Tag Archives: history

Thomas Paine on modern America

In “Common Sense” Thomas Paine deconstructs several reasons America should rebel from great Britain to form the United States. I found his reasons for revolution in 1776 against the British amazingly applicable, in many ways, as the reason we should demand change (revolution) from our own Government today.

1. The ruling class is not equip to govern the people.

Much like the royal class in 18th century Britain modern America has the political and corporate elite. A wealthy and well connected ruling class that passes wealth, connection, and power from one generation to the next. Kings are replaced by names like Bush, Rockefeller, Rothschild, Kennedy (the list goes on).

Thomas Paine points out many good reasons why such families are not equip to govern the people:

“There is something exceedingly ridiculous in the composition of a monarchy; it first excludes a man from the means of information, yet empowers him to act in cases where the highest judgment is required. The state of a king shuts him from the world, yet the business of a king requires him to know it thoroughly; wherefore the different parts, by unnaturally opposing and destroying each other, prove the whole character to be absurd and useless.”

2. The Government is overly complex.

The founding fathers, having learned a valuable lesson from English rule, intentionally designed American law to be fairly easy to understand. Today our government and legal system couldn’t be more complicated.

Once again, Thomas Paine had brilliant insight:

“But the constitution of England [like modern America] is so exceedingly complex, that the nation may suffer for years together without being able to discover in which part the fault lies; some will say in one and some in another, and every political physician will advise a different medicine.”

The most effective Government?

“The more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered, and the easier repaired when disordered…”

3. The size of the federal government, the power of the executive:

Many of the issues Thomas Paine identifies with the English king I believe we see coming to fruition (to a lesser extent) with the modern day federal government – especially the executive branch. Here are a few that parallel:

  • The authority to make decision without consultation or consent of the people or their representatives (executive orders today)
  • The disconnect between the executive and the desires of the common man. (similar to #1 above)
  • Lack of election by the people (due to the amount of money it takes to run for president we are basically given choices for President, we do not choose our own from among the people)

4. Meaningless Debt

Perhaps the most compelling reason Thomas Paine provides for separation from Britain is the burden of debt on the American colonies due to English imperialism and military. The comparison undoubtedly highlights American folly today. Ultimately the debt we incur and pass on to posterity is unfair to future generations.

“…to expend millions for the sake of getting a few vile acts repealed, and routing the present ministry only, is unworthy the charge, and is using posterity with the utmost cruelty; because it is leaving them the great work to do, and a debt upon their backs, from which they derive no advantage. Such a thought is unworthy a man of honor, and is the true characteristic of a narrow heart and a peddling politician.”

 

Biblical History: Jewish slaves in Egypt

This is an interesting 12 minute podcast from Skeptoid.com where author Brian Dunning provides historical evidence that the stories told in Biblical account of the book of Exodus, from his perspective, are factually inaccurate.

“Was there a mass Exodus of Jewish slaves out of Egypt? There is no record of any such thing ever happening, and the simple reason is that there is no time in which it could have happened. No Egyptian record contains a single reference to anything in Exodus…”

Challenging Fact

What I found most interesting about this podcast wasn’t the lack of proof of the Exodus, but the fact that it had never occurred to me that the account from the bible wasn’t true (the Jewish slaves in Egypt part). I was raised a Christian and heard these stories over and over again. Repetition lead me to assume that there was a large body of archaeological and historical evidence that corroborated the account. No such evidence exists.

Whether or not you believe the story from the Bible or history as recorded in the podcast is up to you, but the takeaway from this, at least for me, is to always challenge your assumptions and remember just because a story is repeated enough doesn’t make it fact.

You can read his entire article here for additional references and resources.

Religion and Babies

Worried about overpopulation? Maybe not.

As an advocate for Liberty I appreciate what Obama did today

Although he didn’t do it for exactly the same reasons I may have fully appreciated Obama made a great step as a leader and advocate of Liberty today. He openly supported the rights of human beings to engage in personal relationships without the intervention of the Government. He advocated for personal and private property rights, human rights – Gay rights.

Although there is a whole lot I find myself disagreeing (and sometimes agreeing) with Obama about I can and will always respect a politician who takes a stand, the right one, even when it is construed by many as unpopular.

Admittedly, openly supporting Gay marriage isn’t exactly political suicide for Obama or anything and Biden already tested the waters for him days earlier by openly supporting Gay marriage himself. Most of Obama’s supporters agree with him on this issue and most of the people that advocate a ban on Gay marriage almost certainly aren’t voting for Obama anyways – I still respect the steps he took today.

I can respect any man who is honestly trying to do the right thing and taking steps to get there – even if and when I personally disagree with them. It’s certainly better than shitting on the people or war-mongering. Which is more than I can say for most of the Republican candidates.

I only hope that Obama continues to take steps to advocate personal freedoms and common sense lawmaking. Giving the power to the people, protecting the individual, and empowering everyone to do the best they can for themselves and each other is a great way forward. I just hope Obama keeps making choices that keeps the Government out of our bedrooms, emails, personal lives, and personal decisions – especially when we don’t want them there.

Obama may be the first president to openly admit, while in office, that he supports same sex marriage. History was made today.

A Loss of Humanity through Education

Since my return from Japan I’ve been reading a book called “The Japan We Never Knew: A Voyage of Discovery by David Suzuki and Keibo Oiwa.  The book basically takes an anthropological look into the people of Japan. One passage I read really hit home.

When referring to Japanese civilians committing mass suicide when trapped in cave rather than surrender to Americans during WWII:

“Those children did not take part in the decision, so I say it was not just a mass suicide but a mass murder. Why would mothers go against their every instinct and kill their own children? They preferred to kill the creatures they loved the best rather than let them be captured by the enemy.  That’s what they were taught. Their humanity was transformed by their education. (p. 27 emphasis added)

Those words echo in my head:

“That’s what they were taught.  Their humanity was transformed by their education.”

The very propaganda that taught them to believe that the enemy was pure evil, would torture them upon surrender, that it was better to kill themselves than be captured – ended in the loss of their own humanity and life.  An illogical education resulted in a tragedy.

The story goes on to talk about an identical situation happening in another part of Japan; however, in the cave were two Japanese men who had lived in Hawaii for several years.  Having an understanding of American culture they did surrender and of course no one was tortured – they all lived to tell the story.

So is the enemy as evil as we make them out to be?

It makes me question our own American education.  Doesn’t the media promote the same illogical beliefs in our “enemy”.  We see all enemies as terrorist.  Suicide bombers and torturers.  Time and time again I hear aquantances joke about seeing a middle eastern man on a plane and questioning if he is planning a hi-jacking.  This is insane racism and propaganda propetuated by our own political machine.  Isn’t it?

Propaganda prevailed in Japan.  Are we any different?  We see the same images of “terrorist” torturing and decapitating innocent civilians – but is that a true cross-section of those who oppose us?  Can we really label everyone who opposes America a terrorist, a murder, a religious zealot hell bent on the destruction of a Christian nation – or is there something more complex, more logical?

I do not know, but I do think it is important to take a lesson from the past and view EVERYONE as a person, not a machine of evil and destruction – no matter what our Government, our neighbors, or the media tries to push down out throat.  It’s all to easy to convince ourselves that WE would never fall for those same old tricks, that WE’RE too smart for that, but we aren’t.

We have to keep our humanity.  Now more than ever.

the best way to beat him is to ignore him – THE MEDIA vs. RON PAUL

Even with the whole of he media completely ignoring and downplaying Ron Paul he still managed to run a close race in Iowa – coming in 3rd. Is it that the people really do not agree with his politics or that they simply do not know who the man is? Every time I talk to a family member or friend that doesn’t support Ron Paul it is almost always because “well, I don’t really know anything about him.” Give me 10 minutes and almost everyone can’t believe they hadn’t heard of Ron Paul! It seems like the media is doing a great job of ignoring Ron Paul – ignoring him to defeat.

2012 Iowa Caucus Results

The race was close in Iowa though, so I figured people would mention it. Someone would say, “Hey this Ron Paul guy is doing pretty good for a guy with no Media attention or corporate donors.” My search in the news was in vein. Almost everyone else was mentioned – even the losers, but somehow the guy in 3rd place by a narrow margin was forgotten, completely.

Top Stories on CNN

Nothing, not even in the articles. No mention of the guy who is still in this race, but why? Why is the media ignoring the one man who has been preaching about blowback, the housing bubble, the fed, the economic crisis, FOR YEARS and BEEN RIGHT – not getting any attention? Instead, its talk about Rick Santorum, Romney, and even still Gingrich – the 4th place loser.

If conservative and liberal media have one thing in common – its ignoring Ron Paul.

Fox News Top Stories

I wish I could say I was kidding, exaggerating, or just making this stuff up – but I’m not. Is it a conspiracy or am I just too close to this? There seems to be too much evidence to believe that! What do you think?

rights all intellectually honest, liberty loving, Americans should demand: GAY RIGHTS

Marriage is defined as between a man and a woman. That’s what the law tells us. So what about two individuals of the same sex? Why is it that so many Americans find it immoral for this group of individuals to have the same right – to engage in marriage under the law? Furthermore, how can the legal system justify withholding this right from a certain group of people?

It is a basic tenant of personal property rights that individuals may engage in any personal relationship they wish when their rights do not infringe on anyone else’s property. How can the government limit such a personal relationship, especially when it is between two consenting adults in which there is no victim of their actions?

To quote congressman Ron Paul:

“I think the government should just be out of it (marital rights). I think it should be done by the church or private contract, and we shouldn’t have this argument…Who’s married and who isn’t married. I have my standards but I shouldn’t have to impose my standards on others. Other people have their standards and they have no right to impose their marriage standards on me…if we want to have something to say about marriage it should be at the state level, and not at the federal government.

In a free society…all voluntary and consensual agreements would be recognized…There should essentially be no limits to the voluntary definition of marriage.

Everyone can have his or her own definition of what marriage means, and if an agreement or contract is reached by the participants, it would qualify as a civil contract if desired…Why not tolerate everyone’s definition as long as neither side uses force to impose its views on the other? Problem solved!” (re: Ron Paul)

An honest American will admit that the SINGLE reason the personal relationship between two members of the same sex are constricted is solely due to the Judeo-Christian values are being enforced by the Federal Government and have become the status quo of our American society. No legal, moral, or political reasoning can be given to justify the withholding of such a right to a certain minority in the population. While a religious person may argue that the majority of Americans share these Judeo-Christian beliefs, thus it is justified that the majority rule when it comes to upholding moral philosophies by law; however, how can that be when the law is to be enforced outside and independently of any religious dogma or any majority rule!

The Judeo-Christian moral code is irrelevant in cases of the law! Most religious people would agree that Satanism is immoral; however, the Satanist belief system and practice is protected under the law. Again, other issues that may be viewed as moral vices are protected as well – pornography, intoxication, and lude language, to name a few. Why does society accept these activities, but raise such concerns with homosexuality? Could it be because society, in general, enjoys the right to sometimes utilize such “immoral” behaviors? Yet the majority so willingly and hypocritically advocates the removal of another’s personal and legal rights when it does not interfere with the lives of those making or enforcing the law! Even if one may argue same sex marriage is immoral – they cannot justifiably remove the institutional right under the law!

Only a few decades ago our legal system thought it appropriate to limit the rights of an individual based on race – today we realize that such a notion is completely ridiculous. In the South, blacks were prohibited from eating at certain restaurants, attending the same schools, or even using the same seating section on public transit. To go a step further – it was unheard of for a person of color to engage in a relationship with anyone outside their race. Today it is morally unacceptable to argue such things! So why does society condone the limiting of basic civil and property rights to a person who happens to be attracted to, and fall in love with, a member of the same sex? Who are we so perfect to deem their relationship and feeling unworthy?

To take another approach – what is so immoral about two consenting parties engaging in the ultimate commitment to each other? Can one form an intellectually logical argument against Gay marriage? Can one deny the feelings two responsible adults feel toward each other? Can one deny the positive influence the Gay community has had on neighborhoods across America? (re: The Castro District) Wouldn’t a gay couple engaging in marriage, reaping the emotional and psychological benefits of a stable monogamous relationship be something that all Americans want for our citizens if they so choose? None of this really matters though – as this is a matter of personal liberty and property rights – not one sects view of morality!

The simple fact is this: regardless of your personal feelings and beliefs about homosexuality or Gay marriage, marriage of any kind between two consenting parties is an individual property right – they own the right to whatever relationships they deem necessary for their particular pursuit happiness! The Government has no right – naturally, legally, or constitutionally – to prohibit such a relationship from being formed. Societies current opinion on the issue is irrelevant. I will say this though – history has always sided in favor of civil rights – and in the coming decades we will look back on this restriction of personal relationships as a blemish on par with racism that we so shamefully regret today.

We’re in a Depression, Not a Recession

My Granny died at age 94. She was born in 1917 and live a full life – she was only sick the last couple of days of her life. Overall, I would call it a success. She was thoughtful, generous, and even in her old age able to carry on a good conversation.

I was always pretty fascinated by the things she had lived through. Pretty much every modern day historical event I could think of. The World Wars, the Great Depression, race riots, she even saw two states become part of the Union!  I would always ask her about historical events and what it was like to live through them – I guess I expected it to be somehow different than my own experience living through historical events (like 9/11). One day I asked her what it was like to live through the great depression.

She explained to me that, at the time, no one even realized it was the “Great Depression”. People were poor, a lot of people didn’t have jobs, but most of what we see on TV was the worst of it – not the typical. I started thinking about what we are going through today in “the Recession” and I can’t help but think that nothing is too differnt. I mean almost just as many people are without jobs, underemployed, or work for government created jobs. In fact, many sources site actual unemployment around 22% or higher, not a tthe government’s 10% figure (not including the underemployed). (re: Hiding a Depression, Alternate Unemployment Chart). I mean, about 50 miles north of where I live there is actually a tent town. Sound familiar? Sounds a lot like a modern day great depression.

Anyways, I started doing some research to find out what’s going on. Why did the government say that the recession was over in 2009, but nothing seems to have changed. Sure the stock market has improved a bit (has it?), but I’m still losing value in my 401k, unemployment is still as high as ever, the federal government is even more in debt, and the financial trouble abroad is as bad as ever! So are we really not even in a recession, or is this something worse? Allow me to quote someone more credable than me: (re: Let’s Be Honest: We’re in a Depression, Not a Recession, And There’s No End In Sight)

Richard A. Posner is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School.

If the notion that we are merely living through the aftereffects of a mere “recession” that ended in 2009 sounds somewhat ridiculous, that’s because it is. If we were being honest with ourselves, we would call this a depression. That would certainly better convey both the severity of our problems, and the fact that those problems have no evident solutions.

That’s right, we’re in a depression. Why? In my opinion that’s because things are bad, nothing has changed, and there is no end in sight. As much as the government wants to tell us things are going to improve soon – it’s all phony. I’m not saying we’re at the end of the world, but don’t expect things to change. The Fed is still over spending and printing more money(deficit), the EU has its own problems so there’s no help there, and we still aren’t producing anything! This isn’t a short term problem, its a long road, folks. The Keynesian economic theory of “spend your way out of the reciession” doesn’t apply this time. (re: We are in a modern day depression)

If you are thinking: “this doesn’t look like the movies about the great depression” there is a good reason for that. As economist David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff points out, “The soup lines have been replaced with unemployment payment checks. Over 10 million such checks are being sent out now for up to 99 weeks.” We still have a long way to go and someone has to pay for those unemployment checks.

When I talk to my parents and the typical “uninformed” person I get the feeling that they are just waiting for things to turn around. There is a sense of “any day now” things will just get better. I wonder how many other people out there feel the same way? Citing the 1970s and 1980s as examples when we pulled through recessions followed by periods of sharp growth afterwards – but that ain’t happening…

I’m not trying to promote fear mongering here and I’m not saying that we should expect hyper-inflation or civilized US to crumble.  What I am saying is that things have changed for a lot of Americans – maybe forever.  Instead of waiting on the government to fix it – its up to us, the individual.  Re-education, training, and acceptance that the hay days are over for a while.  Basically, we were spending too much – we were gluttons and now its time to pay for it.  The real question I have, is how long is the government going to downplay this situation?  When are we going to be honest with ourselves and REALLY fix this shit?  The longer the government unfairly downplays our situation – the longer its going to take the bottom 50% of America to react.

why it’s so hard to say goodbye – to Religion

Early in my life I found it almost impossible to avoid returning what I had been told was right my entire life.  Even when all logic pointed to the invalidity of religious I found the desire, out of personal comfort and social circumstances, to return to religion.  My pastor and zealous family would always explain to me that it was the “conviction of God” attempting to lead me back to him.  That thought seems beautiful, but you see this same return pattern time and time again in various other (less beautiful) situations as well.  For example, many Mormon women leave their faith after being in abusive polygamist relationships only to return later to “what feels natural”.  This same principal applies to cults and, drugs, and even abusive relationships.  So, it would seem there is something in our nature pushing us to return to what feels natural and comforting.

While I am not trying to demonize religion by comparing it to drugs or abuse, I am simply trying to make a point that this pattern is not unique only to religion, but in a variety of social circumstances.  In any case, after much thought I realized there are several reasons religion is so effective in “keeping” its followers.

Early Indoctrination:
Religion, in general, has a head start when it comes to determining your way of thinking.  If you grew up in Sunday School or going to church as a child people were driving Religious Dogma in your head from the beginning.  So it’s no surprise that people who were raised in church find themselves with religious feelings for the rest of their life.

Early indoctrination doesn’t occur for just those of us who were raised in church, however.  The status quo of the United states is a Christian worldview.  I mean how many people feel the urge to convert to Christianity in China or other non-Christian nations or visa versa?  You can see the same result in secular nations, such as Holland, were there is no feelings of “conviction from God” to be religious.  (re: demographics of atheism)  So, it seems, that your perceptions as an adult are highly determined by your upbringing – whether it is secular or religious – NOT based on natural convictions embedded by a God(s).

Continued Reinforcement of Validity:
It is no coincidence that religious practice encourages you to study the bible, pray, and attend church regularly.  To continually reaffirm your belief in any religious dogma (or in anything for that matter) it takes repetition.  Without it, we stray.  This is especially interesting since the religious argue conviction by God is a natral mechanism ingrained in your soul by God himself.  It seem strange that people who do not attend church, or who have never attended a Christian ceremony (Native Americans for example) feel no natural conviction from the Christian/Muslim/Jewish God.

Ask a Buddhist monk, a Christian Pastor, or any other religious believer in God and I doubt that they feel any conviction toward any other supernatural begin, other than their own.  For this reason, I conclude that any particular religions strength comes from a continued reinforcement of validity.

Social and Community Acceptance:
With almost any group a driving force of said group’s success is acceptance.  People want to be accepted, period.  It feels good.  We are a social species and continually seek fellowship with our species.  If you get enough like minded people in a room – it just feels good – this might help explain why a church congregation is so powerful.  Where else can you find a group of people that share the same values, are likely the same race, have similar socio-economic beliefs, and share the same regional culture.  It is an instant and deep connection – that is powerful.  I call this group the Micro-community.

In addition to the micro-community there is also another powerful force at work.  The macro-community.  That is society as a whole.  We find more acceptance as a society via a belief in God – especially a Christian God.  Our values as a nation are essentially Christian – which makes it much easier to feel connected.  Subconsciously we reap the benefits of this all the time.

For example, we see Christian churches all the time and it’s normal.  Our major holiday are Christian holidays.  We can talk about the bible or Christianity relatively openly without the fear of being chastised.  We can even talk to other people and assume relatively easily that they are Christians.  Most people in America take these small benefits for granted.  However, put yourself in a Buddhist or even a Muslim’s position and everything changes.  Think about your Muslim child being asked what he/she is getting for Christmas this year and your child having to explain (s)he doesn’t celebrate it, things get complicated quickly.

For now, Region is the status-quo and a source of acceptance – that means power.

An explanation of the unknown:
As I have touched on in other posts (re: Is religion becoming obsolete?) religion is a great way to explain things we fear and/or do not understand.

In the early days of Man’s history we explained the Sun and the stars as Gods.  Later those Gods became elements of nature.  Our ancestors used to blame sickness and death on acts of sin, but we now know that death is caused by bacteria, viruses, cancer, failing organs, etc.  In fact, when we see the sheer variety of beliefs on the planet earth, with little or no reconcilable pattern it becomes clear people were simply trying to explain the unknown.  Even among Native American tribes, which were relatively close in proximity, beliefs varied tremendously. (re: Indian Legends)

Similarly, we use Religion to comfort us about perhaps the biggest mystery of all – death.  Some scientist even claim that religion and belief in a God/afterlife may be a natural evolutionary development to help us balance consciousness and accepting our own death (re: Religion an adaptation) This is controversial (obviously), but an interesting thought.

Summary:
So I suppose the real question is: Do we feel these things because there is a God or is there a God because we feel these things?

A term every intellectually honest American should understand: BLOWBACK

To understand the concept of blowback, first you have to understand the United States’ military history with the middle east over the past 100 years.(re: US Military intervention in the Middle East in the past 100 years)

Once you understand that we have been blowing up buildings, sanctioning, overthrowing leaders, promoting regime changes, pillaging for minerals, and such – it becomes suddenly easy to understand why a few people hate the U.S. over there. It also becomes clear why religious groups radicalized and see the U.S. as an enemy. We even begin to understand why events as evil as 9/11 happened. As with any story, it’s not as simple as good versus evil, as most media outlets would like it to seem. This is the basic concept of blowback:

“Blowback” is a CIA term first used in March 1954 in a recently declassified report on the 1953 operation to overthrow the government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran. It is a metaphor for the unintended consequences of the US government’s international activities that have been kept secret from the American people. The CIA’s fears that there might ultimately be some blowback from its egregious interference in the affairs of Iran were well founded. Installing the Shah in power brought twenty-five years of tyranny and repressionto the Iranian people and elicited the Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution. The staff of the American embassy in Teheran was held hostage for more than a year. This misguided “covert operation” of the US government helped convince many capable people throughout the Islamic world that the United States was an implacable enemy.”

(re: Blowback, see: Ron Paul on Blowback)

I know what you might be thinking. “How dare you suggest the US caused 9/11!” Well, that’s not exactly what I’m saying. What I am saying is that to those people “in the know” those attacks were no surprise and our involvement with the middle east wasn’t suddenly sparked by 9/11. Lets take a look at what was happening before the attacks.

January 2001: Tenth anniversary of the U.S. war on Iraq: sanctions are still in place and the UN estimates that 4,500 children are dying per month from disease and malnutrition as a result. The U.S. planes, which have flown over 280,000 sorties in Iraq over the past decade, continue to attack from the air. In the past two years, over 300 Iraqis have been killed in these bombings.

Yep, we were already in Iraq. For 10 years. So why are we surprised by mid-eastern radicalization? Why are we surprised that these terrorist groups can actually recruit and get young men to agree to suicide bombs? Not because America is “great and free” (are we? re: Erosion of American Civil Liberties), but rather because we have a long and negative history with the very people we demonize in the media.

What should we do?
Admitting that we as a nation are not guilt free is a tough pill to swallow, but once that’s over with we can start developing an honest solution to our situation.

1. Admit we have made mistakes and begin healing the relationship
2. End the never-ending wars in Middle East
3. Promote free trade, diplomacy, and good-will
4. Strong homeland defense

Being intellectually honest also means realizing that we have made real enemies now too. I doubt that most of our enemies will say “ok, you said sorry, we can be bff’s now). This means that the US should

1. Maintain intelligence gathering initiatives to prevent attacks. (without invading American’s civil liberties)
2. Promote strong diplomatic relations with political allies.
3. Befriend political leaders and display acts of goodwill demonstrating our commitment to peace.

What can we do as individuals?

1. Vote for Political leaders who will follow this intellectually honest foreign policy (re: Ron Paul)
2. Stop buying in to the media hype.
3. Do your own research and draw your own conclusions.
4. Spread the word.