Saturday, December 27, 2008

Heavenly Get Out of Jail Free

God gives everybody a "Get Out of Jail Free Card." Some of us use it too early in life. Just an observation.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

When Democracy Becomes Idiocracy

The response to Barack Obama’s election demonstrates the iron triangle of political idiocy in this country. This particular iron triangle is a substandard educational system that produces non-thinking drones, a media system that simplifies all issues to the lowest common denominator of idiocy, and a political system that eschews philosophy and ideology in favor of focusing entirely on personalities. All three failings work together to create the collapse of the democratic system that has been created for over 200 years in this country.

For the past several years, the educational system in this country, at all levels, has been degenerating. At first, the main problem was social promotion. This educational model is based on the notion that students should be passed to the next grade regardless of their abilities or efforts. To fail a student who doesn’t meet minimum academic standards might hurt the student’s self-esteem. The purpose of education in this model is to stroke the ego of the students. As a result, over time, expectations and standards are repeatedly lowered. One obvious manifestation of this model is that college admission tests have had to be dumbed down (“renormed” is the education doublespeak for this process) ( Thus, those students who choose to go to college because some idiot has lied to them and told them that’s how they get high-paying jobs, find out they can’t perform college-level work. This educational model has not been abandoned, but another has been added – edutainment. Edutainment is the result of our culture which encourages short attention spans and which regards anything that’s not “fun” as too hard and too boring to bother with. Thus, education should be quick and fun. Anything that might be hard, like actually reading a whole book or taking notes (stuff that might be considered, you know, learning) should be kept to an absolute minimum. The result of the edutainment educational model is that students are incapable of prolonged study or inquiry on any subject, whether in school or in their daily lives. Finally, a third educational model has been added, the “No Child Left Behind” model. In this model, students are taught the same material for weeks, months, and even years simply so they can pass a test. Students are only taught the necessary factoids to pass the standardized test. No effort is made to teach students how to think or reason for themselves. In fact, active thinking is discouraged because it takes time away from teaching to the standardized tests. Instead, students are just told for years what to think and to believe. The result of this third model of education is the creation of individuals with an inability to reason and a certain deference to authority. The first two educational models create idiots while the third one creates mindless drones – not just in the classroom, but also in everyday life.

Journalists, like most people, are the product of the degenerating educational system. Thus, even if they wanted to analyze their stories in a more in-depth manner, they lack the necessary intellectual tools. As a result, discussions of the economy and politics tend to be simplistic and reductionist. Both the economy and politics becomes a great morality play. Everything is reported as a simplified dichotomy between good and evil, bad and nice, liberal and conservative, or other meaningless dyads. If, however, a journalist wanted to present a more intellectual discussion of some current event including historical background, opposing sides, and the various connections that exist between multiple events, he or she would run into the inescapable fact that most newspapers and nightly news broadcasts are written at the sixth-grade level. Our educational system has created a (non)reading public which doesn’t have the reasoning capacity to follow a lengthy, logical argument. All ideas must be presented in a quick and fun manner rather than an intelligent form. Thus, they can no longer take an active role in the decision-making process in our democracy.

Politicians are well aware of these problems and, instead of working to remedy the situation, they take advantage of the decline of reason for their own purposes. They do not discuss any ideas in detail. Instead of debating their philosophy or ideology with their political opponents (as has been done for about two centuries), they spew banal platitudes that can be accommodated in a thirty-second sound bite on the nightly news or a twelve-word paragraph in the newspaper. Instead of voting for political leaders, we’re presented with actors telling their followers what they want to hear and what to believe. Luckily for the politicians, our educational system is producing the sort of mindless drones who believe the mental pabulum dished up to them in the nightly news and who have been trained to simply believe what those in authority tell them to believe.

There are some real problems in our country, and these three systemic failures are only exacerbating these problems. The presidential election is one of the most obvious manifestations of this systemic failure. For example, one candidate’s entire platform consisted of one word, “Change.” This extensive platform had the advantage of being understood by Americans with a sixth-grade education and it came in well under the 30-second sound bite limit. It could also mean whatever the listener wanted it to mean. The other candidate’s platform was twice as long with “Country First.” This had the same advantage as the one-word platform, plus it could appeal to everybody from George Washington to Adolf Hitler.

The reaction of many Americans to the election of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States clearly reflects the systemic failure of the educational, media, and political systems. Much of the praise by “liberals” for Obama borders on religious zealotry. Some people were voting for the next savior, not the next president

If you have a DVR, search “Barack Obama coin” in program titles. You will get over two pages of shop-at-home networks selling these holy relics. At least one school has been re-named “Barack Obama Elementary School” (, an honor usually reserved to somebody who has accomplished something after long service to the state or community. The media presents his frequent announcements from the (fabricated) “Office of the President-Elect” as if it were holy writ presented by Moses come down from Mt. Sinai. This personal adulation has never been seen before in this country. It runs completely counter to our system of democracy which has always maintained a healthy skepticism of politicians. It’s the kind of emotional hero worship one finds in Third World politics.

On the other hand, there are a number of “conservatives” who console themselves by saying that at least Obama won’t be in office for long. They darkly hint that he might be assassinated. Anecdotally, I’ve heard of some miscreants suggesting that his assassination would be good for the country. Such sentiments are un-American and any true “patriot” should exercise his or her rights of free expression to mash out the guts of these troglodytes. It’s embarrassing to be an American when the election of Obama apparently resulted in an increase in the number of new members to the Ku Klux Klan and similar groups of idiots (,0,7570102.story).

Barack Obama is not the second coming of the Lord, nor is he the anti-Christ. He is, not simply, the next president of the United States. As Americans, we need to address seriously the problems in the educational, media, and political systems that resulted in the selection of the leader of our nation coming down to personalities, character assassinations, and simple-minded rhetoric instead of substantive discussions of the issues and problems facing our country. We may have selected the best person for the job, but, with the seriously flawed nature of the systems, we’ll never know because we, as Americans, have allowed democracy to degenerate into idiocracy.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Sally Field Version of Foreign Policy

After the election of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States, I was so excited and thrilled to see that most of the rest of the world thinks we made a great choice. To paraphrase Sally Field, they really like us, right now, they like us. I can’t describe how wonderful I feel knowing so many different countries in the world now like us.

The media and other elites in Europe just can’t say enough good things about our new president. For example, the German tabloid, Bild states, “`The new president will be greeted by the world as a savior. In Germany above all. Everyone has now fallen freshly in love with the new America, the other America, the good America. Obamerica, even. ‘" These sentiments are expressed under the title “Messiah Obama.” (,1518,588920,00.html) I had always thought that Europe was far less spiritually oriented than the US. Now I see that I was wrong. The European have a very strong religious streak, even seeing our new president as the second coming of the Lord. Awsome.

Most European leaders and pundits are looking forward to Obama’s close cooperation with Europe. In an article in Der Spiegel, Chancellor Angela Merkel and others in her government cheered our selection of Obama because he will end American unilateralism in foreign affairs. I’m so happy that the EU will now set our foreign policy. Yes, acting unilaterally is terrible. We acted unilaterally in Haiti after the violence of the Jean-Bertrand Aristide regime. We should have waited for the members of the Organization of American States to step in and stop the slaughter. Still waiting. Maybe we should have sat back and waited for the EU to deal with their mess in the former Yugoslavia. Look at what a great job they did in Srebrenica. Reliance on multilateral action worked spectacularly in Rwanda. The multilateral actions of the EU, UN, and African Union are working splendidly in Darfur. Yes, tying our foreign policy to these organizations is a great idea. What could possibly go wrong?

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France is quoted as saying, "`Obama is my buddy,’" in “Sarkozy Looks to the Obama Model” (,1518,588710,00.html). The article by Stefan Simmons includes the following observation: “`Obama is a model we can grasp’" is the way Zachary James Miller, an Obama fan in Paris, explains the astonishing affection shown by the French, presenting Obama not just as a representative for minorities, but as a messenger of "`hope for everyone.’" Maybe we can take lessons from the French in how to deal with minorities. We all know how well the French deal with their Muslim minorities as seen in the riots in Muslim ghettoes in 2005 and 2006 (

Margot Wallström, Vice-President of the European Commission looks forward to the US adopting the Kyoto Accords on climate change (this used to be called global warming, now it’s “climate change” – a theory that explains everything) (,1518,588190,00.html). The Senate, by a vote of 95-0 opposed the accord because it would bankrupt the US economy ( I’m certain my fellow Americans will join me in hoping Obama will cooperate closely with our allies in destroying our economy.

Slavenka Drakulic, author of Cafe Europa (a book that criticizes the ex-communist regimes as thoroughly as the new democratic states in Eastern Europe) writes in Der Spiegel that the world would like to see Obama “stop the war in Iraq, divert funding from the military industrial complex and use it to improve the lives of the poor, introduce national health insurance, sit down with Putin and discuss how best to bring peace to the world, persuade China and India to restrict dangerous gas emissions, get rid of the Taliban in Afghanistan, make a deal with Iran, sign the Kyoto Protocol, catch Osama bin Laden and, finally, bring peace to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Of course, all of this should be accomplished in close collaboration with European governments -- and all in the first year, possibly in the first days of his presidency.” (,1518,588190,00.html) Luckily for us, Obama will have the cooperation of the Europeans in achieving these goals. Certainly, our unwillingness to work with them in the past is the only reason these aspirations have failed to be achieved. After all, look at the great job the EU has done solving so many of their own internal problems. If only the US would simply follow the lead of their betters in the EU.

Thierry de Montbrial, director of the French Institute of International Relations, expresses the hope that Obama will take “a friendlier approach to the rest of the world” and be a president who “thinks beyond narrow American interests.” (,1518,588190-4,00.html) That’s right; the last thing we want is an American president who has the nerve to protect Americans and American interests. I supposed it’s too bad that Fred Rogers is dead because, according to Mr. de Montbrial, Mr. Rogers would have made an excellent foreign policy advisor for Obama.

Diego Hidalgo, a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, looks forward to Obama leading the US into “a new and much stronger international governance architecture.” This exceptional level of cooperation and subservience would help Americans realize that the nation state is too out of date to solve the complex problems facing the world – we need a true world government with the Eurocrats in Brussels controling our lives for our own good. Of course, according to Hidalgo, a necessary first step is for the US to join the International Criminal Court (,1518,588190-9,00.html). I’m sure we all look forward to a glorious future where the US gives up such outmoded ideas as national and legal sovereignty – that’s some serious cooperation.

Finally, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran sent president-elect Obama personal congratulations – the first time an Iranian leader has done this since the fall of the Shah in 1979. All Americans can agree with President Ahmadinejad that under Obama’s administration the “`hatred of all nations and majority of governments toward the U.S. leaders’" will be replaced with "`an approach based on justice and respect, as well as lack of intervention in the affairs of others.’" ( In particular, I suspect Ahmadinejad expects the U.S. to cooperate with the rest of the world by giving Iran a free hand to develop its nuclear weapons for use against the only democracy in the Middle East – Israel. After the problem of Israel is “solved,” Iran can address, with nuclear weapons, other states that fail to show it proper justice and respect.

Der Spiegel has provided an invaluable service by collecting ten pages of reactions to Barack Obama’s election from across Europe. As you read these passages (noted throughout my text above), you can’t help but be struck by the obnoxious condescension of the European commentators. The frequent use by the European elites of the phrase “American arrogance” reveals their own condescension. It’s hard to tell whether their paternalism is motivated by their continued disregard for Americans in general or Obama’s age. In addition, many of the commentators are positively gushing over Obama’s African heritage. At least nobody said he’s a credit to his race, but you have to wonder if some of their verbiage is overcompensation for an underlying racist attitude.

I guess I’m an idiot because I don’t care about what other countries think about our president. “Cooperation,” the way it’s used in the various observations by the European elites, especially Eurocrats like Wallström and Hidalgo, is double-speak for capitulation and subservience. I hope and pray that Barack Obama will be a great president, and his time in office will result in a stronger, more secure America. I don’t give a rat’s ass what the rest of the world thinks about our president. Since 1945, most of the world has benefitted most of the time from a strengthening America, whether that strength is determined economically, politically, or culturally. A strong America is a benefit to the world, and that strength may, on occasion, be projected without waiting for the UN to decide to stop debating and, instead, act. The alternative to this active foreign policy is mindless isolationism. An isolationist America would let more harm come to the world than an active America – isolationism is no longer in anybody’s best interest.

Thus, despite what some may hope, whether it’s like Bild, thinking Obama is the messiah, or de Montbrial characterizing him as “friendly,” Obama’s real success as president of the US will be determined solely by his strengthening of the US and not him becoming a lackey of the EU or any number of countries who would like to see us “cooperate” ourselves out of existence.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It’s Okay to Hate Sarah Palin Just Because She’s a Woman

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. The media says it’s okay to hate Governor Sarah Palin just because she’s a woman. Prior to the 1960s misogyny was not the only perfectly acceptable prejudice. When the Oppressor Clubs held their weekly meetings, there was a veritable potpourri, a melting pot, if you will, of different ethnic, racial, and religious groups, let alone women and gays, to hate based solely on their membership in a particular group. Then the 60s came along and more and more people began talking about equality. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke about judging people by their character, not their skin color. The National Organization of Women spoke about judging people not by their gender, but by their abilities. Finally, it was no longer “politically correct” to hate people based solely on the group to which they belong (except for fat people [] and Catholics []). Thus, the weekly meetings of the Oppressors Club are really boring if you are, like me, a fat Catholic.

Then came Monica Lewinsky. Now, ordinarily, a young woman who had sex with her boss at her place of business and then complained about it, would be the champion cause of NOW. But, not this time. Rather, Lewinsky was perceived to be not the proper type of NOW woman. A NOW woman would know to keep her mouth shut (so to speak) instead of endangering NOW’s faithful ally in the White House. Lewinsky was a stain (so to speak) on the good name of her male employer. For a while, the media allowed us to hate, mock, and make sophomoric jokes (see above) of Ms Lewinsky simply because she was a woman. Then, we had to lay off women and go back to the good prejudices against fat people and Catholics.

Then, Senator Hillary Clinton decided to run for president. We had some slight leeway to ridicule or denigrate her simply because she was a woman ( We didn’t have carte blanche like we did with Lewinsky, but it was close. And significant elements within the media encouraged our boorish behavior.

But Gov. Palin may be the holy grail of female bashing. We haven’t had such fantastic leeway to ridicule, denigrate, and hate somebody simply because of what group they fall into since the ‘50s – the 1850s. Palin is an idiot because she said you can see Russia from Alaska. You can (, but the media lets us bash her because she’s a dizzy broad. Just look at the caricature of her on SNL. Sen. Clinton is portrayed as a bitter bitch and Gov. Palin is a dizzy broad ( A few days ago, Joy Behar on The View called Gov. Palin a pig with lipstick (apparently a take-off on Sen. Barack Obama’s far less offensive use of the phrase “lipstick on a pig”). Thank you, Ms Behar, now we can all hate Palin for being a woman who, apparently, wears lipstick.

We can ridicule Palin for having hunted moose, which contains the wonderful line “if we let this woman loose, the depth of her experience, is like lipstick on a moose”) Admittedly, this isn’t nearly as funny as Sen. Joe Biden suggesting he would shoot Obama if he tried to take Biden’s guns (saw this on The Daily Show, but can’t find it on the internet), but Biden is a guy and Palin is a dizzy broad.

Likewise, we can mock Palin’s religious views ( Her views aren’t nearly as hilarious as Obama’s God who hates America ( But, once again, Obama is a dude and Palin is, to quote Bill Maher, “a bimbo.”

Let us not forget all the wonderful humor on the various late night shows and on Comedy Central mocking Palin for being a woman. Thanks for all the great material. Even Jamie Dukes on the NFL Network got in on the hating after he was asked as what he was dressing up for Halloween. Dukes put on a pair of glasses and said in a falsetto voice, “I can see Russia from my house.” Great stuff. Even though you can see Russia from Alaska, she’s an idiot, and we can make fun of her because only a woman would say something that stupid.
On behalf of the misogynists at my local Oppressors Club, I would like to thank, among others, CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, The New York Times, The NFL Network, The View, The Daily Show, and The David Letterman Show, for the freedom to disparage and, to a certain extent, hate Sarah Palin simply because she’s a woman. What a great country.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Idiocy of University Administrator Welfare

By the start of 2008, universities in the US were employing more administrators than full-time faculty (; Typically, this is justified by administrators because they have so much more to do running the university. However, when I first started teaching, I incorrectly assumed that the purpose of a university was to teach students how to think. Then, I discovered it was to support a winning football team ( Now, I realize the entire purpose of a university is to provide welfare benefits for administrators who couldn’t get a job in the real world. I know of a university where the provost (essentially, the vice-president of a university) gets paid at the national average while the full-time faculty are paid below the state average. Parents who are spending increasingly large sums of money to educate their kids in universities should ask why more and more of their tuition money is going to pay more and more administrators higher and higher salaries. Maybe they would get a warm and fuzzy feeling knowing they are enriching administrators who have nothing to do with their kids’ education.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Barrack Obama Is Jesus Christ

Senator Obama is perfect. Think about it. Apart from FOX News (with its obvious biases), have you read anything negative about Obama or heard anything critical of him on the national news? Since you have to be some kind of apocalyptic idiot to believe that the media is biased (just ask the media), then the only other logical explanation for Obama's perfection is that he is the second coming of the Savior. I'm a little disappointed because I thought there was supposed to be trumpets and cymbals announcing His return. I think there is also some mention of the dead rising from their rest. I guess Obama is waiting until his inauguration to raise the dead. To paraphrase one of my favorite groups, Emerson, Lake, & Palmer: Hallelujah, Noel. Be it heaven or hell, the political savior we get we deserve.

Thanks to ACORN, We Need UN Election Monitors

The voting fraud now going on this country is truly stultifying. The most obvious example of this is the fraud committed by ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). According to “Voter Fraud Watch: Could ACORN Scandal in Washington Have Been Avoided With Photo ID?” by Eric Shawn and Becky Diamond on, ACORN fraudulently registered about 1800 voters in Washington in 2006. As Washington Secretary of State, Sam Reed stated, “`There is nothing more fundamental to a democratic republic and to a citizen of the United States than participating in selecting your public officials. For people to undermine that and try to perpetuate fraud on the system is an outrage.’" According to the article, John Jones, head of ACORN in Washington, stated that this isolated incident outraged ACORN. ( ) However, in September 2008, at a joint House Administration and House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on "Federal, State and Local Efforts to Prepare for the General 2008 Election,” James Terry, Chief Public Advocate, Consumers Rights League stated: "`ACORN routinely says it will clean up its act. Yet, given its decade-long history of voter fraud, embezzlement, and misuses of taxpayer funds, ACORN's pattern of fraud can no longer be dismissed as a series of “unfortunate events.”” His testimony is a scathing attack on a pattern of fraudulent behavior at every level of ACORN (

One of the most obvious ways to prevent voter fraud is through a system of voter ID. Routinely, the requirement for voters to present a photo ID to vote is portrayed simply as a means to prevent African Americans from voting ( ) However, there is never an explanation, short of some conspiracy theory, to prove this allegation. Further, according to a Rasmussen Report, 76% of those polled favored voter ID – including 66% of registered Democrats (

John Fund in “Democracy Imperiled,” in 2004 noted the widespread voter fraud in a number of cities including Baltimore, Milwaukee, New Orleans, and Philadelphia (where the number of registered voters exceeded the number of adults eligible to vote). Without requiring an ID to vote, “the illegal alien who assassinated the Mexican presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio was registered to vote in San Pedro, California — twice.” ( Sometimes the solution to a problem is so obvious it’s blinding.

All too often, government prosecutors are loathe to investigate charges of election fraud because, according to John Fund, “… they fear charges of racism or of a return to Jim Crow voter suppression tactics if they pursue touchy fraud cases” This is the problem in Alabama. According to an AP article in the Tuscaloosa News (18 October 2008) entitled, “6 counties have more voters than possible,” “The Birmingham News compared the state’s voter registration numbers with the Census Bureau’s population estimates and found more registered voters than voting-age adults in Conecuh, Greene, Lowndes, Perry, Washington and Wilcox counties.” ( The following chart shows that four of the six counties are predominantly African American, all are impoverished, and all are undereducated – a mixture ripe for abuse by those who will manipulate the system for their own aggrandizement.

A=County; B=%African American; C=Median Household Income (2004); D=%Below Poverty; E=Percent High School Graduates
Conecuh .........44..... $24,334 ...23.1...67.7
Greene ...........79..... $22,439 ...26.5...64.8
Lowndes .........71 ....$24,967 ...25.5 ...64.3
Perry ..............69 ....$21,640 ...30.4...62.4
Washington ...26 .....$32,147 ...18.1... 72.3
Wilcox ............72 .....$19,682 ...30.4 ...59.5
Alabama .......26.3 ...$37,062 ...16.1 ...75.3
US .................12.8 ...$44,334 ....12.7...80.4

An article similar to the one in the Tuscaloosa News appeared in the New York Times, “Officials Investigate 3 Alabama Counties in Voter Fraud Accusations” by Adam Nossiter (10 July 2008) detailing the charges of voter fraud using multiple suspicious absentee ballots (a long tradition in Alabama) where six times more absentee ballots were cast in Perry County (where the Black Panthers were founded) than the state average. One of Perry County’s commissioners, Albert Turner, Jr., charged that this was a racist plot. However, Michael W. Jackson, Perry County district attorney, an African-American and a Democrat, doesn’t hold Turner’s opinion of a conspiracy to disfranchise the blacks of Perry County. “`For there to be that many, it’s suspicious. When you get the absentee ballots, it’s a lot easier to pull that off, forge their names, vote for them.’ He added, “`It certainly needs to be looked at, because given the historic significance of Perry County, we want to make sure candidates and the public have a fair process.’” ( A number of affidavits in Perry County demonstrate that some candidates, including Albert Turner, Jr. routinely buy votes. One of those who was paid by an associate of Turner stated, “`The last time I voted, I was paid $30,’ Mr. Collins said in a telephone interview this week, adding: `It’s pretty common. It ain’t nothing new.’” (

The real tragedy of unchecked voter fraud is that as more and more people see politics as a game without rules, voter turnout will continue to decline. John Fund notes, “This growing cynicism diminishes respect for the nation's institutions and lowers voter participation. Only 11 percent of the 18- to 19-year-olds eligible to vote for the first time now bother to go to the polls. The United States ranks139th out of 163 democracies in the rate of voter participation. The more that voting is left to the zealous or self-interested few, the more we see harshly personal campaigns that dispense with any positive vision of our national future.” In short, ignoring voter fraud undermines our democracy and elections degrade from a debate over philosophy and ideology into a vituperative combat of personalities.

Will state and federal investigators have the courage to pursue the loss of civil rights (whether it’s by ACORN or the Perry County commissioners) resulting from such flagrant voter fraud in the face of charges of racism, or will they, as has happened several times in the past decade in Alabama, simply abandon the people (of whatever race) to a political cabal that manipulates both race and political parties for their own aggrandizement?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

911 -- We Have Forgotten

This year marks the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the US (we’re not allowed to say “Moslem-led” attack lest we offend somebody), and few people in America can tell you the exact year it happened. As we enter the presidential election cycle, it is horribly obvious that we have forgotten what happened to us. Instead of focusing on the real issues that face this country – security, energy, education, health (in no particular order) – we focus on whether or not Barrack Obama called Sarah Palin a pig ( He didn’t. Even if he did, so what? There are bigger issues facing this country than name calling. Instead of holding the candidates’ feet to the fire on important issues, the press keeps giving us bizarre sound bites and non-stories. Does it really matter that Obama’s middle name is Hussein or that Palin’s daughter is pregnant out of wedlock? Perhaps the lack of a strategic energy policy is a tad more important than these personal issues.

Unfortunately, journalists are, generally, not intelligent enough to report or discuss the real issues. Important issues are reported with the same intellectual rigor as one would expect in People or Us. The media continues to oversimplify all political issues. This is most apparent in describing foreign policy. They simplistically divide the world into two groups: those who are our friends and those who are not currently our friends. The second group will become the first group if we give them McDonalds and democracy (in that order). Unfortunately, the reality is that the world is, in fact, divided into two groups: those who are currently screwing with us and those who are not currently screwing with us. The voters should make their choices accordingly.

Rather than being real patriots, taking control of our government, we sit by, dull wittedly, while the bureaucracy controls our lives through the “Patriot Act” (a scurrilous piece of doublespeak) and the politicians concern themselves exclusively with getting re-elected. This presidential election is the same as the last several ones. Instead of voting for the lesser of two evils, we have to vote for the person least likely to screw up the country.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Thank you, Dan Kreider

From 2000 to 2007 Dan Kreider was the best Steeler. I don’t mean he ran the most yards, caught the most passes, or scored the most touchdowns, the normal types of stats for fantasy football freaks. Rather, Kreider embodied everything great about the Steelers – the type of player the true fan appreciates. Kreider is a pure fullback. His purpose in life is to open holes for the running back to break through and score. During his time with the Steelers, he never sought the glory. He just did his job. And he did his job better than anybody else at that position – just ask Ray Lewis. One of the great memories I have of Kreider is when he came flying around the edge and pancaked the “greatest linebacker in the universe” not once, but twice in one game. Beautiful. Watching Kreider work was like watching a great artist. His arms and shoulders were his brushes, the opponents were his canvas, and their pain was his paint. Okay, that’s a bit over the top. But to watch Kreider work was to watch a thing of beauty. Kreider’s version of hard-working, grinding, smash-mouth football was the type of football all Steeler’s fans appreciate (

The Steelers have chosen to go in a different direction. They no longer need a pure fullback. This will be a mistake. Wilie Parker is a great running back, and Reshard Mendenhall shows potential. But without Kreider’s excellence opening holes for them to run through, Parker and Mendenhall will have 500 fewer yards rushing than they would have had running behind Kreider. Parker knew this when he said, “`He's like an extra lineman that can run and can move side to side. He's a great blocker and he takes pride in what he does. It would be kind of disappointing [if he were cut]. It would be surprising. Sometimes you want to stay away from a lot of that, if they cut him. I don't want to talk about my man like that. He takes pride in what he does and I love what he does.’" (

Thank you, Dan Kreider. I hope the Rams know what a phenomenal player they have in you.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The New Munich Conference

The EU’s extraordinary summit meeting to address Russia’s naked aggression against Georgia released its statement on 1 September (,1518,575761,00.html). This was a propitious date as it marks the 69th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland that started World War II in Europe. Perhaps the EU could have waited until the 16th, the 69th anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Poland. But I think the EU should have released their statement earlier, on 28 August, to commemorate the Munich Conference. This was the conference where the West, lead by the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, appeased away Czechoslovakia’s freedom to avoid any possible conflict with Adolf Hitler.

It’s no wonder that the eastern members of the EU were the ones most interested in passing some kind of meaningful sanctions against Russia (; After all, they have experience in being sold out by the West to Russian aggression. They certainly remember the Soviet’s imperialism following World War Two.

Appeasement is a discredited policy. Knowing this, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s actions are motivated by craven cowardice. Georgia is learning that treaties and promises are meaningless without the will to enforce them. As already demonstrated in the former Yugoslavia, the EU lacks the will to enforce collective security. It is as emasculated as the League of Nations. Without the will to project its force in issues crucial to its very existence – such as, for example, freedom – one must question the legitimacy of the EU itself.

Perhaps “national self-determination” has become passé for the Eurocracy. Perhaps the sufferings of people in one “country” (now considered an outmoded construct in our post-modern world) are of little concern for the greater good (for a truly pathetic assessment of the glories and qualities of the post-modern world, including “The rejection of force for resolving disputes and the consequent codification of self-enforced rules of behavior,” and “Security is based on transparency, mutual openness, interdependence and mutual vulnerability,” see Robert Cooper, “The Post Modern State,”

Or, perhaps the Eurocrats’ post-modernism is just a cover for cowardice. I think the latter.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Organized Labor is Run by Idiots

I’ve been a Democrat for about 30 years. When I was a kid growing up outside Pittsburgh, just about everybody was a Democrat. Most parents were working class. Some were farmers, others worked in the mines, and some worked in the steel (pronounced “still”) mills. Even those parents who were in management had grown up working class (like my father who was raised on a farm). Most of the families in my neighborhood were second- or third-generation Americans from places like Germany, Italy, Ireland, or Poland. We thought of ourselves as Americans. Most of the people in my neighborhood were Catholics. In other words, we were the bedrock of the Democratic Party.

Unfortunately, in the late-60s and early-70s, the Democratic Party was taken over by middle-class, college-educated elitists. Their goals and, more importantly, their attitudes toward the traditional values of the Democratic Party were very different. This observation is nothing new. The “Reagan Democrats” were the traditional Democrats who felt abandoned and ostracized by their Party. The working class was now seen as some kind of “noble savages” or just idiots because they didn’t know what was good for them. Thank the Mother Goddess that new, better (used in a moral sense) educated individuals knew what was best for the rest of us idiots (See, for example, David Brooks, Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There).

Through it all, the leaders of organized labor have steadfastly remained loyal to a political party that takes them for granted. I remember at the North American Labor History Conference in 1994 the big news was that the Clinton Administration had promised organized labor the 4-day work week. Still waiting. Democratic presidential hopeful, Barrack Obama, has promised organized labor that his administration will opt out of (if not actually repeal) NAFTA (then again, maybe he wouldn’t: This is another shibboleth. NAFTA doesn’t cause the loss of nearly as many jobs as does businesses like Wal-Mart buying more and more goods from China. The US opting out of NAFTA would be like Germany opting out of the EU – and just as likely to happen.

The most glaring example of the Democratic Party taking organized labor for granted is the Party’s continuing support for the same level of corporate welfare favored by the Republican Party – welfare for corporations but not for individuals. Take, for example Kmart’s bankruptcy. This was one of the largest bankruptcies in history. Kmart emerged from this debacle by screwing their workers and private stockholders. Over 37,000 workers lost their jobs while Kmart restructured ( Despite this widespread suffering, Julian Day, who engineered this restructuring, received a $1 million bonus ( And while private stockholders had to eat their losses, banks and bondholders were taken care of. How did emerging from bankruptcy on the backs of workers and individual shareholders work out for Kmart? Apparently, remarkably well, because, within less than a year, Kmart was able to buy one of its competitors, Sears, for around $11 billion (when you’re talking billions, it’s hard to be precise). Eleven billion bucks is a lot of money for a recently bankrupt company to come up with. One of the ways the company did this was, no surprise, on the backs of its workers and former workers. Sears retirees, many of whom had worked for years for the company, now found themselves without health benefits (ht to for this information). The Democratic National Committee, the defenders of labor, did nothing to stop this egregious form of corporate welfare.

In a similar vein, General Motors recently balanced their books on the backs of their former salaried workers by taking away their health benefits (ht to for this information) ( How long will it be before they do the same for hourly retirees?

Even if you accept the limited definition of “corporate welfare” advocated by the Cato Institute, the government was spending $75 billion on these benefits – and that was in 1996 ( In 2000, Ralph Nader, in one of his more lucid moments, laid out an impressive list of abuses by both Parties on the backs of the American consumers ( For example, Nader argues that the S&L bailout was “Perhaps still the largest corporate welfare expenditure of all time” and was the result of the cooperation between both Democrats and Republicans. Of course, at the time, he never suspected the debacle of the Mortgage Bailout. While the act proposes $300 billion for the FHA to help save the banks at the expense of taxpayers, an editorial in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer points out that there may be $1-2 trillion in bad loans ( It’s a safe bet that the taxpayers will eventually bear this cost. Instead of defending 95 per cent of taxpayers who are making their mortgage payments on time, including the majority of the working class, the Democrats have chosen to support their financial supporters. Maybe we can count on Congress to stop shelling out billions of taxpayer dollars to big business. Or, maybe this will be Congress’ response:

The leadership of organized labor must stop using the workers as the whipping boys of the Democratic National Committee. They need to stop being taken for granted. I would not urge the creation of a Labor Party in the US because it’s not necessary. Both political parties are simply a loose coalition of interest groups. One or more of these groups periodically attain a dominant position within the party. Thus, for example, Evangelical Christians have an influence in the RNC greater than their numbers within the Party. Likewise, pro-abortionists have a similarly disproportionate influence within the DNC thanks to NARAL. And this points out why these groups have so much influence – they are organized. It’s time for trade union leaders to start throwing their organization around. They should sell their votes to the highest bidder. If the parties are just loose alliances of interest groups, the trade unions must look at themselves as just one of these interest groups. If they want to really protect workers they must seek to influence one of the two parties – it really doesn’t matter which one because there isn’t a great deal of difference between the two ( If the Sen. Obama wins the presidency and then screws labor the same way Clinton did, then the leadership should investigate what the Republicans have to offer. Remaining loyal to a party that is not loyal to you is idiocy.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

China's Olympics

We should give them the Olympics. If they are on the world’s center stage, they will settle down and join the world community. They will act with more restraint and be more cooperative. Further, they will know that we have moved on and put past animosities behind us. They need not worry about our intentions towards them, and, as a result, they will cease their massive rearmaments and attempts to destabilize governments throughout the world.

And look. Our efforts must be working, for they have significantly reduced (perhaps eliminated, oh we hop e so) their persecutions of religious and ethnic minorities. Yes, clearly, giving them the Olympics has worked beyond our wildest dreams. Surely, we will now enjoy peace and, more importantly, prosperity, in our time.

These are the sentiments expressed by many today. They are the same sentiments expressed by the same sorts of folks in 1936 during the Nazi Olympics. And we know how that turned out for everybody concerned.

If you’re watching the Olympics (I’m not), enjoy China’s Nazi Olympics. The slave laborers in their prisons (;, their persecuted ethnic and religious minorities (;, and the oppressed Tibetans (; won’t share your enjoyment.

Friday, July 4, 2008

I Might Be Paranoid But I Might Not

Throughout time, humans have willingly given up freedom for what they perceive to be security. Or, as Benjamin Franklin put it more eloquently, “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.” The trouble is that freedom is always taken. Either we take freedom for ourselves, or we let others take our freedom from us.

The erosion of our freedoms began in 1960 when, during his inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy stated, “… ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” While he meant that we should be more active citizens, its unintended meaning is fundamentally unconstitutional, that is, the notion that we exist to serve the state. We’ve lost sight of what John Locke taught us long ago when he argued that government is not our master, rather it is our servant. Since the 1970s our freedoms have not been legislated away so much as they’ve been bureaucratized away. Elected officials aren’t taking our freedoms from us at nearly the rate that the bureaucracy is. This is fundamentally unconstitutional. Individuals we did not elect are making dramatic decisions that take away our freedoms – and we are just letting them. Neither political party is interested in stopping this encroachment.

Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, there were calls for federal identification cards. There was actually enough hue and cry over this affront to personal liberty that the plan initially fell through. However, the passport requirements and the enhanced driver’s licenses are the first step towards mandatory federal id’s.

H.R. 10 “9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act” which was passed on 8 October 2004 contains some truly frightening infringements on our personal freedom. The most Orwellian part of the law under “Subtitle G – Protection of United States Aviation System From Terrorist Attacks,” contains “Section 2171. Provision for the Use of Biometric or Other Technology,” which calls for the creation of a system that can automatically analyze “the distinct physical or behavioral characteristics that are used for identification.” First, think about how much the government would need to know about you to identify you by your behavior. Secondly, such an automated system would be based on photographic analysis. Look around your town or city; how many closed-circuit “security” cameras are now in service for your protection? One of these cameras taped a truck that caused an accident that involved one of my daughters. After the driver of the truck fled the scene, the Tuscaloosa police said they were not able to use the information on the camera to determine his license plate number (despite having three of the seven digits thanks to a concerned citizen). I assume the new biometric system similarly would be used only against “undesirables” and not those who are part of the elite structure.

One of the central features of the Act appears to be simply annoying, that is, the proviso that all US citizens entering the country must now carry a passport even when entering Canada and Mexico which we never had to do before. These are our two partners in NAFTA. Compare this to the European Union, which, in a historic step, dropped the requirement for EU citizens to carry their passports between members states. However, there are far more troubling aspects of this law than inconvenience. First, “Section 3001. Eliminating the `Western Hemisphere’ Exception for Citizens,” paragraph 5 contains the idea that only the Secretary of Homeland Security can determine what documents might be substituted for the passport. That is, an appointed bureaucrat, not an elected representative (not even the president), has the power to determine what identification papers we must carry. A further paragraph in the same section tells the US citizens exactly who is in charge of them – a bureaucrat:
“( (2) LIMITATION ON PRESIDENTIAL AUTHORITY- Beginning on the date that is 90 days after the publication described in paragraph (1)(B), the President, notwithstanding section 215(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1185(b)), may not exercise the President's authority under such section so as to permit any citizen of the United States to depart from or enter, or attempt to depart from or enter, the United States from any country other than foreign contiguous territory, unless the citizen bears a document (or combination of documents) designated under paragraph (1)(A).
( (3) CRITERIA FOR DESIGNATION- A document may not be designated under paragraph (1)(A) (whether alone or in combination with other documents) unless the Secretary of Homeland Security determines that the document--
( (A) may be relied upon for the purposes of this subsection; and
( (B) may not be issued to an alien unlawfully present in the United States”
The law gives a bureaucrat the right to limit the authority of the president of the United States.

If you think requiring a passport for US citizens traveling to Canada or Mexico is keeping us safe from terrorists, then you’re a certifiable idiot. Terrorists can get faked passports or simply cross the borders without ones. The only reason we have this absurd law is for the government to keep more control and closer tabs on their own citizens. I don’t believe the government is out to get me. As I’ve told those who actually believe the government is out to get them personally, the real horror is that the government doesn’t give a damn about them as an individual.

“Subtitle B--Identity Management Security, Chapter 1--Improved Security for Drivers' Licenses and Personal Identification Cards,” carries the germ of the “Real ID Act.” In the sections dealing with the standardization of drivers’ licenses and birth certificates and the creation of national data bases to keep control over these sources of information, authority to enforce the regulations is taken from the states and taken by bureaucrats like the Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Transportation, and Homeland Security. The standardized identification cards and data systems were supposed to be supported by grants to the states from the federal government.

The “Real ID Act” ( was a rider to “Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005.” The act was tacked onto an appropriation bill that nobody in his or her right mind would vote against. After all, who would vote against providing aid to our soldiers or the victims of the tsunami of 2005?

A good overview of the Real ID Act is available at Once again, the power to issue and maintain the cards and databases is held by the Secretary of Homeland Security. “Homeland Security is permitted to add additional requirements--such as a fingerprint or retinal scan--on top of those [already given to the secretary]. We won't know for a while what these additional requirements will be.”

Opposition to the Real ID Act has created some odd bedfellows. For example, both the Maryland ACLU and the Republican governor of South Carolina eloquently have expressed their opposition to the Act. The ACLU points out that, “The Real ID Act creates an unprecedented national identity card and mandates that states expose the personal and private information of their residents to heightened risks of identity theft and data fraud, has a national price tag in the billions of dollars, and fails to establish real security.” (Remember the times that “secure” databases have been hacked? [] or []) Further, “The law places no limits on potential required uses for Real IDs. In time, Real IDs could be required to vote, collect a Social Security check, access Medicaid, open a bank account, go to an Orioles game, or buy a gun. The private sector could begin mandating a Real ID to perform countless commercial and financial activities, such as renting a DVD or buying car insurance. Real ID cards would become a necessity, making them de facto national IDs.” (

Governor Mark Sanford argues in a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, that, because the Real ID Act was a rider on an important appropriations bill, it was never debated. He cogently points out, “As a practical matter, this sensitive subject received far less debate than steroid use in baseball.” Secondly, despite the proviso to fund standardized driver’s licenses in the “9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act” the Real ID Act is another unfunded bureaucratic mandate. Another point he raises in his letter is the continuing power of the federal bureaucracy to coerce the states and US citizens. In this case, the requirement to carry the national identification card to board an airplane or enter a federal building is coercive. Finally, Stanton, like the Maryland ACLU, points out that there are no limits to what the Secretary of Homeland Security can require on the card or require you have to have your papers. ( )

There have been some efforts to repeal the Real ID Act, but these efforts have so far failed in the House of Representatives, for example, But, all 50 states have been given extensions (whether they asked for the extensions or simply stated their refusal to abide by the bureaucratic diktat) to comply with the mandate (

Coercing states to abide by a bureaucratic mandate is nothing new. “The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984,” coerced states into abiding by the rule by threatening to withhold federal highway funding unless they complied. However, there is some slight hope this idiocy might be overcome (

We conflate the two terms “government” and “bureaucracy.” But the government is elected and the bureaucracy is not. Unfortunately, the purpose of the bureaucracy has become to preserve the bureaucracy. (For an amusing take on this absurdity, see this clip from the brilliant BBC comedy, “Yes, Minister” Max Weber must be doing summersaults in his grave. In this country, the elected political leaders of both political parties abdicated their governing role to the bureaucracy when they focused all their attention simply on being re-elected.

In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, The Brothers Karamazov , the arch-bureaucrat, The Grand Inquisitor, triumphantly declares to Jesus, “In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet, and say to us: `Make us your slaves, but feed us.’ They will understand at last, that freedom and bread enough for all are inconceivable together. Never, never will they be able to have both together! They will be convinced, too, that they can never be free, for they are weak, vicious, worthless and rebellious.” When our bureaucrats make regulations to protect us from ourselves, they share the Inquisitor’s view of humanity.
We are reaching a tipping point where we are starting to lose meaningful freedoms. Franklin D. Roosevelt observed, “The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government.” We should now substitute “bureaucracy” for “government.” We’re idiots if we let the bureaucrats take our freedoms.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Religion of Idiots

According to the American National Election Studies (ANES) Guide to Public Opinion and Electoral Behavior, between 1980 and 2004, when asked “Do you consider religion to be an important part of your life, or not?” Americans answer in the affirmative at the rate of 75-79 per cent. ( However, in the same period, those who never attended a religious service climbed from 14 per cent to 35 per cent. ( The American Religious Identification Survey (2001) by Barry A. Kosmin, Egon Mayer, and Ariela Keysar at the City University of New York showed that the number of Americans who identified with no religious heritage rose from 8 to 14 per cent or 14.3 million to 29.4 million between 1990 and 2001. ( The Harris Poll #80, “While Most U.S. Adults Believe in God, Only 58 Percent are `Absolutely Certain’" in 2006 indicated that 18 per cent of the population never attended religious services, but, as the title indicates, the majority attending may not actually believe in God. ( David T. Olsen in “12 Surprising Facts about the American Church” (2004) indicates that the number of regular Christian church attendees is far less than other studies have indicated (only about 19 per cent). ( In any event, according to the Barna Group, “Relatively few people - just one out of every six - believe that spiritual maturity is meant to be developed within the context of a local church or within the context of a community of faith.” (

With increasing numbers of Americans declining to attend religious services yet considering themselves still spiritual, they have to find some outlet for their religious, er, spiritual fervor. And, since they can’t possibly join a group that believes in somebody or something smarter than they are (you know, like a Deity) they have to find something that supports their own sense of self-worth (if not outright narcissism). And, since celebrities and the other media elites are the most narcissistic individuals in our society, you can chart the most significant issue of the decade based on celebrity involvement and the number of After-School Specials dedicated to the topic.

Thus, in the 1970s the issue was child pornography. Tons of ink were devoted to the problem and miles of tape and celluloid were dedicated to eradicating this scourge. We had to get rid of this bane. However, people change and evolve and move onto other issues. The media and Hollywood forgot about child pornography, the problem didn’t go away, and the internet came along and made the problem worse. During the 1970s, the threat of global cooling also enjoyed a brief popularity (Walter Sullivan, “Scientists Ask Why World Climate Is Changing; Major Cooling May Be Ahead; Scientists Ponder Why World's Climate Is Changing; a Major Cooling Widely Considered to Be Inevitable,” The New York Times, 21 May 1975,

In the 1980s the twin scourges of teen pregnancy and AIDS were the earnest focus of those directing their spiritual energies towards the cause du jour. These problems still haven’t been solved, but the true believers have moved on to more important issues – at least ones that might be more easily solved or get them more face time.

In the 1990s the problem that was destroying the US from within was the militias. They didn’t go away when that bastard McVeigh died, but the world didn’t end because of the militias, so the true believers moved on.

These were all valid causes to work against or to try to improve. However, because the individuals championing them were their own locus of authority, they could never stay focused on the important issues, but changed their focus as they themselves changed. Their lives are impermanent so their belief structures are equally in constant flux.

In every case, anybody who disagreed with the particular focus taken on the latest cultural issue or who offered different solutions was treated as a heretic. As often happens with political zealots, the politics of these true believers became their religion. Reason and knowledge make no sense to these people. They accept ideas on faith alone. But, to paraphrase Pope Benedict XVI, any belief structure that is not reasonable is not valid. Most of these politico-cultural fads embody the most irrational aspects of religion, bordering on superstition, without any of religion’s more reasonable (not to say rational) aspects.

The problem with these earlier neo-religious fads was that there was no apocalypse. Sure, the millenarianism of the Y2K hype was fun, but it quickly burned out when all the planes didn’t fall out of the sky on 1 January 2000 as some had predicted. Now, the neo-religious issue is global warming. Finally, those looking for something to put their faith in have their very own apocalypse.

The point of this essay is not whether global warming exists or not. The point of this essay is not whether we should reduce pollution (it would be irrational not to want to reduce pollution). The point is that, instead of the unbiased language one normally associates with scientific inquiry, the debate has become one better characterized in religious terms. Michael Crichton lays out all the similarities between environmentalism and religious belief, noting, “Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists.” The general point of his speech is that substituting belief based on faith alone for reasonable scientific discussion is detrimental to the success of environmentalism ( – the same could be said for global warming. Similarly, the Administrator of NASA, Michael Griffin has also likened the apocalyptic version of global warming to a religious belief ( (“Religion of Global Warming,” offers a long list of articles comparing proponents of global warming to religious adherents).

The language of the apocalyptic version of global warming is best understood as that of an unreasonable fundamentalist religion with all the zealotry and hatred that goes along with that. Anybody who offers a counter argument or who doesn’t accept the orthodox view of the apocalypse is not just stupid but actually evil.

Ellen Goodman in a Boston Globe article, “No Change in Political Climate” (9 Feb. 2007) writes favorably of, “American University's Matthew Nisbet [who] is among those who see the importance of expanding the story beyond scientists. He is charting the reframing of climate change into a moral and religious issue …” ( Goodman also opines: “I would like to say we're at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let's just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.” Scott Pelley, a correspondent for CBS News also compares those who don’t accept Al Gore’s version of global warming (or climate change) in its entirety -- or those who are outright skeptical – to Holocaust deniers ( A Google search of “global warming deniers” returns 768,000 hits.

The discourse itself is in religious terms. I’m not talking about those religious groups which have adopted global warming as part of their belief structure (such as the two Episcopalian bishops who called on their flocks to give up carbon for Lent Rather, this is about those who, with no religion or spiritual structure of their own, have conflated and sublimated political or cultural ideology with religious belief. In an interview with Al Gore in the Washington Post (“Gore and Guggenheim: Speaking `Truth’ to Power”), Michael O’Sullivan writes, “The issue of global warming, he believes, is no longer one of science, but has become, like the civil rights struggle did, one of morality. `This is being redefined as a choice between good and evil,’ Gore says unequivocally. As for his own role in the crusade, he describes himself less as a leader than as a simple `messenger.’ When it is pointed out just how, um, Christ-like that sounds, he demurs, hemming and hawing with an embarrassed laugh. `I'm sorry. I'm not intentionally trying to put myself in that . . . . Puh-lease.’" O’Sullivan calls Gore “a man on a mission, maybe even with a calling.” The director of An Inconvenient Truth, Davis Guggenheim, “Like a skeptic at a revival meeting, … became a convert to the cause,” after seeing Gore’s slideshow on global warming. ( In An Inconvenient Truth, Gore uses the language of religion when he calls global warming, “the most important moral, ethical, spiritual and political issue humankind has ever faced.”

Those who challenge any aspect of the global warming orthodoxy are often referred to as “heretics.” See, for example, “Climate Change ‘Heretics’: Adapt While You Can” The Wall Street Journal ( or “Wildlife groups axe Bellamy as global warming ‘heretic’” Times Online ( Freeman Dyson proudly accepts the label of heretic in “Heretical Thoughts about Science and Society,” an excerpt from his book, Many Colored Glass: Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe ( The mainstream media consistently excommunicates or shuns global warming heretics who stray from the orthodoxy or canon. Julia A. Seymour and Dan Gainor, “Global Warming Censored: How the Major Networks Silence the Debate on Climate Change,” Business and Media Institute (
Plato in The Republic in “The Divided Line” demonstrated the difference between believing a thing and knowing a thing. For Plato, philosophers/scientists (for the ancient Greeks, the two were the same) devoted themselves to discovering truth through rational inquiry. That is, they moved from believing a thing to knowing a thing. And, as St. Thomas Aquinas demonstrated in the Summa Theologica, faith has its realm (religion) and reason has its realm (science). The problem with the current apocalyptic view of global warming is that it’s moved from a proper scientific discourse to that of religious speech – this makes it the religion of idiots.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

From What Idiot Do You Get Your News?

The fact that journalism in this country is biased is a truism. Whether it’s FOX on the right or CNN on the left, it’s all biased. This bias is no longer ideological (that is, based on ideas) rather, it is political (that is, trying to get the candidates of one party or the other elected no matter what ideas or plans they might champion). As part of his ongoing series on Der Spiegel’s daily news letter entitled, “West Wing: The Battle for the White House,” Gabor Steingart wrote a troubling piece on the media in the US on 13 May entitled, “The Media’s Mini Truths” (,1518,553068,00.html). He states, correctly, “the real loser of the election campaign is the American people. They have been betrayed by cynical journalists who have constantly opted for style over substance.” This “style” results in all issues being driven out of the political discourse in favor of oversimplified sound bites. More troubling, Steingart notes that many of the “experts” working for the media are really employees of the candidates or their respective parties. He notes, for example, Karl Rove “is now under contract with Fox News, Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal.” Likewise, “Donna Brazile, who appears on CNN as a commentator on every election night … is actually a member of the exclusive Democratic National Committee and one of her party's superdelegates.” As a result of infusing the news with the propaganda of these “expert analysts” – talking heads – journalism this election cycle is the most politicized and biased in memory.

The political as opposed to ideological focus of journalism and its oversimplification of important concepts is best exemplified in the popular usage of the terms “liberal” and “conservative.” As descriptors, these two terms are now meaningless in the US. It is possible to define something in its opposite. For example, if something is liberal, the opposite might be considered conservative. However, for this approach to work, you have to have something at least positive. However, in this country, both conservatism and liberalism are both defined by their opposites. Thus, if the Democrats are for something, the Republicans are automatically opposed to it, and vice versa. For example, in most of the world, liberals are internationalists, while conservatives are nationalists. But, in this country, the Democrats are opposed to NAFTA largely for the reason that the Republicans are in favor of it. Thus, the “liberals” (Democrats) are, in this particular case, nationalists, while the “conservatives” (Republicans) are internationalists. The reality is that the terms liberal and conservative in this country have become synonymous with DNC and RNC, which is not very instructive.

Part of the reason for this oversimplification of domestic politics is the economic and political need for the news media to reduce everything to easily digested nuggets. The media must package as many flashy geegaws as possible into twenty minutes or the first few pages to ensure maximum ratings and maximum earnings. Call it news-tainment. Another example of this oversimplification is the reduction by the media and the public of the rest of the world into two camps: those who are our friends and those who are not yet our friends. But, as soon as the second group accepts democracy and McDonalds, they will become our friends. This is what passes for foreign policy analysis for most of the media and most of the undereducated public.

Like so much else in this country, the root fault with the media is the fault of the US educational behemoth to produce educated individuals. And, if you think about it, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats want really well-educated individuals. The Republicans don’t want educated persons because they organize and create things like unions. The Democrats don’t want well-educated individuals either because educated persons ask questions and challenge authority. The DNC knows what’s best for us, even if we don’t. And by God they, as the anointed, are going to fix us.

Perhaps that’s why the media has been woefully lax in reporting on the presidential candidates’ educational platforms. In the 19 May 2008 issue of US News & World Report, “Not a Primary Concern: In the Background, the Candidates Make Plans for America’s Schools,” Dana Hawkins-Simons, in a brilliant understatement, observes, “How each of the presidential candidates would attempt to improve the American school system is difficult to ascertain, given the limited dialogue on education thus far on the campaign trail.” If by “limited,” Hawkins-Simons means non-existent, then the candidates have exhausted the meaning of “limited.” Hawkins-Simons breaks down the candidate’s stands on three issues: No Child Left Behind, Teacher Pay, and Higher Education Affordability. At the time of the article, Hillary Clinton was still in the race. Not surprisingly, her ideas and those of Barrack Obama were barely distinguishable. However, just looking at Obama’s and John McCain’s stands on these three issue, the similarities are staggering. Both would keep NCLB (which has proven to be an unmitigated disaster, but tweak the tests. Both candidates believe merit pay is the best way to ensure equitable treatment of teachers. However, since most merit pay systems are tied to student test performances, we’re back to the miasma of teaching to the test – another focus of NCLB that has crippled our educational system. The only significant difference between the two candidates on education is that Obama would provide tax credits for college tuition to make higher education more affordable while McCain would open up junior colleges to receive more federal financial aid to train displaced workers. Education is just one of many issues that is too complex to be solved by the undereducated listening to cynical purveyors of news-tainment.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Idiocy of the Mortgage Bailout

I’m sorry for the people who are losing their homes. Most of them, however, are losing their homes because they made a mistake, and, to be honest, they were foolish. I knew enough to get a 15-year fixed rate mortgage. A balloon mortgage is idiotic. A few points lower for three to five years doesn’t make up for boundless increases for the next 25 years. How many people who now have homes they can’t afford watched any number of those house “flipping” shows on The Learning Channel, DYI, Bravo, etc. and thought they were going to make a ton of money in a rising housing market? This is speculation. At the least, it is like buying commodities, and, like they tell you in the commercials for commodity brokerages, “you can lose money.”

My 401(k) is in the crapper. My investments are losing money. Is the government going to bail me out? Don’t tell me it’s any different than those who were investing in their homes. They decided to make an investment of their own free will as did I. It’s not working out for either of us. I just didn’t invest more than I could afford to lose. Gasp, I was being responsible.

I don’t mind the government helping my fellow Americans who, through no fault of their own, are in trouble. The folks in New Orleans didn’t ask for Katrina and weren’t responsible for the catastrophic levels of idiocy at all levels of government. They deserve government help (which they’re still not getting, but I digress). Bailing out those who bought houses they couldn’t possibly afford comes down to the American belief that nobody is responsible for their actions or inactions. It’s always somebody else’s fault.

The fall in housing prices is a correction. Housing prices in this country have gotten out of hand. The traditional rule of thumb had been that you could afford a house that was twice your yearly salary. Then, about ten years ago, with house prices rising faster than wages, the amount was raised to two and a half times your yearly salary. The median price for a home is now much greater than 2.5 times the median income. For example (figures are from,
City .............................Median Income ($) ..Median Home/Condo Value ($)
San Diego, CA ............55,600 .......................566,700
Boston, MA ................42,600 .......................420,000
State College, PA ......22,500 ........................194,000
Houston, TX ..............37,000 ........................113,000
Tuscaloosa, AL ..........24,000 ........................127,000
Rome, GA ...................31,200 ........................109,000
Naperville, IL ............93,000 ........................382,500
Greenfield, MA .........36,000 .........................157,500
St. Augustine, FL ......37,000 .........................193,000
Midland, MI ..............49,000 .........................148,000
These figures, however, are for 2005, before the bubble in housing prices reached its peak. Craig Guillot, “Homes Still Too High for `Average’ Family,” clearly demonstrates that “even with homes more affordable, the median price is still out of reach for a median-income family in many markets …” ( Guillot goes on to say that between 2000 and 2007, “the median price of homes had risen 64.8 percent, while median incomes had only risen 16.6 percent.”

The mortgage bailout is really just a bailout of the banking and housing industries. The bailout will keep prices so high that most low income and lower-middle class families still won’t be able to afford a house. In the words of President Woodrow Wilson (at least what he really meant when he took us into World War One), we are making the world safe for bankers.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Idiocy of Funding College Football

I love football. I really love football; I’m an idiot for the game. I’ve wasted countless Saturdays, Sundays, Mondays, a few Wednesdays, and some Thursdays watching football. I love NCAA football, and I love the NFL (no so much Arena football). I’ve been known to listen to high school football on the radio. When I was a kid, my dad was watching a football game, and I asked him whom we wanted to win the game. He said, nobody. Being a clever tike, I switched gears and asked whom we wanted to lose. He said, nobody. I couldn’t understand this. A few years ago, I had essentially the same conversation with one of my kids. In a flash of enlightenment (satori, if you will), I realized I had achieved what my father had several years earlier – the Zen of football. I appreciated the game just for the game.

I need to say all of this first, because I think it’s a total crock how much universities put on the shoulders of their students to support their football programs. Everybody “knows” that football at NCAA Division I-A (or Football Bowl Subdivision -- FBS) pays for all the non-revenue sports (read, women’s sports). This justifies all the money spent on facilities, scholarships, and coaches’ salaries for the football programs. The problem is that few, if any football programs actually make any money. According to John V. Lombardi (what a great football name) “The Enemy is Us: Cost Reduction College Sports,” Inside Higher Ed (31 January 2005) “Maybe five in the country make money (if you could get them to report their income and expenses honestly and fully). The other 112 or so lose money; some lose a great deal of money.” That’s for the major programs. The lower division schools, Divisions II and III and NAIA, spend a greater percentage of their universities’ budgets on their football programs, thereby losing a greater percentage of their budgets.

A favorite argument of those who argue that big-time NCAA football turns a profit is that teams that participate in Bowl games, especially the BCS games, surely turn a profit with the big payouts. A brilliant example of this fallacy is the University of Wisconsin, which, as winner of the 1998 Rose Bowl, received a payout of $1.1 million. Despite this, they lost $286,700 on the trip. This was largely the result of paying for “832 people to attend, including players, band members, boosters, and university administrators.” (Welch Suggs, “A Look at the Future Bottom Line of Big-Time Sports,” Chronicle of Higher Education (12 Nov. 1999)).

Athletic directors tend to claim that increased attendance coupled with increased ticket prices makes up for the financial losses. (Welch Suggs, “A Look at the Future Bottom Line of Big-Time Sports,” Chronicle of Higher Education (12 Nov. 1999)). However, in an editorial in the Charlotte Observer on 21 Feb. 2008, Mary C. Schulken, associate editor at the newspaper wrote in “When these two men talk, we ought to listen: 49er football: A choice about whether football or academics will lead,” points out the major source of revenue to make up the shortfall is actually “much higher mandatory student athletic fees.” She goes on to argue that, if UNC-Charlotte decides to institute FBS football, they need to keep in mind that, “A 2003 NCAA study determined that for every dollar spent on college football, only one is generated in additional revenues. And remember, millions of dollars of that so-called revenue comes from student fees.”
Unfortunately, a major reason for the cost of college football is the bloated bureaucracy in FBS programs and the incompetence of many of those administrators. According to Brian L. Porto, in A New Season: Using Title IX to Reform College Sports (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003), the salaries of the coaches and the athletic directors “do not reflect market forces.” He argues that athletic departments are “autonomous” and tend to be run as an “`old boy’ network that runs these departments to reward its members.” Porto continues, “The lack of market pressure on athletic directors also accounts for their tendency to list as assets on their financial statements hoped-for revenues from unpredictable sources such as gate receipts, postseason bowl game or tournament appearances, licensing income, and private gifts, which often fail to meet expectations.” According to Tim Sullivan, “SDSU profs say football `profit’ doesn’t add up’ Union Tribune (San Diego) (9 Nov. 2007), “`There's no other business in America that does its books like athletic departments,’ said Indiana University's Murray Sperber, author of “College Sports, Inc.” `I can't think of one (other business) that has the deep, deep subsidies.’” Sullivan continues his discussion of financial irregularities by noting, “Athletic departments customarily pay little or nothing for such items as office space, utilities and debt service incurred on new facilities. Their costs, therefore, tend to be significantly understated. Their pronouncements of profitability, in turn, tend to be met with cynicism. Thus, athletic directors are not the hard-nosed corporate executives that they think they are, because unlike corporate executives, athletic directors are not necessarily held accountable for failing to control costs. According to [economist] Andrew Zimbalist: `If there were true economic competition [in college sports], athletic directors would have to make wise decisions and spend money wisely or they would go out of business. But these programs don’t go out of business.”

This attitude that that athletic departments can’t “go out of business” is a particular problem for schools below the FBS level, like Division II, Division III, and NAIA football programs. According to Tom Brennan, retired English professor at the University of South Alabama in, “Observation: The Gaping Maw of the Bottomless Pitt: The High Cost of Football” Harbinger (16 Nov. 1999) “athletic directors say they operate in a unique environment and that their costs must be met regardless of needs in other segments of the university. In other words, the costs of athletics departments are sacrosanct, which means, in effect, that athletics directors and their programs occupy a protected sanctuary within the university and that these sanctuaries stand apart from the standard university governance.” This attitude can be devastating at a small state school in a state that decides to prorate its yearly education budget. I remember the university I work at deciding one year not to buy books for the library. We still fielded a full football team. You have to have priorities and, apparently, football comes before the library at this university.

One way that football programs get bailed out of their economic difficulties is through generous subsidies from their university. According to Tim Sullivan, “SDSU profs say football `profit’ doesn’t add up’ Union Tribune (San Diego) (9 Nov. 2007), SDSU football turned a “profit” only after receiving subsidies from the university. An independent audit showed SDSU football had actually lost $1.6 million, even after receiving a subsidy of over $800,000. Part of the subsidies came from increased student activity fees – against which the students had voted. SDSU is not unique in relying on forced subsidies from the entire student body. I thought football was supposed to be for the benefit of the students.

Virtually all football programs below the FBS level lose money, and few college presidents have the courage and foresight of Maravene Loeschke, president of Mansfield University of Pennsylvania. Without operating under preconceived ideas or myths about football increasing enrollment at small universities, she simply looked at the math. Mansfield, with a steady enrollment figure, could not continue to allocate over $400,000 to a football program on the backs of student fees when that money could be more productively utilized elsewhere in the university. Maravene Loeschke, “No Sacred Cows,” Inside Higher Ed (9 Feb. 2007). Few college presidents have Loeschke’s courage.

I don’t want to see college football end. I just think that the cost of the programs should be born by those who actually want the service. Those students who want to go to the games can pay higher ticket prices. Don’t force all students to pay higher fees. I never went to a football game when I was at Penn State (the university couldn’t afford to put books in the library, but they had $14 million to build a covered practice field so the players wouldn’t get wet. In a meaningless act of protest, I boycotted the games), but I had to pay higher fees to support the team. Mandatory athletic fees are only the most obvious way the university extorts money from its students. A far more nefarious way of funding football is the profits from university bookstores. University bookstores at the major universities turn millions of dollars of profits on the backs of captive consumers; smaller universities make less money, but they still treat their students the same way. To ensure that steady flow, university bookstores will do anything to keep other bookstores catering to students from opening near campus. Many universities require that all books used in the classroom must be purchased through the on-campus bookstore. Professors, who will fight for their academic freedoms in so many areas, won’t fight against this tyranny.

Alumni are also said to demand football programs. Again, let them pay higher ticket prices or make contributions to the athletic department if they want the service. In addition to alumni, universities say they need to appeal to the wider fan base in the general public. Thus, the typical fan of University of Alabama football never attended any university, let alone UA (he probably can’t spell “Alabama” if you spot him the “A” and the “l” and remind him there’s no “r” at the end, but that’s another issue). Again, if they want the service, let them pay the fees; don’t force students to bear the unwanted burden.

While I’m tilting at windmills, here’s a thought for the schools below the FBS level. University administrators claim the school needs a football program to support Home Coming activities. Instead of losing almost 10 percent of their operating budget on a football program to support one day’s activities, why not sponsor a cultural event like a craft festival? Arts and crafts festivals typically draw people from all over the region. Many universities already sponsor these activities. If alumni want to return to their school, they can interact with far more people at a fair than sitting in a stadium for three hours. A successful fair is better publicity for the university than a mediocre football team. Even if the university doesn’t make money off the fair, at least they won’t be losing such vast amounts of money. And at least the students won’t be forced to foot the bill.