Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Planets Kobol and Kolob

If you are a science fiction fan, you probably already know that a very good sci-fi show is hard to find.  The Sci-Fi Channel is probably not the best to find one, most of the time. Since the reboot of Battlestar Gallactica went off the air, there is very little on this station worth watching. Gallactica was not only the best they ever put out, but arguably the best sci-fi show ever. It was more mature and edgy than any of the Star Trek shows and more profound and socially relevant than most of other shows on television, sci-fi or otherwise. It was a sad day in 2009 when it ran its course.

The planet Kobol is the one of mythical planets in the Gallactica fictional universe. Kobol was home to 13 tribes of early humans. During a great catastrophe, they had to flee the planet.  Twelve tribes travelled through an energy barrier and settled on a group of habitable planets in a common stellar system. While the 13th tribe, went further and settled on a planet called Earth. The premise of the show finds the remaining survivors of the 12 tribes searching for Earth, what many of them believe is just a myth.

The inspiration for planet Kobol is planet Kolob which is found in the Books of the Mormon, specifically the Book of Abraham. Kolob is the heavenly body closest to the throne of God. In case you are curious what Kolob looks like, the depiction below is from the inner sleeve of an Osmonds album called "The Plan."  (Kolob is also the name of their short lived label/record company). This planet was discovered by Methuselah and Abraham by looking through a seer stone pair of glasses.  Earth was created near Kolob about 6,000 years ago, but then moved to its present location. I am not sure how that happened.  Maybe it has something to do with the hand of God (see image below).

In rereading this, it is difficult to tell which is science fiction and which is a religious belief. I find them both equally entertaining  ... maybe not, maybe equally interesting.  If Romney wins the election this November, I am sure we will have a good four years to learn more about Kolob.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Words We Cannot Say

We do have freedom of speech here in America. All that means is that the government cannot limit our speech. Your speech can be limited by your employer, a person or a corporation.  For example, if you started screaming racial epithets in the workplace, you could be fired. This makes sense to a point.  Your employer has a responsibility to maintain a safe and accessible workplace for all employees. If you are using a corporation's servers, like Facebook or Myspace for example, you have agreed to a certain code of behavior. They could severe your ties at any time if you broke that code. We also socially keep each other's vocabularies in check. We have the C word, the F word, the N word and now ... wait for it ... the R word. If you violate these rules, you may release a shit storm upon yourself beyond your imagination. Earlier this week, shock pundit (aka scumbag) Ann Coulter called President Obama a "retard" on Twitter. She is a hateful person. We seem to tackle people like her the opposite way than we should. Instead of ignoring her and letting her say any stupid and hateful thing that she will, we respond to her, comment on her and share her stupidity with our friends. We do exactly what she wants us to do. We give her publicity.  I guess, to some extent, I am doing the same with this posting.

Not only do we freak out when someone uses the C, N and R words (lesser extent F), but you can get into trouble for using a word that sounds like one of these words.  In 2002, an elementary school teacher in Wilmington, NC was reprimanded and forced to take racial sensitivity training for using the word "niggardly" (which means stingy). This word sounds like the infamous N word, but has a different meaning and etymology. Again, wouldn't a better response be to teach the offended parent that she is wrong and it is not even the same word? Shouldn't we just buy this person a dictionary and teach her how to use it? But no, they punished the person with the high vocabulary and enabled the ignorance of the person complaining. Lets just make everyone afraid to say what they are thinking. Lets just turn our daily discourse into a trite self-righteous political-correct-fest.

So let me add to this. Twenty-two letters in our alphabet need assignment. Let me beat them to the punch. I don't have all of them so feel free to assist me in this venture.

A-word = asshole
B = bitch
D = douchebag
E = egghead
G = gook
H = hate
I = Indian
J = jizz
K = Kiwi
L = loser (for we all know we are all winners)
M = moron
O = Oreo
P = pussy
Q = queer
S = stupid
T = tits
U =
V = vagina
W = whitey
X =
Z = zebra

Perhaps a better S-word would be Seacrest and a K-word of Kardashian, but I digress.

From this day forward, these words will not be spoken. Also, for now on, when I leave my house I am taking a dictionary with me. I plan on using the word "niggardly" quite often and when someone complains ... I am going to call them an M-word, tell them I H-word them and to go read the F-word dictionary. Offense is the residue of a free society.  We take the offense and learn to deal with it, because the alternative is tyranny.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

America's Volunteer Army

The US unemployment numbers lately of 7 or 8% are fairly shocking (the jobless rate is even higher).  Looking at the unemployment numbers of the Great Depression (25% or so) really puts our current situation into perspective.  Would we have gotten as bad as the Great Depression without the stimulus bills?  Hard to believe that it would have. Without access to alternative universe, we'll never really know how well the stimulus bills worked or if they worked at all.  With the economy steadily improving, slowly, I am just grateful that we didn't have do some of the extraordinary things that FDR had to. Although, some of them, like the CCC, seem really cool.

The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) was one of those extraordinary programs implemented by President Roosevelt.  If you do any hiking in the US today, you owe a big "thank you" to the CCC.  Whether you are hiking in a National Park like the Grand Canyon, one of the state parks across the country, the Appalachian Trail or the Long Trail here in Vermont, there is a very good chance that you are using one of trails they created.  In Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, there is an easy walk with concrete stairs into the planet's fourth largest cave. If you use a lean-to or a visitor's center, there is a good chance that the CCC built that as well.  They repaired bridges, created fire roads in the National Forests, did stream repair, planted trees among so many other things that we take for granted today. 

The idea of the Corp was to get young Americans to work ... to make idle hands useful and to build character and experience in the process.  Some of them had never had a job.  30,000 men from ages 17 to 23 initially signed up for a grueling job that paid only $1.00 a day, but did include three hardy meals, shelter, clothing and free healthcare.  The food and the healthcare alone made it worth because jobs were hard to come by.  They were assigned to camps, lived in barracks and had to follow a military like schedule. In the nine years of its existence (from 1933 to 1942) some 2.5 million young men participated.  Some famous people came out of the CCC.  Hall of Fame baseballer Stan "the Man" Musial, Hollywood actors Raymond Burr, Walter Matthau and Robert Mitchum and test pilot Chuck Yeager who eventually went on to be the first human to break the sound barrier ... all are veterans of the CCC. 

It is difficult to see something like this happening these days. Obamacare is basically a big handout to the insurance industry and the right wing calls him a socialist.  Can you imagine what they would call him if he revived the CCC?  FDR had his political problems as well. The right wing did indeed call it socialism and the left wing cried fairly loudly as well.  They were concerned that the $1.00 a day work was going to be the new normal.  To keep the left wing off his back, FDR appointed union leaders to run the program. A lot of us wanted Obama to be our generation's FDR. Hope lingers.

When war broke out in 1941, the CCC was disbanded.  Most of the men from the Corp joined the service. The training they received from the CCC was invaluable for the men were in shape, used to regimented living and residing in camps.  The CCC camps were small committees usually in the woods or far away from towns.  Once the war started some of the camps were used as interment camps for Japan Americans or prisoner of war camps. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Weekend With Bernie

I am a little frustrated when I hear reports on polling, in particular, American's disapproval of Congress.  Our disapproval rate of Congress is the highest ever in any election year.  But how relevant is this?  As a whole I disapprove of Congress as well.  I can think of some Republican Senators and Congressmen that make me sick.  But when it comes to my representation in Congress, I couldn't be more pleased. I have no doubt that there are many people in other states (some even here in Vermont) that despise my representatives in Congress, so be it. They represent me and my neighbors, no one outside Vermont.  I'd like to see a poll that measures American's approval of congress when asked about their own representatives, that would be more relevant.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet one of my US Senators in person.  Not the first time I have met Bernie Sanders.  We are a small state with a small population. Citizens of Vermont are some of the best represented humans on the planet.  We get two Senators while a huge state like California get two also.  So the chances you get to meet your Senator and talk to them are much higher here.  I have lived here for a little over ten years and I have met all of my representation in Congress.  There were about a 100 or so people in this little church on Westford green.  The questions from the crowd came from carpenters asking about Wall Street, IBM employees asking about Unions to dairy farmers talking about the difficulties of running a small family business. It was a great way to spend an afternoon seeing and hearing my neighbors engaged in civil discourse.

When I hear Bernie speak, I am amazed.  Not because he is a great speaker but because I agree with him about 90% of the time which is surprising for any politician.  He is consistent, unlike a Romney or Clinton, so I know what I am getting when I vote for him. He is also an independent so he isn't accountable to any party leadership, only to the voter. The only problem I have with this is that if Republicans take the Senate in November, which is possible, the Senate committees' leadership will be taken over by Republicans. For example, the leadership of the Energy Committee could be taken over by Jim Inhofe (R-OK).  This scares me. Inhofe just published a book dedicated to proving that humans aren't causing global climate change. He is one of those Republicans that I referred to in an earlier post who fell asleep in their high school Earth Science class. Would Bernie change his party affiliation to prevent the Republican crazies from taking over the Senate?  I don't know. I raised my hand but wasn't one of the people chosen.  

One of the things that Bernie mentioned in his speech was a "five stories building in the Cayman Islands that housed 18,000 corporations."  The name of this building is Ugland House. It is on South Church Street in George Town, Cayman Islands.  Currently, 18,857 corporations are registered at this address but only 5% of them are US companies. They are registered here to avoid paying taxes.  Do you remember a few decades ago when the term "corporate citizen" was used to describe companies that maintained factories and offices in the US for patriotic reason? We don't hear that term very often these days.  In the US some states are more tax advantageous than others.  Delaware is, notoriously, the most favorable. Notice where your credit card bill's address is. Wilmington, Delaware has a similar building at 1209 North Orange Street. At this address is Google, Coca Cola, KFC, GM and American Airlines even though they are physically elsewhere. Not exactly patriotic behavior.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Isn't It Time We Stop Being Nice?

I don't think I have, as of yet, called any of Obama detractors racists. For one, it is not nice and I'd prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt. Another reason, people have a right to disagree with the president. I do often.  I have to say that it is becoming more and more difficult not to call some of them racists.  I know a lot of liberal friend that complain about Bush a lot, I was right there with them. But those people who complained about Bush's policies on torture and the wars, also complain about Obama's policies on torture and the wars. Obama and Bush's policies are not that different on these matters. So I am not talking about them. These complainers are consistent. It is the non-consistent folks that are really becoming unbearable.  It is difficult to say that it is not race that is driving this, but if it isn't race, then what is it? Because it is certainly not reason.

One of the biggest complaints I hear about Obama is that he is a big spender, "a tax and spend liberal," that he doesn't care about the deficit. This would be a legitimate complaint if these same people were not quiet during the Bush Administration and his spending policies.  Before Bush W., every war time president raised taxes to pay for their war.  W. not only didn't raise taxes, but cut them and he had two wars to pay for. So if they were so concerned about the deficit then why were they quiet when Bush did it. They also complain about how Obamacare will add to the deficit (which by most accounts may not), but they were quiet ... again ... when W. rolled out Medicare Part D which wasn't paid for at all. I am glad that thousands of senior citizens have their prescriptions paid for by Medicare, but with Bush cutting taxes this is another huge deficit expenditure being paid for by Treasury Bills being bought by China. Why weren't the so-called fiscal wonks screaming about socialism then?  Not a peep.

If you are concerned about the deficit, what is worse taxing-and-spending or cutting-taxes-and-spending? When you do your personal finances for your household, what do you do when your expenses go up.  Do you cut your income like Bush did?

I come to this conclusion today because I saw a conversation between two of Facebook "friends" of mine who are really only associates, not really someone that I have any reason to call friends. They were "outraged" over the death of the four Americans in the Libyan Embassy attacks. Obama's "cover-up," according to these two guys was bigger than "Watergate." So I agree, Obama doesn't look good here and this is quite a tragedy and a screw up.  But I knew both of these guys during the Bush Administration. When  the 9/11 attacks, I didn't hear outrage toward Bush for the thousands, not four, victims. Also, I don't remember the outrage when Bush declared an expensive war in Iraq (with thousands dead as a result) based on faulty logic. Putting this in perspective, their outrage over four is ... well .. offensive.

I have this analogy:  if a black man steals a dollar and he is arrested, then a white man steals a million dollars and heads look the other way ... wouldn't the first thing you think of be racism?  For the last four years, I have tried to cling to some other reason for their outrage. Now I am tired of being nice. Being nice isn't working. I know you all may know someone like these guys, I suggest you do the same. I agree Obama is not perfect and a disappointment, but he is still a thousand times better than the alternative.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Lying Liars and the Meta-World They Create

When someone lies to me, I just assume that they believe that the truth will not be acceptable.  I have heard people justify lying by simply saying, "if I told the truth, you wouldn't have responded how I wanted you to."  Like a teenager trying to get permission to go to the mall, a lie manipulates. When I hear a political candidate lie, it is understandable. The truth won't get them elected. Can you really lie about the future?  I won't raise taxes or I won't invade that country. It is only a lie, if they know they intend otherwise. It is the intent of the speaker that determines the lie, so they are often the only ones that know they are lying. But lately, the lies are all too obvious. You get to have your own set of facts and if you repeated it enough, it gets to have its own truth, a meta-truth. You can have your own perception of the facts, but the facts don't change. You can refuse to accept them if you find them inconvenient or painful. But unless, something new gets discovered, history doesn't change just because you don't like what it says.

The Jefferson Lies by David Barton was recently pulled from publication by it's publisher. The irony of its title doesn't escape me. The book is supposed to be about the lies that are told about Thomas Jefferson by mostly liberals and historians. But the book is just a bunch of lies about Jefferson portraying him as a Christian evangelical who promoted America as a Christian nation. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you were to line up all the American founding fathers and rate them on a graph of Christianity, Jefferson would be at the bottom. He was not a Christian but not an atheist either. He was a deist. He was an intellectual explorer and is hard to pin down but he was very clear on this point, he did not believe in the trinity. He believed that Jesus was perhaps the greatest person in history with John Locke and Isaac Newton close behind.  He coined the term "wall of separation between church and state."  He was clear on this as well.  Yet the Barton book states otherwise by quoting Jefferson out of context with sloppy research rewriting history to meet his preconceived ideas, his will and his agenda.

The book was pulled from publication, yet it is still be held up by many right wingers as proof that our nation is a "Christian" nation. The publisher of the book, Thomas Nelson (a Christian publisher), received a lot of pressure from inside the bubble and out. Christian scholars, Conservative scholars and Liberal scholars all agree on this ... this book is full of lies and inaccuracies. Among the other lies is a claim that Jefferson didn't emancipate his slave because Virginia state law at the time prohibited it and that Jefferson abhorred secularism. These are fabrications. Jefferson was an avid letter writer. We know what he pondered over.  This is not the first book that has attempted to rewrite history, but what I find interesting is that even though it is widely accepted as a lie, it is still be promoted on Glenn Beck show. Beck is also republishing the book and has used it at a source for "history courses" on his web site. Why do we tolerate this as a culture? I have been wondering for a while why Beck has any viewers, so I don't think I am going to explain this here. But it does seem that we like to be lied to. As long as the liar confirms our firmly held beliefs and doesn't challenge, we are just fine with it.

Today is Columbus Day in America.  Like the speed limit during rush hour, Columbus Day is one of the lies that we keep around for unknown reasons. It is the least celebrated of our national holidays but it is still out there. As kids we were taught that he discovered America in 1492, but can you really discover some place where people already live?  He wasn't even the first European to be here. The Vikings were here long before him. When he land in the new world, he wasn't even on what we now consider American soil. He never set foot on the main North American continent on all four of his trips.  On his first voyage he visited the Bahamas (he thought was Japan), Cuba (he thought was China) and Hispaniola. We are not even named after him, but after Amerigo Vespucci.  Why don't we have a Vespucci Day? You got me! We all know it is a lie but nothing is done about it.

The meta-world makes the lies possible because we are so used to them that we just shrug them off. When Paul Ryan goes in front of the Republican Convention and lies about everything, every single bullet point contains egregious lies... the lies were so obvious that you could easily check them yourself with an Internet connection and Google ... we just go on with our day. The recent Presidential Debate wasn't much better.  When they are arguing about economic nuances or wonky policy points ... eh! ... no big deal. But when we become so jaded as a populace that people can make a living out of lying about humanity's role in global climate change, it is very scary that our response is again ... eh!  Hopefully, our destruction is only a meta-destruction.