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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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

That Vision Thing

Ronald Reagan had a vision. You might not agree with his vision. You might not even agree with the premises of his vision but you can not say that he did not have a vision. His vision was based on the propaganda that he voiced through out World War II. His propaganda ignored the reality that many Americans faced every day. Ronald Reagan’s vision could not see the homeless sitting on the grates trying to warm themselves. Ronald Reagan’s vision did not see a struggling poor person, he saw a lazy fat-ass welfare mom trying to cheat the taxpayers out of their money. Ronald Reagan certainly had a vision.

When George HW Bush won election in 1988, the part of the country that accepted Ronald Reagan’s vision thought that his Vice President had seen the same vision. They wanted to be told that they had a right to be wealthy and ignore the rest of the country. The poor were all the suckers and losers; if you had money you had a divine right to it. But George HW Bush hadn’t heard the train whistle. He didn’t have a vision to share with the American people. The working class who had suffered for 12 years under the Reagan vision and never saw any of it come true were ready to latch onto a new vision. Bill Clinton had a vision that was different from Ronald Reagan’s vision. But, the people wanted a leader with a vision as opposed to someone without one. So, George HW Bush lost the election because of that “vision thing.”

Every good leader needs to have a vision. It isn’t about what that vision is, it is about what the country could become. We do these things as a nation so that we can become a better nation. The vision is what we might become.

In the past many elections have been a competition between visions. The potential leaders tell us what their visions are, and we choose where we want to go. But, in recent years the reverse has become the trend. The leaders no longer tell us what their visions are for a future with them in the leadership role. Instead, they tell us to fear the vision of their opponent in that same leadership role. The electorate becomes entangled in trying to pick the least bad vision of the future. And, when a real visionary emerges he is shot down by his opponents who tell us how impossible and unrealistic his vision is. The message is that we can’t trust a leader with such outlandish and impossibly unrealistic ideas. He certainly must be hallucinating in order to have such wild visions.

Apparently the Bush family is the antithesis of vision, because George W Bush lacks vision just like his father. Occasionally he announces a new vision, but he lacks the skill to convince us that it really is his vision. It is more likely that he has an advisor that suggests to him that it is about time to tell the American people that he has a plan. These plans don’t fit into a bigger picture. Instead they are plans announced with the hopes that we can conjure up our own vision of what he is telling us. He announced a new space objective to land a man on Mars a few years back. Those who like and study science may still be imagining this amazing journey. Most of the rest of us have long forgotten this. Was this part of a larger vision for this country? Actually it doesn’t really fit into the rhetoric of a president who doesn’t trust science.

Even the George W Bush vision of spreading Democracy around the world has lost its luminosity. In the last seven years we have invaded two countries under this premise. But, a larger vision would include diplomatic and political efforts to free many more countries from the oppressive rule of tyrants and military governments. We are never reminded that General Musharraf Pervez is a military dictator who overthrew or sabotaged several democratically elected governments. General Musharraf Pervez has gone against democracy by arresting opposition leaders and even a Supreme Court Judge. A true vision of democracy can not coexist with embracing leaders like this.

It is actually more likely that George W Bush has a personal agenda, rather than a vision. He is in the White House to weld power for his friends, family and loyalists. His actions demonstrate this louder than any words that he has spoken. The appointment of incompetent loyalists to positions to which they were not qualified has lead to many disasters - where Katrina is at the top of the list. The appointment of the unethical Alberto Gonzales is another on this long list. The reasons or intentions of these appointments don’t fit into any vision for America. Instead these appointments fit into a personal agenda for George W Bush. America is only beginning to see this, because George W Bush never shares this vision with the American people.
Now, as we think back to 2000 we might ask ourselves if Al Gore would have had a vision for America. And, because you don’t need to be president in order to share your vision with the world we can say that Al Gore certainly has a vision for America. He has spent the last few years telling us about the “Inconvenient Truth.”

Al Gore’s vision is to make America better, by putting and end to global warming.

We could argue that terrorism might be a bigger problem. But, if you actually look at the risks and probability Global Warming is actually a bigger problem. Global Warming will effect our food production, our coast lines, and our infrastructure. Terrorists may occasionally destroy a building and show the results on TV in order to terrorize us. Global Warming will work 24 hours a day seven days a week gradually damaging our country piece by piece. But, because the destruction is a hurricane here, a flood there, a drought over there we don’t see this as clearly. And, therefore we are fooled into thinking that the terror problem is worth a larger effort than the Global Warming problem.

And, it turns out that Al Gore’s vision, without even being president, is making a bigger impression than George W Bush has on almost anything except his debacle in Iraq. It just goes to show that you don’t need to be president to make an impression and get your vision out there. Of course, if Al Gore were president he would certainly have more power to make an even bigger impression. Of course, its really important to have that vision thing.


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

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

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bait and Switch

One of the “legal” sales techniques that we often witness is the “Bait and Switch.” The idea is to create a vision of what the customer desires. The customer begins to imagine the joy of ownership, and begins to fill in the blanks with his own imagination. The salesperson is careful not to lie about the reality of the product that he or she is trying to sell, but he is also careful not to clear up any possible misconceptions.

For example, on our recent trip to Las Vegas we sat through a couple of time share pitches. As the target of this pitch you begin to imagine lounging out by the pool with a waiter asking when to bring your next drink. Then, maybe you begin to think of the cost of these drinks. But, then no need to worry because with the time share you could surely stock the liquor cabinet. Having that “home away from home” is better than a hotel - right? The sales person will not point out that the reality of the situation is that this is basically a hotel with guaranteed guests for the owner. Occupancy rates are going to be high, because not using the time share is your loss. Now, since this does become obvious to some potential customers the time share pitch now talks about trading and delaying your weeks. But the salesperson will never point out that if you don’t want to use the time that you purchased you will eventually lose it. If you have saved up ten weeks of time share, and you die, then you have paid in advance for time that you can never use.

The illusion of sitting by the pool in a tropical paradise is tempting, but the reality of mandatory vacations to the same place, or similar places every year might be a bit to demanding. What if we want to go traipsing through the Outback with a guide? What if we want to take a climb in the Himalayas? A friend of ours recently took his family on a motorcycle tour around the Western states. The time share constraint would rule this trip out.

Well, the time share pitch isn’t the traditional bait and switch. They don’t promise something that they won’t deliver. You get the place to use every year for a week. For some people this might be just the thing that they want. After all, it isn’t the salesperson’s responsibility to advise you as to what the down side might be. It isn’t against the law to point out what the upside of a deal is without pointing out the down side.

Similarly the recent presentation of the situation in Iraq by General Petraeus is a sales pitch. His presentation is a continuation of bait and switch sales pitches that we have been offered for the last four years. First we attacked Iraq because Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction. When we discovered that they didn’t, we changed our motive to the removal of an evil tyrant, because he was a major focal point in the War on Terror. And, after we killed him and the Terrorists continued to pour into Iraq we decided that Iraq could be molded into a shiny example of Democracy in the Middle East. When the government failed to become this shining example, we have now changed our goal to a “bottom up” establishment of order in this country.

The point here is that General Petraeus has created a new vision of what it means to succeed in Iraq. Creating a new goal with out admitting to the failure to achieve the old goal is dishonest at best. I suggest that this is a typical bait and switch that a salesperson uses to make the sale. The sales person isn’t really concerned with the goal, but rather they are concerned with making a sale, or “saving face” in this case. Changing the goal continues to be used by the Bush administration, mainly because they can never admit when they are wrong by administration policy. Aside from Bush coming claiming that his only error of his presidency was to say “Bring It On,” the Bush administration hasn’t claimed a serious mistake. Instead of claiming human fallibility, the Bush administration continues to change the goals and proclaim that they are almost there.

Well, surprise, surprise, General Petraeus has claimed that we will reduce our military force by the surge number of 30,000 troops by next summer. But, he never pointed out that the military could not sustain the surge strength beyond next summer without some major changes that no one wants to do. We could implement a draft and demand that Americans make real sacrifice for this “necessary” war. Or, we could pull troops out of Korea. Or we could cut time in which troops spend in the US between deployments. So, in other words, General Petraeus is making a positive illusion out of a situation that was going to happen no matter what the reality on the ground in Iraq. Is this just another marketing ploy? Is he just giving us another illusion of success in the face of necessity?

And, in the only other positive announcement that General Petraeus made he claimed that the “bottom up” effort of getting the regional leaders to support our efforts was making progress. But, what does this really mean? The regional rulers have found that it is in their best interest to support us, NOW. But, will they change their support as the political winds change? Yes, they don’t care about the global situation. They don’t even care about the total Iraq situation. And, if they see that the US is supporting another rival group more than the US is supporting them, then they will change their allegiance.

The reality here is that was are supporting Sunis in Suni areas. And, we are supporting Shia in Shia areas. And, with all of the ethnic cleansing that has happened over the last few years these divides are greater than they were in the past. This means that the divisions in the country are actually becoming more not less profound. On this current course Iraq is moving toward a greater division along sectarian lines. And, without a way to share natural resources among these groups we are heading toward the traditionally difined civil war in which Suni areas organize Suni armies and militias to fight Shia armies and militias in Shia areas. In other words, current US policy is enabling factions to organize, strengthen and eventually fight each other in organized fronts. Is this positive or negative from a US perspective?

But, at the current time the current salespeople will continue to sell the current policy and continue to avoid the issues that they don’t want us to see. They are acting like any “good” salesperson. And, it is our responsibility to see through the candy coated illusion and pull out the reality, as ugly as it really is.


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

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

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Leveling the Playing Field?

I would like to submit for your consideration the following statement - The Democrats have been too nice in their rhetoric up until today.

During the 2004 election campaign the single most damaging group were the Swiftboaters, who hijacked John Kerry’s reputation. They were able to persuade enough voters in Ohio to vote against John Kerry and thus putting George W Bush into the White House for a second term. The Swiftboaters took lies and spread them around enough that enough gullible people actually bought the lies and voted for the guy that they believed to be more honest and trustworthy. It was like watching the OJ Simpson trial again - pathetic.

But, at least up until today I felt that I could be proud to support the opposition to this evil administration. At least I felt that truth was being used to fend off the created misinformation intended to spread fear. Yesterday, however, a group associated with the left, MoveOn.org, has pushed the rhetoric to equal the Swiftboaters of the 2004 campaign. They published a simple name calling advertisement in the New York Times. They said, “General Petraeus or General Betray Us.”

The question is not whether name-calling is allowed or not allowed. Obviously in the free society that we live in we all have the right to free speech. The question is not whether this advertisement will influence people. It obviously will bolster those who are against the war in Iraq. And, it will persuade a few of the people who might be questioning the war. But, like with the Swiftboaters who used name-calling against John Kerry it won’t change the minds of those who have already made up their minds. Like the Swiftboaters ads, this ad does not only questions General Petraeus’ patriotism, but by extension it is meant to challenge supporters of his policy to question their own.

So, was this a good idea?

An action is only a good idea if it achieves its goal. So, in order to understand whether the New York Times ad was a good idea it is important to understand what its goal was. So, what was the goal of this advertisement?

I am personally unsure of what the purpose of this ad was. I am only certain to understand what the goal was not. The goal of the ad was not to influence the members of congress to change their votes. Although many who don’t follow politics very closely may be affected by attacks on their patriotism members of congress are generally above questioning their own patriotism. They are much too certain about their own patriotism and much of everything else they do to be influenced in this way. No, this ad is aimed at someone who is uncertain about whether they should support the war mainly because they don’t spend enough time studying the information about the war. The target of this ad could only be meant for someone who is sophisticated enough to know who General Petraeus is, but not sophisticated enough to have made a decision about the war in Iraq. Does this person really exist? I am guessing that the goal of the ad must be to influence this hypothetical person to jump on the anti-war band wagon. So, I am guessing that the ad was not a good idea, because the target of this ad does not exist.

However, let us assume that the ad has another goal; it does not have the obvious goal of this obvious ad. Perhaps the goal was simply to bolster the base of anti-war activists by producing a symbol to rally the troops around. This actually makes some sense, because the anti-war group has been feeling dejected as of late. They have managed to pull some levers of power to influence a majority of congress to vote against the war. But, they have been exacerbated by the inability to climb over the President’s veto power. This advertisement being put out their for all to see must strike a chord among those who have put out such a large effort only to be rebuked at the gates. If this was the goal, then it surely has achieved a bit of success among the most extreme anti-war members.

But, if this was truly the goal of the ad, did it provide the rally point without damaging the cause? Because, the overall goal of the cause has higher priority than the goal of the ad itself. There are people who have worked hard to rally the people, that actually respect the military. These are generally people who have served in the military and they respect the work that the military does when it has guidance from a sane Commander-In-Chief. These people are serious and they don’t like name-calling directed toward the people that they respect. This group may become lukewarm to the type of ad taken out in the New York Times yesterday, if they respect generals like General Petraeus. And, this is why every congressman who supports the war and spoke during the hearings yesterday pointed out the ad in the New York Times. They wanted to win back some of these people.

There used to be a time when maturity was a respected attribute. People had an idea of what a mature person would do in a particular situation. This ideal of maturity was used to constrain and control people, because a large majority of society tried to “act” mature. This meant that people followed protocol, had manners and behaved in expected ways. Name-calling was considered immature behavior, and shunned. In an effort to reform society many accepted behaviors were questioned and often changed for the better. The strange turn about over the last few years was that the Conservative Right had embraced name-calling in its effort to appeal to those who spent less time following the details of everyday politics. Name-calling worked as a rally cry to swell the ranks of conservatives, giving votes to many. Often, like the case of the Swiftboaters who attacked John Kerry, the name-calling didn’t seem to deserve a response. It was ironic that the conservatives that raised the war banner to fight against the fall of civil society pulled down the last pillar of civil discourse to fight its battle. But, now the left has abandoned civil order as well.

The main question becomes - Is it too late reestablish civil discussion and debate?

If we all resort to name-calling, everyone stops listening to each other. Arguments become pointless. And, progress can not be made. If the Left follows the lead of the right and follows the example of MoveOn.org to call those we disagree with names, then progress will not be made. Let us not lower the playing field to the level of the right in an attempt to level the playing field.


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

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

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Fairness - A Case Study

In a civil society laws are supposed to prevent people from hurting others. Society sets the guidelines by stating the obvious. Don’t kill each other. Don’t steal from each other. Then things get murky.

If you have a business selling peaches and you sell some of your peaches to the supermarket, is it dishonest to set up a roadside stand 100 yards down the road advertising that your peaches are fresher than those at the supermarket? If you desire your neighbor’s wife, and they are suffering from some marital difficulty, is it right to hit on her?

Well, ethics is a tricky subject because one man’s scam is another man’s legal profit. Some things are just understood to be wrong, some things are written into laws and other things should be clarified.

Let’s look at a major problem that we have in America - homosexuals. (For all of you who don’t get sarcasm, this is a major sarcastic statement that looses much of its impact, because I know that I need to point that out or suffer the wrath of those who don’t get sarcasm.) This problem has reared its ugly head all around the country. And, in order to fight this problem we have hired some of the best detectives in the world to fight it. (This is still sarcasm.) So, in order to fight this major problem one group of homophobic authorities thought that it would be wise to create a “sting” operation to root out this bane or society. (Does anyone still not understand sarcasm?) So, they placed a plainclothes policeman in a bathroom at the airport to root out these homosexuals.

Before we even get to the Larry Craig issue, our society should examine this authoritarian gone crazy policy. Why are we putting plainclothes policemen in public restrooms to root out homosexuals that are trying to hook-up? What are we trying to prevent? Should we place policemen in bars and prevent heterosexuals from picking up each other? What is the difference, besides the fact that a bathroom is only slightly more disgusting than some bars?

The law that the police were trying to enforce was “lewd conduct.” Of course, what is lewd to one person might be wearing ones pants around their knees to another person. Lewd is one of those words that is defined in the context of the culture. What is lewd at one event might not be lewd at another event. And, what is judged to be accidental contact by one person might be considered lewd and lascivious by the other. Shouldn’t the whole concept of this law be brought into question? Unfortunately, our country has jumped on the victim of this unfair law en masse.

Lets step back and look at this incident. Lets not even consider the fact that the person in question is a US Senator and should understand the meaning of pleading guilty to breaking a law. Instead let us assume that the person in question was just an average Joe off the street. Joe may or may not be homosexual. Joe might have just went into the bathroom not knowing that the place was under surveillance for homosexual activity. Joe just wanted to use the restroom.

There are two possible cases here. Joe could be gay, and when he is approached by the operative he might think that the handsome guy is coming on to him, so he makes a pass back and is nabbed in the sting operation. The second possible case is that Joe might be totally naïve about the situation and he responds in some way that is misunderstood to be making a pass. All other possible cases would involve Joe just leaving the restroom and catching his flight or going home.

Many conservatives out there believe that the purpose of the lewd conduct law is to prevent people like Joe from being in that public bathroom. They believe that the risk of case number 2 happening is worth the prevention of case 1 from happening. As a society, is this where our priorities should be? Even if you believe that homosexuality is a sin and these people are to be damned to Hell? Are these people even bothering you? Or, are you so insecure that you are afraid that if a person of the same sex made a pass at you then you would be tempted to go have sex with them? What is this law protecting our society from? Is this sting operation in the best interest of our society? All of these conservatives that don’t like our tax dollars to be wasted on stupid things really need to get onto this huge waste of money.

As a society our conversation should not be centered around the question of whether Larry Craig is gay or not. The important questions are - Should we be wasting our tax dollars on sting operations like this one? What is the benefit of this sting operation to our society? Is it worth the price in freedom, and tax dollars?

Maybe Larry Craig is too stupid to be a US Senator. After all, if he pleads guilty to something that he didn’t do, then he doesn’t understand the law. And, should someone who doesn’t understand the laws be making them. But, it is actually more likely that he did understand the law and the consequences of the arrest and conviction getting out into the public. He was trying to find the safest way to keep this from the public view. This is also a sad commentary on the state of our society. Why do we have laws like this one that are not doing anything to protect society, and they can potentially harm so many people? Should some things just be left to that final stand that we have with the Almighty on Judgement Day? Why should the government be poking its ugly head into our private affairs? We all need to think about this law and the many intentionally discriminatory laws that we have on the books all across the country.


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

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