Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why AP is right and Robert Spencer is wrong

One of the big problems truth has in the present age is the mainstream media’s idea of equivalency. If one side in a controversy describes things as they are and the other side describes things using nothing but rhetorical tropes which benefit its position the main stream media will use both terms interchangeably in order to not be seen as taking sides in the dispute. But because of the damage the controversy over the Park 51, or Cordova House, project is doing to our ability to fight Islamic extremism the Associated Press has decided to abandon the use of the popular rhetorical tropes used to describe this project. They wish to abandon the term “ground zero mosque” in favor of the more accurate term “mosque located 2 blocks from ground zero.” The rational part of the world sees nothing wrong with this.

Of course the Islamophobic part of the world has a different idea. Robert Spencer complains this amounts to taking sides in this dispute. He likes the term “ground zero mosque.” From the point of view of an Islamophobe this is an excellent term. It motivates people to hate the mosque, the people who support its building, the organization behind it, and, hopefully, Islam in general. When AP banned its use it made spreading Islamophobia by attacking Park 51 more difficult. As both a professional and a devout Islamophobe Mr. Spencer is most upset by having one of his most effective weapons taken from him.

Unfortunately for Mr. Spencer the argument over the location of the community center is a case of accuracy in description vs self-serving inaccuracy in description. The building in question is in fact 2 blocks from ground zero. To call it the “ground zero mosque” is to imply it is at ground zero. While this is obviously effective in rallying opposition to it in fact we are dealing with a purposeful misrepresentation of reality for the advantage of those who are so misrepresenting reality. In somewhat more familiar but perhaps less accurate language Mr. Spencer and his friends are lying. So when AP banned the use of the term “ground zero mosque” AP was simply taking the side of truth in a dispute between truth and error. To be more accurate AP has decided to stop being a propaganda outlet for Mr. Spencer and his friends.

And about time. One of the big reasons for the mess this country is the mainstream media’s willingness to be used as a tool for the spreading of right wing propaganda. Its leadership is afraid of being accused of liberal bias when the facts are on the side of the liberals. So it believes in balanced reporting between truth and nonsense. Over time many people come to believe in the truth of pleasant sounding nonsense. At this point it becomes difficult to impossible to convince people the ideas they believe in oar not accurate descriptions of reality as it truly exists. So we elect politicians whose policies are based on fantasy and illusion. Sometimes dangerous illusions such as the idea we can treat all Muslims as the enemy. In the end this last idea is what the argument over the building of Park51 is all about.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hello, I'm a Mac, <em>and I'm a PC</em> -- Here's How I Help Fuel the World's Deadliest Conflict

But many of these products come from China. Not only will the Chinese continue to buy conflict minerals they will turn around and sell weapons to the warring parties.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Americans Simply Don't Do Sacrifice Anymore

Two words:Jimmy Carter. Of course the President isn't going to ask Americans to sacrifice to get ourselves off of fossil fuels. This is what Jimmy Carter did back in the 70's. All it got him was a lost election. 30 years of Conservative rule have put us far behind in the effort to find replacements for fossil fuels. We would be far better off if President Carter had not called for sacrifice as a means of solving the energy crisis of the 70's.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Saturday, May 29, 2010

What Did You Expect

On today’s Huffington Post there is a article claiming today’s college students are more self-centered and competitive than those of the past. Now there is a saying that a system gives the outputs for which it was designed. And a system based on the thought of Ronald Reagan, Robert Looking out for Number One Ringer, Milton Freedman and the sociopath loving Ayn Rand is going to give the results noted above. Since these have been among the leading intellectual influences of the politically dominant conservative movement since the birth of the present college age generation it is no surprise today’s college students are more self-centered and competitive than ever. Self-centered highly competitive persons are what today’s conservatism creates. In the world created by the modern conservative movement such personalities are the only ones that can survive.

We no longer have a society. We have been reduced to 300 million isolates motivated by greed. Our only goal is to acquire the largest pile of things before we die. Woe to anyone who for any reason tries to take something off that pile. This is why our debt is so high. This is why we have high taxes and entitlements. We are quite willing to take but unwilling to give. This is a world in which there can be no such thing as the common good. It is a world of a few winners who take everything and millions of losers who have next to nothing. In order to survive at all one must be among the winners. This means acting ruthlessly in defense of one’s own self interest defined as taking what one wants by any means available.

The failure of the left in general and the Obama administration in particular is to believe one can have a change in public policy without having a change in attitude. The teaparty movement gains its strength from people who see the society created by modern conservative thought as the best of all possible societies. They object to the Obama administration’s policies because they assume and will promote a different kind of society. The people who win under the present mode of social organization see no reason to agree to this. The problem is millions of the losers agree with them. The losers have become convinced human freedom requires the hyper competitive self centered society advocated by modern conservatism. So long as people confuse freedom with sociopathic self centeredness it will be difficult to do anything about the problem described in the article referenced to above.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hope College Refuses To Change Policy Condemning Homosexual Acts

For conservative Christians it is a question of authority. Defending the ultimate authority of scripture means denying the fact homosexuals exist. Accepting the fact homosexuals exist means accepting the ultimate authority of fact. Accepting the ultimate authority of fact makes one a liberal Christian. So for conservative Christians rejecting homosexuals is a matter of life or death, at least the life or death of conservative Christianity.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Friday, April 30, 2010

Goldman Sachs and Libertarian Ethics

The men and women who run Goldman Sachs see nothing wrong with how they sold their products. Nothing at all. They made money for themselves and their company. That is what they were supposed to do. Isn’t looking out for number one and maximizing a company’s profits regardless what has to be done to do so what businessmen and businesswomen supposed to do?

This wasn’t always so. The fictional investment banker George Wilson, of Tom Clancy novel fame, is concerned about his clients. Their money is his money and he treats it as such. Goldman Sachs, on the other hand, sees its clients as marks. They are suckers to be duped into putting their money into junk so Goldman Sachs can maximize its profits. This is the way of the modern business world. Businesspersons have become sociopaths who care only about themselves and their own welfare. Freedom has become the right of the strong to prey on the weak. Any attempt by the weak to protect themselves is labeled socialism. And the rationalization of this way of life has the nerve to call itself conservatism.

Libertarianism as it exists today is an attempt by the wolves to convince the sheep they can live without a shepherd. Through willpower alone the sheep can make themselves into wolves and protect themselves. Indeed they must do this. The shepherd, after all, limits the freedom of the sheep. It is obvious the shepherd limits the freedom of the sheep. If the sheep wish to become free they must tell the shepherd to go. Because the sheep want to be free they tell the shepherd to go and attempt through willpower to make themselves into wolves.

But willpower alone isn’t enough to make a sheep into a wolf. It is obvious the only animal to profit from this process is the wolf. Wolves find sheep lacking a shepherd easy prey. So libertarianism is not conservatism. Libertarianism simply leads to the world described by Thomas Hobbs. A world where every person’s hand is held against his or her neighbors. A world where life is mean, nasty brutish, and short. One wonders how people who consider themselves conservatives can support it.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Difficulty in Sharing Faith

The article in my devotional magazine for this morning discussed the need for the sharing of faith. Now some of us are not comfortable with the sharing of faith. The reason is not in what we believe. The reason some people are not comfortable with the sharing of faith lies in the nature of faith itself.

Yes faith can move mountains. And faith saves some alcoholics and drug addicts. There are people whose lives have been better because of faith. But many lives have been made worse because of faith.

Through faith men hijacked airliners and flew them into skyscrapers. By faith men and a few women have put explosive devices around their bodies, gone into crowded areas and blown themselves up. By faith abortion centers have been bombed and abortionists have been murdered. Faith has fueled opposition to needed social reforms such as health care. Faith has served as an opiate to lessen opposition to oppression. All sorts of undesirable actions have been justified by faith.

And you just can’t reason with the faithful. The faithful already know they are right. This is what their faith tells them. Why should they abandon truth for error. Since what they know is obviously right why should they listen to those they know are wrong? So trying to keep the faithful from doing others harm is an almost hopeless task.

Sharing one’s faith means promoting this dysfunctional mode of thought. Faith is blind. Blind as a bat. Sharing one’s faith can easily lead to the other person closing his or her mind to reality itself. It can do so because this is what faith does. Faith gives the illusion of certainty of knowledge. But there is no such thing as certainty of knowledge. The illusion of one having it, like all illusions, is dangerous. This is why many people are uncomfortable with sharing their faith or having other share their faith with them.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Is Health Insurance Company Greed to blame for the High Price of Health Insurance?

President Obama is making another final push for the passage of health care reform legislation. He is basing the need for this legislation on the recent price increases made by certain health insurance providers. He is blaming their greed for these price increases. And the health insurance providers don't like it. He does have a point. On the other hand greed is not the only reason for these price increases. But he must use greed as a rhetorical trope because the American people remain opposed to the only real solution to our health care crisis; make health insurance a universal entitlement.

Now greedy health insurance companies are a problem. But greed is not a problem of the health insurance industry alone. Greed is the Achilles of Capitalism. Should Capitalism one day fall it will be greed that kills it. In maximizing their profits health insurance companies are only doing what they have been told they should do. The main problem with health insurance at present is not the greed of the health care industry.

The main problem with health insurance is the ability to, and sometimes the need to, game the system. People can, either because they don’t want to or can’t afford to, avoid buying health insurance until they really need it. Indeed they can go to emergency rooms which are duty bound to take in people whether they can pay or not. This increases the cost of health care and thus health care insurance for those who do have it. This is the real problem, at least in a financial sense, with the present system.

Proposed changes, the popular ones at least, only make things worse. Denying claims and denying people the right to buy health insurance at all are ways in which insurance companies keep their costs down. Its no accident that health insurance companies announced massive price increases as soon as Scott Brown was elected to the Senate. Scraping the Senate bill now waiting passage in the House and replacing it with a bill containing only the popular remedies for the situation spells financial disaster for health insurance companies. Massive premium increases are their only recourse. So now banning massive premium increases is popular enough to be enacted into law also. The health insurance industry does have a problem.

The only way out of this dilemma is to bring everyone into the system. This is why the Senate bill has a universal mandate. If everyone is required to buy health insurance gaming the system is no longer possible. But many people don’t have health insurance because they can’t afford it.. So health insurance subsidies are a necessary part of any universal mandate. The subsidies make health insurance an entitlement. Once health insurance becomes an entitlement the government must play a large role in all aspects of the health care industry.

It is a this point that health insurance reform becomes unpopular. People would rather have the present system than create another big government universal entitlement. But as we can plainly see the present system is just not sustainable over the long term. We either have health insurance so expensive only those people who don’t need it can afford it or we can create another big government universal entitlement. The health care dilemma is that neither choice is very popular

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Way Forward on Health Care

The main problem is financing a new universal entitlement. Health care reform must either fail or result in a new universal entitlement. Whether you call it Medicare for All, or universal single payer, or consumer choice for all it must be universal and that means the government must pay for it those who cannot otherwise afford it. Raising the tax money to pay for this is the problem. We are a nation that wants government services but refuses to impose the taxes those government services require.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Health Care Reform as a No-Win Scenario

Last week David Brody posted an article at the Huffington Post on why health care reform is a lose-lose proposition for Democrats. He has a point. Politically there is just no good way from Democrats to deal with health care reform. They are literally dammed if they pass it and dammed if they don’t.

Health care reform is a seamless web. You simply can’t cut a hole in the web and put a new piece in it. We can’t just pass the parts of the health care reform package people want and not pass those parts of the package people don’t want. We either have total health care reform or no health care reform. There is no middle way nor has there ever been one.

We just can’t ban insurance company practices we don’t like. Insurance companies need these practices if they are to control costs. In order to make banning these practices palatable we must mandate universal converge. Otherwise people will have every incentive to not purchase health insurance until the really need it. But once we mandate universal purchase we must subsidize insurance coverage for those who cannot afford it. So a universal mandate must of necessity become a universal entitlement. Furthermore in order to control costs the government must play a significant role in regulating health insurance and even providing it. It is with universal entitlement and the expanded role of the state that health care reform becomes a no win scenario.

A large minority, indeed possible a majority, of the American people are against new universal entitlements. We can barely afford the ones we have. At some point deficit reduction must include entitlement reform. We do not reform entitlements by creating new ones. This is especially true if the new entitlement has virtually unlimited projected costs. Even worse this is a universal entitlement that increases the role of the government in health care. Many Americans like government even less than they like deficits. So those opposed to health insurance reform can campaign on the issue of entitlement and the expanded role of government and expect to receive good results at election time. And this is why so many Democrats in the House and Senate are reluctant to pass health care reform.

But without health care reform the cost of health insurance will continue to increase until only the very wealthy can afford it. Eventually health care will become a luxury like a Lamborghini or a 50,000 square foot mansion. This is our fate if we can’t control the cost of health care. And making it a universal entitlement provides the only way we can really control the cost of health care by the state. So the Democratic Party base is in favor of passing health care reform regardless of the consequences. As Blanche Lincoln has recently discovered the base of the Democratic Party can make life difficult for those it dislikes. That base clearly intends to dislike those Democrats who do not support health care reform. Democrats simply can’t win elections without the support of the base. But winning that support means supporting big government new entitlement health care reform.

So dammed if they do and dammed if they don’t. This is the Democrats dilemma on health care reform.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Why Self-Reliance is in Retreat

In a recent column Cal Thomas wonders what happened to self-reliance. Unfortunately the answer is far more dreadful than Mr. Thomas wants to hear. Self-reliance died for reasons not that easy to undo. Our forbears practiced self-reliance because they lived in a society far different from our own. We can’t practice self-reliance unless we want to go back to that society. More people don’t want to go back. In any event we couldn’t go back to that kind of society even if we wanted to.

Our economy is built on overspending, satisfying desires, pretense, envy, greed and a sense of entitlement because that is how we avoided a second great depression for sixty years. Our present economic difficulties come from the fact we can no longer operate our economy on the principles of convincing people to buy things they do not need with money they do not have using natural resources that cannot be replaced. The borrowed money cannot be repaid; the resources used cannot be replaced. Because of this a greater reliance on government for our economic welfare is inevitable.

Unfortunately the idea of self-reliant individuals fending for themselves without the help and support of the government makes life easier for the greediest persons among us. Imagine a flock of sheep surrounded by ravenous wolves. The wolves are greedy powerful corporations. The sheep are self-reliant individuals trying to make their way in the world by themselves. The wolves can attack individual sheep because the wolves have sharper claws, sharper teeth, and can run just as fast as the sheep. Unless a shepherd comes to protect them the sheep are helpless. The only thing their self-reliance will get them is killed.

In order to protect themselves the sheep need a shepherd. The only shepherd available is the government. Only big government can stand up to big business. Regulating business is necessary. Government sponsored health care is necessary because otherwise only the wealthy will be able to afford health care at all. If we aren’t going to be able to stimulate the private sector by encouraging people to overspend on wants to satisfy manufactured desires we are going to have to have a far larger proportion of our population employed by the government. In order to pay for this we will have to tax the rich. Yes thee will be less freedom. But there is going to be less freedom anyway. In a society of self-reliant individuals the vast majority will have the freedom poverty gives them. The powerful will take what they can and self-reliant individuals will be left with the little there is left. And that as they say is that.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

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Individualism as a Reason Why Christians Oppose Health Care Reform.

Why do Christians oppose health care reform? It’s really difficult to think of a reason. Paul Raushenbush, over at Huffington Post, can’t think of one. Now abortion is a reason for Christians to oppose any particular health care reform bill. And since feminists are just as determined to defend abortion rights as Christians, some at least, are to take those rights away it may be difficult to create a health care bill satisfactory to both sides. But it is clear some Christians oppose health care reform on general principles. They really and truly believe the present system is more in keeping with Christian principles than any possible alternative. And the question is why?

One thing most Christians believe is the importance of the individual and the unimportance of the state. Individuals, in Christian belief, live forever. The state, on the other hand, will someday disappear. So individuals are infinitely more important than the state. Furthermore Christians believe materialists can’t share this understanding. If human beings die and are no more but the state continues for a very long time then it is reasonable to assume the individual should exist to service the state. So when materialists and atheists and secularists and agnostics support public policies that increase the power of the state Christians are suspicious of their motives. Christians support a small state on general principles. At least when they do not control it.

The problem here is the need for big government intervention in the health care field if health care is to be anything other than a luxury only the wealthiest can afford. Government will have to give money to the poor so that they can afford health care. This money will have to be taken from those more well off through taxes. In order to keep individuals from gaming the system individuals must be required to purchase health insurance. Only then will the reforms Christians can live with really work. In simple terms we can either have big government health care reform or have health care only the wealthy can afford. That as they say is that. And since the Christians who oppose health care reform are distrusting of the motives of those who advocate health care reform they are willing to let health care become a luxury only the wealthy can afford.

Perhaps it would help Christians to understand why we need big government health care reform, and big government in general if we described the need for big government in terms of sheep, shepherds and wolves. Imagine a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Wolves surround this flock. Left to fend for themselves the sheep will be killed, one by one, by the wolves. The sheep can live in safety only if a well-armed shepherd appears to protect them. That shepherd is big government. Without the intervention of big government greedy corporations, the wolves of this scenario will make health care too expensive for most people to afford. Individuals cannot protect themselves from abuse by large corporations lead by greedy individuals by themselves. For this collective action is needed. And only big government can provide this collective action.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Health Care Reform: A Political Lose-Lose for President Obama and Democrats?

Yes health care reform has become a lose lose proposition for Democrats. It can only be passed by reconciliation. It is an expansion of the power of government. Perhaps as many as 40% of the American people can be induced to vote for Republicans by Republican propaganda over the passage of health care by reconciliation. So passing health care reform through reconciliation isn't wise.

But if health care reform is not passed the base will stop voting for Democrats. As Blanch Lincoln has just discovered progressives are no longer willing to simply let blue dog Democrats be. Primary challenges and lack of votes from progressive Democrats in general elections await those Democrats unwilling to pass health care reform through reconciliation.

So Democrats in the House and Senate have to decide which fate is worse, being voted out of power by angry moderates or being voted out of power by angry members of the base.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost