Friday, October 28, 2011

The Paradox of Freedom

What is freedom?

Definition: freedom - noun
1. the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.
2. exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
3. the power to determine action without restraint.
4. political or national independence.
5. personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery.

If one operates without external control, interference, regulation, or restraint, at some point it will impose upon the freedom of another. Imposing on the freedom of another limits the freedom of the other. That contradicts the definition of freedom. However, with a small number of people (or entities) who have little or no interaction with each other, the above definition may still work.

As the number of people and/or level of interaction increases, one quickly reaches a point where the freedom of one imposes on the freedom of another. In order minimize and resolve those conflicts, there must be rules, regulations, restraints, and external controls that limit the actions of the free people. Once again, that contradicts the definition of freedom.

This is the paradox of freedom: You can’t be totally free in the presence of other free people, yet, if there are no other people, your freedom is meaningless. Freedom in a society must have limits.

What are the limits of freedom?

If freedom must have rules, regulations, restraints, and external controls, then where must your freedom end? Let’s look at some examples. It’s against the law to take the possessions, or property of another without permission and/or compensation. It’s also against the law to kill another (except in defense). So, freedom doesn’t mean you’re free to do anything you wish.

The authors of the US Declaration of Indepence recognized this and they stated:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed…”

So, the legitimate purpose of government is to secure and protect your rights and freedom, and to enact and enforce laws that accomplish that purpose. And the power to do so comes from the collective, not individual, consent of the people. Your rights and your freedom are, and must be, limited when they begin to infringe upon the rights and freedom of another, or to infringe or violate the just laws enacted to protect those rights.

We must reexamine the very definition of freedom. Referring to the definition above, items 2 & 3 need modification such as:
2. exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc., except those necessary to protect the rights and freedoms of everyone.
3. the power to determine action without restraint, except those restraints necessary to protect the rights and freedoms of everyone.
Freedom must have the rule of law. Below are a few quotes that reinforce these points:
“But freedom of men under government is to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it. A liberty to follow my own will in all things where that rule prescribes not, not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man ...” ~John Locke
“The fact, in short, is that freedom, to be meaningful in an organized society must consist of an amalgam of hierarchy of freedoms and restraints.” ~Samuel Hendel

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” ~George Bernard Shaw, 1905
Freedom requires constant defense

Support those laws which protect your freedom and your rights. Demand them, honor them, and enforce them. Yet be wary of every proposal for a law that diminishes the rights or freedoms of any person, as your freedom diminishes with it. You must constantly defend freedom, or it will be constantly eroded. To reinforce this point, I'll leave you with a few final quotes, as caution about the nature of government, law, and freedom:

“Men fight for freedom, then they begin to accumulate laws to take it away from themselves.” ~Author Unknown
“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” ~Benjamin Franklin, 1759
“No man can put a chain about the ankle of his fellow man without at last finding the other end fastened about his own neck.” ~Frederick Douglass, 1883
“I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” ~James Madison, 1788
“Many politicians are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story who resolved not to go into the water till he had learned to swim.” ~Thomas Macaulay
“Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance.” ~Woodrow Wilson
“I prefer liberty with danger to peace with slavery.” ~Author Unknown
“He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself.” ~Thomas Paine
“Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed - else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.“ ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

Wondering what Occupy Wall Street is about?

Here is some background for anyone who may be wondering what OWS is all about:

Who lobbied Congress to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, thus allowing banks and financial institutions to merge? Wall Street

Who created the "derivatives" that made the real estate crash a huge problem for Wall Street? Wall Street

Who invested in all those 95%-100% sub-prime mortgages? Wall Street.

Who created and participated in all the reinsurance deals that caused the failure of AIG? Wall Street.

Who got a $700B bailout loan from the taxpayers? Wall Street

What is the first thing Wall Street did with their bailout loans? Paid hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses to the very people responsible for the above. If you borrowed money from WS to bail out your failing business and proceeded to pay out huge bonuses to your executives and managers, they would probably call the loan. Yet they defended it when they did exactly that.

How many WS execs have been charged (in a civil or criminal suit) for any of the above? Few, if any.

They've lied, cheated, changed the rules, and manipulated the system, while the majority of the country (and much of the world) has paid the price. Yet they have not been held accountable for any of it.

We the People are pissed off about being pissed on!

These are not the only issues driving the Occupy movement, but they're some of the major ones behind OWS specifically. Here are some of my posts on related issues of "corporatism":
Corporations Are Not People
The Paradox of Free Markets.

A NY Times op-ed piece about some of the deals.

And a Washington Post blog about the growing income disparity of the top 1% in the US and other countries.

An Interview with Jeff Greene, a billionaire who has begun to see the nature of the problem.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Paradox of Free Markets.

There has been a lot of discussion the last few years about deregulation and allowing "the free market" to operate. In many/most cases, that is the most effective solution. Allow buyers to "vote with their dollars" by supporting the sellers who offer the most suitable (including price, quality, performance, etc) product for the buyer's needs. That is fundamental to capitalism as an economic model.

However, "free markets" do not work when any of the following are true:

  • One company controls 45%+ of the marketplace, or a few companies control over 75% of the market.
  • There are high barriers to entry for new competitors (including regulatory or capital cost barriers).
  • There is a limited supply or distribution chain. This includes "natural monopolies" such as utilities, cellular providers (since RF bandwidth is a limited resource), etc.
  • Corporations/companies get special interest exceptions or special benefits (e.g. tax abatements) from the government.
  • Regulations to prevent collusion by sellers are absent or ineffective.
  • The "buyer" has a medical emergency or urgent medical/health need and therefore has no real opportunity to compare providers of medical services. Healthcare delivery is rarely a free market because the of the limited opportunity to research and compare providers, services, and prices.
Note that markets must be considered on a local, regional, and national level. Other levels such as state/province may also be useful measures.

Any of those situations shift the balance of power in favor of the seller, such that free markets don't work. In any of those situations, competition is limited and the buyer has very little power or choice, therefore, it is no longer a free market. When any of the above conditions (and perhaps there are a few I've missed) occur, progressively stronger anti-trust/anti-monopoly regulations should begin to apply as needed to balance the market. If the above situations are not properly regulated and limited, greed and power will always eventually lead to corruption and abuse, it's human nature.

"With respect to their safety, derivatives, for the most part, are traded among very sophisticated financial institutions and individuals who have considerable incentive to understand them and to use them properly."
- Ben Bernanke, November 15, 2005, less than 2 months before he became Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Approximately 2.5 years before the banking crisis that was as extensive as it was in large part because of trading said derivatives.

The restraint must be preemptive. Because corruption and abuse cause damage that is difficult (frequently impossible) to repair, and because history shows that they are inevitable, regulatory limits should kick in automatically as soon as one of those conditions exists, even if there is no actual evidence of corruption, collusion, anti-competitive activity, or abuse. I know some people will disagree with that statement, calling it a prior restraint of trade, etc. However, history has demonstrated many times that no matter how benevolent the intent, eventually it will become corrupt because power and money draw people who will abuse and corrupt the organization. By the time the corruption or abuse is clearly demonstrated, the damage is likely to be irreversible, extremely costly, and difficult to restrain.

"I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interest of organisations, specifically banks, is such that they were best capable of protecting shareholders and equity in the firms ...."
- Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve when the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed in 1999 and he supported it's repeal, testifying to Congress on the banking crisis in Oct 2008.

Unregulated free markets don't work when any organization has sufficient power to manipulate the market. Corporations can not be relied upon to act in the best interest of their shareholders, much less the best interest of the market or the people. The history of anti-trust violations makes that abundantly clear. The repeated banking failures make that abundantly clear. The US auto industry in the 50's-60's (unsafe vehicles) makes that abundantly clear. There have been thousands of anti-trust suits filed by the US Government against companies alleged to have engaged in anti-competitive practices, manipulating a market, etc. Anti-competitive behavior is not a rare occurrence.

Even renowned economist and free market advocate Milton Friedman, acknowledged that monopolies arise in free markets, and that at least one of them has persisted (for over 130 years):
“A monopoly can seldom be established within a country without overt and covert government assistance…The De Beers diamond monopoly is the only one we know of that appears to have succeeded. We know of no other that has been able to exist for long without the direct assistance of governments.” -- from "Free to Choose".

Note that he acknowledges others have existed, but didn't last "for long". He doesn't say what the others were, or how long they lasted. Did they last 10 years? 20? 50?. How long does a monopoly have to exist before it causes harm to consumers or the market? While he dismisses them as not lasting for long, he never addresses whether the monopoly was harmful while it existed.

Now we have the paradox:
A free market is the most effective, most responsive, and least costly method of creating competition and allowing the market to respond to consumer wants and needs. Yet a free market can't be truly free, it must be guided toward balance via regulations that take effect when any of the above conditions exist.

The solution is not more laws and regulations. That's the solution proposed by many people whenever there is another problem, however, that usually makes matters worse. A better solution is to start by replacing almost all existing regulations with fewer, simpler regulations that have less overlap, less duplication, and very few exceptions. The regulations should be as few and as simple as necessary to prevent most abuse, corruption, collusion, fraud, and deliberate or negligent harm to buyers and to keep the market from becoming significantly unbalanced. As new situations arise that aren't addressed adequately by the laws and regulations, reevaluate and update or replace existing regulations. When I say update, I literally mean update the existing regulation, don't just add another new law or an addendum to the law, add, update, or remove sections to that the changes are incorporated naturally into the text of the law.

Keep it as simple and straightforward as possible. Complexity will make the laws and regulations ineffective and costly. The market should be allowed to operate as a free market so long as conditions allow for a balanced free market, with just basic regulations regarding fraud, liability, negligence, etc. Regulations to prevent abuse when the above conditions exist should be as few and as simple as necessary to allow a balanced market. The regulations should also be progressive, with minor restrictions when the threshold is crossed, and stronger restrictions if the market continues to be unbalanced (e.g. one or a few suppliers continue to gain control of a larger percentage of the market). The goal is to "nudge" the market into balance, not to manage the market. Markets are far too complex and dynamic to be managed, regulations must merely restrain abuse and promote a balanced free market, they must not attempt to manage the market or steer it in a specific direction.

Special interest exceptions or exclusions should almost never be included in a law or regulation, even temporarily. There will be some legitimate exceptions. Some exceptions might be permanent, and those should be part of the law. Temporary exceptions should be via an addendum that automatically expires and cannot be extended. "Temporary" laws must be kept temporary. Writing a new law that has the effect of extending a temporary law must require a "super-majority" vote for it to be enacted.

Laws and regulations should be simple enough for the majority of people with at least an 8th grade education to understand what the law says. Lawyers and judges can debate the details, limits, and exceptions when necessary as that's a legitimate purpose of the courts, but the legislation and regulations should be understandable to most adults. For instance, we don't need separate laws for computer fraud, insurance fraud, credit card fraud, securities fraud, etc, we just need one law that makes fraud illegal, and establishes penalties based upon the extent, value, and impact of the fraud. Fraud is fraud, how you commit it should be irrelevant. A similar approach applies to other crimes.

I stumbled across a document that covers this in some detail. It's longer than my post, but worth reading. Here's one relevant excerpt:
All economic systems are governed by certain rules of game, and the governing rule for a modern market economy is the rule of law. The rule of law has two economic functions. First, the rule of law regulates and limits discretionary interventions of the state in economic activities. Secondly, the rule of law regulates the economic behavior of individuals and enterprises to create an orderly, stable environment with fair competition, clearly defined and well protected property rights, and effectively enforced contracts. In essence, these two economic functions of the rule of law are about regulating the relationship between the state and the market through legal institutions so that economic development is both possible and sustainable.

According to a NYTimes article, Sanford Weill, former CEO of Citigroup, the man considered to be one of the most influential in the repeal of Glass-Steagall, and one of the people who profited most from it when Citigroup was created, now says:
“What we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking. Have banks do something that’s not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that’s not going to be too big to fail.”
Many of his counterparts at other banks have agreed:
"In 2009, John S. Reed, who with Mr. Weill forged the megamerger that created Citigroup, apologized for creating a lumbering giant that needed multibillion-dollar bailouts from the government. Philip Purcell, the former chief executive of Morgan Stanley and David H. Komansky, the onetime leader of Merrill Lynch, two other main figures in the fight to repeal Glass-Steagall, have echoed similar concerns about deregulation." - NYTimes

Related links: Updates:
2011-10-27. Updated with quotes from Bernanke and Greenspan, added examples where free markets have failed, and expanded the section on keeping the regulations simple.
2011-10-28. Changed the title from "What is a Free Market?".

Corporations are not people

Let me start with, I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. This is my opinion about why corporations should not be considered a person.

What is a corporation? A corporation is an artificial legal entity created for the purpose of operating an ongoing business (for profit, or non-profit) or governmental unit (city, town, etc). They serve several practical business functions, and that is their only reason for existence. Corporations exist to allow a business to:
  • survive the death of any individual
  • be bought and sold via the issuance, sale, and purchase of stock
  • offer limited (to amount of the investment) liability for the stockholders
  • offer limited liability to employees, officers, and directors, except when they have violated the law or are found to have been negligent
As an artificial entity, they need to be endowed with certain rights by their creator. Who is their creator? Government, as an agent of The People governed. With the exception of the rights necessary to fulfill the purposes above, they should have no rights that a person doesn't have. Indeed, they should have fewer rights than a person.

Corporations should have very limited access to petition the government or lobby for/against laws and regulations. They are not people, the government doesn't represent them. The government is the creator of the corporation, not it's servant. Corporations must have no right to vote, and should not be allowed to contribute to political campaigns, PACs, or otherwise fund a political campaign in ANY fashion. Their right, if any, to lobby politicians should also be severely limited. As one commenter on this post put it:
If corp's can influence legislation then at least one will be unscrupulous enough to influence laws to give themselves an unfair advantage in their market therefore dominating it and becoming a duly ordained part of a growing oligarchy.
The individual owners, officers, directors, and even employees can personally contribute to and support politicians, but the corporation should not be able to do so, nor be allowed to direct them to do so, compensate them for doing so, nor penalize them for not doing so. Corporations as entities of business should have little or no involvement in the political process. The government is charged with serving and protecting "the People", and a corporation is not a person.

Corporations must have access to and protection under the legal system. Corporations must have the right to sue and be sued, and be subject to civil and criminal penalties. However, in criminal proceedings, only the officers, directors, or employees can be charged. There is no "body" (corpus) to the corporation to charge or imprison. This alone is ample evidence that a corporation is not a person.

The officers, directors, and other employees must be accountable for criminal charges and civil or criminal penalties when their actions as an officer, director, or employee of the corporation would expose an individual to the same charges or penalties. A corporation must not protect a person against being responsible for their actions, and a corporation may be required to share the financial liability for the actions of it's officers, directors, and employees. "I was just doing my job" or "just following orders" does not shield a person from any criminal liability for their actions. It may shield an employee from personal financial liability if they were acting as an agent of the corporation, in which case the corporation is at least jointly, and may be exclusively liable for financial damages and penalties.

While a corporation in civil legal proceedings is treated very similar to a person, a corporation is clearly not a person in a criminal proceeding. In the political arena, a corporation is very different from a person. Corporations don't have the rights of a person, they have only the rights granted to them by their creators. Corporations are created by the government, which are agents of the governed people. Therefore, the rights of a corporation come directly from the government, and indirectly from the people whom those governments serve. For the reasons stated above, those rights must be different than the rights of a person.

Any interpretation of a corporation as a person is seriously flawed and eventually leads to the government being a servant of corporations, and that always leads to disaster.

Edit: 2011-10-21. Clarified the section on civil and criminal liability under the legal system.

Update: 2011-11-08. I just read an article that pointed out some of the concerns raised in the "Citizens United v FEC" case.
"... Its constitutional theory would permit Congress to ban a book as well as a 30-second TV spot if the book satisfied the operative definition of an ‘electioneering communication' and the book's corporate publisher paid for the book with general treasury funds (as it almost certainly would) ... The breadth of that concession is staggering," reads the brief, especially since it's common for such books to come out during campaign season.
The brief continued: "The fact that such books could be banned under the government's theory unless funded by a PAC vividly illustrates why those criteria (to protect speech) are insufficient to safeguard the important First Amendment interests at stake."
Limiting a corporations ability to publish and sell books of a political nature is certainly not the intent nor is it in the best interests of anyone to limit that ability. The rules need to be constructed in a way that allows them to publish and sell such books (or movies, magazines, etc), but doesn't allow them to use that as a means of contributing to campaigns or lobbying the government. For example, giving the books away (or selling them below cost) in support or a campaign, party, or candidate might be prohibited as an illegal contribution by a corporation. Offering a candidate a book/movie deal or job during a campaign or while in office might be prohibited as lobbying or an illegal contribution, or even bribery if the circumstances justified such a charge. This area of allowing commercial political speech is deserving of more attention, but it doesn't alter my position that corporate access to government must be extremely limited and any view of a corporation as a person is seriously flawed.

Update: 2012-06-29
My second article on this topic.

Related Links:
The Story of Citizens United vs F.E.C. video.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Let’s Roll

I awoke one Tuesday morning
And got up out of bed
I listened to some music
To help me clear my head

I brewed a pot of coffee
And into the shower I climbed
I sang along with the music
Now fresh in body and mind

I fixed myself some breakfast
And drank my coffee down
Then turned off the music
And headed towards the town

As was always my custom
When driving was my way
I listened to more music
On this bright and beautiful day

I arrived at my office
And sat down at my desk
I began work right away
And set about my task

“What do you think of today’s events?”
A coworker inquired
I paused my work and asked
“What events transpired?"

They looked at me in disbelief
They couldn’t help but stare
The news was everywhere
How could I not be aware?

Something big had happened
I could see it in their faces
Don’t know what they were thinking
Perhaps they wanted to trade places

Clearly stunned, he asked
“You really haven’t heard?”
“I haven’t listened to the news,
How would I have heard?”

As their shock subsided
They told me what had been
Two planes had hit the towers
My response, “Osama bin Laden”

Again they stared at me in wonder
Asked, “What was that you said?”
So I repeated, “Osama bin Laden”
And again my words fell dead

So I started to explain
The stories that I knew
From reading in the papers
About bin Laden and his crew

And when a third plane crashed
Now with the Pentagon in black
No longer was there any doubt
It was a suicide attack

As that day’s events unfolded
And they watched the burning flame
They sat and listened in disbelief
At how I knew his name

As the shock turned into fear
The real horror began
As Tower Two collapsed
And everybody ran

Minutes later, the fourth plane fell
In a field in Pennsylvania
We didn’t know about the heroes
Who gave their lives to save us

All we knew was it was down
And the skies held only clouds
Except for a few fighter jets
Which were startlingly loud

Almost half an hour later
The other tower fell
The sight was so surreal
I think it looked like hell

And as I watched, I shed some tears
For those who lost their lives
But even more for those still here
The children, husbands, and wives

I can’t explain how I knew
Or why they used such violence
But for three whole days, give or take
The skies held only silence

I tell you one thing that I know
Now this ten years hence
We’ll never understand it
Because it makes no sense

They think that they can change
Our ways by bringing terror here
You know something, they’re right
Except they cannot make us fear

So on this day, and each day after
Dwell not upon the toll
And do not fear, but think instead
Of these final words, “Let’s Roll”

-- Geoff Strickler
-- September 11, 2011

Friday, July 1, 2011

Poem: A Birthday Wish

You were the most beautiful vision I’d ever seen.
Brilliant and clever, you were everyone’s dream.
You built yourself up, with millions in tow.
An inspiring example for everyone to follow.

You were a teacher, a leader, and a guide.
You paved the way and asked others to ride.
You called for a future that no one could see
You were so inspiring and everyone believed.

But lately, it seems, you’ve been out of touch.
You stopped creating, you’re not doing much.
For some time now you’ve lived on your legacy
Pardon my bluntness, but you’ve gotten lazy

You’ve gotten fat, you’re not doing enough
You just sit around and argue with yourself.
You change your direction all of the time
It seems you just can’t make up your mind.

Maybe you’ve forgotten where you were going?
You look like you’re lost, and ill winds are blowing.
Did you lose sight of the dream you helped create?
I think you’ve forgotten just what made you great.

You no longer lead, you just stand here waiting
You no longer inspire, and the dream is fading
Maybe, perhaps, your time has come and gone.
But remember that dream? It’s not yours alone.

It’s not too late, you can still change your ways.
But if you want to succeed, start changing today.
Get started right now, you can still lead the race
But you have to step up and start setting the pace.

Return to your values. Let your light shine again.
For the dream still lives on in the hearts of some men.
America, I miss you. So, for your birthday and mine,
Please reclaim your lead, before you run out of time.

Declare your independence. Don’t give up the fight.
Uphold the Constitution, and stand up for your rights.
Be the land of the free, and the home of the brave.
We The People run the show, make our rulers obey.

-- Geoff Strickler
-- July 1, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

How and Why I went (almost) Flash free on my Mac

Update 2015-02-05: Since Safari 5.x hasn't been supported in years, I switched to using Chrome and Firefox as my primary browsers several years ago. However, aside from that detail, the rest of this still applies.

I don't like Adobe Flash. I don't have anything against the concept, and it does offer some neat, and occasionally useful capabilities that are difficult to implement using other technologies. However, I got really tired of the need for constant security patches for Flash, the Flash based ads, the performance slowdowns, and the reduced battery life due to all the Flash based content on websites and in ads.

So for the past 6 months, I've gone Flash free on my Mac. To be clear, I'm not really Flash free, I do have Google Chrome with it's built-in (and automatically updated) Flash, but as you'll see below, that's my backup option for those occasions where I really want/need to access some content that requires Flash.

I mostly use Safari 5.x and find it very quick, that's the main reason I switched from Firefox a couple years ago. I deliberately don't have Flash loaded on my machine, and that helps with performance and battery life. When I encounter a site that requires Flash, I either use Chrome (with it's built-in Flash) or I don't use that site. This is simple when you enable the "Develop" menu in Safari, one of the options on that menu is to open a page in any of the other browsers installed in your machine. Not everyone will like that setup, but I've been using it for about 6 months and I like it. Here are instructions for setting it up.

I use two other Safari extensions. YouTube5, which tells YouTube to send HTML5/H.264 video rather than Flash video, and ClickToPlugin, which makes all other plugins require you to click on the content before it loads. That keeps plugins from slowing down my machine and using extra bandwidth. Here are links to those two.

Also, since websites logs will show that I don't have Flash installed, it may eventually make them rethink their use of Flash, especially if a lot of people start doing this.

What I end up with is clean, fast browsing, no Flash ads, no extra junk slowing down my machine or using up battery. The trade-off is the minor inconvenience of having to occasionally click on some content to display it or open a page in Chrome. It's a trade-off I'm willing to make. Try it out for a couple weeks, you might find you like it.

2011-07-11 - Flash Player "zero day" vulnerabilities exploited in the last 30 days = 3, this year, 6-10. Flash Player is insecure, inefficient, and a high profile target for people trying to compromise your computer.

2011-12-14 - Adobe Flash Player vulnerabilities by year.

2011-12-30 - Mac users, use Flush to remove existing "persistent Flash cookies". Alternatively, you can manually delete all your Flash preferences by deleting this folder:
~/Library/Preferences/Macromedia/Flash Player

2012-01-05 - Safari 5.1.x has significantly more issues than 5.0.x, so after a couple weeks of using 5.1.2, I reverted to 5.0.5.

2012-01-29 - My Windows machines have been using a similar setup for some time. However, Safari for Windows is distinctly inferior to Chrome and Firefox for Windows, so I have standardized on using Chrome for my primary browser for Windows. The Adobe Flash built-in to Chrome 16 on my Windows XP machine was crashing multiple times per week, so I disabled the Flash plug-in and am operating completely without Flash on this machine for now. Since I will need Flash for a few sites, I will probably download Portable Chrome and leave Flash enabled there. That's not as convenient because Chrome doesn't have a handy menu option allowing you to open the page in another browser, but copy & paste of the URL works well.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Poem: The Mavericks

The Mavericks
With apologies to Edgar Allen Poe

Once upon a midnight weary, the Mavs did beat the Lakers clearly
Over many a foul and furious shots within the Center's core.
While I shouted, nearly rasping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one loudly gasping, tapping on the wooden floor.
"Tis the Lakers," I uttered, "gasping up and down the floor -
Only them, and nothing more."

Ah, clearly I can say, twas in the joyous month of May
That each three pointer the Mavs did make, left no mark upon the wooden floor.
Eagerly I await tomorrow; - tickets I had sought to borrow
To relieve the past of sorrow - sorrow for the losses that came before
For the rare and jubilant reason to avenge the losses that came before
Forgotten now for evermore.

And the sad but certain unravelling of each yellow and purple jersey
Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic feelings never felt before
So that now, to the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“Tis some visitors, getting swept upon our Center floor –
Some Laker visitors, getting clearly swept upon our home floor.
This it is, and nothing more.”

Presently my team grew stronger, hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your indulgence I implore;
But the fact is I was clapping, as so weakly you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping upon our wooden floor,
That scarce was sure I heard you” – here we opened wide the score.
Lakers there, and then no more.

Deep into that score peering, long I stood there clapping, cheering,
Seeing, dreaming dreams no fan had ever dared to dream before.
But the shouting was unbroken, and the Lakers were but tokens,
And the only word there spoken was a shouted, “Gone in four!”
This I shouted, and the walls echoed back “Gone in four!”
Merely this, and nothing more.

[there may be more to come]

-- Geoff Strickler
-- May 4-8, 2011

Song: Flying with the TSA

Flying with the TSA
[to the tune of “Charlie on the MTA”]

[Spoken: This part isn’t on some of the recordings]

These are the times that try men's souls. In the course of our nation's history, the people of this nation have rallied bravely whenever the rights of men have been threatened. Today, a new crisis has arisen. The Transportation Security Agency, better known as the TSA, is executing illegal assaults on the population in the form of unconstitutional searches. Citizens, hear me out! This could happen to you!

Well, let me tell you of the story of a man named Charlie,
On a tragic and fateful day.
He put his phone in his pocket, kissed his wife and family,
Went to fly in the USA

(Well, did he ever return? No, he never returned.)
(And his fate is still unlearned.)
(He may remain forever at the TSA checkpoint.)
(He's the man who never returned.)

Charlie showed them his ticket at the TSA checkpoint,
Just hoping to catch his Plane.
When he got there the agent told him, "One more pat down."
Charlie could't get onto that plane.

(But, did he ever return? No, he never returned.)
(And his fate is still unlearned.)
(He may remain forever in the airport terminal.)
(He's the man who never returned.)

Now, all night long Charlie stands spread eagle,
Wonderin’, "Where will they touch me next?
I can’t let this happen to my sister in Dallas,
It’s all based on a false pretext”

(But, did he ever return? No, he never returned.)
(And his fate is still unlearned.)
(He may remain forever in the airport terminal.)
(He's the man who never returned.)

Charlie's wife goes down to the TSA checkpoint,
Every day at quarter past two.
And she keeps filming those pat downs as Charlie stands helpless,
As the TSA searches continue.

(Well, did he ever return? No, he never returned.)
(And his fate is still unlearned.)
(He may remain forever at the TSA checkpoint.)
(He's the man who never returned.)

Now citizens of the nation, don't you think it's a scandal,
How people are assaulted every day?
Fight for sane and sensible airport security!
Let’s get rid of the TSA!

(Or else we'll never return. No, we'll never return.)
(And our fate will be unlearn'd.)
(We may remain forever at the TSA checkpoint.)
(We'll be the ones who never returned.)
(We'll be the ones who never returned.)
(We'll be the ones who never returned.)

-- Geoff Strickler
-- May 8, 2011

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Poem: Divisionist History

Divisionist History

We fight for many reasons,
We fight for what we believe.
We’re right, they’re wrong,
And they’re trying to deceive.

We start a fight, or defend ourselves,
In battles won or lost.
War rages on forever,
And no one knows the cost.

We teach “divide and conquer”,
Study tactics and strategy.
And each day we keep on killing,
Because they’re not like me.

We keep building better weapons,
To kill Them more efficiently.
Why should we even care a bit,
They are the enemy.

Millions die and billions suffer.
The atrocities abound.
A dozen here, thousands there,
We’re indifferent to the sound.

To some “it” never happened.
Others argue that “it” did.
Some say “it” might have happened,
But not the way “They” said.

Each side tells their story,
Convinced that what they say is true.
But the victors always get to say,
And write history anew.

We’ll never truly know the reasons,
Only what the victors say,
Cause They’re the ones who write the books.
It doesn’t matter anyway.

One day I hope we’ll stop the madness,
It’s causing quite a fright.
But that doesn’t really seem to matter,
When we go to bed at night.

We’re no specific country,
Nation, state, or faith.
Nor race, nor creed, nor color,
We are the human race.

We can’t ever know the reasons.
We can’t begin to count the cost.
We can’t even know the truth.
We can only mourn the loss.

But any way you view it,
I hope we all can see.
Our righteousness perpetuates
Our divisionist history.

-- Geoff Strickler
-- March 31, 2007

Why the EPA Limits for Drinking Water Are Irrelevant to Radiation From Japan

Originally published as a note on my Facebook page Apr 25, 2011

The most recent results for iodine-131 levels in milk in Arizona have been widely misrepresented in media coverage as 1600x the EPA limit for drinking water. In fact, it's 16x (1600%), however, even that is meaningless. In fact, the EPA doesn't have a level for milk, and comparing it to the drinking water level is flawed as a level for milk and drinking water would not the same due to the differences in daily consumption. So any comparison to EPA levels is complete nonsense. The EPA levels serve a different purpose than the FDA levels, see info on EPA levels below. BTW, AZ publishes the readings from testing water and milk at

The FDA sets limits for food and drink (including milk and drinking water), and the highest level reported is ~ 1/1000 of the FDA DIL (Derived Intervention Level). Now the FDA DIL is probably too lax for drinking water because of the amount of water consumed daily. For food and milk, the FDA limits are better, but are arguably still too lax (at least for extended exposure). However, they're far more appropriate to a transient exposure, and they're specific to ingested food and drink, so they're far more applicable than the EPA levels in this situation.

More info on EPA limits:
EPA limits are based on consuming the MCL every day for 70 years, which is to say they are for a maximum "every day" level, not a maximum "safe" level. The EPA levels don't differentiate between getting the MCL every day for a lifetime and getting a somewhat larger dose for a few days. As a maintenance level, it make some sense, but they don't address transient levels. They are flawed in other ways as well, for instance, they allow 5x higher dose from alpha emitters which are far more damaging when inhaled/ingested than they do for beta and gamma emitters. They allow 5x as much exposure to a type of radiation that is ~ 20x more damaging, how does that make sense?

The EPA limits are occupational exposure limits (Quoted from 40 CFR 141.66(d)(2)):
"Maximum Permissible Body Burdens and Maximum Permissible Concentrations of Radionuclides in Air and in Water for Occupational Exposure," NBS (National Bureau of Standards) Handbook 69 as amended August 1963, U.S. Department of Commerce.

Another article on why the FDA and EPA limits are so different.

A group of scientists working to update what is classified safe exposure levels, based upon the scientific evidence.
Time for the scientific, environmental and economic truth about nuclear power

Notes About Radiation Exposure

Originally published as a note on my Facebook page Mar 29, 2010

Is any level of radiation exposure "safe"? Is all radiation exposure "harmful". Below I apply a bit of logic and sanity to examining the effects of radiation exposure:

There is no difference between "naturally occurring" and "man-made" radiation exposure at the same level. However, there is a difference between external (radiation source outside your body) and internal (radiation source inside your body) radiation. Internal or external radiation can come from natural or man-made sources. Again, there is no difference between the two, when the dosage and internal/external are the same. In general, inhaled radioactive particles are most dangerous, since they're more likely to get into the blood stream where they can affect any part of the body. Ingested radioactivity is usually not absorbed as effectively and it's less likely to reach as much of the body. Both should be taken seriously. See the "Treatment" section below if you suspect you have received significant exposure,

Radiation comes in basically four varieties:

Alpha - can be very damaging if it reaches living tissue, however, it's easily stopped. A piece of paper or your skin will block almost all alpha particles. It's only a significant health risk if inhaled or ingested in notable quantities.

Beta - can be moderately damaging, but is also relatively easy to stop. It will penetrate slightly below the skin, so external beta sources are similar to a sunburn (for high levels) and the most likely health effects are similar to sun exposure, including possible skin cancer if the exposure is high enough for a long term.

Gamma - X-rays and "cosmic rays" are types of gamma radiation (technically, x-rays and gamma rays are different, but the difference is not important here). Because it's very common and more difficult to block, this is the type of radiation that we hear most about. There is little difference between internal and external exposure to gamma radiation because your skin and clothing provide almost no protection from it. It's a mixed blessing, as most will pass through the body without any effect, but some percentage will interact with atoms in your body. The percentage that interacts with your body can do significant damage in high enough doses.

Neutron - rarely encountered in notable levels outside of a nuclear reactor (or nuclear weapon), but it does exist in low levels in nature. This can cause atoms to split, or absorb a neutron, which may then give off a minute amount of one of the above 3 types of radiation. Most will pass through your body without interaction. Most of the atoms in your body are not prone to splitting, so low doses will have minimal impact on living tissues.

With any of those 4 types, low dose has no measurable effect on your body because most damage will either cause cell to die and be replaced, or your body is able to repair the damage quickly. However, a sufficiently high dose of any type, or an "unlucky hit" from a lower level, can cause more damage than the body can repair, or a type of damage that the body can't repair, thus causing short term or long term damage.

Given the above, it is incorrect to say that all radiation is harmful, as the vast majority of it will either have no effect at all or will do less damage than the body can repair. It's equally incorrect to say that any level is harmless, as an "unlucky hit" from a very small dose can cause a long term problem, it's just statistically extremely improbable.

Below the maximum "safe" levels, you have much better odds of winning a huge lottery jackpot than of having measurable long term effects. Between the maximum "safe" levels, and approximately 500 mSv in less than 48 hours, your chances of both short term and long term effects increase significantly with increasing dosage. Above 500mSv in 48 hrs, your chances of short term and/or long term effects become probable (e.g. at those doses, you're likely to have effects).

Because your body is constantly repairing and replacing cells, the same total dosage received as a lower dosage over a longer time (e.g. 5 mSv/day for 100 days rather than 500 mSv in one day) is dramatically less likely to cause any measurable short term or long term effects.

Clearly, minimizing your exposure minimizes your risk. But also realize there are levels below which the risk is not even measurable. Worrying about exposure below (or even slightly above) the maximum "safe" levels is about as useful as worrying about getting hit by an asteroid or whether the sun will rise in the morning. Likewise, for worrying about brief exposure to higher levels such as receiving a CT scan or PET scan.

A simple analogy:
To put radiation exposure in terms just about everyone can understand, it's a lot like alcohol.

Too much in a short time will make you ill, or possibly kill you. That same amount spread out over days, weeks, or months won't even make you ill. However, too high a level long term can cause problems (e.g. cirrhosis, pancreatitis, cancer, infertility, etc.). Low doses for a long time are not known to cause problems (and at least with alcohol, appear to be beneficial).

In either case, if the dose is below what your body can process and repair any minor damage caused, there are few or no long term effects. If you exceed that level by too much, or for too long, the risks increase with both dosage and duration.

The first thing to know about getting treatment for any suspected radiation exposure is to seek medical treatment and decontamination immediately. If you have reason to believe you've been exposed to more than the maximum "safe" level, do not hesitate, seek immediate testing, decontamination, and treatment. This is particularly important if you may have inhaled or ingested a radioactive substance. Most common radioisotope inhalation or ingestion can be treated, but urgent treatment is critical to effective treatment.

For the two most common isotopes that released in nuclear power plant accidents, treatments are commonly available. For iodine-131 (aka 131I or I-131), treatment is usually done by taking potassium iodide (KI) tablets. This saturates the thyroid with non-radioactive iodine, minimizing the amount of I-131 that will be absorbed. For cesium-137 (aka 137Cs or Cs-137), treatment is usually done with medical grade "prussian blue". Prussian blue binds to many heavy metals, including Cs-137, and carries it out of the body. In both cases, the key is to get treatment BEFORE any significant amount has been absorbed by the body.

Most other radioisotopes can be treated, if treatment begins quickly enough.

Activated charcoal filters are effective at reducing the amount of iodine in air/water, so if your water supply has elevated levels of I-131, a good charcoal filter will help. Air purifiers that use activated charcoal will help remove I-131 from the air.

Charcoal filters will also remove some heavy metals, so they may reduce the level of Cs-137, but unless they've been specifically designed to remove Cs, they are not as effective at removing Cs as they are at removing iodine.

Useful links:
Fukushima FAQ from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

This one is easy to comprehend, but some the the technical details are wrong so don't rely on the details. The overview and debunking of false claims are solid. True facts about Ocean Radiation and the Fukushima Disaster

Natural sources of radiation (background radiation and foods):

Another viewpoint (his facts are valid, his proposals may be a little excessive)

MIT Nuclear Science Engineering, useful info on terminology and technical info.

Information on acute radiation syndrome (radiation poisoning):

NYTimes article on effects of low level radiation exposure.

IAEA international reference standards for radioisotope intake limits.

FDA's 6 age ranges and DC (Dose Coefficient) if various isotopes.

LLNL Evaluation of Radiation Doses Due to Consumption of Contaminated Food Items and Calculation of Food Class-Specific Derived Intervention Levels

ICRP Publications (most are not free)

Updated: 2011-03-29 @ 20:30 MDT - added notes about inhalation, ingestion, treatment, and prevention.
Updated: 2011-04-01 @ 09:30 MDT - added link on radiation poisoning.
Updated: 2011-04-01 @ 11:00 MDT - added simple analogy.

Major Security Oversight

Originally published as a note on my Facebook page Nov 18, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, flight crew and flight attendants, we have overlooked something major. The White House, US Capitol, and the Pentagon are all known terrorist targets. Planes were merely the method used to attack those targets. If terrorists can no longer use planes to attack these targets, they will use more direct attacks. Therefore, we need to petition our government to immediately install backscatter scanners and implement enhanced pat-down procedures at each of these locations.

No one should be allowed to enter these facilities without going through the scanner or pat-down. Not our elected officials, not the military, not the employees, not even the President, first lady, or their young daughters. These are high value targets, and we can't be too safe. In fact, given that the backscatter machines do not show anything inside the body, they should install both backscatter and millimeter wave scanners and everyone must pass through both to be sure they're not carrying any contraband.

Furthermore, if the terrorists can disrupt our security forces, that would give them more access, therefore the DHS and TSA offices become high value targets too, and they must also have these scanners and pat-down procedures immediately.

I believe we should extend this to all state government capital buildings as well, or at least for the most populous states, NY, CA, FL, TX, OH, IL, PA, MI, GA, NC, NJ, & VA. We should include MD because of it's proximity to DC. And we should include AK, HI, and RI since they're physically disconnected from the continental US.

Please, I urge you to immediately contact your state and federal representatives demanding that they correct this oversight that puts the entire government of the country at risk of terrorist attack, and by extension, puts everyone in the country at risk. I am horrified that we've left these high profile targets unprotected for this long.

Satirically yours,
Geoff Strickler

P.S. I was going to title this "Porno scanners and en-hands-ed feel-ups everywhere", but I didn't want to give away the satire too soon.

Song: Don't Fly

Originally published as a note on my Facebook page Nov 16, 2010

Don’t Fly
(to the tune of “Don’t Cry” by Asia)
Original Songwriters: John Wetton & Geoff Downes

New lyrics by Geoff Strickler

Hard times you had before you, I knew when they first saw you
You girl, you’re gonna be selected, inspected
So leave your stuff behind you, they’ve looked so long to find you
I know this search will last forever, ever and more, oh, oh, oh

Don't fly, now they’re gonna hound you
Don't fly, they’ll take a look around you
Don't fly, their groping will astound you
They do what they want so little darlin' please don't fly

I knew you’d be selected, knew you would be rejected
Don't think it’s like it’s been before
They'll watch you when you're scanning, they’ll grope you when you're standing.
Don't argue if you want to ever get on board, oh, oh, oh

Don't fly, now they’re gonna hound you
Don't fly, they’ll take a look around you
Don't fly, their groping will astound you
They do what they want so little darlin' please don't fly

(repeat previous verse 2 more times)

Don't fly, don't fly, don't fly
Don't fly, don't fly, don't fly
Don't fly, they’ve looked so long to find you
Don't fly, they’ll take a look around you

Edit 2011-04-29: minor updates.
Edit 2014-04-28: minor updates.

How to Have Effective Airport Security.

Originally published as a note on my Facebook page Nov 17, 2010.

1. Use explosive sniffing dogs and/or electronic explosive sniffers (not scanners). Note that these are effective at a distance and do not require any invasion of someone's privacy.

2. Use metal detectors to detect guns, knives, etc just as they've been doing for 30 years.

3. Increase the security of cargo and baggage (including carry-on), use improved scanners, sniffers, etc. There are no major privacy or health concerns involved here, and a bomb in the baggage/cargo area is absolutely the least desirable location. There is always a weakest point in any security system. Criminals will usually attack the weakest point. You want the weakest point in airline security to be with the passengers. If the threat is in the passenger compartment, the passengers, crew, and air marshals have a chance to stop it, as they have done repeatedly since 9/11. If it's in the cargo/baggage compartment, you're dead.

4. Allow behavioral profiling. Said in a less politically charged way, allow the screeners to perform additional screening of someone whom they believe looks or acts "suspicious" (e.g. they have probable cause to investigate and if needed perform additional searches). There will need to be limits, so that it's not abused. After the first 2 screening steps, this should rarely occur, but it's important that it be allowable.

5. Recognize and acknowledge that no amount of security is going to stop all committed terrorists. There is a point of diminishing returns where the "unreasonableness" of the security exceeds any theoretical increase in safety. Therefore, there is such a thing as "good enough" security, and the final security is ALWAYS going fall to the air marshals, passengers, and crew of the aircraft. Everyone except the TSA has realized this fact since United 93. Invading someone's privacy adds no more security.

Let's roll.

Update 2010-11-19
Minor edits to the above.

While the above is my own model, it's come to my attention that this is a slightly simplified version of what Israel uses at Ben Gurion airport, an airport known for effective and efficient security that is not invasive. For more info on the Israeli airport security, see:

Bruce Schneier's blog on TSA issues.

Update 2010-11-26
A similar proposal on

Questions for Those Who Think the New Airport Scanners Are Justified.

Originally published as a note on my Facebook page Nov 19, 2010

Here are my questions for anyone who believes the new scanners and pat down procedures are justified because they make flying safer:

Q: Would you rather be blown up by a bomb around a terrorist's waist, or a bomb up his a$$?

I know it's a little crude, but it's intended to be shocking. The new scanners won't detect bombs or other items inside the body, won't detect powders, and according to a GAO report, probably would not have detected the "underwear" bomb.

Q: Aren't there better scanners that can detect those?

A: Yes, they're called "trace detectors" or "sniffers", and they don't require x-raying you or taking naked images of you for them to work. They also don't require anyone touching you. We've been using them in a limited capacity for years, so why should we use expensive and invasive new scanners that won't work as well?

Here's an Interesting interview with a former TSA/FAA inspector:

Interviewer: "Are people in airports that don't have the new AIT scanners less safe?"
Consultant: "No."

She also stated that the TSA plans to make the full-body scanners the primary screening method, replacing the metal detectors. So, while right now, few people will go through the scanner, eventually, they intend to make everyone go through.


Bottom line, the new "porno scanners" and "en-hands-ed feel-up" procedures are security theater, they give the illusion of better security, but they do not improve safety at all. At the same time, they're grossly invasive and therefore, violate your 4th Amendment rights agains "unreasonable" searches of your person.

No amount of security can keep all dangerous items off an aircraft. A dedicated attacker will find a way, even if everyone were submitted to strip searches, body cavity searches, x-rays, explosive sniffers, and any other form of "security" you can dream up.

You can not prevent all attacks on board, much less all the external attacks (LAWS rocket, SAM, etc.) or simply attacking the terminal before going though security.

When you finally realize that it's impossible to have complete "safety and security", then the only conclusion left is that at some point there is "enough safety and security", and each increase comes at a loss of privacy and liberty.

Air travel is safer than any other form of travel. The risk of dying in a terrorist attack is lower than the risk of dying from mechanical failure, human error, or weather. The risk is already so low that it can not be significantly improved by any means.

Life has risks. Travel has risks. Eating has risks. To believe you can eliminate risk is delusional, all you can do is reduce it.

The airline safety we've had since 9/11 has been sufficient, there have been no successful terrorist attacks on US planes since, and these new scanners and feel-up procedures do not make getting dangerous items onto a plane less likely, just marginally less convenient. Terrorists don't care how convenient it is, they'll still get dangerous items aboard. The new scanners a waste of time and money, and a gross invasion of privacy.

Want to make flying safer? Then, let's focus on things that will actually make flying safer, like scanning 100% of cargo, performing extensive background checks on airport employees, using explosive sniffers (dogs or electronic detectors), and behavioral profiling. None of those require giving up any 4th Amendment rights or invading our privacy, and any of them would actually make it more difficult (but still not impossible) for someone to get dangerous items on a plane.

For information on how to actually improve airport security without unreasonable searches, see:
How to Have Effective Airport Security

For information on the privacy and health concerns of the new scanners and pat down procedures, see:

For information on how to protest the use of the scanners and pat downs see:

Other viewpoints on the new TSA procedures:

Are the New TSA AIT Scanners and Enhanced Pat-downs Effective?

Originally published as a note on my Facebook page Dec 1, 2010.

No, they're not. There are many reputable sources of information that say they don't make flying any safer. A GAO report prior to the purchase of the AIT scanners said the new scanners "probably would not" detect the "underwear bomber" from Den 2009. The TSA's response to that is "we believe the would". No evidence, just a belief. The scanners manufacture indicates they're not effective at detecting low density materials, including powered, liquid, and plastic explosives.

Here's a Q&A with TSA head John Pistole, in which he either admits the procedures are of limited value, or avoids answering questions about their effectiveness. Of course, he spins it in the most favorable way he can, but a little "reading between the lines", aka, noticing not only what he says, but what he doesn't say/answer will reveal a lot.

In that interview, he also says "We're not in the threat-elimination business. We can't do that, but we can try to mitigate some of them." That's a detail that most people miss, and overlook. Said another way, the TSA knows they can't stop all the attacks, in fact, if you read carefully, "we can try to mitigate some of them" indicates that at best, these procedures might make it a little more difficult for an attacker. Is it really worth giving up your privacy and being subjected to very revealing (and possibly dangerous) scanners or invasive pat downs because "we can try to mitigate some of them"?

Update: 2011-12-21
Smoke Screening Best article yet on the insanity and uselessness of the TSA approach to security. Security expert Bruce Schneier explains and demonstrates in a US airport just how ineffective the TSA practices are.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Poem: A Time to Reflect

A Time To Reflect

A time for hope, yet a time of sadness
The death of an enemy, the killing of a man
Good news for the world, a tragedy of his own creation
It’s good he’s gone, yet thousands more replace him

The world rejoices, his followers plot revenge
No one is neutral, and the anger begins.
We did what we must, but will it be enough
To end the differences, for which we’ve suffered much.

So celebrate his absence, and do not mourn his death
But be saddened that it came to this, he’s taken his last breath
We’re the ones who killed him, it’s what we had to do.
No matter how you view it, the price will come from you.

-- Geoff Strickler
-- May 2, 2011

If you liked this poem, you may also like:
Divisionist History

Monday, April 25, 2011

Poem: Autumn Leaves

This is the first poem I ever wrote. Wrote it for an assignment in 4th grade. This is from memory, so it might not be word for word what I wrote in 4th grade. It's short and simple, but I still think it's worth including with my poetry.

Autumn Leaves

Autumn leaves come falling down
Slowly falling through the air
Soon at last they reach the ground
Now they only sit there.

-- Geoff Strickler
-- circa 1975

Poem: The Gap

The Gap

I set my sights high. It seems like hard work.
I succeed. I’m excited. Life is good.
I fail. I’m discouraged. Life is no fun.

I set my sights low. It’s easy for a while.
I succeed. I’m unfulfilled. Life is no fun.
I fail. I’m upset. Life is a pain.

I set my sights high, but life seems too busy.
I set my sights low, but life seems too boring.
Either way, I will complain.

Whether I aim high or aim low
Life’s not simple or easy
But only one way brings joy.

I’m beginning to see there’s always a gap
Between my goals and my actions.
I get to choose which gap I’ll take

But whichever I choose,
From moment to moment,
Life occurs in the gap.

A small gap is easy, but leads to despair.
A large gap demands effort, but it gives life.
Which gap do you choose?

-- Geoff Strickler
-- March 9, 2007

Poem: My Father's Son

My Father’s Son

He gave me his voice, but I make it my own.
He gave me his gifts, but I make them mine.
He gave me his values, but I live them my way.
He gave me his looks, but I am not him.

He gave me his trust, which I sometimes abused.
He gave me his love, when I was confused.
He gave me his strength, taught me to be bold.
He gave me his time, a treasure untold.

He gave me his money, so that I could learn.
He gave me his wisdom, so that I could earn.
He gave me his pride, so that I could be proud.
He gave me his life, so I could live mine.

A greater gift no one can give,
Than to give all you have,
So another can live.
I am my father’s son.

-- Geoff Strickler
-- Dec 12, 2006

Poem: A Free Man

A Free Man

Touch me, I feel.
Hurt me, I cry.
Cut me, I bleed.
Reject me, I ache.
My heart breaks.

Move me, I weep.
Kiss me, I melt.
Embrace me, I warm.
Love me, I love.
We become one.

I want you to know my success, not my failure.
I want you to see my goodness, not my ugliness.
I want you to know my skill, not my limitation.
I want you to see my strength, not my weakness.
I want you to think I am perfect. I am not.

I am tough.
I am fragile.
I am strong.
I am breakable.
I am human.

Though I may portray otherwise,
I am but a man.
This is the real me.
In embracing it, I am free.
I am free.

-- Geoff Strickler
-- Dec 12, 2006

Poem: Words Want to Be Read.

(a short poem, intended to be sung, perhaps the refrain of a song not yet written)

Want to be read
Dream to be spoken
Free them from the page
Bring them to life
Let them take flight
They cannot survive in your cage

-- Geoff Strickler
-- Oct 30, 2010

Poem: As Glaciers Melt

As Glaciers Melt

As days roll by
And seasons go
As trees grow high
The wind still blows

As moons shall rise
And suns shall set
As waves shall break
The tide moves yet.

As volcanos erupt
And mountains grow
As cyclones spin
The river still flows

As snow shall fall
And storms shall rain
As lakes go dry
The oceans remain

As glaciers melt
And mountains erode
As times shall change
The love still grows.

-- Geoff Strickler
-- Nov 14, 2010

About the Blog Title

The blog title comes from a poem I wrote. I think the poem explains it better than any description would so here it is.

Divisionist History