Archive for September 2010

Fired Up?

President Obama is out on the campaign trail trying to fire up college kids to vote.  Meanwhile I picked up the paper this morning to see that Republicans are out spending Democrats 6 to 1 on campaign spending.  I am sure the Supreme Court, that allowed unlimited spending by Corporations, sees no connection.  Certainly the party of corporations will have the edge this election season. Then there was an article which described how the prospect for an energy revamp is now gone.  Our politicians don’t want to upset any apple carts so we will continue down the road to maximizing petroleum use and damn the consequences.

Then there is the failure of the Senate and apparently the House to vote on the Bush Tax cuts.  Pundits could understand the political calculations that Democrats running for office were making and not wanting to have to campaign on voting to raise taxes on the rich.  I think they are all morons.  Democrats don’t want to stand up for what is right?  What exactly do they stand for?  Their political algebra is going to lead to their demise.  What they think is safe is what the rest of us out here in the hinterlands think is spineless.  They will never be able to lead the country with decisions like that and we all see that.  One Senator kept saying, I can count the votes meaning they could not get sixty.  What he was really saying is if I can’t win, I won’t fight.  It was totally lost on him that each battle is not a war, but a strategic step to winning a war.

So I will quote a progressive pundit.  “If they won’t fight for me, why should I give a damn about them?” Or as Gail Collins said the other day in her column to these spineless excuses for leaders who will probably lose anyway (Don’t Ask, Don’t Debate) You should have voted with your heart, spoken your mind and gone out with a bang”.

Yeah Mr. President, I am all fired up about voting this year because once again the Democrats have proved to be the lesser of two evils.  What kind of a choice is that?  Maybe we do need to let the Republicans lead again.  Then when the nation is face down in the gutter, the choice will be more obvious to these morons who call themselves Democrats.

Science and God

I remember a statement by a physicist one time that has always stuck with me about thinking critically.  He said, “I know what it means to say I know something, really know something.”  He was talking about knowing in the scientific sense, which so few people understand these days.  He wasn’t saying my gut tells me or I feel sure of this.  He was talking about something he could verify over and over and over again without one contradiction.  That is scientific knowing.  Evolution is one of those things.  As the court case in Pennsylvania demonstrated (Judge Rules Against Intelligent Design),  the fuzzy thinking of intelligent design did not hold up under critical analysis and their claimed “proofs of an intelligent designer” were easily dismissed by scientific review.

There simply is no counter evidence to evolution.  That is what scientific thinking is about.  Not what you want to believe, not what your religion or politics tells you is true, but what the evidence tells us over and over again it is true.  Yes it is a theory, but it is a theory where we haven’t been able to provide one incident that could not be explained by that theory.  Doesn’t mean we won’t find one, but highly unlikely.  That is why all theories are not created equal.  Intelligent Design was a theory that science could drive trucks through the openings in its false logic.

So with that in mind, could we apply this thinking to the existence of God?  The short answer is no.  We can certainly turn the scientific method to many religious beliefs, but to the basic question of does he/she/it exist, probably not.  For many people, when you raise the issue of the existence of God, their rational minds completely turn off, and either their strong need to believe, or their indoctrination from their very infancy takes over and a rational discussion is not possible.  Faith is not rational and faith is their excuse for not thinking.  So lets talk about space aliens because the argument is exactly the same.  Did space aliens ever visit earth?

The scientific method would be to look at every claimed incident of a visitation or a sighting and evaluate the facts.  In this evaluation, one would look at other possible explanations for the phenomenon.  Much like in eyewitness testimony in a criminal case that has proved to be so unreliable, each account has to be evaluated in terms of corroborating facts and testimony.  When each of these incidents are put to this test they fall short.  In other words, there are more likely explanations for the events than attributing it to space aliens.  The late Carl Sagan gave a great account of this in one of his books showing how all of these events had common themes to dreams and fears of a society.  Does that mean space aliens didn’t visit earth.  No, it just means that evaluating the existing evidence in light of known causations, it is highly unlikely.  Carl Sagan would argue that given the odds of an infinite universe, there is likely other life out there, but so far the evidence does not support a local visitation.

Now back to issue of God.  Religious believers would tell you they feel God in their hearts or souls, or that they have had this religious experience and he gives them the strength to carry on.  They KNOW he exists.  Science would say that is not knowing in a scientific way.  Could the religious experience be explained in other ways (yes but I will not go into the science of the brain here)?  The point is that it could or could not be God but there is no way to be absolutely sure one way or the other.  There are certainly more likely explanations than God.  When people state that some incident occurs and that it is a miracle that God was looking after them, once again what science can tell you is that that explanation is highly unlikely.  Why was this person saved and others not?  Survivor’s guilt is more likely an explanation of the feeling that the hand of God was at work than the reality that you were just lucky.  The great theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawkings, commented in his latest book:

Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist….It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

It doesn’t mean there isn’t a God, it just means that there are other explanations based upon known causations that are more likely than an appeal to superstition and myth.  A reality based look at the world full of beliefs in multiple gods, the changing beliefs over the eons, and no real evidence of anything other than natural phenomenon that we understand, says that it’s most likely all a bunch of nonsense.  When I look at fuzzy thinking today and the amount of violence and intolerance caused by the belief in moral certitude of various religions, we are probably better off without it.  This does not mean we need to jettison some of the philosophies that underpin many religions.  It just means these philosophies need to be examined in the light of logic and reality instead of the moral certitude of a higher authority.

Fuzzy Thinking

I started to write this blog a couple of days ago and apparently I am not the only one to notice this phenomenon.  When I picked up this Sunday’s paper I saw where Maureen Dowd had chosen to write about the same idea (Slouching Toward Washington).  The basic idea is that America seems to be reacting to our present plight with a fit of anti-intellectualism.  She saw the same Bill Maher show I did and the clip showing Christine O’Donnell claiming “evolution is a myth”.

She noted that this is the tip of the iceberg coming out of the Republican Party and the Tea Partiers.  There is Sarah Palin, the leader of the pack, fact challenged and denying global warming.  Every problem can be solved by middle American common sense, which is the ultimate oxymoron.  It even runs in the Republican Party establishment which continues to believe that cutting taxes and deregulation is the answer to everything.  The New York Times ably took apart their “Pledge to America” (The GOP’s Pledge)  to show the total failure of any logical or coherent plan that would be anything but counter productive (Plaque on America).

Most of what we are hearing in the media from the right wing in any other time would be considered ludicrous and wouldn’t deserve airtime, but in today’s poisonous environment, this fuzzy, irrational thinking is getting serious coverage.  Think about the Koran burning coverage.  I think what is even more interesting is that a whole segment of our population does not seem to think in a rational manner.  Of course the media is greatly at fault for not debunking this nonsense instead of allowing a platform to legitimize lunacy.  But at least we can thank John Stewart and Stephen Colbert for some perspective.  Sad when the only really informative commentary on politics is fake news.

But I can’t help wondering where this fuzzy thinking comes from and why is it so prevalent in our country?  Well, I will take a step that Maureen was unwilling to.  A lot of it comes from fuzzy religious thinking.  If there is one whole segment of our intellectual life that denies reality around us it is religion.  Then why wouldn’t this wishful thinking/logic bleed over into our rational world.  Note that Sharon Angle, Christine O’Donnell, and a whole slew of these new comers are really conservative Christians.  Religious faith dogma says that faith is the key in the face of doubt.  Said another way, don’t let reality get in the way of what you would like to believe especially if it gives you comfort.  I can’t help think that this “unscientific” thinking is having an impact on everything we look at.

All of us have a vested interest in believing some things and therefore it is easier for us to disregard facts that don’t support those beliefs.  It is the very opposite of the scientific method which tests everything and lets the chips fall where they may. Sadly it is obvious that most people do not really understand the science or the scientific method.   On the Maher show last Friday, Andrew Brietbart (Dullbart) was engaged in a debate with the widow of Carl Sagan on global warming.  She was pointing out that the emails that showed some jiggering of the data (I won’t make the argument here but it has been laid out in the Scientific American) had nothing to do with the basic underlying science of global warming.  He was almost apoplectic in his arguments and in his denial of her points.  She was quietly and thoughtfully showing the flaws in his thinking and it was driving him to rage showing how emotionally connected he was to his belief.

So while these irrational fools capture the minds of America, and want to turn back the clock on science, politics, economics, and religious tolerance, China is investing in three programs for their future (Their Moon Shoot and Ours, Thomas Friedman).  They are making massive investments in their transportation infrastructure,  Bioscience, DNA and stem cell research, and in batteries and electric cars.  They are not having some anti-intellectual argument about global warming, evolution, religion, or flow-down economics, they are facing reality and investing in their future.  There was a time (remember Sputnik?) when we would recognize this as a challenge to our economic and national well being and respond.  Now we just get angry that things haven’t work out swimmingly making the rich richer, and try to turn the clock back by electing people who are basically brain dead, and preach to us policies that as Maureen said take us back to the 1750’s.   Hopefully a few Americans will wake up before November and so we don’t really turn the clock back to try to regain something that is a lie.

What it is Really All About

My son is working as a temporary counselor at a middle school in San Diego.  The other night was parent’s night and a Burmese couple showed up at 6 a.m. on the designated day because they miss-read the announcement.   How many parents would show up at 6 a.m. for a back to school event?  Only those that really care.  Now I don’t know these parents, but I will tell you what I think.  They have had to scrape and scratch to get here.  They believe in the American Dream and they will do everything possible to see that their children have a chance at that dream.  They are true Americans in the best way possible.

But that American Dream is truly at risk.  We are creating more poor everyday, shrinking the middle class, and concentrating wealth in the top 1% earners.  We actually have less upward mobility than that so called social morass, the European Union.  These facts are not in dispute. Some are in denial about them, but they are not in dispute.  What is in dispute, but only by people who are at their very core are terrified to lose a little of what they have, is what is causing it.

In America we have believed that greed is good.  Those that create wealth, create it for everyone, not just themselves.  However the reality around us tells us that if that ever worked, it doesn’t anymore.  Our Congress has been captured by the rich.  Policies that they have passed were tilted toward the entrenched wealthy and corporations.  How else do you explain a Capital Gains tax of 15% and a salary tax that averages about 25%?  There are so many tax incentives for Corporations that the result is that change and innovation are actually being dis-incentivized.  My prime examples are the energy companies.  If all the tax credits and “deals” they get from the U.S. government were removed, alternate energy would be competitive.  But instead, energy companies fight tooth and nail to hold on to their privilege position, as does other corporations and Wall Street.  We fall further and further behind China in developing alternate energy businesses.

Continuing the policies that favor corporations and business that maximize profits over providing good jobs for our middle class will turn us into a banana republic (Downhill with the GOP). We have a choice in the upcoming election.  We have one party that wants to continue these policies to protect those that have, and continue the transfer of wealth from the many to the few.  It is a prescription for failure, except for those favored by these policies, which amounts to about 3% of the population.  The have used racism, immigration bashing, religious intolerance, and recently homophobia to consolidate their base who doesn’t quite get that the policies these guys promote will just further disenfranchise them.

The other party has been almost as complicit as the Republicans in enabling the rich and the corporations.  After all, it was under Bill Clinton that real deregulation occurred (read The Great American Stickup, by Robert Scheer) that set up the fiasco of 2007.  The Democrats started favoring Wall Street policies and became the beneficiaries of Wall Street largeness, and we see today, a segment still captured by them (Chris Dodd and the Wall Street reform comes to mind).   But they also represent a large and growing wing that wants to turn things around.  So the choice is obvious, especially after the Republicans released their Plague on America.  As John Stewart so ablely pointed out, it was word for word the same stuff they have always been pushing.  The only hope for change is with the Progressives in the Democratic Party.

What scares me the most when I think about our future for my children and for the Burmese couple is a clip I saw recently of Sharon Angle who has a real chance to beat Harry Reid (one of those Democrats we could all live without).  She was railing about a Nevada law that made maternity leave and treatment for autistic children mandatory health care coverage in her state.  She wondered why she would have to pay for something that doesn’t impact her.  That, in a nutshell, is Republican thinking.  In their little minds we are not all in this together.  If they rise on our backs, that is because they deserve it.  It is so sad and so selfish, and most importantly, self defeating.  Our success in the future is not about how a few get richer, but how we raise the whole nation up as a whole.  That is what makes the American Dream possible and the Republicans with help from some Democrats have been busy trying to kill it because they selfishly don’t want to share their bounty.  But in not sharing they diminish the whole and as a result, they themselves are diminished.

Ignorance is Bliss

Last Oakland home Wednesday day-game of the Season. White Sox warming up. Great Seats.

Yesterday I went to the ballgame in Oakland.  It was a beautiful sunny first day of fall, with the temperature at a balmy 70°.  One of the perks of living where I do is that there is an hourly train from Sacramento to the San Francisco Bay area, and one that goes specifically to the Oakland Coliseum.  So it was a relaxing day taking the train to the game, sitting in the sun and watching good (not great because Oakland blew it in the ninth) baseball, and then a leisurely ride home again on the train.  But the reality of our misinformed public kept intruding.

On the train ride over, I opened my Facebook account (train has wireless) and there was a comment from a friend.  The day before he had posted a picture of himself sitting outside, surrounded by snow, and he made a snarky comment about Al Gore and global warming.   Upon seeing it, I thought about whether I should comment.  But I am tired of going through the world where people say inane things and we just let it ride, reinforcing their mistaken beliefs.  So I simply pointed out that it was climate change and there isn’t a scientific body that disputes global warming.  Of course there were additional snarky comments from others to that comment about the hoax of global warming played upon the American people and that Ozone hole thing.  I felt sad that our education system has failed so many people and that they lack critical thinking skills.  But their ignorance is bliss and allows them to go through life continuing to make bad political decision and then think the Democrats “did it”.

After the game we were waiting for the train and I was sitting next to two rather elderly gentlemen and I could not help over hearing their conversation:  “I think I will vote for Fiorina (Republican for Senator), you know that government, it just takes your money and you get nothing back.”  Now here was a picture.  Two old guys, no doubt getting Medicare and Social Security, waiting for a publicly subsidized train, and they think they get nothing for their taxes.   Did they think they got their money’s worth for the $7.75 beers or their $6.50 hot dogs?  Were those really good investments while their taxes that pays for the train, gives them a monthly stipend, and pays for their health care was a waste?  It is amazing how we take what we have for granted and then think we deserve more.  Good Republicans no doubt and again, ignorance is bliss.

Of course there was some comic relief.  On the return train trip, there were  two guys who struck up a conversation with two other guys who had been at the game.  The conversation was about how wasted they had been at one time or another.  I always have wondered if that is the high point in many people’s lives, being wasted.  Let’s see, I was totally bombed, can’t remember it, and felt shitty the next day.  But I must have been a party animal so what an amazing experience!  When can I do it again and lose another day of my life?

As they continued their banter and swilling down more and more beers, the conversation got even better.  It was clear that the phase, “mother f%&ker” was a catchword that could be shared over and over again, and was somehow a powerful male bonding word.  At one point, one now very inebriated fellow traveler announced that it is always i before e except in that one exception, the word weird.  “Wasn’t weird that the word weird was the one exception.”  I thought my wife was going to die laughing.  Let’s see, there is neighbor, weigh, eight, oh, I could go on.  But hey, they were going to connect with the light rail at the train station so party on dudes.  Besides, their wives were going to pick them up at the light rail station when they got home and then there would probably be a reckoning with reality.  But in the interim, ignorance is bliss.

So all in all a good day.

Mindless in California

In California, our state government has given a whole new meaning to gridlock.  We have a majority Democratic state government controlled by Republicans with the two-thirds majority requirement for anything that has to do with money.  We have a moderate Republican governor who would craft compromise between the warring ideologies, but Republicans will not give an inch.  We are going broke, school class size is approaching 60 students, but we can’t raise any taxes.  Our parks are deteriorating, and without the stimulus bill, our highways would be a mess.  Colleges, once the model for America, are now raising their rates to make them unaffordable for the average Californian.  One of the things this gridlock brings is no progress in the right or wrong way and voters never get to find out whose policies actually work.  We just continue down the same road of failure as neither party gets the upper hand and we get compromises to nowhere making the voters more and more disgusted with government in general.

So we enter the political season with both the Governor’s and one of California’s Senators, Barbara Boxer’s offices up for grabs.  The conventional wisdom is that Washington outsiders (or political outsiders) have the inside track.  Enter Meg Whitman (ex-CEO of ebay) and Carly Fiorina (ex-CEO of HP), Meg for Governor, and Carly for Senator.  Here is what I find so ludicrous about these candidates.  First they are multi-millionaires.  So they are really in touch with the common man and his problems?  Second they are both trying to buy the election (especially Meg) with millions of dollars of their own money (a populist candidate?).  Third, and most importantly, their role in business makes them less likely to have heard their minions speak truth to power.  They are used to having everyone jump when they speak.  A rise to power in large organizations requires you to attach yourself to the coattails of the empowered, not to challenge their ideas.

The other interesting false belief is that somehow we should run our governments like our corporations.  So if welfare recipients are loss-leaders, maybe we should just jettison them?  Health care is expensive so tough luck?  Should we be looking for short-term gains and not focus on the long term?  That is what these two people did and as long as they maximized profits, regardless of the impact on their companies people, they were seen as successes.  Is this the way we want to run our governments?  Carly did the smart business thing in off-shoring thousands of jobs to improve the company’s bottom line. But government is “by the people and for the people.” Well maybe the new motto is government by the rich, for the rich.

Meg showed her business thinking in her position on a proposition put on the ballot for this November that would repeal California’s forward thinking and moving clean energy bill.  Meg is pointing out that it will cost us money and her point is that only 3% of our California economy is based upon green energy and the other 97% would be impacted.  It is status quo thinking, keeping the stock prices up for your next bonus (or vote) as opposed to letting profits sag to give us a chance at a future.  That three percent is our future and killing it is a vote for China and their future in alternate energy while we wait for some magical time down the road when investment won’t require sacrifice.  Probably what tells you more than anything else about this “business” thinking is that most of the money to pass this proposition is coming from those aligned with energy companies outside the state (New York Times).

So that is the “outsider”, run government like a business, mentality that it would seem Californians (and many in the nation) think is going to steer us a new course.  That new course will leave us stranded on the rocks.  I don’t know whether Jerry Brown (the other contender for the Governor’s office), the ultimate government insider, can solve our problems, but thinking corporate America or their spawn can save us and is in touch with our pain, is ridiculous.  They have been raised in a culture that profits are more important than people.  But government is “we the people”.  California’s problem is the same as the federal Government, requiring a super majority to do anything important.  When we finally recognize that hard decisions aren’t made by super majorities, and people who have money aren’t necessarily either smart or good for government, maybe we will be on our way to real progress.  Until then we have continued insanity and irrationality while the country spins in the tub drain, hoping to be saved by some modicum of intelligence.

Jimmy Carter

In 10 days he will be 86. He is a model for continuing to be engaged and his mind is to be admired. I find him the most admirable of ex-Presidents who continues to strive and learn. Hopefully I can be half the man, intellectually, and morally. He will always gives us the truth.

Political and Moral Cowardice for All to See

There are two items bound up in the Defense Authorization Bill to be voted on tomorrow and both of them should be no duh moments, but they won’t.  The first, of course, is the fight against the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  This one is so stupid it is beyond belief that we still having this discussion.  Now I hear that “moderate” Olympia Snow wants to wait until the Defense Department releases their study on how this will impact the military.  Oh please!  Sixteen countries have integrated their militaries with no problem.  This is a simple civil rights issue.  If we would have left integration of blacks in the military to the military, it would have taken until Lydon Johnson in the 60s instead of an executive order by Harry Truman in the 40’s.

One has to wonder if this country has any hope when our Congress is so far behind the rest of the nation that it is almost impossible to do the patently obvious.  Lady Gaga (campaigning in Maine)  has more sense than most of our elected officials and what we are seeing is pandering by the Republicans, once again to intolerant homophobics that make up their base.  John McCain, who once said he would support whatever the commanders tell him, was told by the Chiefs that it is time.  But that doesn’t play well with his base so the “maverick” showed once again his lack of political or moral courage when is political ass is on the line.

The second issue is the Dream Act.  Now this one is beyond no-brainer.  This act would allow illegal immigrants, who through no fault of their own, were brought to this country by their parents when they were children, to become citizens by military service or getting a college education.  Even the military supports this one because it helps them continue our all-volunteer military.  Here we have the ideal immigrant, turning into patriotic citizens, and John McCain, who once sponsored this bill, is now against it.  Once again this is pandering to a base that is xenophobic and terrified of our brown Americans.

So this is what politics has come to.  This is the most immoral of behavior and reeks of political cowardice.  Is this what we call leadership?  I will sell my soul for a vote, any vote?  The answer to that is yes and if we can’t even do these simple obvious acts to right ourselves and reinforce our basic fundamental belief in rights and fairness, then how on earth are we going to do the really hard things that we will have to do to get this country back on track?  I have no idea.  If we don’t wake up to the depths we have sunk to soon, how selfish we have become, how averse we are to any sacrifice, then there is no hope for this country anymore.  Paris is looking better and better to retire to.  Even the crazy French are more rational than we are these days.

Calculated Denial

There was a commercial on TV the other night showing a gentleman in his mid-to-late fifties sitting in a coffee shop e-chatting with a friend about retirement and how their investments may not have turned out as hoped for their early retirement.  It was, of course, an investment firm commercial.  But it got me to thinking.  Does this America really exist anymore?  Not for most of us as I see it.  We all saw the interview with Governor Haley Barbour from Mississippi where he claimed there was no racial strife when he went to college.  It was all blown up by the press in the North.  Blacks and non-revisionist history in Mississippi tells a completely different story.  What these two stories reflect is an American rich and powerful totally out of touch with reality, living insular lives, and reinforcing their false perception of reality.

One the home front, I published a picture of one of my kite-birds whose role is to scare away ravenous birds who are feasting on my already damaged vineyard.  I could not resist a political analogy comparing the ravenous birds to the Republicans feasting on what is left of our economy (let’s cut more taxes for the rich).  A Republican friend of mine commented that since the Demos are in control of Washington, they are the problem.  When I pointed out that because of the filibuster anything that gets through Congress has a Republican stamp on it, he seemed incredulous that the Republicans have used the filibuster so many times (a record in the last two years) or control anything. Does he choose to just ignore this reality?

One of my favorite examples is Supreme Court Justice and totally out of touch jurist, Samuel Alito.  When President Obama lamented in his State of the Union Address that the Supreme Courts ruling in Citizens United that Corporations have the same rights as citizens and that there would be a massive flow of untracked corporate money into politics, Alito visibly disagreed during the speech.  Today, surprise, we have massive amounts of untracked corporate money flowing into Republican coffers.  It was one of the most egregious rulings that allowed the power of Corporations to basically control our elections.  An individual and a Corporation have the same rights?  The imbalance of power is immense.  What world does he live in?

But it isn’t just Republicans.  The Democrats in power seem to live in another similar bubble.  I listened to the Chairman of the Democratic Party once again try to advance the argument that the Democrats have done plenty and they just need to get the message out.  As I called it in one of my blogs, an argument to oblivion.  The economy for most of us is just getting worse and all the rest is just noise.  But even worse, the CNN interviewer (Candy Crowley) advanced the conventional wisdom (and wrong) that only liberals in the party believe that wasn’t enough.  The reality is anyone who is not rich, who is suffering in this economy, which would include Tea Partiers, the middle class, blue collar workers, and the poor, thinks they haven’t done enough.  They just disagree on what that enough should be.  Had the economy gotten better, we would not be having this discussion.

Republicans honestly believe that the failed policies of the Bush Administration, if just brought back, will get us back on track.  But the track we have been on for about the last 40 years is a path to our demise.  Whether Republican or Democrat, we have been pursuing policies that empower the rich over the rest of us in the false belief that we will all benefit.  If it worked and we were all getting an increase in our standard of living, then what the hey?  But the numbers don’t lie.  Poverty is increasing, the middle class is shrinking, wealth is being concentrated in a very few, and the country is in decline.  China, the regressive communist party, makes us look like we are living in the dark ages.  What has happened is that power has been transferred to corporations whose self-interest is counter to the country’s self interest.  It  has empowered the institutions of the status quo.

If you live in the Republican bubble, you surround yourself with people who tell you over and over that you deserve your wealth, business decisions should have nothing to do with social policy, and everyone else are just lazy socialist whiners.  You really believe in flow down because everyone in your country club is doing well.  It is a belief that is divorced from the reality of what is going on in the country and our slow demise.  If you live in a Democratic bubble, you think that you have made great strides in changing America and all you have to do is better communicate it (or for some, run from it because you are really moderate Republicans).  Again, it is a belief that is divorced from the reality of what is going on in the country.

Let’s face it.  Our policy makers are totally out of touch with the train wreck that is this country.  We hear over and over again that Americans are resilient and when the going gets tough, Americans are up to the challenge.  What reality shows us is that they are anything but.  They want fixes without sacrifice.  Tea Partiers represent the anger about the reality versus the political speak and will throw anyone who is in power out.  Their policy of small taxes and less government is a reflection of their selfishness. They irrationally do not see this path as their slow demise as our government and economy crumbles as they give more and more power to corporations.  Progressive are angry about the same thing, but at least without the selfishness.  They see that government has not really changed, and they see the failure of their party to represent them.  But right now this anger is mindless.

Let me ask you a few questions.  When was the last time you turned on the news and there was an honest and informed discussion about policy?  I don’t mean two political hacks whose job is to make their respective parties look good, but non-partisan review and discussion of our way forward.  Do tax cuts really help in a truly depressed economy?  What kinds of government spending will truly stimulate the economy?  What does history tells us about trying to be deficit hawks in a repressed economy?  Is it possible to have a recovery for Middle America if their spending power continues to erode?  If we continue to transfer more and more wealth to the rich, what does that say about our future?  What kind of good jobs are available for our middle class which China and other emerging economies cannot under cut?  Or how about an honest discussion of continued tax cuts and their impact on the deficit or Social Security and Medicare?  So we continue in this world of denial where two parties play their ideological games, our pundits talk about the politics or ideology, and we get nothing about the efficacy of their policies except political spinning.

If Republican policies worked, I would be a Republican.  But Republican policies only work for those that already have.  Continuing down this road will turn America into the rich and the peasants.  Democrats have become more conservative over the years, continuing the policies of favoring the rich.  But it is a new world out there.  Old solutions won’t work when we have economies like China nipping at our heels.  If we are to regain our power and wealth, it will only come with an expanding middle class.  How we get there should be the real debate.  Clearly what we have done in the past has not worked.  So just where is that debate?  Instead we have denial and an attempt to return to a simpler America that doesn’t exist.  You know the line, “Just common sense of regular folks.”  I am sorry but our problems are so much more complicated than a trip back through memory lane..  I’ll be glad when the denial and incestuous thinking is over and we are ready to have a rational discussion about our reality and our future.  It is not about more government or less government.  It is about policies that might require more government in some things, and less in others, but more importantly about policies that actually work instead of ideological dogma.

Religion

The other night I caught a really interesting documentary on PBS about the Aztecs. Here was a very advanced society that believed that if they didn’t sacrifice human beings by cutting their beating hearts out and offering it up to the gods, the universe would collapse. As I watched it I was, of course, repulsed by the act of sacrificing men, women, and children, and wondered how a whole society could be so demented and cruel. Then I thought about Mormon girls raised to be child brides or they would go to hell and believing it devoutly. We are trapped by what we have been indoctrinated with as a child and the reality of reality seems to have no effect.

The Christian religion, based upon the New Testament is a rewrite of the Old Testament to make God more palatable. The Old Testament is a testament to cruelty and injustice and yet we hold on to it dearly. We believe in a god who gives us wonderful miracles which we attribute to him, but never hold him accountable for the tragedies. Much of our world of politics, whether the rise once again of the intolerance of the religious right in the guise of the Tea Party, or the actions of radical Muslims is driven by a belief in a giant lie. Jesus was probably a little wacko who if the Romans hadn’t crucified him, would have faded into history.  But as I look on the Aztecs, maybe now I can at least understand it. Many people are trapped by their early indoctrination and they just can’t get free.  They will do anything for structure even if it denies everything they see around them.  It gives them comfort in the storm, albeit, false comfort.  Just think about the Aztecs.  They felt warm and protected after their sacrifice to their gods.  We have changed so little really.