Dr. Forbush Thinks

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

My Photo
Location: California, United States

Monday, July 31, 2006

Talking About the Middle East

On my way to work today I browsed the conservative talk radio dial. This exercise is a necessary evil. I used to think that Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly might have some insight into society, but I now know for certain that they have almost no insight into anything at all. But, I have to listen to discover the hypocrisy and lies that will soon pop up here in the blogosphere. Even if only 10% of their audience believed what these false prophets say, there are still thousands of people that buy this nonsense.

Talk radio was mainly talking about the “War on Terror” today. These people have consolidated every conflict into the “War on Terror.” These people have decided that America is on the side of freedom and everyone else is against freedom. This rhetoric has now been folded into the Israel Palestinian conflict, and the United States is on the Israeli side. This revelation means that the United States can no longer claim an impartial third party in peace negotiations, which makes life much easier for George W Bush.

The revelation that The United States of America is a partner with Israel conforms that the Arabs throughout the Middle East were correct. It confirms the hypothesis of Osama bin Laden, Hamass and Hezbollah. Through out the Islamic World attacking the United States has become justified by those who believe that Israel stole land from the Palestinians to build their country. Whether this is truth or perception does not really matter.

People don’t fight just to kill each other. George W Bush and the conservatives would have you believe that terrorists are only interested in death and destruction. Actually they have another motivation. Just like Hitler wanted Germany to rule the world and the American South wanted to continue to own people, there are always reasons why people determine that it is justified going to war. Islamic Fundamentalists believe that they have the one true religion, but they don’t like the fact that the West has all of the material rewards. They have justified in their minds that God does not want anyone to distracted by all of these material goods. This is how they come to the conclusion that America is the “Great Satan.” These people hold this faith as strongly as Fundamentalist Christians believe that the Bible is the literal Word of God. Just like a Fundamentalist Christian would die defending the Bible a Fundamentalist Muslim would die in their effort to cleanse the world.

As we all know the American Revolution was about freedom. But, as anger about taxes was rising among some Colonists, it was tolerated by some. Those upset about the tax on tea created a theatrical event to draw attention to their cause. The colonists dressed up as Indians dropping tea into the harbor made their point, but the Boston Massacre proved that blood got even more attention. And the colonists used this event to get even more attention to their cause. But even with these events not all colonists were united behind the idea of independence.

More than 200 years later people are still fighting for what they believe to be right. People angered by property being seized from them seek ways to draw attention to their cause. Many Cubans are still angry that Fidel Castro took their land so many years ago. Many of these Cuban property owners have moved to the United States and have built much better lives for themselves, but they still feel anger toward those who stole their property from them. For some reason conservatives identify with the theft of this property and they will not rest until these people have their property back.

In Israel these very same conservatives have sided with those who have done the stealing. Maybe it is related to the fact that the British created Israel and they speak the same language. Maybe it has to do with the fact that Bible fearing Christians in the United States Government believe that it is the will of God that Israel exists. Either way, conservative Americans no longer see the two sides of the Israel - Palestine conflict. They only see Israel fighting the evil Arabs.

Actually, there is no secret that Iran and Syria support Hezbollah. The “War on Terror” finally has a nation state that should take responsibility. But no one wants to fight a real war with all of the death and damage. The United States has already spent it surplus cash on the War in Iraq. There is no money left to fight another War in Iran, Syria or even Lebanon. But, arming the Israelis to do the fighting of the United States against Iran and Syria’s proxy, Hezbollah, suites the conservatives just fine. In fact, the United States might actually make a little money on new arms deals with Israel.

Looking at the Middle East through the eyes of an average Muslim looks pretty bad for the United States. We have military forces in Afghanistan searching for Osama bin Laden. Many people in the region actually support Osama bin Laden for being the victorious David in the battle against the huge Goliath that is the United States. Victory is his case, of course, is to draw attention to his cause. These people may have primitive views when it comes to religion and government, but so does the Republican Party. One hundred and fifty years ago it was culturally acceptable to own slaves and fight to kill thousands of people in order to defend the right to own slaves. These people in the Middle East are at least as primitive in their own culture and beliefs, forcing them to change has evoked the same emotions that the American South had that justified their right to own slaves. We can say until we are blue in the face that these conservative Muslims need to change their ways, but they are just as likely to change their ways as the Fundamentalist Christians are going to turn their cheek. Imagine the early Christians being killed for their faith. The Christians of today honor these early martyrs as Saints that died for their faith. These Fundamentalist Muslims of today have the same strength in their faith. You would think that this would be something that at least the Fundamentalist Christians could understand. But, for each religious group standing up for your faith is only relevant to your own faith.

This might sound like I am justifying the action of Islamic Terrorists, but I am not. I am only trying to point out that our current strategy for fighting terrorism can not work in the way it is implemented. If we understand that force used against Islamic Fundamentalists has exactly the opposite of our desired effect. Standing up to violence creates honor among the families of the survivors. Israeli and American violence creates more hatred for Israel and the United States of America. In the Israeli conflict each act of violence multiplies the response on both sides. Violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon angers the entire Islamic population and is increasingly viewed as violence against Islam when they see the results on their TVs.

The positive point is that not all Muslims are Fundamentalists. This is also true of Christians here in the United States. If we can remove the Fundamentalist Christians from power here in the United States, then they will be able to communicate with the non-Fundamentalist Muslims in the Middle East. These two groups offer the only hope that we have to make any progress in the Middle East. The Violent solution to this problem is to kill both of these groups in order to get us to the same point. Unfortunately killing a group with this ideology breeds sympathizers who become the new members of the group. Either way, the only lasting solution will happen when the moderates finally talk to each other and come to agreement.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

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

, ,

Friday, July 28, 2006

Why Vote Democrat?

You have heard all the reasons to vote against the Republicans. It is quite clear that Republicans have their faults, but it is easy to point out the faults of the Democrats as well. What’s the difference? Why does it matter who you vote for?

Well, as I have said before, there are people who are favored by the Republicans, and these people will certainly find it in their self-interest to vote Republican. But are you one of these special people favored by the Republican Party, or are you just a vote that can be bought with promises?

Here are what the Republican Party stands for, see if you are part of the “in group.”

1) Republicans work for corporate special interests. If you own a large corporation, the Republicans are on your side. If you own a large portion of stock, enough that you could quit your job and live off the interest and dividends of your bonds and stocks the Republicans like you and they will work for you.
2) If money ranks high on your purpose in life; ranking so high that you are willing to cheat, and steal to get it, the Republicans are on your side. Of course, robbery at gunpoint isn’t the Republican style. Instead Republicans favor those who find loopholes in laws, or even write them into law themselves. Deception and fraud, is the preferred way to exploit power and acquire their desired cash.
3) Republicans prefer cheap labor for their corporations. If you are an owner, this is an opportunity to pad the bank roll by skimming cash from the blue collar worker in your factory. The cheaper the labor you pay for, the less comes out of your pocket to pay for them. The minimum wage should be set to zero, but since that would be slavery a dollar a day might be fair.
4) If you have enough money in your bank account to pay for your own open heart surgery, the Republicans think you are smart and shouldn’t waste your money on health insurance. Why should health care costs be controlled? It’s the free market! If you have the money, you get the best health care available!

Of course, we all know these reasons to vote against the Republicans. But, why should we vote for the Democrats?

1) The Democrats are for the working class. If you are a member of the working class the Democrats want to cut your taxes. The Democrats would let the tax cuts that went to the dividends on stocks be reinstated and cut taxes on wages instead.
2) Democrats seek to lower the cost of health care. If you pay for health care through insurance, the rate for insurance will be lowered, so that deductibles will be lowered and out of pocket expenses will be minimized. In fact, preventative health care will be stressed so that diseases like TB, will be contained.
3) Democrats care about the health of everyone and they would encourage stem cell research to find new cures for terrible diseases like Alzheimer's disease.
4) It’s not just health, but also jobs and pay for the middle class. If you work at a low paying job, Democrats want to raise the minimum wage so that if you are working you are able to live off what you earn. Democrats believe that it is immoral to make people work for less than a living wage.
5) Democrats seek to protect the weakest in our society from exploitation. This includes the exploitation of our soldiers in Iraq. Our young men should only be used to protect and defend our country. They should never be used for the gains of a few people or large corporations like Haliburton. Democrats seek to clean up the mess in Iraq in a “new way” with the help of the international community. Brute force staying the course is not working, and it never will. How many more Americans need to die?

So, I would say that if you find yourself aligned with the Republicans, then vote for them. But, if you find yourself aligned with the goals of the Democrats, then vote for them. If you are a member of the middle class you will be glad that you did.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

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

Middle East Strategy

At today’s news conference George W Bush was asked about his “strategy” for the Middle East. He was asked some questions, but this one yielded the most interesting response.

Mr. President, three years ago, you argued that an invasion of Iraq would create a new stage of Arab-Israeli peace. And yet today there is an Iraqi Prime Minister who has been sharply critical of Israel.

Arab governments, despite your arguments, who first criticized Hezbollah, have now changed their tune. Now they're sharply critical of Israel.

And despite from both of you warnings to Syria and Iran to back off support from Hezbollah, effectively, Mr. President, your words are being ignored.

So what has happened to America's clout in this region that you've committed yourself to transform?

You can read the entire response here, but I wanted to point out the main problem with the George W Bush approach to the situation in the Middle East. He tells us

In the long term, to defeat this ideology -- and they're bound by an ideology -- you defeat it with a more hopeful ideology called freedom.

And, look, I fully understand some people don't believe it's possible for freedom and democracy to overcome this ideology of hatred. I understand that. I just happen to believe it is possible. And I believe it will happen.

It is quite clear that George W Bush does not understand the concept of “freedom.” Freedom would be freedom for the Islamic Fascists to rule. After all, when Palestine was given the freedom to vote they chose the Islamic Fascist group Hamass. Isn’t this what freedom is all about?

But, it is quite clear that the George W Bush doctrine of angering the entire Middle East and then giving them freedom will assure that every Democracy will elect a government composed of people who hate America.

How? If I wasn’t clear let me explain. George W Bush invaded Iraq and got rid of a tyrant, Saddam Hussein. Everyone on Earth can agree with that. But, after the fall of Saddam there was looting that went on for days. The Americans were very slow to react, but this did not escape the ire of the Iraqi people. At least under Saddam Hussein your property was safe, as long as you didn’t open your mouth was a common sentiment. Certainly the American conservatives who hated Fidel Castro can relate to this anger. And, for ten years the Americans had been telling the Iraqi military that they would be taken care of if America invaded were disappointed when the military was disbanded in the wake of the invasion. How is your average soldier supposed to feed his family if he is out of work? And it goes on, at every step of the way the United States has made the Iraqi people angry.

Then with the death of civilians in the street being broadcast through out the Middle East this anger spread to the entire region. Americans don’t think of this anger, because the US news “cleans up” the pictures from the Middle East. Imagine the hatred you felt when the soldiers were dragged through the streets of Morgadeshu. Imagine the hatred you felt when you saw the World Trade Center fall. Imagine the hatred you felt when the American contractors were hung from that bridge. This is happening every day for the Middle East. And, America is to blame because they have failed to protect the Iraqi citizens. America is the occupier, and we have the responsibility to protect the population of Iraq.

You may be thinking to yourself that the United States is innocent of these deaths, because the terrorists and insurgents are the ones who actually attacked these people. But, believe it or not it is about perception, not reality. If you have a hard time believing this, think of the 2004 Presidential Election. John Kerry had served in the Navy having more military experience than George W Bush. At every level John Kerry was better suited to fix the mess in the Middle East, but because of the Right Wing Echo Machine the perception was that George W Bush was going to give us the security that we desired. Now two years into the second George W Bush term we see the reality of George W Bush’s lack of leadership. In the Middle East we have the same problem. The perception of the United States is that we are the “Great Satan.” This was said in Iran in 1979, and now it is said all over the Middle East.

So, when America was given the perception that George W Bush would save us, and given the freedom to vote the American people chose the perception of security. So, shouldn’t expect that once the United States leaves Iraq and Iraq votes they will elect anti-American leaders. And, this same pattern will repeat itself all over the Middle East unless George W Bush or the next president changes course.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

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

, , , ,

Thursday, July 27, 2006


When ever one spends a little time thinking about the “Meaning of Life,” one must eventually face the fact that it has a lot to do with the notion of “purpose.” The question could be rephrased, “What is the purpose of my life?” Or perhaps it could be asked, “What is the purpose of the species of homo sapiens?” Of course there are infinite variations on this simple question and perhaps knowing the right way to ask the question is the first obstacle in this quest we all should undertake.

One solution to this nagging question is to ask your elders what they think. After all, they have been around for a bit longer than you, so they have a bit more experience than you. But, even with their personal experience you may or may not be happy with their answer to the question.

We all know that every field has its group of experts, and there are some people who have studied this question quite extensively. Some of these people are called philosophers and others are called theologians. The point is that these people have come up with suggested solutions to the problem, but no one could claim to have the one true solution.

In fact, the idea that there is one true solution to the question may be a faulty assumption misleading people down the wrong path. But after all the searching and longing for someone to tell you what the meaning of life is, you will end up dissatisfied until you realize that it is all about your own personal purpose. And, you can’t really realize what your own personal purpose is until you sit down and honestly ask yourself to look at yourself and determine it for yourself.

You may come to the conclusion that your own personal purpose is rooted in religion, or philosophy. You may have a special insight into these things and you what to share them with the world. But the question you need to ask yourself is, “Is this my choice, or was I persuaded by someone else not to follow my true calling?” This is because taking someone else’s understanding of purpose is the easy way out. If you don’t spend the time and effort to think about this, then you will end up accepting someone else’s purpose and trying to make it work for you. This is how people get trapped in cults and gangs and other nasty situations. They somehow believe that the gang leader knows what their purpose is. Or, the cult leader creates a purpose for you.

But, people get sucked into other people’s life plans in other ways as well. Some parents want all the best for their kids, and they push their kids in the way they believe to be the best direction. And, if the child isn’t asking the purpose question honestly, that child will eventually find themselves trapped in someone else’s dream or purpose.

Finding your personal purpose is easy for some people and difficult for others. Not all people love an activity the first time they try it. Not all people know a wide selection of possible opportunities. In fact, the availability of opportunity may solidify a specific purpose, but purpose begins with a more general idea of purpose.

For example, I may believe that it is my purpose to hunt down terrorists and kill them. Based on my age, I would not likely be given the opportunity even if I signed up with the military and they accepted me. Even if I was able to use my physics and mathematics skills to hunt down terrorists in another way, the Bush administration would surely dislike my politics and the opportunity would never find the light of day. But my purpose could be reconfigured in a broader sense. Instead of hunting terrorists I could work to promote a better way to think about this situation. I could use my skills to show the flaws in the current War on Terror and promote a better approach. I could revise my purpose in a broader sense to protect America by drawing attention to the problems we face and propose the solutions to the dilemmas as they present themselves. Of course my revised purpose may be truer to my opportunities but it may not be the best fit. In fact, keeping your purpose general may actually be a key in this evaluation. For example, maybe with a new administration or a party change in the congress my politics wouldn’t matter and my skills actually could be used to fight terrorists.

Maybe you have seen that I have shifted between general purpose to specific purpose rather quickly. In American culture we do this all the time, and it may actually be a source of weakness in our culture. Someone may begin without thinking to proclaim a general purpose: “To make as much money as possible.” From that general purpose many decisions are made. Lawyers make a lot of money, therefore going to law school might be a good option. Businessmen make a lot of money, therefore business school might be a good option. Others may choose another general purpose: “To worship God with all my heart and devote my life to Him.” In this case one may become a preacher, nun or priest.

It turns out that there are many potential general purposes that one may determine for themselves. These ideas are known as “rules to live by.” These general rules are acquired from parents, friends, teachers and personal insight. Religions tend to spread these ideas, as do philosophers, cult leaders and gang members. These little pieces of wisdom are general assumed to have self apparent truth and not often questioned, but they become part of a person’s “world view.” It should be obvious that these little pieces of culture are more important than many people realize. And, it should be obvious that no one can declare authority over the dispersal of these little pieces of culture, but religion does its best to do this by citing God as the authority and using preaching to dispense the ideas. But like any powerful force it is human nature to use power for personal gain, so one should be wary.

After pointing out the inherent problems with the idea of answering the question, “What is the meaning of life?” I hope that everyone sees how important this question really is. If the American culture were to adopt some basic general purpose that the multitudes would adopt at all the various levels of influence such as: “Make the world a better place than you found it.” We would have a much different American society with this idea than if we adopted: “Make as much money as you can.”

But, in order to determine the society’s guiding theme we need to determine what the purpose of society should be. Should society promote tolerance, justice, fairness or personal gains at the cost of everyone else? Is the purpose of the human race to understand the Universe that God has created for us to live in, or is the purpose of the human race to support the few lucky humans who have acquired the most wealth and power? Or, is the purpose of the human race to praise God without curiosity or questioning?

It should be completely obvious by now that America with it’s various thoughts and ideas will never be made to conform to any particular agreement as to the “meaning of life.” Many parts of society will have their own personal views on this matter. The danger to the freedom that we currently have to examine these questions is at risk when one group is determined to impose its “world view.” And we are at even greater risk when we don’t even realize that a group is trying to do this without us knowing that it is happening.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

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

, , , ,

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What the Hell Are We Doing?

What the hell are we doing? By “we” I mean America. I am an American and what my government does is perceived by the world to be what I believe and agree with. After all, we are a free democracy and we choose our leaders. We make our choice based on self-interest for the most part, and in 2004 Americans believed that George W Bush and the Republicans would protect us. The country wanted a strong father figure that reassured us with telling us that he had everything under control. Enough Americans bought this and Republicans have continued to use their power to enact their vision of the world.

Conservatives and progressives both use the word freedom, but they use it in different ways. Freedom for conservatives is based on the idea that they should be free to make as much money as they can. Anything that gets in their way is considered an abridgement of their freedom. If a company believes that ripping large holes in the ground to get the resources out will create wealth, then they should be able to do it. If they want to bury their waste in the holes when they are done, then they should be able to do it. This is conservative American freedom. Progressive freedom is a bit different. Progressives believe that they should be free from harm. Progressives believe that people should be assured that there is a social agreement in which society will not be harmed by the action of an individual or even a company.

So, when we look at the War on Terror, and George W Bush tells us that the terrorists hate freedom, what does he mean? Since George the Lesser Bush is in fact a conservative, he may actually be right to some extent. Maybe the terrorists don’t want American corporations to rape the Middle East and take what they want (oil) out of the land and leave a mess behind. But, then again maybe the terrorists do want freedom to worship as they please, in their conservative Islamic sort of way. I would propose that George W Bush isn’t honest with this choice of words. I am guessing that the terrorists in Iraq would like freedom from the American occupation.

George W Bush doesn’t really want freedom as well. He doesn’t even agree with the conservative idea of freedom to make as much money as possible. He doesn’t believe that people should have freedom to cure themselves or protect themselves from diseases either. All of these freedoms were denied by our president when he vetoed the Stem Cell research bill. So, we should agree that George W Bush doesn’t really mean what he says when he proclaims that the “War on Terror” is about freedom.

So, what is this War about? Terrorism is a technique used to draw attention to a cause. Terrorism is not restricted to a group or ideology. There have been terrorists through out the history of civilization, and they have been successful in the past. We could argue that the American Revolutionary soldiers broke down the rules of warfare by sneak attacks on the British and this in a way was a type of terrorism. But, then again the British massacre in Boston could have been ruled a terrorist act as well. So, is terrorism a valid technique when the people using it are on our side? If so, then the War on Terror is a misnomer because we select which terrorist is good and which terrorist is bad. When Americans torture their prisoners is this not a terrorist act? When soldiers beat civilians with clubs and create faux executions they are acting just as the terrorists we are fighting.

So, what the hell are we doing?

We launched a war in Iraq on terror with the objective to disarm Saddam Hussein. We did that and the terrorist Saddam has been removed from power. So, what are we doing in Iraq now after our successful operation? Are we still fighting this war, or are we occupying a country? This is an important question that the Bush administration doesn’t really want to answer honestly. Liberation means that one takes away the tyrant and the people are free to rule themselves. The administration contends that this is what they have done. But reality seems to show a different picture. The Iraqis have increasing risen up to oppose the Americans. When the people in the country are opposed to the foreign power living in their land we historically have called this an occupation. But the Bush administration refuses to admit that they have occupied Iraq, because occupation of another country is not an American value. The conservatives claim to care about American values, as long as they don’t name the ones that they don’t like. I believe that it is quite important to call this action in Iraq what it actually is, the “Occupation of Iraq,” not the “War in Iraq.” This is just another way in which the conservatives have framed the language in their favor, and those opposed to the occupation need to realize that and act.

But, what is the reality of the War on Terror? Why are we still in Iraq, and what does the conservative agenda hope to accomplish? It is beginning to look like Iraq is a conservative experiment in ideology. The Bush administration has torn down everything in Iraq and according to conservative ideology the people will rise up and form a democracy, because that is the nature of human beings. Not only will they rise up to build a democracy, but also it will be a capitalist democracy where the wealthy will rise up to rule in a free market system. The wealthy will make money by exploiting the situation. Once they have their wealth they will want a government to protect their wealth and they will want their wealth to buy influence and create stability. And, of course since the Bush administration already knows what is best for Iraq they just need to nudge the Iraqis in the “right” direction.

But, how do the Iraqis view the occupation forces in their country? First of all, they view them as being ineffective and uninformed. The Iraqis want stability, but the Americans have acted in every way to disturb that stability. From the looting in the towns just after the invasion to the inability to quell the insurgents the Americans are viewed as weak and ineffective at best and naïve at worst. The Iraqis can only think of survival at any cost which leads them to support the more powerful and effective gangs, and religious extremists. The battle is for the hearts of the Iraqis, and we are loosing it every day.

So, what is the solution? Are we even moving in the right direction? As the Iraqis become less and less enamored with the American occupation we will continue to loose the hearts of the Iraqis. Is the solution to ignore this fact? Or, should we ask the important question, how do we win back the hearts of the Iraqis? The truth is that we can only win back the hearts of the Iraqis by building relationships with the Iraqi people. But, this solution is a nurturing progressive solution and it is certain that it will never happen under a conservative leadership. The paternal conservative “strict morality” solution is to force the Iraqis to like us. This solution requires us to round up the bad apples and torture them as we have been doing. This solution, however, will actually create more hatred for the American occupation and will result in more terrorists, not just in Iraq, but through out the Middle East. Is this what we really want? If we continue to stay the course this is exactly what we will get. And we will be forced to continue to ask the question: What the hell are we doing?


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

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

, , ,

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Please Don’t Flush!

Once again I was listening to Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and I was struck with a bit of nausea while listening to Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten talk about their new book, “One Party Country: The Republican Plan for Dominance in the 21st Century.” The nausea had nothing to do with what I ate or any illness that I was suffering from. Instead the nausea was the result of witnessing our proud American democracy going down the toilet and the feeling of not being able to save it.

Last week my daughter was given a special ring as a gift from her Aunt. She was thrilled to get it and anxious to wear it. The ring was a bit too large for her finger, but she wasn’t worried about wearing it. But, a few hours later we heard screams coming from the bathroom as she announced that her ring had fallen into the toilet. Unfortunately it wasn’t a clean toilet, it had just been used. Even if you know that you can retrieve the treasure from the shit and clean yourself and the ring it doesn’t take away that feeling of nausea just before you plunge your hand into the toilet. After listening to Fresh Air yesterday I feel the same way.

Peter and Tom go into great detail about how the minority of extremely conservative Republicans have stolen the voice of the people in a very carefully planned strategy. This group has organized themselves with the purpose of taking complete control of the government, which goes deeper than any other administration in American history. As the Republicans have gained power they have demanded loyalty tests for even minor bureaucratic positions which insures a historic legacy even if the Republicans loose power. In order to go back to a non-political bureaucracy would require large numbers of inexperienced government workers (not to say that the current crew is very experienced).

At every level the Republicans have fortified their power structure, resulting in an extreme departure from traditional moderate American politics. This basically nullifies the idea that it doesn’t really matter whether the Republicans or the Democrats are in charge. This perception was based on the idea that both parties ruled from the center and allowed quite a lot of discussion between the two parties to arrive at moderate consensus. But, the current Republican Party has taken control of the government and they have also reinforced the extreme conservative agenda by their careful selection of which candidates they support in the primaries. Since the Democrats have not enacted such a litmus test on their candidates the people see the choice between the parties as being between an organized group and a disorganized group with no plan. Unfortunately the plan that the Republicans have may be organized, but it is dangerous as well. The Democrats find themselves arguing about the extreme danger of the plan without creating an alternative. It doesn’t seem to matter to the voters that any plan is better than a dangerous and destructive plan, because they would rather see an organized alternative.

The problem seems to be that the Democrats have not realized yet that compromise is no longer an option. The Republicans have created a new paradigm where compromise is not an option. They have determined where they want to go, and they control the government so they can do as they please. There may only be a few technicalities in Senate procedure and a few sympathetic judges that are standing in the way of Republican conservatives changing America into their vision.

Unfortunately the conservative Republicans have not been honest with the people who have voted them into office. Peter and Tom tell us how they market pieces of their plan to niche groups who agree with these pieces, even though most Americans would never agree with the whole picture. In fact, so few people would agree with the whole picture that the Republican machine goes out of its way to keep as much as possible as secret as possible in order to prevent as much controversy as possible. And, they go out of there way to discredit anyone who points out the dangers of the conservative Republican plan.

One only has to go back to the spectacle of Hillary Clinton announcing the “vast right wing conspiracy” while her husband was still in office. The organized effort of conservatives to equate this statement with a “tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist” tended to squash any serious debate about the organized Republican efforts. The truth is that there were people who were spreading lies in an effort to change public opinion. The word conspiracy, however, has taken on the idea of a tin-foil-hat wearing lunatic. The American people fell for the distraction and Republicans were able to conceal their organized efforts just a bit longer.
At this point in time most people know about the Republican efforts organized and they can’t really do much about them. Individual proclamations of the problems with the massive funding machine are answered with rebuttals of lack of Democratic support. Democrats are certainly free to organize themselves, they just haven’t. Even the illegal activities of Jack Abramoff that contributed to the massing of conservative Republican power are denounced as the errant ways one individual. These soldiers for the a one party America have sacrificed everything for the effort, and privately the Republicans honor them like “War Dead.” But, publicly these people are just not discussed in hopes that these stories will fade from the headlines. The goal is power for the minority of wealthy American families, everything else is window dressing to maintain just enough support to keep that power.

The efforts that these people make to maintain this power just makes me sick. It makes me sad that so many people have been mislead by these people. They have been given false hope for an ideal America that has little chance of existing in reality.

An example of this is the idea that a powerful economy will bring these poor people in the Southern states the wealth and riches they desire. These people see their taxes going to the government and the Republicans tell them that they want to cut their taxes for them. When they have the opportunity the Republicans may have made a gesture to these people, but they actually cut the taxes on stock dividends and capital gains much more. And, sadly the Republicans borrowed money to make these cuts. So, over time these poor people who supported the Republicans will eventually need to pay the borrowed money back to pay for this enormous tax cut. When the deficit eventually starts to tear apart the economy the government will be forced to raise taxes to relieve the pressure. Or, government subsidies to farmers will be cut. Or, aid to the unemployed may be cut. Or, funding for the maintenance of highways and other infrastructure will be cut. The point is that these people who supported the Republicans will be forced to deal with it themselves and if Republicans maintain power they will be worse off in the long run. The bright side to having a large population struggling to make it is cheap labor. If lots of people are suffering they lower their expectations and they are willing to work for lower wages in order to keep food on the table. The Republicans like the idea of cheap labor, because that means that industries get more workers for the same price and they can produce more products and make more money. So, these poor people who supported the Republicans will end up working for lower wages if Republicans continue to enact their plan. But, the good thing is that the Republicans actually chose to exploit the religious people of America, because they know that these people will complain they least when the economy works out of their favor. These religious people will be happy to proclaim that it is God’s will that they are suffering, and if God wills it, then who am I to complain.

As I look back on the above example I feel nauseous once again. I feel like I am looking into the toilet trying to rescue Democracy. I don’t know exactly how to do it. Should I fashion a hook or should I just reach in a grab a hold of it? I am sure that in reality I can’t do it by myself. So, this missive is my feeble attempt to reach out and ask for help.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

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

Monday, July 24, 2006


I grew up in Ohio, so my first trip to California was an eye opener. This was back in the early 1980s, and I was in college. I decided to take my spring break to go to California and visit a friend. I didn’t really know what to expect, and my expectations based on the mythology of California turned out to be more complex and confusing than I had imagined.

The weather and the diverse landscape are the things people normally notice first. But the diversity of society is also striking once you spend some time getting to know the people. My destination in California was Palm Springs, but I flew into LAX and road the bus to the desert. I hadn’t traveled much more than a couple of trips to visit high school friends at their Universities and a trip to Toronto and another to West Palm Beach, Florida. I took those trips with friends, but this trip was a solo venture to meet a friend.

When I got to the bus station in LA I realized that I was unprepared. It was March and I was freezing in the 50 degree night time temperature. I never imagined that I might need a coat in the land of the “Endless Summer.” I shivered a little as I passed the time reading a book I brought for the trip. The book also enabled me to ignore the homeless people wandering the bus station talking to themselves. I felt a bit safer on the bus and I began a conversation with a couple of kids on the bus. I was surprised at their lack of curiosity when I shared with them where I was from and what I was doing. But, then again why would they be interested in what a stranger was doing wandering around California, there are just too many strangers wandering around to care about it. This is the complete opposite of Small Town USA where any stranger wandering around is a curiosity.

Well, I visited California many more times before I actually moved here. Each visit I discovered new things about this mysterious and mythical place. I can understand completely how someone could write about California and another person could visit expecting that version of California and find another. California is a place of microclimates. But those microclimates are not only weather related, but they are people related as well. You can wander around the college campuses of UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis and find completely different groups of people expressing themselves in completely different ways, but they are all living here in California. They are all top students that know about they world and have a view of it. And, that’s just the college campuses of the UC system. There is more diversity in the microclimates of people throughout the state.

This weekend I experienced the real microclimates of the state as well as some of the diversity of culture. I woke up early Saturday morning and drove to San Francisco. As we left the house the temperature was in the 50s and the sun was just beginning to rise over the mountains. By the time we made it to San Francisco the temperature was in the 70s, which is quite warm for San Francisco at that time in the morning. As I have written before, I am planning on swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco and this weekend I entered another Bay swimming event in preparation for that longer swim. This event was called “Swim a Mile, Run a Mile - If You Can.” The idea was to swim along the beach at Crissy Field from west to east, get out of the water, put on your shoes and run back to the starting line. I figured that it would be a good idea to get used to swimming in the open water of the Bay and learn what its like swimming in the cold water without a wetsuit. Since the tide was coming in there was a current pushing us along the course, so it only took me 19 minutes to swim the mile which would normally take about 23 minutes. The most difficult part of the swim, however, was navigation. I was never really clear on my destination until I saw people on the beach waving me out of the water. Next year it will be much better, assuming I do this again. Once I got out of the water I noticed that my body was indeed cold, my muscles were stiff and running the mile was a little more difficult than a standard run. I guess that my mile time was about 8:30 and my transition time was about 1:30 minutes. The Alcatraz swim is about 1.5 miles, and there might be some time spent swimming into the current. I should be prepared to swim at least 40 minutes in the cold water, but hope I can swim faster. It was certainly a good experience and that is part of what I am saying about California - there are unique and diverse experiences everywhere.

By the time we got home our outside thermometer was reading 103 degrees. The house was closed up trying to preserve what little coolness we had captured from that early morning 50 degrees. Since we don’t get many “hot” days were we live it isn’t worth installing air conditioning. A typical summer has about three days where most people would be wishing that they had air conditioning. Our indoor thermometer recorded 70 degrees, which climbed steadily all day, but never reached the 107 degrees that our outdoor thermometer reached. Normally we get an ocean breeze at about 2:30 PM that keeps the temperature from climbing into the extreme regions, but Saturday gave us no breeze. But, we didn’t worry much, because we had another event to the west of us. Being closer to the ocean yields cooler weather, and by the time we got to the event we were actually standing in the parking lot shivering a bit.

The crazy differences in climate are even more exaggerated when these heat spells attack California. Death Valley was 125 degrees over the weekend making it the hottest point in the United States. Our backyard thermometer recorded 109 degrees on Sunday, and the school down the street recorded 113. People driving through town with their car thermometers were saying that they recorded 119 along with some of the banks in town. Everyone in town claimed that they had never had such high temperatures in town, ever… But it still managed to cool down to the 60s in the evening, which is better than I can say for Death Valley.

We knew that it was going to be hot on Sunday as well, based on the unreliable forecast of the local weatherman, so we went to the beach. Just standing on the beach looking at the waves crashing down and feeling the breeze makes the 109-degree weather at home feel comfortable. Of course, that’s why we live here, isn’t it? But, in an effort to get used to swimming in the cold water I actually went out into the water and rode the waves, body surfing style. I would guess that I spent a good 45 minutes in the waves gradually getting colder. It was a type of torture, but I knew that I could walk a mile away from the beach, get away from the wind and be warm in no time.

After the beach we went back home again, but this time the temperature in the house had gotten even warmer than the day before. This always happens. Typically there are three days of extreme heat in a row. The first day the temperature in the house rises to about 80, while the outside temperature rises above 100. However, with no breeze in the evening it is quite difficult to cool the house in the evening. So, on the second day the house starts at a higher temperature and once again rises during the day, but to an even higher temperature. Normally the third day is the worst in the house, while it may actually be cooler outside than the peak on the first or second day. But I’m at work in the air conditioning and the kids are going to spend some time in the water. Normally the weather breaks on the fourth day and the house can once again be cooled at night to 68 degrees or so.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

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

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Preemptive Strikes and Make Believe Justification

Eighteen months ago I wrote a little piece suggesting that the attack on Iraq did not alleviate the threat of terrorism as effectively as an attack on Iran, Syria or Hezbolla would have. Apparently some Israelis must have been reading my blog. They must have been saying to themselves, “If George W Bush was justified in attacking Iraq and claiming a terrorist threat they could use the much easier case that a preemptive strike on Lebanon would be easily justified.”

But, maybe they were missing the point of my original post. What I had said was that If George W Bush was searching for a terrorist threat to attack it would be advisable to attack the most dangerous threat first. I didn’t actually say that attacking otherwise peaceful countries on the pretext that they have terrorists living there was the wisest policy. And, this was not the only place that I said it(example).

In fact, in an earlier post I have also pointed out the entire idea of preemptive war is flawed, because other countries that choose to attack any other country are certainly justified now as long as they claim a terrorist threat. And, certain countries that feel that the US possession of nuclear weapons could be used to kill civilians may feel that the US is actually a terrorist threat to them. Following this to its logical conclusion could justify any country’s intention to attack the US in any way to preempt the US use of nuclear weapons. So, in preemptively attacking Iraq George W Bush has justified any country in a preemptive attack on not only its neighbors, but the US as well.

Now, with the Israeli attack on Lebanon and the lack of condemnation of this attack by George W Bush we are moving further down the road to an uncivilized world. In the eyes of George W Bush I see hatred. What else could possibly explain the lack of compassion for the innocent lives being lost in the Middle East? Imagine the situation reversed. Imagine Lebanon preemptively attacking Israel. Would George the Lesser have the same response? Could anyone imagine George the Lesser saying that Lebanon had the right to protect itself? Where is the outrage at the loss of human life?

I suppose if you preach the theory of “Shock and Awe” warfare you have no sympathy for innocent civilians, unless they will buy you American votes. There is no other explanation for George W Bush’s desire to save stem cells with his veto of the stem cell research bill, but his lack of empathy for those who could benefit from this research. He tried to mock this legislation by bringing children to the photo op veto ceremony. He is saving the stem cells so they can be flushed down the toilet, instead of being used to help those who are suffering from genetic diseases. And, his faux compassion for this issue completely ignores those soldiers who are being killed and maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, stem cell research could also be the key to helping to restore the ability to walk to those who have been paralyzed.

Maybe George the Lesser is actually working in the interest of the pharmaceutical industry. By vetoing this legislation private industry will be the only class to do this research, and patents will protect any discovery. The benefits to the American people will be restricted to those who can afford restricted access to these private discoveries keeping the cost high. Once again, it seems that George the Lesser is acting out of interest to himself and big business. I only see greed and hatred in his eyes, as he talks with his mouth full of food and vulgarity.

My biggest confusion doesn’t really lie in the personality of George the Lesser. Instead I am more confused by those who support him. How can these well meaning people not see through him? Obviously there is a large group of people who still feel compassion for life. These are the people who opposed abortion because they feel deep down that the fetus within is special and deserves to live. But, where is their compassion when they see their uncle laying in bed, not able to move his legs? Where is their compassion for their aunt who needs someone to pound on their chest every morning and evening so that she will be able to continue to breath? Where is the compassion for their mother who no longer remembers who they are, how they got their or what might happen the next day? These people are already born and hope for technology to stop or even reverse the disease they have. If a human embryonic stem cell is frozen waiting to be thrown away, what is the harm to using this cell? How can this cell be considered self aware, the one human trait that sets humans aside from animals is the religious sense? But, animals are sacrificed every day so that we can eat. How can a human stem cell be considered more than that?

Some people are squeamish when it comes to killing pigs or cows for food. There could certainly be a large number of those who feel this way. Many people who even eat meat would not be able to find the strength to go to watch an animal be slaughtered. Should we pass laws restricting the killing of animals because of these few people? How many rednecks would be screaming foul if their meat were taken off the table? Are these the same people who hear the stem cells scream?

It seems to me that these people are the victims of a miss informed marketing campaign and we will all suffer for it.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

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

Friday, July 14, 2006

Persuadable Voters

In reading the recent AP-poll I came across the term persuadable voters.

The term struck me as being a truth, yet not a desirable truth. I began to think that we should all be persuadable voters, and it is a sad day when we monitor such a statistic. In an ideal democracy we should all be persuadable voters considering both sides of the argument. We should go into an election with an open mind and listen to the arguments and asking the important questions. We should have in mind how a government should be run and we should listen to how each candidate proposes he will make the effort himself.

Sadly, there are many people who don’t care enough to follow the campaigns, ask the questions or try to understand what each candidate brings to the table.

I can’t blame these people to much, because I don’t always know everything there is to know about each candidate. In the California primary I was asked to choose between two candidates who had more similarities than differences. Both were former mayors of local towns. Both had grown up in disadvantaged areas of the area. And, both had the same first name, although spelled differently. Searching the Internet yielded little independent information. The only difference I found was that one candidate spent a lot more money advertising, and she won the election. So, the questions become, how can the average person get independent information? How much time should one spend trying to get the straight stuff?

In this one race I was certainly a “persuadable voter.” Both candidates were from the same party, and stood for the same ideals. Up to election day I was gradually swayed to vote against the candidate that spent all the money on advertising. But I could have been persuaded to vote for her if she had only had an independent source of information that I could use to compare the two candidates.

But, should we all really be “persuadable?” I am not so sure now that I think about this again. For example, after scientists have come to the conclusion that evolution is in fact a scientific theory that is based on scientific evidence should be easily grant someone without scientific evidence and a religious theory equal weight? Should we really be that persuadable? It seems to me that we should have some issues that we are not willing to give ground on. We should not vote for a candidate that is indifferent to the protection of our city, country or the world. But, we need to understand the priorities candidates place on each of these.

So, maybe I have come full circle on the nature of the persuadable voter. Perhaps the persuadable voter is a person who has not spent the time weighing the issue and determining which political party supports their view of the world. Perhaps the persuadable voter is just the lazy voter who hasn’t put forth the effort to be a responsible citizen. But, this does not seem to fit. If a person were really lazy, they most likely wouldn’t put in the effort to get to the polls on election day. However, there must be a class of voters that find that they agree with one party on a set of issues and the other party on the remaining set of issues. In this case they could easily be persuaded based on the candidates emphasis of the issues favored by the candidates in question.

Perhaps the more important question is: Who are these persuadable voters, because they control the outcome of the elections?


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

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

Thursday, July 13, 2006


George W Bush performed an unethical experiment on the economics of the American people and the result is that they made themselves wealthier at the expense of the middle class.

In medicine we have the Hippocratic oath. We also have the wisdom of “…at first doing no harm.” It is certainly forbidden to experiment on people who are unaware of the experimentation. With medicine or treatments a patient is asked to agree to the procedure. What other ethical choice is there? After all, if you don’t have your health what do you have? Is there such a thing as well being for a person who has had there life destroyed by someone they trusted?

In economics things are different. Each government takes the wheel at the helm of the economy and they try to steer it where they please. But, as we all know the economic ship behaves differently in different waters. If the ship enters troubled waters, not one but many people suffer at what can only be called experimentation. But the people effected by this experimentation are never asked to agree to the terms. The people controlling the wheel may even benefit themselves to the detriment of the majority on the ship.

Regardless of the ethics and morality of experimentation on our economic well being, the Bush administration has done just that. They have acted in ways contrary to classic economic thinking in an effort to make themselves wealthier at the expense of the rest of us.

In 2001 when George W Bush took office the stock market bubble began to burst and we entered an economic recession. This is normal and part of the natural feedback system we have in the business cycle. The simplified version of which begins with the production of products. The idea is to produce enough products for the demand. However, the demand and production are never kept in complete harmony. Therefore, the price of the product is effected by both the supply and demand for the product. High demand and low production results in a scarce expensive product. Similarly low demand and high production results in a cheap abundant product. The oscillation in prices for a product results from the response to wanting more production and spending cash from a scarce expensive product to increase production to the point that the product becomes cheap and abundant. Production then becomes unused and then sold off resulting in lower production again. If “need” continues to change over time it confounds the situation, making planning difficult and business cycles even more extreme.

Normally, once people understand the direction of the market simple human greed will pull everyone in the proper direction to respond to the markets. However, since governments are very large they can effect these decisions by altering the reward for acting in the market favorable way. They do this mainly by taxation and fees. People can be persuaded to invest in certain businesses if taxation is different for different industries or activities. Businesses can be persuaded to act in certain ways if one way is more favorable in some way. But, it isn’t always clear how changing these things will effect the overall economy.

So, when George W Bush responded to the recession by cutting taxes on the wealthy he assumed that this was going to be a good thing for all Americans. He claimed that giving more money the wealthy would result in more investment and spending, which would hypothetically spur the economy. But, since no one had ever done this in time of war, and borrowed money to pay for this reward to the wealthy Americans became the subject of a massive medical experiment.

The results are beginning to come in from this experiment. First of all the recovery is much slower than the recovery under the Clinton administration. In fact, the recovery is much slower that any recession since World War II. The data from this experiment suggests that the natural recovery is happening in spite of giving tax breaks to the wealthy. Second, giving tax breaks to the wealthy has resulted in a higher degree of separation being the rich and the poor. In other words, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. In fact, the middle class is getting poorer as well.

The conclusion is that the Bush administration performed an unethical experiment on the economics of the American people and the result is that they made themselves wealthier at the expense of the middle class.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Social Darwinism

Fear comes in many flavors.

One of the reasons cited by the religious right in opposition to evolution is that the theory is not moral. The point that evolution is a scientific observation of evidence doesn’t matter, because evolution could lead to ideas that are immoral. The point that nature could be amoral doesn’t occur to these people.

So, we must ask the question, how is the theory of evolution immoral?

The principle of evolution is based on the idea that the environment effects the species. If there is an ice age and the environment changes, the individuals that can deal with the change in climate have a better chance to survive. So, if in a population of 100 animals, some have thick hair and are able to keep their body temperature normal even in the coldest winter nights, they have a better chance of fighting disease and being able to produce the next generation of the species. Those genes get passed on and the weaker genes die with the individuals that are not so gifted.

But, evolution is not that simple. There are many genes, and genes that function one way do not automatically rule out genes that function another way. And, there are mutations that happen in individuals that are most often deadly, but occasionally useful. The environment changes over the thousands of years as does the location of the population of individuals.

For example, a species may have a mixture of genes that relate to metabolism. Some individuals can survive long periods without food while other individuals burn all of there food as energy very quickly. The high metabolism individuals may however, be faster than the low metabolism creatures. High metabolism creatures may be able to hunt more food, since they are quicker. Low metabolism creatures may become obese when the food supply increases. Both aspects of metabolism have there benefits depending on the current conditions, and both aspects benefit the entire group as a whole to survive through the centuries. This is an important aspect of evolution, it does not always eliminate every gene in the gene pool. Useless genes from very long ago continue to be propagated until one day when it might be useful again.

If you don’t understand something, then it becomes easy to jump to conclusions. This seems to be the trait of those who condemn evolution. These people seem to have come to the conclusion that teaching the idea of evolution implies the survival of the fittest, which implies Social Darwinism. Social Darwinism is the idea that society would be better off if we eliminated the weakest individuals.

It is quite interesting that the conservatives are profoundly against Social Darwinism when their political actions actually promote the idea of Social Darwinism. For example, the economically weakest in our society have a much higher mortality rate than those who come from less economically challenged families. This policy is enhanced by the poor health care system our country offers to our poor. The policy is further enhanced by all of the road blocks that are put in place to make it more difficult for these people to get a good education, and then later a high paying job. In fact, the difficulty for the economically weak to move up the social ladder assures us that only the fittest of this class rises to the top to acquire wealth and assure that their genes continue to be passed on to future generations along with their acquired wealth. This seems to be Social Darwinism in operation, but by another name: capitalism.

So, the conservatives tell us that the idea that the natural selection of the species is an immoral theory and should not be taught in school should consider the immoral nature of economics. Perhaps they should move on to prevent the teaching of capitalism in school? But, the real point here is that these people have jumped to the conclusion that the theory of evolution implies Social Darwinism. Just because a process happens in nature does not imply that it should be copied and reproduced in our society. And the hypocrisy is that they know this as well. It is documented that apes masturbate in the zoos in front of the public. I am sure that they do the same in the wild. Are the conservatives advocating that humans should copy nature and do the same? Of course not! Many species of animals have multiple mates including homosexual relationships, are the conservatives implying that since it happens in nature we need to copy it for our society as well? Once again, I believe that the answer is no.
The point is that the conservatives tend to operate on fear. They fear that knowledge is dangerous. If the young in our country somehow find out about the reality of the world they may be scarred. If they know that evolution is an amoral process in nature they may believe that it is moral and should be implemented in society. This fear leads many of these conservatives to believe that children may not be able to figure out that killing the weak in our society might not be a good thing. The truth is that if they actually learned how evolution worked they would learn that killing creatures with an undesirable trait at one point in time may actually doom the society in another later point in time. Just because a trait seems to be undesirable know does not imply that the trait will not be useful in the future. This is why diversity is so important.

I suppose from the conservative point of view that this may make some sense in a twisted sort of way. If we realize that conservatives actually dislike diversity and if they did accept social Darwinism as a principle they might destroy the society by selecting the traits that they deem important. For example, since conservatives dislike the idea of sex in almost any form they may choose to eliminate all those who have sex organs. Or, for example conservatives also dislike the idea that some people aren’t as wealthy as they should be, so they may choose to eliminate those who don’t make enough money. So, if you actually think about this from the conservative point of view you realize that conservatives are actually justified in their fear of Social Darwinism, because they know what they would do if they actively implemented it.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

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

, , ,

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Economy is Strong

Strong for who?!

George W Bush has been making statements about the strength of the economy again. This time they used the old corporate trick of predicting a poor quarter and then bragging about how well the economy has improved based on their over inflated prediction. What they don’t say is that they had over inflated the prediction several times before and they didn’t even meet those expectations. And, they don’t tell you that even with the deficit not reaching the White House’s predicted over inflated estimate they have still created the third largest deficit in American history.

But, who benefits in the current “great” economy? Obviously the people who benefit know for themselves, they are the people who are currently making the extra cash. Is that you or me? Well, I don’t know about you, but I am not doing much better than I was six years ago. The two things that are effecting my economic well being are the price of gasoline and medical bills.

Well, I have to admit that I do put a lot of miles on the car and those miles now cost me 50% more than they did last year. If you drove an SUV last year, then the 50% rise in gasoline price certainly doesn’t bother you, because you didn’t care last year. But, I don’t drive an SUV and I still buy about $400.00 in gasoline every month.

And, I have to admit that I may be different when it comes to medical bills. I have four kids, three of which are involved in sports activities. Maybe they shouldn’t be involved in sports, because one of them seems to get injured just about every month. Sometimes they go to the emergency room to have their bones set, but most of the time they need to see a sports medicine doctor for something that may not seem to be very important, but it usually is. The price for this intervention is mostly covered by insurance, since we have already paid the deductible for this year, but there is still the co-pay for each visit and the medicine that always seems to be prescribed. These costs have continued to go up every year over the last six years, simply because the cost of insurance has gone up every year and my plan covers less and less every year.

I do have to admit that my retirement plan has gone up every year over the last six years, and if I don’t have to pull the money out of that account to pay for gasoline and medical bills our family may get by. But, just because the market is going up does not mean that the economy is better for me.

But, there are people out there who are doing better. These are the people who get their money from the stocks and bonds that they own. As the interest rate goes up these people will be able to buy more bonds to service the debt of the local, state and federal governments. As the stock market goes up these people will make more on the money they have invested in stocks. In fact, since the Republicans have cut the taxes on dividends and capital gains these people will certainly be living high on the hog. They can afford to buy even more stock and make even more money. They would certainly not care if they had to pay even $800.00 per month to drive their SUVs to their second house in Aspen, or Palm Springs, depending on the season.

And, fortunately for the people for whom the Republican Party really cares about the justice department isn’t worried about corporate fraud but instead they would rather put efforts into fighting the drug wars and fill up the prisons with drug users so we can pay their stay while they can learn the gang trade. The prisons work as a training ground for the new gang members, who join prison gangs for protection from the other gangs. Having no gang affiliation in prison is nearly a death sentence in our current prisons system.

So, if you are doing well this year, then the Republican Party is working for you. This is certain, because George W Bush has proclaimed the economy to be good. But, if times are still tough for you even after George W Bush has made his proclamation, then you know that you are not one of the Republican chosen people. You know for sure that when the Republicans see the world they don’t see you.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

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

The Body Politic

This metaphor goes back thousands of years. Society may be viewed as a living organism. In fact, I believe that no matter what Jesus really meant when he spoke at the Last Supper of sharing in the Body and Blood of himself, it is clear that he is also talking about community. In those ancient times sharing a meal was a family activity. The society of the time valued family as solid foundation where members helped each other for the good of the family. So, when Jesus is suggesting that sharing in the Passover meal should remind them of him he knows that he is bringing the strength of family to the early Christian community.

In fact, it wasn’t just any meal that Jesus celebrated but it was the Passover meal. This tradition passed done through the Jewish families and laced with family traditions was being extended to the wider community. So, when Jesus tells us to share the bread and eat his body he is telling us that his spirit is being spread out to everyone in the community. Similarly the sharing of his blood as the wine of the meal helps us focus on the metaphor of the community as a living body.

Now, one could believe that Jesus meant that the bread and wine of the celebration actually became his body and blood, and for some that is comforting while others find it repulsive. And Jesus could be sitting in Heaven and viewing each and every celebration of the Eucharist and then sends his holy magic powers down from Heaven onto everyone who eats it. You either believe these things or you don’t. However, it seems that the power in the idea behind this special meal lies in the metaphor of Jesus becoming the community.

After all, what is a human anyway? A human being is able to detect the environment around his body and react to the conditions of the environment. But all animals can do this to some extent. What makes a human different is the ability to not only detect the conditions of the environment, but to build memory and reasoning into those observations. A human being is able to maintain a large body of facts, observations and make decisions. And similarly a community is able to do all of these things as well. And, the Christian community holds the teachings and reasoning of Jesus within themselves.

Of course, not one man alone could claim to be Jesus because not one man has a complete reasoning or understanding of Jesus. Not one man or woman could determine by themselves how Jesus felt about any particular issue, simply because each individual’s understanding is affected by their own personal experiences and understanding of the world. But when the community comes together to participate in the Christian Community the individual ideas are countered by all the other individual ideas being expressed. At least that’s the metaphor, as I understand it.

But, society doesn’t really need to be centered on Christianity. Society could be all-inclusive and work for the common good of the entire society. It doesn't really need to emphasize who owns what or who is in power, even though human society tends to do this. But, of course society needs to address these issues. But, I would suggest that any political philosophy or ideology that does not address the “common good” of society as the number one priority is a flawed philosophy or ideology. After all, if society is the body the individuals need to protect it.

Well, of course when the details of this metaphor begin to be ironed out self-interest becomes the major obstruction to the goal. With Christianity putting Jesus’ body above the individual destroyed this roadblock. Since Jesus is viewed as God, it wasn’t difficult to put God above the individual. However, no matter how important society is, it is not as important as God is. But, can society be placed as more important than the individual but less important than God? And also, can society actually be equated with the government? It seems to me that these are the major arguments that the Republicans and Democrats have been fighting about for the last 80 years or more.

Basically, Republicans are saying the God is most important, the individual is next and government is third. Democrats on the other hand say that God is most important, the government is next and the individual is third. But, the arguments fly off into the weeds from there. Republicans will tell you that Democrats are lifting government to the rank of God which of course is completely false, but it puts fear into the God fearing Christians. Some Democrats who don’t care might concede this argument a bit to quickly, because they might not be religious and they might not see the difference which gives an example to the highly religious right. Democrats might point out that individuals can not be trusted to protect society, but they ignore the fact that individuals actually are motivated to protect society out of self-interest.

Everyone tends to ignore the important details of government’s organization to allow for the ruling of society, much like the nervous system organizes the functioning of the body. But, unlike the body, society stores the history and experiences in every living being as well as the physical buildings of government.

Maybe if we use this metaphor it will help us to organize our thoughts in a new way that will reflect the function of society to grow, prosper and mature, which will ultimately result in benefiting all of the individuals that are members of the society.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

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

Monday, July 10, 2006

This Is Messed Up

My kids like to quote this little phrase, “That’s just messed up,” any time they witness unfairness, which happens quite often for teenagers as a rule. When the violation isn’t something that me or my wife had done, then its something that’s happened in the wider world.

For example, when France’s star player, Zinedine Zidane head butted the Italian star player, Marco Materazzi, in the World Cup final on Sunday, my kids said, “That’s just messed up,” in unison. You know the phrase is over used when it’s quoted in unison, but for once the kids were right. Head butting a guy on “International TV” is just messed up.

But there are lots of things that are just messed up, and its part of life to try to identify them and fix them. For example, we watched the movie, “Inherit the Wind,” last night. For those who don’t know, “Inherit the Wind,” is a movie based on the famous Scopes Monkey trial. Tennessee had passed a law making the teaching of evolution illegal in Tennessee and a brave teacher in a small town decided to break the law. Before watching the movie everyone in my family, including myself had thought they knew what had happened with regard to this case, but we were all wrong. I had known bits and pieces of the trial. I knew the outcome of the case and how pride had brought down William Jennings Bryan as he was cross-examined. But I wasn’t aware of the human factor of all the people involved. Of course, all of the names in the movie were changed, perhaps in a way to allow the writer some leeway in developing the human side of the story.

The movie was a great way for my kids to learn a little piece about American history and culture without actually realizing that they were learning anything. Fortunately we were watching the movie on DVD, so we could pause the movie anytime one of the kids had a question. And, judging by the number of pauses they learned a lot. Most of the questions had to do with why Tennessee would pass such a stupid law and of course, after the end of the trial, How could the teacher still loose the court case? They were learning about the mentality of following what you are told without questioning. This movie was a good way to show the kids how lucky they are to live in a place that actually encourages thinking and questioning.

The scary thing about the movie for my kids was the fact that there are still people in our country who believe that people shouldn’t question and think. They’ve been out to the small towns in East Texas and they know that these people exist, but they didn’t realize what that could mean for other people in the town.

Sometimes I worry when I get a movie that isn’t in the top 10 movies to rent this week. If my kids think the movie is “lame,” they’ll just get up and leave the room. Occasionally they will stay for the entire movie hoping that it’ll “be healed and walk again.” But, if it doesn’t, I’ll pay the price when they tell me not to pick out any more “lame” movies. So, when “Inherit the Wind” began to get into some of the tedium of setting up the plot I worried that my kids would call the movie “lame.” But, when they stuck around for the three plus hours (because of all the stoppage time) I was happy.

I did begin to wonder about American culture. We all know that all cultures evolve and change. Things are constantly added to the culture. But, is there really room for everything? After all, when you waste time watching an episode of “Survival” or “American Idol” you actually loose that time which could have been used to read a book, or even watch a John Wayne movie. American history is culmination of the real stories from history, but it is also a collection of the retelling of those stories. When we pick and choose what we view for our entertainment time, we define what is important to our version of American culture. Movies and books give us reference points in our understanding of what we are as a nation.

I guess that the point is that I don’t have any idea what American culture is going to be in the future. I am certain that it will be different than it was when I grew up, as it already is. But, I also wonder if American culture will actually break up into regional cultures, or political cultures or religious cultures. Or, perhaps this is what is happening with the deep divisions between the two main political parties. There wouldn’t be anything wrong with this bifurcation of American culture if we still maintain the understanding of the importance America as a nation, but when I listen to right wing talk radio I constantly hear myself saying, “This is just messed up.”


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

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

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Democrat’s Narrative

I was listening to Geoff Nunberg yesterday on Fresh Air. He has a new book out called:

“Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show.”

The title alone should get everyone thinking. This is because this is the image that the right uses to paint the Democrats as everything that is wrong with America. It should get Democrats thinking about why they have allowed the Republicans to perpetuate this lie. And it should get Republicans thinking about why they believe the lie. And, it should get everyone thinking about how this new form of discrimination is creeping into American culture.

First of all, if you actually look at the marketing data the above statement isn’t even true. It turns out that Republicans actually drink more Lattes and eat more Sushi than Democrats. As far as Volvo ownership and New York Times readership goes, it is split down the middle. Most of the people who actually pierce their bodies are actually opting out of society politically and they are making their statement, unless you actually count the ear piercings. And I don’t think that Liberals are the only ones going to the Hollywood movies.

But, that isn’t really the point. The point is that this stereotype of a “liberal” is out in the general public, and it is being used as a hate tool. It is being used in the same way that Nazis were vilified during World War II and the Russians were vilified during the Cold War. In fact, the stereotyping of groups seems to be a common thread among conservatives, (and of course that is stereotyping by myself, but it seems to be quite true. Doesn’t it?) Conservatives tend to paint pictures of groups they don’t like. For example, think of a typical African American. If you don’t personally know an African American you may be tempted to accept the conservative stereotype. After all, it is much easier to accept a stereotype than to actually go out of your safe little neighborhood and meet an African American. What about the rest of the list, Hispanics, Homosexuals, Asians, or even Femonazis? Isn’t it the case that conservatives are more likely to know the stereotype of these groups than to actually know a member of the group? (There I go again stereotyping the conservatives again.)

Well, now maybe we can begin to see the problem liberals, progressives or Democrats have fighting against the stereotypes in our society. Liberals tend to believe that people are people and they shouldn’t be judged by their cultural stereotype. (That is part of the ideology, not a stereotype.) But, because it is part of their ideology it is difficult to attack a cultural deficiency. So, one needs to be nuanced in the differences between culture and stereotype. For example, some cultures regard education as a high priority and others regard education as a low priority. If a culture regards education as a low priority, then should we stereotype all people from that culture as uneducated? Obviously not, because if the priority of education is low, it still doesn’t mean that members of that culture are automatically stupid or uneducated. However, some members of the culture may not even care if you called them uneducated, because the culture doesn’t value education.

So, we come to the problem where the conservative culture advocates behaving in an anti-social way, and there is very little that liberals can do to counter the argument without the appearance of stereotyping the conservatives. The common man wants the stereotype in order to make a judgement, but advocating a stereotype is a flawed way of dealing with this problem in the liberal ideology. It is suggested that stereotyping the conservatives would lead to advocating the stereotyping of all groups.

Well, the liberals fell into this trap years ago. The conservatives were able to build a complex stereotype of the “liberal.” The liberals avoided building a stereotype, and now they have very little to use as a weapon in this political battle. Since the 2000 election, liberals have been building a stereotype of the average conservative, but it isn’t always agreed upon. Are the conservatives wealthy, Christians? Are the conservatives big business tax evaders? Are the conservatives religious zealots or greedy sleaze balls? Are the conservatives warring hawks or out of control hunters? Are the conservatives southern Bar BQed rednecks or Wall Street egomaniacs?

The answer and the solution lies in the fact that the Democrats or the liberals don’t have a uniform narrative? This narrative is a story describing the liberal’s place in the world. What do liberals aim to do? How do they aim to do it? And, why does it matter? The story needs to run off the tip of every liberal tongue, and it needs to be referenced in the reason for every action or project. It certainly needs to be a message as to what the liberals are trying to do to make the world a better place, and why the Republicans are destroying the world that we have. Every liberal knows why they have been attracted to the cause, but they need to echo that in the narrative of how liberals will make the world a better place. But, the most important part of the story is that everyone agrees with the main parts of it and it can be transferred to “Everyman.”

Well, I haven’t read Geoff Nunberg’s book, but I certainly need to add it to my list. I have an idea of what it say’s but hopefully when I do read it then it will lead me to even more insight into this problem.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

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

Thursday, July 06, 2006

World Cup Fun

I don’t normally write about sports. But, this is more than just a post about sports. In fact someone might say that this is a post about the “Culture Wars.” After all, American culture is all about Mom, Baseball, and Apple Pie. Then I guess we added American Football, video games and watching mind numbing reality TV shows. But, every time you think that you know what a culture is, it changes. And, this little story illustrates how that might happen on the local level.

The World Cup Semifinal game between Italy and Germany was quite good. My son and I have been following the World Cup this year, watching some games and rooting for our favorites based on nothing more or less than if we have been to the country or if we liked the color of their jersey.

So, with the Italy Germany game I was undecided who I should root for at the beginning of the game. We lived in Germany for three years and have friends from there, but we also have friends in Italy as well. As the game progressed it became clear to me that Italy was playing the better soccer, but they weren’t able to get the ball into the goal.

I should set the scene before I go any further. We were invited over to our friend’s house to watch the game at noon our time. Our friends have three daughters, all of whom had predetermined that they don’t like soccer. As I said before, my son and I have been watching the games, and the rest of the family has stopped by the TV to watch a portion of a game or two and they had begun to catch the World Cup bug. However, it would be a far reach to really claim that they were “soccer fans.” So, when we were invited to go watch the game, our friend’s daughters were a bit upset at my kids who actually thought that it might be fun to watch the game. I actually thought that they might watch a few minutes of the game, then they would be distracted and go play something else.

We got to their house just a little bit late, but since they had TiVo it wasn’t a major inconvenience. We were able to pause the game, set out the snacks and continue the game. In fact, by pausing the game we were able to fast forward through the halftime commercials. It was quite interesting to see the girls begin to pick their favorite player and root for him.

At halftime I was rooting for Italy, because I thought that they deserved the win based on how well they were playing. And, by the end of regulation we were really worried that the game would be scoreless through the overtime and the end of regulation would be decided by penalty kicks. However, Italy continued to play even better through out the overtime, hitting the cross bar and the post in attempts to score. Germany did manage a couple of shots, but we were clearly rooting for Italy.

And, when Italy finally put their first goal into the net with only a couple of minutes left in the game the house erupted with shouts of joy. However, even with all the shouts of joy there was still a moment when we all thought that there was a chance that Germany could capitalize on the potential overconfidence of the Italian team. It was possible that Italy could let down their guard for a fraction of a minute and tie the game. But, while everyone was still in this moment of celebration and guarded optimism the Italian players brought the ball back down the field and scored again. For a moment, some of us thought that it was merely an instant replay of the previous goal, except somehow this one went in on the right side of the net and the previous one went in on the left.

Italy had lived up to its playing and certainly deserved to win the game. It was hard to imagine how I could have gone into watching a game not really caring who had won, and end up so emotionally drained and happy about the outcome of the game. And, it was interesting to see a whole house full of people who had gathered together with little or no history of soccer in their blood be converted into loony soccer fans by just one game.

Unfortunately, I had to work yesterday, so I wasn’t able to watch the France Portugal game. But, the funny thing was that since my kids are out of school they decided to get together with the other family and watch the game. I had to ask them if the game was any good when I came home. They had certainly caught the World Cup fever, because they started complaining about the officiating. They thought that Portugal had several calls called against them when they should have been against France, or that they simply were not penalties at all.

Well, I certainly know what I am doing this weekend. There are two games left. The consolation game for third place on Saturday and the Final on Sunday.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

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

, ,