Thursday, August 28, 2008

DNC Update, Hobnobbing With George McGovern

Yesterday evening, my wife and I were invited to a very private (50 people) cocktail and dinner reception given at the Denver Country Club for George McGovern. It had been over five years (see my blog 4/19) since we last saw McGovern in person, and when he gave his speech, I was reminded once again how honestly decent and intelligent he is. It’s downright disheartening to imagine how different the United States would look today if he had been elected president in 1972. For one thing, there would be 25,000 fewer names on the black wall of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington.

George McGovern was one of the few candidates for the nation’s highest office who held a Ph.D. degree, and his lopsided loss in the 1972 election was a clear demonstration of the fact that voters hold intellect and decency in very low esteem when choosing their president. For those who’ve forgotten their history, McGovern was trounced by Nixon, and we all know how that eventually turned out. Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton are exceptions to what I’m about to say, but for the most part, when a candidate possessing intellect and vision runs against a candidate possessing belligerence and truculent aggressiveness, the candidate of intellect and vision will lose the election. Americans are not great thinkers. They’re not even good thinkers. That’s why, when it comes time to pick a fight with some foreign country in the name of “peacekeeping,” Americans can’t wait to wade into battle. If you ask the average American to describe the role of the President, the majority of Americans will say, “Commander in Chief,” and voter selection for the role of President most often follows that guideline. The low public opinion of Bush at this time is not based on the fact that he took us to war. It’s based on the fact that he lost that war.

I write about this now, because 2008 is shaping up to be 1972 all over again. A man who might think first before acting is in a contest with a man who loves to pick a fight. Based on history, the thinker will probably lose to the fighter. It’s the American way.

Also see: Iraq- How It Will End

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The DNC Can't End Too Soon

I’m angry! I live on a small farm in Golden, Colorado, with a magnificent view of the towering North Table Mesa out our back window. This morning, the view was different (see the photo above). This is exactly the kind of nonsense that I feared would accompany the DNC circus in Denver this week.

The Chinese Olympics, happening as it did just before the two political conventions, gives us a great insight into the ways that protest fits into the national agenda in China and in the U.S. China had zero tolerance for protests during their Olympics, and the U.S. critics point to this as another sign of disregard for human rights in China. Meanwhile, here in Denver, we see zero outrage toward the protests, along with little or no control, and the champions of the red, white, and blue see this as a good thing. But my question is this, “Does it really violate human rights to enforce the local laws against disorderly conduct?”

I was born during WWII, so my America was the America of the late 1940s, and the 1930s were recent history to me. I’ve always believed that the United States achieved its greatness during that time, and has been slipping backwards ever since. Here’s the thing. If you took videos of the streets in China two weeks ago, and videos of the streets in Denver this week, and you somehow went back in time and showed both videos to Americans in the 40s and 30s, and you asked them which video scenes most looked like America—the people of that time would choose the scenes of China. Back when America was truly great, not just in our mythology, but also in the eyes of the world, the United States looked like China today. We actually had strong laws against disorderly conduct, and those laws were actually enforced, and human rights had its limitations.

But those days are gone, and now I get to look at the anti-abortion message on my mountain every day. I know from hiking on the very spot where those letters appear that they are all over 100 feet high. That message required the work of many people (perhaps as many as 10) to spray paint those words in just one night. We also know another thing. Anti-abortionists put their cause above the cause of the environment and natural beauty. It’s the agenda of the Christian right wing ultra-zealots. Gee, wouldn’t Jesus be proud!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

DNC Sunday Update, Protestors Fail To Show Up

The early score in the contest between the troublemakers and the police is 1-1. It’s a draw. Since I have the advantage of blogging from Denver, Colorado, my wife and I went down to the Pepsi Center at mid morning (Sunday) to scope out the action. At first, it looked like 1968 might be happening again. The 16th Street Mall (Denver’s main downtown shopping venue) was swarming with police. I found out by interviewing the heavily equipped boys in blue that several of the “unofficial” renegade protest groups had formed an alliance, and were planning to march against the war in Iraq up the 16th Street Mall—without an official protest permit. About 1,000 fearsome policemen, armed to the teeth with anti-protest gear, were there to stop them, By 1:00 PM, no protestors had appeared, and 1,000 of the boys in blue had been left cooking in the hot August sun for more than two hours. The protestors, by not showing up, had scored one for their side.

Across the downtown area, at 1:00 PM, at the foot of the front steps of the Colorado State Capitol, the “official” anti-war march was just getting started. This march had a proper permit. The expectation was that 25,000 to 50,000 protestors would show up, but barely 900 heeded the call. The protest was a complete bust. The cops kept their cool, and the score ended with a decisive win for the legions of the lawful. Pouring gasoline on the fire of this lame protest was none other than Ward Churchill. For those unfamiliar with the name, he’s the discredited CU professor who was fired from a tenured position for plagiarism in his writing, and for a false bio which claimed Native American heritage. Just think of a phony-Indian, liberal-left version of Rush Limbaugh, and that’s Ward Churchill—minus the 400 million dollar deal.

On a personal note, I made some points with my wife today. Since February, she’s been wondering, what’s the point of blogging. We happened across the temporary convention quarters of Daily Kos. His blog has grown into a full-fledged media source, and his digs in Denver are as spacious and comfortable as the big network’s headquarters, but he did, after all, start out as just a blogger. My wife is not holding her breath for me to repeat his feat.

In China, It's About More Then Sports

As the 2008 Olympics draws to a close, I believe that something important has been accomplished, and it has little to do with sports. Thanks to the extensive TV coverage, average Americans have been given their first in-depth look at the country that will pass the U.S. to be the dominant nation in the 21st century. The Chinese people are willing to work, both smart and hard, to make this happen, and this applies most of all to the young Chinese people.

Those tiny little Chinese female gymnasts do much more than lie about their age and win gold medals. They also study biology, chemistry and physics. These studies are mandatory for 100% of the high school students in China, while in the U.S. 18% of our high schoolers are willing to tackle the sciences. The young Chinese idolize Bill Gates. The young Americans idolize Miley Cyrus. Educated predictions say that by 2020, 90% of the world’s scientists and engineers will be working at their trade in China and India. The prestigious American scientific universities such as MIT have been heavily attended by Chinese and Indian students for decades now, but in the past, most of those students stayed on and built their careers in the United States. But now, most all of them go back to Asia.

You might ask why everyone in high school needs to study the sciences. After all, not everyone can go on to be a scientist. I believe, and this is just my personal opinion, that such a curriculum is necessary for a person who wants to be truly intelligent about the modern world. We live in a scientific world, and scientific ignorance is a recipe for failure in such a world. If you want an example of this, look no farther than the millions of people who listen to Rush Limbaugh tell them that oil doesn’t necessarily come from decayed prehistoric plants, and they believe it “because Rush said it.” With Limbaugh working on our side, the Chinese have a huge advantage given to them in their quest to be number one. But that’s just my opinion.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gitmo on the Platte, a DNCC Update

We returned a couple of days early from Bonneville (damaged engine) just in time to see another return to Denver. This was the reappearance of the six black helicopters full of armed commandos. As before, the “official” line is that it’s part of the ongoing war on global terror. No connection whatever to the upcoming Democratic National Convention. The Pentagon thinks that we’re all idiots, and for once they’re right about something. We are idiots.

Local news has been buzzing for a week, now, about something they’re calling, “Gitmo on the Platte.” It’s a giant warehouse that has been filled, from one end to the other, with cages made from electrified chain-link fence, and topped with razor wire. This is the temporary holding facility for protesters who are arrested during the convention. Two weeks ago, the DNCC and Denver city authorities denied that any such place existed. Now they are giving television news teams guided tours of the place. The warehouse itself used to be (30 years ago) part of the U.S. Air Force Accounting and Finance Center, so I guess you could say that it’s always had a connection with that macho, we’re-the-baddest-thing-on-the-planet fraternity known as the U.S. Military. Who knew?

DNCC spokespeople are, of course, rosy and upbeat, but a lot of us in Denver have a bad feeling about this convention. It has Chicago 1968 written all over it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Time For Speed Week

The Stonecypher will not post anything new for the next week. It's time for the annual expedition to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, with the speedster pictured above.

Friday, August 15, 2008

It's Not 1968

Two days ago, Condi Rice stared into the TV camera and announced, with considerable indignation, that this was not 1968. “Times have changed,” she declared. Her intended target was Putin, but she would have done everybody a favor had she delivered the same message to her boss.

In 1962, when JFK stood toe-to-toe with Khrushchev over the issue of missiles in Cuba, he was dealing from a position of absolute power. We had over 200 active ICBMs buried in bunkers from Arizona to North Dakota, and thanks to U2 Soviet overflight intelligence we knew with certainty that the U.S.S.R. had less than a dozen ICBMs up and running. Moreover, Kennedy was admired and respected pretty much everywhere around the world but Moscow. Finally, the United States had the unquestioned global moral authority.

In 1968 when the Soviets invaded Hungary, our missile superiority was even greater, and despite our quagmire situation in Vietnam, the U.S. still had the high ground when it came to moral authority. But as Condi Rice has said, “Times have changed.” The only thing still in place is our ability to destroy every living thing with nukes. If the U.S. isn’t prepared to launch a nuclear first strike against Russia, then Putin is the guy who is dealing from the position of strength in this newest conflict over Georgia.

What Americans, for the most part, don’t understand is that foreign perceptions about our country have changed so significantly that our moral authority is gone. Not just diminished, but gone. Even after the end of the Cold War, Europeans never completely trusted Moscow. Putin is just living down to the low expectations held by his neighbors. But the low expectations now held for the U.S. represents something that was never seen before, and as bad as Russia seems now, most average people in Europe actually believe that the United States is worse. My wife and I travel frequently in Europe, and we lie about our citizenship—we claim that we are Canadian—in order to be accepted wholeheartedly. This is the new reality for American international tourism.

Putin gets it. He knows that the U.S. military is stretched paper-thin in the Middle East, making any prospect of armed conflict nearly impossible for the United States. He also knows that when Bush makes his “holier-than-thou” pronouncements, the world sees him as laughable, and Putin further knows that many Americans share the same opinion. Bush has reveled in the role of the bully for most of his presidency, and now he confronts another bully in the person of Putin. Our President should save himself further embarrassment, and simply be quiet. The Russians had perfected the role of bully when Bush was still living the life of a drunken frat boy, and they’re sure as hell not about to be intimidated by pathetic little Condi Rice. Meanwhile, we can assume that Cheney is in an undisclosed location.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

And Now a Message From Our Sponsors

At a time when GM is struggling just to remain viable as an American corporation, the car maker has now bet the farm on advertising during the Olympics. Along with Coca Cola, McDonalds, and Exxon Mobil, GM is one of the major sponsors for NBC’s marathon Olympic coverage, but their ads are a mystery to me. Most of them feature various GM models parked unattended next to a gas pump at the filling station, and while the car owner is off camera (presumably inside paying his obscene fuel bill), the gas nozzle comes to life through the process of computer animation, and begins playing various pranks on the helpless, inanimate, vehicle.

The intended message is that gas pumps dislike Chevy vehicles because of their miserly fuel consumption. There are two other interpretations, both equally valid. One, that GM products spend an inordinate amount of time sitting in gas stations. And two, that GM car owners aren’t smart enough to pay at the pump.

The GM Volt is also featured in a few of the ads (see my article 7/31). The target date for the start-sale of the Volt is now pushed back to 2010, and from the sounds of the ad, the Volt will use hybrid rather than fuel cell technology. The once-futuristic body is not looking any newer than it was eight or nine years ago. GM might as well put it all on the line with this 2008 Olympic telecast, because it’s not a sure bet that GM will be around for the 2012 games in London, and the company has already announced their decision to not advertise during that event.

As for the other big players in the NBC ad pool, the Coke and McDonalds spots are fresh and entertaining. Coke and McDonalds do advertising far better than they do human nourishment, but that’s another story. Exxon Mobil gets the award for having the most chutzpah . With their oil profits at obscene levels, their ads focus on their work curing malaria in Africa. For each million dollars in oil profits, Exxon Mobil evidently contributes one mosquitoe net valued at roughly one dollar. The spokesman in the ads for the malaria project is some guy with an M.D. after his name. I don’t know if he’s a real doctor, but he plays one on television, and in the past that was always good enough for TV commercials hyping medical messages.

The real tragedy of this year’s TV advertising is that the Olympics occur in election years. That’s always the case, and there’s nothing worse in the electronic world than political ads. It’s a wistful thing to imagine what it would be like to see the Olympics presented without televised messages tearing down political candidates.

Also see: It’s The Infrastructure-- Stupid

Monday, August 11, 2008

John Edwards Guilty of Bad Timing

Here’s my beef with John Edwards. He chose to come clean about his sexual affair during a tight and full news cycle, with a high profile American tourist murdered in China right after the utterly amazing and fantastic Olympic opening ceremony, followed the next day by full all-out war between Russia and Georgia. All of this breaking news left the networks with little time to cover Edwards in more than a superficial way. I wanted to see a repeat of the Elliott Spitzer affair coverage, when the networks expanded the air time devoted to sex by doing “filler” pieces. For example, one network filled out their Spitzer programming with a twenty minute segment about the difference between a prostitute and a call girl. That kind of added material makes high profile affairs more interesting.

By themselves, these “indiscretions” aren’t terribly newsworthy, and they’re certainly not new. Even FDR played the game. If Mt. Rushmore added a fifth iconic face, many Americans would vote for the image to be Franklin D. Roosevelt. Even some Republicans consider him in the “great” category, but throughout his life he cheated on Eleanor with her personal secretary, Lucy Mercer, and he did it with steel braces on his crippled legs, so you know that there was some kinky stuff going on there.

Leveraging high-profile pedigree in order to obtain casual sex, JFK managed to do more breeding than Secretariat. Many Americans still think JFK was a good president. On the other hand, there are two presidents who are generally acknowledged to be squeaky clean in the marital indiscretion category, and their sexual conduct is above reproach. They are Richard Nixon and George W. Bush—arguably the two worst presidents who have ever held the office. Based on that, I’m not sure that marital infidelity is a deal breaker for presidential greatness. I will grant you, however, that it’s hard on the little Missus and the kiddos.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Putin Asks Bush, "Or What?"

The heart of Pentagon strategic planning for the last half century could be described with one word, deterrence. And behind this strategy was a little open secret. As the USA spent unimaginable sums of money to build the greatest military machine the world had ever seen, the little open secret was this: the military colossus was not meant to ever be used. From the earliest days of the cold war, the intent was always to threaten and intimidate, not to annihilate, any potential adversary. The strength was designed to prevent a war, not win a war. Pentagon planners (at least the wiser ones) knew that when intimidating and threatening turned to shooting, the United States military might not be as invincible as everyone thought. Vietnam had shown that there were limits to US military power. But until George W. Bush came along, Vietnam could be dismissed as a fluke that was tragically rooted in a lack of strong national resolve.

The Soviets understood deterrence. They played by our rules, and finally threw in the towel. Last year (2007) the Russians spent 19 billion dollars on their military. Even old Saddam Hussein understood how the game was supposed to be played. After his capture and before his execution, he was debriefed for nearly a year by an expert interrogator from the FBI. During this time he revealed that he never thought the USA would invade his country. He knew that invasion wasn't supposed to be part of our strategic game plan. The only person who didn't understand the Pentagon game plan was George W. Bush. Never known for a keen intellect, and certainly never one to grasp philosophical subtlety, he rode in with guns blazing like John Wayne—the proverbial cowboy with a fancy hat and boots but no saddle.

We faced an insurgent enemy in Iraq with no army, no capability to mass produce arms and munitions, no transportation infrastructure, no heavy combat vehicles, and no air power whatsoever. Nothing but a willingness to die for their cause. We truly were Goliath to the Iraqi insurgent's David, and victory should have come quickly and easily, but Bush will leave his presidency with his war still unresolved. In a very real sense, the Iraqi insurgents have achieved victory over America by teaching the rest of the world two words, "Or what?" Those two words have made the entire "force as threat" strategy of the Pentagon obsolete. Bush says to Pakistan, "You are not allowed to harbor Taliban terrorists," and Pakistan responds, "Or what?" Bush tells the Saudis to increase their oil production, and the Saudis ask, “Or what?” Bush tells the leaders of Myanmar to allow foreign aid to flow to the hurricane victims, and the Myanmar leaders ignore him, sending the silent reply of, “Or what?” Bush forbids North Korea to develop nuclear-tipped missiles, and North Korea responds, “Or what?” And, finally, yesterday at the Olympics in China, Bush told Putin to respect the sovereignty of breakaway Georgia and back away from all out war, and Putin simply said, “Or what?”

When you strip away all the macho patriotic flag-waving hype, the fact remains that Iraq has shown the world that the United States can be rolled. Everyone now knows that Vietnam was no fluke. World War III was prevented for almost 60 years by deterrence, but deterrence is out the window now as a credible national strategy for self preservation. That will be the lasting legacy of George W. Bush.

Friday, August 8, 2008

A Few Random Thoughts About China

Today is the kick off of the Chinese Orympics (phonetic spelling. Sorry, but I needed to get that out of my system). If you believe the sports writers, the games are shaping up as a super-power match between China and the U.S.A. to see who will win the medal count. Lucky for the Americans, the competition is athletic, rather than scholastic or academic. If the contest was the latter, the Chinese would win handily and the U.S.A. would fall to near the bottom of the medal count. In China, where learning is valued even above athletics, the high school drop-out rate is near zero compared with the American drop-out rate of over 25%. But the next two weeks are all about muscle power, so we might do okay.

The media is filling air time between competitions by fawning over the giant “bird’s nest” stadium, and wondering if it will be visible through the haze of pollution on a day to day basis. They are actually missing a terrific irony, here. China now has the world’s largest bird’s nest, but no birds. Chairman Mao, during the Cultural Revolution, told his people that birds competed with them for seeds and grain, and he suggested that killing off the birds would solve hunger problems. That competition ended with a score of Chairman Mao—1, Birds— 0.

During the Cold War, the Soviet—U.S.A. race to dominate the medal count during the Olympics was seen every four years as a kind of metaphor for the bigger contest to dominate the super-power race for supremacy. That same scenario is now shaping up with the China—U.S.A. competition. What makes this interesting on the larger scale is that the U.S.A. is very much in decline in everything but military might, while China is in a state of ascendency in pretty much everything. They’ve chosen to go with a single-party free-market capitalism, and we have our two-party free-market capitalism. Right now, they seem to be on the right track. Without any philosophical anchor like our Constitution, they approach everything from the standpoint of pure functionality and pragmatism, and they solve their problems on a kind of “ad hoc” basis. It seems to work for them. The Western industrialized nations of Europe and the Americas had a 300 year head start heading into the modern world, and China has managed to make up for lost time while dealing with a population of 1.3 billion citizens. Not bad.

Human rights suffer in this rush to modernize their culture while keeping control over their people. This fact was pointed out to them yesterday by none other than George W. Bush (He’s like Eddie Haskell. He never rises above the low expectations you have for him). But when functionality takes precedent over human rights, some interesting dynamics occur, and they’re not all bad. If Enron had been a Chinese company, Jeff Skilling and Ken Ley and several others would have been dragged out from their posh offices and summarily executed for their innovative management style. I guess that whether or not this would be a human rights violation would depend on where you stood in the Enron Corporation. When the Chinese equivalent of our head of the FDA took bribes in return for letting substandard pharmaceutical compounds flow into the Chinese drug system, his ethical lapse was rewarded with a bullet in the head. That happened two years ago. That only needs to happen a few times, and people of responsibility suddenly get “born again” with regard to their ethics.

The 20th Century was called, The American Century. The 21st Century is already shaping up to be The Chinese Century. In the meantime, I say, “Let the Orympic Games begin.”

Thursday, August 7, 2008

It’s My Party, and I’ll Cry If I want To

It’s My Party, and I’ll Cry If I want To. This pretty much sums up Hillary, and her approach to the Democrats at their national convention in Denver. We think we’ve seen it all, those of us who try to offer intelligent, non-hysterical political blogging with a somewhat jaded and cynical touch, but I must admit that I’m surprised by the Clintons. That’s not their fault. It’s my own naiveté. The Clintons are just being themselves, with the monstrous egos and petulant self-absorption that are their trademarks.

Here’s my mea culpa. I admit, much to my shame, that I pulled the R lever for George W. Bush in 2000. I was motivated to cross over to the dark side by my utter disgust for Bill Clinton— the man and the President. I thought that no president could be worse than Slick Willy. Of course, after the last eight years, I realize just how wrong I was. But looking back, I believe that a lot of Independents did what I did, for similar reasons, and collectively we boosted Bush close enough to a majority so that The Supreme Court could install him without being accused of staging an outright coup.

That’s water under the bridge now. For my atonement, I think I’ll vote for Obama this year, in spite of my doubts about the Democrats, perpetually afflicted as they are with nonsensical silliness, and always willing to appease any whiner who displays sufficient petulance. Right now that whiner is Hillary Clinton, who wants her name to be placed into nomination at the convention so that she can feel relevant. If she doesn’t get her way, Bill will limit his campaign activity to pouting and pontificating. In a perverse way this gives me something that I’ve wanted for a long time, a litmus test to prove to me that the party in power deserves to be in power. The Clintons will be that litmus test for me.

After the eight year nightmare that’s coming to a close, Obama should have been a runaway favorite to win the next election. However, I’ve never been all that comfortable with the certainty of his victory. I think that a lot of Independents, people who would never consider themselves to be racist, will get into the privacy of the voting booth and vote for the white guy, “Just to be on the safe side.” They might even lie about it to their friends afterward. Obama has to overcome that to win, and he needs 100% of the support from his party to do it. If the Democrats are sidetracked with trying so soothe the wounded egos of the Clintons, it could well cost Obama the election. For me, that’s the litmus test that I mentioned earlier. If the Democrats lose the presidency because of the Clintons, they deserve to lose it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Just Another Bad Idea

Ron Suskind, Pulitzer Prize- winning writer, is out with a new book exposing disturbing details of the ramp up to the Iraq war. He asserts that the Bush White House didn’t misinterpret pre-war intelligence, they manufactured it. Let’s face it, Bush-Cheney and the Neo-Cons took us to war because they damn-well felt like it. Naïve and patriotic Americans will discount this because they ask themselves the logical question, “Why would the President do such a thing?” The easy answer is that he did it because he could, but there’s a more complicated answer that gets closer to the truth, and this is what I want to write about today.

In 2004, when I was still counting myself among the majority of Americans who favored the war at that time, I spent a morning with Charles Krauthammer in a group discussion about the Neo-Con philosophy as it related to Iraq. The Neo-Cons believed at the time (most of them still believe) that democracy could be forced on Iraq, and it would spread to neighboring Middle Eastern Arab and Shiite countries. Krauthammer cited examples of forced democracy taking hold and thriving in the post WWII countries of Germany and Japan, but he completely missed the bigger picture. The German democracy didn’t spread to the Soviet Union, and the Japanese democracy didn’t spread to North Korea and China, and—in fact—the case can be made that the new democracies imposed after WWII actually hardened the neighboring totalitarian views of China, North Korea, and the Soviet Union. So the question is this, “How did the Neo-Cons get it so wrong?”

The process is known as, “groupthink,” and the mechanism that lubricates the process is known as, “happy talk.” Basically, Bush and Cheney gathered in a room with Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Pearle and Condi Rice, and they talked themselves into the notion that democracy could be spread around an entire region of the world as though it was some kind of contagious living organism. Nobody in the room acted the part of the naysayer or Devil’s advocate, and pathetic old Krauthammer just sat waiting in the wings to glow with tribute when the Neo-Con plan bore fruit. As far as I know, he’s still waiting. They felt assured of a successful outcome because they wanted it, “real bad.”

This wasn’t the first failure that came from “groupthink” and “happy talk,” and it won’t be the last. NASA managers sent the Challenger astronauts to their deaths because the managers wanted a quick launch, “real bad.” JFK’s military planners talked themselves into the Bay of Pigs invasion because they wanted a victory over Castro, “real bad.” Business managers do this every day with similar disastrous results. Sometimes it happens in failed corporations like Enron, and sometimes it happens in highly successful corporations like Pfizer, and here’s the thing that is truly amazing— every time it happens, the disaster comes as a complete surprise to the managers. Needless to say, the failure in Iraq came as a complete surprise to the Neo-Cons.

More than 4000 American servicemen are now dead, along with untold tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, all because of a bad idea. But when the tragedy is taken down to its essence, the only thing that stands out is the fact that this particular bad idea was hatched by people with immense power, resulting in chaos that is being felt around the world. Other than that, it was just another run-of-the-mill bad idea. This is the new reality in a world where people of limited intelligence who lead entire nations and who command immense military power think they can get by with just applying simple management techniques while they confront global problems with the carelessness of a PlayStation video gamer. There’s an old saying that should be the epitaph for George W. Bush, “for every complex problem there’s a simple wrong solution.”

Monday, August 4, 2008

Beware of Fortune Tellers

95% of the American adult public can’t solve a very simple quadratic equation, or write a literate paragraph, so it comes as no surprise that the voting public has an almost Stone Age-level of willingness to believe the prophecies of fortune tellers. I’m not talking, here, about the Gypsies who read your palm at the carnival. I’m talking about the spin doctors who televise their predictions about the future in order to tear down someone who holds a different view. I’m talking about Republicans who tell you what a Democrat will do, and vice versa.

Some predictions are legitimate, especially when they involve projecting a linear trend. Gasoline will be $7.00 a gallon in four to six years. I don’t care if you believe this, but I’m budgeting my personal finances to accommodate it. Sea level will rise ten feet when the Greenland ice cap melts completely, and it melts increasingly every year. I’m not buying any seafront property. Iraq will have American military garrisons for the next 20 years. I’m advising all my nieces and nephews to not join the Army or the Marines if they want to have a happy life. I believe in projections, but I don’t believe in fortune telling or prophecy. Here’s what I mean.

Karl Rove and his Republican cronies are televising political ads that predict what Obama will do if he becomes president. My question is this— if they can see the future with such clarity, why didn’t they predict the response of the Iraqi militants before we decided to invade their sovereign nation? Get my point? And I don’t mean this to be a one-sided criticism of Republicans. The Democrat oracles are telling us what McCain will do, if and when Iran goes nuclear. These are the same Democrat oracles who bet all the smart money that Hillary would be the nominee. The fact is, even McCain can’t predict what he will do if Iran goes nuclear. Given that scenario, he might think first about strong military action, but if China and Russia and India sided with Iran, I’ll bet he’d learn to live with just another member of the nuclear club, and put his faith in nuclear deterrence based on certain destruction for Iran if it broke the rules. Nobody can see the future, especially when it comes to events that involve foreign countries.

The fortune tellers say that Obama will raise taxes. Maybe Obama will raise taxes, and maybe he won’t. He doesn’t know about that yet, and neither does Karl Rove. The United States has the lowest Federal taxes in the industrialized world, and we also have the lowest standard of healthcare, public education, and air and rail travel service. Someday, America might grow tired of being dead last in the industrialized world in these categories, and when that day comes, the President at that time will push to raise taxes to fix the shortcomings. It might happen during the next presidency, or maybe the presidency after that. Maybe it will never happen, and America will slip to third-world status. Third-world countries have very low taxes, or none at all. Maybe that’s what we really want. Nobody can say.

Here’s the deal. If the gullible voters base their vote on political advertising prophecies, then we probably won’t get the best candidate elected to office. Most of us think that nothing could ever possibly be worse than Bush, but that falls into the category of predicting the future.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Spielberg Dodges Lawsuit

This blog posting is purely personal and probably of limited interest to all but a few, but I need to communicate this in a public forum. At the New Age conspiracy conference this weekend, a number of friends and acquaintances came up to me and asked if I was planning to sue Steven Spielberg and George Lucas for stealing the plot of my novel. They were only half serious, but that also means they were only half kidding me. These were people who had read “Stonecypher Road” when it was published in 2005, and then had recently seen the movie, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” Both the novel and the movie involve the discovery of an ancient crystal skull, which turns out to be one of a group of 13 such legendary artifacts. The plot of both stories revolves around the quest to dispose of the crystal skull in the proper way. Since the novel came three years before the movie, the readers wondered if Spielberg’s screenplay writer might have ripped off the novel.

I say here and now that Spielberg can rest easy, and his lawyers can take a vacation. The fact is that I ripped most of my crystal skull material off the Internet. On New Age websites, crystal skull information is as common as tulips in Holland. The legend of the 13 skulls is not proprietary, and it’s as widespread as the Old Testament. The story of the F.A. Mitchell-Hedges Skull of Doom has been told a thousand times. So what all this means is that Spielberg’s screenplay writer ripped off the same sources that I used. Good for him.

Now that I’ve cleared that up, I promise that tomorrow I’ll get back to postings with some journalistic relevance. This time I really mean it.

The ATA, Jesus, and New Age Paranoia

An interesting little tidbit of paranoia surfaced this weekend at the New Age conspiracy conference in Crestone, Colorado. I only mention it, here, because it may not be so paranoid. It concerns the ATA, which stands for Allen Telescope Array. Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen has spent part of his considerable fortune to build an array of twenty-foot radio dish antennas (there will eventually be 350 in all) at Hat Creek, California. This location is the reason why New Age conference attendees are paranoid. Everybody (at least everybody familiar with the project) seems to wish that Allen had chosen to build this telescope array in the middle of the CERN supercollider ring on the French-Swiss border, completely beyond the authority of the U.S. Government. France and Switzerland support and appreciate science, and many astute people believe that the only reason that the Internet grew to unstoppable proportions before government control could shut it down was the fact that the Internet was invented and started at CERN. But I digress.

New Agers are more into astrology than astronomy, so you might ask why they have an interest in celestial telescopes. It’s because of the ATA primary mission, which is to detect radio transmissions from intelligent extraterrestrial advanced civilizations. The ATA is part of SETI. The paranoid scenario goes like this. A few years from now (the exact number of years doesn’t matter), the ATA hits the Holy Grail and finds a radio signal which cannot come from anything but an intelligent source. The finding is announced to the world. And, with time, we learn to decode, or read, or understand what is being said to us across the light years of space. Then, as the interstellar messages accumulate, interested parties with religious tunnel-vision, maybe James Dobson or John Hagee, begin to wonder what happens if nothing indicates that the intelligent beings sending the signal know anything about Jesus, or Mohammed, or the entire concept of supernatural Salvation. What if Jesus begins to look like nothing more than a local boy? The celestial astro-communication will not be two-way, of course, so all we can do is listen. We can’t ask the bombshell question. But the stakes are profound. It doesn’t take too much imagination to visualize the U.S. Government, pressured by the religious Right, shutting down the ATA by claiming it compromises our satellite intelligence capability, or some other nonsensical phoniness tied to our so-called national security.

Sure it’s paranoid. But if your argument against this happening relies on faith in good American government, then consider The Patriot Act. And if you believe that Americans still appreciate scientific discovery, then consider the public response to global warming evidence. Finally think about this. Rush Limbaugh just signed a deal for 400 million dollars, justified on the grounds that he can sway an audience of 30 million right-wing listeners. Limbaugh believes that the new CERN supercollider can produce a black hole which might threaten the earth, and he doesn’t believe that subterranean oil deposits are the result of decayed prehistoric plant life. When you live in a country where that kind of scientific ignorance earns 400 million dollars, then any absurdity is possible.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Origin of Crop Circles

Hello from Crestone, Colorado— high in the southern Spanish Peaks of the Rockies. The occasion is a New Age conspiracy conference where I'm representing my publisher, The Invisible College Press. My lecture yesterday was on Atlantis and Mu. Today I’m introducing the panel on Crop Circles. If you’ve ever wondered about where these come from, read on. After Monday, I’ll get back to “normal” subject material, like the downfall of unfettered free market capitalism in a world disillusioned with dysfunctional democracy (smile face).

I know about the origin of crop circles because I've made some of them myself. All you need is a good imagination, a clandestine group of friends to help you, some basic equipment like snowshoes and a precise GPS unit for each member of the team, and finally, a background in mathematics with a special emphasis on fractal geometry. It is also essential that the team members know how to keep a secret.

I get out there on occasion with snowshoes on my feet and a GPS unit in my hands. Using the GPS units does seem like cheating, but they're absolutely essential for the kind of things we're doing now. We haven't made a true circle for years now. Nobody gets excited about a circle anymore. It's all about Fractals now. Fractal images. And, of course, I'm keen on this as well, since the Fractals involve pure mathematics. We're really turning out some first rate effects. We're keen on geometric representations of the Fibonacci Progression. They're very popular with the reporters because they photograph so well from the air. And then we're doing nice things with the Phi Ratio, and Platonic Solids, and the Vesica Pisces, and the Golden Mean. We got off on a tangent, nine or ten years ago, with hexagons. We linked up ten hexagons to form a complex queue that actually looked three-dimensional. It was up at Stonehenge. The press took to calling this, the Julia Set.' That seemed to start a fad with hexagons, and it's been hexagons ever since.

Now, the Julia Set was never primarily hexagonal, but that was the wording used by the reporters. They're weren't mathematicians. They're just bloody idiots. They wouldn't know a bloody Julia Set from a Mandelbrot Set, but you can bet they'd always call it the Julia Set because Julia is easier to spell than Mandelbrot. Those blokes who report the news are notorious slackers, and the blokes who watch the teley don't know anything either, so it doesn't matter what things get called. Of course I still get the chance, from time to time, to slip in a few of my prime arrays of circularities, and my luxentric angulations. But those design structures are way over the head of most people. Nobody seems to get it, even other mathematicians. Nobody gets it. These, of course, are the arrays that people cite to prove that crop circles are extraterrestial in origin, since nobody can cite a terrestrial math formula that would yield such a pattern.

Since most crop circles occur in England, I've written this blog in British rather than American.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Atlantis and Mu, or "Where I Went On My Summer Vacation"

For a summer change of pace from my usual thoughts on business and politics, I'd like to offer a vacation suggestion. Why not visit the prehistoric sites of ancient Atlantis and Mu? If you're interested, I'll tell you how to do it. This weekend, I'm attending a New Age conspiracy conference in tiny Crestone, Colorado, and I'll be sharing this same information in a lecture there. I'll be representing my publisher, The Invisible College Press.

I want you to imagine the equator around the earth. It forms something called a horizon ring. A horizon ring can be any circle around the earth, as long as it takes in the full circumference of the globe. Can you visualize what I'm describing? Now imagine a horizon ring, inclined thirty degrees to the equator. That means tilted up from the equator. Imagine that it passes through both the Great Pyramid in Egypt as well as the ancient city of Mohenjo Daro which is in the Indus Valley of Pakistan. Incredibly, if you follow this same horizon ring completely around the earth, it will precisely pass through almost every major site of extremely early archeological significance on the planet. The list is nothing less than extraordinary: Perseopolis, the capital city of ancient Persia... the lost city of Petra... the ancient Sumarian city of Ur... Angkor Wat in Cambodia, where all the spectacular beehive temples are located... both Machu Picchu and the glyphs of Nasca in Peru... Easter Island, and also in the South Pacific, an island named Anatom Island in the Republic of Vanuatu. It used to be called the New Hebrides.

As you study the features along this horizon ring, you'll find that Anatom Island is exactly, and I mean exactly, halfway between Easter Island and Angkor Wat. And here's something else you'll find. I concerns Mohenjo Daro in the Indus Valley. It's exactly antipodal to Easter Island. Saying that places are antipodal means they're perfectly located opposite each other on the globe, like the North and South Poles. You won't believe the precision of these alignments. Easter Island is only a dozen kilometers long. And there's an ancient city in the Indus Valley, never even been excavated, mind you, it's named Ganweriwala. And it's just a dozen kilometers east of Mohenjo Daro. Ganweriwala and Mohenjo Daro are precisely antipodal to a pair of high volcanic peaks at the opposite ends of Easter Island. The precision of this couldn't even be recognized until the advent of the computer and GPS technology.

So if you want to rub elbows with the New Agers seeking to touch a piece of the past, just get out a globe of the world. Draw a line between Giza in Egypt and Petra in Jordan, then extend this line around the world as a horizon ring, and go visit every ancient site that is located on the ring. If you're reading this in the United States, you might want to start with Machu Picchu since it's the closest ancient location. And after you've visited every site around the world, here's the last thing that you should know. You will have passed over Atlantis and Mu, because wherever they are, they certainly are on the ancient alignment ring.

So there you have it, "The Alignment" Easter Island, the Pyramids, Machu Picchu, Petra, and all of the most ancient and important archeological sites in the Mideast and lower Asia, all within one-tenth of one degree of a perfect horizon ring, all on a straight line around the center of the earth. My theory is that wherever Atlantis and Mu may have been located, their positions would have been aligned on this same horizon ring. In the case of Atlantis, I even have a theory about where that might be. Of all the possible sites for ancient Atlantis proposed by the experts, only one lies on the alignment ring. It's a remote location in the Atlantic Ocean where there are presently no islands, but a very ancient document known as the Piri Reis Map shows a large island in this precise spot. And recent geologic core samples taken from the floor of the sea in this spot are composed of continental type rock, rather than oceanic type rock which should be the case. Probably Atlantis once existed here, if it existed at all.

Such a position for Atlantis would be antipodal to a remote point in the highlands of Irian Jaya, far up to the north along the unexplored chain of mountains that runs up from Papua New Guinea. The people there tell of a legend in their culture about an extensive stone city well to the north, high in the remote mountains, now long abandoned and forever lost to the jungle. They called this place, "Mu". Unlike Atlantis, which long ago disappeared, this site called "Mu" is still in existence on dry land. For that perfect summer getaway, why not go there? Then you can come back and publish a travel article to help defray the cost of your trip. I know from firsthand experience that such a trip would cost you about $9,000, and an article (see my blog of 5/24) will net you about $250. What a deal!