Friday, November 28, 2008

Attention Wal-Mart Shoppers... Hyper-Consumerism on Isle 2

I just read this article on Yahoo! News...

We have a Wal-Mart store employee trampled to death by crazed deal-hungry shoppers this morning.  He was killed by a bunch of crazy, greedy shoppers who protested angrily when they were asked to leave after the death.  In addition, other employees were trampled when they tried to save him.  

What in the world has our American hyper-consumerism brought us to when a human life is taken in order to get a great deal on a plasma television, folks?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Would Jefferson have supported a Universal Healthcare System?

Disclaimer:  I am NOT an expert on Jefferson, I just play one on TV.

While researching this morning the origin of a dubious Jefferson quote (it was too conveniently relevant to modern times... maybe I'll do a post on that sometime!), I found a really nice website that has a lot of information on Jefferson's writings:

In addition, I stumbled upon a comment in a forum where a writer suggested that Jefferson would have been in favor of some sort of Universal Health care system:

This concept was intriguing, because the founding fathers are always lifted up as super-human beings and their words are studied almost like scripture.  So, I thought, I would just scratch Jefferson's writings lightly on the surface to see if I could find a few excerpts where we can study his views on the individual v. collective rights argument.

Here are some quotes, with my comments.  I am extremely interested in your perspective.

Do you consider caring for our fellow citizens at a basic level a moral obligation?

"Political interest [can] never be separated in the long run from moral right." 

--Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 1806. FE 8:477

"We are firmly convinced, and we act on that conviction, that with nations as with individuals, 
our interests soundly calculated will ever be found inseparable from our moral duties." 

--Thomas Jefferson: 2nd Inaugural, 1805. ME 3:375

"What is true of every member of the society, individually, is true of 
them all collectively; since the rights of the whole can be no more than the sum of 
the rights of the individuals." 

--Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789.

Jefferson wrote extensively on happiness, as well all know.  Is happiness really an inalienable right?  What is your definition of happiness?  What was Jefferson's?  Is it possible to have either form of happiness when you are dying of cancer because you cannot afford the treatment? 

"The Giver of life gave it for happiness and not for wretchedness." 

--Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 1782. ME 4:196, Papers 6:186

And finally, since I know that the everyone's main concern about Universal Health Care is taxation.  Jefferson, thankfully, wrote a lot about taxation.  He found it a necessary function of government, and warned of waste, of course.  In addition, he was a supporter of Americans not being taxed by a government that does not represent us.  I hear comments and protests about taxes, shouting how some don't pay taxes and how it's not fair that some have more of a tax burden than others.  Here is a Jefferson quote for that subject, since it is really relevant  to the health care discussion:

"Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a 

certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise."

 --Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1785. ME 19:18, Papers 8:682

I'm ready!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Is it possible to be "Over-Educated?"

As a person goes through life, there is a really high possibility that they will encounter ideas that are foreign to them and that will challenge their core values and beliefs.  I think this is the basis for higher education  - to challenge our core values and beliefs.  Sometimes, after learning about a new idea or concept, I come back to my original belief.  Other times, I decide that maybe what I have been believing all this time may not have been based in fact.

But, as a highly educated person, I must ask you to think about the definition of fact?  Is there such a thing as a fact, or is a fact an abstract concept that can be manipulated?  I think facts are abstract concepts, which leads me to the conclusion that all of our opinions are based on abstract concepts.

You can take a simple statement, such as the sky being "blue".  What is "blue?"  Can you define "blue?"  Will your definition of "blue" be the same as mine, and the same as our friends'?  Can "blue" even be described?  As I write this, the meaning of "blue" has actually diminished in my mind, and has now become a clump of letters that some ancient people made up to help them describe, as accurately as possible, potentially abstract concepts.

If you think I'm wrong, think about the definition of life.  A doctor may have a universally agreed upon definition of life (i.e. what type of physiological functions are necessary to have in order to be 'alive'), but the word 'life' means so much to so many different people.  Ask a teenager who is grounded and can't go to the prom.  Is that life?  What do we mean when we tell people to "get a life?"  Is there some popular standard that means that you have a "life"?

In conclusion, I will leave you with a final question:  What is truth?  Maybe you will see, like I do, sometimes, when I am not clutching violently to some belief, that truth, like fact, is an abstract concept and appears differently to everyone who sees it - and even to those who cannot.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Falling Price of Oil

I am sure I am not the only one that feels a guilty pleasure when filling up the tank of the car recently.  Compared to the $4.25 per gallon that I was paying regularly a few months ago, I feel like I am stealing at $1.79.

Yahoo News reports this morning that the price of oil has fallen below $53 per barrel since the world is frightened about a severe recession.  While this is great news for the price of oil for the near future, I am afraid that us Americans will become complacent yet again about switching our main energy supply from oil to a combination of substitutes.  

In fact, we typically have very short memories.  I have an older V8 car that I have been trying to sell for a few months.  No one would consider it three months ago.  Since the gas prices have been tanking, I have gotten a phone call almost every day about the car.  This is because people were worried about the gas prices, but now that they see the prices falling, they don't seem to care anymore.  Some of us are still in denial about our dependence on oil as a major problem.

I do not want to see us back in the same situation next year, or five years from now.  While I enjoy the cheap gas as much as anyone else, I do not want us to forget that we still need to be working on a solution to this problem.  Let's not pass this down yet another generation.