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No articles today.  Just a few random thoughts about the immediate future.  Tomorrow is the first day of America’s chance to gain some respect in the international community, and more importantly, for us to gain some much needed self respect.  We’ve really made a mess of things.  The economy is in shambles.  Iraq is in shambles.  It’s not a good idea to identify yourself as an American in… well… a lot of places.

This blog is about good critical thinking, not politics.  However, I’m going to go out on a couple of limbs and tell you some of my own opinions on political issues.  I don’t claim that I have all the information on these issues.  I’m just doing my best to apply the same standards of critical thinking that I demand for science to issues of politics.
President Obama must work to end the blurring of church and state at all levels.  If you think about this, it makes sense not only for atheists who would prefer not to have religion imposed on them, but it makes even more sense for the religious.  Do we really want the government deciding what kinds of things qualify a religious group for faith based government funding?  Can you see how incredibly bad that would be for the United States Government to decide what constitutes real Christianity?
President Obama must abolish “No Child Left Behind” and work with educators to bring sanity back to public education.  There is simply no reason that a country with as many resources as America should be producing some of the dumbest high school graduates in the world.   I don’t know what the best answer to fixing the system is, but I do know that it’s not something for politicians to design.   It’s something that educators should design and politicians should implement.
America must admit that global warming is a real and current problem.  We absolutely must begin to really work towards oil independence, even if complete independence is (forgive me) a pipe dream.
I don’t know how this can happen, but as individual Americans, we need to realize that disposable everything, new cars every three years, huge homes, and all the other trappings of “the good life” are destroying not only our environment but our economy as well.  It’s one thing to have an artificially inflated economy, but it’s quite another to systematically create long term poverty with a culture of “everybody deserves everything they want.”  We don’t have to live like monks and force everybody into tiny apartments, but there is something fundamentally wrong with a hundred million people driving huge cars from their sprawling suburbs and huge houses with huge energy requirements for heating and cooling to cities that have little or no mass transit infrastructure.  There has to be some sanity to energy usage, and it has to come from all of us.  I don’t know if it’s possible, but it really does need to happen.
The gap between the haves and the have-nots needs to narrow.  There needs to be real reform in corporate America so that the people who make the whole thing work are compensated fairly enough to build a real middle class with real accumulated wealth.  The American middle class really is in danger of disappearing in the not too distant future, or so it seems to me.
America as a country must learn that the days of unilateral aggression are over.  International problems need to be solved internationally.  If we want to have any credibility, we must stop pretending that we are the biggest bully on the block.  We’re not anymore, and it’s dangerous for us to keep pretending.
Oh, and finally, it’s time for us to apologize to everyone in the Middle East and to our own people.  Gitmo must be shut down and we must have transparent and humane treatment of all prisoners of war according to every letter of international law.  The term “enemy combatant” needs to be left behind as a reminder of our own haughtiness.  Illegal government intrusions into its citizens private matters must end.  We must have our civil liberties restored if we are to have any credibility at home or abroad as a country that values freedom and liberty.
Whether you agree with me on any of these issues, I think it’s time for America to take what may be its last chance to work together as a country to solve some very real (and very, very big) problems.  Neither the democrats nor the republicans are right or wrong about everything.  There are good ideas on both sides of the aisle.  George W. Bush may have succeeded in creating the most divided America since the Civil War.  That remains to be seen, but President Obama is going to have to be a real uniter.  He’s going to have to find ways to help us remember that we all want the same things — a safe country, a good job, happy friends and family, and the freedom to live our lives the way we choose.
I am holding on to a tiny shred of optimism.  I sure hope President Obama comes out of the gate strong.
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