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Friday, September 1, 2006
 Why I Support Israel

Topic: Commentary

Due to the recent firing of Air America radio host Mike Malloy, there has been much discussion about the role his criticism of Israel may have played in his firing. As a part of this discussion, more criticism of Israel has come up.

It seems that many people "on the left" feel that they should be anti-Israeli or at least heavily critical of Israel, and some even feel that they should be supporting Palestinian and Lebanese "resistance groups".

I must say that this is a completely reprehensible and backwards situation.

First of all, a lot of this has to do with several factors.

  1.  Noam Chomsky, who is idolized by many "leftists", is pro-Islamic resistance, because he is pro any kind of resistance to America.
  2. The Palestinian liberation movement was originally a leftist, even a Marxist, movement... 20 years ago.
  3. People like the underdogs and they hate the dominant groups. Israel is seen as dominant and they have the support of America.
  4. In the past 10 or 15 years many American Fundamentalists have become rabid supporters" of Israel.

This is a very unfortunate situation, because the issues are complex and many people are confused.

First, Noam Chomsky, while he does have his legitimate points, and has made many contributions to leftist political scholarship in the last 30 years, is simply wrong on so many points. He is wrong as a linguist about the nature of language and the propensity of animals to acquire language. He is wrong in his post-modernist views about there not being any meaningful reality and that "all values are equal", etc. He is wrong in his belief that "democracy makes right". He is wrong in his attitude towards America, that essentially whatever is bad for America must be good, which is utter nonsense.

The fact of the matter is that, overall, in the big scheme of things, America is still a relatively liberal place, and America is still one of the primary bastions of civilization in the world, as is Israel. Yes, some countries are indeed better than others, some values are better than others, some ways of life are better than others. America is far from perfect, but neither America nor Israel deserve to be sacrificed to religious fundamentalist barbarians, either internal ones or external ones. Secular liberals have a hard enough time fighitng against internal religious fundamentalists in both America and Israel, we don't need more problems by fighting against the external ones too. Opposition to religious extremism requires a united front, we can't have a large porition of the so-called "leftists" supporting radical Islamic fundamentalists in a war against Israel, that's just insane.

Secondly, yes, the Palestinian liberation movement of the 1970s and 1980s was led by Marxists and other leftists groups, but in case you didn't notice, those guys are no longer in the picture. They have been replaced by ultra-right-wing Islamo-fascists, to use a phrase from President Bush. Again, just because Bush calls them Islamo-fascists doesn't mean that they aren't. I don't like Bush, but I'm not going to spite Bush by supporting radical Islamic terrorists either.

Thirdly, being an underdog doesn't make you right and isn't a de facto endowment of moral authority. Yes, in the United States we have a major history of oppressed underdogs who were right, and who had to fight in the face of oppression by people who were wrong, but real life is not Hollywood and it doesn't follow scripts. Neither being the underdog nor the dominant force makes you right or makes your cause just. In addition to that, the Israelis are really the underdogs anyway, they are the ones surrounded by enemies who have publicly stated for the past 50 years that they want to eliminate them.

Just because you are opposed to US imperialism, which I am, does not mean that you should automatically be opposed to every ally of the United States, that's nonsense. Yes, the US has had some very unsavory allies in the past, and still does, but just being a US ally does not make you unsavory.

Fourthly, just because American Fundamentalist Christians have begun supporting Israel for delusionary reasons is not the fault of Israelis and its not a reason not to like and support Israel. I do believe that the recent support of Israel by Christian Fundamentalists is part of a larger political ploy, dare I say "conspiracy" to get that block of easily manipulated people to support a military agenda and foreign policy of aggression in the Middle East. I completely agree with that and think that the manipulation of American fundamentalists is part of a large network of political movers who use religious leaders to do their bidding, but, again, I'm not going to blame Israel for the policies of the United States, even if there are Israeli leaders who are "coconspirators", because a handful of leaders doesn't represent a nation.

The idea, also, that just because Hamas was democratically elected it means that we should somehow support them and play nice with them is also absurd. Why do American leftists say that we should support Hamas because they were democratically elected, yet they don't support President Bush? Forget 2000, and forget the 2004 conspiracy theories, Bush was democratically elected. That doesn't make him right or good. Nor does it make Hama right or good. All it means is that a growing number of Palestinians are moving towards radicalism and fundamentalism and in support of terrorism. Democracy does not define morality.

Having said all that, lets look at reality. Israel has one of the most progressive cultures in the world, a great scientific community, liberal laws, and a relatively open society, much more open than the Islamic societies that surround them, and they would be even more open if they weren't under constant threat. The Israeli culture is a fine and good culture that has a lot in common with Western culture. Israel is by far the most liberal nation in the Middle East. Israel is indeed a largely leftist country, with a strong history of leftism and progressive political and social policy.

It makes no sense at all for American leftists to support right-wing neo-Nazi thugs, i.e. Hezbollah and Hamas, who are opposed to women's rights, gay rights, freedom of speech, secularism, etc. in opposition to Israel, which is a progressive country as much as it can be in the face of constant aggression. Israel has historically been one of the most leftist countries in the world, and still has one of the largest and most influential leftist political groups of any nation. The fact that the international left has abondoned Israel, and the American right is courting Israel is only hurting leftism in Israel, so when American leftists are in opposition to Israel all they do is make things worse.

I really think that many American so-called "leftists" (many of which are really just conspiracy theorists or disgruntled people who don't have any solid basis of political or ideological grounding) need to seriously reconsider their positions on the Middle East. The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. Yes, I am an enemy of American military aggression in the Middle East, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to support Islamic terrorists and people who literally espouse Nazi ideology and have it written into their charter (Hamas).

There are many extremely oppressive regimes in the Middle East today. Yes, to a large extent they are products of failed Western policy over the past 100 years, I agree, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to support them. Irainian leadership, the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, and many others, are seriously oppressive, religious fundamentalist groups. Just because, in some cases, they are "fighting for the poor", or they are fighting in opposition to US occupation, doesn't make them just people, and does make them right, and doesn't make them worthy of support. It seems that some people among the "American left" (and what a fractious bunch that is) haven't figured this out.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 8:46 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Friday, September 1, 2006 9:02 AM EDT
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
 The American Right trying to lead a global Liberal Revolution?

Topic: Commentary

With the on-going violence between Israel and Lebanon, the war in Iraq, the upcoming elections, and the foiled terror plot in England, everyone is talking about the foreign policy of "Bush and Blair".

It is quite unfortunate that Tony Blair got tied up with George Bush, I can't help but think that if Tony Blair were really leading the initiative in the Middle East that it might be a little more successful, because I think that Tony Blair is a little more genuine and would be seen as a little more authentic leader for a progressive democratic movement. After all, Blair is the head of the Center Left party in the UK, not a conservative like Bush.

This is the crux of the matter. What exactly is the Bush administration's supposed foreign policy objective? They claim that their objective is to "spread secular democracy around the world".

Sounds great, the only problem is that the people around the world who have to buy into this and support it are the secular liberal progressives and this foreign policy is being pushed by right-wing nationalist conservatives, whom none of the secular progressive community in the world trusts.

That's the problem, Bush's supposed "campaign for global democracy" is really a "liberal progressive" movement. It is impossible, however, for a right-wing, nationalist, theocratic, conservative to lead a global movement for liberal secular democracy.

The only way that Bush's espoused foreign policy goals (which almost no one actually believes are true) could be achieved would be if that foreign policy were led by a trusted liberal leader and administration.

The only thing that can make American foreign policy work today is to get the buy-in and support of progressives around the world, especially in the Middle East, yet these are the very people that the Bush administration is at odds with.

Who do we need by our side in the Middle East to actually help bring democracy to the Middle East and win a "war on terror"? We need the women's rights coalitions, we need the pro-democracy coalitions, we need the pro-secular coalitions, we need the human rights coalitions. We need the support of all the people who hate President Bush in order to actually win the "war on terror" and bring democracy to the Middle East. There is simply no way that a right-wing nationalist administration can bring a liberal democratic revolution to the world, yet this is exactly what American foreign policy is based on today, which is why America has lost credibility and why our foreign policy is a failure and will continue to fail.

There is only one way for American foreign policy to succeed, and that is under the leadership of a truly internationally respected internationalist and promoter of liberalism, secularism, humans rights, and fair trade. Only such a leader, and such an agenda, can garner the support of the people around the world that the United Stated needs support from. There are millions of people throughout the Middle East who despise Islamic fundamentalism, and who are ready, willing and able to fight for secular democracy, true free trade, and opening up their countries to the West, but these people are never going to cooperate with the likes of the Bush administration. Progress in the Middle East require true altruism and humanitarianism on the part of the West, and no right-wing nationalist administration will ever convince the progressives of the Middle East that they are the altruistic leaders of global democracy and cooperation, therefore, right-wing American leadership is doomed to continued failure in foreign policy.

Only true secular liberal progressives can lead the world into a new era of cooperation, integration, and democracy.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 6:58 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, September 1, 2006 8:50 AM EDT
Saturday, July 8, 2006
 Speaking event Sunday July 23rd

Topic: Announcements

The Origins of Christianity and the Jesus Myth
Sunday July 23 at 1:30 pm

This presentation will explore the evolution of Christianity from its early origins to an institution that dominated the failing Roman Empire. Who were the early Christians? What influences did the so-called "pagan" cultures have on Christianity? What do we really know about Jesus? How did Christianity become the exclusive religion of the Roman world? These issues and more will be addressed in this multi-media speaking presentation.

Additional Information:

Broward Community College North Campus Library - Room 226

(just west of Exit 67 on Turnpike on Coconut Creek Parkway)

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/fll/


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 8:48 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Friday, June 30, 2006
 Regarding CEO Paycheck: $42,000 a day

Topic: Commentary

The well intentioned Jeanne Sahadi of CNN, who typically tries to provide "working class" oriented economic assessments, proves once against just how biased and skewed our economic language is in America.

In a recent CNN Money piece on executive pay, where she was trying to point out the flaws of CEO compensation, she still used the same flawed language that all "mainstream media" economists use, despite the fact that it actually undermined her own points.

http://money.cnn.com/2006/06/21/news/companies/ceo_pay_epi/index.htm?cnn=yes

What I'm talking about here is the use of the words "earn" and "make" when discussing incomes. These words have become ubiquitous in economics today, but they are completely biased terms that completely misrepresent the truth. The most accurate and unbiased way to describe a person's income is "receive". Receive always works, is always accurate, and is always correct. The very problem with our economy is that we don't really know if people "earn" their incomes, we don't really know how much a person actually "makes". We do know how much they are paid, and that is an objective value that we can discuss, but whether or not someone has actually "earned" that compensation or actually "created" that value, is subjective.

Money transforms something subjective into something objective. The use of the terms "earn" and "make" in popular economic lexicon misportrays something that is subjective as something objective. If I say that the CEO of XYZ company "earned" $20,000,000 last year, then I am telling you that he does deserve the money, and he did actually personally create $20,000,000 worth of value. That's an inaccurate statement though. You don't know if he personally created $20,000,000 worth of value, or if he really earned it or not. We do know that he received it, but that's all we know.

In fact, the problem with our economy is the fact that incomes do not match contributions. People are not receiving what they earn. Executives tend to receive more than the value that they create and average workers tend to receive less value than they create.

The value created by the workers is redistributed to the executives, who are receiving money that was earned by the workers below then in the company, as well as money that is a product of socially created value from public infrastructure and resources. Value created by other people is realized by corporate executives, which is why they are getting these insane compensation packages.

There can be no problem with income disparity if indeed the incomes are truly earned. If one person is actually creating 300 times more value a year than someone else, then that person deserves to keep that value, but the fact is that this is not happening. One person isn't creating 300 times more value than another person. One person is maybe creating 5 times or perhaps even 10 times more value than another person, but through social institutions the contributions of the various members of society are redirected, using various aspects of property rights to redirect value that is created by common workers to a few executives and property holders.

This is the problem that people have when they think about capitalism. People still think in terms of pre-capitalist production. For example:

We have 10 people who make bricks. They are paid $1 per brick that they make. Each individual makes their own bricks. Tom makes 50 bricks a day, Bill makes 80 bricks a day, Susan makes 100 bricks a day, Bob makes 30 bricks a day, etc. There is absolutely no reason to redistribute any of the income of these people. They each make as many bricks as they can or choose to do, and they get what they "earned". That's fine.

Now let's see this same process in a capitalist system.

We have 10 people, who work at making bricks. 5 of them are brick makers, 2 are middle managers, 1 is a book keeper, 1 is a salesman, and 1 is an executive. The 5 people make a total of 250 bricks a day and the company is able to sell all of them each day. Those 250 bricks a day produce the $250 a day revenuestream for the company. The $250 a day is then divided up among the various members of the company. How do we decide who gets how much? How do we know how much value each member of the company is contributing? In truth we really don't. Its subjective. Right now, in our capitalist system, many factors come into play, including the market demand/supply of the various types of workers, social pressures and customs, the personal persuasive ability of the workers and executives involved to advocate their self-interest, the knowledge or lack of knowledge about the revenue of the company, outside social perceptions, how people are educated to think about compensation and self-worth, overall social conceptions about the economic impact of compensation, etc.

To put it another way, consider a luxury car company, that makes $42,000 cars, where the people who build the cars get paid $42,000 a year, and the CEO gets paid $42,000 a day. What this means is that compensation is telling us that is the workers create 1 car a year each, while the CEO makes 1 car a day. Is this correct? This would mean that all of the work done by the worker would amount to building 1 car in a years time, while the CEO personally builds 260 cars a year. Does anyone really believe that this is true? I sure don't.

Compensation in our system is anything but straight forward. We must really admit that we have no idea how much each worker in society is really "earning" or really "making", all we know is what they are receiving.

Below is a copy of Jeanne Sahadi's article, with all of the words "earn" and "make" replaced with receive. As you can see, if you read the original first, it completely changes the impression given by the article, and it is also more accurate.

The top dogs at large companies received big bucks, no surprise. But it's always a little jolting to see just how big those bucks are relative to the paycheck of the average Joe.

Last year, the average CEO of a company with at least $1 billion in annual revenue received $10,982,000, or 262 times what the average worker received, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released Wednesday.

Put another way, the average worker -- who received $41,861 in 2005 -- received about $400 less last year than what the average large-company CEO received  in one day. That assumes 260 days of pay (52 weeks x 5 days a week).

The CEO-to-worker pay differential in 2005 was the second highest on record. The highest was 2000, when the average CEO received 300 times what the average worker received.

In 2002, the differential fell to 143 as the bear market took its toll on stock-related compensation. Nevertheless, between 2000 and 2005, median CEO pay rose 84 percent to $6.05 million on an inflation-adjusted basis, according to EPI.

Median worker pay during the same period fell an estimated 0.3 percent to $33,852, based on BLS weekly compensation data.

Critics of CEO pay contend that the compensation committees of publicly traded companies too often fail to tie pay to performance.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 8:36 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, July 2, 2006 9:58 AM EDT
Sunday, June 25, 2006
 The Mis-portrayal of Darwin as a Racist

Topic: Announcements

The Mis-portrayal of Darwin as a Racist

There is a growing effort among opponents of evolution to portray Charles Darwin as a racist and to associate the theory of evolution with Nazism and the Holocaust. Several books have been written on this subject and legislation has been proposed some states to classify the theory of evolution as a racist ideology. The Discovery Institute has even produced a video documentary on the subject.

The facts about Darwin, evolutionary theory, and Nazism, however, are in stark contrast to the misportrayals put forward by anti-evolutionists. In this article I present the facts about the history of slavery, racism and genocide in Western Civilization, as well as the facts about Charles Darwin's progressive views on race. The fact is that the theory of evolution served to break down the accepted belief in a "divine separation" of races and the belief that blacks were "created to serve the white race by God".


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 5:43 PM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (50) | Permalink
Monday, June 12, 2006
 Just saw An Inconvenient Truth

Topic: Commentary

I just got back from seeing the movie An Inconvenient Truth, featuring Al Gore. Its somewhat difficult to evaluate this film, because you can't really call it "good" since the film points out so many problems. It is definitely a well done and thoughtful presentation however, which I highly recommend that everyone see.

Aside from the central message on global warming, I think that Al Gore did an excellent job of promoting science and the use of science in shaping our public policy and informing our daily lives. This is where I feel that the film was an excellent success. The film was a success because Al Gore laid a foundational groundwork and used that foundation to make the case. This is exactly what the Democratic Party should be doing on every issue.

The best thing about this film is that it defends science and reason and shows how science plays important roles in our daily lies and how science is critical for our future success and survival. Science cannot only be used by industry to create technology, science must also be used by the public to make decisions. Without this latter case, science has no morality and, more importantly, our morality has no science.

In a world that is being rapidly changed by technology, our instincts are no longer necessarily suitable to the situation at hand. Our lives are no longer in the ancient context. Our evolved morality no longer corresponds to the situations that face us. Instinct is no longer good enough and the stakes are so high that only science and reason can truly guide our judgment.

While this is not the central theme of An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore does make this case.

It is remarkable to think, however, that a thoughtful and articulate man like Al Gore was denied the presidency in America, and that instead George Bush, an inarticulate and uninsightful man who seems to despise science and reason is the leader of the most powerful country in the world. It is truly amazing.

Al Gore has said that he does not plan to run for president in 2008, but I really hope that he does, because the Democrats don't have another candidate that comes close to the quality an caliber of Gore, and I think that Hilary Clinton would be a horrible choice as the Democratic nominee. Ms. Clinton has too many political and cultural enemies, too much baggage, and quite frankly, she's to conservative as well.

An Inconvenient Truth is not showing everywhere, which is unfortunate, but it is showing in most cities. To learn more or find a theater near you visit the official website: http://www.climatecrisis.net/


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 6:36 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, June 15, 2006 6:45 AM EDT
Saturday, June 10, 2006
 The nonsense of Republican "Family Values"

Topic: Commentary

The three issues that the Republicans have brought before the Senate in the last few days are "defining marriage as between a man and a woman", a bill to make the full repeal of the estate tax permanent, and a bill to ban flag burning.

The Republicans claim that they are trying to "defend marriage", by ensuring that they restrict it to a select group of people. Republicans claim that marriage is the foundation of society, so one would think that they would want to expand the role of marriage in society, not restrict it. If conservatives are troubled by "the homosexual lifestyle", then why don't they encourage homosexuals to get married? The "homosexual lifestyle" is essentially the single lifestyle, and as long as it remains impossible for homosexuals to get married they will of course remain single.

The issues go well beyond this however.

Conservatives complain about the "breakdown" of the institution of the family, but do they explain this "breakdown", do they give reasons for it? They blame this breakdown on "attacks by liberalism", homosexuality, feminism, and a lack of prayer in schools, etc.

The fact is, however, that none of things things are causes of the breakdown of the so-called "traditional" family. In fact all of these things are symptoms of the same root cause, which is industrialization and market economy capitalism.

That's the irony of all this, the real root cause of change in American society is the very institution that conservatives so fiercely defend: Capitalism.

Many of these changes are simply inevitable and are unavoidable with the changes that come with industrialization, but others have been exacerbated by the American style market economy.

Several historical facts must be put in perspective to understand the "family", however.

What is a "family" and why did families evolve?

The family has traditionally been the core economic unit of society. Throughout most of history the household as been the primary place of production, and all family members were involved, including children from as soon as they were old enough to participate. Prior to the 18th century in England and America, children began "working" around age 5 in the home, became significant contributors to the family income by age 7, and had generated major profits for the family by age 18. Women have always worked. Its just that until the industrial revolution all business was run out of the home, so there was no need to leave home to work, for either men or women. Yes, men typically took care of the business outside the home, but the home was effectively the "corporate headquarters". Women did plenty of work there and there was plenty to do, not just raise children, that was only one aspect.

There was a division of labor between the sexes, rooted primarily in utility. Women did split their time between raising the children and preparing the meals for the family, which meant preparing meals for the workers effectively, but they often did much more than this, they also often took care of book keeping, arranged orders, directed the labor of the children, and managed inventories. You must keep in mind that every home in America when America was founded was effectively its own little factory. 95% of all production in America was done in the home in 1800. Today less than 1% is done in the home.

This dramatic restructuring of the economy IS THE ROOT CAUSE of the changes in family structure, the role of the family in society, and the significance of the family.

A family is no longer itself an economic enterprise that is needed for survival. Today business people are pressured by the market to form cooperative groups known as corporations. 200+ years ago the pressure was to form a family. One person alone can't produce much, but by forming a family a person could automatically produce a group of 8 to 15 people who worked as a small "corporation" and extended families could reach into the hundreds.

Today, however, the economy has expanded well beyond this and the family is no longer a business unit like it was in the past.

Children are no longer economic assets as they were a hundred years ago or more. Today children are major economic burdens who never generate a profit for the family until they are out of the house, if then. The return on investment for children has consistently diminished over the past 200 years and today it may actually be the case that there is zero return on investment for most families. These economic changes have had major influences on family structures.

To add to all of this, marketing has usurped the power of the family to influence society. Who has the biggest influence on society today? Corporations. What is the motivation of their influence? Profit motive. When families had more influence over the economy, they also had more influence over society. Now the economy is rooted in the corporation, not the family, and thus the entire basis of our culture has shifted from the family to the corporation.

Families always had a completely different interest in their children than corporations do. The family has an inherent interest in trying to influence the behavior of their children in ways that both benefit the family and benefit the child. To the family the child was both a worker, i.e. provider, and also an offspring, someone that they loved and cared for and wanted to succeed. So, families had an interest in instilling "positive values" in their children, both for the sake of the child and the sake of the family itself.

Corporations, however, have no such direct interest. Their immediate interest is to view the child as a consumer. Thus, now that our society is dominated by the corporation, the values of the society are the values instilled by corporations. Families have been weakened, not as gays have come out of the closet, but as corporations have taken on the leading role in society. The interest of the corporation, and thus "the market economy", is to influence behavior in ways that encourage people to make poor decisions, not good decisions (to be fair the direct interest is not to influnce people to bad bad decisions, but the net result of marketing is to induce bad decisions). The primary relationship between corporation and child is that the child has money (or access to the money) the corporation wants, and the corporation seeks to influence the child to engage in behavior that will result in funneling money to the corporation.

It cannot be any other way in a capitalist economy, that's how it works.

Furthermore, now that the home is no longer the basis of the economy, it no longer makes sense for women to "stay there". There is nothing to do at home, most of the work takes place outside the home. Women have always contributed to the economy, and by leaving the home all they are doing is acting in accordance with the free market to pursue jobs where jobs are, i.e. outside the home.

The Republicans fail to acknowledge that it is indeed the free market that explains the breakup of the family, not "gays getting the right to marry".

The analysis that I have provided here demonstrates a massive failure on the part of out society and especially the Democratic Party and so-called "liberals", because instead of using these provable facts to take charge of the debate on social issues, the Democrats and liberals are conceding the debate to the conservatives and falling back on empty slogans and emotional appeals. Our news media fails to discuss the issues or do any significant reporting on these types of issues, and our talk shows and analysts are filled with either conservatives who misrepresent everything or post-modernists who can't explain their way out of a paper bag.

What is to be done? I don't know, because it seems that rationalism and empirical data are taboo in the public sphere in America today.

What is certain is that conservatives tend to be wrong about everything, but no one else is stepping up to provide the reason why they are wrong and to give voice to the correct anwsers.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 7:13 AM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, June 15, 2006 6:56 AM EDT
Sunday, June 4, 2006
 Re: If you were setting the agenda...

Topic: Commentary

I recently received a mass e-mail message from the Democratic Party asking "what would you do if you were setting the agenda". This is what they had to say:

Imagine for a moment that you're Republican Bill Frist, the Senate's Majority Leader, and you have the power and awesome responsibility to control what issues the Senate considers and when it considers them. Knowing everything you do about the crises facing our nation and the things that most concern Americans, would your top priority be to:

A) Force the administration to change its failed strategy in Iraq

B) Help consumers walloped by $3.00 a gallon gas and take steps to reduce our oil addiction

C) Pass the first minimum wage increase in 10 years and develop plans to create good jobs in America

D) Expand educational opportunities for college by providing relief from skyrocketing college tuition

E) Ensure access to health care for every American

F) Amend the Constitution to deprive gay people of equal rights under the law

As someone who cares deeply about this nation, its problems and its future, you probably said A, B, C, D, or E. But Republican Majority Leader Frist chose F.

The question was rhetorical, of course, and there was no way to actually reply to the e-mail, but I went to the Democratic Party website and replied from there. This is my response:

As a Leftist I think that the agenda of the Democratic Party should be to fundamentally make the case for  Leftist principles the way that the Republican Party fundamentally makes the case for its Right-wing policy.

If *I* were setting the agenda this is what I would do:

  • Promote and defend secularism, science, and rationalism both in public and in the Senate.
  • Nothing should be done to change the market price of petroleum products. The market price of fuel encourages conservation and efficiency. Taking action to reduce the price of fuel is counter productive.
  • Move for a Global Minimum Wage to be paid by all employers from developed countries when the employ workers in developing nations, or when they purchase goods from suppliers in developing nations. This would require a treaty with the G8 and all other developed nations.
  • In conjunction with the Global Minimum Wage, also move to remove all tariffs on foreign trade.
  • Completely rework the college scholarship system for pubic universities. All public scholarships should be terminated and replaced with a system that compensates based on grades. Students should be reimbursed 95% for As, 75% for Bs, and 50% for Cs. No reimbursement for Ds and Fs.
  • Promote and defend a fundamental ideology as the Republicans have done. Republican social and economic claims must be countered with the factual analysis which shows that social changes are products of economic changes. Social Changes in our society that conservatives complain about are in fact products of free-market capitalism and industrialization. The movement of the home based economy to an economy dominated by multi-national corporations, where 98% of production takes place outside of the home, is what has led to the major social changes in America over the past 100 years, especially the past 50 years. Yes women used to work in the home, back when the majority of businesses were run from the home.
  • Stop claiming that healthcare is a right. Healthcare is not a right, and should never be considered as such. Healthcare is a luxury that we, as the richest nation in the history of the world, should provide to all citizens both because it is cheaper in the long run, and because we have the means to do so, but it is not a right. Just because healthcare is not a right does not mean that we should not provide universal healthcare.
  • Remove the special taxation laws for capital gains. The taxation system can be simplified and made fair by taxing all forms of income equally. It is indefensible to have workers subsidizing investors by taxing workers more than investors.
  • Increase taxes on the wealthy and reduce taxes on the poor and middle class. Defend this with the same reasoning used by Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower: The wealthy receive the most benefit from society and the State, and thus deserve to pay the most for the benefits that they receive.
  • Tax the profits of the petroleum industry and use that money for research & development projects for alternative energy. Allow the petroleum industry to get their own money back by participating in this R&D if they choose.

The Republican Party has been faltering for 4 years now, yet in this entire time the Democrats have shown their incompetence by their inability to provide and substantial alternative to Republican ideas and programs. Despite the Republicans being in an extremely weak and exposed position, the Democrats remain unable to capitalize the the events, because they have no core message, not set of principles, and are afraid to take on a truly progressive agenda. They continue to do nothing, and provide few meaningful alternatives. They offer no solutions to the issues that people really care about, because they are unable to challenge Republican ideology in any meaningful way.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 1:31 PM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (2) | Permalink
Updated: Sunday, June 4, 2006 1:47 PM EDT
Friday, May 26, 2006
 Debunking the "Da Vinci Code" Debunkers and the Jesus Myth

Topic: Announcements

Debunking the "Da Vinci Code" Debunkers and the Jesus Myth

This article is meant to address the claims that are being used by religious organizations as they challenge the points made in The Da Vince Code. A critical aspect of the article is the discussion of the mythology of Jesus, showing that while claims made in The Da Vinci Code may be false, the claims used to refute The Da Vinci Code are often false as well.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 9:54 PM EDT | Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink
Saturday, May 13, 2006
 Da Vinci Code Critics - Fighting Lies with Lies

Topic: Commentary

With all of the fallacies in The Da Vinci Code it gives priests, preachers, and fundamentalists the perfect opportunity to convince people of even more fallacies. Many of the things that Dan Brown presents as "true" in his work of "historical fiction" are in fact false, gross misstatements, or products of proven mistakes or misrepresentations, and this provides an easy target for Christians to fight against.

I have already been able to see many historical fallacies being promoted by Christians in opposition to The Da Vinci Code. Here is an analysis of some of the "best":

The Da Vinci Code's Top 10 Errors

1) CLAIM: Jesus was merely a man, not God. Brown says that the “pagan” Roman emperor Constantine, for the purpose of consolidating his power, created the “myth” that Jesus was resurrected after being crucified. (231-234).

ANSWER: Constantine, who converted to Christianity and ended Rome’s persecution of Christians, convened the Council of Nicea in 325, but only to sort out differences among church leaders, all of whom believed Jesus was divine. Early church historians referred routinely to Christ’s divinity, including Ignatius (105 A.D.) and Clement (150 A.D.)

Ironically, there is plenty of support for the claim that there was no Jesus at all. Nevertheless, Constantine did not convert to Christianity until he was on his deathbed at the very least, if this even happened. So many of the stories about Constantine are forged that it is hard to separate fact from fiction, but certainly we do know that many of the stories about Constantine were fabricated by later priests and popes in order to lay claim to imperial property and provide a basis for their power, claiming that it was granted to them by Constantine, who had for all his life been the high priest of Deus Sol Invictus. Constantine always believed that Jesus was just another representation of the sun god Helios.

Additionally, not all of the early Christians did think that Jesus was divine. Yes, there were many early church fathers that did refer to him as divine, but there were others that did not. The ones that didn't believe he was divine have simply been rejected, and are not counted as "true Christians" today, so this self-imposed filtering is just a bit of nonsense. Everyone who didn't believe in a divine Jesus was rejected, but that doesn't mean that there weren't plenty of people who didn't believe in a divine Jesus.

3) CLAIM: The four New Testament Gospels (the Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) comprise a false account. Numerous ancient writings tell a more truthful story.

ANSWER: Brown bases his view on 52 books collectively called the Gnostic Gospels, discovered in 1945 in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. All were written more than a century after the Biblical Gospels were written. None of these books has any tie to eyewitnesses in Christ’s time, unlike the Gospels themselves.

The Gospels have no ties to eyewitness accounts either. None of the stories about Jesus are based on eyewitness accounts. All of the Gospels about Jesus, including the ones that didn't make it into the Bible, such as the Gospel of Thomas, were written as if they were eyewitness accounts, but none of them were. This is most obvious when dealing with the story of the birth of Jesus, which is written as if it were based on eyewitness accounts, even though that would obviously have been impossible. The same can be said for all of the other myths of the ancient world. Stories about Zeus, Hera, Apollo, Orion, Hercules, etc., are written as if they were eye witness accounts too.

5) CLAIM: Jesus did not die on the cross but married Mary Magdalene and fathered children with her. Brown claims the church was led by Mary Magdalene, whose role was covered up by a ruthless Catholic Church.

ANSWER: Jesus’ crucifixion and reappearance after the resurrection are perhaps the best-documented theological events in history, with literally hundreds of eyewitnesses. The Roman pagan historian Flavius Josephus recorded the event this way:

"He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him."[3]

The nonsense about Jesus marrying Mary Magdalene and having children with her came from the Plantard forgeries and the Gnostic gospels of Phillip and “Mary Magdala.”

First of all, the quote that is referenced here is widely acknowledged to be full of errors. Secondly, the writing from which the quote is supposedly taken was not written until 93 CE and would, even at best, have been based on claims of other people, not a first hand account. Adding to that the oldest existing copy of the quote comes from a Christian source from the 800s, and there are many different copies of the text which don't mention Christ at all. For the many errors in this quote see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josephus_on_Jesus

Thirdly, the Bible has many contradictions about the number of people Jesus supposedly appeared before after he died. All of the books except one state that "only a few" people saw Jesus after his supposed resurrection:

Acts 10:

33 Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us."

34 Then Peter began to speak: ... 39 "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.

The number of people, and who they were, that Jesus appeared before according to the Bible is different according to every account.

Matthew: 13
Mark: 14
Luke: 13 plus an ambiguous amount: "them that were with them"
John: 14
Paul (I Corinthians): 500

For more information on the contradictions in the story of Jesus' resurrection see: http://www.outreachjudaism.org/crucifix.html

There are no claims of a crucified person, Jesus or otherwise, appearing to people after death, aside from in the Bible. Likewise there are dozens of other myths from the same time about other people or man-gods who supposedly came back from the dead and appeared before people too.

The claim that Jesus appeared before 500 people comes from one source, Paul, whom we know never saw Jesus at all or had any contact with anyone who had ever actually seen Jesus. None of the Gospels state that Jesus appeared to 500 people, only that he appeared to the apostils and a couple more (each Gospel lists different people that he appeared before). Far from being "the best documented theological event in history", the story of Jesus' death and resurrection is quite contradictory between all the accounts, and none of them can be considered "documentation", since none of them are eye-witness accounts, they are all STORIES.

Fourthly, however, even if we take the Gospel accounts of Jesus' death at face value, and this whole event isn't just a fabricated myth, then that does nothing to say that he didn't simply survive the crucifixion (he was supposedly taken down after a short period of time according to the story, not left for weeks to rot on the cross as was typical) and then leave town.

8) CLAIM: The “sacred feminine” was at the heart of the early church, but was ruthlessly suppressed. “It was man, not God, who created the concept of ‘original sin,’ whereby Eve tasted of the apple and caused the downfall of the human race. Woman, once the sacred giver of life, was now the enemy” (238).

ANSWER: Once again (and throughout the book), Brown calls Scripture a colossal lie. Far from oppressing women, the church has proved to be a liberating force. Women have achieved unprecedented status in nations where Christianity has had an impact. Jesus honored women among His followers. Mary Magdalene was the first to discover the empty tomb, see the resurrected Christ, and to tell the other believers.

Let's see, the Bible states that wives "should submit to their husbands", Jesus had basically no relationship with his mother, the 12 apostles were all men, Eve is the one who "cursed us all", women haven't been allowed to have leadership roles in the church until just recently, against much church opposition, etc., etc.

In what way did Christianity help women? Women were leaders in civic and religious life in the ancient world until Christianity came along. Women had positions of power in society in Greece and Rome and among many of the other so-called pagan cultures in Europe prior to Christianity. What examples are there of the church "liberating women"? By making them cover their heads and bodies and become nuns? Women have achieved unprecedented status in nations where Christianity has had any impact - IN SPITE OF Christianity, not because of it.


Posted by rationalrevolution.net at 7:23 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, May 18, 2006 6:57 AM EDT

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