Who and What is the Happy Warrior

The Happy Warrior is the title of a poem... and yes, I love this poem. I do not wish to be mischaracterized, for the most part poetry is not my bag. I am not an afficionado of literature nor am I a metro-sexual (I despise that term) but a dear friend introduced me to this masterpiece of prose several years ago... it has provided no end of inspiration. The Happy Warrior by William Wordsworth outlines the qualities of a magnificent soul. I aspire to possess even one or two characteristics that "every man in arms should wish to be."

This blog is a representation, in conversational form, of my voyage to wrap my arms around the world in which Mr. Worsdworth's warrior finds happiness.

(Standing disclaimer: Luckily tests of spelling accuracy ended in 4th grade otherwise I would still be in Elementary School. Be forewarned, spelling errors ahead. I subscribe to the wisdom of a great man who said, "I have utmost disdain for a man who can only spell a word one way." -Benjamin Franklin)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wacky Wednesday 2009, Vol. 25

It appears the differences between males and females begin quite early. One tends toward verbal proficiency and one tends toward visual stimulation... you decide which is which:

As a member of the male sex, I am not ashamed to admit that all we need is a full tummy and to be held by a beautiful woman.

Monday, September 28, 2009

New Gameshow: Identify the topic of this speech

A United States President gave this speech sometime after 1941 -a time marked by significant threats to human freedom by forces such as communism, radical Islam, terrorism and other totalitarian regimes (Hitler, Mao and Stalin come to mind); can you fill in the blanks and guess the topic that he was referring to? Here are the first two paragraphs of his impassioned address before the United Nations:

Good morning. I want to thank the Secretary-General for organizing this summit, and all the leaders who are participating. That so many of us are here today is a recognition that the threat from __________________ is serious, it is urgent, and it is growing. Our generation's response to this challenge will be judged by history, for if we fail to meet it - boldly, swiftly, and together - we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe.

No nation, however large or small, wealthy or poor, can escape the impact of ____________________. ____________________ threaten every coastline. More powerful _______________ and ______________ threaten every continent. More frequent _________ and __________________ breed hunger and conflict in places where hunger and conflict already thrive. On ________________________, families are already being forced to flee their homes as _____________ refugees. The security and stability of each nation and all peoples - our prosperity, our health, our safety - are in jeopardy. And the time we have to reverse this ___________ is running out.

It would be fun to fill in each blank like the old Mad-Libs game we used to play in Jr. High School. Hopefully your mind filled in the blanks as you read... from that mental exercise, what theme formed? Knowing the political and social threats facing the world, what would you say was the topic of his speech?

If you filled in the blanks with words like "radical" or "Islamic terrorism" and "sleeper cells", "ethnic cruelty", "vicious civilian attacks", and the like, you would be wrong. Perhaps he was talking about weakened economies, corporate mismanagement, government corruption, greed, financial system meltdown, fiscal confidence or profound recession? Nope, not that either.

The messenger was none other than our current President. Presiden Obama seems to think that the threat deserving this type of alarmism and threatens our species with impending doom is, fanfare please,... climate change. Are you kidding me? Worst case scenario: man-made climate change is a problem such that in 50 years the oceans will rise about 5 feet (and that is a very generous concession considering the science). That is scenario A. Scenario B goes something like this: free democratic societies are overthrown due to totalitarian and radical theocracies who attain nuclear and population advantages in 15 years. I'm thinking I could care less about a 5 foot increase in ocean levels when I am living under the rule of a tyranical totalitarian regime! We had better figure out who and what the most pressing threats our to our way of life, our freedom and our children... and fast!

I once heard a prfound statement that has application here (although the alledged author is somewhat disputed): "When men stop believing in God they don't believe in nothing; they believe in anything." Beyond the issues of losing faith in God there is a equally troubling issue of misapplying our values and attention: God is replaced by __________, by any number of things we elevate to deity-like importance. We no longer have clear values and a sense of morality. The environment becomes our greatest enemy, not men with vicious and cruel intentions. The notion of moral relativism finished what failing faith began. There is something ironic in the claim that there is no such thing as objective evil when it comes to cultures and political systems BUT you are heritic of the worst order if you deny mankind's wanton degradation of the environment.

Am I the only one that is confused by this line of thinking?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday Enlightenment: Are people naturally good or evil? (Prager University, Vol. 3)

Here is another question/concept that is central to the human experience. Men and women have been wrestling with this for millenia therefore it is probably worth AT LEAST five minutes of our time (although 5 decades of pondering would be more appropriate):

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Happy Thomas Day!

I would like to wish everyone (especially all the Thomases out there doing good work) a very happy Thomas Day. Unfortunately Mrs. Wicke gets as excited for this day as she does for April Fools... at least Thomas Day only comes up once every two years.

I discovered a great Thomas Day blog that was created, evidently, due to the ever increasing number of Thomas Day celebrants. I will miss gathering together in person but I understand how these things grow and how the world is connected more than ever. Here is the site:

And if you are a Thomas, remember this day is to contemplate and (hopefully) celebrate your good influence on the world; about the great things you have done, are doing and will yet do. Go out there and make a difference!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why government provided (managed, guaranteed, etc.) healthcare is a danger to the Republic

I am smart enough to recognize the need to be humble -smart enough to realize that I do not know everything. Unfortunately many politicians, self-proclaimed experts and various actors seem to think they do have all the right answers. It is as if a byproduct of living in this day and age is unprecedented intelligence... I do not think this generation has a monopoly on knowledge and certainly not wisdom. I do not believe that current (also known as "progressive") ideas are qualitatively better than ideas of the past (also known as "conservative"). I believe there is great wisdom and truth in the words, opinions, philosophies and values of those who preceeded this generation. If I were to choose between the political assumptions of John Adams, Daniel Webster, Thomas Jefferson or Edmund Burke and the political assertions of Barak Obama, Nancy Pelosi or one thousand erudite university professors, I would choose the first. Barak Obama is a mental and political pygmy compared to Jefferson and Adams.

Consider the following statements of prior political leaders in the context of the current debate over government's oversight and/or control of healthcare. Ask yourself, is there any question on what side of the issue these great leaders would fall?

"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of power. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters."
-- Daniel Webster, as quoted in Hearings on the confirmation of Abe Fortas to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court, p. 108

"In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security (and "healthcare" is just one form or security). They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all -- security, comfort, and freedom. When ... the freedom they wished for was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free."
-- Sir Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), parenthetical comment added by T. Wicke

"We’re dealing with the oldest political error: the belief that because everyone wants something, government should or must provide it. If the error is pervasive, the result is the total state. If it is completely uprooted, the result is the purely free society." -- Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding." -- Justice Louis Brandeis,1928

"The true foundation of republican government is the equal right of every citizen in his person and property and in their management." -- Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816.

"The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first."-- Thomas Jefferson

"We have rights, as individuals, to give as much of our own money as we please to charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of public money." -- David Crockett, U.S. Congressman (1827-1835)

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedoms of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." -- James Madison

"The sacred rights of property are to be guarded at every point. I call them sacred, because, if they are unprotected, all other rights become worthless or visionary. What is personal liberty, if it does not draw after it the right to enjoy the fruits of our own industry? What is political liberty, if it imparts only perpetual poverty to us and all our posterity? What is the privilege of a vote, if the majority of the hour may sweep away the earnings of our whole lives, to gratify the rapacity of the indolent, the cunning, or the profligate, who are borne into power upon the tide of a temporary popularity?" -- Judge Joseph Story, 1852

"To take from one because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father's has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association--the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it." -- Thomas Jefferson: Note in Tracy's "Political Economy," 1816.

"It's important to realize that whenever you give power to politicians or bureaucrats, it will be used for what they want, not for what you want."-- Harry Browne

"As government grows, its increased power to grant favors or inflict pain attracts more people who would abuse the system." -- John Fund

"...There is no nation on earth powerful enough to accomplish our overthrow. ... Our destruction, should it come at all, will be from another quarter. From the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government, from their carelessness and negligence, I must confess that I do apprehend some danger. I fear that they may place too implicit a confidence in their public servants, and fail properly to scrutinize their conduct; that in this way they may be made the dupes of designing men, and become the instruments of their own undoing." -- Daniel Webster, June 1, 1837

"If once [the people] become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature, in spite of individual exceptions." -- Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787

Even if we "win" this debate and fend off the present good intentions of government, I fear that we have suffered a great loss. The public objection to ObamaCare is not founded on the principles illustrated above but rather on the question of money and infringement on existing governnment programs. ObamaCare is to be shunned not because it will negatively effect Medicare or increase our national deficit but because it is fundamentally, principally an assault on personal liberty and the foundation of our republic. We have become a nation whose criteria for political policy is money instead of alignment with the principles of freedom.

Yellowstone Park -our recent trip to an active supervolcano

The much desired and yet difficult to attain "balanced life" requires relaxation and recreation as much as it demands sober introspection. In this spirit, here is a reflection on our family summer vacation:

As you may remember our family trip this year included sightseeing in Yellowstone Park. I think Logan and Griffin enjoyed it but I was amazed at the frequent evidence of the amazing pent up heat below the surface as evicence by the gysers, mud pots and scalding water pools. Mrs. Wicke grew somewhat annoyed at my frequent use of the term "geothermal" when the children asked questions about these unique features. Well, I just read the following article and must say I feel somewhat relieved that we live almost a thousand miles from Yellowstone... I mean the supervolcano (I apologize for the alarm this may cause members of our family who live just outside the park entrances):

Yellowstone National Park vacation:

"In the 1960s, while studying the volcanic history of Yellowstone National Park, Bob Christiansen of the United States Geological Survey became puzzled about something: ... he couldn't find the park's volcano. ...

"By coincidence just at this time NASA decided to test some new high-altitude cameras by taking photographs of Yellowstone, copies of which some thoughtful official passed on to the park authorities on the assumption that they might make a nice blow-up for one of the visitors' centers. As soon as Christiansen saw the photos he realized why he had failed to spot the [volcano]: virtually the whole park - 2.2 million acres - was [a volcano]. The explosion had left a crater more than forty miles across - much too huge to be perceived from anywhere at ground level. At some time in the past Yellowstone must have blown up with a violence far beyond the scale of anything known to humans.

"Yellowstone, it turns out, is a supervolcano. It sits on top of an enormous hot spot, a reservoir of molten rock that rises from at least 125 miles down in the Earth. The heat from the hot spot is what powers all of Yellowstone's vents, geysers, hot springs, and popping mud pots. ... Imagine a pile of TNT about the size of Rhode Island and reaching eight miles into the sky, to about the height of the highest cirrus clouds, and you have some idea of what visitors to Yellowstone are shuffling around on top of. ...

"Since its first known eruption 16.5 million years ago, [the Yellowstone volcano] has blown up about a hundred times, but the most recent three eruptions are the ones that get written about. The last eruption was a thousand times greater than that of Mount St. Helens; the one before that was 280 times bigger, and the one before was ... at least twenty-five hundred times greater than St. Helens. ...

"The Yellowstone eruption of two million years ago put out enough ash to bury New York State to a depth of sixty-seven feet or California to a depth of twenty. ... All of this was hypothetically interesting until 1973, when ... geologists did a survey and discovered that a large area of the park had developed an ominous bulge. ... The geologists realized that only one thing could cause this - a restless magma chamber. Yellowstone wasn't the site of an ancient supervolcano; it was the site of an active one. It was also at about this time that they were able to work out that the cycle of Yellowstone's eruptions averaged one massive blow every 600,000 years. The last one, interestingly enough, was 630,000 years ago. Yellowstone, it appears, is due."

Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything, Broadway, pp. 224-228.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Happy Rosh Hashanah!

I began this blog on Rosh Hashanah of 2008. So it appears as if my blogging aniversary corresponds with the Jewish New Years celebration. While I am not of the lineage of Judah, I am a distant cousin so to speak. So I think it is only family courtesy to honor their holy-days (AKA, "holidays"). There is much about Jewish customs that I value... the Old Testament, for starters.

Rosh Hashanah and the period of time until Yom Kippur represent the holiest period for the people of Judah. It is a time of introspection and "self-repair" where one considers the course and quality of his or her life. It is not simply a period of self-improvement but a time of sober conciliation with God -a time to analyze the course of your life with respect to God's expectations. An ambitious endeavor to be sure!

But wouldn't it be amazing if everyone engaged in such a rigorous spiritual exercise on an annual (perhaps even a weekly) basis? Something to give thought to... So what is the condition of your life? What has been your contribution to the world? Have any changes you need to make? Any relationships you need to repair? No better time than the present because tomorrow is the fist day of a new year of the rest of your life. La chaim and shalom!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Shame on you Mr. Carter

Certain types of "speech" are so over the line that they are not even protected by the US Constitution. One classic example is a person jokingly or otherwise falsely calling out "FIRE!" in a public place like a movie theater. Such is deemed to be injurious to the public and could literally cause deaths from a resulting stampede toward the exits. Jimmy Carter did a comparable thing when he sunk to the lowest realm of political strategy and public manipulation and called out "RACISM!" He is not alone, it appears that the most effective political and social tool-de-jure is to accuse your opponents of "hate" or "racism".

Now, I am not a human ostrich. I am actually quite well dialed in to the socio-political reality of our time -it is my profession and my area of rational study. I freely admit that there are still some racists BUT on the whole, the vast majority of Americans do not secretly or overtly harbor racist beliefs or participate in such shameful actions. A very wise Black man once explained it this way: there will always be a certain amount of arsenic in water but the amount is so low that our bodies tolerate it and for the most part we function just fine. So there are a handful of wackos who still run around in white robes instead of fitting them to their beds. Most Americans however, do hold very passionate moral and political perspectives. Crazy as some would have you believe, it is altogether possible to differ on moral or political beliefs and not be motivated by deep seeded racist hatred. The individual who accuses of racist motives has the burden of proving that his/her opponents are, in fact, animated by differences based on race rather than on political or moral grounds.

Let us carefully examine Mr. Carter's dangerous and foolhardy accusations:
First he declared, "I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African-American."
Really? For such a damning statement about the American people (who are rightly engaged in an important political question) you had better have solid evidence and it had better be more than anecdotal. You are the one who said "overwhelming portion". So where is your evidence? Please don't tell me I should rely on the flimsy basis of your judgment, "I think..." I beg your pardon, but you had better be able to state "I know..." before you yell "fire!" in the public square.

At another venue, he went on to explain: "When a radical fringe element of demonstrators and others begin to attack the president of the United States as an animal or as a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler or when they wave signs in the air that said we should have buried Obama with Kennedy, those kinds of things are beyond the bounds."

Yes, if this was a COMMON response by a large number I would be concerned as well... But please show me the examples you identify. Who said these and when? Do you honestly think they represent the view of more than a handful of pathetic sickos who held up those signs or made the verbal epithets? Now, since we are talking about comparing the President to Adolf Hitler or making pretense to his assasination... Yes these have just recently happened but I didn't hear your repulsion and accusation of ugly bias. Where was your condemnation and repudiation that "those kinds of things are beyond the bounds":
But comparisons to Hitler were not enough, how about to Beelzebub himself:
And don't forget the highly acclaimed "documentary" depicting the ficticious assasination of President Bush (made and released while he was still in office)... where was your outrage?

No, it seems like you are the one with a doublestandard based on the color of a man's skin. Shame on you for reducing a rigorous debate over matters of extreme importance (where reason and civility are prerequisites if we are to come to some common good) to a matter of race. You impugn a valid side of the issue over a few isolated reports and seek to use it for political advantage. You have struck a greater blow to the civility of our nation than even these and you know better.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wacky Wednesday 2009, Vol. 25

In honor of the start of the NFL and NFL Chandler seasons, here are some sports highlights:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Are you (really) a liberal?

One of my favorite, but not personally known, people is Dennis Prager. If you do not know who he is I strongly suggest that you take a few moments and get to know him. If you enjoy my mind (thoughts, ideas, dry humor, etc.) you will love his mind.

Several years ago he composed the following list. It is self explanatory, so here are his own words:

It is my belief that about half of the Americans who call themselves liberal do not hold the great majority of positions held by mainstream liberal institutions such as the New York Times editorial page, People for the American Way, and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. So here is a test of this thesis to be given to anyone who believes he or she is a liberal. If you feel I have omitted a liberal position or have unfairly characterized any of them here, please email me. This is still a work in progress.

You say you are a liberal.
Do you believe the following?

1.Standards for admissions to universities, fire departments, etc. should be lowered for people of color.
2.Bilingual education for children of immigrants, rather than immersion in English, is good for them and for America.
3.Murderers should never be put to death.
4.During the Cold War, America should have adopted a nuclear arms freeze.
5.Colleges should not allow ROTC programs.
6.It was wrong to wage war against Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War.
7.Poor parents should not be allowed to have vouchers to send their children to private schools.
8.It is good that trial lawyers and teachers unions are the two biggest contributors to the Democratic Party.
9.Marriage should be redefined from male-female to any two people.
10.A married couple should not have more of a right to adopt a child than two men or two women.
11.The Boy Scouts should not be allowed to use parks or any other public places and should be prohibited from using churches and synagogues for their meetings.
12.The present high tax rates are good.
13.Speech codes on college campuses are good and American values are bad.
14.The Israelis and Palestinians are morally equivalent.
15.The United Nations is a moral force for good in the world, and therefore America should be subservient to it and such international institutions as a world court.
16.It is good that colleges have dropped hundreds of men's sports teams in order to meet gender-based quotas.
17.No abortions can be labeled immoral.
18.Restaurants should be prohibited by law from allowing customers to choose between a smoking and a non-smoking section.
19.High schools should make condoms available to students and teach them how to use them.
20.Racial profiling for terrorists is wrong -- a white American grandmother should as likely be searched as a Saudi young male.
21.Racism and poverty -- not a lack of fathers and a crisis of values -- are the primary causes of violent crime in the inner city.
22.It is wrong and unconstitutional for students to be told, "God bless you" at their graduation.
23.No culture is morally superior to any other.

Those are all liberal positions. How many of them do you hold?

Thank you,
Dennis Prager

Friday, September 11, 2009


Sorry about a second posting today but the anniversary of events that took place eight years ago deserve our reflection. I am fully aware of the emotional reaction that traumatic images can facilitate; I think, however, that sometimes we need to be shaken back to a reality of the world we live in. If graphic images are what is required to make us remember (so that, perhaps, this does not happen again) then it is a price worth paying:

I will not forget. Three truths seem especially appropriate considering the events commemorated on this day:
1. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." (G. Santayana)

2. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” (attributed to many including T. Jefferson)

3. "Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” (B. Franklin)

Government healthcare and your freedom

Unfortunately the reason for the resistence to the Obama/Democrats healthcare plan is money -it will cost too much, take away from existing programs and result in rationed medical attention (a supply-demand function). So, if money were not an option, if we were a country rolling in excess funds, this plan would be acceptable? NO!!! The current attitude toward a government run healthcare program is because it is a dangerous expansion of government powers and involvement (i.e. coercion) in the lives of the citizens. This is not the domain of government and should be left to the efficiencies, innovation and competition of the capitalist system. I draw again on a very simple comparison: consider your dealings with the post office and with UPS or FedEx. Which one provides better customer service, which one has instituted higher cost increases, how long do you wait in line at each facility, which one employs the most recent technology, which one give you more choice for shipping your product, which one lists their phone number for your ready reference, which one provides you better remediation in case of their negligence? Do you really want an entity as unresponsive, beaurocratic and inefficient as the US Post Office or the DMV handling your health condition?

But all this is not the specific subject matter of this blog. Here is the point, the existing government healthcare plans severly curtail your freedoms and represent yet another infringement on your personal choice, liberties and opportunities. We are trading our freedom (which yes, includes the possibility of failure, risk and other conditions that have always existed in the natural and human worlds) for guaranteed comfort. What few think to ask is what is the level of the guarenteed condition and what is the price (both in dollars and otherwise) this will exact of us?

Did you know that the proposed Obama/Democrat healthcare plans forces you to have insurance? In fact those without health coverage will have to pay significant fines (oh, what type of tracking bureaucracy will this require and at what cost?) Yes, it would be nice if everyone chose to be insured but to force me to have coverage... I thought this was the home of the free? By definition, when I am forced, mandated ore required to do something, I am no longer free. Doesn't that scare the hell out of anyone else?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Emperor's New Clothes: Man Made Catastrophic Climate Change (the tragedy formerly known as "global warming")

The older and more educated I get, the more I agree with Robert Fulgum (All I evern needed to learn, I learned in Kindergarten) with the caveat that "the most important things I needed to learn, I learned from my mother in the five years of my life before entering the educational system". It was sometime during the first ten years of life when I came across a book that is more applicable in our highly enlightened, super-educated age than ever... but again, I learned the lesson back in Elementary School. Here are the cliff notes:
The book: The Emperor's New Clothes.
The new clothes: Global warming, AKA "climate change"
The tailors/swindlers: Environmentalists, lawyers and politicians
Their loot: wealth and power by mandating "green" process, products, energy production, etc.

Consider the opening paragraphs to a story recently in the Wall Street Journal:
Windmills Are Killing Our Birds
One standard for oil companies, another for green energy sources.

On Aug. 13, ExxonMobil pleaded guilty in federal court to killing 85 birds that had come into contact with crude oil or other pollutants in uncovered tanks or waste-water facilities on its properties. The birds were protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which dates back to 1918. The company agreed to pay $600,000 in fines and fees.

ExxonMobil is hardly alone in running afoul of this law. Over the past two decades, federal officials have brought hundreds of similar cases against energy companies. In July, for example, the Oregon-based electric utility PacifiCorp paid $1.4 million in fines and restitution for killing 232 eagles in Wyoming over the past two years. The birds were electrocuted by poorly-designed power lines.

Yet there is one group of energy producers that are not being prosecuted for killing birds: wind-power companies. And wind-powered turbines are killing a vast number of birds every year.

A July 2008 study of the wind farm at Altamont Pass, Calif., estimated that its turbines kill an average of 80 golden eagles per year. The study, funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency, also estimated that about 10,000 birds—nearly all protected by the migratory bird act—are being whacked every year at Altamont.

Altamont's turbines, located about 30 miles east of Oakland, Calif., kill more than 100 times as many birds as Exxon's tanks, and they do so every year. But the Altamont Pass wind farm does not face the same threat of prosecution, even though the bird kills at Altamont have been repeatedly documented by biologists since the mid-1990s.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wacky Wednesday 2009, Vol. 24

Sorry about the poor resolution, but here are some funny commercials to lighten up your day:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

President Obama's speech to the nation's school children

Here is the text of President Obama's speech to our children (those who were not skipping class, sleeping or wisked away by their parents) with my comments and periodic cynicism. You can bet the Wicke children engaged in a robust discussion on these matters over dinner (that is, until Griffin asked a question about Spiderman's superhuman senses or the nocternal habits of some rare but interesting insect). Oh well, we can try.

Prepared Remarks of President Barack Obama
Back to School Event

Arlington, Virginia
September 8, 2009

The President: Hello everyone – how’s everybody doing today? I’m here with students at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia. And we’ve got students tuning in from all across America, kindergarten through twelfth grade. I’m glad you all could join us today.
I know that for many of you, today is the first day of school. And for those of you in kindergarten, or starting middle or high school, it’s your first day in a new school, so it’s understandable if you’re a little nervous. I imagine there are some seniors out there who are feeling pretty good right now, with just one more year to go. And no matter what grade you’re in, some of you are probably wishing it were still summer, and you could’ve stayed in bed just a little longer this morning.

Commentary: (this would have been my thoughts if this speach was given back when I was in elementary/middle school): I was actually a little excited to see friends again, to wear my new clothes, to go to my new classes... BUT then I had to sit down and listen to this speech.

I know that feeling. When I was young, my family lived in Indonesia for a few years, and my mother didn’t have the money to send me where all the American kids went to school. So she decided to teach me extra lessons herself, Monday through Friday – at 4:30 in the morning.
Now I wasn’t too happy about getting up that early. A lot of times, I’d fall asleep right there at the kitchen table. But whenever I’d complain, my mother would just give me one of those looks and say, "This is no picnic for me either, buster."
So I know some of you are still adjusting to being back at school. But I’m here today because I have something important to discuss with you. I’m here because I want to talk with you about your education and what’s expected of all of you in this new school year.

Commentary: I knew darn well what was expected of me -my dad made that very clear. I don't need some politician usurping the role of a father who is best positioned to make sure I behave appropriately in school and who impresses upon me the value of an education.

Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.
I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.
I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.
I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.
But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.
And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.

Commentary: at about this time I would have tuned out. I get more than enough of this from my dad... why do I need some guy I will never meet and who doesn't know me from Adam lecturing me on my responsibilities? Wow, who is that pretty girl over there in the third row?

To be honest, the message is right on and I'm sure there are some kids who might actually absorb it -perhaps such a speech is valuable if it ispires just 10 kids to take some responsibility for their education. BUT the power of a message is not just in the words but also in the relationship of the messenger and the recipient. If this message is impactful coming from an inpersonal president think of how much more meaningful it is from a personally involved parent. This is my primary objection: the government is stepping in on yet another of the domains that rightly belongs to the parents. And it is done so innocently in the name of "good intentions". Good heavens, can't anything be left to the parent? We can't make our own healthcare decisions, can't feed our kids lunch, can't send homemade cupcakes to school, can't set aside our own money for retirement, can't set our home thermostats to a setting of our own choice, we don't have a right to know when a daughter might be having an abortion, how much more is the government going to do for us or mandate that we do in a certain way?

Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.
Commentary: Oh, here it comes: the self-esteem curriculum. You are good enough to do anything and we will prove it to you: we will never let you fail whether you are playing in a little league game where we will forbid grown ups from keeping score or whether you work for a major automaker... you will not fail (of course you won't know how to deal with that horrible feeling when you actually realize that you are not good enough for some future task).
Maybe you could be a good writer – maybe even good enough to write a book or articles in a newspaper – but you might not know it until you write a paper for your English class. Maybe you could be an innovator or an inventor – maybe even good enough to come up with the next iPhone or a new medicine or vaccine – but you might not know it until you do a project for your science class. Maybe you could be a mayor or a Senator or a Supreme Court Justice, but you might not know that until you join student government or the debate team.
And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a doctor, or a teacher, or a police officer? You want to be a nurse or an architect, a lawyer or a member of our military? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.
And this isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.
You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You’ll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You’ll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.
We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.
Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork.
I get it. I know what that’s like. My father left my family when I was two years old, and I was raised by a single mother who struggled at times to pay the bills and wasn’t always able to give us things the other kids had. There were times when I missed having a father in my life. There were times when I was lonely and felt like I didn’t fit in.
So I wasn’t always as focused as I should have been. I did some things I’m not proud of, and got in more trouble than I should have. And my life could have easily taken a turn for the worse.
But I was fortunate. I got a lot of second chances and had the opportunity to go to college, and law school, and follow my dreams. My wife, our First Lady Michelle Obama, has a similar story. Neither of her parents had gone to college, and they didn’t have much. But they worked hard, and she worked hard, so that she could go to the best schools in this country.
Some of you might not have those advantages. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you live in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe, or have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.
But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.
Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.
That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.

Commentary: again, all good things (and my previous concerns still apply) but really, how long is thing going to go on? Oh, that's right, we haven't cited the anecdotal case study of "Johnny" from "smallsville, USA". What do you know, here it is:

Young people like Jazmin Perez, from Roma, Texas. Jazmin didn’t speak English when she first started school. Hardly anyone in her hometown went to college, and neither of her parents had gone either. But she worked hard, earned good grades, got a scholarship to Brown University, and is now in graduate school, studying public health, on her way to being Dr. Jazmin Perez.
I’m thinking about Andoni Schultz, from Los Altos, California, who’s fought brain cancer since he was three. He’s endured all sorts of treatments and surgeries, one of which affected his memory, so it took him much longer – hundreds of extra hours – to do his schoolwork. But he never fell behind, and he’s headed to college this fall.
And then there’s Shantell Steve, from my hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Even when bouncing from foster home to foster home in the toughest neighborhoods, she managed to get a job at a local health center; start a program to keep young people out of gangs; and she’s on track to graduate high school with honors and go on to college.
Jazmin, Andoni and Shantell aren’t any different from any of you. They faced challenges in their lives just like you do. But they refused to give up. They chose to take responsibility for their education and set goals for themselves. And I expect all of you to do the same.
That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.
Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.
I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that you can be rich and successful without any hard work -- that your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.
But the truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try.
That’s OK. Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, and he lost hundreds of games and missed thousands of shots during his career. But he once said, "I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

Commentary: My eyes are too glazed over to make more comments... how much longer are you going to keep talking, you're losing some of the students and heaven knows we can't leave any child behind.

These people succeeded because they understand that you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, it just means you need to spend more time studying.
No one’s born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. You’re not a varsity athlete the first time you play a new sport. You don’t hit every note the first time you sing a song. You’ve got to practice. It’s the same with your schoolwork. You might have to do a math problem a few times before you get it right, or read something a few times before you understand it, or do a few drafts of a paper before it’s good enough to hand in.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. I do that every day. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows you have the courage to admit when you don’t know something, and to learn something new. So find an adult you trust – a parent, grandparent or teacher; a coach or counselor – and ask them to help you stay on track to meet your goals.

Commentary: but if they tell you something you don't want to hear or does not allign with your philosophy, don't be afraid to tell them to "stop talking and get out of the way". I've found that this strategy works well for me.

And even when you’re struggling, even when you’re discouraged, and you feel like other people have given up on you – don’t ever give up on yourself. Because when you give up on yourself, you give up on your country.
The story of America isn’t about people who quit when things got tough. It’s about people who kept going, who tried harder, who loved their country too much to do anything less than their best.
It’s the story of students who sat where you sit 250 years ago, and went on to wage a revolution and found this nation. Students who sat where you sit 75 years ago who overcame a Depression and won a world war; who fought for civil rights and put a man on the moon. Students who sat where you sit 20 years ago who founded Google, Twitter and Facebook and changed the way we communicate with each other.
So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country?
Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn.

Commentary: and since I know better, the Federal Government and I are going to make the decisions and spend the money to fund your education from way over here in Washington DC. We just can't trust your parents, your city and your state to make these important decisions. Oh, and we also have this great organization called the Teacher's Union that helps make sure me and my Democratic politicians will stay in office. This group, the Teacher's Union, is very concerned about the money also.
But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

Commentary: one final word to you seniors, especially the one giving the commencement address in nine short months: Please don't do what I just did and use the name of "God" in your speech... my friends at the ACLU come unglued when we do that in public schools. I hope they weren't paying attention to me just now.

Logan (2nd grader) and Griffin (Kindergartener) off to school to hear the President's speech... maybe

The "maybe" is not because Mrs. Wicke and I will be keeping our little angels home in a form of protest. We are not. It is because I'm not sure if their school will be broadcasting the President's speech. Unlike many conservatives who have a political itchy trigger finger when it comes to anything this President does, I'm trying to keep my reactions more cerebral and less visceral. I am extremely cynical and suspicious about the agenda of Barak Obama and his ilk (he is not alone in his progressive, elitist vision of America) but the one virtue he has demonstrated consistently is that he means what he says (reference his claim to "fundamentally change America). The fault for the turn we have taken as a country rests squarely on the American citizen who did not perform their due diligence: for example, what does he mean by "fundamentaly change"? No, President Obama may have an agenda that leads to a different America and may have a different estimation of the Constitution than I do (and, from my point of view, from what the founders of our nation had) BUT he is quite vocal and openly demonstrative in his goals. So, to sum it up, I wanted to wait until I knew the content of his speach before I judged his message improper and unfit for my children.

Well, now we can preview the speech. And while I disagree with several of his propositions, assertions and assumptions, I do not see anything worthy of my exercise of my parental veto power (and yes, I do have "line item", "event specific" and "friend exclusionary" veto power). In fact, I consider this a great opportunity to teach my children a few VITAL lessons in civics and socio-political responsibility:
1. the office of the president (not the specific man or woman) should be respected. Irregardless of our agreement or disagreement with him, it is the position that demands our respect. Parenthetically, "respect" is very different than "servitude" -the former is expected of citizens, the latter should be resisted with as much zeal as the former is defended.
2. it is possible to disagree with someone or some point without becoming disagreeable.
3. a democratic republic is built on differences of opinion but this does not mean we cannot agree and together form a civil society.
4. the United States of America is a dynamic country that is continually being shaped by the common discourse -if we are to influence the future form of our country we must participate in the conversation.

I had planned on posting the President's full speech and commenting on some sections but I've been informed that my blog is sometimes too lengthy... I will, therefore, save that posting for tomorrow.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Saturday Enlightenment: Favorite Book List... now read!

I have noticed a common trait exhibited by the smartest people I know, and there is NO EXCEPTION to this rule. These people read (and I'm not talking comic books, trashy romance novels, or "men's magazines"). I am convinced that an essential key to knowledge and informed judgement is to be well read. Reading is a necessary but not sufficient component of wisdom, great writing and character development. Quite literally, reading gets the greatest minds of the world into your own head.

True to the fundamental purpose of this blog (a passionate quest for truth), I have asked several of the aforementioned "smartest people I know" to share their list of must read books. These can, and should, be a mixture of fiction (of various genres and sensitivities), non-fiction, biographies, even dictionaries. Periodically I will post these lists. (If you are a follower or reader of this blog please consider this an open invitation to share your list with me and the other readers). Here is the first list from a good friend, Chis Halloran:
The White Mountains trilogy by John Christopher
The Hobbit
The Lord of the Rings trilogy
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse
Anna Karenina
Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone
The Seven Storey Mountain and Zen and the Birds of Appetite by Thomas Merton
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Shadowlands by William Nicholson
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
The Bhagavad Gita
Any of the Malcolm Gladwell books, but esp. Outliers
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum (but no other Ludlum novels after that)
Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris
To Kill a Mockingbird
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Coming Into the Country by John McPhee (really anything by John McPhee)
Benedict's Dharma by Patrick Henry
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Are you kidding me? I pledge my servitude to President Obama... not me, not even if 100 famous Hollywood people tell me to!

I will not have to convince anyone who has read more than three posts on my blog that I am a moral conservative and a political libertarian (except as that philosophy traditionally applies to foreign policy). I am not, however, a partyline republican. I have been very slow to imbue President Obama with some nefarious motivation. I have not engaged in the "Obama as Messiah" accusations put forth by some on the conservative side of the isle. I cannot bring myself to believe that a man is either arrogant enough or self-confident enough to judge himself to be the great deliverer of the people. Only one man filled that role and he did his work about 2,000 years ago and will come back in some future day to call the world to reckoning.

While I have been slow to believe that Barak Obama considers himself the savior of America, I've got to admit that I am becoming more an more cynical. Can he really believe that he is the political grand pubah of modern America? I think he might... and if he does, that scares the hell out of me. What, after all do I need saved from? Other than oppressive governments which seek to make more of the decisions that are rightly mine to make (these are, in fact, the only things I might need some help with from an outside source) the things I need saved from are constraints of my own making and I have power to overcome those without help from the government.

So why am I more and more concerned that Barak Obama really does believe he is the one answer to all of our problems. Because his marketing machine puts out masterful presentations like this:

This piece may be comprised of 95% beautiful goals and worthy objectives but it is difficult to overlook: "I pledge to be a servant to our president!"

No way, not me. Think about it, isn't there something very dark in that statement. President Barak Obama is no better, no different than the least American... in fact the last time I checked he is suppose to be servant to us. Interesting how subtlely and quietly that got turned around. Besides, with all the commendable pledges to "smile more", to "fight diseases" and to "turn off the lights" (all good things) what happened to "I pledge allegiance to the United States of America" or "I pledge to defend the Constitution of this great country" or "I pledge not to have recreational sex that might lead to a child born out of wedlock" or "I pledge not to experiment with narcotics" or "I pledge to read proposed legislation before I vote on it" -what about those pledges? How about, "I pledge, as a father, to take responsibility for the wellbeing of my own family", or "I pledge to turn off my cable, turn in my cell phone and to stop eating out before I look to others or the government to pay for my healthcare, housing or new car because I can't afford these things" or finally, "I pledge to take responsibility for my own education, my own healthcare and I pledge not to compell my neighbor, however wealthy he might be, to surrender his money to pay for someones abortion or to keep the General Moter's unions in business". These are the pledges I make. What about you?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wacky Wednesday 2009, Vol. 24

I am two weeks late... so I suppose it is time to decipher Griffin-glyphs. I would really be interested to get your interpretations, however, before you read the translation. To refresh you, here is the pictograph:

This is clearly an early-era Griffinic dialect. You can tell this from the right to left writing style. At this stage the language is unbound by more sophisticated lexiconic constraints. The main objective of early-ear Griffinic communication was to simply convey the main message without becoming to caught up in the "rules" of language which appeared as this people matured.

1- "I"
2- "like"
3- "playing"
4- "my"
5- "new"
6- "gam" : I have not previously come across this word before and are somewhat baffled as to its meaning. Our best guess is that it refers to some kind of physical or mental competition conducted according to rules with the participants in direct opposition to each other. But I could be completely off.
7- several dice being held in a hand
8- a curiously shaped game board comprised of multiple pieces.
9- Griffin

How closely does this match your interpretation?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The first law of healtcare reform

The first law of medicine is surpassed in universal recognition only, perhaps, by the Golden Rule. Why is it then that we are not applying the maxim attributed to Hippocrates, "first do no harm", to the policies that will govern our medical system? Seems to me this axiom should form the north, south, east and west perimeter of our health care debate. Is it not logical that if our medical practice must follow the Hippocratic Law then the superstructure governing how and when medicine can be allocated within the body politic must also be bound by this rule?

So, I will ask the most obvious question to parties involve on all sides of the current Obama Health Care debate: is it possible that the changes we are pursuing will actually create more problems, cause more harm, or otherwise encumber and financially burden the citizenry more than at present? The honest person MUST admit that, at best, we do not know. There is strong evidence, if we look to other countries who have walked further along a similar path to the one we are now considering, that the answers are not promising. In other words they have less responsive health care, more costly systems, less medical/health innovation and invention. Now, I am not so close-minded as to entirely dismiss their systems out of hand... perhaps there is a small change we can make that will cause all the cogs to come into alignment and make it work. BUT could it equally be the case that a capitalist based system with limited government involvement, many players/providers competing, AND individuals taking the responsibility for their own healthcare whenever possible be a better model? Yes, perhaps.

While I do not claim any omniscience on this topic I do know that the discussion should be sober, lengthy (at least long enough to actually read and then consider the obvious and the unintended consequences of proposed legislation), engage the most informed minds, seek out organizations or places where reforms have proven beneficial, etc. Something tells me this process of honest inquiry, untainted by agendas and political powergrabs will take longer than a month, six months or even a year. The only thing worse than the system we currently have is one that turns out to be worse: costs us more, provides less choice, slows down treatment, delivers less health and worse care.