Monday, September 29, 2008

Exodus from Wall Street?

As a distraction from the current hemorrhages on Wall Street, here are my thoughts on the song "Exodus" by Bob Marley.

**The instrumental introduction at the beginning of the song is one of the song's best parts, but obviously I'm going to do a poor job of describing it here, so I'll just skip that part.

"Men and people will fight you down"

As long as self-interest to be protected has existed, various kinds of oppressors have flourished. Whether it be religious oppression, political oppression, social oppression, economic oppression: oppression has been a dominant theme of human history. We have all sought an escape from some form at oppression at a specific time in our lives, even if we sought refuge from a mere kindergarten bully. It's important to stand up for ourselves: to stand up for what we believe, what we value, what we cherish.

"Let me tell you, if you're not wrong...then everything is alright"

If you firmly uphold a set of convictions, you can resist oppression. If what you believe is worth holding your ground for, then even if all kinds of trouble befalls you, you can take satisfaction in knowing that you are ultimately in the right on the matter. If you have some reaffirming principle, you can take courage in your beliefs and use them as an anchor to keep yourself steady during ordeals which you may face.

"So we gonna walk...alright...through the roads of creation"

No matter who we are or what we believe, we all walk through the same planet. We all inhabit the same world. We all enjoy this creation, regardless of creed or race or any other consideration.

"We the generation"

Each generation has its own responsibility to improve the world that has been passed to it. Each has a special dictate to fulfill its duty to create a better world. We have to hold ourselves accountable for our actions, because we're the only people we've got, and this is the only world we have.

"Trod through great tribulation"

All of us deal with great stresses and disturbances during our lives. Some of us are surrounded by extreme violence, sadly, through circumstance and events beyond our control.

"Open your eyes"

What kind of life is this for us if we refuse to acknowledge what's going on all around us? We can't live with blinders. It paralyzes us. When we examine our lives, we see both great wonders and great tragedies. Enormous responsibility lies with those who are the most knowledgable about our world. For having once opened our eyes to the world, closing our mind at the same time is a most dangerous step. We cannot learn new knowledge in one area of life and unlearn it in yet another area.

"And look within"

As we move through this world, interact with other people in our lives, it is essential that we learn something about ourselves in the process, or we are moving blindly. Who are we? It is a fundamental question posed to us by our very existence as people. So why not take some time to look inwards? It might help us understand how those around us act; it might help us turn outwards, and empathize. If we can understand at least one human being, that is, our own person, then we have a much improved chance for understanding other ones.

"Are you satisfied (with the life you're living?)"

Are you? I'll let Bob Marley ask this one. Because if you're not, then you really need to start doing something about it.

"We know where we're going; we know where we're from"

Unless we truly appreciate our background, we cannot appreciate our future. But I discussed this quite a bit in my last post. But it's great to have tradition, and connections to a larger community. Not all of us have that. And most of don't know where we're going. I don't.

New Format: Marley All the Time (just kidding)

This blog is going to a new format.

My first entry under the new format:

Why Bob Marley Is Really Phenomenal

Listen to the song "No Woman No Cry".

Actually, here are some lyrics:

"I remember, when we used to sit..."

Already, he's talking about the urge for community that we all share. Think back to your earliest memories, to your family gatherings. Hopefully you have these memories: everyone is sitting together, sharing, gathering, being together in one another's presence.

"Good friends we've got and good friends we've lost, along the way"

How we can ever appreciate what we have if isn't for our friends? We need people to share our disappointments with, people to share our problems with, people to talk to when we are depressed. Just as importantly, we need people to rejoice with, people to laugh with, people who share in our successes and desire for us something better even than what we desire for ourselves. This is what love is.

"In this great future, you can't forget your past"

No, we can never forget all of the things that have shaped us as individuals, or as societies. Every time a person comes into our lives, we shape, and are shaped, by that person. Each of us has a profound impact on every other one of us. We are all fundamentally interdependent. And this is true not only for us, but it's also true for the events in which we participate during our lives. Each event is interdependent; it has a cause, and it will be a cause of some other events in turn. We really cannot afford to forget our past.

And pleasant memories make a sad present bearable; sad memories make a pleasant future all that much sweeter to enjoy. We are bound to remember the people who have brought us to where we are, for no one can ever get anywhere alone in this world. We have to remember who we are, so we can be happy. For how we can fulfill ourselves as individuals if we don't even know who we are, or where we come from? For where we come from is so essential to building us just as we are. That's why Marley's nailed this point.

"So dry your tears, I say"

Crying is good. It is good for us; it is a good way to heal; it is a good way to show how we care, to empathize with others who we love and care for. I've cried before, more than a few times. And there's nothing wrong it.

But we can't just be sad all the time. We have to live. Sometimes we have to fight to live. Sometimes we have to hold onto all of what we have just to get by, just to stay together. But there are always things we should do. There are always thing to be done. We have to live life.

"Then we would cook oatmeal porridge, of which I'll share with you"

Again, another reference to community. And there are few things in life more communal than eating. How do you feel when you eat alone? How do you feel when you eat with other people? As long as we have existed, we have eaten together. This underscores that we all do have something in common, really. We all need nourishment. We all eat. Food is a common denominator we all share.

"My feet is my only carriage, so I've got to push on through. But while I'm gone, I mean, everything's gonna be alright"

Wow, this is a pretty substantial thought. One of my favorite song lyrics of all time. To address this section properly, I'll have to address it as a whole.

I think what Bob Marley's saying, is that he is his own support, and that he is using what he does have to the best of his ability. He only has his feet to walk with. He's making a statement about trying to live with the abilities given to us as people. Some of us are better at some things than others are. Given what we have, we have to keep going regardless of circumstance. And pushing him along, in this journey, is a strong sense of optimism. Things are going to turn out well. Things are going to get better. It's a powerful statement on how to live one's life. The whole song really comes down to this section. It's an amazing message: a resounding message of perseverance, optimism and determination.

***Note: If any of you want me to, I can tell you how I feel about Marley's song "Exodus", which is another meaningful song to me, another one of my favorites from his work.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The World Is Alive With Music

I was taking notes in history class today, and my professor noted the exodus of southern conservative Democrats from the Democratic party, and I was reminded of Bob Marley's Exodus:

"Open your lives and look within: Are you satisfied (with the life you're living?) We know where we're going. We know where we're from."

That is a great song for so many reasons. It makes me think about my identity: who am I? What do I think of the direction of my life right now? It's a great song for anyone in transition, anyone who is moving somewhere; a great reminder to remember where you've been, and where you're from.

Another great song for this kind of reflection, is Up Around the Bend by Creedence Clearwater Revival:

"There's a place up ahead, and I'm goin'. Just as fast as my feet can fly. Come away, come away, if you're goin'. Leave the sinkin' ship behind."

I love CCR. Fortunate Son is a great song, too:

"Some folks are made to wave the flag, oh, they're red, white, and blue."

That has nothing to do with this topic; I just think it's a great song.

There is so music that talks about people traveling, or being in transition. There is a great musical tradition for it. I love that about music, that you can identify with it at different points in your life, but the same song can mean completely differents things at different intervals and in different contexts. I love the emotion and the thought that a song can evoke in one's mind. I love songs: but I am constantly frustrated by my total inability to remember any lyrics.

Those lyrics I just gave you I had to look up on Google, actually. It's annoying because when you talk to people about music, they'll never believe that you listen to anything unless you can quote lyrics from it.

Which is funny, but I know why people do this: because a lot of people say that they like music when they actually don't, just to fit in or be seen differently. Our tastes in music identify us, and people relate to each other based on the type of music they listen to most often. So of course one would want to make sure that there wasn't a false basis in relating to someone by making sure that someone really does like the music he says he does.

But I just can't remember lyrics, probably because I'm nearly obsessed with not butchering them. I like to know what music is saying, because music says a lot to me. I take music very seriously, even when I use it to relax. I believe that music says a great deal to everyone, but I am definitely greatly affected by my music. It influences the way I think and react to things, the way I see the world. So I want to know what I'm listening to. I'll even look up the lyrics to a song to see what it's saying. This is why I don't like music that is hard to decipher.

It seems to me that a lot of music that is popular now is about nothing; it doesn't mean anything. And when it does mean something, it's usually something stupid.

Music is all around me, the rhythms and beats and melodies of songs are like words in my imagination. I feel the beat is expressing certain emotions; the restlessness of Gershwin, the determination of Bob Marley, the exhuberance of a Strauss waltz. Most popular music just doesn't tell you any of these things. There's something missing. There's no soul. Just like laughter, music is a part of our soul. It defines who we are. And I believe that our music today says a great deal about who we are, and it's not good news.

Monday, September 22, 2008

PO'd by PC: Political Correctness is Not OK

There is a certain place for political correctness.

*Whoa: double take here*

Didn't I just infer that political correctness is a terrible, terrible thing that must be avoided? The title of this entry says so, right there a few lines above what you're reading now! "Political Correctness is Not OK".

Well, the issue of political correctness is not a black-and-white one. You don't even know what political correctness is, do you? Everyone complains about it, but what is it?

It's a slippery concept to define: I see two basic types of political correctness.

There is a place for respect of others that a certain type of political correctness attempts to create. One kind of political correctness is motivated by a desire for an openness in politics and a political system that can be free for all citizens, no matter what their background, status, or ethnicity may be.

I am a fan of moderation, but I am not a fan of moderation for its own sake; just as I am not a fan of extremism for its own sake.

John McCain spent five years in hell: a Vietnamese prison camp called the "Hanoi Hilton" where he was brutually tortured.

Barack Obama is black. He has faced racial bias and prejudice against him just because of his appearence and his background for his entire life.

A second kind of political correctness wants us to refrain from attacking either candidate.

"You can't possibly criticize Sen. McCain because of his impeccable service to our country."
"You can't possibly criticize Sen. Obama because of all the obstacles he has overcome in life."

Guess what? It's our job to criticize these people! They're running for President of the United States of America!

Why aren't questioning these people? Or for that matter, we should question the people who are questioning the candidates.

It's taboo to question Sen. McCain's health. However, he would be the oldest person we've ever sworn in as a first-term President.

How ridiculous the United States is becoming: if can't criticize John McCain for his age because he's old, when can we criticize for his age?

This criticism hasn't stopped Sen. McCain from criticizing Sen. Obama for his age, for his "youth and inexperience".

Also, Sen. McCain has a plethora of health problems, such as a serious form of recurrent melanoma, and he refuses to give unlimited access to his medical records.

But it's unfair to criticize the Republican candidate for health problems he developed while in defense of his country.

No, it's not unfair. American citizens want to know if his health problems are going to prevent him from being an effective President. It doesn't matter how he developed them.

And yes, I'm also going to address Sen. Obama.

I can criticize him as much as I want to. If he's equal to Sen. McCain, then I have the right to give him equal criticism.

If we have been truly fighting for equality, then why do we continue to treat people inequally? First, we saw this with Sen. Clinton: she said it was unfair to judge her on the basis of her gender, but she used her connections with female supporters to win votes. The same holds true for Sen. Obama and African-American voters. Furthermore, the same is also true for Sen. McCain and older voters.

You know what? People vote other people into office who are like them. Read Mark Williams' blog:

Because he's right. Not much of our political process is centered around the issues. (See entry "Politics".)

America is a diverse country of diverse interests and its not unusual for different groups of Americans to play their own interests against one another. In fact, it's par for the course. Political correctness, in its most malignant forms, is not designed to build a political dialogue that respects all people; it is designed to prevent a serious political dialogue from forming in the first place. The great thing about our country is that we don't want to upset anyone. 95% of our Representatives are re-elected; yet only 23% of Americans approve of the job that our Congress is doing (Fox News-Opinion Dynamics, 9/8-9/08; I believe that it's time we start getting upset at someone and do something for a change.

In Defense of Fruit-Wielding Maniacs

As you may be able to deduce from the headline of my blog, I am currently a college student.

On my campus, there is one major dining hall that students where students go to eat.

Many times after I have ate a meal there, I grab one or two pieces of fruit and carry them back to my dorm room. Students are allowed to do this; whether this is because of benign neglect or just a tradition, I am unsure.

It never feels quite right as I walk out of my dining hall carrying a piece of fruit in each hand. I suggested to one of my friends how bizarre I look when carrying fruit on the way back from dinner the other day. She said it would be easier if I stored the fruit in a purse!

I am just not a guy who wears a purse. I'm sure she was joking, though something tells me that she was at least partly serious.

Then she said to wear baggy pants. I imagined how people would react to that:

"I thought eating more fruit would cause you to lose weight?"

Overall, I am satisfied with the current arrangement of my fruit-transportation. I will continue to be a fruit-wielding maniac for the foreseeable future, as long as I can have the pleasure of grabbing a banana before I go to class or sitting on a wooden bench and devouring a golden apple in the shade, as a result of my efforts and the sacrifice of my self-image, or whatever is left of it.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Outrageous Politics from

The following story is from This shows you just how ridiculous our politics have gotten in this country lately. However, I think it's hilarious that if Sen. John McCain tries to cozy up to Ohio State fans because of this, he may lose Michigan fans in the process.

Biden in hot water with some Ohioans
Posted: 07:30 PM ET

Biden may have upset some crucial swing state voters.

(CNN) — Joe Biden's off-the-cuff remarks on the trail have at times taken the Obama campaign off-message, but the Delaware senator's latest riff just may have landed him in hot water with voters — and die hard football fans — in a key battleground state.
Speaking to members of the University of Delaware football team Friday morning, the Democratic VP candidate said he thinks the Fightin Blue Hens (1-1 this season) could thrash a certain team from Ohio.
"I was out in Ohio," he said while fiddling with a football in his hands. "I told the folks in Ohio that we'd kick Ohio State's ass!" (It remains unclear if Biden actually ever told Ohio voters this.)
Biden, a proud University of Delaware alum, was clearly trying to rally his Division 1-AA team ahead of their match-up with Furman this weekend, but the comments couldn't have come at a worse time for faithful Buckeye fans who saw their team suffer a 35-3 trouncing at the hands of USC last weekend.
The comments also come as polls show the race in Ohio could hardly be tighter: A CNN poll of polls in the Buckeye state shows Obama holding a slim 1 point lead there. Close enough, presumably, that enough angry OSU fans could just make the difference — at least that's what Republicans are hoping.
The state GOP is already attacking the Democratic ticket over the comments, as well as his comments yesterday suggesting it was patriotic for some wealthier Americans to pay higher taxes.
"As if his comments about it being a patriotic duty for Ohioans to pay higher taxes weren't bad enough, now Biden is taking pot shots at the Buckeyes," GOP State chair Bob Bennett said. "Barack Obama and Joe Biden must really think they can win this election without Ohio, because they're doing their best to lose it with stupid comments like these. Keep talking, Joe."
David Wade, a spokesman for Biden said, “I think this episode explains exactly why we’ll win Ohio: Joe Biden is loyal to his home team, and John McCain is loyal to President Bush."
"We forgive the Republicans on this one, though," he added. "After watching John McCain flip flop on everything from taxes to torture, they’re just mystified by someone who takes a position and sticks with it.”
UPDATE: Michigan Democrats, fans of OSU arch rival University of Michigan, weighed in on the back-and-forth, calling John McCain a "Panderer in Chief" for recently purchasing Ohio State apparel on a campaign swing.
"John McCain won't be hailing any victors on Election Day if he thinks Michigan fans will let this recent pander slide," said Liz Kerr, a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Power of Laughter

I love humor. I love to laugh.

I've always been fascinated by what makes other people laugh, and why people laugh both more and less in certain situations.

Why does laughter exist? What is its purpose? In the Bible, God laughs at Abraham and Sarah when they do not believe Him when He says that they are going to have a child, that Sarah is going to bear a son in her extreme old age. The name of their son, Issac, is translated as "God laughs". That is the only reference to laughter that I have found in the Bible. I am curious as to whether laughter is mentioned in other religions' scriptures and holy texts.

I believe that to laugh is to be fundamentally human. It is, along with reasoning and consciousness, one of the foremost sensations of life as a human, as I see it.

We laugh at the awkward in our lives, when we perceive things as out of place in the universe in some way. We chuckle at comedians in loud outfits. We chortle at John Belushi's impression of a zit, when he shovels food in his mouth and blows it back out again. It takes a special acumen to be funny. Things that threaten us or other people we care about are almost never funny, with the rare exception of a few types of gallows humor (but this is an exception that proves the rule.)

We never almost joke about disasters such as the Titanic or the Hindenburg. We don't joke about hurricanes, mudslides or earthquakes.

Gallows humor occurs when we ourselves are threatened by something, and we choose to make light of our own situation. For example, take stand-up comedian Ron White's "airplane" routine. A classic example of gallows humor:

Ron White and a fellow passenger are sitting next to each other onboard an airplane. The pilot informs the passengers that one of the engines has failed, and that the plane may need to make an emergency landing. White's comrade is incredibly nervous, and tells White that he doesn't want to die. "What are we going to do?" the frantic passenger asks White. But White isn't worried. "Hey, I bet we'll beat the paramedics there by at least thirty minutes."

Another example of gallows humor: "I really hope the activation of the Large Hadron Collider doesn't cause a black hole to form that swallows the entire Earth. Of course, if it does, that means I won't have to use the new Facebook."

People do joke when they need to reduce stress in their own lives, but there is a clear line between self-deprecation and deprecation of others that cannot be crossed in comedy.

Things that are strange to us are often hilarious. Things which are controversial to us are often the funniest of all. It appears that comedy is a way of reducing our anxiety levels with things that are hard to cope with. But there are only certain things that are hard to cope with that we find to be funny. Many people find sex to be very funny. Some people find violence to be very funny, but a great number of people could never laugh at violence. A few people find humor in death, but a large majority of people could never even summon the nerve to think about laughing at death.

When I am depressed, I laugh. Many people laugh when they can no longer cry. Sometimes, I laugh without realizing why. It is as if it an echo from the deep depths of my soul making its way into the objective world. My despair resurfaces as laughter. Or laughter resurfaces as despair, once I realize the larger thing that is happening to me that is making me feel the way I am. As soon as I have to confront my feelings, the situation immediately loses its humor. Laughter is a reprieve; it is an escape. It is a way to avoid anxiety, and to release and cope with anxiety that we have stored up through our lives.

I know that many people ask themselves, "What would Jesus do?" And that is a valid question. I often ask myself, "Would God laugh?"

I've always wondered what makes God laugh. If He exists, then surely He invented it, because He created everything in the universe, as asserted by the Book of Genesis, in the Bible. Would He laugh at death? sex? violence? someone tripping on a banana?

He created a way to die, He created sex; He even created banana peels. Would He laugh if someone replaced the words "Caution: Wet Surface" on the sign with a picture of a person falling down on it with the new words "This is Sparta!"? Would He cry? Would He tear up at all of the poverty and destruction and neglect and abuse in His world? According to the Bible, we are made in His image; we somehow manage to both laugh and cry at the same time. So far, I have thought of one reference to God laughing in the Bible, and I can only think of one instance where God cries in the Bible. Jesus weeps in the New Testament Gospel (John 11:35). It is the shortest verse of the entire Bible: "Jesus wept."

I find it very intriguing that before God became human, He could only laugh, but as soon as He became one of us, He cried.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Altruism: Absolute Folly or Universal Principle?

In today's society, cynicism prevails. The common wisdom holds that everyone is looking out for their own individual self-interest first. People say, "It's a dog-eat-dog world."

In a complicated world of competing interests and agendas, why not simply look out for number one? Isn't everyone else doing that?

Besides, it's a world dictated by the survival of the fittest, isn't it? Taking the effort to help someone else, sacrificing something you have to accomplish an end greater than yourself; what's the point in that, in a world where the strongest survive, and the weak perish? Altruism in this context appears to be futile and hopelessly naive.

This is a fundamental foundation of modern thought. But it is incomplete. Yes, the science of evolution demonstrates that those who are best equipped to survive, will prevail. However, there are a broad number of instances where altruism (the act of doing something that does not benefit one's self or is harmful to one's self, but that does benefit others) can be observed to be an essential part of the greater order of the universe.

The instinct to help others in ingrained in the human psyche. There are countless examples of other animal species who also act "altruistically". Ants form colonies to ensure the survival of all, lions are organized into prides, primates such as chimpanzees live in social communites devoted to taking care of one another. Even slime molds display a form of altruism.

Myxomycetes (plasmodial slime molds) have a life cycle that involves two feeding stages. The first stage consists of single-celled amoebae. The second stage consists of the plasmodium. To form the plasmodium, the single-celled amoebae merge together to form the multi-cellular plasmodium structure. "Under favorable conditions, the plasmodium gives rise to one or more fruiting bodies containing spores. The spores of myxomycetes are for most species apparently wind-dispersed and complete the life cycle by germinating to produce the uninucleate amoeboflagellate cells" (

Even in our own bodies, the law of altruism is clearly demonstrated. "Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is a normal component of the development and health of multicellular organisms. Cells die in response to a variety of stimuli and during apoptosis they do so in a controlled, regulated a process in which cells play an active role in their own death" ( Some cells die, when they have surpassed their usefulness, so that an entire organism can continue living.

Sacrifice is an important concept in any proper understanding of society. As natural rights philosopher John Locke stated, humans sacrifice their unlimited freedom to use certain rights that they are born with in order to live in an ordered society that protects those rights from being infringed upon by other people.

In a world where life can be "nasty, brutish and short" (Hobbes, Leviathan), a community centered around individuals sacrificing their own energies and time and resources to achieve common ends may be the most efficient and practical way to ensure the well-being of human beings. Altruism remains the best and most effective method of survival.

Because after all, it's not really a dog-eat-dog world out there. It's more like a pack-eat-dog kind of world.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Single Leaf

A question for all of you:

Does a single leaf, on a single tree, in a forest, hold any larger or significant importance? If it does, why does it? If it is irrelevant, why so?

This is a query I came across today, and I think it would be interesting to see how different people answer it.

Please explain your choice.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Check the Bottom of This Page

My last post was a revised version of an older draft, so when I published it today, it was placed according to the date I started it, so it is not the top entry as it should be.

Please go down to the bottom of your screen and read my new entry "Every Game Has Its Rules".

Thanks. I really appreciate your encouragement. Please keep reading.

September 11th -- the seven year itch

Today is the seven year anniversary of September 11th, 2001, the day of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the crash of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.

When I went to class today, we discussed our memories of that day. Like the JFK Assassination or the attack on Pearl Harbor for previous generations, almost everyone who has lived through that day can recall where they were and what they were doing when they heard about the attacks.

I remember that I was a sixth-grader, taking the Indiana Standardized Test for Educational Progress, as mandated by President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" policy.

I was taking a reading comprehension test for ISTEP, when my teacher received a cell phone call. I looked up to her at the front desk, listening to the conversation.

"Hello? What's happening?

Oh my God!"

She grabbed the remote control, and ran over and turned on the television.

"What's going on?" we asked her.

"There's been an attack on the World Trade Center" she informed us.

We sat, immobilized, staring at the smoldering ruins of the buildings we could see on the television, over a thousand miles away.

I still had to take that stupid test. Mindlessly, filling in bubbles, watching America under attack before my eyes. It was a surreal experience.

We all joked by the end of the day that the terrorists weren't going to attack our small town. We were laughing because that was the only way we could make any sense of it.

It was too impossible to believe.

I remember eating in our cafeteria, sitting on the hard wooden benches, contemplating what was happening with people who wouldn't give me the time of day any other day of the year. But that day, we were all mystified by the attacks and bewildered by what was happening, together.

That afternoon, my 6th grade teacher pulled down her giant map of the world, and showed us her conspiracy theory. She pointed to countries that she said didn't like America, and explained her belief that Yasser Arafat, Omar Kadaffi, Saddam Hussein, and Osama bin Laden had simultaneously coordinated to bring devastation to the United States.

All of the school's activities were canceled. I came home on the bus, and saw my mother standing in the garage. She never came home that early. Of course, my dad was still at work. It could be the freaking apocalypse and his employer would still make him come into the office.

It was a Tuesday. The next evening, I went to confirmation at my church. My pastor led us in silent prayer as we lit candles to remember the victims. I remember when she prayed for the terrorists who did this as well as the victims who suffered in the attacks. She drew some criticism for that at our church, but I thought it was the right thing to do.

Soon after the attacks, anti-Muslim prejudice spread throughout the country. My church hosted a leader from the local mosque to talk to us about Islam. It was my first real encounter with Islam, though now some of my closer friends are Muslim.

I remember the second anniversary of the attacks; that day stands out in my memory just as clearly as the day of the attacks itself. September 11th, 2003.

I was in eighth grade. Every day, we would start the day with announcements. Our principal called for a moment of reflection to honor the victims of the attacks. While we were supposed to remember the victims, a country song called something like "Never Forget" was playing over the intercom. I suddenly felt a surge of emotion.

The song referenced that America must never give up the fight, but the fight I felt it was referencing was the war in Iraq, which I was strongly against, and that I was strongly convinced had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. I was deeply offended by the playing of this song, and the connection it made between the victims of 9/11 and the misadventure in Iraq. I was very angry. On the day of 9/11, I felt a sense of surrealism, as if it wasn't actually happening to me, which was in part true, because I was so physically far away from the center of attacks, and emotionally far away because I was a child and so naive. But on 9/11/03, I was genuinely angered. I was personally offended. These people at MY school were playing this song that offended MY point of view. I know no one died from that song, but I am telling you this because I feel it is an interesting anecdote about how people view events in their lives, and how they make emotional connections to those events.

Fair and Balanced? No, I Touch The World With Insanity

Cable news network MSNBC has replaced Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann for hosting their elections coverage. They have been replaced by David Gregory (Represent!)

Anyways...the reason they were replaced as hosts (and they're still there, they're just commentators now), is because they were just commentators to begin with.

Really, I could've done their jobs. And I'd have done it for a lot less than they would have. Talk about fiscal responsibility.

Matthews and Olbermann are NOT journalists. That is the main point. They never were to begin with, they are not now, and they never will be impartial, fair-minded journalists. Never gonna happen.

I like Olbermann, I love watching his show; but he is not a journalist, he is an entertainer. If I wanted real news...crap, where would I go for real news?

Would I go to CNN? Home of Wolf Blitzer...whose show "Situation Room" spent three days covering the death of Anna Nicole Smith during the most violent phase of the Iraq war. Home of Campbell Brown...whose qualifications as a journalist are scarcely more apparent than yours or mine...

Olbermann and Matthews give you opinion. Joe Scarborough gives you opinion. Bill O'Reilly gives you opinion. Lou Dobbs gives you opinion. They ALL give you opinion. NONE of them are real journalists. They all have their own agendas.

Even when the cable networks try to stick to genuine news, even their presentation of that is becoming more and more dubious. I have noticed recently that CNN has picked up a dirty habit from Fox News. Yes, I have watched Fox News before. It wasn't pretty.

CNN now has these little boxes at the bottom of the screen that say "Fact:...." and then pretend to give you a fact relevant to whatever they're talking about. I hate those gimmicky things. If it's relevant, they would have told you about it in the story, when they were giving you NEWS. What they are giving you in the box at the bottom of your screen is not news; it is propaganda, just like the kind you can see in the boxes if you've watched Fox News.

The "Facts" they include are almost always slanted or biased in some way, whether it's CNN or Fox. Whether either network interviews someone, they always include a little box by the side of the person's head listing their qualifications and other useless stuff. What's that supposed to do? Make me think the person on TV is some kind of expert? CNN and Fox (MSNBC, too) always have these people who come on TV just to tell me that they're better than I am. Military experts, political experts, economic experts. And what do they tell me? Not one d*** thing. So thank you, cable network news, for giving me the delusion that I'm actually learning something of value even when you've long since ran out of actual news to go cover. (Also, the boxes at Fox are especially nauseating. For example, when they have a story about Barack Obama, a box on the bottom of the screen will say "he'll be the first President who's spent time in a Muslim country" and they always refer to him as "BHO", to emphasize his "foreignness". Most McCain supporters have good reasons to back their candidate, but FOX NEWS is flat out racist. Bottom line. I can't make this stuff up.)

Hey, maybe the networks could spend time investigating government waste or fraud. Blah. Not interesting enough to the viewers. CNN usually sounds like they decide what to cover based entirely on focus groups. It's so fake. Haven't you ever watched CNN before when they keep saying "Economy: Issue Number One"? It's like they asked people...what do you care about?

"Uhhh, I dunno. I guess gas is expensive. Let's complain about something we know nothing about and blame people for it who can't do anything about it whatsoever."

CNN needs to stop babying Americans and go cover something relevant, not just what people want to hear. Do you know what one of the purposes of media is? To inform people.

People should not be informing the media. That, as John McCain would say: that, my dear, dear friends, is a broken system.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace, Part Three

As promised, here are more quotes from Kent Nerburn's book "Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace". These quotes are about faith:

"Sometimes we must be satisfied just to touch the cloak of God -- to brush against great spiritual truths with our own spiritual gifts, however humble they may be."

"Faith is the great leap across the chasm of the unknown into the uncertain darkness. It is the capacity to step with confidence where there is no knowledge, to move forward in the darkness toward the light, however small that light may be."

"When we show others that we, too, struggle with doubt but continue to walk forward in faith toward that distant and unfathomable light, we meet them in the shadow of their uncertainty and bear witness to the worthiness of their struggle. We strengthen their courage to reach out for the cloak of God in their own way."

"We must witness what we can and point that witness toward the light of God. Feed the hungry, comfort the lonely, visit the sick, assist the fallen -- whatever it is that we can do to increase the light of goodness, that is where our witness begins."

For our next installment, we'll be covering despair.

Hardon Collider...Oh Yeah!

Today, the Large Hadron Collider is being activated.

What is the Large Hadron Collider?

It is the biggest particle accelorator in the world. It speeds up particles, and then collides them, and then studies the aftermath to learn answers to fundamental questions about physics.

I could tell you about it in achingly mind-numbing scientific detail, or ask my blogger friends to, or you could just go here:

Great, isn't it?

Unless it somehow causes a black hole that swallows up the entire Earth...just something to think about.

By the way, if you're a bartender, it'd be great to make a drink called the "Hadron Collider." Especially if that black hole forms....

"Sh**. World's ending".

"Fine, pass me a 'Hadron Collider'".


I Can't Get No Satisfaction

Frankly, I am tired of the Republicans' B.S.

And I am so relieved that the convention is finally over.

Mitt Romney said, "there has never been a day in my life where I have not been proud of my country".

Really? Were you proud after Abu Ghraib, Gov. Romney? Are you proud that we torture?

I'm proud of America, don't mistake me. But we're not perfect, contrary to what Gov. Romney would have us believe.

We have a government, that is a beacon of freedom. But that government, is an imperfect beacon. It is an imperfect government. We send mixed messages to the rest of the world through our actions, which are not always the highest embodiment of the ideas we tell ourselves that we stand for.

Our government is the type of government that needs to be continually challenged. Our government is only as strong as the people behind it. There have been many days in my life that I have not been proud of the American government, or policies of our government, and by extension, America itself. So I am guilty....of having a conscience.

Thank you, Governor Romney. Show us you really care about what America stands for next time...instead of just pretending you care, and using your faux patriotism to grab more votes.

"U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" is not a coherent worldview.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace, Part Two

I am going to include some enlightening quotes from this book which I have introduced to you:

"The farther we travel down a certain path in life, the more that path shapes us and affects our heart and spirit. If we set our foot upon the path of darkness, we will walk into darkness. If we set it on the road to light, we will walk toward the light. It is a fundamental law of the human heart."

"With each passing day, and each refusal to seek reconciliation, we become more callous and closed to the possibility of reconciliation. And the wound caused by the injury becomes more and more a part of our being. If we seek healing, it is true that the wound still may become an awful scar. But at least life goes forward."

"Our lives brush clumsily against the lives of others. A wrong word, a rash action -- these are as much a part of our lives as the caring gesture and the loving touch. We are all guilty of them; we all receive them. There is no surprise when they come, issuing forth either from us against others or from others against us. The only surprise is that we never ceased to make such errors and that we have such difficulty forgiving them when they are committed against us by others."

More quotes will be coming in the next installment.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace, Part One

"When we try to understand God we are like children trying to hold sunlight in our hands."

This is the opening sentence to Kent Nerburn's book "Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace".

This book describes how one may live a life according to the spiritual guidance that can be found in the Prayer of St. Francis:

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury let me sow pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not seek so much to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in forgiving that we are forgiven,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."

I am going to be adding a series of posts to this blog in the next few days containing different quotes from Nerburn's book that I have found enlightening. This should certainly give us some pause for reflection, which I try to do from time to time in this blog.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Watching the Republican Convention

I am watching the Republican Convention this week, starting tonight. Right now I am listening to television commentary about the Convention.

McCain campaign manager Rick Davis says that McCain will "lower your taxes and give you more choices for your life".

Did Sen. McCain do enough vetting on VP candidate Gov. Sarah Palin? Did McCain make an "impulsive" decision? As I have written, there have already been many controversies about Gov. Palin, including the pregnancy of her 17-year-old daughter. Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama says that children of candidates should be off-limits, and that his mother had him when she was 18.

The theme of this week's Republican convention is "Country First".

They're Not Code, They're More...Guidelines

Hey, I'm gonna shock you:

You really shouldn't believe everything I'm saying.

I know I confuse you by alternately asking you questions and then telling you what I think.

No longer.

We're moving to an (almost) all-question format. I'll still tell you what I think, but from now on please feel free to question everything I'm saying.

For example, if you want to say that Palin is a great pick because she stands for the values of everyday Americans, and then you want to cite her experience as outweighing Obama's, go ahead with it. I'm encouraging this dialogue, whether I agree with it all or not.

So just to make it clear: trust no one under 30 (gigs). :p

Leggo My Eggo, Mr. Media!

News broke this week that Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's 17-year-old daughter is pregnant.

How do you think this should reflect on Palin, if at all? Does this change your opinion of her? Does it damage your opinion of her? Does it strengthen your opinion of her?

Should the media be covering this at all?

Palin has previously gone on record as being in favor of abstinence-only sex education, which I think is something that should be noted in this discussion.

Does anyone think McCain could pull a George McGovern? (In 1972, Democratic Presidential candidate George McGovern pulled running mate Thomas Eagleton from the ticket because of a previously undisclosed history of mental illness.)

It'll also be interesting to watch the Republican National Convention this week proceed as the country attempts to deal with the effects of Hurricane Gustav. I am wondering how this will effect the Republican convention. It may actually help them, in a strange way. It gives the Republican Party an excuse to have Pres. Bush and Vice Pres. Cheney refrain from speaking at the convention, when the two men are extremely unpopular and reflect quite negatively on Republican candidate John McCain. I'm interested to see what the Republicans are going to say they stand for this week.

I believe the Democratic convention could have gone better, but I believe that the Democrats mostly succeeded in presenting a clear vision of an American future. Now I wonder what alternative the Republicans will present this week, after the (mostly) failed efforts of the last eight years, and that is a generous assessment from me. One important thing about the Palin selection that I forgot to mention initially, is that her selection is a strong signal as to the kind of Republican party Sen. McCain hopes to mold in the coming months, and years possibly, if he is elected.

Palin is a fundamentalist Christian, who is also strongly pro-business. Her selection solidifies McCain in many voters eyes as a prototypical neoconservative candidate. While this realization may awaken and energize the conservative base, it should also re-awaken independents to McCain's true ideology. I believe that McCain's choice shows most American voters that he is prepared to stand for the exact same politics as his predecessors have perpetrated on the American people for the last eight years.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Save the Whales, Wail on the Humans?

I have decided to make this blog more interactive. We don't have enough discussion, so from time to time I'm going to give you something to talk about. Here's an article that might pique your interest:

"Against Environmentalism

By Michael S. Berliner, Ph.D.

There is a grave danger facing mankind. The danger is not from acid rain, global warming, smog, or the logging of rain forests, as environmentalists would have us believe. The danger to mankind is from environmentalism.
The fundamental goal of environmentalists is not clean air and clean water; rather it is the demolition of technological/industrial civilization. Their goal is not the advancement of human health, human happiness, and human life; rather it is a subhuman world where “nature” is worshipped like the totem of some primitive religion.
If the good of man were the aim of environmentalists, they would embrace the industry and technology that have eradicated the diseases, plagues, pestilence, and famines that brought wholesale death and destruction prior to the Industrial Revolution. They would embrace free enterprise and technology as the only solution to the relatively minor dangers that now exist—minor compared to the risks of living in a non-technological world.
But by word and deed, they demonstrate their contempt for human life.
In a nation founded on the pioneer spirit, they have made “development” an evil word, attacking the man-made as an infringement on pristine nature. They inhibit or prohibit the development of Alaskan oil, offshore drilling, nuclear power—and every other practical form of energy. In the name of “preserving nature,” they undermine our quality of life and make us dependent on madmen like Saddam Hussein. Housing, commerce, and jobs are sacrificed to spotted owls and snail darters. Medical research is sacrificed to the “rights” of mice. Logging is sacrificed to the “rights” of trees. No instance of the progress which brought man out of the cave is safe from the onslaught of those “protecting” the environment from man, whom they consider a rapist and despoiler by his very essence.
Nature, they insist, has “intrinsic value,” to be revered for its own sake, irrespective of any benefit to man. As a consequence, man is to be prohibited from using nature for his own ends. Since nature supposedly has value and goodness in itself, any human action which changes the environment is necessarily branded as immoral. Environmentalists invoke this argument from intrinsic value not against lions that eat gazelles or beavers that fell trees; they invoke it only against man, only when man wants something. The environmentalists’ concept of intrinsic value is nothing but the desire to destroy human values.
“The intrinsic theory,” charges Ayn Rand, “divorces the concept of ‘good’ from beneficiaries, and the concept of ‘value’ from valuer and purpose—claiming that the good is good in, by, and of itself” (Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, p. 21). But, in fact, she observes, “The concept ‘value’ is not a primary; it presupposes an answer to the question: of value to whom and for what?” (The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 16)
Values exist in a hierarchy, some being pursued only because they are means to other, higher ends. This implies the existence of an ultimate end that grounds the hierarchy. “Without an ultimate goal or end, there can be no lesser goals or means. . . . It is only an ultimate goal, an end in itself, that makes the existence of values possible” (The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 17). Things qualify as good or evil, valuable or detrimental, only insofar as they serve or frustrate the ultimate value; and the ultimate value is one’s life. “Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man—in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life” (The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 27).
The ideal world of environmentalists is not 20th-century Western civilization; it is the Garden of Eden, a world with no human intervention in nature, a world without innovation or change, a world without effort, a world where survival is somehow guaranteed, a world where man has mystically merged with the “environment.” Had the environmentalist mentality prevailed in the 18th and 19th centuries, we would have had no Industrial Revolution, a situation environmentalists would cheer—at least those few who might have managed to survive without the life-saving benefits of modern science and technology.
The expressed goal of environmentalism is to prevent man from changing his environment, from intruding on nature. That is why environmentalism is fundamentally anti-man. For, in reality, man as such is an “intrusion” on the status quo of nature. Only by intrusion can man avoid pestilence and famine. Only by intrusion can man project long-range goals and control his life. Intrusion improves the environment, i.e., man’s surroundings. Man’s life requires productive work, which, as Ayn Rand described it, is a process of “shaping matter to fit one’s purpose, of translating an idea into physical form, of remaking the earth in the image of one’s values” (Atlas Shrugged, p. 937).
In the environmentalists’ paean to “Nature,” man’s nature is omitted. For the environmentalists, the “natural” world is a world without man. Man has no legitimate needs, but trees, ponds, and bacteria somehow do.
They don’t mean it? Well, heed their words, for the consistent environmentalists openly announce their goals. Writes philosopher Paul Taylor:
Given the total, absolute, and final disappearance of Homo Sapiens, not only would the Earth’s community of life continue to exist, but in all probability, its well-being would be enhanced. Our presence, in short, is not needed. And if we were to take the standpoint of that Life Community and give voice to its true interests, the ending of the human epoch on Earth would most likely be greeted with a hearty “Good riddance!” (Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics, p. 115)
In a glowing review of Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature, biologist David Graber writes:
Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet....[The ecosystem has] intrinsic value, more value to me than another human body or a billion of them....Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along. (Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1989, p. 9)
Such is the naked essence of environmentalism: it mourns the death of one whale or tree but actually welcomes the death of billions of people. A more malevolent, man-hating philosophy is unimaginable.
The guiding principle of environmentalism is self-sacrifice: the sacrifice of longer lives, healthier lives, more prosperous lives, more enjoyable lives, i.e., the sacrifice of human lives. But an individual is not born in servitude. He has a moral right to live his own life for his own sake. He has no duty to sacrifice it to the needs of others and certainly not to the “needs” of the non-human.
To save mankind from environmentalism, what’s needed is not the appeasing, compromising approach of today’s conservatives, who urge a “balance” between the needs of man and the “needs“ of the environment. To save mankind requires the wholesale rejection of environmentalism as hatred of science, technology, progress, and human life. To save mankind requires a philosophy of reason and individualism, a philosophy which makes life on earth possible: Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism."