31 October 2005

"There is no joy in life equal to the joy of putting salt on the tail of an idea." ~ Roycrofters: Epigrams of the Day

28 October 2005

On why Americans are disengaged from the political process

I finally figured out why Americans are apathetic towards politics in this country. After I came back from a two-week vacation last June I was in one of the best moods I have ever been in my life. For those two weeks I did not pay attention to national or world events. I went hiking and sightseeing and truly relaxed. I did not watch television or listen to the radio. I spent time with my family. We discussed politics occasionally, but no heated arguments, we were amongst family after all. Shortly after coming back to the real world I started paying attention to news and listening to the talking heads. My mood started to darken. I now shout at the radio and TV regularly because I am so pissed off at the demagogues on the left and right. It seems at times that, as before my vacation, I am the only one that gets it. I am sick of the “corruption” of our political system from the federal to the local level. Money talks and common sense walks. Politicians no longer think of what is best for the American people (maybe they never have), but rather what keeps them getting elected and what is “politically” popular with their constituency. As these thoughts converged in my brain of average intelligence I discovered why Americans do not want to discuss politics or engage in the political system… ignorance is bliss.

Just once I would like to meet a politician that thinks like I do. This politician would serve the people that elected him or her. However, getting elected is not about how much pork you can bring back to your district; it is about using common sense to help the people of your district and America as a whole. It is about fighting for the future of America and not saddling future generations with huge debt or ill-conceived programs. This politician would support common sense legislation even if that would mean he or she would not get reelected. This politician would not bow down to the lobbyists who throw money wantonly around Washington, D.C. and our state capitals for one cause or another. This politician would realize the importance of honesty, fairness, dignity, compassion, and common sense. This politician would reject the demagogues.

Alas, no such politician exists or will ever exist.

1 November 2004

We need meaningful change. From the media to our government.

The economy is not in shambles as the media would like to portray. Have we increased the number of jobs in the U.S.? Yes, there is a 5.4 percent jobless rate (envy of the EU). Is the economy growing? Yes. Are there lower paying jobs? Yes. You cannot compare the unsustainable years of the internet bubble to today’s job market. President Bush inherited a recession. September 11 took a huge toll on the economy (1 million jobs lost). That takes time to recover from. What about outsourcing? Well, if you look at the facts and not a distortion by the media, you will see that the majority of jobs lost are not due to outsourcing, they are due to productivity increases. In other words, we are working ourselves out of our jobs. How do you to create jobs? You have to grow your economy. Companies have to grow. To remain competitive with other companies the world over, they must reduce operating costs. Unfortunately, outsourcing is a necessary evil. It reduces operating costs. When the company grows again, it may then be able to add stateside jobs. Here is another way to look at it. Outsourcing provides jobs to people in less developed countries. If they have a job they are more likely to be peaceful and buy goods from us instead of turning to fundamentalism and try to destroy us. As bad as it is to lose jobs to outsourcing, we have to take a more pragmatic, bigger picture of the world economy and our place in it.

Both political parties are undesirable in my opinion. Neither has a meaningful plan to save Medicare or Social Security. We are heading into a financial disaster (which is coming fast) no one wants to discuss because it is not a “sexy” topic. The Democrats do not see the problem and assume tax increases will solve everything, while the Republicans see the problem but think supply-side economics will solve everything. Neither party is be willing to make the hard choices needed to maintain these programs: cuts in government spending, cuts in social security and Medicare benefits, and an increase in taxes. Americans need to change the way they think. We need to have a frank discussion of what needs to happen so that we can keep our promise to those retiring but not bankrupt our future at the same time. I am 32-years old and have already concluded that I will not be getting a social security check when I retire. Both Republicans and Democrats have no plan to fix it the way it needs to be fixed. If I ran my books the way our government runs its, I would have been bankrupt tens times over. Our lawmakers are too busy focusing on the small cracks and are simply ignoring the huge crevices.

We need to come together and debunk this hypothetical division the media is so keen to point out. I, for one, do not the see the division. I see a minority of leftists and a minority of rightists arguing with each other. The independent minded, more centrist majority of this country (me included) just does not understand this "divided nation" bull. We were so united after September 11, 2001. I was very proud to be an American and see the nation come together, I still am. Unfortunately, Americans, which tend to have a short attention span, soon forgot that unity. I still hear complainants in the media about the 2000 election and now the 2004 election. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? Does anyone but an extreme Al Franken-like zombie liberal care?

You may ask yourself what exactly am I trying to say? We need Americans to stop and think about what is important. We need to look at our society and how we are portrayed by the world (Hollywood is not helping by putting out all the mindless crap on the airwaves – reality TV and other mind dulling, drool inducing crap to say the least). We need to ignore the pundits and come up with our own conclusions based on the facts. We need reporters to report the facts and not opinions. We need to say to our lawmakers (both Republican and Democrat), enough is enough. We need pay-as-you-go reinstated. We need meaningful entitlement reform. We need our representatives to be there for us and not be a politician working for themselves and special interests (that goes for both parties in case you think it is just a Republican problem). We need to stand up to the status quo and say enough is enough, do what is right for once, not what is convenient.

On losing shining stars before their time…

It is very sad to me when someone so young and full of promise dies. Youthful vigor and optimism are replaced by a cold and lonely place in the earth. A life cut short due to tragedy; cancer, AIDS, or some other disease does not seem fair to me. Why should this person with so much potential be taken away while I should remain? A deep sadness invades my soul. What do I have to offer? What have I offered? Through my sadness, all the regrets I have in life well up within. What if I had done this instead of that?

Those of us, like me, that live life without really experiencing it just wander day in, day out worried about the most inconsequential bull shit. Am I making enough money? Is my car cool enough? Am I dressed right? The list goes on and on. We lose sight of what is important. We become obsessed with the minutia and forget to see the bigger picture. We are so consumed with mundane aspects of everyday life that the magnitude of losing truly good people to a tragic event before their time is lost on us.

Life is too short to worry about whether your café latte is properly prepared. We should focus on what is important. Family, Friends, Community. That is what is important.

27 October 2005

After hearing once again about the insanity of political correctness, I banged out the following testament to frustration with our social and political system. The letter of angst (which has a little bit for everyone) below is timely as the stores are already laying out the holiday decorations for another season of gluttony.

19 December 2004

Over my brief 32 years I have noticed a steady decline in civility in the United States. We had a brief respite after the tragedy of 9/11. Americans soon woke up though and it was business as usual. Here are a few examples: all time low respect for law enforcement, authority in general, and the elderly; more people are running red lights; road rage; gangster rap which glorifies drug dealing, pimping, and violence; and the degradation of the family unit. Children are raised by a stupid sponge, a purple dinosaur, or video games because their parents are too busy making money to teach their kids values and personal responsibility.

What is at stake today? The United States of America. We are divided by the far left led by Michael Moore, MoveOn.org, out of touch rich Hollywood types, and Al Franken. The far right led by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and Michael Savage attack the middle from the right. Who speaks for me? No one, as far as I can tell.

Somewhere along the line we have lost our common sense. If you listen to any media outlet we have drifted from the middle and now lean one way or the other. I think the majority of Americans are centrists and may lean slightly to left or the right depending on the topic. You would never think that listening to the media. One part paints half of America as out of touch with the 21st century and hanging onto evangelical beliefs. The other part paints half of America as whacko’s bent on destroying religion and industry and legalizing drugs and gay marriage. The whole time these two extremes, which dominate our media, are arguing over which is worse while important issues are being ignored in favor of petty ones (just look at some of the cases the ACLU has pursued recently and the criminals the ACLU is defending).

I do not fit into either category, left or right. For one I am an agnostic. However, I respect our history and accept the religious beliefs of our forefathers. I think the Ten Commandments are generally excellent rules to live your life by. I say “Merry Christmas” and not “Happy Holidays”. I am not offended by any aspect of Christmas. I do not have the feeling that religion is being shoved down my throat. In fact, I am angered every year by more and more extreme political correctness taking the important message out of Christmas and replacing it with commercialism. It is Christmas not Merry Spend Lots of Money and Dig Your Debt Hole Deeper Day. Get over it. Are you really that offended, or are you just an idiot? Be offended by a more than $7 trillion national debt. Be offended by poverty and starving children in the most prosperous country in the world. Be offended by child pornography. Be offended by battered women and children. Be offended by more than $4 billion being spent on the 2004 political campaigns. Be offended by cancer, AIDS and other diseases that impact the lives of many Americans everyday. Be offended by an inefficient public education system that is not teaching mathematics and science to a level our children need to remain competitive in the world. Please see that there are many more important things in life than whether a Christmas carol is sung in a public place or a tree is called a Christmas tree or a manger scene is displayed in a public place or whether the Boy Scouts are being sponsored by an Army base or whether a tiny cross is being shown on the seal of a county. We are spending so much time worrying about the small, inconsequential BS that we fail to see the larger picture.

After witnessing the birth of my daughter I think that abortion is appalling. Life is precious and I think that this idea has been lost on the throw-away society we have created in America. Abortion is being used more and more as “extreme” birth control. Let’s face it, thanks to Hollywood more and more kids are finding sex earlier and earlier. Maybe we should teach responsibility in this society rather a quick fix for everything.

I am fiscally conservative. I think the government should rein in its spending. I think we should face reality and realize that entitlement programs will not be affordable as they are now structured (economists from our own federal government to the International Monetary Fund have long established this as FACT). I am 32 years old and am not counting on any Social Security from the government when I retire. The baby boomers demand their share. They worked hard, but by giving them everything they think they deserve an insurmountable burden (in the form of an economy crippling national debt and sky rocketing income tax) will be placed on my generation and future generations of Americans. I welcome personal savings accounts. The $2 trillion it would cost to implement this program is nothing compared to the trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities the Social Security and Medicare programs are already running. I have ownership of my 401K, IRA, and other personal investments. I have no ownership over the portion of my paycheck I forfeit to the Social Security Administration every other week.

I am environmentally liberal. I think that the without some form of regulation industry would not be environmentally sensitive in their operations. However, I realize that environmental laws need to be structured so that they work with industry without impacting the bottom line.

I do not support gay marriage. I do not see why this needs to be legalized. However, I do support civil unions. I guess in this respect I am old school. I cannot explain why I lean this way, I just do. I will say this much though; folks like Britney Spears, other celebrities, and ordinary heterosexual Americans besmirch the institution of marriage by their cavalier attitude towards this sacred union.

Where do I fit in? In that silent, middle majority which leans left on some topics and right on others. I ask again, “Who represents me?”

Against the Odds Posted by Picasa
I finally decided that I needed to share my thoughts with my fellow citizens and hopefully get some feedback to help my understand what others are thinking and more importantly why they think that way. Not to mention that my wife is getting irritated by my constant opining so I had to find another forum, lest she think I am just becoming a grumpy middle-aged man.

What drove me to this, you might ask. To be honest, I was mostly ignorant of the world for a long time. In high school I was rather unsophisticated. In college I was too busy with engineering school. The first few years after college were used as a period of decompression from long hours spent studying engineering. Then I started thinking about the world and my role in it. I started paying more attention to news, politics, world affairs, and religion. Every now and then I have a need to write my thoughts on certain subjects – “a mind dump onto paper”. As an introduction to KCThinker, I will share one of those recent sessions with you.

24 June 2005

Daily we see the news reports about the death toll of Americans in Iraq. Daily we hear the cries for our withdrawal from Iraq. Daily we hear lawmakers lament on the loss of American lives in Iraq and the cost of war. We do not hear anything about withdrawal from Afghanistan. Have we become so jaded after Vietnam that 30 years after that war it still guides our national psyche and policies?

I would postulate that the constant barrage of negative attitude by our lawmakers and national press corps has jaded us on this war and sticking it out. Although if you really listen to the results: schools, hospitals, jobs, water treatment in Iraq at levels better than during Saddam’s reign, you have a different impression. Alas, only the daily dose of suicide bombings makes the news. The soldiers returning cannot believe what they hear in the news when they return home. They have seen positive results. All we hear are the negative. We created the mess and therefore we must se it through; however misguided, misinformed, misled, and ill-prepared we may think the United States was in going into Iraq. Are we to be known as the nation which makes messes but are too lazy to clean them up because it costs too much in lives and dollars. Each time we start something and do not finish it we lose face in the world. It projects weakness, not power.

We have lost our stomach for war ever since TV began beaming daily reports from the “frontlines” into out living rooms. Mind you, hating war is not a bad thing. But I do not think that being divisive and crying out against it at the first sign of difficulty or because it is causing us to reach too deep into our pocket books is a reason to high tail it out of there. I would bet that if the same negative attitudes were being projected during World War II, the United States might not have stuck it out. If the true loss of American lives on French soil on D-day would have been front page news, America may not have seen the war through.

We certainly do not have this attitude when it comes to the environment. Cleanup the toxic waste dumps at all costs. Save the spotted owl no matter the cost (in dollars and jobs). Reduce carbon dioxide emissions even if that means the economy will falter and people will lose jobs (not to mention that signing Kyoto will do little if anything anyway). Start a war, overthrow a government, destabilize a country, but if things start going south get the hell out. I guess the war on AIDS in Africa is a winless situation, let’s not dump any more money into AIDS research and fighting the spread of AIDS anymore, it costs the United States too much money. We need to adopt a new attitude of “if we cannot win, why even try in the first place.”

I think we are witnessing a major attitude shift in the public. The public is not willing to be a world power if that means getting into a quagmire ala Vietnam. I think it is time that the United States be honest with itself and take its place at the side of the former great European nations. Just a minor player, criticize the hell out of everyone, vote no to everything on the United Nations Security Council, and project little if any power. The time has come for the United States to hang up its world power belt. It was a nice run, let the Chinese be the world police. Let North Korea run unchecked. Let fascism reign. Let the people elect religious zealots to run their countries. Let’s rip up our constitution, because the Supreme Court is already doing that anyway. Let’s raise taxes, scrap the military, grow hemp, and spend wantonly on social programs like welfare. Let’s work 32 hours a week and get paid for 40. Let’s grow fat and lazy and embrace our dilettante European cousins. Let’s open our borders and become North Mexico. At least the ATMs will not need to be reprogrammed."

Some of what I wrote above is obviously tongue-in-cheek. But it reflects my growing unease at what America is becoming. I think America is becoming decadent. We are becoming stupid and lazy. My unease is reflected in less American students going into science and engineering. My unease is reflected in a dumbing-down of our society. My unease is reflected in a growing national and public debt level. My unease is reflected in the do-nothing, talking heads in Washington D.C. (both on the Democratic and Republican sides). My unease is reflected in the unwillingness of the American public to realize that the world is changing; the playing field is being leveled, and Americans damn sure need to adapt or we run the risk of becoming a footnote in history.

That is the way I see it. I will try to expand on my thoughts in the future, as time permits, and post some of my earlier writings. I welcome your honest reaction and thought-provoking rebuttals as well. Tell my why I am wrong to think the way I do.