Climate change and the fuel of denial

ClimatePieChart

Lets start with the simple truth that climate change is real and it is man made. There is no respected, credible, objective argument against that fact.  NASANOAAESA, EEA, and nearly 200 nations have agreedFirst predicted in 1895, consensus on climate change is not the often reported 97% but 99% among peer reviewed experts. That’s an astounding level of agreement from a method famous for its disagreements. Here’s what we know (PDF). Out of 24,000 papers submitted by climate experts for review, 5 rejected man made climate change. The basic science has a long history and it is so simple to demonstrate that you can test it at home. Carbon dioxide raises atmospheric temperatures and CO2 levels are at the highest point in 800,000 years. It is no coincidence that we are breaking global temperature records with each new year, each new month and new day. Sea levels are rising at the fastest rate in 28 centuries. Former treasury secretary Robert E. Rubin warns that climate change could wreck the US economy. Stephen Hawking has compared climate change to the threat of nuclear war.

Hampton-Roads

The Pentagon has warned that it is a national security threat. Hampton Roads, perhaps the single most important military hub in the United States is threatened. Important national security assets like Langley Air Force base and Langely Research Center are at risk.

I know a little bit about this because I grew up in Norfolk, Virginia within sight of what was then called Little Creek Amphibious Base. My next door neighbor at one time was a submarine commander. I’ve met fighter pilots, SEALS, US Navy divers and military from around the world. I’ve done work at NASA/Langley AFB, and been on almost every base in the area at one time in my life. The military capability of the Hampton Roads area alone is more than most nations on earth. The cost of keeping these bases operational in the face of unchecked sea level rise due to global warming is almost incomprehensible. (US Department of Defense Report – PDF)

In a report signed by Bush appointed former Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff, eleven former Generals and Admirals came together to warn us of the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change to national security. They said: “We are dismayed that discussions of climate change have become so polarizing and have receded from the arena of informed public discourse and debate. Political posturing and budgetary woes cannot be allowed to inhibit discussion and debate over what so many believe to be a salient national security concern for our nation.” Four former Republican EPA administrators have called on congress to act. Most Americans including 49% of Republicans support the the Paris Climate Accord.

What does our Republican congress do? Exactly the opposite of what experts recommend and what the people want. Ted Cruz has vowed not to honor the global climate deal. Congress moved to block federal rules to cut emissions from coal fired plants and undermine the accord. They vote to deny climate change is happening and tie the pentagon’s hands. They try to force federal agencies from even considering the issue. They have even gone so far as to threaten to defund the EPA. Take a look at America before the EPA and think about that for a moment.

That is the level of legal corruption by fossil fuel industries driving the climate denial machine. They and the politicians they are funding are putting the future of the nation at risk for personal gain. Earth sciences have been a part of NASA’s mission from its inception yet Ted Cruz has gone so far as to suggest NASA not even study climate change. Can you imagine your doctor telling you that you may have a deadly disease and choosing not to test for it? That is what Ted Cruz is suggesting. Because he is paid to. Because if you want Koch brothers money and you want to be President, that’s what you do. It doesn’t get much more treasonous than that.

Charles Koch has said that they have reduced their political spending estimate of almost $900 million for 1016 to a meager $750 million over the next two years. Of the remaining Republican presidential candidates including Ted Cruz, David Koch has said that if they want our support, one way to get it is articulating a good message to help Americans get a better understanding and a better appreciation of how certain policies … will benefit them and will benefit all America.”

Senator Inhofe even blocked a resolution that would have simply acknowledged climate change is happening. He sites the existence of snowballs for his opinion but if you really want to know why he argues against climate change, it’s because he is paid by “energy” companies (oil, coal & gas) including the ever present Koch Brothers to do so. Paul Ryan says EPA efforts to reduce emissions are an excuse to grow government, raise taxes and slow down economic growth.

Republican congressman Larry Bucshon tells us he does not to trust climate scientists because “their careers depend on the climate changing to keep themselves publishing articles”. Oh really? I’m sure his views are in no way influenced by the fact that three of his top five donors are fossil fuel energy companies. Koch Industries comes in at number eight, but then again they have a lot of people to fund.

Environmental sociologist Robert Brulle did a detailed, peer reviewed study on the funding behind the climate denial machine.  He covers everything from direct political support to the think tanks who devise strategy and propaganda to generate public support.

Say for instance you are a fossil fuel company and all of this pesky climate change talk is threatening your profits. You fund The Heartland Institute who then create a climate denial conference and pay people to speak. No need to be an actual scientist. Any yahoo with an opinion and an ego can make $1000 plus travel expenses (see the PDF invite). A policy not common at real scientific conventions where the attendees pay. Who are the experts Heartland cites? Many are directors or fellows at think tanks including their own. Of the few real scientists they can cite, most have no direct expertise in climatology.

Or you could offer $10,000 per climate denial paper as The American Enterprise Institute who are funded in part by Exxon did. Exxon knew about the dangers of climate change years ago but they chose profit over responsibility. So did Shell. They are not alone. Internal fossil fuel industry memos provide a glimpse into how the fossil fuel industry powers the disinformation machine. If you have read an opinion or argued in denial of climate change yourself, chances are that the origins of those arguments came from a think tank with a positive and patriotic sounding name like Americans for Prosperity or the now defunct, Koch brothers funded, Citizens for a Sound Economy. You may not have heard the name before but I’m guessing you have heard of their creation; The Tea Party.

Of course not all climate denial starts with big oil, some of it comes from people who are simply batshit crazy. Not that big oil isn’t happy to support them. If you want to sow doubt, you cite the flawed work of Arthur B. Robinson as proof that there is no consensus. Robinson is a republican activist who promotes intelligent design. In 1998 he created the Global Warming Petition Project. I urge you to read his page on the Summary of Peer-Reviewed Research which has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual peer review process used by the scientific community where other experts in the same field review published papers in an attempt to find flaws in their conclusions or methodology. What Robinson did was to write a paper with his son (neither of whom are climate experts) and Willie Soon who has been discredited for his undisclosed ties to the oil industry including the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and sent that paper out as scientific evidence to virtually anyone willing to sign his petition. A thorough review reveals that even Perry Mason and a Spice Girl have signed it. Climate denialists to this day cite his petition as proof that there is no consensus on global warming. Oh, and by the way… Robinson has spent millions of dollars in support of Ted Cruz. Yes, the same Ted Cruz who says NASA should not do earth sciences. The same Ted Cruz who gets more than half of his presidential campaign’s Super PAC money from the fossil fuel industry.

When you read a climate denial article in a respected news magazine such as Forbes, you should be able to trust it, right? Not so fast. First, understand that it is published as an opinion piece because it does not meet journalistic standards for a factual news article. The Author, James Taylor is a senior fellow at the conservative Heartland Institute funded in part by the Koch brothers through some of the many organizations they fund that advance their personal and corporate interests. His articles are more press release than journalism. So here comes the fun part… Ted Cruz cites propaganda written in a Koch funded think tank by James Taylor in his staged climate change hearing and makes outlandish, unsupported claims of ethical violations by scientists while calling any attention to his ties to Oil and Gas ad homonym attacks. James Taylor then writes another propaganda piece praising Cruz for his victory. Neat huh?

How damaging is republican climate denial and protection of the fossil fuel industry to national security? In 2012 republicans voted to resist the US Navy’s Green Fleet initiative with bills designed to prevent them from purchasing biofuels or spending on biofuel refineries. The argument given was that biofuels are more expensive than oil. The problem is that Navy support for biofuels and refineries will drive costs down, and far more importantly, the initiative is more than about being green. It’s about winning future wars. A Navy that can create its own fuel anywhere in the world has a huge tactical and strategic advantage over one tied to a conventional fossil fuel supply line. Especially one that in part flows from and funds one of the most volatile regions in the world. The Navy is wisely moving ahead with its goals in spite of republican obstruction, however all bets are off if a republican is in the white house to give a fossil fuel funded congress free reign.

I’m not going to get deep into technical issues. There are many, more qualified people who can speak to the science behind the issue of climate change better than I. But I do think it’s important to touch on some of the more popular claims by climate skeptics.

Skeptics often cite journalists like Christopher Booker. His impassioned arguments may seem sound until you look a little closer. This same guy has argued that asbestos poses no health risk even after one of the people he cites tries to correct him. Or Matt Ridley, who writes climate denial articles for several respected newspapers and magazines. He actually owns coal mines. Where is the sanity of rejecting the opinions of organizations like NASA and the overwhelming majority of actual climate experts in favor of people like this?

Mike Huckabee claims that global freezing theories from the 70’s shows the fallibility of science. One problem. There was never any kind of scientific consensus on the subject. A study of peer reviewed papers from the time shows the opposite. “The survey identified only seven articles indicating cooling compared to 42 indicating warming. Those seven cooling articles garnered just 12% of the citations”. The Washington Posts finding? Four Pinocchios: “Huckabee is grasping at incorrect media reporting in order to make a ridiculous point. The main scientific consensus at the time of the Time and Newsweek articles was that the world was entering a period of global warming, as a result of man-made effects, that would overcome any possible cyclical cooling. Indeed, the science of that issue is even more settled now, which is why Newsweek 30 years later conceded it had been wrong.”

One popular angle of attack by climate denial supporters is the claim that the stolen emails of Michael Mann prove global warming is a hoax. Multiple investigations by trusted scientific organizations have proven this theory false. The idea that NASA scientists have somehow been paid off by clean energy companies and/or are controlled by secret government directives to control the public is laughable. Such a conspiracy would require millions of people in hundreds of nations. What control is gained and why? It’s simply ludicrous. It supposes that small companies with comparatively little money are somehow out-conspiring and out-spending fossil fuel companies to destroy America for no apparent reason. There is no proof of this. There is no money trail. There is everything to be gained by fossil fuel companies who fund the think tanks and politicians in defense of their massive profits. My question is: Who hacked the university? Who had the means and motive to look for something that may look incriminating and publish the private emails?

Rather than trust in America to face the challenge and act as global leaders in innovation and manufacturing by encouraging green energy solutions, congress is ceding the lead in this important technology to China.

A Treasury Department report (PFD) shows that the fossil fuel industry receives $4.7 billion in subsidies annually. Globally they receive $550 billion in subsidies, including $88 billion in subsidies for exploration. More than double the $37 billion the top 20 oil and gas companies spend themselves. Senate republicans blocked measures to end tax breaks for oil companies. And in return fossil fuel companies contribute 91% of their money to republican campaigns.

In his ruling on Citizens United, Justice Kennedy said that “the absence of prearrangement and coordination undermines the value of the expenditure to the candidate [and] … alleviates the danger that expenditures will be given as a quid pro quo for improper commitments.” He was wrong.

The father of capitalism, Adam Smith tried to warn us when he said “The interest of [businessmen] is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public … The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order … ought never to be adopted, till after having been long and carefully examined … with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men … who have generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public”. He may as well have been speaking directly of Charles Koch who has admitted telling republican candidates that the support of Certain Policies will gain their financial support and those of like minded donors.

Our campaign finance laws are completely broken. Our courts have legalized the bribery of corrupt politicians who would sell out humanities future for campaign money. It needs to end. The corporations and politicians engaging in climate denial are harming our long term economy as other nations take the lead in renewable energy. They vote against programs that give us a tactical and strategic advantage over our enemies and argue that we should not study climate change when it threatens our national security. They are criminals and traitors and they must be brought to justice.

I have two questions for Ted Cruz: First. How do you justify ignoring the opinions of the nations most prominent scientists and military planners by suggesting NASA ignore earth sciences at such a critical time when our national security is at stake? And second. How do you have the gall to accuse scientists of promoting climate change for money without any evidence, while wallowing in campaign finance money provided by those who profit from your denial?

 

The 2016 presidential candidates on climate change.
In their own words (PDF) 

 

 

Thought for the day – Walmart and the corporate welfare state

The Walton family, owners of Walmart are the richest family in America with around $140 billion dollars. According to a (PDF) report from Americans for Tax Fairnes, they have another $76 billion hidden in offshore tax havens. Another (PDF) report finds that Walmart employees cost taxpayers $6.2 billion in public assistance. And Walmart isn’t alone. They are just one example of capitalism done wrong.

So Republicans; tell me again why America needs more tax breaks for the rich, no minimum wage, and less assistance for the poor. Explain to me the morality of choosing to give more money to the rich while denying the poor a decent wage or any assistance and how that fits in with a concept of a Christian nation.

Proverbs 21:13 ESVWhoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.

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One of my favorite authors, Frank Herbert said: “A process cannot be understood by stopping it. Understanding must move with the flow of the process, must join it and flow with it.”  

That is the way of the world. It is ever changing. The forces that shape human events are hydraulic. Tiny streams become rivers that have the power to flood the land, break through barriers, and shape the landscape. Sometimes this happens for good, sometimes for evil. The challenge of a democratic society is knowing the direction of the flow when we are caught in it.

The Mad Centrist

 

On the issues

JMO – Incomplete, under development, and in no particular order:

Gun Control – Lets face facts, wholesale confiscation of guns is not going to happen in the US without another civil war. Guns are not going to be banned. The political will is simply not there. So please spare me the arguments to ban all guns or that there are no responsible gun owners, you are damaging the chance of enacting reasonable measures that responsible gun owners can support. And Gun owners… Improved background checks making it harder for criminals, terrorists and crazy people to buy guns does not infringe on your right to own a gun… unless you are a criminal, terrorist, or crazy. Both sides need to compromise.

National Defense – As a nation we face many potential threats. ISIL is at the forefront of our national concern so lets start there. ISIL can be defeated but there is no simple solution and it isn’t going to happen overnight no matter what any candidate says. The good news is that they do not represent the vast majority of muslims. They are a cult that has grown out of control. Treating all muslims as terrorists will only create more terrorists. And if you want to take the fight to ISIL, starting another war with Iran is not the way to do it. Focus on ISIL and give diplomacy a chance to bolster the support of the many moderate Iranians who want to change their country from within.

Health Care – The US is the most expensive, least efficient, and least healthy system among advanced nations. Among other countries, we rank 37th in the world for quality of health care. Right below Costa Rica and Dominica. We spend the most in the world. The ACA is not a perfect solution by any means. But it is workable if both sides can come together to fix what is broken and fine tune the rest. And frankly I’m astounded republicans were so against it. Its the closest thing to a free market solution that we have. Personally I would prefer a single payer program such as Bernie Sanders proposes. But repealing the ACA and taking coverage away from millions of americans without a real viable option is reprehensible and immoral.

Abortion – I’m not going into too much depth on the subject at this time except to say that I believe that the arguments against any and all abortion are based mainly on religious beliefs that are not supported by science. I support bans on late term abortions except in emergencies. I support the right to try to convince pregnant mothers not to abort if it is done in a respectful and supportive fashion. But in the end the choice must be with a woman and her god whatever her religion, if she chooses to believe. And lets get this straight, Planned Parenthood is NOT selling baby parts. If you have to fabricate such a lie, what does it say about your cause?

Climate Change Climate change is real and it is man made. It is the single greatest threat to human kind since we evolved into modern man. NASA, NOAA, ESA, and nearly 200 nations have agreed. The Pentagon has warned that it is a national security threat. Consensus on climate change is not the often reported 97% but 99% among peer reviewed experts. Out of 24,000 papers submitted by experts, 5 rejected man made climate change. When Ted Cruz or any politician tells you they disagree, they do so because they are corrupt and funded by oil, gas, and coal money.

Campaign Finance – Corporations are not people and money is not speech. End Citizens United and start from scratch.  If you really want your country back, that’s the way to do it. The truth is that under current campaign finance laws, politicians spend more time fundraising than they do making policy. The Koch brothers aren’t spending their expected $900 million in this election. But they and others aren’t going away, and when they foot the bill for campaigns they usually get what they pay for. Congress doesn’t care what you think. (Princeton study PDF).

Economy – I’m going to make some liberal heads explode when I say this but the “trickle down” Tax Reform Act of 1986 worked for Reagan because at the time taxes on the rich were too high and it was holding back productivity. But thats where it ends and it came with a cost. Between 1984 and 1988 the wealth that the top 1% earned jumped from 8.4% to 13.5% and they never looked back.  Today the top 1% have made 95% of income gains since 2009. Between $21 trillion and $32 trillion sits in off shore accounts to avoid taxation. Where are the jobs? Why do the rich need more tax cuts? Its time to close loopholes and ask the ultra wealthy to pay back to the country that provides them with so much opportunity.  Small tax increases for them and tax cuts for middle class American consumers. And if you want to reduce welfare, provide a living wage for those who work. Corporations like McDonalds and Walmart pay substandard wages while taking massive profits and forcing taxpayers to subsidize their labor. Raise the minimum. Not all at once, but in manageable steps until wages catch up to cost of living increases and a man can live off of his labor. When a working man makes money, he spends it and stimulates the local economy; which creates more jobs…

Meme Buster – The CIA / al Qaeda myth

We’ve all seen something like this at one point or another…

Scary!

Or this…

Seems legit right?

One problem. Neither is true. The Taliban did not exist when we were helping the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 80s.  The name “mujahideen” means (loosely) “those who struggle” and includes all of the diverse factions that were struggling to overthrow the soviets. If you really want to know who we were supporting, it was local Afghans like this great man: Sha Massoud. It was America’s failure to support the moderate Afghan government after the Soviets were defeated that allowed the radicals to fill the power void, not our support of the resistance. The Taliban are not Afghans. They are the true invaders of Afghanistan. Massoud tried to warn us of the danger in his 1998 “Letter to the people of America“. We didn’t listen.

As for bin Laden. He was a nobody to the CIA at the time. Just another of the many Arab fighters who had joined the fight. He was the son of a rich family playing war with his own money and people to help defeat the Soviets. The extent of the CIA/bin Laden link is this: The CIA funneled money and weapons into Afghanistan through Pakistan. In hind site, it was discovered that Pakistan sold some of those arms (AK47s and other low tech weapons) to radical elements that we were not trying to help.

If you really want to understand our involvement in Afghanistan read the report from GlobalSecurity.org.

Former CIA official Milt Bearden, who ran the Agency’s Afghan operation in the late 1980s, says:  “The CIA did not recruit Arabs,” as there was no need to do so.  There were hundreds of thousands of Afghans all too willing to fight, and the Arabs who did come for jihad were “very disruptive . . . the Afghans thought they were a pain in the ass.”  I have heard similar sentiments from Afghans who appreciated the money that flowed from the Gulf but did not appreciate the Arabs’ holier-than-thou attempts to convert them to their ultra-purist version of Islam.  [Freelance cameraman] Peter Jouvenal recalls:  “There was no love lost between the Afghans and the Arabs.  One Afghan told me, ‘Whenever we had a problem with one of them we just shot them.  They thought they were kings.'”

There was simply no point in the CIA and the Afghan Arabs being in contact with each other.  . the Afghan Arabs functioned independently and had their own sources of funding.  The CIA did not need the Afghan Arabs, and the Afghan Arabs did not need the CIA.  So the notion that the Agency funded and trained the Afghan Arabs is, at best, misleading.  The “Let’s blame everything bad that happens on the CIA” school of thought vastly overestimates the Agency’s powers, both for good and ill.  [Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden (New York: The Free Press, 2001), pp. 64-66.]

So No… We did not create bin Laden, or the Taliban, or al Qaeda. Put these memes in the trash where they belong.

 

Adam Smith – The father of capitalism

Google “the father of capitalism”. Go ahead. I’ll wait. By all means, take the time to follow some of the links to learn about the man and his seminal work “An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations“. I recommend you read Investopedia’s excellent article here.  And the University of Glasgow has a deeper piece here.

In the mean time I’ll get to the point. The current republican definition of capitalism is pure bullshit. The dream of pure, unregulated capitalism comes not from our founding fathers who were influenced by Smith. But from Ayn Rand‘s twisted theory of objectivism and the simple minded fiction of Atlas Shrugged. The republican speaker of the house Paul Ryan loves Ayn Rand so much he said her influence was “the reason I got involved in public service”. Coincidently, she was also the inspiration for Anton LaVey’s Satanic bible. Take that as you will but I find it fascinating considering the devout religious views of so many on the right.

Tea Party libertarians like to claim that with deregulation, market forces and public perception will force corporations to act responsibly in such important matters as being good stewards of the environment. What they fail to take into account is human greed and the understanding that deception, aggressive public relations (propaganda), and the power of good old legal government corruption thanks to misguided campaign finance laws such as Citizens United.

Here’s what Adam Smith had to say about corporations.

“The interest of [businessmen] is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public … The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order … ought never to be adopted, till after having been long and carefully examined … with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men … who have generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public” 

Full text of the above quote to fill in the blanks can be found here here.

Lets be clear, Smith understood that self interest was the driving force of commerce and that it does drive the wealth of nations and their citizens. In short, Capitalism *does* work.

“The desire of food is limited in every man by the narrow capacity of the human stomach; but the desire of the conveniencies and ornaments of building, dress, equipage, and household furniture, seems to have no limit or certain boundary.”

“Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog. Nobody ever saw one animal by its gestures and natural cries signify to another, this is mine, that yours; I am willing to give this for that….But man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. He will be more likely to prevail if he can interest their self-love in his favour, and show them that it is for their own advantage to do for him what he requires of them. Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of.” 

But he also understood that self interest can be harmful if not managed. Regulations are as necessary for corporations as laws are for citizens. Government by and for the people must be allowed to protect its citizens from toxic chemicals and the very real threat of global warming.

And what would he say about minimum wage laws?

“Our merchants and masters complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price and lessening the sale of goods. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.” 

“A man must always live by his work, and his wages must at least be sufficient to maintain him. They must even upon most occasions be somewhat more; otherwise it would be impossible for him to bring up a family, and the race of such workmen could not last beyond the first generation.”

Flat taxes?.. Lower tax rates for the rich?

“The subjects of every state ought to contribute towards the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities.”

Now some people might point out quite fairly that Smith was often critical about governments abilities to control such things as wages (enforcement would have been near impossible in his day) And the more Libertarian scholars will cling to this statement:

“There is no art which one government sooner learns of another than that of draining money from the pockets of the people.”

To which I reply:

“Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.”

Because ladies and gentlemen, we are no longer a democracy; representative or otherwise.  We are a corporate oligarchy. The Supreme court has said that money equals speech. Government leaders are so beholden to giant corporate campaign donations that our representatives no longer represent the average citizen. Read the Princeton University study “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” in PDF form here. The short version is here. The bottom line is that voting records don’t match public opinion at all, they match corporate sponsorship. So if you want to know what is driving the climate denial agenda here it is.

The Koch brothers are spending more than either party to elect the tea party candidate of their choice (A tea party which they helped create and fueled with their propaganda). If that doesn’t scare you, I’m not sure what will.

 

The Tao of good government

In 1967 a young Chinese immigrant revolutionized the world of martial arts and changed the world when he determined that the formal style of Gung Fu he had learned and taught was too rigid to adapt to the fluid dynamics of real world fighting.  That man’s name was  Bruce Lee, and he wrote a book called “The Tao of Jeet Kun Do” or “the way of the intercepting fist”.  It was a name he later came to regret because it implied a specific method to what he considered a “style of no style”.

Lee had correctly concluded that the fixed responses of traditional martial arts could not foresee all possible threats and could be easily countered once you knew how your opponent would react to any given situation. He concluded that the fluid and unpredictable nature of combat required and equally fluid approach to fighting. Lee famously said: “All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.”

As applied to martial arts, fixed patterns can be seen as the use of a specific stance, block, punch or kick in response to a given action by an opponent. It’s important to understand that the specific techniques of traditional martial arts are not “wrong”. They work quite well when used in response to known or expected techniques by an opponent. They are simply limited.  Lee’s solution was to adapt any technique from any style to his own. His only requirement was that the technique work. From boxing to taekwondo. From gung fu to wrestling. Lee saw that each had it’s place in the real world chaos of combat. This may seem like common sense today, but at the time it was considered blasphemy by many practitioners of traditional martial arts.

So what does all of this have to do with good government? I’m sure many of you intuitively know. But for those who’s political leanings border on religious fever for their chosen political party, let me explain.

The Yin and Yang symbol was adopted by Lee and other martial artists as a symbol of harmony between opposite forms. I use it here (in simple terms) as a symbol of balance between right and left ideologies working together to form a more perfect government.*

There is no more direct test of one’s own knowledge and ability than to face a skilled opponent in one on one combat. If you have a weakness or flaw, eventually an opponent will find it and use it against you. Often with painful results. Through combat, Lee proved that while physical skills are important, the open mind, willing to adapt to any method regardless of source will almost always win vs an inflexible system.

The art of governing a large, complex, modern society is far more complex than the direct nature of hand to hand combat. And if fixed responses to the challenge of relatively simple combat have been proven inferior to the fluid nature of a “style of no style”, what chance does any single rigid ideology have of meeting the myriad of challenges that a society faces? Surveys show that America is pretty evenly split between republican (39%) and democrat (48%) with more democrats than republicans. Independents are on the rise. Rather than wasting our energy fighting each other we need to cooperate.

Capitalism and socialism (not to be confused with communism) both have strengths and weaknesses. Ironically, at their extremes, pure unregulated capitalism and pure socialism both suffer from the same failure to account for human nature. Pure socialism fails to account for the motivational power of greed to drive an economy and make individuals work harder. And at its unregulated libertarian extreme, capitalism fails to account for that same greed and the ability of so many people to do so much harm to their fellow man. It’s a matter of balance and perspective. Adam Smith, the father of capitalism said: “Our merchants and masters complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price and lessening the sale of goods. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.” He would be considered a socialist in todays political climate.

Virtually all ideologies contain some useful knowledge which can and should be used to address societies problems when and where appropriate. The bible tells us that for everything there is a season. In practical terms, there is a both time to lower taxes and to raise them. There is a time to raise the minimum wage and a time to stand pat depending on the cost of living. With this understanding, strict adherence to any one ideology is in effect willful ignorance that encourages conflict over cooperation. We need to stop treating political parties with the kind of devotion we give our sports teams. No political party is more important than the nation. Taking a lesson from Bruce Lee, what is needed is an ideology of no ideology.

It is long past time that we start treating politics as a science rather than a religion. We must adapt to each new challenge that society faces by matching the dynamic nature of each challenge with a dynamic and flexible approach to finding solutions. Or as Bruce Lee said:

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

 

* NOTE:  Don’t be confused. Balance does not mean I give equal support to the republican and democratic party. Balance refers to how I approach the solutions needed for each issue. I’ll support any party that is willing to take whichever approach fits the challenge we are facing best. Republican or democrat, capitalist or socialist, conservative or liberal. I don’t care what your name is or what you call yourself. If you can make make a valid point. I’ll listen. I can forgive mistakes if you show that you learn from them. But I cannot forgive corruption, racism, a lack of compassion, or complete stupidity. Unfortunately the modern republican party demands strict adherence to a libertarian ideology and as Frank Herbert once said:  “The people I distrust most are those who want to improve our lives but have only one course of action.” One day I hope to see a more rational republican party, but at this time I am endorsing virtually any candidate who opposes the tea party and/or denies man made climate change.