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

Monday, October 31, 2005

Remember When?

Back before politics there was science...

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Monday Morning Musings

It’s Monday morning and the sun came up an hour earlier because we all went back to Standard Time. This was nice, because I came out from my workout this morning and the bright sun hit me in the face with that light California breeze. This is another great California morning promising another great California day.

I thought about the faltering of the Bush administration and their failures last week, which made me smile. I know that the Republican propaganda machine has been working hard over the weekend creating new talking points. I heard some of the Conservative pundits putting forth their version of reality. Its quite funny when you think about the conservative opposition to drugs because they alter the user’s perception of reality. These conservative pundits are either taking some extremely strong medicine or they have a warped view of the world. But, I believe it’s their right to have whatever delusions they have and the government should not take this fundamental freedom away from any of us.

This made me think of an interview I heard over the weekend. A fundamentalist preacher and a Catholic Priest were being asked their views on the literal interpretation of the Bible. The short debate was in response to a teaching document published by Roman Catholic Bishops in the UK that warn Catholics not to read the Bible literally.

Of course, the usual question in this debate begins with the contradictions that already exist in the Bible. The Fundamentalist Preacher was asked about the first contradiction in the Bible, the two different creation stories in Genesis. A literal interpretation of the Bible would suggest that man was created both before and after the animals. So, how could the Bible not be wrong on the question of which came first, animals or man? If you pick one reading, then the other reading must be wrong.

The Catholic Bishops address this problem by saying that the book of Genesis should not be regarded as a science book, but as a story describing God’s love for man. The Bishops tell us that the different books of the Bible are written in different styles and the points of these different books vary throughout the Bible.

Well, in the tradition of Fundamentalist Preachers this guy avoided answering the question directly. He told us that the Bible could not be wrong, because it is the truth. He told us that we can not know how we should understand the Bible, but we must know that it can not be wrong. This response reminded me of the Bush administration. The Bush administration knows what the answer is and the claim is that George W Bush can’t be wrong. We may not understand what George W Bush means when he says things, but that’s only because we are not smart enough to understand George W Bush. It is our failure, not George W Bush’s failure.

This reminded me of another interview. This time a right wing reporter was interviewing Condi Rice. Condi felt comfortable disclosing some of the more intimate details of her relationship with George W Bush. She described meeting with him at Camp David where she was describing some diplomatic details. She told the reporter that the President just amazed her by coming up with comments that didn’t seem to be related to the discussion at all.

Some people might think that this was because the President’s attention was wandering or he just didn’t understand the detail of what the Secretary of State was telling her boss. But Condi interpreted this disconnection as marvelous insight into the process. Well, if Condi assumes that George W Bush can not be wrong, then she needs to do some quick rationalization as to why the seemingly obscure comment has merit. The casual observer might step back and wonder a bit more about the workings of the White House.

This brings me to Matthew’s telling of Jesus healing the blind man. This lesson can be read as a simple story about Jesus healing a man that was born blind because of Jesus being the Son of God. However, the Catholic Bishops might suggest that there is more to this story than Jesus’ healing powers. First of all Jesus tells us that the myth of the day is wrong, the man was not born blind because of some sin of his parents. Sin does not cause malady. Instead, the man was born blind because Jesus needed a teaching example. The metaphor is that we are all born blind and Jesus opens all our eyes. For example, the Fundamentalist Preacher is blinded from the truth that God gave us more than just the Bible. God gave us the entire Universe with all of the clues to its history as well as the Bible. The UK Bishops are saying the same thing that the Preacher said in his answer to the contradiction in the Bible. The Bishops are saying that the clues in the Universe can’t be wrong and the Bible can’t be wrong. The truth is that we don’t know how to reconcile all of this truth, just like the Preacher couldn’t reconcile the contradiction in the book of Genesis. He just knows that the Bible is true.

And, this brings me to my final thought for Monday morning. I heard on the news yesterday that a Preacher in Waco, Texas was electrocuted when he took a live microphone into chest deep water while Baptizing the faithful. My simple thought was those who choose to be ignorant of science are doomed to succumb to its power.

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Friday, October 28, 2005

The American People Can Handle the Truth

Well, after the information on Scooter Libby has come out one thing is clear. The Bush administration lied to us. Scooter Libby lied to the FBI and the Grand Jury. So, if he lied we should be asking WHY? And the resounding answer should be coming back, “He lied to cover up other lies.”

Scooter Libby didn’t want the American people to know who leaked Valerie Plame’s name. He didn’t want the American people to know why her name was leaked. He didn’t want the American people to how her name was leaked. Simply put, he didn’t want the American people to know how the Bush administration duped the American people with misinformation. This is because this leak was leaked like all the other attacks and deceptions were leaked to bolster the Bush administration agenda.

The American people should realize that the Bush administration lied to them and deceived them purely for their own agenda. Some day we may know what this administration actually desired, but with all the lying and deception no one can be sure at this point.

It is certainly ironic that the Bush administration ran on the morality and ethics ticket, but they have proven that morality and ethics secondary when their own agenda is at stake.

But, the main point here is that the Bush administration lied in the lead up to the Iraq War. They lied about the significance of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. And, now we know that they lied to cover up this lying.

Where are all the people from the right who thought it was important to have a moral and ethical White House? Will they come out on the side of morals and ethics? Or, will they come out on the side of loyalty to an immoral and unethical Republican cabal?

California Proposition 75 - Unity Is Power

In our modern age the common worker no longer does as much manual labor as he once did. But at the turn of the century workers were hired for their physical skills and power rather than their reasoning or brain power. The basic structure of any company was to hire manual labor for the cheapest wage to do the most amount of work. By exploiting this structure corporations could demand that workers worked for low wages and long hours. The only choice a worker had was to quit if he felt exploited. However, a man with a family held his responsibility to his family in such high esteem that quitting wasn’t a real option. In addition, changing jobs was considered a sign of a poor employee and word got around to all potential employers leave the man jobless.

During the beginning of the twentieth century the power of unity gradually showed it’s face. Some workers realized that if one man quit his job it would have little effect on the employer and working conditions would not be influenced by his resignation. However, if one could persuade large numbers of workers to stay off the job the employer would be left without the labor he needed to accomplish the goal of the company.

Organized strikes began to help the workers win some battles, but corporations realized that workers could not hold out forever, even if they all quit together. The wealthy company owners could outlast the workers on savings alone. In order to increase their effectiveness the organized strikes became organized unions that existed continually even in times when there weren’t any strikes. These unions collected dues to be used to organize, and to keep a strike fund to pay workers so they could hold out longer and defeat the corporations.

The unions began to realize that organization had another benefit. The workers were able to have an organized voice in government. Politicians would now listen to unions that could get information to workers and help contribute to politicians’ campaigns. In return politicians would pass laws that would protect workers from unfair practices and pass laws to make corporation responsible for worker safety. Unions were able to change the workplace in dramatic ways over the first half of the twentieth century.

Many groups realized that organization is power. Teachers, Truckers, and Manufacturing Workers were some of the largest groups that were able to organize beyond the boundary of a single company.

It is quite obvious that corporations pay higher wages because of unions. Corporations also need to spend additional money on keeping the workplace safe. Therefore, it is understandable why corporations would like to weaken the power of the unions.

California Proposition 75 is proposed to weaken the power of unions. Prop 75 proposes to curtail unions from making donations to political candidates or political parties. Since the Democratic Party is the party of the worker this law limiting political contributions would effect the Democrats in a disproportional way. Democrats would loose large amounts of campaign contributions.

We should look at this in another way. Imagine two political parties. One party supports the wealthy and the other party supports the poor. Now, as every person with any marketing experience knows, advertising boosts sales. So, the more you advertise the more people will be influenced to vote for you. The message is important, but if people never hear your message people won’t even bother to show up to vote. And, if the message is slick and flashy people will be attracted like crows to a shiny object. So, the candidate that advertises the most is bound to get the most votes. Of course there is some error, but this is still a good rule of thumb. So, if Prop 75 passes then candidates that support the worker will get less money and therefore win fewer elections on average.

Prop 75 is important for all workers even if they are not union workers. The same laws that were passed because unions wanted safety and security also effect non-union workers. Out of respect for all the workers that sacrificed through the efforts of unions please defeat proposition 75. Vote NO on California Proposition 75.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Senate Intelligence Committee Never Had the Facts

Here is another smoking gun that demonstrates that the Bush Administration lied and misleads both the public and the Congress. The Radical Right continually said that John Kerry had the same information that the Bush Administration had and voted to go into Iraq. But, now we know for certain that that was a lie. John Kerry did not have the same information that the White House had. In today’s National Journal Murray Waas writes,

“Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, overruling advice from some White House political staffers and lawyers, decided to withhold crucial documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004 when the panel was investigating the use of pre-war intelligence that erroneously concluded Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, according to Bush administration and congressional sources.”

This is exactly what we have been saying all along. Now, we have the Downing Street Memo, the forgery of the Niger documents and now this. And, the far right radicals still believe that the Iraq War was the Right War at the Right time. Apparently they see everything RIGHT even when it is WRONG.

Hopefully this will end soon with the expunging of the treasonous swine.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Is Oil Just Heroin for the Western World?

Imagine another dimension where the United States had a president who actually thought through problems instead of reacting to them. In this world the President would hire smart people to study problems and offer solutions. In this world the problems could be ranked and linked and the complex interactions between these problems could be studied. Imagine this world back in 2001 and when the United States was attacked by terrorists.

The fictional president would begin to ask the hard questions and his advisors would offer hard solutions.

Instead of going through all of the possible solutions lets look at the solution that the real president decided on and lets compare it to a solution that the fictional president may have come up with instead, with the intelligence offered to him by people who actually understand the world and the way it works.

The real president decided that Iraq was the heart of the problem in the Middle East. A secular leader who used force to control his people controlled this country. Since this was clearly the problem if the country were invaded it would certainly solve the terror problem. Terrorists would obviously see that the new government would have complete backing from the United States and the terrorists would obviously be frightened of this awesome power. The terrorists would certainly rethink their position and surrender to the authority in Iraq and give up. Of course this job would be tough, expensive and a long hard slog, but it would be worth it.

The fictional president in this imaginary land might begin by asking questions. What do the terrorists want? Why do they think that the US is the source of their woes? And he would find out that Osma bin Ladden was upset with the US Air Bases in Saudi Arabia. He has Islamic Fundamentalist view of the world where he believes that since he is faithful to God his people deserve all of the treasure that the US has. God has obviously made him an instrument to bring justice to his people. He sees injustice in the way that the west has exploited the natural resources of the Middle East, namely oil. Simply he wants the West to pay for this injustice.

So, this fictional president sees that main point here is that the demand for oil has created pressure in the Middle East. The poor in the Middle East see the oil being taken out of their land and they get nothing in return. One solution that the fictional president realizes might offer national security is to reduce dependence on Middle East oil. This fictional president declares an emergency and proposes a new large scale program to create an alternate energy economy. Research goes into developing hydrogen as an efficient way to store energy, no matter how it is created through wind, solar, geothermal, and even nuclear. Even if the problem isn’t solved immediately the demand for oil will begin to diminish over the next few years. Ten years into the program there would be many hydrogen based vehicles refueling at hydrogen stations and the United States would be leading the world to cleaner and cheaper energy.

But where would this fictional president get the money for such an enormous program? Well, where did the real president get 300 billion dollars for the Iraq War? He borrowed it. But would the loan be worth the investment? Well, the result of the real president’s project in Iraq would be to get a few extra years of burning fossil fuel. The result of the fictional president’s project would be to initiate an infrastructure that would be in place for the next 500 years.

If the real president had known these things surely he would have seen that using force in the Middle East by occupying an Arab country is a dangerous thing. In addition to the danger, picking sides among the people of the country will always create enemies for the non-supporters. And, in the Middle East you can not rule out the religious factor. By invading Iraq the real president has brought the wrath of God on his country in the name of security. Surely he could see the problem with this.

Unfortunately our real president does not have the smart people around him who are willing to risk their jobs to tell him the truth. The real president already knows what he wants to do regardless of what the best policy would be for the country. And, unfortunately the American people will never elect a president like the proposed fictional president unless he has a good marketing department, or he knows the right people.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What is the capital of Assyria?

Most of us recall this famous line from the Monte Python classic Monte Python and the Holy Grail. Not many of us realize that the answer to this question has relevance to us today. It turns out that the key to the passage of the Iraqi constitution centers around this historic city, the city of Niniva.

In the goofy farce of Democracy organized by the US lead occupation of Iraq the Iraqi constitution vote passed and it was officially announced today. What most Americans don’t understand, or care to think about is that passage of the constitution only required a vote of 33% of voters in order to pass. In fact if a group opposed to the constitution wanted to defeat it, they would need 67% of their group to vote against it in at least three provinces. It turns out that Sunnis opposed the constitution and they actually tried to use Democracy, and they failed. In two provinces that defeated the constitution by much more than 67%. However, in the city of Niniva, Sunnis also defeated the constitution, but not by the 67% required. Instead they defeated it by 55%.

So, Sunnis overwhelmingly oppose this constitution and Democracy did not work for them.

Does anyone think that Sunnis learned a lesson in this vote? Can anyone venture a guess as to what that lesson might be? Can anyone really believe that peace is around the corner?

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Bush Supporters - Why Are They Still Loyal?

When will the Bush supporters realize that George W Bush used you? For the Bush administration it is all about the power and the issues they have used to gather support don’t mean anything. For example, during the Clinton administration the Republicans fought tooth and nail for Bill Clinton to be brought up on impeachment charges based on perjury. Were the Republicans really concerned with the well being of the nation? Well, we certainly know now that they don’t give a damn about telling the truth.

In a preemptive strike in order to justify possible indictments to be brought this week Republicans have begun to circulate the idea that perjury is only a technicality. Somehow the Republican mob that stormed Bill Clinton’s White House didn’t see it that way. For them it didn’t matter what the subject of the lie was. They didn’t care that Bill Clinton was trying to protect his wife from embarrassment.

However, in this case of perjury in this White House the lies surround the US preemptive strike on Iraq. The perjury is to protect those involved in the lies behind our justification to go to war. Almost 2000 soldiers were killed based on these lies. Over 25,000 innocent Iraqis civilians were killed because of these lies. And, the Republican leadership is taking the stand that perjury is only a technicality. We have been told for months that treason was a difficult case to prove without an actual tape of the treasonous action. Not finding the people in the White House guilty of treason does not mean that they didn’t commit treason. It just means that they didn’t get enough evidence to prove that they committed treason.

But, of course this is typical for this administration. From the beginning the White House has been able to lead the people by the nose ring and explain to them what they are supposed to see. Each piece of the puzzle is carefully manipulated to show the administration in the best light. But, when the Bush supporters begin to step back and look at the big picture they will surely see the scam for what it is.

After all, these are the same people who look at all of the evidence that scientists have shown to prove evolution and they tell us that the scientists have manipulated the data. There is certainly a relationship here between these two seemingly remote subjects.

The Bush supporters believe that all of the evidence that the Bush administration has put forth to support their agenda makes sense. But they believe that all of the evidence that scientists have put together does not support the Theory of Evolution. Why? The answer is that these Bush supporters buy into the Bush agenda, but they do not buy into the Theory of Evolution. Either way, the end result is more important than the truth.

But, it goes deeper than that. I believe that the Bush supporters actually know that George W Bush and his cohorts actually manipulated the evidence that has been presented to the public. However, they believe in the agenda so strongly that they are willing to let the facts slide. They want the agenda after all, and it doesn’t really matter how they get it. Since they understand this they are willing to believe that scientists are capable of the same deception. They believe that scientists don’t care about the facts just like they don’t care about the facts. They assume that all people are deceptive like they are. But, the actual fact is that scientists can not afford to be deceptive. If they were the next scientist down the road would not be able to reproduce the study or experiment. Non-reproducible results are the bane of the scientific community. Maybe at some time some of these Bush supporters will begin to learn that the truth actually matters, and they will leave the religious right behind.

My fear is that when the religious right realizes this they will strike out on their own and use the base built by the Republicans to push their own ideas of Theocracy. As they gain more power they will no longer need the Republicans. More likely they’ll create their own Christian Republican Party and push theocracy further down our throats. And, by the time the country realizes what happened laws like the Patriot Act will be used against us to protect the power of this group.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Republican Perjury is Only a Technicality

The Washington Post says:

“In a preview of how Republicans would counter charges against top administration officials by Fitzgerald, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas brushed aside an indictment for perjury -- rather than for the underlying crime of outing a covert operative -- as a "technicality."”

That sure is interesting, wasn’t Bill Clinton’s Impeachment all about perjury?


Tolerance Is Not Christian Anymore

I posted on Religious Fascism last week and I received the following quote as a comment. It made me angry. As I wrote I continued to think of more problems with the statement and examples of how it is wrong. My post was in response to a Religious organization promoting a new campaign called: “Truth, Not Tolerance.” The idea is that these guys believe that they have the “one true faith”, and they don’t need to tolerate anyone else’s faith because they are right and everyone else is wrong.

“I have no doubt that there are those that if given power would abuse it by using the government to force religious observance, but they are a small almost non-existant minority and their extremeism makes their rise to power unlikely.”

Well, I glad that you aren’t worried about your freedom. But that isn’t how I see it. I am certainly worried about my freedom. Through out human history groups have managed to take control of governments, even democracies. I don’t see the United States government to be any different than these others.

After the First World War Germany was a short lived democracy, but they weren’t able to stop the Nazi Party from taking control. They were just in a World War and they all knew that it couldn’t happen again. My landlord while I was in Germany fought in World War Two for the Germans and his father fought in both WWI and WWII. He explained to me how he and his father never thought it could happen again.

Another friend of mine escaped from Iran in 1979. His father worked for the government in the Department of Education. He told me how they never saw it coming. They thought that these students were just a bunch of loonies pushing their religion. But, they were wrong and the Fundamentalist Muslims took over Iran.

Examples abound! The Taliban took over Afghanistan even while we were there giving weapons to them. Even though I don’t know anyone involved in this I am sure that the common response would be: “We never saw it coming.” If the people knew it was coming, then why would they let it happen?

But, of course if you are wrong and these zealots do start imposing religious laws on the rest of us there isn’t any skin off your nose, because you are a member of the cult that is poised to take control and begin to make religious laws for the good of society. I don’t see your group as a bunch of loonies trying to push their religious laws like you do. No, I see two branches of the government being taken over by the radical right. These people are the seed of hatred and intolerance. Just because you were programmed to understand intolerance as a good thing, the people who are not being tolerated don’t see it that way.

The Bush administration is filled with Fundamentalist Christians that don’t see a problem with attacking a Muslim country in the name of God. Even though they don’t say it publicly I can imagine a group in the White House saying that the US presence in the Middle East will only hurry Jesus back so we can all go to Heaven. There is nothing that this president has said to ease my anxiety here.

The House of Representatives is even worse. There are quite a few far right loonies in there that really scares the Hell out of me. If Tom Delay is forced out a real religious nut is bound to take over the reigns. Fortunately Tom Delay only uses religion, he isn’t a true believer.

The Senate is actually the sanest place in Legislative Branch with people like John McCain who puts his foot down from time to time when the Zealots step over the line. But, I worry that his fortitude might not hold out. The torture he takes from the religious right may become worse than the torture he endured in Vietnam.

No, if we want America to remain a free country we need people to be vigilant when any group gets too much power, especially if they use the name of God to promote intolerance.

What’s That Sound?

"He's a vile, detestable, moralistic person with no heart and no conscience who believes he's been tapped by God to do very important things"

One might think that these words slipped out of the mouth of a loony liberal talking about George W Bush. These are the types of remarks that the Bush administration and their right wing supporters claim to be unpatriotic. But, these very words have emerged from the lips of the White House staff. Unfortunately the White House staff is still indoctrinated in the Bush blunder, so they were not saying this about George W Bush. Instead they were saying this about special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald.

Time will tell and the truth about the Bush administration will come out. But, in the mean time we should all be wondering why everyone around George W Bush is suspected in outrageous law breaking. Everyone already knows that list so I won’t repeat it yet again. But isn’t it strange that George W Bush isn’t involved in any of this. What does this mean?

Here are two possibilities:

1) George W Bush actually doesn’t know anything that is happening in the White House, the Republican Party or the Government in general. The staff has insulated him for that dangerous knowledge in order to save the honor of the Presidency. And after all, George isn’t really that interested any way.
2) George W Bush actually orchestrated everything, and he has such great loyalty in his gang that no one would ever point a finger toward him. His gang will take their loyalty to George W Bush to the grave with him.

In another Daily News article it seems that George is upset that he hasn’t been put in the cross hairs of Patrick Fitzgerald. He wants to hang with his homies.

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California Proposition 74

Teachers are people too! At least that’s what I think the cry against the proposition should be.

When this proposition was announced Arnold told us that teachers should need to work five years before they got tenure. In the mind of the general public, a person with tenure can not be fired for any reason. This idea is used in the University system to assure that professors have the ability to challenge institutional ways of looking at the world. Ideas should not be taken on faith, but they should be examined and reexamined no matter what the politics of the administration is.

So, when Arnold suggested that teachers were awarded tenure after only two years the public might be in shock. We are not talking about college professors here, we are talking about elementary school teachers after all. In our culture, elementary school teachers are not considered at the same status as a tenured college professor. And, achieving tenure at a University is not an easy thing. Sometimes it takes five or more years of working your way through the system to get tenure, depending on the institution.

So, it is an outrage that a simple elementary teacher should be awarded tenure after only two years.

Well, this is why the initiative process in California shouldn’t be taken lightly. Arnold is calling the end of the probationary period tenure. Most of us have been through a probationary period with their employer. Most of the time it is about three months. Sometimes it’s six months. But in most cases it isn’t longer than one year. For California teachers however, the probationary period is two years. This means that a principal can fire a teacher for any reason for two years. He does not need to justify his action at all, and the teacher has no recourse. This means that a principal could fire a teacher for the way they dress, or the people they hang out with, or being grouchy. The principal has two years to figure out if the teacher is going to work out in the school on a personal, political or any nit-picky level at all. After those two years, the principal actually has to come up with a “good” reason why a teacher isn’t doing his or her job.

That seems like the employment situation at most companies. Except, it takes two years instead of six months to get off of the probationary period. And with proposition 74 Arnold wants to change this to five years. Basically with proposition 74 a teacher has no security for five years. Over that five years a teacher can be fired for the color of her earrings or length of his tie. How would you like to have that kind of job? Does this show respect for teachers as a profession, or are we moving their status one step closer to day laborers?

Proposition 74 takes respect away from teachers and it uses deceptive language calling the end of the probationary employment period tenure. This is simply bad for California Education.

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California Propositions

This year the Governator has requested a special election in California in order to bolster his sagging poll numbers. It seems pretty strange that he would put his efforts behind four propositions that he deems important to his cause. The next regular election in California would be the spring primaries and it is doubtful that any of Arnold’s initiatives would make any difference for California in those five months. However, it is more likely that if Arnold gets his way on any of these issues it could actually make him relevant to California again.

There are actually eight propositions on the California ballot this time around. Three of the propositions are aimed at giving the Governator more power. The fourth one, proposed by Arnold, changes the rules on redistricting. There are two proposals having to do with prescription drugs. There is one on the notification of parents when a teenager wants to get an abortion. And, the final one has to do with the regulation of electrical power.

Before I get into the details of any of these propositions I thought that I would just write about the idea of initiatives. What are they good for? And, what is the down side to the initiative process?

The original use of the initiative process was based on the idea that the state politicians were being influenced by the Railroads back in the late 1800s. The Railroads had a lot of money and they donated generously to all of the politicians. Therefore, in order to be elected the Railroads needed to like a politician. And, in order to be re-elected a politician needed to vote in favor of the Railroads.

When the Railroads interest was no longer California’s interest there wasn’t much that could be done to strike down these laws until an active group of Californians were able to circumvent the politicians and pass some Railroad regulations in order to protect California. If anyone wants the details of the history of the California Initiative Process check out this link.

The question that we should be asking ourselves at this point in our history is the initiative process good for California? The reason we need to ask this question is because of the complicated structure of laws. When politicians create and pass laws they do it because it is their occupation. They have the responsibility to understand the current state of the laws in California and they have the responsibility to understand the effect of each new law that is passed. The politicians generally have teams of lawyers, interns and experts with the mission to understand each proposed law and the implications of its passage. The people of each district give this responsibility to their representatives and the people have the responsibility to make sure their representatives uphold this responsibility. This means that each voter clearly has a responsibility to make sure that his or her representatives are acting in good faith.

Most people do not put enough effort into this process. Instead they rely on advertisements at election time to tell them who they should vote for. Unscrupulous politicians are generally less than forthcoming with telling the public about what they have done or plan to do. Unscrupulous politicians also tell us lies and deceptions about their opponents. Only voters who spend the time and effort to read between the lines and look at voting records are truly informed enough to make clear decisions. But in a free country many people vote without educating themselves. The information is out there, but it is hard to find. So, unscrupulous politicians are elected year after year. The system is imperfect, but we try to get it right with every election.

So, if voters have such a hard time selecting representatives each election, why should voters be any better at passing laws?

As an example of passing a law through the initiative process we could look at Proposition 13. This famous taxpayer initiative was an effort to control property taxes. It is about 25 years since the initiative passed and we are dealing with the repercussions of this today. In the 1960s California had one of the finest education system in the country. This had a lot to do with the rapid rise in real-estate prices. Before prop. 13 taxes would increase as the value of your house increased. Therefore when there was a housing boom as there usually is in California prices rose and the taxes of everyone’s house rose and money continued to flow into government coffers. Most of this surplus was used to improve education throughout California building new schools and improving the schools that existed. The top-notch University of California and the California State University systems were built and there wasn’t any tuition for California residents.

There was a problem for people who were trying to live on a fixed income. These people may have paid off theirs houses and then retired. They had budgeted money for everything they needed and when taxes were collected every year this expense continued to increase at a rate much higher than their income.

Politicians didn’t want to upset the balance and they refused to reduce the property taxes. If things are running smoothly, why should they put their foot down. Well, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association created a proposition to fix the solution. And, it was passed overwhelmingly by voters.

This was both good and bad for Californians. The result was a fairer property tax scheme based on the purchase price of your home and not it’s current value. Therefore, people who have lived in a house for 30 years pay a much lower rate than the people next-door that just moved in. The other result is that there is much less money for education. Every school system in the state is slowly deteriorating. California is slowly sinking to the bottom in test scores and performance on College Entrance Exams.

People argue that you don’t need money to make a school system work. But, there is certainly a correlation between money spent, cost of living, and results in public education over the last 50 years. If teachers are well paid in your state, then people are willing to become teachers because the profession is respected enough for the teachers to be compensated.

So, back in 1978 when prop 13 was passed, did people really want to pull the rug out from education? Did people think about this and know what prop 13 would do? Of course not, people wanted to fix the property tax problem. Was there a debate about different ways to fix the property tax problem? Was prop 13 the best way to fix the problem? No and no, prop 13 could have been done in a better way if the California legislature had the guts to take on the problem. So, Californians were left with a quick fix to a difficult problem that the politicians didn’t want to touch.

With this in mind, I think that Californians should think about the use of the initiative process in the future. It is great for making quick fixes, but it shouldn’t be considered to proper solution for most cases. After all, should the legislature be doing their jobs?

PS Don’t forget that today is the last day to register to vote in the Special Election.

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Friday, October 21, 2005

Fascism Here We Come

I knew that it wouldn’t be long. Some people have argued that it was already here. Well, today I have seen for myself that the Religious Right is fueling hatred. They are promoting the idea of: “Truth Not Tolerance.”

If you go to this web page.

You can see for yourself the ugly truth that the Religious Right is promoting hatred and intolerance. If you read the tripe that is written there you will understand that they have claimed that their religion is the one “true” religion and all other religions are “false.” The fact of the matter is that their idea of Christianity is far from the Jesus I read about in the Bible. My Jesus sat and ate with the sinners. This new “Christianity” teaches hatred for “false” religions.

This intolerance in the diverse culture of the United States can only lead to the same kind of hatred and bloodshed that we see in the Middle East. If the “Christians” haven’t noticed yet they should stop and take a moment and look at the big picture. There are several religions in the Middle East who claims to be the “true” religion. The fact is that they can not all be the “true” religion. And, I would venture to guess that God doesn’t think to highly of the hypocrites like those Pharisian Radical Religious Right Christians who claim to be the “true” religion. Jesus was the first to point at the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and if He were truly here today He would be pointing His finger at the so-called Religious Right.

To sum up the current religious war in the United States of America we have the Tolerant Jesus following Christians on the Left and the Intolerant Bible Thumping Christians on the Right. If Jesus were here he would be telling both groups to turn the other cheek. Can anyone get a clue?

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God Has a Funny Way of Showing His Love

The last five years has been a tragedy for the United States of America. The problem is that we have all been responsible for this tragedy in some way. American voters allowed apathy in 2000 to keep a majority of voters away from the polls. Politicians encouraged this behavior in order to be elected. Americans let themselves be easily swayed to support whatever whims the president had, because they put their trust in him without asking the real questions. The media failed in exposing the Bush administration lies and deceptions. And those who stood for truth were ridiculed as being unpatriotic. We were attacked as a country on 9/11/2001 and the President suddenly had the support of over 90% of Americans and much of the world. And the Bush administration used this as a political opportunity to attack Iraq. No one really understands all of the motives behind the Bush administration for doing this, but it is clear to all that Karl Rove was the man who spent the time and effort to keep conservatives on the same page.

Obviously the best thing that could happen for our country right now would be that Karl Rove would be indicted and convicted of treason. Of course other things could also happen to make the country better, but this is one with a high probability of actually happening. As I see it, Karl Rove has been coordinating the lies and deception of the White House for five years now. Getting him out of the driver’s seat is the best thing that could ever happen to our country.

If only all politicians were forced to tell the truth then the people would be able to make decisions and vote based on the facts and the truth. Man, being the imperfect animal that he is will never permit this to happen. In that case we are left to the efforts of journalists, detectives and prosecutors to find the truth and let the American people know the truth. This process always takes time and when we are on a four year election cycle for president and two year cycle for congress there isn’t always enough time to expose the corruption in time for each election. But we must keep up the good fight!

But, the truth really is that lying isn’t always against the law. And when deception is exposed not everyone will believe the truth. More lies and deception are always used to obfuscate the truth and a voter is always left wondering who he or she should believe. Worse yet, people are tempted to not believe anyone and just stay home from the polls.

The country is in danger when a large number of people in the middle of the political spectrum decide that they can’t believe either side. This circumstance gives more power to the extremists. Extremists by their very nature will have a turnout at the polls that supersede the general population. When these extremists are driven by emotions they effect large numbers of people who may not have the same political drive.

These extremists are usually driven by a couple of extreme issues. The extreme issues provoke the emotions and motivate them to take action. Karl Rove used the emotion of the Radical Right to harness support for George W Bush, and in return the Radical Right expected that George W Bush would appoint Supreme Court Justices that would take the court to the Radical Right. Karl Rove had used this ploy to keep his solid support over the last five years.

With the nomination of Harriet Miers the Radical Right has felt betrayed. They wanted someone articulate in the law who knows all the conservative issues and the reasoning to be used behind every conservative issue. Maybe Miers is that person, but maybe she’s not. No one, not even Harriet Miers, knows how she might rule on any specific case. She has never served as a judge. She knows how to argue a case, but she doesn’t know how to decide a case for the Radical Right agenda. In order to write a strong opinion you need to base your reasoning on the law, and precedents. Of course there isn’t anything stopping a judge from basing a judgement on the color of a lawyer tie, but the ruling won’t hold as much weight as a reasoned argument.

Fortunately for America the conservatives have begun to squabble amongst themselves. We can only hope that this continues. The organizers of the coalition between the Religious Right and the fiscal conservatives are currently having legal troubles. We can only hope that this continues. The American people are beginning to see the Bush administration for what it is, a cabal with a secret agenda. And, we can only hope that this continues. If this was in God’s plan for our country He surely has a funny way of showing his love for America. Or, maybe God loves the whole world the same…

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Miers Could Be What Democrats Want

I was thinking the other day that the Harriet Miers nomination isn’t really so bad for the Democratic Party. It might be bad for the abortion issue, but for the ideals of the Democratic Party that go beyond abortion Miers just might be the right medicine.

We already know that Harriet Miers hasn’t been a life long Republican. She supported the Democratic Party in the 1980s. So, what changed in her life that pushed her across the aisle? Well, we won’t get any straight forward answers from her about this, so all we can do is speculate.

In 1989 we know that she said that she would support an amendment banning abortion for almost any reason. This was right around the time that Harriet Miers changed parties. From personal experience this was also the time when Republicans were collecting a lot of moderate Democrats mainly because of the abortion issue.

So, what is it about the abortion issue that is able to persuade people to abandon Democratic ideals of equality and fairness? This isn’t new, but I think that some people see the abortion issue in terms equality and fairness. The Christian right, who claims to have a monopoly on the idea of “good” have proclaimed abortion to be evil. People who want to fight for “good” are willing to turn their backs on the other fights against evil in pursuit of this one cause. Harriet Miers seems to fit the bill of this type of person.

So, maybe Harriet Miers is a one issue conservative. Maybe she actually has a heart, but she has misplaced her reason on this one issue. If this is the case there may actually be hope for other issues that Democrats would like to be seen as ruled in favor of fairness and equality. For example, perhaps she would see the unfairness in the idea of banning gay marriage. Perhaps she would have more sympathy for the rights of workers against major corporations. Perhaps she would feel the pain of those who have been sold defective products. Perhaps she would realize the harm in allowing the government or large corporations to destroy the environment in favor of “progress.”

This is just a thought, but maybe we don’t know enough about Harriet Miers to know for sure how she feels about these other important issues. With George W Bush calling the shots and Senators not being allowed to get answers to crucial questions we won’t know how she would react to any case set in front of her. But, maybe she is just another one issue Republican who is actually a Democrat deep down.

Maybe there is a God after all.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Nuclear Terror

In the 1950s nuclear weapons were thought of as a Godsend. God gave us, the good guys, the nuclear weapons and we were going to be the world’s policemen. Well, maybe not the world’s policemen, but we could make the world ripe for Democracy. We got behind the UN, because we had the power, the nuclear weapons. Everyone had to answer to us, because we had the nuclear weapons.

Well, we weren’t the only ones with nuclear weapons for very long, and that was the reason that there couldn’t be peace on Earth.

The power of nuclear weapons was inspiring nonetheless, and the military began programs to use nuclear weapons in every situation it could imagine. There were not only nuclear missiles, there were nuclear torpedoes and nuclear canons. There was even a nuclear bazooka. The idea here was to toss a nuclear weapon about a half of a kilometer down the road and then wait for the “big bang.”

These types of nuclear weapons are called tactical nuclear weapons. They are light and they can be moved into position relatively easily. This advantage turns into a disadvantage when you think about this for two minutes. If, for example, you are thinking about this from the terrorist point of view you will soon realize that if a terrorist shoots the carrier of the nuclear bazooka in the head he has won the prize and is now the proud owner of a nuclear bazooka. Just think of all the things that a terrorist might want to do with a nuclear bazooka.

Sometime in the 1950s the military realized that light easy to move nuclear weapons weren’t such a good idea after all. The tactical nuclear weapons allowed the power of nuclear weapons to fall into the enemies hands much too easily.

So, it wasn’t surprising that the Bush administration thought that tactical nuclear weapons would be a good idea. During the Afghan pursuit of Osama bin Ladan through Tora Bora the Bush administration began to dream of small nuclear weapons that could penetrate deep into the caves of Tora Bora. If only they could have these weapons they could wipe out al Qaeda. Fortunately with the wisdom of congress these programs have not been funded to the levels that the Bush administration would have liked. And, we can only hope that they are never developed to the extent that we will have nuclear weapons floating around on the battle field.

But terrorists could get nuclear weapons by other means. We don’t need to make them small and maneuverable. The Soviet Union had many nuclear weapons stockpiled throughout the country. And, when the Soviet Union broke up into its Republics the nuclear weapons were not all destroyed, even though these small countries would rather not have the responsibility for these weapons, they don’t have the money required to safely dismantle the weapons. After the break up of the Soviet Union Congress decided to fund a program to help these countries destroy their nuclear weapons to make the world a safer place. Without the support of George W Bush and the Republican congress this program has been under funded and it will take over 12 more years to dismantle these weapons. This means that for the next 12 years it could be easy for a determined terrorist group to break into these remote facilities and steal nuclear weapons or nuclear material.

John Kerry and George W Bush brought this up during the 2004 Presidential debates when they answered the following:

LEHRER: […] So it's correct to say, that if somebody is listening to this, that both of you agree, if you're reelected, Mr. President, and if you are elected, the single most serious threat you believe, both of you believe, is nuclear proliferation?

BUSH: In the hands of a terrorist enemy.

KERRY: Weapons of mass destruction, nuclear proliferation.

But again, the test or the difference between us, the president has had four years to try to do something about it, and North Korea has got more weapons; Iran is moving toward weapons. And at his pace, it will take 13 years to secure those weapons in Russia.

I'm going to do it in four years, and I'm going to immediately set out to have bilateral talks with North Korea.

But, the Bush administration is still making little progress in Russia…

Merit Is Still Important for Democrats

Whenever Liberals and Conservatives would get into an argument one key issue was the wealthy vs. the poor. Democrats would say that working class people work very hard and get minimal payment in return. Typically they do not get paid by the effort they put into their work. The Republicans would say that the wealthy have been clever in their pursuit of work and they deserve being rewarded for their cleverness. This has been the American way, people should be rewarded for what they know.

In truth the issue is certainly more complicated than whether you are clever or not. It is more complicated than whether you work harder than the next guy. There are examples through history of people who have been cleverer than the next guy who have not been rewarded financially for their cleverness. The invention of FM radio, the invention of the television, and many other inventions were not rewarded because the inventor wasn’t on the right side of capital investment. Some inventions are created in the bowls of huge corporations where the corporation gets the benefit and the inventor gets an at-a-boy.

The arguments typically turn the corner to a new form where the Republican will suggest that the invention isn’t everything. There is the creation of the best product. The American marketplace will reward the best product. However, anyone that uses a PC knows that this isn’t true. The Microsoft operating system isn’t even up to the level of the typical Unix system that I used during the late 1980s. Microsoft keeps coming out with ideas that were used 15 years ago on Unix systems and they claim that they are new. Well, technically they are new to the PC but not necessarily the Macintosh or Unix platforms. The truth here is that Monopoly and Marketing give Americans mediocre products and the best product does not always win.

In our current system, getting an invention to market is more about the money than the creation. If you have the new idea you also need the thousands of dollars needed to get the idea patented to protect the invention. And, a US patent isn’t enough. You need to file claims in Europe and Japan in order to prevent the production of your invention in these places, but that still doesn’t prevent China or India from making and selling your product in those large markets. The average American needs thousands of dollars just to protect their idea, and no one wants to give you money to develop a product that isn’t protected. Once you have the protection you need to borrow money to start manufacturing and marketing your product. You need to study your market and understand what your potential customer wants. And, if this plan fails and you don’t sell enough of your product you will go broke and still owe your debts. Obviously if you have a personal fortune you have much more freedom to try riskier things and perhaps make even more money. It seems to me that this demonstrates how the wealthy have an advantage over the poor in this context. Therefore, merit isn’t the most important issue regarding getting your invention manufactured and marketed.

When I first started blogging I wrote a blog on beer. It is insane that the majority of Americans think that a good beer is either a Budweiser or Miller. Of course most people who drink these beers know that they taste better than Old Dutch or Strohs, but its hard to imagine that they have actually sampled many of the truly good beers throughout the country or the world. The problem is American marketing. It costs money to get your name out there but the marketing gets people to buy your beer no matter how bad it is. The story about Corona Cerveza is that it was so bad that people would squeeze a lime in it to cover up the flavor. Now, putting a lime in a Corona is used as a marketing theme.

When people are told something often enough then they believe it as Gospel. After all, isn’t the constant repetition of the Gospel the main reason that so many people believe it today? This is the same idea that Republicans use to keep people believing what they say. This is why people actually believe that Republicans support the idea of merit being important. The evidence actually shows the opposite; George W Bush hires his loyal friends or the friends of loyal friends rather than people who have proven themselves. This was certainly true in departments that the Bush administration believed weren’t important. FEMA and EPA are littered with inexperienced cronies that the Bush administration wanted to reward. In this administration is certainly about who you know and not what you know. Experts need not apply!

The idea of cronyism certainly goes against the idea of merit. And, cronyism is certainly at the heart of the Republican Party as proven by the recent revelations in the Bush administration.

Friday, October 14, 2005


Justice and Politics often find themselves at odds when it comes to clarification. Politicians believe that obfuscation is their friend. Justice depends on the clarification of the law on a case by case basis.

This brings us to Karl Rove. Karl Rove is politician that has majored in obfuscation. He depends on blurring the lines to make George W Bush look good at all times. In fact, Karl’s effort to make George W Bush look good back in 2003 lead him to discrediting George W Bush’s enemy Joe Wilson. Now, Joe Wilson was never a partisan, but Karl Rove declared him an enemy when Joe Wilson tried to bring truth to the American people. He tried to tell the American people that George W Bush lied to the American people about the reason we went to War in Iraq.

Instead of telling the truth and coming to terms with the lie, Karl Rove told the media that Joe Wilson had an axe to grind. He told the media that his wife created the trip that Joe Wilson took to Nigeria because Joe Wilson could use it as an excuse to attack George W Bush. The idea was to raise doubt in the minds of the media so that they wouldn’t start to tell the American people that George W Bush was a liar. George W Bush was a liar, but remember obfuscation is the politician’s friend.

How could Joe Wilson’s wife have the authority to do such a thing? Well, its because Valerie had authority within the CIA. Well, that information needed to be relayed to the media. But, the problem was that doing so was against the law. So, Karl Rove made the call that saying that Joe Wilson’s wife had the authority to send him to Nigeria would be enough information to give to the media to obtain his goal, without breaking the law. Perhaps he spoke to a lawyer and this was reasoned to be the technical detail of the law.

Maybe the problem was that the law was not very clear. The law was created in order to protect CIA agents from having their identity given to the enemy. This is because a CIA agent needs to have a cover when they are working in another country. If people know that you work for the CIA, then you have lost your effectiveness. Obviously Karl Rove violated the intention of the law. He made enough information available to the public that Valerie could no longer assume that people didn’t know that she worked for the CIA. But, the intent of the law and the letter of the law are often two different things.

So, when a prosecutor or a judge determines whether someone can be prosecuted and found guilty of breaking a law it is called clarification of the law. This is because the American people and the law makers find out whether a law was written well enough to do what it was intended to do. So, if Karl Rove is either not prosecuted or found innocent of breaking the law we will have clarified that the law does not work. In other words, people who would like to divulge the identity of CIA agents can follow the path that Karl Rove has made around the law.

We can imagine an upper room in some third world country. A government official from this country has a stack of $100.00 bills. He also has an American with some working knowledge of the CIA and knows several of the agents working in this country. The man has family in the US and he doesn’t want to actually break the law, but he could use the money the man is willing to pay him. Well, they come to an agreement that traitor would act out the names of the agents in charades. The man would pay $10000.00 per agent but he would subtract $1000.00 per clue. If the man can give the agents names through charades in the fewest clues possible he will make the most money. Of course he could not be tried or convicted, if he didn’t actually give a name of an agent away. Or could he?

Well, with Karl Rove’s potential case we will get clarification of this law. Could a man playing charades in order to communicate an identity of a US agent be found guilty? Could Karl Rove saying “Joe Wilson’s wife” instead of “Valerie Plame” be found guilty?

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Some of us look back on the 1960s as the time of great questioning. Questions were first raised about racial inequality by men who had served shoulder to shoulder with people from all over the country with the common goal of defeating fascism. Some of these men had begun to travel the country looking for a better life and they stopped by their friends’ homes through out the nation. When they were visiting they learned that the United States was not the land of equal opportunity that they had once believed it to be. Anyone who doubts this should read Jack Kerouac ‘s “On the Road” as an example of the thinking that was percolating through the country in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

As time went on and these ideas became more widespread then thought turned to action and the Civil Right movement coalesced. But the same questions needed to be asked over and over again before society began to change. One could argue that we are still asking these questions today, more than forty years later.

But, if society could be so wrong about this one thing, couldn’t it be wrong about other ideas that had been rooted in society? Every idea that was once thought to be certain became the target for questioning. The time was ripe for a progressive movement that questioned everything and moved to change the world for the better.

I would be the first to argue that questioning should always be encouraged. The reasons we do things in a certain way may be based on incorrect understanding or just plain ignorance of a past generation. Questioning forces society to be honest about the reasons it uses to justify its actions. Questioning offers hope to those who have become abused by the system. Questioning allows change to happen on a regular basis. Questioning motivates leaders to be honest with the people they represent. Question makes our society stronger in the long run.

Unfortunately when people become fearful they also become fearful of questioning. Leaders begin to suggest that questioning makes them to weak to handle the emanate threats they face. Those in control sometimes act out of haste and they fear that questions will find them guilty of misdeeds. Fear encourages people to break the laws for the common good. And, sometimes, personal gain looks like the common good for some people.

Sometimes people fear questions, because they don’t like the change that the questions force on society. For example, you might have heard slave owners in the 1850s say that they were perfectly comfortable with their slaves why should we question that? Some people believe that it is their birthright to have a high paying job because of who they know, or who their father knows. But shouldn’t we question these relationships and ask ourselves if cronyism makes society work for the common good?

If we continue to ask the questions we will find the solutions to the problems that face our society.

Is the Iraq War worth the price? Should our children be paying for the War in Iraq, or should it be the wealthy who got the tax cuts? Is America a truly equal society? What is freedom? Do we really have freedom? What is security? Do we really have security? Can we ever have true security? What have the Republicans done for you lately? Why do we allow ourselves to be manipulated by the politicians? By the media? Why don’t Americans think for themselves? How many Iraqis do we need to kill to get revenge for 9/11/2001? When George W Bush’s War in Iraq takes 3000 American lives is that a double down bet, or just stupidity? Why do Americans still think that the Iraq War is related to 9/11/2001? Will the leadership of the Republican Party finally pay the price for all their lies and deception? Will a leader ever rise up and lead America to a fair and just society?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Bush Can Not Answer the Hard Questions

Bush can’t answer the hard questions because he isn’t asked the hard questions. In a video teleconference with U.S. troops today in Iraq soldiers were rehearsed in what they should say. This is similar to campaign rallies last year during the election. George W Bush continues to be handled so that his illusion of being a great leader is all that the public is allowed to see. And, with all of this protected handling George W Bush has a 39% approval rating. It sure is a good thing that he is being handled so carefully because if the American people actually saw who they have in the White House we would have a mass revolt, impeachment trial or an enormous reaction demanding his resignation in order to save the credibility of the Republican Party.

Since Republicans continually fear everything they currently fear that the real George W Bush will get out into the public, and who knows what he might say. One wonders if Harriet Miers nomination slipped passed Karl Rove, because he was a little busy with his Grand Jury testimony at the time. If Bush was so up on things why would the Religious Right get up in arms about this nomination? There are several possible explanations. Maybe Karl Rove didn’t talk to as many people as he usually did. Perhaps he had taken these guys for granted and he didn’t think that they needed to be notified. Or, perhaps Harriet Miers really is just a Bush crony who happens to attend a Fundamentalist Church whenever she is in Dallas. Maybe George W Bush was recognizing Harriet Miers for some legal work that George W believes will keep him out of the fire when the Democrats win back the congress next year. Maybe he sees Harriet Miers as protection.

But, Harriet Miers isn’t the only question that the public deserves to know the answer to. The public should know why George W Bush was so focused on Iraq even before 9/11/2001. The public should know why George W Bush not only ignored the facts with regard to building a case for War in Iraq he also made stuff up. And, when Joe Wilson challenged him, he didn’t get better evidence to refute his claims, he created a campaign to discredit Joe Wilson by calling the media and planting stories. If Joe Wilson was wrong, why didn’t the real information come to the top? Or, I forgot that it was the CIA’s fault. But, when I watch “The Apprentice” they always tell us that the leader has the ultimate responsibility for the operation. Why didn’t George W Bush ask more questions? Was he afraid of the answers? Or, did he already know the answers that he would accept?

But, the Republicans do not want to hear George W Bush answer any of these questions. This is because they know all the answers. They are afraid that he will slip up and actually answer one correctly. The web of lies is so complex that Karl Rove must have a computer to keep track of these lies. With the faulty memory of George W Bush there is no way that Karl could chance George actually getting out in public without an ear bud with Karl on the other end.

Looking at the current problems of the Republican Party the American public should know why the Republican Party needs to stoop to breaking the law if they are truly the Party of morality and ethics? Of course, breaking the law and actually being convicted are two different things. Even with all the evidence we still need to wait and see how the cards play out. But, with Republicans in total control of the congress if the Republican cronies were actually innocent I am certain the charges would never have been filed. Nevertheless, we need to ask George W Bush if he is such an upstanding Christian, why would hang around with this bunch of criminals? Is it the Jesus complex, living with sinners and all?


Is Religion A Private Matter?

In a post yesterday I asserted that religion was a private matter. Of course there are those who disagree with this assertion, because keeping ones faith to ones self limits the verve and vigor with which one can spread ones faith. If one were to keep religion to ones self these people wouldn’t be going around knocking on doors and asking people to join their church. And, we all know that no matter how annoying these people are, there are people out there who will listen to anyone and try anything once.

But, do we really want politicians to bring their faith to the forefront? The answer to this is “…as long as they believe in my faith.” Don’t be so quick to deny this! Ask yourself if a Hindi mayor who started each meeting with a prayer to Shiva would get your support in the next election. Do you think that the media would report on this? Do you think that they should report on this? If you agree that religion should be a private matter, this mayor should be entitled to his faith and his service to the city and religion shouldn’t be part of the process. If you believe that religion should be question because religion is a public matter, then everyone should be vetted on their religious beliefs and those who we disagree with should be voted against based on religious belief.

I would suggest that religious beliefs should remain a private matter when it comes to public service. Religion should not become a disqualification for any elected office. And, if it can not be a disqualification, then it should not be used to trigger a knee jerk reaction from either side of the political aisle.

When John F Kennedy ran for office his Catholic Religion became an issue. Many conservative Christians were wary of the Catholic Church and they did not like the idea of a Catholic President. I am sure that many voted against him based on this religious prejudice. But, do you think that his religion should have been made into an election issue? Many Americans at the time believed that his religion was his private matter and JFK never used his office to promote his religion. The Pope never came in and told him how to run the USA.

The fact is that people want a moral person to be their leader. Religion has been used as proof of ones morality. But does this make sense? It can be argued that many people are just going through the motions when it comes to religion. They have been going to church every Sunday since they were young because it is the right thing to do. They are religious in action, but their heart may have grown cold to religion. Others have been disillusioned with religion, because they have seen the behind the scenes activity at a church they once belonged to. That hypocrisy may have turned them off to organized religion and they have prayed in a private way ever since. They are non-religious in public, but religious in private. The truth is, being a member of a church does not guarantee morality.

So, since activity in a church does not guarantee morality and the public are seeking evidence of morality why should the religion of a candidate be an issue in an election? It is because the entire process of elections is based on the illusion created for a candidate rather than the reality of the candidate. People who are seen going into church on Sunday are seen as religious and therefore moral.

So, whether a private person chooses to keep his faith to himself or broadcast it to the world I support an individual’s right to choose. But, for a public figure I believe that they should not use religion as a way to motivate the masses to vote for them. Otherwise our country slips down the slippery slope toward Theocracy.

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Dr. Forbush Thinks - Republican Relaxation - Podcast

In order to discredit my assertion that Security is more than the Republican idea of more weapons ready to kill more people a commenter suggested I was advocating that people should sit around while the government took care of them. I was suggesting that a national social safety net was an additional form of security that Republicans would like to destroy. The hypocrisy of this commenter rears its ugly head because the commenter denies the truth that Republicans support and protect the sloth of the wealthy.

Editorial Opinion: (click here to download the mp3 file) Republican Relaxation

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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Spam Identity Theft

Yesterday I posted a podcast. Whenever I post a podcast I also need to ping audio.weblog so they know that I have a new podcast. Yesterday when I sent the ping I received the message that I was a podcast spammer. How could that be true? I don’t even post podcasts very often. At one time I posted a podcast every day for three days in a row. Certainly that can’t be considered spamming, can it?

Well, I searched the web and I search for my blog posts in an effort to see what might have happened to leave the impression that I am a spammer. I still don’t know for certain, but I found a couple of spam trackbacks to porn sites and I also found an insurance company that used one of my posts in some kind of a Google bomb.

So, if you search the blogs on Google for “Fear and Rage and Forbush” you will find about 38 hits, which is very high for my post. Thirty of them give exactly the same excerpt from my post, but they give various links to attorney and insurance websites. This is only the first instance of this behavior that I have detected, but perhaps one of my podcasts was hijacked like this, and then I was marked as a spammer.

Well, the effort goes on and perhaps I’ll find a solution.

Secret - Or Secret Code?

Religion was once a private matter. But, religion has now become another of the Bush administrations secret codes. The Bush administration has always used secret code to signal its base as to what its thinking. This is because there are a number of people who attend Church and are conditioned to understand certain meanings that the general population does not recognize.

During the 2004 Presidential Election for example, in the second debate President Bush was asked who he would pick for the Supreme Court. He answered in some detail about which he would not pick. And he said:

“Another example would be the Dred Scott case, which is where judges, years ago, said that the Constitution allowed slavery because of personal property rights.

“That's a personal opinion. That's not what the Constitution says. The Constitution of the United States says we're all -- you know, it doesn't say that. It doesn't speak to the equality of America.”

Well, Bush mentions Dred Scott because it is code for Roe v. Wade. In fact Robert, P. Casey, Governor of Pennsylvania gave a speech explaining how they are the same. So, when Bush mentions Dred Scott in the second presidential debate he is talking to the anti-abortion groups that are familiar with this in order to avoid saying what kind of judge he is looking for to fill any Supreme Court seat. You can read the Governor’s speech online

So, in the third debate George W Bush answers the following question:

SCHIEFFER: Mr. President, I want to go back to something Senator Kerry said earlier tonight and ask a follow-up of my own. He said -- and this will be a new question to you -- he said that you had never said whether you would like to overturn Roe v. Wade. So I'd ask you directly, would you like to?

BUSH: What he's asking me is, will I have a litmus test for my judges? And the answer is, no, I will not have a litmus test. I will pick judges who will interpret the Constitution, but I'll have no litmus test.

But, in the second debate he used code to tell the anti-abortion group that he would find someone that would not support Dred Scott II as the anti-abortion groups call it.

So, why does he talk in code? This is because women don’t want to give up their right to choice. They may never need to or want to exercise it. But America is a free country based on freedoms and rights are not given away easily. So, if George W Bush sounds like he isn’t trying to take your rights away from you, then you may vote for him. It is so disgusting how George W Bush resorts to hiding the truth from people in order to coerce them into voting for him.

But, now Bush is talking in code once again. He is telling us about Harriet Miers’ religion. Just a couple of weeks ago during the John Roberts hearings religion was supposedly off the table. Just because the Catholic Church is against abortion and John Roberts is Catholic doesn’t mean that John Roberts would rule against abortion. At least that was the lie the Bush administration and John Roberts’ supporters said. But, now when George W Bush is trying to signal to the Religious Right he no longer knows about the secret code of Dred Scott. Perhaps Karl Rove wasn’t around to remind him what to say. Instead, Bush tells the religious right not to worry, because Harriet Miers is a strict fundamentalist Christian. She wouldn’t dare cross the Lord Jesus and vote for any abortion case. She knows it would be a sin….

But, then again does the Religious Right really know what George W Bush holds in higher esteem, Loyalty or Religion. We all know that George W Bush lies to get what he wants. We just don’t know what he wants. Does he want to put a Loyalist in the Supreme Court in case he is called on the carpet for any illegal activity that comes forward in the next few years? Or, does he want a Religious zealot on the Supreme Court who will legislate from the bench all of the Church law that “should” be in the US Constitution? George W Bush could actually be lying to his base this time around, and maybe some of his supporters aren’t so sure about him this time around. Or, maybe he is just lying to the mainstream American people like usual.

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Just Another Soldier

Jason Christopher Hartley is just another soldier. But, he is just another soldier with a blog and a book coming out soon. He was one of the first soldier bloggers from the first days of the War in Iraq. I heard him interviewed yesterday on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. He is an articulate and thoughtful young man who talks about the war from the perspective of both a soldier and an observer.

Jason had been blogging from Iraq for some time when his commander discovered that he had been blogging. He was told that he could no longer blog, because it could possibly effect security, so he shut down his blog. However, he continued to record his thoughts and feelings about the conflict in Iraq and sent those writings in e-mail to his family.

He tells us his story of being a soldier with a job to do. He had never been political, but he was patriotic. He believed that the leaders should have an important cause for a war, but it wasn’t his job to question the motivation of the leadership. He operated under this premise for his entire duration in Iraq.

Circumstances in Iraq while he was there caused him to question specific problems in Iraq, but he always thought that he was a soldier and he had a job to do. He looked at specific problems as problems that hadn’t been solved yet, not problems that couldn’t be solved.

He also spoke of his internal conflicts with being in a war. These internal conflicts are universal and are by no means specific to the Iraq conflict. They are things that happen to every soldier in every war. For example, he tells a story about seeing a man driving down the road at night. The man stopped his car from time to time as he came across the long distance of the desert road. Jason had night vision goggles on and he could see somewhat what the man was doing. He looked to be stopping from time to time and handling some type of cylinder then getting back in his car and driving down the road. Jason came to the conclusion that the man was laying improvised explosive devices along the road. As the man came closer Jason and his group became more fearful of the man and his car. Jason ended up shooting or throwing a grenade at the man who was put out of action.

Jason later found out that the man was a civilian looking for water along the road, picking up cylinders that contained water. He tells us of his emotional need to kill this man, and even after knowing that the man was innocent of laying the IEDs he still feels good about what he did. He talks about the struggle between intellectually knowing that the man was innocent and emotionally knowing what he did was for survival.

It’s been about nine months since Jason returned to the US from Iraq and he has had time to learn “the rest of the story about the War in Iraq.” He now feels that the Iraq War was wrong and knowing what he knows now it should not have been fought. He feels used by the administration and is no longer apolitical.

You can hear the interview at: Fresh Air

You Can check out his blog at: Just Another Soldier

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Dr. Forbush Thinks - Republican Rhetoric - Podcast

Republicans are hypocrites at heart. They say the words that they believe will get them elected. These words sound nice if you don’t think too hard about the consequences of those words. Security is a good idea, but we can’t have security unless we spend the money needed to make us more secure. Morals are nice, but if Republicans break laws in the name of morals are there any morals there? Family Values sounds nice, but if Republicans select which types of families get support it is only selected family values. Republicans say they respect life, but invading a country and killing 25,000 innocent people doesn’t make a very good argument for respect of life.

Editorial Opinion: (click here to download the mp3 file) Republican Rhetoric

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Monday, October 10, 2005

Efficiency and Security

The mantra of the Republicans is let the market decide.

The idea behind letting the market decide is based on the idea of supply and demand. If something is in short supply the price goes up, which motivates investors to invest in companies that manufacture the product that is in short supply to make a profit until the supply goes up and the price drops. The argument tells us that the perfect price will always be found even if there are short times when prices go too high or too low.

This idea works sometimes, but I am beginning to wonder if the times that this actually works is the exception rather than the rule.

This idea does not work when one company has a monopoly on a product. When one company control the production of a product they can charge any price they want. If someone desires to buy the product they only have one choice of where to buy the product. An example of this could be the utility companies. If you want to buy electricity you can pay the price or you don’t get electricity. You don’t have a choice to go to another vender.

This idea also breaks down when the product is needed as a matter of life and death. People will pay any price in order to preserve their life. An example is Health Care. If someone needs an operation they are willing to pay whatever price they can afford in order to get the operation. If someone needs specific drugs to cure an illness, they are willing to pay any price to preserve their life.

This idea also breaks down when the market is manipulated as we saw in the Enron manipulations. Enron was able to mask too real amount of available energy so those prices could be raised artificially high. Enron used supply and demand to get high prices for energy by masking the fact that there was plenty of energy available.

And, the most recent way to win by using market pressures is to limit supply in order to raise prices. This is happening today and it is the reason gasoline prices are currently so high. It turns out that in the 1960s there were about 300 oil refineries in the United States. These oil refineries ran at about 50 percent capacity. It may seem inefficient to run an oil refinery at 50 percent capacity, but if there were a surge in demand it wouldn’t take much to increase production and relieve the demand. This idea maintains a steady output matching supply and demand and would result in very little fluctuation in prices. From the 1960s until recently many of the refineries have been shut down in an effort to increase efficiency. Efficiency means raising capacity to near 100 percent. However, if the production is raised to nearly 100 percent of capacity we no longer have any room for error. If a refinery is shut down or there is surge in demand the only lever that can be pulled is price. Prices are raised in order to prevent those who can’t afford the high prices to forego buying gasoline. And, the upshot is to allow gasoline suppliers to be rewarded for shutting down their refineries and make huge profits on their sales. Ask yourself this question, “If I owned 10 refineries operating at 50 percent capacity, does it make sense to keep them all up or should I close 4 and operate at 90 percent capacity?” Which mode has the national interest in mind? Which mode has the oil companies interest in mind? Which mode does the Republican Party support?

Which mode has National Security at heart?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Every Picture Tells a Story - Don’t It?

Not much here except Bush’s poll results over the last few years. There is a new CBS poll out showing a further erosion of support. Maybe people are actually realizing what a moron he is, or maybe people don’t want to pay $3.00 or $4.00 per gallon of gasoline. Remember what happened to Jimmy Carter when gas prices went up and the President told everyone to conserve fuel. Republicans said that only a Democrat would say that. So, is Bush a Democrat in Republican wool sweaters?

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Teen Rebellion

It was once thought that teenagers were rebellious by their nature. As they grew and went through puberty they were going to rebel, and there wasn’t much anyone could do about it. But, a couple of years back a study by Northwestern University told us that it wasn’t a matter of age, but a matter of upbringing that determined whether a teen would rebel.

The study said that teens raised in traditional families were well adjusted and teens raised in non-traditional families were less well adjusted.

Of course, if you search the web for anything to do with rebellious teenagers today you will find hundreds of articles by Religious groups quoting this study and saying that religion is the key to raising normal, happy, non-rebellious teens. This may or may not be true, because it is unclear what the definitions of traditional and non-traditional are. And, I would even question the idea that modern Fundamentalist Religion falls into the category of traditional.

In fact, if you look at life of a typical traditional family in the 1950s - the gold standard for traditional, I would suggest that there were very few children being raised in Fundamentalist Families.

In fact, when I grew up there were typically three types of families. There were strict, lenient and normal families. Strict families had rules for every imaginable thought that might come into your head. You were told where and when to be at every moment of your waking day. You were not free to think for yourself unless you were told to. The lenient families on the other hand didn’t keep tabs on the members of the family. They could be anywhere at anytime and no one was likely to know when they might be back. Then there were the “normal” families that tended to keep reasonable tabs on everyone in the family and members had responsibilities and freedom to some reasonable extent. I assume that when a study claims traditional families they would tend toward the moderate “normal” families.

The Religious groups that have praised this study consider the “strict” families of my youth the ideal traditional family.

Well, I can tell you that I had known people who grew up in all three types of families. And I could have told you what the Northwestern University study reported from my own experience. One friend of mine from a lenient family could not control his drinking and drug use. I haven’t seen him for years, but the last time I saw him it didn’t look good. But this isn’t news, the Religious Right would tell me that this is normal, because he hadn’t been raised with the Love of Jesus. Well, actually he did go to church regularly, it was more along the lines of what he was permitted to do when he wasn’t in church.

Those stories are likely to be a dime a dozen. But, I also knew three different families that were of the strict type in which the children didn’t fare much better. In fact, in one family the oldest daughter went off to college, because it was expected. When she got to college with her new found freedom she began to smoke pot and was eventually thrown out of school. When she came home her father promptly disowned her and told her to find another place to live. So, when the oldest son, the third child, went off to school you would have thought that he would have learned the lesson. But, he also found freedom and took up drugs and alcohol, got poor grades and took a semester off. There were similar stories from the other two families, but one of my best friends during college was also raised in a strict family. He also rebelled through his college years, but not as drastically as my first family. But, it was apparent that he always knew what he should be doing and he never really broke the mold of his strict up bringing. He did very well academically and got a Ph.D. in Engineering. We lost contact over the years, although I was in touch with his sister. And, then one day I got a phone call telling me that he had committed suicide.

It has taken me years not cry when I think of him. I don’t know what anyone could have done to save him from his own hand. But I do know a bit about what troubled him. He always wanted to let go and be free, but he just couldn’t break away from his strict up bringing.

Of course, maybe we should look to the Bible for a solution. How should we raise our children, and what should we do when they become rebellious? Deuteronomy 21 seems to give us the solution to this dilemma:

18 If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard." 21 Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

So, the solution is to stone your child to death if he becomes rebellious. I guess we need to pass some laws right now, and if they don’t let us we’ll need to demand that our religious freedom is being taken away from us…