Wednesday, April 27, 2011


They often say that our own culture is invisible to us. Much in the same way that egocentric people say they don't have an accent. Of course we all have accents. And of course we all have culture. We just don't think of it that way. It wasn't until I got my degree in Anthropology that I really understood how strange American culture was.

Franz Boas' once argued that culture was a system of strategies designed to solve problems unique to a people's environment. All Anthropologists define the tricky word "culture" differently. But this is, I think, the best definition. I've explained it to people, but either they don't get it, or I bore the crap out of them with it. If you've ever watched the show The Big Band Theory, I often feel I can relate to Sheldon's character--not that I'm arrogant or think of myself above others, but that I find the world and human behavior fascinating while everyone else just shrugs about it and takes it for granted. Or I bore people with my enthusiasm for social sciences.

So anyways, maybe this will bore people, but it's not like anyone follows me anyways. So here goes. Let's look at the problems unique to the American environment. The New World was big. Spain had tobacco fields in the south, and was making a killing from them. No one had found gold yet, but it seemed like a matter of time. All the different countries of Europe were scrambling to grab as much of America as they could get their hands on. Our fledgling country had won our independence from Britain, but we still had to deal with the French and British trying to grab as much of "that area above us" that would later become Canada, and the Spanish were trying to grab as much of the land below us. The Native Americans were just trying to stay alive but, quite unfortunately, would be trampled with much of their beautiful culture snuffed out along with them.

I mention the economic principle know as The Tragedy of the Commons a lot. It's a fantastic principle that applies here as well. The New Americans needed to expand and settle as fast as they could to claim land before the French, Brits, and Spanish did. How did we accomplish this? We needed a culture of consumption. If culture is a system of strategies designed to solve problems and our problem was that we weren't expanding and/or building infrastructure fast enough, then it makes sense that mass consumption would be encouraged. It's still part of our culture. We don't take what we need. We take what we can. And our culture tells us we're important based on how expensive our cars are, thus pushing us to take more and more because that's supposed to make us happy.

We're also obsessed with guns. I've heard some that complain about the Second Amendment(because they don't understand it), saying that people don't need armor piercing bullets because deers don't wear bullet proof jackets. The Second Amendment doesn't have a damn thing to do with hunting. The Second Amendment guarantees us the right to bare arms in case our government shall rise against us. Yeah, Liberals don't seem to get that. Our founding fathers hated government so much, they wanted to ensure that we would always be well enough armed that we could rise up and violently over throw our leaders if they got too tyrannical. Like no where else in the world, the gun symbolizes to an American that our government should fear us, and thus, we will always be free from Totalitarianism. The gun is freedom.

American is the most religious industrialized nation in the world. But it's interesting to note that many of our founding fathers were not Christians. In fact, the Treaty of Tripoli from 1796 states the following:

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

Many of our founding fathers were Christian, but even they were careful to ensure that Christianity was never part of our government. Instead, we would adapt the idea of another very important part of American called "e pluribus unum," or "Out of many: one." Combine that with the idea of American Exceptionalism and you have another extremely important part of American culture. As a side note, Barack Obama inaccurately described the definition of American Exceptionalism(because he didn't know what it meant). It is the idea that Americans have special freedoms because we are guaranteed our freedoms and rights by God--not by politicians. Obama, when asked if he believed in the idea of American Exceptionalism answered, "Well, I'm sure people from other countries feel they're exceptional too." Yeah, sorry, but the fact he can say such horribly stupid things while "sounding smart," doesn't make them ok. He's still an idiot.

Anyways, put these two very American ideas together, and you have the idea that from all faiths, religions, and ethnicities, we Americans all have the same rights regardless of what politicians say or try and take from us. Our freedoms are more important than our government. We are a nation of the people and our government exists to serve us, not the other way around.

Consumption, guns, and God pretty much sums up American culture. I take very little. I hate guns. And I'm an Atheist. But I still very much love my country and am proud to be an American. I'm not a walking contradiction. I'm just more complicated than most people can handle.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Trolls and Warlocks

Ok, last Charlie Sheen reference title. But this one may or may not apply. I wanted to rant about who we might see run for the Republican primary. I've ranted about Obama a lot, but there's not a lot of contenders on the GOP side to get excited about either. At this point, I would vote for my cat over Obama, but still, here's my take on the GOP stars.

Sarah Palin
She's not going to run. I think the only one propping her up is the left. She can't sneeze without a story about her. I read an article about her where the story was that she went a whole day without commenting on some event. What the hell is wrong with the media? The fact that the main stream media harasses her as much as they do, is a story in and of itself. One reporter, in a moment of honesty, admitted that they make up anything, put Palin's name in the story, and get more hits. She's been a money maker for the left ever since the election.

She's not stupid. As much as the main stream media needs her to be seen that way for ratings. I certainly don't agree with everything she says, and I think some of her positions are stupid, like her thinking that the Pro Life Movement empowers women--that's stupid. But she's not stupid. Anyway, Palin is likely not going to run. She's a mediocre politician who fights too much to be able to compromise and get things done. I like her, but she wouldn't be an effective President because of this.

Michele Bachmann
I don't think she comes across that well. She gives poorly thought out or stock phrase answers to questions. Although I agree with her positions, she comes across in interviews like she's had those positions programmed into her. I just don't see her as a charismatic leader.

Tim Pawlenty
Sad to say he might be the brightest star despite, or perhaps because, he's so little known. I know very little about him. I haven't seen any interviews by him or anything. No idea.

Hick Huckabee
He's charismatic. He's good at working with people. He's very polite and humble when talking with people, even people with radically different views. I like him and so does most the party base. We all know him, and he has a really solid shot of being our next President. However.

I'm really unhappy with his social conservative stances. I think it's very likely he could push for a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage, or at the least work against the gay civil rights movement. Those of us in the younger generation are much more tolerant of the gay community. Such actions would be a giant step back for the civil rights movement.

Newt Gingrich
I've always liked Newt since the days of the Contract with America and the swell of prosperity in the 1990s, when he led Congress as Speaker of the House together with a more fiscally moderate democrat in Bill Clinton as President. Now, you could point out that during this time, the community Reinvestment Act got altered and this ultimately lead to the collapse of the housing market, and thus the recession economist say we are no longer in. Aside from that, Newt is smart, charismatic, and he can do a hell of an interview. Interviews are important to me because it shows how a politician can sell their case and influence people--skills needed to get things done.

The big thing about Newt, he cheated on his wife while she was on her death bed. Not cool. Not at all cool. In fact, he's a serial adulterer and instead of taking responsibility for that, he blames it on not praying enough. This doesn't inspire confidence. Sure, Bill Clinton has the same issues and no one cared, but republicans can't go around claiming to be the party of family values and morals and then do stuff like that.

Donald Trump
This is an interesting one. He's a little quirky, but he's charismatic, very well known, certainly tough. He has tons of business experience and could do wonders to turn the economy around. However.

Like Newt, he hops around. He has a super model for a wife, and is generally too "Hollywood" for most conservatives' tastes. But worse is the recent birther influence. So in a recent interview, he talked about how Obama's grand mother testified that she witnessed Obama's birth as it took place in Kenya. This means Obama was not born in the US and cannot be President of the US as detailed in the Constitution. He also mentioned how Obama has spent millions of dollars in legal fees to keep his birth certificate from being released to the public.

Ok, let's sort through this. The birth certificate issue is puzzling. I don't know what to think about it. But I'm willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt and / or wait for more details on that. Obama certainly blows lots of money for stupid reasons, so his reasonings for secrecy could be less sinister.

During the 90's, an associate of Bill Clinton went into the library of Congress, confiscated documents, smuggled them down his pants, and destroyed them. He admitted to such in testimony and served jail time for obstruction by refusing to reveal the contents of the documents he destroyed. We know only that they where about White Water Gate, the real estate scandal that the Clintons were involved with before Bill became President. Remember that story? Vince Foster, who had information implicating the Clintons killed himself to avoid testifying. The scam was about creating dummy companies to get money or something like that. It was a long time ago, so I don't remember all the details. The Clintons invested a lot of money into it and lost it all, meaning they either got scammed too, or they weren't very good at it.

In either case, what I'm trying to get at is that the main stream media might be more harsh on Republicans, but they cover the bad stuff with Democrats too. If there really was anything to Obama hiding his birth certificate, I just think we would have heard more about it. The media loves Obama, but they love ratings more. They'd be covering this story like mad if there was something to it.

The story about the grandma, I just don't buy it. It sounds like an urban legend. Again, if he really had his own grandma swear she witnessed Obama born in Kenya, it would have been a huge story. I certainly wouldn't be hearing about it for the first time from Donald Trump in an interview. So in short, I'm really not that enthusiastic about voting for a guy that says radical conspiracy theories in an interview and tries to make them fly.

Mit Romney
I don't know that much about him other than he's a Mormon--which means he wears magic underwear(which is weird), and he proposed a health care system very similar to Obamacare. Although I don't know the difference between Romneycare and Obamacare, the fact that they are similar is going to really hurt him if it came down to him vs Obama. Obamacare is a disaster. Why should we trust Obama part II?

Ok, now for the "Not Running, but We Wish They Were" portion:

Chris Christie
Love this guy. Tons of charisma, very tough, very smart, and very popular in the base. He's said repeatedly he wants to stay governor of New Jersey.

Paul Ryan
He's very articulate. Brilliant guy. He's still pretty young, so we might see him make a go for it later down the road.

Condoleezza Rice
She's repeatedly said she has no interest in running for office. Bummer. She has two PhDs, but still has a kind, humble personality in interviews. I really like her.

After leaving the Bush Administration, she went back to teaching at Stanford. She recently put out a book about her life. Sometimes politicians do that--write a book as a weather balloon to test their popularity before running. Maybe that was part of her motivation. I don't know, but I hope so. I don't think she's all that tough. She might be too much on the nice side, but the media barely covered her at all. So maybe she is tough when she needs to be. Contrast that to all the coverage Hillary Clinton has doing the same job. Anyways, I still really like her and would love to see her run... for anything.

Allen West
He's a rising star in the GOP and the Tea Party Movement. It's premature for him to look for a white house run, but in his first couple months as a House freshman, he introduced a bill to cut spending for a program that saved $60 million dollars from the budget and it got unanimous support. In the interview I saw, he was getting praise, but he simply said that if the near 500 members of Congress did the same, they could fix the budget crisis.

I've been keeping an eye on him for a while though. He's spoken at Town Hall meetings and Tea Party rallies. He's definitely someone to keep watching.