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

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Radical Right Hates Free Speech

The radical right knows what it likes and it likes what it knows. However, the truth isn’t what it knows. Instead, they have an ideology and they would like to have their books and information to supersede all other books and information.

This can be seen on the website: www.humaneventsonline.com. The website has published a list of the 10 most harmful books of the 19th and 20th century. There is nothing like getting a little negative to stir the pot. This is one step below censorship. Instead of declaring that the books be burned they just rank the books to be harmful. This may seem to be a minor step, but who wants children harmed?

Why would I suggest that these books could harm children? The truth is that they would not be harmed by these books, but the effect of publishing this list is bound to have repercussions among the general public who doesn’t quite understand the value of knowledge. Instead, they see a list of harmful books and they run off to the library to make sure that harm isn’t happening at the library. It is well known that top ten lists of books promote the sales of books. Why wouldn’t we expect that the opposite result wouldn’t be true?

We need to keep in mind that we need to be aware of history and the history of human thought so that we are not doomed to repeat history. If the books on this list begin to be found less and less around the country we will find someone who will not have read these books. This person is bound to come to similar conclusions and they will begin the populace on the same road we traveled to the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany. We should remember that the Inquisition caused pain, suffering and death, not the puritanically clean population desired by the church. We should remember how the evils began.

But, we should consider some of the books on this list. “The Communist Manifesto,” “Mein Kampf,” and “Quotations from Chairman Mao” round out the top three. These are books that have been treated like the Bible to justify evils. The Bible, which also caused many harms when used in this way is not considered because it wasn’t published in the 19th or 20th century. Lucky for the creators of this list, because the Bible would rank number one if earlier publications could have been considered.

Number four on the list “The Kinsey Report” should be a surprise. This was the first attempt at a scientific study of sex. Many aspects of sex were studied and this was the foothold of understanding. Many of the initial studies were slightly wrong, but that shouldn’t justify putting the book on a list of harmful books. Actually the reason for placing the book on this list is more likely to be because the radical right doesn’t believe in understanding the truth about sex and sexual activity. Being prudish by nature they would rather have the book labeled as dangerous in order to justify eradicating it from the libraries and schools.

I didn’t intend to cover all ten of the books, but the tenth book is another interesting book. It is “General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money” by John Maynard Keynes. This book is chastized by this website because he “…argued, the government should run up deficits, borrowing and spending money to spur economic activity.” So, this is something that George W Bush must have read. To bad they didn’t have this list out in time to prevent the President from borrowing money to give tax cuts to the wealthy in order to spur the economy.

Check out the list at: link. There are quite a few honorable mentions as well. But keep this in mind when the radical right starts banging the drum of censorship based on lists like these.

Memorial Day Brings Back Thoughts of Wasted Lives

I was thinking about the insanity of our current administration. It is hard to imagine that the American system works when I think about what these guys get away with and how the American public accepts their action as a “matter of fact.”

When the Vietnam war was ending and the protesters began to attend the Discos instead of the protest rallies activists asked themselves why the public wasn’t more engaged with the many other issues facing the country. The consensus seemed to be “We saved the country from the stupidity of the government. We know that this will never happen again, because we have shown the government what the limits to their reach are. We have done what good rational Americans should do to save our country from the brink of disaster. Now we can rest assured that it won’t happen again and we can go party.”

Many people lost friends and relatives in a stupid war that meant nothing for Americans but something for the oil companies that thought that the Gulf of Tonkin held large amount of oil. My mother’s friend lost her boyfriend. My father lost some friends as well. These weren’t people that I knew, but I knew that the war hit hard at home and no one felt that it was worth the blood and treasures being wasted on it.

But, it isn’t the soldier’s stupidity – it’s the government’s stupidity for sending soldiers to fight a useless and needless war. When the government uses lies and deception to build support for a war Americans need to be vigilant.

So, I was thinking about a different timeline in a different world. This is a gedanken experiment into what life would be like if we had George W Bush as president during 9/11 but the cold war was not over. Would we even be here at all? Chances are that playing loose with the facts as the Bush administration continues to do then we would find ourselves in a much different America.

Imagine 9/11 happening again, but this time our number one enemy is still the Soviet Union. Would the Bush administration believe the truth, that Arab terrorists had conducted the plot? I believe that would feel that a “state” must be behind such a horrible attack. In fact the conservatives and radical right would be the first to accuse the number one enemy of the USA as being behind the plot. They must have been the ones to organize the plot, because the Bush administration surely couldn’t believe that a Saudi could mastermind the plot. The administration would surely ignore the truth as they did in the current case. They would call the Soviet Union on the carpet, because they surely must have been guilty. And, it may even be highly likely that even if the Soviet Union continued to deny the facts the Bush administration would surely call them liars and would certainly threaten them with a retaliation strike of some type to even the score.

It’s a scary thought to consider the stupidity of the Bush administration. We are just lucky to be living in the times that we do live in. But, it is easy to imagine that the Bush administration could still get us into a mess in the next three and a half years.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Dr. Forbush Thinks – The Universe - Podcast

Dr. Forbush Thinks – The Universe - Podcast

Editorial Opinion: (click here to download the mp3 file) The Universe

Robert Heinlein saw the cultural divide 50 years ago. He wrote about it and even made one of his stories into a radio play. What is the difference between conservatives and liberals? Robert A. Heinlein uses allegory to show us the difference.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Dr. Forbush Thinks – George Galloway - Podcast

Dr. Forbush Thinks – George Galloway - Podcast

Editorial Opinion: (click here to download the mp3 file) George Galloway

What else did George Galloway have to say? Why is the Senate using him as a scapegoat? Just who is wearing the white hats here?

Dr. Forbush Thinks - Twenty Years From Now - Podcast

Dr. Forbush Thinks - Twenty Years From Now - Podcast

Editorial Opinion: (click here to download the mp3 file) Twenty Years From Now

What will the status of the abortion issue be twenty years from now?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Stem Cells and Abortion

The Radical Right thinks that stem cells and abortion have something in common. In fact they think that these two things have everything in common.

From a legal point of view the definition of when life begins is at stake. If the definition were to allow the destruction of a few cells just after conception, then the issue of outlawing abortion would be hopeless. From the legal point of view one can not have deferent definitions for life for different processes.

So, I stand here today with hope for the pro-choice movement.

It doesn’t have anything to do with justice or rights for women. That wouldn’t rise high enough in priority for the Republicans with the money and power to be able to sway the political machine. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the life of the mother or the life of the fetus. No, it has to do with the life of the sixty-some year old wealthy Republican donors that actually control the direction of the Party.

Yes, the wealthy Republican donors are selfish.

What that means for this issue is that that is finally a crack in the wall that was put up with Roe v. Wade. The wealthy Republican donors are seeing the light through that crack. The wealthy Republican donors don’t want to suffer from life threaten and debilitating diseases. This means that the wealthy Republican donors are beginning to put pressure on politicians to do something about stem cell research. The vote in the House of Representatives this week illustrated the pressure that is beginning to build. And, as more wealthy Republican donors begin to realize that this is about their life they will put more pressure on the politicians to fix this problem. And, the definition of when life begins will be put off for a few months.

You see, the wealthy Republican donors never cared about the abortion issue. This is because the chances that a 60-some year old politician is going to have an unplanned pregnancy was very small. And, if the issue doesn’t effect one then one doesn’t really care to much about it. But, the Christian vote meant power to the wealthy Republican donors, so they were willing to concede some on this issue. But, now that it means life and death the issue has come to roost and the wealthy Republican donors that drive the action in the Republican Party are begin to wake up and smell the stem cells.


George W Bush Can’t Be Wrong

When George W Bush says it, then it must be true. Maybe it wouldn’t be true the first few times, but by the sixth time it’s got to be true. Right!?

Well, if you don’t believe it from me maybe you’ll believe it from George W Bush himself.

“Now, a personal savings account would be a part of a Social Security retirement system. It would be a part of what you would have to retire when you reach retirement age. As you -- as I mentioned to you earlier, we're going to redesign the current system. If you've retired, you don't have anything to worry about -- third time I've said that. (Laughter.) I'll probably say it three more times. See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.”

This isn’t made up, it’s from his Propaganda Release May 24, 2005.

Why should we call it a “Press Release?” After all, he is telling us that he has to make us believe that he’s right. Now his truth is showing through. Maybe if we just passed a law saying that George W Bush can’t be wrong we could convince the rest of the people that he’s right.



Freedom is a political buzzword used to argue many political points. This is because people find it difficult to argue against freedom. In fact the radical right has invented new vocabulary to talk about their ideas for limiting freedom. The left has been bashed when they are straightforward talking about limiting freedom. The truth of the matter is that government limits freedom no matter who is in charge. The question becomes whose freedom should be limited and why.

For those of you who still doubt what I am saying I will show you an example as to how government limits freedom and why it is good.

The very obvious example is to limit the freedom of one person in order to protect other people in society. This doctrine allows government to write laws that range from preventing people from killing each other to making traffic laws that prevent people from harming themselves. Every law that is written limits someone’s freedom, but in turn society wins because the society becomes safer for everyone.

In fact the history of civilization is based on the idea that people come together to protect each other from the harshness of the world. Making laws to protect people from themselves was another step on the road to civilization. The reduction of personal freedom didn’t seem to be an issue until people started to pass laws, which were considered to over step the protection vs. freedom conflict. One could argue that passing drug laws could help society by protecting individuals from themselves which would make society safer in general. But, as the great experiment of prohibition proved, the law against alcohol harmed society in ways that were not imagined when the law was passed. Illegal businesses were not controlled by the government, which allowed many of them to buy massive amounts of weapons and take the power away from the government. Money from these illegal businesses was not monitored and taxed causing a loss of income to the government. Lack of oversight and protection of the production of alcohol allowed dangerous alcohol to kill and blind many people. So, freedom was taken away from the people and the society grew more dangerous. Libertarians argue that the same situation exists now with regard to drug laws.

So, instead of using freedom as a banner for the American Life, the honest discussion should be about what freedoms should be limited to protect society and what freedoms should not be limited because the limitation only minimally protects society.

This is where we get to the two major political parties in the USA. The Republicans have traditionally been the champions of not restricting freedoms on corporations. They have traditionally believed that government regulations erode the efficiency of business and hence would hinder economic growth. Following this argument to its conclusion we would conclude that corporations should be allowed to do anything that enhances the economic growth of the American economy. For example, mining resources from the National Park system, perhaps even making prisoners into slaves to work for free. But, why stop at prisoners? Perhaps making it as difficult as possible for people to leave their current job would allow companies to hire workers at the lowest possible wages with the least benefits. This would make the US economy much better as measured by GDP.

As you can see, freedom for one class likely means less freedom for another class.

It is quite interesting however that the radical right embraced the concept of freedom for corporate America, but they want less freedom for working class America. Their vision is to limit social freedom. They would like to create pure and holy people to make their “good society.” And they want to define what “good” and “holy” mean. They want laws that stop abortions – that isn’t anything new. But, if they got those laws today they wouldn’t be happy. They want to make laws that would censor what you could view on TV. They want to make it more difficult to get birth control and alcohol. In fact they would likely want to make laws against every “so-called” sin in the Bible. That would include homosexuality and living with a person of the opposite sex while not being married.

The radical right also likes the idea of an American culture. They would like to limit the freedom of others who belong to other cultures. They would like to make English the official language of America, and make it difficult for those who don’t speak English. They would prefer that non-Christian religions don’t have the same status as Christian religions. All in all they want to limit minority freedoms and enhance their own freedoms at their expense.

In summary, the radical right would like to limit social freedoms and enhance corporate freedom. This is because they believe that limiting social freedom will make a society of pure and holy workers who won’t question the low wages that they should be grateful to get working at the monopoly corporations. This is the radical right’s dream for America and it seems to be coming true.

Dr. Forbush Thinks - Science Fiction - Podcast

Dr. Forbush Thinks - Science Fiction - Podcast

Editorial Opinion: (click here to download the mp3 file) Science Fiction

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Dr. Forbush Thinks - Culture of Life - Podcast

Dr. Forbush Thinks - Culture of Life - Podcast

Editorial Opinion: (click here to download the mp3 file) Culture of Life

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Dr. Forbush Thinks - Drunken Sailor - Podcast

Dr. Forbush Thinks - Drunken Sailor - Podcast

Editorial Opinion: (click here to download the mp3 file) Drunken Sailor

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Republican Dream is Coming True

The wealthy are getting wealthier. The poor are getting poorer. And the Republican dream of the middle class becoming poor is coming true.

Middle class support for the Republican Party is like the middle class shooting a machine gun at their head. The Tom DeLays, Karl Roves and Bill Frists continue to tell the middle class that they support the middle class. But where is the legislation that proves that? There isn’t any. The one chance the Republicans had to prove that they were the Party of the people they voted to give the wealthy a tax break. They middle didn’t get one and that’s a fact.

So, it shouldn’t be any surprise to see the latest economic data.
The Christian Science Monitor tells us that the gap between richer and poorer is getting larger, and those on the rich side of the gap are falling into the abyss to crawl out on the other side. This is the same trend that happened during the Reagan administration, and was reversed for a time during the Clinton administration. It is happening again and there is no looking back.

Dr. Forbush Thinks - True Democracy - Podcast

Dr. Forbush Thinks - True Democracy - Podcast

Editorial Opinion: (click here to download the mp3 file) True Democracy

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Dr. Forbush Thinks - Radical Hypocrisy – Podcast

Dr. Forbush Thinks - Radical Hypocrisy – Podcast

Editorial Opinion: (click here to listen to the mp3 file) Radical Hypocrisy

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Friday, May 20, 2005

Science Fiction

Science Fiction

I wrote a bit about science fiction before, and with the release of “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” I thought that I would write about science fiction again.

In the late 1880s two scientists in Cleveland, Ohio were about to revolutionize science and change the way humans would view the Universe forever. Eighteen years later Einstein reveled what that experiment meant. This is an example of how science works, and it is also an example of how science fiction works.

I will attempt to point out the important aspects of this experiment, what Einstein learned from it and what science fiction writers learned from Einstein. All that in a few short paragraphs.

In the 1880s scientists were puzzled by the nature of light. They had learned that light behaves like water waves in some ways. But they didn’t understand what was doing the oscillating. They imagined that some media must be oscillating. But since light can travel through a vacuum the media must fill all empty space. Since the Earth is travelling through space at relatively high speeds it should effect the media an the speed of light should be different with respect to the direction the Earth is travelling through this media which was named Aether.

In 1887 Michelson and Morley set out to measure the velocity of the earth with respect to the Aether. But their experiment could not detect any difference in the velocity of light in any direction. They continued to refine the accuracy of their experiment and they continued to get a null result.

It took until 1905 for Einstein to realize that if the speed of light were the same in all directions then time was the thing that was changing not the Aether. This was an observation of a collection of all these facts. This was the only way that all the observations could fit together consistently. Einstein studied this world of traveling at near the speed of light with what he called Gedanken Experiments, or Thought Experiments. He could make a lot of progress just understanding what the implications would be for a person traveling near the speed of light without ever building a spaceship and travelling out into space.

This is where Science Fiction comes in. Einstein used Gedanken Experiments to understand the nature of nature in regimes that no human could explore personally. And, the future was gradually exposing itself with a wide range of possibilities. But, no human could go forward into the future to explore what it might offer to us. So, writers began to imagine the possibilities of the future and write about them. Of course each writer could not know everything about everything. They couldn’t even know when or if new technology would be invented. Writers could predict what problems might arise if society continued on its current course. The writers could also guess what solutions might be needed to solve the impending problems.

It shouldn’t be surprising that Science Fiction was born along side modern science. This is because the great discoveries of the twentieth century lead the general population to speculate as to what science may reveal next. The general population continued to struggle with the dangers and the unknown problems that science also revealed. But, it shouldn’t have been surprising that there would be problems, because everything that is unknown poses dangers. Known things pose dangers too; but since the dangers are known people are taught to avoid the danger. Fire, for example, is dangerous, but people use it because they understand it and their fear is restricted to what they understand to be dangerous.

Science Fiction performed many Gedanken Experiments on social changes as well as technological changes. This is because the future offers possibilities in many ways, not just technology. Labor saving devices that were imagined for the future offered the possibility of new options for society. Robots become the ultimate labor saving devices, but the dangers of robots are also explored.

The effect of the Science Fiction fads of the 1950s prepared the way for the social changes that took place in the 1960s. People were primed for the good changes that the future could bring, so the normal fear that one faces when changes are introduced were reduced for the majority of people and Science Fiction played an important part in that preparation.

The problem with this situation is that the general public doesn’t really understand science. When they think of science they don’t imagine a scientist painstakingly taking data and continually resolving the errors in a measurement in order to make better observations. Instead the general public assumes that what they see in the movies is science. There are very few movies that actually portray the truth about science. Instead most movies are Gedanken Experiments into what science might discover or how engineers might use the discoveries of science. These false ideas about science lead to the idea that science could be wrong because their Gedanken Experiment might have been wrong. But, the truth is much more difficult than this.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Dr. Forbush Thinks - Evil Evolution – Podcast

Dr. Forbush Thinks - Evil Evolution – Podcast

Editorial Analysis (click here to listen to the mp3 file) Evil Evolution

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Is There Any Reason For Alarm?

It makes me wonder what people are thinking every time I read about a school board or parents group challenging the teaching of evolution. I wonder about the emotion that this issue provokes. I can understand that if you are a religious person with set beliefs you might not want to believe in evolution. I can understand that if you are Fundamentalist and you believe that the Bible is the only truth you can believe in. I can argue with you about that, by presenting evidence which points out what we observe as scientists. To a scientist evolution is the result of many observations. It is much like uncovering a picture a little at a time. But, instead of completely removing each piece each piece is being made clearer. There could still be some fogged pieces in the way, but the picture is clear none-the-less. There is something that we call evolution that enabled life on earth to evolve from mere chemicals to human beings.

The cause of that evolution is not known, and not observed.

Science is the culmination of observations being held together with a theory. The theory is the picture that is gradually uncovered piece by piece. With evolution we know and understand much of the theory, and it is getting clearer all the time because of the work that is continually being done.

Today I heard D. James Kennedy being interviewed by Terri Gross on Fresh Air. D. James Kennedy is another Right Wing Christian preacher with a TV ministry called "The Coral Ridge Hour," which is carried by more than 500 TV stations. He also broadcasts two daily radio programs. So, he is at home around the microphone and he tells millions of people what he believes God wants them to do. When a preacher tells people what God wants them to do, that preacher has an awesome responsibility to not make any mistakes because so many people have their trust in him.

So, when you hear a preacher make the statement that evolution is the cause of every major genocide in the 20th century you can guess that there will be many people who not only believe what he says, but believe it is the truth that God gave us. And, who can argue with eliminating the cause of every major genocide in the 20th century, especially if God doesn’t like it.

I couldn’t believe my ears, so I went to the Fresh Air website and I downloaded the program. And I listened to it again. And, I have the exact question right here for you to hear. so you can download it and listen to it every time you think that the religious right doesn’t mean any harm.

What D. James Kennedy is saying here is that he doesn’t even care if evolution is the true observation of life on earth. The truth doesn’t matter because evolution is evil in itself. He is finished trying to disprove evolution. If you just hate something you don’t need to disprove it. Instead you just label it as evil and make it the object of your disdain. In fact, he doesn’t just label; it as evil, but he is trying it not to Hitler or Stalin or Mao or Marx or any known evil of the twentieth century. No, he is identifying it to every genocide of the twentieth century. I am sure that he would like to tie in all the genocides of the 18th and 17th centuries as well, but evolution hasn’t been around long enough. The right thinks that the left is bad when we point out that Bush is behaving like mini-Hitler. But, Kennedy doesn’t stop at Hitler he goes on to Stalin and Mao and More.

Surely someone on the right can recognize this danger to our country before it’s too late.

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Radical Right Hypocrites

Why does hypocrisy seem to be a major infliction of the right? You never see major environmentalists being accused of hypocrisy, even though the self-sacrifice suggested by these groups are just as difficult as the moral laws the radical right wants to cram down our throats. You never see peacemakers being accused of hypocrisy, even though peacemakers are asking us to go against our own violent human nature.

This conservative hypocrisy is not a new thing. Jesus accused the religious zealots of his day of preaching one thing and acting in another way. He told his followers to listen to what the Pharisees said, but do not do what the Pharisees do.

With the rise of the Tele-evangelist movement in the 1980s Jimmy Swaggart and Jim and Tammy Baker preached about needing money to take care of the poor. They preached about turning toward Jesus and accepting him. If they had listened to themselves they would have become nice people. However, the evidence suggests that they did not become nice people. In fact money and sex became important overriding factors in their lives. Isn’t this the definition of hypocrisy? Preach against evil, then become evil yourself.

However, there tends to be a widespread philosophy among the radical right extremists that the ends justify the means. Radical Christians believe that getting the message out is more important than the morality of the person giving the message. Unless your name is Bill Clinton! It doesn’t matter if you find a way to make a small fortune skimming money off a program aimed at helping the poor, unless it has been traced to your political agenda and against the UN.

Hypocrisy seems to be just fine among the right, unless you get caught.

What else could explain the actions of the Spokane, Washington mayor Jim West? Jim West is a gay mayor of Spokane. He wasn’t openly gay. In fact his outward persona was not only anti-gay but aggressively anti-gay. How can any person reconcile this contradiction inside their mind? How can a person espouse hatred against a group that they belong to? It would be like a light skinned Hispanic becoming anti-Latino. It would be like a black bleaching their skin, and having surgery then joining the KKK.

But, it isn’t only about the fact that Jim West is gay. It is more about his misrepresentation of his own feelings and ideals. He feels that he is gay and he acts on those feelings. But he makes speeches and proposes laws that are anti-gay. How can you trust any issue that he speaks to?

First, we should try to understand why anyone would misrepresent himself or herself in this situation. Spokane is a very conservative area of Washington State. This means that an openly gay person doesn’t have much of a chance to win an election in this town. But the town may have a majority of anti-gay resident voters. I don’t know for certain, but why else would someone bang this drum so loudly against what they actually are? So, if seems reasonable to conclude that Jim West played the gay card to get elected.

One could argue that the people got what they wanted. They bought what was advertised. What could be the down side? The down side as far as I am concerned is honesty. A person that can reconcile this major issue isn’t going to care when an issue that doesn’t effect them comes along. This is especially true among politicians in the radical right. They are more concerned about money and power and they create façade that mask the truth. People who don’t look very close to the political rankle believe the façade and vote for these issues that don’t represent to truth about these politicians.

But, why is the radical right more susceptible to hypocrisy? I would guess that they answer lies in the nature of what the truth is: “The radical right wants power and money for themselves.” Everything else that the radical right says and does is only said and done with this goal in mind. Much like Jimmy Swaggart preaching the evils of sex and then paying to watch young girls take their clothes off. Much like Jim and Tammy Baker collecting money for the poor and then using the money to build an opulent lifestyle. Much like Jim West could only say that he never masturbated in his office when he was accused of frequenting gay.com. And, much like George W Bush, a man whose wealth was largely created by oil adventures says that the war in the Middle East doesn’t have anything to do with oil.

How can anyone believe these people?

Jim West

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Audio Files for Audiophiles - Tale of Two Annes

In a recent burst of insanity I recorded one of my blogs for all to hear. The advantage of audio is that I can emphasize and relate with the tone of my voice. If anyone is interested I posted the file at: Link

This is an experiment and I would love to have feedback from anyone who is brave enough to listen to this.

And, I know this is asking a lot, if after listening to it I’d like to hear if there are any of my previous blogs that you might want to hear in audio.

Minor Rights

The Freedom and Liberty of Americans is currently being challenged in Washington DC. Most Americans don’t realize the importance of this challenge. Some Americans think to themselves, “There are a lot of smart people in Washington, they will make sure that the government will be fair.” Some other people are thinking, “What difference does it make? The government is always out to screw me.” Still others are thinking, “It doesn’t matter what I think, how could I make a difference?” The point is that Republicans are currently in power, and they are making little but calculated steps to take power away from the minority Party. They continue to try to change rules in an effort to give more power to the majority Party. One should think of the consequences of this action and the potential consequences.

For example, a majority in power without checks and balances can make laws that effect the minority in horrendous ways. The party in power could pass a law that takes away rights of blacks, or non-English speakers, or women, or gays. By taking away someone’s rights by passing a law they can do two things. First, they can say that the majority rules and majority wants to make these laws. Second, they can use the existence of the law as a justification for even more horrendous action. They can claim to suspect that people may be members of these lower classes and they can get search warrants and make people’s lives miserable.

Now, the majority of Americans believe that this could never happen. But how do they know? They believe that people would not allow these laws to be passed. They believe that the congressmen who vote for these laws would be voted out of office. But, they also thought that if George W Bush didn’t find Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq he would be voted out of office. People don’t vote based on one issue. And, if that issue doesn’t effect you personally then you are not likely to even care.

Imagine a fictional congressman who is running for congress from your district. He has been in congress and in his first year he was able to pass anti-gay legislation forcing homosexuals to act straight in public. Homosexuals acting “gay” in public could be arrested and put in jail just like an intoxicated person could be arrested and put in the drunk tank. However, eight months before the election he passed a rebate law where everyone who made over $50,000.00 a year gets a $1,000.00 check in the mail two weeks before the election. Do you think that he will win re-election?

Now in real life this same thing happens in a much subtler way. Sometimes the check doesn’t come in the mail, but in the form of tax breaks instead. Sometimes the laws passed are not so obviously over the top. They might be about appointments of anti-gay judges to the bench. They might be about not funding outreach programs to the poor. It may be about giving money to religious groups who discriminate against those who don’t belong to their faith. If the policy is well hidden, then it can be more effective. There is less political damage and possibly more support from these groups.

Tomorrow we will be at another crossroad in American Political Life. The Republicans want to take another right away from a minority group. In this case the minority group is the Democrats. The right that is being taken away is the right to stand up and say you are going to far this time. This is the right to bring political attention to an over the top judicial appointment. It is also about winning rights for the minority party and all the minority groups they represent. This is because the Democrats represent the collection of minorities in this country. So, the question becomes, will there be those few Republicans that respect the minority party and their views? Will there be those Republicans that have enough courage to stand up for what is right? Will there be those Republicans that are long sighted enough to realize that they will not always be the majority party and the new majority party will be able to run roughshod over them in the future. And, perhaps the new majority would even take revenge and just get rid of the filibuster altogether. This is because the minority is still going to be subject to the benevolence of the majority.

Monday, May 16, 2005

What is True Democracy?

America is the Land of Democracy. But what does Democracy mean? Is it mob rule by the majority, or is it a government of compromise where every minority has a voice?

Voting Democracy has been set up through out the world in many forms over the last several thousand years. Athens and Sparta had their forms of Democracy. The Roman Empire had a component of Democracy.

One thing that frightened the learned through out the ages was the ability to stir up a mob to hysteria and circumvent Democracy with mob rule. This mob rule happens when a minority knows that it can not earn the support of the majority by using rational logic to explain their issue. Instead they resort to emotional persuasion to provoke the animal instinct in every one of us to win support. Emotional illustrations are often used in times of war to rally the troops against what logically seems to be a loosing strategy or objective. But the same technique is used in politics during elections or even in efforts to embarrass the opposition to your cause.

In order to prevent emotional outbursts into mob rule checks were put into place in many different ruling systems. Royal governments had monarchs to keep the House of Lords in check. Advisors were meant to keep the Kings and Queens in check. Obviously these checks didn’t always work. And these systems lost much of their democratic authority.

Even at the time of the founding of the United States of America our founding fathers believed that land ownership was the key to having a say in government. This was a check on the more numerous landless hordes that could pass laws that would demand that everyone should share the land.

The founding fathers had thought about the danger of mob rule to quite an extent. This is why two houses of congress were created. One house with two year terms was more responsive to the people. If the representative didn’t act on the peoples wishes they would be out of a job in less than two years. But this quick reaction to the people held the danger of mob rule. Therefore a wiser body in the second house, the senate, would be able to keep a check on the more reactive body. All of this bureaucracy is needed to keep a check on the potential for mob rule.

The US Senate is meant to be a check on the reactive US House of Representatives in order to prevent mob rule that could send the government into an authoritative type of government in actuality while the Government claimed to be democratic. We should remember that Germany was Democratic after the First World War, but because of mob rule Hitler was able to turn this Democracy into a authoritarian fascist government. We should remember that each small step was a legal maneuver used to acquire more power.

So, even though it would be legal to pass a law to get rid of the filibuster for judicial appointments we should remember that the filibuster is one check we have as insurance against mob rule. And, for the conservatives in charge, you need to remember that you may not always be in the mob…

Friday, May 13, 2005


The Democratic Party is often touted as the Political Party of diversity. But, what does this really mean?

Diversity means: “the fact or quality of being different.” But, a political party is defined as: “An established political group organized to promote and support its principles and candidates for public office.”

Now, there seems to be a problem when you look at these two definitions. But it gets even more complicated when you think of a collection of diverse groups gathering together to promote and support the issues important to these diverse groups. What should the larger group do when the issues of one subgroup interfere with the issues of another subgroups?

Let’s look a little closer at what we mean by diversity. A whole list of groups come to mind when we start talking about diversity. There is race. There is gender. There is sexual orientation. There is religion. There are ethnic differences. If we think about this there are two major classes of diversity. There are groups that collect together because of differences that they can not change: Race, gender and physical distinctions. There are groups that collect together because of differences that they do not want to change, but could if they chose to like language, culture, and religion.

From the looks of this, talking about diversity could be opening a can of worms. Each group could suggest that they are not being represented fairly, or that I am stereotyping etc… But, the only way to make progress with a difficult issue is to talk about it and to try to understand what is happening.

So, I am going to begin the discussion here with talking about a group that the Democratic Party would never allow to join. One group whose influence in the Democratic Party would mean the destruction of the Democratic Party is excluded. This group is opposed to every major issue that the Democrats stand for. So, the Party of Diversity excludes at least this one group, and they are Republicans. So, the party of diversity can certainly not include everyone - UNLESS THEY BELIEVE IN THE DEMOCRATIC IDEALS.

Well, the group over at Bring It On got together to define some of the Democratic Ideals. But even with the belief in these ideals Democrats are open to new ideas. In fact, over at Bring It On we have invited a conservative to be a guest author for today. We asked him to write on any subject and he chose to write about the difficulty with political blogging. This was a safe subject that wouldn’t raise the ire of anyone on either side of the political aisle. But, we look at it as a step in the right direction. America as a Democracy relies on discussion to make progress. If people from diverse perspectives can voice their opinions the result should be laws that work for everyone. However, when different directions exist and they have roughly equal support then the best results comes from honest discussion and not mob rule.

So, now that we know who the Democrats excludes we need to define the diversity issues that all Democrats can agree with.

One of the current issues that seems to divide American is the issue of culture. Should there be one “American Culture” that we can all agree on? Are all cultures equally valid? If different cultures are more or less desirable, then how do we rank them or determine what aspects are desirable? How do we deal with the conflicts between cultures?

I think that I can safely say that some people in the US tend to think that America has a specific set of values that define America as a culture. This list of values may be different from individual to individual, but the idea that this list exists as a concept implies a higher value on American culture than other coexisting cultures. The people who place value on these types of lists orient themselves as America Centric. Because they place value on this list of ideals they place less value on other cultural values.

(Talk about stereotyping. It is difficult to talk about this whole idea of diversity and culture without using generalities. However, generalities are needed to simplify the concept to a degree needed to examine it with our feeble human minds. Everyone agrees that extremist groups that are racist exist. However, life is not black and white. Some people dislike one aspect of another culture, but it doesn’t make them racist. Culture and race are sometimes correlated, because culture arises from common experience and people of one race may tend to live together and experience the same history. However, to assume that all people of one race prescribe to the same cultural values are racist.)

So, the question of diversity comes down to one main issue: How should America deal with its cultural diversity? The right side of the political discussion argues that American cultural values should be held with great esteem and other cultures should be relegated to lower value. They would argue that these values are Christian values based on the Bible and date back to our early American roots The left side of the political discussion would argue that America is built from many different cultures, and it isn’t clear which values are better. In fact, history shows us that the combination of some of these values provided America with new and better cultural values. In addition, restrictions on these cultural values is actually discriminatory to these other cultures. In fact, one of the most important cultural value is the tolerance of other cultures.

This post is not meant to be a treatise on the subject, but rather a starting point in the process of thinking through some of these difficult issues.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Two Creation Accounts and Evolution and Science

The idea that evolution is false is based on an emotional response to what religious people have been taught to understand as the “true” account of creation in the Bible. The fact is that there are actually two different accounts of creation in the Bible. If someone reads the Bible without being told what it means they would come to the conclusion that two different people wrote these accounts.

The first account of the creation is Genesis 1:1 to 2:3.

The second account of the creation is Genesis 2:4 to 2:25.

The two different account follow one after the other. But to accept everything in one account one must reject something in the second account. So, in order to accept both readings as the one truth one must create or be told a system to use to accept both of these readings.

For example, one contradiction included is the order in which animals and humans are created. Animals were created before humans Gen 1:25-27 and animals were created after humans Gen 2:18-19. So, from these two accounts which one defined evolution as being wrong? Or, is the idea of time being brought into question? God had the intention of creating animals for humans before humans were created. This idea is not written in the words of the Bible, but rather it is interpreted from what is written here. But, it doesn’t need to be the only interpretation. One could imagine a God that can control time and create humans, then go back in time and create animals. It also doesn’t say this in the Bible, but it is an alternative way to put the two stories together. Humans up to this point in time didn’t know about relativity or quantum mechanics, so their interpretation of the Bible isn’t consistent with these discoveries of the twentieth century.

From modern physics we know that time is just the forth dimension and time did not exist before the universe was created, if there was such a thing as a before. Instead, there is a time zero where time suddenly came into existence. So, how does God act without time? If God created the universe, then he created it outside of time. If he did, then the entire method he used to create anything could include the use of evolution as a method. Why should humans assume that there is only one way for God to act? He could look at the whole process from his point of view. He wouldn’t need to nudge it along like some people would suggest. He could have created the laws of physics and chemistry in such a way that evolution was a necessity not a possibility.

If a God exists and if he created the Universe he must act outside of our understanding of time and space. If this is the case, then why should anyone doubt that he has a plan? But, science is concerned with observation of our world and not whether God exists or not. In fact, teachers and schools should not be concerned with the existence of God. That is the job of the parents and the religious leaders. Since evolution is an observation, how can this observation threaten a religion? The Religions can tell its faithful how they should interpret the observation. But, schools have no business teaching what isn’t observed, and God is not observed.

, and

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Tale of Two Annes

Tale of Two Annes

Anne Lamott and Ann Coulter appeared to me. They didn’t come in a dream, they came to me through the miracle of modern communications. With modern communications anyone could be right in front of you communicating to you in the blink of an eye.

The interesting thing about these two Annes is that they are similar in some respects and the are different in other respects.

They are both named Ann, although the spellings are different. They both seem to be intelligent to some degree. They are both out on a book tour trying to sell their latest book. In fact, “hocking their books” is why they each popped into my life. They are both white females. And they both write about politics. And, that may be the end of the similarities.

They are different in many many more ways. At least from my limited view of these two women they are extremely good examples of the polar society that we are living in today.

I have had slightly more experience with Ann Coulter than with Anne Lamott. I had read some of the outlandishly loony things that Ann Coulter has written. I suspected that she may have been taken out of context and the fragments of her thoughts were based on something more substantial. I thought that maybe she could justify any one of her spectacularly unsupported statements that have floated through the Internet.

Well, I saw Ann Coulter on Jay Leno last night, and I have to say that her appearance supports the statement that “…there’s no there there.” What I gather from her is she is upset because liberals just can not debate her. No, liberals would rather throw a pie in your face and run away. I also discovered that she likes to brag about her ability to get out of the way of the pies. She’s also upset that Homeland Security isn’t allowed to profile people and take people who match her profile off of her airplane. She exaggerates facts, for example she said that scientists have recently published a paper stating that there are differences between men and women. I assume that study she is referring to was this one: link

The story begins with stating the fact that everyone knows that there are differences between men and women, but no one has detailed the differences to genetic levels. Of course not, we have only finished mapping the human genome a few years ago. There are so many things that need to be done with the latest genetic information that everything including detailing the differences between men and women wasn’t the highest on the list. But, since scientific studies generally take quite a while waiting three years wouldn’t be so unusual. And, of course, this Ann didn’t even raise the question as to why scientists would need to do this study. Well, it has to do with drugs. Different genetics means that people will have different responses to different drugs. If you have a disease that needs to be treated, wouldn’t you like to get the proper drug that will be most effective with the least side effects? Ann Coulter just things its funny to call these scientists idiots for telling us what we already know.

Anne Lamott on the other hand is a writer who is also trying to get the word out about her new book. I heard this Anne in an interview on “City Arts and Lectures.”

The format was longer, so she was able to read from her book, discuss it, and answer questions from the audience. Anne Lamott professes that she has opinions, but they are probably wrong. This is quite the opposite of Ann Coulter who has opinions and they probably are wrong, but she professes to know the truth.

Anne Lamott could be described as a Liberal Christian, which the radical right would have you believe doesn’t exist. She talks about her relationship with God and how she deals with her difficulties. She writes interesting thought provoking stories. For example, she tells us about her difficulty in understanding how George W Bush is now the president of America. She tells us how she prays that George W Bush will do something for the Common Good of all Americans. She tells us that she has been praying this prayer for years, but she has recently changed it. Thinking that it was a hopeless prayer she now prays that George W Bush does something for the Common Good of Americans by accident.

She also tells us that after the election she was so distraught with the result that she went to her church healing and the minister to heal her of this illness. She tells us that she believes in healing by lay of hands now, because she isn’t quite so distraught now.

So, after this experience of being visited by the two Annes I will now pray my prayer:

“Please God give us more people like Anne Lamott and less people like Ann Coulter.”

What Do Progressives Stand For?

On May 6, 2005 Eric Alterman wrote the following:

I was watching a panel on foreign policy called “Are We Making the World Safe for Democracy?” at the L.A. Times Festival of Books on C-SPAN and a questioner asked “My conservative friends can enumerate four or five basic principles of what it means to be a conservative, but what are the principles of the liberals? I would really like to find out what are the basic principles of the liberal worldview… My liberal friends are not able to elucidate them for me. I’m serious…. For my conservative friends we can rattle off four or five principles, if you could just rattle off four or five things that are basic.”

Nobody wanted to answer. David Rieff said, “I think it’s a provocation this question. If anyone could argue for the ability to rattle off, as you say, four or five principles I would take issue with the seriousness of those principles.” Reiff is right, but the political problem is real and central. Anyone want to try and answer? If you solve it, I’ll credit you in the next book, and you will have made the world a better place.

Our Response???

Dear Eric;

Key principles gauntlet has been thrown and duly picked up by the Bring It On bloggers, a group of 10 who routinely analyze all things left. While somewhat incredulous that the questioner could not get an answer to his query, (have you ever been surrounded by a group of Democrats who didn’t have an opinion?) six of us felt we could step up, enlighten, and Bring It On.

6 Bloggers Respond

There is a truly unique opportunity here for our party. These crossroads offer us a chance to renew American politics. We believe in the dignity of the individual. I think 3 key principles for liberals are Tolerance, Reform and Protection. Most issues can slide under these headers, and they are humanity embracing rather than humanity regulating principles.

Tolerance implies acceptance, a lack of judgment on others who are different. This does not imply a lack of respect for the law. It does indicate a lessening of hierarchy, i.e. class, race, haves/have nots. It is the base of seeing human society growing in a constant rate of improvement due to the offering of more opportunity to more people. It does not subscribe to the theory that protecting ones personal wealth by creating barriers to others betters society.

Reform means rooting out barriers that impede opportunity so growth continues. It means changing systems that are unfair. It means accountability to the people who suffer bias, and performance on the promise of equal opportunity.

Protection means caring for all within the community, searching out the needy and not turning our backs on their needs. We do this because we understand that we cannot grow and improve if we do not nurture.

Lastly, we need look no further than our founders for inspiration. What we seek is nothing less than the restoration of our public dignity. Dignity in how we see ourselves, our civic responsibilities and the role of our elected officials. As a party, we embrace Civic Virtues: Individual rights, Liberty, The public or common good, Self government, Equality, Diversity, Openness and free inquiry, Truth, and Patriotism
— Jet


The Progressive Agenda is to improve our society in such a way to make Life worth living for everyone regardless of class, race or religion and to assure our Freedom and Liberty are protected.

When you say reform, there are several things to reform. Economic reform maybe what you mean. Conservatives would claim that they want to reform government.

I think that the overarching value is to reform society - in such a way to give more people access to opportunity.

In the US Democrats encompass the Green Party ideals of Environmental Protection and the Labor ideals of jobs at a fair wage as well as fundamental progressive ideals.

Getting society ready for a social change is just as important as the actual change itself. Many people react to change in a negative way. Advertising the reasons that things are in need of change makes liberal look like whiners. But the complaining is needed to expose the problem and the need for reform.
— Dr. Forbush


Liberal values are more than just catch phrases and easy slogans. Liberal values are not easily summed up with snappy one liners. Defining our values takes more effort because the real world is more complex than any conservative slogan. But here is my rough cut at it.

Our values are based upon the idea that everyone deserves the chance for a quality life. Not the guarantee of success, but the opportunity to succeed.
We believe a person should be judged on their ability, not their background
That the merit of the person is worth more than the parent of the person
That a strong America requires widespread prosperity, not the widening disparity of income we see in our society today.
That government serves the people.
That public servants are supposed to serve the interests of the public, not the serve the public to special interest.
That not all tax cuts are good, and not all tax hikes are bad because building a prosperous America means investing in the welfare and well being of all citizens.

Or in short, we believe in Liberty, Equality, Diversity, Prosperity
— The Cranky Liberal


To ask a party to sum up what they are all about is nothing more than a catch 22. No matter what broad spectrum you choose to define a party, you will always alienate someone in the long run because you can’t make everyone happy. There is an underlying reason that parties flip flop on issues over the ages, and that is because both parties chase the voter with the biggest pocket book. I would say that the true sense of democracy, and the Democratic party, lies in a government for the people and by the people. By this I mean you have to look past the pocket books, the special interests, the corporate welfare, (which by the way, they need us, just as much as we need them) and look at what tools the average Joe needs to protect his/her/their family, and in the end be a contributing factor to the success of this government for the people by the people.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the opportunities offered by this great nation of ours. You can’t have life without liberty and you can’t have liberty without life. Most of all, you can’t pursue happiness unless you have both. You see, it’s not guaranteed; it’s just yours to pursue. How you achieve it is up to you. The governments only job is to make sure those rights are not violated in your pursuit for life and liberty.

So without writing a novel of what defines the Democratic party and the liberal agenda I’m gonna stick with Life and Liberty. How we achieve those two things is called politics. The world is too big to lock yourself into four or five basic principles.
— The Bastard


My world view consists of tolerance and open-mindedness. One person’s right to swing his fist ends at the tip of another person’s nose. This doesn’t provide any good buzzwords or slogans that can be used for arguments. Try rousing millions of people with hot-button phrases about tolerance and having an open mind. Conservatives have the advantage in this department. They have a slogan for every occasion. They also react instantly to slogans and hot-button issues with no thought processes whatsoever -
just a jerk of the knee and a rush of adrenaline. For smooth manipulators, it’s a gold mine. Just yell out “gay marriage!” or “weapons of mass destruction!” and millions of drones snap to attention.

Liberal ideas don’t make good buzzwords or catch phrases. But liberals have an advantage: their ideas come from thinking things through; not from mindless reflexes. I can’t imagine any slogan or catch phrase that would have millions of liberals snapping to attention, ready to carry out the work of Great Leader.
– Tom Harper


People say I have liberal values. I think my values are basic human values. I try to treat everybody, as I want to be treated, with respect and dignity. I’m human and I make mistakes. But I own up to them. It’s impossible sometimes not to judge another person, so I bitch and scream in words that I will then delete. Sometimes I bitch to my friends. Then I’m over it.

The people I respect and like the most tend not to judge other people; I have learned from example not to judge either.

I live in a crowded city. We tend to be loud; we tend to be argumentative. We tolerate each others eccentricities, weird (to others) views, and speeches, because we know that if we’re tolerant we will find commonalities and ultimately an understanding. We don’t have to agree on everything or anything but we have to respect what other people think if we’re going to live together.

We listen to the arguments without closed ears; we learn from others and sometimes even change our opinion. When it comes to larger issues we read, talk, listen as much as we can, and might change our view five times before coming to a final decision. We’re not wishy-washy; but we know that if we don’t listen to others our mind will be closed, and that’s not right.

We believe in justice, and believe that the principles The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Bill of Rights spell out and infer, are principles worth fighting for. We’re a city that has more than 41 separate ethnic groups and dialects, every skin color and religion, yet somehow we manage to live together–and smile more than scream. Though we bitch and whine, we’re more likely to come together than to attack from behind.

Tolerance, respect, dignity, justice, liberty, and freedom aren’t just words to us. We all know people who have come from countries where those simple basic concepts don’t exist. Many new New Yorkers have come from such countries. We’re proud to be American. We don’t have to scream the word patriotic. More than most American civilians we have shown our patriotism.

New Yorkers are best in emergencies–and in the last three and a half years have prove twice, to the world and each other, that if we stick together we can make it through the darkest of days.
— Pia Talks


There you have it. Liberty, tolerance, and reform lead the way, but it’s a matter of overall preservation of dignity that defines this party. Dignity in both the personal sense of the word, encompassing principles that build up, provide equal footing for and encourage participation of the individual. Dignity in the public sense of the word, emphasizing the civic virtues that provide it. We know why we’re a different choice. Having somebody say we don’t is saying something that isn’t so, then saying it so many times that people think it IS so. Got half truths? Got misleading statements? Got a network to spread them?

Bring It On!

While Dr. Alterman did not publish us, I wanted to share these thoughts with you. The hearts of the Democratic Party are people just like these bloggers. Regardless of the dithering you see on the top of the party, the base is getting it together. This is precisely what we need. A house built on a solid base will stand, regardless of the wind, in spite of the hardship.

Our house is strong and that’s a good thing. We have thieves at the doors.

Bring It On

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Five Principles of Oppression

I was listening to a talk given by Alvaro Vargas Llosa called “Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression,” and I found his framework for this discussion quite interesting. He set the framework up as a way to describe oppression in Latin America. However, I would say that his framework could extend to the rest of the world as well.

Before I can discuss it I’ll have to describe what I believe he said. He says that there are five major ways in which the people in power oppress the rest of society. I am writing this from memory, so forgive me if I am off in a detail or two.

1) Corporatism – He defines corporatism as the way the government responds to issues. Instead of considering individuals as having needs, the government considers the needs of organizations or groups. Members of these groups benefited if the government favored the group.
2) State Mercantilism – In the framework of corporatism the government favors the groups that are close to power and is less favorable to the groups that have less money or power. Finally, the government disregards groups that have no money and no power.
3) Privilege – There is a system where some people deserve special privileges. There is a transaction between government and those of privilege.
4) Redistribution of Wealth from the Bottom Up – The transaction between the government and the people of privilege is to make the wealthy wealthier.
5) Political Law – Laws are created to legitimize the system of State Mercantilism, uphold privilege, and redistribute the wealth.

Now, at first it may seem odd that these are the very same principles are being pursued by the Republican Party. But, it shouldn’t because the Republican Party is not only the conservative party, but also the party of privilege. So, the third principle of oppression is assumed by Republicans, prima facie. Privilege is justified by the argument that those who work hard will be rewarded. This is the American system of capitalism, and to believe otherwise would be un-American, or even communist. So, from that basic principle the other four principles of oppression are created. Groups have organization and organization creates purpose and power. So, the creation of preferred groups happens out of necessity and the most preferred groups rise to the attention of the leadership. However, the idea that the government favors some groups over other groups could be avoided – but it isn’t in our current culture. Maybe both Democrats and Republicans share these two problems.

In addition to privilege, where Republicans and Democrats differ are on the next two points. Republicans continue to find ways to redistribute wealth from the bottom up. Giving tax cuts to the wealthy is only the latest way they have done this. They have done this in other ways by giving friends of the administration special contracts and land privileges to name two of the many. And, making these issues into laws is the ultimate goal of Republicans. If they can point to some inequality and say that it must be obeyed because it is the law they would certainly feel justified regardless of the harm being done.

It is quite interesting how the Radical Right is pushing this agenda and pulling so many moderates along with them. My hope is that these moderates don’t understand the Radical Right’s agenda. The problem with moderates not taking this threat seriously is that the Radical Right will pass laws citing support of the majority and those harmful laws will remain in effect after the true nature of those laws are revealed.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Rising

I finally raised enough courage to go back and listen to Bruce Springsteen’s CD “The Rising.” I say, “raise the courage,” because the last time I tried to listen to it I broke down during the first song: “Lonesome Day,” and I couldn’t listen anymore. It might have been that the first time I listened to the CD it was to close in time to 9/11. After all, the entire CD is a reflection on 9/11 and the “new beginning” we all need to go through after the event.

So, this time I purposefully avoided listening “to close” to the lyrics so that I could get further into the CD and maybe listen to a more hopeful song. I thought about starting with another song, but I realized that “The Boss” put the songs in this order for a reason. I was hopeful that I could get to some more redeeming and hopeful song this time. I tried to avoid listening to the lyrics, but I was pulled into the music and I couldn’t avoid the lyrics.

Well, I am glad that I listened to it again, more than a year after I bought it, because there are more hopeful less sad songs on the CD. I don’t really want to review the CD, but rather write about the emotional experience of listening to such a heavy collection of songs.

Of course this brought back memories of what I was doing on 9/11 and what happened and all those questions again. It is almost like taking a drug because the mood and emotions can’t easily be changed after you start thinking about these things.

I’ve read about people who dropped acid back in the 1960s. Since the effects of the drug last for several hours it is quite important to have everything in order before you take the drug, because a little worry about not having something done could be magnified while you are under the influence of the drug. The experience of listening to “The Rising” was much like this. After listening to it I was quite melancholy for quite some time. Even when I put other music on I couldn’t shake the mood. In fact, I had to put more melancholy music on, because other music seemed to be quite annoying. Fortunately the effect of listening to the CD didn’t last for 12 hours or impair my driving, so it was much safer than dropping LSD.

Friday, May 06, 2005

British Election Results

I was watching the British election returns last night. One thing that I saw and I liked very much was the announcement of the winners in Michael Howard’s district. I don’t know if the winners are announced this way in all the districts, but I believe Americans could learn a lesson from this. Michael Howard is the leader of the Conservative Party, but he still needs to run for office in order to hold his seat.

The first thing that is unusual to the Average American’s eye is that all of the candidates were lined up on a stage waiting for the announcement. This is in contrast to the announcement of results in the US and the runner up calling the winner and conceding the election. The American theater drama presupposes that there are only two candidates in the race. In Michael Howard’s district race there were about 10 candidates all lined up on stage standing next to each other as if they all had an equal chance of winning the race.

Then the candidates’ names are read, the Political Party they represent is announced, and the number of votes won is announced. It was interesting to see the Senior Citizens party being represented by a 75-year-old man. It was also interesting to see the loony representing the Outlandish Loonies Party. This guy was jumping around the stage dressed in outlandish clothes and hugging the other candidates as their names were being called. But, the best thing was just that these people were being held as equal potential winners for a short moment in time, instead of the hide in the hotel room phone in your concession mentality here in the USA.

Progressive History (part III)

After John F. Kennedy made his call to action the youth of America responded. They joined the Peace Corp. They joined the Space Program by studying science and engineering. But, they also began to look around the country and question what they saw. The 1960s became a time of enormous change and progress in many areas. In fact, so many new ideas and new issues appeared that I won’t be able to them all justice in this abbreviated history.

Civil Rights was the first youth response to Kennedy’s summons. Blacks in the South had been living in a separate apartheid nation for many years. The youth of America saw the hypocrisy of separate but equal, and the lack of voting rights for blacks. So, some of these students and other progressives went to the south to make a difference. The result was a battle and a leader and liberation of this movement, and this progress struck a nerve in the Americans who hadn’t thought of the problems that exist in this country. Things could be changed if one had a will to change them!

As Civil Rights were won in the South progressives began to look for the next major issue. Freethinking people have many ideas, and it isn’t always clear what issue are the most important. Women’s Rights, Environmental Issues, Welfare and laws to make life fairer became important. Johnson trumpeted the Great Society as one solution, but progressives were not happy. In fact, the large number of soldiers dying in a war that very few progressives believed in became the focus of the progressive movement. After all, how can killing people make a society a better place? The Progressive movement began to think of the world as one big interconnected system. This was a major step to new ideas. We were no longer one country among many countries fighting to survive in the world. The improvement of humanity as a whole society was a noble goal more deserved than the improvement of the wealthy rich nations alone.

Talk like this frightens the wealthy and powerful. These people always have some self doubt about why they deserve their lifestyle above the billions of people at the bottom of the food chain. These people justify their position in many different ways. History has shown us that Kings would justify their power as being bestowed on them by God. Similarly the wealthy in the US invoke the blessings of God who gave them the resources to make the world a better place.

In this global picture and the goal of making the world a better place the War in Vietnam became the target. When the news of massacres being performed by American soldiers became public the progressive movement became even more incensed. What good could come out of this war? When American solders admitted to killing babies and pictures of burning children made it into the press the government could only control the bad publicity by pulling troops home slowly over 5 years.

By 1970 progressives found many issues in addition to the war that needed to be challenged. Equal rights for women became an important movement. The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970 and it promoted cleaning up the environment through many different approaches including reducing pollution from factories, power plants, and automobiles.

But progressives made mistakes as well. When you explore new ideas and new approaches mistakes are bound to be made. When LSD was discovered two groups sought to use it for what they deemed to be good. The CIA thought that LSD could be used to drive enemy agents into a psychological state that could be used to control them and learn their secrets. The CIA performed experiments trying to learn how this could be done. Timothy Leary used LSD to study the psychological states of the human mind in an effort to find a way to control aggression and understand useful human communication. Of course Leary was dismissed from his academic post for taking part in these experiments himself. These two events became publicized and LSD spread into mainstream culture where people began to do their own personal experiments on their psyche. When self-induced conscience experiments became accepted by the mainstream culture any drug became accepted.

Progressives know that the hope of drugs to change society by changing the way people think about society has no hope of succeeding. This was a mistake in the grand scheme of trial and error.

By the middle 1970s the Vietnam War was over and people no longer had the energy to put behind the remaining issues. The Equal Rights Amendment to the constitution never passed because conservatives found it frightening. Women might gain control if they had equal rights. After all, there are more women than men. Some issues were championed by people who exaggerated the harms in order to gain attention, and these movements began to hurt the progressive movement when conservative opposition could easily demonstrate the exaggerated claims.

Many progressive goals were achieved in the 1960s, but by the middle 1970s progressives no longer had the massive support of the country to make reforms to society happen so quickly.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Is Thinking For Yourself A Good Thing?

This seems like a question with a fairly obvious answer. Thinking for yourself leads to independence. Independence leads to reaching goals that you never would have dreamed of achieving. If you always had to wait for someone to give you his or her OK, how much could you actually get done? For some people control is more important than independence. They believe that people should do “the right thing.” How can they know what is “right” unless they are told. Every situation is different and it might not be so obvious what is right and wrong in every case.

This is why some people actually don't want their kids to think for themselves.

A few years back my wife and I were having dinner with a Jewish family that had moved to Israel. They were extremely conservative. We didn’t agree with each other on many things, but our children played with each other.

We were talking about our kids, because that’s what people who have kids always do. The subject of books came up. I had recently read the Dr. Suess book, "Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!” to my daughter. I thought that it was a great book telling children to use their imagination. I was surprised by the reaction of my hostess. She began to rage on about the danger of letting your kids think for themselves.

This is not a religious question, it is a conservative question based in the basic philosophies of the two main groups. Conservatives want things to remain as they are or revert back to the "old" way of doing things. Therefore conservatives have a very strict view of the world. And, they want their children to know how they should view the world. How can you teach your children to view the world the way you see it if you let them make up their own minds?

Progressives want to explore new ways of doing things and are open to many different approaches to a problem. In fact progressives believe in the success of trial and error. By trying as many different approaches to a problem as possible one is certain to learn the best of those approaches tried. Thinking for yourself encourages trying new and different approaches.

Therefore, thinking for yourself is a Progressive ideal.

Having someone else think for you is a conservative ideal.

Which is best? Think for yourself!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Progressive History (part II)

After World War II the late forties and fifties were the precursor to the revolution of the 1960s. So, it is important to look at what happened during these years that gave rise to the explosion of progressives in the 1960s.

As I pointed out in part I the intellectuals realized that the world was not how we believed it to be. They realized that there were different ways to observe the world, there were different ways to express those observations, and the world wasn’t even what we once thought it was.

But the majority of Americans had no idea what this really meant. So, there was an extended period of time in which these fundamental truths filtered into popular culture. If you observe media from 1945 – 1959 you can see how the many messages passed from the intellectuals to the common man.

I would say that the nuclear explosions in Japan started this by suggesting that man has acquired an awesome and frightening power. And these nuclear weapons became the subject of science fiction stories from that time on. These stories offered the possibility of only two endings. One ending in which the world is destroyed depicted the hopeless future. But the more common ending to the story was the hopeful ending. Sometimes the weapons forced cooperation. Sometimes the weapons destroyed the world like the Noah’s Ark story and there was a new beginning that was full of hope.

Science fiction went beyond the nuclear war story. There were stories of amazing machines and altered biology. Strange creatures and unusual planets offered the hope of new worlds. The common thread of these stories offered hope for those who were good and punishment for those who were evil. Science fiction in the form of books reached a small audience. Of those readers some took the stories and recreated radio programs that were broadcast and reached a much larger audience. But, these stories reached the mainstream audience when they were made into movies and became a common destination for teens and young adults. The details of the story changed, but the most popular resolution was hope for the future. And, by now we should realize that hope for the future is main element responsible for progressive thought.

Science fiction was one method in which progressive thought passed from intellectual circles to mainstream culture. The 1950s was also the time when many GI’s were released from the military and sent off to find their way in the world. These were mainly young men who came from small towns through out America and they had seen Europe, or Africa or the Pacific. These young men realized that their hometown wasn’t all that there was. Many of these men decided that they would travel around the country before they decided to settle down. They learned about other Americans who lived in ways that they couldn’t imagine. They saw the problems throughout the country, but they also saw the hope in these people. For example, they discovered “Negro music.” They began to frequent jazz and blues clubs and they learned that even the oppressed people in the USA found a way to be positive.

Some of these young men became the core of the Beat Generation. They weren’t strictly intellectual, but they admired the intellectuals. Many members of the Beats were able to help bridge the gap between the intellectuals. They spread the word of the intellectuals in a language of pop culture. They adopted the sad style of the blues but they also offered hope to those in despair in the same way that the blues offers hope to those who don’t have it quite so bad.

The Beats brought us poetry, and recognition of the jazz and blues. However, the economy of the 1950s began to boom and many people were doing better than their parents had done living through the Great Depression. This simple economic fact offered even more hope, but many people began to recognize that the economy didn’t treat everyone equally. With so much hope in the air, human nature effects those who have hope to offer hope to all of those around them.

If you listen to early radio shows it is quite clear that hope and optimism continue to grow throughout this period. So, the election of John F. Kennedy announced that hope wasn’t enough. Kennedy called for action. He created the Peace Corp and he asked Americans to not ask what your country can do for you, but you need to ask what you can do for your country. These words began to motivate the people of hope into the people of action.

Monday, May 02, 2005

America is the Land of Freedom, Not Xenophobes

Conservatives want the government to control our life. I read a blog today where a self proclaimed conservative blogger set up the following argument. A nation is defined by its language, borders and culture. Therefore the government has a duty to protect its language, borders and culture. This is the argument put forward to pass and enforce the laws meant to stop immigrants from coming into our country and from speaking Spanish at the Quick Rip. “We don’t need no stinkin’ Cinco de Mayo,” is this conservative’s battle cry. Perhaps they want the police to put out the BBQs in everyone’s backyard this weekend.

No one can control language. The French have an official department to protect the French language and at times conservative governments had made it illegal to broadcast foreign languages on the radio or TV. However, music and movies crept into France and foreign words continue to corrupt the French language.

No one can control culture. Look at how sex and drugs and Rock-n-Roll corrupted the American Culture in the 1960s. Some conservatives are still upset about this. It's too bad, America is not going to give up popular culture even if it is against the law. (That would be the drugs part of the 1960s)

And, finally if the businesses in the US still offers under minimum wage jobs that no American will take there will still be reasons for people to come into this country for jobs, even if it is illegal. The final question is: “Are you willing to pay twice as much for your food in order to keep immigrants out of our country?” If so, then start doing your talking with your wallet.

Progressive History (part I)

Progressive thought grew in the 20th Century. Many ideas grew out of the political thought of Karl Marx, but progressive thought grew in many other areas as well. We should remember that progressive thought is not only progressive political thought. The impressionists, surrealists and other modernists asked those interested in art to think about the world in different ways. Scientists brought quantum theory, relativity, evolution and even organic chemistry to the public and ask them to re-think their views of the world. Writers began to explore the inner thoughts of not only “normal” people, but also “ab-normal” people as well. Common wisdom of what it meant to be retarded was explored in “The Sound and Fury” and “Flowers for Algernon.” Common Wisdom about teenagers was explored in “Catcher in the Rye.” Even historians questioned once unquestionable historic “facts.”

The power to observe the world and understand the world in many different ways is the strength of the progressive movement. But, progressive ideas always move slowly through a culture, because people are not willing to forgo their old understanding of the world. This explains why progressive thought comes most easily to the young. This is because the youth in a culture have not been submerged in a culture as long as the adults in the culture.

New ideas of one type come much easier for the public when new ideas of another type are being accepted by the culture in general. Imagine a cocktail party, which took place in the early twentieth century. In conversation people may talk about the latest art, science and psychology. New ideas hadn’t been unleashed on a culture at such a rate in the history of man. If it were only one new idea every few years then the average person would occasionally consider an idea that challenged their thought structure. However, when one is challenged day after day new ideas become common place and therefore more acceptable.

The political ideas of both socialists and fascists were placed on the table of international ideas. People put their hopes into these political philosophies. People who put their hopes into the Socialist Philosophy believed that a world could be created where inequality would be destroyed. The wealthy wouldn’t call the shots, perhaps the shots could be called by anyone – even me. People who put their hopes in the Fascist Philosophy believed that a world could be dominated by one powerful group of people who could make the world better for that special group. Even though Fascist Philosophy was based on old ideas where one tribe or nation could create an empire the methods used to set this motion in progress were new.

Fascism was the backlash to Socialism that was spreading around the world. Both Soviet style Socialism and German-Italian-Japanese style Fascism could only be put into place by force. Most people were undecided as whether to support these movements, but military power changed all that.

After World War II hope and progress were at the forefront in popular thought. Before the end of the war the new ideas came in pieces, but hope was the one part of the equation that was missing. Many people believed that the power of science was demonstrated with the explosion of nuclear weapons on Japan. Suddenly science earned respect from the right side of the aisle. Since the right believes in might making things right – the traditional method of creating a better world – nuclear weapons became the ultimate weapons to achieve their ultimate goals. However, science being a progressive endeavor by nature led to debate and discussion on the proper way to use this newfound power.