He’s No Hitler

I don’t know why some Tea Party protestors want to compare President Obama to Hitler. I never liked it when liberals compared President Bush to Hitler either.  Why do angry, political powerless, protestors feel they are using their trump card when linking their enemies to Hitler?  The protest placards are far more damning to their makers than those they target.  Few leaders in history can be compared to Hitler.  His evil qualities are so extreme that its simple-minded to use Hitler as any kind of measuring stick to gauge the average politician.  It’s like comparing firecrackers to H-bombs.

If the Tea Party people want to make comparisons they should compare Obama to a previous President they think pursued the same goals they hate.  I would imagine that would be Lyndon Johnson, or even FDR.  Strangely, the reason why I didn’t like President Bush was because his Iraq War was a whole lot like LBJ’s Vietnam War.  Our political landscape needs no comparison to Germany, Russia or China, we’ve been fighting our own unique issues since George Washington became President.  What’s sad is the Tea Party people scream so much about 1776 but they can’t see how we got from then to now and why we can’t go backwards.

The political right’s seeing red over Obama actually has little to with the man, but is just a continuation of a long term Hatfield and McCoy like feud.  Obama is just the liberal figurehead that sits in the Oval Office at the moment.  The righteous indignation of the conservatives always thinks liberal leaders, especially strong ones, are as evil as Hitler or Stalin.  Conversely, extreme liberals compare strong conservatives to Hitler when they are in office.  We need to analyze why?  (And who was the ultimate evil bad guy before WWII used in insults?)

Shouting the name Hitler is about as creative as people who use both phrases: “that’s some good shit” and “that’s some bad shit” in their day-to-day lives.  Comparing people to Hitler is only meaningful is you’re talking about Stalin, Pol Pot, Chairman Mao, Idi Amin and to a lesser degree, Saddam Hussein.

The Tea Party movement is really just sore losers crying over spilt milk.  Sarah Palin has nothing constructive to say politically.  What Obama has done while he is in office is not significantly different from what a conservative President would have done except for the healthcare bill, and if Republicans won the White House every term even they would have had to passed healthcare reform sooner or later, and it might not have been that much different from what the Democrats created.  The healthcare bill had no public option and is built around private insurance, an idea originating with Republicans.  Changing times force political changes, not ideology.

The momentum of economic reality rolls on no matter which party is in the White House.  So far we’ve been lucky and had no real Hitlers.  If Obama was like Hitler, Fox News would be shut down, and all their commentators dead.  Also, if any of our Presidents had really been like Hitler, the U.S.A. would have collapsed.  Our diversity could not support such extremism.

It’s much too early to tell how good or bad a President Obama will be.  Anyone blaming Obama for our present situation really needs to blame hordes of politicians, from both parties, going back decades.

What we have to worry about is the educational level of people comparing any of our Presidents to Hitler.  In fact, I think we should discount any political protestor or commentator who can’t reference a realistic comparison to past American political leaders and policies, and make reasonable links to previous problems and solutions.   People who use the name Hitler in protest are just people who have forgotten history, or never really knew it in the first place.

Evoking the name of Hitler is a kind of terrorist tactic, or Chicken Little exclaiming that the sky is falling.  It depresses me.  I’ve seen TV coverage where Tea Party people are outrage at the media coverage they get, and are even becoming critical of their own who go to extremes.  They don’t like being call racists or crackpots, and who can blame them, but it’s the extreme protest signs and rhetoric that get them on the news.  I’d take their protests more seriously as a third party if they didn’t make those extreme attacks on President Obama. 

The policies of any President are always open to criticism, but comparing any President to Hitler or Stalin is low IQ.  I’ve always hated Michael Moore political tactics too.  People have really sunk to a low point if they use Sacha Cohen’s tactics to attack one another.  It’s strange when conservatives follow in the footsteps of Abbie Hoffman, but then I’m sure there have always been mean spirited, underhanded, attackers protesting the power holders in Washington.

I guess I’m just overly sensitive to hot blooded, emotionally charged people.  I found it amusing the other day on the news when a roving reporter asked a Tea Party protestor about his sign comparing Obama to Hitler.  The guy said quietly that he meant no disrespect.  I wondered if he was actually embarrassed.  I bet he’d wished he had created a more creative slogan, equal to “Don’t tread on me” or “No taxation without representation.”  I guess the Tea Party has yet to find their Tom Paine or Ben Franklin.  It’s a shame the best they can do is a brunette Ann Coulter.  

JWH – 4/17/10

An Alternate History of The Tea Party

Let’s imagine The Tea Party movement starting much earlier so they were firmly in power by 2008 and got to make the decisions that President Bush and Obama made.  Let’s imagine they released the Kraken of absolute free economic survival of the fittest capitalism.  What would our world be like today in 2010?

Picture all those top banks, AIG, GM and Chrysler going down the tubes.  Then imagine all their business partners going under, and the domino effect that would have.  What would Wall Street and our 401k accounts look like today?  And with all those people out of work would the Tea Party even offer a stimulus package?  Let’s assume not.  Let’s assume they really want absolute free markets and a small government like they claim.  What would the unemployment figure be today?  No one really knows.  But I do believe all the states would be much worse off today, and so would their retirement systems for state employees.

Our whole way of life is built on a giant Ponzi scheme of economic activity.  If the economy slows everyone suffers.  The loan crisis of 2008 was a hydrogen bomb hitting Wall Street, and what the Tea Party philosophy appears to say is “Absolutely no disaster relief.”

As much as free market capitalists would like to believe, there is no such thing as a free market.  All the governments of the world back their citizens and corporations to compete in various ways.  The Federal Government has always been a stimulus package for our economy.  To have true free markets we’d have to have no government involvement.  Government would only be for roads, militia, police, and all those other shared services, but not for helping America to compete in the world markets, or to help corporations and individuals survive within the United States.

If we followed the Tea Party philosophy we’d have to stop subsidizing industries like farming and oil.  Big government means lots of jobs.  Big government means helping corporations get bigger which means even more jobs.  Social services means supporting people who would otherwise be looking for jobs.  Applying the Tea Party philosophy means destroying tens of millions of jobs.

If the Tea Party had gotten their way in 2008 I believe we’d have devastating unemployment today, with all the retirement systems, including federal, state, corporate, personal savings, etc. would have been wiped out, and we’d have even a larger portion of the population without medical insurance.  The economic Kraken would have eaten us up and shitted us out.  But I can’t prove that, but I find it hard to believe otherwise.

What the Tea Party philosophy wants to believe  is absolute Darwinian survival of the fittest.  And theoretically that might sound good.  During our great pioneering days, the weak died, and the strong got stronger.  But then we invented democracy and organized into a cooperative civilization.  This allow millions to get stronger, grow and thrive.

The history of America is really the history of cooperative effort.  Do we really want to go back to era of pioneering when only the strongest individuals survived?  Sure, the strongest level of cooperation then was the family structure.  I really admire the pioneering spirit of those days, but its only suited for an extremely low population density.

I don’t think the Tea Party people really want to shrink the government that small.  I expect most of them are really just nostalgic for the 1950s sized government.  But try and imagine a world without Medicare and Medicaid?  My mother’s last twenty years cost a lot of money in terms of medical care that neither she nor me and my sister could have afforded.  And I imagine that’s true of most people in the U.S.  And that governmental supported health care for the elderly and poor created millions of jobs.

I just don’t see how we can go backwards without putting millions out of work.  What the Tea Party philosophy wants would so thoroughly reshape our society.  Some would get much richer, but most would get much poorer.

All the political conflict in our country comes down to one analogy:  There is a knob that adjusts the economy.  Turn it one way and it strengthens the individual, turn it the other way, it strengthens the whole.  Many Tea Party people believe they would be strengthened by turning the knob to the right.  Want to know if that’s true for you?  If you are already rich then you have what it takes and that turn of the knob will help you.  If you aren’t rich, more than likely you’ll be in the whole that gets poorer.  The strong are already strong.  Very few people sit on the borderline and would be freed to find new wealth.

Sure it would be nice to pay less tax.  If we paid 10% or 25% less would our individual lives be that much better?  I would think it would put millions our of work, so for the whole it would bring misery.  Would some of our problems be solved if we all paid a little more?  I don’t know.  I think we should be taxed less in good times, and more in bad, simply to share the good and the bad more fairly.

The Tea Party protestors seem so angry at the government, believing less government would improve our lives.  If we had better banking regulators and economists, couldn’t we have avoided some of these economic tragedies?  The economy seems to be getting slowly better, and isn’t that due to government intrusion?  I am not very political, but I don’t see the size of the government as a problem.  When I hear about tainted food, I want more food inspectors.  When I hear about terrorists I want more security guards.  When I hear that China and India want to go to the Moon, I want NASA to go back. 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think everything runs smoothly, or every tax dollar is spent wisely.  If bean counters can find ways to cut the fat, or watchdogs find ways to get rid of graft and corruption, or economists can come up with ways to do things cheaper, I’m all for it.  I just don’t see the point of making the government smaller if we have to give up services that the majority wants.

Wasn’t the original Tea Party a protest against taxation without representation?  We get lots of opportunity to vote and have our voices heard.  And if the Tea Party people had something specific they wanted, their job is to get the majority to agree.  They are being heard, but their protests are more about anger than legislation.  Being against health care reform is just swimming against the tide when many nations much poorer than us already have it.  That’s just the way the world is going.  We can’t go backwards, especially if we want the U.S. to stay the world leader 

And don’t get me wrong, there is lots to protest about.  The stimulus money could have been better managed.  People losing their homes should have gotten more help.  People without jobs should be getting help faster.  I think our government is constantly evolving and improving, and sure it has tremendous problems, but over time those will be fixed and new ones will show up.  We’ll always have problems and we’ll never reach perfection.

Sarah Palin, The Tea Party, Fox News, and all the politics of anger scares me.  I want a stable law and order society and these people are advocating revolution.  I feel now how my parents felt in the 1960s.  I’m sure many people are tired of liberal progress, but if they studied history, they would see even as far back as pre-history the evolution of liberal thought.  The evolution of liberal ideas have been progressing for a very long time.  It’s so ironic that conservatives worship the liberal heroes of the past.

Conservatives are just liberals who want to get off the progress train.  No matter how right wing some conservatives are, many of their cherished beliefs were once radical.  I am reminded of the ending to the movie Things to Come, where two scientists are watching the first flight to the Moon:

An observatory at a high point above Everytown. A telescopic mirror of the night sky showing the cylinder as a very small speck against a starry background. Cabal and Passworthy stand before this mirror.

CABAL: “There! There they go! That faint gleam of light.”

Pause.

PASSWORTHY: “I feel–what we have done is–monstrous.”

CABAL: “What they have done is magnificent.”

PASSWORTHY: “Will they return?”

CABAL: “Yes. And go again. And again–until the landing can be made and the moon is conquered. This is only a beginning.”

PASSWORTHY: “And if they don’t return–my son, and your daughter? What of that, Cabal?”

CABAL (with a catch in his voice but resolute): “Then presently–others will go.”

PASSWORTHY: “My God! Is there never to be an age of happiness? Is there never to be rest?”

CABAL: “Rest enough for the individual man. Too much of it and too soon, and we call it death. But for MAN no rest and no ending. He must go on–conquest beyond conquest. This little planet and its winds and ways, and all the laws of mind and matter that restrain him. Then the planets about him, and at last out across immensity to the stars. And when he has conquered all the deeps of space and all the mysteries of time–still he will be beginning.”

PASSWORTHY: “But we are such little creatures. Poor humanity. So fragile–so weak.”

CABAL: “Little animals, eh?”

PASSWORTHY: “Little animals.”

CABAL: “If we are no more than animals–we must snatch at our little scraps of happiness and live and suffer and pass, mattering no more–than all the other animals do–or have done.” (He points out at the stars.) “It is that–or this? All the universe–or nothingness…. Which shall it be, Passworthy?”

The two men fade out against the starry background until only the stars remain.

The musical finale becomes dominant.

CABAL’S voice is heard repeating through the music: “Which shall it be, Passworthy? Which shall it be?”

The role of the conservative is not to stop progress, but to make progress stable and orderly.  Wild eyed liberals need conservative reason.  There is no communication anymore between the two polarized camps, so we’ve stopped working together.  We both just fear each other’s ideas.  Now that the liberals have gotten healthcare reform maybe we should focus on fiscal conservation and let the other side have some wins too.  Our progress seems to have scared the conservatives into becoming radicals, where they are even willing to abandon their old love of law and order.

JWH – 4/6/10

The Human Family Tree – National Geographic

The Human Family Tree is a 2-hour documentary that explains why race is an optical illusion.  The show will be repeated 09/06/09 at 1pm, but is also available on Netflix now.  Because of the wonders of DNA and genetic markers, scientists are able to trace the migrations of human populations back to their origins in Africa.  Be sure and watch the show until the end, where the filmmakers do a wonderful trick with their participants.  At the beginning of the show, project director Spencer Wells visits a street fair in Queens, New York and his team takes cheek swaps from crowds of people, all claiming to be immigrants from all over the world.  Many people volunteer and their stories get told during the documentary.  Most of these people expect the DNA to confirm their family genealogy that they cherish and has been handed down to them by word of mouth and photos.

At the end of the show the filmmakers meet outdoors in a giant field and have all the volunteers stand in groups based on the prominent markers in their DNA.  The groups are roughly arranged like a map of the world.  Many of the people whose stories were featured on the show are surprised by what their biology reveals, like one black man grouped with the Europeans and one Puerto Rican woman grouped with Native Americans.

The show is full of wonderful computer animation, beautiful high-definition filmed sequences from all over the world and staged scenes that act out what life was like tens of thousand of years ago.  Science really has learned vast libraries of statistical knowledge from combining anthropology and DNA research.  What it shows is racial characteristics are insignificant compared to all the rest of our traits.  Essentially humans are almost identical, far more so than other animal species.  We may look very different, but our DNA tells us otherwise.  In fact, one of the more interesting tidbits to come out of the show is that Africa is the most genetically diverse continent because it’s population is the oldest.

Watching this documentary makes an excellent companion to the book I am listening to, The Evolution of God by Robert Wright, which explores the rise of religion across the globe starting with hunting and gathering societies.  Wright measures the development of religion by how well it deals with ethnic diversity.  Even though humans are all alike, we’ve always been very xenophobic, and the presentation of The Human Family Tree would be in accordance to the highest spiritual development in religious philosophy as explored by Wright. 

It would be fascinating to chronicle the religious history against the histories of the various migrating populations that the DNA markers reveal.  Would it be possible to follow the paths of memes like paths of genetic material in our blood?  The majority of the world’s worshipers in God build their beliefs on the political and social conflicts of one tiny group of people, living in one tiny part of the world, concerning events that happened two and three thousand years ago, while ignoring all the religious practices of vast hordes of people that migrated all over the globe.  But then most of those religions were tied to local ethnocentric and highly xenophobic tribes.  We are becoming global on so many levels.

The Human Family Tree makes social, philosophical and political statements through it’s work with exploring the science of DNA, with implications that are far greater than teaching us about human migration patterns.  As graphically illustrated in the show, everyone has two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandparents, and if you follow the math it doesn’t take that many generations until you are related to nearly everyone on Earth.

Most people don’t know much about their ancestors beyond their grandparents or maybe one of their great grandparents, so they imagine their heritage coming from one individual.  But if you go back a few hundred years and had to picture yourself the product of 128 or 256 individuals, what can you claim to be?  It’s hard enough to spot traits you get from two parents, so why imagine yourself to be the product of any race, culture, country, or other identity?  All we can be is the human we are at the moment and any cultural heritage is just silly pretending.

JWH – 9/4/9

State of the Union

According the Republicans, the United States is the most perfect nation on Earth, and can do no wrong, except that they hate the size of the federal government, think we have too many laws, we’re way over taxed, and our ideal political system is crushing their personal freedom.  On the other hand, Democrats think the United States is a magnificent country that keeps making huge mistakes that could easily be fixed if we pass the right laws, raise taxes to pay for the right programs, and act cool with the other nations.

The state of our political union is a polarized ideology that operates a political machine that’s so big that change of momentum is almost impossible.  For decades now we’re pretty much a divided population that throws mud at each other.  Both tickets practically blather about the change they will bring about, but will either man actually do anything beyond ride the tiger?

I think Congress has dug itself into a hole so deep with partisan politics, influenced by special interests, corrupted by pork barrel dealings, that we’re almost in political gridlock.  I’m tired of being a citizen that feels like my only power is to root for my team, the Democrats, hoping the Republican team will lose the game this time.  How can we get ahead when at each election half the population goes home mad?

I think we need to introduce a change.  One tiny change, and see if it has the right ripple effects.  And I don’t think it should be a top down change, we could never agree on something so big.  I was thinking we could make one change in how Congress conducts business that might improve things in a way that would make more people happy on both sides of the political spectrum.

I think we should pass a law that Congress can only vote on one item in each bill.  In the debates the candidates keep slinging attacks by using voting records, but it’s always deceptive because they can claim they didn’t vote for a particular bill because of another item in the bill.

With such a simple change, voting records would be much clearer.  However, it would solve other problems too.  A lot of corrupt wheeling and dealing in Congress is done by attachments to a bill that allow special interests to get what they want, or congressmen to get pork for their districts.  If every bill had to be based on one item, I think politics would be much cleaner and clearer.  Look how backers of the financial bail-out package are having to buy votes with pork promises.

Another thing I noticed during the bail-out crisis was how Congressmen justified their vote by claiming to be responding to phone calls and emails from their constituents.  I think if every bill had only one item it would be far easier for the public to understand and express their opinion.  Every Congressmen could put web polls for forthcoming bills and let their voters have their say before making their vote in the House or Senate.

I think making this one change in how we play the game could have lots of ramifications that might break the gridlock and depolarize our political system.  Think about it.  When you watch the news see how often issues come up that are related to bills with multiple items being quickly pushed through the system.  Our political representatives seem to be getting lazy, and want to make huge packages that have a little something for everyone, but are bad for the nation as a whole.

JWH 9-19-8

Genetics Versus Choice in Politics

Charles Gibson, from ABC News, interviewing Sarah Palin asked her about homosexuality, giving her the choice between genetic or learned.  Palin dodged the question, but I got to wondering about the implication of that question.  I assume Gibson was using it as a touchstone question for gauging just how conservative Palin might be.  Conservatives want to believe everything in life is a choice and that we’re morally judged by our behavior.  Liberals consider some behavior genetic and believe that changes how society should be run.

What if some behavior was absolutely proven to be genetic?  How would that affect politics?  Scientists often say they have found a genetic link to various diseases and conditions, but I don’t think all people accept science at this level as being true.  To many people it’s as vague as understanding the theory of evolution.  What would it take for science to convince the majority of people that genetics is a fact of life?  Most people accept the science of aerodynamics even though they don’t understand it because they buy airline tickets.

If the science of genetics evolved to the point with near 100% accuracy to predict future behavior from pre-natal testing would that be convincing?  If all pregnant women got a blood test and one of the factors given was a 75% chance of having a homosexual kid, and studies later showed that 75% of those kids did indeed turn out to be homosexual, would conservatives accept the science of genetics and its implications?

We know that conservatives can radically alter their positions – Sarah Palin is proof of that because accepting her as suitable for commander in chief asserts an acceptance of radical feminist ideals from forty years ago.  If homosexuality is proven to be part of nature, will conservatives accept that and love their gay and lesbian kids?  Or will their loathing of homosexuality change their position on abortion?

What if the science of genetics goes further.  What if genetic testing could predict that children will become atheists, criminals, terrorists or even Democrats or Republicans?  Will fundamentalists be willing to abort Democrats as fetuses, or a family of Yellow Dog Democrats want to abort a young Republican?

Am I an atheist because of genetics or choice?  Growing up I thought at age 12 I was making a decision on my own to abandon primitive superstition, but as I’ve grown older I’ve sometimes wondered if atheism isn’t just my nature.  I went to the same schools as my peers, and went to church with them too, so why do 90% of boomers think about God, and us other 10% don’t?  Maybe there’s a constant 10% of skeptics in every generation, no matter what the educational system is like.  Would pro-life fundamentalists accept abortion if they thought they could stomp out atheism in a few generations?

Or would conservatives feel less threatened if they knew that homosexuals and atheists were just weird breeds in the population like Calico cats.  I’m not the kind of atheist that wants to convert religious people.  I believe that genetics makes some people religious and it does no good to try and make them scientific.  To me, atheists who try to convert for their cause are like religious people who try to shanghai people into their belief systems.  I’d like to believe if people read and study enough on a subject they will come to their own conclusions, but I don’t know if that’s a scientific truth.

What I would like is a political system that allows everyone to pursue their on beliefs as long as they don’t interfere or harm other people and their beliefs.  And I think that was what the American founders intended for our American way of life.  The problem we face today is some people think their personal beliefs, maybe genetic in origin, should be how 100% of people should believe and those beliefs should be codified into law.  Some of the extremes of this thinking would like to get rid of homosexuals, atheists, liberals and environmentalists.

To these thinkers, that’s the path to a successful government and a happy population.  But think about this.  If GM and Ford, and the auto unions had supported conservation and environmental recommendations from back in the 70s and 80s instead of seeking to politically change laws to meet their own self interests they wouldn’t be heading down that steep economic decline towards bankruptcy.

I know this illustration might sound like it’s coming out of left field, but hear me out.  What I’m saying is government laws that were meant to protect all people would have been much more beneficial to the special interests of the auto industry if they had not interfered.  The American auto industry inflicted it’s own near mortal wounds by getting laws customized for their way of thinking.  If they had had to compete with world auto makers under the laws that were meant to help everyone, they would still be prosperous today.

Whether our behavior is learned or programmed by genes, it should not matter to our laws.  We need laws designed for the common good that ignore special interests.  We need to accept diversity and account for it in our legal system.  Gays getting married should not affect fundamentalists who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, if we have a system that allow for both.  To me the solution is simple.  Have two kinds of marriages, the first, a basic legal marriage that meets state and federal laws, good for all people, and a second marriage within churches that meet the laws of their gods, for those people that have extra special interests.

My mother-in-law never believe my wife and I were properly married because we weren’t married within the Catholic Church, but the laws of the nation believe we are married.  If I believed like my mother-in-law, I would have converted and gotten married in the Catholic Church.  The law of the land would have no affect on that.

By the special interest beliefs of Catholics, anyone not married in the Catholic Church is not married.  Should that be the law of the land?  See my point.  This world will never know which religion is right so we have to create laws that work for all religions.  We need generalized rules for laws, and let people pick their own specialized beliefs that they keep to themselves.

I don’t know if our behaviors are programmed or created by our free will, but should that affect the political system?  We need a system that works either way, or any combination of the two.  As long as I can be an atheist I don’t care if other people are Christian, Jew, Muslin, Pagan or Hindu.  Governor Palin should have said to Charlie Gibson, “It doesn’t matter if homosexuality is learned or genetic, the American way should protect them to the fullest extent of the law.”  Our only enemies that we should abort are those that threaten us physically or interfere with our ability to pursue happiness through American ideals.  Those are the true terrorists, whether from outside of the country that want to attack our way of life, or criminals that want destroy our system from within.

Jim

Sarah Palin

Last night while watching Sarah Palin speak at the Republican convention I came the closest I ever have to wanting to vote conservative.  Sarah Palin is one of the most engaging plain-talking politicians I’ve ever heard.  What’s terribly amusing is she is a product of liberal evolution.  It’s been only a few years back that most conservatives believed that women belonged in the kitchen, and less than a century since they were allowed to vote.  It would be rather ironic if the conservatives elect the first woman Vice President and possible future President.

Conservatives may not like change, but they are adapting quite well with Sarah Palin.  They have been quick to accept the idea that she should be treated like a man and be freed of maternal slavery so she can put in the long hours needed be a political leader.  It’s either that, or not allow any candidate, male or female, with dependent children to work in the White House.  Hell, it hasn’t been that many years since I’ve heard conservatives talk about how women can’t be President because of hormones.  I’m proud of you Republicans for evolving in your liberal thinking.  Now, if you could only get over your hang-ups over gays and lesbians.

I really liked John McCain’s comments tonight about Obama and how we’re all Americans.  I get so sick of Republicans acting like liberals aren’t patriotic, and believe we don’t love this country as much as they do.  Republicans have this really offensive behavior of thinking that anyone that doesn’t agree with their philosophy is a traitor to the U.S.A.  I think that attitude is un-American because it erodes free thinking and encourages ugly group-think.  I believe the McCain-Palin ticket has tried to back off from acting like that.  I think McCain knows it’s offensive, but I don’t know about Palin yet, with her pit-bull with lipstick demeanor.

While listening to Sarah Palin I had to keep reminding myself why I don’t vote Republican.  The thing is I have lots of conservative beliefs myself, but Republicans have such a smug holier-than-thou attitude towards everything that I don’t think I’d fit in with my Hamlet like indecisiveness of seeing a thousand gray shades in every issue.  Besides, they really hate atheistic evolutionists like me.

Of course I also have problems with Democratic ideals too.  I’m comfortable in the political middle and feel both parties are extremists.  I’m for free trade and globalism, lower taxes, smaller government, but I’m also for helping the poor, some entitlements, and a minimal level of universal health care.  I love both business and the environment.  I think abortion should be legal but wished no one would ever get one.  I think capital punishment can be an ethical solution but doubt if we have the discernment to see the true distinctions in what’s involved.  I think war is often necessary, that it’s important to keep a prepared military, that the Iraq War might be the biggest mistake our country ever made, but since we broke it we should pay for it.  I wished the Republicans would admit that Iraq was a huge mistake and I wished the Democrats would admit that sticking with the surge and going the distance is the right thing to do.

Politics is so far from black and white that I can’t believe people get so polarized.  I disagree with many of Sarah Palin political stances, but I think she might make a good leader.  I think her small town salt-of-the-earth good-people philosophy is fine as long as she doesn’t press personal and religious beliefs into law for everyone.

I have an odd view about Republicans and Democrats in relation to religion.  I think Republicans are really Old Testament thinkers, and Democrats are followers of the New Testament.  The Old Testament is about God, the Law and the Chosen people.  The New Testament is all about compassion for the poor, sharing the wealth of the fish and loaves, understanding criminals and prostitutes, and so on.  The Old Testament is about being powerful, prospering, forming a strong nation to please God, and most of all, law and order.  The New Testament is about uplifting the meek and helpless, understanding your neighbors, and walking in other people’s shoes, breaking out of the old ways and forging a compassionate philosophy.

I can understand all that Old Testament thinking – it’s how mankind got its act together to create civilization.  The New Testament is the origin of liberal thought.  It’s the beginning of the shift from believing that the nation is of ultimate importance, to the shift in valuing the importance of the individual.  All people in this world, except the most extreme fundamentalists have been affected by liberal thought.  The trouble with the most extreme liberals is they threaten the stability of the nation.  For example, would universal healthcare damage the economy?  Would gay marriage threaten the social fabric?

In other words, I can understand why conservatives are threatened by liberals.  But to my conservative friends, has women in the military, boardrooms, legislative houses and maybe the White House hurt us?  Is education about how not to get pregnant or acquire a STD so scary, especially when children are bombarded with pro-sex television, movies, books, songs, and advertisement from the time they are tiny?  Sex education in the schools of any kind is completely anti-sex compared to pop culture.  And do you not realize that teaching creationism or intelligent design is defective thinking similar to astrology, Tarot cards and palm reading – something the Enlightenment passed by hundreds of years ago?

If the Republicans get more liberal, more into the New Testament, more concerned about the environment, maybe I’ll consider voting for them.  Sarah Palin, I think you are beautiful, charming, full of grit and sand, honest, and worthy of the job, but also still too Old Testament scary for me.

Jim

The Economics of Inefficiency

During bad economic times people seek ways to get more for their money – in other words they try to become efficient spenders.  The trouble with that thinking, it’s bad for the economy.  What we want is a thriving economy where there’s a chicken in every pot and the future is rosy.  Woefully, a thriving economy is highly inefficient.

Take saving money.  All money advisors advise people get out of debt, save a portion of their salary and only buy what they’ve saved up for – good Puritan ideals.  If everyone followed this advice we’d fall into a world-wide depression.  The economic success of all depends on everyone spending as much money as they can.  If we had a world where the only credit card spending was paid off at the end of the month, people wouldn’t buy nine-tenths of the crap that they do.  That’s a lot of people out of jobs.  And when those folks lose their jobs, even more bad things happen, and a recession becomes a growing snowball rolling down hill.

There’s always a silver economic lining, even to bad things.  If everyone was honest we wouldn’t need jails, police, lawyers, judges, counselors, bail bondsmen, mystery writers, cop show producers, and so on, as I’m sure you get the idea.  I hate the idea of crime.  Crime is the true terrorism in America.  But ending crime would be like one of those stories about a person finding a Genie in a bottle and getting a wish that turns out disturbingly screwed up.  If someone did get to make that wish and tomorrow all illegal activity stopped we’d have a whole lot of honest people out of work, and a lot of criminals previously not working, would be looking for jobs too.  Could the world’s economies handle the impact of so much ethical behavior?  I’d much prefer a crime-free efficient economy and the main way to reduce crime is for the economy to produce a lot of good jobs.  It’s a Catch-22.

The same reverse philosophy could be applied to the advice about eating right and pursuing healthy lifestyles.  If everyone ate healthy, how many people would be out of work when all the fast food restaurants went belly up?  Add in the junk food makers, their related industries, vending machines, packaging, salesmen, suppliers, warehouses, etc.  And then think about all the health care workers that clean up after we lead lives of poor healthy choices.  Sure, we’d produce a lot more sport fitness jobs, but would they make up for all the lost careers selling evil calories?

What if everyone bought the store brands instead of the big name brands?  What if everyone jettison their designer clothes and shopped at Target and Penney’s?  What if everyone wore sensible shoes and drove practical cars?  What if people gave up vanity, putting the make-up makers and cosmetic surgeons out of business?  What if everyone stole their MP3 songs and DVD movies?

Certain things in life are vital:  air, water, food, shelter and jobs.  And maybe jobs should be listed third because getting food and shelter without a job is very difficult.  Right now America is in a panic over an economic downturn and we see everything about the future through the spectacles of fear.  It doesn’t seem to matter that there’s more peace and prosperity now than at any time during all of history.

Everyone is wailing and gnashing their teeth that gasoline costs $4 a gallon.  Forecasters have been predicting that for forty damn years – so why all the tantrums?  Nor do people seem to notice that the high price of gasoline comes just at the perfect time when we need to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels because of war and global warming.  It’s a good thing.  It’s our second warning before economic hell comes to town.  We knew back in the 1970s that living off of cheap oil was like borrowing from the Mafia.  Is it so surprising they’re breaking our legs right now?  And we really haven’t had a true oil crisis, because no one is going without yet.  Wait until there are oil shortages.  That’s when they chain cement blocks to us and throw us in the ocean.  Are you ready for the day when there will be no gasoline for sale at the pumps?  Gas lines are just one terrorist act or hurricane away.

Cheap fossil fuels made for wonderful sensible things like wooden toys made on one side of the planet, practical to sell to people on the other side of the globe.  See where the economics of inefficiency come in?  We use cheap fossil fuels to move our fat asses, which desperately need exercise, around in 6000 pound vehicles, instead of vehicles, if they were efficiently designed, weighing in at 500-1000 pounds, and use renewable energy instead of molecules sequestered by the Earth millions of years ago to get carbon out of the atmosphere and allow life to blossom.

We may be the smartest creatures in creation, but heck, we ain’t smart enough not to poison our only habitat.  When you live in the basket with all your eggs, eating omelettes every day is dangerous.

To pull ourselves out of this economic mess we need to learn to consume more while using less, a Zen koan if there ever was one.  Moving music to MP3 files is a perfect example.  Distributing MP3 music requires an infinitely small fraction of the resources it took to make and sell CDs.  The demise of the CD puts a lot businesses and people out of work, but if the music industry worked it right they could eventually create a lot more jobs.  This economic theory fails if you steal the MP3s.

If everyone had solar panels on their roofs it would require the creation of whole new industries and millions of jobs.  To feed and educate all the needy people in the world would create more millions of jobs.  To build houses that withstand hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires and severe weather of the changing climate will create more millions of jobs.  There is no end of jobs to be create because of need.  There is plenty of economic activity, both efficient and inefficient if you have the vision to see it.

I know a lot of Americans are suffering because of the current economic crisis, but I have to agree with Phil Gramm that part of our economic recession is a “mental recession” and we’re doing too much whining.  Hell, we’re not living in Afghanistan.  What happened to that American spirit of when the going gets tough, the tough get going?  I’m voting for Obama, but I didn’t like his quip about not needing another Dr. Phil.  We need all the positive thinkers we can get.  There’s lot about McCain that I like, and if he wins I won’t be too unhappy, but his spin-control pandered to voters rather than exploring the point I think Gramm was trying to make.

During election times all voters become beggars looking for handouts demanding that their politicians promise and promise and promise.  Politicians get nowhere if they aren’t leaders.  Of course sometimes they lead us off the cliff into places like Iraq, but didn’t George Bush take us there because he was playing off the country’s fear?  We’re living in the current economic chaos because of greed and the refusal to think and pay attention.  Do we really need brilliant hindsight to know that making house loans to people who can’t afford them is silly or owning SUVs are a bad idea when oil was predicted to run out forty years ago?

Our crazy economy reminds me of the classic science fiction story, “The Midas Plague” by Frederik Pohl, where consumerism drives the economy so much that the poor are forced to change clothes several times a day to keep up with production – because to make less would hurt the economy.  In this bizarro world, the rich get the freedom to live without being consumers, but the poor must consume like hamsters on a wheel to keep the economy going.

Who’s fault is it if we take the most powerful and prosperous country in the world and run into the economic ground because we all like to make bad choices?  For decades we have built an economy on inefficiency.  What happens to China when we stop buying all that crap we don’t need?  What happens to the U.S. if China suffers an economic chill?  It’s like “The Midas Plague,” we could stimulate the economy by forcing the poor to go into debt and buy a new HD TV every month.

Right now everyone is panicking and cutting back on their spending, but if you wanted to help the economy, you should be doing just the opposite.  Now, here’s the crucial part – your economic decision has impact.  You can make an efficient choice, or a wasteful choice.  If you buy a new HVAC that uses 1/3 the energy as your old one, then you have stimulated the economy and reduced the demand on fossil fuels, plus saved yourself some bucks.  If you fly to Paris for a vacation, you have helped the airlines, but hurt the rest of us by increasing the demand for oil.  You can’t win for losing sometimes.  But if you had the choice between flying on a plane fueled by green technology or old technology, your choice could build a new industry.

We need to cowboy up and channel our ancestor’s pioneering spirit.  We need to take responsibility for our actions.  Like the old Pogo cartoon said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  Whether gasoline is $2 or $4 or $7 a gallon, the choice is made by us, we set the price.  If you want gasoline to go to $7 a gallon, keep burning oil like there’s no end of it, live like the oil companies will always find new resources, use it like we’ve been doing for the last thirty years.  Keep panicking over the economy and oil prices will rise.  Keep advocating going to war with Iran and oil prices will rise.

We need to get our heads together, overcome fear like FDR taught us, become frugal like our Puritan forefathers, develop green technologies, and oil prices will come down.  If gasoline went to $10 a gallon, but we had cars that got ten times the mileage, it would be like getting $1 a gallon gas.  When gasoline was $2 a gallon we could have been driving cars that made it equal to 50 cents a gallon, but we didn’t.  We collective decided to drive cars that would force gasoline to become $4 a gallon.  Our choice – so why bitch and moan now?

The other lesson of this current economic crisis is the world changes.  We built our current economy psychology, retirement system, investment system, and all our financial expectations around the idea that the world won’t change and growth would be predictable. How stupid is that?  Our current state of economic fear is because we’re having to deal with change.  Change is as constant as time.  People hate change, but we’re the dominant species on this planet because we’re adaptable.  Humans can handle habitat change that puts all other species into extinction, but that’s at the species level.  Cultures go in and out of existence like TV series.  Because the U.S. is a very diverse culture, we can take quite a beating and still keep on ticking.  Go study your Douglas Adams and Adam Smith, and don’t panic.

Jim