Friday, December 31, 2004

This photo shows the Banda Aceh shore before and after last week's earthquake and tsunami:

Banda Aceh shore before and after flood

In many ways - loss of life, number of countries involved, physical damage to the environment - this will likely be the worst natural disaster of this or the last century. But you've heard and seen all that before now.

This short message is your reminder that you have till midnight tonight to get in one more tax deduction for 2004. If you're thinking about helping out in this situation, but haven't yet, do it today!

The American Red Cross Emergency Response Fund got my donation, but there are many other organizations across the country and the globe that are helping as well. Google has a list of relief organizations accepting online donations, as well as links to the latest news about the unfolding disaster.

After September 11 the world reached out to the American people. Much of that goodwill was lost due the actions of our "leaders." Now is the time to show the world, once again, that the American people are far more generous and caring than our government demonstates. Click one of the links above and help begin the healing.

And a very happy, healthy new year to all of you.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Is it wrong to share emails other people send me? I'm going to have to say it isn't. I'll stand by the principle that if it was sent to me, it's my property. Okay, that's settled. Now...

You may recall back about a month I wrote about a woman sending me links for my blog, she had meant to send to somebody else. Well, she's back.

Here's her latest email to me:

On Mon, 27 Dec 2004 22:00:45 -0500, R******* wrote:
> I am having a pretty nice time here, I have gone from Isla Mujeres down to Tulum, about 2 hours south, though the weather's been crap today and yesterday. There's a yoga retreat down here (too expensive to stay at) but I went to class there today and sat on the beach and made some sandcastles with a really annoying kid from Westchester....
> Tomorrow it is onto Palenque and Guatemala!
> Ole!!!
> Really want to see you when I get back! I miss seeing you...
> Love and hugs!
> R*****

And, my response to her:

Dear R*****,

I really enjoyed hearing from you again, and reading about your journey. So much so that I hate to have to tell you that I have no idea who you are.

When you first wrote to me with a couple of links you suggested for my blog, I thought you knew who I was, and I gladly passed the links along online. But I couldn't understand what you meant by "friend of the donk." I figured, one of my readers is well-meaning, but a bit deranged. No matter; the links were amusing and I used them.

Then about the third one it finally hit me: you've got the wrong blogging Ken Goldstein. I checked with our good friend, Google, and came up with this -

Who you want: k*****@*****.com;

Me: k*****@*****.com;

Close. The mistake is really quite understandable. I even wrote about it in my blog. For some reason, however, I couldn't bring myself to tell you. I found it interesting, bizarre, and kind of fun to get these emails intended for the other Ken Goldstein.

I was wrong. I am sorry. Did I ever tell you that R***** is one of my favorite names? Of course I didn't. I'm truly sorry.


- Ken

P.S. I hope you'll still write to me.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

"The American democratic experiment will succeed until the people realize they can vote themselves money from the public treasury. Then it will collapse." - Alexis de Tocqueville, 1848

The quote above has often been used by the right as an indictment of the welfare state. These are the folks who believe that the collapse of the American experiment was set in motion in the mid-1930's by FDR's New Deal.

I (as you could guess) disagree. Rather than bring about the collapse of democracy, I think the period ushered in by FDR was perhaps our greatest period. In my many years of studying politics and public policy in college, as a graduate student, and as an adult involved with such professionally, I never saw the creation or expansion of AFDC/TANF, Food Stamps, Social Security, Medicare, (etc.), as the people voting themselves money from the public treasury. To put it bluntly; those who were on the receiving end of such "benefits" have rarely even gotten close to holding enough power to pull off such a coup.

But that doesn't mean that de Tocqueville didn't make a point that's worth heeding. I do see the start of what he warned about, over 150 years ago, in the plans of the current administration. Whether or not making the Bush tax cuts permanent is voting themselves money from the public treasury is debatable, but one would have to be completely and willfully blind to not see that the plan to privatize Social Security is nothing but the gang in charge robbing the treasury for its own greedy ends.
Make no mistake; they have no intention of "saving Social Security." What these cynical bastards want to do is simply pump up the worth of their own stock portfolios with your retirement money. It's basic supply and demand; more money pumped into the market (the Social Security reserve) raises demand. Supply remains the same, and so increased demand leads to increased share prices. The wealthy get wealthier on your dime.

So what's so wrong with that? Doesn't it make us wealthier too? Only if you already own a large amount of stock, and only if you're of an age where you are getting ready to retire soon. It will not increase Social Security payments. They are set by Congress in law, not automatically adjusted based on the worth of the "portfolio."

And then there's the other end of supply and demand. And that's where the majority of us, who are at least a decade or two (or more) away from retirement get screwed. This is because of that huge group known as the Baby Boomers, and the fact that there are so many more of them than there are of the generation behind them.

As the number of retired people increases, both as an absolute number, and in proportion to the working population, the market will first slow, then decline, then collapse. Supply and demand. The supply of shares to sell will go up (as retirees cash in their portfolios to pay their bills), and the demand will go down (a smaller contingent of workers in the next generation), causing stock prices to fall.

It's the same problem Social Security is facing already; the baby boomers bankrupt the system no matter what the system is - but especially and most dramatically if it's one tied directly to the ups and downs of the stock market.

Yes, technically I am a "Baby Boomer," born in 1961 at the tail end of the boom. But you really have to be born before, say, 1957 to fully take advantage of the Bush plan. They'll be breaking the system just a year or two before I'm ready to retire. My big brothers are beating me up again.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Best of the season to you, and all that stuff. 'Tis the big day for much of America, and I suppose it will be a big day for our family. Although we're not Christians, this week is when my nephews are out from Connecticut to visit their Dad (my brother), so my parents and other brother are each up for the weekend. We'll have a "Christmas Dinner" and celebrate a late Hannakah, and it will be very nice.

It's the time of year for looking back and reviewing what we've done and what's been done to us, and I want nothing to do with it. The year has certainly had some high points, but it's had some rough patches as well, and each year-end review I open to in the magazines, or click past on the TV, just gets me depressed about 2004 all over again.

What's going on outside, beyond my control, is bad enough: the continuing quagmire of the war, the election, Bush's smug F-You attitude towards those who didn't vote for him, etc. In my own small life things are getting mixed reviews as well.

On Thursday the honeymoon period at my new job officially ended after just shy of two months as I had to fire somebody. Not what I wanted to do on the eve of Christmas Eve, but there really was no choice. He was on probation for previous screw-ups, had been written up several times, and knew he was on the thinnest of ice when he chose to screw up bigger than ever.

I enjoy my job, it's challenging work that I believe provides a community service and leaves the world a little better than if we didnt' exist. But it is extremely stressful and (so far) prevents me from persuing some personal fulfilment time (writing, music, etc.). Hopefully, after the New Year, that will get better.

The other thing that has me worried this morning is my father. They arrived in town yesterday afternoon, and checked into their hotel shortly after. We all met them there and hung out in the room for at least an hour before leaving for dinner. Towards the end of dinner he said to my mother, "We should call the hotel and let them know we're still coming for a late check-in."

Is forgetting that you already checked into the hotel an understandable lapse after a long day driving from LA to San Jose and relaxing with a Scotch over dinner? Or is this one of those signs of advancing age we're suppposed to be watching for? He'll be 76 in a couple of weeks, which is no longer young, but he truly doesn't usually seem that old either.

All of this, I suppose, is a way of saying that this has been a year of recognizing and accepting the limits of mortality. It's not the most hopeful note I could leave you on a holiday morning, but it's the best I can do at this moment. Here's looking forward to 2005...

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Have you ever hoped to lose a fight? I think that's where I might be right now with regards to medical marijuana.

I voted for the California proposition that legalized medical marijuana, and continue to support the concept. But right now the US Supreme Court is reviewing that law, and I'm not sure I want them to support it.

You see, it all depends on how the argument is framed. Will they be asking the Court to rule on medical issues, or on Constitutional issues?

If the case were won based solely on the rights of individuals to access the medicine they need to survive, that would be great.

What I fear is that we're getting into a State's Rights issue, in which case I'll have to reluctantly side with the Federal Government. It may be that in this one case, I agree with the State's position, but throughout our nation's history that argument has usually been used to support things I would disagree with.

State's Rights was the argument for prolonging slavery and fighting Civil Rights. State's Rights has traditionally been the argument of those who refuse to join the rest of the nation (and the world) in growing up.

If State's Rights is the argument that wins for medical marijuana, watch out. The next day that precedent will be used to ban all abortions in at least 12 states. That decision will also be a blow in the struggle to recognize the Civil Rights of gays and lesbians to sign a marriage contract. A Supreme Court win based on State's Rights will give more power to conservatives than the recent election did.

And speaking of that recent election...

Click on over to for "FOCUS: The Recount Accounts" - Check up on the continuing battles in Ohio, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington State, and San Diego... The mainstream media refuses to cover it, but there's still a lot of people who think the election was stolen, and mounting evidence that they may have a point.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Warning: Frank Sexual Content Ahead

A story which has come up from time to time, and was in the news again over the last week or so, is pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control based on religious objections.

Personally, I think that's ridiculous, but as long as there are other stores where people can choose to purchase their birth control, my first instinct is to respect their right to not be involved.

So, I try to ignore the story and not get too upset over it (there are many more important things to be upset about). And then one of these morons says something so outrageous that it just requires further comment.

It's not enough that they feel that sex should only be for procreation - their loss, not mine. No, then this fool has to go on TV and add that "birth control is a form of murder."

"A form of murder"???!!?! Oh, come on! If you say that life begins at conception, we can discuss that. But if preventing conception is murder, then when does this clown think that life actually begins? Does life begin with an erection? Does it begin with, "Hi, do you come here often?"

Is pulling out before ejaculation murder to this guy? What about abstaining? If you really want to have intercourse, but one partner says "no", is that murder too?

Taking this jerk's theory to it's logical extreme, then just about every girl I dated in High School is a murderer.

What is this sicko's view of women in general? If a woman doesn't have a child every nine months from puberty to menopause, is she a mass murderer? Is that all he thinks women can do?

Once again proving the old line that "not having sex is sickest perversion of them all."

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Okay, so there's this woman sending me links for my blog, but she doesn't know she's doing it. Basically, she's got the wrong email address, but it took me a while to figure that out.

The links are interesting - such as this one to Found Magazine, a collection of odd found photos, notes, and such - or this one to The Queen of Sky, the blog of a fired airline stewardess - and she says they're "for my blog," but each email had information that didn't seem right.

Like, for some reason, she thinks I live in NYC and work at Macy's. I've visited NYC, and I've shopped at Macy's (but not the one in NYC), but that ain't me. Then, there's this thing about being a "friend of the Donk." What or who the heck is the Donk?

Then it hit me: She's got the wrong blogging Ken Goldstein. The Ken Goldstein she thinks she's sending the links to writes a blog called "The Illuminated Donkey" - hence, "The Donk."

I've linked to this guy before, when I did a round-up of all the various people running around using my name for different purposes. I think he's linked to me once or twice too. But we've never communicated directly, and that's the way I like it. If we actually did connect, who knows what would happen? Like Superman entering Bizarro world. Just don't want to mess with it.

But, what do I do about the woman sending the links? Should I write to her and let her know she's got the wrong guy? I feel guilty not telling her. But I need the links.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

And another holiday has been survived without any new scars or much blood to speak of.

Here's the thing: There's just too much pressure and expectations built up around holidays that make family visits far more stressful than they should be or have to be. As I keep saying to my family and in-laws, isn't so much nicer to see each other when we want to, when we have time, when we miss each other, (when there's not so much traffic/travel problems), etc.?

Because the bottom line is, somebody's going to be hurt. When you're a couple, and neither of you is an only child or an orphan, somebody in one family or another is going to get screwed at every holiday.

I don't care if you have a large enough place to invite each of your siblings and their associated in-laws, somewhere down the line there's another host wondering why cousin Joey chose your celebration over theirs. Somebody, somewhere, doesn't feel welcome, and you're going to pay for it.

I'm laying down the law right now: In 2005 I refuse to spend any time with family (including in-laws) on any major national or religious holidays. I will visit with them regularly on a leisurely schedule when it is purely for the pleasure of each other's company and without any expectations.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

"Programs! Get yer programs here! Can't tell who's in the Bush cabinet without a program. Get yer programs here!" Check out CNN's easy to follow pictorial of who's in and who's out in the new administration, "Revenge of the Neocons." (And get a good chuckle as you learn that the new Secretary of Education is named "Spellings." You know that's why W picked her, right?)

The new administration is barely underway, but already the question is being asked, "Who will it be in 2008?" One possible answer to that question requires that we first "Amend for Arnold." Yes, the Governator would like to be der President, except for that pesky little thing we call the Constitution. (The Constitution hasn't been much of a roadblock for the current crew, it shouldn't stand in Arnold's way either).

I'm willing to open the debate on whether or not foreign-born citizens should be eligible to run for President, but I'm not willing to amend for any one person. It may well be time to make the required change, but we have to decide it on the basis of law, policy, and democracy, not by personality.

As long as the debate is only about allowing a single neophyte Governor, with only one year of public service to his record (and a slightly mixed record, at that), to run for President my answer is No. Begin with a discussion of why the framer's banned foreign-born Presidents in the first place, and what has changed since then, and I'm willing to listen.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Here's a true tale of a couple of idiots that's been bugging me for a couple of days now. On Friday I was eating my lunch at a fast food outlet and was forced to hear the conversation of the two guys at the table behind me as they discussed the election results.

After showing that they knew nothing about the Presidential candidates they moved on to the California ballot propositions. They came to a point of disagreement when they got to Prop 63, which would have added money to the state system for mental health services through raising the taxes on incomes over $1 million.

The first idiot said that he voted for it because, "I thought it would be fun to raise somebody else's taxes for a change with it effecting my own."

Idiot number two disagreed. "Well, I looked at it and said, 'What if I earn more than a million dollars someday?' so I voted against it."

Right there. That's the problem with how most people vote. There entire conversation was about how much anything would cost to them personally, and how to stick it to somebody else. They didn't say anything about mental health services, they each made their decision solely on the tax.

Am I the only one who looks at these things objectively? When I approach a proposition such as this, the first thing I look at is the actual program suggested. Is it needed? Can it realistically work to solve the problem identified? Are the services provided at the right level (county, city, state...)? How much of the program is eaten up in new bureaucracy?

Once I'm satisfied with the program, then I can move on to the funding mechanism. Does the money come from existing revenue? If so, what will be cut? Is it a new tax? Who or what will pay for it? Is it a bond issue? Will we be paying for the bonds longer than the life of the project? What is the relation between the funding source and the problem? Is one population (smokers, home-owners, etc.) being asked to pay for a problem that has nothing to do with them?

There were many good reasons to support proposition 63 (needed vital services). There were also reasons to question it (what's the connection between wealth and mental services?). Whether or not I might be in the group paying, or whether or not it would be "fun" to stick it to someone else never even entered my analysis.

Anyway, there was a piece in the SF Chronicle the other day (sorry, lost the link to the article) addressing the number of progressives who are seriously considering bailing on the U.S. The author had a more positive suggestion for those folks: Move to a swing state. Real estate is cheaper than the Bay Area, and you might be able to actually make a difference in the next election. Not a bad idea...

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

3) Yesterday I scolded the people who didn't vote (sorry, but it had to be done). Today's warning is for those who did vote, and think they now have a four year vacation. You don't.

The next election is not four years away. You will be voting on your Congress person, and maybe a Senator or some state offices in 2006. You may have some local or possibly state offices on a 2005 ballot.

Take a good look right now at who is representing you at each of those levels. Are they really representing you, or are they representing an ideology you don't agree with?

Sick of poor choices every four years when you vote for President, but think you can sit out local races? Forget it. You have to get involved and vote at every level. And if you don't like your representatives, are you willing to run yourself?

Here's the point: We can neutralize W by 2006 by denying him a conservative mandate in Congress and in state and local legislative bodies. We don't have to put up with four more years of this. But you have to start working now, while your angry.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

2) If you're upset about the election results, but you didn't vote, register today! I know, the next election is a ways out there, but register today while the anger is fresh.

Bottom line: You can't change the system unless you participate. Democracy is a verb; it's something you do.

I know all the reasons for refusing to vote, and I agree with the sentiment. That's why I'm a Green, and why I don't lock myself into the two-party duopoly. I'd rather cast a "protest vote" that some consider "wasted" than abstain and have it taken as tacit approval of the system.

Voting is the only thing that gets their attention. And better yet, it scares the hell out of them.

So, register today, and keep your registration up to date. This isn't just about voting once every four years, it's about getting involved in every election. By the time these weasels are running for President it's almost too late. We need to effect the system through every office, from local boards on up.

Monday, November 08, 2004

1) Forget all this "Red State Vs. Blue State" crap. That's only a story because conflict sells papers and gets ratings. Subtlety and fine details don't distinguish media outlets from each other or attract advertisers.

The truth is that most states, whether red or blue, were won by margins of 51% to 55%. America is not a sea of united conservatives surrounded by the monolithic coastal liberals. There are both liberals and conservatives living in your very own neighborhood: learn to deal with it.

Well, Utah is pretty scary (71% for Bush). But other than that, most Americans are not polarized extremists of any stripe. The real map of how we voted is mostly purple, with only a few patches of true blue or red.

Point being: Don't give up on each other, or on our country. The electoral college is something else. You may give up on that.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Okay, as far as the election goes, we've all got some grieving to go through, and the five stages of death all apply, from anger and denial on down, even if acceptance is still some time away.

But in case you thought I was serious about the Canadian immigration info on the post below, forget about it. I'm here to fight for my country.

I'll have more to say about that in the coming weeks, but for today my feelings are best expressed in the lyrics to a song:

I Am A Patriot
By Steven Van Zandt

And the river opens for the righteous...
And the river opens for the righteous...
And the river opens for the righteous, someday

I was walking with my brother
And he wondered what was on my mind
I said what I believe in my soul
It ain't what I see with my eyes
And we can't turn our backs this time

I am a patriot and I love my country
Because my country is all I know
I want to be with my family
With people who understand me
I got nowhere else to go
I am a patriot

And the river opens for the righteous, someday

I was talking with my sister
She looked so fine
I said baby what's on your mind
She said I want to run like the lion
Released from the cages
Released from the rages
Burning in my heart tonight

I am a patriot and I love my country
Because my country is all I know

And I ain't no communist
And I ain't no capitalist
And I ain't no socialist
And I sure ain't no imperialist
And I ain't no democrat
And I ain't no republican either
And I only know one party
And its name is freedom
I am a patriot

And the river opens for the righteous...
And the river opens for the righteous...
And the river opens for the righteous, someday

(c) Steven Van Zandt, Blue Midnight Music, 1983

Friday, November 05, 2004

Ready to follow up on those pledges to head north if W was re-elected?

You can find out aboot it at: Hits to this website have shot up six-fold the last few days.

Yes, there's an application process that can take from six months to a year to complete, but they are recruiting immigrants. Ottowa alone is looking for up to 240,000 newcomers each year.

For single American progressives, you can find a fast-track to immigration with a sexy Canadian ready and willing to rescue you at:

Take off, eh?
"... Franklin County (Ohio)'s unofficial results had Bush receiving 4,258 votes to Democrat John Kerry's 260 votes in a precinct in Gahanna. Records show only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct. Bush's total should have been recorded as 365..." - Yahoo! News

Not that this means anything.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

With apologies to Neil Young...

Ten lawyers and Bush's coming
We're finally on our own
November I hear the drumming
Close vote in Ohio

Gotta get down to it
Pundits are putting us down
Should have registered long ago
What if you voted
And knew that it might not count
How can they run when they know?

Ten lawyers and Bush's coming
We're finally on our own
November I hear the drumming
Close vote in Ohio

Close vote in Ohio
(How many more?)
Close vote in Ohio

- - - -

Not that it has anything to do with anything, but earlier this year, Diebold CEO Walden O’Dell told the GOP that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." Diebold made the voting machines used in Ohio that leave no paper trail and no possibility of a recount.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Excuse my long absence - I've been putting all my energy into my new job, now entering its second week. After just about a year of not having a full-time "regular" job, it's quite an adjustment!

I'm still rather tired, too tired to write much now, but just in case anybody is reading this: Get out and Vote!

I really don't know what tomorrow will bring, whether or not there will be a clear-cut winner, whether or not the loser will go quietly into that good night, or whether we're in for months of law suits and recounts, but I do know that I will be voting. And so should you.

For last minute, undecided voters, you can read several of my articles about this Presidential election season (with recommendations) on

Californians trying to find last minute recommendations on the ballot initiatives with find my short analysis over here.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Little more than a week to go before the Presidential election, and I'm sure you can't wait for it to be over. I for one am sick of hearing of new polls every two hours. Now Bush is up by two points. Now they're neck-and-neck. Now somebody's leading by only one point, but the other poll shows it's the other guy leading by one. Now they're in a statistical dead-heat. Enough already!

There have been many articles on the number of people casting early or absentee ballots. The articles claim that the reason for this is that people are unsure of the new electronic voting systems and want to be certain that their vote is counted. That may be true, but I think a good number of the early voting is just to be done with it already. Once they've voted they can stop listening to all the noise.

And noise it is. The ads are getting nastier on both sides as each tries desperately to build a meaningful lead. Only successfully pulls each side apart and gives the truth on which each sides lies are based.

Just try to stay above the noise, and don't let it discourage you. Vote anyway, even if just to piss them off.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Cousins for Kerry? No, not my cousins (well, some of them). The second cousins of President George W. Bush have announced their support of Democratic Presidential Nominee John F. Kerry.

You can see who they are, and why they've endorsed the challenger to their family's throne, at

But, of course, the biggest news of the day is the big Red Sox win last night over the NY Yankees! With the World Series coming to Boston on Saturday it's almost enough to make one believe that Kerry can also pull out a comeback upset on November 2.

Boot Bush! Donate to the DNC today

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The latest entry at takes on the oft-repeated myth that John Kerry is the "most liberal man in the US Senate." Sure, he's a little more liberal than average, but whether he's number 1 or number 478 all depends on who's doing the counting and how it is that they decide to measure what a "liberal" is.

And... as has been pointed out before... what the hell is wrong with being liberal? The more liberal candidate has won the popular vote in each of the last three Presidential elections. Keep that in mind on November 2.

"Sure, Ken," I hear you say. "But hasn't Kerry voted to raise my taxes an average of once every three weeks?" Well, if I may quote "Kerry has not voted 350 times for tax increases, something Bush campaign officials have falsely accused Kerry of on several occasions. On close examination, the Bush campaign's list of Kerry's votes for 'higher taxes' is padded. It includes votes Kerry cast to leave taxes unchanged (when Republicans proposed cuts), and even votes in favor of alternative Democratic tax cuts that Bush aides characterized as 'watered down.'"

What about the Bush campaign's improved claim that Kerry voted 98 times "for tax increases?" "That number is still padded, including 43 votes on budget measures that only set targets and don't actually legislate tax increases, as well as multiple votes regarding an individual bill."

Need a good laugh? (Well, maybe laughing through the tears?) - Check out Filmstrip International's little flash presentation. Play it at work and sing along (if you don't really need the income).

Boot Bush! Donate to the DNC today

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Yesterday I posted a new article at "Who's on Third?." This is my round-up of several of the third party and independent candidates for President, along with links and my recommendations.

Regular readers of this blog probably already know that I'm a "Green for Kerry," but may still want to click on the article for background on some of the lesser known also-rans.

Another web site to check is that of Operation Truth. This is an independent, non-partisan organization of veterans from the Iraq and Afghani wars shedding some light on what they've been through. They don't endorse any one candidate over any other, but the image they paint certainly isn't as rosy as the President's.

Boot Bush! Donate to the DNC today

Thursday, October 14, 2004

When I check my statistics page to see how many people have come to this page one of the things it tells me is the searches folks have used to find me on Google and elsewhere. I'm always amazed at some of the searches that lead here.

For instance, for over a month I've regularly had hits from people looking for information on "bush and carey", either about the debates or the election in general. Lots of people apparently think W is running against actor/comedian Jim Carey, not Senator John Kerry. I'm guessing that if they vote at all, it will be for Bush. Either that or porn star Mary Carey, who was a candidate for Governor in our recall election last year, has jumped into the Presidential contest and I just hadn't heard about it.

One I've had a couple of hits on in the last week are searches like "Kerry raise drinking age." I haven't heard it, but I'm guessing that there's a rumor on the college campuses to this effect. If that's what brought you here, forget about it. There's absolutely no truth to this or reason to believe it even might be true. What you've experienced is the Republican tactic of "if you can't win 'em over, frighten 'em out of voting."

Interestingly, I haven't had any hits with people searching for the truth about the draft rumors. Both major candidates have made statements against re-instating the military draft. Kerry has made a strong point about how Bush has created a "back door draft" through the multiple tours of duty being served by National Guardsmen, and policies that have extended certain soldiers duty indefinitely.

My personal feeling is that it is true that neither candidate wants to bring back the draft. But... if things continue as they've been in Iraq, and if we expand the war into Iran (or South Korea or ...), we will have no choice but to begin conscription. I believe that is likely under Bush, but can be prevented under Kerry. But that's just my opinion.

One more point. This week's theme for the Bush campaign is to repeat the word "liberal" as many times as possible in relation to Senator Kerry. Well, as the President would say, "Bring it on." Remember: the more liberal candidate has won the popular vote in the last three Presidential elections (even if not the electoral vote).

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

John Kerry kicked ass! The debate just ended and there is no doubt that Kerry has won three out of three debates. The President had absolutely nothing to offer in this debate on domestic policy.

Three questions pertained in some way to jobs - one about layoffs, one on the minimum wage, and one about affirmative action - and in each instance all W could do was talk about No Child Left Behind. The questions had to do with adults who've either lost their jobs, or aren't earning enough to feed their family, or who are being passed over for jobs because of their race, and the President's answer is early childhood education?

No Child Left Behind and tax cuts. Tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts. Oh, and No Child Left Behind. Four years and that's the entire record Bush has to run on. Everything else he's running from. Oh, it wasn't his recession. Oh, but we were attacked. Give me a freaking break.

Meanwhile, John Kerry was strong, forceful, personable, and clear. He didn't dodge the questions; he offered real answers without treating all Americans like idiots.

I came into this election season as a "nobody but Bush" voter. Then I was a "Vote for Kerry, hope you don't regret it" kind of guy. Now I'm truly sold. John Kerry is not a second best choice, or a necessary evil. This guy is good, and I will be proud and pleased to vote for him on November 2.
Fourteen Early Warning Signs of Fascism:

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism
2. Disdain for the importance of human rights
3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause
4. The supremacy of the military/Avid militarism
5. Rampant sexism
6. A controlled mass media
7. Obsession with national security
8. Religion and government are intertwined
9. Power of corporations protected
10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated
11. Disdain for intellectuals and the arts
12. Obsession with crime and punishment
13. Rampant cronyism and corruption
14. Fraudulent elections

This list is excerpted from “Fascism Anyone?” by Lawrence W. Britt (Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 23, Number 2). Read the full article to get more detail on what Britt means by each of the fourteen points. He created the list after making a study of several Fascist regimes, including Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Franco's Spain, Salazar's Portugal, Papadopoulos's Greece, Pinochet's Chile, and Suharto's Indonesia.

Now, I'm not saying that we live in a Fascist nation, or trying to slyly call President Bush a Nazi. I don't believe that either of those would be true statements. But I do believe that the end result of many of the President's priorities and policies are surely - if not deliberately - leading us toward a form of Fascism.

Read the article, then think about how many of the fourteen requirements today's USA might satisfy. I'd say we easily fit ten or eleven of the points and are well on our way on the few remaining. Luckily, we still have an election scheduled for just a few short weeks from now. We are not quite so far gone that we can't still reverse this drift into totalitarianism. Get out and vote.

"Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. ... No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." -- James Madison

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

One of the more accurate and fair criticisms of John Kerry was spoken yesterday on MSNBC's "Countdown": "He's a sixty second guy in a thirty second world."

The discussion was, of course, about Kerry's sense of the nuances of public policy and the feeling that the public "doesn't do nuance." The result is that Kerry is likely to speak in longer sentences that contain multiple clauses separated by "buts" and "howevers". Quoted out of context, with the "buts" removed, the loose clauses can sound un-informed and foolish, rather than serving to explain the complexities of the world. The smarter, 60-second guy end up looking like an idiot in the 30-second world.

Yesterday's example came out of Kerry's longer discussion of our nation's challenges and our current fixation on terrorism as the only issue that matters. The out-of-context quote was, "We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives but they're a nuisance."

The President's campaign, of course, pounced on that. Terrorism as a nuisance? Outlandish! Out of touch! We gotta crush 'em! Go on the offensive; kill 'em where ever they may be!

Except that Bush himself has said that the War on Terror is actually unwinnable. That it's the reality of the 21st century that we will always have to be on guard, vigilant against potential attacks. I think that's probably correct. And, as Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Poppy Bush said, the United States can break the back of terrorism "so that it is a horrible nuisance, and not a paralyzing influence."

I believe that's what Kerry what getting at. Yes, we cannot declare victory against terrorism and think we'll be safe. There will be inconveniences - nuisances, if you will - such as airport screenings and the like, but we can get to a place where they don't need to be the focus of our lives. That's the kind of optimistic message that Presidential candidates are supposed to give.

But, in a thirty second world, it doesn't always come across that way. With the polls once again tied up, Kerry gets one more ninety minute opportunity to make his case. See you in Arizona tomorrow night.

Monday, October 11, 2004

My period of semi-under-self-employment is coming to an end. This morning I accepted a position at the Emergency Housing Consortium as Assistant Director of the singles division. That's not singles as in swinging good times, but as in individual homeless persons; the other divisions are families and youth.

Now don't go thinking that this changes my mind about the state of the economy. After all, I'll be going to work at a homeless shelter that has far more people showing up each night than there are beds available, with a primary task of finding more money to keep the doors open in the midst of government budget cuts. Of course, I am feeling a bit more secure about my personal economic situation. So much so that I've just made a little trip to and made a small donation.

After many years on the "technical assistance" side of nonprofit life it will be exciting, rewarding, and just a little bit scary, to return to the direct service side of things. I've got a couple of weeks to wrap up most of my consulting gigs (won't be a problem) and then I'll start work on the 25th. I've got a couple of workshops that I'm scheduled to teach after that, but my new boss is aware of them and is okay with my taking time off to make those commitments.

Interesting thing about being self-employed; rather than having to give notice to one boss, I've got several bosses (clients) to notify and make final arrangements with. I'd better get started...

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Sorry for posting my comments a little late, but my DSL wasn't connecting yesterday...

After the second debate, I still put Kerry ahead 2-0, but I have to admit that Bush did come off a little bit better this time around than he did last week. Where I think the President blew it was in losing his temper and cutting off the moderator when he was trying to ask follow-up questions. I haven't heard anybody else commenting on that, but I found it rude and showing a lack of character. Oh, and facts. He has trouble with facts, too.

There were some points where I wish Kerry would have pushed back at the President's lies a little more, but he did do a good job at both defending himself, and explaining what his position on various issues was.

The "town hall" audience asked some very good questions. I think most pundits underestimated the ability of "regular folks" to ask insightful, probing questions. I wish the rules of the debate would have allowed for a little more contact and give-and-take between the candidates and the questioners, but I do think it was still an effective format.

Here's an interesting article at "Vital Source" saying how progressive and liberal independents, Greens, etc., will be voting for Kerry (even if they don't love everything about him), while many conservatives (Republicans included) will be voting for "anybody but Bush" (either for Kerry or for conservative 3rd party candidates). While Nader has [unfairly] taken much of the blame for Gore's loss in 2000, the authors conclude, this year the wild-card votes could likely work against Bush. I certainly hope so.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Excuse me while I take the morning off from the Presidential race to focus on California politics. We've got fifteen different statewide ballot propositions this time around, including multiple conflicting and competing initiatives dealing with Indian Gaming, Health Care, Primary Elections, Law Enforcement, and more.

I've posted my first impressions of each the fifteen, along with how I think I will be voting, but I reserve the right to flip-flop and change my vote as I read more and learn some of the finer details of proposals.

One issue that's not on the ballot is the ballot itself. Many of us (including here in Santa Clara County) will be using paperless voting machines. No paper proof of how you voted, and no means for a re-count. It's making a lot of people very nervous, and many are planning on using absentee ballots to get around that.

But, here's a little line I found in my "Official Voter Information Guide": Every voter does have the option of casting a paper ballot. "If you would prefer to use a paper ballot instead of a touchscreen/DRE, you may request one when you sign in at the polls." I may try that, and see if they'll actually give me a paper ballot.

There's still time for Californians to register; the deadline is October 18.

Tonight - Back to the Presidential race with debate number two...

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The VP debate is over, and while there was plenty of blood spilled, there were no dead bodies at the end. Overall, however, I do have to admit that Cheney gave the slightly - that's slightly - stronger performance.

Cheney had the closest thing to a winning line when he said that as VP "I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer. I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session. The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight."

It's a beautiful line. It also happens to be a lie. Besides the time they've each spent in the Senate, they've also met on at least two public occasions: a national prayer breakfast in February 2001 during which Cheney, in his remarks, acknowledged Edwards and when Edwards escorted North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole while she was sworn in by Cheney in January 2003.

Cheney was also, however, the most flustered, when even he couldn't defend the President's position in favor of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. He first said what he believes, "States have regulated marriage... That would be my preference." But once states, such as Kerry's Massachusetts, actually moved that way, "the president felt that it was important to make it clear that that's the wrong way to go, as far as he's concerned... he sets the policy for this administration, and I support the president." Talk about flip-flops and having it both ways! Regulating marriage is the state's responsibility, unless they accept that responsibility.

When Edwards then gave a clear outline of his and Kerry's position, and explained that the Constitutional amendment is just a political rouse to divide the nation, Cheney could say nothing in response to defend the administration. He used about three of his 90 seconds rebuttal time. "That's it?" asked moderator Gwen Ifill. "That's it," said the Veep.

But, overall, I do have to say that this was a close match, with Cheney possibly finishing slightly ahead. Despite the items I chose to quote above, he managed to keep Edwards on the defensive throughout the session; defending Kerry's record as well as his own. All Edwards was able to do in return was get in a few of the same rehearsed points that Kerry had given last Thursday. Edwards did very well, but not excellent.

For those who missed the action, The Washington Post has the full transcript online for some exciting reading.

And now, for your shock and amusement, a couple of video links:

G.W. Bush drunk - Looks like he's at some wedding, a few years before running for President, but not that long ago...

G.W. Bush on sovereignty - It's a simple question for a simple man...

And, finally, Bush and Blair in a loving duet.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Be sure to watch the big show tonight when Vice Presidential Candidate John Edwards takes on Shadow President Dick Cheney. I just hope that mean old VP doesn't hurt that nice young man from North Carolina. Hopefully they'll search Cheney for weapons of mass destruction before they allow him on stage.

Over at The Capital Times, John Nichols has 10 questions for Cheney that I'd love to hear the answers to, but which probably won't be asked tonight. Still, I suggest you review the questions and ask them of your right-wing friends.

And, if you think the repercussions of this elections will only last for four years, check out People for the American Way's amusing flash video on Nixon's legacy on the Supreme Court, and how Nixon's hand helped turn the 2000 election. Take a look, and then pass the URL on to your un-decided friends who can't be bothered to vote this year.

After you've checked out those links, and watched the debate, click on over to and make one more small donation to get some ads played in the swing states.

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend who is also a nonprofit consultant. I was telling him that my business has slowed down in the past few months after a good start. He agreed that it is slow, that he's never seen it so bad, and that with upcoming budget cuts it's only going to get worse. He is terrified of a Bush re-election (as am I), and is seriously considering moving to Australia if it happens.

I've had similar conversations over the last few weeks with others in the nonprofit field locally: consultants who've never seen it so slow and professionals with roots in the community who are talking about emigrating elsewhere (Canada, The Netherlands, New Zealand, etc.) if Kerry loses.

Personally, I'm just seeing that I missed the opportunity to move Ohio or Pennsylvania a couple of months ago. At least there my vote would have a chance of effecting the outcome.

Friday, October 01, 2004

See the big show last night? Of course you did. While there were no "knock-out punches", I did feel that Kerry won handily. His only problem was looking at Jim Leher (the moderator) when answering, instead of into the camera. But he did do quite a bit right:
  • He was clear about his position on Iraq - Yes, Saddam Hussein was a danger, but a lower priority than Osama bin Laden, and we should never have gone it essentially alone.
  • He further made headway in pointing out that Osama is still out there due to our being distracted, unnecessarily, by Iraq.
  • He succinctly presented his vision of security through alliances, and how it relates to Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and the war on terror in general.
  • He made the point that while we build police and fire stations in Iraq, we're closing them here at home; instead of protecting our nation we gave millionaires another tax cut.

Beyond what was said, Kerry simply behaved better. While Bush was speaking, Kerry showed proper respect for the President. Bush, however, looked agitated and impatient while Kerry spoke. Other reasons W lost:
  • It was his campaign that insisted on the timing lights being visible to the audience, yet he was the candidate who had trouble keeping to the time limits.
  • Several times (particularly in the second half of the debate) he asked for more time to reply to Kerry's answer, then stumbled around with nothing to say.
  • When at a loss for words he kept repeating the same tired comments about Kerry having "many different positions" on Iraq, after it has already been satisfactorily explained by Kerry.
  • Note to W: the shorter candidate should never slouch behind the lectern. It makes you look smaller than you really are, in both size and stature.

I was also extremely pleased that, despite the campaigns best efforts to sanitize the proceedings, there was a bit of exchange between the candidates that almost approached it being a real debate, and not just a stage managed event.

Still, the best line of the night came before the debate, when Chris Matthews was talking to reverend Al Sharpton. Sharpton began by commenting on the debate being held in Florida, and said of the President that he's "returning to the scene of the crime."

When Matthews asked about Kerry's seemingly changing positions on Iraq, Sharpton replied that Kerry's only mistake at first was "believing this President." He went on to say, "You want to know Dan Rather's sources? Fine! What were [Bush's] sources? Where are the Weapons of Mass Destruction?"

Yes, I think Kerry won the debate, but I only wish he had brought some of Sharpton's excitement and directness onto the podium.

Next up, the domestic issues debate. I just hope that John Kerry tears Bush's domestic record apart, then looks into the camera and quotes Ronald Reagan; "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The countdown to the first debate has begun, and I'm afraid nobody really cares. Much has already been made of the 32-page Memorandum of Understanding between the campaigns that has made sure that the debates will be as un-spontaneous as possible, but I plan to watch anyway.

True, the three events planned can hardly be called "debates," but they are our only chances as a nation to see the two major candidates side-by-side - even if they are only repeating their canned and rehearsed statements. There will be no surprise curve-ball questions, and absolutely no interplay between the two, but we will see them on their feet for 90 minutes, each having to answer the same basic questions on where they will take this nation over the next four years.

Of course, each side is already doing damage control. Each will claim a victory by simply doing better than the expectations that they are working hard now to lower. Kerry's campaign reminds us that Bush's strength is debating (?!) and that his folksy way of talkin' to folks virtually guarantees a Bush win. Bush's operatives remind us that debating is all Senators do ("Presidents act, Senators debate") while Dubya can barely say his name without stuttering.

This strategy has worked for W before. In 2000 the expectations on him were so low that all he had to do was string together three sentences, and only screw two of them up, to be hailed as the winner. Of course, Gore's famous sighing didn't help. Or the lockbox thing.

Oops, am I talking about Gore? Last night on Hardball Chris Matthews slipped a couple of times in calling Kerry by the G-name. Freudian slip or subtle campaign message? I like Chris Matthews, but his partisanship has been obscenely on display lately - something more fitting to somebody on FoxNews, not MSNBC.

Oh, and a comment about yesterday's posting. I may have sounded a bit flippant and disrespectful in my discussion of becoming an ordained member of the clergy. While I am not taking my online ordination as being as meaningful as somebody whose earned theirs through years of seminary study, I'm not taking it completely as a joke either.

The truth is that it partly came out of my frustration with organized religion in general, and my lack of spiritual connections as of late. But more of that later. Right now, I have a message for my followers: Though shalt watch the debates with an open mind and try not to scream when the other guy talks. Go forth and vote.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Yesterday I had an interesting horoscope: "You're a visionary and will be drawn to bring ethereal concepts into the real world. Inspiring impossibilities spur you to create your own unfeasible outcomes. To get to your goal, you need the help of others."

To me it meant only one thing: Start my own cult. I've always wanted to be a cult leader, but have never made it a high priority on my to-do list. But that whole thing about bringing visionary concepts in the real world touched something spiritual inside me. And that bit about needing others, well, it pointed out that I need to start recruiting members.

So, this morning I went and got myself ordained. I visited the Church of Spiritual Humanism and clicked the "Ordain Me" button, and now I'm a member of the clergy.

I chose to be a Spiritual Humanist because it is "based on the ability of human beings to solve the problems of society using logic and science." Also, after a few web searches I found that most of the folks who'll ordain you online (and free) are specifically Christian sects, and although some will allow you the title of "Rabbi", nobody (not even Jews for Jesus) will ordain you as a specifically Jewish Rabbi.

So, now that I'm ordained in the Church of Spiritual Humansim, I need to decide what title I want to be known by. I'm thinking of are "Inspirational Leader," "Universal Rabbi," "Lama," " Peace Counselor," or "Guru."

Since I'm going to be needing some followers, why don't you email me with your choice of my title, and some ideas of what you'd like from this new congregation? Also, if you'd like me to perform any weddings, baby namings, or other ceremonies, just let me know. I'm here to serve you, my devoted followers. Oh, and donations are always welcome...

Thursday, September 23, 2004

"The expansive agenda President Bush laid out at the Republican National Convention was missing a price tag, but administration figures show the total is likely to be well in excess of $3 trillon over a decade.

"A staple of Bush's stump speech is his claim that his Democratic challenger, John F. Kerry, has proposed $2 trillion in longterm spending, a figure the Massachusetts senator's campaign calls exaggerated. But the cost of the new tax breaks and spending outlined by Bush at the GOP convention far eclipses that of the Kerry plan. ..."


Meanwhile, the ashes of the late Marlon Brando were scattered yesterday in Tahiti and Death Valley. At the Death Valley ceremony for a man many (including myself) consider one of the greatest actors of the 20th century, they also scattered the ashes of Brando's good friend and former roommate, Wally Cox, who died in 1973.

According to the media, "[H]ow Cox's ashes were in the possession of Brando's family was unknown." Personally, I find it fitting that the actors who gave us Jor-El and Underdog were put to rest together.

More on this story...

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

"Millions of U.S. citizens, including a disproportionate number of black voters, will be blocked from voting in the Nov. 2 presidential election because of legal barriers, faulty procedures or dirty tricks, according to civil rights and legal experts....

"There are individuals and officials who are actively trying to stop people from voting who they think will vote against their party and that nearly always means stopping black people from voting Democratic," said Mary Frances Berry, head of the U.S. Commission on Human Rights.

Vicky Beasley, a field officer for People for the American Way, listed some of the ways voters have been "discouraged" from voting. "In elections in Baltimore in 2002 and in Georgia last year, black voters were sent fliers saying anyone who hadn't paid utility bills or had outstanding parking tickets or were behind on their rent would be arrested at polling stations. It happens in every election cycle."

Read the full story on Yahoo! News

Monday, September 20, 2004

CBS says, "OOOPS!"

Look out now for the media feeding frenzy now that CBS news has made an official statement saying they were misled about the authenticity of memos regarding W's National Guard service. Dan Rather's apology will be used to discredit the entire story, which is actually a shame.

Yes, some of the documents were shown to be fakes. But, the bigger issue is whether or not young W received assistance avoiding the draft with a guard post, and whether or not he managed to shirk some of his duties once in the guard. Nobody is disputing those assertions; only the method used to prove them.

To me, the most interesting interview was with General Killian's secretary. She said that the she thought the documents were fakes, but that whoever created them had access to Killian and knew his opinion of W. She verified the information contained in the memos, even while disputing their authenticity.

Okay, CBS was duped. But not by Democratic operatives making up lies. They were duped by somebody close to the President who wanted the true information leaked, but wanted to maintain their own secrecy. This is bigger than a faked memo; this is somebody high up who is scared of his own boss.

And, by the way, it does matter.

Friday, September 17, 2004

I've just posted a new article at Suite 101; "Republicans Not Evil and Other Astounding Facts!" I hope you like it.

Meanwhile - If you're interested in moving to Silicon Valley, here's a listing for a house in Los Gatos for only $100,000. If I describe it to you, it won't do it justice - Just click and enjoy...

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Get 'em while they last! Official Kerry-Edwards shot glasses.

I know I'll be needing this a lot between now and November 2. Although, depending on what happens that day, I may just start drinking my whiskey straight from the bottle...
With G.W. Bush in the lead in all current polls, there's very little incentive for him to face John Kerry face-to-face. And so his campaign is being as weasily as possible when it comes to confirming if/when any debates will be held.

The bi-partisan commission on debates (and they can be a problem too) has proposed three 90-minute sessions, to which Kerry has agreed. Bush has not answered yet, and insiders are now indicating that he may only appear for two 60-minute sessions.

Obviously the Bush camp agrees with me that Kerry will whip his ass in man-to-man confrontation. Of course, it's not just Kerry that loses out, but the American people. But since when has W ever cared about them?

Read full article in the SF Chronicle

Monday, September 13, 2004

Now that Leslie's back to work teaching, I'm realizing how much time I've got on my hands between the little bit of client work that I've got right now. So, I've been getting into promotional mode the last couple of days.

On Friday, I updated my consulting web site and posted a little ad on craigslist. This morning I sent out this email to about 115 people I know professionally:
Dear Friends and Colleagues,

It has been nearly a year since my departure from CompassPoint, so I thought I would fill you all in on what I've been doing since "going solo" as a consultant.

In Gilroy I am working with the Glen View Alliance: a collaborative of Go Kids, MACSA, Rebekah Children's Services, School-Linked Services, and GUSD. I have facilitated a few of their retreats and have now written grants of approximately $2.3 million for their five-year project.

I have also been serving as Interim Executive Director for ARIS. This assignment started with an organizational assessment that led to my recommending the shutdown of the agency. I've remained IED during the filing of bankruptcy and have managed the sale of all the assets, including a house.

Along with those major projects I've also done some grant writing for Peace-it-Together and the Peninsula Symphony Association and have taught workshops in fundraising and supervision for Montalvo, the Shasta Regional Community Foundation, and (of course) CompassPoint.

As we head into Fall I am ready to pick up a few more projects or interim assignments. If you have any leads or ideas please feel free to pass on my contact information (see below) or give me a call just to catch up!

It's kind of nice to see what I've accomplished over this last odd year. It would be nicer if I had a positive bank balance to go along with it. We'll see if these efforts are able to scare up any business.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Say No to assault weapons on our streets

Here's something positive you can do to commemorate the third anniversary of 9/11: Help keep assault weapons off our streets.

Friday, September 03, 2004

As I'm sure you've heard by now, last night George W. Bush gave the best speech of his life. It was moderate, yet resolute, demonstrated a commitment to a being strong force internationally, yet held out compassion for those struggling at home, firmly criticized his opponent, yet good-naturedly mocked his own short-comings. In other words, it was full of shit.

The first twenty minutes or so W laid out a domestic agenda of some forty items he would pursue to make life better at home, if he were elected President. It was mighty impressive, with some "compassionate conservative" spins on items right out of the Democratic party platform. My main trouble with it was that it was a great speech for somebody accepting the nomination for the first time. But where have these ideas been the last 3-1/2 years? Why it taken him his entire first term to put together a domestic agenda that can only be accomplished in a second term? Because it's all BS. It's smoke and mirrors designed to appeal to the swing voters who are scared of Bush, but unsure of Kerry.

Then came the meat and potatoes of the speech, and the message of the week; G.W. must be re-elected because 9/11 proved that there are bad guys out there who want to hurt us, and G.W. doesn't care who he has to kill to get at them. Oh, yeah, and he'll protect the rights of the un-born against militant homosexual judges.

I was scared, I tell ya. Not because of what he said, but because of how well he said it. Speaking for over an hour, he barely sweated at all and only had a few minor mispronunciations. If people actually believed 60% of what they heard, he could actually be re-elected.

Then came the Kerry speech in Ohio. Not many stations covered it, and none that I could find had it in its entirety, but those who did see it saw what a real statesman looks and sounds like. It's more than simply pronouncing the words right; it's feeling them too. Yes, he started at the lectern looking at his cards, but then he pulled the microphone out of the stand and wandered around the podium speaking directly to the people, without his notes, and you knew that this was a man who understood what's going in America today, and what to do about it. He wasn't being fed focus group tested catch phrases by his handlers; he was explaining what could be done to get this country back on the right track. I felt much better.

Looking at those two performances, back-to-back like that, I could see how important the debates will be. Yes, Bush has grown as President, and handles himself much better in public speaking situations, but he doesn't hold a candle to Kerry. As long Kerry stays away from the word "lockbox" he should do just fine.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

I'll be honest here; I haven't watched very much of the Republican Convention. It's not that I haven't tried. It's just that keep getting disgusted and tuning it out. I've been turning to Chris Mathews and the gang at MSNBC to keep me up on the latest happenings, but I keep missing what I'm told are the highlights.

Here's some of what I've seen so far:
  • Laura Bush talking about the great progress that has been made in achieving America's vision of equality, from Lincoln freeing the slaves in the 1860's, to women getting the right to vote early in the last century, but leaving out the Voting Rights Act of 1964. She had to leave that out, because then she'd have to admit that the "party of Lincoln" opposed guaranteeing African-Americans access to the ballot box far more recently than when they did anything positive for blacks.

  • The Bush Twins joking about having joined Dad's campaign because they were looking around for something to do, now that they've graduated college. Hmmm... could they be having trouble finding something to do because THERE'S NO F***ING JOBS?!?!

  • Dick Cheney trying to come across as a nice guy. I couldn't hear what he was saying, however, as Leslie kept shouting obscenities at the screen. Or maybe it was me doing the shouting?

  • Zell Miller giving a tirade on why he's the token turn-coat Democrat to be speaking at the RNC. I think it was something like, "I introduced Bill Clinton at the 1992 Democratic Convention, and what did I get? Nothing. Not a cabinet post, not an invitation to spend the night in the Lincoln bedroom. As recently as 2001 I was giving speeches praising John Kerry's leadership, and did he pick me to be his VP? Heck no! So I'll show them! W's promised to take me fishing in Crawford if I give this little rant here..."

  • Rudy Giuliani telling a story about 9/11; "I remember at a couple of times during the day, turning to my chief of police, holding his arm, and saying, 'Thank God that George Bush is our president.'" Right. And the chief turned to him and said, "Can you let go of my damn arm? I've got f***ing city on fire I've got to tend to!" Another thing I noticed while Rudy was talking; the audience looked completely bored out of their minds.

  • Stephen Baldwin being interviewed about being the "non-Democrat" (and non-famous actor) in a family of famous liberals. Steve said that he was the RNC, not for political reasons, but for a religious one. He's concerned about how this country has turned away from God in the past 20 years, and he's there to support the candidate who he perceives to "have more faith." Steve claimed that there's no friction in the family because of his stance. An hour later I saw brother Alec being interviewed (on a real network), saying basically the same thing; "There's no friction in the family YET."

  • Speaking of actors being interviewed for no apparent reason, Ron Silver was on a panel on MSNBC and gave one of the few bits of true insight into how W might actually be re-elected. Silver is your basic stereotype New York Jew turned Hollywood Actor; liberal and progressive all the way. But he's supporting Bush. He's not proud of it, but he's doing it because he's scared, and he feels just a little bit safer with a crazy cowboy in the White House. His point was that he feels there are many more Democrats like him, who when talking to friends (or answering to pollsters) say, "Anybody but Bush," but when they get into the voting booth will feel the fear and re-elect the guy they hate.

  • Patrick Guerriero, head of the Log Cabin Republicans (the Gay Republican group) expressing his dissatisfaction with a party platform that has several anti-gay planks in it. He, of course, was not invited to speak from the platform, this interview was only for late-night cable TV viewers. I'd recommend visiting and reading Patrick's statement about the platform.

  • John McCain being interviewed everywhere, steadfastly refusing to say anything nasty about his friend, John Kerry, or distance himself from his President, George W. Bush. Is it too late for him to get the nomination?
I accidentally, and thankfully, missed Ahnold's speech. Tonight is W's big one. Ooh. I can hardly wait...

Friday, August 27, 2004

I tell ya, I feel loved. Really loved. Just take a look at the important people who took time out of their busy schedules to send me personally autographed photos of themselves:

Kerry and Edwards holding hands - - GW leaning on Laura to look sober

Go ahead - click on 'em. Take a good look at the personal messages! I tell ya, I feel loved, needed, respected, and torn. Gosh! I can only vote for one of them. One of these nice men is going to be disappointed in me!

The part I can't figure out, however, is how I got to be "Charter Member of the campaign in California" for GW. Maybe I received that honor for all the kind things I've said about the president on this blog? It's so personal, how he's posing with his lovely wife instead of with that ugly guy who runs the country.

Actually, on closer examination, I'm not convinced that Bush actually signed this thing. Take a look at the signature - It looks more like "Gov Bill" than "George Bush." Do you think Clinton sent this to me as a joke?

The Kerry and Edwards signatures are certainly real. You can tell by the fact that they used blue ink to make it stand out from the printed portion. And how Kerry's pen seems to be low on ink. You'd think Edwards would let him borrow his, wouldn't you? Or, maybe Kerry's light touch is because he can't make up his mind whether or not he actually wants to sign it?

I've taped both pictures up above my desk so that I can stare at them every day for then next two months as I try to decide who to vote for. I'm just hoping Ralph Nader sends me a picture to, so I can collect the full set...

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Have you got Olympic fever yet? I thought I did, but it turned out to be just a little allergy thing. For the few hours I've spent watching, I'm enjoying the spectacle, but I'm just about done with it now. The opening ceremonies were brilliant, and there've been some impressive performances, but frankly, I've fallen asleep each night with the TV on waiting for something exciting to happen.

I believe the most exciting thing is that it's happening at all. Just a couple of months ago there were all the reports of facilities not yet built, and the impossibility of providing security. Once the construction was complete, I was not too concerned with the possibility of terrorism. As my father-in-law said during the opening ceremonies, "No matter what else you may think of Al Queda, you gotta believe they're not stupid enough to piss off the entire world in one night."


Leslie's back to work as of yesterday. Well, officially, as of yesterday. In reality we were in the classroom a couple of days over last week and the weekend getting it set up before the official return to work. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow are all meetings and planning sessions; the kids come back to school on Thursday. Yes, it does seem to come earlier every year.

I may also be back to work full-time soon, as well. I did get one offer, which I'm mulling over (will most likely formally accept shortly), and I've been informed that I'm on the short list for another interesting position. After ten months of semi-self-employment it will be nice to return to a certain amount of economic security, and to seeing other people during the day.

It will be hard, however, to get used to actually getting dressed and showered before going to work, and losing the flexibility that the consulting provided. All things are a trade off. Were it not for mounting medical bills (remember that gall bladder surgery?), etc., I might have given the independent route a little longer.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I have a new guru, and I feel much better now. My new spiritual guide is a five-year-old boy named Mason.

This weekend we went down to Bakersfield to visit an old friend who's living there, sharing a house with some family, including her little cousin, Mason, and a dog with obsessive compulsive disorder.

The dog is otherwise very sweet, but her OCD comes out in form of insisting that everybody throw her tennis ball for her to fetch constantly. Not a moment of down time. She just thrusts her face (stuffed with the ball) into your lap over and over, then moves on to the next person, over and over.

We were joking about the dog's obsessive behavior, but Mason didn't mind. He had no problem ignoring the dog's incessant demands. Finally, he explained how he does it. "It's okay," he said unto us. "You don't need to care." Suddenly the dog no longer bothered us.

In the few days since then there have been a few stressful situations, as there always are. And in each of them I just thought to myself, "Mason says, 'It's okay. You don't need to care.'" And then I felt much better.

So now I have a new mantra, and you can use it too. Feeling overwhelmed by something that's beyond your control? Done all you can, but the idiots are still all around you? Just about at the end of your rope?

Then repeat after me:
Mason says, "It's okay. You don't need to care."

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Today's post is a musical one. I've wanted to pick up the mandolin for years now, and Leslie just bought me one for my birthday (I've got a great wife). So... here's the first sample of what it can do (or, at least, what I can do with it):

Mando Piece One - find other recordings at Ken's Garage.

Monday, August 09, 2004

If Ralph Nader were a stock, the authorities would have to step in and stop trading before its plummet caused a crash of the entire market. The independent candidate will not appear on the California ballot, having only collected little more than half of the signatures required by last Friday's deadline. So far, he's only turned in completed petitions in 18 states.

Resorting to the sort of dirty politics that he's supposed to be running against, he's now in a last-ditch effort to convince the California Green Party to split with the national party and list him as their presidential candidate instead of David Cobb (whom the Greens nominated last month).

As last hurrahs go, this is turning out to be one of the most painful I can remember witnessing in a long time. Particularly so as I once so admired and respected this man who now appears to be as desperate and deluded as... as... - I don't know... maybe as desperate and deluded as W?

I'm still trying to come up with something a little more positive and upbeat, but for now my personal campaign slogan is, "Greens for Kerry; it's a decision we hope we can live with."

Monday, August 02, 2004

It's movie recommendation time again here at Ken's Blog, and this time I'm telling you to see the new re-make of The Manchurian Candidate.

I don't usually like, recommend, or even see, re-makes of classic pictures - especially ones as perfect as the original Manchurian Candidate. I have always counted the original among my top 10 favorite films, but for about 15 years now, I've been itching for an update (I've even sketched out a treatment or two for how to update it over the years).

The world has changed quite a bit since 1962, and gotten more and more Orwellian since 1984. The parts of the story that had to be over-explained to try and make it believable in the original are ordinary and accepted now, allowing the new version to cut back in those areas and to go deeper into the paranoia and the depths of the conspiracy. Even knowing how the story had to progress, and what the end result had to be, I was still riveted to my seat.

Yes, there are some changes. The character played by James Gregory in the original is eliminated, allowing Meryl Streep to assume both the Angela Lansbury role and parts of Gregory's. Liev Schreiber's performance is the closest to the original's Lawrence Harvey, but adding in new elements by picking up the rest of Gregory's duties. Kimberly Elise picks up the Janet Leigh role with modern overtones, and John Voigt gives the John McGiver role some balls. Finally, Denzel Washington does a stunningly brilliant turn at the lead originally played by Frank Sinatra.

The changes were enough to make it fresh, and add a few fun twists. But, where it counted, the story is true to the original, and as powerful as ever. The twists, I think, were necessary. In 2004 Meryl Streep can get away with things that Angela Lansbury (wonderful as she is/was) never could back in 1962. The changes also fix one or two of the minor holes in the original, although they do bring up one or two new lesser ones.

Leslie had never seen the original, but she also found it a powerful and compelling movie, and enjoyed the flow of the storyline, even if it did make one a bit tense at times. All in all, a tight updating of a classic that is not only timely, but is a great movie experience besides.

Friday, July 30, 2004

It's official: America can do better. Not only that, but Help is on the way. Last night John Kerry gave his acceptance speech and did his best not to look like Al Gore. We were pleased with the results of the big show, and hope he's able to keep it up for the next three months plus.

The next major test will be the head-to-head debates. There's no question that Kerry can come across as smarter than Bush; the problem is can he do that without appearing pompous?

The charming part of W is actually quite similar to the charming part of Tubby Clinton. They each come across as favorite uncle - you may not always agree with them, you may often be embarrassed by them, but they're your kin just the same. Bottom line: W's a dolt, but if you can get past the evil aspect of it, it might be fun to go down to Crawford for a bar-b-que and have a few beers with the prez.

Kerry, however, comes across as a professor. A favorite professor, mind you, but still, not quite family. You might have felt honored to have a beer with your favorite professor a few times back in college, but you then had to follow that up with a few more beers with your real peers.

So, Kerry's challenge, as I see it, is to continue to take the high road, not shy away from being the smarter of the two major candidates, but dig a little bit deeper and expose the part of his personality that we want to invite over on Sunday afternoon to watch the football game. The pompous professor has to give way just a little bit to Uncle John.

(One note back to where I posted that I've spent 40% of W's term without regular, full-time employment: My brother's comment was, "That's almost as much time as W's spent on vacation.")

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

What's more tiring than going on your vacation? Going on somebody else's vacation! We've been hosting my parents, who are supposed to be babysitting my nephews, but it's basically turned me into the driver for a Wild Bay Area Adventure. It's fun having family here, mind you; but it's also damned time consuming and tiring.

During all this I managed to have my 43rd birthday. Wheee. I wasn't so much into having a birthday this year, and I suspect it's because, once again, I'm not feeling terribly financially secure. I've put out this personal statistic before but it bears repeating; I've now spent 40% of the Bush II administration without regular, full-time employment. Let's review the two lay-offs:
  • Handsnet: went out of business as a result of fallout from the dot-com bust.
  • CompassPoint: office downsized, several positions cut (including mine) and remain un-filled.
As I've also said, even with those two lay-offs in less than four years, I've managed to make ends meet. That's one of the benefits of being a 40-ish white guy with a Master's degree; if you call yourself a consultant people will believe you and you can put together enough little projects that you can avoid un-employment.

So what's been my largest consulting project so far? Managing the dissolution and bankruptcy proceedings of ARIS. In fact, I'm due in court in about three hours to finalize the liquidation of one of our major assets.

So, my personal work experience of the W years has been Bankruptcy, Downsizing, Bankruptcy. That's just my work experience, I'm not even getting into domestic terrorism and foreign wars. No wonder I'm depressed about all this. Happy freaking birthday to me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

While I was away, our Governator, Ahhnold Schwarzenegger, referred to the Democratic legislators as a bunch of "girly men" for their inability to pass the budget on time. Much has already been said about whether or not this was a homophobic insult or just a joke (frankly, it was a joke that relied on a homophobic insult to get the laugh). I want to just note the absurdity of the comment.

You've heard of art imitating life (or is it life imitating art?), but this goes a little further. This is politics imitating satire imitating "art" imitating life. Arnold never actually used the "girly man" term in his movies. It came from a Saturday Night Live sketch in which Hans and Franz, a couple of Schwarzenegger devotees, attempt to pump you up and cure your "girly man" problems.

You would think that, as Governor, Arnold would want to take himself a little more seriously than that. What he's done here is not simply reference a catch phrase from a popular movie (like Reagan's "Make my day" rhetoric); he's referenced a catch phrase from a comedy sketch
pointing out how ridiculous Arnold himself was/is.

The lines between life, entertainment, satire, and politics have all melted together. Everything is entertainment - including the state budget battle - and everything is satire. The politicians have long ceased being statesmen and now publicly admit to being nothing more than pale parodies of themselves.

Monday, July 19, 2004

We're back from vacation - I know, you missed me. We had a full week in New York City (stayed at Swissotel The Drake, Park & 56th). Here were a few of the highlights:
  • The Shows!
    • A taping of The Late Show w/ David Letterman at the Ed Sullivan Theatre (Monday's show, with Kristen Davis and Ali G, plus Frozen Yogurt Night for the audience).
    • The Lion King at the New Amsterdam Theatre
    • Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm) at Carolines Comedy Club
  • The Food!
    • Vincent's on Mott, Little Italy - traditional (and reasonably priced) Italian - I had the Fried Calamari Parmesan with Linguini in Marinara. Incredible.
    • Katz's Deli, Lower East Side - The Pastrami! The Pastrami! It's sliced thick, but just melts on your tongue.
    • Bar Pitti, Greenwich Village - upscale Italian, with class and care. Not another tourist rip-off, but a true gourmet experience.
    • Hop Kee, Chinatown - get the roast pork lo mien and the roast duck won ton soup
    • Gray's Papaya, the Village (and elsewhere) - 2 hot dogs & a "healthful" juice drink for $2.75
    • Drinks at the Carnegie Club w/ a smooth jazz trio playing (drinking Manhattans, of course)
    • The best, Sourest pickle ever from a street vendor's barrel in the Lower East Side
    • Several fancier (and pricier) dinners and lunches around Midtown, the Theatre District, and the Upper East Side, including the Oyster Bar at the Plaza
  • The Tours!
    • Going to the top of the Empire State Building
    • The Lower East Side Tenement Museum - You must visit 97 Orchard Street when you are in New York
    • The Circle Line "Liberty Cruise" up and down the Hudson and around Liberty & Ellis islands
  • The City!
    • Central Park, especially Strawberry Fields & the Secret Garden
    • Walking endlessly up and down and through Broadway and Midtown, etc.
    • Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, from Manhattan to Brooklyn
    • Riding the subway everywhere ($21 for a one-week pass is the best transportation and touring value for visitors to the City)
    • The architecture; from the Midtown skyscrapers to the Lower East Side tenements
    • Waking up in a city that never sleeps
If you're planning on going to New York, and somebody recommends you try "Ray's Pizza", be sure to get more details than that, for instance, is Ray famous, original, neither, or both?

There are a total of at least 51 "Ray's Pizza" of some sort listed in the Manhattan phone book, including: Ray's Original (1), Ray's Pizza (19), Ray's Pizza Restaurant (2), Ray's Pizza and Bagel Cafe (1), Famous Original Ray's Pizza (14), Famous Original Ray's Pizza of 6th Avenue (1), Famous Ray's Pizza of Greenwich Village (1), and Original Ray's Pizza (12). There's also one "Original Famous Pizza", but they don't have a Ray.

We were aware of this problem thanks to a Seinfeld episode (that show has the answer to everything) in which Kramer is lost downtown and calls Jerry to pick him up. Jerry asks where he is. Kramer replies "By Ray's Pizza." Jerry asks, "Famous Ray's or Original Ray's?" "I don't know, Jerry," Kramer cries, "It's just Ray's!"

We walked into a few of the Ray's to check out their slices and figure out which one is supposed to be the good one. If they didn't look perfect, we walked on, sliceless. We finally ate at the Famous Original Ray's Pizza on Houston Street. It was very good, very authentic, New York pizza, but I'll stick with the original Regina's Pizzeria in Boston's North End (that's the original one, you know, not their suburban clones).

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

So much is happening, and so little of it of any interest. Okay, I'm being overly un-impressed by the week's big news. I'm actually pleased with John Kerry's choice of John Edwards as his running mate, but it's neither the big surprise or earth-shaking announcement that it has been made out to be.

The biggest surprise is that it actually was [somewhat of] a surprise. I think that's the actual news story here. Hundreds of people (at least) had to be in on the planning of the announcement, from making the proper travel arrangements to printing up Kerry-Edwards posters, etc., and the non-disclosure agreements kept them all in check until only about 90 minutes before the official announcement.

I think we're supposed to see that as an example of Kerry's superb leadership ability. Of course, if we're using being able to keep a secret as our criteria for choosing whom to vote for in November, then Bush will be re-elected in a landslide. Think of the secrets he's kept for the last four years: the location of the WMDs, the link between Osama and Saddam, the authors of his energy policy, and the name of the doctor who replaced Dick Cheney with a cyborg following his fatal heart attack.

But back to Edwards... I for one appreciate his "two Americas" theme from his campaign, and am pleased that it will carry over into the Kerry campaign. The Republicans, of course, are saying that this is class warfare and that the Democrats are all pessimistic while they are optimistic.

Pessimistic or optimistic, it's all just a different way of looking at the same situation: The Republicans see the nation as half employed, while the Democrats see the nation as half un-employed. They're both right; it's just semantics and a little thing called "honesty."

Personally, I've been without regular, full-time employment for 17 months (in two periods, first for eight months, and currently for nine more) since Bush took office. That's about 40% of his term. If that makes me more susceptible to believing the candidate who takes the pessimistic point-of-view, so be it.

I should add here: I'm doing alright. I've got a few clients and am doing some consulting and grant writing work on my own, but it's not the same as regular, full-time employment, and the decision to go into business for myself was not done on my choice of timing. I'm able to do this and survive because I'm a 43 white male with a Master's degree and about 15+ years in the same industry.

I recognize that I'm coming from a position of privilege and experience to begin with. So, if I'm having trouble keeping a steady job in this economy (and both lost jobs were economic cuts, not personal firings), what chance does somebody who's not as lucky as I am have?

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Here's a fun little item: Peter Coors (yes, THAT Coors), running as a Republican for U.S. Senate, has come out in favor of lowering the drinking age to 18. The immediate and opposite reaction came from all corners, including his own company.

From the Coors Brewing web site: "Peter Coors’ positions on issues as a candidate for the U.S. Senate do not necessarily reflect the positions of Coors Brewing Company. Regarding any possible lowering of the drinking age, Coors Brewing Company does not support lowering the drinking age... The company has, and will continue to, actively support legislation to reduce youth access to alcohol... and sanctions against adults who provide alcohol to children..."

The unfortunate part is, I actually agree with some of Peter Coors' statement. The national drinking age of 21 came about during Reagan's years, pointing out the hypocrisy of his "New Federalism." See, with the end of prohibition, in Ronnie's youth, the power to regulate alcohol was granted to the states. The Feds would have no ability to say who could or couldn't drink.

So, Reagan, while professing to "give power back to the states," actually blackmailed them into raising the drinking age from 18 to 21. He did this not by passing a law saying, "the national drinking age shall be 21." No, as we just covered, that's not within the Federal Government's rights to do. He did it by threatening to withhold federal highway money to any state that didn't raise the minimum drinking age.

Now, there may be legitimate reasons for the drinking age to be 21. And there may be legitimate reasons for it to be 18. Or any other age, for that matter. The problem is, we never got to have that debate. While each state should have been able to decide for itself the answer to that question, we were forced to accept one man's answer through the power of the budgeting pen. That's basically a form of extortion, and should be frowned upon in a democracy.

I don't know if Peter Coors will make a good Senator from Colorado or not - that's up to the folks that live there, not me - but he should be allowed to have his say. And it might be a good idea to listen to the debate.

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