Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bhutto murdered; Rudy calls for blood

By now you've likely heard the news that former Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, has been assassinated in a bombing and possible shooting (at this time, it "appears" that she died from gun shot wounds during the blast, but that may turn out to have been shrapnel from the blast). Pakistan is, of course, our highly unstable little buddy in the War on Terror, and Bhutto, of course, had recently returned from exile to try to bring the country back towards a democratic track.

All of the 2008 Presidential candidates have started to react, mostly calling for calm and democracy, but Rudy 911 Giuliani has jumped in front of the parade calling for more blood, saying that the killers "must be brought to justice." (Note to Rudy: it was a suicide bombing, the killers are already dead). Of course, Rudy knows that the killers are already dead; he'd just like to tie this event to 911 and use it to help support his tough on terror presidential ambitions.

Which brings us to this question: Is Bhutto's assassination a re-enactment of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, 1914? Blogger Robert Paterson seems to think so, and he makes some good points. As we all [should] remember from high school history, it wasn't the importance of the Archduke that set off the first world war, it was simply the final straw on tensions that had been building for decades.

Paterson builds on his thesis in a second posting on what may be in store for us if the Sarajevo comparison is correct. Writes Paterson, "Like in 1914, the powder charges have been laid over 40 years. Now the fuse is lit - the bang is inevitable."

I'm not so sure yet. Amazing that I may have a glimmer of hope here. Or is it simply that I'm so cynical and jaded by this point that I refuse to believe anything I read, even predictions of our coming demise.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 2.26

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.26 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy Starting us off this Christmas eve is Chris, who fights back against the Bush administration's trampling of justice in I am a Homegrown Terrorist posted at Gratuitous Common Sense.

Erich Engelbrecht discusses political parties as "a novel form of social networks" in Democratizing Politics posted at Innovation Politics.

Judy Aron wonders if Yogi and Booboo are in trouble in U.S. Forest Service Purchases 6,000 Tasers posted at Consent Of The Governed.

Michael Bass maintains that freedom and democracy begins with the right to private property in Do we have Private Property in the USA? posted at Debt Prison.

Sagar Satapathy presents all views in Comparison: Major Presidential Candidates on Monetary Policy and the USD posted at Currency

Finally, in the satire department, Jon Swift explains that fiction is stranger than truth in Jamie Leigh Jones Undermines the War Effort posted at Jon Swift.

I'll be back again in two weeks (January 7) with the next edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Submit Your Posts Here. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Anonymous accusations

A couple of weeks back there was a random comment placed on this blog from an anonymous poster accusing me of "stealing from other writers." I didn't think much of it at the time, as it was a) anonymous, b) had no evidence or links, and c) was attached to a posting that was obviously original and personal. So, I assumed it was a "joke" and deleted the comment.

But that's not to say that I take plagiarism lightly. As somebody who has posted quite a bit of original writing on various web sites, I am always aware of the potential for my work to turn up under somebody else's name, and the difficulty of finding it and having it removed. So, yes, I take it very seriously, and I have never stolen another writer's work.

As a consultant who makes a good portion of my living from writing (mostly for nonprofit organizations), I also believe in paying writers for their work. So serious accusations that I stole from another writer is also something I would not take lightly.

Last night my anonymous accuser reappeared. This time I replied, and anonymous posted again with a little more information. Anonymous apparently believes that I used the Elance web site to rip off him (or her?) and three or four other people. The poster asked when I plan to pay the writers I steal from. I'm not quite sure if I'm being accused of hiring writers and not paying for their product, or of passing off their writing as my own.

First off, not only have I not stolen from whomever this may be, or anybody else, I have never even used the Elance web site.

So, one of two or three things is happening. Either I was right the first time and this is just some idiot's idea of a joke, or it's a case of mistaken identity. And if it's somebody else with the same, or similar, name or username as me, it might be a coincidence, or it could be that I'm the victim of an online identity thief.

Now, this is not the post I had intended to write. I wasn't planning on getting into the details of this accusation. I had intended to simply write about online anonymity, and the types of people who hide behind it. But maybe it is best that I take this posting to state clearly that I am not a plagiarizer.

If "anonymous" is reading this, and you truly have a bone to pick with me, contact me for real (not just a blog comment), or tell me how I can contact you, and let's talk about this. Because if somebody really is using my name, username, or image to rip off other writers, I want to know about it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Do you Twitter?

Okay, now I've got yet another way to waste time online. This time it's Tom's fault. I've known about this Twitter thing for several months now, but never saw much reason to get into it, but Tom swears I need to play with it and I'll be fascinated, so here I go....

Twitter, if you don't already know, is sort of a mini-blog, but not really. In fact, it's anything but that. Each time you twitter, it's a short blast of text, 140 character maximum, telling where you are, what you're doing, or what you're thinking at any given moment. And people are hooked.

In the right-hand margin of this blog you'll see my latest twitters there between the Google search form and the "Recent Posts/Archives" listings. Or, if you're reading this in RSS, you can find my twitters at, and, if you care to, you can "follow me" by subscribing to that feed.

For those with mobile web devices, or who are into text messaging on their phones, they can twitter away the hours wherever they are, posting their own little blasts of information, or following their friends. For the old folks in the room (me) who still only use their cell phones for, well, phone calls, there are still multiple options.

Besides the Twitter website itself, you can also plug Twitter into your Facebook profile and twitter from there. Or, plug your favorite feeds into the RSS reader and stalk, er, follow your friends there. Or... it seems there are new Twitter applications being written and released every 45 minutes.

But still... Does anybody really care if I've got to go out and buy cat food now?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of (American) Democracy - Edition 2.25

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.25 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy Starting us off this week is... well... nobody. Sorry. This week's carnival is canceled.

This is not to say that there were no submissions to the carnival this time around. It's just to say that there were no relevant submissions. Which is surprising. Every other carnival, I've had plenty of good material to choose from, along with a few unrelated political spam posts. So let's go over the point of this bi-weekly exercise again:

"From questionable election results to collecting the phone records of every law-abiding citizen to the suspension of habeas corpus, for the past six years or so we have witnessed a massive erosion of our civil liberties and freedoms in the United States. Some would say it's just a matter of time before elections are canceled for our own protection."

The Carnival of the Decline of Democracy was founded to link to those blog posts that best chronicle the decline of American democracy. It's not all negative, however. My point in organizing this blog carnival is also to show that citizens can still do something about this decline. Free speech and an active electorate can provide a balance to power-hungry politicians.

Got that? Good. Now let us also review what this carnival is NOT:

It is not a platform for promoting a single candidate for high office, or for linking to posts that have that as their primary objective. It is also not a platform for slamming any one candidate unless it is for specific reasons related to the above description of the carnival.

In other words, claims that Candidate X, and only Candidate X will restore our democracy will not be included in the carnival. Likewise, claims that Candidate Z is pure evil (without specific evidence of their supporting anti-democratic measures) will also be rejected. Virtually every posting I received this week fell into these two categories.

Okay. Now that we've got that straight, I'll include one link from the dozen received this week. Technically, it's not specifically about the decline of democracy, but it's short and amusing, so here it is: Madeleine Begun Kane presents My Family Needs Me (Limerick and Video) posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness.

I'll be back to try again in two weeks (December 24) with the Christmas Eve edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Submit Your Posts Here. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Anyone but Hillary?

There are by now dozens of anti-Hillary Clinton web sites out there, with most of them run by Republicans with the presumption of her being the Democratic nominee. These sites tend to go beyond calm discussion of her policy positions into personal bashing, name calling, and threats. But there are a small, and I believe growing, number of anti-Hillary blogs and sites that come from the grassroots Democratic side.

These sites are a bit more shy about their approach, as they don't want to throw the election to whomever the Republican nominee ends up being, but they're equally terrified of a Hillary Clinton presidency. I can relate. These sites are generally talking about her support for the war, her support of the surveillance-security state, and her massive amounts of corporate lobbyist dollars.

As the media is sure to point out every five minutes, Clinton is leading in all the Democratic primary voter polls, with Barack Obama second, and John Edwards bringing up the rear (followed by all those other guys). Clinton is leading, but she hasn't won yet. And here's something to note: she could win the majority of the primaries, but not get the nomination.

How could that happen? The primaries don't choose the nominee; the Convention does. And, while some states give all their delegates to the winner of that state's primary, others send proportional numbers of delegates based on the actual primary results. And, once at the convention, delegates can switch candidates if there's no winner on the first ballot.

What got me thinking about this, and the possibility of a convention-time mutiny against the front-runner, is listening to John Edwards most recent comments about the two candidates leading him. Edwards is increasingly vocal about Senator Clinton's shortfalls, and increasingly praising of Senator Obama.

Check out this bit of Edwardsian prose, courtesy of NPR:
"The cause of ending poverty in America is a cause that's very central to what I want to do as president, and central to my life. ... And there is at least one other candidate on this stage who has also spoken, strongly and eloquently, about doing something about poverty in America, and it's Sen. [Barack] Obama [of Illinois], and I applaud him for having done that: I think our voices together are more powerful than our voices alone."
Here's my theory (hopeful thinking?): The new Edwards strategy is not to win very many primaries. He knows that ain't gonna happen. His strategy is simply to gather enough convention delegates to deny Clinton the nomination on the first ballot. He can then negotiate with Obama to decide what the Democratic ticket will be.

It's not a bad strategy, if I'm right. And it would make Edwards the ultimate "Anyone but Hillary" player. It might even make the convention worth watching again, rather than the canned speeches and predictable events they've been the last couple of decades.

Does anybody else think this is a possibility, or am I just crazy? How about the math? Does anybody have the figures on which states are winner-take-all, delegate-wise, and which are proportional?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

It's time for a new blidget

What's a "blidget"? It's a widget to syndicate a blog. Huh?

Basically, if you've got a blog, and you'd like to allow other web sites, blogs, profiles (MySpace, FaceBook, etc.) to embed your blog, a blog widget is an easy way to do it. Using the tools found at, creating the initial widget was very quick and easy. Creating a Facebook application out of the initial widget was a little more complex and time consuming, but the instructions offered by widgetbox got me through that as well.

Here's what my two main blogs look like when widgetized:

(Note: If you'd like to use either of these blog widgets on your page, just click the "Get Widget" button at the bottom of each one.)

I've also just started a new blog specifically for my video making over at, but I haven't widgetized that yet.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 2.24

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.24 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy Starting us off this week is Rickey Henderson, who dares to suggest that the pablum fed us by the media may play a role in our current political problems in This Week in Media Malfeasance... posted at Riding with Rickey.

Ian Welsh writes that the extent to which "a State controls violence and law within its territory is the most basic of all tests of power." He puts that test to work in New Jersey and Iraq in New Jersey: when gang rule trumps state power posted at The Agonist.

Judy Aron wonders what you think your right to vote is worth in Trade You My Vote For An iPod Touch posted at Consent Of The Governed.

John suggest that the abuse of power since 9/11 extends to all sectors of our society in Flying the not so friendly skies posted at hell's handmaiden.

Madeleine Begun Kane uses haiku to compare the threat of a nuclear Iran against another potential problem area in First Pakistan And Then? posted at Mad Kane's Humor Blog.

Ian Welsh provides the most frightening bit of information that most people would rather ignore in Cell phones are essentially spies in your pocket. And now cops don't need a warrant to use them. posted at The Agonist.

As always, I'll be back in two weeks (December 10) with the next edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Submit Your Posts Here. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Thanksgiving Video

This is just a quick video with some of my thoughts as we go into the Thanksgiving holiday weekend here in the U.S.

Politics aside, I wish all my readers/viewers a happy and healthy holiday. Enjoy the feasts, and the games, and the shopping, but don't forget to think about the serious aspects as well.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 2.23

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.23 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy Starting us off this week of Veteran's Day is Ian Welsh, who points out the dangers of a professionalized army in which only a few serve, in Democracy And the Mobilization Society posted at The Agonist.

Charles H. Green looks at the de-humanizing (and expensive) effect of treating everybody with equal distrust in Terrorists and Convenience Stores: When Social Trust is Threatened posted at Trust Matters.

Does the FBI have a file on you (yet)? Judy Aron tells you how to find out in Get Your FBI File posted at Consent Of The Governed.

Holly Ord questions how a nation that prides itself on democracy and equality can allow millions to go without health care in America: The Country That Kills It’s Citizens posted at Menstrual Poetry.

In the satire department, Daveman presents Invasion of Iceland Imminent posted at BushFriedRice.

Finally, Jon Swift waxes eloquently about the 'right to be who you are not' in Pseudonym-Americans Fight Back posted at Jon Swift.

I'll be back in two weeks (November 26) with the next edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Submit Your Posts Here. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Poetic SPAM

From my junk email today:
I've heard a lot about you
A friend should bear a friend's infirmities, But Brutus makes mine greater than they are.
I have a rendezvous with Death at some disputed barricade.
When you step onto that field, you cannot concede a thing.
It's a heck of a poem, borrowing from such divergent sources as William Shakespeare and Gayle Sayers, and sent under the subject of "Marriage is the only adventure open to the cowardly."

Thursday, November 08, 2007

News Flash! Congress Still Has Power!

For the first time since G.W. Bush assumed the presidency (actually, for the first time since 1998), Congress has actually voted to over-ride a Presidential veto!

It wasn't anything dramatic, like ending a needless and illegal war, or providing health care to un-insured children, but it's a significant step never-the-less. The bill was the $23 billion water resources bill that Bush claimed was "filled with unnecessary projects."

"Unnecessary projects" like restoration efforts for a few communities that have been hit by hurricanes and building dams and sewage treatment facilities. You know, nothing that we need or rely on or anything.

Considering it's now been a full year since the public showed their dissatisfaction with the Bush administration by electing a new, Democratic controlled, Congress, it's about time they stood up to the President and did the right thing, despite his protests.

Has democracy returned to the land? Can we expect Congress to move on other issues where the public and the president are at odds?

Don't hold your breath. Unless you can figure out how to put $23 billion of local construction contracts into a bill to end the war, you'll never get enough Reps and Senators to sign on.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 2.22

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.22 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy Phil B. starts us off this week by asking us if flag burning should be legal, posted at Phil for Humanity.

vjack sees those who would instate a Christian theocracy in the United States as one of the greatest threats to democracy in the Values Voter Summit: Biggest Collection of Theocrats Since Witch Trials, posted at Atheist Revolution.

Ian Welsh looks back to the FDR era, and how he dealt with a hostile press, for examples of how we can try to save our democracy in Plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose, posted at The Agonist.

John, meanwhile, looks at some Things we don't have to worry about..., posted at hell's handmaiden.

Dawn Xiana Moon points out the timeless elements of our current struggle against those who would silence us, as reflected in some classic American theater, in A Society in Madness, posted at Dawn Xiana Moon: Randomness.

I'll be back in two weeks (November 12) with the next edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Submit Your Posts Here. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Rumsfeld going to jail in France?

Former Attorney General Donald Rumsfeld has been charged in a legal complaint stating that as Attorney General he "authorized and ordered crimes of torture to be carried out ... as well as other war crimes."

According to the Associated Press:
The complaint was filed with the Paris prosecutor's office as Rumsfeld arrived in France for a visit, according to the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights and two Paris-based groups, the International Federation of Human Rights and the League of Human Rights.
The rights groups say their complaint could go forward because people suspected of torture can be prosecuted in France if they are on French soil.
French prosecutors will now determine if the charges have any merit, and if Rumsfeld is still protected by any sort of diplomatic immunity, before actually hauling him in.

So, if you happen to be at a French airport over the next few days, and you see Rumsfeld trying to sneak out, do what you can to stall him.

Read more about Rumsfeld's charges.

Psycho Killer Pumpkin Pie

Here's my little Halloween video for this year. Enjoy!

This is actually the second time that I've done the Psycho shower scene with a pumpkin. The first time I shot it was probably 29 years ago, in super-8 film. Our film teacher gave us an assignment in October of "making a jack-o-lantern."

I, of course, was not content to do a straight carving film, so I made "The Pumpkin Who Knew Too Much." (Yes, I've been a Hitchcock fanatic forever.)

In the opening scene the pumpkin witnesses one of my friends (John) murdering another (Tom). John then stalks the pumpkin and finally gets his revenge while the pumpkin is in the shower - the shower scene then fulfilled the assignment of "making a jack-o-lantern."

The storyline (if you can call it that) in this version is different (and more true to the original Psycho in spirit and character), but the payoff is the same.

A question I've gotten from a few who've already seen this on YouTube: "How did you get the shot of shower coming on and spraying directly on the camera?" Answer: I put the camera in a ziploc freezer bag!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

October 17 - Eighteen Years Later

This morning I went to downtown Santa Cruz to mark the 18th anniversary of the Loma Prieta Earthquake. I lived in Santa Cruz at the time of the quake, and continue to live in the area. Eighteen years later, there's still one hole in the ground of downtown Pacific Avenue, but it will be filled by the time the 20th anniversary of the quake comes along two years from now.

Loma Prieta Earthquake - Facts and Statistics
The Loma Prieta Earthquake occurred on October 17, 1989 at 5:04 p.m. (Pacific Daylight Time) and lasted for about 15 seconds. The United States Geological Survey gave it a magnitude of 7.1. It was felt over an area of about 400,000 square miles.

The rupture occurred on a 30-mile length of the San Andreas fault called the Santa Cruz Mountains segment. The epicenter was eleven and a half miles underground at a spot near China Ridge in Nisene Marks State Park. The land on the seaward side of the fault slipped five and a half feet northwest.

Six persons in Santa Cruz County died; it is estimated that 671 persons were injured.

Santa Cruz County was the hardest hit county and had the highest number of homes damaged or destroyed. It is estimated that "at least 85,000 persons were adversely affected by earthquake damage to their homes." Many homes were so badly damaged that they were condemned. Many other damaged homes could be saved but were unsafe to live in until they were repaired. Individuals and families found themselves suddenly homeless, living in shelters, with friends or with family.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - edition 2.21

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.21 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy This week, I take the liberty of including a post of my own, Time to Secede? - "Secession; it's not just for rednecks anymore."

"Politicians can't do the job of governing well while they are raising money for re-election; the solution is to fix the system" - Shaula Evans presents Lawrence Lessig connects the dots on corruption (Video) posted at The Agonist.

"One would hope that a contender for the American presidency would at least be familiar with the Constitution" - vjack presents McCain Says U.S. Needs Christian President posted at Atheist Revolution.

"Always the eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. ... Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull" - Chris presents Tabby Cat's Illustrated Guide to '1984' posted at Martial Development.

"What a mess we’ve made. And what a mess we continue to make" - John presents Throw down a hundred dollar bill posted at hell's handmaiden.

This week's final entry is actually another carnival posting: Karel Vandenberghe presents Government 2.0: e-government and government wikis posted at Open Innovators.

I'll be back in two weeks (October 29) with the next edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Submit Your Posts Here. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Time to Secede?

If you've been to this blog before, you know I'm concerned about the demise of democracy in America. Every other week I host a blog carnival dedicated to this topic. But my point in hosting that carnival is not to just depress and spread the bad news, but to raise awareness and get people fired up enough about it to save democracy.

Yes, I still think it is possible to restore our democracy, but a lot of that will depend on the results of the Presidential election thirteen months from now. And, frankly, I'm looking at the field of candidates and starting wonder if we should be working on a "Plan B."

On the Republican side, it doesn't look like any of the candidates are anxious to roll back Bush's assault on our liberties, and some (Giuliani...) seem positively giddy about leading the country further down the path to total police state.

On the Democratic side, I'm saddened to see very little discussion of restoring habeas corpus or the Bill of Rights, repealing the Patriot Act, or ending the spying on American citizens. Of the front runners, I don't see Senator Clinton acting any quicker than any of the Republicans on returning stolen Presidential power to the people. While I have slightly more faith in Senators Obama and Edwards, neither of them list "democracy" under the "issues" sections of their web sites.

So where does that leave us?

With a small, but growing, group of fringe elements who are currently gathered in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the Second North American Secessionist Convention, co-sponsored by The Middlebury Institute and The League of the South.

In attendance are some of the "usual suspects" (white Southerners who believe they can still win the War Between the States) along with representatives from groups you might feel more at home with, from Vermont, to Alaska, to Hawaii, to California. You may be surprised to find them all over the map politically, as well, with only the common bond of feeling the Federal Government has over-stepped its Constitutional boundaries and that they can enjoy more freedom and democracy by stepping outside of its protections.

Take a look at some of who is in attendance:

(Video by Bradley Wogsland)

So, have I suddenly become a secessionist? No, I'm actually rather torn... On the one hand, I fully support the right to secede (and the right to revolution, each in Jeffersonian terms)... but the practicality of most of the states surviving as independent entities, or even a loose confederation, is highly doubtful. For all its faults, there is some benefit (economically as well as security-wise) to remaining a union.

My first priority is on restoring democracy to the U.S., secession is more of a last resort. But, depending on how things turn out thirteen months from now, that last resort might be looking more tempting.

For my part, and further research, I've just emailed Californians for Independence to find out more about their platform, and how they plan to liberate the Golden State from the Federal grip.

I'm steering clear of answering the question posed in the title to this post... for now... But I'll keep you informed of any new information.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 2.20

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.20 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy Although I've been busy with other things (work?) and not able to post much, this has been a very blogworthy couple of weeks. Between the farce of Congressional outrage at and the continued outrage of racism in Jena, LA, the demise of freedom and democracy has been apparent in every headline.

Let's see how our bloggers responded:

Ian Welsh presents MoveOn And the Kabuki Congress posted at The Agonist & Elyas Bakhtiari presents Congress betrays us posted at Ablogistan.

therapydoc presents The Jena 6, over a year later posted at Everyone Needs Therapy & Alex Landis presents The Jena 6: The 10 Reasons The Fit Hit The Shan posted at

J.R. presents Your Government Lies to You posted at Harsh Realizations.

Barry Leiba presents Press coverage posted at Staring At Empty Pages.

Chani presents Are ideas dangerous? posted at Thailand Gal.

Hell's Handmaiden presents Blogs for Federal Deficits posted at hell's handmaiden.

vjack presents Army Violates Religious Freedom posted at Atheist Revolution.

I'll be back in two weeks (October 15) with the next edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Submit Your Posts Here. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 2.19

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.19 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy And let's get right to the show! ...

Ian Welsh presents Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine" posted at The Agonist.

John presents Blogs for Bull S**t posted at hell's handmaiden.

vjack presents Homeland Security Spends Your Tax Dollars on Clergy Response Team posted at Atheist Revolution.

Charles H. Green presents Trusted Politicians posted at Trust Matters.

Alex Landis presents Cyber Bias: The Threat of a Two-Tiered Internet posted at

Robert Bruce Carter presents Exclusive Interview with Rudy Giuliani posted at Absolutely Serious.

I'll be back in two weeks (October 1) with the next edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Submit Your Posts Here. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 2.18

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.18 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of DemocracyThis week I received far more entries than I usually do (nearly double), so the task of selecting posts was especially difficult. Sometimes really important, well-written, and thought provoking posts don't get selected because they don't relate to the topic of declining democracy. Hopefully, what's left here will inspire you to not just be depressed about the attacks on our liberties, but to do something about it.

The first two postings this week each have to do with the passage of the Real ID act, perhaps one of the most frightening restrictions on our liberties yet:
Ian Welsh presents Is The US an Operating Democracy Any More? posted at The Agonist.
... and ...
Blue Dog presents Will China Show the Department of Homeland Security the Way? posted at Blue Dog Thoughts.
Also concerned about the demise of the Bill of Rights, Barry Leiba presents Searching the constitution posted at Staring At Empty Pages.

Jim Booth looks at the outsourcing of our war effort (and what it means for control and accountability) in There's no business like war business posted at Scholars and Rogues.

Phil examines how our apathy feeds in economics in The Predicted Economy of the United States of America posted at Phil for Humanity.

Madeleine Begun Kane offers a poll this week in Why Is General Petraeus Letting The White House Write His Iraq Progress Report? posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness.

Riversider updates us on an ongoing local battle across the poind in Council Votes To Ignore Flood Risk to Preston Residents posted at Save The Ribble.

This final posting is not about the decline of democracy, but is a fitting tribute to the fact that today's carnival falls on Labor Day: Maria Marien presents Labor Day Means More than a Day of Rest posted at A Passerby's Trail.

I'll be back in two weeks (September 17) with the next edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Submit Your Posts Here. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More polling shenanigans

Back a week or so I blogged about how Gallup and USA Today buried a poll showing Senator Obama pulling ahead of Senator Clinton in the Democratic primaries.

Now ABC News has gotten into the poll fixing act, this time to hide the fact that some people actually like Dennis Kucinich and what he has to say. Mother Jones reports that ABC's web poll on "who won the last debate" suddenly vanished from the front page of their site when Kucinich took the lead. A new poll replaced it, but it too was yanked when Kucinich tied with Clinton.

ABC is not only trying to bury the fact that Kucinich did well in the debate; they're trying to hide that he took part in it at all. They cut him out of a group photo of all the candidates posted on their web site.

ABC has not responded yet to how these "mistakes" could have accidentally happened. It's just another example of the mainstream media making corrections when the voters rudely get in the way of democracy in action.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 2.17

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.17 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy This week's entries into the carnival are all excellent, so I will dispense with any introductions and get right to it:

AllAboutVoting presents A predictable outcome posted at All About Voting.

Gavin R. Putland presents John W. Howard's Flowchart for Political Success posted at

Martin Bosworth presents Wrath of the math: Why did Karl Rove quit? posted at Scholars and Rogues.

Hell's Handmaiden presents Tancredo is bloody insane posted at hell's handmaiden.

Ian Welsh presents Jose Padilla, née Winston Smith, Found Guilty posted at The Agonist.

Madeleine Begun Kane presents Bush Growls; Dems Kowtow (Limerick and Poll) posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness.

I'll be back in two weeks (September 3) with the Labor Day edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Submit Your Posts Here. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Who is reading your emails?

Here's the text of an email I received from True Majority Action:
If you sent an email in 2003, there's a good chance your government grabbed a copy of it. That's because in 2003, the National Security Agency set up a secret, 24-by-48 foot room in a downtown San Francisco telecommunications building to tap into one of the nation's largest Internet data hubs and illegally retrieve millions of emails and other communications. This is not a conspiracy theory; according to the sworn affidavit of an AT&T technician, this actually happened.

Tomorrow a federal court will hear two lawsuits against the NSA's unconstitutional "special project." The arguments will be long and drawn out, but in a sense our own Congress has already made it moot -- just before leaving on vacation they voted to make the administration's spying programs legal.

Congress will re-consider that legal protection in just six months, so we need to show them NOW that this is not the behavior we will accept. No more secret rooms siphoning off our e-mails and telephone calls.
Pissed off yet? If you've been reading this blog, and following the posts in the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, you know that this is not a lone, accidental violation of our civil rights, but is simply the way this administration has operated since day one.

It's not enough to simply wait for the next election and hope that things will be better. We've got to fight this today, now. That's why I reprinted True Majority's email and am asking you to click here and join me in signing their petition:
'We are Americans, and in our America we do not torture, we do not imprison people without charge or legal recourse, allow our phones and emails to be tapped without a court order, and above all we do not give any President unchecked power. I pledge to fight to protect and defend the Constitution from assault by any President. I insist that my elected representatives in Congress do the same.'
Thank you.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Following up on yesterday's post about American's short life spans and problems with obesity, here's a study from the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine on the Effects of Fast Food Branding on Young Children's Taste Preferences.

The study was pretty simple. They took food from McDonald's (burgers, nuggets, and fries) and food from the market (carrots and milk) and divided each food sample into two parts; half in McDonald's wrappers and half in unmarked wrappers. They then gave the food samples to a bunch of little kids, aged 3-5 years old.

The kids, of course, found the food in the McDonald's wrappers to be tastier, even when it wasn't the McDonald's food. The burgers in the McWrap "tasted better" than the identical unbranded burgers. The carrot sticks in the McWrap "tasted better" than the identical unbranded carrot sticks. Etc.

What the researchers claim to have proved is the power of marketing on young children, and they've done a darn good job of it. Dr. Thomas Robinson, who led the study, says, "Kids don't just ask for food from McDonald's, they actually believe" it tastes better than the identical unbranded food item.
"We found that kids with more TVs in their homes and those who eat at McDonald's more frequently were even more likely to prefer the food in the McDonald's wrapper," Robinson said. "This is a company that knows what they're doing. Nobody else spends as much to advertise their fast-food products to children."
McDonald's has not denied the findings, and claims to be working on "healthier choices." McDonald's spokesman Walt Riker says, "McDonald's is only advertising Happy Meals with white meat McNuggets, fresh apple slices and low-fat milk, a right-sized meal of only 375 calories."

Riker went on to say that "The fact is, parents make the decisions for their children." Not to let the big McD off the hook completely, but he's absolutely right. If the kid sees an ad for a "right-sized" chicken and apples meal, but the adult who brings them to McDonald's is eating a super-sized Big Mac, then there's plenty of blame to be spread around.

Meanwhile, if you want your kids to eat healthier, try wrapping your own food in McD bags and setting a better example yourself.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Live fast, die young, leave an uninsured corpse

A new report using data from the Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics shows that Americans are living shorter lives than people born in other nations. Yes, our life expectancy is now 77.9 years. You'd have a better chance of living longer if you were born in France, England, Germany, Japan, Andorra, Singapore, or any of the other 41 nations that came in ahead of us.

What led to our dismal ranking at #42 (a drop from #11 two decades ago)? Well, much as Michael Moore and I would love to say it's entirely due to our lack of universal health care, that's just one of the factors at play here.

Also at play is our lousy eating habits. Obesity and the troubles it brings (diabetes, heart disease, etc.) are a big part of what's killing us (no pun intended).

Class and race play a role as well (of course). After all, if you can afford to eat better (and be insured) you have a better chance at a long life than if you're raised in a low-employment inner-city ghetto.

So, why can't we see a way to rise above our health care and longevity issues? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we also now have the shortest population in the industrialized world.

Obesity and the lack of a national health care system are to blame for that one too.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Gallup: "We'll poll you till you get the answer right!"

Apparently, some weeks back, the USA Today/Gallup Poll did a "redo" when the public answered them with information they didn't want to report.

The poll was regarding the upcoming Democratic primary elections, and the people responded that Senator Barack Obama was tied with, and looking like he might pull ahead of, Senator Hillary Clinton.

But we, the public they polled, did not get to see that poll back in June because Frank Newport, USA Today/Gallup Poll Guru, openly admitted he redid the poll because he "could not believe" the information. Barely a week later a different poll did make it to press showing Senator Clinton still firmly in the lead.

I know what you're thinking, "I can think of an election or two that I couldn't believe the results of, can we have a redo?" But let's take a serious look at this for a second.

First, Gallup and USA Today are private organizations, and they can choose to publish or not publish whatever they like. There's no constitutional guarantee of fair polling ahead of elections. There's no legal "wrongdoing" going on here. But what about an ethical wrongdoing?

What is the point of polling anyway? One would presume that they're doing it as some sort of public service. That we, the public, might be interested in what candidates the rest of us like. And, that if we see a certain candidate rising, we might be inclined ourselves to take a closer look at that candidate.

If that were the case, then the poll would have been published, surprising information or not. I mean, really, if polls always showed us exactly what we expected to see, why would Gallup go through the time and expense of actually conducting the poll? If Frank Newport always knows the right answer, why doesn't he just write that up without asking us?

Or, perhaps, the point of the poll is to help push along a candidate that the pollster's editorial board feels is more acceptable or friendly to their business. Perhaps any information that goes contrary to their official position and policy is buried for business or political reasons, rather than questions about their own ability to conduct an accurate poll.

Let's ask another question here, "What harm, if any, was done by the hiding of the first poll?" The answer is we'll never know. It likely wouldn't have had a huge effect on the outcome of the November 2008 Presidential election. But, it may have had a minor effect during the primary season.

One poll showing Senator Obama pulling ahead of President Clinton may not have convinced enough undecided Democratic voters to assure him of victory this far in advance of the primaries, but it could have helped a bit with this month's fundraising efforts, and it may have brought in a few new supporters. And, in a campaign this long and this close, every little bit helps.

Welcome to Democracy, as brought to you by our kind sponsors at USA Today and the Gallup Organization.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 2.16

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.16 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy I've just returned from a long awaited vacation in Maui where the battle against declining democracy takes the form of native Hawaiian rights. Questions from land development to the newly appointed head of a local museum all include an element of this debate. If any of my readers are Hawaiian, I'd love to read your take on this and have you submit a posting to the next edition of the Carnival.

Now, on to this week's selections: Is Anarchy a viable alternative to Democracy? Silic0nsilence presents Anarchy posted at The Blog of silic0nsilence.

Troubled by too much democracy? Gavin R. Putland offers us Democracy vs. universal suffrage posted at /etc/cron.whenever/.

Tom explains what's wrong with politicians in general in no one to vote for posted at

Has Net censorship got you down? Jimmy Atkinson presents Free Speech Hosting: 11 Web Hosts That Won?t Dump You at the First Sign of Controversy posted at Dedicated Hosting Guide.

The decline of democracy (and the rescinding of our civil rights) did not begin with Bush's War on Terror, it began years ago in the War on Drugs. Ian Welsh explains in The War on Terror Is The War on Drugs... On Crack posted at The Agonist.

Finally, for the do-it-yourselfers in my readership, Madeleine Begun Kane presents Political Madness Bush Impeachment Poll posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness.

I'll be back in two weeks (August 20) with another edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Submit Your Posts Here. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 2.15

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.15 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy John starts us off this week by questioning those who cheered Libby's pardon in Blogs for the Subversion of Justice posted at hell's handmaiden.

DWSUWF see fairness as key ingredient to democracy in Fixing Fairness - A modest technology solution. posted at Divided We Stand United We Fall.

Falling Out asks why Britney's bald head is more interesting than the demise of democracy in Disbanded Brothers posted at The Truth Of Paradox.

FitBuff wonders if a "fat tax" is a sign of the decline of gastronomic democracy in How Much Are You Willing to Pay for Twinkies? posted at Total Mind and Body Fitness Blog.

Doug Ragan stands up for the Right Wing in What Everyone Missed in the Immigration Debate posted at I'm A Pundit Too.

Madeleine Begun Kane wraps things up with Yet Another Filibuster Song Parody (The Full-a-Bluster Song) posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness.

I'll be back in two weeks (August 6) with another edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Submit Your Posts Here. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Monday, July 16, 2007

New Video Site ~ Help me win $25

There's yet another new web site entering into the viral video marketplace that has been so dominated by YouTube. This one is called, and their particular hook is video contests. "Producers" select a theme for "Performers" to post on, with prizes from $10 to $25 each. The prize money comes from the advertisements that are appended to the start of each video.

I was contacted by Shawn, one of the goChongo founders, and asked to enter one of my YouTube videos into their "Political Posturing" contest. Always being one to want to test out new web sites, I agreed.

You can view, rate, and vote for my entry, "New Political Dictionary," by clicking on this line.

The site still has a few bugs to work out, but it could be a fun concept if the ads at the start of the videos don't get too annoying. I'll also be interested to see if their approach to revenue sharing (small pots of prize money) will attract many users.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

USA; the home of free speech! Or is it...

Many Americans take their first amendment rights to free speech for granted, and assume it applies in all situations. This is simply not so.

Sure, everybody knows you can't shout "Fire" in a crowded theater, or otherwise use your "free speech" in such a way as to cause a panic, or to libel or slander somebody. But the reality is, in most private situations, you have no rights to free speech at all.

I've had this discussion with people on various online forums, particularly lately on YouTube, where somebody's posting (or even account) is deleted by the site moderators, and everybody gets up in arms about "Free Speech." The fact is, when you post to somebody else's web site, you are posting to their private property, and they set the rules of engagement.

The First Amendment only applies where and when the government is part of the equation. The point of the First Amendment is to say from the start that our government cannot tell you that you cannot say certain things. The point is to maintain a press and a public debate that is free from intervention and censorship from official sources. That's all. When you're in my house, I can tell you to shut up as much as I like, and you have no recourse but to leave.

And, when you're at work, you are at somebody else's "house." Can you be fired for what you say at work? Contrary to popular belief, you certainly can.

Speechless at work, posted on The American Prospect, is an excellent discussion of our lack of free speech (and other) rights in the workplace. The article is an interview with Bruce Barry, professor of management and sociology at Vanderbilt University, president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, and author of Speechless: The Erosion of Free Expression In the American Workplace.

Why does Barry think that our lack of free speech rights in the workplace is such a serious problem?
"The problem is that the climate for free speech at work leaves employees with their rights as citizens and their job security in tension with one another. The pragmatist advice basically says hold onto your job and shut down the citizenship if it's going to get you in trouble. That kind of tension between citizenship and job security is not just bad because it might be nice to work in a freer workplace, it's bad because it has a harmful effect on the health of a democratic society. There may not be that many people getting fired for their bumper stickers or their blogs on a given day, but when it does happen, it has a chilling effect. We talk about the decline of civic engagement in this country, and I think this is a reason why."
According to the article, "A 2001 AFL-CIO study revealed that 80 percent of employees believe it would be illegal for an employer to fire them for expressing political views that s/he disagrees with." If you are vocal about political issues on or off the job, you better hope that your boss is one of the misinformed who thinks you can't be fired.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 2.14

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.14 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy Starting us off this week following the Fourth of July, Charles M. presents an excellent and timely tribute to our "forgotten founder" in History's Hit Job on Thomas Paine posted at KILL BIGOTRY!.

John continues on a related theme in We Hold These Truths posted at hell's handmaiden.

Falling Out presents Target You posted at Falling Out: The Truth Of Paradox.

Steven Silvers presents WakeUpWalMart defections might mean union-backed activist groups have done all they can do posted at Scatterbox at

And in the Satire Department:

Avant News presents a particularly funny and poignant entry with President Ron Paul Deported Under Ron Paul's No Amnesty Law posted at Avant News.

Madeleine Begun Kane presents Suffering From Bloomberg-Envy ... Or Just an Idiotic Egomaniac? posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness.

I'll be back in two weeks (July 23) with another edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Submit Your Posts Here. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I'm not worthy! ~ Ken, the BBQ Star

About a month or so back I was contacted by the Cattlemen's BBQ Sauce people (well, actually a person from their PR company) about a video I'd posted on YouTube with a BBQ recipe: Chocolate Coffee Steaks. She said they were launching a new web site for Cattlemen's, and they wanted to include some videos.

Although my recipe was for a dry rub, I do keep two flavors of Cattlemen's in the house for serving on the side, or for use as an ingredient in my own sauces, so I agreed and gave permission for them to use my video. Then I forgot about it.

Today I got an email from Lisa (PR lady) saying the site had launched at - I was quite surprised to find my coffee-chocolate dry rub recipe video as the third item listed on the home page under "Featured Recipes."

I've been even more surprised (pleasantly) as I've looked over the other Featured Recipes and found that most of the others are from guys with real BBQ credentials; either a professional grilling site of their own or a rack of awards from BBQ competitions. And then there's my amateur content which I shot with the camera in one hand and a spatula (or a beer) in the other.

Very silly, and a lot of fun. And, no, I'm not getting paid by Cattlemen's, although I'm kind of hoping to find a coupon in my mailbox next week.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 2.13

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.13 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy Starting us off this week, David Hayes presents Misguided Reform: The Problem of the Guest Worker posted at Frozen Toothpaste.

zenofeller presents The Real Deal. posted at

Hakim Abdullah presents Is Islam Compatible with Democracy? posted at Hakim Abdullah.

Hell's Handmaiden presents I described a naked detainee? posted at hell's handmaiden.

The Richmond Democrat presents The legacy of "Macaca" is alive and well posted at The Richmond Democrat.

Leon Gettler presents Bush hurts Enron's investors posted at Sox First.

And, now to the humor department:

Madeleine Begun Kane presents The GOP's In For A Rudy Awakening posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness.

Avant News presents Sam Brownback Pregnancy May Put Squeeze On Presidential Bid posted at Avant News.

I'll be back in two weeks (July 9) with another edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Submit Your Posts Here. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

More Video Democracy in Action

The other day I blogged about the CNN/YouTube debates, and posted my video question to the candidates.

Now, a new site called Community Counts has compiled all the different YouTube questions into a forum where you can vote for the ones that you'd like the candidates to address. (Don't forget to vote for my question.)

Of course, there's no guarantee that CNN will ever visit this site, let alone use this input in selecting the questions for the debate. In fact, we can pretty well guarantee CNN will not use this site as their basis for question selection.

But, if any of the campaigns are on the ball, they will certainly have staffers watching it to see what "the people" think is important. Or, they ignore it at their own peril.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Civics 101: The Branches of Government

Today's Civics 101 question:
Q How many branches of government are there under the United States Constitution?

You may think this is an easy question. I'll bet you said 'Three' without even thinking about it, but you're wrong!

There are an indeterminate and secret number of branches that is a minimum of four. They are the Executive, the Judicial, the Legislative, and the Secret Stuff.

The office of Vice President, previously considered to be part of the Executive Branch, is now officially part of the Secret Stuff Branch.

I'm not making this stuff up either. Dick Cheney is.

His office has exempted itself from the National Archives collection of classified material, telling the agency that the Vice President's office is not part of the executive branch. Really.

Rep. Henry Waxman, Chairman of the Oversight Committee, has written Cheney a very serious letter, saying:
"Your decision to exempt your office from the President's order is problematic because it could place national security secrets at risk. It is also hard to understand given the history of security breaches involving officials in your office."
The the National Archives has also filed a complaint with the Attorney General's office. But the Justice Department has not yet followed up on the Archives's request. Let's see, who's the Attorney General these days? Oh, right.

Better get to work re-writing all those fifth grade civics texts; this government is just too big to be contained in just three branches.

read more about it

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Mike Gravel: Rock and Rolls

Mike Gravel is running for President. Who's Mike Gravel? Well, you haven't been watching enough cable news or YouTube if you've got to ask that question. He's the former Democratic Senator from Alaska who is now best known for "The Rock" video (see below).

The video has Senator Gravel staring at the camera for about two minutes without saying a word, then walking away, stopping to throw a large stone into a pond, then continuing out of camera range. It's an odd bit of existential video, and it's attracted quite a bit of attention.

In fact, I think it's safe to say that without "Rock" - and the attention it has received from the likes of Jon Stewart and Keith Olbermann - we would not be talking about Mike Gravel, let alone know that he's running for president.

So, let's clear up a couple of things about the video. First off, it is not a campaign ad. The two guys who made the video approached the Senator with the concept, and asked him to appear in it. They financed it, not the campaign. It's posted under their YouTube account, not his.

Their video is about an outsider (he retired from the Senate about 25 years ago) and regular citizen throwing stones at the system and causing ripples in the water. Read those ripples however you want; as futile efforts or the start of a revolution. Interpretation is up to you. Again, it's not a campaign ad, it's a political allegory.

But, it got me curious enough to look up Senator Gravel's site and see where he stands on the issues. And you know what? I kind of like the guy! He wants us out of Iraq, he's for a national initiative process, he's for health care vouchers, he's pro gay marriage, he's for abortion rights, and he has rational (gasp!) non-ideological positions on gun control and drug reform.

About the only major policy area where I completely disagree with Senator Gravel's position is the so-called "Fair Tax." That's a national sales tax that would replace the current Income Tax system and IRS. The "fair" part about it is a "prebate" to reimburse us for the taxes paid on necessities (food, clothing, shelter, health care).

Unfortunately, all sales tax - even with "prebates" - are always going to end up being regressive as the poor will always spend a higher percentage of their income than the rich. Those who can afford to save will have a lower effective tax rate than those who spend all they earn (and maybe a bit more). The rich may pay more total dollars with a sales tax, but the poor and middle class will pay a higher percentage.

But, as I said, that's about the only issue where I really can't see myself agreeing with Senator Mike Gravel. Would I have ever found about him from the media based on his own ads? No. Would I have heard about him in the mainstream news based on his speeches and debate appearances? Doubtful.

So, make fun of the "Rock" video all you want, it's getting Gravel noticed, and it's getting him supporters. Yes, viral video can change elections, or, at least, make them more interesting.

(Click the big arrow in the middle of the screen to start the videos. The first video is the infamous "Rock" video. The second is an interview with Senator Gravel discussing the video and more. The third is just one of the many parodies also surfacing online.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Yet Another Website

Yep, I've added another website domain to my collection. This one is a project related to my nonprofit consulting blog. It started a little over a year ago when I blogged about a Reverend in England who gave 90 parishioners £10 each with the request that they do something with it to increase the donation within six months.

A year later I still find the Reverend's story inspirational, and find I want to spread the ideas and collect more low-cost fundraising ideas. My interest is nonprofits, but the ideas are great for formal organizations as well as loosely based grassroots ones, churches, schools, political campaigns, whatever.

I am simply calling the site - Twenty Dollar Fundraising Ideas ($20 is approximately £10). I have posted the first ten low-cost fundraising ideas, the Reverend's story, and a form for readers to submit their own $20 ideas.

Please check it out and let me know what you think. Thank you!

Monday, June 18, 2007

That goofy Don Wildmon is at it again!

Well, I'm going to get hate mail! Whenever I pick on poor, little Donny Wildmon I get tons of email telling me how wrong I've got him, and what a swell guy Don is, and how all he really cares about is the kids.

So, when I finish this posting and call him a lying son of a bitch, whose hatred of anybody who disagrees with him is so deep that he'll stoop to the lowest point to defeat them, I'm going to get some hate mail.

Here's the latest from Wildmon's American Family Association. It's an Action Alert to Congress, "In Defense of Religious Freedom."
Be one of one million Americans willing to take a stand in defense of two of our most precious freedoms—freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Here’s why:
  • A California lawsuit which is now headed to the U.S. Supreme Court would make the use of the words “natural family,” “marriage” and “union of a man and a woman” a “hate speech” crime in government workplaces. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has already ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.
  • CNN and The Washington Post both reported that General Peter Pace, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, was fired because of his publicly expressed moral opposition to homosexual behavior.
  • A bill now before Congress (H.R. 1592 / S. 1105) would criminalize negative comments concerning homosexuality, such as calling the practice of homosexuality a sin from the pulpit, a “hate crime” punishable by a hefty fine and time in prison. This dangerous legislation would take away our freedom of speech and our freedom of religion.
...Please sign our petition and forward to other freedom-loving Americans.
Gosh, I'd sign the petition myself if it weren't for the fact that all three of their bullet points are outright fabricated, fictional, LIES!
  • The court case referenced had nothing to do with "hate speech." It had to do with speech in the workplace, and an employers' "administrative interest" in dealing with non-work-related situations that distract employees from their work.
  • General Pace was dismissed for a number of reasons, including his comments on homosexuals. But that was not the primary reason; that was because of the administration's bungling of the Iraq war. Remember the war?
  • And, most importantly, the Hate Crimes Bill has absolutely nothing in it about Hate Speech. It only criminalizes the willful infliction of bodily injury on others.
Don Wildmon is not a loving person. He is not a good person. He is not looking out for anybody but himself and a narrow group of people who support him, and who he can control. And he doesn't even trust them to do what he asks without having to resort to lies to convince them.

Wildmon is nothing but a lying son of a bitch, whose hatred of anybody who disagrees with him is so deep that he'll stoop to the lowest point to defeat them.

Many thanks to the Snopes Urban Legend page for researching the facts on this one.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The YouTube-CNN Debates

Here's a great way to use Web 2.0 to encourage democracy:
This summer and fall, YouTube, CNN and a few engaged and engaging citizens will make political history by having the presidential candidates answer questions submitted via YouTube videos.
Anderson Cooper will host the debates, by choosing the questions from among the videos submitted. The videos will be played for the candidates to answer. The first debate, with the Democratic hopefuls, will be held on July 23. The Republican YouTube-CNN debate is scheduled for September.

Here's the question I've submitted for the July 23 debate:
Some background San Jose Statistics:
  • population 900,000; 10th largest city in U.S.
  • "Capitol of Silicon Valley"
  • "Safest large city in America"
  • CA minimum wage = $7.50/hour; about $1,100/month after taxes
  • median apartment rental = $1,125/month
  • median home value = $400,000
  • incidence of overcrowding in greater than 18% of households
  • # of households with 7 or more persons grew 150% in 20 years
You can view more of the submitted questions at

Stats from Census 2000, City of San Jose

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Food Stamp Diet

There's a new diet sweeping the halls of Congress and many local legislatures throughout the U.S. this week. It's one loaded with fats and carbs, and probably won't help you lose anything but your appetite.

It's the Food Stamp Challenge, where elected representatives try to live on the approximately $3 per day that those on Food Stamps must live on. Big juicy steaks have been replaced with bologna sandwiches in the Capitol dining room, the Taco Bell Value Menu has become a favorite meal out, and for those Congressmen and women who've been willing to put their stomach where their mouth is, it's been a heck of a week.

From Representative Barbara Lee's Food Stamp Challenge diary:
It's hard to concentrate for any length of time on anything except food. I don't know how people with no money for decent meals do anything - study, work, exercise, read, have fun, etc. It's all about just making it through the day. ... (day three)

... This is such an unhealthy diet. I am trying to eat the most healthy food I can afford, but I have no problem imagining how someone eating like this could quickly develop diabetes or high cholesterol. And with all these carbs, I can see how easy it would be to gain a fair amount of weight. ... (day four)
Could you live on $3 per day? I'm pretty sure I couldn't. While typing this short blog entry I ate my breakfast of a Cliff bar and a Crystal Geyser Juice Squeeze, leaving me less than a dollar for the next 15 hours or so before I go back to bed.

Obviously, the members of Congress (and local officials) who are participating are doing this to raise awareness of the challenges that millions of Americans face in providing their family with food security, and to build support for the Farm Bill that includes an increase in federal support for the Food Stamp program.

Is your rep on the Food Stamp Diet? Do you think he or she should experience poverty first hand? Why not send them a note and suggest they get on board.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.12 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy I admit it; I can't stop. Each time I say I'm going to take a break, I just keep coming back. So, here we are again, with another edition of the carnival, and what an edition it is...

Ian Welsh presents Ok, Once More: No Existential Threat posted at The Agonist.

Wenchypoo presents Rattling the Political Chain of Command posted at Wisdom From Wenchypoo's Mental Wastebasket.

vjack presents Media Negligence: Paris Hilton is Not Newsworthy posted at Atheist Revolution.

Doug Ragan presents Republican Backstabbing And Political Suicide posted at I'm a Pundit Too.

Jim Tobin presents Michigan Leadership Survey Shows No Confidence posted at The Brogan Survey.

And we wind it all up with a little comic relief from:

Avant News presents George W. Bush to Replace Will Shortz as NYT Crossword Puzzle Editor posted at Avant News.

Madeleine Begun Kane presents GOP Piety Song Parody (Sing to Billy Joel?s Honesty) posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness.

I'll be back in two weeks (June 25) with another edition of the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Submit Your Posts Here. More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Beers to the Chief

I don't really have much to say about this, I just wanted to share a little photo of our recovering-alcoholic-in-chief sneaking a little beer at the G8 summit. Yes, it was "near beer", but that still contains some alcohol, and, as they say at AA, "non-alcoholic beer is for non-alcoholics."

And don't reply that he has to have a drink to fit in with the other world leaders. That ain't it. Russian bad-ass Vlady-boy Putin doesn't drink at those things. And, um, shouldn't a "world leader" be able to stand up to a little peer pressure?

So, why should anybody care? Well, you probably shouldn't, and this is probably just a lame excuse for putting in a picture of W drinking. But, if you're an alcoholic looking for a role model, and looking for an example of living an alcohol-free lifestyle, your president is not the guy to look to.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

In Search of Hitchcock's Santa Cruz

After moving to the U.S. to work in Hollywood in 1939, famed director Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, Alma, recognized the need for a second "country" home away from Los Angeles. One of their desires was for a place where they could cultivate wine grapes.

Joan Fontaine, the star of Hitchcock's Rebecca, who had grown up in Los Gatos, recommended (or, according to some stories, her mother recommended) that the Hitchcock's look in the Santa Cruz Mountains. In 1940 Hitch bought a 200 acre ranch in Scotts Valley, just outside of Santa Cruz, which served as his second home for more than thirty years (picture at right).

I've known about Hitch's local history for a while, but only this week did I finally go in search of the Hitchcock ranch. All I had to go on were a few photos and the nonspecific address of "the end of Canham Road."

Well, I didn't find the precise house. From the way it seems, the house is probably gone, and the property subdivided into several new lots. That, or the road has moved somewhat from where it lay before. There are a couple of driveways (with severe no trespassing warnings) that may yield clues, but when I checked them on Google Earth they appear to have newer and larger structures than what I've seen in the old photos.

What I did find:

Just up the street from the Santa Cruz Pier, on Beach Hill, are two structures credited for inspiring the Bates Motel and mother's house from Psycho. (Another local house, also part of the Bates house lore, was torn down years ago.)

Of course, I captured this whole little adventure on video, including a bit about Hitch's Northern California Filmography, and an explanation of the Santa Cruz connection to The Birds.

To play the video, click on the big arrow in the center of the screen below. It's only about 3-1/2 minutes.

For more on Hitchcock in Santa Cruz, see this story from the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 2.11

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of Democracy, Edition 2.11 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy Leading us off this week is Barry Leiba with The primary problem posted at Staring At Empty Pages.

Doug Ragan presents Bush's Approval Rating at 33%, Congress 29% posted at I'm a Pundit Too.

vjack presents Democratic Party Should Be Ashamed posted at Atheist Revolution.

John presents Human Rights and Matthew Shepard posted at hell's handmaiden.

Madeleine Begun Kane presents If This Is True, My Head May Explode and Bush's Iraq Strategy: Here ... Catch! posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness.

Now, I don't know about you, but I need a damn break. The Carnival of the Decline of Democracy will return - hell, with a presidential election coming up, it's got to return - but I'm going to wait just a bit before it does. Thank you for your patience.

More information on future carnivals can be found on our carnival home page.

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