Dr. Forbush Thinks

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

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Location: California, United States

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Respect Education

How can we fix our national education problem? Of course we must first admit that there is a problem. With all of the proposals being floated around the politicians - testing, accountability, more taxes, more discipline, higher teacher’s salaries, school vouchers, and magnet schools for example - someone must think that there is a problem.

Unfortunately the reality of the situation is a decline in the public demand for quality education. This is a cultural issue that begins with the respect of education in general. If there was a universal respect for education, then parent would be working to ensure that there kids were doing their homework, and behaving in school. If there was a universal respect for education teachers would be making salaries in line with management wages and people would be bending over backward trying to donate time and services to all education oriented organizations in the community.

There are many reasons why education has lost respect. First there are people who don’t believe that education is more than acquiring workplace skills in order to make a bit more money. Education is more than that. It is a collection of knowledge that needs to be passed on to future generations so that it won’t be lost. It is also the skill of rational thought that allows people to discover how the politicians and advertisers distort the facts to get you to do what they want you to do. It is also a pool of common knowledge that allows people to discuss the world around them on a higher level of understanding. It is also the key to protecting the community from dangers, like diseases, poisons and other less obvious things.

Second there are cultural biases against education that have seeped into our country. Some subcultures regard education as dangerous, especially for women or minorities. Some subcultures place less emphasis on education, claiming it isn’t cool, or it doesn’t give us the “whole” truth. There subcultures set a dangerous precedent encouraging children to skip school, or disrupt classrooms.

Third, parents find keeping tabs on their children too tedious and taxing. Many families have both parents working out of economic necessity. Parents come home from work to tired to deal with the children and end up sitting them in front of a TV or video game. When young children have questions about homework or topics covered in school many parents are too tired to answer the questions, or they have adopted the attitude that the school is responsible for there child’s education and they tell their children to wait until the next day for them to ask the teacher. A child with a helpful parent will learn much quicker than one with a parent who doesn’t give a damn.

Schools are an important part of the equation, but they are not the only part. An overall respect for the education system as a whole would go a lot further in repairing the damage than any suggestion that I have heard. This is because an overall respect for the system would take away some of these projects with ulterior motives like school vouchers. Everyone should realize by now that school vouchers are a way proposed by the religious right to enable the siphoning of education dollars out of the public education system to support schools that already exist free of government money. Catholic schools have survived without this extra money, that would come from every student already enrolled. By virtue of supply and demand the same students would remain enrolled and the tuition would increase respectively until each student would be paying the same amount that they already pay. The net benefit would be the private schools with the surplus cash. The net losers would be the public schools that would lose this money. Obviously taxpayers would not be willing to raise taxes to pay for the newly supported private schools. If people had a healthy respect for education they would respect how private schools actually benefit the public schools by allowing their tax dollars to go further.

Unfortunately the only way to change a “disrespect” for education into a “respect” for education is a re-education of Americans that is so deep it effects the entire culture. This is an enormous task, and it isn’t clear that it can even be done. At this point everyone is way too cynical to respond to any type of education campaign. How would one even begin?

Well, I am just planting the seed here with a little thought - please respect education, it is the only thing we have to show for all the effort made by the generations of humans that have occupied this planet.


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

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

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Power of Fear

What motivates us? Is it the law of the jungle, animal instinct or practical planning for the future? Think of the next thing that you are planning to do after you finish reading this post. Why are you going to do it? There are several motivating factors that I can think of: curiosity, love, or survival. From my experience almost anything that you are planning to do, or even don’t intend to do are the result of some form of fear.

This is a major realization on my part. But this revelation hit me while I was thinking of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous. Susan Cheever, the author of the book, “My Name is Bill: Bill Wilson--His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous” was being interviewed and she said that she believed that every addiction was based on fear. I hadn’t thought of addiction in this way before, but she went on to use the example of overeating. She said that personally she knows that she could easily go without eating, but at some point during the day she begins to think about something she would like to eat. Then, she puts it off, but the thought keeps coming back to her stronger and stronger each time. She begins to create a fear that she will never be able to eat whatever it is that she was considering earlier. Rationally this fear makes no sense at all, but to the addict the fear is very real and it won’t go away until it is acted upon.

So, I began to think a little more about fear. When we imagine fear, we often think of things popping out at us and surprising us. We think of sudden terror as we reach the summit of a roller coaster. But, there are other fears that are not so dominant. For example, the fear that you won’t make the rent payment, or the fear that you will be fired from your job. There is the fear of being beaten and robbed at gunpoint. There is the fear that someone you trust will do something against you because you trusted them. The list of fears goes on and on. In fact, if you think of something that you plan to do, it is most likely that you are going to do it out of the motivation of fear. People go to church, because they fear going to Hell. People follow traditional customs, because they fear that their family and relatives will look down on them if they don’t follow the traditions. People vote because they fear who will get in office if they don’t. People exercise because they fear death and sickness. People skip exercise because they fear that they will miss their favorite program on the TV or they fear the pain and exhaustion after the exercise.

The fears are not all equal, and that has a lot to do with how you deal with each fear. People who fear dark places will avoid dark places and plan what they do accordingly. People who fear crowds will do likewise. People who fear violence may carry a gun to protect themselves. But, one thing is certain; people do not deal with their fears rationally. This is because fear is an emotional response to the unknown. People can guess the future, but they can not know with certainty how the future will be. Nature has given us the ability to construct a scenario in our minds to predict the probability of something happening in the future, but this ability is often being challenged and the result continues to be unable to know the future.

Fear can make a person do strange things that they will be embarrassed about later. Fear can make you hold on to the car door handle with white knuckles when your daughter drives you down the street for the very first time. Fear can make you drink alcohol to relieve the fear. In understanding the global nature of fear it is obvious how alcohol, or drugs can become so addictive for some people. No matter what the fear is, enough alcohol will make you pass out and forget the fear. It also explains why drugs like LSD were never very addictive, your fears become supernatural under the influence of LSD.

What Susan Cheever also explained was why the spiritual aspect of Alcoholics Anonymous was the secret ingredient that helped members succeed where other methods did not. Spirituality brings into focus the big picture. You no longer feel that you need to control your fear. Instead, there is nothing to fear because there is something greater than your petty fear.

In fact, the point of religion in general tends to be a way to control fears by reminding us about God. Different religions do this in different ways. The authoritarian method is to tell us that God has a list of laws. If one follows God’s list of laws, then there is nothing to fear because God will take care of everything. The maternal loving method tells us that God created us and therefore he loves us as His son or daughter and we should feel comfortable in knowing that He is always there protecting us as a mother protects her children. Both methods aim to alleviate fear from our lives by telling us not to fear.

The authoritarian method ran into trouble even in Jesus’ time. The Jewish religion had many laws and they made life more difficult in some ways. People found themselves breaking the laws unavoidably from time to time and then they found themselves in fear again. So, the problem became if one breaks the law what will happen to them. Some people believed that they would be punished for breaking the laws in different ways. For example, the parents of the man born blind believed that their sin had caused the blindness of the man. Guilt and fear ran deep in the culture because following the list of laws proved nearly impossible and most people had broken them and they assumed that they could not be forgiven. Fear was back and religion was no longer the solution.

But, Jesus changed all that when he began to forgive the people. When the people began to feel forgiven their fears left them. Or, at least they lost the fear of being punished by God for breaking a law on the list. They could go back and begin to follow the laws once again with a clean slate. The power of forgiveness was able to overpower fear. Jesus brought salvation.

But, unfortunately there is an epilog to this story. Some of the followers of Jesus never really understood what Jesus had done. Some thought that He brought new or better laws, and if those laws were followed to the letter, then there would be no fear. But, these people did not learn the real lesson that Jesus had taught. A new list of laws would result in the same creation of fear over time as people continued to be human and make mistakes in their lives. Forgiveness is the salvation that Jesus brought, not new laws. The rationalization of fears by putting them in the proper order is what religion seeks, and realizing the power of God is the key to this reorganization. When one realizes this there is no longer a need to drink to forget ones fears. With proper fears put in proper order one can manage his or her life putting the emphasis on projects that will make a difference, instead of wasting time on fears that make little difference or may even be destructive to one’s life.

But, fear is powerful and leaders are always seeking power. Leaders should have the goal to lead the people for the common good, but given a little power these people sometimes demand more. Fear is one method in which leaders can guarantee more power. This is because people are mobilized by fear. Announcing a common threat will insure that the people will not only unite but also sacrifice personal liberty and material goods. Security is see as safety from an unknown threat. Leaders in quick response to a real threat can use this fear, but it is also used to consolidate power within the leadership. The truth is that this fear can be abused. But, fortunately people will gradually loose their fear and be able to respond to the leaders and take back their power. And it is time to do just that in November. Don’t forget to vote!


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

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

Friday, August 25, 2006

Who Are the Fascists?

When George W Bush said that we were battling the Islamo-fascists he set off a wave of criticism. But what does he care? George W Bush has shown us all that he doesn't care what the world thinks.

This article in the Saudi Arabian press demonstrates just how poorly the Bush administration understands the situation in the Middle East. A simple misuse of a term causes uproar around the world. Even the Italians are upset with Bush's remark. They point out here that the USA actually supported the fascists against Iran in the Iran-Iraq war. That fascist was of course Suddam Husein.

Maybe the administration should spend some time learning about the Middle East before they have Bush spout off...


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

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

That's Life

After watching Richard Doerflinger last night on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer I wanted to commit some act of violence. Fortunately when the show was over I fell asleep and now I only feel some bitter hatred instead.Why do people find this need to distort facts to save the life of a ball of eight cells, but they don't care enough to help a live person with a family and a horrible disease?

Richard Doerflinger is certainly a pro-life extremist who can not see the forest for the trees. He was invited onto the News Hour to discuss a recent advance in stem cell research that will allow a single cell to be taken from an embryo without harming the embryo and then the single cell may be used to generate new stem cell lines that could be used in research. The hope is that if an embryo is not destroyed in the process of creating the stem cell lines, then there may be little opposition to the use of federal funds for this type of research. And, of course money is what every good research program needs to continue to learn about the wonders of creation and to be able to use that knowledge to make our lives better.

Mr. Doerflinger doesn’t see it this way. Instead of praising the effort of these scientists to create a work around an arbitrary law banning money for embryonic stem cell research he criticized the way the privately funded research was conducted. There are no laws preventing the use of embryos in this way. There are only limits by the federal government on the funding of this research. But, Mr. Doerflinger uses his opportunity to shame Robert Lanza claiming he had destroyed 16 embryos in his research to prove that this could be done.

Here is the Washington Post story on this research: link

The research question was a two part question. The first question was can a single cell be removed from an embryo without damaging it. To do this Robert Lanza’s group used eight of the 16 embryos to prove that this could be done. All eight, eight cell embryos matured just fine with the loss of one cell. It is amazing to me that people are concerned about these tiny eight cell clumps, but if this is what it takes, then so be it. So, Mr. Doerflinger was either misinformed, or chose to misrepresent the research done by Advanced Cell Technology (ACT).

The second question to be answered was, can a single cell be enticed to grow into a stem cell colony in a petri dish? Single cells don’t generally like to live by themselves, so this is the more complicated part of the experiment. Since this had never been done before it was expected that the failure rate would be high, until the technique could be established. So, the remaining eight embryos were destroyed in order to get as many cells as possible. The result was 91 stem cells, so obviously some of the eight cell embryos had multiplied. But, the point was that they were able to try this 91 times with 91 individual stems cells and the result was 2 stem cell lines.

Could the same experiment be done without destroying any embryos? Yes, 91 single cells could have been taken from 91 embryos. Did Advanced Cell Technology have 91 embryos? I don’t know, but they did have 16. The probability that they could have produced a stem cell line with only 16 cell would be about 30% based on 2 lines for 91 attempts. But, the knowledge is now known and stem cell line could now be created without harming an embryo.

But, Mr. Doerflinger was not happy about this triumph. Instead, Mr. Doerflinger launched into a tirade about how the new technique could be used for genetic screening and even more embryos will be thrown away as a result of the Advanced Cell Technology technique. Well, doesn’t Mr. Doerflinger sound like he would be fun at a party. He’s certainly always looking at the bright side of things - NOT!

This whole debate is filled with distortion in order to win a point from the public score keeper. But the reality is that there aren’t so many people that care enough about the details accept for the people who are doing the arguing. And these people just continue to listen so they can find one more point to justify how they already feel about the issue.

If pro-life people were really serious about life, then they would be figuring out how to make food from non-living things. This is because the level of life that is in that eight cell clump called an embryo is slightly more significant than a one-cell organism. And, it is slightly less significant than a roundworm. That is the truth in the reality-based world. Equally true is the fact that that clump of cells has the potential to become much more. But, in the reality based world we need to realize that not every conception results in the birth of a child. Nature itself determines the viability of an embryo before it even implants into the wall of the uterus and it continues to monitor its progress throughout the pregnancy. Spontaneous abortions or miscarriages happen all the time. If they happen in the first month of a pregnancy the woman may not even have known that she was pregnant.

However, people who have taken up the cause to fight stem cell research are the first to call an environmentalist a “tree hugger,” because they think these people are over the top. Have they forgotten that the tree is alive and deserves some respect? These same people wear fur, eat meat and maybe go hunting animals with rifles. Is any one of these activities respecting the life they take?

Obviously there is a major speed bump in our culture. We are not on the same page at all. There seem to be two distinct pages and maybe even a few pages in between. Obviously ethicists and philosophers have tackled the question of life before, but they don’t seem to be unified on the subject either. The problem is that in this circle of life we must all destroy life in order to live in one way or another. If society could ever come to terms with what the purpose of life is, then we could more easily come to a consensus on what we should do as a society to make it work. Seeing that this is never going to happen we need to resort to the old plan, every man for himself.


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

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

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Watergate Does Not Bother Me

Watergate was about the abuse of presidential power for political gains. Richard Nixon used his power to have his thugs break into the Democrat's offices and steal political information that could be used to preempt the Democrats political strategy. And, the information was used and Richard Nixon won the 1972 presidential election. People have argued that the crime didn’t matter, because he would have won anyway. But, because of his paranoia Nixon thought that it would be better safe than sorry and every tool possible should be used for his success.

The point is that political advertising can influence people, and when you know what the other guy is about to spring on you their advertising can be nullified rather quickly. So, when a political party shows its hand and makes its strategy known the opposition needs to react to these tactics. In the real world this is a fact of politics as usual. This fact of politics doesn’t always produce the best results for the country. For example, Hamas, a known terrorist organization, won a democratic election in Palistine earlier this year. The result of their win resulted in cuts to funding in Palistine from nations who have pledged not to fund terrorist organizations. Was this issue even debated in the elections? People voted against the Fatah, because of corruption, not for Hamas. Political choices are sometimes difficult.

We have similar problems in our democracy. We are moving closer and closer to a one party system where the Republicans are increasingly able to control the wheels of political power. For example, if the Republicans were able to get a super majority in the Senate they could pass any law they wanted without public debate, if they chose to. With the basement level popularity of the president it doesn’t seem likely that they could win six more seats, but who knows what events could happen to change the view of the average American over the next three months.

In the past the Republican Party has been able to win the few extra votes needed by using fear. They used fear to get voters to the polls and vote against same sex marriage. They didn’t need to know what the Democrats were going to do, because the Democrats do the same thing year after year. They tell their base that they can make their lives better, by increasing benefits to them. Americans know what the benefits are, and if times are tough this is an easy sell. But, when times get easy this is a much more difficult sell. If everyone is doing well, who wants to mess with success? As a result, Democrats will stay home and watch TV on that Tuesday in November.

Democracy works when the voters know the truth and decide which path into the future is best for them personally. If the path into the future benefits the majority, then it benefits the country on average. In the modern age of politics however, politicians have increasingly applied Orwellian language to describe what they mean. In practice they are technically accurate in what they say, but the meanings of the words are no longer the generally understood meanings, or combination of words is used to describe something that we have a traditionally negative or positive word commonly used in association with the concept. Using a rarely used word to replace a commonly used word changes the emotional meaning from understood, to not quite understood words. Then the politicians give a new definition to describe an old idea. This “magic” has been used over and over again to convince Americans that they didn’t really understand a concept and then the concept is redefined.

The distortion of the facts is not legally cheating in politics. The distortion of the facts is known as persuasion. And, persuasion is known as a form of debate. When I was growing up the debate team was trained to argue two different styles of debate. There was the fact based debate and the persuasion style debate.

The fact based debate took quite an effort in gathering facts and spitting them out as quickly as possible. Then the second team was required to counter every argument made by the first team. When I was older and I actually judged debate, this style of debate taxed my mental ability to keep up with every argument and make sure that every argument was countered with something. In rebuttal the first team needed to make sure that the facts that weren’t countered were brought forward and rebuttal arguments were made. This type of argument was certainly a tough mental exercise on everyone involved. The solution to the argument was based on the ability to find the proper facts and present them at the proper time. Speed in delivery counted, because the faster you spoke the more facts could be presented. Every fact presented produced an obstacle for the opposition.

In persuasion style debate facts were needed, but not required. The “what my opponent says is not common sense” argument could be used on anything presented. Citing a source detracts from the flow of an argument and isn’t as persuasive as a friendly voice that sounds like it is speaking “common sense.” Persuasive debate is more often the style employed in political campaigns. And, because this style of debate is less dependent on citing the facts it is also most susceptible to distortion of the facts to suit the needs of the speaker. This means that the speaker bears the responsibility to keep the needs of the people above his personal desires. Unfortunately politicians are human and are continually being tempted to take what they have been hired to guard, the common wealth of the people.

What this inevitably means is that facts exist all around us, but the general public does not often access these facts. Instead a few people gifted in creating persuasive arguments from facts are trusted to translate the mountains of facts into common language for the masses. On issues that most people agree with these persuasive arguments are simply read as news or history and eventually become absorbed into American culture. However, when these people disagree these persuasive arguments become the foundation for campaigns and political strategy. The facts don’t always point in only one direction.

An example of this is the Watergate scandal. In the early days of the Watergate scandal little bits and pieces were reported in the news on page three, four or five. These were the facts as they were known, and as they were discovered. Walter Cronkite realized that putting these facts together in a persuasive argument about the corruption of the Nixon administration was an important story. All of the information he presented was part of the public record, but hardly known or understood by the general public. This information about Watergate had been trickling out over several months, but the public had no idea what it meant until Cronkite synthesized it into one major story. Putting it all together in front of 20 million people that gave the go ahead to the rest of the media to dig into the affair and put it on the front page. Cronkite made a persuasive argument that this was an important story and the media should investigate it.

Of course, we have the same situation today. There have been so many things revealed about the Republicans and the Bush administration, that the general public can't see the forest for the trees. The American people know about a corruption scandal, and they know that George W Bush is an oilman. They know that gas prices are higher than they have been in the past. But, no moderate American with credibility is willing to put their reputation on the line and make the persuasive argument that there is a major problem in the Republican Party. But that seems to be the remedy for the extreme polarization that our country is currently suffering from. It seems that it will take someone from right of center to do what Cronkite did with Watergate before the public will be outraged and the media will dig deeper.


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

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Connecticut Senate Race

Here’s an interesting set of data from the Connecticut Senate race. Real Clear Politics does a good job gathering polling data from multiple sources. In general this results in better results. What they do with the data is average the surveys together. In this case, however this was a mistake.

There are three polls in this survey. The Quinnipiac survey taken 08/10 - 08/14 shows Lieberman with a 12 point lead. The other two later surveys, American Res. Group 08/17 - 08/21 and Rasmussen 08/21 had similar results showing Lieberman with a 2 point lead. The average is slightly dishonest saying that Lieberman had a 5.3 point lead. It should be quite clear that the Quinnipiac survey is an outlier.

Of course, you can go look at the data yourself.

It looks like this is shipping up to be a close race.


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

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Where Has Everyone Gone?

Sometimes I just wonder where the American people have gone. Are they hiding in their houses waiting for a new day to dawn. Is everyone just too frightened to look outside their homes and take an interest in the world?

Well, I walk down my street and I see the kids outside playing in their yards. I see adults sitting on their front porches drinking beer and wine sharing the time talking with their neighbors. I drop my kids off at school, and pick them up after their activities and I see people doing the same. So, there are Americans who leave their humble abodes, but do they take the time to look around?

Well, I am comforted that quietly 60% or more of the American public disagrees with the job that George W Bush is doing. I am comforted by the fact that finally a majority of Americans actually disagree with the War in Iraq and believe that we should never have started that conflict. So, at least we aren’t very likely to march off to Iran or Syria any time soon. But, then again I felt comforted that George W Bush was seeking support from the UN before he invaded Iraq, and I was disillusioned by the fact that he gave up that course when he knew that he couldn’t get support from the sane members of the security council. So, I worry that my comfort is a false one, cushioned in the platitudes of the pollsters. If George W Bush wants to kill someone, who is going to stop him? If George W Bush wants to invade a country, who is going to stop him? This reality that I am living in is just like the 1930s Europe that allowed Adolph Hitler to invade wherever he saw fit.

In March of 2003 when the war protestors stood up and said “NO!” their shouts fell on deaf ears. The majority of Americans thought that the Republicans knew what they were doing. But, it looks like some of those who supported the invasion have had a change of heart. But, a change of heart doesn’t change anything unless the politicians fear they won’t be elected again. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like much is happening on this front. Instead people are keeping to themselves in the political debate. Maybe they have taken the belief that they just don’t understand the world and they don’t care to think about it any more. This withdrawal from an issue happens in our culture much too often. In fact, it could actually be possible that George W Bush himself is reacting this way. But, he is a public figure required to talk about these things. So, perhaps he just continues to read the script and forget about the whole mess.

There have been quite a few pieces out in the last few days that contemplate what George W Bush is thinking about, or if he is at all. They question the hypocrisy and lies contained in his public statements, and they wonder what might be going on upstairs, as they say. Here, here and here are three.

Of course, those are only a few from the last few days. But, what really gets me is the new spin the White House is trying to play on the intellect of the president. We all know that they have played up George W Bush’s speaking problems and turned them into an advantage for themselves by trying to paint him as a “regular guy.” You know, a regular guys that crashes his bike, chokes on pretzels, tells flatulence jokes and goes to bed early every night. But, lately the spin hasn’t been working out for them so well. So, now they have begun to tell us about the books that George W Bush has been reading.

Apparently, believe it or not, George W Bush has read 50 books this year. And, in his competitive frat boy mentality he is lording his accomplishment over Karl Rove, who has only read 40 this year. The first thing that came to mind when I read this was how every year at my wife’s school there are kids who want to read books that are way over their heads. The kids can call the words pretty well, but the problem comes when you ask them about what they read. These kids have trouble understanding the complexity of the interactions going on in the book as well as comprehending the intricacy of the story. So, I imagine a race between these two men resulting in page turning but little else. Or, perhaps if George was actually interested in a book or two, he could be on the phone with authors and experts on these books asking them questions. But, that doesn’t really seem very likely.

Perhaps George W Bush really is smarter than his campaign manager allows him to let on. I hope this isn’t the case, because that would mean that he really doesn’t care about the 100 plus people being killed in Iraq every day. (How many were killed every day under Saddam Hussein? Is he getting close? If he really is smarter than he lets on, then these people who died in the aftermath of Katrina really didn’t need to die. Even Hezbolla can get relief to the people faster than George W Bush.

So, where are the American people? Why don’t they let their voices be heard? Maybe a little pressure on the congress could prevent more mayhem? Maybe a little money for the opposition Party would frighten the government into working for the public’s interest? Whatever it is, the American people need to make an effort and get their voices heard. If not now, then when? We are a Democracy, and the people who live in a Democracy have a responsibility to learn as much as they and inform everyone they know.


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

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

Monday, August 21, 2006

Shut Your Mouth And Do As We Say

Free Speech isn’t easy. People say things that you don’t agree with, and it isn’t always easy to argue back. When the Neo-Nazis marched in Illinois most people did not embrace the march. But, freedom of speech is one of those freedoms that Americans hold dear.

As a family we don’t always agree with one another. That being said it is easy to imagine a family member shouting “Shut up!” to another family member. In fact, with all the correction and punishment dished out for this offense, my kids are still often heard shouting shut up to each other even if it is just within earshot when I do hear it. It is easy to understand the selfish impulse to yell, “shut up” to someone, anyone.

But as Americans we hold freedom dear, and freedom of speech may be the most important freedom we cherish. With free speech we can praise whom we like and disrespect whom we don’t. There are cultural rules of politeness, but they can always be disregarded, because free speech is always more important than cultural rules. The only exception to free speech is safety. You can not yell “fire” in a theater or slander someone if they can prove it. But, other than those exceptions, Americans can say just about anything they want.

Being allowed to say what you want legally, and being able to say what you want culturally are two different things. Like I said before, the Illinois Neo-Nazis were legally allowed to march and make their speeches no matter how culturally abhorrent those speeches were. But, in these people were not allowed to make their speeches the secrecy and mystic of these Neo-Nazis may have resulted in more curious youngsters stealing away to talk about and maybe even idolize these people. The public airing of nonsense often results in a public condemnation of these groups.

By and large free speech is generally considered a good thing in American culture. But there are people who fear free speech, even in our country. I don’t know how many times I have read opinion pieces, blogs and other writings in which the writer tells his readers that criticizing the government should be treated as treason. Or, they may say that criticizing the war effort in Iraq is aiding and abetting the enemy. Giving hope to the enemy is then equated with treason. It may not actually be illegal to do these things, and the people who make these claims do have the freedoms to do this, but their words have a chilling effect on the needed discussions of these topics.

The main problem stems from the breakdown of common cultural understanding in America. It was once believed that people who sacrificed their time and effort to be our leaders cared about America. But, the actions of the Bush administration and the Republicans in power have shown us that this is certainly not the case. No matter how sad this truth is, we can not deny this any longer. There was once a time when our representatives believed that an American President would only take us into a war when it was in the interest of our national security. But we now know that these people can also do this out of personal motivation. Many of those who voted for the War in Iraq had assumed this and took the word of the President and his aids. But, fortunately this lessen taught our leaders that there are unscrupulous people in our government and it is their responsibility to understand the consequences of legislation before it is passed, instead of being caught off guard afterward.

Just because our leaders have been forced to realized their awesome responsibility the American voters have not realized this truth completely as of yet. This is because the American public is not clear on the truth. Many people have been imprinted with the propaganda from the Republicans and the conservative talk show hosts. Many middle class Americans still believe that the Republicans mean to give them a tax break, when they have already given whatever tax break they had been contemplating to the wealthy. Many middle class Americans believe that the economy is turning around, but they don’t yet realize that whatever growth we have seen in the last few years is due to the low interest rates which have allowed many Americans to take equity out of their houses to fuel the economy. This large amount of capital has begun to move the nation, but with the rise of interest rates this available capital is disappearing. So, middle class Americans are being left with less equity in their homes, large debts and an economy that is beginning to stall.

Of course, talking negative about anything American is going to draw out those who will lie to protect this administration. If it is the economy, the war on terrorism, or the war in Iraq you will always hear someone tell you what they believe from their belief in the dogma of the Bush administration. This is OK, because any reader can read both sides of the argument and get a feel for both cases. However, there are also some people who don’t want to be reminded of the truth. These are the people who don’t allow comments on their blogs, or worse yet, erase any comment that they don’t like.

Now, I realize that some people comment with their juvenile brains in gear, attacking the person and not the idea. And, I also realize that some people are sensitive to profanity. And, it makes sense that if the commenter would like to get his point across he can always alter his language and the idea will still be shown. However, I have always believed that a commenter’s juvenile remarks often make a better statement about a person than I could ever make, so I believe in letting most of these things stand unaltered. In the past I may have only deleted a handful of comments that were completely off topic attacking me personally and not the subject that I was writing about. Even with these comments I have never banned a commenter, although I have been tempted in the past.

So, over the weekend when I found that my comments were being deleted from a post I was slightly miffed. I was making what I believed were accurate arguments on a blog owned by a self-proclaimed conservative journalist. Even my comment about my comments being deleted was promptly removed. This so-called journalist posts links to his blog at Real Clear Politics, so whoever is interested can track him down, but I certainly wouldn’t promote his work with a link from my blog. My point here is that a professional journalist that claims to believe in America as a country is practicing censorship on his blog. How much more un-American can he be? But, the truth is that he is following a lead from other conservatives who don’t care to hear the truth. This is by no means all conservatives, because I have discussed freedom of speech with other conservatives in the past. But, this brand of conservative that feels comfortable living in a self-contained bubble has learned this from the Master himself, George W Bush.


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

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

Friday, August 18, 2006

Plutonic Discord

After reading a few stories about the current debate on the planetary status of the objects in our solar system I began to realize that even science, the most progressive of our subjects has its own conservative vs. liberal debate.

If we take a step back and look at what scientists observe we can begin to understand the problem that the scientists face. After many years of progress in the development of telescopes and understanding our solar system scientists know that there are many objects that find themselves in orbit around our sun. Because of gravity large objects tend to be sweepers and collect smaller objects within their vicinity. But, there are regions where there are many smaller objects that continue to orbit our star.

As a matter of history, the largest and closest of these objects were found first. All of the objects that were first found were initially called planets, a term which means wanderers. The sun and the moon were initially part of this group of objects. As more objects in the solar system were discovered they were added to this list of objects and also called planets, while the sun and the moon were removed from this list. In 1801 a new planet was discovered between Mars and Jupiter and it was called Ceres. However, as more objects were found in this same region Ceres lost its planetary status and became known as an asteroid and part of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The classification of this class of objects was a bit arbitrary. Location of this object and the neighbors of this object were relevant to this classification.

In 1930 the planet Pluto was discovered and given planetary status. This was before it was realized that Pluto was also a member of a belt of many objects occupying this region of the solar system. With the advancement of observation equipment and techniques we now know that Pluto is a system of two objects where the moon Chiron is about 60% the size of Pluto. Chiron is so large that these objects actually form a binary system where the center of the system is between the two objects and outside of the planet Pluto.

In 2003 another new planet was discovered far beyond Pluto. It is believed to be slightly larger than Pluto and has been given a working name Xena. If and when this object is called a planet it will get an official name most likely not Xena. This is just like Pluto which had the name planet X until it was given an official name.

The question however is which objects in the solar system deserve the status of being called a planet. Since the idea of a planet was simply an object that wandered through the heavens, it never had a specific definition. But, we all know intuitively that it would be impractical to name every rock, pebble and grain of sand in the Solar System. Therefore it makes practical sense that we come up with a standard definition for what characteristics an object needs to be classified as a planet.

This is where the debate draws into two major categories. Category number one is the group that is happy with Pluto being called a planet and they believe that any object that meets the minimum standards of the planet Pluto should have planetary status. Many ways to phrase this objective have been suggested. For example, an object greater than 2000 km in diameter should be classified as a planet. The other group of scientists would rather have a definition that does not arbitrarily include Pluto as a planet. Depending on the phrasing of this definition Pluto may retain or loose its planetary status. And, depending on the definition other objects including Ceres and Xena and perhaps Chiron could be included into the list of planets.

From my point of view it looks like the classic conservative vs. liberal debate. Conservatives would like to retain the status quo. They suggest that a definition could be created in such a way that everything stays the same. The liberals are saying, lets make a definition that has some meaning and is not arbitrary. After all, our solar system is not the only place that this definition will be used. In the future we will need to classify objects in other star systems and the objects may not look like anything that we have in our solar system. This is fast becoming a reality now that we have already discovered 108 planetary objects in other star systems.

The argument continues to go on for the next few days, and then the committee will vote and we will be told the new status of our solar system. How many planets will we have next Friday?


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

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

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Whatever the Name - It’s Still a Dirty Trick

I wrote a piece a while back about “push polling” in the Democratic Primary where I was voting this year. I received a phone survey that was certainly biased and spreading misinformation about one of the candidates. I received a comment from someone who told me that what I described was not a “Push Poll” because it was not a short question containing the attack just before the election, but it was a more lengthy survey containing the misinformation. Either way, I say that this is a deceptive practice meant to influence voters and it should be illegal. The poll I got was from a Democrat in my district that I will never vote for, because of this. And, she won the primary and is running against a Republican that will surely loose. It doesn’t matter to me because I just won’t support this type of campaigning.

So, when I read this piece over at Talking Points Memo I thought that I should share it with everyone just in case they happen to live in the district and they would like to know about these dirty tricks.


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

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

Risk Management

I was watching an old episode of Seinfeld the other day. It was the one where George is working with the Yankees, trying not to do any work. Occasionally he needs to attend a meeting and demonstrate way the Yankees need to keep him on board. He is panicking about needing to read a Risk Management textbook, he needed to give a presentation because he had put “Risk Management” on his resume.

I had taken a Risk Management course at one time, and so I know enough to be dangerous as they say. But, the point of Risk Management isn’t really that difficult in theory, but it is extremely difficult in practice. The idea is that you identify all of the risks involved in a project and you figure out which risks are the most important. If you minimize the greatest risks and address the simplest to fix risks, then you will be left with a handful of difficult risks to deal with.

This sounds easy until you look at a real project and begin to find the risks, sort the risks and deal with the risks. And, if you have a bias toward any of these risks, you will end up with more than you can deal with.

Doesn’t this sound familiar? Doesn’t the Iraq War come to mind immediately? What were the risks that Donald Rumsfeld had on his list when he was organizing the risks? How many flowers and chocolates to order for the victory parade? I am guessing that these guys missed a few of the risks.

Well, like I said before, this is a difficult job. But, personal bias as to the expected outcome is your worst enemy. I am guessing that there was a lot of personal bias in the decision making process.

The question today is: What is the risk of personal bias effecting the Risk Management team for the administration? If I were given the task of estimating this risk, I would begin by looking at the statements that the Bush administration makes public. And, based on these I would have to rate this risk pretty high.


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

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

Indecenct Exposure

Indecent means offensive to good taste or public moral values. But, many things are offensive and we allow them to be broadcast on the TV, radio and other media. So, the question becomes, why was Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl such a traumatic event that it resulted in increased fines by the FCC by such large amounts, but the FCC made no effort to increase fines for disguised advertisements masquerading as news pieces? These Video News Releases (VNRs) are surely more destructive to our society than a revealed breast on national TV.

The crux of this argument tends to come down to the effect of indecency on children. This argument does not hold water in my opinion. Let’s take the 2004 Super Bowl incident and examine what Miss Jackson’s indiscretion had in my household.

Our family actually was watching the Super Bowl, as we normally do each year if we happen to get the TV station on which it is broadcast. Our family does not subscribe to satellite or cable TV, so we are limited whatever our TV antenna is able to pick up, which isn’t very much. Since we have four children, the six of us were watching the game. When half time started people were moving around, watching TV, getting snacks etc… My wife looked at the TV and the performance happening on TV. My daughter claimed that they were poor excuses for dancers, and the choreography was lame. Halftime finished and the game started and we went back to watching the game. No one in my family even noticed any indecency performed on stage at the Super Bowl. It wasn’t until the next day in the newspaper that I even heard mention of it.

Janet Jackson Super Bowl 2004

The point of my story is that the effect of a naked breast broadcast on national TV into my home had absolutely no effect on my family or me. Well, perhaps the video that was put on the Internet with all of the still shots magnified the event to something larger, but that was something else. The actual broadcast event had absolutely no effect.

Let’s imagine that the TV station had used their instant reply technology, which they did not, in order to point out what most people didn’t see. Would that have been an issue? Of course it would be an issue with the FCC law, but I am pretty sure that it still wouldn’t have been an issue in my family. The point is how is a naked female breast actually indecent? How is it offensive? It may not be in good taste, but like I have already said, there are many things broadcast on network TV that are not in good taste.

Let us look at the harm to children argument and try to find the harm. If a child of any age sees a female breast on TV, what harm has happened? If a young girl sees a female breast exposed in a locker room while someone is undressing the mother is certainly not going to be running to the police or suing the person for harm, right. So, I am guessing that the only harm may occur when males are exposed to the female breast. So, I still don’t understand what this harm might be, so I can only deduce that it must be derived from something sexual in nature. So, we could rule out any harm to prepubescent children, because they have no sexual interest, only curiosity. So, I am guessing that the harm must somehow be related to teenaged boys who may get a glimpse of an actual female breast. But, I am still confused as to how this glimpse may somehow harm these teenagers, especially if one considers how these children talk among themselves about these things.

If someone knows of any real harm derived from a child viewing a female breast, I am certainly open to your comments, but at this point I see no harm at all. Instead, I am guessing that the entire problem with this issue is derived from societal taboos. The culture has created a taboo of disliking the exposure of female breasts, therefore culture demands that it doesn’t happen. The rarity of the occurrence makes every incident more unusual. Therefore, the weight of the Janet Jackson event became so immense because of the rarity of such an event. If, for example, American culture did not have such a strong taboo against this, then the Janet Jackson incident would have been irrelevant. If, as is the case in Europe, women sunbathed topless on the beach or even played volleyball topless in the park the occasion to see a topless woman would not be so rare and a little flash at the 2004 Super Bowl would have gone unnoticed.

So, it is my conjecture that the taboo itself has created its own cultural notion of offensive. There is nothing harmful to children about this, but perhaps there is more. Why would we have such a cultural taboo in the first place? Some might argue that the existence of topless women somehow objectifies women. But some women go out of their way to objectify themselves in other ways, and we don’t have taboos against these things. Rather, the American culture tends to praise this sort of objectification. Maybe it all comes down to a much simpler explanation. I am guessing that adults that have children are the people effected by the potential bare breasted women showing themselves in public. Imagine a dad with his child in the park and a topless woman walks by. The child turns to his dad and says: “Why do women have big chests and men don’t?” The possibility of embarrassment from being asked this question in public may actually be the root of the taboo. The historical origin of the taboo may have come out of Puritan American history, but the fear of being asked this question in public may have been the main reason for keeping this taboo. And, because of this fear of embarrassment the FCC raised fines on indecency, but did not do anything on the fines for using VNRs as undocumented news stories.


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

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Terror is the point of Terrorism. Terror is uncontrolled fear in which terrorists choose to create in our society. The number of deaths is not the point of terrorism, the amount of terror inflicted upon the American people is the point. Killing a lot of people inside the United States can create that fear. Making huge building fall killing large numbers of people can also create that fear. But, if terrorists went around loosening the nuts on automobiles around the country killing 5000 unsuspecting people might notice, but would it create the same level of terror? The point is not the death, but the fear of death.

So, how can we defeat the terrorist’s objective? What can we do to make the efforts of the terrorists as minimal as possible. The answer is: “Be Not Afraid!” When those of us who are afraid of these people remind us of the fear they inflicted the terrorists win a little more.

With this in mind we should all be sickened by the efforts of the Bush administration to continue to remind us to be afraid of the terrorists. Every time they bring up the specter of 9/11/2001 we should remember that more than 42,000 people were killed in automobile accidents that year. We need to remember that 28.5% of all deaths that year were caused by heart disease, not terrorism. We need to remember that 400,000 deaths that year were related to tobacco use. If we really should be fearful of death we should change the way we live. And, if we refuse to change the way we live, then we need to shun those who dwell on terrorism as a real fear.

I am not saying that we should ignore terrorist and let them commit their heinous crimes. No, we should battle them as the criminals that they are. But what I am saying is that we should not fear them. If we fear the terrorists more than we fear death by heart attack or stroke then the terrorists have won their objective. If we fear death by terrorism while we sit in front of the TV and smoke a cigarette eating fried foods and making excuses as to why we don’t exercise, then the terrorist have won the battle of fear.

When we over react to the terrorist threat by giving up our liberty, the terrorists have won. For, why don’t we outlaw all of the objects of death in our society? We don’t outlaw guns, liqueur or tobacco because freedom is an American right. So, why do go to such extremes as to spy on our citizens, or invade sovereign countries? More soldiers have died in Iraq than lives saved by that debacle.

Just remember when your leaders tell you to worry about the terrorist threat and provide little money for coronary disease research or health education they are working for the terrorists.

Here are some statistics for the causes of death: here.

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

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

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Nazi Specter

Right Wing bloggers and Right Wing nuts have been using the term Islamofascist for quite some time, but last week the leader of the “free world,” George W Bush, used the term for the first time. So, why would George W Bush sink to the level of extremist fear mongers? And, why would he do it at this time?

The very same Right Wing Extremists who had used this term, were the very same Right Wing Extremists who had dismissed Liberals for bringing up any parallel between the Bush administration’s propaganda war and the Nazi propaganda war during the 1930s. The point is that political argument is filled with emotion, and there isn’t anything in American cultural that is more emotional that World War II. This is because many people who fought in that war are still alive and many people still romanticize the patriotism of the “Greatest Generation.”

Is it any wonder then that any emotionally charge argument tends to end with one side invoking the Nazi Specter to win an argument. The fact is that the Nazis and Adolph Hitler have come to represent the pure embodiment of evil. This representation has become so big that one can not see the ideology that this movement actually represented. Bloggers on the right have actually proposed that the evil of the Nazis was what the liberals he hated must have been working toward. He believed that Hitler was the pure embodiment of liberal thought. Obviously this poor ignorant blogger did not have a clue about what the ideology of fascism actually was. If he knew that fascism was a form of extremist nationalism, this extremist nationalist “patriot” might have given pause, at least for a moment. But, reality is almost never logical and people tend not to recognize their own “evil” tendencies. After all, how could patriotism be bad?

I recently wrote about how patriotism can be bad in my piece on Michael Savage. People like Michael Savage, the Minutemen and other nationalist groups have created their personal vision for a future America. They see an American culture, an American language and a military guarding the border from anyone who might enter the country bringing different culture or language with them. This idea is eerily familiar to the Nazi dream. This parallel can easily be corrected by telling those who question it that American culture is superior to German Nazi culture, so there is no need to worry. Of course, every nation believes that they have an ideal culture, or they would correct their culture. No one says, we eat crappy food but we can’t do anything about it because this is our culture. No, Americans say McDonalds serves the best food in the world, which’s why there are so many McDonalds around the world.

So, if we look at the current situation with the Bush administration we can begin to understand why they might decide to play the Nazi card. First of all George W Bush is down in the polls, perhaps at the lowest opinion of any president in US history. The polls show that 44% of Americans strongly disapprove of the job that George W Bush is doing. Secondly, these people have tied this dissatisfaction with the president to the Republican lead congress who are up for election in November. Third, every strategy that Karl Rove has used in the past to manipulate the people has become less reliable. Whenever this had happened in the past Karl Rove has upped the degree of fear used to garner enough support to win the elections. They used the fear of homosexuals getting married, free abortions for everyone and even the image of the mushroom cloud to raise the fear level. And, since almost every way of raising the fear level has been used the Nazi Specter is the only that remains. So, by calling the terrorists Islamofascists he cleverly creates the idea that the War on Terror is equal to World War II, without actually saying those words.

If George W Bush or any credible person in the Bush administration were to say that the War on Terror were actually equal to World War II he would immediately be asked why the American people were not being asked to sacrifice like those members of the “Greatest Generation.” Where is the draft? Where is the build up of munitions? Where are the enormous Manhattan style projects and the enormous efforts to undermine these Islamofascists? Where is the effort to raise the money to battle this evil blight? If George W Bush were to answer thee questions honestly he would need to either admit that the threat was not that serious, or he should actually do these things to actually fight this enormous threat.

So, but calling the terrorists Islamofascists George W Bush has been able to raise the level of fear without being required to do anything about it. This is the clever action of Karl Rove. Since Karl Rove’s personal fear of prosecution has been reduced he is now able to raise the fear of the American people in order to get the Republicans re-elected to congress.

The interesting thing about this is that the entire objective of the terrorists is to raise the fear of the American people. Terrorists actually only kill a few people, but they kill them in very dramatic ways that get media coverage. The media coverage evokes fear in the American people, and this fear is the objective. Terrorists hope that the fear will make the American people change there minds and give Israel back to the Palestinians, or give the money from the Middle East oil back to the Arab people. And when the Americans show their fear they give the terrorists more hope that they will win. This hope translates into more recruits for the Islamofascist cause. When White officials and George W Bush repeat the deeds of the terrorists the terrorists actually get even more bang for their bombs. In this way the Bush administration has actually done quite a lot for the cause of the terrorists in promoting their deeds.

It is such a crazy world that we live in where those who claim to be doing the most for the nation are actually doing the most for the terrorists. But like the old saying goes, “It’s all in the marketing.”


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

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

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Another Review of Our Current Situation

Every once in a while we should continue to stand back and look at the big picture and see that we are still moving in the “right” direction. Are the objects that we have set for ourselves still in the crosshairs of our action? This is something that our president leaves for the experts that he has hired. However, just because our president chooses to ignore a review of where we are and where we should be going does not mean that the rest of us can’t stand back and look at the situation.

We have been fighting terrorism since terrorism was invented. Terrorism is the only means left to a small minority that isn’t being heard, but wishes to make its voice known. There were those during the French revolution that used barbaric acts to put the aristocracy out of power. The British soldiers viewed the American revolutionaries as terrorists, because they didn’t follow the established rules of war. Terrorists were celebrated when they were on your side, as was the case with Guy Fox. Or they were deemed the enemy when they were out to destroy civilization, or a city or a leader. For the most part, terrorists are disruptive, but they cause fewer deaths than cancer or traffic accidents. The point of terror is to create fear, and that fear causes the system to bend to the will of the terrorists.

So, what do the Islamic Fascists want? Why do they dislike America?

I am not saying that we should give the terrorists what they want to appease them and make them stop their attacks. I am saying that we need to look at the big picture and see if there isn’t another way to make their movement weak.

What makes a young person willing to give their life for a cause? For example, why would a high school senior sign up for the US military after their graduation? The answer stems from the fact that we have bred patriotism into our culture and romanticized the idea of defending our country with ones life. But obviously America is not the only organization in the world that uses this technique to attract the young into a dangerous job. Patriotism is based on the mythology of national heroes. Many of these heroes went beyond the call of duty and voluntarily gave their life for the cause, be it a war or another dangerous service. These romantic ideals are based on emotions that are stirred by whatever means necessary, including religious stories and national pride.

The leaders of the terrorist groups have goals in mind, but their followers are not necessarily as well informed. The troops don’t need to know the objective or the plans. All they need to do is agree to follow and do what they are asked to do. If the leader can keep the romance alive, the followers will be compelled to do what they are asked to do. And, how does the terrorist leader do that?

Currently the strongest argument that the terrorist leaders have is the idea that God wants all believers to fight evil. It is sad that the fundamentalist Christians in our country start with the same premise and reach a different conclusion. These terrorists look at the world and they see the actions of the US government to be opposed to their understanding of the will of God. Western countries lead by the US encourages materialism to such an extreme that it is unimaginable to these people. They look at the riches of Western society and they look at the suffering of their own people and they know for certain that God must be displeased with the materialism of the western world. And, the fundamentalist Christians in the western world mostly agree with this same sentiment. These same terrorist leaders see the western companies coming into their land, taking the oil and leaving their country in continued poverty, or in some cases the oil companies enrich the aristocrats in these countries separating them even further from the poor and religious folks in the country.

The terrorists have created a romantic myth about how God wants them to destroy the oppressor and non-religious. Therefore, attacking the center of economic power in the US, the Wall Street area of Manhattan was of prime importance for these people. And, yesterday’s discovery of a plan to take down 10 airplanes filled with wealthy American and British materialists fits right into their thinking.

So, we come to the question, has the Bush administration’s strategy to combat these people help the cause? Well, the initial attack on Afghanistan that scattered the terrorists from their training camps and took the Taliban from power was certainly a step in the right direction. The Taliban shared the same ideology as the terrorists. The Taliban was a state institution that allowed it to sponsor the terrorists by giving them a place to train and organize. Iran and Syria also share the same ideology as the terrorists we are fighting.

But, it was clearly a miscalculation to invade and occupy the country of Iraq. Saddam Hussein did not share the same ideology with the terrorists. He may not have liked the Americans because of the 1991 Iraq War, but he was lukewarm to the religious zealots from Islam. In fact, the secularization of Iraq was the key to Saddam being able to maintain cooperation between the factions in Iraq. When the US invaded Iraq we destroyed the stability of the society and we encouraged the separate groups to organize and fight each other. This leads to an opportunity for Iran to support the Shia faction within Iraq. Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism was able to encourage the creation of religious civil war in Iraq. The result can only be more influence for Iran in Iraqi politics as time goes on.

But, now we have the Israeli war in Lebanon. Syria and Iran are once again in the driver seat here. Win or loose it doesn’t matter for Iran. Hezbolla serves as a reminder of what the west is doing in the Middle East. This war is another major recruiting tool for the terrorists. These guys just point to the conflict and say, “We need your help to fight these infidels.” The more destruction of life and property continues to prove that the terrorists are right, the west is evil. This will never end if destruction is the only tool being used here. Israel and the United States continue to prove the terrorists right and show the world how they were being mistreated. And, attention to their cause is the number one priority that invoked the need to blow up buildings and airplanes in the beginning. The Bush administration continues to give the terrorists what they want, publicity.

Obviously it would have made more sense to attack Iran and/or Syria instead of Iraq, but what is done can not be undone.

So, to recap, the US has sent troops to Iraq, which has resulted in the strengthening of the terrorist movement and proof to young people that the US is evil as the terrorists had said. Recruitment of young naïve religious zealots has become easier. The romantic idea of giving your life for the cause has been raised to another level. The war in Lebanon has proven that a terrorist group like Hezbolla can stand up to the once idealized power of Israel. Through all of this, Iran has gained higher status in the Middle East as the respected opposition to the evil of western materialism. On the bright side, we have done a good job in Afghanistan by leaving the Taliban to regroup as we sent our troops to Iraq and only left a few behind to help out - NOT! If we have done anything positive in the Middle East I would certainly love to hear about it.


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

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

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Economic Values

Compare these two statements meant to sum up the over all positions of two candidates running against each other for a seat in congress:

Candidate #1:

Parents are working harder to keep up with the cost of living, taking them away from the home and family. The government must ensure the economy works for all, giving parents the time and the resources to raise kids with the right values. That means tax cuts for the middle class support for good education and affordable health care. We need a Congress that is on the side of the average family.

Candidate #2:

Good people work hard and try to do the best for their families, but the big government in Washington is raising their taxes and is out of touch with their values. We must keep taxes low so that businesses and families can prosper. We need more help for the traditional family and religious traditions, not a government that thinks homosexual marriage is okay. We need a Congress that is on the side of the average family.

I’m sure that you can guess which candidate is Democrat and which candidate is Republican if you think about it for two seconds.

These are succinct statements covering the same issue from the point of view from the two major American political parties. These statements point to the two major problems that we face in our country today, the economic difficulty of just trying to make ends meet, and the difficulty of trying to raise children with good values. Both parties address this issue, but in different ways.

The Republicans believe that if corporations are given tax breaks, then they will flourish and be able to pay their employees higher wages. The problem with this idea is that it just is not borne out by the real data. Over the last twenty years corporations have made more money and paid their top executives higher and higher wages. But the poor guys on the lower rungs did not make out quite as well. In the 1970s the average executive made 20 times what a lower wage worker in his company made. Today those same executives are now making 180 times as much as the lower wage employee. The tax breaks are good for the wealthy, but the average worker is making less than 20 years ago, if you account for inflation.

The Republicans also tell us that they want the public schools to be allowed to teach morals in school by invoking the Christian Bible, or maybe just prayer to the Christian God. The institution of religion in schools and government are the Republican answer to the decline in moral values in our society.

In would argue with both of these conjectures. First of all, if Republicans believe that the market forces should be allowed to influence the wages of the common worker, why is the market working against the poor so aggressively? Wouldn’t the ideal position of the market be “free” labor? Without government intervention and total influence by business we would continue to move closer and closer to the market ideal of slavery, or indentured servitude, or share cropping. Democrats recognize that there need to be some fundamental protection of the working class from the exploitation of the worker. This same problem with market forces comes into question in the health care industry as well. There is no bound on the amount of money someone is willing to pay in order to have his health. Therefore a wealthy man would spend all of his money to win the battle against a deadly disease. The poor man can not afford the same expensive care and would be doomed to poor health because of his assets. Market forces are not moral in the health care industry and people need to be protected.

Second, on the issue of teaching values to children we need to recognize the roll of the parent in this project. A parent needs to be with their children in order to pass on not only the moral values, but American cultural values to their children. This means that two family incomes should not be a necessity, but only an alternative choice. In the current economy companies have been able to get twice the work for the same amount of pay over the last thirty years. Women that had originally chosen to work are now forced to work just to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. This is the destruction of the American family, and its roots are in the sub-living wages that companies now pay to their employees. If wages were raised to one twentieth the average wage of an executive like thirty years ago, then at least one member of the two parent team could find it much easier to stay at home with the children and pass on those family values.

Maybe in November we can get the country back on the right track.


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

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

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


In the early days of the industrial revolution manufacturing gradually replaced agriculture as the main employment opportunity for those looking for work. Agriculture was always an uncertain way to earn a living. Farmers were at the whim of the weather and what he earned for his crop largely depended on what crops his neighbors grew and how much was in the market place. The prospect of having a job with a constant dependable wage offered security to those who worked the fields in the rural areas of our country. People flocked to the cities to take these manufacturing jobs, which spawned many support services and other jobs which attracted more and more people to the urban areas.

Market forces being what they are allowed for the wages to remain low or even fall as production was increased. The result was cheaper goods, but also lower wages and longer hours for those who worked in these industrial manufacturing jobs. The problem stemmed from the fact that owners could hire workers, but they soon discovered that the over abundance of people migrating to the cities and not finding work were willing to work for any wage in order to keep their family fed. People working in the plants were fired if they didn’t accept the lower wages. The prospect of not eating is strong motivation to take whatever you can get.

As workers were forced to work longer hours for lower wages no solution to the problem seemed to work. But, as necessity is the mother of invention someone finally realized that if all of the workers banded together to not accept a lower wage the factory would not be able to produce its goods and the owner would not make his money. Working together to achieve a fair wage and a reasonable working day was a long hard fight. This cooperation among workers was known as a “union” because the workers were united behind the cause.

Some areas of the United States resisted unions more than other areas. Intimidation by threatening the lives of the people organizing the unions was the main reason for this resistance. The popular tag line by those owners opposed to unions was “right to work.” The owners argued that people should not be required to join an organized union in order to work. The fact that unions needed money to keep an organized effort alive required workers to pay union dues. As time went on people who wanted a job did not see the effectiveness of the union, or know the history of what unions had done for the workers. What they did see was money being taken out of their paycheck every week.

In some areas of the country the money collected by unions became enormous pools of money waiting for strikes that could help negotiate better working conditions. Were there is money crime isn’t far behind. Organized crime was able to skim money from these huge pools of money making the organized crime gangs stronger and the unions less responsive to the needs of the workers.

Unions work for large groups of people who are doing similar jobs every day. One member can fit into the job of another member easily. But as the twentieth century came to a close these types of jobs became less and less prominent. Specialization enabled people to be their own agent and negotiate higher wages based on the need of the company and the skills of the worker. A union of just a few computer programmers isn’t going to halt the operations of a company that makes widgets. The company will use the old software for years if need be, or figure out how to buy software from another source. Small stores can hire a few relatives to replace a few clerks or stockers that may decide to strike.

Currently only 8% of jobs are union jobs. However, 30% of government jobs like teachers and other public employees are union jobs. This enables teachers and government employees to have relatively higher wages than the general population. The Republicans solution to this problem is to propose the destruction of government employee unions. But, I would suggest that the non-union workers in the general population are just not being paid their fair share. This suggestion is born out in the data that shows that the wealthy are getting wealthier, while the middle class is continuing to loose buying power with their wages.

If we continue to follow the current course the Republicans that continue to control our government will continue to work against the American worker and for the American business owner. This is just one more issue that everyone should consider when they go to the polls in November. And, if you care about making a living wage and you were not planning to register or vote, consider changing your mind. We need a government that responds to the needs of the American working class.


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

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

Monday, August 07, 2006


Michael Savage is now advertising his radio show with the following tagline: Protect our borders, language, and culture! I don’t have a problem enforcing the borders. If those who want cheap labor want to hire the poor from other countries to in their labor needs, then they need to pass laws that enable them to do it, so that we can account for those who are in our country. If workers from other countries are actually forcing down the price of labor we can’t argue the point without the data.

But, language and culture are another story. When we were in Germany we were harassed by some German skinheads for speaking English in Germany. I would rather not be beat up, so we switched to German until we got off the train. The problem, of course, is that people communicate best in their mother tongue. One’s vocabulary is higher. Ones experience with the language is more numerous. And, people should communicate with each other in the most effective means possible. In fact, if we had been forced to communicate only in German while we were in Germany we would certainly had been at a disadvantage.

For example, a friend of ours went with us to the Hamburg Fish Market early one morning. Many people stay up all night partying, then go to the Fish Market for Breakfast and to shop at the little shops. So, many people do this that they even had a little auction going on when we were there. Our friend was always interested in getting a “good” deal, so winning a bid at an auction could certainly result in a nice discount. So, our friend began to bid in German as is the custom in that country. Unfortunately our friend was taught German by a Bavarian with a strong southern German accent. And, if you combine the southern German accent with an American accent the auctioneer misunderstood a 14 for a 40 in his bid, and our friend was greatly disappointed when he discovered how much he owed. Of course an auction in Germany is never going to be held in English, and an auction in America is never going to be held in German, but the point isn’t that we should make everything in the country multilingual. Instead, we should try to make things that are easy make multilingual, make them multilingual. Where is the harm in that? America should be excepting of other people no matter what language they speak. English isn’t going anywhere very soon anyway.

Now for culture I have an even bigger problem than for language. The little tag line Michael Savage uses makes it sound like culture is as trivial a problem or issue as borders or language. But culture is not so easy, and I certainly don’t want the government regulating my culture.

The first point that I would like to make is that the government can never regulate culture. In fact, culture can and is mainly regulated by families. Mothers and Fathers pass their culture to their children. Or, they elect not to. If they elect not to, then culture comes from the peers that the children hang around with in school and on the playground.

Look at the example of the Jews. They have managed to pass their culture down through the generations for nearly 5000 years. They have passed their culture from generation to generation despite governments that would rather have them not pass their culture to the next generation. The Spanish Inquisition, the Nazi Holocaust, the Egyptian and Babylonian captivities and much more persecution through out the ages were never able to prevent the dissemination of culture to the next generation. And, so if culture is important to the parent, then the culture will be transmitted to the next generation without flaw. Many parents take their children to church and concerts and museums. Many parents teach their children, how to play musical instruments, sing, act and perform. Many parents turn on the TV and have the TV teach their children for them. The culture is what the parents choose it to be for their children.

So, how is it that Michael Alan Weiner would preserve the “American Culture?” And, how would he decide what things were worthy of saving? Would he make film class mandatory so that our children learn to appreciate film? What other things would he deem worthy to be taught to our children? And, what is preventing the parents from telling their children that dreadful phrase, “Don’t worry son, that crap the school is teaching doesn’t really matter. It’s a bunch of crap that they think you should learn, but you will never use it. Just forget it after the test and be done with it. Now lets go do something important like hunting, then we’ll get back in time for Saturday Night WWF.” How can anyone create a uniform American culture with that? But, better yet, why should we?
Every American brings his or her own bit of American culture to the table. And American culture will continue to change as new people grow up and add their own experience to the American experience. Just because some members of the older generation are disappointed in the decline and fall of the horse and buggy does not mean that the American culture is now bad because we don’t have many horse and buggies any more. It is just that people will always become nostalgic for the way things once were. American culture will continue to grow and change as time goes on. We no longer have Fibber McGee and Molly on the radio, but that just means that Fibber and Molly have moved from current culture to past history.

Parents just need to remember that what they teach their children is our American culture and if they don’t like what they see they just need to teach their children what they want the American culture to become. That is what we have done with our kids, and most of them are still functioning to this very day.


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

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

Another Look at Conservatives, Liberals and Moderates

Many of my readers may not realize that I am quite moderate in my political ideology. Lately I have spent a good deal of time fighting the conservative extremists, but that is only the current situation. If liberal extremists were ever to gain the upper hand and begin to dominate the political scene I am sure that everyone would begin to label me a conservative merely for opposing the extremists.

In the United States at this time it is hard to believe that there are any moderates left. This is because the current leadership has suggested that if we are not with the conservative extremists, then we are against them. Besides the fact that this is a false dichotomy, a false choice not offering any other point of view, this idea creates polarization. Polarization means that there are few moderates who could easily imagine the two points of view and be persuaded by either side. When the president tells us that we are either with him or against him, then we are forced to choose sides, even if we normally would simply choose to support either side depending on the issue.

Now, the problem with politics is that many of the issues are quite emotionally charged. It is quite difficult to discuss many political issues, simply because many people have decided where they stand based on emotion, and not by thinking about how the issue fits into the over all picture of our society. But, I have thought of another way to think about conservatives and liberals in a way that illustrates how moderates fit into the picture.

Saturday night I found myself at family oriented dance with a DJ who professed to be able to get everyone dancing. Now, the group that I was with was a quite diverse group of individuals with a wide range of dancing ability and motivation. Current American culture has many types of music and people tend to like and dislike quite a large portion of the music available. This being said, I was interested in how the DJ was going to be able to satisfy this large group of diverse people.

Well, the DJ did what I had expected, she started playing each genre of music and shifted from one to another until she found music that people danced to. She played 50s music, classic Rock’n’Roll, country music, rap music, disco music, popular standards and a few songs that I wasn’t quite sure how they fit in. What I saw was that there were songs that lots of people danced to and there were songs that very few people danced to, but they weren’t divided by genre. If a lot of people danced to one song, then the DJ would choose to play anther song from that genre and another. If the song weren’t liked, the dancers would fade from the dance floor. There was one group of songs that one group of people got up and danced to, regardless of genre. Those were the songs with prescription dances that went with the songs. These songs were in every genre, “The Twist,” “The Chicken Dance,” “The Slide,” and I’m sure everyone has their own special song that has a special dance that goes with it. Then there was another group that generally was opposed to these prescribed dances. They generally liked to do their own thing out on the dance floor to songs that had a “good beat.” They weren’t bad dancers, they just liked to do their own thing.

I am not saying that people who like one type of dancing and not another should be labeled as conservative or liberal, but for the purpose of this discussion dancing could be considered a political issue for a moment. The conservative side of any issue is the side that relies on well-proven rules. Not following the rules is punished and following the rules tends to become more important that the issue itself as a person considering the issue is more conservative. So, I could label those people who liked the dances that had set rules for each song as conservative dancers. And, the people who liked to dance to anything else and not follow any particular prescription as liberal. With this definition, one can consider other people who don’t exactly fit into these categories. Of course, there are those who don’t like to dance at all, and they are simply the non-participants. There are people who just like to dance, and they don’t really care if the song has a prescribed dance or not. They see both sides of the issue and appreciate both points of view. When a song with a prescribed dance is played, then they do the dance. When other songs are played they ad-lib and dance how they please.

But, even though the next groups didn’t exist at my dance, these are also possibilities. In fact, these cases are rare, but they make themselves known. There are those who dislike the idea of prescribed dances so much that they choose to dance in their own way. This may not be a problem with the chicken dance, but it might be a problem at a Country and Western Dance Hall when they choose not to do the Texas Two Step or a waltz when those types of music are being played.

In fact, when I was in Texas we had some friends from Europe visit for a few days. These two girls wanted to dance, so we took them to a small club one evening. There might have been six people on the dance floor, and before we could say anything these two girls got up and started to dance with each other to some popular Rock song. I didn’t think twice about it, because this is common place in the civilized world, but in Texas this was a problem. The owner of the club came up to our table, and told us that the girls could not dance with each other, and we needed to set them straight, so to say. Apparently every song in Texas has a prescription that only one man and one woman are allowed to dance together, unless it’s a line dance.

Which brings me to the other extremist group in the dance issue. Those are the people who want to prescribe rules for every song. For example, men and women dance together. Men and women can not touch more than their hands. And there are many other crazy prescriptions.

Most moderates on the dance issue would not really care for either of the two extremist views. However, the extremists are vocal and they would like to win others to their cause. The extremists want to persuade moderates by convincing them to accept a rule or reject a rule depending on the situation. But of course moderates from one area that already has some rules in place might feel uncomfortable in a place where these rules are not in place. They might even be considered extremists trying to impose there rules when they are seen doing what they judge to be normal in their own place. The two girls I wrote about were not trying to be extremists, they were only be European moderates in a conservative place. Some moderate Texans might think that Europe or even Cleveland is a morally bankrupt place because girls are often seen dancing together in those places. And, if they were to try to change the rules the moderates would see them as extremists, even if they picked up a few compatriots from the existing extremists from those places.

The point is that common understanding of the rules defines which side of the line one falls on, especially if you are a moderate. I was a moderate and I believe that I still am a moderate. The extremist conservatives are continuing to change the rules. And, with each rule that I oppose I continue to fall further and further to the left of the commonly understood rules. This means that there are more and more people thrown to this side of the line. The question then becomes, do the moderates accept or reject the new rules? If moderates are now willing to prohibit same sex dancing it becomes the norm and those who reject the change are no longer moderates on the issue. If the moderates accept the War in Iraq, only extremists will oppose it. If the moderates accept government spying, then only extremists will oppose it. If the moderates agree that bribery and corruption are normal operating procedures, then only extremists will oppose these things.

Here’s to dancing!


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

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