The Right Words

Elder Shane N. Bowen said some things recently that cause no controversy, uproar, or outrage. In fact, quite the opposite: they are words of peace, joy, and strength. They are about the loss of a child, his own son, and the feelings that arise naturally out of love and the feelings that can come through remembering the purity of God’s love.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my own son that died before he turned three. I miss Jarom deeply and lovingly. I know I will see him again, and I know that what Elder Bowen says is true. If you want to know how I know what he says is true, you can read the talk delivered prior to his at the LDS Conference to learn more of the power and role of the Holy Ghost.

These words mean many, many things to me. They are a part of my spiritual bedrock, the foundation I wish to build upon. It’s not that I read these and suddenly knew a peace that had escaped me for many years. It’s that I read these and felt the peace I have felt for eleven years as I turn to God for comfort. With these things in mind, life is beautiful. Life is always beautiful.

Another Shame on the GOP

40 Republican senators blocked the passage of a bill that would have given job training benefits to veterans. The bill would have cost $1 billion over five years to help those that put their lives at risk for the benefit of Koch Industries, Bechtel, Halliburton, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and other great ├╝ber-rich American corporations.

How can only 40 senators block a bill, when it takes 51 to vote it down? Easy. They threaten a filibuster. It takes 61 votes to halt a filibuster, and 100-40=60. The same Republicans that will go ape if one so much as points a finger at a defense cut decided a mere billion dollars over five years is too much for the people that have done their duty.

Disgusting. These Republicans are War Pigs, to borrow a line from Black Sabbath. Here are the names of the War Pigs, the men that worship the God of War, but desecrate the soldiers returning home:
Alexander (R-TN)
Ayotte (R-NH)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boozman (R-AR)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coats (R-IN)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Johnson (R-WI)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Lee (R-UT)
Lugar (R-IN)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Moran (R-KS)
Paul (R-KY)
Portman (R-OH)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rubio (R-FL)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Toomey (R-PA)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

Only two had to switch their vote for cloture, and the bill would have passed. Their protests that it would not have worked are asinine. The bill itself was revenue-neutral. The GOP Senate leadership ran away from reporters wanting answers about this. Cowards. Ungrateful, slimy, reprobate COWARDS. They can’t stand up to banks or major defense contractors, but it’s easy for them to crush a few little veterans, coming home from wars they voted for.

No wonder Colin Powell endorsed Obama. General Powell cares about the veterans.

And if any Republican wants to step up and try to defend his party’s stance on veterans, feel free to do so, but I’m going to revile you if you try and defend outright moral cowardice. You’ve got freedom of speech, and so do I. Don’t try and offer some bland qualification for the bill: that’s party spew, and you know it. The truth is simple: There is a Gang of Forty Thieves in the GOP senate caucus, and they’ve stolen from our soldiers. Shame on them and shame on those who stand with them and shame on those who buy their votes.

Special Witnesses of Christ

I remember seeing this video when it first came out. I am so glad it’s available again. While I can put it up here and say, “For those interested in what Mitt Romney believes, here’s a link…”, I really am posting the link because it’s what I believe and this is a message of joy and peace. Yes, it’s long, but there are also shorter chapters available (under titles such as “Special Witnesses of Christ, Part 4″ and the like…) and these messages should not be missed. Maybe you might want to miss them, and maybe your day becomes all the better for hearing them. For me, they are greater than gold or silver.

Full video:

Chinese Chess

I play Chinese Chess. It is a game primarily of position. Western approaches to the game, in which players muster strength and keep track of pawns eliminated, fail in the face of bold sacrifices that may lose key pieces in order to gain an unconquerable position. It is a game of rapid movement and development, unlike its European cousin, where pieces create fortifications that must be assailed. In Chinese Chess, everything is in motion in a very un-Western-like way.

Which brings me to Iran… the USA/Israel axis wants to keep Iran from having a nuclear weapon, and have even hinted that a war may be needed to enforce that wish. While China would prefer to get its oil from Iran without trouble, it can withstand a war with Iran interrupting its energy supplies. China knows it’s going to experience a huge downturn in its economy in the near future. Why not take all its lumps at once? In exchange for that sacrifice, the USA becomes horribly entangled in Iran.

Ten years down the road, China would emerge from its second Cultural Revolution with its house restored to order – after considerable hardship and loss of lives – and the USA would be either wrecked on the rocks of the Middle East, or perilously close to such a fate.

What if the USA stays out of Iran? Well, ten years down the road, the USA may be in better financial and military shape, but China will have a nuclear-armed ally to secure the other side of the Central Asian petrochemical field. That, in turn, would necessitate an alliance with Russia to act as a counter to Chinese power. Should China have closer ties with Russia, then the USA would be looking at a period of decline until China and Russia have their eventual falling-out…

So, basically, Iran holds the USA in check. Either we have a war with it or ignore it, either option to China’s benefit.

The Handmaiden’s Candidates

First, there was that GOP guy in Missouri with his “legitimate rape” thinking. Now there’s a GOP guy in Indiana with “it’s something God intended.” One guy might – might – be an isolated incident. Two guys start to form a pattern.

Little quips about Big Bird, binders, and bayonets are par for the course in politics. Trying to find some way to justify rapes, no matter how finely worded those justifications may be, are beyond the pale. Here in North Texas, a state race is hinging on how one candidate rejected legislation that would increase prosecution against rapists. Guess what party he’s a member of? Like I said, a pattern.

This is not a time for GOP people to react with indignation that all Republicans are being tarred with the same brush. This is a time for the GOP to put its house in order. Romney still presents a sane view on rape: he’s against it and he does not oppose abortion in the case of rape. He won’t win Democrat votes with that stance, but at least he won’t turn the USA into a bizarre theocracy with his views.

I find it ironic that the people most likely to fling poo at Romney for being “part of a cult” are also those most likely to themselves be part of a misogynistic cult that has hijacked a good part of the Republican party. There are crazed demagogues in the Democrat party, but at least they hold the view that women are equal to men as far as rights and liberties go. The GOP used to be a party that tried to claim that it was tough on crime. A fine stance, in my view.

But being tough on crime except rape? Unacceptable to me and any other sane person, in or out of the GOP.

Some Thoughts About World Cuisines…

When I travel, I don’t feel comfortable spending a large amount of money on meals. I love eating good things, but, to me, the price of the meal is part of the presentation and enjoyment of the dinner. That means I seek out great flavors at low costs. If there’s a $3000-per-gram ingredient that’s out of this world, I’ll never know about it except in legend.

I’ve been to places that offered very little in the way of affordable flavor and I’ve been to places where the locals put out impressive spreads. Not every culture or region shares the same attitude about food. That’s why, for example, Mexico’s cuisine is a UNESCO “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” and Russian cuisine isn’t. It’s not that Russian food is bad or objectionable in any way: it’s that Russians don’t have the same approach to eating that Mexicans do.

And before any Russians out there start plotting my demise for dismissing their national palate, let me defend my view of things. I consider Russian art and music to have few equals in the world. The Russian armies’ feats in World War Two were matchless. The Russian spirit is tough, indomitable, and forged in iron. The region simply hasn’t been blessed with a cornucopia of ingredients, that’s all. It’s cold there, so the growing season is short. That makes food more scarce than in tropical regions. The Russians also never developed a taste for spices, so their cuisine has more to do with subtle, muted flavors and interesting textures. And while I can’t get very excited about my next blini, I’m positively mad about Russian chocolates. If I was to write a book about chocolate, I’d be discussing instead how Chinese chocolate doesn’t stack up to the Mexican stuff and be saving the Russians for special praise later on.

You know what… one day, I’ll write about great chocolates of the world. Russia gets a big mention in that, guaranteed.
Right now, though, it’s about the food.

I’ve got a theory about the great cuisines of the world. While every region has a dish or two that can be pretty amazing, for a cuisine to truly stand out, it needs a large range of dishes that, time and again, in the hands of different preparers, cannot fail to deliver enjoyment. When I think of the differences between Mexican food and Russian food, I have to take into account the geography. I mentioned the cold and short growing season in Russia. Now consider the year-round bounty of Mexico. Add to that the fact that a huge range of fruits and vegetables will flourish in the warmth of Mexico that are simply impossible to grow in places where it freezes – like Russia. Face it, Russia is not known for its mangoes, pineapples, or papayas. If someone tried to sell you a crate of Russian bananas, you would greet the offer with disbelief.

Those fruits are exotic in colder places, but are common enough in warmer climates to be ground, pulped, and prepared in bulk sufficient to make them available as ingredients in everyday dishes. The same goes for spices. Warm places grow ‘em like nobody’s business: they use ‘em the same way. Colder places place such a premium on them that they will use a “th” where their warmer cousins toss in an apostrophe. Historically, the spices were harder to get to the colder places, so the people there either did without them or used them sparingly. Many is the time that I’ve looked at my pepper grinder, loaded with black peppercorns, and fantasized about traveling back in time to Europe to sell those very peppercorns for a massive fortune… and then use that fortune to sail somewhere warm, where I could enjoy food with big, bold flavors for the rest of my temporally-shifted life.

The other factor in these warmer places that makes their cooking something special has to be the warmness itself. Look, where it’s cold, there’s always an excuse to fire up the oven to keep the house warm. Want to warm up a pot of oats? Sure! No problem! You get the wood and I’ll rattle those pots and pans!

Try the same scenario where it’s sweltering. Oats? Seriously? You want oats? In this heat? Just oats? If those guys are going to actually cook something and make this place any hotter, it better be good. So how about instead of a bucket of warm oats, what say we whip up some lasagna? Or Szechuan chicken? Or tacos al pastor? Maybe some chicken tikka masala? Falafel, perhaps?

Right now, I’m thinking you’re drooling a bit more than when I discussed the boiled grains. That’s a sign of a great cuisine. Those places had plenty of stuff to eat, with an embarrassment of varietal riches, but it was so blasted hot in those places that when they made something to eat, it had to be amazing, or it simply wasn’t worth the rise in temperature. Those are the crucibles from which the great cuisines of the world emerged.

Debate a Blahfest

There were no surprises in the debate last night. There were no slip-ups, no gaffes, and no real zingers. I sat through the whole thing last night and the only memorable moments were when Jim Lehrer sounded like he wanted a killswitch for the microphones as both candidates went long on their time. Here’s a sample of what I remember:

Lehrer: President Obama, tell us about your economic plan.

Obama: First let me say blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah jobs blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Lehrer: Governor Romney, what is your response?

Romney My plan is to blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah jobs blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Lehrer: Oh mercy sakes please make them stop.

I know they established that they were different in their policies. No surprise. I know that the differences were minor, at best. Also no surprise. I know that Romney said he’d go after the “Too Big to Fail” banks and I laughed hard. I know that Obama defended his economic plan and I cried a little on the inside.

Here’s the problem: Medicare. Here’s how to fix it: gut it or cut it way back. We can’t afford it in its current state. If the government is going to provide health care to people, it’s going to have to limit it. It can’t be unlimited. Romney claimed the middle class is gettin’ crushed, but then did an about-face and said they could afford health insurance. That’s flat-out ignorant. Obama was saying his horribly convoluted plan would work. Also, flat-out ignorant.

Romney kept claiming he would be fiscally responsible, but offered no cuts in any of the areas that make up the majority of federal spending: social security, medicare, military, and treasury support of those TBTF banks. Obama said he’d make cuts in the military and that somehow the others would be fine.

BOTH of these guys have no real plan to deal with the next pending financial crisis. The global economy is going to go through some convulsions. There is going to be a massive wave of Marxism in the wake of a financial sector crisis. Workers in critical industries, trucking and mining in particular, know that they can hold nations hostage. They will strike, and they will win. They can’t be easily replaced, so their demands must be met or the nations will grind to a halt. South Africa is experiencing a wave of strikes in critical industries right now. We could be next.

What would *my* plan be? Take a page from Otto von Bismarck’s playbook and institute socialism on conservative terms before it is instituted on radical terms. Blood and iron, baby, blood and iron.

Katrina Aid and Racism

So Fox News decided to re-air an old video of Obama making an accusation that the aid in the wake of Katrina may have been tainted by racism. I think he has a valid point. Areas of public housing that were untouched by floods got condemned… and they just so happened to be on prime property between the commercial sector and Bourbon Street. Watch all of Greg Palast’s “From Big Easy to Big Empty” for all kinds of details in that regard. Palast does his homework right, and the story he uncovers is shocking and disgusting. Full video here:

The refineries got saved, all right – and Greg Palast got fined for filming the refinery for his documentary under the PATRIOT Act – and so did the downtown areas. The aid for the poor blacks of New Orleans, though, did not rebuild their homes. It did not rebuild their lives. They got stuck in concentration camps with daily trips to a nearby Wal-Mart, and little else.

And why was Katrina such a disaster? Let me steal a bit of the thunder from that Palast report to say that the person that tossed the LSU evacuation plan aside and put in her own total lack of a plan was a major Bush campaign donor. She had zero experience in emergency response planning, but she wrote a big check to Bush and that was good enough. In return, she got a $500,000 contract to sit on her thumbs and hope no hurricane happened. That’s a real good return on investment, by the way… And after her gross criminal negligence that resulted in people having to watch the water go past their noses… that resulted in preventable deaths of fellow Americans… she faced zero criminal charges. In fact, she wrote another check and got another $500,000 government contract: to investigate her own negligence.

Bush had a history of helping his cronies duck responsibility. This is one of those stories. If those poor blacks voted Republican, they wouldn’t have drowned in a Bush administration, I can guarantee you that much.

An Open Letter to People New to Conspiracy Theories

Dear lots of people that think Barack Obama is going to destroy democracy as we know it,

Hello. How are you? I am fine. I see more people these days noticing horrible things the government is doing and is capable of doing. Welcome to the club.

I’ve been crying in the wilderness since about 1985. The more I’ve read since then, the more I’ve hollered. I’ve been seeing trends towards maximizing power at the core of government for quite some time. I’m not alone, either. I’ve read books from around 1900-1912, when Americans first began noticing something seriously going wrong with the political-economic arrangements in the nation. The same problems those guys complained about have gotten worse over the last century. This is nothing new.

Since I’ve been doing this for some time, let me help you out with some lessons I’ve learned, so you’ll better deal with your new-found love of finding holes in the government’s claims and impending doom for our rights and freedoms.

1. Set personal limits. For me, it’s UFOs. Once a theory takes me to UFOs, I stop there. I also draw the line at Jesus having children (that one saved me a lot of grief when The DaVinci Code came out…), international conspiracies of religious zealots (Protocols of the Elders of Zion, anyone?), and anything that involves re-explaining basic principles of physics in order to work (so no flat or hollow earth theories for me). Set these limits now, because stuff comes along later that will test those limits. You’re going to be excoriated enough for your fringe views, so you want to make sure you don’t go off the deep end.

2. Be nonpartisan. Most of my research led me to conclude that Republican presidents were connected at the hip to Latin American death squads and that Democrats were guardian angels of the world. For a long time, that blinded me to how LBJ escalated US involvement in Vietnam, Carter fomented Islamic radicals in Afghanistan, and Clinton bombed Serbs to distract the nation from his extramarital affairs. By Clinton’s second term, however, I had started to see that party makes no difference. The power grabbers at the top have no loyalty to anyone but themselves. Therefore, banging the drum to beat down one party while ignoring the other one just makes you look myopic and foolish.

3. The little things are distractions you don’t need. Obama’s birth certificate is exhibit A. Seriously, this makes no difference at all in the grand scheme of things. You want to criticize the man and be taken seriously, go for his failure to close Guantanamo Bay or his use of drones to wipe out families in the desert at the wrong wedding party. The same goes for anyone that tries to argue the 16th Amendment isn’t ratified or that US judges have to have a gold fringe on their flags because they’re operating under British Admiralty Law. Even if you’re right, those aren’t going to amount to anything when you try to take on the major issues. Even the author of the 14th Amendment perjuring himself before the Supreme Court to get the notion of corporate personhood into US jurisprudence doesn’t cut it as a major issue. When that was revealed back in the 1930s, the court said it would keep ruling on that precedent, since it was the way they’d done it for 50 years. So drop the little things and go for the big issues.

3a. This is an important one: if my questioning George Bush’s AWOL when his National Guard outfit instituted drug testing was frivolous and pointless in 2000, Obama’s birth certificate is in the same dustbin of history. If you want to say that Obama shouldn’t be president, then you also need to stand ready to say Bush II was an usurper in the 2000 election. If you’re not ready for that, then you’re a partisan blowhard and you need to re-read #2, above.

4. Read some Howard Zinn. Please. The guy fought in wars, faced dire poverty, and still came out to be one of the greatest historians, ever. He’s done his homework and he knows his beans, so read his stuff and take a few lessons from him. Heck, I’ll read criticisms from the left, right, top, bottom, in between, and all around town. I won’t read ones from outer space (see #1, above). I may not agree with conclusions drawn, but I will thank one and all that bring new facts to my sight.

5. Make sure you’re not engaging in inflating citations. We all want two sources. A source that quotes an original source isn’t a second source, though. Getting a good primary source document is good, but make sure it’s not a forgery. But quoting someone that quotes someone else doesn’t mean you have two sources. You have one source, repeated. This involves more legwork and study to get your facts straight, but it’s well worth the time spent.

6. You need to read Alfred W. McCoy’s The Politics of Heroin. Next, you need to read Gary Webb’s Dark Alliance. Both of these guys did emeritus work in uncovering uncomfortable truths. They’ll put stuff on your plate that you never dreamed possible. For some advanced stuff, read the Attorney General’s report on Klaus Barbie and its mention of a “Vatican Ratline” and THEN go into some searching on Cardinal Krunoslav Draganovic to see how deep this stuff can go. After those things, it’ll put a lot of other stuff into perspective.

7. Find a moral center. I had to do this eventually, so you might as well do it now. I can’t change the world, but I can change myself and be a positive influence on the people around me. I love life and I love people in general, even though I don’t always understand them. My purpose in decrying injustice is not a national agenda, but an educative one. I don’t think I can change the way things are with my vote or a letter to Congress, but I can change the way things are in my community by being involved and taking care of those that need help. My moral center comes from my personal set of beliefs: your moral center’s mileage may vary, as it may very well come from a different source. That doesn’t bother me, as I know that anyone seeking to be compassionate is, at heart, a good person.

Hope this helps,