31 July 2007

Thoughtcrime in Modern Times

What follows is a quick list of Orwellian thoughtcrimes in our world today, in the broadest terms I could come up with.

- Speaking disparagingly about certain groups of people based on lifestyle or religious beliefs may be called “hate speech.”

- Stating that a lifestyle or belief system is immoral or of lesser moral standing than one’s own can be labeled as “hate speech.”

- “Disrespecting” religious or cultural artifacts of certain groups does hopscotch between “hate speech” and “hate crime.” The determining factor may be the level of “disrespect” shown and how offended a member of the religious or cultural group is at the moment.

- Disbelief of a theory walks a fine line on the edge of “hate speech.” If the theory is perceived to involve the fate of the whole human race (read: “global warming”), then denial, or even skepticism, of the theory may eventually become “hate speech.”

- A “hate crime” involves any violence or perceived violence against one or many who may be considered as part of a selected group or minority. The violence may be physical or mental. Eventually, the definition of “violence” may stretch out to include financial and social aspects. The "hate crime" portion of the act, however, is above and beyond any real or perceived violence; it goes to the mental activity or attitudes which are believed to be within the person.

- “Hate crimes” may be committed against animate or inanimate objects.

That pursuing and prosecuting “hate speech” and “hate crimes” is even more elusive than wars on drugs or terror is obvious to me. Whereas, generally speaking, “normal” criminal law punishes actions, laws against “hate speech” and “hate crimes” attempt to punish thought. The roots of these laws are in politically correct culture, where language has been bent and manipulated so as not to offend. The step to criminalizing thought is the flower of the PC plant. Putting the inner-workings of the mind on trial is a critical step towards totalitarianism. The end result, what is hoped for, is thought control.

30 July 2007

Things I'll Miss

As I was traveling this weekend, I thought a bit about things that I’ll miss when I leave Australia. I’ll keep it to things that just about anyone could appreciate here, not necessarily personal things. Here’s a quick list.

The birds. Perhaps I didn’t notice birds as much in the States, but the birds and birdsongs in Australia are really unique and enchanting. My personal favorite is the magpie [sound link]. The magpie’s beautiful song is enhanced, I think, by its simple black and white coloring. Then there’s the kookaburra. For some reason, I thought that the call of the kookaburra was some other animal – not a bird at all – before I came to Australia [sound link]. And of course there are all of the various types of parrots. On the downside, though, there are the cockatiels. Never have you heard such a racket as a mob of cockatiels in a tree near sunset. There’s nothing song-like about it.

I’ll also miss the culture of walking. In the various places I’ve lived in the States, there may have been some places to walk, but there wasn’t a culture of walking for everyday errands. While Newcastle is not a bustling metropolis, just about everything I really need is within walking distance of my apartment. And not only that, there are always people out walking around. While I wouldn’t necessarily want to go for a midnight stroll through downtown Newcastle (for reasons I’ll cover in another post), I will miss the ability to not use a car for anything other than commuting for more than a week.

Lastly, I will miss what I’ve found to be the best coffee drink I have ever had – the flat white. That’s what it’s called, as opposed to the long black or cappuccino or latte. It might be described as a latte without the foam, but that doesn’t quite do it justice, I think. It’s stronger, with roughly 2 shots of espresso in a regular-sized cup. The rest of the concoction is all steamed milk. It’s simple and it is fantastic. It is the one reason that I plan on buying, eventually, an espresso machine once we’re settled.

28 July 2007

Judging "Good Faith"

I found this clip on Boortz’s website, which linked to Little Green Footballs. If there’s time to spare, watch the whole clip. It relates to a bill in Congress at the moment to hold harmless people who notify authorities that suspicious behavior is going on. The point of this legislation is to keep frivolous lawsuits out of the courts, to keep perpetrators of crimes from claiming that they are the victims of vigilant citizens.

In the clip, a spokesman for the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) makes a lame attempt to validate filing lawsuits against persons only listed as “Doe” in the case known as the flying imams. The above mentioned legislation is a direct result of this case. The spokesman claims that no person has anything to worry about (read: don’t worry about losing money) as long as calls of concern are made in “good faith.” And just how will this “good faith” be tested? In court, of course. Never mind the cost in time and money of determining individual cases of “good faith.”

Why would a citizen have to defend himself or herself in court for attempting to protect both him or herself and the public in general? If any community panders to the type of claim made here by CAIR – that the judicial system must step in and decide, and the request of some person the intent and / or “good will” of another – is simply ludicrous and un-American. It ranks up there with the growing specter of “hate crime” legislation. It targets the wrong thing, the wrong person, the wrong attitude and perspective. Crime is no longer a crime. The good or bad will, the secret inner workings of the mind of both victim and perpetrator are put in the forefront instead of actions. What wonderful progress we must have made to judge such things.

26 July 2007

Contagious

I saw this story on the news last night here in Australia and awoke to find it on the web as well - I got to it through Boortz's page. The claim is that obesity is contagious.

While the article itself goes on to say that it means "socially contagious" and not like a cold, there are some pretty clear connotations that go with contagious. First off, if a person catches something, it's not really his or her fault. They just got sneezed or coughed on, touched the wrong faucet or door handle. The "it just happened" reasons are endless. Second, since catching a contagious disease - and obesity is considered a disease these days - isn't a person's individual fault, then that person is relieved from the responsibility of their current state of being and even from recovering themselves from their current state.

Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that when a person surrounds himself with people who exhibit some kind of behavior that it is more likely he will adopt that behavior? I'm no scientist, but I would suppose that eating to obesity is just one facet here. Binge drinking, smoking, chewing tobacco, all sorts of risky behavior might be covered by this simple thought.

But one simple word injected into the discussion can absolve so much responsibility. It's contagious - not my fault. How far could that excuse go?

23 July 2007

Exit Oz, Stage North-East

My apologies for my recent neglect of this blog. It has been a very busy few days. I'm departing Australia in the near future - a decision that eventually had to be made - and it has been a circus getting all of the details squared away prior to departure.

I plan on doing some wrap-up writing about my time here, things I'll miss, things I won't, etc.

So, more to come in the next week or two before my departure, and posts will probably take a more personal tone during that time. I'll get back to other things after I return to the US. But for now, it seems like a good time to reflect.

18 July 2007

Response

What follows is a response of sorts to comments made on “Atheists and Difference in Kind” both from my blog and on the American Thinker.

I think it is important first off to admit that I do presuppose the divine - something greater than man. I would argue that atheists and theists alike believe in something greater than man. That a non-theist puts some idea, some science or some person in the place of the divine does not change the function. So I must admit that a weakness of my argument, if it can be called a weakness, is that I assume that man is not the highest being, that there must be some thing, some perfection (or approach toward perfection) “above” man.

Therefore I do not see it as counterintuitive to discuss the divine or the non-theistic replacement for the divine as beyond human knowledge. That men pretend to have full knowledge of the divine is a human failing. The attempt to use this “certain knowledge” of the divine for purposes of power is an entirely human endeavor, no matter what language and ritual surrounds it. In this way, the “True Believer” – theistic or atheistic – is not religious in the humble sense of the word. He is the usurper of the divine. That is not a commentary on the divine or any replacement for the divine, for that matter. It is a comment on the nature of man.

It is a correct statement that The Bible is a book, and a human book at that. It was not, to my knowledge, divinely created – meaning that God did not whisper in the ear of the writer(s). Therefore the book, like all other things human, is fallible. There are great teachings in the book and guidelines to living a good life, but it takes a thinking, reasoning human to make use of it. Of course, a thinking, reasoning human can also render it useless through selective examination (a term which I know will cause problems) or pervert it to his own ends. That's the catch with free will.

And there, I think, is the catch when attempting to lay fault with God or religion for the woes of the world. Doing so deflects blame from where it ought to be - with the individual man and his own failings. This is the case for the theist’s God as well as the atheist’s divine replacement, whatever that might be. To paraphrase Shakespeare, our faults are not the divine, but in ourselves.

16 July 2007

Atheists and Difference in Kind

Originally posted on The American Thinker website.

This past weekend, the Washington Post published two pieces: one by Michael Gerson titled "What Atheists Can't Answer" and a response by Christopher Hitchens. Gerson poses the question of what would happen if the idea of God were removed from moral questions; where would our guiding principles come from? Hitchens response is indirect, choosing to challenge the idea that religious teachings throughout history are morally ambiguous at best and horrifically immoral in general.

I find it interesting and telling that atheists, specifically Hitchens in this case, tend to source human failings to God when discussing the immorality of religion. In this way, God is blamed for all manner of evil acts. What is more reasonable (and expectable, given the naturally imperfect state of man) is that those who use religion to perpetrate evil are not religious at all, but rather use the faith of others as a means to power.

Ironically, whereas a religious believer can readily state that God is beyond human knowledge, the atheists apply the attributes of God to man - notably to the atheists themselves. They seem unable to consciously detach what God is from what they know man is. In this way and through their arguments, they raise man to God-like levels of thought and perfection and simultaneously downgrade the idea of God (which they reject anyway) to a somewhat human level. This equivocation of beings that are different in kind muddles the argument so as to result in comparing apples and airplanes, thinking both are the same. The inability to see a difference in kind between the mortal and the divine irrecoverably clouds Hitchens' argument.

In the end, I think that history has shown again and again what happens when people reject, en masse, the idea of God. Like perversions of the idea of God (which Hitchens eagerly puts forward as examples), rejection leads to totalitarianism and inhumanity toward theist and atheist alike.

Worst Jobs

Last night, my wife and I happened on one of those shows that just must be watched called “The Worst Jobs in History.” It’s a British show, but anyone who has a decent sense of history – and even those who don’t – can appreciate the lengths the host, Tony Robinson, goes to try all of them out. And as the website says, the show doesn’t focus on the upper classes when it comes to jobs, either. Every class is represented.

So if you were not so well-off during the Stuart period, you might become a plague burier or a dog and cat killer. If you wanted to be close to the king in the Tudor period, you might become the Groom of the Stool.

The outlandish nature of some of the jobs depicted in the show made me wonder just what would be the worst jobs in a modern, industrial nation. (Insert old Chris Rock joke about crack-whore here.) But really…what might they be?

14 July 2007

Managing the Fight

As Senator Nancy Pelosi begins her latest campaign to remove American presence from Iraq, it is important to ask ourselves what we fight for. I mean that in general terms, not necessarily in the specifics of each conflict or, as in this seemingly splintered “war on terrorism”, the specifics of each theater. What are we defending, or more correctly put, what are we asking our young men and women to go into combat and risk their lives for? Do we wish to defend, roughly divided, entitlements or ideas?

If we fight to save our entitlements, then we fight to save our Social Security checks and big-government programs. We go to war to protect our government protected way of life – the ways and means that the government provides for us. We fight for concrete things: checks in the mail, money in the bank, bureaucracies to tend to our needs. These concrete things don’t require leaders to keep them moving forward ad infinitum. They are things to be managed. Fighting to save them, to protect these concrete things becomes an exercise in management. From this point of view, we get ideas including treating terrorists as persons to be handled by courts of law, entering into dialog with terrorists, addressing perceived grievances of terrorists, and keeping terrorism down to a “nuisance level”. These are all management problems and require little leadership.

If we fight to defend ideas, we have to address the abstract. Ideas cannot be managed well, as they defy being pigeon-holed and become quite slippery when closely examined. Bureaucracies perform badly when faced with such dynamic situations, and there’s a reason for that. Bureaucracies are not designed to be dynamic; they create a system of methods and structures which are meant to function within a certain degree of variation. Warfare easily trashes these systems and their assumptions of orderly conduct. And what’s more, this is done simply from engaging in warfare. If our enemies choose to, they can further disrupt bureaucratic systems simply by forcing them to be dynamic.

That we fight for our ideas, especially freedom, fundamental rights and basic human dignity, may be a given. Our soldiers do not have “benefits checks” in their war-cry vocabulary. But for decades there has been a focus on teaching those in charge how to be managers, on how to manage things, and disguising management as leadership. What’s more, this method has lead to the perception that everything can be boiled down to a balance sheet where being in the red (i.e. combat deaths in Iraq) is always interpreted as failure. The trees are the forest.

Leadership requires vision and calculated risk taking. Leadership requires a longer-term view than that provided by looking at balance sheets which measure the daily, or hourly, plusses and minuses of individual elements. It is rising above the trees to see the landscape surrounding the forest. And it is the only way to defend the ideas American hold dear. But embracing leadership, putting faith in real leaders, does require a leap of faith, and because of that it is very easy to bring fear into the equation, especially after the leap had been made.

13 July 2007

A Very Good Read

I don't want to make a practice of putting links to articles elsewhere if I don't have an angle to take on things. However, this morning I read an article on the American Thinker website by Selwyn Duke called "The Anti-Islamist Manifesto". It references a text titled "A Manifesto Against Islamism", which I encourage you to read first.

Having a strategy which correctly defines the enemy, who and why, is as important as knowing why we fight and what we fight for.

11 July 2007

Not Winning and Not Leaving, and Not the First Time

Just a quick note as Wednesday gets ready to tick over into Thursday...

I was just reading an article on the American Thinker website by Herbert E Meyer called "The War About the War" and this statement leapt out at me: "We haven't lost, but we aren't winning." Obviously he's talking about the current situation in Iraq.

But it reminds me of a much more benign time in Iraq - the days of the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq. Most Americans have no idea how many missions were flown, how many hours of patrols were conducted during the space of time between Operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. Moreover, most Americans don't know that there was an ongoing battle between Iraqi air defense forces and Coalition air forces which began in December 1998 with Desert Fox. According to the Center for Defense Information, as of 22 May 2000:
"there had been more than 470 separate incidents of Iraqi SAM and anti-aircraft artillery fire directed against coalition pilots since December 1998. Iraqi aircraft violated the southern no-fly zone more than 150 times during the same period."

Maybe that can be called a low-intensity conflict. But after flying many support missions, it seemed to me at the time that we weren't winning, but we weren't leaving. Perhaps the same can be said of Desert Storm. The job wasn't finished, and we didn't leave.

And now, we're faced with not winning and not leaving again, perhaps. One or the other should be done...and it's better to do the hard right than the easy wrong. There are smart folks who can (and perhaps have) figure out how to accomplish the hard right. But it takes open eyes and a willingness to see things through to really do the hard right.

10 July 2007

Save the World?

Feed the world? Sure, that might make sense to advocate. Money buys food. Musicians bring in money for entertainment. A huge concert might help.

End third-world poverty? Money doesn’t buy national prosperity; free money tends to encourage corruption. But forgiving debt might at least give some nations a chance at a new beginning. A huge concert might help, maybe.

Save the earth – stop global warming…through a series of big concerts? Somehow it just doesn’t make sense. And it makes even less sense when they’re led by a man who still claims to be the “next president of the United States” and who claims that his science is beyond dispute (which eerily reminds me of a South Park episode – but not the one with Gore in it). The whole thing is just preposterous. Or it was. Thank goodness it’s over.

There are bigger fish to fry, so to speak, than global warming. And what’s more, it is strangely convenient for politicians to chase some boogieman instead of tackling – or even addressing – tangible problems. It’s much safer, politically, to advocate a position when the outcome of that position won’t come to pass during the political lifetime of those in question. Take a stand on Iraq and you’ll have to answer the mail in two months (because we all knew the surge wouldn’t work before General Petraeus was sworn in). Take an unassailable stand on “global warming” and you’ll be dead and cold long before the temperature really rises. No consequences, just hot advocation and vote-getting.

It’s said that it takes a smart person to become a “true believer” because the blind faith requires serious abilities of abstraction. For those who have sworn faith in the church of global warming, this was, I suppose, their celebration. I suppose I should be thankful that the message didn’t make any sense to me.

06 July 2007

Random Friday Thoughts

Gordon Brown won’t use the term “war on terror”, which is a good thing – it is really a war against a very specific type of foe: Islamo-fascists. Unfortunately, Brown won’t use that term either, as terrorists can’t be referred to as Islamists or Muslim. I suppose the nice men who attempted to car-bomb Britain recently are just health-care workers “going postal”. If we, their targets, just treat them nicely…

Tomorrow will witness a supremely self-congratulatory spectacle. Never has so much contrived importance been so over-hyped and ritualized. More on that later.

100mph in a Prius on drugs. Nothing a stint in rehab can’t make disappear for a bit. What’s the carbon offset cost involved here?

Senator Biden declares that President Bush is “brain dead”. Thanks for the enlightened, reasoned conversation. That’ll add much to the national political debate. Now that I think about it, there might just be a chance that his tidbit about Bush – as well as comments about Giuliani and Romney – need context that the press reports aren’t including. I really think, though, that Biden was just spitting the dummy. As a member of Congress, he belongs to a legislative body with a lower approval rating than Bush.

Podcasts are wonderful things. Anyone with a decent internet connection can download radio shows and listen at his leisure. I listen to two fairly regularly now. If I had more time, I’d listen more. Thankfully, it’ll be a stretch for the “fairness doctrine” to kick in on this medium.

Enjoy the weekend.

05 July 2007

The Warrior Class and Taking Care of Each Other

I was listening to Dennis Miller’s radio show this past weekend – not sure on the date of the podcast, and I think it was a “best of” show – and as radio talk shows do often, he had an impromptu segment regarding a veteran of the current Iraq war. This veteran has been suffering from injuries and illnesses since his time in Iraq, but has been given the run-around by the Veterans Administration hospitals and clinics.

As the segment went along, there were calls from folks wanting to know where they could call specifically to get this guy help, to somehow force the VA to deal with this guy. Mr. Miller made some interesting statements about how this guy needed help and that he would do what he could to get him help. Mr. Miller coupled these statements with his belief that America needs to look after its “warrior class”. Both are laudable goals, but after further thought, putting forth all efforts to help this one veteran treats the symptom, and there’s a deeper, underlying cause that Mr. Miller hints at when he calls for taking care of our “warrior class”.

To truly take care of our warrior class, there must be a certain amount of reverence towards the military and the everyday soldier who protects the nation and fights its wars. That is not to say that military members should be set above the rest of society, but rather that there should be a conscious recognition that those who serve in the military, as well as police and fire forces, do so to protect us from the more destructive, unforeseen things in life.

But how might we take care of the “warrior class” in tangible ways? First, I think that joining the military should be viewed and advocated as a desirable choice for all able-bodied Americans. While some would push the benefits of college money and work experience, I (given my own personal experience) would stress personal growth and developing senses of responsibility and teamwork as reasons to join. These things, which don’t fit as well as dollar numbers for college into commercials, are the things that prove long lasting. Granted, the college money is nice – I used it – but it is after all just money.

The same goes with how to take care of soldiers after their service is complete. In his radio show, Mr. Miller advocated that every person who serves in combat should not pay income tax for the rest of his or her life. I think that’s pandering to military members. Serving in the military should not exempt someone from their civic duty, to include paying taxes. But for those who have served, there should be, there must be, care given for the scars of combat which are lasting.

This cannot, I believe, be done with government programs or dollars thrown indiscriminately at the VA. It has to come down to the community level, to the level of the family and the friends, who really have to do the long, tough job. Supporting them, I think, is the key. Building close ties at home, engendering a sense of shared responsibility between the soldier who fights abroad and those who take care of the home front, before, during and after the fight, is key.

And that’s a tough thing to accomplish…and I have no real answer on how to go about accomplishing it. The close ties I’m thinking of can’t just be spoken into being, they can’t just be written and therefore take shape.

Maybe it’s as simple as taking time to care for those who look out for us, no matter who they are. In turn we can look out for those around us, and accept their care when offered. And again, I’m not talking about pandering or becoming nanny-like. More a compassionate, respectful and responsible give and take to lift us all up.

But there I go again getting all utopian. I’m sure we’ll never get there, but it’s important to have a vision.

04 July 2007

Freeing the Pasha

I neglected to mention that the Pasha Bulker was finally freed from its temporary "home" on Nobby's Beach, Newcastle. The folks here worked tirelessly to ensure that the collier was safely wrested from the coast, where it had been stranded for nearly a month, and with minimal oil spillage.

My thanks go out to all of the people who worked so hard to make this happen. I am one of the many who are very happy to have the beach back.


[Photo of three tugs working to free the Pasha Bulker - taken on 30 June 07]

4th of July Post

A few days ago, I wrote a little soap-box type piece on citizenship, representation and responsibility. As I look back on that piece, I think it’s more than a little didactic and may have given the impression that I think the US is seriously flawed.

That is not the case. I feel that the US is the best country in the world. The levels of freedom, opportunity and liberty available to US citizens (and indeed to anyone in the US) are truly unique in the world. It is a country which at its founding set out its priority of supporting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all men. That these inalienable rights have endured for more than two centuries is a demonstration to their foundational nature. That they have spread beyond the shores of the US over that time is a testament to their universality.

Probably the greatest aspect, in my opinion, about this concurrence of these things is that any person who has the drive and determination to accomplish a goal can probably move towards that goal without much, if any, government interference.

I think that it is a good thing to defend the concepts, the ideas, which are fundamental to the American way of life – and I mean this in a very non-PC way. Just off the top of my head… All men (species, not sex) are created equal. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, we should judge men by the content of their character. All men should be held responsible for their decisions, and at the same time must be free to make their own decisions, good and bad. Liberty should trump equality because total equality does not equate to freedom.

Sometimes these things get lost in the emotional food-fight of the PC realm, where no one can be offended and yet certain kinds of speech (typically labeled “conservative”) are routinely branded xenophobic, racist, hate-filled, etc.

It would make more sense, and engender more progress (as a nation) if we could put these PC restraints behind us and talk openly and honestly about America and what makes it a great country. Because it’s not the government, nor is it overbearing equality, nor timidity at offending sensibilities, nor grandstanding for political gain which makes America great. It is the open, honest discussion of how best to pursue life, liberty and happiness which sets America apart.

And now that I think about it, I’ve ended up back where the last writing on Independence Day ended up…personal responsibility. But perhaps that’s a point that can’t be made enough.

Happy Fourth of July to you. Enjoy and promulgate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

02 July 2007

More Thoughts on "Fairness"

Just listening to a segment from Bill Bennett’s radio show (podcast here) concerning the possible re-implementation of the so-called Fairness Doctrine. As part of the conversation, the obvious point was made concerning how to handle equal time for opposing views.

One very troubling aspect of this idea of opposing views is that, given a limited interpretation of the Fairness Doctrine, there are only two views to any controversial subject. Granted that’s a very specific interpretation, but I think it is also a realistic one, especially as the current political climate in the US is one of distinct camps. It is assumed that one is either liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, with all of the ideological baggage that comes with these terms.

In reality, I don’t believe that most people would want to toe the line with any political agenda full time. The ability to disagree in part or in whole on a subject is the key to investigating and developing a point of view on a topic. If under a resurrected Fairness Doctrine Americans are forced into even more black-and-white discussions, it can be expected that points of view will either become more ideologically lock-stepped or that people will simply tune out. Either way, the discussions in a “Fairness” world would be, I expect, horribly predictable and counterproductive.

Thoughts on Independence Day

Originally posted on The American Thinker website.

In a couple of days, Independence Day will be celebrated in the US. There will be a lot of fireworks and parades and cookouts and such. There will be lots of flag waving. All good things, to be sure.

Perhaps it would be wise for us to remind ourselves just why our forefathers demanded independence. Why is it that we have an Independence Day instead of celebrating the Queen's Birthday as Australia, New Zealand and Canada (as Victoria Day)?

If I remember correctly, taxation without representation had a lot to do with it. Colonists were being taxed without any say in the matter. They lacked representatives in England; they lacked advocates for their common good. And so, in the end, they were compelled to fight for self-governance.

Today, there is a lack of confidence in the legislative and executive branches of US government. Congress actually has a lower approval rating than President Bush, and no party seems to be able to tackle any problem of consequence. Social Security, Medicare and other "entitlements", illegal immigration, health care, energy dependence - all of these problems are bypassed because they are too volatile politically to address. And there is encroachment of each-other's territory, with Congress attempting to impose Rules of Engagement on the President as Commander in Chief. Where are the answers needed of the government?

How can programs like Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid be made reasonably solvent for the long term?

What will the federal government do to protect national sovereignty and stop millions more illegal immigrants from entering the country?

How will we succeed in Iraq and prosecute the wider war against Islamo-fascism? (Or, for a more fundamental question, is there a wider war against Islamo-fascism?)

These questions either go unanswered or have opposing answers advocated by opposing groups who vehemently demand the right to be right at the exclusion of other answers. Instead of legislative steps forward US citizens get comprehensive plans and grandiose schemes which gain support seemingly only for the political points politicians can gain from giving support and not for their actual implementation.

Where's the bread-and-butter work? Has it been drowned in barrels of pork and soap-box platitudes delivered by life-long electioneers?

And what is a citizen to do on Independence Day?

Since the US is still, despite all screaming and waving to the contrary, the freest country on the face of the earth, the best way to celebrate Independence Day is to exercise the freedom and liberty that the US Constitution affords - make your voice heard. If a citizen is concerned about a specific topic, that citizen should educate himself on the subject, discuss it, figure out where he stands on it, and then he can communicate his position to the elected officials who represent him.

This seems like it should be the foundation of representative democracy, but too often we do not do our jobs - even about issues which concern us greatly - and then wonder where our representatives get their ideas, their platforms, from. We citizens must do our job to even know if our representatives are doing theirs. If we do not hold ourselves accountable, if we become the uneducated (or under-educated), emotion-ruled mob, our elected officials will remain unaccountable.

01 July 2007

Pasha Bulker Update

After a nearly successful night of bow-pulling, the Herald Sun reports that the collier is just 50 meters from being towed out to open waters. There have been some leaks of petroleum products from the boat, making the operation both more urgent and cautious. But progress is being made, and that’s a wonderful thing.

The next window for moving the stranded bulk carrier may well be tonight’s high tide. Here’s hoping that the ship can be moved with minimal environmental damage and that the beach can be returned to those who love it.

Anyone who cares to take a look, there's a live feed of the efforts to re-float the boat here. It's not riveting watching, though.