April 2008 Archives

Why we have to stay in Iraq

 

The people of Iraq are depending on us. The population of Iraq is estimated at well over twenty-seven million; twenty-seven million of our fellow human beings that have had their country and their lives turned upside down by this war; twenty-seven million; twenty-seven million people that are only going to be affected negatively by our withdrawal from their country in its current state.

You don't have to believe that us going into Iraq was a good idea in the first place, I certainly don't believe that it was. But that does not change the fact that we are now in Iraq and that those twenty-seven million Iraqi children, women, and men, both young and old and every age in between, are in a much worse situation than we are.

We are certainly going to be affected as well: There is a huge cost to us staying in Iraq for the long haul, a cost of many American lives and a large amount of Americans tax dollars. But it is the Iraqi people that are going to end up paying the greatest price, a far greater price than we could possibly imagine, if we choose to abandon them and their country, leaving them with the mess that we have started.

It doesn't matter why we are in Iraq now, or why we went there in the beginning. Yes, we all know that Barack Obama voted against going to war with Iraq; we all know that Hillary Clinton voted to go to war with Iraq; and we all know that it was the idea of the Republicans, George Bush, and Dick Chaney in the first place, but none of the matters any longer. The reality of the situation is that there are millions and millions of innocent Iraqi civilians, people just like you and I, that are going to end up paying the real cost of this war. Think of those people the next time you are discussing, listening to, or reading something about the war in Iraq. Think of those people the next time you hear a person or a politician say that we need to abandon Iraq.

The Housing Bubble

 

The drop in housing prices in many parts of the country is not necessarily a bad thing. The value of homes in many areas of the country was increasing at an unsustainable rate that had absolutely no basis in reality. It wasn't demand, it wasn't the cost to build those homes, the price of wood and labor did not rise with the price of the homes; it is because the prices were being artificially inflated by everyone involved in the sale of homes; from the builders, to the bankers giving the loans and in turn packaging them up and selling them to investors, to the buyers of those securities, to the buyers of the actual homes, likely some of you people reading this, we consumers that wanted our investment to continue to increase at such an astronomical rate.

It wasn't real, and the reality is that if the bubble continued it would have made things much more difficult for future generations to buy homes in many areas of our country. It would be like a couple fresh out of school trying to buy real estate in Manhattan, except without any of the actual value that is derived from the huge demand for real estate in Manhattan. The truth is that everyone involved was at fault, including the consumer. It's understandable though, of course the businesses and workers involved wanted to make as much money as they possibly could, and the consumer simply wanted a solid investment that they hopefully wouldn't have to worry about in the future, something that they could rely on, something that would always be there for them.

Sadly most people didn't see the bubble bursting, as is the case with all bubbles, so we now have to deal with all of the issues that are being piled on to the deflating price of housing in the United States; such as the credit crunch, the rapid devaluation of our currency, and a general lack of confidence in a majority of our fellow Americans with the economy and our country as a whole. Adding all of this to the numerous other political issues that the country is currently dealing with has made things much worse than they should have been. And then all of the problems are amplified once again due to it being a general election year.

We have to understand that all of us are at fault for the current economic issues; we can then come to the conclusion that the securitization of debt is a good and powerful tool for our economy, and as such it should not be overly regulated into something much less useful.

The Problem with Atheists

 

The problem with modern atheism is that its followers do not seem to have a firm grasp on the fact that religion is a part of our modern culture. We have people making outrageous claims and making attempts at refuting religious beliefs, and denying the fact that many religious values and concepts are ingrained in our culture as a people.

Many atheists are so against having a belief in God that they would infringe on the rights of others who do choose to believe in God. Many atheists will persecute any and all people who freely choose to follow a religion and have a belief in God. They will bring up petty, minor, nearly irrelevant issues such as whether or not the word God is used in our Pledge of Allegiance; or that In God We Trust is printed on our money and used as a motto; simply to continue their efforts to persecute and look down upon those that choose to believe in God and follow a religion.

Certainly some people are going to disagree with our feelings on religion and beliefs in God, and they should of course be free to do that without being persecuted for it. Just as you or I, or Richard Dawkins should be free to at the very least state our feelings, our thoughts, and our opinions on the subject. I just feel that a great many atheists are very invasive with their beliefs, and that stems from the more popular atheists in the world. People see Richard Dawkins being extremely arrogant with his opinion everywhere that he goes, increasing his popularity with these extreme atheists, and indeed they are building his ego up as they continue to follow in his footsteps, which is just going to make the issue worse. It's a vicious circle.

Of course there is an issue if and when religious beliefs somehow change our policies and laws, in our free country, in these modern times. I do not agree with that at all, and believe it to be a much greater issue than the word God being in the Pledge of Allegiance, using the example above; or the fact that many of our and much of the worlds holidays take place on dates that are particularly important to various religions throughout history, or are for various figures of Christianity and other religions. Religion is an undeniable part of our history and culture as Americans and of humans as a whole, and it should be respected as such.




Why Oil Prices are So High

 

  1. The first reason that I will mention is that Oil is priced in US Dollars. That's why when you see the value of the dollar fall; you see the price of oil rise. The people that produce the oil are generally getting US dollars in return for their product. As such, when the dollar falls, they are making less money on their product, even if the amount of dollars that they receive for their oil is equal, and so the price goes up. This applies to the people buying and selling the oil beyond the producers as well, who are also simply trying to profit. There are of course several other reasons why oil continues to rise, and why the dollar continues to fall. I was just pointing out why the dollar and oil currently move together.    
  2. The second reason is that many people are and have been investing in Oil as it has had quite a run up as the US Dollar has dropped like a rock. Investors, having a good feeling that the Federal Reserve would continue to cut interest rates, have continually bought into Oil to make some profit off of the amazing bull-run that it has had. 
  3. The third is an ever increasing growth in the demand for Oil. This isn't the 1970's where we can simply stop using as much Oil here in America, and prices will fall in relation to our drop in demand. No, these days the entire world is using more and more Oil. As countries continue to develop and expand into modern times, there is an ever increasing demand for Oil. This is the key reason that Oil will never again be as it once was.

2. 

Those are the three main reasons as I see them. There are of course other factors behind the rising price of Oil, such as turmoil and lack of security in many Oil producing lands, to things such as the weather, which can cause rather large jumps in the price of Oil in its own right. But those three issues that I listed above are the key factors behind the current of Oil; they should be known and understood by everyone.

We all realize that Oil usage is a problem for us here in the US, and that we need to find a viable alternative, regardless of the current price of Oil. The heart of the issue is how we move from our high use of oil, to something better. Clearly the way that the US as a whole operates has to change, the whole car culture that we have built and glamourized to the rest of the world has to change. People need to realize how ridiculous it is in the first place, they have to realize that it is not sustainable in the long term, and that something has to be done about it, and the sooner something is done, the better off all humans will be.

I don't have all of the answers myself. But it is clear to me that more public funds need to go to public transportation, and other, better forms of transportation. A huge amount of money is spent rebuilding roads in the US every year so more and more cars can drive on them. This is an utter waste of public funding and in reality should not be done. That money should be spent towards better forms of transportation for all people, not just those that own cars. Sadly a majority of people want better roads, so they can drive their SUV's and other vehicles down the street.

Driving is a part of our culture and it's what most people want to do, but that in no way makes it right or good for the future progress of our country, or humans as a whole. I realize that driving has given people much more freedom than they previously had, and that is not a bad thing in any way. But it is an undeniable fact that there are and were better options to allow all people the freedom that they want and deserve, that is completely sustainable for a very long length of time. I can't blame past generations for wanting to drive and to exercise their freedom to travel around on their own will, as they didn't have the insight that we do in our current time. But now that we do have such information and understand that driving huge vehicles all over the country on expensive roads is a waste of resources and is not sustainable in the long term, then something must be done about it.

Every day that passes wherein people continue to go with the flow and majority feeling is setting back humanity as a whole. It's setting back our future generations by hurting our stability and our environment. We have to step up as a people and bring it to an end. We have to sit down and put our minds towards progress, rather than selfish deeds, for the good of our country and the world. We have to realize that suburban sprawl is not necessary and has only led to us having to rely more and more on our vehicles to get us away from and back to our homes.

There are better, more modern forms of transportation available to us right now. They are more efficient and are more sustainable in the long term, which will lead to a better life for our future generations. Anything at all will help; simply moving away from overly large vehicles that are completely unnecessary would be a huge improvement. And I do realize that we are beginning to move in the right direction, but there is undoubtedly resistance in many areas that we need to overcome. It has been too long already and it is time to help our fellow citizens along.

From Various Thoughts on Philosophy and Religion

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We can't say for sure that early religious beliefs were not accepting of dissenting views and new ideas. In fact there is clear evidence that various religious ideas have melded into one another and then became a very much new idea that was generally accepted by those people. Whether they were persuaded somehow to accept these new beliefs is up for debate, but I'm sure that they would have been influenced by those that were in power and leading their people. We can use things from earlier in this thread as an example; Such as the Romanization of the ancient Greek Gods, to the acceptance of many Pagan traditions even now in our modern Christianity. I do agree in saying that these things were done to somewhat pacify the people, to make them happy and give them what they want, thus causing less problems for the people in charge. So knowing these things, I do not think that we can say that all or even a majority of humankinds past religious thought was as closed minded as people like to think, and some of that is certainly warranted, there has been much bloodshed for religious beliefs alone and that is the only side that many people like to look at the discussion from.

I also agree that it is very much a possibility that the very first religious beliefs came about through the fear of the people of their surroundings. But even if that were the case, we would not be able to say that they were also not trying to understand what was going in those surroundings at the very same time. There's no way that we can say that fear was the sole or even the main reason for the first religious beliefs to come about.

Of course you make a good point in saying that philosophical thought is a better tool for us to use in deducing the truth of our surroundings than ancient religious beliefs and religious thought in general. But I would say that it is generally safe for us to assume that these ancient religious beliefs far predate any philosophical thought. I find it hard to imagine that ancient people with their scavenger-hunter-gatherer ways had much of a chance to sit around and have discussions using a philosophical thought process, rather they would, quite possibly out of fear, discuss ways to make their very difficult life easier. Why this turned into worshiping river, forest and sun Gods, or what have you, I do not know for sure. But it does seem fairly obvious to me that these people were making use of what they had, much like any other animal they just wanted to lead their life and have as few hardships as possible.

You mention Socrates and make another very good point. At some point in time there will be no need for religion, when there is nothing left that we as humans do not know, then I see no reason for religion to exist outside of it's cultural value. It's stories and superstitions would no longer have a reason to be taken seriously (not that I believe they do now). But until that point in time comes that science can prove to all of humankind that religious beliefs are no longer necessary, then I feel that we as tolerant human beings must accept religion and make sure that it is only used for good in the world, rather than any past evils that it may have been the cause of.

I also believe that the very heart of religious thought is to know the unknown. I honestly do not believe that these general ideas came about as a means for the then leaders to control their populations. It isn't clear exactly, but I believe that it is an easily arguable point that religious thought is nearly as ancient as humans themselves. I can envision a group of people, a family, living somewhere in the wilderness of Africa gathering food, scavenging the kills of other animals, and even hunting for their own kills. These people communicate their family's/tribe's past beliefs and superstitions to their newest generations, teaching them what they know of the ways of their surroundings. That is how I see religious thoughts arising in humans, not with agriculture and the leaders of civilizations but with a small group or family of people, passing down what they think that they know about the land, the assumptions that they have made and the beliefs that they now have, to their children. They were simply trying to explain things that they could not even begin to understand.

That is why I think that religious thought should be respected. I detest the thought that religion is all bad, and was something simply invented by the leaders of humankind to take advantage and hurt the average person. That is just such a ridiculous thing to believe, at least when it comes to truly ancient religious thought. These were people that didn't have the luxury to sit around as Socrates did and have in depth discussions on such things. No, these were people that were simply trying to survive in the harshest of environments. And as such, we can not blame them for their beliefs that may seem silly to us now.

Continuing on: Those beliefs demand to be respected by all intelligent beings. Because at the very heart of such beliefs we must see the absolute brilliance of their thought process, the want and yearning to know what they do not know, to understand what they do not and can not understand. That is a beautiful thought process to have, and one that is most certainly not an innate human ability, as we can clearly see by the misuse of our brains in both modern and ancient times. It is the thought process of a brilliant person, or a brilliant group of people. The first group of people that decided that there was something to the rain falling down on them, there was something to- as you said, those orange and grey spheres in the sky that we can and then suddenly cannot see. These unknown people made the first and most brilliant observations in our history as human beings. An absolute breakthrough and something that should be respected and taught to every person throughout the world, no matter what they believe.

It's not even about beliefs. It was an abhorrent task for humans to take to cloud and tear apart these first brilliant observations from seam to seam. I completely disagree with how religion has been misused throughout our history. This is the very sad reason that a great many intelligent people will not even make the attempt to understand what is at the true heart of religious thought. It isn't Jesus Christ or the Pope, it isn't Muhammad, and it isn't the Torah. It's a group of people, perhaps many groups of people, making the most noble of attempts to understand what was going on in the world around them. That is what should be respected and looked at when people discuss religion, yet it's never even brought up.

That isn't to say that I am either for or against modern mainstream religions though. I fully understand that they have done many good and bad deeds both past and present. For these reasons I understand why some people dislike one or the other, or even all of them. But I would argue that most of our popular religions have done more good for humans than they have done bad. And I believe that most religions should be respected for their intense amounts of cultural value. Many great things have come about through the means of modern religious beliefs.

One story, that I've just tried to google but wasn't able to find anything. But I was told (or read) once that Michelangelo said something along the lines of "God put the image of David in the marble" - and all he did was bring it out and make it visible for all of us to see. That's as close as I can recall to what was said, and of course I have no proof of that, but it seems like a reasonable thing for Michelangelo to say. As it goes along with the fact that a belief in God has been an inspiration for some of the greatest works, both artistic and not, of all time.

From Various Thoughts on Music

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I'm going to write about some of the greatest songs of all time. Some songs are not only classic, but they are also musically, lyrically, artistically pure and genuine, beautiful. I will discuss what the songs mean to me, why they are great, as well as information about where you can listen to these songs, when they are from, where they are from, where they were recording, as well as other miscellaneous information. It should be fun!



The Diamond Sea by Sonic Youth


The song itself is from 1995 and was written by Thurston Moore. It was first released on the brilliant Washing Machine album. There are three versions of this song: The album version which is 19 minutes and 35 seconds, a radio edit which comes in at 5 minutes and 26 seconds, and an extended version which is an amazing 25 minutes 50 seconds. It was released in 1995 as the first single from the Washing Machine album, the single has the radio edit and the extended version of the song, as well as the song My Arena. There was a video created for the song which used compiled footage from the 1995 Lollapalooza tour, Spike Jonze and several other well known directors were involved in the creation of the video.

The lyrics read:

time takes its crazy toll
and how does your mirror grow
you better watch yourself when you jump into it
cause the mirror's gonna steal your soul
I wonder how it came to be my friend
that someone just like you has come again
you'll never ever know how close you came
until you fall in love with the diamond rain
throw all his trash away
look out he's here to stay
your mirror's gonna crack when he breaks into it
and you'll never ever be the same
look into his eyes and you can see
why all the little kids are dressed in dreams
I wonder how he's gonna make it back
when he sees that you just know it's make-believe
blood crystallized to sand
and now I hope you understand
you reflect into his looking-glass soul
and now the mirror is your only friend
look into his eyes and you will see
that men are not alone on the diamond sea
sail into the heart of a lonely storm
and tell her that you'll love her eternally
time takes its crazy toll
mirror falling off the wall
you better look out for the looking-glass girl
cause she's gonna take you for a fall
look into his eyes and you shall see
why everything is quiet and nothing's free
I wonder how he's gonna make her smile
when love is running wild on the diamond sea

To me, these are some of the greatest lyrics ever written. The combination of the lyrics and the music make for not only one of my favorite songs of all time, but a song which I believe is one of the greatest ever recorded. The music is simply gorgeous, a masterful composition of sound invading, pummeling it's way down your ear canals. At some points you won't know if you want it to stop or not, but you will most certainly continue listening, waiting for that breakthrough of pureness and beauty that we are all so hopeful for. At times the song can seem a sonic stillbirth, an amalgamated abortion of sounds destroying your eardrums and you know it, yet you turn it up a little louder.

The lyrics are much the same. They are an expansive journey inward and within ones deepest self, tickling our egos and insecurities in ways that we never thought were, and hoped not possible, especially from this punk band from New York. What were they doing writing like this, playing 20 minute explosions of emotion, touching us on nearly every level? This was unchartered territory for the band, a new and great discovery to be shared with everyone that wanted to expand their musical horizons.

Lyrics written, interpreted as I may, looking, digging, finding, deep within oneself, some deeper meaning of what is of a real, actual value, and what isn't. Exploring how not only this revelation affects you, but how others around you, in your life and out, affect you just the same. Discovering and overcoming whatever insecurities that you personally may have had by ripping them to shreds with words and feedback seemingly from another planet, certainly from another level, a level that we were most definitely not on until The Diamond Sea.

Then in the end, we come to an understanding and hopefully even an acceptance of what we've come to realize by the end of the song. We have been a witness to true artistic beauty and that can never be taken away from us. In one single song we have learned to search, find, explore, and then understand and accept the innermost feelings that we allow to be affected.

That's just it: The Diamond Sea, just like any other music, is what it is, and is what you make of it. If we allow ourselves, then we end up seeing and understanding that these things are not of any great importance, and only then are we able to break from our bonds and prejudices, whatever they may be, and truly be free.
From Various Thoughts and Opinions

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Think of this: How many people in America owned guns in the early days of the colonies, up to the revolution and through the 19th century? I don't know if there are actual statistics available, but even without any statistics I would be more than comfortable in saying that a large portion of the population owned and used guns regularly without issue. Those were different times, a completely different culture from what we have today. The same basic idea can be applied to various countries in Europe: You have countries with rampant gun use, ownership, and general knowledge, such as Switzerland, and then you have countries with heavy handed gun laws, such as the UK. The reason that you end up with different statistics of gun usage between those two countries and the US is due to culture. The people are very different.

Another issue that was just brought up a few posts above this one is that a large majority of gun related crimes are happening in poor, uneducated areas. Areas with a completely different culture, way of life, and way of thinking, than other areas just a handful of miles away in many cases, which are not having the same issues with gun related crime. That isn't something that is going to be fixed by pouring money into the problem areas either, it's an issue of general education of young people in our country. And not just public education, but parental education and guidance as well, perhaps even more importantly.

School shootings on the other hand, are another issue entirely:
They are caused by emotional issues on the part of those committing such crimes. First of all, anyone that would even have the thought of doing such a thing is not well mentally. They should be given proper mental treatment before it comes to bringing a gun to their school and ending the lives of many innocent students and teachers. There's a huge issue with the treatment of those with mental health issues in the US, it's not just the crazy homeless guy that needs proper treatment, at one point that guy was in school and very likely had the same exact issues, but they went untreated and that is how he ended up. People need proper mental treatment, in my opinion it is a far bigger issue than the physical health of the public, which is generally all that is mentioned by the politicians and everyone else.

Ride a Bike

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Posted on Various Thoughts on Culture

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I am very pro cycling myself. I have an extreme dislike for the car culture that we have here in the US in general. I absolutely feel that if mass public or self transportation without the use of a motor vehicle is possible, then it should be used in nearly all cases.

Personally I do not drive currently and I do not even own a car. Using mass transit and self transportation is environmentally sound and much more cost effective than operating a motor vehicle of your own. That's why I don't understand the car culture that we have, I don't understand how it has spread and is generally accepted everywhere, even in our large cities.

That's why I thought that Bloomberg's tax was a brilliant idea for NYC. Having actually biked through New York on a regular basis, it's not exactly the greatest experience that I've ever had, and certainly not something that I would want to do every morning to get to work. If there were less vehicles, less congestion and less hostility in general though, then I would be all for cycling to work most of the time. But still it isn't a huge issue as we have a fine public mass transit system in our subways.

Anyway, I'm hoping that the recent housing issues in the US will make more and more people come to the cities, which should lead to less reliability on vehicles for people in general if they have a quality system for public transportation in place.

I have other huge issues with suburban sprawl and the whole suburban culture here in the US as well, a different topic, I know; but it has to be stated as it undoubtedly plays a key role in the want and need for motor vehicles by many Americans. If we didn't live 20 miles away from where we go to school and work, then there would be much less of an issue and the car culture in the US would simply dissolve. It is honestly ridiculous to live so far away from the places that you need to go on a regular basis when you could just as easily live in the city, much closer to the places that you need to go.

Both are huge issues that people need to get over in my opinion. You don't need an acre or two of land surrounding your home, really. There is absolutely no need for that, it's wasteful and harmful to all of us in the long run. Living in the city is a much better option. Hopefully more and more people in our future generations realize this and stop moving into and building new unnecessary suburbs.



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