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Archive for October, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween, everyone! I have to admit, though, that I’m not up for it like I was last year. Last year I was out of a lengthy relationship where Halloween was forbidden due to religious reasons. That sucked ass. Last year was my first year free from this in a decade and my now-fiance and I planned a nice holiday. We bought a pumpkin to carve. It’s the first pumpkin I’d carved since college, and that was a long time ago! We carved a really nice pumpkin and put a candle in it before placing it on our front porch. It looked really nice. I also bought myself a scary mask to “trick” all the kids who’d come by for candy. Gretchen dressed like a hippie. She looked pretty good. I also bought tons and tons of candy. Enough to fill several bowls with plenty left over. We were living in a nice sized new residential neighborhood and were anticipating lots of trick or treaters coming by. I also bought some glow in the dark window decorations — spiders and spiderwebs, etc. They looked pretty cool on our windows. When evening came, I hid our cats — especially Henry, our all-black Halloween cat. Then we waited for the tons of kids to come.

You know how many times our doorbell rang last year? Three times! That’s right — THREE damn times!!! We had virtually no kids at all. We had a ton of candy left over. The kids across the street didn’t even come to our house. WTF? I didn’t get it and I still don’t get it. I did scare one little kid with my mask, which I had to quickly take off, but Halloween was a bust last year, so we’re not doing a damn thing this year. Yeah, we have a little bit of candy in a bowl by the door in case the doorbell rings at all, but I’m not holding my breath and we’re not dressing up. We didn’t even get a pumpkin! That’s kind of disappointing. I haven’t seen a single pumpkin at anyone’s house in this large neighborhood. It’s like we’re in the Twilight Zone. Things are weird. At least we’ll have our ghost. Yeah, we have a ghost. I named him Zachary. Henry and Toby can see him all the time and stare at him for long times. Gretchen saw a shadow on our fireplace hearth last year. I guess that was Zachary. It actually could be a female ghost. I don’t know why I named him Zachary. It just seemed to fit at the time. Henry will stare at the corner in the den for 15 minutes, at nothing. Nothing’s there. Then Toby will go join him. They always look at something really intently and nothing’s ever there. They do the same thing by the fireplace. Last week it happened in the dining room. We hear odd sounds at varying times of the day. Strange things happen. I guess we’re haunted. I think my religious mom wants to do a house exorcism, but I’m kind of used to Zachary now and I don’t think he’s going to do anything bad, so I guess we’ll be spending this Halloween with our ghost. Cheers!

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Why Obama Could Win Without a Majority And the Electoral College Fight That Would Ensue – ABC News

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 27, 2012

Why Obama Could Win Without a Majority And the Electoral College Fight That Would Ensue – ABC News.


Could we possibly see a repeat of the 2000 election when Gore won the popular vote only to have the Supreme Court give the election to Bush, who then went on to have the most disastrous presidency in history? Signs are pointing to Romney winning the popular vote, while Obama maintains a slim lead in the electoral voting polls. Hard to tell. Personally, I’m biased of course, but I don’t see how anyone who had a problem with Bush and his disaster would want to vote for Romney. I think it’s just a case of voting for anyone who will get the “liberal” black Democrat out of office. Which is frustrating. Obama has frustrated me at times, but Romney/Ryan scares the hell out of me, and if I were a woman, black, Latino, progressive — anything but a rich, white evangelical voter — I’d be running for the hills. Speaking of, if Romney actually does win, Toronto seems awfully appealing now. Although it’s a bit too cold. I never could have imagined a Romney victory, especially after Obama beat the hell out of him in those last two debates, but polls indicate otherwise. It’s truly depressing. I’m hoping that America will see that Romney has no plan, offers no numbers, his tax plan makes no mathematical sense, he’s anti-woman, anti-poor, pro-big business — he’s not good for the country, dammit! Please, America — come to your senses and give Obama four more years of continued, albeit slow, growth. Let the growth grow some more. Let’s not regress to the Bush years. Please….

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A Review of Secrets

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 21, 2012

Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon PapersSecrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a lengthy but fascinating book to read. I’d had it for awhile, but had never opened it. Now I’m glad I did. Daniel Ellsberg was an analyst with the State Department, Department of Defense, was a Marine in Vietnam, and worked for the infamous Rand Corporation. He knew details about the Vietnam War that most did not, and in the late ’60s, he worked to uncover even more. Why? During his time in Vietnam, he had come to the conclusion that it was an immoral, unwinnable war, and he found in his research that it had largely been one war with first France and later America acting as the aggressors. Five — count ’em, five — US presidents lied to Congress and the American people about our involvement in the war and about the administration’s attempts to escalate, with Johnson being very bad and Nixon perhaps even worse. This war was fought in spite of good advice being available to these presidents. It’s personally perplexing to understand what was going through the minds of these bipartisan presidential efforts. What’s made clear is the South Vietnamese didn’t care about who won the war — they just wanted it over. They weren’t anti-communist, and the antipathy displayed by so many South Vietnamese turned it into an American war, one we never should have been involved in.

So the historical stuff is interesting, but the book picks up the pace to become a political thriller when Ellsberg starts copying what will become the Pentagon Papers he ultimately releases to the newspapers and the subsequent Watergate fiasco which resulted, in part. It was fascinating to read what he did when he went “underground” to avoid arrest by the FBI.

This book should be required reading for everyone today. It’s got important lessons to reveal, about US presidents, the government, the military, freedom of the press, the right of the people to know, American imperial aggression and much more. With the state of things today, it’d be great if Ellsberg would give lectures around the country to people very willing to listen and learn. This was a good book, and it might not merit five stars on its writing alone, but the subject matter takes it over the top and earns its five stars. Read it.

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A Review of Don’t Stop Believin’

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 18, 2012

Don't Stop Believin': The Untold Story of JourneyDon’t Stop Believin’: The Untold Story of Journey by Neil Daniels

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this fascinating and entertaining book. I’ve enjoyed listening to Journey since the 70s & have developed an even greater appreciation for them since I discovered their early pre-Steve Perry albums earlier this year. I didn’t even know they existed, but I happened upon them and I love all three, particularly Next. Neal Schon just shreds the guitar on “Hustler” on that album. Even though these three albums are called jazz fusion, there’s definitely some rocking going on. I had heard that Neal Schon was a guitar prodigy, but I didn’t know Eric Clapton invited him to join his band when Neal was 15, with Neal turning him down to go with Santana. In 1973, he and Greg Rolie left Santana to form Journey with some other musicians and they signed with Columbia, the company that put out the majority of their records. However, their first three albums didn’t sell too well, with Greg singing while doing keyboards, so they were pressured to hire a front man to sing — that’s how Steve Perry ended up with the band.

The book relies heavily on interviews with ex-manager Herbie Herbert, who literally hates Steve Perry, so you get a biased view of things at times, but it’s really fascinating to read how Infinity came about, as well as Escape, Frontiers and the other well known Journey albums, and how they consciously changed their sound to AOR. Was it a sell out? Some people would say yes. They claimed that they just wanted a bigger audience and this was the vehicle toward that. It worked too. Are there too many ballads and a lot less rocking with Perry? Yes, but still there are some amazing songs that stand the test of time. Of course, Perry left the band in 1986 after Raised on Radio because allegedly, his pipes were done. He couldn’t sing in range anymore and needed a break. However, they reunited in 1996 for another album, which didn’t do too well. It’s apparently below par. It’s one of the few Journey albums I don’t own. They were planning on doing a big worldwide tour to support the album, but Perry injured his hip during a Hawaii hike and had to have hip replacement surgery, knocking him out of the band, this time forever. There are rumors that this is merely an excuse, that there was bad blood. This may or may not be true. The point is, Journey continued without him and people had to get used to that.

Journey hired a new singer named Steve Augeri, who by all accounts was pretty good. They produced two studio albums with him in the early 2000s, but they weren’t huge sellers. After 10 years with the band, his voice gave out too and he was forced into retirement, replaced by Jeff Scott Soto, who lasted 11 months with the band. He wasn’t a true tenor and couldn’t realistically carry the old Journey standards sufficiently, so they let him go.

We get to the current Journey now. In late 2007, early 2008, Neal was checking out YouTube and came across a Filapino man named Arnel Pineda doing Journey songs on videos. He was so good and sounded so much like Steve Perry, that Neal flew him to California to audition for the band. He got the job. They decided to cut a new record, so Revelation came out in 2008. It’s a two disc album, with one being new, original stuff with Arnel singing and the other being old standards, introducing Arnel to the fans. They then embarked on a world tour which was quite successful. I’ve seen a DVD of them in concert in Manilla, and they really rocked it. The book was written in 2010, so it doesn’t get the current album from 2011 — Eclipse — in, but it talks about a new album being in the works. I have it and it’s actually very good. They shed many of the old Journey-style ballads for some real rockers where Neal shows his guitar chops and it’s pretty cool. Arnel is a good singer.

I learned a lot in this book. I learned that “Lights,” allegedly about San Francisco, their home town if you go by Perry’s statements on the live Captured album, was actually written by Perry about L.A. I learned that the band was pretty straight laced and recorded from 9 to 4, as opposed to so many big bands who come drunkenly crawling into the studio at 7 pm and record til 4 am. These people were businessmen, and to some little surprise, serious musicians. While Journey got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, they’re not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, even though they’ve sold over 75,000,000 records over the years. It’s addressed in the book. I suspect they’ll never make that Hall of Fame because most critics consider them pretty lightweight, and there might be some truth to that.

I was particularly excited to get this book because there’s nothing out there on the band. Nothing at all. Allegedly one book was produced some time ago, but it’s long gone. This book is thorough, interesting, fair and the author did exhaustive research. My only real complaint is that the band members all signed various confidentiality agreements about what they can and can’t say about the band, so while there are many quotes, I suspect there’s a lot left unsaid as well. Still, I couldn’t put it down and I heartily recommend it for any Journey fan. You won’t be disappointed.

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Two Surgeries At Once — Done!

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 16, 2012

Well, yesterday morning I showed up at 7 AM for my scheduled surgery. After I was there and had changed and they had put the IV in, the surgeon showed up and told me he was actually going to do another one in addition to the first one! I tried not to panic. He told me what it was — radiation treatments designed to burn the largest nerve in my brain in an effort to eliminate (temporarily) the intense and frequent pain I experience due to trigeminal neuralgia. As I had already talked with my pain management specialist about a similar procedure to do in the future if the scheduled one didn’t work, this was fine with me. So, he did two — a nerve block and the radiation treatment. He had to insert long needles through my cheek up into a cavity in my skull where part of the trigeminal nerve is located in an effort to get to them. When I woke up from the anesthesia, I felt fairly woozy. My face is a little swollen today and my head felt a little weird yesterday, but all in all, I’d have to say I’m pleased and hopeful that this will help — for awhile. How long? No one knows. The trigeminal nerve grows back when it’s been burned down, so it’s inevitable that this will reappear. It’s just a question of time. Three months? Six months? Nine months? There’s only one cure available, and it’s a very dangerous and occasionally lethal brain surgery called MVD. Most neurosurgeons try to steer you away from that til it’s a last resort, even though it’s got a great success record. It’s just too dangerous to try. So … temporary pain blocking surgical procedures indefinitely. I guess I can live with that. At least I’m alive, right?

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Another Surgery Coming Up

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 8, 2012

I have another surgery coming up a week from today, next Monday. It’s a neurological procedure I’ve had done three times previously, most recently on August 13. It’s a temporary pain blocking surgery for my trigeminal neuralgia, and it’s a bit disappointing to have to have another so close to the last one, but it was the same last year, so hopefully this one will work longer than the previous one did. Ever since I got the symptoms — long before I was diagnosed — I was prescribed the strongest Percocet possible to deal with the pain. Usually several of them worked by the end of the day, although I’d typically have what I called a “Percocet hangover” the following day. Very draining. Now the Percocets don’t seem to be as effective as they once were, so I’ve moved up to a stronger Roxicodone. It helps with the head/facial pain pretty well, but it gives me morning headaches (ironically). Hopefully after next week’s surgery, I won’t have to take too many, at least not for awhile. If this surgery doesn’t work out, the next one will be one called radiofrequency oblation. I’m somewhat familiar with what it’s supposed to do, but whenever they’re messing with the biggest nerve in your brain, it’s a bit iffy, in my opinion.

My fiance is going to take me to the hospital, and my parents will later come to get me and drive me home. The procedure itself isn’t a terrible ordeal, but it often takes me as long as a week to overcome the effects of the anesthesia. That’s very wearing. It’s nice to have loved ones to take care of you.

People ask me about TN. From what I know, only about 14,000 people in America have it — not very many. I have Type Two, which is pretty rare and hard to treat, even with surgeries. The only cure is a brain surgery called MVD, and many neurosurgeons won’t perform it because of fatalities. It also takes a very long time to recover from it, like up to a year and a half. That’s a last resort surgery. All of the other surgeries are temporary pain blockers. So, it is what it is. Next Monday. It’d be nice if my priest came to visit me.

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A Review of The Little Blue Book

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 5, 2012

The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking DemocraticThe Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic by George Lakoff

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I finished this book and I’m not really satisfied with it, although I can’t quite place my finger on why. I had really looked forward to receiving this book, assuming it would teach Democrats how to go toe to toe with conservatives in rhetoric, debates, etc. To a very minor degree, the second half of this book provides some terms and examples one could use, but that’s not really the gist of the book. It’s subtitle is “The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic” and I guess it might be partially accurate, but it left me feeling pretty empty and hopeless. I think most of the terms suggested here to replace commonly used terms in public discourse border on ridiculous and won’t ever come into play.

First, though, conservatives like to accuse Democrats of being “liberal elites,” which makes me wonder why Republicans want to be known as stupid dumb asses. Anyway, the first half of this book did nothing to make me think that the stereotype did not hold true for the book. It’s a scientific, linguistic explanation of morals, moral contexts, using “basic-level” words, neural logic and “cascades,” a “network of neurons that links many brain circuits…. the brain does not handle single ideas as separate entities: a bigger context, a logical construct within which the idea is defined, is evoked in order to grasp its meaning…. Language triggers cascades.” Confused? I bet Joe Six Pack would be if he picked this book up. This book is designed FOR liberal elites and feeds right into the stereotype so many of we Democrats fight to overcome.

The bulk of the book is taken up by Democratic ideas, such as those surrounding corporations, food regulation, public education, nature, and more, and it basically provides tiny chapters for each (like two to four pages) and gives alternative terms for words commonly used in political circles that the authors think have been hijacked by conservatives. This is where my big problem is. I’m right up there agreeing conservatives have hijacked public dialogue, but the alternative terms they advocate strike me as downright silly. Let me give you examples. On abortion and pro-choice terminology, they argue that conservatives make this a moral argument through their use of their own terminology, so instead of saying “pro choice,” we should instead say “pro-liberty.” Other options include “pro-family” and “family freedom.” They then go on to say, “the terms birth control and birth control pills are disastrous. The real issue is ‘pregnancy prevention’.” That’s right — we should talk about pregnancy prevention instead of birth control. Maybe that makes some sort of sense, but I can’t see society making that shift, no matter how many liberals start employing that term. So too, abortion is a dirty word. We need to replace it with — get this — “development prevention.” Yeah, that’s right. Development prevention. I’m not pro-abortion, nor am I anti-choice, but no one’s going to start saying development prevention. I’m sorry — it’s not going to happen. To sum it up, this is a book of ideas, and maybe it’s a decent conversation starter, but the terminology solutions suggested here seem ludicrous to me and probably to a whole bunch of other people too. I was really disappointed in this book, especially after looking forward to reading it so much. I don’t recommend it.

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A Review of Dereliction Of Duty

Posted by Scott Holstad on October 1, 2012

Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to VietnamDereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam by H.R. McMaster

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very detailed and somewhat shocking book telling of how America sunk itself into the Vietnam war fiasco, and it’s truly a sorrow to read. I never knew Johnson, McNamara, the Bundy brothers and Taylor were such lying assholes, as well as Rusk, McNaughton and the other civilians in charge of planning the war. They lied to the Joint Chiefs, to Congress, to the American people and to the world (sounds like Bush, doesn’t it?) in order to downplay the role America was taking in Vietnam, all for varying agendas that sometimes met and more often didn’t.

The book starts with 1961 and Kennedy but quickly moves on to Johnson, who wanted his Great Society domestic program passed so badly that he literally flat out lied — continuously — to the Congress and America about his efforts to sink us into Vietnam — without any goals or exit strategies, I might say.

One thing the author, McMaster, hammered home really shocked me. We never thought we could win, never expected to win, and wanted to escape Vietnam just “bloodied.” Excuse me, but WTF??? Why delve into a war if you have no intention of winning? Idiots! From page 184:

“McNaughton, Forrestal, and William Bundy concluded that it would be preferable to fail in Vietnam after trying some level of military action than to withdraw without first committing the United States military to direct action against North Vietnam. They thought that the principal objective of military activities was to protect U.S. credibility…. Indeed, the loss of South Vietnam after the direct intervention of U.S. armed forces ‘would leave behind a better odor’ than an immediate withdrawal and would demonstrate that the United States was a ‘good doctor willing to keep promises, be tough, take risks, get bloodied, and hurt the enemy badly.'”

On page 237:

“For McNaughton the objective of protecting American credibility had displaced the more concrete aim of preserving a free and independent South Vietnam. Even as Rolling Thunder began and Marines landed at Danang, McNaughton continued to plan for failure. He concluded that to avoid humiliation the United States must be prepared to undertake a ‘massive’ effort on the ground in Southeast Asia involving the deployment of 175,000 ground troops. Even if the Communists won, McNaughton believed that the United States would have protected its international image.”

Isn’t that just batshit crazy? Johnson and McNamara didn’t listen to the Joint Chiefs, who wanted to ramp things up immediately and hit North Vietnam hard, because they were afraid if we went after Hanoi, China and/or the Soviets would come to their aid and it would become another Korean War.

As America begins to send troops to South Vietnam to start conducting offensive operations for the first time while refusing to mobilize the reserves, General Harold Johnson, the JCS in charge of the Army, “was to preside over the disintegration of the Army; a disintegration that began with the president’s decision against mobilization. Harold Johnson’s inaction haunted him for the rest of his life.”

McMaster really throws Johnson and McNamara under the bus, but apparently for good reason. He paints the JCS as little more than stooges kept out of the loop of actual military planning. It’s not until the book’s epilogue does he place some blame on the JCS, writing “the ‘five silent men’ on the Joint Chiefs made possible the way the United States went to war in Vietnam.” His ultimate conclusion can be found on page 332:

“Over time the maintenance of U.S. credibility quietly supplanted the stated policy objective of a free and independent South Vietnam. The principal civilian planners had determined that to guarantee American credibility, it was not necessary to win in Vietnam. That conclusion, combined with the belief that the use of force was merely another form of diplomatic communication, directed the military effort in the South at achieving stalemate rather than victory. Those charged with planning the war believed that it would be possible to preserve American credibility even if the United States armed forces withdrew from the South, after a show of force against the North and in the South in which American forces were ‘bloodied.’ After the United States became committed to war, however, and more American soldiers, airmen, and Marines had died in the conflict, it would become impossible simply to disengage and declare America’s credibility intact, a fact that should have been foreseen.”

The only reason why I’m giving this book four stars instead of five is that it stops at July 1965. I would have liked to read more about what went on after inserting troops for offensive operations, how things escalated, what Johnson, McNamara and the rest did in educating America on what was happening (or not), etc. In other words, I think the author cut the book short and that was disappointing. Otherwise, it was a fascinating, while sobering, read and should be required reading of all active politicians to ensure we never repeat the stupid mistakes made during the ’60s regarding Vietnam.

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