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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Prez debate #1 my review

I didn't feel surprised by anyone at last night's debate. The debate started out with economic issues and Obama sounded better with a promise for tax cuts to everyone making less that a quarter million dollars. McCain sounded less populist by offering tax cuts to businesses to level the international taxation attraction. A tax cut for me is much more interesting than a tax cut for my company who will pay my executives the difference. That is probably not true, but it takes time for these things to trickle down. McCain attacked Obama's 900 million in ear marks before his campaign comversion. Obama attacked McCain's support of Bush's budgets and war. At this point the tide started to turn.

One interesting aspect throughout this debate is that the moderator, Jim Lehrer, urged the candidates to dialog with each other. Obama complied and spoke directly to McCain who never looked at Obama. He never engaged Obama, he always looked at Lehrer, the camera or the audience.

At this point, the debate moved to its originally scheduled topic, foreign policy. This is an area where senators running for president are much more interesting than governors. McCain shined in this area. He's been to more hot spots than Obama. He's seen more history unfold. Obama was outclassed, but that's partly why he chose his running mate, Joe Biden, who will dismantle Palin next week, while simultaneously self-destructing by saying something foolish or making a pass at her on stage. But, at least, he would be a huge help to Obama in foreign policy.

Who won? Neither. It was a draw because economic issues needed to be addressed which is where Obama has a lead. They both support a bailout and I'm not sure I do. I'm still not voting for either of them. Hello Constitution Party.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

two responses to war: book report - Mayflower part 5

Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower: A Story of Community, Courage, and War, presents the arrival of the Pilgrims to the shores of Massachusetts, their accommodation by a local tribe chieftain, Massasoit, their failures with their sponsors in England, their adaptation to North American life, their success, their failure at being a biblical "city on a hill", the falling away of the 2nd generation from their parents' religious convictions, their history with the local tribes, the conflict their expansion into tribal lands caused, and eventually the was with Massasoit's son, Metacomet, aka, King Philip. The war was engaged by pirates such as Samuel Mosely and by farmers who only wanted to live peaceably with their native neighbors, Benjamin Church. Philbrick writes to our generation and our crises now in his conclusion.

There are two possible responses to a world suddenly gripped by terror and contention. There is the Moseley way: get mad and get even. But as the course of King Philip's War proved, unbridled arrogance and fear only feed the flames of violence. Then there is the Church way. Instead of loathing the enemy, try to learn as much as possible from him; instead of killing him, try to bring him around to your way of thinking. First and foremost, treat him like a human being. For Church, success in war was about coercion rather than slaughter... p.358
Church's successes, although not slaughters, often led to slavery for the captives, delayed slaughter, despite his protests. Was he much better than Mosely because of his means if the ends were equivalent?

I enjoyed Philbrick's work. The characters are all portrayed with depth. There are no all-good characters, nor are there any that are pure-evil. Like people today, Indians and Pilgrims in the 17th century, did not always live up to their own ideals, and usually fell short. They also wanted to dehumanize their enemy but that, in turn, dehumanized themselves.

Monday, September 22, 2008

professional job on Sarah Palin done badly

I'm not surprised that sinners act sinfully, especially during a political campaign. I don't believe any one side is any worse than any other side. But when a partisan PR firm uses personal names for youtube accounts to upload blatant lies against the opponent in an attempt to get a video viral then,when exposed, suddenly deletes all the accounts, well that's disappointing from a quality perspective. Will this company lose accounts over this neglect of anonymity? I present a report on a recent slander on Governor Palin exposed.

update: a confession

King Philip's War- Results; book report: Mayflower part 4

Nathaniel Philbrick, author of Mayflower: A Story of Community, Courage, and War, is not writing in an historical vacuum. Hence, I don't think this quote is written without thoughts toward the US's current involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Not for another hundred years would the average per capita income in New England return to what it had been before King Philip's War.

The war that was to have removed forever the threat of Indian attack had achieved exactly the opposite of its original intention. By cutting such a wide and blood-soaked swath between themselves and the Indians, New Englanders had thrown the region our of balance. Without "friend Indians" to buffer them from their enemies, those living in the frontier were left open to attack. Over the course of the following century, New England was ravaged by a series of Indian wars. Unable to defend themselves, the colonies that had once operated as an autonomous enclave of Puritanism were forced to look to the British Crown for assistance. Within a decade of King Philip's War, James II had appointed a royal governor to rule over New England, and in 1692 Plymouth became a part of Massachusetts. By doing their best to destroy the Native people who had welcomed and sustained their forefathers, New Englanders had destroyed their forefathers' way of life. p.346
Are they to blame for change? Change was inevitable. But was war the only or necessary way to adapt to the change?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

book report: Mayflower; part 3 Indian death toll

Here are some astonishing calculations regarding casualties from King Philip's War in Philbrick's excellent book, Mayflower.
In terms of the percentage of population killed, the English had suffered casualties that are difficult for us to comprehend today. During the forty-five moths of World War II, the United States lost just under 1 percent of its adult male population; during the Civil War the casualty rate was somewhere between 4 and 5 percent; during the fourteen months of King Philip's War, Plymouth Colony lost close to 8 percent of its men.

But the English losses appear almost inconsequential when compared to those of the Indians. Of a total Native population of approximately 20,000, at least 2,000 had been killed in battle or died of their injuries; 3,000 had died of sickness and starvation, 1,000 had been shipped out of the country as slaves, while an estimated 2,000 eventually fled to either the Iroquois to the west of the Abenakis to the north. Overall, the Native American population of southern New England had sustained a loss of somewhere between 60 and 80 percent. Philip's local squabble with Plymouth Colony had mutated into a regionwide was that, on a percentage basis, had done as much as the plagues of 1616-29 to decimate New Englands' Native population. p.332

I need to unpack these numbers a bit. Out of 20,000 Indians, 8,000 were lost, which is not 60- to 80 percent, but perhaps, he means 60 percent of the men died. No matter what, it's tragic.

book report: Mayflower: part 2; Indian slavery

Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War brings up another atrority of the Puritans during King Philip's War: slavery.

Since the Indians were in rebellion against the colonial governments to which they had once promised their loyalty, they were, in the English view, guilty of treason and therefore deserving of death. There was another alternative, however, that had the benefit of providing a way to begin paying for the war: slavery.

Some Englishmen preferred to view this as a more humane alternative. But sending large numbers of Native men, women, and children to almost certain death on a Caribbean sugar plantation was hardly an act of mercy. One of the few to object to the policy of enslaving Indians was the missionary John Eliot. "To sell souls for money seems a dangerous merchandise," Eliot wrote. "To sell [the Indians] away from all means of grace... is he way for us to be active i destroying... their souls." Most New Englanders, however, were so terrified by the prospect of living with the enemy in their midst that they gladly endorse the policy of shipping Indian captives to the Caribbean and beyond. p.320
Unfortunately, he doesn't go much further with their motives. I want to know more how the debates went. But apparently, the church's conscience was divided and the government's need for money found sufficient justifications to overwhelm conscience.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

book report: Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

What a well written and informative history. I immensely enjoyed Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick. The scope of his work is so much more than the Pilgrim's arrival at Plymouth. He starts with the childhood of key players in England. He doesn't skim over their time in Holland. He gives the background of the Indians who played such important roles when the Pilgrims arrived. I read half of Jennings' Invasion of America but I didn't come near the satisfaction of understanding the history of this area like I feel from Philbrick. The satisfaction from Philbrick arises from his attempt to give all the characters flesh and blood with good and bad choices and motives. He does have sympathy for the Indians, but none of them are pure and virtuous. Squanto's machinations and choice of appellation are intriguing. This history continues through King Philip's War when the Christian English manifested their willingness to commit atrocities.
Ritual torture was a long-standing part of Indian warfare, and Talcott later provided the Puritan historian William Hubbard with a detailed account of how the Mohegans cut the young warrior apart, finger by finger and toe by toe, "the blood sometimes spurting out in streams a yard from his hand," before clubbing him to death.

No matter how shocking such incidents might have seemed in English eyes, they obfuscated an essential truth about King Philip's War. Atrocities were expected in both European and Native conflicts. And yet the English had to admit that compared to what was typical of European wars, the Indians had conducted themselves with surprising restraint. As Mary Rowlandson could attest, the Native warriors never raped their female captives - a common occurrence in the wars of seventeenth-century Europe. p.320

Why were the Christianized invaders worse when it came to making war? That's the question that depresses me about the church.

Friday, September 19, 2008

energy independence

I really like the Pickens Plan to make our nation liberated from foreign oil. I like the idea of our nation driving in CNG cars running on fuel extracted from within our borders. I like the idea of seeing our nation as the Saudi Arabia of wind energy. I like the idea of subsidized solar panels that can feed the grid. I like zero energy houses, like this barn, that can provide for their own energy needs and contribute to the grid.
Can't we start doing this now?

Find more photos like this on PickensPlan

voting for 3rd parties

Even though I have a consistent and strident complaint against the Democrats, the support of abortion, I was a registered Democrat since I was able to register. I only recently switched to Independent when I moved to another town. However, it all doesn't matter. I live in Connecticut, which is not a battleground state. Even though it has a Republican governor, and an independent Senator, when it comes to Presidents, I live in blue country. Hence, I have the privilege to vote for independents without fear of ruining the election. I'm currently experiencing election fatigue. I think the press actually does it's job and finds plenty of problems with the candidates. It also ignores problems. But every 4 years I'm left with, who do I dislike least? But then I find myself enticed by the small parties. They get hardly any coverage. I don't know about their warts. I can actually believe they are likable. Some even have a very strong pro-life platform. I find it a relief to participate in our republican democracy without feeling guilty for whatever bums end up ruining the next four years. The third party I vote for never gets the opportunity to do damage. Local politics, where abortion is not an issue, also gives me the opportunity for voting for the Green Party. Perhaps if national politics were returned to local influence things would be much different.

Homeschooling and taxes

I'm sure this isn't an original idea, but I'm wondering why home schools, which pay the taxes for their local schools but don't use the system, aren't given a tax break on the school supplies they purchase for their micro school? They assist the system by making classrooms a little smaller. They assist society by providing an intensive education to future citizens.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Solz on our stuff

Solzhenitsyn's observation, as described in the first two volumes of the Gulag Archipelago, about the long memories of our things is two sided. Some of us are pack rats in order to help us remember events. But some of those events we would be better off not remembering.
The chief of the convoy - a ruddy mug, a good Russian face - broke into a run, and I hadn't managed to grasp what he wanted and why until I saw that he meant, clearly, to plant his sacred boot in my cursed back but something restrained him. However, he didn't spare his polished toe and kicked the suitcase and smashed in the top...
(I still have that suitcase, and even now when I chance to come upon it, I run my fingers around the hole torn in it. It is a wound which cannot heal as wounds heal on bodies or on hearts. Things have longer memories than people.) (p. 524)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Solz on pride in the Gulag

Solzhenitsyn points out the folly of pride which will manifest even in a prison camp such as the GULAG.

I often have to blush at my recollections of my younger years (and that's where my younger years were spent!) [in the GULAG -jpu] But whatever casts you down also teaches you a lot. And it turned out that as a residue of the officer's shoulder boards, which had trembled and fluttered on my shoulders for two years in all, some kind of poisonous dust had settled in the empty space between my ribs... when they formed us up for the first time, and the work-assignment foreman looked down the line to pick out temporary work-brigade leaders, my worthless heart was bursting under my woolen field shirt: Me, me, pick me!
I was not chosen, But why did I want it? I would only have made further shameful mistakes.
Oh, how hard it is to part with power! This one has to understand. (p. 558)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Solz's advice to those not in chains

As Solzhenitsyn was specially escorted to a scientific GULAG station from a more typical working camp in the GULAG he sat between his guards in the train station and listened to the trivial conversations around him and wanted to cry out to them to wake them up. Myself, I almost never leave the house or go to sleep at night without letting my family know I love them because there are no guarantees.
Brothers! People! Why has life been given you? In the deep, deaf stillness of midnight, the doors of the death cells are being swung open - and great-souled people are being dragged out to be shot. On all the railroads of the country, this very minute, right now, people who have just been fed salt herring are licking their dry lips with bitter tongues. They dream of the happiness of stretching out one's legs and of the relief one feels after going to the toilet. In Orotukan the earth thaws only in summer and only to the depth of three feet - and only then can they bury the bones of those who died during the winter. And you have the right to arrange your own life under the blue sky and the hot sun, to get a drink of water, to stretch, to travel wherever you like without a convoy. So what's this about unwiped feet? And what's this about a mother-in-law? What about the main thing in life, all its riddles? If you want, I'll spell it out for you right now. Do not pursue what is illusory - property and position: all that is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade, and is confiscated in one fell night. Live with a steady superiority over life - don't be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn after happiness; it is, after all, all the same: the bitter doesn't last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing. It is enough if you don't freeze in the cold and if thirst and hunger don't claw at your insides. If your back isn't broken, if your feet can walk, if both arms can bend, if both eyes see, and if both ears hear, then hom should you envy? And why? Our envy of others devours us most of all. Rub your eyes and purify your heart - and prize above all else in the world those who love you and who wish you well. Do not hurt them of scold them, and never part from any of them in anger; after all, you simply do not know: it might be your last act before your arrest, and that will be how you are imprinted in their memory! (591-2 Vol. 1 and 2, The Gulag Archipelago)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Solzhenitsyn the writer

After finishing volumes 1 and 2 of the Gulag Archipelago I will post a couple quotes from it. Solzhenitsyn's metaphors are striking to me. This one especially grabbed me.

The journey in such a barge was no longer prisoner transport, but simply death on the installment plan. Anyway, they gave them hardly anything to eat. Then they tossed them out in the tundra - and there they didn't give them anything to eat. They just left them there to die, alone with nature. (578)

Who isn't on death on the installment plan?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Abortion for the greater good?

Palin's VP'dom has brought out the honesty of pro-choice advocates to the mainstream. Another case in point is this Slate column by Jacob Weisberg.
Forget the Juno scenario—in the real world, only a tiny fraction of unwed mothers give their babies up for adoption. If you do not allow teenage girls who accidentally become pregnant to have abortions, you are demanding either that they raise their children as single mothers or that they marry in shotgun weddings. By the numbers, neither choice is promising. Unmarried teenage moms seldom get much financial or emotional support from the fathers of their babies. They tend to drop out of high school and go on the dole, and they are prone to lives of poverty, frustration, and disorder. Only 2 percent of them make it through college by the age of 30. The Bristol Palin option doesn't promote family happiness, stability, or traditional structure, either. Of women under 18 who marry, whether because of pregnancy or not, nearly half divorce within 10 years—double the rate for those who wait until they're 25.
My thoughts in response are:
  1. Perhaps adoption needs to be promoted more and made simpler.
  2. Pregnancy isn't an accident, it's a likely contingency of the choice to have intercourse.
  3. WIC is a government program to provide for those children who don't get enough support.
  4. "Poverty, frustration and disorder" are not justifications for murder.
  5. The 50% divorce rate is not unique to teen weddings.
The question to answer, as Rick Warren phrased it to Obama, is when does a child acquire "human rights?"

Palin's unusual choice to bear Trig

Salon writer and doctor Rahul K. Parikh writes in support of the pro-choice politic about Trig Palin and Sarah's choice to not kill him in her womb.
By knowingly giving birth to a Down syndrome child, Palin represents a minority of women. A 2002 study found that about 90 percent of pregnancies in the United States where the fetus was diagnosed with Down syndrome were terminated. A Rabid anti-choice activists have called that trend eugenics via medicine. But try telling that to a mother who is told early on in her pregnancy that she will be raising a child who will have a host of medical and developmental problems, requiring intense medical and social attention for the rest of his or her life. It can be tragic and nearly impossible news to bear. Kids with special needs require and deserve intense therapies and attention to their needs. That's likely something Palin, with her political and social stature, can afford both financially and emotionally. But that may not be the case for other families, who have to struggle to balance work with home and family. They simply may not be up to the challenge of raising a child with Down syndrome. Sadly, kids with developmental problems like Down syndrome are at a higher risk for being abused by parents and other caregivers.

It's not the child's fault that his life will be hard, so why kill him?
A better response to the bizarre reasoning can be found in this Touchstone post, excerpt,
The great irony of the attempt of modern hubris to control human life for its own good by scientific means will be that as these means grow more powerful and invasive, so will the inability to define the human good toward which its Promethean wisdom strives. Those who doubt it should meditate on the increasingly fractured universe of discourse in our age on what is good, true, and beautiful. Recently I was sent an article whose writer identified the willingness to allow a Down Syndrome child to come to term, to be born and nurtured, as an ugly fundamentalist perversion, a fanatic’s badge of self-righteousness worn at the expense of a world which must bear this lebensunwertes Leben unjustly forced upon it, not a sign of love, based in the conviction that in God’s eyes we are all like these children, and no less to be loved for it, but a sign of evil--exterminating them as much a sign of the good as keeping them is wicked.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Briefly, John McCain's speech

Unlike Ms. Palin, we already know McCain's story. Unlike Palin, McCain lacks oratorical dynamo. As a result, I fell asleep during his speech. I wasn't inspired. I was annoyed by something though. What's the deal with the protesters at the GOP convention? How is rushing the stage conducive to your point of view? It must be something to rally the other base. Perhaps that was an advantage for Obama's stadium rally, no one would notice or hear or see lone idiots and their ineffective protests. I didn't see Biden's speech, so I can only rank 4 speeches.

4th) McCain
3rd) Obama
2nd) HR Clinton
1st) Palin

I feel the same way about the McCain/Palin ticket that I felt about the Dukakis/Bentsen ticket. Can we elect just the VP?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sarah Palin's speech, briefly

Following Huckabee and Romney and Giuliani is not something attempted by lesser speakers. Ms. Palin rose to the occasion. She possesses the gravity to deliver the most important speech of her political career. She also had a difficult task of presenting herself as a genuine small town hockey mom, a genuine governor of experience and intelligence, and a genuine 2nd in command contender. I think she did all that.

I've been a member of Toastmasters International for several years now and I must give her high marks for her delivery. She can give an inspirational speech using serious anecdotes, quips, jokes, and data.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

thoughts while watching the GOP convention

I'm watching it online from the convention website.
  • The GOP can only wish they had the web 2.0 presentation that the Democrats had. I really liked the DNC web presentation.
  • The crowd audio stinks.
  • The GOP's schedule is lacking. I'm watching someone not listed for today.
  • I searched the delegates tab for my state. It came up with another state on the header but a description about my state with no useful info.
  • However, I really like that the stage is low to the audience floor and not presenting the speakers as removed like the Democrat's stage.
  • I've seen a diverse set of speakers so far.