Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tact in the event of tragedy (or not)

By now it's probably been broadcast nationally about a local incident that happened Friday afternoon, when a disgruntled worker killed three of his former employers. A manhunt ensued, and the shooter was taken into custody yesterday.

At first, speculation and rumor was that the shooter had been laid off from his job at Silicon Valley start-up, SiPort. Layoffs were in the news, as many Valley firms had announced them in the previous few days, including such major local employers as Sun Microsystems and Applied Materials.

When the identities of the victims was released as the company's CEO, the Vice President of Operations, and the Human Resources Director, it seemed like a pretty good assumption that the shooter, an engineer, had been laid off.

But, the surviving folks at SiPort don't want anybody to think their company isn't doing well. Announcing layoffs is not good for business, and, apparently, the headlines about them laying off somebody were more distressing to them than the loss of three executives.

While I have yet to see or hear a statement from SiPort saying anything about "mourning the loss... senseless tragedy... our thoughts to the families..." (etc., etc., pretending to care), I have heard "company spokesman" making it clear that the shooter was not laid off, but rather fired for cause.

What I heard from "company spokesman" on the news last night is that SiPort has never had any layoffs. In fact, in 2008, they raised $20 million in venture capital and added more jobs, and they expect to add hire more in 2009!

Well, sure they'll be hiring. We know that they have at least four openings right now: CEO, VP of Operations, HR Director, and Crazy-Ass Engineer.

And, given the current climate here in Silicon Valley, you better believe that as soon as the company name and job titles of the victims were released, that the corporate email and fax machine were filling up with resumes for each one of those jobs. They'll have thousands of applicants by the time they show up Monday morning to clear away the yellow crime scene tape that police investigators left behind.

Now, there's really no reason why a well-funded tech start-up should listen to a lowly nonprofit consultant like me, but don't you think their spokesman could have used a little more tact in responding to the correct crisis?

I do understand their needing to privately reassure their venture capital backers that the company will go on, and that this will not deter them. But shouldn't their public statements in the first 48 hours be focused on the human tragedy, and not their business plan?

Or maybe it's just me who thinks that. But then, that's why my clients are nonprofit organizations, not tech start-ups.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The fat lady has yet to sing on this one

Along with the hopeful euphoria of Obama's election came the sobering slap in the face of California's Proposition 8 passing. From an overwhelmingly "blue" state came the first ever amendment to a state constitution removing rights already granted. This is embarrassing to me as a Californian, far beyond the mere disappointment of losing an election, it's major step backwards in the civil rights battle that helped bring Obama to the White House.

But there are two things I'm focusing on the remain hopeful that, although we just lost a major battle, we will eventually win the war.

First: Prop 8 barely passed, with votes still being counted till late on Wednesday before an official result was announced. Compare this to the 2002 "defense of marriage" ballot proposition that passed with 61% of the vote. Despite the loss, many minds have been changed over a relatively short period of time.

A few years of "domestic partnerships" and a few months of same-sex marriage have managed to convince a large part of California's electorate that the world won't end, and their own marriages will not be damaged, by extending the marriage right to all law abiding, competent adult citizens.

This is a hopeful sign, because the real battle is just beginning. Which brings us to the second point:

Marriages that are recognized in some states, but not in others, are tainted anyway, and eventually this will need to be answered at the federal level. The lawsuits already filed as a result of Proposition 8 may be the key to that. And, if they are challenged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, by the time they reach that level, President Obama may have appointed one or two new justices.

Our state Attorney General, Jerry Brown, has said that, once challenged, it will be his job to defend Proposition 8, and that he will do his job - even though he opposed its passing. But he also said that, since there's no language in Proposition 8 making it retroactive, he will defend the 18,000 same-sex couples who were legally married to retain their marriage.

This pretty much guarantees that there will be legal challenges from both sides: Gay and lesbian couples who are now not allowed to marry, and Prop 8 supporters who are upset that there are still 18,000 legal gay marriages among their neighbors.

The forces of progress may have lost this one proposition battle (due in large part to deceptive advertising and intervention by religious forces from outside California), but time and history are on the side of marriage equality.

I'm not giving up just yet. Like somebody else has been saying lately, "Yes we can." Fire it up! Ready to go!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Let the healing (and the hard work) begin...

I keep going back to and etc., to recheck those headlines. It wasn't a dream. It really happened; we've really changed the world! And that was the easy part.

Last night was great; the unbelievable wave of emotion that came over me when the election was officially called for Obama at 8 PM Pacific, the shots of the cheering crowds in Chicago, DC, and NYC across the TV screen, the gracious and conciliatory speech of Senator McCain, and the historic and inspirational speech of President Elect Obama. It was a moment that will always be remembered.

Now comes the hard part. For better or worse, the President Elect will have stronger Democratic majorities in the House and Senate than has existed in years. It will now be his job to keep them in check; to not overreach and to keep a few ideas from outside DNC headquarters on the radar.

I fear a Congress that's like a kid in the candy shop, thinking they've got a mandate to do whatever they want without consulting the people who sent them there. If they behave in that manner, these majorities will only hold for two years. If President Obama is unable to control them, he will only be in charge for four years.

If President Obama is able to show the type of leadership I believe him capable of, and keep Congress in check, he'll be able to enact a great deal of his programs, but carefully, slowly, and with cooperation and advice from all parties. And, if he does that, the next eight years could truly change our country far beyond the symbolism of his historic election.

I'll have more to say about this, and other election results (as of this writing, it looks like Prop 8 is passing, but so narrowly that they still haven't called it officially nearly 12 hours after polls closed) in the coming days and weeks.

For today, I simply offer my congratulations to the Democrats. I was with you during this election, but I'm still an independent, and there's no guarantee I'll be with you again.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Final Pre-Election Blog (part two)

Okay, I have a few minutes before hell week gets under way here, so one more "final thought" before election day in the form of a shocking revelation: John McCain is neither Satan nor a Nazi.

Yes, it would make this election a lot clearer if either candidate were a total idiot slime bag. But the fact is, John McCain has earned our respect both in his many years in the Senate and in his service in Vietnam. He's no fool, and he's ten times the man and leader that G.W. Bush ever was or ever could be.

Yes, I admitted it: McCain isn't Bush. But in many policy areas, and the economy in particular, they both worship at the same alter of failed Reaganomics. In the economic and domestic policy realm, McCain's battle cry and Bush's are each the continued death of regulation and reliance on "trickle-down" policies that have lead directly to the current crisis that is crushing America.

I trust Barack Obama (bolstered by the endorsement of Warren Buffet and others who should know) to not just plug the current holes, but to enact meaningful changes to keep this from happening again. In Obama I see the hope and the energy needed to inspire a nation to rebuild, and bring out the best of America and in Americans.

In Obama I see our best hope for solving our healthcare crisis, with one in seven Americans lacking access to anything but the emergency room. In Obama I see the leadership needed to get us out of our oil dependence within a decade. In Obama (bolstered by the endorsement of Colin Powell and others who should know) I see a new direction in our struggle against terrorism and extremism that could ease the tensions.

If McCain wins, it won't be the end of the world. But it won't be much different or better either. He's not Bush, but the direction we're headed will be the same. And, if McCain wins, you better believe I'll be praying for his good health every morning and night of his tenure. But wouldn't a fresh start be so much better?

Oh, and now that I've admitted that McCain is neither Satan nor a Nazi, can somebody on the right please admit that Obama is neither a terrorist nor a socialist?

As the great poet, Joey Ramone, once said, "Twenty- twenty- twenty-four hours to go. I wanna be sedated."

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Final Pre-Election Blog (maybe)

Driving around doing my Sunday errands today I was stopped at an intersection with a few people holding up signs in favor of Proposition 8, the California constitutional amendment that would deny same-sex couples the right to marry (see my No on 8 vlog here). The slogan on their signs was, "Prop 8 = Free Speech."

Having nothing else to do while waiting for a long signal, I rolled down the window and and asked, "How does Prop 8 have anything to do with free speech?"

"The people voted against gay marriage in 2002, and judges overturned it!" was his reply.

"Because it was found to be unconstitutional. It had nothing to do with free speech," I answered. "Obviously you still have the right to be as intolerant as you like," (maybe I shouldn't have said that?)

"They already have all the rights!" he said, thankfully changing the subject from my accusation of his intolerance.

"Let me ask you something," I attempted, "What would you do if somebody decided that your marriage could only be called a 'partnership'?"

He turned away. I guess I stumped him.

"Would you call that equal?" I tried again.

"Have a nice day," he told me between clenched teeth.

"Can you answer the question? Would you be satisfied if your marriage were reduced to a 'partnership'?"

A scowl was all I got from him.

"Of course not," I answered. "So you're a hypocrite as well as a liar," (I have a tendency for going too far), "Have a nice day!" The light changed and I drove off.

On the brighter side, I had a nice talk with a McCain supporter at Trader Joe's (I was wearing an Obama shirt, of course). We each agreed that it looked like an Obama victory, but that we didn't trust the polls either way. So, if you haven't voted yet, be sure to get out there on Tuesday and do what you've got to do!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Vote Early, Vote Often

Okay, of course the second part of that title is a joke. It should be assumed, but I need to say it explicitly or the right-wingers will use this blog as evidence of voter fraud from the Obama camp. So, here's the real title: "Vote Early, but only once."

About 30 states now have "early voting" in which certain poling places are opened up in the week(s) preceding the official election day. I love this. As much as I usually love to experience the excitement of the "real" election day, I love expanding democracy even more. And having at least a full week for citizens to cast their votes is having a tremendous effect on turn-out this year. Regardless of who wins (or which ballot propositions pass), this is a good thing for our democracy.

I went yesterday, to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters, in San Jose, California. It was fairly well organized; could have been a little better, but could have been a lot worse. On arrival I was asked to take a number; number 74. They were calling number 24 at that time.

This was much better than standing in line, as we got to sit around the lobby of the building. Not the most comfortable seating, but better than standing. It took about 40 minutes for them to process the 50 people ahead of me and call 74.

Once my number was called, it still was not time to vote. That's just to talk to the counter clerk, who punches your name and address into the computer to verify your registration. They then order up your ballot. (Santa Clara County is fairly large, with several cities, and school districts, etc., so there are dozens of possible ballots based on your specific address).

It took about another 15 minutes, waiting back out in the lobby, till another clerk appeared with a box of absentee ballots and called out my name. We could either take the ballot home with us and vote by mail, or use one of the booths to mark our ballot there and return it immediately. I chose to vote there.

After marking the ballot, I put it in the slot, and peeked into the back room where it looked to be about 25 or 30 people sorting and processing the voted ballots. Remember the scene from the original movie version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where Veruca Salt's father is having all the peanut shellers opening up chocolate bars? Picture that with absentee ballots and you have an idea of the operation.

All-in-all, a very interesting experience, and a great satisfaction to have this done with, so I can ignore all the political ads for the next week. On the news they said that they expect 1/3 of the votes cast nationwide to be done through early voting, but yesterday, I think they said they'd already processed 30% of the expected vote locally.

The whole thing took just a little over an hour, altogether. Considering the crowds expected at polling places next Tuesday, if you can get your voting done early, I highly recommend it. Especially if you've moved or are a first time voter, or have any other reason to question whether or not you'll have any trouble at the polls.

For those keeping score, on the partisan offices I voted for two Democrats (including Barack Obama), one Republican (yes, really!), and one Green. NO on 4 & 8.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ron Howard's Call to Action

Ron Howard and a couple of his old TV buddies have something to say about this election (and an amusing way of saying it)...

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Standing up for What's Right (No on Prop 8)

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
(you know the source)

Does this apply to gays and lesbians? It seems to me that marriage would be covered under those unalienable rights. "Defense of marriage" laws today are no different or less hateful to me than anti-miscegenation laws a generation ago.

In California we're about to have that referendum again, with Proposition 8 on our November 4 ballot. I can't see how anybody could view this as anything other than legalized discrimination, and yet according to the polls, it just might pass. It's rare that I feel ashamed to be a Californian, but this is one of those moments.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fear and Loathing on North Santa Cruz Blvd.

Yesterday, we were walking along the main drag through Los Gatos, North Santa Cruz Ave., when we spotted a woman with a sign reading:

Obama = ACORN
McCain - Palin

While I bit my tongue, Leslie calmly started in on her with, "Where do you get your information?"

"I read," the woman answered.

"Read what?" Leslie countered.

"A lot, you should read too." (A slightly better answer than Sarah Palin gave to Katy Couric.)

I asked, "Don't you think this charge of socialism is a little inflamatory?" She didn't want to talk about socialism just yet, she wanted to talk about ACORN.

"He was an organizer for ACORN!" (Fact: Obama was an organizer for Project Vote in 1992-93, not ACORN. Project Vote is currently a partner with ACORN on one project, but that partnership came about years later. This woman didn't care to hear that, she reads, after all.)

"What you're doing is guilt by association. Why don't you have a sign saying something positive about your candidate instead of smearing Obama with these outrageous claims?" I politely suggested (well, as polite as I could muster being as angry as I was; the result of over-caffeination from some yummy French Roast earlier that morning).

"I'm an independent," was her reason for not saying something positive about McCain.

"OK... I'm an independent too," I offered, "and part of the reason for that is because of dirty campaigning like this." We go around again about guilt by association, and a few other things, each time she refuses to answer direct questions, or answers with an absurd question or suggestion to me. Somewhere along the way, Leslie has given up getting a word in once I'd started, and has crossed the street ahead of me.

Again, I tried to ask her why she wasn't out promoting her candidate. This time I tried to give her something nice to say, "Why don't you have a sign saying 'McCain = Leadership' or 'He's a hero' or 'Independent for McCain'?"

This time she didn't even give me her independent line, this time she changed the topic to the mortgage crisis and implied that Obama was responsible for it.

I was shocked, as I didn't get her reference to the false rumor that the current crisis is because Obama and ACORN each worked to force banks to make loans to poor minorities. (In real life, ACORN and Obama have each fought against redlining practices to make sure banks treated similarly qualified applicants equally, regardless of color).

But since I didn't catch her veiled reference to a proven lie, I instead answered, "Neither one of these guys is directly responsible for the current crisis, but if either one of them is to share in the blame, it's McCain, who's been a Reaganite de-regulator for 26 years, and it's de-regulation and the lack of oversight and enforcement that's lead to this meltdown."

Then I went too far for her: "McCain was part of the Keating Five, after all!"

"Ah ha!," I made her happy, apparently. "Talk about guilt by association!" She finally actually responded directly to something I said, but it was again far from reality.

"What 'guilt by association'? He was one of the five! He was..." she didn't let me finish.

"Have you ever lived in a socialist country?" she asked me.

"What has that got to do with..."

"They're trying to steal the election! ACORN is registering fake people and they're stealing the election!" I tried to bring up 2000 and 2004 as examples of stolen elections, but she was done with that topic. "They're against us!" she cried.

"Against who?"

"Against us! ACORN is against Americans!"

"Because... why? Because they represent poor people or..." before I could ask if it's because they represent minorities she's cut me off and is onto another subject. Out of the corner of my eye I see the light has changed and I have the walk signal I'd been waiting for (and missed the last two or three cycles).

This time I cut her off, "Sorry, I've got to get back to the real world. Have a nice day."

Walking back a few minutes later, we noticed that she'd moved on. Leslie was concerned for a moment that I was too rough on her, and scared her from voicing her opinion, but I'm sure she just moved on to a busier intersection someplace else.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saying goodbye to Big George

My best fuzzy friend, Big George, lost his five month long battle with lymphoma on Friday. He was strong till the last couple of days, and was a loving pet till the end.

George was always around while I made my vlogs and short videos, and would sit by my side and talk to me while editing. I joked that he was my producer. This is a short tribute to him.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Defending Ralph Nader, but Voting for Barack Obama

Long-time readers of this blog and my other writings know that I've been a pro-democracy crusader for many, many years, and have supported many "third party" and independent candidates over the years. You probably also know that this year I am supporting Barack Obama for president.

Here's a little video I did explaining this evolution, and the reasons for it:

Find more videos like this on VloggerHeads

Now... does this mean I've sold out and have given up on third parties or independent candidates? Hell no! I'm still committed to the cause of restoring democracy and building the electorate.

But, believing, as I do, in the rights of all candidates to be heard, I accept that this includes the candidates of the "big two" parties, and if I'm going to be fair, it means accepting that once in a while, one of them might actually have the best candidate for me at that time.

This is one of those rare times when a Democrat is the best choice for me. But I respect Ralph Nader, and recognize his right to run, and support his attempts to be included in the debates. But I'm not voting for him this time.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

How Privileged Are You?

What Privileges Do You Have? based on an exercise about class and privilege developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. If you participate in this blog game, they ask that you PLEASE acknowledge their copyright.

Items that are true for me are bolded, false are in italics - some items have notes in parenthesis.

1. Father went to college (two year business school)

2. Father finished college (finished business program, but not degree)

3. Mother went to college

4. Mother finished college (BA from BU)

5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor

6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers.

7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.

8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home. (might have been close, but probably not more than 500)

9. Were read children's books by a parent.

10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18

11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18 (swimming, music)

12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively. (sometimes true, sometimes not - can't answer this one)

13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18.

14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs. (parents paid a lot of my undergraduate, but not graduate program, maybe majority?)

15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs

16. Went to a private high school

17. Went to summer camp

18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18

19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels (sometimes hotels, often staying with family)

20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18 (much of it new, but many hand-me-downs from older brothers)

21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them

22. There was original art in your house when you were a child

23. You and your family lived in a single-family house

24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home,

25. You had your own room as a child (usually, shared for some of the time)

26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18

27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course (It was at the high school, but I think it was an optional program)

28. Had your own TV in your room in high school

29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college

30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16

31. Went on a cruise with your family.

32. Went on more than one cruise with your family

33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up.

34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

Okay, that looks like 19 "Yes", 14 "No", and one abstention, or about 56% privileged. No wonder when they call my candidate "elite" I say, "And what's the problem?"

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Experience or Issues?

According to McCain-Palin campaign manager, Rick Davis, "This election is not about issues" (see video clip, below). Really? Not about the issues?

The continuing foreclosure crisis, with thousands of families losing their homes due to spiking mortgage rates? Only a crisis in our minds, according to the McCain camp.

The continuing rise in health care costs as the number of uninsured Americans climbs to greater than 15%? Not relevant to the presidential race, says McCain-Palin.

An overstretched military bogged down in Iraq while the real villains of 9/11 roam free, planning their next attack on us? Situation taking care of itself, McCain assures us.

No, what's important here is just the guy with 25 years in the Senate proving that he's a change agent by selecting a relatively unknown Governor with less than two years in that office. And, of course, that we recognize that his opponent is somehow the ultimate political insider, despite the fact that he's less qualified than that neophyte Governor. I'm sorry, I'm getting dizzy with that last paragraph.

Look, I'll tell you what this race is not about: It's not about experience. Each of the four candidates for President and Vice President are qualified and experienced in their own way. McCain and Biden have decades in the U.S. Senate. Obama and Palin each have a different variety of experiences that brought them to this point in time.

So if it's not about experience, what should we be talking about? How about ideas? How about the issues? How about the direction that each of these candidates will take our nation? Mr. Davis doesn't want us to focus on that, because he knows that's a losing proposition for the Republicans.

From health care, to the war, to education, to the economy, and everything else, there are clear differences between the two parties, with one ready to move us forward and provide hope for American families, and the other trying to hold us back and put us in our place.

Rick Davis is just a cheap nightclub magician saying, "Look, there's nothing up my sleeve," when he tries to misdirect you with his claim that this election "is not about the issues." There's nothing up his sleeve, alright: no new ideas, no relief, no hope. Just the usual rhetoric, pandering, and fear.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Is this bad for Obama, you want to know?

John McCain has announced his VP choice, and it's none other than Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Um. Who? You know, Sarah Palin, the former Miss Alaska runner-up who was mayor of Wasilla (population 5,470) before losing a race for Lieutenant Governor and finally scoring an upset win for Governor of Alaska in 2006 (population 683,478 - 47th largest state in the Union!).

Apparently, this move is supposed to cinch the election by attracting all 18 million of Hilary Clinton's supporters to the Republican ticket.

There will be a few former Hilary supporters who's main objective is seating a woman in the White House, regardless of party or policy, who will be swayed. But I believe they are a tiny sliver of HRC's former supporters.

Anybody who was for Hilary for what she stood for will back away in horror from the McCain-Palin ticket, and specifically from McCain's "appeasing" of them by selecting a pro-life, big-oil connected, NRA member who returned to work last April only three days after giving birth to a premature baby with Down syndrome.

That Palin is willing to hit the national campaign trail at this time in her family's history says volumes about her ambition and priorities, but very little for her judgment - or McCain's.

(Just forget the fact that she's served less than two years as governor of a state with fewer people than most mid-sized cities - We will not play the "experience card").

I applaud McCain for choosing a woman (24 years after the Democrats nominated a woman VP candidate), but why Palin? Christine Todd Whitman would have attracted many more crossover voters and independents, to name one possibility.

So, I'd be tempted to say, this is good for Obama and bad for McCain, but in the end, the VP choices don't mean all that much (how do you spell "Quayle?"). The battle is between the two at the top of their party's tickets.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

First thoughts on the Biden choice...

I like Big Joe. Earlier I was hoping for Jim Webb, but he took himself out of the running. So, good choice. I have no complaints.

The criticism of Biden that I've seen so far (and this is just from a few hours of the news being out) do not focus on Biden (he's hard to find fault in), but on Obama.

The same people who two weeks ago were saying that "Obama needs to shore up his outsider status and domestic policy expertise with somebody who knows how Washington works and has foreign policy expertise" are now saying "This shows Obama knows he's weak, and is really another DC insider."

Look, these people were not going to approve of Obama's VP choice, no matter who it was. Another outsider would have been criticized as lacking experience or depth. Another minority or a woman would have been criticized as "asking for too much" or "insulting the mainstream."

Senator Obama did the right thing by "balancing the ticket" - something every nominee strives to do, no matter the party or situation.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Invisibility, Anyone?

Way back, a few decades ago, I was in a screenwriting class, and the assignment was to do an adaptation of a classic short story. I chose "The Damned Thing" by Ambrose Bierce; the story of an invisible beast causing all sorts of havoc. I loved the opening scene of the coroner examining the latest victim spread out on a table in a room full of onlookers, and that chapter's title: "One does not always eat what is on the table."

The instructor for the course said I did a good job of translating the narrative into action, and succeeded in being faithful to the original story, while still making it my own, and yet he still graded me down for my choice of story. "The damned thing about it," he said, was that it was "just completely unbelievable." Perhaps Bierce could fool some 19th century boobs into thinking an invisible creature or some sort of invisible material could exist, but not a mature audience three-quarters of the way into the 20th century.

Well, here in the 21st century, researchers at the University of California Berkeley have just invented a light-deflecting technique that could one day be used to make materials that would render objects invisible. Yep. The invisibility cloak. Real. And the scientists say that "there is no fundamental reason why the same principles cannot be scaled up one day to make invisibility cloaks big enough to hide a person, a tank or even a tanker."
The work at Berkeley is the latest development in the 40-year scientific quest to make light, and other electromagnetic waves, jump through hoops and bend to human will.

In essence, the Berkeley scientists created two unimaginably tiny mazes using nanotechnology that, by virtue of the materials used, exert subtle electromagnetic effects that confuse light waves into developing the physics equivalent of a split personality.
Yes. It is now theoretically possible to create a material that bends light around it, giving it the appearance of whatever is behind or beside it. "And the Damned Thing is of such a color."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

When are flip-flops okay?

This posting is not for or against any particular candidate or party. It is just a general observation about the way each side of nearly every electoral battle abuse the waffler argument.

You've heard it every day and from every direction; "Candidate X sways with the wind, first he was for Z and now he's against it. This proves you can never trust candidate X." And, often times, they're right.

But they're also often wrong.

Are politicians never allowed to change their minds? Are they never allowed to reconsider an issue or to grow intellectually? Are they never allowed to admit that they were wrong in a previous decision?

To me, a change in position could be a sign of maturity. But even when a candidate does come to a change of position over the course of time and through deep introspection, they've been trained to try to hide that fact. "Well, this is really how I always felt, you just misunderstood my previous position." So much for maturity.

I guess what I'm saying is that if a candidate makes a gradual shift from one position to another, I'm willing to accept that it might not just be swaying in the wind. I will hold off on accusations of being a waffler for a unidirectional shift that doesn't appear too sudden.

But a shift that occurs over the course of a single news cycle, and shifts back depending on the make-up of the audience being addressed, is a problem.

In other words; it's not the flip that concerns me - it's the flip-flop. And especially the flip-flop-flip.

So, let's all be mature, and allow candidates to grow and change their minds, and appreciate that. But watch out for people with no anchor at all.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Stand up for Privacy!

The judge in the Viacom versus YouTube/Google copyright case has ruled that YouTube/Google have to turn over our private user data of every video viewed on the site, since it launched in 2005 (New York Times article).

To me, this goes far beyond what would be reasonable for Viacom to ask for in relation to their copyright claims. It effects not just those users who posted infringing video clips, but all those who even watched non-infringing clips.

It's a complete violation of our Fourth Amendment rights to be free from "unreasonable searches and seizures" and part of the broader, continued attack on freedom and democracy in general.

Please consider signing our online petition to Judge Stanton asking him to reconsider this ruling (click here).

Friday, July 04, 2008

July Fourth Parody Video

Here we are, on the Fourth of July. For those who've followed this blog a while, you know that I love this day, and what it stands for, and yet in recent years it has also made me sad to see where we appear to be heading.

This year on the Fourth, I've prepared a little video for you in which I get to have a little fun with one of my heroes, Thomas Jefferson, as he puts the finishing touches on the Declaration of Independence...

Enjoy the holiday, and remember the true meaning of the day as we enter the final phases of this upcoming presidential election.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Copyright Ramblings

"The Congress shall have Power... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries"
United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8

Over the past eighteen months or so, I've made several YouTube videos on the subject of copyright: copyright criminals, copyright bozos, and the death of fair use.

My position has shifted slightly over this time, from just trying to explain the law, and why it's wrong to simply re-post somebody else's creative work and then claim "fair use" to focusing on the abuse by copyright owners that threaten our common culture. I've shifted from trying to correct the pseudo-libertarian viewpoint that "information wants to be free" to a growing anger at the attacks on fair use.

Certainly, I support copyright. While it's not a major part of my income by any stretch, I do get book royalties monthly and would be upset if somebody else started selling my books. But on the other hand, when I get a call asking if a certain example in the book may be used in a larger collection, I'm honored to allow that.

The constitution put in the power to make laws regarding copyright and patents to encourage "science and the useful arts" not just to make authors and inventors rich, but to enrich the public commons. These protections were for the creators, not their publishers, and only to be for a limited time before ownership would pass to all humanity.

That Warner Bros still owns (and jealously protects) the Happy Birthday Song nearly 100 years after the author's death (and really, all she did was adapt an existing folk song), to me, signals the death of the public commons. That the State of Oregon would prosecute public interest web sites that post the law is simply beyond absurd.

Yes, I still get pissed off at the teenagers who post an episode of The Simpsons and then claim it's fair use. But they just don't know any better. They can be educated, and controlled. The entire concept of fair use should not be discredited and discarded because of their stupidity.

But when high paid corporate lawyers, who do know exactly what their doing, try to reshape the law in way that goes against both common accepted use and the long-term public interest, I get angry.

Here's a couple of good links for you:
And here are a few of my videos on the subject from November of 2006 to now:

For more blog postings about copyright, click here.

(and thanks to B.K. for inspiring yet another blog post)

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The VP Guessing Game

Now that the presidential nomination process is all over but the dropping of the balloons, all arm-chair prognosticators are turning their attention to the "veepstakes." Who will Obama and McCain pick as running mates?

Before we begin, I want to make one thing clear: I don't believe that this is "the most important choice" either of them will ever make. The VP nomination may make the difference for a handful of voters, but you have to go back to 1960, and LBJ helping JFK carry Texas, to find an election where the choice of VP put a candidate over the top. And even Dan Quayle couldn't sink Bush I's presidential bid. But let's play veepstakes anyway...

Of the rumored leading contenders for the Democratic ticket, I'll venture a guess that Jim Webb, the junior Senator from Virginia, is a strong possibility, and would make a good VP choice. He has what Obama is accused of lacking, military experience. He's a Vietnam vet and former Assistant Secretary of Defense. And, of course, he'd help in Virginia, where Obama will almost certainly lose otherwise. He'd be a reassuring presence on the ticket for those Democratic voters who are concerned about "too much change."

Okay, it wouldn't right to address this topic without saying something about Hillary. I don't think she'd be a good VP choice, but she wouldn't sink the ticket. The amount of extra votes she'd bring to the ticket are probably balanced by the number of votes she'd scare away from the ticket. And, as VP, her husband presents some problems. The Second Spouse should not be the most visible person in any administration. But you've heard all this before...

So, on to the Republican ticket. Here's where I break from the crowd. My suggestion for McCain is one that I'm surprised to not find anybody else suggesting: Christine Todd Whitman. She's the former governor of New Jersey who went on to be Bush II's head of the EPA. She quit that job "to spend more time with her family" (translation: she thought the administration, and VP Cheney in particular, were pushing too hard to reduce regulations on air pollution emissions). While she's remained active in Republican politics, she's also been vocal about criticizing the current administration's divisive political tactics.

As a more moderate Republican (and woman, obviously), she could help pull in some of the Hillary supporters who are unsure of Obama, and show that McCain hasn't become a total tool of the right. Also, New Jersey is a state that often threatens to go Republican, but usually ends up Democratic; Whitman could make the difference there.

Okay, you heard it hear first. If Whitman gets the VP nod, I want credit for suggesting it. On Jim Webb, I'm just one of the pack, I know.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Universal Health Care

Here's my second political collaboration video with my conservative friend, PappyStu. The topic today is Universal Health Care, and whether or not the U.S. needs some form of reform to provide health care for all.

As with my previous collaboration with PappyStu, the point of these videos isn't to reach consensus; it's just to begin a civil conversation on issues that are important in our national life.

I'm the guy on the left, politically speaking.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Is Civil Discussion Possible Anymore?

Political debate in this country has been turned into nothing more than a verbal slugfest. We turn on those with views that are different than our own, and attempt to isolate ourselves from dissent. And, with many of my posts on this blog, I'm as guilty as anybody else in this regard.

So here's my stupid, vain attempt to apologize for my part in all of this, and try to begin a respectful discussion between political opposites. The idea is not to reach agreement, but to more fully understand other points of view. This is not a debate; there's no winner or loser - just two friends who see things from different angles sharing their opinions.

And, since YouTube is as polarizing a place as any, I'm doing this over there. Helping me out on this project is my conservative friend, PappyStu. (Oh, and intro music by audionautix.)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Big George

From time to time you may have seen me mention my cat, Big George, here on the blog. George, who's about 11 or 12 years old, is mostly Maine Coone, and a great cat. But today I have some bad news about George. He'd been having bad diarrhea for several nights (and not in his litter box), so we took him in to the vet yesterday.

In checking him out, the doctor felt a lump in George's abdomen and so he took a couple of x-rays that showed a "mass" pushing against his small intestine causing both problems (loose stool and loss of control).

Today we went back for an ultra-sound and needle aspiration. We're still waiting another day for the official lab results, but we're now pretty certain that it's some sort of lymphoma or lympho-carcinoma.

Untreated, this type of cancer in cats moves very quickly, and he could be gone within a month. With treatment, depending on how aggressive, he could have six months to a year. There's no surgery available for this, and the drugs and kitty-chemo cannot cure it, but they can make him comfortable to enjoy at least a few more good months.

Our next appointment is with the oncology specialist at a different vet office (just like for humans, moving from the GP to getting a referral for the specialist). That will be Monday afternoon, after we have the results from all of this morning's tests.

And now I realize that I should have taken the idea of pet health insurance far more seriously than I previously had.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Carnival of the Decline of American Democracy - Edition 3.06

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of [American] Democracy, Edition 3.06 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away. Special "Never Say Never" Edition.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy Yeah, it was just a month ago when I said I was giving up doing the carnival - at least for a while - but you people keep sending me blog entries to include! So, here we go again....

CPD gets us going in a grand way with On Silencing Dissent: National Awareness and Dismissing the Idea of Impeachment posted at We Op-Ed.

Leon Gettler looks at the issue of transparency in corporate political backers in Directors and donations posted at Sox First.

Collin Williams takes another long look at the Patriot Act, and how it has worked to destroy democracy, in All in the name of patriotism posted at

And Madeleine Begun Kane wraps things up with a bit of humor in Presidential Election Blues posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness.

Information on future carnivals (should there be one) will be found on the carnival home page or on this blog. That's it for today.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Free Business Cards for Bloggers

Do you blog? Do want everybody to know about it?

Then get on over to and get your free blogger business cards! (Also available, free FaceBook and business cards). The attached image is a sample of what your card could look like.

Of course, if you want a real business card, it'll cost you, but these little give-aways are a great promotional device for them, and maybe for you too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mudcrutch Rocks the House in Santa Cruz

I'm up early 'cause I just couldn't sleep, and the song running through my head at top volume is I Don't Scare Easy - the first single from the re-formed Mudcrutch, who we saw last night at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium.

Who's Mudcrutch, you ask? They were a band from Gainesville, Florida, in the early '70s, who came out to Los Angeles seeking fame and fortune, then promptly broke up just as they got a record deal. The remains of the band met up with some other old Florida friends and started recording under the name "Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers." TP & company have had a few hits over the years, but the legend of Mudcrutch has lived on.

This past year, after a 35 year break, members of the original Mudcrutch reunited and finally recorded that first album (to be released shortly) and have set out on a two-week "World Tour" that goes all the way from Malibu to San Francisco, then down through Santa Barbara to inland of San Diego, and finally winds up with a week at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. Okay, so maybe a short trip up and down the California coast doesn't sound like much of a world tour, but the t-shirt I bought says it's a world tour, so I'm sticking to that story.

So, who's in the band: Tom Petty (bass, vocals), Tom Leadon (guitar, vocals), Mike Campbell (guitar, mandolin), Benmont Tench (keyboards, vocals), and Randall Marsh (drums).

Tom Petty is certainly still the star of the show, but this is NOT a Heartbreakers tour, and TP shares songwriting and lead vocal duties with his bandmates quite handily. Most prominent among those singing-writing bandmates is Tom Leadon, who also challenges Heartbreaker extraordinaire, Mike Campbell, for dominance on lead guitar. Mike and Tom (L) traded licks throughout the evening to the crowds delight.

Mudcrutch took to the stage at 8:15, without any opening act to warm up the crowd (wasn't needed), and went right into Shady Grove, the new CD's opening track. The 90 minute (plus) seemed to take us through the entire disc, including Orphan Of The Storm, Six Days On The Road, This Is A Good Street (featuring Benmont Tench), The Wrong Thing To Do, Queen Of The Go-Go Girls, Topanga Cowgirl, Bootleg Flyer, Lover Of The Bayou, June Apple, the previously mentioned Scare Easy,and TP's latest masterpiece, Crystal River, which featured some of Mike Campbell's best guitar work.

A couple of those songs might be familiar to you as old country or bluegrass standards, but they all rocked the house. Mudcrutch filled out the set with some of the other favorites they used to perform on the Gainesville bar scene 35+ years ago, including a couple of excellent Dylan covers, Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine, and the show's finale, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 ("everybody must get stoned"). Encores included a classic version of Eddie Cochran's Summertime Blues to rival the Who's famous cover.

And, yeah, you didn't hear me listing American Girl or Free Fallin' or any other Tom Petty and/or the Heartbreakers songs. And, believe me, they were not missed. Mudcrutch is a different animal than the Heartbreakers and to hear those songs would have been out-of-place and awkward, even if three out of five musicians are the same. I'm sure the show promoters would have preferred those songs be included, and that the show were listed as "Tom Petty and Mudcrutch" but the correct decision was to leave the last 35 years out.

I've been a fan of Tom Petty pretty much from the start of his recording career, and have seen him in concert many times before (including the best show ever: Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and the Heartbreakers). But this was one of the best shows yet. Seeing him not as rock-star/headliner, but as the greatest bar band from Florida, just having fun and rocking out in a smaller venue (the Santa Cruz Civic is smaller than most High School gymnasiums), brought back the magic, power, and immediacy of what American Rock and Roll is all about.

Official Mudcrutch site:
Tour & CD info & short article about reunion
Tom Leadon bio on wikipedia

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Walking for Early Literacy

On Saturday May 10 I will be taking part in the Human Race, a fundraising event for Silicon Valley nonprofit organizations. I will be doing the 5K walk to raise funds for Grail Family Services (GFS), an organization in East San Jose that I have been working with as a consultant for a little over a year now. And, of course, I'm asking for your support - Click here if you can pledge any amount of money to help our efforts.

GFS "fosters learning and the empowerment of vulnerable families with young children through the delivery of programs that educate, develop leadership skills, and build a sense of community." All GFS programs target parents and their young children ages 0-9, and are designed with community input to address the issues most important to the neighborhood. This approach enriches the child, as well as the parent, and helps them each on the path to success in school, in work, and in life.

Your sponsorship of my Human Race participation could mean:
  • $25 – five new books for the GFS Children's Library.
  • $50 – developmentally appropriate toys for GFS' child care program.
  • $100 – case management services for one parent.
  • $250 – four weeks of subsidized child care services for one low-income toddler.
  • $1,000 – eight weeks of literacy services to boost the reading skills of one child.
If you can help out, click here - And thank you for your support!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ray Davies at the Warfield Theater, San Francisco

Ray Davies of Kinks fame opened the North American leg of his current tour at the historic Warfield Theater in San Francisco last night. I've seen Ray solo at least three times now, and the Kinks countless times since 1976 (Schoolboys in Disgrace tour), and last night's show ranked among the best Ray concert experiences ever, and certainly the best for many, many years.

This was not the mellow but charming Ray Davies Storyteller show we've enjoyed and gotten used to over his last several American visits (or, at least, the ones I've caught). This was a real Rock 'n' Roll show that rivaled seeing the Kinks in the late 1970s (Low Budget/Give he People What They Want era), just before their last surge of early 80's popularity took them out of the mid-sized theaters and put them into arena territory.

The first set opened up with Ray alone on stage, Stratocaster in hand, playing the opening verse of I'm Not Like Everybody Else. By the end of that song the entire four-piece backing band is on stage with him and you know you've made a very wise ticket purchase decision. A handful of other early Kinks classics follow before alternating between Kinks favorites and newer songs from Other People's Lives (2006) and the title track of the recently released Working Man's Cafe.

The second set opened looking more like the previous tours, with Ray on a stool with an acoustic guitar, music stand nearby, and only the lead guitarist (in a chair) to accompany him, treating us to This is Where I Belong. It didn't take long, however, for the rest of the band to join them, and for the stool, chair, and music stand to be taken away. While Ray still has a magic way of connecting to an audience and telling stories about the songs, there would be no readings from the big book of X-Ray on this tour. This set included more material from the new album along with some Kinks gems.

Encores included Days like you've never heard before, Lola, and the expanded version of You Really Got Me. The audience (seeming sold out?) remained in place and on their feet cheering for quite some time after the house lights came up before reluctantly exiting the theater.

For those keeping score, I'd estimate about 40% Kinks songs and 30% each from Other People's Lives and Working Man's Cafe. Of course, with a catalog that now spans 45 years (Forty-Five Years!!!), there were many favorites that did not make the set list and entire eras were left out completely.

If you have the chance to catch Ray on this tour, don't think twice, just buy the ticket. And, in case I didn't make this clear enough, the new album is great too.

Other details: Opening band, Everest, (acoustic trio) was very good. Their first album comes out on May 6. If you are going to a show at the Warfield, don't eat first. Just get there early and order the Chicken Burrito. It's excellent.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 3.05

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of [American] Democracy, Edition 3.05 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy Laslo Weger starts us off with a double header. In his first entry he looks at political parties as feuding tribes in Modern Tribalism. Laslo follows that with an examination of the detrimental effects of official privacy on democracy It's Time to End the Executive Privilege, each posted at Outsider's View.

Whereas government secrecy is detrimental to freedom, Timothy Moreland worries about the loss of personal privacy in U.S. Presidential Candidates Passport Information Scandal Has Broader Implications for U.S. Citizens posted at timmorelandonline.

Count Florida is a new blog dedicated to the single issue of whether or not the Democratic primaries in Florida and Michigan should count, even though they "violated party rules." I think you can guess which side they take in Florida's Vote Should Count! posted at COUNT FLORIDA!.

Barry Leiba looks at religion creeping into our public life in Why we have to keep close watch... posted at Staring At Empty Pages.

Madeleine Begun Kane leaves us with a little humor in Ode To Eliot Spitzer posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness.

Information on future carnivals (should there be one) will be found on our carnival home page or on this blog. Yes, I'm thinking of halting this carnival for at least a short time, but I'll write a separate blog entry about my reasons for that in a few days. Thank you for your support during the time this carnival has run.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Barack Obama on Race, Elections, and the More Perfect Union

Earlier I had written that Barack Obama was the first major party presidential candidate that I had been excited about for two decades (probably since the moment that Gary Hart got photographed on the Monkey Business with Donna Rice).

Then the nomination battle got even uglier than it had been. While I blamed the Clinton camp for most of that ugliness, I feared that Obama was ready to go in the mud as well and I feared that my enthusiasm would prove to have been a mistake.

And then today Senator Obama nearly brought me to tears again with another stirring and moving speech.

If you've got thirty-seven minutes to spare, skip right down to the video. In fact, just do it. I could write a long post about what I feel the highlights of the speech are, but it could never be the same as hearing it from him. I think this is important enough for every American to make the time to view.

Senator Obama makes me proud to be an American, and proud to support him for President.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 3.04

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of [American] Democracy, Edition 3.04 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy Ian Welsh starts the carnival off with an examination of what happens when the checkers and balancers give up their responsibilities in The End of America's Genius? posted at Firedoglake.

Laslo Weger continues the checks and balances discussion and finds it's us who's dropped the ball in Life Above All posted at Outsider's View.

Howard Ditkoff questions why Ralph Nader has failed to make election reform a major part of his independent platform in The Key Issue Suspiciously Missing from Ralph Nader’s “Table” posted at Blog.

Meanwhile, Justin questions why Ralph Nader in Nader '08: Warning, Spoiler Alert! Hate to Spoil It, But People Will Be Saying "Spoiler" A Lot Now posted at We Op-Ed.

Holly Ord looks at the wonderful gift of freedom that we've given the women of Afghanistan in George Bush Thinks Poverty, Death and Abuse are Blessings of Freedom posted at Menstrual Poetry.

Shaheen Lakhan talks about the disenfranchisement of the elderly in Elderly Patients Face Tough Barriers When Voting posted at GNIF Brain Blogger.

I'll be back in about two weeks (March 24) 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, March 06, 2008

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Clinton's Big Comeback (and punchline is?)

Wow! The headlines are amazing! Hillary Clinton, just about counted out for the Democratic nomination two days ago, makes an amazing comeback and stays in!

Only one problem with this scenario that's being heralded all over America this morning. She hasn't got a snowball's chance of passing Obama before the convention.

Yes, she won three out of four contests yesterday, but with the way delegates are divided up, she'll likely wind up with 187 more delegates to Obama's gain of 183. She's only netted four delegates into his lead.

The problem for Clinton, as has been discussed here and and spelled out here, is that it's too little too late. Huge wins in every remaining primary (an extremely unlikely situation) cannot put her ahead of Obama in either pledged delegates or popular vote.

Her only reason for staying in at this point would be to force a floor fight and convince the super-delegates to go against the people's will to nominate her. Not a good situation for anybody hoping to defeat John McCain in November.

Is she really that ego-driven, or is she just that stupid? Really. I want to know.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Introducing the Angelcheeks Foundation

A friend of mine lost his infant son a year ago to SIDS. While the family had insurance that covered the expenses of putting his son to rest, what they learned through the process was how many families are completely unprepared for such a tragedy.

In living memory of their son, he and his wife have now founded the Angelcheeks Foundation, to make grants to families in need, and to education on issues surrounding Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Below, you will see a video by the family and their friends (yes, I'm in there somewhere) that was released today to promote the foundation. Please watch it, and if you are half as moved by it as I was, please consider donating.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 3.03

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of [American] Democracy, Edition 3.03 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy I must apologize again for the long delay in getting this posted. It's a shame the way real life and work responsibilities get in the way of blogging sometime. But... on with the show...

DrGizmondo takes a peek at the man behind the curtain in The puppet masters: Who’s pulling the strings behind the Presidential contenders? posted at Cerebral Black Hole.

Holly Ord tells us of the political significance of currency design in What the Religious Right Wants, the Religious Right Gets posted at Menstrual Poetry.

DWSUWF chronicles the demise of a major political party in GOP Deathwatch: Tracking the K├╝bler-Ross Model posted at Divided We Stand United We Fall.

Sammy Benoit takes apart a racist campaign attack in Black Christians in Memphis Urged DON'T VOTE FOR THE JEW posted at YID With LID.

Avant News leaves us with a frightening possible future in Cheney Offers to Stay on as Veep posted at Avant News.

I'll be back ... well ... eventually? (hopefully March 10 or so...) 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, February 11, 2008

Send me to the Conventions!

I'm in a "video pundit" competition, the winner of which will get to go to the Democratic and Republican conventions later this year as a video blogger.

Please click the banner link below to view my entry, and if you think it is worthy, please vote for it.

Thank you!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 3.02

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of [American] Democracy, Edition 3.02 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy Wenchypoo gets Super Tuesday off with a lovely reminder of Why Your Vote Really Doesn’t Matter posted at Wisdom From Wenchypoo's Mental Wastebasket.

Vihar Sheth ponders why the EPA would deny the U.S. Senate access to documents in Executive Privilege Agency posted at green | rising.

Juan Pablo Melo revisits the American Dream in Illegals posted at Political Descrambler.

And Avant News gives us news of the future with Delisted From Google For Repeated Syntactic Errors posted at Avant News.

I'll be back again in two weeks (February 18 or so...) 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, February 01, 2008

MoveOn for Obama! & Coulter for Clinton?!, the online activist organization that was founded to rally public support for Bill Clinton during the sex and cigars scandal and resulting impeachment, today endorsed Senator Barack Obama for president.

The endorsement was made following a vote of their 3.2 million members (well, okay, the ones who received the email asking for their opinion and then actually clicked the link and took the time to vote in the primary).

When I received MoveOn's email I did click through to vote for Senator Obama, but I wasn't convinced that he would win. After all, MoveOn was created to support the Clintons, no matter what, and has often seemed (in my opinion) to be not much more than Clinton apologists. But even MoveOn has moved on.

Obama won the online voting by 70.4% to Clinton's 29.6%. But that's not the most astounding endorsement of the last twenty-four hours...

Conservative Pundit Queen, Ann Coulter, has weighed in on a potential Hillary Clinton versus John McCain match-up in the general election, and said that she'd vote for Clinton over McCain.

According to Coulter, Clinton is more conservative, smarter, and lies less than McCain. She went on to say that McCain would leave Iraq to Al Queda, while Clinton would keep us there for as long as it takes.

And you know, she might be right, and that's the scariest part of it all.

(As for me, if the nominees wind up being Clinton and McCain, I'll be interested to see what Michael "I'm not running" Bloomberg does.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Clinton right about something? - Edwards out?

Damn it. I hate when Hillary Clinton might be right. After all, now that I've come out as endorsing Barack Obama for president, I'm supposed to take his side in their little battles, but unfortunately, my greater obligation is to honesty.

Last night Hillary Clinton won the Florida Democratic primary. But, due to changes in the primary, and a battle with the party, the Democrats had earlier decided not to certify the primary or to seat any delegates from Florida, rendering the primary meaningless. All the candidates had agreed to this, and none actively campaigned in the sunshine state as a result.

Now that Clinton has won, she says she'll fight to have the Florida delegates seated, to which Obama is claiming that's not fair. Now, on the one hand, Obama is right; they had all agreed before the primary that it would yield no delegates and they campaigned (or didn't) accordingly. Changing the rules now, after the fact, just doesn't seem fair.

The problem is that it was a stupid decision to decertify the Florida primary in the first place. If I'm going to be intellectually honest with myself and my readers, continue maintaining that the restoration of democracy in the U.S. is my top priority, and ever post another "Carnival of the Decline of Democracy," I've got to stand up for the right of Florida's Democrats to have a say at their convention - even if it means that decision could hurt my candidate of choice.

Meanwhile John Edwards is expected to drop out of the Presidential race today, which is too bad. I like John Edwards, and I think if he continued to collect delegates he could play a big role in the Democratic convention in shaping the eventual ticket. He ran a good campaign, and is a decent guy - not easy traits for a lawyer and a politician.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bill: "Hillary = Dukakis"

Here's a little exchange earlier today between a reporter and former president, Bill Clinton...

Reporter: What does it say about Barack Obama that it takes two of you [Clintons] to beat him?

Bill Clinton: (laughs) ... Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice in '84 and '88...

1) This doesn't answer the question asked, 2) It's an attempt to downplay a primary loss by dismissing the state as unimportant or non-representative, and 3) It's an obvious ploy to reduce Obama to being "the Black candidate" and nothing more. But the other blogs are already discussing these three points quite thoroughly.

I'd like to look at the other implication here. If Obama equals Jackson, then where does that leave Hillary? In 1984 few Democrats were willing to risk their reputation and future electoral plans by running against the extremely popular Ronald Reagan. In 1988 the lackluster field was openly referred to by the press as "the seven dwarfs."

These primary contests resulted in the nominations of Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis. So, when Hillary is unable to beat Obama/Jackson, does that mean she's on the same level as Mondale/Dukakis, or that she couldn't have beat them either? And what does that say about her chances in November?

Of course, the former president wasn't intending that comparison. He was simply trying to inject race into a contest where it doesn't belong. Obama is no more "the Black candidate" than Hillary is "the female candidate." Clinton does nothing but damage his own reputation along with the chances of either leading Democrat to win in November.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Hey There Obama

This is too funny, cute, and on target not to share. And the kid got detention for writing and singing it in class, so he deserves a little positive reinforcement.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Carnival of the Decline of American Democarcy, edition 3.01

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of [American] Democracy, Edition 3.01 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy Barry Leiba has some thoughts on how the media effects the primaries in The press and the election posted at Staring At Empty Pages.

Ian Welsh gives a brief history of labor and politics in The Glorious Future that American Unions Walked Away From posted at The Agonist.

Shaun Connell gives a look at how our economics effects our politics in Wealth and Poverty posted at Reason and Capitalism.

I'll be back again in two weeks (February 4) 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.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, January 18, 2008 9:53 PM


-------------- Forwarded Message: --------------
Date: Fri, 12 Jan 2008 13:23:27 +0000

Okay, just one more on Clinton and I'll back off for a while. I just think it is important that we know exactly who we might be voting for, if New Hampshire is any indication of her strength, it is time to educate ourselves on not only Clinton, but all the candidates on both sides.

-------------- Forwarded Message: --------------
Date: Fri, 8 Jan 2008 10:53 AM

Who is Hillary Rodham "Clinton"?

Very interesting and something that should be considered in your choice.

If you do not ever forward anything else, please forward this to all your contacts... this is very scary to think of what lies ahead of us here in our own United States... better heed this and pray about it and share it.

Probable U. S. presidential candidate, "HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON" was born with the name of Hilary Diane Rodham, and only later changed her last name to "Clinton" - some claim for political purposes - and dropped completely her former middle name of Diane.

Consider this fact: Since being elected to public office, Ms. "Clinton" has never once publicly explained her change of name!!! Just what is Hilary DIANE Rodham hiding?

Fact Two: Hilary Diane Rodham "Clinton" is a member of an exclusive and secretive organization that refers to itself as "The United States Senate." This "Senate" maintains a powerful hold over our nation's government while limiting its membership to only 100 persons at a time. Although this "Senate" purports to uphold our treasured principles of democracy, "Senators" only put themselves up for re-election every six years!

As a member of the exclusive and powerful "Senate," Hilary Diane Rodham "Clinton" has several times cast votes in DIRECT OPPOSITION to the ELECTED President of the United States!

Most Shocking Fact: Hilary Diane Rodham "Clinton" practices a type of Christianity often broadly referred to as "Protestant." This is the same religion as the Radical White Christian Terrorists who bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 and the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta in 1996.

While Ms. Clinton claims to support abortion rights, the very same Radical White Christian Terrorist who was responsible for the Atlanta Olympic bombing (Eric Rudolph) was also convicted of bombing several abortion clinics!

Ms. Clinton has steadfastly refused to denounce her race or religion or make any public statements regarding her relationship with Mr. Rudolph!!!!!

The White Christian Radicals have said they plan on destroying the US from the inside out and "returning it to Christ," what better way to start than at the highest level - through the President of the United States, one of their own!!!!

Please forward to everyone you know. Would you want this person leading our country?...... NOT ME!!!

I have checked all these facts thoroughly using, wikipedia, and and all have shown this to be THE TRUTH - - - WAKE UP AND OPEN YOUR EYES!!!!!

------------ End Forwarded Message -----------

This is an original work of satire, although you are free to forward it to the easily alarmed. Careful, the gullibility virus is spreading.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Green No More - Independent for Obama

I am not a Democrat. I used to be one, but not anymore. If you've been reading my blogs and political writings for a long time, you may recall that I'm officially a Green. At least, I was until about 2:30 this afternoon.

But, let me go back a ways and tell you the whole story...

When I turned 18 in 1979 I registered as a Democrat, and was fairly loyal from that time until the mid 90s. I walked my Sacramento precinct for Clinton in '92 (as I had for other Democrats before), but some of the shine had already begun to come off my love of the party.

The way the Clinton's squandered their opportunity with a failed (and poorly led) bid at national health care and then quickly turned to the right was a major disappointment, as was their later implementation of a very Republican welfare "reform." But the final straw for me came from my Democratic State Senator up in Sacramento.

I had written him a letter during the '94 elections asking for clarification on his position on the death penalty, as he had made a statement implying he wanted it applied even to drug dealers, rapists, etc. He wrote back basically telling me that I was an idiot, and asking if I thought I'd get any more of a liberal position out of his Republican challenger, and basically told me that I had no choice but to support him. Needless to say, I didn't vote for him.

Following that election (early in '95) I changed my registration to Green, and I have been a Green ever since. But I don't always vote Green. I consider myself "left-of-center independent" and my votes can be for Greens, Democrats, or whomever else I feel best represents my views in any given election.

With Barack Obama, however, there is finally a Democrat who I can not only "hold my breath and vote for," but a Democrat who I can truly believe in, and want to help win this election.

No, I won't be changing my registration back to Democrat. The party itself still has a long way to go before I can proudly wear that label again. But, in California, true independents (registered as "decline to state" not in any third party) may select a Democratic ballot in the Primary election.

And so, this afternoon I stopped off at Barack Obama's new San Jose office and filled out a new voter registration form as "decline to state" (the CA registration deadline is 15 days prior to any election, so that would be next Monday). This will allow me to support him in the primary on February 5, as well as in the general election next November.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Establishment Strikes Back

Much is being made of Senator Clinton's "big comeback" to win yesterday's New Hampshire Democratic primary, more so, it seems, than even John McCain's victory on the Republican side.

McCain, who only did slightly better in Iowa than I did (joke: I didn't enter the Iowa Republican race) came in five points ahead of his nearest competitor in New Hampshire (37% to 32%), whereas Clinton came in only two points above Obama (39% to 37%) in a race that was considered "too close to call" for much of the night.

How is it that the two-year front-runner and presumed nominee barely squeezing by the presumed upstart is considered any sort of victory? Only when reported on by media hacks who've been Hilary's darlings since the evening before day one.

(And I mean "hack" with all due love and respect. My wife and I watched the coverage on MSNBC, and I truly enjoy Olbermann, Matthews, and Elder Brokaw, but come on guys...)

Meanwhile, Senator Obama used his airtime last night to give not only the most gracious of concession speeches to Senator Clinton, but one of the finest political speeches I've heard in many, many years.

Here it is (and, Yes, We Can):

Monday, January 07, 2008

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 3.0

Welcome to the Carnival of the Decline of [American] Democracy, Edition 3.0 - Blogging 'till the secret police take us away.

Carnival of the Decline of Democracy Howard Ditkoff gets the new election year off to a great start discussing one of my favorite electoral reforms (IRV), the "spoiler effect," and Ralph Nader, in Instant Runoff Voting Excluded: An Unreasonable Omission from An Unreasonable Man posted at Blog.

Carole G. McKay takes us all to task for allowing the current demise of democracy in Truth or Consequences posted at McKay Today.

Ian Welsh looks at the U.S. in contrast to the decline and fall of previous empires in American Parallels posted at The Agonist.

Michael Carlin discusses sweatshops as a natural result of our political culture in The Divine Right of Corporations posted at The Future of Science.

Madeleine Begun Kane uses humor to make her case for news with substance in Dear Editor: Enough With The Polls, Already! posted at Mad Kane's Political Madness.

Finally, the ever-brilliant Jon Swift makes sense of EVERYTHING in Iowa Caucus Results Explained posted at Jon Swift.

I'll be back again in two weeks (January 21) 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, January 04, 2008

Iowa and Glassbooth

I'm very pleased with the results from Iowa last night, from each of the major parties. What I saw was a victory of democracy and the people over the arrogance of entrenched powers and those at the heads of the parties (and the media) who think they can tell us what to think and who to vote for.

If Obama and Huckabee actually hold their leads and become their party's nominees, we could actually have an election on substance and direction, rather than the usual crap. And by the usual crap, what I mean is this:

We have typically faced a choice between two rubber-stamp candidates that are groomed to appeal to the middle of the road, and have very little political space between them. In order to attempt to draw distinctions, they must result to mud-slinging and focus on personal issues that have nothing to do with the business of the nation.

With Obama and Huckabee, we have two candidates who, agree with them or disagree with them, actually each seem genuine and open and willing to have a conversation at a lower-than-usual decibel level. There are clear and great differences between them when it comes to policy and direction, and the election would actually be able to focus on those real issues that are important to each of us and our future.

But, the establishment still has another 49 primaries to fight back and install their candidates at the top of each ticket, so don't start celebrating yet.

And who should you vote for when the party comes to your town? Glassbooth (dot-org) has a two-part test to help find your ideal candidate. Part one has you divide up 20 points among the issues that matter to you most. Part two is a more typical "Strongly Support / Support / Neutral Oppose / Strongly Oppose" romp through policies based on the same issues areas. Answer them all, and you get your results of which candidates agree with you.

Here's my (partial) results:
  • Kucinich: 94%
  • Gravel: 88%
  • Edwards: 80%
  • Obama: 80%
  • Clinton: 73%
  • Paul 48%
  • McCain: 45%
  • Huckabee: 34%
  • Giuliani: 34%
  • Romney: 31%
I guess there's no real surprises there.

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