Monday, July 30, 2007

Copters collide

I meant to write about this the day it happened, but Blogger, in all it's infinite wisdom, chose that day to lock me out of my own blog. Apparently, my site had somehow been tagged as a Spam blog by Blogger's spam-sniffing robots. Obviously, there must be some bugs in their robots, which Blogger eventually sorted out. But it's still a little irritating. After all, I pay good money for this site. Oh, wait ... it's free. Well, I can still bitch if I want to.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about. I'm here to try and sort out something much more important, much more surreal. Something that I still haven't quite sorted out yet. Some of you may or may not have heard about the fatal collision of 2 news helicopters in downtown Phoenix this last Friday. From every report that I've heard, it's the first ever collision of news helicopters. There have been a handful of single aircraft crashes, but none involving two.

It's obviously a tragic accident, but tragic accidents happen all the time. Deaths like these, especially under strange circumstances, involving radio or TV personalities, and witnessed by a lot of people, bring about even a greater focus. A lot of people feel they "know" the people involved and therefore are affected more. But, still, that's not what I'm here to talk about.

This accident is still on my mind because it's not some abstraction. It's not just something that I heard about on the news. I was in downtown Phoenix that day. And if the events involving me had turned out differently, the accident may never have happened.

It's Friday afternoon, a little after noon, and I'm heading to my last client, a single lawyer firm at Thomas & Central. I'm heading down 7th Street, absently planning out the weekend in my head, without any big concerns. I'm in the far right hand lane, about a mile from my client. Checking my rear-view mirror, I see a service truck of some kind coming up fast and, I fear, in danger of rear-ending me. I'm bracing for the collision, but at the last moment he veers into the passing lane. But just barely. He does this at the last moment, nearly clipping me, and passing me by the narrowest of margins (about a foot). But that's not even the weirdest part. As he passes, I notice sparks flying up from the side of the truck. As he makes it past me, the truck, a construction or pest control truck of some kind (with a tank in the back), is driving on rims. I've seen people do this before, but they are usually driving very slowly, have only one tire on rims, and they are just trying to make it to a service station. This guy was going 50 mph and swerving madly. Shortly after he passes me, he immediately take a turn on Indian School Rd, towards downtown and continues driving fast. I look in my rear-view again, because even as thick as I am sometimes, I was beginning to think something was up. Sure enough, I saw about a dozen police cruisers in a cautious pursuit.

I continue south on 7th Street, anxious to stay as far away from that guy as possible. But I still don't think a lot about it. Probably some teenager on a joy-ride in a stolen work vehicle. I turn on Thomas (a mile south of Indian School) and head towards Central. I go to my client, on the 11th floor, and do my work. While there, I hear some fire engines and more police cars below and comment to my client about the weird episode that I'd had. We chuckle about it and don't think much more about it.

I get in my car. I'm done with clients, ready to go home and relax. I turn on the radio, which happens to be on our local NPR station. The newscasters are frantically discussing the events of about a half an hour ago, a mid-air collision of 2 news helicopters in downtown Phoenix. The news helicopters were covering a police chase of a stolen construction truck (with a tank in back) driving on it's rims. At this point, I almost pull over to the side of the road to throw up. I'm literally numb.

After watching a lot of coverage, reading a lot of articles and getting details of the whole thing, I am able to gather that within a minute of passing me, the guy ditches the service truck, jacks another vehicle and right at this time, the helicopters collide over Steele Park. I'm a mile south at that time, with several skyscrapers in between me and the collision and with me with music blaring in my truck, I don't hear the noise of the it. At my client, no one was listening to the radio, so everyone there is blissfully unaware.

Over the last few days, I keep going through scenarios in my head. I actually find myself wishing that the guy had hit me. It would have been a glancing collision. I think I would have been OK, but it would probably have stopped him so that the police could apprehend him. No long chase. No mid-air collision. Or maybe it would have still happened. It can screw with your head thinking about causality and fate (which I don't believe in) in a Sliding Doors sort of way. Regardless, I'm sick and sorry and confused at the same time.

I'm not even going to get into the justifiable questions of why society and news feel they have to see these police chases on TV. That's a question for a different time. It doesn't give comfort to the families of the men who died.

Here are a couple of videos from the helicopters. While they don't show the collision, they are still grisly. The first is from 15 (one of the copters in the collision). The truck you see at the beginning of the video is the one that nearly hit me.

News 15

The second is from 10, I believe, one of the copters not involved directly, but who is immensely affected by the collision. It is hard to listen to.

News 10

I'm pretty sure that the news copters were following the chase even before he went into the residential area and that there is footage of the guy passing me, but I have yet to find it.

I wouldn't wish the above situation on anyone, but I know some of you have had close brushes like this. It's sad that it takes something like this to make one appreciate that every tragic death is important. Everyone that dies has a family and friends that grieve. No deaths are unimportant.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


"Sports do not build character. They reveal it." -- John Wooden

Or perhaps the lack of character. I don't talk about sports very much here but I'm pretty much a sports nut ... especially baseball. Lately, it seems like the sports world is in some kind of bizarro universe and I'm not at all happy about it. My takes:

Michael Vick -- If the allegations that Vick participated in and approved of the activities that he has been accused of (and the preponderance of evidence seems to indicate this), you cannot kick him out of the league fast enough, in my opinion. Vick's black, but his tastes in the use of dogs is straight-up white trash. Anyone that will torture a defenseless animal and call it sport is the lowest sort of human being. And it is usually a pretty good indicator of how they will treat other humans.

About the only time that I wished I believed in God was when it comes to figuring out what circle of hell would be most appropriate for the type of people that torture any other living thing.

To make it worse are other retarded NFL players who seems to think it's no big deal. Clinton Portis when asked about it:

"I don't know if he was fighting dogs or not," Portis said in the interview. "But it's his property; it's his dogs. If that's what he wants to do, do it."

Portis, a native of Laurel, Miss., added: "I know a lot of back roads that got a dog fight if you want to go see it. But they're not bothering those people because those people are not big names. I'm sure there's some police got some dogs that are fighting them, some judges got dogs and everything else."

And someone else who should really know better, Emmitt Smith:

" ... Now, granted he might have been to a dogfight a time or two, maybe five times, maybe 20 times, may have bet some money, but he's not the one you're after. He's just the one who's going to take the fall -- publicly."

Tim Donaghy (NBA ref) - Anyone that watched the Spurs-Suns (MY Suns!) series this last year know that the Suns absolutely got jobbed by the refs in how fouls and technicals were called and how players were suspended. But after the series, there wasn't a whole lot that you could do about it. Just lick your wounds and go on and that would be the end of it. Try again next year.

Well ... not so quick. Turns out that one of the refs that worked that series is the very same Tim Donaghy, who was revealed this week to have been betting on games that he was officiating and to be associating with the mob. This is an ugly, ugly situation - probably the ugliest the NBA has seen. Even if it turns out that Donaghy was the only ref involved, it calls into question every game that he was involved in and ultimately the outcome of the playoffs.

Barry Bonds - Barry's about to break one of those records that most people thought was unbreakable, the career home run record, held by Hank Aaron. It should be a time for celebration, for remembering the sluggers of the past and to pass on the mantle to the new one.

But it's not. You know why? Because this man doesn't seem to understand that achievements done through cheating, through circumventing rules, through permanently damaging your body are not really achievements. Or, at least not ones to brag about. Bonds had all the talent in the world. He had proven that he was going to go into the Hall of Fame even before he started using steroids. But that wasn't enough. Hubris born of stupidity and arrogance (hmm ... where else have I seen that?) blinded him and started him down the path that will eventually strip him of everything that he has worked for and perhaps even his life. Congratulations Barry.

I could get into yet another biking doping scandal or the ridiculous circus that is Beckam, but I've grown weary. Is it wrong to long for the days where the worst that players would do was maybe play drunk?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I'm not making this up

It's almost too easy to make a joke here:

Wal-Mart to Test Bible Action Figures

Wal-Mart said Tuesday it will test sales in some stores of biblical action figures whose makers say they are aimed at Christian parents who prefer their children play with Samson, David or Noah rather than with a comic book character or Bratz doll.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spokeswoman Melissa O'Brien said the toys made by One2believe, a Valencia, Calif., company, will be offered in 425 of Wal-Mart's 3,376 discount stores and Supercenters.

One2believe Chief Executive David Socha said his products were part of a "battle for the toy box" with dolls and figures that he said carry negative messages.

"If you're very religious, it's a battle for your children's minds and what they're playing with and pretending. There are remakes out there of Satan and evil things," Socha said.

Wal-Mart's O'Brien said the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer believes there is demand for faith-based toys ...

If we have the Jesus action figure, aren't we obligated to have the Mohammad or Vishnu or Flying Spaghetti Monster action figures? And does the Jesus action figure come with a machine gun or waterboarding kit? The Jesus this administration believes in certainly does.

You gotta give it to Wal-Mart ... they certainly know their market.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sadie .. you're awesome!

I just got the great clown bookmark that Sadie made:

She's got a lot of cool crafts on her site. Do yourself a favor and check them out.

Craftily Ever After

Plus, she was sweet and added a little something extra for my son Alex ... which he loved! Thank you very much.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

An Atheist's Top 10 Religious Movies List

I dig movies about God. Can't get enough of them, really. OK, I kid. But just because a movie is about God or Christianity doesn't mean that I'm not going to watch it. Some of the best subject matter for storytelling is the bible. It's certainly rich in history, intrigue, struggle, wars, murder, persecution, deception ... you name it. What got me thinking about this was catching the wife watching the The Preacher's Wife the other day. Not a great movie, but not a terrible one. It's got Denzel in it and some pretty good music. That's got to count for something.

A comment CK made on his blog about the film adaptation of a Phillip Pullman book ("I just hope the rumours of downplaying the religious elements are unfounded!") just added to my wanting to try and compile a list of Christianity-themed movies. It just goes to show you that two atheist/agnostic/humanist/what-have-you types are not shut off to the idea of religion being in movies. I guess we're just looking for the honesty of any film -- don't sanitize a movie to remove a religious theme that was present in the source material -- but , also, don't attach a religious significance or morality to something where it was probably not originally intended (Children of Men, 2001, Schindler's List, etc.).

So, here's my semi-ironic top 10 favorite movies with a religious theme (positive or negative) ... in no particular order:

Exorcist - a movie about the possession by the devil of a young girl and the priests who attempt to exorcise her. Quite simply the scariest movie I've ever seen and I believe the best horror movie ever. I can't quite explain why scary movies that deal with God and the devil seem to frighten me more. I don't know if that says more about me or the movies.

Se7en -- The seven deadly sins. This is one of David Fincher's two dark masterpieces (Fight Club being the other). Some of the best acting that Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman have ever done. A realistic and gritty placement of the seven classic deadly sins into a modern setting.


Last Temptation of Christ - I can't write a better appraisal than what I got from IMDb:

This is a beautiful film ... The performances, especially by Willem Dafoe as Jesus, are amazing; the sets and costumes are realistic and never feel forced, glossy, or stylized (and were based on extensive archaeological and philological research); Peter Gabriel's score is absolutely unbelievable...

It is really best to avoid religious and theological arguments about this film - it is simply a portrait of Christ coming to terms with who he is and what he must do. If it occasionally portrays Jesus in a manner that is somewhat at odds with that of scripture, try to keep in mind that it is merely another take on a story that has no absolute and authoritative telling. That Jesus has difficulty coming to terms with the role he must play is something that scripture does not rule out.

Consider it this way: this is the sort of film that has the power to convince the irreligious or non-Christians out there (of which I am one) of the importance, beauty, depth, and truth of Jesus' vision of a world filled with love and compassion. Give this movie a chance. You will not be disappointed.

Jesus Camp - I've reviewed this here before. It is a documentary that brings to the fore the dangers of fundamentalism and shoving religion down children's throats. But, also, it shows the powerful mixing of politics and religion.

Education of Shelby Knox - Another documentary that I've recently reviewed here. And, again, the harmful effects of fundamentalist religion on education.

Life of Brian - This is my favorite Monty Python film. I love the tagline, "A motion picture destined to offend nearly two thirds of the civilized world. And severely annoy the other third." There are so many funny moments in this film. Probably my two faves are when they are arguing about what to name their group, ultimately the Judean People's front - and the scene where Brian tells the crowd that they are "all individuals" and they respond in unison that they are all individuals. That's a pretty telling scene about Christianity.

Originally banned in Ireland and Norway for blasphemy. The following hilarious scene gives you some idea why:

Brian: I'm not the Messiah! Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah, do you understand? Honestly!
Girl: Only the true Messiah denies His divinity.
Brian: What? Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right! I am the Messiah!
Followers: He is! He is the Messiah!
Brian: Now, fuck off!
Arthur: How shall we fuck off, O Lord?

Omen - Arguably the 2nd best horror film dealing with Christianity. This is the story of a child who turns out to be the anti-Christ. It has a really good cast (Gregory Peck, Lee Remick) and a good script with a lot of quotes directly from scripture.

Dogma - A lot of people took this as being blasphemous but it was more a personal vision of one's man's belief in God (Kevin Smith), specifically Catholicism. It points out in a funny way the many inconsistencies with organized religion. Jay and Silent Bob as prophets are priceless.

Raiders of the Lost Ark / Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - OK, they're not so much about religion but the quests in both are very much about Christian symbols -- The Ark of the Covenant (the sacred container with the Ten Commandments) and the Holy Grail. These are obviously two of the best adventure movies of all time.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail - Another movie with a quest for the Grail and another Monty Python movie. Also, not specifically about religion but it's wickedly funny and besides the already mentioned symbolism of the Grail includes God as a character, a holy hand grenade, witch-burning and other Christian silliness.

Movies that I have seen that came close but didn't make the cut: Kingdom of Heaven, Chronicles of Narnia, Luther, Da Vinci Code, It's a Wonderful Life

Ones that people that I have seen and that people might suggest but I didn't like: Ten Commandments, Passion of the Christ

Ones that I've never seen: Boys' Town, Saved, Inherit the Wind, History of the World: Part I

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Rabbit Hole

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Live Earth

I think I must have watched 20 hours of coverage, having DVR'd broadcasts from Sundance, Bravo and NBC. I've talked about some of the performances on your blogs and I won't repeat them here. I had only gotten to see the final Police performance last night on NBC's coverage and it was great -- John Mayer and Kanye West guested. But if you go to Live Earth on MSN, you can see all the performances.

There were are a lot of short films, actor spots, etc. during the airing, especially on Sundance and you should be able to find a lot of those if you just go to the main Live Earth site on MSN.

There weren't a lot of memorable performances from the Australia and Japan shows. Lincoln Park was throwaway. There were some goofy Japanese pop metal bands dressed like schoolgirls. I did like Missy Higgins from the Australia show. She's cute and has a Lisa Loeb-type feel to her. She has a bit of the Cranberries' lilt to her voice. Another good band was the John Butler Trio. John Butler plays great slide acoustic blues.

A definite highlight of the London show was Spinal Tap playing Big Bottom with about 30 guitarists and bassists from other bands all playing bass on the song (Metallica, Beasties, Foo, Madonna, etc.). The lyrics of this song are probably the funniest (and crudest) of all time. The irony of the performance is that it seemed like a lot of the audience either didn't know what to make of it or weren't in on the joke. Anybody that hasn't seen This is Spinal Tap, do yourself a favor and check it out. If you like the crew of people that did Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind, etc., this is them. It's obviously a joke band, but they can really play. Real musicians appreciate Tap because they see bits of themselves in the parody.

I liked the performances by Metallica, John Mayer, Jack Johnson, Roger Waters, the Peppers, Dave Matthews and Duran Duran. Also, the Foo Fighters - Dave Grohl and Taylor are looking a bit shaggy. I'd guess the boys have been in the studio working on an album. Everlong was the best with Grohl starting the song out solo.

A lot of you may not like Garth Brooks, but I've always been partial to him. He did an acoustic performance at the Smithsonian Native American museum in Washington of probably my favorite song by him, We Shall Be Free. The lyrics were written over 15 years ago, but they seem very poignant now:

This aint comin from no prophet
Just an ordinary man
When I close my eyes I see
The way this world shall be
When we all walk hand in hand

When the last child cries for a crust of bread
When the last man dies for just words that he said
When there's shelter over the poorest head
We shall be free

When the last thing we notice is the color of skin
And the first thing we look for is the beauty within
When the skies and the oceans are clean again
Then we shall be free ...

When we're free to love anyone we choose
When this worlds big enough for all different views
When we're all free to worship from our own kind of pew
Then we shall be free ...

And when money talks for the very last time
And nobody walks a step behind
When there's only one race and thats mankind
Then we shall be free ...

A country song that preaches about poverty, racism, religious tolerance, environmentalism and tolerance of gays -- I challenge Nashville to put out anything so gutsy these days. The only crap they can put out is flag-waving, beer drinking dreck. In a related vein, I saw an interview with Keith Urban where he had said that he had a concert the night before and had told them he was going to Live Earth the next day. They booed. You could tell that he didn't appreciate or understand their negativity. When you live here, you understand it all to well. They say they are God-fearing, hard-working simple folk. Well, they have the simple folk part right. They are NASCAR-loving, war drum beating, religiously intolerant, racist, backwoods country hillbillies that consistently vote against their economic self-interest (What's the Matter with Kansas?). And they can all kiss my ass. I'm sick of politicians and pundits pandering to these morons and saying that they represent the "common man".

You don't have to have a PhD in Physics to know something is wrong or to let others know. If only experts were allowed to speak, most news networks would be blank screens. The people that say that you have to have 100% of info before making any decision are morons. Earth isn't static. It's not going to wait around for you to make up your mind. I guess they'll be the people roasting marshmallows when the planet burns.

Cynics will justifiably gripe about the ticket prices (Imagine Echoes). Others will complain about the irony of a show about global warming that has artists flying all about the planet. And both camps will have merit in their charges. But that's not to say that those things weren't thought of. As many artists as possible flew commercial or got there by other means. Fans were encouraged to carpool. Concerning the ticket prices, it would have been hard to do a show of this size and still have a good and safe show without a little bit of capital coming in. Those that say it would have been better if everyone stayed home since everyone knows about global warming (that means you Bob Geldof) are kidding themselves. People (especially Americans) frequently need to be hit between the eyes to see the merits of anything. If even a quarter of those watching picked up just one useful tip while enjoying themselves with the music, then it will have been worth it. Complaining of the ecological impact of one day of concerts as opposed to the 150 years of coal burning and 100 years of oil is ludicrous. Companies rarely do something just because it is the right thing to do. But if you get a few customers that might speak with their pocketbook, then they will follow the money. I don't care what people's motivation is in doing the right thing ... just do it.

Here's the pledge:


1.To demand that my country join an international treaty within the next 2 years that cuts global warming pollution by 90% in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy earth;

2.To take personal action to help solve the climate crisis by reducing my own CO2 pollution as much as I can and offsetting the rest to become "carbon neutral;"

3.To fight for a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store the CO2;

4.To work for a dramatic increase in the energy efficiency of my home, workplace, school, place of worship, and means of transportation;

5.To fight for laws and policies that expand the use of renewable energy sources and reduce dependence on oil and coal;

6.To plant new trees and to join with others in preserving and protecting forests; and,

7.To buy from businesses and support leaders who share my commitment to solving the climate crisis and building a sustainable, just, and prosperous world for the 21st century.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Be not intimidated ...

From Court Rejects ACLU Domestic Spying Suit:

CINCINNATI — A divided federal appeals court rejected a lawsuit Friday challenging President Bush's domestic spying program without ruling on the issue of whether warrantless wiretapping is legal.

In a 2-1 decision with Republican-appointed judges in the majority, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the plaintiffs had no standing to sue because they couldn't prove their communications had been monitored by the government.

The decision underscored the difficulty of challenging the anti-terrorism program in court because its secret nature prevents plaintiffs from obtaining surveillance information. The National Security Agency had refused to turn over information about the warrantless wiretapping that would have bolstered the court case.

"This is a Catch-22," said Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit. "I think what in effect they're saying is that we can't tell you whether you have been wiretapped because that's a secret. And unless you know you've been wiretapped, you can't challenge that program..."

That last line is hilarious, but sad and true. We're supposed to trust that the intentions of our government are worthwhile and noble while they have proven over and over again the last 6 years (and many would say longer than that) that they are not. They have not earned the benefit of the doubt.

"Be not intimidated... nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberties by any pretense of politeness, delicacy, or decency. These, as they are often used, are but three different names for hypocrisy, chicanery and cowardice." -- John Adams

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


"Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it." - George Bernard Shaw

Rethinking Patriotism
by Lucinda Marshall

Several months ago when I wrote an essay questioning the appropriateness of military air shows as a form of community-sponsored family entertainment, I received a number of responses. The gist of most of the letters was that the military defends our freedom and without it, I could not write these words. Indeed, I was told that to criticize militarism is unpatriotic and how dare I impugn the honor and integrity of those who serve in the armed forces defending the American way of life.

But what precisely is this American way of life that our military purportedly defends? We live in the richest country in the world, yet unlike other developed countries that have universal health care, tens of millions of people in this country do not have health insurance and our medical care system comes in dead last behind comparable countries. Millions of children go to bed hungry every night and our educational system is leaving far too many children behind. The standard of living of all but the rich has fallen and people are losing their homes. Our energy use and wastefulness is a toxic disgrace.

In the name of all this, we squander trillions of dollars to send our troops to fight a war that was justified by lies. In Iraq we have killed an uncountable number of innocent people and so destroyed the infrastructure of the country that millions of children are starving to death and one in eight children will die before their fifth birthday. Going to school or feeding one’s family is all but impossible and millions have now become refugees living in unspeakable conditions. The result of all this is that violence continues to escalate, more and more people hate our country and the world is a far more dangerous place. And when all is said and done, we bring our wounded warriors home to the squalid conditions of Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

To defend a government that claims these actions in the name of “democracy” is hardly patriotic. At best, it might be construed as nationalism. As George Orwell once put it, “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

Indeed in the aftermath of the atrocities that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, in a scene that seemed scripted by Orwell himself, American flags started to appear everywhere–on cars, lapels and babies’ bottoms. That defecating on the flag to which we pledge allegiance could be construed as patriotism should surely have given us pause to wonder if perhaps the true meaning of patriotism has been hijacked.

Clearly what was conveniently forgotten in this unquestioning, reflexive flag-waving is that dissent in the face of tyranny is the ultimate act of patriotism, it is in fact how this country was founded. We Americans are long overdue for a very serious discussion of just what it is that we are defending, which by any definition is a far cry from democracy or freedom.

There is no excuse for putting the interests of our way of life over that of any other country or people and in doing so we only harm ourselves. To continue to misconstrue militarism as defensible in the name of patriotism is bankrupting our country and imperiling the planet, its resources and all of its citizens. If we continue along this path, there will, in the end, be nothing left to defend.

As July 4th approaches, it may well be time to consider whether patriotism and the defense of national borders is in fact an outmoded concept. Instead of Independence Day, perhaps it is time to declare an Interdependence Day and to pledge allegiance as global citizens, to build our strength by nurturing our resources rather than plundering them, by nurturing all of the world’s citizens, especially the young. Most of all, it is time to pledge to end the wanton destruction of the planet and the politics of hatred and greed that divide us.

Have we reached the point where patriotism is just a quaint ideal? It seems to serve no useful purpose other than to herd the "sheeple". Patriotism attaches a moral justness to the nation that it doesn't deserve. Maybe patriotism isn't dead. But the way in which Republicans define it, it is. Patriotism isn't something that is measured to determine your level of commitment to the country in which you live.

I know it's probably not right but I'm usually embarrassed when I see overt signs of patriotism -- whether it be a bunch of ribbons on a car, too many flags on your house or just the way someone talks. Mostly it's because I don't feel that they really understand what patriotism is. Some are overly patriotic because they served in military and they don't want to feel that their service was in vain. Others are patriotic because they have a very low sense of self and the only way that they have any pride is through a group. Hell, I've seen both of those just in my own family.

I'm not trying to be a downer, but I'd just like to see a few people remember the real reason for the holiday -- to commemorate our actual Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain Inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness ...". It's not to celebrate the military. There are enough other holidays to do that. I get it -- "Support the troops" -- blah, blah blah. I'm sure the troops are starting to see it's a bunch of bullshit. These so-called patriotic types that keep sending them overseas for endless periods of time for pointless wars are not "supporting the troops". If we want to prove we support them, then bring them home.

I'd even be happy if people just enjoyed their families, cooking out and baseball on the 4th. To me, that's way more American than honoring a gun or tank.

"The time is fast approaching when to call a man a patriot will be the deepest insult you can offer him. Patriotism now means advocating plunder in the interest of the privileged classes of the particular State system into which we have happened to be born." - Tolstoy

"Patriotism means unqualified and unwavering love for the nation, which implies not uncritical eagerness to serve, not support for unjust claims, but frank assessment of its vices and sins, and penitence for them." - Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Sunday, July 01, 2007


It's embarrassing to be in a country that commoditizes people's health. Health care should be fundamental. For the price that we pay, we should have the best care possible. Instead, by any objective accounting, we have some of the worst among civilized (and some not-so-civilized) countries. This is one of the issues that Michael Moore's new film, SiCKO, addresses.

From Why Michael Moore's SiCKO is a health care documentary every American must see:

... The drug companies, surgeons, medical specialists, health insurance companies and private hospitals are making out like bandits, raking in multi-million dollar CEO salaries and -- I'm not making this up -- greater than 500,000% markups on prescription drugs. And while the American people get sicker, the drug companies, insurance companies and many health "care" providers (it's really more like "sick care providers") are rolling in cash. Drug companies are now among the richest corporations in the world, and they got there by inventing fictitious diseases, then selling drugs to people who mostly don't need them.

... the health care corporations actually have a plan to keep people sick. There's no money in preventing disease, especially in the cancer industry ... American Cancer Society's refusal to help prevent 77% of all cancers using affordable, scientifically-proven vitamin D supplements.

... Moore shows us the universal health care systems in countries like Canada, the UK, France and even Cuba... all countries where health care is free to everyone. It's called universal health care (or "socialized medicine"), and it's a system followed by nearly every modern nation in the world... and even some not-so-modern nations. Only America practices medicine in the Dark Ages, tied to a hopelessly corrupt system of financial exploitation and monopoly price controls, where Big Pharma gets richer, the FDA gets more powerful, and the American people get the shaft.

Some would say that socialized health care discourages good doctors. It does the exact opposite. Doctors that are freed up from having to deny care are actually allowed to do what they got in to medicine to do -- care for patients. American doctors are forced to be bureaucrats that choose patients based on money. We have a whole medical system that seems to have forgotten the Hippocratic Oath -- to do no harm. As the movie shows, foreign doctors are happy and well-compensated.

And I've had about all that I can take from the John Birch types that preach (literally) about the scourge of Communism and socialism. Would you accuse Great Britain or Canada of being Communist? Is the U.S. Communist because it has a police force, fireman or libraries that are not privately run? Certain functions of society should not be outsourced. Drugs and health care for profit does not encourage people to go for care when they first get symptoms. It does not encourage preventative health care.

The right wing messiah, Ronald Reagan, even starred in propaganda films trying to scare people about how "socialized" health care is one step from Communist Russia: Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine. Thank you, Joseph McCarthy. Conservatism is a movement that has become as insidious and dogmatic as that which it hates so much. Great ideas should be evaluated on whether they work, not on whether they fit into your narrow little ideology.

SiCKO, I believe, is not a partisan (at least not in the political sense) film and calls out Democrats (specifically Hillary) as much as Republicans. But it's not really about politics. It's about calling out a society that talks about our caring and compassion while doing the exact opposite. We will care for you only if you have money and even then we will give you half-ass care.

Even those that don't like Michael Moore should see this film. It emphasizes the positive aspects of Moore -- his humor and compassion -- while limiting that which some who don't like him might call strident. It's most effective when it focuses on real-life victims of our system. The people documented actually have insurance. You could have a whole other film on the 50 million that are not even covered. I believe SiCKO will go a long way towards bringing the subject of universal health care into the public forum.Grade: A+