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....

My Photo
Location: California, United States

Friday, September 30, 2005

This Land Is Your Land

When Woody Guthrie wrote, “This Land is Your Land” it seems that he had a different vision of America than the Republicans in the House of Representatives who passed legislation yesterday gutting the Endangered Species Act. Instead of writing, “this land is your land,” he should have written, “This land is the corporation’s land.” Instead of writing, “this land is my land,” he should have written, “this land is the wealthy landowner’s land.”

The legislation passed yesterday does several things to undermine the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act. Back in 1973 the congress passed this law with bipartisan support, but yesterday the Republicans voted on party lines to cut the meat out of this act. Under the guise of fairness Republican’s have asserted that landowners have the right to be compensated when an endangered species is found on land that the owner wants to develop.

This action will result in one of two things, or maybe both. It will encourage landowners to create schemes in which they could develop their land and claim that their rights are being violated because they could not develop their land. The most expensive plans with the highest potential profits will be offered, in hopes of the highest possible compensation. This will result in welfare for the wealthy landowners. Republicans seem to prefer giving money to those who already have plenty of it.

But, as the wealthy landowners realize that they are sitting on gold mines just waiting to be exploited, both literally and figuratively, the number of claims will skyrocket. If the law continues to hold valid these claims will end up either bankrupting the Department of the Interior, or more likely the enforcement of the endangered species act will be reduced to nothing. Of course, this is a loose-loose proposition for the average taxpayer. Taxes will need to be raised to compensate the landowners and the endangered species will loose their protection.

Even the people who believe in “states rights” are harmed with this law. If states pass laws to protect species within their boundaries, they would still be compelled to pay landowners the compensation when the wealthy create their proposals for mountain top hotels or forest resorts.

If we look back at 1973 when this Act was first passed we should remember that the growth of Los Angeles was the motivation for this bill. Thousands of acres of natural habitat were destroyed in the name of development. The California Condor lost many cliffs that it called home to the new cliff dwellers in Malibu and along the Pacific Coast. This new legislation will roll back the clock to these days encouraging development through out the land.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


I was listening to Randi Rhodes last week on Air America Radio. And, she mentioned that some US soldiers were posting pictures from Iraq on a web site called “Now That’s Fucked Up.” I thought that I should know a little bit more about what was going on in Iraq in order to be able to comment on it in a more informed way. So, I wandered over to the site and found out that it is a porn site. The site has several categories of pictures that you can imagine, and it has a category called Iraq and Afghanistan. Under this topic is a section called “gory.” Being an adult, I thought that I should be able to handle the “gory” section. After all, my grand parents lived next to a mortuary and I saw my share of dead bodies from a very young age.

Well, I need to tell you that I wasn’t prepared for the violence that I witnessed on this site. And, both sides committed this violence. When I saw a picture of an Iraqi with his head in pieces and a US soldier smiling next to him I couldn’t look at any more pictures. This picture is engraved in my mind and I can’t get rid of it. It is more disgusting than any porn on that site could ever attempt to be.

So, I began to think about the damage that we are doing to our young soldiers over there in Iraq. These guys are in their early twenties and their experience with death before they went was most likely a death of a relative or friend. They most likely had very little experience with the violence that they now see every day in Iraq. I was effected by this one picture in such a deep profound way that it took me until today to write about it. It wasn’t only about the death of this one Iraqi that bothered me, it was also about the joy on the face of the American Soldiers next to him. Death should never be celebrated in this way. The death of this person effects the family of this person. In a way, America is sending a message to the Iraqis that their deaths don’t matter. Even if it isn’t the official policy, Iraqis see this and they build a hatred toward the American occupation of their country. How could they not?

Imagine yourself in this situation. A country overthrows our government and imposes military occupation on us. Imagine that Bill Clinton is President, for all you right wingers out there. At first, you might think that it’s great not to have Bill Clinton in power any more. But when you see this foreign military killing Democrats that you know, but don’t necessarily agree with you might have second thoughts about the occupation. This is what is happening in Iraq. And, the longer we stay in Iraq the more the people will hate us.

These pictures on this web site don’t help us. We need to ask the question - “What should be done about this?” I know that the right wing will jump up and down and say that censoring the site is the solution. But, most Iraqis don’t see the pictures on this site. Instead, the Iraqis see the US soldiers doing these things right outside their homes in the streets. They don’t need the pictures, they have the live action in their streets. Censorship only prevents us from knowing what is happening in Iraq. Our American Soldiers are out there acting in this inhumane way toward the Iraqi dead, because they have been emotionally changed by the war itself. The violence has made them feel as if Iraqi deaths are different than American deaths. And these soldiers will return home at some point bringing these scars of war with them. The longer they stay there the further away from humanity they travel. Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense for the soldiers to come home before they can never come home again?

, and

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

What Should We Teach Our Children?

Some people have begun to ask the question: “Should Intelligent Design be mandated public education?”

First of all, the only things that "needs" to be taught in school are the basics - reading, writing and mathematics. Even history is taught from a subjective point of view making it questionable whether any history should be mandated by law in some particular version that a government official thinks is right.

In addition to these three subjects, students need to be taught to think for themselves. This above all other points will help create a better society. And, the purpose of education is to enable our citizens to know enough for our society to function as a "real" democracy.

The purpose of additional education is to give students a survey of the world around us. From a diverse collection of teachers teaching a diverse collection of subjects the students learn about themselves and the world around them. They will learn what they want to pursue as a profession, and how society functions. You can not mandate this type of education responsibly.

But, lets face it, Intelligent Design was created for religious zealots to get creationism into the public schools. On the face of it Intelligent Design is an attempt at an end run around the separation between church and state. It is a way for government to mandate that there is a God. This is certainly a bad idea for a public school. If you want religious education for your children, then send them to a religious school.

But, religion could be taught in public school in the correct context. It would be much more honest in every way if Creationism were taught in school as a alternative idea with no scientific evidence or support. It should be clearly taught that only some religious people believe this and there are equally strange ideas that other religions have. They should teach Native American myths and Greek myths in the same class, and it should in no way be connected to a science class. Under those circumstances Creationism could be taught in public schools.

However, if it is taught in a mythology class it would no longer get the support of the religious right and the idea would lose steam.

, , and

The Democratic Party

In the USA the political system became bifurcated early on. There were those in power with their ideas of how things should be done and the opposition who fought against these ideas. George Washington first fought against the idea of political parties because it would make it more difficult to work together on different issues. Washington reasoned that men should put aside party and unite for the common good, an "American character" wholly free of foreign attachments.

Well, American politics has gone from cooperative to confrontational and back many times. In our current state of politics I can understand the fear that George Washington felt in his fear of political parities. Political Parties are more powerful than each individual elected representative, which is good when you are on the winning side of an issue, but bad when you are on the loosing side of the issue. When an individual sees an error with a law that everyone in your party agrees with it is difficult to win the favor of the party. The leaders in the party have more influence than the lesser members, because they control the agenda.

The positive aspect of a political party is the ability to create a unified structure of laws that a majority agrees with. In effect 26% of the congress could influence the other 74%. This is because the majority party may have 51% and only slightly more than half of the party needs to agree on the comprehensive structure needed to pass. Obviously it is more complicated than this in reality, but it also explains why a minority group like the Fundamentalist Christians have taken over the US government. It also explains why the Democrats have failed to offer an alternative to the Fundamentalist Christians.

The Democrats have their roots in the Jeffersonian Republican Party, but they didn’t become the party of labor until FDR won the 1932 election on a platform of “relief, recovery, and reform” after the Great Depression struck America. When the majority of workers realized that joining together gave them the strength to stand up to the corporations, they realized that the country could be improved for the common man.

FDR harnessed the power of the working man to not only pay these unemployed workers, but he gave them jobs to make them feel good about themselves. The projects created rivaled the great works of history, like the building of the pyramids. But the projects were not worthless symbols of a leader’s power, rather they were infrastructure used to supply water and electricity for millions. FDR was able to harness the power of the United States of America for domestic good, and when the necessity to fight a war revealed itself the country already knew how to work together.

Building on this vision of American unity and cooperation the Democratic Party adopted these values to be the values of this party. Strength in unity, no matter what your race, creed or color. Of course, like any political party the Democrats were not all united behind this ideal. Southern Democrats especially disliked the idea on unity with the “coloreds” as they said. But the majority of Democrats was all that the party needed to push its agenda even though a delicate balance was needed to maintain its political power.

The history of getting the overwhelming majority of Americans to get behind the idea of rights for the working class allowed FDR to clearly dominate the government through out the 1930s, and into WW II. Republicans feared the working class would be able to control their future and demand to be paid a reasonable wage and get reasonable living conditions, so they were able to get a law limiting the number of terms a president could serve in office. Harry Truman continued FDR’s policies for two more terms.

It took a clever slogan “I Like Ike” and a moderate Republican philosophy to win enough working class votes to win the election of 1952. Eisenhower wasn’t threatening, but his Vice President Richard Nixon was another story. Richard Nixon had the election strategy to have one objective, but to say something else in order to get elected. Republicans saw how successful this strategy was that they have developed it and expanded it to this day.

Over the last 75 years the Democratic Party has been the Political Party of the working class. Since the working class has traditionally been made up of people from a variety of ethnic and racial groups the Democratic Party has championed the cause of equal rights for all groups that had traditionally been exploited by businesses. Business has been able to use differences in ethnic groups to limit employment opportunities for various groups.

Over time the Democratic Party has taken on the role to support the common man, the worker, and the immigrant. In the 1960s the Democrats expanded their role to take on the Civil Rights issues of the South. Of course, this moral action has cost the Democrats power in Government. Racists that had formerly aligned themselves against the Party of Lincoln on the issue of slavery and segregation found themselves hit by their own Party’s ideals and these racists jumped ship to the Republican Party.

Throughout the 1960s morals were the high ground of the Democratic Party. Civil Rights, the Vietnam War and then the Environment were the issues that the common man wanted solved at the behest of the establishment. Corporations with their deep pockets became the obstacles blocking the road to the vision of the Democrats. Corporations wanted cheap labor, so they opposed minimum wage laws. Corporations wanted cheap resources to fuel their factories, so they opposed environmental regulations. Corporations wanted International Security in third World countries so they favored opposition to Democracy in these countries where stable governments are preferred to freedom of the people.

Since the common man finds it difficult to support the wealthy corporations and their stockholders a new scheme needed to be developed by the Republican Party. This scheme involved the morals question in a different light. Instead of saying that the battle was between the corporations and the common man, the Republicans began to say that Government was the problem. Since Government is the representation of the people, the Republicans were able to fight the community in a stealth way. With propaganda and marketing Americans have been convinced that they are the problem with America. The working class people who want the government to unite the people behind issues and fight the corporations have been convinced that they are the problem. The corporations who have the money will gradually be given more freedom to take advantage of the workers and exploit them in whatever way they can to make a profit for the corporation. And the Republicans have convinced enough people to do this.

The only way for the Democrats to win back this group of people is to expose the Republicans and preach the philosophy of the Democratic Party. The Republicans are weak and the time is ripe to spread the word.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Truth is a Slippery Fish

Politicians and Pundits always strive to be seen in the best light. Actually, they really want their policy and ideology to be seen in the best light. This often means clouding the truth. When the truth hurts make the audience turn their heads, could be the mantra for any political group.

The Bush administration has continually used distraction and fear to engineer their policy agenda. The truth is now quite obvious that the picture that they had painted for the American people over the last four years is quite different than reality. Painstaking effort has been made to create a basis for every untrue statement made over this period, which finds its roots in the claim of poor intelligence.

The sad truth is that the Bush administration has carefully and continuously created the plausible deniability defense for every action taken over the last four years. It worked for Ronald Reagan in regard to the Iran Contra scandal and there isn’t much doubt that it will legally work here as well. But, all this proves is that a President can do much more than the law actually says as long as he can claim that he didn’t know the truth. This means that the ideal president for a group of marauding radicals is a president that knows very little of what is actually going on, and he is willing to sign everything suggested to him by the radicals running the show.

How can the people be protected from this type of manipulation?

Some groups think that it is wise to fight fire with fire. They have taken to creating their own version of the truth based on statements made by the opposition. These groups feel that exaggeration and pushing the limits of truth is fair in this world of lies and deception. “If they lie and get away with it, we should lie and get away with it as well,” might be overheard in a private behind the scenes meeting.

This type of action is highly effective on the political level. People have been able to manipulate large segments of the population by doing exactly this. Combating lies of an evil enemy with lies from the friendly side has been done throughout history and it works on the most important segment of the society, the middle of the road voter who doesn’t pay close attention to the details of a political argument.

Can this be good for a true democracy?

When the reward for lying outweighs the penalty for lying we have no choice but to lie. When morals and ethics are not valued by the voting population, then the enemy will win with lies every time. The only solution to fighting the ongoing battle of lies is to make morals and ethics more important in our society. But, when the group that claims to champion these ideas uses lies and deception to win elections the society is doomed.

OK, my last paragraph lacked specific detail.

What I am saying, is that the Republicans have claimed to be on the side of God. They claim that they are for moral values. However, in the last election they used lies to tear down John Kerry’s heroic reality. John Kerry was a true hero that fought in a war that he believed in at the time. He was awarded medals for his valor in that war. He became disillusioned with the war and when he returned he used his patriotic beliefs to try and stop the war to protect his fellow Americans from their run away government. But with a firestorm of lies the Republicans tore apart everyone of these truths. Now, if the Republicans that claim that they are for truth and goodness because they have God on their side can not control the liars and allow the people to vote on truth, then the country is doomed to mudslinging and lies for eternity. If the Party of the Christian Right condones lying, because winning is more important that truth, then there is no hope for a truly Democratic America. This is because the guy in the middle who doesn’t follow politics closely is the guy that is influenced by these lies and he is the guy who decides the elections.

I am writing this, because I have begun to see ads from the left that are clearly pushing the limits of truth to the same disgusting point that the Republicans have been pushing it for the last ten years. This activity does not make things clear. This activity only makes thinks more murky and I believe it is actually playing into the hands of the established liars. The guys in the middle will only pay less attention to politics, because the largest reason that they give for not following politics is that both sides lie, so who can tell who we should believe.

Monday, September 26, 2005

I Can’t Believe It

I never thought that this would happen to me. I couldn’t have imagined this in any reality. I lost 40 pounds.

First of all, I didn’t really think that I was overweight. It took me about twenty years to put on the extra weight. It was so gradual that I never really thought of myself as being overweight. In High school I weighed about 165 pounds. I swam on the swim team, played soccer, ran track and cross-country. I thought of myself as an athletic person. When I went to College I didn’t gain much weight. I may have been 175 from time to time, but I was usually in the 170 range. I guess I put on the most weight when I went to graduate school. Even though I rode a bike to and from school, I spent most of my time sitting in an office reading or doing homework. After about three years of graduate school I was up to 185. I stayed at 185 for some 10 to 15 years. I still exercised by riding my bike and sometimes I found time to swim a mile. But my exercise regiment was sporadic.

Then I bought a house. I couldn’t afford the health club in time or money. I added commute time and subtracted fitness time. Over five years I gradually gained another thirteen pounds and I peaked at 198. “How could I have gained all of this weight?” I thought to myself. I didn’t want to cross that 200 pound mark. I also noticed that I was getting really out of shape. I was really winded when I took the kids to climb a cinder cone volcano at Lassen National Park.

When I discovered that one of the athletic clubs in town was putting in a pool I knew that I had to join the club. I convinced my wife to go with me and work out in the morning. I convinced my kids to swim at the pool. I started swimming every morning at 5:30 AM.

That was about 20 months ago, and this morning a weighed in at 158. That’s less than I weighed in High School. I didn’t change my diet at all. I lost about two pounds per month over the last 20 months, which is a real gradual weight loss. And, I feel healthier than I ever have. My clothes are now in style, they’re real baggy. Clothes that I haven’t worn in years but didn’t throw away now fit. Good thing that I didn’t listen to my wife and throw those old clothes away.

, and

War Protest - What is It Good For?

What does a War Protest do? Can a War Protest actually effect change? If we use the Vietnam War as a history lesson to inform our expectations we should realize that War Protests are not an over night solution.

When I grew up through the 1960s I was still quite young. By the age of eight I knew that war didn’t make any sense. After all, in school we are taught not to fight. They never told us that we should only fight when there was no other choice. No, we were taught to walk away from conflict. We were taught to report aggressive bullies to the “higher authority.” But, we all know that reporting a bully to the “higher authority only makes you a bigger target. The only thing that ever stops a bully is a good knock upside his head, right?

From my point of view, as an eight year old growing up in the 1960s I could certainly see the problem with the conflict in Vietnam. The US was the bully in the jungle, and we needed a good knock upside our head. When I heard a general say that the US needed to bomb the enemy back to the Stone Age, I knew that this conflict was certainly going down the wrong path. But, obviously as an eight-year-old I wasn’t an expert on International Relations. No, I was an expert on playground relations.

It took years for the War Protesters to effect change. And, when they actually saw some change in the early 1970s, the War Protests ended and it was left up to Congress to cut funding before the troops were actually called home. If we consider that the Vietnam War protests which began in the early 1960s to actually have major impact in 1968 to 1970. The first march to Washington was actually held in 1964 with 25,000 protesters. This march represented 25,000 people mobilized before the advent of the Internet and e-mail. It took another four years before the general public gave these protesters any acknowledgement.

But, the War Protest movement was more than just the marches. It became embedded in the culture. Even as an eight-year-old kid I found that flashing a peace sign to friends was the “cool” thing to do. Our culture hasn’t reached this level yet.

But, what was the vehicle that got the peace sign into the popular culture. It was the War Protest marches. When people saw the protesters on TV on the evening news with their signs their message got out. The general population began to question our government and the general population began to doubt the authority of the government. This gradually led to the pressure required forcing congress to cut the funding for this debacle. But, the process took several years.

We have only been in Iraq for two and a half years. Even though war protests have been going on since the beginning of the war, Cindy Sheehan’s march on Washington is really the first big march. The question now is, can the War Protesters keep this momentum for the next four years, because it just might take that long before general population jumps on the bandwagon and begins to vote their representatives out of office.

But, on a positive note, Cindy Sheehan was able to get over 100,000 protesters to go to Washington and speak out against the violence in Iraq. And, the pro-War, pro-Violence movement was only able to muster about 500 people. It seems pretty obvious that there are fewer people that feel strongly for the war than people who feel strongly against the war. This is a good thing. The real test, however, are the feelings of the people in the middle. At one time the middle group was strongly in favor of attacking Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein. But, the middle of the road people are now thinking that spending all of this money on Iraq instead of protecting our own country seems pretty stupid. The problem with middle of the road voters is that they change their minds at the drop of a hat. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be in the middle of the road…

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A World Without Theories

In a comment on my Intelligent Design post yesterday I was told that the solution to the Evolution debate was to not allow Theories to be taught in school. Obviously this came from a person who was not aware of many of the theories that were are already taught in school. I would guess that much of science and mathematics would not be taught in school if our Radical Right congressional leaders choose to pass such a law.

At the bottom of my post I have a list of the better known theories. But, here I would like to describe some of the changes to the current curriculum if schools chose not to teach theories in school.

First of all, there wouldn’t be any mathematics in school. The kindergarten would no longer have those little counting blocks that they group together and count. That activity encompasses both number theory and set theory. Everyone remembers sets and how it is the basic understanding of mathematics, but without set theory and number theory we basically have no mathematics, as we know it.

But, if we assume that there was some special dispensation that allowed the teaching of mathematics as long as you didn’t mention the words set theory or number theory, we would still be in trouble, because group theory is the basis for the operations like addition and subtraction, not to mention multiplication and division. Students would love not having to learn their multiplication tables. But, the down side is that we would have some of the lowest math test scores on the planet.

Basically all of mathematics is a collection of theories that define how it all fits together. Politicians and Theologians who wish to do away with the Theory of Evolution may decide that mathematical theories in General aren’t really the same as other theories. They could craft a law that allows only mathematical theories, or they could rename them something clever like M-Theories. They probably wouldn’t even know that the name has already been taken. But most of these people aren’t really into modern physics.

If they created a special dispensation for mathematical theories we would still have problems with our current curriculum. For example we could not teach music, because music is described by music theory. In fact we couldn’t study literature without literary theory. Well, actually we could study without these theories, but the instruction would likely be pointless and random. We could read stories, and talk about why we liked or disliked them, but there is no point explaining the importance of character development, or the climax in the story. It would be pointless just like the music theory class where everyone is pointlessly banging on the piano hoping to come across the correct combination of sounds that sound “good” to our ear.

Well, the clever politicians and theologians could certainly circumvent this problem by saying that no scientific theories could be taught in school. This would allow other theories to still be taught, but stopping the teaching of Evolution, the key to evil in our world as some opponents to this science portend.

In California every school child learns about Plate Tectonics several times in their elementary school years. But, not if the Radical Right succeeds in banning all theories from being taught. When the ground starts shaking we will hear the usual screaming, but now the children won’t know why the ground is shaking. Perhaps the radicals think its better that they don’t know, just like the sex-education they don’t want to teach to our children.

Sure, Plate Tectonics might be on shaky ground when it comes to science, especially if you believe in the flat Earth of the Bible. But Chemistry as we know it would also be by the wayside. The expulsion of atomic theory would be hailed by school children that always hated memorizing the periodic table. Of course children would no longer know the danger of mixing acids and bases as well. No need to learn PV=nRT either, because the kinetic theory of gasses would be out.

And Physics would be out the window as well. Gravitational Theory and Electromagnetic Theory are basically the foundation of physics - at least what is taught in elementary and high schools under the current curriculum.

But, don’t worry because without the need to teach any of these science classes there will be more time to teach the Bible as Literature classes.

Like I promised, here is a list of some famous theories, but there are more:

Scientific Theories

Theory of Special and General Relativity
Gravitational Theory
Quantum Theory
Many-Body Theory
Quantum Field Theory
Plate Tectonic Theory
Electromagnetic Theory
Quantum Field Theory
Atomic Theory
Kinetic Theory of Gases
Acoustic Theory

Mathematical Theories

Set Theory
Group Theory
Number Theory
Field Theory
Game Theory
Probability Theory
Algorithmic Information Theory
Computation Theory
Graph Theory

Other Theories

Music Theory
Literary Theory
Critical Theory

, , , and

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Intelligent? Design?

I was sitting in my car driving home with the radio off. Once in a while some quiet time does me some good. I was thinking about the phenomena of the Religious Rights campaign to discredit the Theory of Evolution. They can’t use the Book of Genesis to teach an anti-science science class because of the religious nature of the Bible. Even among some Religious the Book of Genesis is considered to be the story of the Creation Myth.

So, the Religious Right had to back peddle and create a new way to attack the Theory of Evolution. They created an idea called “Intelligent Design.” The idea is that humans and animals and plants are such complicated things that there must have been some being that created them. Since they can not actually say God, because God has religious implications they call the being that they assume created life on earth as the “Intelligent Designer.”

Of course this is a thinly veiled reference to God and Religion, which is their goal in the first place. They claim that the argument that an Intelligent Designer is needed because life is so complex. This is the argument that gets repeated over and over.

Well, lets start with the assumption that anything complex must need to have an Intelligent Designer. There could be an army of these Intelligent Designers that came from outer space somewhere, right? So, there does not necessarily need to be a God that designed life, right? Well, the clever Fundamentalist Christian would likely tell you that another designer needed to design these space beings. They are also complex creations, and every complex creation needs to have an Intelligent Designer, right?

Well, maybe another race of space beings created that race of space beings. Of course the clever Fundamentalist Christian will tell you that God, er the Intelligent Designer must have created whichever space beings came first.

So, we are left in a predicament. Any complex creation must have an Intelligent Designer. So, then we must ask the question, “Is God complex?” If God is indeed complex, then God must have had an Intelligent Designer. So, then God is either not complex or he does not have an Intelligent Designer. And if God does not have an Intelligent Designer, then there does not have to be an Intelligent Designer for every complex object.

So, logically there does not need to be an Intelligent Designer.

, and

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Fickle Finger of Fate

Politics is a fickle beast. One day you are on top of the world with a 51% mandate. Eight months later 61% of the people hate you. Actually that’s only 12% of the people changing their minds. In this country of winner take all politics it is everything. Even though I understand that the political mind of the American people is more complex than lumping all the Republicans into one bag and tying the knot and throwing them in the river…

What a minute, I meant, we can’t lump all the Democrats together or all the Republicans together, because each person has his own personal agenda. Even if you are a member of the Republican Party, you can’t give equal weight to all your Republican colleagues. Some members of your party will be re-elected no matter what laws they have broken. This is called having a solid bias, er base. If your base is greater than 50% you can not loose an election, unless your base doesn’t show up to the polls on Election Day.

This is why the Republicans in Congress have begun to distance themselves from the President. I didn’t read this in some loony leftist rag, I read it in The American Spectator, a self proclaimed conservative journal. Politicians know the importance of hanging around with the winners and staying away from the losers. If voters begin to see their congressmen standing next to George W Bush those voters will begin to have second thoughts.

This means that George W Bush and the Neo-Cons have lost their footing in their fight against the American people. Obviously another terrorist attack could rally Americans behind the President and all could be lost. But, as of today it looks like there is a glimmer of hope for America.

Monday, September 19, 2005

What the Americans Can Learn From The German Elections

The German elections are an example of why I like Parliamentary Democracy. All one needs to do is look at the recent German elections to understand what is really happening in the United States. In Germany there are five political Parties that are able to give voice to the thoughts and feelings of the Germany people. Like the United States there are two political Parties that have the dominant support of the people. But, unlike the United States there are three “third parties” that have the support of about one third of the German people. The situation in the United States is actually quite similar, but the majority of the people who would support the ideology of third parties do not hear these voices and are turned off by the ideology of the two major parties. This means that these people in America basically don’t vote.

In Germany, the SPD, which would be similar to the American Democrat Party, won 34.3 percent of the vote. The CDU, which would be similar to the American Republican Party, won 35.2 percent of the vote. If this had been the United States the rest of the population just wouldn’t have voted and the SPD would have lost to the CDU. But, the three remaining parties represent the rest of the people and the CDU or the SPD need to form a coalition of at least 50% of the vote in order to form a Government. The three remaining parties are the Free Democrats who won 9.8 percent of the vote, the Green Party won 8.1 percent of the vote, and the Extreme Left Party won 8.7 percent of the vote. In addition, people do not need to vote against one candidate, instead they actually have a choice of five potential candidates.

This might be unsettling for some time, while the five parties talk among themselves and try to resolve the differences in ideology and how they should govern. But, if the SPD and the CDU are forced to form a coalition, there could be a forced bipartisan Government that might accomplish the most important functioning of the Government. Or, if the Greens, Free Democrats and SPD form a coalition a center Left coalition could form to moderate the extreme views.

It will certainly be interesting to follow the politics in Germany for the next few months. Will the coalition be able to cooperate? If it doesn’t, then a new election could be declared and the people will have another choice. In the long run it is certain that when the politics is so divided, like it is today in the United States, the people will certainly be more fairly represented than the Republicans seized control of the government and declared a mandate. Doesn’t this process seem to be a little bit more Democratic than what we have here in the United States?

Brain Dead and Proud of It

I was thinking about the recent slump in the approval rating of George W Bush. Newsweek has a great article on “How Bush Blew It” in regards to the Hurricane Katrina debacle. But Bush has been blowing the Iraq situation and the terrorist situation for several years now and his approval ratings didn’t take such a hard knock. One could argue that the Cindy Sheehan camp outside of Bush’s vacation holiday on the ranch had already set his approval ratings going down, but that doesn’t seem to be the case according to the polls.

Bush has told the American public that he would make everyone safer. That was his recurring campaign propaganda. He needed the Patriot Act and the creation of the department of Homeland Security to accomplish this feat, but the public was willing to give up some of their liberty to allow for this radical plan. But, the American people haven’t seen any results from this plan. Hurricane Katrina was actually the first opportunity to witness the response of the new Department of Homeland Security, which now encompasses FEMA, the organization that normally responded to natural disasters. In fact, FEMA would be called in to respond to the aftermath of a terrorist attack of large devastating proportion. And, every American can see the failure of the Department of Homeland Security and they can also imagine what would happen in the next large terrorist attack. Everyone now knows that George W Bush has not made us safer than we were on September 10, 2001. In fact, with his funding cuts to FEMA he may actually have made us less safe. With his spending on the unnecessary War in Iraq he has increased the debt of every taxpayer, and we have paid this price with no change in the level of our safety. Some actually argue that the War in Iraq has made us less safe by giving terrorists more reasons for potential followers to be recruited.

Anti-War activists have been telling the nation that George W Bush has lead us away from world public opinion, but Americans generally have no sense of the importance of what other countries think about us. The fiscal conservatives have been telling us that it is wrong for us the borrow money to fight a war and have our children pay the loans back. But, most Americans have huge credit card debt and don’t see the importance of trying to maintain fiscal responsibility. Some religious leaders have argued that the War in Iraq was unjust and immoral. But, Americans generally don’t have the same empathy for the citizens of another country and they don't feel the pain of the families of the 25,000 Iraqi civilians largely killed by US forces. So, it comes down to a large natural disaster in the USA to actually effect the approval rating of George W Bush. What could possibly be different here?

I think that George W Bush has been knocked off his high horse. The problem is that the other side doesn't have anyone to jump into the saddle. The people who are still supporting George W Bush wouldn't vote for George W Bush if he switched Parties, even if he said exactly the same thing that he is saying right now. His borrow and spend way of governing would be considered a sin if a Democrat had done it. We are forcing our children to pay back this enormous debt that will grow even larger if Bush continues to borrow even more money to rebuild New Orleans. This is liberal economics gone wild. The supporters of George W Bush wouldn't vote for him if he told us the importance of American Security and the War on Terror if he had a (D) next to his name. I submit that the project of tearing down George W Bush has been completed successfully. We just need a leader that 61% of Americans can put their support behind, because that 39% that supports George W Bush are brain dead and they don't want to think about the stupidity of George W Bush.


Friday, September 16, 2005

Stare Decisis and Roe v. Wade

A political joke circulating on the Internet goes like this:

Question: What is George W Bush’s position on Roe v. Wade?
Answer: None, he doesn’t care how the people get out of New Orleans.

It is interesting that Roe v. Wade is back in the news yet again. In fact, the only reason that it seems to be back in the news is because of Judge John Roberts’ confirmation hearings. And, it really shouldn’t be a subject at all, because Judge John Roberts himself said that it was settled law. But, it really isn’t settled law, because of the radical religious right that continues to fight this settled law at every turn of the corner. Judge John Roberts continues to go into abortion rights being settled law with the weight of “stare decisis.” Stare decisis is a Latin term meaning that a case is settled law and it would be difficult to overturn this type of ruling.

Of course, Judge John Roberts is saying this to alleviate the fears of the Senators on the committee who would not like to upset the balance of the court by nominating a staunchly anti-abortion judge. But, it is difficult to know how Judge Roberts actually feels about the abortion issue, and if his feelings would influence a case before him. Judge Roberts continued to say that he was a judicial automaton, which means that he follows the law and doesn’t let his emotions influence the outcome. This is a conservative view of the law, judges don’t make laws, they interpret them.

If this is so, then why can’t Judge Roberts just come out and say that he won’t overturn Roe v. Wade?

The point is that he can’t, because he also said the “Stare Decisis” ruling can be overturned if new evidence comes to light. The anti-abortion people are looking for “new evidence” and they still hope to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The new evidence would be a law that says that unborn fetuses have the same rights as fully grown adults. These people support any law that fosters this “new evidence”. And, these people have rejected any law that goes against this idea. This is why the stem cell research issue has become such a hot topic. Acknowledging that these cells could potentially become fetuses, and yet the government still allows the research to continue cuts at the development of the “new evidence.”

Instead, the anti-abortion folks have created laws where a person that kills a pregnant woman can be charged with two murders, the mother and the fetus. If they can argue that the courts treat the unborn fetus as a murder victim, then why can’t the abortionist be charged with murder?

So, the important thing with the Senate Hearings on Judge John Roberts isn’t whether he believes in the Stare Decisis of the Roe v. Wade decision, but rather it matters how he feels about the introduction of the “new evidence” that could overturn the case.


When I think about the Bush administration I think about the quote from Jesus, "those who live by the sword, shall die by the sword (Mt 26:52). This thought crosses my mind in many ways on many issues. It doesn’t really mean that because the USA was being a big bully in the middle East that someone, some government or terrorist organization would find a way to attack the administration or the Neo-cons who organized the troubles there. That would be too easy and too straightforward. Instead, I think about the spin of the administration, with Karl Rove at the center.

Spin is a way of life for Karl Rove and the Bush administration. On every issue that comes to the forefront Karl is there to spin the take on it just right so the Bush supporters and a portion of the moderates are able to fall in line again behind the neo-con agenda.

“What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive,” was said by Sir Walter Scott a Scottish Poet and Novelist. The Bush administration has been in office for nearly five years, and the tangled web of lies and deception continue to grow. The larger the mess that Karl Rove and the administration makes the more difficult it becomes to keep a consistent path of deception. The administration hopes and prays that some of its lies are cast to the wayside so they don’t have to defend them.

Then along came Katrina and the fact that the administration had cut funding to the FEMA pre-emptive mitigation project. This project was needed to make sure that FEMA was ready to respond to the most predictable disasters in the country. On top of the list was New Orleans being hit directly by a category 3 hurricane. Of course, next on the list is a major earthquake striking San Francisco. The Bush administration cut funding to this in April 2001, not long after George W Bush took office. The Bush administration considered the project just throwing money away. The funding of this project pales in size compared to the amount of money that will now be spent on rebuilding the Gulf Coast. How much extra money are we spending now, because of the lack of preparation?

Well, the White House knows that this is a major public relations problem. In fact, this is so bad that the White House has assigned Karl Rove to be in charge of the Gulf Coast reconstruction effort. But, do you really think that Karl Rove has acquired the skills needed to actually manage such a project. No, political cronies don’t magically become managers of Disaster Relief. George W Bush knows this first hand from the Michael Brown debacle of last week. I would put money on the fact that Karl Rove is going to hang out on the Gulf Coast so he can put spin on the project. Spin is the life of the Bush administration and Katrina was a major blow to that life force. There is no other explanation that comes close to making any sense.

But, with disasters one thing is certain, just because a spinmeister says something does not mean that it is true. Reporters can go out into the disaster and talk to people and verify that the recovery that is happening is really happening. If a program isn’t working, the problems are seen immediately. Karl Rove may try to spin this issue, but it is unlikely that reporters will let him get away with as much as he has up to this point. Everyone needs to stay vigilant in the light of the history of Karl Rove and his spin machine.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Hope For America

I received a comment about yesterday’s post that I found a bit troubling. He said, “Things are so sharply divided now that I don't thing you'll find a state like that or many voters like that.” Of course he was referring to my suggestion that people who are currently opposed to George W Bush could somehow be persuaded to look into the positive aspects of the Democratic Party. I was basing this judgement on the fact that 61% of the people dislike the way the President is running the country, even though 50% actually voted for him. Therefore, 11% of the people are not fully behind him. Since, the Republican philosophy is, “If you aren’t with us, then you are against us,” these people are basically going against the whole Republican philosophy. But, if these people don’t have something positive to turn toward, then they may just opt out of the political process all together.

The comment went on to say that swing voters come from different places in different states, and they don’t understand what I was trying to say. The comment tended to imply, even though it wasn’t said, that people can be rallied around the anti-Bush idea, and going into the positive aspects of the Democratic Party may not unify all people from around the country. This is because they have such different ideas about what is good for America.

I would like to disagree with this approach even though I know that there will be liberals out there disagreeing with me. I’ve lived in Texas through most of the 1980s. I have met people in Texas and discussed politics with them. Texas is one of the Reddest states in the country, except for Utah or Kansas. But, the majority of people in my circle of friends were conservative - some more than others. My wife voted a straight Republican ticket when I met her. So, I know that these people will and do listen to arguments from both sides of the political spectrum. The people who don’t listen are the people who have thrown their hat into the ring and they are running for office. These people need to tow the Party line to keep the support of their backers. But, the majority of people are actually willing to listen to both sides of an argument.

I know from experience that talking to people about the issues can actually change people’s mind. I’ve seen it happen time and time again.

It is certainly true that the majority of voters vote with expectations of making their lives better. In general, “better” usually means more money to spend. And, my commenter addressed this issue by saying that reasoning would not work, because $4.00/gallon gasoline would be the factor that would swing the election. This could certainly be true, but if it were how could Democrats feel any better about themselves than the Republicans that persuaded people to vote for them because they would cut taxes. Sure, both of these issues are pocketbook issues. But, both of these issues actually distort reality. Republicans shouting for tax cuts don’t tell you that the cuts will go to the wealthy instead of you. They don’t tell you that the cuts will effect the ability of the nation to respond to natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. They don’t tell you how the infrastructure of the country will continue to degrade as time goes on and no money is found to pay for the upkeep of our valuable resources - our infrastructure. Telling people to vote for a Democrat because of gasoline prices is just as bad. There is no guarantee that prices will go down if a Democrat is elected. Instead gasoline prices will continue to go up as supply begins to taper off and demand continues to increase. Democrats may be more willing to spend money on the research needed to explore new energy schemes like hydrogen, but those investments will take years for the payoff. Giving a voter false hope that never materializes means that that voter may become disillusioned with the Democratic process. That voter may reason that he voted both ways and neither way worked out for him.

The sad truth is that moderates in all states across the country can be persuaded with strong logical arguments. And positive arguments will have the most lasting effects. The best thing that Democrats can do now is to not only point to the problems with cutting taxes which results in cutting programs that our country has prided itself on. They shouldn’t only point out the incompetence of the Bush administration and the Republican Party. But, Democrats need to also point to the programs and ideas that can remake America the strong nation that it once was.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Something Positive

When a political Party is trying to win elections they say what ever they can to win votes. The name of the game is winning as many votes as possible. In general the truth doesn’t always win you votes from everyone. When someone chooses to help one group of people there is bound to be another group who is effected by the same action. When an action that helps one group hurts another group, it is called a zero sum game. However, some actions intended to help one group of people can also help other groups of people as well. This type of action is called a non-zero sum game.

In my experience with the current state of the American political environment I have found that the Republicans tend to look at life assuming that life in general is a zero sum game. Their philosophy is taking everything I can or I won’t have anything. If asked to give to a charitable contribution to a cause they only do so knowing that it is one less dollar that they would have. Working together to make things better for everyone, they believe, is an impossible goal that goes against the will of God. Evangelical preachers like Pat Robertson continue to support this idea.

On the other side of the aisle the Democrats tend to believe that life can be a non-zero sum game. This means that taking on some projects can help everyone. One major example is the American infrastructure. A top-notch University system not only educates the residents of the United States, but it also brings highly educated people from around the world to learn in these environs. A top-notch transportation system allows businesses to transport goods through out the country. A top-notch electrical grid allows all Americans to have electrical energy at the flip of a switch. A top-notch communications system allows all Americans to transmit data at the click of a mouse. The money spent on these projects has returned many times the money invested, and we are all the richer for it. These non-zero sum game ideals are the heart of the Democratic Party.

When we write blogs most of us find it easy to criticize. When someone does something as stupid as appoint a former horse judge to the federal emergency management administration, with out any experience in emergency management it is too easy to criticize that person. I would suggest that instead of this easy subject to blog on you should blog about the positive aspects of the Democratic Party. I think that we have enough blogs out there about the negative aspects of the President and the Republican Party. Looking at the latest polls, the moderate swing voters already know what a horrid job that George W Bush is doing. Now is the time to win those potential voters to the Democratic side of the aisle.

Most of us know that tax cuts for the wealthy actually disable the infrastructure which was put in place when the Democrats ruled the world. (At least the USA.) Since Republicans have taken control our infrastructure in the form of highways, universities, and much more have begun to fall apart. Tell the world how government projects to improve the infrastructure actually save us money in the long run.

Tell us how the Democrats want to protect our civil liberties, while the Republicans are systematically dismantling these protections.

Tell us how Democrats care about our world and the environment. Republicans beginning with James Watt in the Reagan administration have constantly looked for ways for business to exploit our national resources with little going back to the government or the people of the USA.

Moderates need to hear these things now!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Who Could Possibly Be Surprised?

Bush lied again. Actually this guy does not show any signs of guilt when he lies. He even knows that the truth is right there for everyone to see. Bush actually told Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to fire Michael Brown, but when questioned about this by reporters yesterday he claimed that he didn’t know about it.

But, of course the Party of Moral values, the Republican Party doesn’t consider lying a moral value.

(Read More)


Yesterday I went to the county courthouse to report for jury duty. This is not my first time to answer the call. I was a potential juror in a six month long murder case. In that case I plead hardship, because I could not miss six months of work and be able to support my family. I was also called a couple of years ago for another case, of an unspecified nature. They picked the 12 jurors in a very quick manner and I was out of there before noon.

Yesterday was a bit different. The case was specified as a rape case. They told us that the case would last for about three days, so it would be a perfect case to see how the system works from the juror’s perspective. I was ready for my number to be called.

Well, the process was much slower for this case than it had been the last time I was called up. The judge was the same guy that presided the last time I was called up. He reminded me a little of the judge from the old TV show “Night Court.” He informally came out from his chambers and announced a 30-minute break after we had been waiting around for an hour. It was nice that he finally realized that we were sitting around doing nothing, but figuring it out 30 minutes earlier and giving us an hour break would have been even better. But, what the heck, I was there to do my civic duty and they can waste my time however they like. Right?

Since it was a rape case the reasons for dismissal could potentially take on more private concerns. We were asked that those who wanted to be dismissed should fill out a questionnaire and then be interviewed one by one privately. This was in contrast to my call up for the six-month murder trial where each juror had to voice their reasons for dismissal in front of the judge and a full court. By about 1:30PM all of the private interviews had been concluded and about one third of the potential jurors had been dismissed.

Over the several hours that we sat in the court room I began to wonder what types of people would make it onto the final panel. I could imagine that the Assistant District Attorney would want people who were biased against rapists. It shouldn’t be hard to find people who dislike rapists, because most people don’t like rapists. But, we need to remember that the guy on trial is assumed to be innocent until proven guilty. In my mind I began to realize that I did have a bit of a personal bias before I actually heard the case. I believed that I could set aside the bias, as long as I understood what the bias was.

I was certainly biased for the people. I began to think about all the trouble that the woman must have gone through just to file the complaint and bring the case to trial. I began to think about the DA’s need to find enough evidence to prove that the trial was worth while from the DA’s perspective. And, this was without actually hearing any evidence.

The court called the names of 18 people to take the potential spots on the panel. Of course only 12 would make the final cut. I was number 10. I saw this happen before, so I knew that my chances were pretty good that I would actually hear the case. But, this was the next cut. The judge asked us general questions about potential bias. Then each of the lawyers asked us more specific questions about bias. But, the lawyers only had about 15 minutes to ask questions, so they picked a couple of people and asked them specific questions. The lawyers concentrated on young females and parents with daughters. But, the questions didn’t seem to be well thought out. I began to get confused as to the purpose of the questions, from both lawyers.

I was actually only asked one question regarding my ability to accept the credibility of a witness who was convicted of a felony. The defense lawyer asked me this question, and I answered that I would need to listen to what he had to say before jumping to any conclusion regarding credibility. That was the only questioned asked of me, so I was a bit surprised when the Assistant District Attorney picked me to be dismissed from the trial without cause. Each lawyer could dismiss up to three people without cause, and I was the only one he picked. All I can say is that he made a mistake, because I was biased in his favor.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Dr. Forbush Thinks - Arts and Sciences - Podcast

Art and science have things in common, but what are the differences? What is the value of science? What is the value art? What is good art?

Editorial Opinion: (click here to download the mp3 file) Arts and Sciences

, , ,and

The Smoking Gun

It would be great if this disaster was truly “the moment,” that the public realized that George W Bush has been lying to them all along. But how many of these moments have we had? People still rally behind this guy for some unknowable reason. Jimmy Carter, a president that was a truly nice guy had only suggested that people turn their thermostats down, drive slower on the highway had the public turn away from him. The failure of one operation basically cost him re-election. George W Bush has the failure of an entire war, and people believe him when he preaches that we should stay the course.

I once thought that the Republicans that fall in line behind this guy are sheep who follow the shepherd wherever he leads. But even sheep won’t follow the shepherd off the edge of a cliff. So, it is becoming obvious that we have a large portion of the population that are lemmings, not sheep.

Bush’s approval is down to 39%, but I can imagine some of those people rationalizing that everyone has a bad day. The Democrats need to sharpen their swords and come up with a detailed alternative plan. We have plenty of arguments why their way doesn’t work, we just need an argument showing the moderates that can be swayed either way what the Democrats believe should be done instead of following the Bush doctrine.

I would suggest that Democrats argue that Katrina proves that we need to defend our infrastructure. People can see the deterioration of roads, buildings, parks etc… We need to point to that and tell everyone what the Bush tax cuts have done. Bush has taken money away from these projects and given the money to the wealthy.

Bush Cut FEMA Preparation Funding and it was written about for the last five years!

The Bush administration cut the funding for FEMA pre-disaster mitigation in April 2001 just after they took office. FEMA had been targeted as a waste fill department since Newt Gingrich took out his contract on America. Then they gave this money once assigned to these programs to the wealthy in their tax cuts. If these Republicans can get votes because they promise to cut taxes, they should loose votes when those tax cuts kill people…

Here is an article that goes through the destruction of FEMA by the Bush administration that was written last year, one year before Katrina hit the Gulf coast.

Maybe when there is a war in a foreign land people feel detached from it. Maybe they feel like they can put up with America killing people who are not Americans. Maybe they don’t think too much about it, because it is so far removed from every day life. Maybe some people actually still believe that Iraq had something to do with 9/11/2001 and they feel that Iraq should suffer because of it. It is hard to believe that any thinking and feeling person could believe that the US is doing the right thing in Iraq.

But if we put the debacle in Iraq to the side, and consider what George W Bush said about keeping America safe. Doesn’t American safety mean more than just safety from terrorist attacks? Shouldn’t a rapid response to natural disasters also fall under the heading of keeping America safe? Even George W Bush himself told us during his election campaign that a natural disaster is when a President’s mettle is tested. Well, it looks like Katrina is the natural disaster that tested George W Bush’s mettle and he failed on all accounts.

1) George W Bush failed in the preparation for hurricane Katrina because he cut funding for pre-emptive disaster mitigation, fixing the levee system.
2) George W Bush failed in leadership by appointed an inexperienced person to the head of FEMA.
3) George W Bush failed in supervision by allowing FEMA to become the department where political hacks were rewarded with jobs they weren’t qualified for, while expert professionals were fired.
4) George W Bush failed to recognize the serious nature of the approaching hurricane when NOAA warned that damage would be worse than we have witnessed in our lifetime.

So, by George W Bush’s own standard, George W Bush has failed the test of being a good president.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


What is the difference between the United States of America and a third world country?

I hear the conservatives out there shouting: Freedom, Freedom, Freedom.

But freedom actually just means you can go do what you want. Look at the rural areas of Afghanistan and think about freedom. In these areas we have little tribes surrounded by mountains. The people are free, and they choose to live in little tribes, select a leader and live by traditional laws. Is this not freedom? It is freedom for these people who choose to live this way. It was freedom to live this way for hundreds of years. When the British tried to civilize the country these small tribes worked together to preserve their freedom and eventually get the British to leave them alone. Even when the Taliban ruled the cities in Afghanistan, al Qaeda was able to use this freedom to set up a terrorist training camp in the middle of nowhere in rural Afghanistan. But, with all this freedom is rural Afghanistan anything like the United States of America? NO!

The difference between the United States of America and a third world country is the organized infrastructure that enables the citizens of this country to interact in economically efficient ways. This allows people to create new things and better ways of doing things that can only be limited by the imagination.

What is the infrastructure that allows this to happen?

Consider the Interstate Highway system. After World War II the Americans were impressed by the German Highway system and Eisenhower vowed to do the same thing in the United States. This was a system planned from the top and designed to interconnect cities and rural areas in efficient ways. If you want to see the way the roads were before the Interstate Highway System was built, try driving from College Station, Texas to Odessa, Texas. (We won’t consider why someone would want to drive from College Station to Odessa at this time.) There are two ways to go, using the Interstate System or using the Farm to Market Roads. The Farm to Market roads are clearly the shorter distance, but the dangerous because of the lack of markings, pot holes and narrow roads. The second way would be to drive to Waco on highway 6, then drive to Dallas on I-35 and hop on I-20 west to Odessa. This is clearly the safer way, but the distance is much longer. The point is that the Interstate Highway System replaced the Farm to Market type road system through out the country. Think of how much quicker farmers could get their crops to market after the system was created. Why was this system more efficient than the collection of cities and counties that built their roads, as they were needed?

The reason that a system organized from the top is more efficient, at least in this case, is because the goals for the system are different than the goals at the local level. At the local level farmers are interested in getting their crops to market and the farmers control each county government. The people in the cities who want to travel between cities have no say in the structure of the roads. This leads to traveling from each large city in a pattern of hopscotching from county seat to county seat until you get to the next large city. At the state level, state officials only have control of the roads that connect cities within their state.

But, the infrastructure of the United States is not limited to Highways. The infrastructure of the United States are the buildings, telecommunications lines, gas lines, warehouses, trucking lines, airlines, air ports, sea ports, monetary system, libraries, national defense, emergency response and much, much more.

Having all of these systems is a great boon to both businesses and consumers, but the system is only as strong as its weakest link. Some local governments have less funding than other local governments. Private companies maintain some systems. Private companies aren’t always able to make a profit from running a portion of the system. So, we need to ask the question, “If the total system depends on each link then what is it worth to bolster the weak links?”

Should the people who live in the wealthy sections of the country spend money to strengthen the weak links in the poorer sections of the country?

To answer this, if we don’t spend the money, then the systems will fail sooner than later. If we cut taxes, then we must realize that the government is forced to cut the infrastructure. If you doubt this, then you need to ask why 40% of the money requested to shore up the New Orleans levee system was cut after George W Bush cut taxes to the wealthy in 2003. If this continues our infrastructure will continue to deteriorate slowly and we will have more “unexpected” disasters as each part of the system fails. It’s a good thing that the wealthy got their tax cut, so they can contribute it to the $150 billion needed to fix New Orleans.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Special Interests

The California legislature passed new legislation that would allow homosexual marriages. California is now the first state in the Union to pass such a law. Of course there is one obstacle that could prevent this from becoming law – Arnold "the Governator" Schwarzenegger. When he ran for election, he told the voters that he was a fiscal conservative. He told Californians how the California budget was being controlled by the “special interests.” He also down played any support for the social reforms of the radical right. This is the only way that a Republican can get elected in California. But, the fear of the Religious Right can put political pressure on the man who said that he would not bow down to “special interests.”

So, this is basically the moment of truth for Arnold. Is he going to bow down to the “special interests” that are sure to help him get re-elected? These “special interests” may be different than the “special interests” that pour money into some campaigns. This “special interest” influences the large number on conservative Christians from the pulpit. Being able to hold onto this block of voters is key to Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaign. However, if the Governator veto’s this bill the electorate will certainly know that Arnold is in the pocket of the Radical Right “Special Interest” group.

What will Arnold do? I will offer a guess. He will end up bowing down to the “special interest” just like any other politician that doesn’t have the testicular fortitude to stand up for what is right.

The Governator has three options.

1) He can bow down to the "special interest" of the Religious Right and veto the legislation.
2) He can be a man and stand up for civil rights and sign the bill into law.
3) He can be a wimp and do nothing allowing the bill to become law after 30 days.

After all, the fundamentalists now control the Republican Party, and if Schwarzenegger wants to stay in good standing with his political party he will do what he is told to do. It’s the Republican way.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A Well Armed Militia

Wasn’t it great that the citizens of New Orleans were armed with weapons?

The pro-gun/pro-violence lobby has always argued that citizens should be armed in order for private citizens to be able to protect themselves in case of a national emergency. So, the breach of the levee in New Orleans was the national emergency and the use of weapons was obviously very helpful for the survival of the society, and city of New Orleans. I guess that the pro-gun/pro-violence group has proved their point.

I wonder how many people were killed by guns because of the “opportunity” for disposing of that unwanted neighbor? When civil law breaks down, it’s a good thing to have a gun by your side? When those nasty police come calling in the middle of a disaster, it’s good to have that trusty carbine at your side? When your sick grandma is stuck in the attack and you just can’t get her out, it’s mighty great to have that handgun handy? When all seems lost and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, isn’t it nice to have a pistol in your pocket?

Sarcasm mode off…

What’s New Pussy Cat?

Last night I saw “What’s New Pussy Cat?” Woody Allen’s first movie. This movie was released in 1965 at that moment when America’s culture was about to be changed forever. Well, we thought that this was the case, but with the power the radical right has amassed in recent years, there is a possibility that our culture could be reversed to that of 1950s America.

In order to understand what this means, it is important to understand what 1950s America was like, what happened in the 1960s and what the radical right is so fearful about that they continue to fight to reverse those changes. “What’s New Pussy Cat?” is directed toward one issue, the control of resources by the wealthy, in a farcical way.

In the 1950s, it was understood that there were those who were wealthy and had power, and the rest of us. It was understood that these people controlled the resources. In this movie, the resources in question are women. One man, the Magic Man, basically controls all the resources as the women throw themselves at him. Of course, since it is a Woody Allen movie he uses humor to make us laugh at the current social circumstances. The truth is that this guy can only marry one woman, but even as he finds his one Miss Right he can’t commit to her. So, the basic question the audience is asked to ponder is, “Should those who have control of all the resources continue to control the resources?”

Of course, 90% of the audience didn’t even know that this was the question. Instead, they saw the movie as a farce without any meaningful message. It is too bad that we didn’t have polling after movies back in the 1960s. (Do we have polling now days after movies?) If we did, we could have asked some interesting questions before and after the movie to see if attitudes about this issue were changed by the movie. I’m sure that the idea that one guy should only have one wife would continue to be a popular opinion whether or not if he was able to attract multiple women. But, after seeing the movie I wonder if people would begin to question the control of other resources by families, as they pass inheritance from one generation to the next?

But, the other thing that this movie did was show that there was a place for the wimps in America. As it turned out, Woody Allen’s character went after the Magic Man’s Miss Right. So, the point becomes, everyone has the ability to get whatever resource they desire, even if that resource is controlled by someone who seems to have a birthright to it. In an abstract way the movie has profound questions being asked at the beginning of the American Cultural Revolution. On the surface the movie seems to be quite silly and message-less. In this way its message is hidden in an egg that is broken open by the viewer’s subconscious at a later time.

Using the analogy of women as resources for men brings up some interesting social issues. It questions the physical type of men that are most desired by women. It questions what personality is most desired by women. It questions the value of looks vs. personality on both sides of the equation. As the 1960s continued women began to say that a more sensitive caring man was more important than the tough forceful man that knew what he wanted and used all his resources to get it. This perceived attitude gave us both Jimmy Carter and Allen Alda. These men were “sensitive males” who understood those who were suffering and they cared. But, when people actually saw what this ideal was like in real life, it didn’t fit the bill. The truth is that women actually are attracted to power, and the sensitive man doesn’t appear to be powerful in real life. People want to see the appearance of power.

So, with the right wing backlash to the “sensitive male” we have been given the Terminator and Mr. Stay the Course. And this last week has shown us Mr. Stay the Course has no real power to take action in time of disaster. Instead we have a man who is more concerned about the illusion of power than taking real action when it is needed.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Fear And Rage

We have often heard that fundamentalists are a major problem. Fundamentalist Muslims have gone to the extreme of sending suicide bombers out to attack their enemies. Fundamentalist Jews are unbending on their in their belief in the expansion of Israel and are willing to kill for that land. Americans often site these groups when discussing Christian fundamentalists, saying that these folks aren’t so bad, because they aren’t killing anyone.

Actually there are Christian fundamentalists that have resorted to murder, but they are less common that the Muslim or Jewish groups. So, why is this the case? Should we be so concerned about Christian Fundamentalists if they aren’t so bad?

In order to understand these questions we need to examine how and why a fundamentalist movement takes hold and what motivates it to grow.

Fundamentalist movements of every kind are based in fear. When society changes segments of the society become fearful of change. This is human nature and we expect this to happen. Fear then creates a reaction to this change. Large changes in society are reflected by large reactions to that change. People who fear the changes find each other and react with a common fear of the change.

If we look at the Twentieth Century, there isn’t any question that there were very large changes in society that not only effected America, but every country around the globe. The largest changes to our society have been in science, technology and human rights. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that these are the issues that fundamentalists are concerned about. In fact, they are not only concerned with these issues, but they are fearful of the changes these things have affected on society.

When a group of fearful people gather together they express their concerns over the changes they have been experiencing. And, when these people are religious they search for answers in their religion. When the goal is to fight change by finding solutions in religion these people will take whatever threads of hope that they find and magnify the importance of these threads in order to prove their point. We see this in all fundamentalist movements.

Fundamentalist movements grow more extreme over time. This is because fundamentalists begin their movement by using scripture to prove that change should not happen. In these early movements they believe that other people will realize that they have God on their side and therefore they are right. They feel as if just telling people that God doesn’t want change will be enough to stop that change. But, fundamentalist movements are usually the minority in a society and there is little chance that the general population will swarm to the fundamentalist cause. In fact most people actually like and appreciate the changes to society so support for the fundamentalist reaction to change never happens.

Well, lack of success doesn’t halt any fundamentalist group. This is because they have always been a minority and they believe that they have God on their side. Reaction to their cause fosters even more fear. They fear that their religious ideas will be expunged by the changes in society. At this point fear turns to rage and violence becomes an action sanctioned by God. Christian Fundamentalists in the USA haven’t reached this point yet, but if the history of other fundamentalist movements is a predictor, when the Christian Fundamentalists feel fear because of a reaction to their movement violence will become inevitable.

So, this leaves us with a conundrum. How do we react to Christian Fundamentalists in the USA? If we react to them with the vile revulsion that their ideas provoke, they are bound to become fearful and rage in violence against our society. If we do nothing their luddite ideas and hatred will turn our society back a hundred years. The only action that seems to make sense is the one that goes against our natural compulsion. We need to alleviate the fear of the Christian Fundamentalists and assure them that their religion is not doomed, even if we all wish that it were. By reducing this fear the most extreme individuals will feel assured and not react in violence like every other fundamentalist movement has done.

We just need to be aware that this isn’t as clear cut as some may believe.

Who Could Have Known?

Here's something to think about.

George W Bush 2005:

"No one could have predicted the levees would break"

Led Zepplin 1971:

If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break, [X2]
When The Levee Breaks I'll have no place to stay.

Mean old levee taught me to weep and moan, [X2]
Got what it takes to make a mountain man leave his home,
Oh, well, oh, well, oh, well.

Don't it make you feel bad
When you're tryin' to find your way home,
You don't know which way to go?
If you're goin' down South
They got no work to do,
If you don't know about Chicago.

Cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good,
Now, cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good,
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move.

All last night sat on the levee and moaned, [X2]
Thinkin' about me baby and my happy home.
Going, going to Chicago... Going to Chicago... Sorry but I can't take you...
Going down... going down now... going down....

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Who Is Responsible for This Mess?

Which mess? Take your pick, they are all tied together.

Let us look at the current mess that is left behind by Hurricane Katrina. There are thousands of people wandering around the Gulf coast with no place to go. Who could help these people?

In general several agencies usually help people who are victims of natural disasters. There are volunteer-based organizations and there are Government based organizations. An example of a volunteer-based organization would be the “Red Cross.” The Red Cross trains people and raises money to bring relief to those who are suffering. But the Red Cross can not do everything themselves. They depend on the ebb and flow of donations to the organization. They do not own the equipment needed to get into effected areas. They depend on government agencies to do their part in an effort.

Government agencies have the equipment and the organization needed to bring the effort together. If nothing else the government has the responsibility to protect the citizens of the country. So, where is the government?

There are several reasons why the government has abdicated its responsibility in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. First of all, the US government has committed the National Guard to its unnecessary, unjust, and immoral war in Iraq. The National Guard has consistently been mobilized to aid in disaster relief for decades now. With the large number of National Guard troops in Iraq there are that many fewer troops to help keep the peace in the devastation from Katrina. But keeping the peace isn’t the only thing that the National Guard does. They also search and rescue victims, distribute food and water, clear roads and more. It only makes sense that with fewer troops available the response will be slower than if we had the full number of troops available. Even if the Red Cross is able to get the food and water, there aren’t enough National Guard Troops to distribute it.

But, all of this could be foreseen. The radical right ideology of privatization and tax cuts has been gnawing away at our ability to respond to disasters like this for quite some time. This is because the radical right has put getting elected ahead of safety and protection of the country. This is ironic, because the radical right generally preaches that security is a number one concern. After all, that is the argument for sending our troops to Iraq. (Or, was it revenge?)

The problem is that the radical right has been preaching tax cuts for so long. So, every time the radical right wins an election they cut taxes, which ends up cutting funding for government infrastructure programs. The immediate result is that people pay a hundred dollars less in taxes, but the long-term result is that our ability to respond to calamities has been greatly reduced. For example, the funding for the New Orleans levee project was cut by the Republican congress in 2003. If this project had been completed New Orleans would be dry today.

The voters should know these things before they vote in a group of the radical right who will reward voters with tax cuts, but the same voters will suffer later when the failures in infrastructure become apparent. We, the voters are actually to blame for this mess. By not caring who is elected, by not caring for what people need, by not thinking about what a tax cut actually means we are all responsible for this mess. This mess is easily just one more reason why the radical right is wrong for this country.

It is truly amazing how the lies and deception of the Bush administration began with the fixing of the 2000 election and have continued to this day. If America has ever had a more corrupt administration it must have been back in the 1800s. The political understanding of the average American is at an all-time low meaning that people don't even spend the time to try and understand the spin that the politicians throw at them.

There was an excellent column in the San Jose Mercury News today describing how the city of San Jose was deceived by the Mayor simply because no one used their math skills to figure out how much money was being spent.

In this column Scott Herhold makes the excellent observation:

"Our exalted leader, George W. Bush, recently said we should stay the course in Iraq because to do otherwise would dishonor the memory of the 2,000 soldiers slain there. Emotionally, that rings a bell.

"But if you know anything about basic finance, you know there's such a thing as sunken costs. The losses of the past have little bearing on future risks. Because you've lost $10,000 on your favorite tech stock doesn't mean you'll get it back. Bush is much like the gambler who stays at the table, convinced his luck will turn. And it's our fault if we don't know enough about numbers to challenge him."

Everything points back to us, the electorate, we need to keep questioning these dishonest leaders and continue to investigate their lies and deceptions. We need to understand the true effects of tax cuts on the infrastructure we depend on.

, ,