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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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Trust Me

I don’t know if there really was a time when our government actually worked for us and not for the special interests. But, I do know that there were times when national security took precedence over those lobbyists that were putting all that money in our leader’s pockets. There always seemed to be an unwritten rule that congressmen would do what they wanted in an effort to allow the American people to get something out of the wheels of government. But, when it came to national security then the entire congress would make the effort to be cooperative and get something done in a positive way for the American people.

Of course, this effort to work in unity requires a bit of trust. A congressmen needs to make the assumption that the rest of the congressmen had the same desire to get the “right” thing done for the American people.

After 9/11/2001 the country had a rare moment of unity. We all believed that only the most unpatriotic person would desire to take advantage of a situation of national emergency. At the time we were under the impression that our president would learn what he could about the situation and do the “right” thing.

Only years later did we learn that the president and his administration had his own personal agenda. We have since learned that the George W Bush administration made an effort to distort the facts and present the best case for war in Iraq. Instead of a healthy public debate on this serious endeavor we were told to trust the president and hurry forward with this urgent solution. Similarly the so-called Patriot Act was named in an order to cloud the true nature of this bill. The Patriot Act is known to take away the liberty of many patriotic Americans -- but it was urged by the president for congress to pass the bill without actually debating it. Ironically the Patriot Act was undemocratically railroaded through congress resulting in the loss of some American liberty. And, this effort was only possible because the congress trusted the president to have the security of the American people at heart.

As the old Chinese Proverb says, “Fool me once shame on you fool me twice shame on me.” And congress has learned its lesson; it will be a very long time before the congress will trust the word of a president and act on his word alone without debate or supporting evidence.

Is it any wonder that when the Secretary of the Treasury asks the congress for $700 Billion dollars that he can do whatever he deems necessary to fix whatever problems he happens to find with the financial banking crisis that we should view his motives with suspicion? Of course we should worry that a treasury secretary with only a few months left before he gets back to his area of interest -- the financial banking industry -- he just might be planning a bailout for himself and his friends. There currently isn’t any reason that we should trust the Bush administration or anyone associated with them to do the “right” thing. In fact it is more prudent to expect that they have some other motive than national security. Of course it is up to us and the media to find out what that motive is.

This crisis illuminates a few things.

First, in order for any government to work there needs to be a level of trust between those in the government in order for any swift action to take place. When that trust is broken the government can no longer function. If the citizens understand this, then they can vote in new representatives that share some level of trust. But, when the trust disappears then we have an adversarial system destined to do nothing at all. As long as the rule of law continues without trust then we are stuck.

Second, if we have a lack of trust in our government, then imagine the level of mistrust in Iraq where many members of the government have lost family members and the enemy is sitting across the aisle. How can trust be restored in a government like that?

Third, Republicans have always recited than mantra of Democrats equal special interests. But, Republicans have their own set of special interests -- the financial banking industry.

Fourth, our economic system needs a set of rules that are enforced to protect the average person from being swindled. These laws shouldn’t allow the temptation of cheap money now for an expensive repayment schedule in the future be allowed. This, after all, is the kernel of the issue that brought the financial industry to begging in the streets. And, begging in the streets is so unbecoming.

Fifth, if the capitalist system is to work then there needs to be a significant loss for those that took the risk of creating these adjustable rate mortgages and conned people into buying them. The people that made these decisions should be thrown out on the streets and replaced by a whole new group of people that are willing to revamp the system. Allowing these people to walk away without losing their shirts will encourage them to try something just as ridicules again in the future. If these people don’t feel financial punishment for taking a stupid risk, then they will risk our economy again.

How can our capitalist economy survive without trust?

When we go to the store to buy a CD we trust that the CD will have the music we want on it. When we buy food at the store we trust that we won’t be poisoned when we eat the food. When we buy a new car we trust that it will work for a significant amount of time before we need to buy a new one. Trust is how our economy works and how our country runs.

But, there is an undercurrent in our country that puts weight on deception. In some circles people believe that one is clever for selling something that isn’t worth the price paid. Keeping the truth a secret is the key to making as much money as one can from this deception. Once the truth is out, then the product can no longer be sold for a significant profit. However, the clever person is sure to be up to the next great deception that will earn another tidy profit until its discovered as well. The justification for this action is that no one will pay more than the market will bear. If people are willing to pay more then there must be some value that they are paying for. The untold truth is that the premium is due to lack of information flow. And a market without access to the truth is not a fair market.

Imagine bundles of adjustable rate mortgages sold for the potential premium increase once the teaser rate expires. The purchasers are expecting a large future payoff, while the people making the payment are not prepared to pay the new rate when mortgage payment doubles or triples. It is a train-wreck waiting to happen. And, these bankers have the Republicans in congress in their pockets because the have been financing their campaigns for years. The sad thing is that the people who created this junk no longer bear responsibility because they sold these bundles to unaware investors who believed the ratings of these loans. Once again fundamental trust was lost.

We will one day recover from this mess. Hopefully it will be sooner than later. However, it will take a long time for us to recover the naïve trust that we once had in our financial system, our government and our country.


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 11, 2008

Myth and Magical Thinking

Since the nomination of Sarah Palin as the new standard barer of the Republican Party I have been struggling with a way to collect my thoughts and express them in a coherent way. I have been struck with many emotions and thoughts as the activities have played out over the last two weeks. Each time I considered writing something, but I couldn’t quite express the problem that my intuition told me was there.

Well, I don’t know if this will be any better than the collection of all those thoughts, but at least I believe that I have a context in which I can discuss them.

In order to explain this let me bring you back to 2003 and the first few weeks of the Iraq invasion. During that time the administration and the defense department were searching for heroes. If they didn’t find them, then they seemed to create them and put those stories out there with very little truth in advertising. Recall the story of Jessica Lynch. The first story put out by the US military and hyped by the administration was that Jessica Lynch was a determined fighter firing her weapon until it was empty defending the rest of her convoy until what she assumed would be certain death. What a great hero story for the military and the administration to use to defend their invasion of a sovereign nation (similar to the Russian invasion of Georgia a few weeks ago). Would we be more willing to support the Russian invasion if we were told of heroic Russian soldiers doing what this mythical Jessica Lynch did in Iraq? What if we heard about another heroic Jessica Lynch fighting along side the Russians in Georgia? What if we were told that the Georgians were terrorists and not the fledgling Democracy being attacked by the great bear Russia? I am not suggesting any of these things are true, but rather that we have a tendency to believe what our leaders tell us whether they are true or not.

Eighty percent of the American public now recognizes that the Bush administration lied to us about something during the last eight years. I am being generous here to make a point. I don’t want to argue these statistics, but rather the fact that the majority (over 50%) recognize that their leaders have lied to them about something during the last eight years. I could guess that the other 20% might agree that Bill Clinton lied about something during his administration. Therefore I would put forward the postulate that everyone in America agrees that their leaders have lied to them at some point in the last 16 years. I would like to conclude that we should expect them to lie to us in the future -- whether they are from your favorite political party or the other one.

So, if we know that our leaders lie to us, then why do we succumb to these lies so easily when they seem to be so outrageous on the surface? Obviously American culture, like many cultures, is romantic toward the hero and is open to stories of the true hero. We desire a hero at every level as some type of supernatural identification. We were all drawn to the story of Michael Phelps winning those eight record breaking gold medals. Wasn’t he just as heroic in Athens when he won six gold and two bronze? Imagine if his teammate Jason Lezak, whom gets very little recognition compared to Michael, wasn’t able to beat the French swimmer Alain Bernard. Imagine if Michael hadn’t been able to out touch Milorad Cavic by that hundredth of a second? Would he still be on the talk show circuit? These tiny intricate details are the evidence that makes an American Hero authentic.

America loves their heroes! But those heroes certainly need to be authentic. Imagine a mythical America where the news of the Olympics was filtered through the Republican Party. Imagine Michael Phelps losing those two races in the real world - would the Republican Party be tempted to create the Michael Phelps hero by altering the Olympic information? If politics depended on those results, then perhaps they would go that far.

We can look at the current presidential race and see those actions in play. The Republicans found the unfamiliar Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin and they have opted to mold her into the hero that the American people are so easily drawn to. Since so little is known about her they can paint a picture of her with little chance of Americans learning the truth. Some of the things they tell us are bound to be true. Every true thing they tell us lends credibility to the lies that they tell.

This is like the story of Jessica Lynch. There was a thread of truth in the story. She was in a gun battle and she was taking from the scene of the battle. The lies of her story hang on these loose threads. It was more exciting to tell us about her gunfight. There were no witnesses to tell us that she didn’t fire her weapon. Even when she regained her senses, she didn’t remember any gun fight. When the Iraqis finely told their story we learn that she was taking to a hospital -- not kidnapped. No one guarded her except the doctors, and she wasn’t held against her will. Those lies, however, were necessary to paint the picture of the hero.

Well, Sarah Palin is not really the hero that the McCain campaign is telling us that she is. She was a mayor of a small town. She was elected governor after defeating a corrupt Republican in the primary. That corruption might have played into the election win. And, Alaska isn’t exactly a bastion of liberals, so her win in the general election wasn’t all that surprising. But, the McCain campaign is creating a hero out of the clay of this little known politician. And they are doing this by putting forward outright lies and deceptions. They tell us that she was against that notorious “Bridge to Nowhere,” when she actually supported it until the national media picked up on this huge pork barrel project. And, what is even more dishonest is that fact that she tells us that she said thanks, but no thanks to that federal money implying that she wouldn’t accept the federal money. However, she took the money anyway, and put it into the general fund. If the issue is wasting money, then this means that she is just wasting it on some other pork project instead. And now we don’t even know where our money went.

This dishonesty about the McCain-Palin ticket builds on so many other threads of truth. The image that they wish to build is a duo of heroes fighting for America -- but the truth isn’t that simple. John McCain may have been heroic in Vietnam, but that doesn’t mean that he has always been heroic. Republicans might like to believe that John McCain has always stood up for America, but the falsehood and deception that his campaign is currently hurling at the Obama campaign tarnishes that image. Doesn’t an American hero triumph by virtue of his truth over the enemy’s deception? I believe that the maverick that I have admired in the past has currently succumb to the seduction of political power. The illusion of heroic honesty and straight talk is no longer valid. I believe that the lesson he learned from the 2000 Republican primary was that honesty is no longer the best policy.

The truth is that the Republican political machinery is inherently dishonest and deceptive. John McCain may have won the Republican primary in an honest battle for the nomination. But, now that he is the nominee he has inherited the smear machine. And, as evidence of his non-maverick stature he hasn’t done anything to temper this evil in the Republican Party.

Barrack Obama offers us another version of the American Hero. Barack was a hero that sacrificed for his community in another way. Instead of being a military hero that fought in a foreign war, he went to battle against the status quo. When society found itself comfortable keeping the poor in their place he went out to organize that community. In these poor neighborhoods many people do manual labor for minimal wages. Opportunity in these places like the south side of Chicago are extremely rare. Gathering consensus and fostering leadership grants political power to these people. When the people do not know that they have rights, then they are less likely to seek them. Barrack Obama sacrificed his personal wealth for this community. He obviously didn’t sacrifice to the same extent that Mother Theresa had in her lifetime, but he also hasn’t claimed that he has sacrificed to this level.

In the end the choice is a collective decision of the American people. In the past we have made both good and bad choices. We have a tendency to look for the hero to fight the good fight for us. Barack Obama has demonstrated that he is willing to sacrifice his personal wealth for his community and in an extension of that sacrifice for his country because our country is a collection of communities. John McCain has sacrificed earlier in his life when he fought in the military for his country. In reality both McCain and Obama are offering us an opportunity to choose that hero. The job of the American people is to determine which vision offered is the Authentic American Hero.


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 03, 2008

Straight Talk or Fast Talk?

Most Americans hate hypocrisy. “Catcher in the Rye,” struck a chord with Holden Caufield’s teenage discovery of the abundance of hypocrisy in everyday life. I have often wondered if the generic conservative’s objection to the novel lies more with this discovery than with the occasional use of profanity in the novel. Holden discovers that the world is not the way that conservative’s would like to present it.

In the 2004 election the conservative attack dogs lead the charge to discredit John Kerry with all means possible. The implied hypocrisy of one statement was used continuously against him. It was ironic that the political party rooted in hypocrisy and illusion were able to mislead the American public into believing that George W Bush was the honest candidate and John Kerry was the flip-flopper.

Out of the entire Republican Party one member had the best record in regard to the issue of hypocrisy. This of course was John McCain and his “Straight Talk Express.” And, to his credit John McCain began the campaign with this strategy. But, after John realized that he was the Republican pick he also realized that his strategy wasn’t working. The Republican base did not agree with John on a number of issues. For one, they didn’t like his vote on stem cell research. Second they didn’t like his stand on immigration. John was just a little bit too honest and the Karl Rove clan wasn’t that excited about John, so they weren’t that excited about going out and throwing mud for John.

John saw the writing on the wall and he knew that he had to do something, because “Straight Talk” wasn’t doing the trick. So, he hired some Rovian advisors that helped him modify his thoughts. In other words, he was either brain washed or he was convinced to flip-flop on some issues in order to win back the Republican base. Since we all know the power of his resolve based on his POW experience we know that he wasn’t brain washed. He has obviously changed his position for political expediency. This is the very definition of hypocrisy. It disgusts me, and I am certain that most Americans would find this most vile.

John McCain’s campaign is currently claiming that they believe that America should come first, before personal gain or political gain. If an average American knew the depths to which the Republican party has sunk in order to make political gain we would have had uproarious laughter at the first mention of this theme yesterday. Unfortunately, Karl Rove and his tactics continue to be known mainly to the more initiated political wonks.

It seems to me that we will need to hope and pray that enough Americans will become interested in politics enough to be able to smell hypocrisy based on the 30-second ads and news coverage of the campaign.

Will the American people realize that John McCain was against the Bush tax cuts before he was for them? Should the American people believe the new John McCain when he could just as easily change his mind again once he is elected?

My hope is that the selection of Sarah Palin for his Vice President will be one of those things that will show the hypocrisy. In John McCain’s own words he had determined that the vice president selection was perhaps the most important decision to be made during the campaign. When he made this statement he pointed out his age and suggested that the VP candidate should be ready to step into John’s shoes. Based on these words it seems to me that John was not putting country first when he chose Sarah Palin. No one in their right mind would believe that she was up to speed on all of the important issues. To be fair, it might be possible for her to come up the speed before January 20th. However, surely the Republican Party has people that are more qualified than Sarah Palin for this very important position. And, if John McCain really was to “Put America First” he would have chosen this more highly qualified person for this position. Instead, it seems more likely that the selection of Sarah Palin is an act of political expediency of a desperate candidate trying to shake up the race with a candidate that will excite the religious fundamentalists in the Republican Party base. It sounds like John McCain is putting winning the election first by sacrificing his honesty for hypocrisy.

It is quite strange that Sarah Palin is being praised for fighting corruption. It is true that she had taken on some corruption. But, as it turns out she was for “earmarks” before she was against “earmarks.” Sarah is a hypocrite just like many other politicians. As the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska she was the first mayor to hire a lobbyist to bring back the green to Wasilla. Millions of dollars flowed into the town. And, about that bridge to nowhere that Sarah said she was against. She cancelled the project, but she kept the money. She is sending $1200.00 to each Alaskan, but she is also taking money from the federal government to build infrastructure. So, basically the rest of the United States is paying Alaskans $1200.00 a piece. Now, that doesn’t sound right - Does it? Where is the Sarah Palin that fights corruption?

I hope that Americans see the real McCain and Palin before November 4, 2008 - not after the election like with Bush and Cheney.


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 02, 2008

Why Sarah Palin?

Dan Quayle, Gerald Ford, Spiro Agnew and now Sarah Palin - Why do Republicans choose such horrid Vice Presidents?

Even though Richard Nixon said “Just don’t ever put me on the couch,” in reference to his fear of what he might find out if he were psychoanalyzed I will attempt to ask and answer some of these various questions from the psychology of fear.

In general I think that it is safe to assert that politics is driven by fear. In support of this assertion I would draw your attention to the great success of negative advertising when compared to positive advertising. In general people are afraid that their leaders will take advantage of the power that we entrust them with.

Since we all know that there are many things to be afraid of I would suggest that people align themselves with people of similar fears. Here are a few fears, and I would suggest that after reading each fear it will become apparent which political party embraces that fear in order to create that critical mass needed to secure that 51% needed to govern.

1) Fear that a foreign power will invade the USA.
2) Fear that employers will take advantage of their employees.
3) Fear that minorities are being mistreated.
4) Fear that the government will take away private property rights.
5) Fear that American culture will be destroyed by the invasion of foreign culture.
6) Fear that we are slowly destroying our planet with pollution and other destruction.
7) Fear that minorities will take over and force the WASPs into subjugation.
8) Fear that religious zealots will write religious doctrine into public law.
9) Fear that criminals will destroy social order.
10) Fear that the Government will take away our basic rights.

Obviously there are more fears professed by each political group. Some people might suggest that they are fearful of all of these things while other will suggest that they are fearful of very few of these things. However, each and everyone of us can take these fears and order them from top worry to least worry. And, in doing so looking at your top 5 of these will point your political arrow in the direction of your preferred political party.

By grouping our fears together the American political parties have created two methods to deal with these collections of fears. The Republicans have a collective fear that we are not safe from threats on our current “way of life.” These threats define our “way of life” as American culture of prosperity in which the wealthy deserve to have what they have and their property must be protected at all costs. Religion, social status, and current lifestyle are all threatened. The Republican solution to this threat is to fund the military to excess, keep the government small and weak, and protect the every symbol of current American culture, such as religion, corporations and to the extent that they don’t threat corporation - small businesses.

The Democrats have a collective fear that authority in general can and will threaten our current “way of life” and they also fear that the status quo has been taking advantage of many of us by virtue of current social status. The Democrat’s solution to these fears is attempt to make laws limiting these abuses of power, and forcing those who break those laws to pay for breaking the laws. Regulations and the enforcement of those regulations are thought to keep those abusers on the straight and narrow.

We can see that in general both groups fear being taken advantage of, but the potential abusers are different for each group. Republicans fear those that don’t know or don’t understand - foreigners and the poor who they perceive as criminals. As an extension since these poor are employed by the government they fear that these poor will force property owners to sacrifice some of their property. Democrats fear the abuse of authority that can be used to take away human rights, wages, and simple sustenance. By virtue of these fears Republicans tend to be the party of wealth, corporate power, and religious authority. And, Democrats tend to see the majority of those being abused being from the working class, minorities these diverse groups are welcomed into the party and their different cultures are celebrated. Since Democrats see the abuse of corporations toward workers and the environment as ground zero in this battle a common cause is enough and social status is less important than the protection of it that is sought by the Republicans.

What this means is that certain personality types are attracted to each political party. People who fear that they will be taken out by an aggressive social climber are more likely to be members of the Republican party. And, this leads me back to my original question. Why do Republicans makes such horrible choices for Vice President. I would put forth the conjecture that Republican Presidential nominees fear those who might show them up. In order to insure against this these nominees select their Vice Presidents from the bottom of the list, rather than the top.


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

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