Monday, September 13, 2010

Did Microsoft just show Google a thing or two?

Microsoft found out that the Russian government is using the excuse of investigating software piracy to seize computers from advocacy groups and opposition newspapers. They quickly issued a change to their software licensing to protect those groups. As the New York Times states it:
The company essentially prohibited its Russian division from taking part in piracy cases against government opponents and declared that it would thwart any attempt by the authorities, in this country and elsewhere, to use such inquiries to exert political pressure.
That is a very bold, decisive move. It's not the sort of move one would necessarily associate with Microsoft, who has been quite loyal to profits as a general rule, but one I welcome. I suppose, in my jaded, calloused way, that it could have been a calculated move to take advantage of Google's bad press over bowing to political pressure, but such moves don't usually happen that quickly. Somebody high up in Microsoft had the guts to assess the situations and say "No, we won't allow this".

Good for them.

Though I can't help but wonder what Russia will do in response. This is the stuff of a Tom Clancy novel: Megacorp vs. megapower. And like a Tom Clancy novel, I suspect much of the maneuvering will be out of public sight.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bullies, Islam, and September 11

When I was in junior high school I got picked on fairly regularly by bullies. I did my best to ignore them or stay out of their way hoping that they would eventually leave me alone. It didn't work. There was one particular bully who sat behind me in one of my classes. One day as we were leaving class he got behind me and started hitting me over the head with his book. Something inside me snapped. I turned around, grabbed him by the throat, and pushed him into some desks. Without stopping to see what happened to him I turned and left the room.

The next day he challenged me to a fight. I agreed to meet him, but the anxiety got to me and ended up going home feeling sick. I had one of my friends give him a message that I'd face him the next day. Oddly enough, he never mentioned it again. And he never bothered me again. I suspect my one act of mindless violence was sufficient to shake his image of me as passive and him as tougher than me. It was no longer worth the risk of what I might do next time.

Today we have a couple of situations in the news. One is the proposed mosque not far from the site of the World Trade Center that was destroyed by Muslim extremists nine years ago. The other is a church in Florida threatening to burn copies of the Koran in protest of the aforementioned mosque. These are both fine examples of what is right vs. what is legal.

It is quite legal to build a mosque near Ground Zero. It's their property, and they should be able to do what they want with it. That's how America works. It's a good system. But that does not mean that it's right for Muslims to build there. It shows an extreme disregard for their fellow Americans. Worse, it looks for all the world like another link in the chain of Muslim mosques built on the sacred sites of their conquered enemies. It is simultaneously a deliberate poke in the eye of a people Muslims have considered enemies for decades and a test of will to see how weak that enemy is.

Unfortunately, because we are America, and because our laws ensure certain freedoms--including the right to be deliberately offensive and disrespectful--we have to allow this. It is important that we allow this, because American culture and law are the direct antithesis of Sharia law and culture. Whether we admit it or not, we are in a battle of ideals, and the world is watching. Sometimes adherence to ideals is more important than defending them.

On the other side we have Rev. Terry Jones and his plan to burn copies of the Koran to protest the Ground Zero mosque. They have come under pressure from many angles not to go through with it. Much of that has been from their fellow Americans. Now, I agree that burning copies of the Koran is not the right thing to do. But it is legal. Just as legal as building a mosque on legally obtained property. Rev. Jones--who has announced that they will not go through with it--is well within his rights as an American to burn any religious text he desires, so long as he complies with other appropriate legal statutes (ie. fire code).

What makes Jones' threat wrong is that it doesn't mesh with Christian principles. We (Christians) are supposed to be long-suffering, patient, and turn the other cheek. We are to respect others and their beliefs. We are supposed to love our neighbors, especially those who wrong us. That is what is wrong with the Koran burning, and nothing else.

But what is more disturbing is the number of people who called on Jones' church to stop their plans not because it was against Christian principles, but because they were afraid that Muslims would be inflamed to anger and hurt Americans. This is not some vague, paranoid fear, either. We know there are plenty of Muslims capable of and willing to carry out such violence. Which brings us back to my story of the bully from my youth.

Islam may be a peaceful religion, but it's the violent side of Islam--the bullies--currently in the driver seat. There are quite likely a majority of Muslims around the world who just want to leave their own lives in peace and not offend anyone. But they are keeping silent. They are doing nothing to reclaim control of their religion from the violent extremists. They are complicit through their silence. They are enabling the bully. They are the parents who turn a blind eye to their child's behavior.

Those bullies have chosen the United States and all other freedom-loving nations as their enemy. They know they are not strong enough to defeat us outright, but they are patient. They know they just have to wear us down and break our will to fight. Unlike the bully of my youth, we can't just defeat them once and expect them to go away. If we strike back they will do their best to avoid the blow and await another chance to strike.

The only way to defeat them is to consistently answer every blow with at least as much violence in return. Trying to make peace will not do it. If they were interested in peace they would have made peace long ago. They don't want peace. They want to defeat us, to subjugate us, and build more mosques on our holy sites. To do that they don't need to defeat us in combat. They merely have to beat down our will to fight back.

So that is what is so distressing about the situation with Rev. Jones' church. I'm sure there was plenty of pressure on them from Muslims not to desecrate their holy book. That is understandable and right. But for other Americans to pressure them out of fear of the consequences shows that the Islamist bullies are winning. Some Americans, it seems, would rather voluntarily give up their freedoms and rights than face a violent enemy. They continue to hope that if we don't do anything to offend the Muslims they will leave us alone.

And perhaps for the majority of Muslims that is true. But they're not in control. The bullies are. Laying low and trying not to cause offense will not work with them any more than it did for me in my youth. It's our existence they find offensive. It's our freedom that offends them. When we voluntarily give up those freedoms they are just emboldened to continue. They're making progress toward their goal, so why wouldn't they continue? The only thing they would enjoy more than conquering and subjugating us is for us to surrender, either piecemeal or wholesale.

So as much as I don't want it to be that way, I see no other option than to continue to fight back, meeting violence with violence. We can't afford to worry about the innocents caught in the middle. It's the innocents who are the key to this. Only when the silent, peaceful Muslim majority sees that those in control are only making things worse for them will they rise up and push them out. Until then they can sit on the sidelines, claiming to want to live in peace, but all the time quietly cheering the home team that made the enemy look foolish once again.

Only when Muslims come to realize there are negative consequences to the actions of those they allow to run the show will they do something to stop it. Unfortunately I see no alternative than to make sure every act of violence by the extremists is answered with violence, even if it harms the "innocent."

That is what happened in Iraq. Now that we've pulled out most of our troops the media is admitting that we succeeded in winning the hearts of the people. That could not have been possible, strange as it may seem, without having invaded Iraq in the first place. Our invasion placed extreme hardship on the Iraqi people. It put them in danger every day from other Muslims. But all the while our own troops did their best to play by the rules. They represented American ideals, and they did it well. Yes, there were terrible mistakes along the way, but we also stayed true to our ideals in punishing our soldiers who failed to live up to our ideals. Those failures taught Iraqis as much about who we are as our successes.

The Iraqi people took notice. The extremists were not the ones trying to build up their country and protect their families. It was the Americans. The Americans, they realized, weren't there to conquer, but to protect themselves and others and to leave as soon as that was no longer necessary. The extremists were just there to cause as much death and havoc as possible--to keep the Iraqi people miserable as long as possible.

But they failed. They failed because this was all being played out in their front yard with Iraqi innocents paying the price for Muslim belligerence. They saw Americans living up to their ideals and doing the job Iraqis knew they should have been doing themselves. It embarrassed them, but it also helped them get the guts to start standing up for themselves as well.

Iraq is in miniature what the War on Terror (or are we allowed to call it that now? War on Vague Unnamable Threat?) should be. The Muslim people need to be made responsible for the violence committed in their name. If they truly are a religion of peace, they need to be made to stand up for themselves and deal with the maniacs at their head. But they're not likely to do that until they themselves feel threatened.

What I am NOT advocating is for individuals to start committing violence against Muslims. I am very much against our doing anything at all to persecute Muslims living in our country and abiding by our laws. Those who break the law should be punished through the law. Those who abide by our laws should be made as welcome as possible and encouraged to prosper. That is also an effective weapon against the extremists.

When I speak of violence, I speak only of violence at the national level, instigated by the state against the states responsible for the provocation. I speak of violence as a tool of policy, where specific actions are taken in pursuit of specific goals, and not out of revenge or malice. And in every case we should make it clear we are doing it because we see no alternative, and will protect and support any and all innocents who are willing to stand up and hold their leaders accountable.

It's not a great solution. I don't like having to advocate violence. But the Muslim extremists leave little option. They are bullies, and bullies only understand one thing. Until we make the use of violence undesirable they will continue to use it. That requires violence on our part--perhaps even disproportionate violence.

Some will say that makes us no better than them. They would be naive and intellectually dishonest. We are not seeking to conquer their land or convert them to our religion or even our way of life. Quite the opposite. They are seeking to conquer us and convert us to their religion, which is a way of life. They are seeking to do so violently. We have a right to defend ourselves, both legal and moral. Who are they to not just claim their religion is superior (that's nothing new, and I feel the same way about my religion), but to enforce it through violence? That is unacceptable.

Again, I don't want it to come to more violence. I really don't. I want the peace-loving Muslims to police their own, cut off support for the extremists, and take control of their own religious identity. I want them to be able to do it bloodlessly if they can. But if they insist on sitting idly by while their religion is subverted and used to attack me and my family, I can only be patient for so long before I have to assume that their silence is assent and they are just as much the enemy as the extremists they allow to rule.

I keep hearing there are liberal, secular, and moderate Muslims out there who refuse to accept the violent aspects of Islam. I'd like to think that's true. I'd like to think that the Muslims around me are just such people--they came to America, the heart of secularism, after all. Surely that wasn't an accident. But I very much want more than to hear about them. I want to see them. I want to see them stand up and take back their religion. Soon. Please.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Those inane Facebook quizzes

I don't get into many of the little games, quizzes, or applications that pop up on Facebook, but today my curiosity got the better of me. Perhaps I was just bored--I dunno. But it came up on my wall that someone had been answering questions about me. I get those fairly regularly, but there's something about having to give away my personal info that makes me hesitate to find out just what it is someone wrote about me.

Well, today I decided to check. Just this once. It seems people have been answering a LOT of questions about me. And I admit that I'm now curious as to who some of them were. Not curious enough to play the game to earn enough credits to have the answers revealed, mind you, but curious nonetheless.

But even without knowing who gave certain answers, I have to admit it was interesting. Some samples:

Do you think that Thom Stratton can throw a football with a spiral? No
HEY!!!!!!!!!! I'm not THAT big a dork!
Do you think that Thom Stratton could shoot someone if they had to? Yes
Hmmmm... makes me sound a little...dangerous! I LIKE it!

Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever been in a fist fight? No
Technically true. Fists weren't actually used.

Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever fooled around at work? Yes
I'm hoping this came from one of my friends' young children who think that means "goofed off".

Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever cheated on a test? No
Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever gone to a strip club? No
Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever lied in an interview? No
Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever smoked? No
Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever taken money for a bribe? No
Do you think that Thom Stratton speeds when driving? No
Do you think that Thom Stratton spends more than an hour on facebook everyday? No
Do you think that Thom Stratton would lie for you? No
Do you think that Thom Stratton would pull a fire alarm as a prank? No
I'm actually flattered. I may not sound very exciting, but I think having a reputation like this is pretty good! Besides, don't forget that people think I can shoot someone if I have to! ;-)

Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever had a crush on you? Yes
There are at least a few of my FB friends for which this would be true. I admit it. I've had fine taste in crushes (not as good as my taste in a wife, mind you!). Though I still wince about how I made one instance known. I was...young and clueless. Moving right along...

Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever had stitches? Yes
True. Six stitches in my finger from the rusty edge of a dump bin. Not even my most dramatic scar.

Do you think that Thom Stratton has ever kissed a girl? Yes
That's a safe enough bet, as I'm married with three kids.

Do you think that Thom Stratton is cute? No
Not even when I pull my wittoh pouty-pout face?!

Do you think that Thom Stratton is dumber than Jessica Simpson? No

Do you think that Thom Stratton wants to 'come out of the closet'? No
Seriously, what kind of question is that? That could either mean I'm not gay, or that I'm gay, but not wanting to come out! Clarity here, folks!

Do you think that Thom Stratton would look good in a bikini? No
Does anyone even wants to THINK about how Thom Stratton would look in a bikini? NO!!!!!! Especially not me! Thank you SO much for putting such a horrible image in our heads!

Do you think that you can beat Thom Stratton in a fight? No

I'm going to have to guess this is one of my friends' kids again...

Do you think Thom Stratton has good taste? No
Obviously not when I picked YOU for a nyeh! ;-)

Do you think Thom Stratton is cool? Yes
Now THIS person....I like!

Have you ever had a crush on Thom Stratton? Yes
Rrrrrreeeeeeaaaallyyyyyy.......  I have to admit that if one question were to get me to earn the points to reveal who, it would have to be this one. Or two. Two people admit to having had a crush on me. Kinda...makes my day!

Is Thom Stratton's profile picture cute? Yes
In a "poor boy, he sure tries hard" sort of way, no doubt.

Would you go skinny dipping with Thom Stratton? No

And last but not least....

Do you think that Thom Stratton should pass on the chocolate cake? No
I couldn't agree more!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Soccer and world politics

Bill Plaschke, writing for the LA Times, tries to convince America that we should stop coddling our soccer team and start expecting more of them. He convinced me, at least. I, probably like most Americans, had no idea our team was as good as it is. We're always led by the media to believe that they're the perpetual underdogs, forever destined to mediocrity in the great, world-unifying sport of soccer.

In short, I think America's view of our soccer team is a reflection of our own world view. Yes, we love our football, baseball, and basketball, but those are sports of our own making. It's okay to excel at them, because they're our games, and it's understandable we would do well. Especially since we're the only ones who really play them. Other countries may play similar games, but they inevitably change the rules to suit their own fancies (and ensuring they won't have to face the expectation of being able to challenge the Americans).

Not so with soccer. Soccer is the rest  of the world's game, and America is a late-comer to the party. We should not expect too much of our team because, for all our American exuberance and enthusiasm, we're still young upstarts on the world stage (never mind that most countries in the world, as they exist today, are younger than America--it's our culture that is young and always will be). The part of America that cares at all what other countries think of us feels that we have much to apologize for, including not enthroning soccer at the center of the sports universe like so many other countries do.

Don't get me wrong. America has made our share of mistakes in our relatively short history. But being America isn't one of them. While much of the world contributed to the cause of World War II, it was America that proved to be the solution. Look up to European culture, intellect, and history all you want, but that same culture, intellect, and history is what bred the Third Reich, allowed it to grow unchecked, and then nearly succumbed to it. America, typically late to the party, pulled the rest of the world's fat out of the fire.

That same world has resented us for that, and has resented us for not allowing them to put the blinders back on again and go back to their cultured, intellectual lives. America called the spade of Communism a spade and refused to let the rest of the world ignore it. We seem to remember our lessons a bit longer than the rest of the world. Yes, we made our mistakes. Yes, we had our Vietnam. But without us, the world would have done...well, pretty much the same things they do today, with a few exceptions: drag their feet, hem, haw, and throw up a barricade of red tape to keep from having to actually stand up to the hydra heads of fascism. "Yes, we're against it in principle and all, but who are we to judge? One man's fascist is another man's liberating hero, etc. And shame on you, America, for always being about such things!"

Unfortunately, a continuous diet of anti-American sentiment and cultural criticism has taken its toll on the segment of America who believe that it is better to be liked than to be respected (or worse yet, right). They've grown increasingly embarrassed at the rest of the country's refusal to do obeisance to the world's superior culture and open-mindedness. They blanch at the continued audacity of labeling our baseball championships a world series (though really, who but the Japanese can challenge any American team? Who but the Japanese even play a version of baseball even close to what we have?). They want to crawl into a deep hole every time an American president goes all "cowboy" on a foreign fascist state. And one way they can atone for being American is to downplay our team's performance in the one, highly-visible sport we have come to share with the rest of the world.

As Plaschke rightly points out, Americans have been playing organized soccer for over 30 years now. While that's certainly not as long as other countries, it's plenty of time for a country of our population, talent pool, and monetary resources (not to mention love of just about any sport that comes along, as evidenced by the sudden interest in lacrosse) to become a world competitor. And, though most Americans probably don't know it, the American team was ranked 14th in the world coming into the World Cup. By all rights our inclusion in the final 16 teams should have been a foregone conclusion, not some amazing Miracle-on-Ice moment. The fact that our team (which has appeared in six straight World Cup tournaments) lost to Ghana (ranked 32nd, and appearing for their second time) should be cause for heads rolling when they return, not "Better luck next time" head-pats. Ghana was the underdog here, not the US!

So for Americans to get so worked up over our team's amazing World Cup run is at best ignorance, and at worse a reverse-psychology ploy by our cultural apologists to cover their embarrassment that we darn Americans are trying to excel again. By acting as if our winning a World Cup would take a miracle they send a message to the rest of the world: Pay no attention to those players on the field. They don't know better. The more enlightened of us know we aren't deserving of actually winning against our obvious superiors. This is, after all, your game, not ours, so we have no business rising to dominance. I'm sure our players will realize that eventually if you'll just be patient with them.

I don't have a problem with America not being the best in every sport. We're not, and quite frankly, I cheered for the opponents of our last Olympic "Dream Team". America should never dominate just because it's our right to. Inventing the game has nothing to do with it. We have to earn it like everyone else. But it runs both ways. If we should  ever become a world soccer powerhouse, then good for us! We shouldn't have to apologize for being better. We shouldn't have to enfeeble our team by purposely skewing or ignoring the facts.

Nor should America have to apologize for having a different moral compass than the rest of the world--or perhaps for even having one at all. For all their disdain for America's superpower status, who is the first country they look to when they decide that somebody should do something about problem X over there? They want us to play world police and clean up the world's messes, and they want to simultaneously criticize and complain about us the entire time we're doing so. It saves them having to risk their resources and troops in getting it done, and allows them deniability later on: "No, no, we didn't want America to do that to you! Didn't you hear how much we badmouthed them and tried to talk them out of it?!"

Some day their plan is going to work too well. I believe it is already starting to. Tired of being continually beat up for doing what's right, we won't be there someday when the really need us. If Russia re-conquers eastern Europe and Iran turns the middle-east into a sea of glass and cuts off the world's oil supply they'll perhaps wish they hadn't played the game so well. But they'll be able to take consolation from the fact that the Americans never won a World Cup.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How "The Empire" sealed it has an article out today about how the Star Wars franchise owes most of its success to "The Empire Strikes Back". Though Star Wars had been successful, very few sequels have measured up to the original. The success of "Empire" confirmed the franchise's staying power.
“It blew people away,” Roffman said. “It had this great integrity as a film and moved the story forward in a meaningful way. That was the birth of Yoda, the one where you realize Darth Vadar was Luke’s father, and (the film) looked like this simple black-and-white fantasy, and gave these layers of meaning and complexity.”
One of the most key pieces to the movie's success almost didn't happen. Director Irvin Kershner, who is largely credited for bringing depth to the series, was not interested in the project.

“I said I was not interested in this project,” Kershner said. “I responded that he had already done it, and I didn’t see what I could contribute. I also didn’t want to do it because none of us knew if a follow up to ‘Star Wars’ would work. It was a lot of pressure.”

Ultimately, Lucas persuaded Kershner to direct “Empire” by saying he’d put his own money into it, and would let Kershner have creative control. “George said, ‘This will be your picture, you’ll be on your own, and I won’t be looking over your shoulder,’” Kershner said. “That’s when I finally said, ‘OK, I’ll do it.’ And George kept his word.”
I know for myself "The Empire Strikes Back" remains my favorite of the six Star Wars movies. It was also the movie that helped me switch my idolization from Luke Skywalker to Han Solo. Han was cool in that movie. He continued his penchant for wise-cracks and brilliance under pressure, but added a new layer of sophistication. He got the girl. He had interesting friends. He had a noble side.

Yes, Luke was learning the Force and all that, but while Han's character developed, Luke's remained much the whiney, self-absorbed dork he had been in the first movie. And though his encounter with Vader changed him, we didn't really get a chance to see it until the third movie, by which point he had become the somber, brooding Jedi. Yes, he was key to the entire series, but he wasn't all that fun anymore. With Han Solo we got drama and fun!

The recent discovery of Star Wars by my children has given me a chance to go back and gain new appreciation for the newer trilogy, but the original trilogy will always remain my favorites. And "The Empire Strikes Back" will always lead the pack.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers Day thoughts

I miss my dad. He was a character and a tease, and could sometimes embarrass us, but he was also a fairly wise man. He knew quite a bit about what made people tick. I wish I could hear whatever advice he'd have for me right now. I've taken a rather unusual and bold turn in my life, and I could use his reassurance that I'm not getting in over my head.

What was one thing we could always count on with Dad. He believed in us kids. Even when he may have wanted to throttle us, he still could see our potential. When the first of us boys (not me) got brave enough to run a business on their own he was right there to cheer him on and help in whatever way he could. And he had more help to offer than we probably ever would have given him credit for.

I suspect most dads are not truly appreciated by their children--at least not until those children get children of their own. Now that I'm "grown up" and being a father myself I'm starting to see and appreciate what my father went through. Then I only saw that my dad worked most of the day and was too tired to do much when he got home. Now I realize that he wasn't doing that because he wanted to. He had an obligation to provide for his family, and he did it. He took whatever jobs he had to in order to do it.

For my Dad there was no such thing as the "ideal career path". He worked a farm, taught school, drove truck, sold vacuums and appliances, restocked stores, cleaned laundromats and churches, repaired sewing machines, and managed PE equipment. While he undoubtedly enjoyed some jobs more than others, he never took the attitude of, "I'm a _____, that's what I'm good at, and that's the only work I'll do."  If there was a job he could do, he would do it.

He volunteered a lot, too. He was PTA president for awhile. He was a scout leader. He was a scout committee chairman for a long, long time. He organized church libraries. He organized church fundraisers. He visited the elderly--something we are all often assigned to do in our church, but he took it quite seriously. I don't think he ever turned down a request to serve.

My dad was forty before I was even born. That just occurred to me. I supposed I knew that, but I just realized the significance of it. He was not exactly young anymore, and he was putting in twelve hour days before coming home to spend a few more hours fixing sewing machines. No wonder he wasn't exactly the most playful of dads. But I don't recall suffering for attention.

Anyway, I guess the bottom line is that my dad was a good man who worked hard for and loved his family. Unfortunately I took my time having a family of my own, so I didn't come to understand him very well until he was already gone. There is so much I would like to tell him now that is just going to have to wait. And I'm going to have to muddle through these changes in my life without the benefit of his wisdom, even though I'm positive he would understand exactly what I'm going through and would know just what to say.

I miss you, Dad. I love you. I'm sorry I didn't say it often enough.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Obama's brings the pitchforks and torches against BP

Jazz Shaw at Pajamas Media recently looked at the remarks by Congressman Joe Barton and had this to say:
But while the remarks could certainly qualify for some sort of MTV Music award for inept commentary, and Barton has already been forced into a mea culpa, one nagging problem remains. The Texas congressman’s statements were politically tone deaf … but he was also correct.
He goes on to explain how, while BP should by no means avoid responsibility for this mess, it is not the President's place to force them into paying damages.

We do, in fact, have laws in this country which cover precisely this type of scenario. Plaintiffs in large scale disputes such as this have a right to petition in court and have a third party arbitrate disputes, collect funds, and disperse them to the injured parties. But in each case one of two things happens; either the company does it voluntarily to improve their public image or a court directs them to take this action. There is no provision for an elected official from the executive branch to simply order such an action by fiat.

True, BP may have been under no legal constraint to follow Obama’s dictate. But given the fact that their popularity around the world right now isn’t exactly at an all time high, the president pretty much had them over a barrel of oil. And it does, as [John] Hawkins opined, carry the stench of being “lawless, creepy, and dictatorial.”
 He concludes with the following:
It would be a shame if the Gulf Coast denizens who rely on fishing and tourism for a living actually wind up waiting longer and receiving less because of President Obama’s desperate need to appear as if he’s doing something — anything! — in the face of this Deepwater Disaster film which simply refuses to go away. And even if the slush fund works perfectly and everyone is paid in a timely fashion, the day may yet come when savvy legal minds will find time to ask the president exactly where he found the constitutional authority to demand such a solution from a private company without the benefit of a court.
 I am all for BP paying for as much of this mess as they can. But they are not solely responsible in this mess. Not when we hear reports of would-be cleanup vessels being stopped due to insufficient life vests. Didn't the President just say this is a crisis? In crisis situations we don't stand on largely-irrelevant bureaucracy.

I, frankly, never thought it was appropriate to hold Bush responsible for the response to Hurricane Katrina. I do not think it's appropriate to hold Obama responsible for the Gulf Oil Spill, either. But the Democrats, in insisting on the former, have reaped the latter. What we need from the President is leadership--someone to cut through all the red tape to get the best and most resources into play to clean up the mess. A single call from Obama could have had the Coast Guard out of the way in no time. Let the courts handle who is to blame and who has to pay for it. Let BP come forward voluntarily with an offer of some initial pay-out to help those affected.

Unfortunately we have a President who does not know how to lead, but does have a habit of reaching for his bat whenever big business is involved. His need to beat up business goes beyond sticking up for the little guy. Little guys are employed by big businesses, too, after all. No, his need to bash business approaches the pathological. His need to be seen bashing big business borders on the narcissistic. Meanwhile we still have an oil slick problem, and all the leaders who could be doing something about this are wrapped up in some sort of Pyrrhic kabuki. 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

When I hear "Obama" and "leaks" together this is not what I think about

I saw this headline over on today:
 My first thought was of the Gulf oil spill, followed by an "Oh really?!" The article is actually about administration and staff members leaking information to the press.

Now I'm not one of those people who immediately assign ulterior motives to everything the press does, but that particular headline does seem a bit suspicious at a time when people are questioning Obama's handling of the Gulf oil spill. On the other hand, they could just be fond of making the President look like a brand of paper towels.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Has Cassini found life on Titan?

Scientists are reluctant to say so, and are determined to exhaust all other explanations first, but something unusual is happening with the hydrogen, acetylene, and methane levels on Saturn's largest moon. One explanation is a microbial form of life conjectured five years ago. Read the whole story from Popular Science.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Some thoughts on Helen Thomas' retirement

I suppose I should be happy. The left got caught in their own hypocrisy and someone's career was ended as a result. I don't find that at all satisfying, really. There is something deeply disturbing about all of this. Several somethings. Let me see if I can put a finger on it.
  • This was not some quasi-journalist talking head like Keith Olberman or Rush Limbaugh. This was a "real" journalist with a long and distinguished career for a distinguished news organization. That she felt comfortable letting out something like that is a sad commentary of where journalism has gone. I don't harbor some rose-colored notion of a "Golden Age of Journalism" when reporters gathered and reported facts in an unbiased manner. But there is something wrong when journalists so easily decide to make news instead of reporting it.
  • There are no doubt many on the right who are chalking up a scalp over this. "Bravo us! We finally caught one of them in the same sort of thing they get on us over, and we made it stick!" What a rotten world we are creating for ourselves where we lay in wait for one another trying to catch them being their worst selves.I don't want to live in that world. People make mistakes. You take anyone who makes a living by talking, and eventually you are going to catch them in a moment when they talk too much and think too little. The result is that the only people who will be able to take and hold power are those who can completely disconnect their words from their thoughts. Those people should never have power!
  • There are people who make their living by regularly saying much, much worse than anything Thomas said. Because they call themselves comedians and entertainers they get a pass. Again, do we really want to live in a world where people can say anything they want without fear so long as they put a laugh-track to it? Do we really want to live in a world where people don't actually make us laugh so much as race one another to the depths of vulgarity, incivility, and depravity in an effort to make us laugh at our own discomfort?
  • Our political domain has degenerated to the point of resembling the very Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the center of this whole incident. Each side unleashes political violence on the other, confident that they are only defending themselves, and that the other side started it. Who actually started it is so obscured by now that it's largely irrelevant. As I tell my squabbling children, I'm not interested in who started it. I'm interested in seeing who is going to have the courage to stop first.
  • The very battlefields that our two warring political factions choose to do battle in and the tactics they choose to employ tells me that it stopped being about who has the better ideas some time ago. No one is really interested in helping America anymore. It's about beating the other side. It's scorched earth politics. It's two drunken giants doing battle on an anthill. They're too drunk on piety to do much real harm to one another, but we poor ants are getting caught in the middle and crushed.
  • There are no real neutral sides in the battle. That Thomas was allowed to go that far unchecked indicates that there was no one interested in stopping her. I won't go so far as some as to accuse all the mainstream media of being in the left's pocket, but I feel it's quite safe to say there are very few journalists remaining interested in just presenting the facts and letting each citizen make up their own mind. Each journalist has their ideology, and will carefully select facts to push their audience in that direction. They'll even find subtle and not-so-subtle ways of telling their audience what to think. This is why I think bloggers are doing so well right now. To quote from Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirate of Penzance": "I don't think much of our profession, but contrasted with respectability, it is comparatively honest." Listen to any blogger or journalist for long and you'll detect their agenda. But the majority of bloggers will never pretend they have no agenda at all.
  • No one will learn a thing from Thomas' fall. No one is going to step back from the battlefield and question whether or not this is all worth it. They'll continue the fight, tooth and nail, while the house burns down around them. I would welcome this if I thought for a moment they would destroy only each other and leave everything else still standing. Unfortunately, I see them dragging the rest of us down with them.
No, I am not happy that Helen Thomas finally went too far and went down in flames. There is nothing to take any satisfaction in here. There is nothing encouraging about any of this. I see things only getting worse.

I need to go read something cheerful before I go to bed.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Vote for Mickey Kaus!

I just saw his campaign ad. I like it:

I can't vote in California, but I'd dearly like to see both Barbara Boxer sent packing and someone with this sense of humor in Congress. If you are someone who CAN do something about this...please do!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A different perspective on BP

Tiger Hawk has this interesting perspective to add on the Gulf Oil Spill:
Somewhere within BP true heroes are working night and day to stop the gusher and clean up its consequences. These people -- everybody from petroleum engineers to the rough men and women who work in oil fields in the world's most challenging environments to the machinists and welders who labor around the clock to build the next solution -- are not, in the main, responsible for the disaster. They are responsible for ending it. They are not known to us as individuals. In the current climate, where liberal activists intimidate the families of corporate executives to gain leverage, they no doubt hope to remain anonymous. They are working around the clock, to the point of exhaustion, in conditions, both physical and emotional, more stressful than most American employees (including many who complain about all the stress they are under) can possibly comprehend. They will eventually solve this problem they did not create. At the moment of their success, which no doubt will come, these men and women will have prevented staggering incremental damage. Their only reward, though, will be relief and the satisfaction of a job well done.
Always good to remember before vilifying any company. There are very, very few organizations (even including Congress) that are corrupt from top to bottom. Most companies are full of honest, hard-working people, who do their best for their employers, their families, their communities, and their country. In our rush to blame someone--and surely there are plenty of someones who should take the blame on this--let's not forget that there are good people out there trying to clean up a very bad situation.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Does Peter Jackson hate Aragorn?

I've been watching Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers extended edition lately. I've never been entirely comfortable with their treatment of the character of Aragorn in the first place, but seeing all the other cut scenes has nearly convinced me they had it in for him. Something about the character made them start sharpening their scalpels to do a major makeover.

Aragorn in the books was not this conflicted slacker they show in the movies. I can understand their taking some liberties with the character. After all, other than their particular roles, there's not a lot of difference between Gandalf and Aragorn in the book. They both are strong, noble, and have a full sense of purpose. They are like two sides of the same coin, determined to see the business through come what may. I can see them making them more different for sake of the movie.

But the way they purposely change significant events in the movie to fit their new narrative really grates on the nerves. Aragorn was able to wrest control of the palantir away from Sauron, not give up in the attempt. And I certainly don't recall him going "all wobbly" at Helms Deep. The Aragorn Jackson builds up is such a wuss that it's actually jarring when he actually suggests they go assault Sauron's gates to draw his armies away from Frodo. What?! Did Aragorn actually suggest something brave? Or is he just wanting to get himself killed so he doesn't have to face Arwen dying? The scene fairly clangs with disconnect between a character that has gone so far afield that he hits a corner and the original intent of the author.

Perhaps that is why my favorite characters in the movie remain Theoden and Eowyn. Gandalf is done well, but he's Gandalf--aloof and unfathomable. Sam is played well, but his character is too simple, as are the characters of Gimli and Legolas. There's no depth to appreciate there. That leaves the only really interesting and heroic characters to Theoden and Eowyn. They are the strong characters that Aragorn is not. What Eowyn sees in Aragorn I have no idea.

To be sure, Viggo does his best with the character given him. I end up liking him in spite of what is done to him. Mortensen imbues the character with a strength and nobility that is not born out by the script itself. Even then, it took me the better part of the first movie to get it straight that Sean Bean was Boromir, not Aragorn. Sean Bean fit the image I had of Aragorn so much better.

But ultimately, just what does Jackson's Aragorn actually do in the film? His character is important to what happens in one instance only--walking the paths of the dead to raise the army that wins the Battle of Minas Tirith. Other than that, he's a throw-away character. Well, that and make it a bit more believable that the hobbits escape the Ringwraiths and make it to Rivendell. After that he becomes Aragorn, Tormented King of Angst, and doesn't surface again until the last half of the third movie. His character could have been left out altogether without much impact on the plot until that point. And after that point as well. He's a buff-studly fighter amongst a group of buff-studly fighters, nothing more.

The ironic thing is that in trying to avoid a static character that starts and ends the movie the same person, Jackson turns Aragorn into exactly the same thing. I don't see any real growth in Jackson's Aragorn. He starts and ends the movie as a man hiding not comfortable in his own skin, but who happens to be good at fighting. He's just going along with the flow, and that's really all he does for the entire movie. He doesn't become anything. He waffles his way from start to finish. At least if he was going to be a stereotype, they could have left him a strong, brave, noble stereotype.

It's enough to make one think that Jackson and company (for he had help in his character assassination) couldn't bear the thought of a character that was noble, just, and true, possessed moral clarity and a strong sense of purpose, and who would see things through to the bitter end because that's just what people do. Did they think that Americans today wouldn't be able to relate to such a character? Well, if that's the case, then why film Lord of the Rings at all? Because that's what the movie is about! How did they read the book so closely and miss that?

To be sure, Jackson's Lord of the Rings will remain one of my all-time favorite movies, because he got so many other things right. He captured the epic scale of the novel, and portrayed so many scenes so much better than even I had envisioned them. He captures many of the crucial themes and does them respectable justice. And he tells a good story. I'm only afraid he told it so well that no one else will ever try it and show how it could and perhaps should have been. There remains much about the books that Jackson never tapped into, and would benefit from better treatment than was given. I hope to see it done in my lifetime.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ideological purity is counterproductive

I read a sad-but-amusing blog post over at The Watermelon Blog tonight. The writer's claim is that only atheists can be green. He believes (rather wrongly) that people of religion do not care about the planet because they believe they can get their imaginary friend (God, in his open, inclusive, accepting parlance) to fix everything if they screw it up.

Pardon me, sir, but your ignorance is showing. But even if his assertion was true, what good does it do the green cause to insist that people must first give up religion before they can care about the planet? How does that encourage anyone to even try to reach a compromise in their beliefs? On the contrary, it is an exclusionary, self-defeating tactic that will accomplish nothing.

I am a vegan, and I have learned that people can be vegan for a variety of reasons. Frankly, I don't care what their reasons are--the end result is the same. If everyone became vegan then no more animals would need to be harmed. So if someone wishes to go vegan because of their health, because of environmental concerns, or because the locked chest in their attic told them to, I don't care. If we can come together on something like that, great!

So why should this writer wish to throw down the gauntlet and insist on ideological purity in the green movement? I would think that he would welcome anyone that wishes to go green, whether they believe in the divinity of God or, like him, believe in the depravity of man. How does it help the planet he claims to care so much about to refuse to let anyone one try to save it until they renounce religion?

On the contrary, this person has revealed himself to be just as prejudiced, small-minded, and misguided as he feels religious people to be. He has denounced one religion only to take up another. I fail to see how he has improved himself in the process. He has proven himself the very model of the depraved human race he despises so much.

I, as a vegan with at the very least some green tendencies, who also happens to be religious, believing that God expects us to be good stewards of this planet and everything on it, have little use for people like that. The green movement has no use for people like that.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Obama is now a Luddite? Uh huh.

Quite a few pundits and bloggers are making quite a bit of Obama's commencement speech at Hampton University, in which he seems to declare war on modern technology:
"You're coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don't always rank all that high on the truth meter," Obama said at Hampton University, Virginia.

"With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, -- none of which I know how to work -- information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation," Obama said.

He bemoaned the fact that "some of the craziest claims can quickly claim traction," in the clamor of certain blogs and talk radio outlets.

"All of this is not only putting new pressures on you, it is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy."
I'm not going to worry too much about his trying to get rid of iPods. That is pretty much ridiculous. His much-lauded youth support would turn on him in an instant. They may anyway, since he seems to denigrate some of the most popular forms of entertainment around while in the same breath claiming he's never used them. Few things rankle youth than adults criticizing their favorite past-times without having given them a fair try.

But frankly, I think Obama is being less than truthful. This is, after all, the same president who had to fight to keep his Blackberry. You're telling me that he wouldn't know how to use an iPod? And while it's possible that Sasha and Malia don't have an Xbox or PlayStation, I'd be very surprised if he's never used one. In any case, such an admission is hardly becoming of the president everyone once lauded as the most tech-savvy president ever.

What is also sad, though, is Obama's apparent lack of historical perspective. While it is certainly true that modern media isn't always reliable as a source of truth, and that crazy ideas can spread like wildfire, this is nothing new. In the days of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson there were rag-sheets and tabloids spreading a constant supply of information not just of of questionable veracity, but out-right libel. Nor was is confined to one side of any issue. While they may not have been spread across the country within seconds, they certainly spread quickly enough to be difficult to combat.

So for Obama to start complaining about this now either shows that he is completely unfamiliar with the history of American political discourse, or that he just doesn't like it when it's used against him. Heaven knows he's benefited from it when it's in his favor.

Welcome to real life, Mr. President. My advice is to start telling the truth yourself. If you and your administration would actually live up to the promises of openness, clarity and disclosure you offered in order to get elected people might actually listen to you instead of going to all of these sources your disparage. We were all hoping for a president who could talk straight and resist the urge to ding everyone who disagrees with him every time he opens his mouth. But it didn't happen. We got another bully pulpit. After awhile we stop listening and look for information elsewhere.

Might I suggest, Mr. President, that you might be better served by learning how to use an iPad yourself? Get out there and see what is being said and what the American people really want rather than barricading yourself in your Washington echo chamber. Perhaps you might begin to understand just why it is you're beating your predecessor to the bottom of the presidential ratings. It's not because people have iPods and PlayStations, Mr. President. It's because they have brains.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What to do with lemons

If wisdom is to be found on t-shirts and bumper stickers, then I wonder what can be learned from these two bits of wisdom:

1) If life hands you lemons, make lemonade...but without sugar and water your lemonade is gonna stink!

2) If life hands you lemons, take them! Well hey! Free lemons!

Two thoughts. One: Even the best opportunities are usually going to require something from you to make them successful. There's no free ride.

Two: Life will now and then teach you things. Even if it's not immediately applicable, hang on to it. Something will come up where that knowledge will come in handy. While we tend to prize most what we gain at the highest cost, never turn up your nose at knowledge or experience that comes at a low cost.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Someone must be running scared...

Instapundit spotted a movement to infiltrate and sabotage the Tea Party by "exaggerating" the party's worst elements. In short, they're going to pretend to be racists, hicks, and idiots in order to discredit the movement.

May I suggest that if you have to do that then there is nothing really wrong with the group you hate so much--the problem is YOU. If the Tea Party movement is really full of racists and stupid people, then it will destroy itself. If you have to make it something it is not to destroy it then you've only proven yourself to be paranoid about and/or threatened by something you don't understand (aka racist/prejudiced).

Just further proof that the Left are hypocrites and determined to win the race to the bottom. If you have to resort to such nastiness to win the debate then you ARE the disease, not the cure.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Reid made the right call in withdrawing from church meeting

I don't have much good to say about Harry Reid, but he was right to pull out of speaking at a church fireside after receiving information/threats that protesters were coming to the meeting to protest.

Reid, you see, is a member of the same church as myself. Though I have to raise my eyebrows at some of the stunts he pulls and wonder how he reconciles his beliefs with his religion, that's ultimately between him and God. I have to assume his local church leaders know his heart better than I do.

But church firesides are not political meetings. They are religious meetings, designed to be spiritual, faith-promoting events in a somewhat informal, more intimate atmosphere than formal church worship services. Having a bunch of angry protesters disrupting such a meeting would benefit no one--certainly not the people who go there in order to have their faith reinforced and hear the quiet reassurances of the holy spirit.

In short, once Reid knew there would be protesters, he knew the meeting would not be successful in its purpose. Rather than subject the attendees to a irreverent, contentious situation that would benefit no one, he chose to cancel his involvement. I appreciate and respect that.

As for the protesters, if they were members of the church they should be ashamed of themselves. They should know better. If they were not, they should find out what they are about to disrupt before they do something like that and show a little respect for others. While I, too, would like to give Reid a piece of my mind, that was not the appropriate venue.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Singing in that good ol' harmony

I've been using Pandora at work lately to provide some background music, but I haven't been able to take any one station for long before needing a change. Yesterday, however, I created a station around acapella mens groups, and found it kept me going my entire shift.

Do Wop, Vocal Jazz, barbershop--whatever you call it, it covers a lot of ground; from the King's Singers to Boyz II Men, and some amazing groups I'd never heard of, like Tonic Sol Fa. There are covers of old chestnuts to jaw-dropping arrangements of familiar tunes to original works that left me speechless. The King's Singers' cover of Billy Joel's "And So It Goes" about left me in tears. If I had money for it I would have bought at least two or three albums yesterday.

In high school and college I was privileged to sing in several acapella groups. There is nothing quite like singing tight harmonies and energized rhythms with a group of guys that blend well. I've almost always enjoyed making music in a group over solo work, and I miss it.

I remember back before I moved to Boise coming over here for the River Festival any time I heard the Nylons were performing. I remember riding a shuttle bus home from one concert, my brother and I being completely unable to contain ourselves and breaking into song. I'm still a bit surprised we did it, but by golly if we didn't soon have a majority of the passengers joining in. We sang everything we thought people would know, including patriotic songs. That was probably the most enjoyable bus ride I've ever taken, and I still get chills thinking about it.

I think I disappointed my mother when I didn't become a music teacher. I don't regret that decision, but I do sometimes wish I'd tried some other ways to make music pay. I think the unbounded opportunity to make music was one of the main reasons I had a hard time getting out of college.

Right now my life is necessarily focused on supporting and raising a young family. But someday I will find my way back to performing. I don't think I'll be entirely whole until I do.

Is the Left inherently violent?

I watched a segment of MSNBC's Morning Joe today that really made my skin crawl. It started out fair enough, raising the idea that political violence is perhaps evenly matched on both sides of the political spectrum. I can accept that, even though their immediate examples seem a bit lop-sided to me: A racial epithet and a case of spitting on the Right side vs. death threats against a Republican senator and his family on the Left.

But then the segment took a quick turn into "yes, but" mode by making the apparent claim that the Right's violence is somehow worse because there are Right-leaning pundits on talk radio that incite rage against the government. They placed the burden of proof on Pat Buchanan that the Left is just as bad, then continually discounted his examples because there was no single voice advocating those acts. (I beg to differ; there are incitements aplenty from the Left, including from the Chief Executive himself.)

Think about that for a second. If there is a similar amount of political violence, and such violence from the Right is incited by a few self-proclaimed spokesmen, while such violence from the Left is unorganized and organic, does that not imply that people on the Left are inherently violent? People on the Right have to be stirred up to violence, but people on the Left just commit violence without instigation? Is that really what they want to say, regardless of whether it true?

Is that what amounts to a defense? It's in effect sending a note to the teacher saying "Please forgive Johnny for hitting Suzie yesterday at school. This is not something he learned from TV or from watching us, he's just a naturally violent kid and will sometimes hit others without provocation. But please forgive that, because Seth is also violent at school because of things he learns on Television and from his parents."

Violence is violence, regardless of impetus. The Right continually apologizes for it, condemns it, and warns against it, while the left refuses to even acknowledge it. As any behavioral specialist can tell you, recognizing you have a problem is the first step to overcoming it. In that case, the Right is the more mature, responsible side. The Left is still in denial.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Violence and politics...plenty to go around

The media is quick to jump on any cases of reported violence against Democrats and their offices, forgetting far too easily that liberals have advocated and engaged in more than their of politically motivated violence. I mean really, has there ever been a WTO conference that didn't include mob violence by protesters?

If there is anything remarkable about the supposed violence against Democrats it's that it's occurring at all. But the way they've been acting lately, it's just as likely that the violence is perpetrated by liberals as it is by conservatives. This administration has managed to tick off just about everyone, so they should only be surprised that it's not worse!

You do not regularly and contemptuously ignore the will of the people without reaping retribution. I do not advocate violence, but to whine and cry about it is just ridiculous. What did you expect? You crammed a bill through that the majority did not want using tactics the majority found reprehensible. Ye reap what ye sow.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Racists under every rock

The effort to spin America's dislike of the Health Care Bill has begun, using the same old tune: If you disagree with it you're a racist. They're starting to sound like a broken record.

But there are a few glaring holes in that thinking. First off, polls show that over 59% of Americans oppose the Health Care Bill. If they oppose it because of racism, then how did Obama get elected in the first place? At least 10% of those people had to have voted for Obama for him to win.

Secondly, this erroneously assumes that everyone associates the Health Care Bill with Obama. This is not true. I suspect most people associate this bill with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. I know I do. This is their bill, even though it was Obama who requested it. I blame them fully for this mess. But I'm white and they are white. Can I be racist against "my own kind?"

Actually, I am racist. I'm bitterly against the politician race. They're certainly not the same species as the rest of us. They are a vile, nasty lot who should never be let near power. This latest fiasco proves it. So if I'm a racist it's because they're making me that way.

And the fact that they immediately assume that opposition to their work is because of racism...well, that's just because they're racist. They hate the American race.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Health Reform" passes. Remember this in November.

The House just passed the "Sit Down and Shut Up, America, We're Going to Fix This Even If it Kills You!" Bill, otherwise known as Health Care Reform. It's interesting to note that the Poll currently shows 59% of voters feel this bill is a bad idea that will screw things up for a long time, compared with only 29% who think it's a good idea. MSNBC polls tend to run liberal, from what I've seen.

What scares me is that the Democrats won't stop here. Now that they know how to ram-rod things through effectively they're not going to be able to resist doing it again and again before November. They know they just signed their political death warrants, so they've got nothing to lose. Scuttle the Ship of State and grab all the gold service pieces they can pocket on the way to the lifeboats.

I am so disgusted with our "representatives" I don't even know where to begin.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Television is bad for you? Who'd have thought! has an article today citing five different ways that television is bad for you. In a nutshell, television:
- Increases your chances of heart disease
- Makes you drink more
- Increases the odds of teenage pregnancy
- Weakens your bones
- Makes parents interact with their kids less

But I'm sure they still maintain it's just the act of watching TV that's bad for you, not the programming they show you.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Democrats throwing Obama under the bus?

With very interesting timing, the Democrats are now starting to talk about how Obama should be listening to Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel:
But a contrarian narrative is emerging: Emanuel is a force of political reason within the White House and could have helped the administration avoid its current bind if the president had heeded his advice on some of the most sensitive subjects of the year: health-care reform, jobs and trying alleged terrorists in civilian courts.
It's been a long-held opinion of those opposed to Obama's agenda that either Obama failed to recruit the right people for his staff, or that he simply refuses to listen to them. It looks like the Democrats feel there is political capital to be gained by claiming the latter.

A fascinating development, to be sure. I'm sure this is just the beginning of...something. I wonder where this is headed.

Friday, February 26, 2010

International Conflict

Today the USA hockey team plays the Finnish team in the semi-finals. As I've mentioned before, we're a mixed-nationality house. But all things considered, I hope you'll all understand if I cheer for Finland to win. I mean, come on. Team USA has dominated the medals. Finland has three--and no golds.

I'm cheering for Finland.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Segregation based on health care?

Where I work they have the president's health care summit on the television. I can't see it, but I can hear it.

Some genius is going on and on about how we eliminated segregation based on gender, disability, and other factors, and now he wants to eliminate segregation based on health care.

This worries me when the people leading this country don't even know the meaning of a simple word. Since when are we setting up "premium coverage only" sections on buses? Where is the "insured only" drinking fountains? Where are the "uninsured" high schools?

Perhaps he knew full well he was using the wrong word, but used it anyway because of it's emotional connotation. Even so, it's probably a good thing I don't know who that was. I lost all respect for him.

Men only do bad things?

Here's an interesting YouTube video about the disappearance of men and the rise of misanthropy.

Interesting video, but I will take one exception to it. The narrator claims that misandry is a word. Not according to Websters. Misanthropy is the word he may be looking for, and it is accepted by spell-check.

EDIT: I checked in the Oxford English Dictionary, and "misandry" is a word in the British English. But since it's evidently not a word in American English, and MS Word is made by an American company, I wouldn't place too much stock in that particular argument.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

If Vonn is drawing all the attention it's not her fault

It seems US Skier Julia Mancuso is annoyed by teammate Lindsey Vonn's popularity. While her remarks may be true, it's the nature of the sport. And with me, at least, Vonn's popularity is perhaps more deserved.

I admit my opinion is based only on a single medals ceremony; one of the first, when Vonn won gold and Mancuso won silver. Mancuso was wearing, of course, her trademark tiara. And when she took the winners podium she had to add a saucy dance to her waving. Vonn was much more staid, pumping her fists a few times, but otherwise keeping it more dignified. To be fair, both women placed their hands over their hearts for the National Anthem, and it appeared as if Mancuso were even singing along. But the podium dance rubbed me the wrong way. It's a small difference, but Mancuso seemed to be about "look at me", while Vonn seemed to be more about "look at this moment." What can I say? I prefer my winners dignified and a little awed at their success.

Certainly it's Vonn who has the media's attention, and no, it's not fair. But she could have it for all the wrong reasons, too. Ask Bodie Miller what that's like. It's not like Vonn did anything particular to become the media's Face de Olympique. I doubt she would feel at all bothered if the attention were elsewhere.

Mancuso's remarks also belie a predisposition to attention-seeking. The reality for most of us in the viewing audience is that women's skiing gets but a small percentage of the overall attention. Lindsey Vonn is no more important than, say, Apolo Ohno, Evan Lysacek, or Lindsey Jacobellis (how'd you like that kind of attention, Julia?). To assume that America is focused on Lindsey Vonn is untrue at best, delusional at worst.

Relax, Julia. There's enough limelight for everyone. You've already had more of it than I'm likely to ever have. Try to make sure it's not the wrong kind of attention.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Will we turn a blind eye to antisemitism this time too?

Sweden, where Jews were once given refuge during WWII, is now becoming a hotbed of antisemitism. Does this mean that for all our supposed intellectual and moral progress we're no better today than we were seventy years ago?

I hope not.

Glenn Reynolds on why spirituality is more popular than religion

Citing a Pew Research Forum report, which cites young people as being spiritual, but not religious, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit had this to say:
Well, that’s because religion often tells you to do things you don’t want to do, or to refrain from doing things you want to do, while spirituality is usually more . . . flexible.
I'm not sure if he considers that a bug of a feature, but he hits the nail on the head. Far too much of the so-called spirituality today centers around the idea of God wanting our attention, but little more. The idea that God may actually expect certain things of us beyond a generic, flexible "being good" is inconvenient at best.

No, the inconvenient truth is that God has a plan for us, and that plan calls for us to meet certain standards of behavior. Attempts to water it down so that we can feel better about ourselves with less effort will not work out well for us in the end. I mean seriously, do you really think you can tell the creator of the universe that "I'm sure you didn't mean all that 'thou shalt/shalt not' business. Here, let me show you what I am willing to do for you, though."?

Good luck with that.

I envy the Dalai Lama

When recently asked for his opinion on the Tiger Woods situation the Dalai Lama admitted that he did not know who that was. Boy do I wish I could say that.

Once it was explained to him he added:
“Whether you call it Buddhism or another religion, self-discipline, that’s important,” he said. “Self-discipline with awareness of consequences.”
I can't argue with that.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Multi-national households and the Olympics

My wife is Finnish. Not that American television shows that many competitions where the Finns are competing (unless, of course, there's an American with a good chance of winning competing), but it does make it fun to have more than one nation to cheer for.

Am I glad that Shaun White won the Half-pipe gold? Sure. Am I thrilled that a Finn got second? You bet! With the Finnish ski-jump team not quite living up to its usual powerhouse status so far, I'm all for Finland developing some depth in other areas, too (4 of the top twelve snowboarders going into the final round were Finns).

I'm also backing the Finnish hockey team, just so you know. I want them to beat the Swedes first and foremost, but if they go on to beat Team USA, I'm fine with that. I love my country, but I don't believe can't do with a little humbling from time to time. And if someone's got to do it, why not my adopted country?

Go Finland! Hyää Suomi!

Monday, February 15, 2010

How not to make a sale

My business partner and I had a conference call from someone who had promised to show us some things that would improve our business. The presentation was light on details, heavy on sales pitch. We were okay with that.

But then he went into full "used-car salesman" mode. When we wouldn't commit to a sale right away he decided to do us a "favor" and go talk to his supervisor. Sure enough, he came back with a wonderful new offer about a third lower than the first one--if we acted right away. We were not about to act right away. We needed time to think about it.

But time was one thing he absolutely did not want to give us. Every time we would tell him we wanted to think about it he would keep countering with various reasons why we didn't need to. Some lovely gems:

- If we didn't like charging the amount to our credit cards he could always set us up a business account so it would be charged to the business. This, frankly, was an insult to our intelligence. Debt is debt, whether it is owed by us or by the company we own. If we aren't sure we can afford it on our personal credit cards we are not going to be any more able to afford it if we charge it to the business. It's real money, regardless of where we charge it.

- When we asked for a couple of days to think it over he initially agreed, but then countered by asking what could possibly change in two days? He added that all that was likely to happen in two days was that we'd talk ourselves out of it. I can't argue with that. He hadn't really made that strong of a case for his company's services. If he had, we'd still feel good about it after a couple of days.

The bottom line was that no matter what we said he wanted us to decided right then and there. People like that annoy me. They obviously do not have faith in their product. They do NOT want you to think about it, which is always a red flag to me that you should do plenty of thinking.

My partner was much nicer than I was. I gave up about 2/3rds of the way into the conversation and walked away. Had it been my phone I would have hung up on the guy. I don't have time for jerks like that. I've got plenty of fly-by-night shysters calling me now that I have a registered business. I don't have that much time to waste on them. I hope to never hear from that one again.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Why I like Country music

Lately I've become bored with the classical music station when I'm out driving, and the Lite Rock station plays obnoxious trash more often than not, so I once again checked out the Country station. Within a few minutes I heard:

- A song in which the subject acknowledged God's place in their life.
- A song reminding us that our life here on Earth is temporary, and so shouldn't we all do more to help one another along the way?
- A song about how wonderful the singer's wife is.
- A song extolling the virtues of hard work, family, and simple living.

I do like some of today's pop music. But very little of it has to do with me. I'm not in that lifestyle anymore--if I ever was. I'm in a lifestyle that seems to only find its voice in Country music. Not that all Country is that way by any means. There's still plenty of heartache songs, total lust songs, mad at the world songs, etc. to go around. But all in all, Country music is the only genre left that still respects and cherishes the things I respect and cherish.

As I get older I find the message is becoming more important than the medium, and I can overlook the nasal voices, drawls, and twangy guitars that still characterize much of Country music because of its message. If you're looking for sophisticated music you'll probably want to look elsewhere (but then again, you'll also discount much of the music world in any genre). But if you're looking for music that isn't ashamed to stand up for hard work, honesty, religion, fidelity, family, loyalty, patriotism, and traditional values, Country is pretty much it.

I thank God I'm a country boy.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Societal Confusion Over Sex

Last night I watched "The Proposal" with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, in which Bullock's nasty New York editor character blackmails Reynold's executive assistant character into pretending to be engaged to her so she can avoid deportation. In contemplating the movie afterward I realized that there was a major, glaring hole in the movie--other than the other obvious ones called the plot.

Hollywood is the current champion of free love. They would have us believe that sex is just another past-time like walking the dog or eating chocolate ice cream. They laugh at traditional Christian morality that holds sex to a higher standard. It's as natural as breathing, they would have us think, and there is no reason why anyone shouldn't have sex with anyone under any circumstances, at any time. Love--even familiarity or cordiality--has nothing to do with it.

So why is it that these two characters, while visiting his home, sleep separately? She gets the bed while he gets the floor. These two are going to be pretending to be married for awhile. So why don't they at least share the bed, even if they can't stand each other enough to have sex? It's not like the movie can't go to elaborate, near-Rube-Goldber-ian lengths to get the two to bump into one another stark naked. Why should they have any trouble sharing a bed?

Because this is a romantic comedy. These two character who can't stand one another are destined to fall in love by the end of the movie. Therefore they must NOT under ANY circumstances have sex before they at least realize they are in love. No matter how much Hollywood would like us to think sex and love have nothing to do one another, the viewing audience still cannot separate the two--at least not the female viewing audience, the main consumers of rom-coms.

No, the intended target of this movie still thinks it's romantic that these two obviously are falling for one another, and yet are still denying themselves a little physical gratification. It is sexual tension, not consummation that drives romantic comedies.

The movies just don't work any other way. Can you imagine such a movie about two people who are sleeping together purely for the satisfaction who slowly start to realize they are actually in love? Nope. It doesn't work, does it. The viewing public may have tossed out the notion of saving oneself for marriage, but they can't quite toss out the notion of sex without love.

Oh, I'm sure there may be one or two such movies, but they probably didn't do well, or weren't really romantic comedies.

Perhaps there is hope for America yet.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Obama, the State of the Union, and the Bully Pulpit

Is there anyone Obama didn't attack? He continues to pummel away at the financial sector, as if they weren't a large part of the key to getting the economy back on track. He took a stab at the Supreme Court, eliciting a mouthed "not true" from Justice Alito.

He blasts Washington, seemingly without realizing that he is Washington now. He controls Washington. He took a stab at "climate change deniers" even while the IPCC is falling apart from its own bad science. He took an off-handed swipe at middle-America for not being smart enough to recognize how wonderful his health care reform was. And he sends a warning to Congress members who are starting to think that listening to their constituents instead of Obama, Reid, and Pelosi might be a good idea after all.

He continues to insult our intelligence by promising more of the same, tired "we will go through the budget line by line to eliminate programs that we can't afford and don't work. We've already identified $20 billion in savings for next year" rhetoric. He spent $700 billion on a questionable Recovery Act, and he expects us to get excited about $20 billion? We're not stupid. We have been paying attention.

Oh yeah, and he takes a stab at the oil companies. Of course there's the obligatory attack on "the right" using staw men and subverted logic. He continues to blame Bush for everything, as expected.

Oh, this was a good line: "Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it's time to try something new. Let's invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt. Let's meet our responsibility to the citizens who sent us here. Let's try common sense."

In short, he wants to undo the last year of his administration while making it all sound like someone else's fault. He wants to hang on to his horrible ideas for America because that's what he was elected on, regardless of how people feel about his policies now. In short, he's still not listening.

Ah, and of course he punches the lobbyist button. That's like only blaming the drug dealers, Mr. President. It takes politicians who allow themselves to be bought to make lobbying worthwhile. I seem to remember Nancy Pelosi promising to clean up that swamp when the Democrats took over three years ago. You know, the last three years of the eight years that supposedly brought us where we are today? You'd like us to think that you've only had a year to undo the past eight, but the reality is your team was at bat when the problems began. Some could even say you helped cause it.

And why are you so bent on making lobbyists disclose everything when you and your party have not only NOT kept your campaign promise of greater visibility, but actually gone the opposite direction? You promised us no legislation going to a vote without being published online five days before the vote. Secret debates and secret guest lists is what we got. Thousand-page bills voted on after mere hours is what we got. You want to keep your faith with the people who got you there? That's a good place to start. Open sesame, Mr. President!

Another gem: "Now, I am not naïve. I never thought the mere fact of my election would usher in peace, harmony, and some post-partisan era." Really? So that's why you rubbed the Republicans' nose in it with the "We won" Crack? That's how you work to bring about post-partisanship? You let your Congressional leaders exclude the Republicans time and again and call that working toward peace and harmony? No sir, you either expected exactly what you say you didn't, or you simply didn't think you needed the other side's cooperation. Not give up on changing tone? No sir, you have not even begun. Get to work already.

Ah nice, he blames all our cynicism and disappointment on business, media, and lobbyists. The finger always points everywhere but at himself. It's our cynicism that's the problem, not his bad policies. If we weren't so cynical we'd see how wonderful his policies are! Stupid people!

Well, I didn't expect much, and I didn't get much. He intends to keep hammering away at the same ol' same ol'. Heaven help us all because he knows better than all of us what we want.

I think Chris Muir puts it best:

Monday, January 25, 2010

I'm Still Standing...Yeah Yeah Yeah

There is much I would have liked to have blogged about in the past few weeks, not the least of which the interesting little development in Massachusetts. It's an interesting little bit of trivia that the first major victory for the Tea Party came in the very state in which the event for which it is named occurred. But I'll leave it at that for now.

I mainly just want to say I'm still here. And that starting a business of any kind--brick-n-mortar or online--is work! Work WORK WORK!!!! Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.

But I am making progress. You can see the results at, where we sell food dehydrators, vacuum sealers, and ice cream makers. And right now we're having a sale. There's free shipping on orders over $100! Check it out!

The idea behind the site is that with the economy being what it is, everyone is looking for new ways to cut costs while still being able to connect with family and friends over food. One way is to buy food in bulk, preferably in season when it's cheaper, and preserve it through dehydration or freezing (or both!) And the ice cream makers? Well, they're just for fun! We all need a little fun now and then! And ours will make ice cream without having to use ice or salt!

Anyway, I'm still here, and I'm trying to get on top of things enough to post more. See you around!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

eBay Hack

One of my eBay auctions may be experiencing technical difficulties, so I'm posting a picture here for someone to see.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Actors and Movie Stars

"An actor is someone who pretends to be someone else. A movie star is someone who pretends someone else is them."
--Nicolas Meyer, director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

I was watching TWOK with the commentary track tonight and that quote leapt out at me to the point I had to pause the movie and write it down.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Mislaying Blame

I find it laughable that the Obama administration is trying to blame the nearly-successful "underpants bomber" on the Bush Administration. This is not to say that policies established during the Bush Administration didn't contribute to the failure--they may very well have done.

But the reality is that the Obama administration has been the team at bat for nearly a year now. They've managed to cram through some of the largest pieces of legislation in history over the protestations of their political opponents. Surely, if they saw holes in the homeland security system, they could have passed some legislation to fix it. It would have been a slam-dunk. Even the GOP, who still holds the high ground on national security, would have had a hard time not going along with that one.

But the reality is that tightening homeland security just wasn't that important to this Administration. They didn't make any changes because they believed the current system worked--or they just didn't care. They own this failure, no matter how much they may try to pass the buck.

Nor can they continue to blame the economy on Bush. If the largest spending bill in history couldn't get the job done, then they clearly had no idea what they were doing. It's not Bush's fault. It's Obama's. He had his shot and he blew it. Whether it was picking the wrong people to solve the problem or failing to recognize the depth and extent of the problem, it doesn't matter. He failed to fix it, when he promised he would. It's his problem now.

The fact is that this administration has not accomplished anything of any positive significance in their first year. Not only have they failed to implement the will of the people, they've done many things entirely against the will of the people. I guess it's time to award Obama another prize.