### On Sovereignty

Here's a thought exercise. Roughly half of our country is displeased with our current leadership in both the executive branch and the vast majority of people are displeased with the legislative branch of our government. It's also worth noting that the other half was equally displeased with the executive branch leadership from 2008-2016. This fact stands no matter the opinion of the other side; in both cases roughly half the nation pined for a wholesale change in leadership, and a resistance movement was launched. Back then they liked tea, right now they wear pink ears on their heads.

Let's say that right now another powerful country or alliance of nations (Russia, China, the EU, pick one or several) says that it sympathizes with the resistance movement in our country and makes it a part of their international policy to fund and arm militants from Canada to sneak into our country and join/take over the current resistance movement. This sparks a civil war between these now-armed and well-funded resistance fighters and the US Armed forces. As a result of the fighting, Boston, Chicago, parts of New York and LA are reduced to a burning heap of rubble such that they look something like this:

This process, of course, also results in a massive loss of lives, with hundreds of thousands of US citizens on both sides of the political spectrum dead.

Would you be cool with this?

No?

Then you shouldn't be cool with, or even ambivalent about what's going on in Syria right now. Because this scenario is what has been happening there for the past five years. Just replace the current executive leadership with President Bashar al-Assad, the "sympathetic" super-power with the US, and the well-funded and armed "rebels" with ISIS. Yes, that last part is factually correct: the US government, under the leadership of Obama and Clinton, provided funding, arms and training to ISIS fighters to join the previously peaceful Assad-resistance movement and subsequently destroy Syrian cities and lives in a violent civil war. These are the so-called "rebels" fighting the Syrian army.

It's important to note that the Obama administration (including Hillary Clinton) was not some sort of innovator when it comes to funding terrorist organizations. For example, the Reagan administration funded the Contras to wage guerrilla warfare against the sovereign government of Nicaragua; the Iraqi army under Sadam Hussein to fight Iran; and the Mujahideen (Taliban) led by bin Laden to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. Indeed, here you can find a depressingly long, well-referenced list of 37 sovereign nation on which the US has waged direct or proxy wars since WWII, resulting in anywhere between 10 and 30 million deaths. Here's another long list containing the assassinations and other acts of "regime change" carried out by the CIA around the world.

This is America's business, this is what they do.

This entity claims that we are intervening in Syria---and in so doing initiating another cold war with Russia, who was invited into Syria by the sovereign Syrian government---because we think President Assad is a bad person who does bad things to his people, and as a result we want a regime change. Who knows if this is true. The truth is probably closer to the fact that Syria wanted to collaborate with other sovereign nations in the region to build their own oil pipeline and thus control their own natural resources, which doesn't fit with the plans of major US/European oil companies.

Well, there's a eerily similar story that has been fed to us over the past five years regarding Syria, and the same outfit are doing the selling: America's propaganda arm embodied by the mass media. They were 100% wrong back then, and they're wrong now. Indeed, to say that they are simply wrong is giving them a lot of credit. Another way to put it is that they knowingly lied to the public.

Tune them out. Seek other voices. Fortunately it looks like Syria has beaten us and protected its sovereignty, and as a result we may have dodged direct conflict with Russia, the only other nuclear super power (at least for now, but who knows with the Democrats blaming them for everything under the sun). When this happens again---and it will, because apparently North Korea is "begging for war"---don't give them your consent for yet another war on yet another sovereign country, no matter how much you think their leader is bad. That is, unless you think that Americans are inherently superior and exceptional in the world; if you believe in the supremacy of some people compared to others.

### On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

### The Force is strong with this one...

Last night we were reviewing multiplication tables with Owen. The family fired off doublets of numbers and Owen confidently multiplied away. In the middle of the review Owen stopped and said, "I noticed something. 2 times 2 is 4. If you subtract 1 it's 3. That's equal to taking 2 and adding 1, and then taking 2 and subtracting 1, and multiplying. So 1 times 3 is 2 times 2 minus 1."

I have to admit, that I didn't quite get it at first. I asked him to repeat with another number and he did with six: "6 times 6 is 36. 36 minus 1 is 35. That's the same as 6-1 times 6+1, which is 35."

Ummmmm....wait. Huh? Lemme see...oh. OH! WOW! Owen figured out

x^2 - 1 = (x - 1) (x +1)

So $6 \times 8 = 7 \times 7 - 1 = (7-1) (7+1) = 48$. That's actually pretty handy!

You can see it in the image above. Look at the elements perpendicular to the diagonal. There's 48 bracketing 49, 35 bracketing 36, etc... After a bit more thought we…

### The Long Con

Hiding in Plain Sight

ESPN has a series of sports documentaries called 30 For 30. One of my favorites is called Broke which is about how professional athletes often make tens of millions of dollars in their careers yet retire with nothing. One of the major "leaks" turns out to be con artists, who lure athletes into elaborate real estate schemes or business ventures. This naturally raises the question: In a tightly-knit social structure that is a sports team, how can con artists operate so effectively and extensively? The answer is quite simple: very few people taken in by con artists ever tell anyone what happened. Thus, con artists can operate out in the open with little fear of consequences because they are shielded by the collective silence of their victims.
I can empathize with this. I've lost money in two different con schemes. One was when I was in college, and I received a phone call that I had won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas. All I needed to do was p…