Thursday, May 25, 2006

Abbas and Olmert

I wanted to post earlier on the these two, but I really wasn't sure what I wanted to say, or perhaps how I wanted to say what I wanted to say.

Ehud Olmert
My fear with PM Olmert is that he really doesn't have any idea of what he is doing or what he stands for and will just sort of blow in the political wind until the next election. I can't really tell if he is truly as weak willed as he is appearing right now (at least to me), or if he has a real idea of what he is doing.


My problem with Abbas is two fold.
1. I really don't feel his trustworthy. Or perhaps that is just my paranoia sneaking through.

2. I really wish he would do things like he is suggesting with Hamas. It makes it look like he actually wants peace and I don't think that is true. I also think that this stance is more about internal PA politics than about anything else. (All though it certainly won't hurt on the international aide front either.) This ultimatum he has issued to Hamas is really just frightening to me because I really don't think he wants peace, I think he sees and opportunity to take advantage of the current political situation in Israel (re: E. Olmert.) and to regain Fatah popularity in the PA and is exploiting it.

Well have a good shabbat, Jerusalem day, and Memorial day. I will try to post Sunday/Monday if I have the opportunity, but those days are looking very packed right now.

Di Vinci's Code and other thoughts

I have thoughts, in a general way, on the 'up-roar' over the Di Vinci Code. 
I have always found the ability of the Catholic Church to create an 'up-roar' over something to be near amazing.  I read the first book in the Robert Langdon series 'Angels and Demons' and found this book to be a facinating read.  I did learn some historical 'facts' about the Catholic Church that I didn't know and found the book to be entertaining.
I read 'Angels and Demons' first because I wanted to read 'The Di Vinci Code' and the 'Angels' came first in the series.  I haven't finished the second novel yet, but I have been enjoying the story.  In many ways the story is very similar in format to the first novel.  I did enjoy the movie, even though it is supposed to be a near slave-ish adaption of the novel.  ( I will state more when I am finished with the book.)
The thing that I find most facinating is that people have taken a single page of the book, which is not part of the story, and taken it to say something it doesn't.  The page states that the artwork and architectual descriptions are all accurate, the secret organizations all have existed and that the 'secret rituals' as described in the book are all true.   Think about that statement for just one second, that a part of the novels are true, does not make the books true, or anything other than a novel.  If I wrote a 'science fiction' novel and stated that all science concepts that are discussed in this book are true based on research, would that make the entire story I wrote about true?  Of course not.  The problem is that the books 'call in to question' the central fact/view about Jesus, and that is his divinity.
At the end of the movie Wife said "Well X was revealed, so isn't that saying that it is true."  As I don't know if every body reading this has seen the movie or read the book I won't reveal the 'big secret.'  My first response was that revealing X didn't mean anything outside the context of the story, as the story never says that it is a real fact out side the reality that the movie creates. 
My second response was that the ideas that the book put forth in a story form are nothing that hasn't been discussed for close to 2000 years.
The people who are having a problem with the story have one of two problems they are either weak in their own belief in their religion, or they believe that everyone else is.  That final fact is really the whole point of the 'up-roar' anyway. 
A couple of other items quickly.
1. Apparently Alberto Gonzalez and the rest of this administration is not content with just subverting the separation of the branches or the 4th Amendment, they now feel that they have to possible lock up reporters for information that they print that relates to National Security.  The problem is that this Administration believes only things that are harmful to their own operations are of National Security importance.
2.  I am not happy with the entire tax bill that was past recently.  And the first thing that is ridiculous about it is the name, 'Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2006.'  Please call the bill what it is a tax cut.  Some of the provisions I don't have a problem with.  The extension of the Educators Expense adjustment, the extension of the Tuition and Fees Deduction(adjustment).  I do have a major problem with the extension of the Capital Gains tax reduction, and not because I think it is a bad thing, but because it is not a good financial plan at this point.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

An Answer To Ezra

Ezra made a request for my feelings on Jr's primetime speech on immigration.

The first thing I have to say is that I really think this is a really low-level issues as I have indicated before. I really think that the solution is an some form of citizenship program, and in addition that a guest worker program be put in place. (Actually something that I agree with Jr on.) The other thing that I think needs done is that we need to change our economic policies toward Central and South America. By improving the economies of the countries that many of the illegal immigrants are coming from, it will slow the tide if not stop it completely.

As for what I actually thought of the President's speech itself. I thought it was a decent, if not completely predictable, speech. He didn't say anything in it new. And he had a line that basically came down to - the National Guard troops will step down as the new border guards stand up. It sorted of seemed to be a reworked Iraq speech. Beyond that, I really didn't have a strong feeling for the speech one way or the other. (Well I thought the timing sucked, it pushed '24' back 20 minutes.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

What Is Their Problem?

I am becoming convinced that the Bush Administration main problem isn't that they are knowingly violating our Constitutional protections, but that they just don't understand what the our Constitutional protections ARE
I just can not accept that the number of people involved with this Administration that are included in the Domestic Spying situations are knowingly violating the Constitution.  I am also being to wonder how many of them actually paid attention in their high school civics classes.  After all even a rudimentary understanding of the Constitution should be enough to understand that any type of phone monitoring that doesn't involve a court order should be considered a violation of Constitutionally protected rights.
Though I haven't taken any action as yet, and need to discuss the situation with my wife, I am likely to look to changing phone companies.  I really have a problem with someone I am paying for a service is just turning over information, with out a court order, to the government.  This Administration and Big Business have been cozy from the beginning.  I am not necessarily opposed to that, but I am upset about the way the coziness is being exploited by the government.
The other thing about this that has really been bothering me is that for some reason the Unitary Executive seems to think that the problem with this situation isn't that he is breaking the law (After all if he had a problem with that he wouldn't be doing it.) but other people are going public with his violation of the law when they can no longer abide by it.  Perhaps if he would just stop violating the law, the 'leaks' of the illegal methods being used by the NSA and others would stop also.  Apparently members of this Administration have missed the part of the founding of this country's laws that pre-supposes that everyone is subject to the law. (Or at least that no one is truly above the law.) 
I understand that there will always be ways to take advantage of the law as it exists. (After all, Part of what I do for a living is finding ways to take advantage of 'quirks' in the law to minimize the taxes of multi-state corporations.)  I also understand that people who can get the best lawyers may be able to take the best advantage of the law, I am not completely sure that is a problem.  But htis country is not about having a dictator/king at the top of the food chain that can do what ever he wishes.  I could actually see this Administration trying to justify why the 2008 elections need to be delayed a few years, and how this would be Constitutional in a 'Time of War.'
If I were not eating lunch right now I would let out a really loud scream, that would probably help a little.
Well I have that issues partially off my chest.  I will be going now, but have a happy Shabbat, and I will be back next week with more babbling about the current state of affairs.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Conversation

On Sunday (May 7) I had a brunch meeting with a client.  We had several tax related issues to work out and discuss.  Despite having work with this client since the beginning of the year I was unable to actually meet him in person until Sunday because he was living in Michigan for a period of this year.
I knew the client was a Muslim, but did not know for sure where he was from originally.  Being the nosy wolfish person that I am, and needing to know as much about the people that I associate with as I can, we discussed his background.  It turned out that he was from Iran.  The client had been in the country since he was about 21 years old, and came here to complete his education and become a doctor.
That was just to kind of give you the background on this particular person.  Having not had a Muslim friend/associate in more than 8 years I had not had the ability to ask some anyone that I felt comfortable talking to any questions about the events in the world. So naturally, as part of getting to know him and (again) being that I am a nosy and wolfishly curious person, I asked him about his opinion of the current situation in Iraq.  His response was a very diplomatic "It is very complicated."  I am not sure that I could agree more.  My own opinion on the situation in Iraq is very complicated.
Then I asked the next logical questions. (At least to me.)  What is your preception, as an 'insider,' of the current President of Iran?  (I think I also at this point said something like 'Is he as crazy as he appears in the US media?)  He said he wasn't an 'insider' as he had been out of the country for so long.  As his parents recently came to the US in the last few months though I still felt his perspective would be different than anything I would have access to.
The following are several things that he told me that I wasn't aware of, or really hadn't thought much about: 1. The current ruling class consists of about 5% of the total population of the country.  2. The ruling class, which includes the Mullahs, are not well like by a majority of the population. 3. I barely remember this being covered on the news in the US but there was the student uprising in Iran about 2 years ago.  He told me that the uprising was ended when the government sent the military in to the largest dorm on the campus and basically slaughtered all of the students in the building.  4.  He felt the country really hadn't yet recovered from the Iran-Iraq war and that it really wasn't anywhere near the threat that it was being made out to be.  5. He also said that the President really is just a figure head, that it is really the Mullahs who are running the country.
6.  The military enters the above mentioned dorm on the aniversary of the slaughter and beats some of the students every year.
This conversation made me re-think several things about the media in this country.  I have always felt that the media did at least a decent job of getting the story right, now I am not completely sure that the media is even getting the story at all.  I have barely watched the news since the end of the tax season. (I have previously watched hours of the news everyday.)  Part of the reason is that I am tired of hearing the same unimportant issues reported on over and over.
I am really tired of hearing about the 'illegal' immigration problem.  The problem is solvable in nurmerous ways.  It isn't going to be solved quickly because the solution is one that the big money campaign financers (the Corporation with locations in the South/Southwest) don't truly wanted it to be solved.  This story is distracting us from other things.  Isn't interesting how, until Porter Goss resigned, that the violation of our Constitutional Rights with the domestic spying program was just sort of pushed off the front page.  Isn't it interesting that Fox News felt that Patrick Kennedy's accident was a bigger story than the resignation of the CIA Director.
I am beginning to believe that the majority of the public in this country are easily distracted sheep.  "Looook oooover heeeere, there is a white woman missing."  "Noooo, Looook oooover heeeere, a man got drunk and fell off a cruise ship."  "Noooo, Looook ooooover Heeeere, a girl is still missing in Aruba and we still don't know who did it."  "Noooo, Looook ooooover Heeeeere, there is a problem with immigration."  The only major network or cable news personality that was talking about the immigration issue regularly before the last 6 weeks was Lou Dobbs of CNN. 
Okay what started out as reporting an interesting conversation has turned into a rant.  Time to go.

Another Reason To Like Mel Brooks

I received the following as the body of an email earlier today.  Some of the things that are included in this essay I have read in other places.  The essay itself is, according to the email, attributed to Mel Brooks.  I have enjoyed his work very much in the past, and find that this essay expresses very well several things I have thought about over the last several years but have never had the knowledge/skills to express so eloquently.  I hope that those who read the below find it as (I am not sure of the exact word but empowering comes to mind) empowering as I did.
I may be angry at God or at the world, and I'm sure that a lot of my
comedy is based on anger and hostility...It comes from a feeling that as
a Jew and as a person, I don't fit into the mainstream of American

Feeling different, feeling alienated, feeling persecuted, feeling that
the only way you can deal with the world is to laugh - because if you
don't laugh you're going to cry and never stop crying - that's probably
what's responsible for the Jews having developed such a great sense of
humor. The people who had the greatest reason to weep, learned more than
anyone else how to laugh.

Based on the accomplishments of individual Jews, Nobel Prize winners and
heroes of modern culture, as well as the amount of attention Jews get in
the media, you'd never believe the correct answers: There are little
more than 13 million Jews in the world, comprising less than
1/4 of 1% of the world's population !!!!

Do you think it's just a coincidence? Twenty-one percent of Nobel Prize
winners have been Jews, even though Jews comprise less than one-quarter
of one percent of the world's population. Choose any field, and you will
find that Jews have excelled in it.

Think of the names of many modern-day figures most responsible for the
intellectual turning points in history - MARX, FREUD, EINSTEIN - and you
will find proof of the Biblical verdict: "Surely this is...a wise and
understanding people." There simply is no way to deny it.

Jews really are smart. There must be a reason - and I can give you


HEREDITY - Historians have pointed out a fascinating difference between
Jews and Christians. In Christianity, as well as in many other
religions, holiness was identified with asceticism, great spirituality
with the practice of celibacy. For centuries the finest minds among
Christians were urged to join the church and become priests. That
effectively condemned their genetic pool of intelligence to an untimely

Jews, on the other hand, took quite seriously the first commandment to
mankind - to be fruitful and multiply. Sex was never seen as sinful, but
rather as one of those things created by God that he surely must have
had in mind when he declared, in reviewing his work, that "Behold
everything was very good."

Among Jews, the most intelligent were encouraged to become religious
leaders. As rabbis, they had to serve as role models for their
congregants as procreators and "fathers! of their countries." Brains got
passed on from generation to generation, and Jews today are still
reaping the benefits of the frequent sexual activities of their

ENVIRONMENT - If challenge and response are the keys to creativity and
achievement, it's no surprise that Jews are smart; they've been
challenged more than anyone else on earth. The school of hard knocks is
a wonderful teacher. Jews had no choice but to learn to be better than
anyone else since the odds were always so very much stacked against

When you're born with a silver spoon in your mouth, you tend to get fat
and lazy. When you're born with the lash of a whip on your back, you
quickly learn to become crafty, street smart, and knowledgeable in
everything that will help you make it through life.

A UNIQUE VALUE SYSTEM - We still haven't touched on the most important
reason of all. Jews are smart because they have been raised in a
tradition that treasures education above everything else, that considers
study the highest obligation of mankind, and that identifies the
intellect as part of us created in "the image of God." To be illiterate
was unheard of in the Jewish world, not only because it was a sign of
stupidity, but, more significantly, because it was a sin.

Jews are obligated by law to review the Bible in its entirety every
year, dividing it into manageable weekly sections. The widespread custom
when a child turned three years old was to write the letters of the
Hebrew alphabet on a board in honey and have the child learn them as he
licked them off, equating their meaning with the taste of sweetness.

Jews studied the Midrash, and it taught them: The Sword and the Book
came from Heaven together, and the Holy One said: "Keep what is written
in this Book or be destroyed by the other." Jews studied the Mishna and
it taught them, "Say not when I have leisure."

Philosophical Tevye , that delightful creation of the Yiddish writer
Shalom Aleichem and the star of "Fiddler On The Roof," explained that
Jews always wear hats because they never know when they will be forced
to travel. What he didn't say, which is probably more important, is that
they always made sure to have something under their hats and inside of
their heads - because physical possessions could be taken from them, but
what they accumulated in their minds would always remain the greatest
"merchandise" a Jew possesses.
Please let me know what you think.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Patrick Kennedy and other things

I wanted to discuss Patrick Kennedy, but first I wanted to touch, however briefly, on Rush Limbaugh.  The reason is the completely different ways these two stories are being spun in the news.  Rush's plea agreement/hearing is barely being covered, and if it is the whole thing is being made in to a footnote.  I really think that this is how it should be handled, unless he violates his agreement by having something go wrong on one of his tests, it really isn't a big deal.
Patrick Kennedy, on the other hand, is being made to look very bad in the media. Beyond that, on his particular case I have very little to say.  I do have additional opinion on his situation to speak about though.
1.  I have been taking Ambien for about 3 years.  I do not take it every night, but probably a couple of nights a week.  I ususally take it and then read or watch TV for about 1/2 an hour.  It takes about that long for the medication to become fully effective in my system.  If I wait to long to go to sleep after taking the Ambien, I will usually get 'goofy.'  A better statement would be to say I have similar problems in functioning as a drunk person would.
2.  I have in the time I have been taking Ambien, driven only once in the evening after having taken the medication.  It was a rare situation in which Wife was in the hospital, and really wanted me to come and be with her.  That night I had only taken 2.5 milligrams or 1/2 of the lowest dose pill available.  I was capable of driving to the hospital ( a 20 mile drive.) and of staying awake at the hospital for a period of time.  I wouldn't recommend driving with it in your system though.
3.  Despite the reports about the strange activities, such as sleep walking or binge eating at night, other than an occasion problem waking up, I have had no strange side effects from the medication.
The next section will deal with something Rep. Kennedy said when he made his announcement before going to the Mayo Clinic.  In that speech Rep. Kennedy said that he had struggled all of his adult life with both depression and addiction.  Frankly, I admire the man for having admitted his problem.
1.  I had a prolonged bout of depression due to an extended unemployment. (2.5 years.)  I have since been on Lexapro.  I also, as I have said in previous personal posts, that I have several chronic health issues that also cause me to be subject to depression.
2.  As someone who lives with a spouse who has Chronic Depression and Panic/Anxiety Disorder I can assure you that the struggles with these problems are daily.
3.  I have watched my wife go through periods of being in very good mental health and then go through periods of very poor mental health.  We've been through suicide attempts, hospitalizations, medical changes and personal issues.  Wife is currently on 4, yes 4, different medications to try and control her problems.  Wife's problems have a major genetic component.  Her maternal grandmother was on medications prior to my wife being born.  Her paternal grandmother has the indications of suffering from Narcissitic Personality Disorder. (Not diagnosed formally)  Her father has been on medication for depression and axiety several times in his life and did have a brief hospitalization.  Her paternal Aunt has been/is on medication and in therapy.  Aunt's daughter has been hospitalized and needed medications.  Wife's siblings (1 brother and 1 sister) have both been on medications at various times.  Let me tell you from close observation and experience both personally and vicariously, I do not blame Rep Kennedy for his situation many time when a person is depressed they are not always clear on their own actions and then you throw in medications that can distort one's perception. ...
Next Subject
I really wanted to throw out a couple of quick thoughts on several things.
1. I feel bad for Scott McClellan. He really was in a no win situation as the spokeman for the current Administration.  Hopefully Tony Snow's experience will afford him the ability to control the situation a little better.
2. I am not sorry to see Porter Goss leave the CIA.
3. I am not sure I like Unitary Executives choice for a replacement.
  a. I don't like the idea of someone currently serving in the military to have that position.
  b. I don't like the idea of someone who has a problem with my Constitutional freedoms in the post.
4. Don't really have anything else to say a the moment. 
We will return tomorrow with another post.  We have some other things to discuss and it is time we get to them.

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