Friday, September 16, 2005

New Bush?

GW has been on a roll lately. It took him longer then it should have to respond to Katrina, but once he did, he actually started saying the right things. He actually admitted to the possibility that he may have made mistakes! He fired, or a least allowed to depart, an incompetent official. He backed down from his more foolish positions, like being unwilling to do something about poverty. He's been saying all the right things. He appears to have found a Voice to listen to other then the one he was listening to before.

We'll have to wait and see if he actually follows through and starts doing the right thing. But at least he's starting to Say the right things. He's starting to act like the compassionate Christian he claims to be. I don't think he'll be able to do much, he's just too incompetent in pretty much everything he does. But at least there's some hope.


Joke: What is the difference between Iraq and Vietnam?
Answer: Bush had a plan to get out of Vietnam.

(I saw this in a comment on a blog somewhere)

Gay Marriage

The Christian crusade against homosexuality and gay marriage doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. These are issues that should Not be decided by other people. If God decides that such behavior is unacceptable, he'll take care of it. Such things are between the person engaged in the behavior and God, no one else. When we try to prevent others from engaging in behavior that we have decided is sinful, we are out of touch with God's Will.

Personally, I don't understand what the big deal is. Marriage is just a word, the commitment and the relationship is what matters. Why should I care if someone else wants to use that word to describe their relationship with someone else? And do I think it's right to deny someone's committed partner things like health benefits just because I don't approve of the nature of their relationship? No I do Not.

I think the best solution is to make Marriage a purely religious term. Government and Law should not be allowed to recognize it at all. If you have two or more people that wish to share benefits or file taxes together or whatever, they sign a Permanent Committment Agreement. That is the only thing the government recognizes. This agreement could be made between two people of the same gender or different genders living together or even two people living together in a non sexual way. Basically anytime two or more people want to be legally recognized as a single legal entity, they would fill out a contract that says they agree to be Permanently Committed as Partners in Life (or something along those lines). If they choose to get married in a church as well, good for them.

American Values

Newsweek has an excellent article- Overturning the Gospel- that talks about how American Christian values have become completely out of touch with Biblical values, something I've noticed myself. For example, the average Christian gets all worked up about abortion, but looks the other way when the poor are unable to feed themselves or their newborn children. Protect the unborn- ignore the born. That's just one example of how the average Christian does very little to live as Jesus taught. Christian leaders like James Dobson are the ultimate example of what Not to do. The current Christian political movement is leading a lot of people away from God.

Some of my favorite quotes from the article:

We as a nation -a proudly, increasingly loudly Christian nation - have somehow convinced ourselves that the selfish choice is usually the moral one, too.

Which is how "Christian" morality got to be all about other people's sex lives - and incredibly easy lifting compared to what Jesus actually asks of us.

Side Note:
My position on abortion in a nutshell: Both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice miss the point. The only relevant question is this: At what point does it become a human life? Before that point, it's just a woman deciding what to do with the developing life within her. She is not choosing what to do with her own body, she is deciding the fate of the life inside her. After that point, whatever it may be, (I think 20 weeks) it should legally be considered a human life and any decisions surrounding it should be treated accordingly.

Something else that makes no sense - Pro-Life people that oppose sex education in schools or distribution of condoms. That seems extremely counter productive. What better way to protect life then from preventing unplanned pregnancies to begin with? Yes, abstinence is the best practice, but handing out condoms doesn't discredit that message, it just addresses the reality that abstinence is not always followed and when it isn't a condom is next best thing. Yet another example of how Christian values in this country are completely screwed up.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Education and Values

A teacher friend of mine responded to my post on education and I wanted to share my response.

First of all, never forget that I'm just Some Guy in Michigan. This blog is not intended to provide detailed plans on how the world should be, mostly because I don't know the details. I have lots of ideas and opinions, but don't always know how to make them work in the real world. I don't claim to Know what is required to create an appropriate educational environment. I have a vision of what I think education should be and how I think values should be taught to the next generation, but I don't know how to actually create a system that meets that vision. For instance, I would like every student to have access to the resources my son has as a special ed student, but don't know how to make that happen. That's not the purpose of this site or my writings. If I ever become a administrator in government or education, then I would have the resources and the responsibility to figure out how to make my vision reality. I freely concede that a detailed study and analysis could reveal that the system we have is the best we can do, as close as we can get to the ideal vision.

This is part of what my teacher friend had to say:

Then there is the MS [Middle School] model you describe - at what point do
parents have to be responsible for teaching their children? It is the
responsibility of the K-12 school to teach children basic academic material that
will allow students to become productive citizens. It is the responsibility of
the parents to pass their values on to their children it is not my
responsibility as an educator to pass on my values. Not everyone wants their
child to learn to meditate Some view meditation as a form of religious practice.
How would you feel if I was your child's teacher and I was teaching him my
values which included the glorification of Wicca? Be careful what you ask for -
the results may not be what you anticipated.

My biggest question to you is what part do you play in the raising of your
child? You are responsible for teaching him anger management I am responsible
for helping him learn to be organized, how to read, do math and be a citizen. I
really don't want to be the parent to your child - I already have two children
of my own.

The person stated that the responsibility of the K-12 school to teach children basic academic material that will allow students to become productive citizens. Although basic academics is an important foundation, it does not make them productive citizens. Basic academics is not enough. And parents have very limited ability to fill the gap. For instance, how can a parent that struggles with anger management in their own life possibly teach it to their children?

The MS model would have to constructed very carefully. I think it should teach Wicca and meditation and every other form of religious practice. The system just has to be very careful not to favor one value system over another. I wish I would have been taught things related to values and religion in school. I attended a Lutheran school through sixth grade, so I was at least exposed to one set of values, something public schools avoid. Despite the fact that I now wholeheartedly reject the Lutheran value system, I am grateful that I was taught values in school. It is not something I could have learned at home, despite having pretty good parents. I think the fact that I was taught values in school is a large part of my success in the education system (Although I think that there was only 3 people in my grade and the classrooms were four grades together with less then 30 people in one room was the biggest factor). I hope and pray that my children are taught and exposed to many different value systems. I can't teach them because no one ever taught me. Every person should be able to choose their own path, including one different from their parents. I guess I feel that American society proves that parents can't handle the responsibility, they need help. And sometimes that means teaching their children things they aren't comfortable with and unwisely try to shield their children from. The whole point of my model is giving the students the resources necessary to become a productive member of society by choosing their own path and finding out who they are. Most parents don't have the resources or the ability or the courage to do that. I know I don't have the resources and want help. Many wars today are fought over religion and social differences. If we can find a way to promote tolerance in our schools by exposing people to other perspectives, that just might be a path to world peace.

The person I was talking with stated "that the tools necessary for people to be successful come from families - it's all well and good to know about other faiths but it is really the faith of our families that keep our bad behaviors in check." I've never understood such statements. In my experience, family is nothing more than a group of people that you can't get rid of, a group of people that you are forced to get along with because you're going to have to deal with them over and over again. I've always felt that families have very limited relevance to individual behavior and values. I didn't find my values until I got AWAY from my family. I don't think it's possible to get values from your parents, other than rote repetition of their values with no understanding or true acceptance of them. Those sort of values should be avoided if at all possible. College and independent research is how I found my values. So that's why I say the education system should be responsible for values, not families. Family is not up to the task. They do not possess the tools.

I'm a big believer in the Maslow hierarchy of Needs. It is a theory that models what motivates people that I have always found to be pretty accurate. It has five layers of needs. Each layer supports the one above it. The theory goes that you can't meet the next layer until the layer below it is being met. I think this model can show how family does not possess the tools to meet the needs that motivate a person and form his or her values. Family can and often does supply the most basic, low level needs. For instance, Family is usually good at providing Physiological Needs like Food, Water, Shelter (First Layer). In most cases, it can provide Safety and Security (Second Layer). As you continue to progress up the hierarchy, Family become less and less able to meet the needs. The Third Layer is Love/Belonging. You would think this is where Family would excel. And maybe it does. But in my experience, many families do a poor job of meeting this need. Let's say 50/50 chance of this need being met by Family. Often, the Family provides love, but the person doesn't feel it or recognize it, so the need is not met. I should admit, however, that this need is the one most difficult for me to understand. When I think about Maslow, I can remember the bottom two layers and the top two layers, but I usually forget this one- probably because I don't feel it's very important. I spend a good portion of my life trying to avoid Love and Belonging. I believe it is just the way I'm wired. Or maybe I'm just so confident of that need being met by my family that I proceed without even thinking about that need - that's certainly a possibility. I have to admit, I'm making a pretty good case for family up to this point. But the first three layers are just the basic needs. If those needs are being met, you can usually be a pretty well adjusted, socially acceptable person. But not a happy one. And not a productive, active, outstanding member of society. The final two layers can Not be provided by Family. In fact, I think the Fourth Layer, Self-Esteem, is hurt by family probably 80% of the time. My parents are probably in the 20% that don't. Mostly because they are smart enough to know when to get out of the way and not interfere. Most parents are not that smart. In fact, my parents are the only parents I know that are pretty good at finding the right balance between support and independence. My wife's family is Really bad at that, and her extremely low Self-Esteem reflects that. Of course, Self-Esteem has to come from within. It is SELF esteem after all. Self-Actualization is an extremely difficult need to meet. It means knowing who you really are. It is impossible for family to meet this need. They can, however interfere and prevent this need from being met. For instance let's say a person realizes that they Need to be an Artist. Family is often the group most likely to oppose something like that. But, on the other hand, sometimes family is the only one to support something like that. I guess I have to conclude that Family Can be the most important part of who a person is. For the first time, I am realizing that maybe family is more than just a group of people you're stuck with. Or maybe that IS all they are - a group of people that is forced to deal with you. And because of that force, they get to know you and you get to know them. And if you know and understand a person, you are more likely to meet each other's needs.

However, I still think Education is more important then Family. Getting a Family that can support you and meet your needs is luck of the draw. And many, maybe even most, people don't get so lucky. Especially in today's Global, High Demand, High Speed, Highly in Touch World. The needs are just too difficult to meet and the consequences of failure too important to depend on Family to create productive members of society. Anyone who says it's the job of Family to provide values is just not willing to face the responsibility and the reality of the fact that it can't. At least not by itself. Our world is too interconnected and fragile to allow family to be the only source of values. That's just too risky. Even the best parents in the world don't have the resources, the ability, or the time to teach the values our children need to be productive members of society. If we avoid teaching values in our education system, we are avoiding one of our most important functions as a society - preparing the next generation for success that surpasses our own.

Side Note: The final layer that Maslow considered placing at the top and that I think belongs there is Self-Transcendence. Self-transcendence refers to connecting to something beyond self. It is usually avoided by psychologists because it mostly lies in the religious realm. Something beyond self is usually referred to as God (or an equivalent word). However, I'm not afraid to address religion and I feel that Transcendence is indeed the ultimate need. There IS something beyond self. This need is Very difficult to meet or even know when it is being met. Family can not meet this need. Neither can Church. I define Church as any formal organized religion with people making a career out of sustaining and extending that religion. The Church exists to control people by appearing to provide this need. This lie is what makes the Church so powerful. And so dangerous.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Bush's Foreign Policy

This Post explains the Bush Foreign Policy perfectly and with humor.

Hurricane Relief

I was leaning towards saying that the criticism of the government response to the Katrina disaster seems a bit unwarranted. Yes, what happened in New Orleans was horrible. But I'm not convinced that government could have done much better or that it's response to this disaster was any worse then other responses. But then I read this post. It talks about how disaster relief is remarkably better in swing states in even numbered years. I've noticed that as well. So if they can do it to make themselves look good in an election year, there is no excuse for dropping the ball for this odd numbered year disaster.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Wolves and Sheep

Bill Whittle writes a response to Katrina that talks about society and it's tribes.

I like the analogy of sheep and sheepdogs protecting them from the wolves that Whittle steals from a book. He says he supports the war in Iraq. That makes no sense. To use the same analogy, the war in Iraq is like sending your best sheepdogs after the weak and injured wolf, leaving the sheep vulnerable to attack from the strong wolves. I don't think anyone can doubt that Iraq was a well contained wolf that was incapable of harming any of the sheep. If you actually believed Bush's bogus intelligence data, then supporting the war at the beginning was logical. But by the time the election came around, we all knew that Iraq was a case of the sheepdog chasing its own tail after taking care of the weak and harmless wolf. The war in Afghanistan was an example of the sheepdog doing its job and doing it well. War in North Korea or Iran would probably be a good use of the sheepdogs. But Iraq is a complete waste of perfectly good sheepdogs. And Katrina just might be an indicator that shows the pain of wasting our sheepdogs.

I do agree that disaster recover is mostly a local affair. New York City stood up to a tragedy in the best possible way. New Orleans rolled over and played dead. Blaming the federal government in the case of Katrina or crediting it in the case of NYC are both equally inappropriate. The Federal Government is indeed best used in supplementing the local and state resources in disaster recovery.

In this essay, he also talks about tribes. He says people choose what tribes they are in. Whether they react by fingerpointing and whining or by standing up to the plate and doing the best they can with what they have is determined by the tribe to which they belong. It doesn't matter what color their skin is, where they were born,what gender they belong to or where they stand politically. There are just certain types of people. And you choose what type of person you want to be. Experience, however, tells me that people often let the color of their skin or other such inconsequential factors dictate their choice of who they want to be. For instance, being black doesn't mean you have to be a certain type of person. But unfortunately so many black people believe the lies society tells them and choose to be become the type of person that society expects them to be. This of course applies to most other demographic groups as well.

I think this essay and the conservative ideals it is based upon suffer from a very important flaw. They see the world in black and white (or Pink and Grey in this case). But that is not the way the world works. Every single one of us belong to many different tribes, have many different colors. No one is pure wolf, pure sheep, or pure sheepdog. We all have a little bit of all three in us. And there can be no sheep without the wolf nor wolf without sheep. The sheep only exists because it is more passive then the wolf. The wolf only exists because it is more aggressive then the sheep. Good cannot exist without evil, nor can evil exist without Good. The world is a relative place and denying that is like denying gravity.

So what am I? I certainly don't live in denial- the mark of the sheep. I am very aware of all the dangers and traps that the wolves set to ensnare us. The worst of them are the traps we are unaware of. Everyone can figure out that a plane crashing into a building is a wolf's attack we need to prevent. What about more subtle attacks? Like choosing to undermine our ability to find safety by allowing incompetent leaders to control our resources? Or allowing the government to dictate what we do and say?

I don't think I'm a wolf, I certainly never contemplate violence on others. Although I don't think any wolf really thinks he's a wolf. I think most wolves probably think of themselves as shepherds or sheepdogs. They are just doing what they need to do to protect their tribe.

So I guess I'm a sheepdog. One that hopes to never have to commit acts of violence in defense of my tribe. One that's too chicken to risk himself or his pocketbook. Also one that knows when to stay out of the way of those more qualified to handle the situation. I like to think that if the situation or the opportunity came along, I would stand up and do something. Do I wish I had been on the plane that was being hijacked with the foreknowledge of what was going to happen? I don't know. Ultimately, I probably would have been unable to do anything about it. Even going against a box cutter, I would probably manage to mess it up and fail to make a difference. But maybe, just maybe, I would have been able to inspire someone else to do what needed to be done. That's my goal in life- to be the guy who inspires others to do the right thing.

The comments debated on what Bush is. The essayist called him this: simpering, sub-human village idiot from Texas. Sounds about right, if slightly exaggerated. Some of the comments said he is intelligent. That may or may not be the case, I don't know. But intelligence isn't what matters in leadership. What matters is decision making, something which is based on intuition and logic more then intelligence. And Bush has proven throughout his life to be an Extremely Poor Decision maker. I think he is ultimately a wolf. A reluctant wolf perhaps, but a wolf nonetheless. A wolf who threatens the sheep not with fangs and claws, but with misguided intentions.

One of the comments:
As a mom, I found it my role to civilize the children in my sphere of influence without turning them into sheep. Clean their room, wash their clothes, write thank you notes, tip well, give up a seat for a senior or a pregnant woman... but also to defend themselves and others when necessary.

Pink tribe moms are about "feelings" and letting kids "find themselves" and Grey tribe moms are about raising children to be decent adults.

I guess I'm a Pink tribe Dad and proud of it. All that stuff she lists is completely unimportant BullShit. None of that stuff makes you a decent adult. It just means you obey society's silly little rules. And in my book, that makes you the ultimate sheep. One that deserves to be devoured by wolves. Soon.

The only mark of a decent adult that matters is being one that respects other's people right to be different and do thing differently. Not necessarily respecting the person, just respecting his or her rights. Doing your best to avoid hurting other people is pretty important too.

Another comment:
Sheepdogs don't protect sheep, they CONTROL them

That's exactly what we need to avoid. We need the wolves in sheeps clothing (sheepdogs) to protect us from wolves so that we can have the freedom to do whatever we want (assuming it doesn't involve driving other sheep off a cliff or something). The sheep drive the wolves, not the other way around. The wolves follow their prey and pounce whenever an opportunity presents itself. The conservatives try to control the sheep, make them go where they want them to go. They think they are doing it for their own good. Bullshit. They are just trying to assert control. It's a powertrip. All people try to avoid change. One of my most basic philosophies is this: Change is Good but Transistions are Terrible. The conservative is always trying to avoid the Transition by avoiding the Change. The Liberal realizes the foolishness of that and encourages the change. The Moderate majority just tries to find the most comfortable path. Sometimes they let the sheepdogs "protect" them and sometimes they just overwhelm the sheepdogs and choose a new path. That's the way it should be.

Iraq and Homeland Security

I always felt that at best, the Iraq war has nothing to do with fighting terrorism. I don't think anyone but the most loyal Republican Yes Man can argue with that. To say I'd rather being fighting terrorists over there then here at home is ignorant BS. The terrorists we are fighting in Iraq will never come here. They are only terrorizing for local reasons. If we had never gone there, those terrorists would not exist. As soon as we leave, the terrorists will either stop terrorizing or will start terrorizing the new Iraqi regime. And while we are wasting our resources in Iraq, the real threats are free to increase their strength.

By attacking Iraq, we became the bullies. We gave people a valid reason to hate us. It causes middle of the road people that would be indifferent to the US to be against us. In other words, such tactics increase our enemies and makes existing enemies stronger. So the war in Iraq makes us Less Secure against terrorism. That's my opinion, one which I can't really back up with facts. (Although I think such facts do exist, just not available to armchair quarterbacks like myself.)

The recent hurricane points out a more concrete example of how the war in Iraq increases our danger and undermines homeland security. Because of that foolish war, our first responders and National Guard troops are stuck in a desert on the other side of the world instead of taking care of our own people at home. We Are able to pull in resources from other states and get enough people on the ground. But that took an extra week or two. If the National Guard in Louisiana and Mississippi had been at full strength, could the worst of the disaster been avoided? Could the Hell on Earth that is occurring in New Orleans been avoided?

John Roberts

Bush moved quickly to convert Roberts from a O'Conner replacement to a Rehnquist replacement upon Rehnquist's death. I was kind of surprised he appointed a young unknown for Chief Justice. Seems kind of risky. I wonder if he intended him to be Chief all along? Considering how swiftly he bumped up his promotion, I would say that's pretty likely.

I haven't seen anything yet to make me dislike Roberts. He appears to be a good choice. He appears to be someone that will make good decisions based on the merits of the case, even if it goes against his personal values or other's expectations.

At least Bush didn't appoint Scalia as Chief. I wonder if he asked him?

Hurricane Katrina

Instapundit has an excellent roundup of Hurricane postings. That guy posts constantly all the time. Doesn't he ever work or do anything else? He pointed out a pattern that I've noticed as well. The first week relief and aid is extremely hard to come by and nowhere near adequate. The second week it's available in most areas and the third week it's available in abundance. This disaster appears to be following the pattern, possibly even having third week level support available by the second week. So all the criticism the various levels of government are receiving may be inappropriate.

On the other hand, everyone knew if a level three hurricane or higher hit anywhere near New Orleans, it would be a huge disaster. And everyone knew like a week ahead of time that a level 4 hurricane was headed towards New Orleans. So why did they have such a hard time getting people out and getting things ready before the hurricane hit? People are comparing this to September 11th and saying that things have not improved. We can't handle major disasters any better now then we could then. I think that is a very valid accusation and I hope this event gives the Democrats something to rally behind and take a chunk out of the Republican Dictatorship. Of course I also hope that Homeland Security actually Improves, but I don't know if our government will ever be able to handle disasters in the best possible way. Maybe this Is the best possible way.

I heard the Homeland Security Secretary make a total fool of himself on NPR. The interviewer asked him about the Convention Center that CNN and NPR had been covering for days (probably other news outlets as well, I have no way to know). He said he didn't know anything about it and that they shouldn't listen to rumors! Reporters had first hand accounts of horrible things happening at that convention center and CNN had been showing images for days. And if they could get there, it sure seems like relief vehicles could. Millions of people knew about that place but the Homeland Security Secretary didn't?!? Doesn't make you feel very secure when the top security person in the nation is so clueless. If I was in his position I would have someone assigned to monitoring the media outlets and make sure those areas get covered as quickly as possible. Sounds unfair and opportunistic, but that's just a practical reality. GW certainly knew that and made sure to send in the Marines (figuratively speaking) and personally announce that the Convention Center was being dealt with. (Actually he implied it was completely taken care of, which it was not at that point, but we'll forgive a slight exaggeration)

I saw a post linked in Instapundit that suggested that GW called the governor of Louisiana and told her to order a mandatory evacuation before the hurricane. If it's true, it would be the first time I saw GW doing something right.