Dr. Forbush Thinks

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

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Location: California, United States

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Iraqi Point of View

Anyone wonder what the Iraqis actually think about the Iraq War?

Here is one Iraqi's take on the War.

Who will stop the burning?

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Black and White

Do you remember when George W Bush uttered those famous words, “If you aren’t with us you are against us?” This is taking an issue and eliminating any middle ground. You can’t decide to support the USA in diplomatic efforts, but continue to maintain support of your people with ambiguity. Sometimes politicians use ambiguity to advantage. For example, Alan Greenspan used ambiguity in an effort to keep the stock market stable. And, everyone wants a stable stock market, bond market or any other business market that exists.

But, the Bush administration has turned the world into “good” and “evil” or Black and White.

The good thing about a black and white world is that you have direction, and that makes it easy to lead. You just point, and no one needs to question what to do. The bad thing about a black and white world is that everyone already knows what they have to do, so you don’t have to lead.

This is what happened to George W Bush after crafting his black and white view of the world. As we all know George W Bush used terrorism to frighten Americans into voting for him. Now that we have him, he doesn’t need to lead, because everyone already knows that Arab terrorists are the evil we are fighting. So, is it any surprise that when the country of the United Arab Emirates wanted to take over control of 6 of our major ports someone would be frightened into asking, “Is this safe?” George W Bush the originator of this fear should have known, because he planted the seeds. Or was it Karl Rove? Well, someone should have anticipated the fear of the American people.

But the fear of terrorism isn’t the only seeds that George W Bush planted. He planted fear all around the world when he invaded Iraq. Every small defenseless country began to ask themselves if George W Bush and the USA could be trusted. Even the large nuclear powers like India don’t care for the “invade first ask questions later policy of this administration. And why should they, because actions speak louder than words.

The disadvantage of living in America is that one doesn’t really know how the rest of the world views us. However, occasionally I do stumble over something that gives me pause. And, every American should read this piece out of “The Hindu.” Reading the thoughts and feelings of someone who views the crazy policy of the Bush administration from the outside should help Americans understand how we effect the world.

When Bush goes to India there will be many people in that country that feel this way. And what Bush does in this country will effect how these people perceive America and Americans for years to come. If you never travel outside the country you most likely wouldn’t know this except for the miracle of the Internet.

Black and White! The people of India now see America in Black and White. The leaders like George W Bush certainly fall into the “black” category.

But the Black and White idea doesn’t stop there. In Iraq, the country we set out to save has also begun to adopt the Black and White strategy. The Shia and the Sunni are beginning to view each other in these same terms. “You are either with us or against us,” can be heard echoing in Arabic through out Iraq.

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Emotional Animals

Human Beings are emotional animals. However, civilization requires us to tame our emotions to some degree. How much do we tame them? Which ones need to be tamed the most? Different people have their own opinions. Plato was a stoic and shunned emotion to a great extent. Latin culture finds virtue in passion as I wrote on Friday. Americans culture accepts more passion than British culture but less than Latin culture.

But, even the emotions that are controlled is a cultural issue. Who and what should we hate? Who and what should we admire? Some religions tell us to hide the natural sexual tension, but they pump up the hatred of "sin" even though the definition of “sin” changes from religion to religion. Is it a “sin” to imagine the leg of another person? What if the person is the opposite sex? What if they are the same sex? How far up the leg can you imagine before it becomes a sin?

Can you imagine killing another person? Is that a sin? What if they did something evil to you or your family or your country? Are any of these passions sinful? Remember, these are just thoughts that enflame your passions, but they aren’t actions in themselves. Culture tells us where to draw those lines.

But these same passions are the anger or love we feel for champions and those who destroy the things we love. Sometimes this passion drives us to jump to conclusions that could be wrong and act out of passion and not logic. Taming the passions help to keep us from irrational reaction. Then again sometimes-irrational reaction makes life worth living. For example, spontaneous romance certainly ranks higher in experience than a planned romantic encounter.

Obviously, moderation of emotion is how man became civilized. But, like anything else, one can take this to an extreme. Cultural elimination of public display of emotions is what happened under Queen Victoria in the 19th Century.

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Monday, February 27, 2006

Conservative Confusion

My favorite comment in the last few weeks has got to be:

Oh YES! America is ready for some PROGRESSIVE PASSION! So go for it Democrats! Let's hear some passion for tax increases! Jimmy Carter was very passionate about his crude oil tax!

And three cheers for abortion! A chicken in every pot! An Abortion for every pregnancy!

Let's hear some more democrat passion about surrender! I can hear the glee in the voices of the liberal old media when they report on a possible civil war in Iraq. Just admit it! It's your wildest dream!

This was in response to my post on “passion.” Obviously conservatives can be just as passionate as they are misinformed. Their passion for tax cuts has resulted in borrowing to cover the pork barrel ear marks of the “conservative” Republican congress and an unnecessary war for pride in the Middle East. It turns out that every American man, woman and child are borrowing $10/day to cover the cost of this insanity. This means that every individual is borrowing $300.00 per month or a family of four is borrowing $1200.00 per month. Do you borrow this much money on your credit cards and not pay it off? Is this fiscally conservative? What is going to happen when we reach our limit and China and India don’t want to loan us this money any more? After all, who has the power in a loan/lender relationship? Are we gradually forfeiting our economic place in the world?

But, to listen to the blogger commenting on my piece we would think that because we have a Republican congress and a Republican president we are safe from the government robbery that we have suffered through taxation. Let me see; I paid about $500.00 less on my taxes or about $1500.00 since the Bush tax cuts, and the government has borrowed about $64,000.00 on my behalf over the same amount of time. Hey, I can do the math and I understand that the Republicans are bilking me. It’s too bad that the Republicans like my uninformed commenter can’t do math. Maybe its because the money to education has been cut to fund a war in the Middle East?

And, then we have abortion, which is another issue used passionately by the conservatives to vilify the Democrats. I would challenge any person at all to find one person in America that supports the idea of an abortion for every pregnancy, let alone the leaders of any progressive political movement. I believe that the progressive stand has been and still is that abortions are not great, but we should leave that choice up to the pregnant woman and not let the government interfere. It’s funny how conservatives are eager to guard the right to their machine guns, automatic weapons and other artillery but they want to take the right of a woman to choose whether or not to raise a child into adulthood and give that choice to the government. But, then they refuse to admit this hypocrisy, because the constitution mentions forming militias, but doesn’t mention women’s rights. But either way, you can see the ridiculous passion expressed on the subject in this comment.

And, finally the passion for aggression is obvious. Of course it would be great if all Republicans were this passionate about aggression, because they would be fighting with each other so often that they would just be a laughing stock. But, this particular comment displays the love of war above the love of peace. This might be because war is filled with violent action and peace is filled with diplomacy. Peace is obviously more complex and more difficult to contemplate than war. And sometimes those at the lower end of the intellectual scale desire proof of progress and therefore opt for the violent solution. But this anger is a passion that isn’t easy to control.

Americans don’t like passion as a matter of culture. In America passion is often identified with a loss of control. And, as I pointed out in my previous post, conservatives have used expression of liberal passion as a symbol of liberalism to be mocked. And, because of this the passionate liberals have shied away from expressing their passion. But, when the general public views this passion, the emotion draws them in. Beautiful pictures of rainforest juxtaposed with the devastation that man has wrought evoke response to this issue.
Please keep the comments coming in; I love to hear from both sides of each issue. Of course, some issues only have one side, like the DPW ports deal…

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Friday, February 24, 2006


The catch phrase of the 2006 Torino or Turin Olympics is: “Passion Lives Here.” The first time I saw it plastered on a wall, I was a bit confused. Why wouldn’t they have an Italian phrase? A Latin phrase? But, then I thought that this phrase was actually a good way to draw the cultures together. It is an English phrase professing a Latin sentiment.

In English we understand passion to be a strong emotion, such as love or hatred. But, couldn’t any emotion be expressed strongly? Or, is the intensity of the emotion part of the definition? This would be like considering “love” to be the strong form of “like.” It would be like “joy” being the strong form of “happy.” In English we think of these as different emotions, but maybe they should be considered the same emotions modified by passion.

The importance of passion is certainly a cultural thing. When people become overly passionate about anything in American culture we tend to think that they are over reacting. Melodramas are considered to melodramatic in American culture. But, the point of the melodrama is to be melodramatic. This allows one to feel the extreme passions through imagination and fantasy. This does not mean that one should act on these passionate feelings, but only experience them. But, American culture shuns over reacting to just about anything.

A good example of passion at the Winter Olympics was the drama played out during the Ice Dancing competition. I’m guessing that not many of you know about this, unless you’re Italian. But, the Italian Ice Dancing couple had a wonderful first dance and ended in first place to the thrill of the home audience. However, on their second dance they fell on a lift, which put them out of the running for a medal. The female skater glared at her partner after the dance, and remained icy cold toward him for the 24 hours leading up to the final dance. This extreme emotion may have been acting, or it may have been passion. But to anyone viewing the drama it was easy to feel the intended emotion. Just the intensity of the perception was passion portrayed. But, how would American culture react to this extreme behavior? I’m guessing it would be a media circus and the passion would be lost. In the final dance the Italian couple did exceptionally well. And, maybe because of the passionate anger portrayed the passionate joy after the dance seemed even stronger. This is melodrama, the stuff that Americans disdain.

But, just because Americans say that they don’t like melodrama does not mean that they don’t take some issues seriously. Liberals have a tendency to take the environment, poverty, health and safety quite passionately. In fact, because of our American cultural disdain for passion the right has been able to use that passion as a weapon. Talk show hosts quickly push the laugh button and call passionate environmentalists “tree huggers.” They push the button again and call those concerned about safety “babysitters.” They have managed to turn “passion” into “over reaction” by using American culture. Liberals who are passionate about these issues have begun to hide their passion, because they are afraid of being made a fool. But that passion remains in the heart and it is the power that drives a strong movement. Passion motivates people to take action. Passion gets people to write checks. And, passion is what the right fears the most about the progressive movement.

When the conservatives jumped on Howard Dean for his famous scream they knew that they needed to nip the passion of that scream in the bud before people felt the passion. And, conservatives knew that American culture disdains passion and it can be turned into over reacting. If Howard Dean had been an Italian politician the people would have known what he was about and they would have seen that scream for the passion that it contained.

So, what can passionate progressives do with this crazy American culture?

I think that people really want to see the passion. The conservatives have already painted liberals as over reactive and progressives need to wear this as a badge of honor. The conservatives that are most likely to call a progressive over reactive isn’t a vote that any liberal can expect to get anyway. But, progressives are liberal because they are passionate. They will support you if they feel the passion. These are the people who we want to join the movement and make it grow. And passion is an interesting thing, the more people see it the more they want to help. They empathize with the emotion even more when they see the passion. They begin to feel it. The passion is part of the message. When people see passionate people they begin to ask themselves “why are these people so concerned?”

Maybe America wasn’t ready for Howard Dean’s yell, but they are certainly ready to see the Democrats become passionate about a political plan.

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bruce Bartlett - Impostor

I just had the pleasure of listening to Bruce Bartlett being interviewed on the radio a few minutes ago. You may not have heard of him, but he is a Reagan conservative that is upset with George W Bush. In fact, he is so upset that he wrote a book about George W Bush called “Imposter.” The premise of the book is that George W Bush isn’t a “real conservative.” Big surprise, I’ve been saying that for more than two years now.

So, why is Bartlett publishing this book now? It could have helped a bit more if it were published before the election. Well, the point is that Bartlett is a conservative that believes in conservative ideals. Publishing the book before the election would have helped John Kerry who Bartlett doesn’t really like. But to my surprise Bartlett has said that Bill Clinton was a better president for fiscal conservatives than George W Bush. (Hey, I kinda like this guy.)

Bartlett tells us that he is upset with the tax cut, borrow and spend Bush wing of the Republican Party. He makes very good arguments that the Democrats should have been making during the 2004 election. Its really too bad that the Democrats couldn’t get the religious faction of the Republican Party outraged at the moral problem with borrowing money to give tax cuts to the wealthy so that the next generation will be strapped with the debt. The conservative Christians should have been outraged at this. The Democrats should have been able to embarrass the Conservative Christians into a corner forcing the masses of Christians to split their vote. But, the Democrats had no idea that Conservative Christians cared about the sin of passing on this debt to their children. The Republicans were able to ignore the issue.

But this isn’t all, that’s why Bartlett wrote a book about George W Bush pretending to be a conservative.

But that isn’t the extent of the pretending going on in Washington. In fact, the Democrats have another weapon to use against the Pork Barrel spending Republicans. Republicans have traditionally been political party that yelled the loudest about the Democrat’s pork barrel politics. But the American Conservative Union has issued a report on the spending practices of the Republican congress. They put out a statement to stop pork barrel spending.

The reason the Republicans are doing this is because they have three years before the next presidential election and the general population has a short memory. They can hash through these issues, create a unified agenda and select candidates that support the unified agenda. This needs to done even if it is different than George W Bush’s agenda. Bruce Bartlett had hoped that the Republican Party would have engaged in this discussion right after the 2004 election, but it never materialized. Now with his new book out Bartlett is hoping that the discussion will get under way even before the 2006 elections.

Democrats should know where the Republicans disagree, because these disagreements are certainly their weak spots. Democrats should realize that these are the “wedge issues” for Republican leaning voters. Democrats need to answer these questions in order to draw some Republican leaning moderates to the Democrats. The Republicans will work out their differences in the next few months, but Democrats need to remember the disagreements. The Republican disagreements are the seeds for discontent among Republicans and maybe they will grow into a new era of Democratic leadership.

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Fear Itself

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” FDR 1933 First Inaugural Address.

So, if all Americans know the folly of bending to fear why have Americans embraced the images of fear that the Bush administration has created to make us do what they want?

In the shadow of 9/11/2001 at the time when fear was highest among the American people George W Bush used fear for his political advantage. He realized that when people are afraid they look for comfort, and if he were the object of their comfort, the solution to their fear he could win reelection as well as make the people follow him into the Neo-Con ideological landscape. And, he has succeeded so far.

But, yesterday George W Bush tried for the first time to deviate from the path of fear that he had paved for so long. Alan Elsner of Reuters wrote a very good summery of George W Bush trying to go upstream against the river of fear.

The politicians in congress know that the American people have formed different opinions based on the fear that George W Bush has used to his success. People are afraid and they know that they need to be afraid, because danger lurks around every corner. This is what the Bush administration has been telling them for five years. FDR knew that fear could paralyze a nation and that is what he was saying in his famous quote. Fear is a short-term political lever, but fear is dangerous for the long time growth of a nation. FDR knew that policies and national strategy needed to change and he knew that people inherently fear change. Unfortunately George W Bush doesn’t know his history and he listened to Karl Rove who told him to use fear to retain the support of the people.

So, George W Bush painted pictures of terrorists getting nuclear weapons from Iraq. This picture scared the people into support the illegal, immoral and unnecessary invasion of Iraq. At every step of the way George W Bush used fear to scare politicians and moderate Americans to support blunders at every corner. And, the actions of the administration have stoked the Islamic Fundamentalist into recruiting more and more terrorists to fight the American threat. The presence of more terrorists was used to play the fear card more and more. After all, if you see a threat shouldn’t we fear it? It’s only prudent.

But fear drives away rational thought. And a politician who knows what he wants does not appreciate rational thought. Why should the people think about what has already been decided?

Because fear is irrational it can not be controlled. And, George W Bush was taught this lesson yesterday. The American people fear terrorists thanks to the encouragement of the Bush administration. After all, the Bush administration needs to break the law to listen to Americans that might be talking to terrorists. So, why can’t the Bush administration see the danger that they have been telling us about for the last five years? Obviously, the Bush administration doesn’t think that there is any danger here. In fact, I believe that the Bush administration knows that there is no danger here as they knew that there wasn’t any real danger in Iraq. The difference is that they used fear to get what they wanted with the Iraq invasion. Now they are telling us that there is no danger because they want their Arab buddies to make this deal. But fear is irrational and fear has already set the American people in motion.

The bigger question is this - is this the tipping point? Do we finally have people willing to question the president on the question of terrorism? The president was once seen as the protector of America because he was president during 9/11. But, the truth is that George W Bush has used 9/11 for his personal advantage. He has used the fear generated by this event to get himself reelected. He has used fear generated by this event to get support for his war in Iraq. Now the fear has come back to bite him and maybe the American people will finally see him for the self-interested politician that he truly is.

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


In 1946 Encyclopedia Films put out a short film to teach students about the sliding scale between Democracy and Despotism. Now, thanks to the Internet anyone can view this film.


1. Rule by or as if by a despot; absolute power or authority.
2. The actions of a despot; tyranny.
a. A government or political system in which the ruler exercises absolute power: "Kerensky has a place in history, of a brief interlude between despotisms" (William Safire).
b. b. A state so ruled.

Despotism is a method for ruling, not a political ideology. In fact, the two different ends of the political spectrum, communism and fascism both used a government of despotism to enforce their ideology. Adolf Hitler the fascist Nazi leader was a despotic ruler. And, Joseph Stalin the communist leader of the Soviet Union was also a despotic ruler.

The main point of despotism is not the particular ideology that a leader uses to govern, but it is the way in which he rules - with absolute power. But leaders don’t acquire absolute power instantaneously. Leaders work long and hard collecting their followers together and gradually force people to obey them.

So, in previous posts I have written about how the Bush administration has been trying to acquire power through every means possible, including arm twisting, lies and deception. I have pointed out how Adolph Hitler and the Nazis used similar tactics to acquire power and change the German Democracy into a Fascist state. I chose the mirror of fascism because the Bush administration is an extreme right wing political cadre. However, what I failed to recognize until I saw this little film is that even if you have a moderate ideological philosophy you can still choose Despotism to maintain control.

Maybe the ideology of the Republican Party isn’t to kill all the undesirables. Maybe the Republicans are happy to put all the undesirable people in places for undesirable people. Maybe they don’t even care to separate undesirable people. Instead, maybe Republicans just want to withhold any help from undesirable people. All of these ideas are reprehensible to different degrees. But, if the leaders decide to force these ideas on the people through various methods of control that method of getting people to bend to their will is despotic nonetheless.

As the little film suggests, despotism is the antithesis of democracy. Pure democracy is when the people have power to influence every action of the government. Pure despotism is when one person decides every action of the government. Of course, America is not a pure democracy, because we delegate leadership’s powers to our representatives. This somewhat less democratic form of government is a representative democracy, or a republic. And, as the little film clip shows us there is a sliding scale between Democracy and Despotism. As the Representatives are able to maintain and control their power by keeping information and money controlled our form of government slides toward the despotic side of the scale. If the people don’t fight for their rights and keep the government open the government will continue to slide toward despotism.

This is exactly what the Republican Party has so cleverly done. They have gradually built their power by controlling information and slide more wealth toward the upper class while they lower wages of the poor and middle class by breaking unions and allow the wage gap between rich and poor to grow. Back in 1946 this was an obvious symptom of growing despotism, but the Republicans have cleverly been able to vilify anyone who points out the classic unfairness inherent in this system.

Similarly, the Bush administration has been able to control information to an extent that surpasses any US government administration in history. The level of secrecy around the White House is extreme, but even the people who are allowed to attend speeches is controlled. The image of the Bush administration is carefully crafted to deceive the American public. The spread of misinformation to get the party line out by avoiding any serious questions through the conservative talk radio circuit has given the Bush administration a huge propaganda arm. And, the final bullet is to create a vilification of the serious news media as being the enemy, which weakens the voice of truth and strengthens the propaganda they are spreading. All of this control of information pushes the government further toward despotism while the everyday American fails to question the government’s motivation.

But, this little clip offers a solution to this slide toward despotism. The answer is to question authority. The answer is to question the government. The answer is to educate yourself, ask questions and make sure the government is working for the Common Good and not the good of a small group of self anointed despots.

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Friday, February 17, 2006

We're Loosing the Propaganda War

Did you see how Rumsfeld says that we are loosing the propaganda war?


How can that be? The Bush administration is dishing out more than any administration in history?

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Where do all the Bush Supporters Live?

With the new 50 state Survey USA poll you can now see the political temperature of the country state by state.

Its too bad that the 10% of Ohio voters who once supported George W Bush now disapprove of what he is doing and they couldn’t have seen the truth a year earlier. But, this survey shows that Bush still has support in the far right wing states of Utah and Idaho. But, even in Texas the home state of George W Bush, he only has 49% who approve of what he is doing, which tells me that I was right, there are quite a few smart people in Texas - maybe 46%?

This is a fun poll to measure the political temperature of the country, but it doesn’t really tell us much about the 2006 election. This is because many people still believe that their personal Republican Representative or Senator are doing a great job, even if the rest of the Republican party has problems. Maybe if you were from Arizona you could argue that your Senator is doing a better than average job and that he is actually fighting the Bush administration from time to time. But, lets face it, if you are from almost any other place in the country and you have a Republican congressman they have been doing the Bush administration’s bidding.

Tom Delay had been quite successful in keeping the Republican Party on the Bush administration set course. And, Americans need to recognize that if they have a Republican Representative they have a Representative that has been doing whatever the Bush administration or Tom Delay has asked him to do. If the Democrats are going to take back any of the Political Power that they lost over the last few years they will need to tie each congressman and senator to the Bush administration and remind the people of all the damage that has been done in the last few years.

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

American Polls

What do the people want?

Americans will tell you that America is the greatest country in the world, because America is a Democracy. Why is a Democracy the special difference between America and the rest of the world? This is because the people get what they want when they vote. But, this isn’t really the whole picture of why America is the greatest country in the world. I know this, because there are more than one Democracy in the world.

Much of Europe is now democratic. Even Eastern Europe that was once under the Soviet Union’s control has adopted democracy as the method to select the government. So, what makes America the greatest country in the world? Well, there are a couple of answers to this question. First of all, maybe the premise of the question is wrong. Maybe America isn’t the greatest country in the world. Maybe America is the most powerful country in the world because of it’s military, but not necessarily the greatest country in the world.

If you look at the economic growth of America over its short existence of 200-some years you could argue that this growth made America the greatest country in the world. Well, maybe America is the most economically powerful country in the world, but does economically powerful equate with greatest country in the world?

By the nature of this economic powerhouse that America has become America has defined what people should want. The American money created by its success has been used to market the American Dream to the world. If everyone in the world has been sold the American Dream, then the world’s expectations may just be to high. The American Dream requires resources that simply can not accommodate the world’s population. In the long run the American Dream can only be achieved by those who have the money to buy the resources needed to fulfill the American Dream. And by this same argument people who can not afford the American Dream will be left with less, as those to grab what they can leave these people with even less will. But, since America has the greatest number of people able to afford the American Dream, this means that America is the greatest country.

But, if there really is a resource issue in the world, why doesn’t America feel the same constraints that, for example, Africa feels? Is it because America has more resources and fewer people than Africa? And, what are these resources that Americans have and Africa lacks? Africa has oil and diamonds; couldn’t it just sell the diamonds and use the oil to make itself great? What are the details that make the distribution of resources so highly favorable to America and so highly unfavorable to Africa? Is it because Africans are lazy and Americans are motivated? Or, are there other issues at work here?

In a fair world, the amount of work that one does should translate into an amount of a certain resource. Food, would be a good example. Imagine, if one were to work for one hour one should make enough money to purchase one meal. However, work isn’t always available and food isn’t always available. In the real world work and resources are not lined up so neatly. One can imagine that there is certainly a lot of work to be done in Africa. The entire infrastructure of the continent could be built, for example. Creative ways to grow and process food could be established. Infrastructure for the entire health system could be created. Housing for the population could be built. There is just too much work to be done. So, why are so many people starving in Africa? They have work to do and the work will benefit the people.

Well, it has to do with the resources available to do the work. If the water isn’t available to grow the food, then the people will starve regardless of the work that needs to be done to bring the water to the crops. And, the water isn’t available because someone owns the water and he or she won’t allow it to be used. Or, maybe the land to grow the crops isn’t available. Or, maybe the seeds aren’t available. Or, maybe the value of the grown crops isn’t high enough to be worth the effort needed to grow the crops. Even if people need to eat, they can’t always afford to buy the food that they need to eat. So, what can we do?

As a society we need to look at the problem of distribution of resources and come to some understanding of what the problems are. We need to be honest about these problems and we need to figure out what a moral and ethical society would do. For example, we might decide what the minimal resources a person should require. People should have enough food so they don’t starve, but should they have minimal housing and minimal health care. These things help protect the society as well as the people that get the assistance. Minimal health care would treat disease before it spreads to the general population and it would allow doctors to know about disease that is spreading among the weakest and most vulnerable. Minimal housing keeps people off the street and less likely to commit crimes of desperation. Of course as a democracy we need to ask the people what we should do to take care of our own as well as those of other countries that aren’t as well off as we are. And, these issues need to be debated in the light of truth, not just particular agendas.

The goals of the American people should be determined and the best paths to get there should also be explored. After all, a great society is determined by how well the least of its citizens is fairing. There are many goals and many paths, but the public needs to be addressing these important issues and they shouldn’t be swept under the rug or hidden in dark recesses of our society. We should be asking the American people what they want. But, politicians know the answer, Americans are generous people who want to help those in need. Politicians have limited funds and they can only afford to do the most efficient things that help the most people for the least cost. But, in America quite a bit more could be done if one makes comparisons to what other wealthy countries are doing.

When the polls are taken Americans want to help those that are not as well off as majority. The plight of those in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was echoed through our society. What happened to them was a tragedy. But those people were suffering before Katrina and they have moved to other parts of the country where they are likely suffering again. And, other sections of our country suffer in similar ways. But our current government would have us look the other way and not address the serious issue of the allocation of resources in this country. The conservatives who are in power like the current distribution of resources with less than 5% of the population controlling more than 90% of the resources. But, Americans don’t like it when they see that our country is not meeting the needs of our fellow countrymen and politicians know this as well.

Since this issue is enormous and all I can do is ask the questions in this short piece I would like to summarize the best I can. The direction of the current government power structure is to strip the assistance away from people who have been helped recently. Is this what the majority of Americans want? The current administration and the Republican congress have been acting to take money from the poor and to give it to the wealthy. Is this what the majority of Americans want? Do Americans really have a voice in how America’s resources are allocated? Do Americans really even understand how America’s resources are allocated and distributed? Do Americans even care about how America’s resources are allocated and distributed?

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

More Smoke and Mirrors

Let me get this straight. Scott McClellan, the administration’s mouthpiece is telling us that the Vice President shooting someone isn’t an important story. Let’s suppose that the lawyer that Dick cheney shot died as a result of the shooting. You might think that since it was a hunting accident in Texas Cheney or any other hunter in a similar situation would get an automatic walk, right? Well, just doing a little research turned up a similar case where a guy hunting in Texas accidentally shot another guy.

I’m guessing that there are plenty of cases like this one, but that isn’t the point. The point here is what the sheriff said in this case.

Sheriff Juan Garza said interviews with other hunters and with the victim's companions led him to rule out anything but an accidental shooting.

"But then again, Texas criminal law says that when you recklessly discharge a firearm and it kills another person it's a manslaughter charge," Garza said.

And, after all, when you hit a fellow hunter with a shotgun blast most people would consider that a “reckless discharge a firearm.” But, the point here is that the Vice President was involved in a serious accidental shooting that could possibly result in manslaughter charges against him if the victim were to die.

Scott McClellan is telling us that this story isn’t very important. Then he tells us that we should be focused on important issues like making sure that people are able to get healthcare. In fact, as the reporters are trying to get information from him he dodges the questions in yesterday's press briefing by saying:

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, Suzanne, if you all want to continue to focus on this, you all can spend your time on it. We're going to keep focusing on the pressing priorities of the American people, like talking about how to make health care more affordable and accessible. We've got important work to do for the American people, and that's where we're going to keep our focus. You're welcome to continue to focus on these issues. I'm moving on.

Actually, the president isn’t really interested in making “…health care more affordable and accessible.” This is another smoke and mirrors trick that the administration is pulling over the American people. In the State of the Union speech George W Bush told us that he had a great plan where you could save money in special accounts so that you can use that money tax free if you have an illness.

First of all, how many people are having trouble paying their health care bills because their taxes are to high? Most people that are having problems paying their health care costs are having this problem because they don’t make enough money to pay for their health care costs. They work at jobs that pay low wages and they don’t offer a comprehensive health care insurance plan. These people need to be able to see a doctor when they have minor problems so that they don’t end up spending much more of the tax payers money when that minor problem turns into something major and they wind up in the emergency room. This problem is sucking money out of our system.

Second, the people that are having problems paying their health care costs don’t have the extra cash that they could put into a health care savings account. Where are they going to get this extra cash? The only people who are going to be able to take advantage of this plan are the people who have the extra cash that they already have stashed away in savings accounts, stocks, bonds and off shore banks. Who do you think these people are? And, are they really suffering from the rising cost of health care?

So, it is quite interesting that Scott McClellan wants to change the topic from something important to something that will only actually help the wealthy Republican contributors like the lawyer that Dick Cheney shot. Maybe that should be the point that the administration should be making. If George W Bush was able to get his health care plan through congress, then Mr. Whittington would be able to pay for his medical care tax free. Now, that’s what they should be saying.

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Political Magic

Sometimes one needs to take a step back and look at the big picture. The world is a complicated place and when the people are focused in one direction that means that no one is looking in the other directions.

I was in Leon, Mexico a few years back. It was evening and we had just finished eating a meal. A couple of us thought that we would walk off our dinner and meander through town looking in the closed shop windows. There were still quite a few people on the street. Apparently they had similar ideas. As we turned a corner we noticed a commotion. An alarm was going off at a sporting goods store and about 5 police officers were at the entrance to the store looking for the people who had broken into the store. We stood some distance back away from the entrance to the store. A crowd had formed in front of the store watching the police go in and out of the store.

The building that the store was in was a long building that had many stores connected together. As we stood back away from the store we had the ability to look at the entire building at one time. And, as we watched we saw two suspicious men leave the building from another store and run down the street away from the commotion in front of the sporting goods store. Obviously it wasn’t clear whether these men were guilty or not, but it was clear that they were not even suspected, because the crowd and the police were all concentrating on the front of the sporting goods store. This got me thinking about the danger of focusing to closely on one thing.

This is the same way magicians create illusions. They get everyone to look in one direction while they do something where you aren’t looking. When the people want to be amazed this is a legitimate form of entertainment. People pay good money to be entertained by a magician. People know that they are being fooled, but it is all in the name of fun and entertainment.

In politics things are different. The people need to know the truth in order to be able to make good decisions. Politicians on the other hand want to create illusions in order to maintain power. If a politician can convince the electorate that he is the best man for the job then he will be elected regardless of the truth. Truth does not always win, because politicians have become masters of making people look one way while they do something reprehensible. And, Karl Rove and the Bush administration are the masters of this magic.

Depending on your point of view this could be a good thing or a bad thing. If you are a conservative and you share the view of the Bush administration that the wealthy need to be able to exploit the people for their cheap labor, then creating the illusion that the Bush administration is helping the American people is good for you. But, obviously it isn’t good for those who are being exploited. For example, if people are concerned about living a lifestyle similar to or better than their parents live this requires several things. It requires that people have jobs that pay similar wages, and prices of goods, services and housing to cost similar amounts. The political magician can concentrate on one aspect of this and tell the people that unemployment is low. But, if those jobs don’t pay the same as their parent’s jobs paid, they won’t be able to live the same lifestyle. Or, if health care or housing costs more than it did when their parents were in the same situation, then the lifestyles will not match. Stepping back and looking at the whole picture means to step back and look at the entire American lifestyle, not just the unemployment rate or the cost of housing or whatever single number looks good on that day. After all, it is the whole lifestyle that counts; under slavery unemployment was low, but slaves didn’t own their own homes or even own their own children.

Political Magic works on all levels and in both parties. The political party in power also has the most power to create the greatest illusions, so currently the Republicans have created the largest illusions. These illusions pass through the master magician Karl Rove’s door. He tells Republicans how to word statement their comments so that the people think everything is fine. He tells Republicans how tax cuts are what the American voter wants to hear, while FEMA and other important programs need to be cut to give the tax cuts to the wealthy Republican contributors. The Republican magicians have everyone looking at the tax cuts, given the illusion that they will get some money from these tax cuts. But the illusion doesn’t work this way and the Republicans are going to keep the illusion as long as it works.

Of course those are domestic problems, but political magic used on the international level as well. The President tells us to fear the terrorists so that he has an excuse to gather more political power. He creates reasons why he needs to break the law by telling us it will make us safer. He tells us how we need to attack another country by telling us that we are defending ourselves. Offense and defense are to different things in the real world, but in the world of political magic these two things become blurred into one. George W Bush directs our attention toward fear while he directs his gang to acquire more political power to make his regime stronger.

So, how do we fight political magic? We fight political magic by exposing the illusion. And, when we do this we will expect to here the politicians that are being exposed to yell and scream for us not to pay attention to the man behind the curtain. But we must force ourselves to step back and look at the big picture and question. Why would the Bush administration not want us to know what is going on at the White House? Why does the president hold so few new conferences? Why does the president authorize some leaks and punish people for other leaks? What is entailed in the real Bush energy strategy? Is the destruction of our environment worth the results that we get? Is the Iraq War really good for America? Should America set the precedent of invading other countries? What liberties and freedoms are you willing to sacrifice for the Bush agenda? What is the real agenda of the Bush administration?

If the Bush agenda succeeds will you like the America that we are left with?

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Monday, February 13, 2006

Guns Don't Shoot People

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Links for more jokes from the late talk shows.

Safe Hunting

When I was in my early teens I used to go hunting with my dad. I had a hunting dog and I learned to shoot a shotgun and a .22. Isn’t that what boys are supposed to do? Rabbit was our usual goal. There were lots of rabbits and they were in season most of the time, as best I can recall. We’d skin and cook the rabbits and we’d have a nice family dinner. I also practiced target shooting as well. I wasn’t the best shot, but I got better the more I practiced.

Learning how to handle a gun was an important part of growing up. I learned to be responsible and careful. It was quite clear that a gun was a dangerous tool that should be respected. Safety was drilled into my head every time I touched a gun. And, safety is the most important aspect of any activity involving a gun. In fact, they have this little button on the riffle called a safety that should only be pushed when you are certain that you have a valid target nearby.

The more I read and hear about the Dick Cheney hunting accident, the more I recall the warnings of my youth. Always be sure of what you are shooting at before you disengage the safety always echoed through my head. Never aim a gun at a person was another. So, why would an experienced hunter like Dick Cheney wheel around and shoot behind him before he even had a fix on his target? Does he need glasses? Was he drinking? Was he playing some macho game of whoever shoots the most stuff wins a bet?

To me, it seems that a quail and a human are quite different. What if the object in Vice President Cheney’s sights was an endangered species like a Whooping Crane? Whooping Cranes have wings like quails. Would he have wheeled around and blindly shot at a Whooping Crane? How many things has he killed that weren’t in season? I’m guessing that chances are pretty good that he wouldn’t have reported these things to the press had anyone in his hunting party shot them. After all, he shot a person and wasn’t going to leak that information to the press.

Sure, this little incident was a accident. But it seems to me that these kinds of accidents don’t happen to experienced hunters. They happen to people who are arrogant enough to believe that they are above the law. These accidents happen to people who go out drinking while they are hunting. These accidents happen to people who don’t regard safety as a high priority. These kinds of accidents happen to people who believe that they have to prove to their buddies that they are macho, because they have some insecurity issues that they haven’t worked out. I just wonder where Dick Cheney falls in this list of reasons why this accident happened to him.

The thing that bothers me about this is none of these qualities is a quality that I would want for a man that takes his turn carrying the “nuclear football.” This administration raises the fear that North Korea and Iran are very close to having nuclear weapons, but they don’t bat an eye at the crazy situation that we currently have with Dick Cheney and George W Bush commending our military and having their fingers on the nuclear button.

Its funny that every time that George W Bush tries to raise his poll numbers he plays the fear card. He tries to scare us into believing that we are safe because he is in charge. This time around he told us how he single handedly foiled an al Qaeda attack on Los Angeles. I don’t know how comfortable that makes me feel, when I know that the leader of the free world crashes on his bike and chokes on pretzels. But, we all thought we knew that Dick Cheney was actually running things, so we could breath a sigh of relief if we ever thought about it too much. But, now we need to worry even more knowing how Dick Cheney disregards safety recommendations so easily while he is out hunting.

What other things is he disregarding when he is actually on the job?

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Friday, February 10, 2006

Of Politics and Funerals

Republicans are looking for anything that they can to discredit Democrats. They are lifting up rocks in an effort to find anything at all. And, they have hung their collective hats on the politicization of the Coretta Scott King funeral. They have done this because they believe that they won points when they did the same thing in Minnesota at the Paul Wellstone funeral in 2002.

But, these people were political people and they spent their lives fighting political issues. Isn’t this what they wanted their lives to be about? Well, Republicans argue that this isn’t appropriate at a funeral. However, at Ronald Reagan’s funeral we had a different type of politicization. Instead of speaking out about the triumphs of a political movement on particular issues we had Ronald Reagan’s version of morning in America. Who could argue that that wasn’t a political message?

Politics is about what a person believes and how that person works with the tools that they are given to accomplish those political goals. Ronald Reagan used an illusion of what many people believed that they wanted to see in our country in an effort to acquire power for the Republican Party. That power wasn’t used for all Americans, but for a select group of Americans. The smoke and mirrors deception worked so well that it has been expanded in the Bush administration. Giving the people the illusion that they want is politics and it was done at the Reagan funeral. Being honest about your goals and achievements is just as political and it is what was done at both Paul Wellstone’s and Coretta Scott King’s funerals.

In my opinion both groups should feel proud of what they did. They recognized the lives of these great politicians. And, politicians do things that are political. But, when a group tries to shame another group for being political, they need to look in the mirror. The act of the accusation is political in itself. It is a shame that the Democrats don’t make a point of this. But the Americans people don’t understand complex issues very easily. And efforts that are twice removed become too complex for the average American. The only way to fix this is to fix America’s education system by asking people to think about ever more complex issues. But, since that isn’t going to happen any time soon we will just need to do our best to point out the hypocrisy of the Republicans, on the less complex issues.

For Example, in the last 24 hours, we've seen troubling reports that Dick Cheney directed "Scooter" Libby to release classified information to discredit critics of the war in Iraq...we've heard hard-to-ignore accusations from a former top CIA official that the White House "cherry picked" intelligence to make the case for war...and we've received stunning evidence that the president sat on his hands and did nothing for 12 hours after the White House had been informed that the levees broke in New Orleans.

When will the American people wake up?

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, and BlogSpirit

What’s in a Name?

When I was young and naïve I believed that places had names and everyone called those places by those names. After all, why would anyone call New York anything but New York? That was before I knew that in Spanish New York is known as Nueva York. Ok, fine one could translate the English word “new” to the Spanish equivalent “nueva,” but what’s the point of that? Why would anyone care to change the name of a place?

When one tours the world, however, one soon discovers that it’s the rule not the exception that different places have different names in different languages. Sometimes this makes sense, especially when the names are difficult to pronounce in some languages. But, America is filled with places named with complex Indian names. Cuyahoga, Chattahoochee, Appalachia, Yahoola, Hiawassee, Woonsocket, Dakota, Ouachita, and many many more native American names have stuck to places that we know. So, why is it that some languages have found it important to create a new name to call something that already has a good name given by the people who live near the places in question?

I assume that this has to do with culture. For example, when my grandfather came to this country his name was Enrico. This is the Italian name for the English name Henry. I never asked him, so I don’t know for sure, but I assume that he changed his name to Harry in an effort to blend into the American culture. Not all immigrants do this; for example Enrico Fermi kept his name the same.

But, for the names of places I am still confused. If the Italians had been calling Venice Venizia for hundreds of years before English was even a language, why would they start calling this place Venice? Maybe it has to do with the lack of foreign language skills. Maybe it has to do with laziness, or a lack of common spelling. In fact, I saw an interesting example of this kind of confusion when I was in Jamaca. The name of the town Ocho Rios, literally translated from the Spanish, means "Eight Rivers" but there is actually only one river by that town. Today people believe that it could be a corruption of Las Chorreras — the waterfalls, because waterfalls are perhaps the most striking feature of the area. But this is an interesting confusion of foreigners that came to a town and thought they understood enough Spanish to understand what the town was called, and being completely wrong. If Spanish travelers and English travels had visited this place equally there could have been two different names for this place that would have both been Spanish. Ocho Rios would be the name in English and Las Chorreras would be the name in Spanish. What a strange world we live in that people couldn’t clear up this confusion.

So, this brings me to today and the opening of the Winter Olympics in Torino or Turin Italia or Italy. There seems to be some confusion about this. NBC is the American TV network that is broadcasting the Winter Olympics this year, and they have decided to call the place Torino, Italy. They are using the Italian name for the city and the English name for the country. This doesn’t seem to be consistent, but from my point of view it actually makes a bit of sense in trying to reconcile the divide among our languages. After all, why should a place have more than one name? Why can’t we just learn the names that the native speakers call a place? It seems like NBC is taking one step in the direction of progress.

On the other hand, will they rename the “Shroud of Turin” to the “Shroud of Torino?”

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, and BlogSpirit

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Butterfly Effect

The idea behind “The Butterfly Effect” is that some very small seemingly insignificant action can have huge consequences. The butterfly could flap his wings in such a way that weeks in the future his wing flaps could result in a huge storm hundreds of miles away. The children’s book, “Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo!” by Rosetta Stone further illustrates this idea by showing us that when the little bug sneezed he set a chain of events in place that resulted in a huge disruption in a nearby town.

What both of these illustrations have in common is that very small things can have a huge impact on the world. However, it would seem that if this were the case then the world would certainly see the results of those who take the time and effort to intentionally change the world in the positive direction. If simply sneezing can result in the destruction of a town parade, why wouldn’t intentionally teaching people about the damage of global warming result in the world changing for the better?

As many of you already know, there are many people out there who are selfish. These people act with self-interest and they work against the common good of the world. Some of these people are interested in personal wealth and others are interested in personal power. And, in order to increase their own personal wealth and power they find ways to diminish the personal wealth and power of the community. On the grand scale of world politics this is the overview of general political struggle.

Just because there is a force working against the common good of the world community does not mean that we should give up hope. To the contrary we need to work harder for what we know to be the common good for all people. This is why we need to remember that the Butterfly Effect does come into play from time to time.

The death of Coretta Scott King this last week brought to mind how the Butterfly Effect continues to reach out. A few years ago I became acquainted with a Catholic Nun who had some deep insights into the human struggle. She did a lot for the community and her actions taught me how people in a community could act to help one another. And, when the parish that she worked at recognized her 50 years since taking her vows the organizers presented her life history. And, among the bits and pieces of her life was a photo of her sitting on a grassy hill talking to Coretta Scott King during the Selma protests. And, when I asked her to tell me the story, she told me how the church didn’t really like the idea of these nuns going to Alabama. And, that made me realize that what seemed to be a natural response to Human Rights issues was not a very easy thing to do. But, her story also inspired me to do the right thing, even if it isn’t always the easy thing. This is exactly what the Butterfly Effect is - an inspiration to carry on.

In the spirit of the Butterfly Effect I started blogging over two years ago. At the time I had no idea what I would write about, but I thought that I should write in an effort to spread the spirit of the “Common Good” for the community. In spreading the “Common Good” it has become clear that it also requires fighting the selfish interests of those who oppose the “Common Good.” My personal goal is that the things that I write plant a seed in my readers’ minds that they will use when the time comes to propagate the Butterfly Effect to the next person. Maybe its when they decide to be nice to the person next to them, for no reason except to keep peace. Or, perhaps its when they read something that I write and they pass that message to their friend.

Many Americans shy away from the idea of a common good for the country, state or community. This is because this language quickly becomes interpreted by those of more selfish interested as a way to attack the idea with the specter of Communism. Communism was based on the idea that the interest in the common good could become the only thing of importance and motivates people to work for everyone else. But, the reality of this is that there is a huge distance between selfish self-interest and Communism. America has a great tradition of using the community to solve problems. The Puritans in New England had the idea of sharing a commons in the middle of town where everyone could graze their sheep, grow plants or enjoy the area. This idea of a commons for the community certainly didn’t make the Puritans Communists. The most famous of these commons is Boston Commons that still exists today in the middle of downtown Boston.

In today’s world the common good for the citizens of the United States of America can be debated. Sometimes what seems to be good for all turns out to be bad for all. For example, the old saying that giving a man a fish will keep him from starving today, but teaching a man to fish will keep him from starving for a lifetime rings true as we think about the common good for America. Feeding people as a safety net is a good thing, but feeding them for their lifetime is criminal. In fact, this teaches them not to value the food that everyone else needs to pay for with money that they earn from a job. Balance in the discussion of these critical issues is important, and slogans don’t solve the problems.

Discovering the “Common Good” is sometimes more difficult than implementing it. And, that’s why discussions about the common good are so important. And, those discussions are the Butterflies that end up effecting the way our world progresses.

This is why I believe that every person engaged in the debate over the common good is so critical. The point isn’t that we agree on every subject and issue, but that we bring those subjects and issues forward so that they can be examined in the sunshine. This is different from the self-interest that we are fighting against. When people have self-interest they want that self-interest hidden from view. When special interests like Jack Abramoff pay politicians so that his clients benefit from laws passed by those politicians the common good can not be served. Only the self-interest of those few are served by this bribery. And, when politicians like Tom DeLay engineer ways that make their Political Party more powerful that the small number of people who put them in power he is not working for the Common Good. When Enron is allowed to artificially raise the price of electricity so that the state of California is required to borrow money to pay for expensive contracts that extend for years and the self-interested politicians are not willing to fix the problem the politicians are not working for the common good. When politicians push the limits of the truth to create reasons to send our young men into needless battles where some of these men will die the politicians are not working for the common good. In fact, when politicians lie to the voters to avoid a public debate these politicians are not working for the common good.

But, if we who are working for the common good continue to raise the issues and question the motives and actions of our politicians then we are the butterfly wings that can change the weather and create the storm that will restore the search for the common good to our country.

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, and BlogSpirit

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Twisting Arms

Republicans and Democrats of late go about their politics in completely different ways. I was listening to an old time radio show a couple of weeks ago when I heard this famous line: “I don’t belong to any organized political party, I’m a Democrat.” And, fifty years later the Democrats are still the same disorganized political party. Republicans, on the other hand, have a reputation for micromanaging every public aspect of the Republican Party in order to come across with a unified party message.

As I have written before, there are strengths and weaknesses to both of these approaches. Democrats are able to focus quickly on individual issues as they come to the forefront of political discussion. Republicans on the other hand have every issue pre-packaged and ready to serve. Republicans don’t need to think, because all of their thinking has been done by their leaders in advance. Democrats concern themselves with the details of every issue in order to defend their position at every debate. Republicans have only one uniform way of looking at the world, and when they are caught on the wrong side of an issue they can not quickly turn the argument around.

So, when the Republican Party decides that its OK for the President to break the law, the members of the Republican Party are told how they are to speak to this issue. They are told to lie. They are told that they will be punished in political terms if they don’t tow the Party Line. They may get less campaign fund to run for re-election. The Republicans may even decide to run a strong candidate against a particular member of congress if they don’t tow the Party Line. The member may not get his pet project to the floor of the House, or he may not get his “earmark” into the budget. It takes a lot of courage and some insanity to go against the Republican Party Line. So, you will see very few Republicans publicly opposed to George W Bush’s illegal behavior.

Senator John McCain has broken with the administration on a couple of issues that he felt were morally repugnant. He couldn’t support the Bush administration’s fetish for torture, so he successfully got an anti-torture law passed. It isn’t likely that he Bush administration will care too much about the implication of the law, because they generally ignore laws that they don’t like. But, John McCain’s public break with the Republican Party embarrassed the Republican Party because their fetish for torture was made public, and the Republicans would rather have that information kept secret.

So, Senator McCain has come out swinging at Senator Barack Obama. Since the Republican Party is run like a gang, John McCain needs to prove his loyalty again to get back in the good graces of the Party. He is also doing a service for the Republicans that would like to refer back to Senator Obama’s character issues. In this way the truth is one level removed from the argument, and these particular accusations don’t have a chance of being resolved in a fair way. The assumption will be, John McCain pointed out that Barack Obama has a character issue, it must be true and the actual issue will no longer be discussed.

But, why would John McCain do such a sleazy thing? Does he really need to get back in the “good graces” of the party? If he wants to run for President, he needs to support of the money in the Republicans Party. Maybe the Democrats should be pointing out John McCain’s character issue here. But, the disorganized nature of the Democrats doesn’t lend itself to collecting talking points.

But the sleazy nature of the Republican Party is also manifesting itself in the President’s illegal wire tapping. Karl Rove has begun to twist arms again. I guess he feels free from the Fitzgerald investigation. I won’t go into details, because it makes me nauseous every time I think about the slime that Karl rove spreads everywhere he walks. It brings back memories of those nights at two O’clock in the morning when one of my children wakes up and throws up all over the bedroom. The smell is bad enough, but then you have to get down there and clean it up. First the chunks, then the slime needs to be cleaned up. Then the liquid that soaks into the carpet that needs to be scrubbed out. And Karl Rove is just flinging vomit everywhere he walks. It makes me sick. If you really need to read about his vomit click here.

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, and BlogSpirit

Running - How Far?

Running - How Far?

Saturday I ran in a 10-mile race. If you are not a runner you have no idea what this means. Maybe you can get a little handle on this with my description from personal experience.

About five years ago my daughter and wife entered the Bay to Breakers race. This is a race across the city of San Francisco, as the race name suggests from the Bay to the Ocean. There are a couple of hills, and the race is about 7 miles long. At the time I took responsibility for keeping an eye on the kids while we waited for my daughter and wife to cross the city. And, I had responsibility to organize the final cheer as they crossed the finish line. That seemed like a huge responsibility to me, and there was no way that I would even consider actually running in the race.

A couple of years later my wife and daughter determined that one race per year wasn’t enough. And, they began to enter shorter races that usually included a 5K (3.1 mile) run/walk. That little word “walk” persuaded me to actually enter one of these races. The thinking went like this. I had to stand around with the kids and wait for my wife and daughter to finish the race, so it might be more interesting to walk 3 miles instead of standing around. So, the rest of the family ran/walked 3 miles, which had the added benefit of allowing partaking in the treats offered at the end of the race.

Running 3 miles, walking 3 miles, or running/walking 3 miles are all completely different things. Over the next year or so I went from walking to running in a few races. And, I pushed my body to its limits several times with the sore muscles and joints expected in these endeavors. As it turns out, the first race that I actually ran the entire 3 miles without stopping was last year at the same race I ran on just ran on Saturday. And, last year when I finished the race I thought that I was going to collapse and fall on the ground.

Distance running has everything to do with pace. I ran cross-country when I was in High School and I hated it. Mainly I hated it because I found it so difficult to maintain a proper pace. I would maintain my pace based on how tired I felt. At the beginning of a race I was fresh and I could run quite fast, but it doesn’t take long to exhaust yourself by running too fast. But, when I joined the Health Club and I started to use the treadmills that they have there and I was able to teach myself to keep a “good” pace for a much longer distance.

So, my goal for running 10 miles was to keep a “good” pace and finish the race without walking. From experience on the treadmill I knew that I could maintain an 8 minute and 30 second pace per mile for at least 6 miles without any difficulty. I also knew that I could run a 7:30 pace for a couple of miles and become increasingly tired by mile 3 or 4. So, 8 minute miles could be a bit fast and 9 minute miles could be too slow. The funny thing about all of this is that I can run these paces for 10 or 15 minutes and not be able to tell how fast I am going unless I have a watch to look at. So, it is very difficult for me to self correct my pace.

The race started and I took off running, but unfortunately I didn’t look at my watch right away. I thought about looking at it about two or three minutes into the race, but that doesn’t do to much good. But, my first mile is always the most difficult. It takes about ten minutes or so for my body to surrender to my will and find a comfort level that I can deal with. So, when the first mile marker came up I synchronized my watch and I ran until mile 2 hoping that I was keeping a good pace. And, at mile 2 I discovered that I was running an 8-minute per mile pace, which I thought might be a bit fast. But, being a macho guy I thought that maybe I could keep up the pace for the entire race. Of course there is a little bit of delirium during the race and one doesn’t always make the right choices.

At the 3-mile marker there was a guy with a stopwatch reading off the times. When I heard 24:04 I knew that I was still running an 8-minute mile pace and I was still feeling pretty good. No reason to change plans now, right? But, at 3.5 miles the course began to go up a hill. I was a little worried about the hill, because I hadn’t really trained on hills. I wasn’t sure how this would effect my pace, or even if I should worry about that, because I also had to go back down the hill later. I just continued to trudge along and I didn’t worry about my pace too much. Someone read out 33 minutes when I passed four miles and 42 minutes when I passed 5 miles, so It had seemed that my pace had slowed down to 9-minutes miles, which seemed to be the trend for the rest of the race. When I heard 59:55 for 7 miles I figured that I had 27 minutes more left in the race if I could just keep it up. And, sure enough I finished with a time somewhere around 1:27. I don’t know my exact time, because I was just concerned with finishing the run rather than looking at the finish clock. At some point they will post my time and I’ll know for sure, but it doesn’t really matter right now.

The good news is that I’m not sore from running this ten miles. I’ve been in severe pain for days after just running a 5K, so I was a bit worried about doing this ten miles. But, at least this time around I don’t have any post race suffering. I’m sure that it has something to do with the training.

So, if I look over the last few years I can remember how out of shape I was just trying to climb a cinder cone in Lassen National Park four years ago. I almost passed out as my kids ran past me up the steep incline. From this point on I began to realize that I wasn’t in the best shape and I began to walk almost every morning. Then about twenty months ago I joined the health club and began to swim every morning, which certainly helped quite a bit. Last year I ran an entire 5K without stopping. And this year I ran an entire 10-mile race without stopping. Only 3 miles more and I could finish a half marathon. The next big event is my plan to swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco at the end of the summer. The swim is about 2000 yards, but it’s in 56-degree water. If the water temperature and waves don’t get me I should be able to do it in about 30 minutes, which isn’t quite as long as the 10 mile race that I just ran, just a whole lot colder. Go ahead, call me crazy, I know you want to…

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, and BlogSpirit

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Monday, February 06, 2006

A Question of Oath

Fireworks or frustration surfaced at the Judicial Committee hearings this morning. Before Attorney General Alberto Gonzales even had a chance to speak Republican Arlen Specter refused to issue an Oath for the Attorney General. This basically says that the Republicans already know that what the Attorney General is going to say will come quite close to lying. The Republicans don’t want to a challenge to the deceptive words that he plans to use, so they decided not to swear him in. It is interesting that when Attorney General Janet Reno testified under similar circumstances the committee demanded that she be sworn in. But, in this case where the Republicans know that the Attorney General will perhaps comes very close to the line between truth and lies he may cross it inadvertently and these loyalists would rather save embarrassment than protect the American people.

The Democrats certainly challenged the Republicans who had a 10 to 8 advantage in the vote. So, it is quite clear that the Republicans remain to be the party of lies and deception when not even one Republican will say, lets just get him to say this under oath. What other reason could there be that the Republicans so ardently oppose the Attorney General from taking the Oath?

Without being under oath the Attorney General is basically free to lie to the American people as he deems safe for the administration. So, based on this we are not likely to get any truth from him at all. I guess that this is just another dark day for American. How many more can America take?

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, and BlogSpirit

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Book of Daniel

Who would have thought that this very Christian, very Biblical, very enlightening and very entertaining show would be so controversial?

Some of you may not know this, but I am a religious person. My family is also very religious. I go to Church every week. Our family participates in various aspects of church life. The only aspect of our family that may differ from the traditional American religious family is that everyone questions their faith. I believe that this is a strength, not a weakness in the process of building our faith. So, when NBC announced the “new” series, “The Book of Daniel,” our family planned to be sitting in front of the TV on Friday night. And, I should say that there are very few shows that our family is that committed to.

When the first episode was broadcast we still had guests at our house from the Holidays. One might say that our guests were not quite as open minded as the rest of the family when the various controversial topics addressed in the first episode were played out. It was clear that “The Book of Daniel” was not a show for everyone. But, how many shows on TV are designed with everyone in mind. There are shows focused on older viewers. There are shows focused on younger viewers. There are shows focused on male viewers. And, there are shows focused on female viewers. So, why not a show focused on liberal religious viewers?

Even before the show was broadcast people were outraged, because they had perceived a problem with the show. I would like to believe that the e-mail campaign to have the show taken off the air was based on viewers that watched the show and found offense in the presentation. But, based on interviews of these people, it is clear that a large number of people did not even watch the show.

So, last week when our family popped its popcorn and prepared to watch another episode we discovered that the show was taken off the air. To me, this is disappointing. But, on a larger scale it makes me sad to realize that America is no longer a free country. Freedom of speech lost another battle and the American people just stood by and watched. Anytime that a minority of religious zealots can influence a major Television network to censor itself we need to recognize that another freedom was lost.

The show itself is actually written in the tradition of Biblical stories. A devote man questions his faith in many ways. The ways in which this man questions him faith are the various modern problems that we all face. The “Old Testament” is full of stories like this. Jonah was called to preach in Ninava. But the story in the Bible is not about a man who was called and responded in a way that modern society would approve of. But Jonah eventually got it right and he saved the city. In fact, the most interesting stories in the Bible are about people who were called, questioned the calling and then responded. The questioning phase is what we all identify with as human beings. And, “The Book of Daniel” is a story in this tradition.

The edgy side of the show is that it goes out and takes controversial topics head on. It doesn’t ignore any issue because the correct response might not be the religious response or the politically correct response. The characters deal with these problems in a more ambiguous way. They deal with issues the same way that we deal with them, and therefore they make lots of mistakes, just like we do. But, the main character, Daniel, has an edge, he has his own personal savior. And, some Christians found this to be a problem. But isn’t this exactly what Christians preach when they tell us that we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? But, the show uses a technique to bring Daniel’s relationship with Jesus to a point where we the viewers can get a deeper handle on how his personal relationship with Jesus is working, or not working.

I would just like to say, that the Christians who managed censor NBC with their e-mail campaign actually did a disservice to Christianity. “The Book of Daniel” was a mainstream religious show that could have been a conversation starter with those who may have watched it, but aren’t normally religious. The show could also put seeds of thought into people’s minds where they may come back to and think about their faith. But, judging this book by the cover managed to stop a large group of people from even thinking about religion once again. And, I believe its another victory for fundamentalists Christians who don’t want people to think about religion, and another loss for moderate Christians who know that they grow when they question their faith and find answers to those questions.

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, and BlogSpirit

Thursday, February 02, 2006

New Downing Street Memos Leaked

The Gaurdian published today that Bush and Blair conspired to break international laws.

You can read this for yourself obviously, and I’m sure that Bush supporters will tell me that this is not hard evidence of Bush doing anything wrong. But I will continue to appeal to the sane Americans who should look at this as another piece of evidence that George W Bush believes that he is above the law.

How can a neutral person look at this description of Bush telling Blair that he would paint the US planes with UN colors in order to UN political cover, even though he was collecting American intelligence. Hey, I know why doesn’t every nation just paint their planes with the UN colors to have UN political cover? I’m thinking that this just isn’t playing fair, but then again I don’t think that Bush likes rules.

Bush also referred to the possibility that Saddam Hussein might be assassinated. This raises more questions. The CIA is not allowed to assassinate heads of state, but they used to do it anyway. Has Bush revived this old tradition? Bush doesn’t like the rules.

Then again I love how naïve this memo shows our beloved president to be. When Blair is worried about the possibility of civil war in Iraq, Bush says, "thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups". So, someone in the White House convinced Bush that the Iraqis loved each other, precious.

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, and BlogSpirit

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George W Bush Admits to Lying in the State of the Union Speech

Don’t bother taking anything that George W Bush said in the State of the Union Speech seriously. At least that’s what the administration says. This story tells us today.

So, the Bush administration has now sunk to a new low. They didn’t have much credibility before the speech and now they are saying, “Don’t believe anything that we say, because we just don’t mean it.” Evidence of this attitude has oozed from this administration for years, but the administration always seemed to find it necessary to correct the record in some way to give the appearance of honesty. But, Karl Rove must have just decided to do away with the veil. He seems to be spreading the word, “We lie to the American people. It’s our style. It’s our election strategy. We don’t need to be elected anymore, so why not just be honest about our dishonesty.”

I have to admit that this is a completely new approach to politics. It kind of turns politics on its head. George W Bush basically tells us not to believe what he said two days after he said it. His opposition can simply say, “see we told you so.” But, the Bush supporters can finally say, “Well, of course he isn’t telling the truth. When did he even claim to be honest anyway? He even told us not to believe what he said. After all, he’s a politician and that’s what politicians do. At least he gets the job done, and we’re all safer for it.”

And, of course the people who blindly follow this so-called leader will continue to support him even if he tells us not to believe anything that he says.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Because George W Bush Says It’s True

George W Bush went out on a limb last night and told us that the US had it in its technological know how to develop alternative fuels. America needs these alternative fuels because we are addicted to oil. This is funny, really funny. Wasn’t it 30 years ago when the environmentalists tried to get the government to create incentives for these types of programs? In 30 years we would certainly have already moved over to using hydrogen instead of oil to power not only cars but power plants and homes. Solar and nuclear energy would be used to store the energy in the form of hydrogen. We wouldn’t have created some percentage of the green house gasses that we already have, and we wouldn’t create some amount of the future ones either. Global Warming would have been put into check.

But, the environmentalists were laughed off the world stage and the world got a bit dirtier and hotter. But, now that George W Bush has declared that America is addicted to Oil things will change. After all, America is a technological leader and we will develop some new technology very soon. And, perhaps in twenty years or so we will be able to get the new fuel into the American infrastructure with private companies that will see a profit in this.

Well, too bad for America, because Brazil has already done this. Over 70% of Brazils cars can run on ethanol. Brazil worked with Ford to develop cars that can work on both ethanol and gasoline by virtue of a simple switch. And Brazil has a production and distribution system for creating and producing ethanol fuel. Brazil has worked the bugs out of the system. So, when gasoline costs more than ethanol then ethanol sales go up; and when ethanol is more expensive than ethanol then gasoline sales go up. The fuels are being tied together and the alternative fuels will become an alternative for the world.

So, perhaps it isn’t about America’s addition to oil that Bush cares about. Maybe Bush sees the dominance of the US oil cartel loosing more leverage. If Bush gives money to his oil buddies for them to do alternative fuels research they will simply copy the Brazilian example and put ethanol pumps at every American service station before new entrepreneurs are able to do the same thing more quickly using someone else’s capital. Oil companies aren’t stupid and they know that they could loose 50% of the market share if they don’t jump on the bandwagon quickly. And if gasoline continues to rise, as it is forecast, then alternative fuel could become even more attractive. Oil companies could loose even more market share.

So, this has nothing to do with the environment or care for our planet. In fact, burning ethanol still puts carbon dioxide into the air, but it’s carbon dioxide that has already been there and absorbed by the corn that is grown to make the ethanol. Looking at the system we still get smog in our cities, but it isn’t old smog from that was locked away, but new smog that was in the air last year.

But I still wonder, since America is addicted to oil and the SUV drivers waste more oil than any other drivers. And, addition to anything is considered a sin. And, SUV owners seem to be largely Republicans judging by all the W sticks and yellow ribbons I see on the backs of these vehicles. Given all that, can we finally call these idiots un-American?

Just wondering! But, there is hope that these American who revere George W Bush as if he were God will finally conserve some fuel. Perhaps only drive their SUVs off road like God intended them to be driven. Perhaps they will begin to think of the rest of us as we choke on their inordinate amount of exhaust, and they take up the neighboring parking spaces by virtue of the width of their car. Perhaps they’ll say, “Hey George won’t like if I drive my SUV, better sell it.” There is just so much to be optimistic about our new environment leader.