting begins. If he gives in he only loses some money. If he continues to fight there is a high probability that one or the other will be injured or killed. Therefore, the risk in the entire conflict is increased with guns in the equation. Now, one may suggest that if the thief has a gun the victim will lose his money every time, so he needs a gun to defend himself. However, if the victim has a gun there is a high probability that one of the two will be killed. Since Jesus was compassionate and he loved everyone even the sinner it is unlikely that Jesus would approve of guns even if carried by someone with the pretense of self-defense. And, with the current state of American security it is even less justifiable because Jesus would know that a live victim could go to the police and file a report. If many people file these reports the robber will eventually be apprehended when he slips up.

Geminids and Machholz

Monday was the peak for Geminid activity this year. Huh?

Monday night I was driving home from work. It was dark already and I was driving through the darkest part of my trip. Suddenly I saw a shooting star streak across the road ahead of me. I thought for a second and wondered if one of the major meteor showers was due. Now days I could just log on to the web and search for meteor showers. I found out that the Geminid meteor shower would reach its peak around midnight. This was great, so I went outside and started looking for meteors. I saw a few, but I began to get cold. I thought that I would go inside and warm up a bit and then go out again later.

In the intervening hour I did what every geek does, I surfed the web. Since my interest was peaked for astronomy I began down the astronomy road. That’s when I found out that there was a new comet. The comet was called Machholz and I should be able to see it with my binoculars. I quickly blew the dust off my binoculars and went outside again. I had looked at the sky chart and I had an idea of where to look, but I couldn’t find it. Surely I should be able to see it, because other people had seen it with only binoculars. The sky was a little misty and wisps of clouds were beginning to blow in from the ocean. I got distracted and looked at Orion’s sword for a while. Then I went back to comet hunting. I finally thought that I needed to look at the sky chart again. So, I went back inside and logged on to the web again, .found a good chart and printed it out. Now, I knew exactly where to look. I went outside and the clouds had come in and covered that spot in the sky.

So, last night I was determined to find the comet Mackholz. I went outside with the sky chart in hand. I looked and looked and I finally found it. And, like usual, once I found it, it became obvious. I estimate that the magnitude was between 5 and 5.5 which is brighter than what had been predicted. In the next month it may be easy enough to see that one could look up on a light polluted night and be able to see it distinctly. Like the comet Hale Bopp in 1997. But, most likely not – too bad....

Drivers Licenses and ID Cards

Once again that issue of issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants has been debated. The debate was between the current California Senator Barbara Boxer and her challenger Bill Jones. The issue of driver’s licenses for immigrants is really a non-issue if driver’s licenses were used the way they were meant to be used. They should be used to prove that you have passed a driver’s test, and are a capable driver. However, it is also used as an identification card.

Why is a driver’s license being used as an identification card? This question dates back to the 1950s. After World War II there were several issues brought up by the McCarthy group that was trying to weed out Communists from the United States. The idea of having a national Identification Card was put forward. There was a heated debate on this issue and the ID card lost. This was because the congress feared a National ID card would be used to keep track of citizens in an un-American way. The country would be no better than the Soviet Union who kept track of its citizens with ID cards.

So, driver’s licenses were used as a back door ID card.

Now, we want driver’s on the road to be safe. We would like all drivers to take classes and understand the rules of the road. However, we do not want to give ID cards to people who don’t deserve them. The only solution to this problem is to have two different items. An ID card for US citizens and a driver’s license for those who don’t deserve an ID card for whatever reason.

Unexpected Eavesdropping

A few months ago I bought a short range FM transmitter that plugs into the headphone socket of whatever audio device that you want to listen to on the radio. The way it works, the device broadcasts the audio signal on a small selection of FM radio stations. You turn on your radio and you listen to the radio station and you hear what you are trying to broadcast. At this point most of you are thinking, why would you want to do this?

I don’t have an mp3 player in my car. However, I bought a cheap mp3 player that plays CDs burned with mp3 files on them. So, what I have been doing over the last six months or so is recording internet radio broadcasts of shows that I like to listen to. Since I don’t always have a chance to listen to all these shows I am able to listen to them when I am driving to and from work.

Today on my way to work I was listening to my mp3s when suddenly I heard some strange beeping that sounded like a telephone answering machine being broadcast over the radio station. I figured that this was bound to happen at some point, because there are only four frequencies to choose from. Two of the four frequencies have radio stations already broadcasting on them. So, the odds are pretty good that someone else was going to share the same frequency that I was using. The annoying thing was that her FM broadcast was much stronger than mine was. I know this, because I was listening to her answering machine messages.

As I drove by cars I couldn’t help but look into the windows of the cars as I passed them. I finally found the person, Mary Ellen was wearing a hands free head set listening to her voice mail. I couldn’t help laughing when I heard the sound of a desperate guy wanting to talk to her, and she would delete the message after the first five or six words. Apparently you need to get your important point to her in just six words. If you can hold her attention, then you can give the rest of your spiel.

At some point I got far enough ahead of her that the broadcast trickled down to static. I put “City Arts and Lectures” back on, and began to listen for ten to fifteen minutes until Mary Ellen sped up and I was slowed down by traffic in my lane. Now, she began calling some of the people. She had the system wired so I could only hear the caller’s side of the story. I actually got quite a bit of information about Mary Ellen, just listening to the one side of the conversation. But, what I really want to know is what brand FM broadcaster she was using, because it was clearly stronger than mine was.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Ode to the Old Car

I am sitting here thinking about my car. It’s an old car and it’s had a good life. It’s the kind of car that you don’t want to throw away if you can help it. The car has 242,000 miles on it. Last week on "Car Talk" they said that 240,000 miles was the distance to the moon. So, that means that my car has driven the distance to the moon. Now, the question is could it make it all the way back again?

All in all, this car has been a good car. It has done its job well. It has had few break downs in it’s lifetime. My third daughter was born in the front seat of this car. There were only three major repairs that have ever been done to this car. The transmission was replaced twice, and the engine has been rebuilt. Other than that we have only done the regular maintenance schedule. We are now past the last regular maintenance – we are in the irregular maintenance schedule.

But, if I replaced this car with something else, what would it be? What car could possibly live up to the expectations based on the life of this wonderful car? Could I ever find a car with the same memories? I will never look at a new car and think about my wife giving birth to our daughter. I will never think about cleaning up all that blood. I will never think about our four-day trek across the great middle of our country. I will never think about driving through the desert and the mountains. How could another car ever live up to this one?

But, maybe the question should be turned around. What new dreams could we live out in the new car? Could we visit even more wonderful places? Could we take even more eventful trips to more exiting places? Maybe a new car would give us more reason to dream.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Why Would Anyone Want Armor?

Last week Rumsfeld was asked why the Army couldn’t armor the Hummers and trucks in Iraq.

Good question, I thought, but everyone already knows this. I just assumed that the soldiers didn’t really care if the Army wanted to protect them. The soldiers volunteered to fight in the Army, so what the hell, they got what they signed up for.

But, this soldier asked about the armor. So, maybe the soldiers were actually getting some balls and they were actually going to stand up and speak out. That would be good. After all, we live in America and the person who squeaks gets the grease. So, I thought this was great!

But, the conservatives shed light on this situation. The soldiers don’t really care about the armor after all. A reporter from Tennessee got the soldier to ask the question, and he paid the soldiers in the audience to cheer when the soldier asked the question. I guess the conservatives want to point out that a soldier wouldn’t really want to know about the armor on their Hummers or trucks. The conservatives want everyone to know that the soldiers in Iraq really like to fight without armor. Apparently only wusses and wimps actually want armor. In fact many of the soldiers actually don’t want guns. They would rather fight the Iraqis with their bare hands, because after all real men don’t need weapons.

So, I guess that the soldier was set up by that reporter to ask Rumsfeld about their safety. Now they are going to have to suffer and get armor on their vehicles. Too bad....


I am reading two books in parallel now. They are both heavy reading, so reading two different ones give me the opportunity to switch back and forth when one becomes a bit too tedious. The first one is: “Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny” by Robert Wright. The second one is: “The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant” by John Dominic Crossan. They actually compliment each other in a way that I wasn’t expecting when I first saw checked them out of the library.

“Nonzero” is quite interesting; it tells how the idea of a zero-sum game means that there is a winner and a loser. But, there are also non-zero sum games where cooperation allows both players to win. Wright is saying that the history of human development is punctuated by times when the game of human life becomes a non-zero sum game – allowing cooperation to become the key to survival. Wright tells us that the division of human development history into the stone age, bronze age, iron age, etc. being defined by the tools that were used is not really how the demarcation lines should be drawn. Instead, the level of societal cooperation would be a better measure. The units of social structure: family, extended family, tribe, village, collection of tribes etc. show where the groups are on the development scale.

“The Historical Jesus” is also an interesting book. It is quite dense with information. Crossan gets his information from the Bible, historical records, and the newly discovered Gnostic Gospels. He talks about the life of a typical peasant, the Roman authority, and the history of the region. One of the early issues Crossan discusses is the idea of virginity. First of all: why was virginity important at all? It turns out that the need for raising virginity to such an important status is based on the practice of stealing women from the different tribes in the Mediterranean Region. By raising the status of virginity to a higher level it actually protected the non-virgin women from theft. This was important, because the older women were actually quite important in keeping every day life working efficiently. The theft of the younger virgin women actually benefited the whole population by stirring the gene pool.

The point is that virginity was raised to such an artificially high level of importance. This distorted belief in the power of this status was then used to make the virgin birth of Jesus be even more important than it should have been. The Gospel of Mark is the earliest Gospel, and doesn’t even talk about the birth of Jesus. The embellishment of the later Gospels was done to give more importance to Jesus. The status of Jesus was continually being raised by his followers through their writing and preaching in order to add strength to their cause – Christianity.

Friday, December 10, 2004

What Has God Given Us?

When people argue that the Bible can not have mythical stories in it then they are arguing that the earth that we have has false information buried in it. If they argue that the universe was created in seven days, then they are arguing that God left us false clues in the soil in the form of fossils. God created the universe, and God does not deceive us. Then how can we reconcile the issues in the Book of Genesis with the discoveries that modern man has made? The most reasonable solution to this problem is that the Bible is intended for us to be instructed on a deeper level. The Bible was not written to tell us how the earth was constructed. The Bible was not written to tell us how God decided to create the human race. If he decided to do it in three days, seven days or 12 billion years why does it matter? It only matters to those who think that what is written in the Bible can not be untrue in any way.

Well, the Bible has many truths in it. And, any scholar of the Bible can tell you that the God of the Old Testament is different than the God of the New Testament. Why is this true? Did God change, or did the people who were writing the Bible evolve in some way? God gave us the clues and we need to understand what we can. We own it to God to understand our world that God has given to us in a gift. God gave us the Bible and he gave us the Universe.

If we were to sit and only study the Universe we might understand quite a bit about it. But most religious people must agree that the study of science alone does not tell us the whole story. So, why do the Fundamentalist Christians think that if they only study the Bible they will understand the will of God?

The answer is that God gave us more than just the Bible. God gave us our life and our brain and he intends for us to use it. God gave us the universe with all the clues intact. And, God gave us the Bible. If you are not able to pull all the information that He has given us together, then you are missing some of the information that God has given to us.

Although I do not know everything that God intends for us to know, no one does, I do know that if you only rely on one piece of information you are bound to be lacking in knowing what God meant for us to know.

The Message of the Counter Culture

We are about forty years hence from the Counter Culture. Of course the counter culture actually began after the Second World War and continued into the present. The counter culture began as a small group of people opposed to the way things were being done in the standard American culture and to this day there are still people who find themselves in this group. However, during the second half of the 1960s the counter culture grew in size and power to fight the basic evil in the standard American culture.

Evil in America? Yes, there was and still is evil in the American culture. The first evil to be challenged by the counter culture was racial inequality. The next challenge was the war in Vietnam. The next challenge was the equality of men and women. The destruction of the environment became another challenge. Every where the counter culture looked it found evil in the system.

So, it is quite interesting that the backlash to the counter culture has come with the same religious implication. The attack on the counter culture is coming from those effected by the counter culture movement, but they are using the same type of moral argument to fight back.

Who were the people effected by the American Cultural Revolution that took place in the 1960s? Basically those who had acquired power before the 1960s had some of that power taken away from them during the 1960s. The children of these people what their power back. We need to remember that the power in much of America was passed down through families in the form of wealth, but also in the form of favors and pats on the back. Like the old adage goes, “It isn’t what you know it’s who you know.” Many of America’s most powerful people got their jobs through family connections. Since many minorities were not in positions of power in the 1960s it was unlikely that minorities would ever acquire power in almost any way. Since women had very little power before the 1960s they would most likely not acquire much power in the future. In short, the system had evolved in such a way that those who had power had the highest probability of retaining and passing on the power.

Power comes in many different forms. There is political, financial, and intellectual power. All three of these groups work together in order to keep themselves in power and to propagate their power to the next group who will inherit the power. The counter culture disrupted the system by promoting the idea that the system was broken and some people had no say in their future. Since the American culture had always promoted the idea that hard work will produce prosperity, this message motivated many to act. That action changed the way the culture looked at society and the rules many people had taken for granted.

History goes on and the people who lost their power became angry. Could you imagine a wealthy family eating dinner in a mansion in the wealthy area of town. The father tells stories about how life was when he was growing up. He tells about the servants and drivers who made his life easier. He talks about the respect he had and the job he got when he graduated from school. The kids may have some of these things, but it is most likely that the kids need to be more accountable for their lives. They need to do fairly well in school in order for their father to justify giving them a top position in the company. The father is held accountable by the board of directors and wouldn’t easily agree with a huge salary for one of the executive’s kids. The kid’s servants needed to make a living wage, so they may not be able to justify a driver or a stable hand for the kids. In short, the kids have grown up thinking that the counter culture had robbed them of their perfect lives.

These children of the wealthy have now risen to power in America and they are determined to put things right. But, the old argument for a wealthy American Aristocracy doesn’t work any more. The counter culture had exposed the evils of the wealthy. Instead, the wealthy realized that they could fight back by using their own brand of morality. They began by vilifying the counter culture by painting them with the anti-social behaviors of the counter culture. They painted them as the hippies who wouldn’t go out and find work. They painted them as the hippies who sat around all day smoking pot, and listening to rock ‘n’ roll music all day. These hippies became the symbol of the evils of the counter culture movement.

But, the hippies went away and the counter culture hid behind plain clothes of everyday people. The counter culture grew up and got jobs and raised families. But, they took their counter culture ideas with them. Laws continued to be passed to fix the broken American Culture. The wealthy continued to loose power as they methods of retaining power were exposed to the general public. The counter culture lived on in the people who demanded fairness for the poor and minorities. They demanded fairness for alternative life styles and alternative religions.

The children of the wealthy fought back again by using religion. The wealthy found that growing Christian movement could be manipulated to fight to win back their power. This is because both groups had lost something in the 1960s. When the American Culture was examined the power of the church was being examined in the same way in which the power of the wealthy was being examined. People had automatically given reverence to the religious and to religions. There was a mystery behind religions that many people recognized. People didn’t question religious power, because it would be like questioning God Himself. But the counter culture no longer gave religion carte blanche. Religion became optional. When people didn’t attend church, they were no longer under the thumb of the church. Religion lost its power.

So, we find ourselves in the culture wars once again. This time the wealthy are armed with religion and the counter culture only exists in the back of some people’s minds. The youth of today don’t know any difference. They don’t what life was life in the “old days” and they don’t understand how life could be changed if we were to go back to the pre-counter culture days. They do see some of the problems of today and they hear the religious right tell them that those problems could be solved with more religion. They are told that the counter culture, or the hippies or the liberals had ruined everything.

All Politics is Personal

Every decision that you make is politics in action. When you go to the store and buy a case of beer politics is in action. You are choosing to give money to one beer brewery instead of the 100 other beer brewers you could choose from. If you buy Coors you are supporting the conservative owners agenda. This is because if you didn’t buy his beer he would have that much less money to do his bidding in Washington. Likewise, if you support the local brewery you put money into the pockets of the local owners and they spend the money locally putting money into your local community.

If we do not understand that what we buy is a political choice, then we will continue to buy things without thinking about who gets the money. Instead of make chooses based on politics we will make choices based on advertising. Of course, the companies that can afford to advertise are already large companies with large marketing budgets. These large companies may not have your interest in their hearts. Instead, they just want to increase sales and one patsy is as good as another one is. More frequent advertising will generate more buyers, because people act spontaneously. People buy things that they don’t need all the time.

The only message here is: “Think about the impacts of your purchase before you buy.”

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Outright Lies of Lynn Kramer

Hidden away in the deep recesses of my blog lies a comment that has more hatred in it than I have witnessed in most of my life. You can read it here:

Lynn Kramer Lies

Most of the comment doesn’t really make much sense, and it isn’t substantiated with any evidence. But, the hatred is there nonetheless.

But when she wrote: “He wants to marginalize me based on my gender, race, or religion.”

I had to respond.

“First of all, you offer no proof what so ever of my intentions. You don’t quote any place at all where I suggest such a thing. Second, I don’t even know what your race is, and I don’t care. My philosophy is independent of race. Third, we share the same religion albeit you have a warped view of it. Fourth, I believe that I care more about you gender than you do. You believe that you should deny across the board to all women to have the right to choose an abortion. You don’t consider the feelings of those women who have been raped and want to put that experience behind them. Instead you would prefer that they have to look across the dinner table at what that monster had done to them.”

But, this shouldn’t have surprised me. This is the same type of attack that the religious right used throughout the campaign. They can’t make up lies about Kerry anymore so they are on a witch-hunt for anyone who they disagree with. Then they make up lies and hope that something sticks.

Why does religion over rule common sense?

Most churches and religions try to create a path for people to follow to live a fruitful productive life. The original goal for every religion is the same: get people to live good lives. Unfortunately the definition of “good” has always been the problem.

Early religions defined “good” as following what the leaders of the tribe wanted. In order to gain more authority the leaders shifted those desires to the gods. Following what the gods wanted became the same as what the leaders wanted. The laws were written and future leaders had a set of laws that benefited the leaders and the people pleased the gods. Different leaders could call on different gods to attain his particular goal.

But, the early civilizations did not understand what was best for civilization. Instead, they thought they knew what would be best for the particular time. This is the same as modern companies doing what is best for the current quarter’s bottom line instead of what is best for the company in the long run. Things may work out for the short term, but future leaders eventually need to pay the piper.

Religions were continually revised over time. Abraham was the first to realize that the idea of one God would make lives and the tribal laws more consistent. New leaders would still have to follow the same laws as previous leaders. No one could change these goals very easily. Abraham argued that having one God was more powerful than distributing the power to many gods. This one God was the God of all other gods. No one denied the existence of other gods, only that they should not be given praise or respect.

So, “good” now became doing what the one God deemed worthy in order to be worthy. A set of rules was drawn up that addressed the issues of how people should live their lives. So, following a set of rules became “they way” to lead a holy life. Knowing the enormous list of laws became important, because you could accidentally break one law by following another. Only the most pious were able to follow the list of laws without breaking any of them. The effort was enormous and the people who did this turned into sheep.

When Jesus came along he recognized the problem. However, the leaders like the complete adherence to the list of laws, because the laws kept order. Some people didn’t follow the law and when they didn’t it lead to problems. Saying that following the letter of the law was secondary to treating each other fairly and with love could lead to disorganization and the downfall of civilization. Jesus was progressive preached for changing the system for the better. Read Mathew chapter 23 for Jesus’ line of thought.

Of course it isn’t easy to fight the system and eventually the system reached out and killed Jesus. The followers of Jesus survived underground and passed on the fight against the system. However, Paul came along and saw that there wasn’t organization to the followers of Jesus. He proposed a set of laws based in Jesus’ teaching in an effort to organize the religious sect. Many of Paul’s ideas came from Jesus’ enemies in the Jewish church. Some of his ideas came from the Greek tradition of philosophy, particularly Plato. He was quite successful at organizing the sect and pointing back down the road of following laws for the sake of following laws, and not for the benefit of the community. Some ideas were good, and other ideas need to be reconsidered.

So, in the tradition of Jesus we should continuously reconsider religious laws in regard to the culture in which we live. This was the major conclusion of the Catholic Church’s Vatican II council. Looking at the need for tradition and the need for liturgy in addition to the need for law. Returning to Jesus’ message that loving thy neighbor supersedes law. The idea that building a relationship with God is the highest priority.

Not all religions follow what Jesus taught. This is clear when people say, “Why can’t the Jews and Palestinians act like Christians and work out their differences?” If they acted like many Christians that are currently controlling the Religious Right they would have destroyed each other long ago. They are working on it obviously, but they have also had periods of restraint. But, Fundamentalist Christian religions espouse the words of Christ to make their points, but they are the first to ignore Jesus’ teaching on feeding the hungry and caring for the poor. They ignore Jesus’ teaching that love outweighs the law. Instead they quote John saying that salvation can only be found through Jesus. Why should this line be given so much weight when Matthew, Mark and Luke didn’t mention it?

Fundamentalism does not use common sense.

What Say You?

Imagine my surprise last night when I saw Travis Tritt and John Mellencamp on the tonight show last night. I sat there dumbstruck listen to the lyrics of their new song “What Say You.” Obviously “What Say You?” refers to the line used by talk show host Bill O’Reilly. But, the emotion and feeling from the two sides of the political divide rose up and instead of hissing at each other they celebrate the differences that is in our country. They are making a plea to the general population to listen to each other. Perhaps there is a middle road that reasonable people can agree with.

My hats off to both John and Travis. Hopefully Travis won’t get Dixie Chicked by the country radio stations....

Read More about What Say You?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Rumsfeld is Shelled with Friendly Fire

Rumsfeld is Shelled with Friendly Fire

Finally the soldiers are beginning to speak their minds. Maybe they have been trying to in the past, but they weren’t allowed to ask questions. Or, maybe Rumsfeld thought that the military was a safe haven free from criticism. After all, the miltary is 85% Republican. Maybe the questions are coming from the 15% non-partisan soldiers, but it is great to hear that there are some soldiers that have the bullocks to question authority.

The questions that were asked show that these soldiers have reasonable concerns about the lack of armor on their vehicles and the unfair practice of extending service of the soldiers beyond what they signed up for.

Rummy Story

Reincarnation And The Afterlife

Part of religion is an effort to give supernatural authority to law. Part of religion is a response to the fear of the unknown. Mortal leaders have found that using the universal human fear of the unknown to support its need for supernatural authority gives strength to its power. Kings have given themselves the authority to rule by divine right for many years. But no one questions when this divine authority was handed down. The idea of democracy was supported by the argument that God created all men equal. This was an effort to move the divine right of Kings to the divine right of White landowners to rule themselves.

Reincarnation is another response to the fear of the unknown. Human existence comes with the goal of self-preservation. However, humans also have been cursed and blessed with the ability to reason. Reason has lead humans to realize that like all living things their life on earth is limited. However, self-preservation forces humans to deny this inevitable fate on a daily basis. Religion often offers comfort by telling stories that alleviate the fear we all naturally feel.

Whether the stories tell us about living with 700 virgins after our death or that we will be reborn as a cat it really doesn’t matter to how we live our lives. This is because no one really knows what our fate is after death. If there was one truth, then most religions would have the same truth. Instead, we are left with conjectures that many religions have reasoned based on what their culture superimposed on them.

In the long run, it really doesn’t matter. If we concentrate on what we have before us we really don’t have much time to contemplate what we have no hope of knowing. If each person were to live their lives in an effort to do the most with what they have in the time they are given then the reward will be a better life for everyone who is living now and the influence on those who come after us would be significant as well. Of course, free will prevents everyone from taking part in this noble cause and those who see people getting without giving makes them feel taken advantage of. Laws, guilt and religion have been used to set these people straight in the past. And I believe that most people understand that humans will always take advantage of the system. But, we should not make up lies to guilt people into doing the right thing. We should tell people the truth to guilt them into doing the right thing.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Role of Religion in Society

I have posted on this subject several times, but I always feel that I have been lacking the clarity in expressing this aspect of religion.

Religion is used by society to make society better. It always has been. In the past I have described how religion evolved in primitive culture. I have also explained the strength in moving from multi-god religions to the single God of Abraham. I have explained how governments have used God to strengthen their own laws. Some governments actually went so far as to proclaim the leader to be a living god. This was done to give authority and strength to the government. In these cases I believe that most people will agree that the government created fiction to create authority.

Most people can look at every other religion besides their own religion and point out the flaws that they see. The problem comes when people can not look at their own religion objectively. The regular religious person accepts religion as fact, no matter what religion they belong to.

So, the question becomes: “Why can’t someone who sees flaws in 100 different religions can’t see the flaws in his or her own religion?” The answer is that most religious people don’t know enough about any other religion in order to make a fair comparison. Other religions are considered “un-true” and therefore information about these religions is unnecessary. Why would someone waste their time learning something that is clearly false? The answer would be - a person should learn about other religions in order to form a common bound with people of other faiths. This is because most religious people are religious because they are trying to be “good” people. So, if all religious people are trying to be “good” people in different ways, then what harm is there in trying to learn how other people are trying to be “good?”

The authority in most religions would scoff at that answer. And, the reason they scoff at it is because that answer takes power away from their religion and distributes it to all other religions equally. Authority really dislikes when power is taken away from it. History shows us that the authority at the time of Christ disliked Jesus because He was taking their power from them. Jesus told the Pharisees that the law was not as important as the people were. If the people were going to be harmed then the law could be set aside. The Pharisees claimed that Jesus was speaking as a heretic when he claimed this. But, today we have religions that claim this same ultimate authority.

I am sure that Jesus would agree with me. Religion should make society better. If religion is destroying society there must be a problem with that religion. So, religions that claim that they are the one authority on religion should re-examine their relationship to society. What would Jesus think of this? If the religious authority doesn’t ask these questions, then the religious themselves should ask these questions.


...They are not just for Science or Entertainment anymore. The Nazis experimented with steroids in their effort to build the perfect man. The Russians and the East Germans used them to win Olympic medals. Then they must be evil, right?

Let’s take a step back and look at athletics in general. What is the point of athletics? The ancient Greeks created athletics in an effort to prevent war. They brought many of the city-states together in order to compete with each other so they wouldn’t feel the need to kill one another. The victory in athletics could be substituted for a victory in battle. Superiority no longer depended on death, but on the affirmation of life. The most powerful athletes were victorious.

When archeologists re-discovered the ancient Greek Olympics society was re-discovering athletics in general. Before the late 1800s athletics was a diversion from extremely long work works. People played games to relax. They would never contemplate athletics for the sake of athletics alone. Athletics became a more regular activity among people who could afford to dedicate the extra time to their sport.

Under these circumstances people who had money and loved a sport could play it enough to become very good at it. They more time you had the better you were at your sport. So, winning in sports was a way to display your free time, a symbol of your wealth. At the same time professional sports began to appear. The wealthy that were not in physical shape also wanted to demonstrate their wealth. They did this by created professional teams. The more money that they had the better athletes they could afford, and hence the better the team would be.

This is the way it was until to 1960s. In the cold war the Olympics became a way to demonstrate to the world the superiority of your country. The Soviet block wanted to show how strong the Soviet countries were, so they could claim that their system produced strength. The battle was to win over smaller countries to their way of government. The United States pushed the idea of capitalism, but they also helped sponsor athletes so that our country could prevail over the Soviet block countries. During these years winning became political. Both sides used steroids in an effort to win and show strength. So, we were back to the athletics as an outlet instead of war. Both sides made efforts to retain their advantage.

But, the reality of athletics is that some people are more athletic than others. Why is this? This is because some people produce more natural steroids than other people do. Women produce fewer steroids on average than men do. So, if all things are equal, then the person who has built up more muscle because his/her body produces more natural steroids than the other will win the strength events. So, the strength events are measuring who was born with the ability to develop the most strength. This seems to be a strange thing to be proud about. It is just as bad as a beauty contest. In a beauty contest contestants need to practice walking, controlling their calorie intake, and their manners. In athletics athletes need to practice to build their muscles and develop the skills required for the sport.

So, when a person takes steroids he/she is in essence leveling the playing field. Someone who isn’t born with enough natural steroids takes supplements to get him up to the level of the guy who produces more natural steroids. What difference does it make? Either way the athletes are freaks of human nature. They are the far end of the spectrum in the strength category. Steroids just allow the less freaky people to become athletic freaks. What difference does it make, because the people paying to see these athletes are paying to see athletic freaks do something the normal person could only wish he/she could do?

So, in the long run in professional sports it really doesn’t matter if an athlete takes steroids. This is because people pay to see freaks play sports and the freakier that they are the more money they will pay.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Good People

To the uninitiated “religion” is something that “good” people do.

Most people don’t know the difference between religions. Instead they think of religion as a “good” thing. Some of these people are a little more selective. They believe that Christianity is a “good” thing. Or, they think that “Buddha” was a good guy. Or, they think that the prophet Mohammed knew all the answers and they are written in the Koran.

In reality there are very few people that know a lot about many religions. And, there are even fewer people that know a lot about many religions and they are impartial to a particular religion. This is because people who are interested in religion tend to already have a favorite when they go into religious study. Some people may have been raised in a Christian country like the United States and they “shop around” for a religion. But, they shop around to several different Christian religions. It would be quite rare that they would “shop around” at Muslim, Christian, Jewish Hindu and Hebrew, Shinto, Tao and Buddhist religions. Not to mention that this process would be time consuming, because each religion teaches you about their faith over a long period of time, but it is also somewhat disingenuous of someone to claim the commitment required to go forward with the process.

People can learn about different religions by reading about them. They can learn about different religions by attending services. However, going through the indoctrination process is the only way to truly know what is expected of a follower in each faith.

So, the myth continues. People believe that all religions have to do with “good” people trying to do “good” things. So, when a truly evil religious group acquires power the aura of “goodness” shines over they group. It becomes incredibly difficult to expose the true nature of the evil.

Therefore one simply needs to repeat the mantra, “Exclusive Religions are Evil Religions.”

This is simply because no matter what your religion you need to realize that there is some deity that is concerned about all humans. Of course if you don’t believe in a deity at all, you still know that “good” people don’t need a deity to do “good.” And, the true effect of “good” religion is to do “good.”

Mary Mary Quite Contrary

I have been reading the Da Vinci Code recently. I finished Al Franken’s “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.” I highly recommend Al Franken’s book, for anyone who needs a good laugh.

I always have a need to discuss books while I am in the middle of it, instead of waiting until I finish. This is because when I finish I am usually off to read the next one. So, I just got to the place in the Da Vinci Code where they tell us about The Gnostic Gospel of Philip. Well, I am not completely familiar with Dan Brown, so I don’t know if he is completely making stuff up for entertainment value, or is he weaving facts together to create another way to look at the facts.

But Brown makes some extraordinary statements by quoting Philips Gospel. But, I needed to know if they were real quotes or made up quotes. Fortunately in this day and age we can just search the internet and find the truth. So I found a translation of The Gnostic Gospel of Philip: http://reluctant-messenger.com/gospel-of-philip.htm

And, I found the exact quotes that Dan Brown used in the Da Vinci Code.

So, what does this say?

Quote 1:

“There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary.”

We already knew of Mary his mother, but we didn’t know that Jesus had any siblings. Because, if he did have a sister or a brother then Mary his mother couldn’t continue to be a virgin. But even more than that, Mary Magdalene was his companion. In ancient times, this means that Jesus was actually married. No wonder the early church wanted this version of the Gospel destroyed. They didn’t want people to know the truth about Jesus.

If there is any doubt, we have quote 2:

“As for the Wisdom who is called "the barren," she is the mother of the angels. And the companion of the [...] Mary Magdalene. [...] loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth. The rest of the disciples [...]. They said to him "Why do you love her more than all of us?" The Savior answered and said to them,"Why do I not love you like her? When a blind man and one who sees are both together in darkness, they are no different from one another. When the light comes, then he who sees will see the light, and he who is blind will remain in darkness."”

Now we have Jesus kissing a woman on the mouth. It just goes to say how Christians today have missed the truth in the life of Jesus....

Sunday, December 05, 2004

America’s Most Dangerous Threat

During the Presidential debates both John Kerry and George W Bush agreed that the most dangerous threat to the United States of America is nuclear terrorism. The difference between the two men was how to handle the problem.

How will the terrorists get a nuclear weapon? Terrorists have many different ways to obtain a nuclear weapon now than they did ten years ago. This is because stockpiles of enriched uranium have grown in North Korea and Iran. This is also because the security of Russian stockpiles of weapons has been reduced. But, by far the most vulnerable place on the globe is Pakistan. Pakistan has built and testing nuclear weapons. Pakistan is occupied by a growing number of fundamentalist Muslims. And, Pakistan’s government is vulnerable to a coup d'etat.

If Pakistan’s government was to fall to a Fundamentalist Regime there could be any number of things this group could do. They could give nuclear weapons to terrorist groups to do God’s will. They could sell the weapons to like minded governments. They could use the weapons on Islam’s enemies. No matter what happens this is a very dangerous place.

Since North Korea has built from 6 – 8 nuclear weapons already, then what will they do with them? In the past North Korea has sold their mid-range ballistic missiles to Iran and anyone who will pay them. This is because North Korea needs money. The capitalistic west has been successful in isolating North Korea. Making North Korea desperate has forced them to sell missiles to nations on the dark side. Will North Korea be desperate enough to sell nuclear weapons to terrorists?

But, terrorists don’t need a ready-made nuclear weapon if they are willing to risk their lives. This is because slamming two pieces of enriched uranium into each other can create a simple nuclear weapon. If the total mass of the two pieces of uranium exceed the critical mass an explosion will occur. The only difficulty is obtaining enriched uranium. Russia, North Korea, Iran, Pakistan and many former Soviet nations have stockpiles of enriched uranium. Crime gangs in the former Soviet countries are always looking for an easy way to make some extra cash. If they could steal some enriched uranium from poorly guarded stockpiles they would certainly have terrorists for customers. Since the amount of uranium required would be less than the size of a soda can it could easily be smuggled anywhere in the world. The final device would be slightly larger and could be smuggled into any major city in many different ways, including shipping containers, train cars, rented trucks or even a commuter plane.

The world is certainly more dangerous today than when President Bush took office four years ago. George W Bush has turned his back on the dangerous developments by focusing his efforts on an unnecessary war in Iraq. George W Bush has taunted North Korea into building more nuclear weapons than they really wanted to build. President Bush has antagonized fundamentalists Muslims in Pakistan with the war against Islam (As it is viewed in the Arab world.) President Bush has failed to talk to Iran on issues of nuclear weapon development. (Fortunately the EU has made an independent effort.) And, President Bush has refused to help Russia and the former Soviet countries to secure their nuclear weapons.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Lying Liars

The right wing and religious Republicans are curious creatures. They spout high moral standards in their rhetoric. They tell us how freedom and liberty are important ideals in American culture. They claim that taking prayer out of public school imposes a threat on freedom of speech. However, when it comes to the truth they tend to sing a different tune.

Americans are aware of the lies that the leaders of the Republican Party continue to tell. However, if you find yourself in their camp you somehow believe that the ends justify the means. In fact, on the blogs throughout cyberspace right wing bloggers continue to fortify the multitude of lies by repeating them over and over.

So it goes.

Yesterday I had an interesting discussion with a conservative blogger on tblog. He argued back and for over the theory of intelligent design. The conservative blogger fronted three or four reasons why intelligent design must be true. However, I countered every argument that he gave. In his rebuttal he claimed that I had not given scientific evidence for my attack. Since I had actually given several points of fact I called him a liar. And, he was a liar.

I guess that calling him a liar ruffled his feathers a bit, but it was true. He begged me for an apology. Then, he demanded an apology. Finally he said that he wouldn't discuss anything further with me and he disabled my ability to call him on his lies.

This is quite interesting, because the same blogger has attacked me by name in his blog. So, apparently this is his justification for posting his hatred against me, and then disabling my ability to respond to it.

However, this blogger has learned from the president of the United States the ends justifies the means when it comes to lying.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Wealth in America

Conservatives continue to claim that wealth is the realization of the American dream. Wealth is the realization of the American dream if you worked for it. Conservatives claim that the efforts that generate the wealth for the small number of very wealthy generate economic growth for the rest of the country. This is true if the generation of this wealth is being done by an individual that is actually working for his money. But, the sad thing about American wealth are the 0.2 percent of the wealthy that own 50% of all the stock in the stock market. These ultra-wealthy never need to work. They are born into wealth and they contribute their wealth to their children so they never need to work. Their money is invested in stocks and bonds and it does all the work for these individuals. The only thing that these individuals need to do is protect their wealth. They contribute large sums of money to political candidates who in turn protect their wealth by cutting taxes for these individuals. These ultra-wealthy individuals do nothing to help the American economy grow except loan money to the government. But, they don’t risk anything, because all of the money loaned is paid back with interest.

This post may sound anti-American, but it isn’t. America is about working to build America and the individual benefits as well. But these individuals in the top 0.2 percent of assets in this country are parasites on the system and George W Bush has cut their taxes. Ninety nine percent of us work hard and contribute to the American dream, but these people believe that they are special and deserve to get a free ride.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Fundamental Problems

Fundamentalists select certain Bible quotes over and over again to support the exclusiveness of their beliefs. They quote John 14:6 “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.” It is quite interesting that there is only one reference to Jesus saying: "I am the way..." But there are 12 times when Jesus says "Love One another." What do you think Jesus thought was more important?

Also, he says, “Love thy neighbour” 8 times in addition to that, and there are many times where he conveys the same message in other ways. So, to point out four times where Jesus says that there is only one way through him seems insignificant compared to the many times that Jesus tells us to be peaceful and loving. In fact, Jesus continued to tell us not to take the Torah so literally. Anyone in doubt should read Luke Chapter 13. They should read the entire chapter so that they get the context, not just the single quotes. Remember, Jesus is accused of healing on the Sabbath.

Since suggesting that there is only one way to God creates hostility I would guess that Jesus would correct his statement if he were asked. He seemed to be creative when he described apparent contradictions.

The Evil of Fundamentalism

George W Bush talked about the axis of evil. But he didn’t mention the evil that we have in our very own country. I am talking about the evil of Fundamentalism. When I talk of I don’t mean just one type of fundamentalism, I mean all types of fundamentalism. This is because fundamentalism comes in many flavors.

The fact that there are many different fundamentalist religions is iron, because the foundation of fundamentalism is the fact that fundamentalists believe that they are the one true religion. So, if God gave the one true message to any group that believes that they are the one true group wouldn’t you expect that these fundamentalist groups would at least have very similar beliefs? In the case of monotheistic fundamentalists, shouldn’t the one true God have one true teaching taught to all of his worshipers? How could God give so many different teachings to all of these different fundamentalist groups?

With all these questions about fundamentalism the only consistent answer becomes, God tells each one of us how we need to believe and what we believe must be a personal relationship with God. Therefore, how I experience God is not necessarily the same as how another person experiences God. Some people may find their way to God through what Jesus taught and some may find their way to God through what Buddha taught.

So, what makes the fundamentalist teachings of religion evil, is that they presume that there is only one way to God. This presumption leads to conflict with every other religious group based on this. If a religion teaches us anything at all it teaches us how to get along with each other. This is what Jesus continued to teach throughout his three years of preaching. If you don’t buy into the fact that you should love one another then you are just not following Jesus and hence can not be called a Christian.

Since fundamentalism by its nature promotes conflict it can not be reconciled with Jesus’ teachings. Therefore Christian Fundamentalism can not be Christian. But, other forms of religious fundamentalism can not be reconciled with the religious ideas of seeking peace either. Only a religion that believes in conflict could be a fundamentalist religion. But God himself abhors conflict and adores peace, so fundamentalism itself is just plain evil.