Saturday, September 30, 2006

You'd Think the Second Coming Would Be Bigger News

and for my readers with the gift of tongues:

Charismatic leader
Millenial predictions
Claims to be Christ Himself, as in the Holy Son of God, Jesus Christ, Savior and Redeemer
Asserts that he cannot die, yet surrounds himself with 9 bodyguards
Wife puts donations directly into her purse
Denies the concept of sin
Protests outside of other churches' meetings

Whoa! You would seriously think that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ would be bigger news. I cringe at calling a religion a cult, since so many people call Mormonism a cult (which it is not). But, the man is clearly so full of himself that people are going to either love or hate him. He claims that he does "greater things than Jesus" and that God and he are One. This will end badly.

I will give them this though, they group the religions as Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, and Jews. At least they realize that Mormons are not Protestants.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Jailhouse Justice and the Dark Corners of Humanity

The man raped and murdered a little girl. He was forcibly tatooed on his forehead while in prison. Vigilante justice is wrong. We are civilized people. We do not do cruel and unusual punishment. The man has rights. They were violated.

With all that said, if someone raped and murdered Marley, I don't know if I could reconcile my hatred and anger with my religion enough to forgive him. I hate those dark corners of humanity, the macabre suppositions and what ifs. May my contingent actions forever remain ones of speculation.

Que el mundo fue y sera una porqueria, ya lo se;
en el quinientos seis y en el dos mil también;
que siempre ha habido chorros, maquiavelos y estafaos,
contentos y amargaos, valores y dubles,

pero que el siglo veinte es un despliegue
de malda insolente ya no hay quien lo niegue;
vivimos revolcaos en un merengue

y en un mismo lodo todos manoseaos.

Hoy resulta que es lo mismo ser derecho que traidor,

ignorante, sabio, chorro, pretensioso, estafador.
Todo es igual; nada es mejor;
lo mismo un burro que un gran profesor.
No hay aplazaos ni escalafon;
los inmorales nos han igualao.

Si uno vive en la impostura y otro es vano en su ambición,
da lo mismo que si es cura, colchonero, rey de bastos, caradura o polizon.

Que falta de respeto, que atropello a la razon;

cualquiera es un señor, cualquiera es un ladron.
Mezclaos con dos Canini, van Don Bosco y la Mignon,
don Chicho y Napoleon, Carnera y San Martin.
Igual que en la vidriera irrespetuosa de los cambalaches se ha
mezclao la vida, y herida por un sable sin remaches ves llorar la
Biblia contra un calefon.

Siglo veinte, cambalache problematico y febril;
el que no llora, no mama, y el que no afana es un gil.
Dale nomas, dale que va, que alla en el horno nos vamo a encontrar.
No pienses mas, echate a un lao, que a nadie que a nadie importa si naciste honrao.
Que es lo mismo el que labura noche y día como un buey que el que vive
de los otros,
que el que mata o el que cura o esta fuera de la ley

--Andrés Calamaro

Response to Brent Bastian, and why some public order crimes should always be illegal

IN response to your argument, I feel that the message behind the Lawrence decision was that homosexuality is no longer criminal. If it were done it public, it could no longer carry a greater or differently categorized punishment than a heterosexual act could. Also, if the decision is solely about the right to privacy, then that could imply that any act committed in the privacy of my home would not be criminal. Meaning that I could invite you into my home and if you consented that I could torture you (indulge the absurdity), the law could have no hold over me because it was done consentually and in the privacy of my own home.

My worry, that I thought I expressed well enough, was that this is the first step to the state regulating what can and can't be eaten in the home.

(ir)regardless of the court's statements as to privacy, the general population would clamor if a sudden movement was made to criminalize the homosexual act, because this decision is basically saying that the state has no authority to tell two consenting adults what they can do sexually, thus ending the govt's right to "legislate morality." All other laws that will stand scrutiny in this new environment, to me seem to be ones that involve an inherent and indisputable victim. The idea of a crime happening, a "public order crime, when "no one is hurt" seems preposterous to our current judiciary, and the laws will trend away from criminalizing those types of actions as time goes our national detriment in some cases. I'm not arguing that we should criminalize homosexuality--people need to be able to use their free will. I am arguing that the notion of a victimless crime should not be the sole argument for repealing some laws. While I am in favor of legalizing some drugs, I think such laws and criminalizing suicide, loosening of gambling restrictions, of prostitution, and of pornography will hurt us as a people and as a nation. I don't really look forward to living in a time when the delights of the flesh are constantly on display. I've been to Holland. I didn't like it.

My opinions as to why these public order crimes should not be legalized are:

1. Suicide: because the person needs to have some legally binding order to get the help they need to recover. If putting them in a type of confinement to protect themselves from themselves is called for, the state should have the authority to do so.

2. Gambling: even though I admit that I gamble from time to time, it is definitely a NIMBY subject. I think gambling is evil and teaches us that we can get something for nothing, at the expense of our fellow gamblers. I make no excuses for myself. If I gamble it is wrong, and I know it. I would vote for tougher gambling laws, but to criminalize it completely only puts the power in the hands of criminals. Gambling is NOT like investing in stocks, no matter how coolly someone crafts the argument.

3. Prostitution: Public health, and I would be in horror if teenagers could go and pay someone have sex with them. All prostitution does is tell us that sex is something to be enjoyed like eating a meal or going to the movies. It takes the single most precious and beautiful expression of love between too people and removes all of the emotion from it. Sometimes sex is about raw passion and animal lust, nothing wrong with that, as long as there is a connection between the two people. Saying that some people "can't find love" just means that need to try harder, examine their own lives. Banging one out in someone for money is the most cold, most detached, most inhumane thing I can think of besides murder. If sex is only about the orgasm then I pity people. Say you have a bad day, you're down on yourself, you want to feel better. Say your marriage isn't going well and you've just had a fight. If there's a brothel in your town, and you get drunk enough, you just might go there and wreck your marriage. Say a teenager gets enough money to pay a prostitute enough so that she won't care about "underage copulation." Now you're 14 years old, your first sexual experience has been with a prostitute, and you might forever associate that with your sexual encounters. Perhaps so much so that you'll expect your future partners to perform like prostitutes. A totally one-sided and unloving view of sex. It should go without saying that I'm fan of abstinence until marriage, but I realize that I'm an idealist too. However, the legalization of prostitution would have serious repercussions on the strength of the family, spousal trust, etc. To say nothing of the psychological impact that being just a thing would have on sex workers. Imagine if all you did all day was take money for performing sex acts.....your sense of self-worth would surely plummet. Maybe I'm too religious to look at this issue scientifically, but I feel very strongly that it should never be okay.

4. Porn: All of the above coupled with the FACT that it's a total lie. See my previous posts.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Foie Gras, Abortion, Nutrition; Gay, Anal, & Oral Sex, and New York City's Trans Fat Ban

So, I'm a little stumped. As a political moderate, I can see both sides of an issue. I can respect both sides of an issue. Sometimes I would vote as a liberal, sometimes as a conservative. The New York City proposal to ban the use of artificial trans fats in restaurant foods strikes me as odd. At least in the case of Chicago's ban of foie gras it was to protect geese from the torture life in a cage. We must defend our Anserine-Americans!

For the first 200+ years of our formal existence as a nation, judeo-christian morality influenced our laws. In 2003, the US Supreme Court overturned an anti-sodomy law from Texas that criminalized homosexual behavior between consenting adults. Conservatives decried the end of morality and family values. Liberals once again were jubilant that the government was "no longer legislating morality."

Ever since Roe v. Wade, the most famous instance of the government empowering the individual with the right to determine the use of their body, our laws have been continually repealed and changed to allow for ever more personal freedom. Oral sex, once illegal virtually everywhere in America, is now legal thanks to the aforementioned Lawrence v Texas decision, as is hetero or homosexual anal intercourse. Our government and courts have spoken resolutely about the liberty clause in the 14th Amendment, and have determined that the state cannot legislate morality, and that humans have the right to choose what to put into their bodies, or in the case of abortion, what to remove.

Back to NYC. So, with all this libertarian acknowledgement of the individual's right to liberty of the body and flesh--and the use thereof, we now have a movement (presumably bi-partisan) to legislate how we use our bodies. This isn't coming from a moral angle (though most religions would consider gluttony a sin), but rather from a public health angle. I find it odd that we will advocate having "protected sex" as a means to better public health instead of abstinence, but we will seek to prevent individual consumption of *possibly* harmful substances, essentially robbing the citizen of their volitional will and right to choose what they want to eat. I would think that nicotine, AIDS, alcohol, syphillis, HPV (human papilloma virus), and propylene glycol (read the ingredients of your cake mixes) would be far greater risks to public health than trans fats in a restaurant. I guess this will mean, no more Oreos, cake icing, peanut butter, and other "partially hydrogenated" delicacies for New Yorkers (I do realize it's only for restaurants......for now). It would be more in line with other vice legislation to tax the hell out of trans fats, rather than ban them outright.

Am I the only one that sees the irony here? You can put anything or anyone into your body you want, 'cept hydrogenated fats.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Silicon Valley, Solar Power Technology, and Elisabeth Shue

In 1997s The Saint, Elisabeth Shue plays Dr. Emma Russell, a physicist who not only invents (discovers) a formula to get cold fusion from a glass of water, but then decides to altruistically give away the formula to the nations of the world, for free.

We are not so lucky as Hollywood would have us believe, but the secret to some of the world's energy woes may actually lie in the state of California, but more to the north of the glitzy south.

It's kind of amazing how much Elisabeth Shue looks like my sister-in-law Erin Fonnesbeck in this photo.

With Wal-Mart pledging to investigate selling E-85 ethanol at all its gas stations, and now silicon valley dedicating billions of dollars a year to other uses of silicon besides computer chips, the world may soon change course and look to mother nature for more renewable resources.

Solar cells make me happy. Though I wonder if there's a risk of global chilling associated with the increased absorption of solar energy into photovoltaic cells. Could this cool the atomosphere and launch an increase in the global population of manbearpigs? Is solar power the next environmental crisis? See, fear-mongering takes only a few moments and a few ignorant questions.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

McDonald's to Serve Breakfast All Day Long (William "D-Fens" Foster said to be pleased)

Whenever I go home to visit my parents, they always want to go to McDonald's for breakfast. I worked for McDonald's for five years, until I was fired for going to all of the home games of the 1996 World Series instead of reporting for work. I worked every Saturday from 1991-1993 in the morning. I know very well that McDonald's stops serving breakfast at 10:30 AM on weekdays and at 11AM on weekends. My parents still try and tell me that it's 10:30AM. I am always right. The argument will no longer matter since Mickey D's has decided to start serving breakfast 'round the clock.,2933,214758,00.html

This means that the McGriddles. McMuffins, and Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Biscuits will be available all day long. Many people have waited their entire lives for this day. Their will be much rejoicing amongst people too lazy to get up early enough to get breakfast. Hotcakes will no longer be the province of the early-risers. Also, imagine the delicious possibilities of eating your Big Mac with Hashbrowns (Something Arby's has done for decades). Imagine getting a McGriddle with french fries, milk shake, and a salad. I'm not really sure if these will be successful combinations, but this will boost McDonald's sales. Now if only they would create more healthy breakfast foods.

One thing is for sure. You will no longer suffer the agony of getting in line at 10:20 and having the clock tick round to 10:30 while you're in line, thus leaving you with the option of only a McMuffin or a Quarter Pounder (Did you know in France they call it a Royale with Cheese?). Scenes like this one can now be avoided:

Hi. Can I help you?

I'd like a ham and cheese Whamlette, an order of Wham fries--

Sorry, we stopped serving breakfast. We' re on the lunch menu.

I want breakfast.

We' re not serving it.

So you said. Is that the manager? Could I speak to him, please?

Sure. Rick, a customer would liketo speak to you.

Yes, sir.

I'd like some breakfast.

We stopped serving breakfast.

I know you stopped breakfast, Rick. Sheila told me you stopped. . . . Why am I calling you by first names? I don't know you. I call my boss "mister" after years, but I walk in here, a stranger. . . . . .and I' m calling you Rick and Sheila like we' re in an AA meeting.
I don't want to be your buddy, Rick.I just want a little breakfast.

You can call me Miss Folsom if you want to.

We stopped serving breakfast at 10:30 .

Have you ever heard the expression,"The customer is always right" ? Well, here I am. The customer.

That's not our policy. You have to order somethingfrom the lunch menu.

I don't want lunch. I want breakfast.

Y eah, well, hey,I' m really sorry.

Y eah, well, hey,I' m really sorry too!

He's got a gun!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

MLA Job Market for Assistant Professors of Latin-American Literature

Well, my Department granted me access to the MLA Job List yesterday and I spent the whole day looking at the jobs available this year, making lists, checking out the different departments' webpages, and determining if my qualifications matched the job description. I have an appointment with Dr. Idelber Avelar, the head of my dissertation committee, today to discuss this quickly approaching next phase of my career. Here are some schools that are hiring that sound very interesting:

Oklahoma, U of West Georgia, US Naval Academy, Gonzaga, Lehigh, LSU, Marquette, U of British Columbia, Notre Dame, U of Saint Thomas (MN), Xavier (OH), and a host of smaller Liberal Arts schools. Even Dixie State College in St. George, Utah is hiring in my field.

More jobs are added each day. I am very excited.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A clarion call for a Moderate American political party, or why the Left and the Right can't see eye to eye anymore

From time to time I get forwarded long diatribes, jeremiads, and harangues from the frustrated Right. I sympathize with both the Left and the Right in today’s politics. However, I tend to side a little more to the Center these days. I long for a Moderates Political Party. Call it the Rationalist Party. It wouldn’t matter if you believed in God or were an Atheist. Both would be welcome. The party would seek to preserve rational civil liberties. The party would not think that anyone that disagreed with it was evil, stupid, immoral, unethical, corrupt, vile, or any other synonym for “nincompoop” so commonly thrown around in today’s world. It would be devoid of politicians. No Trent Lotts, no Nancy Pelosis. More Leibermans and Christopher Shays. The party will not make simple events sound like grandiose and monumental occurrences.

P.J. O’Rourke wrote a hysterically funny piece a couple of years ago where he commented on how much he pitied politicians, because they have to make everything they do sound like it’s this great noble work. An except:

What is obnoxious about the motives of politicians—whatever those motives may be—is that politicians must announce their motives as visionary and grand. Try this with the ordinary activities of your day:

My dear wife and beloved children, I say to you this—I will mow the lawn. Lawns are a symbol of America’s spacious freedoms and green prosperity. Such noble tokens of well-being and independence must not go untended, lest we show the world that liberty is mere license and see the very ground upon which we stand, as Americans, grow tangled with the weeds of irresponsibility and be fruitful only in the tares of greed. I will give the grass clippings to the poor.

Politicians are not, as a class, outstandingly evil or insane. For the most part they’re just ridiculous people …”

That is some first-class mockery! And he’s totally right. When was the last time a politician didn’t go all bombastic about a simple vote? Everything is rhetoric and grandiosity.
Back to the issue at hand…..the frustrated Right. The Right truly feels that the Left wants to ruin America. The Right thinks that the Left are smelly evil people that would vote the entire treasury to be distributed to the poor. The Right feels the Left are either poor people trying to take their hard-earned wealth, or are the mega-rich that need not concern themselves with the daily struggle to keep a roof overhead, feed the family and pay the $60 damned dollars it takes to fill up the ole Ford Explorer. The Right feels that they have won all the wars they prosecuted (Spanish-American, Mexican-American, WWI, WWII, Gulf I) and that Vietnam was the damned Liberals’ fault. They try and show how they have struggled throughout history to get pacifists to shut up, because military might and victory have always equaled success and divine approbation in the past. I understand their position, though it is comprised of no small amount of revisionist history. I shall respond to the letter I was emailed section by section. The letter is in italics, my comments are in normal script.


A Very Important History Lesson Please read this !! Why we are in IRAQ. Here is a post from Raymond S. Kraft, a California lawyer that sheds light on the Big Picture!

Sixty-three years ago, Nazi Germany had overrun almost all of Europe and hammered England to the verge of bankruptcy and defeat, and had sunk more than four hundred British ships in their convoys between England and America for food and war materials.

Based on other comments in this letter, the math doesn’t add up. 63 years ago was 1943, two years after the American entry into the war.

The US was in an isolationist, pacifist, mood, and most Americans and Congress wanted nothing to do with the European war, or the Asian war.


Then along came Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and in outrage Congress unanimously declared war on Japan, and the following day on Germany, which had not attacked us. It was a dicey thing.

We declared war on Germany because they declared war on us first. War was not declared against Germany until December 11, 1941, after receipt of their formal declaration that same day.

We had few allies. France was not an ally, the Vichy government of France aligned with its German occupiers. Germany was not an ally, it was an enemy, and Hitler intended to set up A Thousand-Year Reich in Europe. Japan was not an ally, it was intent on owning and controlling all of Asia. Japan and Germany had long-term ideas of invading Canada and Mexico, and then the United States over the north and south borders, after they had settled control of Asia and Europe.

America’s allies then were England, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and Russia, and that was about it.

A tad simplistic. The British Commonwealth were our allies, consisting of all their colonies and former colonies around the world. Ireland was neutral, officially, though sympathetic to the Allied cause, mostly out of fear of German invasion. You cannot overlook the enormous contribution of the Chinese. Russia was our ally in that they needed our help. Without the massive Russian sacrifices against the Germans, the war would’ve been completely different. The Vichy government was as impotent as Jake Barnes.

All of Europe, from Norway to Italy, except Russia in the east, was all ready under the Nazi heel. America was not prepared for war.

America had stood down most of it’s military after WWI and throughout the depression, at the outbreak of WWII, there were army units training with broomsticks over their shoulders because they didn’t have guns, and cars with “tank” painted on the doors because they didn’t have tanks. And a big chunk of our Navy had just been sunk and damaged at Pearl Harbor.

True and not true. The ill-preparedness of the military was true in the late 1930’s as documented in Frank Capra’s propaganda series during the war. By the beginning of the war, with the industrial might of the country already geared up to support the UK, the Army was becoming better equipped with each passing day. The Navy lost 6 battleships at Pearl Harbor, four of which were eventually returned to service. The crucial carrier fleet was out of the harbor. Had that been different, the war would’ve taken at least two more years and a million more American lives to win, at least.

Britain had already gone bankrupt, saved only by the donation of $600 million in gold bullion in the Bank of England that was the property of Belgium and was given by Belgium to England to carry on the war when Belgium was overrun by Hitler. Actually, Belgium surrendered in one day, because it was unable to oppose the German invasion, and the Germans bombed Brussels into rubble the next day anyway just to prove they could. Britain has been holding out for two years already in the face of staggering shipping losses and the near decimation of its air force in the Battle of Britain, and was saved from being overrun by Germany only because Hitler made the mistake of thinking the Brits were a relatively minor threat that could be dealt with later and turning his attention to Russia, at a time when England was on the verge of collapse in the late summer of 1940.

Dunkirk cost Hitler the war. Belgium was overrun in one day by the blitzkreig.

Russia saved America’s butt by putting up a desperate fight for two years until the US got geared up to begin hammering away at Germany. Russia lost something like 24 million people in the sieges of Stalingrad and Moscow, 90% of them from cold and starvation, mostly civilians, but more than a million soldiers. More than a million. Had Russia surrendered, then, Hitler would have been able to focus his entire campaign against the Brits, then America, and the Nazis would have won the war.

The stats are right, their interpretation a little off. 24 million are estimated to have died, both civilian, military, and German Jewish exterminations all combined, over the entire war, not just during the sieges of Stalingrad and Moscow.

I say this to illustrate that turning points in history are often dicey things. And we are at another one. There is a very dangerous minority in Islam that either has, or wants and may soon have, the ability to deliver small nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, almost anywhere in the world, unless they are prevented from doing so.

The Jihadis, the militant Muslims, are basically Nazis in Kaffiyahs. They believe that Islam, a radically conservative (definitely not liberal!) form of Wahhabi Islam, should own and control the Middle East first, then Europe, then the world, and that all who do not bow to Allah should be killed, enslaved, or subjugated. They want to finish the Holocaust, -destroy Israel, -purge the world of Jews. This is what they say.

All irhabists are not Wahhabists. All Wahhabists are not irhabists.

There is also a civil war raging in the Middle East, for the most part not a hot war, but a war of ideas. Islam is having its Inquisition and its Reformation today, but it is not yet known which will win - the Inquisition or the Reformation.

I agree that Islam is at a similar place that Christianity was 600 years ago, however, you can’t make claims like this without backing them up with references. Where are the Reformationists? Why do we not know about their views in this country? Are you implying that the House of Saud is comprised of Reformists?

If the Inquisition wins, then the Wahhabis, the Jihads, will control the Middle East, and the OPEC oil, and the US, European, and Asian economies, the techno industrial economies, will be at the mercy of OPEC, not an OPEC dominated by the well educated and rational Saudis of today, but an OPEC dominated by the Jihadis.

The well-educated Saudis in control of our economies also fund the Wahhabi schools with the very money we pay them for their petroleum.

You want gas in your car? You want heating oil next winter? You want jobs? You want the dollar to be worth anything? You better hope the Jihad, the Muslim Inquisition, loses, and the Islamic Reformation wins.

Fear-mongering. You and I both know that if it ever came to this, our country would not hesitate to invade and take actual control of those resources, by any means necessary. It wouldn’t be right, but it would still happen. Americans will tolerate only so much change to their way of life. The real issue then is how to wean ourselves off their oil. If you take away the money from petroleum, Saudi Arabia can’t even supply enough drinking water to its own people, let alone food. They are as tied to us as we them, and they know it. There isn’t enough arable land in the whole peninsula to feed their people, and their economy is centered around petroleum. Without it, their economy would completely collapse. We must stop our oil addiction, therein lies the solution to our problem. To quote Wagner in Parsifal, "The wound can only be healed by the spear which made it."

If the Reformation movement wins, that is, the moderate Muslims who believe that Islam can respect and tolerate other religions, and live in peace with the rest of the world, and move out of the 10th century and into the 21st, then the troubles in the Middle East will eventually fade away, and a moderate and prosperous Middle East will emerge.
We have to help the Reformation win, and to do that we have to fight the Inquisition, i.e., the Wahhabi movement, the Jihad, Al Qaeda, the Islamic terrorist movements. We have to do it somewhere. We cannot do it nowhere. And we cannot do it everywhere at once. We have created a focal point for the battle now at the time and place of our choosing, in Iraq.

You can’t really draw parallels between the Reformation and the Inquisition and Islam, and then advocate our involvement. Spain had blood money from gold and silver to fight their wars. Saudi Arabia has blood money from oil. The Spaniards bought weapons from their enemies to fight against them. We buy oil from the very people you’re vilifying. There is no USA in the model you mention from history. There is no powerful nation that fought the Inquisition in the model you suggest. The Inquisition collapsed because the Spaniards were horrible at military strategy, horrible economists (no investment in infrastructure), and the people eventually got tired of living in fear (admittedly, that is a simple version of what happened).

Not in New York, not in London, or Paris, or Berlin, but in Iraq, where we did and are doing two very important things.
(1) We deposed Saddam Hussein. Whether Saddam Hussein was directly involved in 9/11 or not, it is undisputed that Saddam has been actively supporting the terrorist movement for decades. Saddam is a terrorist. Saddam is, or was, a weapon of mass destruction, who is responsible for the deaths of probably more than a million Iraqis and two million Iranians.

Agreed, but the world is full of horrible governments, where we do nothing, or have done nothing. Rwanda, Burma (Myanmar), North Korea, Iran, Sudan. The only difference here is his proximity to billions of barrels of oil and trying to thwart Iranian ambitions in the region (all in an effort to stabalize the price of oil).

(2) We created a battle, a confrontation, a flash point, with Islamic terrorism in Iraq. We have focused the battle. We are killing bad guys there and the ones we get there we won’t have to get here, or anywhere else. We also have a good shot at creating a democratic, peaceful Iraq, which will be a catalyst for democratic change in the rest of the Middle East and an outpost for a stabilizing American military presence in the Middle East for as long as it is needed.

The “bad guys” we’re killing there wouldn’t have come here. More "good guys" than bad guys are dying everyday in Iraq. Women, children, innocent men. We are creating new terrorists every time we arrest someone’s mom, kill their brother, etc. The military learned zero lessons from Vietnam, apparently. You can’t win a people’s trust by treating everyone like a criminal. Especially, when YOU invaded THEM. Think about the South during the “War of Northern Aggression.” Most Southerners didn’t own slaves. They volunteered, en masse, because their home was being invaded. It didn’t matter that they were on the wrong side of morals and history to them. When you invade someone’s home and try to impose your values on them, you should always expect to meet with resistance. The nuclear bomb was used on Japan because the initial estimates of US casualities for an invasion of the southern three main islands was 1 million US soldiers KIA. Imagine if the European Union became disgusted with George Bush’s human rights record, invaded our country, and put some puppet in the White House, and told us how to hold our own elections. We would rise up against them. I realize the value of thwarting Iran by having an enormous military presence on their Western border, but if that was the real reason for invading Iraq, shame on our leaders!

World War II, the war with the German and Japanese Nazis, really began with a “whimper” in 1928. It did not begin with Pearl Harbor. It began with the Japanese invasion of China. It was a war for fourteen years before America joined it. It officially ended in 1945 - a 17 year war - and was followed by another decade of US occupation in Germany and Japan to get those countries reconstructed and running on their own again …a 27 year war.

The Japanese didn’t “invade” China in 1928. They had been there since the Meiji era, and the Jinan Incident was nothing more than a pretext. Manchuria fell in 1931, with Jehol falling two years later. This incident ultimately led to the final poisoning of Sino-Japanese relations. China was officially invaded until 1937. You must remember that China was an idea in the same way that “Germany” was an idea in the early 1800’s. It didn’t exist as a unified nation. WWII was a long war, but you cannot measure other wars against it. And for many of those early years, it wasn't "our war."

World War II cost the United States an amount equal to approximately a full year’s GDP - adjusted for inflation, equal to about $12 trillion dollars, WWII cost America more than 400,000 killed in action, and Nearly 100,000 still missing in action. The Iraq war has, so far, cost the US about $160 billion (U.S. GDP in 2006 = 13.04 trillion dollars, which means that the IRAQ war has cost the U.S. approximately 12.5% of a full years GDP), which is roughly what 9/11 cost New York. It has also cost about 2,200 American lives, which is roughly 2/3 of the 3,000 lives that the Jihad snuffed on 9/11. But the cost of not fighting and winning WWII would have been unimaginably greater - a world now dominated by German and Japanese Nazism.

Americans have a short attention span, now, conditioned I suppose by 60 minute TV shows and 2 hour movies in which everything comes out okay.

The real world is not like that. It is messy, uncertain, and sometimes bloody and ugly. Always has been, and probably always will be.
The bottom line here is that we will have to deal with Islamic terrorism until we defeat it, whenever that is. It will not go away on its own. It will not go away if we ignore it.
If the US can create a reasonably democratic and stable Iraq, then we have an “England” in the Middle East, a platform, from which we can work to help modernize and moderate the Middle East. The history of the world is the clash between the forces of relative civility and civilization, and the barbarians clamoring at the gates. The Iraq war is merely another battle in this ancient and never ending war. And now, for the first time ever, the barbarians are about to get nuclear weapons. Unless we prevent them. Or somebody does.

So you want to invade Iran? Iranians are not Wahhibists. They aren’t even Sunnis. The history of the world is not a clash between “forces of relative civility.” It is about control of resources. No matter the drape you lay over it, Communism, Christianity, Islam, Fascism, conflict is about controlling resources (the proletariat, souls, oil, land, water, mines, etc.). If the Iranians develop nuclear weapons and threaten to use them, the world will support the use of force to destroy them. Perhaps we should look back a few years to our soft treatment of Pakistan and India as a cause of Irans nuclear ambitions.

We have four options.
1.We can defeat the Jihad now, before it gets nuclear weapons.

2.We can fight the Jihad later, after it gets nuclear weapons (which may be as early as next year, if Iran’s progress on nuclear weapons is what Iran claims it is).

3.We can surrender to the Jihad and accept its dominance in the Middle East, now, in Europe in the next few years or decades, and ultimately in America.

4.Or we can stand down now, and pick up the fight later when the Jihad is more widespread and better armed, perhaps after the Jihad has dominated France and Germany and maybe most of the rest of Europe. It will be more dangerous, more expensive, and much bloodier then.

Number Four is a stretch, and Europeans are not idiots.

Yes, the Jihadis say that they look forward to an Islamic America. If you oppose this war, I hope you like the idea that your children, or grandchildren, may live in an Islamic America under the Mullahs and the Sharia, an America that resembles Iran today.We can be defeatist peace activists as anti war types seem to be, and concede, surrender, to the Jihad, or we can do whatever it takes to win this war against them.
The history of the world is the history of civilizational clashes, cultural clashes. All wars are about ideas, ideas about what society and civilization should be like, and the most determined always, win.

Again, all wars are not about ideas. Power, resources, and their control push all war. This is fear-mongering. Peace should always be our first resort. We moved too quickly towards war in invading Iraq, especially since our pretext proved false. I’m not saying that Saddam shouldn’t be punished, but how many Iraqis, innocent Iraqis are now being punished because of our haste and botched administration of the post invasion plan? Do you really think that Islam would fall like an ill wind over America? Do you want to turn the Middle East into the oft-mentioned “glass parking lot?” I ask because your fear-mongering seems to imply that in 50 years America will suddenly be invaded by the “Moors” or some other bogeyman, and that we must prevent that by any means necessary. I respected where you were going until this last paragraph. It is what made me riposte what you’d written.

Those who are willing to be the most ruthless always win. The pacifists always lose, because the anti pacifists kill them.

Ruthless. Look up the root of that word. Being ruthless isn’t a good thing. Pacifist do not always lose. Jesus Christ, for example. Also, you can’t really know how much has been saved when peace has won out, because peace doesn’t make headlines the way dead bodies do. For example, Europe since 1945. Israel and Egypt, Israel and Jordan. Argentina and Brazil. Peru and Ecuador. Honduras and El Salvador. Peace is a grand thing when it is wisely employed. Dogmatism is for dolts.

In the 20th century, it was Western democracy vs. communism, and before that Western democracy vs. Nazism, and before that Western democracy vs. German Imperialism. Western democracy won, three times, but it wasn’t cheap, fun, nice, easy, or quick. Indeed, the wars against German Imperialism (WWI), Nazi Imperialism (WWII), and communist imperialism (the 40 year Cold War that included the Vietnam Battle, commonly called the Vietnam War, but itself a major battle in a larger war) covered almost the entire century.

The first major war of the 21st Century is the war between Western Judeo Christian Civilization and Wahhabi Islam. It may last a few more years, or most of this century. It will last until the Wahhabi branch of Islam fades away, or gives up its ambitions for regional and global dominance and Jihad, or until Western Civilization gives into the Jihad.

If we’re taking the Longview, then the war is merely another chapter in the back-and-forth struggle since the Moors were stopped by Charles Martel at the battle of Tours. The current situation in the Middle East is a monster of our own creation. Were it not for the wealth of oil money for the last 80 years, the Middle East, at least the petroleum rich nations, would be as important and as strategic as New Caledonia, Mali, or Costa Rica.

It will take time. It will not go with no hitches. This is not TV.
Remember, perspective is everything, and America’s schools teach too little history for perspective to be clear, especially in the young American mind.
The Cold War lasted from about 1947 at least until the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. Forty two years. Europe spent the first half of the 19th century fighting Napoleon, and from 1870 to 1945 fighting Germany.
World War II began in 1928, lasted 17 years, plus a ten year occupation, and the US still has troops in Germany and Japan. WWII resulted in the death of more than 50 million people, maybe more than 100 million people, depending on which estimates you accept.

The troops in Germany and Japan have nothing to do with occupying a former enemy. They are strategic bases amongst allies. Schools can’t teach children everything about history. You don’t really understand history until you’re older anyway. Parents should teach their children history to supplement their schooling.

The US has taken a little more than 2,000 KIA in Iraq. The US took more than 4,000 killed in action on the morning of June 6th, 1944, the first day of the Normandy Invasion to rid Europe of Nazi Imperialism. In WWII the US averaged 2,000 KIA a week for four years. Most of the individual battles of WWII lost more Americans than the entire Iraq war has done so far.

But the stakes are at least as high . . . a world dominated by representative governments with civil rights, human rights, and personal freedoms. or a world dominated by a radical Islamic Wahhabi movement, by the Jihad, under the Mullahs and the Sharia (Islamic law).

Okay, but you invoke the very rights that you despise when others use. Civil rights used to complain about the war and to criticize the war. Freedom to advocate peace.

I do not understand why the American Left does not grasp this. They favor human rights, civil rights, liberty and freedom, but evidently not for Iraqis. In America, absolutely, but nowhere else.

They want them to have the freedoms you speak of, but they do not believe that the war was started under the auspices of granting these freedoms, when similar oppressions exists elsewhere and we do nothing. They feel that this war was about oil, and they are probably right.

300,000 Iraqi bodies in mass graves in Iraq are not our problem? The US population is about twelve times that of Iraq, so let’s multiply 300,000 by twelve. What would you think if there were 3,600,000 American bodies in mass graves in America because of George Bush? Would you hope for another country to help liberate America?

America would never let that happen on our own soil. The Left and the Right would never let that happen. The military wouldn’t follow orders to kill innocent Americans. The first time someone “disappeared” people would take to the streets, with weapons. WOLVERINES!

“Peace Activists” always seem to demonstrate where it’s safe, in America.Why don’t we see Peace Activist demonstrating in Iran, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, North Korea, in the places in the world that really need peace activism the most?

Simplistic and incorrect. People went to Iraq as human shields before the war. People protest all the time. The difference is, if you go protest in Tehran, you will be beaten, jailed, and forgotten. Dissidence isn’t tolerated by oppressive regimes.

The liberal mentality is supposed to favor human rights, civil rights, democracy, multiculturalism, diversity, etc., but if the Jihad wins, wherever the Jihad wins, it is the end of civil rights, human rights, democracy, multiculturalism, diversity, etc. Americans who oppose the liberation of Iraq are coming down on the side of their own worst enemy.
If the Jihad wins, it is the death of Liberalism. Everywhere the Jihad wins, it is the death of Liberalism. And American Liberals just don’t get it.

American Liberals don’t want the “Jihad” to win. They aren’t against going to war (Afghanistan) when it’s clear what our motives and goals are. Iraq isn’t a war about jihad. Saddam Hussein WAS NOT a jihadist (irhabist). It’s about oil and American interests. If you can’t see that, then the irhabists have already won……

Friday, September 15, 2006

Henceforth: Hirabah, Irhabists, and Mufsidoons

In the September 2006 edition of The Atlantic Monthly, James Fallows wrote an excellent article called

“DECLARING VICTORY: The United States is succeeding in its struggle against terrorism. The time has come to declare the war on terror over, so that an even more effective military and diplomatic campaign can begin.”

One of the movements and new tactics that we should employ revolves around the terminology that we (Americans, the media, the President) use to describe our enemies. The following is a quote:

Jim Guirard, a writer and former Senate staffer, says that America’s response has helped confirm bin Laden’s worldview in an unintended way. The Arabic terms often brought into English to describe Islamic extremists—jihadists or mujahideen for “warriors,” plus the less-frequently used shahiddin for “martyrs”—are, according to Guirard, exactly the terms al-Qaeda would like to see used. Mujahideen essentially means “holy warriors”; the other terms imply righteous struggle in the cause of Islam. The Iraqi clergyman-warlord Muqtada al-Sadr named his paramilitary force the Mahdi Army. To Sunnis and Shiites alike, the Mahdi is the ultimate savior of mankind, equivalent to the Messiah. Branches of Islam disagree about the Mahdi’s exact identity and the timing of his arrival on earth, but each time U.S. officials refer to insurgents of the Mahdi Army, they confer legitimacy on their opponent in all Muslims’ eyes.”

With the advice of Islamic scholars and think-tank officials, Guirard has assembled an alternative lexicon he thinks U.S. officials should use in both English and Arabic. These include hirabah (“unholy war”) instead of jihad; irhabists (“terrorists”) instead of jihadists; mufsidoon (“evildoers”) instead of mujahideen; and so on. The long-term effect, he says, would be like labeling certain kinds of battle genocide or war crime rather than plain combat—not decisive, but useful. Conceivably President Bush’s frequent use of evildoers to describe terrorists and insurgents represented a deliberate step in this direction, intended to steer the Arabic translation of his comments toward the derogatory terms. (I could not confirm whether there was any such plan behind Bush’s choice of words, or whether it had made much difference in translations. While granting Guirard’s point, for convenience I’ll stick with the familiar terms here.)”

I will memorize these terms and begin to use them when I describe the enemy. You might say, well, they’re just words, but if we were talking about drug dealers in the slums, we wouldn’t call them “urban commerce improvers” or some other term that conveys even the slightest sense of legitimacy on them. Words mean far more than we give them credit.

Roland Barthes worked with semiology and tried to show how an agenda can be fostered between a signifier and a signified. The Islamo-fascist tries to portray their acts in a noble light, a divine or holy struggle against Western oppression, influence, etc. The irhabists takes the word or image of “jihad” as a signifier. The signified in Arabic is “struggle” (amongst a million other meanings). However, in an effort to invoke support for their cause, they take the signified “struggle” as a new “signifier” relating to a new signified “holy struggle.” This manipulation seeks to convey a sense of divine support, legitimacy, or approval of their actions. When we embrace their own terminology for themselves, we fall prey to the very “struggle” or words that they are attempting.

Another example, click the link below:

Ruffles potato chips advertise their “hearty” chili cheese snacks. “Hearty” here is the signifier meaning “yielding good nourishment; strengthening, invigorating.” The signified in this case is a bowl of beef fat, cheese cholesterol, frying oil, starchy carbohydrate calories, and chemical preservatives. The packaging and marketing then takes the signified as a new signifier “a chip that will satisfy you like a big bowl of chili” and manipulates it to a new signified “good tasting healthy potato chips.” The reality is that chips yield empty calories with little nutritional value and an energy that quickly peters out after the cheap starch calories have been burned through, causing an insulin spike, and storing the added fat for “later energy use” prompting weight gain. I see similar efforts in people screaming the praises of the “Antioxidant” and healthy properties of substances that are clearly known to have ill effects (coffee, wine, etc). The fashion industry is a complete wasteland of new signifiers. Home décor with “pie lockers” and “duvets” as fancy words for “cabinets” and “bed covers” are another example of hyper-signification.

All manipulations have a motive. I will not cotton to the irhabists’ any longer.

Mufsidoon just sounds so ridiculous too, almost like you get to mock them in their own language.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Mis amigos me llaman "huevón" por varias razones

So my latest ailment has been a pressure in my lower right side that I thought was appendicitis. You might remember reading that my friend Dr. Ryan McDonald and his wife came over to my house last Friday night so he could check me out and rule out appendicitis. Ryan told me to follow up with my regular doctor. Well today I went to see another doctor I trust, Dr. James Farrow of Tulane University, and after a urine test and a physical exam, he diagnosed the discomfort as stemming from any of the three spermatoceles that I have on my right testicle. They cause referred pain all along the lower abdomen, which is exactly what I’ve been having. for detailed information about the affliction.
Only click this link if you want to see a gross photo of what it looks like while being surgically removed. Mine are not anywhere near as big as this one.

Basically, they are benign cysts along the epididymis that are clogged with sperm. No known cause, but given the recent birth of my son, I’m willing to speculate as to why there would be a backup of unused and dead sperm in my testicles—just not publicly. Of course, official doctrine states that my marriage has never been consummated. Pay no attention to the children behind that curtain.

I believe Norman can break down the Greek roots of the word for us. Something like, “sperm chamber” maybe?

I now have spermatoceles on my right testicle and the infamous varicocele on my left one. AC/DC wrote a song with me in mind, apparently.

People in my family live to a very old age, no matter their weight, they are just sick of weird stuff all along the way. I guess I can look forward to cataracts next.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ali G interviewing Posh Spice and David Beckham (Not suitable for the sensitive Mormon set)

One of the funniest things I've ever seen. Mormons should not watch this link. It's a little risque. Be ye forewarned.

Missing Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter

In late 1999, my wife and I moved into a condo in the Grandview area of Provo, Utah that had AT&T cable instead of the local Provo Cable Co. version. We got a channel called Animal Planet, and since I love talking animals and shows about wild animals, I started watching it all the time. It was then that I discovered this absolute loon from Australia called The Crocodile Hunter. The first show I ever watched, he was in the Komodo islands doing a show about the famous Komodo dragons. These giant lizards will eat anything, including people. While he was getting uncomfortably close to one of them, it whipped him with its tail, drawing blood. Evidently, they can smell blood in the air the way sharks can in water. A big dragon starts running at him, and he has to bolt up a tree, only inches away from the putrid teeth of a ravenous dragon. He explained through obvious fear and worry that their bite was almost as bad as dying because their mouths are filled with horrificly infectious bacteria. I was immediately entranced by his show. We began to watch it regularly. His special on rattlesnakes in the USA, included his crouching down above a pit of Appalachian rattlers, only to find one coiled up and rattling about 5 inches from his crotch. It is one of the accidentally funniest moments I have ever seen anywhere. You know he's gonna come out of it, because they're showing it on TV, but the suspense is awesome. Another time, he stops his truck somewhere in Australia to get out and rescue a snake from the road that has fled there because of a brush fire. The snake bites him and he lets it go, rushes to his truck and frantically searches through this big book about snakes. The look of relief is obvious on his face when he finds that the snake isn't venomous.

I miss Steve Irwin. I didn't watch him regularly anymore, but I always loved his appearances on Leno or other shows. His infectious enthusiasm for wildlife and conservation made me think that he was a good man. You never heard rumors or what not about him. He appreared to be the real deal.

That he died so suddenly, made me think back to when Princess Di died. Not that I was a fan of hers or anything, but the shock of it hit me in the same way when Steve Irwin died. I feel very sorry for his wife, and for his kids. It's taken me this long to really feel like writing about his death. I was in denial for a couple of days. I didn't cry, but I felt this emptiness without him.

I have hope and faith in the resurrection.

El pan de cada día tico

Esto es lo que comía casi todos los días durante mis dos años en Costa Rica. Se debe notar que es lo mismo por el desayuno, el almuerzo y la cena.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A letter to my daughter nine years from now via my diary from 13 years ago.

From my missionary journal. Today's comments are in italics.

May 30, 1993 (edited for spelling)

Well I’m very tired right now. We had a chapel full of investigators today, even fetching Juan Carlos came to church today.

At the time I was saying “fetch” and all its conjugations instead of the other f-word. It was a way for me to try to wean myself of swearing. At the time I failed to see how the word “fetching” when applied to someone, means attractive. Hmmm, latent homoeroticism? Naaaa, just an inarticulate teenaged boy. For the non-Mormons, "investigators" are people who are investigating the church.

I think that our ZL, Elder ********, doesn’t like me, so he’s trying to get me changed. I wouldn’t mind a change if I knew what I was missing.

Well, with 13 years of hindsight to analyze this journal entry, I can say that said Elder ******** was a jerk to me, and never gave me a chance. Ever have one of those people that just discounted you and “had it out for you” from the moment you met them? He was still stuck in high school mode at 21. The mission is a microcosm. [ZL=Zone Leader]

My companion and I are getting along, although I believe that really annoy him. I hope not; he is a good guy, and I’m really trying not to say stuff to piss people off.

My companion informed me that no one cared about seeing a million photos of my family. He was right. I showed this enormous stack of photos to everyone that would listen. I had been a church member for about two years, was in a new country where I didn’t yet speak the language, where all those (just about) that spoke my language were from Utah, which at the time was a really foreign place to me, and felt very very alone. He is a good guy, but at the time he chose to seek the approval of the group instead of being my friend and my companion in Jesus Christ. I wasn’t odious to be around, just dorky. I worked hard. I learned Spanish very quickly (thanks, in part, to his excellent help). . But, he still chose to do things like send me with someone else on splits so the rest of the zone could do things without me. I wanted nothing more than to be part of the group. When I was baptized, I idolized the missionaries; I thought they were perfect messengers of Christ and a united brotherhood. This was naïve, because I was not a perfect messenger of Christ when I was a missionary (I did try though), but assumed that everyone else should have been. We were only human, given to sin and in need of repentance, like everyone else. To assume that it would be perfect was foolish. I tried very hard to make people like me, to no avail. Leaving that zone was a good thing for me. Some of the missionaries serving there then were bad eggs. I’ll not libel them by name.

People here just don’t understand me. I’m the type of person who feels just as comfortable playing with children as when I’m arguing Popular Sovereignty with Stephen Douglas. I can be friends with practically anyone, but no practically anyone can be friends with me, and I don’t understand why. Am I that weird or are people just too snobby to accept me? Who knows?

Elder Williams

You’ll have to forgive me for that nerdy Stephen Douglas reference. It was a poor attempt at humor and dates back to Norman’s and my days working on the Etowah High School yearbook.

With age, I’ve learned, a little, to calm down, to speak slowly, to let others speak, and to be humble. Yet, I still stand by my assertion. I always assume that I can be friends with anyone, but I’ve learned that some people just don’t want to be my friend. It’s taken me years to realize and accept this fact. When I wrote this I was suffering from the self-loathing that people sometimes feel when they are ostracized inexplicably. I can see why I was left out of the group. I know enough about Utah High School culture to know how and why I was so different from everyone else. Nevertheless, the shunning was unjustified. Missionaries should be held to higher standards. And now they are. Many of the people that I served with would not be allowed to go on missions today because the church has toughened the requirements to go on a mission. I hope that it is better now than it was at the time.

I see my daughter following in my footsteps when she’s on the playground, and it almost chokes me up. To want to be part of a group, to want people to play with you, to want to be wanted, is a most basic human desire. I see her struggle to make friends. I don’t know why some kids turn their backs on her. I find myself saying “I don’t want her being friends with those kinds of kids anyway,” but it seems that precious few kids will play with her. I don’t know why. She’s a good kid, always trying to include others in her games. Her games are interesting. She doesn’t (always) boss everyone to death. I see in her actions thousands of my own and an eternal golden braid of my daughter, myself, my mother, and on back through the breadth of my ancestors.

Marley, my darling little one, I hope someday you’ll read this and understand that some people just won’t want to be your friend, and that’s okay. It's not you. You should still be positive and try to make friends with everyone. Life and experience will reward you with a handful of truly great friends, and those precious few will suffice you for life. A few good friends are worth more than a million people "you know".

If you've got troubles,
I've got 'em too
There isn't anything
I wouldn't do for you
We stick together
and can see it through
Cause you've got a friend in me
You've got a friend in me
--Randy Newman

I love you Marley!

When Common Sense Goes to the Dogs

From the above article:

Pacelle pledged his ongoing commitment to legislation and lobbying as key paths for the animal rights movement to move its agenda forward. He urged the audience to continue pursuing animal guardianship laws to replace animal ownership laws. Pacelle suggested using the term ''Canine Americans'' instead of dogs to emphasize the rights of these animals.

**** ******* ****!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Dissertation Feedback

I forgot to tell everyone that I've gotten feedback on my first goes (from the email):

First of all, let me say that I really enjoyed the reading and I believe you have the embryo of an excellent dissertation here.

Let me explain to you what I've done with the file:

I've changed the font to Courier, which is the standard font for academic texts. That made your text jump to 167 pages. Of course that is good news - you'v e written a lot! - and bad news - we need to organize this mass of writing.

My major suggestion is the following (and you are welcome to print this all out and bring it to my office for us to figure it out together): I suggest that you separate the whole "theoretical" discussion, the six ways of reconciling the free will vs. predestination paradox, all the information about early Christianity, etc. etc., that is, everything that is not about Borges, and turn that into your introduction.

Then you take everything that is there about Borges, and make that your first chapter. To some degree that should be easy to do, as these things are relatively separated in your argument. Sometimes they do mix, and at those moments you might have to rewrite a few things. At the moments where those two things mix, I thought your argument lost force a bit. It's better to take care of everything that is theoretical and historical first (I mean, those things should appear first, they don't have to be written first, in fact it's better to tackle the stories themselves first and then go back and write the intro, but I do realize you have done both things already, which is great).

I could go on now and say a few things about your readings of the Borges stories (which I basically like a lot) but I would like to wait to comment on them once they are already in the place where they will be. I don't know if that makes sense to you. Please take a look at these annotations, reflect a bit about this suggestion, and see what you think.

Of course I'm always here if you prefer to chat instead. Congratulations. This is solid, good, serious work, well on its way to being a very good dissertation.


I am a very happy boy. :)

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Gastritis and Kind People

So yesterday afternoon, in spite of my having taken Nexium in the morning, I started having some severe heartburn. It got worse as I sat at my desk diving up my Dissertation into chapters, until it was at about a 4 on a 10 scale. I also had a pain in my lower abdomen near the front right side of my hipbone--classic appendicitis syptoms (to the unlearned). I took it easy for a couple of hours, and when they pain increased a little, I took another Nexium (since I know they come in 80mg doses and mine were 40mg, I knew I couldn't OD). Gradually, the pain got me worried. I called my good friend Mike Lindsey, a fourth-year Tulane medical student, and asked him about my symptoms. He said, "Yeah, sounds like appendicitis." That scared me a little, and he said to call a member of our church, Dr. Ryan McDonald. Ryan is an Internal Medicine resident at Ochsner Hospital in New Orleans. I hesitantly called him, because I imagine that doctors get calls from anyone who knows them asking for free medical advice, all the time. His wife answered and immediately put him on the phone. He asked me a couple of questions and then just said, "I'm coming over." Before I could tell him that wasn't necessary, he and his wife were on their way.

They live very close to us. They pulled into the driveway. Both popped out of their car. She is about to give birth and moves like she's not even pregnant. They are really rushing to get to me, and then both locked their keys in their car. I felt so bad. They come over to help me out, and this happens! Ryan took me into my bedroom and started pushing on my stomach. He held up my right leg and slapped the bottom of my foot. This didn't make the pain in abdomen any worse. No appendicitis! Funny thing is, as soon as they got there, my pains started diminishing. He told me I need to go see a gastrointerologist so they can diagnose why I've had two bouts of gastritis in six weeks. As we sat there waiting for the locksmith to come, they talked with Marley. They were both great with her--really paying attention and treating her like you'd hope her preschool teachers do. I am grateful that I have friends that are willing to help out. I promised them if they ever have a Spanish emergency, that I am there. As they were walking out the door, his wife said, "If you ever have a medical question for my husband, just call him, I insist."

Ever feel that you can't repay someone's kindness to you sufficiently? It seems to happen to me all the time.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Upromised! Or Further Proof Why Sallie Mae Is the Devil

I've been a fan of Upromise since its inception. By registering our credit cards and grocery cards with the website, whenever we bought certain products, bought gas at Exxon, shopped at select stores, or ate at member restaurants, we got a few pennies here and there in a fund that can be used for college for Marley. In four years we've accumulated close to $90 for the little tricycle motor. I liked Upromise, because, I was spending the money anyway, might as well get something for it. This morning, I went to to check Marley's account (just to see how much she'd earned) and I saw the news that Sallie Mae had bought Upromise.

Upromise is a non-profit entity. It has the support of major corporations, like Coca-Cola, Exxon, Eddie Bauer, etc. Sallie Mae used to be a GSE (Government Sponsored Entity). Now they are a publickly traded company and the devil. Sallie Mae could care less about you as a person. They will screw you over every chance they get. You cannot get anyone in customer service that knows anything or has any authority to act, whether they are in India or Viriginia. No one ever seems to know anything. If you call customer service, sometimes they simply say, "Due to X reason we are very busy right now, please try your call again later."

I worry now, that the newly FOR-PROFIT Sallie Mae will ruin Upromise, institute fees, change the user agreement and sell our info to every shill artist out there. NEVER EVER EVER trust Sallie Mae. They are almost as evil as Verizon (if you really want to know that story, call me).

I will keep the Upromise account open as long as they don't muck with it. Grrrrrr!

Of course I thought Microsoft would ruin Hotmail, and I'm still with them 8 years later. Of course I could do without the borderline porn ads for "" that seem to be omnipresent on the banners, but it's free. Then again, gmail is too and there's no ads in gmail.

The best student loan provider is Total Higher Education.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Copyright Law, Orenthal J. Simpson, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and other Mickey Mouse Laws

The inspiration for today's post comes from this article:

I remember walking down the sidewalk from the library towards the student center at Georgia Tech one day in the Fall of 1995, and immediately upon entry into the building, the TVs were all abuzz that O.J. Simpson had been found not-guilty. I have always felt that OJ was guilty. I watched part of the trial. If he is not guilty I hope he has some recompense in the hereafter for enduring all the hatred in this life. But lets look at why OJ was such a sensation. He was a phenomenal athlete--like few others. He could score almost at will. He has a great smile. He played Nordberg in the Naked Gun movies. A likeable guy....right? Evidently an also highly jealous guy too.

The public doubts OJ's innocence because of what can only be called the "pretty white girl" factor. Whenever a pretty white girl has something horrible happen to her, it makes the news. His wife was indeed very beautiful, and he, as a black man, faces the true definition of "prejudice" whenever something bad happens. Think of Elizabeth Smart getting worldwide media attention, when countless other children are kidnapped every day. Need I even mention JonBenet Ramsey?

Nevertheless, I watched much of his trial. I thought him guilty beforehand based off his behavior in the immediate aftermath of her death. The trial confirmed that belief. That he was found not-guilty is old news, and yet still a travesty, which is why his guitly verdict in the wrongful death civil trial was welcomed by the general public. That he wants the rights to OJ's name is sheer genius on his part. Federal law prohibits seizing OJ's home and his NFL and Actor's Guild pensions cannot be garnished, so he has completely thumbed his nose at the civil verdict ever since. The Goldman family could then plaster OJs likeness on anything they wanted, that would have him. Imagine the embarrassment they could cause him, "OJ Simpson presents How To Murder Your Wife and Get Away with It" or other such videos.

Which leads me to my larger point. Our Congress has seen fit to protect the artistic creations and likenesses of people for their lifetimes plus 70 years. Until recently it was +50 years. Basically, every time the Mickey Mouse copyright gets ready to run out, Disney greases a few campaigns and the law gets "updated." I despise copyrights such as this. I can see allowing life of the artist + plus the life of their spouse. But 70 years? Good grief!!!!!! That means that someone who died in 1936 can just now see their work become part of the public domain. That is far too long to wait. My voice matters nothing compared to the billions that the estates of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, and Elvis Aron Presley generate. Elvis has been dead for almost 30 years. It's high time that he become part of the public domain. To have to pay money to his estate (which Priscilla and Lisa Marie have sold by the way) in order to use his likeness is just ridiculous.

Also, when I pay a photographer to take my picture, the fact that he still owes the negatives, and I have to pay him more money to make copies of my photographs is utterly ridiculous. He should pay me if he wants to reuse my likeness in his advertising or portfolio.

Copyright laws protect corporations. Art should belong to everyone once the artist has passed.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Why I Voted for C. Ray Nagin

Unfortunately, the Fates conspired with Father Time and Mother Nature to hold the New Orleans mayoral elections in the months shortly after Hurricane Katrina. In that time, when many people have asked me who I voted for in the election, they tend to react incredulously, when I respond that I voted for Mayor Nagin.

Nagin is NOT a politician, at least he didn't used to be. He has made several stupid comments, as have we all. What gets Nagin in trouble is that he says what many people are thinking, but don't dare say. He is daring, and that's a good quality.

I do not, and I stress this emphatically, think that any native New Orleanian could have done a better job in the Katrina epoch than Nagin. Others could have done similar jobs, but the man had 80% of his hometown destroyed. His own home flooded. His family lost all they had, and he was forced to endure all of this on international television, under the scrutiny of asshats like Anderson Cooper, Bill O'Reilly, and the other, what Will Rogers would've called "Bags of Wind", omnipresent smarmy pundits. When New York was hit, it was a few blocks of land, and the damage was limited to the immediate vicinity. The infrastructure was intact. The city could quickly recover. The citizens were not displaced. There was no diaspora. New Orleans was submerged, obliterated, completely destroyed. If you haven't been here, you cannot know the depths and lengths of the destruction. The city is still empty, foul-smelling, and strewn with debris. Nagin is doing the best he can.

He has reformed this city like no one else EVER did in its history.

From the above link:
The Police Association of New Orleans also announced it is backing Landrieu. Its president, Lt. David Benelli, said the organization is advocating change.
"Four years ago, the Police Association of New Orleans endorsed Ray Nagin for mayor . . . over the police chief," Richard Pennington, Benelli said. "Four years later, times have changed. We have a window of opportunity, and by God, we have to get it right this time."

Any time the Police come out in support of a candidate for mayor, I have to ask myself, "why?" The police force is so corrupt here, and Nagin has fought hard against corruption in his time here, that I can only view their choice of Landrieu, an "old Louisiana political family" member as insidiously evil. I'm not saying that the Lieutenant Governor is corrupt, but then again, the very taint of police support makes him suspect in my eyes. Also, I despise people who do not resign from one public office while they run for another.

I was at the Sav-A-Center on Carrollton Ave yesterday morning. I saw the Lieutenant Governor there, I said hello and said it back. He is taller than I expected, and walks very fast. He drives a black GMC Yukon with windows tinted in excess of the law. His license plate # is *** ***. He is probably a decent guy, but I didn't believe him. I didn't feel he could accomplish all the things he promised. I saw his mayoral campaign as a springboard push to higher office. It seemed too calculated, too cunning, too President Bush-style folksy. I worry when all your proposals for helping the city revolve around the federal government helping. Having a Senator Sister might be an asset, but I don't care for her either. That's another story.

Basically, enough of political dynasties in this country. When Bill Clinton was President, people kept clamoring "Anyone but Clinton." Well, people, you got exactly what you asked for. Salieron de Guatemala a Guatepeor, and I voted for Bush both times, because the alternatives were unpalatable to me, just as they were in the mayoral elections.

I voted for Rob Couhig in the primaries. He would have made the best mayor because his focus on rebuilding was less on rebuilding and more on restarting and increasing the higher education systems in the city because that's money that stays in the economy. When he lost, I threw my support behind Nagin.

You have to have lived in New Orleans to understand how and why the city works the way it does. When seen from without it makes no sense. It appears a true Confederacy of Dunces. But to us that live here, it works. When you leave here, you almost feel like you need to clear customs and present your passport as you return to the United States. I almost like New Orleans more than any other place I've ever lived. Stop ripping on Nagin, give the man some peace and let him get on with his job instead of having to worry about apologizing to damn Yankees over accurate comments!