Friday, July 3, 2009

Views on News

There has been a lot of interesting news coming down the wire the past few days and things are slow here at my place of employment, so I figured I'd share some of my opinions on current events. Of course, my opinions are no more valid than those of anyone else, but unlike the newspaper or premium cable news program you don't have to pay for the privilege of reading mine.

F.E.M.A. Gets it Right in Eagle

First, there is recent news from flood ravaged Eagle. Andy Bassich, a coordinator with the rebuilding Eagle effort, says FEMA is funding 13 log cabin kits for individual assistance. It will pay for the supplies needed, and the people themselves will begin to rebuild.

This option was presented by local people to FEMA rather than the usual "solution" of bringing in travel trailers to serve as temporary housing. The homes will be built in a common location, and then moved to wherever it is that they are needed. They'll be designed to accommodate the types of plumbing and septic systems common to Alaska'a bush communities. Most likely they will be less expensive than importing poorly built trailers from somewhere down in the Lower-48, too.

My free of charge opinion is that it's one of the smartest decisions anyone at FEMA has ever made. Don't worry, I'm sure they won't make a habit of it.

Palin Resigning - WTF?

I awoke to the news that Governor Sarah Palin has announced her resignation. My first response what "What the (expletive) is with that?!? She's not under any particular pressure, certainly not compared to the crap that was floating around while the legislature was allegedly in session. She's been cleared of all the bogus ethics charges brought against her, and no one in Alaska really gives a damn what readers of 'Vanity Fair' think about anything, so why is Sexy Sarah taking a dive?

The news conference in which she made the announcement has been described as "hastily prepared" and the video I saw on this evening's news cast certainly looks like that was the case. Being a student of behavior I noticed some things that strike me as suspicious. First, this was not at all a well rehearsed speech. The governor's voice sounded unusually strained to me, and she seemed to ramble more than usual. Although she claims it was a carefully considered decision, the disjointed and strained delivery made me feel like it was a very sudden and perhaps ill-considered move.

Resigning in the middle of her first time doesn't make any sort of sense to me at all. Americans don't elect quitters, and Alaskans despise them. One doesn't survive, let alone thrive, in the most harsh climate in North America by quitting when times get tough. Besides, times haven't been all that tough for the Governor and First Dude the past few months. Certainly not like they were earlier in the year while the legislature was in session. I can't see any way that this is a smart political move.

Now we get into the human nature part of things. Human behavior is pretty predictable, especially when you compare it to the behavior of other large primates. Like chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas, humans have a very sophisticated and well defined dominance hierarchy. We are genetically engineered to seek power, and politicians especially spend their entire lives seeking and exerting power over others.

Humans are also very risk averse. The more of something we control, the less likely we are to risk losing it. We tend to perceive something that is new as being much more valuable that something that we've possessed for a while. Sarah Palin's status as Alaska's alpha bitch is very new, and I would suspect that her entire self perception is wrapped up in her status high within the dominance hierarchy.

So why in the heck would she commit political suicide? My guess, and it is only a guess based in large part on the "professional paranoia" of a long-time career emergency services worker, is that something she loves even more than power has been put at risk, and the only way she knows to save it is to abandon her political aspirations.

One thing you can count on is that in spite of her kind words, Sarah Palin is not resigning for the good of Alaska - she is doing so for the good of Sarah Palin. I'm sure this is going to become an incredibly fascinating story as it unwinds next week.

The Demise of Michael Jackson

Commentary over the death of Michael Jackson has caused me to examine differing perspectives of people from different generations. I'm old enough to remember when "The Jackson Five" started their careers, and Michael was simply the 'cute, little guy.' I never really paid much attention to his work. When I wasn't soothin' to contemporary folk or progressive blue-grass I was rockin' along with the Moody Blues, the Eagles, ZZ-Top and healthy doses of heavy metal (probably why I need electronic hearing aids to carry on a conversation today). Of course throughout all those years I was diggin' on the music and antics of Elvis Presley.

From my pespective Michael Jackson was just a guy who wouldn't go away, a source of vicarious scandal kind of like Madona only more colorful. He had too much in common with a sale at Walmart to suit my tastes (both Jackson and Walmart had boy's underwear half off).

I was a bit taken aback last night to learn that a close friend who is about a decade younger than I was truly mourning his death (fortunately, I kept my mouth shut for a change). When she said "Michael Jackson was my generation's Elvis", I let the thought bounce around in my brain for a while.

Both men were incredible entertainers, taking a ground breaking approach to their art. Elvis style was perfect for radio, television variety shows and movies. Jackson practically invented the music video, and was an ideal match for MTV. Both were eccentric and controversial. Both had skirmishes with the law, both had health issues that dogged their careers and public perceptions, and ultimately, both died long before their popularity waned.

I still don't particularly care for the guy, but I think I at least have a better understanding of the admiration he enjoyed. Like the King of Rock 'n' Roll, the King of Pop is dead. Long live the kings.

Happy Independence Day

233 years ago a bunch of guys got together to bitch about the government. It was probably a pretty typical gripe session, fueled by flagons of wine, runlets of rum, barrels of beer, hogsheads of tobacco and more than likely a few bowls of weed. By the end of the day they had put together a list of their complaints, made a bold statement that they were mad as hell and not gonna' take it anymore, and signed their names in a strong, bold hand.

That day was July 4th, 1776 and the hard drinking smokers are today considered to by the founding fathers of the United States of America. Each year I celebrate Independence Day be reading the declaration these brazen rebels, rogues and rascals sent to King George. This year I think I'll copy it here for you to enjoy as well.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
hen in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

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