Thursday, May 30, 2013

Things I Wonder About

On the drive home from North Carolina we listened to a book on CD; Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife (Simon & Schuster) written by Eben Alexander, MD.  It is the recounting of a physician, a Neurosurgeon, who contacted bacterial meningitis and was in a near death coma for seven days.  If you have any interest at all in the subject, it was an excellent story, read by the author.  I recommend it, although I realize skeptics will find much to discount or challenge, but I found it interesting to see someone with such a background transform from this experience.
Perhaps because it supports so many of my concepts that I find much I agree with in his story.
First, I find it impossible to believe the known universe springs from some random event that occurred without purpose.  I don’t discount the “Big Bang” I just don’t accept it as a random, spontaneous occurrence.  To make this choice requires a conscious decision to accept, on faith, some higher authority.  Skeptics may call this foolishness, or perhaps a lack of critical thinking.   But without the ability to know, with 100% certainty, isn’t any position on the origin of our universe, one that is made based on some form of faith, or is it just a rejection of spiritual faith?
I accept the working of our brain as a big electrical computational device, but again I choose to believe that its design comes with some higher purpose than to just be the top of the food chain here on earth.  The questions of who we are, what purpose we serve, and why we exist are questions that no simple science can truly answer, for they demand more than the calculation of our chemical makeup, or the physical properties of the known universe.  At some level we are, and must be much more than a random collection of DNA molecules.  I wonder how we became more than the just the sum of our parts?
Finally, I have long questioned the relationship between God and the organized churches we have established.  I admit I’ve gone through a number of stages in my life when I was active and searching for answers and was a member of a number of fundamental churches.  I considered the roll of the church in the history of conflict, the expectations of the church hierarchy, the human aspects of the members, and the need for each church to establish itself as the “one legitimate” church to provide the path to salvation.  As I struggled with my beliefs, I came to reject the idea that a divine and all-powerful God would be so petty as to provide only one church with the keys to heaven.  What I see in most organized religions are the human needs to somehow be separate and superior to others.  I wonder how we can believe God would be that narrow?  I don't discount the value of organized religion, but I am unable to accept that one church, or religion is more valid than another.  I do condemn the human's who take advantage of the belief structure to further their political goals.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Why Not ObamaEd?

I see that a number of young political analysts have jumped on board with the Honorable Elizabeth Warren, and are advocating that banks should stop robbing young people and give them extremely low interest loans so they can afford to go to the colleges of their choice and not be burdened with a lifetime of debt for the choices they made.  I think this is a wonderful idea, but it does not go to the central problem, and it seems reasonable if you are going to advocate for making college as debt free as possible, the root cause should be addressed as well.  Therefore, I propose that our government nationalize all institutions of higher learning and treat them as a national resource, it could be called ObamaEd.

This way we can control the cost of education by making sure all colleges charge exactly the same amount.  To accomplish this we could implement a number of financial changes that would keep academic growth tied to the rate of inflation, unlike today where the cost of college increased 498.49% between 1985 and 2011 (for comparison the consumer price index for the same time increased 114.85%).  As an added benefit the professors would be unionized so tenure would no longer be an issue, and they would all be on a government pay scale so we could standardize and control salaries like we do in other government service.  Of course the existing college endowments would be unnecessary since the Government would now fund colleges like it does the other Departments so those funds could be confiscated and returned to the treasury where it can be used to fund other social programs.

But wait, you ask what would happen to Ivy League schools and their elite instruction?  Well there are two ideas that come immediately to mind.  The first is elitism runs counter to the social imperatives they have been teaching so I would think they would be among the first to want to conform.  But assuming, for some inexplicable reason, they felt a continued need to be special, I think the courts could establish some form of discriminatory bias that would insure only the right people get accepted.  I know that using something like an SAT score to put you in a college based on academic ability is far to judgmental so that couldn’t be used, but surely some smart person with the right credentials should be able to come up with an brilliant idea that would make everyone happy.

Perhaps we could have a college draft?  It could work either way!  We could have all the colleges get a random number and the winning college gets to choose what students they want first, the last college gets whoever is left.  Or all the students born on a certain day get to choose first and so on for 366 more choices.  Of course some concession would have to be made to insure the correct diversity levels are maintained, I’ve not yet worked that one out.

Finally, with this change, College Football would no longer be necessary to provide scholarships to poor, but athletically gifted, future NFL stars.  It could be set up as a pay for play enterprise, just like so many schools get caught doing now.  Perhaps student athletes could get bumped up in their draft picks as a means of insuring they go to the semi-pro team, school of their choice.

The only real down side I see is that based on the experience the Government has with running colleges (i.e. the Service Academies) we can expect to spend a lot of money insuring the students are prepared for the future, but at the end of the day isn’t that what it’s all about?  Making sure everyone goes to college if they want, and not have to worry about the choices they made.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Growing Divide

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
As we move further from a nation of individuals, banding together to secure their independence and working to secure a common good, the divide between us grows.  On the one hand we have people who want to limit government so that its power is not so absolute as to rob us of our freedom.  On the other we have people who see government as the vehicle to protect us from all things and will, as a benevolent power, look out for its citizens.
In between these two positions we have the politicians.   Individuals who offer to serve and guide the Republic, but who are shown time and time again to be humans, subject to all the failures of society.   Greed, arrogance, pettiness, and self-interest are all common quantities, yet we reelect the men and woman at an astonishing rate.  Because of these qualities the established parties are not so different, they both seek to maintain the status quo with a little give and take in the middle.
As our younger generation grows to become the majority we will see the fruits of our parentage, and the impacts to reason from the technologies we have created.  Who will they elect to address the problems of the nation, and perhaps the world?  Will it be those who promise all things, or those who promise freedom?  As we move from “Ask not what your country can do for you” to “People feel like the system is rigged against them, and here is the painful part, they’re right” belief sets will we thrive or will we sink under our own weight of expectations that others will make our lives rich and support a comfortable life without effort?

Friday, May 17, 2013

I'm Tired

It has been a relatively quiet week, but I a tired, or more correctly weary to the bone.  The enthusiasm has been drained away, bit-by-bit until I sit here as an empty vessel, wondering why I think I make a contribution, or why I bother trying.
I listen to Republican’s making damning accusations of cover-up, political targeting, and government violations of the 1st amendment.  By the way, these are all things that in an earlier time led to the resignation of a President.
I hear the President’s defenders rise up to explain he really didn’t know what was going on, and it’s not that big of a deal anyway.  If we want to be safe we need to give up some of our individual freedom for the greater good.
Both sides are talking, or blathering.  Neither side is willing to listen.  I am tired of the lack of politicians who listen.  Although I did find it funny that the first congressional district of SC, a historically Republican district, returned former Governor Mark Sanford back to the government dole by electing him as their Representative.  I guess the job market for disgraced Governors is tough in these economic times.  In his words “I stand before you as a human being most appreciative in whole new ways for the significance of family and friends.” It just seems to be one big carousel where the same people move through the same jobs and nothing changes.
I resent the loss of civility in our language and our society.  Where entertainers think nothing of using profanity to comment on whatever they are commenting on.  Not spontaneous, emotion-backed profanity, but scripted purpose-based profanity used because they think it cleaver and Avant-garde.  It isn’t, it is childish and shows a general disrespect for those they are speaking to.
I fear the destruction of an organization I’ve spent a good part of my life serving.  That, as has been the case in most wars, we will chew up and throw away the men, and woman too, who have carried the fight to the enemy, and the chosen few who were sponsored, sheltered and groomed for rank will look around one day and wonder why no one answers the phone.  They bemoan the experience and training of our force in one breath, and seemingly without thought order the next change that will destroy what little experience remains.
We have created a pool of Veterans, probably equal to what we did in Vietnam, and because of advances in medicine so many more came home.  Alas, so many are broken.  Shattered arms and legs are visible reminders, burns and scares you can see, but how do you see a spirit that is wounded, a heart that can’t love, or a terror that won’t recede?  Will our nation keep its promises to these men and women, or will they be shuffled around the VA bureaucracy until they give up?  As we fight about what the Government can afford, I am afraid they will lose to groups that have a stronger voice, like the illegal immigrant lobby.
I am tired of listening to children tell me how I should think without the ability to back up an opinion with anything but another opinion as if repeating themselves is proof they are right.  Listening to how our society must be changed, but unwilling to do the work to change the constitution, preferring the courts and  executive edicts.  I wish just once they would talk about how to change the constitution rather than just ignore it.
I’m tired.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day, 2013

Rudyard Kipling is cited as having once said, “God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.”  So to remember this day, I would like to pass along Mr. Kipling's poem on the off-chance not everyone has seen it.  I hope all the mothers in my little circle have a great day!
Mother o’ Mine
If I were hanged on the highest hill,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
I know whose love would follow me still,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

If I were drowned in the deepest sea,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
I know whose tears would come down to me,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

If I were damned of body and soul,
I know whose prayers would make me whole,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Evolution of Political Thought

Woodrow Wilson, a progressive Democrat and 28th President of the US once said, “Liberty has never come from Government.  Liberty has always come for the subjects of it.  This history of liberty is a history of limitations of governmental power, not the increase of it.”
He also said, “The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests.  An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy.”
As a good Democrat he also is quoted as saying, “I have long enjoyed the friendship and companionship of Republicans because I am by instinct a teacher, and would like to teach them something.”
So here we are almost 100 years later, you could say the Republicans have finally come to see the wisdom of Wilson’s words, and what are the Democrat’s saying now?
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help... Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business - you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.”  President Barrack Obama
And “There is probably a perverse pride in my administration... that we were going to do the right thing, even if short-term it was unpopular. And I think anybody who's occupied this office has to remember that success is determined by an intersection in policy and politics and that you can't be neglecting of marketing and P.R. and public opinion.”
Government should be transparent.  Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing.  Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.  White House Policy Memorandum signed by President Barrack Obama.  
Note: I would just like to note that transparency apparently does not include answering Congressional Inquiries on things like Fast and Furious and the 9/11 attacks in Libya.
And finally, on government, “Unfortunately, you've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's at the root of all our problems. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works. They'll warn that tyranny always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave, and creative, and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can't be trusted.” 
Again I would just like to point out as the President he promised greater transparency and I don’t see the administration fulfilling that promise, or the promise not to raise taxes on the middle class, or to reduce the federal deficit, or take care of veterans returning from war, so you must forgive me for being just a bit skeptical on the whole trust thing...
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