Sunday, April 29, 2007
I have written before that I think Christians (in the interest of full disclosure, I am one) can be our own worst enemy. Nothing makes me cringe more than a self-assured, self righteous bastard who thinks he knows all the answers.
I take that back...
Self-righteous atheist bastards actually make me cringe more. It's mostly because pure unadulterated hatred and hypocrisy coming from anyone makes me feel all empty inside. The worshipers of "random chance naturally selected chaos" are perhaps the most smug human beings on God's green Earth.
Take Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris, there's is also good`ol Chris Hitchens, Mother Teresa hater extraordinarie, all sharp as a tack, all self assured and apparently scarred for life by some sort of parentally mandated religious training. While all these guys are surely Atheist All-Stars I think it's Chris Hedges, the author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America who takes the cake. Watching him on CSPAN last night I could literally feel the pain of that whack on the back of the hand Sister Rosa dished out. Perhaps Chris should have been reading scripture instead of drawing devil horns on a picture of the Pope.
All kidding aside, these fine men and millions more like them around the world came to a conclusion that God does not exist. That is their right - and they can set out to prove it in any way they see fit. No one has the monopoly on the truth - no one is all-knowing. And to speak of hypocrites without including the Church is unfair.
Mr. Hedges, I am relatively certain, would be the first to condemn those of us who see the coming world war pitting Islamic Jihad terrorists against, well, everyone else as being paranoid and delusional. What does it say of him to have actually written a book called American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America? Rarely does one come across paranoia like that!
I challenge Hedges or anyone else for that matter to spend an hour on Sunday in my church and see the revolutionary preparations we are making to take over America. Why all that talk about love and forgiveness is enough to frighten the poor man to death. Ahh, but you need to read between the lines, mister. That's right, we are oh so clever, we would never come right out and say it like the Muslims do. We, born of the Jews, are all sneaky and clandestine. Its all in the way you interpret the parables...
They say that the Christian Right is destroying our democracy. They generally have scant evidence but like to site Stem Cell Research. In this "sound bite" world it is easy to lie by omission to leave a skewed impression on the public. The biggest lie is the fact that contrary to what they'd have you believe embryonic stem cells have yet to produce a single viable treatment. They lie by ignoring the tremendous strides adult stem cell therapies have made. They lie by intimating that the President has outlawed stem cell research when he did no such thing.
They now have a second example to site as proof that "the Christians are coming, the Christians are coming!" The Supreme Court recently upheld the federal law banning so-called Partial Birth abortions. It is a particularly gruesome procedure that even most level headed pro-choicers find appalling. It has been passed by several state houses and struck down by lower courts and now it was passed by the federal government and signed into law by the President. The fact of the matter is that a vast majority of Americans think the law is right. That's sort of like democracy isn't it.
Why have a constitution if we just need to listen to the people for all our answers?
Polls are OK when they support your position and they damn sure ought to be taken into account. After all a majority of the American people who voted in 2000 voted for Albert Gore but he did not become the President because the law said he didn't win enough electoral votes. That was a travesty in some people's eyes - the majority must prevail!
So, that being the case, when a majority of the people in this country want to declare that marriage is a union of one man and one woman should that not that be the case then? Or is it just another example of the Christian Right going after gays and lesbians, stripping them of their rights and rendering them second class citizens? Me, I personally don't care one way or the other, to each his own, live and let live and all that jazz, if that's what they want to do, good for them. But is this a democracy where the majority rules or not? No, it is not. This is the very reason America was constituted as a representative democratic republic. We are supposed to elect wise men and women to make decisions on matters such as this. And if I heard it once I've heard it a thousand times - we get the government we deserve.
If Hedges, Hitchens and Harris fear for this country and the march toward Christian fascism that they see around every corner then they also ought to look in the mirror to see why the Christians in America feel so threatened. The march of socialism and secular humanism is proceeding unhindered through our culture and our schools. Why do you think parochial and home schooling is on the rise and is producing some of the best student achievement.
This whole throw the baby out with the bath water mentality as if God believing people have contributed nothing good to this world is the thing we recoil against. My church is full of great and wonderful, peaceful people every Sunday. I don't know what churches these guys go to.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
We are short handed at work these days and the stuff that needs to be done around the house never decreases. One finds himself literally brain dead by Friday.
We were doing some testing for a critical project Friday afternoon and I couldn't concentrate on all the different variables and scenarios. Basically it became pointless to continue...
Thank God my adult daughter called saying her car broke down. It was my chance to pack it in and dismiss myself. As it turned out she was simply out of gas - "... it doesn't make sense I just put 5 dollars in the tank yesterday???" "Umm, hate to tell you this," I said as we drove past the gas station on the way to get my gas can. "At $2.95 a gallon your five bucks might have gotten you home from gas station."
We had a take out pizza for dinner and the next thing I knew I woke up at midnight on the couch having missed the Minnesota Twins come from behind victory over the Tigers. I can't remember the last time I crashed like that.
My new motto seems to be more prescient everyday - "Life is Messy!"
It's tough on guys like me who like order and symmetry (and a clean kitchen). As I approach 50 years old in just a few years I have one question... When does it get easier?
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Ethanol is not the answer to the world's energy woes. Not only will the increasing use of ethanol to power our lifestyle not save us from the whims of OPEC it very well could lead to the destruction of civilization itself.
Wow, that's a pretty strong assertion. The beginning of the end is already upon us. The price of corn in the global market continues to rise despite increasing yields. Why? Because demand is up, of course. Ethanol production is in part driving much of the demand. The dilemma comes as the more 2 billion people on this planet who rely on affordable corn just to survive can't afford to feed their families. If the world has to decide between "cheap" fuel for our cars and SUV's or feeding 2 billion people there is only one moral choice.
The tortilla riots have already started.
While it is not possible to distill something as complex as the global food system down to one culprit the rise in ethanol production certainly plays a big part. Corrupt governments in Mexico, Africa and South America along with multinational agri-business manipulating supply and price along with the rising fuel and production costs are driving prices for basic food staples higher. Rich counties can absorb the costs but the third world can not.
If current trends continue and the fuel vs food aspect is not dealt with we could see civilization collapse all around us.
Ethanol is not the answer for many reasons. The move toward ethanol as a primary fuel is a reaction. It literally makes no sense when oil is so abundant. The problems with oil are more political than they are technical. Cars and trucks that burn gasoline are getting cleaner and more efficient (and bigger, seriously does anyone really need a Humvee to get to work?) every year. The environmental claims for the use of ethanol are a bit specious since it takes incredible amounts of traditionally generated energy to produce ethanol. The continued mantra we hear American politicians spew "we have to wean ourselves from being dependent on foreign oil" is ill informed rhetoric. Oil is a global market - it doesn't matter where it comes from. What matters is that a huge percentage of global oil operations are nationalized. When oil extraction and production is nationalized the efficiency of the marketplace goes out the window. The only thing keeping the current situation somewhat in balance is that the oil producing nations are as dependent on the West and China buying their oil as the West and China is on them to supply it.
Ethanol is not the answer.
Ethanol has it's place. MTBE, ethanol's major competitor, is being phased out due to environmental concerns. Ethanol is currently blended in about 30% of America's fuel supply-helping reduce toxic exhaust emissions and providing higher octane without the trouble MTBE causes. In 2004 there were 84 ethanol plants are in operation in the U.S. alone -with another fourteen under construction.
Nations like Brazil have nearly replaced traditional gasoline with ethanol. But it comes at a price. Again there is the cost of food and in Brazil the rain forests are coming down to grow grain crops. Since the soil there is perfect for jungles but not so good for grain crops more and more land is needed to grow the grain needed to feed and fuel the Brazilian economy. In 2004, Amazon tree-cutting reached its highest level in a decade: More than 10,000 square miles, an area roughly the size of Massachusetts, were cut down, according to government statistics. Currently trade barriers in the U.S. (to protect American farm business) prevent Brazil form exporting ethanol to the U.S. While being very anti free trade it may indeed save more of the Amazon jungle from being plowed under...
The situation in the Amazon basin only illustrates even more that ethanol production is not the panacea for the "global" environment we are led to believe. Only a long term high tech solution to energy is going to save us.
The plight of the third world is going to rely on food and fuel. Energy use is what pulls a backward pre-modern country into the global market. However food is equally important. This is what has been at the core of the success of America, Europe, Japan and the emerging Asian nations. Keeping the population fed while building dynamic economies with the use of ever increasing amounts of energy. If the West continues on the path of using our food for fuel we are only going to "drive" our civilization to its destruction.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Sometime in the 80's when product placement in movies and every aspect of the sports experience was sold to highest bidder did the sublime became the ridiculous. But somehow we endured. The movies and the games continued to entertain. The overload of ads became fodder for numerous comedic skits. It's crazy to be sure, but let's face it when actors and sports stars continue to demand and get out of this world salaries the money has to come from somewhere.
The advertisement industry is perhaps the most creative entity in the world. Not only are the print and television ads clever in and of themselves, but the vehicles in which they are delivered to us are endless. Even when one avenue is closed down its like a squeezing balloon and the ads just pop out somewhere else. Sometimes it does get overwhelming and outright nauseating such as those commercials for ED pills and genital herpes drugs, but we tune them out as best we can - unless our herpes laden and limp member is in need of such things...
Here in my city and probably yours there has been an effort to do away with highway billboards. They have successfully had large numbers of them removed. Bad news for the billboard companies? Well, technology just steps in - now we have JumboTron billboards all over town flashing in living color a different ad every 15 seconds. (don't worry the busybodies are already going after them.) Advertisers will not be silenced!
And that's the gist of it. Advertisments sell product. Without ads we wouldn't know we have the choices we have.
But here's the question? Do we have too many choices? Is it a sign of a sick, over indulgent culture, or evidence of a successful prosperous nation that has all its basic needs met? Probably a little of both.
I do have a problem, however, with folks like those who run adbusters.org and other socialist groups that are going after the corporate-culture by targeting the consumer in order to shame him. Their mission statement reads like the communist party manifesto:
We are a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age. Our aim is to topple existing power structures and forge a major shift in the way we will live in the 21st century... To this end, Adbusters Media Foundation publishes Adbusters magazine, operates this website and offers its creative services through PowerShift, our advocacy advertising agency.
Consumerism and for that matter capitalism is responsible for most of the great things we enjoy today. The a$$holes at adbusters and various other consumer hating organizations who have the luxury to produce their ad laden websites, which, by the way, runs on electricity, and their magazines, which is processed from dead trees, would be toiling down at the river washing their hand sewn clothes on rocks and eating food preserves from a jar with their stale bread and beer if it weren't for the world free market capitalism has created. Let them show you all the great and wonderful things the Arabs, and the Chinese, the Russians and the Africans have developed from scratch.
Sure capitalism has it's problems. Mega-corporations driven by profit (as they should be) cut off their long term noses to spite their short term faces. The price of sustained growth is high and so are the stakes. Once General Motors was one of the largest companies in the world, now its not even close. They made mistakes and more aggressive and more efficient companies took their place. Lots of people lost their jobs, but lo-and-behold new companies were started by entrepreneurs to fill the void.
Which brings us back to advertising. The one thing the giant companies have over the upstarts (besides taxes and regulations that hinder the entrepreneur) is the wealth to advertise incessantly. Now, if these jerks like adbusters.org really believe in "entrepreneurialism" then how is the word supposed to get out? Telepathy?
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
The study group was comprised of young people, ages 14 to 31 and had newly diagnosed type I diabetes. People with type I diabetes have to give themselves regular insulin injections to control their blood-sugar levels, they become unable to create the hormone naturally.
Though never mentioned specifically in this TimeOnline (UK) article the therapy is another in a growing list of ADULT stem cell therapy successes. In fact the author goes off on a tangent that skewers President Bush for his role in halting Federal dollars for EMBRYONIC stem cell research. Unfortunately this story, this therapy has nothing at all to do with embryonic stem cells. This jab is truly out of place in this article and is another obvious attempt to fool the reader.
CNN also ran a story and to their credit did not stoop to belittling this great accomplishment with rhetoric citing the "most promising" type of research - embryonic stem cell research.
While this is great news for those newly diagnosed it is still questionable if this type of therapy will help those who have had type I diabetes for years. People like myself with type II diabetes will not benefit from this potential breakthrough.
Type II diabetes, generally affects people later in life, is also referred to as "adult onset diabetes" is linked to lifestyle factors such as obesity and sedentary behaviors. Type II sufferers control their blood-sugar levels with pills, or through diet and exercise and sometimes insulin.From the article:
The new study, by a joint team of Brazilian and American scientists, found that one of the first patients to undergo the procedure has not used any supplemental synthetic insulin for three years. “Very encouraging results were obtained in a small number of patients with early-onset disease,” the authors, led by Julio Voltarelli, from the University of São Paulo in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil. write. “Ninety-three per cent of patients achieved different periods of insulin independence and treatment-related toxicity was low, with no mortality.”
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s own immune system malfunctions and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas, causing a shortage in the hormone. By the time most patients receive a clinical diagnosis, 60 to 80 per cent of their beta cells have been wiped out. The disease progresses from this point very quickly, and can result in serious long-term complications including blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and stroke.The bottom line is that we should all be encouraged by this as another potential victory for medical science. It should not be used to fool people and obscure the fact that Adult Stem Cell therapy is real as opposed to the "promise" of embryonic stem cell therapy.
Monday, April 09, 2007
You can see how this painting went together by clicking here. It was inspired by a photo by Alan Murphy. You can also see my other paintings by visiting my online art gallery called static-art.
I hope you enjoy it!
Thursday, April 05, 2007
The day Iran has usable nuclear weapons is the day the Global Terror War actually begins. With the threat of a mushroom cloud going off in the night an even more paralyzed West will be powerless to fend off the low velocity warfare of terrorism. If you thought 9/11, Madrid, London, Bali, Kenya, USS Cole, Morocco, India, Lebanon and not the least, Israel was mere child's play you'd be right.
The center of terror is Tehran. Hizzbolah, Hamas the PLO and even alQaeda in some way or another are offspring of the 1979 Iranian revolution. The Wahabbists in Saudi Arabia and their own agents in Pakistan and Sudan would be impotent if it hadn't been for the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979. (Thanks Jimmy).
So what can we do? The exact wrong thing would be for the U.S. to go in there with both guns a blazing. Even in the face of Ahmadinejad's plea (or the Ayatollah's, take your pick) for us to lob a few bombs his way we should resist. Ahmadinejad is like Braer Rabbit just daring us to throw him into the brier patch. Nothing would shore up his support at home like a little Iranian patriotism.
According to Reza Pahlavi, son of the disposed Shah and Heir to the Throne of Iran, discontent in Iran is very, very high. He says:
"the greatest ally of the Free World in the Muslim World: the people of Iran. Three Iranian social groups, the women, youth and ethnic groups, as well as four professional and working groups, educators, lawyers, journalists and industrial labor, have been at the forefront of protests against and defiance of the Islamic Republic. Two of the top three Iranian cities, Tabriz and Mashhad, as well as other major cities, such as Sanandaj, have been out of government control, for days at a time. The principal reason why the vast majority of Iranians who want to reclaim peace and prosperity have not succeeded against the Islamic Republic is because they are prevented from communicating – with each other, and with the free world."
We have heard this or anecdotes just like this for years, we heard the same from the Iraqi ex patriots about Saddam's regime too. One would like to think the Americans and the Europeans are working quietly in the background as we speak to aid these groups, but I doubt it.
It's hard to know what the Bush administration is doing about Iran, I don't think they even know. I have heard lip service about supporting the disaffected youth inside Iran, but is that all it is - just lip service?
There has been an effort to force American companies to cease doing business with the Iranian regime. Democrat Frank Lautenberg (NJ) should be commended for his efforts here. Under current law, U.S. firms are not allowed to do business with nations deemed by the United States to sponsor terrorism. But the law does not specifically bar foreign subsidiaries from such business. Due to pressure by Lautenberg - GE, Halliburton and Conoco-Phillips have ended their deals. While insisting they did nothing illegal they have declared they would enter no more arrangements until Iran ceases to be a terror sponsoring nation.
Still, it does no good if the rest of the world continues to put the almighty buck ahead of security and morality. What Iran does is immoral, terrorism is immoral. Cuba has survived decades due to the inability of the West to collectively cut off Castro. There was Iraq, of course, where the economic sanctions leaked like a sieve. Sanctions and condemnation need to be complete to work. Still the EU and Congressional Democrats cling to the notion that Iran can be contained... Pahlavi continues:
As one witness after another comforts Congressional leaders that the Islamic Republic
can be deterred, I do not hear the riposte that even their best scenario means unshackling terrorism, let alone their worst! Nor does the (Bush) administration seem to be able to lead Congress away from such harmful and deceptive advice, because it is ill equipped to deal with unconventional states.
You don't say!
Unless the West and Russia and China insist by economically isolating this regime while diplomatically shunning it inside places like the UN (which means not clapping when Ahmadinejad scolds our President), then Iran will continue to defy all norms of accepted behavior.
We, as ordinary citizens, can and should insist that our public institutions and the companies we do business with divest totally from Iran until such time as they are de-listed as terror sponsors. American companies and many institutions have or are in the process doing just that. Not so in Europe. Here are the top companies doing business directly with the regime in Tehran. You might want to think twice before investing or buying from these companies.
Oil & Natural Gas Corp.
Alcatel is now Alcatel/Lucent. Hyundai is a household name here as is Total but the rest you may not had heard of - but I can almost guarantee you've used their products. Educate yourself and take a pause before buying.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Who could forget William Jefferson's cold hard cash - bribery money - found in his freezer. Instead of the media questioning the circumstances of how he came across $90,000 of ill gotten gains they condemn the manner in which the FBI obtained the evidence. I guess a proper search warrent just wasn't good enough. Jefferson has not only been free of prosecution, he was overwhelmingly re-elected .
Then we learn of very shady land deals made by Senator Harry Reid and not only did the media willfully ignore the "scandal" Reid won his coveted job as Senate Majority Leader. Not word of this was ever spoken again.
Now Senator Diane Feinstein resigns her post on the from the military construction subcommittee under a cloud of suspicion that her husband's companies benefited directly from her position. It was first reported in late January several instances in which Feinstein seemed directly involved in issues that could benefit Perini Corp. and URS Corp. Her husband has ownership in both. Yet if it weren't for the Internet I would have never heard about this pending scandal.
Where is the news media? Oh wait, silly me, these are all Democrats. They don't look a thing like Dick Cheney. Perini Corp sounds nothing like Haliburton.
Yet the news media can go on and on about conspiracy theories that have not a hint of fact behind them as long as the people indicated are conservatives or Rebublicans. We have just been treated to weeks of coverage and speculation over the rightful firings of an handful of Justice Department officials. These "employees" served at the pleasure of the President and can be "asked" to leave at any time for any reason. Everybody knew that including the Democrats who trumped up this non issue and the media who willfully played along.
All I ask is the same righteous indignation and breathless wall to wall coverage we have grown accustomed to when a conservative is involved. Go ahead and tell me the mainstream media is not biased.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Let me just say this: I see no reason that we should not try to conserve energy (turn off those lights when you leave room, and that damn TV). I see no reason we shouldn't as a society strive to make things more efficient, efficiency is elegant. However, we must not destroy our progress toward prosperity for everyone with draconian laws. Prosperity is the key to most of the worlds problems. In the end the most immoral thing we in the rich western nations can do is deny the third world and newly developing countries the prosperity building tools that we have, advanced things like, say, electricity, roads and industry. The Global Warming weenies actively block the poor and pre-modern nations from joining the prosperous nations. They also actively (and successfully) tear down the pride and confidence we should all be feeling about the riches our advanced technological society has produced.
The Global Warming cabal is the old socialist/communist failure dressed in new clothes. They intend to finish the job they started in the 20th century by destroying free market capitalism from the inside out this time. Educate yourself before you too get caught up in the tide.