Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Science Of Love

The primary goal of science is to quantify everything in nature. If something cannot be measured, it is beyond the realm of science. Most things that fall into this category are considered taboo in the scientific community. Ghosts would be the best example. Science has tried very hard to give everything a definition and a predictable outcome. Love is no exception. But when it comes to the topic of love, I believe science falls short. Though scientists have come up with neat little categories for types of lovers, the idea of love is still beyond all science. And to me, that is where it belongs.
As humans, we have a need to organize and groups things neatly. Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., at the University of Washington, is one of these people. Schwartz has developed classifications for the types of lovers in society. Schwartz says knowing your style "can keep your relationship healthy and happy." Schwartz has six groups that she says categorize each type of lover. I think, as many things in science are, this is completely bogus. But it is fun to think about.
The first type of lover is the "romantic." Schwartz describes this type of person as someone who "loves being in love." But Schwartz warns that this type of lover can set too high expectation. She says to remember "true love doesn't recede with his hairline, and romance doesn't have to fade as the relationship matures." To keep things going, Schwartz suggest "Planning dates, weekend getaways, or just-the-two-of-you vacations to rekindle the spark that ignited your relationship."
The second type of lover, according to Schwartz, is the "list-maker." In this situation, a person will "have criteria that are important, and you won't change them." Schwartz suggest doing away with any lists and simply worry about the important things, "companionship, love, a capacity for forgiveness."
The third category of lover is called the "obsessive." Schwartz describes this type of lover as someone who "wants to spend all their time with their partner, and constantly worries about their relationship, even when they've been together for years." This can lead to "partners being overbearing or having highs and lows that drive their significant other crazy." To avoid obsessive love, Schwartz suggest, "Realize that too much of a good thing can be too much. You may need to talk to a counselor who can help you understand why you feel so insecure and help you find ways to put your relationship in perspective."
The next category of lover is called the "giver." Schwartz describes this person as follows: "You're constantly working selflessly to meet your partner's needs, but you're not looking after you." While there may not be anything wrong with pleasing your partner, it is important to develop your own interest and still have your own life. The important thing to remember is always be faithful.
This leads us to the next type of lover, the "player." This type of lover is described as "easily bored in long-term relationships, and your eye may roam." It is hard to keep a steady relationship is you fit into this category. Schwartz says, "Take temptation out of your life. Instead of looking for excitement outside your relationship, try doing new things (salsa dancing, anyone?) with your partner, so you can see him or her in a fresh light."
And the last group of lovers are the "pals." Every romantic movie has one of these. This person is the type that will one day realize what they have missed out on. These types of people need to be adventurous and try a relationship with someone they see as a friend. See science has this all figured out. Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Save The Planet, Win $25 Million

It is hard to imagine what one could do with $25 million. It is hard to even imagine what $25 million looks like. Such a vast sum of money would be hard to come by for most people over a number of lifetimes. However, in the next five years, one lucky person could receive this fortune. The only catch is that the person must, literally, save the planet.
It sounds too good to be true, but it is reality. To try and inspire the brilliant minds of Earth, the owner of Virgin Airlines, Richard Branson, has offered a $25 million prize to the person who can come up with a way to scrub greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. This is a serious issue. If something could be developed to remove a good portion of these gases (especially carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere, we could fight global warming. That is the goal of this massive undertaking. Branson said, "Man created the problem and therefore man should solve the problem." The predictions for Earth are grim if global warming is not slowed. In an interview, Branson bluntly stated the scenario that could be Earth's future. He stated, "Unless we can devise a way of removing CO2 (carbon dioxide) from the earth's atmosphere we will lose half of all species on earth, all the coral reefs, 100 million people will be displaced, farmlands will become deserts and rain forests wastelands."
So all the people of Earth are invited to brainstorm this idea. The "contest" with work as such: The prize will initially only be open for five years, with ideas assessed by a panel of judges including Branson, Al Gore and British ex-diplomat Crispin Tickell as well as U.S. climate scientist James Hansen, Briton James Lovelock and Australian environmentalist Tim Flannery. The goal of the winner is to come up with an idea that will remove one billion metric tons of carbon gases a year from the atmosphere for 10 years. Once the winner is announced, he or she will be given $5 million. Upon the completion of the winning plan, the winner will receive the other $20 million.
I do not believe this is an impossible feat. Some may call this a science-fiction dream, but I think it can be done. All that is needed is a great plan and a great mind to think it up. There is no way to convince me that in all this wide world, there is not a single person who could figure this out. There are over 6 billion people on this planet. One of them can surely save it. Branson said of the project, "This is the world's first deliberate attempt at planetary engineering." If we, as a species, can complete this task, we can move on to greater things. The universe is a big place. If we intend to explore it, we have to fix our problems at home first. Start thinking, I know I will, and maybe you could be $25 million richer.

Oxford's State: Tanked

Last night marked the annual State of the City address from Mayor Richard Howorth. In the address, the mayor stated that the number one problem facing the city of Oxford is the "culture of alcohol." The mayor called for working with the University to solve this problem.
In the seven years that I have lived in Oxford, I have seen the mayor proven right again and again. No greater problem faces this city than the abuse of alcohol. Now don't get me wrong, prohibition is a terrible idea. Many of Oxford's citizen enough drinking in a very legal time and place. But it has become a concern of many that illegal use of alcohol is out of control.
Last year, the University formed the Ole Miss Alcohol Task Force. This group was composed of student leaders and community leaders to combat alcohol abuse on the university campus and in the city. The group presented its final report to Chancellor Khayat on January 23. The report gave the University two options to help solve this growing problem. The mayor, speaking of the task force, said he is more convinced than ever that it is the city's job to apply more resources to law enforcement."
More law enforcement will definitely be a help to curving this problem. The people that break the rules need to be punished. And the mayor discussed a possible way of aiding law enforcement in their pursuits. The task force recommended restricting minors' access to alcohol-serving businesses after 10 p.m. This seems like a great idea. However, the mayor feels this would "greatly impact the revenue of those establishments." The mayor went on to say, "As all establishments that serve alcohol must also technically qualify as restaurants, enforcing this curfew law would mean denying non-drinking minors access to eating in many restaurants after 10 p.m."
My issue with this is that there are plenty of other restaurants open after 10 p.m. Perhaps the minors should eat earlier in the night. It will not affect revenue as much as the mayor believes. Few have realized that little impact has come from the smoking ban that Oxford put in place. I do not think the same thing would happen here. A curfew for minors in these establishments is a great idea. It does not, however, address other means of minors acquiring alcohol in the city.
But the main problem is still the University campus. Unless greater efforts are made to completely stop alcohol consumption on campus, this problem is only going to get worse. I just think that the administration of the University needs to grit their teeth and accept the fact that some rich alumni are going to get pissed off. And frankly, that is just too bad. If they base their support of the University on something as trivial as alcohol, they are not the kind of supporters I want for my school. Campus should be dry and Oxford needs to clean out the drunks and under-age offenders. This people need to be shown that breaking the law is not okay in this town.

Monday, February 05, 2007

War-Hungry Budget Won't Fly In Congress

In his State of the Union speech, President Bush made a lot of remarks about government spending and our country's debt. He said that the budget he sent to Congress this year would change these things for the better. However, we now know that the budget for this year is no different from any other since the war started. Money for the Pentagon makes up the majority of the budget. If we have any hope of ever having another surplus, our spending priorities need to change.
The total for this year's proposed budget is $2.9 trillion. Most of this money is delegated to go toward another increase in military spending. However, the budget also contains measures to eliminate the deficit in five years. With the amount of military spending, I do not see how this is possible. Members of Congress are already voicing their concerns on the amount of money being asked of the American people. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad said of Bush's budget, "The president's budget is filled with debt and deception, disconnected from reality and continues to move America in the wrong direction." And he is exactly right. How can this country possibly hope to get out of debt if it continues to spend ungodly amounts of money on foreign wars?
Members of Congress from both parties have suggested that support of Bush's budget is a bad idea. House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt said, "I doubt that Democrats will support this budget, and frankly, I will be surprised if Republicans rally around it either." The top Republican on the budget committee in the Senate, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, said, "Unfortunately, I don't think it has got a whole lot of legs. The White House is afraid of taxes and the Democrats are afraid of controlling spending."
It is very clear that the way to get our country out of the hole is to find a way out of Iraq. Increased military spending is driving the United States further and further into debt. Anyone familiar with economics can tell you what a bad situation this could set up. Yet the White House is demanding even more money for its war. In this new budget, the Pentagon would receive $624.6 billion for 2008. That's more than 1/5 of the total budget and is up from $600.3 billion in 2007. That number is only a base-estimate. Due to the changing conditions in Iraq, the number may increase. We keep throwing money at a problem that is not getting any better. Soon we will have no money left to burn and the economy will come crashing done. Of course by this time, Bush will be safely out of office. Engineered policy? You be the judge.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Alive and Kicking

For years now, there has been one man that is the thorn on the side of the United States. That man is Fidel Castro. It comes as no surprise that the news of a serious illness in October made many Cuban refugees and American officials happy. Many rumors began to show up that Castro was dead. He has not been seen since the announcement of this illness. And these rumors ranged from Castro's brother leading the country to Hugo Chavez (from Venezula) running things. But after today, all these myths are officially busted.
A video has surfaced of Castro and Chavez meeting on Tuesday to discuss various topics. Many have said the video is dated. However, closer inspection will reveal that Chavez is holding a Saturday edition of the Argentine newspaper Clarin. This shows that Fidel is, in fact, alive and kicking. According to Chavez, the two leaders met to discuss "the threats of the empire." And all the planned rejoicing came to an end.
It was revealed this weekend that a group in Miami is planning a huge Castro-death celebration. Is that really neccessary? I mean, I know Fidel Castro is a Communist dictator and is not to be trusted. But should we really celebrate his death? Of course not. If "W" fell over dead tomorrow, I wouldn't party. He is a human.
What we should really be discussing is what is going on in Latin America. There is a growing anti-US mindset in this ignored region of the world. Leaders like Chavez and Castro represent a new threat to the US. We are focusing on the Middle-East and are ignoring one of the most populated regions in the world. Unlike Asia, Latin America may be the breeding ground for new attacks on America. And this does not include things like terrorists attacks. In the years to come South America will be a world leader in oil production. The Middle East will run out soon. South America holds the energy of the future. And if we let an anti-Western sentiment fester, it will come back to bite us.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

New Target Revealed

It was only a matter of time before the Bush administration made its intentions none toward Iran. Many of us have been waiting for some time for these words to leave the President's mouth, "a firm response." We haven't been waiting because we are hungry for war, but rather to prove our point that this president is the war-hungry one. Yesterday, in an interview on NPR, the president made it clear that Iran will see military action from the US in the near future.
It is all in how you interpret what was said. In the interview, the President is quoted as saying, "the United States will respond firmly if Iran escalates military action in Iraq and endangers American forces." And while there is no mention of invading Iran, a firm response means many things. In order to get the right message from Bush's words, you only have to look at history. Before the invasion of Iraq, Bush said a similar statement. It was the brief period in which the US claimed to be working on a diplomatic solution. The Bush administration promised "firm action" if Iraq did not comply with UN rules. This "firm action" turned into the war we see today.
The US is already building a case against Iran that will lead us into war with the nation. Besides bickering over their developing nuclear program, the US has also accused Iran of other rogue-nation offenses. Among these, the US claims Iran is "supplying terrorists and insurgents in Iraq with improvised explosive devices that have become the most lethal threat to U.S. forces. " And this will be the bulk of the US case. Bush will push for military action based on the situation in Iraq. He will claim that the lives of our troops hang in the balance. Of course the actual situation is that the US simply waits to invade another Middle-Eastern country for our own unknown, yet selfish, reasons.
According to Bush, this is all common sense. In a quote from his NPR interview the president said, "It makes common sense for the commander in chief to say to our troops and the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government that we will help you defend yourself from people that want to sow discord and harm. And so we will do what it takes to protect our troops." But at the present, their is no proof of this and it will take a lot to convince Congress. In an interview yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "Bush does not have authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking congressional authorization." Bush reacted by saying it was all Washington politics. According to Bush, "People ascribe, you know, motives to me beyond a simple statement -- 'Of course we'll protect our troops.' I don't know how anybody can then say, 'Well, protecting the troops means that we're going to invade Iran."'
This is "ascribed" to you because it is exactly how you act. You have shown us over and over again that once you take up an aggressive stance with a country, you invade it. You make up some intelligence report, lie the American people, and get Congress to approve your fight. Of course a few of those steps will be extremely harder this time. Let's hope Congress will not be so easily swayed this time.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Best Picture Too Close To Call

The Oscar nominations are an exciting time of year. Each January, a list of nominees is presented and voted on by various Hollywood types. The winners are announced in the middle of next month. Personally, I will be trying to predict the winners. This year's best picture category will surely present some problems. The list of films acquired only limited attention during their runs in theatres. Each is a mystery to me, because I have not seen a one. But I will try to make an objective choice based on what I do know about them.
The first film in the category is Babel. It tells the stories of six different families. Each story is connected to the others. The film stars such icons as Brad Pit and Cate Blanchett (who has been nominated for best supporting actress for the film). In the box office, the film grossed around $23,000,000 and was seen in 889 theatres. The critics gave this film a "B" average. And that is about all I know. This film came out of nowhere and now is an Oscar nominee.
The next film nominated is The Departed. Of the five films, this one has seen the most press. This is yet another movie by director Martin Scorsese. Many of his films have been nominated, but he has never won as a director. Perhaps this year will change that. I doubt it. Unlike it's competitors, The Departed has grossed over $120,000,000 and saw a wider release. It also got a better rating from critics with an "A-."
The third nominated film may blow all the others out of the water. Literally. When two powerhouses like Clint Eastwood and Stephen Spielberg get together, a hit is sure to be born. Unlike Eastwood's other film from this year, Flags of Our Fathers, this film is entirely in Japanese and tells the story of Iwo Jima from that perspective. It too had a limited release and only managed to gross around $3,000,000. This may not stop it winning though. If it does, it will be one of the few foreign language films ever to win best picture.
Next is the much talked about Little Miss Sunshine. This independent film tells the story of a family trying to get their young daughter into the finals of a beauty pageant and the cross-country trip that ensues. The ten-year-old star of the film, Abigail Breslin, has been nominated for a best supporting actress award. Maybe this film can win on cuteness alone. It's worth a shot. The film did gross around $60,000,000 and was highly acclaimed by critics that gave it an average of an "A-."
Last, but not least, is a movie about an untold true story. The Queen gives us a glimpse into the life of England's Queen Elizabeth II after the death of Princess Diana. The star of the film, Helen Mirren, is almost guaranteed to win best actress for the film. But this is another film that went under the radar for most movie-goers. Although it did have a semi-wide release, the movie made around $35,000,000. It too got an average "A-" from the critics.
With such stellar performances to choose from, the category of best picture is too close to call. After finding out more about the films, it seems likely that Letters from Iwo Jima will walk away with the Oscar this year. This movie has the power that is needed in a "best" picture. It has some stiff competition, but I think that name recognition and the snubbing of Scorsese will elevate this film to the best of the year.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Democrats Diversity No Good for '08

This past week has been busy in the way of candidates for the 2008 presidential race. The three people that stand out, however, could spell trouble for the election of a Democratic president. Should any of them even get the nomination. Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Barack Obama, and New Mexico's governor Bill Richardson have all started bids for the White House. All three have high expectations that they can win. All three have no chance.
See, in this case I am some sort of prophet. I hear someone talking about running and take a good look at them before figuring out they have no chance. In 1996, I took one look at Bob Dole and said, 'No way...too old." I was right, he didn't win. In 2000, I examined the campaign of "W" Bush. I said to myself, "The US is so conservative, he'll win for sure." Although I wanted Gore to win, I was not really surprised at the outcome of the election. And in 2004, I convinced myself that John Kerry was an evil tree from the Land of Oz. And because of this, he would not win. And of course, he didn't. What I see in these three potential nominees is not a winning combination.
First there is Hillary Clinton. While she is a dynamic figure in politics, she lacks something that all other presidents have had. A penis. Yes, only because she is a woman, will she lose a presidential election. Her platform is not a problem. Many women and men would have no problem with her stances on just about anything. But the voting public in the US is not at a point (and I fear never will be) to elect a woman to the White House. Her name recognition is second to none, but that is as far as it goes with Hillary. If she were a man, she would have this thing wrapped up by December.
Next is Senator Barack Obama. He too is dynamic and pleasing to both voters and politicians alike. He has developed a platform that he appears to stick by. He is "hip" and young like Bill Clinton was. You would think he would have no problem. But his name and his race are the stumbling blocks. Here too, the voting public has not reached this point. It is not racism (well in some parts of the country it would be), but a fear of change. Also, the name "Barack Obama" is too strange in some people's eyes to be that of a president. Voters will also cite his lack of experience in international relation and politics in general. While I think he is the coolest of all three, he stands no chance in 2008.
Lastly, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico. To most Americans, he is a virtual unknown. What most people do not realize is the amount of international relations experience the governor has. And will a name like "Bill Richardson," you would think he would fit in nicely in Washington. However, there is one nagging problem. Richardson is Latino. He is a completely natural citizen but the label of "Latino" would kill any chance of being elected. And I think that is a racist thing with the majority of voters in especially conservative states.
The Democratic Party has a lot of work to do. So far, it has presented the public with a cast of characters that would be historic first to the White House. But they would only get there if they were a woman, a black man, and a Latino governor. At this point, John Edwards seems to be the only promising candidate that would stand a chance next November. Though, I think the party will take the risk and go with one of these three. This may be the end of the party and a slammed door for change in America.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Lame Duck Wars

It is never a good sign when members of your own political party begin to turn against you. However, since his reelection in 2004 and especially since the announcement of troop escalations, that is exactly what is happening to President Bush. This lame duck president is growing so unpopular, it is historic. And that approval rating has not got any better since last week's speech. More and more Senators and Representatives are joining in a unified way to speak out against the President. Today saw the latest addition in the fight against the lame duck.
Senator Olympia Snowe from Maine said today, "This resolution is an expression of the American people's frustration with our current Iraq policy." She is, of course, speaking of a resolution in Congress that speaks out against any further escalation of the war in Iraq. The Senator joins fellow Republican Chuck Hagel in standing up against the President's views on Iraq. It seems they have finally realized just how crazy this whole war really is. Senator Hagel said yesterday, "It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen its military involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating U.S. troop presence in Iraq." This statement flies in the face of all the President said in his speech. It is very clear that Congress is not happy.
Of course, this is to be expected, right? We are talking about a Democratic majority. These same people would disagree if the President said trees are pretty. So it is no surprise what the majority party is saying. The amazing thing in all of this are the words from fellow Republicans. For almost eight years now, the Republican controlled Congress has followed every whim Bush had. Why change their minds now? One word, elections.
In an interview on CNN, Senator Hagel (running for re-election next year) said the following:
"We are no longer just going to quietly stand by, as we have done for the last four years, and let our young men and women be thrown into this conflict when they cannot affect the outcome. This is the biggest issue facing our country since Vietnam. It's dividing our nation. It is dangerous for our country. It's dangerous for the world. The Congress needs to be part of this."
Sound like a man with a plan. But that is the problem. Even with a few Republicans on board, Congress still does not have a plan that they approve over the President's. The resolution, mentioned earlier, says nothing about what should be done in Iraq. It simply states that Congress (read the majority) do not want a troop escalation. No, what this all boils down to is election time politics. As was mentioned in a previous entry, politicians running for re-election will say anything to get a vote. At this point, putting [political] distance between yourself and the President is an excellent idea. It appears that will get your what you really want. A few more years to spend our tax money. So don't get your hopes up about this new Congress just yet. I want to see some results before I back them up.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Shiver Me Timbers

Normally, a weather story would not be the subject of this blog. However, given the nature of this particular storm, I thought it most appropriate to discuss. Since nothing of interest is going on in Washington or around the world, I thought the storm was the perfect topic. Most people are surprised by this storm and are trying to remember the last time the US has seen one like it. To my knowledge, there has not been a winter like this in some time. It is hard to deny the sudden shifts in weather patterns are out of the ordinary. And as much as people want to forget about it, global warming is a real problem. And it is a major player in this strange winter.
Last week, some places in the US were near record highs for the first part of January. Unless you are from Miami, 70 to 75 degrees this time of year is far from what is expected. More and more I hear people wondering where winter is. I hear people thinking back to when it was cold all winter long. Then this storm hits. And if you live in Denver, it was one in a line of storms that have caused major problems.
Suddenly a winter blast at just the time of year it should occur. And the problems start coming. Many people are without power in the central part of the country. So far 54 people have died because of this storm. And it won't be the last. This storm is only one in a series of storms that started up right before the new year. And it will be only one in a long line to come. Winter is not nearly over. So why is this winter different from others? The answer is El Nino.
When you hear the term "El Nino," most people laugh. They don't really see this strangely named weather pattern as a threat. However, throw into the mix increased global warming and the problems are apparent. It is a misnomer to believe that increased global warming will lead to higher temperatures at all time of the year. Global warming does not negate the season. Certain parts of the Earth will still get less sunlight during the "winter" and more during the "summer." What global warming does is increase overall temperature. The best place to see this is in the ocean. Because of the oceans, we have weather. And when the temperatures of these oceans increases, we get lots of weather. El Nino plays into this.
During an El Nino, the Southeast part of the United States gets less moisture than normal. The western part of the country gets a lot more. For evidence of this, just check the hurricane statistic from 2006. We saw very few hurricanes on the east coast. However, in the Pacific (off the coast of Mexico) a record number of hurricanes formed. The effects of El Nino have now continued into the winter months. Because of this stronger El Nino (due to global warming), we will see periods of very warm days followed by harsh winter weather. In fact, we are already seeing it. This will last well into spring and then look out for another record breaking summer heat wave.
Enjoy winter while you can. If you like to freeze your butt off, your time is now. Winter is here and it is going to hit hard over and over again. We are seeing now the beginnings of new global weather patterns. The threats of global warming are become more apparent everyday. If we continue to ignore them, this will only get worse.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

MLK Day and Dixie

With MLK Day comes another opportunity for politicians to act like they care about black issues and/or black history. I say "act" because they use this as a platform to push their own political agendas. They are not making speeches in honor of MLK. Instead they are exploiting his memory by turning his memorial day into a soapbox. Normally, I would harp on Republicans for this, but they are not the ones I speak of. No, it is the other useless party in American politics, the Democrats.
The best example of the day comes in the form of Delaware senator Joseph Biden. Last week I was singing his praises for his rejection of the Bush Iraq plan. Today, I realize he is nothing more than a political stooge in the Democratic party. Speaking at a rally in Columbia, South Carolina, the Delaware senator said, "If I were a state legislator, I'd vote for it to move off the grounds -- out of the state." Biden is speaking of the Confederate flag that flies on the capital building grounds as part of the Civil War memorial. Much protesting has removed the flag from the top of the capital building to its current location, but that is not enough to please those like Biden.
This type of political gesturing is completely uncalled for at such an occasion. MLK Day is suppose to be a day of remembrance. It is not a day for a Delaware senator to speak his mind on South Carolina's politics. This whole flag debate is pointless. It's just a piece of cloth. Let those who wish to fly this flag do so. Let those that do not wish to fly this flag do as they will. This is not a matter that should be debated endlessly or brought up on such a day as this. Biden is simply trying to bolster his image in the black community by appearing to care about black opinion. It is yet another example of how the political machine holds nothing sacred.
Jim Hanks, a flag supporter, made probably the best point of the day. While he said many things about why the flag should stay where it is, his one comment about Biden hits the nail on the head. Speaking of Biden and others like him (running for President) he said they "would probably say most anything if it would get them votes." And he is exactly right.
While there will always be debate over the Confederate flag, MLK Day is not the place for it. Instead of trying to drum up votes from the black community with non-issues, lets hear what these politicians think about real problems. The flag is not a real problem. Our foreign policy is a real problem. Let's talk about that. If asked, I'm sure Dr. King would agree. In a time where our own freedom is hanging by a thread, Dr. King would probably want us to stand up. The flag is not the problem. Our own government is moving closer each day to denying these same rights that MLK fought so hard and died for. We are moving backwards as a culture. Not because of a piece of cloth from Dixie, but because we have forgotten what real freedom is all about. Not just words and empty promises on the lawn of some capital, but action. If we can't get that from our leaders, then MLK Day is celebrated for nothing.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Senate On Iran: DO NOT ENTER

It should come as no surprise that this administration does not wish to stop this war with Iraq. But it does come as a surprise that they would indirectly announce their intentions to escalate this war at a time of such low public opinion. During his speech Wednesday night, the President made it clear that Syria and Iran are not immune to an American invasion. And yesterday, six Iranian citizens were arrested in northern Iraq. We are told they were supplying insurgents. Of course, we have been lied to before. This would not be the first time in American history that out-and-out lies were presented as fact to begin a conflict. However, the Senate has tried to step in a stop the White House from making things worse.
After the speech on Wednesday, it was time for the Bush Team to "sell" the world and the Congress on the plan. Hearings continue in the House and Senate on the issue. The grilling that people like Condoleezza Rice are receiving is actually very entertaining. It is high time that someone spoke with sense in Congress. Perhaps this new Democratic majority is worth something.
Among the worthy is Sen. Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His comments yesterday speak volumes of truth about what should not be going on in the Middle East when it comes to US troops. Among these things, Sen. Biden mentioned Iran. He proclaimed, "I believe the present authorization granted the president to use force in Iraq does not cover that, and he does need congressional authority to do that," referring to reported cross-border raids into Iran. In response to this, Secretary Rice stated, the country expects Bush "to do what is necessary to protect our forces."
Others on the committee spoke of comparisons to Vietnam. One of these Senators was Sen. Chuck Hagel who served in Vietnam. Besides calling this new policy "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam," the senator also spoke of other similarities to the Asian conflict. He said, ""When our government lied to the American people and said we didn't cross the border going into Cambodia, in fact we did. I happen to know something about that, as do some on this committee. Madame Secretary, when you set in motion the kind of policy that the president is talking about here, it's very, very dangerous."
The fact of the matter is that Congress may be on its toes about this issue. For the longest time, it was assumed that the Democratic party was out-of-touch on issues like the war. Yesterdays hearings show that is not entirely accurate. Going into Iran or provoking Iran is exactly what we do not need to do. But it seems that Bush is bound and determined that he will. I'm not sure what he has his eye one (world domination perhaps) but it can't be good for the rest of us. Soon the death toll will continue to rise. Our military will be stretched to the max and he will want another war. This continues to prove that this president does not care about the troops, American opinion, or the rules of government. If this is only the beginning, then we are headed for an all out dictatorship. Hopefully Congress will not buckle under the pressure and prevent this from happening. For all our sakes, I hope so.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

New Iraq Plan = No Change + More Death

I had been awaiting the President's speech all week. In fact, when it was announced that a new strategy in Iraq was going to be detailed after the first of the year, I was very excited. I was hoping, deep down, that the administration had finally cracked and was going to call for a slow withdrawal from Iraq. I was thinking that it would make sense to pull a few troops out each month while gradually releasing parts of the country back to the new Iraqi government. I figured that this would take a good long time, perhaps a year or so. And I also knew, deep down, that more troops would die even with the withdrawal.
However, all these hopes were dashed as report after report rumored that the announcement would be about increasing troop levels in Iraq and not bringing any home. But I soon remembered the sort of people that are making these decisions and realized that I should have never had this hope in the first place. It was a fool's hope that any sort of real change would be taking place. The President's speech last night proves that this man cares nothing for American opinion or common sense. As I listened to the monotone drivel coming from his mouth, I was reminded why I dislike this man so much. His basic plan is not to change anything and just add more troops. The speech itself can be broken down into four parts. Each with more flaws than a $50 diamond.
At present, it is estimated that around 140,000 troops are deployed to Iraq. In this new strategy, the majority of these troops would be reassigned to Baghdad were a violent civil war is raging and people are dropping like flies. Along with these troops, another 20,000 or so are being called back to Iraq in the next few weeks. According to Bush, these troops will be "embedded with Iraqi units to help secure neighborhoods and protect civilians." If you ask me, these troops were just sent into a death trap. Baghdad is, no question, the most dangerous place in Iraq right now. Sending more troops to this area just gives the enemy more targets. Fighting urban warfare is horribly hard and something our troops are not use to. They will have to adjust quickly under this new plan in order to survive.
Aside from Baghdad, another trouble spot in Iraq is Anbar province. Many American troops have died in this area since the war began. According to Bush, Anbar is "al Qaeda's "home base" in Iraq." So to combat "al Qaeda," Bush is sending an additionally 4,000 troops. Again, we see this president putting more troops in harms way with no real strategy. Just sending troops is not enough. You may also want to tell them what to do. And I wish he would stop using al Qaeda as an excuse for this war. We are beyond all that now. Al Qaeda is no longer just one man's terrorist group. Thanks to the US, it is a global idea of anti-US sentiment. And as we all should know, you can't kill an idea.
Diplomacy is something that this president has shown time and again to be completely useless at attempting. Why in the world did he even bring it up? By now, it should be perfectly clear that this administration has no idea how to work in diplomacy. It is hard work that they are not willing to do and so they do not. However, the President's "new" plan involves his "top" diplomats going to the region. Why? To ask for support? We are not going to get it from anyone but Israel and I think they are a little busy killing Palestinians. Every time you send Condoleezza Rice somewhere, nothing happens except wasted talk. Just stop with the act and admit that you know jack about diplomacy.
In the area of Iraqi politics, Bush's "new" plan calls for an election to "empower local leaders." Empower them to what? Get assassinated? Do you seriously think that the right people will be elected in the middle of a civil war? I hope not. This type of environment breeds corruption. The good leaders will all be too scared to run and the corrupt leaders will have full support from the terrified population. In this situation, we are simply setting ourselves up to come back to Iraq in 20 or 30 years (if we have left by then) and remove another "dictator."
Finally, the Bush plan mentions the economy. If our president can't even run the economy of our country, what makes anyone think he can fix the ruined economy of Iraq. Even so, the plan calls for "$10 billion to develop its infrastructure and create new jobs. " Also, the president has pledged "double the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams, which work with Iraqi companies to coordinate local reconstruction efforts." This part is all for nothing if you rebuild just to have it get blown up again by the civil war violence. The Bush White House needs to just come out and say they they want the oil of this country and stop hiding. If we would start purchasing oil from Iraq, maybe things would change. Probably not though.
In a nutshell, the "new way forward" in Iraq is one foot in the grave. We are willing to commit more troops to what has become an open-ended campaign to "free" this country from terror. President Bush believes that the fate of the Middle East lies with the outcome of this conflict. He may be partially right. But what he failed to mention is that the fate of the US lies more with Iraq than any other thing. If we cannot get out of this mess, our nation will crumble from the inside. We need an exit strategy. It is not a cowardly thing to have a survival plan. And that is exactly what an exit strategy would be. Without one from this President or Congress, the USA is toast.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Scorpions On A Plane

Just in time for the summer movie season, the sequel to "Snakes on a Plane" has a story to be based on..."Scorpions on a Plane."
Jenny and Roger thought their family trip to Vermont was going to be a dream come true. Little did they know that lurking on their flight was a killer...and he was ready to put a "sting" in their step.
Coming this July, Donald Sutherland and Kathy Bates star in "Scorpions on a Plane."
It's going to be eight legs worth of terror..."Jenny, why are their scorpions on this damn plane and who is that angry black man with the gun."
Even if it does sound impossible, a scorpion on a plane is now a reality. Though the story doesn't involve death or Samuel L. Jackson, it does bogle the mind to think about how this could happen. David Sullivan and his family were on a flight home to Vermont from Chicago aboard United Airlines. He awoke from a nap and noticed that his leg was numb and figured it was asleep. Sullivan describing the sensation said, "My right leg felt like it was asleep, but that was isolated to one spot, and it felt like it was being jabbed with a sharp piece of plastic or something." He ignored it until he got to baggage claim when he felt the sting again. This time, Sullivan rolled up the cuff of his pants and the scorpion fell out.
The fate of the scorpion was sealed when another person at the luggage carousel screamed and stepped on the arachnid. Sullivan scooped up the remains and took them to the hospital with him.
Dr. Stephen Leffler attended to Sullivan and noted that you don't see scorpion stings in Vermont all that often. Leffler also said, "Scorpion stings are rarely fatal, except to babies or older people with health problems. For a healthy adult, a scorpion sting can mean numbness or shooting pain, or flu-like symptoms." Sullivan reported that the next day he did feel sick.
As for the airline, they have no clue as to how this creepy-crawler made it onto one of their flights. The Sullivans found out that the plane they boarded has come from Houston. They surmised that the scorpion somehow boared the plane in Texas. A United spokesperson had this to say, "It is something that we will investigate and look into. We're very sorry for what happened. Our customer safety and security is our No. 1 priority."
I guess with all the airport employees busy looking for strange liquids and shoe bombs, a scorpion was able to get passed security. Let's just be glad this one didn't have a vendetta against the United States government. We might have had to wipe out most of the desert Southwest to destroy any scorpion-terror cells. And also, I think Sameul L. is busy right now.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Iwao Takamoto, Where Did You Go?

Last month, the world lost one of its most talented cartoon writers, Joseph Barbera. Today, another member of the Hanna-Barbera Studio family has passed on. At age 81, Iwao Takamoto died today. This very talented animator brought some of the most famous cartoons to life. Among his crowning achievements are Scooby-Doo, the Flintstones, and the Jetsons. With him dies an era in animation that is long gone. A man that is responsible for some of my favorite childhood memories has moved on.
Of all the cartoons from the 80s and earlier 90s, none could match the feeling I got from a cartoon my parent's generation. Scooby-Doo was truely a child of the 70s. I have seen every episode and I still watch them when they are on today. It was the extreme talent of Takamoto that brought Scooby and his gang to life. More than the stories and voices, the images of those characters in timeless.
Takamoto's inventions were not limited to a gang of medeling kids and their dog. Other famous characters from Hanna-Barbera owe him their start. Among them are Muttley (seen most often in the Wacky Races cartoon), Astro (the talking dog featured in the Jetsons0, and the Great Gazoo (who caused much trouble on the Flintstones). In his earlier career, Takamoto worked on such Disney masterpieces as Cinderella and Peter Pan.
The life of Iwao Takamoto is set in one of the darkest eras of US history. He was born in LA in 1925. A good deal of this young life was spend in an internment camp duing World War II. While at the camp, he received training in illustration from other interned Japanesse-Americans. After the war ended, Takamoto got a job drawing for Disney. In 1961, he began working for Hanna-Barbera and the rest is history. Even at the time of his death he was still working. As the VP of Animation at Warner Bros., Takamoto worked on the characters for the new cartoon "Krypto the Superdog." But now his talent has been silenced.
With so many like Takamoto gone, an important age in animation is gone. A time when animation was a long process. A time when the quality final product mattered more. We don't have many animators like that any more. It is evident when you view what is considered popular animation these days. Scooby-Doo and the like will always be classics. We have Iwao Takamoto to thank for that. May he rest in peace.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Cowboy's Cannon Fodder

I never supported the war. From the time this war was conceived, I was against it 100%. I saw this war as one that had no clear objectives and no clear end. I knew that many thousands of troops would die for an unclear and manufactured cause. That is why I was against the war. But once the war began, I had to make it clear that my anger was in no way aimed at the soldiers. There mission is only to serve. They can't questions their orders, but I can and have. That being said, what is about to be announced this week by the Bush White House is as terrible an idea as the war itself.
Though no official announcement has been made, it is thought that Bush will announce a surge of at least 20,000 to the Baghdad area. A surge that will send thousands of more lives into the worst possible conditions in all of Iraq. And this idea is called the "New Way Forward."
All of Washington is on edge for this announcement. Democrats are saying they will not approve an increase in troop levels unless great justification is given. New Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said, "if Bush calls for additional U.S. troops for Iraq, he will have to show the Democratic-controlled Congress why more money should be poured into the war." Money is the name of the game here. When the Republicans controlled Congress, this act would not have been questioned. However, the American people have made it clear that they want a real change in Iraq. More money and more troops is not the change they were looking for. And it should not be.
It is high time we took a new step in making our voices heard. We need to make it clear to the White House that our troops are not this cowboy's cannon fodder. They are not inanimate pawns that can be disposed of at random. These are living, breathing human beings. This war is costing too many lives. Another troops surge will raise the military numbers in Iraq to record preparations. And with no let up in violent attacks, that means everyday more troops will die.
I don't know why Bush is still sitting in that Oval Office. I don't know why people can't see what I see. This war has to stop. The only thing that is going to change when this announcement is made is the number of troops dieing for nothing. It is going to go up. Every time some "change" is announced, it turns out to be nothing more than the same old rhetoric presented in a different way. Just because you put a man in a dress, doesn't make him a woman. We are being fooled every time this man speaks of "change." It is complete garbage. And America just eats it up.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Mystery Man and His Horse (dead)

I have always been a fan of old photos of towns and cities. On my computer, I have a nice collection of old photos from Oxford, MS where I live. It is very interesting to see how things use to be. What an old photo gives you is a rare look at one moment in history. This photo is one example of that. It was found in a collection of photos in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. It appears in this photo that a well-dressed man is sitting on top of a dead horse. The mystery is in the fact that no one really knows who the man is or why in the world he is astride this dead horse in the middle of the street. But there are some theories.
The photograph is thought to have been taken between 1876 and 1884. It was recently featured in the 2007 calendar of a local newspaper. Scott Prescher, a restaurant owner in Sheboygan, has a copy of the photo framed in his place of business. He says, "This thing has gotten more mileage than you can shake a stick at. It is just a funny picture. He is sitting on there with a top hat like he had somewhere special to go and his horse just croaked in the middle of the road." But he doesn't know anything other than that about the photo.
Beth Dipple, director of the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center, says the photo has been in their collection for about 20 years. When the photo was featured in the Sheboygan Press, the center was flooded with emails and calls about its origin. Many theories exists as to the circumstances of the photo. One person claims, "it was staged for a political campaign perhaps related to sanitation issues." Another person thought, "the horse is being helped to relieve excess flatulence." But Dipple has another theory, and perhaps the best one. Apparently, in the 1800's, the city had laws that required people to stay with their dead horses until they were picked up and disposed of. Weird isn't it?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Forgotten School Shooting

There was a time in this country when school shootings were back-page news. They were occurring in inner-city schools and no one really paid attention. And then the unthinkable happened. No one thought that school shootings would become an all too common occurrence in almost any school. It seemed no school was immune to an incident. It seemed that the unprepared were an easy target. But now we have returned to an apathy for school violence. Are attention has been swayed by lesser events. We need to wake up and pay attention. I think it should be obvious by now that ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away. But it is happening even today.
Tacoma, Washington became the newest member in the school shooting family. The scene of it all was very familiar. A student entered Foss High School with a gun. He then shot and killed one of his classmates. No motive is known. It seems there never is. It seems that killings like this are as senseless as the people that ignore them. The familiar tone of the tragedy is there.
"At first, it sounded like a book dropped, and then two more followed," said one student. Another student remarked, "It sounded like fire-crackers." These types of comments have been heard over and over again in shooting after shooting. But this school was prepared. Teachers immediately went into lock-down mode. All students were herded into classrooms and the shooter was caught without incident. But most people probably had no idea this even occur ed.
I saw this story yesterday in a sub-menu on CNN's website. It was not a lead story. It was not a frequent read online. It was ignored. Why? Are school shootings so common that they are no longer news? Was there not enough death? Or is the Democratic takeover of Congress so involved that other news was overlooked? I think all three are pretty good reasons. Stories like this are ignored because they are too common. People, I guess, are thought to be tired of hearing about it. But you shouldn't be. You should care that students have died in school. You should want to get action on this. School violence is a problem and has been a problem for years. But we are ignoring it. And so it will only get worse.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Death Omens for 2007

The year 2006 was a year of great division. I don't think it is a stretch to say that the previous year saw a great deal of change in our country and our world. I am bothered, however, by the grim reminders at the end of 2006 that everything is still changing. Nothing is set. These omens seem to warn us that 2007 could be even more dreadful than 2006. In Iraq we have lost more than 3,000 troops. In the Middle East, a former dictator was executed along with any hope of regional stability. And in the United States, one of the last figures of "decent politics" passed away. Each of these foreshadows the terrible things that may be to come in 2007.
December 2006 will go down as one of the bloodiest months in the War in Iraq. More troops died in the month of December than in any other month of the year. Also in December, the total human cost of the war reach 3,000. This mark was something people thought would never be reached. This was suppose to be an "easy war." That is what we were told. 2007 will see this total increase even more if drastic action is not taken to change our plans in Iraq. Our government must think of a better way to get our troops home as soon as possible. The 3,000 that have died are not coming back. If more continue to die for an invisible or unreachable goal, then 2007 will be bloodier than all years before it.
The Middle East also was the site of another bad omen for 2007. During 2006, Saddam Husein was sentenced to death and then executed before the first of the year. While his trial has been a spectacle for months, it would not cause the stir that his death would. When Saddam was sentenced to death, many were glad. There was some unrest in the region, but not what we see happening now. I don't think many people actually thought they would kill him. And I don't think the world was ready to see it happen through the "eye" of a cell phone camera. But in the year that the Time "Person of the Year" is "You," it was to be expected. I said to myself the night of the execution, "I wonder when this video will be on YouTube." And it is there now. The unrest caused by the execution is a sign that no matter what the US does in the Middle East, things are not going to change. And if things do change, it will be only when the people of the region do the changing.
The last omen belongs solely to the United States. The death of former President Ford is a bad omen for our political system. The upset of November has given politicians a lot to think about. President Ford represented the "decent politician." To misquote someone at his funeral, "President Ford brought no demons or acts of vengeance into his presidency." The man was a symbol of how a politician should be. And though he was not without fault, he still did his job. But now he is dead. With him is the ending of an era. If our political system continues on this path, it will self-destruct. All great empires fall because of internal problems. This may be the beginning of our crumble.
I don't pretend to be a prophet. I do know history. And history gives us an idea of how events can lead to other events. These omens of 2006 may lead to terrible things in 2007, or they may all be forgotten in the pages of time. The choice is really up to us. If we pay attention to our history, perhaps we can make our futures all the better. Happy New Year.