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Archive for August, 2010

Mexicans, Muslims & Gays: Who’s Next?

The xenophobic wave of fear I see sweeping through the United States is quite stunning.  The latest manifestation is the protest against the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”.  The moniker (in it’s inaccuracy) itself yields much grounds for illustration.  Regardless of how one feels about the building of the mosque/center itself, the rhetoric and hyperbole surrounding this issue are undeniably inflammatory and down-right scary.  However, this is just one on a growing list of examples of how Americans, who consider themselves the core American demographic, are reacting against those “others”.  I hesitate to label the wave racist, because I sense it’s actually something more sinister.

Overarching questionOnce they get done with the Mexicans, Muslims and gays, do you think you’ll be safe?

I am arguing that there is a deep seated psychosis in the American psyche that America wants to pretend doesn’t exist.  This psychosis has reared its head in horrible ways in the past.  Genocide of the Native Americans, interment of Japanese Americans, enslavement of Africans, McCarthyism & the Red Scare, internment & torture of “enemy combatants”.  The current round of “anti-otherism,” bears all the earmarks of the beginning of another ugly episode of this psychosis.

Let’s look at the current list of “others”:  Mexicans, Muslims, gays.  Some corresponding examples are anti-immigration laws, the daily barrage of inflammatory statements against Muslims, anti-gay marriage campaign, and anti-affirmative action movement (“reverse racism”).  What I find most interesting about this list, is that in the current election cycle there are candidates with every one of these items on their platforms.

Conservative talking-heads address these issues, and others, as encroachments on our freedoms.  Irony of ironies: their solutions to these encroachments, are to take away the freedom of others.  Their solutions of the past have served to take away our freedoms general (Patriot Act), in the name of safety.

Focusing again on the “Ground Zero Mosque”.  Let me state quickly that it is neither at Ground Zero, nor is it a mosque.  These are at once technical, but also very real distinctions.  Because the question quickly arises, how far from Ground Zero would it be acceptable to build a mosque (or in this case, and Islamic center)?  Some opponents state that its fine, just not in lower Manhattan.  However their rhetoric suggests, that it would be fine, just not in the United States.

As an aside New Gingrich seems to have a penchant for comparing people and groups to Nazis.  First he compared President Obama and Democrats in general, most recently he compared Muslims to Nazis.  The irony of course, is that such demagoguery is straight from the Adolph Hitler/Joseph Goebbels playbook.  If you doubt, you can read the words for Gingrich’s pen (so to speak) here:  Language: A Key Mechanism of Control.

The vehemence against building a mosque also reveals the myopic vision of many Americans.  The people who attacked us on September 11th were Muslim.  They professed primarily political grounds for attacking us.  It is an extreme leap to then say Islam is evil.  To suggest that human rights violations and murder by Isreal then condemns Judaism would be met with vehemence.  Suggesting that the Catholic Church protecting and enabling child predators for centuries, condemns all Christians everywhere would be ridiculous.  Yet this is what we have done with Islam.

Or, I can quote Ron Paul:  “This is like blaming all Christians for the wars of aggression and occupation because some Christians supported the neo-conservative’s aggressive wars.”  Read the full piece.

Lets be clear, Muslims died in the towers that day. American Muslims have fought, bled and died in the war against Al Quaida, the Taliban, and Sadam’s Iraq.  It is a disgrace and tragedy to then assert that these Muslims are in the same class as  the extreme minority that comprises Al-Quaida or the Taliban.

I’ve written about similar divide & control techniques used in America.

The questions then are:

  1. Why the need to demonize Muslims in general?
  2. Who really stands to gain?
  3. Once their done with the Mexicans, Muslims, and gays, do you think you’ll be safe?

If you think that because your Christian, you’re safe, think again.  Are you a member of any “other” group?  Do you think Sarah Palin’s version of Christianity has much tolerance in it?  Perhaps you or a loved one will be in need of a life-saving abortion.  Do you think that Sarah Palin’s Christianity has any room in it for that.

Or maybe you’re not Mexican.  Do you really think the anti-immigration push is about a love of the law?  Why do we have our immigration quotas in the first place?  Talking heads speak of Ellis Island like that was the infallible implementation of abiding by immigration law.  Only a small minority of immigrants passed through Ellis Island.  Ellis Island was not about overseeing the implementation of immigration laws.

What difference does it really make whether a gay couple can be recognized as married or not?  How does the governmental recognition of this affect anything but the administrative issues of insurance, healthcare, probate, etc.? Why does the small government crowd want the government to interfere in the lives of gay people?  Not gay, you say? Do you really think that your lifestyle choices & personal preferences are safe from the same small-but-ever-encroaching-government people?

Do not miss my larger point. I’m not advocating for or against the building of a mosque.  I am pointing out that the vehemence is not about Islam, or September 11th, it is about a deep-seated psychosis deeply rooted in the American psyche that nobody wants to deal with.   The ostensible objective is to extend the demonization from terrorists to Islam in general.  What reason?  One can only guess.  But the most obvious is to distract from the ongoing, progessless, nine year war going on in Afghanistan and Iraq, the millions of lives ruined and lost along the way.  There are other more sinister motives, I’m sure.

To quote Ron Paul again:

“Defending the controversial use of property should be no more difficult than defending the 1st Amendment principle of defending controversial speech. But many conservatives and liberals do not want to diminish the hatred for Islam–the driving emotion that keeps us in the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.” (emphasis mine)

What’s the motivation behind the anti-immigration stance?  Maybe to distract from our leaders culpability in leading the United States down a road of consumerism, ballooning debt, and mediocrity.  Let’s blame it on all these illegals coming across the border.  Immigration, illegal or otherwise is a political problem.  The immigrant nations are culpable in the process.  If politicians really wanted to deal with Mexican immigrants, then they would deal with the Mexican federal government, which has a policy encouraging Mexican immigration north across our borders, but heavily discourages Central American immigration north into Mexico.

They won’t do this because they need illegal immigration to distract from their own ineptitude, culpability and corruption.

They’ll continue to demonize all Muslims everywhere, because they need to distract from their culpability in engaging in this never-ending war, and selling the last of our freedoms down the river (Patriot Act).

They’ll continue to implicate gays for the general demise of family units in America, because it distracts from the slight of hand of equating the American Dream with American Consumerism.

Follow me on Twitter:  Twitter.com/Old454

Links:

Ron Paul Slams Ground Zero Mosque Demagogueryhttp://www.ronpaul.com/2010-08-20/ron-paul-sunshine-patriots-stop-your-demagogy-about-the-nyc-mosque/

Ground Zero Mosque: American Intolerance on Full Display for Muslim World
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/8/21/895044/-Ground-Zero-Mosque:-American-Intolerance-on-Full-Display-for-Muslim-World

Language: A Key Mechanism of Controlhttp://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4443.htm

Why the shock of Newt Gingrich’s Nazi Comparisonhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-sweeney/why-the-shock-over-newt-g_b_684856.html

Gingrich Comparisons Rebukedhttp://www.politico.com/news/stories/0510/37573.html

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First Triathlon–Done!: An after-action on the Georgia Veterans Triathlon

Triathlete biker passing sign at Lake Blackshear, GA Veterans Triathlon 2010I competed in my first triathlon Saturday, the Georgia Veterans Triathlon, in Cordele, Georgia.  Let me begin by saying, my goal in this race:  not finish last.

Race distances:  400 yard swim, 13.6 mile bike, 5k run.

You can check out my first and second impressions on training for this triathlon.

Pre-Race
The race was Saturday morning.  I had booked a hotel for Friday night.  I planned to work Friday, link up with my son after school, pack up, and the two of us head out in front of the Friday afternoon rush, arrive in time for the 6pm packet pickup, check out the course, check in to the hotel, grab something to eat, pack for the race, and get some rack–in that sequence.

Well, things started to go wrong early that day.  Work (that thing we do so we can eat, and sleep out of the rain) started to interfere with my last minute preparations.  My son got home, but we ended up needing to wait for my wife, and didn’t get on the road until 4pm–already into the Friday afternoon rush.  Long story short, we got caught in traffic out of town, arrived too late for the early packet pickup.

However, we did drive the bike course, and survey the swim and running course, which turned out to be extremely helpful.

The other items  in my sequence went more or less according to plan.

Race Day
I had planned to wake up at 5am, get dressed & loaded up and be at the triathlon site for packet pickup, etc by 6am.  Needless to say, my alarm went off at 5am, but my body didn’t get out of bed until 5:38am.  We ended up getting to the race site around 6:50am, by which time a long line at packet pick up had formed.

I got my numbers etc, got my body marked, put my numbers on my helmet, bike and race belt, got transition set up, and the stress began to subside with about 20 minutes to start time.

Swim
As a kid, I was a strong swimmer.  I could swim a mile in a lake. That was many years ago.  The swim training was the most difficult logistically and physically, because I was almost starting from scratch, at least conditioning-wise.  I had not trained in open water at all.

Triathlon swim startThe swim start was chaotic. Arms and legs everywhere, water splashing up my nose, and down my throat.  My breathing became erratic, I quickly got winded, then my arms began to fade.  I reflected on all the training, effort and planning that had gone into getting here, and what a shame it would be to not finish.  My son was on shore waiting for me–probably the biggest motivation to gut it out–not to disappoint my son.

The first 100 yards were hard.  The second 100 yards were absolutely horrible.  I tried back stroke, but the choppy water made that impossible to relax.  I was able to get my breathing, if not under control, to a steady gasp.  I could see people ahead of me walking out of the water.  I tried to reach bottom at one point, but there was just water.  Swam some more, tried to reach bottom again, my toes felt sand!  Relief!

I made it out of the water, trotted up to transition.  My wind began to come back.

The Bike
Transition went fairly quickly.  I was worried about sand on my feet, but there wasn’t much and I quickly brushed it off and put my shoes (using the same ultralights for the bike & run), helmet, shades, race belt, and Camel back on.  No bike shirt, I’d decided to bike and run shirtless, mainly for budget reasons.  And I was off.

The bike wasn’t as eventful, I continued to pass people who had passed me in the water.  I was only passed by people on expensive bikes and with at least $200 of triathlon clothes, etc on.  I hydrated and refueled as much as I could without turning my stomach.  Driving the course the day before proved extremely helpful!

The Run
Back in transition, all I had to do was rack my bike, take off my helmet and Camelback.  And I was off.

The run was just a gut check.  The transition runs, the brutal runs, the canyon runs on vacation, paid off.   I continued to pass even more people who’d passed me in the water, and some who’d passed me on the bike.  I used the water stations mainly to cool off my head, and rinse the sweat from my face.  I found in training, that running shirtless left little options for wiping sweat from my face.  Running with  hats, visors, head bands etc. give me headaches.

It took about 3/4 mile or so to shake the effects of coming off of the bike.  I began to notice some dehydration in the second half of the run, but was actually getting stronger in relation to the other runners.  There were some slight hills, which gave me some opportunities to power past some folks. Some people, not many, passed me.  And then there was the finish line.  I didn’t see or even notice the clock.   Many times people will finish the last sprint of the run extremely strong, which means to me, they saved too much.  I think I left it all on the course.

Georgia Veterans Triathlon 2010 finish lineConclusions
A nice race overall.  Well organized and pleasant volunteers (you always have that one sour puss).  Nice venue and courses.  Easy reach from Atlanta.  Would definitely do it again.

Certainly my hardest most taxing effort to date.  According to SportsTrack, I expended almost 1500 calories on the course.

  • Specifically for Cordele:  Bring Skin So Soft.  The gnats were OUT OF CONTROL.  Mostly not biting gnats, but swarming and absolutely incessant.
  • Improving my swim will greatly improve my overall performance.  It’ll cut my time a lot.  But it’ll also leave me more energy for the bike and run.
  • All the hill work I’ve been doing definitely paid off, even though this was a relatively even course.  My recovery rate and power in the tough spots was good.
  • The transition runs definitely paid off.  Especially the confidence that that horrible feeling of getting of the bike and then running, would pass.
  • Absolutely test and train in all the clothing, equipment, nutritionals, you plan to use for the race.  DO NOT use or introduce any new stuff for race day, no matter how trivial.  Train in your back-up equipment.
  • Arrive early.
  • Have everything packed the day before.
  • Get swim training time in open water.  There was almost no correlation between the open water swim, and my pool workouts.

Already thinking of which triathlon I’d like to do next.  Planning to do a half marathon in the Fall.

Comment below, or find me on Twitter at Twitter.com/Old454


Triathlon Training: Second Impressions

Triathlete running past transition area Georgia Veterans Triathlon 2010

Transition area Georgia Veterans Triathlon 2010

I completed my first triathlon yesterday. “Triathlon” was an intimidating prospect as a whole, from the idea of stringing together three separate race-effort events, to the planning of the training leading up to it, to the actual training process, to the equipment preparation.  Now that the triathlon is behind me, I feel extremely confident and excited to plan, train, and race another!

Training
The training leading up to the race was a challenge from both a planning perspective and an execution perspective.  One can’t practice race distances and conditions like one might for a running or biking race.  Logistically and time-wise it’s not practical, but also its not an efficient use of your training time, post-recovery alone would suck up many potential training days.

On top of that, throw in family obligations, a summer vacation, work crises, and training was a challenge.

Equipment preparation
I guess it would be easy to prep equipment-wise by just throwing money at the problem. Get a list and buy everything on the list.  There are a lot of vendors who would be glad to sell you all there triathlon specific trinkets and gadgets.  Triathlon is an equipment/gadget intensive sport.  But, that is not a viable solution for us beginner-budget-minded competitors.

Then there’s the question of what is the minimum set of equipment and supplies I’ll need just to finish.  My goal was to not finish last.

More thoughts on training in my after action report:  First Triathlon–Done!

Comment below, or tweet me on Twitter at twitter.com/old454


Democrats have foresaken the working man: Death tax.

The death tax disproportionately taxes working class families, so why do Democrats refuse to reform or abolish it. Don’t believe me? Read on. . .

The Democratic Party in the United States has forsaken the base they so loudly claim to represent. Working men and women, the working class, as they are referred to are not represented by the Democratic Party. Certain segments of that demographic, particularly Black Americans, are particularly not represented. In fact, I would venture to say that the interests of Black Americans, in particular, but the working class in general, are harmed by the policies and positions of the Democratic Party. Three examples of this negative representation are illustrated in three party platform issues: The death tax, social security reform, and welfare reform. Each of these examples represents area where working class people could really benefit from dramatic reforms, but the Democratic Party has classically resisted.

One of the most ironic issues affecting working class Americans is the death tax. This is a tax, which ostensibly is supposed to even the playing field in the transfer of wealth between generations. One of the strongest proponents of the death tax is Warren Buffet. He argues that a major barrier to meritocracy, versus a defacto aristocracy is the issue of wealth being tranferred from the generation that earned it, to following generations did not earn it, but due to no particular merit of their own, can now wield that wealth. This is a true issue, however, the mechanism of the death tax only serves to exacerbate this disparity.

The generationally educated and wealthy are not deeply affected by the death tax. They have the financial sophistication to establish estate transfer mechanisms which greatly side step the deliterious effects of a 50% tax on one’s entire estate. There are many technical and legal mechanisms and entities that allow the wealth to be preserved and passed along, largely unaffected by the 50% tax. However, one must have the advisors and the advance planning in place to take advantage of these. The entrenched wealthy do, and the working class stiff generally does not.

On the face of it this may seem like a non starter because the death tax is only effective on estates valued at 3.5 million dollars or higher, and which low educated working class family would fall into that categroy? The answer, as it turns out is many would. Take my grandfather for example, a child of the Jim Crow era, his father was an ex-slave. My grandfather served in WWII, and after that as a young man, came out to a world that did not offer many breaks. He made his own breaks. He was a carpenter, a general contractor, a junk man, and a landlord. He worked every day of his life until alzheimer’s got the upper hand. He honored his word. He paid his way in cash. When he died, he had amassed a small fortune, primarily by the sweat of his brow, and the strength of his character. What he did not do was finish high school, let alone learn anything about estate planning.

My grandfather’s story is not unique. There are millions of plumbers, truck drivers, teachers–working class people who will die with sizeable estates, and be victims of the death tax.

Our United States Senators, Congressman, and Presidents are not stupid people. They know that the wealthy may pay some tax, but it does not approach the percentage that the death tax will cut from a the small roofing company owner. As I said, they are not stupid, and they have heard the argument I’m making before. There are smaller caucuses in the Democratic party that argue against the death tax, for the very reasons I lay out here. So it is not that the Democratic National Committee, or the Democrats in Congress or the White House, do not know what the death tax actually does. What I can’t seem to get my head around, is why, when the death tax so disporportionately taxes the people it is supposed to create equanimity for, do Democrats oppose its reform, or ablolishment? Why when it so unfairly taxes their loyal constituency,
do Democrats insist on it continued existance?

Well this rant has gone on long enough. The other two issues, I will need to address in a future posting.

Night of the Living Death Tax: Obama’s budget quietly resurrects it in 2010.

Beating the estate tax to death: With estate tax set to end this year, retroactive lawmaking in 2010 is likely
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Bad Day on the River

canoe on river shore lineThere was a bad day on the river last week.  The family and I were canoeing along the Buffalo River in Arkansas on vacation with a larger group.  A park ranger rushed up to borrow one of the canoes, stating there was a “lost party” down stream.  Heading down stream ourselves, and the understated description of  “lost party”, we lent the canoe, not thinking much of it.

My family, in two canoes, was dragging behind the group, having a generally good time.  I saw Jason (from the larger group), and another fellow, dragging a canoe upstream–it took a moment to process that there was a body in the bottom of the canoe next to a girl performing CPR.  I paddled to the bank, pulling the canoe ashore, hopped out and attempted to catch Jason and help pull the canoe.  The river stones forced me to go back for my sneakers, and run to catch up.  By the time I got there, the other fellow helping Jason was wasted.

I pushed, Jason pulled.  Very quickly, every step became a lung bursting effort.  My sneakers filled with river gravel.  I tried to encourage the girl, and keep her on task.  She had a gruesome task–trying to keep that kid alive in the bottom of the canoe, as we drug it upstream.  He appeared to by about 18.  The ranger had yelled that there was an ambulance waiting at the only real landing area upstream.

The whole time, my brain screamed for another, better, faster way to do this.  But there really wasn’t and keep the CPR going.  The bluffs on either side of the river went straight up, and where there were no bluffs, the woods yielded no indication of roads or trails.

It seemed an interminable time.  I could feel the burn in my thighs from my hill runs that morning. I damned having ran that morning. My lungs burned.  Jason wasn’t in better shape.  The girl was freaking out.  “Don’t pound on his chest.”  “OK, now give him some breaths.”   “Keeping going, you’re doing good.”  His chest was flacid.  The kid did not look good.

We finally got him to the shore, and the damned medics seemed to take their sweet time.  They wanted the canoe up a little, a better landing area.  We drug it up some. I cursed and berated them.

They strapped the boy to a board,  put the squeeze bag over his face, loaded him into the back of park pickup.  One medic resumed CPR, and the truck drove off.  People from the boy’s party were just now catching up.  They were sobbing.  The girl was done.  She talked to the rangers.

Jason and I were dazed.  We caught our breath.  The initial park ranger came up and gave us more details.  The kid went under with a cramp in his leg.  His group admirably searched for him for 15 minutes underwater, and found him just as she came upon them.  The main portion of our party arrived just as they were pulling him up.  The kid’s group was at just the next swimming hole down from where we first were.  One of the other women with us, a nurse, administered the initial CPR.  She later reported things did not look good then.

My family came upon the canoe moments later.

I didn’t get to talk to anyone in the boy’s party.  I wouldn’t have known what to say.

The next evening we found out the kid died.  His name was Justin Eugene Clark, 21 years old, from Augusta, Arkansas.  Justin was under water just too long.  It was a horrible thing.

I’m not sure what lessons there are here.  I regret having run that morning.  But then, if I weren’t in fit shape, I couldn’t have done that drag.  That was just damn hard.

Justin’s party just didn’t have anyone capable of completely addressing a situation like that.  More fitter swimmers/divers.  The girl did the best she could with the CPR, but it was too much emotionally.  Then again, it may not have made a difference–he was under too long.

I didn’t see anyone that could have made that drag.  And even if they could, Jason knew the sand bars & deep water, without which the drag would have been nearly impossible.

They were in the next swimming hole.  If we had moved on earlier, we may have been able to help.  Then again, if we were downstream from them, we wouldn’t have even known it had happened.

There were other parties on the river that day. I’m sure some could have helped.  I’m not sure why they didn’t.

  • Do you know CPR well enough to perform under these conditions?
  • Are you fit enough to help in something like this?
  • Are you a strong enough swimmer to keep cool if something goes wrong with you, or help with others?
  • Would you have helped that day, or stood by feeling helpless?

I’m glad we came upon the incident, as tragic as it was, because otherwise Justin stood no chance.  By aiding we at least gave him a chance.  I haven’t spoken with his family, but I would want them to know that their boy did not die while strangers stood by.  Strangers on the river that day did all they could to help their boy.

Links to stories & reports.  You’ll find that they miss many of the details I’ve discussed: