Friday, April 29, 2011

Congratulations William and Catherine!

On Friday morning, I decided to watch the Royal Wedding of Prince William to his sweetheart, Catherine Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Due to the time difference, it was between three and four a.m. in Portland while tens or hundreds of thousands of people in London watched the festivities along the route between Westminister Abbey and Buckingham Palace. An estimated 2 billion people around the world watched this wedding. Its amazing how much attention two young people can command.

In the week or two leading up to this event, I've heard plenty of Americans make disparaging remarks about the wedding, probably to show how cool they are because they don't get emotionally involved in the hype that befalls everyone else. I've even read some comments on a few people's Facebook walls and was stunned by some of the criticisms towards the wedding. I mentioned on one friend's wall that this wedding was a big deal because royal weddings for the House of Windsor seem to be a once or twice in a decade event. In America, we get the pomp and pageantry of a presidential inauguration every four years. Why not allow the British to indulge in their pomp and pageantry of a royal wedding? I also mentioned that with all the bad news going on in the world, we (the people of this planet) could use something positive to give our love and attention to. Why not a royal wedding?

I wish Prince William and Catherine Middleton all the best for a good future. My impression of Catherine is that she seems to be a class act. She may be merely a "commoner", but she has style, intelligence, beauty and grace. However, I am no monarchist. I think the tradition should end when Queen Elizabeth passes on. But, since I'm a rebellious Yank instead of a loyalist Brit, my opinion counts for nada!

My comment about the royal wedding being a good thing seemed to have baffled one of my friends. He commented that he found it "ironic" that someone like me would defend the wedding. I'm not sure what he meant, because he never explained himself. In case anyone reading my blog is wondering why I would defend such a spectacle, the answer is simple. Any positive event that brings the inhabitants of this planet together for a period of time in celebration of something good can't be a bad thing. In fact, I would say that it was a very good thing. What a sending forth the world is giving to this young couple! I can imagine that they could feel the love sent from all the corners of the earth in their direction. Perhaps even Lady Diana Spencer, the Princess of Wales, was looking down from heaven and enjoying the moment in spirit.

So, let's drop the cynicism for a day and just wish the couple well. I know that I would love the support of family, friends, and even strangers whenever the day arrives when I shall be married. Cynical comments can take a holiday. As I watched the wedding, a part of me felt sad for Catherine Middleton. I know that a lot of girls grow up with the whole princess fantasy, but it really does sound like hell. The royal family may have wealth, privilege, and fame...but the trade-off is severe. They don't have privacy / anonymity (especially if they make mistakes, which shows their human side) and most tragic of all, they don't have freedom. Its a lifetime prison term of public appearances and charity fundraisers and meetings. Even our presidents are given a break after four or eight years. Queen Elizabeth II has been at it for nearly 60 years now. Freedom is too high a price to pay for such a life.

In 1981 was the ultimate fairy tale wedding, when Prince Charles in his early 30s married the beautiful young Lady Diana Spencer, who was just 19 years old. When I was in my early 30s, the thought of marrying a 19 year old would have been horrifying. The life experience gap is too wide. Heck, when I was a 25 year old freshman in college, I found the girls under 22 to be too immature and lacking in life experience for me to ever be attracted to them.

As we all know, the fairy tale marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales lasted all of a dozen years or so. Prince Charles' true love had always been Camilla Parker-Bowles, who was married at the time. They were more of a match than Charles and Di, but the Queen wanted a less scandalous woman to serve as the wife and mother to the heir (and the spare) that would come along. Princess Diana learned early on that Camilla was never far from Charles' heart and she once admitted that their marriage got crowded because Camilla was ever-present in their lives.

I was 9 years old when the world watched that royal wedding. I vaguely remember being aware of it. My family fell in the Princess Diana camp. A genealogical record supposedly connects Lady Diana Spencer to one of our ancestors, so we often joked about her being our "cousin." Even through her scandals (the adultery, the bulimia, the suicide attempts, the romance with a Muslim man), my family still loved this lady, who had told an interviewer in 1995 that she knew she would never be the Queen but all she wanted was to be the Queen of people's hearts. She earned mine long ago. Long live Lady Di! Her shocking death in 1997 really tore my sister up, who called to commiserate with me when I was new at BYU and trying to fit into the Mormon culture. She and my mom were shocked that I didn't hear the news about Diana's accident and death. They thought I had joined a cult, but the reality was that I was too involved with the orientation activities to catch the news. I was saddened by her death, of course, but it still feels surreal to me.

The royal family I felt the most affinity for was Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. I was a teenager when this wedding happened in 1986. I was more into this wedding than the Charles and Diana one. Like Prince Andrew, I'm the second born son. He served in the Royal Navy and I was born in a U.S. Navy hospital (and my dad joked about me having to join the Navy after I turn 18). I also liked Sarah Ferguson's spunk. I like her red hair. Their first dance song was Chris DeBurgh's "Lady in Red", which I didn't like on the first few listens, but it grew on me. Now, every time I hear the song, I think of Sarah Ferguson. I was sad to hear when their marriage fell apart (the same time as Charles and Diana's marital difficulties). In the years since, though, Sarah Ferguson has proven to be an embarrassment for the royal family and even running afoul of the law with some financial schemes. Supposedly, she was not invited to William and Catherine's wedding, which had a guest list of 1,900 people that included heads of state, royal families from other "kingdoms", and celebrities (such as Elton John, Posh and Becks).

The souvenir book seen in the picture above is representative of the copy that I had bought on my family's three week road trip through the British Isles in the summer of 1987 (Still the best family vacation I've ever been on). I admit that I was such a fan of the Duke and Duchess of York (Andrew and Sarah) that I bought quite a few souvenirs of their wedding, including the stamp on a commemorative envelope, two books, and postcards. I had also bought postcards of Lady Diana, which I still have.

In 1999, the youngest son, Prince Edward finally got his turn at the altar when he married Sophie Rhys-Jones, whom some people thought resembled Lady Diana. However, she has kept a low profile because we've hardly heard much about her. She's probably wise to keep a low profile, knowing how the tabloid media can be. However, I also think that the media realizes that Lady Diana was a unique individual who can't be replaced. No one has been able to fill her shoes. She had style and grace, and yes, I did consider her to be the most beautiful woman in the world during the time she was alive. There will never be another Diana on our planet.

Women who are hoping to become a real princess still have a shot. Prince Harry is now the world's most eligible bachelor and he has no problem attracting the attention of women everywhere. I remember reading a quote in the mid-1990s where Lady Diana said that Prince Harry would be a real ladies man when he grew up. Somehow, she knew that he would be the one that ladies would want the most. Prince William seems to be more shy, reserved, and private, while Prince Harry is the wild and extroverted one. There is speculation that he might actually be the biological son of James Hewitt. His red hair is a giveaway (in England, they call the hair "ginger"). There is no red hair in the Windsor royal family. If you do a Google image search on James Hewitt and Prince Harry, you can see pictures and the resemblance is uncanny. You can bet that the royal family will probably never allow a paternity test, or if one was done, for the results to never be public knowledge.

Prince William is second in line to the throne. If he and Catherine produce a male heir or a few male heirs, Prince Harry's succession will continue to be moved down the line (just as Prince Andrew and Prince Edward have been when William and Harry were born). So, with the wedding behind them, its time to start the business of producing male heirs. The House of Windsor will continue on for the far foreseeable future. May God Save the Queen!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The President Trumps the Chump

On Tuesday evening, I had fallen asleep while the radio was on. That's always dangerous, because my dreams will revolve around whatever is talked about on the radio (I learned what a nightmare this could be a year or so ago when Rush Limbaugh's hatred entered my dream state). So, I dreamed that I was in Hawaii with a friend from high school and all we talked about was birth certificates!

When I woke up, I learned that President Obama had given a press conference announcing that he was showing his long-form birth certifiocate. His speech was amazing, because he mentioned how ridiculous the obsession with his birth certificate was and how it has become a huge distraction for the serious work that needs to be done. He compared it to sideshow carnival acts. It was yet another great speech by our president. Part of his consistency of character. His is a man who is serious about changing the discourse of our country away from the trivial fluff that too many Americans fall prey to. Obama is a thoughtful person with a low tolerance for ignorance and shallow small talk. This is a big reason why I like him, because I'm the same way. Too many Americans are just plain ignorant and prone to obsess over the most inconsequential things. Why give in to the demands of such morons and their incessant rants?

President Obama's press conference pre-empted a planned press conference by Donald Trump, who was hinting that he had found something that his private investigators brought to his attention during their recent trip to Hawaii. Trump got trumped by the president, so he had to salvage something. He claimed victory, bragging that he managed to accomplish something no else was able to do for two years. What accomplishment? The Chump had been hinting the past couple weeks that he believed the birth certificate not only revealed that Obama was born in Kenya, but that it also indicated what Obama's religion was. What an ass. Even if a birth certificate mentioned the religious affiliation of the parents or the baby, it would be irrelevant because people change. That's probably why such info is not included on a birth certificate. Its strictly the unchanging facts: Obama was born in Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii on August 4, 1961 to Barack Hussein Obama, age 25 of Kenya, East Africa and Stanley Ann Dunham, age 18 of Wichita, Kansas. Obama is a II rather than a Junior.

Will this info shut up the birthers? Not a chance! No amount of factual evidence will change the mind of a deluded person. These people are so blind in their hatred of our first African American president that they will deny his legitimacy until the day he leaves office. Never mind that we did have an illegitimate president for eight years, which they were strangely silent about.

In Trump's press conference, he mentioned being skeptical about the birth certificate and mentioned that it would have to be analyzed. Even more audacious, Trump said that he was glad that it was over because he was tired of people and the press asking him about it! If I needed proof of his moron-status, it was that statement because he was the one who jumped onto the birther bandwagon. His daily diarrhea to the press has spewed far worse stinkier shit than the birth certificate obsession. Trump is questioning Obama's attendance at Columbia University and Harvard University and he calls Obama the worst president ever. Really? Even worse than Bush, who squandered a surplus, passed two economy-crippling tax cuts, launched two wars on borrowed funds from Chinese bankers, dithered on and after the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, then repeated his incompetence during the worst natural disaster in U.S. history?

What is wrong with our society? In a society that values honesty, truth, and justice, a person making a false accusation would lose credibility and be considered a persona non grata, consigned to a life of obscurity and irrelevance. I wish this fate on Donald Trump. He wagered his "reputation" (which was grossly over-valued to begin with) on the belief that President Obama was hiding his birth certificate. When the info on the long-form birth certificate revealed what Obama had told people for two years now, there's no question that Trump's credibility is tainted. His brand should be reduced to the low class status of a Walmart. Hopefully, Republicans will get smart and dump him before he leads the party off the cliff. As a loyal Democrat, I'm amused that the Repugs have gotten so loony. That's what blind ideology does to people.

The news sparked so many debates on various Facebook walls. It was interesting to see a friend of mine from church in Atlanta, whom I've known since 1988, comment on another friend of mine's Facebook wall (whom I've known since 1991 when we were sailors stationed in Sardinia). I had no idea that they were Facebook friends (through me), but the church guy's comments pissed me off because he was lying on the website. He made the same argument on my fellow sailor friend's wall that he had tried to make on my wall awhile back. His argument was that Obama is disqualified from being president because you have to have both parents who are natural born citizens. I called him out on his lie. He doesn't have a clue what he's talking about because he's a white, conservative Southern guy who was born in America to two white natural born Americans.

The reason I know about citizenship is because I was born overseas in a U.S. Navy hospital to a natural born American father and a Thai citizen mother, who was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1976 (I remember going to a voting booth with her, so that had to be the 1976 election). I was issued a U.S. Department of State birth certificate that looks just like Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate. My birth certificate states that I was born in "The Republic of China." That would be Taiwan, not mainland China (which is officially called "The People's Republic of China"). If I ever run for political office, conservative morons would have a field day with my birth certificate and I would enjoy smacking them down. I've had to show this birth certificate whenever I started a new job, when I enlisted in the Navy, to get my driver's license. I've registered to vote and for the selective service at the age of 18. I've also had to show my birth certificate when I got my passports in 1993 and 2009. And when I was in South Africa without any identity cards due to my being robbed, not once have I ever been denied that I was an American citizen by any government official. If I'm considered an American citizen, so is President Obama...because he has one thing over me: he was born on actual U.S. soil. John McCain was not. Neither was my brother.

It annoys me that my church friend has bought into the lies of the rightwing nutjobs. There is a secret motivation for someone like Orly Taitz to keep pushing the issue. Race plays a part, because there is a segment of the American public that is still bothered by the idea of a black man having a better status than them. The Obamas are a successful, intelligent, classy, telegenic family. There's nothing "ghetto" about them, and there's the rub. President Obama is a daily reminder to those who prefer to remain ignorant that they are stuck in their ignorance and low class status. Is that the president's fault? Why should he live up to someone's racist stereotype of what a black person should be? Its amusing that birthers get defensive when you bring up race, because "some of their best friends are black!" And we believe this because a lady in the Republican Party in Orange County, California had been caught sending a racist email to her friends that depicted President Obama as the offspring of two chimpanzees with the caption saying something like: "Now we know why he doesn't have a birth certificate!" She claimed that she only sent this to her white friends who wouldn't be offended. Obviously, someone was offended enough to forward the email to the media. Oops!

I'm sure that Obama's awesome press conference is not going to settle the issue for these birthers. We shouldn't be shocked. They do seem a bit Obsessive-Compulsive. The scene below, from The Aviator, perfectly illustrates these people. They can't help themselves. OCD is a mental illness. Sucks to be them. Show me the blueprints! Show me the birth certificate!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Music Video Monday: Pink Martini

This week's music video is by Portland's biggest export, Pink Martini. Since I moved to Portland in 2006, I've heard a lot about this band but I never listened to their music. The reason? Well, it sounds closed minded of me, but I thought the name of the band was dumb. Pink Martini? What kind of band name is that? Granted, its not as bad as "Goo Goo Dolls", but I thought the name was dumb.

The company I work for happens to distribute the label that Pink Martini records under, so when I started working there, advertisements for Pink Martini's first Christmas album was all over the office. They are the company's pride and joy. I didn't listen the Christmas album and I have been resisting listening to them since I started working at the company. However, on Friday, I saw a copy of an old CD by Pink Martini in the reference library, so I decided to give them a fair listen.

Whoa! I was impressed on first listen. I was shocked. They are quite eclectic in their musical style. There were a couple songs in the bossa nova style (I'm a fan of bossa nova, the only Jazz I can listen to). They had some songs in French and a torch song or two. Then there's the song "Hey Eugene", which is the best song on the album. The music is pure genius. I love it. Its my new favourite, even though this song was released the same year I moved to Portland. What I most love about my job is that I have a huge warehouse of CDs to listen to, simply by requesting a promo copy. I haven't even listened to an actual radio station that plays current hits or adult contemporary pop in over six months. Since I started working at the company, I've gotten into some awesome blues, bhangra, classical, and even country. My favourite are a few blues artists.

This week, I will experience the first "benefit" of working at this company. The annual label conference is this week at a hotel near the airport. I'll get to meet some record company owners, which I can't wait for. My favourite label is Ruf Records, out of Germany. They have quite a few awesome blues artists, with my favourite being a trio of young Europeans who recorded an album about their pilgrimage in 2005 through the Mississippi Delta (to Memphis, though. Hurricane Katrina cancelled the New Orleans portion of their journey). One of my favourite songs on this album is "Blues Caravan", where a Finnish lady is actually trying to rap. Its so hilarious to hear her attempt to do so.

On Wednesday evening, I will have to miss out on my biweekly discussion group (we're discussing Guantanamo Bay this week! I so wish I could bi-locate--which is being in two places at once). The company is sponsoring the Portland show of Dana Fuchs, whose CD Love to Beg is getting rave critical reviews and is expected to sell well this year. I've listened to her album a few times already and I love it. I can't wait to hear her live! I even contacted her on Facebook, letting her know that my job is to make sure she gets paid her royalties. Like I said to friends last year when I got hired, I consider this a good karma job.

The highlight for me this week will be on Saturday, when Johnny Clegg performs at the Aladdin theater (his label is not distributed by the company I work for, so this concert is purely my interest). My request to the universe is this: if there is ever an event at which I want to meet my future wife, this is that event! I would love to meet a single, attractive, intelligent, well-traveled lady at this concert and hit it off with her. I'll remain hopeful, but my main goal is to enjoy myself and to meet Johnny for the fourth time (I plan to give him a bolo tie that I know he will love because it illustrates a subtitle to his song "Dela": "I Know Why the Dog Howls at the Moon").

Here's to a blessed week! Music is the "drug" that keeps me going. I love being exposed to new music all the time, which my job has certainly done a great job at for the past 100+ days. Hope you enjoy Pink Martini's performance on Dave Letterman. If you get a chance, check out their album. You haven't heard anything like it!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

For Easter, I'm linking an interesting theory I learned a couple years ago about the whole Christ story and religion in general. Its taken from the subversive documentary Zeitgeist, which is a wild, trippy ride into all kinds of conspiracy theories. I take all of it with a large dose of salt. A grain of salt is not strong enough!

While Christians worldwide celebrate the risen Christ on this day, and churches are overflowing with people as the "Cheaster" folks attend (those who only attend church on Christmas and Easter Sundays), I happen to be one of those Christians who does not believe that Jesus died for our sins to "atone" for the original sin that we can never pay (according to Christian dogma, all humans are affected by the sin Eve committed by partaking of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. So, according to this bizarre belief, an all-knowing God punishes every human who ever lived to an eternity in hell if we don't accept His "gift" of Jesus the Saviour). Whenever I mention how absurd this view is, people act as though I'm the crazy one! Let's think rationally now. Does "Jesus as atoning sacrifice" make sense to you? If you believe that God is all-knowing and perfect, you would have to reject the idea of Jesus as atoning sacrifice. Why would a perfect God require a sinful human to kill another person as a sign of remorse and plea for forgiveness? Killing is a sin, so killing someone as an act of appeasing an angry God is ridiculous. God made us imperfect for a reason. The entirety of life is to learn and God gave us the gift of eternity to learn our lessons (in life after life).

On this holy day, I always feel like a heathen in church. I often wonder how many people sitting around me actually believe these stories from the Bible. Or do they go through the motions, so as to not disturb the community worship. I wish more people who attend church would be willing to analyze these stories and discuss them. Christianity is in desperate need of a transformation, reflecting current knowledge instead of holding fast to the ideas of ancient man. Instead, I'm somewhat of a heretic. But I'd have it no other way. I believe it is important to be honest with people about my beliefs and not pretend to believe a bunch of silly stories that have no relevance in the modern world. My view of Jesus reflects a nuanced view of history and modern life. In my worldview, Jesus did not die FOR our sins. Rather, he died BECAUSE OF our sins. Namely, the sin of humanity's intolerance for anyone who thinks outside of the box, who challenges the status quo, or who tries to inspire us to a more conscientious life. So, when I reject the Christ as atoning sacrifice story, I'm not rejecting Jesus. I'm rejecting the silly lie that has been passed down for two thousand years. Does it diminish Jesus at all if Christianity made an honest "adjustment" regarding the reasons Jesus died? His shocked and saddened followers had a reason to embellish his story to ensure that his memory lived on forever. After all, there have been many "messiahs" throughout history to have had a "virgin birth" and a "rebirth" / resurrection.

Whatever your beliefs, whether in Jesus as the Saviour or the Easter Bunny giving coloured eggs, have a Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau in Real Life

If you have not seen the brilliant film The Adjustment Bureau yet, I have to warn you about reading this post because I will reveal plot points to the film that might ruin your enjoyment of it. This film has my highest recommendation because I believe that the filmmaker has touched on something that gets to the heart of how our universe works. I will explain below. But first, I am going to insist that you don't read this post any further if you plan to see The Adjustment Bureau because you should have the opportunity to watch the story unfold and mesmerize you, inspiring you with new ideas, and throwing in a few plot twists. It really is a film worth seeing and discussing with someone afterwards. Its also the kind of film that might provoke a serious analysis of one's life.

Okay, you can't say you haven't been warned.

The film is about a New York Congressman on the verge of winning the Senate seat. An ill-timed tabloid scandal (what politicos call "October Surprise") dooms his chances. During his election night party, he meets a mysterious lady in the bathroom, who is hiding out from the police because she crashed a wedding in the same hotel. They strike up a conversation and the Congressman is smitten with her (who wouldn't be? Its Emily Blunt!). He's taken by her honesty. When he returns to the ballroom to give his concession speech, he starts out reading what his speechwriter probably put together. He decides to tell the truth and this candid concession speech becomes a media sensation. His state-wide profile is increased and he's considered a shoo-in for the next time the Senate seat becomes available.

Does this sound familiar? At the 2004 Democratic National Convention, in an unprecedented move, candidate John Kerry was instrumental in getting a state senator from Illinois who was merely the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate seat to give a keynote address during primetime coverage. This speech made Barack Obama's career. Many Americans had never heard of him before, but his speech knocked it out of the park. He spoke of there not being the red states of America or a blue states of America, but a UNITED States of America. Obama's speech was inspiring, memorable, and just what our country needed. I know for me personally, when I saw the speech live, I felt that I had just seen the face of a future president, whom I was certain would run in 2012 or 2016 and had the best shot at becoming the first African American president.

I had first heard about Barack Obama in the spring or early summer of 2004 in an article on, a news website that I read religiously during the Bush era. The writer, William Pitt, had mentioned that Obama represented the future of America. When I first read the article, I was confused, because I thought he was talking about either Ehud Barak, the Prime Minister of Israel or Osama bin Laden. It was such a strange name. As Obama himself pointed out in his famous speech, his father was from Kenya and his mother was from Kansas, and no where else in the world was it possible that a "skinny kid with a funny name" would have a shot at politics. His is a quintessential American story.

The name "Barack" supposedly means "Blessed by God" in Swahili. He carries the namesake of his father. Even more ironic, his middle name is the unfortunate "Hussein", which to Americans is associated with the brutal dictator Saddam Hussein, though its considered the "Smith" of the Arab world. As the media often pointed out, King Hussein of Jordan was not related to the Butcher of Baghdad.

Anyhow, if you look into Obama's meteoric rise in politics, its hard not to see the blessings in his life. So many of his opponents for political office were done in by their own outrageousness, the most famous being a man named Jack Ryan who had been married to the actress Jeri Ryan of Star Trek's Deep Space Nine, where she played a Borg named Seven of Nine. During the summer of 2004, Ryan's Senate campaign collapsed after the divorce record became public and it was revealed that the reason for the divorce was that Jack had forced Jeri to go to sex clubs in Paris and when she cried about his wanting her to perform oral sex on him in front of other people at the club, his response was: "It's not a turn-on when you cry."

After that, Ryan was out and the desperate Republican Party in Illinois recruited a carpet bagger named Alan Keyes, who lived in Maryland, to run against Obama for the U.S. Senate seat. Never mind that Keyes had heavily criticized Hillary Clinton's run for the Senate seat in New York as "carpetbagging." Keyes is not taken seriously by anyone except the most rabid right, so there was no chance that he could beat the charismatic Obama. Opponents who go up against Obama (even Democratic candidates in the primary) have a tendency to implode. We saw this in the 2008 election cycle, when he fought Hillary Clinton in state battle after state battle for the Democratic nomination. During the primaries, the Iraq War was the issue, which hurt Hillary's chances because she had voted for Bush's War resolution in 2002 and refused to say that the vote was wrong. Since Obama was not in the Senate at the time, he was able to run as the anti-war candidate since he had voted against the war resolution in the state legislature of Illinois.

After he won the nomination, the American economy collapsed, which made John McCain look clueless because he had said mere days before the collapse that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong." I've read an article a few years back that mentioned Obama's stroke of luck. Had the economy tanked during the primaries, Hillary Clinton would have likely won because Democratic voters would have viewed her as more credible or experienced regarding the economy (due in large part to her husband's excellent handling of the American economy during his tenure). Also, had the Iraq War flared up during the summer (after Obama clinched the nomination), this would have hurt Obama's chances against the veteran McCain.

Many people are wondering just where this man came from. He appeared on the scene in such a short time and was basically able to "cakewalk" to the White House and making history. How many presidents before Obama have had it that easy? Well, George W. Bush also glided his way into the White House after a mere 6 years of being governor in a state that has a Constitutionally mandated weak governor. But Obama came out of nowhere and had the fortunate luck to have hapless opponents prone to self-destructive ways or damaging voting records.

Obama's blessed life has all the markings of the Adjustment Bureau. In the film, members of the Bureau reveal that each person is fated to live life on a certain track. Anytime someone strays off track, its up to the bureau team to get the person back on track. This could come about by simple little "accidents" or delaying tactics (the next time you're stuck in a traffic jam, perhaps it was meant to be so you wouldn't get into an accident down the road). I can see how destiny might have played such a role in Obama's life to make him the right leader for our time. Think about it. Bush had so destroyed "Brand America" that hundreds of millions of people around the world absolutely hated that man and our policies. As I had heard Civil Rights icon Andrew Young explain it a few years ago, God had a brilliant plan for Obama. First, he had to put into place an incompetent president who would do such a terrible job that no one wanted to clean up his mess and the country would so want a huge change that they were willing to vote for the first black president. To do this, God would have to inspire a poor but ambitious young man in Kenya to seek a scholarship to study in America. And God would have to inspire the admittance board at the University of Hawaii to offer such a scholarship to this foreign student. Then, God would have to put Barack Obama, Sr. and Stanley Ann together so that they can fall in love and get married. Then Obama, Sr. would move on to bigger things, leaving Obama, Jr. to be raised by the white half of his family.

God would also get Obama's mother to fall in love with an Indonesian man and move her son to the world's most populous Muslim country. As Andrew Young explained, Obama is definitely the right president for this time because so many people around the world want to claim him: his Kenyan family and the entire nation as a whole, the entire continent of Africa, the people of Indonesia and the Muslims who like his name and background. This is all good for restoring "Brand America." An article I had read a few months ago about the reasons for the uprising in Egypt mentioned Obama's speech on religion in Cairo, which inspired people in the Middle East that this was a new kind of president. Apparently, the young people of Egypt began to wonder why Americans got to vote for a new president every four years while they were stuck under the same brutal regime all their lives.

What many Americans seem incapable of realizing is that the fact that we elected a member of the minority race as our president is exactly the kind of "only in America" sense of awe that foreigners love about our country. Obama represented a huge change and many people were inspired by his positive campaign and vision. So yes, I do think that Obama was destined to be president. That no Republicans so far have been willing to throw their hat into the presidential ring for 2012 even as they continue to make the most outrageous allegations against him to appeal to the rabid right that forms the base of the Republican Party is just one more sign of Obama being "blessed" or "favoured" by "the gods" (or God).

I believe another politician also has the blessings of fate. That would be:

Senator Scott Brown. I believe he is currently being groomed to be the next president (in 2016). He is far and away the most likable Republican politician and if you've ever seen any interviews with him, he comes across as reasonable, presidential, and likable. He has a healthy sense of humour and an incredibly compelling personal narrative (read his autobiography Against All Odds). He has all the qualities that the Republican Party is looking for in a dream candidate but failing to find with the lackluster ones flirting with a run in 2012. The reason why he doesn't throw his hat in the ring for 2012 is because he only got elected to Senator Ted Kennedy's seat a year and a few months ago and is up for election to a full six year term in 2012. I personally believe that the powers that be in our society have guaranteed Obama two terms and then will do everything in their power to influence Americans to support and vote for Senator Scott Brown. You can thank the earthly version of the Adjustment Bureau. The fates favour these two politicians, because both have had a pretty easy path to their current positions.

There are a few key scenes in The Adjustment Bureau where the team members explain to the character (and indirectly to the audience) just why its important for him to follow the script life has for him. As we've seen in our politics, though, some politicians that seem destined for greater things (i.e. President) end up committing incredibly self-destructive acts (Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Governor George Allen of Virginia, Senator John Edwards, Senator John Ensign, and Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York have all been predicted to be potential presidential material until each of them committed fatal errors, most involving another woman and one because of an ethnic slur caught on camera). I sincerely hope that President Barack Obama and Senator Scott Brown will stay true to their inner calling and allow the Adjustment Bureau to guide them through their destiny. The world needs authentic leaders to serve humanity and the evolution of human civilization.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earthday 2011

Another Earth Day is upon us and we're no closer to an environmentally sustainable culture than we were in 1990, which was the 20th anniversary of Earth Day when the media was already calling the 1990s the "Environmental Decade." Didn't turn out that way, even with an Environmentalist Vice President. What happened?

A few days ago was the one year anniversary of the Deep Horizon oil rig explosion that leaked millions of tons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. I watched a special report on the BBC, which I usually consider one of the most reliable news source. However, the report was so bias in favour of BP that I felt sick just watching it. They claimed that all the oil was eaten up by special bacteria. Seriously?!? Oil-eating bacteria? What a croc! Though I've heard it on some other news sites, I have a hard time buying it. BP is a wealthy corporation and during the crisis, BP execs seemed to get angry when American media referred to it as British Petroleum, which is the official name of the energy giant. One of the concerns was that severely punishing the company or bankrupting it would have led to an economic crisis in the United Kingdom because of how deeply ingrained it is in their country's labour market and economy. It doesn't take a genius to see the connection between BP, the British economy, and the BBC. Of course the BBC is going to feed viewers the science fiction of oil-eating bacteria cleaning up the entire Gulf of Mexico like some kind of modern day miracle. Yeah, its absolutely safe to eat seafood from the Gulf!

Okay, let's think about that idea for a minute. What if these oil-eating bacteria ended up in the stomachs of various fish and other sea creatures. What happens to the oil? Where does it go? Up the food chain? As I watched the broadcast, I actually got angry. That the media can just lie to us about a major crime against the environment to protect a corporation that has a big impact on the British economy, because peoples' jobs and livelihoods depend upon people snoozing through this disaster, its just outrageous in the amount of obscenity. I'm one who believes that the execs who cut corners and gave themselves pay increases need to face the death penalty. Harsh? Yeah. But until there are real consequences that enforces people to act ethically, people are always going to cut corners to save a buck that makes its way into their pockets at Christmas bonus time.

This year, we have another environmental catastrophe on our hands with the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan that was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami. The news recently upgraded the disaster to Chernobyl-level meltdown. The Japanese are huge consumers of seafood, but who would want to eat anything from the sea in that part of the world?

Its amazing that we've seen our world get hit with disaster after disaster, which seems to be intensifying in magnitude (natural disasters are always going to be a part of life on earth), yet we don't make major lifestyle adjustments. We still continue with our mass consuming ways, even though we've seen massive bird die-offs and fish die-offs, and dead dolphins washing ashore. How many messages do we need to see show up in our world before we get the hint?

I recently had a debate on Facebook (surprise, surprise) regarding capitalism. As is always the case, whenever someone criticizes capitalism, the defenders come out with the same old propaganda: "Its better than communism!", "There's no other economic system out there that can replace it", etc. True, capitalism has been an improvement upon feudalism, mercantilism, and communalism. True, communism could not compete with capitalism. True, socialism has its own problems, which Europe is only starting to experience now. Even Islamism and Christianity cannot compete with capitalism. But there is a brick wall that capitalism won't be able to break through: MOTHER NATURE.

In college economic classes, I heard several professors mention that we would need FOUR planet earths in order for all 6 billion or more people to live "the typical American lifestyle." Yikes! We are only 4% of the world's population, yet we consume more than 20% of the world's energy supply. Hate to break the bad news, but we don't have four planet earths. Obviously, adjustments are going to have to be made. China has 1.3 billion people. 300 million (same as the U.S. population) are in the "middle class". The other 1 billion want to move into the middle class. Then there's another billion people in India, where many aspire to a middle class lifestyle. Can you imagine what these demands are doing to our planet?

To give one example of our absurd trading system, we import far more from China than we export. This means that China has to keep building the steel shipping containers that get put on ships to sail the Pacific Ocean to the U.S.A. Its not cost effective to return empty shipping containers on ships, so we end up having these worthless containers. Some innovative thinkers have used them to build apartment buildings, but they are ugly as hell. Think of the cost to the environment: it takes natural resources to be mined to create the steel structure. We're constantly mining the earth, with toxic residue. Its all poison...for what? So we can have cheap plastic junk from China?

Can we live with less? If we can't, Mother Nature will make it so. Last weekend, nearly 300 tornadoes ripped through the South in a freak weather front. News anchorwoman Diane Sawyer said that this was a record: more tornadoes in a three day period than during an average month. These tornadoes laid waste to neighbourhoods. Houses filled with junk from Walmart were scattered all over. Even a Lowe's home construction store was hit by a tornado and got its shelves rearranged. The local news keeps talking about how the Cascadia Subduction Zone is overdue for a major earthquake, which will cause major damage in Seattle and Portland. I'd hate to see this happen in my lifetime. We are living on a ticking time bomb.

I love the photo above that I found on a Google image search. The colour really captured my eyes. I love it! I guess that's what "indigo" looks like. When I see this photo, a deep part of me wants to just sigh a soul-satisfying "aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!" This is what life is truly about: the beauty and serenity of nature, unspoiled and there for our appreciation. We, who live in man-built cities, need to be reminded of this more often. We have a beautiful planet to live on. We're obligated to leave it better than we found it, because as Native American tribes point out, we're merely borrowing it from our great-grandchildren.

Hope you have a Happy Earth Day! At some point in the day, I hope you will take time out to appreciate our beautiful planet. We don't have three more waiting in the wings if we mess this one up. And lately, we truly are messing this one up. I know that there are many Christians who don't seem to care about our planet because they believe "The Rapture" and Armageddon is imminent. However, for those who believe in reincarnation like I do, I want this planet to be around and much improved upon because there are still many lifetimes I can't wait to experience someday (I plan to be an Aussie or New Zealander in my next life). If you don't believe in reincarnation, well, think about the future generations who will inhabit this planet. Don't they deserve a beautiful, bountiful planet for their enjoyment? Of course they do. Now go plant a tree!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Boredom is for People Who Lack Imagination

On Facebook recently, a cousin of mine posted a status update about being bored. Another person on my list who is a teenage girl (the daughter of a family friend from church) also posted a status update in which she said that she was bored and wanted someone to tell her what to do. When I read that, I was stunned. "Who has time to be bored?!?" I can't remember the last time I was bored. Probably not in the last decade, or even two. Life's too short to be bored. I'm stunned that anyone would want to post such a status update, because they are basically telling everyone on their list that they are boring people.

I'm not sure if I was remembering a quote or if I thought it up myself, but whenever I hear people moan about being bored, I have always come back with this response: "Boredom is for people who lack imagination." Its true. If you are bored with your life, it means that you are likely entertainment and activity based. I know people who always keep busy because they are afraid of a moment where there is nothing. Maybe they are afraid to face whatever demons they want to avoid. Some people really don't like to sit still at all and just think. Since I think all the time, I actually like it when I have nothing of importance to do and just sit still and clear my mind. In fact, some of my favourite memories in life have been the time when I've sat and done nothing but watch the sun set into the ocean, or birds playing with one another, or people watching. A friend of mine in France often says in his letters to me: "I have no time to do nothing." That phrase always makes me laugh. I guess what he means is that he is so busy, he simply does not have time to sit down, relax, and just observe life. I'm sure that he never gets bored, though.

Since I personally know the two people who posted that they were bored, I can attest for one of them (my cousin). She's not what one might call the intelligent type. She's just a typical lower class redneck, living on the margins of poverty. She looks forward to going to bars to drink and sing karaoke. I like her older sister better because at least she's hilarious (her sense of humour is very sarcastic and her mannerisms are a lot like the Joan Holloway character on Mad Men). I never hear her say that she is bored. Well, as a teenager, she did a lot. I can understand, though. As a teenager, there were times when I felt bored. My dad's response was always: "Read a book!" I wish I took his advice. I didn't really get into reading until 21. Maybe the smart gene kicked in then (I'm such a late bloomer in quite a few areas of life). As a teenager, every time I would sit and read for an hour, I'd start to get a headache. The other problem I had was that I didn't know what I liked. My dad had quite the selection of books, especially all the classics in leather-bound editions. If I could go back in time 25 years, I would definitely spend more of my summer vacations reading those classics, rather than watching re-runs of Gilligan's Island, Charlie's Angels, The Brady Bunch, and my mom's favourite soap opera: The Young and the Restless. Yeah, I was young AND restless.

With adulthood, though, I noticed that time seems to go by much faster than it did as a child. I know this is not possible, but its what Albert Einstein talked about when he mentioned his theory of relativity. Because we have lived longer and have more to get done in a 24 hour period, time appears to go by much quicker than it does for a child or teenager. I remember when my mom used to make me practice the piano for just 30 minutes a day. It felt like forever! Now, if I were to write in a journal, those 30 minutes would not be enough time for me, because it would feel like five minutes had passed.

Because I am too interested in far too many things, I'm learning that I simply don't have enough time to devote to all my interests. Something is going to have to give if I seriously want to be in a relationship by year's end. I need more time for the purging of my things...the challenge of my summer. Because of the long list of things to do and the limited free time I have, it does annoy me when I read on Facebook that people are bored. I wish I had the time to be bored. But when I read such status updates, I want to ask, why are you bored? Are you incapable of using your time properly? Do you need to be entertained all the time? (Even entertainment can be boring, though). Or as that teenage girl said, do you really need someone to tell you what to do? What a sheep! Baaaaaaaaaa! How about take the initiative? Find out what you're interested in. Learn something new. Let your imagination run wild!

In some personal ads, I've noticed quite a few ladies who indicate that they are bored. To me, that's such a huge red flag. If they are bored, it really means that they are boring people and I would not want to be in a relationship with someone who got bored too easily. It likely means she would expect the guy to "entertain" her all the time and if he needs to devote attention to his other interests, she'll get bored and lonely. I seriously do not understand people with this affliction. If one gets bored easily, then the cure truly is to pick up a book or log online. The more you learn, the more you want to learn. Self-education in whatever topics interest you actually has the benefit of making you a more interesting person. Gaining knowledge is cheap and easy in our Information Age. Its so amazing to me that there are people out there who would rather whine about being bored than taking the initiative to cure that mental disease once and for all. I can attest that since the age of 21, when I started a regular reading schedule, I have become insatiable regarding the attainment of knowledge. I'm like the robot Number 5 from Short Circuit who speeds through books and says, "Need more input!"

As the picture above shows: STOP BEING BORING! Expand your mind. You'll never be bored again if you follow your passions.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Music Video Monday: Boy Meets Girl

This week's selection happens to be one of my favourite songs from the 1980s: "Waiting for a Star to Fall" by the one hit wonder duo Boy Meets Girl. When it came out in 1989, it wasn't one of those singles that I really went crazy about or a huge hit. I liked it enough, but I don't think it made my Top Ten Best of 1989 list. However, it has amazing staying power. All these years later and I still don't get tired of hearing it. The song is a perfect representative of an 80s song and sound. The lack of such peppy pop love songs on the radio today is truly tragic for the teenagers growing up. Instead, they have to be bombarded with the crass materialism and sexual overload, as represented by Britney Spears' latest album or any number of the artists out today. Give me "Waiting for a Star to Fall" any day!

Part of why I selected this song (as well as last week's music video selection, "Love Changes (Everything)" by Climie / Fisher) is because I've got love on my mind. No, I have nothing new to report. I'm still single and I haven't met anyone new. And I did give the Russian lady my business card, but didn't ask for her number. It got awkward when I wanted to ask, so I didn't go for it. Part of that had to do with the psychic telling me that this lady is not the one I am destined to be with, the one who will change my entire world. Supposedly, I will find my soulmate by September. I just have to trust that it will happen, while getting my life squared away and ready for a relationship that will lead to marriage. Why get involved with someone now if it'll mean a break-up later?

On Friday, I finished reading a book called The Soulmate Secret by Arielle Ford. Its about approaching the relationship search by the principles of The Universal Law of Attraction. The book offers excellent advice, inspiring examples of couples who found love after setting the intention for what they wanted to find, and useful exercises to perform. I have a special composition notebook devoted to what I am calling: "The Quest for My Lady Love." I am approaching this important search like a knight in search of the Holy Grail of the Medieval Ages. We'll see how I do.

Last Saturday, I attended the Body Mind Spirit Expo at the Oregon Convention Center. It was the first time I went inside that awesome building since my interview for a job there back in February. I did not get the job, but a part of me is not ready to leave my current place of employment, even though I still aspire to a better salary. I had attended the last Body Mind Spirit Expo in October, when I was unemployed. The Expo has one part where booths are set up for all kinds of New Age spiritualist products and services (including Tarot Card / Palm / Psychic readings). The thing I look forward to, though, are the 50-minute lectures. Its like being back in school, but with relevant information, instead of the worthless crap that qualifies as education. My favourite session was by a perky young lady whose business is called "Intuitive Matchmaking". Its a blend of online dating websites and a professional matchmaking service.

I loved her speaking style. Think Katie Couric, though she kind of resembled Christine O'Donnell (the lady who ran for the U.S. Senate in Delaware last year). She gave some insight into the whole dating process, which I agree with. Her job is to screen people (its more like joining a club than signing up for an online dating account with and set couples up based on the information in people's profile. After the couple goes on a date, they send her their assessment of the date and she sees if there's potential or not. Apparently, personal information is not exchanged or released unless both people agree. She recommends a minimum of three dates, because she sees that people are often too quick to dismiss a potential without giving the other person a chance. Usually, the first date is often afflicted by nervousness, so people aren't at their most natural self. People on a date need to be comfortable and relaxed, to approach it as getting to know someone. There's nothing wrong with getting to know people, even if you don't feel a deeper connection.

She has even helped married couples stay married. She made an excellent point that a lot of people who want to throw away their marriages tend to fall into new versions of their old spouse, so they end up repeating the same cycles / issues. Her goal is to help people lessen the search. She mentioned that we should not give away too much of ourselves on dates. Her advice was to save our best for the right one.

I don't know why people are so freaky about meeting people. I'm not. If friends want me to meet a lady, I have never objected. I guess its because I know how to meet people without expectations. However, in the past, friends who have tried to introduce me to a lady, the lady was always freaking out and too afraid to even have a conversation with me. I don't get that. Just because we talk to each other doesn't mean we're automatically going to hook up or get engaged or married! I agree with this dating matchmaker that it takes more than one date to get to know someone. I certainly need to get to know someone over time, rather than jump into things.

However, I haven't always done this. In 1996, I took an attractive Asian lady to a Johnny Clegg concert in the middle of the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. During the whole date, it was me asking her a question, her giving a short response, silence. Then repeat. She was boring. She didn't even seem like she wanted to be there. This was JOHNNY CLEGG!!! His music couldn't even move her. I knew there was no way I was asking her out again. I'm sure her mother was disappointed. Her mother seemed more into me than the daughter was.

When I was new to Portland in 2006, I went out with one lady I had met through Craigslist. We spent a Sunday afternoon together. When I met her, I knew there would be no chance at a relationship because she was obese. However, I didn't end things. I decided to get to know her, because I would not throw away the opportunity for a friendship. While we were walking down Hawthorne (Portland's Haight-Ashbury, Greenwich Village, Adams-Morgan or Little Five Points), we passed by a store specializing in adult toys and clothing. She mentioned wanting to put me in women's lingerie and cracking a whip at me. That simple comment killed any chance at a friendship. I'm not into freaky stuff, not even if I had found her sexually attractive. We probably hung out for a couple more hours, but at dinner, she realized that I was less talkative and wondered what was wrong. She even asked if I would call her again or would I be a typical Portland "flake." I simply did not need to go out with her again to know that there was nothing in common. That says something about her, when I'm not willing to give her any more of my time.

The situation repeated when another obese lady at my work seemed to have a crush on me and kept asking me to show her my apartment. I didn't trust her motives (I always suspected that she would try to jump my bones and she had a lot of weight to throw around that I was afraid of getting crushed). The most sexually aggressive women I've come across have all been obese. I see it in plenty of Craigslist ads as well. For me, it is a turn-off when a woman I just met is so sexually forward, especially if I don't find her physically attractive. Its just crass, totally lacking in class and the fine art of flirtation and seduction.

Finally, the other female I wanted to mention was the one I had met through a Craiglist ad. When we met, I didn't find her physically attractive, either. But I went out with her a few times. I know from the past that I have been able to become attracted to a woman I didn't initially find attractive as I got to know her. However, the more I went out with this one, the more desperation I sensed in her approach to dating. Each time we went out, she did things that I suspected were not-so-subtle tests, which I made sure to purposefully "fail" (the most obvious was her tendency to rub her arms frantically while we're watching a movie in the theater, as though she's cold and likely hoping that I'd put my arm around her or offer my coat).

What annoyed me most, though, was that she would ask questions that seemed more like it came from a list she read in some advice column, than a natural part of a conversation. She would ask a question out of the blue like, "How often do you call your mother?" or "How close to your mother are you?" Obviously, there is an idea that is pushed by relationship "experts" that a woman can correlate how a guy treats his mother as to how he would treat the lady he's dating. While it can be good advice, it doesn't take into account that some people's lives may not fit the cookie-cutter conformist view of the world. I'm not going to discuss my relationships with family and friends with just anybody. All my female friends will testify, though, that I'm the rare male who actually treats women as complete equals. Even though this lady and I aren't a couple, she's still on my Facebook friends list and I'd have no problem being just friends with her (I believe that she even tried another trick to get me interested in her, when she invited me to an event but made sure that she sat next to some guy and paid attention to him, trying to make me jealous, which I wasn't. Her game is too obvious).

The dating game frustrates me because I think too many people have a checklist that they mentally go through whenever they meet someone and get to know them. I don't live by such a checklist. I like to go with the flow. I know enough to not have pre-conceived conditions on what I'm looking for, because everyone's life situation is different. For example, though I'd love to marry a woman with a college degree and a career, I fell hard for Christine even though she never went to college nor had a career. She was intelligent in a way that impressed me, whereas there have been plenty of ladies with a bachelor's or master's degree that I didn't think were all that bright. Why limit one's pool by some superficial standard? Another example is that Jenet was not my ideal version of attractive (she is beautiful, but did not have the look that wowed me), but her personality and intelligence made her incredibly attractive and a catch.

So, I wish people would lighten up on the dating approach. As The Celestine Prophecy novel mentions, we should treat each conversation as an invitation to gain some insight into our lives. To discount someone because they don't fit our "ideal" is to potentially throw away a hidden gem. Here's hoping that I don't have to wait for a star to fall before this boy meets girl!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ideologues On Both Sides Are Idiots

On Sunday afternoon, I got into another political flame war on Facebook. This time, it wasn't with a brainless teabagger (surprise, surprise!). It was actually with a fan of Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Someone on my Facebook friends list (whom I don't actually know personally. She had friend requested me in response to my reasonable arguments made several weeks ago on an atheist friend's Facebook wall about the burning of the Qur'an by the crazy preacher) had linked a video of a Kucinich speech and caused several people to gush about the elf. So, I just had to add my two cents about him, which is that from my personal experience with him, I got the sense that he was a phony. Leftist liberals love him, even though he's a fringe candidate who can't break out of the 3% mark among supporters in a Democratic primary.

Calling him a fringe candidate or pointing out his hypocrisy did not sit well with these people. Just like the rabid Nader supporters of 2000, the people who support Kucinich and Nader are every bit as extreme as the Palin and Bachmann supporting teabaggers on the right. Now, both sides would disagree quite passionately to be compared with the other that they hate so much, but when people are ruled by ideology more than decency, then they are simply two sides of the same coin. Ideologues are ideologues. Purity matters more than anything else. If you're not with them, then you are an enemy. It didn't matter that I identify as a liberal Democrat. To call them out on their ideological obsessions is an invitation to abusive tirades, as you will see with one guy who got a little too personal. When I read his response to what I wrote, I was stunned. This is the kind of emotional rant I expect from a teabagger, not from someone on the left. It just goes to prove that ideologues are all the same.

Why am I a pragmatist (or a moderate)? Well, it comes from the life I have lived. As an officer's kid whose friends from elementary through high school were fellow "military brats", I bonded over personal compatability, not politics. Not that I was into politics prior to 1989. However, since joining Facebook in 2008, I have learned that many of my former military brat high school classmates are Republican / conservative. Also, many members of the church I've been a member of all my life are conservative and / or Republican. My years in the Navy introduced me to more conservatives / Republicans, as well as my college experience at BYU. I can't deny that my personal values tend to run on the conservative side (I'm risk-averse and overly cautious about most decisions I make, which is the definition of a conservative), so its natural that I have become good friends with other people who are conservative. However, unlike them, my politics and spiritual views are liberal and I've identified as a Democrat since the 1980 election when I was eight years old.

In my personal experience, I've never met a Kucinich supporter that I liked. They are unreasonable and full of rigid ideology. I guess its no surprise, because Kucinich's personality is quite grating. He's not someone I'd ever want for a friend. If anyone needs an insight into his true character, one doesn't have to go far. His recent lawsuit against the company that runs the cafeterias in the U.S. Capitol complex is a prime example. He claimed that he was served a pitted olive in his sandwich, which caused thousands of dollars damage to his teeth. Yet, as CNN's Anderson Cooper revealed in a broadcast, Kucinich was seen giving a speech on the House floor two days after the supposed olive incident. He did not appear to be in pain at all, as his lawsuit had claimed. Kucinich is a man who loves to talk, even if no one is listening, and he prides himself on being an irritant in the body politic. Lately, he has threatened to file impeachment charges against President Obama for authorizing military action against Muamar Gadhafi's forces in Libya (even though Obama had U.N. and NATO approval and could not wait for Congress to debate the issue, as Gadhafi's forces were closing in on the rebellion and they had to act immediately).

I know that some on the right think that I'm an "ideologue" because I'm so passionate about my political opinions, but the bottom line is that I value relationships / friendships more than politics. I would never end a friendship over a political disagreement. The whole point of life on earth is the relationships with foster with one another. The ego wants to divide and separate, viewing the other as "the enemy." The soul transcends all the barriers: race, gender, religion, politics, nationality, orientation, age, etc. Ideologues require people with the same mindset to reinforce their viewpoints. I've always been quite comfortable to stand on my own. I don't need anyone's validation.

I was surprised to see my 10th grade English teacher comment on this discussion, complimenting me! She's not a FB friend with the person whose wall we were debating on, so my dialogue must've appeared on my wall for all my FB friends to read. Below is only part of the debate. The most interesting part. Enjoy! (My words are in italics to make it easier to distinguish).

For me, I think it matters how a person treats other people. I don't vote for a politician just because they happen to vote my way or says stuff that I agree with. Living one's values is important to me.

Fran Laakman (my 10th Grade English Teacher):
I admire YOUR convictions and character, Nick!

Ronald G. Peete
I had much rather have a New Age Spiritulast running the country who takes the time to meditate than any a$$hole Con$ervaturd you can name!!! NIcholas, don't commment on things YOU know nothing about!!!

I got my degree in International Politics and interned for Vice President Gore in his U.S. Capitol Office in 2000, so yes, I do think I know what the hell I'm talking about. I'm not an ideologue. I'm a liberal Democrat, that is true, but I'm quite pragmatic because my friendships over the years seems to run 50-50 conservative - liberal. I don't like ideologues on the left or right, so this excludes people like Kucinich and Gingrich, Cynthia McKinney and Sarah Palin.

Working in the U.S. Capitol for four months, I had first hand experience dealing with some of the politicians you only know about from TV or the Internet. I can personally testify that both Kucinich and Santorum were real assholes to deal with.

Ronald G. Peete
Nicholas, I don't give a rats ass about your fancy pieces of paper You are a bigot and an idiot in my book!!! Itis the fence sitters like you thatspout your fancy education that cause most of the problems. Get off the fucking fence and stand up for one side or the other!! Yes and I can affirm that yo are also an A##HOLEo deal with!! Your pretty college diploma don't mean shit in the real world!! You think you are the greatest thing since french toast my friend but you are a boorish clod in my book!!!

You have some serious anger issues, dude. The point that I'm making is that I base my opinions on experience and knowledge gained from actual study. Your comments show that you are getting emotional about this disagreement of opinion. I have nothing against you personally. I'm just not an ideologue. I don't view conservatives as evil like you do. I don't vote Republican, so you don't have to worry about that. Sorry you feel so angry about this disagreement of opinion. I'm so happy for you that Kucinich gives meaning to your life. I just wish you would follow a far more worthier person than him because I guarantee you that if you met him, he probably wouldn't like you at all. He's an ego-maniac who knows how to play his base.

Ronald G. Peete
I am so sorry that you use your fancy education for a battering ram and that you know nothing about New Age Spiritulists who meditate. Believe me I had rather associate with them than an overeducated stuffshirt that lords over the rest of us mere mortals! Yes I do have anger issues I have anger issues with Republicans, Tea Party freaks and people who have tospout off about how eudcated they are!! You do not impress me Nicholas when the first thing you have to throw in my face is your fancy University Education!!! Brag about that with people who give a damn becaus it does not impress me one bit!!

It wasn't a brag. Above, you told me to not comment on things I know nothing about, so I was telling you that I do know what I'm talking about because I studied politics, read political books and theories, and interned in government where I saw first hand these politicians up close and personal. That matters more than someone who gets their info from tv pundits and personal opinion. If this causes you issues, well, there's nothing stopping you from going to college and majoring in political science

I consider myself a New Age Spiritualist, which is why Kucinich's behaviour bothers me. He gives the movement a bad name when he fails to live up to the values he claims to hold. There's no consistency and authenticity. Kind of like John Edwards claiming to advocate for the poor while buying an enormous mega-mansion and getting $400 haircuts.

Ronald G. Peete
give it a rest Nicholas I don't really care!!!

You seriously have issues, though. You've judged me without knowing anything all because my view of Kucinich doesn't agree with your rose-coloured view of him. If you were an authentic New Age spiritualist, you would know that your anger has nothing to do with me or the Republicans, but something about yourself that you don't want to face. To accuse someone of not knowing politics because their opinions differ from your own then to learn that the person you're accusing probably knows more than you because he studied it for four years in college...well, let it be a lesson to you not to prejudge people without getting to know them.

I wish you peace.

LeaAnn Johnson
I think Nicholas is pretty good people even IF he won't admit conservatives are evil. MOST people DON'T know what a politician is like in RL, and in the end I don't think it matters. What matters is what they do politically for the people, and there Kucinich SHINES. If he works his base by pushing progressive ideals, then he's the shiznit. End of discussion.

Because its not black and white. Half of my friends are conservative. I don't base friendships on politics, but on common values. The truth is that my personality is a little more conservative than I care to admit, but I've been a Democrat since I was an 8 year old hoping President Carter would win reelection.

I feel bad for conservatives because they have no idea just how bad the Republican Party is. They just don't want to open their eyes and see how much they are getting screwed over by their own party and given convenient scapegoats and distractions to keep them occupied.

For me, personal conduct and ethical values matter more than whether or not a politician agrees with my opinions or not. That's why I would never vote for Dennis Kucinich. He is a fringe candidate because he can never get above 2 or 3 % in the polls or among supporters. Obviously, the majority of Democrats prefer other candidates, not him.

LeaAnn Johnson
I like FRINGE, because both the political parties we have are RIGHT WING. DK is truly LEFT in his political leanings, and is labeled an extremist. That's fucked up. More left extremists are NEEDED to move the entire system back to the left some. Things are completely fascist these days.

One thing in the discussion that I found interesting was that Ronald told me that I had no right to speak on something I know nothing about. So, when I mentioned my "credentials", he got angry. Obviously, though, I hit a nerve because it was a smackdown. He made a presumption about me that I did not know what I was talking about, but when I revealed that I had more knowledge and experience than him, he couldn't deal with it, so he got nasty. I did check his personal info on Facebook and he's an older guy who retired as an enlisted guy in the U.S. Air Force. He probably didn't go to college, so its a chip on his shoulder.

I've had this problem with people on the right, though. I did not expect such a nasty attack from someone claiming to be a liberal. Wow. It always amazes me that so many people mistake their opinion about politics to be "informed enough" to compare to mine. I actually love politics and read about it from many angles. I studied it in college and had to read a lot of dry theory books and write papers. I also got the privilege of experiencing it up close and personal during my internship in D.C. So, I don't think its arrogant of me to claim that I know more about politics than the average American who gets their information from Fox or MSNBC. Sorry, but sitting on your lazy fucking ass watching political pundits argue about politics does not qualify your parroted opinion as being an "informed one." Try going to college, majoring in the topic, being required to take a slew of political science classes, having professors assign you readings in political theories from the Classical Period, the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, the years between the great wars, and since the end of the second world war. And then having you turn in papers that force you to articulate all that you've learned in various political theories, or taking tests that require essays and short answers, rather than multiple guess. Nothing is more dangerous than arrogance based on ignorance. The serious study of politics and history should have a moderating effect on a person, because ideologies never work for the long term. Its too rigid and has a tendency to stifle the necessary creative ideas that reflect the evolution of humanity.

As I posted on my own Facebook wall, a person with a political opinion shaped by watching Fox or MSNBC has no right to claim equal status with a person who has studied the topic, loves the topic, and worked in the topic. Its the equivalent of a couch potato having watched every episode of all three CSI shows and claiming to know more than a criminologist about investigating a crime scene. Wrong!

Want to know another gem about Kucinich? Seen above is the elf and his gorgeous young wife who towers over him. Would he snag such a babe if he wasn't a member of Congress? When he came to Portland in 2007 to get support for his campaign for president, I went out of curiosity, even though I did not like him (when I was an intern, he had yelled at me on the phone because I did not recognize who he was when he had called the Office of the Vice President for a favour). When he came out to speak, the first thing he did was kiss his wife in a passionate embrace that came off as very tacky. It was like he was showing off (I also thought that Gore's passionate kiss of his wife Tipper at the 2000 DNC was also kind of tacky). The nerd who snagged the babe. Yeah, we'll see how long that lasts.

Based on what I know about him and the stuff I've read, he has a Napoleonic complex, or what my 12th grade English teacher called a "Short man's syndrome." You know why small dogs bark the loudest? They are overcompensating for their size, trying to intimidate others not to mess with them. Congressman Kucinich might talk a good game about spirituality and higher consciousness, but in nearly every incident I've seen of him, his ego comes out. He is no better than the other politician. If he has an opposite, though, I would say that it would be Senator Scott Brown, who is immensely likable, funny, comfortable with who he is, and humble. I'll always vote for a candidate that I like who shows himself or herself to be moderate / pragmatic, decent, and not interested in ideology over a candidate who might share the same beliefs as me but is a jerk, arrogant, and a hypocrite. I wish my fellow liberals would stop viewing Kucinich and Nader as untouchable saints who are "incorruptible." The truth is that those two men are still in thrall with their own egos and I'm glad that they are on the fringe where they belong.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Solution to the Public Nuisance

The Oregonian published a letter to the editor this past week by a woman who had moved to Portland the same year as me (2006). In the letter, she remarked how people seem too closed and unfriendly whenever she tried to say hello to strangers she passes by on the street. Her point was that we can improve each others day by smiling and saying hello to one another. While I agree with her sentiments, its far easier said that done.

I am guilty as charged. I'm quite guarded when I'm out in public. As an introvert, I'm not naturally gregarious nor do I find initiating conversations easy. I much prefer other people to initiate conversations. However, because it has happened too many times, usually when strangers initiate conversations with me, they want something from me. Whether homeless people begging for a few cents or a dollar, or some ACORN-employed young lady who is tasked with gathering signatures and addresses for whatever might be the issue of the day (or sometimes even money). I would actually welcome a conversation that did not end in someone asking me for money or my signature. I consider it an invasion of my space. So, that's why I tend to be guarded when I'm walking in public. I'm like a magnet for people and their needs.

The other day, during my morning commute, a guy in his 20s had asked me for 75 cents. I had the money and could have given it to him, but he looked fit, healthy, and certainly available to work. What's his excuse? He asked a few other people at the bus stop for the same 75 cents, but didn't have much luck, so he went across the street to the other bus stop to hit people up for spare change. When he returned to our side of the street, he had a cigarette in his mouth that someone must have given him. That act made me feel better about not giving him money. After all, if he's a smoker, he can't be broke because that's an expensive habit that he could eliminate in order to save money.

Last summer at Flicks on the Bricks in downtown Portland, while waiting for the movie to start, there was a man who walked around with a big sign telling people NOT to give money to street people. I was stunned to see this, as it made me think of the "Do Not Feed the Bears" sign at a zoo (or in the Yogi Bear cartoons). The sign explained that giving money to street people only encouraged them to beg more, which is a public nuisance. I inherited a trait from my dad that I'm quite happy about: a complete aversion to asking anyone for money. Like my dad, I think going around asking people for money is too much work and annoying. Why do people do it? I guess out of necessity, if they really need money. I am not inclined to give, though, because this is where my conservative personality comes into play. I always wonder if they are in the situation they are in because of a drug habit or alcoholism or some other personality defect that makes them unemployable. I'm in a low wage job with too much debt burden, so why should I help someone who might have been reckless regarding his or her life?

I have given money to some people on occasion. It always depends, though. I have no formula for what convinces me to give to someone when I don't give money to most people who request it. Something about the person's request has to strike me in a certain way to where I actually feel uncomfortable if I don't give. And this discomfort is not something that the other person might impose on me, but its more like a nagging feeling in the back of my head that this person could use some money. So, to get rid of that nagging feeling in the back of my mind, I'll give some money to the person making the request. This is rare, however. In my four and a half years in Portland, I might have done this only five times.

What is the best way to deal with this issue? Well, on a Facebook debate some time ago, a conservative Republican friend of mine stated the typical view of his mindset. This view wants no government services to the poor at all. Let private charities (churches and non-profit organizations) provide all services to the poor. I'm against this idea, because its much harder to track. Also, charities depend upon donations, which could rise or fall based on the economy. In recent years, the Oregon Food Bank has run out of food to distribute because so many families have fallen below the poverty line in the last years of the Bush error. Charities depend upon the generosity of donors, who have the power to decide not to donate one month or one year or to cut back on how much they donate. Another problem with private charities handling all the services to the poor is that some (particularly evangelical Christian churches) have an ulterior motive (proselytizing). Finally, because there are many different charities devoted to the poor, they are all competing for the same donor base in a given community and a homeless person could utilize them all, with no means of accounting between the different charities.

Conservatives don't agree with my view that government should absolutely provide for the poor. I'm of the view that our government should guarantee every American citizen this minimal safety net: one meal a day if they are hungry and unable to afford it; universal medical care; and a warm, dry place to sleep at night during the winter months (ideally, year round). Would this cost that much? By having such a "generous" minimal safety net, this would eliminate the need for beggers on the street. People can know that the homeless and the hungry are provided for and not have to feel bad about not giving money. Those who are homeless and hungry will know that they will always have one hot meal a day, so the desperation of having to beg people for money would not be necessary.

Basically, from what I understand about the conservative mindset, it is rooted in selfishness. The whole, "I got mine, so screw you!" mentality. In many debates I've had with conservative people over the past twenty years, they don't like the idea of one cent of their tax money going to pay for those who don't "deserve it" or who "leech off the system." President Reagan loved to bring up the "welfare queen" in his speeches...which in the mind of most conservatives is a big black woman in the ghetto driving a 1970s Cadillac, with a lot of children of different fathers, and going to the grocery store to buy lobster with food stamps. To the conservative, this is a greater threat to our government budget than a $10,000 toilet seat bought by the Department of Defense. Waste, fraud and abuse was committed by Enron, Halliburton, KBR, and the like. Millions upon millions of dollars, into the hundreds of millions. All the poor people in America don't cost as much as what our government spends on corporations and the military.

I don't get the conservative hostility towards the poor. I noticed this as an intern in Washington, D.C. in 2000. During our semester, we spent one Saturday doing a community service project at the main homeless shelter in downtown Washington. As we painted the hallway, we got to peek into some of the rooms that the homeless men lived in. These were tiny dorm-type rooms. Just a bed, a table, a dresser, and a closet. It allowed the homeless a warm and safe place to sleep at night, as well as keep his property locked up. They paid no rent and along with living in this shelter, they were able to get drug and alcohol counseling or job seeking help. After some of these conservative students saw their rooms, they complained later on (away from the shelter) that these people had it too good, living rent-free and not having to work to pay for it. A few of us liberals were stunned that these conservatives seemed almost jealous that the homeless people were getting something for free. Who wants to live in the homeless shelter? Sure, it was a lot nicer than I expected, but if you are able to work and provide for your own housing, that's even better. Why begrudge a jobless person the little dignity that some homeless shelter provides?

I think it says a lot about a person who doesn't think a homeless person should have his own room in a shelter without paying for it, yet believes its okay for a wealthy person to skimp out on paying taxes and live a lavish lifestyle while paying themselves annual bonuses even though the company finished the year in the red and they've had to lay employees off two weeks before Christmas. What kind of priorities is that?

At BYU, I learned in my Economics 110 class that if 100% of Americans were employed, inflation would skyrocket. According to economists, its actually beneficial to the country to have an unemployment rate around 3% or lower (so long as its not 0%). So, if this means that we must have some unemployment in order to keep inflation down, then aren't the homeless and jobless doing our country a favour? What's wrong with a portion of our taxes going to pay for services to the poor? I would much rather see my tax money help people less fortunate than myself than to go to the wealthy class who are doing far better than me. In fact, they should be helping me and people like me with their money, instead of stealing from us to continue their aggrandizing lifestyles.

Though I don't understand the conservative mindset regarding the poor (especially since many of them claim to be Christian, even though Jesus often criticized and condemned the wealthy and preferred to hang out with the outcasts of society), perhaps a movie that opened this past weekend in select theaters will help me understand. Yep, that's right. The film version of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged has finally made it to theaters so that conservatives and libertarians can finally stop pretending to have read the 1,200+ page pedantic novel. Who is John Galt? A greedy bastard currently incarnated as Donald Trump, that's who! The movie might help me understand their mindset, but I can wait until its on DVD.