Archive for the 'science' Category



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.

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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!!




Scarlet Letter of Atheism

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