Friday, December 24, 2010

The Electric Vehicle Truly is the Future

Electric vehicles are the future.  Anyone can generate electricity and on a small scale, using renewables is just as easy as using the traditional methods, easier in some cases.  Electric vehicles provide the range the vast vast majority of us need on a daily basis and in the winter time, they heat up faster too.  But like everything, they have their downsides.

The first downside and the most important one in my book is the human resistance to change.  We've had fossil fueled vehicles almost exclusively for a hundred years.  We have some electric buses and trains in and near big cities, but many of us don't live in big cities.  There's the concept called "range anxiety" where people are supposed to be concerned about how far their EV can go.  There's the time it takes to recharge, and the availability of charging locations away from home.  And for some reason (obvious source when you think about it) fear is drummed up about the cost of replacing the battery.

First let me address the battery.  There's a fundamental difference between electric and FF cars.  A gas engine can be expected to last around 300,000 miles or so with a few repairs along the way.  After that, it will need a rebuild, or depending on the car, it might have already had one.  But in any case, it will be worn out.  There will be metal inside the engine which will no longer be there.  That's why oil turns black, it's carrying the little pieces of metal that have worn off from the inside of the engine.  A diesel can be expected to last significantly longer because it's built far more competently.  Some diesels can last longer than a million miles.

But an electric vehicle is different.  There is essentially only one movable part in the "engine."  There's a rotor that spins around on the inside of the motor casing inside the coils.  Virtually all production electric vehicles utilize AC motors which have no wearable "brushes" to transfer electricity from the non moving to the moving parts.  What does this leave us?  The only wearable parts are the bearings which are replaceable, and the transmission which unlike a car transmission will not likely have any gears, clutches, or sensors.  An EV has no emissions equipment to go bad, no exhaust system to rust out, no fluids to change, no fan belts to squeak, and because of regenerative braking, the brake pads may last the life of the car.  Typical repair costs will be minimal at most.

But the battery, what do we do about the battery?  Latest estimates have the battery costing between $3000 to $10,000 in an electric vehicle and supposed to last 150,000 miles in California and estimated to last 10 years elsewhere.  But there's an aspect that you don't get if you don't go in depth.  At the end of a battery's projected life, it doesn't just die one day.  The end of a battery's life is 70% capacity.  That means instead of going 100 miles, it goes 70.  Instead of going 300 miles it goes 210.  It's obviously not the end of the world.  There's another aspect that bears investigation as well.  If in ten years you do decide you need a new battery, the batteries available will be far better than the one you have now.  And since your electric car is far from actually wearing out anyway, it will be worth the investment, like doing that engine rebuild.  In fact, it may be worth it to replace the seats, some or most of the interior, maybe even upgrade the motor.  A car can be more like a house as far as capital investment goes because it's not quite so much of a consumable product any more.

Let's talk about range.  This is where my big solution comes in.  Right now, the major electric car available is the Nissan LEAF.  The current LEAF comes with about 100 mile range, more if you like to hypermile.  Aside from the fact that this range easily covers the daily commute of over 90% of the population, think about charging at work.  I would consider it a perk of a job to be able to plug my car in (slow charge of course) at work.  Even if you do charge from dead to full (not likely to happen) with the whole 25 kWh, that's still between $2 to $5 anywhere in the US.  It's just not that big of a deal.  Even if your boss is a tight-@$$, maybe he'll let you drop a fiver for the privilege or do a monthly fee.  Better yet, park nearby at some nice local business who will let you charge.  There are options.  It's doable even if it does put you out of your comfort zone.  Better yet, in two years or so, the second generation Toyota Rav4 EV is supposed to have a range of 300 miles.

But what about long trips?  First, I doubt there will be many households with only all EV's.  I plan on commuting on a motorcycle the majority of the year, an electric motorcycle.  So for long trips, you could keep a vehicle around, it should last a long time since you won't be using it much.  Or you could rent one for trips. 

But I have an idea.  You likely have heard about the Chevy Volt which has a range extender built in, a generator to maintain charge after the battery has run low.  However, this adds considerable weight to the car which you'll have to drag around when you don't need it.  What if you could put the generator on the trailer?  better yet, what if you could rent the generator on the trailer?  What if you could go to UHaul and rent a generator trailer for your electric car?  Or, you could build one out of spare parts.  It can be done.

And it has been done.  Check out this picture of the generator trailer developed for the first Rav4 EV and the tZero.  It uses a two cylinder Kawasaki motorcycle engine and has special steering so that when you back up, you don't have to worry about knowing how to back a trailer.

Here's a Polar Power DC generator that I have been looking at lately.  It uses a Perkins 4 cylinder diesel engine with a permanent magnet alternator.  Since most EV's today use battery packs with voltages below 400, it's no problem to match voltages with the generator.  Check them out at they have several smaller models as well.

Coincidently, the LEAF already has a DC quick charging plug.  It's the one on the left.  Not sure, but I think this could be useful.

You may have read about (or saw on YouTube) my recent generator project where I used a car alternator and a rototiller engine and an inverter to make a cheap fixable generator.  Next on the docket is the Parker Engineering Mark II DC Generator.  I have purchased a used 6 hp Lombardini diesel engine and I'm building a full frame and enclosure for it to make another generator.  If I can find another higher amperage alternator, it I should be able to make a significantly better overall machine, with higher sustained power output, better fuel economy and longer run time, not to mention quieter.  Electric start will be a bonus as well.  Look for it soon.

My point with all of this is that there are a lot of great options with a bit of good ol' American engineering.  An individual with just a little know how and an internet connection can figure out a whole bunch of solutions to use a variety of machines and technologies to produce power.  Modern electric cars will make that even more possible.  They will also bring about cheaper battery technology which will make it easier to build custom electric cars and for homes to be off grid.  Off grid means lower energy usage all around.

With energy, less is better.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Doctrine of American Exceptionalism

What’s the best way to be?  Is it:  Better than everyone else?  Stronger than everyone else?  Smarter than everyone else?  More morally pure then everyone else?  Wealthier than everyone else?

The Doctrine of American Exceptionalism offers you the opportunity to be all of the above.  And you don’t even have to try, you just have to be born here, or successfully immigrate and obtain citizenship and preferably white.

You may have heard of American Exceptionalism.  It is a theory that the United States occupies a special role among the nations of the world in terms of its national ethos, political and religious institutions, and its being built by immigrants. The roots of the position have been dated back to 1630 with John Winthrop's "City Upon a Hill" (you may have heard that in a Reagan speech) although some scholars attribute it to a passage of Alexis de Tocqueville, who argued that the United States held a special place among nations because it was the first working representative democracy.

You may have heard conservative windbags like Sean Hannity say things like “how can Obama be an effective president, he doesn’t even believe in the Doctrine of American Exceptionalism.”

You may have heard or even believe that the United States is the greatest country in the history of the world.  For me, it’s the root of the phrase “God bless America.”  Sure, I want God to bless America, but not by destroying other nations at our feet.  For me it’s “God bless America, and everybody else too.”

America may hold a top-of-the-pile position today, and for the last number of decades or a century or two, but it’s not because we are those things I listed in the first paragraph.  It’s because for the most part, we haven’t had a war on our soil that destroyed our entire infrastructure.

If you listen to conservative talk radio or watch Fox News (I’ve decided that Fox doesn’t report the news, Fox reports the truth, see Jon Stewart’s recent interview with Chris Wallace) you’ll hear that we are so much way more awesome than Europe where socialism is.  I’ve had it told to me that we are way more innovative.  Our economy is way better.  And we have all these “freedoms.”

But to be fair, what really happened?  What is really the case?  And why?

Europe has been a little slow.  But if the US had been the location of two world wars in thirty years, we’d have been slow too.  Much of Europe got the living cuss bombed out of it in WWII.  You’ll also notice how little of our famed innovation has come out of the south where the Civil War destroyed all manner of progress.  I live in Arkansas, where there appears to be only one major university.  As far as I can tell, the greatest density of universities and colleges is in the North East and West Coast. 

When Europe got out of WWII, they were so hosed, they had to go about things completely differently.  We were the victors.  Nary a bomb had dropped on our soils.  Soldiers returning from war came back to the new middle class centered plan of the New Deal.  Taxes on the rich were high.  Unions thrived.  We boomed.  Europe on the other hand was hosed.  Hosed hosed hosed. 

They had massive casualties, fire bombed out cities, bridges destroyed, airports with holes all over them and no oil reserves.  Germany had to pay reparations (again) and Britain was so gutted, they had rationing for years afterward.  But they’ve come back.  They have pretty robust economies now.  They have low unemployment, and don’t have nearly the economic swings we capitalists have.

More and more lately, I’ve come to believe that all that stuff they used to tell us in grade school about being the greatest country on earth is a load of hooey.  They tell us about all sorts of advances in technology, medicine and whatnot.  Where is the first mass produced electric car coming from?  Nissan.  Who has the best healthcare in the world?  Not us.  Where was your cell phone made?  Not here.  Where is your job?  Somewhere else.

They tell us that the constitution is a moral document, that God had his hand in its writing like he dictated the King James Version of the Bible.  We got “all men are created equal” you know, except for slaves and whatnot, oh and women, don’t forget women.  And it turns out that many of the founders weren’t Christians, at least not the kind we’re told they were.  Blasphemy of blasphemies, the great Thomas Jefferson cut out all the miraculous stuff from the Bible and republished his own version!

How’s that racism coming along.  Well, there were some of us who were against it for a long time, but we had to have a war over it, oh yeah, and after we whooped Britain in the Revolutionary War, they abolished slavery decades before we did.  Now we have a black radical Christian Muslim president.  Figure that one out for yourself.  How surprising was it that the day after he was elected, gun sales skyrocketed?  The economy is in the ash can, but you haven’t seen any gun stores closing.  Just recently there are people protesting a “mosque” with a domed roof going up near a freeway in Phoenix which actually as it turns out is really a non-denominational church.  Xenophobia - An exaggerated or abnormal fear of strangers or foreigners.  I was listening to “Christian” radio last night.  Their “news” segment consisted of a guy ranting about how important it was to cast extra suspicion upon anyone who was a Muslim for fear of terrorism.

What about on the moral front?  Surely we are the center of morality pure as the driven snow in the world.  Not hardly.  What did we do to the Indians?  We royally screwed them over.  We forced them off their nice land that they had occupied for maybe thousands of years and we concentrated them out in the desert, and Oklahoma.  United States military forces murdered thousands upon thousands of them outright in cold blood.

Then World War II comes along and we have vast resources that we commit to building the atomic bomb.  And then we drop the most powerful bomb in the history of the world on civilians.  What an cusshole thing to do.  The moral high ground is to act in honor and civility no matter how provoked.  Truman could have called up Hirohito and said “Hey, we got a bomb.  We got a big cussing bomb, and we’re gonna drop it in the middle of Tokyo Bay, and then you got 48 hours to surrender or we’re gonna glass your little island.”  But no, we didn’t drop it in Tokyo Bay.  We didn’t drop it in the sparsely inhabited mountains that make up so much of Japan.  We didn’t drop it anywhere where it would do a little damage but make a big point.  We dropped it on civilians who were just trying to get along with their lives.  If we want to be exceptional, we must always hold the moral high ground, and we are so very bad at it.  But they’ve come back.  They’re doing pretty good, and while they are clawing their way to the top of the Environmental Performance Index, we are screwing our way down.  You wouldn’t believe the countries that are beating us now.  Look it up for yourself, we suck (on that index).

Likewise is our dealing with the Middle East.  Understand this.  Islam is a warlike religion with a tribal history.  It has a strong sense of revenge and vengeance and vendetta or whatever you want to call it.  So when we go bomb the towel heads, we wind up the kind of cuss-storm we can’t truly understand.  They’ll wear us down to the last man, the last dollar, the last bullet, the last bayonet because their sense of revenge is far better developed than ours is.  So what are we?  We’re the invaders.  I’m an active advocate of non-violence, but if someone walks into my country, onto my property with violent intent, I’ll be the first one to be slinging lead around.  There’s a different sort of mindset when you waltz into someone else’s country and start shooting.  And we’ve been on the wrong side of that coin so many times, you’ll never see it paid back.  We’d have to be invaded by two dozen different countries before we even start to get even.

And the thing that bugs me the most is when people say that God is the one behind our supposed greatness.  I guess I can blame God for all the above then?  Why does God get blamed?  Why would God bless the good ol’ US of A?  Is it because we’ve been good?  Not that I can tell.  Are we some sort of chosen nation?  I think that one was Israel.  Is it because we’re white and righteous?  There’s a Mormon reference.  BOOM!  The truth is, our church movement is stagnated and beginning to die.  We’re very nearly post-Christian.  And I for one am glad.  Maybe soon we can stop blaming God for how “awesome” we are. 

If we’re a Christian nation, we’re cuss sure a poor example of one.  But I guess that’s just hyperbole.  I don’t believe it.  I don’t have any evidence that shows it to be true.  And I’ve looked.  I’ve read the constitution, God isn’t in there.  He’s in the Confederate constitution go figure, but not ours.  There’s nothing exceptional about the US.  We got lucky on stuff like natural resources.  We killed off all the natives leaving us vast expanses of land.  We haven’t been bombed.  We were immigrated by people willing to work.  But there’s nothing exceptional about us.  We’re human like everyone else.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

White House Gives In On Bush Tax Cuts

Don't give up Obama, let the Bush Tax Cuts die!
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Thursday, November 4, 2010

[sarcasm]Now that the Republicans have Won, Abortion will End![/sarcasm]

Before I start, let me assure you that this is my own original political analysis and I have neither seen on TV nor read in any media nor heard on the radio what I am about to tell you.  I just wanted to say that because I get accused of copying Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews and I just want everyone to know that I don't and have never watched their shows.  Not a single time.  I don't even have cable.  I am a democratic socialist.  They are TV pundits.  I am able to make the distinction.  Some are not apparently.

Anyway, my analysis.

I was taken aback by what I heard.  I listened to quite a number of victory and concession speeches.  I listened mostly to republican victory and concession speeches.  I listened to Rand Paul, Christine O'Donnell, Carl Paladino, John Boehner, and others whose names are less recognizable and even less remember-able.  A single issue voter might have me believe that a republican loss would mean a loss for the pro-choice movement.  A republican win should mean victory for the babies!

But none of them mentioned abortion.

Nobody said, "Now that the American people have elected me to office, I will end abortion!"  Nobody said "since our tragic loss, unborn babies all over America will now never see the light of day."  Nobody said anything about abortion.

Not a damn thing.

Not one damn thing.

Because republicans won't do anything about abortion.

Not a damn thing.

It's a hot button issue which they were fortunate enough to have gotten on the right side of 40 years ago.  But it's just a card.  Like a King of Diamonds, or the Ace of Hearts.  It's a card, you use it to make a good hand, then when you won your chips, you shuffle it back into the deck and hope that at some time in the future you can pull it out again and use it to win another hand.  In poker, you play the people, not the cards.

They are playing the people.

Since Roe vs. Wade in 1973, the republicans have held the presidency for like 25 years.  Compare that to 14 for the democrats.  During that entire time, they did next to nothing.  Sure, they campaigned on it like mad, but the weren't playing the cards, they were playing the game, playing the people.  In the same time, they pushed abstinence only education.  Yet, we have the highest teen birth rate in the industrialized world!  They started like three wars.  You know what kills more innocent people than abortions?  WARS!!!

The democrats on the other hand want to pass out condoms, a method which tends to prevent a lot of pregnancies.  The democrats typically lift the poor, which tends to prevent a lot of unwanted pregnancies.  The democrats better fund education, education tends to prevent pregnancy.  Democrats want to provide health care, good health insurance pays for contraception, a reliable method of preventing pregnancy.  Democrats want to provide comprehensive sex education, which has the same effect as any other education like I mentioned before.  But most of them still want abortion to be legal.

The republicans didn't mention abortion because they don't care about it.  What did they mention?  They mentioned taxes, budgets, power, majority, taking things back, taking over, guns, and cuts to everything but the military.  But they didn't mention abortion.  They don't care and they won't do ANYTHING!

It's a card, and you don't play cards, you play people.

If you are a single issue voter, you are being played, and quite successfully.  Congratulations.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fair Tax

Surely, you’ve heard of the fair tax.  It’s big in libertarian circles and in many conservative ones as well.  It is an initiative to replace federal income tax with a federal sales tax.  Proponents say that it taxes wealth, that it is progressive on consumption.  A “prebate” would be paid up to the poverty level to compensate the poor.

I have a few problems with it however.

On the surface, it sounds like a great idea.  Think about it, you get a check to pay for the tax up to the poverty level, and if you spend more, you pay more tax.  Buy a Kia, and you pay Kia tax, buy a Bugatti and you pay Bugatti tax.  But it’s not really progressive on consumption is it?   A progressive tax is one that is greater on greater amounts of money.  A properly instituted progressive tax is the only truly “fair” tax.  The “Fair Tax” is a constant 33% tax, and no matter how much you spend, a regressive tax (one that is more advantageous to the wealthy because they have a much greater amount of money to pay it) still is inequitably applied to those less able to afford it.

Let’s take a few minutes to understand the differences between progressive and regressive taxes.  Let’s make up a few people, some hypothetical circumstances, and use them to understand this issue.  They will all live in Oregon so there aren’t additional sales taxes to bother with calculating.

Person A, we’ll call him Abe, is a low wage earner.  He graduated high school but was unable to attend college and now works delivering Xerox copy machine supplies for 25,000 a year.  Scrimping and saving and being a good steward of his money, he is able to fully fund his Roth IRA with $5000 every year.  The current federal poverty level is $11,000 and under the “Fair Tax” plan, he would receive a prebate for the tax he spent on buying stuff with that money.  He spends $5000 per year on rent and various non-taxed payments and spends the remaining money on what he needs to survive.  The money he has to pay taxes in is thus $4000.  With the “Fair Tax” he will spend $23 out of every $100 spent on sales tax and will be paying $920 in taxes.  That figures to be 3.7% of his income.

Person B we will call Bill.  He is an engineer and makes $100,000 a year.  He fully funds his Roth IRA, spends $25,000 on his house which he is buying and will own and on other non-taxed stuff.  He is also able to invest $10,000 which yields a return of 10%.  Like Abe, he doesn’t have to pay taxes on that $11,000 and so he has to pay taxes on $49,000.  Thus he pays a total of $11,270 in tax, 11.3% of his income.

Person C, Cal does pretty well.  He is a CEO of a company and makes 1,000,000.  He lives reasonably and invests 500,000 at a rate of 10% return.  He spends another $200,000 on things that aren’t taxed leaving $300,000 in taxed expenditures.  He will pay $69000 in tax, 6.9% of his income.

Person D, Don does really well.  He is one of those Wall Street CEO’s you hear about and he makes 50,000,000 a year.  He is able to live on about 10% of that a year and the rest is reinvested at a rate of 10%.  He pays tax on that 10% of his income that is spent and will pay $1,150,000 in tax, 2.3% of his income.  As you can see, if Don chose to, he could stop working altogether and live on the returns from his investments at his current level of comfort.

Finally I will tell you about Person E, Ed.  He founded a software company that went huge and he now makes a sh!t ton of money.  He makes 10,000,000,000 but he only lives on $100,000,000 of it in lavish opulent wealth.  He pays 23,000,000 in tax, 0.23% of his income.  Because he is able to invest so much, he gets $900,000,000 from the investments he made last year, increasing his income to 10,900,000,000, and his actual tax rate is 0.21%.

Do you see where this is going?  The more you make, the less of it you need to live on.  I could make a billion dollars a year and still live in my same house and drive my same motorcycle.  I could not do that when I was working for Xerox.  Yes, the poor get a better deal under the “Fair Tax” because they make less, but the poor currently pay virtually no tax, and in truth often get Earned Income Tax Credits.  The “Fair Tax” wants to tax them.  It places a burden upon them they already can’t carry.  I know I didn’t include it, but the rich guys still get the prebates like everyone else!

Regressive taxes work that way.  As you may have picked up in this analysis, high earners can also afford to invest a large amount of their money and through that earn even more.  I can’t do that, I have to spend a quite large fraction of my family income on a house and cars to get to work and school and food, and speaking of school, I have tens of thousands of dollars in student loans still out there.  By the time I graduate, I’m basically going to be a house and a half in debt.
With a single sales tax rate, you can’t make this tax progressive in the long run.  Even if you jacked the “poverty level” up to $100,000, it would still be a boon for the ultra-rich.  Consider this also:  the “Fair Tax” is supposed to increase the rate of investment.  Who benefits the most from increased rates of investment?  A related question: Who would benefit the most from the privatization of Social Security?  The Wall Street people benefit, the ones who already have vast amounts of money and like to play with it in ways detrimental to all of us.  Either way, they win, commoners lose, the middle class pays more money and bears the burden.  Just like today, the tax rate for capital gains is only 15%.  Who makes the most in capital gains but the ones who have capital, the wealthy.  It’s another system, a gift of the Bush Tax Cuts, which empowers the rich to concentrate wealth and allow them to get out the door without paying their tab.  It truly is “redistribution of wealth”.  But the wealth is going upward.

A properly instituted progressive income tax is the only logical solution.  Consider the great age of our country.  The greatest time for the advancement of civil rights, the greatest time for the advancement of workers rights, the creation of social security, Medicare, the EPA and all of that good stuff.  During that time, the top marginal tax rate was between 70-90%!

Libertarian ideas work in a window.  I’ve said that before.  And you must realize, this is a libertarian idea, and it does work, but only in a small window.  That window reaches up to a million dollars or so and down to a few tens of thousand.  But like other libertarian ideas, if you’re on the low end of the hill, the system works against you, and if you are on the top of the hill, the system works in favor of you.  A properly balanced system will work FOR you.

Be concerned about who pushes ideas.  This is not a bi-partisan idea.  This is a conservative libertarian republican idea.  It benefits the insanely wealthy the most, and the commoner the least.  Most right wing ideas do.

Finally, I’m not gonna tear down an idea without offering one in its place.  It’s a modern version of what we had in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. 
The amount of tax on the amount of money made below the state poverty level is tax free. 
The money made between that and 40,000 is taxed at 10%.  The amount made between 40k and 60k is taxed at 15%. 
The amount made between 60k and 80k is taxed at 20%. 
The amount between $80k and 100k is taxed at 25%. 
The amount between $100,000 and $250,000 is taxed at 30%. 
Between 250k and $1M is taxed at 50 %. 
Between $1million and $2 million is taxed at 60 %.  Between $2 million and 100 million is taxed at 75%. 
Finally, the amount above $1 billion is taxed at 90%. 
Additionally, there is no distinction made between earned income and capital gains.  It counts for total income, anything that you get during the year that you didn’t have at the beginning of the year.

This plan represents a pretty decent tax break for anyone making less than $250,000 which is in line with Obama’s current plans, and sets a truly progressive tax system which will make our system work again like the libertarians want it to work now.  It’s not that I think they are lying and want to destroy our economy, I really think they have the best interests of the country at heart, they are simply fundamentally mistaken about the results of their plans.

Now don’t take this as gospel truth, I definitely plan on revising this in the future and making and spreadsheet and all that, but this is just something to show you in which direction we should be going, and how to get to a place where you really can rise above if you put your mind to it.  

Remember, it is far better to make a billion dollars at 90% tax than it is to make 100,000 at 10%.  Higher taxes on the rich is not punishing them for making more money, it’s requiring them to pay for their footprint in the world. 

Equal is regressive.  Equitable is progressive.  The “Fair Tax” is not fair.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Inherent Necessary Inefficiencies.

Since I have been of the mind to pay attention to politics, and I am certain long before, I have heard from politicians and politicians-to-be that government should be run like a business.  I have heard that government needs to be more efficient, it needs to treat money like we who have to live and work do.


We are inherently different than the system of government.  Business is inherently different than government.

Think of it like a system with a purpose. 

A business is a system whose purpose is to generate money.  What other purpose does it have at its core?  Sure, some businesses and organizations have other purposes but by far, the vast majority of businesses exist to make money, for the owners, for the shareholders, or perhaps as tax dodges so that someone doesn’t have to pay out money on the other side.

A household is a system with a purpose.  Its purpose is to provide basic needs for people who work to earn money, and use that money to pay to maintain the household.  It serves the householders who are part of the same system.  A household would not work if it were maintained with the purpose of generating money.  I don’t even know how that would work.

A government is a system with a purpose.  Government’s purpose is to serve the people.  It serves them by building them infrastructure so that they can carry on business and householding.  It sets policies for imports and exports and regulates how businesses can treat workers.  It regulates what persons can do to each other with the purpose of creating a civil society in which everyone can carry on business and householding.  It prevents overreach of many aspects of society, and necessarily so, it serves humans.

Government to a degree facilitates everything that happens in a society.  Government can’t go bankrupt like a corporation and be dissolved and assets sold to pay debts.  Government can’t be sold like a business or a house.  Government can’t buy other governments. A government cannot be run like a business because it doesn’t create wealth or serve to generate money, it distributes it by its very nature.  It collects money via taxes and fees and provides services based on what needs to be accomplished to move the society forward.

Unlike a business, government serves the people.  Unlike money, the best needs met for people do not lie in what makes the most money.  There are inherent and necessary inefficiencies.  Because government controls so much, it needs inherent drogues to keep it from commanding everything in its path.  It needs to apply drogues to businesses and householders so that they may not overstep their bounds also.

Consider the Senate of the United States of America.  According to James Madison, "The use of the Senate is to consist in proceeding with more coolness, with more system, and with more wisdom, than the popular branch."  The Senate was necessarily less efficient than the House, more deliberative, less apt to act with haste, a necessary and inherent inefficiency.  At this point in time, progress in the senate has slowed to a crawl because some senators value the business of money more than they value the business of serving the people.  While this is a seriously annoying hang-up, it is an inherent necessary inefficiency to keep the government from overreaching in faster times.

Inefficiency in government prevents great evils from coming to pass if they work right.  As a price for this, great goods are also slowed.

The justice system works similarly.  In order that the minimum number of innocent people are dealt with unjustly, sometimes a known criminal must be released because he was not read his rights when he was arrested or because proper procedure was not followed in some other aspect.  We complain about these miscarriages of justice because we know a guilty party got away with something.  How much more would we complain if we the innocent party were unjustly prosecuted for the same crime?  It is a necessary and inherent inefficiency that keeps the system from running amuck. 

Democracy itself is likewise inherently inefficient.  Why spend so much time debating and arguing and legislating in one direction and then another when we could have some glorious all powerful leader who could make changes to our society en masse?  Because though that kind of government is far more efficient at getting things done, it is also inherently unjust, or so history would tell us.  Democracy, when it works correctly, allows people to govern themselves and move in a direction that generally has the best interests of the society as a whole.

As an aside, let me cut you libertarians, corporatists, plutocrats, autocrats, and republicans off at the pass before you try to tell me that democracies are inherently evil and that the majority will eventually confiscate rights and freedom from the minority.  I have done my best to test that assertion, and I have found it to be categorically false.  I even had a libertarian try to tell me that Hitler was democratically elected.  It’s simply false.  I can’t find an example where a democracy has confiscated rights from a minority.  If you can provide me one, I’d be happy to consider it, but expect to defend your assertion.

Yes, we all know government is inefficient.  We try to make it more efficient.  We want it to work for the benefit of all citizens.  But to do that, there are some things it can’t do efficiently and we need to accept that.  It shouldn’t be wasteful, but some waste is inherent in a system that serves people.  A system that serves money is allowed to be far more ruthless. 

When government becomes ruthless and cold, you know it is serving money and not the people.  When moneyed interests make plans for government, you know they are seeking to change government so that it serves money and not the people. 

But it needs to be inefficient.  It requires, and was designed with, a certain necessary inherent level of inefficiency so that it would fulfill its purpose in serving the people and not the money.

I eventually plan to start a business where one of the stated purposes is to provide jobs, to serve people.  To do that, there will have to be a necessary inherent inefficiency introduced fundamentally into the system so that the sole purpose of the business is not simply to make money, but to serve the people working there.

This post serves to further one of my overall messages that catchphrases, soundbites, and litmus tests are truly useless to our representative democracy.  The truth lies in in-depth study, discussion, understanding, and reason.  The truth and the best good for the society and our nation lies in seeing every side of an issue, in not yelling, not offering incendiary arguments, and not offering catchphrases in place of reasoned discussions and compromises.  Nuance is as important as progress.  Depth of understanding is as important as passing a bill. It’s an inherent necessary inefficiency, that we have to slow down and think about what we are doing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What Do You Believe?

In our culture today, so many times the question is asked about what we believe, especially in politics and religion.  Do believe in Jesus as your personal lord and savior?  Do you believe that a woman has the right to control her own body?  Do you believe in the death penalty?  Do you believe the earth is 6000 years old?  Do you believe in fiscal responsibility?

It doesn't matter what you believe, it matters what you're going to do about it.

That's my stand.  In the bible, James said:  "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works."  "Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?"  So I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't matter what you believe because what you say you believe makes you a liar unless what you do backs it up.  If James calls it useless, than it is useless.  Apart from the Bible, I still say if you can't back up what you believe by what you do, then it truly is useless!

The American Christian (you know what I think about these people) culture today is one in which you are defined by what you believe, or at least what you say you believe.  Are you against abortion?  Are you against gay marriage?  Are you against taxes?  Are you a fiscal conservative?  Yes?  Well then by Jove, you're okay in my book!  But like I said, so?  What I want to know is what are you going to do about it?

Conservatives have been against abortion for forty years.  They have used it for forty years to gain votes, but in the end, what have they done about it?  Little more than nothing.  Well, they won elections, so I guess that counts.  I have recently been encountering atheists who are now approaching the ability to discuss moral issues in a playing field which for so long has been dominated by people of faith.  Jen Roth is a so-called pro-life atheist and she has such a powerful case against abortion that usually argumentative commentators can't but sit and listen to her lay it out.  I'm currently reading a new book by atheist Sam Harris called "The Moral Landscape."  And it's hard to fathom, but atheists are now, at least in my view, making better cases for moral issues than the staid Christian apologists. 

If this plays out, American Christianity is in some sh!t!

P.S.  I really hope it's deep!

But how could I say these things?  I'm a follower of Jesus after all, I believe all the stuff I'm supposed to believe right?  The difference is what I am going to do about it.

Jen Roth with her "Pro Peace" makes the best case, and I'm gonna mix hers and my stuff here for a minute to make an aggregate case for thought, action, and nuance.  Okay, so we all, on all sides can agree that abortion is not a good thing.  Even pro-choice people can usually agree that having less abortions is better.  There's something about the psycho-physical interaction that is a woman that says that the loss of a child is a damaging event.  But pro-choice people still want the option to be there just in case, and typical pro-life people think the benefit of life to the being is more important than the emotional or other state of the woman. 

Okay, so we want less abortions, now what?  The belief is out of the way, so what should we do about it because it's the doing that is the important part is it not?  That's what I said up there, so that's what it is.

What are our options?  Some say overturn Roe vs. Wade.  Truth be told, this is not a viable option.  It's a decision that gives federal rights to people, a whole bunch of people aren't gonna let that happen.  There will be riots and if it does succeed, it will be driven by the American Church and the Church will lose the American people for generations, and probably forever.  In short, it isn't going to happen.  It's just not.  It's not a viable option, it's not a peaceful option.  Likewise, making abortions on demand and free is not going to make their numbers go down like we all want.

Now if we come to the table to form a solution in the spirit of cooperation and reason, you know, being reasonable, both sides need to make some concessions.  This is how cooperation and negotiation works.  This is how it is done.  You can take power by force and alienate your opponents, or you can meet in the middle and step by step, progress can be made.  By the way, that is my definition of progress, moving forward, getting things done piece by piece, thing by thing.  That's why I can be against the health bill because it doesn't do what we need, but for it because it takes several steps in the right direction.

First of all, we just have to abandon abstinence only education.  It doesn't work.  It simply doesn't work.  Teens are gonna have sex.  The good parents can have a good lifelong effect on that, but the schools are gonna have a really rough time getting that to be effective.

People gotta stop trashing Planned Parenthood simply for fun.  Where I grew up, Planned Parenthood handed out condoms on demand.  That was a good thing.  Who knows how many pregnancies were avoided because of that.

The rights of women to not get pregnant if they choose such must be held high.  There are a lot of women who are coerced into getting pregnant.  This creates a lot of strife and is not a peaceful option for the world.  Also, a great many women are coerced into having an abortion by their boyfriends or their families.  That's unacceptable. 

What I mean to say with all this is very important.  We're not going to get abortion illegalized, at least not in my lifetime and not peacefully.  So let us put our beliefs into action to realistically reduce the number of abortions.  Let us change militant attitudes and single issue voter status quos to affect real change.

Because it doesn't matter what you believe, it matters what you're going to do about it.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Review: Harley Motorcycles at Bikes, Blues, and Barbecue.

In the last two days, I had the opportunity to ride six different models of Harley Davidson.  They were Sportster Forty 8, Sportster 883 Low, Fat Bob, Fat Boy Classic, V-Rod Muscle, and one other soft-tail of some sort.  I was also able to ride a Can-Am Spyder, a three wheeled vehicle built more like a snow mobile than a motorcycle.

I was looking for a motorcycle to consider buying when my 1995 Honda Nighthawk 750 kicks the bucket.  This is not likely to happen soon, it just passed the 30,000 mile mark and runs presumably like the day it was made, definitely like the day I got it, that is before I switched it over to synthetic lubricants.

The biggest difference I noticed was between my bike and the others when I switched back which I did after riding two Harleys in a row in each case.  My bike weighs probably 200-300 lbs less than the average Harley and maneuvers much better.  It also vibrates a whole lot less, in fact, the first time I started it up after riding the first two Harleys, I had to rev the engine to see if it was actually on.

Which leads me to my first point.

Harleys vibrate.  With the exception of the V-Rod, Harleys use an air cooled 45 degree offset v-twin.  With their sheer size and power and natural imbalance, they vibrate a lot, especially Sportsters without counterbalances.  The Classic was probably the best beside the V-Rod, but let me explain the V-Rod. 

The V-Rod is not your traditional Harley by a long shot.  It was designed with help from Porshe, and differs in many significant ways.  First, it is offset by 60 degrees which makes it a bit bigger even though the displacement is significantly smaller.  Adding to that factor is water cooling.  It is also counter balanced making it much smoother than the other machines even though the engine is hard mounted instead of rubber mounted like the others.  It makes a sound unlike any I have come across.  Able to rev to 9k, it easily beats any of the other Harleys whose rev limiters kicked in with out much notice around 6k or so.

All the Harleys are big.  They all maneuver significantly slower than my bike.  Several I was able to drag the foot pegs on the ground without trying, and the 883 Low was so easy that I was able to drag pegs on both sides in successive left and right swerves.  That was without leaving my lane and at 50 mph or more.  Probably the best one of the standard machines would have been the one I didn't get to ride, but did get to sit on, the Sportster 1200X with its dirt bike styling (but not functionality) and sport bike peg position.  It's handlebar position was way better too, like some street-fighter conversions I've seen with dirt bars.

Of all the bikes I tried, with a change of handlebars, the V-Rod would be the one I would go with.  It is the most powerful, the best technology, probably the longest lasting, and the best technology.  What can I say, I'm an engineer.

The Spyder was a different bird altogether.  I didn't like it much.  It rides like a four-wheeler on pavement which is to say it's way too sensitive and it seems could toss you if you get a bee stuck in your helmet and twitch too hard.  The electronic shifting sucked.  They tell you not to let off the gas when you shift.  They didn't say why, but it turns out that the machine does it for you which isn't cool.  Fortunately it does have a manual option, so there's that.  I wouldn't ride one unless I lost my left leg.  You still need your right leg because that's the only option for a brake, though I think that could be remedied with a little imagination.  For someone only trained on two-wheelers, the Spyder can be a problem.  A lady in front of me almost ran off the road trying to countersteer like you would a motorcycle. 

The three wheeled configureation is naturally more stable than a standard trike configuration which leaves much to be desired in handling, and as I have said before, one of my favorite cars is the Aptera 2e with the same configuration, but it's a car, it has a steering wheel and not handlebars.  I think the handlebars are what causes the problem.

I hope some real life experience could help someone, if you have any questions, I avidly answer comments.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Book Review: "Patience with God: Faith for People who Don't Like Religion {or Atheism}" by Frank Schaeffer

Patience with God is an excellent book.  The early sections on atheist and christian fundamentalists are especially interesting.  Frank Shaeffer while writing from a sort of christian point of view keeps it real and visceral by not shying away from strong language.  He is never shackled by politeness.  His criticisms of fundamentalist atheists are especially good.

Later in the book where he focuses more on his backstory and history and philosophy, the salient points are further between, but Frank is a good writer, and if he doesn't expand your vocabulary, you're probably an english major.  Unlike other books where I feel like the author was writing to a ninth grader, Frank keeps it more up to my level.

I heartily recommend this book especially if like me, you're searching for not just something to believe in but the best and most truthful something to believe in.  And I don't mean truth in a "We have the truth, join us" sort of way, but a level headed look at the real factual truth, the truth that God is not the god of the fundamentalists, or the right wing, but the creator and redeemer of our planet.

I don't recommend reading Schaeffer's book to believe everything that's in it, but rather to read it to glean information and ideas from it.  Schaeffer takes an even more liberal and cynical view of religion than I do, and if you read his Huffington Post articles, you'll find that.  At times he can even be a bit overly hostile especially toward the Older Testament.  But he has a very interesing and eye opening point of view.

If you plan to read this book, I suggest you read "Crazy for God" first as this book may seem to build upon it in a few places.  They were written in that order, so it only makes sense to read them in that order.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

You Don't Need a Zero-Turn Mower.

Full disclosure, I used to work at Lowe's selling lawn mowers and tractors before I was married and started college. 

I loved it. 

I was good at it. 

If it paid five or ten times more, I'd do it for the rest of my life.

It was a whole lot of fun.

I was developoing my environmentalism back then.  During breaks, I would grab the latest issue of Mother Earth News and go out to the outdoor section where the outdoor furniture is and I'd take my red jersey uniform thing and hide it under a pillow and I'd sit on one of those cushy outdoor reclining deck chairs and I'd read for fifteen minutes.

I learned (as I still do quite regularly) what I wanted in a house, in a lawn mower, in a garden, in a car and in a whole bunch of other areas.

I also learned how to sell lawn mowers.

I learned to turn on a backwoods Arkansas accent and say "Yes ma'am!" when asked a question.  You see, you have to sell to the wife, you can sell the husband no problem, but if he tells you that he has to go ask his wife, you can just forget about it.  I only had one guy who did that actually come back and buy anything.

Anyway, zero-turn mowers.  So, I'm a huge believer in efficiency.  My family vehicles include nothing with more than four cylinders in its engine.  My primary vehicle for most of the year is a motorcycle that gets more than 40 miles per gallon.  My work truck is a 1985 Toyota Pickup that on many occassions gets overloaded and drags itself down the freeway at 50 miles an hour with a full bed and pulling a full trailer.  It's great.

I did sell my fair share of zero turn mowers, but the only time I ever saw that they were necessary was for commercial use.  I even worked for a company where one of my jobs was to mow the lawn of the office and the boss's house with a real legitimate commercial zero-turn mower, one that cost more than my truck and my motorcycle combined when I bought them.  And I did end up selling one of the Cub Cadet zero-turns to a commercial guy from Lowe's, and of course, that voids the warranty but he managed to break it before the thirty day return policy was up, so he got to return it anyway, but returns are a story for another day.

For homeowners, zero-turn mowers are completely unnecessary.  First, they cost a whole lot more than any lawn tractor, even those with much larger deck sizes.  They cost more because they have two hydrostatic transmissions where a lawn tractor would have only one and more transmissions means a larger engine is necessary to propel the machine.  That's a ding against the efficiency. 

At either Lowe's or Sears, you can get a 54 inch lawn tractor, capable of the same speed as a zero-turn, for more than thousand dollars less than a comparable consumer grade zero-turn.  But you'll be able to do stuff with the tractor that you can't do with the other like bag clippings, pull things, and get good fuel economy.

One of the big selling points is that zero-turn mowers can go around trees quicker.  This is pretty well bogus, since the mowers go the same speed, and if your trees are properly mulched with a three to five foot radius, any lawn tractor can mow around them with no problems at all.

Additionally, if you have that much lawn and you're just mowing it to make it look nice, you're wasting your time.  I have over an acre of lawn, but my primary use of the lawn is to collect grass clippings for mulch and compost.  If I didn't use so many clippings, I wouldn't have so much lawn. because there's no reason for it.  I would expand the garden, plant tons more fruit trees and grape vines (already in the works) and only use a push mower, probably electric.

Speaking of electric mowers, they are the best option if you can afford them, they produce no pollution at point of use, they cost far less to operate, and they are much quieter.

The only reason to buy a zero-turn mower is for commercial use where the mower needs to be maneuvered into strange spaces at high speeds, be loaded and unloaded from a trailer multiple times a day, and have no need for bagging.  A better option still is to have no unnecessary lawn, to have native plants that don't need to be watered or fertilized, or fruit trees with heavy mulch around them so that no grass grows but the soil still absorbs healthy amounts of rain water.

My prime goal in everything is utilitarianism, and my secondary goal is efficiency.  Utilitarian is a lawn tractor that can do all kinds of things and contributes to my other biological systems, and efficiency is doing that with the most fuel efficient, economic, and appropriate machine available.

Just some practical tips you can use, if you ever need to know what mower to buy, I'm always available, leave a comment.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Book Review: Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back by Frank Shaeffer

In the last few days, I've been reading this very interesting book.  I had seen Frank Shaeffer several times on shows like Rachel Maddow and on YouTube.  I was very interested in his points of view considering that he is a left leaning Christian, I guess you could say.

I was even more intrigued when I learned about his past, how he was the son of the late great evangelical theologian Francis Shaeffer, though after reading this book, he might just be late, but everyone has their flaws.  The subtitle really explains a lot.  Frank was the one or one of the main ones who brought the abortion issue into the mainstream conservative religious right playbook.

Frank grew up in Switzerland, the child of two evangelical royalty as he calls them.  Of the many things I learned from this book was a couple of ways how not to raise your children.  Frank was for most of his childhood given the run of the land and little education.  It also didn't help that he had dyslexia.

He doesn't hide much, talking about how controlling, hyperspiritualized, and condescending his mother was, and how abusive his father was toward his mother.  He also tells about his own inheritance of these traits, how mean he was to his wife and children.  He also tells how his parents were uncommonly kind and understanding to people commonly rejected outright by the contemporary American church.  There don't seem to be any subjects that Frank doesn't cover, including masturbation, spousal abuse, and a crush he had on a star of one of his movies.

He talks about his abandoned art career, his successful professional Christian career, his failed movie director career, and finally his success and contentment as an author and conversion to the Greek Orthodox church.

Most interesting was the inner workings for the christian right movement which has taken political power for the past few decades.  It was very interesting to learn the history, the behind the scenes wrangling, attitudes, and control.  

I would recommend this book to anyone.  It's the real life story of real life people whose fingerprints on society have shaped history for decades and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  This book gets pretty real, there's swearing, there's sex, there's yelling, and there's the behind the scenes lives of revered people.  9/10.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Libertarians Abandon Free Market Democracy in Favor of Despotism and other stuff that is completely hypocritical.

I very recently had the following conversation on Facebook with a couple of people who are staunch libertarians.  For years, I have heard that true democracy is evil because the majority will do what ever makes sense for them at the peril of the minority.  But I want to know, when has this happened?  I know the rhetoric by heart, but where’s the evidence?

If you can answer the question, I really want to hear it, and I’m not just trying to prove a point, I really want to know!  I can’t find a single case.  Everything I find shows the most evil despotic regimes and rulers coming to power through some sort of uprising or coup.

I’ve replaced the names with descriptions if you couldn’t tell.

Host Republic vs. Democracy. I still want to know how laws are created in a Republic. Majority rule? Minority rule? Common sense? WHO gets to make the decision what laws are created? If it's rule by the people, it's Democracy. But Democracy turns into an evil force of plunder and oppression. What are your thoughts on this?

[YouTube video link which didn’t come through.]

Our system of government was never intended to be a democracy. Although many believe that we live in one, they have never been asked to vote on the decisions made by said government. Yet they believe that they are empowered just the same. We are not.

[At this point, there are a couple of posts that have been deleted.  I asked if someone (I knew there are always libertarians lurking around) could give me an example of a democracy that turned evil like they often talk about.  The Host made a sarcastic comment to the effect that the USA was such a country.]

Me I was looking for was an answer. Do you have one? Sarcasm about a country that is by your own account not a democracy does not count.

Host Ok, Rome fell when it morphed from a Republic to a Democracy.

Host And, you're missing the point of my post.

Me Rome fell when it went from a democracy to a monarchy. And you're not answering the question adequately.

Other Guy The point is that the will of the majority is not always just. There has to be a check against that power to protect the individual. IN our system, that is the constitution and the judiciary. No system is perfect however. Our constitution was as close as it comes in my opinion. Unfrotunately it's completely ignored most of the time.

Other Guy When the ballot box fails, there is always the bullet box.

[Notice here, the immediate abandonment of democracy and straight to bullying and violence when not in the position of power]

Other Guy Case in point, slavery (as pointed out by Host). The ballot box wasn't an option. The bullet box solved the problem.

[Actually, if you read history, the “bullet box” in this case was first checked by what we now understand (in many contexts) as the losing side.]

Me Show me the evil democracy you guys always tell me about.

Other Guy Do you read anything anyone writes?

Me The name of a country please.

Other Guy Naaaa, I'm not wasting my time. I was planning to get drug naked through a parking lot full of ground glass into a pond filled with alcohol. I wouldn't miss that just to argue with you.

[And that was the first inclination of when I knew I would never get an answer because the other side was in a losing argument and was not going down with any honor.]

Me I'm not arguing, I'm asking a question about a point I hear all the time and getting no answer.

Other Guy You've got plenty of answers, you just ignore them.

Host I want to know what's the difference between a Democracy and a Republic REALLY. A Republic is "rule by law"- but whose law? Who decides. I believe I said that in the original post. This is a "working out an internal conflict" post.

If you'd like to give me an answer to the question I actually asked, I'd be happy to consider it thoughtfully.

"But Democracy turns into an evil force of plunder and oppression." This was part of the post. I would just like to see a legitimate example of this statement.

Host In a 56 word post, you are obsessed with these 11. 9 sentences, 5 of which were questions. Thanks for reading the whole context and sticking with it.

Me I would be happy to consider your questions if I could just have a little clarification on your statement. The answer to my question will necessarily father the answer to your question.

Other Guy Clarification: democracy is mob rule. What do you not understand?

Host What if it was a repetition of what I hear others say in an attempt to challenge them to answer MY FRIGGIN' questions in their responses?

Other Guy Hey I will say something for WiredForStereo. AT least he hasn't called us racist yet.

[I’m not sure exactly to what this is referring.]

Me What I mean is, there are over 190 countries on earth. What I'm asking is, which one of these fits your definition of the evil of democracy? And if there is not one in existence now, which one in the past typifies your statement?

Host ‎23 comments. 23 comments and still no feedback on a deeply troubling question. If I'd asked for proof that Jesus was the son of God because I just don't get it, I probably would have been able to get THAT question answered.

Me I give you my word that I will comment on your question as soon as I get the clarification I'm looking for.

As for Jesus, what sort of proof would be acceptable to you?

[This is an important question.  What kind of proof would be accepted by people who won't even answer a question that exposes the fundamental absurdity of their position?]

Host What if it was a repetition of what I hear others say in an attempt to challenge them to answer MY FRIGGIN' questions in their responses? I swear I feel like I'm talking to a wall.

Me You do I. I would absolutely love to answer your question, and believe me, it's a subject I am dying to weigh in on as soon as some one will give me an example of the statement in the post.

Other Guy You are talking to a wall Host. It's cheap entertainment. Remember the eternal wisdom of Thomas Jefferson, "Ridicule is the only weapon that can be used against unintelligible propositions".

[An interesting point, but the unintelligible proposition is one that here cannot, no, will not be backed up by any sort of evidence.]

Me Show me some ridicule, some name calling, some sarcasm, anything. I'm asking a question and no one will answer it.

Second Guy Evil democracy - Haiti... Pre-WWI Germany... Pakistan... Iran... United Nations (quasi-democracy)... Lebanon... China. FUTURE evil democracies - Iraq... Afghanistan.

[Finally, after hours, someone actually tries to give some evidence.]

Host Let me get this straight. I ask 5 questions, and you ask 1 in response to my 5. Then, you refuse to answer any of my 5 until I answer your one. Your one question, which I've said, not once, but twice, was a half way sarcastic remark to get people to think before they answer my 5 questions and not necessarily a direct position statement.

Other Guy Don't get your hopes up Second Guy. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. LOL

I completely disagree Host. Every question I've asked has been completely serious.

Second Guy, excellent post, I'll get back to you, but off hand I know that Iraq, China, Iran, and Afghanistan are republics. The UN is not a country and as we all know is relatively impotent, but I will research and get back to you in a few minutes.

Host You really DO refuse to read anything I've written tonight, don't you? Where did I say what YOU'VE written wasn't serious?

Second Guy ‎"The People's Republic of China" is as much a republic as "The People's Republic of North Korea." You can call a turd a rose, but it's still a turd.

Me The Republic of Haiti, The Weimar Republic, The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Lebanon, all republics. You'll remember that Hitler was placed in power by the previous old guy and not voted in per se.

Second Guy As much as I would love to continue this banter.I have a long drive to our LPAR BBQ tomorrow at Mt. Nebo. See you there Host. Wish you were coming, Jason. If you change your mind, we will be there all day and night tomorrow, leaving out Sunday,

Me I define sarcasm as not being serious, at least in part. I've not been sarcastic.

Me I'm asking a question, and Second Guy was the only one who even bothered to try to answer it.

Host I see. You're superior to me. And your questions mean much more on this earth than mine do. That's rather misogynistic, don't you think?

[And now it’s personal.  This is the sum total of the devolution of discussion and debate.  The name calling begins, but I won’t have any of it.]

Me I don't have any idea what you’re talking about, and I'm not going to start tossing around five syllable insults. I told you Host, I'm not going to be doing that any more. If you don't want to answer, then don't. If you do, then do. Don't stoop to that level. I'm not going to be doing it either.

A TeaParty Person
Host. America is a "Democratic Republic". This means that we elect representatives (that's the domocratic part) who in turn represents us in running the government (Republic). The Founders set it up that way because at that time, they believed that few citizens truly understood how to run a government but felt strongly that "The People" had to be able to particpate in their government. America is NOT a democracy as it is classically defined. There has been no true democracy that survived throughout history and a total republic is very close to a socialistic society. By combining both types of government - something that had never been done before - the Founders basically invented a new type of government. Ultimately, this form of government became the greatest society the world has ever seen.

We must protect our government as defined in our Constitution. Allowing ANYONE to "fundamentally change America" is criminal and falls outside the US Constitution. We hope this helps.See More

A Girl
I agree that our founding fathers were inspired in creating the Constitution. I'm not sure what they set up is a simple republic. As I understand it the difference between a democracy and a republic is that the people select leaders to make the laws rather than make laws directly (well, referendums seem to circumvent this a bit).

And I think originally it was another degree separated (I'm not a political history buff). The people voted to select electors who then used their judgment to select the people they considered best suited. Public popularity votes were optional early on, though, I think they somehow crippled the electors so that they had to vote the way public vote at some point. Not sure if that's good or bad, but it does take a lot of power away from that level of decision making.

So, to get back to your original question... ...the laws are made not by 'the people' but by an ever changing group of people who 'the people' have vested their trust in.

So what does this do to the laws then? Well, this group of people is selected from the pool of 'the people' and have a lot of the various flaws and good points. So sort of the laws might be said to be 'of the people' though not quite of the majority nor really of any minority either. It's really 'of this group of individuals,' so it'd be a oligarchy if the group didn't change up. With a lot of leaders taking direction (as least that's what they claim) from what they feel the people who voted for them would choose, it shifts the decision process closer to a democracy. Theoretically the leaders of a republic should be using their best judgment to choose the best route (most moral, even handed, etc) whether the people who voted for them would agree or not.

The flaw of democracy is that it's unstable. Our self serving inclinations get out of hand and we start choosing only those things with personal short term benefits, despite the cost to the future or to non-majority groups. I think the republic set up is intended to put a bit of distance there so that the government would respond to the ideals of the time, hopefully to the best ideals, and yet exert enough 'self control' that, as a nation, we could make ourselves take the harder path with better long term outlook. To swallow the bitter medicine if the nation got sick. ...I wish I could be more certain that this is how the current administration functions...

Oh, and can't you delete notes from other people on your own page? I hope so. Deleting off topic comments is valid moderation technique. It's not like the comments can't be written on their own wall if they want to discuss something else.

*Which I agree with as well. I think it takes a fair bit of education and/or natural aptitude for that level of management and tracing side effects laws. I'm not sure that all of our current leaders are qualified. The 'lets vote yes on this so we can find out what's in it' comment boggles my mind. But I sure wouldn't want running the country put in my personal hands. Even if I could manage not to be the puppet of more experienced people, I'd still wreak havoc with inexperience.

[Now here’s something, but despite the continual tirade against democracy, there’s still no evidence offered as to an example of how democracy is evil.  We all know why, the reasons, the justifications, but where’s proof?]

A TeaParty Person Girl. You gave an excellent description. I guess the future generation of leaders is not yet a lost cause. Thanks.

A Girl Oh silly me. I deleted the sentence that needed the foot note. Oops. It was in reference to the comment on whether the founding fathers didn't trust just everyone to know how to run a country.

‎"The flaw of democracy is that it's unstable. Our self serving inclinations get out of hand and we start choosing only those things with personal short term benefits, despite the cost to the future or to non-majority groups."

I'd like to see an example of this.

 A Girl D.a., that does sound interesting. If I get enough mental space to give it some attention could I ask for a similar synopsis?

A Girl Oh, no worries and thanks Red. I'd assumed it would just be too long to fit in a comment. Which is also why I'll need to find a moment and block out some mental space to digest such a synopsis. Otherwise I'd just skim it and probably end up confused.

Host Thanks Girl, Red, and whichever fine lady from TeaParty helped shed some light on the original questions.

Me But my question remains in the dark.

[]And that was the end of it.  I realize not all of this is pertinent to the thesis, but I had to post all of the convo because in case someone finds this and identifies themselves (it happened with Laurie Masterson recently even though the internet visitor who claims to be Laurie was on a computer located in the wrong city).  I want there to be complete transparency, well except for the names.  I don’t want to take anyone out of context.  I don’t know who deleted the first couple of posts, but it wasn’t me.

The point here is that from what I’ve seen, democracy is getting further and further from a primary goal of our society as constructed by libertarians and republicans and conservatives, and it’s being done naturally by the people who would take control at gunpoint if they can’t figure out how to get a majority in an election.  They consistently talk about the tyranny of the majority while logically pushing a tyranny of a minority.  It just all depends on where you are and if your side has more votes.  Remember when Bush II got caught with his pants down in Iraq when there turned out to be no WMD’s and suddenly, our mission was to bring democracy to Iraq?  Yeah, that’s sick.

We can never allow a movement to take power that believes it should be in power even if most people won’t vote for it. 

The constitution is there to maintain the equitable distribution of protection to the minority, not give it power to rule.

Furthermore, because I need to interject Jesus into everything, I need to point out that Jesus never ever advocated taking power by force, no matter the circumstances, and given the chance to do just that at the highest point in his popularity, he refused.  I mention Jesus often in these types of posts because conservatives (not the libertarians in this post specifically) are most often Christians.  And yet, despite what the man they believe is their God said, they are the ones hinting at a second civil war.  They like to call it a second American Revolution, but anyone who has the ability to think about it will realize quite quickly that it’s a civil war. 

We really didn’t do well in the last civil war, we lost.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Another Look at Helping: A Follow-up to the Honduras Post.

Since I wrote that last post about "short term missions," I have received quite a bit of feedback.

The vast majority of it has been along the lines of "fair" and "harsh."

Both of these are true and while my intention was fair and not so much harsh, I don't seem to have a lot of control on the harshness, and I'll tell you why.  My best writing comes when I am very emotional or angry about something.  There were many things in there I felt very strongly about and still do and I apologize for anyone's feelings, but there are more important things than feelings.

The truth is more important than feelings.

And the truth is that after fifty years and billions upon billions of dollars of "aid" to places like Africa, our heavenly minded efforts have yielded little more than dependence.

We're doing it wrong.

And I'm not even talking about evangelism here, most of those places where humanitarian aid is being dispensed have been or are being evangelized.  But it's hard to learn anything on an empty stomach.  We need to fix the empty stomach, and not just by filling it today, but teaching how to fill it for a life time.

My mentor sent me a link to a trailer for the movie "What are we doing here?"  I am very strongly looking forward to watching it.

You see, far more than the expected "fair" and "harsh" returns I got from that post are all the people who I'm finding have already come up with this same stuff on their own.  On the suggestion of a friend of mine, I have decided not to go on short term group trips anymore.  Rather, I'll go on trips with just me or a couple of close friends or family members.

I feel a movement coming.  A movement of humanitarians who have seen that the easy "throw money at it" solution doesn't work and that the real solution requires a lot of hard thinking, planning, doing, and then rethinking.  A movement of people who know that the benevolent white man doesn't always know best.  I see a movement of people who care where all this is going and who don't simply feel better because the check is in the mail to some "help the poor starving children" fund with high overhead.

I know I get cynical.  I am cynical.  I doubt everything.  Someone has to.  But as you might be able to tell, I'm also an unsinkable optimist.  It's a fantastic dichotomy I know.  It's hard to deal with sometimes, but we're not here for things to be easy.  The most damaging things in life are often really easy to do.  The most beneficial are often very hard.

So stick with me here,

and do the hard thing.