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Posts Tagged ‘opinion’

Next week, President Obama will be giving the first State of the Union speech of his second term. I’ve listened to a lot of SotU speeches over the years, and after a time, they all sound the same. The same beats, the same phrases, the same patters and pauses and phony applauses. That’s why SotU Bingo is so popular, everyone knows it’s just a big bag of phony.

The sentence that always gets my dander up is “The state of our union is strong!” Obama said it, Bush said it, Clinton said it, even Roosevelt said it (with a slightly different phrasing). But when you look at it, right now, in the world in which we currently live, it actually isn’t. No politician will ever have the courage to say it, but in my opinion it needs to be said. Just as a man will never get out of the rut he is in as long as he is lying to himself, so too will a nation never get out of its rut unless it is honest with itself.

I would love for President Obama to give a State of the Union speech that brings out a level of harsh, basic, patent honesty that will truly shake up this country. Something, perhaps, like this:

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“Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans: today I come to you, as President and in accordance with the traditions of the office and my duties as defined in Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, to address this body and this nation on the state of our union.

“For two hundred and twenty-three years, Presidents have delivered addresses, in writing or in person, to this assembled body. For two hundred and twenty-two years, Presidents have declared that “the state of our union is strong”. Through war, recession, and catastrophe, presidents have continued to maintain that the nation is strong and we can work through any peril that may face us. I, too, believe that this nation can strongly and bravely face any external peril, be it foreign aggression, economic tribulation, or the hazards of climate and nature. However, the one thing that can harm this country, and that harms this country today, comes from within. We can not be defeated, but we can defeat ourselves.

“The strength of this nation comes from the strength of our ideals and the strength of our citizens. That much is undoubtedly true, and based on those factors alone, I could easily stand here before you and say “our country is strong”. But this type of strength is not enough to make for a strong UNION. A strong nation not only requires a citizenry of high character and strength, but a government that can perform those functions necessary to bring stability, justice, safety, and peace. Unfortunately, we do not have such a government, and that is keeping this nation from truly being great in this 21st century.

“Our Founders had the wisdom and foresight to create a fabulous document, the first written democratic Constitution in the history of mankind, a document that specified an amazing notion: the idea of three branches of government and the separation of powers. Put in the context of the span of human civilization, this was a magnificent creation! A chief executive, a notion existing since the dawn of humanity, providing leadership, especially in times of crisis or war. An independent judiciary, answerable only to the law and the principles upon which the group was founded, ensuring justice is applied evenly and fairly. And a legislature, the representatives of the people, giving a voice to all the members of the group in the decisions that are made. These three branches form the strength of a triangle, and, like a three-legged stool, when one is weak, the whole thing topples.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this nation is a three-legged stool wobbling on the weakness of one. We have a situation where one branch is failing this nation, and their failure is putting the entirety at risk. This Congress, this assembled body, is in a state of disarray the like this nation has not seen since the day Charles Sumner was caned on the floor of the Senate in 1856. This chaos is keeping this country back. It is holding our economy hostage. It is preventing the honest exchange of ideas. It is interrupting the wheels of justice. It is not capable of providing the necessary oversight to prevent Executive Branch overreach. It is engaging in a level of hostility that is inspireing division amongst the people. It is acting in a way unbecoming to the intent and purpose of Article 1 of the Constitution, and is an embarrassment to the people of these United States and to the free nations of the world.

“We have a Congress that cannot perform its most basic of duties. We have a Congress that cannot propose, much less adopt, a budget. We have a Congress that cannot confirm federal judges, leaving an overwhelmed judiciary. We have a Congress that forces the Chief Executive to invent clever ways to circumvent it because they are incapable of action. We have a Congress that, on the one hand, decries something as evil and demands action, yet on the other neuters the very agency designed to do it. This is a Congress that does not even allow the free discussion of ideas within its own halls, a body whose very rules allow an anonymous few to squelch even discussion of a topic! Regardless of political philosophy, right or left, the suppression of debate is fundamentally, morally, ethically WRONG and the Senate ought to be ashamed of itself for even having those rules. And the House isn’t much better: the majority party will only discuss things THEY want to discuss, to the detriment of fair and open discussion.

“Ladies and gentlemen of this Congress: this country needs a working legislative branch. It cannot function without it. Without a functioning legislature, we have uncertainty. We have doubts about our future. Nothing cripples a society like an uncertain future. We also have injustice, the injustice resulting from the silencing of open debate. This Congress, those of you assembled here, have duties. You have responsibilities, and you took oaths of office, sworn upon Bibles and Torahs and the Bhagavad Gita. Your oath compels you to serve this nation and the Constitution of the United States, not your party, not your ideology, not your favorite radical talk-show host or blogger, and certainly not the lobbyist who frequents your office on a daily basis. You need to serve your country and the Constitution. But you are not doing so, and judging by polls taken across the country, the people know this and are judging you poorly for it. This body needs to get to work, doing the people’s business, not perpetuating your own petty feuds.

“This Congress has a job to do, and needs to begin immediately. Propose and pass a valid budget. Vote on the appointments before you, ESPECIALLY the judicial appointments. Begin open and honest debate on the issues before you, and allow them to come before a vote. Eliminate any and all rules that allow anonymous blocks of any debate or appointment. Tackle the gun issue head on, free up the CDC to study the issue with scientific methods and allow the ATF to enforce the laws that you’ve passed OR repeal those laws if they’re too invasive, just don’t let them remain in the worthless state they’re in. Tackle climate change head on with honest, scientific debate, free from those who would skew such debate with lies and deception. Tackle this economy head-on by passing tax and regulatory reforms you deem necessary, and make them long-lasting so our business community knows there will be stability in our economy. Stop the pointless bickering over the debt ceiling, that is a fabricated issue and you know it. And get the lobbyists out of your offices and into the gallery with the rest of the citizens of the country. They are no better than the average person simply because they have large purse strings. And if there are members of this institution who find themselves incapable of performing their duties and fulfilling their oaths, then at least have the decency to step aside, retire, and allow another to take your place.

“This nation cannot survive and thrive with a malfunctioning government. We need a competent and honest Congress. Please give us one. Thank you, good night, and God Bless America.

—————-

Yeah, won’t happen. We’ll have more platitudes and more “mystery guests” in the balcony and more standing ovations of the same applause lines we’ve heard time and time again. Entropy will continue, and things will get worse, until either the next great leader, or the next great crisis, comes along and gives us the impetus to change our ways.

[Editted to include an oversight on “executive branch oversight”. Was intended to be part of this post but was missed.]

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Chaos Theory, Doctor Who, and Fossil Butte

American history is a fascinating subject. It’s a study of events triggering other events which trigger further events. It’s a study of choices made, or choices not made, or choices poorly made. It’s a study of unrelated decisions converging a hundred years later and meeting up under odd circumstances to form a result that we now take totally for granted. It’s chaos theory, really. Some events, some choices, lead to predictable results, but every now and then, there’s a chunk of randomity, a bit of chaos, that throws things a bit askew.

History buffs, especially rank amateurs such as myself, love to play little “what if” scenarios. What if Ben Franklin suffered a heart attack while securing French support for the Revolution? What if Texas wanted to stay an independent republic? What if Lincoln sued for peace after Secession? What if oil was never discovered in Pennsylvania? What if we stayed with the gold standard? What if Oswald’s shot from the Texas Schoolbook Repository missed? What if 538 people in Florida voted differently in 2000? If these things happened differently than they did, would we still be America?

This is an interesting question. Would we still be America? Various events, going differently than we know them, would that still result in an America? I would have to say … yes. Probably. There was a cause, and a desire, and it sort of propelled things along. Sure, things would be different, but it’d probably still be America. Maybe smaller, maybe bigger, maybe more free, maybe less, maybe Hispanic, maybe without a slave legacy, maybe a 3rd world country, maybe a militaristic tyrant. Who knows?

I’m babbling about all of this for two reasons. One, I’m writing this during Doctor Who commercial breaks, and that show always makes me think of things like this. Two, thinking about Fossil Butte National Monument, a site in southwestern Wyoming preserving fossils up to 65 million years old, makes me think about the concept known as Intelligent Design.

Intelligent Design is the notion that the human race – intelligent, spiritual, thoughtful, opposable-thumbed individuals that we are – is so rare, so special, and required so many remarkable and special circumstances to develop, that it is impossible to conceive that our existence is the random result of various chaotic happenstances since the Big Bang. There must be some driving force, some incredible, thoughtful, magnificent presence, guiding all of creation to develop humanity to this point. Our existence is the result of this Presence, this Guidance, this Grand Design. We have to be the result of none other than God’s Grand Intelligent Design.

Now there’s a great deal of compelling evidence to believe this is indeed true. The Earth is at the right distance from the sun: too close and we’d cook, too far and we’d freeze. The Earth is the right size: too small and gravity couldn’t hold an atmosphere, and too large we’d gather too much atmosphere and be crushed by the pressure. The moon is a factor: the tides cause the oceans to move, improving oxygen absorption and enabling terrestrial life to form in the watery/airy boundary between low tide and high tide. Without the moon, terrestrial life, including humans, wouldn’t exist.

All sorts of changes, small changes in the cosmic scheme of things, would drastically change the way life evolved on the planet. If we were closer to the galactic core, radiation levels would be too high. If we didn’t have Jupiter, Earth would be constantly pulverized by comets. If we didn’t have plate tectonics and volcanoes, plants might not have enough carbon dioxide to thrive. If we didn’t have the properly sized asteroid hit the planet 65 million years ago, mammals would never have risen in dominance, and man wouldn’t exist.

So many incidents, so many requirements, so many little intricacies were required to evolve a species as complex and intelligent as Man. Truly amazing. We’re talking one chance in a billion billions. Mathematically, it seems unbelievable. There’s no way one can say this was all “random”.

Or is there?

The problem with intelligent design is it looks at the problem in reverse. It looks at the result and sees only one possible formula. It’s mathematics, but one-way mathematics. You’re told “here is the answer, now come up with the problem”. Looking at it that way, there is only one answer: someone must have designed us that way. But life is not a math problem. You can’t look at it in one direction only (that’s how we got the Earth-centrist nonsense Copernicus fought 500 years ago). To externalize yourself, and thereby approach and solve problems like this, requires that special power mankind has: imagination.

Imagination moves us beyond math problems and into a realm that allows us to see other paths, other alternatives, other outcomes. We arrogantly presume Humanity is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but there are other answers. Can it be proven that a planet without a moon and its tides can’t develop life? Maybe it wouldn’t be our life, but it would be life nonetheless. Can it be proven that dinosaurs with enough evolutionary freedom couldn’t have grown to be intelligent themselves? 65 millions years is a long time.

Even the very chemistry of our bodies doesn’t limit life. The blood of the horseshoe crab is based on copper, not iron. What if man was copper-blooded? There are forms of life in the ocean that exist purely on chemical and heat reactions from deep, undersea volcanoes. Could life exist on planets far from their sun? Maybe intelligent life could even form on gas giants given the right conditions.

The point I’m trying to make is this: mankind exists on this planet because the circumstances of this world, like numbers and operands in a specific math problem, can yield only one result: the advancement of mankind as the dominant species of the planet. But there are billions of other possible circumstances in this great, wide universe of ours. It’s entirely possible, I’d actually say it’s guaranteed, that there are other acceptable outcomes. It’s entirely possible there are other intelligent life forms out there, each unique and amazing and wholly suited to their own numbers, their own operands, their own planets.

None of this precludes the possibility that there is a Creator deserving of our honor, respect, and love. When I think of Intelligent Design, I don’t think of it as an argument regarding the existence of a Supreme Being. I see it as a symptom of the most dangerous and limiting emotion that mankind can ever have. I see it as arrogance. It is an arrogant proposition that we are the only beings to be valued, that we are the only ones deserving of a God. I see it stemming from the same arrogance that says we are the center of the universe, that we are the most powerful nation in the country, that our race is the only one worthy of prosperity and justice, that our party is the only one who deserves to be in power, and that we are the only ones who can run red lights whenever we want or that we are allowed to be pushy in grocery stores.

Arrogance, otherwise known as pride, is one of the seven deadly sins for a reason. Intelligent Design is a symptom of that sin. People need humility, and consideration of all the possibilities of the big, broad universe can give us that humility.

[All pictures on this post are mine and thusly copyrighted. Please do not reuse without my permission. I don’t have too many more Fossil Butte pics, but you can still visit my similarly-copyrighted Photobucket page.]

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Links:

Fossil Butte National Monument

Counterview to my post: Probability, Statistics, Evolution and Intelligent Design

The Doctor Who Wiki

Google map to Fossil Butte

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