Monday, December 21, 2009

Solitaire

Do you cheat at solitaire?

What's the point in that?

Do you win when you cheat at solitaire?

Really?

Do you cheat at solitaire when someone is watching?

Does it matter?

Gives a new perspective to Plato's remark--through Socrates--that the most moral person would become the most immoral, vile, deceitful person when given the power of invisibility.

One final question:

Is national security the ultimate cloak of invisibility?


Maybe we're playing solitaire.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Let's Plant a Money Tree



If money is the root of all evil,
what kind of tree are we growing today?

Dennis A Carroll, 14 Dec 09

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Romans Eliminate Christianity

The U.S. is NOT making the same mistakes in Afghanistan that it made in Vietnam.


Nothing could be further from the truth.


The U.S. is going out of its way to make new and more modern mistakes.


On Wednesday, 9 December, BBC News reported that General Stanley McChrystal told Congress:

"I don't think that we can finally defeat al-Qaeda until he's (Osama bin Laden) captured or killed."


"Doing some fancy mouthwork he went on to say that killing or capturing Bin Laden would not spell the end of al-Qaeda, but that the movement could not be eradicated while Bin Laden remained at large." (BBC quote)


Link to the report can be found here.


How times change. Imagine the lambasting General William Westmoreland would have received if he had suggested the Vietnam War could not be won without killing Ho Chi Minh. Ho Chi Minh died in 1969. The war raged on for half a decade.


Additionally, remember the Galilean Herald-Tribune's headline in 30 AD


Pontius Pilate Squelches Christianity With Seditious Jesus' Elimination


Maybe the U.S. isn't making a modern mistake at all.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Alaska Blog


I have officially started my Alaskan Adventures Blog.



The first post has some photos.


Cabin on Virginia Lake. I flew in and spent Thanksgiving day and weekend.

Hope you enjoy them.


TTFN

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lesson of 9/11

Wars will continue until the world learns the importance of an American life.

Dennis A. Carroll
11 Sep 09

Monday, August 3, 2009

Trickle Down?

Trickle down as an economic principle was ripped from politicians' vocabularies after the Reagan administration. Speech writers and political strategists felt it put too much emphasis on giving to the rich and letting it "trickle" to common folk.

While vocabularies have changed, tactics haven't. Bailouts have been aimed at rich corporations. Even the "Cash for Clunkers" wasn't designed to help people; it was crafted to sell cars and prop up the auto giants. The premise is that if the banks and corporations prosper, the economy will grow and bailout main street, even though most of the economy is based on small businesses and consumer spending.

Additionally, main street is about to be hit with another "trickle down." Now that corporations have been bailed out, both Timothy Geithner and Alan Greenspan have predicted that taxes will have to be increased to pay-down the federal deficit.

Hopefully, Americans won't go along with higher taxes, but they are going along with the premise. Most even believe that subsidizing insurance companies, health companies and rich doctors is the best way to provide affordable health care.


It must be said--no, screamed from the roof tops,
"Trickle down works only if you want wet socks!"
Dennis A. Carroll, 3 August 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The End?

When people become dinosaurs the blue rock will continue its spin in the cosmos.
Dennis A Carroll, 21 July 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Furry People?

Many luxuriate in the belief that animals are people with fur, when people are simply animals without.
Dennis A Carroll, 20 July 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Out Of Sorts

How will God sort those that say, "Kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out?"

Dennis A. Carroll
16 July 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Please, Direct Your Hatred

For the love of God, please direct your hatred.

As long as we hate those that live in mud huts and wear rags on their heads and worship those in Brooks Brothers suits we will be safe.
Dennis A. Carroll
15 July 2009

American Assassinations, Inc

Two Pieces of Sophomoric Advice and Consent

Recently there have been stories about a secret assassination program being run, allegedly, by former Vice President Dick Cheney. One example can be found here: Lawmaker won't deny CIA program was Cheney assassin ring.

It brings back memories about a column written at The University of Montana's Kaimin newspaper, by journalism student, Jacob Baynham. Most of his opinion piece was rather benign, but his final sentence boiled my blood. "It can be messy to try to remove brutal dictators, but sometimes it is the only just option." His piece can be found here: The Picture Beyond the Frame: Bread, brutes and the sanctity of an international border

The following is what I wrote as a letter-to-the-editor for the Kaimin:

Brother Baynham’s final statement in Wednesday’s Kaimin is bold, decisive and profound, “It can be messy to try to remove brutal dictators, but sometimes it is the only just option.” It demonstrates how short sighted the Founding Fathers were when they didn’t create a cabinet-level Department of Assassination of Brutal Dictators. To be a just country we must push for that department.

The best choice for secretary of the department would be a decider—someone who is bold and decisive. Brother Baynham has those qualities, but since George W. Bush is already “The Decider,” Baynham would have to be “The Decider’s Apprentice.” In that position, Brother Baynham would be able to use his pen to tell others to use their swords.

This is great! Although Brother Baynham is probably too young to remember, it brings back those heady days of the 1970s and 1980s, when death squads roamed Africa, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. They weren’t afraid to limit assassinations only to brutal dictators. If the words of priests and nuns got in the way of political expediency, they were cut down. If a newspaper worker sharpened his pen without engaging his brain, he was removed.

Assassination is a dirty business, but sometimes it is the only just business. The problem is it addresses only the product of the product. Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, when one is removed, it becomes two, two become four, four become eight. . .

What is more profound is that the lead in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” was Mickey Mouse, not a decider.

As I read the articles about Cheney and recalled the words of a college student, I find myself wondering who was more sophomoric? Thirty years after Frank Church lead a democratic change that brought transparency to black ops, we are revisiting the situation. It's possible that we have already gone where Church warned us not to go:
I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge... I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.
Compare to Solzhenitsyn's words here: Two Terrorisms





Saturday, June 20, 2009

Do We Treat People Like An Unbreakable Horse?

A Hidden Parallel


He might allow You. He might allow the halter. He may allow saddle, cinch and bridle. Somewhere along the line—no matter what—he fought.

That ole’ horse was the worst—he was smart. He eventually allowed you to ride. Given a tough situation he’d bog his head and dump you in the brush to sheepishly walk back to the crew. Impossible for even the best bronc rider to stay mounted when he’s standing the stirrups, stretched-out, swinging a loop on a yearlin’ and Ole’ horse pulls the plug.

The ultimate in irony. After being shown a better life, Ole’ horse remained a horse. Cold wind in your mane is preferred to a straw-filled shed. Wild oats overpower the lure of grain in a bucket. You accept rolling on grass easier than a human hand on your back. Your herd is safer than a corral. There is no reason to conform when the offered reward doesn’t exceed the risks.

We aspire to a stud’s powerful neck or muscles rippling through a mare’s shoulder but only if they assuage our own passions.

When Ole horse didn’t submit to our designs, we abused him. We canned him. We fed him to our dog. He was never turned-out to live.

We never addressed the “problem” of a horse being a horse. We merely twisted freedom into our being free of him.

What more could he want?



Back to Montana Elk Hunting

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Spying on Surfers

They're Everywhere

The sun is shining. It is springtime in Montana, through the window I can hear a Western Meadowlark singing. My wife spotted a fresh baby antelope this morning behind the house. And, I am stuck in the office working on my computer.


In one way this post has nothing to do with Big Sky Vistas, although, if you are reading this you are probably seeing it on a computer. In that way it has everything to do with Big Sky Vistas. I'm inside with a computer and the Big Sky Vistas are outside.


A couple of days ago, I noticed my modem status meter running when my mail program was closed and I wasn't actively on the internet. I have a mac and the internet connect shows a bar graph showing send and receive information. I did a small test--probably not a scientific test and found that if I typed a word on a Word document, there was activity on the meter. My virus blocking software must not have picked it up.


I went to my other computer and surfed for other spyware removal tools, returned to the infected computer and downloaded the software. It found over 80 files that were not part of the system. The files were at the root of my system and could not be accessed by me. I couldn't even look at them. The spyware could not remove the files and I couldn't get them to delete.


It must be noted that as soon as the download of the anti-spyware was completed I got off the internet.


My only real option was to call some computer geek company and have them try to remove it or erase my hard drive and start over.


I took the second option. I don't think I lost much, but I will spend a remarkable spring weekend getting things reloaded.


I'm not sure where I picked up the spyware, or how long it had been on the drive. It is upsetting to me that there are so many obviously capable people that don't use their talents for good, but to cheat and steal from others.


There is a lot of good information about spyware, malware and viruses.


Wikipedia gets a lot of bad press, but if you want a quick overview, with links to sources it is a good start. For information at Wiki, go to Spyware on Wikipedia.


For better info go to the Federal Trade Commission, Internet Privacy & Security page, the FTCs On Guard Online source of topics, games and videos on internet security, or FTCs On Guard Online Malware Page.


I have included the following tips from the malware page:


If you suspect malware is on your computer:


  • Stop shopping, banking, and other online activities that involve user names, passwords, or other sensitive information.
  • Confirm that your security software is active and current. (emphasis mine) At a minimum, your computer should have anti-virus and anti-spyware, and a firewall.
  • Once your security software is up-to-date, run it to scan your computer for viruses and spyware, deleting anything the program identifies as a problem.
  • If you suspect your computer is still infected, you may want to run a second anti-virus or anti-spyware program--or call in professional help.
  • Once your computer is back up and running, think about how malware could have been downloaded to your machine, and what you could do to avoid it in the future.
Additionally,

  • Don't click on a link in an email or open an attachment unless you know who sent it and what it is. Links in email can send you to sites that automatically download malware to your machine. Opening attachments--even those that appear to come from a friend or co-worker also can install malware on your computer.
  • Download and install software only from websites you know and trust. Downloading free games, file sharing programs, and customized toolbars may sound appealing, but free software can come with malware.
  • Talk about safe computing. Tell your kids that some online activity can put a computer at risk: clicking pop-ups, downloading "free" games or programs, or posting personal information.
Source: FTC, On Guard Online, Malware Page, accessed 30 May 2009

I have already changed my internet habit. Because of that (and other things) my posts here may fizzle out.

This time of year a person should be outside experiencing antelope fawns, elk calves and Big Sky, not sitting at a this desk.

TTFN

Friday, April 3, 2009

Don't Buy the Hot Tub Yet!

Hip! Hip! Hurray!

All the news and business gurus are claiming the end of the recession.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average has had its biggest gains since 1933.

Should we be happy?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

It's important to recall that the recession didn't end in 1933.  

Many people who lived through the depression say that it didn't really end until after the Korean War.

If we are in tune to the Dow Jones Average we should remember that the highs reached before the crash in 1929 were not surpassed until about 1953.  Hmm.  That's about the time people say the depression was over.

Many history buffs will point to the New Deal as the prescription to the Great Depression.  Others point to World War II.  

My belief is that the only thing that brought an end to the Great Depression was a change in people.  They started to save and not depend on a sky-rocketing stock market.  They decided to quit waiting for the "government solutions." 

They returned to being Americans, relying on themselves and each other.  

Bailouts, TARPS, stimulus are just ways of doing nothing while spending money.

We have a long way to go.

Hip! Hip! Hurray!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

It's The Same Everywhere

In the eastern hemisphere the Afghanistan government and international governments are trying to tackle a different crisis.

In the western hemisphere the United States is trying to tackle an economic "crisis."

In a recent article from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting is a good article by Aziz Ahmad Tassal and Mohammad IIyas Dayee, titles Taleban Hamper Musa Qala Reconstruction Efforts.

In it Mullah Abdul Salaam, the district governor of Musa Qala says that after British and Afghan troops retook his district from the Taleban, there has been no assistance.  In the article he says, "My relations with Hamed Karzai (Afghan President) are very good.  But the president himself cannot do anything.  I have problems with Karzai's ministers.  They do not listen to the president and they promise to do things but they never do."

The economic "crisis" in the U.S. is a different problem, however, it appears that U.S. ministers and experts are like Afghanistan's ministers.  They are doing and have done very little.  

House of Cards, a program found on CNBC details many of the overlapping problems that "caused" (my quotes) the current financial situation.  Some of the causes stem from home buyers purchasing homes that they couldn't even pay interest on.  But, that is just the start.

It appears that marginal mortgages were consolidated into mortgage-backed securities.  These mortgages should have been rated EEE, but the ratings agencies routinely rated them AAA--the best with no, or limited risk.

Additionally, mortgage companies "targeted" sub-prime borrowers and then sold those mortgages to financial institutions that packaged and resold them.

Through the entire process regulators were "asleep at the wheel."  Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan had some interesting comments.  When asked about the complex repackaged mortgage instruments, he said that he didn't really understand them.  (He implied that he didn't discourage the use of financial instruments that the country's head financial wiz didn't understand.)  Greenspan also said that if he had tried to stop a crisis, there would have been ten percent unemployment and other negative economic consequences.  Seems that is his reason for NOT DOING ANYTHING.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Anwar Khan, provincial council head said, "Promises made by the government and the international community have not been fulfilled in Musa Qala.  Residents in Musa Qala have nothing.  [ . . .]People are very disappointed in the government, they do not trust government and they do not listen to it."

The situation on both sides of the world are different, but they seem to share the common thread of government officials not listening and not doing as promised.



Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Whoops!

This post was originally written to be a letter-to-the-editor for the Great Falls Tribune. Two days after it had been written, Tom Daschle stepped down as Secretary of HHS-appointee. Which makes this writing a little dated, but it still explains how Washington works.

The New Emperor has arrived and proclaimed change. After ordering no government lobbyists in his government, he changed and hired one. After claiming transparency and legitimacy in his government, he changed and nominated at least two who have followed comedian Steve Martin’s advice and “forgot” to pay their taxes.


One can only assume that since neither Timothy Geithner, nor Tom Daschle have been withdrawn from their appointments, that no one could be found who had paid their taxes. (Maxus Baucusus and Johnus Testerus voted to confirm Geithner.)


Geithner and Daschle are the best men for their respective jobs.


One of Geither’s bold actions during tenure at the Federal Reserve was sending a letter that admonished Citibank for some of its business practices; what “change” will he make?
Bill Burton, The Emperor’s spokesman, said, “The president has confidence that Senator Daschle is the right person to lead the fight for health care reform.” Daschle never led any substantive healthcare reform during 18 years in the Senate; what “change” will Daschle make.


The new emperor seems to be wearing the same threadbare rags as the last.


Were is the Roman who was mature enough to vote for change, but is also childlike enough to point a straight finger and proclaim, “The Emperor, the Senate and the Praetorians have no clothes?”


The Emperor and the Senators need to look up all those roads that lead to Rome and notice that the citizenry don’t run naked through the streets proclaiming new and improved purple garments.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Papier-Mache People

Paper. Sort of a thin subject, but one that is important, especially as more and more people try to become paper.

Paper has little relief. It is so nondescript that even the addition of inked lines makes the paper just a bit thicker than without. When something printed on paper is read, most people want relief--relief from the day, or a subject that is "out-of-the-ordinary." As the British say, something "Extra ordinary." But how many stories, master's theses, dissertations and government documents have no relief? The common threat for a novelist is, "I liked the story, but it took me several chapters to get into it."

In some cases, the stories may not have that necessary element called contrast. A story like that may start, "She sat at her desk and looked blankly." Other stories may have contrast, but the writer never brings it out.

As a writer, I have found the most frustrating element of writing a story is that many people don't really want contrast in the stories that are being written. Or, perhaps they don't know how important it is to the story. They may even have personal motives for keeping the story flat.
Several years ago, a man commissioned me to write a story about some wildlife that had lived on his ranch. I jumped at the story. I started interviewing people, looking for government publications and photos concerning the topic and finding those small nuggets for a great story. In the second talk about what my benefactor wanted, he said he didn't want the story to be about people. He wanted a story about the animals--in this case, wolves.

I was unable to persuade him that without people there would be no story. Without people, especially European-Americans, wolves in general would still be living in Montana with no cares or worries. Additionally, since the wolves had all been killed by government specialists, it seems that without people the wolves would still be here. I believe that his reason for not including humans was to keep his name from the story and show how "good" he was, without saying that "he" had given the wolves a chance. Without people and their efforts and failures, there was a simple master's thesis on the life cycle of some random group of wolves. I lost interest in the story. It was eventually written, but it's not much of a story. No contrast. A better writer could have pulled it off.

While researching that story, I interviewed many government experts and read reams (literally) of publications on wolf reintroduction. No surprise, the publications are written by people who have master's degrees and so they know how to write scholarly, academic tomes. Lots of headings, subheadings and footnotes. The information is there, but it is like reading applesauce--it can be tasty, but after a few buckets, not really that interesting.

Anyway, while interviewing one of the experts, I asked if he had any interesting, exciting or different stories concerning this particular pack of wolves. He came to life. No longer a scholarly, academic bureaucrat, but a living breathing being. He actually showed signs of blood in his face.

He said, "Yeah. One day we were trying to dart and capture one of the young wolves. We darted him four times, but he wouldn't go down." I asked if he wanted to tell the story and he related a great story that included helicopters and pilots, government trappers and shooters, and finally one of the team leaping from the chopper, wrestling the wolf to the ground, and hogtying him with his boot laces.

When I asked him to explain a few finer points in the story, his face lost all animation, and his reasoning mind went to work. He "hymmed and hawed," and eventually said, "I'm not sure that that really happened." I said that it must have--you know with him getting so animated. He said that it wouldn't make a good story to be told to the public and so he would deny that it ever took place.

I never used the story. I can appreciate the heat that a government official may face if dedicated wolf "lovers" heard the story. On the other hand, the story isn't a classified government secret. The story is actually worse than knowing that one wolf from that pack had been darted multiple times and was finally wrestled to the ground by some government "he-man." The entire pack was killed or removed. The ten that were removed to Yellowstone park all died within two years of release. The same lifeless story only about wolves was further flattened because a government official wished to avoid political (read: media) backlash. Since the story was never published, that government official continued to have a relief-less life.

The whole issue of people wanting to be featureless again reared it head while I was researching another wildlife story. One of the government officials had said that she practiced Tai Chi and ballroom dancing in her spare time. She continued and said, "People who I work with can't imagine me doing Tai Chi or wearing stilettos on the dance floor, and the people who know me from Tai Chi or dancing find it odd that I work with wild animals." What contrast! A great nugget for a story. When I started to put the story together I called her and asked about specifics about the type of dance, Tai Chi, etc. She replied that she was in a very sensitive position and wanted to keep everything about her in the media as professional as possible. She found the contrast a highlight in her life, yet she wished to flatten it to fit the scholarly, academic view of a scientist she, and others, wished to present. No Tai Chi! No ballroom dancing!

Three stories on two subjects. Three people--one a private rancher and two government experts. With varying reason, the people and the stories have been made flat as the paper they were written on.

Do we all wish to be paper?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Middle East Wars?

As the Israeli military bombs Palestinians in Gaza the age old mantra, "Ya, but those people have been fighting for centuries," has been heard around coffee shops, bars, and water coolers in the United States.

That is the perception. What is the reality?

Here is a list of the uses of United States federal troops, and their precusors:

  • 1637 Pequot War
  • 1675-1676 King Phillip's War
  • 1680-1692 Pueblo Revolt
  • 1689-1763 French and Indian War
  • 1763 Pontiac War
  • 1770 Boston Massacre
  • 1774 Lord Dunsmores' War
  • 1775-1783 American Revolution
  • 1775-1832 Midwestern Conflicts
  • 1794 Whiskey Rebellion
  • 1801-1805 Tripoli and Barbary States
  • 1812-1814 War of 1812
  • 1813-1842 South Indian Wars
  • 1846-1848 Mexican-American War
  • 1854-1890 Sioux Wars
  • 1860-1877 South Indian Wars (again)
  • 1861-1865 U.S. Civil War
  • 1872-1873 Modoc (Indian) Wars
  • 1877 Nez Perce War
  • 1846-1864 Navajo
  • 1861-1890 Apache
  • 1898 Spanish-American War
  • 1898-1902 Philippine Insurgency
  • 1912-1915 Nicaragua
  • 1915 Haiti
  • 1916 Pershing's Mexican Campaign
  • 1917-1918 World War I (U.S.)
  • 1941-1945 World War II (U.S.)
  • 1950-1953 Korean War (technically continues 56 years later)
  • 1962 Cuban Missle Crisis
  • 1965 Dominican Republic
  • 1965-1973 Vietnam War (U.S. involved to a limited degree before 1954 until 1965)
  • 1967 Detroit Riots
  • 1968 Pueblo Incident
  • 1975 Mayaguez Incident
  • 1980-1989 Arming and training Afghan mujahideen
  • 1983 Grenada
  • 1983-1984 Mining Nicaraguan Harbors (also Iran-Contra Affair)
  • 1986 Libya
  • 1989 Libya
  • 1989 Panama
  • 1991 Gulf War
  • 1992 Somalia
  • 1994 Haiti
  • 2001-2009 Afghanistan
  • 2003-2009 Iraq
What is the reality? From the time Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock until today, the United States has been involved in more wars than the countries of the Middle East.

The wars conducted over the same period in the Middle East could be further reduced when wars initiated, both directly and indirectly, by European nations and the U.S. are taken from the equation.

I have mentioned this point at bars before. The typical answer is, "What have we done to the Palestinians?" The answer is easy. We have armed first one side--Israel, and then several sides, Israel and Egypt for example. Today, Israel and Egypt are the number one and number two recipients of U.S. military aid.

University of Montana Arabic language professor Samir Bitar was a child in Palestine during the 1967 Six-Day War. A U.S. made howitzer shell went through the wall of his family's home during that conflict. When Bitar talks of that day, I see something in his eyes that I haven't seen in the eyes of any one else. Bitar is two years older than I am. (I am 49) I can only imagine what I would think of Israel and the United States if I had had an artillery round go through my house when I was 9 years old.

Each of us in the United States is an enabler. We are no different than a relative "helping" an alcoholic or drug addict.

Going back to one of the themes of this blog, William Graham Sumner's Person A and Person B, we (the United States--each of us) are worse than person A or B. We are an enabler for Persons A and B. While Persons A and B (in this case Israel) wish person C (Palestinians) to do something ( I won't venture there today), we assist. With our perception that "those people have been fighting for centuries," and our enabling, the Palestinians become Person D, the "forgotten man."

As this is written the death toll if 400+ Palestinians dead (mostly civilians) and less than ten dead Israelis. Five of the Israelis are soldiers that were killed by a friendly fire incident yesterday.

Those figures bring back memories of the Pequot War. When one Pequot was accused of murdering a settler in today's Rhode Island, the settlers burned alive 600-700 Pequot Indians. More were sold into slavery in Bermuda. Not only are the numbers similar, but Puritans praised the massacre in the name of God. How things stay the same.



"What experience and history teach is this--that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it."
G.W.F. Hegel