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Sunday, June 5, 2005
 The banality of American reporting: Wisdom from the past

Topic: Semi-random Thoughts
There are, first of all, two kinds of authors: those who write for the subject’s sake, and those who write for writing’s sake. The first kind have had thoughts or experiences which seem to them worth communicating, while the second kind need money and consequently write for money. They think in order to write, and they may be recognised by their spinning out their thoughts to the greatest possible length, and also by the way they work out their thoughts, which are half-true, perverse, forced, and vacillating; then also by their love of evasion, so that they may seem what they are not; and this is why their writing is lacking in definiteness and clearness.

Consequently, it is soon recognised that they write for the sake of filling up the paper, and this is the case sometimes with the best authors; for example, in parts of Lessing’s Dramaturgie, and even in many of Jean Paul’s romances. As soon as this is perceived the book should be thrown away, for time is precious. As a matter of fact, the author is cheating the reader as soon as he writes for the sake of filling up paper; because his pretext for writing is that he has something to impart. Writing for money and preservation of copyright are, at bottom, the ruin of literature. It is only the man who writes absolutely for the sake of the subject that writes anything worth writing. What an inestimable advantage it would be, if, in every branch of literature, there existed only a few but excellent books! This can never come to pass so long as money is to be made by writing. It seems as if money lay under a curse, for every author deteriorates directly he writes in any way for the sake of money. The best works of great men all come from the time when they had to write either for nothing or for very little pay. This is confirmed by the Spanish proverb: honra y provecho no caben en un saco (Honour and money are not to be found in the same purse). The deplorable condition of the literature of to-day, both in Germany and other countries, is due to the fact that books are written for the sake of earning money. Every one who is in want of money sits down and writes a book, and the public is stupid enough to buy it. The secondary effect of this is the ruin of language.

A great number of bad authors eke out their existence entirely by the foolishness of the public, which only will read what has just been printed. I refer to journalists, who have been appropriately so-called. In other words, it would be "day labourer."
-Arthur Schopenhauer, 1851; On Authorship and Style

Indeed, this is a truth that stands the test of time.

Certainly it is true that the corporate run media today has no interest in challenging the status quo of which it is a part, but the incredibly embarrassing nature of today's popular news media and book publishing is perhaps best explained by this 150 year old observation from Schopenhauer, one of Germany's greatest philosophers.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 10:42 PM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink
Friday, June 3, 2005
 Nixon just got a taste of his own medicine

Topic: Commentary
Ever since the revealing of Mark Felt as "Deep Throat", the secret source that fed insider information to reporters, people have come out on both sides of issue, some calling Felt a hero, some calling him a traitor or dishonorable. The irony is though, that it was Richard Nixon himself that got his career off the ground and made a name for himself by the prosecution of a State Department official in which he leaked massive about of information to the press. Nixon lived by the sword and he died by the sword.

Anyone who thinks that Nixon didn't deserve what he got doesn't know anything about Richard Nixon.

During the case State Department official Alger Hiss, Richard Nixon obstructed the efforts of the FBI and leaked confidential information to the press in a campaigned designed to manipulate public opinion.

While in office in 1971 Nixon was recorded discussing his actions in the Alger Hiss case and the lessons he learned from it:
"We won the Hiss case in the papers. We did. I had to leak stuff all over the place. Because the Justice Department would not prosecute it. Hoover didn't even cooperate. It was won in the papers. We have to develop a program, a program for leaking out information. We're destroying these people in the papers."

"I had Hiss convicted before he got to the grand jury....I no longer have the energy, [but we need] a son of a bitch who will work his butt off and do it dishonorably. I know how to play the game and we're going to play it."
- Richard Nixon; July 1, 1971

The comments were made in relation to the recent leaking of "The Pentagon Papers" by Daniel Ellsberg. The papers disclosed the hidden truth about the state of the Vietnam War, and Nixon ruthlessly went after Ellsberg.

Little did Nixon know at the time that the same technique would be used against him under similar circumstances. Nixon had plenty of experience "destroying... people in the papers."

In 1974 he simply got a taste of his own medicine.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 9:27 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, June 4, 2005 5:05 AM EDT
Thursday, June 2, 2005
 Regarding Buchanan sees 'war' within conservatism

Topic: Commentary
It’s always interesting to hear from Pat Buchanan because he is an intelligent man who has taken the time to think through his political views. However, like most American conservatives, there are many aspects of his political worldview that simply don't make any sense. This isn't meant to be a disparagement of Buchanan, I think he's a straight shooting man with more integrity than almost any other political figure in America today, even though I disagree with his views; he's at least a guy that you can respect because he is honest. Perhaps it’s just his lack of political influence that affords him the ability to be more honest, I don't know.

At any rate, Buchanan provides some excellent ideological fodder in a recent Washington Times piece: Buchanan sees 'war' within conservatism

I do want to point out that many political analysts have been saying for the past 20 years that there is a fundamental break within the Republican Party that would eventually cause a split due to the strange mix of religious social conservatives and corporate interests within the party, so Buchanan's assessment is really nothing new.

Let's take a look at a few of Buchanan's comments:
"It doesn't exist anymore as a unifying force," he says in an interview with The Washington Times. "There are still a lot of people who are conservative, but the movement is now broken up, crumbled, dismantled."

This can be expected of any large political movement. The bigger you get, the harder it is to stay together. Nothing new here.
There are "a lot of people who call themselves conservative but who, on many issues, I just don't consider as conservative. They are big-government people."

The question for Mr. Buchanan here is: why does he classify "big-government" as not "conservative"? What exactly does "conservative" mean?

This is actually an interesting question, because it relates to "big-government" in many, many ways, and has to do with where Buchanan’s "conservative" ideology comes from.

First of all, most conservatives will tell you how much they honor and respect the Found Fathers of America; however, ideologically conservatives are miles apart from "The Founders". The most powerful and important founders in America were known as the Federalists, and as you might suspect from their name, they were in favor of a strong central government. During the lead up to the ratification of The Constitution, founders, mostly Alexander Hamilton, published "The Federalist Papers" in newspapers throughout the states presenting their case in favor of the new constitution. In response to these letters "anti-Federalist" papers were written. Ironically, Buchanan’s views, and the views of those like him, are best reflected in the anti-Federalist papers, i.e. the opposition to the Constitution.

The real basis of the so-called "small government conservative" political values comes from The Confederacy in the 1860s when the Southern States rebelled against America to leave the nation in order to form their own confederacy of loosely organized states where they could preserve slavery.

The outcry against the Federal Government was loud and clear among the Confederates, and we can see a political view that closely resembles the view of today’s “small government conservatives” by looking at the Declarations of Secession from several Confederate states:
For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slaveholding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic...

The party of Lincoln, called the Republican party, under its present name and organization, is of recent origin. It is admitted to be an anti-slavery party. While it attracts to itself by its creed the scattered advocates of exploded political heresies, of condemned theories in political economy, the advocates of commercial restrictions, of protection, of special privileges, of waste and corruption in the administration of Government, anti-slavery is its mission and its purpose. By anti-slavery it is made a power in the state.
-Georgia Declaration of Secession 1861

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization...

It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst...

Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every other species of property...
-Mississippi Declaration of Secession 1861

The people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the 26th day of April, A.D., 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union...

Thus were established the two great principles asserted by the Colonies, namely: the right of a State to govern itself; and the right of a people to abolish a Government when it becomes destructive of the ends for which it was instituted. And concurrent with the establishment of these principles, was the fact, that each Colony became and was recognized by the mother Country a FREE, SOVEREIGN AND INDEPENDENT STATE...

The Constitution of the United States, in its fourth Article, provides as follows: "No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due."

This stipulation was so material to the compact, that without it that compact would not have been made. The greater number of the contracting parties held slaves, and they had previously evinced their estimate of the value of such a stipulation by making it a condition in the Ordinance for the government of the territory ceded by Virginia, which now composes the States north of the Ohio River...
-South Carolina Declaration of Secession 1860

The Federal Government, while but partially under the control of these our unnatural and sectional enemies, has for years almost entirely failed to protect the lives and property of the people of Texas against the Indian savages on our border, and more recently against the murderous forays of banditti from the neighboring territory of Mexico; and when our State government has expended large amounts for such purpose, the Federal Government has refuse reimbursement therefor, thus rendering our condition more insecure and harassing than it was during the existence of the Republic of Texas...

...based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color-- a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law...

That in this free government all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations...
-Texas Declaration of Secession 1861

If these statements and positions seem to resemble those of present day "small government conservatives" it’s because they do. The views set forth by the slave holding states put commercial interests above human interests, they put an obsessive importance on property at the expense of public good, they condemned the Federal Government and viewed the Federal Government as the source of their woes, they were more interested in a strict interpretation of the Constitution than they were in humanity, they were fundamentally opposed to the idea of equality, they stressed the sovereignty of the States, and they called on God as a supporter of their views.

The majority of small government conservatives today come from The South, and though Pat Buchanan isn't technically from "The South" (he was born and raised in the Washington D.C. area), he is very much a defender of Southern "culture".

This is not to say that small government conservatives are actually pro-slavery bigots, but what has to be recognized is that the religious devotion to the "small government ideal", as well as the unbending hatred for the Federal Government, is very much a product of the Confederate experience. Southern anti-Federalism isn't so much a political philosophy that is based on reason and logic, it’s a part of Southern culture that goes back to the root causes of the Civil War itself.

What is Pat Buchanan's real form of conservatism? Pat Buchanan is really a Democrat from 1860, one of the men who would have cursed Abraham Lincoln for usurping the Constitution and using the Federal Government to oppresses the industry, property, life and liberty of the white men of The South. That's Pat Buchanan's conservatism. It's a strange irony that the people of The South have always considered themselves better Americans than everyone else. Even during the Civil War the Southern states held the view that they were the ones really upholding the true intent of the Founding Fathers, and maybe they were right, for the Southern states actually did operate in line with the Constitution of the United States and the North violated the Constitution in order to preserve the union and put an end to the practice of slavery, which was protected under the Constitution.

Moving on to more of Buchanan's comments:
"American culture has become toxic and poisonous," he says. "Take a look at what Hollywood produces today and what it produced in the 1950s. The alteration is dramatic."

Indeed, and what is the impetus behind these changes? Profit motive. Who is behind these changes? America's largest and most powerful corporations. Was the government "bigger" or "smaller" in 1950? Actually the government was more involved in the regulation of society in 1950 than it is today. If Buchanan is for "small government", as he claims to be, then why is he in favor of increased government regulation of the media? This would indicate that Buchanan is actually in favor of bigger government, not smaller government.

The objective of the media, in all its forms, is to sell products, stimulate consumerism, and to generally make people complacent and comfortable with their lives, not caring about things outside their own personal interests. This is the agenda of private interests in America; this is the agenda of the wealthy. The wealthy want complacent, lazy, mindless consumers who are willing to buy whatever crap that’s on the shelf. The wealthy want to tap into people's primal urges because these are the urges that most motivate people to consume. The primal urges are the urges for sex, food and violence. This is what capitalism embraces: sex, gluttony and violence. If Buchanan and other conservatives lament the demise of their precious social conservative ideal, then why can't they see that it’s the economic system they support that is destroying it?
"We say we won a great victory by defeating gay marriage in 11 state-ballot referenda in November," he says. "But I think in the long run, that will be seen as a victory in defense of a citadel that eventually fell."

Of course it’s a losing battle, because first of all the corporations are against conservatism and are in favor of open homosexuality because an openly homosexual marketplace is a market place that will sell more products and make more money. Capitalists want to maximize profits, and they maximize profits by catering to the wants and needs of all segments of the market, and homosexuals are segments of the market so capitalists want to be able to openly market to them and cater to them. Additionally, promoting sexual openness and experimentation helps to promote the overall culture of desire, which leads to more consumerism. Capitalism is the main force behind the "gay agenda", why can't so-called pro-capitalist conservatives see this? The market economy is fundamentally liberal.
So, Mr. Buchanan concludes, Republicans have "abdicated from the cultural war. They've stacked arms."

Well, this is nonsense. Republicans haven't abdicated the culture war, and Buchanan knows it. The Republicans will continue to use the cultural problems created by their own economic policy to stir up their voting base as long as the voters are too dumb to realize that the Republicans are really the biggest liberals in America. Republicans preach anti-liberalism, but practically every policy they have actually implemented promotes social liberalism. Every time the Republicans vote in favor of corporations they are voting for more liberalism. Every time the Republicans vote against workers and in favor of investors they are supporting the destruction of the American family and supporting an end to the traditional way of American life in favor of an America run by the wealthy, where average people have little or no control over their lives, where families will continue to be broken up by needing to move into big cities and move around the country to get and keep jobs, where people will have to work longer hours and spend less time with family in order to afford healthcare, where immigrants will continue to flood the country in order to satisfy Corporate America's lust for cheap labor and workers that are too afraid to stand up to them. It's the so-called "conservatives" that are destroying America's cultural past.

Continued below due to length...


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 5:50 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, June 2, 2005 5:56 AM EDT
 ... continued, Buchanan sees war...

Topic: Commentary
"The conservative movement is in large part a reaction to the social revolution that had been imposed on this country from above, without the consent of the people, by the Supreme Court

Nonsense, the conservative movement in America is a reaction to the socially destructive forces of the market economy and capitalism. The Supreme Court has nothing to do with it.
If the justices "had stayed away from forced busing, if they had let the states decide abortion and gay rights, you would not have had the cultural war - and probably not have had the victories that the Republican Party had in the 1970s and '80s."

Nonsense again. The states and local governments have tried to decide the gay rights issue recently and now so-called conservatives are calling on the Federal Government to overrule the states. The fact of the matter is that "States' Rights" is not a real conservative position. States' Rights isn't an ideological position at all, there is nothing either conservative or liberal about the States' Rights issue.

The fact is that conservatives have simply been claiming States' Rights as a philosophical principle ever since the Civil War because it was in their political interests to do so. The Southern states claimed States' Rights because the Federal Government of Lincoln was opposed to slavery. If the president had been in favor of expanding slavery then they would have been in support of federalism. It was purely a position of opportunism. Likewise, it was the Federal Government that imposed Reconstruction in the South after the Civil War, and in general the Federal Government has been more progressive on every major issue than the people of the South ever since the Civil War, so, out of political pragmatism, the Southern conservatives have hollered "States' Rights" ever since the Civil War.

Now, however, so-called "conservatives" are in power in Washington D.C. and the Federal Government is now in a position to be able to impose conservative positions on the nation. At this point, you see, the "States' Rights" position no longer favors conservatives, and so they have mostly abandoned it. It was never a real position in the first place; it was always just a smoke screen. The reality is that conservatives have always been abusers of power, because it’s really conservatives that seek to do the most regulation of society. Liberalism is fundamentally allowing people to make their own decisions, whereas conservatism is fundamentally seeking to impose some static social framework on society. In order to do that, you need control.
"I don't think neoconservatives are conservative at all," he says. "I'm often asked what exactly is it that they want to conserve. They are Wilsonian interventionists abroad; they are big government at home."

Of course, any prudent study of history should reveal, though, that all conservative movements are big government at home and expansive abroad. It’s well known that Buchanan gives tacit support to Hitler and admires Hitler. Hitler is the perfect example. Hitler was an extreme social conservative; he was also big government and expansionist. This is really classic conservatism and fits a pattern displayed from Julius Caesar to the kings of Medieval Europe.

Who could be called more conservative than King Louis XVI of France, who opposed the French Revolution? Is King Louis XVI not the true definition of conservatism in Western Civilization, a monarch struggling to maintain control of the centuries old system of Catholic domination of Europe through the cooperation of powers between the Church and State? Let's remember what real conservatism is, real conservatism is anti-democratic.
"You don't register by party in Virginia," he says when asked whether he still considers himself a Republican. "I consider myself an independent conservative who votes Republican - except when I'm on the ballot."

Well, that is Pat's first problem. Anyone voting Republican may as well just save time and give money directly to corporations. Mr. Buchanan is an intelligent man, I can't figure out why he keeps voting for a party that facilitates the exact opposite of everything he believes in. Why doesn't Pat just directly give money to pornography companies? It is, after all, a well-known fact that pornography companies, like all companies, donate more money to the Republican Party than to any other party. Pornography is a business run for profit, and therefore, is in bed with the Republicans like other for profit industries in America.
Immigration failed to become an issue in the 2004 election, he says, "because both major parties agreed that they would do nothing to defend the borders and that we ought to have amnesty for those who break in illegally. There was no choice."

Of course, every half decent political analyst has been saying for years that the Republican Party is the main party supporting illegal immigration into the US. The capitalist system is fundamentally based on the undermining of workers’ rights and depressing the labor markets. It’s an inherently exploitive system that can only sustain itself through continued exploitation. Of course the Republicans are going to be in favor of illegal immigration, because illegal immigrants form the exploited base upon which the entire rest of the economy is dependant. There are tens of millions of illegal workers in America, which are easily exploited by employers and serve to depress the overall wage-labor markets. It's a lynchpin of America's capitalist economy.
Opposition to Mr. Bush's proposed guest-worker program, which would allow illegal aliens to gain legal residency here, may herald a conservative comeback, Mr. Buchanan says.

Opposition to a guest worker program is the best way to ensure that illegal immigrants will continue to flood into America, because it’s the best way to ensure demand for exploitable labor. If you really want to slow the tide of Mexican immigrants, then you should grant everyone citizenship, which would put them under American labor laws, and thus decrease the demand for Mexican workers, resulting in a diminishing of opportunity for them to easily find work, resulting in a slowdown of immigration. Once again, as a "conservative" Buchanan fails to be able to figure out how to achieve real his own goals.

To sum up, American conservatism simply doesn’t make any sense, and the idea of “small government” conservatism really doesn’t make sense. Buchanan will never see small government conservatism because it requires a large and strong Federal Government to impose conservatism on the public. Conservatism inherently implies regulation.

Furthermore, conservatives will never achieve anything they want socially as long as they support the multi-national corporations that run America. Corporations are the main drivers of social liberalism and the breakup of social fabric at a fundamental level. Capitalism is fundamentally a system that favors and promotes liberalism. Everyone from the Communists to the Fascists understood this.

The irony is that throughout the 20th century all of the groups that “hated America” hated America’s social liberalism. All of the people around the world who looked to America as their beacon of hope loved America’s liberalism. American liberal society is exactly what the oppressed people around the world love about America, its what inspires them.

American liberal society is exactly what all of the enemies of America hate. From Hitler to Stalin to Fidel Castro to Mao to Osama Bin Laden, the one thing they all have in common is their belief that American liberalism is socially corrosive and destructive to society. Their policies have all been based on trying to protect their society from the “corrupting effects of Western Civilization”.

So tell me again, who is it that is ideologically aligned with the “America haters”? It’s the conservatives of course.

Does anyone really think that America was looked up to around the world after World War II because of “conservative” policy? No, of course not. People in the USSR, Cuba, all over Europe, the Middle East and Asia were doing everything they could to get their hands on American Rock and Roll, American fashion, buy American pornography, buy liberal American books, watch Hollywood movies, etc. People around the world were inspired by the Civil Rights movement in America. You will find around the world that the pro-Americans are liberals, and the anti-Americans are the conservatives.

It seems that everyone around the world has figured out long ago that American capitalism and American liberalism go hand in hand, so why is it that so many “conservatives” in America seem to be completely incapable of figuring it out? Why does Pat Buchanan continue to vote Republican, when in fact the Republican Party is the biggest enemy of his beliefs?


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 5:48 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, June 2, 2005 6:18 AM EDT
Thursday, May 26, 2005
 Leaked Downing Street Memo Verifies Bush's Pre-War Deception

Topic: Commentary
It's been almost a month now since a document was published in England exposing the fact that British intelligence knew that the Bush administration was manipulating the facts to fit the administration's case for war as of July 2002, some eight months prior to the declaration of war on Iraq.

Specifically, the memo in question, which was published in Britain on May 1st, states:
Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

To many, like myself, this memo is hardly a revelation; we knew that the Bush administration was deliberately deceiving the American public to build a case for war even before the war started. The real story here is not the memo itself, but the fact that it's is not even a major news item in America.

Once again, the major media is failing to give real coverage to the issue, much less do any further investigation on it.

In fact, the Newsweek story about the "Koran abuse" could not have come along at a better time for the administration, and served as an excellent distraction and means to undermine general efforts by news organizations to challenge the administration. At a time when one of the most significant facts concerning the Bush administration's Iraq deceptions was beginning to gain exposure, an enormous uproar was made about the Newsweek story.

The Downing Street Memo was published by The Times in Britain on May 1, 2005, and the Newsweek story was published May 4, 2005.

The British Memo, a major news item in Europe, was mentioned in only a couple of small newspaper stories in America prior to the Newsweek uproar, which began on May 12. The American press, once again, failed to report on the important facts, but at the same time the Bush administration knew that the once secret British memo was something that they wanted to keep from becoming a bigger story.

Newsweek provided the perfect opportunity for the White House to divert attention and undermine general press credibility at a time when one of the potentially most damaging pieces of information against the administration was beginning to float.

For more coverage of the Downing Street Memo story see:

The secret Downing Street memo

Memo: Bush manipulated Iraq intel

British Memo on U.S. Plans for Iraq War Fuels Critics

White House does not dispute substance of Downing Street Memo

Bush asked to explain UK war memo

A Charge of Media Bias, From the Left This Time

Congressional study shows large disparity in coverage of key stories

Media finally begins to notice British intelligence memo


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 7:31 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, May 26, 2005 9:33 PM EDT
Thursday, May 12, 2005
 Biology and Economics: Using Science to Understand Human Choice

Topic: Announcements
Biology and Economics: Using Science to Understand Human Choice

This article explores how economics is impacted by our understanding of human choice, and how current economic models impact our society. The article also explores a philosophical history of economic thought and touches on what biology tells us about human decision making processes.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 7:18 PM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (4) | Permalink
Tuesday, May 3, 2005
 Congratulations to the people of Iraq

Topic: Commentary
A new Iraqi government has been sworn into office today following the January elections. This government is still incomplete, but this will hopefully be a step of progress towards a better Iraq. Though the United States launched the war on Iraq on false pretenses, supported by a campaign of deception led by President Bush and his administration, one can only hope for the best for the Iraq people, and hope that the violence in Iraq will end as soon as possible.

Congratulations to the people of Iraq. Hopefully this day represents a lasting improvement in the lives of all Iraqi citizens. I applaud the majority of the people of Iraq for having displayed extreme graciousness and civility, and for working beyond expectations to unite Iraq and make the best of the situation.

I, and many other Americans and people around the world, have been extremely impressed by the determination, hard work, and care of the people of Iraq.

Solidarity to the people of Iraq.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 5:15 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Friday, April 29, 2005
 Social Security: Bush STILL has it wrong

Topic: Commentary
Last night President Bush addressed the nation to promote his Social Security agenda. As could be expected, he still got it all wrong.

The details of Bush's speech and proposal can be found here:

Press Conference of the President

Fact Sheet: Strengthening Social Security For Those In Need

At the heart of his proposal is the use of means testing to ensure that higher income workers receive less of the money back that they put in. This is, basically, how he proposes to make the system solvent.

Specifically he stated:

Secondly, I believe a reform system should protect those who depend on Social Security the most. So I propose a Social Security system in the future where benefits for low-income workers will grow faster than benefits for people who are better off. By providing more generous benefits for low-income retirees, we'll make this commitment: If you work hard and pay into Social Security your entire life, you will not retire into poverty. This reform would solve most of the funding challenges facing Social Security.

In fact, this does not address the funding challenges faced by the program. Additionally, this turns Social Security into something more like a welfare system. We don't need, or want, a welfare system. Social Security is a social insurance program and it should remain as such.

The proposal obviously comes off as a populist move to try and appeal to many of the lower income workers who have been most skeptical of his privatization agenda.

Turning Social Security into a welfare system will make the system, first of all, less fair, second of all more contentious and more likely to be attacked in the future, and thirdly it avoids dealing with the real underlying problems that are causing the Social Security funding problem. It avoids addressing root causes by adjusting how payouts are made.

I have already written several pieces outlining the root causes of the funding problems with Social Security.

In Getting a grip on Social Security: The flaw in the system, I identified the flaw in how Social Security benefits are calculated.

The central flaw in the Social Security system is that the benefits are calculated using Average Wage Indexing. This is the root flaw in the Social Security system, and no change that does not address this flaw will be successful in solving the budgeting problems for Social Security.

The Social Security system does not tax all wages or all forms of income. It only taxes wages below a certain limit, yet the yearly increase in Social Security benefits is calculated based on the average rise in all wages.

The reason that this is such a significant problem, and what I consider to be the real root cause of the overall problems with Social Security, is that wages for those with the highest incomes have increased dramatically over the past 20 years and there is every indication that this trend will continue.

This means that the high end wages, which are not taxed by the Social Security system, cause the benefit levels to be increased every year at a rate much higher than the rate of increase for the incomes that are taxed by the system.

In other words, payouts are being calculated using a totally different set of numbers than collections are using. It is impossible that this scenario could ever be kept in balance.

The solution is that collections and payouts have to be calculated using the same sets of numbers. This is basic accounting.

Anything that does not correct this problem is simply going to be moving numbers around to try and make secondary adjustments to correct for the use of wrong data. Without addressing the real cause of the problem, the problem, of course, will continue to exist and adjustments will continuously have to be made, and how those adjustments are made may well lead to more problems.

Fixing Social Security is not difficult, there is no crisis. All that needs to be done is some accurate accounting needs to be applied.

I propose several levels of steps that could be taken to strengthen Social Security.

The first level of action is to stop using Average Wage Indexing to calculate benefits changes, and begin using either Median Wage Indexing, or be even more specific and use an indexing method based specifically on the exact rage of incomes that are taxed by the Retirement (OASI) portion of the tax.

The second level of action would be to completely remove the cap on the Disability (DI) portion of the tax. Currently, the portion of the Social Security tax that is used to make payments to people receiving disability payments is capped at the same level that the OASI tax is capped at. This really makes no sense, because disability payments are not directly related to how much the recipient pays into the system anyway. Disability is really a function that should be supported by every member of society, and arguably, it should be supported most by those most able to pay. As it is right now, the burden of caring disabled workers falls most heavily on the poor and middle-class in America, while the wealthly barely contribute anything at all to pay for the disabled. This makes no sense at all of course. Therefore, the cap should be completely removed on the DI tax to at least make it so that everyone pays an equal share to care for the disabled.

The third level of actions that could be taken, would be the removal of the cap on the OASI portion of the Social Security tax as well, accompanied by a small decrease in the overall OASI tax, resulting in a small tax break for those people currently under the cap and a small to moderate tax increase for those above the cap. This would make Social Security a true flat tax.

The third level of action is not necessary to make the system solvent, but the first two steps are. What I have outlined here is a sound and reasonable way to strengthen Social Security and make it solvent, without a need to reduce benefits below current levels, increase taxes, raise the retirement age, or use means testing. It also does not add any increased cost for administration or make the system more complex, which means testing would do.

There is also, of course, no need to use private retirement accounts, and as I have stated in other articles, using private accounts would significantly weaken the system by eliminating the risk pooling that makes Social Security, and all forms of insurance plans, effective.

The bottom line is that benefit increases have to be based on the incomes of the people who are paying into the system.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 9:12 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Friday, April 29, 2005 10:16 AM EDT
Friday, April 22, 2005
 Relativism, Communism, Catholicism, and Pope Mania

Topic: Commentary
Yes, we all know that a new Pope has been "elected"; it's been the focus of just about every news agency for the past two weeks. As a result, countless Catholics and theologians have gotten major media airtime, and they have, dutifully, used it to distort and frame philosophical, theological, and historical debates on a number of topics.

The first major topic of discussion in the media was about a sermon by then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, on "Relativism".

As has been discussed in the media, Relativism is basically the view that morals and norms are relative to the individual or to some other criteria; that they are not innate or universal. This is a view or attitude that has dominated the latter half of the 20th century... now let's just figure out why.

It should really be no surprise that a leader in the Catholic Church would denounce "Relativism", which is also embraced by Post-Modernism. The Catholic Church has always claimed divine knowledge of absolute truth, and had made the claim to absolute truth for the past 1,800 years or so of its existence. Unfortunately for the Catholic Church, it has been proved wrong many times, but apparently many of the "faithful" can overlook these obvious failings.

When we look back at history, what we see is that a large number of the major wars in history were in fact partly wars over "the absolute truth".

Europe's history is littered with these wars. When the Catholic Church was initially established in Rome The Church outlawed all claims of truth that conflicted with theirs. They then set out with military force killing hundreds of thousands of Christians who were of other sects. They outlawed non-canonical gospels, and had them burned. If you were found in possession of a non-cannon gospel you could be imprisoned, tortured, or even killed. This is how they established the "absolute divinely inspired truth".

These practices continued on throughout the Dark and Middle Ages. Scientists, such as Leonardo DiVincie, Copernicus, Galileo, and others were all censured and reprimanded by the Church for challenging their version of "the divine truth". In the end, of course, we have all learned that the Church was wrong, and the scientists were right.

Then The Enlightenment swept Western Civilization the Catholic Church received catastrophic defeats all over Europe, with revolts against its power, loss of property, and major loss of membership. The Catholic Church continued to claim to be the only source of truth in the world despite obvious proof to the contrary, and this was why they had such large losses of membership during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.

During The Enlightenment, Humanism and science made major strides in Western Civilization. The biggest lesson that people learned during the Enlightenment was that the truth could be determined by ordinary people. That we could all work, ourselves, to figure out what was true, and the method by which we could determine what was true was science. Of everything that The Enlightenment represented, most of all it represented a democratization of claims to the truth. "Truth" was no longer held in monopoly by the Catholic Church, as it had been in Western Civilization for almost 2,000 years to ill effect. People were now all free to work to determine the truth themselves.

Marxism emerged in Germany at the culmination of the Enlightenment. Marxism, like Catholicism, also denounced "Relativism", and also denounced the spread of many different sects of religions. Marxism, of course, is an atheistic world view, and the view of Marxism is that all truth not only should, but MUST, be established through science. Marxism is both a scientific and moralistic world view, something that has left it open to criticism. The Marxist view, of course, stated that there is exploitation in the world, and that we as human beings have an obligation to end all forms of exploitation, and that religion is one of the major enablers of exploitation because religion serves as a pacifier of people who are in otherwise poor situations. Religions allow people to be exploited in the current world, by promising them eternal paradise after death.

Specifically, Marx stated:

Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and also the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

To abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand their real happiness. The demand to give up illusions about the existing state of affairs is the demand to give up a state of affairs which needs illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the vale of tears, the halo of which is religion...

The task of history, therefore, once the world beyond the truth has disappeared, is to establish the truth of this world...

The criticism of religion ends with the teaching that man is the highest being for man, hence with the categorical imperative to overthrow all relations in which man is a debased, enslaved, forsaken, despicable being...
- Karl Marx 1844

As Marxism emerged as a major world view in the early 20th century, the Catholic Church "declared war" on the ideology. This was not because Marxism promoted liberalism or promoted "Relativism", in fact Marxism promoted the opposite of these things. Marxism was effectively the atheistic equivalent to Catholicism, a world view claiming absolute truth and denouncing all deviations from it. The Marxist view, however, at least put science at the forefront and worked from a basis of demonstratable truths, that could be verified by human beings in the light of science.

The result was that Catholics, and many others who opposed Marxism, embraced Relativism and/or liberalism as a means to undermine the absolutist ideology of Marxism, which was making progress through the embrace of science. There was indeed a global backlash against science throughout the 20th century because of views, associated with Marxism and otherwise, that science was absolutist. And, indeed, science is absolutist, it works to establish absolute verifiable truths as the basis of our knowledge about existence, but everyone can participate in the establishment of truth through science. Truth is not handed down via dictates, it is established by people working together to demonstrate what is true.

By the mid 20th century, however, new dictatorical absolutist world views emerged around the world, and just like the past in Europe, claims to absolute truth fed the fires of war. World War II was largely a war of absolutists, and a war of ideology. The absolutist Nazi regime of Germany was making war on both Liberalism and on the other major absolutist power of the era, Soviet Communism.

The Nazi view was that there was one absolute truth, and that truth was that "Aryans" were the master race, divinely ordained by god, and that Hitler was a divine instrument of god, sent to fulfill a divine mission of cleansing the world of decadence and moral and racial decay. Morality was seen by the Nazis as a property of race, and the Germanic peoples were viewed as the only morally component race.

We can see many examples of the Fascist and Nazi ideology relating to absolutism, and denouncing "Relativism" and Liberalism:

Fascism transcends democracy and liberalism; its regenerative action is based on granite foundations: the idea of hierarchy, of the participation of the whole population in the life of the State, social justice in the equitable distribution of rights and duties, the infusion of public life with moral principles, the affirmation of religious values, the prestige of the family, the ethical interpretation of the ideas of order, authority and liberty. In the light of this transcendence Europe will be able to find its way to enter a new phase of History.
- Asvero Gravelli

...liberalism taught that all people were equal, that there were no value differences between the races, that external differences (e.g., body type, skin color) were unimportant. Each person, regardless of race, might be a hero or a coward, an idealist or a materialist, creative or useless to society, militarily able, scientifically able, artistically gifted. The environment and education were the important elements that made men good and valuable. If one provided the proper environment and freed people from their chains, the peoples would join together to develop their abilities in a unified humanity, and eternal peace would result. Therefore liberalism demanded equality for all, the same opportunities for everyone, in particular the Jews, equality and freedom in the economic sphere, etc.

We Germans have seen where such doctrines lead. Liberalism tore down the structures that held races and peoples together, releasing the destructive drives. The result was economic chaos that led to millions of unemployed on the one side and the senseless luxury of economic jackals on the other. Liberalism destroyed the people's economic foundations, allowing the triumph of subhumans. They won the leading role in the political parties, the economy, the sciences, arts and press, hollowing out the nation from inside. The equality of all citizens, regardless of race, led to the mixing of Europeans with Jews, Negro, Mongols and so on, resulting in the decay and decline of the Aryan race.
- Nazi Pamphlet 1943

The Government, being resolved to undertake the political and moral purification of our public life, is creating and securing the conditions necessary for a really profound revival of religious life.

The advantages of a personal and political nature that might arise from compromising with atheistic organizations would not outweigh the consequences which would become apparent in the destruction of general moral basic values.
- Adolph Hitler, 1933 Reichstag speech

God gave the savior to the German people. We have faith, deep and unshakeable faith, that he [Hitler] was sent to us by God to save Germany.
-Hermann Goring

We believe that the Fuhrer is fulfilling a divine mission to German destiny! This belief is beyond challenge.
-Rudolf Hess, speech, 20 June 1934

Thus, after World War II, there was a major global backlash against absolutism. There was a major global movement to simply agree to disagree and to get along. Everyone knew, after World War II, that absolutism and belief in an "absolute truth" was a major factor behind the rise of Fascism and Nazism. Furthermore, after World War II, the only major remaining absolutist power in the world was that of Soviet Communism.

When the war was over, the Soviet Union still existed, and the Soviet Union took on a leading role in the global Communist movement. The 20th century Communist movement was a movement based on absolutism and anti-liberalism, and thus, liberalism, "Relativism", and Post-Modernism all became forces of opposition to both Soviet Communism and Fascism. This is why the post-war period in the 20th century saw such a rise in "Relativism" and Liberalism.

It was seen as better to let everyone "do their own thing" than to continue fighting over "the absolute truth", especially with the development of atomic weapons.

In the United States, what was discovered was that Relativism and Post-Modernism are "good for the economy", at least from the perspective of corporations, who have been quick to sell the idea that "anything goes", and who have been quick to expand the use of target marketing and market segmentation, further embracing and expanding Relativism and Post-Modernism. Apparently, the "Free-Market" favors Relativism.

Indeed this is the case. Regulation of culture and ideology requires market control, both social and economic regulation. This is exactly how the Catholic Church has traditionally operated. Let's not forget that the Catholic Church was a major controlling force in Europe from the time of the fall of the Roman Empire up until, really, the French Revolution, though they had been losing power ever since the Protestant Reformation. (Protestant literally means "protestors" by the way. The "Protest"-ants, were the protestors against the Catholic Church. That's what the movement was, a protest against the central authority of Catholicism.)

Looking at the news today, we see many people discussing the role of the late Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Church in opposition to "Communism".

As I have said, however, 20th century "Communism" and Catholicism really share a lot of qualities. In some ways, you could call Soviet Communism, Catholicism without god.

They share almost every quality, except the belief in god. Both Soviet Communism and Catholicism are/were institutions of global unification and control, both are/were anti-democratic, both are/were opposed to poverty and "free markets", both are/were absolutist, and both do/did share a lack of accountability for authority figures.

Can anyone tell me the difference between the College of Cardinals and the Politburo? Yes, I can, the Politburo was more open and more democratic.

The system of election of a new Pope and of a new President of the Soviet Union are almost identical, and the results are remarkably similar as well. The Pope is the single head of a global organization, the largest private property owner in the world by the way, whose dictates come down as edicts that are supposed to be adhered to by all Catholics.

Unlike the head of the Soviet Union, however, the Pope claims to be chosen by god. The claim is that the "Holy Spirit" (which according to the trinity is also god) supposedly selects the Pope. This type of nonsense was done away with hundreds of years ago in every element of Western Society, except the Catholic Church of course. For centuries kings claimed to be chosen by god, and they were then blessed and sanctified by the Pope, who also declared that the kings were chosen by god. Is there nothing more absurd? Then people woke up and realized that they had been lied to and deceived and that these kings and this whole institution was nothing but corruption and exploitation and the kings were overthrown and democracy was instituted. The United States of America led this revolution against Popes and kings, and in favor of self rule. This is why early Americans were very anti-Catholic, because the Catholic Church always was, and still is, anti-democratic.

The Catholic Church is still working its way at regaining influence over governments, and still trying to re-break the walls of separation between church and state, to regain the power that it once had, in the days knows as "The Dark Ages".

As has been said, the Catholic Church is taking the "long view", and this Pope has said that he intends to strengthen the Church's traditional roles and values. Around the turn of the 20th century, Pope Leo XIII repeatedly restated the traditional position of the Church:

It is quite unlawful to demand, defend, or to grant unconditional freedom of thought, or speech, of writing or worship, as if these were so many rights given by nature to man.
-Pope Leo XIII, "Great Encyclical Letters"

They [Catholics] must penetrate wherever possible in the administration of civil affairs... all Catholics should do all in their power to cause the constitution of states, and legislation to be modeled on the principles of the true Church.
-Pope Leo XIII, "Encyclical of Leo XIII"

Hence follows the fatal theory of the need of separation between Church and State.
-Pope Leo XIII, "Libertas"

If Pope Benedict XVI wants to declare war on "Relativism", that's fine with me, but if he thinks that he can do so using the claim that the Catholic Church has a monopoly on the truth, which is granted to it divinely by a god, then he certainly has a battle on his hands. The quest for "the truth" is one of the oldest quests in history. Claims of divine knowledge of the truth are also among the oldest in history, and time and time again these claims are shown to be false.

There is only one way to determine the truth, and that is through scientific demonstration of it. If the Pope wants to combat Relativism, subjectivity and post-modernism, then he is welcome to join the scientific community and embrace science as the means by which every human being on earth can use their own brain and their own ability to demonstrate the difference between fact and fantasy. The scientific community would love nothing more than a rejection of post-modernism and Relativism, and an embrace of the most successful and proven way to understand universal truth: SCIENCE.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 10:47 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (4) | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, April 27, 2005 11:00 AM EDT
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
 National Socialism is thriving in Utah

Topic: Semi-random Thoughts
Upon a recent visit to Salt Lake City, Utah I was impressed by the character of the region. I immediately noticed how clean, well organized, and "user friendly" the city was. For those who don't know, Salt Lake City hosted the winter Olympics in 2002, and the citizens took impressive advantage of the opportunity to improve its city and develop many public works.

If you haven't been to Salt Lake City since 2002, then you haven't seen the new city, and much has changed.

Salt Lake City, like the rest of Utah, is heavily influenced by the Mormons and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). Utah, of course, was founded by Mormons, and today the state is still 70% Mormon. The Mormons, and Utah, combine an interesting mix of "conservatism", and "progressivism."

Public works are heavily supported in Utah. Of all the states in the nation, Utah has highest percentage of residents served by public transportation. I had the pleasure of using the public transportation system in Salt Lake City myself, UTA Trax, and I found the system to be the best implementation of mass transit I have ever used, and I have used mass transit in Washington DC, St. Louis, Atlanta, the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland. A significant portion of the down town route is completely free to passengers, with a nominal flat fee of either $1.35 for 2 hours or less than $3.00 for a full day, regardless of where on the system you travel.

The almost silent electric train system is well placed, and able to serve the community superbly. On one side of the system, the train goes from the Brigham Young University down through residential areas, through the heart of the downtown and terminates at the Delta Center Arena, the sports stadium where the Utah Jazz play.

Another branch serves a large residential area. I've been in so many cities that have major parking problems with their sports stadium, and here Salt Lake City has quite easily eliminated the problem, in a seemingly effortless way. There are hundreds of possible parking locations throughout the city and its suburbs. If you want to attend an event at the arena you don't have to face, congestion or high parking fees, and in some cases you can ride to the stadium for free.

It's not just public transportation though, Salt Lake City has many public libraries, which are very modern and well designed. They also have a public sports facility. The facility is left over from the Olympics, but they decided that they wanted to keep it open to the public for free. The city is using profits from the Olympics in a trust fund to maintain the facility.

In the Salt Lake City airport you get free wireless Internet access, and the city is embarking on other publicly funded wireless access projects as well.

In fact, Utah is now engaging in one of the largest public works projects in America since the early days of the New Deal era. The "Utopia Project", as it is called, plans to significantly upgrade the state's Internet infrastructure with fiber optics, making fiber optic Internet access available to virtually all of the state's residence for a fee of about $28 a month. The speeds on this network would be 100 times faster than the current digital cable and DSL technologies used in homes.

There are other aspects to Utah and Salt Lake City as well, however. Utah is 90% White, with Latino and Native American being the two most significant minorities, followed by Asians. As has been stated, the state is also 70% Mormon. Looking around Salt Lake City one also notices a high number of statues of leaders and other people, and at the center of the city is "The Temple", the heart of the LDS organization.

Mormons are fairly highly structured people, and they reject the use of "body or mind altering" substances, including alcohol and caffeine. This makes finding a place to serve coffee in Utah a challenge, and there are no open drinking establishments, they require a private membership. There is also a distinct lack of advertisements in the city as well; the commercialism is very toned down.

The Mormons share many of the communal values of groups such as the Amish and the Quakers, but they have adopted a very pro-education, pro-science and pro-technology attitude as well. Utah society embraces public community and social values, and this results in a system that is very "socialistic" in nature, while also somewhat exclusive and highly constrained by peer pressure and doctrine.

Utah can arguably be called the most socialistic state in America, yet its also one of the most highly religious states in America, with one of the highest rates of church attendance, and the public programs funded by the state are used in ways to compliment private enterprise and business.

I think that the best way to describe the Utah approach would be to call it benevolent National Socialism. The city uses grand architecture and inspiring public artwork, is very clean and orderly, embraces a community lifestyle and spirit, is highly religious, is relatively restrictive socially, and is almost all White.

I found Salt Lake City to be, at the same time, one of the most progressive places in America and one of the most conservative as well. Overall, it made for a very refreshing experience and a nice place to think about how our public and private sectors can work together in America.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 10:11 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, April 20, 2005 3:57 PM EDT

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