Thursday, September 25, 2008

September 29, 2008-A Question of Ethics

Consider This for September 29, 2008-A Question of Ethics

I find it somewhat ironic that this semester during the Presidential Election Campaign I am teaching both Political Science and Ethics. Is it a contradiction of terms? Is it a classic oxymoron? Actually I am having a lot of fun teaching both.

The general area that I teach in is called Social and Behavioral Science. Within that field I teach Sociology, American History, American Government, Political Science, Social Psychology and Ethics.

Sociology is defined as the systematic study of human society and social interaction. I like to paraphrase that into the study of society and cultures with some license.

Ethics is defined as moral philosophy. Both Ethics and Sociology find their roots in the ancient philosophers Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and the modern philosophers Immanuel Kant and Rene Descartes. Political science is founded in the teachings of Locke and Hobbs who are both considered modern philosophers.

Unfortunately I think that is where the relationship ends. What we are seeing and hearing in the election and the alleged bailout is neither ethical, moral nor philosophically connected.

I am a movie buff and I love trivia. When I see and hear things I will often try to relate the comment or the action to an old television show or movie screenplay.

I have always loved the comment from the movie “Network” where Peter Finch screams, “I am mad as hell and I’m not gonna to take it anymore!”

The other great line that comes to mind during this campaign is Jack Nicolson in “A Few Good Men” saying, “The truth? You can’t handle the truth.”

Last but not least was Jack Webb on the old television crime drama, “Dragnet” where he would say, “All I want are the facts maam. Just the facts.”

Well I can’t take it anymore because I am not hearing the truth and no one is telling us the facts.

I am hearing Republicans now saying that we needed more regulation after they have spent years deregulating government. I can see Ronald Reagan spinning in his grave.

The FBI is now conducting an investigation of lenders and mortgage brokers to find out if they were getting incentives to give people sub-prime loans.

Karl Rove on the right and George Lakoff on the left will both tell us that people do not consider facts when they vote. They vote emotionally and from how they feel rather than what they think about an issue.

There is no clear definition of ethics especially as it relates to politics. We can find Medical Ethics and we can find Legal Ethics but ethics as it relates to the common man is not that easily defined. It is not a standard based on your religion. It is not a standard based on statutory law. Both religion and law can be very unethical at times.

The large fund managers got their jobs because they were willing to take risks. It is a common adage that there is no success without risk. If you want to be successful in life you must take risks. Now they have taken risks with our investments and they might go to prison.

I spend some time in all of my classes going over the news of the day off the Internet. My students are all very intelligent and wonderful judges of character but many have fallen for the lies on the Internet about candidates. I think that the best judge is to not believe anything until you can verify it. Both Obama and McCain have been caught not telling the truth in the past few weeks.

John McCain’s poll numbers started to drop and all of a sudden he suspends his campaign so he can work full time on fixing the financial crises. How opportune.

I would like to believe that the solution is very simple. Just tell the truth. Stop lying about the other candidate and start telling the truth about yourself and your motives. Let the people know who you are and what you stand for if you were to be elected.

Yes. Sometimes the truth does hurt but it can also be very refreshing and cathartic.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

September 22, 2008—Get a Mail-in Ballot

Consider This for September 22, 2008—Get a Mail-in Ballot

I am being told by our local election officials that they are expecting to be slammed this year with a heavy voter turn-out at the General Election on November 4.

I don’t doubt it at all with all of the new voters in the county, a presidential election, a United States Senate Election, an election for United States Representative in Congress, Colorado State Senate, Colorado House of Representatives and at least six running for Summit County Commissioner from District two and District three. Consider that you have what a bunch of opportunities to shape our government for the next two years and beyond all for the price of a stamp. That does not take into consideration the eighteen Colorado State Ballot Questions this year along with a couple of local questions about football fields and county tax extensions.

If you have never done it before I must tell you that this is the time to contact the Summit County Clerk and get a mail-in ballot for this election.

You need to consider the value of your time. How much time do you take to drive to the polls, wait in line, stand looking over the ballot wondering what the candidates have said or what the issues are about and then the time and energy going back home or to work again?

It is not worth it if you have an alternative. You do have an alternative. You can contact the County Clerk and ask for a mail-in ballot. A fairly recent innovation is that you cannot only ask for a ballot for this election but you can get a mail-in ballot for the rest of eternity as long as you stay at the same address and vote regularly. Imagine that! The gift that keeps on giving and it does not cost anything other than a postage stamp to mail your ballot back to the courthouse.

With a mail-in ballot you will receive a paper ballot sent to you in the mail. You can take it home and spend several days or, if you are early enough, you could spend weeks thinking over the selections on the ballot. I know that you have always made great choices in the past but imagine how much better you will be if you get to sit at your kitchen table with a cup of coffee thinking about what you will vote for and against.

You can read the ballot and set it down for a few days so you can talk to your spouse, your family and friends about the issues so you can make an even better decision.

How many times have you gone to the polls, voted and then walked away asking yourself questions about the ballot? Voter’s remorse is where you end up questioning your decisions that you made quickly at the polling place. With a mail-in ballot you don’t have to feel rushed at the poll. You have all the time in the world to consider your choices and hopefully know that you know that you made the very best choice.

I have several friends who might think that there was some sort of cardinal sin in not going to the polls on Election Day. Some want to be the first in line as if someone really gives it a thought. Since we have had early voting you have to get in line a few weeks before the election to be truly first. Others have told me that it is a good place to meet friends and neighbors. Election Day is a social event. That is all well and good but it is no longer 1955. It is 2008 where we meet and talk in cyberspace.

And last but not least, you do not have the slightest clue as to what the weather will be doing on Tuesday, November 4. Picture yourself sliding into a ditch in your frantic effort to get to the polling place during a snow storm or sitting at home safely watching the returns on the tube. In the nearly fifty years that I have been voting I remember several days that a smart person would have stayed home and used a mail-in ballot.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 15, 2008—Sex, Lies and Lipstick

Consider This for September 15, 2008—Sex, Lies and Lipstick

Well maybe not the sex part but I got your attention anyway.

The general election for President of the United States has now gone from the ridiculous to the sublime and then to being even more ridiculous.

The first mention of “lipstick on a pig” came from John McCain. Then Palin referred to “The difference between a Hockey Mom and a Pit Bull was lipstick.” Then Obama made reference to “putting lipstick on a pig.”

In the meantime the current Republican President has killed over 4000 of our children in Iraq and we are now bailing out Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac to the tune of several billion dollars. And flick and flack the two candidates for President are talking about lipstick on pigs? There is something terribly wrong with this picture.

A couple of months ago I wrote a column about how none of the candidates for president in either party primary were talking about the economy. My point was that it was the most important issue.

We all remember the children’s story about Chicken Little and the problems associated with running around telling people that the sky is falling.

Well folks, the sky is falling and no one seems to care. They only seem to care about stupid lipstick on pigs. And the hourly reference of lipstick on Hockey Moms.

The response is another picture I remember from my childhood of the ostrich with its head in the sand. See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil was the motto of the three monkeys and probably the ostrich.

Things are bad, very bad and we certainly do need change regardless of who might bring the change. I could go on for hours that neither candidate is a true change agent and they both still talk about doing the same things that got us in trouble in the first place.

In my American Government class and also in my Political Science class I teach about how most countries have many political parties. That requires that they create coalitions to form a government. They must get together or they will never have a majority to lead the country.

Having two political parties this year is a particular abomination. There is no diversity of opinion. Both Obama and McCain are claiming to have a plan to clean up government and to get rid of all of the old things that got us in trouble in the first place. The problem with the old thing attitude is that both McCain and Biden are part of the old thing in government. They both were there so long that they have left their fingerprints all over the mistakes.

Both Obama and Palin are being attacked for their lack of experience. Isn’t experience the thing that we are trying to get rid of with the change? I get so confused.

They are now claiming that Palin has extensive foreign policy experience because Alaska borders Canada and Russia. My goodness this is such a stretch in our thinking.

She is also getting touted as the commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard thus giving her military experience. Gee whiz. Governor Ritter is the commander in chief of the Colorado National Guard as is every Governor is Commander in Chief of their state national guard. Being Commander in Chief comes with the job of Governor. It is in the job description. No qualifications required only just being elected governor.

Then Obama gets raked over the coals because he only went to Iraq once. I have never been to Iraq and that does not bother me.

It is like walking into a garage to make you a car. Travelling to Iraq does not give you foreign policy experience.

Just like living next to Canada or Russia makes you a foreign policy expert. Come on kids let's get real about all of this stuff.

Maybe this is another argument for term limits in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Throw the bums out and start with a whole new batch of crooks who will continue to screw with our lives and then only have time to talk about lipstick.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

September 8, 2008—It is about good Karma

Consider This for September 8, 2008—It is about good Karma

Karma: The good or bad emanations felt to be generated by someone or something.

Or to put it in more easily understood terms: You will get what you give, What goes around comes around. In biblical terms: Give and it will be given to you, Out of the abundance of the heart. To whom much is given, much is expected. I think you get the point. If things are not going well in your life it probably has more to do with you than someone or something else. The person you need to blame is the person looking back at you from your mirror in the morning.

It is part of spreading good karma to some and bad karma to others.

In the summer of 2005 I spent part of three months living and studying in San Miquel de Allende in the central mountains of Mexico about 200 miles north of Mexico City.

The very first day I met three other students who were there from Dallas. Wayne Lane (real name), Rob Castiglione and Bonnie Murphy. I think in their own way they each had a profound impact on my life. I have not seen or talked to them for years but we keep in touch by e mail.

This is about Rob. He was a second generation Mexican-American. He is a married, family man with a good government job. He rides Harley Davidson motorcycles and is a Christian. Rob understands Karma.

There are not a lot of beggars in San Miquel. It is truly an upscale historic Mexican city with many million dollar homes and a lot of highly educated families with good incomes.

The beggars would come into the city each morning and line the streets around the many open markets. Most were indigenous (Indian or Mayan) and would wear brightly colored clothing. Most would sit in one place on the sidewalk with their hand outstretched asking for money.

There were no cardboard signs about how their car broke down or how they needed food for their children or that they were veterans. There was no deception, no scams, just begging.

Wayne, Bonnie, Rob and I would walk around town a lot and Rob could not pass a beggar without giving him or her some money. It was an automatic act. Rob never questioned them about changing their lives or not buying alcohol or getting a job. Rob just gave them money.

Rob was also giving and getting good karma. Rob was a happy man and the more he could give to the beggars the happier he would become.

Rob was here in Colorado with friends riding his Harley through the San Juans a few weeks ago and I thought about him a lot. He is an unusually good man.

I am teaching Ethics this semester so I am spending a lot of time thinking about and talking about what is right and what is wrong. I get into long discussions with my students about good and bad and how our ethical and moral structure is based on modern and ancient philosophers.

I have never talked to Rob about the source of his feelings about giving. I do know that he has a fine tuned sense of right and wrong. He probably has never taken a course in ethics and comes by it naturally.

I get angry about some things at times. I try not to express my anger but when I do I know that I am spreading my bad karma all over the place.

During this political season bad karma abounds in both political parties and is especially present at the national conventions. I am not naïve about politics but at my now advanced age I wonder if the men and women who are spewing those negative words and feelings understand that it will all come back on them some day.

Rob is in San Miguel again and I can picture him reaching deep in his pocket to grab some good karma and give it to some beggar in the street. He knows that will come back to him soon.