Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pandering to Ignorance

The above picture is a copy of the state-issued birth certificate of President Barack Obama. This is not good enough, though, for rabid teabaggers known as "birthers." They keep obsessing over the "long-form birth certificate" and want President Obama to be seen holding a copy in his hands to "prove" once and for all that he is a natural-born citizen. Its ridiculous. This demand has racist undertones, even though people who are birthers deny being racist. However, their ignorance knows no bounds. Black people in America have constantly had their citizenship denied and questioned. From the 3/5ths compromise in the U.S. Constitution to the Dred Scott Decision to the Jim Crow laws to the purging of voter rolls in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, there has been a systematic effort to deny black people their full rights as American citizens or even identity as Americans.

This latest episode is not any different. Its not hard to believe that the first black president would face such opposition. That much is to be expected. After all, when Richard Nixon saw the key to his 1968 victory as being disaffected white voters in the South, slowly but surely, the South turned from being loyal Democrats (due to the sheer hatred of the Republican party regarding the liberation of slaves and destruction of the South in the Civil War and the Reconstruction period) into a solid Republican region.

While some might wonder why Obama just doesn't come out and show that he has a birth certificate that birthers will accept, I'm familiar with this game. Its merely a taunting game. Nothing Obama can do will ever satisfy these people. Its an endless taunt because this hardly matters. The point is that among birthers and teabaggers, they do not consider Obama to be a legitimate president at all and they are grasping at the only thing they think they have a case on regarding his supposed illegitimacy. In psychology books, there is a concept known as "projecting." According to this psychological disorder, a person often projects his or her doubts or shadow personalities onto someone that he or she views as an "enemy." So, perhaps this is just an indication that these birthers and teabaggers had doubts about Bush's legitimacy and project it on to the scary black man. After all, Bush was definitely an illegitimate president who couldn't even win the popular vote in 2000. If people want to get outraged by illegitimacy, the time to do that was in 2000, not 2008 or 2010 or now. As one Bushie told me in 2002: "Get over it!"

So, let's just humour the birthers for a moment. Let's say that Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii. His mom was a natural born citizen and that means that any child she gives birth to anywhere in the world is a natural born citizen!! So, if Obama was born in Kenya, then the argument is irrelevant anyway because of his American-citizen mother. As one who was born overseas to one parent who is a natural-born American citizen and one parent who was not yet a citizen, I received a birth certificate that was issued by the Department of State. It looks similar to the one posted above. Same colour paper, similar design style. Very much U.S. government bureaucracy style. If I ran for public office, would the birthers have an uproar over my birth certificate? Well, as Sarah Palin would say: "You betcha!"

Second point. In 2008, if we did not elect Obama president by a clear majority, then Senator John McCain would be our president now. And guess what? McCain was born in Panama!!! But no one questions his citizenship because his father and grandfather were both Admirals in the U.S. Navy. But more importantly, no one questions his citizenship because he's WHITE. Well, technically, Obama is half-white. His African father abandoned his white mother and he was raised primarily by his white mother and her white parents, save for a few years in Indonesia as a young boy.

Third point. Let's say that Obama was born in Kenya for argument's sake. Now, let's think logically about this. This means that Obama's mother, who was from a lower middle class family and was in college in Hawaii, would have to travel to Kenya all by herself in her last month or two of pregnancy. Remember, this was 1961. Travel was not cheap, especially to an isolated place like Kenya would be at that time (I don't think you can get a direct flight from the U.S. to Kenya even today). What loving parent would allow their only daughter to travel halfway across the world alone and pregnant so she can give birth to their first grandchild in some questionable hospital in a third world country? That's the question no birther can seem to answer. Its not rational to think that they would've allowed this. For one thing, how could they afford it? For another, why would their daughter travel halfway around the world to give birth away from the people she knew all her life? Another point, Obama's father was a polygamist, who had a wife back in Kenya. Why would he want his American wife to potentially meet the African wife he never told her about? Finally, after giving birth, this white woman would return to the U.S. with a black baby in her arms and have to go through customs. This is 1961, remember. America was still segregated and miscegenation (interracial sex / marriage) was against the law.

Occam's Razor applies here. So does logic. Which makes more sense? Obama was born in a hospital in Hawaii as the state issued birth certificate and two newspaper announcements from that era claim, or this fanciful, highly entertaining story of a traveling pregnant American woman seeking to give birth away from her family in a strange country with questionable medical facilities. The burden of proof is on the birthers. Where's the plane tickets or Kenyan hospital forms / bill?

When I pointed this out to my crazy fundamentalist Christian Uncle and Aunt, they defriended me on Facebook (it was some time last year). That's the problem with ignorant people. They want to believe what they believe despite any logical argument or questions that poke holes in their faulty belief system. Its the whole sticking one's finger in the ear and babbling out loud so they can't hear you. Truth is so scary for these people. Instead of expending so much time obsessing over the president's birth, they should be wondering why the party they keep voting for is scheming to get more money to flow into the pockets of billionaires. Its the standard distraction technique: show a shiny object with one hand while the other picks their pockets clean. This is why I absolutely hate ignorant people. They deserve every misfortune they endure because they have no clue who their real enemies are. They do the work of the wealthy class yet get nothing in return but lies, lies, lies. You can't live on a diet of lies.

Jumping into the fray is none other than Donald Trump. He's supposedly thinking about running for president, but the skeptics among us are naturally cynical about all this publicity. He's an incredible narcissist who needs to have his name in the public constantly. Despite his wealth, he's not considered a credible candidate. No one with that dead animal on his head could ever be taken seriously. While he's wondering about Obama's birth certificate, he hasn't disclosed what the deal is with his crazy hair. Its obviously a toupee.

I have no idea why he has come out as a birther. This strange phenomenon has affected the Republican Party like a contagious disease. Polls show that 51% of Republicans believe that Obama was not born in the U.S.A. (call it the Fox News effect: repeating a lie often enough will eventually become true). Another 20% of Republicans "don't know" if Obama is a citizen. That means only 30% of Republicans believe that the president is a citizen. Amazing. The level of ignorance affecting that party is stunning. We've never seen mass delusions on this scale since Soviet communists in the waning days of the USSR! This is what happens when ideologues shun logic, reason, and the quest for truth. Preferring a diet of lies, propaganda, and ideology is a sure recipe for disaster and that's why the Republican Party imploded under the incompetence of George W. Bush and the empty propaganda of Karl Rove.

Other Republican presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee have perpetuated the Kenya-connection of our president. Gingrich claims that Obama's Kenyan heritage of "anti-British colonialism" makes him completely foreign to the American worldview. Really? Weren't our Founding Fathers "anti-British colonialism" as well? Didn't we fight a revolution to be rid of the British Empire from our shores? If its good for us, why is it not good for India or Kenya? Oh, my mistake. Its because they're black (or brown). Another double standard. What's okay for white Americans is not okay for black Americans or black people in general.

Not to be outdone, Huckabee recently said in a radio program that Obama's upbringing in Kenya, being raised by his Kenyan father and grandfather meant that he was likely influenced by the "Mau Mau" uprising (where Kenyans killed white settlers in the quest for independence from the United Kingdom in the 1960s). When he was called up on his ignorance (Obama was raised by his mother in Hawaii and Indonesia. He only saw his father twice in his entire life. TWICE!! And he didn't go to Kenya until he was a young man in search of his roots), Huckabee backtracked and claimed that he meant Indonesia. He lied to get out of a devastating lie. There was no such thing as the Mau Mau's in Indonesia!!! But this hardly matters to the birther and teabaggers who listen to his every word. The world outside of our borders is a scary place. Its filled with black people and brown people and yellow people and they all want to kill us!!!

Another reason why I hate ignorant people. We share the planet with 95% of the non-Americans who live on this spinning marble in the vast galaxy. The world is not scary out there. People generally want the same things in life. Anyhow, such ignorance and lies spewed by a potential candidate should be an automatic disqualifier. If he is willing to lie about facts that we can check, then he's willing to lie about anything. His trustworthiness is non existent. Even worse, Huckabee is a minister, which means he violated a major commandment (and we know how much conservative evangelical Christians love the Ten Commandments by their obsession with wanting to post it in every government building and schoolhouse). THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS. Huckabee so deserves to go to hell for that lie.

Finally, below is a picture of the birth certificate that Donald Trump released to prove his citizenship. The only problem is, this birth certificate is considered a souvenir from the hospital. Something that goes into a scrapbook. Its not a state issued birth certificate that must be shown to prove identity when starting a new job or applying for a passport. Also, the interesting thing about this is that Trump was born in "The Jamaica Hospital." Had this been Obama's birth certificate souvenir, you can bet that teabaggers and birthers would claim that this proved that Obama was not an American, because he was born in Jamaica!!! That's how lies work. They will take whatever they can use to prove their own prejudices, truth be damned. Because its not about the truth. Its about undermining the first black president of the United States of America and trying to make his presidency a failure just like their darling beloved president George W. Bush, whom God had made president to save us from 9/11. Gawd, can you tell how much I hate ignorant people? People with IQs below 100 should not be allowed to vote. Seriously. They are so easily manipulated by billionaires with ulterior agendas. As my supervisor at my last job in Atlanta often loved to say: "There is no cure for stupid!"

Monday, March 28, 2011

Music Video Monday: Olivia Newton-John

On Friday morning, I learned that one of my co-workers was in a coma. He had a massive heart attack on Thursday evening, while waiting for the MAX train to go home. At work today, I learned that he died on Sunday afternoon, when the doctor saw no sign of progress and the co-worker's family decided to pull the plug. I'm so stunned by the suddenness of his death. When I last saw him on Thursday, he was sitting in our supervisors office. He looked okay, no sign of any health problems. He walked every day, the 30 minutes from the office to the MAX stop. He wasn't obese, he didn't smoke. He recently turned 50 years old. How could this happen?

The details are even more horrifying. He was sitting at a bench waiting for the MAX train when the heart attack happened. He slumped over. People thought he was sleeping so they didn't bother to wake him when the train came. Or the next train. Or the next train. He had laid there at the stop for two or three hours before someone got suspicious and called the medics. By then it was too late. What a horrible way to go: in a public place with people who are indifferent.

I believe that this is the first time I personally know a person to die from a heart attack. All the previoius deaths of people I know were the result of old age and health problems. As well as my cousin's suicide, which is a completely preventable death. That was shocking, but somehow, a sudden heart attack that strikes in someone who does not exhibit the high risk habits (he wasn't over exerting himself, either) is just disturbing. You see him one day at work, making his usual self-deprecating jokes and excited about March Madness, then the next day, he's gone. His cubicle is now a memorial (with a vase of flowers and a photo of him with Gene Simmons of KISS). He is the employee that I probably work the most with, even though our cubicles are in different rows and we each have our own jobs to do. He trained me in some of his job responsibilities to cover for him when he's gone.

My impression of him is that there was some kind of sadness attached to his life. His self-deprecating humour (which would likely get him fired at my last place of employment!) and his heavy drinking (over Christmas, New Year's and his Birthday) indicate to me that all is not well in his personal life. He might've been avoiding the pain and disappointment of life. My supervisor believes that he was a happy guy. At work, he was. He loved his job and he was hilarious in his comments. But all that could be a mask. I didn't know him well, though. People often use humour to keep people laughing as well as a boundary. He lived alone, had no pictures of family (his pictures in his cubicle were of famous musicians he has met), and never talked about anything beyond sports. It seems like a sad life to me. Which contributes to my feelings of discomfort in his death. Did he live the life he meant to? Or was he, like me, stuck in a low wage job, unable to live out his dreams and turning to drink and sports to escape from the disappointments of life? Like I said, I detected a melancholy to his life, even though I did not know him well. Others seem to be happy with surface appearances, but I think I have an intuitive sense about people.

I don't think he was a spiritual or religious person. Maybe he was private about it. With his sports obsession, though, I don't think he made time for it. At work, he listened to sportstalk on his portable radio. ALL DAY! Wouldn't that get boring after an hour or so?

Anyhow, in honour...or in memoriam to my co-worker, I have decided to dedicate this week's music video on his behalf. Of course, I had to go with Olivia Newton-John's "Heart Attack." I'm sure that he would be pleased by this dedication, because he made shocking self-deprecating humour all the time. I got his sense of humour, so I appreciate that fact about him. I remember what he told me when I first started working there in December: "I try to offend as many people as possible." I would have loved to see how he got along at my last place of employment! If they thought my humour was too much to take, they have seen nothing!

For his sake, I really do hope that it was "his time to go" (as our supervisor said), though I hate it when people say that. He seemed to have life ahead of him. What unfulfilled hopes and dreams did he harbour that won't come true? I truly hope his soul finds its way to the spiritual realm. And if its true that our souls in heaven are able to receive messages and well wishes, well, I hope he appreciates this blog post and music video dedication. I'm sure he'd have a good laugh over my selection. That's the way he was: a wicked sense of humour. God, we need more of that in our world!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Why Drugs are the Devil's Candy

A week or so ago, I had a lengthy debate with a fellow church member on Facebook about marijuana. I had posted a status update on my Facebook wall that I knew would elicit a response from him. One day on the bus home from work, someone had boarded and sat next to me, drenched in the stench of marijuana. And yes, to me its a fowl smell that makes me want to vomit. I know a lady who used to smoke the stuff and after she quit and removed herself from friends who still lived that lifestyle, she said that whenever she does smell marijuana smoke, she still is drawn to it, even though she hasn't smoked it for years. What is the lure of this drug for people? I've never had it.

I know it might come across as hard to believe for some people, but I have never smoked marijuana and have no desire to. Marijuana users like to say, "don't knock it until you try it" but I don't need to take a cyanide pill to know that its bad for me. I'm generally more open-minded than most anyone else I meet. That is, open minded to different ideas. However, if marijuana users want to call me closed-minded because I have never smoked it and won't change my view that its not good for your body and mind, so be it. That's essentially what this church friend said to me in the debate. He wanted me to cite actual facts that it was bad for you, because he claims that its beneficial. Yes, he self-medicates and has admitted to being bi-polar. Supposedly, the drug helps him better than any pharmaceutical pill that is FDA-approved. Whatever.

After our debate went no where because I wouldn't play his game of posting websites where I get my information to back up my claims, he actually de-friended me on Facebook. We used to have around the same number of people on our Facebook friends list, but I had noticed that he had steadily been decreasing over the past several months. Now, he's down to 24 friends. I'm not sure if he was the one doing the de-friending or if others were, due to his extremist views. Whatever. What I know is this: the guy's an incredible narcissist and does not realize it. I have never met a more selfish human being in my life. What an incredible waste of a life, though. In every spiritual book I've read, selfishness is viewed poorly in regards to the meaning of life. A life of self-indulgence is empty and meaningless. Considering that the guy considers himself an atheist now (he belongs to the same church I do), its not a surprise based on his narcissistic personality. His ego is strong and I know from personal experience as well as the sheer number of spiritual books I've read that true spirituality generally does not emerge in a person until the ego gets broken in some way.

When people talk about their "born again" experience, what they are referring to is the moment in their lives when their egos were shattered and they had to begin again with a new belief system. It could be a fundamentalist Christian church, Alcoholics Anonymous, or a complete change in careers. What precedes the fall in those who have such experiences? Usually, a completely selfish existence. Drinking, drugs, climbing the corporate ladder by screwing other people over, excessive materialism, etc.

In all my conversations with this guy in the past four years that I've known him, he exhibits every stereotype of a slacker pothead (as viewed above): lack of ambition, doesn't really care about anything (except his "sovereign rights"), his thinking is rather muddled (though he really believes himself to be the most logical person around), and he is definitely paranoid (believing our government to be the worst "tyranny" on earth. I think the people of Burma would love to swap places with him. Just a hunch, but what do I know? I was only an International Politics major whose focus of study was on human rights!).

In our debates lately, he became obsessed with wanting facts and for me to cite every claim that I was making. He does this game with everyone, whether its citing law statutes, Supreme Court cases, and legislative bills, if you can't do this, then nothing you say has merit. Its absurd, though, because we're not on the debate team or writing an article to submit to a medical journal or a graduate course. When it comes to citing information in a formal paper or debate, of course its to be expected. In casual conversation? Who does that? I go to a discussion group every other Wednesday and we've discussed topics that run the gamut on internationally-related news. People share their thoughts on whatever the topic might be and no one demands to know where they got their facts. Occasionally, someone might say something intriguing enough to prompt someone to do a check on their iPhone, such as the last time when someone mentioned that you can actually see the borderline between Haiti and the Dominican Republic due to Haiti's practice of deforestation. Someone else got curious to see it and did a Google image search and was impressed by the photo that came up.

The reason why I did not offer this obsessive-compulsive guy info on where I got my facts is because I read a lot and don't save every article that I read nor memorize the exact magazine article / date / writer, etc. For me, I digest the information and move on. I've learned about drugs and its effects since elementary school. In fact, the films we saw in the 5th grade about drug usage so scared me that I didn't need Nancy Reagan telling me "Just Say No" for me to say no. Unlike the other kids, I did not think it was funny when we watched a scene from a video of a girl high on some kind of drug stepping up on the railing of a highrise balcony, trying to balance a walk like she was on a tightrope and falling to her death (it was a reenactment, not a snuff film). To an 11 year old like me, that was a scary image seared into my brain for life. My impression then (as now) was that there is no way I'd allow myself to be unaware of my surroundings. I've been drunk a few times when I was in the Navy and the night I indulged too much and blacked out to where I couldn't remember anything about that night was probably the scariest moment of my life. That I had allowed myself to be in a situation where I had no conscious awareness of my own safety and had to depend on other people is something I never want to repeat again.

If my own intolerance of drug usage weren't enough, I also don't like people who are on drugs. Never have. For some reason, I have an intuitive ability to tell when I'm talking to someone if they are "fully present" or not. If I detect drug usage, it becomes even more unbearable for me. In my own life experience, I've seen people who are drug users behave and I don't like their behaviour at all. The best example of this was last November on my San Francisco vacation when I rode Caltrain from Mountain View to San Francisco the morning of the Giants ticker tape victory parade. A group of obnoxious young people decided to light up a joint to pass around. They were loud, completely selfish (not considerate to the rest of us in that train compartment), and obnoxious. There was nothing likable about those people at all. And we were powerless to do anything. My eyes kept meeting a middle-aged Hispanic lady's eyes and we just shook our heads at the discomfort of the situation.

As a teenager, I had attended a cast party after the success of our play. I was depressed when I saw my fellow cast mates drinking alcohol and smoking a joint. I decided I didn't belong, so I left. The party was in my neighbourhood so I was able to walk home, where my mom actually waited for me to come home. My parents have never had to tell me that drugs were bad. I guess I've just never been a wild person, needing to experiment with things. I don't know where the strong anti-drug mentality came from but I'm very glad that I have it. One of my major "flaws" might actually be my absolute disdain for people who use drugs. I have a low opinion of people who use and don't respect them. The way I feel about it, if that person doesn't care enough to respect his or her own mind and body, why should I respect them? Especially if the drugs they are using makes them loud, obnoxious, and foolishly brave.
The above photo is part of a new anti-drug campaign. By showing the contrast in a person's looks, the hope is that the ads will appeal to a young person's vanity. I don't think it will work, but anything to show the reality of what long-term drug use will do is a good thing. Drugs have the amazing ability to turn people into the zombie look. Whenever I see a person who looks older than they normally should, I automatically wonder if they are alcoholics, smokers, or drug-users. The part of Portland I live in is full of people who look like the lady in the photo labeled "2002." Its sad to see the evidence of "hard living" on the peoples faces while waiting for the bus. When I lived in downtown Portland, I hardly ever saw anyone smoke. In far out eastern Portland, it seems like everyone does.

Even worse is to hear them speak. The ignorance of their manner of speaking is so obvious. I totally understand that the combination of low wages, ignorance, and lack of economic opportunity is a huge deathblow to anyone's esteem. But to see these people get trapped in the cycle of the next chemical fix is truly depressing. For me, I may be stuck in low wage jobs and unable to find my way to a living wage career, but at least I'll always have my books and desire to improve my interior life. So, in contrast to these depressing people who use alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs to numb the pains and disappointments of their lives, I think I have a smarter way of dealing with disappointments. At the end of our lives, all we have is our life experiences and the knowledge we gained while living to take with us to the next realm of existence. Drugs don't do a damn thing for us, except to give the illusion of escaping one's "issues."

To me, its amazing that a smart guy such as that church friend I had mentioned above will cite all the supposed "benefits" of marijuana to him while denying any of the negative aspects. I'm not out of line or being outrageous by claiming that long-term marijuana use actually does make people less smart. People don't joke about a person "being baked" or "stoned" without some kind of truth behind it. I don't need to cite sources in a casual conversation on well known aspects of marijuana use. Paranoia is evident in users as well. And these two aspects: dumbing down and paranoia are such unattractive qualities that it hardly makes the temporary euphoric bliss that one feels worth the price your mind and body ultimately pays. Especially when there is a way to experience euphoric bliss without any negative side effects: its called "meditation."

Out of curiosity, though, I did do a Google-search on the question "Is marijuana harmful?" and "Is marijuana good for you?" While I did come across some articles that cited the benefits of using marijuana (to increase one's appetite, to deal with physical pain), the same articles mention that each person's brain chemistry is slightly different, so whenever you add chemicals to it, you really don't know how your brain will react. Some people have addictive personalities while others can walk away and never touch a substance again. Ultimately, though, long-term use does have negative effects. One big factor is the body's ability to gain a tolerance towards the substance, which requires larger and larger doses to get the same state of euphoric bliss as before. The never ending cycle of greater and greater doses will ultimately overwhelm a person's body. This is the reason why people should be aware of the dangers of drug usage. Marijuana is not some harmless plant with all the virtues and none of the negatives.

Over a decade ago, when I examined the possible meanings behind the Adam and Eve story in the Book of Genesis, I never understood why anyone could think that partaking of the fruit from the tree of good and evil could be a bad thing. The attainment of knowledge should be considered a great thing: the aim of our lives. If it had been me prancing around the Garden of Eden naming animals, I wouldn't need a snake to tempt me to take the fruit. Of course, the story is not literally true (despite what fundamentalists believe). Its a metaphor for something, but for what? I wanted to ponder it until I came up with a reasonable answer. When it hit me, I was stunned by the implication. Now, I'm not saying that what was revealed to me is the true meaning of the story, just simply one possible meaning worth considering.

The fruit from the tree of good and evil can be thought of as "Satan's candy" (or if you prefer, "the Devil's candy"). What is the Devil's candy? Well, drugs of course. Anyone familiar with Faustian tales can see how they relate to drugs. Its all about the concept that a drug can make you feel euphoric bliss for awhile. Its alluring enough that many people do take it every day to feel better about their lives. But then the crash comes. Or the hangover. Or the downturn. What does one do then? Take another dose to make the crash go away? Or deal with it until your body is no longer craving it again? There is a price to pay for the momentary euphoric bliss that one gets from ingesting "the Devil's candy."

In another aspect to the story, when Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, they no longer were innocent like children. They gained knowledge. Why is that a sin? Because the knowledge came from ingesting something, not from one's life experience or study. They wanted the quick fix instead of the long-term process. So perhaps the Adam and Eve mythological tale has a point for us to ponder, even if we don't really believe such people ever existed. The take home lesson is: beware of any quick fix or direct path to knowledge or euphoric bliss. There is always a huge price to pay in the end. For Adam and Eve, it was banishment from the garden and ultimately death.

When I discovered the euphoric bliss attained during meditation, I was stunned why more people did not try this instead of drugs. Oh, of course...meditation requires right concentration and time. The ability to clear one's mind of all thoughts is not an easy one. The reward, though, is complete calm, bliss, and sometimes even an incredibly euphoric feeling. I've never experienced any negative side effects to meditation. That's the secret. It takes work on one's part, while drugs are easy: once the chemicals hit your bloodstream, you're there. With meditation, it might take a good long while before you get there, if you get there. However, there are actual scientific studies that show meditation being good for people (less stress, more peaceful feelings). Even more amazing is that the more one meditates, the easier it is to get to that "zone" of euphoric bliss. Its the opposite of drugs in every aspect. I've seen middle aged women who have meditated and am amazed how young and vibrant they look. Quite the opposite from the photo above of the drug-using lady in 2002.

The map above shows which states have now legalized medicinal marijuana. It seems to be a growing movement. I'm against medicinal marijuana because I don't think its a good drug at all, despite what people who claim to need it say. The medicinal marijuana movement is only the first step in a larger plan: the complete legalization of marijuana. In Oregon, a medicinal marijuana state, there are actually people who try to get a doctor's prescription by claiming all sorts of ailments. It also makes it hard to distinguish between people who have the medicinal marijuana card and those who don't. When I lived in the downtown apartment, I could sometimes smell marijuana smoke in the hallways. I had no idea if the person had a card or not, but it still affected my environment. Before moving to Portland, I had never smelled the stuff before (save for a visit to the Berkeley campus in 1997). Because of medicinal marijuana being legal, you can smell it anywhere in Portland. The law makes marijuana smokers of all of us. The smoke is a gas and there is such a thing as a contact high, or in my case, a sudden urge to vomit. My view is that if a person has the right to smoke marijuana within my nose's ability to smell, then I should have every right to vomit in the smoker's face.

Though this friend from church is a passionate defender of the cannabis weed, I don't need a documented study from a science lab to tell me what I already know. I've seen enough slackers in Portland who rave about the weed. Everyone that I know who is successful in life are not into drugs. They might be into fitness or healthy foods or supplements or yoga or spirituality or money, but they obviously have some good habits worth emulating. I don't see any drug user having habits that would convince me that drugs are a good thing in the long run. I'll give them their argument that drugs may help in the short term, but none of them will ever convince me that long-term use is good for the mind and body. I choose to keep my mind sharp and will continue to prefer meditation above all else. You can take your Devil's candy straight to hell, because that's what your life will become on drugs. A living hell.

Friday, March 25, 2011

An Un-Limited Amount of Brilliance

Thursday evening, I decided to treat myself to a movie I had wanted to see on opening weekend. I thought about waiting until Friday, but wanted to avoid the usual weekend crowd. I like going to see movies on an off night (Monday nights are supposedly the best nights, as theaters try to entice people to come on a "dead night" by offering concessions at cheaper prices). At first, I was hesitant to see Limitless because of what I thought might be a pro-drug storyline / plot. If I'm intolerant about anything, its drug usage. I see it as a major threat on reason (because users have no idea the long-term damage they are causing their delicate minds for a short term fix. This could accelerate or cause mental illness). However, I watched several different versions of the trailer as well as watched an intriguing interview by Charlie Rose of star Bradley Cooper and the film's director. The movie seemed to be in the same mold as Inception and The Adjustment Bureau (ironically, both films I was also hesitant about seeing when I first heard about them).

The basic premise of Limitless is about a slacker writer (played by Bradley Cooper) who is suffering from major writer's block, even though he got an advance to write a book. He seems to bumble through life, without discipline or direction. Even his far more successful girlfriend is growing tired of him. When he bumps into someone he hasn't seen in years, they catch up on each others lives. The old acquaintance offers him a clear pill that promises to expand his horizons. He's hesitant to take it but eventually does. One of the most brilliant things about this movie is the way they show his world opening up when the drug takes effect. Suddenly, the world becomes sharper in colour and he notices details in every nook and cranny. He can think many steps ahead and he even becomes a neat freak after seeing the dump his New York apartment is. This drug has the power to open 100% of the user's brain (we supposedly use less than 30% of our brain's power).

In another brilliant visual in the film, letters fall from the ceiling as he can't type fast enough to get words onto his computer screen to complete his book. In fact, the visuals in this film is simply amazing, especially the open title sequence (simply one of the most stunning opening sequences I've ever seen in a film). Finishing his book is not enough, though. He schemes to greater things. However, he was only given one pill, so he goes back to the dealer for more, where he gets sucked into something deeper that adds a high element of danger.

This film is not an ode to the powers of drug use. Like every drug out there, this one has side effects when you're off of it. Long term use could lead to results no one would want. And that's the brilliance of the story idea. It is a true representation on the dangers of drug usage of any kind. Taking the magic pill may do some amazing things for your mind, but would you really want to experience all of that if the consequences for long-term use will actually cause your body great harm? Are the benefits worth the long-term costs? This is something I plan to write in a post tomorrow, because I had a lengthy debate with a church friend regarding the use of marijuana. The person I argued with cannot see the harm in using the stuff at all, but in all the conversations I've had with him (in person and online), I can already see that regular use has made him a stereotype of a stoner slacker: his logic is muddled, he's paranoid, his sense of reality is beyond the realm of most people's perceptions of reality. Its worth a separate post, along with my theory about drugs as it relates to the Genesis.

While on the clear pill, the slacker writer becomes a cool, overly confident, popular conversationalist that everyone wants in their social circle. He seems to know everything and is able to detect patterns for which stocks will make him the most money in the shortest amount of time possible, because he has a big vision for a life that goes beyond being a published writer. His ability to make millions of money from a $100,000 investment (on money borrowed from a Russian mobster) garners him media attention, as well as a request for a meeting by a Wall Street tycoon (played by Robert DeNiro). The makers of this movie were quite timely, because there were references to Libya in some of the business dealings.

The film has a kind of Faustian plot to it, which I love. When he's on the clear pill (known as NZT), he's a highly functioning super-human, but off of it and his mind becomes foggy. People notice that he's not his "usual self." He even mistakes himself on the drug, telling his girlfriend after he has taken another pill that he's back. She wisely tells him that its not the real him, because the real him wouldn't be doing the kind of things he does when he's on the stuff. Faustian dramas are all about trading one's soul for the allure of power, fame, wealth. Its one of the most common storylines (and probably my favourite storyline).

There were moments in the film where I worried about the direction it was heading. The ultimate scene, though, was so ridiculous that I couldn't help but laugh, even as I was wincing from the "grotesque" nature of it. If you've seen the film, you know what scene I'm talking about! If you haven't seen the film yet, well, I don't want to spoil the film for you. Just go see it, okay? I left the theater smiling, inspired, and wanting to try some mind experiments of my own (through meditative power, not chemically-enhanced power that comes from drugs). This movie would be a great double-feature or companion film to The Adjustment Bureau. While it may not be as great as The Adjustment Bureau (what movie can be, though?), I'm impressed that this year's movie releases are already a step up from last year's dismal schedule of bland movies. Call it the Inception-effect. Hollywood has finally waken up to the fact that there is a profitable market for movies that appeal to the intellect of the discriminating film goer. Not all of us want to see another Adam Sandler or Will Farrell stupidity. I am one who wants more, more, more movies that make me think and fills me with inspiration when I walk out of the theater. The true power is inspiration and that doesn't come from any pill. It comes from ideas that engage the creative aspects of one's mind.

If The Adjustment Bureau and Limitless aren't enough to fill my mind with inspiring ideas, next Friday opens another mentally-challenging film that I plan to see: The Source Code. Can this year get any better in terms of movies (as much as I want to see Gnomeo and Juliet, Paul, and Rango, I can wait until they come out on DVD)? I guess I need to get cracking on my next novel. Time keeps on slipping away. Watching a struggling writer as the protagonist was a reminder that I'm slacking on my own goals...but I don't need a clear pill to reach parts of my mind that meditation can also access. Seriously, meditation is tapping into one's mind for insight, vision, and even euphoric bliss. Who needs drugs when your mind can do amazing things without help?

In the film, not taking the drug after you've used it for awhile leads to headaches. Interesting enough, I have suffered a week of migraines that were so intense that I wanted to die rather than endure it (not really...just saying how intensely painful it was). On Ash Wednesday, I walked the labyrinthe at church, focusing on what I should "fast" for the 40 days of Lent. I've never done the Lent/fast thing before, but decided that this was the year to try it out. By the time I left the church, a thought hit me that I should give up drinking soda for Lent. It was either that or give up Netflix!

A couple days after I stopped drinking soda, I had a horribly painful migraine (and no Tylenol or any other kind of pain relief). It woke me up at 4 a.m. and wouldn't go away for an hour. The next day, it struck again. By then, I had the intuitive insight that I was suffering from caffeine-withdrawal. I bought some Tylenol to be prepared for the daily migraine attacks. I was tempted to buy a bottle of Coca-Cola for emergency, just to see if drinking a glass when a migraine came on would ease the pain in my forehead. But I was committed to the forty day fast. After a little over a week, the migraines are gone. But it was painful to endure that withdrawal. Not that I'm completely caffeine-free, but if I can't find any caffeine-free Coca-Cola after Easter (when my fast ends), I may not go back to drinking soda. Well, I shouldn't be drinking as much of it as I have been, as I'd like to go back to viewing Coca-cola as a drink on special occasions, not a daily drink.

I can't help but think, if not drinking caffeine gave me more than a week's worth of early morning migraine wake-up calls, why would anyone want put harmful drugs into one's body? The Mormons are smart to avoid caffeinated drinks. All I know is that I don't want to get my body used to it again and endure the pain of migraines when I don't have my daily Coca-cola drink. If this legal stimulant can cause my brain that much pain, I have no idea why people want to put more powerful chemicals into their mind and bodies. Tomorrow's post will analyze my intolerance towards illegal drugs and those that use them.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Six Months Later

Six months ago today, my world changed. I had received the shocking news that I no longer had the worst job I've ever endured. Once the shock wore off (the following morning), I actually felt relieved. I felt free for the first time in four years. Free from the stress of working for the most obsessive-compulsive, micromanaging control freak I've ever met. My job search began in earnest and I managed to find one ("by accident") within 75 days. I actually preferred a three or four month "sabbatical" from work as I had wanted to take every workshop offered by the Employment department. I was only able to take half of them by the time I received a job offer. According to unemployment insurance, my six months of benefits would expire today and I would have had to apply for a six month extension if I was still unemployed.

One guy who was laid off from that previous employer a year before me is STILL unemployed!!! Based on his Facebook posts, he doesn't seem all that torn up about it. I guess leeching off the system is too good for him, as being unemployed didn't seem to prevent him from trading his truck for another one and buying a motorcycle. I still don't understand how some people are unable to find work. I've been working since I was 14 years old and I have never had difficulty finding a job when I was unemployed and determined to find a job. Well, except for the period of time after my internship ended in Washington, D.C. But that was likely due to my indecisiveness in whether to stay or leave and setting too high of a goal (I'd only stay in D.C. if offered a job in the White House or Congress). But that experience taught me to keep options open and to look everywhere for a job, not limit myself.

At work, I had my 90 day review already. Wow, I'm stunned. Its already been three months? Hardly feels like it. The great news is that by the end of this month, I will have finally caught up on the work and mess that my predecessor left me. Next month, after doing the lengthy process of running various reports for the first quarter, I will be free to engage in new projects that I can come up with. I enjoy my job and it has been a complete dream. So far, my supervisor has kept her word that she is not a micromanager. She rarely checks my work because she trusts that I'm getting the job done. My days are busy that I've never been bored. I've been able to catch quite a lot of errors that were made, which have cost the company tens of thousands of dollars. I'm a stickler for details. My impression is that my predecessor was lazy and sloppy. He didn't care about doing a good job and based on what I've heard, he was fired. His last day was on Veteran's Day, which happened to be the day that I spent at the LDS Employment Office applying to jobs and then eating dinner for free at a crowded Applebees (their annual gift to veterans). There seems to have been a long line of predecessors (perhaps as many as six in the past four years). The ultimate question is...why couldn't we have found each other back in 2006? It would have spared them the headache of incompetent employees that were either fired or quit (one predecessor lasted a week before she quit) and me the pain of being in the worst job of my life at That Awful Place (which will always remain unnamed).

So, what are my thoughts about where I am in life? Well, one thing I love about watching Jerry and Esther Hicks series of videos regarding The Law of Attraction is that Esther, speaking for a channeled entity known as "Abraham", says that each opportunity gives us a contrast to bring us closer to our dreams. Whatever we don't like in our current reality is simply a clarification for what we desire. Since most people have difficulty envisioning what a dream life might look like, we have to experience a lot of things we don't like so we can gain clarity about what we do want. Having said that, while my current job has been a dream come true regarding everything I had wanted in a job for the past four years of enduring the hell of That Awful Place, the low wage and the location of the office means that this is not meant to be my career. My dream job would contain EVERYTHING I desire, which includes a living wage that matches my age (times a thousand) and a good location (the three bus commute each way is getting old).

On top of all that, the managers at the office send emails about their travel plans (so people at work can know how to reach them or when to reach them). In January, a group of managers went to Cannes, France for an annual conference and one of those guys happened to be one of the predecessors in my current job (he had my job six years ago). My supervisor was annoyed the day before the group was traveling to France because she never gets to travel anywhere (and I can tell that she wants to be one of those lucky people who get to travel for work). I understand her feeling. When I was unemployed, one of my desires was to find a job that includes travel. That's still my goal.

A week ago on Wednesday, I decided to attend the World Affairs Council Young Professionals "trivia night" (which was held in place of our regular discussion group). I was iffy about going, but decided that a big reason why I wanted to go is because I have become interested in a Russian lady who has become a regular attendee of the discussion group. I wanted to talk with her more. At the last discussion group, there was also a Vietnamese lady who was from Decatur, Georgia. I didn't get a chance to talk with her as much as I wanted to, so I hoped to see her at Trivia night as well. At the Trivia night, held downtown at a restaurant in the lobby of my favourite Portland skyscraper, the Russian lady was there. I decided to sit at her table. When I was about to sit down in the chair, she noticed that there were some water drops on it. I didn't care, because I had thick pants and a trenchcoat. But she insisted on wiping the chair off for me, even though I could have done it myself. For some reason, that simple gesture on her part registered deep within my psyche. I definitely want to pursue this lady! The trick is figuring out a good first date. Johnny Clegg will be in concert on April 30th, but I don't want to wait that long to ask her out. I may see about asking her to coffee at Costello's Travel Caffe because I'm intrigued by her life experience (her family moved from Russia sometime between 1992 and 1994). Her personality reminds me a lot of Christine, as I learned from my friendship with Christine that kindness is the #1 quality I'm seeking in a lady love.

As we waited for the festivities to start, our table filled up with two more ladies from Russia and one guy from Estonia. There was an attractive American lady as well, who spent most of the time talking with the Russian lady I'm interested in. The trivia game consisted of four parts, under the categories of Revolutions, Spies, World Leaders, and Photos featuring obscure locales around the world where various members of the World Affairs Council have visited. Each table had anywhere from four to seven people. The questions (and photos) were projected onto a screen. Ten questions per category. Each team wrote the answers on a piece of paper and turned it in to be scored while the next category went underway. I liked this format better than having to be the first to answer the question.

Anyhow, the Russian lady seemed to be impressed by my intelligence. There were a lot of hard questions, though, so we didn't do as well (out of about eight or nine teams, we finished fourth). But on the answers where others were uncertain, my certainty impressed them. For example, on one of the questions about spies, it was about which music artist did Bradley have written on the CD in which he downloaded info to give to Wikileaks? All the answers were multiple choice. One lady thought it was Beyonce but I was insistent that it was Lady Gaga. She wasn't sure, but I kept on insisting with absolute certainty. I knew this story because I found it hilarious when I first read about it, because of how ironic it was. A soldier with a Lady Gaga CD is going to have his sexuality questioned by other soldiers. I know that much about military culture, and it seems as though Bradley probably knew it too, because he did not want anyone to steal his CD and realize what he did. Writing Lady Gaga on a burnable CD was probably the safest artist he could pick that would repel any soldier from wanting to put it in his computer.

The evening was enjoyable and as I looked at the three Russian women, I couldn't help but think, its obvious from looking at them that they are foreign. You wouldn't mistake them for being an American. I don't know what it is, though, but it confirmed for me what I've known all my life: I really do find foreign women more attractive than American women. I'm certain that I'm meant to marry a foreign-born woman. I also find it much easier to talk with them. They were all attractive, and in my life experience, attractive American women have tended to be snobby towards me. Attractive foreign women aren't so snobby towards me. Plus, there's the life experience and intelligence that makes it easier to talk with them. After the event ended, I got to talk to the Russian lady just briefly, but before I could ask for her number, the guy from Estonia came over to talk to me. The first thing he said to me was, "You're really smart." When he told me that he was from Estonia, I asked him what he thought about "e-government" (thanks to my ghostwriting duties, I was able to learn about Estonia being the first government to go completely online with all of the services it provides to its citizens). This seemed to impress him that I knew about that, so he explained the problems with it (there was supposedly a cyber-war as hackers shut down the system). He also told me that he was looking to move overseas, even though his wife is American and they have two young children. He's tired of life in America because he's a committed socialist.

When I returned home after an amazing evening among foreigners, it confirmed for me that my heart is still in international work and living. I really want this for myself. I'm growing tired of life in America as well, with our shallow politics (the culture wars perpetuated by evangelical conservatives is ridiculous). So, I decided to make this a priority...looking for jobs overseas. I'll spend one day a week looking to see what's out there and applying. I did find one already and I'm really excited about it. I would be perfect for this job!! Hopefully the hiring manager will be impressed with my resume and give me a call. This change in direction is not because I'm not happy with the job I have now. I'm committed to my job for the next two years and will continue to do a great job, eliminating the mistakes of my predecessors as well as writing an easy-to-read guide on how to do my job (for the next person who will have the job when I inevitably leave). Each day, I will continue to bask in the glow of loving my job, where I'm allowed to set my own pace and workflow, and where I get to listen to an awesome variety of great music (my latest discovery is Bhangra music, which is Bollywood on techno-trance). In my free time, I will focus on how to manifest my real dream job: which includes the pay I deserve as well as a better commute and the opportunity to travel.

Life is good. Amazing how different my life was more than six months ago. I'm definitely feeling gratitude for the blessings of my life. It truly is fantastic to leave work feeling refreshed and energized, which is the complete opposite of my previous job. With a sustained good vibe energy level, there's no reason why I should not be able to manifest an even better employment scenario for myself this year.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Shock and Wa

I've heard people on the news as well as read comments online that people are stunned by how the Japanese are handling the triple tragedy (earthquake-tsunami-nuclear meltdown). People are patient in long lines awaiting their rations of food, water, and gasoline. There is no looting. No one seems to get angry at one another or fighting over critical supplies. A remarkable story I heard was that when the earthquake happened, people who were shopping in a supermarket had actually walked out of the supermarket with their groceries to wait out the earthquake, then once it was calm, they went back in the store to pay for their items! I can understand why many Americans would be stunned by this behaviour. We saw nothing but ugliness when disaster came ashore in New Orleans and there were reports of looting, robbery, and even rape at the Convention Center that served as a shelter from the storm for those who could not afford to leave town.

For those who know the Japanese or anything about Japanese culture, the way the Japanese are responding to this tragedy is no surprise at all. This is part of their deeply ingrained culture. Its hard for people to "understand" if they never grew up in it or they aren't knowledgeable about other cultures. In our culture, we are heavily indoctrinated with the mythology (pathology?) of the rugged individualist who pulls himself up by his bootstraps, where greed is the ruling ethos of our economic system, and where the Almighty Dollar is the god that most Americans worship. When such selfishness and individualism is promoted, indoctrinated, and worshiped, of course people growing up in America are going to be affected by it and not realize that there are other ways of being.

In the past dozen years, one of the things I've become interested in is trying to find out which part of me had inherited my dad's white, Midwestern American culture and which part of me had inherited my mom's Asian culture. Its an interesting mixture and often causes conflicted feelings or actions. In college, during a class presentation, one group spoke about the Japanese concept of "Wa", which I had never heard of before. In describing it, though, I had a deep feeling of understanding because it touched on that part of me that always felt out of sync with American culture. I'm not sure if Thailand has a concept of "Wa", but many of the Asian countries have shared cultural similarities, much like Europe has shared cultural similarities. Basically, "Wa" means "harmony." In Japanese culture, preserving harmony between people is the prime value. When I was preparing for my testimony on "fear" a few weeks back, I read some articles online about that emotion. I found one that intrigued me, which stated that some fears are cultural specific. The writer gave the example of a fear that exists in Japan that would not even register for Americans. Its the fear of causing another person to "lose face." This is part of "Wa." When Japanese people have conversations, they are mindful about the other person because the worst thing you can do to someone is to cause them any kind of embarrassment or discomfort. This is reflective of the conformist culture of Japan. Belonging to the race that is Japanese means you are part of a collective whole. You don't do things that would harm other people.

My dad's older brother lived in Japan for awhile in the 1970s and even dated a Japanese woman. I used to love hearing him talk about life in Japan and what they were like. He said that in Japan, you could leave your purse or wallet outside and someone would return it to you. Really? That would be awesome! That's exactly how I picture Zion!! He also said that crime was low in Japan. It was a pretty safe country. Its definitely one country I hope to see someday. I used to dream about living there when I was a young boy (in 2nd grade).

Other aspects of "Wa" include not wanting to draw attention to oneself or being loud. Quiet calmness is the ideal. And if you've ever been around Japanese girls or young ladies, you might notice one of the cutest gestures that they are known for: covering their mouths when they laugh or giggle, or in some cases, smile. Its part of the polite thoughtfulness that the other person doesn't want to see the inside of your mouth. "Wa" is about a sense of place, of inherent knowing when you belong to a group. Its most definitely an admirable characteristic, but the downside is that it can be manipulated and abused if a charismatic leader with ill intentions desires to take advantage for selfish reasons. In Japanese corporate culture, the gap between the CEO's pay and the workers is not as large as it is in America. Anyone who has ever traveled in Europe is quite familiar with large groups of Japanese tourists in charter buses. Some Japanese companies pay for their employees tourist vacations. Yes, we can most definitely learn a lot from the Japanese and their system of cultural / societal harmony. It almost seems spiritually advanced (even though many Japanese are non-religious or even atheists today). Thinking about the other person and how your actions affect them is what true spirituality is all about.

To my shocker, though, I have read some New Age spiritualists view of the triple tragedy in Japan. There are those who believe that EVERYTHING happens for a reason. So, in this view, it can lead to a rather heartless, "blame the victim" attitude regarding the disaster. I think it is dangerous and insensitive for any spiritualist to make an unproven claim that those who died or are suffering in the aftermath had pre-chosen to experience that event. I've read quite a lot of spiritual books and have not come across any that claim to know if natural disasters are actually scheduled to happen at specific periods of time. Since our planet is a moving canvas, God's ongoing work of art in which evolution is the process by which we're all subjected to, our souls incarnate into life situations with all our plans, hopes and dreams for living according to the contract we wrote in the pre-existence, one of the conditions we already know is that we are on a living, breathing planet. Natural disasters can strike at any time, any place and its not because God is angry at us or its our time to die. Sometimes, it just may be an "oops!"

I know its easier for some people to believe that "everything happens for a reason", but this means that we have no free will. We're just zombies following a preset path. Did 250,000 people choose to die in the Christmas 2004 tsunami? Did 6 million Jewish people choose to die in the Holocaust? If that was true, that means that Hitler's soul chose to come to earth to set up a system of mass genocide. I simply don't believe that is true. Hitler fell far from his life path when he became a tyrannical dictator who was responsible for millions of deaths. No soul incarnates with an intent to end other souls' life experiences. The beauty of reincarnation is that if by chance we don't get to fulfill our goals in this lifetime, especially if it was cut short by a natural disaster or someone killed us, then we'll have the opportunity in another life to pick up where we left off.

The view that "everything happens for a reason" perpetuated in New Age spiritual circles is callous. It leads to people making stupid comments to grieving families who are struggling to understand "why?" For example, one lady at church once recounted some of the comments people have made to her after her husband was taken by a rogue wave while they were strolling on the beach in Mexico, enjoying each others company in a beautiful location. Someone actually had the gall to tell her, "God needed him more than you did." WRONG! To me, its the easy answer to dismiss every death as, "it was their time to go." No one knows that. What's wrong with just grieving and going through the process of asking why and trying to make sense of it? Accidents happen and it sucks, but that's life on our imperfect world.

For me, I don't believe the idea that the Japanese people who are suffering this tragedy had made a pre-mortal existence agreement to suffer through this with dignity so that they can show the world how to behave through a crisis. They suffer with dignity because of their deeply embedded "Wa" characteristic and the rest of the world is not going to all of a sudden turn Japanese because we admire their ability to endure tragedy with dignity. Its difficult to change one's character and our country is selfish, selfish, selfish, not to mention greedy. I really don't want to be around when tragedy hits closer to home. I still remember a photo I saw in the paper after Hurricane Katrina. A guy was sitting on his front porch with a rifle across his lap. His hand-written sign said: "Looters will be shot!" He was badly in need of some "Wa."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Aiding the Rebellion

On Saturday, which marked the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, President Obama authorized the American military to launch air strikes against targets in Libya. This decision came at the 11th hour, with Gadhafi loyalists close to arriving in rebel-stronghold Benghazi. While some Republicans like Sarah Palin had accused the president of "dithering" while a rebellion was about to be brutally crushed, the U.S. was actually trying to gather support among key European and Arab allies in the United Nations for military action. With approval and the participation of both Great Britain and France (!!!), the operation could finally begin.

I know it comes as a shock for people (as I learned in dialogues on Facebook and other blogs) that a liberal like me actually supports this military operation (some are calling it "the third war"). Many people, even pro-military and conservative folks, are against this operation. They cite all the usual complaints: we've spent too much in Afghanistan and Iraq already, we're in a current budget crisis, we're not the world's policeman, it's not the military's role, yadda yadda yadda. Well, you know what? I've always loved Madeleine Albright's most famous quote when she was Secretary of State under President Clinton: "What's the point in having the world's greatest military if we can't use it?"

President Obama is receiving major criticisms on both the right (no surprise) and the left (no surprise, either). In fact, even Congressman Dennis Kucinich (did I ever tell you how much I despise this little tyrant?) has suggested that Obama's authorization to use military force in Libya could be an "impeachable offense." If he does introduce a bill to impeach President Obama, he's a fool because the teabaggers are going to play him as they support the bill for other reasons (they don't care how Obama leaves office, just that he leaves office because they don't consider him a legitimate president due to their strange obsessions with Obama's birth certificate). I'm guessing that Kucinich needs attention again. His pet project is to create a cabinet level "Department of Peace", which I'm actually against because the last thing our government needs is another bureaucracy paying people good salaries to do relatively nothing.

In a way, I'm surprised at the amount of criticism leveled at President Obama for doing what I consider to be the right thing. I'm glad that he got off the golf course and actually did something. After all, Colonel Muammar Gadhafi had threatened to put an end to the rebellion in the eastern part of his country. What are we to do? Watch while innocent people and those wanting freedom from his tyranny to be massacred? Sitting around doing nothing is simply the wrong thing to do. I'm from the school of military being used for humanitarian goals: intervention to prevent genocide or massacres from happening. Granted, we can't go everywhere in the world an apply a consistent standard, which is why I'm a supporter of United Nations operations and believe that they should be allowed to have its own standing military, with the ability to recruit people from around the world to serve under the blue beret.

When it comes to military actions, I base my views on what I would be willing to do as a servicemember. When I was a young man in the Navy two decades ago, I was upset that my ship was sitting in the comfort of Sardinia while genocide was ongoing in Bosnia and Hercegovina in 1992. I wanted to do something about it, but President George Herbert Walker Bush didn't seem to care about it. When the genocide in Rwanda happened in 1994, I wanted to volunteer to go and do something to put an end to it, but President Clinton dithered (he was understandably hesitant due to the fiasco that Somalia turned out to be).

Interestingly enough, as a teenager living in Germany in 1986, I did not support President Reagan's air strikes against Libya in retaliation for the terrorist bombings of a Berlin discotheque in which a couple American soldiers were killed. However, in retrospect, those air strikes must have done something to Gadhafi's psyche because he became quiet. His infant daughter was killed during those strikes.

Yet the Pan Am flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988 and the fingerprints went back to Gadhafi. In 1992, when I was assigned to ride a submarine for three days (from La Maddalena, Sardinia to Naples, Italy), my supervisor told me to be prepared for being on a submarine for longer than 3 days in case the president ordered an operation against Gadhafi over his refusal to turn over terrorists connected to the Pan Am 103 tragedy. There were Navy seals on board the submarine with me, so it was possible, but ultimately did not happen. No crossing the line of death for the submarine I was on!

The above photo shows one of the Libyan planes going down in flames since the launch of air strikes against Libya. What a photo! One of the surprises of this military operation is that France has signed on to back the U.S. military. In the 1986 air strikes, France famously denied the U.S. military airspace to fly planes from bases in the United Kingdom to bomb Tripoli. That act infuriated a lot of conservative Americans. For me, I believed that France has every right to make their decision, because its their air space. However, two military members I knew on the USS ORION refused to go on liberty each time our ship made a port visit to France (Toulon and Villefranche-sur-mer). They would not leave the ship at all during the five days we were in each port because they hated the French for refusing to grant air space during the 1986 air strikes in Libya!!! Man, I couldn't believe how much they hated the French. Talk about stupid! That's the one thing I hate about American conservatives. They believe that we have the right to dictate to other countries what to do with their borders, airspace or foreign policy!!! No, believing that all nations are sovereign means accepting their decisions when it does not give in to our demands. Good for the French to not be bullied by the American president!

Maybe this change in behaviour among the French is indication that they like and trust President Obama. After all, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when President Charles de Gaulle was asked if he needed evidence to support President Kennedy's blockade of Cuba, the French leader famously said, "No, the word of the President is good enough." No leader would dare say that about President George W. Bush. Conservatives in America once again indulged in their anti-French delusions when President Jacques Chirac refused to go along with Bush's invasion of Iraq. So conservatives dumped French wine into the streets, refused to eat cheese, and passed legislation to rename "French" fries to "Freedom" fries.

A few weeks ago, Muammar Gadhafi gave an interview that was hysterically comical. I've heard rumours for years that he was "crazy" but this interview confirmed it. He blamed the rebellion on al-Qaeda, but claimed that he was universally loved by all Libyans. He refused to believe that there was a mass uprising against his government. He has been in power for 41 years, so ousting him is going to be tough. But he absolutely has to go. That's the reason why I can't believe more people don't support the military operation to help the rebels avoid being slaughtered. If Gadhafi is allowed to remain in power and defeat the uprising in Libya, the "domino" ends. The freedom movements in Algeria, Morocco, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Syria will also die as leaders decide to copy Gadhafi rather than run off into exile the way Ben Ali of Tunisia and Mubarak of Egypt did.

Not supporting the military operation is like the Bay of Pigs and the end of the 1991 Gulf War, when our government allowed freedom fighters to be brutally defeated by Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein. I don't want to see that happen in Libya. While I agree that military air strikes should continue indefinitely until Gadhafi leaves power, I'm against committing ground troops. We should provide air cover for the rebels but not fight their ground war for them. Clinton's highly successful Kosovo campaign is the model for Libya. To compare what we're doing in Libya with what we did in Afghanistan and Iraq is ridiculous.

One thing I do have to hand it to Muammar Gadhafi for is his colourful manner of dress. The guy had a unique style all his own. He makes Liberace look like a square wallflower!

I think his shirt above is interesting. I'd love one of those with photos of world leaders that I admire: Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Vaclav Havel, Mikhail Gorbachev, Al Gore, and Barack Obama.

This is a photo of Gadhafi with Bush's Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. I think Gadhafi's outfit is really cool looking in this photo! I love how you can see the coldness between the two of them. There are official rules for American diplomats when posing for photographs with dictators. You don't want to be seen friendly with them or shaking their hands. Madeleine Albright had written about this in her memoirs when meeting Slobodan Milosovic, the war criminal president of Yugoslavia.

Oops...looks like President Obama did not get the diplomatic memo! Not sure when this photo was taken. I did think it was interesting that Gadhafi seemed to have made some deal with the American government after Saddam Hussein's government was toppled. Perhaps he feared that Bush was just as crazy as he was, so he wanted to secure his power by cooperating with the American government after a couple decades of isolation. In one news report I read, Gadhafi had written a letter to Obama, praising him as a "son of Africa." He seemed to like our new president, but I bet he's really pissed now. Can't trust us Americans!

The above map shows where the fertile areas of Libya are, while most of the country is smack dab in the middle of the famous Sahara Desert, the largest desert in the world. Most of the population lives along the coast, so breaking Gadhafi's powerhold on Libya should be easier than in Iraq or Afghanistan. His power is concentrated in the capital city of Tripoli. The rebel forces control the eastern part of the coastal region, on the other side of the Gulf of Sidra.

When I was a teenager learning about the flags of other countries, I thought Libya had the most boring flag of the entire world. Its simply the colour green. Now, I love green (its my favourite colour) but this is ridiculous. If you wanted to show displeasure to the Gadhafi regime, all you have to do was burn green construction paper! You don't need to buy a flag when green paper will do! Apparently, the flag is all green to symbolize Gadhafi's "Green Revolution" (and no, he is not known to be an environmentalist!).

Prior to his coming to power in the late 1960s, the above flag was the official Libyan flag when they gained independence from Italy in 1951. Its a lot better and has seen a reemergence as rebel forces have proudly displayed this flag in their protests against the Gadhafi regime. I like it a lot better. It has the colours of Africa (red for the blood, black for the skin colour, green for the land) and the crescent and star symbol of Islam. Hope this flag will soon be raised over all government buildings in Libya soon.

I am hoping and praying that Gadhafi will be removed from power before the end of the month. The reason is because Ben Ali stepped down in January and Mubarak went into exile in February. One regime change a month sounds like a good goal for the world in 2011. Apparently, the uprising in Yemen is gaining ground. Perhaps they will be the focus of the world for the month of April. In other news, Saudi Arabia sent its military forces into the tiny island nation of Bahrain (where we have a major Navy base, which my best friend Nathan had wanted to be stationed at in the late 1990s). The kingdom of Bahrain needed help to put down their uprising, since the $3,000 per person bribe by the King didn't seem to quell the discontent.

Its amazing to me that people who were happy about the people's victory in Tunisia and Egypt are not willing to see us provide air cover for those in Libya who want the same liberty and freedom. Trust me on this one...if we fail the people of Libya, its all going to come crashing down. If Gadhafi remains in power on the corpses of the freedom fighters, the rest of the regimes in the Middle East are going to follow suit. This will have a huge backlash against the United States because we will be seen as allowing a massacre to happen. Taking action against Libya should be a signal to every other autocratic dictatorship in the Middle East that the United States of America sides with the people wanting their freedom. This is just use of our military forces. May the people achieve victory!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Music Video Monday: Cher

In honour of my 20th anniversary of going off to Navy Basic Training in Orlando, Florida, I had to choose the famous Cher music video "If I Could Turn Back Time." This song and video came out in 1989. Joining the Navy was in the back of my mind, but not a certainty that I would join. What I find most interesting about this video is that Cher is performing on a Battleship (which the Navy only had 4 of them at the time and they were being retired and I was able to see the final one at the pier on the Norfolk Naval base in 1991 before it transitioned to museum status somewhere). As you'll notice in the video, the sailors are cheering her and I have no doubt that some of them might be thinking dirty thoughts about her. This inevitably happens when any woman appears on an all-male ship, especially one who is known to strut her bare (and tattoo'd) ass around.

However, the reality is that if any sailor admitted to listening to Cher, his sexuality would automatically be suspect. Cher, like Madonna, Bette Midler, the Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, and The Village People, is simply one of those singers that most men think that only a gay man would be interested in. I suspect a lot of this has to do with the knowledge that Cher does have a lot of gay fans (like the other groups and artists I've mentioned). No worries, though. I've never really gotten into Cher. She's far too campy for my liking. Though I like some of her songs, I find her voice is a bit too deep or slow or something.

In yesterday's post, I wrote about the choice I made to get out of the Navy rather than make it a career, and how if I had made it a career, I would have been eligible to retire yesterday! Naturally, it got me thinking, "If I Could Turn Back Time"...would I have made a different choice? When I think about it, though, despite the difficult path I've taken in life (the inability to find a living wage and fulfilling career being my biggest disappointment in life, followed by my failure to find an intelligent lady who captures my heart and wants to marry me), I would make like Peggy Sue and make the same choice to get out of the Navy. The only three choices I wish I could change are: (1) staying in Washington, D.C. in 2000 instead of moving back to Atlanta; (2) moving to Washington, D.C. instead of Portland in 2006; or (3) not accepting the job offer at That Awful Place during my second week in Portland. But there is no question...leaving the Navy after one enlistment was a good decision.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Retirement Day

Today, the day has finally arrived. A day that looked like forever from the standpoint of a nineteen year old, twenty years ago. Of course it looked like forever, because as a nineteen year old, it was my entire life (plus one year more)! Had I decided to make the Navy a career, though, I would have been eligible to retire today, getting paid half my salary every month for the rest of my life. I would be transitioning to a new career, perhaps even going to college. Had I made the Navy a career, I'm certain that I would have been stationed in either Hawaii, Japan, or San Diego, which means that the ship(s) I was on would have taken me to port calls in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Bahrain, and maybe even Kenya. Had I stayed Navy, I would also have likely been more serious in my search for a wife and started a family. Most of all, had I stayed Navy, I would be far better off financially. This last point is a sticking point with me and why I feel bittersweet about this day and wondering if I made the right choice in January 1996 to leave.

When I enlisted, I never planned to make the Navy a career. My goal was one enlistment, get my honourable discharge and GI Bill, travel a bit while my friends were stressing out in college, then get out and go to college with the traveling out of my system. My goals for self was to get my college degree by 2000, work in the Gore Administration, write my novel about the Navy and see it published (and hopefully enough media attention to initiate a controversial debate), and to settle down, get married and have children. I expected to accomplish all this BEFORE the dreaded "retirement day" arrived. I thought 15 years would be enough time to accomplish those major goals. Had I known how difficult my life would have been, how deep in debt I would get, and worst of all: making the same exact salary for the past 15 years, I think I would have taken the safe option and made the Navy a career, even if I didn't exactly love it.

This is why I'm glad we don't have foresight in the decisions we make. Had I known the hardships that I would endure in the fifteen years since getting out, I would have made the "safe choice" and I would have missed out on the wonderful experiences I did have. I would not have gone to BYU and met a few great Mormons to call my friends. I would not have experienced the wonderful Washington Seminar and seeing a dream come true in being an intern for Vice President Gore. I would not have lived in Portland the past four years and meet some great folks in my various social activities surrounding church, World Affairs Council, and political campaigns.

One of my favourite movies as a teenager was Peggy Sue Got Married. I re-watched it a year or two ago and still loved it. When I was a teenager, I didn't understand why Peggy Sue did not make a different change (namely, not marrying her high school sweetheart who would turn out to break her heart 25 years later). Knowing everything she knew and going back, she still made the same choice...because she loved her daughter. Its such a beautiful film and true. If I had the ability to go back to January 1996 and make the choice to "stay Navy", it would mean giving up on every person I have met for the past 15 years. True, I would have met different people and probably couldn't imagine my life without knowing them, but I'm not willing to make that trade!

So, even though I'm still not in a dream career that pays the wage I seek (my age multiplied by $1,000), I'm not in a relationship, married, or a father, my novel about the Navy still hasn't found an agent or publisher, and I still haven't made it to Australia, I will say with a certainty that I made the right choice getting out of the Navy, experiencing college while still in my 20s, and having the freedom to choose my destiny. The only regret in life that I still have, though, is accepting the job offer at That Awful Place when I was new to Portland. Those are four years that I will never get back. All I can do is move on and make these years count.

Perhaps some day in the spiritual realm, I will be able to see what my life might have been had I made a decision to stay in the Navy. That's one aspect of the spiritual world that I hope is true. A sort of "Fantasy Island" for people to see how different our lives might have been had we made a left turn at the major fork in the road of life, instead of going right. As Robert Frost famously wrote: "Two roads diverged in the woods and I...I chose the one less traveled by and it has made all the difference." My Admin Officer on the USS George Washington tried so hard to get me to reenlist. He said that the only jobs out there were "flipping burgers" and that I would never travel like I did in the Navy. I had more confidence in my abilities than he did. To this day, I have never worked in a fast food restaurant (and I've worked since I was 14) and I have traveled quite a bit since I've been out of the Navy.

Online, I found a cool retirement cake that someone made. So, on this day of my "Retirement Day" (in an alternative universe), congratulations to the alternative me for enduring 20 years of Naval service. May we now both join up and find our dream career that pays the wage we are worth! And yes, my dream career involves travel! I'm more certain of that now, after being in my new job for the past 90 days or so.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Most Likable Republican EVER

When I learned earlier this year that Senator Scott Brown has his memoirs coming out in February, I knew that this was going to be one of the most "must read books" of 2011. Ever since he emerged on the national public stage in 2010 with his surprise come-from-behind victory over the front-runner Democratic candidate for the vacant Senate seat in Massachusetts (the one held by the great Ted Kennedy since 1962), he has been the one to watch, not only for being the 41st Republican (able to break a filibuster) but also for the strong likelihood that he will be a candidate for president in the near future (the 2016 election cycle).

My first impression of Brown is that he is an incredibly likable person. He didn't indulge in negative, personal attacks on his opponent (Martha Coakley, Attorney General of Massachusetts). He worked hard for his win (actually meeting voters and not campaigning in a partisan way). Then on the night of his victory, his spontaneous remarks caused the first controversy of 2010. He had proclaimed to everyone gathered there and those watching on TV that his daughters were available. But he said immediately afterwards, "No, no, no..." It was obvious to me that he was kidding. He was being a playful dad, acting out of the euphoria of his win. To me, his comment showed me that he was unscripted and had a great sense of humour. Others didn't take it the same way. Liberals and some right-wing media personalities jumped all over his joke. Most notable was Glenn Beck, who predicted that Senator Brown was a likely candidate for having a "dead intern" on his hands in the future. What a nutjob!

An example of his sense of humour was when actor Jon Hamm (of Mad Men) played him in a hilarious skit on Saturday Night Live. In the skit, Hamm (as Brown) accidentally stumbles into a room where Senators Reid, Boxer and Byrd, and Representatives Pelosi and Frank are meeting. He apologizes and plays the goof ball, winking at the Democrats, which causes four of them (not Senator Reid, though) to fantasize about Brown. Apparently, the skit was based on an actual news item that Senator Brown did stumble into various rooms in the U.S. Capitol building, trying to find his way. I read that Senator Brown watched the skit and loved it. Doesn't surprise me, though, because in every interview I've seen of him, he definitely has a sense of humour about things and that's a huge part of why he's so damn likable. I'm telling you, Republicans, you will not find a more likable presidential candidate in your party. He truly does have the potential to be the "uniter, not a divider" that Bush pretended to desire for the country.

Many teabaggers saw in Senator Brown a chance to put the breaks on the Obama agenda and they flowed money into his campaign as well as travel up to Massachusetts to volunteer on his campaign, but it did not take long before he fell out of their favour when he voted with the Democrats on some issues. Last year, I had a few arguments with Glenn Beck teabaggers who claim that Senator Scott Brown had a target on his back and would be out in 2012, when he has to run for a full Senate term. When I heard that, I was livid. Just because he's not an ideologue like they are, they want to dictate to the people of Massachusetts (the most liberal state in the entire United States) how their Senator should vote? This is why I hate ideologues. The agenda is more important to them than the person, and its all or nothing. It shows how stupid these people truly are, because they are willing to cut down the one Republican who has THE BEST SHOT at the presidency in 2016 than any we've ever seen in our lifetime.

People laugh when I say that Senator Scott Brown is "being groomed for the presidency", but I really believe that those who control the economy of this country have a vested stake in who becomes president. The media acts as a handicapper, influencing public opinion about certain candidates. They will promote those they want (minimizing or not reporting on serious flaws in their character or past) while marginalizing others. The obsession with polls every week to track the popularity of this or that politician is suspect. People are easily led / influenced. Congressman Ron Paul won the plurality of votes at a recent Conservative conference, yet in national polls, he tracks within the margin of error (about 3% in polls). How can this be so? Obviously, the establishment is threatened by the prospect of a Ron Paul presidency, so they have to keep him on the margins. I'm no fan of Ron Paul, but at least he is consistent in his views and is probably the most honest of all the prospects for 2012 (I'll write a future post on the prospective GOP presidential class of 2012).

Laugh at me if you want, but Senator Scott Brown's first book, Against All Odds: My Life of Hardship, Fast Breaks, and Second Chances, was published (available for sale) on 21 February. President's Day. A Monday. A holiday. Books don't appear on Monday as the first day of sale. Its always Tuesday in the United States. That's when new books, DVDs, and CDs appear in stores. Always on a Tuesday, never on a Monday. I believe Brown's special President's Day publication date is a subtle marketing plan to make this man presidential (or a subtle hint by the power elite of this country that Brown is their choice after Obama's two terms). Not that I have anything against the idea, because if we must have a Republican president after Obama, Senator Scott Brown is that man. What can I say? The guy is damn likable. Read his book and you'll see why he's so damn likable.

On President's Day, I went to several bookstores trying to find his book and found it at Barnes and Noble. I had to read this book, to see if my initial impression of him will still hold. After I finished reading The Twelfth Insight (and its horrible writing), I started reading Brown's book and I was truly impressed by his writing style (or that of his ghostwriter). After completing it a couple weeks ago, I have to say that it is by far the best memoir by a politician that I've read. Beating Obama's Dreams From My Father. In this memoir, Brown reveals far more than any politician dares. Its like he's making a bid to be the most honest politician ever, by revealing some ugly events from his childhood. I had no idea that he grew up poor, being moved from house to house as his mother married, divorced, married, divorced, married, divorced various men of an often violent disposition. Obviously, his mother has a "type". As a result, Brown had to deal with watching his mother's dysfunctional relationships and sometimes playing the role of protector of his mother when her husband was beating the shit out of her. At age six onward, Brown played the role of protector. When he was growing into a teen, his mother's husband at the time was a true terror, who threatened to break Brown's hands. Because of the terror of growing up in such a household, Brown referred to his step-father as a "terrorist." Brown saw basketball as his escape and if his hands or arms were broken, he might never be able to play again, so he lived under constant threat, unable to sleep heavy at night for fear that the threat would be made good while he was sleeping.

Some of the saddest images from the book was reading about Brown as a young boy, waiting with excitement for his father to show up for weekend visits. Oftentimes, his father was a no-show. Imagine the disappointment when his father failed to show time and again. During the rare times when his father did show up, they basically drove around in a car, ate at a restaurant, and returned home. A couple hours with his dad, tops. As a teenager, he lived with the disappointment of hoping his father would show up to see his basketball games.

If that weren't enough, the most shocking detail in the book is that Brown was a victim of sexual abuse by two different people. One was with an older boy when he was young, walking home through a path in the woods. From that episode, he learned to run (like Forrest Gump!) so he would never be caught again and have his escape route blocked. The other was an older teen camp counselor when he attended a Christian summer camp as a tween or young teenager. I was astonished that he would reveal these episodes from his youth, because its not as though it will ever become public knowledge. He doesn't name the guys who abused him in such a manner and has no idea whatever happened to them.

His life turned around when he received a scholarship to attend Tufts University. Though he dreamed of going to college out of state, he knew he couldn't while his mother was married to a brutal man. He had to stay local to protect his mother and sister whenever fights happened and his sister called for help. His sister did him a huge favour by submitting his picture and a letter to Cosmopolitan magazine when they were searching for "America's Sexiest Bachelor." From the moment he left high school, its like the Fates favoured him by rewarding him with blessings after blessings. He won the contest, posed almost completely nude, and got a series of modeling gigs, which led to his meeting his wife, also a model. He had also joined the National Guard and became a member of the JAG Corps, attended Law School at Boston University and eventually married and started a family with his model-turned-newsanchorwoman wife, Gail. They had two daughters. The oldest, Ayla, made it to 13th place on the 2006 season of American Idol (the best Idol ever...that was the year that Taylor Hicks won. I don't even remember Ayla, but the last song she sung was Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten", which did not become a hit until the fall of 2006). Damn, it seems everything this family touches turns to gold!

After I read the book, all I could say was "WOW. Wow, wow, wow!" The man has incredible character. To experience all the adversity that he did growing up and become this incredible person (a devoted husband and father, a career National Guardsman, a lawyer, and a politician), he is the complete opposite of George W. Bush (who grew up with every advantage and pissed it all away, and following in his father's footsteps and failing at every step, including the presidency). The life of Scott Brown shows exactly how someone can overcome adversity and be a great human being. Because he is honest about his past, he doesn't appear at risk to ever be an ideologue. He even wrote in the book that he's not an ideologue at all. He is the epitome of "The Golden Mean" (moderation and temperance).

If there are any flaws with the book, it could be his tendency to "brag" about his accomplishments on the basketball court or in his triathlons. But, I'll give him leeway because he is so refreshingly honest about all of his life, even if it probably made his parents uncomfortable. Also in his book, near the end, he affirms that he is a true Republican, so I don't agree with his views (particularly on the treatment of POWs in the War on Terror). But, these are minor points. I support candidates for deeper reasons than how they vote or party affiliation. Likability, moderation (non-ideologue on either the right or left), and compelling personal narrative matters to me. Scott Brown is someone I could support as president, though I'm likely to back Governor Martin O'Malley in 2016. But if Brown is our 45th President, I would be quite okay with that. I have no doubt that he would make a popular president (well, except among the teabaggers, who I suspect will support Senator Rand Paul for President in 2016). For a political party that has been searching for the next Ronald Reagan, Scott Brown is far better than Reagan and is the star candidate that they have been looking for to bring them out of the dark shadows of the Bush era.

So, I highly recommend reading this informative, well-written memoir by a likely future President of the United States of America. I wish more politicians would be as honest as Brown in revealing the experiences that have shaped one's life. Such frank honesty only makes Senator Brown that much more likable. I wish him much success in his future.

This video is another example of why I like this guy. Check out his reaction at the 3:54 mark. You can hear in his voice as well see in his face that he is embarrassed. I love his reaction, though. His sense of humour shines through. This guy has charisma. He comes off as such a likable, moderate person (real and honest, too) that I really hope that his political party won't ruin him. If he ever emerges with the Dick Cheney snarl, I'll know that he sold his soul to Satan. Right now, though, all he has to be is himself and I think by the time 2015 rolls around, he will be the front-runner for the GOP nomination. Those who dismiss him now, well...who else has his resume, star quality, and life experiences? Bobby Jindal? Rand Paul? Marc Rubio? Sarah Palin? Jeb Bush? Chris Christie? Not a chance. Invest in Scott Brown NOW! He will be president. Mark my words.