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Old Blog Posts October 31, 2006

Subject Saddam Accepted the American Ultimatum Before the US Invasion
Posted Date: October 31, 2006 – Tuesday – 10:26 AM
If this is true, heads will roll. Actually, I feel like the Red Queen…I’m hoping heads roll anyway.
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Subject Letter From Iraq: A soldiers story
Posted Date: October 26, 2006 – Thursday – 1:20 PM
Here is a great letter from a soldier in Iraq, printed in full here. With everyone running around hollering about the war (“It’s going great!” It’s mass genocide!”), it’s nice to hear it from the people who are actually fighting it for us. No rhetoric, just reality.

He makes a number of observations about Iraq, focusing on highlights. It’s cool to see he shares my disdain for talking heads, especially O’Reilly.

————————————————————————

Most Profound Man in Iraq — an unidentified farmer in a fairly remote area who, after being asked by Reconnaissance Marines if he had seen any foreign fighters in the area replied “Yes, you.”

Favorite Iraqi TV Show — Oprah. I have no idea. They all have satellite TV.
Worst Smell — Porta-johns in 120-degree heat — and that’s 120 degrees outside of the porta-john.

Biggest Hassle — High-ranking visitors. More disruptive to work than a rocket attack. VIPs demand briefs and “battlefield” tours (we take them to quiet sections of Fallujah, which is plenty scary for them). Our briefs and commentary seem to have no effect on their preconceived notions of what’s going on in Iraq. Their trips allow them to say that they’ve been to Fallujah, which gives them an unfortunate degree of credibility in perpetuating their fantasies about the insurgency here.

Biggest Outrage — Practically anything said by talking heads on TV about the war in Iraq, not that I get to watch much TV. Their thoughts are consistently both grossly simplistic and politically slanted. Biggest Offender: Bill O’Reilly.

Saddest Moment — Having an infantry battalion commander hand me the dog tags of one of my Marines who had just been killed while on a mission with his unit. Hit by a 60mm mortar. He was a great Marine. I felt crushed for a long time afterward. His picture now hangs at the entrance to our section area. We’ll carry it home with us when we leave in February.

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Subject Exxon Mobil: Record Breaking Profits…again
Posted Date: October 26, 2006 – Thursday – 12:12 PM
Exxon Mobil has “earned” record breaking profits…again. This is the “second-largest quarterly profit EVER recorded by a publicly traded U.S. company”. Let this sink in…10.5 Billion dollars is a lot of money.

OK, grant you, it’s only the SECOND largest quarterly profit, not the first. the winner of ABSOLUTELY BEST QUARTERLY PROFITS EVER is….Exxon Mobil, in the last quarter of 2005, for a profit of 10.7 Billion.

Nice.

Election day, here we come.

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Subject Havana Moon
Posted Date: October 25, 2006 – Wednesday – 5:02 PM
Havana moon, havana moon
Me all alone with jug of rum
Me stand and wait for boat to come
Its long the night, its quiet the dock
The boat she late since 12 oclock
Me watch the tide easin in
Is low the moon, but high the wind

Havana moon, havana moon
Me all alone, me open the rum
Its long the wait for boat to come
American girl come back to me
Well sail away across the sea
Well dock in new york, the buildings high
Well find a home up in the sky

Havana moon, havana moon
Me still alone, me sip on the rum
Me wonder where the boat she come
To bring me love, ow! sweet little thing
She rock and roll, she dance and sing
She hold me tight, she touch me lips
Me eyes they close, me heart she flip

Havana moon, havana moon
But still alone, me drinkin the rum
Begin to think the boat no come
American girl, she tell a lie
She say till then, she mean goodbye

Havana moon, havana moon
Me lay down alone, was good the rum
Me fall asleep, the boat she come
The girl she look till come the dawn
She weep and cry, return for home
The whistle blow, me open me eyes
Was bright the sun, was blue the sky
Me grab me shoes, me jump and run
Me see the boat head for horizon
Havana moon, is gone the rum
The boat she sail, me love she gone
Havana moon, havana moon

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Subject How the Rich get Richer: Facts and Figures
Posted Date: October 24, 2006 – Tuesday – 9:26 AM
Wow, a wealth of interesting links today. Robin Hood would not be pleased.
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Subject See ya later, Rumy! See ya later Ted!
Posted Date: November 9, 2006 – Thursday – 11:28 AM
It’s official, Rumsfeld is out. Awesome. Heads are rolling. In a rather odd turn of events, our friends at the “Center for Constitutional Rights” have brought a case to court in Germany charging Rumsfeld with War Crimes. This is probably not going to stick, but it’s obvious to anyone paying attention that Rumsfeld is guilty as hell.

Interestingly enough, The Washington Times paints the CCR as a “leftist” organization. Well, if supporting the Constitution makes you a leftist, then I don’t want to be right!

Things are definitely changing, and for the better. We have conservatives such as Lew Rockwell and gang protesting the illegal detainment of US CITIZENS along with leftist organizations, then it seems clear to me that Bush and gang have stepped beyond the left/right dicotomy of American politics. They are now in the region of anti-American politics, they are doing as much or more damage to the American way of life than any brown-skinned terrorist ever did!

In related news, Ted Haggard has stepped down from his position of leadership in the National Association of Evangelicals. Apparently, he had a three year relationship with a gay prostitute, and was doing a little meth every now and then. Although Haggard denied this for a while, there was enough evidence to force him into telling the truth.

Ted graduated from Oral Roberts University, long known for indoctrinating non-Islamic Fundamentalist Extremists. This university has also long been rumored to produce many closeted christian gay men as well (maybe they misunderstood the use of the the word “Oral”), which appears to be the case here. Ned Flanders also graduated from Oral Roberts.

Of course, there is a long list of things that one is not supposed to do at ORU:
lying
cursing
smoking
drinking
gambling
illicit sexual acts, both straight and gay.
homosexual behavior (not just illicit sex, ACTING gay can get you in trouble. So the interior decorating classes were cut.)
boys with long hair, beards, or earrings. (can women have beards?)
girls wearing pants (til 2004)
boys wearing t-shirts (til 2004)

Interestingly enough, although the University proports to uphold “biblical” values, of these top ten no-nos, only two are actually forbidden in scripture (lying and illicit sex). Hmmmm…do they actually read their own Bibles? Of course, these are the same guys that preach Word of Faith (commonly called “prosperity teaching”), so I guess the answer is clearly negative.

In the circle I run with, having sex with a gay prostitute and doing meth are not good things to do, either, regardless of what the Bible says. And cheating on your wife and lying about it is definitely NOT cool. While the previous behavior is bad because it is high risk (AIDS, addiction), the later behavior is even worse because it hurts other people directly, and not just yourself.

So, see ya Rumsfeld, and see ya Ted. I wish to god you weren’t being replaced by people as corrupt as you were, but I’m guessing that’s not going to happen. Robert Gates, Rumsfeld’s potential replacement, is a “long time friend” of the Bush family. Being a long time friend of the president seems much more important that actually being the BEST PERSON FOR THE FREAKIN’ JOB. The NAE has not named a permanent replacement, but I’m guessing whoever it is will have also graduated from ORU.

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Subject W00t? Early Election Results
Posted Date: November 7, 2006 – Tuesday – 1:59 PM
Well, the early results are in, and things are looking good for the Democrats. Not suprisingly, Bush and the war in Iraq can be thanked for this, according to exit polls.

You know, if you’d told me two years ago that Democrats would win back control of the house in the next election, I would have scoffed at you. I would not have believed that the Republicans could screw things up SO BAD that people would be forced to vote for our lackluster Democratic Party.

So while I’m happy that neo-conservatives and the Religious Right are no longer in charge of the house, I’m unhappy that the Democratic Party seems incapable of making the changes that need to happen. But again, I’m happy that I can now complain about them as well as the Republicans…someone reading my blog in the past might take me for a tried and true Democrat. I’m Liberal…yes…Democrat…not really. I’m way to fiscally conservative and critical to appreciate the “circuses and peanuts” politics so favored by our supposedly liberal party.

So, here’s what I would like Democrats to focus on in the coming years. If they do a good job, maybe we can have a liberal president (If they do a bad job, hopefully we can have an intelligent conservative like John McCain, but that’s another blog):

1) The National Debt. In 2006, $400 Billion will be paid toward INTEREST on the national debt. This is not to PAY OFF our debt, mind you, it’s merely the amount needed to keep solvent. Instead of going into even greater debt, we should tighten our belts and start paying off the 7.3 TRILLION dollars we currently owe. Likelihood: less than 10%

2) Further limiting lobbying and campaign financing by special interest groups. Lobbyist and other special interest groups are buying our politicians. Anybody who is paying attention in the last decade has seen rubber stamped laws being passed that were basically (and sometimes literally) written by lobbyist. The american people are getting screwed, and it needs to stop. Likelihood: less than 40% unless people stand up for this.

3) A Return to the Constitution. Recently the Republicans have violated very basic constitutional concepts, implementing mass wire-tapping, torture, denial of habeas corpus, and greatly expanding the power of the executive branch. The Constitution is in place to protect all citizens from our government, and to make our state work for us instead of the reverse. If we don’t like something in the constitution, there are proscribed methods of changing it. Public officials who violate the constitution should be tried and sentenced as criminals.
Likelihood: 30% or less for strong changes, 90% for weak changes.

The top three issues are directly related to our ability to function as a nation. Now for other equally important issues that are dependent on that occuring.

4) Attention to The Environment and Global Warming. Parents are naturally protective of their children, and want what is best for them. So why are we leaving them a world destroyed by uncontrolled expansion and exploitation? This is an issue of utmost importance for our generation…we have the power to change things for the better, or not. One way or another, things are going to change…the oil will run out, resources scarcer, and the earth will get warmer. But if we are forward looking we will be able to anticipate and mitigate these changes instead of just reacting to them after the fact.
Likelihood: 75%

5) Raising the minimum wage. While inflation goes onward and upward, minimum wage has been static since Republicans took control. Currently the federal minimum wage is $5.15 per hour. This works out to $824 a MONTH for a full time employee. That’s $24 more than the rent on my modest one bedroom apartment in the Seattle area. We can afford to help the poorest among us, even if it means we have to pay more for the same goods.
Likelihood: 75% or higher.

6) Increased Respect for Science. Bush and the Religious Right have waged a war on science that is unequaled in recent history. Any scientific results that did not support the party line were ignored and actively squashed. They actively ignored scientific consensus on issues like global warming, creating a “controversy” where there was none. This is incredibly ignorant and arrogant.

Listen, we all have pretty little pictures we draw in our minds to describe how the world works. Why communism is bad and capitalism is good. Why conservatives are wrong and liberals are right. Why our religion is better than other religions. These ideas about the world are necessarily wrong, they are only simplified stories we tell ourselves. Science keeps us honest by requiring that we back up these stories with evidence, and maybe even tell the story BASED on the evidence. This is sorely needed in government.
Likelihood: 90%…it would be hard to do worse than it is right now.

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Subject They would have STONED Harry Potter
Posted Date: November 7, 2006 – Tuesday – 11:37 AM

This passage of scripture reminded me of something said in “Jesus Camp”. The camp leader is talking about Harry Potter, and how witchcraft is an abomination to God. She then goes on to tell these kids that, if we lived in Old Testament time, he would have been stoned.

Deuteronomy 13:6-11

Someone else may say to you, ” Let’s worship other gods.” That person may be your best friend, your brother or sister, your son or daughter, or your own dear wife or husband. But you must not listen to people who say such things. Instead, you must stone them to death. You must be the first to throw the stones, then others from the community will finish the job. Don’t show any pity.

The gods worshiped by other nations have never done anything for you or your ancestors. People who ask you to worship other gods are trying to get you to stop worshiping the LORD, who rescued you from slavery in Egypt. So put to death anyone who asks you to worship another god. And when the rest of Israel hears about it, they will be afraid, and no one else will ever do such an evil thing again.”

A book I am reading right now highlights these verses to make the point…religious moderates can only be moderates by ignoring large parts of their own scripture. Essentially, a moderate is a failed fundamentalist. A literal reading of the Bible/Koran/Torah is inimical to respect for other people’s religious beliefs, or lack thereof.

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Subject The True Story of Calvin and Hobbes
Posted Date: November 7, 2006 – Tuesday – 10:58 AM
Ahhh, I love Robot Chicken. Adult Swim on Comedy Central is the ONLY thing I miss about not having cable. Well, that and Mythbusters, I’m big fans of Adam and Jaimie.

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Subject Health Care for Returning Veterans
Posted Date: October 31, 2006 – Tuesday – 11:00 AM
An interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor on homeless veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq. Quote from article:

“When soldiers get back, they should still be considered military until they can get on their feet,” she says. “It’s a month-to-month process, trying to actually function again. It’s not easy, it takes time.”

Yes, this makes perfect sense, and is the only honorable option. Our country has a responsibility to our veterans, and shirking that responsibility should be political suicide. Unfortunately, cutting veteran benefits seemed to barely make a blip on the political radar. For shame. Link summarizing Republican sponsored cuts to veteran benefits. Here’s the Democrats take on the matter.
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Subject Why the Zune Sucks
Posted Date: November 14, 2006 – Tuesday – 10:24 AM
Microsoft released their new music player today, hoping to make gains in a market dominated by Apples iPod/iTunes combination. And here’s a good article on why it sucks.

I haven’t purchased an iPod, and I’m certainly not rushing out to buy this new music player. They cost $250, and I have better things to spend my money on, like gay prostitues and methamphetamines.

Here’s why CNN thinks it sucks. And here’s why I think it sucks.

1) It’s clunky. Look at it…it’s to fat, it’s corners are to square, and the proportions are all off. Microsoft has gotten away with the clunky crap in Windows for years, but that’s because they’re practically a freakin’ monopoly! When you’re trying to overtake the industry leader you’ve got to bring something to the table. Microsoft blew this one. Compared to any of the apple products (shuffle, anyone?), and you’ve got a paperweight.

2) It’s not backwardly compatible. Any music purchased under Microsoft’s “Fair Play” initiative will not work on the Zune. This is Microsoft’s own music format, created to work with the Microsoft Media Center, and it won’t freakin’ play on Microsoft’s snazzy new portable player! Hello! Your trying to build trust, yet you won’t support any music that same customer has purchased from you in the past? What’s to stop Microsoft from releasing the “Zune 2”, and making you re-buy everything you bought for your “Zune”. Answer…nothing.

In fact…that’s a likely scenario. $250 is nothing compared to the $7,500 it would take to fill up a Zune with legally purchased music. Do we really trust Microsoft to support this new music format, so that 20 years down the road we can still listen to our Crosby, Stills, and Nash? No.

3) Vendor Lock-in. if you’ve bought any music on iTunes, Napster, Real, etc, then these songs will not be playable on your new Zune. Conversely, any songs bought for the Zune, etc. will not be playable on an iPod. So once you’ve bought a Zune and purchased Zune music, you will never be able to buy a non-Microsoft music player again, unless you want to start your collection over from scratch. So Microsoft has you by the short hairs. This is not a good place to be in, as a number of businesses and government entities are finally realizing.

But all these complaints really have a common source, and I can’t necessarily blame Apple or Microsoft for them. When the first mp3 players came out, there was no online music store. You bought a CD, ripped the music to your PC, then downloaded that music to your mp3 player. If you wanted to get a new mp3 player from a different company, you bought it and re-downloaded all the mp3s you’d saved on your hard drive.

This was a problem for the music studios…they sued the company who created the first mp3 player, claiming that listening to your music on the device of your choice was tantamount to PIRACY! Of course, the RIAA lost this silly lawsuit, and withdrew to their dank, dark caves to plot their revenge on the American consumer. And what a revenge it has been!

4) DRM: Few people understood what Digital Rights Management stood for when they purchases their iPods and started using the iTunes music store. It was only when they lost their computer hard drive, or wanted to buy a new computer, or wanted to buy a non-Apple music player, that the full effect of what DRM does started to become clear. Clunkiness, noncompatibility, and Vendor lock-in are all results of DRM. The music studios have successfully broken the mp3…in fact…people don’t even call them mp3 players anymore…they call them iPods, like it was a generic term.

If you want to know more about DRM, you should look it up. You’ll have no problems finding people who hate it…and you can always go to the RIAAs site to find the 10 people in the world who like it.

If you do want to buy an mp3 player, here’s what you do.

A) Find an mp3 player that is either cheap or looks cool, and buy it. Any vendor will do, depending on what you want. You don’t have to pay more than $100, unless you are looking for a classy player more than a functional player. Admittedly…iPods are very classy and functional, so you wouldn’t be wrong to buy the hardward from Apple. And the shuffle is less than $100 anyway. But

B) DON’T buy the music from the online music store. This music will be DRM’ed, and will have all the problems I gripe about above.

C) Continue to buy CDs instead, or buy mp3s on the internet. allofmp3.com and http://www.emusic.com both offer mp3s, and both are legal…so far. Tak your CDs and rip them to mp3 on your computer. Go to http://www.download.com and search for “mp3 ripper”, then choose something the online community likes.

4) Once you’ve got your mp3s, load them into iTunes or the music software that’s compatible with your player. Make sure NOT to convert the mp3s into whatever the software asks you to convert them to. Otherwise all your mp3s might disappear (make a backup!). If you have problems with this part use Google and you’ll find answers quickly. From there your music software can then load directly to your music player.

That’s pretty much it. It would be quite easy to put all these manual pieces together into a software package, but unfortunately everyone who does that immediately gets sued. All the easy ways of doing this immediately wrap DRM around your mp3s…thus defeating the purpose.

Have fun!

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Subject Open Source Java…Sweet!
Posted Date: November 13, 2006 – Monday – 7:50 AM
It’s official, Sun is releasing the Java implementation under the GNU Public License. This is big news…Java was originally released the code under their “Community Development and Distribution License”, which was a shadow of a real open source license, and was not sufficient to allow the inclusion of Java into Linux distros.

And that’s the rub…that’s why Sun has finally gotten friendly with Stallman and gang, after years of stubborness. Linux is HUGE these days, especially in the extremely lucrative business environment. Having Java bundled with Linux will be very good for Sun’s market share.

Great news. Time to brush up on your Java skills….

cl

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Subject How to get out of debt fast…go homeless
Posted Date: November 10, 2006 – Friday – 5:02 PM
Now that’s sacrifice!
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Subject PHI: The Golden Ratio
Posted Date: November 10, 2006 – Friday – 7:55 AM
Here is an interesting link on PHI, and how it is found in art and nature.

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Subject The New Atheist
Posted Date: November 10, 2006 – Friday – 7:33 AM
Wired has a good article on the so called “New Atheism” movement. The author interviews three New Atheists, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennet.

I’ve never read Daniel Dennet, but I’m a big fan of Richard Dawkins. His book, “The Selfish Gene”, was revolutionary for it’s time, and has lead to the new science of Evo Devo, or Evolutionary Biology.

Sam Harris wrote the incredibly provocative book, “The End of Faith”, which I am reading right now. He is a very gifted writer, and his arguments against absolute and unshakable faith are outstanding. His conclusions are scandalous, though. I’m sure I’ll write a book review of it when I’m done.

———————————————————————

Memorable Quotes:

Dawkins rejected all these claims, but the last one – that science could never disprove God – provoked him to sarcasm. “There’s an infinite number of things that we can’t disprove,” he said. “You might say that because science can explain just about everything but not quite, it’s wrong to say therefore we don’t need God. It is also, I suppose, wrong to say we don’t need the Flying Spaghetti Monster, unicorns, Thor, Wotan, Jupiter, or fairies at the bottom of the garden. There’s an infinite number of things that some people at one time or another have believed in, and an infinite number of things that nobody has believed in. If there’s not the slightest reason to believe in any of those things, why bother? The onus is on somebody who says, I want to believe in God, Flying Spaghetti Monster, fairies, or whatever it is. It is not up to us to disprove it.”

“How much do we regard children as being the property of their parents?” Dawkins asks. “It’s one thing to say people should be free to believe whatever they like, but should they be free to impose their beliefs on their children? Is there something to be said for society stepping in? What about bringing up children to believe manifest falsehoods?”

…the big war is not between evolution and creationism, but between naturalism and supernaturalism

I returned from Oxford enthusiastic for argument. I immediately begin trying out Dawkins’ appeal in polite company. At dinner parties or over drinks, I ask people to declare themselves. “Who here is an atheist?” I ask.

Usually, the first response is silence, accompanied by glances all around in the hope that somebody else will speak first. Then, after a moment, somebody does, almost always a man, almost always with a defiant smile and a tone of enthusiasm. He says happily, “I am!”

But it is the next comment that is telling. Somebody turns to him and says: “You would be.”

“Why?”

“Because you enjoy pissing people off.”

“Well, that’s true.”

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