The following text was sent to me by a freedom loving patriot. He apparently managed to hack into Obama’s Blackberry and acquire a rough draft of the speech. He said that he was hampered a bit by the voices in his head-apparently his tinfoil hat was slipping because he was sweating out of fear that he would be brought before a Death Panel. Here is the draft he found:
I am here to speak before you of the state of the Peoples’ Republic of America, long may the Proletariat Revolution Live! (Pause for the adoration of the media and Democrat sheep).
As I had hoped, the job killing health care is killing jobs at the rate of 10 million per day. At this point, it is actually almost done with America and will soon have to travel to other countries to kill jobs. After that, other worlds, other galaxies and finally other realities. Hell, it might even travel back in time and kill past jobs, too. This killing machine will not rest until all the jobs are dead. Don’t worry Bill, it won’t kill the blow jobs. (Pause for laughter).
Speaking of killing, the Death Panels are in full operation. Even as I speak, black helicopters are circling the houses of key conservative pundits and Tea Party activists. In fact, the Secret Gestapo just texted me that Glenn Beck has been darted, bagged, tagged and will soon be brought before a Death Panel. I wonder what the verdict will be? (Pause for laughter).
On a more serious note, I am pleased to report that the Government now owns nearly 90% of all businesses in America. Productivity has dropped and inferior products are being made-if they are available at all. The rich will be rounded up and brought before Death Panels and their money will be used to teach pimps how to run their businesses. Any leftover money will be used to fund research into a machine to make everyone gay. (Pause for even more adoration)
Taxes have been increased two billion percent and we have borrowed five hundred gazillion dollars for China. In return I have promised the Chinese your children and your children’s children. And their children, too. (Pause for applause-consider joke about Tiger Moms)
I am also pleased to announce that Sharia law will replace the Constitution, although atheism will also be mandated while Islam will be the official religion. On a related note, I am pleased to announce that I will bringing in religious teachers from my home country of Kenya.
(Pause while the Republicans are rounded up and marched off to Death Panels).
For the superstitious, birds are often omens of good or bad fortune. In ancient times, people would claim to see signs and portents in the behavior of birds. Interestingly enough, Glenn Beck is seeing signs and portents in geese.
As Beck’s rally to restore America’s honor got started, a flock of geese flew overhead. While this might seem to be a mere coincidence, Beck saw it as something more:
“I want to show you first that miracle that happened at 10:59. There are several versions of this, or at 9:59. There are several versions of what was happening. Do we have the videotape? At 9:59, what happened was there was a flock of geese. It was a flyover if you will. Somebody caught it on tape. Here’s the flyover. This was happening just as the opening music was starting. We wanted to have a flyover, but you can’t flyover in the District of Columbia. It was perfect coordination and perfect timing. Coincidence? Maybe? I think it was God’s flyover. It was not supposed to happen. We couldn’t get a flyover. We couldn’t even get anybody dressed in a military uniform to present the flag. We tried for almost a year. We couldn’t get it done. Thank God, we had our flyover.”
While Beck does briefly consider that it might be a coincidence, he infers that it was God’s flyover. His reasoning seems to be as follows:
- I wanted a flyover for my event.
- I could not get a flyover for my event.
- A flock of geese flew over just as my event was starting.
- Therefore, God sent the geese.
This, obviously enough, seems like quite a leap. In order to rationally infer that God sent the geese (that is, that divine intervention is the best explanation) it would have to be shown that there is no better or more plausible explanation for the event.
As noted above, Beck does consider coincidence. That is, the geese just happened to fly overhead at that time. While the odds of a flock of geese flying over a specific event at its starting point are fairly low, the probability is hardly zero. After all, it just requires that geese do what they naturally do at the same time some event is starting. Such an occurrence hardly seems to be a divine sign. If it is, then I have seen many divine signs in my life. For example, once when I was starting my run, I saw a turkey run out of the woods. I’d never seen a turkey in the area before, but there it was. I can only assume that God was blessing my run. As another example, my gaming group was about to start playing Call of Cthulhu when a squirrel landed on the room’s skylight. While this was not a bird, surely squirrels can also be signs of divine favor. As such, I must infer that God blesses Cthulhu.
Sarcasm aside, the flying of geese is such a mundane event that it can hardly be considered a sign of divine favor. After all, if an omnipotent being wanted to show his favor, surely he could provide a clearer and more impressive sign-one worthy of such a being. So, for example, if a squadron of angels had flown overhead, then that would have been a clear sign of divine favor.
As a final point, signs and portents are often the result of selective attention. That is, people think nothing of (for example) the times when geese just happen to be flying by and then assign special meaning when the same thing happens in conjunction with some other event. This is, of course, poor reasoning.
A seemingly unbreakable law of nature is that all things die. This seems to apply to individuals as well as collectives, such as nations and empires. As history shows, empires rise, stumble, and then fall. Perhaps the end comes in war (as WWI spelled the end of some empires), due to environmental changes or some other means. But, the end has always arrived.
While the United States is regarded by some as being exceptional, we do not seem to be imbued with a special immunity against the death of empire. In fact, it seems certain that some day the dawn shall come and there will be no United States. While this end, like the death of any one of us, seems inevitable, it need not come soon. Just as a person can hold death with good choices and some luck, so can the collective that is the United States.
The first step in doing this is recognizing the real dangers that we face. This requires doing a rational threat assessment rather than following the usual methodology of the pundits and the politicians.
This usual method involves presenting as a serious threat whatever they happen to think people will fear the most or what will result in the greatest profit for those whose interests they serve. Obviously, those on the left and the right do this. Folks on the right tell us that the shabby terrorists who come up with shoe and underwear bombs, who have no warships, tanks, or standing armies are the supreme threat. Well, almost supreme. There are, after all, the illegals who want to cross the border to steal our jobs, commit crimes and drop anchor babies. Folks on the left tell us that we face sure destruction from climate change, warn of the infinite evil of all corporations (by posting on Facebook using their iPhones), and think we should be rid of guns once and for all. Obviously, I do exaggerate a bit. But just a bit.
Since I teach critical thinking, I am naturally inclined to want people to use the methods of critical thinking and logic when assessing threats. As with assessing anything, it is rather important to attempt the assessment in an objective manner. This does not mean setting aside one’s values or feelings. But it does mean being aware of how these values and emotions impact the assessment. To use an analogy, it is like knowing that you are looking through lenses that are tinted and a bit distorted. Knowing this, you can do a better job of determining what you are really looking at. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) we cannot remove our emotional and value lenses. But we can learn to correct for any distortions they might create in our perceptions.
Doing this also means being able to take into account one’s biases, interests and prejudices. For example, someone who can profit greatly from their being a war on terror would be rather motivated to see terrorism as a huge threat that requires very expensive countermeasures. As another example, someone who has invested heavily in “green” technology would be rather motivated to push the idea of climate change. Being aware of these factors can be difficult. Being able to set them aside when making assessments is even more challenging.
Being able to see how these factors impact one’s assessment is a difficult thing. Being able to regulate their impact is even harder. However, it can be done. To use an easy and obvious example, I (and many other educators) can grade papers in a very objective manner. To use another example, although I am sometimes accused of being horribly biased, I seem to do a reasonably good job considering the various sides to issues and their merits and problems. In any case, I obviously consider views that oppose my own and do not, for example, delete replies that criticize me or my arguments.
An obvious question is, of course, why do we need to have rational threat assessments? Can’t we just muddle along as we have, dragged left and right by the pundits and politicians?
Well, we can. But that is like being aboard a ship where the wheel is pulled left or right not based on where the rocks really are, but based on where the folks with the loudest voices say they are. Or, even worse, having the wheel pulled based on fears of imaginary sea monsters or by those who see a minnow as the Leviathan come to devour the ship. This is, obviously enough, a recipe for disaster.
While I generally disagree with Glenn Beck, I do agree that the United States does need some repairs. However, the first repair must be to the way we judge the threats and dangers. We face real dangers, big and small. However, we need to properly sort out the real from the unreal and the big from the small. Then we can do the rational thing and address the real problems based on how serious they really are.
Glenn Beck is holding a rally today to restore honor. Today is also the anniversary of Dr. King’s speech, a fact regarding which Beck had made a claim of ignorance.
While I am all for true honor (not the vanity and false pride that masquerades as honor), Beck’s “Restoring Honor” title clearly implies that honor has been lost. Otherwise it would not need to be restored.
I do agree that America has suffered a loss of honor in recent years. Our invasion of Iraq damaged our honor. The way we conducted the war on terror also damaged our honor. Pretty much everything about the economic collapse damaged our honor. As such, Beck is right to claim that we are in need of an honor restoration. I am not sure that Beck is the man for the job, however.
Will he lead people to right the wrongs that have been committed in our name and by us? Will he guide people on the honorable path of truth, virtue and righteousness? Assuming, of course, that honor in this case is taken as being a measure of goodness. Does he have the knowledge of virtue that it takes (as per Aristotle) to serve as the moral educator of America?
Somehow, I think not. But, I do not like to judge in haste. Let us see if Beck fulfills his promise and restores honor. After all, it is easy to talk about what is right. It is a simple thing to draw things on a blackboard. It is no trouble at all to tape up images. But, it is a hard thing to guide oneself and others to an honorable life.
This morning Sarah Palin exercised an obscure constitutional power: the ability to fire and replace the President. Apparently the constitution has a clause that a governor who quit prior to the end of his term can do this, provided that “she is smoking hot” and has “killed the beasts of the land from a flying machine.” This seems to have been put into the constitution by Benjamin Franklin as a joke, most likely after a night on the town with his drinking buddy Samuel Adams.
Prior to being sworn in, Palin said she would undo what Obama has done and she would begin by “destroying all hope and undoing all change.” Five minutes after being sworn in, she held an impromptu press conference and resigned, blaming the hateful liberal media and claiming that she would do more good in a private capacity. This placed Obama back in office and led Joe Biden to say something too stupid to print here.
After returning to office, Obama quickly signed the health care bill after driving the moose out of the oval office. Immediately those affected by the bill became either Stalinist communists or Nazis. Naturally, the two groups could be told apart by the differences in the mustaches that they suddenly grew.
While the new Stalinists and Nazis threatened violence, it turned out that being socialists they were lazy and incapable of engaging in competition. So, instead of trying to destroy America or force abortions onto unwilling women, they merely stayed home to watch TV, surf the web and devour Cheetos. Many were hospitalized due to their overindulgence and were promptly euthanized by Obama’s Death Panels.
Seeing this weakness in America, Al Qaeda sent wave after wave of bombers to attack the United States. These included the jock strap bomber, the eye patch bomber, the hemorrhoid bomber, and the sphincter bomber. Due to poor bomb design, all the bombers ended up merely burning various parts of their anatomy, thus leading them to insist on being water boarded (at least until the fires were out). Nothing was heard from Dick Cheney, who was apparently busy having his 666th heart attack. He is expected to recover fully, at least as long as he can escape the Obama Death Panels.
Meanwhile, the liberal media continued to do its best to destroy God, Apple Pie and America. Fortunately, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Fox News were able to warn America about the media threat through the media. The irony was lost on them, as it always is.
In closing news, God showed up to say that the entire planet was under water due to a bad sub prime loan (and not due to divine wrath). Apparently, we are being evicted to the moon. Hearing this, the moonbats rejoiced: at long last they would get a free trip back home.
One obvious way to lower medical expenses is for people to exercise more, eat better, and give up harmful vices such as smoking and excessive drinking. While some medical expenses do arise from accidents, disease and other factors that cannot be easily avoided by a healthy lifestyle, a significant portion of costs arises from what can be best described as poor life choices.
From a rational standpoint, exercising, eating better and giving up harmful vices makes perfect sense both individually and collectively. For the individual, there is an overall increase in the quality of life as well as reduced costs in terms of health care and the price of vice (for example, vices like smoking tend to be rather costly). Collectively, this puts less burden on health care (public and private), increases work & school attendance, boost productivity and so on. On the downside, the more people who take this approach, the lower the income from “sin” taxes and the lower the income will be for people who work in health care and providing for the relevant vices. However, the gains would seem to far outweigh the losses.
Unfortunately, most people are either not rational or lack the will to act upon their rationality (that is, they prefer laziness and vice to the better alternatives). While folks do turn to self help books (which do nothing), diet pills (which generally do not have a lasting effect), and other “quick fixes”, few folks do what it really takes to be healthy. This is because, as Aristotle would say, the temperate and hardy life does not appeal to most people. Aristotle’s solution was to use the compulsive power of the state to make people virtuous. This is not, of course, a viable option here in the United States. As such, appeals to reason and compulsion are out.
Perhaps the most realistic option is to make use of factors that do tend to sway people, such as emotional appeals, celebrity endorsements and so forth. If, for example, we could tap into the motivational power of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and use that to get people to exercise and eat better, then that would be a good start. While Beck looks like he could benefit from a fitness program, Palin is already and runner and in good shape. If she started adding a pitch for running as one of her talking points, I think that might get a person or two off the couch and onto the trails. I think that healthy living is something that could enjoy bipartisan support.
Of course, even if Palin was able to get some folks off the couch, the hard part is keeping them upright and away from the Cheese Puffs. I’ve been in running for decades and have lost count of the people I have seen start fitness programs only to end up unable to escape the couch. I know what keeps me motivated, but I also know that most folks lack this quality (or fanaticism). To be honest, I do not know what would keep most people on the right track (aside from compulsion).
While this healthy lifestyle seems good, one possible concern is that healthy folks live longer. As such, rather than dropping dead, they will keep going on for quite some time. The problem is, of course, that at their advanced ages they will start eating up health care resources to keep them going.
While this is a reasonable worry, the fact seems to be that people who live longer because of good health tend to not be a burden even in old age. For example, I know many people from running who are, to blunt, damn old. Yet, they are very healthy and tend to have very modest medical needs (far less than folks who are younger, yet unhealthy). Even if old healthy folks do consume more health resources than unhealthy dead folks (who would consume none), the overall savings would seem to be a net gain. That is, the lower expenses in the younger years would offset any extra costs accrued because of the longer life.
Naturally, folks will probably point out that older people can be expensive to keep alive. However, these costs generally are for people who did not lead healthy lifestyles. Keeping someone going who did not take very good care of himself can be rather costly, but someone who has been very active in her own health will probably be far cheaper to maintain.
So, I say to my fellow Americans: put down the Cheese Puffs, put out those cigarettes, and get out there and run like your life depends on it. Because it does.
To quote a great philosopher: “Dying like a fatty is no way to die, people.”
Like Glenn Beck, I worry about America. Unlike Mr. Beck, I deal with this worry without theatrics. As the pundits and experts have argued, America is facing serious economic and political challenges. For example, a hot talking point these days is that the government is broken.
As I see it, it is not the political machinery that is broken. While I am not slavishly devoted to the works of the founders, they did construct an impressive political machine. Of course, having a good machine is not enough-the operators also matter a great deal.
In the case of America, our state machine is operated directly by the politicians and indirectly by the rest of us. To stay at the wheels of the machine, the politicians have to pander to us and generally give us what we want. Unfortunately, what we generally want is not the best for us. Part of the problem is that our vices tend to overwhelm our virtues.
To steal a bit from Aristotle, it is easy to spend money, it is easy to get angry, and it is easy to get fat. It is hard to spend money wisely, it is hard to know when to be angry and at what, and it is hard to stay fit. Unfortunately, we all too often take the easy way.
While people often cry out for wise spending, the folks in congress know that they cannot touch our entitlements without risking putting their political heads on the chopping block. Interestingly, even the folks who are against the government say absurd and foolish things such as demanding that the government keep its hands off their medicare. This nicely illustrates a common irrationality: people want the government to cut spending but to do so without reducing any of their entitlements. However, if we are going to deal with our deficit and massive spending, we will need to do what is hard: curb our entitlements. If we have the collective will, the public virtue to give up some of our private good for the general good, then we can do this. If not, well history tells us what happens to empires that open up the treasury for bread and circuses.
Following Aristotle, there are things that deserve our anger. However, we are often quick to anger at little provocation and not prone to ask if the anger is directed at the right people, at the right time, to the right degree and for the right reasons. A pundit drives us into a rage and we assume that because we are angry we must have a perfectly good reason for that anger. In some cases, people take this anger to extremes and, for example, crash a plane into a building. To be ruled by this irrational anger is to fall victim to a terrible vice. While we should not deaden our ability to feel righteous outrage, we need to work on controlling our anger or it will surely control us.
While being obese might seem to have nothing to do with politics, there is a connection. While some folks have physiological problems that make weight control difficult, this is not true of the vast majority of people. It is a simple matter of physics and biology: if energy intake exceeds energy expenditure in a human, that human will start building fat. As has been trumpeted out across the nation, Americans are a fat people. The average weight of Americans has increased dramatically over the years even though we reached a state of abundance quite some time ago. As such, the difference is most likely behavioral: people are consuming more and expending less energy. This is, of course, intuitively supported by the fact that we are now an internet culture whose leisure activities are physically passive. There are, of course, many other contributing factors but the fact is that we are fat.
While I would never claim that fat people are being morally bad, fatness does seem to be a mark of vice: either the vice of over consumption or the vice of sloth (or both). Our vices (and virtues) tend to be a general part of our character rather than existing in compartments. As such, one who is prone to sloth and overindulgence in one area will tend to have that behavior as a general trait (there are, of course, exceptions). An examination of our spending habits and the behavior that got us into the financial mess seem to involve these vices. Though we are consistent, this consistency is not a desirable one.
I will not claim that physical fitness will help cure our economic and political woes. However, I do contend that we need to work on developing the virtues that oppose the vices of over consumption and sloth. While doing this will not suffice by itself to save the economy, it would help a great deal.
The beauty of democracy is that it gives us the government we deserve and reflects who we are. If our government is wasteful, bloated and undisciplined this is because we are as well. If we want the government to change, we need to change ourselves. Good government, to steal a bit from Aquinas and Aristotle, requires good people. We can be those people, if we have the will to try.
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- When raw anger at government turns violent (seattletimes.nwsource.com)