Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Israel No Longer Bosses

The NY Times had an interesting article on Israel who has really gotten out of hand.

Israel lately has decided to act like a juvenile country and embarrass two of their allies, US and Britain. They should know better than to treat two major foreign aid donors like friends of convenience. It is my hope that they will be forced to act like responsible allies now.

And that we will recognize that Israel is not the 51st State in our Union (or 52nd D.C. STATEHOOD), but a sovereign country with the rights and responsibilities that being a sovereign country entails.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Social Justice Christianity


The above is a petition from the Sojourner's website. They are a group of largely liberal, social justice type Christians. Sometimes they are even too liberal for me!

That said, Glen Beck said something interesting about social justice Christianity the other day when he equated it with Nazism and communism. I have also heard people being interviewed at conservative rallies equate social justice to the same things. The reality is that every good and effective liberal movement contains and element of social justice, the idea that all people are created equal and therefore deserve equal treatment, justice, and opportunity in our society. This is not a radical idea since in many respects social justice is the opposite of tyranny.

To my fellow Christian friends who listen to Glen Beck, perhaps think about who would have been included in Beck's statement; it has effectively equated many great leaders to whom we all have looked for guidance, with some of the great evils of our past century.

Social justice also does not kill people.

Not Paying for Water


The above article is a fascinating foray into our sense of entitlement in this county. It is interesting to me that we have liberals demanding things for free and conservatives demanding that the government give them things - but no one else. I wish I could have highlighted several passages in the above article, such as when someone notes that they pay "$60 per month" and they want their toilet to flush, and that they do not care how the water system works. $60 is nothing. We spend obscene amounts, as the article notes, on upgraded TV packages, and cannot cough up enough to pay to keep us watered safely?

As I said. Sense of entitlement. We believe that, since we have always had water for cheap, it is a right for which we do not have to pay. This problem extends to lots of things, including libraries, roads, schools, etc. I think we should be guaranteed equal access to these things, that no one should be discriminated against in using them, and even that the poor should receive help in obtaining them. I am frustrated, however, by the fact that we do not recognize the cost to provide what we take for granted.

How do we solve this? My goal would be to send taxpayers an itemized bill listing their approximate share of different costs and whether they pay more or less than their fair share. This would include roads and schools, but also defense, diplomatic missions, and even trade agreements (which the rich probably 'use' more). This would overall probably cause a whole new array of problems, but at least people would know the cost of providing government services.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Coffee Party

I just joined the coffee party.

Part of my reason for doing so is because I really miss talking politics and hanging out.

The other part of my reason is because I like the idea of a group that sees itself as moderate (though this may turn out to not be reality). Even more, regardless of whether it is moderate or not, its mission is to create a place for CIVIL discussion. This alone would make me want to join any group, liberal or conservative.

Anyway, here is there website. I think this is the official one, although others are sprouting everywhere.

Cultural Relativism or Protection of Equality?

When working with communities with different cultural or ethnic "values" than my own, I am often forced to come to terms with the post-modern ideal of cultural (and often moral) relativism. I do not believe it, as my recent post on Truth vs. Tolerance discussed. The following article details the problem I spoke of in that post (though this article in particular pertains to the UK).

The reality is that we as countries receiving immigrants must recognize inherent and fundamental practices present in new communities that are against fundamental and universal rights. I believe that we must work to become aware of these problems and approach these communities with a goal of integration and especially education of vulnerable groups within these communities. A policy of engagement as part of the process of becoming citizens should be implemented so that these vulnerable people will know their rights in this country. While I do not believe in forcing people to give up their values in general, I believe that universal rights do exist and that we should be cognizant of them when we work with new communities that may not have access to all their rights because we fail to make them clearly available.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Texas "History" and "Economics"


This article is about why separation of church and state is important and an argument against control of education resting with the states.


Successful Sustainability Indicators

Sustainability indicators can be thought of as jokes normally. They really do not do much. Cities frequently use them with erroneous indicator variables to show that they are doing well. Last night my group and I won a presentation competition in a Planning Methods course, acting as consultants from a made-up firm, Three Pillars. We did this by arguing that such indicators must be products from the community and must receive community buy-in in order to be effectual. We said that, similar to the electric bills that compare your rates with those of your neighbors and show changes over the course of 12 months, sustainability indicators need to reflect the ability of each individual to make contributions. Without a process of social, economic, and environmental sustainability indicator creation that is community driven, it will not be an effective tool to help us measure our progress in community development overall.

Congressman Massa

His possible indiscretions and other weird behavior aside, Massa did an excellent interview with Glenn Beck earlier this week. The entire interview in my opinion was saved by the last few minutes when Massa told Beck to stop calling fellow Americans names.

You should check out the video of the interview. Here is John Stewart's (obviously unbiased) recap.

The main point I would make about this whole event is that Massa, while critiquing democrats and the White House, nevertheless asked Beck to stop calling fellow Americans names. He said that you could be a progressive and a fiscal conservative. He said many of the things I would tell Beck if I were to interview with him or, as I did in a recent bored-in-class daydream, sit next to him on a flight across the US. The thing is that Beck did not want to hear any of Massa's comments. He did not even respond to his requests to stop calling Americans derogatory things or saying that everyone is socialist. He made an appeal for fair debate and yet Beck struck him down. I wish that people would take this as proof that Beck is more interested in his books [like How to Argue with Idiots] rather than in a reasonable debate. They may not, and it may have taken a disgraced congressman arguing with a guy who said that he thinks that the US government is out to destroy him to do it, but at least I could appreciate someone taking the time to try.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Using Fear as a Tool for Fundraising


This article is about a Republic fundraising presentation where they describe their voters as being motivated by "fear, extreme reactions to current administration," and as being "reactionary. The comments in the article are even more interesting since they are mostly anti-Republican (rare for comments), but with a relatively large number of Republican comments who make either ridiculous claims or the same statements about Obama as usual. One comment of note was one that did not reference the story's subject, but where the commenter felt that most Americans felt Obama was bad for America (a bit ridiculous as well since the polls are relatively evenly divided).

Another interesting comment was one from a anti-Republic commenter who said that this story would never make it into the "mainstream media."

Notably, these articles/slides come from Politico (non-partisan) and Salon.com.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Why Is this Conservative?


The above NY Times article discusses the weakening of the Clean Water Act, increased pollution levels since that weakening, and the efforts to prevent an updated version to fix the gaps from being implemented. The anti-clean water efforts are led by Republicans like Glen Beck and polluting companies. What I do not get is why opposing efforts to ensure that we have access to clean and safe water is a conservative thing to do? Sure, government gets the power to regulate pollutants and water-bodies; however, these places are vital to all of us and cannot be regulated (and kept safe) any other way. For me, arguing against the Clean Water Act as Beck and others have done should effectively discredit them since they are arguing against our collective health and safety.

One more note. This is another example of where people need to really think about the role of government and recognize that, when regulation does not exist, excesses occur. Companies and individuals alone rarely move voluntarily to a more expensive, better for us, option.