Friday, November 24, 2006

Waxing Rhapsodic

A funny thing happened to me as I got older - instead of narrowing my music interests to when I was a teen like many do, I've found my interests broadening. Shockingly, even a little country music has wandered into my library. The outlaw branch to be specific, what they have on the radio isn't real country to me. I was always partial to Johnny Cash's early music and from there I've found some Waylon Jennings that I like. My music library (in the form of CD's and digital) has become very eclectic, with many genres represented: bebop, swing, old-time Norwegian, pop, rock, post-grunge, classic rock, new wave, experimental, classical, orchestral soundtracks, motown, funk, Sinatra, Dino, game soundtrack, and oddball.

It is growing thanks to finding a better music service than iTunes. Currently, I'm subscribing to Rhapsody from the folks at Real. It isn't without quirks or bugs, but no show stoppers for me like Apple's product. Once I learned to work around the IE7 problems and hack the registry to force subscription tracks to WMA format, I became a happy camper. The latter is a must do for people using subscription tracks on their compatible players, it saves a second downloading from Rhapsody and cuts down on disk space used. Hopefully, it will be a menu option with the next version. The tracks are better quality than iTunes, using a better bitrate and format as AAC loses its superiority over 128 kps even over MP3.

The best part of the subscription service is being able to listen to the entire tune before downloading it. Napster does the same thing and I think Apple is really missing the boat there since some tracks don't get good until a minute in. The option to buy and burn is there too, at 89 cents a track. I've gotten a few so far due to being impecunious and will buy others over the next year or so. The streaming "stations" and playlists are interesting and I'll get around to playing with them more, but with our ISP I can't count on reliable streaming.

At some point I'll get the code up to show what's playing on my PC. In the meantime, I've got thousands of tracks to rate...

Turkey Induced Thinking

Here it is, the day after Thanksgiving and I'm suffering turkey induced thoughts. They tend to be slow and ponderous thanks to the tryptophan - which is why playing Scrabble right after eating yesterday wasn't the brightest move on my part. I console myself with the fact I finished second, a mere 10 points behind. Not bad since it had been 30 years since I last played it. Well, not good since I only got 99 points and got shut out of every triple word play I had set up. Ah well.

It has been a long and hard year, so I had to work at counting my blessings, which all involve people I know. Or more accurately, it is the blessings of knowing them. I was told by someone that there are no good people, everyone is evil. That's haunted me, because I remember when I thought that way in my youth. It is a corrosive form of cynicism that eats at one's very soul and seeing that in someone else after getting away from that trap was sobering. There are a lot of good people out there and since they usually aren't trouble makers, it takes an effort to find them. Too many run in cynical and hip crowds, desperately searching for something to fill the hollow void in their lives. They accumulate material goods, money, fame, and party like they'll die if they stop moving. I have yet to see any good come from that lifestyle, only bitterness and resentment. I am very grateful that I learned not to be so bitter. I'm also grateful for my faith in Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father (you too, Holy Ghost), especially for the path that set me on, for it led me to most of the good people I know.

Look for the positive, there are silver, even platinum linings to many a cloud. It is how you deal with the negatives, with the tests and trials that determines how happy you will be. It certainly makes life easier to cope with.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Mitigated Disaster?

Well that was brutal. The American people voted their emotions and the Iraq war, with a smattering of "culture of corruption/throw the bums out" populism being the cause. This certainly wasn't an election of "all politics are local" nature. Only one candidate I predicted as winning actually won, as the center swung over to vote for the Democrats. We lost the US House, probably the US Senate, the Minnesota House, and the bulk of the governor's races. Even sheriff's races over in Wisconsin saw almost all the Republican candidates defeated. This was a total rejection of the GOP and punishment for not having a swift victory in Iraq.

So why aren't I calling it an unmitigated disaster? Look at how the referendums on marriage went. All seven states passed amendments defining marriage as between a man and a woman. This indicates the growing conservatism of the country as a whole, not a tilt to the left. What we are seeing is a punishment of the GOP from the voters, the equivalent of taking the belt to the child that erred. This debacle means the Republican leadership will have to listen to their base and grassroots, instead of taking them for granted. Fiscal responsibility being a huge issue there.

It was a perfect storm of war fatigue, growing isolationism, the six year itch, and a masterful propaganda campaign by the media against the Right. The growing influence of the Blogosphere was not enough to counter the last and nothing could counter the others. There is going to be a lot of second guessing, but I'm of the opinion nothing could have prevented what just happened. The campaigns were run well for the most part and we simply lost. That's politics!

Oddly enough, this has led me to re-evaluate the leadership who didn't prevent WWII. Neville Chamberlain now appears less the fool than an elected official truly representing the will of his people. We are in a time that has certain analogues to the world situation of the 1930's (maybe even the 1830's domestically) and I now know that the unavoidable is unpreventable as well. We think our governments and officials have the power to do just about anything, but they are as subject to the movements of history as the rest of us. So, Neville, I forgive you for "peace in our time" as you were doing what the British populace wanted.

I still like Winston Churchill better, but he was constantly getting thrown out of office. Heh, usually for speaking truth to power.

Well, I was going to post why Brenda Johnson won, but that turned into a rout and not in our favor. We ran a tight, focused campaign that did everything right and with an exceptional candidate. The other candidates made terrible tactical and strategic decisions, allowing us to control the overall campaign. It just turned out this was never our race to win, the DFL won everywhere in the area except for Steve Swiggum's district. Even the environmentalist independent candidate, Kevin Kelleher, didn't have a prayer in the face of what was happening. I really expected him to do better than he did in certain areas, but the DFL got the angry vote.

The same anger at those in power tilted the local sheriff's race toward the outsider who ran simply as an outsider. My favored candidate had concrete ideas and plans, but is considered part of the establishment so he didn't have a real chance either.

This really was an angry populist election and things usually go bad after one. Our foreign policy will be hamstrung now and I fear whatever chances we had at success in Iraq will be erased. Iran and Islamic extremists will correctly view this election as proof of American weakness, which will entice them to get even bolder. Very dark times are ahead for us and I can safely say most of the American people don't understand just how bad it will be. Weakness is always rewarded with pain and going isolationist means a world of pain will come knocking on our doors.

My consolation is that the Democrats ran a lot of conservative candidates who will be shut out of power by the far left leadership. We'll see some schisms in the next two years and the infighting will be brutal. Hopefully, a purging of the free spenders in the Republican ranks will occur as well. Adversity breeds character and we need some character building in the GOP. Another thing is that the voters may be opting for gridlock, as I don't see a mandate on left wing social issues. For instance, here in Minnesota Governor Pawlenty narrowly won re-election while the House was given to the DFL and their majority increased in the Senate. That means that a Republican president is a likely outcome in 2008.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day Predictions

I meant to post this last night, but forgot to as a result of watching Heroes instead. Much has been made of the idea that the Democrats will sweep to power in this mid-term election, with phrases such as "tidal wave of blue" being bandied about. I've never believed that would happen and have been a lone voice of optimism in some of the circles I run in. This election will not be a great success story for the Democrats as they are truly out of touch with the majority of America. They've spent a great deal of time avoiding the issues, refusing to put forth any kind of serious plans for even their pet causes, such as ending the war in Iraq. That's not going to get the independent swing vote, in my opinion. I am going to stick my neck out and say that both the House and Senate will remain in GOP control -- due to the Republican base being a lot more motivated this year. It is apparent that the base will call due on this favor as well, so it will be very interesting to see what happens.

Locally, I'm very happy with how things are going, with only Mark Kennedy's US Senate bid being in trouble. Governor Pawlenty will win and was always going to win, but Mike Hatch's meltdown with the MSM in Minnesota clinches it beyond a doubt. Gil Gutknecht will beat his very liberal opponent, Tim Waltz, by possibly double digits. Mary Kiffmeyer and Pat Anderson look solid and I'm hoping Jeff Johnson can squeak out the win for Attorney General over Hatch's hand picked and forced upon the DFL candidate Lori Swanson. Our local State Representative, Greg Davids looks to have an easy victory over Ken Tschumper (calling corn farmers who invested in ethanol "Dairy Queens" is a bad, bad move). The State Senate race is much tighter, but everything has gone according to plan for Brenda Johnson's campaign. I fully expect her to win and will go into the details of why after today.

Local voter turnout will be high due to a hotly contested county sheriff's race and county commissioner's seats being fought over. There is a great deal of anger at the local officials and primary turnout was nearly twice as much as usual. It is no lie that the higher a turnout in an election, the more often Republicans win -- so election night results are going to be interesting to watch.

Meanwhile, the Democratic machine apparently is back to their same old tricks in Philadelphia.

And the Diebold voting machines are looking bad in Tennessee, surprise, surprise.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

End of an Era

I just returned from a last minute trip to Indiana with my father. The reason for going was the death of my great uncle Charlie Holladay, his wife Snooky having died four months before. With his death, the last of my grandparents generation on my father's side is gone. It was a good funeral and I really appreciated the VFW Legion honor guard at the grave side. Charlie was a good man who grew up under very rough circumstances and probably had every excuse given to him to turn out bad. Instead, he was the kind of man who rescued wounded pigeons and abandoned animals, taking care of them for as long as they needed. An avid hunter and fisherman, he was a crack shot with the .22 rifle as many a deceased redtail hawk could testify (they killed pigeons so they ended up on his bad side). Never to be parted from his ballcap, he was a stubborn and proud man, but not in any harmful way. He is survived by his daughters Elaine and Lynette, plus his many siblings he helped raise.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

White Boy, err Redneck Blues?

Well, I took another frivolous web test, this time to see if I'm Yankee or Southern. It is also known as the "Redneck Test" across the Net and I got this result:

55% Dixie. Barely in Dixie
Looks like nature won out over nurture, my ancestry being from Indiana and Kentucky, with stops farther South along the way.

Actually, this is a rather clever test based on regional linguistics. The advanced test is fun too, I scored a measly 52% Dixie on that.

Monday, October 16, 2006

White Boy Blues

I expected to be more nerdy, but maybe that NRA membership is having a transformative affect...

This and That

The good news is I'm functional again, but the catch is I'm playing catch up from the two weeks of being really ill. Add a whole lot going on that needs my attention and you have a neglected blog. My life will resume after November 7th, so I'll be working on writing of all kinds after that.

The big news is that I've given up on iTunes, Apple has completely botched version 7. Stuttering and popping playback, greatly increased slowness, and memory hogging turned out to be the tip of the iceberg. Some of my purchased music was corrupted on the disk from playback! Thanks to one very lucky eBay bid snaring a Samsung YP-Z5 1 GB MP3 player and I'm in the process of rating all my music in Windows Media Player 10. Good thing I was prudent enough to burn all my purchased iTunes music to CD's, the pain was ripping them to MP3 using CDex and Lame encoder. I'll be transferring my ratings for all my music for a month at this rate. One plus is that while the Samsung uses the same top rated Sigmatel chip for sound, the implementation is noticeably better. All sorts of background tracks in tunes are now audible with the same Sennheiser headphones, giving a lot more depth.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Health Update & What I'm Watching

For those few souls who wander through this blog, I'm not doing so good healthwise. Having run myself into the ground, I'm not rebounding at all this time and I couldn't have chosen a worse time for it. At least I've avoided bronchitis or pneumonia so far with the intent of being able to breath. Which is helpful in living, I've found. Worst thing about this bout of intensified illness has been the inability to read. This past week was the first time I've been able to even follow a storyline in TV shows or movies, so there has been little to no distractions.

Segue way to what TV shows I watch these days:

1. Stargate: SG1 and Stargate: Atlantis. New episodes start airing in March *sigh* but you can download episodes at iTunes.

Both are fun scifi shows with SG1 winding down as it was just getting going again. SG1 is fighting the Ori, ascended beings from another galaxy who draw power from their worshippers and who are out to dominate our galaxy. So far they have been unstoppable and the quest for the Saangral (Holy Grail) weapon that can kill them has brought the Arthurian mythos into Stargate.

Atlantis has been firing away on all cylinders this season with great character development and fantastic action -- sometimes even in the same episode. Common Ground will go down as one of the greatest Stargate episodes ever, mark my words. The cast has gelled completely and dark times are promised ahead for the heroes.

2. Eureka. Season Finale on Tuesday, hope it gets renewed.

Cross Twin Peaks, Northern Exposure, and the X-Files, then throw in constant satire and silliness and you have Eureka. Great characters, great one liners, and an underlying sweetness make this a fun show to watch. It is about a top secret town where America has gathered all its scientific geniuses to work together. In comes an average guy, a US Marshall with a criminal teenage daughter and he ends up as sheriff to this exceedingly strange town. In the pilot (can be gotten at iTunes), we are introduced to all of the cast except Stark, the quasi-villain of the show. There is true progression to the characters, so first impressions aren't always accurate.

3. Doctor Who. Starting the 2nd season of the new Who on SciFi this coming Friday

This update has been hit or miss, with the hits home runs and the misses being popups to the catcher. The underlying sexual metaphores are highly annoying, with the gay producer being heavy handed a lot of the time. Still, this has been a fun ride and the closest to family entertainment the Brits have put out in some time. Not for little kids due to the afore mentioned metaphores (and sometimes blatant dialogue). Watch for the return of the Cybermen in a new form and a heartbreaking final episode.

4. Battlestar Galactica. Starting season 3 Friday, catch webisodes on

This bleak and adults only scifi show has been an exploration of human behavior under the worst of circumstances. With the shocking ending to season 2, the few remaining humans have settled on an arid but habitable world only to be taken over by the Cylons. The few who stayed in the fleet fled the approaching armada, with both battlestars leading the flight. The webisodes have been grim and are painting the resistance in a harsh light, with the humans sounding and acting more like terrorists than freedom fighters. I think this season is going to be interesting for that reason and for the growing feeling that neither side is particularly virtuous. But a few on each side are and I wonder if the good guys on both sides will unite at some point.

5. Heroes. Just started on Monday nights, can be found at iTunes

Basically a comic book come to life, I was expecting it to be an X-Men lite show aime at kids with little potential. Boy was I surprised, this is one of the darkest things put on TV in some time. Keep kids away from it, the gore is R rated including bones protruding from the skin and a large man cut in half with his entrails visible. The characters are interesting and flawed: a suicidal HS cheerleader who finds out she can heal from any wound, a nurse who thinks he can fly and has an empathic bond with his older brother, a single mother stripper with a murderous split personality she sees in mirrors, an Indian doctor following in his murdered father's footsteps in researching super evolved humans, a heroin addicted artist who paints the future when high, a Japanese office worker/comic book geek with a yen to be individualistic and growing power to stop time and fold space, a cold politician running for office who happens to have a brother who thinks he can fly, and more characters to come in the next episode. Everyone is linked one way or another and the show dared to do a scroll about the heroes being gathered for their first epic battle to save the world. Hiro the office worker and Claire the cheerleader are standout characters already, soon to be fan favorites. Despite the gore, I really liked the show and predict the politician may become one of the most important heroes.

6. Mythbusters. Found on the Discovery Channel

Simply a lot of fun as various urban legends and historic myths are tested with real world experiments to see if they are plausible. Often surprising and always entertaining, I constanty forget to watch new episodes. Good thing they rerun them so much.

7. Smallville. New season on a new network, the CW

I've had to watch this on DVD because of not having the WB on DishTV, but when UPN merged with them to create the CW, jackpot! Season opener had more action than the entire Superman Returns film according to online fans. It felt rushed, should have been stretched another hour, but it was a good ride. Excellent cast and an ongoing mythos that works (unlike the X-Files) make this a fun series. I missed last years season and need to rent it, some major dynamics changed in that 5th season. It looks like this year will have a radical change in that it is setting up Clark to be Superman at long last. Doubt we'll see the costume, but with Oliver Queen aka Green Arrow in Metropolis to gather super humans into a team it may happen yet. Especially since Green Arrow has a costume which breaks the no costumes rule of the series. Looks like this year will be the beginnings of the Justice League of America and gives me hope we'll see Smallville transition to the big screen in a few years. They just better not kill Chloe off.

I find myself watching less and less TV for a variety of reasons, one being most of it is dreck these days. There are more quality shows out there, but I simply don't have time for them. Real world things matter so much more and I'd rather devote time to them. I worry about our escapist culture, too many are fleeing reality and nothing good can come of that. The narcissism of reality shows is scary, with an emphasis on fame and attention that are the worst things we can teach our youth.

Meanwhile, I'm just glad the DishTV box has DVR on it so I can see the shows when I can. Means I don't have to schedule my life around fictional distractions!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

An Evening with Elie Wiesel take 1

My father managed to score a couple of standby tickets to Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel's lecture at Viterbo College in La Crosse and we were fortunate to get in. While we ended up in the Black Box theater in the basement watching it by very poor quality TV feed, it was quite an occasion. It was announced it was the largest turnout in the 35 years of hosting such lectures and the atmosphere was electric with anticipation. It started out with an emotional performance of "The Cry", a Jewish folk song, on the viola. Following that, a wonderful prayer was given by Rabbit Saul Prombaum and the Spirit could be felt powerfully, setting the mood for the night. The lady most involved in getting Mr. Wiesel to speak there introduced him by referencing the first time she saw him speak several years ago. Darryle Clott mentioned that up until then, the biggest moment of her life had been when she'd seen Elvis perform and crashed the police barricade to get to the front of the stage.

Elie was greatly amused by this, he'd never been compared to Elvis before. The afore mentioned music and prayer had deeply touched him, leading him to mention if felt like it was a special night. What followed was a special night, with what was supposed to be a symposium on the Holocaust branching out into something more like a revival meeting. I was surprised by the frank and unabashed spirituality of his talk which touched deeply on his relationship with God and how we should treat one another. The Holocaust was talked about in relation to other subjects and was an ever present backdrop, but the main word that kept being repeated was "moral." The gist of his charming and sincere presentation was that humanity needs to be more moralistic in confronting hate. We must take action and never stand idly by.

All in all it was a wonderful night and I'll go into more detail in a future post, after watching the program again. WKBT Channel 8 will be showing it at 10:35 Saturday night and I plan to record it.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

After being really ill for the past week, I've had time to think on the whole subject of being disabled by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I usually don't like to think about it much, as just dealing with it eats enough precious time as it is. But I've been so sick that I haven't been able to read anything of depth, whether it be scriptures, non-fiction, editorials, or fiction. Even TV shows and movies have been hard to focus on this week. So I've been left to think about things and contemplate things (cue ominous music). Or not so ominous, just a good Animals tune.

One thing that jumped out at me is how relatively healthy people simply can't comprehend the disability I have. I don't "look" sick, I'm not in a wheelchair, I'm not walking with braces, I don't have hair falling out... In other words it isn't apparent to the naked eye. Oh there are times I am pale as a ghost, had my father worried the one night I went out to get some things done this week, but most of the time I look normal. This leads to people thinking I don't try hard enough, or that it is in my head, or I'm just lazy. Oh the irony in the last, as I have a very bad tendency to push with every ounce of energy I've got. Which isn't always the smartest thing to do as it makes me even more ill, but there's that whole being "type A personality" thing I've got going. So I end up being misunderstood, which adds insult to injury on occasion. I can't stand being misunderstood.

Interestingly enough, this line of thinking takes me to the spiritual side of things. So I'm not understood, perhaps thought less of -- does this give me the right to be angry about it? Not really. Jesus Christ taught us that we must forgive others in order to be forgiven ourselves (Matt 6:14-15, Luke 6:37). Not always the easiest thing to do, but a necessary thing to do lest bitterness creep into my soul. I often think, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34) when I run into people who wronged me in the past or who are wronging others. So much cruelty and meanness comes from simple ignorance or unwillingness to walk in another's shoes. Even more comes from the simple sin of not thinking at all, for reason is one of our more Divine gifts and when exercised properly leads to compassion and caring. It also can lead to forgiveness.

I'll finish this post with a quote from Doctrine and Covenants, section 64, verses 10-11:

I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. And ye ought to say in your hearts -- let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds.

Something to contemplate on a sunny Sabbath day.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


While addled by being really ill, first thing I ran into on the net today was this little horror story about what happened Alistair Cooke's remains. There is an astounding problem with medical ethics these days, ranging from organ donations to research fraud. But this takes the cake, it is ghoulish in the true sense of the word. Grave robbing is what I consider it to be. Meanwhile, I discovered the teens who tried to dig up a young woman's corpse for sex won't face any sexual deviancy charges. It turns out there is no law in Wisconsin against necrophilia.

And here I thought the Romans were bad.

Testing BOINC stats

Being ill right now, hence the lack of posting. Trying out something meant for message board signatures to see if it will work here at all. I've found a decent distributed computing app called BOINC and have my dual core AMD PC crunching data for a variety of projects...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11: The Aftermath

We now know that El Qaeda believes they were the ones who brought the Soviet Union down. This is predicated on the idea that the war in Afghanistan bankrupted the USSR. So Reagan's policies had no effect? Amazingly dumb thinking on their part. We also know that Osama thought taking down the WTC would devastate the US economy. So much so it would collapse completely. The latest dispatch from El Qaeda talks about how the war in Iraq is bringing our economy to ruination. Once again, amazingly dumb. It also had a call for all Americans to convert to Islam, which makes every one of us fair game if we don't. This shows that they think they have the way to beat us and they are in it for the long term. It is a step towards the global caliphate, when the whole world is forced to convert to Islam.

Yet so many people in America (and the rest of the West) simply don't get it. They think that we are the bad guys, that we are evil and have persecuted the downtrodden Arabs at the Jews behest. Aside from the lunatic fringe conspiracy theories about Jews, there is a hatred of Christians who actually profess their faith while being in public office. I've run into so much hatred and histrionics from leftists that I despair about the Democratic Party ever returning to rationality.

But it isn't just the far left who are wavering, a lot of people in the middle are too. Maybe being overly educated has become a problem. My theory is that we've gotten so civilized, we've forgotten the majority of the world is still barbaric and riven by tribal and regional violence. The presumption is that they think like we do, which they very obviously don't. What seems reasonable to us is insane or corrupt to them; what we consider crazy and violent is considered normal in their circles. Amongst the greatest of mistakes humans make is to think that others think in the same manner they do. You'd think married couples would have figured out this isn't true, given the different ways the sexes think! But it applies to different cultures as well.

It is time to start thinking about the way radical Islamists think and start communicating to them in their own language. Unfortunately, that language is one punctuated by bullets, comma'd by threats, and uses bombs for exclamation marks. Which means we are going to have to become a more hardened people if we are to survive. We'll never love death the way radical Muslims do, so I don't see us becoming blood thirsty by nature. But we must tolerate more civilian casualties on the other side and more military casualties on our side. Otherwise, we'll see a lot more civilian deaths on our side.

The wheels of history are in full motion right now, so I think a lot of very bad things are unstoppable now simply because we have been terribly short sighted in the West. The enemy thinks in the long term and has been patiently maneuvering for decades. That's something we need to learn, how to operate and plan for the long term. That will require a massive change to our culture and those things don't happen overnight. Or, when a massive catastrophe happens. I'd prefer it not to be the latter, so we must remain steadfast and vigilant.

9/11 continued

We managed to tear ourselves away from the TV set as the WTC towers burned and headed to the small clinic in Spring Grove to check in with the family doctor before heading to Gunderson Clinic in La Crosse. When we arrived there, the latest news was that the Pentagon had just been hit by another plane and several others had been hijacked. The Capitol was being evacuated and so was the White House. I turned to my dad and said, "It's war." He agreed and the fear in the rest of the waiting room was tangible. At that point, I felt complete calm as I usually do during times of crisis. Dad and I discussed the idea that we were experiencing the feelings people had when the attack on Pearl Harbor happened.

At Gunderson, it was more of the same, except a flight was reported down in the woods of Pennsylvania. After the tests, we headed home instead of shopping. We got home in time to see the towers collapse, adding new horror to the day. The shock of that happening could be heard in the voices of the reporters and anchors as they realized there wouldn't be anymore rescues. That's when I began to get angry, Bin Laden had finally succeeded, a man we could have killed many times before when the Clinton administration was playing games.

But there was something bugging me already and I discussed it with my parents. It was that I was sure the American public would forget this day due to the complete softness of the Western mind. They'd go back to life as usual once the MTV sized attention span wandered and the political left sued for peace. Even then, it was apparent how contemptibly weak we are as a culture and how the enemy is fully aware of and is using it. We have freedom but not the will to protect it once faced with a long, drawn out war.

Today, we are faced with the Democratic Party doing just what I'd feared, wanting to pull back on everything and talking. Talking hasn't worked with militant Muslims, it has been an abject failure unless backed up by force. Culturally speaking, force is what is admired and respected in Islam, it is an integral part of spreading the religion and can't be separated from it. The war in Iraq was a noble attempt to introduce the virus of western freedoms and culture, but it was done on the cheap. Why? Fear of public opinion and the Democratic Party taking advantage of discontent.

So what does that mean in the overall scheme of things? It means we will not be firm in resolve until we are hit again. Inevitably, we will get hit again because they will not stop attacking until we convert to Islam, or they are utterly broken. To utterly break them will require killing millions at a minimum, or having western ideals corrupt them. Disengagement will only encourage them that they are winning.

Someone Who Gets It

I'm not a fan of Frank Miller's comic book work, I find it overly sexed, overly violent, and overly stylized. Some of his early work was good, but he became a superstar in that industry and I think that leads to a lack of discipline and an increase in excess in artists. That said, he wrote and recorded an essay for NPR that is quite good. I particularly liked this part:

Patriotism, I now believe, isn't some sentimental, old conceit. It's self-preservation. I believe patriotism is central to a nation's survival. Ben Franklin said it: If we don't all hang together, we all hang separately. Just like you have to fight to protect your friends and family, and you count on them to watch your own back.

People don't realize it, but we are in a fight for survival and the odds don't look to good for us. Islam is much closer to world domination than it appears, for it only takes a certain percentage of people in a nation to rule it. They just have to be ruthless, focused, and extremely violent. The rest will follow out of fear, history shows that.


Like most bloggers on this fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I'm writing about that fateful day. Unlike many Americans, I refuse to ignore the photos, the footage, and the bad memories of the attacks. Those who willfully try to bury it so that they can "heal" are in terrible error, the kind of error that will guarantee defeat in what is really a massive cultural war. I've heard it said that Islamic fundamentalists are a small minority of Muslims, with a conservative estimate of ten percent (likely more). So, what is ten percent of 1.2 billion? That's over one hundred million. This is a war they started long ago and one that will drag on for decades if it continues to stay a low level war. So we must look at those pictures of still living people jumping and falling from the WTC towers, we must look at the wounded and maimed at the embassy bombings, and we must remember if we are to prevail!

Five years ago, my family was preparing to take my mother to the clinic to try to get to the root of her breathing problems. At the time, I couldn't drive and neither could she, so it was up to my dad to be the sole provider of transportation. So there was milling about, as trips to La Crosse were all day affairs with shopping wedged into the schedule. We turned on the DirecTV receiver and tuned into the CBS affiliate we got from satellite. At that time it was the one in New York City and they were showing live footage of the World Trade Center. Apparently a small plane had flown into one of the towers and it was being called an accident. I said it was probably a terrorist attack, as there had been talk of them using private planes loaded with explosives for some time. For some years I'd been keeping track of Islamic terrorists and the failed Millennium plot, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and the assassination of the Northern Alliance warlord Massoud a few days earlier had my antenna up. Right away, Osama Bin Laden came to mind with his obsession at destroying the towers being well known.

As we were watching the live footage with the airheaded anchors babbling on, I saw a jet streak into the other tower. I said "That was another plane." Then I began ranting at the idiots on air to shut up and roll back the tape, while telling my parents another plane had hit the WTC. I knew it was Bin Laden and that the first plane hadn't been a small one like they'd said. We watched a little longer and I knew we were at war, one that probably would last the rest of my life.

Friday, September 08, 2006

A Victory for the Little Guy

Great news for those of us concerned about government spending and earmark abuses, Bill S2590 aka the Coburn-Obama bill passed the Senate unanimously. A big thank you to the bloggers of all political persuasions who worked on finding the identities of the two senators who placed holds on it. Now we will have some accountability on spending that is long overdue!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Romney Acting Presidential

It is always fun to predict who will be the front runners for a presidential election and lately Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts is emerging from the pack. Hugh Hewitt noticed that Mitt had issued a wonderful press release denying state protection to former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami when he lectures on the eve of 9/11 at Harvard. If only President Bush had the intestinal fortitude to buck the State Department and bar this fundamentalist from our country! Unfortunately, the State Department still believes Khatami is a moderate and probably think they are wooing the moderates in Iran. The same people who are being forced out of all positions of power in government and education right now. But that's State, they are controlled by bureaucrats who believe that talking can solve every problem.

Enough with that, I want to talk about Gov. Romney. Despite his accomplishments in turning around the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and taking a firm stand for conservative positions on gay marriage and health care reform, I admit I was suspicious of him. The reason why may surprise some -- it is because he is a Latter-day Saint. Now why would I be so wary of someone who is of the same faith I hold? It took me awhile to figure that out myself and no, it isn't just because Harry Reid is LDS too.

It is because I hold Mormons to a higher standard than I do other people. Our faith is more rigorous than most and more demanding of the individual due to our emphasis on accountability. As a result, I expect more honesty and compassion out of my fellow Church members, especially the active ones. More is expected of us due to our Church having a lay ministry and I'd like to think that we improve as people due to that service. Then there is an added layer of the history of persecution of Latter-day Saints, leading to a feeling that we will never be fully accepted by others, yet yearning for that very acceptance.

I wonder if Roman Catholics had the same feelings about John F. Kennedy when it first became apparent he would be seeking the nomination?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Heck of a Way to Start a Labor Day

The world is a tiny bit darker today, as I just read that Steve Irwin was killed by a giant stingray while filming off the Great Barrier Reef. World famous as "The Crocodile Hunter", he was always a lot of fun to watch when pursuing dangerous wild animals. While some cringed at his enthusiastic boyishness, it was clear that he really loved animals. After so many close calls, it is a shock that he died while filming a tame segment for a children's show. I suspect he never even saw the buried stingray and the hit from its barb was an astronomically high rarity. My sympathies and prayers are with his family.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Odd & Ends

Trying to type with a demanding cat is what leads to today's short post. Sid is recovering from an abscessed wound with the side effect of being really demanding now that it is healing. His life has been unhappy ever since we took in another cat from a young couple who moved out West. They hate each other and have tried to kill each other when my dad and I were in Indiana for a funeral. Sid used to be top cat as far as terrorizing our property, but age has caught up to him and he's slowing down. Thing is, he doesn't think he has and has had his butt handed to him repeatedly over the past year or so. Anyway, it's good to see him happy again.

Great post at Captain's Quarters that illustrates why McCain-Feingold has turned out to be the perfect way to protect incumbents from challengers. McCain is a total piece of opportunistic work and I'm sorry so many haven't yet seen through his facade.

Found a new blog, Adamant, that has some fascinating posts of a scientific bent. I particularly liked this post on black coal vs. natural gas emissions. The other posts are well worth reading too.

Here is a good post on religion and the current conflict going on worldwide.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Tax Reform and the Fairtax

Last night, my dad and I rolled into the driveway at a quarter of midnight after a round trip of over 250 miles. Now why would anyone be out on a Monday night on that kind of trip?

The answer is we were giving a presentation to a Farm Bureau board in a distant county on the Fairtax. Or I should say, I was assisting my father as he gave the presentation. Yes, it is more volunteer work that I'm writing about. There are important causes that need volunteers and they are the ones people don't think about first. These are civic minded causes, not charities, and are very important because they are about things that affect most of us, not just some of us. In this case, it is one of the two things you can't escape in life and it isn't death. It's the other one, taxes.

We are being taxed to death in this country, mainly because of non-compliance that adds up to the hundreds of billions of dollars and the federal taxes inflicted in every step of production of products. That's one of the big reasons all our factories are being moved overseas, other countries give massive tax breaks as well as have cheaper labor. Most of the taxes we pay are hidden from us, as companies pass their tax burdens to us in the retail price of products but even with that it is still too expensive to manufacture in the USA. Well, unless you are the Japanese, who have it even worse and are building more and more automotive plants in the Midwest. Anyway, we need to do something to simplify taxes and take the burdens off of the middle class and poor, but most of all make taxation completely transparent to the American people.

The best solution to this and the only one that really guarantees fairness is the national sales tax proposal called the Fairtax. Please check out and especially their FAQ here. It will take some studying to understand it totally, but once you do you will most likely approve of it. Right now, 50% of the lobbyists in Washington, D.C. are there lobbying for tax exemptions and legislation to for companies or organizations who want tax breaks. This is how our Senators and Congressmen dispense favors and is a source of great power in the Legislative branch. Pork in earmarks and riders attached to bills often includes specially worded exemptions for specific corporations without actually naming the company. We get the Fairtax in and the 16th Amendment repealed and we'll see the biggest transfer of power from the federal government back to the people since the Bill of Rights was passed.

Whither Moderate Islam?

For years, we've been hearing from the media about all the moderate Muslims who only want peace, but are made to look bad by the extremists. As I've delved more into Islam in an effort to understand the current world situation, it became apparent that the more devout the Muslim, the more true to the Koran and the Hadiths, the more likely to be intolerant and violent toward non-Muslims that Muslim will be. So reading this article at The Washinton Post, I felt sorrow because of the fact that American Muslims are not assimilating, but are actually separating themselves from the rest of America. The oft reviled "melting pot" is what made the USA such a strong and vibrant free society, with a marketplace of ideas and beliefs bouncing off of each other in creative fermentation. We can see in Africa and the Middle East how tribalism keeps violence alive in a perpetual cycle with no end in sight. Over in Europe, we have unassimilated Muslims poised to be the majority around the middle of the century, if not earlier. Forced conversion and conquest are integral parts of the religion since its founding, with dreams of the worldwide caliphate still strong. Lately the terrorist threats being stopped have been from "home grown" Muslims in the USA, UK, and Germany, not from Saudi Arabia or Egypt like the hijackers of 9/11. So reading about the Muslims here becoming more like the Muslims in Europe is alarming to say the least.

Most people don't want to face it, but we are in an epic clash of cultures that most likely won't be resolved peacefully unless Islam itself changes radically. Given that change is forbidden by Islam (there are those who bend the rules, but the reality is everything is supposed to be set in stone), I don't see it happening anytime soon. We are seeing the Muslim world grow more fundamentalist thanks to the petrodollars of Saudi Arabia funding madrassas around the globe. Malaysia and Indonesia are getting more intolerant of other religions with the classic blame the Jews meme being repeated over and over. In Thailand, Muslims are killing schoolgirls walking to school and leaving their heads at the roadside, all in the name of Allah.

As time goes on, we either successfully weaken Islamic fundamentalism with democratic ideals or we face what is really coming. It is something that nobody wants to think about, something that most are doing their best to avoid talking about. And what is it? War on a scale that has never before been seen in the modern era. Something that makes WWI and WW2 look like Sunday picnics. It will be a war of survival for the West and it will have to be won. Otherwise, we will be seeing our women in burkas and praying toward Mecca five times a day. Not pleasant thoughts at all, but something that has been brewing since the 6th century. Me, I'd like to avoid it, which is why I support our efforts in Iraq and wish we could stop Iran developing nuclear weapons.

If the clash does develop the way I think it will, it won't be the end of the world. It will be catastrophic, but the West has been through that kind of thing before with rampaging hordes of Ghengis Khan and the earlier attempts by Islam to conquer Europe. Even earlier, the Persians (we call them Iranians these days) were turned back by the combined city states of Greece. That war was notable for the famous last stand of a badly outnumbered contingent of 300 Spartans and several thousand supporting troops from other areas against at least 100,000 Persians. They did what had to be done to save all of Greece and I hope that we will be brave enough to do the same for Western culture and Judeo-Christian values when the time comes. Great sacrifice will be required and I fear that we have become terribly weak.

If you want to understand what happened with the Spartans, I have to plug a brilliant novel about the battle of Thermoplyae, Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield.

It's a pity Hollywood will never adapt it, mainly because of the carnage involved and a non-Hollywood ending, but it is a great depiction of honor and duty, two things not taught enough these days. Instead we get The 300 adapted from Frank Miller's graphic novel, complete with gratuitous sex and surreal orc like villains. Ah, well.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Musings on Volunteer Work

For some time now, I've been pondering how to get people more involved in helping others out through volunteer work. So far I've come up with nothing that actually works. Guilt, pressure, enthusiasm, begging -- none of them work. A wise man made a comment that caught my attention recently, "Two percent of the people do ninety percent of the work." That's a disturbing thing to think about, especially since it is very true from what I've seen. No wonder so many burn out after doing everything short of bleeding for a cause.

The problem is aggravated by the fact that the two percent in the area I live in are getting too old to do as much as they used to. There are very few, if any, younger people volunteering these days. By younger, I mean the under 60 crowd, not teenagers. The excuses I hear from that age group is that they don't have time, both spouses have to work just to make a living, etc. Some of these same people have no trouble finding time to golf, go to concerts, take multiple vacations a year, or spend time on other recreational activities. Most volunteer work wouldn't take that much time up a week, especially if we had enough volunteers.

I blame the rampant materialism of our time, this keeping up with the Jones is simply out of control. There is also a lot of money spent on expensive toys we really don't need, but hey they kill a lot of time, don't they? Selfishness is a way of life now, which is a worrisome sign of the times. How to overcome that, I wonder?

Looking back at past generations, I see the big break from charitable work beginning with one generation -- the Baby Boomers. It is no coincidence that they were spoiled rotten by parents who went without during the Great Depression, for it is the spoiled who tend to be the least altruistic. They were the first generation to be marketed heavily to from cradle onward, besieged by TV commercials at their most impressionable age but without the jaded cynicism of later generations to offset the influence. They are still the most voracious consumer generation known and soon will be hitting retirement age. But I don't see them helping others out then, the obsession with staying young and affluent runs too strong there.

Of course, there is a possibility they won't retire permanently, as Social Security will not be able to handle entitlements for the entire generation. Those at the end of the Boom will be in the same boat with all of us who came after, a boat with no Social Security lifesavers.

Perhaps I'm sounding too pessimistic about it all, but I suspect there will be some serious hardship for the USA in the not too distant future and that will change the equation. It is hardship that brings forth the best in us humans, not times of prosperity. As things such as regular long distance travel becomes expensive again, we'll see a rebirth of the concept of community. Often, very good things come out of very bad things and I think the pendulum will swing that way.

Of course, I may be too optimistic about that! But I've been a pessimist and I can say being an optimistic realist is a lot more fun.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Demoted to the Minor Leagues

Poor Pluto has never gotten any respect and now has lost its major league status as a planet. It was bad enough that Disney named a none too bright dog after the planet, now it is considered a "small solar system body." Plucky little Pluto used to be our ambassador planet to the outside galaxy, now it is just a "body." Pity poor Pluto.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Perfect Cat Torture Device

For those sadistic souls who like to torture cats, I have found a marvelous and cruel device to use on them. It is called a "weather alert radio" and can be found in catalogs or your nearest Radio Shack. Guaranteed to go off at a minimum of once a week, it randomly screeches loudly depending on the weather. The irritating sound is calculated to flay a cat's soul at a range of 50 feet and if the radio is placed in a high spot, nearly impossible for a feline to turn off. Depending on your house, it may even torment those cats outside. Yes, it is also the perfect thing to Confuse a Cat without the expense of hiring professionals.

Note: No cats were harmed in the writing of this post, including the kitten in my lap.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Kiss of Death...

... Or how every show I like gets cancelled. The latest is Stargate: SG-1 which is currently in its 10th season. What a special present for the fans, a cancellation announcement after the 200th episode aired last Friday. I was a late comer to the series as it was on Showtime and syndication originally, with my only chance to see it being around 11 PM on Saturdays (if that). Once it came to the floundering SciFi channel, it became a much bigger series and I was able to catch up with most of the previous seasons. One of the charms of SG-1 was its sense of humor and willingness to poke fun at itself, which is a nice change from the relentlessly grim scifi and fantasy of the current era. It always struck a nice balance between character development and action, all on a tight budget and under the perpetual threat of cancellation. Some fans didn't like the changes to the cast that happened last year, but I really liked Cam, Vala, and Landry coming in and shaking things up.

Oh well, at least its spinoff, Stargate: Atlantis is getting a 4th season. That series has been banging away on all cylinders this season after having an inconsistent 2nd season. Hopefully, there will be a future for SG-1 as a movie or on another network.

Now for a tally of series that I liked that died early or premature deaths:

Space: Above and Beyond
The Tick
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr
Sledge Hammer
The Night Stalker (original)
Mystery Science Theater 3000
Ned and Stacy
The Flash
Buffalo Bill
Slap Maxwell


I still marvel at how 6000 Nielson families control what we get to see on TV, they are simply too small a sample given the many millions of TV viewers out there.

What a Week!

I'm happy to say Dad and I survived the county fair. At least I had more than one person to spell me at the Republican booth, Dad had only one volunteer on Thursday to give him an extended break. Of the many things I learned over the week, the most important is that you really need at least two people in the booth in order to have fun. All the mean spirited attacks happened on Thursday and things were mellow for the rest of the fair. Even managed to have some good political discussions with some of the fair goers during the slower times, I only got one chapter read of the book I took. All in all, it was a good fair for our local Republicans and Dad managed to get 19 signatures on the Fairtax petition at his booth. Not bad for a first time at the fair and I think he'll do better as more people find out what the Fairtax is.

The fair itself was heavily trafficked despite the rain on Thursday and Friday. In fact, those were the two busiest days we had. Maybe the downpours drove people into the barns and buildings, because the big day of the fair on Saturday was a disappointment at the booths. I expected gangbusters business from what everyone had told me, but it was deathly slow at times. By the time evening came, the booth exhibitors and some of the attendees were getting loopy and the silly things began to happen. Sunday was surprisingly busy, that was the day that was supposed to be dead.

One of the great things about a county fair is getting to interact with a wide variety of people. Add to that the opportunity to talk to the old hands in politics and you have a very educational experience. Great fun having conversations with other volunteers kept things moving along, for I put some long hours in. That included two days straight of 12 hours being at the fair. Needless to say, Dad and I are dragging our sorry butts around.

All in all, it was fun if grueling.

A Dangerous Season

Here it is, August 22, 2006. So far, the Iranians haven't blown anything up other than Kurdish villages during their "wargames". That doesn't mean Israel or the West is off the hook, though. From now until September 11th, the potential for terrorist activities and further war in Lebanon will increase. Iran is the key to this and they are doing nothing BUT saber rattling. Here's a link to excerpts from MEMRI that translate the latest from Iranian leaders in their own country's media. What's amusing is they claim that Article 11 of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty allows countries to secretly build weapons if they fear they are threatened. Powerline shows that to be a lie by quoting Article 11, which would be hilarious if it wasn't such a serious situation. The "multi-faceted" offer Iran gave the UN today won't do a thing to stop their progress in building the bomb, not when Ahmadinejad is making statements like this:
If you want to have good relations with the Iranian people in the future, you should acknowledge the right and the might of the Iranian people, and you should bow and surrender to the might of the Iranian people. If you do not accept this, the Iranian people will force you to bow and surrender.
At least Jerusalem wasn't nuked today and there wasn't a test detonation in the hinterlands of Iran. But it is clear they plan to make the world do what they want.

Update: Iran did attack another country's property. It wasn't the Israelis, but the Romanians! This is interesting if strange, it looks like Iran is starting to flex their military muscles with an aim at controlling the oil in the Persian Gulf.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Why We Fight in Iraq

After being exposed to a great deal of anger driven rants about the war in Iraq over the past few days, it was nice to run into a post at Captain's Quarters that contains this little nugget:

"Free societies cannot possibly apply the kinds of security procedures that would make mass transit completely safe, not if they want to remain free societies. We can adopt better technology and hopefully screen airline passengers more effectively, but in truth that approach alone always puts us behind the terrorist curve. They only have to be successful once; we have to be successful every single time, and still protect the civil liberties of the travelers in our nations. The only way to effectively fight terrorism is to fight it somewhere else."

This is why we must take the fight elsewhere, in my opinion, we can't fight here and win without sacrificing our personal freedoms in a dangerous way. Once gone, freedoms are hard to get back. Stop taking the fight to the Islamic terrorists in the Middle East and you will soon see the fight back on our shores. My greatest fear after 9/11 wasn't another attack, it was that the American public would suffer from a short attention span and forget that day as the years went by. This is a generational war, something not seen in modern warfare. Even WWI and WWII were short wars compared to some in the past, so this is new territory for this age. It will be long, agonizing, and will result in one of three outcomes: Islam dominates all of humanity, the fundamentalists are crushed, or democracy and Western ways spread virally through the autocratic Islamic states. Right now we are attempting a noble experiment in trying to bring about the last option. The other two will be horrific and there is a good chance of that happening as isolationism is impossible today, mainly because of modern technology shrinking the planet. I don't know about you, but I'd rather try to bring freedom to those oppressed and misguided people in the Middle East than nuke them.

The rest of Ed Morrisey's post is well worth reading.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

August 22 and Iran

First, please go here

I think Lewis does a good job of summarizing why August 22, 2006 may be a major day in world history. The current leadership in Iran either belong to or are influenced by a minor Shia sect that believes that through promoting chaos, the coming of the Mahdi (the 12th Prophet or Hidden Imam) will be provoked. Why do they consider that a good thing? Well, when the Mahdi emerges from his well he is said to inhabit (by that sect), Jesus will be his assistant who will lead him to the center of Tehran. From there, a final reckoning will begin and Islam will take over the world, with the unbelievers converted or slain. This is the Shia Muslim equivalent of Armageddon.

Being a devout Latter-day Saint, it always baffles me when I see truly religious people thinking they can manipulate God into doing things. While prayer is a form of direct communications, it is a supplication without a guarantee of success. It is truly humble and a plea for help. This belief that He can be coerced or forced into doing something is incredibly arrogant and misguided.

There has been messianic overtones to Ahmadinejad's statements since he first became mayor of Tehran and at times he acts as if he is a prophet himself. This is blasphemy in Islam and why the mullahs there haven't cracked down upon him is a mystery. They have supreme power in Iran, yet I almost get the impression they are afraid of him. Or more ominously, they actually believe in him. Either way, it is clear they have an unstable, dictatorial peacock in charge -- one who may have the A-bomb in his possession soon.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Why Is Iran Destroying Satellite Dishes?

It seems the news out of Iran is ever alarming, now they are destroying privately owned satellite dishes. The official reason is to prevent Western culture from corrupting the people, but the dishes have been around for years. The timing looks suspicious, what with the recent increase in censorship of the news available in Iran on nuclear issues.


As I've grown older and gotten personally involved in politics, I've noticed a trend that has been gaining steam of late. That trend is the use of the word "hate", usually in relation to those who oppose your politics. Occasionally, I see it on the Republican and conservative side, but most often it comes from the mouths of those on the left, especially Democrats. It usually comes out in the form, "I hate Bush, he's destroying our country." Lately, I've seen it spread to other Republicans, especially relating to incumbents in Minnesota. What used to be mainly confined to Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) has been applied to the governor and others without any hesitation or real thought. I fail to see any good coming out of this behavior as it polarizes things even further.

But perhaps polarization is what the DNC wants after losing three elections in a row. When Howard Dean said, "I hate Republicans and everything they stand for," it became a defining moment for the direction of the Democratic Party. Instead of reaching out to the middle ground, they didn't just drift toward the far left, they ran screaming to it. Hmm, maybe that's why they wanted Dean to be chairman. The recent ouster of Joe Lieberman in Connecticut's Democratic primary is further evidence of the radicalization going on. Because of his pro-Iraq war, pro-security stance, they railroaded him out of the party despite having a liberal voting record that equals Ted Kennedy! That is plain stupid, as Joe will easily win re-election as an independent. But that is only the beginning, take a gander at Michael Moore's threat to Hillary Clinton here.

This reckless rhetoric is a danger to those moderate Democrats who are still in with the other Donkeys. Right now, it looks like they are getting kicked around by the party base which has abandoned all common sense, not to mention the common folk that make up the majority of our country. So what does all this have to do with the word "hate"?

Hatred is a base, primal emotion that leads to rash decisions (or more accurately, reactions) when confronted with any kind of opposition. What I've been seeing is people reacting emotionally more than carefully contemplating issues. So they say they hate a candidate, usually on one issue and only based on a surface understanding of what is going on. The kicker is that they don't want to hear the facts and don't want to know the context because they enjoy the anger. Anger can be highly addictive and I have known a people who admitted to enjoying being angry.

Many people have a "fight or flight" reaction to anger and that is why the word "hate" is especially dangerous. People will react fearfully in some cases, being cowed and bullied, while others will greet hatred with hatred. Both are dangerous outcomes, with the latter the worst, as it can spiral into a tit-for-tat escalation. I'm getting the uncomfortable feeling we have entered an era much like that of the 1830's, when growing divisions started to ferment into the cauldron that became the Civil War a mere thirty years later.

It takes a great deal of self discipline and true sense of caring about others not to reciprocate hate. Both these attributes are in decline in our society, as the basic family structure has eroded since the 1960's. We learn diplomacy in families, we learn to love those we don't necessarily like, and we learn our morals from our parents. With a solid family foundation missing so often these days, people go out into our communities with an attitude of "me first" and an inability to see the needs of the greater good. Of course this is a generalization, but looking at how people treat each other now compared to when I was growing up, there has been a stark change.

Hate is getting in the way of open dialogue and I wish people would think before they bandied that word around. Nothing constructive can come of it. We need at least a thin veneer of civility in order to work together and it isn't that hard to do, is it? United we stand, divided we fall... And we have too many threats in the world coming at us now and in the future. Me, I'm refusing to hate any politician as my small contribution to America.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Why Are Zombies Popular?

It is the day to set up the county fair booths, so what am I thinking about after getting up this morning? Is it politics or the logistics of the materials needed for the booth? No, my brain is stuck on the inexplicable popularity of the walking undead, AKA zombies. No, not the drug induced Haitian slaves or the poor souls who followed the Grateful Dead around. I'm talking about cannibalistic, brain chomping, slow shuffling, spreading like lice movie zombies.

It all seems to have started with George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, a low budget B &W movie that tossed in at least a little serious social commentary on race, but mainly was about grossing people out. Ever since then, low budget horror movies about zombies have been churned out with great regularity. True, some of them are direct to video or the SciFi Channel, but they appear to be perennial favorites of horror fans. It has spread to comic books, with an entire miniseries called Marvel Zombies being popular, with heroes like Captain America, Wolverine, and the Fantastic Four becoming villains eating the population.

But why? I can understand the popularity of vampires, because that essentially has been about sex ever since Bram Stoker wrote Dracula and we all know that sex and sensuality sells. Women in particular are drawn to trashy vampire novels and there are even people who live a vampiric lifestyle. Werewolves are popular with the guys and I suspect that has to do with the whole hunting reversal theme in those movies. But what is the appeal of shambling masses of rotting flesh wandering around eating people?

I don't get it. My reaction if this happened in reality would be something like this, "Oh, look. A group of zombies is staggering down the sidewalk. I'd better walk a little faster, maybe cross the street. I bet they'll make good target practice after lunch. I wonder if I left the stove on."

The only reason I can figure for zombies being scary is we have become such a lazy society that a slow moving and unintelligent predator is a threat. Is this horror born of loafing around too much combined with our ever shortening attention spans? "DUDE! I'd have to get off this couch and walk to escape this flesh eating monster. That is so unfair! Oh look, Britney's taking her clothes off in her new video... *CHOMP!*"

Forget nukes, all our enemies need is to invent zombies like in the movies.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What You Don't See on Broadcast TV

I just read the full transcript of Mike Wallace's unedited interview with President Ahmadinejad which aired on C-SPAN. It appears much was cut out for the 60 Minutes segment. Thank you Vital Perspective for posting this for everyone to read, as it shows just how arrogant and combative Iran's "elected" leader is. Not to mention how openly vain he is, which reminds me all too much of a certain European leader who rose to power in the 1930's. This is a must read for anyone concerned with the state of world affairs right now, as Iran is most likely to become the next nuclear power and controls Hezbollah in Lebanon.

What is really chilling is the verification that the letter he sent President Bush was a classic call to Islam. This is what a true Muslim is supposed to do before attacking an infidel country, so theologically speaking, Ahmadinejad is now permitted to strike first without guilt. Having already called for the destruction of Israel, it is clear that we are next on the list. A letter much like that one was sent to Germany as well, which I found strange - they aren't a direct threat in any way or form. Unless he thinks the Nazis are still in power and really thought they would come over to his side. In that case, he may be crazy as well as fanatic.

Sadly, I don't see anything to indicate anyone will hit Iran before they get the bomb, Western culture is simply too weak to do what is necessary despite how apparent the danger is. We simply have become too civilized.

The Perils of Loving Books

My greatest challenge at the moment outside of poor health is one all too many bibliophiles suffer from -- too many started books lazing about the house. To properly appreciate a book, one must spend quality time with it, doting on it with constant attention. Alas, modern living is about rushing about, multitasking, and dealing with that most infernal of inventions: the telephone. As a consequence, one starts reading a book and is invariably interrupted if not called away entirely. The result is a misplaced book that finds itself abandoned and oft forgotten when another tome captures the reader's fancy. Spurned and bitter, these tomes become depressed and apathetic, sulking and gathering dust. Ah, such a fickle lover of prose I have become! Loving and leaving far too many books as my attention wanders... This is a habit that must be broken.

But enough with the confessional, I come here to praise a book that I am truly smitten with. Around the beginning of the year, I joined Easton Press' 100 Greatest Books
Ever Written club. These beautifully leather bound editions are well worth their premium and I encourage book lovers to at least try Moby Dick, though I am of the opinion that the book is not for everyone. It is a dark book about the nature of evil and a fascinating insight into Herman Melville's own bitter soul, with an almost experimental style of writing. I suspect that men will enjoy it more than women, for it is a very masculine book.

But I digress! One of the volumes I've received is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories by Washington Irving. Having only been familiar with the kiddified stories of Rip Van Winkle and the title, I wasn't sure what to expect. What I've discovered is that I have a new favorite early American author in Irving. His prose is eloquent with a true love of the flowery language of his era, the book originally published as The Sketch Book by Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. in 1820. As much as I love Mark Twain's works, I've found a kindred spirit in Washington Irving, his gentle satire being mixed with true insight into human nature and behavior. Rip Van Winkle is actually a biting satire on politics and marriage, not a child's tale. The Country Church and The Widow's Son are brilliant vignettes on country living in England with its class structure written with thoughtful warmth. The other stories are well worth reading and I confess I'm only halfway through the book. But I come away with a smile on my face every time I read from it and that is a true rarity, a book that can evoke that kind of sweet sentiment. Highly recommended.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Work in Progress

It looks like this blog will be a work in progress for awhile, as I'm still trying to figure the HTML out in the template. Most likely it is time to find where I put that book on HTML I purchased a couple of years ago. IF the dust bunnies haven't eaten it. I'm fairly sure they ate one of our old encyclopedia volumes from the early 1980's a few years back and aren't to be trusted.

In the beginning...

After threatening to start a blog for years, I now have found myself compelled to just because I wanted to leave a comment on a friend's blog. Odd how such a small requirement leads to further action, I think I hear a butterfly's wings flapping somewhere in the Pacific islands. Eventually, I will get around to properly posting here, but it may be some time as being a political volunteer has mushroomed into far more than I expected this year.

The county fair is nearly here and I have to prepare for it, as nearly everything is falling onto my shoulders. It will be a long week of manning the booth and also assisting my father at his Fairtax booth. Come Wednesday my life as I know it will end (well, at least until the following week) while I hope to stir up some enthusiasm for the election in November.

Alas, I'm running out of time before I must get my Monday workout in on our brand spanking new home gym, a Hoist V2 with the VLP leg press. So far I love the thing and have regained some of my flexibility back after only a week of use. Now to get the strength back!

Note: Written under difficult conditions involving a small white kitten who is having entirely too much fun.