Saturday, July 30, 2005

Race & Culture : We are Known by Our Differences

A recent " New York Times " editorial ," Debunking the Concept of ' Race ' ", was breathlessly joyous over a scientific project conducted at Pennsylvania State Univ. by Prof. Samuel Richards. The professor teaches a course in race and ethnic relations. Using a genetic screening technique, he revealed to most of the ninty participating students that they were a mixture of races. Only a tiny fraction were pure blooded. The goal of the test according to to the article is to make students less prejudiced and open to a deeper discussion of humanity. It is noteworthy that the goal of the scientific experiment was declared before the results were determined or tested by other scientists in a broader survey. But the fact remains we are known by our differences. People and cultures are different. The human species distributed themselves over the planet for hundreds of thousands of years. Depending on the land that they settled, an unique culture was developed. Even in those lands there existed sub-cultures and parochial groups that reflect the nuances of particular geographic areas.

Prof. Richards, " The New York Times ", ACLU, civil rights activists, politicians and other well-meaning or vindictive attempts to deny difference between races and cultures ends up provoking false ideas of what people are entitled.

In the final analysis, personal responsibility and personal talent and effort are the measure of success. Voting for equal results, affirmative action and other schemes for social and wealth redistribution are denials of the self-evident difference of all things.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Evolution: Turtle, SUV and Energy Policy

I share a garage with a SUV (largest model ). Sometimes I have to move it to get my car free. The owner asked me once what I thought of driving his vehicle. I answered, " It was like backing up a stagecoach but without the fun".

Turtles have sucessfully evolved inspite of large and heavy shells. They gave up agility and speed but like the tale of the tortoise and the hare have adapted with other compensations-patience for example. They made the most of the evolutionary hand that they were dealt.

What about homo sapiens dealing himself the burdensome hand of the SUV ? The recent energy bill just passed by congress had every special interest group's wish answered. The worst provision was tax credits for ethanol consumption. Maybe you didn't know that ethanol's production requires more energy to produce it than it provides in use ! Cars and trucks consume 40% of the 8.5 million barrels per day use of oil. Mileage standards issued by congress have been stuck in neutral for twenty years. This fact is because of oil and car lobbyist's influence. The latest energy bill did nothing to raise fuel economy standards. Overall Ford mileage per gallon is less than Henry's original Model T. And this is after the invaision of the low-cost high-mileage imports of the '60s.

The US is fighting a wrongful war in Iraq partly because of our addiction to oil. The reality of global warming is in large part caused by burning fossil fuels. The cars and trucks today are heavier and faster. This means more expenses for tires and more expensive repair costs.

And we call ourselves homo sapiens? How about the frivolous primate ?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

T-Shirts: Loneliness and The Pursuit of Cool

Custom T-shirt boutiques are sprouting up on the web. A recent count totaled 1500. People want a specific image and message that they want to project. This is the pursuit of cool. The cool seeker wants to be known/viewed as loveable, thoughtful, understanding, fearless, anti-cause, pro-cause, ad infinitum. In essence the T is a statement of philosophy. Aristotle said philosophy is an ornament in good times and a refuge in bad times. As with cool , the individual is even-keeled and able to cope with any contingencies. At least that is the message of cool. But does a cool or capable person need to be proactively advertising. One might deduce that since projection is necessay, a lack of confidence by the wearer of the T is somewhat apparent. Maybe cool is more about image .

Belonging, not being lonely and having friends are basic needs and goals. T-shirts are a way to advertise for those goals. But there is a better way not to be lonely. First be a comfort and friend to oneself. With that criical mass of personal security, others will gravitate instinctively. So how does one get real personal security ? Read the great philosophers. They all basically said the same thing because they were all truthful about what they saw. Some names to start with: Lao-Tzu; pre-Socratics; Socrates/Plato (Socrates never wrote anything, Plato was the biographer) ;Aristotle; Seneca; Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. Know the truth of things and never be lonely again.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

" Over There ": Preemptive War as Entertainment

The FX Channel has a 13-episode series called " Over There ". The title seems to be borrowed from George M. Cohan's righteous and rousing World War I fight song. But the Iraq war was a war of choice. Righteous does not fit this war's discription. A nation that embraces preemptive war as an option sooner or later will end up being entertained by war and having war as an occupation. Art reflects life.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Puff Daddy, Sean John, P. Diddy : No Future in Rap Music

Rap music has no melody. You can't hum it or whistle it. The lyrics don't inspire. From Bach's baroque to Beethoven's symphonic orchesrations to Verdi's operas to Rodgers and Hammerstein's musicals there was continuity and melody. With the start of rock n' roll some signs of breakdown in structure were noticeable but there was still enjoyment. But rap music may signal the bottom of musical devolution and the termination of the culture that it grew from. Music denied a melody is nihilistic. The poster child for this phenomenon is Sean Combs. His recent name changes show a realization of his own dead end message. Rapping negatively or antiseptically in the pursuit of " cool " will eventually make your listener either suicidal or turn to a more positive and useful inspirational entertainer or social leader. Comb's venture into a line of clothes that basically promotes the image of Sean Combs will meet the same fate as his music. There is no value to the consumer in promoting Sean John.

In the near future, America will start demanding more personal responsibility and excellance. Competition in world markets and the explosion of population will insure this new discipline. People will have to aspire to a more meaningful and productive lives. Time to grow up. Hey, maybe we will get back ballads that inspire and soothe rather than noise that divides and antagonizes.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Grand Theft Auto, Modders, Hillary Clinton: The Games Liars Play

July 20, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board changed the ratings on " Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" to "Adults Only" from "Mature". Wal-Mart and Target responded by dropping the hugely succesful video game that was developed by Rockstar Games which is owned by Take-Two Interactive. "Take-Two" is a rough definition of the word "duplicity" which says to have a" hidden meaning". Simply the idea that Take-Two did not know the hidden sexual content couldn't be revealed is preposterous. Users of the software can download Hot Coffee, an application created by modders/fans of software games and get to the sexual content. The only believable defense by Take-Two was if there was no sexual content to be revealed in the first place. No. This whole tempest played according to Take-Two's best marketing hopes. Now lonely, sexual deviants on the cheap will go into a frenzy to find the old version of Grand Theft Auto.The new sanitized version will be restocked by Wal Mart and Target. The whole line will get a new, extended more pronounced presence in the crowded, noisey software game market.

And then there is the moral outrage of Sen Hillary Clinton. If one was to have a testamonial dinner for her true friends, one would only need the space provided by a phone booth. Most of her political and business associates are either dead, served time in jail or still paying off legal bills from their associations with the Clintons. She makes the marketing stunt complete. Even her face was made over by a plastic surgeon when she entered politics- and Bill changed his name from William Blythe.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Bush: A Delusional Evangelist

Captain Ahab in the last chapter of Moby Dick was plunging a harpoon into the white whale while Ahab was snarled by ropes to its gigantic body-never to return again. The ship and all hands were lost. Major Kong ( Slim Pickens character ) in Stanley Kubrick's " Dr. Strangelove " was last viewed bronc-riding a nuclear warhead that was just released from his B-52 over a Russian target. Kong's warhead set off the Russian doomsday machine which ended life on the planet as we know it. Both characters were tunnel-visioned and obsessed with vindictiveness against difference.

And in our real time, we have an " evangelical " president. But President Bush lacks the peculiar charm of Ahab or Kong. Despite plunging poll numbers: 58% disapproval of handling of Iraq war; 52% think that the war has not made the US more secure from terrorists ( Wash. Post-ABC News Survey,July 2005 ) , Bush will "stay the course ". The recent bombings in London ominously portend a similar American tragedy. The bombers in London were second generation Britains who because of religious reasons blew themselve up and scores of commuters with them. America is in a holy war.

Bush is an " evangelical ". His faith and surrender to Jesus burdens him with a "charge to keep ". This chargre or mission is to spread the word of the Bible. In the case of Iraq and the Middle East, preemptive war is a legitimate way of introducing the truth of the Bible by fostering democracy which is God's gift of freedom to all.

With a Republican controlled congress, impeachment is out of the queastion, But recent polls give democrats much higher chances of reversing that control. Certainly the democrats bring their own brand of death. Slow death by the relentless barrage of the ping pong balls of political correctness.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Does Anxiety Cure Depression ? Cyberonics $ 20,000 Answer

The Food and Drug Administration on July 14, 2005 gave its approval to Houston- based Cyberonics Inc's new implantable pacemaker for the treatment of depression. The device is implanted just under the skin in the chest and sends mild intermittent electrical impulses ( shocks ) to the left vagus nerve which in turn sends signals to the brain. It seems to be modeled on the philosophy and electrical reality that the subliminal anxiety caused by the shocks will serve as a stimulus/wake-up call to moods of depression.

Treating symptons rather than the cause of depression? What caused the depression ? Was it conditional or hereditary ? Would a semi-constant state of anxiety be a better condition than a depressive personality ? Both are less than healthy traits. At $20,000 each, one can see what Cyberonics is getting, but how will the patient do?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Terrorism, Israel, Africa, Iraq War : Results of Power Abuse

The G-8 meeting concluded it's meeting in Scotland with pledges to spend more money on Africa. It commited to double Africa aid to $ 50 billion per year by the year 2010. From 1960 to the present Africa has received $ 568 billion ( today's dollars, app. $ 16 billion per year ). Despite the money , Africa's problems have only grown. Especially deaths from malnutrition and AIDS. So why give more money ? What about linking aid of any kind to birth control and safe-sex practices? Wouldn't that be a more focused solution to the main problems?

But of course most politicians only reason for existence is to broker money and power for special intersets. In this case special interests want to use the Trojan Horse of assistance to the purpose of exploiting natural resources in Africa. Politicians need only " appear " to being good for others rather than actually solving a problem.

The meeting also produced pledges amounting to $ 3 billion per year to help Palestinians after the Israeli withdrawal ( defeat ) from Gaza. But the underlying problem was caused by most of the G-8 members. Israel was created in 1947 by the partition of historic Palestine. The UN was the forum. It had no eminent domain. But political brokering of votes including virtual blackmail by the U S delivered Israel. But subsequent fallout also delivered todays bombings throughout the world in retaliation. Only a reversal of that injustice or a reestablishment of Palestine will correct the problem.

And then there is Iraq and Afghanistan. America has spent $ 300 billion in these wars so far. Loss of American lives is approaching 1800 and over 42,000 wounded. Iraq and Afghani loss of life can only be guessd at greater than 120,000. Evidence including the latest revelations of the " Downing St Memo " prove a wrongful war.

What is the thread through these issues ? Money and power improperly exercised in the pursuit of more money and power. Nothing new ? There is one thing new. The limits of money and political power when faced with the realities of a finite planet. Money cannot make a dry-land ecosystem support overpopulation in the Sudan. Money cannot buy peace from the crime of " voting " someone out of their homeland. Money cannot buy a favorable resolution to the Iraq and Afghanistan war or stop bombings in London or elsewhere.

Friday, July 08, 2005

U S & British Troops in Iraq: Why Stay the Course?

London on July 7, saw the latest and an ominous expression of retaliation for the wrongful war in Iraq. Incidentally, that war has now been further complicated by a full blown civil and sectarian war among the Kurd, Shiites and Sunnis. Also Afganistan has turned more dangerous for everyone involved in that nation-building exercise. The problem with a western-style democracy in Afganistan is that it runs up against the realities of local warlords and an economy that can't support an " equality " agenda.

England has had much experience with empire. It has seen it's influence grow only to shrink back to it's original island-size. Notably it experienced the same results of other empires.For example, the Roman Empire shrunk from it's 1000- year reign and rule of the known world to it's more comfortable and sustainable size of Italy. All occupiers have to go home eventually. The U S and Britain should leave Iraq now.

Nothing good has come out of the Iraq and Afghan wars. The world is more dangerous because of the invasions. And with the recent revelations of the " Downing St Memo " , the reasons for the war were based on bad policy as is the policy to " stay the course " .

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Is Cheney Source of C. I. A. Leak ?

The plot thickens. Judith Miller of The New York Times goes to jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury. This is a correct punishment. Her refusal to testify really amounts to an obstruction of justice. Matthew Cooper will now testify because of a specific release from his source-Karl Rove. Mr. Rove is the senior political advisor to Bush and Cheney. Mr. Cooper previously had a release to talk about information that he received from I. Lewis Libby, who is Cheney's chief of staff.

The whole case stems from an op-ed piece by Joe Wilson in 2004, he is husband to Valerie Plame who was exposed as a C.I.A. agent in retaliation for Wilson's piece. Mr. Wilson exposed the alledged " yellowcake " transaction in Niger in 2003 by Iraq as a fraud. This was another example of doctored intelligence in the rush to an Iraq war. It looks like Rove and Libby may know the whole story. Could the instigator be our own president of vice Dick Cheney ?

Israel : Losing Friends and Business

On July 5, 2005 in Atlanta Ga., The United Church of Christ directors voted to use " economic leverage " on Israel to promote peace between Israel and Palestine. Israel's 425-mile security wall is the reason for the policy initiative. The Church is going to have a tough time finding anything to divest. Most of Israel's assets really belong to someone else ( Palestine partitioned in U N vote in 1947 ) . For example, the Pentagon recently intervened in Israel's planned sale of radar-seeking drone planes to China. The Pentagon correctly assesed that the potential for loss of life on Taiwan and possibly American armed forces outweighed the profits to Israel .

This is not the first time Israel has sold or tried to sell American invented or subsidized products. In 2000, the US pressured Israel not to sell AWACS ( advanced warning aircraft ) to China.

In future, Israel will now have to clear any sales of sensitive technologies through the Pentagon first. Israel should stick to selling admission tickets to their holy places and also shrines of other people's religions. That kind of commerce is less dangerous to the rest of the world.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Live 8 Concert : Good Plan Was Missing

From 1960 to 2003 , the world has given Africa $ 568 billion ( today's dollars ) . This does not include the billions of debt forgiveness. And the problems have only grown. Money is not the answer.

Any aid to Africa must be tied to birth control and encouraging protected sex relations.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Memin Pinguin & Jesse Jackson : Both Are a Caricature

Jesse Jackson, civil- rights activist at large and Scott McClellan speaking for the White House are upset about a Mexican stamp carrying the image of a Negro cartoon character. The image has caricatured Negro features. Both say the stamp is racist and insensitive.

What's the fuss ? The cartoon character of Memin Penguin first appeared in the 1940's. The fact of a 6 decade enjoyment by the Mexican people gives legitamacy to the character's ability to entertain. All cartoons are based on caricatures. How else would the audience be engaged ? Also this is a stamp which is featuring a Mexican cultural character. Jackson and the White House are too far south to be taken seriously.

People like Jackson have been trying to revise history since the 1960's Civil Rights movement. They were succesful in removing the TV series "Amos and Andy" and the Disney classic " Song of The South" from public access for a time. For most of his life, he has been looking for racial discrimination issues- real or imagined. He has made a business of shaking down people. Interestingly, his personal corporation is named " Personalities Inc. ". Seems he wants to be known as a caricature also. Caricatures draw attention- he has succeeded.

Mexican president Vicente Fox's made some remarks in an unrelated forum about Mexicans going to America" to do jobs not even blacks want ". This is true. Whites and blacks alike who are on welfare are given too much. Real jobs like the Mexicans do pay less.

All caricatures are not equal. Between the entertaining and playful Memin or the predacious and joyless Jesse, the character of Memin provides more of a positive influence.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Messiah, Mahdi, Zoroaster

A Middle East sage remarked that Americans only learn about religions, geography and history by going to war.

Did you know that Muslims believe Mahdi will return soon to cleanse the world of infidels? He will then establish a universal Islamic rule.He sounds like the Judeo-Christian Messiah. Scholars believe that both the Mahdi and the Messiah are loosely based on Ahura Mazda. That was the supreme god of the 6th century B.C. Persian prophet Zoroaster.

Recent attempts to form a new government in Iraq are also proving to be educational. It would appear that mutually exclusive political tribes are trying to form a government in a future Iraq that will allow those tribes to remain mutually exclusive!

Maybe the lesson to be drawn is that mutually exclusive tribes will not fit into a democratic paradigm . In future the worlds people wiil probably end up belong to various tribes because the cost of central government is more than local government which is more efficient and adaptive.

Federal Government Should be Outsourced to States : Low-Cost Producers

Outsourcing is costing America jobs. Why not apply that tactic to the inefficient Federal Government? Recent studies show the cost of government of all kinds and their regulations in the U S add up to app. $ 25,000 per capita. The bulk of that cost are the Feds. Because of those costs the U S is less competitive in world markets. By the way, our overpayed reps will be getting a $3100 inflation-indexed wage increase in January , 2006. This will bring their salary to over $ 165,000 per year. This does not include the medical benefits. Their pensions average over $ 100,000 per year with a 50 years of age starting pont versus $ 14,000 per year and 62 years of age for the rest of us in the Social Security System.

In contrast , 2004 saw the first drop in inflation- adjusted wages in a decade-the average worker lost ground with the app. $ 30,000 per year wage. The U S does not need high-priced government in a Darwinian world that only rewards low-cost adaptive behavior. Bring the government jobs back to the states. All politics are local. We can better keep a lookout for charlatans who we can stop from growing to a menacing size if they are in our midst. Also recent popular movements like border security and geenhouse gas cutbacks all started at the state level. Special interests have a lock on Washington. Let's dismantle that town.