"A good example is the best sermon." - Thomas Fuller


September 25th, 2008

An open letter to Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Senator McCain as well as Oregon Representatives Peter Defazio and David Wu:

Dear sir,

As many American's I'm concerned about President Bush's recent proposal to "bail-out" the economy. While I, a mere software engineer, do not fully understand the economic implications of the decision one way or the other I firmly believe it is reckless to allow the administration to pressure the decision. This isn't a used car lot and the "chance" for the American people to pay $800,000,000,000 won't evaporate if our leadership decides to engage in clear and level headed debate that includes all legitimate solutions.

The average American should not pay for the excesses of Wall Street, we should not be held responsible for our government's unwillingness to legislate regulations that might have prevented our current predicament in the first place. Instead, we should create targetted tax that will allow the stock market to pay off it's own debts. If I understand it this tax would be incredibly small (~25 cents per trade), would pay off the debt in a matter of years, and most importantly, put the responsibility where it belongs, on the banks and share holders. As a stock owner myself I am not concerned that I'll have to, "Pay to play"; it is a small price to pay for stability.

As an American citizen, though, I could not forgive our leaders (that's you, folks) if you decide to accept Bush's proposal which was obviously written to put historical amounts of money and power into the hands of a few while limiting any congressional or legislative oversight. Doesn't this strike you as a bit fishy?

Consider just a few better ways we could spend $800 billion:

These are things a society does if it has its head, heart, and soul, in the right place. Do we? Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes but very little has been done to set things right for their families. Millions are without health care yet they get little but lip service--how many have died due to politics as usual? The American tax payer has already received a huge bill for the "War on Terror", we've already sent our sons and daughters into harm's way, and we are already trillions of dollars in debt (that's nearly $32,000 per person!). With all due respect, we've done our bit for king and country, it's time our country, our leaders, did for us. It's time for you to lead, to roll the hard six, stop playing politics, stop catering to corporations and lobbyists, and start making the right decisions that benefit ALL Americans,

Please find the strength, integrity, and wisdom to lead us.


September 24th, 2008

Random ideas:

September 23rd, 2008

Most people have never heard of the term "short selling". This is a stock market term. It refers to the practice of temporarily borrowing someone else's stocks (usually for a predefined period), waiting for the stocks' worth to go down, then selling the stocks back to the owner for a profit.

Suppose for a moment you were in a really bad financial situation and a friend offered to purchase your car which currently has a Kelly Blue Book worth of $10,000. You agree--after all you need the money right now--as long as you could buy the car back in three months. To be fair you agree to buy the car back at the updated Kelly Blue Book price, which should be around $9,500.

Three months later your friend returns the car. The windows are all broken. The spare tire is missing. The seats have the unmistakable smell of urine. Shocked by the damage to the vehicle you calculate the Blue Book price based on a vehicle in poor condition which comes out to about $3,000 but your friend refuses saying it's worth $9,500.

Would you pay?

In the real world no one would accept this deal, however in the stock market trades like this have been standard for nearly a hundred years (if not more). If you've kept up with the news lately you've heard that the regulatory branch of the U.S. government has recently enforced a temporary suspension of short selling as it's one of the root causes behind the current economic difficulties. What's important here is that the government has "temporarily" supsended a practice which, if extended to normal daily life, would be viewed as highly suspicious if not downright unethical. Once investor confidence is back up the government will reinstate this practice.

Doesn't that concern you?

While listening to Talk of the Nation on NPR today I heard the famous Evangelist Jim Wallis speak on the current economic situation. Having first learned of him on Speaking of Faith and later seeing him in person here in Portland I've come to respect him so I listened intently to his view. He said (and these are my words) that the current problems are a result of a lack of values from within our economic system, that our economy is focused on "me" instead of "us". McCain, while having flip-flopped on our country's economic health, has most recently suggested a similar sentiment. I couldn't agree more.

Should our current economic situation surprise us?

We live in a culture that has become exceedingly self-centered. The American ideal of the individual has reached epidemic proportions. Think about your average American youth. Statistically speaking, they grow up in a home where they do not have to do without, even when their family is in deep financial debt. They "need" that new pair of pants and they get it. They "need" that new cell phone and they get it. Whatever the feel they need they get, regardless of whether or not their parents can afford it. They do not learn to live without, they do not learn to budget, they do not learn to share, they only learn to take whatever actions most immediately result in personal gratification. Many children do not grow up knowing the difference between right and wrong anymore, a distinction that is only meaningful as seen throught the choices they make and the results they have on others.

Should it surprise you that the adults who grew up in the 80's, a decade where the community-centric ideas of the 60's somehow got lost, now purchase the largest house and most expensive car without much concern for the potential risks? I once made a similar mistake, I bought an expensive car thinking it would somehow complete my life--but I learned my lesson, learned it quickly, and I got out of that car and now own something that's affordable and reliable--and screw anyone that doesn't think a silver Volvo '98 stationwagon ain't sexy. And fortunately I was wise enough to sign up for a low fixed rate mortgage--that, oh, I cannot imagine what causes someone to sign up for one with a variable rate. But then that's the problem, isn't it. People aren't thinking. On the one hand high school graduates aren't really educated to understand basic algebra and on the other, lenders don't understand that dishonest practices will inevitably come back to bite them in the asses. Somewhere in the middle our leaders give lip service intended to make us all feel good while doing little if anything to solve the underlying problems both in how we educate our youth and likewise in the laws that regulate the industries that we rely on for our daily bread.

You'd think we'd have learned from Enron.

So when I hear that lending companies intentionally deceived home buyers it doesn't exactly surprise me. People like this live in a virtual reality where the market will "regulate itself" and "self-correct". They base their very existence on the misguided rationalization that they can fudge a little here and screw a few people there and there will be no repurcussions, or at least not serious ones, because the economy will fix itself as it always has. And we, as a culture, continue that lie. We're not even willing to acknowledge that we're in a recession and for years the Bush administration has been doing everything in its power to avoid using the only word that adequately describes the state of things over the past year. We make ourselves feel better by saying, "This is the worst X on record since the depression"--not only are news services doing everything in their power to distinguish our present situation from the Great Depression but the news sources have also made the decision to change what we call something. We've refered to it as the "Great Depression" for nearly 70 years, yet have you noticed that we no longer call it that? No, folks, we've used language to save us again: it's now "the depression".

The unconscious manipulation of language is the easiest way to determine what's on another's mind.

So what's the solution? Should the tax payer foot the bill? Consider it. 800 billion dollars is more than we've spent on the Iraq war. It's three times more than we spend on public education in a year. And President Bush, in his infinite wisdom, has asked that there be no oversight. The result? Every U.S. citizen, young and old, owes about $8,000 for a corrupt system that was largely allowed to become so by Republicans who have, for the past thirty years (primarily Reagan, Bush Senior, and Bush Junior), systematically deregulated the system making it possible for companies, banks, and investors, to engage in risky behaviors which many, many economists have long predicted would lead to the current situation.

And yet even after all this, after all the road signs are so clear, greed continues to whisper into the ears of many a young Republican, deceiving them with ideas that the more economic freedoms they have, the more potential for earnings it might bring them, the more "American" this somehow is. Need I remind you these are the same people who profess Christian leanings, need I remind you that this is against the teachings of Jesus who taught us to care for the very least among us, need I remind you that these values would literally disgust our founding fathers if they were here to see our arrogant and self-centered decisions?

My solution is as follows:

  1. Any government "bail out" should have government oversight, be regulated, and be in the absolute best interests of the tax payers.
  2. The tax payers should have a say in how their money is used (unfortunately this is, in my opinion, the biggest failing of our current "democracy").
  3. It should be illegal for lobbyists to influence how the money is spent; attempts to do so should immediately result in stiff fines (put towards paying back tax payers) and mandatory jail time.
  4. No company receiving government funds should profit from it. To be blunt, they should not profit until the total loan is paid back, in full, with interest.
  5. No CEO, President, or other company official should receive any severance pay, bonus, or any other profit from the bail out. Those that do and do not immediatley return the funds should pay a stiff fine then be thrown in jail.
  6. The government should officially make short selling and other ethically ambiguous practices illegal.
  7. The entire economic system should be fully transparant and regulated. Regulations should be written in the best interests of the American tax payer.
  8. Everyone's salary should be public record, even if they work for a private company. Think about it, do you think a CEO would get a $5,000,000 bonus if the ten thousand workers who didn't get a raise last year knew about it? Transparency is not anethema to Capitalism but is one of the integral tools to help the system "self correct".
  9. Encourage unions. Unions help keep companies honest. Look at the history, our economy grew the most when we had the most unions. Likewise, unions help protect the interests of the average tax payer, something our representatives are failing us at, something lobbyists will NEVER do for us. Without unions our economy and our jobs are at best uncertain and highly volatile.
  10. Government representatives, including the President of the United States, who have taken bribes--oh, I mean contributions--from lobbies which have caused them to vote for legislation that has clearly lead to our current delimma should be tried and where appropriate removed from office, fined, and even thrown in jail.

Maybe I'm cynical, but a swift and clear response like this would get things back on track pretty quickly (one to two decades). Ignore the problem, cater to the values that caused it in the first place, and bail out the millionaires who fucked things up, and all we end up do is charging yet another mess to our national Visa card...and while we're getting good at passing the buck, this isn't something I want to hand to my grandchildren, the debt and the inevitable wars that will result from it. Even Goliath, in his ignorance and egotism, had to fall.

It's time to wake up and teach our children well.

September 22nd, 2008

Today I have two goals:

1) To get as many people to watch Michael Moore's Slacker Uprising as possible.
2) To crash the servers hosting the films.

My first goal is primarily to encourage people to vote for Obama this year. This country cannot take another 4 years with a Republican in the White House (sorry, McCain, I have liked you over the years but lately you've been riding the party line and we deserve better!). Also, as a strong believer in Democratic ideals I want every citizen 18 years or older to get out their and vote their conscience, even if they (or you) disagree with me.

My second goal is just because, well, if the servers go down that means a lot of people are trying to see it.

September 21st, 2008

Not sure what I want to write about today. Sometimes I ask my daughter if she has an idea. "Just give me a word or point me in a direction," I ask her; sometimes she gives me something, sometimes she responds, "Oh man, I don't wanna!" Well, today the only people I have to ask are my four cats and oddly enough none of them can speak english (though if they could I doubt they'd care what I wrote as long as I fed them, changed the litter, and gave them more attention).


So what should I write about? Should I write about politics, which I've been largely focused on as of late? Honestly I wouldn't be able to add much today as the only thing I've read is an article on polls that have demonstrated that enough Democrats have racial prejudices, enough to hand the election to McCain that is. I could write about parenting but to what end (I often feel that people will parent how they will parent, regardless of the data demostrating significantly better ways). I could write about my day but I'm not really doing much; I listened to this American life then Car Talk, walked to Albertson's and picked up some comfort food (some of which I'm enjoying between typing), watching an interview with Stan Lee (creator of Spiderman, the X-men, and other cartoon heroes). I could write about my home projects, but no doubt those would bore you to death. Or I could just take a cat nap...with the cats. Get it? Cat...nap...

While walking back from the store I thought about starting a new journal. Unlike any journal I've ever kept, this one would compliment my online journal. In it I would write all those thoughts and ideas that are not, for one reason or another, in this journal. Then one day those I love most, those I trust and care about the deepest, could, if they wanted, get the other side of the story, the full story instead of the web version that, while sharing a great deal, is only a snap shot, a fraction, a snippet, a highly formalized and (usually) carefully portrayed story, typically a page at a time, every other day or so.

Too many ideas. Too little time.

How can you have "too" little of something? Isn't that a contradiction?

Two cats are sleeping to the right of me. They're talking about Captain America on the tv. My coffee is finally cool enough to sip; just in time too, my eyes feel droopy. Did you ever see that Kids in the Hall skit that only had a middle?

September 19th, 2008

I am one of those Americans who, in November 2000, watched the events in the state of Florida with shock and dismay. By mid-December one thing was clear to anyone who consumed their information from multiple news sources (such as the most objective of them, NPR and the BBC). The elections in Florida had been blatantly manipulated by the Republicans to illegally put George W. Bush in the White House.

I must admit I don't often say Bush stole the election. The Republicans are extraordinarily successful at using emotionally charged psychology to trick most of us to salivate when Pavlov rings the bell. Me? The thought of making the statement brings a sense of irrational shame and guilt. After all, in exercising my freedom of speech in this way I'm critisizing the U.S. government, my own country, at the highest levels, accusing it of a direct assault on our Constitution, an historical document that many feel is the basis for modern freedoms enjoyed throughout the world.

Am I "un"-American for making such a statement? Absolutely not. What is un-American is sitting on one's ass when the powerful take our rights and shove them into a land fill. We didn't do that when King George prevented us from representation during the days of the American Colonies. We didn't do that when it was clear the slaves should be freed or when the more spiritual of us knew women had every right to vote. No, we stood up, we said this is fucked up, and eventually we won. The laws were changed and after a few decades most couldn't imagine an America without these basic rights being extended to all people.

The Republicans were enormously successful convincing a substantial portion of the American public that Democrats who stood up in Florida were a bunch of whiners attemping to manipulate the system to their advantage. And you know what, they did! For example, when the overseas ballots came from American soldiers serving abroad they attempted to get ballots thrown out that were sent too late to be legally valid. Long story short, they were invalidating illegal votes. How did the Republicans respond to this? By accusing the Democrats of illegal manipulation--and instead of informing the American people of the law they launched a smear campaign to convince American's that those damn liberals didn't respect the democratic system.

This could not have been farther from the truth.

Last night I watched the documentary Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election. While I knew much of what was shown in the film, I learned a great deal more. For instance:

The basic thing here, my fellow American's, is that our democracy was fucked in the ass in 2000 and the gang rape went all the way to the steps of the Supreme Court. The fact is, while we don't know how many votes were really going to Bush or Gore, the objective evidence clearly supports the fact that Gore won both the popular vote and the Electoral College but did not become the President due to an abuse of power by a corrupt (and I don't use that word lightly) Supreme Court. Many of us were rightly upset when examining the facts and tried to make a change, but then the government pushed a silver bullet solution, electronic voting machines produced by private companies owned by (drum roll please!): powerful and politically active Republicans!!!

Our election process is currently a farce.

I think it's every voting American's duty to watch this documentary. Whether or not you are a Blue or a Red, watch it, educate yourself, and become involved. It's time we worked together to get this country back on track.

September 16th, 2008

Here they are, some of the latest, though not the latest-latest, photographs of my current home improvement project. I took these Sunday afternoon after putting up three more 38.75" x 36" boards. Tonight, in between work (and yes, I'll be working until late into the night) I put up two more regular sized boards and one 38.75" x 4" board (up there at the left most section where you'll notice the wall hasn't been completely painted).

Whachu think?

I haven't calculated just how long it'll take to finish--sometimes it's a good thing to be surprised. I'm thinking if I keep up my current rate I'll have all the paneling up by mid next week. At that point I'll spend two or three days applying the stain and then a week to let that dry. Afterwards I'll begin work on the trim, measuring and cutting one or two pieces at a time, finishing them, then nailing them in place. That comes out to about three days for each grouping of siding I cut. Not the fastest way to go about it, I suppose, but I'm taking the suggestion of a beloved friend by not staining them in place (thus possibly/probably getting stain on the walls). In there somewhere I'll install the new hemlock folding doors then order a new windowed hemlock door for the entrance (which will require staining as well).

Amazingly I've only spent about $150 on the room so far (not counting the closet doors). One can of paint was enough to do the walls and the boards are left over from the DVD shelf project downstairs. Really, truly, it doesn't take much to improve one's home. Most of it is creativity, using what you have, a little backbone, and a little more patience.

My goal is to have the room finished and move my computer (which is in my bedroom) by my birthday in late November. As an adult I've always gotten myself something nice for my birthday and what better than some hard work resulting in a beautiful room, a place to write, relax, paint, review, a room with a view. Would love to stay up all hours of the night working but then one must respect the neighbors.

Take care,

September 14th, 2008

Didn't sleep well last night. Didn't sleep at all well. Felt sort a bad too. My partner was spending the night and there I was, getting up every 15 minutes or so to stretch, pop my back, or take aspirin or what have you. Unfortunately over the counter medications don't do a heck of a lot for me when I'm experiencing that much pain but then I can't sleep when I take the more powerful medications so it was a night of tossing and turning. Got out of bed around 9:45am, showered, and took my partner in to work.

"Pain management" has become the name of the game. I spend most of each day in a fair to extraordinary amount of pain and usually in the afternoons I take the pain killers so I can have a few hours with the edge taken off. My parents have expressed concern that I'm taking meds as powerful as the ones my doctor has prescribed, but the irony is while they are technically "addictive" I don't feel any need to take them except when I'm in excrutiating pain. In fact yesterday I didn't take any pain killers (with the exception of Aspirin last night) and I never thought, "Oh my god, I need to take Vicadin." Indeed, I spent much of the day thinking I wanted a cigar! So when I hear these commercials on the radio station 1190KEX about people addicted to prescription pain killers I'm emotionally confused. Sure, mentally I understand how many people become addicted to them but as for me it's a take it or leave it sorta thing. If, for instance, a doctor were able to diagnose and treat whatever condition I have just the ability to experience days without pain would make me feel like I was the king of the world.

This week I meet with my doctor to discuss modifying my prescription. Next week I meet with a rheumatologist to determine if I have something like rheumatoid arthritus. Not overly hopeful that they'll be able to discover the root cause (I've been let down far too many times) but I have enough hope not to leave any stone unturned. Maybe I'll just be one of many people throughout history that have lived their lives in pain but I don't have to give up.

On the bright side maybe this is just a chance to expant my already eccentric personality. You see, ever since I was a kid I thought adults with canes were cool. No, not these medical canes used these days, but the kind you'd see someone using in a period piece, a movie showing people in the 1800's, the kind of can made out of a beautiful wood like Teac with a silver handle sculpted artistically. As many kids do I often had a walking stick, usually when we were camping, and imagined it was a piece of art and I was a cultured and well respected older man. So who knows, maybe a few days from now I'll purchase a beautiful cane, something to help take some of the weight off my left leg and likewise an accoutrement which would allow me to be a little different than everyone else, to express myself and my condition in a positive way that does not require pity. If this is something I must live with I intend to own it, transform it into a meaningful part of my lifes instead of a handicap.

What is a handicap?

Dictionary.com defines a handicap as, "a physical or mental disability making participation in certain of the usual activities of daily living more difficult." It defines a disability as, "a physical or mental handicap, esp. one that prevents a person from living a full, normal life or from holding a gainful job."

So what is a "full, normal life"?

It's my belief that the ideas of "full" and "normal", when used to describe a life, are heavily loaded words based on social norms. For a period of American history the Nuclear Family was seen as the norm. Two heterosexual people got married, had kids, had a pet or two, the man worked, and the woman was a homemaker. Is that "normal"? These days very few married couples can afford not to both work and family sizes have become smaller, largely as a result of cultural and economic realities. If we extend our investigation to include the social history of the united states we quickly discover that the concept of what consititutes a normal family or life is a great deal more dynamic than what we see today. Include the norms throughout recorded human history and one quickly determines that there's no clear and definite description of a full or normal life.

The evidence, in my view, supports the notion that what constitutes "full" or "normal" is one's outlook. People such as Beethoven and President Franklin D. Roosevelt lead incredibly full lives, would anyone make the erroneous notion that they somehow missed out due to their "handicaps"? Such a statement would be considered rediculous. My father, for instance, spent most of his life going slowly blind and while this gave him a challenge he would have liked to have simply sidestepped it didn't stop him from engaging in the profession he had studied for, that is teaching, and now that he's retired it doesn't keep him from going on morning walks or facilitating legal litigations.

Maybe I'm biased, I've always thought the notion of a "handicapped" person to be an arguably childish perception of reality. For instance, my IQ tends to land between 160 and 170, much higher than noted geniuses. Does that make Einstein handicapped? Likewise, the emminent theoretical phycisist Stephen Hawking cannot physically function without a wheel chair or communicate without the help of a computer, but does that mean the rest of us are mentally handicapped? I could sit here for hours and share similar examples. The point I wish to make is when two people are compared there will always be instances where one person is stronger than the other in some mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual capacity.

Strictly speaking: we are all handicapped when compared to others.

I'm one for striking the words handicapped and disabled from our vocabularies. I wouldn't argue that they're not sometimes useful, they do tend to cause a level of fundemental ignorance. I don't like terms like "differently abled" either--terms such as this are politically correct band aides that serve to do nothing but attempt to show/gain respect that all beings inherently deserve.

For years I thought there might be some sort of term we could simply use as a replacement but I've come to the opinion that we've done that and it doesn't work. As culture changes so do the words and we simply end up running in circles without resolving the core problems. For example, it was once exeptable to call black people "niggers" but as society changed so did the terms: nigger, negro, black, coloured person, African Amercian. Fuck! As a white person I wouldn't even know what to call a black for fear of calling them the wrong thing and causing undesired upset. Likewise, the fact that some blacks call each other "nigger" is somewhat confusing (I've even been in groups of blacks where they wanted friends, regardless of colour, to refer to them as, say, "My nigger"). So we're now at African American which I personally find overly Politically Correct and I don't think it's fair, I mean, if they're African Americans then shouldn't I be refered to as a Caucasian American or a European American? The only true American's are "Native" Americans. If you look at this from a deeper level what you'll find is that a large group of people, i.e. white Americans, culturally decided to refer to themselves as normal, i.e. "American's", while anyone who was different needed some type of tag: "African" American, "Asian" American, "Hispanic" American, and most blatant of all "Native" American. While I appreciate the desire of many to be respectful to other groups it still seems a form of tribalism to change the adjectives used to describe minorities.

We're all Americans.

Likewise, we're all capable of living full and meaningful lifes regardless of our physical or mental abilities. We're all still humans. We all have an inaliable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are all better at some things, worse at other things. We all have the ability to live in a way that brings us meaning and worth and that, in my view, begins in our hearts and minds and is demonstrated by our actions. In this way I am no different than the man born into poverty, the woman who cannot have a child, the teenager with downs syndrom who needs a tutor, and for me, this ordinary guy with a bum knee that sometimes keeps me up till all hours of the night. Where ever you are, there you are.

Get it?

September 9th, 2008

Here it is, the latest photograph from my latest home improvement project: the Art Room.

You'd think, with my knee pain being what it is, that this would keep me from working on the house as I had(n't), for well over a year, on the DVD shelf downstairs. You'd think, with my work schedule being the way it is, that I'd be too tired to do anything once I got home. You'd think, raising an emotionally vibrant teenager, that this would keep me from having the patience to take it one measurement and one nail at a time.

You'd think.

Life, though, isn't what you think. Life is what we make of it with our hands, with our voice, with our minds and with our heart. Truth is first thing I want to do when I get home is lay back on the couch, watch the news, read, write, and lie on the couch some more...but then there's this beautiful house surrounding me, this house that while perfect the way it is, deserves a warm touch here and a caress there.

Unfortunately tomorrow I won't have time to cut and sand another board.

How about Thursday?

September 8th, 2008

You'll have to forgive me this evening, I've been in a great deal of pain today which is left over from the weekend. Perhaps it was a mistake to take on so much house work this weekend but all things considered I really didn't do all that much. Yet it left me feeling incredibly sore, so sore in fact that I wondered if at some point I'd unknowingly run a marathon. Such is the frustrating and often unpredictable quality of whatever the hell it is I struggle with from day to day.

For those who aren't in the loop, last week I met with my orthopedic doctor who told me he wouldn't examine my hip, knee, or ankle, but instead referred me to yet another specialist. When I spoke to the nurse asking if I could meet someone who would examine me in a holistic fashion, i.e. investigate all of my symptoms, she told me that I'd have to make appointments with three separate doctors to which I promptly left the doctor's office and proceeded to bang my head on the largest, closest metaphorical object.

Having already seen two knee specialists who were in no way, shape, or form, helpful, I'm not about to be chewed up by the medical establishment one more time only to be told, "Sorry, we don't have a clue, have you tried physical therapy?" So I e-mailed my primary care physician and politely expressed my frustration. She suggested I see a Rheumatologist so thanks to Wikipedia read up on that. Thank goodness, these specialists do not specialized in such a focused manner and should (I hope) examine my ligaments, muscles, and other tissues.

Can't give up hope.

I am not so hopeful in terms of the political climate. As you know, I wasn't entirely excited about Obama's choice of Senator Biden as his running mate. I felt it was anethema to his message of change and likewise, would sacrifice the vote of a fair number of Hillary supporters. Yeah, Nader and I both agreed Hillary was the way to go and now many others are calling him on his choice.

And then there's Palin. I knew the choice was a good one the day I'd first heard about it but I've been amazed by how good a choice it's been. But it's a Democracy and people can vote their minds even if the town she once ran wasn't even a tenth the size of the little country town I grew up in (it only has a few paved roads yet she brags about her little "meth capital of Alaska" as if it were a major metropolis). I don't think she's even remotely ready to help run the country and I hope more people will become educated about her background.

While I do not support Palin I am a strong believer in truth and the lies that have been prumulgated about her in the last week have already started to run rampant. It troubles me, truly troubles me. So for those interested in dispelling some of the most recent lies:


And if you're interested in her voting record:


As for Obama he's already made his bed so he needs to stick with it as not to be called a flip-flopper. I do hope, however, that he begins speaking with more energy and confidence as he's generally come off as defensive lately, a mistake he didn't make while competing against Hillary.

Well, folks, I'm going to get off here for now, do some research on Rheumatoid Arthritis and related conditions. Until we meet again.

September 5th, 2008

10:59pm and I am allowing myself the freedom to meander a little tonight.

If you found yourself at the Drudge Report today you would have noticed links to articles which said the television talk show host and world wide celebrity Oprah Winfrey was not going to have Sarah Palin on her show as a guest. The stories went a little something like this, Oprah publically supports Obama but won't have Palin on her show therefore she's biased, unobjective, and is therefore being completely unfair after all, as one argued, she has such clout that it's not "fair" for her to influence the minds of so many voters and not give Palin a voice.

If someone suggest I had a liberal bias I'd agree that yes, while I do have many conservative views I do believe liberalism (overall) is a more enlightened mindset. But if someone suggested I had a duty as a "blogger" to equally represent Republican values then I'd say, uh, no. Ever heard of that little first amendment thingy, the freedom of speech and all?

Now correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't her show and her magaizine called "Oprah"? Isn't it a talk show, book club, magazine, and entire industry built up around her name and personality? More importantly, is she a jounralist?

While I'm dissapointed when CNN and Fox demonstrate liberal OR conservative bias I'm not when Oprah does. C'mon folks, she's a talk show host, and even while she hosts serious topics she is still a celebrity and an entertainer. She has no moral, ethical, or legal obligation to give equal access and time to both political parties. She has, quite rightly, chosen as the figurehead for her brand not to have Palin on her show and she has every right to just as I have every right to say I think Bush is a charlitan wanker.

What gets me most, though, is the attack made on Oprah for her choice. And don't you find it interesting, if not a bit hypocritical? Think about it, there are all manner of famous people with voices in this country who have taken sides. No one says to Michael Moore, "Oh, you bastard, why didn't you represent Bush's side equally in Fahrenheit 9/11?"--instead, not like Mr. Moore terribly much, they just gang raped him until his baseball cap fell off. Sadly, that all too common Republican strategy won't work with Oprah, she's much too loved. What to do? Oh, what to do? Oh, I know! Undermine the trust she has established with her audience by questioning her fairness, make the unsaid implication that she's inherintely racist, and let it simmer in the social unconscious for a few weeks. Yeah, that's the ticket!

On the other hand, I read another article critisizing Palin because her hair was 20 years out of date and my first though was, God, I'm back in high school again, aren't I? My second thought was, "But I love her hair, it's cute!" and my third thought was, "She has the same hair cut of half the rural women in Oregon--and that hurts her why?"

Really, though, I'm quite amazed that some journalists think it's fair game to go after Oprah for making use of that silly freedom of speech clause and rediculous that so much money is spent writing and distributing so many articles about a candidates hair style. Here's my thought: I don't give a fuck! I want to hear her views, folks, I want to know what kind of human being she is, how she thinks, how she makes decisions, and so on and so forth.

On that note I've spent a great deal of time lately thinking about how people make decisions regarding what candidate to support. Having listened to quite a few radio talk shows on NPR over the past few weeks it just won't get out of my mind. I believe everyone has a right to their own voice, but it often surprises me the felgercarb that comes out of people's mouths. How many times must I hear that someone won't vote for Obama because he's going to raise taxes on the middle class (untrue) or that doing so (if even true) will hurt business. Now call me a nutter, but how does taxing the income of an individual, regardless of who they are, effect jobs? So I get pretty confused when I hear logic like that, logic that is based in incomplete or completely contorted facts to an illogical conclusion that somehow rings true enough for some that any correcting data doesn't stick, it doesn't make sense to me. Granted, I don't know what Obama's proposal for taxes business is, but how does his tax plan in regard to individual citizens (i.e. cutting it for 85% of Americans and raising it for the other 15%) cause anyone to loose a singe job? The way I see it is I keep my job and have more money at the end of the year to pay off my debts.

I'm not sure why we can't simply debate based on the facts. Why isn't that possible? Is there something wrong with our brains? Did we evolve down the wrong path? Are we so afraid of creating solutions that benefit all people that we must resort to tribal tactics? How do we make choices when we discover a candidate's lying? If a foe do we simply punch him in the face? If a friendly do we rationalize it until it's pretty enough to eat off of? And how do we balance the perceived honesty/dishonesty of a leader with the perception that they more closely match things we value such as drilling for oil of the coast of Oregon so we can keep driving that Hummer we paid $60k for until it's paid off?

I don't know the answers to these questions but I do know one thing, if we, as a race, keep going down this road we are fucked. We won't have health care. We won't have renewable energy. We won't have an environment we can hand over to our grandchildren without having to say, "We're sorry." And we won't avert the next major world war, a war which will be over food, oil, and power, and a war which will make WWII look like a bloody cake walk.

Time to wake up. Time to let Oprah have her first amendment rights. Time to let politians do whatever they want with their hair. Time to chastise politicians, any and all of them, anytime they are caught lying. And time to realize that tribalism, regardless of belief, will not lead to a brighter future for everyone (only a few and only for a little while).

Good night and good luck,

September 4th, 2008

A four or five years ago I watched a meeting of Senator's on CNet. As memory serves Fred Thompson, a Republican Senator in Tennessee at the time, was sitting next to a very liberal younger woman. I don't recall the subject matter but it was one of those highly polarizing and partisan ones, such as the pro-choice/pro-life issue. The woman was verbally passionate about her views and having only seen Thompson in movies (like The Hunt for Red October) I expected him to behave as I've observed Republicans in so many similar situations: with raised voice and vitriolic character attacks. To my Surprise Senator Thompson was calm, collected, respectful, and thoughtful in his dialog with her and it was clear at that moment that he wasn't the kind of man who got his way by shooting his opponent in the knee caps but instead attempted to resolve his differences in the mature fashion a leader should. Since then I have watched his career and have been impressed with him, even at those times I've completely disagreed with his views. Indeed, I was quite surprised when on entering the Presidential race he was so quickly creamed by his fellow Republicans--but then--at the time at least--he wasn't the sort of guy that used brute force and character assassination to get his way. While no longer a Senator, Thompson was one of the few Republicans, such as General Colon Powell, that I admirred and said a great many things about.

And then came Tuesday August 2nd, 2008.

Fred, and I hope you doesn't mind me calling you that now, you were honored as a speaker at the 2008 Republican Convention. I tuned in to your speech about half way through. Immediately recognizing your voice I turned the radio up, excited to hear the speech of a Republican I respected: you! And then... And then you lied. And then you lied again. In the five or ten minutes I listened to you I caught you in at least a dozen black and white lies, lies about Obama's voting record and lies about Democrats in general.

While level headed in their response FactCheck.org had this to say about statement's in Fred's speech:

"Thompson repeated misleading claims about Obama's tax program, saying it would bring 'one of the largest tax increases in American history.'But as increases go, Obama's package is hardly a history-maker. It would raise taxes for families with incomes above $250,000. Most people would see a cut."

(for more on the questionable "facts" promoted by Thompson and the pseudo-"Independent" Joe Leiberman browse to: http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/gop_convention_spin.html)

And then Leiberman got up there and likewise, lied so much it was hard to keep listening. And maybe I'm not being completely objective--I'll admit that--but if there's anything I'm sure about it's I'm "pro-truth". Sure, Obama's been caught exaggerating or misquoting McCain in his ads, but when I listened to the Democrats I heard a lot of rhetoric and exaggeration but I didn't catch any out and out lies (nor did FactCheck.org send me any factual corrections about the speeches that week--though they regularly send criticisms of Obama advertisements). And yet when I listen to the Republicans I hear lie after lie after lie...and it makes me sick...and while I believe every vote is a sacred thing and all Americans have a soviern right to vote their conscience, I am disgusted by anyone that considers the Republican party one that represents honesty, integrity, or trust.

Take for instance a comment tonight by one of the speakers, that Obama has no energy plan. Being a Green Party member who's highly interested in seeing positive changes in our energy policies I've listened to and have read Obama's energy plan. First and foremost, it is the only plan, of the two, which focuses largely on renewable energy and research and this is the only real way we will ever achieve energy independence. And McCain's support of "clean" coal and nuclear simply promulgates the existing business model while simply replacing oil with another limited and/or dangerous fuel source. The only truthful criticism of Obama's plan is that is that it's too grandiose. Contrary to verbial diahria of one dishonest speaker, Obama's energy plan can be found here: http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/newenergy

Also consider that the Republicans have decided to take the idea of "change" away from Obama; suddenly a party that is defined by the word "conservative" or, to put another way, keeping things the same, is saying that's not what they're about, they're really all about change! (A sphincter says what?) Many have argued that Obama isn't about change, that he's in bed with the lobbyists and special interests. And yet Obama's record and his stances in the last three years have not been in line with the status quo in Washington. And even before he was a Senator his life Demonstrated he was all about being involved in communities and promoting positive change from the ground up. Indeed, if any candidate is to be critisized on this issue it's McCain: his voting record has been the same as the Bush Administrations at least 90% of the time.

And lets not forget the constantly repeated argument that Obama's voted against funding our troops. That's true. He voted against it once--out of TEN times--and for reasons that make sense if you care to do the footwork that would result from one simple question: "Why?" Not only that, both McCain and Bush have vetoed one or more resolutions to fund our troups and the Republicans, while having control of the executive and legislative branches of goverment, failed to provide veterans the physical and emotional health care they needed when returning to the states. Obama's only failing in this regard has been to stand up against the war from day one.

Another one: Palin argues that Democrats are about big government and bigger taxes and that this is the promise Obama gives us. The truth is during the reign--I mean Presidency--of Bush, there have been more govermental organizations created and more money spent and borrowed than at any other point in my life. The truth is Obama's plan cuts taxes for anyone earning under $250,000--that's most people, folks--while raising only for those above that quarter million mark. Call me silly, I don't think someone making a quarter million a year needs a tax break but people like me, people that work their asses off and have to really cut corners to pay the mortgage, we need the break more than the fat cats and that's something clearly outlined in Obama's plan: http://www.barackobama.com/issues/fiscal/.

Oh, and most hillarious of all was the argument that Republican's are all about a cleaner environment while Democrats are not. This comment actually shocked me. Republican's have generally sided with big business and this has generally meant giving business the freedom to make such choices on their own. Bush has said as much many times in the past, that he won't sign legislation forcing car companies to improve gas milage or other companies to lower greenhouse emmissions. What he has suggested is that no laws are necessary because large companies will choose to upgrade their factories to be more environmentally friendly on their own. The truth, as Ralph Nader is intimately aware of, is that our skys and water are only as "clean" as they are because the goverment created laws to prevent them from polluting the environment at any level they pleased. The idea that companies will make the decisions on their own is a very Republican one, the voice of big companies, the voice of lobbyists, and the argument that Republican's have generally been the biggest protectors of the environment is nothing short of a bald face (yet notably humorous) lie. Ever hear of a Green Party member vote Republican?

I could go on and on but truth is, we all have a responsibility to do the footwork, to spot the fallacies and hold up the truth. If you're truly interest in what Obama's actual plans on the issues are, not what biased third parties say they are, browse to: http://www.barackobama.com/issues/

P.S. I'm aware that just because Obama's site says he'll do a thing doesn't make it so. However, if any debate is to be even remotely rational and useful the two parties must start by meeting on the ground of truth. Conversation should revolve around the proposed plans, not highly misrepresented ones that are used as a means to a political end. The former promotes discussion, the latter is an abuse of Demacracy, a form of government that should represent the will of the people and we the people cannot know what we truly want if our heads are filled with so many lies.

September 3rd, 2008

After writing yesterday's reflection I had one thought: I want to write better.

Not that I don't write "good", but good often isn't good enough for me. Typically I read over something I've written before publishing, dot my t's, cross my eyes, and when I feel right about it hit the publish button...but yesterday I wrote one draft and given it was so late decided to get in bed and wind down to some Robert A. Heinlein short stories. I admit it, sometimes I stay up way too late reading over my journal entries, trying to get them "just right" and that has--far too often, at least--had a negative impact on my sleep.

I've come to see that in all areas of life thoughtful intention within the moment is important. While writing allows me to work my thoughts out until I'm satisfied with them, I'm finding I need to practice getting them "right" the moment I type them out. I can share my views as much as I want, but if every word isn't thoughtfully committed then what are my arguments but a collection of semi-useful rantings?

I'm reminded of a conversation I had with my daughter Monday. She brought up the conversation of comments users make on YouTube, specifically, how a fair portion of users tend to write shortly, badly thought out and often negative opinions. I responded that this was fairly typical, as soon as someone has the anonymity their computer provides their ability to censor their thoughts goes out the window, as does their ability to write in a thoughtful or respectful fashion. People wouldn't typically critisize each other so harshley in person, I seem to recall saying, and online most "dialog" quickly turns into northing more that a technologically advanced gossip fest.

While I too find myself adding my two cents on various web sites from time to time I generally don't do it unless I have something I feel is worth contributing and something I'll commit some time to. You will not find comments from me in the form of incomplete sentences and short blurbs. Indeed, if I feel something is worth my time and energy I'll make an effort to commit the necessary time and energy to it.

Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen--or more correctly, I don't always make this choice--when the clock is ticking towards mid-night. So today I make an official commitment to myself, that when I write I'll be in the right headspace, that my words and arguments will be backed up (better) and articulated more clearly.

Having said I am going to move on to the real intention of today's Reflection.

Today's subject on the call-in BBC radio show "World Have Your Say" was sexual harrassment and in particular, if and where in the world it's viewed as a problem. As always the British hosts were exemplary in their ability to referee people with charged and disparate points of view however at several points I wanted them to step in say, "Damnit, why don't you just admit you're a sexist jerk without a coherent argument and get off the show!"

...but then freedom of speech, whatever the view of the caller, is important and it's respected regardless of a caller's view...

It simply amazes me that in this day and age such a large proportion of men believe (and are willing to verbalize their belief) that it's perfectly okay to whistle at women, hit on them (even after they've had a clear indication that their behavior is not welcome), or touch them. The explanations, which I heard today, are no different than I heard as a child: a woman who dresses like a slut is just asking for it, if a woman doesn't like it she should just deal, and men have a right to express how attracted they are to a woman regardless of how their actions effect others. One man, after hearing a woman say that women in her community are laughed off if they report a rape to their local police department, had the gall to suggest he knew some cops and they were good guys who'd never do something like that so her experience was not only preposterous, but something she'd made up.

Do I live among such a species?

What surprises me more than the self-centered and erroneous arguments of many of the male callers is the basic reality behind the veil. While it's true that women are primarily the victims of sexual harrassment men are too. Fortunately, countries and companies in Europe and North America recognize that this isn't a gender issue and laws are written to protect all people regardless of sex or gender.

That isn't good enough for me. I'm a simple man and I like to break ideas down into their simplest pieces. Sexual Harrassment, as I've shown above, is not gender specific. Break that down one step and you have one simple idea, harrassment, which is a behavior one person chooses to act out on another person who does not welcome the behaviors. Break that down even further and you have one idea, respect, and that can be formalized as one simple rule:

Respect others.

That's it. If we understand this fairly straight forward concept then the conversation regarding sexual harrasments becomes straight forward: if someone behaves in a way that's unwelcome by another it is, by definition, disrespectful and thus, a form of harrassment.

Take for instance the argument that a woman who dresses like a prostitute was "asking for it" when a man stops her on the street, asks her how much she charged, then patted her on the butt. From the purely subjective standpoint of the man soliciting sex this makes sense but it is not a logical, intelligent, or compelling argument. On a subjective level it's entirely possible that any person could potentially perceive this woman as a prostitute regardless of how she dressed as perception is simply in the mind of the beholder, thus if we are to accept the argument that someone is "asking for it" based on the perception of the harraser, then it follows that everyone has the moral and ethical right to treat anyone in any fashion as long as their chosen perception of that person fits a pre-defined stereotype. Could you imagine a world where anyone had the right to treat you in whichever way they wanted based on their perception of you?

As I often do yesterday I found myself in a similar conversation with my daughter. She was of the mind that a behavior she was engaging in was acceptable because the object of discussion was, in her mind at least, "cool". I said that I didn't agree, that I found the object offensive, and would not be surprised if others might not only agree with my view, but be hurt by it. While my view was perfectly valid demonstrative that certain behaviors or objects can cause suffering to others it went unheard. Perhaps I'm setting myself up for dissapointment as it seems that "cool" trumps thoughtfulness in our cultue, none-the-less, it was my desire to teach her something important and it was this:

Do you have a right to decide if your choices or behaviors are harmful to another person or is it the right of others to decide if and when they've been hurt? Put another way, do you have a right to define your personal boundaries or do you believe it's the moral responsibility of others to do this for you?

These are the questions we must all ask ourselves if we are to stop harrassment, whether of the sexual variety or purposely revving a Harley's engine as one rides through a residential neighborhood at 2am. We cannot treat others with respect if we think only on looking out for our self interests. We will not build more harmoneous communities if we continue to perpetuate such ignorance. We are all connected and respect is no more complicated than listening to and responding to the needs and boundaries of others.

P.S. And yes, a Harley rider of the beforementioned variety lives up the road from me and as many a Harley owner I've met seems to think he has a God given right to disrupt the sleep of the entire neighborhood--oh wait, his bike is shiney and cool so that makes his behavior perfectly wonderful and joyous--I'm such an idiot for not seeing that!

September 2nd, 2008

Sarah Palin for Vice President. Some would say this was a couragous choice. Me? I think McCain made a strategic choice, possibly the only one that might help him win the election.

To be quite honest, I'm kicking myself for not having written sooner. Friday, when I learned the news, I read her bio and saw the Republican strategy unfold in my mind like an old play book...oh, wait, it was an old play book, but with a few twists. I digress, read the bio, heard the most recent news, watched the Republican Convention, and am not in the least bit surprised.

Fact: She's a popular governor.

Strategy: Get the vote of those who already like her.

Problem: None.

Fact: Palin is young being only 44 years old.

Strategy: One of McCain's shortcomings is his age. If elected he would become the oldest President in U.S. history and while there's plenty of evidence to demonstrate people are living and staying mentally and physically active into their 70's and 80's many are concerned that the stresses of the job would be too much for him. By leveraging this with a younger running mate he will win the votes of many who have this concern.

Problem: Many may interpret this as an insult to their intelligence, especially for those who consider experience, not age, as something to judge a candidate based on.

Fact: Palin is a woman.

Strategy: The strategy is two fold. First and most obviously, the attempt is to take the energy Senator Hillary Clinton created in her campaign and move that to the conservative vote. This may prove largely successful as many Hillary supporters were disenchanted enough to publically state they would not vote for Obama (and many started organizations supporting McCain). The second strategy is to leverage the idea that Republicans are just as open (if not more so) to change, women's rights, and the like.

Problem: I believe most parents see right through this as a political tool, a choice that clearly would not have not been made if not for Hillary Clinton's campaign and likewise McCain's need to sway any undecideds his way (i.e. independent women voters).

Fact: Palin has executive experience having been the governor of Alaska for the last two years.

Strategy: Paint her as someone who isn't a Washington insider, someone who will stand up to big interests, even in her party, someone that, while having a short career, has made it one of change.

Problem: One of the only objectively true criticism of Obama is that he has a limited record in Washington. By describing Palin in a similar fashion they've made it more difficult to throw this criticism as Obama. Interestingly enough they continue to put Obama down for this, as one of the speakers at tonight's convention did. Will American's see this as hypocrism or rationalize it as, "It's different, he's running for President". Well, we'll see.

Fact: Mother of five.

Strategy: Demonstrates that she is pro-family.

Problem: I can see none except those people who believe we should limit family size based on our overconsumption as a culture; people in this group tend to be, in my view, largly liberal in mindset anyway.

Fact: Oldest son being sent to Iraq, youngest child has Down's Syndrome:

Strategy: Deflate the Democratic position that Republican leaders never send their sons and daughters into battle (these days). Also reinforced the pro-family, anti-abortion stance by keeping and raising a child many believe would otherwise be the victims of abortion.

Problem: Palin didn't start or vote for the war, the criticism is targetted at the Bush, Chaney, and other similar families who are often considered to raise their children protectively and with silver spoons in their mouths. In regards to her youngest it doesn't prove anything to most pro-choice voters who, while believing women should have the option of a safe abortion, should only consider one as a last resort. I think most people will simply see her as what she is, a loving mother, and not use it as a basis for their final vote.

Fact: A formal local beauty queen.

Strategy: Beauty pangents are an American invention and it makes her as American as Apple Pie. It also makes her a winner and, while not publically stated, will endear her to voters who believe a young woman should stay in her proper place in society. Oh, and she isn't bad on the eyes.

Problem: Many might interpret the choice as superficial as, say, a beauty pangent. Likewise, it could potentially backfire against the attempts by the McCain campaign to paint Obama as a "cult of personality".

Fact: Enjoys hunting, fishing, and owns guns.

Strategy: Paint her as down to earth American. Give average rural American's a candidate they have a lot in common with. Get the votes of the NRA.

Problem: The Republican generally gets the votes of the rural community and always the NRA vote. How many votes will this win them? Nothing worth counting, I'd think.

Fact: Her 17 year old daughter is pregnant.

Strategy: Announce it as soon as possible to demonstrate honesty, integrity, and humility. Also use it as a political argument that even when abstinence only education doesn't work, strong families can bring up those kids. Finally, announce it during the convention to accuse Democrats of going after both Palin and her daughter calling them all manner of terrible things.

Problem: I wish the latter weren't true but after seeing a senator blatently lie about this (with no supportive evidence to the contrary, especially from Obama who flatly said he'd fire anyone on his staff that went after Palin's daughter) I'm apt to believe many Republicans are incapable of telling the truth. Indeed, it appears (at least to me) that the damage control was to simply colour the family in a good light while immediately going on the attack against liberals. And generally, that's the strategy that has worked best the last eight years.

Personally, I think it's time we stop using barbaric strategies in a democracy. I think we should use truth. And I think we should have more political parties than Democratic, Republican, and Independant (at least, that's all there are if you trust the D's and R's).

Don't get me wrong, I've read Palin's bio and I like her. I think she'd make a positive contribution to any administration--but she's simply not yet ready to hold such a powerful position. Sure she's pretty, yes she's smart, yeah she stands up for what she doesn't think is right and she doesn't get in bed with the fat cats. She's obviously a supportive mom, a popular governor. She isn't afraid to get her hands dirty whether it's fishing or in government. I'd love to see her be more visible in the future and think McCain made an excellent choice by picking her--but it's a political one, not one in the best interests of any administration.

My nickle's worth,