Friday, November 28, 2008


My father broached the subject slyly enough, saying "Did the elections come out the way you would like?" I said yes, figuring I had to be honest. He replied that he was scared of what the next 4 years would have been like if McCain had been elected with the prospect of extending what the last 8 had been like. I made a comment on how scary Palin was and he agreed with me. To my shock, and without him actually saying it, I came to the realization that my folks had voted for Obama. Hallelujah!

Then we went on to discuss something else not related to politics. Those couple of sentences were probably the longest political discussion that we ever had. My parents just did not talk politics when I was growing up. It wasn't that they didn't care. They always voted. But when you are struggling to make ends meet, the nuances of foreign policy or trickle-down economics just don't matter that much.

I know you shouldn't make assumptions about people. But with your folks, you figure you have 'em pegged well enough to at least predict who they would vote for.

I'm pretty sure that my parents voted for Reagan once, but I'm not positive. My father is a veteran of the Air Force and the Vietnam War. He's been active in the VFW. His social circle has always been farmers and mechanics, not professors and artists. My parents always have liked to live out in the country with a minimum of interaction by the government. If not Republican, they at least leaned libertarian, though I know for a fact that they would have no idea what that term means.

But my parents also taught us to respect people regardless of their race or their economic station in life. It would irritate some of my parents' friends because they would rub elbows with the people on the "wrong side of the tracks" just as easily as they would the mayor. Those people on the other side of the tracks had more in common with us and I'm sure my folks preferred their company. They rightly saw that we had more in common with the poor black or Hispanic person than we did with the rich white guy at the top of the hill.

The modern Republican party has successfully fooled a large portion of poor whites that they have more in common with oil barons and trust-fund babies than with the hard-working people working next door that might just happen to be a different color. Thankfully, and maybe I should have know this all along, my parents saw through this and made the right choice. Maybe the apple didn't fall as far from the tree as I had thought.

"It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength." -- Maya Angelou

Coffee With Sarge

Well, I did it again. I was on the radio Sunday. This time I was an actual guest for a whole hour and talked quite a bit. My friend Sarge has a Sunday show, called Coffee With Sarge, in conjunction with The Jeff Farias Show. Read a bit more about Sarge and my previous appearance here.

Jeff Farias is very prominent in the volatile and interesting Phoenix progressive talk radio scene, having previously been with Nova M (flagship of Randi Rhodes and Mike Malloy), Air America, and KPHX 1480. Daily Kos has, a decent play-by-play of that volatility here.

Sarge asked me about my opinions on the effects of the Internet on progressive politics. We ran a live chat during the show and also took calls from people asking general computer questions of me. He said it was the most active his show had been. Here's a link to the Podcast:

Coffee with Sarge

I had fun and wouldn't be surprised if I got the chance to be on again sometime.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Contender

Like often happens, what I'm reading or watching seems to have a topical link to current events (intentionally or otherwise). Last night, I watched the very good political thriller, The Contender, on Cox's OnDemand. It's from a few years ago (2000) but hits upon a lot of the stuff going on now with the vetting of candidates for the various cabinet positions in Barack Obama's administration. Joan Allen plays an appointee for VP in an administration where the Vice President has died. She must survive the vetting process and the political jockeying by the congressional committee in charge of approving the nomination.

It's a got a great cast which includes Allen, Jeff Bridges as the President, Sam Elliot, Christian Slater, William Peterson and my favorite actor, Gary Oldman as the committee chairman. It's written and directed by the very talented film-critic-turned-director Rod Lurie.

The Contender hits on a lot of the touchpoints of the last year's election cycle including the roles of gender, religion, and the media in the political process.

One of my favorite moments in the movie is a speech by Allen's character at the end of the hearing before the committee. It's one of those Mr. Smith Goes to Washington type speeches that, unfortunately, don't happen in real life, though you wish they did. Those raw bits of honesty without a filter that no modern politician would dream of. Here it is:

Uh, remarkably enough, it seems that I have some explaining to do.

So... let me be absolutely clear.

I stand for a woman's right to choose.

I stand for the elimination of the death penalty.

I stand for a strong and growing armed forces...

because we must stomp out genocide on this planet...

and I believe that that is a cause worth dying for.

I stand for seeing every gun taken out of every home. Period.

I stand for making the selling of cigarettes to our youth a federal offense.

I stand for term limits and campaign reform.

And, Mr. Chairman, I stand for the separation of church and state...

and the reason that I stand for that is the same reason that I believe our forefathers did.

It is not there to protect religion from the grasp of government...

but to protect our government from the grasp of religious fanaticism.

I may be an atheist...

but that does not mean I do not go to church: I do go to church.

The church I go to is the one that emancipated the slaves...

that gave women the right to vote.

It gave us every freedom that we hold dear.

My church is this very chapel of democracy that we sit in together...

and I do not need God to tell me what are my moral absolutes.

I need my heart, my brain and this church.

Amen. I'd be more inclined to vote for a person, even if I didn't agree with everything they said, if they had the guts to at least be honest.

The rest of the script can be found here.

"There's no trust, no faith, no honesty in men; all perjured, all forsworn, all naught, all dissemblers." -- William Shakespeare

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Obama's Use of Complete Sentences Stirs Controversy

From comedian and writer, Andy Borowitz:

Obama's Use of Complete Sentences Stirs Controversy

In the first two weeks since the election, President-elect Barack Obama has broken with a tradition established over the past eight years through his controversial use of complete sentences, political observers say.

Millions of Americans who watched Mr. Obama's appearance on CBS's 60 Minutes on Sunday witnessed the president-elect's unorthodox verbal tick, which had Mr. Obama employing grammatically correct sentences virtually every time he opened his mouth.

But Mr. Obama's decision to use complete sentences in his public pronouncements carries with it certain risks, since after the last eight years many Americans may find his odd speaking style jarring.

According to presidential historian Davis Logsdon of the University of Minnesota, some Americans might find it "alienating" to have a president who speaks English as if it were his first language.

"Every time Obama opens his mouth, his subjects and verbs are in agreement," says Mr. Logsdon. "If he keeps it up, he is running the risk of sounding like an elitist."

The historian said that if Mr. Obama insists on using complete sentences in his speeches, the public may find itself saying, "Okay, subject, predicate, subject predicate -- we get it, stop showing off."

The president-elect's stubborn insistence on using complete sentences has already attracted a rebuke from one of his harshest critics, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.

"Talking with complete sentences there and also too talking in a way that ordinary Americans like Joe the Plumber and Tito the Builder can't really do there, I think needing to do that isn't tapping into what Americans are needing also," she said.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bringing out the best in people ... or not

If you want to get a taste of the people that were voting for McCain:

Obama supporters won't get communion, priest says
Nov. 13, 2008 Associated Press

A South Carolina Roman Catholic priest has told his parishioners that they should refrain from receiving Holy Communion if they voted for Barack Obama because the Democratic president-elect supports abortion, and supporting him "constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil."

The Rev. Jay Scott Newman said in a letter distributed Sunday to parishioners at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville that they are putting their souls at risk if they take Holy Communion before doing penance for their vote ...

Church sign: Obama election 'is sin against the Lord'

CNN's Rick Sanchez reported on a church marquee that reads "America we have a Muslim president. This is a sin against the Lord." Mark Holick is pastor of The Spirit One Christian Center in Wichita, Kansas where the sign is being displayed.

Holick told KSNW, "The main point of the marquee is to cause the Christians to understand he is not a Christian, Again, they will call me and they will tell me that he's not a Muslim because he is a Christian. That's not the point. The point is he's not a Christian."

No ... the point is -- you are a moron. These two supposed Christian leaders are sinners against rational thought and common sense. If this is what Christians are, I'm sure Obama wouldn't want to be considered among them.

Gun sales soar; fear of limits is blamed -- Buyers worry Obama will seek stricter rules
by Sean Holstege - Nov. 18 The Arizona Republic

The National Rifle Association labels President-elect Barack Obama a radical, a tag that gun-control advocates call a smear.

But Valley gun owners aren't waiting until January to find out who's right or how Obama will honor his campaign pledge of "common sense" gun control.

Gun-store owners in the Phoenix area say they saw sharp increases in gun and ammunition sales just before and after the presidential election.

The FBI reported that, during election week, instant background checks in the U.S., an indicator of firearms sales, shot up 49 percent over the same week in 2007. This was during the most severe economic crunch in decades ...

"It started the Friday before the election," said Jeff Serdy, who owns AJI Sporting Goods in Apache Junction. "Then, the day after the election, it was more than Y2K and more than September 11, 2001."

These people are almost too stupid for words. The NRA and gun sellers, to their credit, realize how stupid their supporters are. It fits right in with Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine -- fear driving commerce. About the only gun law changes under the last Democrat were an assault weapons ban and a waiting period to buy guns ... two things that a normal gun owner should not have a problem with. But the way people on the Right are spinning Obama's election, you would think Lenin himself had just got elected.

got a gun, fact i got two
that's ok man, cuz i love god
glorified version of a pellet gun
feels so manly, when armed ...
don't think, dumb is strength ...

Glorified G by Pearl Jam

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Obama Attack

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Google Trends

I heard of a cool Google tool on NPR today, called Google Trends. Here's its description from Wikipedia:

Google Trends is a tool from Google Labs that shows the most popularly searched terms from the beginning of 2004 to now.

... Google Trends charts how often a particular search term is entered relative the total search volume across various regions of the world...

Google Trends also allows the user to compare the volume of searches between two or more terms. An additional feature of Google Trends is in its ability to show news related to the search term overlaid on the chart showing how new events affect search popularity.

Interestingly, there are some search keywords that are quite seasonal, like summer camps, which strongly coincides with the end of the United States school year ...

... some search keywords that come up around a certain date each year. For example, searches for the Internal Revenue Service peak on April 15, the deadline for filing taxes in the United States ...

"Twilight zone" peaks every 6 months, corresponding with the 4th of July and New Year's marathons of the show played on the Sci-Fi Channel.

It's all terribly fascinating because you can really get a feel for how certain people and events affect other events. Or how certain items are bigger concerns in certain parts of the country. For example, more people search on the Internet using the terms "foreclosure" and "bankruptcy" in Phoenix than in any other major city ... which makes sense because the housing crisis has hit here especially hard.

Or obvious stuff like the fact that search trends for the term "toys" mirrors trends for "Christmas" or that searches for "gas prices" generally happen at the same time as "hybrid". Or funny stuff like the fact that searches for "George Bush" and "stupid" seem to correspond pretty well, as do "Republican" and "scandal" .

The topic of the NPR news story was a specific application of Google Trends called Google Flu Trends. It's in the news for it's ability to predict flu outbreaks significantly quicker and more accurately than the CDC.

From the NY Times article on the same subject:

... There is a new common symptom of the flu, in addition to the usual aches, coughs, fevers and sore throats. Turns out a lot of ailing Americans enter phrases like “flu symptoms” into Google and other search engines before they call their doctors.

That simple act, multiplied across millions of keyboards in homes around the country, has given rise to a new early warning system for fast-spreading flu outbreaks, called Google Flu Trends.

Tests of the new Web tool from, the company’s philanthropic unit, suggest that it may be able to detect regional outbreaks of the flu a week to 10 days before they are reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In early February, for example, the C.D.C. reported that the flu cases had recently spiked in the mid-Atlantic states. But Google says its search data show a spike in queries about flu symptoms two weeks before that report was released. Its new service at analyzes those searches as they come in, creating graphs and maps of the country that, ideally, will show where the flu is spreading.

The C.D.C. reports are slower because they rely on data collected and compiled from thousands of health care providers, labs and other sources. Some public health experts say the Google data could help accelerate the response of doctors, hospitals and public health officials to a nasty flu season, reducing the spread of the disease and, potentially, saving lives.

... Researchers have long said that the material published on the Web amounts to a form of “collective intelligence” that can be used to spot trends and make predictions.

But the data collected by search engines is particularly powerful, because the keywords and phrases that people type into them represent their most immediate intentions. People may search for “Kauai hotel” when they are planning a vacation and for “foreclosure” when they have trouble with their mortgage. Those queries express the world’s collective desires and needs, its wants and likes.

...Google Flu Trends avoids privacy pitfalls by relying only on aggregated data that cannot be traced to individual searchers. To develop the service, Google’s engineers devised a basket of keywords and phrases related to the flu, including thermometer, flu symptoms, muscle aches, chest congestion and many others.

Google then dug into its database, extracted five years of data on those queries and mapped it onto the C.D.C.’s reports of influenzalike illness. Google found a strong correlation between its data and the reports from the agency, which advised it on the development of the new service ...

As with all technology, there are both useful and scary aspects. Obviously, many people would have concerns with privacy. Data used in an aggregate sense, and anonymously would not seem to violate that. And Google has been pretty good about privacy issues so far. But there is definitely the opportunity there for data to be used improperly. So, it's important to be vigilant. We don't want to be hermits and live off the grid. That's not the answer. But we also don't want everyone in the world to know every time we pick our nose. There's got to be a safe and practical balance.

"The personal life of every individual is based on secrecy, and perhaps it is partly for that reason that civilized man is so nervously anxious that personal privacy should be respected" -- Anton Chekhov quotes (Russian playwright and master of the modern short story, 1860-1904)

Friday, November 07, 2008

Political Song of the Day - Bob Dylan

The Times They Are A-Changin' by Bob Dylan

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Day After

'Day After' observations:

  • I had the best night of sleep I've had in many years. Say, about 8 years. I'm not ashamed that there is a little spring in my step today. I deserve this after the depressed hangovers of the last two presidential elections.

  • My good friend JT, a self-admitted South Park Republican (libertarian), was texting me all night, positively giddy with the outcome and with Obama. He found the disparity in where the candidates chose to speak interesting. McCain spoke at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa where the cheap rate is $399/night. As JT said, "lol ... you had to appreciate the panning of the McCain crowd. Old, white and wealthy beyond my imagination! Barack celebrating at a huge public park ...". Speaking of Grant Park, please keep checking out Sarchasm, my friend Laura's blog, as she was there last night!! She'll definitely have a great take on the festivities.

  • I have to be honest and say that I found McCain's concession speech very gracious. He showed a glimpse into why, in the past, he has had broad-based support and the ability to reach accross the aisle. Why he abandoned these things in the heat of a race, I don't know, but he did himself a disservice. Being a bit of a lame duck, hopefully he will not pander to those influences that he truly doesn't need any more.

  • I'm optimistic today because of the overwhelmingly positive presidential and congressional returns, but WTF is the problem with the people in several states (AZ, California, Florida) with the passing of the gay marriage bans? I swear, if I come upon someone I know for a fact that voted for these things, I'm going to punch them in the neck. OK, I'm kidding. I'm pretty much a pacifist. But, still, what the hell?

  • A name that's being floated around for a cabinet post, specifically Attorney General or head of Homeland Security, is Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. She'd be a great choice, Obama would be lucky to have her and it'd be a great move for her. But it would suck for us Arizonans. AZ Secretary of State (and Republican) Jan Brewer would take over. With Republicans already controlling the state house and senate, that would pretty much leave Dems out in the cold on local issues. Thankfully, our national delegation of congressman now has more Dems than Republicans for the first time in 40 years.

  • Obviously, there is something wrong with Alaskans if they elected Sarah Palin, but how dense can you be if you just re-elected recently indicted, old crusty Ted Stevens to another term? Clueless. In the past few weeks, McCain and Palin called for him to step down. With Palin still being governor, guess who will be able to influence who would fill that seat if Stevens steps down or is kicked out? Yep, Palin. And rumors have been that she would even try to get in an election to fill that seat. Running some backwards state thousands of miles from us is one thing. Having her in Washington influencing legislation is a whole different thing.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Vote the Bible?

I was driving around the west valley today and saw a sign that proclaimed, "Vote the Bible". Not surprisingly, it was next to a sign that encouraged one to vote "Yes on 102", with 102 being Arizona's "one man, one woman marriage" ballot proposition.

I know what the author of the sign meant by Vote the Bible. They believe that the bible sanctions their bigotry (anti-gay laws), our country's imperialism (military), and allows the government to invade our privacy (right to choose).

Now, I obviously don't take my moral cues from the bible, but if I did, would I get the same ones? These people seem to care less about the teaching of Jesus and more about using the bible to justify their prejudice. Christians have been overwhelmingly aligned with modern conservatism. One of the heroes of modern conservatism is Ayn Rand, an utterly godless woman, against equality, who preached the value of selfishness. What does that say?

From the bible:

... gospel of Luke chapter 6, verse 30; Jesus tells us "Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask for them back." Jesus tells us in Luke 6:33 "But if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that? For even the sinners do the same." In Matthew 5:42 Jesus tells us to "Give to him who asks of you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away." A certain rich man approached Jesus and asked him what he must do to obtain eternal life? The savior answered first that he must keep the commandments. The rich man replied that he had kept them all from his youth. (Luke 18:18-21) However, the wealthy man was not ready for what Jesus told him next. "You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me." (Luke 18:22)

Sounds like if people truly took the bible literally, they'd be socialists.

Even the supposed condemnation of homosexuality in the bible is called into question - "... the same holiness code in Leviticus that prohibits men from lying with each other “as with a woman” also forbids the shaving of beards and the sowing of two kinds of seeds in the same field."

Sounds like a bunch of hypocrisy. People see what they want to see in the bible. Vote for who you want to vote for, but don't tell me it's because the bible told you to. If you hate gays and don't want to share, at least have the balls to be honest about it.

This great clip from The West Wing says it all: