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Collapsing + The Horror of What Is Happening
Kimball Corson
05/07/2012, Pago Pago, American Samoa

The Horror of What Is Happening

It had its earlier nominal start with Newt Gingrich. More contemporarily, it has been strongly redoubled by Republicans Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy, joint authors of the immaturely titled and unintentionally self parodying book, "Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders." If the title conjures up images of the Wild West and shoot outs at OK corral, it is not far off the mark.

Gingrich, these Young Guns, the Tea Party Republicans and the huge number of other Republicans in Congress who have also signed Grover Norquist's pledge of 'no new taxes so that government can be cut down to a size where it can be drowned in a bathtub' - are the core cadre of Republicans who are out to destroy government as we know it, if they cannot get the legislation they want to do the same thing.

No matter that they are a minority. Their guerrilla legislative tactics, spoil sportism, hostage taking, resentment of Obama and take no prisoners approach in Congress are rendering government dysfunctional. That is the thesis of a new book by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, entitled ""It is even Worse Than it Looks . . ."

As Mike Lofgren, a thirty year veteran Republican congressional staffer has put it this way: "It should have been evident to clear eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less like a traditional political party in a representative Democracy and more like an apocalyptic cult or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe."

A perfect example of the new Republican style was this cadre's opposition to raising the debt ceiling unless they got the deficits cuts they wanted. They didn't give a damn if America's credit rating could be (and was) damaged in the process. They wanted government cut.

As former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel said in the Financial Times, his party has become "irresponsible" and he was 'disgusted" by their antics over the debt ceiling. Gone are responsible and moderate Republican leaders like Eisenhower, Bob Dole, Everitt Dirkson, Howard Baker Gerald Ford, Hugh Scott and others who were pragmatic and who would and could work things out. As the well respected political historian Geoffrey Kabaservice explains it in the title of his book, "Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party from Eisenhower to the Tea Party" -- the term moderate Republican has become an oxymoron.

On the debt ceiling crisis, Speaker of the House John Boehner - the man in the middle -- and the less radical elements in the Republican party were only able to team up with the Democrats and - to stay with the metaphor - "head the Young Guns and their gang off at the pass," at the last minute, but too late to prevent Standard & Poor's from down grading US creditworthiness, in large part for our dysfunctional government, as Standard & Poor's explained it.

I could go on, but you know enough to fill in the blanks yourself. Paul Ryan is the chairman of the House Budget Committee. Eric Cantor is the House Majority Leader. Kevin McCarthy is the Republican House Whip. These Young Guns are at the levers of power in their party. They and their Republican colleagues I describe are deliberately sinking our ship of government. They want government to fail and are becoming emboldened at their effort.

What they want is to destroy the federal government as we know it and the Norquist Pledge makes that clear. All but 13 Republican members have signed the Pledge and three Democrats have. That is a total of 338 members of the House and 41 members of the Senate, as of late 2011. Make no mistake about their goal: it is to starve the "beast" of government down to a size where they can destroy the rest of it. They hate the US government with a passion. Their patrons, the rich, conservative Plutocrats in America, want to rule and control and the US government stands in their way.

Now here is the real horror of it, as described by Thomas Mann and Norman Orenstein in their book: The American voting public is badly out to lunch and can't keep matters straight, at least in the face of the myriad Republican lies and propaganda. This is proved by what happened with the 2010 midterm elections:

"In 2010, an angry and frightened electorate had put the Republicans in the majority in the House and strengthened the GOP's hand in the Senate. What that produced was a year of hostage taking and wrangling in Congress, misdirected steps to deal with the deficit and nothing whatsoever to remedy the public's greatest concern - chronic unemployment. Democracy's most essential power - the ability of the citizenry to "throw the bums out" - proved wholly inadequate to the task of governing effectively." Mann and Ornstein

These are the grounds to believe that America is in very serious trouble unless something like Abe Lincoln's dictum is true that most of the people cannot be fooled all the time. But is that enough in these circumstances? Republicans have been voting against their own interests for years now.

Church Interior + Faith Is a Partial Rejection of Reality
Kimball Corson
05/04/2012, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Although Religionists Urgently Attempt to Deny It, Faith Is a Partial Rejection of Reality

Truth and knowledge make it clear that "faith" is a partial rejection of the world and it is coupled with a partial and commensurate retreat in to fantasy and wishful thinking. As Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, "Faith means not wanting to know what is true [in some regards]."

But here is how some religionists defend against this obviousness: "This is an extremist position and is not what theologians typically mean by the word "faith." In his classic book, "Stages of Faith" James Fowler provides a deeper insight: "Faith is a person's or group's way of moving into life. It is our way of finding coherence in and giving meaning to the multiple forces and relationships that make up our lives."* Now how is that for amorphous mumbo-jumbo. In fact, faith is belief in things unseen or that cannot be established as true. There is great imprecision of thought in this defense.

The same such defender goes on to argue in a most backasswards fashion: "A leap to faith is leap is a courageous move toward what is true, and begins by accepting things exactly as they are, with as little ego distortion as possible, and without the impulse to immediately condemn, reframe or ignore." Yet, this is precisely why Nietzsche argued that the church's dedication to truth was its ultimate undoing. This chap is attempting to reverse matters.

The same author finally argues, again absurdly: "The leap is also toward the trust that creation is inherently good, and that if you approach the world with the desire to know and accept what is true, that all will proceed well, even if you do not understand -- or even want -- what shows up; even if it means that you will need to re-examine some deeply held beliefs." This is no more than the old saw that we should just trust in the Lord and things will all work out for the best, rephrased in much more decorous language.

The quality of thought here is abysmal.

From an article by Rabbi Alan Lurie entitled "Is Faith the Rejection of Reality?"

Church Dog + How the Supreme Court is Screwing Up the ACA Case
Kimball Corson
05/04/2012, American Samoa

How the Supreme Court is Screwing Up the ACA Case

Why aren't the provisions of Medicare Part D, which impose a penalty of 1% for each year that an eligible participant postpones electing a private drug insurance company from which to purchase a private insurance policy, a clear and fully applicable precedent relating to the ACA individual mandate? The answer is, as a friend points out, initial enrollment is voluntary; however, this penalty become mandatory thereafter in later periods so there is no changing your mind: you must buy the insurance or pay the fine, just like under the ACA. Too, the purpose is the very same: to force people to purchase insurance that regulates health care in interstate commerce This part D provision has been in effect for several years. But there are other and better examples of positive Congressional mandates in American law.

Then, in 1792, a Congress that included 17 framers passed a law requiring nearly every "free able-bodied white male citizen" age 18 to 44, within six months, "provide himself with a good musket or flintlock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch with a box therein to contain not less than twenty-four cartridges," along with balls and gunpowder. A rifle could be substituted. The purpose was to establish a uniform militia and the Commerce Clause could be deemed to support the requirement. But there are better examples yet.

In 1790, the first Congress, which included may framers of the constitution, required all ship owners to provide medical insurance for seamen, and, worse, in 1798, Congress also required seamen to buy hospital insurance for themselves." This is very directly on point.

Supreme Court approval should be tanking if the Justices don't know or understand these matters. Too, they have already applied the wrong standard of review. The standard the Justices are clearly applying is "de novo" review, that is, total re-review from the beginning. The proper standard of review in a case like this is did Congress have a "rational basis" to believe the Commerce Clause supported the legislation. This more deferential standard applies because the ACA was voted on and passed by representatives of the people who were voted into office by the people, unlike Supreme Court justices who are appointed. Justice Kennedy understands the problem, if not the law.

Justice Kennedy got to the heart of the matter by saying "Assume for the moment that this [the requirement to purchase health insurance] is unprecedented [a mistaken assumption as I show], this is a step beyond what our cases have allowed [not!] -- the affirmative duty to act to go into commerce. If that is so, do you not have a heavy burden of justification [de novo review] ? I understand that we must presume laws are constitutional [the rational basis review standard], but even so, when you are changing the relation of the individual to the government in this, what we can stipulate is, I think, a unique way, do you not have a heavy burden of justification to show authorization under the Constitution?"

There is the standard of review problem in a nutshell, with Kennedy making the wrong assumptions and presumptions and the Court consequentially proceeding in the wrong manner.

Church Interior + Karl Popper's Theory on the Falsification of Knowledge
Kimball Corson
05/04/2012, American Samoa

Karl Popper's Theory on the Falsification of Knowledge

The problem exists in both the hard and soft sciences, but most especially the softer sciences or approaches to knowledge, and here are his proposals on how to fight it.

Succinctly, he concludes:

1) It is [too] easy to obtain confirmations, or verifications, for nearly every theory -- if we look for confirmations.

2) Confirmations should count only if they are the result of risky predictions; that is to say, if, unenlightened by the theory in question, we should have expected an event which was incompatible with the theory -- an event which would have refuted the theory.

3) Every "good" scientific theory is a prohibition: it forbids certain things to happen. The more a theory forbids, the better it is.

4) A theory which is not refutable by any conceivable event is non-scientific. Irrefutability is not a virtue of a theory (as people often think) but a vice.

5) Every genuine test of a theory is an attempt to falsify it, or to refute it. Testability is falsifiability; but there are degrees of testability: some theories are more testable, more exposed to refutation, than others; they take, as it were, greater risks.

6) Confirming evidence should not count except when it is the result of a genuine test of the theory; and this means that it can be presented as a serious but unsuccessful attempt to falsify the theory. (I now speak in such cases of "corroborating evidence.")

7) Some genuinely testable theories, when found to be false, are still upheld by their admirers -- for example by introducing ad hoc some auxiliary assumption, or by reinterpreting the theory ad hoc in such a way that it escapes refutation. Such a procedure is always possible, but it rescues the theory from refutation only at the price of destroying, or at least lowering, its scientific status. (I later described such a rescuing operation as a "conventionalist twist" or a "conventionalist stratagem.")

8) One can sum up all this by saying that the criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability.

This is Popper's effort to take politics and wishful thinking out of scientific method and assessments, especially in the soft or less precise sciences. It is a pretty good one. It is hard for the social sciences, for example, where controlled experimentation is rarely possible. But it is still useful to think along these lines if you are serious about scientific method.

Church + More Conservative Fraud and Deception: Corporate Taxes Are too High
Kimball Corson
05/04/2012, American Samoa

More Conservative Fraud and Deception: Corporate Taxes Are too High

Corporate taxes are way too high, to hear conservatives tell it. The tax rate is 35 percent, one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. We suck corporations dry, undermine their incentive to invest and work and in effect steal too much from them and their shareholders. Corporate taxes should therefore be lowered.

You have heard it all before, right? Well, that is most all a lie. Here's the truth of the matter.

Our corporate rate of 35 percent is one of the highest in the world. But American corporations don't pay that rate or anything close to it. Some, like GE actually get money back instead of paying taxes. Here is the truth of the matter.

The effective tax rate American corporations pay has been falling for decades, as they have been most effective at lobby Congress for decades to get ever more effective and greater loopholes in the tax laws. They also busy themselves figuring out how to book profits in foreign subsidiaries so they don't have to pay American taxes on those profits and then bribe and lobby their way out of having to pay foreign taxes on those profits as well.

In addition to these activities, companies like GE and Google have claimed millions of dollars in U.S. tax benefits so they pay very little or nothing in taxes. Many corporations play these games. The net result is they pay very little in taxes. How little? Here is how little.

In the 1950's, corporate tax revenues amounted to 4.8 percent of our GDP. In the sixties, that number fell 3.8 percent as the loopholes were expanded. By the first decade of the 2000's, corporate tax revenues had fallen to a mere 1.9 percent of GDP from playing these games. Meanwhile corporation profits after taxes were under 9 percent of GDP during those years.

By the year 2010, however, such corporate taxes were 1.3 percent of GDP and corporate profits after taxes had grown to 10. 3 percent of GDP.

The truth of the matter is, including the taxes levied on corporate profits by the states, American corporations pay corporate taxes at an effective rate, as a percentage of GDP, that is among the very lowest in the industrialize world.

Conservative and corporate America have been lying to you about the taxes American corporations pay. Congress has given the store away here and we are all awash in deceit and deception on this matter and how we have gotten to here.

Ceiling Stains + A Problem with the Pure Theory of Knowledge
Kimball Corson
05/04/2012, Pago Pago, American Samoa

A Problem with the Pure Theory of Knowledge

Nothing is ever known with absolute certainty. This is because, as David Hume explained, absoluteness or certainty can never be inferred from our observations regarding what we want to know.

For example, if we contend that X occurs after Y because of a causal process we hypothesize, then we face two questions 1) does X cause Y to happen and 2) will X always cause Y to happen so we can be certain of it.

On 1) we must eliminate all other causes and we must be sure that something else is not also causing X and then Y . This is often not as difficult as it seems. On 2) -- whether X will always cause Y to happen, we must experiment and see if it is always true. For example, does gravity [the hypothesized process] always cause a dropped rock [X] to fall to the floor [Y]. We can never know. We think so but that is an impermissible inference.

Let us say we run the experiment of dropping the rock 12,342 times. We cannot be absolutely certain on the 12,343rd drop that the rock will fall to the floor. What we know to this point is that of an infinite number of possible drops, the rock fell fell to the floor 12,342 times. We can suppose that as the number of times we drop the rock approaches infinity, the number of times it will hit the floor is also infinite, but we do not KNOW that.

So what do we know? We know we cannot know certainly. We cannot be sure the probability of the rock hitting the floor is 1. Worse, we cannot know either that the probability of it hitting the floor is not 1. What we do know is that of the 12,342 times we dropped it, it did hit the floor. So what do we know?

In truth, nothing at all beyond that and that certain knowledge is therefore an impossibility. This is a troublesome conclusion that nags all experimental science. How to deal with it is a separable matter.

Fare + On Hermeneutics: an Interpretive Overview
Kimball Corson
05/04/2012, Pago Pago, American Samoa

On Hermeneutics: an Interpretive Overview

Hermeneutics has been typically defined as the branch of knowledge that deals with the interpretation of written materials, esp. of the Bible or literary texts. However, in the hands of those who teach, it has hugely outrun its definition to the point now where it is not only about symbolic communication, but more fundamentally about human life and existence as such. Because of that, the term is ever more ambiguous and commensurately meaningless.

Hermeneutics is not new. The ancient Greek Stoics, in regard to their interpretation of myth, developed something like a methodological awareness of the problems of textual understanding. The Stoics, however, never developed a systematic theory of interpretation although Philo of Alexandria, whose reflections on the allegorical meaning of the Old Testament, did anticipate the idea that the literal meaning of a text may conceal a deeper non-literal meaning that may only be uncovered through systematic interpretatory work.

St. Augustine focused on the connection between language and interpretation and argued that the true interpretation of Scripture involves a deeper, existential level of self-understanding. His work in turn influenced Heidegger who was actually more interested in Aquinas's notion of Being, Right here is where hermeneutics seriously starts rattling in its tracks and begins looking over the fence at philosophy, being ever less interested in the voluminous reading of texts, religious or otherwise. But wait, it will get worse.

Hermeneutics, in its earlier days, got a decided boost from Martin Luther's break with the Church and emphasis on faith alone. He made it possible to question the traditional interpretations of the Bible in order to emphasize the way in which each and every reader faces the challenge of making the truths of the text his or her own. Text increasingly became what you wanted it to be. Ambiguities became lynch pins. The conscious mind started to take off only nominally restrained. Texts and reading per se began to fade into the background.

To aid this dispersion of thinking, next came the thought that thinking is always rooted in a given cultural context. This notion further opened the door to greater dispersion or dissipation of the original idea of hermeneutics, especially when Spinoza additionally muddled things up with the idea that in order to understand the most dense and difficult sections of the Holy Scriptures, one must keep in mind the historical horizon in which these texts were written, as well as the mind by which they were produced.

We move quickly here toward the idea that text is largely what you want it to be but we needed a greater infusion of philosophy for that to be and Martin Heidegger, in Sein und Zeit (1927), stepped up to the plate, completely transformed the discipline of hermeneutics, gave it an ontological turn and threw the doors wide open to whatever you wanted to say, assuming you could state your position with prolixity and decorum in the highest of English, with a need only to point to some text in passing.

"In Heidegger's view, hermeneutics is not a matter of understanding linguistic communication. Nor is it about providing a methodological basis for the human sciences. As far as Heidegger is concerned, hermeneutics is ontology; it is about the most fundamental conditions of man's being in the world." That really narrowed it down.

If that doesn't let the horse out of the barn, I don't know what better could. Now English professors, who have given up widely reading, have the world of philosophy at hand which I suppose is fine given that Continental philosophy has fled these shores and been displaced by analytical philosophy. It keeps the flame going, sort of. Now all that is needed is to point to a text as a passing starting point and roar off to say what you will. The truly untethered conscious mind.

English Lit, bored of reading, has acquired a whole new playground.

Gaps + On the Nature of Knowledge
Kimball Corson
05/04/2012, Pago Pago, American Samoa

On the Nature of Knowledge

How do we acquire knowledge, where knowledge is defined to be information the substance of which is 1) demonstrably true, 2) verifiably true by anyone, and 3) is repeatably demonstrable as true. Where does the information to be so evaluated come from? There are several sources: myths, suppositions, observations, conjectures, suggestions, assumptions, ideas and from other sources as well.

However, much such information, when it first comes to us, is not in a form to be established as knowledge. We have to devise ways to reframe the information or portions of it so that it can be then be evaluated or tested to determine -- by these criteria -- if it can be established as knowledge.

Consider God, for example. Is He demonstrably existent? Can that existence be verified by anyone? Can he be demonstrated to exist repeatedly? To these questions, the answers down through the ages, have been and are," no." But what if we reframe the question to "Do some people believe in the existence of God?" There, the three answers are all "yes." If the question is then modified to "Do some people believe in information that is not true?" The answers again become all "yes." If we definite belief in information that is not true as unreasonable, we can also then ask, "Are some people sometimes unreasonable?" We can answer all three questions affirmatively.

Consider gravity as another example. Like God, it cannot be seen, but can we establish information about it as knowledge? That depends on what we define gravity to be. If we say it is the attractive force between two objects that causes the one with less mass to fall more toward the other, then we can show our three questions are answered affirmatively.

As can be seen here, establishing knowledge or truth depends a lot on how properly to frame the question. Consider the question "Does each of us have an Id, as Freud said." How could we conclusively test that proposition? How do we frame the question? What definitions would help? If these questions cannot be well framed, right away we know we are dealing with information that cannot be established as true or to be knowledge. So what is it? It remains supposition, conjecture or an assumption. It cannot rise to being true or knowledge. What we might be able to establish as true, however, is the proposition it cannot be established as true. But that would require further consideration and ingenuity.

Karl Marx claimed all Capitalist societies become next Socialist and then finally Communist. This is false information. We know that because, looking at all societies which have been Capitalist, 1) it has never been shown to be true for any society and 2) it cannot be shown to be true to anyone and 3) it is not repeatedly true either. If Marx argued instead all Capitalist societies will in the future become next Socialist and then finally Communist that is untestable conjecture. The future has not happen yet. However, the longer time passes without any of that happening, the less likely Marx is to be true here.

As a final example, can we establish as true or knowledge that a cut in the deficit, other things kept the same, will result in a drop in aggregate demand? Here a controlled test is not possible in most cases. However, we can measure aggregate demand repeatedly after various and repeated and measurable cuts in the deficit and determine the answer to all three questions is yes. It might take longer and require more testing than usual, but with such and much experience, the information can be shown to be true, working from developed records.

Knowledge is true, but establishing information as true can be very tricky business. Much cannot be established as true or to be knowledge. That information is not knowledge and remains myth, supposition, conjecture, suggestion or the like.
Added afterthoughts

Mine is a concrete definition of knowledge for all everywhere, well freed of man's conscious flights of fancy, fantastical conjurings and imaginative missteps. While the later can be fun, seem most erudite and compelling and seem to evoke great wisdoms, unless they are testable notions that can rise to knowledge, I suggest more are just blather.

Pronouncements that resonate strongly with one's inner core, don't cut it, for they may simply be another's joke. The advancement of civilization is founded on the huge growth in knowledge according to my definition and virtually nothing else. If a good conjecture or whim is to be make worthy, inventive minds must succeed in establishing it or some part of it as being knowledge. All else is just conscious musings which we tend to like and too much believe because our conscious minds are wholly untethered and limited only by our capacity to use language upon which it depends. Knowledge is too easily confused with cleverness, particularly with the use of the language.

And think about it: should we really want to depend seriously on information that does not meet my tests? That doesn't exist, that can't be verified by anyone else and that can't be repeatedly shown to be true. Gossamer wings don't cut it.

What is brilliance to one man is absolute foolishness to another. Knowledge rises about all that and all dispute. It stand irrefutably above all and is not debatable. It is what we undeniably know and therefore we call it knowledge.

America the Ignorant and Dim-Witted
Kimball Corson
04/30/2012, Pago Pago, American Samoa

America the Ignorant and Dim-Witted

A majority of American believe mistakenly that we have budget deficits because we are spending too much money on federal programs that are not needed or wasteful. Deficits should be deduced by spending cuts on such programs and waste under this view.

At the same time, majorities oppose spending cuts to social security, medicare, national defense, homeland security, antipoverty programs, unemployment compensation, education, farm aid and even to the arts and sciences.

The only thing a majority agree should be cut is foreign aid which is thought to account for 25 percent of federal expenditures. In fact, it is less than one percent.

The key point is this: when Americans consider what the federal government actually does in the specific instances, they don't think it is wasting money or spending too much. Only in the abstract -- from conservative propaganda -- do they think it spends too much with runaway spending on welfare moms and lazy bums and other unidentified wasteful programs involving big dollars.

This is serious thoughtlessness on a matter of great significance.

We Are Buried in Conservative Misinformation and Foolishness
Kimball Corson
04/30/2012, Pago Pago, American Samoa

We Are Buried in Conservative Misinformation and Foolishness

The conservative view is Obama has hugely ballooned government, increased federal employment and generated many new and expensive programs to help the poor, all at great expense and with much waste. All of these points are false and pure propaganda.

In fact, the federal government has been getting smaller, not larger over the last 25 years. Except for Social Security and Medicare which are growing as the baby boomers retire, federal government spending as a percentage of GDP averaged 15 percent in the 1950's and, before the Great recession, in 2007, was just 11 percent of GDP.

Aside from SS and Medicare, the federal government has been shrinking. So has the government labor force: from .9 to 1.1 percent of the population from 1954 to 1991 to only .7 percent of the population in 2010.

In 2010, SS, Medicare and interest on the national debt came to over 1.3 trillion. Tax revenues came to 2.2 trillion with the Bush-Obama tax cuts. Balancing the budget that year would have required all other federal spending - defense, the courts, Medicaid, food stamps, everything - be cut by over 60 percent. SS and Medicare account for almost 3/5 of all federal spending.

There is no room for the proverbial waste and huge and growing government that conservatives claim. Conservatives attack and want to get rid of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as being wasteful, yet the budget of each is less than 1/100 of 1 percent of total federal spending. That is just silly noise.

Federal spending and the government, aside from SS and Medicare, has not really been growing overall at all. That is simply another of many conservative lies. The deceit is tiresome.

The Principle Function of the Federal Government Has Become Social Insurance
Kimball Corson
04/30/2012, Pago Pago, American Samoa

The Principle Function of the Federal Government Has Become Social Insurance

Social insurance - in regard to income and health care, via Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid - has become the principal function of our federal government. It is a paid for insurer of first and last resort. Over 3/5 of federal expenditures are targeted on this function of protecting the general welfare and the percentage is rising.

The vagaries of the market place no longer serve those functions well and the government is moving to take them over except for the wealthy. Market crashes wipe out retirement savings. Paid into private pensions default right and left. Health care insurance markets - riddled with unpoliced anticompetitive practices - squeeze out those insurance options. Anticompetitive and outrageous heath care costs go unchallenged except by Medicare and Medicaid. Congress protects these industries and outrages.

Government can pool larger risks and take even better advantage of the law of large numbers. Medicare is more efficient than private health care insurers by a long shot. It can also force changes in the health care markets and it plans to. It can fight back and does. No other entity has the muscle. Congress is bought off and of no help here. The states have dropped the ball on effective insurance regulation and antitrust enforcement.

Government has stepped up to the plate to protect the general welfare of the American people in all these circumstances. That is becoming its principal function under the Constitution and the General Welfare clause, as Alexander Hamilton envisioned it.

Conservatives don't like it, yet most Americans do and by far. They want these programs. Markets too often have left them flat on their faces because of wolves on Wall Street and runaway anticompetitive practices in these areas.

Trust in the private sector has evaporated in one scandal and misdeed after another. Insurance paid for with private insurers often evaporates when claims are denied. Playing games is the order of the day. Buy a Wall Street product and you get left holding the bag too much of the time.

It is time we all wake up and recognize these facts, and stop listening to and thinking within the framework of conservative propaganda. Understand what is really happening and why.

A Major Turning Point
Kimball Corson
04/27/2012, Pago Pago, American Samoa

A Major Turning Point

At the 2000 Republican National Convention, Bush, the Younger, said:

Today, our high [not!] taxes fund a surplus [the Clinton surplus]. Some say that growing federal surplus means Washington has more money to spend. But they've got it backward. The surplus is not the government's surplus; the surplus is the people money . . .No is the time to reform the tax code and share some of the surplus with the people who pay the bills."

Bush then went on a tax cutting binge, especially in regard to the rich. The net effect of the full Bush-era tax cuts have been the single biggest contributor to the deficit over the past decade, reducing revenues by about $1.8 trillion between 2002 and 2009. This ignores the wars with Iraq and in Afghanistan which Bush Jr. got us into and the Wall Street Crash and ensuing Great Recession he handed to Obama upon leaving office after eight years.

One the other hand:

Speaking at the 2000 Democratic National Convention, Al Gore said:

"We will balance the budget every year and dedicate the budget surplus first to saving Social Security," promising to put "both Social Security and Medicare in an ironclad lock-box where politicians can't touch them."

This is the real Bush vs. Gore, not the farcical mess the Supreme Court made of that case, and you don't need to be a Gore fan to see it either.

Conservatives Are Destroying Our Democracy
Kimball Corson
04/27/2012, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Conservatives Are Destroying Our Democracy

They are spoil sports. They can't stand not to have their way. When they lose, they block the majority by Filibuster and legislative guerilla tactics. Obama garnered the majority vote and won the electoral college, too, but he has been stymied by a minority of conservatives every step of the way, even when the Democrats had both the House and Senate. They want their way or else, the democratic process be damned.

Majority rule - the cornerstone of democracy - has been upended by contemporary conservatives. They have no regard for the constitutional process or government, nor do they want any part of or interpretation of the Constitution that doesn't suit them. They want all things their way or else, period. They even threaten each other with sticks (fund primary opponents) and carrots (money) to assure the hard core nasty leaders retain control and effective leadership.

There is a large cadre of Republicans out there who have been propagandized into believing our federal government is evil, it is destroying our freedoms, it engages in runaway spending on good for nothings and lazy bums, taxes are anathema and that the less government, the better. These Republicans are the hard core and they are not out to cooperate at all. They don't want government to succeed at anything. They oppose government. As Grove Norquist -- a very powerful figure in the Republican Party-- has said, paraphrasing, 'We want to chop government down to a size where we can drag it into the bathroom and drown the rest of it in the tub.'

The American majority - which has clearly not bought into this Republican drivel, but which has been much stymied - should send them a loud and repudiating message in November: Stop abuse of the Democratic process and sit on the side lines for a while to think about it.

As I have Been Saying . . .
Kimball Corson
04/27/2012, Pago Pago, American Samoa

As I Have Been Saying . . .

"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. . . . There is a tiny splinter group [refering to the John Birch Society], of course, that believes you can do these things . . . Their number is negligible and they are stupid. . . ."

Dwight D. Eisenhower 1954 (a 1950's Republican)

We now have the rise of huge numbers of right wing conservatives who reject Eisenhower's positions and align with the John Birch Society of old, all a la Koch & Friends and their propaganda machine on which they have spent more than $2 billion dollars since 1971 when the Powell Manifesto was published and misappropriated by them.

The Koch brothers' father was a founding member of the John Birch Society and his sons and their friends and their ambit of influence track his positions. You can see the pattern of their influence now near the core of the Republican party. The conservatives in Congress are more conservative now than they have been in over a 100 years, according to political scientists.

Much of conservative America has been demonstrably been brain washed. One can easily trace how from this outline. Follow the money and the bogus research and commentary it has purchased.

Now look at your own views. They are all just coincidences, right?

Do Buddhist believe in god?
Ven S. Dammika
04/27/2012, Pago Pago, American Samoa

Do Buddhist believe in god?

"No, we do not. There are several reasons for this. The Buddha, like modern sociologists and psychologists, believed that religious ideas and especially the god idea have their origin in fear. . . .

"Primitive man found himself in a dangerous and hostile world, the fear of wild animals, of not being able to find enough food, of injury or disease, and of natural phenomena like thunder, lightning and volcanoes was constantly with him. Finding no security, he created the idea of gods in order to give him comfort in good times, courage in times of danger and consolation when things went wrong. To this day, you will notice that people become more religious at times of crises, you will hear them say that the belief in a god or gods gives them the strength they need to deal with life. You will hear them explain that they believe in a particular god because they prayed in time of need and their prayer was answered. All this seems to support the Buddha's teaching that the god-idea is a response to fear and frustration. The Buddha taught us to try to understand our fears, to lessen our desires and to calmly and courageously accept the things we cannot change. He replaced fear, not with irrational belief but with rational understanding.

"The second reason the Buddha did not believe in a god is because there does not seem to be any evidence to support this idea. There are numerous religions, all claiming that they alone have god's words preserved in their holy book, that they alone understand god's nature, that their god exists and that the gods of other religions do not. Some claim that god is masculine, some that she is feminine and others that it is neuter. They are all satisfied that there is ample evidence to prove the existence of their god but they laugh in disbelief at the evidence other religions use to prove the existence of another god. It is not surprising that with so many different religions spending so many centuries trying to prove the existence of their gods that still no real, concrete, substantial or irrefutable evidence has been found. Buddhists suspend judgement until such evidence is forthcoming.

"The third reason the Buddha did not believe in a god is that the belief is not necessary. Some claim that the belief in a god is necessary in order to explain the origin on the universe. But this is not so. Science has very convincingly explained how the universe came into being without having to introduce the god-idea. Some claim that belief in god is necessary to have a happy, meaningful life. Again we can see that this is not so. There are millions of atheists and free-thinkers, not to mention many Buddhists, who live useful, happy and meaningful lives without belief in a god. Some claim that belief in god's power is necessary because humans, being weak, do not have the strength to help themselves. Once again, the evidence indicates the opposite. One often hears of people who have overcome great disabilities and handicaps, enormous odds and difficulties, through their own inner resources, through their own efforts and without belief in a god. Some claim that god is necessary in order to give man salvation. But this argument only holds good if you accept the theological concept of salvation and Buddhists do not accept such a concept. Based on his own experience, the Buddha saw that each human being had the capacity to purify the mind, develop infinite love and compassion and perfect understanding. He shifted attention from the heavens to the heart and encouraged us to find solutions to our problems through self-understanding."

I do not suspend judgment. Here is why. On the point God is not disproved either, the way our system of knowledge works, once something is claimed to exist, the proponents of it have the burden of proof to establish its existence. Across the millennia and many social orders each claiming their god to exist and despite horrendous efforts by many over that time, no god has ever been proved to exist. The problem then becomes how is a negative or, more precisely here, the non-existence of any god to be proved? That is why the burden of proof lies with the claimant.

Acceptable proof that any of the many gods exist must stand muster under our theory of knowledge and none has never been presented. Proof that is demonstrable, verifiable and repeatable is the usual requirement for anything to exist, even the most elusive subatomic particles.


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