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In which the middle-aged Peacenik mouths off about War Drones--and all the other things that make him cranky. Pnorny!

Mr Mahatma--who is a Mr in real life--lives in the valleys of Southern California with his wife, a herd of Dears, and an impressive collection of books. He is reachable at:

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A Change for a Change
11.04.08 (9:39 pm)   [edit]
I'll be dipped. America didn't vote again for a rich white guy. Better, the Republicans didn't pull any tricks like they've managed the past 2 elections. Obama won. McCain lost and graciously. I think they and America realized just what a calamity this country is in and voted for a change, a real change. Obama can't do worse than Bush. If anything, his victory signals a couple of changes:
  • He's not a rich WHITE guy. There I've said it. He's of mixed parentage and bless it he brought us together to overlook race.
  • He's smart enough not to pick a VP canidate like Sarah Palin. Sure, Biden is an old school rich white guy but he's not a Right-wing nut job like Palin. Watching her debate with Biden, she came across as condescending, inexperienced, and of the same cloth as Bush - running things by guts instead of brains and we saw where that got us
  • He's young enough to likely survive the 4 years term. This might not have held true for McCain.
    Sure, Obama may also be inexperienced but he'll get that damn fast. His diplomatic and oratical abilities are sharper than McCain's and that's also to his benefit. Last, he's not entering the Oval Office unsupported. He'll have his cabinet. He'll have a gazillion Americans online posting their views and recommendations. He won't be in a information vacuum.

    He won't be Bush and already things are looking up.

    More of Same - That's Real Change
    09.06.08 (12:57 am)   [edit]
    With the Bush Catastrophe nearing an end, we get to choose the next catastrophe. Third parties are out. Not a chance for real change.

    So we have Obama and Biden. Obama - Another slick Democrat who, if he wins, will likely end up flying down in flames at the hands of the Republicans who have little better to do than smear their crap over everyone else. Biden - yet another white politician. Woo-hoo.

    Or McCain and Palin. At first, I was excited that McCain chose Palin until I found out it was Sarah and not Michael. It would have been awesome to have a Monty Python member as Veep. That's real change. As it is, I doubt McCain would last out a full term and Palin is too scary. Either of the two and we'll in wars up to our noses.

    Oh wait, we already are thanks to Dubya, who, by the way, wants to get us involved in yet another skirmish. This time in Georgia. If McCain comes in add Iran to Iraq, Afghanistan, Georgia, and whereever else we shouldn't be.

    McCain or Obama. Both have professed their belief in Jesus as if now that's a prerequisite for becoming President. Now the Left is leaning Right and the Right much further. How much longer before jackboots become mandatory footwear?

    I feel somewhat vindicated about Bush though. Much of everything I posted years ago about him and the phony reasons for invading Iraq have proven true. Bush and his cronies have milked this mess for billions. In fact, if you can remember far back to his first term the big issue was Social Security and how it would run out Real Soon unless something was done. That issue disappeared with the 9/11 and the Invasion.

    But consider...Social Security with the, what?, 1/2 TRILLION dollars wasted in Iraq. Think that would solve the problem?

    I veer.

    Obama or McCain. Neither impresses. Michael Palin would be a better choice.

    Politics And OTher Detritus
    03.01.08 (11:19 pm)   [edit]
    Clinton, Obama, and McCain. Proof positive that the U.S. will remain in the crapper for a long time coming. I say this because whichever Democrat gets elected as a rebound from the Bushit Administration, will face four years of attacks from the Republicans, resulting in - 8 years from now - someone from the Right who will make Dubya look good.

    Plus, I don't like Clinton, Obama, or McCain.

    Hillary is too much the politician. She'll do the politically correct choice for her own power. She'll say the politically correct thing to say, look the politically correct look, and be politically effectual, that is, nothing good for us. She really lost me a couple of years ago when some jackass sponsored yet another jackass bill railing against violence in video games and there she was for the photo op. She was asked for her opinion on the matter and all she could do was smile and say something shallow and meaningless. She gave no valid argument for the bill; she said nothing. She was there for the op. No thank you HIllary.

    Obama looks good and sounds good but he loses me because of one reason: religion. Not because of his religion but because he doesn't have the balls to leave religion out of politics. Folks, contrary to misguided belief, America was not founded to be a Christian nation. It was founded to be a free nation. Our Government needs to be free from Poliitics because the second you mix Poltics and Religion, you get a conflict of interest between serving a God/Gods and serving the people. For our country you also get a nice backlash from non-Christian nations.

    But back to Obama. I'm just not sure of his substance, his savviness and his ability to hold up in the corrupt halls of our Government. Bye-bye Obama.

    McCain is too old and too much a war freak. Don't get me started (again) on why Iraq was a massive mistake but the fact that McCain supports it, loses him my vote and interest.

    Honestly, the only candidate who seemed to have answers and plans of action instead of words and clever saying was Edwards, but his family problems and lack of Blackness/Femality did him in. He wasn't a convenient label for the Media to use.

    On the other hand, BUSH WILL FINALLY BE GONE!!! Farewell to the Bottom Decile!!!

    Follow-up to Frys
    08.11.07 (1:32 pm)   [edit]
    For the past week my 8 year old rarely mentioned the Frys fiasco, instead focusing on the chase. Which stores can we look at? Where can we look online? Last night he trolled the entire Northridge mall in search of an MP3 player but to avail.

    And this morning it happened, proving that good things do (occassionally) come to those with patience and a positive spirit. During the kids piano lessons my wife ducked out to a nearby drug store. She came tearing back with a bag.

    "$3," she said. "It's only 512 mb but it's also a voice recorder and a flash drive." She pulled out from the bag a no-name MP3 player. The sticker said $20. The discount sticker said $5.

    "The cashier said it was on sale," my wife explained.

    At that price we went back and grabbed four more. The cashier commented that all of them had different prices (they didn't) so was it okay for her to charge us $1.50 each?


    And my 8 year old is thrilled with his new player. It's not a 1 gb like his brothers but it wasn't $30 either. In fact, his brother also bought one of the cheapies.

    Peace again reigns in the Mahatma family.

    Another Frys Tale of Horror
    08.06.07 (8:03 pm)   [edit]
    I just returned from returning something from Frys. For those of you unfamiliar with Frys it's a superstore of electronics, like a cross between Best Buy and Radio Shack. They have a great variety and you never know what you'll find on sale. Their reputation though is thoroughly sullied by abyssmal Customer Service combined with a practice of rewrapping and reshleving returned merchandise. Most customers have true love/hate relationship with the place. You go there knowing you may find what you want but at the risk of having to return it. It's a perverse form of gambling.

    Anyway. My wife and I were shopping for a VCR to DVD conversion package and my youngest son wanted an MP3 player like his older brother. Looking online, Frys had an MP3 player - 1 gb, white - for $20. My youngest had saved up his money and he had just that amount. So off we went.

    Frys Failure #1: Poor Inventory Management. We found the VCR / DVD Conversion packages in the software department. Usually these packages have a hardware component that sits between your VCR and PC, plus software. That's exactly what we were looking for. Unfortunately I kept looking and found more packages - different packages - in the graphics card section of hardware. Same type of hardware / software solutions located in two different departments.

    It gets better.

    We collected the packages that looked like they may do the trick and asked an employee for help. Did this package have all the cables? DId that package have a certain type of cable? [Insert sounds of crickets. Hello?!?] We asked if they had a computer that had Net access so we could look up the specs. "Sure," they said, "in the Service Department." So off went to the Service Department.

    The Service Department is incorrectly named because it's the last thing you'll get there. The person helping us said that they did have a computer with Net access - the one right behind him. But because some of the packages we wanted to look up were from the software department we'd have to get an employee from that department to stand with us while we used that machine.

    Frys Failure #2: Clueless Customer Service Read that last paragraph again. The Service Department employee wanted us to get another employee to come stand with us while we looked online for a review?!? Un - freaking - believable.

    Scrap getting the conversion package until we do more homework. Now for the Mp3 player and I have to say right off that my youngest kid showed the heart of a lion. As I will soon relate, he got disappointed not once but thrice and proved the better between us.

    As I mentioned earlier we had found online an MP3 player - 1 gb, white - $20. We found it in stock in the flash drive hardware aisle, for $30. Same exact item - $10 more. That was the first disappointment. An employee came to help and I asked about the pricing discrepancy, he said that the online prices differed from the store prices because when you buy online you have to return it online instead of to a store. Huh?!?

    Frys Failure #3: Poor Business Model Between Store and Online - that's all I'll say about that.

    We noted that directly above the plethora of the $30 MP3 players the exact same model in black for $20, except they were out. The employee went to the back to see if they had any more but no. Sold out and no more expected, and - no - he couldn't sell us the white model for $20. My kid did the big eyes and quivering lips but to no avail. Second disappointment yet with a barb back. My kid said loudly that he'll find what he wants online from another store.

    Frys Failure #4: Powerless Employees.

    My wife had wandered off. She was in the radio aisle where she found - lo! and behold - MP3 players. On sale they had a 2 gb MP3 player/flash drive for $20. My kid was thrilled.

    Frys Failure #5: Employees Who Don't Know What's On Sale. It's bad enough when you have the same items in two different departments but the problem gets compounded when your employees don't know that much less what's on sale.

    We got the MP3 player and plugged it into the computer to download songs. Uh-oh! Norton says there's a virus on it but that it's been quarantined. Still, it comes right up as a flash drive and we copy some MP3s to it. Now insert a new battery and...nothing. It won't play or light up. Try another new battery and same result. Insert it back into the computer and nothing. Piece of junk and the final disappointment for my brave-hearted kid.

    So today after work I suffered the hell that is the Frys Return. Honestly it wasn't too bad a wait but when I mentioned that I really wanted the $30 MP3 player and explained the whole scenario, I could hear those crickets chirping. I asked about whether they price match (they do) but they won't match their own online prices.

    What an aggravating, pain-in-the-ass store. I was there when they opened in Woodland Hills. They had horrible service then and they still have horrible service.

    Hello Frys! It's more than having the employees smile, it's about doing the right thing by the customer, about having your inventory ass-ets together, about getting past the nonsensical and illogical policies. You may be profitable but how much more so if you only had your collective crap together.

    Meanwhile there's a disappointed 8-year boy who smiled throughout the ordeal. He will be shopping elsewhere.

    Being and Emptiness
    07.23.07 (8:10 pm)   [edit]
    My life is over - bleak, empty, void. Now every moment is a struggle, a perpetual question of "Why bother?". It is, simply, over.

    And I know why it happened and when and how and I couldn't stop it, couldn't avoid draining my life's worth untila ll was empty.

    It started with "God of War". This Playstation 2 has garnered a million awards and sold 10 times more copies. I had bought a copy of the game a year ago and never played it. It sat in a drawer with a few other games that I knew someday I'd get around to...someday.

    And about a month ago someday happened. A free weekend with a few hours to fill and out came the stack. I decided to give each game a solid 1/2 hour of play, figuring that'd be plenty of time to determine whether the game was a keeper or not.

    Let me confess now that I had little hopes for any of the games because frankly I'm a computer gamer, not a PS2 gamer. I grew up with computers and was in gaming from the early days of the Apple 2. For me, computer games peaked with Doom, Diablo 2, Warlords 2, Starcraft, and Duke Nukem. Everything after that was more of the same. Worse, I couldn't "get" console controllers. They're harder than a keyboard and mouse. You can't twiddle with console files as easily as with computer files. Consoles are for kids.

    So I thought. I started through the pile and one game after another fell by the wayside. Then "God of War". I loaded it and started playing, thinking that I wouldn't like the control but it was OK. Hmmm, mythology, hack 'n' slash, naked bosoms, hidden chests - I played games kind of like this before but not like this. This was freaking awesome!

    I finished "God of War" in about a week and passed it on to my kids.

    A quick aside. "God of War" is rated "M for Mature" because of the gore and naked bosoms. Yet, I let my kids watch me play. They saw the gore and the bosoms, adn didn't care. They were captivated by the puzzles, the play, and the theme. If anything they now know that war is not clean or heroic or fun but gross, scary, and not to be taken lightly. I didn't make a fuss over the bosoms and they didn't get fixated. Maybe something there to be learned.

    Anyway. I finished "God of War" and went right out and got "God of War 2". Same thrill and involvement - pure escapism. I couldn't and didn't want to stop playing. I finished it in even less time than "God of War" and felt...drained, lost. I wanted more. I wanted "God of War 3" NOW!!! But that game doesn't exist.

    That was last week.

    I thought I was getting over "God of War" until last Saturday. That's when the family went to the local mall, to the bookstore, and I got "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows". I started reading the book that night - 200 pages down. Sunday I told the family to leave me alone. 550 pages later I was done. The series was over what?!?

    No more "God of War". No more Harry Potter. Life feels so bleak and empty now. I don't know if I can make it until Friday the 27th when The Simpsons Movie and what will happen when that series ends?

    1st Amendment
    02.23.07 (8:26 am)   [edit]
    Coming home on the commuter bus, I was witness - the entire bus was witness - to an exercise in Freedom of Speech. This young couple, and I'll say they were of Middle Eastern origin judging from their looks, dress, and speech, were having a little argument for whatever reason. Actually, he was doing the arguing: berating her, threatening divorce, and using language inappropriate for kids (which there were plenty on the bus). She kept trying to quiet him down and when she did so, he would go off on a tirade that this was America and he had Freedom of Speech. He could say whatever he wanted.

    And when he said that he kept looking around like he expected us to side with him. Dude, welcome to America! We do enjoy the Freedom fo Speech but it doesn't mean we should act like braying jackasses or treat our spouses like servants.

    3 Democrats - 1 Office
    02.23.07 (8:25 am)   [edit]
    I think it's safe and fair to say that there are only three viable Democratic candidates for 2008: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards. I don't like HIllary because she's too political. Everything she says and does is measured in political brownie points. She, the person, doesn't come through. For her, though, is that she has the most political experience of the three. If she won the candidacy, how long before jokes about blue dresses or blue jeans popped up?

    Obama is a ray of light. He speaks well and has undeniable charisma. He doesn't have the political experience of the other two. The one time on TV I heard him speak, he impressed me with his eloquence but lost me when he brought religion into his speech.

    Edwards is an intelligent speaker though not as eloquent as Obama. He was on one of those Sunday morning news shows and he laid out a plan for Iraq that was insightful. He gave details and reasons for actions. My problem with him is, simply, he doesn't have the Presidential Stature. Hillary and Barack have the composure. Edwards is more VP material.

    Maybe an Obama/Edwards or Clinton/Edwards ticket would do it. What I'd like to see in any case is a candidate who doesn't drag religion into politics. Better would be a candidate who declares that religion shouldn't be a part of politics and acts accordingly. I'd like a candidate who recognizes that our Government is not beholden to Corporate America but to the Real America, the ordinary people who put them in power. I'd like a candidate with the intelligence to weigh decisions, not act from the gut like our current President. I'd like a candidate who can speak in complete sentences, without sound bites or pre-written material. I'd like a candidate who has the guts to admit mistakes and not slough off past errors as childish mistakes. I'd like a candidate who understands that our country, great as it is, doesn't rule the world nor should it try to - Diplomacy has to be a vital tool in the political kit.

    I'd like a candidate, a President, who doesn't make me feel like I need to bathe after seeing him or her, someone for whom we don't have to apologize.

    If Not A Lie
    02.03.07 (4:29 pm)   [edit]
    It is the epitomy of irony that Bush went to Wall Street and suggested that greedy Executives be held to "pay for performance" standards. By that logic, he'd be paying us for his, frankly, god-awful performance as President. For Bush his performance is typical of his career; succeeding by virtue of the Bush name and Bush family contacts. It's not his intelligence or diplomatic skills; it's not his business acumen.

    But as always, I get sidetracked so easily.

    Bush is now provoking Iran with subtly threats of "Do as I say or face the consequences". This is the Bush family tactic, by the way, and while it works one way in business, it doesn't work quite the same way on the International political scene. If I were Iran and heard these types of threats I wouldn't be very scared. Considering that Bush has our military quagmired in Iraq and Afghanistan, and working in Somalia - they know we're spread too thin. They also know that America gets sick of war real fast and we're sick of it now. For us, it's a weakness and strength.

    The Middle East is a mess and America in too many ways isn't far behind. Unless you're in the Oil Biz you may not be doing too well. What really hurts is that the billions wasted in Iraq could've have been well spent in the U.S.. If you are in the Oil Biz, you are daily blessing Saint Dubya. This past week saw yet another quarter of record oil profits.

    Quiz question: What do Unocal, Exxon, Dubya Bush, Dick Cheney, and Iraq have in common?

    Who Sez?
    01.28.07 (10:52 am)   [edit]
    In my day Sunday morning TV used to be fun - Wonderama, wrestling, cartoons. Now it's evangelists and political analyses. So while channel-flipping bright and early, I came across an interview with Duncan Hunter, a Republican Rep from California. He was a scary looking sort of fellow with an even scarier rhetoric. Simply, he spouted the too commonly held American belief that America has a duty to spread Freedom and, thus, our presence in Iraq is justified. In addition, he said, with regards to Islamo-fascists it's better to fight them now and over there, that the confrontation was inevitable. We've heard that before too.

    But both logics are twisted and dangerous.

    Taking the latter idea first that it's better to fight a (perceived) enemy now rather than later is an insane basis for a foreign policy much less any other type of social policy. Are we too fight anyone who disagrees with us? We'd be fighting half the world. Is our enemy based on potential economic threat? Then China should be our next target. Military threat? China's right there. By all logic, we should be gearing for war against China. It sure looks like they're doing the same for us.

    But we're in the Middle East. Why? 9/11 was an attack from al Qaeda. Yet the War on Terror has expanded to nearly all groups of Islamic origin that, well, disagree with what we think. That's the same attitude from Wordl War II that all Germans were Nazis and vice versa. It isn't true. Where Bush has failed is keeping the focus on the target. He didn't finish the job with Osama. Iraq not only distracted from that pursuit but split our forces, wasted billions, emboldened Iran, strenghtened the "Islamo-fascists"...

    If you're going to fight, isn't it better to fight an enemy one at a time, rather than all at once? But looks at Bush has brought us to: Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia. And those are the fights we know about. The War on Drugs (remember that one?) is still being waged. Yet THAT War is being cannabilized for for the War on Terror. So now you have a War on Drugs where, before we moved in to Afghanistan, there was little Opium being produced to now it's the major world supplier. And arguably we're behind it.

    All because of...what?...will we ever now the real reason Bush dragged us into Iraq? It's wasn't al Qaeda or WMDs or Hussein being a threat to our National Security. But Iraq shoudl have taught us that fighting an imaginary enemy can turn real in a very ugly way.

    For most of the life of the U.S. there has been this notion that we must spread Democracy to the rest of the world, that somehow our political system is so inherently superior that it must grow, not natural, but forcefully. Who sez?

    We do have a great political system albeit one that is quickly being undermined by corrupt and self-serving politicians. But however great our system is its greatness should spread by example not by force. Our way of life should be an illustration of what Freedom entails. That illustration should market and merit itself. By forcing our system on other countries is wasteful, disrespectful, dangerous, and potentially self-defeating. Some call it Imperialism. But however called Freedom must be gained from the inside not forced from the outside.

    Look at North Korea. The people are in terrible straights while their Leader has all his Western toys. How long before the discrepancy drives the populace to revolt? It's a matter of time. (Of course, if North Korea has any oil reserves we'd be more attentive.)

    The point of this rant is that America's greatness should come by example not by force and our current leaders don't see or understand this. Our greatness can't shine through with a President who can't distinguish between your average Islamic follower and one who's burying the mine trap. But then again our President isn't know for his powers of reasoning or diplomacy.

    American Idle
    01.21.07 (6:01 pm)   [edit]
    I stopped posting for a couple days way back in September. The days turned into weeks then months. The world didn't come to an end with me not posting and frankly I didn't miss it. It broke the rut. Too often week after week I was simply rehashing some tidbit of news from Yahoo, usually about another mindless move by Prez Bush, and inserting my own mindless commentary. It was sort of fun and too time consuming.

    So I took a break that went on longer than expected.

    Am I back? I don't know though, politically, there's plenty to gripe about. On the positive side it looks like - finally - the other half of America is beginning to get an inkle of just how incompetent our current Administration has been and will be. Iraq is a shambles without much hope of getting better. Afghanistan is sinking quickly and bin Laden (remember him?) still runs loose. Castro is dying but that's due to old age, not to any action by Bush.

    But what I originally planned to write about was the show "American Idol". I made the mistake of watching some of it this past week and have regretted the loss of time. What a piece of garbage! The good singers all sound the same with their cookie-cutter belting out of a musical phrase after musical phrase. There was no singing! It was all blast-and-warble. Or, to put it another way, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Neil Young, and others who are not vocally perfect but are musically gifted wouldn't have made the cut to Hollywood.

    Even more painful were the other shows. "Beauty and the Geek", "Armed and Famous"...what utter trash. And, no, I'm not going to pay for cable. That'll just get me 900 channels of more trash. Of course, I'll get movies, great movies, CLASSIC movies, like "Jackass 2" or other attitude-loaded crap.

    No thanks.

    Back To Work
    09.05.06 (8:37 pm)   [edit]
    There are few things worse than work and fewer things worse than going back to work after a vacation. I'm wiped. First off, my work rhythm is completely off. I got used to sleeping in a bit more. Having to wake up early, shave, shower, grab some food then rush out for an hour and a half commute made me tired before I reached work.

    At work then is the catching up on emails and all the crises that no one could, or wanted to, handle. Finally, the long slow, slog home in time to eat a quick dinner, read email, blog, and pass out. Which is what I'm....

    Be-Laboring The Point
    09.04.06 (9:57 am)   [edit]
    Almost two weeks since the last update but I have a written excuse: my wife and I did our parental duties and took the kids to Disneyland for three days. That the kids had a great time means the trip was a success but - boy! - did we get get somewhat taken.

    The park has grown beyond the "do-it-in-one-day" boundary. With California Adventure next door, Disneyland demands that you devote a minimum of two days. We did three which turned out to be just right. Mind you we went Tuesday through Thursday of last week. Many schools were in session so the park wasn't packed, yet it wasn't the true off season so all the rides were open. The first day we "did" Disneyland proper, including multiple sessions on the big ticket rides like Splash Mountain and the Matterhorn. The revamped Pirates of the Caribbean looked great with new special effects. The second day we went through Disneyland again going on a few of the lesser rides as well as, of course, again going on our favorites from the day before. The kids acted up so we forced them through "It's A Small World" with the threat that if they continued to act up they go on the ride again. Their behavior improved. Late in the day we found ourselves Disneylanded out so we traipsed over to California Adventure to get a preview of our next day. In the two hours there we managed to get through Grizzly River Rapids, the Massive outdoors climbing area and Paradise Pier. Thursday we finished California Adventure and returned to Disneyland for one last ride on our favorites and to watch the fireworks show.

    So, how did we get taken? As I started above, the park demands more than two days. We made our reservations through Disneyland for a three-day park hopper plus hotel. We saved about $400 by not choosing a Disney hotel but one of their friendly partners. Our hotel was literally across the street. No complaints there. That the maid was asleep in our room...well...that's not a Disney issue.

    No, the gripe was in the math. If we had bought the hopper tickets and gotten the room withouth going through Disney we could have saved another $200. Plus, by going through Disney we weren't eligible to gain frequent user points for the hotel.

    Sure, Disney gave us extras like getting access to the park 1 hour early on one morning, lanyards for collecting (overpriced) Disney pins, and discount coupons to offset the absurd prices, but they couldn't counteract the price difference we paid.

    We ate at the Blue Bayou - the nice restaurant next to the Pirates ride. I had fond memories of eating their as a kid but, while the food was good - not great - but good, it wasn't worth the price. $150 for 5 and that's with 3 kids. The best offering is the prime rib but it wasn't a $30 prime rib, it was a $15 prime rib. Sure, you can eat outside of the park and save bundles but your feet will have already taken a pounding, your kids will already be wilting with exhaustion, why subject everyone to an extra half-mile hike for cheap food? Disney knows this. Disney exploits this.

    But the kids had a great time and they'll continue to do so until they have kids and take their kids to Disneyland. They'll then feel the pain.

    A final word. California Adventure was odd. My wife commented that it made her want to visit the real places (again) instead of being in the phony versions here. My feeling was that they borrowed from the other amusement resorts. Grizzly River Rapids reminded me of Magic Mountain's Roaring Rapids (or whatever their rafting ride is called) only with 30 years of improvements over the original. The Hollywood Backlot area needed only a tram ride to mimic Universal Studios (and Downtown Disney was a CityWalk clone if ever there was one). Don't be surprised if a Shamu clone ends up swimming around Paradise Pier.

    Some Get It
    08.24.06 (9:51 pm)   [edit]
    There was this Harvard Divinity High-up muckity-muck on TV. Old guy wearing the clerical garb and looking rather prudish. Lemons would pucker looking at him. And yet he got it.

    He said that the problem or challenge with monotheism is that it presents God as an absolute and fanaticism is the result when the followers absorb that idea a bit too much. It was a sound bite which didn't allow follow-up questions regarding the nature of God, like God is absolute what? Good? Evil? If anything God bears a suspicious resemblance to (generic) man with all foibles, idiosyncracies, and problems therein.

    But the topic here is really about Science and Religion. Can they co-exist? Previously I've written that they really can't, that as Science expands its knowledge, Religion must recede. God may represent some absolute nugget of knowledge that will never be attained but who's to say Science won't unveil that nugget.

    The problem is that Religion recognizes the danger of Science and therefor attempts to stifle it as much as possible. Witness the latest moves of the Vatican firing their Astronomer and the horrific anti-Science antics of Bush.

    Science is about exploration, about questioning, about seeking answers. Rarely in Science is anything considered absolute. Yes, you have absolute zero and the speed of light but even these "absolutes" get attacked, prodded, and scrutinized.

    Religion says simply that God is it and there's no need for further discussion or exploration. Or, the (generic monotheistic) Preachers say there's freedom of inquiry but always up to a point. Any line of thought that threatens the dogma gets subdued, often harshly. Goodness, how many times have I gotten email saying that a statement I wrote will send me to Hell, or that I should just (blindly) accept Jesus to go to Heaven. But if I say "Sure, show me any evidence of Hell or Heaven or anything beyond Death and I go along with your admonishment. Show me that Jesus was as you claim and I'll believe." But if you whip out a Bible and start quoting from here and there, you'd better be prepared to demonstrate the validity and reality of your Source. I could take any book and make the claim that it's Divinely inspired or is the true Word of God if only you believe hard enough.

    So really it comes down to Belief Systems. Some of us have rather flexible belief systems and I would guess that we tend to become scientists or some such. Others have more rigid belief systems and some have severely inflexible belief systems. I can accept them but they can't accept me. And therein lies the problem plagueing our so-called Modern World.

    Stupid Mouse Creatures
    08.22.06 (7:19 pm)   [edit]
    Around this time of year is when we take our Family Vacation, usually a long drive somewhere with little planning but lots of impromptu fun and exploration. This year, with the kids at that age, we decided to cave in and take them to the House o' Mouse. Yep, we're going to Disneyland.

    And right off the bat we made our first and second mistakes. By waiting too long we couldn't avail ourselves of the full power of the AAA travel agents. Lesson learned: give yourself plenty of planning time.

    Second mistake was booking through the Disneyland site. We saved some money by not staying at any of the Disney hotels proper but after we hit the confirm button on our reservation, we then spent the time to price our room and tickets separately. We found that we could have saved $300 if not more by booking our hotel room through the hotel web site (or AAA) and buying the Disney passes through Costco. Stupid us.

    Recently I finished a book about Disneyland and all the hidden stuff therein. One of the points it made was that the difference between the Disney Era compared to the Eisner Era is that Disney was concerned about the guests having a good time. Eisner's focus was on the guests leaving with empty pockets.

    I can see how true that is today. I grew up with Disneyland during the time of the A-E tickets and when they first brought out the passes. You could do Disneyland in a day - no problem - and go on all the favorite rides. But not any more. By expanding the park and adding California Adventure you have to spend at least two days, if not more, to do things right. I fear that for my kids Disneyland won't have that special homey feel that I remember. Instead it'll be just another amusement park. Run! Get in line and wait for 40 minutes. Do the ride. RUN!

    Of course, to make the experience more efficient we could pay for special passes but that's my point. The Disney magic comes with a steep price and for Joe Ordinary like myself, I don't want to pay it. Nor, I think, is that what Disney intended when he built the place. I know my kids won't be growing up with Disneyland the way I did.

    There's Disasters...
    08.21.06 (7:52 pm)   [edit]
    And then there's Bush.
    Bush: Leaving Iraq now would be disaster
    By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent 
    WASHINGTON -President Bush said Monday the Iraq war is "straining the 
    psyche of our country" but leaving now would be a disaster. 
    It's not the Iraq War that's straining the psyche of the country, it's Bush's utter ineptness as President combined with the gall, chutzpah, and hypocrisy of his Administration. He's the cause of our moral and morale decline, not just the Iraq War. We want a leader, not a buffoon.

    Yes, to leave Iraq now would be a distaster. But to stay would be a bigger disaster. Bush doesn't get that but, then again, his friends are making sure those blinders are tight and snug.

    Ceasefire - Restock - Start Again
    08.19.06 (7:38 pm)   [edit]
    I get the distinct feeling that the ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah is nothing more than a lull to re-stock. Certainly, both sides are crowing more about victory than about peace. Yep, nothing like a religious war to get the blood flowing, literally and figuratively. I think all sides should send their holiest warriors - their best of the best - to a neutral spot to fight it out and after the hidden nuke goes off any survivors will be declared the winner and Peace shall reign in their name. The ratings will be boffo.

    For the U.S. I'd nominate and insist that George W. go as our valiant leader and Christian-Warrior supreme. Go Georgy! Lead your neo-cons down the path of righteousness to victory over the heathen scum. Kill! Maim! Slay!

    (Push the button, Max!)

    On a lighter, more cerebral note I recommend "Germinal" by Emile Zola. This books was written about 60 years before Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" but the topics are similar, namely fairness for workers. It was a great book but apparently it's one in a series of twenty. I don't know if I can handle 6,000 more pages but it's sure tempting considering the quality of writing. But, first, I want to finish the collected stories of Kafka. All I can say about Kafka is that he's so Kafka.

    Yesterday Continued
    08.16.06 (7:19 pm)   [edit]
    Yesterday I mentioned how Bush wants us to think in terms of Freedoms vs. Safety. That is, to be safe we have to give up some freedoms. However, I noted that the two aern't opposites. That the opposite of freedom is imprisonment and that it is possible to be free AND safe.

    What irks me is that there is so much emphasis by Bush on terrorism that greater threats to us are overlooked: pollution, crime, car accidents, gun accidents, smoking, and so on. Terrorism, frankly, doesn't register as a concern. It doesn't affect me but could. On the other hand, the new airline rules do have a more immediate effect. The covert eavesdropping by our Government does pose more of intrusion into our lives than terrorism.

    In short, we have more to fear from our own Government than terrorists. That ain't right; that ain't America.

    Unbelievable Bushit
    08.15.06 (8:34 pm)   [edit]
    Bush sees terrorism war 'for years to come'
    MCLEAN, United States (AFP) -
    President George W. Bush pointed to last week's alleged plot in Britain to bomb 
    US-bound airliners as evidence that the US-led war on terrorism will last "for 
    years to come."
    "America is safer than it has been, but it is not yet safe," Bush said after 
    meeting with senior national security aides and touring the US National Counter-
    Terrorism Center (NCTC) just outside of Washington.
    Bush, flanked by homeland security adviser Fran Townsend, director for 
    national intelligence John Negroponte, and CIA chief Michael Hayden, thanked 
    the NCTC staff, pointing to their "good work" with British counterparts in 
    thwarting the alleged airline bomb plot last week.
    "The work going on here really is indicative of the challenge we face, not only 
    this week, but this year and the years to come," in the global war on terrorism 
    sparked by the September 11, 2001 attacks, said Bush.
    The president, suffering in the polls because of sky-high gas prices and the 
    unpopular war in Iraq, was on the second day of a week-long push on national 
    security and the economy, two critical issues in the November 7 vote.
    Historically, Bush's Republicans have enjoyed an edge over Democrats on 
    national security, but a few recent polls have called that into question and the 
    opposition party seems eager to make the most of the issue.
    The campaign-style push comes one month before the fifth anniversary of the 
    September 11 terrorist strikes and one week after the news of the alleged 
    conspiracy in London to bomb US-bound airliners with liquid explosives.
    "The enemy has got an advantage when it comes to attacking our homeland. 
    They've got to be right one time, and we've got to be right 100 percent of the 
    time to protect the American people," said the president.
    "I'm proud to report that there's a lot of good folks that are working hard to see 
    to it that we're right 100 percent of the time," added Bush.
    Three things. First comment is unrelated to this but needs to be said.

    Regarding the Mideast Ceasefire...that Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria are claiming a victory is not unexpected. But for Bush to declare Israel the victor is downright stupid. How is that diplomatic? How will that help keep a peace? Instead the U.S. should have stated a more neutral position claiming that neither side won because simply neither side did win. The body bags tell that story. Bush should be muzzled.

    About the blurb above and point number the U.S. has two wars without end: drugs and terrorism. How convenient then that the onerous laws passed in support of such wars are essentially permanent. All the laws allowing searches based on mere suspicion, wiretaps, etc. are set up for the third "War without End", namely the "War against Indecency". We've seen the opening broad sides with the reprisals for Janet Jackson's wardrobe "malfunction". We have the V-chip appearing in TV's, ratings on everything. Next up will be the final push to control our information for decency's sake. It won't be called censorship, it'll be called decency filtering or some such buzz phrase. It'll be for our safety.

    And that's the third point. The Bush cabal wants you to think that safety must be gained at the sake of freedom, or phrased differently, it's freedom vs. safety. But the two aren't opposites. The opposite of freedom is imprisonment and as they take away more of our liberties, we must therefore become more imprisoned. Are we more safe? Let's put it this way, how many of you would voluntarily go to a Federal prison to be more safe? None of you, I bet, because our prisons are incredibly dangerous. To be safe doesn't mean you have to give up freedoms. It does mean you have to be smart, responsible, alert, and respectful. But thiese are the Bush years so those qualities don't apply.

    Rambling Roundup
    08.12.06 (2:57 pm)   [edit]
    The Dodgers are at the top of their division but the local little league team could as easily be there. I remember Tommy Lasorda saying many years ago that a good team would win about 2/3rds of their games. By that criterion only Detroit could be considered a good team. None would be a great team.

    Bruin football starts in a month but no one will notice because USC football starts at the same time. What new Trojan scandals will we see this year? My knives are sharpened.

    Two paragraphs without mentioning Bush. That's a new personal best. But it's too depressing. Last year I thought Bush couldn't get any worse or act more incompetent. Boy, was I wrong. I think this guy is hellbent on getting Armageddon going - seriously! That's what the Religious Right wants - a Master War in the Mid-East so that Judgement Day occurs and Bush gets to ride a white stallion at the side of Jesus, or some lunatic fantasy like that.

    It's all bloodshed - more stupid, unnecessary, religious-based bloodshed. It's to the point where they fight because they don't know any other way to live. Democracy isn't the answer in that case. They need a touch of humanity. Notice I haven't specified which side this would apply to - both could use the touch.

    And the recent British interruption of a major potential act of terrorism... Why, if the bad guys have been caught are they subjecting the rest of us to these onerous rules and regulations? They didn't have the rules when they caught the bad guys, why impose them now? It doesn't make sense. I guess Bush and Blair want to show they're on top of things, maybe get their approval ratings out of the toilet.

    The best way to show terrorists the beauty of Freedom and Democracy is to have unfettered Freedom and Democracy. Anything else shows the terrorists have won and are arguably on the side of the current ruling Regime. Or, put in plain English, Bush needs and wants terrorists. With them, he can justify passing and/or breaking any law. The proof is in our existence.

    One more time: Impeach Bush!

    Another Fine Mess
    08.09.06 (6:36 pm)   [edit]
    In the LA Times, conservative columnist Max Boot (AKA Das Boot) called for increasing the number of troops in Iraq or we may lose the war. I had to fight my breakfast from coming up because for the past - what? - three years we've heard nothing from the Bush Administration but that "Mission accomplished", or that the war was won and this is a minor skirmish, or that things are getting better in Iraq.

    They're not. Either the civil war that's occuring is going to get worse and take a lot of our soldiers in the process, or the country may split apart, fight amongst themsleves and still take a lot of our soldiers in the process. Iraq stinks and we need to get out.

    We shouldn't have invaded in the first place. Doing so gave Iran the breathing room to spread their wings (and armaments) and now look. The Mid-East isn't in any better shape and the World isn't any safer. But what can you expect when you have a semi-literate, (possibly recovering) alcoholic, no-nothing, malleable puppet for a leader as we do.

    At least, Lieberman got his neo-conservative ass whooped. Democrat! He's as Democratic as Falwell.

    Ramming Speed
    08.03.06 (9:18 pm)   [edit]
    Driving home today I almost purposely rammed into the car ahead of me. He wasn't driving erratically but he did something so annoying that I nearly lost whatever semblance of cool I had. Even with Led Zeppelin blasting on the stereo, my apres-work calm got destroyed.

    So what did he do? Did he flip me off? No, I bet he didn't even know that what he did was an act of provocation.

    What he did was, simply, throw his used, lit cigarette butt out his car window, where it landed on the ground and started gently rolling with the wind. The cigarette was still lit and letting off a thin wisp of smoke.

    Here's why his little act cheesed me off:

  • The most obvious reason: littering. He might not give a flying about the neighborhood but I do and a cigarette butt here and there, and over there adds up to a lot of butts. The kids don't need to find them and play with them.
  • The weather finally stopped its brutal heat, leaving a nice dry city ripe for fires. Chucking a lit cigarette out the window won't make it magically stop smoldering. That, with the gentle wind, meant the stick would stay lit *AND* be on the move. This is how many of the fires get started - stupidity.
  • But the biggest reason was that on his car was one of those DARE bumperstickers. Dude! You dare your kids to keep off drugs while you suck on a deathstick. Good example fo the young 'uns.
    I shouldn't get so worked up but it was so stupid and the temptation to ram my Suburban up his little prissy Toyota tailpipe was THERE, if you get my drift. One little firm press on the accelerator...

    Monday Miscellaneous Musings
    07.31.06 (8:42 pm)   [edit]
    I can't believe it's the end of July already. The summer's half over and the heat wave finally broke. It's a beautiful morning. Shame that I have to waste it on going to work.

    Does anyone else find it ironic that now Bush is asking the U.N. for help? After snubbing and castrating the U.N. to push his invasion of Iraq, now Bush finds that perhaps he's in over his head. That or he plans to set them up as some sort of scapegoat. If it sounds like I have no trust or faith in Bush, you're absolutely right. Any sympathy I had for the guy after 9/11 disappeared once the war rhetoric kicked in. Can we please have a President who doesn't take us into some sort of war?

    I'm thinking of converting to Islamo-Christianity. Then I could claim to be a servant of Allah and kill heathens in his name (to get the virginal reward). Any guilt I feel would be absolved because I'd also accpt Christ as my savior. The problem is: should I kill myself as a heathen?

    Bully Bush Bad Boy
    07.30.06 (9:46 am)   [edit]
    Too often I get the feeling that Bush was bullied as a young boy and now he's striking back by portraying a tough guy image, an image that worked for John Wayne and other "tough Texans" but in reality has made a shambles in the political world. His "oops the mike is on?!?" remark showed a shallow grasp of the desperate and dangerous situation in the MIddle East. His typical reaction and pro-action of "More force, more force!" may bring smiles to the Terminator intellects that comprise his ilk, and to those who think that the U.S. has some sort of right to rule the world, but for those of us who do use our brains regularly we see his leadership and use of American forces as an unnecessary waste. He has not made the world safe for Democracy, nor for another other ideology. He's bringing the world down to his level where thinking and negotation is discouraged and animal instincts are encouraged. "No talk, just fight!" must be his private motto, thinking this game of "King of the Hill" will always have him at the top.

    But we know how those games always ended: with the King deposed. Mud-covered, grass-stained, the King watches as another King fights to reign supreme and so it continues until the voices of the Parents call them home for dinner.

    If only George and Barbara would call Dubya in for dinner. Maybe then we could start repairing the damage done by this darn Bush Boy.

    Time For A New Car
    07.26.06 (7:18 pm)   [edit]
    The transmission died on my circa 1994 car. It'll cost about $2500 to repair, which I'll pay, but I think it's time to start looking for a new car. My wife wants a hybrid. I want functionality. Although it'll be our main commuter car it'll need to, in a pinch, stand in for our traveling car, which is a nice gas guzzling 'burb.

    Why, you may ask, is your traveling car a gas guzzling Suburban? Because on any given weekend we have minimum 5 bodies to schlep, up to the max of 8. That's why. When the 'burb is in the shop we need a backup that can handle our family of 5.

    So I'm thinking like a sedan or something. Not new but maybe 1 year used. That way there should still be a warranty in effect but you won't suffer that quick depreciation of buying new. Any thoughts? Any recommendations?


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    FactCheck.ORG not .COM
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    Open The Government
    Americans United for Separation of Church and State
    Church of Critical Thinking
    The New Enlightenment
    Mother Jones

    Secular Web - Atheism
    Skeptic's Annotated Bible and annotated Koran.
    The Happy Heretic
    The Skeptic's Dictionary
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