As promised, I’m posting all my logic puzzles over at logiduction.wordpress.com, my new blog. I will also periodically report my personal tidings, particularly my reading, over at Ex-Tangent.

Thank you all for reading this blog, and I will be forced to direct your attention over there.

Hey all,

This is it: the time to move on – from political tirades to actual creativity.

I have wasted too many hours preaching to the choir about politics, which truly mean nothing unless there is a discussion going on, so one side can defend itself. On a blog, there is very rarely any meaningful discussion going on, simply because of the disadvantages of the medium. Therefore, I will stop producing a good that no one wants, and instead produce a good that no one wants. But, as any good salesman knows, you can sell a customer anything as long as you do not give them the choice to not have your product; instead, you ask them whether they’d like a red or a blue product.

I am moving to blogging logic puzzles. No, not creating sudoku or kakuro puzzles (both of which I immensely enjoy), but word and number problems you all probably did when you were kids. I am a bit of a puzzle junkie myself and have been making puzzles for awhile, so that’s what I’ll do here on the internet, because I don’t know of any sites that continually produce logic puzzles on a daily basis. Yes, they do make daily sudokus, crosswords, and whatever else people do everyday, but they do not produce word puzzles or anagrams like I will. Creating and solving puzzles are what I like to do in my spare time (as well as read and write), so that is what I will concentrate on here in my corner of the internet (probably a different corner since I’ll be making a new blog to house my puzzles).

In the meantime, for my political (intellectual?) side, I will be reading. I currently have a list of 62 books that I will try to read before 2009 is over, spanning philosophy, political theory, and classic literature. I highly, highly, highly recommend that anyone who is currently a political blogger starts blogging less and reading more, for that is the only way to real thought.

This post has been long in the making: it has resided in my brain since the time I started this blog and it has certainly made itself apparent throughout this part of history that will surely become known as the Great Manic Depression (you heard it here first, ladies and gentlemen). This will be the last post, officially, of the 59 Second Minute in its current, utter useless form, but it will also begin an era of new, more fresh, political commentary by me, as well as another project that will ultimately end up taking more of my time and is totally different from anything I’ve done here in my blogspace in the cybersphere. This post carries a message of imperative importance to everyone who considers themselves politically informed, or is involved in any way in the politics of the United States.

The message is this: both the Democrats and Republicans are two sides of the same, wretched coin. Together, they compose an entity that is against the liberty of all American citizens. There is not a party that is for freedom – no mistake about that.

Consider that most people dislike the Republicans for their over-reliance on evangelicals; for their restrictions on the decisions of women via their “pro-life” stance; and for their traditionally anti-gay views. This is infringing upon peoples’ social liberty because it restricts their freedom based on sexuality, gender, or, in some religious extremists’ cases, religion.

Consider that some people dislike the Democrats for trying to increase taxes and increase the role of government in all sectors of life, especially now in the economy. This is infringing upon people’s economic liberty because they seek to restrict the way that people trade goods and conduct their business. Having freedom of any kind naturally carries risk – the risk of failure. The government, in essence, seeks to remove the risk of failure by taking over the banks, etc., etc.

When you put these parties together (have a compromise between the two), what do you get? General authoritarianism, where the government dictates what you do, both socially and economically. Is this the type of system the “land of the free” deserves? NO!

I’d argue, that since the founding of this country, political thought has become increasingly homogenized, especially in the past 60 years, due to the two-party system. Again, ask, “What makes two people in the Democratic party any different from one another?” Not much; and I’d wager that that fact is a cause (or is it an effect?) of the lack of diversity in political thought from our people, and, thusly, the representatives they elect. And if there is no diversity in political thought (along party lines, of course: Republicans vote Republican and Democrats vote Democratic), then, one can argue that no one’s really thinking at all. Think about it: if your political views mesh with the typical Democratic robot, then you don’t have to think, for they think for you! You hear them talk, you nod in agreement, and life goes on. Then you hear a left-leaning journalist spit fire at the Republicans, you, again, nod in agreement (for Republicans are The Enemy), and life goes on. Whenever you talk politics, you just vomit back what you heard on TV or read in the newspaper, and life goes on, without any analyzation of your beliefs.

This type of system benefits nobody but the ruling class. We’ve become programmed like Pavlov’s dogs: the majority of the populace has been conditioned to think highly of a person that has that capitalized “D” next to the state they represent when they’re interviewed on the major news networks (note: substitute “D” for “R” when appropriate). And when the “R” shows up – well, he’s just another Bush and shouldn’t be listened to.

(As a side note: when there is infighting among parties – witness the fears of Hillary “ripping apart” the Democratic Party during the Conventions last year- people hope they all “get along” and keep going with the party line. Back then, I said I hoped she would concede to Obama but now I realize there was no correct choice, and I imagine that it would’ve been preferable for the party to be torn apart if Hillary pulled a stunt during the Conventions. My reason? I don’t want parties)

Is this the kind of divisiveness we need in our country?

As I said before, if we all think along the party line(s), who do we elect? The same people, or, at the very least, people who follow the party line(s) – the sad thing being that there is no tangible difference between the two options. And so, we elect the same people, and they continue to get nothing done or they decide to do the worse alternative: make bad laws.

We wonder why the country is going downhill, and then you look at Congress’s approval rating, which has hovered around 30% for what seems to be time immemorial. If we really dislike who is in Congress that much wouldn’t it make sense to vote them out of office by replacing them with someone more competent and has a political ideology that would better represent us?

But, the problem is, we’re given two choices in most races, and are forced to pick one of the two party lines that fits ours the best. And, most often, we elect people of the same party – people who closely share political ideologies… Who are likely going to repeat the failings of their predecessor. So we vote in what seems to be a revolving door of people who follow a certain party line, but, somehow, 70% of us more or less disapprove of Congress as a whole.

The issue lies in the homogeneity of the parties and of the populace. It has become evident that the two-party system is worthless and is destroying the quality and quantity of political thought in this country. It gives no choice to those who disagree with the dominant parties and force their hand into voting for the lesser of two evils. I say that we abolish the party system and vote for people based on the quality of their thought and their policies, not the name of the party they’re a part of. I say we stop casting our votes for both parties, since they are against our liberty. I say we open our minds and encourage those with alternative viewpoints and vote for them instead. I say we pick up a book on political theory or economics instead of turning on our televisions.

And, if you don’t believe me, I think you’ll take George Washington’s word that the party system does not work. From his farewell address in 1796:

They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion…

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally…

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

SPOILER ALERT!

There isn’t a universal meaning of life. We are born, we’re alive, we breathe, we eat, we sleep, we poop, we mature enough to procreate, we procreate, we raise our progeny, and we eventually die.

So, there are billions of religious people who think that the meaning of life is to serve their god(s) in the best way possible – in Judeo-Christian religions, this means being a nice good boy to your father (God) so he doesn’t burn you for eternity (though, if you are a good boy, your father decides to rape you anyways in some sects).

Some, particularly nihilistic academics, will point out that the meaning of life is to create more life – reproduce.

But I reject these ideas. While I will unabashedly admit that there is no higher “meaning” to life, we do have a purpose, though many seem to confuse the two words and use them interchangeably, which is understandable considering how “meaning” is used in reference to the divine, and “purpose” seems to connote a devotion to a religion. Our purpose in life, however, can be done and accomplished by anybody, and probably has been accomplished by everyone on the planet.

The purpose of life is simple: achieve happiness, however you want (within a few boundaries, of course).

You may think, “Leap, that’s so bloody simple! How could it be the purpose of life?”

It’s because that’s all we have to do on this planet, as far as I can tell. Pleasure is positivity manifested in our bodies, isn’t it? Well, let’s achieve pleasure all the time, then, because all we want is positivity in our lives (unless you’re of a particularly masochistic bent), or at least as much as possible.

Seriously guys, just think about it. And while you’re at it, go do something that makes you happy. That’s the step towards living a fulfilling life.

More on this later.

This won’t be the type of return that all of you, who have so enjoyed my political commentary, might expect. I am not here to save the day and speak out with more bombastic rhetoric and be the sole voice of reason in this mess. I am not going to continue with political commentary as it once existed on this blog: this time, it will be more theoretical and will not stick with the shallow dealings of the now, the now being the day’s events. It will be broader in scope, but it will come across here less frequently than before – my writing will consist of other subjects. Before, my commentary followed a formula of “find news story, give angry opinion on it, find news story…” ad nauseum. That’s over.

But, perhaps, I shall tell you, readers, how this exile came about. Following the week of Thanksgiving, I decided to stop reading the news for a week, and, as such, stop blogging.

The results of that week? I felt absolutely liberated and my mood felt fantastic. My mind wasn’t channeling any of its usual negative energy – energy, it turns out, it picked up from paying too much attention to the media. By unplugging myself from the Matrix, I felt substantially better, simply because my mind was focused on things other than the dealings of the corrupt. I was no longer filled with anger, and I was starting to be more positive in all parts of my life. I just felt, if I haven’t made it clearly enough already, better.

Of course, after a couple weeks, I had a desire to know what the hell was going on in the world, so I started to slowly plug myself back into the Matrix. But here’s the catch: I didn’t have any reaction to the news – I read it and that was that. Well, maybe that’s a lie: I did have a reaction, but it was subdued and what I expected based on my ideology. Now, in reading the news, I have a “default” reaction to the article based on my political opinion: liberty = good, tight restrictions = bad. It’s ironic, since I started this out as a bit of a lefty. Now I’m more in the vein of a libertarian. And I’m sure the latter is my “true” view – as it was only obtained by my own thought and investigation, not via the view espoused and endorsed by the Matrix. But I digress.

At this point, my confidence was rising, and I was reading the news without any repercussions to my mental health, and life was good.

And then the ice storm came. Yes, the one you’ve been hearing about in the news (link here). I live in the worst affected part of Massachusetts, and lost all power for 9 days, losing it for brief periods 3 times afterwards. The temperature in my house dropped to below 40 degrees (that’s Fahrenheit). I was cold, didn’t have school, and read just about all day. More importantly, I learned to value the modern conveniences we take for granted – light and heat, namely. And, I was forced to totally unplug myself from the Matrix (if you’re wondering why I keep making annoying Matrix references, you’ll see in my material later. Promise).

Yeah, I suffered quite a bit during that period, but it finalized the burning of the bridge between me and the rest of the crazed world. How about that. In the aftermath of the storm, I read more, worked out more, was better at everything I committed myself to doing, was fitter, happier, and more productive (anyone who catches that reference is awesome, by the way). I wasn’t negative, but I didn’t transform into the grating optimist I hate so much. I was the same person, yet was… better. Again: fitter, happier, and more productive. Life was good. And yet, I’m here, plugging myself back in. “Why?” you ask, “Why bother coming back here after becoming a happier individual because of your absence from this place?”

And now, men and women of the jury, we get to the heart of the matter. During this period of feeling good, I still felt like there was something missing, and, with increased availability of technology, I was slowly lapsing into my previous, boring life, complete with hours spent looking up trivial information (though, not quite news) on the internet (no, not pr0n you idiots!). Allow me to digress, though I will be getting to the middle of this all.

Before, I found that I was reading articles by anarchists, libertarians, authoritarians, Trotskyites, classic liberals (what I consider myself to be), socialists, Communists, and everything in-between and I managed to agree with all of them, because all they were doing was criticizing the system. I didn’t agree with, however, their remedy to the situation; I only agreed with their diagnosis of the problem. I managed to, for a brief period of time, share in their disdain of the system. Turns out I was well on the path to the Dark Side… Remember, Yoda said:

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

And I didn’t want to suffer. My posts were so filled with negative energy that it dragged me down, and, ultimately, made me an unsuccessful blogger, because I did nothing but offer negativity. To my credit, there’s nothing I could’ve really done to improve the situation, since I called for real change (and no, not the kind that Obama’s offering), and there’s no way that my kind of change would be implemented just by me blogging about injustice in the world.

On that same note, insanity is defined as (by me, at least) “doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. I kept posting about politics and it didn’t do anything for me or for my readers. I wasn’t offering them anything valuable; my posts were like a sledgehammer of negativity, which crushed all the value that might have been contained in my post. I wasn’t helping anyone do anything – I, again, was just hitting them over the head over and over with the message “THE SYSTEM SUCKS”. And, really, it did nothing. It made me feel worse.

During this whole exile, I came to the conclusion that although the System sucked (not to be confused with the Matrix), there was nothing I could do at all to change it. That’s a scary thought (says my past self), but, I woke up and smelled the sweet smell of coffee in the morning and realized, again, that I truly could not change anything (at least, with the means I was using before). And then, I did what I thought I couldn’t do before: I let go. I let go of all feelings of the System because I knew there was not going to be a single representative to be elected in this country that would be someone I would have no qualms about supporting. And, astonishingly, it was okay with me. I am still an impassioned arguer on the behalf of my political ideology, but only if the argument comes up during a conversation; I will not create a political argument for the sake of doing so. I was just so exhausted from arguing for it before that I chilled out and stopped bringing politics into the mix unless someone else did because it was destroying me from the inside out.

And, back to why I’m here: I need to write. I need to do something fulfilling, something to be proud of, something to keep me sane while I’m not reading or working out. I need to return to the blogosphere and just network with you guys again. Except, this time, I’ll enjoy it, instead of just focusing on getting my blaring, hopeless message out to the world. And you guys will benefit from that the most.

I’ll write commentary from time to time, but only to talk theory. No current events stuff, and I’ll certainly be writing more about what I’ve been reading as well as shifting the concentration things like self-improvement and personal philosophy, with (HOPEFULLY) fiction making regular appearances.

So, dear readers, I’m back and better than ever.

The Economist has an excellent piece up about the disturbing trends in the economy:

This compulsory return to thrift will be deeply painful; consumer spending and housing are almost three-quarters of GDP. Of the 1.2 million, or 0.9%, decline in jobs since December, about 700,000 are directly related to consumers: retail trade, transportation manufacturing and home-building. The rise in unemployment, from 4.4% in 2006 to 6.5% in October, is nearing that of 2001-03 and is not over. On November 19th Federal Reserve policymakers disclosed they expect the recession to last until mid-2009. Their inflation worries have evaporated; indeed, consumer prices plunged a record 1% in October from September, and by 0.1% excluding fuel and food, the first such decline since 1982. The Fed’s vice-chairman, Donald Kohn, said outright deflation “is a risk out there but it’s still small”.

I think this article, in pointing out the trends in the American economy (such as decreased savings by baby boomers as well as the sharp rise in consumer saving in the wake of the sky falling), also reveals the bigger problem in the American psyche: we risk and spend too much when things are going well, and immediately shock the system by saving as soon as things start to go bad, which makes things get worse. It can be argued that the extra saving is a good thing (and I agree that it’s what we should be doing in the first place!), but, simply put, by not spending as much money in an ailing economy, the economy is obviously going to do worse. Of course, it’s likely that what people are spending now is truly what they can afford, rather than their fake plastic money that created the piles of debt that led to this catastrophe in the first place.

What I fear the most is that this country (and the rest of the world) will weather this recession by being savvy spenders and savers, and immediately return to our old ways of boundless spending and unwise use of credit cards, again buying goods we can’t afford with our plastic friends. That would be sure to land us in another recession in the future, as the debt would, again, crash our system.

But, if we could only maintain our unprecedented level of spending with low savings coupled with unlimited amounts of credit, if we were to remain savvy spenders, taking less risks and saving more, would that mean a permanent shrinkage of the economy (proportional, of course, to the amount of workers in the system; as time goes on, the economy will “grow”, due to job creation, but the net spending per person will go down)?

Maybe this period of economic success was nothing but a hallucination, and we are now getting off the hallucinogens and waking up to reality. And that reality may be a smaller economy.


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Right now, I am calling it: the Obama presidency will be a disaster, partly because of the legacy Bush left him, and the errors that he will make on his own, namely continuing to hand out money in order to “stimulate” the economy, as well as continuing the farcical “War on Terror” that Bush started, and will never end until people realize it is just an attempt to expand America’s control in Eurasia. Admittedly, I don’t think the ailing economy will be Barack’s fault, though social spending programs are likely to make things worse in the future.

Hail to the thief?

Normally, I’d be obliged to write my own material concerning the auto industry’s bailout (well, that’s for tomorrow!), but this piece (that was on the Delicious popular page) was way too good to pass up.

Linked from here.

…The lesson here: Unlike their counterparts GM and Ford, Toyota has always taken a long-term strategic view about their employees. Toyota understands that laying off thousands of employees for slowdowns or plant retooling is counter productive. They wisely utilize the time to redistribute their workforce to understaffed plants, provide additional training for the new products, and leverage their workforce to speed the transition for newer products. Their philosophy has avoided labor disputes and staffing shortages. It has kept the company as a leader in quality and profitability over its shortsighted competitors….

Check it out!

Just in case Bush and his Israeli followers start attacking Iran in the name of preemptively preventing a nuclear war, we should turn them in the direction of this NIE study (that’s National Intelligence Estimate, for the uninitiated). It’s not the full study, but it has all of the important conclusions.

The study says that:

We assess with high confidence that until fall 2003, Iranian military entities were
working under government direction to develop nuclear weapons.

• We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. (Because of
intelligence gaps discussed elsewhere in this Estimate, however, DOE and the NIC
assess with only moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt
to Iran’s entire nuclear weapons program.)

• We assess with moderate confidence Tehran had not restarted its nuclear weapons
program as of mid-2007, but we do not know whether it currently intends to develop
nuclear weapons.

• We continue to assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Iran does not currently
have a nuclear weapon.
• Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined
to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment
that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure
suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged
previously…

• We judge with moderate confidence that the earliest possible date Iran would be
technically capable of producing enough HEU for a weapon is late 2009, but that this
is very unlikely.

• We judge with moderate confidence Iran probably would be technically capable of
producing enough HEU for a weapon sometime during the 2010-2015 time frame.
(INR judges Iran is unlikely to achieve this capability before 2013 because of
foreseeable technical and programmatic problems.) All agencies recognize the
possibility that this capability may not be attained until after 2015.

D. Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could
be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so. For example,
Iran’s civilian uranium enrichment program is continuing. We also assess with high
confidence that since fall 2003, Iran has been conducting research and development
projects with commercial and conventional military applications—some of which would
also be of limited use for nuclear weapons.

E. We do not have sufficient intelligence to judge confidently whether Tehran is willing
to maintain the halt of its nuclear weapons program indefinitely while it weighs its
options, or whether it will or already has set specific deadlines or criteria that will prompt
it to restart the program.

Now, while this is only an estimate, the assumptions based therein are surely enough for us, the public, to seriously question any assertion (or military action derived from said assertion) that Iran has nuclear weapons, for now. Now we have the power to cry fowl when the government tells us that Iran has the a-bomb, unlike the situation in Iraq.

Iran is certainly an interesting player on the world stage – but it doesn’t have the nuke yet.

And, after all, who are we to decide who gets and who doesn’t get the A-bomb? Isn’t it in Iran’s best interest to acquire the A-bomb for purely defensive purposes? Yes, I know their regime is crazy, but hasn’t it occurred to anyone that the a-bomb is the ultimate deterrent; no one would be crazy enough to attack them once they got a nuke under their control. As paradoxical as it may sound, they’re willing to risk invasion from Israel and the United States in order to acquire a bomb that would prevent these countries from invading them at all, assuming that they’re actually pursuing a nuke in the first place.

What do you think about Iran?


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Well, it’s official: according the MSNBC, all US forces will be out of Iraq by the time 2012 rolls around.

(from the BBC)

Under the deal, US troops will withdraw from the streets of Iraqi towns next year, leaving Iraq by the end of 2011.

The decision will need to go before Iraq’s parliament for a final vote.

America’s National Security Council welcomed the cabinet’s vote, saying it was “an important and positive step” towards stability and security.

The pact is necessary to determine the role of US military forces in Iraq after their UN mandate expires on 31 December 2008.

In October, Iraq sent a new round of suggested changes to the draft Status of Forces Agreement (Sofa), to which the US responded.

Washington had previously said the pact was “final” and could not be amended.

The UK government, which has 4,100 troops in Iraq, is waiting for the US-Iraqi pact to be approved so they can use it as a template for their own bi-lateral deal.

Well, we had to take out our troops sometime, and 2012 seems reasonable, though I’d prefer that we pulled them out earlier. Still, I think this gives the Iraqi government more than enough time to clean up its act and prepare its troops to actually defend against terrorism.

At the same time, I’m not so sure I like this, considering that we have been using Iraq as a launching pad for attacks against Syria, in addition to using our bases in Afghanistan to conduct strikes in Pakistan. Keeping troops in Iraq for any longer amount of time means that it’s possible that we can conduct cross-border strikes into Syria again, and possibly Iran.

There’s no question that we need our troops out, but it looks like Iraq is an eternal damned-if-we-do, damned-if-we-don’t situation. The truth is, we really don’t know what kind of hell we’ll unleash once all of our troops leave the country, and we won’t know for sure until January 1st, 2012.


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