Thursday, January 25, 2007

People love to pick what pleases them...

That seems to be the case as we see a number of folks jumping for joy over the news that President Bush has an approval rating of only 28%. Reality is that this poll came from CBS News, who as we all recall did a wonderful job of reporting false news during the 2004 election and that led the the downfall of Dan Rather.

In addition to this, sometimes it is a wise idea to see if anyone else agrees with that particular number. So, what I did was look at a number of polls and here is what we got:

CBS News: 28% Approve 64% Disapprove
ABC News: 33% Approve 65% Disapprove
NBC News: 35% Approve 60% Disapprove
Fox News: 35% Approve 58% Disapprove
Gallup: 36% Approve 61% Disapprove
Rasmussen: 39% Approve 60% Disapprove
AP: 36% Approve 61% Disapprove
CNN: 34% Approve 64% Disapprove
Newsweek: 31% Approve 62% Disapprove
Average: 34% Approve 62% Disapprove

So what does this prove? Well, for starters, the President's numbers aren't the greatest in the world. Anyone could easily tell you that. What this does show is that basing your information off of one source is never a good diea. Yes, poll data does change from week to week, but these numbers are all the most recent polling numbers that have come out.

In addition to this, the Average number I came up with off of those nine polls are identical to Real Clear Politics and their poll average. So my advice for everyone is that before you start saying whatever poll number you find is the greatest thing since sliced bread, be sure to double check on the numbers and make sure it isn't a fluke.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

He's Baaaaaaack.....

So it looks like Zeus is back, or at least that is what some folks are trying to do as reported from CNN. By my calculations, the last time Zeus was ever really seen as big news was about 1614 years ago. After all pagan religions were banned in Greece and replaced by Christianity, what few "pagans" that were left tried to keep their old ways alive, but could only make it to the ninth century.

I can't help but think we could be looking at the dawn of a "new" or return of an old, religion here. Now, before everyone thinks I am offmy rocker, lets be honest here for a second. Most religions, in fact all, have been seen as strange and hokie in their own rights. In addition to that, once the message was spread, there were some folks who found that it wasn't as bad as others made it out to be.

How long ago was it that people thought Wicca was just a fad. From what I know, a lot of folks consider themselves in it through one way or another. How about Scientology? Everyone likes to poke fun at Tom Cruise, but even that has a pretty big following.

I suppose the point here is that sometimes folks look for some kind of stability in the crazy world we have now found ourselves in. Religion has always been a very stable place to be. What kind of religion we follow is up to the individual and is one that each of us need to consider carefully. Does this mean Zeus and the other Olympian gods will return? I don't know, but I bet there might be a small following in Greece before we know it.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Fast Times At Ridgemont High

Learn it...
Know it...
Live it!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I found an AWESOME blog.

Chuck Norris is a Republican! Now, we all know how awesome he is. I am sure a lot of us have heard facts about him, but now we can all learn what he thinkg about the world. WorldNetDaily has a link where he will write columns for the website. Truth be told, I think this is rather interesting as he applies a great deal of Eastern philosophy into everyday situations.

In addition to that, lets be honest: there is something to admire about a guy who knows how to be a gentleman and walk away from a possible bad situation than just go in and roundhouse kick everyone in sight. On a personal note though, I don't think I would want to disagree with Chuck Norris. I mean, the man's chief export is pain!

New Jersey to Stop Requirement for Schools to Teach About Veteran's Day and Memorial Day

From CNN: For World War II veteran Sam Stia, a legislative proposal that would cease requiring New Jersey schools to teach about Veterans Day and Memorial Day can be summed up in two words.

"That's wrong," Stia, 83, said Thursday from his Hamilton home, where he flies an American flag at half-staff to honor fallen soldiers. "We're just giving our flag away and our patriotism away."

Stia and other veterans are steamed about the proposal, which the state lawmakers unanimously passed last month and now awaits action by the governor. It was included as part of a larger measure designed to help control property taxes, mostly by abolishing some laws on school purchasing and public hearings.

Other holidays about which schools no longer would be required to teach include Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, Arbor Day and Commodore Barry Day, which commemorates Revolutionary War hero John Barry.

New Jersey schools must observe the holidays under a 1967 law designed to promote "the development of a higher spirit of patriotism." Florida, Nebraska and Washington are among states with similar laws.

New Jersey American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars groups have asked Governor Jon S. Corzine to veto the bill so schools still have to teach about Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

"It's not right. They're not going to know the sacrifices that were made so they can enjoy the protections that they have," said Hank Adams, New Jersey VFW adjutant and an Army and Coast Guard veteran.

The governor hasn't decided how to proceed. "We're reviewing that bill," Corzine spokesman Anthony Coley said.

The law wouldn't ban schools from holding holiday commemorations. But requiring schools to honor the days guarantees children would learn about veterans, said Ray Zawacki, department adjutant for the American Legion of New Jersey.

"If it wasn't for veterans, we wouldn't have been able to maintain the freedoms the Constitution provided to us," said Zawacki, a Vietnam War Navy veteran.

Zawacki said schools frequently ask his and other veterans groups to send speakers into schools before the holidays.

But state Senator John Adler, a sponsor of the bill, cited a 2004 report by a state commission that recommended giving schools more flexibility to decide holiday observations. He questioned whether schools even bother to recognize the holidays.

"I don't believe that most schools fulfill the spirit of the law and the mandate," he said.

Adler said he understood and respected the veterans' concerns, but argued curriculum, not state mandates, should drive instruction.

"I don't think the state should be in the business of telling districts to do every single thing," he said.

New Jersey school officials support the bill.

"It's simply time and flexibility," said Mike Yaple, spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards Association. "There's nothing in the legislation that can undermine the amount of pride and honor a community feels toward their veterans."

While I agree with Mr. Yaple that the amount of pride and honor a community gives towards their veterans will not be threatened, the knowledge of what these veterans have done for the country DOES seem to be at stake here.

As a history teacher, there does seem to be a notable concern here. More often than not, I will ask my students a rather basic question regarding US History. The blank stare that I get back is frightening. Imagine students who don't know who Christopher Columbus is. Imagine the shock I get when students tell me the Civil War was in 1923 or that the Battle of Manassas was fought in Vermont and started when the Monitor was fired on by the Merrimac. How about when a student asks whether or not Stonewall Jackson was actually Andrew Jackson.

As a teacher, there is an obligation to give all students a strong knowledge of United States history. The fear veterans groups have when it comes to not having these days taught about or observed is well founded. The students may forget about what those who came before them died for. Even worse, if a teacher is not going to teach what happened on these days or who these people were, it is possible that the teacher could use their own classroom as a bully pulpit to tell children whatever they want.

Is this right? Must we sacrifice our history for the sake of political correctness? Am I just so old fashioned that teaching history should in the end give kids a sense of pride in who they are as Americans?

Rosie vs. The Donald.....I wish it wasn't true.

The First Wrestling War ended in 2001 right before Wrestlemania X7. It was certainly a momentous moment because the WWF finally defeated WCW and drove them out of business.

Truth be told, Time Warner put the death knoll on WCW, but Vince McMahon likes to take credit for it.

On September 24, 2006, the Second Wrestling War began. It was on this date that the announcement was made which showed Kurt Angle jumped to TNA.

Now, we mark a new date for the Second Wrestling War: January 8, 2007. If you watch this clip closely, you will see the awful match of two impersonators trying to be Rosie O'Donnell and Donald Trump.

Listen to the crowd chants. After a long run of boring chants, at the 7:45 minute marker, there is a VERY clear and audible chant of T-N-A being made by the crowd. There is even a shot of Vince McMahon and the look on his face from hearing the chant.

Even in the worst days of the original Wrestling War, there were never chants for the opposition done on WWF television.

This is a VERY notable moment for Vince McMahon as it shows his company is in danger of some hard competition. If he doesn't wake up, smell the roses, and realize the fans want more than this, He may have to be ready to find out that the markets which he once controlled will fall out of his grasp and he could once again be the Number 2 company.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Lee Jackson Day

Today is Lee Jackson Day. While some folks might have a problem with Virginia having a state holiday remembering two of Virginia’s most famous sons who fought for the Confederacy, the legacy of this date has been around for well over a hundred years.

The story of the day began in 1889 when Virginia decided to commemorate Robert E. Lee’s birthday, January 19. The person who passed this date into law was Fitzhugh Lee, nephew of Robert E. Lee and also governor of Virginia at the time. Like his uncle, Lee had served in the Confederate army as a general in the Army of Northern Virginia. Fitzhugh Lee would become one of many a string of Democrat governors in Virginia after Reconstruction.

In 1904, the decision was made to add Thomas Jonathon “Stonewall” Jackson to the day since his birthday was on January 21. This addition occurred under the watch of Andrew Jackson Montague.

In 1978, Virginia began to celebrate and remember Martin Luther King Jr. for his work in the Civil Rights movement. The problem that had occurred for Virginia, though, was when should the state remember the man. The decision was made to celebrate and remember Martin Luther King Jr. on New Year’s Day. The governor at the time was John Nichols Dalton.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan approved an act by Congress which set January 15 as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. For Virginia, this date fell very close to Lee Jackson Day. As a result, it was decided to combine the two days together. This would occur during Chuck Robb’s tenure as governor. Needless to say, a number of lawmakers could not help but notice the contrast of having a single day celebrating both extremes of the spectrum when it came to southern history.

In 2000, Jim Gilmore separated the two holidays by moving Lee Jackson Day to the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

What is really interesting to note is that this is the first time in recent memory that I can think of that MLK Day actually falls on the date Congress said it was to fall on. As far back as I can remember, MLK Day was always on the third Monday of January. In looking up the history behind the day, MLK Day certainly was met with a great deal of opposition. Jesse Helms had argued that King was not worthy of having a national holiday named after him citing King’s opposition to the Vietnam War and possible Communist leanings. After Congress showed an overwhelming support for a national holiday for King, President Reagan signed it into law. It wouldn’t be until 1986 for the nation to take hold of it, but Virginia still was able to lead the nation by having the holiday on the books first.

As for Lee Jackson Day, this seems to be a day which has pretty much fallen into obscurity for the people of Virginia. Interestingly enough though, not everyone seems to have forgotten it. The DMV hasn’t as its offices are closed in observance of the day. In addition to this, I know for a fact that it is impossible for a person to get a parking ticket on Lee Jackson Day in Alexandria. It is actually a law on the city books. While I am sure there are a few other laws pertaining to Lee Jackson Day throughout the state, we should use this date as a way to remember all of Virginia’s sons and daughters who have made an impact on our state’s history.

For better of for worse, the legacy of the Civil War in Virginia can be seen throughout the majority of the state. However a person may view the South and the Confederacy, it is still impossible for anyone to deny the valor of those who stepped onto the battlefield and were willing to stare into the face of death and refuse to blink.

Ensuring that we remember this date is something that is important to Virginia. By acknowledging this aspect of American and Southern history, we as a people will never forget the lessons of the past when it comes to government, equality, courage, valor, honor, dignity, and respect. So on this day, let us remember these words:

“In spite of failures which I lament, of errors which I now see and acknowledge, or of the present aspect of affairs, do I despair the future? The truth is this: the march of Providence is so slow, our desires so impatient, the work of progress is so immense, and our means of aiding it so feeble, the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”-Robert E. Lee

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Cover Has Been Released

I decided to reread the entire alternate history timeline written by Harry Turtledove where the Confederate States of America were successful in defeating the United States of America in the Civil War.

The major change in history is when Special Orders 191 is not lost by a Confederate courier and discovered by the Army of the Potomac. Instead, Robert E. Lee leads the Army of Northern Virgnia into Pennsylvania and defeats the Union at Camp Hill, captures Philadelphia, and threatens to take Washington DC. The end result is the victory and independence of the South.

In How Few Remain, the CSA buys the Mexican provinces of Sonora and Chihuahua in order to expand to the Pacific. The United States is not thrilled by the plan and President James G. Blaine decides war is the only option. The end result of the Second Mexican War is another defeat for the United States and the loss of half of the state of Maine.

Turtledove then moves on the series. In the Great War Series, the books The American Front, A Walk In Hell, and Breakthroughs look at the American continent in relation to how the USA and CSA fight Word War I. In the end, the United States and Germany find themselves victorious over the Entente (UK, France, Russia, CSA) and decide to impose harsh terms on their defeated foes. This will lead to the next series...

American Empire, which also has three books: Blood and Iron, The Center Cannot Hold, and The Victorious Opposition. This series looks at the time after WWI and the Depression. We see the USA in a state of jubilation as they are winners, but the CSA goes through hyper inflation and the rise of radical political parties. The party focused heavily on is the Freedom Party. This party will rise up like the Nazis and will take over the Confederate government. The series will end on June 22, 1941. If you know your history, you might be able to figure out what is rather unique about this date.

And now we enter into the final series: Settling Accounts. Return Engagement, Drive to the East, and The Grapple show how World War II is waged between the USA and CSA. Early in the war, the CSA is doing a surprisingly good job at beating the USA, but as time goes on, the CSA find itself on the losing end of the stick and are being pushed back faster than they realize.

Now we enter the last chapter of the saga. The book is entitled In At The Death. It is clear to me that the Confederacy is going to be annexed back into the United States of America. The real question is how everything will look in the end. While I have to wait a few more months to find out the answers to my questions, I at least now know the cover of the book. Here it is. Any thoughts on the series. I think people might find it interesting. Enjoy!

Monday, January 08, 2007

The 2006 Word of the Year

"Plutoed" was chosen 2006's Word of the Year by the American Dialect Society at its annual meeting Friday.

To "pluto" is "to demote or devalue someone or something," much like what happened to the former planet last year when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto didn't meet its definition of a planet.

"Our members believe the great emotional reaction of the public to the demotion of Pluto shows the importance of Pluto as a name," said society president Cleveland Evans. "We may no longer believe in the Roman god Pluto, but we still have a sense of personal connection with the former planet."

This comes from Yahoo News. I got to admit, the planet didn't get any respect, but now it will be remembered. I can't help but wonder if it would be a bit of an irony if someone were to pluto the International Astronomical Union one day by showing Pluto really IS a planet. Only time will tell.

Did Tigger Really Punch A Kid Out?

I've watched the video and listened to a couple of stories on this. I'm not too sure if the kid is totally innocent in all of this. His arm I think is far enough to grab the tail or maybe a zipper. The problem is that there is no real way to tell exactly. As for Tigger's reaction, I am not too certain if he did or didn't do the right thing. So I pose these questions: Is Tigger at fault? Did he do the right thing? Was the kid really at fault? Do you think the dad might be seeing dollar signs in all of this?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Cutting Through the Spin on Cloning

As I mentioned yesterday, Father Tad presented our school with why cloning is not something Catholics should be in favor of. In reality, this whole presentation seemed to be to me a rehashing of his presentation stem cell research, but with a new angle that involved cloning. In addition to that, his audience of about 1500+ only had maybe 200-300 awake the entire time. Everyone else was out like a light, including a number of faculty.

So here is what we got when it came to the presentation:

-We start with Embryonic Stem Cell research by showing that the stem cells are retrieved from a five day old embryo. This is a background piece for those who might not remember or never knew that to begin with.
-We move on to cloning and his different myths. Before going into this, we need to know what cloning is. Imagine plucking a hair from your head and at the tip is where the DNA is. One takes the DNA cells and places it into an empty egg cell. After some stimulation to the fertilized egg, a human being is created. This human happens to be you. This is what is known as Reproductive Cloning. The problem with this is that there are inherent risks to cloning a straight human being. As Father Tad put it, it is like trying to flip thousands of genetic switches at once. The other type of cloning which is out there is Therapeutic Cloning. In this particular aspect, we would clone organs and tissue to help people. Problem, as Father Tad shows, is that you till create a life with the embryo and are killing it in order to harvest the human being.
-The other myth he discussed was Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer, which is just another name for cloning but sounds different so as not to freak out voters. The key element to all of this is that it does involved a lot of egg harvesting, which can negatively affect 35% of women who do it with pelvis pain, infertility, stroke, and death.
-Father Tad also discussed fetal farming, and how this could be done with cloning so that people would have extra organs. The plan to get these organs would be to have the baby go to 9 months and then abort it before birth, thus getting the organs.

After listening for an hour to his speech, I got to admit I was getting sleepy. Even typing this out is getting me sleepy again. However, for me, my concerns to embryonic stem cell research and cloning comes from a different angle. I will be the first to admit that stem cell research can have a lot of good for people. It can most likely help cure people of diseases. The problem is a scientist WILL eventually come along and decide to go one or two steps further in the name of science.

The doctor might say, "Why don't we offer parents the ability to create the perfect child." See the movie Gattaca for that scenario. Or, what if Kim Jong Il or Al queda, or someone even worse decides to go with cloning and clones their leader? See The Boys from Brazil on that one. The biggest concern though is what happens if we combine both of these where doctors create the perfect people and one of them develops the cognitive reasoning that says, "Wait a minute! We are better than flawed humans. Our strength, our intelligence, everything which makes us unique makes us the master race." Sound familiar? If so, then it would seem science would let Hitler's dream of the Aryan race come to life.

I know alot of what I am saying sounds like science fiction, but what other crazy notions have sounded like science fiction? Flight, airplanes, going to the moon, computer that fit on a desk, small hand held communication devices, organ transplants.

My point here is that while there are new medical fields being opened to us to help cure diseases, perhaps we should spend more time and resources isolating the EXACT causes of the diseases we are battling and then work on neutralizing it. It sounds pretty simple to me.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Father Tad Pacholczyk and Cloning

Tomorrow will be a pro life assembly at the school I teach at. For those wondering, it is a private Catholic school, thus explaining why we are having this assembly. Last year, Father Tad showed up to talk about stem cell research and why embryonic stem cell research is a bad idea. The general review by the students was simply the following: ZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZ. I wish I was kidding on this, but if you need confirmation, ask James Martin at Virginia Progressive on this one and he will confirm it.

I will talk about what he has to say on cloning tomorrow. Personally, I am interested in what he has to say namely because cloning is something (being the sci fi junkie that I am) that interests me. There are a number of practical applications and concerns that need to be addressed on this issue. So stay tuned tomorrow for my report on this assembly.