Thursday, July 11, 2013


I love music. If there has been one constant to the events in my life it is that I tend to associate events and situations to music. For example, one time when I was being put under anesthesia prior to surgery, the doctors were playing "Our House" by Madness. That was the last song that I heard before I went out. Now, whenever I hear the song play, I am taken back to that moment immediately before surgery. It's neither a good nor a bad memory, simply a way for me to recall a given moment.

This comes in handy for me as I have a terrible memory. I often find myself unable to recall specific events or people, particularly if I have no music to relate to the situation. So I try to have music playing as often as I can in order to help facilitate a memory that can be recalled in the future. It does drive some to distraction, understandably so considering my eccentric tastes, but it is useful for me.

Beyond its capacity to assist my memories, though, I also find music to be incredibly uplifting and inspirational most of the time. Obviously, it does depend on the music and sometimes even the song, but music is more a form of poetry and I love poetry. Well, ok, to be more precise, I love to write poetry. I have a much harder time reading poetry. But music and the poetry often within is magical and provides me with feelings that life itself seems often unable to provide. Perhaps it is because I love words and the myriad ways they can be combined to convey thoughts and emotions. I sometimes wish I were equally skilled at words and could devote my time to them instead of spending my days as I do.

I guess that is a major reason for this blog - to be able to use words and practice my skills in a way that I am otherwise unable to do.

And, for the record, tonight's blog was inspired by Quincy Jones' Back on the Block album. A good blend of various styles ranging from rap to hip hop to soul. If you haven't heard it, you should give it a try.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Politics makes for inconsistencies

How hard is it to maintain a single political view? For example, the government was right to step in and enforce integration and racial equality (after denying it for so many years) back in the 60's. But should the government also be mandating emergency contraception for all females (regardless of age)? How does morality fall into that? It makes for strange politics at best and will seemingly always be inconsistent.

As some readers of this blog may have discovered, I am, among other things, an avid follower of politics and international relations, particularly as they relate to both the US and China. I find politics to be a fascinating process, if occasionally mystifying, sometimes unsavory and periodically perplexing. Looking even beyond what the politicians say and how they often seem to perform amazing mental and logical acrobatics to support positions that seem contrary to their stated views, the electorate who are most key to the process of politics are no less elastic in their own views and their votes. In some ways, I suppose that makes sense seeing as how the process seems to work in real life.

What should often be a straightforward, rational and logical process often ends up, much as math fractions reduced to their lowest common denominator, as something that in no way resembles anything approaching a straightforward, rational or even logical solution. The reason for this often seems to be a severe inconsistency that exists in how people rationalize their stated beliefs to fit within  the reality of their lives. This exists on both the individual level of the citizens as well as at a higher level within the various structures of government and its representatives.

These inconsistencies, of course, exist throughout every aspect of life but seem to be particularly pronounced within the political realm. Within the American political discourse, it is not unusual to see Democrats who argue passionately for increased government intrusion into the lives of individuals in order to benefit everyone simultaneously argue that government should stay out of women's bodies as it pertains to the argument of abortion. Similarly, Republicans who may struggle to make ends meet, often working in jobs with no form of protection from companies who unilaterally (and sometimes seemingly arbitrarily) will layoff workers with no form of recompense, will rail against unions that helped to establish many of the laws that protect workers today. These positions make little sense when observed from an objective point of view yet they are tightly held by their proponents who see no inconsistency in them.

When challenged, they will defend those positions and not see how they contradict their own lives or experiences. Or they will recognize it but refuse to admit it as it is easier to deny a truth than it is to accept that your views and your choices are inconsistent. Either way, it makes politics a difficult way of life. And while I may enjoy the study of politics, the practice of it often leaves me amazed and not a little dismayed at times. It is easy to sometimes see why so many people choose to ignore it altogether.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

We just can't see the end of the world...

Warning, I first started this post a week or two ago but am posting it as originally written. Sorry if it seems a bit dated:

No, I'm not referring to the new Brad Pitt movie opening this weekend, World War Z. That would be too easy. Besides, it's a zombie movie and I don't like zombie movies. Nor horror movies, for that matter.

No, I'm actually thinking about the issues tied to the US government essentially spying on its own people and the fascination that is focused more on the source of those leaks (one Edward Snowden) than on the issue he revealed. It has made me want to step back and pause for a bit before offering any comment here. And even then, I will try to keep my commentary short and reserved.

Mr. Snowden, despite the best efforts of journalist Glenn Greenwald to the contrary, is not necessarily a hero protecting the rights of US citizens. He committed a crime. He stole information from his employer (in this case, Booz Allen Hamilton and the US government) and then publicized it to the rest of the world. And the rest of the world has subsequently spent the last few weeks attempting to dissect his intentions. Frankly, that is a wasted effort. It is impossible to discern someone's true intentions. They may say one thing yet have something else that drives it. Heck, it is similar to attempting to determine the real reason that George W Bush invaded Iraq in 2003. Once he committed the act, the reason became somewhat moot. The same holds here. Suggesting that Snowden here is a Chinese spy, a hero, a mercenary, a traitor or any of the other myriad reasons is really irrelevant at this point. All are probably true to some degree. And to suggest that his subsequent actions (such as now seeking asylum in Ecuador which, in 2012, received a partly free rating from Freedom House and is trending downward in that ranking scale) all validate his actions or that he has not changed since his thoughts and beliefs since he made headlines would be disingenuous at best. Regardless, the story has been focused on Mr. Snowden in an attempt to paint him as his supporters or detractors wish to paint him.

What has escaped much of the scrutiny have been the actions he revealed on the part of the US government. And surely it is no surprise that the government has worked very strenuously to keep his name in the headlines - in a very negative light in the (perhaps vain?) hope that it will not look so bad in comparison. Yes, at this point, the actions of the US government under the auspices of President Obama should be highlighted and yet they are not. A man who sought the presidency back in 2008 promising change and greater transparency has instead not only left the tools and mechanisms created by his predecessor (while promising to find ways to remove them on the rare occasions when challenged about them) but also sought to limit the rights of citizens to know what his administration is doing. As noted in many journalistic outlets, the Obama administration has worked hard to silence and prevent leaks, aggressively prosecuting whistleblowers and even going so far as to monitor journalists in trying to find those who are leaking information. Instead of the transparency promised by the president, it seems that it has gone to extremes in the other direction. And this is a problem because it sublimates issues such as the one Mr. Snowden has brought to light. Instead of the issues Mr. Snowden brought to light being addressed clearly and openly, the focus has been switched instead to the man himself. And we, the people, are too easily fooled to recognize it.

Americans have always believed that their nation is a great one and have believed in (and cherished) the ideals for which it stood. But today, instead of continuing to work hard to make their country great, they stand idly by while their government grows more into the tyranny that their forefathers fought against generations ago. They do not see where the changes taking place within the government are simply one large step in a very wrong direction and they do not care to know what the likely consequences will be. They are accustomed to others doing their thinking and their work for them and fewer are able and willing to step up to the line to continue the traditions that once made America great. Freedom and liberty are not just words or even ideals but a way of life that was previously unknown in the form once made accessible by the United States of America. We can only hope that way of life will not disappear again under the treacherous idea of "security".