Tag Archives: society

Israel Sends The Wrong Message

At some point in the near future, apparently the date is being kept a secret, a groups of ships, called the Freedom Flotilla 2, will be sailing from Greece to the Gaza Strip. You may remember that this happened about a year ago. In that case, nine people were killed by Israeli soldiers in what was a complete debacle for the Israeli Defense Forces. Let me be clear that I think Israel has every right to be wary of this situation. The Gaza Strip is controlled by a group that does not recognize Israel, and has made the destruction of Israel its top priority for years. I believe that Israel has every right to ensure that the supplies carried on this convoy are for humanitarian uses only. If there are any weapons they should be confiscated as that would surely be illegal weapons trafficking. Israel, however, is making me question the validity have their concern. Namely, they are engaging in a tactic that is akin to dictators. They’re threatening journalists.

An article in the Christian Science Monitor reports that Israel is threatening to ban journalists from the country for up to a decade if they are on one of these ships. Journalists go where the story is. It is true that they often go where there is no story also, but trying to keep the media out of this just leads to the idea that Israel wants to suppress the story. Journalists are banned from Syria right now for exactly that reason. The Syrian government does not want the truth to get out about what they are doing. By keeping journalists out they are preventing an accurate narrative to be written. This allows them to fill the void with the story they want everyone to hear.

I don’t think Israel is comparable to Syria. Israel is a democracy that does not oppress its people. Some will argue that instead Israel oppresses the Palestinians, who it is worth noting, were kicked out of their homes in the late 1940s. Palestinians have a legitimate problem with Israel and the Western world. So when Israel engages in suppressing journalists, it makes them look like they have something to hide. More importantly this tactic will not work. We’ve seen it in Arab countries all year. The mainstream media isn’t needed for information anymore. The use of Facebook and YouTube has exploded. Through the internet videos will be seen, information will spread. Israel can count on one thing. The YouTube videos, and Twitter feeds will not be favorable.  The mainstream media uses a code of ethics in what it reports. The social media world does not. Israel’s opponents will use all of these outlets to spread their message whether it is fair or not. The mainstream media is the only hope Israel has of getting an objective story out there.

Israel’s best plan is to stop this flotilla as peacefully as possible. Inspect the cargo, and make sure that CBS, CNN, The New York Times and others get a good look at it. If anything is illegal or bound for violent use, it will get reported and Israel will be vindicated. If it is all humanitarian aid, everyone will know. Then Israel can say it was protecting itself, but found nothing illicit. There is nothing wrong with Israel trying to prevent weapons from entering Gaza so that they can be used to hurt Israelis. Trying to suppress journalists, however, sends a terrible signal. It says that Israel isn’t sure that they are protecting themselves. This effort will hurt the Israeli cause not help it.

My 100th Post

One hundred posts seems like a milestone to me. It shouldn’t be happening now. I took on the post a day challenge this year and I’ve been writing since September of 2010. That is far more than 100 days, but I’m not looking back. I didn’t realize that today would be my 100th post but I want to rehash something. Carlos from Machimon made a comment on my last post about buying jeans and “rolling around in mud to make them look respectable.” That reminded me of something I wrote 4-5 years ago and I post it here for all of you.

This is something I’ve been angry about for awhile and you’ve all probably heard my rant. Anyway, I wanted to put it in writing because it is an important issue concerning the world today.

Jeans that you buy with holes in them. WHAT THE HELL PEOPLE??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
I have two distinct problems with this new trend, and neither of them is that it just doesn’t make sense, although that is true. One, when you buy jeans with pre-fabricated holes in them you are really destroying integrity of your jeans. They are going to wear out faster, whether you get something caught on those holes and it rips or they just get bigger. At some point you paid a lot of money for something you truly could have gone to a thrift store for!

Two, YOU’RE LYING TO THE WORLD! It’s true. If you didn’t earn those holes how can you even go into public with them. I mean really, if someone says how did you get that hole in your knee what are you going to say??? “Oh, I bought them that way.” That is not a good story. I have a pair of jeans with holes in both knees and if someone asks me what happened I can tell them I got one on my birthday two years ago when we all took so many Crown & Peach shots that nobody could hardly walk and my roommate Jose and I got into a wrestling match outside of my friend Liz’s apartment. The next morning my knee was screwed up and I had a hole in my jeans. Or I will tell them about how in Aggieville one day my buddy Travis was drunk and decided he was going to jump on my shoulders without telling me and I ended up on the ground on one knee with him on my back. Both are better than “I bought them that way.”

So If I can say anything it’s that this ridiculous trend must go. It’s time we started being truthful to the world. And seriously a couple of years ago if somebody asked you “Would you ever spend 50 dollars to buy jeans that have holes in them?” What would you have said? I doubt your answer would be yes!

So There’s An Imaginary Forest. . .

Really, there’s an imaginary forest. This forest has trees and plants, but no animals, nothing that can hear, except you. Suddenly a wind picks up and a huge tree starts falling to the ground. Now think, if you weren’t there did it make a sound?

How long did it take before you said, “Of course.” Not very long, I’m guessing. It isn’t such a simple question though. Let’s talk a little about our sense of hearing. Hearing is an example of mechanosensation, meaning that our hearing organs, the ears, are interpreting the movement of molecules around us and sending that information to our brains. Sound is a wave, which means it is not a physical object. It is really just energy that causes molecules to vibrate. They bump up against other molecules and transfer that energy. That happens countless times until some of those molecules bump up against your eardrum. That information is then translated into nerve impulses that shoot up your auditory nerve to your brain. Then you hear something. This happens extremely quickly and is going on constantly. So a tree falls and vibrates the world around it eventually those vibrations make it to your ear and you think “I think a tree is falling.” Hopefully you look around to make sure it’s not falling on you. People usually argue that sound waves are still sent out even if no one is there and so the tree still makes sound.

The presence of sound waves isn’t the question, however. The real question is what is the very nature of sound. Is sound something that exists in the environment? Or is it merely our brains interpretation of something in the environment? Does the physical sensation of sound exist outside our heads or is it created by our brain? Imagine if humans lacked a sense of hearing. We could still discover sound waves in the environment. We could make machines that would detect them. We might still call them sound waves, but they wouldn’t mean the same thing to us. If we lacked a sense of hearing it would fundamentally change the way we think of sound, because our brains would not interpret that information the same. In essence, sound as we know it would not exist. So is the “tree in the woods” question really so simple? Should you have answered so quickly?

The “tree in the woods” question is perhaps not important in our lives. People certainly have more important things to worry about. The nature of sound and hearing doesn’t usually make the top 5. What’s the problem with that? The problem is that we answer so many important questions with the same quick, “of course.” Questions about government, politics, education, any number of important things get brushed aside and we just believe what we repeatedly hear. That’s why FOXNews can say the President is spending $200 million a day on an Asia trip and people believe. “Do politician’s waste our tax dollars? Of course.” We can be convinced that teachers have easy jobs and are overpaid. “Teachers only work 9 months a year, of course they’re overpaid.” We don’t demand thorough arguments and answers, so we don’t get them.

When I was a child I dreaded hearing one of my say four words. “Because I said so.” I hated it, because it was simply not an answer. I’ve always asked questions and I wanted a real answer but sometimes “because I said so” was just easier. For example, my mother would tell me to put on my coat. I would ask why, and she would say “because I said so.” She could have said, “It’s the middle of winter and if you don’t put on your coat you’ll have hypothermia before we reach the car.” That would have taken much longer I  would’ve needed an explanation of what hypothermia was. She went with brevity instead.

I only mention this because we are getting “because I said so” arguments and we’re responding with “of course.” The new Republican budget was unveiled recently. In a video Rep. Paul Ryan, showed that his budget would avoid a debt crisis. How? Well he had a graph and he said so. He doesn’t want people asking too many questions. We are being force-fed a mantra that tax cuts for the rich will create jobs. Republicans say it so often I’m beginning to think they have a “millionaire tax cut” button. Why do tax cuts for the rich create jobs. Because they said so. You could argue that the people who really create jobs are consumers, because they buy products and services thus creating demand for more products and services. This in turn employs more people to manufacture and sell those products and to provide those services. Virtually all of those consumers are not wealthy. So perhaps cutting taxes for them would make more sense than cutting taxes for the rich. You could make that argument. They would rather you didn’t. I’m amazed at the number of people who just assume the “tax cuts create jobs” argument is  true without taking the time to think about it. This brush-off by the public is how we ended up with “death panels.” Sarah Palin hopped on FOX and did some “golly gee Democrats want to kill old people,” number and we were off to the races.  Pres. Obama might not be a citizen. Why? Donald Trump says so. He said so multiple times so it must be ultra-true. These questions are far more complicated and take far more attention than we are willing to give. Yes, people are busy. They have families, and jobs and any number of things to do, but we are at the beginning of the next presidential campaign. If we want real leadership, we have to demand it.

I wrote 402 words about the tree in the woods question. Imagine how many more words could be written about taxes, healthcare, and education. All of these discussions are going on in the federal government, and state governments. In the movie “Uncle Buck” there’s a scene where Macualay Culkin is asking rapid-fire questions of his Uncle Buck. Buck (played by John Candy) tells him he asks a lot of questions. Culkin replies, “I’m a kid. That’s my job.” When did we quit that job? When did we become so disillusioned that we decided it wasn’t worth asking anymore? We need to take up that job again, but it won’t work if we just accept any answer. So we have to ask, How many “because I said so” arguments are we going to accept before we ask for real answers? How many times are we just going to say, of course?  I used to think that Americans were just apathetic when it came to holding government accountable. I was wrong. We just don’t want to take the time to really examine the questions. So, I’m extending an invitation. It’s to a rally. A rally where we start asking the tough questions and demanding real answers. Where is this rally? It’s on your computer, in you living room, in your statehouses, or an imaginary forest. It’s anyplace where we know that sound exists because we make sure that people can hear us.

Honest Disagreements Need Civil Discussion

In the US, Communism, despite its length, is very much a “four-letter word.” Communism is evil. We even called it the “evil empire.” 25 years ago, in the USSR, capitalism was no different.  Communism took away the freedom of its people. Capitalism never provided an adequate chance for some to succeed. Capitalism gave everyone a chance to reach their potential. Communism rendered unemployment nonexistent. Capitalism gave opportunity to all. Communism gave a safety net to all. When are we going to move past the Cold War mentality? When are we going to realize that none of this is true?

Moving away from this style of thinking is very important. It is the only way we move forward as a country. It is important to realize that Communism and Capitalism are both unrealistic styles of economics. They exist as the extremes on a spectrum. Somewhere in the middle is the answer. Where that answer lies is the debate we should all be having. There is historical evidence that neither of these systems works. Soviet Communism fell in the early 1990’s. Chinese Communism has introduced free market ideals. True Capitalism is no better. Lack of government regulation in a capitalist system has brought the global economy to its knees twice in the past century. Once it caused the Great Depression in 1929, and then in 2008 it led to what is now being called the Great Recession. In both cases, we stood teetering on the edge of complete economic collapse. Obviously, we need a new discussion. Actually, we need any discussion at all.

The biggest obstacle in that discussion is civility. At town halls during the healthcare debate, we saw that people were doing all they can to prevent civil discussion. The Tea Party provided a more divided result. Some of them wanted a real protest with real ideas. Others were just out to demonize liberals. Lately we have seen fewer examples from the left, but just a few years ago they were not hard to find. We need to move past demonizing those who disagree with us. The fringe groups can be ignored. Those who believe that Pres. Obama is a Muslim, or was not born in this country are obviously unwilling to confront the truth. Those who believe Pres. Bush was intent on conquering the world are misguided.  Those who don’t like a President’s policies should make their arguments and support them. Those who support those policies should listen and respond.  The same idea can be applied to many arguments our country is facing. Do we desire safety or freedom? Most actions that make us more safe restrict our freedoms. The Patriot Act or warrantless wiretapping begun under President Bush may have made us more safe, but they definitely made us less free. Look at the debate on taxes. A flat tax is equal to all in numbers. A 20% tax on all treats everyone equally. However, 20% of the income of someone who makes minimum wage makes it much more difficult for that person to survive than 20% of a person who makes $350,000 a year. A progressive tax is unfair in one way to those who make more because they pay more of their income but they can survive more easily with that tax than a poor person. Things become more difficult when you ask, “How many people who are poor are not working hard enough and how many are unable to break free no matter how hard they work?” Or try this, “How many of the wealthy did nothing to earn their place atop the economic totem pole.? These questions are not simple and we should not treat them as if they are.

Capitalism, and Communism do not work. So where do we go from here? We have to look at ourselves and other countries and ask, “What do we want for this country?” Let’s look at it this way. Communism works. At a certain level. The American family is a Communist society. At least most of them are. All members of the family contribute for the benefit of all. One or both parents, and perhaps other relatives work jobs to bring in an income. Children go to school to obtain an education. At home, they all contribute to the cooking of meals and the upkeep of the home. In this way everyone is given what they need to survive by contributing what they can. However, there are often strands of capitalism in the American home. Children may be given an allowance. Parents may have disposable income. With that money they may buy personal possessions that offer no contribution to the family as a whole. If one child works does more chores than another they may receive more allowance. One child will not be thrown out on the street though. The family always provides the necessities of life.  This is because the basis of family is a love for each other. At some point a family member may go beyond the strength of that love. Acts can be committed that will cause a family to turns its back on one of its members. Perhaps they consistently take advantage of family members to the detriment of the family. Perhaps they refuse to commit to changing their habits that hurt the family. Things can occur that go beyond the bounds of love. This is where one of the tenets of capitalism lives. The idea that we cannot help everyone. Sometimes we must do what is right for ourselves.  If you apply the concepts of capitalism and communism to your family it will change your views. This makes it personal. Take those feelings and extend them to your neighborhood, your school, your city, state and country. We must realize that Capitalism is the concept that everyone has the chance to achieve anything they want. It is the idea that this blog could become a worldwide read publication that makes this writer a lot of money. Communism is the concept that we should always provide for the least fortunate of us. The idea that even those who try and fail deserve a safety net to allow them to survive. Government should provide us with our most basic needs. It is the idea that if this blog never makes this writer anything I would still have shelter and food.

The entire point of this article is that extremes are unrealistic. Completely deregulated capitalism will destroy us. The unfortunate nature of human beings leads to greed and individualism. Communism doesn’t work either. If we de-incentivize the idea of success, we will never progress.  People need freedom to progress. People also need a safety net to provide for the greater population. Somewhere in between is the answer for the American people, or any other people.  With a civil discussion we can find the right balance between government support and individual success. We can find the balance between safety and security. We have honest disagreements, and we need honest discussions. Civil discussions will lead to the progress the American people yearn for.

A Quick Thought, Again. . .

I’m working on my reaction to the President’s speech on education reform that I posted yesterday. In addition I’m continuing my work on our addiction to technology. Since neither of those is finished, I would like to leave you with this question. How confusing must it be to someone learning English that “Indian-American” and “American Indian” mean two very different things?

Let me know what you think. In the meantime, listen to the President’s speech, and check in tomorrow for my reaction.

Something You Should Watch

I’m working on a post about technology and our addiction to it, but while checking my Facebook page (yes I’m an addict too) I found this. If you are interested in education reform, you should watch it.


FOX and Facts

So if you thought the controversy in Wisconsin was over; you were wrong. Smaller protests continue outside the Capitol in Madison and the biggest controversy yet has been discovered inside. Protesters were inside the Capitol for weeks. During that time they hung a number of fliers all over the place. Fliers don’t stick to the wall magically, however, so the protesters used tape. After they left the fliers were taken down. This all makes sense. As we all know, when you remove tape it still leaves a little sticky residue on the surface it was attached to. If you put tape on a painted wall and pull it up it could remove some of the paint. This is why you use painters tape and not packing tape when painting a room. FOXNews caught on to the story that the protesters weren’t so considerate. On multiple Fox shows in was reported that protesters did $7.5 million in damages during the protest. $7.5 million dollars is a lot of money. It would lead you to think these protesters have no respect for government. To cause that amount of damage is irresponsible at best and criminal at worst. Scott Walker must have been right. Obviously unions are evil. If it takes $7.5 million dollars to clean up tape residue that janitor is making way to much money.

Unfortunately, that’s not the truth. $7.5 million is what multiple Fox newscasters said, but it wasn’t an accurate number. The real cost of thousands of people squatting in the Capitol came out to about $350,000. While that is still quite a few pennies it’s not even remotely the same as 7.5 million. Look at it this way. A man who makes $7.5 million a year looks at a man who makes $350,000 a year the same way you look at a dog. They’re cute, but really not at your level. They probably don’t belong to the yacht club.

It’s ridiculous that Fox put out this figure, and they did it repeatedly. They took a very anti-protest slant in their coverage. Michelle Malkin called the protesters “union thugs.” Did you see the protests? There was chanting and drum circles. It looked more like the crowd at Burning Man than a meeting of Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters. How can Fox call themselves a “news organization” and then report like this? It is an obvious attempt to turn public opinion against the protesters in Wisconsin. Think of it this way. In crime dramas on television you often see a lawyer make a statement, then the other lawyer objects and the statement is withdrawn. They jury already heard it. They can try to put it out of their minds but that is hard to do. While they might not consider that statement directly, they will use it to rationalize something they might not have believed before. They may also just disregard the judge and base their opinion on it. Fox reported less than justified claims to promote their agenda. They didn’t care if they had to retract it later. They knew if you say it enough people will believe it. Say what you want people to believe loudly, because a retraction can be made quietly. It makes you wonder what the common Fox viewer thinks. It must be something like:

“$7.5 million in damages. That seems like a lot of money. Was it oil or Goo-Gone that was trading at $105 a barrel this week?”

This isn’t the first time Fox has done this. Not even six months ago, President Obama went on a trip to Asia. Apparently, part of foreign relations is relating with foreigners. Fox didn’t like that. They put out multiple stories about how the trip was costing taxpayers $200 million a day. No one at Fox thought that might be a little high? I know jet fuel is expensive but that would be ridiculous. $200 million dollars is about what it costs this country to conduct the war in Afghanistan. Still, there was FOX telling us about the extravagance of the Obama Administration. It wouldn’t be so bad but people watch them. It’s disturbing that people watch 24-hour cable news at all. It’s worse that the vast majority of them watch Fox. It’s interesting because the majority of talk radio is conservative also. Liberals must use the internet.

People used to say, “You can’t believe everything you see on TV.” Did we forget that? FOXNews is setting a trend for bad journalism and we’re letting it happen. On Fox they often say, “We report. You decide.”  Are we supposed to decide if what they just said is completely untrue? Their motto is “FOXNews: Fair and Balanced.” They should seriously consider changing it to, “FOXNews: True or False.” We have to hold news sources accountable just like politicians. The press is supposed to be the foil of government. They ensure that government can’t get away with lying to us. If we just let the press lie to us, we have no source for real information. In a highly polarized society, more information would be a very good thing but only if it is real information and not spin.