Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Legendary columnist Molly Ivins, 62, dies

From Think Progress:

“Molly Ivins, whose biting columns mixed liberal populism with an irreverent Texas wit, died at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at her home in Austin after an up-and-down battle with breast cancer she had waged for seven years. She was 62.” From her final column, published January 12, 2007:

"We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we’re for them and trying to get them out of there.

I've read several of her books, most notably Bushwacked. She was very funny and very astute and will be genuinely missed.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


One of the president's biggest supporters (and ass-kisser) is our very own, Jon Kyl. I've ran out of adjectives to describe this man's idiocy. I was listening to NPR today and they had extensive interviews with Charles Schumer and Jon Kyl (separately). Schumer was gracious, intelligent, and humorous. Kyl was petty, didactic, and nauseating in his support of Bush's plan for a troop surge. In the past, Kyl has favorably compared Bush to Lincoln, Truman, Wilson and FDR. I am getting so tired of the phrase "emboldening our enemy". Apparently any dissent of our president or any desire to save lives by not putting more troops in harm's way is considered tacit support of Al Qaeda. Kyl repeatedly said that we were "sending the wrong message" to our allies and the enemy by not blindly supporting whatever decision the president makes. Perhaps if Bush had some history of making good decisions or of not lying, we might be able to give him the benefit of the doubt. But he has spent any goodwill he may have ever had and is running a serious political capital deficit. Aren't we "sending the wrong message" if we rubber-stamp our leaders' decisions regardless of the harm they do? Most people in the world actually think that Bush is the one with the wrong message ... that the U.S. is playing a "mainly negative" role in the world today. Even our allies say, "The United States is the first to be blamed for the rise of Iranian influence in the Middle East.".

Kyl has zero credibility after repeatedly beating the Iraq war drum and being one of the biggest spouters of WMD nonsense in the lead up to the war. Kyl should just shut his pie hole.

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it." -- Edward R. Murrow

Sunday, January 28, 2007


WTF is going on? My two favorite and long disbanded groups, the Police and Rage Against the Machine, reuniting?

Police reunion rumors reaching fever pitch

Rage Against the Machine will reunite for Coachella

Saturday, January 27, 2007

What it Meant When Abortion Was Illegal

Published on Wednesday, January 24, 2007 by the Portland Press Herald (Maine)
by J. Michael Taylor, M.D.

My father graduated from medical school in 1928 on the threshold of the Depression and set up general practice in a small New York town. My mother's engagement ring sported the world's tiniest diamond and had been given to my father by an elderly patient in payment for his compassionate care.

Our family went to church every Sunday in our "Sunday best," and like our president, my father would sometimes read the Bible in the morning before heading to work.

My parents were also Republicans -- common, and true compassionate conservatives-who would not belong to the exclusive country club and who were charitable in every sense.

Beloved by the community and particularly by his patients, he was a general practitioner that delivered babies, repaired hernias, set bones, treated pneumonia and -- well, it seemed like everything, really.

He was the school physician, and at a recent high school reunion, my classmates all had a story to tell about something that he had done for them -- fix a broken nose, coach them through a complicated labor and delivery, remove an infected gall bladder.

My father was a complex person who was difficult to know. He didn't become my hero until several years after his death in 1992, and for me, that carries all of the regrets that go with insight coming too late.

He was muscular and strong, an outdoorsman and a hunter -- a man's man. The one and only time I saw him cry, I was a sophomore in high school. His lack of control was both a shock to me and a life-altering experience where my feelings for him changed in an instant. He became human.

Dad was just home following his efforts to save a 16-year-old girl who had developed a raging infection from a "botched abortion." She was a student at the neighboring school so I didn't know her, but he knew her well.

The shame of an unintended pregnancy had forced her to an unskilled abortionist who used dirty instruments on a table in a garage. By the time she came to my father, the infection had spread, and she died under his care. He was despondent and angry for weeks.

With wisdom based on first-hand experience, my conservative parents breathed a sigh of relief at the Roe v. Wade decision back in 1973.

They knew the significance of eradicating these self-righteous, mean-spirited laws. They welcomed the end of onerous, life-threatening prohibitions on women making personal decisions about childbearing.

My dad has been gone many years, but he would not have been pleased to see science replaced by a narrow view of morality and politicians again claiming jurisdiction over women's bodies and lives a full 34 years after the Roe decision. How angry he would be to see physicians threatened and harassed for providing compassionate care to women making difficult life choices.

He had welcomed the advent of new technologies that gave women and men the opportunity to plan their families, and he would be furious, as I am, to know that our president had appointed someone who does not even support contraception to run our nation's family planning program.

Before the days of Medicare, Medicaid, and even Blue Cross/Blue Shield, my parents spent Christmas Eve in front of the fireplace going through the unpaid bills of Dad's patients. They usually burned the bills and forgave their debts, except for a few who they knew could and should pay.

The inequity of poor women -- those perhaps most impacted by an unintended pregnancy -- being denied funds for abortion care is something they could not have understood.

The issue of abortion is abstract and hypothetical for some and Roe is a history lesson for others. But for those whose memories stretch back a few decades, and for my father and all of our mothers and grandmothers and sisters, the significance of Jan. 22, 1973, can not be overstated.

This week, I am honoring my father and the memory of that 16 year-old girl. I am telling the story because going back is not an option.

J. Michael Taylor, M.D., (e-mail: is a physician in Portland, Maine.

If holier-than-thou types really cared about the "culture of life", they would spend more time eradicating poverty and those conditions which make young women feel they have no choice. Instead they spend all their time trying to reverse a decision and take away a women's ability to control her own body. The irony is that "life" is an abstraction for them. They have no problem with brown people dying in a foreign land. They numb themselves to the images of 19 year old troops dying in an unjustified war. Reversing Roe v. Wade is about them checking another item off their Religious Right club checklist. A chit or Brownie point that will assure them passage into Heaven. Lives here on earth don't matter just as long as they get to the hereafter.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Children of Men/Pattern Recognition

I just finished reading Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. After having seen Children of Men a few weeks ago, I thought it'd be interesting to contrast the two. Gibson's book is ostensibly about the present but has a futuristic feel to it. Children of Men is set in the future but touches on so many topics that are of concern to us in the present.

I've been a big fan of William Gibson's work since reading Neuromancer a few years back. Neuromancer is a seminal work and introduced the word "cyberpunk" to our lexicon. The rest of his work makes a weird and disjointed near-future world seem real and plausible. In this book, he manages to use that same skill to make the real current world seem weird and disjointed (which it is).

Though written several years ago (right after 9/11), it seemed to anticipate the role of online video, netroots, and blogs. While not talking about blogs directly, the characters in this book submerse themselves in the insular world of specialized online discussion groups, sometimes to the exclusion of real life relationships ... not unlike a lot of bloggers.

Other topics that the book touches on are the role of corporations, trends and marketing.

Gibson's prose can be a bit thick sometimes, but that can be part of the allure. You wade through it not always sure that you are understanding it all but by the time you are done with the book, it all seems to make sense.

I liked this book, as I have all of Gibson's. He's the only modern sci-fi author that I've ever read, though I hope to rectify that, having just bought Snow Crash on the recommendation of several of you.

Children of Men presents dystopic view of the future, where women have lost the ability to have children due to a pandemic and government has a stronghold on the lives of everyone.

Oppression, censorship, brutality, propaganda, war make for unpleasant times but they also make for interesting and provocative cinema. The social and political movies of the the past few years, V for Vendetta, this one, Syriana, Good Night and Good Luck, etc. are among the best we've seen in a long time.

It's interesting that the setting of this sci-fi political thriller is again England. True, the source material bases it there but I think there's more to it. You see movies like this and V for Vendetta and you can't help seeing that they are criticisms of America. While England may have some of the characteristics, it's obvious that it is not the main target. England, however, is a safe target in the movies. It gets the point across without seeming like USA-bashing. And obviously the UK is also not without it's sins.

This movie is dark and atmospheric and beautifully shot by Alfonso Cuaron. There is a great group of Mexican directors right now: Cuaron (this movie, Prisoner of Azkaban, Y tu Mama Tambien), Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labrynth, Hellboy), and Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams and ... ahem, Babel).

Despite the movie's despair, there is also a vision of hope. I think this is where Children of Men is vastly superior to Babel. That vision of hope is unexpected and as such is beautiful. That's not to say that is a Hollywood sappy movie. It is so completely the opposite of that. But rather it presents the light at the end of the tunnel without having to spell it out for you and wrap it up all nice and pretty.

The acting is great, especially by Clive Owen and Michael Caine. Chiwetel Ejiofor makes yet another appearance in a movie I like, having also been in Serenity, Love Actually and Amistad.

This is a great movie and undoubtedly will be on my year-end top 10.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Religious zealotry, dominionism, sexism ... now coming to a computer near you. Two instances in the last week at clients of mine showed me exactly how deep religious indoctrination goes and how it ties into unbridled consumerism.

The first instance was a client asking me if I listened to a local talk radio station, the Patriot. I demured, not wanting to offend. See ... The Patriot spews a non-stop river of bile and calls it patriotic. There was no way that I could say anything nice, so I said nothing. Their daily shows include Bill Bennett, Laura Ingraham, Dennis Prager, Hugh Hewitt ... so you can imagine the intoxicating right-wing push of it. She then specifically asked if I listened to Michael Medved. The very same Michael Medved who used to only annoy us with his movie reviews, but now has turned to being a parrot for the Right. Evidently, Mikey had recommended on his show BSafe Online filtering software, which my client bought.

Protecting your kids from objectionable content ... a noble enough pursuit.

Where it gets dicey is in who endorses it:

Rebecca Hagelin, VP at the Heritage Foundation

Mike Gallagher, conservative talk radio host and frequent FOX News contributor.

Evangelical pastor, Chuck Swindoll

Christian author, Stephen Arteburn

Christian apologist, Josh McDowell

American Family Association
Family Research Council

Very fishy. I was beginning to get suspicious. If Christian and Republican organizations want to endorse some product, that's their right, but there seemed to be something else going on here. So I dug deeper.

A Bush even endorsed the company:

BSafe to relocate to Florida

“I welcome this high-tech, pro-family business to Florida,” said Governor Jeb Bush. “

But here's the kicker:
... Bsafe is a critical component of American Family Online, Inc., a company founded to help serve families with Internet filtering. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of the American Family Association, an organization with twenty-three years of experience protecting families ...

As they say, follow the money. AFA and the Family Research Council are Dobson fronts. I never want a single dime of my money (or any sane person's) to come even close to benefitting that bigot James Dobson. There are better software alternatives for filtering that don't benefit a madman that believes that you can cure homosexuality, that women should be submissive, and that the Mark Foley scandal was an innocent prank.

The second instance of religion gone wild in the marketplace was today, when I saw the following game installed on a kid's computer in the house of one of my clients:

Left Behind: Eternal Forces.

Most of us know what Left Behind is. Well, this game makes it enjoyable for the younger set. And who doesn't love a game that can teach these valuable "family values":

- equates the United Nations with the Antichrist

- "indoctrinates children into the ideology of religious warfare"

- teaches the proper role of women in the workplace, as nurses or musicians

The synergy of religious indoctination, commerce and politics -- a site to behold.

Monday, January 15, 2007

War ... what is it good for?

"I want to say one other challenge that we face is simply that we must find an alternative to war and bloodshed. Anyone who feels, and there are still a lot of people who feel that way, that war can solve the social problems facing mankind is sleeping through a great revolution. President Kennedy said on one occasion, "Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind." The world must hear this. I pray to God that America will hear this before it is too late, because today we’re fighting a war.

I am convinced that it is one of the most unjust wars that has ever been fought in the history of the world. Our involvement in the war in _____ has torn up the Geneva Accord. It has strengthened the military-industrial complex; it has strengthened the forces of reaction in our nation. It has put us against the self-determination of a vast majority of the _____ people, and put us in the position of protecting a corrupt regime that is stacked against the poor.

It has played havoc with our domestic destinies. This day we are spending five hundred thousand dollars to kill every _____. Every time we kill one we spend about five hundred thousand dollars while we spend only fifty-three dollars a year for every person characterized as poverty-stricken in the so-called poverty program, which is not even a good skirmish against poverty.

Not only that, it has put us in a position of appearing to the world as an arrogant nation. And here we are ten thousand miles away from home fighting for the so-called freedom of the _____ people when we have not even put our own house in order. And we force young black men and young white men to fight and kill in brutal solidarity. Yet when they come back home that can’t hardly live on the same block together.

The judgment of God is upon us today. And we could go right down the line and see that something must be done—and something must be done quickly. We have alienated ourselves from other nations so we end up morally and politically isolated in the world. There is not a single major ally of the United States of America that would dare send a troop to _____ ...

This is where we are. "Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind," and the best way to start is to put an end to war in _____, because if it continues, we will inevitably come to the point of confronting _____ which could lead the whole world to nuclear annihilation.

It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence. And the alternative to disarmament, the alternative to a greater suspension of nuclear tests, the alternative to strengthening the United Nations and thereby disarming the whole world, may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation, and our earthly habitat would be transformed into an inferno that even the mind of Dante could not imagine."

The above quote feels like it could have been written yesterday. You can easily put "Iraq" or "Iran" into the blanks. But it wasn't written yesterday. It was written 40 years ago by Martin Luther King about the Vietnam War. What a perfect example of how we haven't learned a damn thing.

On a day when we should be celebrating MLK's life, we are confronted with the image of a decapitated half-brother of Saddam Hussein. Quite the beacon of humanity and democracy that we are creating in Iraq.

And our power drunk leaders defy both popular opinion and the Congress to push their own agenda and get more young men killed:

Bush, Cheney: Congress won't stop troop surge
Bush: "I fully understand they could try to stop me. But I've made my decision, and we're going forward."
Yet when asked if he owes the Iraqi people an apology for botching the management of the war, he said, “Not at all. We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude."

Cheney: "You cannot run a war by committee," the vice president said of congressional input.

Happy Birthday Mr. King. I wish you were here now. There are very few that are speaking truth to power like you did.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


I've been tagged by Laura:

A - Available/Single or Taken? Taken
B - Best Friend? The missus.
C - Cake or pie? It depends. Is cheesecake actually a cake? I don't think so.
D - Drink Of Choice? NA: diet Mountain Dew & with A: Guinness
E – Essential Item You Use Everyday? computer
F - Favourite Color? Dark green
G - Gummy Bears Or Worms? definitely the sour worms
H - Hometown? Red Oak, Iowa ... Dallas, Oregon ... Phoenix. Take your pick. I'm a bit of a gypsy.
I - Indulgence? Movies
J - January Or February? February -- was married in Feb
K - Kids & Their Names? boy, Alex
L - Life Is Incomplete Without? challenge
M - Marriage date? 2/26/94
N - Number Of Siblings? One
O - Oranges Or Apples? Oranges
P - Phobias/Fears? Tight spaces
Q - Favourite Quote?

"Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed- interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose a three piece suite on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing sprit- crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing you last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life... But why would I want to do a thing like that?"

R - Reason to Smile? my son
S - Season? Spring or Fall? Spring. Like GWB said ... for baseball.
T - Tag 3 or 4 people? Eric, Sadie, Shawn
U - Unknown Fact About Me? I have an unhealthy crush on Kelly Clarkson
V - Vegetable you don’t like? turnips
W - Worst Habit? procrastination
X - X-rays You’ve Had? Teeth, foot
Y - Your Favorite Food? Sushi, Thai food
Z – Zodiac sign? Aries

Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington recently made one of the most astute (and funny) observations of exactly what is wrong with Joe Lieberman and John McCain:
" ... discussing Joe Lieberman and his shared delusions with John McCain. They've become brothers in bloodshed. They can validate their misguided beliefs by pointing at the other and saying: "See, I'm not crazy." They're the D.C. version of Thelma and Louise, only it's not their car they're driving over a cliff -- it's our country."

And ultimately, that is why neither of these men should be supported, despite their great work in many areas (environment, campain finance reform, etc.).

Friday, January 12, 2007

Inconvenient Idiots

From Federal Way schools restrict Gore film in
... After a parent who supports the teaching of creationism and opposes sex education complained about the film, the Federal Way School Board on Tuesday placed what it labeled a moratorium on showing the film. The movie consists largely of a computer presentation by former Vice President Al Gore recounting scientists' findings.

Al Gore's documentary about global warming may not be shown unless the teacher also presents an "opposing view."

"Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He's not a schoolteacher," said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who also said that he believes the Earth is 14,000 years old. "The information that's being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. ... The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD."

Hardison's e-mail to the School Board prompted board member David Larson to propose the moratorium Tuesday night.

"Somebody could say you're killing free speech, and my retort to them would be we're encouraging free speech," said Larson, a lawyer. "The beauty of our society is we allow debate." ...

Let me see if I got this right -- A religious nut who can't keep it in his pants (7 kids) and whose family is singlehandedly contributing as much to global warming as 2 normal households, is holding up the showing of a scientific program supported by an overwhelming majority of scientists. An man who believes the Earth is 14,000 years old has as much say as hundreds of learned men/women worldwide. That sounds like a right-winger's idea of "fair and balanced" -- all ideas are equal regardless of their basis in reality. I have a pretty good idea who/what really needs to be Left Behind ... this ridiculous Rapture mentality.

I'm not sure which is worse -- this man obviously being unhinged or the fact that a school system (a public school system, no less) not only gives him a forum but actually holds up actual learning to do so.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

You've Got Mail

Monday, January 08, 2007

By way of fellow Valley blogger, Vern, I happened upon a site that created some wickedly funny captions for real pictures from a site put up by our own Dept. of Homeland Security.

These are just a couple. For the rest, visit: Homeland Security Help with Pictures!
by ken grandlund

"The US government has a new website, It’s run by the Department of Homeland Security and is supposed to provide answers to everyday questions regarding emergency situations. And they even offer pictures so there can be no confusion as to what you are supposed to do in an extreme situation.

The fun thing is that these pictures are so ambiguous they could mean anything! Here are a few interpretations.

... If you spot terrorism, blow your anti-terrorism whistle. If you are Vin Diesel, yell really loud.

If you spot a terrorist arrow, pin it against the wall with your shoulder ... "

Sunday, January 07, 2007

... no one here but us chickens

Blog trolling, I found the following quote referenced:

"There were no formerly heroic times, and there was no formerly pure generation. There is no one here but us chickens, and so it always has been: a people busy and powerful, knowledgeable, ambivalent, important, fearful, and self-aware; a people who scheme, promote, deceive, and conquer; who pray for their loved ones, and long to flee misery and skip death. It is a weakening and discoloring idea that rustic people knew God personally once up a time -- or even knew selflessness or courage or literature -- but that is too late for us. In fact, the absolute is available to everyone in every age. There never was a more holy time than ours, and never a less." -- Annie Dillard, For the Time Being

It's a great quote and there is a lot of truth to it.

What's with the nostalgia for a "simpler" time? Do we really know what we are longing for? Is the past attractive just because we don't actually remember it fully? Every thing bad that happens in the present is not tempered by the passage of time. We mostly remember the pleasant and heroic from our past. It's a defense mechanism.

Is it that we are afraid of progress? What is progress? Can morality progress or evolve? Those that believe in absolute morality would say no.

We need to stop striving for an elusive and ultimately nonexistent ideal from the past. We need to face our current world with open eyes, new methods, and cognizance of the mistakes of the past. Don't try to get back to an earlier time. Make the current time the ideal.

"It is because Humanity has never known where it was going that it has been able to find its way." -- Oscar Wilde

"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." -- George Bernard Shaw (Irish literary Critic, Playwright and Essayist. 1925 Nobel Prize for Literature, 1856-1950)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Top 10 Movies of 2006

Top 10 movies that I saw in 2006, in no particular order:

Blood Diamond -- Socially aware ... good action ... Leo solid.

Little Miss Sunshine - Notta Wallflower has a nice review here. Great acting, funny and poignant.

Casino Royale -- Bond is back in the person of Daniel Craig, and we're better for it.

Munich -- Despite what we like to believe, nobody's hands are clean in a war on terrorism.

Thank You for Smoking -- Best satire of '06

DaVinci Code -- not a perfect movie, but very good. Great cast and faithful to the book.

Two great documentaries, both with something to say about what's wrong with this administration: An Inconvenient Truth and Shut Up and Sing

... and my two favorite films of the year: The Departed and V for Vendetta

Plus, an honorable mention to Good Night and Good Luck -- This one probably shouldn't qualify because it came out in '05 but I didn't see it till June of this year. Brilliant film. It would easily be in my top 10 for either year.

I didn't get a chance to see The Good Shepherd or the Pursuit of Happyness yet. Check out Laura's review of the latter here. From the good reviews and subject matter of each, I imagine that I'll like them.

Other movies that I saw and liked that didn't quite make the list: United 93, Inside Man, The Lake House (I dig any time travel flicks), and in the kid category: Monster House and Cars.