Thursday, November 30, 2006

Seinfeld - the lost episode

Sorry I haven't written every day as usual. Been busy on other projects, and the continuing health sagas.

Meanwhile, check out this lost episode of Seinfeld for some insight into Michael Richards' recent outburst...
Turns out, Kramer's always had a racism problem...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A visit to the sleep clinic...

This lovely picture is how I looked as I got ready to go to bed last night at the sleep disorders clinic for my polysomnogram (an overnight sleep study). There are 28 sensors attached to me, including two on each leg, one on my left index finger, several on my chest and back, and a whole bunch all over my head.

Among the measures they were checking were brain waves, breathing patterns, blood oxygen levels, and leg movement. The reason for the visit is many years of disruptive snoring, lack of "rested feeling" in the morning, and likely Sleep Apnea.

I arrived at the clinic at 8 PM and immediately changed into my sleep clothes. From about 8:30 - 9:30 the technician hooked me up. She was very good and professional, and it's not really as uncomfortable as it looks. A little stifling, but not at all painful. The little control box you see hanging around my neck gets hung by the bed post when I finally get into the bed.

It's a private room, with a TV, so once I was hooked up and plugged into the bed I watched Heroes and Studio 60 till lights out just after 11 PM. Falling asleep was a bit difficult, as that's when I had the only real discomfort with the sensors behind my ears pinching just a bit.

I did not sleep well. Even worse than normal. But, that's really not too surprising. It's also not really a problem, as they wouldn't really get the data they need if I had had a "good" night.

The technician woke me up at 6:30 and it took about 1/2 hour to get everything un-hooked before I could get showered and dressed.

I will go in on Thursday to discuss the detailed results and diagnosis with the Doctor, but the technician's "unofficial" observations were that I did stop breathing several times during the night (Apnea) which caused my blood oxygen to dip. There was also some leg movement that might indicate RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome).

I'll post again when the next course of action is determined. Most likely it will be another sleepover to test out using a C-PAP machine, which is basically a mask and pump that forces air into my lungs and forcing me to breath through the night.

(NOTE: I sometimes question posting these personal, medical issues on the blog. I do it because over time, these are the posts that end up being most popular. While the political stuff looses its relevance very quickly, people are always looking for information on health problems and looking for other people who've been through it. These posts aren't for everybody, but they are important.)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The veal of the forest?

An acquaintance of mine posted on his blog that Christmas trees are "the veal of forestry." Now, am I missing something, or is this just about the most ridiculous thing you've heard in long while?

First... I love forests. I live in a forest. I support our local anti-logging coalition that is working to protect the hillside and watershed in which I live. I want to maintain the natural environment of the Santa Cruz mountains from over-development. But to come out against Christmas trees? WTF?

Veal, of course, is young beef. The methods of raising veal are often considered cruel and inhumane. Personally, I choose not to eat veal. I'm not a vegetarian, but this is one animal product I opt out of. But that is not the topic of this post.

I assume that the comparison of Christmas trees to veal is to demonstrate how cruel it is cut down baby trees and never give them the opportunity to grow into giant redwoods and firs. In other words; a load of horse shit.

The vast majority of Christmas trees come from Christmas tree farms. These farms are an excellent example of sustainable agriculture. It is no more cruel to cut a five-year-old tree than it is to cut a five-week-old head of lettuce, cut flowers, or cut any other plant product that is cultivated and farmed for human consumption.

In the area where I live, there are many Christmas tree farms. These businesses help to keep this area in open space and out of development. They care for the land, practice good fire and flood prevention, and help prevent the surrounding forest from being clear-cut.

The Christmas tree farms are an important part of the local economy that helps us maintain a sense of "country living" ten minutes outside of Silicon Valley. They are not indiscriminately chopping down old growth trees, or killing the forest in any way, shape, or form.

This is ridiculous that I, a liberal Jew who has never bought a Christmas tree in my life, have to come to the defense of the Christmas tree industry. Seriously, I do not care if you buy a real tree or a plastic one or no tree at all.

But... if you are going to choose a plastic Christmas tree, do it because of the fire danger of keeping a dried-out tree next to your fireplace. Don't choose plastic because you think you're saving the forest. That's just plain silly.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Oops, I've said too much...

Something we've all known forever, but don't usually think enough about, is that the web is a 'global memory bank'. In other words: Watch what you upload. This, according to Gerry McGovern, an "expert on managing web content," and author of the new book "Killer Web Content." (Thanks to Nalts for the link).

I've heard this warning before, that I say too much, that my words will come back to bite me in the ass, that I really shouldn't make an ass out of myself on YouTube quite as often as I do, etc., etc. But, you know, I really don't care.

I've just never been able to get excited or scared of that possibility, real as it may be. The bottom line is that no matter how careful you are in choosing what you put out publicly, somebody is not going to like it, or is going to misunderstand it, or going to deliberately twist into something you didn't mean.

Favorite example: When Upton Sinclair was running for governor of California (1930s), his opponents used quotes from characters in his books to make him look bad. Every book has a villain, and those villainous quotes were rotten. When his opponents got lazy, they also used quotes from books by Sinclair Lewis. Same effect. Doesn't matter that it was fictional quotes from another writer.

So, you can either refrain from ever putting anything in print (or video or audio tape or etc.), or you can just live your life and deal with the fallout. I made my choice long ago and it's too late to stop now.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


"He was very good at letting actors think that they had more control than they actually did." -- Tommy Lee Jones

Film director Robert Altman, dead at 81. Altman was like no other filmmaker. Others can put together great ensemble casts, and allow them the freedom to improvise, but nobody can then put that chaos back into a narrative form quite the way that he did.

From M*A*S*H, to Nashville, to Prairie Home Companion, these titles are well known. I loved each of them, but also The Player, A Wedding, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye, and so many more.

There are very few great directors working anymore. People who could put their imprint on a film from behind the camera in such a way that you know directed it without even asking. Hollywood is full of very competent, but interchangeable, professional hacks. Robert Altman was filmmaker of the first class.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Round Thirteen

Welcome to Round Thirteen of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of DemocracyPhil for Humanity presents Lobbyists Rule America - "Wake up America!" says Phil, the lobbyists are in charge and they don't represent you or me.

David, The Good Human, presents After Six Long Years..... Bush no more - I wish I could be as optimistic as David is.

Bill Losapio presents The Hegelian Relief Valve - "The decline of real freedom and liberty is planned." I hate to say it, but I've had similar thoughts.

Gracchi presents The Virtues of Democracy - "Democracy is not a system for providing perfect government but for providing legitimacy." And therein lies the rub.

Abu Sahajj, Wa Salaam, presents American Criticisms of Democracy - The electoral college is the antithesis of democracy.

John, Hell's Handmaiden, presents Bent out of shape over the elections - "... why Third Parties in the United States aren't going to get very far anytime soon. In a word… myopia."

Barry Leiba, Staring at Empty Pages, presents I see no bipartisan Bush here - Don't expect the new, friendly, compromising Bush to last past Thanksgiving.

Satire Department:

Madeleine Begun Kane presents Bush and Cheney's Blunderland - A song parody to the tune of Winter Wonderland.

Jon Swift presents Election Proves Voting Is Irrational - "Can voters really be trusted? There is quite a bit of evidence that they don't really know what they're doing."

Avant News presents Top GOP Losers Reconsider Suicide PAC - DOH! News of the future.

As always, thank you to all who submitted excellent posts. There's simply no way I could include them all and still make this something you'd want to read. Editing is tough, but hopefully what's left here is well worth your reading.

Thank you for joining us on our bi-weekly look at the decline of democracy (and occasionally hopeful responses to it). I'll be taking a break from posting the carnival for a bit (probably through the holidays/end of the year). More information on future carnivals (when they are announced) will be posted here and on the carnival home page.

Friday, November 17, 2006

"Here's your Patriot Act!"

Just in case you thought everything was peachy now that the "good guys" won the election last week...

You may have seen clips of this on your local news yesterday, but it doesn't even get at the impact of the full seven minute video:

Briefly: A UCLA student who "just happened to look Middle-Eastern" was asked for his ID while studying in the Powell Library. He did not have it with him, and so was asked to leave. He took his time packing up his stuff, but was on his way out when the campus police returned and grabbed him by the arm. He said he was leaving and asked to be un-handed.

Then they tazed him. Repeatedly. Once he was on the floor, completely incapacitated, the police demanded that he stand up. When he was unable to stand (yes, repeated tazings can make it impossible to stand for about 15 minutes), they tazed him several more times.

Bystanders who asked for the cop's badge numbers were told to shut up or they'd be tazed.

Read about the incident in UCLA's student paper, the Daily Bruin.

Why I love technology: A cellphone camera and a YouTube account brought this abuse of power direct to the public. Without it, the incident would have been a back-page local story about a few college students "claiming" that the police were rude.

As long as we've got our tech-toys, the fascists can't win.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Introducing the Goldstein Gate Bridge!

Yesterday's story about O.J. Simpson publishing a book in which he fictionalizes his murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman was pretty darn offensive. Well, here's something that's offensive in an entirely different way: The district board of directors for San Francisco's famous Golden Gate Bridge are expected to start taking bids from potential corporate sponsors.

I am willing to reluctantly accept the re-naming of privately owned sports and concert venues in honor of their corporate benefactors, but publicly owned landmarks are quite another thing. This is commercialism and corporatism at its worst.

Bridge spokeswoman Mary Currie is very careful to point out that there will be no new name signs attached directly to the bridge (or toll booths) itself:
"This is not a naming rights deal. It's more of a behind-the-scenes, low-key, corporate partnership, much like the Proud Partners Program in the national parks."
If you're not familiar with the "Proud Partners Program", they're the ones responsible for signs saying "This trail brought to you by Ford" in our historic national parks. My personal opinion? Hiking trails with ads for Ford are offensive in nature preserves supposedly paid for by my tax dollars.

Back when the U.S. manned space program was started, it was based in Cape Canaveral, Florida. After the death of President Kennedy, it was re-named Cape Kennedy to honor his support of the space program. Local residents rebelled. They successfully argued that the Cape Canaveral name had historical significance. The areas is now the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. A reasonable compromise.

This was the precedent I remembered years ago when Candlestick Park was re-named for a corporate sponsor. Candlestick was named because the piece of land it was built on had been referred to as the Candlestick for well over a century. But corporate interests won out over historical memory.

The Golden Gate Bridge is also named after a geographic feature, and not the color of the paint as is usually assumed. Settlers had always referred to that section of land and bay, from the top of the SF Peninsula across to the Marin Headlands, where the Pacific flows into the great inland sea of the SF Bay, as the "Golden Gate."

So, here's my plan to fight back. I want to sponsor the bridge. I figure most people will hardly even notice the change in name from "Golden Gate" to "Goldstein Gate." I'll need to go in with a bid of at least $5 million. Now, obviously, I don't have $5 million available.

If you'd like to help out, you can use PayPal to send me your donations. Just send whatever you can and mark the donation "Buy a Bridge for Freedom!" Thanks for your help.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

OJ Confesses! ... NOT

Did O.J. Simpson kill his ex-wife and her friend? He's denied it for years (cleared in criminal court, but found liable in civil court), but his new book is being considered his thinly veiled confession.

The book, If I Did It, comes out at the end of the month, coinciding with a two-part interview on Fox TV.
Fox, which plans to air an interview with Simpson Nov. 27 and 29, said Simpson describes how he would have committed the 1994 slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman, "if he were the one responsible."
Ever the responsible broadcaster, Fox is.

Simpson's attorney, Yale Galanter, also says it's not a confession, and that there is "only one chapter that deals with their deaths and that chapter, in my understanding, has a disclaimer that it's complete fiction."

The publisher (Judith Regan), however, contradicts Galanter, saying, "This is an historic case, and I consider this his confession."

Actually, it wouldn't really matter at this point if he did confess "for real" - Laws against double jeopardy would prevent him from being prosecuted again for the same crime. Unless, that is, he confessed to killing a third person...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The expanding definition of disability

Is being morbidly obese a disability?

In some cases, I might agree that it is, but when Stephen Grindle (405 lbs) sued his former employer for unlawful termination, the judge ruled that "morbid obesity ... does not have a physiological cause [and] is not a disability under ADA."

I think what's missing here is testimony from a doctor about what caused Mr. Grindle's obesity. It may have been simple, voluntary over-eating. But, in the case of morbid obesity, I think there may, in fact, be a physiological cause that is beyond the person's control. In such a case, I could see including obesity as a disability.

What about being too short?

Lack of height is certainly not voluntary, and it can certainly be inconvenient, but does it truly limit one's life choices and opportunities in the ways other, recognized disabilities do?

A growing group of advocates think shortness is, in fact, a disability. What do you think? Is this going too far?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Lawsuit Against Filmmaker

Over the weekend, Leslie and I saw Borat (we were not alone, it was the top grossing picture). We found it incredibly offensive and loved every minute of it.

We first became aware of Sacha Baron Cohen and his characters on a visit to New York a couple of years ago. We went to a taping of Letterman and "Ali G" was one of the guests. We don't have HBO, so have not followed his series closely, but have always enjoyed the clips and guest shots we have been able to see, and so were looking forward to the movie. That the picture was directed by the brilliant Larry Charles, who wrote many great Seinfeld episodes and is one of the main writers/directors behind Curb Your Enthusiasm, was just icing on the cake for us.

Key to Baron Cohen's comedy is that he uses documentary techniques to do improv with people who were expecting a serious interview. In this way, he throws the interviewee off guard and gets at their true, honest opinions on things they wouldn't have otherwise discussed. He is outrageous and shocking in order to peel back the masks that most people wear in public and expose their dark underside.

As I said, it's offensive and disgusting and positively brilliant. ...

... But not everybody agrees with the "brilliant" part of that.

Among those who don't appreciate the humor of Borat are those who agreed to participate in the film, actually believing they were meeting a reporter from Kazakhstan, not a comedian from London. And, now that the picture is making millions of dollars, they're all planning on suing.

The racist frat boys who gave Borat a ride in "their" RV for a drunken discussion about the benefits of slavery and why it sucks to be a white man in America claim they would never have agreed to be filmed if they knew the movie would be shown in America. And, in good Mel Gibson style, say they would never have lamented the passing of slavery if they were sober.

The residents of the Romanian village that stood in for Borat's Kazakh home are upset as well. Their complaint is that the village, which has no indoor plumbing and in which only four people have full-time employment, was made to look backward and poor. They've never been so humiliated, they say. Well, not everyone... Says local vice-mayor Petre Buzea, "They got paid so I am sure they are happy. These gipsies will even kill their own father for money."

(Read more about the pending lawsuits and Borat bashers at Will Video for Food. - Not everybody is suing: Humor and public speaking coach Pat Haggerty enjoyed the movie.)

Now, it's not that I'm completely unsympathetic to the "victims" of Sacha Baron Cohen's comedy. They were not told the truth about who they were meeting, and how the footage would be used. A certain amount of deception was used in getting them to agree to be on film.

But... they signed the releases. And, more significantly, what they said was their own. None of the racist, sexist, or anti-Semitic comments made by the frat boys (or the guy at the rodeo, or the dinner party, etc.) were read from a script. These people all willingly exposed themselves for what they truly are. Once the cameras were rolling, they were pleased to be able to explain to this poor backward foreigner how America had been destroyed by blacks, Jews, and other undesirables.

With regard to the residents of Glod, Romania, (Glod, by the way, literally translates to "mud") a commenter on This is London put it best:
Does anyone find it significant that if it were not for this movie being made, no would have ever given a damn about the poverty and suffering that existed in this town before Sacha Barron Cohen ever knew it existed? Hurt pride? Misrepresented? These people are clearly in great need. What about the conditions that make it possible for such a town to exist in the first place?
Good point, but it's much easier to point the finger at a comedian (and ask for some of his money) than to admit to either the pervasive racism in our society or our indifference to world poverty.

And maybe, just maybe, that's what Sacha Baron Cohen was pointing out in the first place. See the movie, and help a poor Romanian villager.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Friday, November 10, 2006

Entering the danger zone...

Why the rush to announce Donald Rumsfeld's successor so quickly after the elections? Because the only way to get Robert Gates confirmed as the new Secretary of Defense is to push his through nomination through the lame duck Republican Congress.

They've re-introduced Gates as a warm, cuddly guy who is careful and thoughtful and a buddy to all. But that veneer might not stand up to a confirmation hearing in the new Democratic Congress heading our way in January.

As Mother Jones' MoJoBlog reminds us:
Gates escaped indictment in Iran-Contra amidst indications he was lying to cover up his own role in the affair. The independent counsel who investigated the scandal, Lawrence Walsh, says in his own memoir he did not believe Gates' professed innocence. There is the suggestion of perjury in his testimony, which was replete with numerous lapses of memory and profuse apologies for not having more carefully considered the policy implications of this secret, unconstitutional war.
Beyond Gates, who knows what else the unaccountable, outward bound Congress will try to slip through in the next month or so before they recess for the holidays?

Do not think that just because the election is over we can take a break from the role of Constitutional watchdog. This Congress has shown itself to be a danger to liberty, and now they've got nobody to answer to. The time for vigilance is now.

Tags: , , ,

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Why am I such a killjoy?

Over the last two days many people have called or emailed me about the mid-term election results and then been shocked that I'm not as jubilant as I'm apparently supposed to be. I've been accused of bringing people down with my gosh-darned attachment to reality.

Look. I'm thrilled that Rummy is on the way out. But Bob Gates is no savior. Fresh blood is good, but Gates is cut from the same cloth as everybody else in the Bush camp.

I'm very pleased with the results in the House of Representatives, and am looking forward to the leadership of Nancy Pelosi. Hopefully they will keep the administration in check without over-reaching (more about that in a second) and bringing nothing new but the return of legislative gridlock.

The results in the Senate, however, leave me completely un-impressed. With George Allen's apparent defeat in Virginia (it ain't quite over yet), it gives the Democrats a whopping majority of one. But, considering that "majority" includes such hawks as Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton (et. al.), I'm not throwing any parties yet.

Yes, Clinton the hawk. All the right-wing commentators are preparing for the 2008 Presidential race by trying to paint her as being "the far left of the Democratic party." What a joke. If Hillary is the "far left" then you can start calling me Trotsky.

They're doing this for two reasons. First is to scare off any other Democratic contenders from really reaching to the left for ideas or support, thus further marginalizing the already marginalized left. Second is to start painting her as "out of the mainstream" and un-electible because she is the Democratic nominee presumptive (at least to this point).

Okay, let's ago back a point or two, to where I cautioned against "over stepping" by the Democratic House. This is not because I wouldn't be a major cheerleader for some real progressive reform. It is because I don't want them to ask for everything, get nothing, and turn the keys to Congress back over to the far right in just two years. I'd rather that they pace themselves, wait for a President who might sign one or two of their proposals, and then go for the guts.

In other words, I don't think Tuesday's results were a mandate for all things left-of-center. I wish it were, but that ain't the case. It was a mandate to find a way out of Iraq, bring an end to corruption and cronyism, and put some focus back on domestic issues.

A raise of the minimum wage can be done. Insuring more children can be done (an incremental step to universal health). Fixing (but not replacing) No Child Left Behind can be done. Some progress can be made on environmental issues. And that's about it.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I'm against impeachment. Yeah, you heard me: against impeachment. Not that Bush & Cheney don't deserve it, but that would take up the entire term and leave nothing else accomplished.

Besides, impeachment is too good for them. Their crimes against humanity rise to the level treason. I say, let them finish their term, then try them for trampling on the Constitution and committing war crimes.

Impeachment only leads to disgrace. We can hang people for treason.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Mission Accomplished?

Yesterday, Americans voted for a new House of Representatives, and - possibly (recounts to come) - Senate. The biggest loser, however, wasn't even on the ballot. No, I'm not talking about the President, I'm talking about Defense Secretary Donnie Rumsfeld.

Yes, it's official, Bush has announced that Rummy will soon be replaced by former CIA director Robert Robo-Cop Gates. He claims to have made the decision before the election - even while proclaiming as late as last week that Rummy would be around as long as Bush were around.

Wait... Does that mean Bush is resigning too? No. Too much to wish for.

But, at least the message of yesterday's election was not lost on the White House. For this President to accomplish anything over his final two years in office he's going to have to work with a Democratic House (and an evenly split Senate).

This is a great sign, and a hopeful step toward getting us out of Iraq. Let's hope the cooperation and good choices continue.

Another huge loser yesterday who was on the ballot: Phil Angelides, Democratic candidate for Governor in California.

He must feel like the biggest idiot in America today. Yesterday, while Democrats were replacing Republican Congressmen and Governors across the country, and the word "incumbent" was treated as if it were poison, Phil managed to lose in a landslide to the sitting Republican Governor of California, Ahhnold Schwartzenegger.

What a jerk.

Tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Still a lot of work to be done

Today is garbage day. No, that's not a metaphor about the elections, it's just a reminder that I've got to take out the barrels.

Yes, today is also election day, and we progressives, liberals, and other anti-Bushites can cast our ballots and then hope for a needed turnaround in at least the House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate, but no matter how successful we are, it's hardly the end of the current reign of terror.

If the House turns around, it still leaves Republicans in control of 2-1/2 of the 3 branches of government. Even with the Senate also turning, we've still got two more years of Bush/Cheney & Co. and Lord knows now many years till we can effect some changes on the Supreme Court.

Yes, we hope for the best news at the end of the day when all the votes are counted (and that the people's voice is heard, not Diebold's), but even the best possible result is only the beginning of reclaiming our nation.

The Democrats of today are only marginally better than the Republicans, and there's no guarantee that they'll have the leadership ability needed to stand up to W on the full range of issues, from Iraq to gay marriage to health care to global warming to restoring the Bill of Rights.

Many of us are wondering this morning what types of dirty tricks may be played to keep people from voting, or to keep their votes from being counted.

If you encounter any voting irregularities or attempts to prevent voting, call this number immediately to report it: 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

Already (8 AM, PST) there are problems being reported, with voters being turned away in Florida, and machine problems leading to long lines in Pennsylvania. Check for more updates throughout the day.

Tags: , , , , ,

Monday, November 06, 2006

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Round 12

Welcome to Round Twelve of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of DemocracyThe Business Travel Hillbilly starts us off with A Prayer for Owen Meany & The Draft, where he uses one of my favorite books to make an excellent point about why Bush/Cheney can't afford a draft.

Bill Losapio presents Will He Appoint His Favorite Cow to Pro Tempore?. The Bush-Caligula comparison is certainly new, and actually makes some sense as Bill presents it.

John Buehler of Rebuilding Eden presents So, You Want a Better Government. "You want a better Government? Build it yourself!" I like that idea.

John of the Largest Minority presents The WASP Nests: How the Biggest Terrorist Caches Ever Found Were Buried. The WMDs we found were not being held by Islamic terrorists. Homegrown terrorism and the great cover-up.

mw of Divided We Stand presents Fifty - Fifty ... as divided as it gets. At least one person is anxiously hoping tomorrow's outcome leads to a draw.

John of Hell's Handmaiden presents Bush Fights to Limits Rights. Remember, "Our rights are not derived from the Constitution but the Constitution from them... That is, whatever is not specifically limited by the Constitution is protected by it."

In the humor department, Avant News presents Prez Pardons - Your one-stop shop for George W. Bush Presidential Pardons. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be motivated to get out and vote Tuesday morning.

And, on your way to the polls, you can sing this little song by Madeleine Begun Kane: The "He Misled?" Song Parody (Sing to the Mr. Ed theme song).

As always, thank you to all who submitted excellent posts. There's simply no way I could include them all and still make this something you'd want to read. Editing is tough, but hopefully what's left here is well worth your reading.

Thank you for joining us on our bi-weekly look at the decline of democracy (and occasionally hopeful responses to it). The next edition of the Carnival will be posted on Monday, November 20th, with entries requested by Saturday, November 18th, at midnight. This will be the Post-Election edition, so keep that in mind when submitting!

Submit your blog post for the Post-Election edition of the carnival of the decline of democracy using our carnival submission form. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Saddam sentenced; everybody lives happily ever after

The Iraqi tribunal has now formally sentenced Saddam Hussein to hang for his crimes against humanity, specifically, the massacre 148 Shiites in a single town in 1982.

Now before you start get your cynicism up to speed on this lovely Sunday morning before the mid-term elections - an election widely seen as a referendum on the Bush presidency - the timing of this verdict a total coincidence:
The White House praised the Iraqi judicial system and denied the U.S. had been "scheming" for the verdict.
See? Just a coincidence. Tony Snow said so to the reporters.

But before you get too excited about the prospect of some public hangings being plastered all over your TV screens, consider how the Iraqis are going to handle this news. Because, in much of that country, Saddam's sentencing is only serving to highlight the sectarian differences that are leading Iraq into Civil War. They're unimpressed with a verdict in a 24-year-old massacre when a similar number of Iraqis are being killed there daily. Says one Iraqi:
"So they sentenced him to death for the killings that happened when he was a president. Who is going to sentence the leaders now for the everyday killings that are happening in the country?"

Others questioned whether Saddam's death would bring back vital services like electricity and clean drinking water and, above all, stability and security to Iraq.

"Things were difficult under Saddam, we understand why. But now what is their excuse? Why can't we have electricity? Security? Why can't we have proper schools for our children?"
The White House is going to try to spin this into an excuse for declaring victory repeatedly - at least until the polls close on Tuesday evening - but it could actually be one of the most dangerous moments in Iraq yet.

Click here to take my reader survey.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Confession is good for the soul

"Okay, I admit it. I called the gay prostitute, but only to get a massage. I didn't know happy endings were part of the deal. And, sure, I called him back and bought the drugs, but only to be nice (it was a great massage). And anyway, I tossed the drugs in the trash. It was just to prove that I could resist the temptation. I resisted, so get off my ass. Gotta go now..."

Sure, that's not the exact quote, but that's approximately the text of Reverend Ted Haggard's alibi in his little gay sex and drugs scandal. Now, I personally don't give a rat's ass if he did what he's accused of or not. My problem this morning is with Haggard's critics who say he should have "practiced what he preached."

See, I think that's backwards. Telling him to practice what he preaches says that being a homosexual is wrong and that he should have kept those urges buried and prayed for hetero urges.

Here's the thing: I think he should have preached what he practiced. Imagine an evangelical preacher actually reaching out to the gay community and inviting them to worship.

Would a fundamentalist church that was open to all, regardless of "life-style choices" survive? I'm not gay, and I'm not a Christian, but I bet there would be a market for such a church.

"Practice what you preach" is pure hypocrisy. Go ahead and preach what you practice.

And don't forget to click here and tell me what an idiot I am for saying that.

Tags: , , , ,

Friday, November 03, 2006

What's at stake

This weekend a lot of bloggers are going to be coming at you with attempts to convince you to vote one way or another next Tuesday. I'm not going to do that.

By this point you know what's going on, and you know whether you like it or not. I doubt there are many Americans who are paying any attention at all (and if you're reading this, you're paying a certain amount of attention) who are seriously confused as to their feelings on the current administration's policies.

The only question is, do you want a rubber stamp Congress that gives this president free reign to continue as he has been, or do you want to have a Congress that might (and I emphasize might) stand up to him and actually do the job of checking and balancing?

Either way, whichever direction you prefer, this is going to be a close one. If ever there was an election to sit out and not bother voting, this is NOT the one. There's no room for fence-sitting this year.

You know what needs to be done - Now go out there and do it.

I'm still asking for your feedback on this blog - click here for my reader survey - thanks!

Tags: , ,

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Online community burnout

According to the SF Chronicle, a lot of people are getting burnt out on social networking sites such as MySpace, YouTube, Friendster, Facebook, etc. The article states that
...even as the phenomenon continues to swell, the effort to maintain an active social life on the Web is taking its toll. Some have grown tired of what once was novel. Some feel bombarded by unsolicited messages, friend requests and advertisements. And some are cutting back.

This suggests that as much as people want to connect through the Internet, the practice also can have the opposite effect: social networking fatigue.
I think there is some validity to that, and a lot of it is caused by mismanagement of those online communities.

I was very interested in MySpace for a short while as a social networking platform, but quickly tired of it. Not because the concept is flawed, or that it doesn't work, but because of the lack of controls. Either the system is over-run with spammers, or there are an awful lot of 18 year old girls who are anxious to be my friend so that they can share their private, naked web-cam photos with me.

Another point of the article is that while we may be interested in trying out each different networking platform that comes along, we basically only have the attention span to really participate in one and still have some sort of off-line life. For me, the one is currently YouTube. First off, every "friend" request and subscription I've received there is genuine: no spam. And mostly, I just love seeing the people I'm communicating with. For me, YouTube works as an online community at least as well, if not better than, any other I've been a part of.

The part of the article I disagree with is a quote from Fred Stutzman, an Internet entrepreneur and graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:
"Social networking Web sites are relevant to people at different times in their lives," Stutzman said. "The more structure you have in your life, the less you need it as a crutch to understand the world around you. You already know what your friends are like. It's fun to look up their profile once in a while and check up on people, but it's not something you need every day."

Yet even as one group outgrows it, another comes on board. "There's a whole generation, a younger subset, coming in," Stutzman said. "There is an exodus that goes on, but there are a ton of people just a couple of years younger who have those same needs."
There are two bones I'd like to pick with Mr. Stutzman. The first is that social networking sites are some sort of "crutch" for people with unstructured lives (or, implied, no life). The second is the implication that it is something normal people outgrow and that they are really just for younger (unstructured) people.

My situation is that I work at home, alone. I can go many days in a row and the only person I speak with face-to-face is my wife. Having "conversations" with my new YouTube friends is not to make up for a lack of structure in my life. It's a substitute for the office water-cooler or coffee pot. In a "normal" work situation, I'd get my mid-day breaks and interaction with these traditional methods. Using YouTube is not a symptom of my social disorder; it's a symptom of my being human.

Now, I'm a "shut-in by choice." I chose to be a writer/consultant and give up the daily contact and interaction that a regular job brings. There are many people, however, who are shut-ins by no choice of their own. Health or other issues entrap them in their own homes. For them these social networking sites are the greatest technological innovations since home grocery delivery. It has literally saved the lives, or at least the sanity, of people around the world. This is nothing they want to outgrow and leave to a younger generation.

Okay, off my soapbox. I love online communities; it's a bit of an obsession of mine, has been for many years.

So is getting feedback... Click here to take my reader survey - Thanks!

Tags: , , , ,

Twitter Feed