24 Nov, 14 > 30 Nov, 14
14 Jul, 14 > 20 Jul, 14
3 Feb, 14 > 9 Feb, 14
20 Jan, 14 > 26 Jan, 14
18 Mar, 13 > 24 Mar, 13
28 Jan, 13 > 3 Feb, 13
30 Jan, 12 > 5 Feb, 12
12 Dec, 11 > 18 Dec, 11
31 Oct, 11 > 6 Nov, 11
24 Oct, 11 > 30 Oct, 11
10 Oct, 11 > 16 Oct, 11
22 Aug, 11 > 28 Aug, 11
4 Apr, 11 > 10 Apr, 11
14 Mar, 11 > 20 Mar, 11
28 Feb, 11 > 6 Mar, 11
24 Jan, 11 > 30 Jan, 11
17 Jan, 11 > 23 Jan, 11
27 Dec, 10 > 2 Jan, 11
20 Dec, 10 > 26 Dec, 10
13 Dec, 10 > 19 Dec, 10
6 Dec, 10 > 12 Dec, 10
29 Nov, 10 > 5 Dec, 10
22 Nov, 10 > 28 Nov, 10
8 Nov, 10 > 14 Nov, 10
1 Nov, 10 > 7 Nov, 10
18 Oct, 10 > 24 Oct, 10
11 Oct, 10 > 17 Oct, 10
4 Oct, 10 > 10 Oct, 10
20 Sep, 10 > 26 Sep, 10
13 Sep, 10 > 19 Sep, 10
6 Sep, 10 > 12 Sep, 10
16 Aug, 10 > 22 Aug, 10
12 Jul, 10 > 18 Jul, 10
31 May, 10 > 6 Jun, 10
3 May, 10 > 9 May, 10
19 Apr, 10 > 25 Apr, 10
5 Apr, 10 > 11 Apr, 10
11 Jan, 10 > 17 Jan, 10
4 Jan, 10 > 10 Jan, 10
30 Nov, 09 > 6 Dec, 09
31 Aug, 09 > 6 Sep, 09
16 Mar, 09 > 22 Mar, 09
9 Feb, 09 > 15 Feb, 09
8 Sep, 08 > 14 Sep, 08
1 Sep, 08 > 7 Sep, 08
4 Aug, 08 > 10 Aug, 08
9 Jun, 08 > 15 Jun, 08
26 May, 08 > 1 Jun, 08
19 May, 08 > 25 May, 08
12 May, 08 > 18 May, 08
28 Apr, 08 > 4 May, 08
14 Apr, 08 > 20 Apr, 08
24 Mar, 08 > 30 Mar, 08
3 Mar, 08 > 9 Mar, 08
25 Feb, 08 > 2 Mar, 08
18 Feb, 08 > 24 Feb, 08
28 Jan, 08 > 3 Feb, 08
7 Jan, 08 > 13 Jan, 08
24 Dec, 07 > 30 Dec, 07
17 Dec, 07 > 23 Dec, 07
10 Dec, 07 > 16 Dec, 07
12 Nov, 07 > 18 Nov, 07
29 Oct, 07 > 4 Nov, 07
20 Aug, 07 > 26 Aug, 07
30 Jul, 07 > 5 Aug, 07
7 May, 07 > 13 May, 07
9 Apr, 07 > 15 Apr, 07
26 Mar, 07 > 1 Apr, 07
12 Mar, 07 > 18 Mar, 07
5 Mar, 07 > 11 Mar, 07
19 Feb, 07 > 25 Feb, 07
5 Feb, 07 > 11 Feb, 07
29 Jan, 07 > 4 Feb, 07
8 Jan, 07 > 14 Jan, 07
30 Oct, 06 > 5 Nov, 06
23 Oct, 06 > 29 Oct, 06
16 Oct, 06 > 22 Oct, 06
9 Oct, 06 > 15 Oct, 06
2 Oct, 06 > 8 Oct, 06
25 Sep, 06 > 1 Oct, 06
4 Sep, 06 > 10 Sep, 06
28 Aug, 06 > 3 Sep, 06
10 Jul, 06 > 16 Jul, 06
3 Jul, 06 > 9 Jul, 06
26 Jun, 06 > 2 Jul, 06
19 Jun, 06 > 25 Jun, 06
12 Jun, 06 > 18 Jun, 06
5 Jun, 06 > 11 Jun, 06
29 May, 06 > 4 Jun, 06
15 May, 06 > 21 May, 06
8 May, 06 > 14 May, 06
17 Apr, 06 > 23 Apr, 06
3 Apr, 06 > 9 Apr, 06
20 Mar, 06 > 26 Mar, 06
13 Mar, 06 > 19 Mar, 06
20 Feb, 06 > 26 Feb, 06
13 Feb, 06 > 19 Feb, 06
6 Feb, 06 > 12 Feb, 06
23 Jan, 06 > 29 Jan, 06
16 Jan, 06 > 22 Jan, 06
26 Dec, 05 > 1 Jan, 06
19 Dec, 05 > 25 Dec, 05
12 Dec, 05 > 18 Dec, 05
21 Nov, 05 > 27 Nov, 05
7 Nov, 05 > 13 Nov, 05
24 Oct, 05 > 30 Oct, 05
3 Oct, 05 > 9 Oct, 05
19 Sep, 05 > 25 Sep, 05
5 Sep, 05 > 11 Sep, 05
29 Aug, 05 > 4 Sep, 05
22 Aug, 05 > 28 Aug, 05
8 Aug, 05 > 14 Aug, 05
4 Jul, 05 > 10 Jul, 05
27 Jun, 05 > 3 Jul, 05
13 Jun, 05 > 19 Jun, 05
6 Jun, 05 > 12 Jun, 05
30 May, 05 > 5 Jun, 05
16 May, 05 > 22 May, 05
9 May, 05 > 15 May, 05
2 May, 05 > 8 May, 05
25 Apr, 05 > 1 May, 05
11 Apr, 05 > 17 Apr, 05
28 Mar, 05 > 3 Apr, 05
21 Mar, 05 > 27 Mar, 05
14 Mar, 05 > 20 Mar, 05
7 Mar, 05 > 13 Mar, 05
28 Feb, 05 > 6 Mar, 05
7 Feb, 05 > 13 Feb, 05
17 Jan, 05 > 23 Jan, 05
3 Jan, 05 > 9 Jan, 05
22 Nov, 04 > 28 Nov, 04
8 Nov, 04 > 14 Nov, 04
1 Nov, 04 > 7 Nov, 04
2 Aug, 04 > 8 Aug, 04
26 Jul, 04 > 1 Aug, 04
21 Jun, 04 > 27 Jun, 04
17 May, 04 > 23 May, 04
29 Mar, 04 > 4 Apr, 04
22 Mar, 04 > 28 Mar, 04
15 Mar, 04 > 21 Mar, 04
1 Mar, 04 > 7 Mar, 04
2 Feb, 04 > 8 Feb, 04
24 Nov, 03 > 30 Nov, 03
10 Nov, 03 > 16 Nov, 03
3 Nov, 03 > 9 Nov, 03
27 Oct, 03 > 2 Nov, 03
20 Oct, 03 > 26 Oct, 03
29 Sep, 03 > 5 Oct, 03
22 Sep, 03 > 28 Sep, 03
15 Sep, 03 > 21 Sep, 03
4 Aug, 03 > 10 Aug, 03
5 May, 03 > 11 May, 03
Monday, August 29, 2005
 Regarding Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science

Topic: Commentary
A recent New York Times article, Scientists Speak Up on Mix of God and Science, basically portrays non-religious scientists as a group without any answers to "life’s really big questions."

Little else can be expected from a popular commercial periodical I suppose. Indeed media that is market driven by consumer choice does not challenge those consumers on the part of their beliefs, it instead seeks to cater to the beliefs of the consumers and reinforce the notions that make the broadest part of the consumer base comfortable.

It is for this reason that we can never really expect a market driven system to impose reality upon a public that does not want it. In the market system the public gets what the public wants, and so when the public wants belief, belief they will get, regardless of the facts.

The most pernicious statement in this article, in good literary form, was saved for the last. The article offers as its parting shot the claim that science will never answer "the big questions."
But he said he believed that some scientists were simply unwilling to confront the big questions religion tried to answer. "You will never understand what it means to be a human being through naturalistic observation," he said. "You won't understand why you are here and what the meaning is. Science has no power to address these questions - and are they not the most important questions we ask ourselves?"

This statement is particularly galling perhaps because it is so widely believed, and so fundamentally wrong.

Over the centuries many different claims have been made by a variety of different religions. Time and time again these claims have been proven false. There is not any religion on this planet that has a track record for "being right" about anything.

At this point religions have been able to cling on to things which have not yet been proven, or which can never be proven because they are not testable claims.

The only real questions that people claim remain "unanswered by science" are what people call "the big questions."

The real question is, however, why would a system that has proven incapable of answering even the smallest of questions be trusted to answer the biggest of questions?

Yes, there are "big questions", that people have been asking for a long time. The "faith based" approach to answering these questions has been simply to shoot straight for the final answer, i.e. the ultimate prize. Its an undisciplined approach that basically tries to bypass all the intermediate steps and go straight for the "top".

What we have learned over the centuries, however, is that this approach fails to produce answers that can be validated as true.

Religion holds the false promise that you can answer a question without actually doing any work to discover information, but rather that you can just automatically know the right answer, or that the answer will be provided to you "supernaturally."

Hey, it takes a long time to answer "the big questions" right, and that may take many generations to do, so who wants to wait around on that? Religion provides instant gratification.

Science, on the other hand, has taken the opposite approach. Science has taken the often slow, tedious, and hard work approach to answering questions, but the results are astonishing. Science has been finding answers to questions that no religion has even asked, much less answered.

In every case that science has come up with a different answer to a question than religion, science has been proven correct.

Is the earth round or flat?

Well, it took thousands of years to prove the answer beyond the shadow of any doubt, but when it was finally proven the answer was provided through naturalistic observation. Of course the Egyptians knew that the earth was round through naturalistic observation thousands of years ago, but this wasn't known by everyone, and they could only prove it indirectly, through measurements and mathematics, but when we made it into space and took pictures of the round earth, that was definitely the ultimate proof.

The Bible claims that the earth has four corners.

What is the nature of the universe?

Virtually all religions have claimed that "the Earth" is the center of the universe. Many religions have even claimed that the homeland of a specific people is the center of the universe. The vastness of the universe has been understated by practically every religion, because, of course, people were basing their religions on what they could readily observe at the time through careless observation. If they actually had divine wisdom they would have known better.

How can we cure disease?

Practically all religions, including Christianity, have claimed that disease and sickness are the result of evil spirits or are punishments sent from God to afflict the wicked. For this reason, as recently as 300 years ago, the Puritans and Pilgrims of the American colonies believed that sickness was a sign of immorality and indicated that someone has sinned. People were blamed for getting sick, as if it was something that they brought upon themselves. This was bolstered also by the fact that almost all of the Native Americans died of diseases so the Pilgrims and Puritans saw this as proof that they were vile heathens and that their death by disease was the work of God, killing the unrighteous.

"For the natives, they are near all dead of the smallpox, so as the Lord hath cleared our title to what we possess."
- John Winthrop, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony

Likewise, Christians who believed in a world created for people, could not imagine that their God would create organisms that would plague and devastate humanity to such a degree.

Through naturalistic observation, though, we have learned that the religious beliefs about disease and sickness have all been fundamentally wrong. We have answered the question of why people get sick through science, and learned how to prevent it. Something that religion, in thousands of years of practice, never achieved.

What is the cause of hallucinations and strange behavior, such as uncontrolled spasms?

The "answers" provided by religions have generally been that this is caused by evil spirits or possession by "The Devil".

People who had problems like schizophrenia or Turret's syndrome were often killed or tortured by religious people in attempts to drive out the evil spirits or to simply to get rid of the evil host. Just recently a nun in Romania that had schizophrenia was crucified by priests after repeated attempts to drive the evil spirits out of her through years of torture.

Religions have taken hallucinations as "real" and meaningful. People with hallucinations have believed that they were ghosts or visions of God or visions of angels, or whatever for centuries. We now know how the brain works, and that what we perceive is really just a model of reality "inside our brain", and that this model of reality can be corrupted, i.e. it can include images that are not a product of the senses, like the images we see during dreams, except this can also happen while awake as well.

Religions used to tell us that people's behavior was governed by their soul. We now know that people's behavior is governed by the physical processes of the brain. If you introduce chemicals into people's brain it changes their behavior.

We have answered all of these questions through naturalistic observation, and debunked the beliefs provided by religion.

There may be some questions that cannot be answered through naturalistic observation, but why would anyone put faith in an ideology that has proven incapable of answering any questions at all?

The idea that the "religious approach" to answering questions is going to be right about "the big issues", when it has proven to be wrong about lesser issues, defies even the most basic reason.

Furthermore, no new answers are going to come from religion. Religion is what it is - it has made its claims. The only way that any "new answers" can be provided by religion is if there are "new" supernatural events, i.e. if God comes down to Earth and gives out some new wisdom. The basic premise of religion is that people can't figure anything out, we have to be told by God. So, in terms of answering questions, either they have already been answered by religion, or we are waiting until the next message from God.

The only other option that we have is naturalistic observation. Even the use of science to try to verify religious claims is still the use of science.

To say that naturalistic observation isn't going to provide anwsers means that the only way these anwsers could be provide is either by existing religious texts, which one would assume are based on "divine wisdom" imparted by God (meaning that we already have the anwsers), or by some new supernatural events.

Religious leaders have opposed the major achievements of science since the beginning, and claimed that anything that contradicts a claim made by religion will undermine the social order. When it was discovered that the Earth revolved around the Sun, instead of the other way around, the Church opposed this teaching, and claimed that it would make morality obsolete by "contradicting God."

Nevertheless, morality has actually improved since that time. We no longer deem is acceptable to torture and kill people because of their beliefs. We no longer strip women of equal rights. We no long deem slavery acceptable, and the humanity with which we treat people has increased, and we now think that everyone should be given an education and the opportunity to succeed (not just the priests and nobility).

Posted by at 10:57 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Monday, August 29, 2005 11:11 PM EDT
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
 New Pope Points Fingers at Others (As Usual)

Topic: Commentary
In his a recent speech to a Jewish audience Pope Benedict XVI tried to strengthen ties with the Jewish community. He did so, in typical Catholic fashion, by first blaming anti-Semitism on the Church's traditional scapegoat: paganism.

The Pope stated:

In the darkest period of German and European history, an insane racist ideology, born of neo-paganism, gave rise to the attempt, planned and systematically carried out by the regime, to exterminate European Jewry.... This year marks the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, in which millions of Jews - men, women and children - were put to death in the gas chambers and ovens.

It is quite preposterous for the Pope to claim that anti-Semitism is "born of neo-paganism". It is well documented that anti-Semitism is born of Christianity, indeed of Catholicism!

It is also impossible that any Pope would be unaware of the history of anti-Semitism within the Catholic Church, or be unaware that Hitler was raised Catholic and proclaimed himself a Catholic throughout his life, and that anti-Semitism had been a part of German society going back to the conversion of Germany to Christianity when the Catholics killed all of the pagans.

In case the Pope or other Catholics have forgotten, however, here are some reminders of the facts:

Matthew 27:25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.

This line in the Bible, when the Jews sentenced Jesus to death, has been used to justify the persecution of Jews since the birth of organized Christianity.

Jews had been persecuted by Christians in Europe for over 1,000 years prior to the Holocaust. The desire to "exterminate the Jews" was hardly anything new, and had no origin in paganism or neo-paganism. What is really so troubling is that the Pope was holding a talk to try to make amends with the Jewish community and he wasn't even able to do it honestly, he had to point fingers at the old Catholic scapegoat of pagans and blame "neo-paganism" for the origins of anti-Semitism, when he knew full well that the Catholic Church is the origin of anti-Semitism. Did he apologize for the role of Christianity in anti-Semitism? Of course not.

Its good that he wants to make amends and that he is speaking out against anti-Semitism, but it is horribly dishonest to put the blame for anti-Semitism on "neo-pagans".

For more information on the history of anti-Jewish activities see:

Jewish Persecution Timeline
Jewish History Timeline

Posted by at 10:51 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, August 25, 2005 7:39 AM EDT
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
 Regarding All Cultures are Not Equal

Topic: Commentary
There was an interesting Op-Ed in the New York Times recently. Its rare for an Op-Ed in a newspaper to actually be interesting, so this one caught my attention.

David Brooks, the author of All Cultures are Not Equal, is a conservative in the fairly traditional sense.

The premise of his Op-Ed is that multi-culturalism is a failed ideology and economists, scientists and liberals don’t really understand much of anything about culture and society, because the multi-culturalism that many of them have embraced seems to be going nowhere and not bearing fruit.

His Op-Ed is interesting because it is as just as right as it is wrong. Interestingly, he does at least frame the problem correctly, despite failing to fully understand the implications of his observations himself.

He states:
Go into the field that barely exists: cultural geography. Study why and how people cluster, why certain national traits endure over centuries, why certain cultures embrace technology and economic growth and others resist them.

This is the line of inquiry that is now impolite to pursue. The gospel of multiculturalism preaches that all groups and cultures are equally wonderful. There are a certain number of close-minded thugs, especially on university campuses, who accuse anybody who asks intelligent questions about groups and enduring traits of being racist or sexist. The economists and scientists tend to assume that material factors drive history - resources and brain chemistry - because that's what they can measure and count.

But none of this helps explain a crucial feature of our time: while global economies are converging, cultures are diverging, and the widening cultural differences are leading us into a period of conflict, inequality and segmentation.

Actually, this is a field of study that has dominated a certain school of thought for 150 years. That school of thought is Marxism. And, interestingly enough, David Brooks, the conservative, comes to the same basic conclusions that Karl Marx came to. Also, the scientsits are correct that material factors drive history. This has been proven time and time again. What does Mr. Brooks think that it is, the "hand of God"?

He goes on to say:
If you look just around the United States you find amazing cultural segmentation. We in America have been "globalized" (meaning economically integrated) for centuries, and yet far from converging into some homogeneous culture, we are actually diverging into lifestyle segments.

Not long ago, many people worked on farms or in factories, so they had similar lifestyles. But now the economy rewards specialization, so workplaces and lifestyles diverge. The military and civilian cultures diverge. In the political world, Democrats and Republicans seem to live on different planets.

Ahh... yes, indeed, and now we get to the point. What Brooks is discussing is one of the central points of Marxism. One of the primary objectives of the Communist movement was to create an economic system that preserved a common social structure, because Marx recognized that capitalism and its heavy focus on division of labor and marketing would drive society irreconcilably apart.

He concludes with:
People like Max Weber, Edward Banfield, Samuel Huntington, Lawrence Harrison and Thomas Sowell have given us an inkling of how to think about this stuff, but for the most part, this is open ground.

If you are 18 and you've got that big brain, the whole field of cultural geography is waiting for you.

Well, actually Karl Marx gave us a much better framework for “thinking about this stuff”, but the reason that we haven’t thought about “this stuff” in America for the past 50 years is because of the strongly anti-Marxist and pro-capitalist movement in America.

Capitalism and corporations are the central forces driving the breakup of the traditional social bonds. Indeed for the past 100 years in America the intellectual left has been denigrated as “cultural elitists” and rejected by both the Liberals and Conservatives, yet here is this conservative pondering the questions that “Cultural Elitists” have pondered and answered generations ago.

Leftists are not Liberals! Leftists are anti-liberal. Leftist are Cultural Elitists, just as Mr. Brooks is I can assume. It was Karl Marx and others in his camp who stated that class interests should transcend all other interests, and also that every society has its exploiters and its oppressive institutions.

It is the rejection of international solidarity and the movement to bring reform to societies around the world by Leftists that has led to the alternate embrace of “multi-culturalism”.

This is why we see Liberals today who amazingly champion the Muslims of the Middle East and oppressive societies in Africa. To many Liberals it seems that every society is good except your own. They fail to recognize a GLOBAL struggle, and they fail to come to the aid of the intellectuals and secularists in developing societies because they mistakenly believe that radical Islam is okay for “those people”. What about the people in Iraq and Iran and Saudi Arabia that hate Islam and hate theocracy and are oppressed by their own society?

Yes, all cultures are not equal, this is correct. We should recognize this and stop teaching multi-culturalism and instead teach rational secular society, which has proven through the past 200 years of technological, scientific and humanitarian advance that it is superior, and we should be helping to spread a culture of science, civil law, democracy and rationalism around the world.

But we haven't done that because its easier to exploit under developed people and take their resources at low cost.

We should be teaching our children to reject the obviously inferior cultures of religiosity and consumerism.

But, here’s the problem you see. The real reason that “multi-culturalism” has come to dominate our society is because #1 it benefits those that are in power economically and #2 its more acceptable than trying to come to terms with reality and define a culture.

So many Christians lament “multi-culturalism” , but the truth is that Christianity itself benefits from it. If we want to abandon the banner of multi-culturalism then we would have to really shine a strong light on what culture we would then embrace as “the best one”, and in truth, Christian culture could never stand up to that scrutiny. Multi-culturalism allows Christians to get by on bogus claims and baseless worldviews just like it does all of the other traditional, neo-traditional, and new-age cultures.

The Secular Left concluded that all cultures were not equal years ago. They were prepared to stand by rational secular democracy as the superior superior culture long ago, but the conservatives decided that instead of face extinction at the hands of secular intellectuals, they would rather hide behind multi-culturalism themselves. Now that the Secular Left has been fairly well defeated by the cooperation of the Liberals and the Conservatives, the conservatives feel strong enough to come out and try to proclaim their own superiority.

For more on the subject of social fragmentation see:

Division of Labor, Assembly Line Thought – The Paradox of Democratic Capitalism

Posted by at 9:14 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, August 17, 2005 9:31 PM EDT
Thursday, August 4, 2005
 The Ten Commandments, American History and American Law

Topic: Announcements
The Ten Commandments, American History and American Law

This article takes a look at the Ten Commandments and the history of Western and American law to uncover the truth about the role of the Ten Comamndments in American history.

Posted by at 12:53 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (6) | Permalink
Saturday, July 2, 2005
 Regarding Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

Topic: Commentary
I saw the documovie Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room at a local theater last night. Overall the film was very good, and I highly recommend seeing it. The film does a good job at examining the corporation itself, as well as illuminating the wider impact that the company had on the nation, including it’s contribution to the California energy crisis and it’s contributions to energy deregulation policy. The documentary also examined the close personal ties between the Bush family and Enron executives.

Most of all, though, the film showed just how many different institutions were really involved in the rise and fall of Enron, and how this corporation was able to profoundly mislead Wall Street and hundreds of major financial institutions to the tune of billions of dollars, and how the ability of Enron to do this exposed major shortcoming of our entire economic system.

While the film was very good overall, it still failed to make a few significant fundamental points.

There was a lot of criticism of Enron’s practices from an ethical or moral standpoint, however the film actually failed to give a full economic denunciation of some of Enron’s practices. In addition, even the critics of Enron continued to use the terms “earned money” and “made money” when discussing the incomes of Enron executives.

This really makes clear how deeply rooted misunderstanding of economics is in our society.

The very problem with Enron is exactly the fact that its executives were not earning or making money, what they were doing was acquiring money that they had not earned.

That is, fundamentally, the issue. If they had actually “made” the money then there wouldn’t be a problem; the problem was that they were transferring money to themselves that they had in fact not earned.

Despite the fundamental importance of this point, even the biggest critics of the Enron executives still said things like “these men were making millions of dollars, while the company was swimming in debt”, or things of that nature. No, they weren’t “making” millions, they were “taking” millions.

The film also failed to appropriately explain how Enron profited from the California energy crisis. There was a moral criticism of Enron’s role in contributing to the California energy crisis for profit, but what they failed to explain was the fundamental economic principles that Enron was violating in order to generate profits.

One way that Enron got money from the California energy crisis was that they induced blackouts by shutting down power plants in order to drive up the price of energy. This isn’t creating value, this is actually destroying value. What Enron did was profit from value destruction, a fundamental violation of the principles of economics.

As an “energy trader”, what Enron basically did was they bought energy at a low price when there was plenty of energy “on the market”, and then they created an energy shortage, at which time they sold energy at a higher price.

Enron wasn’t actually creating value in this process; they were destroying value by contributing to the crisis. All economic systems, from capitalism to communism, are predicated on the assumption that compensation is related in some way to value creation. Getting paid to make things worse, of course, is no way to develop a successful system.

Enron employees and executives actually legitimized their practices to themselves because of their fundamentalist “free-market” ideology. From the very beginning Enron’s business model was based on market manipulation and the use of fuzzy accounting to push numbers around on paper and “make money” without actually creating value. The California crisis was just the most extreme manifestation of their market practices.

Jeff Skilling was shown during several interviews stating that ideas and risk create value. This shows just how little he actually understands economics, and to what extent he and Ken Lay were able to manipulate their way to millions of dollars because, fundamentally, the leaders of all of our major financial instructions from Wall Street to banks have bought into these same beliefs. It is important to note that Key Lay has a PhD. in economics.

Risk does not create value. Sometimes it is necessary to take risks in order to develop new ways to create value, but risk itself does not create value.

On the whole, though, as was said, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, is a very worthwhile production that illuminates the story of one of the most aggressively right-wing corporate institutions of our time.

The most revealing aspect of watching this film in the theater, however, was the fact that it was only showing in one theater in the tri-county major metropolitan area, and there was only one other couple in the theater at the time. Some friends of mine had seen it the week before, the first week it played here, and they said that they were the only ones in the theater at the time.

While this is a documentary that should be playing on prime time television, the reality is that only a handful of people will ever watch it. The story of Enron and the other corporate scandals is a complicated one. This film at least puts the story into popular format, but when no one is interested in learning about the problem, even when it is presented in popular format, is there really any hope of solving the problems?

Posted by at 3:51 PM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
 Live 8

Topic: Semi-random Thoughts
Live 8 = Millionaires jumping around on stage saying that we can end poverty by throwing big parties.

Posted by at 3:35 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
 Fly the Iraqi Flag on 4th of July

Topic: Semi-random Thoughts
As we celebrate our own independence this year, I believe that it is especially important that we also honor and show support for the independence of the people of Iraq. The people of Iraq are facing difficult times, and are in fact still fighting for their independence. The Iraqi people need to know that we, the American people, are behind them, and support their independence.

This 4th of July should be a day to put aside political differences for the good of the Iraqi people. Regardless of your stance on the war, its a time to show he Iraqi people that they are in our hearts and minds, and that we the American people are hoping for the best for them, and have a genuine desire to help them gain freedom, independence, and stability.

So please, when you go to 4th of July celebrations this weekend, support our brothers and sisters in Iraq in a show of international solidarity by flying the flag of the people that we are currently engaged with.

Iraqi Flag

Buy Discount Iraqi Flags

Note that a new Iraqi flag was proposed, but the design was ultimately rejected. The old Iraqi flag is still the official flag of Iraq, and may remain so.

Posted by at 7:21 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, June 29, 2005 7:25 AM EDT
Saturday, June 25, 2005
 The Corporate State Grows Stronger

Topic: Commentary
Supreme Court backs municipal land grabs

Cities, Homeowners Clash Over Land Rights

The recent Supreme Court ruling, to allow the use of eminent domain to transfer property to private institutions, is the inevitable result of the capitalistic corporatism of the United States. This is "Trickle Down Theory" taken to its logical conclusion.

The Trickle Down theory of the Reagan administration, which we are all still currently living under, states that by giving more to the rich, the lives of everyone will get better.

Likewise, the Supreme Court ruling to allow government to confiscate private property to transfer it to other private entities if they feel that the other entities can make "better use" of the property, is based on the same principle.

In the ruling justice Stevens wrote:
"The city has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including -- but by no means limited to -- new jobs and increased tax revenue,"

The theme is familiar, steal from the poor and give to the rich, in the end, the theory goes, the poor will really be better off.

The entire ruling is based on the idea that if one private entity can make "more economic use" of a piece of property than another, then its okay to transfer the property to the entity that can make better use of it.

This introduces profit motive into the use of eminent domain. Traditionally eminent domain has been used to acquire property for the building of purely public things such as public schools or roads, etc. In this case there is no direct profit motive in the use of eminent domain, although there are known cases of abusing this form of usage to improve the value of land owned by certain individuals or to build infrastructure to support certain wealthy businessmen who want a road to certain locations to transport resources and the like. One of the most famous uses of eminent domain was actually by the government of Texas that used eminent domain to acquire the land used to build the Texas Rangers stadium, which was backed business partners of George W. Bush, who was part owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team.

In recent years, however, eminent domain has been being used by large corporations, such as Wal-Mart, Target, and Home Depot, to acquire land in cities to build their giant retail outlets.

Economies of scale essentially dictate that any large business is going to be able to generate more revenue, create more job, and pay more taxes, than any small business or residential usage.

This means that if the test of "public good" is simply that one private entity can generate more revenue than another, all property rights become subject to economies of scale. Larger entities will always be able to make more economic use of property than smaller independent entities.

What this ruling has really done, however, is just shine a light on a practice that was already in use. Cities were already taking property from individuals in order to hand it over to corporations.

This is the critical issue that has been a theme among my articles on this website. The issue is not "private property" vs "public property", the issue is really that there are inherent conflicts of interest between private property owners. This is where so many defenders of simply "private wealth" have failed to see the big picture. Government is a tool of the wealthy to protect and advance the interests of the wealthy.

As private wealth and power become concentrated, not only do they gain influence, but the interests of wealthy property owners are in conflict with lesser property owners.

When the means of production becomes concentrated in the hand of a few, of course those few are going to hold the power of the economy in their hands, and that power now extends into the power over property ownership itself.

This is definitely the next logical step in the development of the American Corporatism.

Posted by at 7:33 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, June 25, 2005 7:40 PM EDT
 Using Liberation As a Justification for War

Topic: Semi-random Thoughts
I believe that war for liberation can be justified, the problem is that if you go to war for liberation, then it has to be because the public is behind the cause of liberation.

This is the problem with the war in Iraq. The war in Iraq never had majority public support as a war of liberation, it had American public support as a war of fear, anger, hate, and aggression. Of the Americans who did support the war in Iraq, the majority of them did so for nationalistic reasons, for reasons such as belief that we were threatened by Iraq, because people wanted to see tanks roll under the Red White and Blue, or simply out of a tribal hatred for "others".

The same was the case of the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War was ultimately justified as a war to liberate the people of Vietnam, though it was always also understood as a war against Communism as well. The leaders called it a war of "help", but the public supported it out of hate and fear.

The reality is that the American people never supported either war on the basis of liberation. This country never had majority support for a war to overthrow Saddam for the purpose of making the lives of Iraqis better, and now that that is the one and only justification for the war, the nationalistic militants, who had supported the war initially, are no longer interested.

A war for liberation can only work if the public supports the liberation movement and feels solidarity with the people being liberated. A big problem for the Vietnam and Iraq wars psychologically for the American people, is that the supporters of the war were never really supporters of the people who were supposedly being liberated.

We didn't go into the war with a national sense of purpose to help the Iraqis, and so, that is the reason that support for the war is fading. The majority of the supporters of the Iraq war supported it out of a sense of nationalism and out the view that America had something to gain from the action. Now that the war is turning into a financial drain, without an clear benefit to America in the short term, these people no longer support the war.

Did the president stand up and ask the American public "Are you willing to sacrifice to help make the lives of Iraqis better?"

No, he did not.

The biggest mistake that the Bush administration made, was in trying to sell the Iraq war to the American people on the principles of fear and nationalism, because all just wars have to end in reconstruction and unity. The president has pulled a bait and switch on his own supporters, and that, more than anything, is what is coming back to bite him now.

If a nation is going to engage in a war of liberation, then it has to be clear from the start what the war is about, and the public has to be fully committed to liberation and helping the other country. There have been wars of liberation throughout history, but the people backed those wars out of solidarity, not out of hate or fear or nationalism. The challenge that Bush has now is in trying to take a war of nationalism and turn it into an act of solidarity.

Its inevitable that "conservative" support for this war is going to fade, because the war is no longer seen as a war to protect America or a war to "kill the evil doers". Now, its a war to protect Iraqi citizens and, quite frankly, I don't think the majority of Americans really care about that.

Posted by at 6:12 PM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Friday, June 24, 2005
 Now is the time to support Iraq, but support is waning

Topic: Commentary
Poll: USA is losing patience on Iraq

Recent polls show that support for an America presence in Iraq is dropping, and more and more American's don't feel that the war was worth it. The result is increased calls to pull American troops out of Iraq.

Though I have been opposed to this war all along, mostly because the Bush administration was being dishonest and manipulative in its campaign of deception to sell the war, the fact now is that American troops are there and the US has devastated the countr. We now have an obligation to see this through and clean things up.

There is a well-known saying that you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. Well, basically, at this point, we have gone into Iraq and broken a bunch of eggs. We should at least try to make the omelet and not just leave raw egg splattered all over the ground.

I don't agree with President Bush on much, but I do agree with his recent statement that we need to see this project through to the end in order for the sacrifices of the 1,700 dead Americans and the tens of thousands of dead Iraqis to be worth it.

The fact that 6 in 10 people now support full withdrawal from Iraq means that many of the people who supported the war initially must now be in support of removing troops.

I remember the run-up to war very clearly, and I remember all the cheerleaders who were gung-ho to send American troops into harms way. The taste for blood was big in early 2003, but no surprise, now even the warmongers and right-wingers want to pull out and leave.

We created the mess, now it's our responsibility to clean it up. We will probably need to invest another $500 billion into Iraq to make it a fair deal for killing all those people and destroying their country. Probably many more Americans will have to die as well.

This is why people like myself opposed the war in the first place, and called for more details from the President on both the justification for war and a plan for reconstruction. There were many people in 2002 and early 2003 plainly stating that there was no evidence that the regime of Saddam Hussein posed an immediate threat, and that the intelligence didn't support the idea that Iraq was an immediate threat.

We did have time to explore better options, we did have time to make better plans, we did have time to let Hans Blix finish his job, we did have time to build a better coalition, but no, instead the Bush administration, and his loyal supporters in the public, rallied behind the calls to war.

The fact is that some people supported the war only because they liked the idea of bombing the Middle Eastern people and they thought that it was cool to see American weaponry in action.

I remember it well. I remember having conversations at work, in the gym, and even on the internet, with people whose attitude was: “bomb them back to the stone ages!”, “turn Iraq into a parking lot and let Exxon take it over!”, or simply “nuke'em!”.

There were also the cases of watching CNN or FOX coverage of battlefield action and bombing and hearing the remarks of people saying “Hell yeah!”, “badass!”, or possibly, “holy fuck we just blew the shit out of those bastards!”

Ahh yes, but where is the excitement now? Now it's a steady stream of American body bags getting shipped home from deaths by roadside bombs. Not too exciting anymore, so now some of the warmongers want to pack up the troops and come home.

Now that the focus has shifted to security and reconstruction people no longer think war is fun. Too bad, we are in it for the long haul now.

It was cool watching the "Shock and Awe" on CNN two years ago, but it's not so "cool" anymore is it? Nah, now its a "quagmire", and now people realize that it's not a video game, it's real American boys and girls dying every day in a dirty stinking desert, and now it doesn't seem like such a good idea anymore.

Is anyone currently in doubt that we could have made better progress at a lower cost without going to war?

Ironically, even based on what the architects of the war have said, “just” liberating the Iraqi people isn't worth going to war over. This is what Paul Wolfowitz said in a May 2003 interview with Vanity Fair:
The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason, but… there have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. Actually I guess you could say there's a fourth overriding one, which is the connection between the first two[.]

The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it's not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it. That second issue about links to terrorism is the one about which there's the most disagreement within the bureaucracy, even though I think everyone agrees that we killed 100 or so of an al Qaeda group in northern Iraq in this recent go-around, that we've arrested that al Qaeda guy in Baghdad who was connected to this guy Zarqawi whom Powell spoke about in his UN presentation.

So, even according to one of the primary drivers of the Iraq War, liberating the Iraqi people isn't worth American lives, yet that is really all that this war can be about now.

Now, the worst part is over. Now, tens of thousands have already been killed, and the bulk of the damage has been done.

Why throw away $200+ billion spent and the lives of thousands to let a country get taken over by terrorists, the terrorists that "WE" invited there.

This is "our" mess, so we are going to have to stay in to clean it up.

Maybe, just MAYBE, if the American people would actually EMBRACE the Iraqi people and form a real bond, and do some real help, and take the Iraqis into our hearts and minds, and try to actually help them (which, in reality, I do think that Bush is trying to do right now) we could actually win a real friend and partner in the Middle East, help a new country establish democracy, and make progress against terrorism and make the world a better place.

What this entire endeavor in Iraq has lacked, is a real embrace of the Iraqi people by Americans and the world. Not to parrot the Bush administration, but now really is not the time to pull out or leave the Iraqi's hanging out to dry. Real and genuine deep solidarity is needed between the people of America and Iraq. We need real displays of support for the Iraqi people.

This war was entered into for selfish reasons, of that there is no doubt. Americans backed the war because of what they felt were American interests, we didn't enter into this war to help a foreign country, but that is where we are today. The only thing we can salvage from this is helping a foreign country, so let's do it.
Bumper Sticker

At the very least Americans could take off the obnoxious American Flag bumper stickers from their car and put on joint Iraqi and American flag stickers. I see everyone with ribbons on their cars supporting various causes from the Troops, to America, to AIDS, to this or that. I have yet to see ONE single ribbon supporting the people of Iraq.

If Americans are so gung-ho to spread freedom and democracy around the world, then where is the sense of international brotherhood? Where is the feeling that existed after World War II, of a bond with the nations that we liberated?

I haven't met anyone, not even the biggest supporters of the war, who talks fondly about the Iraqis or who expresses hope for them. Regardless of whatever else Bush is doing or has done, pretty much of all of which I disagree with, at least he is expressing moral support for the Iraqi people, but the sad thing is, he's pretty much the only one in the country doing it.

I think that the time is now to get behind this effort, to support the American troops, and to support the military effort on the ground in Iraq and most of all, to really, and truly support the Iraqi people. I think that troop strength should actually be increased in Iraq right now, not reduced. It's going to take a sacrifice, indeed it will. Perhaps some might even view that sacrifice as atonement for American ills of the past.

This situation is not like Vietnam, in that the Vietnamese people did not want or need Americas in Vietnam. The Vietnamese war was a war of the Vietnamese people for independence from colonial French rule. They had a leader and a government that was widely supported by the people, they just wanted us out. They faced no foreign or terrorist threat. In Iraq, however, there is support for American help in containing the violence and establishing security, and if we leave, they do face a threat of violence from people who want to overturn the elected government and who will kill civilians. We do have an obligation to face down this threat and help to rebuild Iraq.

Bush isn't going to be in office forever, nor will Republicans and the architects of the war remain in power. However, we can form a deep and lasting bond with the Iraqi people that will live beyond this administration.

Posted by at 8:05 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink
Updated: Saturday, June 25, 2005 5:42 PM EDT

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