The Undecided Philosopher

The ideas and rants of a former philosopher and a present-day geek....Enjoy!

Friday, September 22, 2006

You Might Be Too Partisan...

Most mornings during my daily commute, I have Don Imus on the radio in the background. Today was no exception. A conversation with Jeff Greenfield caught my attention and motivated me to turn up the volume and pay a little attention. For those of you that do not know, Jeff Greenfield is the Senior Political Analyst for CNN, an author of several books, and a generally good talking head. Mr. Greenfield was ranting this particular morning about the nature of political partisanship in the US, and more specifically, how Americans have become too partisan in their everyday lives. In many cases, Mr. Greenfield expounded, free thought and analysis has been replaced with partisan alignments. What caught my attention was his use of the phrase " might be too partisan" when referring to the blanket support of a White House initiative. With all respect and nods to another great Jeff (Foxworthy), that phrase tickled my funny bone and sent me down the path of creating several new editions to the "You might be..." joke reel. For those of you that might be interested, here goes:

"If you hate going to the circus because of all the elephants....You might be too partisan."

"If you plan the route of your summer vacation to include only the red states....You might be too partisan."

"If you use the death toll from the war on terror as a polling number....You might be too partisan."

"If the Fox News logo is burned into the corner of your TV....You might be too partisan."

"If you cast a write-in vote for Jed Bartlet in 2004....You might be too partisan."

"If you get a twisted sense of joy riding donkeys to the bottom of the Grand Canyon....You might be too partisan."

"If you stopped watching Law and Order because Fred Thompson's character was replaced....You might be too partisan."

"If the site of cowboy boots makes you queasy....You might be too partisan."

Suggestions are welcome. Try the prime rib. Tip your waitresses. I will be here all week.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Start Your Ivy League Education for Free!!

In an article reported by Reuters and MSNBC, Yale University has announced it will be providing access to video lectures, syllabi, and transcripts to several 2007 classes via the Internet and free of charge. Yale's stated motivation is to make the school more accessible. Personally, I believe this program is outstanding for several reasons, including but limited to its ability to fuel the curiosity of old folks like me who miss the challenges of academic achievement. Oh yeah, it also helps other people like students and such, but lets focus on me and my needs.

Unfortunately, participation in these online classes does not count toward a degree at Yale - darn it. But it is still an excellent opportunity to peer through the academic window of an elite institution and see how you stack up intellectually. Also, it is important to note that at least one of the 7 classes is a classic - "Introduction to Political Philosophy". You cannot go wrong with a good philosophy class that embraces the intricacies of political theory at its most basic. Other classes include "Introduction to the Old Testament" and "Fundamentals of Physics". The latter may be a little difficult. I am not sure how you can pull off the lab work from home.

I will provide links to the classes in the future as they become available.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Buchanan Strikes Again...

I realize that I am running a little behind the buzz on this particular post, but I felt it deserved attention regardless. Pat Buchanan has again made headlines concerning border security and the President, this time in an online post for WorldNetDaily. Once again, the most striking part of Mr. Buchanan's comments is his non-partisan tone. The following are some excerpts:

"A president like Teddy Roosevelt would have led the Army to the border years ago. And if Fox did not cooperate, T.R. would have gone on to Mexico City. Nor would Ike, who deported all illegal aliens in 1953, have stood still for this being done to the country he had defended in war. What are these Bush Republicans afraid of? Dirty looks from the help at the country club?"

"Not only have Richardson and Napolitano awakened – they are on the front lines – so, too, has Hillary Clinton, who has spoken out against illegal immigration with a forthrightness that makes Bush sound like a talking head for La Raza. Why is a Republican Congress permitting this president to persist in the dereliction of his sworn duty?"

"Twice, George Bush has taken an oath to 'preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Article IV, Section 4 of that Constitution reads, "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against invasion.

Well, we are being invaded, and the president of the United States is not doing his duty to protect the states against that invasion. Some courageous Republican, to get the attention of this White House, should drop into the hopper a bill of impeachment, charging George W. Bush with a conscious refusal to uphold his oath and defend the states of the Union against "invasion."

Once again, I must force myself to applaud Mr. Buchanan and his willingness to paddle against the partisan stream to fight for something in which he believes.

So often in the last few weeks, the mainstream press has reported on the mid-term election trends and the Republicaresurgencece in the polls due to a shift in focus from Iraq to the overall "War on Terror". National political consensus states that Americans view Republicans as strong on Defense and terrorism. Yet, I believe nearly everyone is missing the point. The issue of immigration is a matter of defense and a matter of terrorism. Open and porous borders breed crime and injustice. They leave open doorways for criminals and potential terrorists to easily enter our country undetected. By endorsing plans that include amnesty and lack fences and safeguards at the borders, the President and his party, as well as the Democrats that come along, are exposing themselves as weak on defense and negligent in the defense of this country against terrorism. The Pollsters are missing the point.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Disillusionment of the DNC...

I have one question to pose to the DNC, the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate, and to all the Democratic candidates running for office this November. "What is your plan?" It is time in this country - it has been time in this country for a long while now - for the Democratic Party to stand up and stop simply screaming that President and his party are wrong. Tell the American people how you would fix the problem. Throw out some ideas. Stick your necks out and actually suggest some changes, or even theories involving changes, beyond the simple idea of "Republican bad - Democrat good".

I am a life long moderate Democrat, and nothing frustrates me more than to see my country and my party dissolved down to the basic principle that change is a solution unto itself. Changing the party in power in this country means nothing. Putting a party in power with strong, clear, potentially new, exciting ideas and executable plans - now that means everything. The VolCon has posted an excellent opinion on the state of affairs in the RNC as they relate to the primary struggle and ultimate victory of Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island. Sadly, I can sympathize with his every word because the DNC created a very similar scenario in Connecticut this summer with its attacks on Senator Lieberman. Both parties are deevolving and we should all be concerned and ashamed.

As I posted with the VolCon, i have tried to write this post three different times and each time, I have gotten too angry to continue. This time is no different. Let me simply say that I encourage everyone to read Rob's post and understand the problems facing American politics on both sides of the aisle. Trust me when I say we are all facing a lose-lose situation.

An Insanely Good College Football Weekend...

Normally my attention would not be focused on college football this early in the week, well, except for the pending Tennessee game, but, after looking at the schedule, this is a weekend made for the college football faithful. Just take a look at some of the scheduled matchups on Saturday:

3:30pm - #11 Michigan at #2 Notre Dame - NBC
3:30pm - #6 LSU at #3 Auburn - CBS
3:30pm - #17 Miami at #12 Louisville - ABC
3:30pm - #15 Oklahoma at #18 Oregon - ABC

5:30pm - #24 Texas Tech at #20 TCU - CSTV

8:00pm - #19 Nebraska at #4 USC - ABC
8:00pm - #7 Florida at #13 Tennessee - CBS

So much football and so few TV's! I will personally be at the Tennessee/Florida contest with the VolCon, the VolConWife, and Mom. This should be a hard fought game with a close score going into the 4th quarter. I am picking Tennessee, not just with my heart, but under the assumption that Tennessee plays its best football when backed into a corner and the close call against Air Force should add some fuel to an already tense rivalry game.

As for the other games, I think LSU/Auburn should be interesting early, though I expect Auburn to be much more aggressive and pull away late. Notre Dame/Michigan is another story. Michigan has looked interesting this year and could prove a tough challenge for Notre Dame at home. I am picking Michigan in the big upset of the day. Miami/Louisville has lost some of its luster with the loss of Louisville's running attack and Miami's loss to FSU. I predict Miami wins by 10. Oklahoma at Oregon is another interesting game, but not for the matchup or ranking. I think the Ducks have been sorely overlooked and expect them to make a huge statement in this game. Watch for Oregon to pull away early if they can keep Peterson under wraps.

I just cannot get excited about the 5:30pm game between TCU and Texas Tech. As I type I am flipping a coin. Looks like my nod goes to TCU.

Finally, Nebraska and USC should make for entertaining football early. I think the Huskers will fight hard through the middle of the third before USC takes control and wins by 17.

Granted, I am probably wrong in 60% of these calls, but it doesn't matter. It is a great weekend for college football, so turn on your TV's, watch me be proven wrong, and enjoy.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Saturday Night Recap...

When I called Rob, the VolCon, to ask him where we would meet as we left the stadium, he simply answered his cell phone and said, "Well, at least you got to see an exciting game." Exciting indeed. Michael, David, and I were certainly treated to an exciting, if not nerve racking game, as the Tennessee Vols squeaked out a 31-30 victory over the US Air Force Academy. Confused by the variety and trickery of Air Force's triple option attack, Tennessee was unable to stop the Academy's offensive onslaught. Fortunately, Air Force's defense was as porous as its offense was effective, allowing the Volunteers to keep pace and carry a small lead into the fourth quarter. Late in the final minutes of the fourth, after recovering an onside kick, Air Force drove the ball 50 yards and scored the potential tying towndown. Opting to go for the win on the road with a two point conversion versus the tie with the extra point, Air Force attempted an option sweep that the Tennessee defense was finally able to stuff on the three yard line. Tennessee's victory was secure and we made our way out of the stadium relieved and a little embarrassed by the Vols defensive performance.

Now that you know how we ended the evening, let me tell you a little about how we got the day started. After arriving in Knoxville, David, Michael, Ryan, Rob, Angela, and I enjoyed some very good BBQ and a few early football games on TV. Afterward, we headed to the stadium to initiate David and Michael in the pre-game traditions of the Vol Nation. We found excellent positions to watch the VolWalk, a processional of all the Vol players and coaches as they head into the stadium. We then shifted over to the grassy hillside north of the stadium to watch the band march into view, playing "Rocky Top" for all to hear and cheer.

Finally we headed into the stadium and to our seats. On the way up the ramp to Section MM, I stopped by a Tennessee Traditions kiosk to grant Michael's only request of the night. He had to have a giant orange Tennessee #1 foam finger. That purchase turned out to make both of our nights as Michael cheered his beloved Vols on with his giant finger and I proudly sat along side and smiled. All and all, if you set aside the defensive struggle by the Vols, it was a wonderful night of football with friends and family. Next week, I will be heading back down to Knoxville for a traditional clash of titans as the Vols face off against the Florida Gators. Let us hope that next week's game is less close, but just as victorious for the Vols.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Game Day - Tennessee vs. Air Force

I wanted to drop in a quick post before the Undecided Philosopher and son and former father-in-law head down to Knoxville for an evening of friends, food, and Tennessee football. The CRV is bathed in Orange for gameday travel and I am breaking in my new jersey. My son is sporting his hybrid Tennessee/Spongebob hat and a sharp new orange polo. The cooler is backed and orange shakers are at the ready. Today is a particularly special day as David, Michael's Grandfather, is joining us for what will be his first Tennessee football game. Adding to the fun of the day, David is also a graduate of the US Air Force Academy, so he will be enjoying his alma mater as well as his grandson.

Well it is time to head to Food City to pick up the traditional gaint UT cookie and start the trip to Knoxville. Go Vols!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Who Needs Enemies...

As a professional geek, I am always trying to keep my finger on the pulse of technology and technology-related business. Imagine my surprise when I came across the following article in one of my favorite trade mags, ComputerWorld:

Intel, Communist Party Team on Open-source
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Intel Corp. has agreed to help Vietnam's Communist Party move its computers to open-source software. Under a memorandum of understanding, Intel will help the party's Central Committee for Science and Education set up a laboratory called OpenLab for developing and testing open-source technology. Over the next three years, the lab will oversee the installation of open-source software on about 27,000 PC's equipped with Intel processors, the chip maker said....

Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service

Now, I do not consider myself an authority on all things open-source, but it has always been my rough understanding that open-source code is based on the ideals of freedom of thought and free and inclusive work by the community. Now, the community aspect fits the Communist model extremely well, but the idea of free thought has never crossed the mind of a Vietnamese Communist leader, except in those situations where he is looking for a reason to dust off the firing squad. This move by Intel is but one in several recent examples in which American companies are bowing to the human rights' crushing standards of socialist Asia in an attempt to tap another rich marketplace. This particular example set me off a little more than usual because of the dripping irony surrounding the ideals of open-source technology. Let me know what you think...

Securing the borders in a different fashion...

Former Iranian President Ayatollah Khatami has been granted a visa by the United States State Department to enter the United States and give a lecture on tollerance at Harvard University. He will be speaking on September 10th and remaining in the country through September 11th as a guest of the university. I mention this not out of my own sense of outrage, which is great, but instead to honor the decision of a man whom I rarely support and with whom I rarely agree. Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts has informed the US State Department and stated publicly that he will not grant any resources from the state to secure or protect the former Iranian President. He will not receive security protection. He will not receive police escorts or traffic assistance in any form. He will not receive a state welcome at the airport. If he is to be escorted or protected, Governor Romney is leaving those duties for the US State Department and Harvard University to figure out. The following is a statement by Governor Romney on his decision and the decision to allow Ayatollah Khatami to enter the US to speak:

"I think it's an outrage that in this season of memory of those that lost their lives, that we would be inviting someone who is a terrorist to this country, and that in particular, this person would be invited to Harvard to come speak on the topic of tolerance. It's outrageous, and for that reason, I have instructed our state agencies, and particularly our executive office of public safety not to provide any support whatsoever for his visit. And that means not to provide the escort and security personnel which would normally be associated with a person of interest of this nature. And it may well lead to them reassessing whether they want to come to Harvard. I certainly hope so."

I honestly find the decision of Governor Romney patriotic, moral, and politically sound. Those are hard words for me to type, think, or even utter, simply because I tend to greatly disagree with the majority of the governor's stances; political, social, moral, or otherwise. I have never hesitated to state these disagreements in the past, nor will I hesitate in the future, but on this occasion I feel compelled to honor a firm stance against an obvious injustice. It is also important to note that Governor Romney is an alumnus of Harvard, making this stance even more impressive. I realize as a pragmatist that much of his motivation is political, possibly weaving neatly into his many trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, but regardless of his ultimate intentions, the decision itself is just and necessary. We as an organized society, local, state, and federal, should respect the sacrifices of those who lost their lives fighting for our freedom, or simply fell during an attack by our enemies. Respect is shown in many ways, and one such way is to cast aside associations with those who have actively sought to harm Americans through fighting against the principles of freedom and democracy and basic human rights. Ayatollah Khatami is one such person who has taken up arms, both figuratively and literally, against Americans and their allies throughout the world. By pulling back resources in his state, Governor Romney honors all those who stand for freedom and those who fell in its name.

And you thought Baby Suri was cute....

Behold the latest pics of little Austin posing for the camera. Don't ask how I got these. The Undecided Philosopher has his ways...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Quick Catch-up Post...

Several things have been occupying my time over the past few days, preventing me from taking the time to post. Let me take a few moments and share a few thoughts about my Labor Day weekend:

- The Undecided Philosopher is moving. The process of selling my house, encompassing all the work, both paper and physical, has taken its toll on me physically and mentally. I spent the better part of the weekend cleaning, organizing, packing, and rearranging every nook and cranny of my home. When I wasn't filling trash bags with four years of collected junk, I was filtering through paperwork looking for mortgage information and utility costs (the latter of which was solved through a filtering of my Quicken records - where would we be without computerized accounting). After much labor and stress, pictures were taken, papers were signed, and a large sign was placed in my front yard, signifying several weeks of living in the fish bowl of a house for sale. If anyone wants a wonderfully charming Arts and Crafts style home in beautiful East Tennessee, drop me a note.

- The only significant break I took from the chore of preparing my home came at 5:30 pm on Saturday when the University of Tennessee took the field for the first time this year against the University of California. To my great surprise, my beloved Vols were easily victorious, destroying the spirit of the Cal Bears by the middle of the 3rd Quarter. I will not go into any further details, as my friend the VolCon has an excellent review of every aspect of the game. Needless to say, I am thoroughly excited about the prospect of the next two weekends of Tennessee football. I will be taking my spot in the stands to cheer on Tennessee as a proud member of the VolNation.

I have several other ideas and thoughts I want to share over the next few days as time permits. I want to discuss the anger and aggressiveness that surrounds the mid-term elections of 2006 and the constant debate of who will control the House and the Senate. I also want to touch on the paradox that is the White House's new position on the "War on Terror" and how that war in some way is supposed to justify, if not mask the failings that continue to plague our strategy in Iraq. The setbacks hindering US forces in Iraq, combined with the territorial losses of NATO in Afghanistan, set forth a foreboding precedent for our global strategy against radical Muslim fundamentalism. I hope to address each of these issues as time permits and I encourage feedback from anyone reading. Until then my friends...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Not Quite the End of an Era...

For the record, i have been a tennis player for 22 of my 30 years on this Earth. And for most of those years, I have considered myself a tennis purist. I don't believe in the idea of "rock 'n' roll" tennis, I don't like to see players on the court in jean shorts and shirtless, and I believe all white at Wimbledon is still a great idea that will never fall behind the times (now equal pay is a different story, but not for this entry). So needless to say, I was not a big fan of Andre Agassi when he hit the tennis scene some 20 years ago. The idea of long hair and spandex on the tennis court, combined with the unrivaled egoism of "Image is Everything" was enough to keep this tennis fan from supporting the "Andre" movement in the 1980's. I found it completely fitting, yet totally ironic that Agassi was not able to win his first Grand Slam title until 1992, when stripped of his image and clad totally in white, he beat Goran Ivanisevic in an epic struggle at Wimbledon. Yet as a fan of tennis, and more specifically American tennis, I feel almost forced to applaude the rebirth of Andre Agassi over the last 8 years, and applaude the effort last night as yet another great moment in the twilight hours of a great career.

For those outside the tennis world, Andre Agassi announced at Wimbledon this year that the US Open would be his last tournament as a professional. He has since then spent much of the summer working to become healthy enough to even complete, suffering through a 20 minute needle treatment on his back just three days ago. After his mediocre performance in the first round of the Open, most thought last night's match with 8th seeded Marcos Baghdatis under the lights would be his last. What happened instead was a display of superior tennis from Agassi, overcoming a younger and more powerful Baghdatis in five sets. Agassi knew that the US Open would be his last great chance to do well in a tournament. He knew the crowds and the media would support him and the USTA would give him all the opportunities to shine under the lights each and every match. And so far his plan has worked out. Agassi faces a newcomer from Germany in the third round, Benjamin Becker (no relation to Boris). Becker is 139th in the world, and a prime target to be overwhelmed by the power of night tennis in Flushing Meadows.

If Andre survives his third round match, he sets up a possible primetime fourth round showdown with Andy Roddick, who is trying to regain his own form under the watchful eye of tennis legend Jimmy Connnors. To me, the outcome of that match does not matter. Last night was all the tennis from Andre Agassi I needed to see to know that this US Open has been special and Andre can consider it a successful farewell. After all the support and cheers he has received from the fans at the US Open and around the country, Andre Agassi decided to give something back. He gave all of us a wonderful night of tennis from an aging American tennis icon, and for that I am grateful.