Sunday, June 29, 2008

Understanding Poverty…Impossible?

Most of us (people in my “network” anyways) have never been “poor”. Some of us have been “broke” or “bankrupt” a time or two, but compared to most of the rest of the world, we have never lived in POVERTY. In our circles, if we go “bankrupt”…even though it feels like poverty and the end of our known world to us…it is nothing compared to third world realities of impoverished living. Living in poverty is a mindset, a lifestyle, a tradition almost. While we admire and love the stories of those who have come from great poverty to attain great wealth, those stories are one in a few million compared to those who die pretty much in the same condition they were born.

Living outside a first world country for a while makes you a LITTLE more cognizant of disparity in the world. A larger majority of the people live in poverty while power and influence is held in the hands of a mi-nute minority who control everything with their money. The army/police, the media, the banks, food, entertainment…all these are controlled by the few that hold the money. I’m not talking here really about individual wealth gained from hard work and smart investing. I’m talking primarily about pooled funds in the hands of governments or corporations that are used to perpetuate the present and keep things “status quo”. I’m talking about “elitism” to the max.

It is very easy to manipulate the poor with money. We get them to do all our “dirty” work for a few dollars a day. On a grand scale, we come up with large government programs giving subsidies and welfare to the poor so they will be placated and hopefully not rise up in rebellion or outright revolution against us… the moneyed establishment who make and enforce the rules. Even democracy itself is tainted by money issues. Money buys influence, votes and perceptions. Don’t think you can hold public office unless you have moneyed people or parties behind you. In third world countries like the one I live in, $10 given to the impoverished police officer gets you out of most traffic violations, and a few hundred or thousand can buy a court judge or officer for more serious offenses. If you are poor, you go right to jail when charged. If you have money, you can buy your way out of most any scrape. We even see this often in the USA halls of justice (can you say “OJ”?).

There is much pride and prejudice in having wealth and power. Most people spend their whole lives and most their energy pursuing more of it…even if they have more than they could ever spend. Then every once in a while we are confronted with world realities that make us feel some level of guilt about what we have compared to 99% of the rest of the world. We pad our guilt with solid rationales like “we earned every penny”, “God blessed us and meant us to have this”, or we hold on to a certain amount of racial or class pride handed down from our ancestors without question. One term for that used in history is “manifest destiny”.

Some of us who have a conscience or are willing to open our eyes to this issue find it a great moral crisis of our time…and a lifelong struggle to come to terms with our fortune versus the pain and suffering we see all around us day to day. And if we look at things honestly and realistically, it’s hard to justify feeling depressed or anger at our receding stock portfolios and home values in light of the masses that have no home, have never driven a car, or gotten past the 6th grade in school. We bitch about the quickly rising costs of oil, food and Gucci shoes…without imagining how rising prices must affect the poor taxi driver, maid or farmer who makes less than $200 per MONTH.

These perplexities were brought to a head for me again last night while flipping through cable movie offerings and landing on a monologue of Vanessa Redgrave from the film based on the play “The Fever” (2004). It is the story of a rich woman coming to terms with government or establishment atrocities, and her self perspective in light of her exposure to the poverty and oppression. I will be looking to record this film next time it comes up on the schedule because I missed quite a bit of it…but what I did view was very affective. I was fortunate to find quite a large part of the script quoted online…and I close in sharing the most impacting parts to me from last night…

And my beliefs? Yes, yes - I have beliefs, yes - I believe in humanity, sympathy for others - I oppose cruelty and violence –…

Yes - poor countries are beautiful. Poor people are beautiful. It's a wonderful feeling to have money in a country where most people are poor, to ride in a taxi through horrible slums.

Yes- a beggar can be beautiful. A beggar can have beautiful lips, beautiful eyes. You're far from home. To you, her simple shawl seems elegant, direct, the right way to dress. You see her approaching from a great distance. She's old, thin, and, yes, she looks sick, very sick, near death. But her face is beautiful- seductive, luminous. You think you like her - you're drawn to her. Yes, you think - there's money in your purse- you'll give her some of it.

And a voice says - Why not all of it? Why not give her all that you have?

Be careful, that's a question that could poison your life. Your love of beauty could actually kill you.

If you hear that question it means you're sick. You're mentally sick. You've had a breakdown….

Answer the question, idiot. Don't just stand there. I can't give the beggar all that I have, because ...

because I - But - Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I have beliefs. There's a reason why I won't give the beggar all of my money. Yes, I'm going to give her some of it - I always give away quite a surprising amount to people who have less than I do - [Laughter] But there's a reason why I'm the one who has the money in the first place, and that's why I'm not going to give it all away. In other words, for God's sake, I worked for that money. I worked hard. I worked. I worked. I worked hard to make that money, and it's my money because I made it. I made the money, and so I have it, and I can spend it any way I like. This is the basis of our entire lives. Why can I stay here in this hotel? Because I paid to stay here, with my money. I paid to stay here. I paid to ... be served. That entitles me to certain things. I'm entitled to stay here, I'm entitled to be served, I'm entitled to expect that certain things will be done. Now, this morning for example, the chambermaid left my room a mess. The floor was dirty, there were no clean sheets, the wastepaper basket was left full. So I paid to stay here, I paid to be served, I'm entitled to service, but the chambermaid didn't serve me properly. That was wrong. …

…Why is the old woman sick and dying? Why doesn't she have money? Didn't she ever work?

You idiot, [Laughs] you pathetic idiot, of course, she worked. She worked sixteen hours a day in a field, in a factory. She worked, the chambermaid worked. - You say you work. Why does your work bring you so much money, while their work brings practically nothing? You say you "make" money. What a wonderful expression. But how can you "make" so much of it in such a short time, while in the same amount of time they "make" so little?...

The holders of money determine what's done - they bid their money for the things they want, and each one according to the amount they hold - and each bit of money determines some fraction of the day's activities, so those who have a little determine a little, and those who have a lot determine a lot, and those who have nothing determine nothing. And then the world obeys the instructions of the money to the extent of its capacity, and then it stops. It's done what it can. The day is over. Certain things happened. If money was bid for jewelry, then there was silver that was bent into the shape of a ring. If it was bid for opera, there were costumes that were sewn and chandeliers that were hung on invisible threads, and ....

And there's an amazing moment: each day, before the day starts, before the market opens, before the bidding begins, there's a moment of confusion: The money is silent, it hasn't yet spoken. Its decisions are withheld, poised, perched, ready. Everyone knows the world will not do everything today. If food is produced for the hungry children, then certain operas will not be performed; if certain performances are in fact given, then the food won't be produced and the children will die….

…So we have everything, but there's one difficulty we just can't overcome, a curse: we can't escape our connection to the poor.

We need the poor. Without the poor to get the fruit off the trees, to tend the excrement under the ground, to bathe our babies on the day they're born, we couldn't exist. Without the poor to do awful work, we would spend our lives doing awful work. If the poor were not poor, if the poor were paid the way we're paid, we couldn't afford to buy an apple, a shirt, we couldn't afford to take a trip, to spend a night at an inn in a nearby town. But the horror is that the poor grow everywhere, like moss, grass. And we can never forget the time when they owned the land. We can never forget the death of their families, those vows of revenge screamed out in those rooms that were running with gore. And the poor don't forget. They live on their rage. They eat rage. Huh, they want to rise up and finish us, and wipe us off the earth as soon as they can.

And so in our frozen world, our silent world, we have to talk to the poor. Talk, listen, clarify, explain. They want things to be different. They want change. And so we say, Yes. Change. But not violent change. Not theft, not revolt, not revenge. Instead, listen to the idea of gradual change. Change that will help you, but that won't hurt us. Morality. Law. Gradual change. We explain it all: a two-sided contract: we'll give you things, many things, but in exchange you must accept that you don't have the right just to take what you want. We're going to give you wonderful things. Sit down, wait, don't try to grab. - The most important thing is patience, waiting. We're going to give you much much more than you're getting now, but there are certain things that must happen first - these are the things for which we must wait. First, we have to make more and we have to grow more, so more will be available for us to give. Otherwise, if we give you more, we'll have less. When we make more and we grow more, we can all have more - some of the increase can go to you. But the other thing is, once there is more, we have to make sure that morality prevails. Morality is the key. Last year, we made more and we grew more, but we didn't give you more. All of the increase was kept for ourselves. That was wrong. The same thing happened the year before, and the year before that. [Laughter] We have to convince everyone to accept morality and next year give some of the increase to you.

So we all have to wait. [Laughter] And while we're waiting, we have to be careful. Because we know you. We know there are some who are the violent ones, the ones who won't wait. These are the destroyers. Their children are dying, sick - no medicine, no food, nothing on their feet, no place to live, vomiting on the streets. These are the ones who are drunk with rage, with their lust for revenge. We know what they've planned. We've imagined it all a thousand times. We imagine it every single day. That sound at the door - that odd "crack" - the splintering sound - then they break through the lock and run in yelling, pull us up from where we're gathered at the family table having our meal, pull our old parents out from the bathroom, pull the little ones up from their beds, then they line us all up together in the hall, slap us, kick us, curse us, scream at us, our parents bleeding, our children bleeding, pulling the children's clothes from the closets, the toys from the shelves, ripping the pictures off the walls. What will they do to us? we ask each other? What? - are they giving all the homes to people who now are living in the street?

Then terrible stories - shops torn apart, random killing, the old professor given a new job: cleaning toilets at the railroad station.

It seems impossible- can that possibly have happened? A mob of criminals- or employed louts - people who a year ago were starving in slums? Are they going to be running the factories now, [Laughs] the schools, everything, the whole country, the whole world?

We have to prevent it, although the violent ones are everywhere already, teaching the poor that the way things are is not God-given, the world could be run for their benefit. And so we have to set up a special classroom for the poor, to teach the poor some bloody lessons from the past - all the crimes committed by the violent rebels, by the followers of Marx. Shove the lessons of history down their throats. History, history. The crimes. The oppression. The famines. The disasters. Teach the poor that they must never try to seize power for themselves, because the rule of the poor will always be incompetent, and it will always be cruel. The cruel are bloodthirsty. Uneducated. They don't have the skills. For their own sake, it must never happen. And they must understand that the dreamers, the idealists, the ones who say that they love the poor, will all become vicious killers in the end, and the ones who claim they can create something better will always end up by creating something worse. The poor must understand these essential lessons, chapters from history. And if they don't understand them, they must all be taken out and shot. Inattention or lack of comprehension cannot be allowed.

And in places where we find that the classroom is avoided, we must warn the poor that even the innocent are going to get hurt. We can't accept violence against the symbols of law, the soldiers, the police. We have to kill the ones who commit those crimes. But if the violence goes on for a long time, then the ones whose older sisters and brothers we've already killed may be so full of rage that they don't fear death. And to control those people, we may have to go farther - cut out their tongues, cut up their faces, force them to watch us torture their parents, watch the soldiers rape their children. It's the only way to control people who don't fear death.

And so we'll teach the poor that, yes, yes, we're going to give them things, but we will decide how much we'll give, and when, because we're not going to give them everything. …

… No, I'm trying to tell you that people hate you. I'm trying to explain to you about the people who hate you.

Why do you think that they would all love you? And what do you think they would love about you? What are you? There's no charm in you, there's nothing graceful, nothing that yields. You're simply a relentless, unbearable fanatic. Yes, the commando who crawls all night through the mud is much much less of a fanatic than you. Look at yourself. Look. You walk so stiffly into your kitchen each morning, you approach your cupboard. And you open it, and reach for the coffee, the coffee you expect to find on its shelf. And it has to be there! And if one morning it isn't there - oh, the hysteria! - the entire world will have to pay! [Laughter] At the very thought of the unexpected, the unexpected deprivation, you begin to twitch, to panic, to pant. [Laughs] That shortness of breath! Listen to your voice on the telephone, listen to the tone that comes into your voice when you talk to one of your very close friends and you talk about your life and you use those expressions - ", what I need to live on?" - "the amount I need just in order to live?." Are you cute then? [Laughter] Are you funny then? That hollow tone - "the amount I need?." - solemn, quiet, no histrionics- the tone of hysteria, the tone of the fanatic - well, yes, of course- it makes sense. Without ... you understand your situation. Without a place to live, without clothes, without money, you would be like them, you would be them, you would be what they are - you would be the homeless, you would be the comfortless. So of course, you know it, you will do anything. There are no limits to what you will do. Without the money, your face would become the face of a rat, your hands would be paws - sharp, nimble, ready to scratch, ready to tear.

Sure, sometimes you think about the suffering of the poor. - Lying in your bed, you feel a sympathy, you whisper into your pillow some words of hope: Soon you will all have medicine for your children, soon a home. …

…But during this period of waiting, waiting, this endless waiting for gradual change, one by one they come knocking at your door and they cry out, they beg you for help. And you say, Get them away from me. I can't stand this constant knocking at the door, these people who come with these ridiculous stories, who claim to be my sister, or claim to be my brother, all day long, day after day. And so all of these people are taken away, and they're made to live in places where they're teased, they're played with, they're lectured, mocked, until a few of them begin to rave irrationally and even laugh, viciously, and then, woah, their vicious actions fill absolutely everyone with horror. And then each one of these vicious people is taken by the shoulders and held down, and their head is shaved, and they're strapped into a chair, and they're executed, and the one they're being executed for is you, just as it was always you that all those people were talking about so many years ago when they kept on saying, "For our children's sake, we have to do it, we have to set this town on fire, this barn, this hospital, these forests, these animals, this rice, this honey," just as it's still you, because of how much you love those clean, white sheets and the music and the dancers and the telephone calls, for whom all those people with radiant faces are being tortured tonight, are dying tonight. …

…You remember that day in school when you were playing with those three other children, and the teacher appeared in the room with four little cakes, and gave all of the cakes, all four of the cakes, to that little boy called Arthur, and none to you or your two other friends? Well, at first all four of you were simply stunned. For that first moment, all four of you knew that what had happened was unjust, insane. But then your friend Ella tried to make a little joke, and Arthur got furious and he hit Ella, and then he went into a corner and he ate all the cakes. [Laughter] It was an example of someone getting away with something.

And your life is another example. It's the life of someone who's gotten away with something. And yet your fanaticism is so extreme that you won't let that thought come into your mind.

Certain things cannot be questioned. The coffee has to be there on the shelf, and no thought may enter your mind if it conflicts with the assumption that you are a decent person. So go ahead, think - think freely - think about anything you like. Think about your health, other people, the ones who treat you badly, think about the complicated ways in which you mistreat yourself, think about the children afflicted with incurable diseases who were interviewed in that magazine. Think of all the things which show that you are decent, which show that those who are like you are decent - your friends, your loved ones…

Saturday, June 28, 2008

America…a Nation of Religious Illiterates?

A friend sent me this article which I found quite thought provoking. Isn’t it amazing that a people so focused on religion…in politics on down…can be so ignorant or illiterate about their own professed faith? In a day and age when modern religion crusades are upon us again and what a person has FAITH in determines their leaderhip capability seems paramount that a thinking person know and understand the various religions these conflicts are all about. I also think I will order Prothero's book on "Religious Literacy"...

The article speaks for itself and deserves a re-quote here on my blog…

The Great Disconnect
by Alexander Green

Dear Reader,
Surveys show that out of every ten Americans, nine believe in God, eight say that God is important to them personally, and more than seven report praying daily.
The United States is among the most religious nations on earth. But there is a disconnect here. Consider a few sobering facts gleaned from Stephen Prothero's new book "Religious Literacy":

* Only half of Americans can name even one of the four gospels.
* The majority cannot name the first book of the Bible.
* Only one third know that it was Jesus who delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
* Most Americans don't know that Easter commemorates the resurrection.
* A majority wrongly believes that Jesus was born in Jerusalem.
* Most Americans do not know that the Trinity comprises the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
* The most widely quoted Bible verse in the United States - "The Lord helps those who helps themselves" - is not in the Bible.
* Ten percent of Americans believe Joan of Arc was Noah's wife.

Personally, I'm embarrassed for my fellow countrymen. Evangelical David E. Wells says the Good Book is fast becoming "The Greatest Story Never Read." Historian R. Laurence Moore has a harsher assessment. He says Americans "are stupefyingly dumb about what they are supposed to believe."

Without some understanding of religion, for example, how can we possibly comprehend American history? The pilgrims risked their lives to come here and worship as they pleased. The American Revolution was launched with a declaration that men "are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights." It was the doctrine of Manifest Destiny that propelled Americans westward. Even the Civil War was enveloped in religious controversy. Most southerners believed they were on the winning side of a theological argument. ("Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ." Ephesians 6:5)

Without an understanding of religion, how can we grasp current events? Look at recent conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, or India and Pakistan. Each has religious underpinnings. When Osama bin Laden says his strategy is to engage "the crusader-Zionist alliance" in a clash of civilizations, most Americans don't even understand the reference.

How can we be ignorant of religion and consider ourselves informed voters? Faith looms large in controversies over government funding of stem-cell research, abortion rights, creationism, and gay marriage.

At least minimal religious literacy is necessary to appreciate great music, literature, and art. What are we to make of the paintings of El Greco or Bach's Mass in B Minor if we have no understanding of the religious beliefs of the era or the spiritual impulses of the artists?

How can we understand international culture without knowing something about the world's five major religions? Forget about understanding Buddhism's Four Noble Truths or the Five Pillars of Islam. Polls show the majority of Americans can't even name these two religions.

Prothero, the chair of the religion department at Boston University, observes that, "Americans are both deeply religious and profoundly ignorant about religion... Here faith is almost entirely devoid of content. One of the most religious countries on earth is also a nation of religious illiterates."

What is the solution? Education. We can educate our children in our homes. We can teach them in our places of worship. But we should also teach something about religion in public schools.

Some will argue this is unconstitutional. Not so.
As Prothero notes, the Supreme Court "has repeatedly and explicitly given a constitutional seal of approval to teaching about religion... [provided the crucial distinction is made] between theology and religious studies - between what Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg called 'the teaching of religion' (which is unconstitutional) and 'the teaching about religion' (which is not). "Most of us are sensible about this. After all, it is unlikely your fourth-grade teacher told you, "The pilgrims came to America to escape persecution. I can't tell you what kind." Unfortunately, teaching much more than this about religion will not happen in most school districts. Teachers, principals, school boards and textbook publishers simply don't want to wade into the firestorm.

Ironically, militant atheists - who don't want their children exposed to any religion - and fundamentalists - who don't want their children exposed to the wrong religion - have joined hands on this one. However, nothing can stop us, or should stop us, from educating ourselves. A good place to start is Prothero's book - which contains a dictionary of religious literacy - and, of course, the holy texts themselves.

As Marie Curie said, "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood."

Carpe Diem,


Climate Change is Not a Recent Phenomenon

Many people spinning the media and politics today are denying any man made affect on “Global Warming” and easily shrug off our earths current gyrations as “common cyclical behavior of earth” over millenniums of time.

I try to read and look at things from all perspectives and points of view while obviously having to take my own experience and observations into consideration. I saw a piece today on Fox news related to the North Pole being without ice by September which is being widely reported on many fronts this week as an alarming phenomenon. In researching that, I found this article from “American Chronicle” which on first glance and reading looks like a supportive scientific viewpoint from a geologist that climate change is no big deal and should be expected. After all, the 4700 MILLION years of earth history these guys study has shown some extreme climatic gyrations. Yet, when you get to his summary of the current “Holocene” age we are living in…it forces my wondering mind back to the realities of our human affect on this current phenomenon…and with it the challenge that if we could in such a short time affect so much change to the negative on the eco-system, why can’t we also start reversing this process in a scientific and unified way? The main reasons are obviously lack of political or global will…and unwillingness to sacrifice financially or lifestyle wise to correct the damages we have done.

Summary from the article…(bold italics are my additions for emphasis)

To observe a Holocene environment, simply look around you. The Holocene is the name given to the last 10,000 years of the Earth´s history- the time since the end of the major glacial epoch, or "ice age". Since then, there have been small-scale climate shifts- notably the "Little Ice Age" between about 1200 and 1700 A.D.- but in general, the Holocene has been a relatively warm period in between ice ages.

Humanity has greatly influenced the Holocene environment. The vast majority of scientists agree that human activity is responsible for "Global Warming", an observed increase in mean global temperatures that is still is going on. Habitat destruction, pollution and other factors are causing an ongoing mass extinction of plant and animal species. According to some projections, 20% of all plant and animal species on Earth will be extinct within the next 25 years.

The inhabitants of Mumbai or Riyadh might dispute on the fact that the earth is currently in the grip of a glacial episode. True, the present is an interval of relative warmth, an interglacial period, but for the past several million years the planet has been colder, on average, than it has over much of its history.

The examples of changes of global environment and the associated mass extinctions in the geological past clearly indicate that ecosystem is quite sensitive to environment changes and also has a capacity to regrow. Environmental factors, whether natural or man made, become ecologically disruptive when they cross threshold limits. Ecological viability, on the other hand, allows evolution to resume when extreme destructive natural factors relent during times of normalcy.

What ever may be the truth but it is true that the climate of the earth is changing from the time of its birth from hot to cold and cold to hot. Earlier too the earth has passed through global warming due to natural causes but this time we the humans are culprits for the changes. When man-made factors are added to the natural ones, the ecosystem may be damaged beyond repair.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Politics and Religion…Revisited

OK…I once again tread on the dangerous subject matter of politics and religion…this time together in the same title. SCARY…

Yet, this article yesterday from Time,8599,1818313,00.html related to the latest spewing of the religious right against the candidacy of Barack Obama raise some thoughts and feelings I just can’t ignore. Actually, the article was comforting to know that there are many other Christian leaders and movements who are counter acting against the last couple decades of religious intolerance, bigotry and outright hatred between various religions and “sects” of contemporary Christendom. The unprecedented amount of focus in this year’s political race on religion and religious leader’s influence is obviously getting tiring to more people than just me. Like this article points out, while 70% of Americans want a moral and “religious” person leading their country, they are less picky about what label or theology that person adheres to…which in my opinion is a good thing. Religious intolerance is one of the greatest mars on our country’s image in a free world. While the constitution gratefully exclaims “freedom of religion” in our country, it also strongly safeguards us from any form of “state religion” which is of great comfort to believers and non-believers alike. I am getting real tired of the media and political pundits hyping on religion as a divisive, hot item in political debate. It is non-productive to solving the leadership crisis we have in government and just further divides us Americans. Just being a devout Christian will not make a person a great President or politician. My personal observation was that Jimmy Carter was a sincere and devout Christian, but was arguably one of the weakest Presidents of my lifetime.

I grew up in a fundamental Christian church headed by my grandfather. From that relationship comes the roots of many my personal beliefs though as a growing and evolving human being I may not necessarily hold to every doctrine or belief I grew up on. To this point I identify with Obama and his desire to take issue with his former pastor and church without necessarily cutting them completely out of his life. But…the roots and fundamentals are within me still…and one of the examples I recall from those early days is that we were to pray for our leaders…whether they were outwardly Christian or not. I never recall any political “stumping” from our pulpit. We had our hands full learning about God, the Bible and trying to keep ourselves on the “right” path. We really didn’t have much time or cause to worry about politics while we were at church. I see this as a basically recent phenomenon…and while I think a person’s beliefs are a part of what we judge about him as our leader…it is very intolerant of someone to demand adherence to a certain creed or doctrine before we recognize their ideas or credibility for the Presidency. I really don’t want to go back to the ancient days of the “Crusades” where nations battled over whose God was going to dominate in the war and world at large. Just read your history and realize how futile this mentality is.

In the reverse, how sad is it that the ministry of James Dobson can now be rejected or severely weakened by this sudden focus on politics. I think his origins and causes he built his ministry on were some very positive things…rebuilding and refocusing on family values, faith and traditions. Unfortunately, I think when popularity and money start rolling in, many of these leaders lose their focus and forget the reality that changes in society start at the heart of a person and or believer. It cannot be achieved by governmental decree…and I never read anything in the Bible that alludes to state control or influence as a goal of the believer. Minds and souls are meant to be won one by one for building of spiritual unity and personal peace, not governmental or legislative dominance. So, hopefully, religious leaders will get back to what they are meant to do…challenge individuals and create community and secure family environments through the local church. Leave the politicking and governing to those who are committed to that. Let’s get back to prayer versus pomposity…and a solid division of roles between church and state.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

3 Ways to Lower Gas Prices

This video was passed to me today by my uncle. It makes a lot of sense and I support Newt Ginrich’ idea of making this 4th of July “Energy Independence Day”. It is obvious we have more alternatives than just continuing lining the pockets of the Arab states that don’t like us very much. We just need to lean on our country’s leaders to get out of their rut, quit favoring the side of big oil/big contributor money base they are getting fat on…and find real solutions to our countries energy crisis which is hugely adding to our ECONOMIC crisis.

While I support increased drilling of our own oil resources in a responsible and carefully monitored manner as a "bandaid" to our current dilemma, it is very important for our environment and future needs to heavily invest in alternative energy such as solar, wind and yes…nuclear energy. As Newt states, a hydrogen based energy supply would be much cleaner for our environment and cheaper to produce. We just need to ramp up quickly to wean ourselves off this oil dependency and continued pollution of our global atmosphere.

The Democrats want to tax their way to a solution on energy and gas costs. Take from the rich, give to the poor...AGAIN. The Republicans just want to “supply” their way out of the mess by increased drilling just about anywhere. Neither one is a long term solution to a long festering problem. I truly don’t understand giving tax breaks on the record breaking profits of oil companies in this day and age. They should pay the same taxes as any other business in America. In that I side with the Democratic view. But…that is not a current solution to our bigger problem. And the Republicans going back to Reagan offered many incentives and ear marked money for new energy sources, but like most government controlled programs…it has been highly ineffectual in gaining momentum or replacing oil and carbon fuels. I personally believe there are many politically financial reasons for this in our government which I would love to get to the bottom of, but it is so buried in lies and hypocrisy that none of us would be able to bear the stench.

But, there ARE some things we can do. First, there is the voting booth in our upcoming elections. We should vote for people who can and will do something about this crisis. I personally plan to find online and support any movement and communications to our government related to moving on these issues NOW. There is some interesting info and groups that we can help support on this agenda at the following links. Lets DO something…

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bob Barr? Ron Paul? Hmmmmm! Bob Barr on Glenn Beck Barr on Bloomberg Barr on Neil Cavuto Campaign website

I think I have found someone who represents the ideals I can vote for. While the two main party candidates continue to flip-flop, attack each other for the lack of any original ideas, and avoid talking about the real issues in the campaign, along comes Bob Barr as a refreshing alternative. If I can’t have Ron Paul because the Republicans can’t handle his message, I might have to pursue Bob.

Bob Barr is the 2008 Libertarian nominee for President of the United States. Previously, he represented the 7th District of Georgia in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003, serving as a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, as Vice-Chairman of the Government Reform Committee, and as a member of the Committee on Financial Services. He now practices law with the Law Offices of Edwin Marger, and runs a consulting firm, Liberty Strategies LLC, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia and with offices in the Washington, D.C. area.

Bob is not a pure Libertarian, but then, neither am I. He doesn’t support legalization of drugs and is against liberalizing marriage laws. Like the other parties, there is great diversity of views within the party. What unites Libertarians is basic principles of maximizing individual liberty, limiting government growth and influence while returning powers to the people and the various states. These powers at the local and state level should include social works and a majority of legal processes. This would reverse the upside down pyramid of government costs and waste. And because people have been willing to vote outside the two party system, we have many local and state government leaders from Libertarian or independent parties in place. A good start.

Meanwhile, most of the media pundits just dismiss 3rd party candidates as “spoilers” or radicals. At the same time I would suggest there are more “radicals” and dissatisfied voters in the mix this year than any other time in my lifetime. What’s at stake is opening up our political system and getting rid of the domination of the two party systems. In fact, to take it a step further, it is time to get rid of the whole Electoral College approach and let democracy truly reign by popular vote in this country with multiple party/candidate options.

People, some even close to me over the years, when I have mentioned voting for independent parties or candidates have stated I was “wasting” my vote. As if somehow if we don’t go with the flow of public convenience or opinion we are somehow irrelevant. I stand diametrically opposed to that mindset, and would even go as far as to suggest it is much more patriotic to stand up for YOUR beliefs and positions as opposed to just “going with tradition and standard practices” of the establishment. Haven’t we had enough of big government and career politicians raping us of our resources and creating a vacuum of integrity or morality in leadership? How else are we going to rid ourselves of this if it is not in the election booth? Do we have to wait for a violent revolution of some type? Personally, I don’t see why we can’t take back our government, our mis-spent tax dollars, and our freedom to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” at the ballot box.

I will continue watching and evaluating all these Presidential candidates in the coming months…but when all is said and done, I will vote for whoever represents MY interests and ideals in government leadership. Not who a particular party, or worse yet…some media pundits… want to push on me as acceptable when they are not. I encourage every American to do the same. THAT is what will change and improve our country. The will to vote for change…intelligent change…is what will return our country to peace and prosperity.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Teen from faith-healing family dies in Oregon (video) (article)

Ever so often we see a report on people who believe in “faith healing” and refuse standard medical care or support. In some cases these people are cured by “miraculous” means…and I’m afraid in most cases, they don’t get better and die. I think this is a mystery for both believer and non-believer alike.

I come from family roots that believe in “faith healing”. I myself have observed or been witness to miraculous recoveries. I have an uncle with cancer who is a “walking miracle”. Meanwhile, his daughter, my cousin, died in her early 30s from a very rare and fatal disease leaving behind a loving Christian husband, family and two very young children. There were many small “miracles” during her ordeal that we observed or heard about and her personal faith and courage during that time was exemplary to all…but she died…and we still miss her.

Life and death is still a mystery to us all in one way or another. It leads to many big questions and mystery in life that I’m not sure there are answers to. Religion and faith can sustain us to a point of giving comfort and support based on what we “believe” regarding the purpose of life and promise of an after-life, but still many times we have to admit it doesn’t take the total “bite” out of our sense of loss and injustice. Life can be very perplexing…and some of us, well, at least me, don’t find it that easy to just dismiss it as simply “Gods will” or “that’s the way it goes”. We hurt, we question, and we continue searching for answers.

Therefore, stories like the one above in the video and article stir up some thoughts. Fortunately, my family has balance in believing in miracles, but also believing God works through and with doctors, nurses, scientists, et al. The best cures are a combination of faith, positive attitude and…sound judgment as to cures and actions that can be realistically taken to “help God help us”.

The main problem this story brings up is…what is the role of parents for young children versus the community at large and government observing the treatment, or lack thereof, for a child’s illness. Can we in good conscience just stand back and let parents make irrational and mystical decisions related to the survival of their children who don’t know any better or have any power to make their own decisions about what’s best for them? What morals or principles are most important here? Protection of people’s religions/beliefs, or protection of their very lives? Who should intervene? Other family members? Neighbors? Local officials like the police? State government? Federal government? At this point it seems EVERYONE is confused on who is responsible for these situations. I’m sure the parents or even extended church members involved believed they were doing the right thing. But, to what level do we now hold them responsible for the death of their child? Have THEY learned anything by this? Is their faith elevated or diminished by these results? Or…have they become so anesthetized by their beliefs that they already have moved on and don’t understand what all the fuss is about?

There are no easy answers to much of this in my mind. I do believe that ADULTS should be able to make their own decisions about seeking medical care or health improvements…as long as it doesn’t cost ME or their NEIGHBORS for their lack of reasonable care. But for minors/children, I think community and government has a role, preferably BEFORE the death of a child, to intervene where extreme irrationality is threatening sustainable life of that child. Unfortunately, we usually wait until it’s too late, and then just point fingers and castigate people.

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Offshore drilling versus conservation…

As these politicians continue flip-flopping, back filling, and twisting their positions on our oil and energy crisis…they are ALL quickly loosing my support or enthusiasm. John McCain now reverses himself on the issue of offshore drilling as does his potential VP nominee Charlie Crist, current governor of Florida (see article link above). There are all kinds of videos and documents online related to this issue and I haven’t had time to study this at length. So, I can only react to my “senses and sensibilities” on this issue.

I am for increasing our own production of oil and energy and being more self reliant than dealing/trading with our sworn enemies on these commodities. At the same time, I am for conservation and development of energy in a RESPONSIBLE manner. Do I trust government or oil companies with doing so? Absolutely not! Then who should do so?

I would love to see a special, bi partisan committee, a “commission” if you will, made up of government, conservation groups, business leaders, and yes, even the oil companies, to jointly discuss the best alternatives. This is as or more important than global warming in my opinion. Actually it will address THAT issue as well. Out of that should be a report just like the international commission did on global warming. From there, business and government should combine and report to Americans best practices and strategy towards generating our own energy…and including CONSERVATION in the mix!

By conservation, I mean more than “tree hugging”. NO ONE is talking practically or methodically about “conserving” or cutting back on our energy use. NO ONE is stepping up and saying they are for Americans to conserve and sacrifice on their personal use of gas, heat and air-conditioning, lighting in the streets and at home. Even Panama is doing more than I think most USA cities in cutting back their use of energy by demanding all billboards and office building signs be turned off/dark by 10PM. This alone saves tons of energy and dollars. Most of that move was driven by SUPPLY of electricity more than saving on the cost. But either way, good move Panama.

Now it’s time for Americans to cut back on these things. And yes, if consumption taxes are the only means to get the average Joe to cut back on driving their own cars EVERYWHERE or encourage them to start car-pooling, so be it (I cant believe I just supported taxation…but that’s how desperate the situation is in my mind). If we need to leverage city taxes to build more mass transit and reeducate the average American to use it by raising prices on individual consumption…so be it. Anyone who knows me knows I have little tolerance for government intervention in anything they are not constitutionally authorized to do. What I’m suggesting above may be a “gray” area constitutionally or legally, but compared to all the other silly things our government gets involved in (farm subsidies and legislating morality issues), this is much more important. Find a way to supply more of our own oil and gas while forcing us to cut back on consumption. Runaway consumerism should be a thing of the past with the international and domestic realities we face. It’s time for ALL patriotic Americans to get involved in this war on gas prices and energy consumption. Otherwise, our children and grandchildren will inherit the difficult realities and problems we are creating for their generations.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Coming Election…Battle of the Generations?

Now that the Democratic Party’s delegate battle is over with Obama declared the candidate for 2008, the airways have quickly flipped from the flapping lips about the Obama / Clinton battles…to focusing on the national campaign between McCain and Obama. Personally I think the Republicans would have preferred competing with Hillary who self destructed so much just in her fight to carry her own party as choice of Presidential candidate. I guess we will have to wait another 4 years to see a female as Presidential candidate contender. It will be interesting to see what Conde Rice does over the next four years.

The news and political pundits are now all focused on comparisons between the two final candidates. Much is being made of the “change” that Obama’s campaign has been all about versus the “wisdom, leadership and experience that comes with age” of the McCain campaign. There is no doubt that Obama’s historic rise and hard fought battle with Clinton brought perhaps MILLIONS of new voters into the process and dialogue. To me that is a good thing. Yet, it is also scary to listen to the rhetoric and views of many of these new voters. People want change at almost any cost…and they want the changes to benefit THEM first and foremost. I’m afraid our country is in a state of being where it cannot afford to do or be all that these constituents want from federal government. We are externally extended into costly conflicts abroad, reliant on foreign oil and financial borrowing, and internally in more extreme financial crisis than most Americans are willing to admit to themselves.

As I observe these discussions, I can’t help but think this election will be about which generation and generational views carry over into the ballot box. It seems to me we are at a point in our culture and space in time where change is happening quickly. Many people are not aware of how quickly things are changing. Most people don’t have or take the time to study and reflect on the past 30-40 years and the evolution of our globe. I see two images in the makeup of American voters that will be doing battle this year in the election. The “Establishment” or “old guard” will be fighting for control and recognition of their views while the young idealists and “change” mongers will be there in bigger numbers than ever before…and very possibly could take control of government for the near future. Let’s examine for a minute the character and nature of these two “movements” for lack of a better term at this moment.

The “establishment” is made up of mostly people 55 years of age and older. They tend to be more conservative and financially better heeled than the younger generation. They go back to Vietnam, Korea, and yes, some still remember “Pearl Harbor” and World War II. They have overseen the huge and rapid growth of our national economy, the rise and fall of our industrial complex, and are generally almost blindly patriotic and supportive of most every national tradition. They have carried a tradition of being THE defenders of freedom and democracy throughout the world…from the “halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli”…while their government has overseen and tried to maintain control of the reorganization of world order and boundaries in this post World War era. Most of them, at least until recently, have felt basically prepared and yearning for retirement. In general, their houses are paid for; they have significant savings and portfolios to go along with their retirement entitlements gained when Corporate American took care “its own”. They are quickly catching up in using technology and the internet for communications and “keeping up with the world”, but they are slow to adapt or care about the latest applications and gadgets. The 5-6 year old computer will do just fine in many cases. Many are even flocking to filing their taxes “on line”…albeit it grudgingly. They care about their reputations, image, traditions and values. They don’t trust people under 40 very much though they are very proud of the 18-21 year olds who are fighting and protecting their freedom abroad. They are probably TOO trusting of the leaders from their own generation, and in general are getting ready to escape into retirement and leave the reigns in the hands of the “younger generation”. They will make themselves available as advisors and confidants, but they will not be too willing to be “hands on” in solving the latest problems. “It’s someone else’s turn”.

On the other hand, we have the “younger generation” now coming into power and influence. Obamas meteoric and rapid rise to power and influence in the political arena is only an example of how things are changing. This generation has been a bit more “self centered” and consumer oriented than their parents and grandparents were. They have been categorized more by economic and class status than by ethnic or race orientations (more known by what style or age of car they drive than what neighborhood or family they are from). They have never really known a major depression economically or effects of a World War. Those who remember Vietnam primarily remember it as radical and anti establishment days where the nation was NOT united in its conflicts abroad. It became more "government VERSUS the people" instead of government OF the people. War veterans were not honored or supported…at home or in the field…as they had been in previous conflicts. This generation has had a growing mistrust in governments, institutions and religion. It has been more about the “me” generation, personal rights, having the latest styles and fashions, and yes, trying to get richer faster than their previous generations. Image is more important than substance. Since an early age they have been inundated by media and culture with exposure to violence, crime, sexuality, and a general overload of information globally that has almost made many of them oblivious to shock or outrage. They tend not to express or debate “issues” or beliefs, and instead are quite focused on feelings, privacy and personal passions. Drugs have been a constant influence in their generation with a higher percentage than any other previous generation being either in prison or in some kind of treatment for addiction. They have learned to operate and live within the “system”, but not really feeling PART of the system. Many of them have never, or hardly ever, voted. This is changing quickly…this year.

I of course am being overly generalist with these definitions of generations. At the same time, I don’t think I’m too far off on describing some of the core differences…and barriers…that these electoral times will bring to light. I still am not sure which generation, or candidate, I will vote for. I personally feel like someone straddling a wide range of views and influences…and not too trusting of either side of this divide quite honestly. I think whoever wins will be the candidate who wins the most “straddling” or independent voters this time around. It will be a tough race. We’ll see if the “old guy” can keep up physically, mentally and emotionally with the “young guy”. We’ll see if the young guy can exude enough wisdom and solid ideas to go along with his obvious charisma and charm. Personally, I still wish I had a solid third party candidate to consider for President. I suppose I am “un-American” to some people to think that way. I like to think I am a true lover of freedom and constitutional government. Things are way out of whack…and I don’t see either generation having a corner on good ideas right now. I hope that will change by November, but I’m not getting my hopes up too high.