Sunday, December 20, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
In fact, as the USA Today article points out, federal worker's paychecks have increased (!) during the current recession/depression.
Everyone likes to complain about corporate greed and CEO salaries, but where are our tax dollars going? Federal workers, who haven't even paid into Social Security, are living the high life while hard working, now struggling, tax payers like me suffer near-poverty conditions.
When are we ever going to get fed up with the feds and with this sort of thing? I've been fed up with it (and the feds) for years.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Copernicus’ heliocentric theory of the universe gave rise to the belief that thousands of planets like earth existed throughout the universe. Atomism, an ancient philosophical system of thought, fitted perfectly with the new, Copernican heliocentric theory of the universe. The atomists believed (philosophically) that only matter (atoms) and the void (space) existed. All physical objects were thought to be made up of atoms existing in the infinite void of space. This ancient philosophy, which had been lost and forgotten by the West, was rediscovered (found in the works of the atomists Epicurus and Lucretius) during the Renaissance, and it inspired some thinkers (e.g., Giordano Bruno) to recognize its relevance to the new Copernican heliocentric paradigm. As Thomas Kuhn explains:
“Since Copernicanism also destroyed the earth’s uniqueness, abolished the terrestrial-celestial distinction, and suggested the infinity of the universe, the atomists’ infinite void provided a natural home for Copernicus’ solar system, or rather, for many solar systems…atomism proved the most effective and far-reaching of the several intellectual currents which, during the seventeenth century, transformed the finite Copernican cosmos into an infinite and multipopulated universe.” (Thomas Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution, MJF Books, New York, 1957, 1985; p. 237)
This infinite universe, thought to be populated with innumerable habitable worlds—the earth being only one, small, speck of a planet existing in the vast emptiness of space—is the modern scientific view of the universe we have today. With this outlook, it’s only reasonable to conclude that we are not alone in the universe. To date, however, this atomistic hypothesis has not been proven. In fact, some astronomers and astrobiologists no longer believe that it’s even a reasonable (or rational) scientific hypothesis at all.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
The U. S. needs to reevaluate both its domestic and its foreign policies. For example, the U. S. has an open and free trade relationship with the most murderous and oppressive regime on the planet: China. This relationship has flooded our nation with cheap, foreign made goods which has resulted in the devastation our national economy. A strong manufacturing base is essential to any economy, and ours has been sold out (by both political parties and their corporate special interest partners) to an oppressive and murderous foreign interest. Why? Money. To those in power—both political and corporate—profit is more important than people.
Closing the economic door to China—until it changes its evil ways—would not only be the right thing to do, morally speaking, it would also be an important impetus in rebuilding our manufacturing base. For example, many of the cheap goods we currently get from China could be easily be made in areas of the U. S. that have been in dire economic straits for many years and this would boost our economy rather than the Chinese economy.
A well known Democrat, Robert F. Kennedy, once proposed federal government support for the development of light manufacturing in the ghettos of all large U. S. cities as one remedy for ending the cycle of poverty in America’s inner-cities. This idea, which I think is an excellent idea, was apparently murdered along with Kennedy. No Democrat has mentioned it since. Nor have any Republicans. And they certainly haven’t come up with any better ideas (or any ideas for that matter).
Our politicians show no compassion for those in need. They don’t care about the problems of the inner-cities and they don’t care about the summary executions of political prisoners in China, they only care about their money and their political power.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Lost Jobs, Unemployment, and Population Growth in the U. S.
With unemployment currently hovering somewhere around ten percent, here are some numbers to consider: Since 1999, the U. S. has lost 223,000 jobs and has grown in population by 33.5 million (The Week, September 18, 2009). Considering these numbers, is it any wonder that so many Americans are currently unemployed? I suppose it's a wonder more Americans aren't unemployed.
The health of the U. S. national economy and low unemployment rates depend mainly upon two things: our natural resources and manufacturing. For many years now, manufacturing in the U. S. has been in a steep decline. This is due to many factors, including (especially) the government's overregulation of manufacturing businesses, the demands of labor, and the high taxes they are required to pay.
I guess my question is: Since it's been well known for years that manufacturing in the U. S. was in steep decline, who allowed 33.5 million people into this country during the past ten years? Where are all of these people supposed to work? And the nation lost 223,000 jobs during the same ten year period?
No wonder the unemployment rate is so high.
President Barack Obama's failing to act presidential, preferring instead to act senatorial. I figured something like this would happen…
There's a reason why so many governors have been elected president lately: governors make better presidents because the experience of being a governor enables one to make the kinds of command decisions that a president is often required to make (i.e., on-the-spot command decisions), because both are executive offices.
Mr. Obama is the President of the United States. He has authorization to utilize the U. S. military as he sees fit.
Mr. President. Decide what to do about Afghanistan. You can always change your mind later, because you're the president.
I doubt that a former governor who was elected president would hesitate so long to make a decision regarding the military, with the exception of former president Jimmy Carter.
Mr. President, make a decision regarding U. S. military involvement overseas. You have the power. You don't have to form a committee that can come up with a compromise solution. YOU ARE THE PRESIDENT.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I'm reading a book The Great Crusade and After, by Preston W. Slosson (1930), which is a contemporary social history covering the period from 1914-1928, and I've realized more than ever before just how similar the America of the 1920's is with today's America. In fact, during the past eighty years or so, America hasn't really changed all that much. For instance, during the 1920's…
There was a large influx of Mexicans into the U. S. due to the need for cheap labor.
Famous and well paid sports and movie celebrities began to make their appearances.
We are often told of how we should examine the expenditures of any charitable organization we are considering making a donation to. Ask some simple questions: Is most of the money that is donated to the charity going to administrative costs? Or is most of it actually going to the people the charity is claiming to assist? But can we not ask the same simple questions about our government's use of our tax monies?
How many of our tax dollars go to government administrative overhead costs? I would guess around 80 percent. Suffice it to say that the vast majority of our tax dollars are not being spent for the reasons given for their collection. Like a crooked charity group whose leaders make out like bandits while tossing a little money toward the group's supposed cause, our government's administrators live lives of luxury in comparison to the vast majority of ordinary taxpaying citizens.
Psychologically, the Ft. Hood shooter's actions—though reprehensible—are, I think, understandable: race and religion are so deeply rooted within our psyches that the moral call for us to rise above our racial and religious differences, by aligning ourselves (psychically) to our nation's racially and religiously agnostic ideals—especially when we are involved in active military service of our nation (the U. S.) within a foreign country that our nation is currently waging war against, the citizens of which are of the same race and religion with which we ourselves identify—is, quite naturally, resisted by our psyches, a resistance that can issue an even higher moral call to us: that we stand alongside those with whom we identify racially and religiously before we will stand alongside those with whom we identify politically and ideologically.
I'm not at all saying that the Fort Hood shooter was justified in what he did; I'm only saying that his psyche must have been torn by the issues I've mentioned here. No doubt he was torn by many other psychological issues as well, but the deeply rooted nature of race and religion definitely played the major role in his violent actions.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Here's some blog post ideas that I'm currently working on…
President Barack Obama's failure to act presidential, preferring instead to act senatorial. I figured something like this would happen…
Why Governors Make Better Presidents: The experience of being a governor enables one to make the kinds of command decisions that a president is often required to make, because both are executive offices.
E. T. and Christianity: What are the implications for Christian theology if the existence of complex extra-terrestrial life-forms is ever proven? How likely is the discovery of complex extra-terrestrial life-forms? What are the Drake Equation, the Principle of Mediocrity, and the Rare Earth Hypothesis?
The New 9/11 Trials: Why Now? Is this a diversion from the bad economic situation? Is it a reminder of why we need to send more troops to Afghanistan? Was 9/11 an Act of War or a Criminal Act? Why are some terror suspects still getting military tribunals rather than civilian trials like the 9/11 suspects? Who else may have been involved in this criminal conspiracy (9/11) that is not going to trial in New York City? Hmm…
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
President Obama's inability to make a decision about how many troops to send to Afghanistan is, to me, a great disappointment. As far as making important geopolitical military decisions, Barack Obama is the most indecisive president we've had since Jimmy Carter.
I was nineteen years old when Iran underwent the socio-political religious revolution that brought its current (and oppressive) regime to power. The young Iranian revolutionaries had captured the U. S. Embassy in Tehran and taking hostage all of the U. S. personnel who were stationed there.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
I've found Sabine's book to be fascinating, and I that doubt college level political theory textbooks today are anything like it. The only thing I wish is that he had covered the rise and establishment of communism in China. But I suppose that's a whole different book; especially since Sabine wrote his book in the 1930's. I'm reading the third revision (1960) of the book, so I'm not surprised he doesn't cover it.
I think communist China is a most important political phenomenon that can't be ignored, and I intend to study it at a further date. I think, from what I already know about comunism in China, that Mao's communist revolution in China resembles Lenin's comunist revolution in Russia in that both nations retained the idea of the nation state and took a most agrarian people into an era of industrialized socialism with strong nationalistic interests. The comunist-capitalist-totalitarian hybrid that is modern China, I'm afraid, the Hegelian "wave of the future".
Friday, October 23, 2009
Have things gotten so bad in the U. S. that our collective political frustrations could actually lead some people to commit acts of political violence? Could some people's words actually incite some people to commit acts of political violence? These are questions many Americans seem to be asking themselves these days.
The U.S. has a very long history of civil unrest and political violence, so it should come as no surprise to us, especially during politically frustrating times, that politically violent acts (of various types) will likely be committed by some people. Well chosen words can incite powerful emotions, and well chosen words concerning genuine political issues and the frustrations which accompany them, can certainly incite some people to act violently. To think that words can have no effect upon people whatsoever—either toward their pursuing good actions or for ill—is simply ridiculous. Words are very powerful; "more powerful", it is said, "than the sword".
Monday, October 12, 2009
"[A]ccording to Thomas [Aquinas], he [the ruler] may not take private property beyond what public need requires, though strictly speaking property is an institution of Human rather than Natural law. Above all, the rulership of one man over another must not take away the free moral agency of the subject. No man is bound to obedience in all respects and even the soul of the slave is free (a doctrine Aristotle would hardly have understood). It is for this reason that the resistance of tyranny is not only a right but a duty."
George H. Sabine, A History of Political Theory, Third Edition (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1937, 1950, 1961; 1965) pp. 255-256
This natural law principle is the philosophical anchor of American political theory. And it's why a leftist/Marxist style revolution can never succeed in the U. S. As I've said previously, any successful revolution is the U. S. would have to be premised upon our individual right to private property and liberty and the premise itself is based upon natural law.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a believer in natural law and it was the philosophical basis of his successful non-violent social liberation movement. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, King asked: "
"How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal .law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distort the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority."
King's non-violent revolutionary movement had a sound philosophical basis: the individual's right—by virtue of their humanity—to private property and liberty, which has been the basis of Western civilization and law for centuries. And this is why the movement was ultimately successful. Any revolutionary movement for the liberty of the oppressed in America, if it's to be successful, must be based upon these to fundamental concepts, which are themselves based upon natural law: private property and individual liberty.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
There are a couple of Marxist discussion groups here in Tucson and I would like to check them out. I am very interested in what today's Marxist might be thinking. Marxism has always been very idealistic, and since Marxism never delivered on its promise to the workers (i.e., that the workers would run things because the state would, after the revolution, no longer be necessary), I would think that most Marxists would be very disillusioned with the philosophy. I am interested in finding out why Marxism appeals to anyone today.
One of the Marxist discussion groups meets at the Revolutionary Grounds coffee/book store, while the other, an international socialist organization, meets at another locally owned coffee shop here in town. I will probably visit both groups sometime soon and I hope to learn much from the people I will meet and discuss Marxism with. There are certainly some aspects of Marxist thought that could be useful during any political/economic circumstances, but I fail to see how it could ever realistically imagined as being a viable sociopolitical/economic philosophy in the United States of America.
The U. S. has always held to a very conservative sociopolitical/economic philosophy that values to things above all else: private property and individual liberty. Marxism believes private property and individual liberty need to be abolished and I fail to see how anyone can actually believe the utopian Marxist vision of the future could take place anywhere, especially here in America; it's just not going to happen, People come to the U. S. looking for individual liberty and freedom; not to join a collective.
Marxism is revolutionary, but any successful revolution here in the U. S. would have to be based upon the government's infringement upon people's private properties and their individual liberties; the two principles we value above all else. The Marxist believes these two principles need to be done away with because they are the root causes of our sociopolitical/economic problems, which can be solved by the revolutionary socialistic abolition of private properties and individual liberties.
The Marxist ideology has never had much of an appeal here in the U. S., and I don't think that it ever will. So, I'm curious about why some people here in Tucson are Marxists today. I imagine they are idealistic and revolutionary, which are very practical aspects of Marxism, but I doubt that anyone really believes the worker's revolution can usher us into a brave new world wherein neither private property nor individual liberties can interfere with the desired harmony of the shared collective.
Friday, October 9, 2009
"HOW STARBUCKS VIA READY BREW CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE.*"
This is the title of a small booklet, which is published by Starbucks, introducing their life changing microbrew instant coffee: VIA.
When I saw the little red VIA booklet at Starbucks, I was immediately reminded of Chairman Mao's Little Red Book.
On the very first page of the Starbucks booklet, below the title quoted above, with black text printed on a red background, it says: "*(OKAY, WE ADMIT THAT'S A SLIGHT OVER-PROMISE, BUT LET'S FACE IT, IT IS REVOLUTIONARY.)"
"REVOLUTIONARY"? Hmmm…I guess I was correct in recognizing the similarities between Chairman Mao's little red book and the VIA booklet from Starbucks. The VIA booklet resembles Mao's book intentionally.
It's odd that a corporation as large as Starbucks, with all of the money it's spending on marketing its new product (VIA), would choose to mimic the appearance of the workers revolution. I'm sure someone at Starbucks thought that "the revolutionary red look" was a great idea for marketing VIA, but it does makes one wonder. Maybe Starbucks is linking up with FARC down in Columbia?
Who knows? I know the booklet appears to be marketing VIA as being very useful to our performance in any place and at any time of day. What it’s doing is pushing the number one selling drug in the world: caffeine.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
What does the Gospel have to do with the poor? St. Luke tells us that Christ said: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed" (Luke 4:18).
The Gospel belongs especially to the poor. St. Luke tells us that "…he [Christ] lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: 'Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God'" (Luke 6:20). St. James instructs us concerning the poor and of how they have been chosen by God to believe the Gospel: "Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him?" (James 2:5).
Off the top of my head, I can think of two nations that use poor foreigners to do work within their societies while building a wall/fence to keep poor foreigners out of their societies: The United States and Israel. The U. S. uses poor Mexicans to do work within their society while building a wall/fence to keep poor Mexicans out of their society. Israel uses poor Palestinians to do work within their society while building a wall/fence to keep poor Palestinians out of their society.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
You might not think it possible, but an erroneous eschatology has caused its adherents to actively support the organized oppression of innocent peoples in the Middle East. Israel's existence as a nation is thought by many people, especially fundamentalist and evangelical Christians, to be the fulfillment of God's plan for the Last Days.
The term eschatology is a theological term, which comes from the Greek word eschatos, meaning: last. Christians who hold to what is known as pre-millennial eschatology believe the world is getting worse and that Christ's second coming is soon at hand. They also believe the sudden appearance of Christ will initiate what is known as the Rapture of the Church, which could occur at any moment.
No one can really understand the problems in the Middle East without a working knowledge of the area's history and religions. Christians who adhere to pre-millennial eschatology support Israel's right to exist in the Middle East because they believe that God (in the Bible) has promised the Holy Land to Israel. Fundamentalist Jews, which include many Israeli settlers, also believe this to be true; although their eschatology is much different from that of the Christians. The one commonly held belief between fundamentalist Jews and Christians, as it expresses itself today, is the belief that the geographical area traditionally known as Palestine doesn't belong to the Palestinians; it belongs to the Jews.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
I've long thought that a good long-term economic plan for the Americas would include a common currency. Much like the Euro in Europe, the Amero would be the currency used throughout the Americas.
Thinking of the Americas as an economic union might seem unthinkable, but it's really not. Actually, it makes a lot of sense. The combined U. S. and Brazilian economies alone would be a formidable player in global economics. But the first reaction first world people have to the idea of the Americas having one currency is one of fear. The fear our first world nation will be drawn down to second or (God forbid) third world status. In truth, the U.S. would likely become more like a second world nation and the third world nations throughout the Americas would become more like second world nations too. And that seems fair. Yet this is unacceptable to most first world peoples.
Economically speaking, we pretty much have anything we might need right here in the Americas. The Western Hemisphere is our side of the planet, and with the combined resources of every nation in the Americas united in one economic bloc we would possess more economic strength than any other nation or union of nations. The global economy, at this point in time, should both be expanded, to include all of the Americas and, as much as possible, be restricted to our side of the world.
If we Americans—North, Central, and South—will unite in a common struggle to survive together, as one economic force, we will be far better off than we are right now and there's no telling the benefits we would reap from it. God, in his wisdom, has given us this land, a New World, and from that land he provides us with all we will ever need; if we will only learn to cooperate and share with one another.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Have you heard about this? Making health insurance mandatory is now the latest idea to come out of Washington's desperate search for a national health care solution that will solve "crisis" in health care. The elitists in Washington would love for all of us to be beholden, financially, to the Federal Government. They want all of us to be a part of their system—in which they are at the top.
What if you don't want help from the government? What if you just want to work, be left alone, and do your best to pay your own way? I suppose that will not be tolerated. The elitists within the Federal Government treat us as through we were children. But I suppose that's our own fault isn't it. I'm not going to buy health insurance if I don't want to buy health insurance. And I don't want to be forced into the system because I can't afford to buy health insurance. I don't want/need anything from the government except that I do want my money back.
The elitists, you see, think the money that you earn is theirs to do with as they see fit, while allowing you to keep a portion of it for yourself. But I think the money that I earn is mine. And I resent the fact that my federal taxes are so high. Tell the elitists that I don't want or need their help. I just want my money back.
Monday, September 28, 2009
As of today, President Obama is reconsidering the idea of sending more U. S. soldiers to Afghanistan. Last week, he was going to send more troops; as requested by his commander in the region.
I was listening to NPR last week and someone was asking if Afghanistan was becoming a quagmire, like Vietnam. "Becoming
a quagmire?" I said, to the radio. The war in Vietnam lasted roughly from 1965-1975 and the war in Afghanistan has lasted from 2001-2009, which is about the same length of time.
I work with a man named Leon, who is on inactive reserve status with the Marine Corp. He's been to Afghanistan three times and he told me they want him to go back again. Leon is a field commander, and he said they offered him a promotion if he goes back. He isn't required to return to Afghanistan, but the Marines want his expertise. Leon's been in combat many times, and he's never been hurt. "Not even a scratch" as he says.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
"Do you remember how you felt after 9/11? When all those innocent people, over 3,000 of them, were killed in that vicious act of political violence? Do you remember how you felt seeing the posters of the loved ones who were missing? It broke my heart, and I'm sure it broke yours too. Well, I feel exactly the same way about the 4,000 babies who are viciously killed in abortion clinics every day throughout America. It's shameful, it's disgusting, and I don't understand why more people's hearts aren't broken by it." (A.J. MacDonald, Jr.)
"The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intervene…" (Isaiah 59:15-16).
Non-violent sit-in style protests were outlawed for the first time in America in 1994, when the U.S. Congress passed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. Antiabortion activists who were practicing sit-in protests in order to block the entrances of abortion clinics—who were being removed, cited, and fined around $100.00 for trespassing—were, after passage of the F.A.C.E. Act in 1994, subject to a $10,000 fine and six months in federal prison for their first offense.
The large scale, effectual, non-violent sit-in protests engaged in by the antiabortion group Operation Rescue is what led to the passage of the F.A.C.E. Act. The group would peacefully block clinic entrances in order to shut down the abortion clinics' baby-killing business.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
So I'm doing research for my next book, looking for books and articles on the history of social/political violence in America, and I come across the following article in the Los Angeles Times:
A History of Violence on the Antiabortion Fringe
"Dr. George Tiller's slaying is the latest in a decades-long campaign of shootings, bombings and vandalism carried out by extremists from the mostly peaceful movement.
Reporting from Atlanta — Bombings. Butyric acid attacks. Sniper shootings. Letters filled with fake anthrax. These are some of the tactics used over the years by antiabortion extremists.
The slaying of Dr. George Tiller in his Kansas church Sunday was part of a decades-long history of domestic terrorism aimed at abortion providers, carried out by a small minority of the much broader and generally peaceful movement that opposes abortion." (A History of Violence on the Antiabortion Fringe, Richard Fausset in the Los Angeles Times, June 01, 2009.
Is he talking about me? Am I really part of a decades-long campaign of shootings, bombings and vandalism carried out by antiabortion extremists? That's cool; sort of like being an abolitionist during the nineteenth century. In those days, most people thought the abolitionist's campaign to win the freedom and dignity the Negro slaves were entitled to, by virtue of their humanity, was an extremist campaign too (especially when someone like John Brown was a part of that campaign).
Over the years, the Left has had very limited success in the U.S. But its influence, especially for the American blue collar worker, has been invaluable. Because the Left was instrumental in the organization of unions, which stood up for the rights and the dignity of the American worker, we have the eight hour work day, the forty hour work week, Workman's Compensation, Unemployment Insurance, and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. None of which I would enjoy being without.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The debate over universal health care in America highlights the ideological presuppositions of both the liberals and the conservatives: the liberals believe people are like dependent children, whereas the conservatives believe people are responsible adults. Being able to provide universal health care for every American is simply one aspect of the Left's great utopian fantasy. And like all great utopian fantasies, the Left's promotes the coming of a better world in which all people will share all things equally. But people's individual health care needs are far from equal: some people need very expensive health care treatments while other people—most people—do not. In America, the strong, the healthy, and the hard working already support the weak, the sick, and those who cannot—or will not—work. And I have no desire to see this already entrenched policy extended to include a new universal health care provision, because I simply can't afford it.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
America has always been a very conservative nation, and the Left has always had great difficulty making any real headway in America (as it has in Europe). Two books that are well worth reading about this subject are: Right Nation and The Rise and Fall of the American Left.
Make no mistake; the recent controversy between liberals and conservatives over universal health care in the U. S. (at government expense) says more about the left than it does the right. I think it also says something about the widening economic divides between the poor, the middle class, and the wealthy in America.
Friday, September 18, 2009
I've long said the next book I write will be about politics: American Politics. And the most important thing anyone really needs to know about American politics, which allows us to see through to the bottom of virtually every political issue, is that governments only have two schools of thought concerning how a government should govern its peoples: treat them as children who are dependent upon you, or treat them as adults who not dependent upon you.
America has always been a very conservative nation politically. It's that sense of liberty, independence, and freedom America has always held forth as its ideal which has drawn so many people to it. America, by nature is very individualistic, libertarian, and conservative. People basically want the right to be left alone by their government. This is why liberal politics has never been able to gain much ground here in the U. S. (as it has in Europe).
As I said, my next book is going to be about politics, so, while doing research for this book, I'm reading an old textbook on political theory: A History of Political Theory, Third Edition, by George H. Sabine (Holt, Rinehart, Winston, Inc., 1937, 1950, 1961), and the author, in discussing the different philosophical schools of thought concerning rulers and their subjects found in Plato's Statesman and in Aristotle's Politics, says that:
"The question, of course, is whether subjects shall be assumed to be dependent upon rulers, as children must be dependent upon their parents, or whether they shall be assumed to be responsible and self-governing" (pp. 72-73).
In America, it should be obvious to us which of our political parties assumes we are children and which does not. The more liberal Democrats assume the people are like dependent children, and the more conservative Republicans assume the people are responsible and self-governing. Not much has changed in the past 2,000 years.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Now that it's nearly 2010, we are finally beginning to see the changing face of the publishing industry, which is changing due to technology. We've all heard the hype about this for years but it's now slowly becoming a reality.
The invention of the printing press and movable type (during the early sixteenth century) created a technological leap forward in communication allowing for the greatest proliferation of ideas that the world had ever seen. These ideas could now be written, printed, and widely distributed in a very brief amount of time, which created an ability to influence many people's thoughts concerning the relevant issues of the day. This was impossible before the technological development of printing with movable type, and it was the technological development of printing itself which fueled the societal changes that later occurred (e.g., the Reformation, the Renaissance) due to the widespread proliferation of ideas via the new print media.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Sadly, I wasn't surprised by the responses I got. But it's amazing how unscientific and how uncompassionate some pro-abortion free thinkers can be. Read the thread for yourself...and weep.
Have a heart guys!
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Having roots, I think, in the Sanctuary Movement, Humane Borders is a group of conscientious, concerned, and religiously motivated people who provide warnings and water for those who are crossing the border illegally.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I had adopted very basic theological and philosophical idea, which I’d formulated over the years, now I needed to put that idea down on paper. I don’t remember now exactly what I began to write, that late November afternoon when the writing officially began, but I do remember beginning to write down my thoughts—about practically everything theological and philosophical—with a pen on a pad of paper. Writing my thoughts about something in particular was not new to me, but writing my thoughts about everything in general, with the goal of somehow organizing these writings into something coherent, like a well written book, was a completely new thing for me. I wasn’t sure how I would do it but I thought I would able to.
I’ve heard it said that the fully accomplished reader is someone who, having enjoyed reading many books over the years, becomes the writer of a book that others can enjoy reading. It’s certainly true that good readers make better writers, and it’s also true that the great books, which have been written over the centuries, make for a great conversation of which we, as the readers, are a part. And it’s up to us to further this conversation by adding our own written contributions to it. I’ve also heard it said that, concerning non-fiction books, one should refrain from writing a book before their fortieth birthday; because one will probably write something that one will later regret. As I was over forty years of age when I began writing The World Perceived, I figured I was on relatively safe ground here.
Basically, how I wrote The Word Perceived can be seen in the outline of the book. The book is broken down into three sections: how we think about the world (chapters one and two), how we perceive the world (chapters two and three), and how we live in the world (chapters four, five and six). This allows the readers to follow my own progression toward the concepts expressed in the book and it also allows the readers to make their own progression toward these concepts. In short, to properly understand the last three chapters of my book (the concepts) one must read the three chapters that precede them (an examination of our presuppositions).
My favorite part of the book The World Perceived is in Chapter Three: the geocentric versus the heliocentric conception of the universe. This, more than anything else, was the inspiration for the book. The Copernican Revolution was the biggest black eye modern science has ever given the Church and the Bible. And the skeptics, atheists, and antitheists are forever reminding Christians of that bruising, which occurred over five hundred years ago, yet the Copernican Revolution also raises a lot of questions concerning perception, which have been overlooked. The Bible says the sun moves across the sky, which it appears to do, but modern science has proven that it doesn’t. But the sun does appear to be moving. So is the Bible wrong in its description of the world? Is modern science correct? Even more importantly, what difference does it make? This one example—the geocentric versus the heliocentric conception of the universe—is probably the best working example of the differences between scientific and religious presuppositions, perceptions, and attitudes toward the world.
Chapter Three of The World Perceived, which is also the longest chapter of the book, contains three practical examples of conflicting religious and scientific views of the world, and illustrates for the readers how our thinking about the world affects our perception of the world; something many people don’t even realize. These examples allow the reader to see—in action—our thinking about the world affecting our perception of the world. For example, the creation versus evolution controversy is really a controversy over presuppositions, not (supposedly neutral) scientific facts.
The theological portion of the book, which was easiest for me to write, is found in the last three chapters. The first three chapters were the most difficult for me to write because I needed to simplify my own intellectual progression toward the concepts I’d formed in such a way that the readers could follow my thinking. This entailed explaining things I’d taken for granted and not really given much thought to actually expressing, but by writing them out I also gained new insights and I was able to understand my own thinking better. After a year of writing The World Perceived in spiral notebooks, I sat down with my new laptop (with the blank screen in Word 2007) and began the book anew, using the spiral notebooks as a very rough draft of the book. This is how the real work of writing and putting together the book began, and it was a lot of work doing so. As I said, writing always entails rewriting, and rewriting’s a lot of work too. But it always pays to rewrite. One’s first draft is always a diamond in the rough no matter how great a writer one might think oneself to be.
After my first year of writing the book on a computer, I printed out a manuscript of the book to read, and it was terrible. After what was now two years of writing, the book seemed almost unreadable to me. Back to work rewriting the book. After another year went by I had produce what I believed to be a publishable manuscript. I had gotten involved with Amazon’s CreateSpace by this point, so I uploaded my book interior and cover files and ordered a proof copy of the book. The proof needed a lot of work, so it was back to rewriting for me. Another proof was ordered, read, corrected, the book completely rewritten and the cover redesigned. Another proof was ordered, read, corrected, and the book rewritten yet again. But I was happy with this version of the book. In fact, much like I knew I had finished writing my very first draft in the spiral notebooks, I knew this was my final rewrite. I had done all I could do: imperfect, but what isn’t? I realigned the book’s cover for the last time, uploaded the files, ordered the proof, approved it, and submitted it to that great conversation, which I spoke of earlier.
I wrote my book The World Perceived because, after many years of studying theology and philosophy, I couldn’t find a book that reflected the theological and philosophical conclusions I had come to. I was looking for a book that would use phenomenology as a philosophical superstructure for the construction of a new sort of theology, one that valued phenomenal appearances. And since I was unable to find such a book, I decided to write one.
Writing can be very difficult work. I’d many written articles and papers over the years, but never anything approaching the length of a book. Because I’m well aware of how much rewriting is required in order to produce a decent article or paper, I knew that writing a book would require an incredible amount of rewriting, which it certainly has. In short, the task of writing the book I wanted to write would be a great challenge for me.
I began the work of writing the book in November 2005. I had moved to Pennsylvania to be close to my mother after my father’s death six months earlier. I was beginning a new chapter in my life, I was approaching my forty-seventh birthday, and I had in my mind the idea for this book that I wanted to write and I realized the time was right for me to begin writing it. After all the reading, studying, and thinking I had done over the years, I knew I was ready to write the book I was unable to find.
I wanted the book to outline the theological conclusions I had come to, but I also wanted it to be relatively easy to understand. Due to the philosophical nature of theological writings, this was not an easy thing to do. And I’m not even sure just how well I’ve managed to do it. In many ways, this book was to be the book I wish I’d been able to read when I was younger, say in my early twenties. My intention was to write the book in such a way that young seminary students would find the concepts expressed in the book intellectually stimulating and that these concepts would inform their own theological reflections and writings.
I imagine someone who is interested in theology, perhaps a seminary student, reading the book, grasping its most basic concepts, and keeping them in mind as they put together their own theological beliefs. If my book can help just one person to become a better theological thinker, I will be forever thankful for the opportunity I’ve had to write it.
Monday, August 24, 2009
The World Perceived explores how we think about the world, how we perceive the world, and how we choose to live our lives in-the-world. The author constructs a biblical theology of appearances which illustrates how the biblical description of reality is of far greater relevance to us than are the descriptions of reality given to us by modern science and popular science writers. The study of reality may belong to philosophers, scientists, metaphysicians, and theologians, but the responsibility of making a decision regarding what that reality is belongs to everyone and The World Perceived was written in order to aid the reader in making this decision an informed one.
In considering the epistemological basis of science as a form of knowledge and the assumptions implicit within the modern scientific worldview, The World Perceived invites the reader on an intellectual journey into the world of phenomenal reality. The author makes a strong case for the validity of the biblical description of the world and of reality by demonstrating how the modern scientific descriptions of the world and of reality are in no way superior to the biblical description.
By using three examples of conflicting scientific and biblical descriptions of the world and of reality—the geocentric versus the heliocentric conception of the universe, creation versus evolution, and absolute time versus relative time—The World Perceived demonstrates the Bible’s relevancy to the modern world, which is so often hostile to both religion and the Bible, like no other book on the market today. Written for the seminary student, the believing or unbelieving college student, the skeptic, and the general reader who is interested in such matters, The World Perceived is a wonderful introduction to how we, as Christians, should be thinking, perceiving, and living in-the-world.
For more information about The World Perceived, or to schedule an interview, please contact A.J. MacDonald, Jr. by email at: email@example.com, or on the web at: http://www.theworldperceived.freewebspace.com/.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
I look at it like this, I have to stop writing at some point...and this is it. After more than ten years of reading, research, and rumination, three and a half years of writing (and rewriting), and three proof copies, I have now launched an imperfect book into an imperfect world.
As of today, the book is only available at my createspace e-store, but it will be available directly from amazon.com in about two weeks.
If you would like to purchase a copy of the book, please follow the link below:
If you would like to peruse the book, the FREE e-book edition is always available for downloading at theworldperceived.freewebspace.com
Sunday, July 26, 2009
For my opinion, see my comments concerning marijuana and narcotic trafficking across the U.S./Mexican border in my earlier posts.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
My question is: When are we going to learn that the U.S. drug policy concerning marijuana is wrongheaded? (Please see below my previous blogs on this subject.)
Monday, July 13, 2009
I was familiar with the acronym LGBT over the years, but the whole LGBTTTIQ thing really took me by surprise. (The “Q”, by the way, can also refer to the questioning of one’s own sexual orientation.) The incredible lengthening of this once familiar acronym seems to stem from the fact that some people think that gender is a social construct. Some things may, in fact, be social constructs; but, in my opinion, gender is certainly not one of those things.
So what, exactly, does the acronym LGBTTTIQ stand for? LGBTTTIQ stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Two-Spirited, Intersexed, Queer (and Questioning).
The definitions of these words, which follow, have been taken from the OK2BME website (http://www.ok2bme.ca/home):
“Lesbian: A lesbian is a woman whose primary sexual and romantic attraction is to other women.”
“Gay: A gay man is a man whose primary sexual and romantic attraction is to other men. ‘Gay’ is also used as an inclusive term encompassing gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people. In the last 20 years, this has become less and less common and ‘gay’ is usually used currently to refer only to gay men. The term is still often used in the broader sense in spoken shorthand, as in ‘The Gay Pride Parade is at the end of June’.”
“Bisexual: Bisexual men and women have sexual and romantic attractions to both men and women. Depending upon the person, his or her attraction may be stronger to women or to men, or they may be approximately equal. Bisexuals are also referred to as ‘bi’.”
“Transgender: 1) Transgender (sometimes shortened to trans or TG) people are those whose psychological self (‘gender identity’) differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with. To understand this, one must understand the difference between biological sex, which is one’s body (genitals, chromosomes, etc.), and social gender, which refers to levels of masculinity and femininity. Often, society conflates sex and gender, viewing them as the same thing. But, gender and sex are not the same thing. Transgender people are those whose psychological self (‘gender identity’) differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with. For example, a female with a masculine gender identity or who identifies as a man. 2) An umbrella term for transsexuals, cross-dressers (transvestites), transgenderists, gender queers, and people who identify as neither female nor male and/or as neither a man or as a woman. Transgender is not a sexual orientation; transgender people may have any sexual orientation. It is important to acknowledge that while some people may fit under this definition of transgender, they may not identify as such.”
“Two-spirited: Two-spirited is a term adopted by some contemporary North American Aboriginal peoples to refer those who embody both the male and female spirit. The term is inclusive and can refer to both sexual orientation and/or gender identity or expression. Therefore, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and heterosexual trans-people may all refer to themselves as two-spirited. Terms such as ‘berdache’ have a colonial origin; and ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ are, to many people, Eurocentric and culturally irrelevant to Aboriginal two-spirited people.”
“Intersexed: A medical diagnosis that describes a person who is born with physical and/or chromosomal features in which sex characteristics usually considered to belong to distinctly male or female bodies are combined in a single body. Intersexed persons are often subjected to surgical intervention at birth (with or without parental knowledge or consent). The term intersexed is often encompassed under ‘transgendered’. However, while there are some areas of overlap with intersexed and transgendered issues, there are also many areas of distinction.”
1. A political statement, as well as a sexual orientation, which advocates breaking binary thinking and seeing both sexual orientation and gender identity as potentially fluid. Many of those who use the term feel it is more inclusive, allowing for the diversity of race, class, ability and gender that is represented by the LGBTTIQ communities.
2. A simple label to explain a complex set of sexual behaviors and desires. For example, a person who is attracted to multiple genders may identify as queer.
3. Used by some to refer to themselves, the LGBTTTIQ community, a person who is LGBTTTIQ, or even someone who is supportive of the LGBTTTIQ communities.
4. Often viewed as a political statement as well as an identity or label.
Many older LGBTTTIQ people feel the word has been hatefully used against them for too long and are reluctant to embrace it. In addition, because it was used to demean LGFBTTTIQ people, those who do not identify as queer are urged to use the term with caution, or not at all.”
What does the LGBTTTIQ community think that gender is? Here are a couple of definitions of gender which, again, have been taken from the OK2BME website:
“Gender: 1) A socially constructed system of classification that ascribes qualities of masculinity and femininity to people. Gender characteristics can change over time and are different between cultures. Words that refer to gender include: man, woman, transgender, masculine, feminine, and gender queer. 2) One’s sense of self as masculine or feminine regardless of external genitalia. Gender is often confused with sex. This is inaccurate because sex refers to bodies and gender refers to personality characteristics.”
“Gender Identity: One’s initial and psychological sense of oneself as female, male, both or neither. At birth, we are assigned one of two genders, usually based on our visible genitals. For many people this gender assignment fits and feels comfortable. Others do not feel as comfortable in the assigned gender, either because they find the two-gender system too limiting or because they feel more identification with the gender opposite that to which they were assigned at birth. Gender identity does not cause sexual orientation. For example, a masculine woman is not necessarily a lesbian; a feminine man is not necessarily gay.”
And, after reading all of that…it’s really hard for me to know exactly what to say...
Is gender neutrality even possible? No, because neutrality itself is impossible. We always have presuppositions that influence our thinking about the world; therefore no one can approach the world from a neutral perspective. The fact that, biologically, the higher living organisms are of two, distinct kinds (i.e., female and male) renders impossible any attempts on our part to attain neutrality regarding gender.
Certainly all rules have exceptions, even “the rule” of life. But just because some people are born with a confusion of primary and secondary physical sexual characteristics doesn’t mean that gender is a social construct. The overwhelming majority of people are not born with a confusion of primary and secondary physical sexual characteristics; therefore gender—as determined (objectively) by the observation of primary and secondary physical sexual characteristics as belonging to either the one or the other grouping of a certain and distinct kind (i.e., male or female)—is, very simply, a fact (i.e., the rule) of life.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary (4th Edition), the word gender means: “Sexual category; males or females as a group [> Lat. genus, gener-, kind.]”
This is what I said above. Gender is a grouping of kinds, which are either female or male. And these grouping are determined by physical characteristics. There are only two kinds of people in the world: men and women, boys and girls. And everyone knows that.
The definition of gender given above, which was taken from the OK2BME website, states that gender is “[o]ne’s sense of self as masculine or feminine regardless of external genitalia…[g]ender is often confused with sex. This is inaccurate because sex refers to bodies and gender refers to personality characteristics.” But again, according to the American Heritage Dictionary (4th Edition), the word sex means: “The property or quality by which organisms are classified on the basis of their reproductive organs.” I’m sorry, but the only confusion here, regarding the word gender and the word sex, is in the minds of the gender neutralists.
If, according to a standard dictionary, the word gender refers to grouping organisms into the sexual categories of female and male. And, since these sexual categories are based upon the reproductive organs of the organisms, the word gender and the word sex mean the same thing: organisms can be classified as either male or female. The word gender does not and cannot mean “[o]ne’s sense of self as masculine or feminine regardless of external genitalia” nor can it refer “personality characteristics.”
Once we start changing the meanings and definitions of the words we use to communicate with each other, we should be prepared for the inevitable confusion that this will cause whenever we attempt to communicate our ideas to other people.
So, I can’t jump on the whole LGBTTTIQ bandwagon, because I’m not even sure what, exactly, is being said, or what, exactly, the idea the LGBTTTIQ community is trying to communicate with this sort of language (the words of which are not being used according to standard dictionary definitions).
Do I want people to be tolerant of one another, regardless of their sexual preferences or orientations? Sure I do, but I cannot accept the misuse of words and language in order to promote an agenda (i.e., gender neutrality) that has no basis whatsoever in reality and is, in fact, flatly contradicted by an abundance of evidence that is plain for all to see (i.e., that the overwhelming majority of people are (objectively) either male or female).
And it’s no coincidence that the whole gay marriage thing is so controversial. The LGBTTTIQ community has been changing the meanings and definitions of words, which denote ideas, for a long time. What does the word marriage mean? And why does it mean either one thing or the other? The word marriage presupposes the fact that people are of either the female or the male gender or sex, and the word marriage means that two people—one of each sex—are joining together in a social contract, the purpose of which is relational, sexual, and based upon the innate drive to reproduce (marriage is, in fact, a social construct, which is based upon the objective fact that there are only two kinds (male and female) of people in the world. As a society, we may decide that marriage means the joining together of two people—regardless of their sex—in a social contract, the purpose of which is both relational and sexual, and the basis of which (even if homosexual) is the innate human sexual drive to reproduce.
Marriage is a social construct, so we can define it in whatever way we may wish to define it. Currently, the word marriage means: “The legal union of man and woman as husband and wife” according to the America Heritage Dictionary (4th Edition). This is what the word marriage means, and when we communicate our ideas to one another using words we had better be prepared for trouble whenever we change the meanings of those words. The term “gay marriage” is, in fact, a contradiction of terms; because the word marriage means: “The legal union of man and woman [not man and man or woman and woman] as husband and wife [not husband and husband or as wife and wife].”
It may be that the word marriage will take on this additional (i.e., gay) meaning, but it hasn’t yet. And it may never take on this meaning, because social constructs (like marriage) are determined by society and our society may not accept this change in the meaning of the word. The current battle over gay marriage has more to do with whose definition of the word marriage—society’s in general or a sub-culture’s in particular—is more appropriate. It’s a battle of words, which is why I pick on words and their meanings. Whoever controls the terms (i.e., the words and the definitions thereof) controls the debate. And I, for one, don’t care for playing fast and loose with the definitions of words. When the meanings of words differ between individual peoples, who use the same language in order to communicate with one another, they cannot accurately express their thoughts and their ideas to one another. Our common language and our ability to communicate our ideas to one another is one of the most important things that we have as a society. In fact, without a common language, we could not have a society at all.
On religious grounds, as a Catholic, I would oppose gay marriage; but politically—as a libertarian and as an American—I believe that, as long as people are consenting adults and they are not harming innocents by their actions, people should basically be allowed to do whatever they want to do. I mean, who really cares what they do, as long as they’re not harming anyone? I would certainly support civil unions (and the legal protections thereof), but I cannot support changing the definition of the word marriage to mean two people—regardless of their sex—joining together in a social contract called marriage, the purpose of which is both relational and sexual, and the basis of which (even if homosexual) is the innate human sexual drive to reproduce.
That’s not what the word marriage means in our society; at least not according to the dictionary anyway. And I certainly don’t know where else (besides a dictionary) we might look for the definitions of the words we are using.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Here are some interesting excerpts from an article by JJ Hensley in the the Arizona Republic (Dec. 23, 2008) concerning the recent (six months ago) bust of a large Mexico-to-the-U.S.-by-way-of-Arizona marijuana smuggling organization. The article is well worth reading in full, and it can be found at:
“The drug dealers had the standard hallmarks of their trade — hundreds of bales of marijuana, fleets of stolen cars, bundles of cash and a small arsenal of weapons.”
(Meaning they are heavily armed and well financed.)
“They had radio towers set up in the desert to communicate with each other, as many as 50 scouts scattered through the rugged border country to direct the operation, and a mobile ramp to help vehicles hop the border fence.
(Meaning they are well organized.)
‘The ramp trucks are new,’ said John Stonehouse, an airborne officer with Customs and Border Patrol in Tucson. ‘The creation of the border fence resulted in the creation of the ramp truck. I'm sure the design was a copy off military ramping systems.’”
(Meaning the border fence isn’t doing the trick.)
“After crossing the border and entering the Tohono O'odham Reservation, the smugglers would stick to ravines and washes as they made their way toward Pinal County under the cover of dark.”
(Meaning that policing this area is like trying to police an ocean (of desert).
“The group, which federal agents linked to the notorious Sinaloa cartel from Mexico, smuggled up to 2 million pounds of pot over the border in the past five years, with a wholesale value estimated at about $1 billion.”
(Meaning the cartel runs a very profitable business.)
“Another organization will likely step up to take over the business of the Garibaldi-Lopez ring, authorities acknowledged.”
(Meaning this same kind of operation continues to go on.)
“The cash that comes from marijuana sales fuels other operations in the Sinaloa cartel's drug trade, which makes pot sales in the state a crucial part of the operation, said Matthew Allen, a special agent in charge with Immigration and Customs Enforcement…Every time they lose cocaine, meth, heroin, they make up those losses by selling marijuana in the United States,’ Allen said.”
(Meaning that marijuana money is venture capital for the narcotics business)
“It took the combined intelligence and resources of all the agencies involved to take down the sprawling drug ring, said Pinal County Sheriff Chris Vasquez, whose jurisdiction encompasses a common smuggling route…With the resources we have, we would make a small — not even a dent — in the amount of drugs coming up through that corridor,’ Vasquez said.”
(Meaning this same kind of operation continues to go on.)
Monday, July 6, 2009
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, Tucson, Arizona "is a regional-and-national-level distribution center for illicit drugs, particularly marijuana. Mexican DTOs exploit the area because of its proximity to Mexico; the city is located only 65 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border and is situated near the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation, the Coronado National Forest, and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument--vast tracts of remote land commonly used by Mexican DTOs to transport illicit drugs into and through Arizona. Tucson's proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border and its access to major interstates and secondary highways render it a key Southwest Border distribution center and stash location."(1)
The devil you say.
Tucson, Arizona is surrounded by an ocean of desert. And there are a lot of smugglers crossing that ocean every night. Too many to stop them all, or even most of them. Okay, there are too many to stop any of them, except for a few. In short, the U.S. drug policy is a proven failure (a proven failure).
True, Latin America does export narcotics; as well as many other (legitimate) products. But, as I've said before (in a previous blog, see http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.ListAll&friendId=108766118&page=2) opium (and heroin) sales are a vital sector of the global economy. Meaning that, without those sales, the global economy would collapse.And what about Mexico and all of that marijuana? Do we realize that the legalization of marijuana would deprive the cartels of a good portion of their venture capitol (i.e., the money they need in order to produce and distribute narcotics, and reap the higher profits thereof. Just think, legalization would fill the coffers of the state (through taxes) and deprive the cartels of a good portion of the money they need to produce and distribute narcotics.
What should we do?
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, the U.S. plans to coninue the fight. Using the military if necessary (and everyone seems to think that it is necessary) because the "Mexican DTOs [Drug Trafficking Organizations] will adapt drug smuggling methods into the Arizona HIDTA [High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area] region both at and between POEs [Points of Entry] in an effort to thwart law enforcement. For example, Mexican DTOs will likely increase their use of subterranean tunnels, small aircraft, cloned vehicles, more innovative concealment methods, and alternate smuggling routes in an effort to circumvent law enforcement and military operations against them." (2)
This sounds like a war that will never end.
It’s still dark outside as people begin lining up at the back entrance to the labor hall, which opens at four-thirty in the morning. The people are day laborers. And, if they are hired out to work today, the odds are that the jobs they will be doing will be dirty and very physically demanding—especially when the temperatures are in the triple digits.
If Bill Gates is on the top of the economic ladder, then the day laborer is on the bottom. Ever since ancient times, the day laborer—one who is unskilled in a trade, and who does a day’s work for a day’s pay—has been considered the lowest member of the working class. Even the New Testament includes a parable, spoken by Christ, that makes use of the common practice of hiring day laborers, which Christ uses as a simile for the kingdom of heaven: “For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard” (Matthew 20:1; see 20:1-16).
The good economic news is that there are a lot of people who are willing to work—very hard—for the money that they need to survive. The bad news is that there just isn’t that much work out there these days. This, in itself, is certainly not news (we all know the economy’s bad) but, from the lowly perspective of the day laborer, the economic situation appears to be worsening. There are a lot more people at the labor halls these days, a lot less jobs, and there are more new faces here every day—all of them hoping to be sent out on a job that will put a much needed fifty dollars or so in their pockets at the end of the day.
Working day labor is a last resort for many people, and, when your last resort isn’t working out so well, there are few legitimate options remaining to which one can turn to in order to generate a much needed income. If you’re wondering why the recidivism rates are so high for ex-cons, you need look no further. Most of the workers here at the labor hall desire to work a regular job, but, for a variety of reasons, many of them also have a very low employability status (e.g., poor employment history, criminal background) which hinders them from being hired by many (most?) businesses—especially during periods of high unemployment.
This economic report from below is a discouraging one. The economic outlook is bleak, especially in the construction industry, and it’s the construction industry that provides so many of the jobs the day laborers need. If you think the economic situation looks bad on the news, it looks even worse from the perspective of the day laborer who, though willing to work hard, doesn’t know from one day to the next whether he will be working (and earning money) or not.
There will always be a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship between the poor and the wealthy: those who are wealthy will always hire those who are poor, and those who are poor will always work for those who are wealthy. And when the wealthy (and the middle-class) are hurting financially, as they are today, the poor are guaranteed to be hurting even more, because they have so much less. Today the day laborer hopes for the wealthy business owner to hire him out, yet the business owner, who is also feeling the economic pinch, simply doesn’t have enough work for him.
In the parable mentioned above, the householder—throughout the course of the day—puts many laborers to work in his vineyard, and he pays all of them the same daily wage, whether they had worked for one hour, two hours, or the entire day. In the parable, those who had worked all day long were angry with the householder for paying those who had worked only an hour or two, or a half day, a full day’s pay even though they had not worked a full day. The wealthy householder (who, in the parable, represents God) chastised those who were angry with him and upbraided one of them, saying: “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius [i.e., a day’s wage]? Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?”
Through this parable, Christ is showing us how, by having a compassionate and generous heart, one can actually help to bring about the kingdom of God on earth, which is a compassionate world wherein people care more about one another than they do money. From personal experience, I know that some of the business owners who hire out day laborers, like myself, will occasionally demonstrate the same generous and compassionate spirit as that of the householder spoken of in the parable (i.e., that of caring more about people than money) by paying the laborer for a full day’s work even though they have not worked for a full day.
These are tough economic times indeed—the ranks of the poor are growing and the portfolios of the wealthy are shrinking—which can mean only one thing: we are all in this economic mess together, and we will only get through it together if we are willing to act, from a generous heart, with compassion for one another. Although economics may seem like a rather heartless subject, economics is really about people, about community, and about how we choose to live together in a society (the word: economy actually comes from two Greek words: ecos, meaning: house, and nomos, meaning: law, and literally means: the law of the house).
How we choose to act toward one another is crucial to how we will get through this economic crisis. In other words, the best economic indicator of all is to ask ourselves this one, simple question each and every day: Did I act with compassion and generosity toward people today? If the answer is yes, then we can be assured that, however slowly, we are definitely on the economic upswing. But if the answer is no, then the economic downturn will only worsen, and there will be darker days ahead of us. If we really want to get out of this economic mess, we are going to have to be willing to share what we have with those who are less fortunate than we are. Whenever we give, willingly, from a generous heart, we will always gain far more than we have lost.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Bernard Madoff has pled guilty to running the largest fraud, a so-called Ponzi scheme, in U.S. history, having swindled some sixty-eight billion dollars from investors involved in his fraudulent scheme. Over the course of twenty years, Madoff managed to moved over 170 billion dollars through his fraudulent investment corporation, many of his investors being some of the wealthiest people on the planet.
Modoff’s scheme only came to light because of the worldwide financial crisis: “‘The fuel of a Ponzi [scheme] is cash infusion,’ says lawyer Michael Goldberg, Madoff’s undoing was the worldwide financial crisis, which prompted many investors to try to liquidate. He was unable to bring in the funds to meet the redemption requests, and his house of cards collapsed” (The Week, January 30, 2009, p. 11).
Madoff’s scheme resembled a successful investment firm, and was, in many ways, indistinguishable from other high rolling Wall Street investment firms: “Maddof ran his so-called hedge fund like and exclusive club…allegedly paying out some of the money as dividends to maintain the fiction, donating millions more to non-profits, and spending much of the rest on real estate, jewelry, and high living” (ibid.). For all practical purposes, Bernie Madoff was virtually doing business the same way that legitimate investment banks did: taking investors’ money, using the money to do business, and hoping that most of the investors will not demand their money back any time soon.
Madoff’s problem was unlike those of the large banks the federal government has bailed out, banks which, like Madoff, found themselves faced with having too many investors who wanted (or who may soon demand) their money back and not enough money on hand to pay them. But isn’t this very similar to what has happened with the recent financial collapse of companies like Bear Stearns, Citigroup, Bank of America, General Electric, and AIG? The recent federal bailout of so many failed corporations was necessary, so we are told, to insure the stability of our economy.
The recent outcry over bonuses given to (150 billion dollar bailout recipient) AIG executives only points up the fact that the federal government is heartily endorsing the corporate status quo and the taxpayers are bailing out those who live the high life. Unfortunately, our economy is far from stable; even with the recent 8.5 trillion dollar infusion of cash coming from federal taxpayers. Did I say cash infusion? Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah…it’s what Bernie Madoff’s sixty-eight billion dollar Ponzi scheme depended upon in order to remain solvent. It seems to me that perhaps the best thing to do, economically speaking, would be for the federal government to add Madoff’s fraudulent investment company, and its investors, to the growing list of taxpayer funded bailout recipients.
Friday, March 27, 2009
The U.S. recently announced that, due to concerns about the ongoing and intensifying violence between Mexican drug cartels and the Mexican government, it will soon be beefing up the many law enforcement agencies working the Texas/Arizona/Mexico border region. The governors of both Texas and Arizona are considering the deployment of their National Guard forces in order to prevent the increasing violence from spreading across their borders.
What’s different this time is that the Mexican government is currently losing its battle with the cartels, thanks in large part to the arms merchants, who, for years, have supplied the cartels with tactical weapons they need to battle government forces, arms which are smuggled into Mexico illegally from the United States. And while U.S./Mexico border issues usually focuses upon the flow of drugs from Mexico into the U.S., now it’s the Mexican government who is trying to stop the flow of illegal arms coming into its country from the U.S.
While the flow of illegal drugs from Mexico to the U.S. is a well known fact, not many people realize illegal arms are being smuggled into Mexico from the U.S. on a regular basis. Since the 1980’s, when the sea route to Florida was effectively closed off by U.S. authorities, the smuggling of illegal drugs from Latin America into the United States, has been concentrated into its most natural place: the expansive desert region of the southwestern U.S./Mexico borderlands. This vast wilderness area, which is very conducive to smuggling, is treacherous, and it is practically as remote from Mexico City as it is from Washington D.C.
I suppose the questions I would put to the U.S. government would be: What are you trying to accomplish by this? And what results do you expect to obtain? I think we can safely assume that the flow of illegal drugs to the U.S. will not cease, and neither will the flow of illegal arms to Mexico. More than likely, the climate of violence, kidnapping, torture, and murder found in the border region will only get worse. By attempting to contain the violence (to Mexico) the U.S. could very well earn the wrath of the cartels. The Mexican government has been fighting the cartels for years, and it’s common (today) to hear of lower level local authorities (such as chiefs of police) in Mexican border towns being murdered...on a pretty regular basis.
Does the U.S. government really expect results any different from this? Isn’t it the cartels way to intimidate, kidnap, torture, and murder local (and higher) authorities…and their families? Fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan is bad enough without having to fight the wealthy and powerful cartels (i.e., gangs of thugs) of Mexico. In other words, non-conventional warfare is very difficult for large governments to wage, and having one’s family members kidnapped, tortured and murdered can easily cause one to lose the will to fight. This is a war that cannot be won by tightening down the screws of the status quo. Increasing support for a drug policy that is a proven failure is like pouring gasoline on a raging fire.
I have spent a considerable amount of time in the U.S/ Mexico border region. I lived in El Paso, Texas for four years (during the late eighties) and I currently reside in Tucson, Arizona. I have visited many towns along the Mexican border (La Frontera) with the United States: Matamoros, Cuidad Acuna, Presidio, Cuidad Juarez, and Nogales. In the border towns, for many years, it’s been common to see heavily armed military troops and police clashing with the cartels and to expect cartel related violence to erupt at any time. Not to mention the many stories you hear (from the locals) about the latest hits, assassinations, and violent shootouts.
As long as U.S. drug policy goes unchanged, and outlawed substances continue to be bought and sold on the black market, things can only get worse. I hope the U.S. government will one day realize that the control of such substances is better than outlawing them altogether. For example, marijuana is not as harmful as is alcohol, yet the U.S. government considers alcohol to be a substance which people can use responsibly. Can we not at least do the same for marijuana? This would take a very large (and very important) bite out of the cartels’ profit margins, create millions of jobs, and fill government coffers with billions of dollars in revenue. But I suppose that that would make too much sense, right?
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