31 August 2006

The Whale Sang Opera

This past week has been an amazing example of what may be wrong with the country. The news has gone from Iraq to Jonbenet to Warren Jeffs to Rumsfeld to fascism to the President. The majority of the comentary has been on a ten year old murder case and a captured polygamist, and most of that has been in breathless, gushing one sylable words. The President rattled off a group of talking points almost all of which were then echoed or shown on every TV "news" program with the implication that you would either support or oppose those statements with little or no real analysis or critical thinking - simply a knee jerk reaction from whichever side of the political spectrum you call your own. Little of the news or entertainment requires a functioning brain. You simply parrot whatever you are spoon fed by your side of the political spectrum to then be regurgitated to your friends and compatriots.

A great deal of teaching in today's classrooms amounts to "teaching to the test", simply informing children of the information they will need to parrot on being examined. There really is nothing wrong with teaching children information by rote. What is missing is the encouragement of curiosity and exposure to bigger ideas, different worlds, and thoughtful commentary. When I was in what amounted to an AP class many, many years ago, the teacher gave "open book" tests because it was more important to know how to find information than it was to "know" it. Even for the average student, the idea was to rise to the level of instruction not bring instruction down to the understandable level of the child. Many years ago Marva Collins proved that even the least advantaged child will achieve if that is what is rewarded by their parents and their cohorts.

In the upper left hand corner is Willie the Whale. He is a Disney cartoon. He sang Figaro, Pagliacci, and Faust along with Mama's Little Baby Loves Shortnin' Bread, and children of that era loved him along with Night on Bald Mountain, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and Peter and the Wolf. On TV we had Ed Sullivan and for every plate twirler or Senor Winscles with his hand puppet saying, "All right" there were live scenes from Broadway plays and opera singers. News was Uncle Walter with real "News" not some blond newsreader who cannot pronounce many of the words on the copy in their hands ... my latest bugaboo one who says o-ree-on rather than o-rye-un.

Frank Sinatra sang "The House I Live In" with its multi racial cast and it won an Oscar. Listen to the dialogue of movies from the 30s through 60s and hear multiple syllable words, Marx Brothers double entendres, and Cole Porter lyrics. Even among the least educated, the exposure through movies and TV to the unfamiliar was constant. For those who couldn't make their way through a whole novel, there was the Readers Digest version. Part of the problem is cable TV that allows you to run away from something you don't understand. When there were three networks, you took what you could get. For all the advantages of multiple channels, it is also possible to only hang out where you are comfortable or where your prejudices are reinforced. Sure there were injustices and prejudices in materials forty years ago. There are cartoons you can't show on TV today because of those images, but there were also more ways to escape what your were raised with at home. If nothing else, Fred Astaire dancing in a tux said there was a different world out there.

We have become a nation that swallows things whole without investigation. We are a nation that distrusts "other" ideas. We no longer seek out alternate experiences or events. Virtually every magazine or TV show has some sensational tabloid feature. Many motion pictures are aimed at the lowest common denominator. Once an adult, you can get through life without reading anything other than misspelled email and the material necessary to do your job. For the majority of people, there is little to no encouragement to seek out books, discussions, debates, or public group experiences with other adults. Lives have become insular: work/home with little time left over for anything else. Even the children are programmed with their mothers known as Soccer Moms. Society has come down to the level of the child rather than insisting that the child come up to the level of adults.

Let's bring back Willie.

30 August 2006

Saying What Needs To Be Said

If MSNBC wants me to take this down as a copyright violation, I will, but Keith Olbermann's closing remarks tonight should be on every blog on the net, posted on billboards, framed in classrooms, echoed from every radio and TV station. Tonight, he rose to the level of what true journalism is always supposed to be.

Feeling morally, intellectually confused?

The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack.

Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday demands the deep analysis—and the sober contemplation—of every American.

For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence -- indeed, the loyalty -- of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land. Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants -- our employees -- with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.

Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s blood of human freedom; and not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as “his” troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq.

It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile it is right and the power to which it speaks, is wrong.

In a small irony, however, Mr. Rumsfeld’s speechwriter was adroit in invoking the memory of the appeasement of the Nazis. For in their time, there was another government faced with true peril—with a growing evil—powerful and remorseless.

That government, like Mr. Rumsfeld’s, had a monopoly on all the facts. It, too, had the “secret information.” It alone had the true picture of the threat. It too dismissed and insulted its critics in terms like Mr. Rumsfeld’s -- questioning their intellect and their morality.

That government was England’s, in the 1930’s.

It knew Hitler posed no true threat to Europe, let alone England.
It knew Germany was not re-arming, in violation of all treaties and accords.
It knew that the hard evidence it received, which contradicted its own policies, its own conclusions — its own omniscience -- needed to be dismissed.
The English government of Neville Chamberlain already knew the truth.
Most relevant of all — it “knew” that its staunchest critics needed to be marginalized and isolated. In fact, it portrayed the foremost of them as a blood-thirsty war-monger who was, if not truly senile, at best morally or intellectually confused.

That critic’s name was Winston Churchill.

Sadly, we have no Winston Churchills evident among us this evening. We have only Donald Rumsfelds, demonizing disagreement, the way Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill.

History — and 163 million pounds of Luftwaffe bombs over England — have taught us that all Mr. Chamberlain had was his certainty — and his own confusion. A confusion that suggested that the office can not only make the man, but that the office can also make the facts.
Thus, did Mr. Rumsfeld make an apt historical analogy.

Excepting the fact, that he has the battery plugged in backwards.

His government, absolute -- and exclusive -- in its knowledge, is not the modern version of the one which stood up to the Nazis.

It is the modern version of the government of Neville Chamberlain.

But back to today’s Omniscient ones.

That, about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused is simply this: This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely.

And, as such, all voices count -- not just his.

Had he or his president perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience — about Osama Bin Laden’s plans five years ago, about Saddam Hussein’s weapons four years ago, about Hurricane Katrina’s impact one year ago — we all might be able to swallow hard, and accept their “omniscience” as a bearable, even useful recipe, of fact, plus ego.

But, to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance, and its own hubris.
Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to the entire “Fog of Fear” which continues to envelop this nation, he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies have — inadvertently or intentionally — profited and benefited, both personally, and politically.

And yet he can stand up, in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporer’s New Clothes?

In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child, of whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused the United States of America?

The confusion we -- as its citizens— must now address, is stark and forbidding.

But variations of it have faced our forefathers, when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag. Note -- with hope in your heart — that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light, and we can, too.

The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and this administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: The destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City, so valiantly fought.

And about Mr. Rumsfeld’s other main assertion, that this country faces a “new type of fascism.”
As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that -- though probably not in the way he thought he meant it.

This country faces a new type of fascism - indeed.

Although I presumptuously use his sign-off each night, in feeble tribute, I have utterly no claim to the words of the exemplary journalist Edward R. Murrow.

But never in the trial of a thousand years of writing could I come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier generation of us, at a time when other politicians thought they (and they alone) knew everything, and branded those who disagreed: “confused” or “immoral.”
Thus, forgive me, for reading Murrow, in full:

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty,” he said, in 1954. “We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.
“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular.”

And so good night, and good luck.

29 August 2006

The Rumsfeld Doctrine of Dead Horses

Yesterday Rumsfeld insisted that people who did not support the war in Iraq were simply too dense to learn the lessons of history and compared those who opposed our invasion as being like those who failed to oppose Hitler before WWII.

Once again he tied Iraq to 9/11 and other attacks by Islamic terrorists. That there was absolutely no indication that Saddam Hussein however evil was connected to any of these events seems to have slipped his mind. That Hussein was pretty well confined to the center of his country with U.S. overflights and U.N. inspectors went unmentioned. That Iraq was the only true counterbalance to Shiite extremism was not acknowledged. That having decided on this course of action, he was the one whose hubris dictated a method that it would be an absolute failure because of a lack of long term thinking.

All he said was that he was right and all the critics were wrong. Those who said that an invasion of Iraq was a misplaced use of force when the center of terrorism was in Afghanistan are hardly compatriots of Neville Chamberlain. Mr. Rumsfeld, please resign and go home. It is you who have not learned the history of the Middle East and its stresses and relationships. You gave the President disasterous advice which he to his shame followed. The end result is that our world is less safe, the terrorists more dangerous, and we are left with few allies for the fight.

Tribal wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. However, in relation to Iraq, you and the President seems intent on other strategeries. In the interest of saving time, this is how you go about beating the horse. None of them will work, but reason is not one of your strong points, so maybe irony will work.

Buy a stronger whip.
Change riders (Generals).
Say things like, "This is the way we have always ridden this horse."
Appoint a committee to study the horse.
Increasing the standards to ride dead horses.
Appoint a team to revive the dead horse.
Create a training session to increase our riding ability.
Compare the state of dead horses in today’s environment.
Change the requirements to "This horse is not dead."
Hire contractors to ride the dead horse (Haliburton et al).
Declare "No horse is too dead to beat."
Provide additional funding to increase the horse's performance.
Do a Cost Analysis study to see if contractors can ride it cheaper.
Purchase a product to make dead horses run faster.
Declare the horse is "better, faster and cheaper" dead.
Find uses for dead horses.

28 August 2006

Where Did My Country Go?

FDR was still president when I was born, but I can't say I paid much attention to the office until after Truman won in 1948. From that time until 2000, I have always respected the office and extended that respect to the man holding the office even when disagreeing with certain policies. At no time, was I afraid of my government, until now.
In 2000 we were presented with a man totally unequipped for the office, but heavily backed with money, influence and a built in 30% voting bloc comprised of neo-cons, evangelicals, and hard right voters. Even then I was willing to give him the benefit of a doubt. Men have grown into the job before, and this one might as well. I was wrong.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is the single worst President of my lifetime. He has brought both the office and, more importantly, the country into disrepute to the point of being a feckless laughing stock. For the sake of pride and on truly horrendous advice he has taken us into a war in Iraq that never should have been waged. He is responsible for the Death of over 2,600 of our citizens. There are thousands upon thousands more who have been maimed in body and mind courtesy of Mr. Bush, and that is without counting the thousands of innocents who have died in Iraq. Having done all that he has increased the hatred of the United States with virtually every Muslim country on the planet. All of this has been done while trying to terrify the American public every other day with the latest boogyman in order to maintain power for himself and an economic windfall for his buddies.
Even all of the above might be, if not forgiveable at least understandable, if the country as a whole were better off. It is not. Economically we are a mess. The middle class is being decimated, disaster areas are ignored, and every recommended action for the safety of the country has not been taken. As a nation we are worse off than when Bush swore to protect and defend on the Bible he supposedly cherishes. My only question is do I assume he knows what he is doing, in which case he is evil, or do I assume he is stupid and therefore the responsibility belongs to his keepers. Either way, he will leave a country and an office severely weakened and hated. If he had a conscience, he would resign. As it is, we can only hope that he will not do any more damage before 2008. Unfortunately, just having him in office is reason to be afraid.

22 August 2006

Be Very Very Afraid

Our President thinks making the American public more and more afraid of the world around them is a good idea. He certainly mentions it in every single speech with heavy emphasis on anybody who speaks Arabic.

At the rate he is going, we may have reason to be terrified. If he enlists any more countries in the "hate America" group, we may have nothing left but fear.

When he took office we were on good terms with almost everyone, or at least they weren't shooting at us. Now there are darn few places left where an American passport wouldn't lead to assault or at the very least massive disrespect.

Thanks George.

But, just to keep things in perspective. Here are some things that really, really can hurt you. I've selected the ages of 25 -44 simply because it avoids skewing statistics with teenage items such as gang activities and auto accidents caused by inexperience and under age drinking while also avoiding some of the more likely effects of old age.

Causes of Death Rate per 100,000 25-44 years

All causes 148,904 177.8 1

Accidents and adverse effects 31.7
. . . Motor vehicle accidents 17.3
. . . All other accidents and adverse effects 14.4

2 Human immunodeficiency virus infection 27.2

3 Malignant neoplasms, including neoplasms of lymphatic and hematopoietic tissues 26.4

4 Diseases of heart 19.4

5 Suicide 15

6 Homicide and legal intervention 11.1

7 Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis 5.1

8 Cerebrovascular diseases 4.1

9 Diabetes mellitus 3

10 Pneumonia and influenza 2.4
. . . All other causes (Residual) 32.5

So go ahead, get on the plane. The terrorists have a long way to go to catch up with the four lanes of the freeway.

20 August 2006

David Hume

When I graduated from High School at the age of 17, my present was a set of The Great Books of the Western World. On the presentation page was a quote by David Hume, “Beauty is no quality in things themselves: it exists merely in the mind which contemplates them." Until that day, even as a dedicated book worm, I had never heard his name or read anything he had ever written. This was probably a good thing. You can read Hume at 17 and you can read him at 70. Somewhere in between those two ages, you might be ready for him.

There are times when you have to make allowances for the 18th century language, but he is worth the effort. His extensive circle of friends included the greatest thinkers of his day. His elegy was delivered by his lifelong friend, Adam Smith who cared enough to write extensively of Hume's final days which closes with, " I have always considered him, both in his lifetime and since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man, as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit".
Whether he was writing about economics, politics, religion or philosophy, he earned his reputation as one of the greatest writers in the English language; quite naturally he was a Scot.
Below is a taste of Hume. If you get the chance go pay him an extended visit.
When men are the most sure and arrogant, they commonly are the most mistaken.
Every movement of the theater by a skillful poet is communicated, as it were, by magic, to the spectators; who weep, tremble, resent, rejoice, and are inflamed with all the variety of passions that actuate the several personages of the drama.
The heights of popularity and patriotism are still the beaten road to power and tyranny.
He is happy whose circumstances suit his temper but he is more excellent who can suit his temper to any circumstances.
The sweetest and most inoffensive path of life leads through the avenues of science and learning; and whoever can either remove any obstruction in this way, or open up any new prospect, ought, so far, to be esteemed a benefactor to mankind.
Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the ease with which the many are governed by the few.

18 August 2006

Stay Angry

USA Today had an article about the relationship between crabbiness and IQ as people age. Here are the quotes from Jacqueline Bichsel of Morgan State University in Baltimore:

* A hunger for knowledge and adventure seems to sharpen minds in early adulthood and middle age, but after age 60, it's not the most gung-ho but the most disagreeable people who are the smartest.
* Before age 60, those with a more open personality as evidenced by an eagerness to learn new things and to gain experiences were the brightest. After 60, an open personality had no relationship to intelligence, and personality overall mattered less. In the older ages, the most agreeable had the lowest IQs.
* Seeking out information and being open to adventure could build general knowledge at younger ages, Bichsel suggests. But in older adults, this accumulation of facts may do less to promote intelligence. Instead, more challenging and argumentative people may be giving themselves more of the mental workout needed to keep their minds young.
* Better educated, wealthier adults, who generally have higher IQs, may not react cheerfully to the patronizing treatment that is often given to the elderly, says Park, an expert on cognitive aging at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Such people "have more of a sense of mastery and entitlement. So it could be high ability that's causing their disagreeable quality and not vice versa."

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

Forty years ago, the young people of this country would have been storming the streets, screaming at the powers that be that they were unwilling to die for what was a questionable cause at best. Today they barely stir. There is no draft, the numbers of dead and wounded for both Americans, British, and Iraqis are virtually unreported. The news simply does not affect most families. The bodies are snuck into the country. The funerals are not shown. But things are starting to stir ... there are rumblings. Finally an awareness is starting to set in that this misadventure in Iraq was more than wrong, it was criminal. The men who so badly wanted it, are being forced to come to terms with the result of their abysmal actions.

July was a record for our involvement in Iraq with over 3,000 Iraqis slaughtered. Our veterans hospitals will be filled for years with ruined bodies and minds. The sale of lapel poppies will occur before every Veterans Day to help care for them.

George, George What do you Say?
How many people will you kill today?

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?


There has been quite a bit of confusion over whether or not the British required warrants for their investigations of the suspected terrorists. The conservatives want you to believe that the Brits can listen in on or search anywhere without a warrant. The liberals want to intimate that strict warrants apply just as they have in the past in the United States.

In the interest of clarity, I went to the source. This area of surveillance is handled by the British Home Office which is somewhat the equivalent of our Justice Department. Since the passage of some anti-terrorism laws, surveillance can be conducted in the UK with a lesser standard that before, but a warrant is still required for the majority of activities. In rare exceptions purely for the purpose of anti-terrorism, search and surveillance can be done with only the signature of the Home Secretary, but the Secretary must have a presentation of particulars in the case and the information must be reviewed by a legal entity.

To put this in the U.S. context, normal warrants could be issued by any Federal judge. Anti-terrorism investigation would be allowed by the signature of a FISA court judge, but Alberto Gonzales (not an underling, not a deputy, but the man himself) could authorize these activites for a short period of time and then go to the FISA court for approval, which is exactly the way it is now.

In any case, the total investigation in Britain was done with warrants either of the formal sort or with the signature of the Home Secretary. None of this was under the authorization of Tony Blair as Prime Minister and it cannot be done by George Bush as President simply because he wants to.

17 August 2006

Job Well Done

Normally, I wouldn't tout a mass media magazine, but this week is an exception. If you miss the 8/21 issue of Time, you are missing several important items. I'll list some of them here and you can go to the website to scrounge for them, or do it the easy way and just pick up the magazine. There literally is not a bad article in the whole magazine. Some of the highpoints:

Outsourcing Your Homework - Money quote by Indian owner of TutorVista who will tutor low achieving American children: "The American Educational System is pathetic."

Things your government has lost: Computers, trucks, and intelligence secrets to name just a few.

Condi doesn't know Chinese - quotes non existent urban myth.

Why Bill Clinton's administration worked and why the Bush White House is a dud.

Flying isn't all that risky - Car crashes claimed the lives of 40,000 people. Terrorist caused plane crashes: zero

Why Young British Muslims turn to terrorism while those in the U.S. do not.

Why Hizballah's leader has become a mideast idol.

How the Frist boys got into Princeton (You didn't think it was on merit did you?) and the legacy system of the Ivy League (George + Yale).

How to find the best college for your child.

There's a great science story, a well done pop culture section for TV, Movies, Music and Books.

Health notes on what to pack for lunch that leads you to how to live to be very, very old.

And a closing essay by Ron Suskind that is a delight to read.

Whoever put together this issue did a masterful job. Bravo!

16 August 2006

Bread and Circuses

There were two pieces of news today. One was very important as it showed another increase in the distance between CEO Salaries and that of the average worker. The other was the confession by someone in Thailand to the ten year old murder of Jon Benet Ramsay.

The mainstream media gave us wall to wall coverage of the arrest and a rehash of the original murder and the subsequent ten years complete with "knowledgeable" panalists. The other story of the rape of the middle class was not mentioned at all. Towards the end of the Roman Empire, various groups were bought off with bread and circuses so that they wouldn't pay attention to what the wealthy and powerful were doing. Has America now entered the stage where the general public is so ignorant, uninvolved or cynical that they no longer care or simply do as they are told according to their group's talking points?

Does the modern version of "Bread and Circuses" with things such as the Ramsay case signal the end of America as a republic or even democracy? It took Rome a long time to die. The British Empire took a little less time. The United States may set the speed record of all time unless the public starts to wake up to the predatory actions of politicians and corporations at the expense of the functional middle class.

13 August 2006

Talking Across The Canyon

I have a friend. I know him to be a decent, caring person. He is a family man who genuinely cares about both his home and his community. He is also a Conservative. Not just to the right, but so far off the right edge as to challenge sanity. This man would make the Freepers bow down in admiration. I couldn't vote for one of the candidates he supports without a knife to my throat and even then I would think twice about it .... Well there is one, but he's an egotistical, humorless ass who just happens to do a good job.

So how can I call him friend when I reside slightly left of center? It's simple: He listens. He doesn't hear, but he listens. Every once in a while some bit of reality creeps in and he actually acknowledges that I might have a point. Every once in a while one of his points worms its way into my thinking and I concede he might have a point.

We argue across the great divide. No we don't argue, we fight complete with name calling, cited news articles, examples of betrayal. We spit, claw, and are overjoyed when we draw blood. The man gives me a headache like you wouldn't believe. We won't even begin to mention the blood pressure. Heaven only knows what I do to him simply because I'm more verbal and can swear better.

This is the magic of America. Two people with wildly different viewpoints can not only exist, but actually keep talking without the urge to pick up a weapon and destroy each other. Of course he is wrong all of the time and I am right all of the time. So let the battle go on ... as long as I am proven right and can say, "I told you so".

11 August 2006


Yesterday we learned that a conspiracy that had been in the works for several months under the watchful eye of at least three governments had finally come to a head and that arrests had started. Immediately the media went into 24/7 full blown overhype, airports world wide were turned on their ears. A whole lot of women ended up in a foreign country looking more like themselves than they had in years because they had to throw away their makeup and cream rinse.

In this "emergency" no one died, no equipment was broken, and other than traffic jams and missed planes absolutely nothing happened. The political shows were innundated with administration folks reciting the acceptable talking points with the exact same verbiage, and the President came off of vacation and away from fundraising long enough to make his normal "we have nothing to use but fear itself" speech that can be shortened into four sentences for all occasions at least until he memorizes a new speech:

(1) This nation is in a war on terror
(2) Islamo-fascists want to destroy those of us who love freedom.
(3) This country is safer than it was prior to 9/11.
(4) There are people that still want to harm us for what we believe.

For soundbites this can be shortened to three words: WAR - FREEDOM - 9/11

Now don't you all feel better. Let's get back to the Middle East where everything is an ungodly mess and thousands have died thanks to the government that was making all those "aren't we wonderful for caring so much about you" noises.

Oh I forgot, the one person we still haven't gotten is the one responsible for 9/11 and the mentor and hero to all those young men arrested yesterday. Once more this administration is doing a "heckofajob".

09 August 2006

Fortunate Son

More than one tenth of the members of Congress are directly related to current or past office holders. The majority of the rest are related by marriage, former employees, or derived from successful political families, long term military, and those otherwise connected with wealth and privilege.

Whatever the surname, the awful truth is that there is a wealthy, ruling class that sends the sons and daughters of the rest of us to die for their political positions. Now this might have been a good thing when the majority of Americans believed they that had a vested interest in the country. As it stands now with falling middle class wages, falling numbers of middle class jobs, high interest rates, poor schools, poor health care services, failing infrastructure, and high cost of living (It always costs more to be poor than it does to be rich), people are waking up to the fact that they are probably being used.

It may be an old song but "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater says it all. Once enough people started to believe the lyrics they started protesting in the streets and throwing people out of office with the power of the voting booth. Unfortunately, today, they have come to believe that their vote no longer matters. It will either be stolen by Diebold et al, betrayed by a Presidential signing statement or outweighed by non thinking sheeple from the extremes of the political parties doing as their talking points tell them to do. Something has to change to restore faith in the government and the power of the people or we may be watching the end of America.

Fortunate Son

Some folks are born made to wave the flag,
ooh, they're red, white and blue.
And when the band plays "Hail To The Chief",
oh, they point the cannon at you,

Lord,It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no senator's son,
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate one, no,

Some folks are born silver spoon in hand,
Lord, don't they help themselves? oh.
But when the taxman come to the door,
Lord, the house look a like a rummage sale,

yes,It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no millionaire's son, no, no.
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate one, no.

Yeh, some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
ooh, they send you down to war, Lord,
And when you ask them, how much should we give,
oh, they only answer, more, more, more, yoh,

It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no military son, SON,
NOIt ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate one

08 August 2006

Conquering Iraq

What seems like a lifetime ago, I told a friend that invading Iraq was a disaster. He argued about "weapons of mass destruction" and I said let them have them. This sent all sort of shockwaves until I explained my reasoning. To preemptively invade was a betrayal of everything that the United State represented. To do so before Afghanistan was handled was the height of arogance. History said that entering Iraq without overwhelming world support and manpower would be a disaster that destabilized the whole of the Middle East.

Unfortunately for thousands upon thousands of lives, I get to say "I told you so". Now it becomes a matter of how to get out without a civil war that will mean even more deaths. Putting on my prognosticators hat, the only way out is to divide Iraq into three or more parts.

Kurdistan exists only as a fiction right now even if they do advertise on TV as "The Other Iraq". They are secular, wealthy with oil and ready to join the modern world even if Turkey as a NATO member objects.

The Sunni and Shiites need to divide along religious lines either by joining surrounding countries or simply dividing what is left of the country with some agreement as to oil revenues.

Anyone who knows anything about The Ottoman Empire from the 1600's through to it's final breakup after WWII knows that Iraq is not natural geographically or socially, and it is time for it to come to an end.

We can only hope that someone will point this out to the President before the whole of the Middle East goes up in flames and even more lives are wasted by this ill advised adventure.

05 August 2006

Crossroads Closeup of Chaos

If Geography is destiny, then this place is doomed to be a mess. It is literally one of the bottle necks on the map that make it a major connection to the rest of the world. The Mediterranean takes you to Europe and the Atlantic. The Black Sea to Eastern Europe and Russia. The Caspian is a gateway to the Orient. The Red Sea opens the way to Africa, and the Persian Gulf takes you to the Arabian sea and on to India and the Pacific.

When you add oil and arable land (you might want to buy pistachio futures), then you have a place that everybody wants. A brief timeline of the area tells the whole ugly history of invasion, wars, and brief periods of cooperation. This hasn't been improved by European and American interests in competition with the historical tribal and religious inhabitants. All of these forces try to gain a permanent upper hand that selfishly benefits their interests.

Only working toward what is best for all stands a chance of bringing peace to the region. Whether the U.N. can both control and implement this vision is open to question. Certainly the current American administration has complicated matters, but without a concentrated effort by all the parties concerned, the Middle East will continue to be a major source of worry and conflict to the whole world.

01 August 2006


“...For three thousand years architects designed buildings with columns shaped as female figures. At last Rodin pointed out that this was work too heavy for a girl. He didn’t say, ‘Look, you jerks, if you must do this, make it a brawny male figure.’ No, he showed it. This poor little caryatid has fallen under the load. She’s a good girl - look at her face. Serious, unhappy at her failure, not blaming anyone, not even the gods... and still trying to shoulder her load, after she’s crumbled under it.

Robert Heinlein - Stranger In A Strange Land

Do not confuse 'duty' with what other people expect of you; they are utterly different. Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily. Paying that debt can entail anything from years of patient work to instant willingness to die. Difficult it may be, but the reward is self-respect. But there is no reward at all for doing what other people expect of you, and to do so is not merely difficult, but impossible. It is easier to deal with a footpad than it is with the leech who wants 'just a few minutes of your time, please — this won't take long.' Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few. If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing to such requests, they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time — and squawk for more! So learn to say No — and to be rude about it when necessary. Otherwise you will not have time to carry out your duty, or to do your own work, and certainly no time for love and happiness. The termites will nibble away your life and leave none of it for you. (This rule does not mean that you must not do a favor for a friend, or even a stranger. But let the choice be yours. Don't do it because it is 'expected' of you.)

Robert Heinlein - Time Enough For Love