Thursday, August 28, 2008

Union Graft

My mentor for my MA in American history is not a union member. In fact, he was involved in a lawsuit years ago over the fact that the equivalent of union dues were subtracted from his wages due to the fact that the union negotiated the contracts for all professors, including him, regardless of his position on unions.

He and his compatriots won the lawsuit, and he no longer sees money stolen by the union.

The reason that he won is interesting. Apparently, the court ruled that he did indeed owe the union money for negotiating the contract. However, what the union was taking was the same amount as its regular dues for union members--presumably this includes monies allocated for an assortment of other union functions (e.g. grievances, newsletters, red shirts, etc.).

The court instructed the union to deduct from non-union members' wages only the amount necessary for contract negotiations.

But he pays nothing to the union. Why? Because the union does not want its members to know how much/little is actually required to negotiate their contracts.

Unions are run by crooks, which is why it was so easy for the mafia to infiltrate them decades ago and why unions are among the most ardent supporters of the democratic party.

Obama and Change

Obama is not the candidate for change. He is the candidate for more of the same kind of socialist evil that has come to define the populist side of the democratic party since even before FDR.

When you tell a crack addict that he needs to change, you don't mean that he should smoke more crack.

Monday, August 25, 2008

In God We Trust

I just received an email from someone begging me to vote on an msnbc poll regarding the presence of "In God We Trust" on U.S. currency.

The person who sent it to me assumed that I would "vote" to keep the motto on the currency since I believe in God.

However, if my faith hinges upon U.S. currency, how weak must my faith be? Our money is based upon nothing--not gold, not silver, not cow manure. Its value declines every year. Do I really wish such a thing to represent my faith?

If the U.S. were to stop using the words "In God We Trust" on its currency, would my faith decline? Of course it wouldn't, which is why this whole thing is ridiculous.

No one has been made a believer by those words on a quarter, and no one will be made a non-believer if those words are not on a quarter.

I'm so tired of this kind of symbolic crap. This is almost as annoying as when those people gather thinking that making giant quilts will cure AIDS, or that walking a modest distance will cure breast cancer or diabetes.

I honestly couldn't vote on the poll because I think (and let us not forget that this blog is called "What I Think") that all U.S. currency should be destroyed and replaced with something valuable. The most logical replacement would be something backed by gold or at least by silver.

Besides, if our money so trusted in God, then the Federal Reserve wouldn't have so much damn control over it.

Stop-Loss Final

I think that the ending of the movie is one of hopelessness.

To the government that was instituted to protect your rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness--the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness mean jack squat.

Stop-Loss Later

I'm an hour into it now, and it seems more to be a modern-day Deer Hunter.


I am presently watching the film Stop-Loss. I haven't finished it yet--I'm little more than 1/4 through it--so I might alter my opinion on this. Nonetheless, I'm going to shoot from the hip on this one.

The story seems to be that a distinguished soldier is about to be discharged from service, but is instead set to redeploy to Iraq due to a clause in his contract known colloquially as "stop-loss"--to stop too many able soldiers from leaving during a time of war. He protests, saying that since the president declared the war over (I presume this is a reference to Bush's infamous "mission accomplished" fiasco), the clause is invalid as it is no longer a time of war.

Since the president cannot declare war (read the Constitution: Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11?--it's Congress's power), he cannot end it. Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 says that the president has the power to make treaties "with the advise and consent of the Senate . . . provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur."

Based upon what I've seen so far, I sympathize with the soldier, but his legal/constitutional argument is not valid.

The moral of this story--based upon the 39 minutes that I have thus watched--is that the government should not be trusted.

By the way, that's the moral of the story in the history of every government that has ever existed and will ever exist.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mike the Headless Chicken

Here's an interesting story that I caught on The beheaded beast survived for a year and a half!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Lower the Drinking Age

In an article on, those who support lowering the drinking age to 18--among these supporters are many college presidents--were criticized by "a wave of criticism from health experts, transportation officials, government leaders and opponents of drunken driving."

So an 18 year old cannot decide for him or herself whether or not to have a beer/shot/glass, etc. because an 18 year old is not responsible/educated/temperate/mature enough to know when he or she has had enough.

Is that it?

How absurd, then.

At age 18, a person is responsible/educated/temperate/mature enough to vote in any public election--playing an important role in who controls the largest nuclear arsenal on the Earth.

But an 18 year old cannot be trusted with fermented beverages!

At age 18, a person can enlist in the military, be trained and equipped to kill (or die--though the training tries to minimize the latter and maximize the former)
, deployed in a foreign land--let's say Iraq or Afghanistan (just for shits and giggles)--but he or she is not old enough to order a glass of chianti (with faver beans) at the freaking Olive Garden?

Either raise the voting age and the minimum age for enlistment in the military, or drop the drinking age. I don't care how many mom's with too much time on their hands (and lonely and desperate for some kind of attention) stand in the way.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Nevermind, now the player is on the top. Just hit pause.


In case some of you have noticed, I have a music player installed on the site. To disable it--which you'll need to do in order to enjoy any video clips--just go to the bottom of the page and click on the pause button.

I'll try to change the position of the player to facilitate this a bit.


In my previous post I noted that India had more billionaires in the top ten--not more billionaires total. And India's population doesn't account for this, otherwise there's be more billionaires in Bangladesh than Texas.

Monday, August 18, 2008

America and the Global Economy

Here's something that's bothering me:

Everyone is worried that the United States seems to be losing its position as the leader in global in economics.

To me this sounds more like xenophobia than anything.

So what if a few years down the road China outproduces the United States in its industrial output? This doesn't mean that the United States becomes poorer. It just means that more goods are being produced in China than in the United States.

If athlete A can run a mile in 4:45 min., but athlete B can run the mile in only 4:50 min., does that mean that athlete B is a pathetic loser? No, it just means that A can run a mile a little bit faster than B. An even better comparison, is that athlete A improves his mile time by 4 seconds, but athlete B improves his by only 2. The way that people are talking about global economics, it sounds more like athlete B had actually gotten slower, that athlete B is getting fat and lazy, that athlete B is liable to suffer cardiac arrest due to his lack of fitness.

Truly, if American-owned company X makes a 250 million dollar profit on a given year, it's considered by many to be a tragedy if Japanese/Chinese/Korean/non-Anglo-Saxon company Y makes a 350 million dollar profit.

The Dark Knight just recently surpassed Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope on the all time highest grossing films list. This must mean that Star Wars sucks.

Weightlifter A bench pressed 600 pounds, but weightlifter B bench pressed 640 pounds. Hey weightlifter A, you're a wussy!

It's time to dispense with this mercantilist nonsense that economics is a competition between countries. The most recent article that I read regarding this issue bemoaned that there are only four American billionaires in the world's top 20 list of billionaires--and then a point was made that India (gasp!) had four in the top 10. Why is it an issue which country has the most wealthy billionaires? Are we afraid that these new Hindu billionaires will use their newly found wealth and power to replace our meat and potatoes with curry vegetables?

Brokeback Jaws

Friday, August 08, 2008


For my birthday (today), my uncle, his friend, and my cousin took me salmon fishing in the San Juan's.

We caught no salmon, but I managed to reel in a rockfish--think really ugly fish with bulging eyes and spiney fins--and a dogfish--a small shark, about 2 1/2 feet long.

We also pulled up three crabs, two of which were keepers.

On top of this, I managed to catch a few too many rays. My face, forearms, and knees are bright red.

I'm not really that much into fishing, but I had a good time. It makes me think of the Brad Paisley song, 'I'm Gonna Miss Her," known to most as "The Fishing Song."

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

On Vacation But Still Working (Sorta)

Don't expect much of substance. I am in Seattle or Los Angeles until August 21st (we're going to both--the Seattle or Los Angeles isn't meant as a riddle).

However, I might be good for an occasional observation or mere youtube posting.

For example:

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Idle Talk

Among the several minuscule things about me that my wife does not like, supreme among them is my general unwillingness to be dragged along somewhere just "to visit" someone, usually one of her relatives.

She accuses me of being "anti-social," but I protest. You see, these visits turn out to be the most mundane experiences known to man. They make the narration of a Dostoevsky novel look like the screenplay to a James Bond flick.

The worst part about these visits is that she springs them on me by surprise. We'll be out at Wall-Mart, so--just before I turn in the direction homeward--she says something like, "Well, since we're out here, let's visit so-and-so."

Now so-and-so are very nice, friendly, charming, all that good stuff kind of folks. However, to me, such a suggestion is like the sound of nails on the chalkboard. They're not going to talk with me about anything that I find interesting. If I'm going to have to spend a good two to three hours chatting with them, then I need time to consider material such as "So, I hear that Rossetti is coming out with a new accordion," or "I hear what you're saying, but I still think that Kristalnacht was unjustified to its core and essentially evil in every way."

I just can't make idle chat with people, no matter who they are. It's not that I don't like them or love them. It's that I am unequipped to engage in conversations about nothing.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Terminator--Recut into a Romance

I love these "recut" trailers.

How The United States Embraced a Standing Army

Standing armies are not--no matter how loud the neo-cons shout--necessary to the preservation of a free people. In fact, they are the enemy of free people. The following is an essay that I wrote on how Americans moved from fearing a standing army to embracing one.

Hear Them Calling, You and Me, Every Son of Liberty [1]:
The Democratization of American Military in the Decade Following World War II

That totalitarian states such as Hitler’s Third Reich and Stalin’s Union of Soviet Socialist Republics should possess massive standing armies surprises no keen observer. Governments based purely upon coercion—and bent ultimately upon territorial expansion—require a permanent military presence. Furthermore, under such governments, military life often echoes civilian life. The very trademarks of a good soldier—obedience, regimentation, and non-egoism—become the ethos of the people in general. However, democracies are purportedly different. The United States’ military machine of World War II was the product of necessity.

According to tradition, after vanquishing its German and Japanese enemies, the United States should have returned to a very small and internationally insignificant size and potency. However, the threat of communist expansion in Europe and Asia forced many Americans to reconsider the need for a ready and effectual military force at all times [2]. Basically, from an American military perspective, although World War II ended in peace between the Allies and the Axis, events soon unfolded to demonstrate that the U.S.S.R, while not engaged in full scale combat with the United States, posed a significant enough threat to declare the existence of a “Cold War.” Thus, the danger of communist expansion meant that the United States needed to maintain a standing army. However, to do so the United States government needed to change the military’s public image, “to make the army more compatible with a democratic nation.” [3] To this effect, the United States military embarked upon an extensive marketing campaign to alter its image, instituted a series of reforms to blur the dissimilarities between military service and democratic ideals, and ultimately achieved the blessing of popular opinion. These efforts were the culmination of the war effort, for they sought to secure the democracy of the United States, its allies, and ultimately the world entire.

Because a large standing army had no precedent in American history, military leaders such as General Dwight Eisenhower recognized the need for “public understanding, public support, and public action.” [4] This meant bolstering public opinion of the military in order that productive members of society would enroll in the armed forces or accept conscription. [5] To attract middle and upper-class Americans, advertisers marketed the military as an institution capable of instilling core democratic values and providing “educational and promotion opportunities, good pay, fringe benefits, and retirement pensions.” [6] As a cross between the Boy Scouts and corporate America, the military made itself less threatening and more respectable to middle Americans. As such, it became an acceptable vehicle to defend the Christian values, capitalist economy, and limited government of the United States against the atheistic, communist totalitarians.

The promotion of the military would most likely have been largely ineffectual had it not been for a series of major reforms aimed at realizing its proclaimed image. Among these reforms were tying promotion to merit rather than seniority, housing personnel off-base so as not to alienate them from civilians, offering wages competitive with private industry, abolishing racial segregation, and enhancing the rights of servicemen. [7] The military enacted many other reforms, but the ones listed presently demonstrate how the military actually sought to achieve its image rather than simply to declare it. Basing promotion upon merit echoed the ethos of the Protestant work ethic. Permitting military men to live amongst civilians announced that servicemen are no different from those not enlisted. Making military pay competitive with civilian wages and establishing an attractive retirement plan reflected capitalist profit-incentive. Eradicating Jim Crow practices finally assured that the United States was quite different in its racial policies than the Axis. Moreover, codifying new “standardized penalties imposed by commanders and court-martial boards” avowed that enlisted men would not have to live without the democratic values they served to defend. [8]

Opinion polls of the middle 1950s verify that the military succeeded in its wish to vaunt itself as an organization “to strengthen good citizenship in every military man, and to preserve within the military as much of his civilian life as possible.” [9] However, the real fear of communist aggression accounts for another reason people acquiesced to a standing army. Shortly after the war, the Soviets closed East Germany and, according to Churchill’s metaphor, an “iron curtain” had descended upon Soviet conquests in Eastern Europe. By 1949, the Soviets acquired atomic weapons of their own, communists triumphed in China, and North Korean communists invaded South Korea. In a way, the communists proved the United States’ need for a standing army as much as did the propagandists employed by the Pentagon. Americans soon realized that Stalin endangered the world as much as did Hitler and Hirohito.

In conclusion, the United States needed to maintain a large standing military in spite of the Axis’ cession, so the Department of Defense, advised by Major General James H. Doolittle sought to change the military in such a way as to make it “more compatible with a democratic nation.” The government succeeded in its endeavor to sway public opinion through a campaign of marketing and reform, bolstered by the real threat of communism. Historically, this represents a massive shift in American mentality, but the events of and following World War II were historic themselves. However, the changes in public opinion and military policy do not reflect a new post-war understanding of a democratic society, for the military portrayed its new image as the fulfillment of traditional American values. In essence, Americans did not become more militaristic, but the military became more American. In this way, it was a culmination of the Allied war effort to stamp out fascism and secure its social, political and economic ways of life.

[1] Lyrics from George M. Cohen’s “Over There!”

[2] Grandstaff, Mark. Making the Military American: Advertising, Reform, and the Demise of an Antistanding Military Tradition, 1945-1955, p. 299.

[3] Major General James H. Doolittle. Quoted from Ibid., 306.

[4] Quoted from Ibid., 301.

[5] Ibid., 302.

[6] Ibid., 304, 315.

[7] Ibid., 307.

[8] The quoted material is from Ibid., 308. The interpretation is mine.

[9] The quote is from the President’s Committee on Religion and Welfare in the Armed Forces, Ibid., 316. The information on opinion polls is from Ibid., 321-323.

A Conversation With Mark

Mark is five years old. The following is a mostly verbatim account of a conversation that he and I had earlier today. He is a very curious, albeit stubborn fellow, who is quietly brilliant in his own way. He's a difficult kid to teach on most occasions, but he has a cache of knowledge that he delves into at times to produce questions and express ideas that are well beyond his age.

Mark: "Dad, are Americans in a war right now?"

Me: "Yeah. What made you ask that"

Mark: "Are we fighting the Germans again?"

Me: "No, Germany's our friend now."

Mark: "But they weren't are friends in Call of Duty 2 and 3."

(The Call of Duty game series is a first-person war simulation that, much to my wife's chagrin, Mark enjoys watching me play)

Me: "No, they weren't our friends in World War II, but the Germans are different now. They like us, and we like them."

Mark: "Then are we fighting the Russians?"

Me: "Nope."

Mark: "Are we fighting communists?"

Me: "No, we're fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Mark: "I don't know any of those places. Are they far away?"

Me: "Yes, they're very far away."

Mark: "Are they on Earth?"

Me: "Yes. Would you like to see them on the globe?"

Mark: "Oh yes."

Me: "There's Iraq, and Afghanistan is right by it."

Mark: "Wow that's on the other side of the Earth!"

Me: "I know."

Mark: "Why are we fighting them?"

Me: "Well, the government in Afghanistan helped some people kill a lot of Americans, so we invaded and overthrew their government. We invaded Iraq because George Bush wanted to."

Mark: "George Bush is the president, right?"

Me: "Yes."

Mark: "Did a lot of people get killed in that war?"

Me: "Yes."

Mark: "Then why did George Bush want to fight that war?"

Me: "Good question."

Mark: "Is George Bush a bad president?"

Me: "I think so, yes."

Mark: "Do you still want Ron Poop to be president?"

(He calls Ron Paul "Ron Poop" just to bug me).

Me: "Yes, but he isn't going to be president."

Mark: "Why not?"

Me: "Because not enough people support him."

Mark: "But you do."

Me: "Yes, that's true. But I'm only one person, and it takes tens of millions of people to decide who the president is going to be."

Mark: "Well, I think that Ron Poop should be president too."

Me: "Why is that?"

Mark: "Because you like him so much."

Me: "But why do I like him so much?"

Mark: "I dunno, but it has something to do about freedom, you always say."

Me: "That's right, buddy. Hey, do you want a cookie?"

Mark: "Ooo yes!"

Me: "And I'll let you have a glass of Dr. Pepper if you tell me who the best president was."

Mark: "Ron Paul?"

Me: "Nice try, but he hasn't ever been President."

Mark: "Then I dunno. It's not Lincoln because you hate Lincoln."

Me: "But whom do I like?"

Mark: "None of them?"

Me: "Close, but come on. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?"

Mark: "Thomas Jefferson!"

Me: "Yes, and in the Declaration of Independence, he said that we are born with the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of what?"

Mark: "I dunno. Just give me my Dr. Pepper, please."

Me: "OK, buddy. Just tell me who we're fighting in a war right now."

Mark: "I already told you that I don't know those places. I just know that they're on the other side of the Earth and they're not Germans, Russians, or Communists."

Me: "Good enough, Captain."

Mark: "Don't call me that. My name's Mark."

Sunday, August 03, 2008


Alexander Sohlzenitsyn is dead. Alas, a mere forty-six years too late--otherwise, he would have died a great man.

Instead of dying as the tyrant Stalin's enemy, he died the tyrant Putin's ally.

As I said, alas.

Johnny Horton

My great-grandmother had two Johnny Horton LPs, and I used to listen to them before the days of cable TV. They were instrumental in developing my youthful interest in history. I'd listen to a song like "Sink the Bismarck," and then go to her set of encyclopedias and look up Bismarck (so I learned about the ship, the city, and the Prussian chancellor). Then I'd look up The Battle of New Orleans, and learn about the battle, the city, Andrew Jackson, etc. In retrospect, I wonder if there's anything released as "popular" music today that can lead young people to a valuable education.

I doubt it.

Some accuse Johnny Horton's songs of being corny. I accuse those who say so of being pretentious.

And if Biobandit has any criticisms,just beware that I am willing to document how many Tori Amos tracks you have in iTunes.

Bridge Over Troubled Water

Not everything ages poorly, eh Golf Guy? Still, I think that Simon ought to have let Garfunkel do the whole song by himself, as originally recorded.

I am nearly thirty-two years old, and these guys stopped recording as a band years before I was born. However, they are to this day my favorite still.

When I saw them in concert five (I think) years ago, it was the opportunity of a lifetime. I had long bemoaned that my favorites were out of commission (e.g. Elvis, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Beethoven). When they announced their reunion tour (from which this clip was taken), I was overwhelmed with anticipation and not disappointed when I saw them perform.

Funny Clips from The Onion

The following clips are from The Onion. The satire is brilliant, and often offensive.

Bill of Rights