Archive for December, 2008
I’m currently reading Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason.” Phillip Foner, in his biographical introduction to Paine’s widely read work said this of Paine’s hunger for learning, despite the “meagre education” he received at Thetford Grammar School:
He continued his process of self-education throughout hsi life, convinced that ‘every person of learning is finally his own teacher.’ ‘I seldom passed five minutes of my life however circumstanced,’ he once observed, ‘in which I did not acquire some knowledge.’
Note: I thought it might be interesting to keep a running log of some of the better quotes from my personal reading each day (or as often as I can.) This is the first such post.
I could comment on this story on many levels, but first, I think it’s important to mention that folks tend to gravitate toward psychics or spirituality in times of hardship.
It’s telling that Donna Artuso, a former journalist, would be duped by these claims:
“Randy thinks I’m going to reinvent myself and have a new career.”
Randy is not a prophet. That would make him possess some level of knowledge that transcends what naturally comes with his abilities as a human. While he’s not a prophet, he is quite clever. He does have a decent idea of what folks would like him to say. Randy thinks you are going to reinvent yourself and get a new career. That’s what you wanted to hear, wasn’t it? That’s what you paid him to say, right?
Later in the story, we hear Dr. Stanley Krippner say, “There’re psychological and anthropological literature on this topic showing that people do go to psychics more and more freely during times of economic distress or national emergency.”
One doesn’t need a psychology degree to come to such a conclusion. Rather than spending less, using coupons, refusing to buy on credit and living within their means, people generally gravitate toward something they perceive to be above themselves or outside of themselves to ease the economic (and other) pressures of life to rescue them. It would be more expedient and sensical to cease looking for answers around every corner, at every soothsayer (The construction of that word is telling, since a soothsayer, a prophet predicts the future in such a way as to alleviate the fears of her client or subject. Simply, she says that which soothes the senses.) because answers aren’t there. Answers are in the wise handling, spending and saving of money. They are in building a reputation as a diligent, proficient worker, thus creating job security and creating a stable flow of income for your family. Wishful thinking only gets a person so far; reason and common sense must carry the load the rest of the way.
Note: This is not to suggest I’m going to begin posting quotes I find every single day. (Though I may) I do have a life, you know, albeit, not much of one.
The hinting and intimidating manner of writing that was formerly used on subjects of this kind [religion], produced skepticism, but not conviction. It is necessary to be bold. Some people can be reasoned into sense, and others must be shocked into it. Say a bold thing that will stagger them, and they will begin to think. — Thomas Paine / Letter written to Elihu Palmer
A few notes on browsers, snow and hacks …
Insomuch as this is possible, I try to use alternate browsers, products other than Microsoft. Of course, the company makes this as difficult as possible in its seeming attempts to blanket a monopoly on PCs, browsers, operating systems, the Internet and the rest of it.
At home, as my whims dictate, I alternate between Safari, Firefox, Opera and Explorer. The former three are actually the least dependable as I have run across numerous Web sites that either cause them to crash or where some script on the Web site fails to work and the Web site suggests I change browsers. I have the most recent versions of all the browsers (except Explorer, ironically), so it seems to still be a matter of compatibility against mighty Microsoft. That said, I know some would disagree with me about the dependability of alternate browsers — and I don’t like admitting it either — this has just been my experience thus far. Of the alternate browsers, I think Opera is my favorite, though the least compatible with a wide array of Web sites, while Firefox I would probably judge to be the best all around.
Since snow doesn’t just conjure up images and memories of the holidays — indeed, it snows in many, many places in America from November-March — I think the WordPress snow should be an available option through the rest of the winter. Since the ability to see and enjoy snow here in South Carolina is mostly fleeting, the scripted snow is something of a treat for us Southern folk. Folks up north are probably less amused as they look out the window at a freshly shoveled white pile.
Because of all the php included in the packages, I have found WordPress blogs, those run on external servers, like at www.jeremystyron.com (shameless and redundant plug, since the content there is the same as here) and Joomla sites to be quite a bear when it comes to locking them down to security compromises. This is something that was fairly new to me as I attempted to develop a site for a retail client, but I am learning. After finding bunches of erroneous code in numerous WordPress files, I upgraded to 2.7, created a .htaccess file and tried some other methods to lock things down. I still have to run through some steps to do the same over at the Joomla site.
Former vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin is saying that her biggest regret is that she did not speak enough to media outlets during her and John McCain’s bid for the White House. She said the interviews she did were not the ones she would have chosen and that the campaign decisions were largely made by folks she did not know.
We, of course, remember the disastrous interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric. Apologists said the liberal media was out to get her, to set her up or frame her with questions that were too tough or too probe. That’s nonsense. For an honest, up front politician with an intellect to back up the rhetoric, like Bill Clinton, no question is too tough or probing. From the Couric interview:
Couric: Do you think the coverage of you been sexist?
Palin: No. I don’t. It’s obvious there are some double standards here. You know, in terms of what the media has been doing. But I think that’s more attributable to the Washington media elite not knowing who I am and just asking a whole lot of questions. Not so much based on gender, though. But based on just the fact that I’m not part of the Washington herd.
Couric: Having said that, do you think it would be sexist not to question your credentials and your policy positions.
Palin: It would be sexist if the media were to hold back and not ask me about my experience, my vision, my principles, my values. You’re right.
Couric: If that’s the case, why haven’t you been more accessible to reporters?
Palin: I am so happy to talk to reporters. My life is an open book, happy to do it and very happy for more opportunities to do so.
Notice: Couric directly asked Palin why she hasn’t been more accessible. Palin said she was “so happy to talk to reporters.” Her campaign, on the other hand. … I personally and honestly think Palin was (and still is) more than happy to talk to reporters without restrictions (Even if not possessing the capacities to eloquently and convincingly answer their questions), but the McCain camp held her back, thinking she was a loose pistol and even reaping some of the results of her loose-cannon-ness, despite their efforts.
The so-called “liberal media” was not out to get Palin, but perhaps out to get the foolishness of the McCain campaign, who clearly only appointed Palin as the vice presidential nominee for political reasons. Giuliani, Romney or heck, even Lindsey Graham or Fred Thompson would have technically been better choices, but the campaign went with a woman who, perhaps, could bring vigor to the ticket and could mobilize scores of women, evangelicals, etc. for the Republican cause. Now, Palin is still in the headlines, and we fail to see why, and the chances are, she will be in the headlines for years to come, and, we add, in the running for the 2012 vice presidential or presidential seat. Frightening.
The Associated Press contacted 21 banks that received at least $1 billion in government money and asked four questions: How much has been spent? What was it spent on? How much is being held in savings, and what’s the plan for the rest?
None of the banks provided specific answers. — The Associated Press
So, a couple months after the feds doled out enormous sums of money to rescue the banks and save the bedrock of our financial infrastructure, as per usual, folks in authority, CEOs and the like are not being forthcoming with how they are using our money, as reported by this articlefrom The Associated Press. This, of course, is absurd since these banks are handling public money and should in theory, be obligated to be open about where the money is going. But they aren’t obligated, since the bank bailout included lacking measures of accountability.
JPMorgan Chase spokesman Thomas Kelly had the audacity to say,
“We’ve lent some of it. We’ve not lent some of it. We’ve not given any accounting of, ‘Here’s how we’re doing it.’ We have not disclosed that to the public. We’re declining to.”
“We’ve declined to?!?!?” What gives JPMorgan a right to decline to? Any American who will, in one way or the other, carry the burden for the banks’ bailout, should be angered by this statement.
That said, I did support supplying money to the auto industry and sincerely hope they show a more forthcoming attitude toward how they are using public funds. As we saw recently, President Bush OK’d a $17 billion package that would at least ensure the auto industry could continue chugging through the new year. Hopefully, Obama will rework and seek to restructure the industry altogether, as he is obligated to do once taking office, since Bush left the measure open to alterations. Clearly, after years of inadequate products and mismanagement, the companies have to be restructured to assure long-lasting viability and stability. We’ll have to wait until long after Jan. 20 to see how the bank and auto bailouts shake out.
“Simply put, as the clock runs out of on the administration’s term in office, would-be Cinderellas—including the president, cabinet officers, and agency heads—work assiduously to promulgate regulations before they turn back into ordinary citizens at the stroke of midnight.” — former Mercatus Center scholar Jay Cochran
As if the blunders of Katrina weren’t enough. If illegally invading a country without provocation wasn’t enough, Bush, as seems to be the trend among outgoing presidentsawakened to the reality that their party no longer has control (at least for four years), seems to be doing his darndest to make a mess of things with his 12th-hour regulations. Here are a fewgems from OMB Watch. I recommend following the link for a large list. My remarks in parenthesis.
Mountaintop mining, Office of Surface Mining (Interior) — The rule would allow mining companies to dump the waste (i.e. excess rock and dirt) from mountaintop mining into rivers and streams. …
Endangered species consultation, Department of the Interior — The rule would alter implementation of the Endangered Species Act by allowing federal land-use managers to approve projects like infrastructure creation, minerals extraction, or logging without consulting federal habitat managers and biological health experts responsible for species protection. Currently, consultation is required. …
Air pollution near national parks, Environmental Protection Agency — The rule would ease current restrictions that make it difficult for power plants to operate near national parks and wilderness areas. … (The Bush Administration said this rule was withdrawn and would not finalized. Thank goodness!)
Runoff from factory farms,Environmental Protection Agency — Under the rule, concentrated animal feeding operations, i.e. factory farms, could allow farm runoff to pollute waterways without a permit. The rule circumvents the Clean Water Act, instead allowing for self-regulation. (Nice!) …
Drug and alcohol testing for miners, Mine Safety and Health Administration — The rule would require mine operators to test employees in “safety-sensitive” positions for drug and alcohol use. (This is a good one, I suppose.) …
Actually, the rule lifts the ban on carrying, not just loaded, but concealed weapons. Hunters, of course, pack heat in national forests all the time, but not in national parks. In its continual show of ignorant, rabble-rousing, gun-clutching mentality, the NRA made this statement: “‘We are pleased that the Interior Department recognizes the right of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and their families while enjoying America’s national parks and wildlife refuges,’” said Chris Cox, the National Rifle Association’s chief lobbyist.” and this statement: “Gun rights advocates, notably the National Rifle Assn., have said the ban infringes on their 2nd Amendment rights to bear arms and their ability to defend themselves from predators, both human and animal. (the Los Angeles Times) The Second Amendment seems to me to be more a reference to military usage of arms, rather than civilian, as the newly formed country had just dispatched the British and were debating how best to protect the rights and freedoms of its citizenry from invading governments (as in the British). The Oxford English Dictionary defines “to bear arms” as “to serve as a soldier, do military service, fight.” But I won’t have the time to flesh this argument out at the moment. In either case, perhaps the Founders should have been more explicit.
But that debate rages on. Bush, in his last days in office, is dining with $499 bottles of wine on summits supposedly about the troubled economy, kissing veterans and doing more harm than good in handing down these midnight “rules” that, at the stroke of midnight, while Bush has turned back into a regular Joe (OK, he will never be a regular Joe, but you get the metaphor), will remain, leaving Barack Obama to pick up the pieces.
Aside from, perhaps, Vladimir Putin or the Castro family, Robert Mugabe is probably the worst human being in power today. Thanks largely to his boorishness and desperation to cling to power, Mugabe and cronies’ decision to take over many of the commercial farms which were keeping Zimbabwe fed — and allowing smaller farms to afford the cost of supplies and stock (Most can’t now.) — the people of that country as slowly wafting away. The hunger and disease is escalating:
Mr. Mugabe has blamed Western sanctions, largely aimed at senior members of his government, for the country’s woes. — The New York Times
For almost three months, from June to August, Mr. Mugabe banned international charitable organizations from operating, depriving more than a million people of food and basic aid after the country had already suffered one of its worst harvests.
Mr. Mugabe defended the suspension by arguing that some Western aid groups were backing his political rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, who bested him at the polls in March but withdrew before a June 27 runoff. — The New York Times
One can only wonder if Tsvangirai could have made a difference in turning the country’s starving population, wrecked economy and agricultural system around. One hopes that he would have welcomed foreign aid with open arms. But Mugabe, despite losing the election is hellbent on keeping control of the country, despite the wishes of his own people. (For the record, Mugabe claimed during the election season that the voting process was rigged toward Tsvangirai. How could the opposition party sneak one past the ruling party, and a dictatorial one at that?) Regardless — and if this sounds crass, so be it — the people of Zimbabwe would be better off if Mugabe was suddenly stricken with cancer, paralyzed by a stroke or killed. America sure can’t come over there, invade, take over the regime and “fix” things. (Well, we can in theory, but one more unprovoked invasion may signal the death knell to the American story. Our integrity around the world would be dealt a decisive blow.) But who knows, even if Mugabe died or got assassinated, the dictator surely has another henchman waiting in the wings to take over the repressive and ill-conceived administration.
About two years ago, I interviewed a Christian couple who had recently returned from a mission trip to Zimbabwe. Having never really wanted for anything in their lives and having to live in a hut and survive as regular villagers for a period changed their lives dramatically, and to speak with them, that point was evident. They came back with stories of real children they had met and came to know. They came back with the story of one who was living alone in Zimbabwe, waiting, while their spouse attempted to find work in South Africa. They came back with tears in their every word. For many there, South Africa offers hope, while Zimbabwe offers nothing but hunger and disease. (Like immigrants living and working in America to attempt to support family members still living in destitution in Mexico.)
If Mugabe keeps power, he may soon have no constituency left, the rest having either languished in disease or languished in hunger. And I suppose that will be just fine with him. He clearly cares nothing for them, Zimbabwe being, in its abject nothingness, his pathetic little house of cards.
Shew. It’s been a rough week. What with spending time with my family, work, eating, sleeping, Counter Strike:Source and the like, it’s been a challenge to get in as much reading as I would have liked. Right now, among other things, I’m reading Bertrand Russell’s “My Philosophical Development,” and Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason.” Those aren’t the types of volumes one can just hop down to Barnes & Noble to pick up, so I went to the local university library and got them, which is something I hope to do more often.
I’ve concluded that for one to develop a reasoned worldview (What other sort of worldview should we seek that ultimately governs our entire journey through life?), the set of ideologies, beliefs or understandings that largely guide how a person conducts his or her life (my definition), one must, first, in this age of religious fervor, read the Big Three in full: the Hebrew Bible (which is the Old Testament in a different order; see Jack Miles: “God: A Biography” for more information), the New Testament and the Koran. This is essential for understanding what might cause someone’s son to annihilate himself via a car bomb or to hijack a jet plane and aim it at a skyscraper or massacre millions of Jews, outright unbelievers, disabled people and gays for the false assumption that they are inferior or drown and burn hundreds women for the false assumption that they are witches. It’s also essential in understanding the opposite: What causes someone to give to the poor, devote one’s life to missions work and build safe houses for the derelict. Is it pure by inspiration, command or calling from God or do some people simply lean toward faith and/or good works as character traits, as others lean toward abuse or bullying?
Second, one must delve into philosophy: Bertrand Russell, Thomas Hobbes, Hume, Heidegger, Hegel, Derrida, Habermas, Nietzsche and scores of others. One must investigate science, as one’s educational capacities allows, since this is weighty stuff: String theory, the universe, etc.
When one takes all these steps then one make a reasoned assessment of how we fit into the cosmos. Some say we fit perfectly: that we are as much a part of it as it is of us. That we are home here in this place. Some say we are not at home here: That this place is merely a stepping off point to eternity. That, for those who accept God or Christ (depending on the belief) can look forward to eternity in a place free from sin, pain and guilt.
One of my favorite poets, John Milton said, “The end of learning is to know God, and out of that knowledge to love Him and imitate Him,” which seems to imply that if one gains all knowledge that is possible to know (Which is impossible because our knowledge of the world and the universe changes daily and one would have to research day and night without sleeping to continually soak in new discoveries.) it will lead to a knowledge of God. Symbolically, this works and is a profound statement, since Milton is clearly stating that all knowledge that can be known points to God. Literally, it would only lead to a learned individual who has a better grasp of these weighty concepts than you or I. My point is this: Many of us spend 20, 30, 50 years or a lifetime floundering in beliefs, and more so, living and dying for beliefs, and giving no evidential proof . Truth-seekers must analyze these works meticulously and obtain a firm knowledge of the great intellectual breakthroughs in our history for a reasoned worldview to surface. All else is conjecture. If, after reading the holy books, investigating the sciences and philosophy, one concludes there is no god or if one concludes God is unmistakable and evident: the same conclusion stands: At least that person has put in the effort. At least they cared enough to find out why they believe as they do. The tragedy today is that most are too lazy or busy to do the work. Perhaps this is where our modern, hustle, bustle society skipped a disc.
(CNN) – The global economy may be undergoing a significant downturn, but the White House’s dinner budget still appears flush with cash.
After all, world leaders who are in town to discuss the economic crisis are set to dine in style Friday night while sipping wine listed at nearly $500 a bottle.
According to the White House, tonight’s dinner to kick off the G-20 summit includes such dishes as “Fruitwood-smoked Quail,” “Thyme-roasted Rack of Lamb,” and “Tomato, Fennel and Eggplant Fondue Chanterelle Jus.”
To wash it all down, world leaders will be served Shafer Cabernet “Hillside Select” 2003, a wine that sells at $499 on Wine.com.
The exceedingly pricey wine may seem a bit peculiar given leaders are in Washington to discuss a possible world financial meltdown, but Sally McDonough, a spokeswoman for Laura Bush, said it “was the most appropriate wine that we had in the White House wine cellar for such a gathering.
McDonough also said the White House purchased the wine at a “significantly lower price” than what it is listed at.
“Of course the White House gets its wine at wholesale prices,” she said. “Given the intimate size of the group, it was an appropriate time for The White House to use this stock.”
The leaders of the U.K., France, Russia, China, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey and 11 developing economies have all come to Washington at the behest of President Bush in an effort to express confidence in the fundamental underpinnings of the world’s economy.
Not much in the way of comment here, for this story speaks for itself. It speaks volumes as to how folks with much in the coffers in this country (and others) are unwilling to sacrifice anything whatsoever for the good of all. I point to the automaker CEO’s private jet rides to Washington several weeks ago and their subsequent actual car rides to Washington a couple weeks later, which amounted to not much more than throwing a dog a bone. They weren’t repentant. They weren’t suddenly concerned with the working man’s plight. They were concerned with their image.
So, here we have the Bushes providing $499/bottle wine to world leaders who came to the G-20 summit to discuss the economic crisis. Irony barely even touches the surface. “Given the intimate size of the group, it was an appropriate time for The White House to use this stock,” Laura Bush spokeswoman Sally McDonough said.
This stock? Give us a break. A stock that cost 500 bucks? While engaging in their polite dialogue about the sorry state of the world economy over $500 wine, did it ever occur to them that such extravagance sure could have went a long way to help a working family make ends meet. That $500 sure could have went to feed a family of four for at least a month or two. But nah, dignitaries can’t be concerned with all that. They, intrinsically, need the best of the best. Dignitaries who gathered to discuss a floundering economy that has rendered thousands jobless and homeless are above such sacrifices and have more to worry about than the jobless, hungry children, women and children down the block. To think about how $500 (How many bottles were consumed at the summit?) could have helped a real family make ends meet or feed hungry children is, frankly, shameful, for it was only wasted frivolously and unnecessarily.