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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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Time Is On My Side

In politics and the legal system there is one parameter that is rarely talked about, unfairly used and often abused by the one with the advantage. That parameter is time.

Imagine the simple case of a lawsuit against a major company. The company has caused a severe illness and the victim has at most three years to live. If the victim is right the company should simply pay the victim for the damages done. If the company uses every legal tactic available to delay the case the victim will never see justice and know if his or her family has been taken care of. After the victim dies the family may realize that the final three years of the victim’s life were consumed by this lawsuit and they might just drop the case because of the extreme emotional toll it has taken on the family. If they do the company has succeeded in wearing down the victim’s family. Even if they don’t drop the suit the company might be willing to settle out of court and family might be relieved to have the case behind them. Even if the family wins the company will avoid paying any retribution throughout the appeals process. If the family looses they will be likely not to pursue any appeals because of the emotional stress. Time is on the company’s side.

Time is taken into account is the US constitution where it tells us that a person has a right to due process and a speedy trial. But, speed is not always if the favor of a person being accused of a crime, especially if they are out on bail and a key witness is on his deathbed. There are many ways in which something looks completely fair until one takes time into consideration.

Politics is the same way. The effect of laws are often time dependent. Sometimes laws have dates where they expire. Failing to renew such a law leads to the expiration of a law. In other words the effect of time has an additional pressure on those who are in favor of the law.

In 1994 the Republicans had just won a majority in the House of Representatives on the “small government” issue. And, in an effort to make their voice heard they refused to pass a supplemental bill to continue the operation of the government when it ran out of money. Now, if the majority of Americans truly hated the spending of tax dollars on everything, then this would have proven that point and a majority of Americans would be delighted by the shutdown of the government. History did show that Americans actually like the things that government does for them. They just don’t like the things that the government does for others. So, the point is that the shutdown of the government pointed out to the Americans that some functions of the government are appreciated by a majority of Americans. And, the shutdown of the government backfired for the newly elected Republicans.

The failure of Republicans was short lived and it proved to be a learning lesson that the Republicans built on as they were able to maintain control of congress for twelve more years. The point isn’t that they were able to create new legislation to make things better, because they couldn’t. They didn’t have the power to override a presidential veto. But, they were able to make use of the clock and make sure that the money wouldn’t be there for any government programs. This sent a message to President Bill Clinton that he should be careful about what laws he vetoes, because time was on their side.

Well, we are back to the future on another key issue. This time the issue is the Iraq War. The popular opinion is that we made a mistake going into Iraq and we should find a way out as soon as possible. This popular opinion contrasts the opinion of George W Bush, that we leave our troops in Iraq until the terrorists give up and go home. Seeing that we are trying to keep peace in a civil war where the two sides of the civil war hate each other, but they hate us being there even more and they are already home, it doesn’t look like George W Bush’s plan has any chance of happening.

But, who’s side is time on? If we continue on with the status quo who will time benefit? It looks like time just might be on the side of Iran, the insurgents and the terrorists. In fact, if the terrorists were smart they might just stay quiet for some extended period of time and quietly build a cache of weapons until the Americans come to the conclusion that the situation is under control. Once the last American leaves Iraqi soil they could jump out from their hiding spots and exacerbate the situation into the civil war from Hell. That is if that really is their objective.
However, I don’t believe that the terrorist really want an Iraqi civil war as badly as they want a training ground for their soldiers. Iraq is the perfect training ground and the Americans are the perfect targets for building support for their cause in the Arab World. The mayhem in Iraq is the perfect foil for Iran, who is the biggest winner in this conflict so far. The longer we stay in Iraq the stronger that the terrorists, Iranians and insurgents become, because time is on their side.

So, what can we do about it? Well, the US Congress made the first attempt at trying to end the war in Iraq. And, of course George W Bush intends to veto the bill. But, what happens after his veto? Does anyone really think that the US Congress will suddenly be frightened into writing a bill that the president wants? If George W Bush vetoes every bill that Congress passes and he doesn’t like then what will happen? Who has time on their side?

If George W Bush doesn’t get his bill, there will not be any money for the troops. The President will not be able to keep the troops in Iraq without any money. So, theoretically if the Democrats in congress hold the line the president can not win this fight. He has a choice between accepting the law saying that he will withdraw the troops by next September, or vetoing the money for the troops that are there right now. Time is on the side of the Democrats. Will the Democrats continue to stay the course and force the hand of the President? That is the real question. The president has a choice between having his funding run out or accepting a timeline for withdrawal.

But, George W Bush has one thing that could change the course of the Congress, and that is American public opinion. The American people want to support the troops. But, how each person sees supporting the troops differs wildly. Many people believe that getting our troops home as soon as possible is a method to support our troops. Others believe that giving our troops a bottomless well of resources is the way in which we support our troops. George W Bush is counting on those people to rally forth and change the opinion of the Congress. If the Democrats hold together and fail to create a new bill that George W Bush will sign, then how will the American public view the standoff between these two branches of government? I am sure that the pollsters are out there trying to find out right now. The opinion of the American people will determine the outcome of this battle, but the fact is that the Democrats truly have time on their side, and in my opinion that’s a good thing.


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

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

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living

Socrates made this famous statement at his trial 2400 years ago. And, for some, what he said then is relevant to us today. Some people write in their diaries every day in an effort to see what they can about the life that they are living, and explore ways in which they can make it better. But, I also know that there are people who do exist in this world that continue to be confused when they make the same mistakes time and time again.

Like living in an abusive relationship for ten years and finally being able to muster enough courage to break away and start a new life. But, only a few months down the road this very same person finds another abusive relation with another abusive person hoping that this time the plot will work its way out differently.

But, it is hard to examine our lives honestly. Actually it is hard to examine our lives at all, let alone honestly.

For example, I asked a group of students yesterday to take ten minutes and reflect upon their lives. “Just think about where you are now and where you are planning to go. Think about the whatever pops into your head and spend ten minutes examining it.” It wasn’t very complicated. Everyone should do this everyday. There isn’t much more to it than that. It could be more complex. One could systematically go over a list of what you are doing and how did you get where you are. One could ask all the question words about their situation and where they are planning to take this large endeavor called life. Socrates actually had method of reasoning and detailed this in the quest of examining his life. Of course he didn’t write any of it down and we only have his students records of it, which may not be an honest examination since any account is often distorted through the eyes of a third party.

I found the students to be unusually distracted. The brightest student in the class was clearly the least eager to take on the challenge of examining his life. Often the person who knows the most is the fearful of what he might discover. I wasn’t really surprised and I thought that with only a ten minutes to reflect on their lives it wouldn’t really make a difference anyway so I let the class devolve as the students quickly opted for anything else to do except think about their lives.

The brightest students seemed to be distracted by each other while the less bright students were confused by the idea of reflecting on their lives. They asked me to explain what I wanted them to do again and again. They looked at me with a puzzled look on their faces. The net outcome was that no one really accomplished the assignment. I was a bit disappointed, but I also realized that reflection among American youth today is a completely foreign concept, that seems to be avoided at all cost. Why does one need to think about ones actions when they are told what to do almost every moment of every day? They have adults telling them how to behave either in person or on TV in songs or on the Internet almost continuously from the time that they awake until the time they go to bed. When exactly do they sit and stare into space and just think about nothing? When do they take the time to organize their thoughts? But, the main question is, when do they sit and do nothing without suddenly spouting the phrase, “I’m bored!?”

So, are all the unexamined lives of our young teens worth living? They all seem to be so determined not to examine their lives even when they are encouraged to take a mere ten minutes to do so. It isn’t like they are an unruly class. In general these students take assignments seriously. The problem was that this assignment asked them to do something that they either didn’t want to do or they already knew what they were going to find and they were afraid of that rediscovery. They didn’t like the lives they were leading, but they had already come to an easy justification for their lives and they didn’t want to disturb it.

It is well understood among those who recruit teens that the young mind is uncomfortable with their lives. They want to be happy and they fear discomfort. They fear finding something that they don’t want and they are susceptible to suggestions of easy solutions to this problem. Some religions offer an “easy” list of rules to follow. These rules offer the hope of enlightenment that these students seek without the pain of exploring the truth in the context of their own lives. Sometimes a religious group will explore a tiny emotional exposure that brings a flood of tears to the unwary teens. The emotions actually frighten the teens into following the teachings in the hopes of staving off the possibility of that ever happening again.
Some groups offer projects that help the community as a substitute for thinking about the big picture. Members tell each other that they are doing their parts and there is no need to consider doing more. A continuous examination of ones life is nearly impossible, and the consequences could result in unintended consequences of society in general and each person in particular.

What kinds of disturbing things could discovered in an honest examination of ones life?

Well, if you honestly answer some of these questions you could begin to find out.

Are you doing everything in your power to take advantage of everything you have been given?

Are you doing everything in your power to reduce the suffering of everyone around you?

Do you have a plan to change your life and make things better for you, your family, your town, your country and your world? What is that plan? What are you doing right now to make that difference?

Do you even have a plan for how to make things different in the next few minutes? How?

How often do you re-examine your plan?

Do you have a safety plan for when things could go wrong? Do your safety plans include those around you including your family, friends, co-workers and neighbors?

Do you have justifications that keep you from doing any of these things? Are they really justified?

It is hard to honestly examine your life and feel good about the selfish choices that we all make. We all make selfish choices, myself included. The question is not really if we make these selfish choices but where we draw the line between selfishness and selflessness. The fear of losing everything and finding ourselves living on the street keeps most of us from doing everything that we can do. But, fear of being called selfish keeps us from keeping everything for ourselves. And, sometimes a bit of empathy helps us in our reaching out to others. This being said, how can any of us criticize anyone else when we realize that each one of us has his or her personal struggle with this challenge.

It is truly hard to examine your life. Is might be easier to make some choices and continue to live our lives without rethinking these choices. But, is an unexamined life really worth living? Then again, maybe you don’t need to examine your life if you love Jesus.


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

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

Friday, March 23, 2007

An Abusive Relationship

What are the differences between a healthy relationship and an abusive one?

I presume that we could most likely agree that every relationship that we have with any other person is unique. There are personal details about every relationship that makes them unique. There is a personal history involved with every person and that history involves all of the relationships that the person has with every other person.

But, just because every relationship is unique that does not mean that we can not know anything about a relationship in general. This is because we have the ability to generalize about relationships based on general characteristics of those relationships.

The broadest generality that we can make is to determine whether a relationship has the characteristics of an abusive relationship or a healthy relationship. The first thing that comes to mind when we think about this difference is violence. Does one person in the relationship cause violence to the other person in the relationship? This is obvious, but understanding why the two people were attracted to each other in the first place and sought to build a relationship in the first place gives us insight into understanding the relationship and the two people involved.

So, what do the two people find attractive in each other that leads them into an abusive relationship in the first place? Generally the personalities of the two people complement each other. The abuser is looking for someone to control and the abusee is looking for someone to give them direction. That’s right, the abusee is generally does not know what they want except for some vague ideas about having a happy life surrounded by happy people. After all, many of us have this same general idea, but we also have more specific plans about what we want. But a person that is susceptible to abuse is willing to be told what to do in order to achieve this generalized goal of having a happy life and being surrounded by happy people. They tend to pursue making the people in their relationships happy and often to the detriment of themselves. When they meet a person who is determined to tell them what to do, the abusee is likely to do everything they are told to do without question. And when the abuser takes advantage of the abusee the abusive relationship is born.

So, the abusive relationship doesn’t have to be violent. In fact, the violence might never surface at all as the abusee continues to be taken advantage of by the abuser. In fact, the first time that violence might happen is when the abusee actually stands up for themselves and goes against the will of the abuser. The violence might be a sign that one party of the relationship finely has a personal plan for the future with something a little more specific in mind. Sometimes the generosity of the person begins to extend beyond one relationship into another one. For example, we can imagine a wife that gives money to help her mother out of a financial problem against the will of her husband. If the husband disapproves he may threaten the wife and at least show his displeasure. In an abusive relationship the controlling abuser refuses to consider the problem and asserts his control instead of trusting the abusee. In a healthy relationship a trusting discussion determines the concerns of both parties and reaches a consensus plan of action.

So, it is clear that trust is one of the most important aspects of a healthy relationship, while control is the most important aspect of an abusive relationship.

There are many relationships that we have with different people. We have relationships with friends, neighbors, family members, and acquaintances. And, we can also consider collective relationships as well. This is because we have leaders on where we work and at the various levels of government. The leaders that we have deal with other people as well and these relationships are also subject to the universal laws of relationships. There may be healthy or abusive relationships. Bosses might be unreasonably abusive or they may encourage healthy teamwork and discussion. There might be a mutual respect and trust between us and our leaders, or there may be an assumption of control and abuse.

And, our leaders also have relationships with other leaders. Our boss has an intra-company relationship with other managers in the company. And, the managers have inter-company relationships with other companies. And, all of these relationships may be healthy or abusive. Similarly our political leaders also build relationship with other leaders and these relationships may be healthy or abusive as well.

So, one question that I have is the US relationship with Iraq a healthy relationship or an abusive one? Can we look at the relationship between the two countries as a function of the relationship between the two leaders, or should we consider other efforts as well?

Let us consider the relationship at the basic level. Why does it exist at all? I would suggest that Iraq as a country doesn’t really know what it wants for itself. It has some general idea of a happy life and being surrounded by happy nations. But, because there are so many different groups inside Iraq with many different ideas of happiness or success it really doesn’t have one specific goal and a plan to achieve that goal. Since it has no specific idea or plan, only a generalized idea of what it wants it is ripe for being told what to do to achieve its general happiness. In other words, Iraq is ripe for abuse.

The United States under the current administration may not know what it wants for Iraq, but they certainly want to control Iraq. The administration is happy to tell Iraq what to do and what not to do. In other words they are acting like a classic abuser. They know when they are happy and they clearly know when they are not happy with Iraq.

This is the classic abusive relationship. The abuser wants to control the abusee and at this point the abuser has resorted to violence. The violence is increasing because the abusee has finely realized that it doesn’t want to be controlled. But, similar to an abusive relationship they are not sure of the way out. The abuser is telling the abusee what to do and the abusee has realized that they don’t want to be controlled. The abusee doesn’t know if getting out of the relationship is the best plan, but it doesn’t like being abused either. If the relationship is ever going to change from being an abusive one to a healthy one the key is trust. The abusee and the abuser will need to learn to trust one another. So far this doesn’t look like it is going to happen any time soon.


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

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

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Attorneys Rights

What does the administration have to loose if they let Karl Rove and Harriet Miers testify under oath with a transcript of their testimony made public? That is the question we should all be asking whether you find yourself on the left or right side of the aisle. What does George W Bush have to loose when 40% of the American people strongly disagree with the job that George W Bush is doing? What could Karl or Harriet possibly say that would frighten the Bush administration so much? Obviously there are a few people that still support the administration. Perhaps George W Bush worries that something that Karl or Harriet might say would cause further erosion of his supporters. Maybe there are things that George W Bush would rather not have his base know.

After all, the argument that the Bush administration makes for not allowing Karl and Harriet to testify under oath is a bit weak. He says that the Democrats would use the testimony for political advantage. Since when is the truth something that could be used for political advantage? ;-} So, the Bush administration is saying that they do not want Karl and Harriet to testify under oath. An oath that only asks them to tell the truth! In other words, he doesn’t want what Karl and Harriet say to be tied to anything that might be verified as the truth. I think that it is pretty obvious that George W Bush would rather have Karl and Harriet lie about these things. And, of course, George W Bush is asking that no transcript be taken. In other words he doesn’t want any record of the lies that they tell. But, he is implying that the Democrats are trying to make this into some kind of political issue. How disingenuous!

Jay Leno summed it up pretty well last night on the Tonight Show. He responded to the Bush administration’s reaction to not allow Karl Rove and Harriet Miers to testify under oath because it would be used to some political advantage. Jay pointed out that the whole problem was created because the Bush administration had fired the US Attorneys because of political advantage.

These attorneys that have been fired would actually like to have it on the record that they were fired because of political friction with the administration. At least a competent attorney could still find a job is there is a public record stating that reasons behind their firing. But, if the administration has its way, then these attorneys may find it difficult to find a job when the official reason for their firing is incompetence. But the Bush administration’s objective is not only spite against these attorneys, but also to create fear in the attorneys that remain. The Bush administration wants to restrict any attorney from following any cases except the cases that fall under the Bush administration’s agenda. And, we all know that their agenda is to further their interests in preserving their power, wealth and capital.

The Bush administration doesn’t want Karl Rove to tell the truth. Hence, he shouldn’t be forced to testify under oath, which might leave him open to criticism or perhaps even perjury when the truth does finally come out. The Bush administration, which prides itself on its secrecy, consistently says one thing in public and a completely different story behind the closed doors of the oval office. They try to create the illusion of satisfying the base Christians and Libertarians with one story, but they have their personal agenda of class and wealth above all in private. They have used their political power to get what they want without regard for the country as a whole.

The truth is that they have nothing to fear from the Democrats and the far left if the truth were to come out. However, they do fear further erosion of their base if the truth were to be exposed. And if that truth were exposed by the insiders and under oath their base would be shocked by how totally unconcerned that they were about the nation as a whole.

The sad thing is that only a small fraction of Americans sitting at the top of our economy truly benefited from the Bush administration in the last six years. He has enraged terrorists and most of the nations of the world against us. He has taken away protections from the weakest Americans. The only reason that the Bush administration has changed course in any way was when his political base realized that George W Bush was taking advantage of him. Harriet Miers’ nomination to the Supreme Court is a prime example of this. So, the main fear of the administration is that the truth of the Bush agenda may be exposed under oath and that would be a real political nightmare for not only this administration, but for the power structure of the Republican Party itself.


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

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

Monday, March 19, 2007


On March 31, 2004 the world was shocked as they witnessed images of four burned bodies hanging from a bridge in Fallujah, Iraq. We were told that these men were American contractors hired to secure food deliveries. The interesting thing was that the families of these men were actually told a different story. They were told that they were hired as a special military detailed to protect Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Somebody wasn’t getting the story straight.

These four bodies were being used to rally support for the American effort in Iraq. The supporters of the war used the images to vilify the enemy and to call anyone who questioned the war as unpatriotic. The truth is that these men wouldn’t have even been in harms way if the administration had relied on American soldiers rather than military mercenaries to carry out their missions.

It turns out that the United States has about 150,000 American military in Iraq. But, we also have almost 100,000 American “contractors” in Iraq as well. And, the most aggressive of these contractors are from a company called Blackwater. The men that were hanging on that bridge back in 2004 were contractors from this company.

Journalist Jeremy Scahill has a new book out called “Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.” In this book he illuminates some of the mysteries surrounding this company. He tells us how Erik Prince, a radical right-wing Christian multimillionaire controls 20,000 troops, a military base and a fleet of 20 aircraft, but most people have never heard of his organization. Even after the macabre hanging on the bridge in 2004, people still don’t know that those men worked for Blackwater. Or, if they did, they didn’t know that those men were actually highly trained military men. Jerko "Jerry" Zovko, Wesley Batalona, Michael Teague and Stephen "Scott" Helvenston were in Iraq and they were soldiers, not contractors.

Stephen "Scott" Helvenston was not only a Navy Seal, he was a Navy Seal trainer. Michael Teague was a decorated 12-year Army veteran who had served in Afghanistan, Panama and Grenada and with a Special Operations helicopter unit nicknamed "Night Stalkers.” Jerry Zovko spoke Arabic and several other languages well enough to chat with the staff in the small hotel where he lived. Wesley Batalona was also an ex-military man an Army Ranger with experience in Panama and the first Gulf War. The point is that these four men had more military experience than many of the soldiers occupying the country at the time. So, to call them contractors actually made them sound more like innocent civilians caught in the crosshairs of the terrorists who hate everything American including these poor guys who could never have provoked anyone by merely guarding the food supply to the Iraqis. At least that is what the press reports tended to imply.

But, in Jeremy Scahill’s book we see another side of this company: Blackwater. It turns out that Blackwater isn’t under the military code of conduct. The company argues that private contractors shouldn’t be subject to military laws, because they are a private contracting firm. They are actually paid through the state department, and other government departments instead of the Pentagon which stands to bolster their argument. But, they act like a roving band of mercenaries with only Erik Prince to answer to.

It turns out that the four men on the bridge had signed quite extensive contracts relieving Blackwater of almost any responsibility in the case of their deaths. But, the four families have gathered their forces anyway in order to sue Blackwater in Civil Court. It turns out that the detailed contract these men signed with Blackwater detailed how the men should be protected on their mission as well. At first Blackwater didn’t worry much about that detail, because Blackwater claimed that the details of the incident would be a military secret that could put the American forces in harms way. So, the fact that the Blackwater employees were traveling in two jeeps without the aid of a rear gunner was kept from the families for nearly two years. This action actually should void the contract and the families of these men are taking the case to court.

But the case may not be a slam-dunk just yet. Did you ever wonder what Kenneth Star is doing these days? You know, the prosecutor who spent nearly five years investigating the Clinton’s real estate dealings and only was able to catch Bill Clinton lying about an affair with an intern at the White House. Well, he is working as a lawyer defending Blackwater from these poor families who have lost the ones they love through the negligence of Blackwater. (It is interesting how he always find himself on the side of evil in these matters.)

It turns out that Blackwater is sparing no expense to defend its right to be above the law. They claim that they don’t need to obey the military code of conduct because they are a private firm. They also claim that they shouldn’t be prosecuted in a criminal court, because they deal with military secrets that could put our troops in jeopardy. They also claim that they can not be prosecuted for any of the actions that they have taken in Iraq under the Iraqi courts, because they are Americans. In fact they seem to have an excuse for almost every possible way they that they could be held accountable for their crimes.

Crimes!? Yes, Crimes. There are many reports in Iraq detailing the antics of the “Blackwater Guys.” They see themselves as above the law. They have reportedly shot at people first, then ask the questions later. Is this the way that America should be building relations with the Iraqis, or others in the Middle East.

Yes, Blackwater isn’t just in Iraq. In fact, they go to the places where the US hasn’t athorized troop deployment yet. Blackwater can go to these places because they are a private company. And, a private company can go wherever they please. Talk about loopholes. Blackwater has found the right combination of circumstances that they have made war a profitable enterprise once again. And the soldiers aren’t the ones getting all that cash. Blackwater charges $950 per day per soldier to the US government, and they pay the majority of their mercenaries $350 per day. The rest of that money seems to go into overhead or Erik Prince’s pocket. We don’t know for sure because that detail is a secret that might jeopardize the safety of the troops in the field, or maybe Erik Prince from his mercenary soldiers.

If you want to know more about Blackwater, then maybe you should read the book. Or, you could listen to Jeremy Scahill interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air. The podcast and audio are in the archives at npr.org.


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

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Unexpected Consequences

George W Bush has been very very good for Liberals.

Crazy as it sounds, he has been very good for the Liberal cause.

You might say, that I don’t know what I’m talking about, but it is easy to see if you look in the political mirror. Conservatives have known that rallying around some fear helps to unite their cause. Look at Roe v. Wade. Nothing has happened on the abortion front since Roe v. Wade gave women the right to have an abortion, but Roe v. Wade mobilized the political might of the conservative Christians. And, the culmination of their 30-some years of effort was putting George W Bush, their kin-folk, in the White House. Roe v. Wade doesn’t really matter, when you have your kin in the White House with the power to do just about anything for you, even bring about Armageddon.

When people began to give up on ever overturning Roe v. Wade the religious right latched on to the gay marriage issue. Homosexuality isn’t as much a sin as a rallying point for a political movement. Create fear in the minds of your followers and they will do the impossible. When the majority of your followers are homophobic bigots, the fear of gay marriage is a natural fit.

The 1960s was a time when progressives took center stage and changed the American culture in many different ways. So much change happened in such a short period of time that people began to think that nothing more needed to change. Race relations were confronted and fixed. The Vietnam War was confronted and the people forced the government to change course. Corruption in government was discovered, confronted and fixed. The Summer of Love created a great awakening among the common man. Authority was questioned and it became fashionable to be politically active. People saw problems and they came up with solutions. Ralph Nader showed us the dangers that surrounded us and made corporate America take responsibility for those dangers. And, by 1975 America believed that everything that could be fixed was either being addressed or it wasn’t worth fixing. Americans became complacent and they left the politics to those who they trusted to fix the problems.

The momentum of these political movements continued on in a progressive trajectory. It became natural to understand that our culture wasn’t perfect, but we could fix the problems as so as they were pointed out. Problem solvers could fix just about anything thrown its way. The environment was in sad shape, but everyone understood that it needed to be fixed and it was understood that the guilty should pay the price to fix the problems. Very few argued with the concept of fixing the nations problems and progressives did very well.

However, the problems did not go away; in fact they multiplied. Apartheid in South Africa was a “real” problem. Nuclear proliferation was a “real” problem. Inflation was a “real” problem. Unemployment was a “real” problem. The decay of the urban centers was a “real” problem. And the list grew and grew.

The public lost interest in rallies and protest marches, because the public realized that they had “personal” problems and needs that took time. Protests and rallies took to much time away from those personal pursuits. People went to the discos and bars and they forgot about all those political problems.

Jimmy Carter was elected and problems continued. He told us to lower our thermostats and drive slower to conserve fuel. People didn’t want to make this kind of sacrifice for an indefinite period of time. Actually if you think about it, people don’t like to sacrifice for the good of the nation in general. They don’t want to pay taxes. They don’t want to wear a sweater in their house. They don’t want to be told to drive slower. They would much rather have the US military attack a foreign country and steal their oil, instead of sacrificing their personal comfort.

Ronald Reagan made us feel better about our greedy wants. Profit is good, he told us as the CEOs began to earn 100s of times more than the working class. If you want money, then just be innovative. And, while Ronny was telling us how wonderful greed was, the Religious right was telling us how horrible killing infants were. The fear that the government would force people to have abortions against their will fueled the religious zealots. They found power and they watered it and made it grow. Progressives had become complacent with the thought that progress would continue to be made. Little did they know that the religious right was gradually gaining power that they hoped they could use to turn back the hands of time. The religious conservatives wished the 1960s great awakening had never happened. They liked the idea that people would simply do as they were told without questioning the authority that had told them what to do. Much more can be done when no one questions what you are doing. Just ask Jack Abramoff. Just ask George W Bush.

And, so this brings me back to what George W Bush has done for the progressive movement in America. Progressives have finally realized that it is possible to fall back and even lose the progressive gains of the 1960s. Somehow progressives thought that people should get along with each other. Conservatives came around and told us that we should fear those who are different from us. They spread this fear like a virus and they ask us not to question the authority that it is based on. Make the rules for us and against them is what we hear. Homosexuals do not have the same rights that we have. Immigrants do not have the same rights that we do. Non-Christians do not have the same rights that we do. And if progressives would not have acted in the 2006 elections to put the brakes on this back sliding we would surely have been facing the vision of even more of our collective rights fade into the night.

And, this has happened because of George W Bush. This president has show to us the example of how our rights could be eroded. He has shown us how abuse of power can erode our liberty. He has shown us how the manipulation of what we see can enable those in charge to distort the truth and create a false reality right in front of our eyes. And, George W Bush has shown us how we are all able to be manipulated when we don’t question authority. George W Bush has frightened us all into responding to these dangers and hopefully progressives won’t become complacent again.


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

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

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Thought Police

When we think about the thought police, we think of some future society in George Orwell’s 1984 where Winston Smith is actually arrested by the thought police that can actually read the minds of the public and search for illegal thoughts. The government determines which thoughts are allowed and which thoughts are not allowed.

Currently our world is not so clever as to invent a thought reading device. Some people however are able to identify what others may be thinking. They are able to infer their likely thoughts based on their demographics. This is how elections are so very predictable that candidates need to change their public opinions in order to win over a fraction of those who are unaware of a candidate’s past thoughts.

If we look at a large group of people with a similar background and we offer them a selection of two candidates with extremely different opinions we can certainly predict the outcome of the election in advance. If we offer the same two candidates to a completely different group of people the opposite outcome could be very likely. In a democracy we certainly hope that this is the case, because that is how we believe the system should behave.

Now, if we turn the tables and carefully craft a candidates that says what we know that the electorate wants to hear then we stand a high chance of electing any candidate that is willing to read the speech. It doesn’t really matter what the candidate believes. It is what he is willing to say that can get him elected. And, that is the state of politics today.

Many people have much time and energy invested in this strategy of containment of political power. Many regions of our country have been determined to lean one way or the other, and there is fear that some number of people might change their thinking and be swayed to vote differently. Those who fear a change in thinking would like to control the thoughts of those that live around them. Politicians who have invested their careers into thinking in one particular way would like to maintain a base of supporters who continue to think the same way. Supporters of a candidate that is making laws in favor of them would also like to maintain a solid base of people that continue to think the same way. So, the question becomes - How can we get people to continue to think the same way?

Well, a real life thought police isn’t going to happen very soon, because our ability to read thoughts is only at a very infant stage. So, we resort to other forms of thought control. Peer pressure is probably the first form of control that comes to mind. We all want our friends to agree with us. Because, if our friends didn’t agree with us we would feel obligated to argue with them, and arguments might lead to conflict that might damage our friendship. So, we feel obligated to agree with our friends when we can and save the fights for the really important issues. If a friend likes a political candidate and we don’t have an opinion we might find ourselves supporting the candidate in an effort to prevent an argument.

This type of peer pressure may be extended to acquaintances and neighbors as well. A neighbor who knocks on the door and offers information on a candidate that they support might influence a person who does not have an opinion on a certain candidate.

Peer networks may also use single “frightening” issues to influence how people think that they should think. A “frightening” issue may become a handle for an entire political agenda. The Religious Right may want to change civil laws into religious laws, but the general public wouldn’t allow that to happen outright. But, if the majority of the public dislikes homosexuals, then gay marriage could be the issue that allows the religious right to grab onto a larger segment of society. A candidate running on gay marriage as political issue might be elected with a cohort of similar religious animals and pass a religious law banning divorce for anyone because Jesus told us how bad it is. Or, perhaps they could ban sex outside of marriage, or wearing bikinis in public. Or, perhaps they could even pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting the use of alcohol. Who knows where it would end?

People who have an ideology support their opinions on a set of supporting evidence. Sometimes the evidence that they use comes under fire. Sometimes the evidence itself is merely an opinion supported by only faith that the opinion is correct. Sometimes the arguments can not be supported by any logic at all. How do ideologies like this maintain support?

The older people who support a particular idea will eventually die. Younger people are always being born into the group, and the ideology of the group depends on converting the children to the ideology. This happens in religions all the time. Parents take their children to church, temple or meeting week after week and they hear the same stories year after year. Before they know it the children believe the stories before they can support the stories with reality based logic. If the story tells us that Hercules held the world on his shoulders while Atlas took a break, then the children will know and believe the story until reality bring it into question. When space science shows us that the world is a sphere floating in space the children ask the question: Where does Atlas stand? They won’t ask if Atlas is a real being, they already know that he is. They just want to know where he could stand.

Obviously the ideology that requires the largest “contortions of reason” in order to “believe” in the ideology requires the most defense. And, with that being said it is obvious that children need to learn the “facts” early, and avoid anything contrary to the “facts” until the ideology is hardened like cement. This is where the parents must become the thought police of their children. Parents actually have the power to create the thoughts in their children’s heads. At this point parents can either create thinking questioning children, or accepting faithful unquestioning children. Or, at least many parents believe that they can.

To be fair, this type of indoctrination is by no means restricted to religions. If we think about family history, we all know that there are stories that tell us the injustices suffered in our families. Sometimes these injustices lead to family feuds in which hatred in passed to future generations. Family feuds are extended into national or cultural feuds in some cultures. “Remember the Alamo,” has been passed future generations and remembered to provoke hatred at the future generations of Mexicans. When children are told about this defeat they are instilled with hatred and some are even provoked to feelings seeking revenge. Of course children don’t only react to the story, but they also react to the feelings that their storytellers evoke when telling the story. Stories of the burning of Atlanta evoke emotions of hatred toward the soldiers that burned that large swath of land. But those who burned that land are no longer alive to pay for that deed. Do Atlantans praise this action as an action that shortened that war, or do they hate the Northerners who inherited the responsibility of that action? The answer lies in who tells the story, and how it is told. Children are taught how they should feel from the stories they are told, long before the time when they can weigh all the evidence.

This may explain the seemingly crazy reactions of parents to the history lessons taught in school. History can never take into account of every person’s perspective. It is almost impossible to imagine every injustice that has been perpetuated throughout history. Young men have often been forced into battle to fight for ideas that they didn’t believe in. People have been forced into slavery and conditions that border on slavery. People throughout history have been cheated out of property and forced into tragic conditions. If you personally suffered these tragedies, then it is easy to understand the pain and suffering. If you are a family member from a family with a member who has personally suffered, then it is easy to feel empathy for that person. And, if a member of you local regional culture, ethic culture or national heritage, then you have heard the stories and you are sympathetic for your extended family. And, similarly people outside of this circle get much less sympathy. People with the agenda of passing down the hatred from generation to generation want each generation to feel extreme empathy for their own people and less or no empathy for those outside the circle. Regardless of the truth, the emotional feelings of empathy for one culture over the other is an agenda of some people. The cultural thought police form the young minds of children to pass these feelings to future generations.

And the thought police don’t want you to know this.


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

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

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

John McCain’s Demise

John McCain seems to have taken to the Republican way of politics. That is, to lie to whoever you can in order to win support. Two years ago I thought that John McCain was a worthy Republican that stood outside the swill and vomit of the Republican Neo-Cons that were running the show. He did stand up to the administration, a couple of times. But, then he though that this “outsideness” would be his advantage in a potential Presidential run. So, what did he do? He went out and sought the support of the Christian Right. He gave up his Libertarian charm and sought the governmental control Christians to back him.

When he did this, I lost all respect for him. The “Straight Talk Express” couldn’t decide which track it was on. It slammed to a halt and gingerly edged its way toward the Dobbson Christians. Tim LeHay and the Neo-Cons weren’t quite so sure about this stranger in the village and they turned their backs every time he walked by. And, the Libertarians that he had initially appealed to began to see him for the Republican that he really was, a liar.

This is what always seems to bother me about the Republican Party. Every time a candidate rejects the social conservatives and proclaims their favor of fiscal conservative values, like only spend the money that you have and provide efficient and useful services for the common good their will is broken by the threat of withdrawing financial support for their campaign.

Now, John McCain’s campaign is falling out of favor in money circles and in popular polls. I am not surprised, because see him as a politician that has fallen to the political temptation of being bribed to support the people with the money. His announcement of his candidacy on David Letterman’s talk show was an attempt to scrape the bottom of the idea barrel with a news cycle flurry that might spring him a few points higher in the polls. I don’t think that it is going to work. People already know that he will bend and sway in the political wind, like other politicians with no back bone. Republicans will not stand for a flip flopper; we know that from the 2004 campaign.


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

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

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Strongest Force in Nature

What is the strongest force in nature?

Any physicist can tell you that the strong nuclear force is that strongest force in nature. And, it must mediate the interaction between Republicans and their money. Republicans are afraid of just about everything. They tell us the dangers of terrorism and Saddam Hussein’s ability to create nuclear weapons. Or, is it Iran now? But, the thing that Republicans seem to fear more than anything else is the possibility that they may be separated from their money.

Think about the Iraq War for instance. They want to wage war, but they don’t want to pay for it. They would rather borrow the money and have their children pay it back with interest. They believe that scaring the Jesus out of the Muslims by using huge weapons of mass destruction will keep them safe. But, they don’t want to spend their own money to pay for these destructive weapons. They feel that if they kill enough radical extremists, then the radical extremists will become just as afraid as they are of losing their money. If the terrorists become frightened enough, then the terrorists will leave us alone and do what ever it is that fearful terrorists do.

Not only that, but Republicans want a cheap war. They don’t want the deluxe model, because they know that if the Republicans loose control of government, then they might actually have to pay back the debt generated from this aggression. It would surprise me if the next generation were to wise up, retain control of government and punish the current Republicans in charge by taking away their Social Security checks. But, the problem is that this attack on the Iraq War generation would punish the wrong people. The truly evil people are the Republicans who supported George W Bush and never questioned him at any step along the way. What good is a government that has checks and balances and never uses them?

Somehow we have allowed the argument to get so convoluted that the people who actually care about the well being of our soldiers have become the bad guys.

Let’s think about this crazy Republican reasoning and see if we can find the flaw.

The Republicans became fearful of loosing their money when the financial markets in New York City were attacked on 9/11/2001 by radical extremists. Fear of anyone who might qualify as a potential radical extremists fueled hatred of Arabs, Muslims, and many people who have “strange” sounding names or accents. Even though all evidence tells us that such a small number of people are actually terrorists or extremists that fear is creating a large number of people who are unfairly being discriminated against. But fear is such a strong force that it allows the discrimination to continue. And when the Republicans that have their assets recorded on computer disks that could be targeted their fear becomes even more irrational.

But, crying about the potential loss of money isn’t very manly, so the Republicans use the “horror” of the 3000 killed on 9/11/2001 as an excuse for taking such extreme action as attacking and killing over 100,000 Iraqis and more than 3000 US soldiers. They want thousands of US troops to create a Democracy in the Middle East, to create a wealthy class in the Middle East that shares the same fear of loss of money that they have. Perhaps if the wealthy in a Democracy in the Middle East will act in self interest then they will fight to keep their money for the Americans. At least, that seems to be the complex idea behind their actions.

And, of course they hide their fear of financial loss behind the support of our troops that they sent into harms way. Their logic seems to be, send troops to overthrow a country to create a Democracy to protect their money. Then proclaim the support for our troops as a patriotism that shouldn’t be questioned, because questioning the deployment will put our troops in harms way, because they might not feel so patriotic if they knew that the whole reason for their suffering had to do with protecting the wealth of those who were afraid of losing their personal wealth.

And, this shameless act of greed and fear is protected from criticism by this clever proposal that they actually care about our troops. But, this curtain seems to have finally been tossed aside with the revelation that Republicans don’t really want to pay for care needed by our wounded troops. They don’t want to treat our troops who have sacrificed body parts with the respect that they deserve. Of course they must buckle to political pressure when the truth comes out. And the political pressure will cause the cost of this war to go up. Of course the Republicans will borrow more money to pay for this, even though they would rather not. They were simply embarrassed into this. It is like when someone is embarrassed into contributing to the church collection by a preacher who puts the names and amounts of contributions on the church wall.

The Republicans would rather not pay any more than they need to, but when they are called on the carpet, they will pay the least amount than they can get away with. And, if they can they will do their best to blame someone else for the problem. Chances are that our military hospitals are given a budget and the military hospitals do the best that they can with the money that they have. Why not blame the guy who is spending the money, rather than the people who apportion the money to the veterans? Just remember, the Republicans are motivated by the fear of losing their money, and nothing else.


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

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

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Going Further with Examples

In “Culture and Ethnicity” I write about how personal values depend on the cultural values that you are exposed to. In “Truth” I write about the ambivalence that culture has in promoting its values as the accepted truth.

At least, that’s what I thought I was writing about as I wrote it.

These ideas are very abstract, and therefore difficult to communicate to the general public. Besides the fact that the concept is abstract we also have the issue that we are all emerged in a particular mixture of cultures that color the way that we see the world.

Suspend for a moment your personal belief system and let me posit a piece to ponder. Imagine a group of people that gather weekly and listen to stories about the great ancient hero Hercules. He did some amazing things and possessed some amazing power. He helped people and through his efforts he was rewarded. The stories of Hercules teach us all some important lessons that could be applied to are daily lives, even if we don’t possess the same power that Hercules possessed. In the stories of Hercules we find him dealing with the gods and goddesses as well as the Kings and Queens. He is known to be the son of a god and human as well. Do you believe that there is any benefit derived from these weekly meetings of the people who meet to hear the stories of Hercules?

In ancient times many people may have listened to these stories, as a form of entertainment as well as a method to learn right from wrong. The character of Hercules may never have lived, or he may have been modeled on a real person that did live. The point was not about the true existence of Hercules, but instead it is the truth in the stories that is communicated.

Hercules was a cultural hero, even if he never existed. In the culture every person knew and understood the stories that they had heard recited over and over again.

In our culture we have Jesus. He was a man born of an earthly woman conceived by God. Jesus did some amazing things, and we have stories that relate what he did to us. And, these stories are embedded in our culture. The lessons taught by the stories about Jesus communicate to us how we should live and what we should value. Maybe we don’t possess the superhuman power of Jesus, but we are asked to emulate it nonetheless.

For many people in our culture Jesus is the supernatural being that could work magic, but understood the discretion in its use. The stories of Jesus are real life witnessed accounts of what Jesus really did when he lived here 2000 years ago. Others in our culture accept the ideas and teachings of Jesus as important lessons instructing us on how we should live our lives. These people may or may not believe in the existence of a real life person called Jesus, and they imagine that the stories about Him were likely to have been exaggerated, but the point isn’t the details of what He did, but rather the message communicated.

The truth about Jesus may never be certain, because time travel is not likely to be invented. But, in our culture the truth about Jesus is based on the common cultural values we all share. Respect for religion in general is elevated in our culture and our culture assumes the motive of any mainstream religion is noble and good. Religions are assumed to have these good intentions, and they benefit by not being questioned in any rigorous way, in order to preserve this respect in our culture. Above religions in general, our culture respects Christianity above all other religions. So, when Christianity and another religion are pitted against each other, Christianity is given the benefit of the doubt. In general, non-Christian religions are not seen as evil, but merely misguided. Of course, there is no real way to prove what is true regarding religion, because religion is based on faith alone - by definition.

Of course, when we have cultural “truth” embedded into our culture then we regard these things as given truth. No one would question the reality of Jesus as a spiritual hero in our society, just like no one would question the hero status of Hercules in ancient times. Instead we build on these accepted facts, or accept ridicule of the general pop culture.

Christianity and Jesus are not the only concepts that suffer from this inability to question given truth. We also have a culture of belief in the American way of life. We don’t question the justifications made by the large corporations to do what they deem important for the American way of life. We also have a list of taboos when it comes to discussing national security and national defense. We allow the executive branch to hide behind national security when questionable actions come up. We also have a taboo about discussing the justification for military action and the use of our armed forces in combat.

Imagine for a moment if a Americans believed that the government has the best interest of the American people in mind, like they believe that religion has the best interest of the spiritual well being for mankind in mind. If we operated in this way, the spending of our tax dollars would not be questioned, instead we would assume that the government was doing the best that it could with the resources we have given to it. It would be virtually impossible to make the claim that government is wasting our money.

But, the shocking fact is that the American culture prevents us from claiming that American lives are being wasted in Iraq. Somehow the government typically wastes some resources, but can not possibly be called into question for wasting other resources. The government can waste money but it can not waste lives! How is this possible? And, it can not possibly waste money when it is being spent on the soldiers, even though they are being put between two warring factions in a growing civil war. How can this be possible? This is only possible because the American public has been taught to respect the will of the government when it comes to deploying our troops. We must believe that politicians could work in their self-interest when it comes to robbing the American taxpayers of their money, but they must be held in high esteem when it comes to defending the oil wells in Iraq.

I don’t know about this taboo. Americans need to realize that war profiteers exist, and a lot of them might even be Americans.


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

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