Dr. Forbush Thinks

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

My Photo
Location: California, United States

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Your Tax Dollars at Work

Greed is a very strong emotion. People want money, because they equate money with security. If you don’t feel safe, then you can use your money to buy protection. If you have enough money to buy a nice house in a nice neighborhood, then you will have a strong police force to protect you. How do I know? All of the people in this nice neighborhood pay high taxes to have the strong police force to protect their assets. Money is security.

Why can’t we spend our tax dollars to have a nice city, instead of a nice neighborhood? Obviously we don’t have enough money to protect the entire city, that is why we choose to protect the wealthy areas of town and let the rest of the city fend for itself. At least that’s the philosophy in most of the country.

For more than forty years the Republicans have told you that they wanted smaller government. They told you that they wanted you to keep your money and spend it as you please. They told you that free markets and free enterprise would solve all of our problems. This language translates into: If you are wealthy and live in a wealthy neighborhood, then you should spend your money on your neighborhood. You should build the best schools, have the best parks, control crime with the majority of police force, and encourage only the wealthiest of citizens to live in your neighborhood. High home prices yield high taxes and discourage the “dregs” of society from living in your town. Wealthy communities draw the wealthy and powerful to live there and result in a disproportionate amount of power in the higher ranks of state and federal government. Forcing you to spend money on surrounding poor neighborhoods only encourages those who don’t have capital to be lazy and stay in their cesspool neighborhoods. And, for forty years those who were well off believed this line of thinking.

To the benefit of the Republican Party this line of thinking trickled down to the middle class in America. The middle class heard the selected bits from this reasoning. They heard lower taxes. They didn’t realize that lower federal and state taxes should be offset by higher local taxes in order to provide services that most people enjoy, like nice schools, parks and police. No, they believed that lower taxes meant more money in their own pocket to buy a new video game or a deep fried cheese sandwich. The middle class don’t have a ton of money, so tax cuts sound like a great idea in the times of inflation when everything seems to be just out of reach. And, when Republicans cut taxes then the federal funding in poorer parts of the country began to dry up. The net effect was to direct more money into wealthy neighborhoods and away from poor and middle class neighborhoods.

In the current conservative Republican mind the only reason for federal taxes is to fund national security. There was a time in our country when conservatives were motivated to build infrastructure in our country. That infrastructure helped business accomplished the difficult task of getting products to customers. It was in the government’s interest to aid airlines, railroads and trucking companies to smooth out all the wrinkles. Today, many believe that the infrastructure is built and it will last forever. Or, if it doesn’t then people can figure out how to maintain these things without the coordination of the government. If the companies that use this infrastructure need it maintained, then they will find a way to pay for it. FedEx and UPS should be out there fixing the airports, filling the potholes and dredging the channels. After all, what are we paying these guys for?

Instead our tax dollars are meant to be spent on our national security. For example, we should be sending our government employees around the Middle East fixing their problems. After all, that is what we are doing in Iraq. After we so quickly destroyed Iraq in creative ways like shorting out all of their electrical generation plants, blowing up bridges and dropping bombs on restaurants we are now trying to fix all of those problems. Our government is using your tax dollars to repair the infrastructure in Iraq. They can’t spend your hard earned money fixing our schools, but the supporters of the war in Iraq complain that the media doesn’t spend enough time glorifying the schools that your tax dollars built in Iraq. Isn’t their something ironic about this picture?

Our government knows that the burning of fossil fuels is changing our environment. They know that the old dirty power plants that are providing us with power could be made cleaner and more efficient with a little government help. But, we are spending our tax dollars rebuilding the power plants in Iraq instead.
In fact, we are spending billions of dollars on our effort in Iraq, but the president vetoes bills of a few million dollars and claims that he does this because of expense. Are we not the richest nation in the world? Well, actually I think Monaco is, but we are probably ranked higher than Iraq. Shouldn’t we be spending our money in our own country before we go around the world “nation building?” Even George W Bush said this in the collection of lies that he spouted while he was campaigning to be our president in 2000. But, George W Bush never was a man of his word. He has always said as little as possible to get elected and then remain vague on the actions that he really meant to take.

As this election cycle approaches we need to keep these lessons in mind. Candidates from which ever party will tell you the minimum information necessary to win your vote. No one will vote for the candidate who will tell us the whole truth. It is just too painful to realize that so many of our previous candidates lied to us and stole our money to pay for the previous generation. Ronald Reagan borrowed money to pay for his tax cuts. We are paying interest on some of those loans today. George W Bush borrowed more money to pay for his expansion of government. Arnold Schwarzenagger borrowed money to pay for the money that Enron stole from California. What do all of these leaders have in common? They are all Republicans that told us that they were going to cut our taxes. They may have cut taxes for the current generation, but they mortgaged those tax cuts on our children. And, who is winning in this capitalist business transaction? Why, that would be the Chinese government that bought a large portion of those government bonds. The Chinese government is now collecting interest on those bonds. In the long run we are paying the Chinese a government handout, when we have people in our country that really need a helping hand.

Some of our children don’t get proper health care, because their parents can’t afford the regular check ups, or the health insurance. When a child gets sick, these parents don’t have the money to take their kids to the doctor. Only when the illness becomes so extreme that an emergency room visit is the only thing that will save their life does a parent take their child for help. And, since they can’t afford the ER expense the visit is paid for with our tax dollars. Doesn’t it make a bit more sense to pay the lower cost of preventative care instead of waiting for a child to get so ill that they need the ER in order to survive? But, this is how we currently spend your tax dollars.

If you look at how your money is being spent today, I believe that most of us would agree that we are wasting a lot of money. And, the situation got this way by politicians pandering to the public and not telling us the whole truth. But, since no politician who told the whole truth could ever be elected we are left with the only possible option. That is, we must learn the truth despite what the politicians tell us. And the only way to learn the truth this way is to be skeptical, cynical and assume the worst about every politician on both sides of the aisle. Then the politicians will be forced to tell you more and more until the truth finally wins out. Doubt demands clarity. Skeptics are not easily fooled, because they expect to be fooled. Cynics are the toughest vote to win, but that only means that truth will win out.

On the other hand, if we continue to be the society that believes everything they hear, read or see without questioning, then we will meet the same downfall of every other “great” democracy. Those hungry for power will tell the people what they want to hear and do what ever they please without a single major challenge. And, democracy will fall to tyranny again.


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

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

Friday, November 09, 2007

Good Days and Bad Days

Over the last year I have been running at work. We have a shower so the athletic odor isn’t an issue. I have been running after work or at lunchtime. During the summer after work has been easier than lunch. With the shorter days and the time change it is getting dark by 5:15pm now so running after work isn’t working any more.

Running at lunch cuts into my day for more than just the running time. There is the change time and the shower time. And, there is also the recovery time afterward. So, for a short 10K run it takes almost two hours out of my day. I can work a little longer in the evening to make up for the difference, but knowing that it will take the extra time sometimes prevents me from going out and running at all.

Yesterday I brought my running stuff with the intention of running. I was a bit busy, so when lunchtime came around I put off taking my run. Thirty minutes went by and I began to think about taking that run. It looked cold outside. I was thinking of every possible excuse, until I finally decided that I might just take a short run. I got changed and finally got out the door. I really didn’t feel like running. I was dreading the first mile.

Normally the first mile is the hardest part of my run. But amazingly yesterday’s first mile didn’t feel that difficult. This must be a common phenomenon. I almost always feel as if I am taking out the first mile too fast. Sometimes I think that I am going to have to stop and walk. Sometimes my legs feel like they are going to collapse. But, by the time I get to the 1-mile mark I suddenly have my second wind. Yesterday I had these same feelings during the first mile. But, yesterday they only lasted for about three or four minutes. Suddenly I felt stronger and able to push a little harder.

I take splits on the course that I run. I don’t know exactly where the mile markers are, so I take splits at turning points on the course. Basically I repeat several legs of the course so I am able to compare the legs of the course even though the legs are unusual distances like 1.75 miles, 0.75 miles 0.44 miles and 0.2 miles. This being said the total distance is 10K give or take a few meters.

Some days I feel really good when I run and other days I feel terrible. Sometimes when I feel good my times on these sections are slow. Maybe I feel good because I just ran too slow. Sometimes when I feel terrible my splits are extremely fast, but I end up crashing before I can pull off a great 10K time. But, yesterday I felt great and when I came to my first split I found that I had run a fairly fast time. I quickly calculated that if I kept up that pace I could finish at my average 10K time. This is because I normally negative split my times. I wondered if I could negative split this pace, because it seemed to be quite a bit faster than I normally run. Maybe I was running fast because I had an adrenaline rush, or maybe I had started too fast and I was going to hit the wall early. I wondered if I could push myself just a little harder. I feared that if a pushed too hard I wouldn’t be able to keep the pace.

When I was in High School I ran cross-country. I wasn’t good. In fact, I really sucked at cross-country. I just ran to stay in shape. One thing that I remember to this day was that my High School best mile time was 6:30. I tried to beat that time many times, but I could never run any faster. Twenty-five years later I came close to that time. Last year on the first mile of a 10K race I looked at my watch at the 1-mile mark I panicked. I thought that I might not be able to finish the race at that pace. And, by mile three I was running 9 minute miles. There was no way that I could negative split a time like 6:30. Yesterday I ran the first 1.75 miles at 7:40 minute pace. At that pace I would run a 47:30 10K which is very good for me. I consider anything under 48 minutes to be a good run. I felt strong and wondered if I could negative split that pace.

I pushed a little harder on the second 1.75 miles and ran it at a 7:30 minute pace. Amazingly I still felt strong. This was not a normal run. I continued to push a little harder and I finished the last mile at a 7:00 minute pace. My total time was a personal record. And, the best thing of all was that I still felt strong, even after I finished the run. It was certainly a good day. The last time I came close to this time was about five months ago. And, then I began to wonder what made this day any different from any other day. Why was this run so much easier to make this time than any of my other runs over the last five months?

It certainly wasn’t how I felt before I was about to run. I was dreading the feeling of that first mile. I didn’t feel strong when I sat at my desk considering whether I should run or not. I wasn’t even sure that the run was going to be good when I run the first two miles. I thought that I might hit the wall or poop out at any time. In fact, I never really knew how good my time was going to be until I hit the last mile. That was because I knew that at a minimal pace I could still have a very good time. But, I didn’t know that I was going to have a personal best time, until I finished the run. That was the truly strange thing. In fact, It is extremely difficult to even know when I am going to have a good day or a bad day.


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

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

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Liberal Lawyers are “Sue Happy” and Conservative Writers are Happy to Sue

Every conservative has been told that Liberal Lawyers will be the Death of America, unless we get some control over the irrational lawsuits clogging the court system. Liberals counter that the judicial branch is one place where the common man can get a fair deal. (This assumes that the “common man” can pay the legal fees to take his case to court.)

The real truth is somewhere in between. People need to be able to challenge the powerful that exploit their power for their personal greed, until they are called on the carpet. Many of the laws that are written to benefit the powerful need to be challenged. Many of the scams invented by the powerful need to be investigated. And, this is one major purpose of the legal system in this country.

In general the system has been constructed over time by the powerful to aid the powerful and to ensure that the powerful do not lose that power. This is why large agriculture is able to exploit illegal aliens with low wages and the threat of deportation if they don’t comply. This is why so many banks are able to charge ridiculous fees - even on the people that are about to lose their homes. This is why credit card companies are able to market their cards to people that are unlikely to ever pay back the loans and charge enormous percentage rates on top of that. This is why companies are able to get away with selling defective products that don’t do what they are advertised to do. This is why companies are still polluting the environment without cleaning up the mess they left behind. And, the powerful continue to fight to stop lawsuits to straighten these ills out.

That is why I find this piece so funny: NYT

Conservative authors that have fought to put the power structure in place that would continue to insure the exploitation of workers are crying foul when they are put in the same situation. These are the liars that told us that John Kerry was unfit for command. They were afraid that John Kerry or another Democrat would get into office and make it easier for lawyers to sue to protect the workers or the environment. Now, they are taking the liberal route out of their own personal special interest. And, I suppose that they want us to cry in their spilled milk.


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

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

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Being Treated Like Children

Before anyone has learned anything about politics they have already learned that there are two political parties. But, it is often confusing for many Americans to decide which party to support. For many Americans they are often asked to throw their support behind a candidate that is a member of one of these parties because the candidate tells them what they want to hear. It isn’t often that Americans actually spend the time and the effort to learn what the Political Parties stand for. For the most part, the political parties don’t have political education as a major priority. This is because the political parties would rather treat to like children telling you what to think, so you don’t have too.

In order to understand politics we should take a step or two back and look at history. There have been democracies before, and they have failed before. For most of history people have been ruled by a few leaders and the rest of the people had very little say in the matter. There have been Kings, Czars, Dictators, and military leaders. The main point is that seizing and maintaining power was a system that worked for the leaders but not necessarily for the majority. There were good leaders and poor leaders, based on the prosperity of the public, but much of that had to do with benevolence or luck. So, when Democracy was invoked in the few cases through history in which it was it offered the majority a chance to have a say in these matters.

Giving political power to the masses has advantages and disadvantages. This is because the wellbeing of the public is in the hands of those with political power. Just as a bad leader may act in ways that cause harm to society in general, the majority is capable of doing the same. It was always assumed that the public needs to be educated in order to make the wise choices needed to prevent harm to the common good of the public. But, this only works when people actually use their brains and think instead of acting without thinking.

This dilemma offers us a glimpse into politics as it has evolved. The people with power have always wanted to retain that power. The rest of the population has always sought power in order to get some control over their lives.

Power comes in several flavors. There is political power that enables one to create the laws. Judicial power enables one to determine what those laws mean. Police and military power enforces those laws. And, financial power buys the resources needed for all of these to happen. Some power comes from reputation and authority. Some power is based in fear or threats. The fact that leaders have power is not really the issue. Normally we argue about what leaders do with their power. Why do they do what they do, and how does it effect us are the questions we ask.

When the democracy of the United States was being created the balance of power was a critical insurance policy that was meant to prevent abuse of the public by the leadership. The people foreseen to be abused were the property owners. Property owners could potentially have their property taken away by the government. This is why the democracy empowered the property owners with voting rights. And states with small populations had wealthy property owners with more to fear from the tyranny of the common folk who could potentially vote to divide up all the large farms among majority. However, there was very little protection of the common man from the tyranny of the wealthy class. Over the next two centuries those with less power have continually fought for protection from those with more.

Gradually, those without power have been able to wrest bits of power away from those with power. And, those with power have continually fought to keep what they had. Those with power feared that as the common folk gained power they would turn the tables and demand property and power from those who had it. They called it communism, socialism, re-distribution of wealth, or thievery. But, those with this power could just as easily abuse their power by exploiting the common people. The property owners could never survive without these folk, because they also need their labor to grow their crops, mine their mines or manufacture their goods. There is a symbiotic relationship between these two groups. Those with property needs labor and those without property need money to survive. This relationship is asymmetric, because those without property can not outwait a property owner until they come to a fair agreement. Starvation and death will happen to the non-property owner before the property owner might suffer at all. Knowing this means that a property owner can basically offer whatever he likes as wages. Competition might play some role if property owners don’t work together in collusion. However, in reality it is in all of the few property owners interest to work together to keep wages as low a possible. Only in the case of low labor pools is there any reason for competition between the property owners to raise wages. Labor shortages might happen when particular skills are needed, or particular attitudes are desired.

As the weak in society gradually acquired more power they were able to demand minimum wages, better working conditions, better working hours and fairer treatment. These things have been won slowly as the property owners have fought these things every step of the way.

In order to understand the two sides of this argument even better we should examine the two extremes of these points of view. Property owners ideally would like to have total and complete control of everything they own. If they chose to burn everything to the ground it would be their personal choice. If they chose to build noxious chemical plants or sewage treatment plants or nuclear reactors on their property they believe that it is their right to do that. They believe that they have the right to pay whatever people take to do whatever they demand. Government shouldn’t interfere or place limits on anything that they decide they should do. If they are religious property owners, then all they need is God’s Law to limit them, and nothing more.

On the other extreme we have the commoners who own little or no property. They believe that they have the right to get a fair wage for a fair day’s work. But, many of them have become disgruntled by the way they have been treated by the property owners. They believe that they deserve much more than they have been paid in the past, and they feel powerless to effect any change. In the extreme case they desire to have what the wealthy have, security over their lives. If they can not get security they begin to feel justified in taking matters into their own hands just to provide for their families. At some point laws lose their effect over these people, because living in jail might end up being a better deal than the suffering the abuse of the system.

Most people actually fall in the middle somewhere. Most people own something and they wish to protect it from those who would like to take it away from them. Most people realize that laws to protect property rights benefit everyone. Most people realize that theft is not a solution. Most people realize that the abuse of workers is not a solution. But even though the majority of people realize these things it doesn’t mean that everyone is on agreement on all of these issues. The point is that there are people that continue to fight to protect their property rights while others continue to fight against abuse and for fairness.

It turns out that Republicans align themselves with those fighting for property rights. They favor a republic governed by representatives and protected from the tyranny of the people. And, the Democrats favor moving closer to democracy in which the people have more control over their own lives. These two mighty political parties fight this fight continuously over every issue that comes before them. Our country is a democratic republic that continues to fight this fight on a representative level, protecting the common good from both the power of property owners and tyranny of mass insurrection.

The reason we continue to be treated like children in this fight, is because our leaders don’t trust us. Without understanding the consequences the common folk would refuse to pay any taxes and raid the treasury. Without responsible adults in control our country would decay into chaos. Infrastructure would never be repaired and many people would run wild breaking whatever laws they didn’t like. And in the end neither our property or our rights would be protected.


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

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