I am convinced that Mitt Romney is more qualified to be president than Barack Obama

Given Mitt Romney’s experience in the world of business and Obama’s fair-to-middling handling of the nation’s economy, I think that it is clear that a business mogul is the better choice of president than a constitutional academic.

Mitt Romney will always put his ability to make money ahead of all else, so you can be sure that he will do the same for the American economy.

For example, Mitt Romney invested $75 million in a company that disposes of medical waste including aborted fetuses from planned parenthood.  Although he is staunchly anti-abortion, he doesn’t mind making money off of other companies other people who perform abortions.

Another example is the 2002 winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, which Romney oversaw.  If you remember these Olympics, they were criticized for its extreme expense and financial waste.  Obviously with Romney’s experience, he would have been able to run these games effectively.  Instead he chose to funneling money into absurd deals which gave Utah billionaires (who happen to be his friends) sweet deals and allowed them to make millions off portions of the game that should have cost a percentage of that.  That’s what happens when you put a shrewd businessman whose priority is on making money in charge of the Olympics.  His main priority will not be the Olympics, but how he can create profit off of it for himself and his business partners.

Although it’s clear that Mitt Romney is more well-equipped than Barack Obama to handle the job as president, I’m not sure why we should expect him to to the country first after decades of business practice that puts himself as a greater priority than the business he is in charge of…or even his own morality.

So yes, if Mitt Romney wanted to I’m sure that he could balance the budget, erase the national debt, and reform the country’s practices to put America on the right track to prosperity.

I’m just not convinced that he wants to.

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Really? We’re now holding presidential candidates accountable for what they do in high school?

This was the question was posed to me when I re-posted the news about Romney’s malicious bullying in high school:big-bully-and-little-bully

Really? We’re now holding candidates accountable for what they do in high school? Most people outgrow the stupid things they say and do in high school and become productive members of society.

Oh, America and its binary way of thinking.  Why do we insist on categorizing things down to two compartments rather than considering things as a spectrum?

The above example begs the answer “Of course not!  If we only considered candidates that never did anything wrong as a kid we would have no viable candidates.”

The real answer is more nuanced than an on/off switch.  Binary thinking is limited thinking, more complex thinking takes stepping outside of the trap of the binary.

The question shouldn’t be “whether or not we should hold candidates accountable for what they did in high school” but rather should be “What did have the candidates done at each stage of their lives and should they be held accountable for it?”  Where on the spectrum does it fall and how accountable should the individual be held based on the age that the act was committed?

For example I once set off a stink bomb in my history classroom.  One of my classmates stole a car and went on a joyride.  Another date-raped a girl and went around bragging about it.

Already we have a pretty wide spectrum of actions, but the spectrum extends wider than that.  There are things less serious than setting off a stink bomb and things more serious than date-rape.  The spectrum of “dumb shit” that we do in high school is incredibly wide, and where on the spectrum the “dumb shit” lands will lead an intelligent thinker to decide whether to hold a presidential candidate accountable for what they did in high school.

So the short answer is “Yes.  We should hold presidential candidates accountable for what they did in high school.”

The long answer is “Depending on the severity of act committed by a presidential candidate in his past, we will decide whether or not it is a part of his character or an aberrant act that is similar to acts we have all committed in our pasts.”

The snarky answer is “Depends.  Let us know what this incident is and we’ll score it on a scale where

1 = cutting school on senior cut day

5 = humiliating a classmate in a series of incidents that climaxes in having four friends hold him down and attacking him with scissors

10 = bringing several firearms to school and shooting down many of their classmates on cold blood.

and we’ll get back to you.”

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Bedbugs have given me a deeper understanding of God.

Well…maybe they were bedbugs…maybe not.

A couple of weeks ago my wife was getting bites on her arms and legs while she slept.  From what I knew of bug bites, these looked like spider bites.  After a week she found a strange bug in her clothes.  From what I know of entomology, it looked like a medium-sized tick.

We decided to crowdsource and posted the picture of the bites and the bug to Facebook.  The responses were definite:

“Dude. You have bed bugs.”

“It’s not a bedbug; it’s a tick.”

“I think you are in Denial….Deep Denial…That’s a bedbug, for sure.”

“Tick”

“It’s not a tick.  I’m dang sure that’s a bedbug.”

…and thirty-two other comments definitively declaring that it was a tick (or not).  Some people went so far as to bet their lives on it…one on each side of the fight, so someone owes me a death-pact.

Of course, I didn’t stop at crowdsourcing on Facebook.  We called in a real exterminator, and he gave us the real answer to whether or not it was a bedbug.  Everyone wanted to know, but I was so disgusted with everyone’s (and they are all my friends) arrogance that I didn’t want to give any of them the satisfaction of being right.  They all thought they were right, so I thought it was best to let them all wallow in their arrogance than proving half of them right and letting them be even more so.

This seems like one thing all major religions have in common, not that everyone things that they are right (although this is another similarity of all religions…not every religious person can be right, although they are all willing to bet their souls [and in some cases their lives…and the lives of others] on it), but that in all the holy books I know of (the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Qur’an, the Bhagavad Gita, the Pali Canon) the higher powers that be used to be a whole helluva lot more active than they are now:

God doesn’t flood the earth anymore, lepers aren’t being healed en masse by the followers of Jesus, Gabriel hasn’t made a public appearance, Demons aren’t kidnapping virgins by the thousands, and there hasn’t been a birth-without-intercourse in a while.

That isn’t to say I don’t believe in all of these things, just to say that God (and the Buddhas and the Demons) has been awfully quiet for a while…and thus people argue and fight and get pretty damn arrogant about what they “know” to be true about God.

Perhaps God and I are not that different in our response to arrogance.  We’re different in almost every other way, to be sure…but maybe when we see people (our friends especially) overly arrogant in what they are positive to be true, perhaps we get to a point where we just don’t want to give the answer yet.

I could very easily right here announce whether or not we had bedbugs, but I won’t.  My friends annoyed be to the point where I don’t want to give any of them the satisfaction of being right, and thus I remain quiet.

Could it be that God (or Allah or Krishna) are just so annoyed at our arrogance that we are so sure that we know something (or anything) about Him that at some point He just decided, “You know what?  None of you get to know anything.  You don’t deserve to.  At one point I wouldn’t have minded you being wrong, but now even the ones that are right are pissing me off.  Go on…keep fighting about it…maybe at some point I’ll speak up, but for now I’m keeping to myself.”

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Agreeing to Disagree…How-To’s and How-Not-To’s

Agreeing to disagree is a very powerful tool in solidifying and keeping friendships…if you understand how to do it.

When most people “agree to disagree” it is code for “You are too stubborn to see my point of view, so let’s not talk about it because your stupidity makes me angry…and somehow you perceive a stupidity in me that makes you angry as well.  This is what happens when you approach “agree to disagree” without an interest in respecting each other.

The effective and healthy way to “agree to disagree” is to understand what it is you disagree about and (the second part is equally important) that the point on which you disagree is moot.

For example I close friend and I recently ended our friendship over politics.  She recently had children and I was alarmed by the extreme libertarian view that she had adopted.  I mean extreme…like dissolving police departments and fire departments, doing away with public schools and libraries, shutting down public works like upkeep of public roads and bridges.  So we argued for a while…and a while more…and as much as we argued we could never find what it was we disagreed on.  We both wanted a safe environment (especially for her children which started the conversation), we both agreed that crime and violence was a problem, we both thought that government was problematic.  Somehow for her everything we agreed on meant that government was the problem, and for me everything we agreed upon meant that the government was the solution.  Either there was a piece of information or an angle that was missing or one of us was being illogical in how it all fit together.  So we agreed to disagree at that point.  She agreed that I was an idiot, and I disagreed.

That doesn’t sound like a healthy relationship, does it?

This summer I met a man with the exact same libertarian view as my friend.  I was worried about it at first because I was staying with this man for the better part of a week, and I neither wanted to spend the week arguing nor thinking that he was an idiot.  The solution was…surprisingly…notto agree to disagree.  We were actively interested in each other’s point of view and we respected each other that if they had a view of the world, it must be backed up with some sort of logic.  That active desire to understand the other person is what is prohibited by agreeing to disagree.

By the end of the first night we were down to him expressing that without a government, in total anarchy, the goodness of man would show through and men would be forced to help each other.

I felt that the opposite was true: without government, in total anarchy, the baseness of man would show through and without a superior power forcing them to help each other that they would resolve into the chaos of selfishness and grab-what-you-can-if-you-can.

I looked at him and said “So you think people are basically good, and I think that they are basically selfish.”

“I guess that’s about it.”

That’s where we agreed to disagree…once we had both reached understanding of each other.

That’s the irony of agreeing to disagree…you have to push through your own prejudice of thinking that you are right, actively assume the other person is right, figure out why an intelligent person would feel that way, and (and this is the important one) when the other person asks “Why would you think that?” believe that it is because they want to better understand you…because it’s real easy to take that question as an insult.

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New Years Resolutions and ITUNES MEME

I have two New Year’s Resolutions: First, that 2012 will be the year without ice cream.  Second, that I will make myself get back into blogging.

So to get back into the habit I thought I’d start with with a meme-y analyize-your-itunes-library since I always think its interesting to see how it changes every year.

How many total songs?
  • 6,498

Sort by song title – first and last?

  • First: A.M. 180 – Grandaddy
  • Last: Zousan – Elizabeth Mitchell

Sort by time – shortest and longest?

  • Shortest: The Sounds of John Denver Being Strangled – Monty Python (0:16)
  • Longest: Harry Hood – Phish (15:32)

Sort by Album – first and last?

  • First: The A-Team (Music from the Original Television Score) – Daniel Caine Orchestra
  • Last: Zenyatta Mondatta – The Police

Sort by Artist – first and last?

  • First: A-Ha
  • Last: Zwan

Top five played songs?

  • Spending My Time – Mario Giacalone (56)
  • Amor – Miss FD, Frank Molina, and Haircut 1234 (45)
  • Zombie Casanova – Tin Pan (45)
  • Corpses – FRANK and Three Pints Shy (45)
  • ID – The Nodd (35)

Find the following words. How many songs show up?

  • Sex: 161
  • Chastity: 0
  • Death: 49
  • Life: 152
  • Love: 372
  • Hate: 19
  • You: 691
  • Me: 1,952
  • Home: 82
  • Work: 13
  • Boy: 118
  • Girl: 382
  • Man: 538
  • Woman: 14
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Meditating: If you are having trouble, try movement rather than stillness.

I’ve never been able to meditate.  I feel silly.  I’m sitting there…or lying…eyes closed…or staring at a candle…whatever…and I can’t do anything but think about the fact that I’m trying not to think about it…this thought process is intermittently interrupted by the thought that I feel silly.

So I gave up.

This summer I found myself in a Creek with nothing to do.  It was a lazy day on vacation and we had no plans until the evening.  It was too shallow to swim, so I was just floating.  Without trying to I started to drift.  I closed my eyes and just felt myself being drifted along by the current.  The movement distracted myself from everything else so I didn’t have to try to meditate…suddenly I just was.

Of course because I was in such a state of meditation…and having done so accidentally…I didn’t even realize I was meditating.  It wasn’t until a dragonfly landed on my nose that my meditation was broken and I realized that I realized that I was doing it.  Before losing the feeling I allowed myself to drift into meditation again and after a while I wasn’t even aware of the movement and I was just aware of my breathing.

I was doing it.

I was meditating.

No great words of wisdom in this post, but I thought it might be interesting to share with anyone that was trying to meditate but finding it hard.  The stillness…the awareness of gravity…the weight of my body…somehow I couldn’t escape that until I was floating downstream on a lazy afternoon.

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“What’s the problem with America?” “The corpses aren’t exquisite enough.”

About a year ago I was asked the question, “What is the problem in America?”

Many issues came to mind…healthcare, taxes, crime, racism, sexism, classism, the military industrial complex, the agricultural industrial complex, the healthcare industrial complex…but these are all issues for which the inquirer was looking for the root cause.

To answer this question, I’ve started to curate a series of shows called the “Exquisite Corpse”.

Example:

Stern, Krimstein, Wolverton

Exquisite Corpse by Mick Stern, Ken Krimstein, and Monte Wolverton

The Exquisite Corpse is a collaborative game where three artists work together on a single drawing.  The catch is that they don’t work “together”.  A paper is folded into thirds in such a way that at any given time a viewer can only see the top, middle, or bottom.  The first artist starts in any section that they want.  In the example above Ken Krimstein started in the middle, drawing the torso.  He extended the neck and the legs just past the fold, so that when the paper was folded again the next artist would know how to connect to his drawing but not be able to see it.

The “enforced ignorance” is so that no artist influences the other in terms of content or style.  Whatever Ken was going through in his life, he wanted to draw a man just having learned how to fly.  Mick Stern drew the top part, seeing only the neck (if you look close, you can see where Ken’s lines extend past the fold) and nothing else.  Mick is different than Ken and therefore wouldn’t want to draw the same picture except through the artificiality of agreement.  Where Ken wanted to draw a man surrounded by clouds, Mick wanted to draw a tribal figure alone on the emptiness of the blank page.  Mick’s ideas are clearly different than Ken’s.  The drawing finally ended with Monte Wolverton who didn’t want to draw flight or tribal figures, he wanted to draw a figure submerged into the depth of the ocean rather than raised to the heights of the sky.  How different can you get?

If they were able to see each others’ sections, they would have to deal with the difference between them…what makes them different and what drives them apart from each other.

This is where I think that the “problem of America” lies.  We know that there are differences between us and we assume that our differences drive us apart from each other.

At one point early on in the Surrealist movement when they were developing the exquisite corpse game, one artist wanted to move from drawing to painting.  Breton didn’t believe that the exquisite corpse should be done without folds, and since the painting variation involved covering parts of the canvas rather than folding them, all those that participated in the painted exquisite corpse were excommunicated.

Breton didn’t say much about the fold, but I find it to be the most exciting parts of the drawings.  Because Ken’s drawing “reaches” out over the fold, the corpse has two necks rather than just one.  The legs, likewise, have a “double exposure” where the marks of two different ideas over lap.

This is the solution of the problem of America.

Our differences don’t need to separate us and cause divides, they can be the thing that join us.  The way to do this is to reach out to people that disagree with you.

If I purposely sought out three artists that habitually drew men in tweed suits flying through the air, it would make for a very uninteresting corpse.  If everyone had the same passions, we would predictably have a picture of a ma with a tweed suit flying through the air.

Likewise if I sought out people that weren’t passionate about ideas, it would make for an uninteresting corpse.  If everyone played it safe we might have the head of an average-looking man, wearing a blank tee-shirt, and jeans…or worse yet a stick figure!

Instead because passionate people reached out across boundaries (see where the metaphor is going?) we have the drawing of a tribal chieftain flying through the air while is barnacle-encrusted legs are firmly standing on the bottom of the ocean.

I learned this lesson from a friend of mine that is very active in the Second Amendment Society of New Jersey.  My personal belief is that less guns in a society makes citizens safer; his belief is that more guns in a society makes citizens safer.  As expected, putting the two of us in a room set us both off.  We argued for as long as the first meeting, the rift between us growing wider and deeper, and we both assumed that that meeting would be our last…neither of us having anything to learn from each other.  Then that fateful question that changed the game.

“Don’t you want New Jersey to be a safer place?”

“Of course!”

“Well, how are you going to make that happen?”

The answer was insightful and intelligent.  I of course didn’t agree with it, but instead of focusing on the things that separate us we suddenly shifted focus to the thing that joined us…the thing that made us the most passionate…the thing that brought us “on the same page”.

…and there’s that metaphor again.

We can either accept the fact that people are brought together by their arguments because they are passionately interested in the same issues (No one ever counters an argument against universal healthcare with a pro-union argument.) or we can ignore the fact that we are “on the same page” and draw lines in the sand. across the fold.

That metaphor almost got me all the way through.

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