Friday, September 29, 2006

Question regarding my political party affiliation

I had a question to me regarding whether I've ever joined any political party. With election day fast approaching us, perhaps now is the time to address that issue. First, although I have for most of my adult life tended to favor the Democrats and their political views, I have never joined the party. Never stuffed an envelope for them or anything.

I supported them largely because of tradition, the tradition that if you're Catholic or Hispanic (and I happen to be both), then you supported the Democratic party. However, as I got into my late 20's, something happened in my family life: my grandmother died. At the time of her death, I had stopped going to church. There was no social or political reason that I stopped going - I am ashamed to say that I just got lazy. However, her death was a wake-up call, and I started going back after being away for years.

It was also the very first time that I really, truly studied Catholicism and what it believes, and why. Odd thing is, I went to a Catholic school for the first 8 years of my school life, but I learned more on my own in the months after my grandmother's death than I did in the previous years of my life. I also learned a lot about myself by critically examining my views as I had them at the time. You are probably wondering what all this has to do with the topic of my political affiliations. Well, for the first time in my life, I also examined the views of the Democratic party. And I found their views not only wanting, but actually in conflict with what I believed.

Most of the time when people tell such stories, they often follow up with "Then I saw the errors of my ways, and joined the other party." But that was not the case with me; I did not become a Republican. While the GOP shares some views with Catholicism, it also holds views that are inconsistent with Catholicism. So after my epiphany of wisdom, I began to realize not only how problematic the Democratic party is, I also realized how problematic the entire political party system is in general in our representative democracy.

What's problematic about it? The majority of the time, political parties put the interests of the party ahead of the interests of the nation and of the constituents that they are alleged to be serving. Also, I have found that the more someone is dedicated to a political party, the more likely they will see the world through the narrow lens of their parties' political views - which leads to adopting beliefs that "if you're not with us, you're against us." I see a lot of these people lose their sense of objectivity when they get to that point.

As someone who wants to write opinion columns for a living, having that objectivity is absolutely critical to the credibility of my views when it comes to expressing them. That's why I can no longer blindly accept the Democrats' views. It's also why I don't blindly accept the GOP's views. In fact, the problematic nature of political parties is such that I do not ever plan to join any political party, because my objectivity is that important to me.

I will not join any political party, because I want the freedom and independence of criticizing political parties should they ever go nutzo. If I belong to a certain party, then I'll have to bite my tongue when it comes to mistakes that my party may make. Also, if I deliver criticisms of the opposite party, it's easy to dismiss my comments as "expected responses coming from a political hack." All this is inconsistent with my belief of the freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

Political parties basically boil down to this: They view the world from only the party's perspective; anything outside it is anathema. That wouldn't be problematic so much, except that political parties often have a very narrow view of the world, which often makes them the secular version of sects in the world of religion. Religious sects are usually bound together by a strong disagreement that they had with the main religious body that they broke away from, and their views of the world are often very narrow and limited, and all members of the sect are made to tow the line, or they're out. Kind of like political parties, right?

However, I also realize that political parties serve a purpose. They help provide a candidate for office an already established "election machine" that helps him or her with all the fund-raising, scheduling of appearances, and other necessities to run for office. In other words, political parties spare a candidate from having to do all that himself. Very few people are independently wealthy enough to try to run on their own, so political parties step in to fill that need. Also, if you're running as a Democrat, then the voters have an idea on how your political views are likely to be - thus providing another shortcut for the candidate of having to be too public with his views (a concern mainly with touchy issues such as illegal immigration).

More and more, though, I am wondering if it is worth is to keep political parties in existence. However, what is the alternative? Would outlawing political parties help the way our country is run? Most likely, the parties will simply go underground, and we'd still have the same problems, they'd just be harder to deal with, because all the party shenanigans will be out of sight and out of reach. At least this way, we are more able to deal with the shortcomings of political parties because most of their activities are mostly out in public for all to see. I suppose that it's best that they stay open and public so that we can keep an eye on them.

But I still believe that there has to be a better way of doing things. I just don't know what that is right now. Give me time, though. It's not like this blog has an expiration date or anything. ;-)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Bill Clinton's battle with the terrorists

I viewed part of Bill Clinton's interview from this weekend, and to be honest, this was the first time that I remember hearing that he was gung-ho about going after the terrorists. I find that hard to believe, because I also remember him telling the American people that he "did not have sex with that woman (Monica Lewinski, of course)". And although Condi Rice says that the Bush administration did more in the 8 months before the 9/11 attacks than the Clinton administration did in 8 years, I find that hard to believe as well. Why?

Plain and simple: No one, neither Bill Clinton or Condi Rice, could have predicted the types of attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001. That's just plain beyond the imaginings of anyone except perhaps a movie maker, and even if a movie maker had tried to make such a movie, it would have been criticized as unbelievable to the point of being fantasy.

Basically, both Bill and Condi are just engaging in butt-covering, and Hillary's recent defense of Bill's statements is just more butt-covering. So in other words, everyone so far is just wasting their breath talking about something that is already a done deal. It's past. It's not what you've done in the past that matters so much now, it's what you're going to be doing about it now, now that you know what the terrorists are capable of if given the chance. Since it's an election season, I suppose that we have to expect something like this.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Understanding dogmas through analogy

Below is a column that I wrote back in college, and which I came across recently. I thought that it might be good to post here.


Dogmas as unbending as laws of mathematics
Strong beliefs of definition of truth should not lead to ‘restricted,’ ‘limited’ labels

Often when someone uses the word “dogma” or “dogmatic,” their minds will automatically think “limiting,” “restrictive” or “repressive,” which is then followed by negative thoughts and impressions about the role of dogmas.

The reason this happens is because of American culture’s emphasis on free-thinking; and such concepts as dogmas are seen as anathema to a society that embraces freedom of thought and expression. What this often shows, however, is a lack of understanding of the role of dogmas.

Space constraints do not allow a discussion on either Catholic theology or dogma, so instead I will use a mathematical analogy to illustrate the role a dogma serves for the believer. I will use the math problem 5 + 7 = 12 to represent a certain dogma. Five plus seven equals 12 is true, and it is absolutely true, that is, it is beyond debate, discussion or the sway of political influences. Five plus seven always equals 12 could be seen as repressive, restrictive or limiting, but what good would it do you to resist? Imagine trying to tell others, for instance, that 5 + 7 = 57.

What if you are absolutely convinced that 5 + 7 = 57 and persist in saying so? Do you think that accolades for rebelling against the “mathematical establishment” are just around the corner, or is it more likely that others will think that you do not know your math and you are probably nuts as well? Perhaps, if you’re lucky, they will at least take pity on your persistent ignorance.

Dogmas are a set of truths that have to be as absolutely true as 5 + 7 = 12 is true. Granted, dogmas may not always seem as clear cut as this math problem, but it does not change the fact that they are still unalterably true. Some math problems are a lot more difficult than 5 + 7, but just because they are difficult to understand doesn’t mean that there is no solution for the problem.

For instance, let’s take 5 + 7(403 -77). Most of us can’t do that in our head as quickly as 5 + 7, but there is still a solution to it. If you blurted out any answer, it would be harder for others to disagree with you until they could check it out for themselves. The complexity of 5 + 7(403 -77), however, does not take away from the fact that there is still only one solution. It will just take a little longer to figure it out.

So it is with dogmas. They may not always be understood in one sitting like 5 + 7 would be, but it doesn’t mean that they aren’t true. Indeed, some dogmas require much meditation and contemplation before they can be understood, but the reward for understanding is often well worth the effort to find out.

Bashing dogmas because you don’t understand them, is not freeing yourself from their “restrictive and repressive” influence. Instead, it is like deciding that 5 + 7 = 57 simply because it seems so much more logical to just put the two numbers together as the solution rather than changing them into the number 12.

Deciding that 5 + 7 = 57 may at first seem to free you from “repressive thinking,” but ultimately it does not. All that happens is that you jump from one form of ignorance to another.

So next time, before jumping into the dogma-bashing bandwagon, look before you leap. You could be saving yourself a world of embarrassment.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Liberal bias in the media

Okay, I got a few surprising responses to yesterday's entry about my views concerning a liberal bias in the media. I thought that my view was clear enough, but apparently not.

Do I believe that there is a liberal bias in the media? Yes, I do. There's too many examples of this to deny that it exists, and later this week, I'll try to post some examples (besides the examples that I already posted yesterday!). And like I said yesterday, this bias exists largely because many of the members of the media overwhelmingly hold liberal, Democratic views at their workplaces, which means that their workplace environments are of that mindset.

So with little to challenge the status quo due to so many thinking along the same lines, eventually they get it into their heads that their views are "normal and mainstream", even though they may be as unbiased as Sean Hannity. The liberal environment is so pervasive that even if you show them evidence of their bias, they won't see it. So basically, their liberal bias is largely the RESULT of working in a liberal working environment.

This is different from intentionally presenting news with a liberal slant. And that's where my views on the liberal bias differs from someone who views the bias as intentional. Don't get me wrong - there are some media workers who do willfully and intentionally slant the news in a liberal way, but I believe that they are far and few between. When editors are doing their jobs, then it's hard to slip the more obvious examples of a liberal bias through. But that's the more obvious examples.

The examples that slip through are subtle, but plainly there for anyone who looks for it. One perfect example I can think of is when the issue of stem cell research comes up. Notice that most of the time when you read about stem cell research and the Catholic Church's views on it, almost always the impression is given that the Church opposes it. That's not true.

The Catholic Church only opposes embryonic stem cell research. There's many other sources of stem cells that the Church is not opposed to such as adult and placental stem cells. But judging from what you read from most news articles on this, you'd think that the Church has it in for all scientific research regarding stem cells. Before this blog entry becomes a discussion on stem cells, let me finish this point by saying that if the media did not have a liberal bias in their reporting, then most of the general public would understand that the Church is right in its opposition to embryonic stem cells, because so far such research have been a waste of time and funding, and it is time and funding that could have gone to stem cell research that has actually proven to work.

Getting back to my topic...

The liberal bias in the media is something that they're really going to have to fight hard to combat, because it's hurting their credibility and professionalism. That can't be allowed to happen because a democracy must have a free press that can fight the good fight when it needs to. A free press in a democracy needs to be a part of the solution to root out corruption, and not an accomplice to it. It's only a slight exaggeration to say that the very existence of our democratic way of life depends upon a free press peforming its role in the way that it's supposed to. When the press succumbs to political ideology, then we will have lost a key weapon for keeping our power mongers in check, and then we'll be only a few short steps from being ruled by a tyrant.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Weekend Wrap-up Sept. 23, 2006

Time for those high school and college reunions
Know what day this is? It's the day to have high school and college reunions. Yep, today is the alumnal equinox, in which the alumni of various schools gather together to share their memories of their old school days. Ah, those old halcyon days. No, I didn't go to Halcyon High, I went to Trimble Tech, which, back in those days, resembled the set of "Welcome Back Kotter". Yep, Tech resembled a real-life Buchanan High. :-) I betcha Tech even inspired the idea for WBK.

And by the way, the 'equinox' part of alumnal equinox means that you get to be equally noxious to your former fellow classmates, especially if they gave you a hard time back in the day - and especially if they were like Carvelli (the bad guy in WBK, in case you didn't know. I mean, look at Carvelli. Doesn't he look like someone who's out to start something?). The last time I went to a high school reunion, I couldn't believe how old the others have gotten. I know I hadn't aged a day, while they - MAN! They looked like their parents! But not me - nope. I still look like I did back then. Yep. That's right. I do. And I'll keep telling myself that.

Happy Alumnal Equinox!

Huge-o Cha-cha-Chavez calls Bush the devil
Here was the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, on the world's stage speaking to the United Nations, and what did he end up doing? Calling President Bush the devil. Which he did 8 times. He even talked of smelling sulfur. Granted, Chavez is free to call Bush what he wants, but his speech did nothing to change anyone's minds who might have been persuaded to see his side of things had he done a better speech. Instead, he resorted to name-calling. What I call that is pathetic. Did he write this on the plane during the flight over here, and not let anyone else look at it to see if it sounded good? Heck, he could have run that by me and I would have told him! Hey, Carvelli - er, I mean - Hey, Chavez: go back to Venezuela and try again, and don't come back until you do it right!

Another indicator that there is no liberal bias in the media
Back in September in Montreal, Kimveer Gill open fired and killed one student and injured 19 more before killing himself. That's what we heard in the news. What you most likely didn't hear is what I didn't hear until a couple of weeks later, and not from a mainstream media outlet, but a website called Gill had the text below written in his website until it was taken down. It was a list of his dislikes:

Animal Cruelty
American Government
Anyone Who Supports The American Government
Capatalists (sic)
F***ing Religious People Who Think They Know Everything.....And Then They Stick It In Your Face Cuz' They Think They Know Everything (They Don't Understand That They're Just A Bunch Of Little Sheep)
Church Going A**holes Bible Thumpping Know-It-Alls
All Priests

(source: Lifesite story)

I don't believe that there is some sort of deliberate attempt by the mainstream press to slant the news to a liberal point of view. However, I do believe that they tend to hang around too many people of their profession who think along the same lines as they do - which happens to be of a left-leaning frame of mind. This phenomenon is called "groupthink". That is, they report their news with a left-wing slant without meaning to, and if you try to show the slant to them, they won't see it. However, imagine if Gill had instead said the following in regards to his dislikes:

F**ing Queers
F***ing illegal Mexicans
Bin Laden and Muslims

Do you think that the mainstream media would have failed to mention that in their news stories? I sincerely doubt it. A hate-filled, bloodthirsty conservative is going to be in the news right down to the things he has written. However, a hate-filled bloodthirsty liberal is news only because he killed one person and injured 19 others before killing himself. But have you heard anything about this story since it broke out? Had the killer been a conservative, we STILL would be seeing it on the news as of today, and psychiatrists would be trying to figure out the mind of this young man.

Instead, the hate-filled liberal story is dropped from sight because a hate-filled liberal is inconsistent with the views that most of the members of media have of themselves as liberals, which is to be open-minded and tolerant. But rather than drop this story, they should have examined what drives one of "their kind" to go on a murderous rampage. In other words, is he only the beginning of such murderous rampages of liberals?

"Death of a President"
For example, will the film "Death of a President" inspire some sick liberal into actually trying to carry out an assassination attempt? One reporter thinks that it might be possible. But this is not the only example of liberals imagining violence against the people that possess the opposite political view. Alec Baldwin had said this about Henry Hyde: "If we were living in another country, what we, all of us together, would go down to Washington and stone Henry Hyde to death, stone him to death, stone him to death! Then we would go to their house and we'd kill the family, kill the children." (WorldNetDaily). Does that sound funny, as Baldwin had said that it was meant to be taken, or does it sound disturbingly violent?

I don't like the idea of left-wingers viewing violence against someone else - particularly those of their political opposites - as being funny. If the roles were reversed and Hyde had said that he was going to do those things to Alec Baldwin and his family, I don't think that it would be taken in humor. What particularly disturbs me is making a film about assassinating a sitting president. What an idiotic thing to do. It's no secret that many left wingers not only strongly dislike Bush, they actually hate him. Hate is an ugly, corrosive emotion to be cultivating in your soul, and no one is immune to its damaging effects - and I don't care how intelligent and open-minded that they claim to be.

And to make films about assassinating Bush and to joke about stoning Hyde and his family paints a very disturbing view of liberals and their thinking patterns. Thanks to the Internet, we have a means of exposing such disturbing behavior so that we can recognize it and combat it. So folks, I ask that you always support a free and open Internet, so that anyone of any political stripe will never try to shut it down or control the messages that are put out there. The Internet is often the only means that we hear a lot of the things that we otherwise wouldn't hear. The best way to make the left-wingers see the errors of their groupthinking ways is to constantly shove their views in their face so that they know that we are paying attention to what they say. Let's remind them of their responsibilities as our providers of the news, so that they'll never forget it.

And speaking of Carvelli...
The actor who played Carvelli - Charles Fleischer - later went on to be the voice of (you're not going to believe this) Roger Rabbit. Yep, he went from hood to rabbit.

Have a great week, folks!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

First episode of controversial "Survivor"

Before the second episode of this season's "Survivor" airs tonight, I need to comment on the first episode! As you've no doubt heard, this season, all the "tribes" are divided up by race. While some critics had considered this "controversial", I instead find it an interesting snapshot of where our society is today in regards to race relations. And of course, this is an obvious play for ratings.

That it will be a ratings draw due to the racial issue is precisely what the producers are banking on, because they know that race relations today is still short of the goal of total racial harmony. That is, if we truly had total racial harmony today, then this season's ratings draw wouldn't be a draw. People would be saying "They're dividing by race? Yawn." But nope, we're not there yet.

There can also be no doubt that this season will be heavily edited to eliminate most of the racial comments and jokes that are made among the tribes themselves, and especially if they make racial remarks about the other tribes. The producers will probably be trying to convey the ideal of total racial harmony even as they are benefiting from the increased ratings because they know that we haven't achieved total racial harmony. TV shows tend to use this "having it both ways" tactic a lot.

However, even though they might eliminate most of the racial comments and jokes, they know that they can't eliminate all of them, because they know that the viewers are watching to see if there's any racially derived moments of stress or tension. That's part of the ratings draw, after all. I did notice that some of the tribes did indeed make racial comments and jokes amongst themselves about their own race. Nothing explosive and divisive, mind you, because the producers don't want "controversy" to devolve into "disaster".

I will note that when someone had asked me about what I thought of the show (this person was Hispanic), I told him basically what I said above. Then I mentioned that in one of the immunity challenges, one of the tasks was to assemble a canoe that was broken in pieces like a wooden puzzle so that they can row a few yards offshore to obtain a torch. I told my buddy that the Hispanics instead "put together a lowrider, man! Right down to the hydraulics!" I then bounced up and down like I was in a lowrider with hydraulics. That had him rolling, as well as others (of other races, I should note) nearby.

Isn't it interesting, though, that I can make such a comment related to an aspect of Hispanic culture and get people to laugh? I suppose that, as a Hispanic, only I could have made that comment and not come off looking racist. And that pretty much sums up where we're at in regards to race relations today. We can joke with each other about our respective races, but not about other races. I also don't know if a society that has changed to the point that they're all making racial jokes about all races can be considered "progress". Just what IS the goal of total racial harmony anyway? Is part of that the freedom to make jokes about other races? I have to think about that one some more.

Anyway, I'll check this second episode of Survivor, and let you all know how that one goes.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Popeye edtoon

I hadn't made an edtoon in weeks, and suddenly I've made two in two days. Well, the spinach story making the rounds in the news was begging for an edtoon, so I finally sat down to draw it.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

TCU football edtoon

Attached below is an editorial cartoon that is probably understood better in the Fort Worth-Dallas area. Oh, well... some of my readers live around here. ;-)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

"Marketplace of Ideas" now a house of idol-worshipping

Pope Benedict XVI found out this week how easy it is to spark outrage with a few simple words, and with words that were actually meant to foster further dialogue, not spark outrage. Unfortunately, reactions such as this are common nowadays. In our day and age, environments of discussion and dialogue and the "marketplace of ideas" have been taken over by radicals and extremists of all creeds, of all religions, of all races, and of all political and social ideologies. Rare is it that you can bring up --for instance, the issue of abortion-- and not have extremists of both sides immediately rising up and railing at their ideological opponents. Then they get so loud and boisterous that genuine discussion and dialogue can't take place, because in a discussion in which everyone's shouting, no one is listening.

Of course, that's the intent of these extremists. They don't want discussions on abortion, or gay marriage, or stem cell research, or whatever issue, because they believe in their cause with an absolute conviction. And with such convictions, to even entertain thoughts that aren't consistent with their worldview is considered blasphemous and an outrage. As a result, much of our society's laws and views are being shaped by the narrow minds of people who won't tolerate discussion on their pet cause. Think of that: Our laws and our views are often not the end result of much discussion and dialogue and a lot of give and take and compromise - rather, they're put in place because one side happened to shout the loudest and be the most annoying. They disrupt our political process and make a mockery of what should be a representational democracy.

Why do these people try so hard to keep their pet cause from being subjected to debates and discussion? One reason is that their political power is tied to that cause. To allow discussion is to invite the possibility that their political power will be weakened, and they just can't have that. Better to nip it in the bud before it gets going further. Never mind that they may actually stand to gain more political power in the long run, it's just that they can't take the chance of losing power. As long as the possibility exists that they may lose power is present, then they can't allow discussion on their pet cause.

Another reason is that their way of life is tied to their cause. It's how they make their living. To question their pet cause is to allow the possibility that they could lose their means of income, so allow discussion on their pet cause invites the possibility of losing their job. When your pet cause has become your way of life, then you’ll try to protect your pet cause so that you always have a job to go to – regardless of whether your cause is worthy or just, so long as you have someone to cut the check come payday.

And yet another reason actually explains a lot of where these people are coming from. For some people, their view has become their religion. Or in theological terms, it has become their idol. I hesitate to use the term "idol" because it conjures up images of a golden calf, or some other type of statuette, but an idol does not have to be a physical object - it can also be an idea. And in today's society, that's what we have: a lot of idol-worshipping of ideas; whether they are political causes, social causes, or certain celebrities, or even instances in which a group of people of a religious faith adopt an extremist position of their faith.

And there are, of course, other examples of this mentality. Just a bit of imagining can help visualize how all this can get VERY hairy VERY fast for our society and its democratic workings. So what does this say about these people who shout down others? The number one thing: they are fearful. They fear the world outside their comfort zone, so they adopt a fortress mentality so that those conflicting ideas stay outside.

This fortress mentality indicates a negative outlook on life of life, and of humanity in general. It also indicates, ultimately, that they have a negative view of themselves. Most people, when confronted with views that don't coincide with our own, will try to learn about those other views. Learning about those other views does not imply that they'll accept or adopt those views. However, the fortress mentality folks feel that that's exactly what will happen if they listen to others who have different views, so it's also about a lack of confidence in their own views.

For the rest of us, this means that fearful people who lack self-confidence are running our society. So what becomes of a society that adopts into its laws the views of fearful people with little self-confidence? It becomes chaotic and confused. Answering the often unreasonable demands of these people does not fix what ails them, they'll just find another new problem to be concerned about, because what ails them does not come from without, it comes from within. And yet, they've gotten so good about telling us what ails them that we keep adopting their fears into our law books. So what to do about this?

This is not going to be quick, nor easy. We need strong and brave leaders who can stand up to these people. Such leaders will have to be not only strong and brave, but also wise to the manipulations and the usual tendencies and tactics of these people so that they can become immune to their manipulations. And such leaders will have to be able to explain to the rest of the citizens on what they're doing, and why. Such leaders will need to be devoted and dedicated to truth - not the variations of truth, or one group's truth or another's; they need to be devoted to truth.

Knowing truth in today's society is not going to be easy, because there are so many people out there who are not concerned with the truth. But if we're ever going to get past fearful people and their extremist views, then we'll need strong leaders to stand up, and we need to support them when they take such stands. Not an easy task nowadays, but entirely necessary if we are going to ever evolve beyond what we've gotten accustomed to in these past few decades.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Britney Spears gives birth to another boy

Britney Spears has given birth to her second child in less than a year. I say she should try again so that she can see if she can have 3 kids in two years! Whaddya say, Brits?

(Somewhere out there, Britney is running and screaming down a hallway...)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Test for Dementia (just for fun)

From an e-mail that I got earlier today. See how you do! (By the way, I only got the bonus round question).

Test for Dementia

Below are four (4) questions and a bonus question. You have to answer them instantly. You can't take your time -- answer all of them immediately. OK? Let's find out just how clever you really are. Ready? GO!!!

(scroll down)

First Question: You are participating in a race. You overtake the second person. What position are you in?

Answer: If you answered that you are first, then you are absolutely wrong! If you overtake the second person and you take his place, you are second! Try not to screw up next time. Now answer the second question, but don't take as much time as you took for the first question, OK?

Second Question: If you overtake the last person, then you are...?

(scroll down)

Answer: If you answered that you are second to last, then you are wrong again. Tell me, how can you overtake the LAST Person? You're not very good at this, are you?

Third Question: Very tricky arithmetic! Note: This must be done in your head only. Do NOT use paper and pencil or a calculator. Try it.

Take 1000 and add 40 to it.
Now add another 1000.
Now add 30.
Add another 1000.
Now add 20.
Now add another 1000
Now add 10.
What is the total?
Scroll down for the answer.

Did you get 5000? The correct answer is actually 4100. If you don't believe it, check it with a calculator! Today is definitely not your day, is it? Maybe you'll get the last question right. Maybe.

Fourth Question: Mary's father has five daughters: 1. Nana, 2. Nene, 3. Nini, 4. Nono. What is the name of the fifth daughter?

Did you Answer Nunu? NO! Of course it isn't. Her name is Mary. Read the question again!

Okay, now the bonus round:

A mute person goes into a shop and wants to buy a toothbrush. By imitating the action of brushing his teeth he successfully expresses himself to the shopkeeper and the purchase is done. Next, a blind man comes into the shop who wants to buy a pair of sunglasses; how does HE indicate what he wants?

He just has to open his mouth and ask. It's really very simple.... Like you!


Monday, September 11, 2006

My own memories of September 11, 2001

I remember that morning, when I first heard the report that a plane had struck one of the towers. Oddly enough, a plane hitting a skyscraper in New York actually happened before in the 1940s, and I thought that this was another such accident. However, when that second tower got hit, I knew that this was no accident. I actually saw that second plane hit as it happened on the news. The anchor, who was doing a voice-over as the news played live images of the smoking first tower, actually didn't notice the fireball of the second tower being hit, because he continued on as if nothing had happened. It must have been a good minute later before he finally said, "Oh! The second tower just got hit!"

The university where I worked had cancelled classes for that day, but the university stayed opened for the students, so that they'd have somewhere to go and something to do, rather than sit around restlessly. But of course, we could talk about nothing else, and any department that had a television had it on, and on the news. We were all just numb. What could we say? Then we heard about the Pentagon being hit by another plane, and then we heard about another plane going down in an empty field. At the time, there was no explanation as to what happened to the last plane. The FAA had grounded all planes after that.

The rest of the day was pretty much a blur, and all we did was to watch the news to see - essensially, the constant repeating of the same images of the towers being hit, and then collapsing. For the first time in my life, I felt that sense of anomie that was mostly likely felt during the Kennedy assassination in 1963. What a tragic and unreal day that was. And now, suddenly, it's 5 years later.

Leonard Pitts' column on 9/11/2001

Below is Leonard Pitts' column on the 9/11 attacks. He wrote it just a few days after the attacks when the pain was still fresh. Later on, I'll share my own experiences on that day.

We'll go forward from this moment
By Leonard Pitts - The Miami Herald

It's my job to have something to say.

They pay me to tease shades of meaning from social and cultural issues, to provide words that help make sense of that which troubles the American soul. But in this moment of airless shock when hot tears sting disbelieving eyes, the only thing I can find to say, the only words that seem to fit, must be addressed to the unknown author of this suffering.

You monster. You beast. You unspeakable bastard.

What lesson did you hope to teach us by your coward's attack on our World Trade Center, our Pentagon, us? What was it you hoped we would learn? Whatever it was, please know that you failed.

Did you want us to respect your cause? You just damned your cause.

Did you want to make us fear? You just steeled our resolve.

Did you want to tear us apart? You just brought us together.

Let me tell you about my people. We are a vast and quarrelsome family, a family rent by racial, cultural, political and class division, but a family nonetheless. We're frivolous, yes, capable of expending tremendous emotional energy on pop cultural minutiae: a singer's revealing dress, a ball team's misfortune, a cartoon mouse.

We're wealthy, too, spoiled by the ready availability of trinkets and material goods; and maybe because of that, we walk through life with a certain sense of blithe entitlement. We are fundamentally decent, though -- peace-loving and compassionate. We struggle to know the right thing and to do it. And we are -- the overwhelming majority of us -- people of faith, believers in a just and loving God.

Some people -- you, perhaps -- think that any or all of this makes us weak. You're mistaken. We are not weak. Indeed, we are strong in ways that cannot be measured by arsenals.

Yes, we're in pain now. We are in mourning, and we are in shock. We're still grappling with the unreality of the awful thing you did, still working to make ourselves understand that this isn't a special effect from some Hollywood blockbuster, isn't the plot development from a Tom Clancy novel.

Both in terms of the awful scope of its ambition and the probable final death toll, your attacks are likely to go down as the worst acts of terrorism in the history of the United States and, indeed, the history of the world. You've bloodied us as we have never been bloodied before.

But there's a gulf of difference between making us bloody and making us fall. This is the lesson that Japan was taught to its bitter sorrow the last time anyone hit us this hard, the last time anyone brought us such abrupt and monumental pain. When roused, we are righteous in our outrage, terrible in our force. When provoked by this level of barbarism, we will bear any suffering, pay any cost, go to any length in the pursuit of justice.

I tell you this without fear of contradiction. I know my people as you, I think, do not. What I know reassures me. It also causes me to tremble with dread of the future.

In days to come, there will be recrimination and accusation, fingers pointing to determine whose failure allowed this to happen and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. There will be heightened security, misguided talk of revoking basic freedoms. We'll go forward from this moment sobered, chastened, sad. But determined, too. Unimaginably determined.

You see, there is steel beneath this velvet. That aspect of our character is seldom understood by people who don't know us well. On this day, the family's bickering is put on hold. As Americans, we will weep; as Americans, we will mourn; and as Americans, we will rise in defense of all that we cherish.

Still, I keep wondering what it was you hoped to teach us. It occurs to me that maybe you just wanted us to know the depths of your hatred.

If that's the case, consider the message received. And take this message in exchange: You don't know my people. You don't know what we're about. You don't know what you just started.

But you're about to learn.

NOTE: On Sept. 11, 2001, Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. had been planning to write about Andrea Yates, the Houston woman who drowned her five children. But (as columnist Joan Fleischman reported on Sept 23, 2001) "as 'hot tears' stung his eyes, he knocked out 700 words on the New York-D.C. devastation -- from the pit of his stomach. That column hit a nerve. Readers deluged him with more than 26,000 e-mails, and posted it on the Internet, chain-letter style."

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Weekend Wrap-up Sept 9, 2006

Madrid bans too-thin models from catwalk
Madrid, Spain has banned too-thin models from the catwalk. They kept falling through the spaces between the catwalk's panels, and it was disrupting the fashion shows.


Sorry, I couldn't resist. Actually, Madrid feels that these thin models send a bad message about what's considered acceptable in regards to size; the article said that this ban will exclude a third of the models. I don't recall this ever happening before, and this might become the sort of thing is going to catch on elsewhere. One can only hope, because those ladies are too thin, and it makes me wonder why Olive Oyl's body structure is considered so appealing.

Funny thing is, about a couple of years ago, there was an ad campaign in which models of ...a generous size... posed in their underwear. The point of the ad was to demonstrate that beauty comes in all sizes - or somesuch PC phrase. However, can't the modeling industry find models that are of normal human female sizes? Do models only come in these size extremes?

Comic strips today
And speaking of Olive Oyl, have any of you ever seen Popeye's first appearance in the funny pages? The sailor first appeared in a comic strip named Thimble Theater on January 17, 1929. Yep, 1929. He's one old dude! He also represents a time when comic strips were a lot more daring and interesting than they are nowadays. I look at my local paper's strips, and I wonder why such strips as "Snuffy Smith" and "TumbleWeeds" are still being run. Syndicates don't allow comic strips to be daring or imaginative except in the most bland and inoffensive way, which robs the cartoonist of much of his or her humor.

I see comic strips as a form of expression much like an opinion columnist. If opinion columnists had as many restrictions on them as comic strip cartoonists do, then you'd never read many of the columns that are written today. Syndicates and newspaper publishers are only trying to protect their respective organizations against the occasional loose cannon in their ranks, but in placing so many restrictions on its artists, they also rob a lot of what had appealed to readers in the first place.

Fortunately, there's "alternative" press that these more daring cartoonists can go to, as well as smaller newspapers, but many of them deserve more exposure and circulation, which they'll never get in today's oppressive environment. Thanks to the Internet, many of these artists have an outlet for their creativity and an audience to feed back from. As someone who is both writer and artist, I can't tell you how crucial audience feedback is to their development in their chosen crafts. Without the Internet, they'd be languishing in jobs that aren't what they want to do in life, but with no means of showing the world what they can do.

But the newspapers and syndicates need sturdier spines. They want readers, but they don't want to offend. If not being offensive from time to time is not what they want, then they're in the wrong business. If they're willing to fight for their opinion columnists, then they should be just as willing to fight for their cartoonists.

Clinton's threats to ABC
And speaking of needing strudier spines, ABC needs to find one as soon as possible, after getting much heat from representatives of former president Bill Clinton over an upcoming docudrama about the events leading up to the 9/11 attacks. Some articles that I researched have gone so far as saying that some Clinton representatives have threatened to have the broadcast licenses revoked of any ABC affiliates who aired the docudrama.

Folks, it is because of situations like this that we have a First Amendement, which states thus:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

While the representatives of Clinton have the right to protest the film's accuracies, they have no right to threaten their broadcast licenses. If this is allowed, then any political party, Democrat, Republican, or otherwise, will then feel entitled to likewise threaten broadcast license revocation for statements made that they disagree with. And not long after that, the media will evolve into simply being mouthpieces for propaganda for these political parties.

I hope ABC sticks to their guns and calls the Clinton's representatives' bluff. If Clinton's reps live up to their threat and have broadcast licenses revoked, then they will succeeded in handing "ammo" to the GOP and to conservative commentators such as Rush Limbaugh for the foreseeable future. They will use such "ammo" not only in the 2006 election season, but also the 2008 election season, and probably beyond. This is significant, because Hillary Clinton is said to be considering running for president in '08. If she runs, does she really need these acts of license revocation on her record? Granted, she won't have been the one to call for it, but don't fool yourselves into thinking that the GOP and Rush won't try their darndest to connect her to it.

Clinton's representatives should stop making such threats, whether they're empty or not, because they're only hurting themselves in the long run. Plus, no doubt that Rush is sitting on the sidelines just salivating over the possibility that they'll follow through with their threat and do it. Do they really want Rush Limbaugh to be bludgeoning them for the next two years with this if they follow through with their threat?

A time in which I wish I had my camera
On my way home from work yesterday, I was treated to a very amusing sight. A huge pick-up truck that was bordering on "monster truck" size was being held hostage by two tiny, yapping Chihuahuas. The poor guy couldn't see them from his high vantage point, and he no doubt didn't want to run over the little critters, so he was forced to sit there and wait for either the owner of the dogs to come get his pooches, or that the Chihuahuas would lose interest. You gotta admire the gutsiness of the little guys. Fortunately for the driver, the dogs finally moved out of the way, and he was able to continue on his way. Dang, I wish I had had my camera then! I could have posted the picture here!

Have a great week, folks!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Editorial Statement for September, 2006

I'm going to be trying something new. Each month in the space just below my blog's name, I'm going to try to have a one sentence editorial statement, and I'll introduce it at the same time with a blog entry so that I can go more into detail about the editorial statement. For this month, that statement is: "It was a mistake going to Iraq in haste; leaving Iraq in haste will be an even bigger mistake." This is, of course, in reference to a blog entry here on that topic that I posted a few days ago, so rather than rehash that particular discussion, I refer you to that entry. However, I may bring up this issue again later this month if certain news events warrant it.

Upcoming season of "Survivor"

I haven't watched "Survivor" in years, but I might watch this upcoming season, because the teams are divided by race, and I am darn curious on how this will all play out in the public arena and in debates and discussions.

This comic strip, from the site, PVP, captures a problematic aspect of this "Survivor" season that white folks would have. I mean, I can support the Hispanic team since I'm Hispanic, but it would be very problematic for the white folks to support the white team without looking like white supremacists. I think this season of Survivor could be a telling indicator of where we are nowadays in regards to race relations.

If anything -- interesting -- happens during the season, no doubt TiVo is going to be kept VERY busy... much like they were with Janet Jackson's Super Bowl "Bra-ha-ha" wardrobe "malfunction".

And for anyone who doesn't think that this "teams of race" idea is NOT a ratings ploy - well, then you're a level of clueless that hasn't been officially identified yet. ;-)

Monday, September 04, 2006

First Annual Labor Day Awards

In case you didn't already know it, today is Labor Day in the U.S. Here's a couple of interpretations of Labor Day's origins; one from the U.S. Dept. of Labor, and one from Wikipedia. One source is from the government, while the other one is from a website encyclopedia in which anyone with Internet access can edit. In other words, both sources are suspect. ;-)

Back in the day when I wrote columns for my college newspaper, I tried to have an annual Labor Day Awards for Summer News Events to time with the return to school in the fall. I came across the attached artwork recently, and it gave me the idea of restarting my Labor Day Awards here on my blog. The attached artwork is actually a preliminary sketch of the finished work that I used in the newspaper, but I liked it anyway, so I decided to use it here - after I cleaned it up and "Photoshopped" it, first.

Although my Labor Day Awards (LDAs from here on) while in college were for "Summer News Events", I've decided that - on my blog - to not just limit my awards to summer news events. I decided to expand who or what gets one of my "Cookies". "Cookie" is the name of my award, because it has a cook in it. I wish I had thought of that name back in college, but perhaps this is a good way of inaugurating my LDAs here. So with that, let's go ahead and start with some Cookies for summer news events.

My first Cookie goes to Mel Gibson, who gets the "Drunken Sailor Award" for the stupid anti-Semitic remarks that he made during a pull-over. Mel, Mel, Mel... Just give your critics some ammo, whydontcha? Mel suffers from what many overly weathly individuals suffer from, which is a belief that they're immune from contacts with reality that the rest of us poor slobs have to deal with. Thus, when "reality meets the road" for them (and as it did literally for Mel), then they're shocked that reality really exists for them as well. Michael Jackson is another example of this, but I really don't want to talk about him, other than to present him as a stark example of my point above.

Another Cookie goes to Mel's critics who, for some reason, felt more outrage over one person's drunken, anti-Semitic ramblings than for another prominent personality who also made anti-Semitic remarks - but not while under the influence: Andrew Young. Mel's critics get the "Like, Total Hypocrisy Award" for like, cluelessly not realizing how like, totally hypocritical they looked in critizing Mel Gibson, but not Andrew Young. With such slanted actions as this, it's no wonder that the charges of a "liberal bias" in the media often seems to stick.

The next Cookie goes to the Texas Rangers baseball team, who get the "Same-o, same-o Award" for once again fading in the second half of the season, leaving us loyal fans with another disappointing season. Sigh. I'm gonna stop here.

A Cookie goes to Terrell "Enormous Ego Man" Owens, who gets the "Yeah, Right Award" for his alleged hamstring injury during the Dallas Cowboys' training camp. But he miraculously recovered once coach Bill Parcells laid down the law that anyone who doesn't play in the final preseason game won't be in the first game of the season. Boy, that got TO back on the field. The longer that Parcells lets him get away with stuff like this, the more he'll keep doing it. That's what the Enormous Ego Man tends to do. If Parcells doesn't get TO straightened out, then he'll have Cookie waiting for him this time next year.

A posthumous Cookie goes to Steve Irwin, who gets the "Crikey! Award" for all his good work and entertaining shows that he put out while educating us about animal life and the environment. Irwin died from a stingray barb to the chest while diving. Irwin often got very close to dangerous animals during his shows, and I always imagined him going out while wrestling a crocodile. That would have been a more fitting and poetic end, but we would have all preferred that he would have been doing this for many, many years. May he rest in peace.

A "Watch the Hands! Award" goes to President George Bush, who startled German Chancellor Angela Merkel with an impromptu shoulder rub, for which Merkel didn't seem too pleased with. Bush isn't known for his diplomatic skills, but he should have known better than to do that - at least in public and when Merkel wasn't expecting it. It's a good thing he didn't grab her butt!

My last Cookie is for the news media, and it's the "Journalism 101 Award". I was on Wikipedia looking up the name of the New York Times reporter who got into hot water over some of his stories (it was Jayson Blair), because I wanted to write a blog entry about the importance of the media getting its facts straight when reporting on their stories. I did a search using "journalism scandals", and look how many scandals turned up in this article! Not only that, scroll down and see how many have happened just in recent years! What the heck is wrong with those people? It sounds like a variation of the "no need to be in touch with reality" condition that overly weathly people suffer from. Back to Journalism 101 for those folks! Anyway, now I'm researching some of those stories that are mentioned in that article so that I can work it into my blog entry for that topic.

Well, that's it for this year's LDAs! All the Cookies are well deserved! Have a great Labor Day, folks!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

John Lennon's "Imagine" and today's war protestors

Lyrics to John Lennon’s “Imagine”

Imagine there's no heaven/It's easy if you try

No hell below us/Above us only sky
Imagine all the people/Living for today...
Imagine there's no countries/It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for/And no religion too
Imagine all the people/ Living life in peace...
You may say I'm a dreamer/But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us/And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions/I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger/A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people/Sharing all the world...
You may say I'm a dreamer/But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us/And the world will live as one

I thought about the above song earlier this week when in a discussion about the Iraq war. But before I continue, let me restate briefly my view on the Iraq war, so that you know where I’m coming from in my response afterwards:

I believe that we rushed into Iraq with incomplete knowledge of what we were going to be dealing with, and without a solid plan of what we’d do once we got there. So far, we seem to be making it up on the fly. I thought that it was a mistake when it first occurred, because I don’t think we went far enough in seeking peaceful alternatives.

But of course, that’s a moot point now. We are there now, we have overturned the power structure there, and WE are now the power structure. To leave Iraq now would be disastrous, because the Iraqis are not ready yet. As poorly planned as we were going in, the Iraqis had no plan at all in transitioning from a tyranny to a democracy, so they’re learning and doing everything from scratch –especially in grasping concepts such as “self rule”. Patience and cool heads are clearly called for here, and leaving in haste will be even worse than when we came to Iraq in haste.

And yet, leaving right now is exactly what some anti-war protesters are advocating. Such an action is not only irresponsible, it is absolutely absurd. Judging by some of their statements, they believe that if we leave right now, then Iraq and the rest of the Middle East region will somehow magically become a land of peace, and that we’ll all live happy and content. They view the problem as simply “Our presence there is the problem, and the problem will be removed only when we leave.”

But leaving now would not cause some sort of “reset” button to restore things back to the way they were. Iraq now is an unstable region, and if we left, who would step in and “help” stabilize the country? Most likely, Iran – the same country that once took American hostages and held them for over a year as President Jimmy Carter looked weak and helpless as his countrymen were held there against their will.

So where does this idea that leaving Iraq will magically make the situation there become one of hope and peace? One source is songs such as John Lennon’s “Imagine”.

Imagine there’s no countries. And no religion too. Imagine all the people/Living life in peace.

These anti-war protesters really seem to believe that this is all that needs to happen in Iraq for there to be peace. This assumes that human existence is a life where helping others is the default norm. However, selflessness is not the norm of our humanity. In truth, we are actually a selfish people, and because of that self-centered nature, a world with no countries and no religion would not be the Utopia that they desire – instead, it would be chaotic!

One of the reasons that we have countries and religions in the first place is precisely to help keep the peace. We need a mutually agreed upon set of laws, rules, or tenets to abide by so that we all know what to expect from others, and what to expect from ourselves. We do that to help keep the selfish sides of others and ourselves in check. To suddenly abandon all those laws, rules and tenets would plunge the world into a new Dark Age. And for what? For some delusional Lennon fantasy of living life free and happy? Not while we are on Earth, baby.

Funny thing is, Lennon says “Imagine there’s no heaven / no hell below us”. But it’s in heaven and hell that his concept of “no countries and no religions” actually takes place. Think of that: In heaven and hell, there are no countries and no religions. But of course, if someone doesn’t believe in an afterlife, then life on Earth is all that they believe that they’re going to get. Sadly then, Lennon’s dream in his song is never going to happen for them – not in their lifetime, or in anyone else’s, because we are always going to be a selfish people. Basically then, they have no chance at the kind of happiness that they seek, because the dream of a heaven on Earth is a futile fantasy.

Some of you are no doubt saying, “It’s just a song! You’re reading too much into it!” However, the anti-war protestors who want to leave right now seem to believe that things will magically revert to normal along the lines of Lennon’s song if only we would leave. I say this because the protestors usually offer nothing in return on what should be done in Iraq should we leave right now, other than having a “U.N. peacekeeping force go in to stabilize the region” (and we’ve seen how difficult that can be in Lebanon. If the U.N. can’t control a small portion of a small country, what chance do they have in a much larger country?). Don’t get me wrong: They have every right to protest the war. And as I said above, I wasn’t in favor of it, either. But if it was irresponsible for us to go in half-cocked and with guns blazing, then it will be even more irresponsible to drop everything and leave right now.

I agree that Lennon’s song is just a song – but its message resonates with many people who, for the most part, have their hearts in the right place. Wanting peace is good and noble – however wanting peace at all costs is not only shortsighted and foolish, it can actually be counterproductive. True peace can only come from hard work and clear heads working together.

It is my hope and prayer that Iraq will one day be a free and self-governing democratic nation – but that’s not going to happen overnight, and it certainly won’t happen with our abrupt departure from them. If we want the Iraqis to one day be responsible for themselves, then we have to set the example by being responsible for our actions right now, and we do that by helping restore that country’s stability and seeing this job through to the end. That’s the only path to a peace there that will last.