Saturday, January 31, 2009

The New RNC Chairman

Is Michael Steele. I don't know a lot about him but I've seen him a couple of times on Bill Maher and disliked him immensely. He is also black. Melissa Harris-Lacewell is a guest on the Rachel Maddow show often and is always intelligent and lively. Yesterday was her best night. She said that the Republicans see Obama as being from Krypton and they needed some Kryptonite. So they went to the planet Blackman and got the guy they thought would be his nemesis. What a great line. Here is a video of it.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Just Five Red States Left?

The web site Five Thirty Eight claims that polls show only five red state left in America:
That's right: just five states, collectively containing about 2 percent of the American population, have statistically significant pluralities of adults identifying themselves as Republicans. These are the "Mormon Belt" states of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming, plus Nebraska, plus Alaska. By contrast, 35 states are plurality Democratic, and 10 states are too close to call.
The guy who runs Five Thirty Eight is the guy who predicted the election almost exactly, certainly much closer than anyone else. He does mention several qualifiers which means this is not a done deal.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

The Big Con

Thom HartmannImage via WikipediaThom Hartmann has a good article on the Air America web site on what has been going on for the past 30 years in America, how the Republicans seized power and drove us in to disaster. If you aren't familiar with Thomm I suggest you give him a listen on Air America radio weekdays from 9 am to Noon. Thomm is very knowledgeable on politics and the economy and has several books out on the subject.
How The Republican Party Has Conned America for Thirty Years
By Thom Hartmann

This weekend, House Republican leader John Boehner played out the role of Jude Wanniski on NBC's "Meet The Press." Odds are you've never heard of Jude, but without him Reagan never would have become a "successful" president, Republicans never would have taken control of the House or Senate, Bill Clinton never would have been impeached, and neither George Bush would have been president.

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Sen. Whitehouse

...of Rhode Island gave a powerful speech on the floor of the senate the day after Obama was sworn in as our new president. The full speech can be read at Rachel Maddows Blog and there is a link to a video of it. I very much encourage everyone to read and watch it, I just hope our new president rteads it as well. Even just reading a section of it has me shedding tears of anger.

Sen Sheldon WhitehouseImage via WikipediaSo when an administration rigs the intelligence process and produces false evidence to send our country to war;

When an administration descends to interrogation techniques of the Inquisition, of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge - descends to techniques that we have prosecuted as crimes in military tribunals and federal courts;

When institutions as noble as the Department of Justice and as vital as the Environmental Protection Agency are systematically and deliberately twisted from their missions by odious means of institutional sabotage;

When the integrity of our markets and the fiscal security of our budget are opened wide to the frenzied greed of corporations, speculators and contractors;

When the integrity of public officials; the warnings of science; the honesty of government procedures; and the careful historic balance of our separated powers of government, are all seen as obstacles to be overcome and not attributes to be celebrated;

When taxpayers are cheated, and the forces of government ride to the rescue of the cheaters and punish the whistleblowers;

When a government turns the guns of official secrecy against its own people to mislead, confuse and propagandize them;

When government ceases to even try to understand the complex topography of the difficult problems it is our very purpose and duty to solve, and instead cares only for these points where it intersects with the party ideology, so that the purpose of government becomes no longer to solve problems, but only to work them for political advantage;

In short, when you have pervasive infiltration into all the halls of government - judicial, legislative, and executive - of the most ignoble forms of influence; when you see systematic dismantling of historic processes and traditions of government that are the safeguards of our democracy; and when you have a bodyguard of lies, jargon, and propaganda emitted to fool and beguile the American people...

Well, something very serious in the history of our republic has gone wrong, something that dims the light of progress for all humanity.

As we look forward, as we begin the task of rebuilding this nation, we have an abiding duty to determine how great the damage is. I say this in no spirit of vindictiveness or revenge. I say it because the thing that was sullied is so, so precious; and I say it because the past bears upon the future. If people have been planted in government in violation of our civil service laws to serve their party and their ideology instead of serving the public, the past will bear upon the future. If procedures and institutions of government have been corrupted and are not put right, that past will assuredly bear on the future. In an ongoing enterprise like government, the door cannot be so conveniently closed on the closets of the past. The past always bears on the future.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Simon Schama

Simon Schama is my favorite historian. For years I watched him give us the history of Britain on the History channel with great enjoyment. He had the facts but he also knew how to make them real, always a good thing in a field that is often way too dry. So when his new series The America Future, A History, I was very interested and I have not been disappointed.

Schama is an Engligh Jew and can give us a very unique perspective on America, I think. He sees it in a way no American ever could, which makes the series very powerful and fresh. It's as if seeing the country for the first time. I consider myself a student of history but he told me a lot of things I didn't know, always a good thing in a history series, otherwise, why watch it?

I came across a reviewer of the book for the Guardian, an English newspaper. Again, here is a new perspective:
Simon Schama is, in all sorts of ways, the Martin Amis of history. Identified as a rising star in the gloom of the Seventies, he reached literary maturity in the Thatcher years, when his effervescent prose and iconoclastic approach propelled him to a Harvard chair and made him perhaps the most exciting historian in the English-speaking world. Overflowing with borrowed American pizzazz, his books were triumphs of style, every page glittering with ambition. Like Amis, he became the poster boy for a generation, bringing flamboyance back into history. His fame spilled over the frontiers of academe; he became a celebrity, the BBC's resident historian in a leather jacket.
He doesn't appear to like Schama very much although he hasn't even gotten into the really negative stuff yet. I have no idea who Amis is, must be an English thing.
While Schama is fond of his adopted country, this is often a surprisingly dark book. He reminds us that behind the cliché of the melting pot, hostility to immigrants has been a constant of American history, from the Know-Nothing party that railed against the 'foreign heresy' of Irish Catholics in the 1850s to the men who bullied, expelled and murdered thousands of tea-drinking Chinese railroad workers along the West Coast two decades later.
It's supposed to sit uneasily. Schama is showing both the dream of America and how the reality has so often failed to live up to that dream. It's actually very poweful and part of why the series is so good.
Yet such stuff sits uneasily alongside the purple prose that teeters between pretentiousness and banality. 'The American future is all vision, numinous, unformed, light-headed with anticipation,' Schama tells us. By contrast, 'the American past is baggy with sobering truth. In between is the quicksilver Now, beads of glittering elation that slip and scatter'. A stronger editor would surely have cut this kind of thing.
And the prose he complains about is brilliant! That is the very reason Schama is such a joy to watch. Perhaps it doesn't read as well in a book, but the 4 part TV series was excellent and I highly recommend it. It recently played on BBC America but I'm sure it will play again. And there is a DVD out if anyone wants to get that.

"The American future is all vision, numinous, unformed, light-headed with anticipation," Schama tells us. By contrast, "the American past is baggy with sobering truth. In between is the quicksilver Now, beads of glittering elation that slip and scatter." That sums up the feeling of the show perfectly, and the feeling of what America is. We want so badly to be proad of Her but our past is quite a heavy burden. We hope for more but so seldom seem to reach it.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Obama and Non-believer

In his inauguration speech Obama mentioned all of America:
We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers.
I wrote about this in an earlier post. Many of us atheists were quite pleased that we would be included as Americans, we usually aren't.
However, there are still a lot of people who think we aren't part of America: Non-believers
Earlier this week, Jackson was a guest on the popular conservative Christian radio show 'Janet Parshall's America,' where a succession of callers, many of whom identified themselves as African-American, said they shared the concern, and were perplexed and put off by the president’s shout-out to nonbelievers.
Gee, what a terrible thing for Obama to acknowledge that we exist and are actually citizens. I wonder what Rev. Jackson wants to do, round us all up and put us in ghettos? Maybe just shot on sight? Fortunately, in a poll on the same site 73% say they weren't offended by Obama's remarks.

Everyone seems to be having a problem with Obama's desire to include everyone in his America. Including atheists is going too far for some. Did they not understand what Obama meant or did they think he was just kidding?

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Atheist Bigotry

This is something that really upsets vjack over at Atheist Revolution:
- Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) launched a bigoted tirade against atheist activist Rob Sherman, telling him that it was dangerous for children to even know of the existence of atheism. Despite the public nature of her outburst (during the General Assembly), some media attention, and calls for her resignation, Rep. Davis faced no consequences. She merely delivered the sort of non-apologetic apology to Sherman that we have become used to seeing from bigots and resumed business as usual. Calls for a pubic apology were ignored.
- Christian schools were given free reign to discriminate against students suspected of being lesbians. In fact, it was deemed acceptable for such schools to remove students at will for "immoral or scandalous behavior that contradicts Christian values."
- Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-North Carolina) utilized blatant anti-atheist bigotry during her campaign against opponent Kay Hagan. Although Dole was ultimately defeated, the mainstream media largely ignored the bigoted nature of her strategy of painting Hagan as an atheist. In short, the whole debacle provided other politicians with little reason not to make anti-atheist bigotry a campaign strategy.
- California passed Proposition 8, rolling back previously granted civil rights to GLBT residents. They were able to do this because of a highly organized and well-funded effort by Christian extremist communities. Once again, media coverage largely ignored the religiously-motivated bigotry.
I made a comment but it ended up being long enough and good enough I wanted to turn it into my own blog post:
Don't get discouraged, vjack. Look at the reactions to the things you mentioned. Monique Davis was thoroughly condemned by everyone, which means her bigotry was clear and made even Christians uncomfortable. The Christian school thing I hadn't heard of so can't comment but with Elizabeth Dole the key point is that she lost. In a southern, conservative state her attack on atheism went completely unheeded.

The worst of them is Prop 8 here in California. That hits me personally since I live here and voted against it. But after all the demonstrations by gays who weren't going to take it any more someone did another survey and found that 8% of those who voted for Prop 8 would now vote differently, which is more than enough to change things if the vote were held today.

The ads from the Mormons were confusing and the Prop itself was confusing, I think a lot of people didn't truly understand what they were voting for. Many thought it was about protecting children and didn't even know it was about gay marriage. And I have not heard anyone on TV come down in favor of the Mormons actions in spending $20 million to support Prop 8. I think a lot of people, even those not willing to support gay marriage, were shocked at the level of bigotry that represented and the unabashed mixing of church and state. And there are now a lot of left wing TV and radio people who all made negative comments about the passing of Prop 8. Used to be only a right wing voice was heard across the airwaves, but that has changed, thanks to Keith Olbermann and Air America.

So it hasn't been all negative, change takes time but I see a change happening in the zeitgeist.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

William Gibson

From "Spook Country" chapter 23: Two Moors page 118:
Brown left Milgrim in the Korean's laundry for a very long time. Eventually a younger Korean, perhaps the proprietor's son, arrived with a brown-bagged Chinese meal, which he presented to Milgrim with no comment. Milgrim cleared a space among the magazines on the plywood coffee table and unpacked his lunch. Plain rice, boneless chicken nuggets in red dye no. 3, fluorescent-green vegetable segments, finely sliced brown mystery meat. Milgrim prefered the plastic fork to the chopsticks. If you were in prison, he encouraged himself, you'd find this food a treat. Unless you were in a Chinese prison, some less-cooperative part of himself suggested, but he worked his way through it all methodically. With Brown, it was best to eat what you could when the opportunity presented itself.

As he ate, he thought about the twelfth-century heresy of the Free Spirit. Either God was everything, believed the brethren of the Free Spirit, or God was nothing. And God, to them, was definitely everything. There was nothing that wasn’t God, and indeed how could there be? Milgrim was never one for metaphysics, but now the combination of his captivity, medication on demand, and this text was starting to reveal the pleasure to be had from metaphysical contemplation. Particularly if you were contemplating these Free Spirit guys, who seemed to have been a combination of Charlie Manson and Hannibal Lecter.

And insofar as everything was equally God, they taught, those who were most in touch with the Godness in every last thing would make it a point to do anything at all, particularly anything still forbidden by those who hadn’t yet gotten the Free Spirit message. To which end they went around having sex with anybody they could get to hold still for it, or not, as the case might be--rape being viewed as particularly righteous, and murder equally so. It was like a secret religion of mutually empowered sociopaths, and Milgrim thought it was probably the gnarliest single example of human behavior he’d ever heard of. Someone like Manson, for instance, simply wouldn’t have been able to get any traction, had he landed among the brothers and sisters of the Free Spirit. Probably, Milgrim guessed, Manson would’ve hated it. What good would it be to be Charlie Manson in a whole society of serial killers and rapists, each one convinced that he or she was directly manifesting the Holy Spirit?
William Gibson broke onto the sci fi scene in 1984 with his first novel Neuromancer which became an instant classic and changed the nature of sci fi, creating a sub-genre called cyber-punk.

I couldn’t say he was my favorite writer, he defies any attempts at categorization. But when I find a new novel of his I buy it immediately and take it home to start reading immediately. First, taking a few moments to contemplate what a pleasure it was to have an entire Gibson novel in front of me, waiting to be read.
Taken during the Spook Country promotional tou...Image via Wikipedia
“Neuromancer” was his best novel, indeed one of the best sci fi novels ever written, period, it would be next to impossible to top it. Visionary for it’s time and well written. Although he never matched the success of “Neuromancer” every novel of his since then has been an excellent read and his writing gets better with each one. That’s why I felt the best way to talk about “Spook Country” was to let Gibson speak for himself.

At Amazon.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama Mentions Non-believers

In his inauguration speech yesterday Obama mentioned us:
We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers.Barack Obama and Michelle ObamaImage via Wikipedia
Not a big mention but I did point it out when I reviewed his speech. I liked it but didn't think it was any big deal. IsThatLatin over on Wrong In Their Mind Tanks has a very different take on it:
Obama listed the big religions, and ones emerging, in our country, and then, after the briefest of pauses, he added us. I prefer not to read that pause as a hesitation. That pause seemed added so as to prepare the nation for what he was about to add--that he knew it was the first time, that it meant a lot. To my ear, it read like poety--not in some deep, sentimental way, but in it's construct. We were at the end, and maybe some cynics would prefer we were at the start, or mixed in the middle. But that pause, and that final word--"non-believers"--acted as punctuation. To my ear, that word became bigger and louder than the others. Maybe Muslims and Hindus feel the same way, but, as polls show, America hates us most.
I'm not really sure it's that big a deal but I got a real kick out of how excited she was over it, had me smiling for over an hour. And that is something that is always good for me these days.

Now, maybe she will pop over here and explain the name of her blog.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack Obama's Inauguration Speech

It has been quite a day today, Obama is now the President and he gave one hell of an acceptance speech. I won’t post the entire thing here because it’s too long, but I will comment on some key parts.
Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn. Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
He paints a vivid image of the sacrifices made by our parents and grandparents in order to show that we can’t betray their work nor whine that we can’t do as well. We must keep going and do the same for our children and grandchildren.
Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.
And here is his call for action but said in a way that stirs the blood to take on the challenge. No president has made such a call for a very long time, since JFK in fact. And I really want to restore science to it’s rightful place, along with reason and fact-based actions.
What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works -
This is excellent and the heart of the speech, I think. He tosses out the mistakes of the past, he tosses out limitations and people with low expectations. He tosses out the Republicans and their stifling ideology. He has changed the rules as well as shining the light on the right, which looks thin and cruel when it’s seen clearly. He tosses out narrow minded ideology in favor of pragmatism.
whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.
This is something I’ve been waiting for someone to say for a very long time. When you help others it isn’t charity, it’s something that improves the world for all of us. America was at it’s best after WWII when we suddenly had a strong middle class and didn’t have a huge gap between the richest and the poorest. Before then was only rich and poor with hardly any middle class and we are almost there again, and America is not better because the multi-millionaires have become multi-billionaires.
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers.
Ah, he throws a crumb to us non-believers, we don’t see that too often.
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
Here he shows why he wanted to be president even though he is inheriting more problems than any other president has when coming into office. It is when the challenge is the greatest that success is the greatest. The presidents that we remember are the ones who led us when times were bleak and brought us out to the other side. Men like Washington, Lincoln and FDR. All progressives, too. For conservatives we have Hoover and Dubya - yuch.
This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
The idea that we sit in an emotional and economic winter, filled with ice and storms, is a powerful image. But he has not appealed to our fears the way Bush did. He did not tell us to go shopping. This was Bush’s biggest failure, that when he had the nation with him, Democrats and Republicans alike, he asked nothing of us, no sacrifice or challenge, just to go shopping. People want to be doing something to help overcome our problems, we would have all responded to calls for action, but none ever came.

Obama is made of better stuff. He understands hard work and overcoming challenges and calls out to what is better within each of us. Bush couldn’t do that because there isn’t anything better within him. There is no nobility, no desire for sacrifice. In his circles all anybody wants is power and money and they aren’t too concerned about how they achieve it. I can’t even describe how much of a relief it is that Bush is no longer in the Oval Office, it’s relief so strong it borders on joy.

I’m very optimistic about Obama, mainly because he’s really smart. He might be the only person alive today who is both smart enough and charismatic enough to pull us out of the headlong dive that the neocons have put us in.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

War Crimes

Keith Olbermann does another special commentary, this one on why Bush and everyone in his administration has to invvestigated and prosecuted in the Obama administration. On Rachel Maddow she talks to Jonathan Turley who says that if we don't charge Bush that he could get arrested if he travels abroad and we would be looked on as a rogue state.

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The Defining Moment

Cover of Cover via AmazonJonathan Alter, who has been on Countdown and Rachel Maddow Show often as well as on many progressive radio shows, wrote a book called "The Defining Moment: Franklin Roosevelt and the First Hundred Days". It's been said that Obama read the book several times and was very impressed, and he has used the phrase "This Is The Defining Moment" several times.

This is something I've wanted to see, that Obama realized that we are in a situation eerily similar to when FDR entered the presidency in 1932. It's important because FDR gave us 50 years of prosperity and a large middle class for the very first time. It only started falling apart when Reagan came into office and started dismantling all of it, which has led us directly to where we are now.

My favorite economist Paul Krugman wrote a long article on this called "What Obama Must Do" and brought up what FDR did. PRINCETON, NJ - OCTOBER 13:  Princeton Profess...Image by Getty Images via DaylifeBut he had more detail:
The last president to face a similar mess was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and you can learn a lot from his example. That doesn't mean, however, that you should do everything FDR did. On the contrary, you have to take care to emulate his successes, but avoid repeating his mistakes.
He then goes on to say that creating universal health care would be his biggest legacy:
Back in 1993, when the Clintons tried and failed to create a universal health care system, Republican strategists like William Kristol (now my colleague at The New York Times) urged their party to oppose any reform on political grounds; they argued that a successful health care program, by conveying the message that government can actually serve the public interest, would fundamentally shift American politics in a progressive direction. They were right — and the same considerations that made conservatives so opposed to health care reform should make you determined to make it happen.
Think for a moment about what Kristol said - they should oppose health care not because it is bad for America but because it is good for America. It would destroy their myth of government always bad and turn us in a proghressive path. He was perfectlyt willing to let people die due to lack of health care in order to advance the Republican political agenda. This is why I call Republicans evil.

Universal health care, then, should be your biggest priority after rescuing the economy. Providing coverage for all Americans can be for your administration what Social Security was for the New Deal. But the New Deal achieved something else: It made America a middle-class society. Under FDR, America went through what labor historians call the Great Compression, a dramatic rise in wages for ordinary workers that greatly reduced income inequality. Before the Great Compression, America was a society of rich and poor; afterward it was a society in which most people, rightly, considered themselves middle class. It may be hard to match that achievement today, but you can, at least, move the country in the right direction.

What caused the Great Compression? That's a complicated story, but one important factor was the rise of organized labor: Union membership tripled between 1935 and 1945. Unions not only negotiated better wages for their own members, they also enhanced the bargaining power of workers throughout the economy. At the time, conservatives warned that wage gains would have disastrous economic effects — that the rise of unions would cripple employment and economic growth. But in fact, the Great Compression was followed by the great postwar boom, which doubled American living standards over the course of a generation.

So we need health care and robust unions, the very things Republicans fight tooth and nail to stop. I very much recommend reading all of Krugman's article. It is long but easy to read and chock full of details. You will understand just how bad off we really are right now and what needs to be done to fix it.

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The Bushies Stole Us Blind

There is an excellent article on Alternet by David Michael Green where he tells it like it has been for the last 8 years. He tells us what has really been going on:
This president -- and indeed the entire movement of regressive politics these last three decades (which I refer to as Reaganism-Bushism) -- can only be properly understood as class warfare. Its purpose was never to make America a better place. Indeed, if we define America as a country belonging to its 300 million inhabitants, then the purpose was actually precisely the opposite. The mission of this ideology was in fact to diminish, if not impoverish, the vast bulk of these citizens so that the already massively wealthy among them could become obscenely wealthy.
And to make us docile so we wouldn't go marching out on the streets against them. When a family is struggling just to survive there is nothing extra.
And, where Washington was concerned, that meant that government was to become a vehicle to serve not the 300 million, but rather the 300 families at the top, who already owned the most but craved ever, ever more. It was a cash cow that could provide enormous riches to buccaneers who make the Somali pirates look like Campfire Girls in comparison. Social Security is not, from this perspective, a program to serve seniors and keep a roof over their heads during their final decades of life, but rather a pool of money which the government had been kind enough to already collect and centralize, just waiting for barons to come along and robber it. Deregulation is another important purpose of the federal government. Protecting the long-term integrity of the economic system from the exploitation of short-term Ponzi schemers with their derivatives and their garbage loans was so mid-20th century, you know? And then, chief among all purposes of government under Reaganism-Bushism, are the tax cuts for the wealthy, even if -- especially if -- they can be made more massive by borrowing from suckers' -- I mean, citizens' -- children in future generations.
Think about it, they literally stole your children's future because that was the credit card they used to make themselves richer than ever. But the meat of it is this:
In short, if you merely hate the Bush administration for driving the country into penury, making us hated around the world, bringing on a global economic crisis, ignoring when not exacerbating a looming environmental catastrophe of planetary proportions, killing a million Iraqis on the basis of a host of lies, letting New Orleans drown, trying to wreck Social Security, sleeping through (at best) the worst terrorist attack on our shores, allowing -- when not assisting -- the Middle East in going up in flames, or dividing our country internally -- if that's "all" you've got against these guys, then you have no idea how bad it really is.
I've been talking about this for years but, sad to say, far too few people really understand what's been going on and how close we are to becoming a third world country. I just hope Obama is good enough to pull us out of it.

Follow the link at the top and read the whole article. It's very long but filled with good stuff.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Barack ObamaImage via WikipediaI've been watching the coverage on CNN for the last 2 days, building up to the actual inauguration on Tuesday.

I love hearing the stories of all those who have traveled to Washington DC, all who want to be a part of this incredible and historic moment. The broadcasters, especially Solidad O'Brien, keep looking back to Martin Luther King giving his "I have a dream" speech all the way back in 1963 in the same spot in Washington. It's amazing that only 45 years separate this event, the swearing in of our very first black president, and that one where King gave his most famous speech:
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!Martin Luther King, Jr.Image via Wikipedia
I keep thinking how much Darcy would have loved to see this inauguration take place and keep crying over it. She didn't even get a chance to vote for him because she was in the hospital on November 4th. I had thought earlier of getting her an absentee ballot but never did because I had other things on my mind. But I wish she could have voted for Obama.
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Bush Speaks

QuagmireImage by Night Heron via FlickrMy friend Vjack over at Atheist Revolution had a few choice things to say about W:
As for "speaking up for the weak and voiceless among us," how do you reconcile this with your tax cuts to the wealthy, your unjust war in Iraq, or the debacle that was Hurricane Katrina. You godiots sure do talk a good game about how compassionate you are when it comes to fetuses, but the moment someone is born, you abandon them.
Vjack rightly points out how the right wing's overwhelming support of innocent lives only extends to fetuses. Once you are born you are on your own and if you aren't rich you're in trouble.
Good riddance and here's hoping the door does in fact hit you on the way out!
Something I just said in my last post, actually. Vjack goes on with his rant:
But seriously, W, I do hope to see you again. I hope to see you on the news every night as you are investigated for war crimes and a host of other criminal abuses of power committed by your administration. I hope you face the full extent of the law you have tried so hard to subvert. I hope the American people rip their heads from the sand and hold you accountable. In doing so, we will show the world that you have not been acting on our behalf and that no one is above the law.
Amen! I do hope Obama will pursue charges against Bush and compnay for their war crimes. One lawyer on TV said that if we don't do it other countries have an obligation to pusue war crimes prosecution. That could really be emarrassing.

I keep hoping Obama's stand of not prosecuting them is just to lull them into a false sense of security so Bush will not issue blanket pardons to himself and all top officials. Bush doesn't want to do that because it would be an admission of guilt, plus he doesn't think he did anything wrong so why do a pardon? Hopefully Obama will change his mind about holding the Bush people responsible for their crimes, otherwise all future adminastrations will think they can get away with anything and oour rul of law is gone.
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Friday, January 16, 2009


By now everyone has heard the story of the courageous pilot who set his plane down on the Hudson River without crashing the plane and allowing all 150 passengers to get off with only one serious casualty, one woman broke both her legs. It struck me almost immediately that this is a clear sign of the changing of an era, the Bush Era of Incompetence. With Bush leaving office and Obama about to come in it's as if all America has suddenly found their inner competence once again. That suddenly we know once again that we are what we have always been, a courageous, resourceful and competent nation, a nation of heroes when it's been demanded of us. In the Bush Era we were reduced to sniveling cowards who couldn't do anything right but that day is gone.

Rachel Maddow has an interesting take on this, that it took training and preparation, time and tax dollars, for everything to be in place that morning on the Hudson. It was an investment in ourselves, in our ability to be resourceful, in our desire to have on hand what we need in an emergency. This is something the Republicans have never understood, that money and training must be spent if we are to be other than helpless victims of circumstances.
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Thursday, January 15, 2009


Massimo Pigliucci is one of my favorite writers on philosophy and politics. Despite the fact that he’s a scientist he writes often on these things and I’ve found myself in agreement with him almost every time, even more than I agree with Dawkins. He really nails my feelings of bipartisanship in his latest blog entry: Why I don’t believe in bipartisanship:
Let me start with an example from my native country, Italy. For the past couple of decades Italy has been de facto a country with two parties: although there are in theory many parties big and small, they gravitate toward one of two “poles,” and it is one or the other of these two coalitions that has held power in the country for several years at a time. Now, just like in the US, the Italian left often speaks of bipartisanship and cooperation, and they (largely) mean it; as a result, the Italian left gets almost nothing of relevance done while in power. Then it’s the other guys’ turn, and they plunge head down with their agenda, completely oblivious to and even openly scornful of calls for cooperation and compromise. The result is that Italy has been on a steady trajectory to become one of the most regressive, unjust and racist countries in Europe. And unfortunately I do not see a reversal of this slide for many years to come, given the apparent inability of the left to mount any significant opposition to the Berlusconi government.
This is what I’m afraid of, that Obama will bend over backwards to try and create a union with the right wingers and the end results will be actions so watered down as to be worthless or simply obstructionism that prevents anything from getting done. We only have a short time to work before the pendulum swings back to the right so we don’t have time to waste. Even worse, if Obama does not deliver the Democrats might not be in charge past his administration.

When FDR took over and created the New Deal in the 30’s it lasted until 1980 when Reagan started taking it apart. And did Reagan or any Republican ever worry about bipartisanship? Not one damn bit, they plowed ahead and did what they wanted, no matter how outrageous. FDR's legacy of liberalism lasted so long because he was incredibly successful and got a lot done. Obama has to do the same if we want the Democrats to hold power for long. And don't think the Republicans don't know this, they will want to stop as much as they can.

Friday, January 9, 2009


I have to say that today was probably the strangest day of my life, we spread Darcy’s ashes out over the ocean this afternoon.

It was done by the Omega Society who I thought did a very good job all the way around. I pretty much signed my name a couple of times and wrote a couple of checks and they took care of everything else.

The boat was beautiful, a real luxury yacht, which just made it seem surreal. It took maybe 45 minutes to get out of Newport Harbor into the open sea. It was very relaxing and being out in the open air and ocean like that gave me a real sense of freedom.

They had Darcy wrapped up in what felt like a tablecloth. I leaned over the rail and unfurled it to let the ashes sail out and into the water, then we all threw roses on top of the ashes. The ashes spread very slowly at first so they stayed with the roses. The people at work had all chipped in and gotten flowers for us as well to toss into the ocean and we did that to, then the captain piloted the boat in a circle around the ashes and flowers.

All I could do was stand at the rail and cry. But it felt like we were letting her go, giving her freedom. I’ve been to a lot of ordinary funerals and that freedom wasn’t there, it was just sad as the casket is lowered into the ground. Much better to float through the ocean. My main thought was, “Boy, I wish Darcy could see this she would have really liked it.”

That is what bothers me the most now. A dozen times a day I see things and my immediate reaction is “Got to tell Darcy about that one!” Then realize I can’t do that ever again. I can certainly understand why religious people want to think the dear departed is watching somehow, or that we will all met up again in heaven. The thought would be comforting but no one can just choose to believe something that seems like complete nonsense.

At one point I thought back to our 22 years together and remembered her in better times and in better health. It was good to think of her like that.
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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Jesus and Mo

Here is another great God cartoon that I also found out about on Pharyngula. Unfortunately, I can't find a name for the cartoonist so I can give him credit, but go ahead and check out his site for yourself and see if you do any better.

God Cartoon

I love this cartoon. I've written long paragraphs and pages using these same arguments but cartoonist Matt Bors says it even better in four little panels. Check out his web site for more cartoons, as well as his blog and portfolio, all good stuff. I'm an artist and I should know.

And a special thanks to PZ Myers for having this cartoon on his site which let me know about Matt.
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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Apple Reinvents the Wheel

Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard

This is the Onion so don't get excited, it isn't happening. The video is funny as hell, though. I like the commentators final sentence. "It's unknown if the Wheel will catch on in the business world, where people use computers for actual work and not just dicking around."