Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Religion and Politics

Nearly two generations ago, John F. Kennedy was faced with an anti-Catholic bias element in the electorate. It was extensively covered by the so-called Main Stream Media(MSM) of the time. What made his Catholic faith an issue, which the MSM enjoyed promoting, was the fear that the Pope would unduly influence his presidency; would pull the strings.

In today's campaign for the presidency Mitt Romney's Mormon faith is in the news. The MSM is happy to cover that also.

Will the MSM be as eager and willing to bring to public awareness Bloomberg's religious affiliation, and the possibility that he will be biased in his views toward Israel; our $Billions of financial aid, and apparent unconditional moral and political support?

I have come to believe that there is a neo-tribal emergence which has reignited the emotional and the subjective, the basest of human instincts; with the awful consequences of the win/lose, zero sum approach to existence; circle the wagons, defend members of the tribe in all things; choose only tribal members for important and lucrative positions and roles.

In all things the pendulum swings. A group which has experienced undue prejudice can be expected to fight back, given a chance. But for how long will their initially justified behavior be tolerated? When it becomes apparent that the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme, namely that such a group has begun to exhibit behavior associated with that of an unobstructed and prejudiced group itself, society needs to forgive itself for its previous prejudicial behavior, and recognize that it has come to be manipulated by the same tribe they had manipulated. What goes around comes around. The pendulum swings.

Lighthouse Keeper

Religion and Politics

It will be interesting to watch how the so-called Main Stream Media(MSM) deals with Mayor Bloomberg's decision to disavow his Republican identification as he disavowed his Democrat identification a few years ago. Then it was a change of posture to enhance his chances to be elected Mayor of New York City. His choosing to adopt the posture of Independent suggests that his motive is to be able to run for President, knowing that's the only way he could do it.

Ross Perot was a spoiler, Ralph Nader was a spoiler, both as third party candidates, siphoning off votes from the two major party candidates; and to what end? Did they affect the outcome, did they care? What was their motivation? Look at me; or This is where I stand. I'm not very sanguine about high road motives.

It's likely that we all know at least one individual who has accumulated wealth, and suddenly see themselves as the soul of wisdom.

Based purely on intuition I kind of like Bloomberg. I like that he joked with reporters who asked if he were going to enter the race for president, by saying something like, he didn't think the voters were ready for a five foot, six inch Jew from New York. A trial balloon statement? Put it out there and see what they say? Or, ducking the question with self-deprecating humor?

Well, it seems that politicians, our so-called public servants, find that there is little if any need to take a stand based on principles. It seems that the goal is to get elected and stay elected any which way one can.

On this blog, a couple of weeks ago, I published a post entitled, Get Out the Blue Light, The Man Wants a Blue Suit; the obvious message is, as P.T.Barnum said, in part, You can fool some of the people all of the time. My worry is how large is "Some of the people" and how many of them vote? And what influences their vote?

Lighthouse Keeper

Monday, June 25, 2007

Changing the Rules Because You Can

What will it take to wake up the citizens, the electorate, to the realization that those elected to office, lied, are still lying and will continue to lie to deceive the voters? When will the electorate get riled up enough to realize that their elected officials continue to act in their own selfish interests because they can?

What do the voters think about lying? Is there a place for it? And what is that place, if there is a place? What do the voters think about secrecy, and the administrations making almost everything Classified? How does that square with the constitution, and, the law which proceeds from that?

Until recently it was difficult to determine grounds for challenge.

But this week, the Vice President declared that he was not a part of the Executive Branch, and therefore was not subject to the disclosure rules of the Executive Branch. How can he defend that position in the face of the Constitution, unless he believes that he has so much clout that he can get away with anything he decides is necessary to achieve his goals. I am no Constitutional scholar, but I believe that the Office of Vice President is created in the portion which deals with the Executive Branch. Today I read that the only job given to the Vice President is president of the Senate, upon which Cheney is basing his claim. Does he believe that his point will be supported by the Conservative nature of the Supreme Court which Bush has been able to create?

When Cheney was asked to provide minutes of the Energy Task Force he chaired a few years ago, he claimed Executive Privilege as his reason for not doing so. It was upheld by the Supreme Court. Now he claims he's not part of the Executive Branch and isn't bound by the laws governing public disclosure.

When I was involved in sailboat racing some of the competitors resorted to claiming "bigger boat" to bully their way to advantage, blowing off the rules of right of way they had agreed should govern the competition.

In everyday life we encounter situations in which someone makes an aggressive move; in traffic, in the store, because they think they can, and can get away with it.

Road rage is often the result. We're advised to suppress that rage

But what about the rage I feel when I see Cheney and his kind continue doing what they do, because they know they can ?


Lighthouse Keeper

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Different Slant on Oil

If you click on the words "Truth Dig", shown to the right, you can find a piece by Michael Klare, professor at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, whose book, Resource Wars, was published a few years ago. In that work he told us about how scarcity of resources could lead to armed conflict. Iraq, clearly, has become the classic example.

What's unique about this offering is his message that the effect of war itself on oil consumption is huge. Some will no doubt remind us of the old chestnut that you have to spend money to make money; or in this case, consume oil to get oil.

Klare cites statistics to support his point. They seem impressive, though I am not qualified to reject or defend them. Figures don't lie, but liars do figure. I write this not to suggest whether or not Klare's statistics are accurate, but only to admit that most of us have to decide whether we accept the so-called facts, or not, and whether or not they, the so-called facts, help us decide what to think.

What got my attention was not the statistics but the irony that those in positions of authority in our government decided to use the military, our war machine, euphemistically called our
Department of Defence, to secure by force access to oil; a resource, which belongs, by the grace of Evolution or chance to another sovereign country. They decided to do it, in spite of knowing that, by the simple prosecution of war, the consumption of oil in suport of that war, would be a huge claim and drain on our planet's non-reproducible resource.

Then there's the incredibly naive, if not criminally, and at least incredibly ignorant, assumption that Iraq's oil, or the sale of same on the world market, would pay for the war and then some.

I've been reluctant to say in writing what I really think for several reasons.

First, I have told you that I like to think of myself as an Independent, registered to vote wthout any party affiliation. I don't want to take a stand which could be interpreted as biased toward a political party. I still insist that I admire, dare I say salute, those who demonstrate that they are authorities on important things, regardless of their stated or assumed political affiliation.

Second, history, and unfortunately, our own current realities, are ripe with examples of people in positions of authority feeling so insecure or paranoid that they resort to intimidation of anyone in the general electorate who has the temerity to disagree.

Third, though I still think and feel strongly about stuff, I have made enough mistakes in life to realize and understand that I have no right to claim any impramatur sufficient to tell anyone what they should think or do.

Finally, I have arrived at the stage in life in which I have little, if anything, to lose.

Lighthouse Keeper

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Get Out the Blue Light, the Man Wants a Blue Suit

The title of this blog is the old joke about the haberdasher.

Trouble is it's not a joke when it comes to what our so-called public servants say. The more accurate job description currently associated with this subterfuge is politician. It's all too real and relevant.

Those in office and/or running for office will say almost anything to get or save their jobs. They pretend in their speeches that they are really interested in the needs of their constituents. Trouble is they want to appeal to all constituents, be all things to all people. What we don't get is what they really stand for, if anything. The old saying, "Let the chips fall" is just that, an old saying. If there is a new saying it would be something like, "What do I need to say to be sure the chips fall on my side of the table with this particular audience?".

These are the people who tell everyone they're with what they want to hear; "Love the one you're with". Seems like prostitution to me. It's been all too clear that the campaign managers are the pimps in this system They dress the candidates up to be appealing, position them in the right places(the street corners of politics), otherwise known as town hall meetings, to which only vetted folks are invited,where they are most likely to be noticed by the Johns they want to entice; what they think of us voters.

Another question: Is this OK because it(prostitution) is often called a victimless crime? Does the admonition "Caveat Emptor" transfer the burden of dealing with this to the constituent, the voter, the naive John?

It's tempting to think that this is the view only of today's GOP. After all look at their response, or non-response, to Katrina. The prevailing view of the GOP is that individuals are expected to take care of themselves, not look to the government for help. In the mind of the true, might I say extreme, Conservative, this is the view, regardless of the extent of the problem (as in beyond the reasonable ability of most individuals to handle). In an earlier posting, Boot Straps and Safety Nets, I addressed this.

You might think this is a stretch, but from my view, always trying to look at things from forty thousand feet, a somewhat campy metaphor for wanting to see the big picture, the forest for the trees, I see a connection, a pattern of philosophical views here. To me the view that those in need should look only to themselves for solutions to their problems is consistent with the view that voters/consumers should look only to themselves for their ability to discriminate as to what to believe their so-called public servants tell them.

But that is an all too easy, and politically slanted, view. I've stated in my profile that I am an Independent in terms of my views of politics. I've written that I support those who are recognized as authorities on important things, not because they are temporarily in a position of authority, or assumed to be, according their own account, reputable, authentic and genuine candidates.

Sadly, truthfully, I can't find much if any difference between what the Republicans and Democrats are willing to say in their campaigns in order to get or keep their jobs.

We hear all the time that little gets done in Congress because of the huge divide between those on the so-called right and those on the so-called left. I am beginning to think that both sides are using that as an excuse and a motivation to voters to keep them in their jobs.

(A brief aside on that score) If our so-called public servants would make available to their constituents the same health care system they have, it would take the health care issue in today's campaigns off the table.

No wonder they want to keep their jobs. The benefits of those jobs far exceed what most of their constituents have available to them. Add to that the obvious reality that only those whose fortunes far exceed what their constituents would ever hope to have, can mount a campaign for election, given the media and advertising costs of today's campaigns.

George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy, to cite only one from each political party, should be required to address a rather simple fact of life; because each has more than enough money than anyone needs to pay for a comfortable and financially stress free life style, it's easy for them to say pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Just two examples from both sides of the aisle. We know there are more, perhaps just not as obvious as these two.

My experience has it that characteristics found in one part of culture are not confined to that narrow segment of culture. The same is true in this case. All one has to do is watch commercials and read ads. What I find is that both the advertisers and the politicians(peas in a pod) address voters/consumers as idiots.

Sure it's true that there are those who buy and vote who don't want to think, but have lived to the years normally associated with adulthood, without leaving childhood, a phase of life characterized by expecting authority figures to take care of them. They want to believe what they are told, just as they were admonished to do as children. Keep it simple for them. Make black and white statements. Either you're for us or against us. Above all avoid nuance, no grays. Don't confuse them with facts. The best way to do this of course is to make opinions appear to be facts. And tell them that black is white, lies are truth, often enough to settle if for these people. As P.T. Barnum said, You can fool some of the people all of the time. If you can pull this off, as Karl Rove has tried to do, you can stay in power, even in a voting, democratic system.

What really worries me are the indications of complicity on the part of the Main Stream Media.
Reading Greenwald's piece at Truthdig and Matt Taibi's piece on Alternet is enlightening.
One would think that the New York Times, often considered to be liberal in their editorial content, is not likely to publish an article which seems to state as facts opinions which are coming out of the administration on the subject of a military need to attack Iran. But in fact they did recently. Now they have Joe Lieberman to quote, who for most people has been thought of as a Democrat, but now in the Senate as an Independent, the only way he could keep his job, openly recommending military action against Iran. The Hawks have their shill from the other side, something they will likely use to make it seem like a consensus. Comparisons are being made to what was written in the MSM in support of, and in advance of, the fiasco in Iraq.

All I can say, as a Voice Crying in the Wilderness, is, Please-- Question Authority!!!

Lighthouse Keeper

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Whither Thou Goest

Ruth Graham died today.

For one who has a wish and hope for, but sceptical faith in, an afterlife characterized by absence of conflict, I am moved to say that I hope Ruth gets the reward she and Billy believed in.

Clearly, she was an exemplary wife, if and when viewed within the patriarchal model of their times, the society and culture within which they comfortably lived. I am insistent that one be judged within one's own time.

The Yahoo eulogy meant a lot to me.


Perhaps it's because Billy Graham addressed the Amherst College students, including me, in Johnson Chapel in the late 1950's, because of which I claim, clearly undeservedly, the privilege of reflected glory.

Or perhaps it's because my memory, not especially reliable now, reminds me that Billy preached to the congregation of the North Avenue Presbyterian Church in Atlanta in the 70's, including me, a member of that congregation and present that evening. I'm not sure, but I think Ruth was with him then, and I want to claim that I met her there.

So what about glory; what is it, and who is eligible or deserves it, whatever it is? In the world of our minds it conveys the connotation of the genuine. Authentic glory accrues to one who least expects it, and in fact assumes that the wanting of it precludes it.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Senator Joseph Lieberman, Who is He?

Who is Joe Lieberman?

He was Al Gore's vice presidential running mate in 2000

He was an incumbent Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2004.

He was an incumbent Independent candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2004 also.

He supports the war in Iraq, splitting from the views of Democrats with whom he says he caucuses.

He now advocates invading Iran.

I'm glad he didn't become Vice President of this country. He's more suited to be Prime Minister of Israel, a country that would like to see Iran invaded by someone else. I wonder about the campaign contributions Lieberman gets from AIPAC. Seems he's finally showing his real colors.

Go to the website link shown above to watch the video.
Then go to http://www.truthdig.com and read Robert Sheer's column.

Lighthouse Keeper

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Problems with Blank Slate Thinking

As I watch the news, read about proposed legislation and hear people voice strong beliefs that they know the answers to the problems of society I am amused at such naivete'.

In 2003 Steven Pinker, professor of psychology at Harvard, published, "The Blank Slate", The Modern Denial of Human Nature". (Google: The Blank Slate, click on the ishk.com link for a worthwhile and articulate review of that work.) Understanding it will help the reader resist one size fits all approaches to governing. Yes, this is more Nature vs. Nurture stuff, and it is important.

For example: it's my nature to be drawn toward ideas, trusting my intuition, needing few facts to back it up. I want to introduce an idea to others, convince them to accept it and implement it. It's also in my nature to be impatient with, and frustrated by, those who want more information, either to validate the idea or be sure that it's worth changing the way things are done. The secular seven last words are, "We've never done it that way before".

What I have just written is a partial profile of my type, how I prefer to go about paying attention to what's going on around me, and how I prefer to make decisions about that which I've perceived. It's my nature. Since I've been fortunate enough to have that nature supported and encouraged by my parents, older sibling, teachers and others in positions of authority, I found a comfortable place in society to make the kinds of contributions which require those preferences.

C. G. Jung, psychiatrist and theoretical psychologist,whose major contributions came in the first half of the 20th century, published, among his vast written works, what has become known as his Cognitive Theory of Personality(Bollingen Series, Collected Works,Volume Six, Psychological Type). The mother/daughter team, Katherine Briggs and Isabel Myers, studied his ideas and developed a way to make them useful to society. The Myers/Briggs Type Indicator(MBTI) has become the gold standard of personality assessment instruments in the world of human resource professionals.

My interest began when I stumbled across it during a very stressful time in life. As fate would have it I found a new career in teaching and coaching those whose careers had been interrupted by downsizings, rightsizings, and other euphemisms invented by employers who decided to jettison employees in the interest of making more money and impressing the stock market.

As a career coach, I have helped people understand how their natural nature should be acknowledged as important to decisions they make about their professional and personal lives. Over and over again, for 18 years and more than a thousand clients, I have observed the importance of this.

So, what's the problem?

There seems to exist in society a denial of human nature, and an assumption that individuals come into life a blank slate. This often comes about from sheer ignorance, and/or suspicion, of theoretical propositions. Based on ongoing analyses by organizations like The Association for Psychological Type, the frequencies of preferences are not equally distributed in society. (Specific data is available). Suffice it to say that a majority of individuals prefer paying most of their attention to what the facts, as revealed by the five physical senses, tell them. Since they are comfortable with this use of the mind, they develop it and use it well. The so-called sixth sense, intuition, is not as comfortable, and thus is not developed or used well. In fact theoretical and abstract ideas are often viewed with suspicion.

A minority of individuals prefer using their intuition and are drawn to the abstract and theoretical. They develop it more than the other senses, become good at it and make their contributions in fields and positions which call for it. Of course these folks have the same five senses as everyone, but they can be easily bored by them, and feel limited when they cannot go beyond what the senses tell them. Often they quickly see a new way to look at the facts, sometimes inventing brand new ways of seeing and doing things.

There are many publications which deal with this. My favorites include: "Please Understand Me", "Gifts Differing", and "Do What You Are".

Bringing this back to my reasons for the posting, I am troubled that there is a disconnect between those we elect and those of us who elect them. My specific concern is that those we consider for important positions have little, if any, understanding of, let alone appreciation for, the idea, now a proven reality, that their constituents cannot and should not be viewed as being of one mind, type or temperament.

Enlightened teachers know that all students do not learn, are not at their best, with the same approach. Most, 75%, respond well and prefer a factual approach, some, 25%, prefer a theoretical approach. This complicates life for teachers. Like left and right handedness, neither is better, one is more comfortable, and the preference is not equally distributed in the population. It follows that the more favored preference has a stronger influence on cultural acceptance.

For one who hopes to lead, it complicates the message of their campaign, one designed to appeal to all. One problem is that individuals of different temperaments or types can use common terms, but which can be interpreted to mean different things. For example, take the word "authority". Many will associate that word with someone in a position of authority. But others will associate it with a person who is an authority on something.

The more we come to acknowledge and think of ourselves as a global community, the more we need to pay attention to the differences in how individuals and cultures perceive their world. Personality preferences, along with cultural preferences, should be considered as strong influences on how different people behave and respond to events around them.

People tire of hearing about the old, but still relevant, Nature versus Nurture argument. But as long as most continue the view that we all come into life a blank slate, those in positions of authority are not as likely to be questioned in sufficient depth about proposing regulations and making law, let alone diplomacy or war.


Lighthouse Keeper

Monday, June 4, 2007

Suggestions of Topics for Discussion

Leanderthal recommends the website Alternet. When I can figure out how to make it an easy link on my blog site I will provide it.

Until then I'll continue to suggest articles and where to find them on the Internet. As I wrote in my first posting, I want to bring to the attention of my friends and family stuff I have enjoyed reading. Some of it will be political, some religious, theological or philosophical, some scientific, and who knows what beyond that.

Tonight it's Sean Gonsalves's piece which I found at http://www.alternet.org/. It's about the power of aphorisms. In one of my posts I wrote about the power of flag waving, patriotic slogans and shibboleths. His piece is more enlightening than mine. I recommend it.

Note to The Lunchmen. I'm going to ask you to read this blog in advance of our Tuesday lunches for postings that I hope we can discuss.

Lightouse Keeper

Friday, June 1, 2007

Boot Straps and Safety Nets

The term "Boot Strap" is generally associated with the view that individuals are on their own, and expected to take care of themselves, and by so doing, feel good about themselves as responsible citizens.

This is a world view which is usually associated with those who identify with the label Conservative, and which informs their politics and public policy views.

In contrast, the term "Safety Net" is generally associated with the view that individuals sometimes simply cannot pay for , or be expected to pay for, taking care of themselves, due to unanticipated and devastatingly expensive developments.

This is a world view which is usually associated with those who identify with the label Liberal or Progressive, and which informs their politics and public policy views.

A keyword here is "anticipated", or more accurately, it's antonym, "unanticipated". Adding "devastating" to any description of circumstances which safety net advocates are talking about provides even more clarity to the definition of circumstances for which a safety net view of public policy is worthy of consideration and serious debate.

This is not an abstract idea for me, having lived and experienced both situations.

As usual, debate on this issue is made more difficult by political party polarization.

My view is that these two approaches do not have to be mutually exclusive. Taking care of oneself is admirable and most people want to be able to do so. However, just as those who can afford it, pay for insurance to protect against being wiped out by fire, for example, we, as a society, should provide some type of safety net to insure citizens against losing everything due to unpredictable circumstances.

Some think of this as rescuing people from circumstances of their own making. Some think of this as rescuing people from circumstances which were unpredictable. The key word here is, "rescuing".

Social security is a great example of a safety net that has worked for years. It has provided a basic, poverty level, income for millions who had no pension plan and/or whose career was cut short, or curtailed by a health problem; as for example potential employers evaluating as flaws in a candidate's application, health issues which might increase the employer's health care plan insurance costs, or health issues, which would have little or nothing to do with performance of duties, as published, for the position. As a professional and fifteen year experienced career counselor I understand that the candidate with the fewest flaws wins.

A major flaw in our current program is that it sends a monthly check to anyone in the system, without regard to need; including those for whom it is an incrementaly small addition to their income. It's a waste of tax payer dollars, which should be used to provide a basic income to those who really need it, those cititzens who have come to be of an age which employers shy away from.

Congress, a few years ago, changed the rules for those who are elligible for Social Security, allowing those over age sixty-five to continue earning income which would not reduce their Social Security payments. This was a good and welcome move. It helped those whose physical ability to continue working was unimpaired. It did not help those whose physical ability to continue working was impaired. Citizens in that category are legion, though they fall through the cracks, thought of as an insigficant minority, and, as a group, are not evaluated as a constituent voting block, worthy of attention.

Single payer universal health care coverage is overdue in this country.
Medicare A and B, along with Plan D for prescription coverage are in place for seniors. Disability insurance can sometimes be counted on, but is not available to anyone who is elligible for Social Security. The same is true for Unemployment Insurance. This policy is inconsistent with it's goal of giving retired persons a break, and adding a good source of employees to those available to employers. If those over age sixty-five can earn income without losing their earned Social Security income, they should be able to collect unemployment insurance if and when their jobs have been eliminated, just as those under the age of sixty-five can now. The same availability should be afforded those who are still employable by virtue of the skills needed for a particular job, but who have become limited physically, though not in ways which would prevent them from performing the duties as advertised for the position.

The present system, which seems to have been advanced by a grudging agreement, but hardly a whole hearted appoval, has resulted in what I call a patchwork approach to looking after our citizens who have tried to play by the rules, but who have been blind sided by circumstances they couldn't see coming.

What we have now is a patchwork of programs that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. It's time for a comprehensive safety net to be available for all citizens who tried their best to take care of themselves, but were unable to dso due to unpredictable and unanticipated events.

Lighthouse Keeper

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