Monday, August 11, 2008

On Books

THE ONE PERCENT DOCTRINE by Ron Suskind, published by Simon & Schuster, the edition I reviewed was the 2007 Trade Paperback. It retails at $15.00 and is 375 pages in length.

Suskind is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist having won his award for his feature reporting in the Wall Street Journal. Here he reports on how our intelligence agencies, particularly the CIA, and the White House, especially the President and the Vice President, reacted after the events of 9/11. His main point is that the desire to calm the public and to prevent another terrorist attack drove the intelligence agencies to ever greater lengths to match their leaders words with deeds, eventually leading to torture and the apparent fudging of intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

His prose is smooth, conversational, and highly readable. His sources are at the very top and he uses their information to make the reader feel that they are at the table, or in the field, when the decisons are being made and/or the action is going down. This intense you-are-there style offers plenty of intensity and insight; in particular the interplay in the Bush cabinet and how its makeup guaranteed the end of Saddam Hussein's rule in Iraq (an outcome that Suskind, in this book, argues was pre-ordained, with or without the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by al Qaeda).

This view is helped by Suskind's essential premise, regarding the power struggles at the top of the American government: "In these complex engagements of powerful men, it is important not to overlook basic human interaction..." (page 25). This personality-centric view of human history is crucial to Suskind's understanding of events post-9/11 (through essentially 2004) because it allows him to view history in a correct and profound manner as the results of decisions made by men which shape events, rather than the pendantic and limiting view that people are somehow shoved around by events. This latter view is obviously an incorrect way of viewing reality, for instance: does anyone believe that our recent history would be the same had Al Gore been at the helm on 9/11 rather than Bush? Case closed.

This book will change the way you view recent history and I recommend it to everyone who wants to understand what has happened to America in the last seven years.

One small note to Mr. Suskind and Mr. Tenet: the headquarters of Microsoft is located in Redmond, Washington, not Redmond, Oregon (page 342)!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Warning To Obama and Clinton: Beware Scorpions

You know the old story. An animal, be it a frog, or a squirrel, or some other woodland creature, is about to cross the river when a scorpion approaches and asks for a ride. The creature is dubious saying that if it lets the scorpion ride across then the scorpion would have to agree not to sting it during the crossing because if that would happen they both would drown. And sure enough halfway across the scorpion stings it and as they are both drowning the creature asks the scorpion why, and the scorpion replies: "it's what I do." In other words some creatures cannot help themselves, their nastiness is natural, and a bit self-desctructive as well.

Well, I propose an alternate ending.

The creature swims across the river to the other side and up the bank to safety. The scorpion crawls off and the creature thanks it for keeping to it's bargain, and the scorpion says, "Sure, no problem," and then stings the creature, and as the creature is dying it asks why and the scorpion replies, "it's what I do, but I'm no dummy, I waited until you carried us across to safety. If I'd stung you while we were both in the river, we'd both be dead."

I propose Hillary Clinton, her husband, and their political team are smart scorpions. They have waited until Barack Obama has delivered them to the convention before demanding that her name be placed in nomination, supposedly for purposes of emotional closure for her supporters.


Don't do it Barack. She'll bite you.

And then this past week his campaign helped the Clintonistas along by asking the rules committee to reinstate the full compliment of delegates to Florida and Michigan (who were initially stripped of -- all -- and eventually -- half -- of their delegates as punishment for disobeying party rules and holding their primaries too soon). If those delegations vote at full strength for Hillary she might well have more than half of the total number of pledged delegates on her side. All she would then have to do is ask the superdelegates to cast a present vote on the first ballot thus throwing the nomination to a second ballot.

Her arguement is simple: Obama is losing the election at the same time where all Democrats (except Bill Clinton) have lost it since the election of 1964, and that is during the summer when, contrary to popular belief (which holds that elections are decided in the fall when poeple start to pay attention), the electoral narratives are hardened along with initial perceptions and the electroral process is set, unless a candidate blows it during the debates (as with Gerald Ford's comment about the Soviet Union not dominating Poland -- which clearly won the 1976 race for Jimmy Carter).

If the superdelegates buy that and the nomination goes to a second ballot, Barack Obama will be perceived as a weak candidate who cannot -- for whatever reason -- close the deal. His pledged delegates, no longer bound by party rules to support him past the first round (the GOP forces their delegates to pledge their support for the first two ballots -- or they did in 1996 when I was a delegate for Bob Dole) will be free to support anyone they choose. Chaos will break out on the floor and Hillary will win, and Barack -- and the Democrats -- will loose Big Time (as Dick Cheney likes to say).

Given the above scenario I postulate the following will happen: First, African-Americans will bolt the Democrats forming a third party, call it the Justice Party, with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as their ticket. Many members of the Congressional Black Caucus will join the new party, and they will go on to win a number of seats, probably around thirty, in the 2009 Congress. The GOP will win back both the House and Senate, without African-American support the traditional weakness of the Democrats among European-Americans will be on full discplay. Hillary will -- after a quick post-Convention bounce fueled by the mainstream media (which will love her vampiric rise from the dead) -- fall back, and John McCain will exploit her weakness everywhere but the Northeast, Appalachian region, and she will lose by Carter-like 1980 numbers.

Thus in the end, although she thought she was being clever by waiting until the Convention in Denver to bite, in reality, this nomination must be Obama's or the Democratic Party will suffer a wound that it cannot heal. In effect she will have out-smarted herself and revealed her true nature in the middle of the river.


The safety of the opposite bank is 2012. Can you control yourself and your followers? That is the question. I eagerly await the next several weeks and your decision.

Likely all will go relatively smoothly and Obama will emerge with the nomination and contend with a wily and crafty McCain this November, but...

...the current on the river is swift and the urge to bite is overwhelming. Come on Hillary, you can feel the venom rising in you even now. You know what you want to do. That's it, I can feel your nerves tingling in anticipation; just one little bite, it'll feel sooo good; it's -- just -- the -- wrong -- thing -- to -- do.

What, you've decided to ask Bill what he would do....


Do not put her on the team as Veep -- see above warning about scorpions. Do not let her followers put her name in nomination. See above scenario. If bitten, see the case of Leiberman, Joe, and run as an Independent.

Remember, just beware of venemous creatures; oops, you're a politician, well good luck, and hey, watch out, I hear the current is especially swift for the next several weeks....

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Facts and Questions re McCain's advertising strategy

FACT: The Senior United States Senator from Arizona John McCain proposed sweeping changes to campaign finance laws in legislation co-sponsored with Wisconsin U. S. Senator Russ Feingold.

FACT: These legislative efforts, ultimately signed into law by President George W. Bush, were known as McCain-Feingold.

FACT: A broad-based coaltition including NARAL (the National Abortion Rights Action League), the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), the U. S. Chamber of Commerce and the NRA (National Rifle Association) opposed all, or aspects of, McCain-Feingold.

FACT: Charleton Heston was the President of the NRA at that time.

FACT: Mr. Heston's image (he recently passed away) in a scene from the movie The Ten Commandments where he played Moses was used in an Internet ad attacking Barack Obama by John McCain's campaign this last week.

FACT: Mr. Heston joins a growing list of Hollywood celebrities, including Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton, whose images have been used by the McCain campaign to attack Barack Obama.

QUESTION: Why would McCain want to use a dead man who cannot defend himself, and two young actresses who are not overt political figures, to attack the presumptive Democrat nominee?

QUESTION: Why would McCain juxtapose the image of two young blonde women with that of Senator Obama's?

QUESTION: Why would McCain ridicule and use an image of one of the most iconic and beloved events in Jewish and Christian theology: the parting of the Red Sea, for political gain?

Monday, July 28, 2008

On Politics

Yes to Gates; no to Jeb!

On Monday, June 30, MSNBC reported that Bill Gates might be a possible Veep choice for John McCain. The response I heard in the next several days was over the Moon. Six reasons to pick Gates:

He’s been vetted more thoroughly than any other Veep choice.
It’s an election about the economy. Gates was pretty successful in his last job.
He puts the West Coast into play, something no other Veep would do.
He can write a large campaign check!
It’s an outside-the-box choice that bolsters McCain’s image as a maverick.
Obama’s no longer the smartest person in the race

Plus Gates might be able to help in the upper Great Lakes region, a typical Democrat stronghold which is currently being hit hard by the economic downturn.

Now, as of today, in the Veepstakes, MSNBC touts reports that Barack Obama is considering Warren Buffett, and that John McCain is possibly considering Michael Bloomberg. The press will go wild; I can see it now, the Battle of the Billionaires….

Oh, and what works for Bill Gates works mostly for the other Billionaires, with a few exceptions (whereas Gates does well in the West, Buffett may play better in the Middle of the country, and Bloomberg better in the Northeast).

With 100 days to go Obama has a nearly ten point lead in the polls, but because of the Tom Bradley effect (wherein pollsters are lied to by voters regarding whether they’ll vote for an American of African descent) we will never really know how this election is going until the real ballots begin to be counted (and no chads, please).

The funny thing is Obama had a great week because of his overseas trip, and I doubt he would have made the trip without McCain goading him into going. Talk about a talking point backfiring.

I suspect Rachel Maddow, MSNBC analyst, talk show host on Air America, takes great pleasure in twitting Republicans by mentioning Jeb Bush as potential Veep material. “No,” in the words of Dana Carvey’s impression of Jeb’s dad: “No. Wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture.” It’s been thirty-two years since we’ve had a General Election without a Bush or a Clinton running on the ticket. Enough already. We need a rest. We’re not a Monarchy. If Obama picks Hillary, or McCain picks Jeb they’ll hurt their chances in November. This country wants a fresh start.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

On History


I have been studying history since before I went to school. With my mother’s help I learned to read at the age of four. From that time nearly fifty years ago I have viewed history as something that happened just before I was born.

So to me history is a vibrant flowing organism and I see all of it: ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Biblical events, Persia, Greece, Rome, the Crusades, the great medieval struggles which began in the Languedoc and in Switzerland and continued down through the American Revolution to the present, with places such as Bunker Hill, Bastille, the Berlin Wall and now Darfur, as one long struggle for freedom by those who want to live and love, work and trade in peace against those tyrants who use fear and the misuse of law to enforce their hegemony and perpetuate their illicit accumulation of power and prestige.

Given such a view I have always found history to be endlessly fascinating, and provocatively pertinent to our present information-rich, but often content-poor, era.

In The Eltonian Universe I will occasionally profile controversial figures from history, give my view of them and their accomplishments and ask for your perspective as well. For my first example I will pick one of the most powerful persons from one of the most colorful and well documented eras in history: Julius Caesar from the First Century B. C. and the end of the Roman Republic.


The HBO series Rome has inspired many to re-acquaint themselves with Roman history. And as aformentioned one of the most the colorful and controversial figures from that period was Julius Caesar. There are many who view him as either a hero, or a villain (original meaning: from the country estate – or villa: just another example of urban versus rural bias in etymology). Which was he?

In my view, Gaius Julius Caesar of the prominent Roman family Iolus was an out of control politician who did anything to enhance his own power. His savaging of the Gauls gave a whole new meaning to the word decimate. He declared himself dictator for life. He encouraged those who called him a God (the supposed founder of the family, Iolus, was purportedly the son of Venus). He slept around so prodigiously that the Roman historian Suetonius reported that during his lifetime it was said of him that he was “every woman’s husband and every man’s wife.” It is likely that he slept with the wife of every Senator that assassinated him.

Sure, he gave the Roman commoners part of the spoils gotten from raping and pillaging the Gauls as well as goods stolen from other victims of his foreign wars of aggression; that was only good politics. As for taking care of his troops, well any commander who didn’t share his booty with the troops ended up like Lepidus (a notosiously tight-fisted politician and general whose troops deserted him before an important battle).

Whatever else you may think about Caesar, good, bad, or indifferent, one fact about his life is not up for debate: before him Rome was a Republic; after him came the Empire with all of its excesses, including many emperors who were more like mad, out-of-control Caligula than the relatively quiet and thoughtful Marcus Aurelius.

In short he paved the way for the takeover of the Republic which was completed by his nephew Octavian, the Godfather of Rome, who in typical Caesarian modesty renamed himself Caesar Augustus. In my opinion Julius Caesar was one of history’s great villains. He has a month, a salad, and a pizza company named after him. Too much honor in my opinion.

As for his assassins; well, he declared himself dictator for life. He allowed himself to be worshipped as a God. His only direct heir likely came from a liaison with Cleopatra. Rome ruled by an Egyptian. Too much for the Roman patricians of the time. For the good of the Republic Caesar had to go. They viewed themselves as patriots not assassins. Shakespeare working for the royal families (Tudor and Stewart) of his day viewed them as -- there's that word, again -- villains. Our view today is heavily influenced by Shakespeare's powerful, but historically innacurate play.

What do you think? Julius as hero: the Fallen King? Or Brutus as hero: the reluctant defender of the Republic?

Friday, July 25, 2008

On Science: The Matter of the Missing Anti-Matter.

Question: Who killed all the early anti-matter?

In the early universe there was supposedly a nearly one-to-one ratio of matter to anti-matter, with matter holding the slightest of edges, and that edge is why matter is predominant today and anti-matter found only rarely, and then mostly in small amounts created in laboratories. The question still remains: where did all the early anti-matter go?

The answer I believe is quasars. How to prove this? Get energy pattern absorption lines from quasars and compare them to energy absorption lines from experiments at CERN where matter particles collide with anti-matter particles. If the patterns are the same then a quasar is simply a place, likely the event horizon near a massive black hole, where anti-matter and matter are being shoved together violently. That collision is what I hypothesize gives quasars their incredible power and brightness (with most quasars outshining an entire galaxy for decades).

Research point: I propose that empirical proof for this could be found in the readings of the energy outputs from both quasars and particle physics experiments. Recent evidence points out that quasars are always associated with attendant galaxies (albeit rather dimmer than their attendant quasars), and they are only found uniformly spread out across space at great distances from the Milky Way. The lack of nearby quasars argues for not only their great antiquity, but also puts them in the proper time frame, thus making them the prime suspect in the murder of anti-matter.

Remember this idea is reducible to empirical testing (i. e., it can be disproven by comparing the energy lines from quasars as photographed by Hubble with the energy lines from pertinent particle physics experiments done at powerful colliders like those found at CERN in Switzerland or Fermi labs in the United States). I hope someone with access to this data does the research.

Answer: If the data proves out then it is most likely that quasars are where early anti-matter went to die.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

On Sports


Sports has become a microcosm of society, with all of the ills of society, and not enough of the pure athletic competition that those of who have grown up both playing and watching sports crave.

Well in my case this last month has held two such events of pure competition, one from the comparable Tiger Woods, and another from two classy tennis players, and finally two events where two of the ills of society, pettiness and doping, have reared up in all of their ugliness.


The first was Tiger Woods' incredible win over pain and Rocco Mediate to win the U. S. G. A. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. Just when it seemed he had played himself out he would hit a clutch putt and evntually go on to win. The comentators, including the irritating Johnny Miller, all but said that this was Rocco's one and only chance to win a major. The inference was that Tiger would be back for many more bites at the majors, but this was journeyman's Rocco's once-in-a-lifetime nibble. Well, what a difference a month makes. Tiger is laid up with major surgery which may take up to two years to completely heal, according to Kenny Perry (who had a similiar operation on his left knee), while Rocco is contending (in a three way tie for the lead after the first round) for the Claret Jug at this year's Open Championship held at Royal Birkdale in England. Perry meanwhile, the hottest golfer since Tiger's exit (with three wins in his last five tournements -- and with chances to win two before that) has chosen to skip the Open and concentrate on qualifying for the Ryder Cup, held in Perry's home state of Kentucky this fall.

Perry made a vurtue of avoiding the Open whereas it's a fact that his one shot repetoire, a high fade, would be murdered by the winds traditionally associated with the British Open. What Mr. Perry lacks in golfing versatility; he more than makes up for in smarts by specializing in the courses that favor his game. Woods and before him, Nicklaus, chose courses that suited their game of hitting long irons very high. It's a shot most golfers don't have in their bag. Still, Tiger's one legged victory was a win for the ages.

Tiger, by the by, is on the way to breaking every major record including that for most wins, a record currently held by Sam Snead, but in that case Tiger'll have to wait for a while longer. Snead, recently credited with either 81 or 82 wins, had eight wins stripped by authorities over a decade ago; those wins might be reinstated, crediting him with a win total of 90. With a healthy Tiger it might have taken him two years to beat Snead; now he may need three. And Tiger isn't getting any younger.


A sport badly in need of rejuvenation has now witnessed the greatest singles match of all time between four-time defending singles champion, Roger Federer and three time defending French Open champion Rafael Nadal. My main impression is that unlike in John McEnroe's time, both Finalists were classy and graceful in their attitude towards each other both during and after the match, with both of them saying gracious things about their opponents. It's nice to see that tennis, like golf, is a genteel sport once again. Good manners are in too short a supply in our culture. Tennis and golf help in that they fashion a sense of respect for others and a proper sense of decorum.


Brett Favre. The once and * future * quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. Here's a story that has neither style, nor class, nor decorum. First Favre has worn out his welcome with the annual soap opera of will he or won't he retire. It's grown old. He should retire, and stay that way, or the Packers should trade him. So what if he comes back and leads the dreaded Minnesota Vikings, or Chicago Bears against the Packers. If the Packers are as good as everyone says then trade Brett and win anyway. But Green Bay seems to lack confidence in its youngish back-up quarterback, Aaron Rogers. Now comes word that the Packers are accusing the Minnesota Vikings of tampering. Well, the soap opera continues.

On a personal note, I would just love to see Brett in the purple of Minnesota. I have Adrian Peterson in a Fantasy keeper league and Brett's arrival should mean less double teams and more yards for Adrian. Yo Brett! Yo Adrian!


It's hot outside, it's the middle of July; it must be cycling's greatest road race, the three week test of long distance endurance known as the Tour de France struggles on past the beautiful French countryside with its Castles and quaint villages, mired in yet more doping scandals. This time the Italian climber Riccardo Ricco (already winner of two mountain stages in this year's Tour) of the Saunier Duval team has been forced out of the Tour amidst a positive test for doping, and his team voluntarily left (probably before all of them got kicked out, since several others members has fared quite well in the notoriously difficult Pyrenean climbs in this year's Tour (particularly the Stage 10 climb up to the Hautacam ski resort). Good riddance I say, and the Tour should be commended for its tough stance and tougher policies. Still, doping is a seemingly perpetual penumbra hovering over the Tour.

On another personal note. Saunier Duval climbing specialist David De La Fuente was on my Kenda Tires Fantasy Tour team this year. He got me 15 points for briefly possessing the polka dot jersay for best mountain climber, and I see with irritation that I am still credited with them. All the points from riders leaving as a result of doping should be removed, and those who finished behind them should be moved up. By the way my Fantasy Team (Team Elliott) is slowly fading as Kim Kirchen's hopes for the yellow jersey slip away, even though I also have the General Catagory leader in Cadel Evans and top five GC man Dennis Menchov on my team. (Sprinter Robbie McEwen has been a disappointment, as is the fact that I had this years flat stage sensation Mark Cavendish and dumped him in favor of McEwen -- whose team is understandably working for Evans).

I love the helicopter shots of the French countryside. The history of this most varied of European countries is always on stage. On yesterday's stage we were treated to an aerial view of Montsegur Castle, where the Cathari of mediavel legend made their last stand against the soldiers of the Albingensian Crusade. When they finally surrendered (while allowing time for several of their number to escape with a fabled unknown treasure), hundreds of them were burned at the stake as they sang hymns and refused to recant their Gnostic faith.

Today's society may have its problems, but when you consider what it was like in the past ....