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Friday, March 16, 2012

It’s about Religious Freedom

The argument is not about birth control, it is about religious freedom. Just as the civil war was not about slavery, it was about states’ rights. What states' right?  The states' right to legalize slavery. The religious freedom question is about the freedom to do what? The freedom of a religious organization to limit your freedom. The right to control women’s reproductive health care. The religious freedom argument is a smoke screen, if the question was about a cult’s religious freedom, what would be the Republican stance? We know their religious freedom stand for Islam, no mosque near ground zero, there is even a book “Stop the Islamization of America”; a book that claims stopping religious freedom protects American religious freedom. This is the twisted logic about the religious argument from the political right. I am not going to bother with the fallacy of an exclusively male dominated and controlled organization that reserves the absolute right to control a woman’s choices.
This is about politics and power, the power to force more than half of our population to practice bad medicine, the power to tell women what to do. They have claimed the religious freedom to hide child molesters, conduct inquisitions, burn witches, prosecute scientist, and defend slavery, centuries of unbridled authoritarianism. Religious freedom is the right to suppress the freedom of anyone who disagrees with the powerful. That is not moral or ethical. It is the egotism of power unchecked.
Combining politics and religion has always ended badly for the powerless average person. Religion as a standalone institution can be beneficial. Religious institutions can help the unlucky, protect the persecuted and offer great comfort in hard times. Religion can offer a moral compass, an anchor, developed over centuries of ministering to humans. Once religion gets political power and the unchecked authority of law it becomes oppressive and destructive. Power corrupts and giving religious institutions the power to force people to comply will corrupt absolutely. Let us stop the stupidity and allow women to make their own choices.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Iran gets the bomb

The drums of war are beating on the American media’s great information machine, again. The same line and story from the Iraqi war run up have been dusted off and are back on display. State sponsorship of international terrorism, a government run by irrational psychopathic leaders (I’m talking about Iran not America, we have socialist in charge), a nuclear bomb will be launched on Chicago, oil held hostage and on and on. Just as with prewar Iraq the facts are in short supply and in conflict with the story.
If Iran gets a nuclear bomb, the story is told, this will start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Israel has over 100 nukes and is the stated enemy of all the Arab countries why hasn’t that started a nuclear race? Why isn’t there a nuclear program in Saudi Arabia? Syria is going to build a nuke? Syria can’t even build the rockets it fires. How about Jordan, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, Oman, Lebanon or Palestine starting to build nukes, none have the materials or technical infrastructure. Turkey could likely start a program so why hasn’t it already started a nuclear program? If an arms race was the problem it would already be underway. North Korea has a nuke, why hasn’t South Korea built nukes?
Iran will give nukes to international terrorist. North Korea and Pakistan have not given away or sold any nukes, the Russian mob has not sold any nukes. The difficulty of designing and building a nuke is so great that any nuke exploded can quickly be identified, physicist would know when and where it was built. Retaliation is almost certain and with nukes everybody dies, politicians and citizens, rich and poor. Could that realization restrain a leader?
Iranian leadership is irrational. Really? Where is the proof of this? Iran has elections and political baiting of America is popular just as in America political baiting of Iran is popular. Could it be that their politicians are the same as ours, saying anything that gets votes? We have Glen Beck and the NeoCons, who do they have? What makes their guys more irrational than ours?
Even using the older nuclear bomb designs available on the internet constructing a bomb is nearly impossible. The industrial capacity required is extensive and expensive. The fissionable material is constantly decaying and has to be stored separate from the other bomb components or the radioactivity will degrade the working components, maintaining a working nuke also requires highly advanced scientific capabilities.
All of the people I have listened to talking about bombing Iran seem to have several things in common. None have ever been soldiers in a war zone. They are stuck in the 1930s, talking about Neville Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler, telling us what we should have done then and why the same is true now. I think Churchill or FDR would have locked them up and continued with fighting the war. Even their vision of the past is myopic and their vision of the future is irrational paranoia. If we listen to them we will have another 10 year, 4 trillion dollar pointless war in the Middle East. Bombing Iran cannot be sold based on the merits it will need unthinking hysteria.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I make the gravy

Someone has to make the gravy and someone has to eat the gravy. I don’t have a problem making gravy I don’t get to eat. When I have to make the gravy and pay for the gravy I do have a problem. That is the deal the middle class is being offered today in America. We get to do all the work and pay all the bills. The elite, the rich and politically connected have always been parasitic, most of the time capitalist society can support the parasitic with its surplus and still give the 99% a comfortable living. There has traditionally been a tipping point, unfortunately, it has to become really bad before reaching that tipping point. The elite never see it coming because they don’t feel it, someone with 30 million dollars will not notice that gas is $100 a gallon or bread is $30 a loaf. High consumer prices make no difference to them, they already spend $1,000 for a pair of shoes or $25,000 for a wrist watch. This has always been the case for the 1%, they don’t go hungry or die from a treatable disease. As always the elites have had success at keeping the masses from organizing or allowing any alternate ideas to surface, we are confused and disorganized. The mass media has been used by their owners to present information that keeps us confused and disorganized, and this turns out to be financially profitable for the owners of the mass media. The right wing media adds anger to the confused and disorganized which earns them bonus points from their owners. This is why it has to get so bad before the tipping point is reached.
There is no secret cabal, no international organization controlling the masses. The elites are organized but not that organized. If there was a secret master plan, a star chamber, some individual elite would see a potential advantage in making it public or fighting it. This has been tried many times and has always failed because of human nature. At best a secret plan can only happen at a local level with a very small number of elites for a short period of time. Social systems lose their balance because of human nature, the beneficiaries get fat and comfortable and there is no motivation for those in control to change anything. The system just slowly rots from the core. When the tipping point comes there is little left to stop it. The assassination of a single Duke in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 started World War 1 and ended a 1,000 years of monarchies.
Yes, I am on a rant today and no I do not believe we are near a tipping point, we are still far from any tipping point. Over my life time I have seen a decline in the middle class, there is less upward mobility for my children than there was for me. Currently there is no plan to improve our society, and our politicians have empty slogans about saving the future or returning our greatness. Market tested words without any meaning or with any meaning you wish. The plan is to keep doing what has caused the decline. Our leaders make much of threats which do not exist while ignoring the very real threats we do face. I think most people buy this because there is nothing else for sale. The ½% of the population that is always discontented has grown to maybe 20%, not a good sign. The Tea Party has become a parking place for discontented Republicans without losing the Republican votes and the OWS movement hasn’t been able to organize or get funded. At this point if either group does make a difference it will be a net negative but likely neither group will make any real difference. That a larger percentage of the population is demanding better is a meaningful metric. Something will replace the Tea Party and OWS, people will continue to look for a better answer. Things will get better because of the competition, and the competition is the rest of the world.
While we have spent 30 years chasing the failed dream of a financial utopia of the perfect free market, the rest of the world has been practicing real world capitalism. We are the only nation using the supply side market theory. I think the middle class has lost ground in America, if I lived in China or the Netherlands I would feel the middle class has gained ground. My parents saw us move from Biplanes to a moon rocket, in my life one of the most successful capitalist societies is communist, I never saw that coming. There is no reason to think this rate of change will not continue. We may be moving backward but the rest of the world is moving forward. The Republican’s plan to make things better is by making things worst. Since governance is incompetent the logic says we need less governance. If this works so well why are the nations with the best performance using a different plan? Why are nations that used to look to America as the template are no longer listening to us? Before you point to our President or the 2008 Democratic legislature explain why this was happening in 2004. If the Supply Side theory is correct we should be floating in good jobs and everyone should be rich, so where are the jobs and why are we broke? We have deregulated, reduced taxes and even the Republicans acknowledge that this hasn’t worked, we just need more and it will magically start to work. Really?
Political gridlock is the best government for business, the Chinese do not have a process for political gridlock and their economy has outperformed for more than 20 years. Singapore avoids political gridlock and they have outperformed for more than 20 years. I can name a dozen examples of nations without political gridlock that are succeeding. I cannot find one example of a country with political gridlock that is even breaking even. Iraq has political gridlock, how well is that going?
We question evolutionary theory, and we question global warming, because they are just theories. We are not allowed to question supply side theory; especially using facts, if I can’t question supply side is it really a theory or is it a statement of faith?  I propose that the economic supply side theory is wrong based on the results of the last 30 years we have been practicing it. I would suggest that we use the best practices of the countries that have a record of success. They use a little bit of many economic theories, using what works and reviewing the results.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Nothing has changed

We had a collapse of the financial system which was saved by tax payer dollars. The private gains of individual brokers, traders and CEOs became the social loss of the tax payers when the high risk bets went bad. While the party lasted a small percentage of people massed huge profits, once the party was over I got the bill, I wasn’t invited to the party so why do I have to clean up the mess? We have now had 30 years of political belief in “Supply Side Economics”. Supply side predicts greater/cheaper production (supply) of goods and services by reducing barriers such as regulation and taxes. The principle prediction is widely spread prosperity (The trickle down part) this clearly has not happened, I don’t need a veterinarian to tell me dogs hate cats, and I don’t need an economist to tell me supply side hasn’t worked. Even though there are ample studies about cats and dogs and supply side economics my life experiences have answered both questions. We just had the largest crisis since the “Great Depression” and nothing has changed and no meaningful change is being proposed. The same greed and self interest that created this mess is still running rampant. The same deregulation is continuing, the same tax reduction for the rich is continuing. Another crash is inevitable. So why do the majority of people I talk with think that continuing the same thing will make everything better?
I understand the basic human response of seeing what you want to see and believing what you want to believe. As an engineer I wasn’t allowed this human trait, if the plane didn’t fly I had to figure out why. What I see now is everyone celebrating a successful flight while the plane lies in a smoking ruin at the end of the runway. Much is said about cognitive dissonance, this is the discomfort caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. This doesn’t fit my observations, the people I talk with feel no conflict from holding ideas with no basis in reality. When the reality is pointed out the typical response is to deny or fall into personal slurs. They live in some separate self created non-reality. I know from my career that reality always wins. What we see today is reality winning, the economy did collapse, retirement plans have been destroyed, and trickle down did not happen. We have a national group think based on a fantasy; telling each other it must be true because the other guy told me so. Our media is market based; telling us what we want to hear is the business plan, with some sensational trivia for artistic trim. At this point the boom-bust cycle will continue simply because we are in denial about the causes of the boom-bust cycle.
I give up, I surrender, since we will not face the problem as a society I am going to ride the next boom and cash out early before the bust. Timing the market is impossible and the cycles seem to getting shorter so I am going to set an annual target, when I hit my target I will cash out and stop playing until next year or the next bust. I am also going to store more canned goods and get a bigger dog.