Saturday, April 23, 2005

Serendipity’s Offerings

When you say filibuster, I think southern congressmen holding up civil rights legislation. I think conservative congressmen preventing the enactment of some welfare program. I don’t think liberal congressmen preventing conservative activism. Am I in bizarro world?

Conservative activism and conservatives thwarted by filibuster – these are truly strange times in which we live. Filibuster is usually associated with conservatives and the prevention of new legislation. Part of the checks and balances scheme of our government, filibuster protects minorities from the abuse of the majority. It is a tool for maintaining the status quo.

Liberals are being offered a golden opportunity by the conservatives. They should allow the Republicans to stop the filibuster over the appointment of conservative judges. What the liberals lose in a few conservative appointments they gain in precedent for ending filibuster.

The liberals and moderates will be in the majority one day and the ability to stop filibuster will prove invaluable. Today’s circumstances are abnormal. By its nature, the filibuster is primarily the tool of the conservatives. They are offering to dull its blade, reduce the effectiveness of this legislative tool, and liberals should allow them to do so.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Look Where We Are Now

A man steps out onto a Western street. He is a law officer. We all know him; we all know he is a good guy. Off in the distance, another man steps out onto the street. We never know who he is, what he did, or why he deserves killing, because that’s just what is about to happen, and we all know it. The other man goes for his gun first – always – but the lawman draws his faster, the lawman’s weapon fires and the man in the distance falls. Every week, week after week, year after year the program starts with a man being shot down in the street. Everybody young and old see it, children matriculate watching it, and nobody thinks it’s a disgusting site; nobody screens the children from its influence on their young minds. Could you imagine that happening in this day and age on television? A family show that starts with a killing.

There was regulation but not against the sanitized killings on TV. We had a code of conduct for good American families. We had been told that Communists were out to take over and they were in our midst. The regulation was against anything that had a red taint. No one wanted to be called soft on Communism; no one wanted to be labeled “pinko”. Reputations were ruined and made with only a suggestion of being a “fellow traveler” to Communism. It could begin and end careers. We had to think alike or at least talk alike. We had a hero as a leader, he was the man who won WWII. What became of those children that grew up with unregulated killings and shooting poring out of that new wonder, TV, and into their developing minds that were trained to march lock step with what was consider the norm?

There was immoral behavior and it involved sex. There was fear that there too much sex on television and in movies. There was fear at the any suggestion of it on TV. To be acceptable, married couples slept in separate beds. Kids who grew up with parents that slept in the same bed, thought double beds must be exotic; you only see them on TV. The best policy was just to not mention sex in any way, shape, or form. The best way to learn was from your peers and those kids slightly older than you. What ever happen to those kids that grew up with puritan, old fashion attitudes about sex, the role of men and women toward one another, and toward homosexuality?

Let’s see:
They rose up in demonstrations and ended a war, they became the foot soldiers for an environmental movement, and fought for true equality of access and opportunity for those who had not received it up to then. They changed the attitude of sex as a filthy act done only for procreation. They broke down barriers to ways of thinking about ourselves and others. And then became parents and had the same worries for their children that their parents had about them. But the world seems wilder, with more evil influences and opportunities, more ways a child could warp his or her psyche. It was; it always has been; it always will.

Should the Democratic Party propose and support a more moral aspect in movies and TV? Of course they should, any reasonable person should. Because you believe in free markets on many levels does not mean you support any negative aspect that should arise because of this freedom. You work hard on a program that fights against such things but don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs because there is a little crap mixed in with those eggs. You clean up the crap, and thank your lucky stars you’ve found such a productive goose – and you protect the environment in which the goose lives so that she can continue to issue those prized eggs.

Democrats support freedom to choose and access for an abortion. They don’t support abortion. Abortion is a failure of proper planning, policy, and education. There are many liberals who strongly oppose abortion but just as strongly support the freedom of choice. And yet they have allowed others to charge that their support of individual freedom is to support abortion. They have allowed others to charge that their support for freedom of expression is support for immoral message in various media. Neither is true but they act as if they are on the defensive. They are dancing to the conservatives tune. They are playing in the conservatives’ ball field. Democrats should be deciding the debate not responding to the conservatives’ charges.

If you want to know if violence and immoral behavior on TV warps the development of children look at today’s adult population. Anyone over the age of sixty grew up with TV and movies. Look at how they turned out. There’s been winners and losers. There’s been successes and failures. Just like always. So it goes.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Because So Much More Is Expected

I found the site dealing with Germany’s reception of Bush and Putin. Both are leaders of countries that invaded another country but they were not received in Germany the same way.

When US President George W. Bush visited Germany last February, tens-of-thousands of angry demonstrators turned out in Mainz and all across Germany to vent their outrage at the Iraq war and the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Now, less than two months later, Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Germany. And a whopping 30 protesters showed up to demonstrate against the bloody Russian war and widespread human rights violations in Chechnya….Chechnya never came up and the German media has all but ignored the topic.

I left the following comment but I have expanded on it some (plus correcting my syntax and grammar is an on going endeavor). I’m hesitant to try and parse the German mind but the inconsistency in protest may be due to expectations. The Russians have a reputation for abusing human rights especially those of other people they control. The Americans have a reputation of respect for an individual’s rights and religion. People have voted against Russia by leaving it; people have voted for America by moving there.

The history of our founding, our Constitution, our national identity are all tied to individual freedom and rights. Now of course the U.S. was never as perfect as we claim or would like to think, but our ideals are. Regardless of our blunderings in the past, for us to act cavalier in regards to another country in this day and age flies in the face of expectations. The idea of American promises more and more is expected.

While soldiers from other countries have a reputation for rape and pillage, American soldiers are known for chocolate bars and spam. We are supposed to be the good guys. We free people we don’t enslave them. Now, I know that not all soldiers are perfect gentlemen, but most are decent human beings. There are individual Americans who can be just as savage and brutal as any one from any where, but most are basically good.

I have no doubt that if I was in combat and saw my friends killed, I would become a heartless killing machine and take it out on prisoners or wounded enemy soldiers. That sort of behavior is part of fighting a war. It comes with it. What I have a problem with is when abuse becomes government policy. When we do that, we are making a mistake for which later generations will condemn. Just as we look back at slavery or the imprisonment of Japanese during WWII or the unfair treatment those who worked in factories or mines, one day Americans will look back and question our decisions

This country was by no means a perfect country when it was formed. But the declarations and itemized rights set forth at this countries beginning were lofty ideals. For some people these ideals not realized until many years later, and for others and inspiration, admired and the goal of generations from around the world. Just as some feel we should do what ever is necessary to protect this countries, others feel just as strong we should do what ever is necessary to protect that for which we stand.

The two receptions in Germany are symptomatic of this expectation. Americans are more harshly judged by the world because more is expected of Americans.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Lynch Mob Justice

The day after a lynching is dour one. Coming from an old southern family with long lines and memories, that is the image that comes to mind in the Schiavo Talking Points Memo fracas over the lynch mob that was so sure the memo was fake and then to wake up the next morning and find that it was not. No one was in actual fault for a lynching. No one actually handled the rope. Individuals may have to admit they were in the crowd but they are not the one who strung the man up. Someone else was actually to blame for the lynching.

What I really admire is Powerline’s ability weasel out from under the charge. His slight of hand in admitting they were wrong and at the same time they claim the greater wrong was in the MSM’s reporting of the story. Maybe it’s their lawyer training for an adversarial role, but John Hinderaker’s response to fucking up royally is something to read here and here and admire for his ability to deflect the onus charge of being an agent provocateur of a lynching.

I liked:
this story serves as an object lesson in how the mainstream media can take a dopey, one-page memo by an unknown staffer and use it to discredit the entire Republican party. The memo that was called fake and now is real is not as significant as the mistakes the MSM made in reporting it. It’s those rumors that were to blame for the lynching. The story is not an object lesson in how a group of people with influence and recently attained position can abuse their new found fame making wild accusations with no regard for their position in the blogoshpere.

The Blog of the Year deserves that title. It should become like an albatross tied around their neck at least until the end of the year when Time decides to award that title again.

When Eason Jordan was brought down there was talk in the blogoshpere about what would happen when the blog mob was wrong. Many like me knew it was coming – that a lynching would occur. Eventually the blog mob would go after someone and they would be wrong, or there would be some sort of Kristallnacht. I didn’t expect it to happen so soon but maybe that is a sign of these fast times. And the lefties should not think they are immune from the same mistake. It could and probably will happen to them eventually.

But it will probably happen to the right again before it happens to the left. There were not many liberals in the old southern lynch mobs. They didn’t participate, but they did nothing to stop it either. (I’m speaking generally and for effect, please don’t site me instances when some idealistic conscientious soul tried to stop a lynch mob and was the worse for it.) What makes the right so much better organized and able to take cohesive action also makes them tend to err so exceedingly.

Liberals tend to look at both sides and equivocate. Organizing liberals is like herding cats – cool cat, mind you, but the effect is still the unsystematic same. There is a place for conservatives in the liberal world, but the opposite is not true. Conservatives think the world would be better if they were no liberals. And, if you are far enough to the right, the center looks liberal to you -- so watch out when the lynch mobs or brown shirts are roaming

When the talk of blog mob lynching was going around, I was of the feeling that the blogoshpere would prevent it from happening just as it has kept the MSM in check lately. But it appears we have to chalk this one up to the MSM. Of course we don’t know why Sen. Mel Martinez suddenly popped up and admitted the infamously real memo came from his office, although he did not know it at the time. (Is he stupid or does he think we are?) Maybe he was fixing to get fingered by the MSM and though it best to make the news rather than answer to it. I thought Jack Shafer had a good wrap up on the story. (I was getting a funny window when I went to the site, but click the print item and you can see it.)

It will be interesting to see if this is the end of this lynching or if the left wing blogs will hound the right wing blogs for what they did. That’s what the right wing blogs would have done. They’ve done it in the past and will probably forget their own transgressions and do it again in the future. The left wing blog will probably not go after the right wing blogs with the organized efficiency of the right wing blogs – look back at my note about cats above. That is so liberal of them.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Intelligence: Designed or Evolved

Been reading about the Intelligent Design for how we got here. I’m not going to try and parse the theory to prove why it can’t be so, but I do have some comments on its properties. First, I agree that evolution is just a theory. So is the theory of gravity, but we know the force we call gravity exist – we just don’t know what it is or how to explain it. Is it caused by warped space? Does it come from the exchange of quantum particles like gravitons? We don’t know but we certainly know how to use gravity. All of us who stand erect have come to master that which we don’t fully understand.

The same is true of evolution, only more so. All this talk about genetically modified foods. You go in any supermarket and almost every form of food in there has been genetically modified using the same force that drives evolution. If evolution is not real, then horticulture is a joke. They both use the same force of nature: the variability of the DNA molecule and its selection.

There is one aspect of Intelligent Design that intrigues me and it’s a problem in the theory of evolution: how did life begin? While the theory of evolution takes care of everything from some primal single cell life form to what we see to day – we don’t know all the particulars but the overall theory appears sound – we can’t come up with how it all began. The theory of the idealistic pond in which lifeless chemical happened together in some random katrillion and one chance and bang life began begs the questions. What is life? It is simple everyday chemistry that goes on in the universe all the time but it is chemistry with a purpose. It is chemistry with an attitude. It is a chemical reaction that exploits its surrounding to replicate itself.

I agree with the proposal that however life began, this generation of life should be going on all the time. We have not found it for one of three reasons. One, we are not looking in the right place. Two, we are not looking in the right way. One possible reason is that in life, higher life forms consume lower life forms. The precursors to life may be constantly generated and just as quickly consumed by some bacteria before these precursors can come together to start life or be discovered by some future Nobel candidate. Or third, life did not begin on this plant. It was introduced and flourished.

That aspect of Intelligent Design holds water. Maybe the DNA molecule was downloaded onto the planet by some intelligence. We talk about terra forming our closes planets so that we may one day live there. The best way to do that is to inject life. Those carbon dioxide clouds of Venus could be home to a host of bacteria that would slowly and surely break it down into a fixed carbon and oxygen. The DNA molecule is a rather intelligently designed program. Part of that intelligence is the ability to reprogram itself over time. Once this program is introduced on to the earth, no other action is needed. It can populate the world in life, ever adapting, ever changing, always evolving, and never needing any further tweaking from the programmer. It is self tweaking. Given time the whole earth could become alive.

Even if disasters were to come to the earth and all human and higher life form were extinguished, evolution might return an intelligent life form like us one day – or maybe not. Perhaps the intelligent designer prefers the dinosaurs. Who knows, maybe one day some advanced biological unit will be digging up our remains studying us and wondering what we were like.

But back to the creationist clinging to intelligent design in an attempt at giving solidity to something for which their can be no firmness or validation: faith. If there were facts to back up faith, it would make the definition of faith meaningless. Some people need the turning of water into wine or raising the dead to support their faith. It was true in Jesus’ time; it is still true today. The creationists are like those people who could not give up the idea that the earth was the center of the universe and everything revolved around it. Maybe they still believe that too. Besides, intelligent design only referrers to the beginning of life on earth, it does not include the creation of the universe.

The best theory I’ve seen on the universe is that it is a chaotic system and the bodies such as planets, suns, solar systems, galaxies, and groups of these are the strange attractors in chaos theory. However, how can you have any good theory of the universe when over half of it missing in what is labeled dark matter? And then there is dark energy. I prefer dark data. It is more nebulous than dark matter or dark energy which by sheer definition of terms categorizes our ignorance. If we are going to be true to our intelligent design, let’s admit when our intelligence is lacking.