Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Happy Holidays!

Girly Myspace Layouts
Seasons Greetings
Happy Diwali - the Festival of Lights
Happy St Nicholas Day
Happy Hanukkah
Blessed Yule ~ Winter Solstice
Merry Christmas
Happy Kwanzaa
Happy Boxing Day
and a prosperous New Year to all, as well as my apologies if I missed anything.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Sorry ~ We have been on journey...

...and will return soon!
Thanks for your patience and loyalty.

HOT Myspace Layouts

Friday, November 17, 2006

Silly man... Tits are for kids!

Ah, another great display of American ignorance and intolerance...

Delta Airlines actually kicked a woman off one of their planes for breast-feeding her baby.

Emily Gillette said she was discreetly breast-feeding her 22-month-old daughter on Oct. 13 as their flight prepared to leave Burlington International Airport. She said she was seated by the window in the next-to-last row, her husband was seated between her and the aisle and no part of her breast was showing.
"It embarrassed me. That was my first reaction, which is a weird reaction for doing something so good for a child," Gillette said Monday.

This issue is close to my heart {of course, but is also essential to the health and well-being of our children. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a lot to say on the issue, including:

Although economic, cultural, and political pressures often confound decisions about infant feeding, the AAP firmly adheres to the position that breastfeeding ensures the best possible health as well as the best developmental and psychosocial outcomes for the infant. Enthusiastic support and involvement opediatricianns in the promotion and practice of breastfeeding is essential to the achievement of optimal infant and child health, growth, and development.

I for the life of me, can not understand why we {the American public} continue to have thesridiculousus issues when other countries are fine with it. Wait... is it because people are S-T-U-P-I-D? I implore you to put down the beer, take off your blinders and get your head out of your conservative ass!

For more information on breastfeeding, mothers' issues or to sign the petition to tell Delta Airlines to get a clue and be supportive of breastfeeding mothers. {And tell Congress it's time to pass the Breastfeeding Promotion Act, which amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect breastfeeding mothers. Clearly this law is needed now!} Visit momsrising.org and take some action!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

In the words of Howard Dean...


Democrats took the House, the Senate and... Rumsfeld has resigned. Could today get any better?
... Impeachment, perhaps? ;)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What's on your beginner's mind? Election Day:

Have you or are you voting today?
If so, where?

Straight ticket or depends upon the race?

Are you voting on any amendments / resolutions?
If so, what?

Any comments?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Freaky Friday

November 3

1892 - The first successful automatic telephone system was introduced in Laporte, IN. Almond Strowger, the inventor, came up with the idea because the non-automatic system made it possible for his customers calls to be intercepted by his competitor. Strowger ran a funeral parlor.

1900 - The first National Automobile Show opened in Madison Square Garden in New York City. A total of 31 car makers put their autoware on display.

1934 - The first race track in California opened under a new parimutuel betting law. Bay Meadows, in San Mateo, is still a favorite of pony players in the Bay Area.

1941 - The classic Jerry Gray arrangement of String of Pearls was recorded by the Glenn Miller Orchestra - on Bluebird 78s. The recording featured the trumpet of Bobby Hackett.

1952 - Frozen bread was offered for sale for the first time. A supermarket in Chester, New York featured the stuff. It was an invention of a local baker who used the quick-freeze technology developed by Clarence Birdseye (of Birdseye frozen foods fame).

1953 - Nanette Fabray starred in the first color TV program to be sent coast to coast. The telecast, from the Colonial Theatre in New York City, was broadcast via WNBT, New York to Burbank, CA.

1953 - The Rules Committee of organized baseball restored the sacrifice fly (credited to a batter who flies out to drive in a run). The rule had not been used since 1939.

1956 - The classic MGM film, The Wizard of Oz, was first seen on television. The film cost CBS $250,000 to show. The movie was shown 18 times between 1956 and 1976, and you can probably catch it again no matter what year it is.

1957 - Sam Phillips, owner of legendary Sun Records in Memphis, TN, released Great Balls of Fire, by Jerry Lee Lewis. Looking carefully at the original label, one will find credit to Lewis and “his pumping piano.”

1960 - The Unsinkable Molly Brown, opened on Broadway. The play would become an American theater standard and a smashing career launch for Shirley MacLaine.

1962 - Billboard magazine dropped the “Western” from its chart title. The list has been known as Hot Country Singles ever since.

1964 - For the first time, residents of the District of Columbia were permitted to vote in a presidential election. The ratification of the 23rd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (in 1961) gave Washington, D.C. citizens the right to vote for President and Vice President of the United States (not for members of Congress, however). Before that (since 1936), D.C. residents had voted only for party officials and delegates to the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

1972 - Singers Carly Simon and James Taylor were married in Carly’s Manhattan apartment. The couple was said to be the highest-paid couple in the world -- next to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Carly and ‘Sweet Baby’ James would divorce years later, but we hear they are still good friends.

1975 - Actor David Hartman became coanchor of ABC’s Good Morning America. Hartman’s co-host was actress Nancy Dussault.

1979 - The Eagles had the number-one album in the U.S. The Long Run started a nine-week run at the top these tracks to remember: The Long Run, I Can’t Tell You Why, In the City, The Disco Strangler, King Of Hollywood, Heartache Tonight, Those Shoes, Teenage Jail, The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks and The Sad Cafe.

1986 - “The Fight for Fort Knox” was announced this day. ‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler and ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard agreed to duke it out in April, 1987. The two were guaranteed at least $23 million. (Leonard won in a 12-round split decision.)

1990 - Vanilla Ice was number one in the U.S. with the single Ice Ice Baby, from the album To the Extreme. “Ice Ice Baby Vanilla, Ice Ice Baby Vanilla...”

1992 - Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton (and running-mate Al Gore) easily defeated President George Bush and VP Dan Quayle to win the U.S. presidential election.

1996 - George Foreman won a 12-round unanimous decision over Crawford Grimsley in Tokyo. The aging (actually the oldest heavyweight champ) collected a purse of about $5 million.

2000 - Movies making their first U.S. runs this day: Charlie’s Angels, with Camerin Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu (the angels), Bill Murray and Sam Rockwell ; and The Legend of Bagger Vance, starring Will Smith, Matt Damon, Charlize Theron, J. Michael Moncrief and Bruce Mcgill.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Candy Corn... anyone?

Myspace Layouts

History and Customs of Halloween

Halloween is an annual celebration, but just what is it actually a celebration of? And how did this peculiar custom originate? Is it, as some claim, a kind of demon worship? Or is it just a harmless vestige of some ancient pagan ritual?

The word itself, "Halloween," actually has its origins in the Catholic Church. It comes from a contracted corruption of All Hallows Eve. November 1, "All Hollows Day" (or "All Saints Day"), is a Catholic day of observance in honor of saints. But, in the 5th century BC, in Celtic Ireland, summer officially ended on October 31. The holiday was called Samhain (sow-en), the Celtic New year.

One story says that, on that day, the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for the afterlife. The Celts believed all laws of space and time were suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living.

Naturally, the still-living did not want to be possessed. So on the night of October 31, villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily paraded around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.

Probably a better explanation of why the Celts extinguished their fires was not to discourage spirit possession, but so that all the Celtic tribes could relight their fires from a common source, the Druidic fire that was kept burning in the Middle of Ireland, at Usinach.

Some accounts tell of how the Celts would burn someone at the stake who was thought to have already been possessed, as sort of a lesson to the spirits. Other accounts of Celtic history debunk these stories as myth.

The Romans adopted the Celtic practices as their own. But in the first century AD, Samhain was assimilated into celebrations of some of the other Roman traditions that took place in October, such as their day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple, which might explain the origin of our modern tradition of bobbing for apples on Halloween.

The thrust of the practices also changed over time to become more ritualized. As belief in spirit possession waned, the practice of dressing up like hobgoblins, ghosts, and witches took on a more ceremonial role.

The custom of Halloween was brought to America in the 1840's by Irish immigrants fleeing their country's potato famine. At that time, the favorite pranks in New England included tipping over outhouses and unhinging fence gates.

The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes," made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul's passage to heaven.

The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree's trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree.

According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.

The Irish used turnips as their "Jack's lanterns" originally. But when the immigrants came to America, they found that pumpkins were far more plentiful than turnips. So the Jack-O-Lantern in America was a hollowed-out pumpkin, lit with an ember.

So, although some cults may have adopted Halloween as their favorite "holiday," the day itself did not grow out of evil practices. It grew out of the rituals of Celts celebrating a new year, and out of Medieval prayer rituals of Europeans. And today, even many churches have Halloween parties or pumpkin carving events for the kids. After all, the day itself is only as evil as one cares to make it.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Daylight Saving Time (Not Daylight "Savings" Time)

FYI: just in case you are as confused as most of us...
Daylight Saving Time Extended by Four Weeks in U.S. Starting in 2007:

August 8, 2005 Update: President Bush signed into law the Energy Policy Act, which extends Daylight Saving Time (DST) by four weeks from the second Sunday of March to end on the first Sunday of November. Extended Daylight Saving Time will begin in March 2007. See below for the new "spring forward, fall back" dates for the next few years.
Every spring we move our clocks one hour ahead and "lose" an hour during the night and each fall we move our clocks back one hour and "gain" an extra hour. But Daylight Saving Time (and not Daylight Savings Time with an "s") wasn't just created to confuse our schedules.

The phrase "Spring forward, fall back" helps people remember how Daylight Saving time affects their clocks. At 2 a.m. on the first Sunday in April, we set our clocks forward one hour ahead of standard time ("spring forward").

We "fall back" at 2 a.m. on the last Sunday in October by setting our clock back one hour and thus returning to standard time. The change to Daylight Saving Time allows us to use less energy in lighting our homes by taking advantage of the longer and later daylight hours. During the six-and-a-half-month period of Daylight Saving Time, the names of time in each of the time zones in the U.S. change as well. Eastern Standard Time (EST) becomes Eastern Daylight Time, Central Standard Time (CST) becomes Central Daylight Time (CDT), Mountain Standard Time (MST) becomes Mountain Daylight Tome (MDT), Pacific Standard Time becomes Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), and so forth.
Daylight Saving Time was instituted in the United States during World War I in order to save energy for war production by taking advantage of the later hours of daylight between April and October. During World War II the federal government again required the states to observe the time change. Between the wars and after World War II, states and communities chose whether or not to observe Daylight Saving Time. In 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act which standardized the length of Daylight Saving Time.

Arizona (except some Indian Reservations), Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa have chosen not to observe Daylight Saving Time. This choice does make sense for the areas closer to the equator because the days are more consistent in length throughout the year.

Other parts of the world observe Daylight Saving Time as well. While European nations have been taking advantage of the time change for decades, in 1996 the European Union (EU) standardized a EU-wide European Summer Time. This EU version of Daylight Saving Time runs from the last Sunday in March through the last Sunday in October.

In the southern hemisphere where summer comes in December, Daylight Saving Time is observed from October to March. Equatorial and tropical countries (lower latitudes) don't observe Daylight Saving Time since the daylight hours are similar during every season, so there's no advantage to moving clocks forward during the summer.

(Thanks about.com)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Mid-term elections '06

Did you know that until 1913, all of our U.S. Senators were chosen by the state legislatures, rather than elected by the people? That’s the way the "Founding Fathers" wanted it and it took the 17th amendment to change it. Today, about 1/3 of the 100 senators and all 435 representatives are up for re-election every two years. Yes, right in the middle of every president’s four year term in office, we up and hold an election that could turn the balance of political power in Congress upside-down.

This year voters will select 33 Senators (currently held by 18 Democrats and 15 Republicans) and all members of the House of Representatives (currently made up of 231 Republicans, 201 Democrats, 1 Independent and 2 vacancies).

So like many, I'm sure... I had never seen the importance of mid-term elections, until now!
2006 is marking a possible turning point for the House and the Senate, so I urge you to go V-O-T-E on November 7th. I will be making my first journey into the all important mid-term booth.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Silly Sunday...

Entertainment for today:

Political Cartoon Rorschach Test ~ Get a copy of your political profile

My results:
You are a pure, unabashed, die-hard Democratic loyalist. You are appalled by the way Republicans are turning America into a theocratic, corpo-fascist police state, and you'd gladly walk through a furnace in a gasoline suit to elect a Democratic president. In your view, there is no higher form of patriotism than defending America against the Republican Party and every intolerant, puritanical, imperialistic, greed-mongering, Constitution-shredding ideal for which it stands.

The George W. Bush Loyalty Quiz ~ 10 Questions to Test Your Allegiance to President Bush

I took it:
Your score is 0 on a scale of 1 to 10. You hate Bush with a writhing passion. You think he is an idiot, a liar, and a warmonger who has been an utterly incompetent, miserable failure of a president. Nothing would give you greater pleasure than seeing him impeached and run out of the White House, except maybe seeing him dragged away in handcuffs.

Courtesy of Bart Cop:

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Republican says what????

Past, Present (and I'm sure future) Republicans say the dumbest things:

From the "top" on down (way down)...

"I like my buddies from west Texas. I liked them when I was young, I liked them then I was middle-age, I liked them before I was president, and I like them during president, and I like them after president."
"Those who enter the country illegally violate the law."
"I can only speak to myself."
"I hope you leave here and walk out and say, 'What did he say?'"
"I'm a follower of American politics."
"I'm the master of low expectations."

--George W. Bush

"I don't know that atheists should be considered citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."
-- George Bush Sr.

"We see nothing but increasingly brighter clouds every month."
--Gerald Ford (president, 1974-1977), speaking to a group of Michigan businessmen about the economy.

"If you don't say anything, you won't be called on to repeat it."
--Calvin Coolidge, US President

"Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child."
--Dan Quayle, Former VP

"What I'm hearing which is sort of scary is that they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (chuckle) – this is working very well for them."
--Former First Lady Barbara Bush (on the hurricane evacuees at the Astrodome in Houston, Sept. 05 2005)

"I AM the federal government."
"Emotional appeals about working families trying to get by on $4.25 an hour
[the minimum wage in 1996] are
hard to resist. Fortunately, such families do not exist."
"Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?"
(to three young hurricane evacuees from New Orleans at the Astrodome in Houston, Sept 9 05)
--Tom Delay

"I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started."
"We do know of certain knowledge that he
[Osama Bin Laden]
is either in Afghanistan, or in some other country, or dead."
"Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war."

--Donald Rumsfeld

"I think that gay marriage should be between a man and a woman."
"The public doesn't care about figures."
-discussing his economic views
"Don't worry about that." -on the environment
--Arnold Schwarzenegger

"Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going relatively well."
--FEMA Director Michael Brown

"I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."
--Trent Lott

"We do many things at the federal level that would be considered dishonest and illegal if done in the private sector."
--Donald T. Regan, President Reagan'sChief of Staff

"The Internet is a gateway to get on the net."
--Bob Dole

"Wherever I have gone in this country, I have found Americans"
--Alfred Landon, Losing Republican Candidate 1936

"Half the world does not know the joy of wearing cotton underwear"
--Texas Sen. Phil Gramm

"My party is demonstrating that they are for states' rights unless they don't like what states are doing."
--Christopher Shays, Republican congressman of Connecticut (on the Schiavo case)

"There are so many women on the floor of Congress, it looks like a mall."
--Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL)

"I'll hire blacks as long as they can do the cotton-pickin' job."
--Evan Mecham (governor of Arizona, 1987-1988)

"We have every mixture you can have. I have a woman, two Jews, and a cripple."
--James Watt (Secretary of the Interior, 1981-1983), describing an Interior Department advisory group.

"Statistics show that teen pregnancy drops off significantly after age 25."
--Mary Anne Tebedo, Colorado state senator

"Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians." (at the Republican National Convention '92)
"Many of those people involved with Adolph Hitler were Satanists, many of them were homosexuals--the two things seem to go together."
--Pat Robertson, "The 700 Club"

(Sources include Dr. Politics, Political Humor at about.com, Stupid GOP Quotes and more)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

This Day in Women's History ~

Women's History for October 18th~
1541: Margaret Tudor died (sister of Henry VIII of England and grandmother of Mary, Queen of Scots)
1836: Ellen Scripps born (journalist, publisher, philanthropist; worked with U.S. Sanitary Commission and the Freedman's Bureau)
1849: Sarah Heston Rorer born (cookbook writer, cooking teacher, dietitian)
1881: Elizabeth Bagshaw born (physician, birth control advocate)
1889: Fannie Hurst born (writer, screenwriter)
1929: Women declared "persons" under Canadian law, in the " Persons Case"
1956: Martina Navratilova born (tennis player, gay rights advocate)
1947: Laura Nyro (Nigro) born (singer-songwriter)
1948: Ntozake Shange born (playwright, poet, writer)

Quote for Today~
The purpose of a woman's life is just the same as the purpose of a man's life: that she may make the best possible contribution to her generation.
— Louise McKinney

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Somewhere over the rainbow...

Happy National Coming Out Day!

People are shouting:
I'm Coming Out!

National Coming Out Day is an international event which gives gay, lesbian and bisexual people the opportunity to "come out" to others about their sexuality. It also provides a means of increasing the visibility of gay people. In the United States, the day is facilitated by the Human Rights Campaign's National Coming Out Project (NCOP).

The first National Coming Out Day was held on October 11, 1988. This date was chosen for the annual event in commemoration of the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It also marks the anniversary of the first visit of the AIDS Memorial Quilt to Washington, D. C.

Many communities and college campuses sponsor activitities such as dances, film festivals, workshops, literature booths, and rallies on National Coming Out Day.

Bringing Out The Dead

No doubt the news has traveled far and wide by now: the death toll for the Iraqis stemming from our invasion and occupation is many magnitudes greater than has been reported. A new study titled “The Human Cost of the War In Iraq” conducted by a joint team of doctors from Johns Hopkins University and Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad places the number at a ghastly 654,965. From the study:

Death rates were 5.5/1,000/year pre-invasion, and overall, 13.2/1,000/year for the 40 months post-invasion.We estimate that through July 2006, there have been 654,965 “excess deaths”—fatalities above the pre-invasion death rate—
in Iraq as a consequence of the war. Of post-invasion deaths, 601,027 were due to violent causes. Non-violent deaths rose above the pre-invasion level only in 2006. Since March 2003, an additional 2.5% of Iraq’s population have died above what would have occurred without conflict.

This study was conducted by the same research group that did the 2004 study reported in the British medical journal The Lancet; a report which estimated 100,000 casualties then and was lambasted by the conservative media for its supposedly “flawed methodology”. Unfortunately for the Pro-War crowd, it looks like that first study wasn’t so far off the mark after all:

Since the 2006 survey included the period of time contained in the 2004 survey, we could compare these two results for the time frame from January 2002 through August 2004. In 2004 we estimated that somewhere in excess of 100,000 deaths had occurred from the time of the invasion until August 2004. Using data from the 2006 survey to look at the time included in the 2004 survey, we estimate that the
number of excess deaths during that time were about 112,000.

That these two surveys were carried out in different locations and two years apart from each other yet yielded results that were very similar to each other, is strong validation of both surveys.

Given that, according to General Tommy Franks, the U.S. “doesn’t do body counts” it seems awfully hard to believe that The Decider could come up with a number so far off from this study. Yet he did just that, as CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux pointed out during this morning’s presser:

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN: Thank you, Mr. President. Back on Iraq, a group of American and Iraqi health officials today released a report saying that 655,000 Iraqis have died since the Iraq war. That figure is 20 times the figure that you cited in December at 30,000. Do you care to amend or update your figure and do you consider this a credible report?

PRESIDENT BUSH: No, I don’t control it a credible report, neither does General Casey and neither do Iraqi officials. I do know that a lot of innocent people have died and it troubles me and grieves me. And I applaud the Iraqis for their courage in the face of violence. I am, you know, amazed that this is a society which so wants to be free that they’re willing to — you know, that there’s a level of violence that they tolerate.

Now, I’ve read the entire study, including the appendices, and I’m very curious as to just why Bush, Casey and the ubiquitous “Iraqi officials” doubt the findings. Do they challenge the statistical model used? If so, I’d like to see that critique spelled out in detail. Do they have a better study that gives a more accurate portrayal of the death toll? Again, that information needs to be made public. We live in a putative democracy and are responsible for the violence our government commits. We have a right and a responsibility as Americans to know, as do the Iraqis.

Or could it be that what Bush, Casey and the Unknown Iraqi Officials really doubt is the political expediency of admitting to the American people and the world that this debacle has cost hundreds of thousands of lives? I certainly realize that we never went to Iraq with any intention of helping anyone but the Republican party and the Neo-conservative fantasy worldview. But many conservatives are still deluding themselves that we're on some sort of mission from God to save Iraq from itself. 650,000 dead sure sucks all the humanity right out of that humanitarian mission, does it not?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Always Be A Good Boy, Don't Ever Play With Guns

Words by Mr. Johnny Cash that a certain Wisconsin State Representative, Frank Lasee of Green Bay, would do well to heed. Representative Lasee is the genius behind the Doc Holliday theory of stopping school violence: arm the teachers. From WisPolitics:

“To make our schools safe for our students to learn all options should be on the table,” said Lasee. “Israel and Thailand have well trained teachers carrying weapons and keeping their children safe from harm. It can work in Wisconsin.”

Boy, is that ever a huge gamble Representative Lasee is making with the lives of our children. There are more unpleasant variables in his plan than a weeks worth of Algebra 2 homework. For one, any time more weapons are introduced into a school, the greater the chance for accidental violence. Lasee proposes having the firearms locked up until needed, which would virtually negate their swift use in an emergency anyway. Another problem is the potential for the guns to get into a student’s hands. No school is a maximum security institution; they are one of the most common targets of mischief break-ins. Yet another big variable is the possibility of collateral damage. While Representative Lasee and his NRA owners would certainly like everyone to forget it, the fact is that most of our gun control laws are designed to protect innocent victims. There’s a reason Wild West shoot-outs were made illegal and it wasn’t because liberals wanted Wyatt Earp’s gun.

Also, the United States bears little enough resemblance to Thailand and Israel. Both of those nations took to arming teachers for the teachers’ protection, especially in Thailand. The idea was not to create an army of paramilitary educators but rather a line of personal defense against the very real threat of terrorism in those countries. The U.S. is dealing with a completely different school violence problem here and trying to address it as a terrorist issue is a terrible misread. Not everyone who commits violence is a terrorist and not every violence problem has an anti-terrorism solution. Violently disaffected youth, like Harris and Clebold, or deranged nuts like Charles Carl Roberts IV act in an entirely different moral framework from a Palestinian suicide bomber.

Another gem from Lasee:

“In Israel and Thailand several lives have been saved because criminals don’t want to attack schools where well-trained marksmen and women may return fire.”

Does Representative Lasee honestly believe that armed teachers will be a deterrent to some kid who turns the wrong corner in his head and decides to shoot up his school? Again, these are not calculated acts of terrorism but rather the playing out of twisted rage from demented minds. Lasee certainly understands this, which is why what he’s really suggesting here is that schools will be safer because teachers and administrators may be able to maim or kill potential assailants. The issue, again, of collateral damage notwithstanding, that’s an incredible amount of discretion to be granting our educators and school administrators. I’m only barely on board with our law enforcement officials having life-or-death discretion in matters; adding thousands of more people with that power and introducing them into an environment as stressful and unpredictable as a high school is a disastrous idea. What will Representative Lasee say, assuming his plan passes the Legislature, when an overreacting teacher shoots the first innocent child by mistake? It’s inevitable; it will happen. Is that a price Wisconsin is willing to make it’s children pay in order for the illusion of safety, as safety bought with potential violence is always illusory? Not for me, not for my children…

It's Only The End Of The World...Again

I doubt anyone can truly claim to be shocked by North Korea’s atomic bomb test on Sunday. After all, it’s been largely a matter taken on faith since at least 2000 that Kim Jong Il had or was developing nuclear weaponry. While Bush’s Asix of Evil was only so much empty-headed political rhetoric designed to reinforce his paperback fiction view of the world, the regime of North Korea and its aims are deadly serious.

However, as with nearly every international crisis of the last six years, the Republicans in Washington and their mouthpieces are hard at work building North Korea’s actions into a roiling thunderhead of pants-wetting terror, cunningly brewed to send average conservatives screaming in terror to the polls in November. Fox “News” today was a veritable smorgasbord of unearthly chills. Shiny CGI missiles exploding over California, launched by the platform-heeled tyrant of Pyongyang but handily intercepted by that most glorious of all Republican boondoggles: the missile defense shield. Guest after guest postulated about the possibility of military action, shoving aside all obligation and consequences of that “other war” in a place, unlike North Korea, where weapons of mass destruction don’t actually exist. The fear and hysteria was palpable, as were the furtive whispered prayers by the rightwing punditry for a new war that would be everything the last isn’t. Never mind that our war with North Korea never really ended, nor the pervasive experience of mankind that demonstrates how war is never what politicians and pundits plan it to be. Never mind any of that because fear sells and fills ballot boxes.

As usual, the reality on the ground is not quite the same as the garish bleating of the conservative media sheep or their crooked GOP shepherds. North Korea is dangerous, certainly, but much more so to its neighbors than to the U.S. First of all, any hypothetical that demonstrates a North Korean missile attack on the west coast of the United States is assuming an entire library of facts not in evidence, the chief of which being a North Korean missile capable of delivering such a blow. Dr. David C. Wright, writing for the Union of Concerned Scientists, had the following to say about North Korea’s missile technology:

Assessments of North Korea’s military capability often portray North Korea as possessing a long-range nuclear missile capability, or as able to rapidly acquire one. This is not true.


North Korea has short-range variants of the Scud missile, with ranges up to 500-600 kilometers for a payload of 500 kilograms, that are well tested.

Of course, North Korea has, since that article was written, tested some long-range missiles. The results of those tests from May of this year, are telling: the long range Taepo Dong missile failed 35 seconds after launch. The bottom line is that while North Korea is certainly a danger to its neighbors and a destabilizing force in the region it, like every other enemy Bush chooses to name, is not a clear and present danger to the United States.

Which is actually not a surprise, given that Bush’s treatment of North Korea has been seriously at odds with his fiery rhetoric. For example, a summary by the Congressional Research Service from March 2003, lists the following as the Bush administration’s primary policy position on North Korea’s nuclear program:

(1) Continuing priority to Iraq: President Bush reportedly has said that he does not want two simultaneous crises. U.S. officials say they will rely on diplomacy and expect diplomacy to run well into 2003. They argue that North Korea’s actions do not constitute a crisis.

A rather muted reaction, given that North Korea is a much-ballyhooed member of Bush’s Axis of Evil and, unfortunately, actually does have the kinds of weapons programs that were used erroneously in selling the invasion of Iraq. It’s ironic, in an “Oops, there goes the planet” sort of way. North Korea may not be the doomsday army ready to trample apple pie and the American flag into the ground (Fox reserves that designation for Iran) but it is certainly many magnitudes a greater threat to the world than Iraq ever was. For all that Bush claims his job is protecting the American people (along with lecturing us like we’re all as stupid as he), apparently Bush doesn’t take his “job” very seriously at all. Almost as if he were nothing but an empty suit designed to raise campaign contributions for his father’s political allies…but I’ve said too much!

In all seriousness, a rekindling of the Korean War becomes a very real possibility after Sunday’s test. The drumbeat for war is page one of the GOP political hymnal and it looks to be a very ugly election year for God’s Own Party. Will it be the end of the world again, as Fox and its half-wit analysts claim? I hope not. I hope it’s all just more fear mongering by the Republicans in a vain hope to paper over their gross incompetence and ethical lassitude during the past 6 years. In any case, there’s no need for the GOP to scare us any further; just knowing that America’s fate in this time of crisis is in the hands of George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld is enough to tremble the stoutest heart.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Anarchy in the Pre-K

Our handsome son, Liam.

He is living up to his Anarchy in the Pre-K sweatshirt.
He also sports t-shirts that {accurately} read:
*I do my own stunts
*If you are close enough to read this, you are in my way
*Class Clown ~ Now Performing
*I'm definitely up to something

Liam is wild, crazy, stubborn, loves to test limits, brilliant and oh so funny! He has been known to teach adults how to use remote controls, can hook up a DVD player {and it works} and has mastered every child-proofing device out there!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Doing My Part... Promoting a Fair Wisconsin!

Marriage is finding that one person you want to annoy, for the rest of your life!

If you have been reading this lovely blog long, you should know that one of the causes that I am most passionate about, is gay marriage (and gay rights, in general). I am horrified by the insane amount of time and money that is wasted by our government, trying to deny citizens basic human rights!

365gay.com is one of the sites I check fairly often. I have been very pleased with how they have covered the Wisconsin issues. There are A LOT of us (heterosexuals) here in this state... Dedicated to supporting our GLBT brothers and sisters in their journey towards marriage (if they so choose). We are not all cheese hat wearing, cheap beer drinking, belching, farting, green and yellow, conservative bastards...

I love the ads
Fair Wisconsin has been running. Lynn's Story is so touching ~ you can view it off their site, if you're not lucky enough to live in America's Dairyland.
So, I am putting my money (or time) where my mouth is! Next Sunday I will start volunteering at Fair Wisconsin's LaCrosse office. The goal is to make sure people know if they support civil unions, they should oppose the ban!
This proposed amendment goes way beyond banning marriage for gay couples. It will also ban civil unions and threaten any legal protections for unmarried couples.
A majority of Wisconsinites support civil unions, which could offer many of the rights of marriage to gay couples. Statewide polls have shown that around 60% of people in our state support civil unions or marriage for gay couples. I wish it were more, but hey... the start will be making sure that this does NOT pass in November!

We love who we love... why shouldn't we ALL have the choice to make it "official"?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

American Justice?

Anyone doubting that there is a class divide in this country is likely a conservative, since class warfare, like racism, is a myth on the political right. However, for the rest of us, that divide, that gulf, is almost impassably wide and growing every day. Besides the economy, one of the many areas where that divide is most notable is in our judicial system.

First, the news, via RedOrbit.com:

More than 2 1/2 years after pleading guilty for his participation in Enron Corp.'s collapse, financial whiz Andrew Fastow's fate was to be revealed Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt was expected to give Fastow 10 years, which the former chief financial officer previously agreed to. Hoyt can't increase his sentence but could reduce it.

According to Fox "News" this afternoon, Fastow actually received a 6 year sentence, of which he'll serve probably half. Roughly a three-year prison sentence for Andrew Fastow, who's complicity in Enron’s criminal activity led to the following:

Enron, once the nation's seventh-largest company, crumbled into bankruptcy proceedings in December 2001 after years of accounting tricks could no longer hide billions in debt or make failing ventures appear profitable. The collapse wiped out thousands of jobs>, more than $60 billion in market value and more than $2 billion in pension plans.

Now, by comparison, here’s an example of another kind of criminal behavior. I have a friend who had repeated run-ins with the law over his marijuana habits. He like to use it, made money selling it and generally was not very good at not getting caught with it repeatedly. At the end of the day, he was charged with multiple felonies, including intent to distribute; charges which, all told, left an 11-year prison sentence hanging over my friend’s head, of which he was guaranteed to serve at least 6 in a state penitentiary here in Wisconsin.

Fortunately for my friend, Wisconsin has a drug court program that allows those facing prison time over drug offenses to eventually get those charges dismissed. It requires years of community service, counseling, fines and a basic surrender of a large chunk of one’s civil rights to the government, in exchange for the promise of a clean slate at the other end. My friend was fortunate enough to make it through to that clean slate; many don’t.

The point is this:

One of these men ruined thousands of people. He materially damaged their lives, costing them their livelihoods, their retirements and basically burned the corporate safety net many of us rely upon today in the absence of sensible government programs. This man caused untold emotional anguish to these thousands, leaving their futures uncertain at best, all while earning millions in the process. He helped largely destroy the 7th largest company in the United States, costing thousands of investors billions of dollars. At the end of the day, this man’s malfeasance caused economic damage on par with a natural disaster, and he’ll likely serve 3 years in a minimum security prison for his actions.

The other man was smoking weed a few times, once with a whole coffee can of it in the trunk. He claims he only sold it to other adults and committed no violent crimes of any kind in the process. He hurt no one physically or economically, save himself, and really did emotional harm only to those who know and love him. Even he doesn’t know how much money he actually made selling marijuana, but at the time he entered the drug court program he had no job, no car, no house; really, no assets or income of any kind. He was completely destitute. At the end of his day, he spent 3 years in a state drug court program, paying thousands of dollars in fines, surrendering to home searches, random drug tests, curfews, job restrictions and many other limits on his freedom. He lived every day with the threat of at least 6 years in a maximum security prison should he ever slip up even the tiniest bit.

Given all that, I pose the question:

Is this "justice" in any sense of the word?

Torture Deserves No Compromises

I am more than a little horrified to think that our nation is actually busy having a high-level debate (between certain Senators and the President, no less!) about how exactly to interpret the Geneva Conventions against torture. If there is any issue under the sun about which all Americans should be able to agree, it ought to be that we are universally against torture of any kind. After all, it’s awfully hypocritical for America to proclaim the supposed divinely inspired equality of all mankind while our President and Senate haggle over just how much inhuman cruelty it is permissible to visit upon our war detainees. Gone already is the presumption of innocence for these people, our fellow human beings. Their humanity was stripped away when they were convicted of being swarthy Middle Easterners in the presence of an American “War on Terror”. Their rights as human beings lie as mute casualties of our collective fear. No great nation can act this way and still claim greatness.

It’s not as though our nation doesn’t have experience with dehumanizing others and committing torture against them, either. I just watched Mississippi Burning again this weekend and was struck as powerfully as ever by how close our putatively free society sits to Nietzche’s abyss. We look into it again and again, seeing different strange faces over the years as whole segments of our society embrace hatred of that stranger. So it is again today, with the “War on Terror”. Too many Americans looked into the face of the evil that bled us on 9/11 and saw not a ragtag bunch of religious extremists who scored the ultimate sucker punch, but a roiling mass of existential evil bent on the destruction of free society. The Bush administration and its complicit Republican Congress whipped that fearful horse into a frenzied gallop, running campaigns and public policy on delusions of Al-Qaeda’s grandeur. And for those of us who were, and remain, skeptical about the breadth of the Islamic extremist threat, there has been nothing but contempt and attacks upon our patriotism. Bush and his sycophants in the rightwing media have used their bully pulpits and media megaphones to shout down dissent, sowing fear and hatred against the dreaded "Other" once again in America. Even the slightest voice of reason that penetrates that mighty Wurlitzer is welcome.

Which is why, I think, it was so easy for many liberals, against their better judgment, I hope, to give Senator John McCain and friends at least a somewhat interested ear when they began to question Bush's proposed dismantling of the Geneva Conventions. The legend of McCain’s moral individuality, his "maverick" status, is grossly undeserved yet one of the most persistent myths in Washington. McCain is, and always has been, a loyal conservative Republican with a penchant for talking a bigger game than he plays. He consistently votes with his party, regardless of his rhetoric in the policy debates. It should have been no surprise to anyone, liberals especially, that McCain would eventually agree to a "compromise"; which, among Republicans, means doing whatever Bush wants with a little phony political theatre to entertain the rubes. I don’t doubt John McCain is against torture, but I also don't doubt that he's much more invested in a Republican majority and a future McCain presidential administration than he is in a principled moral stand. We’ve been around this block too many times for me to believe that McCain and his fellows actually believe taking Bush and Hadley at their words is a compromise of any kind. It was election year politics and nothing more.

Given that it was nothing but strange Washington kabuki, the silence of the Democrats during this debate is possibly the most damning mark against us in some time. For a party that continually battles the well-worn conservative stereotype that Democrats do not stand by their principles, failing to vocally take a stand against gutting the Geneva Conventions may possibly be the worst political mistake the party’s made this election season. Even I am beginning to doubt whether the leadership of my party has any sort of grasp of what motivates American voters. Voices like Russ Feingold’s, who has been vocally against the Bush administration’s torture policies, are welcome, but Russ isn’t the prominent national voice that a Clinton or Reid is. The Democrats were largely silent, hoping that this might finally be the issue that splits the Republican party apart while again forgetting how passive-aggressive and opportunistic that approach appears to the voters. Torture should be a no-brainer issue for Democrats; they should have been shouting from the mountaintops about what a disgusting display of immoral hypocrisy the entire Republican debate was. National security is not the end that justifies all means, but the Republicans will continue to use it that way if their ambitions remain unchecked.

Instead, most of what we got from my Democratic party was similar to President Clinton's remarks on Meet the Press: a pragmatic support of the Geneva conventions. That’s not to say that defending the Conventions on a pragmatic basis is not worthwhile or effective; torture doesn’t work and its use does put Americans at risk. Unfortunately, the electorate does not vote on issues pragmatically. The Republicans, Bush and Rove especially, understand this very well. Rarely does Bush try and defend his policies from a practical point of view. Instead, it's high-minded rhetoric about "clashes of civilization", "good versus evil" and our "duty to history". While that approach is not intellectual and not very enlightening about the issues, it is effective in winning elections. And, at the end of the day, losing elections is the only thing that is going to stop movement conservatism from permanently damaging our democracy.

For my own part, I think the pragmatic arguments against torture are needless. Some issues can stand purely on their moral foundations. A ban against torture in any form is one such issue. The Geneva Conventions are writ broadly and somewhat vaguely on purpose: to force those abiding by them to question their governments’ policies on an ongoing basis. What Bush seeks to do, and what other violent authoritarians, such as Augusto Pinochet in Chile have sought to do, is define torture down to specifics in order to weaken the Geneva Conventions. There is no need for specific, delineated rules about torture for any nation, unless that nation wishes to know where the limit lies in order to walk as closely to it as possible. That, I believe, is what the Bush administration is attempting to do: set a standard so specific that it leaves a vast array of inhuman depravations legal. There should be no need for a debate on the pragmatic reasons against torture; the sickening, inhuman immorality of it should be the beginning an end for our nation, or any other. We have no claim to decency as a nation or a people otherwise.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Stern Warning

From Admiral Kirk and RedOrbit.com:

Almost every day, the great antennas of NASA's Deep Space Network turn to a blank patch of sky in the constellation Ophiuchus. Pointing at nothing, or so it seems, they invariably pick up a signal, faint but full of intelligence. The source is beyond Neptune, beyond Pluto, on the verge of the stars themselves.
It's Voyager 1. The spacecraft left Earth in 1977 on a mission to visit Jupiter and Saturn. Almost 30 years later, with the gas giants long ago seen and done, Voyager 1 is still going and encountering some strange things.

I know this seems cool, being the first man-made object to ever leave the solar system about 10 years hence, but read between the lines, people! When V’ger comes back looking for The Creator and James Dobson’s great, great, great, great, great grandson tries to beam up a King James Version, we’re all getting vaporized!

Send a letter to NASA and demand that they take action immediately. We cannot allow science to bring about the end of the world. That’s religion’s job…

Friday, September 22, 2006

Happy Autumnal Equinox & Congratulations to Lori and Jeffrey!

Friday evening marked the Autumnal Equinox and precisely at 11:03 Samurai Sam officiated a beautiful wedding ceremony, uniting Lori & Jeffrey. Please send them your best wishes for a long and happy life, together!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

As Insubstantial As A Dream

I had to drop in for just a few minutes and talk about this whole dust-up with the Pope, seeing how it's all over the news still. I have to admit that I don't understand what the big deal is exactly. Benedict is a firm believer in a strict constructionist view of Vatican 2; which means he clearly believe Islam to be an inferior religion to Christianity. I would wager that most of the 80% of Americans who are Christian feel the same way. There is an enormous amount of ignorance in the Western world about Islam, and it's been an especially virulent ignorance since 9/11. This whole situation seems to me another symptom of that ignorance, agitated by a man who clearly ought to know better diplomacy than to quote a 14th century ideologue's insult of Islam. If anyone should know that the eyes of the world are upon them, it's the Pope.

Personally, I find it hard to fathom a much less substantial argument than one that centers around whose faith is superior. As an atheist, it seems to me the most pointless debate possible; the nature of the unknowable. How many angels are dancing on the head of this pin, and which magic man holds it in his hand, the Jew or the Arab? As if world events should truly turn on such questions...

Further, all the phony outrage on both sides is ridiculous. What do Muslims care what the Pope says? And why does the Western world care so much about what offends a tiny fringe group of Muslims? The "clash of civilizations" is nothing but a weird pantomime; pretend slights and feigned offense. It's really quite strange...

[I will be back to regular posting soon, assuming my career doesn't kill me. - S. Sam]

The Youngest of the bunch turns 1!

On September 8, 2005 our lives changed. We were graced with the presence of our beautiful Cecelia Rose. 9 lbs 4 oz, 20 inches of pure sweetness!

A million dollar smile... and she's just a year old! Wow... can you imagine two? three? thirteen?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Rumors of the Samurai’s Death: Unfounded

It has been determined that the famed Samurai Sam is alive and well! He is currently working on some top-secret projects (4 presentations for the man, this week) and an “underground” wedding ceremony (two liberals will be joined in holy or un-holy matrimony this Friday).

We will return with more insights into the world and criticisims of the conserative view, soon. Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Email From Outer Wingnuttia: Local Trouble Edition

I'm often amazed at life's little coincidences. For example, the email I'm about to answer below. It's fascinating because it's actually from one of my co-workers, though I'm fairly certain he doesn't realize that Samurai Sam is laboring away for the very same corporate overlord as this erstwhile critic of my liberal leanings. Since this gentleman was nice enough to email me, I thought I'd post a response. Who knows? He may even be back to read it...


Bigotry Comes in Many forms; some blatant some subtle.

I agree, and they're all detestable.

How interesting that you blast people like Pat Buchanan and the mayor of Arcadia for their views, while at the same time profiting by allowing someone like "Ishkur" sell his wares on your website.

I consider "blasting Pat Buchanan" my patriotic duty as an American. He's an under-cover racist, seeking to forward the same agenda as notables like the Aryan Anarchist Skins while couching his goals in "reasonable" language (though the cracks will show when old Pat is pressed; he's nothing if not an angry bigot). As for the mayor of Arcadia: well, he's just another typical, small-town bigot, so ignorant and fearful of those different from he that he abuses the office of mayor in an effort to cater to his own prejudices. His entire racist platform is nothing but disaffected bar talk; the bitching of losers too busy grubbing in the muck of their own insignificance to wake up and see the beauty of our diverse world. Arcadia, like many small, white Midwestern towns, is experiencing the growing pains and uncertainty that come from a sudden influx of immigrants. It was no different back in the 19th century when Norwegians flooded the area. However, had the mayor even an ounce of integrity, he'd have used his position to foster fraternity and understanding between the old white community and the new Mexican one. That he chose the path he did says much about his character, or rather the lack thereof.

Finally, I posted "Ishkur's" Intelligent Design poster because I thought it was funny. If he/she made money from one of my readers, great! Good work deserves rewards.

Today's poster highlight shines the spotlight on the ridicule of people who believe that the Intelligent Design theory can reasonably answer more questions about our origin and development than the evolution theory.

No, it doesn't, nor was that my intention. It's a free country and a free people are allowed to believe whatever they choose to believe. However, that doesn't mean Intelligent Design is anything other than a half-baked attempt to circumnavigate the Second Amendment and get Biblical Creationism into public schools. It's not science, it's marginal theology and it fails to offer anything of use in understanding the natural world.

Intelligent Design doesn't answer any question, except for "What's a name for a political boondoggle designed to pollute our public science education with phony religious nonsense?" The theory of evolution is one of the best tested and researched scientific theories we have and just because it doesn't fit with a literal interpretation of Old Testament mythology doesn't make it any less the bedrock theory of numerous modern scientific disciplines. But, again, everyone's free to believe whatever they want. Just don't expect me to give weight and credence to whatever bit of mystical whimsy is in vogue today's conservative theists.

You don't appreciate the views of some currently in the headlines; neither do I.

True, I don't appreciate those advocating for a new segregation by immmigration status, endless unjustified and unwinnable war in the Middle East or a virtual Christian theocracy here at home. That's what you were going to say too, right?

But don't be a hypocrite and ridicule others or allow others to be ridiculed because of their disbelief in evolution.

Sorry, but I reserve the right to ridicule anyone I feel deserves it, just as they have the right to ridicule me in return. As a secular humanist in an overwhelmingly Christian country, I know all about having the minority view on matters metaphysical, so don't play the poor Christian victim card here. There is nothing hypocritical about my being dismissive of Creationism; I'm just as dismissive of astrology and witchcraft as well. The universe is an amazing place; adding a gaudy veneer of mysticism to it is like spray-painting a smiley face on the Venus de Milo.

And I'm spent...

I have to say that, as far as critical emails go, this one was pretty decent. Calling me a hypocrite and implying that I'm as bigoted as Pat "What white hood?" Buchanan is child's play for what we normally see on these here internets...

Monday, September 11, 2006

I Remember...

I remember September 11, 2001. Oh, I've been accused many times of "forgetting" it, especially by people who think they somehow own the symbology of that day; the identity of it. But I remember it uncoupled from the lies and the wars that followed. I remember the day as it was, a day of tremendous shock and sorrow.

I was actually on the Metra when the first jet crashed into the North Tower. That would be the suburban commuter train that took us low ranking corporate functionaries from our middle class townhomes in Carol Stream or Hanover Park to the Chicago Loop. I slept the whole way to Union Station, much as I did every day. A beautiful morning walk, a stop at the Corner Bakery, a day like any other. But only for awhile.

I was working for a small real estate firm on Wacker Drive at that time and, upon arriving to work and getting settled into my office, decided to wander off to the complementary coffee break room. There I ran into our corporate accounting manager, who casually remarked how he'd heard that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I imagined a single prop airplane, some lost or drunk pilot carelessly joyriding and causing a spectacle on that beautiful morning. It was so easy to be that naive then.

But not for long. Soon other folks began to arrive at the office with terrible tales to tell. War! An attack on New York City. Several of us tuned in to Mancow (Rush Limbaugh with a sense of humor) just in time to hear of the second attack, this time claiming the south tower. Soon news reports were blaring across the airwaves, talk of terrorists and hijackings nationwide. See, no one knew in those few hours what the terrible scope of the attacks were nor if there were more to come. It was taken as an almost certainty that Chicago and maybe L.A. were in immediate danger. At the behest of Mayor Daley, many of us began trying to evacuate the Loop, glancing furtively at the skyline and wondering if we were about to see it as it was for the last time.

The most poignent moment of 9/11 for me came in that chaotic exodus. Thousands upon thousands of people streamed towards the train stations, wanting desperately to escape home, to comfort and sanity. Reports screamed out over the radio of panic and confusion at the Sears Tower and the Hancock building. As I half-walked, half-ran towards Union Station, a single, clarifying moment occurred. A low-flying jet, banking over Chicago, it's engines roaring. I watched thousands of people turn their gazes to the sky at once and then, reflexively, duck as they ran, believing, as I certainly did, that we were about to witness first-hand what we'd all been hearing about that morning. The sky was a perfect blue as that silver arrow eased lazily over the Chicago skyline and escaped north over the Miracle Mile.

And then it was over, the spell broken. We had been given a reprieve, been spared the agony of New York and Washington. Thousands of people packed the Metra and CTA, so many that the doors wouldn't close. I arrived home after being trapped standing for an hour and a half to Hanover Park. I watched on CNN the constant replay of the attacks and, later, the gut-wrenching agony of the towers' collapse. Gifted-1 and I spoke several times on the phone that morning, she from work near O'Hare and me from home, as fighter jets rumbled over head. They would be the last jets we'd hear for many days; an air-traffic silence over the greater Chicago area that was, in its way, just as unsettling as the attacks. It had the feeling of a changed America, an America under attack by an enemy many of us didn't realize we had...


In retrospect, the saddest part of 9/11 for me, beyond the death and destruction, was Al-Qaeda's success. They sought to terrify the American people, to cow us into believing that our freedom was a liability to our safety. And so many believed them; still believe them. Maybe now, this five years on, we can step back from that abyss and remember that we've always had enemies and our oceans have never protected us from them. The only existential threat we face is from within, not from the hills of Afghanistan or alleys of Baghdad. Al-Qaeda can do nothing to our nation that we don't allow, save bleed us a little. And we've always bled for our way of life; it's worth a little blood now and then.

Friday, September 08, 2006

There's No Such Thing As A "Docu-Drama"!

I just caught a second or two of Fox "News" as I was fetching some coffee this morning and heard what I had been expecting for days concerning ABC's "The Path to 9/11" RNC campaign commercial...err..."docu-drama": a justification comparing it to Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11". Some lovely coiffed but intellectually vacant Fox commenter opined, and I quote as nearly as I can remember: "Democrats certainly weren't up in arms about Michael Moore's "docu-drama" blaming Bush for 9/11". The quote is surely not exact but it captures the flavor of what she meant even if I made part of it up. ABC's new standards for integrity are good enough for "A Beginner's Mind", right? Apparently there's an ethical exception to the truth as long as something can be called a "docu-drama", which is what this young spokesmodel for movement conservatism actually called Moore's documentary.

The differences between "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "The Path to 9/11" are many and no doubt the conservative talking heads pushing this bogus argument understand and are attempting to obscure those differences. Let's explore a few of them to see why Fox remains on the cutting edge of fabricated news...

First of all, "Fahrenheit 9/11" is a documentary, not some meaningless pop-culture doublespeak term of no substance. Moore's film, which I have seen, takes a huge amount of factual information and then draws conclusions from it that are open to debate. It's certainly an opinion piece but those opinions are drawn on well-documented factual information. At no time does Moore create events out of whole cloth the way ABC's "docu-drama" does, such as the "Sandy Berger refusing to go after Osama bin Laden" scene that's elicited letters from former Clinton administration personnel. "Fahrenheit 9/11" is a documentary which draws opinionated conclusions based on actual facts. "The Path to 9/11" is an historical fiction that attempts to re-write history to match what the GOP wishes had happened. They want to absolve Bush of all responsibility for the mistakes made by his office, while casting the blame for the worst terrorist attack in history onto the one President with the best anti-terrorism record of any we've had. I guess we'll have to scratch "integrity" and "accountability" off the list of those much vaunted "conservative values" about which we hear so much...

Second, Moore didn't advertise "Fahrenheit 9/11" as anything other than what it was: an opinionated documentary. He made no bones about his disgust with the Bush administration. "The Path to 9/11", on the other hand, has continually been marketed as an unbiased look at the events leading up to 9/11 based on the 9/11 Commission report, which is patently untrue. Notables such as Richard Clark, the former anti-terrorism director under Bush, has himself said that the movie presents scenes which are complete fabrications. This, along with the fact that only rightwing blogs and media outlets were allowed an advanced screening, surely indicates that "The Path to 9/11" has a clear and intentional agenda which ABC is deliberately trying to hide.

Finally, ABC, like several other major networks, refused to air "Fahrenheit 9/11" when it was released, deeming it to be too "politically charged". That much hypocrisy almost speaks for itself. Apparently being "too politically charged" is OK as long as it's the "right" politics. Disney (ABC's parent company) no doubt loves those Bush tax cuts and, thus, has a very vested interest in making sure nothing unfortunate, like, for instance, the democratic process, happens to that corporate welfare.

As a matter of course, I don't see anything so much wrong with ABC airing it's historical fiction about 9/11 as much as I mind how ABC is marketing this mess. ABC, sans Monday Night Football, is now easily the most useless non-Fox "News" station on the cable dial. If they wanted to air a GOP-approved mini-series about 9/11 for their hundreds of viewers, more power to them. But they must present it for what it is: a poor conservative's History Channel special.

[Lazy Blogger's Note: Rather than populate this post with 50 links to Atrios, I'll just suggest that anyone interested in doing so can use Eschaton as a works-cited page for all things related to this "docu-drama".]

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Two Economies

Christy at firedoglake has a post up about the economy's role in election year politics which contains a graphic demonstrating the nationwide decline in median wages. She references John Edwards' speeches about "The Two Americas" that he gave during the 2004 election. In them he laid the groundwork for an old-fashioned populist campaign targeted at the working class, which I hope we see again next year. The rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer and the middle class is dwindling away as a result.

Yet every indication from the talking heads in the media and from the White House is that the economy is doing just swimmingly. And, from a certain perspective, the Republicans are actually somewhat right in that assessment of the economy (insert your own "stopped clock" joke here). The economy does continue to add jobs, inflation is higher than the Greenspan days but still quite low at around 3%, productivity growth continues, oil prices are declining and the stock market continues on a growth trend begun in June. Those are all positive signs of economic growth, yet anxiety about the economy remains the number one concern of American voters. Why?

The answer lies behind the numbers, as it often does. Every measure of economic growth that Republicans like to trumpet have one thing in common: they are good news to wealthy investors and capitalists but not terribly meaningful to the vast majority of Americans. Yes, business and equity growth is good for the country in the long term. I certainly don't dispute that. But a closer look shows that the benefits of all this growth really are not "trickling down" as a certain sainted Republican president once mendaciously claimed.

Job Growth

The latest jobs report indicates that the economy added about 119,000 jobs over the last month, which is certainly growth. Problem is, economists estimate that the U.S. requires roughly 250,000 new jobs per month to cover population growth and immigration. This means that fewer jobs are being created in the short term than will be needed in the long term. Thanks to the basics of supply vs. demand, this slowed growth puts downward pressure on wages. More workers than jobs means employers have an even heavier upper hand at the wage bargaining table than usual. Good news if you're a wealthy investor or capitalist; not so much if you're a working stiff already facing declining wages.

Low Inflation

Much of our collective worry in America about inflation stems from the 1973 oil crisis, which caused a steep and sudden downturn in our economy. That recession in turn led to a situation where fuel costs drove inflation higher while overall economic growth stagnated. This dreaded one-two punch, called "stag-flation" by many (personally, I hate the term), led to a new conceptualization of the role of government in monetary policy. In effect, the Federal Reserve began using its power to set the federal funds lending rate as a way to head off inflation. And it worked...sort of. The downside to Greenspan's success in holding down inflation is that wage growth is viewed as a key component of the same, while corporate profits are not. Meaning that efforts to hold down inflation often also stagnate or even depress wages, while giving investors a higher rate of return on their holdings. The rich get richer, etc...

Productivity Growth

Productivity growth is the golden goose of Republican supply-side economics. It's certainly what every modern economy wants: proof positive that its economic infrastructure is trending towards greater efficiency and optimal use of resources. However, there is perhaps no other aspect of economic growth that is more "Jekyll & Hyde" in regards to the "Two Americas" than productivity growth. For as long as wages are declining and productivity is growing, the working class is essentially being exempted from the fruits of their labor. The work force is producing more products and services more efficiently and yet receiving a diminishing piece of the economic pie. In fact, it's arguable whether or not this can even properly be called "growth" rather than just a redistribution of wealth from the working class to the investor class. Sadly, a rising tide in this case most certainly does not raise all ships.

Declining Oil Prices

Truly, a mixed bag, are oil prices. A softening of oil prices is certainly an economic plus in almost any respect. Fuel costs directly impact the poorest people the most, as costs for transportation and heating are only elastic to a point. After all, no matter how expensive gas gets here in the Dairy State, I still have to drive my 75 mile commute each day and keep Gifted-1 and the padawans toasty in the winter. Businesses can and do pass that cost through to the consumer, which is regressively damaging down the economic spectrum.

However, in the long term, low oil prices have led us to many of the problems we have today. High pollution rates, inefficient vehicles and a dearth of technologically advanced alternatives are just a few. Our dependence on cheap oil requires us to micro-manage the global oil market, as we represent 25% of the world's consumption. Anyone doubting that America's involvement in the Middle East revolves around this economic reality is fooling themselves. High oil prices encourage conservation and research into alternative technologies. These alternatives help the environment, create new industries, new jobs and advance our scientific and technological prowess. Plus, they begin to ameliorate our need to be directly involved in nations whose people are largely hostile to us after decades of exploitative U.S. energy policy. It's also worth noting that high oil prices actually help a fairly good size chunk of our investor class and work force, in the form of record profits for some of the world's largest corporations. A tough call; I lean towards the long view in that higher oil prices are better, though I think it's high time Big Oil shared some of those profits more equitably. Feel free to use the comments section to explain how wrong I am...

Stock Market Growth

Of all the economic statistics touted by conservative news outlets as signs of a great economy, nothing gets more press time than the stock market. All other indices may be trending negative, but as long as the Dow Jones and NASDAQ close higher, the conservative media is bullish. If you can stand the banality, just watch Fox's "The Cost of Freedom" on Saturday sometime to see this in action. Stock market gains bring out the Marie Antoinettes of the investor class; the plebes can just eat cake as long as that portfolio is growing. The stock market is never a particularly good indicator of anything other than the relative demand for equities. Stocks have long been the best performing investment vehicle over the long term, with a level of risk that is accordingly higher. However, outside of a possible 401(k), the vast majority of Americans either do not invest in stocks or have such paltry positions compared to the overall market as to be largely inconsequential. The market can rise or decline independently of other economic news in the short term, which means that all the face-time granted to the shallow market analysis given on cable news shows is almost entirely faux-intellectual mind candy for conservatives. It bolsters a certain impression of the economy that is largely meaningless in any practical sense to most of the country.

At the end of the day, the question arises again as to whether we're really experiencing economic growth when the vast majority of Americans are being excluded from the benefits of such. The practical effect of declining wages and growing productivity is a redistribution upwards of economic wealth. How much practical meaning does such growth even have when the vast majority of the country is excluded? An even better question would be what do we, as working class voters, need to do in order to rectify this inequality? Edwards rhetoric aside, it doesn't seem as if either political party has done much to help the situation. Republican fiscal policy sees wealth concentration as a positive goal, while Democratic policy seems lost in a post-populist wilderness. I firmly believe that if the Democratic party could only internalize "The Two Americas" into its policy platform, we could turn a close win in November into a bloodbath.

The alternative, the Republican fiscal path, leads down a very dark road eventually. Democracy and aristocracy cannot exist together for long, and the over-arching characteristic of aristocratic economic systems is a lack of opportunity for all but the wealthy. The day that most Americans finally realize that the "Land of Opportunity" has disappeared will signal a fundamental change in our social dynamic, one that could lead to some very ugly, though ultimately necessary, conflicts.

That day is fast approaching...

Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Thing Of Beauty

Yeah, I know everyone else has already linked to or reprinted this, but it's such an exquisite beauty I cannot, in good conscience, refrain from sharing it here. Keith Olbermann reminds us all what it is to be an American. And most certainly what it isn't.

Feeling morally, intellectually confused?

The man who sees absolutes, where all other men see nuances and shades of meaning, is either a prophet, or a quack.

Donald H. Rumsfeld is not a prophet.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s remarkable speech to the American Legion yesterday demands the deep analysis—and the sober contemplation—of every American.

For it did not merely serve to impugn the morality or intelligence -- indeed, the loyalty -- of the majority of Americans who oppose the transient occupants of the highest offices in the land. Worse, still, it credits those same transient occupants -- our employees -- with a total omniscience; a total omniscience which neither common sense, nor this administration’s track record at home or abroad, suggests they deserve.

Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s blood of human freedom; and not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as “his” troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq.
It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile it is right and the power to which it speaks, is wrong.

In a small irony, however, Mr. Rumsfeld’s speechwriter was adroit in invoking the memory of the appeasement of the Nazis. For in their time, there was another government faced with true peril—with a growing evil—powerful and remorseless.

That government, like Mr. Rumsfeld’s, had a monopoly on all the facts. It, too, had the “secret information.” It alone had the true picture of the threat. It too dismissed and insulted its critics in terms like Mr. Rumsfeld’s -- questioning their intellect and their morality.

That government was England’s, in the 1930’s.

It knew Hitler posed no true threat to Europe, let alone England.
It knew Germany was not re-arming, in violation of all treaties and accords.
It knew that the hard evidence it received, which contradicted its own policies, its own conclusions — its own omniscience -- needed to be dismissed.
The English government of Neville Chamberlain already knew the truth.
Most relevant of all — it “knew” that its staunchest critics needed to be marginalized and isolated. In fact, it portrayed the foremost of them as a blood-thirsty war-monger who was, if not truly senile, at best morally or intellectually confused.

That critic’s name was Winston Churchill.

Sadly, we have no Winston Churchills evident among us this evening. We have only Donald Rumsfelds, demonizing disagreement, the way Neville Chamberlain demonized Winston Churchill.

History — and 163 million pounds of Luftwaffe bombs over England — have taught us that all Mr. Chamberlain had was his certainty — and his own confusion. A confusion that suggested that the office can not only make the man, but that the office can also make the facts.

Thus, did Mr. Rumsfeld make an apt historical analogy.
Excepting the fact, that he has the battery plugged in backwards.
His government, absolute -- and exclusive -- in its knowledge, is not the modern version of the one which stood up to the Nazis.

It is the modern version of the government of Neville Chamberlain.

But back to today’s Omniscient ones.

That, about which Mr. Rumsfeld is confused is simply this: This is a Democracy. Still. Sometimes just barely.
And, as such, all voices count -- not just his.

Had he or his president perhaps proven any of their prior claims of omniscience — about Osama Bin Laden’s plans five years ago, about Saddam Hussein’s weapons four years ago, about Hurricane Katrina’s impact one year ago — we all might be able to swallow hard, and accept their “omniscience” as a bearable, even useful recipe, of fact, plus ego.

But, to date, this government has proved little besides its own arrogance, and its own hubris.

Mr. Rumsfeld is also personally confused, morally or intellectually, about his own standing in this matter. From Iraq to Katrina, to the entire “Fog of Fear” which continues to envelop this nation, he, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, and their cronies have — inadvertently or intentionally — profited and benefited, both personally, and politically.

And yet he can stand up, in public, and question the morality and the intellect of those of us who dare ask just for the receipt for the Emporer’s New Clothes?
In what country was Mr. Rumsfeld raised? As a child, of whose heroism did he read? On what side of the battle for freedom did he dream one day to fight? With what country has he confused the United States of America?

The confusion we -- as its citizens— must now address, is stark and forbidding.
But variations of it have faced our forefathers, when men like Nixon and McCarthy and Curtis LeMay have darkened our skies and obscured our flag. Note -- with hope in your heart — that those earlier Americans always found their way to the light, and we can, too.

The confusion is about whether this Secretary of Defense, and this administration, are in fact now accomplishing what they claim the terrorists seek: The destruction of our freedoms, the very ones for which the same veterans Mr. Rumsfeld addressed yesterday in Salt Lake City, so valiantly fought.

And about Mr. Rumsfeld’s other main assertion, that this country faces a “new type of fascism.”

As he was correct to remind us how a government that knew everything could get everything wrong, so too was he right when he said that -- though probably not in the way he thought he meant it.

This country faces a new type of fascism - indeed.

Although I presumptuously use his sign-off each night, in feeble tribute, I have utterly no claim to the words of the exemplary journalist Edward R. Murrow.

But never in the trial of a thousand years of writing could I come close to matching how he phrased a warning to an earlier generation of us, at a time when other politicians thought they (and they alone) knew everything, and branded those who disagreed: “confused” or “immoral.”

Thus, forgive me, for reading Murrow, in full:

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty,” he said, in 1954. “We must remember always that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular.”

And so good night, and good luck.