Thursday, June 26, 2008

Oil Spill and Exxon

The Supreme Court just cut Exxon's liability for the Valdez oil spill. From what you hear in the mainstream media, it doesn't sound so bad, and certainly Exxon puts a good spin on it. But a couple of things that should give one pause: (1) Can you trust anything said by the oil company that spends millions to promote fake think tanks that gosh, gee, wow, find that global warming is a fraud? and (2) here's some deep background on the company's culpability for the spill by Greg Palast, an investigative reporter that has covered this story from the beginning. They broke many promises to operate safely, and an entire ecosystem has suffered major damage because of it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Book review: Singularity Sky

TitleSingularity Sky
Author: Charles Stross
Tagssf, series

It's been a long time since I read hard science fiction, and keeping up with the science and technology was quite hard. But Stross's vision is as interesting in political theory as scientific. It juxtaposes two cultures, one more advanced that is making no government work (the anarchist's dream), and one that has reverted to almost a feudal society. Everything changes by contact with the Festival, not a society at all but an information-gathering colossus with amazing technology they share in return for stories.

The man characters are appealing. It is a real brain-stretcher of a book.
PublicationAce (2004), Paperback, 352 pages
Publication date2004
ISBN0441011799 / 97804410117

Monday, June 23, 2008

"Uncounted" Shines Spotlight on Our Corrupt Voting System

"A must-see documentary for the large percentage of our population unaware that a large percentage of votes aren't counted. The review captures what needs to be done between now and election day to ensure the integrity of our election."

read more | digg story

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Enemy is Fear

I'm re-watching all the episodes of the marvelous TV show Babylon 5. Near the end of the third season, in the episode "The Rock Cried Out No Hiding Place" a visiting preacher to the station is giving a sermon that includes these words that have so much relevance to our time today:

"Rev. Dexter: Every day, here and at home, we are warned about the enemy. But who is the enemy? Is it the alien? Well, we are all alien to one another. Is it the one who believes differently than we do? No, oh no, my friends. The enemy is fear. The enemy is ignorance. The enemy is the one who tells you that you must hate that which is different. Because, in the end, that hate will turn on you. And that same hate will destroy you."

Progressive Magnetic Bumper Stickers

And now for the commercial portion of our presentation. I just bought four magnetic bumper stickers from this site, Carry a Big Sticker. The four I got are an Obama 08 (the main reason for ordering), my favorite, "Dissent is the Highest Form of Patriotism" - Howard Zinn, one that says "Coexist" with the letters made of various religious symbols, and one that says "Peace and equality are moral values". My order arrived quickly, was accurate, and in good shape. I really like having magnetic bumper stickers, so that I can rotate them, or take off dated ones with ease. My only problem was that I did not realize my bumper isn't made of metal, so the first two I bought got lost because they fell off. Now I know, thanks to my friend Mark. Thanks, Mark!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Greener Alternative to AAA

"Better World Club offers an eco-friendly alternative to AAA. When it comes to roadside assistance, most Americans don't even think twice before making a decision. AAA has been around since 1902 and is the leading auto club in the country. But AAA, who did well to focus on roadway safety reform through the 1940s, is isolating...."

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Bomb Iran? What's to Stop Bush?

VITALLY important article ( on whether Bush plans to attack Iran (Olmert says the deal is done). The article is by Ray McGovern, of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), and indicates that moving forward with Kucinich's articles of impeachment may be the only way to stop it. Sounds slightly hysterical, I know, it seems incredible that something so awful for everyone involved might happen, but McGovern gives a lot of information.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

The Light and the Dark

I'm reading Bill Moyers on Democracy, a collection of his speeches over the years that touch on the topic of democracy. The last one I read was on Hubert Humphrey, given in 1998 for the 50th anniversary of Humphrey's speech on the topic of civil rights at the Democratic convention in 1948. Moyer's speech is one of the best things I've ever read. It made me cry and despair of humanity, then smile in pride at the actions of a hero working to change society from within. I wish I could give a sense of it, but I can't... it creates a whole that ranges from ugly to lyrical. I strongly recommend it to everyone.

Thank a liberal

Some friends and I were discussing the fact that the term "liberal" has, during the years of the conservative revolution, become a term of opprobrium. Polls show that if you ask people in the U.S. about the issues, they are in favor of liberal policies, but not that many call themselves liberal. So we are setting out to reclaim the term. One of the best things on the topic I've seen is this article I saw years ago sent around as an email, and I looked for it on Google and found it in (of course) someone's blog. If anyone knows who wrote it, please let me know. Here it is in full:

A day in the life of Joe Republican

Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee. The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards.
With his first swallow of water, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised.
All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too.
He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.
Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air.
He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.
Joe begins his workday. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards.
Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union. If Joe is hurt on the job or becomes unemployed, he'll get a worker compensation or unemployment check because some stupid liberal didn't think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.
It's noontime and Joe needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Joe's deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Joe's money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression.
Joe has to pay his Fannie Mae-underwritten mortgage and his below-market federal student loan because some elitist liberal decided that Joe and the government would be better off if he was educated and earned more money over his lifetime.
Joe is home from work. He plans to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country. He gets in his car for the drive. His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought for car safety standards.
He arrives at his boyhood home. His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers' Home Administration because bankers didn't want to make rural loans. The house didn't have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn't belong and demanded rural electrification.
He is happy to see his father, who is now retired. His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Joe wouldn't have to.
Joe gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day. Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."

McCain Should Know Better

One of Keith Olbermann's Special Commentaries, this one on McCain's comment that it is not too important when the troops come home from Iraq. He is careful to fully give the context... in ways I'm sure McCain won't appreciate, but shouldn't have cause to complain about. It is time that this war, begun with lies, continued with massive damage, should end, and McCain won't do that.

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The Shift- video on creating change

This is a marvelous video on creating change, called The Shift. Enjoy!

America's prison for terrorists often held the wrong men

Guantanamo was supposed to house the "worst of the worst." But a McClatchy investigation that included interviews with 66 former detainees on three continents found that dozens of the men imprisoned there — and maybe hundreds — were no threat at all, and some in the U.S. government knew it.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Book Review: Right Is Wrong by Arianna Huffington

Right Is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution, and Made Us All Less Safe
Arianna Huffington
politics, current affairs. republican party, george w. bush, john mccain

Huffington is the founder of one of the most widely read political blogs, The Huffington Post. She is a native of Greece, but has been an enthusiastic participant in politics in this country for many years. She started as a Republican, and one of the more interesting parts of Right Is Wrong is her discussion of why she was Republican and what changed her. She was a Republican because she believed in limited government, that private sources were the best remedies for society's ills. She was always concerned with issues of helping the poor, and thought that many Republicans were as well.

She left the Republican party after Newt Gingrich heard her ideas on helping the poor and said that they were the kind of ideas Republicans needed. It wasn't long before she realized that he was not actually interested in helping the poor but in the appearance of doing so. She also "...came to recognize that the task of overcoming poverty is too monumental to be achieved without the raw power of annual appropriations." (p. 9)

Since then, she says that many of her friends who are Republican have become bewildered by the direction of the Party. So the book is about how the fringe elements took over the GOP and hijacked its principles.

After a couple of chapters on the pitiful state of the media now (including an honor roll of the few journalists who were right, and reporting what they knew, in the run-up to the Iraq war (which fits well with the episode of Bill Moyer's Journal called "Buying the War"), Huffington goes into a litany of the insanities of the George W. Bush administration. She covers everything from a bad energy bill to the politicization of science to the Iraq war to the failure in Afghanistan, to torture, to immigration, to the recession, to the state of health care, to the end of the ban on assault weapons. It is sickening, but not all that new. Her main point for repeating all of this is to reinforce it in the public's mind in this crucial election, and to show how electing John McCain would be a continuation of Bush's failed policies. It seems that the policies and behavior of McCain since he decided to run for President this time have been a major disappointment to Huffington. She has known, worked with, and admired John McCain in the past, but lays out how his positions have changed to pander to the people who can make him President. Most tragic of all is his change of position on torture, from saying that one of the things that kept him going during his own torture was knowing that his country would not do anything of the sort, to his recent vote to not extend prohibitions on torture to the CIA.

It is an important book and an important message. Presidents don't always act in office as they promise on the campaign trail. George W. Bush is an example, he ran as a moderate in 2000 and then governed from somewhere right of the Neanderthals. But we can't take a chance on a McCain presidency for so many reasons, starting with the composition of the Supreme Court under a President McCain.

One of the interesting pieces to me is in her discussion of the politicization of the Justice Department and the firing of the eight U.S. attorneys. Four of the eight fired were looking into corruption charges against Republicans. This is an interesting bit on Rove's involvement:

"Unraveling the cover-ups revealed that the the evidence trail on the firings went all the way to the White House. In an interview with MCClatchy newspapers, Alan Weh, chairman of the New Mexico Republican party, admitted that, in 2005, he asked a White Hose staffer who worked for Karl Rove for help in getting rid of New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias. Weh, unhappy that Iglesias refused to rush a showy investigation of Democratic officials in time for the 2006 election, followed up directly with Rove in 2006.

According to Weh, his conversation with the Boy Genius went something like this:

Weh: is anything ever going to happen to that guy [Iglesias]?

Rove: He's gone." (p. 300)

The 2008 Presidential election is the most important in a generation. Arianna Huffington is doing what she can to see that citizens go into the voting booth knowing the stakes involved.
Knopf (2008), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 400 pages
0307269663 / 9780307269669

What a baseball game!

I love the IMDB database. If you're not familiar with it, it is a marvelous resource for information on movies, TV shows, and actors. I use it all the time while watching TV. Today I looked up Roy Dotrice, whom I know most for playing Father on the late 80s TV show Beauty and the Beast. I was reminded of him by seeing him on an episode of Babylon 5 (I'm rewatching my DVDs of that wonderful series).

Turns out Dotrice has had a pretty fascinating life. Born in 1923 as an Englishman, he was a prisoner of war in Germany for 3 years and became interested in acting while performing in prison plays. Later he spent many years in the troupe that became the Royal Shakespeare Company. He was the father of three daughters, all of whom acted on and off, including Karen, well-known for her child acting roles in Disney films, most notably the little girl in Mary Poppins.

Anyway, the IMDB bio of Dotrice mentions this really fascinating piece of history:

"Considers one of his greatest achievements as introducing baseball to the Royal Shakespeare Company into what had been a cricket stronghold. In 1959 the actor pitched for his classically-trained team that included at first base, Paul Robeson (Othello); second base, Sam Wanamaker (Iago); third base, Laurence Olivier (Coriolanus), short stop, Peter O'Toole (Shylock); Charles Laughton (Lear) plate umpire and Albert Finney his catcher."

Wow! I'm not much of a sports fan, but I'd have paid to see that game, and paid more to see the plays...what casting!

Dotrice is now 85, and is in a movie now in post production. That speaks of a life well lived in a profession well loved.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Arianna Huffington: War, Inc: Cusack's Savage Satire

Arianna Huffington (I'm reading her book Right is Wrong now, review to come) writes this article with a bit of the background on the war profiteers on Iraq, on satire, and on reaction of some soldiers to the movie War, Inc. From her story: "Cusack's righteous rage over the billions being pocketed in Iraq by companies like Blackwater, Halliburton, and Bechtel is the beating heart of his brilliant War Inc".

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

More humor: Arianna Huffington: Five Word Speech Submissions:

Arianna Huffington is accepting a Webby Award for HuffPo, and the acceptance speech is limited to 5 words. She asked people to help her come up with the perfect one. Lots of funny ones, some insightful ones, many amazing examples of brevity is the soul of wit.

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Humor of the Day: The 50 Best Pun Stores

"Pun stores. Stores with puns in the title. Bet you didn't think we could rank the 50 best ones. But you didn’t even think there were 50. Well guess again. has scoured the internet and pulled together the 50 Best Pun Establishments" Check out the comments for more names..

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Book Review: Small Favor

TitleSmall Favor (The Dresden Files, Book 10)

Jim Butcher


fantasy, wizard, series, harry dresden

The Dresden files series is still going strong after
10 volumes. Harry Dresden is a wizard in
Chicago, in a fictional world similar to our
own...except for such minor matters as
the reality of magic, wizards, demons,
fairy folk, angels (fallen and otherwise), and
the Nevermore, the magical lands that
intersect with the real world. Harry is a good guy,
but it isn't always easy to tell who's
on the side of good, or even what the good is.
Often Harry is faced with difficult choices, such
as two good things being mutually exclusive,
or NO good options, or options in which
some things are good and some are bad.
Rather like reality, in fact.

The hardest part of the series to believe is that
Harry is always called upon to save the world
against almost impossible odds. He always
comes through with the help of preparation,
thinking ahead, imagination, courage, and the
help of other people with the same qualities.

In this case the fallen have conspired to kidnap the
Archive, a young girl who holds humanity's collective
memory and is immensely powerful. If they can
break her, well, the world is in danger AGAIN.

Overall, a really good series, and a really good
entry in the series. And, oh, by the way, a whole
field of raspberries to the SciFi Channel for
canceling the TV series based on the books.
That was a Bad Decision.
PublicationRoc Hardcover (2008), Hardcover, 432 pages
Publication date2008
ISBN0451461894 / 9780451461896

Obama Shows His Punch

I've heard so many times over the years people say "I like the Democrats on social polities, but the Republicans on fiscal policies". I heard it so often I just accepted it. But reading I've done, primarily Paul Krugman, shows data that scuttles that accepted wisdom... the economy generally has done better under Democratic candidates. From the article: "For those who feared Obama couldn't throw a punch, he showed both a good jab and a decent left hook in pounding McCain on the economy. That's why the Republican posse is likely to scorn sparring about policy and turn this election into an alley fight, taking out the knives around patriotism, pastors and race."

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Big Story You May Have Missed During the Obama v Clinton

Arianna Huffington says: I'd like to call your attention to a major story you may have missed: the Senate Intelligence Committee's 200-page "Phase II" report on how the Bush administration used -- and abused -- pre-war intelligence in the run-up to the war in Iraq." She lists some of the ways in which the intelligence was misused by the Bush administration.

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Monday, June 9, 2008

The Future of Energy

Great Mother Jones selection of articles on green energy related topics. Includes in-depth investigative reporting, looking at the realities of the situation and what can be done to create green change.Includes articles Our New Energy Crisis, Power Q&As, The Clean-Energy Myths, The Crude Power Brokers, The Transformers, The Industry Resistors, The Nuclear Option, Canada's Frontier Oil, Kid's Carbon Footprints, Bright Green Ideas

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Friday, June 6, 2008

Why Won't the Press Call Bush a Liar?

Evidence that the President lied to the nation is irrefutable and growing, yet the media still won't use the "L word" (liar). Includes video from Countdown with Keith Olbermann and Richard Clarke discussing the report..

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

America's 40 Years War at an End: from RFK to Obama

"How fitting--even how poetic--it is that Barack Obama has clinched the Democratic presidential nomination during the week in which we mark the fortieth anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy. This harmonic convergence has deep significance."

Interesting article discussing the culture war of the last 40 years.

read more | digg story."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


"It is the duty of every citizen to be subversive." Carl Kaufmann.

I've been thinking a lot about this recently, sparked in part by reading Diamond Age by Neil Stephenson. In it he mentions that a vital human quality is the ability to be subversive. I mentioned how much I approved of this in our book club discussion yesterday, and people understandably wanted to know what I meant by it. I said then that it meant to me questioning authority, not accepting what they say simply because they ARE authority.

Now today I read a lovely article on Martin Luther King and "Christian unrest". They use the following phrase to describe this: "reflects on King's costly commitment to Christian unrest by refusing to accommodate to the injustices of his time." It was not simply a question of civil rights, though his achievements there are accomplishment enough for any one human life. King was also concerned with economic justice and with the terrible effects of militarism. King has been heavily sanitized for domestic consumption... how many people know more of his speeches than the few phrases surrounding "I have a dream"? The article mentions the following King quote: "I call upon you to be as maladjusted as Amos who in the midst of the injustices of his day cried out in words that echo across the generations, "Let judgement run down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." I believe that Biblical quote is on the Civil Rights memorial in Montgomery, Alabama (just checked, and it is a similar quote) designed by Maya Lin who also designed the VietNam War memorial in DC.

King, then, is close to what I mean by subversive, the brave person who stands against injustice, no matter how entrenched it may be in the halls of power.

Oddly enough, if you ask me for another example of something I like and consider subversive, it is about as far away from King as you can get... the cartoon show that ran in the 1990s The Animaniacs. Why was it subversive? Again, hard to define. Animaniacs was too violent, but it did also genuinely try to teach kids in a fun and interesting way. It had a wicked good sense of humor, and if I remember correctly, it took great potshots at authority figures who needed to be satirized... much like the Daily Show today.

So, citizens, be subversive! Just don't be unnecessarily destructive about it, please.

How Our Sexuality Is Being Restricted One Bad Law at a Time

This article makes the point that people get upset about sex, and want laws passed that support their view of sexuality. The major point to me, though, is about democracy - that it is not rule by the majority, but that the rights of individuals are protected regardless of how many others agree with them. There's a great line in the article expressing this: "Democracy is not three wolves and a lamb voting on who gets eaten for dinner.".

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Book Review: Bitten, by Kelley Armstrong

Title Bitten (Women of the Otherworld, Book 1)
Author: Armstrong, Kelley

Rating ***
Tags werewolves, fiction, series

This book is a good one, but it has one of those protagonists you just want to shake and say, "Wake up!" to. She acts often immaturely, thoughtlessly, in ways that will hurt herself and others. Human, in other words.... although this character is more than human, she's a werewolf.

The story is well-plotted, but I think I would have liked it better if it were shorter. About two-thirds of the way through I got tired of it, but not enough to stop reading it.

I will try the later books in the series. The author held my interest well enough I'll give her another try.

Publication Plume (2004), Paperback, 448 pages
Publication date 2004
ISBN 0452286034 / 9780452286030

Monday, June 2, 2008

Political Quote of the Day

Don't have the name of the source, but it is a great quote:


Our Nation's Self-Respect Demands Impeachment

Opinion piece by Linda Boyd talking about torture. She mentions one particularly important fact: according to the FBI, TORTURE DOESN'T WORK. That argument should work for everyone, left or right. Since a person being tortured will say anything to get it to stop, their information can't be counted on to be accurate.

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Babylon 5

My two favorite TV shows ever are Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5. They are both what I consider mature shows, for mature people. I'm having a hard time defining what I mean by that though. Mainly it is that the characters, and the issues they deal with, have a deep level of complexity. Real life is complex, and so should our imagined worlds be if they are to help us illuminate and cope with the real... and this is, in my humble opinion, one of the purposes of art.

I've spent a good part of this weekend starting at the beginning of Babylon 5 again, with the intention of viewing it all the way through. It has been long enough since I've watched it that the stories are fresh and exiting to see. Yet, having seen them before, I can now also view them rather like a doctor views a patient. I now see the sinews and bones as well as the skin. I can appreciate the terrible beauty of an episode like "Mind War" while seeing how well it serves to add in the thread of the Psy Corps which will be so important later. Very few shows are written like Babylon 5, where its creator had the major strands of the five year story in mind from the beginning. So here is a salute to J. Michael Straczynski, the visionary who created the show. It is hard to predict what art will survive through the centuries... did anyone who saw a Shakespeare play the first time it was performed have any idea of that author's impact through long years? But if I get a vote on what should survive from the 20th century (assuming, of course, that anything does), then one of my votes will go to Babylon 5. Now excuse me, I have to get back to watching it.

Book Review: Diamond Age

Title The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer (Bantam Spectra Book)
Author: Stephenson, Neal

Rating ****
Tags sf, science fiction, cyberpunk, fiction

"It is the duty of every citizen to be subversive."
Carl Kaufmann, personal conversation, June 1998

When I read in Diamond Age one character's thought that the necessary quality in a successful life is the ability to be subversive, I thought, YES, this is my kind of book! And in many ways it is. It is certainly not an easy book. It starts out quite cyberpunk, which means there is a lot of technical and invented slang to absorb. That lessens, but the level of vocabulary and the rich level of allusions make this a book that rivals Joyce in complexity. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Difficult authors may well be worth the unraveling, and I think Diamond Age is one of those books.

My biggest complaint is that it is quite long, and at times seemed to me to lose its momentum and its force of impact. Overall, however, it is worth the journey...and what a journey it is, though many cultures, real or imagined.

Publication Spectra (2000), Paperback, 512 pages
Publication date 2000
ISBN 0553380966 / 9780553380965