Culture and Religion

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The End of Civil Debate

So many issues are subjects for an argument but without ever discussing the real issue or the real agenda being pushed by one of the two sides involved in the issue. If the two sides cannot confront the real issue or the hidden agenda then either the situation just lurks unresolved or else the argument continues as just venting on both sides without any effort at a resolution. These are the issues that seem most important to resolve.

Representative democracy

America’s form of government is a representative democracy where the people elect a representative for their interests. Unfortunately, in practice the people vote for a candidate who then represents the interests for those that fund their election campaigns. The two parties find candidates that are agreeable to those interests that fund the party’s election campaigns. This leaves the electorate without any real choices. The parties have control over the election process so it is difficult for any third party candidate to get around the rules and get elected. This situation is recognized by the electorate which consistently gives the national government institutions very low approval ratings (March 2010: 76% disapproval) – because they do not represent their interests. Many of the following issues in this page are affected by this electoral process.

Attempts to address campaign finance reform confronted the Supreme Court recent decision that ruled corporate campaign contributions should not be restricted. Our government is leading our country to a class-based society, with a privileged upper class in opposition to all the rest.

According to Wikipedia, America is a constitutional republic, not a representative democracy, because our Constitution was written to prevent tyranny of the majority. The recent Bush 43 administration implies that Constitution is no longer important.

Probably hoping for a return to dominance like with Bush 43, the Republican Party seems determined to just obstruct anything the Democratic Party is seeking, rather than working toward legislation that might suit the needs of the American people.

Perhaps some of our representatives are surly and uncivil because they feel some guilt after betraying the trust endowed by the people that elected them into their office.


Health Care

The bottom line in the health care situation is that there is a significant percentage of Americans with limited or no access to health care. The health insurance industry is structured like automobile insurance. A person buys the insurance coverage for a car based on the value of the car. As the car ages, its value decreases and the insurance premium increases so eventually the person might carry minimal if any damage protection. If an old car is severely damaged in an accident it is more practical economically to buy another car rather than pay a high insurance premium because the accumulative cost of that insurance is more than the replacement cost. Essentially an old car is allowed to just die (to be junked) rather than repaired.

With health insurance, those with the necessary income and/or an employer to help with the costs can buy coverage for the severe health problems. This insurance typically costs more for older people. Unfortunately in America there are many that lack the income and/or employer for adequate health insurance. Also since the health insurance industry consists of for profit corporations their policies can restrict coverage for their clients based on their rules (including a rule that could affect the company’s profitability). Therefore people that confront high health care costs can go bankrupt. Also those without adequate insurance are unable to obtain preventive care and so are more likely to develop preventable diseases. Essentially, with this current system the uninsured and underinsured are allowed to die, either financially or physically.

The debate really should be whether this health insurance system is acceptable, with a known high attrition of citizens dying and/or suffering due to lack of health care, or whether a single payer system should be adopted, as is common in most other industrialized countries.

Instead of truly addressing this health care problem (where everyone should at least have access to preventive care, even if elective procedures could be debated), the debate has been about how to force everyone in the country to buy health insurance and those that do not could be fined. Unfortunately, in our representative democracy, the health insurance industry has substantial influence on the political process.

The debate must be about providing access to health care, not to health care insurance.


War on Drugs

The war on drugs is both a derivative of a strain of Puritanism in America that was able to pass Prohibition and a push for political control of Americans. Recreational drug use is a victimless crime and so it should not be important to others unless that behavior becomes an actual problem, like violence or damage. For example drinking to excess is not a problem until that is a problem for others, like drunk driving. There are laws involving the punishment for driving when drunk but there are not laws for just drinking (Prohibition revealed how ineffective that attempt can be).

The war on drugs is simply Prohibition again but on a different intoxicant than alcohol.

However much is made in the debate about the crime associated with the distribution of these illegal drugs. Ironically there was much crime involved with the distribution of alcohol during Prohibition era but still the public and politicians were able to see that the legality of the substance creates the crime, not the substance. The debate about our current war on drugs should be about the policy not about the crime that results from that policy.


Abortion

In a practical manner, most should agree that every person is responsible for his or her own health. For example, if someone decides to smoke cigarettes to excess resulting in lung cancer at an early age, there is no political group pushing to make that behavior illegal. However when a woman becomes pregnant there are many that pursue that as a different scenario and that woman becomes subject to the wishes of others because of the importance attached to a fetus. Even though that pregnancy might have been unwanted (such as the girl was underage or the act was not consensual), the woman could be prevented from terminating the pregnancy and must carry the fetus to term, regardless of the financial or emotional trauma to be endured.

Much of the debate is often about late term abortions or about government funding for poor women. These scenarios are then used by ‘pro life’ groups to conflate all scenarios together to seek a policy that prevents an abortion in other scenarios as well. The basic issue is really just whether a woman has the responsibility for her own body. Everything else about this debate (even to the point of deciding on the moment when a human life begins) implies that she is not the most important person in the situation and someone else will decide whether an abortion is even permitted.

The debate should be about who is the appropriate person to make a decision about a woman’s pregnancy and I find it difficult to justify that as someone other than the woman involved.


Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design could be simply expressed as the belief that since there is some aspect of the theory of evolution that has not been adequately explained then school children should also be taught the belief that God created life as we know it.

If the concern is really about the accuracy of the high school education (where evolution is being suggested as less than a viable theory - and yet it is so important that it must be addressed in a specific manner by the curriculum!?) then science is certainly not the only subject where the current teaching technique might not be adequate (given low test performance scores relative to those in other countries). If the concern was about the quality of high school education then the debate would include whether the students are getting proper instruction on grammar, writing, and mathematics.

Instead of seeking an education that serves as the basis for better social integration and employment, the hidden agenda here concentrates on one particular scientific theory to allow the introduction of confusion about rational thought. Organized religion (and the Intelligent Design movement is pushed by Christian groups, like the Discovery Institute) must be well aware that teaching their religion to youth is critical to obtaining new adherents, before the development of critical thinking. Most branches of Christianity are based a great deal on the members following the teaching of their religious group’s leaders. Independent thinking of our youth is contrary to their apparent goal of our education system. As it happens even without this further obstruction, American schools do poorly with the teaching the skill of critical thinking. Is that due to the rationale behind No Child Left Behind that emphasizes teaching to an annual performance test rather than learning beyond that, like critical thinking?

Our public schools should be teaching the skills necessary for adulthood. Religious teaching should be left to a program provided by the religious organizations (such as Sunday school). If our youth are not amenable to their indoctrination in that context (is this the real reason behind the push for intelligent design?) then that is a problem for the religion, not for our public schools.


Same sex marriage

Unlike our nearest genetic relatives, the Chimpanzee or Bonobo, humans are a monogamous social being. The debate about same sex marriage concerns whether only a couple of a male and female is to be legally accepted. The debate is simply whether there will be legal acceptance of a social minority. The suggestion that this arrangement will somehow bring the male-female union to ruin is absolutely ludicrous. However, the Christian groups who argue strongly against this are obviously not showing tolerance that might be accepted from such a religious group supposedly that teaches love.

The debate on same sex marriage is nothing less than bringing prejudice (with an apparent religious justification) into law.


Foreign Policy

The American war on terror began after the 9/11 attack with planes used as terrorist weapons. However Osama bin Laden clearly indicated during an October 2001 interview that the American foreign policy in the Middle East, including the Palestinians, is significant for justifying his group’s actions.

America treats Israel as a very special partner. As long as America gives unconditional approval to anything Israel does with the Palestinians and maintains our strong influence over neighboring countries, there will be a continuing danger of terrorist actions against American interests. Instead of that aggressive policy being debated, Bush sent our troops into Iraq for regime change (not for WMD and not due to 9/11) and Obama has sent more troops into Afghanistan to support our puppet regime there. Our foreign policy is one of empire not of diplomacy.

Our country’s foreign policy is seen around the world as being part of the problem, not a solution.

If non-terrorists around the world can see the dangers of our foreign policy, then what is to be expected from those survivors of our foreign occupations, with our rain of terror with drones? Our foreign policy must change and our many troops residing on so many bases must come home.

Unfortunately our foreign policy does not follow the advice of John Quincy Adams who said “America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” Nor does it follow the words of Thomas Jefferson who said “Conquest is not in our principles. It is inconsistent with our government.”


AGW

Anthropogenic Global Warming, or AGW, is the belief that recently observed warmer temperatures around the world were caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2). However there are many scientists who have pointed out that there have been other periods of warming in recent history and there is nothing unique about this recent period compared to those earlier periods that warrant such alarm. Also scientists have pointed out that the observed warming does not conform to the theoretical climate behaviors to be expected if CO2 were truly the cause of the recent warming. Also, many have pointed out that in recent years the world has stopped warming even though CO2 levels have continued to rise, thereby being a very simple problem for the AGW believers. Also, most recently (Climate Gate) the climate data has been found to be manipulated and corrupted. This author also took the time to identify recent cooling trends even as CO2 levels steadily increased (local, national, world).

The initial alarm about AGW began around 1988 with the formation of the IPCC. As skeptics confronted these claims the response was the ‘science is settled’ in an attempt to stop that debate. Unfortunately the primary goal of the AGW crowd appears to be not limited to just the control of CO2 levels. Environmental groups have long been fighting for better regulation of industrial pollution and AGW offered the opportunity for CO2 to become the mechanism for that control by the UN.

The debate is really about strict control by the government of the economy since nearly everything on earth involves carbon in some way, as a critical constituent of our biosphere. People exhale carbon dioxide while plants use carbon dioxide for photosynthesis – making carbon critical to all life and yet the AGW alarmists have spawned an effort to restrict carbon dioxide!

Economic policy must be based on scientific facts not on fear mongering unjustified predictions for the year 2100.

created - March 2010
last change - 03/14/2010
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