IW 2008: Operation Smile

Posted by Mike Merritt in Independence Week on | No Comments

The first of this week’s Independence Week articles shows that the U.S. military isn’t completely defined by pre-emptive strikes against other countries.

Happy News has been reporting for some time now Operation Smile.  The group itself isn’t part of the military, but a non-profit charity that aim to repair cleft lips and palates in children from countries like Philippines, Vietnam, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea.

The latest news about OS is that they’re teaming up with the USNS Mercy for deployment to Southeast Asia.  They have already performed 350 operations on children from the four countries listed above, and have recently moved on to Nha Trang, Vietnam.  The ship’s partnership with OS is a small portion of their bigger 2008 Summer Deployment, where they perform operations around the world for those in need.

It makes me very happy to know that despite all the bad press the military has gotten in recent years that it is doing some good in the world.  It is doing more things like shows that the U.S. really isn’t that bad of a country as some might think.  So kudos to the USNS Mercy and ships/crews like it who are spreading some goodwill to those in need!  People like you are what Independence Week is about.

To read about the continuing mission of the Mercy, hop on over to the blog of her captain Bob Wiley here.


Independence Week 2008

Posted by Mike Merritt in Independence Week on | No Comments

With all that’s gone on this weekend, I plum nearly forgot that Friday is Independence Day.  Thus, today will be the start of Independence Week!

For those who are new, I feel that the world is so full of bad news.  War, crashes, natural diasters death, all that.  And the media tends to pick up more on that, but not on the good, happy, or funny news.

Well, Independence Week changes all that.  For one whole week (that’s 7 days!) here at Dymersion, I like to buck the trend and link to and comment on that good, happy, or funny news.  Make people feel good.

So, I’ll make the first post later.


Writing at Poligazette

Posted by Mike Merritt in Personal Life, Websites on | No Comments

I’ve had Poligazette [ed: removed dead link] in my blogroll (right ->) for a while, and they’ve become one of my favorite blogs.  Now I have even better news!  I have been accepted as a writer at the site.  What does this mean for Dymersion?

Not much.  It’s easy for me to say this since I’ve always set a one-post-a-day goal here.  If I’d been posting more regularly, it’d be a problem.  But, with one a day, that makes it easy to post some entries here, and some there.

Not to say things won’t change in the future.  But, for now, Dymersion is here to stay, content and all.  So, take a look at Poligazette.  It’s a great blog with writers who have a diverse range of viewpoints on politics.

Now, off to make a film!


McCain: Gas Prices Won’t Be Lower Soon

Posted by Mike Merritt in Politics, Society on | No Comments

Everyone’s reporting on John McCain’s lack of knowledge of current gas prices.  I’ll let Joe Gandelman over at TMV take that one.

Yet, McCain’s interview with OC Register Martin Wisckol included more than a revelation of a possible disconnect with the American public.  I have my own issues with one of his other responses:

Wiskol: Under your presidency, can you offer any ideas on what we’ll be paying for gas in two years?

McCain: It’ll be less because we will have been moving forward with measures to become oil independent – independent of foreign oil. I’m very confident that the American people can do it. We didn’t get into this situation we’re in yesterday. So we’re not going to get out of it tomorrow. But Americans want a little relief. That’s why I support a gas-tax holiday. And if you don’t think it’s important to some people, ask someone who owns a couple of trucks and is paying 24½ cents tax on every gallon of gas.

The point is that we need to have clear plan of action and we will have a clear plan of action. We will become energy independent.

Now, I understand McCain is doing this interview quite literally as he’s walking through an airport, but he needs to think before he speaks.  The question is asking if gas prices will be lower in two years, and though McCain initially seems to agree, later he says it won’t happen “tomorrow.”  I think he really means that no, gas prices won’t be lower in two years.

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Barr: A Spoiler or Just Another Choice?

Posted by Mike Merritt in Election 2008, Politics on | No Comments

Libertarian Presidential nominee Bob Barr, the former Republican Congressman from Georgia, is getting a lot of flack from his former party for daring to run.  According to this New York Times article, party officials are trying to tell him, “Don’t do it, Bob!”:

“‘Well, gee, you might take votes from Senator McCain,'” Mr. Barr said this week, mimicking one of the complainers, as he sat sipping Coca-Cola in his plush corner office, 12 stories above Atlanta. “They all said, ‘Look, we understand why you’re doing this. We agree with why you’re doing it. But please don’t do it.'”

The argument seems to be that if Barr gets enough votes, particularly from Republicans, that John McCain’s chances of winning will be diminished that much.

Gee, you think?

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The Gullability of Some

Posted by Mike Merritt in Politics, Religion on | No Comments

Now, I’m all for everybody having their own opinions on something.  I’m more for those opinions when they at least have some good research behind them.  Do you own research, I say, and then your opinion is educated.

So, it’s a laugh when I see an inane comment at some forum, blog, or other medium of communication.  To that extent, I’m an avid reader of Michelle Malkin’s blog, because I like to see a range of opinions from the far left to the far right.

I’ve agreed with Malkin once before, and now I find myself agreeing with her co-blogger, “see-dubya.”  See-dubya writes about some research (I guess it’s research) done by one Dr. Danielle Allen on the origin of web-based rumors.  They focus on one of her findings, the supposed originator of the “Obama is a Muslim” rumor: a man named Ted Sampley.  Here’s the money quote:

For some people, people in the core Sampley target zone, politics can never be bad enough. McCain need not merely be an abrasive centrist who panders to Hispanic race-baiters and despises movement conservatives, he has to be a traitor commie spy. Obama isn’t just a callow far-left machine politician caught up in the cult of his own personality, he has to be Al-Qaeda’s secret sleeper trained from birth.

Note: I’m not necessarily agreeing with see-dubya’s descriptions of the candidates, but he (she?) is spot on with the snark toward Sampley.

While the main post is all right, the couple comments that are there are insane.  Now, Malkin tends to attract a pretty far-right crowd, with a few liberals tossed in to the mix.  I was going to just post there, but registration seems to be disabled, so I decided to do it here.  Below are the dissenting comments as of this entry.  Says “malkin_fan”:

Forget the rumor tha Obama is a Muslim.

He IS a muslim:


And then there’s the doozy from “Gabe”:

I definitely agree with Malkin_Fan. Perhaps so many people believe that Obama is a Muslim because he is a Muslim. . .at least culturally.

In the Israeli Insider article, there are many facts that have never been refuted by the Obama camp. For example, why was he registered as a Muslim in his Indonesian Catholic school?

I teach in a Catholic school in Northern Virginia. Believe me, nearly every teacher has qualms about Barack Hussein Obama and has suspicions that Obama is a closet Muslim. Why? Because we know our Catholic faith and know something is just not right about Obama and his “Christian” faith.

From the Israeli Insider article:

Obama describes his new found “Christian” faith as: (1) Suspicious of dogma (2) Without any monopoly on the truth (3) Nontransferable to others (4) Infused with a big healthy dose of doubt, and (5) Indulgent of and compatible with all other religions.

On February 27th, speaking to Kristof of The New York Times, Barack Hussein Obama said the Muslim call to prayer is “one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset.”

In an interview with Nicholas Kristof, published in The New York Times, Obama recited the Muslim call to prayer, the Adhan, “with a first-class [Arabic] accent.”

Sure seems like a Muslim to me.

Gee Gabe, according to the first paragraph of your quote, Martin Luther must have been a Muslim too.  Sticking those 95 theses on the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg; arguing that Catholicism wasn’t the only way; that others should be able to make their own interpretations of the bible and not follow the Pope’s dogma.  Definitely a Muslim, that Martin Luther.  According to your own argument, Gabe, 800 million Protestants are actually sooper sekrit Muslims.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being a Muslim.  If a Muslim was running for President – and it’s not going to happen for a long time given the tolerance level of this country – I wouldn’t think less of it, unless they were proven to support some bad apples.  Same would apply to a Christian or any other person of faith running for President.  Heck, same test goes for atheists and agnostics, too.

See-dubya has the best reaction toward these comments:

[bangs head on desk]




Posted by Mike Merritt in Dymersion on | No Comments

So, while trying to think over the categorization issues, I ended up doing something I’ve been meaning to do for a while: change up the layout.

There is now a navbar in the header, and I think it makes the site navigation much more user friendly than being shoved off to the side.  I also moved the search box up to the header.  Finally, hovering over a link will finally give you a color that doesn’t nearly blend in to the page; especially important in the sidebar.

In addition, all category and monthly archive options are now on a separate archives page.  I decided to do several main categories (which are in the process of being reformulated) and then use tags to indicate specific topics within the category.  You can see the tag cloud to the write.  Over the next week or two (actually I’ll probably end up doing it overnight), I’ll be going through all 433 posts at Dymersion and giving them all tags, so that the cloud will fill up more quickly.

More changes are likely to occur.  I may make the page wider, but we’ll see.  Stay tuned for more.



Posted by Mike Merritt in Dymersion on | No Comments

When I started Dymersion I never intended to write quite as many political posts as I have.  I consider myself a pretty big politics geek, but I never thought it’d vastly overtake the site in content.

To put it in perspective, the biggest category on the site after ones having to do with politics is the category “Personal Life.”  Even then, not everything is strictly to do with my personal life.  Not everything there is a “this is what I did today” kind of post.

Ever since upgrading to WordPress, my method of categorization has been more like tagging, mostly because WordPress didn’t have tags at the time.  I’ve thought about starting to tag, and actually did do it while still on MovableType, but I’m unsure about it.  My fear is that if I use tagging, the system will grow inefficient and messy, and I’ll end up with several different tags about the same subject (e.g. “McCain”, John McCain”, and “The Mac Attack”)

Yet, with my increase in political posting, I’ve been putting most entries in either “Politics”, “Elections 2008” or both.  Well, that’s just all kinds of vague, now isn’t it?  I should have a category for just Obama, one just for McCain, and one just for Clinton.  Then there’s categories suited for the Bush Administration, torture, Congress, and other issues.

I probably should have creating new categories all along for the new subjects, but laziness set in.  Also, a long category list would frankly, become too long for my tastes.  Categories on WordPress, unlike tags, are not context searchable.  WP will suggest previously used tags while typing.

So, interestingly, I may have actually just answered my own question.  I think perhaps the final solution is going to be a combination of both.  Have several main categories, and then use the tags to further delineate the entry.

We shall see.  Stay tuned


Obama’s Muslim Problem

Posted by Mike Merritt in Election 2008, Politics on | No Comments

Geeze, this guy is starting to have a lot of “problems,” isn’t he?  First it was “the Appalachain problem” and now it’s his “Muslim problem.”

For those hiding under pebbles, his campaign seems to be actively trying to dispel that age old rumor that Barack Obama is a sooper-sekret Muslim.  Anybody who’s actually paying attention knows by now that this is simply not true.  Anybody who’s been geeking out on election issues for the past 17 months (like me), knows that Obama made a speech some months ago that I argued would not seem out of place at a church that’s a member of the National Association of Evangelicals.

However, they seem to be a little paranoid about the issue.  The campaign seems to be doing anything they can to stop the Republicans from associating Obama with terrorists.  This would seem to include barring a couple of Muslim women wearing headscarfs from sitting behing Obama at one of his speeches.  Obama later personally apologized to the women, and I have read that they are content at his apology.  Obama’s campaigned also told Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison, a Muslim, that he shouldn’t make a speech promoting Obama at a mosque.

Whoever is handling Obama’s religious outreach ought to be fired, since they’re not doing outreach toward Muslims, and I think it’s important that they do so.  Just as important as reaching out to Christians or Jews.  Face it, Obama campaign.  Islam is still a major religion in this country, even if not the biggest.  You need their support, and ignoring them is just as dangerous as being perceived as a terrorist symphaphizer.

I can see why they’re doing it.  All those endorsements from Hamas and Iran certainly are not helping him.  Yet, I’d argue Obama can reach out to Muslims without being perceived as a friend of terrorists the world over.  I think he needs to meet with Muslim groups, and quickly.  Perhaps even call a religious summit, including leaders from various denominations from around the U.S.  Then, and this is important, he needs to make a speech about his support for Muslims.  Such a speech should also emphasize his Christian faith, and maybe a comparison to the strong faith of many Muslims around the U.S.  Finally, it should include his willingness to work with the Muslim community to root out terrorism.

The last part of such a speech would also show he’s continuing goal of dimplomacy over military action, while also showing committment to ridding the world of terrorism.

These things are important because the man who has been called a uniter is quickly losing this title.  I think quick and effective outrich to the Muslim community would help repair both rifts.


The Dissent of Heller

Posted by Mike Merritt in Independence Week, Society on | One Comment

Anybody who was considering starting up a rebellion against the feds can put away the drawing board now.

For those of you not in the know, today the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that private citizens can indeed own a gun for themselves for use in self defense and hunting.  The case came due to a handgun ban in the District of Columbia.

You can read the full ruling, majority opinion, and dissenting opinion, here.  I’m not going to repeat the ruling and discussion about it, which you can see at about a thousand other blogs.  Instead, I’d like to do what others are not and focus on the dissent.

I support the majority decision.  I hold the view that private gun ownership is the de facto standard in the country, even if it wasn’t the official standard before today.  The second amendment might say that the rights of the people to bear arms shall not be abridged in order to keep a well established milita (emp. mine), but lets be honest: who’s in a milita now-a-days?  The military is, by common definition, not a militia.  So, besides some elements of the defense contracter industry (Blackwater, etc) and perhaps a few citizens groups, there is no such thing as a militia anymore.  If you want to argue that state reserve troops are militas, you go right ahead; these days, they are more like extensions of the regular army.

I would argue that that the most important part of the text is its second clause, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  Even if the intention of the amendment is to keep militas “well regulated,” isn’t private gun ownership a milestone toward achieving that requirement?  I can see the argument that the gun would be owned by the militia, but just who is the militia?

Stevens, writing the dissent for the minority, would seem to argue that militas are the function of the states, but I’m not so sure.  I like to go back to the Declaration of Independence for advice on some of our most cherished rights.  Now, I know that what goes into any Declaration of Independence might not necessarily be found in a Constitution, but I believe it sets out guiding principles that our Constitution goes by.  Now, take this phrase from it:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

I think my bolding says right there why we have a second amendment.  Now, you could argue further that my emphasis still applies to militas, but I’m still going to have to disagree.  It seems to me that to be effective in regulating your milita, your members actually have to know how to use a gun.  They can’t learn everything about them from the milita leaders.  Rather, members would learn the proper handling and responsibility of arms through childhood teaching from parents, or in the case of modern times, through classes.  Therefore, even if you argue that the second amendment refers to militas, unless you have private ownership in order to learn how to use them, your milita is not going to be well regulated.

So, I might actually be somewhat inclined to agree that the second amendment doesn’t say that you can keep arms in order to shoot the burglar attacking your home, but I’m of the mind that if you’re already keeping an arm to use in your local milita, other rights come with the territory.  Tell me, what are you going to do when some criminal is in your home hurting your family?  Unless you’ve been trained in the martial arts, you’re going to need some kind of assistance, and not everybody has a bat.  Oh, and I’m not even going near “no guns, no criminals” in this entry.  Suffice it to say there’s other ways to hurt a person.

What’s interesting is that even though the dissenting justices are likely to be portrayed by conservatives as wanting to take guns out of your hands, one of Stevens’ points actually seems to say differently:

Until today, it has been understood that legislatures may regulate the civilian use and misuse of firearms so long as they do not interfere with the preservation of a well-regulated militia.

It would seem that Stevens et. al are not necessarily against private gun ownership, but that they would rather the legislative branch put the right into the U.S. Code.  That’s the way I see that sentence, anyway.  I think others may see it as the government will restrict all gun ownership unless you’re part of a militia.  Indeed, that could happen, but I’m an optimistic guy, so I’ll respectfully disagree.

Overall, I think that the concept of private gun ownership has been so ingrained into our culture at this point, that a ruling as favored by the minority would have caused a disruption not seen at any other time in U.S. history.  A whole section of the U.S. economy would be nearly obliterated (remember that there really are no militas anymore).  You can bet most conservatives and even a lot of liberals (especially those raised in the South where it is a large part of the culture) would cause an uproar.  I have a feeling most Americans would be against such a ruling.

Now, I’ve never owned a gun, and don’t see going after an opportunity to do so in the future.  As I’ve said before in a comment to another one of my entries, it’s not a huge issue for me in terms of electability.  Yet, I still would not support a ruling other than the one we got today.  I think it’s a huge win for the gun-rights activists; yet, the gun control activists need not fret.  The court also pretty much ruled that current regulations were still probably fair.  Indeed, I would like to see it made more difficult for those with a proven history of mental instability to get a gun.

So, for it being the first really deep look at the Second Amendment, I think the Supreme Court did well.  Until next session, court, have a great break.


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