Saturday, December 6, 2008

Mama knows best, or does she?

I heard Mike Huckabee, as he was promoting his new book, explain that the best type of government is government of the self. In theory, there is nothing wrong with the notion, however in reality, it will never work for a large population, especially one as diverse and geographically spread out as the United States.

The Republican Party has made their mantra of “less government” the cornerstone of their movement for the last 30 or so years. The principle notion being that government only gets in the way of its citizens and becomes self serving. True be that, however, there was a more devious reason for some wanting less government and that was to allow their own self interests to flourish unencumbered by pesky oversight and regulations.

It is the purpose of government to meet the needs of the people for whom it is responsible for. Turning that responsibility over to the people creates many microcosms with differing self interests. In a nutshell - Self government only leads to anarchy. One needs only look to Somali to see how less government is working for their citizens.

There are approximately 305 million persons that make up the United States. To promote a platform of less government for managing the needs, wants, and desires for 305 million of its people without offering a solution of how to make us all E pluribus unum is where the Republican Party has lost the support of people like me. The idea that the individual is the best person to determine what is best for themselves is not borne out by the reality of our day-to-day actions.

To put it simply we the people are stupid.

Case in point, the The top 10 Yahoo searches for 2008 were:
  1. Britney Spears
  2. World Wrestling Entertainment
  3. Barack Obama
  4. Miley Cyrus
  5. RuneScape
  6. Jessica Alba
  7. Naruto
  8. Lidsay Lohan
  9. Angelina Jolie
  10. American Idol
Other than Barack Obama, none of other nine have any significance to providing information in any shape or form that could be used to make one a better person or citizen. To govern one’s self is to look at your needs and contrast them to the needs of those around you. If you think I want my needs looked after by someone who finds it necessary to search for news about Britney or WWE you had better think again.

The truth is, and this hurts to say, that just because I don’t search for these silly pop culture things does not mean I behave admirably. I do not. Using myself as an example to show why I should not be entrusted solely with governing myself:

  • I should be saving more and investing more for my retirement. I am not doing everything that I could be doing based on what the experts tell me I should do at my age and lifestyle.
  • According to Wii Fit, I am obese. I beg to differ, but according to the experts, my height and weight is above what is considered healthy.
  • I do not exercise as much as the experts state I should. I am not sedentary, but I do not get the minimum workout needed to keep myself healthy. If I am healthy it will save my employer money on health care and I will be less of a burden on the health care system.
  • I do not floss regularly. I am told by my dentist that this is a necessary step to keep my teeth healthy.
  • I wash my car on my driveway, with soap. The experts tell me that the soap pollutes the rivers and lakes when it rains.
  • I do not do all the necessary maintenance at the appropriate time on my car. The experts tell me that a properly maintained car will last longer and pollutes the environment less
  • I don’t get a yearly flu shot. The experts say that this is not needed for me, but needed to protect those that are vulnerable to the flu; babies and the elderly.
I know that I should do all of these things - consistantly. I know that they are best for me, my family, and my fellow citizens. Why I am not more diligent in doing what I am supposed to do all the time is complicated. It is complicated for everyone else as well. It is not just because I am lazy, or I don’t care, or that I need to be led. It is a complex bag of interconnected and extraneous reasons. Now multiply that by 305 million.

If any of the things I mention as a failure to comply with are not relevant, then I can pretty much do whatever the heck I want to do. I truly can be tasked with self governance. But, if my doing them would benefit my neighbor, maybe I am not the right person to be lord and master over my domain. Maybe these experts do know what is indeed best for me. Maybe I should not just be forced to listen to them but forced to behave in a way that is best for me and my fellow citizens.

When I was a kid my parents told me that they knew what was best for me in that situation. I told my kids the same thing. Stepping back, we were right. Government of the people and for the people can work well. We do not need less government we need better managed government and a government that we believe is acting in our best interest.

“Were from the government and we are here to help” should not be the punch line of a joke.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Delusions of Grandeur

There is always a motivating reason for a person’s behavior. Unless they are psychotic, and then that becomes the reason.

The former Brazos Valley Arts Council director, P. David Romei, is charged and is on trial for felony theft. By all accounts that I have read and heard is that his fingerprints are all over the cookie jar. And yet he pleads innocent. His lawyer, the “legendary Texas attorney” Richard "Racehorse" Haynes, asked him Wednesday whether he ever intended to steal from the Arts Council, its donors or the government.

"Never, never, never, never," Romei answered. "It is beyond me."

And you know what? That is a truthful statement from his perspective. For most of us, we would connect our actions with fault at some point along the way. Romei is apparently unable to make that jump which is why he is adamant about his lack of guilt.

I am speculating here, but I think I have a pretty good guess as to why he can evoke Gods name, swear to tell the truth, and then sit there as if he is being wronged by society. In his mind, everyone that has accused him is wrong and is out to get him, a “witch hunt” he calls it. He would never steal, he only took what he believed was owed him for his services. To us he stole, but not to himself.

His testimony is telling to how his mind works.

Romei said that such financial maneuvering was necessary because many people did not understand the most effective way to run the agency. As an example, Romei said, some people might be upset if the Arts Council purchased an $1,100 pen as a gift for a $10,000 donor. The purchase was necessary, however, because it kept the Arts Council in the donor's good graces and brought in a net gain of $8,900, he said.

"There was no intent to be deceptive," Romei said. "If a board member didn't understand something, they might make a big deal out of it."

He was doing business the way that business had to be done. There was no deceit, just attempts to avoid the hassle of trying to explain to the uniformed how the game was played. I mean after all, look at it from his perspective, there was a net gain not a net loss – stealing results in the taking of something – a loss. $8900 is not a loss. The fact that the board might not see it this way does not negate the truth that he gained money for the program.

His behavior is predicated on the simple fact that he did not take anything more than what is normally offered to others in similar cases, nor did he directly go against the board’s orders. Nor did he leave the Arts Council in bad financial shape – heck he improved it from a $300,000 budget and assets worth about $40,000 to an annual budget and about $1.8 million in assets when he left in 2005. Wow – and look at all the art he brought into the area, and the big beautiful building he got built, I mean really – Romei was the Arts Council – in fact the freaking building is named after him for Pete’s sake.

There was no distinction in his mind from the man and the entity. It was successful because of him so any money destined for the Arts Council really was destined for him too. It was only fair that they both be rewarded. As his lawyer stated:

Romei's work was greatly appreciated by most people involved in the Arts Council and displayed a $900 crystal bowl that was presented to him from the board of directors as he left the organization. “When you compare the amount of work Romei has done for the community to his personal expenses, the personal expenses are "close to zero. It is not a crime."

And that is how the man’s mind works. There was no deceit, no theft, and when you compare the pittance he is accused of taking to all the good he did, it was probably an underpayment anyway. I’m telling you the man is a saint.

"The evidence will show that Dr. Romei was all about work, integrity and accountability," Haynes said. "He is the epitome of patriotism and he lives by the word of God."

Except that one about “thou shalt not steal”

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Science and Dogma - Keep them Apart!

Argggg another “debate” in our paper over teaching evolution in public schools.

I would like to end this debate here and now. Evolution is a FACT. All life has descended from a common ancestor. As much as my scientist self cringes at speaking the blasphemy of “fact”, that is apparently how it must be done. In truth, evolution is the hypothesis, and we can only reject it if we find evidence to support another hypothesis. If you believe in God then you must believe in evolution. All life, and I mean all life, is based on DNA. DNA was designed to mutate, mutations lead to good traits and bad traits. That is how it is done, that’s God’s model, to say it does not happen that way is to deny God his creation. Shame on you.

Now lets examine the stupidity of Don MCLeroy’s argument. (Mr. McLeroy is the Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education – lucky us!)

First – evolution is vital to understanding biology. Why are Asians and American Indians so sensitive to alcohol? Because they lack alcohol dehydrogenase. Why? Evolution. What are spines on a cactus? Modified leaves, Why? Evolution. If you want to teach kids to memorize terms, that is not science nor is it education.

Second, there is no other plausible theory for how life got to where it is today. None. The fact that you can’t explain how a flagella was developed does not negate the theory. The fact that you can disagree with the hypothesis posed on a particular aspect does not throw the whole theory out. The evidence points this direction, it supports the hypothesis. But more importantly it does not support any other hypothesis proposed.

Third, identifying the weakness is just a lame attempt at allowing those that will never accept evolution to have their say. This is designed to mask how the scientific process works. Since you will never "fail to reject" the hypothesis your purported weaknesses will always be biased. This is counter to how science works. We never say the hypothesis is true, we only reject or fail to reject. In science you must be willing to do both. You can talk about the weakness in evolution all you want, but if it is done only to discredit it and not support another hypothesis then you are hurting scientific reasoning and hence education.

The evidence on evolution, taken as a whole, leads science to say “fail to reject.” Would you propose also handing out literature in church pointing out the weakness to the idea of God? Would this threaten our children’s faith? Asking for scientific proof of God negates faith the same way that ignoring evolution denies how science and our world works.

Forth - The evolution side is not dogmatic. It is evidence based. If you truly want to let the test of scientific explanation win then put up your intelligent designer hypothesis to the same scrutiny but be prepared to be disappointed. Evolution detractors will never give up on their belief that it happened just like the Bible says. The Bible is the word of God – and you can’t deny that or you would….deny God. That is dogmatic.

I give credit to God for his model; you deny him his creation because of your Bible. So here's the deal. I will give up the theory that all life evolved from a common ancestor if another hypothesis is presented and supported better than the current model for evolution. Will you give up on ID if the evidence is not there?

The Eagle, Sunday, 11-16-08

An Attitude for Conviction

From a societal point of view what is better, conviction or justice? From the prosecutors’ point of view, especially if he or she is elected, what becomes more important to them?

When we are young, we are taught that the police are our friends and that if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear. In reality, though, this can get you into trouble depending on what attitude your detectives and prosecutors take. Although issues with false arrests and convictions are rare, they do happen and their cause appears more to do with attitude then with incompetence or human error.

In the November issue of Texas Monthly there is a lengthy article called “The Exonerated” that showcases a number of Texans that have had their convictions overturned because of DNA evidence. Almost man for man made the same comment about why – someone on the government’s side was lying and they knew they were.

Christopher Ochoa gave what I think is the most profound statement of them all which should be taught to every 16 year kid before they reach adulthood. It deals with the question of why a person would confess to something they didn’t do?

“Everybody’s taught to drive. And when you are taught to drive, they teach you that if you hit ice or your car starts skidding, ease off the brake and turn into the skid. This has been taught to you and taught to you. Well, what is the first thing people do when they hit and ice patch? They slam on the brake. So now, why do people confess to something they didn’t do? You’re taught to stay quiet and all that stuff, right? But you don’t know. You’re in a tiny room, and they’re telling you if you don’t cooperate, you’ll get the death penalty. What do people expect people to do? They can’t sit there and keep saying “I didn’t do it.” I was a twenty-two year old kid. I had never been in trouble. When I was there, I didn’t know which way was right and which was left.”

If they have justice as their motivator, cooperating is not a gamble, but if it is conviction they desire, then you do so at your own peril. What a terrible quandary to put someone in. You say to them “I would like to help you, but I don’t trust you” at the same time they look at you and know that the last twenty folks to occupy that chair you are sitting in lied to them. "You are lying - you know you did it - confess."

It is a vicious circle only stopped by laws that were enacted to prevent this type of injustice or the character of the DA that oversees the case. That’s too much power to place in the hands of one individual that must defend for his job every few years.

When justice equals convictions our system has failed us.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The sin of subjectivity

I have been grappling with news stories lately discussing how some Catholic Bishop's are condemning Catholics who voted for Obama. What bothers me is not their stand on the moral issue of abortion but their lack of outrage over other issues that, in my opinion, are as equally morally repugnant. To say don't vote Democrat because of abortion is to say vote Republican because their moral values are better. "Well at least they don't promote killing unborn babies" goes the argument, so as long as they oppose abortion everything is all right in the eyes of these Bishops. Case in point:

The Bush administration told the CIA in 2002 that its interrogators working abroad would not violate U.S. prohibitions against torture unless they "have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering," according to a previously secret Justice Department memo released Thursday. The interrogator's "good faith" and "honest belief" that the interrogation will not cause such suffering protects the interrogator, the memo adds. "Because specific intent is an element of the offense, the absence of specific intent negates the charge of torture," Jay Bybee, then the assistant attorney general, wrote in the memo.

How this type of logic works:
  • Define “severe” – if it is not legally defined in this context then it becomes subjective.
  • Define “pain” – since pain is relative to the individual, it cannot be quantified.
  • Define “suffering” –how does “x” compare with “y”
All the interrogator needs to show is that he or she did not believe that the pain from the torture was severe and that the suffering was not even close to what has been done in the past or might have been done by another method. (you know, a kinder, gentler, machine gun type of thing)

“My intent, your Honor, was to gain information, not inflict pain or suffering. It was my honest belief that what we were doing did not meet the definition of severe pain or suffering.”

Let’s see if this holds true in other situations:

“My intent, your Honor, was to enjoy time with my friends, not to get drunk. It was my honest belief that I was not legally drunk when I drove home.”

“My intent, your Honor, was to shoot him four to five times, not to kill him. It was my honest belief that he would recover from the bullet wounds I inflicted.”

“My intent, your Honor, was to stop my wife from leaving me, not to beat her up. It was my honest belief that I was only defending myself when she tried to get away.”

“Why yes Jesus, I am going to throw the first stone. I had no intent on sinning when I slept with my neighbor’s wife and it was my honest belief that my doing so technically do not violate any of your ten commandments since I did not feel blameworthy desire for her nor did I wish for her longingly.”


Saturday, November 8, 2008

I don't get it.....

When Obama gave his acceptance speech on Nov. 4th, I noticed a look in his eyes and on his face that I had never seen before. Instead of a shit-eating-grin or a look of gratitude or humbleness, Obama instead looked like a man that just took on the weight of the world. I suppose, in looking at, he did, but this look even transgressed past that.

On Nov. 5th I was watching the Daily Show and John Stewart said to Chris Wallace that he had just watched it come “full circle from slavery and [it] affected [him] on a personal level.” And that is when it hit me, that look, was the look of a man who understood fully what he had just come to represent.

I will be honest, I don’t get it. I have moved past judging someone by the color of their skin. I don’t look at Obama as “black” nor do I look at him as “white.” I don’t understand the mentality that brings forth “black pride,” “strong black woman,” or “FUBU” simply because I don’t look at myself and see “white” which is how I know I am seen to those that see themselves as “black.”

I don’t get it. If MLK is such a revered person in the black community why do so many black Americans see color, judging both themselves and me by the color of our skin and not by the content of our character? I have lived on this earth for over 50 years and although I did not grow up in the South, I came of age when blacks had the same rights as me. I went to high school with blacks, played sports with blacks, worked with blacks, went to college with blacks, and employed blacks in my business. I moved past the color issue, or at least never made it that big of a deal in my life.

I don’t get it. Other than 40 acres and a mule, the US has bent over backward to be inclusive, making laws against discrimination, establishing affirmative action policies, and supporting minority owned business set-asides. I have seen black mayors, and senators, governors, Generals, and cabinet level members throughout my life. Blacks must have had to see this too!

I don’t get it. Professional sports are dominated by black athletes, not just basketball, but all of them. Name a white “pro” that dominates in his field and you need to go back a few years. And look at entertainment. Oprah, Bill Cosby, and Michael Jackson at one time dominated the list of “richest” entertainers. Quick, name five comedians and most likely at least three of them will be black. It is all there, visible in – excuse the pun – black and white. Why can’t they see it and just move on? I don’t get it.

And then, it dawned on me as to why - it never went full circle for American blacks. There has been a stain on the collective soul of black America that has never been completely erased by any of the forward movement that has been made. This stain is apparently so set in that it cannot be removed even by superior athleticism, wealth, jobs, status, education, housing, culture, or power. And this is something that I can’t ever understand. As Token on South Park* told Stan , “you don’t get it.” And just like Stan I can honestly say now that I get it because I don’t get it.

So what I think I saw on Tuesday night was possibly a full circle being completed. Obama had made it to the mountain top. He did not get there because he could run faster, jump higher, hit a golf ball, or entertain us. He wasn’t there because of affirmative action, handouts, gerrymandering, white guilt, or anything else. He got there because 52% of those that voted felt that he – a black man – was good enough to be our leader.

So black America had their Sally Field moment last Tuesday and could finally say “they like us – they really like us”! Did prejudice and bigotry go away that night? Nope, and in fact may rear its head even more ugly than before. But it has been marginalized. Obama must have sensed it that night. He must have realized that he had become the symbol for the mountain top that King had talked about reaching but never did. So I can only speculate that the look in his eyes and on his face was probably from realizing that what had just been placed on his shoulders was being supported by the legs of a mere mortal man.

(*) "With Apologies to Jesse Jackson"

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Eggsactly what was their point?

Over at Texas A&M University the Young Conservatives of Texas had an Anti-Obama carnival last Wednesday to demonstrate Sen. Barack Obama's economic policies. Their choice of message deliverance was to have students throw eggs at a big poster of Obama tacked to a piece of plywood. Needless to say, it did not go over well with those students who support Obama, and things got a little bit heated.

When I went back to College at Humboldt State University in Arcata California Regan had just recently been elected president. HSU is the polar opposite of A&M in terms of political persuasion and the new policies he was initiating were not going over well with a lot of my fellow classmates. One particular issue was his Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, who according to the Audubon Society was "arguably the most anti-environment secretary ever."

So it was only natural that during HSU’s annual Lumberjack Days celebration one student organization, which I can’t recall, decided to have as their booth’s fundraiser event:

“Throw James Watt into the Volcano”

They built a small volcano with a mouth large enough to engulf a Ken doll dressed up to look like James Watt, including glasses and bald head. Not to be sexist, they also had a Barbie dressed up as Anita Bryant that could be thrown in as well. So for 25 cents we could show our frustration with both these individuals while helping the organization earn a few bulks.

The only difference between this event and the one at A&M was ours was actually kind of funny when you think about it without partisanship. They were both exercises in free speech, and for me, actually helped me learn what James Watt was all about. This is the same response the YCTs were trying to accomplish along with a little “in your face” thrown in to spice it up a bit (pun intended).

We have nothing to fear when we hear views that are contrary to our own. The kid that stood in front of the sign attempting to stop the eggs from being thrown probably learned more about himself and his convictions then at any other time in his life.

Was it in bad taste? No more so than throwing Mr. Watt and Ms. Bryant to a fiery doom.

Did the YCT change anyone’s mind on who to vote for? Doubtful.

Did the students who participated, witnessed, or read about it become more enlightened about the world they live in? Yea.

And that’s a beautiful thing my friends, all brought to you courtesy of the First Amendment

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Reject Your False Null Hypothesis! least I think I maybe do.

Do two negatives make a positive? In math they do, but how about in the world of science? If you attack a hypothesis that used bad science with bad science does that make it null?

A long time ago I took a logic class in college and one of the arguments had something to do with fish, gills and whales. If I remember it went something like this:

Fish swim in the sea, whales swim in the sea, therefore all Whales are fish

In the world of toxicology we have to make a lot of conjecture simply because no one wants to volunteer to be the “case” side for the dose. There are a number of scientists that think endocrine disruptors - small amounts of natural and synthetic hormones or chemicals that act like hormones - are causing a number of health issues, primarily male reproductive problems and breast cancer. There is evidence to show in laboratory studies that this is plausible, however, in humans the link is not adequately supported according to some scientists.

Dr. Stephen Safe with Texas A&M University lectured our class the other day discussing his paper called “Endocrine disruptors and human health: is there a problem” (note: there is no question mark at the end so I am not sure if it is a statement or a question)

Good science needs it skeptics, and when it comes to endocrine disruptors there is no bigger naysayer than Dr. Safe. For the record, I tend to be skeptical about a lot of conclusions about cause and effect, but I try to have an open mind so that I don’t miss the truth, at least the truth that can be supported by sound science.

And therein lies the problem with Dr. Safe's lecture and paper on endocrine disruptors. He believes, and he has published support for his point of view, that their hypothesis is based on incorrect or inaccurate data. The foundation for their belief is that endocrine-active chemicals may be responsible for the increased incidence of breast cancer and disorders of the male reproductive tract. If this foundation is not true, as Dr. Safe suggests, then their hypothesis is not correct.

Dr. Safe makes a convincing argument and backs it up with his own meta-analysis. So what is a lowly grad student like me supposed to take away from this? Well for me, if I am not convinced or have concerns with the premise then I will have a heck of a time convincing someone else in the general public that knows less than I do.

Where he lost me, both in his lecture and in his paper, was on “Xenoestrogens and breast cancer” A xenoestrogen is defined as a by-products of industrial or chemical processing that have estrogen-like effects. There are three major naturally occurring estrogens in women, estradiol, estriol, and estrone. Each one does something different but they are all called estrogens. From his paper:
"The endocrine disruptor hypothesis regarding decreased male reproductive capacity suggest that inappropriate in utero exposure to estrogens plays a role in the testicular dysgenesis syndrome (TDS) Swerdlow et al. (1997) tested this hypothesis by investigating the rates of testicular cancer [in] dizygotic and monozygotic twins since studies have shown that free estrogen levels are [naturally] higher in the former group. Their results showed that there was a 50% increase in the risk for testicular cancer in dizygotic compared to monozygotic twins."

To counter this, Dr. Safe then writes, in the same paragraph:

"A recent twin study from Denmark directly tested the role of in utero exposure to estrogens on sperm counts/quality of singletons mono- and dizygotic twins [showed] no significant differences in sperm quality in any of the three groups of men and concluded that “higher prenatal concentrations of oestrogen are not related to reduced sperm counts in adulthood.” Offspring of women who were prescribed high pharmacologic doses of DES or estrogens during pregnancy are among the highest in utero exposed individuals to hormones. Studies in the United States and Finland showed that fertility in these high exposure groups was not different from a control population."

So here is where I scratch my head and say "say what?!?":
  • Does the higher concentration of oestrogen mean the same effect would be seen for any of the other estorgens, single or combined?
  • Is there an additive, synergistic, or potentiating effect that low levels of Xenoestrogens could play that are different than what the natural production of hormones would show, or the consumption of a single hormone, like DES would show. I am reading this as: Because oestrogen and DES are estrogen-like, any estrogen-like material would show similar results.
  • Swerdlow showed an “increase in the risk for testicular cancer” to support the hypothesis whereas Dr. Safe rebuts this with research that showed “no significant differences in sperm quality.” An apples and oranges problem here.
Like I said I am just a lowly grad student trying to figure out how all this stuff fits together. The fact that I pose these questions may prove that I am ignorant as all get out. But because I do, because they are there and I can see them, they can be asked by anyone.

If we has a profession are going to tell people to be afraid we better have something real to show them, and if we tell them not to worry, we had better be beyond reproach.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Throwing the first stone

It was a simple question, “who are you voting for?” asked to random University of North Texas students in the October 24, 2008 Homecoming Edition of the North Texas Daily.

“John McCain” Senior Sarah Carroll responded. “Mostly for moral issues” she replied when asked why.

So what are these “moral issues” that persons of Ms. Carroll’s persuasion speak about? And why do they attach them to Republicans, and more specifically, to Sarah Palin?

Is it Abortion? I think a lot of folks tend to vote Republican for their steadfast opposition towards Row v. Wade wrapping them in the morality blanket called “pro life.” This one single issue does produce a conundrum for those voters that see abortion as a strong moral issue.

But it is not just abortion that has led the self-proclaimed righteous ones that tag themselves as “values voters.” No, it is this simplistic idea that if you say you are Christian, wear a flag pen, decorate your car with a yellow ribbon, and fly the American flag you are somehow more moral then those of us that think deeds matter more than labels.

So there was McCain, struggling with his base of conservative value voters. Despite what he has persevered through, what he has done while in congress, and how he has led his life, he just wasn’t conservative enough for the base. No, they needed someone like them, someone they could identify as having Christian values. Enter Sarah Palin. “OMG! She is sooooo, like, value plus!”

There is a strange dichotomy on the Right. They like her for what they think she is, they do not like McCain because of what they think he isn’t. So using just a bit of irony and logic here ……

  • Palin was born in 1964, that puts her at 44 years old
  • She had attended the Wasilla Assembly of God, a Pentecostal church, for 32 years and until 2002.
  • In 2002 Palin was 38 years old, which means she has been raised in a Pentecostal environment since she was about six years of age.
  • She was the head of the “Fellowship of Christian Athletes” chapter at her high school.
  • She was married on August 29, 1988.
  • Her son, Track, was born on April 20, 1989 when she was 25.
OK, so if I do the math correctly that means Track was born…..premature!

Is this one of those “mostly for moral issues” things that girl was talking about? It is not that Palin needs to be tarred and feathered for her sin, heck there but before the grace of God go I, but come on! She is as far from being a poster girl for morals as Bill Clinton is.

At some point you need to see yourself as flawed, which means that everyone else is flawed too. You don’t own morality because you claim yourself to be a Christian or conservative. Even with Jesus in her life, 25 years of age, the Church, and her Christian Values, Palin still sinned.

I just wonder if that was Hilary would these “moral issues” voters be so forgiving about her past?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

I was going to write a blog entry dealing with the hypocrisy of the NRA using Charlton Heston’s own words. It was going to be great, if I do say so myself, a real work of wordsmanship that maybe two people might ever read.

I am not fond of any group that paints a black and white picture of the world and then uses propaganda to keep their faithful in line. No one deserve my dislike for their practices and unbridled vitriol more than the NRA – so with all their smugness about what a patriot is, I was winding up to throw out a spitball that would put them in their place.

And there they were, Heston’s own words and the NRA tribute juxtaposed against their opposition to banning “cop killer bullets.” That’s right, the NRA wants to allow for the sale of “cop killer bullets” while touting how patriotic, moral, and law abiding they are. What better way to show just how hypocritical they are than holding up their support for – yes, one more time – “cop killer bullets.”

Since this is a rather old story I wanted to get a little background so I typed in to Google “NRA cop killer bullets.” And guess what I found out? There are no such things as “cop killer bullets.” This story came out around 1982 and was the result of a company named KTW that developed a line of handgun ammunition using brass coated with Teflon to prevent damage to firearm barrels caused by firing hard metal projectiles through them.

So… mean to tell me they were not designed to kill cops? Not just "no" you moron, but in fact, from what I have read, both the Justice and Treasury Departments tests showed that the Teflon had little or no effect on penetrating soft body armor.

Damn it! There goes my great story idea.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still dislike the NRA’s method, tactics, and philosophy. They have shown themselves to be mean spirited bullies when they do not get their way. But I cannot perpetuate a mistruth even if it would support my position perfectly.

What I find odd about all of this is that for 25 or so years I thought there were actually “cop killer bullets” being produced for sale by anyone that felt the need to own them.

But then when I look at it is it really all that surprising I would think that? Now one can blame the “main stream liberal media” because, you know, they hate guns and want them banned, but really that is too pat an answer. It was more the result of hype to get attention for a news story, then the “in theory it could happen” mentality caught on, followed by “we need to do something about this possibility,” which then was immediately countered with the NRA’s “they just want to take our guns – stop them!” battle cry. Lost in all of this was the truth.

So next time you hear someone tell you Obama wants to change the National Anthem because he doesn’t’ place his hand over his heart because he is a Muslim and his wife is not proud to be an American. Pause for a second and ask:

Is that the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

My name is Jeff and I am a....gamer

I like to consider myself a gamer. I will never be as good as those 2/3 my age, but still I profess a liking and commitment to play them through to the end. I play only on the PC as I have never mastered the art of pressing six buttons in some particular order quick enough to beat the opponent I am up against. I also do not like first person shooters due to not being able to see behind me or on my sides. Which is why I like games from Blizzard.

I got into gaming when a friend of mine told me that he and his son were playing a game called Orcs and Humans. I was hooked, literally. There I was stumbling into work after finally beating the level at, oh, 4:00 in the morning. Apparently gamer must mean “he who sleeps little.” From there I played Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo II, and then left Blizzard to try my hand at EverQuest, one of the first successful on-line multi-player game. This was back in the days of dial up which on large raids was an interesting endeavor as key people became disconnected or “DC’d” right in the middle of a fight.

To this day, EQ still holds the top position for depth of play in my humble opinion. But nothing can hold a candle to the all around game play and beauty of World of Warcraft. What I like about WoW is all the things I hated about EQ. Your character actually hits his foe, the skeletons don’t look like an empty toilet roll with a skull head, and best of all, everything you pick up has a purpose – crap to sell or crap for a quest. In EQ there were thousands of things that no one had discovered a use for – so for questers like me – I hung on to everything. Thank Rodcet Nife they started a shared bank slot!

What I hated about EQ most was the ridicules way you went about questing. Once figured out, you followed the directions posted on web sites. But for the ones still locked up, it was, well kind of stupid. First you had to find the NPC that would start the quest. No little yellow exclamation points over their head in EQ. You had to find them among all the thousands of NPCs that were in place. In terms of size, EQ is to North America as Wow is to Rhode Island.

So there you would be trying to find out if the grave dust you collected in some zone is part of a quest. You would walk up to an NPC and type in a question. The problem was you had no idea if this was the correct NPC or if you asked the question correctly. No response – move to the next one. But wait! Some NPCs would only appear at certain hours of the day or night. That is the one you needed, but in order to talk to him you have to bribe him with some ale. I kid you not – there were quests like this that someone figured out. So you would wait, and wait, and wait for the NPC to show only to find out that “opps sorry”, he was camped by another player who got him before you showed up. Come back in 24 hours.

But still I played until the time waiting for a group to quest or raid got to be drudgery. Which got me into WoW when it came out. Started on day one played ever since with a few months off to concentrate on school. But WoW also brought about the drudgery of “LFG” looking for group). I was lucky enough to be in a guild that could raid the upper stuff – but that demands more time than I want to give. Time is what it takes to move up in these types of multi=player games – and unless you can devote the time it takes to learn the fights you become less and less wanted because of your noobiness and chance to wipe the whole darn raid. So I either commit to playing three nights a week from 11:00 till about 3:00 in the morning or I sit there “LFG.” Wow is turned off right now….until the next expansion.


Friday, October 17, 2008

The two McCains

Trey Parker and Matt Stone put out some of the best parody and satire around. The sad thing is that they would have never made it this far had they not been able to meld the two ingredients - lampoon and shock value - together to get a large number of eyeballs to watch the show. In the beginning it was more the latter but as they have matured so has the show particularly in its parody sophistication. Without the crudeness it would not have an audience anywhere near what it has now, and without the wit it would not be watched by people like me. What an odd combination of the two. But it works.

Which brings me to John McCain. He was on Letterman last night to eat crow about missing a scheduled appearance on the show. What struck me was how much I like John McCain when he is being John McCain. When he is in political mode – he makes me turn away. So there I was watching the two different McCain’s talk when it dawned on me why I am bothered by it. It doesn’t work.

The idea behind the straight talk express was for McCain to be McCain. It worked getting him the nomination because there is a lot of substance there. Not everyone in the Republican Party wanted him, but enough did to cause the others to drop out. But getting your Party’s nomination and winning the election are two different things which McCain soon found out would be his situation. He needed the Republican base and that base doesn’t want straight talk they want red meat.

Enter Sarah Palin. She is everything that McCain is not to the base. An evangelical-gun loving-gay loathing-conservative values-liberal hating-rhetoric spewing answer to what is all wrong with America. She is the artery-clogging red meat that was necessary to “energize” the folks that now make up the base of the Republican Party. These are the same ones that would have stayed home on Election Day because McCain was just not conservative enough for them.

So McCain parked the straight talk bus and tried to disguise himself as red meat too. Trouble is he is not. Parker and Stone can make South Park work because they understand both aspects of what their show has to be in order for it to be successful. When they are crude it is because they themselves think it is funny – they get it. And when they parody and lampoon - they get that too. They understand it because they can relate to it, and because they relate to it they can pull it off.

McCain does not understand or relate to the base he needs for support so when he tries to placate them it falls flat and the attempt turns me away. He is substance only and substance doesn’t sell to the Republican base that doesn’t want to hear straight talk. They want to hear and be fed terrible things about Obama – and McCain don’t play that – at least not very well.

Neither Obama nor McCain will win because of the votes from people like me. We are drowned out by the “kill him” mindset that makes up too many of my fellow Americans. They care little about the substance in the rhetoric thrown to them. This needs to change. Call me naive but I really do think straight talk and hope are tangible but only if their messengers believe fully in them.

"You know what, I've learned something today…"

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

NIMBY and Risk

Christine Todd Whitman, the former Administrator of the EPA and former Governor of New Jersey spoke at our September ACHMM conference in Minneapolis, MN. I was impressed. The point of her talk was that we need to have balance in what we present for the future in terms of economic growth and meeting current and future energy needs. Her mantra was:

“We need to stop saying “no.”

The use of the word “no” dates back probably to the first true word uttered by man. Even God told Adam and Eve “just say no.” Unfortunately we have taken to saying the word “no” when we should be saying “yes – but proceed with caution.” Barack Obama has been very cautious in not mentioning nuclear power as a potential energy source for fear his base will jump ship. This is a prime example of not looking at what is best all around. You want to lower your carbon foot print – go nuclear, you want to reduce pollutants into the air – go nuclear, you want to lower the amount of foreign oil you import – go nuclear.

So why not go nuclear? Two reasons:
  • That’s what the Republicans suggest – so the Democrats must say “no.”
  • The public does not understand no such thing as zero risk.
And that is what drives policy – one side says go which the other side must, for their own self interests, boldly state “stop.” Then mixed into these two sides is a public that has not been educated on how to properly assess risk. In fact – they have been lead to believe that any risk is bad unless they themselves choose to partake in it.

“But the nuclear plants will generate waste that will stay radioactive for like a million years!” So? If properly managed – for example at Yucca Mountain – it will not present a risk. In order to have a problem that must be exposure, in order to have exposure it must be transported through the environment to the receptor (i.e. human). Tucked deep inside the salt mine – it ain’t a going anywhere.

"But to get it to the site it must be transported – it could be released then!” Not likely (and therein lies the problem – I can’t say it ain’t a never going to happen). How can I say not likely? Because I have seen for myself that they have engineered transportation caskets that can be hit by a train and remain closed. They have engineered out a real potential concern while the waste is being transported. If it can withstand a train it can withstand a truck or car or possible explosive device.

"But...but...but...well anyway still, not in my backyard!"

A grenade poses a substantial risk, however it was engineered to be safe when the pin is in place. If you take that same grenade and bury it deep in the ground it will still pose the same capability as it did before – but the risk of harm is minimized to a point where we could all reasonably say – “I am safe from that grenade.”

That is how we need to look at everything that posses a risk – can we engineer out the risk to a point where we can reasonably say “My concerns have been addressed.” It is not about risk vs. reward but about lowering the risk to a point where we can all feel comfortable. That means both sides have to give, and, in the words of Ms Whitman:

“We need to stop saying “no.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Just Because I.......

I hate being labeled. And, if I am honest with myself, I will admit I do it too. It is easy to quantify what you see or hear for a second or two into a black or white sound bite label. But we are, or at least I am, more than just a label. Most folks I know are a little bit of this and that (queue Marie Osmond!). I am not an enigma but a mixture of many things I have seen and experienced over time. I have remained basically the same in my core values but have thrown out beliefs that can’t stand solidly on their own. So what you see is not always what you think I am.

Just because I am for government control of health care does not make me a socialist

Just because I am against school prayer does not make me an atheist.

Just because I do not hunt does not mean I support PETA.

Just because I like guns does not mean I like the NRA.

Just because I want abortion to end does not mean I am not pro-choice.

Just because I am for the environment does not make me against industry.

Just because I believe man evolved over a period of time does not mean I do not believe in a God.

Just because I do not go to church does not mean I have no faith

Just because I am against the war does not mean I am against the troops.

Just because I want a lean, fiscally sound government does not make me a conservative.

Just because I like John McCain does not make me a Republican.

And just because I will vote for Barack Obama does not make me a liberal.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Seven Types of Americans

As I see it, there are seven types of Americans:

Type 1 are the hegemonies – those that want to exert an ideological or economic influence over other countries and will pay any cost – other than from themselves – to see it happen.

Type 2 are the theocrats – those that want the US to adhere to a fundamentalist Christian dogma in leading and running the country – interpreting passages in the Bible to suit their needs and beliefs.

Type 3 are the capitalists – those that believe that money is the key to everything good and see no moral ambiguity in anything they do as long as it is good for business.

Type 4 are the freeloaders – those that have grown accustomed to somebody else, primarily the government, being responsible for their welfare.

Type 5 are the apathetic – those that do little to make things better and get in the way of those that want to make a change.

Type 6 are the extremes – those that believe in a cause to such an extent that the end will always justify the means. I place in here the Anarchists, ELF, PETA, and the NRA to name a few.

Type 7 encompasses all the rest.

Most of us lean into one or more of the types identified above, but in the end we balance pretty much into a Type 7. The problem, as I see it, is that we have some folks that fall squarely into one of the other six types. What's the problem? These Type 1-6 people vote and each party will cater to one of them if it increases their chance at getting elected. As long as the elected party ignores them they can’t do much damage, but, in large numbers they often start demanding a voice for delivery of their vote.

The choice for me this November is which candidate is least likely to allow any of these groups to influence the America that the Type 7s want to live in.

One Hell of a Price to Pay

In a Dear Margo column in our newspaper (The Eagle 10/10/08) a woman with a five year old writes that she was molested by her stepfather when she herself was five. “I told my mother what happened ...... and no matter how many times I tell her, it seems she doesn’t believe me. She becomes irate and rude.”

This woman’s mother expected her to attend family get-togethers and makes her feel bad for wanting to have nothing to do with the stepfather that molested her for 10 years. Margo’s response got me to thinking in terms of what price some of us pay for the actions of others. She writes back “I hope you will sever communication with your mother which will solve some of your problems.”

For a few minutes of excitement and release, this woman’s stepfather has exacted from her not just her childhood, but her dignity and future peace of mind. The fact that this went on for 10 years is irrelevant in the price that is to be paid. One time, 10 times, 10 years – there is a price paid by the victim each and every day of their existence. While the abuser just waits for the next opportunity.

And now, some years after the last molestation took place, this woman is asked to pay again. This time she must lose her mother and her son must lose his grandmother. “Well they ain’t losing much” some might say. True to that, but it was not this woman’s choice to have to give up her mother so her stepfather could obtain a few minutes of pleasure.

Friday, October 10, 2008

American Style!

I heard him speak today on the radio (recorded from around the mid 1960's)

"I don't think the whole of Southeast Asia, as related to the present and future safety and freedom of the people of this country, is worth the life or limb of a single American [and] I believe that if we had and would keep our dirty bloody dollar crooked fingers out of the business of these nations so full of depressed exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own design and want, that they fight and work for. And if, unfortunately, their revolution must be of the violent type…at least what they get will be their own and not the American style, which they don't want…crammed down their throat"

General David M. Shoup, a former commandant of the Marine Corps (60-63) and a bearer of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Replace "Southeast Asia" with "the Middle East" and it still holds true for today. Going after bin Laden - Necessary, Establishing "democracy"- not worth the life or limb of a single American.

From David M. Shoup: A Warrior against War By Howard Jablon (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005)


While waiting for my turn a magazine cover lying on the couch caught my eye. “Charlton Heston, Death of a Patriot” was its title. “Ahhh” I said to myself, “it’s an NRA publication.” Now I don’t want to dispute the merits of whether Mr. Heston is, or is not, a Patriot. What I take issue is the how the NRA chooses to define what a patriot is. There are certain words, of which patriot one of them , that transcend above politics and singular issues and do not belong to one side or the other. The NRA calls Mr. Heston a patriot not so much because he marched along side Martin Luther King, or joined the Air Force in WWII but because he “found his anchor in the tenet of conservative values” of which one of the principles tenets is the zealous commitment to the protection of the 2nd amendment. I just have a feeling that this is why he was anointed by the NRA as a “patriot.”

We Americans spend a lot of time claiming that those we disagree with are somehow less deserving of certain words like “American,” “Christian,” or “patriot” that hold a great deal of significance & meaning. How presumptuous of some to do that or the rest of us to allow it to happen. Just today I was listening to an AM conservative talk show where the host claimed that if Obama was such a patriot he would have written more about America in his book.

I don’t know if there is a litmus test out there that would definitively allow us the ability to attach the word patriot to Mr. Heston or anyone else for that matter. Assuming that Mr. Heston is, indeed, a patriot for reasons other than his attachment to the NRA cause, I wonder if the NRA would also call Mr. James Brady a patriot upon his death as well. Or is that term only reserved for those they have deemed worthy?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

LeapFrogging to Idiocracy

I saw on T.V. an advertisement that made me shake my head in disbelief.

A man was dressed in a frog costume in back of a table with two books. One book was an illustrated children’s book on amphibians and the other a LeapFrog book with Spongebob and frogs. “Which book is more fun to read” he would ask each kid who – surprise, surprise – picked the LeapFrog book.

OK, so you think you have a better way to get kids to read, but why go to all the trouble making the real book – the book on amphibians – look like something a kid should not touch with a 10 foot pole? That’s just what they did with their - would you rather have Spongebob read to you or have to look at this clearly inferior printed material when compared to ours - attitude

I think the LeapFrog method has merit – as a tool to get children to not be afraid of reading because they stumble over words. But time spent with a LeapFrog product is not reading. It is pointing a wand at commercial characters and listening to them read for you.

There was nothing wrong with the book on amphibians based on what I could see. It had descriptions of the frogs and very colorful illustrations of what they looked like. That is what reading is supposed to do for a child – open their eyes to the world out there.

LeapFrog’s webpage states that they "put learning first" and have developed a methodology that incorporates three principles into their products:
  1. We start with a rigorous, proven learning methodology
  2. We create compelling, multi-layered content
  3. We deliver the content and learning experience through the use of technology that is intuitive, invisible and engaging.
I would like to add a forth…..

We value the licensing agreement and want to create a world where all information is obtained from commercial venues and independent thought curtailed unless we own the rights to it.

“We put education first” the say. Not as I see it. I think what it needs to say is:

“Leapfrog we make good little consumers out of every child.”

Who needs books when you can have a wand!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Once Upon A Time....

In the kingdom of Gnomeville dogs were the economic engine. Everything was geared around dogs, from places where people worked, to their education system, retirement, and even the kingdom’s security was wrapped up in the dog.

So it came to pass that as the outgoing mayor of Gnomeville was leaving he would sign into law the city council’s proclamation that dogs would no longer be required to be leased. They would, forever more, be free to run, play, and hunt without any bindings that would restrict when and where they went. Without restraint the dogs could visit whomever they wanted making them, and their owners, very, very happy. This, the city council and mayor believed would trickle down to make for a more prosperous society.

And things in Gnomeville did prosper as citizens made all the necessary preparations to have one of the dogs pay them a visit. The dog owners who loved their dogs above and beyond everything else were keenly aware of how important the dogs were to the citizens of Gnomeville and developed various mechanisms whereby the dogs could visit the citizens once they had a proper lawn in place. This became the model for how a successful and satisfying life in Gnomeville would be defined. Work hard and one day you would have the opportunity to be visited by a dog. This setup made the dogs happy which in turn made their owners happy. “Win, win, win” they would all say!

One day a particularly crafty dog owner decided that he could make more citizens happy if he let his dogs run free with little very little oversight. This was, at the beginning, very disconcerting to the other dog owners who had always kept very tight control on where their dogs would visit. And as they watched this crafty dog owner they realized that he was becoming very happy as his dogs paid more and more visits to the people of Gnomville. They also realized that more visits from the crafty owner's dogs meant less visits from theirs. Their dogs needed to make visits too, they would tell each other.

Slowly at first, but then with ever greater speed each of the other dog owners began to let their dogs run freely as well. With so many dogs needing places to visit it soon became necessary to let anyone who wanted a visit by a dog to participate regardless of how poor their lawn was.

Mable Fugwheather sat in her little bungalow on Elm Street and noticed what was taking place. She had spent her time working very hard, like her parents and her parents before her, securing the right balance of lawn necessary for a proper dog visit. “This is an outrage” Mable Fugwheather cried! “These people do not have the proper lawns to take on these dog visits! Something must be done about this or we will all suffer!”

And so it went for the next few years. Citizens of Gnomeville without proper lawns were allowed to have the dogs visit and the dog owners, pleased with how happy their dogs were, looked the other way. But Mable Fugwheather knew what was going on. She knew it would only be a matter of time before the poor lawns would no longer support a dog visit. And, on one sunny day in September, that time came to the good people of Gnomeville.

There was a foul smell that permeated the air. The dogs, without proper lawns, had left messes too big for the ill prepared citizens to handle. There was grumbling now, not just from Mable Fugwhether, but from others who were now looking at the mess and wondering how it would affect their properly maintained lawn.

The dog owners soon became concerned about the quality of lawns they had let their dogs visit and began to keep dogs inside. And the dogs grew unhappy, and their owners grew unhappy, and, without dog visits taking place, the citizens of Gnomville grew unhappy. This chain of events slowed down the dog based economy which caused the mayor and city council to panic. “We must do something” he nervously told his constituents “or things will get really bad!

The people of Gnomeville started to panic. “I have a plan” the major assured them. “The dogs need lawns to visit, let’s give them all of our public parks so that they may have a lawn to visit and be happy.” “What a wonderful idea” the city council exclaimed. “We will vote yes to give the dog owners our public parks!” “What a stupid idea” yelled Mable Fugwheather. “You are giving the culprits who caused this our beautiful parks rewarding their bad behavior!” “Now is not the time to affix blame” chastised the mayor. “We are in crisis and will be doomed if we do not act swiftly!”

With the turning over of the parks, the dogs were free to once again visit and the mayor and city council were hopeful that happiness and prosperity would soon be abundant in Gnomeville. Without the weight of doom and gloom, the people set about trying to affix blame. “It’s those greedy dog owners that let their dogs run free” some people cried. “It’s those careless citizens that had inadequate lawns that caused this! Other bemoaned.

So who really caused this mess to happen in the kingdom of Gnomeville? The outgoing mayor of course! For he could have vetoed the repeal of the leash law when he was in power which would have prevented the dog owners from allowing their dogs to run free and visit the lawns of those citizens that were ill prepared to maintain them properly.

Note: This story was inspired by the following letter to the editor in the October 3rd 1008 edition of The Eagle:

I agree with Jim James (Eagle, Oct. 1) that Democrats and Republicans alike are responsible for the economic health of our nation. When he stated, however, "Democrats point to the Republican-led repeal of Glass-Steagall" he didn't tell the whole story.

While the repeal was authored by Republicans Phil Gramm, James Leach and Thomas J. Bliley Jr., Bill Clinton had the power to veto it. Instead he signed the bill, making it into law.

Can't blame the Republicans for that one.

College Station

What God Wants Woman to Do

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary offers the Bachelor of Arts in Humanities with a concentration in homemaking. I have no problems with that, just like I have no problems in academic programs designed around dance, or art, or recreation, or anything else a person would want to explore. To deny a woman the right to pursue a path, any path, that she sees as worthwhile for her life would be wrong. So why bring this up- this woman only class - if I feel this way?

It is always about the reason, the why so to speak, that must be put out there for all the world to see. If a woman chooses to be a stay at home mom or a homemaker, or adopts the position of being 2nd or subservient to her husband, that is – and must – be allowed to take place in order for that woman to be truly free. If It is her choice, done without fear, dogma, pressure, or ignorance then you go girl! But that is not why we have this class being offered. It has nothing to do with providing as much opportunity to women as possible so that they may participate in society equally with men.

As men, society asks us to assume certain rolls, but it also puts very few constraints on the pursuits we can participate in. For woman, this is not the case. The position of Southern Baptists is that a woman may work outside the home so long as her husband agrees. So when a little girl grows up in a Southern Baptist household she faces two doors – one that will close her life off to other pursuits based on what her husband may or may not allow and the other that will provide some freedom, again at the whim of her husband. So with only two options, a Southern Baptist girl that becomes enlightened as she enters womanhood would be faced with either leaving her religion or giving up on her dreams.

Does the leadership of the Southern Baptists understand this? Yes, every dogmatic or oligarchic group since recorded time has figured this out to be a problem for the population they wish to control. Enlightenment breeds questions, questions require answers, and the answers given expose their hypocrisy. Although we can make the answers always fit our model, eventually you will run up against the brick wall of logic. Case in point: In a recent interview Rev. Akin said he supported Palin’s candidacy, arguing that while the bible speaks about the role of women in church and home, it says nothing about woman in government.

Argggg! And this guy is their leader? If, according to Rev. Akin God’s assignment to young women is” to be a homemaker,” how can Southern Baptists – who predominantly vote Republican – cast a vote for a candidate that will have a woman as his vice president? A woman with five young children no less! Oh this creates such a dilemma! Doesn’t Timothy 2:12 have Paul say “I permit no woman to teach or have authority over a man?” [that smell you detect is their little brains on overload]

“There is no disconnect or inconsistency whatsoever” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is quoted as saying. “We do not go beyond where the New Testament goes. Public Office is neither a church, nor a marriage.” No hypocrisy there! And to prove my point I am sure that the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary will soon offer a new course for women wishing to assume high level government elected positions. Maybe that can be an elective after they have taken Subservient Practices 101.

Source: The Eagle, October 4, 2008

Note: The above article states that Southeastern offers this class. My research shows that they do not. It is Southwestern that offers the class. I will hold that the quoted statements are true until I find out otherwise.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hero Worship

My wife believes that one should not look up to anyone, that bar none, these people we identify as out heroes will without exception let us down. How can I argue with her on that? Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Barry Bonds, Newt Gingrich, heck even Mr. Virtue himself Bill Bennett all showed themselves to be weak and then deceitful as they proclaimed their innocence to the world.

It isn't flaws in their day-to-day nor is it their hanky-panky that disappoints me. It is their adherence to an image of "I don't do such things" while they are actually doing such things that makes me sigh.

So knowing this to be the case, that all of us are flawed, can anyone be called a hero or looked at as a person of integrity and value? The optimist in me says "yes" - and so begins my quest to identify five people that are worth looking up to, maybe even emulating.

First on my list is James Edwin Horton Jr. You can read about him @

Why do I admire him.......?

When it was suggested that if Horton dared annul the jury's verdict, his re-election in 1934 would be in doubt, Judge Horton replied with a smile: "What does that have to do with the case?" Horton lost his bid for re-election the following year. He retired to his land, a villain to some, a hero to many.

To do the right thing - what you feel or know to be right - when it will no doubt come at your own expense - that is why I think he should be admired. Would I, faced with the inevitable outcome, do the right thing? I would like to think so. But then again how many times have I taken the coward’s way out and remained silent? OK, so maybe a man's life was not on the line - but still, how many times have I failed to step up and say "stop!" Too many if I am to be totally honest with myself.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wall Street & Government Intervention

There is a debate currently being fought between those that want government intervention and those that do not. Within these two opposing positions, each has two distinct and opposing views as to why.

For those that think intervention is critical it is for reasons that benefit their pocket book directly (those that took a risk with these “toxic-radioactive” assets) and those that buy into the notion that the economy will suffer greatly (and hence so will their pocketbook) if something is not done soon, the notion of these institutions “are too big to fail.”

On the other side of the fence are those that believe government intervention is the wrong course of action, and here it gets a little bit more crowded as to the reasons why. One set, and here is where I am falling, believes that true capitalism requires reward and punishment for taking risk. Other believe that allowing any government intervention just puts the government closer to calling the shots which stifles creativity and innovation – keep them out at all cost – camel’s nose under the tent sort of thing. The third does not want taxpayer monies being spent to bail out these people who for the past decade have cut themselves nice hefty paychecks while they gambled, or worse yet, looked the other way knowing full well the shoe would drop and here we would be (we will worry about that later - right now the troff is full! - eat piggies eat!.

Not worth mentioning is the third group that is for it because they want to protect Bush and their parties legacy and those that oppose it because they want to see Bush fail regardless of the cost.
So how can government intervene without creating a mess?
As I see it, a bailout, as in let’s give the Fed 750 billion dollars to do what he thinks is needed only rewards the risky behavior that got them into this mess. By using the argument that these institutions are “too big to let fail” you encourage them to get bigger since there will be no consequences should they make poorly thought out – hence risky – investments. Let me be clear that there is a difference between taking a calculated risk and gambling risk. To bail them out means there were no repercussions for this behavior – and since they are in fact the only institutions that power our economy, they can go about business in the future with little lesson learned.

I say either do nothing and let the market sort it out – it will – there are strong players in every downturn that will rise up – or - loan them the money at the type of interest rate our credit card companies charge us when we appear to them to be risky, you know, 29.5%.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Task from God

(Note: - This Blog is not an "I hate Sara Palin" blog. I am trying to grapple with a bigger issue for which she is directly associated - rightly or wrongly - with)

From the Bryan/College Station Eagle – Letters to the Editor: from Johnnie Griffin

America needs leaders willing to call on God:

Corbet Perkins' letter (Eagle, Sept. 17) is another example how people are grabbing at anything to smear Sarah Palin. He took a statement and twisted it to make the talking points of the liberals.

He wrote, "According to the Associated Press, Palin said the Iraq was is 'a task that is from God.'" What Sarah Palin said was "That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that plan is God's plan."

Twisted people making twisted statements need to be questioned and not accepted as face value.

Our country needs leaders like Sarah Palin who are not ashamed to call on guidance from the Almighty.

What she said – word for word…..

“That our leaders, our national leaders, are sending them out on a task that is from God. That is what we have to make sure we are praying for that that plan is God’s plan.”

OK so neither the “talking points of the liberals” or the outlet that Mr. Griffin used provided the correct quote. Interesting how both of them take her words and use them to imply what each side wants them to emphatically represent.

What I understand her to be saying, and really only she can substantiate or rebut my take, is that we need to pray that this path is truly the path God wants us to be on. If it is, like she and Mr. Griffin hope is the case, then all is good in the eyes of God. If it is not the correct path, then God will show us the error in our ways. By continuing to pray under the contention that they want to follow God’s plan only when God tells them that it is not his plan will they change course.

Because they pray to follow God’s path they are absolved of responsibility if the path they chose is wrong. After all why would God send them down a wrong path if they prayed to follow his plan? If it is indeed the wrong path surely God would tell them. So this must be the right path and all of the others who believe God is telling them it is the wrong path must not be as connected to God as they are.

And therein lies the problem with waiting for God to send you some sign emphatically telling you to change course. This brings up a great joke I remember hearing a long time ago that illustrates my point.

A man fell overboard from his little boat and was thrashing around in the water when another boat pulled up.

"Jump in," shouted the boater. "We'll save you."

"No", cried the drowning man, "God will save me."

The scene was repeated twice more, before a helicopter finally arrived and hovered over him. Once again, the man refused help on the same grounds ... God would save him.

The man finally drowned and as he crossed the Pearly Gates he gazed into God's eyes with obvious confusion.

"I placed my faith in you and you let me drown," he complained.

"Let you drown?" exclaimed God. "I sent three boats and a helicopter."

So the question I would like to pose is how do you know when it is a task that is from God or a task that fits with what you think God would want? How would you know, and, would you be receptive to the message telling you it was not if it came not from the mouth of God directly to your ear but from some other subtle less conspicuous way, say, from the death of a child – as so called “collateral damage” - resulting from carrying out the task you pray is from God?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Not qualified to run a major comapany...

Carly Fiorina, a McCain adviser and the former Hewlett-Packard CEO was asked about Palin by a host of the McGraw-Hill Show on St. Louis KTRS Radio:

"Do you think she has the experience to run a major company, like Hewlett Packard?"

"No, I don't," Fiorina responded.


Why not Ms. Fiorina? What is she- as well as McCain, Obama, and Biden as you later stated - lacking that you apparently have in spades? Do you think any of the four would be more likely to make a similar bonehead decision like you did when you had HP buy Compaq?

So what skill set is needed to be the leader of a company as big as HP? Apparently her qualifications, hands down better then any of these four, makes her vastly superior to them in terms of vision, leadership, and managerial skills. In fact she was so good at being a CEO at HP that she was dismissed in 2005 "after the merger with Compaq floundered, stock prices plunged 50 percent, and 20,000 people were layed off."

But apparently that is what is considered as being successful since HP handed her a $21.4 million severance package.

What I have found to be true - and y'all can disagree, but the CEO, as well as all the VPs and their inner circle are worth no more to a company than anyone else unless they posses three qualities:

  • Must have a vision
  • Must be able to get people to follow that vision
  • Must be able to bring something to the business that is useful/needed.

Anyone can be a successful CEO if luck and timing are on their side. Very few can be called a legitimate asset to their company. Steve Jobs comes to mind - would Apple be where they are today without him? Is HP where it is today because of Fiorina? I mean really how good was Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling for Enron? They were perceived as successful but were they better than anyone else at what they did. Heck I could have bankrupted Enron too.

So how important is the CEO to a company and would Palin, McCain, Obama, or Biden do any worse then she did at HP? Would they be worse than any of the knucklehead CEOs at Fannie and Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, or Merrill Lynch who though it was prudent and wise to bet the farm on sub-prime home loans?

What an Arrogant woman Fiorina is, but then that seems to be par for the course for these captains of industry in which we depend for our jobs, support with our purchases, and rely on with our investments.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Book Banning

Apparently Mayor Palin in 96 asked the city librian if she would be all right with censoring library books, should she be asked to. Librarian Mary Ellen Emmons told Mayor Palin she would definitely not be all right with it.

A few months later the Librarian was fired.

According to Palin she was not fired over the censorship but because Ms Emmons did not fully support her.

Public support (woot for us!) for the Librarian was so great that Palin relented.

What makes Palin a wolf in sheep's clothing is her lying to the press about what really took place. Her take was that this transaction was simply a policy discussion with a department head about "understanding and following administrative agendas" and that the firing letter was "just a test of loyalty."

Sound like a familiar tone (think Bush's Justice Department and the EPA)? What you are allowed to do as a public servant is only what our agenda allows comrade!

Let me be clear on this. McCain is not the problem. I honestly feel that he would put country first. But, as her as the VP, his death gives the religious right and neo-cons everything they need to further their agenda.

It's not about higher taxes, victory or retreat, or midnight basketball. It is about a group wanting the United States to be a theocracy - in the way they see God's wants and needs being implemented and the other no holds access to do what ever they want.


Consilient: the concurrence of multiple inductions drawn from different data sets.

Induction: the process of deriving general principles from particular facts or instances.

Concurrence: agreement.

OK reader (assuming that someone is reading this). you must be thinking "wow this guy must be pretty smart to use these big words in such a seemingly meaningful and profound way. Truth is, and it is always about truth is it not, that this blog's name came from a book I am reading "The Ghost Map" by Steven Johnson. I wanted to call it "boiling frogs" but that was taken, so, I settled on this name.

I am in Minneapolis this week at a CHMM conference. I just paid $9.95 to use the internet which is free in hotels half the price of this one. Go figure. I did not pay $19.95 for breakfast opting to walk downtown to find a coffee shop. It is Sunday - so sitting outside in high 60's with my "robust" coffee and the big ol' paper seemed a fun thing to occupy some time. You got to love big cities with their unique mixture of people like me and people who have nothing better to do than hang out downtown. Right across the street two of them got in a fight - lots of "F" bombs and bravado - then it started to look like it was getting ugly. Let me tell you that by the time the police got there one could have murdered half the block.

So while reading the Minneapolis Star Tribune I come across a story called " The Evangelicals' New Crusader" about Sarah Palin, McCain's choice for his VP.

Yikes! Scary stuff.

So it got me to thinking about how good things, like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, are slowly taken away from us. Slowly enough so that we don't notice it, slowly enough so that we don't feel uncomfortable while it take place, slowly enough that when we finally understand what is going on we are too far into it to get out. Just like the adage about boiling frogs.

It is not about Sarah Palin, Evangelicals, Republicans, Conservatives, or the Right. It is all about what this religious ideology can lead them to do, has the propensity to do, and has shown itself more than willing to do, once it achieves power.

If we, as a Nation, "hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..." then why would we ever willingly give anyone the power to take them away? We do it not so much through apathy but by not paying attention to the message they convey through their words and deeds.

We need to pay attention to the facts......

"The consilience of inductions takes place when one class of facts coincides with an induction obtained from another different class." Cambridge Philosopher William Whewell circa 1840s.