Thursday, December 29, 2005

Comedy of Terror


Tony Blair, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld - You're My Prize Guys

by Terry Jones

Well the end of the year is as good a time as any to distribute prizes. And first is the Gary Glitter Cup for Self-Restraint, to Tony Blair. It can't have been an easy couple of years for him, and yet he has somehow managed to keep that smile on his lips and that cheerful sparkle in his eye with a degree of self-restraint that impressed the judges.

Over the past two years, Tony has seen all his Iraq policies turn into unmitigated disasters. Instead of his stated aim of bringing peace and happiness to the people of Iraq, he has brought them chaos, bloodshed, violence and misery. Instead of making Britain safer, his policies have made this country a target for terrorism for the foreseeable future.

And now there is open talk in the Senate of impeaching George Bush; the New York Times accuses him of "recklessness" and claims he "may also have violated the law". Tony must be finding it difficult to sleep. Yet he is able to get up in the morning unassisted! He is able to look at himself in the mirror, shave without damaging his throat, and go to work with every appearance of a man who imagines he's doing a good job.

This achievement richly deserves the Gary Glitter Cup. Well done, Tony!

And now we come to the Dick Cheney "Goblet of Fire" Award for Courage in the Face of Action. And for the sixth successive year, the award goes to ... the vice-president of the US ... Dick Cheney!

This year the judge (who is, once again, Dick Cheney) cites in particular Mr Cheney's fearlessness in speaking with authority on military matters despite the fact that he has never served in the military. In fact Mr Cheney received no less than five deferments rather than serve his country in uniform. Nor has he lost his nerve, despite seeing the death rate of American servicemen and women climb above the 2,000 mark. Those who have already died will be heartened by his courageous determination to risk yet more people's lives.

Well done, Dick. The "Goblet of Fire" is yours once again.

The Kellogg Brown and Root Shield for Corporate Services also goes to Dick Cheney, along with the purse of between $180,000 and $1m (payable annually as "deferred compensation"). KBR is the engineering and construction arm of Halliburton, of which Dick Cheney was CEO from 1995 to 2000 - in which time the value of Halliburton's US government contracts almost doubled from $1.2bn to $2.3bn.

He then became vice-president, and things have got even better for KBR, even though Mr Cheney resigned his company position. As of March 1 2004, KBR has been awarded reconstruction work in Iraq and Afghanistan worth at least $3.9bn.

So step up, Dick Cheney!

We now come to the Abu Ghraib Trophy for Human Rights, and ... yes, it's another triumph for the VP! Dick Cheney has stood firm against a wicked cabal of Republican senators - John Warner of Virginia, John McCain of Arizona, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina - who tried to sneak a clause into the 2005 military spending bill that would outlaw "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment" to military prisoners. How can the US champion human rights unless it is allowed unrestrained access to any torture techniques it considers fit, to use against enemies that are both sub-human and have forfeited any rights to be treated as our fellow creatures?

Well done, Dick! I hope the Abu Ghraib Trophy will sit proudly alongside all those others.

We now move on to the Narnia Prize for the Closest Impersonation of Donald Rumsfeld, which this year goes to ... yes, Donald Rumsfeld! Donald has consistently played himself, throughout the unfolding military and public relations disaster in Iraq and the exposure of torture in US military prisons. Eschewing all imitations, he has brought his philosophical double-think and understated, homespun comedy to all affairs of state, no matter how grave. Chaos and lawlessness in Iraq? "Freedom's untidy," says the defence secretary, November 2005. Hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay? "There are a number of people who do go on a diet," says Rummy. Great stuff.

Finally we come to the Apocalypse Now! Award for Redefining the World, which this year goes to the president of the United States, George Bush.

The judges were unanimous. The president claimed that in the second world war, the forces of freedom defeated the ideology of fascism. In the cold war, those same forces defeated communism. "Today, in the Middle East, freedom is contending with ... terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al-Qaida," whose ultimate aim is to "establish a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Indonesia to Spain".

With a simple piece of unnoticed elision, George Bush has recreated the crusades. Rumsfeld and Cheney can rest assured that the arms industry will flourish for years to come. The west has a new enemy: Islam.

Poor Islam. Poor Christianity. Poor us.

George Bush, the Apocalypse Now! award is yours.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

X-mas gifts

To get some idea of what I enjoy (and spend too much time doing), witness a sampling of the Christmas gifts I received this year:

  • 2 new bookcases
  • a Barnes and Noble gift card

I've already went online and ordered the following at B&N:

I really should read fiction once in awhile ... but real life is just more interesting right now.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Syriana


I saw a very good movie last night: Syriana. I won't tell you the characters or what happens. I will tell you that it's about oil:

  • How we do anything to get it. We will support anyone so that we can have ready access to it.
  • We'll grease the wheels of government to get it. And government will gladly acquiesce.
  • We're not interested in elevating ourselves or the people of the Middle East. We're only interested in keeping the oil flowing.
  • Oil companies can and will do anything in the name of increasing their profits.
  • People of integrity and of change are collateral damage. They will be thrown under the bus by the corrupt.
  • How we turn an incredibly complex world situation into a political speech punchline.

The intertwining storylines and documentary style camera work is reminiscent of Traffic, for good reason. The director and writer, Steven Gaghan, was the writer of Traffic. Plus, Clooney and Steven Soderburgh were both producers of Syrianna, as they were with Traffic. The choices in movies and causes that Clooney has made over the last years are admirable. Here is someone who could have put it on auto-pilot and chose to turn out any piece of studio crap to make a quick buck, but chose to use his clout to make personal, political movies like "Good Night and Good Luck" and "Syriana" that could have jeopardized his career. But rather, because of the quality of what he has done, they have strengthened it. This was similar in many ways to Mel Gibson getting the Passion of the Christ made. Though I don't agree with a lot of Gibson's views and don't believe that Passion was as much of a cinematic triumph as it was made out to be, I respect the risk that he took to make a personal film. And I respect George Clooney even more.


There have been several books describing the Middle East situation, oil, our involvement, etc. Imperial Hubris is one. House of Bush, House of Saud is another. I recommend them both. And I recommend this movie.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

War on Christmas ... not!

I will begin this by saying I'm not offended if you say 'Merry Christmas' to me. Despite the irony, I often say Merry Christmas myself. But I'm sick of this horseshit pushed by Fox News and even encouraged by mainstream media that there is a war on Christmas. Many companies, mine included, choose to say Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings. This is for many reasons. It is not a weakness to acknowledge that the whole world is not Christian and to be mindful of that. Also, you have to understand that the holiday has come to mean more (and perhaps less) than what the original Christian intent may have been. Cyberkitten has a great couple of posts on her blog, Seeking a Little Truth, that can do a much better job than I of explaining. So much of Christian mythology is just that ... mythology ... most likely borrowed from earlier civilizations.

Most holidays, whether you like it or not, morph from whatever their meaning may have once meant. And that's OK. Most people don't know what the true meaning of some holidays are. Their true origins would be surprising to most ... especially Christians. The beginnings of Easter, for example, predate Jesus by several centuries and have pagan origins. The celebration began (and continues to be) as a celebration of the fertility of the earth and most of its popular symbols represent that (the chick, the egg, the rabbit, etc.). The Christian church tried to reinterpret the holiday but the persistence of those early symbols attests to their strength.

And right-wing religious nut job organizations like the American Family Association, who purport to be "pro-family", are the ones that manufacture these so-called controversies. Groups like these have the ears of millions of Christians and could do so much good with that power, yet choose it to preach hate and to manufacture non-existent controversies. If I was the owner of any of the companies boycotted by AFA, I would not even give them the time of day. First of all, they do not represent all Christians. Secondly, they are selective if what they deem to be offensive. They will complain about Target having displays that say "Happy Holidays" but they seem to have no problem with Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart destroys small businesses, does not allow workers to have a living wage, descriminates in hiring and in promotions, etc. Please explain to me how those things are Christian.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Holidays!


All of you have a great Holiday season. Celebrate it in the way in which you see fit. But above all, share it with your families and try to share with those in need.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Bush is King


Is it just me or does it feel like we're in the middle of some kind of political thriller? Every day brings me face to face to some new revelation that 5 years ago I could not have even imagined would be happening in our country. In the face of news that the President secretly approved illegal eavesdropping (repeatedly) within our border, he is defiant and insists he will continue to do so. Furthermore, he blames those who revealed the illegal nature of what he was doing:

"The existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports after being improperly given to news organizations," Bush said. "Unauthorized disclosure damages our national security and puts our nation at risk ... Revealing this information is illegal."


Great quote by Senator Russ Feingold in response to Bush's admission:

"The President's shocking admission that he authorized the National Security Agency to spy on American citizens, without going to a court and in violation of the Constitution and laws passed by Congress, further demonstrates the urgent need for these protections. The President believes that he has the power to override the laws that Congress has passed. This is not how our democratic system of government works. The President does not get to pick and choose which laws he wants to follow. He is a president, not a king. On behalf of all Americans who believe in our constitutional system of government, I call on this Administration to stop this program immediately and to fully cooperate with congressional inquiries and investigations. We have had enough of an Administration that puts itself above the law and the Constitution."


It's nice to see that some Senators will call out this President. Also, they've at least temporarily stalled that abomination called the Patriot Act

Sometimes I think the tide is turning. Yesterday, we had a great conversation with a lady parked next to us at Target. She had 2 bumper stickers on her car: an Amnesty International sticker and a sticker that said "Not my president, still my country". Obviously a likeminded person and she complimented us on our bumper stickers. A few years ago, you could not see these kinds of conversations going on ... at least not in conservative Arizona. She also commented that you just don't see as many Bush stickers as you used to.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Eugene McCarthy - William Proxmire


His time was then — and now
Former Senator Proxmire dies at 90

This week saw the passing of two enigmatic Midwestern Democrats of some renown.

The first, Eugene McCarthy, died on December 10th. McCarthy, a longtime congressman and Senator from Minnesota, is best known for challenging Lyndon Johnson in 1968 for the nomination of the Democratic Party. His anti-war stance was popular and ulitmately probably led to Johnson not seeking the nomination.

The second, William Proxmire, died today. Some bit of trivia (courtesy of Wikipedia):

  • In his last two Senate campaigns of 1976 and 1982, Proxmire refused to take any campaign contributions, and spent on each less than $200 out of his own pocket — to cover the expenses related to filing for re-election.
  • Senator Proxmire was elected to fill the remainder of the term vacated due to the death of Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1957
  • Proxmire was famous for issuing his Golden Fleece Awards identifying wasteful government spending between 1975 and 1988. The first one was awarded in 1975 to the National Science Foundation for funding an $84,000 study on "why people fall in love." Proxmire had an unfortunate tendency to issue his awards to basic science projects that led to important breakthroughs, such as the Aspen Movie Map. He was heavily criticized for this by journalist Stewart Brand, but Proxmire later apologized for several of those, including SETI.
  • From 1967 until 1986, Proxmire gave daily speeches noting the necessity of ratifying The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. After giving this speech every day that the Senate was in session for 20 years, resulting in 3,211 speeches, the convention was ratified by the U.S. Senate by a vote on 83-11 on February 11, 1986.

Both of their lives lend some perspective on the current state of politics. McCarthy's defiant anti-war stance is remarkably similar to John Murtha's. History proved McCarthy correct and will ultimately prove Murtha correct.

Proxmire's tireless positions against rampant spending predate similar positions by politicians like John McCain and fellow Wisconsin senator Russ Feingold. His stance against genocide foreshadowed Rwanda and Darfur.

"Being in politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game, and dumb enough to think it's important."

"This is, I say, the time for all good men not to go to the aid of their party, but to come to the aid of their country." -- Eugene McCarthy


"Power always has to be kept in check; power exercised in secret, especially under the cloak of national security, is doubly dangerous."

"I have spent my career trying to get Congressmen to spend the people's money as if it were their own. But I have failed." -- William Proxmire

Monday, December 12, 2005

Death Penalty

"Revenge is a kind of wild justice, which the more man's nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out"

"A man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green" -- Francis Bacon


The impending execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams will probably ignite the death penalty debate again. When I was younger, I went back and forth on it. In those rare moments of grudgingly supporting it, I felt for the victims of violent crime. But as I've aged, I came to realize that we are not honoring their deaths by continuing the cycle of death.

The arguments for the death penalty simply hold no water. It is not a successful deterrent. Those who commit murders don't expect to get caught and certainly don't usually weigh the possibility of life imprisonment versus the death penalty. States without the death penalty have lower murder rates than those with it. Canada and Europe also have lower murder rates and do not have the death penalty. There are obviously other things involved in those statistics but they do seem to show it is not an effective deterrent.

One could probably make the argument that the death penalty actually causes more murders. What kind of logic posits that you will stop brutality by being brutal?


The disproportionate amount of minorities on death row illustrates that a white death is more valuable that a white one ... a rich one more than a poor one. Certainly Katrina drove that point home.

In my book, it doesn't even matter if a death row inmate has redeemed himself in his actions since being imprisoned, as it certainly appears that Williams has. It's admirable but I don't believe he deserves death regardless. The bloodlust that causes so many to look for someone to kill to pay for 9/11 drives the need for retribution ... "an eye for an eye". Someone innocent has died, so this person must die. That really is at the heart of those who support the death penalty. Even they don't really believe it stops anyone from committing a murder. They just feel that someone should be punished.

"An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind." -- Mohandas Mahatma Ghandi

Political Song of the Day

Ministry - "No W"

If this is really living
Then why am I so unforgiving
Half the world is down the toilet
Half on its way

If I had a dollar for every time he hollers
Trust us with your hearts and minds
Or I'll make you pay

Trust me
Trust me

Ask me why you're feeling screwed
And I'll give you the answer
There's a Colon Dick & Bush
Justa hammerin' away

Ask me why you feel deceived
Stripped of all your liberties
It doesn't take a genius to explain
That today

Trust me
Trust me

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Social Darwinism


Great recent article (from Common Dreams) by one of my favorite progressives, Robert Reich (emphasis mine):

Of Darwinism and Social Darwinism

The Conservative Movement, as its progenitors like to call it, is now mounting a full-throttled attack on Darwinism even as it has thoroughly embraced Darwin’s bastard child, social Darwinism. On the face of it, these positions may appear inconsistent. What unites them is a profound disdain for science, logic, and fact.

In The Origin of the Species, published 150 years ago, Charles Darwin amassed evidence that mankind evolved through the ages from simpler forms of life through a process he called "natural selection." This insight became the foundation of modern biological science. But it also greatly disturbed those who believe the Bible’s account of creation to be literally true. In recent years, as America’s Conservative Movement has grown, some of these people have taken over local and state school boards with the result that, for example, Kansas’s new biology standards now single out evolution as a "controversial theory." Until a few weeks ago, teachers in Dover, Pennsylvania were required to tell their students they should explore "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution. (The good citizens of Dover just booted out the school board responsible for this, summoning a warning from Conservative Coalition broadcaster Pat Robertson that God would wreak disaster on them.)

Social Darwinism was developed some thirty years after Darwin’s famous book by a social thinker named Herbert Spencer. Extending Darwin into a realm Darwin never intended, Spencer and his followers saw society as a competitive struggle where only those with the strongest moral character should survive, or else the society would weaken. It was Spencer, not Darwin, who coined the phrase "survival of the fittest." Social Darwinism thereby offered a perfect moral justification for America’s Gilded Age, when robber barons controlled much of American industry, the gap between rich and poor turned into a chasm, urban slums festered, and politicians were bought off by the wealthy. It allowed John D. Rockefeller, for example, to claim that the fortune he accumulated through the giant Standard Oil Trust was "merely a survival of the fittest, ... the working out of a law of nature and a law of God."

The modern Conservative Movement has embraced social Darwinism with no less fervor than it has condemned Darwinism. Social Darwinism gives a moral justification for rejecting social insurance and supporting tax cuts for the rich. "In America," says Robert Bork, "‘the rich’ are overwhelmingly people – entrepreneurs, small businessmen, corporate executives, doctors, lawyers, etc. – who have gained their higher incomes through intelligence, imagination, and hard work." Any transfer of wealth from rich to poor thereby undermines the nation’s moral fiber. Allow the virtuous rich to keep more of their earnings and pay less in taxes, and they’ll be even more virtuous. Give the non-virtuous poor food stamps, Medicaid, and what’s left of welfare, and they’ll fall into deeper moral torpor.

There is, of course, an ideological inconsistency here. If mankind did not evolve according to Darwinist logic, but began instead with Adam and Eve, then it seems unlikely societies evolve according to the survival-of-the-fittest logic of social Darwinism. By the same token, if you believe one’s economic status is the consequence of an automatic process of natural selection, then, presumably, you’d believe that human beings represent the culmination of a similar process, over the ages. That the conservative mind endures such cognitive dissonance is stunning, but not nearly as remarkable as the repeated attempts of conservative mouthpieces such as the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard to convince readers the conservative movement is intellectually coherent.

The only consistency between the right’s attack on Darwinism and embrace of social Darwinism is the utter fatuousness of both. Darwinism is correct. Scientists who are legitimized by peer review and published research are unanimous in their view that evolution is a fact, not a theory. Social Darwinism, meanwhile, is hogwash. Social scientists have long understood that one’s economic status in society is not a function of one’s moral worth. It depends largely on the economic status of one’s parents, the models of success available while growing up, and educational opportunities along the way.

A democracy is imperiled when large numbers of citizens turn their backs on scientific fact. Half of Americans recently polled say they don’t believe in evolution. Almost as many say they believe income and wealth depend on moral worthiness. At a time when American children are slipping behind on international measures of educational attainment, especially in the sciences; when global competition is intensifying; and when the median incomes of Americans are stagnating and the ranks of the poor are increasing, these ideas, propagated by the so-called Conservative Movement, are moving us rapidly backwards.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Lieberman

Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman's comments a few days ago:

"It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge he'll be commander-in-chief for three more years. We undermine the president's credibility at our nation's peril."

A perfect example of a Washington insider with no feel for what the rank-and-file Democrats of the country believe. I thought that why doesn't he just put himself out of his misery and pull a Zell Miller.

After all, the Democratic party would be better off without a pro-war weasel like him. I don't mind politicans not toeing the party line. After all, on this blog I've applauded Republican Senator Chuck Hagel for his criticisms of this administration. However, Lieberman's recent statements and support of the President are beyond the pale. Now it appears that there may have been a purpose to his ass-kissing:

Rummy exit expected; Lieberman eyed for job

Which, in my eyes, makes it even worse. He'll apparently do anything for political expediency. I'm embarrassed that I ever supported him on Gore's ticket.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Imagine


December 8th marks the 25th anniversary of John Lennon's death.

"I think were always attracted to John Lennon because he was someone who truly made a difference. Whether you liked him on the Beatle level or the politically-active level— the songwriting level, the cultural level, he was someone who always spoke his mind, was always honest. And if you remember back to the early Beatle pictures, he was always the one with his tie askew or his jacket unbuttoned. He was different. He was an iconoclast. He didn’t fit the mold. And in so many ways, he broke the mold." -- Max Weinberg, drummer, Bruce Springstreen and the E Street band; Max Weinberg Seven


In 2002, Yoko One donated the rights to Lennon's songs to Amnesty International. Several artists, including one of my favorite bands, the Deftones, are recording some of these songs to raise funds for the organization.

Lennon's honesty is well-documented. Here are a few of my faves:

"ON THE SIXTIES

"If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left behind in the 60s, that's his problem. Love and peace are eternal."

ON RELIGION

"Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that, I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first - rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me."

ON PEACE

"If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace."


But with this group in power, forget about it. Peace isn't profitable. We gotta keep the military-industrial complex rolling.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Truth (with Jokes)

Just found this review of Al Franken's book on Common Dreams. I was planning on reviewing the book, but John Nicols does a much better job than I could:


Franken's 'Truth' is No Joke

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Filthy Words

Conn. Police Fine Students for Cursing:

...Police officers assigned to the schools have fined about two dozen students for cursing in a new program to curtail unruly behavior... "We're sending a message to the parents and to the teachers," said Sandy Cruz-Serrano, senior adviser to Superintendent of Schools Robert Henry. "We are trying to bring back order to the schools."

School administrators and the police put their heads together and this is what they came up with? We are fucked (oops!).

I couldn't help but think of George Carlin's monologue on cussing (apologies ahead of time to anyone who might be offended): Filthy Words

"... And, uh, bastard you can say, and hell and damn so I have to figure out which ones you couldn't and ever and it came down to seven but the list is open to amendment, and in fact, has been changed, uh, by now, ha, a lot of people pointed things out to me, and I noticed some myself. The original seven words were, shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits. Those are the ones that will curve your spine, grow hair on your hands and (laughter) maybe, even bring us, God help us, peace without honor (laughter) um, and a bourbon..."


If the words that people say were the only things wrong in this world, it'd be a great world.

What's going on?

Loved the thought-provoking link from Laura at Sarchasm:

Ever wonder what 2,000 looks like?

The words of Marvin Gaye, still seem oddly fitting:

Mother, mother
There's too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There's far too many of you dying
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today - Ya

Father, father
We don't need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today

Picket lines and picket signs
Don't punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what's going on ...

Monday, November 28, 2005

Priorities


From Who Gives A $%&t? in Mother Jones magazine:

*** On average, Americans think that 24% of the federal budget goes toward foreign aid. Only 0.9% actually does.

Last fall, the U.N. requested aid for Niger and got almost no response. At that time, $1 per day per person would have solved Niger’s food crisis. Now $80 is needed.

Americans spend $8 billion on Christmas decorations, almost 4 times what they give to protect animals and the environment.

If the estate tax is repealed, charities stand to lose about $10 billion a year.

52% OF individual giving goes to religious institutions. Schools get 7%.

Campus Crusade for Christ raised $380 million last year—more than PBS, the Boy Scouts, and Easter Seals combined.

U.S. donations made thus far per victim of 9/11, Katrina, and the tsunami, respectively: $736,771; $2,827; $1,173.

Focus on the Family’s $2.2 million in tsunami aid included 1 million copies of Dr. Dobson’s When God Doesn’t Make Sense.

FEMA’S website listed Operation Blessing, Pat Robertson’s faith-based organization, second on its list of charities that would speed relief to Katrina victims.

Last year, Operation Blessing gave half its donations—$885,000—to the Christian Broadcasting Network, of which Robertson is chairman. ***


What does all of this mean?

  • Americans think they are more charitable than they really are
  • Nationalism drives where charity goes more than anything
  • Faith-based charity, while obviously doing great good, receives more than its fair share of the pie
  • Too much of faith-based charity goes towards political and idealogical ends, instead of altruistic ones
  • Buying one's way into heaven is apparently more important than educating your children. It's better to keep them stupid and compliant.


"You cannot hope to build a better world without improving individuals. We all must work for our own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity." -- Marie Curie

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Political Songs of the Day

Today, you get a two-fer today of political (in this case environmental) songs. The first one from REM and my college days and the second one from an artist recommended to me when I was on my Sierra Club trip, John Prine:



John Prine photographed by © Marc Marnie of STAGEFRIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY
January 20, 2000 by Marc Marnie
taken at the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow Scotland

REM -- Fall on Me
There’s a problem, feathers iron
Bargain buildings, weights and pullies
Feathers hit the ground before the weight can leave the air
Buy the sky and sell the sky and tell the sky and tell the sky

(chorus)
Fall on me (what is it up in the air for) (it’s gonna fall)
Fall on me (if it’s there for long) (it’s gonna fall)
Fall on me (it’s over it’s over me) (it’s gonna fall)

There’s the progress we have found (when the rain)
A way to talk around the problem (when the children reign)
Building towered foresight (keep your conscience in the dark)
Isn’t anything at all (melt the statues in the park)
Buy the sky and sell the sky and bleed the sky and tell the sky

(repeat chorus)

Fall on me

Well I could keep it above
But then it wouldn’t be sky anymore
So if I send it to you you’ve got to promise to keep it whole

Buy the sky and sell the sky and lift your arms up to the sky
And ask the sky and ask the sky

(repeat chorus 2x)

Fall on me

(repeat chorus)

Fall on me

(repeat chorus)



John Prine -- Paradise
When I was a child my family would travel
Down to Western Kentucky where my parents were born
And there's a backwards old town that's often remembered
So many times that my memories are worn.

Chorus:
And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away

Well, sometimes we'd travel right down the Green River
To the abandoned old prison down by Adrie Hill
Where the air smelled like snakes and we'd shoot with our pistols
But empty pop bottles was all we would kill.

Repeat Chorus:

Then the coal company came with the world's largest shovel
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.

Repeat Chorus:

When I die let my ashes float down the Green River
Let my soul roll on up to the Rochester dam
I'll be halfway to Heaven with Paradise waitin'
Just five miles away from wherever I am.

Repeat Chorus:



We are shitting on this earth and our government rolls blissfully and ignorantly on:

The Big Thaw: Global Disaster Will Follow If the Ice Cap on Greenland Melts

Bush Administration Shuns Conference On Strategies to Build on Kyoto Pact

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Thanksgiving


"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." -~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy

"Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds." -- Theodore Roosevelt


7 Shallow Things I am Thankful For


A DVR. Live television is boring.

My digital camera and digital video camera. The revolution will be televised, baby!

Being able to wander around the Valley, goofing around with customers' computers, enjoy doing it, and get paid for it.

Being able to wear shorts and a t-shirt for 11 months of the year.

Air America Radio. It weened me off of my addiction to sports talk radio. I think that's an upgrade?!

2008 is only 3 years away.

Blogging. Never has so much been said about so little. But it sure beats ranting to people on the street ... and safer.

7 Genuine Things I am Thankful For


A son that reminds me daily that I'm at least pretty good at one thing ... being a dad.

A wife that supports me in whatever I do ... no matter how nutty.

Great friends (E & J) that have always been there.

A family that despite our differences would help at the drop of a hat.

I'm in my 8th year of not working for the "man". And doing a great job on my own.

My blog friends. I truly value the discussions we have. I learn something new from you guys every day.

Going on the Sierra Club service trip. One of the best vacations that I've ever had. Learned a lot and made some friendships that hopefully I will have for a long time.

And on a lighter note ...

"Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for - annually, not oftener - if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man's side, consequently on the Lord's side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments." -- Mark Twain

"I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land." -- Jon Stewart

Friday, November 18, 2005

Are we good?


"America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." -- Alexis de Tocqueville

"I came to America because of the great, great freedom which I heard existed in this country. I made a mistake in selecting America as a land of freedom, a mistake I cannot repair in the balance of my lifetime." -- Albert Einstein



Are we truly a great country any more? Are we doing good? Are these the hallmarks of a great country:

  • Encouraging freedom internationally (Iraq) while suppressing it at home (Patriot Act)
  • Deposing a leader because he used torture ... then advocating it for our own use
  • Citing that same leader's use of chemical weapons as another reason for going to war ... while not being forthright about our use of phosphorus as an incendiary weapon



When did we stop being good? Has it been a steady decline over decades or a recent development?

Did it start with Reagan and the encouragement of the "ownership society"? Gordon Gekko's character in Wall Street that said, "Greed is good". But it was actually famous insider trader Ivan Boesky that inspired the quote with his own, "Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself." It's the trickle down that never actually trickles down.

Making the most money should not be the pinnacle of human achievement. Making sure that everyone can share in the prosperity should be. Call it socialist if you want. That word doesn't scare me. The perfect society is a mixture of styles.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Phoenix New Times 10K


For some unknown reason, I chose to punish myself this last weekend and ran in the Phoenix New Times 10K with no real prep (short of some bike riding). This is the 4th or 5th time I've ran the New Times. It was the 30th annual running of this great race and it benefitted the Big Brother Big Sisters of Central Arizona.


While I was an embarrasment to my gender, family, friends, you name it, our friend Joanie Burley kicked butt, finishing a good 12 minutes ahead of me. My accomplishments were more modest: not stopping to walk, not puking, not coughing up a lung. (I'm #4079 near the center of the picture)

The kids (Alex and Julianna) ran in the Kids Dash and had a blast and were much more entertaining than us old fogeys:

Santorum

"The newspaper reader says: this party will ruin itself if it makes errors like this. My higher politics says: a party which makes errors like this is already finished - it is no longer secure in its instincts." - Friedrich Nietzsche



Republican poster boy, Senator Rick Santorum, must have forgotten to read the talking points. He accidentally let slip some wisdom:

From the Beaver County Times: U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said Saturday that he doesn't believe that intelligent design belongs in the science classroom.

Santorum's comments to The Times are a shift from his position of several years ago, when he wrote in a Washington Times editorial that intelligent design is a "legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in the classroom."

But on Saturday, the Republican said that, "Science leads you where it leads you."

... Though Santorum said he believes that intelligent design is "a legitimate issue," he doesn't believe it should be taught in the classroom, adding that he had concerns about some parts of the theory.


And directly countering comments made by Pat Robertson a few days ago that suggested that God would abandon the people of Dover for voting out pro-Intelligent Design board members, Santorum said:

"I disagree. I don't believe God abandons people,"


You have to wonder if Santorum and other Republican congressmen are taking the lesson of Jerry Kilgore to heart. Maybe it's time to throw Bush under the bus. In a sign of some kind of progress (it's debatable how much), the Senate passed a statement calling for a greater accounting of the White House's Iraq policy. Non-binding and significantly weaker than a Democratic-proposed version, it's still a sign that the Right is feeling the heat a bit to not follow lock-step with whatever Bush does.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Survey

On Laura of Sarchasm's cue, I'm doing this silly survey. Feel free to continue the chain if you're up to it.

1. What color are your kitchen plates? White w/ silly flowers (I think)

2. What book(s) are you reading now? The Truth (w/ Jokes)(Al Franken), God's Politics(Jim Wallis)

3. What or who is on your mouse pad? no mousepad

4. What's your favorite board game? Trivial Pursuit

5. Favorite magazine? Mother Jones, Rolling Stone

6. Baked Goods? Brownies, Strawberry/Rhubarb Cobbler

7. Least favorite smell? street tar

8. What's the first thing you think of in the morning? Shit, gotta go to work

9. Favorite color?(s) green, brown

10. Least favorite color? chartreuse

11. How many rings before you answer the phone? Depends on who's calling

12. Future children's names? Haven't thought about

14. What is your sign and birthday? Aries, Apr 2

15. Do you eat the stems of broccoli? yes

16. If you could have any job what would it be? writer

17. If you could have any color hair what would it be? I'm cool with brown

18. Is the glass half full or half empty? half full

19. Favorite movie? La Vita e Bella, Shawshank Redemption, Schindler's List, This is Spinal Tap

20. Do you type with the right fingers on the keys? Yes

21. What's under your bed? books

22. What is your favorite number? 3

23. What is your single biggest fear? James Dobson

24. Person(s) most likely to respond? GWB, Cyberkitten

25. Who is least likely to respond? nobody, you're all fairly game for these type of things

26. Favorite CD? Police's Synchronicity, Peter Gabriel's So, Jane's Addition's Nothing's Shocking, Faith No More's Angel Dust

27. Favorite TV show? Alias, CSI, any cooking show

28. Ketchup or mustard? ketchup, but I usually take mustard because it has less sugar (sad, I know)

29. Hamburgers or Hot dogs? Hamburger

30. Favorite soft drink? diet Dr. Pepper

31. The best place you have ever been? Monument Valley

32. The most amazing sight? standing at the base of any of the "monuments" in Monument Valley

33. What screen saver is on your computer right now? Windows default

34. FAVORITE BURGER: Blue cheese burger at Island's

35. Favorite pet? Duchess, my pug

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Pat Robertson


I'm tired of being politically correct about it. Pat Robertson is a moron ... and a dangerous one:

Robertson warns Pennsylvania voters of God's wrath

Some words of wisdom from Pat:

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city," Robertson said on his daily television show broadcast from Virginia, "The 700 Club."

"And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there," he said.


These statements were in response to the school board members in this town being voted out for supporting teaching of Intelligent Design.

Pat Robertson is living proof that there is not a God. If there was, he surely would have struck Robertson down by now for being so monumentally stupid.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Gay Marriage

Not too big of a surprise, but tonight,Texas Voters Approve Ban on Gay Marriage. During the 2004 election, there were 11 similar ballot initiatives. Many people, myself included, felt this pandering to the religious right helped to swing the election in Bush's favor. But since that time, I've read and heard many arguments that have convinced me otherwise. One of the most compelling is in Al Franken's new book The Truth (with Jokes). He writes:

"... the eleven anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives didn't help Bush at all, and possibly worked against him. Only four of them were in battleground states: Arkansas, Michigan, Ohio, and Oregon. By my calculations, Bush won in precisely one half of those four states. ... Comparing 2000 to 2004, Bush improved less in battleground states with anti-gay marriage referenda than he did in battleground states without them." Looking at all the states with the initiatives, "red counties got redder and blue counties got bluer, with a net advantage of 2.6 for Kerry. Whereas in states without the referenda, Bush gained about 3 percent overall. So the intiatives seemed to polarize people, and actually hurt Bush."


This polarization, I believe, is hurting the Republican party. If tonight is any indication, with Democrats holding both the governorships, the trend is going to continue. They need to figure out that kissing the boot of the Religious Right is not actually getting them any votes.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Religion/Science

Are churches beginning to see the light? Have they realized that to deny science is not only logically wrong but also detrimental to their own faith? We can only hope. A couple of recent stories:

When Cleaner Air Is a Biblical Obligation
Some Evangelicals - always quick to misinterpret or misquote Scripture -- have interpreted Genesis 2:15:

"The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it."

to mean that we should be better stewards of the Earth. It has made them strange bedfellows with environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council. I'd be encouraged by this if they hadn't already had many dubious positions in the past ... like opposing gay and abortion rights.

Vatican: Faithful Should Listen to Science

"A Vatican cardinal said Thursday the faithful should listen to what secular modern science has to offer, warning that religion risks turning into "fundamentalism" if it ignores scientific reason." Monsignor Gianfranco Basti, director of the Vatican project STOQ, or Science, Theology and Ontological Quest, reaffirmed John Paul's 1996 statement that evolution was "more than just a hypothesis." "A hypothesis asks whether something is true or false," he said. "(Evolution) is more than a hypothesis because there is proof."


If the Vatican thinks Intelligent Design is bunk, then Christians that believe in ID are really on the fringe.


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One of the most glaring examples of politicizing religion that I've seen recently occurred when a liberal California church was contacted by the IRS and threatened with losing their tax-exempt status. This happened because they delivered an anti-war sermon two days prior to the 2004 election. The sermon did not endorse either candidate but did criticize the Iraq war. That a liberal church was singled out is an incredible hypocrisy. Practically every Evangelical, conservative Lutheran and Catholic church in the country actively lobbied against Kerry prior to the election. One could argue that it was the single-most important thing that swung the election in Bush's favor.

Antiwar Sermon Brings IRS Warning

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Prescott

We had a great Saturday. Started off by Alex's kickball game at 9:00, we headed straight from there to Prescott and to the Gurley St. Grill to have lunch with my friends from my Sierra Club trip, Cat and Ralph. Very good food ... I recommend the lettuce wraps.

But the true highlight of the day was the opportunity presented to us by Cat's husband, Hal, to go flying. Hal has been flying since he was 14 and owns a couple of his own planes. We took off from the Prescott airport in their Beechcraft:


We flew north to Chino Valley and Paulden and then headed east to Sedona:


Anyone that has been to Sedona realizes how beautiful it is there ... but you do not realize how much you are missing. Flying over the red cliffs at about 1000 feet gives you an even greater appreciation and allows you to see views that you just cannot get driving.

Alex had a blast but all the excitement eventually caught up with him:


Many thanks to Hal and Cat for taking us up.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Cronies

Not a banner day for cronies. First, Brownie's unflattering e-mail comments came to light:

  • "I got it at Nordstroms...Are you proud of me? Can I quit now? Can I go home?"
  • "If you'll look at my lovely FEMA attire you'll really vomit. I am a fashion god."
  • advice on ordering at Sonic: "Order a #2, tater tots, large diet cherry limeade."

Then Republican hack, Ken Tomlinson, resigned his post at the Center for Public Broadcasting. As Free Press executive director Josh Silver was quoted: “It’s time to clean house at CPB. We need to get the politics out and put the public back in public broadcasting.” Amen, brother.



And all this after Harriet Miers getting shot down last week. It's time for the ultimate cronies, Cheney and Rove, to be shown the door. Is it too much to ask that people be hired because they are the most qualified and the smartest? And not because they are big fundraisers or because they've been carrying the water for your family since the dawn of time.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Poverty


"Just as Hurricane Katrina destroyed lives and communities, it also demolished the illusion that the challenges facing poor families and neighborhoods are “somebody else’s” problems. ... many Americans may recognize a new reality: poverty must be our entire nation’s concern. Some may even understand in a new way that their own hometowns face similar challenges ..." -- F Barton Harvey of the Enterprise Foundation


We're too used to being able to ignore poverty because it was only something that occurred in other countries. We see people starving in Africa, but only in the abstract. It doesn't affect our daily lives. But when Katrina came, the scenes we saw on our television looked like they could have been Somalia.

Poverty isn't something that's happened over night. So, you can't blame it on one administration. But some administrations are better than others at addressing it. The media largely ignores the problem. When they do say something, it's misleading. For example, famous tool Bill O'Reilly said, "... halfway through President Clinton's tenure in office in 1996, the poverty rate was 13.7 percent. Halfway through President Bush's tenure, the rate is 12.7 percent, a full point lower". Technically correct but misleading. As David Brock of Media Matters shows, "During the Clinton presidency, the poverty rate fell from 15.1 percent in 1993 to a low of 11.3 percent in 2000; it has risen every year that Bush has been in office, from 11.7 percent in 2001 to 12.7 percent in 2004." So, while the mid-term averages would lead you to believe that Bush was doing more than Clinton did, the truth is exactly the opposite. Clinton took office with a high rate given to him by the elder Bush and successfully lowered by almost 4 percentage points. Bush, given a lower poverty rate, does the exact opposite. For more info: Media Matters

"Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope, some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. This administration declares unconditional war on poverty in America." -- Lyndon Johnson


You wonder why Kanye West says that the President doesn't care about black people and then you hear him say, ,"I was disappointed, frankly, in the vote I got in the African-American community. I was. I’ve done my best to elevate people to positions of authority and responsibility — not just positions, but positions where they can actually make a difference in the lives of people. I put people in my Cabinet. I put people in my sub-Cabinet.". He sounds more concerned with getting votes than with helping anyone.

US poverty: chronic ill, little hope for cure

Here are the facts:

  • Since 2000, the ranks of the poor have increased year by year by almost 5.5 million in total
  • Today, 33% of black children live in families under the poverty level.
  • Last year, African American households had the lowest median income of any racial group ($30134), down a full percentage point from the year before.
  • The unemployment rate for African-Americans is double the rate for white Americans. Over the past six months, the average unemployment rate for white Americans was 4.39 percent; for black Americans, it was 10.06 percent.
  • Poverty is a universal problem, as is inequality. The world's 500 richest people, according to U.N. statistics, have as much income as the world's poorest 416 million.

    Statistics and quote from: Think Progress

"The federal government declared war on poverty, and poverty won." -- Ronald Reagan in 1988


What can we do?

Raise the minimum wage -- From Think Progress:

  • 4.3 million: Number of Americans who have fallen into poverty since President Bush took office
  • $5.15: Federal minimum wage
  • $5,000: Amount below the poverty level working 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year at minimum wage will leave a family of three
  • 7,300,000: Number of workers who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage
  • 72%: Percentage of adult workers who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage
  • 1,800,000: Number of parents with kids under the age of 18 who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage
  • 11 million: Number of jobs added to the economy in the four years after the last minimum wage hike
  • 2.5 years: Amount of health care for two children which could be bought by raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25
  • 86%: Percentage of Americans who support raising the federal minimum wage

Mr. Harvey of the Enterprise Foundation in his paper, Ending Concentrated Poverty, goes into some of the causes of US poverty:

What has caused concentrated poverty:

  • deindustrialization
  • globalization
  • suburban development that does not included poor and minority families

The above have all eroded the job base in the heart of cities. But he has several workable, proven solutions:

  • enhance access to opportunity for low-income families
    - housing choice vouchers to help with rent in communities they choose or to help with mortgages
  • rebuild and reinvest in a smart, sustainable way
    - "private-public partnerships to turn dysfunctional environments into healthier communities"
  • ensure meaningful decision-making roles for low-income people

We cannot be considered a civilized society if we continue to leave a larger and larger segment of our population behind. We talk about being proud to be an American because fight wars in foreign lands. We need to be proud to be an American because we're fighting a war here ... against racism and poverty.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Without Training Wheels

On Cyberkitten's blog, we've been discussing the meaning of life. Well, I can think of no better one than my son. Alex learned how to ride his bike without training wheels today. The meaning of my life is to try to be a good example for him and to try in whatever way I can to make the world that he grows up in a better one than the one I did.



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Went to the Thunderbird Balloon Classic with Alex Friday night and had a great time. Click the image for a page with more pics:

Gonorrhea Lectim

The Center for Disease Control has issued a warning about a new virulent strain of sexually transmitted disease. This disease is contracted through dangerous and high risk behavior.

The disease is called Gonorrhea Lectim (pronounced "gonna re-elect him").

Many victims contracted it in 2004, after having been screwed for the past 4 years, in spite of having taken measures to protect themselves from this especially troublesome disease. Cognitive sequelae of individuals infected with Gonorrhea Lectim include, but are not limited to:
. anti-social personality disorder traits;
. delusions of grandeur with a distinct messianic flavor;
. chronic mangling of the English language;
. extreme cognitive dissonance;
. inability to incorporate new information;
. pronounced xenophobia;
. inability to accept responsibility for actions;
. exceptional cowardice masked by acts of misplaced bravado;
. uncontrolled facial smirking;
. ignorance of geography and history;
. tendencies toward creating evangelical theocracies; and
. a strong propensity for categorical, all-or-nothing behavior.

The disease is sweeping Washington. Naturalists and epidemiologists are amazed and baffled that this malignant disease, which originated only a few years ago from a Bush in Texas.


*** Ed. note -- didn't mean to cheapen the discussion with a joke. But I couldn't resist (dbackdad) ***

Friday, October 28, 2005

Meaning of Life / Free Will

While we're in the religious discussion mood, I highly recommend a couple of current discussions going on at a couple of my favorite bloggers:

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Devolution

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death." -- (Albert Einstein, Religion and Science, New York Times Magazine, 9 November 1930



51% of Americans do not believe they evolved ... 15% agree (that those 51% didn't evolve) (grin)

Majority of Americans Reject Theory of Evolution

Do these numbers provide affirmation to Creationism? Creationists may think so. I don't.

Other "Christian" countries don't think so either:
Comparing U.S. Religious Beliefs with other "Christian" Countries

Educators don't think so:
National groups won't let Kansas use materials in science standards

What DO these numbers tell us?

  • Our science education is not what it should be. Our public education system is being abandoned and more and more kids are going to private Christian schools.
  • Other countries better understand what a secular government is (our country once did)
  • We value dogma over learning and inquisitiveness. We've become a country of anti-intellectual pride.

"It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it." -- (Albert Einstein, 1954)


"I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature." -- (Albert Einstein, The World as I See It)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Rosa Parks

An icon has died:

Rosa Parks: 1913 - 2005

Hypocrite of the Day


Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison yesterday on Meet the Press:

Ms. Hutchison said she hoped “that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn’t indict on the crime and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars.”


Ms. Hutchison in 1999 during the Clinton impeachment:

[S]omething needs to be said that is a clear message that our rule of law is intact and the standards for perjury and obstruction of justice are not gray. And I think it is most important that we make that statement and that it be on the record for history.

I very much worry that with the evidence that we have seen that grand juries across America are going to start asking questions about what is obstruction of justice, what is perjury. And I don’t want there to be any lessening of the standard. Because our system of criminal justice depends on people telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That is the lynch pin of our criminal justice system and I don’t want it to be faded in any way.


Apparently it's only perjury if it's the other party in power.

Quirks

Thanks to Sadie and Jewish Atheist for passing this on to me to do ... so here goes. My strange habits and quirks:

1) I'm pretty compulsive about being early for appointments and for never taking sick days. I think it's the residue of a midwestern work ethic inherited from my dad.

2) I will finish every book or movie I start regardless of how wretched it is. I don't know if it's just another ethics thing about finishing what you start or if I feel that their is some redeeming quality in just about anything.

3) I LOVE going to auctions. It's the atmosphere, the competition, the white-trash huckster element. It can be for anything ... antiques, furniture, whatever. I used to work at an auction house when I was a teen and I was fascinated by the behind-the-scene things that went on then and that I can see going on now as a participant.

4) If I have the time and the TV remote, I will watch absolutely any televised sporting event. I find golf entertaining. I'd watch professional lawn darts or competitive tiddlywinks.

5) I love pickles but hate them on hamburgers. I will pick them off, eat them, and then eat the hamburger. I think it's because I don't think that hamburgers should be crunchy.

6) I don't really like mustard but if I'm eating a corn dog, I have to have it with mustard. Ketchup just will not work.

7) I'm compulsive about book, CD, DVD collecting. I have entirely too many of each (800+ books, 300+ CD's, 200+ DVD's). But I can't get rid of any. I always feel that I'll read, watch, listen to it someday. That means I still have a couple of Extreme (you know ... "More than Words" -- gag me) CD's that I just can't bring myself to dispose of.

8) Among my books, I have probably 100 books on chess! And I never play anyone. But if Gary Kasparov ever came to my house, I could probably give him a good game.

9) I've kept the tickets from every concert, sporting event, movie that I've ever went to. I keep saying that I'll put them in topical scrapbooks some day. And exactly who would that ever be interesting to?

OK, not the limits of my weirdness, but the most obvious ones that I can think of right now. Eric, Josh, and Isabella, consider yourselves tagged.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Michael Ledeen

If you want to know about neo-conservatism, and specifically the biggest American proponent of it, check out Shaw's outstanding post at Progressive Eruptions. It's very comprehensive:

The Most Dangerous Man in America, Michael Ledeen

Friday, October 21, 2005

FEMA

If you want to get even more of an idea how out of touch the leadership of FEMA was during Katrina (and a clue to what they really feel is important), check out the following e-mail exchange transcripts provided at a Senate hearing by regional director Marty Bahamonde:

Excerpts from e-mails among Federal Emergency Management officials during Hurricane Katrina: (Note: All times CDT)

_Marty Bahamonde, regional director for New England to David Passey, regional director for the Gulf Coast, Aug. 28, 4:46 p.m.

_Bahamonde to Deborah Wing, FEMA response specialist, Aug 28, 5:28 p.m.

_Passey to group, Aug 28, 7:16 p.m.

_Passey to Bahamonde, Aug. 28, 9:58 p.m.

_Bahamonde to Michael Heath, FEMA official, Aug. 29, 7:33 a.m.

_Bahamonde to Nicole Andrews, FEMA spokeswoman, Aug. 30, 7:02 a.m.

_Bahamonde to FEMA Director Michael Brown, Aug. 31, 11:20 a.m.

Hotels are kicking people out, thousands gathering in the streets with no food or water. Hundreds still being rescued from homes.

_Sharon Worthy, Brown‘s press secretary, to Cindy Taylor, FEMA deputy director of public affairs, and others, Aug. 31, 2 p.m.

"Also, it is very important that time is allowed for Mr. Brown to eat dinner. Gievn (sic) that Baton Rouge is back to normal, restaurants are getting busy. He needs much more that (sic) 20 or 30 minutes. We now have traffic to encounter to get to and from a location of his choise (sic), followed by wait service from the restaurant staff, eating, etc.

_Bahamonde to Taylor and Michael Widomski, public affairs, Aug. 31, 2:44 p.m.

"OH MY GOD!!!!!!!! No won‘t go any further, too easy of a target. Just tell her that I just ate an MRE and crapped in the hallway of the Superdome along with 30,000 other close friends so I understand her concern about busy restaurants. Maybe tonight I will have time to move my pebbles on the parking garage floor so they don‘t stab me in the back while I try to sleep.

_Bahamonde to Taylor, Sept. 3, 1:06 a.m.

"The leadership from top down in our agency is unprepared and out of touch. ... But while I am horrified at some of the cluelessness and self concern that persists, I try to focus on those that have put their lives on hold to help people that they have never met and never will. And while I sometimes think that I can‘t work in this arena, I can‘t get out of my head the visions of children and babies I saw sitting there, helpless, looking at me and hoping I could make a difference and so I will and you must to."


From the Herald News Daily



This would be funny if it didn't involve people dying. This morally bankrupt group of "Mayberry Machiavellians" makes me want to puke.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Angry White Male


Here's to you .... that unrepresented, descriminated-against minority: the angry, white, middle-aged male. Your heroes are Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. You are angry and you don't even know why. As Thomas Frank describes it in What's the Matter with Kansas:

"Everything seems to piss conservatives off. And they react by documenting and cataloging their disgust. The result is what we will call the plen-T-plaint, a curious amassing of petty, unrelated beefs with the world. Its purpose is not really to evaluate the hated liberal culture that surrounds us; the plen-T-plaint is a horizontal rather than vertical mode of criticism, aiming instead to infuriate us with dozens, hundreds, thousands of stories of the many tiny ways the world around us assaults family values, uses obscenities, disrespects parents[...] It offers no resolution, simply reminding us that we can never win. The plen-T-plaint is the rhetorical device that makes Bill O'Reilly's TV show a hit, as he gets indignant one day about the Insane Clown Posse and gets indignant the next about the Man-Boy Love Association [NAMBLA]."


Your flushed red face and spittle are palpable even on talk radio. I have to wipe my down my radio after you are done. You are unhappy with what you've done with your life and you are going to take it out on everyone else.

You feel you have a God-given right to the 350 years of white supremacy and unearned privilege. Just because you screwed up what you were given doesn't matter. You rail against affirmative action yet you have no problem with our president (who couldn't get into college in Texas) being let into Yale because of his daddy.

Well, I will tell you what. Angry, white, middle-age male ... you don't represent me, and you don't represent my friend, the Great White Bear.

==============================================================

Speaking of Bill O'Reilly, he was the guest on the Daily Show yesterday. And as usual, Stewart killed!!! I have no idea why O'Reilly even agreed to be on the show. While being courteous and funny, Stewart still managed to allow Bill to look like an out-of-touch idiot:


Bill O'Reilly and Jon Stewart


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You want to know why we're screwing up in Iraq? Here's a pretty good analysis, and it's not from some left-wing site. It's from the American Conservative:

Billions of dollars have disappeared, gone to bribe Iraqis and line contractors’ pockets.

Some of the highlights:

  • at least $20 billion of the Iraqi people's money and hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer money have been wasted
  • young, unqualified Heritage Foundation neo-cons were given high ranking jobs and payed 6 figure salaries
  • 363 tons of hundred dollar bills were distributed to contractors and middlemen with virtually no accountability

When the final accounting of the corruption in Iraq comes out, hopefully Americans will take to task those responsible.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Apathy

"Do not fear your enemies. The worst they can do is kill you. Do not fear friends. At worst, they may betray you. Fear those who do not care; they neither kill nor betray, but betrayal and murder exists because of their silent consent." -- Bruno Jasienski


Fear is a big thing now days. Fear of terrorists. Fear of natural disaster. Fear of avian flu. If we're always scared, then we'll look the other way when our freedoms are being taken. But the thing we really need to fear is apathy. We can't become so desensitized to death in Iraq that we don't care about the war any more. We can't become so desensitized to corruption in government that we stop being critical of it.

I've seen it bandied about too much on some of our blogs that because Bush won the election, that must mean he was given tacit approval for the way in which he runs government. He won because of the fear and apathy I've mentioned before. People were afraid of terrorism and they felt that Bush presented the best choice for handling it. They became so blinded by single issues (abortion, gun rights) that they hurt themselves economically. As Thomas Frank says in What's the Matter with Kansas, "By separating class from economics, [those leading the cultural backlash] have built a Republican friendly alternative for the disgruntled blue-collar American." How else could you explain that a Yale/Harvard/Skull and Bones blueblood with a multi-millionaire Washington insider dad could be viewed as a man of the people?

I've also seen it said in many places (TV and otherwise), that because Bush is a "man of God", then all is well. I know personally many people that voted for Bush that practically believe that he can walk on water. Anything short of them personally witnessing the President killing someone is OK and they will rationalize imperialism, corruption, torture, you name it. This mass cognitive dissonance is astounding. They will continually adjust their beliefs to try and match it to the reality around them. And they will deny they are doing it.

And our media, god bless them, are worthless. They are too chicken-shit to do any actual investigative work because of their ties to the corporations that own them. And those outlets that are in bed with the government (FOX) show their indignation with government corruption by lamenting that it is being exposed at all. Bill O'Reilly is a piece of work. He worries that government indictments will hurt the country. William "first family of neo-conservatism" Kristol thinks that the "criminalization of politics that’s really gotten totally out of hand". It does not bother them at all what has created the situation. To them, all is fair in politics. Is that what our representative democracy was supposed to be?

It's not our job to blindly follow everything our government says. There is no reason to believe everything that they tell us when they are proven again and again to be lying to us. There is no reason to believe that they are better informed than we are. And we should not stand by idly and assume that things will be taken care of by someone else. Be informed. Be vigilant.

"It is not the function of our government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error." -- US Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Wag the Dog

Is it just me, or is this just a little too like Wag the Dog:

Bush Teleconference With Soldiers Staged



What does it say about your democracy when the only way that you can speak to the people is by carefully creating the situation and coaching the response?

**UPDATE** More from Think Progress indicates that even the questions themselves were staged:
Video: Pentagon Aide Admits Having “Drilled Through” Questions For Photo-Op



Speaking of polticial movies, what are some of your faves? Mine in no particular order:

Bob Roberts
Bulworth
Fahrenheit 9/11
Dr. Strangelove
Wag the Dog
Bowling for Columbine
Election
All the President's Men
Primary Colors
JFK
Fog of War

It's a pretty broad definition. Technically, Schindler's List (one of my all-time favorite movies) could be considered political. But I'm trying to confine the list to those directly associated with politicians or the government.

Also, you'll have to forgive me for not including the following ... but I've yet to see them (I know ... shoot me):

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Manchurian Candidate
Candidate
Citizen Kane

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

John Muir quotes

"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."


"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world."


"Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you."


"God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools." -- I know ... an ironic quote from me. It's still a good quote. It's the thought that counts.



John Muir -- famed conservationist and founder of the Sierra Club

Monday, October 10, 2005

Sierra Club Service Trip -- Elgin, AZ

"Do not ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive". -- Harold Whitman (told to me by new dear friend Cat Hayden)


My vacation/service trip with the Sierra Club was a rousing success. Not only did I have a great time, I feel that we did some good.


During last week, a group of 10 Sierra Club members stayed and volunteered at an Audubon Society Research Ranch in southern Arizona. Our work consisted of upgrading and repairing fences on the property so as to allow the local species (deer and pronghorn) to pass the boundaries without being injured. In addition, we collected native grass seeds and transplanted native grasses into areas where they had been pushed out by exotic plants.


We had several guest speakers that had knowledge that placed them at the top of their fields. But the most impressive thing about them was their enthusiasm and willingness to give us some of that knowledge. The first was Ron Probst of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. He presented a slide show and afterwards we observed firsthand many celestial objects with the telescope that he had brought. I'm a big science/space nut and I was in my element with this speaker.


The next speaker was Homer Hansen, an environmental scientist but whose hobbies (and vast knowledge) extend way beyond that. Besides being on many committees in Southern Arizona concerning environmental issues, he is an expert on bats and birds. He's the chairman of the Wings over Wilcox, an annual bird and nature festival in Wilcox, Arizona. On this day, he spoke to us about Sky Islands."The Sky Islands are forested mountain ranges surrounded by seas of desert and grassland." Southeastern Arizona is one of the preeminent places on Earth for this. It was a very interesting talk and afterwards he led us on a walk where he explained some of the importance of sky islands and their effect on species diversity of plants and animals.

On our off day, we visited Garden Canyon within the Fort Huachuca Army base. We hiked, observed pictograph drawings on the mountainsides and saw several native species.


But don't be fooled into thinking the whole week was just all goody-goody stuff and learning. I had an absolute blast because of the items listed above but also because I met some incredible people. The other members (and leaders) of my group were not only extremely successful in their own careers, but also intelligent, well-traveled (about half the group lived abroad at one time or another), civic minded (most had done service trips before), funny (able to jump between Fellini and Farrelly brothers without skipping a beat) and hard-working. We exceeded both the expectations of Audubon and Sierra Club in how much we got done. Plus, we had great food and propped up the economy of Sonoita, Arizona with our consumption of alcohol. I value the friendships I developed on this trip and will undoubtedly see these people again in the future.