Friday, July 30, 2004

The Meaning of Security in a Post 9/11 World

Westport Now: Essay: The Meaning of Security in a Post 9/11 World

Oh, this is a beautiful piece that takes a sensible look at the security things we are all griping about. I wonder what security will be like in the very different city of New York.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

The Lightning will get him iffen he don't watch out

Molly Ivins posted a remark into her column in today's (July 29) Gazoo that George B. Bush told the Amish July 9 in Lancaster, PA, that "God speaks through me." Was it a slip of the tongue? A Freudian slip? Or does the 12-step Bush really believe he is in direct communication with God? I thought the Pope was the only one who had that kind of connection when he speaks ex cathedra, although others of similar religious bent seem to want to claim they do, too. They all must be jealous if god really does speak through him. I checked on the web and I understand the remark was reported in the Lancaster papers July 16, so Ivins apparently didn't make it up. That's scarier than anything else Bush has said. A lot of newspapers missed the boat on that one. An old-time editor went on vacation one year and left an intern to run his weekly paper. The kid got excited about a news event, a fire or a big win for the local team, or some such thing and carried the headline in the biggest type he could find. When the editor came back he looked at the headline, pursed his lips and frowned. The kid asked, "What's wrong?" "Well," the editor said kindly, "nothing's wrong, but I was saving that type for the Second Coming." Seems to me the newspapers should have used the second coming type on that story. When a man says he's the voice of God, what a news story, what an event, what a shame! And he's our President with a belief in Armageddon and his finger on the trigger? Oh me, oh my! Where are the men in white coats when you really need them? I once again suggest Heinlein's books "Revolt in 2100" and "Coventry." Yes, they are fiction, but they seem to have a clear-eyed view of the potentials of some of our current thinking. Much more so than either the far left or the far right gods.

Why did we turn away from Afghanistan? - Report: Afghanistan could implode - Jul 29, 2004

Maybe this is a consequence of taking our sights off Al Queda to focus on Iraq?

Now which company is going (dough) nutty?

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Another day, another rumor

Commentary Page | Commentary


Monday, July 26, 2004

DNC 2004 Weblogs: News Aggregator

DNC 2004 Weblogs: News Aggregator

For some really interesting views on the Convention. Daily KOS contains remarks by people watching the convention typed in as they were watching it. The remarks also point to an effort by the Republicans to again lie their way past the truth.

Is this what will replace Saddam?

AlterNet: War on Iraq: Iraq's new S.O.B

I think one of the things that we have to fear the most is that our effort to replace Saddam will eventually result in a new dictator. When you're dealing with a country unused to democratic ways and one in which religion and government are intricately entwined, it may be impossible to prevent. The ease with which this can take place is the reason that our Constitution and its accompanying documents spell out that we should be free from established religions. No matter how well-meaning the effort, people with a strong religious bent have no problem telling other people what to think, what to feel, how to act, and what is moral. Leaders who want to be democratic may find that revolution and terrorism make that impossible. That kind of opposition seems to require a strong response (reference the Alexanders of Russia during the last half of the 19th Century). I think that most of the religious right (neither religious nor right) in this country should read a couple of the books of that great Libertarian and absolutely anti-liberal writer, Robert Heinlein: Revolt in 2100 and Coventry. They were scary when I read them (about ) 50 years ago and they still are. I have hated religious involvement in our public life ever since my catholic grade school days and my public high school days when we had to sing out of the Methodist hymnal and nobody raised a ruckus about it.

AlterNet: The Nuttiness of King George the W

AlterNet: The Nuttiness of King George the W

It is extremely interesting the number of concerns we find out there about delaying the election his fall. Of course, it supposedly has to be approved by Congress and the U.S. House has voted against it. But we still have the same Supreme Court in place that elected would-be Emperor George and we also have the well-known history of Germany in the 1930s.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

North Korea claims U.S. flew 1,200 spy flights from January to June -

North Korea claims U.S. flew 1,200 spy flights from January to June -

Giving a third-world country a reason to rattle sabers is probably not a good thing, but this sort of intelligence gathering seems to me better than what we were doing with Afghanistan and Al Queda. Keeping an eye on Irag would have been a lot better than an unjustified pre-emptive strike was. I look at this country and shake my head. I have seen us go from a bunch of good guys defending ourselves (in WWII) to a nation on the verge of becoming an empire. And maybe we are not on the verge of it. We, like the Romans who left their imprint on language and government practices throughout the ages, have left our imprint across the world. That's not necessarily a bad thing except the imprint we have left is the entertainment industry, the circuses of ancient Rome reborn, and the business imperative which is a worse legacy than the Roman law. I think the center of what business has become is drawn up in the renaming of personnel departments, etc., into human resources, as calculatingly cold as natural resources. Humans are cast aside as quickly as unused iron ore or pipe. We stock grocery store shelves from computers without an eye to what people have been using; in some cases, we sell the shelf space and eliminate favorites for things which pay to be there. And the stacks remain untouched. This is a long way to travel from spy games, but that is a part of what this world has become. Humans have always lived in fear. I think we have much more reason, as individuals, to fear the days coming.

Bangladesh flood toll reaches 227 as more areas are submerged -

Bangladesh flood toll reaches 227 as more areas are submerged -

Two-thirds of one country flooded, 227 dead there, 396 dead in India, 102 dead in Nepal and 5 dead in Pakistan. What's going to happen when it gets even wetter? How do we cut back on greenhouse gases enough to prevent what's already started?

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Will Tuvalu Disappear Beneath the Sea?

Will Tuvalu Disappear Beneath the Sea?

This is a really interesting article that sums up a great deal of information on the possibilities of global warming. It also seems to answer the question about the past cycles that we are having constantly brought up by those who question the facts of the case. It cites ice cores and long-term studies.

Friday, July 23, 2004

AlterNet: Election 2004: Sales Clerk, Ph.D

AlterNet: Election 2004: Sales Clerk, Ph.D

Well, Hightower tells it like it is about outsourcing high-tech jobs and what is replacing them. In my income tax work in season, I see folks making these "high, High-Tech" salaries. Why America Is Still An Easy Target -- Jul. 26, 2004 Why America Is Still An Easy Target -- Jul. 26, 2004

This is an article in this week's time which is one of those things that is fairly scary. Not like the Washington Times' terror of arab appearing people on airplanes, but real deficiencies in something where we now know we have to be alert. There are also two other articles of significance, one on malaria and an essay on gay marriage, in this week's issue. I've enjoyed Time for years even though I've always been told it was conservative. I don't think any of these three are and one is pretty liberal.

The King of Peru who was emperor, too

Well, what do you know about this. Sounds like what's happening to Glacier National Park. Well, we know from our Administration that there is no global warming, don't we?<

Thursday, July 22, 2004

What time is it?

With Stephen Hawking changing some of his views on what happens when a black hole swallows us, I guess I want to think out loud about some of my more recent crazier notions. First of all, as prologue, I'm not sure that what Hawking means is that a human body would come out of a black hole, even in unrecognizable form. What I gather he is saying is that the energy that makes up the mass of our bodies that would return but in a form not as we were, more like Slim (credit to Wally McRae's "Reincarnation"). It would not be matter, but energy, like the hologram form most of us can be thought of if you look deeply into matter. But it is physicists' uses of time that I like to look at. It started with reading in Scientific American some months ago an essay on time that discussed, among other things, the question of why we can only go forward in time. I think that to explain that we have to look at what time is. Despite the fact that it can be used in mathematics as a special dimension of the universe, I suggest time is actually our definition of the process of change. One reason why physicists often say that time began with the Big Bang (under current theories which I understand may be in the process of being modified) is that time cannot occur unless there is change. In an unchanging universe there can be no time. The dial of a clock would not turn, the electrons in an atom would not go around the nucleus. Nothing would ever change. Humans who existed (which would not be possible in such a universe) would be like statues without wind, rain or pigeons. If time is a fourth dimension outside the process of change, we could potentially return to some point in the past; but if time, as I suggest, is only a way to look at change, like a yardstick is a way to look at distance, then it is too integral to the process of change to reverse. Thus, the only way to go is forward.

Secondly, I think that we also have to realize when dealing with time that none of us can be aware of existing in the present. We existed in the past but we exist not in the present but the future. Even as we think that this is the present, the heart beats again and the blood flows to a new point and where we were is the past and we are in that point's future. Some people have suggested that time exists in packets, like photons of light, and if that is true then I suppose time would have a tick-tock present. But I believe that time is seamless, as a measurement of change which is ongoing, and that we then cannot ever be in what we define as the present. Now, I'm not sure if this is really crazy thinking or if there is some significance here. But I think the concept that time is a measurement can be used to explain why people at different speeds, such as one at the speed of light in space and one on earth, will record a difference in time. If you go faster, change occurs at a more rapid rate. You go faster into the future so it arrives sooner than it does for someone going significantly slower. I would suggest in addition, that the future consists of light. In other words, one cannot be aware of change except in the presence of the energy of light. One additional thought about time being a measurement of change is that one day by the clock does not always fit into the actual rotation of the earth. Airplanes and space ships and radio and television stations sometimes have to adjust to compensate for a few seconds longer in a day to prevent being off course or offering dead air. (This surprised me when I read it in an article, I think in Time.) And I wish I had the math to work this out.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Are the parties trying to use the bloggers?

I just spent some time on PressThink where there is always a long-winded dialogue going on about something to do with the media, often just a name-calling process between those who cast aspersions on the "liberal" press and the others who beat their breasts about the liberal press. The current discussions have to do with whether the bloggers the Democrats invited to their convention are actually journalists or if they are different from the mainstream journalists. I suspect the difference is more that most mainstream journalists are backed up by fact checkers and editors who look at their work for coherence and, as may be, for the party line before it goes on air or sees print. Bloggers generally do not have that backup and a great number of their reports may spell names wrong, get facts wrong or have some of the other wet dreams seen on blogs. On the other hand they may be very well done. But it will be even more important to weed through what they write to determine the truth from the emotional content. The real importance, I think, may be that the party is attempting to use them to put out its presence, its image, on the Internet. Howard Dean showed Democrats, and Republicans if they were watching, that the internet may be the new television of politics. It may have a significant effect on who votes on what. And name recognition is still the name of the game. I don't care what you say about me, just spell my name right. But manipulation is the name of the game in politics today—the TV sound bite which is avowedly sought by every candidate is a good example. So it may not be important what journalistic function the bloggers will fulfill, but what is their political function? I suggest that inviting bloggers to the convention is just a political recognition of the Internet's potential.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The medium is not the message

This is a correction and update of a comment I posted on Ed Kemmick's City Lights.
What we are talking about here is the tools, not the actual situation. When movable type made the Bible available to the average reader, the powers that be were concerned because it threatened their control of life. When newspapers came in, they were and still are condemned for the same reason that Jefferson supported them, they made for a more educated electorate. Now we are looking at what is going on in film and Howard Dean saw another change coming in politics and started using the Internet. That will be developed in years ahead (or maybe just months with the bloggers going to convention), to make new waves in politics. Despite what McCluhan wrote in the 60s, the medium is not the message, it just provides new tools to distort and manipulate the message. I have to admit that I agree with Jen that while electronic media is the quickest way to stay up to date, the truth can best be winnowed from the print media, if you establish that the media you use is trying to rely on facts, not supposition. You can winnow the electronic also. The key is to eliminate all the emotional language you can and see what's left. Then observe that with your skeptical rose-colored glasses. However, I also fear that what she says about mud-slinging (that she will vote for the person who does use it) is like the current myth about voting for the man, not the party. One person’s mud is another person’s fact. Again, you have to weed out the “truth” rather than be swayed by tradition or habit. That’s why I find it hard to understand the support for our current president. What I have seen as fact, what is left after I have done my best to weed out the right or left wing attitudes (and in today’s language free-for-alls that’s fairly easy if you look at it all as if it's propaganda) says that he has led us down the path toward a new Imperial Rome and that we really are less safe today than we were right after 9/11. To explain the vote for the man myth, all it takes is to look at what happens in Helena (or any state capital that operates on a party system) and in Washington, D.C. The key votes are so party aligned that when a party fails to gain the votes of all its members in the legislature or Congress it becomes news in itself. I think this is what makes the public unhappy with the politicians. They vote for a person who says he or she will do something, but when push comes to shove, the person has to vote with his or her party.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Some people should not cite history

When I was in the seventh grade in Holy Rosary Catholic School in Bozeman (and that was a long time ago), history was the final period of the day. However, several times a week we had a young priest come in to talk to us about the evils of the world and the majesty of the Catholic Church. Invariably he would talk for two periods instead of one; the young nun couldn't cut him off and we didn't do history that day. I suspect that gave me a jaundiced view of priests that was just enhanced by later experiences. But I loved history. In high school, I always did well in that class and spent at least one summer reading the Bible, all of Shakespeare and a condensed, one-volume encyclopedia of history that my mother had gotten from the Book of the Month Club. Before I entered college I knew that most of the names we think of when we cite the Founding Fathers were not religious people. They were products of the Enlightenment, that time in the world when we began to realize that there were natural systems that held the universe together. If they were not deists who felt that if there was a god he had wound up the world and wandered away behind the veil (as the Bible says) or they were Georgian Church of England which was more of a social event than fundamental Christianity. Indeed Methodists, Friends and I suspect Congregationalists and Presbyterians all owe their birth to this attitude. None of our founding fathers, as far I have read, belonged to any of those sects then considered as weird as holy rollers would be later. Since then there have been tepid references to religion in our political lives, mostly when a leader says he has prayed for guidance, but nothing that indicates a belief in establishing a religion or forcing people to accept policy because one church says it is against "natural" law, which I say does not exist except in a majority, but not in a universal situation. I am reminded of a few years ago when the Gazette ran a picture of a recreation of an old-time one-room school house from the late 1800s. On the blackboard was the Pledge of Allegiance. And, of course, someone wrote in that the phrase "under god" (one of the most inane editorial changes ever made was omitted. They did not know history enough to know that the pledge was not changed to include that phrase until 1954 under the sainted President Eisenhower (for whom I cast my first vote) in the wake of the unsainted joseph mccarthy (lower case deliberate) who seems to me the model for the new fundamentalists. It always amazed me that the French and the English could pray during the hundred years war to the same god for victory and now we were doing it. It gave us an arrogance during the Cold War, I guess, a certainty that we were the chosen ones. And now, I understand, we have a unstable justice on the Supreme Court (Thomas) who actually thinks that states should be allowed under the Constitution to establish religions. Apparently he says this should be a state's right. I thought we settled all that business of states rights in 1864. At least the Supreme Court went on record some years ago as saying that the Bill of Rights pertained to the states. Thank "God"!

Things to come?

Some interesting stories came into my purview this weekend. The first two were interesting for the irony. On page 9A of Sunday morning's Gazette we had an interesting account about how Iraqis in Fallujah were feeling safe enough to sleep on the streets and their roofs. Then Sunday afternoon came word (I saw it on CNN) that we had bombed a house in that city that was supposed to be a center for rebels. Wonder how safe the other Iraqis felt when the bombs started falling again? (Oh, yes, I also heard (on NPR which is by far the most objective news on radio or TV) that the people were saying the 14 killed were just civilians, although the U.S. commanders were saying they were insurgents (I wonder who is most believable given the lies coming out of Washington for the last two years). And it was interesting that a week after the news first surfaced that the Gazoo carried a story on the rumor about delaying this fall's election. Actually, that's not a rumor; apparently it is up for consideration. Wonder if they will carry any articles in the near future on the rumor that Cheney's new doctor will determine in August that running again will be too stressful for him? The other two articles are related in some way to the global warming that so many people say isn't happening, despite the melting of the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps and the namesakes of Glacier Park. Science News reported that some biologists are reporting that higher average temperatures are cutting into the yield of grains of rice despite longer growing seasons and more water. When the globe heats up as it is expected to, this could mean that the green revolution will need to be jump started again. The final interesting story was reported in The Week (which also asked if there might be an October surprise involving Bin Laden). What it reported in its world news wrapup was that one third of Bangladesh and a large part of India's Assam Province were flooded by heavy monsoons with great numbers of people homeless. Bangladesh, like some Pacific islands, is lowlands. What will happen in that part of the world if people are dispossessed with no way to ever return to their homes when the ice caps melt? And what will it mean for us?

Thursday, July 15, 2004

About the marriage amendment

I think the concern I have is that people are saying this is a decline in society. Historically, the forcing of one belief on society, no matter what that belief is, has consistently meant the decline of that society. For instance, in the 14th Century, Islam was essentially an open society with Christians and Jews treated fairly and allowed to live their own lives and the Islamic society flourished and kept alive the traditions of the Greeks and Romans and created some of the great science of the time, including arabic numerals which have enabled mathematics and science to flourish. At that time, the Christian repression of the Middle Ages was retarding, although not stopping, similar growth in Europe. When the enlightenment came about during the renaissance, some of the great artists are thought to have been gay but circumspect about it: Da Vinci and Michelangelo come to mind. But the fact of being gay is not what it's about. It's about the openness of society that encourages the flowering of thought and expression. When a particularly religion begins to enforce its beliefs with the sword, the society begins to die as thought, science and free expression begin to die. It is this form of religion, whether it be Christian, Islamic or Communism, that curdles a society. In other words, it is about control, not belief.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

scary stuff

A great many blogs out there seem to come out of dark places where spiders like to hide and where gibbering in the dark corners of a mind is thinking.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Are we getting too worried about terror for our own safety? reported today that Brian Roehrkasse, identified as a spokesman for the inanity called Homeland Security, has said that yes, officials have been discussing ways of postponing or delaying this fall's election if we are subject to terrorist attacks on election day or the days leading up to it, ala Spain. However, there is some doubt that 3/11 in Spain had anything to do with the defeat of the government that had supported Bush in Iraq. Polls indicated that the Spanish people did not support us there. Polls did seem to indicate that the government was leading slightly among voters, but then the Lee poll only days before the election here showed Brown and Davison neck and neck in the Republican primary while Brown swamped Davison in the actual vote. But Spain didn't cancel its elections or delay them. New York delayed its primary following 9/11 but I wonder if it would have made any difference. As one person cited by CNN in its story said, the U.S. has held its elections on time even in war time and under natural disasters. We might remember that both Lincoln and FDR were elected to their last terms during the crisis of wars. Lincoln, indeed, did not seem to be doing as well in his war as FDR was in his and he still was re-elected. But the overall concern is historical. Hitler used the supposed terror of the Reichstag fire to assume emergency powers and never gave them up. And on a lighter note, do we really want Bush again posturing after a November strike as he did following 9/11. But if he is trailing in the polls leading up to the election, I would not be surprised if we do have a terrorist attack and a suspension of the election.


Had a good discussion at the Billings Association of Humanists this Sunday afternoon about the purpose of marriage in today's world. It went all the way from commitment to government sanction, but I think no one thought it should be limited to just one man and one woman. After all, in today's world, you can get married in a church and your insurance company and the Social Security Department could question your commitment. They could ask if it's just a rip-off, a ploy to gain the benefit of someone else's employment. Right now and for a number of years, some churches have married gays even though the state has not recognized that marriage for legal purposes. And for many years, the state has been marrying folks without benefit of clergy so they could take on the traditional responsibilities of being a couple. And there are couples today raising children without benefit of marriage, although I would think they are committed to each other and to the future just by the fact of accepting the children as their own. But they don't necessarily, even with legal documentations such as living wills and joint tenancy, have the same responsibilities and privileges. If marriage is only for the kids, then why are we obligated to stay married after the kids leave unless we have it approved legally unless, of course, we want to? Marriage is also about companionship and concern between two people. It should not be narrowly defined as the Baptists would have it.

Friday, July 09, 2004

I wonder

I just finished reading, almost word for word, a magazine I picked up at Borders called "reason" subtitled "Free Minds and Free Markets." It's one of those interesting mixes that makes me wonder if I want to spend the money to subscribe or not. This was the July 2004 issue with articles on Learning to Love Quotas and 10 Truths About Trade. Brink Lindsey, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, wrote the latter article and, as could be expected, defended moving jobs off shore and free trade in general. That's not a bad thing, particularly if free trade eliminates the barriers to the movement of people to share in the new jobs and ends the political lines that prevent all the people in the world from having enough to eat. With that said, I have three caveats. The first is that the U.S. should make sure that those countries with whom we have free trade agreements should meet the environmental and civil rights regulations we have in this country. The second is that this country needs to have better programs in place to help those who lose their jobs to offshoring. When the former colonies moved from the Articles of Confederation to the U.S. Constitution free trade between them caused a number of dislocations. But people were also allowed and enabled to move from state to state to follow those jobs if they wished. Not true today. The third caveat is that companies must train their offshore phone employees better both as to what they are doing and their enunciation. I have dealt with two companies whose phone answerers, after I had gone through all the buttons, were obviously East Indians. I couldn't understand their language and they couldn't understand my problem. I had to get their supervisor, who spoke what I think of as unaccented American English and understood the problem. Of course, the bad side is that this magazine and those it represents believe corporations should be able to spend all they want to on campaigns. I think it's time we took away the legalisms that make corporations just another one of the people. They aren't people but the actual persons who run them get away from responsibility by hiding behind that fiction. There may be more to be said about this later.

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