Saturday, October 28, 2006

Friday, October 27, 2006

Scary Congress

Monday, October 23, 2006


After former NFL player Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan, the Republicans used his sacrifice as a political tool, perverting the circumstances of his death for their own gain. They were in awe of his sense of patriotism for giving up a promising professional career to go and fight for his country. But for them, patriotism is a punch line, a means to an end. It means nothing. The people that die mean nothing. Only what things you can get from it mean anything to them. But Pat and his brother Kevin WERE patriots ... just not in the way that the Right would have you think. The Tillman's were willing to die for the ideal of this country. They were willing to die for the things that this country actually stood for. Things that this government has forgotten. Let's remind them on Nov. 7:

After Pat’s Birthday
Kevin Tillman Honors Late Brother's Birthday with Plea to Speak up for Democracy

by Kevin Tillman

It is Pat’s birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice… until we get out.

Much has happened since we handed over our voice:

Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can’t be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few “bad apples” in the military.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It’s interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don’t be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that “somehow” was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.

Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat’s birthday.

Kevin Tillman joined the Army with his brother Pat in 2002, and they served together in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pat was killed in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. Kevin was discharged in 2005.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Public Schools

"The highest result of education is tolerance." -- Helen Keller

Choosing a school for your kids is scary. Everything is life and death with parents. You feel like any wrong decision you make now in their upbringing will stunt their growth for life. While it's important to be cognizant of how we are raising our kids, at some point we have to realize that some of our decisions are actually making them less ready for the world.

The following block quotes are from a very good article by Ruth Conniff in the Progressive: Back to (Public) School
The article is useful because as a parent she went through a lot of the same decision making that all parents go through when choosing a school (or a type of school):

"...I'm proud of the parents who are keeping their kids in our community school, and who have decided that the best way to help their kids get a great education is to work to support the staff and help make the school as good as it can be.

All parents worry about sending their kids out into the world ... I don't blame the parents who are fretting enough to wonder whether they should pony up for private education if they can afford to.

...much of parents' nervous gossip about schools conveys less about the quality of the schools themselves than it does about the values of the parents. And while most people assume that private schools are generally of higher quality than public schools, a recent study shows better scores, controlling for economic background, among public school students.

One of the things that the author looked at (and that we did also) was diversity:

"...They were a diverse bunch, and there was something great about going to meets and seeing them all together--boys and girls, white, African-American, Asian and Latino--cheering for each other, fooling around, and generally getting along. It struck me then that some of the ugly cliquishness we read so much about lately--"queen bee" girls, the obsession with money and designer labels, and all the other poisonous elements of the culture I'd like to shield my own kids from--were much less in evidence at my old school than at some elite, private institutions. Part of the reason was that there were so many different kinds of people, from so many different backgrounds, no one really had a chance to establish a monopoly on popularity or status.

That democratic spirit is one reason I fell excited about my daughter starting public school. Besides learning reading and math and all the rest of those important accomplishments, I want her to develop into a happy, healthy, kind person with good values. Going to public school can nurture that."

Good values ... that's pretty much what all parents want their kids to get. But what are "values"? For too many, "values" equates to religious morals. And from one religion to another, they vary widely.

In looking for schools, we get conflicting messages on what to look for. Some say to treat shopping for schools like you would shopping for cars ... test driving certain ones (and even certain teachers): School debate: public vs. private
But the author of our article suggests the opposite:

"...To make it work, parents have to have less of a consumer mentality and more of a cooperative, civic-minded focus. It strikes me that the consumer mentality some of us develop when our kids are in preschool leads directly to a kind of victim mentality. We set out to try to get our kids the best education we can afford. From vouchers to Catholic schools to tony private institutions, more and more places give more and more parents the ability to exercise their consumer power. There's even a theory among conservatives that this sort of behavior will make the public schools better: that they will be forced to improve as more parents vote with their feet."

Ah, school vouchers. Proponents would say that competition in all things is beneficial. I'm sure that some that advocate these have noble intentions but I believe that implementation of school vouchers is wrong on so many levels. First of all, it would open the floodgates for using public tax dollars for religious-based education. The problems with that are obvious ... at least for those that believe in the Constitution. And even religious people should be against it because it would increase the government's ability to dictate how they teach. Secondly, it is reliant on the mistaken belief that private schools are providing a higher quality education, which there is no proof of (even the Bush administration admits this - Public/Private)

In general, I'm not really sure who is advocating school vouchers. They really don't make sense. Libertarians that would support the "free-market" aspect of them would have to be against the public-funding of education, particularly religious-based education. And religious people that would enjoy being able to afford to put their children in schools that taught according to their "morals" would have to be against the government intrusion into that education.

Or, there's home schooling, where the motivation is all too often for religious reasons. They equate religion with morality. How is this preparing your children for the real world? It seems to be more about preparing your children for a cloistered life than for giving them the tools to be tolerant of other religions. I think this comes down to the "it takes a village" vs. "it takes a family" argument. I'm on the "it takes a village" side.

I don't want to give the impression that the only reason people would home-school is for religious reasons. There are certainly many valid reasons for choosing home-schooling. But I believe that the push in the last twenty years in home-schooling has been a religious push.

We chose a charter school for Alex. These are basically public schools and are funded by tax dollars but they have to be first be approved by the state for their curriculum and they must go through the normal testing. The advantages of them are that they can have smaller class sizes and are freed from some of the rules of a normal public school. Do I think we're doing the right thing by sending him to a charter school? I don't know. Do I think it's the right thing to do for society in general? Again, I don't know. Parenting is a trial-and-error thing. So far, we are very pleased with the school, Alex is learning a lot and he enjoys the school. Is there the potential that taking these tax dollars out of normal public schools may harm them? Potentially, yes. And charter schools that are not properly monitered and made to meet state standards have the potential of hurting students in the long run. But this is true of any schools. One thing that I have noticed at about Alex's school is the high level of parental involvement and genuine desire by the faculty and staff to forge good relationships with the parents. I'm sure that's not true of all schools (of any type), but it's certainly a goal to strive for.

The author closed with:

"... I am most impressed by the parents I know who are acting on the idea that we must invest in the community where we live, and work to make it good for all of us. At some point you have to stop shopping around and make the best of things where you are. At least, that's the idea I'd like my kids to grow up with.

Maybe that's the best advice. Take into account both what is good for your child and what's good for your neighborhood. More involvement in the place where you live ... whether it means interaction with neighbors, schools, volunteering, patronage of businesses that keep their money in your community ... seems to be a wise way forward.

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." -- Nelson Mandela

Hiking Pics at T-bird Park

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Departed

I'm not going to write too much with this review as all of you have seen the movie before me and provided great comments that I agree with.

But suffice to say, The Departed will be in my year end Top 10 list. This is a movie about cops, gangsters, allegiance, deception and how everything is not as it seems.

As Laura said, it ranks up there with the best Scorcese movies of all time, including ... it may be heresy to say so ... Goodfellas. Where I think it exceeds Goodfellas is in it's darkly comic tone. It's no less violent than that movie but I think it's dialogue is sharper and wittier. Some movies use violence and foul language arbitrarily but, in this movie, they are both so integral to establishing the environment of these characters.

The performances are universally outstanding, especially DiCaprio. Particularly notable in the humor of their roles were Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg. I just about lost it every time these two opened their mouths.

One feels guilty for enjoying and laughing at scenes of such rawness but I think the mind can understand the difference between what is real and what is escapism. It's enjoyable because we are maybe just a little bit envious of those people that don't have to or choose not to live by the rules that we all live by. A primal way of living that is perhaps animalistic and instinctual.

But in any event, I don't want to overthink it. It's just good clean fun. Grade: A+

Your guys' takes on the movie:

Sadie (with help from Laura, JA, Reel Fanatic)

Vancouver Calling

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cartoon of the Day

And so it begins (or continues):

Bush Signs Tough Rules on Detainees -- We're supposed to just trust that Bush won't abuse his powers. Right.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Ignorant or evil?

"Prejudice is the child of ignorance." -- William Hazlitt

I always like to say that I believe that people are inherently good. They may be uninformed or ignorant, but in their hearts, all people want the same things and care about others. After the last few days, I wonder if I'm wrong. Two separate instances at clients of mine have made me doubt my belief.

The first was a few days ago. My client, who lives in Sun City West, was complaining about a crew of people that had came out to work on his tile. They had arrived later than they were scheduled for and he was complaining about it. He automatically assumed they were illegal Mexicans. They may or may not have been. But that's not the point. He was equating tardiness with laziness and in turn with illegals.

He said that he was going to go out with a baseball bat and take care of all of them. He could just throw them in the garbage bin and no one would care because the were just "illegal Mexicans". He wasn't going to really do it but that's how weak-minded braggarts roll. They will complain about everything and will never take the time to actually get at the root of issues. Why don't you attack companies that would hire illegals?

The second instance just occurred today. I overheard a few workers talking at a plastics plant that I do work for. A lady was complaining that her ex-husband was going to visit a mission in Mexico with their kids. They were taking some toys to this mission, who in turn gave them to orphans in the area. It's obviously a very unselfish and humanitarian thing to do. They only thing that she could say was that if you want to see Mexican orphans, just go down to the local soup kitchen.

In the same conversation, a 2nd worker was complaining about how the show Amazing Race spends too much time in Third World countries. He commented, "Nobody wants to see that kind of filth and poverty." You pathetic, fucking clueless idiot. Welcome to the real world. Life isn't just your little protected middle-class existence. Just because he don't hear about pain, sickness and poverty doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. When are people going to learn that it is not how we treat those in the same financial position as us but rather how we treat those that are not as lucky as us. What a novel concept. "Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land." -- Wow ... let me see, who said that ... that's right, JESUS!! Some people who claim to be Christians have seemingly forgotten that.

You complain about Third World countries ... why don't you take a look at the one right next to us. Nowhere else in the world does a first world country share a border with a third world one. You want to know the reason why people cross the border? There is your reason. If you want to stop people from crossing the border, get rid of the incentive for doing so. Do things that will help to bring up the economy of Mexico. And penalize those companies that hire illegals.

Now, the immigration issue is a non-partisan issue that intelligent people can justifiably disagree about. But the xenophobia that I see exhibited by far too many people is indicative of a far bigger problem. Little people with little minds always want to blame others for their failures in life. Whether it be blacks, Mexicans, poor people, etc., it's always someone else's fault. It high time that you people look in the mirror and figure out what's wrong with you instead of trying to blame the ills of the world on others. You people make me sick.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." -- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Bush Day ... er, I mean Columbus Day

Is the Current Occupant the Columbus of Our Time?
by Garrison Keillor

October 12th, the traditional Columbus Day, is a day to reflect on the nature of celebrity. Columbus was a pirate and tyrant who sailed off and bumped into the Bahamas, had no idea where he was, and to his dying day believed he had reached the Indies. By the time he arrived in the New World, America was old news to the Vikings. They already had that T-shirt.

Five hundred years before, the Vikings had been sailing the Atlantic with confidence, making new friends and influencing people. Thorvald Asvaldsson sailed to Iceland in the 10th century with his son Erik the Red. After they'd been banished from Norway for manslaughter — if you've ever been in an argument with Norwegians, you probably considered manslaughter, too — and from Iceland, Erik explored the icebound continent to the west, which he named Greenland, for promotional purposes.

In 986, Bjarni Herjulfsson and his men sailed along the coast of New England. Around the same time, Leif Eriksson, the son of Erik the Red, sailed over and may have landed on the island of Manhattan. Did he come ashore and try to buy it for $23 worth of junk jewelry? No. And do we celebrate Bjarni Herjulfsson Day? No, we do not. The Vikings weren't into self-promotion, and Reykjavik was not a world media center at the time.

The Vikings were not out to lord it over the Indians or bring democracy here or teach folks about Nordic gods. They were free spirits, sailors, explorers, so they left some carved stones here and there, relished the exhilaration of the voyage and the sight of new lands, and went home and composed sagas for the amusement of their friends and families. That arrogant fool Columbus, who demanded 10 percent of all the gold the Spanish stole in the New World, got the holiday, a town in Ohio and another in Georgia, a major river in the Northwest, a university in New York. But who cares? Scandinavians don't.

Their history after Leif and Eric and Bjarni has been tangled, of course. The Norwegians suffered under the Danes and then the Swedes. The Danes suffered under the delusion that they were French. The Swedes suffered under Strindberg and Ingmar Bergman, neither of whom was the life of the party. All of them suffered from the long gray winters with twilight at noon.

But Lutheranism urged them toward kindness, industriousness and self-effacement, and this is not a bad strategy for contentment.

Look around today and you will find the Viking descendants, a calm and stoical and somewhat formal people, by and large, not given to extremes of fashion or chanting "We're Number One" or writing memoirs that hang out the family underwear. Walter Mondale is pretty much the prototype. He lost the presidency by one of the biggest landslides in history to an aging actor whose grip on reality, never firm to begin with, was becoming hallucinatory. Mr. Reagan was sort of the Columbus of our time, a better PR man than sailor, but so be it.

Mr. Mondale is a buoyant man with a sense of humor who enjoys his life in Minnesota, where people are happy to see him, and when you do, you see that losing is far from the worst thing that can happen to a man.

What's worse is the likely fate of the Current Occupant, who is contending with Pierce, Buchanan and Warren G. Harding for the title of All-Time Worst President. He's got a good shot at the title if only because he's had so much more to be worst with. (Any young persons who have been inspired by Mr. Bush to take up public service should be watched very closely.)

I propose that we change Columbus Day to Bush Day, a cautionary holiday, like Halloween, a day to meditate on the hazards of ambition. We could observe it by going through the basement and garage and throwing out stuff we don't want or need. Also, by not mortgaging the house to pay for a vacation, and not yelling at the neighbors, and not assuming that the law is for other people.

A day to honor kindness, industriousness and modesty.

" ... A day to honor kindness, industriousness and modesty" -- indeed. Instead of the daily honoring of cowboy bravado, intellectual dwarfism and hubris that we get from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Of course, Mr. Keillor is much wittier and much smarter than I in saying that.

The Columbus comparison is particulary apt in that there are many that still honor Columbus for a discovery that was dubious, unoriginal and harmful. Kinda like Bush and the "War on Terror". The honoring of Columbus (and Bush by his followers) have less to do with great acts than they do with cognitive dissonance. People want to believe that Columbus was good and virtuous and that his "discovery" led to the formation of our great country. People want to believe that Bush is protecting us from the "evil-doers" and that our intentions are noble. So, in both cases, when facts contradict the dream, people are forced to deny or misinterpret the new data. But that's disingenuous. Be honest to yourselves. Don't honor Columbus ... and don't honor Bush.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Human Race is Living Beyond Its Means

"Optimism is a good characteristic, but if carried to an excess, it becomes foolishness. We are prone to speak of the resources of this country as inexhaustible; this is not so." -- Theodore Roosevelt, Seventh Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1907

Published on Monday, October 9, 2006 by the Independent / UK
The Human Race is Living Beyond Its Means
by Andrew Simms

In a market economy, the only constraints on what we consume are what we may legally buy and what we can afford.
The result is, as the great environmental economist Herman Daly warned, that we end up treating the planet as if it were a business in liquidation. If you were managing a business, you would be considered grossly negligent if you had no idea of your assets or cash flow. Yet this is how we manage our environmental resources.

When we deplete oil in the North Sea and push fish stocks to the edge of collapse, it is treated as free income to the economy. It is shockingly easy for politicians, economists and planners to forget that the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment. And, on our island planet, that Earth itself is subject to fuzzy but very real limits.

One of the defining features of life in the UK, the world's fourth-largest economy, is the sheer scale of our material consumption, and the ease with which we ignore the burden that it exports around the globe.

Our high-consuming lifestyle is only possible because the rest of the world supports us with large supplies of their own natural resources.

No individual country has to be self-reliant. We trade what we can't produce locally, and positively enjoy exotic goods that come from all around the globe.

The world as a whole is living beyond its ecosystems' capacity to regenerate, and, looked at in terms of a calendar year, starts living beyond its environmental means on 9 October. Looking back, if the whole world had wanted to share UK lifestyles in 1961, the Earth would just have managed with its available resources - one planet would have been enough. Today we would need 3.1 planets to support them. To live within our overall environmental budget, the UK will have to reduce the burden its lifestyles create; such as the massive growth of leisure flights and subsequent CO2 emissions.

And while our consumption grows, with everything from 4x4s to energy hungry wide-screen TVs, all the academic research shows that consuming more will not make us happier. The same research shows that getting-off the consumption treadmill, finding more time for friends and family, reflection and creative pastimes, can.

Mainstream economics says that nothing must get in the way of economic growth and competitiveness. But in doing so we are inadvertently waging war on the environment, forgetting that, if we win, we will find ourselves on the losing side.

Andrew Simms is policy director at the New Economics Foundation

This article may be about the UK, but it obviously can be used to describe the U.S. Why is it that those that push the free market as being perfect don't recognize how closely it is tied with our environment? How is it good business to be making withdrawels from a bank in which you've never made any deposits? You don't get something for nothing. We'll all be paying for the hubris of the last 100 years. Come on people. Learn the lessons of our past.

"Defenders of the short-sighted men who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things sometimes seek to champion them by saying the 'the game belongs to the people.' So it does; and not merely to the people now alive, but to the unborn people. The 'greatest good for the greatest number' applies to the number within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but an insignificant fraction. Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method." -- Theodore Roosevelt, A Book-Lover's Holidays in the Open, 1916

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Travel Update

Blogging on the road, check it out:

Going back to Cali ...

Day 2

And finally ... Day 3 (final day) .... crap!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


I'm not meaning to continue the sullen trend of Laura and Sadie, but there seems to be something in the air. Perhaps as some kind of cosmic punishment for my family having a good time this last weekend, fate came down hard today.

My little guy Alex got two of his front teeth knocked out in an accident on the playground this morning. So, he and I spent all afternoon at the dentist. They are baby teeth and it doesn't look like the adult teeth beneath them got damaged. But, it just about killed me to see the sad little guy with guaze in his mouth and sad eyes when I showed up at school. He was quite the little trooper despite the fact that it took me an hour to get there. I was at a client in Fountain Hills when they called ... which is about as far away from his school as I could have been and still been in the Valley.

On top of that, they had to give him a shot in his mouth so that they could extract the teeth. I swear I would have switched places with him then and there if I could have. I can take any kind of pain or punishment that you heap on me, but I cannot stand to see my son in any kind of pain. The amount of bravery and guts in this little 5 year old exceeds anything that I have ever had. When I was holding his hand as they were working on him, I couldn't help but be transported back to when he was in the hospital after he was born early, with IV's in his head and strapped to a zillion machines. Sometimes it's hell being a parent.

(If you are gutsy, you can see a pre-extraction pic of Alex here. You've been warned.)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Perfect Day

My mother-in-law and niece are in town and we wanted to take a day trip out of the Valley to escape the heat. We went to Flagstaff yesterday and had an absolutely fantastic day. I'm going to try and confine and family excursion posts to my new blog, On the Road. See details there:

Flagstaff -- 9-30-06