Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tipping Points

There's a great article in the latest Mother Jones on the different factors that color our planet's ability to respond to global warming. It's a long article and I won't include it here but there were some snippets that I found particularly interesting. The first is on how our station in life affects our views on global warming:

" ... found that Americans fall into "interpretive communities"—cliques, if you will, sharing similar demographics, risk perceptions, and worldviews. On one end of this spectrum are the naysayers: those who perceive climate change as a very low or nonexistent danger. Leiserowitz found naysayers to be "predominantly white, male, Republican, politically conservative, holding pro-individualism, pro-hierarchism, and anti-egalitarian worldviews, anti-environmental attitudes, distrustful of most institutions, highly religious, and to rely on radio as their main source of news." This group presented five rationales for rejecting danger: belief that global warming is natural; belief that it's media/environmentalist hype; distrust of science; flat denial; and conspiracy theories, including the belief that researchers create data to ensure job security." -- 2005 study by Anthony Leiserowitz, published in Risk Analysis

And the second on the need and the ability of our country to take action in the face of a threat:
"We also changed with breathtaking speed in 1941 when we recalibrated the entire economy of the United States in one short year to fight global enemies in Germany and Japan. The effort was promoted by the government but carried forward by individual citizens. Obviously, our powers of transformation are magnified by visionary leaders. Mahatma Gandhi's Salt March in 1930 ignited Indians of diverse religions, languages, and ethnicities to unite in the common cause of independence. Gandhi, in turn, inspired Martin Luther King Jr., Stephen Biko, Nelson Mandela, and Aung San Suu Kyi, who catalyzed their followers to change the world as well.

Leaders can rouse us against them, too. Whether or not Marie Antoinette actually said, "Let them eat cake," she inspired change that reverberated far beyond Europe. Likewise, when George W. Bush says we can't act on global warming until we "fully understand the nature of the problem," we can use his callous disregard as a rallying cry.

The truth is, we can change, and change fast, even in the absence of perfect knowledge. Like cockroaches, our hallmark is adaptability. Long ago, we looked out from the trees and saw the savannas. Beyond the savannas we glimpsed other frontiers. History proves that when we behold a better world, we move toward it, leaving behind what no longer works."

That's a recurring point with global warming naysayers ... waiting for "perfect knowledge". Or at least that is the reason they give. If they actually cared about having all the facts before taking action, they would have never invaded Iraq on a false premise. But in the case of global warming (and Iraq), they don't care what knowledge they have at hand. They will twist whatever data or testimony they have (from questionable sources) and use it to promote the policy that they have already decided on for other reasons. After all, we know who/what is really in control here -- (big) oil. If you needed any proof, Exxon Mobil is being allowed to influence what is considered science in our classrooms. They actually have the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) so scared that the organization is turning down a donation of 50,000 DVD's of An Inconvenient Truth:

Science a la Joe Camel

I'm sure I've overused Stephen Colbert's quote but it's so fitting -- "Reality has a well-known liberal bias". Conservatives will paint science as "left-wing" if it doesn't fit in with their worldview. That's a dangerous thing when it affects how our children are taught.

Sadly, it looks like it will take the courts to force any kind of action by a "see-no-evil" administration:

High court to hear global warming case

White House Sued for Not Doing Report on Warming

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Work and Politics

I just about had a "Dixie Chick" moment the other day when I was at one of my long time clients. You know ... one of those moments where you say something that you believe but that may hurt you in the pocketbook later on.

While at clients, I really try to avoid political discussions or even talking about subjects that divert sideways into politics. It's not because I'm not passionate about politics or that I feel people shouldn't give their views. It's because I believe the exact opposite. I am afraid if somebody asks me point blank about some issue, I will not be able to stop myself from offering an opinion. And because of where I live, there is a high probability that my client is a conservative. While I don't care if they have a differing viewpoint (everbody's money spends the same), I can't rely on them being as understanding.

Anyway, we were talking about a seemingly innocuous subject, high-definition televison. He had mentioned that our local NBC affiliate, Channel 12, had recently started broadcasting in HD. I said that was cool but I hadn't had a chance to check them out because I rarely watching network television. Like a true Republican, he immediately took this to mean that I didn't watch it because network news has a "liberal bias". It's funny how most conservatives automatically believe everyone believes the way that they do. They are genuinely surprised when someone has the audacity to disagree with them. While I don't necessarily feel that network news has a "conservative bias", I do feel that by not asking the probing questions, they have have inadvertantly become mouthpieces for the administration. That is why I don't watch, but I kept that to myself because I didn't want to start anything. So, he takes my silence as agreement and gets confident he has a captive audience. He then says that the only unbiased news you can get is on FOX News. After audibly choking, I had to compose myself. Under my breath, I said something about FOX News being the MOST biased news source and quickly tried to change the subject. At that point, he understood he didn't have a disciple and he was anxious to change the subject also. I have known him and his wife for a long time (she was the realtor that handled a couple of our home sales) and we have a pretty good relationship. Neither of us wanted to mess it up with a silly political disagreement. But I can't assume that other newer clients of mine would look at it that way. So, I try to be careful.

I'm not going to "dance" for anyone. I've left jobs for what I believed in. But by the same token, I'm not going to purposely try to sabotage myself and piss off a client for a throw-away political point.

On the subject of FOX News, this was not the first time that a watcher of that channel has said something that indicated they believed it to be the most reliable source. Hello, people, here's a red sign: if a station has to tell you that it is "fair and balanced", it probably isn't. I'm not sure which is worse, FOX for saying it or the vast legion of automatons for believing it. If you need any more evidence of FOX's bias and eithical sliminess, look no further than these recent events:

"Fox memo is 'smoking gun' proof of bias against Dems"

Murdoch scraps OJ Simpson 'confession' show

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Glendale Glitters

Hijinks with the family at Glendale Glitters (no relation to Gary Glitter).

Monday, November 20, 2006

Dixie Chicks concert -- 11-19-06

Often you go to a concert and come home wanting. Either they didn't play your favorite song or they didn't play long enough. Neither could be said about the Dixie Chicks concert Sunday night. This was in stark contrast to the Prince concert we went to a few years ago in the same venue. Despite being what most people would call one of the most prolific songwriters of all time, he only played for 90 minutes. The Dixie Chicks, with only 4 albums to their credit played over 2 hours. Most of the songs on the new album were played.

Looking at the crowd, it would not strike you as being a country crowd. I've been to country shows and these didn't look like your typical attendees. Obviously the band's appeal has crossed over into the mainstream both because of their music and their politics. But to sell the crowd short as being just a pop music crowd would be wrong too. Playing some of their early bluegrass and country tinged songs, like Long Time Gone, White Trash Wedding and Wide Open Spaces, the enthusiasm of the crowd was just as great.

I went into this show much like I believe the band did ... not knowing the reaction of the fans or how enthusiastic they would be. And I think they were pleasantly surprised by that reaction. If the several minute long raucous standing ovation after Not Ready to Make Nice was any indication, these fans came to support the Dixie Chicks. It wasn't just about the music, which was great, it was about what they believe in and what they have went through. The Dixie Chicks merely said what a lot of us had been thinking. By giving voice to this, they gave each of us a little courage that we could do the same. You would have had to have lived in a hole the last few years to not know the story of the Dixie Chicks. Whether you know the saga or not, check out their outstanding documentary, Shut Up and Sing, which we watched earlier in the day. From Peter Travers review in Rolling Stone Magazine:

Life in Bush America gets a blunt, honest telling in this documentary that makes you want to stand up and cheer without ever begging for tears or glib sympathy. Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the chart-topping Dixie Chicks, set off a shit storm at the start of the Iraq War in 2003 when she told a London audience, "We're ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas." Maines joined Martie Maguire and Emily Robison -- the two sisters who founded the Texas band -- in a media attempt to straighten up without flying right. But a concerted right-wing effort to kill their radio play and concert appearances, especially in the South, had success. Barbara Kopple, who directed this movie firecracker with Cecilia Peck, has been chronicling threats to democracy since Harlan County, U.S.A. in 1977. And she gives due respect to Topic A: free speech. For three years, the camera focuses on the Chicks as wives, mothers, entertainers and political flash points. Their fight to stay uncompromised is inspiring. When Bush himself claims the Chicks have no right to complain about "hurt feelings," Maines lets out a terse "dumb fuck." Amen to that, sister.

In a matter of 90 minutes you can be both ashamed (of the lame redneck response to the Chicks' statement) and extremely proud to be an American because of the strength the band had to stick to their guns in the face of unbelievable controversy. The movie helped to give some context for a lot of the songs on the new album.

Ironically, a couple sitting in front of us at the show were there because their son gave them tickets, courtesy of the Dixie Chicks. Their son is Craig Hymson. He was a producer of Shut Up and Sing and also worked on Bowling for Columbine. They were a really nice couple and I couldn't help thinking to myself, "Why am I not that guy?". How cool is his job?! Instead of working on films and working for causes you believe in, I stick my head inside computers every day. Lame.

Forgive me for being a name-dropper, but the band Jimmy Eat World sat next to us. They're from the valley but have had some national exposure and recently toured with Green Day. Evidently the section we were in was mostly spots held for the Dixie Chicks themselves and VIP's.

The opening act was Bob Schneider, a blues rock artist. He was very good and incorporated a lot of influences including, jazz and reggae.

I could not have had a better time at a concert. This concert had been postponed from it's earlier Sept. 3 scheduled date. Having to wait that long and the building up of the show in my head over that time could have set me up for a huge disappointment. But the Dixie Chicks delivered on every level. They played great (yeah, a country band that actually plays and writes ... rare these days in Nashville), sounded great and were friendly and gracious.

Here are some pics and a review of the concert by our local paper.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Top 10 Albums

I have a little post-election political hangover. It's going to keep me from putting up any political posts for a good long time ... maybe 24 hours or so (grin). It's not a full-blown 6-tequila-shot-hangover. Perhaps a 6-beer-on-an-empty-stomach-hangover.

Anyway, to completely change the tone for a bit, I'm going to post my top 10 favorite albums of all time (OK ... 11. I couldn't cut it down any further) and I expect you guys to, at the least, skewer or complement my list. Ideally, you would also post your own either here or on your own blogs. No "Best Of's" allowed ... except maybe Legend by Bob Marley.

I'm going to do this in descending order so that I can force you to read them all or to be a ninny and skip to the last (for those people that read the last page of the book first).

11. Disintegration -- The Cure
In a word, it's the "atmosphere" of this album. While a lot of the lyrics are upbeat, the feel of the album is very consistently dark. The signature Cure guitar sound permeates it. Highlights for me are Pictures of You and Lovesong.

10. Taking the Long Way -- Dixie Chicks
This is a recent addition to my list. I've always been a fan of the Dixie Chicks for their music. I think Natalie Maines has one of the best voices in country music (2nd only to Allison Krauss for me). But with this album, they took it to the next level because of the political content. Writing or co-writing all the tracks on the album, these songs are teeming with the angst of the last few years. Obviously, Not Ready to Make Nice is a highlight but it is by no means the only one with biting content. Upbeat defiance would be the most apt description for most of these songs. We are going to see them in concert tonight and will also see Shut Up and Sing in the next few days. Reviews of both will be upcoming.

9. Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses -- Slipknot
This album is very evocative of another album higher on my list, Angel Dust by FNM. A 9 piece heavy metal band from my home state, Iowa, Slipknot had two previous albums that showed promise but that had major problems with tone and dynamics. They were basically one note albums that went at 100 mph from the get go. With this album, the band sat down with producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin (also the producer of the Dixie Chicks album on this list) and came out with a great album. Not confining themselves to the normal constraints of the genre, they allowed songs to be slower or longer when necessary. Other songs would show up early in the album and then have a reprise later. With this album, they escaped from the banner of being a gimmick masked band. My favorite songs are Before I Forget and The Nameless.

8. Jar of Flies -- Alice in Chains
Just an EP, this album was recorded in a week. It is the only EP to ever have been #1 on the Billboard Album charts. It is largely low-key and acoustic but it shows the strength of the band: Layne Staley's haunting vocals and the vocals and guitar work of Jerry Cantrell. I Stay Away is a highlight.

7. Angel Dust -- Faith No More
Faith No More were like chameleons during their career and this album is the perfect example of that with songs ranging from metal to funk to avant garde. Most people remember their big album (The Real Thing) but this album is much better, combining jazz, classical, rock in a crazy mix. Outstanding songs were A Small Victory and Midlife Crisis.

6. Rage Against the Machine -- Rage Against the Machine
The perfect synthesis of musical angst and political commentary. I don't believe any band has done a better job of combining the two. It ranges in subject matter from racism in law enforcement to Native Americans to government control of media. Even if you didn't agree with their politics, it would be hard to deny the power of the music. But with me, since I did agree with them, it was that much more profound. The best songs are Killing in the Name and Freedom.

5. Ten -- Pearl Jam
I believe that Pearl Jam was the best band to come out of Seattle in the early 90's and their first album is probably their best. Along with Nirvana's Nevermind, they effectively killed the late 80's hair metal revolution ... thank god. Because they refused to do videos and rarely did interviews after this album, many people assume they disappeared but they have been going strong ever since. Singer Eddie Vedder cited the fact that they didn't want to influence people's views of what each song meant and didn't want to project their own feelings on to the listener. The music was and always should be the focus. Black is my favorite track on this album. Vedder's lyrics are typically very poetic.

4. ... And Justice for All -- Metallica
This album jarred a shy nerdy high-school kid out of his fondness for new wave and pop music. An unblinking, dry and angry album, it opened a new world of music to me that would culminate in me eventually liking bands like Ministry, Skinny Puppy and Godflesh. That wouldn't have happened without this first step. And Justice for All addresses subjects like war, the environment, freedom and suicide. My favorite track is Dyer's Eve.

3. Nothing's Shocking -- Jane's Addiction
Brilliant and absolutely original. Nothing before or since as sounded like Jane's Addiction. Combining funk, metal and an arthouse feel, this album has no filler. It is solid from top to bottom. Jane Says and Mountain Song are my favorite tracks.

2. So -- Peter Gabriel
A haunting beautiful album with production from U2 producer Daniel Lanois. We all remember In Your Eyes from Say Anything but this album is all great. Oddly, probably the biggest single, Sledgehammer, is my least favorite. The guest artists on the album were incredible and lent their help to two of the best songs, Kate Bush on Don't Give Up and Yossou N'Dour on In Your Eyes.

1. Synchronicity -- The Police
This has always consistently been my favorite album and the Police my favorite band. They (and this album) were the perfect mixture of reggae, punk, literature and philosophy. On what other pop album would have references to Carl Jung, Loch Ness and Greek mythology? Highlights for me were King of Pain and Synchronicity II.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Organic Foods/Wal-Mart

Yep, I was just about to begrudgingly give Wal-Mart credit for greatly increasing their organic foods offerings. Although they were ultimately doing it for profit reasons, it was an opportunity to expose the masses to the benefits of eating organic. But like the earlier instance where Wal-Mart seemingly did something positive environmentally by promising to protect wildlife habitat for every store they build, the promise and the result are two different things. Ultimately, with Wal-Mart, it is about consumer perception and not a sense of real civic duty. And questioning where things come from (China, huge factory organic farms) doesn't seem to be high on the list of Wal-Mart's traditional demographic.

Wal-Mart Charged with Selling Nonorganic Food as Organic; Group Asks USDA to Fully Investigate Organic Product Misrepresentation

Quit shopping at this place. It's like buying a beer for your alcoholic uncle. By frequenting this place, you are an enabler. You're telling the owners of Wal-Mart that it is OK to make a profit at any cost ... wages, insurance, environment, truth be damned.

Speaking of enablers, retard Bill O'Reilly is applauding Wal-Mart for reinstating "Merry Christmas" as a greeting. It's part of his annual "War on Christmas" rant. Either he doesn't realize or he is ignoring the fact that Wal-Mart isn't doing it as a nod to Christians or "traditional" Christmas culture. Like every other decision Wal-Mart makes, they were doing it for a financial reason. Let's get portrayed as the "Christian" store and see the profits roll in. Is it any surprise that Wal-Mart is the 3rd largest contributor to the Republican Party? Pretending to be pious and screwing everything else for financial motives are part and parcel for them.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Of God and Men

I saw Richard Dawkins on C-SPAN tonight. I'd never actually seen him on TV. He was very thought-provoking and his new book, The God Delusion, is a must on my Christmas list ... if you'll forgive the irony of that. lol

He brought up an interesting point: There aren't actually "Christian children" or for that matter, "Muslim children" or "Jewish children". These are "children with Christian parents" or Muslim parents and so on. A child that is 3 or 4 years old has not made a conscious and informed choice to be of whichever religion. He/she is merely following the wishes of the parents. To project on a child those terms is more a reflection of your wishes than theirs. That is not to say that they won't come to that choice later on in life. And I am not suggesting that people shouldn't raise their children in their religion. Just don't call them what they can't possibly be yet.


Speaking of religion -- and I will be speaking a lot on religion because of the probable diminished political fodder of a lame-duck presidency -- Campus Progress has a nice article on the historically progressive causes of evangelicals. Though written before the election, it anticipates the defection of some evangelicals during this election cycle because of those causes:
"Progressives have long represented many of the causes evangelicals care about most, including peacemaking, anti-poverty and anti-hunger work, and environmental stewardship. Many have come to think that evangelicals are only mobilized around social issues like abortion or opposition to gay marriage. But, in fact, the issues that inspire the Christian faithful to act have broadened as evangelicals partner with religious and secular progressives to strengthen today’s progressive movement."

Don't assume that a new Democratic majority will cozy up the Religious Right, but also don't assume that Democrats and progressives don't see the mutual good of addressing common causes. And not all liberals are godless like me. Sorry, Ann Coulter. Don't mean to disappoint you.

Friday, November 10, 2006


OK, I like the new uniforms. The purple and aqua ones had gotten a little old and didn't really fit in with the colors of the desert.

D-Backs new uniforms

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Working Together

How heartening ... seeing Orthodox Jews, Muslims and Christians working together for a common cause. Man, we should bottle that up and solve the world's religious problems. What noble cause could this be? Hunger? The environment? War? ---- uh, no. It is their shared bigotry and hatred of gays:

Ultra-Orthodox Jews protest Jerusalem gay march plan

It's good to know that religious fundamentalism is alive and well the world around. Right.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election Observations

Both winners and losers tend to overanalyze the meaning of a victory or a loss. So, I'm not going to harp on it too much here. So, just some general observations:

There is yet hope for our democracy. As David Brock said this morning, voters saw above the "din of Republican misinformation" in this election cycle. Something that they did not do 2 years ago. They saw past it so much that they pretty much suspected political jockeying in everything that happened (whether it was true or not). For example, the Saddam verdict and gas prices falling in the last month or so.

Watching CNN's coverage of the elections, I observed that Bill Bennett is a blowhard apologist for another blowhard apologist, Rick Santorum. I just about puked when he talked about how much of a "great American" Rick Santorum was. Bill Bennett, that paragon of virtue, opined on how graciously Santorum ran his campaign. Bill Bennett, who tells us how to live a virtuous life while he loses millions in gambling. Meanwhile, Rick Santorum, utterer of these gems the last few years:

"I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts."

"Isn't that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?"

"Thirty-two years after the legalization of abortion by the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, the majority of Americans consider themselves pro-life."

tries to tell the rest of the country what a "family" is and what women should do with their bodies. The rest of the country responded:
... strident image sinks Santorum

South Dakota Rejects Abortion Ban

Stem-cell research finds a home in Missouri

Anti-gay marriage measure loses in Arizona

While the shift in Congress and the Senate owes a lot to a rebuke of Bush and the Iraq war, a lot of these local races and measures says more about common Americans pushing back against the bigoted, narrow-minded agenda of the Religious Right. And perhaps even a push back by some evangelicals who have realized that the teaching of Christ don't promote war and lying and ignoring the disadvantaged. A lot of Christians saw a scary side of Bush in the aftermath of Katrina. A suprising amount of evangelicals supported Democratic candidates in this election.

Meanwhile, on MSNBC, for some reason, somebody chose to give Tom DeLay some airtime. When faced with the obviousnous of the Democratic win, DeLay commented that Republicans should purposely try to gridlock Congress. Quite the promoter of democracy that guy is. Someone needs to tell him that his 15 minutes are over.

Living in a conservative state, I'm frequently disappointed by my neighbors, but I was heartened that they gave us a few more Democratic congressmen, defeated the anti-gay measure, raised the minimum wage, and re-elected our great Democratic governor, Janet Napolitano.

We peered into the abyss and thankfully took pause and then stepped back. Now, let's get some stuff done -- raise the minimum wage nationally, fix health-care, have meaningful corruption reform, and get our troops home.

For some great commentary on the elections (and Rumsfeld), please check out:

GWB's So... Who are the BIGGEST winners and losers?

Laura's Bye-Bye Santorum!

Jewish Atheist's Whoo-hooo!!!

Isabella's Thank you America!

Shawn's I wonder

"I know nothing grander, better exercise, better digestion, more positive proof of the past, the triumphant result of faith in human kind, than a well-contested American national election" -- Walt Whitman

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Guy Fawkes Day

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

In honor of the day and of the elections coming up, V for Vendetta deserves a re-watching. In this great movie, the protagonist V, who fancies himself a modern-day Guy Fawkes, gives some insight into our modern state of politics ... and blows shit up.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Arizona State Fair

Some of the hilarity and absurdity that can only happen during our annual visit to the Arizona State Fair. All rednecks rejoice.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


"Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people." -- Oscar Wilde

Nothing is as representative of democracy as voting is (or so we hope). But we're not actually a democracy ... we're a representitive democracy. After all, we're not all voting on every bill that is proposed in Congress.

People realize this and as a result they are excited by the concept of propositions, or referendums. It's their little chance to have a say in the law-making process. That's what they would have you believe anyway. Direct democracy at work. I have my doubts, though.

Like every other aspect of government and society, it's being subverted by big business and others that would have you believe they are for "common sense" and the will of the people. We have several examples of this here in Arizona. The first of which is the antismoking proposition 206. All of the ads for the proposition say it's trying to protect small business owners. Even it's name is Orwellian -- the Non-Smoker Protection Act. But as Deep Throat advised, "follow the money". If you want to find the truest indication of what is at stake here, see who is bankrolling this proposition. $8.48 million of the $8.5 million raised to tout this proposition comes from RJ Reynolds. The better alternative is the true smoking ban, Proposition 201. I can respect if you don't believe smoking should be banned, but don't try to sell me one thing when your only real interest is in money. And I'm sick and tired of the term "grassroots". It's a bullshit term that doesn't mean anything. And lump in "independent" and "underground" too. If any idea was truly any of those terms, we wouldn't be seeing it plastered on MTV and network TV or in a commercial.

The 2nd proposition that I want to highlight is Prop 107, or as I like to call it, the "We're Straight and Insecure Act". Officially:

What it would do:

• Define marriage in the state Constitution as a union of one man and one woman.

• Block any alternative for same-sex couples, such as domestic partnerships or civil unions.

• Bar governments from offering benefits, such as health insurance, to employees' domestic partners, gay or straight.

Again, following the money, one sees that one of the main players (and legal defense) in support of this proposition is the Alliance Defense Fund, a group founded by Focus on the Family's James Dobson. 'Nuff said.

This is a great spoof site for the proposition: Proposition 107. It shows how truly out of touch people that are for this are.

These couple of propositions are only a few of the 18 on our ballot. I'm all for "power to the people", but this is ridiculous. People are intimidated by the sheer number of them. If it takes an hour to vote, is that good? And are the people really being represented?

"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." -- Winston Churchill