Friday, September 29, 2006

The Stoning of America

Yesterday I invoked the memory of my freshman comp 102 class. The teacher of that class was a really huge Oliver Stone fan. And after the class was over, so was I. He called the course "The Stoning of America." We watched some of Stone's biggest movies from Platoon to JFK to Natural Born Killers. The point of the class was to show how Stone was portraying America in his work. And I learned that Oliver Stone's view of America was not very pleasant.
In a recent interview at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, Stone made it pretty clear how he feels about the current direction of the country. And for the most part, I think he is right on target. Stone was at the festival to promote his recent movie "World Trade Center." I must say, that of Stone's movies, this one was not one I cared to see. It was not thought provoking and made no real statement about American society. In fact, Stone made more of a statement in this interview than any one of his movies ever could.
Speaking of the current administration's reaction to 9-11 Stone said, "From September 12 on, the incident (the attacks) was politicized and it has polarized the entire world." I agree with what Stone is saying. The attacks have been used as a vehicle for the Bush political agenda. Anyone who doesn't see that is out of their mind. Just today, it was disclosed that Henry Kissinger has been advising Bush on Iraq the whole time. That tells me that this has been in the works before the man ever got into office. He has now used our country's greatest tragedy to his own ends. It was convenient that we were attacked. It made him look good if he acted and so he acted using politics and mismanaged war.
Another good point made by Stone was that, "if there had been a better sense of preparation, if we had a leadership that was more mature," we wouldn't be in the state we are in now. We are trapped in a never-ending war against an enemy that will not give up or die off. This entire war has been screwed out from the start. The Bush administration has clearly made some very bad choices. And I don't care what the idiots will say, things are worse in Iraq than they were before we went in. Iraq is making more terrorists for us to fight.
Stone will no doubt draw sharp criticism for saying he is "ashamed of his country." The right will tell him to leave the country if he is so upset. They will ignore the fact that he has present an opinion that makes a lot of sense. The state of the union is screwed up. We are in a tangled mess that can only lead to the downfall of our country if it is not corrected. Oliver Stone and I may both be labeled traitors by conservatives, but if more people would stand up to the government and act against it, that label would change. Maybe then the true meaning of patriot would shine through.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Echoes of the Darkest Day

When I was in Comp. 102 my freshman year of college, my teacher had us read an article that blamed school shootings on everything from rap music to violent movies. He then asked us what our opinions were. He added that if anyone needed to talk to an expert on school shootings, they should talk to me. Why? Because I was in one.
The sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of October 1, 1997 were with me when I heard the news out of Bailey, Colorado. At the time, very little was known about the shooting. The only thing that had been released was information about a hostage situation at a high school and a possible shooting. But even that was enough to get me thinking about the darkest day of my life.
It is now known that no student was to blame for the day of terror witnessed by these young students. Nor was a student to blame in the death that resulted from the hostage situation. In a strange turn of events, it was a 54-year-old homeless man named Duane Morrison. And when I heard that, I thought to myself, "how random." The details of this school-day incident were very strange. But the backlash from police action at the school may do more harm that the shooter ever could.
According to police, the man entered an English class and told everyone to line up against the wall. He then removed all the male students from the room. Police then say the man sexual assaulted some of the girls. It was during all this that the decision was made to storm the room and free the hostages. When SWAT moved in, the gunman used one of the girls as a human shield, shot her in the back of the head, and then shot himself. The girl was 16 and her name was Emily Keyes. A tragic end to a terrible event. But what will people say about the police action.
Too often in cases such as this and in cases of high-speed pursuits, the police are blamed for the deaths of innocent bystanders and sometimes the criminals. After what has been released on this incident, I am sure it will happen in this case too. Someone will make the point that if police had not stormed the room, this young girl would not have died. I'm sure someone will sue the Park County Sheriff's Office as a result. And it is simply ridiculous to do so.
People should not lose sight of the fact that an armed gunman entered that classroom. They should also remember that girls were screaming for help as they watched their friends be assaulted by this man. They should remember that police are employed to protect citizens from these dangers. They should realize they were only doing their jobs. And they should back off.
Had it not been for the impulse thinking of certain people on the morning of October 1, 1997, many more people could have died in my school. The same is true in this case. It is tragic to lose someone so young, but much worse could have happened if police did not act. Everyone in the media and the public needs to understand this. Let these people grieve and don't blame anyone but the man that pulled the trigger.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Politics and Religion: Joined At The Hip

For the longest time, I didn't like Lou Dobbs. I thought he was a stuffy, old, rich man who had a backward opinion on everything. I didn't think much of those opinions because I thought he was stuffy, old, and rich. But as I started to watch him more, I realized that I wasn't exactly right. I began to see that I agreed with some of the things he was saying on his show. I realized that he was making good points that should be taken seriously. This editorial is one of those thoughts.
Somewhere down the line, religion and politics, in America, have become joined at the hip. In fact, especially in the South, you will be hard-pressed to find a single candidate that doesn't mention his/her religious beliefs in a campaign add. And you will also not have to look hard to find someone who will call America a "Christian Nation." All of these seem to contradict the first amendment of the Constituion, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
Many will say that bringing up religious beliefs in politics is not establishing a religion. They are right. But by doing so, we isolate those people in our country that do not share the same religious beliefs. They are Americans too. Jews, Muslims, Buddhist, Hindus, Christians, etc. all have a stake in the United States. They are all equal. So why is religion such a big part of politics. The sad fact is that because Christianity is the religion of the majority of people in the country, it gets the most attention by politicians. It is also the majority religion in Congress. And I think we all know where the President stands on religion.
The point, is to no isolate other Americans. I know it may seem like a crazy idea to some, but we should actually care what other people believe. We should never try to dictate law based on our own religious beliefs. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that it has been going on for years now. Religion and politics are so closely connected, that it would be impossible to separate them without making some very drastic changes. And I don't think that will happen.
For now, we educated voters need to look at more than the church visitation records of our leaders. In the long run, it doesn't matter. The best example is starring us in the face. A man that claims to be a Christian but has no problem bombing and killing innocent people in other countries. Shouldn't that be enough to change your mind. Look at the issues. Don't be stupid. A man that makes a point to tell you over and over again that he is religious is probably lying to your face. We should have listened to Thomas Jefferson.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

It's Getting Hot In Here

Because of the false image given to global warming by conservatives, most people are ignorant to the fact that it is a real problem. These are the same people that don't realize that Katrina was a wake-up call to people that don't buy into the science of global warming. And so it is no surprise that recent findings about the Earth's increasing temperature have gone unnoticed. It is no surprise that people will not make much of the results. People, especially conservative Christians, don't have faith in science. It's because of an ignorance that have. And they refuse to do anything about it. But what this report shows, yet again, is that global warming is real and we caused it.
The report is mostly the work of climate scientists like James Hansen. In the report, scientist give evidence that shows the Earth's temperature is at its highest point in one million years. The most warming has occurred in places like the Arctic and the Pacific Ocean. Both of these places have a great influence on world weather. The increasing of temperatures, according to the report, has made for the extreme weather we have seen in the last 10 years. It all started with 1995's "super" El Nino event. This was only one of the many things to be caused by the Earth's increasing temperature.
No big surprise as to the cause of the rise on temperature as laid out by the report. According to this report (as has been concluded in hundreds of others) the cause of the change is, "rise in human activities, notably the release into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases -- notably carbon dioxide -- which let in sunlight and trap its heat like the glass walls of a greenhouse."
But most conservatives will ignore this report, like the many others. They will say this report is based on only a few scientists opinions. They will call it junk science. And people will believe them. Why? They are stupid.
These people will believe anything their great leaders tell them. Even if that something is false. They will go outside and feel the cool fall air and say, "Aint no global warming, it's a nice cool days. Stupid scientists don't know what they talkin' about. Like that evolution stuff they was harpin' on a couple years ago." And that will be the end of it. These same people will go right on driving there gas-drinking autos and adding to the problems. They don't care to learn the facts. And one day the Earth will make us all pay for it.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Democrats Don't Know A Good Direction

It was a headline this morning that a certain leaked intelligence report stated that the war in Iraq has made things worse in the overall war on terror. Of course this is completely the opposite of everything the Bush administration has been saying the last three years of this war. The entire reason so many people bought into this "war" was because it was marketed as a vital part of the war on terror. We have been told over and over again, that to be safer, Iraq needs to be a free country. Well they are free and they have a new government. But we aren't any safer.
The report was put out by the National Intelligence Council in April. It is not a public document, but some crafty reporters at the New York Times brought out a very telling portion of the report. According to the report, "the war and the insurgency are the main recruiting vehicles for new Islamic extremists. The extremists communicate through various Islamic Web sites and share an ideology with al Qaeda." And while any American with a brain should not be surprised by this, it is now a potential weapon to use in the November election. And democrats are eating it up.
The party jumped at the chance to bring up the fact that this is just another one of the reasons not to vote republican. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid was just one of the Congressional democrats to make a remark with this statement, "Press reports say our nation's intelligence services have confirmed that President Bush's repeated missteps in Iraq and his stubborn refusal to change course have made America less safe." Good point. Now do something about it.
But the point that is overlooked by both parties, both tired of hearing about the war, is they are the reason this war exist in the first place. It may have been the president's idea, but they all voted on it and they approved it. They didn't have to. But they did. So if Democrats think they are heading in the right direction by seizing this report as a triumph, they are badly mistaken. Both parties should be blamed for the contents of this report. It is both parties that have continued to support this war by approving funds and not passing measures to end it. The only direction either party can go is down. November should see to that.

Friday, September 22, 2006

A Boob-Tube For Every Boob

If people could pull away from the TV set long enough to read this, they might find it interesting. Hell, if people would just read more in general, the world might be a better place. Americans have reached a new milestone this week, according to Nielsen Media Research. It has nothing to do with being the smartest country in the world. In fact it may have something to do with being the dumbest. According to a new study, there are more TVs in American household than people, in general.
Looking at the numbers, this might be hard to believe. According to Nielsen, the average American household has 2.73 TV sets. I don't think this takes into account the uses of computers and cell phones to watch live TV. However, this number is still more than the average number of people in an American household, 2.55. The study went on to say that only 19% of Americans own a one TV. Over half the homes in America have three or more TVs. IN just the past 25 years, these two statistics have flip-flopped. In 1975, the households with a single TV was 57% as opposed to 11% with three or more.
Our American society is becoming more media-driven. It seems we are in constant need (or think we are) of a source of entertainment. We are bombarded with 24 hour news channels and shows that have more commercials than storyline. And as Americans, we just eat it up. We love our TVs. We love them almost as much as out SUVs. There are a couple of reason why.
First, TVs don't need gasoline to function. But what people don't realize is that the electricity in their homes is produced by burning fossil fuels (just like your car). Watching more TV and having more TVs adds to the global warming problem.
The second reason we like TV so much is because of the addictive nature of TV. Humans are naturally curious creatures and by leaving us hanging between commercials, we stay tuned in. Also, by having more than one set in the house, we don't have to worry about missing something when we go to the bathroom or get a beer out of the fridge.
The sad thing about all of this, is that more TVs leads to less learning. While I agree that the TV can be used as a teaching tool, it is most often not. As a society, we are more apt to watch some stupid reality TV show than a documentary on the War of 1812. Therefore, we don't learn anything except who got voted off the island. And that's not really useful knowledge. It's ok to have TVs, just don't use them all at the same time or as often as we like to. Use your TV to teach. I think Ed Murrow was right when he said, "This instrument can teach. It can illuminate and, yes, it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it towards those ends. "

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Devil Wears Red, White, and Blue

Yesterday, the always fiery leader of Venezuela, spoke to the UN in much the same fashion as his Iranian counterpart did on Tuesday. But unlike the Iranian president, Hugo Chavez did not make a valid point the whole time he talked. Instead he used his captive audience to constantly refer to Bush as the Devil. I mean that is all well and good for a laugh (which he got), but it serves no political purpose. I mean Americans already know this.
Speaking of the President, Chavez said, "The devil came here yesterday...And it smells of sulfur still today." Later on in the speech, Chavez makes a second reference to Satan saying, "As the spokesman of imperialism, he came to share his nostrums to try to preserve the current pattern of domination, exploitation and pillage of the peoples of the world. An Alfred Hitchcock movie could use it as a scenario. I would even propose a title: 'The Devil's Recipe.'" It got plenty of laughs from the crowd. An especially hardy laugh came from the Iranian delegation. A smile and a giggle were present in the Iraqi delegation. Overall, it was pretty funny. I mean why does it really matter if he called Bush the Devil? But you can't keep Americans down. They will not have their president made fun of. This was made clear by some New York democrats of all people today.
Among this group of Bush-opposers, Rep. Charles Rangel, said in a scolding manner about Chavez's statements, "You don't come into my country; you don't come into my congressional district and you don't condemn my president." Well Congressman, he just did. What are you going to do? Do you want to deport him? Technically he wasn't even in the United States. The UN is not a part of the United States. It is governed by International Law. It is also a free-speech area. So get over it.
Maybe Bush is the Devil. Maybe the Devil wears red, white, blue and prances around the Oval Office thinking of ways to ruin the United States. And if Chavez is right, we gave the Devil exactly what he wanted.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

UN Does Need To Change

I may get a lot of flak for this one, but I must say that I agree with some of the things the Iranian president said in his speech last night to the UN. And the attack would come from a place of hate for all things Islamic that has arisen since 9-11. That hatred would lead us to believe that just because the president of Iran doesn't like our government, he is automatically a bad person. It is the same stupid mindset that got people to convert French Fries into Freedom Fries when France didn't join the war effort in Iraq. It is ignorance. Let's forget for a minute that this guy hates Israel and doesn't believe in the Holocaust. It does not make him unworthy of making a fair point. If you actually listen to some of the things he said, he did make some good point. The UN Security Council does need reforming.
The UN Security Council is made up of five permanent members and ten elected members. That single point makes no sense to me. Why should any member nation get a permanent spot on this very influential council? Basically, the nations that proclaimed victory after WWII also proclaimed their permanent leadership in the UN. To me this setup is nothing but bad management and a successful attempt at seizing power over other nations. That is what the Security Council has done since its creation.
This principle of permanent members is also based on the fact that they will always be ruled by decent and humane leaders. This is clearly not the case. Both China and Russia have almost been voted out of the security council for such reason. But they were not.
The US has been seen in the last few years to be using its seat on the security council for its own policy-pushing. But there are no calls for Security Council members for our removal. No only crazy Muslim dictators (who are actually freely elected...but it looks good to call him that) are speaking up. But maybe he has a good point. In his speech, he says, "Apparently, the Security Council can only be trusted to secure the rights and security of certain big powers." He is referring to the US and also to the US's refusal to stop to conflict in Lebanon when other member nations wanted to. He makes a fair point here. The point of the Security Council is to make decisions that are for the good of the entire world. The US seems to only make decisions based on our own backwards foreign policies.
To reform the Security Council, I feel it will be necessary to eliminate the permanent membership of any nation. Instead I think 15 nations should be voted on by the general assembly to make up the Security Council for a designated length of time. It would be in this way that ALL nations get to make the big decisions in the UN.
Much like Congress and the White House (or any government for that matter), fresh ideas and faces are needed to make change. If the UN is meant to fulfill its charter to help all nations, then this reform is very much needed. If the change does not occur, then I think the UN will go the way of our own nation and fall into the rut of bureaucracy and stagnation. It will cease to be effective and at that point should be disbanded.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Pirate's Life for Me

When I was first introduced to International Talk Like A Pirate Day a couple of years ago, I was very surprised. I thought it was a strange but funny idea that almost anyone could get into. Then I realized that only geeks like my friends and I could actually get into this "holiday." Every year I have tried my best to stick to the rules of the day. Of course it usually become nothing but saying "ARRR" a lot during the day.
To learn pirate phrases, one must do a little research. As I found this afternoon, that is actually not as difficult as it sounds. Personally, I would like to have a translator site that would convert your typed text into "pirate speak." I know that it could be done. So maybe by the next ITLA Day, that will be something I could use.
Of the phrases I found, many stick out as being pure pirate talk. Others are a failed attempt at trying too hard to sound like a pirate. Some of the better phrases include, "Arrrgh-Bring me a servin' wench to bid me me pleasures!" or, "Avast, ya scurvy knave! Brave be ye, for certain, but arrr ye willin' ta die fer that parking spot?" Seriously, if you can fit those into daily conversation, you have got serious talent. However, there are just some things that a pirate would never say. For example, I doubt a pirate would ever have a use for the phrase, "Me cell phone fell deep into Davy Jones' locker Nobody flush... I'll go get me hook." But I guess it is really all in good fun.
Today is not over let. It is not too late to talk like a pirate to a few more people. I think going to the store with this gem would be a perfect way to end the day. "I don't know as I recall askin' ye for yer thoughts, ye scurvy bilge-drinkin' tar-merchant. Avast yer gob afore I keelhaul ye an' string yer bones from the crow's nest."

Monday, September 18, 2006

Top Floor...Space Station...Lingerie...Food Court

As a fan of science fiction, the idea put forth by a "space elevator" is very intriguing. It is a fantastic idea. And the great thing is that the idea is being discussed in a serious, project-path way. By that I mean people are talking and work is coming. I'm all for this grand idea. I'll even take a risk and ride if it comes to be.
Rooted in science fiction, the space elevator is a colossal project that would take years to finish. According to the article, "the basic premise involves an elevator that would travel from its base station up a cable tethered at the other end to a counterweight in geo-stationary orbit." In simple terms, it's an elevator that would go from the Earth, leave the atmosphere, and end at some platform in space. Most people would say that this is simply impossible physically and a but silly. But according to Robert Cassanova at NASA, "there is nothing wrong with the physics of it. If enough funding is found, it's possible we could see a space elevator in about 20 years."
An extreme idea that would take extreme engineering and an extremely large amount of money. But once built, the ease of near-Earth space travel would be unbelievable. The short-term goals for such a project would be to transport satellites, supplies, and astronauts more easily into space. But of course no one will support this gesture if it is not mentioned that tourists could also one day use the structure.
A feat of extreme engineering would be required for this to work. According to Dr Bradley Edwards, the structure would be, "paper-thin ribbon of approximately one meter in width composed of multiple strings of nanotubes - essentially sheets of graphite, a lattice of carbon - seamlessly rolled into long tubes that are only nanometers in diameter." The whole thing would be solar power and move at 120 mph. Edwards also said that using the elevator would slash prices of transporting items.
In my opinion, there is no reason why this can't or shouldn't be done. The risk involved is great, but if we never take risk, we never get anything done. Risk taking is what got us into space exploration. It is going to take more risk to make this work. I also think that the private sector should be brought in for funding. No government, and definitely not our own, will never pay the bill on this project.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Popeye Syndrome

Today's fear spreading news story is about E. coli in bagged spinach. I was wondering when one of these stories was going to pop up and be a headline for days. CNN has been covering it none-stop since 5 this morning. They've had medical experts and doctors talk about the dangers of this bagged spinach. They've talked about how it can kill you. They've spread the fear that the government needed them to spread. I call it the Popeye Syndrome.
I was never one that fell victim to my mother telling me I had to eat my raw spinach. She never tried to trick me by telling me that I would be strong, like Popeye, if I ate it. This is mostly because my mom hated raw spinach and didn't want to put the burden on us. That is not to say that I didn't get similar stories about other vegetables. But because of that, I don't eat raw spinach. Cook it in something and I probably won't care. I definitely won't think about it killing me.
E. coli has become the number one reason to fear bacteria, as portrayed in the media. Basically, if you want to scare someone with death, mention E. coli. The real story here is that only 60 people have become sick after eating raw, bagged spinach. That's 60 people out of several million that probably eat raw, bagged spinach. So in my opinion, there is really nothing to worry about. If it really worries you, don't eat bagged spinach. It's gross anyway.
The Popeye Syndrome is just another example of how the media loves to sensationalize every thing. If someone dies after using a certain type of pencil, they dig and dig to find other dead users. And then the pencils were to blame. It is an ever increasing problem with 24-hour news station. They have too much time on their hands and this is the best way to fill up air time.
What really makes me sick is some of the things I heard this morning about the causes of the outbreak. One very conservative radio host mentioned it was probably because the illegal immigrants that picked the spinach didn't wash their hands. Why in the world does it matter what kind of workers picked the spinach? Why even make a statement like that? Hate would be a likely suspect. And stories like this can lead idiots making hateful comments and getting away with it. We need to take a minute and do our own research before we go crazy about what the news calls a dire situation. Usually, it's not.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Birthday of Dependency

The use of crude oil as a source of fuel is nothing new in human history. The mass use of it has been going on for the past 150 years. But the absolute control of its pricing and shipping is 46 years old today. It was on this date in 1960 that one of the worst ideas since the Industrial Revolution was formed, OPEC.
OPEC defines the aim of their group as, "the coordination and unification of the petroleum policies of its member countries and the determination of the best means for safeguarding their interests, individually and collectively; devising ways and means of ensuring the stabilization of prices in international oil markets with a view to eliminating harmful and unnecessary fluctuations; giving due regard at all times to the interests of the producing nations and to the necessity of securing a steady income to the producing countries; an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations, and a fair return on their capital to those investing in the petroleum industry." That's a great line. I call the aim of their organization theft. And what's worse is our country is completely dependent, and therefore, controlled by it.
Unlike oil companies, OPEC is called and operates as a cartel. A cartel is defined as, "a group of formally independent producers whose goal it is to fix prices, to limit supply and to limit competition." They are also banned in many countries by antitrust laws. That has always bothered me, because the only other thing I ever hear about being controlled and sold by a cartel is drugs. And the people running them are always being chased by law enforcement. Yet, the United States has no problem doing business with one. Sad really.
We are so dependent on oil in this country that we have no problem with a bunch of thugs robbing us blind. We have too many good ideas in this country to still be as oil thirsty as we are. If we just had some leadership that wasn't afraid of big companies and the thugs of OPEC, maybe we would be better off. On this day, remember why it is a good idea to get a hybrid car as soon as possible. These guys don't need another palace any time soon.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Problem With Primaries

Yesterday was one of the biggest days for primary elections across the country. The day was said to be enormously important to the midterm elections coming up in November. Why? There is a problem in this country when a pseudo-election often determines the outcome of a general election. I have always had a problem with primaries existing in a "free" society like the United States. And it makes sense if you look at it scientifically.
In the study of genetics one of the most important things is variety in a population. The less variety that exists, the more chances there are for things such as harmful mutations that lead to death. And I have found that often times, what is true in science can and should be applied in society. In this case, I think we should apply this principle to politics. Too little variety leads to nothing good.
Primaries are choking the variety out of politics. They always have. Who knows how many good people have been cut out of the political arena simply because they couldn't win a primary. If you think about it, it's ridiculous. It should be common sense that anyone who wants to run for a political office should have their name on the ballot along with everyone else. Let the voters actually decide on election day.
But because Americans are blind to this fact, the variety we see in Washington is little to none. We have so few options for candidates that the only option is to not vote. No person in their right mind should ever settle on a candidate just because there is no one else to vote for. If there was more of a choice, I think more people would vote.
We need to come to a realization in this country that democracy is going to die if we don't diversify it. We need new ideas and new directions. And both of these things come when we add more variety to the system. Primaries need to go the way of the two-party system. Neither of these things will lend anything good to the future of the United States. Our political gene pool is being depleted. Pretty soon, the American political arena will look like a deleted scene from "Deliverance Goes to Washington."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Iraq and Iran: Why Can't They Be Friends?

Today something happened that blew my mind. The freely elected Prime Minister of Iraq met with the president of Iran today. At that meeting, Iran's president said, "the Islamic republic supports a united Iraq and will help the nation establish full security." It blew my mind because this proves a couple of things and its the best thing the US could hope for in Iraq.
First, this should show that the current Iraqi government is not the puppet of the United States. If that were the case, this meeting would never have occurred. Everyone in the world is fully aware of this administrations hatred for Iran. Everyone is also aware that we have NO diplomatic relations with Iran. So if we were controlling Iraq's government, we would never let the PM visit Iran.
Second, this meeting shows me that it is possible to not be in the Middle-East forever. Although the paranoid would say Iran is just playing nice, what if the country is really serious. I mean have we stopped to think that maybe they are telling the truth? Have we stopped to think that maybe they don't have nuclear weapons? Of course not. We always think the worst because this is obviously a crazy Islamic state bent on the destruction of America.
If you ask me, this is our ticket out of Iraq. The Iranian president said today, "Iran will provide assistance to the Iraqi government to establish full security. We believe strengthening the Iraqi government is tantamount to promoting security, peace and friendship in that country." Good deal then. Let them work together and have the Iranians train Iraqi military and security officials. Why do we have to do it?
I am pretty sure that our government will speak out against this arrangement. But, what right do we have to tell a freely elected government who to be friends with? In fact, I don't believe we have any say in what is decided through this meeting. If the Iraqi PM came out tomorrow and said that all future training of Iraqi forces will be done by Iran, I'd skip for joy. And everyone in America should too. Our troops could come home. It would no longer be our concern. Why can't they be friends if they want to be? It is not our place to tell them.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years And It's All The Same

I paused this morning at 8:03 by accident. I didn't do it on purpose and I didn't even realize what time it was until I looked at my computer screen. I was looking at CNN while the kids were jotting down some notes. It was a passing thought but a sad thought. And then later it all came to me. I don't really think much has changed.
My kids didn't say a word about what today was. It is probably not on their minds. And I think that is the prevailing opinion of a lot of people this year. It is not on our minds. Not because we have forgotten the loss. Not because we have forgotten the circumstances. But because we are moving on. It is ok to move on after a terrible tragedy. How many people, alive today, give the day of the Pearl Harbor attack a second thought? For that matter, how many people know that day is every year?
The only thing that really bothers me is what has and has not changed. Many things have come about since that day in 2001. The creation of new organizations like TSA and Department of Homeland Security are major changes. The passing of the Patriot Act also comes to mind around this time of year. But have these things made a lasting impact on American safety. I don't think so.
This morning, a news story brought up an interesting point discovered by the 9/11 Commission. The reason the hijackers were able to take what they did onto the plane was because checkers only focused on guns and explosives. But aren't we going down the same road now? Aren't we focusing too much on the smaller items like knives, boxcutters and nail files? What if a gun got past security because a checker wasn't looking for it? It is possible I fear.
We need to stop living in the past and start looking to the future. Since that day, our country has been engulfed in war. Only one of these fights is directly related to 9/11. The rest we started ourselves. Mostly based on ignorant anger and fear. 9/11 made us fearful and angry. It should have. But you don't have to lose your mind over it. You have to deal with it. We didn't deal. We lost it. We allowed things to get out of control.
Because of our fear and anger, our president was able to get special war-time powers. Powers that he has never had to give up because we have been in a constant war ever since. It's completely ridiculous. Our fear and anger has also made us blind to the facts. We didn't even need justification for war. We let it happen because we were afraid. And for that we should be ashamed.
I don't presume to know what the victims of 9/11 would tells us right now. I don't even think it matters. What matters is common sense and we aren't using it. Common sense would say that the best what to remember 9/11 is to continue living as Americans. We should not live as fearful children.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Highly Qualified Teachers Are Not The Problem

Apparently, the good graces of the almighty Federal Education Department have fallen on states and teachers around the country. The uproar has been over how states classify a qualified teacher. Apparently, they were doing enough. But the Education Department has backed down a little. Today, Secretary Spellings said states were, "strongly encouraged, though not required, to stop using the method to rate teachers."States were told that 100% of their teachers must meet federal standards to be "qualified." States protested saying many veteran teachers would be excluded. States had been classifying these teachers as qualified based on "job evaluations, teaching awards or service on school committees." The Education Department said that was not enough and to slowly phase out this method over a very short period. When states didn't fully comply because of time constraints, some people got upset. Any change of this magnitude would affect tens of thousands of teachers. This blasted No Child Left Behind law is the problem. At every turn it assumes that the teacher is the root of all evil in a school district. It assumes that we are the problem. And by assuming, it has made an ass of itself and the federal government. Teachers are not the problem in this country. The problem is with the unqualified people making laws and the people enforcing them. The government needs to take a good long look at where the real problems are in education. Many of them stem from poorly organized administrations and mismanaged districts. Yet these people are not on the chopping block. Teachers are. The government also needs to understand that two parts of the education puzzle are given NO responsibilities by No Child Left behind. These two parts are the students and the parents. Teachers need to be left alone so they can do their jobs. If we have to do tons of paper work, teach in a very restrictive curriculum, and deal with poorly planned ideas to improve schools, then how in the Hell are we suppose to teacher effectively. There needs to be more responsibility placed on students, parents, and administrators. At the moment there is none. Principals and superintendents are not screened to see if they meet No Child Left Behind standards. They should be. If teachers have to be, wouldn't the people directing the teachers need to be also? It seems like common sense. And what about highly qualified parents? There is no such standard or classification placed on them. Parents are not held responsible for the failure of their children. Why not? They are more important in the education of a child than even a teacher is. Public education, too many parents, is a baby-sitting service. It is a way for them to get rid of the kids during the year. And when they are out of sight, they are out of mind. Until they fail and then it is very convenient to blame their failure on the teachers. Students are a big part of this too. In the end, it is the student that has to learn the material. It is the student that has to take the tests. Why isn't the student responsible for either of these things? Why is it assumed that if students fail a test, their teachers didn't teach them? What sort of logic is that? Students need to be pushed as hard as possible in education. For too long, teachers have been forced to spoon-feed material to kids and it is making them stupid. If we make them responsible for their own learning they will have to do it or fail. We need to stop feeling sorry for them and start MAKING them get an education. I don't think they should have a choice in the matter. The point is, the government is the wrong "man for the job" in education. The only people qualified to make decisions on education are teachers. And we get NO input on anything in education. None. Until that changes, the state of public education in the US will continue to decline. We will be passed by all other nations and we will fail in the global market. And it won't be because of teachers. But I'll bet we get the blame.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Familiar Faces Bad Choice In '08

A recent phone poll of republicans and democrats showed that many old faces are on voters' minds for 2008. Former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, is the favorite among Republicans in this poll. He took in 31% of those that said they voted republican. Also making the list of top candidates were John McCain and Newt Gingrich. The Democrat side was no better. Some old pros of the party made up the top of the list. Senator Hillary Clinton took 37% of the people polled. Al Gore took in around 20%. Also making the top of the list were John Kerry and John Edwards with 11%. In both cases, I am very saddened by these results.
All of these candidates are old faces in the world of politics. They are career politicians. And I think that is good enough reason to avoid all of them. It is high time this country got some fresh faces in Congress and the White House. Both parties need find someone new or they need to get out of the way. Voters need to realize that if you keep voting for the same people, nothing will ever change. I don't care what party you put in power, either one will do the same thing they have done for years.
The Republican party is in a bad place right now. For the last six years, they have had to deal with the whims of a man who clearly knows nothing about running a country. They have had to deal with his antics and policies that have driven this country into the worst state is has been in since the 1880s. And it is their own fault. They gave him the nomination in 2000. They gave it to him again in 2004. They go along with his ideas because they are in the same party. The death of the Republican party will be their own doing. If the war in Iraq doesn't push them over the edge, putting another "W" in office surely will.
The Democrats don't have it much better. The strongest candidate they have had for any office in the last six years was Al Gore. And I think of all the people in this poll, he would do the best job as President. But only if he keeps being straight with people and doesn't turn into a politician. Otherwise, the Democratic party is dead too. And by their own doing. They have been getting consistently weaker and weaker over the past six years. They gave in and let "W" have his extra powers, his Patriot Act, and his war in Iraq. They might as well have changed parties. And if they think pushing Hillary Clinton is going to save them, they need a reality check. No one in their right mind would vote for her for president. Not even her own husband.
The solution to all of this is simple. The American voters need to realize that the two party system is out-dated and needs to be retired or put out of its misery. Nothing good is going to come out of either one unless we get some fresh faces in. In November, voters need to take a good long look at their incumbents. They need to look at who is running against them. They need to vote out the incumbent, because none of them are doing a good job. And they need to let some fresh blood into the Capital Building and then do the same for the White House in 2008. That is the only thing that will keep our democracy alive. Change now or die.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Making It Secret Doesn't Mean It's Safe

Today a not so startling revelation was presented by the president. He admitted that, yes, our government has been sponsoring secret prisons run by the CIA. He also said these are a good thing and that they should remain in service. This doesn't shock me, because the abuse of power by this administration is all too common now. They aren't even trying to hide it anymore. And what's worse, it doesn't appear there will be any repercussions from this statement. None. That is total crap.
First, the President admits he had knowledge of secret CIA prisons and that he fully supports them. His excuse was, "In this new war, the most important source of information on where the terrorists are hiding and what they are planning is the terrorists themselves." "To win the war on terror, we must be able to detain, question and, when appropriate, prosecute terrorists captured here in America and on the battlefields around the world." That's great, but we don't own the rest of the world. We are not the police of the world, although we would like to think that. We have no right build/run any sort of prison in another country. It goes against so many international laws. And yet no action appears to be in the works. Mostly because the President didn't say where these prisons are. And of course he wouldn't because he knows they are illegal.
And I'm not buying the whole, "we didn't use torture," line. As far as I am concerned, anything that comes out of that man's mouth is a lie. If we aren't using torture, then why do we have to hide these prisons outside of the country? Why not let some humanitarian workers check these places out to back up your claims? Again, this isn't going to happen because we have something to hide. We are hiding the fact that these men are being held unlawfully on foreign soil and the Geneva convention and the constitution are just toilet paper to the people running them.
When is someone in power or in the Republican party going to grow the balls to stand up the the President. Someone needs to. Instead, by giving one speech and admitting in public of doing something illegal, all is forgiven. Also, most Republicans are too busy trying to run for re-election. If you want anyone to vote for you, I suggest you remove this idiot from office. Of course it may be too late for that. If the anti-incumbent polls are true, all the morons in Congress are in trouble in November anyway.
It is my hope that the Supreme Court will have the sense to keep fighting this abuse of power as they have been. Any legislation to keep these prisons or the one in Cuba running should be struck down. If this government thinks it can keep us safe by conducting secret courts and prisons, it is badly mistaken. We are no better than terrorists if we do these things.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

You Will Be Missed Steve

When I first started my career in zoo education in 1995, at the tender age of 12, my biggest inspiration was a man named Jack Hanna. Similar to myself, he had been working in zoos most of his life. There was not a single thing he wanted to do more than work with animals. And that was an inspiration to me. More than anything, I wanted to educate the public and animals and the conservation of those animals. Then, in 1999 a new face had made its way on to the TV screen and I was inspired even more. It was the always happy face of Steve Irwin.
It was yesterday morning when I got the news about Steve. My mom called and told me something and I didn't really know how to react. She told me Steve Irwin was dead. She told me he had been killed by a stingray in Australia. And according to those on board the ship with him, "He came on top of the stingray and the stingray's barb went up and into his chest and put a hole into his heart." A freak accident killed one of my biggest inspirations. A man that many people thought was crazy but I would venture to say was one of the greatest voices for zoo education and conservation ever to live.
Many people over the years have made fun of Steve Irwin and the work he was doing. They made fun of him because they thought he was crazy. And in a way he was. He was crazy about animals. That much love for Earth's creatures is a rare find in this day and age. Humans, in general, have done more to destroy the Earth's inhabitants and to save. Steve Irwin was one of those rare humans. In all his efforts, his intentions remain steadfast.
In his early days, Steve was part of a crocodile relocation program in Australia. And this program became the basis for his first show. Everytime he was seen doing this job on the show, his reasoning was always the same. He would say he was moving the crocs to keep them safe from people. And it wasn't the other way around. He always found the beauty in all things.
In another documentary Steve did on the world's most poisonous snakes, he can in contact with the African spitting cobra. Even when he was faced down with this deadly snakes venom burning his skin, he made time to comment on the beauty of the creature. Steve Irwin loved animals more than anything.
I guess in a way it is fitting that he should go like this. It is a very sad day for the world of zoo educators and conservationist. They have lost one of their best advocates. And so has the animal kingdom. Jack Hanna even commented that Steve knew more about reptiles and animals than anyone he had ever met. Steve respected and loved the animals he worked with. He always took the precautions he needed to take. And a freak accident has done him in.
Above all things, Steve Irwin should be remembered for all the work he did in his field. And that work should continue in the hands of like-minded people. There will never be another Steve Irwin. But I think Steve's memory will live on in the continuation of his good works.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Where's The Love for "Rumey"?

With all that is going on in the world, I guess it was only a matter of time before Uncle Don's name came back into the news. This time some democrats are out for blood. In the defense appropriation bill is a resolution that would be the equivalent of a vote of no confidence in Rumsfeld and force the President to fire him. I'm not thinking this is going to work.
First off, Bush has already said "I'm the decider." That's it. Case closed. No more discussion is allowed on the subject. Go home for summer break, Congress. The President has said enough with the Rumey bashing. And that will be the fate of this bill. No way in Hell will this pass through the Senate or the House with the fate of a cabinet level official on the line. No way.
And secondly, if the man wanted to resign he couldn't. I honestly believe that Donald Rumsfeld wanted out of this administration before the 2004 election. He wanted nothing more to do with the facade that he had helped create for this war. He wanted to distance himself from the media spotlight because of the mess we are in now. He knew it was coming and he wanted out. Of course Bush said no way. No resignations for you Rumey.
Most of this new round of bashing stems from a comment that Rumsfeld made in a recent speech. He basically called critics of the administration "those who wanted to appease fascism and Nazism in the run-up to World War II." Granted, this was a pretty stupid thing to say. But for a man in his position, I would expect it. The man does not want the job he has. By this point he is simply going through the motions. I can't blame him for what his says because of that fact.
If I wanted to quit my job and wasn't allowed, I would be doing a similar thing. I mean put yourself in this situation. You help orchestrate a war on false pretenses. The war goes bad and appears to be unending. You realize this and want out. You boss says no for whatever hidden reason. What would you do? Personally, I wouldn't do a damn thing. I'd sit in my office and wait for someone to fire me. If the man doesn't want the job, he should be let go.
I really think the bashing of Rumey in this situation is a little too much. If anyone is to blame for the continued inadequate work Donald is putting in, it's his boss. If the boss won't fire a bad employee, it's not the employee's fault. Give the man a chance.