Archive for the 'science' Category

15
May
09

News You Should Know 05.15.09

This Friday afternoon, there were a number of news stories that caught my attention. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to write an entire, fleshed out blog on each of them.

  1. Pulitzer Prize winners. I know this is from last month, but I recently took a look at this year’s Pulitzer winners and found many quite worth the squiz:
    1. Alexandra Berzon of the Las Vegas Sun on higher death rates among construction workers on the Strip due to lax regulation enforcement.
    2. David Barstow of The NYT on the utilization of generals by the Pentagon to sell the Iraq War. (Pt. 1 and Pt. 2)
    3. Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin of the East Valley Tribune reveal how a popular (and over-zealous) sheriff’s focus on illegal immigration resulted in the endangerment of investications of violent crimes and other areas of public safety. I still see that sheriff all over TV.
    4. St. Petersburg Times for Politifact (they completely deserve this one).
    5. Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post for his coverage of the 2008 election. This surprise me. Dont’ get me wrong, I love Eugene, but I’m not quite sure how his comentary was better than, say, E.J. Dionne’s. Eugene still rocks and congratulations to him.
    6. Steve Breen of the San Diego Union-Tribune for his editorial cartooning. Example:
    7. Damon Winter of The NYT for his photography of Obama’s presidential campaign. A great series and really worth the look.
  2. Texas and other states charging victims for rape kits. This is appalling – it reduces the number of women willing to pursue the arrest and conviction of their perpetrator. If a murder victim’s family had to pay for the evidence to be collected at the murder scene, the country would be in an uproar. Remember when I say there are areas where the U.S. needs improving? This is one of them.
  3. THIS IS BIG. The ACLU is suing to challenge a patent Myriad Genetics on two human genes linked to breast and ovarian cancers.“Knowledge about our own bodies and the ability to make decisions about our health care are some of our most personal and fundamental rights,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “The government should not be granting private entities control over something as personal and basic to who we are as our genes.”
  4. The Texas Senate passed a bill weakening eminenet domain laws and forcing the government to operate much more transparently when attempting to seize private property. Yee-Haw!! Now, get with it, House, and let’s get this signed into law! I hope eminent domain reform is progressing in other states as well.
29
Apr
09

Swine Flu – It’s Not the First, Won’t Be The Last

What a strange coincidence that a potentially pandemic illness originating from domesticated livestock mushrooms at the exact same time I am reading Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond.

In simplified terms, Diamond describes in his book how food-producing populations have been exposed for thousands of years to influenzas and other diseases carried by domesticated animals. Those with the genetic strength to overcome the illnesses or avoid them all-together lived to reproduce and, thus, propagate their genetic supremacy. Some bugs are meaner then others, hence the bubonic plague and Ebola virus.

These inevitable illnesses have made quite a mark on the development on human geopolitical history. Because food producers (FP) were exposed to these diseases and overcame them while hunter gatherers (HG) did not, the FPs easily decimated or wiped out many an HG tribe and culture. Smallpox has quite the reputation for being such a population reducer.

The main point here, however, is that as much horror and, possibly, death as the avian flu or the swine flu might wreak upon the global population, diseases transmitted from animals to humans are as natural as exinction. So long as humans live in close quarters with animals, and such cohabitation is unavoidable, the potential pandemic is always around the corner.

Me, I try not to be a germ-a-phobe. With weakened immune systems, our bodies cannot handle contact with the feces of many beasties. Sure, we don’t want to give each other illnesses, but a little dirty is good. So, I’ll start the Just Say No To the Wipey and Hand Sanitizer Campaign now.

As survival of the fittest is real, the cleaner we become as a species, the weaker we become. Looking on the bright side, it may not matter anyway since we’re killing our environment so rapidly, our only hope is space pods on Mars. Hello! Point me to the nearest mass-suicide cult ASAP!

31
Mar
09

Atheist Billboards Going Up in DFW Area

I’m pretty pumped! Monday, the Coalition of Reason will unveiled two godless billboards along busy interstates in the DFW area:

godless-billboard

The Coalition of Reason has already launched the campaign, aimed at uniting non-believing groups, in Philadelphia and Denver.

I’m part of the leadership of the Fort Worth Free Thinkers and we are joining with the North Texas Church of Freethought, Metroplex Atheists, Dallas-Plano Atheists and more to form the DFW Coalition of Reason .

The reaction of the area will certainly be interesting as this is an obvious headquarters for Christocentric religiosity. You’d be surprised, however, to see how quickly our community of non-believers (athiests, agonstics, non-theists, rationalits, etc., etc.) is growing.

Certainly, I hope one of the results of this four-week media campaign is greater organization of non-believers so that our voice is heard amongst the cacophony of American diversity. For too long, we have allowed one specific lunatic fringe group to dominate politics and accepted culture in our society and that must stop. The pendulum is swinging away from those who would seek to imprison the rest of us with their beliefs. We will be the silent minority no more.

And speaking of minority, I’d like to remind everybody that religious unaffiliated is the fasted growing “religious” group in the U.S. Doesn’t that just give you a warm, cozy feeling inside?

If you’re in Texas and would like to find a group of non-believers in your area, visit this Texas Secular Network site for a list. Some groups are more stingently athiest and organized, but as for us Fort Worth Free Thinkers, we just like good beer and good conversation and rational thinking. Peace out.

02
Dec
08

Conscientious Consumerism

I am a huge believer in voting with dollars. Huge! Whether it’s buying environmentally safe products or not eating veal or going to doctors who belong to minority groups, I try to put my money where my loud mouth is. No, I’m not religious about it – I don’t always buy locally-grown produce or independently-brewed beer and I wouldn’t go to a doctor who left a scalpel in me just because she was Hispanic and female (though, all the Hispanic female doctors I have visited have been phenomenal).

It’s called conscientious consumerism – as opposed to the American phenomenon of conspicuous consumerism which feeds on the souls of impoverished children.

One of my main responsible spending projects is the support of non-religious free thinkers (atheists, agnostics,

hee hee

hee hee

spiritual boycotters of organized religion, etc.). Of course, there are only so many directions this moral compass points. Hell, I live in Fort Worth and there aren’t too many openly atheist businesses in town, despite all the roofers who have Christian fish on their yard signs. It was much easier to practice when I lived in Austin.

But every cent counts, right? So, I look for books written by non-believers, buy Simpsons dvds, am not unfamiliar with adult toy shops, try to see Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt movies despite my inability to take them seriously as actors anymore. I avoid businesses who use the Christian fish as their selling method, refuse to go within 15 feet of a Christian book store unless it’s to flash my boobs in their windows (kidding!), etc., etc. Twilight was written by a Mormon chick and while I salute her entrepreneurial spirit, I will not read her books or see the movie. And I’m making a much more concerted effort to keep funds from Scientology followers (you know who I’m talking about).

But, it’s hard, people! And I’m weak. I can’t help but find myself in the drive-thru at Chick-Fil-A now and again. And despite the fact that burger chain Fudruckers plays god-awful christian worship music on Sunday mornings (by request), I manage to chomp down on their wondrous meat and buns, wedge fries and heavenly processed jalapeno cheese sauce once a month (or more?) on a day that is not designated for rest for the majority of Americans. And, shhh, but I love the Chronicles of Narnia series.

The response to Propoboycott-oppressionsition 8, however, is making my life a lot easier. The publication of donor lists have helped galvanize a boycott against the business leaders who helped ensure the success of a religious political movement aimed at oppressing the rights of a specific group of Americans. I am more than happy to joint the effort to hand prejudiced business leaders some whoopass with each dollar I don’t spend supporting them. Cinemark Theaters, this means you.

What is surprising is that MANY of those that end up on the boycott lists are Mormon – not just any ole Christian felt called to donate in support of Prop. 8. It is mind-boggling how many of the donors supporting Prop. 8 live in Utah. It seems there was a concerted effort within the church walls to push parishioners to spread hate. Sure, their church leaders have routinely practiced pedophilia and suppression of women, but how dare gays have the right to marry! What imbeciles. Needless to say, I’m not planning any trips to Utah any time soon.

Though I don’t live in California, I do pay attention to the movements supporting gay marriage – many of which lists monetary supporters of Proposition 8. For instance, Californians Against Hate has a great website, giving me many more businesses upon which to focus my responsible consumerism: A-1 Self Storage, Washington Mutual, Templeton Funds, Marriott, like I said – Cinemark Theaters. Mormonsstoleourrights.com lists the ways in which the Mormon Church has worked to oppress gays and also posts a petition viewers can sign advocating the loss of tax-exempt status for churches who are politically involved.

Boycotting is not a “bullying” tactic as many of the named donors are claiming. Religioners have their fun with boycotts all the time. And I fully support any American’s right to donate to causes they support. However, I have the right to refuse to patronize those with whom I disagree. Voting by the dollar is one of the most fundamentally democratic expressions we Americans have and a major producer of progress. I will never purchase anything produced by Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh or anyone else that spews hatred and vitriol. That’s my right.

And while I will suffer for my views (no more Franklin Covey planners…) it is important for me to practice what I preach and support efforts to expand good will to all people and oppose those who would oppress.

By the way – what an abismal shame that a dishonorable person like Saxby Chambliss could reach one of the highest offices in the land. What the hell, Georgia?! This man inhabits the bottom of the moral barrel and you would re-elect him?! What a disgrace.

14
Oct
08

Why “Drill, Baby, Drill” Chanters are Idiots

I’m sure most of you who watched the Republican National Convention saw the goobers in hardhats and safety vests which said, “Drill, baby, drill!” Their captain, Rush Limbaugh said June 18,

They’re (Democrats) going to oppose the economic growth of the country. They’re going to oppose your prosperity. They’re going to oppose all of that by standing in the way of this.

They’ve (Democrats) got their talking points and they’re lying through their teeth about it.

Bill Nelson of Florida, one of, ahem, my senators, is out there saying that, (paraphrasing) “Hey, the federal government’s already leased a whole bunch of land to the big oil companies; they’re not even using it.”  It’s such a smoke screen, the number of years left on these leases is very few, and the whole thing is a lie anyway.  I have the figures to prove it.

Entrepreneurs of all stripes, all sizes, create business of all sizes. They’re a wide range. And who is it that always sets out to punish them and destroy them?  Liberals, the American left! Absolutely right, Brian. I could read your lips in there.  Good going.  What does Obama want?  Barack Obama wants you to suffer.  Barack Obama wants higher prices on fuel. right now.  Barack Obama wants a windfall profits tax. right now.  Barack Obama wants to raise your income taxes, by the way, right now.  He wants to raise capital gains taxes, right now.  He wants to raise Social Security taxes, right now.  Obama wants you to suffer.  The Democrat Party wants you in pain.  They want you angry, and they are willing to block any remedy to this problem in order to keep you suffering and in pain and angry.  Obama wants prices up, he wants your income down, and he wants taxes up, ladies and gentlemen.

I know, he’s a crackpot. I recommend reading the whole transcript because it’s incredibly laughable. Let me continue. Here’s Sarah Palin during the VP Debate,

The chant is “drill, baby, drill.” And that’s what we hear all across this country in our rallies because people are so hungry for those domestic sources of energy to be tapped into.

Barack Obama and Senator Biden, you’ve said no to everything in trying to find a domestic solution to the energy crisis that we’re in.

If that’s not enough to make you want to sprinkle cyanide on your cheerios, country singer Aaron Tippin has a new hit, “Drill here, drill now,” you can listen to here. I’m posting the second verse:

Every time a foreign tanker pulls up to our shore
They got us over a barrel while they bleed us a little more
And think how much it costs just to bring it all that way
And how many American jobs that’d make if we were drillin’ in the USA
Oh and God forbid if our oily friends should decide to cut us off
We’d be standin’ around with our britches down now listen to me ya’ll

Perhaps Aaron’s legendary tight pants have seized up blood flow to his brain.

What I’m trying to say is that all these calls for offshore drilling and energy independence have made it clear there’s a drought of information on the Right. I’ve decided to rectify the situation by gathering what we informed people call FACTS to help explain the error in this argument – which many Democrats are perpetuating as well. It’s almost criminal.

So, I beg of you – educate yourself. Even if you don’t want to read my lengthy presentation of reality and possibility, conduct your own research of the effects of increased offshore drilling, the possibility it will lower gas prices, and the addition to jobs and U.S. prominence alternative energy technology will provide.

Here’s my crack at it. It’s long, but it’s worth it. Jesuschrist, it’s worth it.

The clamors for energy independence only surfaced following the rise in gasoline/petrol prices. Because gas prices are largely determined by the decision made by OPEC regarding production levels, Americans are under the incorrect impression that drilling for more hydrocarbon off our shores will provide energy independence and lower gas prices.

OFFSHORE DRILLING ≠ ENERGY INDEPENDENCE ≠ LOW GASOLINE/PETROL PRICES

The American people are uninformed, which is nothing new, and their politicians are doing nothing to correct this problem because they are whores for campaign contributions, which lead them to feed the corporatocracy that is pimping America by trading money for favorable legislation. The oil & gas lobby is one of the biggest john of them all. According to the Federal Election Commission Sept. 2, 2008, and reported by the Center for Responsive Politics, campaign contributions for the 2008 election cycle totalled $22,543,340. Republicans were the most successful streetwalkers, receiving 75 percent of these contributions, while Democrats only garnered 25. Apparently, it’s hard out here for a pimp Democrat.

Because Americans don’t understand the realities of domestic hydrocarbon production, 67 percent answered in the affirmative to the RasmussenReports poll question, “In order to reduce the price of gas, should drilling be allowed in offshore oil wells off the coasts of California, Florida, and other states?” According to the survey, the results of which were released June 17, 64 percent of voters “believe it is at least somewhat likely that gas prices will go down if offshore oil drilling is allowed.” Now, I’m sure you know embittered former pollster for the Clintons, Dick Morris runs RasmussenReports and is now a sweetheart of the Right – which is why they quoted this survey endlessly.

The false assumption is that offshore drilling will lead to energy independence which will lead to lower gasoline prices.

Wrong.

U.S. WOULDN’T OWN OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS ONCE IT IS DRILLED

As Cenk Uygur correctly pointed out of the Huffpo, the United States government does not own all the hydrocarbon that is produced within its borders. The company that is awarded the contract to drill owns the oil or gas and may decide to sell their unrefined product to whomever they like and will likely do so to whoever is the highest bidder, be they India, China, etc. Simply because the U.S. government decides to open leases off Florida, California and ANWR does not automatically assume the U.S. markets will be the recipient of those energy resources.

Secondly, the U.S. refineries are operating near capacity. According to the latest numbers provided by U.S. Department of Energy for July 2008, U.S. refining operable capacity was 17,610,000 barrels per day. Of that capacity, U.S. refineries produced 17,464,000 barrels per day. The last major refinery built in the U.S. began operations in 1976. This is partially due to strict standards set by the EPA and the high cost of such an endeavor, but also NIMBY (Not in My Back Yard), an acronym describing a residential opposition to nearby industrial building. People want to use the oil and gas, they just don’t want to be near the production of their precious energy. With my family from in and around Lake Charles, I can see why.

The point is that politicians – Dems and Repubs alike – encourage the drill, baby, drillers; they just forget to mention that even if we increase offshore drilling, we do not have the refining capacity to ensure those energy reserves serve the American market. Sure, we can loosen environmental standards and attempt to rush the establishment of some refining infrastructure before oil companies bring that offshore hydrocarbon online. But visit Lake Charles for a weekend and decide if you want those big daddies in your backyard or if you would rather just drive less, switch to fluorescent light bulbs and inflate your tires.

U.S. ENERGY COMPANIES WILL CONTINUE TO KEEP PRICES AS HIGH AS THEY CAN

Americans are also assuming that oil and gas companies, in all their benevolence, would flood the American market with hydrocarbon to allow gasoline prices to decrease. Not gonna happen. FOR EXAMPLE, PLS’ ProspectCentre reported Oct. 1, 2008 that Chesapeake Energy, the largest producer of natural gas in the U.S., will “reduce it drilling capex (17%) through year-end 2010 by ~$3.2 billion in response to recent price collapse that has driven gas prices down (~50% since July 1)…Of the capex reduction through 2010, $1.9 billion is associated with reduced drilling activity.” WHAT??? you ask. Gas prices are over $1 more than when Hurricane Katrina hit. My car cost $12.50 to fill up eight years ago and now requires $40. And Chesapeake Energy is reducing drilling because energy prices are falling. Yes, Chesapeake produces natural gas, which is different than gasoline – but prices of energy originating from hydrocarbon sources are closely related.

Translation: Chesapeake Energy is decreasing their drilling of natural gas in order to reduce supply, despite typical ravenous demand of Americans for energy, which will help keep prices high. Politicians have given Americans the idea that American oil and gas (natural gas) companies are operating at capacity and we need to open more leases to bring more energy online in American markets. False. Major companies in the United States are right now decreasing domestic energy production because prices have fallen, causing these companies what they see as budgetary constraints.

The interesting tidbit about Chesapeake’s maneuver is that they’ve done it before. BNET Sept. 27, 2006: “Effective October 1, 2006, the company plans to temporarily shut-in approximately 100 million cubic feet (mmcf) per day of net natural gas production (approximately 125-150 mmcf per day gross) in various areas of operations in the southwestern U.S. until natural gas prices recover from recently depressed levels.” What has happened since the end of 2006? Prices have risen! How surprising! Of course, I’m not suggesting Chesapeake’s activities alone have caused gasoline prices to increase, but I’m giving you an idea of how the oil and gas industry responds to any decrease in gasoline prices.

You see – and this is very important – even if oil and gas were produced as much as possible within American borders and even if refineries were built to handle the capacity of oil and gas sucked out of the ground, oil companies would keep production low. Why? Why? you ask. I will tell you.

The oil companies have discovered that Americans have a high pain tolerance when it comes to energy prices. Americans will let gasoline reach $4.00 a gallon before really pulling back. They will never allow gasoline prices – profits – to fall back to the yesteryear of cheap gas and easy energy. No matter how available or plentiful that energy is domestically, the companies will manipulate the market to keep prices high. Oh, they’ll give us a load of “reduced supply” mishegoss, but make no mistake – they only have eyes for profits. Right now, according to PLS, XTO, EOG and Petrohawk “may watch Chesapeake’s stock to determine if they should follow the same plan.”

The main point is that even if all our hydrocarbon energy supply originates within U.S. borders, prices will remain in the nose-bleeds. Them’s the brakes. Yes, we are currently experiencing a reduction in prices, but it won’t last.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT REFINING

Now let’s assume that we do open all our oil and natural gas reserves to quell demands for more resources. We throw open every lease available off various coasts and in protected wildlife preserves and give them to the exploration and production companies like letting a fat kid loose in a candy store. We would have to assume that demand would remain the same or decrease in order to bring gasoline prices down.

Just one thing. Remember that last refinery that was built in 1976? Yeah, American consumption of energy has increased 25 percent since it was built. If prices are cheap, our consumption will not decrease unless there is a national mandate Americans understand is necessary to preserve our environment and the health of our children. With demand high, prices will remain so as well.

Because American oil and gas demand will always rise above domestic supply – especially with cheap prices – we will never be energy independent as long as our main source of energy is hydrocarbon. Our demand will always outpace domestic supply. Can’t say it enough.

If we do throw open all the leases possible and build refineries to service the American market as much as possible, we will end up polluting the shit out this country. Perhaps this wouldn’t be such a big deal if the only pollution we had to deal with was only that which we create ourselves. It’s not. Pollution from China has already started having worldwide effects – especially in California, where emissions regulations for local industries will have to be sharply curbed to deal with the fallout from China’s production boom.

“GREEN REFINERIES”? SURELY, YOU JEST.

No, I don’t, Willis. There have been recent movements toward establishing “green refineries” – if there is such a thing. Arizona Clean Fuels Yuma fought for seven years and finally received a permit to build a 150,000 barrels-per-day refinery that it says will operate within strict environmental regulations. Hyperion Resources, based in Dallas, is planning an environmentally sound refinery that will turn Canadian crude into low-sulfur gasoline and diesel at a rate of 400,000 barrels per day. According to a Reuters article describing the project, it often takes five years before companies receive the required permits for construction, which can often lead to investors jumping ship.

And if that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite for green gas, Hunton Energy of Houston has proposed the first green refinery on the Texas coast, shooting for a 340,000 barrels-per-day facility to convert Canadian bitumen crude into clean-burning jet fuel and diesel. According to the Houston Chronicle, “Its defining feature is the integration of a gasification facility, which would capture most of the plant’s carbon emissions before they reach the atmosphere.” It will be interesting to see whether this refinery – in ten years, if the project succeeds – will live up to its “green” claims.

There is, however, no definition for “green” and its subjectiveness has allowed it to be used as a major selling tool by energy companies who tend to be colorblind when it comes to the environment. In this case, “green” refers to reduced emissions by the refineries. It does not mean “zero emissions” as such as thing is currently impossible.

Obviously, the greenest refinery will likely do more detriment than wind and solar combined. Although one has to take into account the energy needed to produce a wind turbine, transport it and set up the massive thing (I see them in parts on 18-wheelers all over the highways here in north Texas). How long would a windmill have to generate energy before justifying its very existence? Just a question.

CLEAN COAL, JUMBO SHRIMP, PRETTY UGLY

Still, the term “green refinery” calls to mind another potential oxymoron: “clean coal.” Politicians say it all the time and the term even enjoyed a bit of attention during the recent Vice Presidential Debates. Jeff Biggers of The Washington Post has taken notice as well. He writes in a scathing opinion piece of the coal industry and its treatment by the Bush administration, “Clean coal: Never was there an oxymoron more insidious, or more dangerous to our public health. Invoked as often by the Democratic presidential candidates as by the Republicans and by liberals and conservatives alike, this slogan has blindsided any meaningful progress toward a sustainable energy policy.”

“Clean coal” is referring to reduced emissions from coal-firing plants and efforts are underway around the world to find the means to reduce the environmentally detrimental affects of this energy source. The release of carbon dioxide into the air is one of the biggest offenses of coal use and scientists are trying to discover new means to deal with this greenhouse gas, included rerouting it under ground. Capturing the CO2 is a top priority in “clean coal” technology. According to National Geographic News, however, technologist Gordon Couch, with the International Energy Agency’s Clean Coal Centre in London, says zero-emissions coal power is a realistic goal – though years away.

“NUKULAR” ENERGY

John McCain likes to repeat that nuclear energy is just fine because he served on a Navy ship powered by nuclear energy and all Senator Obama needs to do is talk to one of our sailors serving a nuclear-powered vessel (yeah, because they’re experts) to learn the benefits of this energy. But nuclear plants are some of the most dangerous sources of energy – the fact that Chernobyl and Three Mile Island are household terms is a large indicator of public concern regarding this energy option.

Nuclear waste is an even larger concern. And since no real long-term solution has been found regarding the storage of nuclear waste, it is irresponsible for politicians to tout this as an option for energy independence. Nuclear waste is also tremendously costly to store – the Department of Energy has said the controversial proposed storage facility at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain would cost $96.2 billion to build and operate. France is repeatedly used as a positive example of the use of nuclear energy. However, France reprocesses its nuclear waste – which is banned in the United States due to proliferation risks – and still has leftovers, which it stocks in hopes that, perhaps in 100 years scientists will have found away to eliminate the toxicity of the waste. Bonne chance.

SUSTAINABLE ENERGY…HEAD OUT OF THE ASS

Geothermal Plant in California

Even with the environmental benefits of nuclear energy, the question still looming is the cost-benefit ratio of investing such an enormous amount of funds into a technology that is detrimental in the long-term, rather than positive alternatives: biomass, geothermal, wind, solar, tidal, hydrogen.

Powerful lobbyists, greedy politicians and corporate executives have convinced the more uninformed Americans, including Palin – who chanted, “Drill, baby drill. Mine, baby, mine,” on the stump – that we must turn to domestic oil, gas and coal to increase energy independence, which will bring down gas prices.

I don’t just disagree with them, I have shown that they are wrong. They are incorrect. And almost every source I have provided in this blog is available on the internet.

So, why does the truth not out? Why do Democrats participate in this charade as well? Bucks, dollars, contributions. The building of the United Corporatocracy of America. The oil and gas industry has been the 12th largest campaign contributor to John McCain’s quest for the presidency, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Had we focused our surplus budget and American acumen for technological development on alternative energy sources back in the 1990’s instead of cheap housing developments, we might already be energy independent. Perhaps Detroit wouldn’t be in the economic doldrums. Perhaps we might not be transferring all of our wealth to “countries who do not have our best interests at heart.” But, then ExxonMobil and ConocoPhilips and many other oil & gas companies wouldn’t be receiving record profits this year. Without their political involvement, Halliburton probably wouldn’t have received a number of sweet, no-bid contracts in Iraq from the Bush administration.

Instead, we’re left with “shoulda, woulda, couldas” dangling in front of our rose-colored glasses to the past.

To make matters almost unpalatable, the Right continues to dupe many of its followers – legendary anti-intellectuals, consistent swallowers of Fox News Propaganda who disdain facts, truth, research, reality and education – into believing offshore drilling will produce energy independence and lower gas prices. It won’t. It will only make the same white men richer year after year and worsen our environmental contributions.

RENEWABLE ENERGY IS BEST CHANCE FOR U.S. TO RETAIN GLOBAL PROMINENCE

Renewable alternative energy is our chance to regain and retain our primary position on the world stage. Global citizens are hungry and demanding alternative power and the U.S. has every opportunity to develop it, deliver it, and benefit from it. Like Obama said, renewable resources can give the U.S. the same economic positioning as the computer. Renewable energy technologies could be a major cultivator of domestic jobs and prop the U.S. up again as a major supplier to global market demands.

U.S. domination is subsiding, our economy is not growing as fast as other countries and we are losing our hegemonic status. Instead of tackling this development head on through education and technology, the idiotic dipshits of the Right are attacking our science classes, trying to shrink budgets for math education and calling for the same failed energy policies that will cripple our best chance to retain American greatness.

Republicans are selling our future to win elections now and their mindless followers are not only heading toward that cliff, they want to drag us over the edge with them. It is shameful and embarrassing and hopefully only a footnote in our country’s history. “Drill, baby, drill” is not the answer. It is “Dead Man Walking” for the U.S. economy and perhaps if these people knew exactly what they were proposing, they wouldn’t be trying to doom our country’s attempts to lead the world into the next technological era.

Let me be clear. I am not opposed to increased offshore drilling or increasing refining capacity. I am opposed to presenting it as a method for attaining energy independence and lowering gasoline prices. Such an assertion is untrue and only increase the falsehoods with which many voters make their decisions at the polls. It is harmful to democracy and it is harmful to the economic future and sustainability of this country. We must refocus our priorities to renewable and sustainable energy sources.

UPDATE 10.15.08. FYI, beeyotches, Time (as I spotted on Think Progress) is reporting that despite Sarah Palin’s calls for energy independence, she herself has supported efforts to send domestic hydrocarbon to more-profitable foreign markets.

According to Time, “Palin personally intervened in April, 2007, but her concerns were strictly local. She asked DOE to condition its approval on guarantees that gas needed in Alaska not be diverted to the better-paying foreign venues — a position she held until this past January, when the producers reached separate agreement with the state to meet its needs.

At no time did Palin or her government cite the desire to preserve Alaskan gas for the lower 48 states. The Sempra terminal began operations just four months after Palin announced unconditional support for the Marathon and ConocoPhillips request and a month before DOE approved their plans to export gas to Asia.”

Will the hypocrisy never end???

24
Sep
08

Pharmaceutical Company To Disclose Payments To Doctors

I’d put the hallalujahs off for just a minute, though.

According to AP, Eli Lilly and Co. has said they will report payments made to doctors over $500 for services, speeches, etc. How unusual.

The pharmaceutical industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. Every time you go to the doctor, they have another prescription for you. Words such as “bi-polar disorder,” “anxiety disorder,” “clinical depression,” “attention deficit disorder,” and so many more are in our everyday vernacular. Do you fee sad sometimes and then happy sometimes? Well, that’s not right! Have a pill and this pill and this pill even though we have no idea who their chemical interactions will affect your body!

Do you think any of those diseases exist in developing world? No, they have to deal not with disorders of conveniences, but actual maladies such as starvation and AIDS and tuberculosis. Drugs do not cost nearly as much in those areas of the world because people could never dream of affording them and entire countries’ economies would face collapse. The cost of one pill here in the U.S. could feed the population of Sub-Sarahan Africa.

We’ve raised a population of entitled Americans who expect easy street and look to quick fixes when times get tough. We don’t even need to leave our bedrooms to have anything we need in the world. Is it a coincidence that obesity numbers go up the same time as depression and a infinitesimal amount of other diseases increase? I don’t think so.

Furthermore, the drug companies use people as their guinea pigs by pushing drugs far too quickly through governmental approval – though many times due to pressure by patients. Many times, these drugs prove to cause extreme harm over the long period. You know every time you turn on daytime TV and some ambulance-chaser is talking about Vioxx? There you go.

The drug companies pour a load the money they make with their high-priced drugs into the pockets of doctors who recommend them and write prescriptions and the law makers who decide (de)regulation. Ever heard of Medicare? As Wikipedia says, “According to Marcia Angell, the former head of the New England Journal of Medicine, ‘The United States is the only advanced country that permits the pharmaceutical industry to charge exactly what the market will bear.'”

Drugs that Americans depend on to live and stay healthy will cost them the quality of their life simply because of corporate greed and the idea of “free market” which does not exist in this country. Drug companies will tell you that their profits are focused on providing more products. They don’t reveal the salaries of their executives. It’s sickening, really.

So, now Eli Lilly and Co. says they will disclose doctor payments in expression of good will. AP reports,

Dr. Peter Lurie, deputy director of the health research group at Public Citizen, said the state laws can let patients know when their doctors have a connection to a drug firm, but the state laws are not working very well. The laws have various exemptions and sometimes don’t even disclose the information to the public, he said.

Lurie was skeptical that Eli Lilly’s announcement represented a step forward on the issue of more transparency in health care.

“There are dozens of pharmaceutical companies. This is just one of them. Most won’t follow this guideline at all, and there will be no enforcement,” Lurie said. “This is Ely Lilly’s attempt to forestall the federal legislation by saying we’re in effect complying anyway.”

Needless to say, my skepticism remains high. Why wouldn’t Eli Lilly disclose all payments? How many of the payments they issues are under $500?

High drug prices are simply another example of the myth of the free market and “American capitalism.” This manner of economic laissez-faire hurts the lower economic echelons – which is the majority of Americans. Until we start being honest about the reality of our lack of regulation, American voters will never demand better treatment from the Corporatocracy our country has become. Socialism is not a bad word and does not work in its pure form. But for our citizens to reap the benefits of economic growth, we must pepper our capitalism with a bit of socialism. Pro-capitalism is not patriotic. Being honest is.

24
Sep
08

Who Thinks Obama Is Going To Win The Sept. 26 Debate?

I’ve seen a lot of certitude from the Democrat side that Obama is going present USC-OU 2004 National Championship-style smackdown on McCain this Friday at the first presidential debate. And while if I were christian, I’d get on my knees every night till they bleed begging baby jesus for such an outcome.

But I don’t think it’s going to happen. And here’s why.

McCain has morphed into a desperate tall-tale-teller allowing his ambition to parasitically leach the soul from our once honorable and happier warrior. All that’s left is a shell of political expediency that clings to the life-force of a five-year POW who existed forty years ago.

Given the current situation of McCain’s character – or lack thereof – how many times do you think those of us watching will want to call bullshit Friday night? How many times do you think Romney tried to call bullshit during the primaries? Probably never. My experience with Mormons is that they don’t curse.

Still, the level of untruth perpertrated by McCain and his campaign has reached atmospheric levels. They wouldn’t know reality if it bitch-slapped them in the face and called them “man-whore.”

The worse part about it is not McCain’s lying – despite it’s unprecedented levels – it’s that the type of people who would vote for McCain do not care.

Jonathan Chait offers a compelling profile of McCain’s whoppers in today’s (LEFT-LEANING) The New Republican and I’ve pulled the significant paragraphs from his 6-page report. It’s long because McCain’s told a lot of lies. Here’s what I found extremely interesting from his piece, entitled, “Liar’s Poker” (bear with me – I know it’s a long – but it’s definitely worth the read):

Here we have the distilled essence of the McCain campaign’s ethos: Perception is reality. Facts don’t matter. McCain has presented himself as the grizzled champion of timeworn values. But the defining trait of his candidacy turns out to be a postmodern disdain for truth. How could McCain–a man widely regarded, not so long ago, as one of the country’s most honor-bound politicians, and therefore an unusually honest one–have descended to this ignominious low? Part of the answer is that McCain is simply doing what works–and there is good reason to believe that his campaign’s strategy of persistent dishonesty will pay dividends come November 4. But part of the explanation for all this recent dishonesty may lie, oddly enough, in McCain’s legendary sense of honor.

If this is McCain’s strategy, then a bunch of news reports debunking his claims isn’t going to hurt. Indeed it may even help. Last February, political scientists Brendan Nyhan of Duke and Jason Reifler of Georgia State published the results of an experiment designed to test the effects of political untruths. The results would unsettle any idealist. The first conclusion they found was that lies work. When subjects were confronted with an untrue political claim (President Bush banned stem-cell research; weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq) respondents naturally moved toward those positions. When the lie was corrected, however, the effect of the untruth in moving opinions largely remained. The truth, in other words, is no antidote for a lie.

Their second conclusion was even more disturbing. Subjects who identified as politically conservative were not only immune to the effects of having a lie corrected, the correction made them even more likely to believe a lie. So, for instance, one group of conservative subjects was presented with a news story that depicted President Bush claiming weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq. A second group of conservatives was presented with the same thing, along with a paragraph noting that Bush’s statement was untrue. The second group was more likely than the first to believe that Iraq possessed WMDs. The very fact of the press challenging their beliefs seems to have made conservatives more likely to embrace them. If this finding is broadly correct, then the media’s new found willingness to fact-check McCain will only succeed in rallying the GOP base to his side.

The pattern here is perfectly clear. McCain has contempt for anybody who stands between him and the presidency. McCain views himself as the ultimate patriot. He loves his country so much that he cannot let it fall into the hands of an unworthy rival. (They all turn out to be unworthy.) Viewed in this way, doing whatever it takes to win is not an act of selfishness but an act of patriotism. McCain tells lies every day and authorizes lying on his behalf, and he probably knows it. But I would guess–and, again, guessing is all we can do–that in his mind he is acting honorably. As he might put it, there is a bigger truth out there.

Main point: Conservatives who are told a lie, then told the truth, believe the lie more after they were told the truth! This means, people, that no matter how many times Barack says (with a hint of condescension), “Now, John, you know that’s just not true,” it won’t make a smidgen of difference. Even if Obama presents a coherent, thought-out, truthful rebuttal to McCain’s lies (“He wants to tax the American people,” “He was wrong on the surge,” “He doesn’t put country first,” “Palin has more experience.”), it will not make a difference in the belief conservatives have in McCain words. It truly is a sad commentary.

I must, however, point out that most of these conservatives are evangelical christians and believe the bible is fact, the Earth is 6,000 years old, all life came from the animals Noah could round up, Jesus rose from the dead and you have to believe in him – with no evidence – or their benevolent, all-loving god will send you down to the hellfires for eternity. Critical thinking isn’t their best attribute, to say the least.

I’m not sure how many of these conservatives will be watching Friday night, but seeing as how the main convention speeches drew around 40 million viewers, I’m thinking a lot will be tuned in. These people, however, would be in the bag for the Republican candidate even it was Elmo. I know, I know – there are loads of Dems who would vote for the Cookie Monster if he said he’d end the Iraq War. I get it.

While the debates will be a vital deciding factor in the outcome of the election, I think it will be harder to decide the victor. Palin has already won the VP’s go-round on Oct. 2. The bar is so low for her (perhaps the Devil is holding it up) and there are no rebuttal periods, which means than unless her boob pops out or she says, “I’m changing my mind and voting for Barack Obama,” she’s won. Actually, she’ll probably win big time if her boob pops out. Good luck, Joe B – try to chant, “I am not a political god. I am not a political god,” before heading on stage. That will probably help impede your gaffe-propensity.

What we can conclude here is that the arguments, facts, issues, policies, etc. presented during the debate will not determine the victor. The viewship will. The more informed and analytical the viewership, the more likely Obama will win. The opposite is true for McCain. I plan on watching.

10
Sep
08

Saving U.S. Dominance and the Environment

Hegemony [hejuh-moh-nee] – leadership or predominant influence exercised by one nation over others, as in a confederation.

The Washington Post reported on the upcoming report “Global Trends 2025” by Thomas Fingar, “the U.S. intelligence community’s top analyst,” in which Fingar predicts U.S. dominance will decline in the coming decades. Fingar goes on to say that U.S. military strength “will ‘be the least significant’ asset in the increasingly competitive world of the future, because ‘nobody is going to attack us with massive conventional force.'”

“The U.S. will remain the preeminent power, but that American dominance will be much diminished,” Fingar said, according to a transcript of the Thursday speech. He saw U.S. leadership eroding “at an accelerating pace” in “political, economic and arguably, cultural arenas.”

In the years ahead, Washington will no longer be in a position to dictate what new global structures will look like. Nor will any other country, Fingar said. “There is no nobody in a position . . . to take the lead and institute the changes that almost certainly must be made in the international system,” he said.

The predicted shift toward a less U.S.-centric world will come at a time when the planet is facing a growing environmental crisis, caused largely by climate change, Fingar said. By 2025, droughts, food shortages and scarcity of fresh water will plague large swaths of the globe, from northern China to the Horn of Africa.

CNN’s Farheed Zakaria makes a very good point, WaPo points out, in his book, “The Post-American World,” in which he claims that the decline in U.S. dominance is due more to the rise of other economies (China, India) than an actual slide by the U.S.

The world is in fluctuation and always will be. What this means for Republicans – especially Old School

Republicans – who follow the “Might Makes Right” theory is that their views are growing antiquated and useless. The United States, especially under George W. Bush, has engaged in an arrogant, isolationist foreign policy that does not take into account global geopolitical currents or world opinion. McCain is obviously of the same fabric and same blind mindset. The United States must interact with and seek cooperation with foreign countries rather than spouting our view and vilifying those who disagree with us. It’s petty and unproductive.

Now we face a declining economy – which will result in a weakened military. And instead of working on new technologies, as Americans have always done, to progress our country and kick start our economy again, the Republicans are stupidly chanting “drill now, drill now.” By burying their heads in the sand and refusing to acknowledge the importance of alternative energy development, they are attempting to forfeit our future – and not just environmentally.

Alternative and clean energy development could be our next Dot BOOM, it could be our next technological breakthrough and economic stronghold. Americans have long dominated innovation and technological progress. Of the 4,222,954 patents in the world, 2,460,775 have come from the U.S. We are creatures of development – the discovery of electricity, the light bulb, the steam engine, the telephone, the television, the car, the computer – you name major technological advances in the last 200 years and the U.S. almost always has its stamp on it.

And its time we did again.

Let’s discuss our oil industry. Gas prices have risen so steeply largely due to growing global demand for oil – especially from China and India. Now that prices have slid a bit and the oil industry is learning where America’s pain threshold is in regard to oil prices – at least when we’re in an economic downturn – they will not allow prices to return to the days of cheap fuel.

Just today, OPEC decided to reduce overall output by 500,000 barrels a day to offset the recent decrease in prices – even though Ike is barreling toward the Texas coast. You see, even when prices are “outrageously” high, OPEC will still make sure that profits are maximized. So what’s the answer? Well, you saw what Republicans wanted to do.

The problem? First of all, drilling now solves nothing because we do not have the refining infrastructure to handle the increase in fuels – largely due to inattention by Washington and the whole Not In My Backyard argument. About a month ago, when a McCain spokesman (can’t remember his name, but he had ring-around-the-head and a goatee) was asked about the infrastructure issue, he said, “One problem at a time!” So, he was basically saying drill first, ask questions later. Not smart policy.

Secondly, oil companies are given leases – areas of land upon which they may drill – for around 10 years. There is plenty of hydrocarbon-rich land available to the oil companies now, but these lengthy leases reduce the competition by the oil companies and many hang on to the available land without ever drilling.

Our domestic oil companies like high prices as well and as soon as prices begin to slide because “we’re not dependent on foreign oil,” they will slow production enough to drive demand and squeeze more money from the consumer.

So, Americans are not just held hostage by oil-rich foreign countries, Americans are also held hostage by our own domestic oil companies.

But no one wants to tell you this – not Barack Obama and certainly not John McCain because they enjoy corporate donations.

What’s the answer?

Alternative, reusable, natural and clean energy. Not only does it lessen the grip oil companies have on our wallets and our economy, the entire world is in desperate need and want of alternative fuels. If we develop the technology that our global partners are clamoring for, we can not only save the environment, we can save our standing in the world.

We must not let the Right Wing – with their Big Oil cohorts – kill the most viable option we have for America’s future by closing the door to new clean energy. Furthermore, the dumbing-down of our children by the Religioners and their assault on our science classes has got to stop. We have a major fight brewing in the Texas Board of Education regarding the introduction of Creationism or at least the doubting of Evolution into our schools and I’m sure this is occuring in many other states. This will hurt America – culturally, economically and globally. Ensuring the best and brightest and most-prepared students emerge from our educational institutes should be a major priority because their actions will dictate whether our nation progresses or withers.

You want to protect America? Protect science classes, encourage serious scientific education, and support the development of clean energy.

09
Sep
08

Post-Convention Election Reassessment

As we go into the fourth and final phase (after the Pre-Primary, Primary, and Post-Primary/Pre-Convention phases) of this election, the Debate/Pre-Election phase — WAIT, I have to turn off the television. McCain is speaking and I don’t want his lies to eat the good still left in my soul….OK, phew, that was close. Normally, I can watch him without a cold shudder that evil is lurking in the room. Just not while I’m blogging. — it’s time to reassess the playing field because, yes – to use the oft(ahem, over)used phrase: Palin was a frickin’ game-changer. Like a steriod shot before the final leg of the Tour de France to Floyd Landis, Sarah Palin provides a new face and new voice for the Republican lies. And, if McCain wins, she’ll be the golden girl next in line as leader of the free world. If they lose, well, look out science classes of Alaska – yer about to be churchified!

I’m going to lay it all out. Here’s where we stand:

Sarah Palin

I seriously underestimated the results the Sarah Palin Veep pick would give the McCain Campaign. Actually, I underestimated the Holy Grail of presidential elections — the Independent voter. Palin is so far right, I figured she wouldn’t appeal to Independent voters (I’m a liberal Independent – so she was definitely off my radar) because her policy opinions are beyond the pale of rational thought. However, her newness and shininess lured those other Independents – the open-mouthed, uninformed Independents who really don’t care about policy – right out of the undecided pool. See, these voters just want someone who makes ’em feel good. They have a hard time equating presidential decisions – like Supreme Court appointments – to real life scenarios.

So, in one fell swoop, the RNC had caught themselves a whole bunch of the biggest prize catch of all – voters who don’t vote on the issues.

To them it doesn’t matter that Palin attempted to fire a librarian for refusing to censor books or that she thinks Creationism should be taught in public school science class despite all the Earth’s evidence supporting Evolution. Those voters couldn’t care less that she would criminalize abortion, even in the cases of rape and incest, though pro-lifers are simply Christians wanting to wield their regimental religious umbrella over all of us free Americans. Does it matter that Palin has requested more earmarks in the last year per capita than any other governor? No. What about Palin telling her congregation that the Iraq War “is God’s plan” and asking them to pray for a $30 million dollar natural gas pipeline (video included).

These voters aren’t Independent. You see, “independence” brings to mind a voter educated on the issues who doesn’t buy the rhetoric spun into verbal gold by both blue and red candidates. They think for themselves and will not have a glass of that sugary Kool-Aid, thank you very much! No, these voters aren’t Independents in the true sense of the word.

These are undecided voters. McCain is old and boring. Obama is black and too inexperienced. They hate Bush – who doesn’t, really? – but found no galvanizing reason to back either party. The young people were excited about Obama, but he’s not shiny and new anymore. McCain was just an old man in the cheese aisle with ads comparing Obama to Britney and Paris. Who to vote for? Ho hum…

Then comes along Sarah Palin and all of the sudden the Evangelicals have someone to drool over. Who cares that her own daughter is a prime example of what abstinence-only education will getcha – teen pregnancy to boot! But Jesus is gonna love that baby and those kids are gettin’ married! The herd mentality kicked right in. Kingmaker-wannabe James Dobson helped pick her and now all the churchies can breathe a sigh of relief because crazy Palin makes the “maverick” in McCain okay. Well, the undecideds don’t want to be left out. That girl is funny! I wanna touch her! Can I have one, mom, please?! Alright, the Religioners now have their border collie and, Houston, we’re a go.

Welcome to the best democracy in the land!

If nothing else, her newness alone changes the conversation. Americans might not have the time to work through all the lies inherent in the facade the McCain campaign is presenting in her, but it doesn’t matter as long as that liberal Muslim Obama isn’t elected. They’ll hate the next four years as much as they hated the last eight – but that don’t mean shit as long as they’re guy believes we’re not descended from monkeys and potentially-aborted babies have the right to grow up and be criminals and semi-automatic weapons are still legal.

As you can imagine, I’m just dripping with pride.

John McCain

Good for John McCain, his base is fired up. Do you think he cares that it’s not him they’re voting for? NAH!! As long as the balloons fall after his speech on November 5th, it wouldn’t matter if it was the George freaking-W. Bush himself who was McCain’s running mate. And all it took was being an ankle-grabber to those “agents of intolerance” he so railed against eight years ago. What a difference losing makes. If I may, I’d like to address his electorate directly:

Note to Republicans:

You do realize you’re voting for the guy you like less than Bush, right? The majority of you are significantly unhappy with the state of the nation and its direction and, yet, against all legitimate rationality, you are supporting the candidate who came in SECOND TO BUSH and has brought all of his policies in line with the current administration. This is really one of those McFly moments.

Do you hear McCain shouting “Change is Coming” whilst having a campaign run by lobbyists and Bush cronies? Did you notice during the Convention, the Republicans never discussed policy – yet each and every speech regaled us with more stories from McCain’s POW days? That’s called DISTRACTION.

Can you ask yourselves how McCain will change Washington with a coherent answer or actually list the policies you agree with? If these are Bush policies, well, you know how the next four years will turn out.

Do you honestly believe that McCain will run the Iraq War better? Bush refused to acknowledge when we were actually losing in Iraq and wouldn’t listen to the generals when they disagreed with him on the surge. Neither did McCain. Now, McCain refused to acknowledge that Sunni payoffs and this new special operations strategy have earned us far more success in Iraq than just the surge. So, McCain will lie about the war just like who? Who? Oh, that’s right, George W. Bush.

Republican presidencies widen the wealth gap, shrink the middle class (which is what the success of our economy is based on), increase poverty, place quality medical care out of reach of a large percentage of Americans, place power in the hands of the undemocratic and unethical corporations. Job losses are at a five-year high. And you’re going to vote for them.

The Republicans win when Americans are afraid. And they’re doing their darnedest to make sure that is the case with this election. That’s why they’re telling lies about Obama’s policies – just like they do every year about Democrats. The Republican Manifesto about keeping taxes low and government small is false. It’s a lie. It wins them elections because people do not realize that the men they elect do not adhere to the manifesto. Ever.

Security matters, however, largely steer the politics of fear. Let’s examine the views of many of the delegates at last weeks’ convention, as reported by MSNBC:

“My major concern is national security: I’ve got six granddaughters and a grandson. I want them to be absolutely safe in this country and to have the same freedom I’ve experienced,” said Rex Early, an Indianapolis insurance agency owner.

Delegate Ed Failor, a low-tax state government lobbyist from Muscatine, Iowa, said his worry if Obama is elected was not what he would do, but rather that “Obama would not do those things that will keep our country safe. His willingness to negotiate with terrorists to sit down at the table with them with no expectations — that scares me. I have four kids, 13 to 18, and it scares me more than anything else.”

If Obama wins, “there will be a whole series of actions, redistributing wealth in this country, as well as changing our foreign policy to accommodate interests that are inimical to the United States, in the Middle East,” (William) Diamond fretted.

“On foreign policy I just don’t think he gets it: I’m afraid not what I’m going to think of 2:30 in the morning, but what he would think of at 2:30 in the morning when he gets the phone call about a crisis. I think his instincts are all wrong and I think America would be tested very badly under his administration.”

“As an employer I understand how hard it is to create jobs…. I am concerned that Barack Obama, a man who has never worked in the private sector, does not understand where jobs come from, how difficult it is for small businesses to create jobs and the impact of even small changes in taxes and regulations.” (– Exactly when did McCain work in the private sector?)

“For most of the problems he talks about, most of the solutions he has are just unconstitutional.” (hellooooo? It would take me all day to count the Constitutional violations committed by Bush and has minions)

That’s what we’re dealing with. That’s what Obama’s dealing with.

Barack Obama

The problem Democrats have is they’re weak. They don’t want to fight because they want to be “uniters.” Well, they want to seem like they’re “uniters.” It’s a bunch of crap and voters know it. Democrat voters want fighters who aren’t afraid of hurting feelings and punching back and saying what’s right instead of what sounds good to everybody. We’re sick of these mealy-mouthed candidates with no spine who capitulate like the Republicans were holding their grandchildren captive.

You know what, Republicans, I wish Barack Obama had had more time to marinate as well. He is very new and green compared to other politicians. But after that 2004 speech, the Democrats decided he was our boy and he has shown to have and practice much better judgment than McCain in almost every aspect of leadership and presidential job qualifications. He’s going to lower taxes for the vast majority of Americans, listen to and consider the opinions of our military leaders in security issues, place health benefits back in the hands of Americans, restore America’s standing in the world, restore law and order to the Executive Branch, place Supreme Court judges on the bench that will protect our civil liberties.

Barack Obama made the well-thought out, well-considered, intelligent and informed VP choice. He could have chosen Hillary for reasons of political expediency, but he didn’t. He chose the running mate who could help him best lead the country. John McCain opted for the political, unqualified pick and John McCain is being rewarded for it. The grotesque of political theater emerges in this election once again. In a year, when the nation is doing so terribly, it would seem that only idiots would vote for the incumbent party. It seemed even the majority of uninformed voters knew actual change was the best policy for the country. Yet, McCain supporters are lining up in droves, drawn in by the bright lights of a campaign of sarcasm and lies.

Obama now needs to regain control of the conversation. He might do so in the debates, but he needs to try now. At this point, Obama looks like a skinny, weak guy who’s on the ropes and doesn’t have the chops to put the other candidate on his back. This is the current situation. It’s do or die and lot of lives and liberties are depending on the campaign’s strategy.

The ads have to get stronger. So far, the Obama campaign has feared calling the McCain campaign (even after it copied the “change” slogan) a joke. It’s easy because it’s true, but Obama hasn’t wanted to offend the Independents. This is the curse of the Democrats. Republicans sling their poo like their whole party has dysentery and draw in undecideds by the handfuls. I still don’t understand why lefties can’t find their testicular fortitude and fucking get in this thing. Hillary needs to hold some seminars on whippin’ out the biotch. David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs – you gettin’ this??

End Game

The McCain campaign has an incredibly shitty candidate; he gave one of the worst speeches in recent convention history. But he is getting traction with lies, sarcasm, indignation and actually copying his opponent. The Democrats needs to stop assuming Americans are smarter than they actually are. Pretend these ads are for kindergartners and start launching some grenades cause we’re in the fourth quarter and there’s no trophy for second place – only a worse economy, out-of-reach health care, waning global hegemony, three more Conservative Supreme Court justices, and a potential president who – at this very moment – is being taught where she stands on the issues should McCain bite the Big One.

Democrats, it’s time for Rocky, for Charles Barkley’s elbows, it’s time for words like “LIE” and “PANDER” and “JOKE” when describing the McCain/Palin ticket. Lose, the whole “Heh, heh, you can’t just make stuff up…heh…heh” and the incessant “Uhs” and “Ahs” and calm, assertive speeches. Get fired up and remind people what they’re fighting for. Remind people why this election matters. Galvanize, motivate, and treat each speech like none of the people watching you will get off the couch and vote for you unless you seriously deliver the goods.

We don’t want Kerry again. We don’t want Gore again. We don’t want spineless weaklings. It’s time to bring it and bring it hard. We’re sick and tired of what the Republican lies and Dumb America bring us. McCain’s idiotic game-changer worked. Now it’s time to hit back. And, so far, I ain’t seen nothing. Granted, I’m in Texas and you may have some pretty good ads in the swing states, but your message needs to be national. You won’t let them continue to ravage this country the way George W. Bush has.

It’s GO TIME.

05
Sep
08

Reaction to Night 4 of the Repub Convention (blow by blow)

Three Words: SARAH PALIN HANGOVER

That was bad. That was worse than the first three nights of the Democratic Convention. In fact, last night makes the Democrats look like they were partying like it was 1999. Undoubtedly, it was Sarah Palin’s Convention. She owned that sucker and only way last night was going to top Wednesday was if we started seeing pigs twirl through the stratosphere. In the words of Dana Carvery impersonating Bush I, “Not gonna happen.” I even started to feel bad for the speakers, like – really, really bad for them.

Let’s start with Lindsey Graham.

He’s like the Dick Clark of the Senate with the never-aging thing; he still looks just like a frat boy playing politician. God bless him, trying to get that sleepy crowd going – he was more fired up than the majority of the Democratic speakers last week, but the Sarah Palin hangover hit that nursing home crowd like a ton of morphine. He gave it the good ‘ol college try and attacked Obama for failing to acknowledge the surge’s success, which Obama had done earlier on – egads – Bill O’Reilly and said, “(Refering to the surge) I’ve already said it succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.” More Republican lies. Now, for my Repub friends out there – just cause I point this out doesn’t mean Democrats don’t lie, it’s just that this specifically was a lie. Falsehood. Tall Tale. You get the picture.

Another lie is the propagation that the reduced violence in Iraq is because of the surge. It’s not. It’s because we’re paying off Sunni militias. The mainstream media has largely cooperated in spreading this misinformation because it’s politically incorrect to say the truth. The only time I’ve ever heard mention of the Sunni payments was by Peter Gergen on CNN. The MSM just let the Repubs have this one. It’s called a “media blackout” or “bending over.” The Dems don’t deem it politically expedient to present an honest assesment of the reduced violence either – so they just give it to the Repubs even though it is one of their strongest arguments in the quest for reelection.

Lindsey Graham did have a bright moment of cleverness when he used Barack’s line for his own purposes, “It’s not that Barack Obama doesn’t get it (military, Iraq War), it’s that he doesn’t care.” That was really a “take that!” line and pretty successful. I give him props all the way.

Sarah Palin Video

Then came the Sarah Palin video, narrated by John Voight, and we were treated to what? 5? minutes of that horrifying synthizer in the background. It was almost as bad as that shrieking violin score in “There Will Be Blood.” Jesus – it was bad. Other than that the video was OK. Bland.

Tom Ridge

The crowd was dead for poor ol’ Tom. And I like him with that teeny little mouth of his. He had a good line, “You run to win. You win to govern.” Then he spoke about negotiating from a position of strength. Which is funny because our economy growth has slowed down and the Repubs not only want to continue with the Bush policies that weaken our economy, the Religioners are in the throws of attacking science, calling for Creationism to be taught in schools. Just ask Sarah Palin. Dumbing down our children (ahem, the future) and refusing to give tax breaks to alternative energy development – the industry that might just kick start this economy and keep us globally competetive – will insure that our dominance will wane, our strength will diminish and all of the “Might Makes Right” ideology will go down the pooper. Good job there, Repubs. Way to cut off your nose to spite your face. Makes me proud.

Then I laughed because the song “Right Now” by Van Halen came over the speakers and I remembered Van Halen was already pissed that the McCain campaign had used their tunes on the campaign trail. Tee-hee! And now Heart is mad that the McCain campaign is using their song “Barracuda” in reference to Palin.

Cindy McCain’s Video

Oh the horror! Forget more cowbell, they gave us more synthesizer! Please, anybody – is there not some seasoned filmmaker willing to help the Repubs out with these biographical presentations. Anybody? Anybody? Bueller? Gary Sinise – have you no enthusiasm? No inflection? That was the worst narrating job since Chelsea Clinton narrarated her mom’s video at the Dem shindig!

Kathleen Portalski, Cindy McCains sister

Kathleen Portalski, Cindy McCain's sister

Of course, the video left out Cindy’s dad’s first wife, his mob ties and stint in prison. And when Gary Sinise said, “She got all the attention of her father,” I’m sure Hensley’s other daughter, Kathleen Portalski, cringed wherever she was. I just laughed at the moment where John and Cindy met and the script read, “a handsome captain introduced himself.” See, that was funny because they meant to say, “a handsome captain, who was married and a father of three, introduced himself.” Those Repubs and their memory!

Cindy McCain

I wanted to like the speech, I did! And maybe I would have if it wasn’t the most painful speech to watch since that of Kathleen Sebelius. Even my sister called me to say, “Are you gagging??” Yes, yes I was. She gave the whole speech like she was telling me my grandpa just died. I was going into a coma, my insides pleading, “Just get on to John, for the love of everything that is good and holy!!” Mark Salter, you are fired! Stick to writing books, buddy, and save us all the pain of our brains bleeding out our ears.

John McCain Video

What do you know? More synthesizer. My finger sat there, itching over the mute button. But I persevered. The theme was “Change.” How original.

John McCain

Wooohooooo! Green screen!! I bet somebody got yelled out for that. hehe. See what had happened was…a few months ago, when Obama won the primary fight, McCain gave a speech in front of a green backdrop and was pilloried across the lands for the assault it gave the viewers’ eyeballs. Well, last night – the big screen displaying slides for the crowd inside the Xcel Center displayed this picture behind him:

Thanks to TPM for finding that one. No, it’s not one of his homes. It is some middle school. Anyhoo, during the close-ups of him, it gave him a plain green backdrop and was hysterical to those of us who have no lives and subsist on political coverage and slim jims and remember the episode from a few months ago.

He gave Obama his respect at the beginning of the speech, which was dumb because it’s hollow and EVERYONE knows it. Pander. Then the protestors came in, which too bad, because he worked hard for that moment and deserved it. He did do much better with the teleprompter this time, even though he still sucked donkey balls, but, hey, fish out of water. He just wants to get to the debates and we all know it.

He brought up the whole “I’d rather lose an election than lose a war” line again, which is so bogus because EVERYONE would rather lose an election than lose a war. Who wants to lose a war? Really? No one. The whole idea just plays to the mindless who think your character is determined by how many flags you wave and how many “support the troops” magnets you can put on your car. We ALL support the troops. We ALL want to win the war! Especially the NECESSARY war!

Then the litany of Republican economic policies began, which differed his speech from all the rest during

Available at Cafepress

Available at Cafepress

the Repub Convention. The first substance of the whole week and what does he give us? The same ol’ Republican economic verbage: open markets, school vouchers, lamenting bureaucrats standing in the way of the American Dream. Newsflash: it’s not bureaucrats standing in the way, it’s unethical corporate behavior. Still, nothing here to attract Independent voters. And wasn’t that the whole point? I forgot what the point was while watching the Sarah Palin Lifetime Movie.

Of course, he marched out the POW story. He’s been winning elections with that gem since 1982. But, I have to tell you, I am POWed out! I had Vietnam Vet teachers shape parts of my youth and heard the horrific stories, but the fact that I – me – could give you a riveting, detailed and specific account of John McCain’s POW experience has cheapened the history of it and blunted it as a political tool. Sure it can still bring tears to those who can personally relate, but riding it over and over again into public office has made the rest of us cynical. At least those of us who are honest about it. “I wasn’t my own man anymore, I was my country’s.” Paging Mark Salter. Get a new line.

ABC’s Karen Travers and I had the same reaction to McCain’s call for people to make the country a better one. McCain said, “Comfort the afflicted. Defend the rights of the oppressed. Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier. Because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.” Karen said, “If a community organizer isn’t someone “defend(ing) the rights of the oppressed,” or getting involved to correct the mistakes of government, what is it?” I said, No Shit, Sherlock – what the hell do you think a community organizer does?? Community organizers have fully responded to the attacks on them by Repubs, which you can read here. But, if you’re really a masochist, you can read conservative commentator Michelle Malkin’s piece on why it’s just Obama’s community organizing that was “a joke.”

Then the whole thing ended to the tune of a country song with the lyrics “We’re all just raisin’ McCain!” And I thought claims about Sarah Palin having more experience than Obama made me gag. No. That song made me G.A.G. And roll my eyes with the elitest thought, That song sucked ass!

Basically the speech was a Sam’s Club speech for a Sam’s Club audience. Don’t get me wrong, I love Sam’s Club and all the big bottles of Ranch salad dressing, but that speech was not going to turn on anyone who isn’t already in McCain’s shirt pocket. I don’t know that it was meant to – he knows teleprompter speeches are not his forté and is probably chomping at the bit to get Obama into that debate hall.

I’m just glad the conventions are over and I can watch The Daily Show at its regular time instead of TIVOing it.

Basically, you can sum up the Republican Convention with just a few general terms: Iraq Victory, Straight Talk, POW, OBAMA BAD, BUSH BAD, Same Ol’, Same Ol’, Change facade (pronouced “fah-kaid”), SARAH PALIN. Good job, Repubs! Pat on the back! But you can still suck it.

30
Jul
08

Evangelical Voters Poison Democracy, Part I

The recent rise and decline of the evangelical influence in our political system is intensely worthy of investigation and analysis. That one minority group can unleash such destruction on a political system designed to withstand tyranny of the masses is at the very least distressing and frightening. I have decided to offer my opinion on the issue, which has unsurprisingly grown to a blog much too long to read in one or even two sittings. Therefore, I am releasing my opinion in a series, beginning today.

For far too long the Religious Right has enjoyed a position of legitimacy on the national political stage. Beginning with Billy Graham, men have used religion not just to build a pedestal for their own control and domination, but also to access the highest offices in our land. The untouchable nature of religion – Christianity, to be exact – has delivered privilege and power to these leaders who were never elected and cared more for the influence they could exert than strengthening the representative democracy that allows our country to flourish in modern times.

The rise of the Religious Right has wreaked a havoc on our precious democracy never seen before in our nation’s history and delivered to us a president that has single-handedly allowed the drastic reduction in our freedoms and liberties. Our government, under Bush, has ceased to function as a healthy sovereignty by the citizenry and slowly begun to morph into an authoritarian regime with puppet masters who care not for the maintenance of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights or any of the political foundations that define us as Americans.

Christian Church Culture

The Christian religion is patriarchal in nature and does not encourage the question of authority, respect of all its members or appreciation for progress and education. To be sure, there are variations to the pattern, however, the basic mold is one of a dominant, male god who will not hesitate to cruelly punish those refusing to believe in his existence, yet reward the followers who faithfully defy common sense and worship a basic nothingness with no evidence other than a collection of works by men seeking power and prestige in their own time.

Why a god would choose to care which members of his creation believe in him and deem it appropriate to damn those who do not to eternal hellfire is beyond me, but there you have it. The faith the majority of Americans share.

The Christian religion flourished through military domination and the usurpation of local traditions of the cultures into which it expanded; Christmas, Christmas trees, Easter, etc. were not originally Christian. And while political progress has relegated much of Christianity outside judiciary and legislative walls, dangerous relics of Christianity’s theocratic urges still threaten the rational form of law that unites the states.

Perhaps this would not be possible if those raised and essentially brainwashed in these churches were not so easily swayed by their religious leaders. A Christian family well understands that the father is the “head of the household” – the decision-maker. It’s Biblical. The head of the church is the community leader, the most powerful example being the Pope who is both leader of the church and head of his very own city-state and Swiss guards in crazy outfits.

Respect for control and authority is taught early, with assimilation and cooperation rewarded. Those who “backslide” face public humiliation and familial shunning. Children who take up the mantle of Christianity into the world in an effort to grow the religion’s numbers tend to be praised and lavished with approval. The basic human need to belong to a group and desire for popularity with those they find familiar feed the drive Christians to remain loyal to their church despite any private misgivings over the teachings and proclamations by either the Bible or church leaders.

Furthermore, Christians are repeatedly told how their faith is under attack and they need to “take back this nation for Christ.” There’s a Holy War with Satan in our midst and a demon around every corner. It is their Christian duty to spread the gospel and stomp on the Devil with their every movement. In a very psychologically effective manner, these evangelical churches are convincing their brethren to gather and fight. Against what, they really do not know. There is no specific enemy, no real danger. But the beating of war drums in these churches every Sunday, keeps the congregations exited, convinced and – above all – obeying every word and easily brainwashed to cast votes according to instruction.

22
Jul
08

Government, Get Out of My Uterus

Not finished stomping on our civil liberties, the Bush administration wants to get a few more shin kicks in before rewarding us with #1 on all our wish lists: their absence.

Last week, the NYTimes reported the administration started circulating a proposal that would require hospitals, medical schools, clinics and researchers to sign a certificate saying they will not refuse to hire doctors and nurses who oppose abortion and birth control if these medical institutions wish to receive funding from the Department of Health. Apparently, it is already against the law for these institutions to discriminate against such doctors and nurses. The certificate, according the Department of Health, helps them police prejudice. Perhaps we should focus our efforts on policing stupidity.

Well, finally our sleepy little Congress is waking up and attempting to put their proverbial foot down. Sen. Hillary Clinton submitted her opinion of the proposal to The Huffpo yesterday, stating these new rules, which will be released next week, “put in place new barriers to accessing common forms of contraception like birth control pills, emergency contraception and IUDs by labeling them ‘abortion.'”

Over 100 members of the House of Representatives are sending a protest letter to President Bush stating:

The draft regulation could have a disastrous effect upon access to safe and effective birth control for millions of women across the country…

By distorting the scope of the laws, it would gut state and local protections of women’s right to safe and effective birth control. This is not a technical clarification regarding abortion services. This is a radical reversal of decades of public health work to provide contraception and family planning services that have enjoyed wide bipartisan support.

Certainly, I’m not holding my breath in hopes the administration will suddenly take this new proposal off the horizon (the Bush administration’s word for “table”). They have systematically popped holes in many civil liberties once taken for granted in the “home of the free.” North Korea, here we come!

I find it ironic that very few Republicans are raising their voice to oppose this potential change in Department of Health and Human Services procedures. The last I checked, Republican doctrine called for limited government. These new restrictions would practically nullify a number of state laws regarding women’s health issues.

Of course, Republicans under W. have become laughing stock representatives of hypocrisy with their spending and rubber-stamping. Such shameful behavior has led to the recent rise in popularity of Libertarians, such as Ron Paul (who is sticking to his guns and staying with the Republicans) and Bob Barr (who is not). The Republican Party is in a downward spiral of unequaled proportions largely due to their abdication of the party’s original ideals. This new Dept. of Health regulation proposal is yet another example of the federal government overstepping its bounds.

Yet, nary a peep of protest has sounded from the Republican side of the aisle. How disgustingly typical. It will be quite the party tallying all those Congressional seats lost by Republicans the night of November 5th. I hope I’ll be able to stay up after all the champagne I plan on imbibing and must remember not to pop the cork immediately after exiting the voting booth.

Is Bush trying one last time to reward the Religious Right who delivered such a living failure to We The People? The Religious Right who wants the freedom NOT to teach their kids about STDs and birth control? Who wants laws against sodomy to remain on the books in certain states? Who wants the government’s nose in everybody else’s business but their own? “Protect our liberties! Police everyone else who disagrees with us! No Gay Marriage!” You know the drill.

I used to be Christian and sure, I remember that Baby Jesus doesn’t like abortions. But I do not remember reading in The Bible Baby Jesus saying good Christians must prevent all others from such practices. When “Voting by the Bible” (a bumper sticker I read numerous times in Oklahoma), I would urge Christians to remember that The Bible instructs its practitioners to concentrate on themselves and their own sins. It does not urge Christians to run around, ruling everyone else’s lives and demanding the erection of a theocracy.

Remember, when you refuse to protect the rights of those who disagree with you, it will be your rights that are eliminated next.

In the meantime, do you think it’s too early to start planning my Bush’s Last Day Party?

09
Jul
08

Review: Maxed Out

Are documentaries getting better or is it just me? At least, they’re getting more interesting. Last night, I watched Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lending (2006) and must offer my highest recommendations to those considering adding to their rental “queue.”

maxed out

While this documentary is certainly a biased vehicle through which writer, director, producer James Duncan Scurlock expresses his opinions on the unethical credit industry and the government’s collusion, it nevertheless provides an eye-opening paradigm behind the every-man’s everyday experience with credit card companies. If you think you have it bad, watch this documentary – for real – and you’ll feel like you’re living large and in charge. And happiness is all in the mind, which is why the Danish are on top of the world.

It’s easy to take away from Maxed Out the the significance of the lack of regulation of the unethical credit industry by the government. It’s so cute when the Republicans and Libertarians parade their free market ideals and forget that the human element prevents these theories from successfully materializing, despite all the good intentions and numerical data. And they want to open the health care industry in the same manner – unregulated, free market doctors, medicine, scalpels. Yeah, that will work out real well! Lack of regulation has proven so effective in the housing industry, which has resulted in mass foreclosures and helped initiate a recession, and global trade, which provides us Americans cheap consumer goods by taking advantage of poor working conditions outside of our borders. Don’t ask don’t tell and the like.

What we need is a combination of economics and anthropology. The human element – which differs from culture to culture – inhibits capitalism, socialism or communism in their pure forms. China has had to mix capitalism with their brand of communism. The U.S. will never fully achieve a free market system that does not victimize the lowest common denominator. Until economists and legislators alike realize this fundamental reality and Americans stop falling for the right-wing line that all their taxes and all the government regulation only benefit the undeserving over the hard worker, we’re going to have these economic meltdowns – most especially when a Republican Congress rubberstamps a Republican White House.

But I digress as I often do.

Maxed Out hit home for me especially as I am a poster-child for financial misunderstanding and irresponsibility. To put it mildly, I bit off more than I could chew when I was in college and partied like a rock star in my early twenties. And while it can take a week to ruin your credit, it can take a lifetime to repair it. The cards are stacked against you and the system is designed to squeeze every penny from your cold, dead hands. It’s grotesque.

As a wise, old 30-something (does 30 count as 30-something?), I have seen the light and rectified my ways. What I have taken from my experience, however, is the belief in the necessity of financial training for children – especially teens. We have typing class, calculus, electives, foreign languages and yet the very basics of money-management is exempt from regular school curricula. I’m very happy to have learned about STD’s and what PCP does to the human and mice brains. But the development of my adulthood would have been greatly improved had the Texas School Board of Education seen fit at some point to include information on CHECKING ACCOUNTS, OVERDRAFT FEES, FICO SCORES, etc., etc., etc…

Few other skills in life rank above that of money management and merely having a weekly allowance doesn’t cut it. I have no idea why there are not parents at every PTO meeting calling for the inclusion of such education. We are left to our own devices and my devices were fairly shitty. I’m improving bit by bit (my stepdad gives me a subscription to Money Magazine), but you know it’s a long, hard slog and watching college loan payments the size of luxury car payments head into the wind every month still stings.

Quality of life is determined by the quality of our decisions and the quality of our decisions is largely dependent on the quality of our training and education. I knew nothing of finance when I entered my twenties, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let avoidable circumstances dictate the outcome of my financial existence.

So, be smart, get learned and watch Maxed Out. Cause that shit is crazy.

02
Jul
08

Anti-Intellectualism Half a Century Ago

History repeats itself – an oft-repeated proverb warning us that the the lessons of the past are once again the sins of today. Certainly, I found myself mentally saying a church-worthy Amen! to this proverb as I began reading the Pulitzer Prize-winning Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter, published in 1962, 1963.

anti-intellectualism in american life

Let me just say that if this weren’t a library book, I’d be highlighting the hell out of it. Instead, I’m reduced to tearing post-it after post-it to mark all the points of interest. And I haven’t started Chapter 2. My consumption of this work is a result of research I’m conducting for my own respective book, butrichard hofstadter phots Hofstadter’s observations have already shocked me into open-mouth disbelief as his descriptions of the anti-intellectualism of the 1950’s readily apply to today’s culture clash between the learned and the petrified. The author does assert that anti-intellectualism suffers cyclical fluctuations and will never fully abate to the netherworlds of silly history, with other theories such as “the sun revolves around the Earth” and “the 2008 election will be between Giuliani and Hillary” (yeah, that was my own Nostradamus endeavors into electoral predictions).

So, please forgive the length of this blog as I indulge myself by providing a few (a bunch?) unusually relevant excerpts from Chapter 1, with my intensely insightful commentary to follow.

…the launching of Sputnik by the Soviets precipitated one of those periodic surges of self-conscious national reappraisal to which the American public is prone. The Sputnik was more than a shock to American national vanity: it brought an immense amount of attention to bear on the consequences of anti-intellectualism in the school sysytem and in American life at large. Suddenly, the national distaste for intellect appeared to be not just a disgrace but a hazard to survival. Pg 4-5.

Perhaps I’m overreaching in my cocoon of progressive political theory, but I view global warming and the rise in fuel prices as the space race of our day. Before you emit a Moe-esqe, “Whaaaa?”, allow me to explain. While there are untold quantities of hydrocarbon beneath the surface of the Earth in not only the U.S., but also Iran, Russia, the South China Sea and other areas, global energy demands – especially of India and China – are helping fuel the rise petrol prices and will continue to do so.

The U.S. must focus on a transcendent energy policy today in the same manner we did with the space race in the ’60’s. Scientific ambitions aiming at a forward-thinking fuel-efficiency and alternative-energy development will help the U.S. maintain a technological and, thus, economic advantage in global markets. If we can me be a maverick in this area, we just might hold on to our hegemony a bit longer – though that need not be the main goal. We need to ride the wave of motivation high gas prices are providing toward cleaner energy and end our reign as Pollution Bastards of the World (especially as China will pick up the slack and more).

The labels of Intellectuals and Anti-Intellectuals were thrown around in the 1950’s in much the same way Liberal and Conservative are today. They were used as bad words by those who hurled them against their opponents and worn as badges of honor by those they described. Obviously, Hofstadter was an intellectual and the examples of anti-intellectual rhetoric he presents are laughable in this day and age – hopefully in the same manner Creationism and Intelligent Design will be laughable in another half century. If you haven’t chuckled today, allow me to send some historical fodder from Anti-Intellectualim your way that will surely entertain:

Novelist “of the right-wing persuasion,” Louis Broomfield, pg 9:

Egghead (euphemism for intellectual): A person of spurious intellectual pretensions…Fundamentally superficial. Over emotional and feminine in reactions to any problem. Supercilious and surfeited with conceit and contempt for the experience of more sound and able men. Essentially confused in thought and immersed in mixture of sentimentality and violent evangelism…

President Eisenhower’s definition of an intellectual, pg. 10:

…a man who takes more words than are necessary to tell more than he knows.

The disdain for intellectualism opened education and the education system itself up for the attacks from the more conservative commentators of the day as well.

Billy Graham, pg 15:

billy grahamYou can stick a public school and a university in the middle of every block of every city in America and you will never keep America from rotting morally by mere intellectual education.

[In place of the Bible] we substituted reason, rationalism, mind culture, science worship, the working power of government, Freudianism, humanism, behaviorism, positivism, materialism, and idealism. [This work of ] so-called intellectuals. Thousands of these ‘intellectuals’ have publicly stated that morality is relative–that there is no norm or absolute standard…

Arthur Bestor, junior-high school principal in Illinois, pg. 17:

When we come to the realization that not every child has to read, figure, write and spell . . . that many of them either cannot or will not master these chores . . . then we shall be on the road to improving the junior high curriculum.

(This is the best part) Between this day and that a lot of selling must take place. But it’s coming. We shall some day accept the thought that it is just as illogical to assume that every boy must be able to read as it is that each one must be able to perform on a violin, that it is no more reasonable to require that each girl shall spell well than it is that each one shall bake a good cherry pie.

I’ve never made a cherry pie, but I can make a mean cherry cobbler. Does that count?

Jack Schwartzman, of the Freeman, pg. 13:

Our universities are the training grounds for the barbarians of the future, those who, in the guise of learning , shall come forth loaded with pitchforks of ignorance and cynicism, and stab and destroy the remnants of human civilization…

If you send your son to the college of today, you will create the Executioner of tomorrow. The rebirth of idealism must come from the scattered monasteries of non-collegiate thought.

Does it get any better than that?! This quotation thoroughly tickles my funny bone because I have a close family member, who recently turned 70, who continually blames my political viewpoints on the fact that I attended “one of those liberal universities.” I had no idea the University of Texas was a cesspool of left-wing larva ready infiltrate governmental policy-making (don’t tell the frat boys!). In fact, he repeats that these “liberal colleges” are why young people tack liberal and why this world is going to hell in a handbag. I continually try to remind him that I retained nothing from college classes. Especially French.

And perhaps to close, this final quotation from Hofstadter himself that proves yet another proverb: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Pg 12 – and keep in mind, he wrote this in 1962:

Far more acute and sweeping was the hostility to intellectuals expressed on the far-right wing, a categorical folkish dislike of the educated classes and of anything respectable, established, pedigreed, or cultivated. The right-wing crusade of the 1950’s was full of heated rhetoric about ‘Harvard professors, twisted-thinking intellectuals . . . in the State Department.’

Am I the only one who feels like they’re in the Twilight Zone? George Bush thinks the jury is still out on global warming AND evolution. Hillary Clinton somehow warped into the working man’s candidate (talk about shape-shifting) and decried “experts” who opposed her gas tax holiday. Schools across the country are peppered with teachers who want to assert Intelligent Design as a scientific principle when it’s the absolute antithesis to the definition of science itself.

When will these perverted objectors realize that science, math, literature – EDUCATION – is what provided them their military weaponry, their computers, their energy capabilities, every day conveniences, “free market” dreams, and overall U.S. success and domination. It is a shame that people have to suffer when factories close and the jobs that require less education go overseas. As it is natural for species to go extinct in biological evolution and so is the case with jobs during economic evolution. Would the laid-off factor worker rather keep his job, yet amputate the very tools with which the U.S. retains its global position and military domination? Well, that would be unpatriotic.

Anti-Intellectualism is an embarrassment that has enjoyed many a decade hindering the development of humanity. For some inexplicable reason, Americans tend to wallow in more than their fair share. I suppose fear of change and development is at the heart of the matter, though it is hard for me to reconcile the “Great American Dream” with this entrenched detestation of progress and reason.

I do, however, think we’ve come a long way since Hofstadter penned his academic opinions. College education is ever more the norm and I’m sure 50 years from now we’ll laugh at the crazy old people who didn’t want the gays to marry and thought someone having a college education was a clear indication of anbush bumpersticker like a rock only dumber elitist in their midst. And I appreciated a sentiment by James Carville (who has stoked some of my ire during the current primary season) who said on AC 360 the other evening, “Competence is patriotic.” Well, halle-freaking-lujah.

I can tell I’m really going to enjoy the rest of this book. In the meantime, let’s get-to on those alternative energy sources!!

19
Jun
08

High Gas Prices are, Indeed, a Good Thing

At least, when it comes to the environment and America’s legendary wastefulness.

We’re not a country of people who like to be told what to do. Janet Jackson railed against her parents “Control,” Madonna pleaded with her papa not to preach – she’s keeping her baby. I’m dating myself. Wait – I know Sum 41 doesn’t fall in line and become a victim of conformity. Shit, they’re Canadian.

robert reich picANYWAY. As Robert Reich said in The Work of Nations (if I remember correctly from college and i may not. the year i smoked the most weed, i made the dean’s list.), wealth is a relative termbiltmore determined by what your neighbor either has or doesn’t. And Americans want to be wealthy. We want cavernous houses with rolling yards that require us to live far out of town.

Last August, the Gallup Poll reported the average American commuted 46 minutes on their way to work. Eighty-five percent of those polled said they drive themselves. For our commute, we choose Yahoes (Yukons or Tahoes), Hummers, and – here in Texas – massive trucks that don’t even fit in the average parking space, forcing the driver to slant their truck across two spots, giving me a crisis of conscience every time I feel an almost-unstoppable desire to key the offending truck. For Father’s Day, Nissan has been playing an ad in the DFW area, calling the Armada “Dad Big.” WTF??

china pollution bike ridersWe want to buy cheap products from China who use their low-cost labor, lack of consumer watch-dog, and terrible environmental standards to stock Wal-Mart’s shelves with every product imaginable and pollute more than many developed countries combined. Our celebrity royalty with their private jets have left carbon tread marks in the skies between L.A. and N.Y. Yet even the rich live paycheck to paycheck, relying on credit for the mini-mansions and gas-guzzlers, voting Republican and denying the existence of global warming (which is akin to, I don’t know…denying evolution, which even our glorious president does). We all know the song (shout out, neil diamond).

And as out-of-control gas prices portend a coming credit crisis, cause consumer goods to cost most families their first-born and lead to an increase in the foul language used at gas pumps across the nation – there is a reason to celebrate.highway traffic

The Department of Transportation said yesterday Americans drove 30 billion – that’s BILLION – less miles between Nov. ’07 and April ’08 than during the same period the previous year. SUV sales were down 38 percent this May over last year (disclaimer: I say this while planning an SUV as my next vehicle purchase. However, it takes me, like, a whole year to drive 3,000 miles.) The media has ubiquitous reports of Pruises selling like hotcakes and the American Public Transportation Association reported June 2 that Americans took 85 million more trips on public transportation during the first quarter of ’08 than during the same time the previous year.

Perhaps these high gas prices will continue to decrease our wasteful use of hydrocarbons and encourage us to live closer to work – even if in smaller houses – and drive less. I have to say the most annoying, yet beneficial idea that has emerged out of this crisis is the “staycation” which Urban Dictionary defines as: A vacation that is spent at one’s home enjoying all that home and one’s home environs have to offer or a vacation close to home. As a lake girl, I’ve long been a practitioner of such local enjoyment. Texas has the best lakes – nice and warm and perfect with a cooler full of beer floating beside you. This year, we only plan on traveling to Vegas – and that’s to tie the knot, which I think justifies expanding our carbon footprint out of state. God, I love Vegas.

big smart car

In the meantime, whenever I spot a Smart Car, I’ll give a silent hoorah to the driver.commuter car

And I’ll think “Holy Crap, that Commuter Car is crazy awesome!” Seriously – go to the website, the photos are insane.

Personal Note: You guys at FireSociety Forum who started Carbon Belch Day are going to hell. I mean, I know I’m going to hell – but for other reasons, like if “Carbon Belch Day” had been a joke, I’d think it was hysterical. But, from what I can tell, you guys are for real. Even if you don’t believe in global warming (and, not to be judgmental, but that means you’re an unresearched, closed-minded schmo of ridonkulous proportions), it still makes sense to operate as environmentally-friendly as possible simply to cut down on waste and smog. You must be poor decision-makers and it is well known that poor decision-makers tend to have shitty lives and either end up in prison (in which your carbon footprint would be reduced anyway) or on Judge Judy. Either way, I’ll see you in eternal damnation, biotches (the use of that word dates me as well, doesn’t it?).

06
Jun
08

Hall of Shame: S.C. Approves “I Believe” License Plates

I make no bones about my disappointment with the rise in religious fundamentalism in this country and how detrimental such developments are, mostly having to do with failed abortion-only policies, the rise of anti-intellectualism, the accepting of intolerant and unconstitutional bans on gay marriage, and the promotion of power of men like George W. Bush, Pat Robertson, John Hagee and the late Jerry Falwell. Though, the rise in fundamentalism likely portends its downfall as progress is an unstoppable force, a law in South Carolina took effect yesterday that expresses the deep inability for many Americans to reconcile the brainwashing of their childhood with the reason and common sense their adulthoods.

South Carolina now offers “I Believe” license plates at $4 to $6.

i believe license plates

Such a license plate is an example of a governmental endorsement of a religion and a shameful illustration of the domination of unfounded mythology on our society.

Ask yourself whether the South Carolina state legislature would support a license plate expressing support of Islam, Judaism, Atheism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Scientology or Wicca. Right.

The ACLU and American Jewish Congress are considering action over this huge legal disappointment in South Carolina (which, by the way, failed in Florida in April). Here at politicalmpressions (which is just me), we wholemindedly support their efforts to have this state-sponsored endorsement of Christianity revoked.

Had this happened in Texas, I myself would raise my voice to its greatest heights to help preserve the separation of church and state.

Silver Lining: Marcus Aurelius points out in his comment on Think Progress, “It’s nice to know who the morons are when you’re out driving.”

Here We Go: June 19, Americans United for Separation of Church and Stateasks a judge to stop the state from making the plates and rule that the law allowing them violates the First Amendment.” For more, read here. Aaaahh, I love the smell of progress and common sense.

21
May
08

I Am Not An Astrophysicist, But I Play One Online

In response to the piece by ABC news that 16 percent of American science teachers believe in Creationism, I posted this comment on The Huffington Post:

ME:

Creationism is in direct opposition of the Law of Conservation of Mass-Energy and is not founded scientifically, therefore should not be taught in science class.

Good source: Atheist Universe by David Mills

Shame on the rise of anti-intellectualism in America. As we allow these attacks on science, the U.S. will suffer economically, technologically, culturally and globally. It’s these conservative christian isolationists that are dooming America and causing America’s loss of hegemony that the isolationists so fervently believe in.

My comments led to the following debate:

Myshkin57: Eh… conservation of mass is not a good reason to reject it. A good reason to reject it is that there is no reason to accept it. Further, the problem with creationism being taught as science is not its inconsistency with other scientific theory; most scientific theories were inconsistent with the scientific theories at the time they were first proposed. The problem is that it is not science (i.e. not testable, falsifiable, verifiable, etc.)

Delvin McGee: by that notion so does the Big Bang Theory

TMAN: Except that those laws or better yet, the particular laws of the Universe we inhabit were a product of the particular vacumn fluctuation as part and parcel of the Big Bang. Should another fluctuation occur within our Universe the Laws of Physics we observe now would be gone as would we.

Many of the most important elements of the Big Bang are “theory” in name only and have been supported, verified by rigorous scientific research, experimentation and testing.

ME: Big Bang does not defy the Law of Conservation of Mass-Energy:
Currently, all matter in the universe is expanding and will continue to do so until it exceeds critical density, at which point gravitational forces will cause the universe to collapse on itself, called the Big Crunch (you can wiki it). As all matter returns to a single contiguous point, the theory suggests that our universe of mass energy will explode in yet another Big Bang.

Therefore, mass-energy was not created. It has always existed and has most likely always been expanding and contracting.

TMAN: The increased rate of expansion has nothing to do with the Universe “exceeding critical density”. In fact the exact opposite is proposed as one “hypothosis” where matter/energy continues to expand and cool thus dissipating, for “eternity” “the BIG FREEZE”

Visable Mass-energy and the laws pertaining to them (they are the same) are a product of this Universe only, initial conditions sets the “laws”

You are aware that the expansion of the Universe also includes (though not often mentioned) the creation of the “new” space it is expanding into, as it expands, arent you?

ME: ah, excellent debate.

let me proffer that as the universe expands, space stretches – which contradicts the idea that new space is created.

TMAN: “let me proffer that as the universe expands, space stretches”

-Into what?

When I used the term “space” into which the Universe expands, I mis-used the word. My bad. Outside the “boundry limit ” of the Universe is nothing. The Universe (which contains within itself all of “space” and time, expands into that nothing that the Universe has expanded its boundry limit to. This is next to impossible to visualize or comprehend but mathmatically thats what is said to be happening as we speak.

ME: i see what you are saying, but what about the multi-universe hypothesis?

outside our universe is simply another universe, perhaps contracting, and that our universe is not simply expanding into nothing. the number of universes could be indeterminate.

So far, I have yet to receive another response from TMAN. Seeing as how I pulled most of what I asserted out of my ass (aside from the information I picked up from David Mills), I’m curious if anyone out there has any thoughts or corrections or suggestions.

UPDATE: TMAN finally answered my last response: Yes, thats possible or even the latest rage, “vibrating, interacting Branes”. At that point it’s a little over my head.

But, it’s magnificent isn’t it? And the thing is, it appears that it’s set up to give us exactly what we ask for. So it’s imperative that we learn and understand all that we can then take responsibility for our actions within the known and understood Universe. One doesn’t need fables if one is intellectually and physically engaged with it.
Thanks, TXpastafarian, for the dialogue.

To which I answered: I agree. It’s the discussion and quest for knowledge that matters. Anytime!

21
May
08

SHAMEFUL: 16 Percent of US Science Teachers Believe in Creationism

According to ABC news, 16 percent of U.S. science teachers believe human beings were created by a god in the last 10,000 years and one in eight teach creationism or intelligent design as a valid alternative to Darwin’s Origin of Species.

This correlates directly with my recent post of the rise of anti-intellectualism in the U.S.

What a ridiculous set of circumstances in which we have allowed fundamentalist religion to place our country. The lack of appreciation for math and science is largely due to the attack on science by christian leaders and churches across the U.S. It is shameful and is leading to the deterioration of the U.S. stronghold on technology and innovation. This, in turn, will lead to the further slowing of our economy and continued reduction in our influence globally. Can the rest of the world really take us seriously when so many Americans, including the president, take the bible so literally and as the irrefutable word of god and source on all relevant matters??

I reference Atheist Universe in which author David Mills asserts that creationism is in direct opposition to the scientific Law of Conservation of Mass-Energy. While there is no scientific evidence whatsoever to support creationism or intelligent design, there is in fact much evidence to dispute it.

There is also a mountain of historical and scientific evidence to refute the accuracy and truth of the bible. And yet, the ridiculous notion that it is a true text worthy of belief continues to permeate our society. Perhaps this can be attributed to the lack of reading, increase in video game play and television-watching by our children, or rise in the influence of religious leaders. We even had a serious presidential candidate this year who said we must bring the Constitution in line with the bible!

Make no mistake, unless we recognize that the privilege we have given christianity and other religions has led to the educational, and thus economic, downfall of this country, we will continue to see our global position deteriorate. Researches are scrambling to find out why our math and science scores are crumbling; until they look into the effect of religious fundamentalism on our educational system, I doubt they’ll find the true source of the corrosion.

Related articles:

U.S. Teens Trail Peers Around the World on Math-Science Test (Washpo, 12.5.07)

Study Compares States’ Math and Science Scores With Other Countries (NYT, 11.14.07)

Math/Science Education in a Global Age (InternationalED.org)

15
May
08

Anti-Intellectualism Syndrome and The Growing Smart Gap

The wealth gap in America isn’t the only growing dichotomy in our melting pot of various demographic slices. An intellectual gap is asserting itself in dangerous levels as these demographic slices form battling coalitions over differing priorities. While the Internet is a fascinating equalizer, providing information and education to those who seek it, the increasing vilification of education and intellectualism is alarming. And the 2008 Election, with its record-breaking participation, has brought illustrations of the growing smart gap to the forefront of mainstream media – even if the media doesn’t understand or acknowledge exactly what they’ve got their hands on.

The most recent example of the degradation of education in America is the difference in voter groups in the Democratic Primary. We are continuously reminded that educated Americans lean more toward Obama and blue-collar (they hardly ever say “uneducated”) voters side with Clinton. In an effort to celebrate these blue-collar Americans, the media and the candidates repeatedly refer to them as “hardworking Americans” – which should seem offensive to white-collar workers who undoubtedly work just as hard whether it’s in the operating room or on the trading floor.

Obama’s opponents readily reach for the “elitist” attack, however, simply because educated voters choose him more than any other candidate. How ridiculous. How backwards. How indicative of the anti-intellectualism that seems pervasive even in our most top levels of government.

It is not far-fetched to assume that educated voters are more informed, know more about current events, and are more familiar with the global effects of our national decisions and, thus, can apply critical analysis – even in the voting booth – better than their uneducated counterparts. This is not to say that a college-educated voter will always make a better decision than an uneducated voter. Intellectualism has more to do with the seeking of knowledge than the attaining of a piece of paper in the form of a degree. Smarter, more educated decisions, however, lead to a better – even longer – life and benefit not just the educated, but society as a whole.

Hillary Clinton began to solidify a political base as she began to pander to the uneducated, as Republicans do in most of their campaigns. In a fantastic blog entitled “In Defense of Being Educated” on The Huffington Post, Robert J. Elisberg writes that Hillary Clinton thinks she should be president because her voters are less educated than those of her opponent. He’s simplifying for effect, but the message is clear. The uneducated, potentially poorer-decision making voters who have always been courted by Republicans, are being celebrated and lauded. Yes, this may just be a political tool to get ahead, but the message it sends to America is a very dangerous one indeed.

I’m reminded of the 60 Minutes Report “All Eyes On Ohio” during which Kenny Schoenholtz, a worker at the Glatfelter paper factory (which was shutting down) told Steve Kroft about Obama, “Well, I’m hearin’ he doesn’t even know the National Anthem, you know. He wouldn’t use the Holy Bible. He’s got his own beliefs, got the Muslim beliefs. Couple issues that bothers me at heart.” Now, I don’t know anyone who saw that report and were not – too put it lightly- gobsmacked by the stupidity of such a person.

Now, that may seem a harsh judgment, but it is difficult to watch as voters just like Schoenholtz are routinely courted as the Holy Grail among voting blocs. He is the perfect constituent for Republicans or Clintons, who salivate at the opportunity to use unreasoned and illogical attacks. He is the audience for Willey Horton ads and Swiftboat campaigns. He is the voter to whom it will matter that Barack Obama’s middle name is Hussein. He is the voter who most likely voted for Bush a second time.

Why is he this type of voter? Because he is uneducated.

The pat-on-the-back for those who opted out of higher education or choose not to seek information and enlightenment will have grievous results beyond the quality of our elected leaders. With the diminishing appreciation of education – specifically science and math (largely due to religious fundamentalism) – the U.S. will continue to lose its stronghold as hegemonic power and falter economically, technologically and culturally. I recommend reading Susan Jacoby’s “The Dumbing of America” on The Washington Post for further statistics and examples of our rapid intellectual back-sliding. Jacoby has also recently written published “The Age of American Unreason“.

As the media and political parties request audience with uneducated voters using sugar-coated labels of importance, one must remember that lack of education and information encourage crime, teenage pregnancy, poverty, obesity, disease and more. Autocratic regimes and dictatorships prevent instruments of knowledge from reaching the masses as a tool with which to construct their oppressive governments.

I know many people who have not had access to a college education, yet are still very much intellectuals. The seeking of information, arming oneself with the ability to make enlightened decisions and the understanding of the importance of knowledge are all that is required to be intellectual.

As a nation, however, we glorify the rejecting of education to our own detriment.

There a fewer shames I can think of that the anti-intellectualism movement has produced than those presented by Nicholas D. Kristoff of The New York Times in his Op-Ed “With a Few More Brains…“:

“A 34-nation study found Americans less likely to believe in evolution than citizens of any of the countries polled except Turkey.

President Bush is also the only Western leader I know of who doesn’t believe in evolution, saying “the jury is still out.” No word on whether he believes in little green men.”

26
Mar
08

Good read: Newsweek Article on Physics and God

Even though those bastards at Newsweek hired evil non-genius Karl Rove, they are still managing to churn out quality pieces. It seems they haven’t received lightning bolts of bad karma or a plague of bubonic-infested rats and have continued publication. Of course, I know this because I’ve received my regular subscription for Festivus and those weekly issues just keep on comin. I vacillate between taking a squiz between the covers and using the magazine for kindling.

This week, they’ve interviewed Physicist Steven Weinburg (hook ’em, horns) on this huge particle experiment starting in Switzerland this summer. The interview addresses the possibility of physics eventually proving the existence of god and a lot of fun context around the topic.

I recommend reading the interview for yourself, but if you do not have the time or the inclination, here are some interesting excerpts. At least, I find them interesting. Pat Robertson or John Hagee or any others who make oodles of dough perpetuating the idea of “The Almighty Lord” might find it distasteful. Now, because the physicist is speaking in crazy, never-leave-the-lab langue, I’ll provide the best layman translation I can following each quotation. Hope you enjoy.

Quotation: “As science explains more and more, there is less and less need for religious explanations. Originally, in the history of human beings, everything was mysterious. Fire, rain, birth, death, all seemed to require the action of some kind of divine being. As time has passed, we have explained more and more in a purely naturalistic way.”

Translation: The idea that there is some inexplicable superbeing responsible for all the eye can see and the origins of the universe – i.e. intelligent design – is a croc of shiznit.

Quotation: “But religion has evolved along with science. It is something created by human beings, and as human beings learn more and more their religion changes. Today, especially in the more established religious sects in the West, they’ve learned to stop trying to explain nature religiously and leave that to science.”

Translation: Religion and faith are man-made and as humans progress, as they inevitably do, religion and mythology fade into the past. Each time you play Guitar Hero or call someone on your iPod or recycle a plastic bottle and appreciate the progress of mankind in any way, a particle of organized religion dries up and dies. And doesn’t go to heaven.

Quotation: “The more we learn about the universe the less sign we see of an intelligent designer. Isaac Newton thought that it would require an explanation in terms of the action of God to explain how the sun shone. Now we know that it shines because of the heat produced by the conversion of hydrogen into helium in its core.”

Translation: All the peeps wanting “intelligent design” to be taught in schools want to dumbify our children so that we are less and less competitive with emerging technological economies and end up returning to the jungle as the apes we once were.

Quotation: “All human beings, whether religious or not, are caught in a tragic situation of never fully being able to understand the world we are in.”

Translation: Certitude is the luxury of the inherently stupid.

Quotation: “I don’t think that we can ever prove that God does not exist. But if he does exit [sic] it might be possible to prove it.”

Translation: Paging Richard Dawkins! It looks like closure for Atheists is as remote as orgasms for nuns.




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