Actually, I should thank them...

Hope y'all had a great Thanksgiving. I thoroughly enjoyed mine.  I ate, then slept, then woke up, then ate...  See a pattern here?  To the male of the species, Thanksgiving dinner is like sex.  We have little choice but to sleep afterwards.  
Spent the weekend putting up the tree and the lights.  Both pitiful, but ours.  
Had a nice first day back to work, charming little old ladies, and hot college chicks (for both of whom my fondness knows no bounds)
Then I get home and check my email.  Awaiting me was a little blurb with the words "Let's take back America before it's too late!" (those words are never a good sign, no matter who says them).  Attached was a link to a Youtube video (I will spare you that), replete with images of eagles, waving american flags...and teabaggers (why do I do this to myself?).  All of this was accompanied by a butchered version of "New York, New York" (for this alone, they should get whacked).

It was such an incredible piece of dreck, both in execution and intent, that my response was somewhat...testy.  I remember saying something about their inherent lack of credibility...the rest is a bit of a blur.  I was that pissed.

Liberalism and Conservatism.  The Ying and Yang that once made America great (or at least tolerable).  Look how they've gone and fucked up the balance.

And for that, they get from me a Chuck Heston sized "Damn you all to Hell!".

Rep. Alan Grayson is my new hero.

Rep Alan Grayson, D-Fl., opened a can of whup-ass on Republicans and a number of weak-kneed Democrats yesterday.  Listen up (the transcript follows).

Alan Grayson: "If the President has a BLT tomorrow, the Republicans will try to ban bacon."

"Madame Speaker, I have words for Democrats and Republicans tonight."

"Let's start with the Democrats"

"We as a party have spent the last six months, the greatest minds in our party, dwelling on the question, the unbelievably consuming question of how to get Olympia Snowe to vote on health care reform. I want to remind us all that Olympia Snowe was not elected President last year. Olympia Snowe has no veto power in the Senate. Olympia Snowe represents a state with one half of one percent of America's population."

"What America wants is health care reform. America doesn't care if it gets 51 votes in the Senate or 60 votes in the Senate or 83 votes in the Senate, in fact America doesn't even care about that, it doesn't care about that at all. What America cares about is this; there are over 1 million Americans who go broke every single year trying to pay their health care bills. America cares a lot about that. America cares about the fact that there are 44,780 Americans who die every single year on account of not having health care, that's 122 every day. America sure cares a lot about that. America cares about the fact that if you have a pre-existing condition, even if you have health insurance, it's not covered. America cares about that a lot. America cares about the fact that you can get all the health care you need as long as you don't need any. America cares about that a lot. But America does not care about procedures, processes, personalities, America doesn't care about that at all."

"So we have to remember that as Democrats, we have to remember that what's at stake here is life and death, enormous amounts of money, and people are counting upon us to move ahead. America understands what's good for America. America cares about health care, America cares about jobs, America cares about education, about energy independance, America does not care about processes politicians or personalities or anything like that."

"And I have a few words for my Republican friends tonight as well. I guess I do have some Republican friends."

"Let me say this; last week I held up this report here and I pointed out that in America there are 44,789 Americans that die every year according to this Harvard report published in this peer reviewed journal because they have no health insurance. That's an extra 44,789 Americans who die who's lives could be saved, and their response was to ask me for an apology."

"To ask me for an apology?"

"That's right. To ask ME for an apology!"

"Well, I'm telling you this; I will not apologize. I will not apologize. I will not apologize for a simple reason; America doesn't care about your feelings. I violated no rules by pulling this report to America's attention, I think a lot of people didn't know about it beforehand. But America DOES care about health care in America."

"And if you're against it, then get out of the way. Just get out of the way. You can lead, you can follow or you can get out of the way. And I'm telling you now to get out of the way."
"American understands that there is one party in this country that is favor of health care reform and one party that is against it, and they know why."

"They understand that if Barack Obama were somehow able to cure hunger in the world the Republicans would blame him for overpopulation"

"They understand that if Barack Obama could somehow bring about world peace they would blame him for destroying the defense industry."

"In fact, they understand that if Barack Obama has a BLT sandwhich tommorrow for lunch, they will try to ban bacon."

"But that's not what America wants, America wants solutions to it's problems and that begins with health care, and that's what I'm speaking for tonight."

"I yield back the balance of my time"

Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy

My nephew posted a link to this on Facebook.  It bears repeating...


Y'know, I was never this politically active before I went to prison. During that time, I witnessed fear, hatred, racism, and no small amount of gratuitous violence on a daily basis.  When I was released, I tried to leave it all behind me in the realm of bad memories.  I succeeded at first.  

My first job was doing political surveys over the phone.  Mostly for out of state municipal candidates in local elections.  The questions were always somewhat one-sided, and I always ended up feeling cheap and sordid by the end of my shift (and not in a good way, either). I believe it's referred to as "push polling". 

As the presidential election drew closer, the nature of the surveys began to change.  They became more serious, and, thankfully, more balanced.  The answers I received, however, ranged from troubling to downright scary.  The fact that Barack Obama was a person of color was a deal-breaker, and that was that.  That got me curious.  Anyone who scared such hateful and ignorant people was worth looking into.  So, I started doing my homework.  I alway knew that the right wing's main ideology was that Washington is always the enemy, stealing their hard-earned money to redistribute it to the undeserving and shiftless poor (some of whom just happen to be immigrants or black).  The more I looked into the opposition's stance, the more outraged I became.  Rush Limbaugh, who recently advocated a return to segregated buses, was always a joke, and dismissed easily enough.  The same thing goes for Hannity and all the other nut-jobs at Fox News (scaring old, white people since 1996).

Then, there's Glenn Beck.  He had done everything short of calling for armed insurrection.
Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen writes: “Beck has spent months — literally screaming and crying — insisting that the president is a socialist/fascist/communist/racist who’s trying to destroy the country through totalitarian means. Major media outlets have plenty of irresponsible voices, but Beck has been unique in his insane rantings. It wasn’t hard to imagine some of his viewers/listeners getting so worked up, they might at least consider doing something dangerous.”

Beck has recently backpedaled away from this, saying, "But just one lunatic like Timothy McVeigh could ruin everything that everyone has worked so hard for."  Of course, he doesn't mention the thousands of innocent people that could be hurt or killed by such an act.  His only concern is the protection of his twisted ideology (and his job).  But, once you yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater, it's a little hard to take it back.

I'm really starting to get worried now.  Reading some of the signs carried during the recent "million-moron march" quite literally sickened me.  Recently a Muslim woman came in to my workplace.  She wanted my help picking out a bottle of wine for a Jewish friend for Rosh Hashanah.  (Unfortunately, I was of little help to her.  Being a atheist, most religion looks the same to me.)  Still, I thought it was really cool, and was thinking "Only in America".  My next customer, who in all other respects was a sweet, little old lady, leaned close to me and whispered, "I wish they were all dead."

It broke my heart.  Such hate and ignorance, spoken so casually, was the same I witnessed in prison.  The base, primal fear of anything that looks and acts different might have served some purpose early in our evolution.  The irony is, that same fear may also end us as a species.

Me?  I like diversity, reason, and compassion.  I like the fact that I can get on a bus and hear six different languages spoken. I've met a lot of good people from all over the world, and my first thought isn't, "Why can't they look and act more like me?"

Perhaps prison served its intended purpose.  It made me want to be a more active, responsible person; to leave behind something positive when I go.

So, to all you conservatives out there, so desperate for an enemy to hate.  Relax, you found him.

News Items...

Interesting week in the news.  The CIA torturing prisoners with power drills.  A Nutjob with an assault rifle shows up at an Obama opposition rally in Phoenix.  A woman yells "Heil Hitler" at a Jew during a town hall meeting (and her actions are promptly defended by a couple of skinheads).  Out of all this absurdity, one thing caught my eye.  Hawaii is removing 168 female inmates from a private prison in Kentucky over charges of abuse by guards.  You'd think someone in Hawaii would have seen that one coming.  The story is bad enough, but one little tidbit blew my mind. 

In Kentucky, the rape of an inmate by a prison guard is a misdemeanor.

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Oh, God...

Whenever anyone asks me if I believe in God, I usually rely on one of Einstein's famous quotes:

I believe in the God of Spinoza.  The God who presented himself in the harmony of all being.  I do not believe in a God who concerns Himself with the fate and actions of men.
This usually got me a blank stare.  Recently I came across an interview with Dave Matthews in Rolling Stone. He's more eloquent than I could ever be...

Rolling Stone: You've talked publicly about being an agnostic, which is pretty daring these days. Politicians are falling all over themselves. . . .

Dave Matthews: Yeah, "Get out of my way so I can get into the church." It's so small a view of things. Obviously, there's a source of all things, however big or small it is. But if you give it consciousness, it just gets smaller. If you give it concern for us, it gets smaller.

I use the word "God" in my songs all the time, because I don't know what the hell's going on. So that's God – everything that I don't know. But the idea of God as a fatherly figure who looks down on us and worries how we're doing or takes sides when we have fights – it's more irritating than Santa Claus. The world and the universe are far more wonderful if there's not a puppet master.
That says it all.

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On aging...

A few days ago, I posted a little rant on the perils of aging. Something that is now referred to at work as the Gepetto Incident


Leave it to Craig Ferguson to make me feel better...

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Arizona is 6000 years old?

This is a video featuring Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen.

I had to watch the video a number of times. She said it twice! These are people Arizonans elect to hold public office. I thought Evan Mecham was bad, but this. It just boggles the mind. It's painfully clear that she actually believes this complete and utter nonsense.

The irony, of course is that she’s talking about uranium mining, and it’s through the radioactive decay of uranium that we know the Earth is billions of years old.

This is the kind of ignorance and ineptitude that borders on the ciiminal.

Infinitus est numerus stultorum

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It's official...

Yep, I'm old.

Today, I was ringing up groceries (wine, cheese, foo-foo chocolate) for a lady who had her her 8-year old in tow. The child turns to her mother and says, "Look Ma, it's Gepetto!". Cute, coming from a child. That is, until the mother all-too-readily agreed. I relayed the story to some co-workers and, after the laughter died down, one of them said, "Well, at least the kid knows who Gepetto is." Fine. An assault on my vanity from an intelligent child.

Literacy aside, the incident bothered me more than it should have. I spent the next few minutes desperately rationalizing the child's actions in my mind. "Ok", I thought. "It's the apron, the grey mustache, the damn reading glasses hanging off the tip of my nose. That's it." Sure...

Now, make no mistake. Papi's still got game. That's right. This is something I tell the kids at work, often forcing them to repeat it, just for fun.

Ah hell. Who am I kiddin'? Now I'm gonna have to figure out how to grow old gracefully.


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Jimmy Carter leaves Southern Baptists

Jimmy carter is a man I've admired for many years. Most conservatives consider him a joke. A man whose graduate work in nuclear physics and reactor technology helped him deal with the crisis of Three-Mile Island. The author of 24 books covering a wide variety of subjects. A man who won the Nobel Peace prize in 2002 "for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development." His work with Habitat for Humanity has set an example for all Americans. And, simply put, he is a good, decent human being.

A joke? Hardly. If we followed the course laid out by Carter as President, today we would be energy independent and have a balanced federal budget, and by pursuing an even handed policy in the Middle East would possibly have seen a just peace between Israel and Palestine. His failure as President was that he was a generation ahead of his time.

He recently severed his ties with the Southern Baptist Convention. in an article called "Losing my religion for equality", he called his decision to do so "painful and difficult".

From Mr Carter's position paper:
"At their most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities."

Christianity is by no means the only religion that considers women inherently inferior. Open up any religious text anywhere, and you'll find something like this:
"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak.... And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home." - 1 Corinthians 14:34,35
I believe that this is something he and Roselyn had been thinking about for some time.
"I've given up speaking of it much - although those who watched me during Mr Obama's campaign will recall that certain stories evoked infuriating (for me) memories of my work with abuse shelters during college. I'd given up speaking of it much, because where I live, joking about women being barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen is as much part of normal conversation as asking about the next Promise Keepers or Men Following Christ meeting.

I've walked away from the church (per se) on the basis of the abuse of power - especially as it manifests in the Right-wing's attempt to use Southern Baptist-style Christianity as a means of misguided control."
I remember my own experience of being raised a Protestant Baptist. It was at the Thomas Road Baptist Church. I think I was about 12 at the time. After a sermon, I questioned the preacher regarding his view that Christ was "perfect and infallible" (To me, it seemed to defeat the purpose of making him human in the first place). Reasonable discourse was obviously not his strong suite, as his response was to come at me wielding his bible. Luckily, a nice church lady saved me, and admonished the preacher on his use of the Holy Book as a blunt object. I made an exit, both dignified and rapid. and never returned.

Having said all this, I must admit to some sexism myself. Women in combat, for example. On one hand, as a male I have a strong instinct to protect and provide for them because I'm bigger, stronger, and, in the grand scheme of things, more expendable (thank you, Y-chromosome). On the other hand, I have the certain, intellectual knowledge that a woman trained in such things makes for an incredible warrior. Of course, in the end the decision is always theirs to make.

Thankfully, most women are gracious enough not to be offended if I open a door, tip my hat, or stand when they enter a room. Just know that no matter how well trained they are, if I see a woman doing something dangerous, I'll be cringing on the inside.

Farewell, Uncle Walter

Walter Cronkite has passed away at 92. There are certain milestones that mark one's life. This is definitely one of them. It's only right that his passing coincides with the 40th anniversary of our first steps on another world. I remember watching him report Neil Armstrong's now famous phrase. I remember him taking off his glasses, wiping sweat from his brow. For him, that was showing a great deal of emotion. He'd been up many hours reporting the story. In those days, newsmen were objective to a fault. They had no opinion, no bias. That was left to us - Except this one time. I could see that in that moment he knew that he was a part of one of the few truly noble things we have done as a nation and a people. And if he showed some small semblance of emotion, well, it was easy enough to forgive.

It still amazes me to think that the Apollo's computers had less memory than one would find in your average cell phone or MP3 player. Of course, the computers were custom made. The ROM chips hand-made by teams of "little old ladies". The software was very specific and the code was entered (and re-entered) by hand. Back then, you could do a lot more with 64k of memory than you can now.

Recently, the LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) was able to image 5 of the 6 Apollo sites. They will remain unchanged for the next few million years as a testament of what humanity can accomplish when we put our mind to it.

Vaya Con Dios, Mr. Cronkite.

Labeled LROC image of Apollo 11 landing site
Apollo 11 lunar module, Eagle.

Image width: 282 meters (about 925 ft.)

› Larger image

Labeled LROC image of Apollo 15 landing site
Apollo 15 lunar module, Falcon.

Image width: 384 meters (about 1,260 ft.)

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Labeled LROC image of Apollo 16 landing site
Apollo 16 lunar module, Orion.

Image width: 256 meters (about 840 ft.)

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Labeled LROC image of Apollo 17 landing site
Apollo 17 lunar module, Challenger.

Image width: 359 meters (about 1,178 ft.)

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God Hates Shrimp

Saw this on Digg.  Leviticus is still the funniest book in the bible.  Still doesn't explain the Westboro Baptist Church, though.

10 Questions for the Religious Right:
I do need some advice from you, regarding some elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev.21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8 . Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though Lev. 19 expressly forbids this: 27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair? (Lev. 20:14)

Her name was Neda Agha Soltan

Other than that, I know little about her. Her murder was a very public one, witnessed by millions, myself included. The video was hard to watch. Her eyes, as the light left them. The cries of her friends, as they realized the futility of their attempts to save her. She was murdered by a Basij gunman - Iran's version of the Hitler youth. I wonder if he even aimed. Her death was just as random and senseless as any drive-by shooting in America.

So why do I grieve for a stranger on the other side of the world?

I've never been a fan of martyrdom, or death in general.

From the Associated Content:
The concept of martyrdom in a fight for freedom is not unique to Iran. History is replete with stories of such people, such as American's Nathan Hale ("I have but one life to give to my country.") or Ireland's John McBride, of whom Yeats wrote "He, too, has been changed in his turn, Transformed utterly: A terrible beauty is born."

If it is her destiny to become a martyr, so be it. The irony, of course, is that the same concept that started and sustained a regime, may also end it. I only know that a young woman, whose only crime was her opinion, was cut down. A death that does indeed diminish us all.

She should be remembered.

My people have a President

I caught this on CSPAN yesterday. John Hodgman (PC guy) at the Radio & TV Correspondent's Assn. Dinner. I noticed the conspicuous absence of MAC guy. Off someplace being cool, I suspect. Linux girl really should have been there, though.

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Wisdom, such as it is.

When I got to work yesterday, my very first customer was a very old man, 'bout 150 or so, who mumbled something about a latte. Since I wasn't sure whether I heard him correctly, I repeated his order. He then gave me a look that I haven't seen since my Dad was teaching me how to drive, and said, "Are ya stupid, boy?".

My response was to smile (as stupidly as I could, which isn't a stretch), drool a little, and pick my nose. The look on his face kept me going the rest of the day.

As a young man, I probably would have handled it rather badly. I'm older now, and my skin is a little thicker.

The moral? Don't sweat the small shit. Have fun with it.

On Being American

While perusing the blogoshpere last weekend, I came upon a rant. Some of that tired, old "America, love it or leave it" rhetoric that's been shoved down our throats for the last half a century. The fact that they completely miss the point isn't what really bothers me. Well, OK, it does bother me.

If I speak out because my country does something immoral, illegal, or just plain stupid, it's not because I hate my country. Quite the opposite, in fact. I love my country. Too much to see it perverted into some racist, xenophobic "garden of Eden" that some conservatives envision.

Justice, tolerance, compassion, diversity. All inherently American values. Values we have consistently failed to live up to as a nation and a people. It does no good to (constantly) tell the world what a great country we are, when our deeds say the otherwise. At best, it shows a lack of credibility.

Conservatism attracts the type of people who express joy upon hearing of the deaths of 39 children in Hermosillo, because "that's 39 less illegal aliens down the road". Or who think N. Korea is justified in jailing two U.S. journalists because they entered the country illegally (it's entirely possible, probable even, that they were snatched from China to be used as bargaining chips later).

So, count on the fact that if I disagree with my government, I will call them on it. Because, as the old Latin proverb goes...

Ubi dubriem, ibi libertas
Where there is doubt, there is freedom.

Irish I were Mexican

My grandmother died a couple of years ago, at the age of 101. Oddly enough, my siblings and I were shocked by this. We thought the old bird too damn mean to die. While she did have her good qualities, she was possibly the most racist person I ever met. She made Rush Limbaugh look like hippie by comparison.

She once told me (somewhat proudly) that we were of Black Irish descent. Given her views on race relations, I was somewhat confused by this. Recently I did some research on the term.

I'm still confused.

The most popular story concerns a Spanish (in some versions, Portuguese) shipwreck in the late 1600's. Possible, but given the relatively small gene pool, I find it unlikely. I think they would have simply been assimilated in 2 or 3 generations.

Another story goes like this (from wikipedia):
In the 1700s Irish protestants and British formed a vigilante military called the"Orangemen" to keep the Roman Catholic Irish subservient. The Roman Catholic Irish countered by starting their own military called the "White boys"
(I think I've seen these guys. No hair, lots of political ink?). Any Roman Catholic Irish that chose not to defy the orangemen or joined the whiteboys were known as the "black irish" of which most immigrated to North America. It has nothing at all to do with ones complexion, hair or eye colour.

Again, possible. But Black Irish are distinctive enough to be classified outside the normal range of any other Northern European ethnic group.

The last theory involves Celtic nomads, establishing trade routes to Asia, intermarrying and taking their families back to the west coast of Europe.

Hmmm. There were some recently discovered Celtic mummies found in the deserts of Western China...

My first post. After almost a decade of resistance, I've finally started blogging. Part of it stems from my own vanity, of course. Also, I think I've finally got enough mileage on me by now to have something mildly interesting to say, or at least be able to form a coherent sentence or two.

Maybe not.