The Pursuit of Knowledge

From the It Could Happen to You, But Probably Not File.

In a camp north of Baghdad, a group of anti-government Sunnis were attending a training class on how to become suicide bombers. The teacher conducted a demonstration, and something went amiss. The explosion killed 22 class members and wounded 15. Suggestion for suicide-bomber wannabes: take the course online.

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Dan Coats, Please Release Me

dancoatsA while back I signed up for the e-letter from Sen. Dan Coats, whom I’ve voted for every time he has run for office. But he has turned out to be the same type of do-nothing, oppose-everything Republican Senator as everyone else. He hits all the predictable Republican talking points. A big disappointment to me.

Many times, I have used the “unsubscribe” link to get removed from the e-letter list, but I keep getting it. The latest edition just arrived. There is a “Contact Me” link, but it goes to a dead page. Congressional competence in action.

How much effort should I put into getting my name off his list? Not much. I’ll just keep hitting the DELETE button when the unwanted e-letter shows up. He won’t, after all, be in office forever.

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When Disney Characters Break for Lunch

In the Disneyland cafeteria, in 1961.

In the Disneyland cafeteria, in 1961.

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It’s really hysterical reading about how unprepared Sochi is for the Olympics. It sounds like quite a mess.

Here’s something from the New York Times: “To appreciate the hotels in this area, it is probably a good idea to think of them not as hotels but rather as a rare opportunity to experience life in a centrally planned, Soviet-style dystopia.”


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Book: “Duty,” by Bob Gates

dutyI just finished a remarkable book: “Duty,” by Bob Gates, the Secretary of Defense 2006-2011. I recommend it highly. It’s the best book I’ve read this year (okay, it’s only the 5th book, but still).

I mostly avoid political memoirs. They tend to be more about burnishing legacies than about history. I’ve never read a presidential memoir, for instance. But I’ve always considered Gates to be a man of integrity, above politics—as he showed in working for every president from Nixon on, with the exception of Clinton.

I felt Gates would tell it straight…and I wasn’t disappointed. He writes very frankly about what he experienced and observed, and frequently criticizes his own actions and decisions. This is not a political book in any way.

For books like this, publishers release excerpts that they feel will do the most to get people talking. That was done with reckless abandon for “Duty.” In particular, they released statements Gates made criticizing President Obama and Joe Biden. But those don’t do the book justice.

Gates makes very clear that he greatly admired both Presidents Bush and Obama. He cites instances where both men ignored the cries of their political advisors and base constituencies, and made the right decisions. He reserved his most critical comments for Congress, for the Pentagon bureaucracy, and for the pols within each administration.

Gates offers wonderfully honest assessments of all the major players he worked with. He had superb relationships with both secretaries of state, Condi Rice and Hillary Clinton, and usually found himself on the same page as them. He personally liked both vice presidents, but disagreed with them a lot (especially Biden). He detested being grilled by grandstanding Congresspersons in public hearings.

But his greatest respect goes to the American troops. I got choked up several times as he wrote about his experiences among the troops. And his words in the final chapter about war—and America’s growing tendency to use military force as a first resort—should be heeded by everybody.


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America is Beautiful in Any Language

After seeing the Coke “America the Beautiful” commercial, I commented that some people would be upset by it. Got that one right. All across the internet are people saying things like:

  • Nice to see that coke likes to sing an AMERICAN song in the terrorist’s language. Way to go coke.
  • DO NOT sing my Country’s song of Freedom in a different language.
  • Dear Coke, Your commercial is a slap to the faces of my Italian and Finnish ancestors who came here & learned English.
  • Safe to say I’m never drinking coke again after they sing an american song in another language, buncha pricks.
  • You can’t sing an American song in another language!
  • America the Beautiful was meant to be sung in our accepted language. Drink Pepsi.
  • Our forefathers are rolling over in their graves. America the Beautiful is sung in English.
  • This is the most un-American commercial I have ever seen.
  • Because of this I will never drink Coca Cola again.
  • Terrible ad, Coke. Just terrible. Offensive isn’t a strong enough word.

On the other hand, many people (like me) did like the commercial. Including:

  • The best part of this super bowl is Coke losing a million racist customers.
  • So you think people who don’t speak English aren’t allowed to love America?

I have friends who are immigrants from China and Latin America. Although they know English, it is not their “heart” language and never will be. Their heart language is Chinese or Spanish. Should we native English speakers be offended if they, and other immigrants, sing “America the Beautiful” in their heart language?

Is the Pledge of Allegiance invalid if spoken in Spanish?

Is that Coke commercial really so terrible?

Have Americans become a bunch of weenies, getting offended over just about anything?

Coke apparently anticipated that some people would be upset. They created a number of YouTube videos focusing on a single language, kind of a “making of” the Super Bowl ad, it seems.

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Chinese New Year


Today begins the Chinese New Year. We are now entering the Year of the Horse. Football fans: draw your own portentous conclusions. But know that there is no Year of the Bird (unless you count the rooster, which is the closest you’ll come to a seahawk).

In recognition of the Chinese New Year, the seven of us in the office today ordered Chinese food. One of my coworkers, Frank, who was born in China, prayed for our meal in Chinese. That was pretty cool.

Frank had taken a gift to the Chinese workers at the restaurant. They gave him a dessert they had made just for themselves (not to put out on the buffet). It was very sticky, with nuts in it. I had several pieces. It was unlike anything I’ve had before, and quite good.

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In Singapore, you can order mashed potatoes from a vending machine. Put in your money, hit some numbers, and hot water pours into some instant mashed potatoes. This goes on my short list of disgusting food items.

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The Biebs Report


Over 100,000 people have signed a petition on the White House’s citizen portal asking that Justin Bieber be deported. That’s the number, 100,000 sigs, which requires the White House to respond. By the same token, a signature drive could reach 100,000 persons asking that Justin Bieber be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, or that Vermont be renamed Bieberstan. So don’t take this petition thing too seriously.

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Thou Shalt Not Live by FoxNews Alone

A guy named John Haggerty wrote a great piece for Salon. He spent a month watching three hours of FoxNews every day, and not consuming news from any other source. Only Fox. He knew that FoxNews was very influential, and wanted to see the affect of relying solely on FoxNews for your view of the world, as is the case with many people.

He watched three shows every day: Fox & Friends, Shepherd Smith, and O’Reilly. That’s a pretty balanced selection from the schedule. He did this during October. His observations were quite interesting.

FoxNews creates an alternate reality for its viewers, who tend to reject any other news sources as the “liberal media.” Only Fox can be trusted. As a result of Fox’s selective coverage, showing only what fits a conservative agenda, viewers come to believe that only certain issues are important. (It’s well-known how Roger Ailes puts out an “agenda” every morning, detailing subjects he wants shows to talk about through the day. That’s why every show in the schedule pretty much hits the same points and in the same lingo.)

For instance, Haggerty found almost no coverage of the negative affects of the government shutdown. In fact, Fox referred to it as a government “slimdown,” and booked guests who tried to explain how the shutdown was actually a good thing. By watching only FoxNews, you wouldn’t realize the terrible impact it had on everyday people.

Haggerty found that FoxNews generates very little news. It’s mostly just commentary, primarily about the damage Obama and Democrats in general are causing the country.

Two major things FoxNews didn’t talk about: poverty, and foreign affairs. When the poor were mentioned, it was in a disparaging way (parasites, etc.). Fox rarely does foreign reporting.

It was alarming to hear Haggerty say that of the three Fox & Friends hosts, Steve Doocy “seems to be the brains of the three.”

He grew tired of the FoxNews outrage. “There is a constant barrage of stories of righteous people wronged by the forces of evil, usually in the form of government…the list of abuses perpetrated on the hardworking patriots of this country seems never-ending.”

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