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

Number One on the Runway

I am reminded of that great song title from Timbuk 3, “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.”  With economic chaos and skyrocketing oil prices, the future is looking a bit overcast – no need for shades now, huh, but what if that’s an illusion?  In China, the future is so bright that a billion people are putting on sunglasses.  I’ve read that there is more peace and prosperity now than anytime in the history of the world.  Global warming may only be the foot that kicks us in the ass and forces humanity to get its shit together.  A new President could clear those dark clouds on our horizon and brighten up U.S. prospects for decades to come.

We’re all on a jet that’s about to take off for the future, but who is in the cockpit, and what’s our destination?  My generation are all thinking about retirement and I’m wondering if we’re all flying down to Florida to play shuffleboard or dominos all day.  I can remember summer of 1968 like it was tomorrow.  We wanted the Vietnam war to end so we could start building a bright future.  We wanted a lot of change.  We lived on great expectations.  Many of the young felt like they were part of a movement, a movement for change.  Barack and all Democrats worked to sell the same sentiments forty years later.  Is this election the last chance for the Baby Boomers to get it right and achieve their dream?

Protestors used to chant “The Whole World is Watching” and I think our generation felt it was true, even though most of the world lived off the radar of mass communication when we were growing up.  During those mythical years of the 1960s our generation always felt we were number one on the runway taking off for the future, but now, we’re seen as being the generation number one on the runway to retire.  Is it now time for us to be quiet?  Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were both Baby Boomer Presidents.  We may get another boomer, with Barack Obama, or the Silent Generation may have its last chance to have their only President, with John McCain.

I was reminded of my Baby Boomer status when Piers Fawkes at PSFK tagged this site as 1 of 14 blogs he monitors for information about Baby Boomers.  Maybe the whole world is no longer watching us, but at least the marketing people are still keeping an eye on us.  For those who need a generational timeline, see below:

I find it tremendously hard to imagine the mindset of the generations that have come behind us.  First of all, they never demanded to be heard, and as a result of that, they never got the press the Baby Boomers did.  The Greatest Generation are famous for living in historically epic times and their generation was defined by the events they faced.  The Silent Generation made the world for the Baby Boomers and influenced them.  The Baby Boomers embraced rock and roll, but Elvis and the Beatles were from the Silent Generation – an odd nickname, huh?  And as resources such as oil become problematic, will we have a new Greatest Generation that solves those problems?

Signs are everywhere that the young are ready for the boomers to retire, for instance, read “TV Viewers’ Average Age Hits 50” over at Variety, where they whine that the damn people watching TV are too old for their precious 18-49 demographics.  What’s the matter, are the young TV execs afraid their whole industry is a Baby Boomer fad?  The whole world probably didn’t have their eyes on us, but we certainly had our eyes on TV.  Are the newer generations less mass-media oriented?  I’ve read males of certain ages have stopped watching TV altogether.

Is the Baby Boomer’s hour in the spotlight about over.  Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were both born in 1946, making them the two Baby Boomer Presidents.  Strangely, John McCain, born in 1936, a year after Elvis, is from the earlier Silent Generation, so that generation is still hanging in there, and suggests there’s time for the Baby Boomers to cling to the spotlight for another decade or two.  Barrack Obama was born in 1961, making him part of the rear end of the Baby Boomers.  We’ve now had a hippie President and jock President, so it would be great to have a minority President, and hopefully there will even be time for a female Boomer or even a gay Boomer in the White House.  Evidently, our time is not up until the overweight boomer sings.

I’m reading The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria, a tail end boomer himself, born in 1964.  Zakaria’s wise assessment of current world affairs suggests our generation can still have influence for years to come as political pundits.  The Baby Boomers might be moving into their retirement years, but we dominant politics, journalism and opinions, and probably will for awhile.  I can not recommend The Post-American World enough, because Zakaria puts us Baby Boomer Americans in our place by letting us know what the rest of the world was seeing when we thought they were watching.  Our self-centered perspective has blinded us to what was happening with the 95% of the Baby Boomers in the rest of the world.

When you read Variety’s listing of the average age for various TV shows, and see “How I Met Your Mother,” a show about people in their twenties, has an average viewer age of 45, then you start to wonder, where the hell are the young people?  You do see them.  The news is reported by a vast array of beautiful young people.  Movies and television shows are all about the young.  You see them standing behind Obama and McCain, they fight our wars, and they direct movies, write novels, create music, and they fill jobs all around us.  But what do they want?  Where are their spokespeople?

When Generation X taxis out on the runaway where are they going to take us?  When Generation X campaigns for the Presidency, what will be their issues?  You’d think they’d make Global Warming their issue.  Maybe their generation speaks loud and clear and I don’t hear them because I’m insulated by the thickness of my generation.

If Fareed Zakaria and Thomas Friedman are right, not only do we need to hear from Generation X and the Millennials, but we need to hear from their ranks from all over the world.  That old saying, “Think globally, act locally” is more important than ever.

I hate to say this, but maybe the numbers at Variety are more damning than they are suggesting.  If the average age of TV watchers is 50, then television is a has-been media.  What mass media has an average age of 25?  Video games?  Text-messaging?  FaceBook?  I’m sorry, but tuning into Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 seems like checking out of this world in the same way that Timothy Leary advocated dropping out.  Virtual worlds don’t count, only reality.

China and Dubai are growing at speeds and magnitudes that outpace any boom in U.S. history.  The whole world should be watching them instead of “How I Met Your Mother” or whatever equivalent show or video game you’re using to escape from reality at the moment.  Where is this generation’s Bob Dylan that’s writing “Because something is happening here, But you don’t know what it is, Do you, Mr. Jones?” or Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth?”

There’s heavy stuff going down, but where are the young protestors?  2008 is going to be an important election.  It is time for change, just like we thought back in 1968, but this time the biggest issues are more pressing than ever, and if we want a future where we need shades, we all need to be watching.  Whether our plane is taking off for retirement city, or the big city to start a new career, we’re all sailing on the same Spaceship Earth.  Whether you’re 15, 35, 55, 75 or 95 there are some shows on TV we should all be watching, but they ain’t escapist shows, but documentaries about what’s going on around the real world.

Jim

The Ideal President

    Normally, I’m not that political, but the upcoming Presidential election promises to be the most exciting one in decades, and maybe the most important one. I’m sick and tired of the old Democrats versus the Republicans, or the Blue states against the Red states. Why must we live in a politically polarized society with one half winning and the other half steaming with disappointment? I’m not suggesting a third party solution – I think third parties should be outlawed since they only spoil the elections. No, what I’d like is if each side would promote a candidate that stands in the middle of politics, so in the 2008 election a majority of citizens of each party could feel happy with either side winning. In other words, I’m a Democrat, but for 2008, I’d be happy with a Republican if he or she was closer in spirit with my needs and wants.

    The trouble is members of each party tend to pick candidates that kiss up to their personal beliefs and special interests and if a candidate professes to be against any of their cherished ideals, even in one instance, those candidates immediately become unworthy, if not reviled. What core presidential qualities are there that a large majority of Americans can support? The latest issue of Time Magazine has an article; Bloomberg and Schwarzenegger: The New Action Heroes has me thinking positive about two Republicans. Why? Both of these men are appealing politicians because they are successful in politics, life and business. They both have very high voter approval ratings, they are visionary and they get things done. It makes me wonder if a core presidential quality shouldn’t be a success in life before trying to be a success in politics. Should only people with a minimal 9 figures in their savings account run? I don’t know. It’s something to consider.

    Which shows better experience: a successful governor, mayor, CEO or senator? It’s a shame that Arnold can’t run since he’s had so much success with such a large state and population. Does a lifetime of working in Washington, DC really prepare a person to run the country? Or does running a major industry show more management skill? The key quality I’d like to see in the next President is success. I want him or her to make the U.S. a success in the eyes of Americans and the eyes of the people around the world. Now that’s a lot to wish for. Is it even possible?

    I’m afraid billions of world citizens see the U.S. as a rich bully. I wished they saw us as promoters of prosperity, as worldly traders and business people, and not as self-appointed cops of democracy. I think if the next President focused more on mutually beneficial trade and proper stewardship of the Earth we might turn that around. We need to morph the unilateral war on terrorism into a universal fight for worldly stability. The terrorists we seek to destroy are really just rogue individuals – which I think needs to be pursued by international police work and not armies. I think the Muslim world needs to decide if it wants another crusade before we start one. Getting out of the Arab world both militarily and economically is going to be a major skill requirement for the next President. Anyone who casts his vote in November 2008 based on gay rights or abortion will be penny-wise and pound-foolish. And I’m not saying those issues aren’t important, no matter which side you take, but I’m more worried about a global war or worldwide ecological catastrophes.

    Of course, do the rights of the many outweigh the rights of the few? Conservatives are worried about the rights of the rich and unborn, and liberals are worried about the rights of the poor and gays. Can any Presidential candidate promote the needs of the rich and poor, and protect the unborn and gay? Are there any Solomons running in 2008?

    Conservatives hated Clinton because of his personal conduct and his support for liberal causes, but the Clinton years were good in terms of improved opinions about the U.S. from world citizens. Clinton didn’t use a big stick to make U.S. policy and that helped. Those years were also helped by an economic boom and a computer communications revolution. President Bush’s efforts with AIDS in Africa are a very positive position for the U.S. If the U.S. could promote a boom in medicine, ecology and alternative energy we could turn world opinion around and make money creating a new economic industry. If the future president could promote those ideals and make the rich richer and the poor richer we might even bring Democrats and Republicans closer together. What we need is a President with business sense, technological vision and the willingness to find a political solution to make all countries more energy independent. We need a candidate that doesn’t see global warming as a gloom and doom issue, but as an economic opportunity to create a world-wide business boom in energy independence and conservation.

    I wouldn’t mind a Republican like Patrick J. Buchanan, who is for reducing the size of the federal government and making the U.S. more isolationistic. However, I don’t want a Republican who I feel is promoting fundamental religion – we don’t need any Christian Ayatollahs. I do think we need a President who will be more interested in fiscal issues, but I wouldn’t mind a philosophical President who is interested in ethical and moral issues. An enlightened crime fighter would be a big plus. What I’d really like is a President that brings Americans closer together. We’ve had two Presidents now that have polarized the nation, and I find that depressing. I’m sick of hearing about partisan politics. Would it be too much to hope for a President that gets 60 percent of the popular vote?