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

Thursday, March 31, 2005

The Culture of Life Revisited

The Radical Right continues to tells us how important a culture of life is for our society. But, this is a specious argument when we consider that George W Bush the spokesman for the culture of life put 152 death row inmates to death as the Governor of Texas.

Imagine a death row inmate waiting to be put to death for murder. It doesn’t matter who it is. It doesn’t matter if he is guilty or not. As DNA evidence has shown there have been innocent people put to death by the state. Even if the guy was guilty and his crime was heinous enough to warrant death don’t we believe as a society that some people change. In fact, our society assumes that one can sink to the lowest depths of society and still be able to pull themselves back up again.

What is the point of the death penalty? A person must be crazy to be able to kill another person. However, if you kill him what does it solve? If you are a Christian, then how can choosing when he dies help anyone? A Christian believes in forgiveness of everyone for any sin. Jesus tells us this. If we put him to death we are saying that our society can not forgive him. If we don't let him die when God would take him we are saying we know better than God when his chance to turn back to God should be over. How does taking his life earlier than when God calls him make any sense at all?

If you are not Christian, what made this guy go crazy? Should we learn all we can from him to prevent future tragedy from happening again? We should never condone his action, but we owe it to ourselves as a society to understand what causes a person to do this. If we kill him just before a researcher has a breakthrough in need of a subject we are doing a disservice to society by killing him.

But, if we are killing him in some revenge motive for the victim how can we say that we as a society is above what the killer did. How can we say that our society has any sanity? Like I said above, a person must be crazy to be able to kill another person. This insanity reaches out to society when we can tell someone that we are a culture of life and we can still condone killing someone no matter what evil they perpetrated on our society. Aren’t we above that?

This is just my two cents on the “Culture of Life” in society on the day Terri Shiavo died.

When Capitalism Fails

The Radical Right believes that all problems can be solved by rigid adherence to capitalist principles. In general capitalism has proven to work very well, but there are several specific ways in which capitalism fails. These are the exceptions to the rule, but they are important exceptions, because they tend to be where most modern economic problems arise.

Capitalism is based on the idea that valued skills and products are rewarded because people who seek these skills and products are willing to pay more for higher quality skills and products. Market prices find their levels based on supply and demand. Difficult and desirable skills are rewarded with higher wages while common and easily mastered skills are rewarded with low wages. Rare and desirable products demand the highest price while common and easily obtained products demand the lowest price or may even be free.

Anyone who studies economics knows that not all markets behave in the same way. For example, if one company has a monopoly on a product or service they can charge a much higher price than if there is competition between two or more suppliers for the product or service. This is because the supplier has total control over the supply and the cost of another competitor to enter the market would be much higher than the possible return on the investment. On the other hand, if there is an unlimited supply of low cost labor companies who need the labor can pay extremely low wages, because a small wage is more desirable than no wage. And, a corollary to this is that fear of unemployment can be used to control the cost of labor because a low paying job is better than no job at all.

The objective of capitalism is to force competitors out of business, create a product that no one can do without, and produce it at the lowest possible price and sell it at the highest possible price. This is accomplished by investing money in order to build an infrastructure to create the product and the market.

There are quite a few questions that need to be asked in order to understand this simple statement. First of all, who can be a capitalist? A capitalist is a person that already has money that can be invested in such a way to create a product that has high demand and low cost to produce. If the capitalist has a small amount of money they can create a small business and build more capital until they acquire more and more capital. However, a weakness in the capitalist philosophy is that sons and daughters of wealth can enter the game without going through this step. And, since wealth can be passed from generation to generation a class of wealthy people is created and the members of this class are members because of the work done by their ancestors. This inherent inequality in class is not based on any benefit to society and actually weakens the social fabric of the society. Members of this wealthy class rarely loose their status or influence even though they do not deserve either the status or the influence.

Why do people desire products? Do consumers desire products that they actually need or do they desire products that they are told to desire?

Capitalism encourages companies to create desire for products that people may not really need, or may even be harmful. Tobacco is the classic example of a product that people don’t need but felt compelled to buy and use. Once people begin to use the product they became addicted and could not easily quit using the product. The benefit to society of tobacco use was solely negative. The cost of health care for people with lung disease was quite high and the cost to society of the early deaths and prolonged illness was staggering. But, tobacco companies followed the tenants of capitalism. Create a product people believe that they can not do without. Produce it as cheaply as possible and sell it for as much as you can. Tobacco, alcohol and even illegal drugs are examples of capitalism fulfilling its philosophical goals. It is quite clear from this example that people do not always desire what is best for society. This problem is repeated in the entertainment industry where people desire entertainment that does not benefit society by encouraging anti-social behaviour, such as violence and disregard for the law. It is repeated in the transportation industry where people desire cars that destroy the environment and feel put out to use more economical transportation like trains or busses.

Capitalism encourages companies to use the cheapest possible labor in order to produce products at the lowest possible price. With unemployment world wide at such high rates and the possibility to outsource production to these low wage countries companies can pay people below the living wage to hire laborers. Only improving ones skills will enable someone to move up from these low wage jobs to higher paying jobs. Of course the highest paying jobs require capital to invest in order to buy a seat on the board of directors, or to own a company. Capitalism requires capital to make the greatest return on investment.

Not all markets behave the same. One market that will never behave like any other market is the health care market. Health care has one aspect that is different from all other markets, failure of a person in health care will render all other markets meaningless. This is because, if you don’t have your health there is no point of having anything else.

Imagine a machine that can make a person 10 years younger. The person needs to spend an entire day in the machine, but every body function, illness and appearance will be returned to its state of ten years ago. There is only one of these machines available, because they are extremely complicated to build and the next one will come on line five years from now. How much is this treatment worth? Who will be able to afford the payment? In order to benefit society who should be the best candidate for the machine? Does capitalism work in this case?

Obviously the wealthiest people will be willing to pay high percentages of their net worth in order to obtain these ten years. However, many scientists and engineers may actually be more valuable to society. Many victims of aging diseases would have had their lives saved by this process, but those with the cash would get the treatment. This is how the current health care system in the US works. Those that have money can get treatments that they need. They get the highest quality doctors and facilities, while those who can afford the least health care are rushed into emergency rooms when their death become immanent.

The solution to these problems comes in the form of “Augmented Capitalism.” Augmented Capitalism is capitalism that addresses the special problems that arise because capitalism is not a perfect system. Augmented Capitalism taxes the wealthy at higher rates in order to provide for the people who find themselves in the bottom of the economy. It doesn’t completely take away the philosophy of capitalism. If you work hard and create skills that people desire you will still be rewarded for those efforts. If you desire health care you can still pay for it, but some of your money was taxed to help low income people who labor to make the goods you also desire. The benefit of these taxes is also used to build roads and schools that make life better for everyone. The roads are paved so that companies can ship their products are the country. People can also use these roads to travel around the country. The taxes are used to pay for risky research that individual companies may not be able to afford, or even see the possible products that could be developed. In this way, the society as a whole becomes the capitalist that invests in society so that society as a whole benefits from that investment.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Journalism – The Shape of Things to Come

William Randolph Hearst defined media in the first half of the twentieth century. Beginning with a single newspaper, The San Francisco Examiner given to him by his father he built a media empire of book, magazine, and newspaper publications, broadcasting, entertainment and syndication. If William Randolph Hearst had stuck with running his first newspaper in a traditional way he wouldn’t have become the media mogul that he became. This is because he invented a new type of news, the idea that news could entertain with a mixture of facts and exaggerations. Hearst’s goal was to sell newspapers and magazines, not necessarily to get the news right.

As we know today, controversy and sensationalism attract an audience and an audience brings money. Today’s local news reports have been chastised for being short on information and long on cute weather girls and cute animal stories. And to that mixture a few bloody accidents and local controversy at city hall and you have an award winning local news program.

Rupert Murdoch defined media in the second half of the twentieth century. Rupert Murdoch’s media style once again was short on facts and long on sensationalism. The idea was to get the story out as fast as possible, and not to worry much about the facts. In order to compensate for information reporters would be encouraged to add filler and get the story on the air.

Journalists and those who care about integrity, facts and truth look at these two media giants with disdain. However, those who believe that capitalism is the force that will make the market right and create the best society glorify these men. The majority of Americans don’t really understand the difference. Americans believe that they will be told what they should pay attention too, and they turn their heads every time that someone yells the figurative “hey look at this.”

Early in the development of the Internet people believed that there was finally a place where facts would rule over sensationalism. Newsgroups were developed as a place where people could ask questions and have them answered by experts. And, when experts made a mistake the people who knew the truth would be able to correct the information quickly in order to prevent errors in information from being propagated. But, anyone who has surfed the web recently knows that the web no longer is place where facts are the order of the day. However, worse than that, sensationalism is now the method many people use to get their names, and blogs and web pages out into the public forum. In fact, with over 8 million blogs and many million more web pages people are trying harder than ever to get recognition and publicity. Using profanity, innuendo, suggestive titles, and provocative photos trump the use of thoughtful reflection and facts. It seems to me that it is 1898 once again – times have changed but sensational yellow journalism is alive and thriving.


Friday, March 25, 2005

Education 2006

One reason conservatives and moderates chose to support George W Bush in November was the illusion of the “No Child Left Behind” program passed in the first year of the Bush administration. This law turned out to be positive in name only.

Congress is considering next year’s budget and education is once again on the table. Conservatives have total control of both houses of congress and they can pretty much pass whatever law they deem necessary to improve the education of our children. The Far Right Republicans lead by George W Bush say that they don’t want to leave any children behind. However, the proposals for this budget say differently.

The House resolution would lead to $38 billion in cuts to education and training from 2006-2010, compared to current spending adjusted for inflation. The Senate version of the bill was protected with an amendment by Senator Kennedy to protect education funding. However, if both versions of the bill are passed a conference committee is likely to strip the bill of this amendment in order to reach consensus.

President Bush is breaking his promise to Americans. He called on the nation to reform our public schools, pledging to make sure that all children receive a quality education, the president has ignored his own pledge. Bush's budget is $12 billion short on funds he promised for the No Child Left Behind Act the program that he touted in the election. The president's proposals would also cut 25,000 children from Head Start, leave 1.7 million children without after-school programs, and kick 2.8 million adults out of programs that help them learn to read.

Why doesn’t the Government have money for education? The government doesn’t have any money for education because the far right radical Republicans have cut taxes to the wealthy. Far Right Republicans don’t really care about public education, because their kids are in private schools. And, the whole reason that the government sponsors education is to keep America a democracy. People need to understand the facts in order to make good decisions. But radical Republicans don’t care about the truth and less education benefits their cause. They can get the uneducated to support the agenda of the wealthy while the poor children don’t get the education they need to keep America a Democracy.

Living in the Modern World

How should you raise a child in our modern world?

When you raise a child a sane person asks a lot of questions. The questions begin when they are born, and they multiply over the years. Everyone who raises a child deals with these questions, and everyone wants what is best for their child, but not all parents answer the questions in the same way.

When your child is young and you take them to the park to play one question that always comes up is: Should they play with the other kids in the park? It seems like a straightforward yes/no question, but it turns out that it is quite complicated and it sets the stage for social interactions for years to come. The answer is based on a case by case basis, just like real life. Your child will get along with some kids and they won’t get along with others. But, like real life, your kids will get along with a kid on one day, and two days later they will be fighting like cats and dogs.

Some parents deal with this problem by being protective. Some parents deal with this problem by instructing their children to “beat the shit out of anyone who gives you crap.” I actually had a father tell me that I shouldn’t worry about my kid bothering his kid, because he wouldn’t put up with it. “He’ll just beat the shit out of your kid and then they’ll be fine,” he said. Needless to say we didn’t keep in contact after that “play date.”

Everyone thinks they are doing the best for their children. And they base their ideas on books that they read and experiences they have had. People who thought that their parents did them a disservice want to make sure that they make it up to their children. Some people are upset that their parents never bought them anything when they were growing up. In response they buy their children everything they ask for. Some people feel that they were harmed by their parent’s conflicts, so they refuse to argue in front of their children. Since not every person has had the same experiences there is only a limited range that most people can draw on to make their choices. This is how cycles of family behavior manifest themselves. Some cycles play out in one generation, but other cycles play out in two of more generations. The cycle of domestic violence plays out similarly one generation after another. Children grow up with a distorted vision of “love” being linked to punishment. Children believe that their parent hit them because they love them and as parents they believe that hitting their children is a loving way to turn them into “good” people.

(Of course there are many more reasons why people become violent and this is only one example of a violence cycle.)

With this in mind I began thinking about how some parents choose to “protect” their children by keeping information away from their children. The whole idea seems crazy to me. So, be aware that I am biased on this topic right at the beginning. My large view of the world is that people make better decisions if they have more information. I believe this extends to children as well.

So, for example, I checked out an “R” rated movie from the library and I showed it to my 12 and 13-year-old children. Now, I believe that a “R” rated movie is rated for adults. The movie, however, actually taught an important lesson in a humorous way, so I thought it was quite appropriate for my kids to watch it. Instead of continuing in an abstract way I will tell you that the movie in question is Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles.” This movie is rated “R” most likely for some of the language and innuendo. For those of you who don’t know this classic movie, it is a humorous story of racism in the old west. The governor of the state pardons a black man and makes him sheriff of a town that is being taken over by a railroad. In order for the railroad to take over the town the railroad owner persuades a gang of outlaws to threaten the town to scare the town’s people into moving.

My questions about protecting children from this movie are numerous. Why should we protect our children from language that is being used out of the earshot of adult’s ears everyday at school? Why is it important to pretend to our children that men and women don’t want to have sex? Isn’t keeping the truth away from our children actually harming them by making them naïve about the ways of the world? Shouldn’t the benefit of putting racism in a bad light outweigh the language and innuendo in the movie?
But, my question is more broad. Why do parents think that they are doing “good” for their children by keeping information away from them? Is it because parents don’t know what they want to teach to their children, so the error on the side of not saying to much? Or, are parents to lazy and they don’t want to spend the time required to go over the issues and properly discuss these things with their children? I suspect that it is more likely that parents don’t know the facts themselves. They know the conclusion that they want to believe, but they don’t feel like they can answer their children’s questions in a way that supports their position. They are afraid that their position will be challenged and they will end up saying, “because I said so.” Saying this will send the message to their children that they don’t really have any legitimate reasons for their beliefs and their children will not support their parents position.

Obviously the solution to this is for the parents to educate themselves, not ignore the issues. But learning is always more difficult than sticking to your unfounded conclusions. Even Conservative Christians who believe in mythology should be able to explain the mythology to their children. They should explain why Jesus would not support racism and why he would not support sex outside of marriage. It shouldn’t be hard to have that discussion after watching a movie like “Blazing Saddles.” But, it is more likely that those issues wouldn’t be what the children actually remember. It is more likely that the children will remember the cowboys sitting around the campfire eating beans and farting. Is this little bit of slapstick going to harm your child? Isn’t it highly probable that these children already engage in fart-talk every day at school?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Faith in America

I have faith in Americans. Sometimes it seems hard to understand, but in the long run when all the true information is in the open Americans will tend to make the right decision. The usual problem isn’t that Americans make the wrong decision, it is that they don’t have the right information. Or, in most cases they don’t have “ALL” the information.

We can look at the 2004 election and try to understand how people decided where to place their trust. The people who choose to put their faith in the Republican Party and vote for conservatives did so because they thought that they were making the right choice. They were told that Republicans don’t like to spend money or raise taxes and they voted that way. But, these people didn’t have all the facts. They could see that George W Bush was spending like a drunken sailor, but they thought that he must have some plan to pay for his spending without raising taxes. When the issues get too many levels away from the main point people are distracted and they can’t follow the argument. But those hidden levels will come to light if they are truly real problems. If they aren’t problems, then they don’t matter. Some people actually understood that Bush was going to spend and borrow the money. The price was for the defense of the Homeland, and why should we pay to defend our homeland? It makes more sense that those who will be protected should pay the price, so we should borrow the money and have our children pay twice the price to defend themselves.

But, there were other groups who believed that George W Bush was a moral president, and he would continue to be a moral president. These people are those who believe that killing Americans is a sin, but killing Arabs is a sacrifice that needs to be made in a moral framework. These are the people who believe American Life is sacred and should be protected before it becomes life until after death. Killing 10,000 Iraqi civilians is a small price to pay for the revenge of 3,000 Americans who where killed on 9/11. Even if Iraq wasn’t responsible, someone has to pay. These are Americans who know what is important and they choose a president who knows this importance.

Fortunately, as time goes by and America’s elected officials will do there and the American people will see what they do. If a politicians says one thing and does another, then it isn’t long before the people actually see what the politicians are doing. It may take a while for the people to understand what they are doing, but I have faith that Americans will actually understand what they are doing and take the appropriate action at the next election.

In the town I live in an honest District Attorney who was not a member of the “good ol’ boy” network was elected. Since many of the Good ol’ Boys haven’t been quite as honest as they should have been the network is worried about the new DA. The Good ol’ Boys began to harass the new DA in order to persuade him not to investigate “the way things are done.” The DA wasn’t persuaded and he opened more investigations. Someone in the “network” killed the DA’s dogs and made another threat toward his family. The new DA has gumption and resolve so he continued to investigate and file charges against some of the members of the “Good ol’ Boys” network. Some members of this gang filed frivolous lawsuits against the new DA and filed motions in the city council requiring the DA to defend himself with his own money. The people in my town are not following the case that closely and they are persuaded toward the opinion of the “Good ol’ Boys” very easily. And, now there are petitions in town to recall the DA. I don’t know how the case will turn out, but I have faith that as it heats up more information will become public knowledge and the people will make the right choice.

I also have faith that our national politics will right itself. The first evidence of that is surprisingly the Terri Schiavo case. The Republicans put all there eggs in that basket and it looks like it has done a great deal of harm to the far right cause. A CBS Poll is out showing that the Republican majority in Congress is in the minority on this issue. This case will certainly not bring down the Far Right Republican network. But, it may get a few people to reexamine how they feel about the extremist ideology that is being used to lead our country today. Maybe people in Kansas will continue to vote Republican in the elections, but maybe they will be more careful about how the candidates line up on the issues in the primaries. The dangers of extremist ideologies has cracked the surface in this case and when the far right pulls this again we will be watching.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Conservative Whores

The dawn of the 900 numbers brought with it phone sex. The idea of phone sex has it’s concept in the idea of paying for sex. In the case of phone sex you don’t really get physical contact, but you really pay money to talk to someone about sex. Like the adage says, “The brain is a sex organ.” And, the concept of phone sex proves this adage true.

With this in mind I saw the latest whoring. It came in the form of a fax:

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The fax survey wants you to fax your answer to the question back to the Fax Company to a 900 number on your dime. Now, making you pay to return your answer is going to make some people feels really joyous to the point of sexual excitement. I can think of some very excitable conservatives that would pay for this kind of excitement. But, the survey can not be valid. Conservatives will get excited about telling their friends to fax these surveys back. Or, even if some dim witted liberals fall for the whole idea they would will end up paying these conservative whores for a non-valid result

People will do anything for money, and this is another example.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Devil in Mister DeLay

The Republicans used to complain that things were unfair under the Democratic majority before the Republicans took over congress. Instead of trying to fix things the Republicans have decided that the Democrats had the right idea, but they didn’t take it far enough. Under the Democrats the Republicans were able to shame the Democrats into appointing investigations to study the ethics and moral problems in government. Remember that Bill Clinton was shamed into ordering Janet Reno to appoint an investigation into White Water. Clinton believed that he had nothing to worry about, because he knew that he would be proven innocent. And, of course he was proven innocent of the object of the investigation. Little did he know that unscrupulous Republicans would expend the investigation into his private life to such a degree unprecedented by any other investigation in US history.

But, now that the Republicans are in the driver’s seat in Congress they feel that they have no need to follow ethics or morality in any way except by their silver tongues.

Tom DeLay is the poster child for the silver-tongued devil that speaks righteous words by does devilish deeds. He speaks the language of the Texas Conservative Christian, but he sins to raise the money for his election, for re-districting, and for the elections of his friends.

It is interesting that Tom DeLay would take money from anyone who would give it to him. Being a Conservative Christian you would expect him to shun the sin of gambling that turns the poor man even poorer. But our hypocrite Tom turned his hat to take the handouts when they were offered. In fact, not only did he take the money, but in a quid pro quo Tom offered to vote for the Casinos at the very next opportunity. Christians who believed that they have voted a man of God into office should reexamine his actions and forget about what he says.

DeLay Supports Gambling Interests and Gets Paid Too

We just need to add this little work of evil onto the heap that is already there. We should all remember how he has broken the Texas laws to fund Texas Republicans with money donated from other states.

Just how long will it take for either the Texans in his district to wake up and realize what kind of varmint they have in office or for the Republican Party to wake up and realize they have the Devil in their midst?

Terri Schiavo

It is quite interesting that far right Republicans are jumping on this and making it a political issue based purely on emotional appeal to people who don't know the truth. They have created a false reality where they conclude that a mildly retarded woman is being put to death.

But, politicians can't know the medical truth because they are not doctors nor have they spent the time needed to study the case. Even Bill Frist puts his medical credibility at risk for diagnosing a patient via videotape. If he really wants to have a say, then he should go to Florida and read the brain scan data and view Terri in person. Medical Doctors are responsible for providing the facts, and the family is responsible for deciding whether she should be removed from life support. The problem in Florida is not with whether Terri is alive or not, it is with the law that says who is in charge, the Husband or the Parents.

President Bush has lied to us once more. He has told us that we should always error on the side of life, but he fails to tell us what he means by life. He believes that those on death row are already dead with this statement. He claims to be Christian, but he takes the opportunity for Christian salvation away from every inmate that is put to death. Then, he claims that a brain dead woman is alive. This is not consistent in any way.

Unfortunately Republicans do not have a uniform stance on the issue of life. They fight to keep brain-dead people on life support. They fight to stop stem cells from being used in life saving experiments. But they fight to put people to death on death row to the point of putting children and retarded people to death. If the Republicans actually believe in a culture of life as they claim they need to bring the death penalty into that culture. If they really had compassion for life they would realize that sometimes people just know when enough is enough and they should be allowed to go on to their heavenly reward.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

US Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is exposed when two similar cases provoke different responses.

With this in mind I think that it is interesting to consider the US government’s treatment of two countries – Cuba and Pakistan. These two countries both have military leaders that took control of the government by force. Both leaders took control because they believed or proclaimed that the majority of the population wanted a change in government. Neither leader felt an election would produce the result they thought would be just, so each leader took history in his own hand.

Both countries have Human Rights violations. The Pakistan military routinely uses force against the political opposition. Two Americans have been recently “disappeared” by the Pakistani Intelligence Agency. Pakistan routinely detained journalists who write negative stories about the government or leadership. Cuba similarly imprisons those who express opposition to the government. Cuba also uses force against the political opposition. Neither country has a true democracy or a why for opinions to be expressed in an open public way. See what Human Rights watch says about Cuba and Pakistan.

So why are the two countries treated so differently?

Condi Rice went to Pakistan and praised the illegal ruler of Pakistan - President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup. Even though Iraq and Afghanistan have been able to hold elections less than two years after very disruptive wars, General Musharraf claims that elections in Pakistan can’t happen for more than two years. And, Condi Rice praises him for democratic reforms. This praise does not ring true. On the other hand, sanctions and restricted travel to Cuba continue to harm the citizens of Cuba. What is the difference between the current state of these two countries? Why do these countries deserve such different treatment? Does the administration really believe that Cuba will export more terror than Pakistan? Does the administration really believe that the threat of Cuba spreading Communist ideology outweighs the threat of Pakistan spreading radical theocracy?

An Irish Story for St. Paddy’s Day

In honor of St. Patrick’s day I pulled out a book of Irish Children’s stories to read to my kids. We were looking for an authentic Irish tale for my daughter to tell to her class. The first one we read was interesting, and it said a bit about Irish culture. The short version of the story goes like this:

A guy is walking through the woods and hears a strange sound coming from a hedge. He peaks in and sees a leprechaun sipping a drink with a spoon. The guy asks him what he’s doing and the leprechaun tells him he is tasting some really fine beer. The leprechaun asks the guy what he thinks the beer is made from. Barley the guy guesses and the leprechaun corrects him by telling him that it’s made from heath. The guy doesn’t believe him and asks for a taste. The guy reaches for the beer and spills it so that he can’t have the taste. Then he surprises the leprechaun and catches him. Of course the guy needs to keep his eye on him or he’s sure to escape even if he has a good grip on him. The guy proceeds to ask the leprechaun how he made beer from heath, but the leprechaun attempts to escape by telling the guy that he should be more concerned with the cows that have just broken the fence and are trampling the crops. The guy is about to turn and look, but just before he does he realizes that it’s a leprechaun trick and he tells the leprechaun that he needs to tell him where his gold is, because he has been caught. The leprechaun leads him to a weed where the gold is buried beneath, but the guy doesn’t have a shovel. The guy ties a piece of cloth on the weed and asks the leprechaun not to remove the marker while he goes home to get a shovel. The leprechaun agrees and asks if he can go now and the guy sets him down and runs off to get the shovel. When he gets back he sees that the leprechaun has tied a piece of cloth to every weed in the field so the guy is out of luck because he couldn’t dig up every weed in the place.

The story is interesting because they spend so much time talking about beer, which actually has nothing to do with the story. Furthermore they talk about beer, which children are not likely to even be concerned with. The actual story has dialog in it, and the leprechaun has a very convoluted way of saying the simplest thing. It is interesting, and difficult to read out loud on the first pass. Finally, the story is interesting because the resolution is that the guy ends up not getting the leprechaun’s gold even though the guy was very smart about such things. The leprechaun was just one step ahead of the guy.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Far Right Takes Total Control

Two actions today have shown that the Radical Right has taken control in Washington. The appointment of Paul Wolfowitz to the head of the World Bank and the dismissal of the ban on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) have demonstrated the power of the far right.

Some Republicans actually want to protect the environment. It may seem to be a shocking revelation, but Republicans who have been brought up in rural American respect the wilderness. By looking at the destruction of the environment around Prudhoe Bay it is clear what to expect with the development of drilling in ANWR. With this victory far right has demonstrated that big business interests will trump the protection of the environment.

But, the far right has resorted to lying once again to get it’s point out. The far right talk show host Sean Hanity and Fox "hard news" reporter William La Jeunesse have been lying about the benefit of drilling in ANWR. They have claimed that there are 10 billion barrels of oil in ANWR, which could certainly be the case, but only 3 billion barrels of this oil is accessible at the current market price of oil. They also claimed that the amount of oil from ANWR would be "nearly as much as we import [from] Saudi Arabia." But this statement could only be true considering the 7 billion barrels of oil that could only be obtained for more than the current market rate for oil, which is at an all time high as of today. If you really have a good point shouldn’t the truth be sufficient for getting your point across? Why does the far right need to lie to make their point seem more reasonable?

With the lies coming from the far right media, is it any wonder that the Republicans who actually care about the environment are persuaded into voting for the lifting of this ban on drilling. Senator Arlen Spector could have been one of the deciding votes, and he went with lifting the ban on drilling. But, was he persuaded by the misinformation being spread by the far right? Or, perhaps the far right just has a strangle hold on the Republican Senators, and they just don’t care to stand up for the environment. John McCain and six other moderate environmentally aware Republicans felt that they couldn’t support the destruction of so much pristine environment for so little oil. Based on current estimates it will take several years to begin to pumping oil out of ANWR and it will take eight years to empty the economically feasible oil from this site.

The other symbol of the consolation of far right power is in the appointment of Paul Wolfowitz to the head of the World Bank. Wolfowitz was a main proponent for the invasion of Iraq and would not listen to cooler heads when church leaders approached the US government leaders in the build up to war. Wolfowitz was the author of the unilateral approach and was not concerned with seeking consensus with the UN or other nations in the run up to the Iraq War. The World Bank is an international interest, not a US interest. Why would world leaders feel comfortable with such a demonstrably America-centric leader? Moderate Republicans would not support such a far right representative of US banking policy, so the far right must certainly have an even stronger grip on both US power, but international power as well. We should keep in mind that Paul Wolfowitz was the cheerleader for the cheap Iraq War. This was a foreseeable lie. He had his hand on the cost at the department of Defense, but he wasn’t honest with the American people. Can we trust him to be honest with the World as President of the World Bank?

It is certainly a scary time when we watch the far right getting a tighter grip on the levers of power.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right

I met an interesting woman yesterday who would qualify as a "Real Loonie Leftie." Not that I didn’t appreciate my award last week as "Loonie Leftie of the Week", but there are many more qualified and more deserving Lefties than myself. The woman I met was a self proclaimed Environmental Activist. She has been an activist for many years, and she told me how she has lobbied Congress both in Sacramento and in Washington. She has done many activities to "get the message out."

I was curious as to what her message was. Well, it just so happened that she had a tape of a TV show that she produces and sends out to Public Access TV stations all over the country. The show that she showed me was on the clubbing of baby harp seals in Canada. According to her tape the Canadian Fishermen have resumed clubbing baby Harp Seals again, because the public outrage has died down.

Now, I watched the tape she had made, and it was very convincing, but I had some questions. I asked her some and I listened to her talk to another young environmentalist and I learned quite a bit. I learned that they didn’t mind jumping to conclusions. I learned that she supported ideas that had no Scientific foundation. I learned that she used emotional appeal to win over the people who were not willing to think about the problem in a logical and reasonable way.

She talked about a lot more than just the clubbing of baby Harp Seals, and I felt like I was listening to a modern right wing extremist. In fact, there were more similarities than differences. The only real differences were the particular issues each group chooses to use to evoke the emotions of the audience.

For example, the right wing extremists chose Abortion as a major issue. The claim many ideas without scientific foundation, but use them for emotional appeal. There is a famous poster of a fetus with it’s mouth open, and the banner headline claims this is the "Silent Scream." This Left wing extremist told us of how the cows scream in pain as the are put to death. And, for exaggerated emotional appeal she tells us that every cell in the cows body is screaming in pain, so how could that stressed out meat be good for you?

Well, after hearing this explanation for why eating meat can’t be good for you I began to doubt other assertions that she made. I have no way of knowing what she said about the Harp Seals was true, because I only have her words and they lost a tremendous credibility after this explanation. Suddenly I felt like I was talking to a right wing extremist like George W Bush telling us how he was going to preemptively attack a Iraq to spread Democracy.

She started talking about how the Canadian Fishermen were killing these baby seals because they believe that the seals are eating all of their fish. It is true that the fishermen are over-fishing the oceans, and it is quite difficult to control those who take more than their fair share. Fishing used to be a profession that prided itself on bringing in the biggest catch. When the government tells you that you are not allowed to work as much as you once did in order to protect the environment one has to wonder how the fishermen can survive. But, how could I know the fishermen’s plight if I don’t hear his side of the story? She tells of the collapse of the ecosystem, but she doesn’t back it up with studies, facts or figures. It was like hearing about the emanate collapse of the Social Security system from the administration without the numbers to prove it.

In the final analysis I find myself in the middle looking for facts. When I group using emotion to win your support alarm bells should go off in your head. "What facts are they trying to hide?" should be the questions everyone asks. It is as if neither the far left nor the far right want you to know the truth. They both want strict controls on what one is allowed to do. They are both afraid that if the average person were to speak their minds, then their cover would be blown. If the argument centers on the facts and the goal is the "common good" for Americans then America will win every time.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Bring It On Promotion

A great new blog was born yesterday. How do I know that it is great? I know because the group that has formed to write for it is intelligent, witty, and articulate. Obviously no one knows exactly what will be posted, but if you look at the individual blogs of the contributors, Pia, Cranky, Mulligan, Sally, and Anna. I am sure you will agree that this cooperation will surpass the sum of the individual bloggers.

The concept for the blog is a political response to the political noise on the Internet. Many political blogs tend to repeat and regurgitate the same old news without giving it much thought. “ Bring It On ” will be coming to you from the left, but with a thoughtful well informed point of view. Each contributor has a proven track record in being able to articulate the issues and describe the pitfalls of ignoring the facts.

So click “ here ” now!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Homeless Issue

The county I live in does not have one homeless shelter. The population of this county is about 70,000 people, 35,000 of them live in the county seat. With such a low population the cost of providing shelter for the homeless seemed to most county officials to be excessive. So, the policy in this county is to send the homeless to other counties that have homeless shelters.

Obviously the other counties don’t look to fondly on a county that would drive their homeless to their county homeless shelter. But, by definition the homeless don’t live in either county and so they should be able to get aid from either place. However, doesn’t it make moral sense for each county to provide services for the homeless in order to share the burden? In order to build a homeless shelter and operate it in our county the taxpayers would need to pay more taxes to cover the cost of the center. And, most taxpayers believe that they are already paying to many taxes. How can this issue be resolved?

Many people are reluctant to pay anything to a homeless person. The overwhelming stereotype of a homeless person is someone who is just too lazy to get a job. Why should society support a person who has obviously chosen to be homeless? Doesn’t the support of the homeless deter the homeless from getting back to being a productive part of society?

When I was about twenty years old I took a trip to California from Ohio. I illegally rented a car, because I hadn’t known before hand that California law prevented those under twenty-one from renting a car. But, I managed to find a guy who would rent a car to me under the table. It was my first trip across the country and my first long trip by myself. I drove around most of southern California visiting friends who were attending school at the various Universities. When I went to visit a friend at Cal Tech I parked the car and a homeless man approached me. He asked me for a few bucks. Being a student with a limited supply of cash for my trip I was reluctant to give any of my money away. But, if he was truly hungry as he claimed I should help him out. In a matter of seconds I concluded that I should offer him some food instead of cash. In this way I would be certain that he was actually hungry. Well, you guessed it, he turned his nose up at the food I offered him. So, from that point on I realized that the homeless would lie to you to get what they want.

Well, you can’t just assume that all homeless people will lie to get money from you, because some people really need help. I know this from personal experience. During my life there have been several times when we were forced to buy the minimal amount of food in order to make the rent. I could imagine a few instances of bad luck could have forced me out onto the street. And, once you are out on the street it is even more difficult to find a place to live.

Since that first encounter with a homeless person claiming to be in need I have met and talked with many homeless people. At one time I talked with a particular homeless person every week. He told me how and why he chose to be homeless. He was a Native American who believed that he should be able to live the Native American lifestyle. He believed that people were not meant to be tied down to a physical place, but they should be free to wander the land. Obviously this is a difficult lifestyle for a modern American. It turned out that his family owned land and they were at least middle class. This person however looked down on his family for turning their backs on the way that he believed man was meant to live. This person was not jobless, he was homeless. He went to work when he needed cash, and he wandered around when he didn’t. He was fairly well educated and read quite a bit of philosophy and religion. But he strongly believed that he shouldn’t tie himself down with the responsibility of living in a home.

Of course not every homeless person falls into this category either. But, the idea of a homeless shelter needs to be seen in the light of those who would use it and why they need to use it. There are homeless people who choose to be homeless. There are also people who find themselves homeless because of domestic violence. When a woman is beaten by her husband she may choose to continue to live with him because she fears being put out on the street. In this situation there should be a place for her to go in order to get out of the relationship. In this situation the need would only be long enough for the woman to find another place to live. It could be for the evening or for a few days. In many places these types of shelter are not the same as a homeless shelter, because they are specifically for the purpose of protecting women from their husbands.

While we think about all the permutations of the homeless problem we begin to realize how complicated the problem is. We want people to have the freedom to live how they choose to live, but we also want people to be productive members of society. We want people to have a safety net to fall into when they find themselves in hard times. We also don’t want people to take advantage of the system. As a society we have a moral obligation to protect the weakest in our society, but we also need to protect the system from abuse. With such a complicated problem I am amazed that the way our society is structured the people with the biggest hearts are attracted to the profession of social work, but with the low pay offered we don’t attract the smartest people into this profession. So, simple shortsighted solutions tend to plug the holes in the dike while the crumbling system continues to erode.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005



Taxes provoke emotions in almost every one of us. Since emotions are used as political tools we shouldn’t be surprised those taxes would be a major issue among those running for office. But, why do we pay taxes?

Taxes have been paid to governments since money was invented. Before money was invented tribe members would sometimes give their daughters, their food, their goods to chief in order to keep the government “happy.”

If we really want to ask the question: “Why do we pay taxes?” we must be prepared to ask the question: “Why do we need government?” We need to pay taxes to fund the government. We need to give the government money to do what we expect the government to do. But, not everyone agrees on what we should expect the government to do. Since we don't agree on what we want the government to do, we don’t know how much we should pay the government to do what we expect them to do.

A wise government would be able to define exactly what the government should do over the next year, then the cost could be estimated and the cost could be levied on the people. An effort to do this every year comes away fruitless every year. This is because the government is made up of people who have local interests as well as national interests. A small project in a local district could effect a re-election campaign even if the project isn’t needed in the national interest.

Taxes come in many forms. Not all taxes are income taxes. There are sales tax, excise taxes, export taxes, import taxes, property taxes, poll taxes, general real estate taxes and whatever types of taxes that the government can dream up. But, when most people discuss taxes they generally refer to income tax. This is because every year one needs to calculate one’s income and write a check determined by the amount of income calculated. People who make larger incomes complain that they should not be punished for making more money. This is because in general most people believe that they should be rewarded for being productive, not punished. But this is a matter of attitude about the tax system and a matter about what one should expect from the government.

Personally I don’t believe that we should give all of our money to the government and have them redistribute it to everyone equally. So, rule me out of the communist ideology. But, I do believe that the government (state or federal) is in the unique position of being able to define projects of interest to the community, either state, local or federal. In principle the government can see needs on a much larger scale than any one individual or company. If the principle of taxation for the greater good of the community were adhered to, then many boondoggle projects would be dismantled. Local projects should be funded locally. State projects should be funded by the states. And, only projects of a national scope should be funded by the Federal government.

Some of the problems of the current system are given below as examples of how things should be done, but these observations will generally fall on deaf ears. People by nature don’t want to pay for anything that they can’t see. The government operation is largely invisible and the government’s performance is largely behind the veil.

This being said, we should only fund projects that we are willing to pay for through a designated revenue structure. If taxes were always tied to particular projects, then when people would complain about a particular tax they could cut the tax and the project simultaneously. Cutting taxes without cutting projects is just as irresponsible as creating projects without determining the funding structure. The budget for a project should depend on the revenue for that year. Since revenue is not always know when the budget is drawn up, the correction could be made up in the following year. Estimates of revenue should be conservative at all times and it should be tested by the average of budget estimates over past years.

If you want to read about the history of US taxation try this link:

The History of US Taxes

Comments Closed

The whole philosophy of the conservative right is about control. The right wants to control society so that those who they consider to be deviant want be able to be deviant. Of course the definition of deviant is to be outside the norm. Since the majority of people are heterosexual the minority is homosexual, and then by definition the homosexual minority is deviant. But, of course this applies to any minority, and the conservative right tends to harbor the anti-immigrant anti-minority mindset. This is based on the idea of control. The conservative right would like every American to adopt American culture and those who don’t are also considered deviants, which is to say they deviate from the American norm.

The above paragraph refers in general to traits expressed by many but not all conservatives. The tendency to express these traits increases as the conservatives align themselves further to the right. The subject of this blog is control, not racism I merely meant to illustrate how the two are related to each other.

Another example of the expression of the trait of control in the conservative right is shown by the Bush administration’s control over the information at the White House. Leaks are controlled, and only when they are meant to inflict damage by destroying one’s career are they allowed to be leaked. Then the information pertaining to the person leaking the information is sewn up tight. In order to maintain such tight control on information the organization must be obsessive about leaks and secrecy. Fortunately this is a trait among those who align themselves with the conservative right.

So, is it any wonder that so many conservative blogs close their comment sections? Some conservative blogs maintain continuously closed comments. Other conservative blogs maintain close control over comments that are either monitored or deleted if the arguments can not be refuted. It is all about control and it is strange that a group that portends to believe in freedom of speech is so quick to close off comments.

Of course the conservatives are quick to make claims that the conversation is not constructive. But being constructive for a conservative may mean that the comments no longer support the argument they were trying to make.

Reflections March 9, 2005

The Bible makes you think. There is no question about it, the Bible makes you wonder aloud sometimes. Since I have been curious about the Old Testament dietary laws I decided to read what they actually say. Christians are off the hook on these, because they through them out in order to get the Gentiles to join the Christians. These dietary laws and circumcision were decided to be thrown out in order to attract gentiles who would need to change their eating habits and have their wiener whacked.

So, I picked up the Bible and looked at Dt. 14 in Bible code, or Chapter 14 of Deuteronomy for those who are not in the know. There are several interesting things here, but I thought that the section on the eating of birds was interesting. This would be Dt 14:11-18 in Bible code.

11 You may eat any clean bird. 12 But these you may not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, 13 the red kite, the black kite, any kind of falcon, 14 any kind of raven, 15 the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, 16 the little owl, the great owl, the white owl, 17 the desert owl, the osprey, the cormorant, 18 the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat.

So, it says that you can eat any clean bird, and then it goes on to tell you which birds are unclean. The unclean birds could be grouped into raptors, owls, waterfowl and bats. What are these particular “birds” considered unclean. Well, maybe bats are unclean birds because they are not birds. Raptors are lean and tough meat, so therefore why would one want to eat them? Not to mention that it is purely stupid to use birds that can be trained for falconry to be eaten. The other benefit of having owls and raptors around is that they assist in keeping the rodent population down. Eating them would have the effect of allowing the rodent population to grow and disease to spread. But, what about the water fowl? They don’t mention ducks and geese, which are also, waterfowl. I haven’t a clue, but it does make you think.

It is also quite interesting that God also doesn’t want us to eat shrimp, calamari or rabbits. I guess I never knew about rabbits as being off limits either. Fortunately Jesus came and told us that we could eat all these things. For in Matthew Chapter 5 Jesus makes clear what laws should be obeyed in the Old Testament:

Matthew 5:17-18

17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Based on this Jesus is telling us that Christians should not eat unclean food. We should not eat bats, and pigs and shrimp and hawks and calamari and camels and the rest.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

When Wackos Find Your Blog

So, I post a couple of more mainstream entries and the Wackos find my blog. Well, it helps to have some links from some of the liberal blogs out there. Cranky Liberal posted a link top me and suddenly I have people posting stuff like:

Looney Liberal of the Week

I’m going to implement a new section to robertwchandler.com. The looney liberal of the week. This week’s award goes to the blogger that calls himself “Dr. Forbush.” A proud representative of the left, Dr. Forbush has placed a Sean Hannity google bomb on his site (mature), believes Al Franken to be a reliable source for information on the “right wing”, and believes that evolution is a fact and not a theory.

“That is like dismissing Evolution as a simple “theory.”

Congrats, Dr. Forbush. You’re our Looney Liberal of the week. For some good laughs you can visit Dr. Forbush’s blog here.

Let’s begin with the Encyclopædia Britannica:

Gravitational theory and other aspects of physical theory

The Newtonian theory of gravity is based on an assumed force acting between all pairs of bodies—i.e., an action at a distance. When a mass moves, the force acting on other masses has been considered to adjust instantaneously to the new location of the displaced mass. Special relativity theory states that no physical signal travels faster than the speed of light and that…

Just do a Google search and you will find that physicists refer to it as Gravitational Theory. Here are a few web sites, but there are over 750,000 more results. Now replace “Theory” with the word “Law” and you will get less than 250,000 results. Obviously Google is not the be-all-end-all word on the topic. But the fact is that Gravitation is a Theory in the same way that General Relativity is a Theory and Evolution is a Theory.

What’s So Funny?

A comment from a conservative troller left me thinking about how we attribute authority in political circles. Blogging Airman told me that Al Franken had little credibility because he was a comedian. Of course I disagree with this conjecture, because comedians spend most of their time looking at the world and searching for the inconsistency. That is what makes a monologue funny. The idea that the government, administration, industrial authority or other leader just doesn’t understand how the world works makes us laugh.

But to have credibility a comedian needs to have his facts at least close to correct. In fact, the harder you hit the more certain you need to be of your facts. There is a accepted idea of “the truth” and if you push things outside of that range, then you need to back up your statements with facts.

For example, when OJ was arrested Jay Leno was afraid to go out on a limb and make jokes about OJ being guilty. He didn’t have all the facts and he shied away from making any claims. Yesterday, he made several references to Robert Blake’s apparent guilt. So, he must feel more comfortable about this murder trial, and he must not simply have any reservations about making comments before a trial.

But, the bigger question is – Does comedy have any authority or credibility when it comes to illuminating the political landscape? There are comedians on both sides of the political fence when it comes to politic comedy. Conservatives roll on the floor in laughter when they post quips and jokes about politicians on the left. Ted Kennedy and Chapaquitic get a laugh a minute in conservative circles. But when Al Franken writes a thought provoking and funny book on the Conservative Right which points out the inconsistency of their philosophy the Right dismisses it as a simple farce. That is like dismissing Evolution as a simple “theory.” But, the point is that the Al Franken book goes into detail with facts and quotes that show the lies of the main characters on the right like Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and the rest. So, there is good foundation to his book and there is good foundation to the use of comedy in political discussion.

Actually comedy has given great insight into society and culture and has a tradition that goes back thousands of years. The Greeks had Aristophanes and his wit that shed light on the hypocrisy of the ruling class and the progressives of the time as well. He basically invented political satire. And, we have been using it to sway opinion ever since. An insightful comic may be more powerful than an insightful politician may, because the former can move the masses while the latter can barely move himself out of the morass of special interests.

Monday, March 07, 2005

More Lies from the Right

While reading Al Franken’s book, “Lies and Lying Liars tell them” I found a Chapter dedicated to Sean Hannity. It is quite amazing what lies he tells and how the Right accepts them as fact. Here’s a few of them:

Sean Hannity

Sean Hannity

Sean Hannity

Sean Hannity

Sean Hannity

Sean Hannity

Sean Hannity

Sean Hannity

Sean Hannity

Sean Hannity

Sean Hannity

Sean Hannity

Sean Hannity

Sean Hannity

Writing About Writing

Writing about writing seems to be an incestuous endeavor, but I just wanted to share my experience of blogging at the beach. The entry I wrote on the beach was written as I sat and looked out on the ocean. There is no way that I would take my laptop to the beach, because the chance that the sand would get into it and destroy it would be just a little too high. But, writing on my PDA seemed to be possible.

I’ve written a few blogs on my PDA, but they always seemed to be a little unpolished. Maybe that happens when you can only see about two sentences at a time. One can scroll through the file, but only a small portion is displayed at a time. This example of writing while sitting on the beach illustrated to me that some things just go out of your mind when you leave the place. If I had written about the beached sea lion while I sat here on my computer I wouldn’t have thought about it in the same way. And, that is a profound affect at the beach. Other events happened while I was there, but they are forever gone because I didn’t write about them and I don’t remember them as vividly as they were when they happened.

I was thinking about the naturalists like John Muir and Henry David Thoreau as I sat at the beach, but I saw what I saw in the context of what I know. There are sure to be common observations, but I would describe them in my terms. I thought about the differences in the ways different people see the same things. There is the observation and there is the record of that observation. There could be 100 writers sitting on the same beach and the result would be 100 different impressions of the same beach.

This is why science began to define ways to make observations. One could count the number of certain types of animals or plants that occupy a specific area. In other words, a scientist would quantify the observations and create statistical data that can be compared with later times or different places.

All types of observations are important. Beatrix Potter made observations about the nature around her. She painted what she saw, and she created talking animals that interacted with each other on a human level. But her observations of humanity were placed on animals in nature and allow us to look at ourselves from a different point of view. She took the thread of real human relationships and stripped away the personal implications in order for us to see our society in a different light. By writing them on a child’s level they become instructive to children as well as adults about human behaviour. But, her observations about nature were certainly not realistic.

Nature is but one subject among thousands. Thinking about how we write about that one subject implies that writing about any subject has the same limitations. We see things and we write about them. We see people behaving badly and we write about them in serious or humorous ways. The point being that we all recognize that they are behaving badly and real human beings don’t want to portray the same behaviour.

This brings us back to politics. Most of us observe politics at least one step removed from the direct observation. We read what the politicians want us to read. One group tells us how great they are and how bad the other group is. Similarly the opposition to this group portrays themselves as saints and their rivals as sinners. Both opinions are not likely to be true, so as removed observers we need to study the descriptions very carefully. As removed observers we need to continue to ask if our representatives are representing our true interest and not just telling us what we want to hear. Political bloggers are like the 100 observers on the beach. Each one writes what they see and we should see 100 different points of view.

The Beach

Why do people love the beach?

Sitting here on the left coast of America looking out at the Pacific Ocean I wonder why people love the sea. Every time I come here the beach is familiar, but different all the same. Last time I came to the beach it rained. Not many people graced the shores, but diehards got wet and enjoyed it none-the-less. Two weeks ago an old sea lion washed up on shore, this week he's still here and his insect friends have joined him for dinner.

But why do people return to the sea?

Is there some mysterious force drawing us there?

I look out on the great water searching for the answer as the children scamper by. I note the mist that shrouds the peninsula that I remember jutting out into the sea so many miles away. But, the sun is shining quite bright today and the constant breeze keeps me cool.

Every time I come something strikes my fancy. Surfers, hang gliders, whales and dolphins have been here often and each time it’s a special treat. No one knows what will happen as these performers do their tricks.

Today the waves hold center stage. They must be eight feet high when they break more than 100 yards off shore. The larger the wave the further off shore the water will begin to spill over the top of the wave. Today there are eight-foot pipelines, and no surfers on the sea. I wonder why?

Fishermen (and a fisherwoman) line the beach. I haven't seen one bring in a catch as of yet, but the day is still young. They cast their sinker-laden bait into the sea and hope the foolish fish will find it in the turbulent sea. They all hope in vain as they wait for that lucky strike.

Even if you close your eyes, you still know where you are. The sound of the waves crashing and crashing punctuates the constant breath of the wind sighing. Add to this the distant screams of children being constantly surprised by the waves.

But shutting down the sense of sound wouldn't prevent us from knowing where we are. We can feel the breeze and the flies as they land on you. We don't even notice that the wind dries our bodies as we stand here, but when we get back to a civilized place we will fight dehydration by drinking water. We feel the sun warm us and even the occasional spray of a wave when it crashes again and again.

But also the distinct smell of the ocean lingers in the air. Even with the stiff breeze the odor is ever pervasive. And, it’s even stronger when you approach the body of the 500-pound sea lion.


Friday, March 04, 2005


In the 1820s Andrew Jackson came up with a brilliant plan to encourage development in the United States of America. The plan was to created the idea of legal bankruptcy were one could wipe some of your debt clean if you found yourself in way over your head. The idea was to do away with debtor’s prisons and allow people to climb out of the hole of impossible debt. Before this idea was introduced people were routinely sent to prison for years on debts as small as $100.00.

With such a possibility looming over your head, was it any wonder that people were reluctant to borrow money. The only people that wanted to borrow money were the ones who could pay it back. Or, in other words, the people who had assets would borrow money and those who had no assets would not.

In a thriving economy businesses are started every day. Many people who have the idea for a business don’t have the money to create it. In the 1820s some risky adventurers would borrow the money to start a business, and they would pay the price of going to debtor’s prison if their business failed. As a result risk was rewarded with prison many times. Andrew Jackson proposed an idea that these risk takers should not be punished for their risk, but instead they should be reprimanded instead. The idea of legal bankruptcy grew out of this idea. When a business failed you would be required to pay what you could afford to pay and you could start over from scratch and have a go at another business venture.

The only people unhappy about this idea were the bankers. Obviously if a banker loans money to someone they expect to get their money back after some period of time. In fact, they expect to get interest on that loan as well. The supporters of bankruptcy laws argued that with more people who were willing to take on risk the more the economy would grow. The result would be more money for everyone, even if the banks lost some money on bad loans. The banks realized that they could raise interest rates enough to cover losses and the system worked very well for over 150 years.

But, people take out loans for more than just seeds to grow new businesses. In the 1970s bank began to issue a new form of loan, the credit card. Credit cards could be used to purchase whatever the consumer wanted to buy. People began to borrow money to make lifestyle improvements in addition to business ventures. The interest rates were higher on these loans, but the risk of getting repayment was higher as well. To the surprise of many, the idea of credit cards not only helped the person raise his/her lifestyle level, it also helped the economy. People poured money into the economy and the economy grew. Unfortunately people’s debts grew as well.

What does this all mean? Well, when people have extremely high credit card debt and they get laid off of work, or a member of their family gets sick or injured the credit card debt becomes a burden. Some people can no longer afford a home or food instead of making the credit card payment. So, individuals choose to declare bankruptcy in order to get out from under the debt.

Now, the banks that have been making these credit card loans to anyone they can find have lobbied congress to get a new law that makes it more difficult for people to declare bankruptcy. In this way banks are hoping to get more of their money back from the bad loans they made. But, why did the banks make these bad loans? The banks were greedy and they wanted people to borrow the maximum amount. Banks rained advertisements on any working person in the hopes of luring one more person into credit card debt. Shouldn’t the banks be punished for making these bad loans? Shouldn’t the banks have been more careful before they gave away credit to everyone and anyone? The banks say no. The banks say that they shouldn’t be punished for making bad loans. Instead the people who have had tragedy strike their families in the form of job loss or serious illness should pay the price. But, if only the banks had been more careful about the amount of money they loaned away we wouldn’t be in this mess.

If congress had a backbone they would stand up to the banks and tell them that its their fault for loaning the money and the bankruptcy laws should remain the same. But banks contribute to the campaigns of many in congress. And the people going into bankruptcy can hardly afford the legal fees associated with filing for bankruptcy.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

A Culture of Mythology

1. The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.
2. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population: Edwardian culture; Japanese culture; the culture of poverty.
3. These patterns, traits, and products considered with respect to a particular category, such as a field, subject, or mode of expression: religious culture in the Middle Ages; musical culture; oral culture.
4. The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.

1. A traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the worldview of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or delineating the psychology, customs, or ideals of society: the myth of Eros and Psyche; a creation myth.
2. Such stories considered as a group: the realm of myth.

The definition of myth above describes myth in terms of culture. It tells us that these stories are passed down and have become ancient. But, myth must begin somewhere. I was listening to a lecture by Dennis Ross, Ambassador and chief U.S. negotiator for Presidents Bush 41 and Clinton. He had a slightly different definition of myth. He called a myth a false idea or concept that is repeated over and over in order to give comfort. It is quite understandable that Ambassador Ross’ definition of myth would include ancient myths, but would also cover present day myths that are propagated by politicians who want to demonstrate that their actions were justified.

Ambassador Ross tells us how Yasser Arafat propagated the myth that Israel would not offer concessions during the Middle East negotiations. In his recent book Ambassador Ross tells both what was offered and what Arafat told the Palestinians. False ideas that are repeated over and over begin to sound like facts after a while, but they become a mythology. A web of lies is created to support the mythology and it becomes more and more difficult for the truth to be known.

The Middle East is a focal point for this type of mythology. It doesn’t matter which nation or people from the Middle East, the culture of the area supports mythology. This is because mythology gives comfort to the people who propagate it. The truth is less important than the comfort it gives. This idea is a cultural idea that goes back thousands of years.

Making your cause look more important than your enemies cause is more important than the facts of the case. Win the sympathy of future generations if you can’t win the sympathy of the current one. Pass the myth on down to the next generation because they can win the fight when the enemy has forgotten the reasons for the fight. The idea of families recording a history and passing it down to the next generation originated in this region. Jewish families would read from these histories at the Passover meal every year as a reminder of both how God saved them, but also of how the Egyptians had kept them as slaves.

But, the Middle East isn’t the only culture of mythology. The American culture is full of mythology as well. There are the myths of the Revolutionary War that were trumped up to make our cause sound more important than it really was. But, there are the myths of advertisers today that repeat the message that their toothpaste is better than any other toothpaste around. America is happy with their myths, because it gives them comfort.

So, when 9/11 happened and Americans felt insecure they were and still are looking for comfort. They want to know that something was done and is still being done to keep their nation secure. So, when false ideas and concepts were used by the Bush administration to win support for the Iraq War, people excepted them, because it gave them comfort to know that something was being done. It didn’t matter how many people pointed out the facts and showed them why the war was a mistake and most likely made us more vulnerable people believed the myth. That is because myths are strong medicine. Myths make you feel at ease with the world. So, when people could choose between believing a myth that makes them feel comfortable and believing the truth which makes one feel ill-at-ease people choose the former. It’s like choosing between candy and vegetables. Vegetables are better for you, but the candy is just to irresistible.

China Condemns the US Humans Rights Record

At one time the United States of America could condemn Human Rights violations from the bully pulpit. The US once was held above the fray, clean in regards to Human Rights. Well, there was the small issue of civil right and segregation. But, the abuse of prisoners just couldn’t happen in the US, unless the prisoners were black. But, if the there were white prisoners in US jails you knew for sure that there wouldn’t be any human rights violations. That is unless the prisoners were being held for protesting the government or segregation.

Today that all changed. China responded to the US annual assessment of Human Rights violations around the world. China didn’t do very well in the US study. And, the US did very well even though there were many human rights violations that the Chinese pointed out. China pointed out a case of a Chinese woman who was attacked with pepper spray and beaten by a US border guard.

They also mention the Abu Graib prison abuse. Of course the administration deserves the blow back from this but the US human rights assessment doesn’t even consider it.

BBC link

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Was Jesus a Communist?

Was Jesus a Communist?

This is in response to the discussion at LongShot’s blog.

Community was the central theme to Jesus' preaching. And, it was also the theme to Karl Marx's philosophy. The word Communism comes from the word community. Communes popped up during the 1960s in response to the desire to find a group of people who were willing to work together for the common good of the community.

These experiments tend to fail because members of the group don’t feel like they are properly rewarded for the effort they put into the community. Some members put in very little effort and feel that they should share equally in the results. Some people make large efforts and burn out after a time period and they longer feel the need to put forth the same effort. The reward is always an equal share, so it doesn’t really matter how much effort one puts forth. Jesus preached that we should not be concerned with worldly rewards and therefore always put forth our best efforts. God expects our best efforts. This is ideology, in reality everyone cares about what they get out of the deal. Only Monks and Nuns who live the ideal commune lifestyle are happy to put forth the effort and share equally what they get out of it. Their reward is spiritual, not material.

The Communist idea is that the community can be greater than the individual if everyone works together. Obviously this is in opposition to the idea that the individual can succeed when he goes against the set notions of the malaise of societal norms. The conflict of these two ideas is at the core of the left right debate in our country. The haves tend to side with the individualist ideology, because they are the top dogs and they don’t want to lose their position. The have-nots side with the community effort ideology, because they are looking for help to get out of their difficult situation. From a moral point of argument the haves say that the have ownership that should not be taken away from them. The have-nots say they didn’t get a fair deal at birth or along the way and the community should help them out.

Jesus preached that the community should work together. The apostles demonstrated this in the early church. Paul on the other had read Plato and the Stoics and he had a higher ideal for the individual. It’s quite obvious that the Conservative Christians like to quote Paul more often than they quote Jesus. The Conservative Christians interpret the Bible to support their conservative individualistic ideology. They use Paul in large part and they ignore Jesus. If questioned the Conservative Christians will tell you that it is good to do as Jesus taught, but the emphasis is placed on converting as many people as they can to their religion. If helping the poor helps spread the Gospel of Paul, then the poor will become individualistic and they will dig themselves out of the gutter and become useful to society. Like most Conservative Christian ideas, the facts don’t always match the preaching. But, the Conservative Christians will tell you that’s because the poor just don’t try hard enough, while the wealthy preacher tees off at the Pebble Beach 9th hole.


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Rumsfeld Sued by ACLU

Washington, DC, Mar. 1 (UPI) -- The American Civil Liberties Union and two other groups filed a federal lawsuit against U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Tuesday saying he is directly responsible for the alleged torture of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan and failed to take action once abusive practices became public last year.

The ACLU, Human Rights First and several attorneys, including the former judge advocate general of the Navy, filed the suit in Northern Illinois federal district court on behalf of four Iraqi and four Afghan prisoners taken into custody by the U.S. military who allege they were tortured.

"The Abu Ghraib (prison abuse) incident was not an isolated event," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU. "Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility for the abuses."

Click here to read more:

Rumsfeld Sued by ACLU

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by this one, but maybe we should be surprised that it took so long. Maybe it took so long because it took so long to gather the evidence. Law suits like this are the only protection that our democracy has any more. When will the American people realize this?

Competent Youth

No one knows what they want when emotions play on.

In today’s Supreme Court ruling the court ruled in a very close decision that 16 or 17 year olds can not be put to death for murder. Since the decision was 5 to 4, there are arguments made on both sides of the issue. It is quite interesting that the 4 justices that voted for the death penalty justified their decision based on saying that a 16 or 17 year old was just as competent as an adult.

Well, if 16 or 17 years olds are just a competent as adults, then why are there laws prohibiting these minors from making serious decisions and taking responsibility for their actions. There are laws that say that minors are not consenting adults if they decide to have sex. There are laws that say that these minors can not rent a car in some states. There are laws that say that these minors can not even go to an R-rated movie. There are laws that say that these minors can not drink alcoholic beverages.

The list goes on. It is also quite interesting that the conservative justices on the court are the ones who believe that the minors are responsible enough to be punished by being put to death. However, most of the prohibitions above are conservative stances on the issues. Conservative parents want to protect their children from sex and alcohol, therefore they pass laws to protect their irresponsible youngsters. In fact, conservatives thought that 18, 19, and 20 year-olds were to irresponsible to drink alcohol. If they are so irresponsible, how can they be just as responsible as an adult is when they are convicted of murder?

The point is that the argument is not consistent.


I just read an exciting blog by a very good writer, Cranky Liberal. For those of you who are to the right you may not like what he says, but he makes some very good arguments. The entry in particular that I am recomending is Cranky's Sermon.

Cranky points out the false logic used in the homosexual marriage arguments. The right tends to use scare tactics to make its point and Cranky illustrates this very well.

In addition to that, Cranky has included an audio version of his blog. Since his argument is a bit longer than the typical blog you may choose to listen to him make his argument via audio. It’s almost like listening to your TV or radio evangelist. So stop by Cranky’s blog and listen to or read his words of wisdom.

Agricultural Subsidies

I read in our local paper last week that twenty-some farms in our county were paid more than $100,000.00 not to grow crops on their land. Some farms were paid quite a bit of federal money not to grow anything. Of course this is the government’s handle to control both the price and production of certain crops. This prevents huge swings in the crop production and helps to balance price from huge fluctuations. But this type of government control works in a very non-American way. It tries to control the market in the land of the free market. In other words, the agricultural welfare paid to farmers should be reduced if not eliminated.

Americans believe in the free market. If the farmers get subsidies it destroys our notion of American free enterprise. If the farming system, which is basic to all countries and people on earth, why should we expect free enterprise to work in any other industry. It turns out that government subsidies actually hurt people around the world. Since American farmers can produce food at such low cost it forces farmers around the world to sell their goods at low prices to compete with the American prices.

The truth is that we take advantage of people and get them to work for low wages. If we removed the government subsidies then demand for foreign agricultural products would initially go up. This would force prices up, because of supply and demand. Foreign farmers would make more money, until their wages were more in line with US wages. However, shipping from other countries is more expensive than shipping within the US, so the US grown food would eventually have increase in demand. But, the result would be better balance in food prices and wages through out the world.

Spreading Hatred

I have gotten a few bizarre comments on my blog from conservative readers or trollers and I thought that I should sum up some of the answers to their “questions” in an entry.

There are dichotomies and inconsistencies in every religion. Christians have these same divisions and inconsistencies. If there were no divisions among the different Christian traditions then there would be only one Christian religion. There is a strange phenomenon among Christians in that they believe that they have all the answers because they found them in the Bible. However, every Christian religion has found different answers in the same Bible. This means that there are different interpretations of the Bible even among the different so-called fundamentalist Christian faiths. If there were no divisions, then Paul’s command for unity among Christians would be obeyed and the once separate religions would be compelled to unify under the teachings of Paul. This is not so, so the logical conclusion is that most of the Christian religions must be wrong on at least one point of their faith. With so many different faiths it is quite unlikely that what ever faith you believe in could possibly be completely correct in all its teachings.

So, when self-proclaimed Christians attack Muslims based on a very weak understanding of the Bible I find it quite distasteful. They sight the extremist fundamentalist Muslim groups and they condemn all Muslims. Saying that the beliefs of some fundamentalist Muslims extrapolates to all Muslims in akin to saying that the teachings of David Koresh, Jim Jones, or Jerry Falwell extrapolate to all Christians. All of these men were or are self-proclaimed Christians and preach views that the majority of Christians would disagree with if they thought them through. The teachings of these men are not in the tradition of Jesus, but somehow these men believe that they are. Similarly, the teachings of the fundamentalist Muslims are not in the spirit of the Koran, even though the fundamentalist Mullahs believe that they are. Not all Muslims agree with these Mullahs, however, some of the less educated people are afraid to argue with these teachers because they don’t really understand the Muslim faith as well as they should. Similarly many Christians who are uneducated would find it difficult to oppose Jerry Falwell and would be tempted to except what he preached based on the fact that he is a well-known personality and therefore must know what he is talking about.

Saying that all Christians believe in these unchristian teachings of Jerry Falwell, David Koresh, or Jim Jones would be considered spreading the hatred of Christians. This is because it is quite clear that it is untrue. Painting an imagine of thousands of Jerry Falwell type “Christians” spreading the Gospel of hate to the world would be enough motivation to rise up against Christians in general and spread hate even further.