Saturday, September 02, 2006

My First YouTube Venture

Not sure why it's gotten all screwy. Perhaps YouTube just doesn't like the Best OS In The World

Friday, September 01, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging

bonaire2006 - 13.jpg
Originally uploaded by actor212.

My housecat in Bonaire, Cookie, wandered past my wide angle lens.

Could be worse. Cookie could have been this poor soul...

Friday Music Blogging

I'm a little depressed today: the unofficial end of summer usually has me sad, but my day job and my extra-curricular activities have made me practically miss summer. So I figure I'd put up a melancholy-yet-hopeful song for your enjoyment:

Oh, Look! A Court Decision FOR Dissent!

Bush-mocking shirt OK to wear

By Christine Kearney
Wed Aug 30, 9:42 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. student who sued school officials after he was made to censor his T-shirt that labelled President George W. Bush "Chicken-Hawk-In-Chief" and a former alcohol and cocaine abuser won an appeal on Wednesday to wear the T-shirt to school.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favour of Zachery Guiles, who through his parents claimed his free speech rights had been violated when school officials made him put duct tape over parts of his T-shirt that showed a Bush image surrounded by cocaine, a razor blade, a straw and a martini.

Guiles, who as a seventh grader in 2004 wore the T-shirt to Williamstown Middle High School in Vermont once a week for two months after purchasing it at an anti-war rally, appealed the case after a lower court ruled in favour of the school.

The school argued the images were offensive because they undermined the school's anti-drug message.
I'm guessing the vice-principal doesn't spend much time in the boy's room...

But good on Zach and good on his parents for supporting him in this fight! It takes a lot of courage to stand against not only the school establishment, but good taste, decency AND a rabid, violent and vicious right wing (you reading this, Coultergeisters who keep picking on left-wingers?) determined to allow any dissent in this country, so long as said dissent is limited to chocolate v. vanilla ice cream, and possibly Jessica Simpson's marriage woes.

Fascism reared its ugly head and the brief moment it had wresting the national dialogue seems to be ebbing. Amen for that. Let's look at what the court had to say:
The appeals court said while the T-shirt "uses harsh rhetoric and imagery to express disagreement with the president's policies and to impugn his character," the images depicted "are not plainly offensive as a matter of law."

"We conclude that defendants' censorship of the images on Guiles's T-shirt violated his free speech rights," the ruling said, noting the T-shirt was censored after only one parent with opposing political views complained.
By the way, the appellate court upheld the lower court ruling in this matter, so that's two strikes against fascism here.

We ought to be encouraging our youth to speak up, since so many of their parents are so righteously and zealously being cowed into silence on matters that are vital to the national interest.

When Spiro Agnew spoke of a Silent Majority, he meant there were people who didn't care enough to be activist against the rather sizable protest movement in the country during the Vietnam War (and ultimately, said "Silent Majority" ended up siding with the protestors, we should note. It sounds more like they were just confused, not immobile).

Now, the silence of the majority is about the embarassment at the policies and activities of the right wing, and concomitantly, fear that to speak up is to risk a long, drawn-out battle defending one's life for all it's flaws and foibles against people who's own lives couldn't stand inspection past the last meal of Cheetos and Sprite.

But the world is turning, and so soon will the national dialogue.

You Can't Make Shit Like This Up

This was in today's New York Newsday:
Feinberg agreed that Balemian's award was among the highest paid, but said it was "far from" the single highest of $8.6 million, given to Deborah Mardenfeld of Manhattan, who survived with severe burns over much of her body, several broken bones and other injuries. Her attorney, Guy Smiley of Manhattan, did not collect a fee.
(emphasis added)

Guy Smiley....where have I heard that name before?

Poor guy

Daily Chuckle

If you have raised kids (or been one), and gone through the pet syndrome including toilet flush burials for dead goldfish, the story below will have you laughing out LOUD!

Overview: I had to take my son's lizard to the vet. Here's what happened:

Just after dinner one night, my son came up to tell me there was "something wrong" with one of the two lizards he holds prisoner in his room.

"He's just lying there looking sick," he told me. "I'm serious dad, can you help?"

I put my best lizard-healer face on and followed him into his bedroom.

One of the little lizards was indeed lying on his back, looking stressed. I immediately knew what to do.

"Honey," I called, "come look at the lizard!"

"Oh my gosh," my wife diagnosed after a minute. "She's having babies."

"What?" my son demand ed. "But their names are Bert and Ernie, Mom!"

I was equally outraged.

"Hey, how can that be? I thought we said we didn't want them to reproduce," I accused my wife.

"Well, what do you want me to do, post a sign in their cage?" she inquired. (I actually think she said this sarcastically!)

"No, but you were supposed to get two boys!" I reminded her, ( in my most loving, calm, sweet voice, while gritting my teeth together).

"Yeah, Bert and Ernie!" my son agreed.

"Well, it's just a little hard to tell on some guys, you know," she informed me. (again with the sarcasm, you think?)

By now the rest of the family had gathered to see what was going on. I shrugged, deciding to make the best of it.

"Kids, this is going to be a wondrous experience, I announced. "We're about to witness the miracle of birth."

"Oh, gross!" they shrieked.

"Well, isn't THAT just great! What are we going to do with a litter of tiny little lizard babies?" my wife wanted to know. (I really do think she was being snotty here, too. Don't you?)

We peered at the patient. After much struggling, what looked like a tiny foot would appear briefly, vanishing a scant second later.

"We don't appear to be making much progress," I noted.

"It's breech," my wife whispered, horrified.

"Do something, Dad!" my son urged.

"Okay, okay." Squeamishly, I reached in and grabbed the foot when it next appeared, giving it a gentle tug.

It disappeared.

I tried sever al more times with the same results.

"Should I call 911," my eldest daughter wanted to know.

"Maybe they could talk us through the trauma." (You see a pattern here with the females in my house?)

"Let's get Ernie to the vet," I said grimly.

We drove to the vet with my son holding the cage in his lap. "Breathe, Ernie, breathe," he urged.

"I don't think lizards do Lamaze," his mother noted to him. (Women can be so cruel to their own young. I mean what she does to me is one thing, but this boy is of her womb, for God's sake.)

The Vet took Ernie back to the examining room and peered at the little animal through a magnifying glass.

"What do you think, Doc, a C-section?" I suggested scientifically.

"Oh, very interesting," he murmured. "Mr. and Mrs. Cameron, may I speak to you privately for a moment?"

I gulp ed, nodding for my son to step outside.

"Is Ernie going to be okay?" my wife asked.

"Oh, perfectly," the Vet assured us "This lizard is not in labor. In fact, that isn't EVER going to happen... Ernie is a boy. You see, Ernie is a young male. And occasionally, as they come into maturity, like most male species, they Just the way he did, lying on his back."

He blushed, glancing at my wife.

"Well, you know what I'm saying, Mr. Cameron."

We were silent, absorbing this.

"So Ernie's just...just... excited," my wife offered.

"Exactly," the vet replied, relieved that we understood.

More silence. Then my cruel wife started to giggle. And giggle. And then even laugh loudly.

"What's so funny?" I demanded, knowing, but not believing that the woman I married would commit the upcoming affront to my flawless manliness.

Tears were now running down her face. Laughing "It's just...that...I'm picturing you pulling on its.. its...teeny little..." she gasped for more air to bellow in laughter once more.

"That's enough," I warned. We thanked the Vet and hurriedly bundled the lizards and our son back into the car.

He was glad everything was going to be okay.

"I know Ernie's really thankful for what you've done, Dad," he told me.

"Oh, you have NO idea," my wife agreed, collapsing with laughter.

2 - Lizards - $140...

1 - Cage - $50...

Trip to the Vet - $30...

Memory of your husband pulling on a lizard's winkie...Priceless

Moral of the story - finish biology class - lizards lay eggs!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

For Attorney General

This race is one of the few in recent memory where you can actually run an empty suit and beat the Republican. Jeanine Pirro (you may remember her, she had the three minute gaffe when she announced her later-aborted run for the Senate against Hillary Clinton, among other inanities) by all rights SHOULD walk away with the general election: she has enormous name recognition, holds fairly moderate positions for a Republican, is a downstate Republican and so can count on her home turf, Westchester County, to provide heavy support and is an attractive woman to boot.

As I said, she should be walking away with this race, but apparently is not, and is even struggling for campaign contributions. This, in a state currently dominated by incumbent Republicans George Pataki and Joe Bruno, is a bit of a shock. While it's easy to say it's an outgrowth of her Senate-run-debacle, AG is a natural position for her, and I'm left scratching my head a little.

No matter who wins the Democratic nomination, I will be taking a long look at Pirro in the general. That said, because neither Andrew Cuomo or Mark Green does a whole lot for me, and there's quite a bit to discount for both candidates.

As New York Magazine put it, it's "The Noodge Versus The Bully". Mark Green is a brilliant lawyer and politician. Trouble is, he's not afraid to let you know. Andrew Cuomo is an administrator's administrator. Problem is, he inherited his father's thin skin along with his Rolodex. Green is a former Nader's Raider, and so has very solid progressive credentials, burnished at the altar of New York City Ombudsman. He's run in countless elections and primaries, but is barely known outside of New York City. If there's an ideologic and philosophic heir to the current AG (and soon-to-be-governor) Eliot Spitzer, it's Mark Green.

Ah, but that personality. Grating and ingratiating. I met Green once, shortly after the 2001 Democratic primary for mayor. He was, surprisingly, sitting in the public eating room in the basement of Grand Central Station, not a place you'd normally find a politician (generally, that's the Oyster Room's clientele). He was gracious, but you could see the strain on his face and the strain leeched out in conversation.

Andrew Cuomo...well, four years ago, he made a short-sighted stab at his dad's old job, governor, and in the process pissed a lot of people off, including the eventual nominee (who had his lunch eaten in the general election). He seems to have made amends and even swayed some of the machinery to his side, and has what appears to be a comnfortable lead over Green heading into the primary. He's brought the unions on board, nearly exclusively.

And yet...I can't bring myself to anything more than a tepid support for the candidate I'm ultimately for.

Call me irresponsible. Call me crazy. In this race, I'm for the distinct underdog, Mark Green. Of the two, I think he stands the best chance of beating Pirro, but more, to being a good attorney general. Cuomo has precious little experience chasing down bad guys. Green has practically built his career on this. And I'm not sure Andrew Cuomo is anything but a shell of his father, who I'm still angry at for the way he dicked around with running for President.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Another Endorsement

New York's 19th CD is going to be without a doubt the tighest primary in the state, possibly in the nation. The drive to unseat Sue Kelly, Republican and Bush wacko, is going to be essential if the Democrats stand any chance of taking back the house.

I've given a lot of thought to this. Careful readers of this blog know that I gave John Hall an early mention here, as he kicked off his campaign. I assumed his was a novelty candidacy, but it turns out, he's been fairly energetic on the issues. I have some disagreements with him, particularly on his energy agenda, and would have loved the opportunity to interview him when he was in town back in June, but his handlers refused my (admittedly meager) credentials. Too, he has the backing of the AFL-CIO and Maurice Hinchey, which in upstate New York counts for a lot and also tells me Hall has worked hard to make sure the right people have noticed he's running.

Judy Aydelott has some very appealing positions on the issues, notably her "energy independence by 2020" moonshot (her word for it). Thinking big always appeals to me. She has a strong background locally, and is going to have a say in the next two years, regardless of which Democrat wins.

Jim Martorano is from the lower part of the 19th, and hence has some strong ties to the city. He's been endorsed by the UAW, as well. He's a Legal Aid attorney, so is acutely aware of the way the Bush administration, with the help of Kelly, have ripped into our civil rights, supports a single-payer healthcare system (which I also favor for cost efficiency sake, altho he and I part company on who should run it), and has taken a realistic, principled stance on Social Security.

Darren Rigger is young, energetic and driven, and that kind of energy will be important to reverse the past six years of Bush. He's the son of a blue collar worker, as I am, and has a strong union stance (his father was an iron-worker). Charlie Rangel has endorsed him, and Rigger has the strongest Latino presence of the candidates.

Finally, Ben Shuldiner would have to be the presumptive small dog in a race not exactly dominated by any one candidate (unless Hall's 35-year-old pop band membership is counted). A former NYC school teacher, Shuldiner is acutely aware of education issues (something this week's SAT scores show to be a glaring omission of this administration...sort of a "Set it and forget it" mentality of the Republicans). Shuldiner is the only candidate to highlight technological advancements and how they will affect his district, and ways that he will bring those advancements to the 19th.

Tough choice, I have to admit. Sue Kelly is highly vulnerable, but that doesn't mean we can run a suit (or skirt, to be PC). We need a vital, vibrant candidate who can tackle her head-on and isn't afraid to take on the national Republican machine, since the state GOP is in such a shambles.

I like all of the candidates. I would be proud to support any of them, but I think that only John Hall has the resources and standing outside of the district to effectively get the job done for the 19th while fending off the inevitable attacks. After all, look at how he stood up to Karl Rove and George W. Bush when they wanted to use his song, "Still The One" during the 2004 campaign.

Took guts. I like that.

To Quote Inigo Montoya....

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
Rumsfeld Says Critics Appeasing Fascism

His comparison to those who mollified the Nazis draws a rebuke from opponents of war policy.

By Julian E. Barnes
Times Staff Writer

August 30, 2006

SALT LAKE CITY — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday compared critics of the Bush administration to those who sought to appease the Nazis before World War II, warning that the nation is confronting "a new type of fascism."

Speaking at the American Legion convention here, Rumsfeld delivered his most explicit and extended attacks yet on administration opponents — leading Democrats to accuse him of "campaigning on fear."
Pot, kettle. Why do you insist on talking into the mirror, Mr. Rumsfeld?

Let's define fascism, shall we? A recent definition is that by Robert O. Paxton:
"Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."
Obsessive preoccupation with community decline: White House considers constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage Check.

Compensatory cults of unity: Religious right finds its center in oval office: Bush emerges as movement's leader after Robertson leaves Christian Coalition Check. Also note that this covers "a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites".

Abandons democratic liberties: Bush's Assault on Freedom: What's to Stop Him? Check. Also note that Paul Craig Roberts was a Reaganaut, and is not some rabid leftwing loon.

Pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion: It's Bush's Way or the Highway on Guantanamo Bay & Imperial Overstretch: George W. Bush and the Hubris of Empire And check.

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Understanding The Male Dilemma

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Is Our Children Learning?

Apparently, not:
SAT records biggest score drop in 31 years

Newsday Staff Writer

August 29, 2006, 10:33 AM EDT

SAT scores have taken their biggest tumble in a generation, stoking debate over whether a longer exam is driving students to exhaustion.

Nationwide reading scores on the admissions exam fell five points among college-bound students this year, to an average 503 -- the lowest point since 1994. Math scores dropped two points, to 518.
Mind you, this is two years AFTER they dumbed the test down because too many kids were struggling with it, and is five years after the passage of "No Child Left Behind," which was supposed to stem the tide of stupidity.

Illiteracy. Innumeracy. Just two more services provided for you by the Bush administration. The problem is, while Bush could get away with "Gentleman C's", apparently the kid down the street whose parents struggle to put food on the table with two jobs and a crappy mortgage that's barely servicable....ehhhhhhhhhhh, not so much, you know?

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Some Of My Fishy Friends

(Originally uploaded by actor212)

I uploaded some of my photos to Flickr last night. If you click on the badge in the sidebar on the right, you'll be taken to them. Here's a sample.

Monday, August 28, 2006

An American Empire

I had a chance to do a little thinking this morning in the bathroom....

I've read recently complaints on the left that Bush is an imperialist, that 9/11 was an attempt to grab power for himself and to create an American empire.

Bush is not responsible for setting up an American Empire, anymore than Clinton, or Bush I or Reagan, or Kennedy, or even Roosevelt.

History demonstrates that all democracies and republics evolve to empires. That's a simple fact, because democratic forms of government cannot possibly compete with the twin factors of the gathering of material wealth and it's concomitant, power.

Democratic power, by defintion, is diffused. I cannot gather a big enough bloc of votes without appealing to a large number of people.

On the other hand, wealth, with its aggregation in the hands of the few or even the one, can garner massive power that does not require a consensus. It merely requires an opinion in order to be deployed.

Ergo, when viewing history thru the lens of power, we see that wealth inevitably trumps cooperation.

We've seen it already in this country for centuries, literally almost from the beginning, but let's look at the latter half of the twentieth century for relevance:

Democratic power is best exercised when law and precedent are revered above any other "social god", for want of a better turn of phrase (and I'm just back from vacation, so taht's the best you're getting!). Washington got it correct when he went out of his way to ensure that his custom and precedent was something that was fair and equitable to all. Like only standing for election twice.

So here comes FDR, a savior of the nation, arguably the greatest President ever, to demolish that institution at the altar of personality.

Similarly, we've seen the brick-by-brick devolution of our personal freedoms, most recently in the Patriot Act, but also in the actions of previous presidents in the so-called "war on drugs", whereby the Fourth and Fifth Amendments have been greatly challenged and the SCOTUS has agreed they needed trimming.

The First Amendment is in danger of collapsing under the weight of public opinion, goaded on by the petty, small-minded administration currently in power, but the fatal blow was dealt by the Reagan FCC when it removed the Fairness Doctrine and when the 1996 Telecommunications Act greatly increased the concentration of media ownership.

Similarly, an huge blow to personal freedom was dealt by the Supremes themselves when they determined that corporations had precisely equal rights to natural born persons (I think this was in the Ford administration, but someone correct me if I'm wrong). Couple that to the fact that corporations already had rights far exceeding those of natural born persons (the right to socialize losses but privatize income, for example) and you can see that the dangerous combination of material wealth and power were mixing.

And we've already seen the beginnings of the coalescence of power into pools based on families: The Kennedys, Rockefellers, and Bushes. And now, the Clintons are poised to join the plutocracy.

There are examples of how a country evolves from a democracy to an empire, but the obvious choice is Rome (and here, I highly recommend reading "Rubicon").

Right now, all we have standing between us and an empire is the rule of law. All it takes is for one person to decide he is above the law (and as recent Presidencies indicate, that's not hard) and that's the ballgame, Charlie. Sadly, I don't see a way to reverse or even stop this trend from happening.

Daily Political Chuckle

It started out innocently enough. I began to think at parties now and then - just to loosen up. Inevitably, though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker. I began to think alone - "to relax," I told myself - but I knew it wasn't true. Thinking became more and more important to me, and finally I was thinking all the time. That was when things began to sour at home. One evening I turned off the TV and asked my wife about the meaning of life. She spent that night at her mother's.

Then I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment don't mix, but I couldn't help myself. I began to avoid friends at lunchtime so I could read Thoreau, Muir, Confucius and Kafka. I would return to the office dizzied and confused, asking, "What is it exactly we are doing here?"

One day the boss called me in. He said, "Listen, I like you, and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you don't stop thinking around here, you'll have to find another job."

This gave me a lot to think about. I came home early after my conversation with the boss. "Honey," I confessed, "I've been thinking ."

"I know you've been thinking," she said, "and I want a divorce!"

"But Honey, surely it's not that serious."

"It is serious," she said, lower lip aquiver. "You think as much as college professors and college professors don't make any money, so if you keep on thinking, we won't have any money!"

"That's a faulty syllogism," I said impatiently.

She exploded in tears of rage and frustration, but I was in no mood to deal with the emotional drama. "I'm going to the library," I snarled as I stomped out the door.

I headed for the library, in the mood for some Nietzsche. I roared into the parking lot with NPR on the radio and ran up to the big glass doors. They didn't open. The library was closed. To this day, I believe that a Higher Power was looking out for me that night. Leaning on the unfeeling glass, whimpering for Zarathustra, a poster caught my eye, "Friend, is heavy thinking ruining your life?" it asked.

You probably recognize that line. It comes from the standard Thinkers Anonymous poster. This is why I am what I am today: a recovering thinker. I never miss a TA meeting. At each meeting we watch a non-educational video; last week it was "Porky's." Next week it's "Career in Marketing." Then we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting.

I still have my job, and things are a lot better at home. Life just seemed...easier, somehow, as soon as I stopped thinking. I think the road to recovery is nearly complete for me and I can see light at the end of the tunnel.

Yes...and today I took the final step............ I did it...I joined the Republican Party.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Kon Ta Bai?

I'm back, and I've got a cold and my fingers don't work so good, and I'd give an awful lot to not have to come back (except to blog, of course), and I had two of the most miserable flights in memory for this vacation...

But right now I'm heading back to bed. I got in about 1 this thanks to Katrina for keeping the place neat and tidy for me in my absence, and for putting up some new decorations.

Later this week, I'll be posting photos and some underwater video that I shot.