a blog to argue with danny

Monday, February 04, 2008

Election Coverage: Preview

The government is boring. From agricultural marketing services appropriation spending to endlessly debating nickel vs. aluminum tariffs negotiations, the work and function of the federal government is a complex web mostly impacting the fine minutiae of the world around us. And it is the proud duty of our highly valued elected politicians to wade through the muck and the mire of endless paperwork and opinions, to resolve and agree upon the mundane details of our lives. Sure, from the outside, it seems that every day congressmen ponder large decisions which will shape not only our future, but form our children's children world, but a quick look at this past week in the senate shows a different picture. Here's a few snapshots what was voted on this past Friday:

Action: To amend the National Trails System Act to designate the New England National Scenic Trail, and for other purposes.Latest Major Action: 1/31/2008 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Received in the Senate and Read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Action: A resolution expressing the strong support of the Senate for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to enter into a Membership Action Plan with Georgia and Ukraine.Latest Major Action: 1/31/2008 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

Action: A bill to require the Secretary of Energy to conduct a study of feasibility relating to the construction and operation of pipelines and carbon dioxide sequestration facilities, and for other purposes.Latest Major Action: 1/31/2008 Senate committee/subcommittee actions. Status: Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Hearings held.

Sure, the big name candidates take the floor and inspire us with sweeping generalizations of what our country is, and how he (and in one instance, she) are the only one knowledgeable, principled, and skilled enough to take us into a bright and glorious future. Unfortunately, the president's time which is not swallowed up by personally congratulating the WNBA championship team or meeting awkwardly with foreign leaders, will be spent weighing in on less-than-profound topics of which he has no knowledge on. Most of the major candidates go on about Iraq War this, and economy stimulus that, but any big new initiative will hit a wall, until it's dismantled, rebuilt, and amended into oblivion with pork barrel spending courtesy of the Federal Highway Administration and the Alliance for protecting our historic covered bridges. Every now and then someone goes on how we need a "strong leader", to "strongly lead" our country with demonstrations of "strong leadership." But, has anyone actually taken the time to find out exactly what the president does? I really don't mean to belittle the office of presidency, or the power it can exert, but I believe it's a different kind of power than we normally think of. Personally, I feel the most over-arching responsibility of the presidency is bringing in political appointees, and thus kind of influencing the general conscious and philosophy of Washington. I mean, George Washington wasn't a particularly brilliant man, he did not pose some kind of unique wisdom that resulted in the capital and countless middle schools be named after. What he did in that first presidential cabinet was assemble the greatest political minds at the time and put them around the table. I mean, there were fierce rivals in the group, Adams, Hamilton, Jefferson. This even goes double for Lincoln. Through the early years of the civil war the public kind of viewed him as a bumbler at best and dangerously incompetent at worst. However, he went out of his way to surround himself with his political rivals. And personally, this is what I've viewed the Bush administration as severely lacking. When he came into power he searched the halls of neo-con power to bring together a "greatest hits" cabinet of the nixon / reagan years. His biggest failure came in Iraq, where the administration's philosophy for the rebuilding effort was to have every worker over there having the exact political ideals as the president. They went so far as scouring conservative think tanks for interns with no foreign diplomacy experience, to replace seasoned politicians already on the ground over there.

Now, government may be boring, but politics is interesting. Take, for instance, Arlin Specter's latest threats against Goodell and the NFL. On the surface level, it seems like Specter's a whack job with a personal vendeda. But the NFL owes a magnificent debt to the federal government, as anti-trust exemption allows the NFL to do a lot of funny enforcing of broadcasting rights. And, it's latest power ploy with DirectTV and the NFL network has left a sour taste in the mouths of alot of powerful cable companies. Specter's been known to fight here and there for the cable companies (for reasons you can make up on your own), so it's no suprise he's twisting the knife on the spygate story to ah, you know, tee off a few people. So, all that to say, there's the story, then there's the story, then there's the story.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bellicheck Coached Football as Rome Burned

The 2002 superbowl saw the rise of the New England Patriots, the plucky little upstart that rode obscure rules and a team-first attitude to its first Lombardi trophy, introducing the city of Boston to a game known as “football.” Meanwhile, late 2001 saw the rise of the Patriot Act, the plucky little condensation of increased governmental powers that rode patriotism and good old fashion fear to an easy passage by Congress. Unfortunately, both the New England Patriots and the Patriot Act would receive a good dash on infamy by the close of 2007.

In the opening game of the 2007 season, the New England Patriots went above and beyond the allowed monitoring techniques, brazenly spying on the opposing team’s defensive calls. In the off-season, Bellicheck was specifically warned against this particular spying effort. Meanwhile, he voted against allowing a radio-based communication setup in the helmet of one defensive player, a move which would negate any benefit in signal stealing. After the evidence of spying was brought to light, Bellicheck blamed the incident on a differing interpretation of the rules.

Meanwhile, it came to light that the extended powers of the Patriot Act led to the department of justice going above and beyond the traditional monitoring techniques, brazenly spying on international phone calls and potentially domestic-based calls as well. At the same time, prisoners held by the US were never informed of exactly what they were being held for, and potentially tortured (most definitely, extreme coercion techniques such as water-boarding were used) to extract possibly useful information. After the evidence was brought to light, Alberto Gonzalez (the attorney general at the time) wiggled out of the incident by saying they were using a different interpretation of the rules (specifically, while the US constitution says that the government can-not take away the right of habeus corpus, it does not say that people have the right of habeus corpus. And, as prisoners held in Guantanamo are not specifically citizens, we can do whatever we want to them. Also, the prisoners do not fall under international Geneva convention standards, as the prisoners are not officially prisoners of war, but “enemy combatants”)

But the comparisons don’t stop there. The NFL commissioner confiscated all tapes the Patriots had, then subsequently destroying them all. Did they possibly cover-up evidence of similar cheating in the past superbowls? Congress wanted to confiscate all tapes the justice department had of interrogations, unfortunately, all these tapes were destroyed. Did they possibly cover-up evidence of torture? For years the Patriots allowed minimal media coverage of their training camps, disallowing the press to see the conditions they were putting their players through. At the same time, the US government denied international organizations the ability to observe the conditions of prisoners in Guantanamo (not to mention any secret prisons scattered throughout the world), disallowing the press to see the conditions they were putting the enemy combatants through. The Patriots have supported dictatorial regimes around the world, by way of Bob Kraft providing Putin with precious stones. The US government has supported dictatorial regimes around the world, by way of not asking too many questions, in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The Patriots have evolved from a hard nose run/defense team to one that relies on the air (leaving vulnerable their aging linebacker core). The US military has evolved from a infantry, boots on the ground mentality to one that relies on the air (leaving vulnerable their aging infantry units with improper armor). Gillete Stadium is built on catering to the wealthy (in forms of luxury boxes and exclusive concourse areas). The US government is evolved to catering to the wealthy (by removing the estate tax and not even daring to increase taxes of the wealthy while the debt sky-rockets). Rodney Harrison takes performance-enhancing drugs. Cheney shoots people in the face. The similarities are stunning.

All you need to do is listen to patriots sports talk radio for a few minutes to get the full effect. Any mention of the Jets or the Colts, and is the conversation any different than "2 minutes of hate" in 1984? Or how about an interview with Brady or any other leading Patriot. No group of people are that single-minded and mono-syllabic without some form of brain-washing. I mean, it's impossible for that many bland personalities to "randomly" be on the same team. To sum it up, exactly what am I saying? That the rise of Patriots dynasty coincides, and dare I say, caused, the evolution of the US from a privacy-driven republic into some kind of Orwellian, totalitarian regime. War is peace, my friend.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

And thus the creation/evolution debate ends with one obscure blog posting

Somewhere in he Everlasting Man, g.k. chesterton makes the point that most of the classic creation myths weren't made by the thinkers of the time but by the poets. They usually involve various gods competing against one another, some wild entity doing combat with some other thing. None of these are really a logical processing of the world, I suppose if someone went about thinking of it logically we would have our cold scientific viewpoint from the beginning of the century, that everything has basically always been around and colliding in a random and chaotic fashion. What the ancients were trying to get at with these creation stories was not just a description of the world around them, but a description of how they fit into that world. We all experience this wide range of emotions, emotions that cause us to act in crazy and unpredictable ways. What these old stories get at, is that our emotional existence is just an extension of what came before us. These stories try to see the world and ourselves as more than just a thing that needed to be created, but as some step in a larger story. That's what these myths do, tie the human experience into some larger epic, and have our individual lives weave in and out of these events like the actors in a play. So, from this framework, I don't really see the need to back out a scientific explanation from the Genesis creation account. It doesn't seem that the flow and prose was to set up some description of the world, as if all creation, nature, and humanity was like so many planks of particle board, assembled in mechanical fashion with a cosmic alan wrench, and that our bible is just the leftover instruction manual. But it seeks to drive home the point that this was a creation of poetry, and song, and speech, and creativity. I appreciate the mystery of it all. There's a whole history of existence that stretches before the bible, and whole portion that most likely stretches beyond. We begin with the human account in Genesis, and even that is mysterious. I mean, sometimes we get a little vain that seeing as we started when God created us, that God started when we were created. There's a mystery beyond and between the verses.

Now's the time when I might get a little blasphemous. Our whole life is speeding along at a constant rate along the uni-directional stream of time. This God we are interacting with is beyond all that, having created it in the first place. Once more, we ourselves are beyond it all, having been created as eternal beings and one day leaving this whole spiral. Then, if this is true, why should our actions only have repercussions in the future? Can the decisions we make today, have affected events in the past, can our decision to not travel to Oregon for the weekend, set in motion a series of events in our life that will affect us in our current state, a series of events that would only mean something if we stayed here? Then comes the greatest decision man made, the fall. Can our rebellion of God set us apart to live in a cold and impersonal universe, one that is only now being resurrected into the glorious future by the appearance of the firstborn? What stems from this line of thinking is not that only the future is being made perfect, but the complete range of human existence.

Monday, September 24, 2007

On Morality and the Sporting World

So I was listening to sports talk radio the other day, they had this fellow on who was a beat writer for the yankees way back in the day (around the 50-60s). Back then, the salaries between the writers and the ball-players were pretty equal, so they viewed each other as more or less equals. The players would open and be friendly with the writers, knowing that any slip-up or misjudgement wouldn't be plastered on the back of the post with some ryming headline. The guy also talked about how players were a little more accessible, there wasn't this celebrity image about them, gods playing on a different level. I'm not sure what the best modern-day example would be, I would suspect some kind of local tv-personality. You don't exactly flip out if you see them on the street, but you know, smile, nod and move on with your life. So...flash forward 50 years and the biggest story on the post is what t-shirt a-rod's wife wears to the game. You get players thinking money is more important than team atmosphere, because the money they earn is a mark on their ability. You get players villified or idolized beyond any reasonable level, cause of careless mistakes on or off the field. I mean, I remember when my parents were in town we were wandering through some tourist sports shop, with stacks and stacks of old red sox picture. The ones' that caught my eye were of joe dimaggio and ted williams in the dugout together, smiling, and right after it was varatek shoving a-rod in the face.

If I wanted to get a little high-minded right now, I could say that sports really started taking off in the public's consciousness and became this, almost moral center, right when our classic beliefs died. In the quagmire of post-modernism, our myths aren't formed out of classic historical/mythical heroes, but sports players. They are the modern gods, and we'll defend or vilify them as we see fit.

In the end though, it's just a game, another form of entertainment. The old adage is that the best sports can do is remind us of classical values that are possible, such as strong work ethic and commitment and junk. Bellicheck filming signs isn't the worst thing that's happened to football, heck, it's not the worst thing that happened to football on that day, but it ain't positive either. We've been consumed with doping and dog fighting, and then you have the knicks sexual harassment suit and anything OJ. Let's just get one positive story out of sports okay? I guess Bucholz is pretty good. After his no-hitter, he cut off his press conference to call his parents. And Joba Chamberlain, melt your heart you cold hearted new englanders.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Brady Sucks...

Recently Tom Brady was hatin on Jets fans for calling out "Brady Sucks" after he won 38-14. Now come on Tom, saying a player or a team sucks without any applicability is one of sports proudest traditions. I mean, why else would they announce the visiting team one player at a time, with a notable pause after ever name, if we weren't meant to scream "sucks". But if Tom really wants me to spell out why he sucks, well....

....it's just he is surrounded by an extraordinary team.
I mean, come on, this guy was the backup quarterback at Michigan. Michigan! Not only did Michigan get blown out 39-7 to Oregon, but lost to a 1-AA team two weeks ago. And if Tom was just second-string at a sub-par school, well then, the only explanation for his renaissance is he is surrounded by superior talent that drags him up to excellence.

...at acting.
Remember those awkward and stilted commercials with Tom Brady some three years ago? Well, luckily that faded quickly. And judging by the exponential growth in Peyton commercials, we'll never have to suffer those again.

...at commitment.
I don't think I need to explain, come on Brady, be a man.

...at making football interesting.
Does anyone pay attention to tennis or golf these days? Of course not, one player so dominates each sport that it makes every tournament a foregone conclusion. Honestly, without fantasy football and isolated pockets of Patriots fans, who is going to pay attention to the NFL if the Pats keep on this course? Red Sox fans don't yell the Yankees suck because we deride their playing ability, but because they nearly destroyed baseball in the late nineties. I know everyone asks to watch dominate players at the top of their form playing, but it's the worst viewing experience. I mean, come on, if and when the Patriots blow out San Diego, who will be surprised, and who will care?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Quote of the Day

Okay....so i guess it's not really the quote of the day. I've been kind of, like, gone, for the past few months. But I'm trying to post again, really, I'll start off easy with an...adapted quote.

You may have picked up the notion that you must submit by patience to God's will. What He means by this is primarily that you should accept with patience the tribulation which has actually been dealt out to you, the present anxiety and suspense. It is about this that you should say, "Thy will be done," and for the daily task of bearing this that the daily bread will be provided. Think of the present fear as your appointed cross, and not the things you are afraid of. Don't forget that, since all present fears are incompatible, they cannot all happen to you, and do not practice fortitude and patience to them all in advance. For real resignation, at the same moment, to a dozen different and hypothetical fates, is almost impossible. Resignation to present and actual suffering, even where that suffering consists of fear, is far easier. ~ cs lewis

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

It's not that complicated of a show...

So basically this post is for all the haters out there, who think the show Lost is too confusing and doesn't make no sense. And to them I say, ph, don't be a hater. I'll basically explain what's going on in the show.

Basically, there is an island in the south pacific which is some physical manifestation of spirituality. It's kind of an eastern/western religious presence, in that anyone on the island is some part of the entity, and on a certain level can physically alter it. However, the island does have some consciousness that it is leading the castaways on a distinct path of redemption. The island's will manifests in two ways: the smoke monster, which acts as judge, jury, and executioner (think the spirit of the Lord coming down on the night of passover), to test the resolve of some, and to eliminate those who refuse to be redeemed (Eko); and the second is the manifested entities out of some magic box that led the castaways along. For instance, jack's father appears and leads him to water, or the cat out of Sayid's past that reminds him of a time when grace was extended. Exactly what the island is, how a spiritual manifestation appeared, well, that's at the end of the show.

The "others", or "hostels", may at some point been true followers of the island, but since then have fallen into false prophesy under the control of a cult leader. They emphasize the justice requirements of the island, without the possibility of redemption. They run an active recruiting process around the world looking for those "pure" enough for their religion, and at times look for scientists and such to preserve their way of life. However, this last little bit, turning to science, has left them out of favor with the island and further down their cultish path.

Then finally, sometime in the sixties, a man by the name of valenzetti determined a mathematical equation that could predict the end of the world. In that equation were six constants, 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42. The dharma initiative was founded to somehow change any one of these constants through scientific research, and thus save the world. They established as their research location the island, but that didn't work out so well for a number of reasons. One, you can't go poking around something as powerful as the island without horrible results (the button pushing to save the world), and two, the others killed them all.

I guess there's a few lingering questions, but it's not that complicated...