Monday, January 30, 2006


I have not been particularly prolific in the past few weeks but we've been busy with stuff. Good stuff. Fun stuff.

Alex and Michelle went to the Wildlife World Zoo with Alex's preschool:

And Michelle's mom is visiting us from Iowa. We all went up to my folks' place in Kingman this past weekend. This was unique in that this was only the 2nd time that her mom and my parents had met. The first was when we were married. No dramatic reason for the gap ... just 1500 miles distance:

That's our pug, Duchess, in the wagon. Our folks kindly baby sat the dog while we spent the next night in Laughlin, NV:

$10 down and several buffets later, it's back to the old grind and exercising at the YMCA to make up for the buffets. We joined at the start of January and have been going 5 or 6 times a week.

Monday, January 23, 2006


On the recommendation of Jewish Atheist, I rented and watched Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. It's a great documentary that really points out the weaknesses of our corporate culture and a government that encourages it. These disciples of deregulation that worship at the altar of the free-market drank a bit too much of their own Kool-Aid. The scary thing is that there is no reason why this can't happen again. We have lobbyists for industry writing legislation and all-too-willing Congress that looks the other way.


I was flipping around channels on TV this Saturday and stopped on a movie that I'd seen before and thought was OK (good Hollywood fluff) but hadn't not really given much thought to afterward: Enemy of the State. A re-watching of the movie cast it in a different light. When I first saw it (1998), it seemed like a nice thriller based on a wacko conspiracy theory type premise. After all, some of the details of the movie seemed pretty far-out:

- Corrupt politician with ties to the NSA
- domestic spying by the NSA because justified because of a perceived threat by foreigners living on our soil but instead used for political purposes

Far-out then. Oddly prescient in hindsight. Here's an exchange early in the movie between the Will Smith character and his wife (they are both lawyers and are watching a newscast of a politician being interviewed):

This is no longer a theoretical
problem, it's a reality. Turn on
the news. Bombings, hostages--

He's got a point.


Not a very good one, but--

So you tap everyone's phone? You
use computers to probe financial
records? New Search and Seizure laws?

Just for the criminals.

We won't suspend the civil rights
of the good people.


You should take this seriously.

Dean's response, while amusing and done in a kidding manner, is an all too common response by people today in response to their current NSA spying news.

An exchange that ends the movie should be the real response that people pose. The movie closes with a fake Larry King interview with the politician where Larry King says: "Congressman Albert, how do we draw the line... between protection of national security, obviously the government's need to obtain intelligence data, and the protection of civil liberties, particularly the sanctity of my home? You've got no right to come into my home."

Trivia: The NSA character played by Jon Voigt coincidentally has a birthdate of 9/11/40 ... ironic considering when the movie was made)

In related news, I applaud the stance that Google has taken to stand up to the Department of Justice's request for a random sampling of search data for normal citizens. Again, the government tries to justify it and say that they are using the data to track down sex offenders. But nothing is stopping them from using the data for whatever purpose they want:

Phone calls, e-mails, and now search data. Where will Bush stop?

A line has to be drawn somewhere. I've used this quote before, but I think it bears repeating:

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin

Why We Blog

I read an interesting article on ZDNET, a technology news website. It analyzes the nature of blogging and it's similarities to rap culture. I won't really go into that. What was more interesting to me is that it does a good job of listing why we blog, why we read blogs and how it helps us to both think and write:

  • " ... Blogging is part e-mail, it is part column, it is part news story–it can encompass a wide variety of styles and formats. And it is all within an environment that encourages trying things out, it encourages "beta releases," every "t" doesn't need to be crossed, it can be raw."

  • " ... What I noticed was that "keeping it real" was real important in both blogging and in the Hip-Hop/Rap music scene. Keeping it real is something which you can't fake–you know it when you hear/feel it. ... if you can't keep it real it really shows."

  • " ... this phenomena is also affecting my off-line life. For example, it is really difficult for me to tell a white lie such as "I got caught in traffic" or "I'm late, my cat died." It just feels too weird and it just "reads" strangely if I try to write it.

  • "I remember the first time I met Jeremy Zawodny, Yahoo's top blogger, we discussed this topic. He asked me a question, "What do you do if if you can't keep it real?"

    I told him that was easy: "Just don't say it.""

  • "One of the things I learned this past year was that the more I write (blog) the more authentic I become online and off-line. There is something in the process of writing (blogging) that has opened up an entirely new experience of myself."

  • "And I often have an experience of being able to "think" through my fingers. For example, I will start typing an analysis of a tech industry news event, and it is the act of writing that allows me to "think it through." That usually means scrapping the first draft and ending up with a much better piece."

Here's the original article:

Blogosphere should pay its respects to rap culture

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Dems/Golden Globes

Somebody woke up the Democrats. It's about time.

Revelations of phone tapping by the Bush Administration "virtually compels the conclusion that the president of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently."

"...A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government."

"... An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."" -- from Former Vice President Gore's recent speech on constitutional Issues

"When you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation, and you know what I'm talking about. It has been run in a way so that nobody with a contrary view has had a chance to present legislation, to make an argument, to be heard."

"... This administration will go down in history as one of the worst that has ever governed our country." - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton at a speech sponsored by the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network


Congrats to George Clooney for winning the Golden Globe for best supporting actor for Syriana. His performance was compelling and shows that movies don't have to be empty Hollywood crap to do well. And unlike most other artists, he's not afraid to poke a little fun at the political machine ... making a joke about Jack Abramoff. It would have been nice if he had won for Good Night and Good Luck also.

The Golden Globes are entertaining because you see a lot of the odd meetings during the breaks between awards. One such meeting that I caught a glimpse of was between Clooney and Tim Robbins. Hopefully they were discussing a future collaboration. That's a combo that I'd pay to see ... and so would a lot of progressives.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Most Underreported Huminatarian Stories of 2005

We each get caught up in our own lives, in our work, in our church, in our families. Celebrity, politics, sports all occupy the airwaves. And regardless of where you live in the world, America seems to dominate the news. But unfortunately, a lot is going on outside our borders and these stories don't get the attention they deserve. Every year, a great organization called Doctors Without Borders releases a list of the top 10 underreported humanitarian stories of that year. Here is their list for 2005. Click on the heading for each to read more about them.

  • Congolese ravaged by war and disease - It is estimated that millions of people have died needlessly since civil war broke out in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 1998, some because of the violence, but the great majority from preventable diseases like malaria and measles. The past year has been called a transition period, a time when the country was meant to move from war to peace following an accord signed in 2002.

    However, for the majority of the people living in this vast troubled country, the transition is nothing more than a mirage. Violence continues to flare in Ituri province, North and South Kivu provinces, and in parts of Katanga province, while the rest of the country languishes in extreme deprivation, lacking food, shelter and the most basic health care ...

  • Staggering Needs, Insecurity, and Dismal Response for Chechens Living in Fear - Caught in a stranglehold between Russian Federation forces and Chechen armed groups, traumatized civilians continue to bear the brunt of this conflict of attrition and find they have nowhere to go to be safe. Driven back to Chechnya out of tented camps in Ingushetia, thousands of reluctant civilians returned to their devastated homes only to find what they had fled: fear, violence, and an ever-growing feeling of isolation ...

  • Haiti's Capital Wracked by Waves of Violence - Many people in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, are trapped by the widespread violence that has hit the city in waves since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was pressured into exile in February 2004. People have been shot and killed, deliberately and unintentionally, by all of the armed factions fighting in the seaside slums, or "quartiers populaires," and the violence — both politically motivated and criminal — is spreading throughout the city. MSF treated more than 2,250 people for violence-related injuries in 2005 at a trauma center set up in the capital, including nearly 1,500 gunshot victims. Half of those treated are women, children or the elderly, underscoring the toll the violence has taken on civilians ... (My friend Debra who I met through Sierra Club has made several humanitarian trips to Haiti with her church. Their story is here: Memphis to Haiti)

  • No R&D for HIV/AIDS Tools Adapted to Impoverished Settings - The overall picture is well-known. More than 40 million people worldwide have HIV/AIDS, and every day, 8,000 people die of AIDS-related illnesses — 1,400 of them children. While the HIV/AIDS pandemic receives regular media coverage, almost no attention is paid to the near-total lack of research and development (R&D) into new tools specifically adapted for patients most affected by the AIDS crisis: those living in poverty in the developing world ...

  • Clashes in Northeastern India Take a Heavy Toll on Civilians - Civilians in India's northeastern Assam and Manipur states continue to be affected by recurring outbreaks of political violence along religious and ethnic lines, as well as by long-lasting conflicts between the Indian government and militant groups. More than 90 people were massacred in Assam's Karbi Anglong district during the latest outburst of violence and retaliatory killings in October 2005 ...

  • War is Officially Over, But Urgent Needs Go Unmet in Southern Sudan
    - After more than 20 years of civil war between the government of Sudan and southern rebels, a peace deal signed in January 2005 seemed to open the possibility of a brighter future for the Sudanese. Yet as government forces and rebels agreed to lay down their arms, fighting continued in the country's western region of Darfur. Since early 2003, the Darfur conflict has cost thousands of lives and forced millions to flee while government-backed militias have carried out a campaign of terror against civilians ... Chronic underdevelopment combined with continuing violence in Upper Nile state indicate that even if the new peace does hold, any real improvement in living conditions remains a distant hope ...

  • Somalis Endure Continuing Conflict and Deprivation - Since 1991, Somalia has been a state without a functioning central government. Fourteen years of conflict has precipitated the collapse of public health structures and a total absence of health care services. In most parts of the country, clinics and hospitals have been looted or seriously damaged by armed groups, while the UN estimates that there are only 4 doctors and 28 nurses or midwives for every 100,000 people ...

  • Colombians Trapped by Violence and Fear - The situation for Colombians affected by the country's 40-year-old civil conflict did not improve in 2005. For decades, government military forces, paramilitary groups, and armed guerrillas have fought against the backdrop of the narcotics trade and conflict over natural resources, terrorizing and targeting civilians in both rural and urban areas. Violence continues to be the leading cause of death in the country and more than 3 million people have fled from their homes. Colombia now has the third highest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the world ...

  • Insecurity Worsens Already Desperate Situation in Northern Uganda - For nearly twenty years, people in northern Uganda have suffered from brutal conflict, including attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and forced displacements by the government. Today, more than 1.6 million people — nearly 80 percent of the population in the north — have been uprooted to camps that offer false security and hardly any assistance. While the death toll from direct violence continues to climb, many people die needlessly from preventable diseases like malaria, respiratory infections and diarrhea ...

  • Crisis Deepening in Ivory Coast - The war that started in the Ivory Coast in 2002 has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths and forced hundreds of thousands of desperate residents to flee their homes. It has destroyed the livelihoods of many farmers, severely damaged the country's health-care system, and left many of the most vulnerable Ivorians without primary health care or sufficient food ...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Archive Updated

The individual listing of posts under the Categories heading at right have been updated with all the current posts.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

God is Punishing Us

Ah, nothing like our religious voices being understanding in times of need (WV mine disaster):

"We often turn to God only when we feel like nothing else can be done. And, in the Bible, God rebuked nations who only turned to Him in their most extreme moments of need. That has been our tradition in the United States. Whenever we find ourselves in a situation where we get to the end of our own resources, we turn to God." -- Conservative Christian leader Rob Schenck of the National Clergy Council

Instead of being compassionate for those who died and their families, Schenck thought it was more important to criticize society for not being more Christian. Perhaps his ire should be aimed at a so-called Christian President that has gutted the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration and reduced the amount of mine safety teams.

If one were Christian, you would think that you would not want people like Schenck and Pat Robertson speaking for you. But the collective cognitive dissonance of a large percentage of Christians allows them to forgive anything of a person as long as they say they are men of God.

Speaking of our friend Pat, Israel has wisely cancelled a business deal with Mr. Robertson due to his comments of last week that said Ariel Sharon's stroke was God punishing him for pulling out of Gaza.

If there were a God, I have a hard time imagining that Pat Robertson would be the image of Christianity that he (oops ... should that be HE?) would want to be seen. And if God was truly in the business of striking people down, the tripe that Robertson utters would have to be blasphemous. God ... that's your cue.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Zoo Lights

An overall pretty good weekend. Saturday night we went to Zoo Lights at the Phoenix Zoo. It's pretty much self-explanatory. Zoo ... lights ... at night. Pretty simple but it entertains the kids and is fairly popular out here.

The last one is not bad photography. I purposely had a longer exposure and moved the camera to get a goofy effect. Though, by my wife's tepid response to the picture (and my explanation of it), it still may be bad photography. Just not accidental bad photography. More like well-thought-out, lame, bad photography. They're penguins, by the way.

On Sunday, we went and saw the Coyotes get thumped by Columbus. But the game was really secondary. Though Alex and I have went to a few games already, it was Michelle's first in the new arena. So, Michelle and Alex spent a lot of time wandering around exploring the place. And I was able to watch the game, beer in hand, in relative peace.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Pastor Paul

Taking to heart a comment that Jewish Atheist made to Sadie on his blog about trying to make a point of "showcasing" the positive aspects of religion or religious organizations, I will seek to do just that ... for a change.

Because I seek to expose the hypocrisy in politics and religion, I'm also usually showcasing the negative. But I'm going to seek to show those that are doing good. And it's very easy to do for someone very close by. I cannot say enough good things about my wife's pastor, Paul Nelson at Celebration Lutheran in Peoria. Being a humanist, I do not attend church, but upon occasion ... usually a music program or some special thing for Alex ... I find myself at the church. I always feel a little bit guilty (I know that I shouldn't, but I do) when I do go, but the Pastor always calls me by name and greets me warmly. And after hearing his sermons, I'm always glad that I went. He is by far the most liberal religious speaker that I have met in person. The lesson that he stresses (and that I believe a lot of Christians have forgot) is to respect humanity. The church does a lot of great work in the community with the Westside Food Bank, Andre House, Habitat for Humanity, etc.

Pastor Paul recommended the book, God's Politics by Jim Wallis of Sojourners. It is a very good book that explores the role of religion in politics and vice-versa and how both parties make mistakes in handling it. Some of the more inciteful quotes from the book:

"It is also often said that fundamentalism comes from taking religion too seriously. The answer, then, is to take religion less seriously. Wrong again. The best response to fundamentalism is to take faith more seriously than fundamentalism usually does. The best critique of fundamentalism comes from faith itself, which challenges the accommodations of fundamentalism to theocracy, power, and violence. It is faith that leads us to assert the vital religious commitments that fundamentalists often leave out, namely compassion, social justice, peacemaking, humility, tolerance, and even democracy as a religious commitment.

... Of particular concern is how modern fundamentalism has made the move to theocracy -- in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. That move is really a betrayal of the biblical faith that regards political power much more suspiciously.

... Genuine faith, in all our traditions, either forbids violence as a methodology or, at most, says it must always be limited and lamented, never glorified or celebrated. True religion always seeks alternatives to violence that try to break its deadly cycle.

The organization that Jim Wallis is involved with, Sojourners, is great. They are, at their heart, very liberal and proponents of social justice.

So, while I do not believe in God, I respect that others may not agree. I try not to judge them by whether they believe in God or not, but rather in how they live their lives and treat others. Hypocrisy, in all its forms, is what irritates me the most and why religion is frequently the subject of my ire. The very tenets of religious faith would seem to preclude Christians from promoting violence and not caring for the downtrodden, but we have a large segment that does just that. And they are my focus. People like Pastor Paul and Jim Wallis, however, are what is right and good about religion.

And you had to know that I couldn't get through a whole post without bringing up something negative about religion. It's fairly easy to do as long as you read or hear Pat Robertson occasionally:

Robertson Links Sharon's Stroke to Wrath

I'm sorry, but if you are a Christian and you listen to a single word that comes out of this fool's mouth, you are an idiot.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


This past Sunday, I took the time to see a great film, Munich. If I had seen it sooner, it would definitely have qualified to be in my top 10. This is a deeply moving movie that does a great job of taking the time to show how seeking revenge can affect both sides. Like all the great Spielberg movies of the last 15 years, Munich was filmed by Janusz Kaminski. There is a smoky, realistic quality to how all of these are filmed that I like. Deepak Chopra wrote a great review on Huffington Post that I excerpted here:

"... Steven Spielberg's deeply sobering film about the terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympics draws a trail that leads directly to the attacks of 9/11. This is made clear in the final scene, set across the river from Manhattan, which features the World Trade Center towers in the background. The film suggests that our eye-for-an-eye approach to terrorism began in Munich 30 years ago.

It also shows, with sickeningly convincing brutality, how tragically that approach has failed. The message is that we are still on the road of endless violence and that the War on Terror, no matter how many jihadists are killed, will become our own paralyzing nightmare.

... It's possible to see equality between Arabs and Israelis, not in terms of right and wrong, but in terms of two opponents equally victimized by hatred. Israel and the Arab states have contributed to the sorrow of the world by carrying the hugest weight of that sorrow themselves. Insofar as right-wing factions in this country drag us into a war against evil, we will also be victimized, and our claim to be civilized will weaken bit by bit.

By films' end Avner succeeds in killing many of his assigned targets, only to realize with anguish that every single one was replaced by someone worse. This is happening now, only instead of a single Osama whose face is known everywhere, we are fostering millions of faceless enemies. We have no idea how many of them will become terrorists, but we can be certain that the stranglehold of hatred is growing tighter. Spielberg's disturbingly dark film is therefore more about our future than about our past."

Hopefully, when people see this film, they think just a little bit about our current situation. That's what all good films do ... make you think about yourself and the world that you live in. And just maybe, you try to change things.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

top 10 lists for 2005

From the home office in Glendale, Arizona:

Top 10 movies that I saw in 2005(apologies to Munich, Good Night & Good Luck, King Kong and Brokeback Mountain as I have not had the chance to see them yet). Several were realeased in 2004 but I saw them for the first time last year. In no particular order:
Top 10 entertainers who weren't afraid to make a political statement with their work this year:
Top 10 fun/important things that I did this year: