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A few miscellaneous thoughts
Jack Balshaw 12/18/01

So many comments, so little space. Every now and then my urge to comment on what's going on vastly exceeds the number of column words allowed. So here are a number of short comments.

On the home front, we're trying to find a scapegoat for the high cost of the state's electric power contracts. When not having power was threatening to the California way of life, the cry was to get power at any cost. And so they did and they weren't perfect. Let's not Monday morning quarterback now.

If during Petaluma's Thanksgiving Day power outage some head of household had rushed out to buy a gas grill to cook the turkey only to have the power came back on an hour later; would you have called him foolish for taking action and spending money rather than just sitting around hoping for the best? Give the state and the Governor a break. They all did the best they could at the time and under the circumstances.

On another item, the newspaper reported that the average unpaid balance per household with a credit card was $8200. As 40% of people pay off their card monthly, this means that the real average carryover for the other 60% of credit card households is around $13,700. That's scary.

With the government trying to negate Oregon's Right-to-die legislation (passed twice by Oregon voters), I now know what a "compassionate conservative" is. It's someone who won't let you commit assisted suicide but will fight for your rights to own a gun so you can do it yourself.

The September 11 tragedy and the Afghan campaign have forced us to consider the part various religions and religious representatives (be they official spokesmen or fanatics) play in the diplomatic and political world. It used to be that government was government and religion was religion. Now they're intermingled.

It's very obvious that in Muslim countries religion plays a large part in how government acts. Sometimes it's difficult to determine which leads and which follows. The Jewish/Palestinian conflict may be about political power, but it's also a religious conflict.

We're not all that different in the U.S. The religious right can, and usually does, determine which conservative candidate wins the primary election and so gets to run for election. The end result is that many political leaders have close ties and obligations to this country's religious activists. This mingling of values causes many of our problems.

Perhaps, before we condemn other countries that mingle religion and politics, we should objectively look at ourselves.

Good is sometimes bad and bad is sometimes good. During the early 90's when Japan was booming, we were told that our problem was that we didn't save enough. The Japanese did and so their companies could borrow money and grow. Now we're told that we need to spend so that our companies can profit and grow. Maybe if we keep doing the same thing all our lives we'll be right half the time.

I was wondering how the Administration was going to keep the media coverage about our "war" going after the bombing ended. I think I know. In the manner of the movie "Wag the Dog", small items like the American fighting with the Taliban or the (as yet) unreleased tape of bin Laden on September 11 will be slowly fed to the media to build up to a climax of speculation and maintain the 24/7 coverage. The cable media will cooperate because it provides them with almost no cost programming to fill up the 24-hour news cycle.

In discussing the problems in Afghanistan and the Middle East, it was noted that Muslims are allowed to have up to four wives. The point was made that, if too many Muslim men had multiple wives, there wouldn't be enough unattached single women around for the rest of the men. Could this be the real reason there are so many angry young men in the Middle East and maybe it's not a religious problem after all?

Merry Christmas.

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