Wednesday, January 30, 2008

That's What's in a Name

Yes, Barak Obama's middle name is Hussein.

And Hussein means Beautiful Child. It seems to me Barak's parents felt blessed when he was born. Let's not use his name as a curse.

Monday, January 28, 2008

There I go getting hopeful again

So Dick Cheney's older daughter (the one who hasn't "disgraced" herself by being gay) is joining Mitt Romney's camp as a Middle East expert (insert the sound of Chris Matthews' "Hah!" here). This is code for "he's our guy" from the Neocon camp.

Several polls show John McCain as the only Republican candidate who could beat either Obama, Clinton or Edwards (with Edwards being the strongest of the three against McCain). Of course that's one reason Edwards' candidacy has been marginalized. But it's the media who is marginalizing him, and they are not necessarily in favor of the Republican candidates. They just don't want a president with corporate reform on his mind - which is Edward's hallmark.

Now in actuality, once the Dems have picked their candidate, the currently simmering smear machine will come to full boil. Barak will not only be Muslim, but will have masterminded 9/11. Hillary will be caught conspiring to enact legislation that will forcibly remove all male CEO's, presidents, executives, and managers, to have them replaced with lesbians. We know the drill. Counter punching will need to be furious to avoid a complete meltdown of support from the marginally informed who eat this stuff up like breakfast cereal.

Still, my gut instinct (to say nothing of the polls) tells me that Mitt will be much easier to beat than will be McCain. So I welcome Republican attacks on McCain with glee. There are the misguided progressive souls who conclude that this means McCain would actually be a good choice for president. Smack! don't think that way ya dolts! He'd be a nightmare.

But the Neocon machine is going to do absolutely everything it can to prevent McCain from getting the nod, and will work overtime to make sure that Mitt is the man. Why? Because he is their perfect shill; even more so than Dubya. It really is that simple.

I saw a You Tube video today, prepared by Romney's camp, that "proved" that the Democrats would most like to run against McCain. I laughed out loud. This is high comedy. Please my dear Republicans, eat your own. It makes me hopeful. Independent voters will flock to McCain. Not all of them, but enough of them. But by and large they will absolutely shun Romney.

Friday, January 25, 2008

And then on the lighter side...

Jack wakes up with a huge hangover after attending his company's Christmas Party. He didn't even remember how he got home from the party. As bad as he was feeling, he wondered if he did something wrong. Jack had to force himself to open his eyes, and the first thing he saw is a couple of aspirins next to a glass of water on the side table. And, next to them, a single red rose! Jack sits up and sees his clothing in front of him, all clean and pressed. He looks around the room and sees that it is in perfect order, spotlessly clean. So is the rest of the house. He takes the aspirins, cringes when he sees a huge black eye staring back at him in the bathroom mirror. Then he notices a note hanging on the corner of the mirror written in red with little hearts on it and a kiss mark from his wife in lipstick: "Honey, breakfast is on the stove, I left early to get groceries to make you your favorite dinner tonight. I love you, darling! Love, Jillian. "He stumbles to the kitchen and sure enough, there is hot breakfast, steaming hot coffee and the morning newspaper. His son is also at the table, eating. Jack asks, "Son... what happened last night?"

"Well, you came home after 3 A.M., drunk and out of your mind. You fell over the coffee table and broke it, and then you puked in the hallway, and got that black eye when you ran into the door. "Confused, he asked his son, "So, why is everything in such perfect order and so clean? I have a rose, and breakfast is on the table waiting for me??

"His son replies, "Oh THAT!... Mom dragged you to the bedroom, and when she tried to take your pants off, you screamed, "Leave me alone bitch, I'm married!!"

Broken Coffee Table $239.99
Hot Breakfast $4.20
Two Aspirins $.38
Saying the right thing, at the right time......PRICELESS

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Goodbye Dennis

I am very sad today; Congressman Dennis Kucinich announced today that he will be dropping out of the Democratic race for President. It has been apparent since almost the beginning that his chances were beyond slim, and the media has gone out of its way to further marginalize his candidacy. But I vowed to vote for him in the Primary election and had fully intended upon doing so twelve days from now.

Kucinich raised the level of debate. He was the only candidate who never had to make excuses for his voting record. His voting record has always been in accord with his professed principles. What does this say about us as a nation? Even as progressive liberals, how do we account for our cavalier disregard for this best of all candidates? We get pissed off when a candidate votes in a way that appears to be opposite to their stated aims. And when they refuse to simply admit that they were bought off, we get even more pissed. Yet we refuse to support a candidacy that is the antithesis of this cancer. Why???

Ok, it's over. As I said, I am very sad. But now I owe my vote come February 5th to the Democratic Party, and I need to make it count best. I'm thinking Edwards as the next best thing (though he's not fit to lick Kucinich's boots). But I have placed a survey at the right. Tell me what you think. For whom should I vote?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Space, the Final Affront

I have always been a science, and science fiction, buff, and have believed in backing our space program. I am fully aware of how much it has been used militarily, and that many folks see it as a waste of money desperately needed here earthside. Nonetheless my love for all things space travel related has continued unabated.

That is until now.

Space Tourism has been touted as an up and coming industry these past several years. According to this article, this "dream" is one step closer. Well goodie for these guys. I'm sure it's going to be just wonderful.

But as far as I'm concerned, the timing is what is all wrong. We are arguably on the brink of a very bad recession, if not an outright depression, and the core reason (though you won't hear about it in the mainstream media) is that the rich are robbing us blind. Sending jobs overseas, and rewarding these actions with tax breaks; turning a blind eye to illegal immigration, which in turn lowers wages across the board; lowering taxes on the rich; sending billions and billions unaccountably to Iraq; all this has drained the middle class while rewarding the super rich with our hard-earned money.

And who gets to take tourist trips into space? Well the article says the company has 200 firm reservations with $30 million in deposits. My math tells me that means these would-be astronautical travelers have each plopped down $150,000 as a deposit. I wonder how much the full trip costs.

I find this to be an obscene flaunting of this pirated wealth in the faces of those of us (the vast majority that is) who are being fleeced.

I heard Congressman Robert Wexler on a radio show this morning. He suggested that the first thing we ought to be doing right now is repealing Bush's tax cuts. I agree to that - as a start anyway. Instead Bush is looking for ways to put the lion's share of his "relief package" into the hands of the robber barons.

On second thought, maybe all of these guys ought to be flown into space.

One way.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Paper or Canvas?

San Jose, California has taken steps toward banning plastic bags. They will join San Francisco, Oakland and a few European cities. Even China and South Africa have entered this progressive movement.

I still tend to forget to ask for paper, or even better, to take a canvas bag with me when I go to the store. I think I'm going to make a hanger for our canvas bags by the front door so I remember to grab some on the way out. I've noticed the store clerks no longer asking, and I don't think I see paper bags there any more. That is all except for Whole Foods where I don't think they have plastic bags. I would shop there all the time if I were rich.

Even though I am hardly an example of what the progressive way I would like us all to be, I am not afraid of going one further and suggesting an even more profound change. I would like to see in-store packaging undergo a major change. I don't know how plastic shopping bag garbage and litter compare to packaging garbage and litter, but I would imagine the volume and resultant pollution is similar. And green packaging is a growth industry. It's generally more expensive, but only because the true costs of pollutive packaging are externalized (in the form of pollution, depletion of resources, etc.) So we still pay for it; the manufactureres just don't.

The bottom line is that we need legislation. The free market will work at innovation when forced to by legislation. Until then, only the occasional visionary is going to take action.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

New Exquisite Corpse

I've been intending to write this for some time and have simply not gotten around to it. Now I find myself shamed into it because my compatriots who have blogged this were thanked for doing a couple of days ago.

I have contributed to an on-line art format for about three years. I wrote somewhere below about it's sad demise. I still maintain a link to that site at the right, but I have not written about, nor provided a link to, that site's most valid successor, New Exquisite Corpse dot net. I am doing so now.

This site was created and is maintained by my online friend, Shae. I have a link to her blog, Shae's Place, at the right as well (and have added one to her New Exquisite Corpse site too).

We are currently about 30 members strong, but are looking for fresh blood (just a vial or two; not enough to turn you into a corpse). If you have a knack for digital art, a computer, email account, and software such as Photoshop (anything that will edit and create Jpeg files), why not take a peek. And if you are interested you should also check out the old site, An Exquisite Corpse, which though inactive still contains about 1,000 corpses (what we call this collaborative art form). I suggest this because our new site is in its infancy, but the old site can show you an exceedingly broad spectrum of the type of art we have collaborated on in the past.

Both old and new sites provide an in-depth explanation of the origin of Exquisite Corpses and why they carry that moniker. The history is interesting and quirky. I really hope to get a few takers here.

By the way, this is the latest output from the new site. I was player number two (from top to bottom). There are four players all-together:

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Progressives aren't Progressive unless they are Progressive

I came home tonight to frozen pipes. I had planned on getting to this right away because I am really concerned about the topic on which I will write below, but I needed to take care of my water problems first. As it stands now, we still have no water, but we have called the city water department, and set up a blow dryer to spew its pitiful output on what I hope is the inlet pipe behind a vent in my crawl space.

But this is what I wanted to talk about:

I think we have some marvelous Democratic candidates currently running for the United States Presidency. I have this for one and this against another, and in my heart of hearts I would love to think of Dennis Kucinich the next time I hear Hail to the Chief played, but all in all, each of the remaining five candidates is real catch. Especially when compared to anyone running on the God's Old Party ticket.

The way I think about my decision in selecting our next Executive is based on their character, their stand on issues that matter (as opposed to those created by Karl Rove merely for the purpose of division and contention), and maybe lastly, on the way in which they break the mold. Of the three media-anointed "front runners," John Edwards most piques my interest based on these criteria. He is old-guard in that he is a white male. And my interest in him over Obama and Clinton is entirely divorced from that fact. If I felt all three were wholly equal, I would only then take into consideration race and sex.

However that is not to say that race and/or sex are not important barriers to break, especially when we have such an unprecedented opportunity. But let me clarify my thinking: I would not choose a candidate based on race or sex over a candidate I felt more qualified. I would, however, not exclude a candidate from my choice due to the impression that they were unelectable based on their race or sex.

This has to be couched in terms of "all else being equal." Qualifications should be paramount. But even qualifications are nuanced and open to discussion and interpretation. What I am getting at though, is the crap I continue to hear such as, "Well I have lots of respect for Senator Obama, but let's face it, America is not ready to vote for a black." And I listen to progressive talk radio and that is where I keep hearing this absolutely reprehensible line spoken by caller after caller. I am appalled by the number of racists in denial in our own ranks!

I haven't heard this argument so much in regard to Clinton and her sex, but the same goes for that. To say we shouldn't nominate a candidate based on electability, if the credentials in question are in regard to their qualifications, is a good argument and one to be considered. But to say we shouldn't nominate a candidate based on electability if the credentials are their race or sex is just simply wrong. And worst of all, I have heard this argument made by progressives.

Let's face it people; this is akin to the argument that bi-racial marriages are bad because of the way in which the children will be persecuted. To say that taking affirmative action against regressive social standards is wrong because the status quo will fight back hard is itself no better than being in lock-step with the bigots themselves.

I do not care if Barak Obama is electable based on his race or if Hillary Clinton is electable based on her sex. If we as progressives call for discouraging their candidacy simply because of the facts of their respective race and sex, then we are regressive, and not the progressives we claim to be. I call on my fellow progressives to disavow this kind of talk. How dare we call ourselves free thinkers and then turn on others who aren't in line with the status quo?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What a Cut-Up!

Now here's a story you don't read every day:

Plea deal for body-snatch ring boss

Wednesday, January 16th 2008, 4:00 AM

The boss of a multimillion-dollar body-snatching ring will plead guilty to carving up hundreds of corpses at area funeral homes and illegally selling body parts, the Daily News has learned.

Michael Mastromarino - who earned millions of dollars through the ghoulish enterprise - agreed to the deal after lengthy negotiations with the Brooklyn district attorney's office. He will serve a minimum of 18 years in prison.

"He was facing life in prison," said Mastromarino's lawyer, Mario Gallucci, adding his jailed client will appear in court Tuesday to formalize the plea agreement.

As part of the deal, Mastromarino, 44, will cooperate with prosecutors in an ongoing probe of several companies that bought the stolen body parts and then sold them to more than 20,000 transplant recipients throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. The transplants included bones, skin, arterial valves, ligaments and tendons.

The illegal enterprise ran for more than four years, ending in fall 2005 when The News detailed the operation and an ongoing probe by the Brooklyn district attorney's office. More than 1,400 corpses were illegally harvested. (Read more here...)

How would you like to find out you had one of these parts in you?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Waking Virgilio Cintron

If you liked Waking Ned Devine, you will love this story. All that's missing are the Irish accents and bonny green countryside.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Then I Can Die Happy

I wrote briefly about this as a comment on a friend's blog tonight. I was going to leave it at that (it's late and I'm tired), but I was lying in bed and more about this was going through my mind.

Barak Obama has not been my favorite candidate. Truth be known, I have had no favorite other than the very dark horse of Dennis Kucinich. And I have liked Kucinich because of our common ground. He believes in the punative measures I believe in. Measures that I believe should be exacted against the criminals who have held our constitution hostage for seven years now. And I have written about those beliefs freely here. And argued them with friends and family.

And if pushed to it, I will argue no differently today.

But in just the past handful of days I have begun to think that my beliefs just may be superfluous after all.

This is what I wrote in comment earlier tonight:

"I found myself today thinking of Mikhail Gorbachev. As far as I am concerned this man was a true hero of the late 20th century (far more responsible for the fall of the Soviet Union than Ronald Reagan).One of his greatest facets was his determination to change his society for the better - even at his own expense. That takes a great person.

"I have felt similarly about Obama to what (others like myself have said). But I have come to realize in just the past few days that just maybe we're seeing something greater than any of us hard lefters had hoped for. Just maybe we're seeing the beginnings of a truly new emergence of freedom. And just maybe that new freedom has more to do with a message of hope than it has to do with a detailed reckoning of the evils of the NeoCons' crimes. And just maybe we're becoming the ones who are superfluous.

"I'm not sure. But one thing I am sure of: if that is what is happening, I damn sure want to have the good grace to let my mightily held indignations go by the wayside as I watch the new hope ride into town."

To expand on that, I don't think this has anywhere near as much to do with Barak Obama as it has to do with The People. Hillary is already acusing Obama of being full of empty rhetoric. The NeoCon death machine is already planning the implementation of a vicious attack on Obama. (Ironically, this attack is going to focus ten times more on his supposed Muslim roots than on the color of his skin. The insidious viciousness of this lies in the false choice it attempts to lay before Obama's defenders: Do you assert that he is indeed not a Muslim, or do you rise up and emphatically declare the truth and promise of our Constitution that mandates that there shall be no religious test for any person seeking public office in the United States?)

But do you see? I cannot help but continue to couch this in an "us against them" paradigm. And I am beginning to see that those who will truly manage to rise above this and usher in the new age that restores - and even better yet, realizes - the promise of our democracy, will not be those who have fought the old fight, on the old battleground that is steeped in the traditional enmities of that old struggle. No, the victors will in fact not be victors. They will be winners. Not victorious vanquishors of foes of old, but inheritors of the promises of liberty fought for by our founders.

General George Washington led men to victory against King George in 1783. But we claim July 4th, 1776 as the birth of our nation, when the pen declared us victorious. Rhetoric is not empty. Rhetoric inspires. An inspired people rises above conflicts and sets their sights on horizons they clearly see. And that inspiration provides the strength and courage to turn vision into heritage.

I will gladly become superfluous. I finally understand why Barak Obama has likened our current body politic to the struggle of the 60's. He hasn't demeaned the struggle thereof. But that struggle, which continues today, is a struggle not destined to resolve itself in identifying a victor in terms of the day, but rather in birthing a new people, free of those struggles.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Travel Continuum

Bonnie and I love traveling and meeting new people. Our lives consist of three stages along the travel continuum: 1) Planning our next trip, 2) Taking a trip, and 3) Biding our time until we can forecast having enough time and money saved up so we can start planning our next trip.

The third stage is the most difficult. Planning a trip is almost as much fun as taking a trip, and it lasts longer and costs less, so it can bring a lot of wanderlust satisfaction. But that in-between stage, when we are in no position to do more than thumb through atlases and travel books and sigh wistfully, often seems interminable. We sometimes get the urge to go buy a new suitcase or travel gadget, just to feel some of the residual effects of the travel-related expenditure. We usually are able to resist these urges; I want a day pack that is designed to accommodate a laptop computer and I nearly purchased one a few months ago, but I wisely decided to wait until our next actual trip planning phase arrives.

Sometimes serendipity has its way of providing you with opportunity and delight you hadn't seen coming. In an effort to do something related to travel - something that cost nothing and that would have the only immediate benefit of its immediate engagement of my interest - I signed up with The Hospitality Club. The Hospitality Club is an online organization with thousands of members world wide. The mission of the club is very simple; members provide hospitality to, or are provided hospitality by, fellow members. I joined simply because Bonnie and I love to meet locals in the places we travel, and because one of the central precepts to this club is free accommodation.

I signed us up several months ago. It takes a few weeks after you sign up to become a member (there is some vetting process, presumably in an attempt to weed out the scammers and spammers). After becoming a member I filled out our profile. I provided information such as the fact that we own a cat, permitted smoking only outside, and preferred six week's notice in advance of requesting accommodation at our house. Of course I was really thinking of our accommodation at other member's homes, more than offering our home up, at the time.

And that's when serendipity hit. About a month ago we received a request from another member. She apologized for not providing 6 weeks' notice and then said she would be traveling from California, where she lived, through our area around New Year's, and could we accommodate them. I saw this email briefly as I was leaving work one day, and forgot all about it until about a week later. After quick discussion with Bonnie I responded to the request (the initial contacts, both ways, are facilitated by The Hospitality Club to retain your relative anonymity until you choose to contact each other directly). We sent emails back and forth. Their plans changed and gelled, and eventually five young people showed up on our doorstep this past Thursday evening.

And I have to tell you; they are some of the nicest young people I have ever met. They are all educated (one just passed his bar exams), well-spoken, progressive professionals. They were courteous and respectful; not just with us, but with each other as well. They invited us out to dinner last night and we all enjoyed the local cuisine and chatted about things important and trivial.

Two are teachers of developmentally challenged children, one is a worksite organizer for her local union. The guy who just passed the bar has aspirations of public defense. In other words, they are all very socially responsible young people. And that really gives me hope, because they are also all clearly highly intelligent and could easily make their way quickly up corporate ladders, but have instead chosen lives that enrich society.

We bade them goodbye early this morning. Each of them hugged us and asked us to please visit them when we were out their way. It was a wonderful, if short, experience and one we both want again.

So serendipitously, while setting ourselves up for future travel arrangements, we ran into a fourth stage of the travel continuum; hosting other travelers. We will do this again, and again. And you can be sure we will be every bit as courteous when we eventually visit the homes of fellow club members.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Iowa lot to Barak

I'm still going to vote for Dennis Kucinich in our primary - provided he hasn't dropped out by this coming spring - because I made a promise. But I have to admit, I was really impressed with Barak Obama tonight.

Barak looked so wonderful coming up onto the stage with his wife and young daughters. I turned to Bonnie and commented that he would be the first President younger than we are. It just feels good to think of this young man, so full of hope and promise and with his young charges, as President. Like JFK two generations ago.

The primary season has barely begun. But I have new hope after tonight. Good luck Barak.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

To Bury a Parent

I don’t recall if I’ve written about this previously or not. I just reviewed my archive titles, and I don’t believe so.

A few months from now will be the thirty-first anniversary of my mother’s untimely death. I was twenty at the time. She was forty-three. A school bus rear ended her car and she burned to death. She had just dropped off one of my brothers at school. He was fifteen at the time, and the last person to see her alive.

At the time, it was decided that we would not have a traditional graveyard burial and memorial. I say “it was decided,” because I don’t remember being part of the discussion at the time. I don’t know if I would have agreed or not, but that’s neither here nor there.

She was cremated (obviously), and we planted her ashes under the roots of a sapling on a small pastoral piece of property my mother and father owned. They had planned on building a house on this land. My dad subsequently remarried less than a year after my mom’s death, and the land was sold. The rancher who purchased the land had a bull who destroyed the sapling; thus obliterating my mother’s “grave.”

Several years later my dad buried his second wife to breast cancer. This is a terrible thing to die from, but we celebrated as she was the quintessential evil stepmother. I only encountered her evil peripherally, but my younger siblings suffered under her. And my spineless father allowed it, and helped her coddle her own sons. So the celebration at her death was well deserved. I don’t remember where she was buried, and I don’t care.

My dad went on to wed again, and he showed equally, if not worse, judgment this time around. We were all grown and out from under parental thumbs by this time, but this woman ended up being a drug-addicted money pit. All of my dad’s current and future worth went into her money pit of a B&B, though he was not afforded any portion of ownership thereto. When my grandparents’ estate was eventually liquidated, that very considerable wealth was similarly subsumed. It went up her nose as had his career when he took the very public fall for her addiction – her career to protect.

He died a little over a year ago (three days before Thanksgiving, 2006), for all practical purposes, without a penny to his name. He was still married to the money pitted old tart. She was delighted to see him gone; he had dementia his last two years and that lessened the fun she had at his expense.

His children, my siblings and I, will be gathering in Hawaii this spring. Our mother was born and raised there, as were we all (except my older sister – born in Munich). Our father and mother met there somewhere on the order of fifty-five years ago. They met while working on a set for a college theater production. They made a very good looking couple. They have been apart nearly thirty years.

So we will meet this spring to reunite them. We have a smidgeon of his ashes; his drug-addled ex managed to scrape some off the kitchen counter before snorting them or mixing them in with the kitty litter. And my sister and brother rescued these dried old flakes of bone in a spice jar. These we will place in the ground not far from the town our mother was raised in. We will add mementos of her life.

Her parents, our grandparents, are buried there as well. It’s fitting. After thirty years of being blown to the wind and trampled underfoot by a bull, now long gone itself, our mother can rejoin our father. And perhaps (though I am not so romantic to really believe it so), she can redeem him at last.

Happy New Year

I’m back at work today after eleven days off. My employer enforces a “use it or lose it” policy with regard to vacation time, and I had three days saved up. This past Monday was therefore a work day for me, and I dutifully showed up. The parking lot was almost empty as was the building in which I work. I spent about 3 and half hours processing the miniscule amount of work that had accumulated the week before, and then I went home.

But everybody but the chronically hung over is back at work today. The vase majority of the work I do is downstream of work submitted by others. Since these others have by and large all been off for the holidays too, I must now wait for them to all get back up to speed and begin submitting work to me again. Until that happens I am in a thumb twiddling mode. I check my email constantly to see if anything new has shown up. I have done some file maintenance this morning. I have been catching back up on personal emails as well. Right now I’m waiting for lunch time.

And I can’t leave early as I did on Monday because as I said, everybody is back in force. I am beginning to wish I had simply given things a cursory glance on Monday morning so I would have an additional 3 and a half hours of work to do today. Of course I would have finished that an hour ago and then taken another hour to do the work that has trickled in thus far today, and would still be sitting here writing blog entry now.

That isn’t to say that I won’t be interrupted and thrown into a tail-spin at a moment’s notice. In that case I may not even post this as it would no longer be apropos.

Guess it's apropos because I'm publishing it now. Happy New Year!