My blog contains a large number of posts. A few are included in various other publications, or as attached stories and chronicles in my emails; many more are found on loose leaves, while some are written carelessly in margins and blank spaces of my notebooks. Of the last sort most are nonsense, now often unintelligible even when legible, or half-remembered fragments. Enjoy responsibly.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

With all respect to Mr. Alighieri

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
Which in the very thought renews the fear.

So bitter is it, death is little more;
But of the good to treat, which there I found,
Speak will I of the other things I saw there.

I cannot well repeat how there I entered,
So full was I of slumber at the moment
In which I had abandoned the true way.

But after I had reached a mountain's foot,
At that point where the valley terminated,
Which had with consternation pierced my heart,

Upward I looked, and I beheld its shoulders,
Vested already with that planet's rays
Which leadeth others right by every road.

Then was the fear a little quieted
That in my heart's lake had endured throughout
The night, which I had passed so piteously into Saginaw, MI.

Entry for December 27, 2006

In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe - Carl Sagan

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Entry for December 20, 2006

You are truly a nerd only when you know what the first action is in making an apple pie from scratch.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Are Evangelicals the worst of America?

A couple of weeks ago the Christian Coalition of American forced the retirement of their president-elect because he was spreading a different message then their current beliefs. "I wanted to expand the issues from only moral ones -- such as opposing abortion and redefining marriage -- to include compassion issues such as poverty, justice, and creation care” said outgoing president-elect Rev. Joel C. Hunter (1).

This of course did not make much news due to the fact that the story of outgoing National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group representing more than 45,000 churches with 30 million members, founder Ted Haggard has rightfully stolen the spotlight. For those of you who have lived in a cave over the last month, Haggard was caught buying methamphetamine from a gay prostitute (2) and was forced to resign.

All of this comes on the heals of a events such as the Jesus Camp movie wherein an Evangelical summer camp does an Americanized version of what al Quada and other radical religious organizations have been doing for a couple decades. The only difference is that one is teaching their children to use guns; the other is pushing theirs to get elected so that they can command those armed with guns (3). Now one of those has more power, influence, and potential for causing massive casualties – and I’m sure you can guess which one that is.

The other Evangelical story over the last month was the inappropriate actions of Florida Representative Mark Foley with underage male House interns. Representative Foley supported the interests of the Christian Coalition of America 84 percent of the time (4). And all of this is just in the last month or two!!!

Now I know that there will be some Evangelicals out there who do not believe that the actions of a few predominate leaders truly represent the mindset or beliefs of the collective – but to this I would argue. When you have a leadership that you support who acts as these have, you have empowered them in whatever actions they do. Therefore, you are directly responsibly for their actions and also at fault of the events that have unfolded in the name of your alliance.

So my question is this: Is the collective Evangelical organizations in America the representation of the worst we have, or is there another equally large organization that I’ve missed that is somehow worse?

http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/11/28/christian.coalition/index.html

http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/11/03/haggard.allegations/index.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_EKHK1C2IE

http://www.vote-smart.org/issue_rating_category.php?can_id=CNIP8121&type=category&category=Conservative

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The War on Terror

On September 20, 2001 President George W. Bush, standing before Congress and a scared nation, announced, “Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated” (whitehouse.gov). The task from there on out has been to define terror, terrorism, and terrorist in relation to our changing world; how to combat it; prevent it from spreading; and destroy the seeds in which it grows.

In 1937 the League of Nations originally defined terrorism as, “All criminal acts directed against a State and intended or calculated to create a state of terror in the minds of particular persons or a group of persons or the general public” (unodc.org). For over 70 years this version was to stay the basic definition for international terrorism until, on March 17, 2005, a United Nations panel redefined terrorism as any act: “intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act” (un.org). This broader definition was to take into accounts the recent attacks by several terrorist groups that had been gaining in ambition and success.

Richard Clarke, who served as an advisor from 1973 to 2003 and for presidents Ronald Reagan through George W. Bush and was chief counter-terrorism adviser on the U.S. National Security Council during the events of 9-11, described the events that lead up to the current War on Terror in his books Against All Enemies. His vantage point is absolutely unique as to the events, actions, and reactions to terrorism within the past 20 years. And although his view is extraordinary, and his actions courageous, his reactions and strategies exemplify the endemic view within our government in relation to dealing with terrorism threats coming from different parts of the world and here at home.

The complexity of why terrorism exists, why it is able to flourish, and why it is extremely difficult to combat, is one not built on individual retaliatory measures, but on a systematic attack of the causes that allow terrorism to take root in the first place. South Korean Nobel Prize Laurent Kim Dae-jung has said, “At the bottom of terrorism is poverty. That is the main cause. Then there are other religious, national and ideological differences". In a Dec.10, 2001 article in the Christian Science Monitor (Jai, 2001). Several of the Nobel Laureates quoted highlight the role of low education and poverty in terrorism: “What is it that seduces some young people to terrorism? It simplifies things. The fanatic has no questions, only answers. Education is the way to eliminate terrorism” (Elie Wiesel). “If the mind is more open, that will automatically bring less fear. Education can narrow the gap between appearances and reality. The reality is that we and 'they' are not different” (Dalai Lama). “At the bottom of terrorism is poverty. That is the main cause. Then there are other religious, national, and ideological differences” (Kim Dae Jung). And, “External circumstances such as poverty and a sense of grievance and injustice can fill people with resentment and despair to the point of desperation” (Desmond Tutu). Clearly, it is the root of the problem that must be addressed: Education and Poverty. The issue then, is how to affect these two issues.

Education and poverty are the historical hallmarks of societies that remain closed to outside investment, communications, and influence (Bremmer, 2005). Open societies are more economically sustainable and, once established, have a built in self perpetuating system lead to more openness to the outside world. Governments that are successful in remaining closed and self perpetuating do so because they have either found outlets for the general discontent in either state or religious diversions.

There is a direct relationship between instability and demand within an authoritarianism society. A people who fear economic insecurity will suspend calls for freedom and representative government in favor of support for (or at least submission to) a single clear voice promising food, jobs, and social guarantees – whether it comes in the form of a state handout or religious offering. The purpose, therefore, of economic reform and the creation of a broad middle class, is to reduce demand for authoritarianism and to build the necessary public confidence that increases demand for an opening of society. When societal outrage is not properly supplied with essentials, or if middle class is unobtainable with the system of government in place, outrage must either be directly dealt with of redirected.

In an authoritarian state, opposition political organizations are suppressed, their activities are outlawed, their leaders are jailed or killed, and their supporters are intimidated into silence. As a result, opposition within these states becomes radicalized; opposition activism becomes, by definition, anti-state activity. And, as Newton’s Third Law tells us, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Eventually the masses will rise up and suppress the system of government that suppressed them. The problem with this rebirth is that it rarely breeds anything different then new leaders of the same government for the simple fact that the new leaders who take over an authoritarian state, no matter how good-intentioned their original act was, immediately realize that they are now in control of the entire state completely unchecked by any opposing party and with current support of the masses.

Historically in Arab countries, the trend has been for closed societies and authoritarian systems since the British colonialization in the Arab world. This time also ushered in the period in which Arab countries have been dominated by a single political party or monolithic elite. And unlike the control of Communist Russia through economic pacification, the one party systems lead to a continuous rise of religious fundamentalism throughout the Arab world. This is because the natural flow of problems have been redirected not into compliancy for economic stimulus, but into religious centers. “Mosques offer institutional support for public protest and a vehicle for public frustration for those excluded from a share in the nation’s wealth” (Bremmer, 2005). Consolidation of anger/power builds the one party solidarity and, through the government controlled mosques, and directs it at targets away from the state as a means for diversion from other, deeper, economic and societal concerns from their citizens.

Consequently these types of states, be they Islamic, Christian, or Jewish, are home to substantial numbers of radicals. Most prevalent within the closes systems in the Middle East reside the Islamists who prefer the restoration of the Muslim Caliphate to the establishment of liberal parliamentary democracy to push power and control of the masses solely to the religious side of politics as a solution for the problem that they are helping perpetuate by not addressing the core root of the problem.

The current US strategy of dealing with this upswing in religious activism in the Islamic world is the universal democratization and the elimination of “outposts of tyranny”. Unfortunately, this targets the supply of autocratic rule without addressing the underlying demand for it. The formulation of a comprehensive strategy that addresses both sides of the problem, low education and poverty, which lead to these states, is vitally important.

Education, the second part of the equation, is equally at odds with a state controlled by religious means. As a state that directs it’s economically burdened and socially discontented populous towards religion, religion itself will become the educational arm of the government. This too is self propagating and leads toward more religious intervention into all levels of government and a sharper divide with the outside world who may not share their specific brand of beliefs. Therefore, it is the simultaneous elevating of both economic conditions and the separation of church and education, within closed systems, that must be done in harmony. To simply drive a strike at between the leadership and the people of a closed society completely ignores the subsequent generations that have already been educated, usually more virulently, to take up where the newly ousted leaders left off – and with the public support of an equally educated society.

Suppression through economic or religious means will always breed those who refused to be suppressed by any means. Every closed system throughout all of history has, sooner or later, fallen to internal forces wishing to overcome a system they believe in designed to keep them compliant or silent. Strategies that empower the individuals that comprise these groups within closed states to challenge the authoritarian status quo can create strong momentum for democratic change. A promise of basic necessaries or a redirection of anger is in no way a match for the hope of equality with those who clearly have done well at the expense of others.

A supply side foreign policy approach only works against a large, organized, state that is both diametrically apposed to your policies and financially weaker then your state. Supply side policy against a non-formed organization (think the War on Drugs) is destine to fail for the simple fact that in trying to alter market supply in a self-sustaining market. This will only drive up the cost and create more individuals/originations who will naturally see the increased risk offset by the an parallel increase in profit. And since the increase in policy only drives the price higher, the risk and profit also rise in line with the increase in spending on the initial policy. One does not need to study Adam Smith to know that where there is demand, there will always be supply. It is only when you attack both supply and demand can you have a realistic chance of making a true difference.

It is precisely on this supply-side principle that the United States risks losing the war on terror. There is demand for terrorism in parts of the Muslim world to further the closed societies, bolster a belief in an enemy that disagrees with the religious education, and maintain the belief that economic shortages are not due to the system, but instead do to outside forces acting to upset the balance of their homeland. With this rally call, there are growing numbers of angry young Muslims willing to surrender their lives in exchange for an outlet for their anger and a sense of pride and purpose for their state and family’s future wellbeing. These men have little stake in the success of their nations. They have little hope of lawfully altering their fates. If this or that Al Qaeda captain is captured or killed, a young Muslim looking for a war will find another officer to enlist him. When bin Laden is finally captured or killed, those who demand a champion to lead the terrorist jihad will create a new leader.

The progress of altering this trend is slow, and as General Wesley Clark has written, "Western labor unions, encouraged by their governments, aided the emergence of a democratic trade union movement, especially in Poland, Western broadcast media pumped in culture and political thought, raising popular expectations and undercutting Communist state propaganda. And Western business and financial institutions entered the scene, too, ensnaring command economies in Western market pricing practices” (Washington Monthly). In essence, the former Warsaw Pact countries did not choose democracy because they it was imposed on them by the outside world. Instead, the accepted Democracy because they wanted democracy internally because of nonmilitary outside forces and influences.

This influence from the outside world is well known in closed societies. The average North Korean knows little more about the world outside of their boarders then their government allows just as those in the closed Islamic countries allow only certain types of cultural influences to permeate into their own. This defense against unwanted outside influences is usually done through cooperation between the state and the religion as it is mutually beneficially needed for both to maintain power and the illusion that their followers are living the best life possible under the circumstances. Cultural protectionism that undermines cultural vitality as surely as economic protectionism limits economic growth and keeps the population in eternal check.

The challenge becomes in finding ways into these closed societies to help bolster the middle class and allow for economic and educational reforms knowing that resistance to reforms reinforces short-tem political stability as it softens the blows of social dislocation.

Realizing that countries are aligning to undermine their intentions, certain militant cells have decided to shore up recruitment both in their countries of origin and in those where they believe that individuals with the same backgrounds and upbringing as themselves now reside. The attacks have symbolized mainly Western, other religious interests, and in their own religious areas. “These strikes may contain a grim message for Muslims: Beware, anyone who cooperates with the West--the danger extends to you.” And advisor to Morocco's King Mohammed VI says that the terrorists' strategy is to create chaos aimed at undermining moderate Muslim governments by “attacking innocent victims as an indirect manner of striking Arab or Islamic governments that militants condemn as corrupt," (Time 2004) France's Jacquard calls the tactic a new "strategy of rupture." The purpose, he says, is to force Muslims "to finally, fatally decide whether they are for or against righteous jihad."

So I put the question to you out there, what is the key to undermining an authoritarian regime propped up by basic economic stability through natural resources while holding it’s populous in check through religious means?

Any ideas?


References:

http://www.unodc.org/unodc/terrorism_definitions.html

http://www.un.org/unifeed/script.asp?scriptId=73

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010920-8.html

Clarke, R. (2004). Against All Enemies. New York, NY: Free Press.

Jai, J. (2001, December 10). “Getting at the Roots of Terrorism: The Largest Gathering of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.” The Christian Science Monitor.

Bremmer, J, (2005). The J Curve. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster

Clark, W. (2004, March). “Broken Engagement.” Washington Monthly.

McGeary, J. (2003). When No One Is Truly Safe. Time, 162(22), 52-56.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Your Christmas Survival List

My wife and I went to the mall today and as we shopped for Christmas presents I wrote down a couple of things to remember. I hope that this short list can in some way help you through the season:

  • Christmas is inherently the gaudiest time of the year. Don’t try to fight it, you will loose.
  • You are going to end up buying at least one box of girl scout cookies, so buy one for the girl who had the guts to walk up to your door and not just from the ones who catch you walking into the grocery store.
  • Whatever items you originally laugh at today as bad gift ideas will progressively look better the closer Christmas gets.
  • There are only two options when buying jeans: comfortable, or the ones that make your butt look good.
  • Of course the retail person who helped you at the mall was stoned. They have to be stoned to deal with a Christmas shopping you.
  • Your husband wants nothing from Bath & Body Works. Nothing.
  • Nothing says that you’ve hit middle age faster then a Christmas sweater you’ve made yourself.
  • Whether you want to admit it or not, you too looked that ridiculous when you were a kid. So stop mentally berating those ridiculous looking kids at the mall. It’s called generational revenge and is inevitable.
  • There is a higher probability that Paris Hilton will win a Nobel Prize then there is that you will not gain weight over the holiday.
  • Christmas is suppose to give you a headache, stress you out, make you want to skip it next year, argue with your friends and family, and make you wish you could rip the stereo out of the car. Its part of the mystic, just go with it or it will consume you.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Do you have Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder? Better ask your Doctor

The story behind the “discovery” of PMDD illustrates how an unknown, unofficial and, for some, unreal condition can be pushed from the back pages of the psychiatrist’s manual into glossy magazines and onto TV screens.

Cut to the 1999 TV commercial:

An anonymous woman tries to disentangle a shopping cart from an interlocked row of them, outside a suburban store. She is frustrated and angry. She becomes even more exasperated when another shopper enters the frame, calmly unhooks a cart and glides smoothly on her way. Watching this TV advertisement unfold, it might look like the woman is experiencing little more than a normal bout of tension or stress. But the folks at the drug company Lilly know better. This woman may need a powerful antidepressant because she is suffering from a severe form of mental illness known as PMDD. “Think it’s PMS? It could be PMDD,” intones the voiceover. This remarkable disorder was discovered right as the patent for Prozac was about to run out. So Lilly decided to repaint Prozac in attractive lavender and pink and rename it Sarafem.

In a recent study by Dartmouth College analyzing some seventy drug company ads in ten popular magazines, they found that almost half tried to encourage consumers to consider medical causes for their common experiences, most often urging them to consult a physician. The ads targeted aspects of ordinary life including sneezing, hair loss and being overweight - things many people could clearly manage without seeing a doctor - and portrayed them as though they were part of a medical condition. The researchers speculated that advertising was increasingly medicalizing ordinary experience, and pushing the boundaries of medical influence far too wide.

This medicalization of everyday human experiences is allowed to happen because the drug companies are allowed free reign of both medical funding, medical advertising, and an overly welcoming drug approval process. So in accordance with both the drug companies and the compliant FDA, I would like to officially announce my new miracle drug called Repressitall for Living Includes Frequent Experiences or LIFE. Repressitall deals with LIFE in a way that allows an individual to exist without actually having to “experience life”. The new miracle drug will give people the power to travel through life in a state of complete ignorant bliss all for the low price of $300 a week with 15 small pills a day. I hope to have FDA approval by next week.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Entry for November 20, 2006

I’m in the process of reading Richard Dawkins new book The God Delusion, and he developed the classic Bertrand Russell Teapot (or the Celestial Teapot) a bit further:

If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

The reason organized religion merits outright hostility is that, unlike belief in Russell's teapot, religion is powerful, influential, tax-exempt and systematically passed on to children too young to defend themselves. Children are not compelled to spend their formative years memorizing loony books about teapots. Government-subsidized schools don't exclude children whose parents prefer the wrong shape of teapot. Teapot-believers don't stone teapot-unbelievers, teapot-apostates, teapot-heretics and teapot-blasphemers to death. Mothers don't warn their sons off marrying teapot-shiksas whose parents believe in three teapots rather than one. People who put the milk in first don't kneecap those who put the tea in first.

It’s odd that certain long held understandings have moved back and forth from mythology for so long without an open discussion as to both the viability and sustainability of most organized religions. I believe that it was Joseph Campbell that once said, “every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble”.

As our worlds religions fight back against scientific advances with a call for intellectually laziness and apathy towards questioning of the unknown, I wonder if we are to keep reliving the same dark ages and renaissances of our previous generations. With each major advancement in knowledge evolution the major religions are reorganized to suit the needs of keeping people in check – but at some point will that no longer be necessary? Do you believe that we will outgrow our need for religion as a intellectual thought becomes harder and harder to subvert – or will organized religions always evolve to keep pace?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

It's beautiful Bubba - SHOOT IT!!!

This weekend is the start of the hunting season here in Michigan and the single white doe are out in force unaccompanied. It seems that all of the local bucks are out in the woods, armed with semi-automatic weapons, camouflage, electronic deer tracking systems, attempting to outsmart a creature that eats grass.

This is a hobby that I will never understand. There is no more of a challenge in hunting dumb creatures as there is in playing chess with a retarded person. Sure you’ll beat the less intelligent creature, but what do you actually get in return? Are you that sad of a person that you need to kill something with an IQ less then 30 to feel good about yourself? And don’t even try to use that “we hunt for the meat” crap – because the amount that hunters spend on supplies far outweighs what they could have just paid to buy the meat. Also, if you need to get away from your wife that badly, maybe you should spend that weekend thinking about why that’s so.

So this weekend, as I’m scoring with your wife, I hope you have fun with the guys in the woods, drunk off your ass, reconnecting with your primal instincts by slaughtering bambi. Or as you might say, grunt grunt growl grunt small penis grunt.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die

As we slowly decide what to do with the increasing civil war in Iraq I’m reminded of John Kerry’s April 23, 1971 Senate Foreign Relations Committee speech where he asked the now famous question: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam?” It was an open omission that we had lost the war in Vietnam and a called for an immediate solution. At the time that speech angered and garnered approval from both sides. Those who refused to admit that the war in Vietnam was lost were upset, and those who saw the situation as lost were glad that Kerry said what they did not have the voice to say.

Now, as the war in Iraq winds down to an unfortunate conclusion a similar situation is building. Both sides now clearly admit that the war did not go as planned, has gotten out of hand, and is unwinable – although no public official of any rank will come out and say such. So again we head back to history to look at the Vietnam War for hints as to what will come next. To do so all we have to do is to look back at my November 30 blog post from 2005. It is posted below, unaltered, for both posterity and point:

Vietnamization is the term for President Richard Nixon’s policy in the early 1970s to turn the job of defending South Vietnam back to the South Vietnamese government. The policy was part of a broader plan to reduce and eventually withdraw American troops from the Vietnam War. America did pull out of the war in 1973, but South Vietnam survived on its own only until 1975 at which time it collapsed and was taken over by North Vietnam.

Iraqization is the future term for President George W. Bush policy in 2006 to turn the job of rebuilding Iraq over to an unprepared Iraqi country. The policy will be part of a broader plan to reduce and eventually withdraw Americans troops from the War on Terror in Iraq. Iraq will quickly crumble due to its lack of sustainable economy, underdeveloped government and the War on Terror in Iraq will cause Iraq to become a heavy source for future terrorist cells and recruitment.

This was blatantly obviously a year ago to me – a political outsider who only had access to the mass market news sources and a decent education. The only thing that was not easy to predict was what they would call this new Iraqization. So here we all sit, waiting with bated breath, waiting for what we now know will be called “phased redeployment” and thinking of that parallels of Vietnam once again. Again we the people do not have a good solution and spend our days arguing over what can and should be done in our lost war. And again, I think that a version of John Kerry’s 1971 speech is not called for. Except this time, confused, angry, and looking to find a politically acceptable term, let us change his saying to fit the time. So now I ask you, how do you ask a man to be that last one to die for a phased redeployment?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Entry for November 11, 2006



This week NASA released some pictures and a short video of a super hurricane measuring 5,000 miles across on the South Pole of Saturn.

http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.cfm

This prompted a couple of the news stations brilliant flaxen-haired media personalities to prophetically postulate on whether or not it was a black hole on the surface of Saturn.

So in response to their brilliant question, I would like to answer them here publicly:

No, sweetheart, it's not a hurricane and here are a couple reasons why:

There's light near where the Schwarzschild radius would be, the gravitational pull would collapse the planet, there are particles obviously traveling up and down, and it doesn't seem to have a density of matter that has become too great in the self-accelerating process to warp four-dimensional space time to a point singularity wherein the Enterprise could clearly travel through it.

I hope that explains it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bush Names 2 New Enemy Combatants

At 1pm EST on Wednesday November 8th, President Bush signed an executive order naming the both Jim Webb from Virginia and Jon Tester from Montana as enemy combatants and had them shipped out of the country. Both Democrats had thin margins after the voting yesterday was completed, yet both Democrats were close enough for Republicans to challenge the vote totals. The former potential representatives are rumored to now be somewhere in a secret prison in Uzbekistan. Meanwhile, Congress moved quickly to fill those holes with what majority leader Dennis Hastert called “reasonable representatives” by brining back both Tom DeLay and Mark Foley to fill the two new vacancies. In Bush’s statement he said, “What the hell did you think I had Congress throw out that habeas corpus thingy for anyway? I’m the king dammit, and I’ll stay my own course”.

Monday, November 06, 2006

What to Recall, What to Forget Nov. 7

The latest New York Times/CBS poll shows that only 29 percent of Americans approve of how President Bush is handling the war in Iraq.

That's terrible news for Republicans on the eve of mid-term elections. While some frantically try to distance themselves from the president, others are frantically trying to distract voters.

Please worry about illegal immigration, they say.

Worry about gay marriages.

Worry about income taxes.

Worry about the stand-up comedy career of John Kerry.

But please, please put the ongoing debacle in Iraq out of your mind when you walk into the voting booth.

Just try.

October was the bloodiest month for coalition forces in almost two years. According to the Pentagon, 105 U.S. soldiers were killed, most of them by improvised bombs.

Don't think about them November 7th.

Don't think about all the funerals at Arlington. Don't think about the months of rehab at Walter Reed, learning how to walk with prosthetic legs or eat with prosthetic arms.

Don't remind yourself of that day, so long ago, when Bush posed on the aircraft carrier and announced that major combat was over. Mission accomplished.

Don't remind yourself of how Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld belittled the insurgency in Iraq, and predicted we'd make short work of it.

Don't ask yourself what those arrogant fools were thinking when they dreamed up this war.

Please don't think about the phantom weapons of mass destruction, or about the obliging and unquestioning members of Congress -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- who bought the hype.

Don't think about what happened at Abu Ghraib prison, or how it helped turn so many Iraqis against us.

Don't ask yourself how Afghanistan, haven for the guys who planned the 9/11 attacks, got shoved to the back burner. Don't clutter your head with thoughts of Osama bin Laden, still very much alive and spewing hatred -- in hiding nowhere near Iraq.

And please don't think about where we are today, stuck in the middle of a religious civil war between the Sunnis and Shiites, with violent fanatics on both sides. Also, don't worry about Iran waiting on the sidelines, juicing up its nuclear program.

When Bush stands up at a campaign rally and says America is safer now than it was five years ago, don't think about the National Intelligence Estimate completed by 16 U.S. spy agencies. Their conclusion: The occupation of Iraq has galvanized Islamic radicals and actually increased the global threat of terrorism.

That, from the top intelligence officials in our own government. Their report was done last April, but kept under wraps until the details began leaking in September.

Here's something else not to think about on Election Day: A 2005 study by the National Intelligence Council saying that since the invasion, Iraq has become the main training camp for the next generation of terrorists and future leaders of al Qaeda.

Every day the war comes home in a crushing way to another American town, to heartsick wives or husbands and to children. The finest soldiers in the world are fighting their guts out in a place where they are increasingly viewed, and treated, as invaders.

The same politicians who got us into the war promise to get us out, but they can't say how or when. They're more comfortable ranting against lesbian weddings and illegal farm workers than talking about the 105 coffins that were shipped home last month from Iraq.

They'd prefer that the war wasn't a big campaign issue, and that voters didn't wonder about the doubts of our own top generals or the bleak assessments from our own intelligence networks. Or about the president himself, grinning like a Muppet while defending the competence of Cheney and Rumsfeld.

Try not to think about that on Tuesday.

Just try.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Politics: A Wealthy Gentlemen’s Game?

There are those that always speak of Adam Smith when talking government, elitists, and support for candidates who believe in the “invisible hand”. These quotes and arguments all seem to miss Smith’s (2003) caveat of “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices”. Extremely wealthy businessmen have but one reason to enter politics and it is usually to extend their wealth to friends, family, or business associates. I would like to think that I’m wrong and that their philanthropic nature is what’s compelled them to work for lower pay – but I live in the real world.

Here in Michigan we have a race going for governor where one of the candidates is the son of the billionaire Amway founder, one of the top 5 campaign donators and fundraisers for his national party over the last 7 years, and has spent over 40 million dollars of his own money on this election. Now I have nothing against billionaires, but there is always something fishy when someone who owns several billion dollar corporations, an NBA basketball team, and who has been personally drug before the FCC and sanctioned for running an almost illegal pyramid scheme, decides to get into politics. Anyone with that much money and power usually only gets into government for one reason – and it’s not good.

One really has no further to look then to the fall of Rome to know from where and to what ends government corruption springs forth when the state is captured by elites who use it for their own purposes. And just like in Rome, our state is subject to the same variables of a religion overstretching to weakening the bonds of government, excessive governmental bloat, attacks by barbarians, and a general culture of corruption. Edward Gibbon, in his monumental work The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (2005), concludes that "The story of its ruin is simple and obvious; and instead of inquiring why the Roman Empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted so long." The story itself is one of slow growth, bringing a high quality of life to a large percentage of the masses – which made them apathetic towards governance. This, in turn, allowed their politicians to do all sorts of horrible things. Couple this with a religion imposing itself through the state and you see the eventuality of most powerful governments throughout history.

Arthur Gordon once said "Some people confuse acceptance with apathy, but there's all the difference in the world. Apathy fails to distinguish between what can and what cannot be helped; acceptance makes that distinction. Apathy paralyzes the will-to-action; acceptance frees it by relieving it of impossible burdens.” These acceptances of an increase in the inherent level of government creep, especially when times are abundant, are counterbalanced by the natural tendencies towards either revolution or constant flux that delays the inevitable outcome of weight that fell Rome.

All of it reminds me of our own beginning and a specific comment from my favorite demigod who, upon leaving the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 18, 1787, was accosted by an anxious lady named Mrs. Powel who asked of Benjamin Franklin, "What type of government have you delegates given us" to which he replied, "A republic, if you can keep it”.

Smith, A. (2003). The Wealth of Nations. New York, NY: Bantam Classics.

Gibbon, E. (2005). The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Norwalk, CT: Easton Press.

Isaacson, W. (2003). Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Stay the Quagmire

In a case of extreme irony the Bush Administration has decided that they’ve either never said “Stay the Course”, or that the American public is just too dumb to understand the complexities of the brilliant, yet articulate jingle.

The irony comes into effect when you take this recent flip-flop along with the report that was released about the same time last week by the pentagon. The report explained how the insurgents have been slowing increasing their effect by simply doing exactly the same thing that they’ve done for the last couple of years.

So as our Commander-In-Chief has abandoned this “Stay the Course” idea because of its complete failure in Iraq, our enemy has ironically always “Stayed the Course” and used it successfully.

Sometimes irony is funny, but this time it’s just sad.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Test your vocal chops

This is supposedly the hardest English sentence to say repeatedly out loud:

The sixth sick sheik's sixth sheep's sick

I made it through three times at normal speed before I sprained my tongue and had to seek a specialist.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Entry for October 29, 2006

Life is what you are busy doing while the people you love live and die.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Entry for October 28, 2006

For the last couple of years I've watched The Daily Show, and more recently, The Colbert Report to keep myself sane. But recently I find myself feeling empty after what I use to call the only real news on TV. This, of course, was in response to the others news channels filtering out any important news, failing to ask decent questions of politicians, and chasing stories that any sane people shouldn’t care about.

Instead, what I need now is serious news. I long for real hard-hitting journalism from a company who isn’t interviewing Natalee Holloway’s pediatric orthodontist and isn’t anchored by a bubbly blonde woman who couldn’t locate herself on a mall map.

So as much as I still enjoy Jon and Stephen, I need something substantial. And as soon as I track down that source, I’ll let you know.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Entry for October 27, 2006

One of my heroes was, and always will be, Carl Sagan. This morning I reread a quote of his from years ago that struck me as a bit wittier then I believe it was originally intended - and I now feel I should share it:

"One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. The bamboozle has captured us. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back." - Carl Sagan

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Entry for October 26, 2006

No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to teach any dog decent manners.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Bush Bans Menstruation as Last Minute Election Surprise

In a stunning move today, President Bush signed into law a bill that was quickly rushed through the still controlled Republican Congress, that bans all women from menstruating. This law, signed close to election time, is meant to galvanize the Republican base and get them to the polls. The bill defines each and every egg a woman has as a human life, and that women who murder their children with the “wickedness of menstruation” will be punished to the full extent of the law. He then used the occasion to reach out to other countries that still allow women to menstruate by labeling those countries as an “Axis of Bitchy” and threatened an end to both economic support and possible preemptive military action if they fail to comply. When questioned as to how this law could be realistically imposed on other countries Bush replied, “Our brave men and women of the armed forces stand ready to defend freedom and the lives of unborn children everywhere in the name of democracy”.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Entry for October 23, 2006

A liberal is an ideologist and a conservative is not.

A conservative with an ideology is either on the way to being a liberal or a neoconservative, depending on whether that ideology favors isolationism or greater inclusion.

The neoconservative who is successful in pushing their ideology will eventually become an authoritarian. They will then immediately feel the recoil from a public who is, by nature, ideological.

That time of recoil has come - enjoy the snap.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Entry for October 21, 2006

Is it just me or is TV mostly just a medium for watching other people have a life?

By what criteria would you measure whether or not we've lost the War in Iraq?

James Baker, the consult hired by the Bush Administration to come up with a plan to leave Iraq, had his report leaked to the Phoenix Sun claiming that there are only two strategies to leave Iraq and that they essentially "rule out any prospect of making Iraq a stable Democracy in the near term".

So my question is: since there were no WMD, we aren't in the dictator removal business, and Iraq isn't actually going to get a Democracy, did we officially loose?

It's kinda hard for me to say that we did, because we never really had any goals or plans in the first place.

What are your thoughts? At what point do we realize that this failed and that constitutes a loss?


Anyway, enjoy The Colbert Report's "W├śRD": on the subect:




Thursday, October 19, 2006


  • Atheists have no belief in God or gods. Religious people reject the validity of the gods of other religions. So Atheists just believe in one less god than they do.


  • As hard as it is to stop using heroin is as hard as it is to start flossing.


  • What's the difference between Bush and Nixon?  Nixon at least had a coherent foreign policy.


  • All that TV does it remind us of what we should already know; computers are there to remind us how little we have learned.



Below is Keith Olbermann's latest report.  Please watch it and vote during the next election.




Wednesday, October 18, 2006

How to get out of Iraq (Part 3 of 3)

Oil, of course, cannot be neglected. One of the Iraq war's many mysteries is the curious lack of discussion of oil production and distribution. A final piece in the plan to end United States occupation should be the creation of an Iraqi national oil company, composed of a consortium of the Iraqi Oil Ministry and major international producers, empowered by law to build modem petroleum production and distribution facilities with revenues fairly distributed by national law to all Iraqis. The charter of this national oil company, by establishing fair revenue-sharing allocations, will go very far in allaying the fears of Sunnis and other minorities that oil wealth will be divided between the Shiites and the Kurds, on those territories most of the oil resources are located.

These elements of an occupation-ending policy—know your enemy, divide and conquer, welcome help. Create economic unity, and share burdens and rewards—are complementary and self-reinforcing. By dividing national insurgents from jihadists, we have much greater hope of ending the insurgency and crushing the jihadists. By negotiating mutual disarmament between national insurgents and the U.S. military, we have much greater hope of sharply reducing violence and bringing the Sunnis into the political mainstream. By declaring that the United States plans no permanent military presence, we clarify American intentions to the Iraqi people, to the American people, and to the world. By making NATO the bridge between the U.S. occupiers and permanent Iraqi security capabilities, we defuse anger and violence against the United States. By engaging broad-based Western financing and construction capabilities, we sharply reduce the financial burdens on the U.S. Treasury and share both burdens and rewards of reconstruction. And by establishing an Iraqi national oil production and revenue sharing entity, we eliminate the accusation that the United States invaded Iraq for its oil, and we guarantee that all Iraqis will share in its benefits.

Obviously, many other pieces and nuances can be added to this policy outline. It is offered here not as a definitive solution but to demonstrate that alternatives exist to the destructive "stay the course" rhetoric. It is meant further to be proof to a strangely silent Democratic leadership that constructing an opposition party plan for Iraq is not, in the currency of the day, "rocket science."

As distracting as Iraq has become—unnecessarily, to my mind—it cannot be permitted to prevent our current administration from addressing a host of even greater challenges swiftly and often silently around us. Future generations of Americans must learn from both the Vietnam and Iraq experiences that the American superpower must not permit itself to become so obsessed with one crusade that it neglects its global responsibilities. While we slog through the problems of Iraq, large-scale events are transpiring across the planet that desperately call for our attention.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

How to get out of Iraq (Part 2 of 3)

Thought the American press corps has seemed strangely uninterested in this question – one that goes to the very heart of our intentions in starting the war in the first place – now is the time to find out. The latest evidence was that at least four, and possibly as many as a dozen, permanent military bases are being built throughout the country.

Our predictable scenario for the neoconservatives is to arrange for the new government of Baghdad to invite American forces to stay in Iraq as a semipermanent, Korea-like stabilizing force and thus legitimize construction of several garrisons for the stay-behind forces. These may amount to troop levels of as many as fifty thousand on a rotating basis and would provide legitimacy for a permanent U.S. military presence in the Middle East. Once again, the French and other colonial powers will testify to the vulnerability of static garrisons to a continuing anti-occupation insurgency.

A serious disengagement plan, however, must be based on a central reality: We cannon insist on a pro-American, client-state Iraqi government of the sort long envisioned by the neoconservatives. This may have been their dream, but Iraq’s long, complex history and complicated mixture of cultures should have shown it years ago to have been a pipe dream.

In any case, we will never end our self-defeating occupation and assure the Iraqis and others in the volatile region of the Middle East that we have no imperial intentions, as they now widely suppose, until this issue is settled. It is one thing to continue intensive diplomatic and even commercial attention to the area; it is quite another to leave behind several brigades (or perhaps a full division or more), helicopter wings, and weapons depots. This issue will be the clearest indicator of our policy and intentions. Either we came to bring democracy to the Iraqis, or we came to use Iraq as the base from which we would wield our influence through military force in the future.

Few would dispute now that the restoration of order, security, and stability in Iraq is going to take far longer than we were led to believe when the preemptive war was undertaken in 2003. “We can’t simply walk away now” is the way this is usually put. Therefore, any serious disengagement plan must provide for replacement capabilities in training and equipping Iraqi security forces.

This is a role that NATO can fill, but our allies must be asked, because NATO nations are already providing more than sixteen thousand troops for stabilization and nation building in Afghanistan. NATO peacekeepers units can oversee the training of Iraqi police and military forces and move those units into the principal security roles, especially border control missions to seal Iraq off from foreign jihadists. Those jihadists in any case will have much less interest in Iraq once the United States has departed, and will be much less welcome by Iraqi citizens.

Persuading NATO nations to assume this role will require diplomacy, especially since many of its member nations were peremptorily and arrogantly dismissed as “old Europe” (in the words of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld) when they refused to suppose the Bush administration’s preemptive invasion. Nevertheless, skilled diplomats have overcome greater hurdles when they have a will to do so and when they can offer incentives. Further, NATO troops are filling important security and combat support roles in Afghanistan and are perfectly capable of training Iraqi security units.

The incentive for NATO and other democratic nations to participate in Iraq should be provided by internationalizing the country’s reconstruction program. Construction and engineering companies from Europe and some Asian nations should be both permitted and encouraged to participate in competitive bidding for major infrastructure project contracts. Energy and electrical systems, water and waste treatment plants, transportation facilities, and communication projects should not be handed out to a few politically favored American companies.

Further, the burden of financing Iraq’s reconstruction should not be borne solely by United States taxpayers. We should quickly establish a Bank of Iraqi Reconstruction financed by Western democratic governments. Given the ability of their own construction and engineering companies to participate in major reconstruction projects and thus to recycle the investment their national governments will make in this bank, this will provide the quid pro quo required by European and Asian countries to contribute. Faced with mounting reconstruction and occupation costs, President Bush appealed in the spring of 2004 both to NATO and to the Group of Eight nations to provide troops and financing for Iraq’s reconstruction. He failed. He failed simply because he neglected to include the key component: He did not also invite those nations to bring their own major contractors into the economic distribution. His message was, “We want your money and your troops, but Halliburton will do all the work and reap all the profits”.

Monday, October 16, 2006

How to get out of Iraq (Part 1 of 3)

The keys to liberating Iraq and liberating ourselves from Iraq are: know your enemy; divide and conquer; welcome help; create economic unity; and share burdens and rewards.

The fatal flaw in the Bush occupation is its insistence that all those attacking our troops and facilities are "terrorists". Any number of military and civilian analysts have consistently stated that we face two distinctive opponents: national insurgents on one hand, foreign jihadists on the other. Some estimates put the percentage of national insurgents at about 90 percent of all those resisting our occupation, which means that foreign jihadists represent 10 percent or fewer. Numerically, insurgents are estimated at somewhere between twenty and forty thousand, and jihadists are estimated at anywhere from five hundred to four thousand.

To understand the difference, one must ask this question: How many people are going to follow us home when we eventually depart? The purpose of the national insurgents, largely Sunni Iraqi Arabs, is to get us to leave their country. The purpose of foreign jihadists, including many Saudi Arabians, is to kill Americans wherever they can find us. By insisting that they are all "terrorists", president Bush guarantees that we will occupy Iraq at least as long as the British (or their surrogates) did - about thirty-five years. This is the "course" that he wishes us to "stay".

The first step in a new policy towards Iraq, then, is to drive a wedge between the national insurgents and the foreign jihadists be negotiating with the former to help eradicate the latter. We should more seriously negotiate with moderate Sunni Arabs, and there clearly are a large number, to establish an agreement for a mutual and speedy draw-down of forces. The United States would agree to a two-phased withdrawal whereby combat forces will be withdrawn from occupational roles to bases outside the cities in exchange for verifiable insurgent disarmament. Once insurgent disarmament is complete, Sunnis would be guaranteed full political participation with protected civil and political rights.

As this mutual disengagement is taking place, the United States should obtain Sunni commitments to help in the isolation, suppression, and eradication of the foreign jihadist elements in Iraq. The Sunnis have tolerated their presence and made common cause with them in the shared hope of getting the Americans to leave. Once that is clearly happening, the Sunnis not only have no further use for the foreigners, they have a positive motive for removing them from Iraq soil. Because they have been cooperating int he insurgency, the Sunnis will know the identity, location, and methods of jihadists and will be crucial players in their eradication in ways that we can never hope to achieve on our own.

Iraqi nationalists, whether Sunni, Shiite, or Kurdish, will also want assurances that the United States intends no permanent military presence in Iraq. Thus, the United States should declare that it is not constructing and will not construct permanent military bases in Iraq. Some might wish to quibble over what is "permanent" and what is not. But clearly, pouring concrete foundations for barracks and welding steel for armories is permanent, whereas tents and trench latrines are not. We either intend to maintain a long-term presence in Iraq - and there is little doubt that that was (and perhaps even today still is) the intent of the neoconservative policy makers in the Bush government, thought it was never revealed as such to the American people - or we do not.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Physicist Stephen Hawking to Star in Movie

Sat Oct 14, 6:31 PM ET

LONDON (AFP) - Acclaimed British physicist Stephen Hawking will reportedly trade in scientific journals for the big screen by starring in a movie.

The film, "Beyond the Horizon," aims to explain some of the complicated theories backed by Hawking and his fellow physicists, including the idea that space has up to 11 dimensions and the cause of the big bang.

The 64-year-old Hawking, famous for his 1988 international best-seller "A Brief History of Time," will also narrate a soundtrack which explains cosmological concepts.

"Beyond the Horizon" centres around a fictional religious affairs correspondent for The Times newspaper who approaches Hawking, interviewing the physicist for a major feature.

Leonard Mlodinow, a former scriptwriter on the television series "Star Trek," is working with Hawking on the project, which does not yet have a release date, The Sunday Times said.

The academic, who is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge -- a post once held by Isaac Newton -- was diagnosed with the muscle-wasting condition motor neurone disease at the age of 22. He is in a wheelchair and speaks with the aid of a computer and voice synthesiser.

His research has centred on theoretical cosmology and quantum gravity, looking at the nature of such subjects as space-time, the "Big Bang" theory and black holes.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Entry for October 13, 2006

We had our first snow last night here in Saginaw, so this morning I was doing a rare occurrence for me: I watched the local news. I gave up the local news years ago (about the same time I gave up soda) because I realized that it added nothing beneficial to my life. The only thing I ever tune in for anymore is local election results and an occasion large story. This being the first snow and Friday the 13th, I figured it should be amusing. Plus, I really didn't feel like doing much else.
Along with the road closures they talked about the upcoming elections and gas prices heading back. They showed a number of clips of people from both parties talking about oil to emphasis the fact that both oil prices heading up, and the upcoming elections, were both real stories. What struck me odd is that both candidates talked about our dependence on foreign oil and said that they did not know what our current reserves were or how long they would last. This somehow hit me at an odd angle and I thought I would check it out and post it here on my blog for those candidates far too busy to do the research themselves, but still found time to read my blog.

As of Sept 29, 2006, the US has an Oil Reserve of 687.7 million barrels of oil (1). We currently consume about 9,125,000 barrels a day (2). Soooo, about 75 day’s worth of oil just on the reserves, if we were completely cut off. We do also produce a percentage of our own oil - but that would only get us to about 100 days. And during that time, prices would skyrocket and demand would outweigh supply so much that most individuals would not be able to afford to fill up their cars.

I don't think that the people who hate us would ever cut us off. No dealer ever cuts off their addicts because they know that they are their best customers. What they can do is slowly drive the price up by reducing how much they produce (which OPEC did last week, 3) and sending some of that cash that they made for us to people who want to do us harm or to prop up governments who really, really dislike us inorder to grow their own government as powerful or more powerful then our own (at our expense). Luckily enough for us, our largest importer of oil is Canada - who are wonderful, nice, friendly, sexy, well-hung people who would never raise their prices because they are too good looking and beautiful to do so.

Now of course this doesn't take into account that some of our oil is sweet and some is sour (meaning it can only be turned into certain types) and that there is some argument as to whether or not the reserves actually exist. Also, the oil that we have in reserves is crude oil and would not be ready for consumption for a number of weeks. What's that mean? It means that we are a country addicted to oil, sold to us by our enemies, and encouraged by our government. We have become too dependant, too quickly, without a decent backup plan.

What bothers me more then anything else is that I've yet to hear a candidate talking about how we can reduce our consumption. Instead, it's all about how to get our next fix. If we could only make our own oil. You know, then we could have all that we wanted and never have to pay anyone else. Maybe we could then go into business for ourselves and sell enough to pay for our habit. Man that would be cool, all the oil we could ever want and cash on the side. That would be sweet. Mmmm sweet, sweet oil.. ... .I gotta go. .. ..I gotta go pump a couple of gallons before breakfast - you know, just to get me going. Later.

http://www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/reserves/spr/spr-facts.html
www.eia.doe.gov/neic/quickfacts/quickoil.html
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20061008/bs_nm/energy_opec_dc_2

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

How to hack a diebold voting machine

I would never suggest doing  this,  only that it could be done easily.






"It's not who votes that counts, it's who counts the votes." - Joseph Stalin

Monday, October 09, 2006

In response to the previous poem...

Yes, poems CAN get worse. Examine the following poem:

The dead swans lay in the stagnant pool.
They lay. They rotted. They turned
Around occasionally.
Bits of flesh dropped off them from
Time to time.
And sank into the pool's mire.
They also smelt a great deal.

Move over Paul Nancy Millstone Jennings of Greenbridge, Essex

My time of starvation and yearning hunger,

Called for something of pure enjoyment,

It’s an emptiness not understood by the younger.

So with ample time from unemployment,

A feast was enlisted to create the day.

Called upon were a Dagwood and an ale,

With ham, provolone, turkey, bread and greens.

Soon I will pounce, as if it were pray.

I must eat it all, I cannot (will not) fail,

This sandwich I will rise above and prevail,

For soon enough I will feel tightness of my jeans.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

How did we let things get this bad?

Keith Olbermann lays it all out in simple english, with references, and quotes as to why we may have waited too long to serve responsibility to those who deserve it.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Overheard on a radio show...

...I would personally like to thank Senator Mark Foley for molesting those young pages down there so that we don’t have to molest them up here.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Saginaw, MI

Living in Saginaw, it’s extremely hard to exhibit a decent level of joie de vivre. We are always surrounded with what seems to be a once vibrant past, built on the blue-collar dreams of the now retired local inhabitants. The usual lively assortment you would expect to find in any small city is virtually nonexistent here do to the lack of employment and hard economic conditions brought on by the exiting manufacturing jobs and all that goes with it. This has left a very depressed area consisting of those who cannot leave, those who too fondly remember good times, and those who will leave soon.

The small exception to this is the medical community – which is our reason for being here. As with any area that has seen its share of economic hardship, it is the daily increases in the local hospital population that are always the most telling. This is how it is in Saginaw, and is an excellent opportunity for medical students to see the full gambit of hardships.

Unfortunately, this area has left me with little to no local employment prospects other then a level of underemployment that borders on humor to our friends and family. This situation is wholly depressing in the worst way. Nothing is more shameful and destructive to a man then the feeling of public inadequacy – and here, among this drab outlook and impending ennui, I will slowly rot.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

My letter calling for Representative Hastert to resign

As most of you are aware, Mark Foley resigned this week after ABC aired a segment in which they revealed his instant messages to a juvenile page of the House.The messages included a proposition for the juvenile to come over and have a drink, one asking if he made the child horny, and new claims from three other pages that they were also inappropriately contacted by Senator Foley. Foley has since resigned and is currently under investigation.



The larger problem at hand is that Dennis Hastert, the current Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, who knew about the situation months, if not years in advanced. Moreover, he allowed Senator Foley to not only remain in Congress, but also to stay Co-Chair of House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children (I hope the irony isn’t lost on anyone).

Speaker Hastert, through his inaction, has shown that he believes that political power is more important then basic human decency and safety of children that had been entrusted to someone he knew to be a child predator.

So I ask all those out there in internet land, to email Senator Hastert and ask for his resignation.  No one who values political power of the welfare of children should be allowed to represent anyone besides that scum that calls itself NAMBLA.



Click here to email Dennis Hastert

He accepts email from any address, not just his own district.

My letter:

Mr. Hastert,

It is a shame that a political career can be tarnished so quickly in our system - although there are times when the actions or inactions of an individual in power can warrant that conflict. You allowed a man who you knew to be a danger to children to not only keep his job, but have access to the very group in which you knew that he was a danger. This, unfortunately, was both a flagrantly ill-advised and presently unforgivable. There is a well known line of Dante’s that reads, “There is a special place in Hell for those who, in times of moral crisis, preserve their neutrality”. You choose no action, neutrality in the face of impending devious conduct towards a minor, and you must now accept the consequences for your inaction. This regrettable situation has prompted me to ask for you to step down from your post and surrender your job. I know that there is an election soon, but we cannot sacrifice our values and morals for an individuals pride and to preserve a system that would overlook such behavior to maintain a majority voting block.

Thank you,

Brian Hamilton

Entry for October 05, 2006

In a time a time where everyone believes that they are middle class, everyone is also under the strange misconception that they are a political centrist. But if you ask them what they mean by this they will give you the standard answer of, “Well, sometimes I’m conservative and sometimes I’m a bit liberal”. They will usually follow this with several caveats and examples so that you fully understand that they are a political wash. This is an odd turn of events and I blame the parties themselves. No one wants to be included in a Democratic Party that has no direction and very few cohesive ideals. Moreover, no one wants really to be called a Republican when you realize that they are in no way still conservative, and have pushed for larger government, less personal responsibility, a reduction in states rights, and more government intervention into the personal lives of the citizens. No, in this day we all call ourselves middle class and centrists because all of the other options leave a bad taste in our mouths.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Entry for October 04, 2006

The Democrats seemed poised to take back the House and with the recent news coming from Florida, stand a decent chance to take back the Senate as well. All future impeachment discussions aside, this will make the current president essentially a lame duck for the remainder of his term. With this soon to be neutering of the White House it has set up a certain media driven person with name recognition, now schooled in the art of changing principles and extreme swings towards daily fluctuation political views, as the current choice for the Democratic candidate in 2008. Unfortunately with the way the parties now stand, this leaves the voting population with the party of “stay the course to ruin” or to change leadership to “we are for whatever you people are for this very minute as long as you support us”.

This worries me. For years the Democrats have been in search of a leader on a white horse, an exciting new candidate who will lead the Democratic Party out of the wilderness. This argument has become a substitute for thought, for purpose, for conviction. Twenty-first century Democrats cling to the hope of a messiah in the vacant centrist venue where messiahs never appear. Instead, the Democratic Party must decide what its core principles are and the, and only then, decide which national leader or leaders best embody those principles. No politician can save a political party that does not know what it stands for.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Anyone else see Fahrenheit 451 resemblances?

With all of the violent crime in the form of kids shooting up their schools over the last couple of days, I’m beginning to notice that we seem to be slipping into a require reading book from my High School days. The mindless crime, the movement towards an authoritarian government, the media driven society, a leader who frowns on reading....

...it all seems to be getting worse, and it's all just a bit creepy. Someone tell me I’m wrong.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Entry for September 28, 2006

I'm in the process of finishing a PhD and am constantly dumbfounded as to how certain individuals at my school can get as far as I have while remaining so ignorant. Moreover, they seem to wallow in their absence of their intellectualism while being immersed in their righteous idiocy that is somehow bestowed upon them by their advanced degrees.

Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology; it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual; and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding. Education does not give you the right to believe in yourself absolutely – if anything, it should give you the understanding of the small amount you actually know.

Blah, now back to listening to the Pogues...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My Aunt Nancy died last night...

She had been fighting cancer for many years now and died after being surrounded by her family. She was ready to go and we are happy for her. In memorial, I'm reposting my favorite blog called "Death, but a Good Thing". Enjoy.

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics: that no energy is created in the universe and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all of your energy, every vibration, every BTU of heat, every weave of every particle that was her beloved child, remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid the energy of the cosmos you gave as good as you got. And at some point you would hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your broken hearted spouse in their pew and tell them that all the photons that have ever bounced off your face; all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile; by the touch of your hair; hundred of trillions of particles that have raced off you like children have had their waves forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that other photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes. That those photons collected within her created constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever. And the physicist will remind the congregation how much of all of our energy is given off as heat (there may be a few people fanning themselves with their program as he says it). And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here as part of all that we are even as we who morn continue the heat of our own lives. And you will want the physicist to explain to those who loved you they need not have faith, indeed should not have faith – let them know that they can measure, that scientists can measure, precisely, the conservation of energy and have found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You will hope that your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound, and be comforted to know that your energy is still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy not a bit of you is gone – you’re just less orderly. Amen.

The Best Blog Post Ever

This is the best blog post ever. I know, because I do the best job to acquire and live life the best possible way and it shows. I must have the best stuff, because I deserve the best. The best is what America is all about. We are the best and need the best cars, the best TVs… the best of everything. I’m currently writing this on the best laptop available – but I will have to discard it this weekend because the new best one comes out. I can, of course, afford that because I went to the best schools and have lead the best life possible. I only stay at Best Westerns, shop at Best Buy, and hang out with my best friends. I do all of this because I know that being obsessed with the best will ultimately lead me to contentment and fulfillment. Surely all the best minds know that the endless search for something better will eventually lead to the best emotional balance and happiness. Right?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I miss Bill

This week Bill Clinton is making headlines for showing both fire and intelligence and I realize that I absolutely miss that in our politicians. We seem to be at a point in time where our politicians are either spiritless or intellectually deficient, and that sucks. But with any luck, his performance this week will inspire debate, reignite passion, and get people thinking again. The one thing that really made me smile was The Daily Show with Jon Stewart when Bill said, “If you are a Democrat, you win when people think”. It was at that moment when I realized WHY I really missed Bill.

I miss the arguments based on intellectual deliberation instead of knee-jerk reactions and school-yard insults.

I miss discussions on details about details of important matters.

I miss contests over who has more brain power in any given situation.

The one successful thing that George W. has done over his presidency is lower our expectations of what we expect from our elected officials. And that, that is what I miss the most.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Entry for September 22, 2006

According to his own theory, Occam was probably a lazy man who never bothered to think stuff out.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Who the hell are you to tell me how time moves?

I’m getting pretty sick and tired of people applying their assumptions of existence on me. Time is a perception of your mind so that you can exist within an understandable scope compliant with your ability to comprehend being. You know damn well that time and motion are just illusions created by your inability to perceive everything at once and that everything that is possible exists as a path and that you just chose this path to perceive as "correct". So stop trying to drag me down into your general singularity-defined existence perceived by your tiny brain and your misguided belief in "time".

PS Sorry I was late picking you up.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Entry for September 20, 2006

Is it wrong that I want to live life in one of Sean Astin’s underdog monologues?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Word of the day - Arachibutyrophobia

Arachibutyrophobia – the fear of having peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Entry for September 15, 2006

As the wholly controlled Republican government ends this fall, so will the support of the Extreme Christian Right. In which, I would like to offer a word or two to those who are Christian and have been unfairly lumped into this intense ideological mold. What the Extreme Christian Right and the Republican Party have been trying to do is dictate explicit beliefs in Christianity, imposed into our society, without choice of compliance. And as we all know, there is no goodness without freewill. Without the ability to freely choose – or reject – the good, an individual possesses no control over his attaining grace. In the language of Christianity, a believer cannot be saved unless the choice to follow Christ is freely made, unless the option not to follow him genuinely exists. Compelled belief is no belief at all. I am not a Christian, nor do I believe that there should be a mixing of Church and State other then an awareness that the one exists to balance the first. That being said, I am glad that the Republican Party will no longer be controlled by an extremist faction forcing compulsory compliance to a standard set of supposed Christian norms. Instead, we should all be happy that you we can once again choose our own paths freely and to dictate our own lives and souls as we choose without judgment of those who have deemed themselves worthy to judge all.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The politically primitive man's brain remains

Man is not a willing political animal. The human male associates with is fellows less by desire than by habit, imitation, and the compulsion of circumstance; he does not love society so much as he fears solitude. He combines with other men because isolation endangers him, and because there are many things that can be done better together than alone; in his heart he is a solitude individual, pitted heroically against the world. If the average man had his way there would probably never have been any state. Even today he resents it, classes death with taxes, and yearns for that government that governs least. If he asks for many laws it is only because he is sure that his neighbor needs them; privately he is an unphilosophical anarchist and thinks laws in his own case superfluous.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Entry for September 12, 2006

Keith Olbermann is without a doubt the best news anchor on television today. Two weeks ago, echoing the spirit of the legendary Edward R. Murrow, Olbermann took Donald Rumsfeld to task for comparing critics of the Iraq war to Nazi appeasers. Tonight, broadcasting live from above a desolate and still demolished Ground Zero, Olbermann delivered a stirring eight minute commentary indicting the Bush Administration's shameful and tragic response to 9/11. The entire speech is worth watching and reading, so I'm posting the full text below:

Half a lifetime ago, I worked in this now-empty space. And for 40 days after the attacks, I worked here again, trying to make sense of what happened, and was yet to happen, as a reporter.

All the time, I knew that the very air I breathed contained the remains of thousands of people, including four of my friends, two in the planes and -- as I discovered from those "missing posters" seared still into my soul -- two more in the Towers.

And I knew too, that this was the pyre for hundreds of New York policemen and firemen, of whom my family can claim half a dozen or more, as our ancestors.

I belabor this to emphasize that, for me this was, and is, and always shall be, personal.

And anyone who claims that I and others like me are "soft,"or have "forgotten" the lessons of what happened here is at best a grasping, opportunistic, dilettante and at worst, an idiot whether he is a commentator, or a Vice President, or a President.

However, of all the things those of us who were here five years ago could have forecast -- of all the nightmares that unfolded before our eyes, and the others that unfolded only in our minds -- none of us could have predicted this.

Five years later this space is still empty.

Five years later there is no memorial to the dead.

Five years later there is no building rising to show with proud defiance that we would not have our America wrung from us, by cowards and criminals.

Five years later this country's wound is still open.

Five years later this country's mass grave is still unmarked.

Five years later this is still just a background for a photo-op.

It is beyond shameful.

At the dedication of the Gettysburg Memorial -- barely four months after the last soldier staggered from another Pennsylvania field -- Mr. Lincoln said, "we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

Lincoln used those words to immortalize their sacrifice.

Today our leaders could use those same words to rationalize their reprehensible inaction. "We cannot dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground." So we won't.

Instead they bicker and buck pass. They thwart private efforts, and jostle to claim credit for initiatives that go nowhere. They spend the money on irrelevant wars, and elaborate self-congratulations, and buying off columnists to write how good a job they're doing instead of doing any job at all.

Five years later, Mr. Bush, we are still fighting the terrorists on these streets. And look carefully, sir, on these 16 empty acres. The terrorists are clearly, still winning.

And, in a crime against every victim here and every patriotic sentiment you mouthed but did not enact, you have done nothing about it.

And there is something worse still than this vast gaping hole in this city, and in the fabric of our nation. There is its symbolism of the promise unfulfilled, the urgent oath, reduced to lazy execution.

The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.

Those who did not belong to his party -- tabled that.

Those who doubted the mechanics of his election -- ignored that.

Those who wondered of his qualifications -- forgot that.

History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation's wounds, but to take political advantage.

Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.

The President -- and those around him -- did that.

They promised bi-partisanship, and then showed that to them, "bi-partisanship" meant that their party would rule and the rest would have to follow, or be branded, with ever-escalating hysteria, as morally or intellectually confused, as appeasers, as those who, in the Vice President's words yesterday, "validate the strategy of the terrorists."

They promised protection, and then showed that to them "protection" meant going to war against a despot whose hand they had once shaken, a despot who we now learn from our own Senate Intelligence Committee, hated al-Qaida as much as we did.

The polite phrase for how so many of us were duped into supporting a war, on the false premise that it had 'something to do' with 9/11 is "lying by implication."

The impolite phrase is "impeachable offense."

Not once in now five years has this President ever offered to assume responsibility for the failures that led to this empty space, and to this, the current, curdled, version of our beloved country.

Still, there is a last snapping flame from a final candle of respect and fairness: even his most virulent critics have never suggested he alone bears the full brunt of the blame for 9/11.

Half the time, in fact, this President has been so gently treated, that he has seemed not even to be the man most responsible for anything in his own administration.

Yet what is happening this very night?

A mini-series, created, influenced -- possibly financed by -- the most radical and cold of domestic political Machiavellis, continues to be televised into our homes.

The documented truths of the last fifteen years are replaced by bald-faced lies; the talking points of the current regime parroted; the whole sorry story blurred, by spin, to make the party out of office seem vacillating and impotent, and the party in office, seem like the only option.

How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love, and transmuting it into fraudulent war and needless death, after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear into the campaign slogan of three elections? How dare you -- or those around you -- ever "spin" 9/11?

Just as the terrorists have succeeded -- are still succeeding -- as long as there is no memorial and no construction here at Ground Zero.

So, too, have they succeeded, and are still succeeding as long as this government uses 9/11 as a wedge to pit Americans against Americans.

This is an odd point to cite a television program, especially one from March of 1960. But as Disney's continuing sell-out of the truth (and this country) suggests, even television programs can be powerful things.

And long ago, a series called "The Twilight Zone" broadcast a riveting episode entitled "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street."

In brief: a meteor sparks rumors of an invasion by extra-terrestrials disguised as humans. The electricity goes out. A neighbor pleads for calm. Suddenly his car -- and only his car -- starts. Someone suggests he must be the alien. Then another man's lights go on. As charges and suspicion and panic overtake the street, guns are inevitably produced. An "alien" is shot -- but he turns out to be just another neighbor, returning from going for help. The camera pulls back to a near-by hill, where two extra-terrestrials are seen manipulating a small device that can jam electricity. The veteran tells his novice that there's no need to actually attack, that you just turn off a few of the human machines and then, "they pick the most dangerous enemy they can find, and it's themselves."

And then, in perhaps his finest piece of writing, Rod Serling sums it up with words of remarkable prescience, given where we find ourselves tonight: "The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men.

"For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own -- for the children, and the children yet unborn."

When those who dissent are told time and time again -- as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus -- that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American...When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11"... look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:

Who has left this hole in the ground?

We have not forgotten, Mr. President.

You have.

May this country forgive you.