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 ....

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The First Entry or Plato's Cave Revisited

In every endeavor there is a first time. So this is the first post on my first blog, The Eltonian Universe. I chose TEU not only to indicate that I have never suffered from modesty, but also to indicate that this blog will cover my take on a variety of areas including politics, science, sports, movies and novels, history and religion where I have either some experience, or insight (or both), but certainly no lack of opinion. The above list is representative, but not exclusive.

My first post is to note that I view a blog as a representation of Socrates' cave as told to Plato. Socrates viewed the real world as shadows cast on a cave wall (a cave in his -- or Plasto's view -- wherein most of us chose to dwell). (By the way it is hard for us removed some twenty-five centuries, or so, from Socrates to determine what were his thoughts and what were the twists and spins, or interpretation, cast on them by his erstwhile student and successor, Plato.)

In any case the Cave is a perfect representation of how we view reality. For the brain, like the Cave, does not interact with the direct world outside. It cannot. To do so would be deadly. So we perceive the outside world through the shadows cast by our senses as they give information to our brain. We truly never see anything. Our optical nerves send information which is flipped and then re-flipped so that our brain can "see" the outside world. Our auditory nerves send information which the brain decodes so that it can hear, etc. So we -- as a species -- are stuck in the cave and we use writings and now blogs as a way to in interpret the shadows on the wall and to offer those observations as an entry point, a window, into our own little cave.

And since we view reality from such a rarified place, we should be cautious about claiming to know everything about the outside world just based on our senses alone. Down such a path lies folly and foolishness. But down such a path, unfortunately, have trod most of the thinkers and observers of the human condition. Which as I note is an internal condition which can sometimes be at odds with external reality.

So, in short, TEU will rip aside the shadowy illusions that we oftentimes cherish and confront us with the harsh light of reality.

As an example in an upcoming post I will review a biography of Aleister Crowley which alleges that the noted counter-culturalist, practitioner of what he called magick, and self-proclaimed "wickedest man in the world" was most likely a member of British intelligence and maybe one of the models that Ian Fleming used in creating the fictional super spy James Bond.