R.I.P. { Jim Baen

Jim Baen is a founder of a publishing company that is ubitqueous for Sci-Fi readers. I have read many, many, many books that were published by Baen Books. Not all of them were good, but Baen published a wide variety. He was also progressive in his approach to media, releasing books freely in electronic form feeling that it will boost printed sales.



[Religion] And now for something truly inflammatory

I have been listening to this interview with Sam Harris, an author (and current neuroscience graduate student) talking about his new book 'The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason.' (It's about 1/4th way into the podcast.) He proposes secular people practice a form of religious intolernace, an intellectual intolerance of the ideas that found religions and the pervasive idea that without religion our society would be savage.

The point I like the most is how religion has been given an intellectual carte blanche. We cannot question the rationality or validity of these beliefs, but in every other sector of thought we have the freedom to question other ideas. Faith is off limits and has consequently set back society.

Harris has some interesting ideas and interpretations. I just may take his book to Paris.

[Denial] Death is ugly

And we are hideous.

We have morphed capital punishment into a medical procedure, clean, efficient, precise. The changes certainly aren't for the condemned, they die, they are for us. Somehow it must quiet the guilt. A set up for self-induced cognitive dissonance. A man dying peacefully surely can't be state sanctioned murder.


Nerd { Curly Brace Syntax

Was the switch to category--curly brace--subject a subtle developer touch, or a more subtle jab at my consideration of picking up Python as my first real programming language? ;}


Politics { 1st District Voters of MN

Read this article about Tim Walz, who is running opposite Gil "I'm Bush's Toady" Gutkneckt for the First District House Seat in MN.

Gil needs to go. Like the rest of the Republican delegation in this state, he is a puppet for Bush.


Future { No one knows what the future holds

Still in a pensive mood. Decided I am going to lay off the news for a while. Not because I don't want to know what is going on in the world, but in an effort to buoy what I have left of a mental state of mind. The more I hear and read the more I feel helpless and that what I am doing and what I am believing doesn't matter, things will not change and I will have to continue to eat the shit sandwich I have been eating for a long time.

I also realize I have made myself too public, both here and in real life. I need to reel some of this back in and return to my quiet state. This with the fact that I have a summer to-do list as long as I am tall, I will be going on hiatus for the summer. I will still post, just not as frequent for the remainder of the summer. It depends on how the spirit moves me.


[Sadness] "Iraq's War Porn"

I suggest every American read this article on Alternet.org.

This is the ugly truth of the Iraq War. A war started on lies. A war that was not part of the 'War on Terror', but is now. A war that has made us less safe. A war that is costing us our souls. A war that is bankrupting us both fiscally and morally for generations to come. A war that is costing us our liberties and freedoms. Iraq did not threaten us. Iraq did not bomb us. Iraq did not take these things from us, we took them from ourselves. Blood for oil. Blood for profit. Blood for jingoism.


[Food] My Big Fat Greek Eat Club

My turn was last night again. Greek theme.


salad - Greek salad

main - gyros

dessert - baklava

2 cups lowfat plain yogurt
2 medium cucumbers diced and then squeezed to remove excess water
1 sprig of mint, chopped
2 large pinches of Dmitri's seasoning (a greek seasoning from one of my local greasy spoons, a shout out to Mac's cafe!)
3 turns of the salt grinder
2 splurts of vinegar
2 splurts of olive oil

mix, let cool in refridgerator 1.5 hours before serving

Greek Salad:
1 medium cucumber sliced
1/2 very large red onion
1 head of red lettuce
1 green pepper, sliced
3-5 kalamata olives per serving
3 peppercini's per serving
Feta cheese crumbles (I used part of a block of Feta from the local greek restaurant, shout out to Zorba's!)
1 tomato cubed per serving

1/3 cup water
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 tblsp Dmitri's seasoning
mix well, adjust sugar and seasoning to taste

1/2 red onion sliced
cherry tomatoes
1 medium cucumber sliced
(doh forgot the parsly)
2lbs (should have only had 1lb though) of excellent Gyro meat from Zorbas (no one in town carried gyro meat and I did not have time to make it myself)
Pita bread (multiple)

1lb Fillio bread (frozen)
1/2lb butter (two sticks, unsalted)
3 cups crushed pecans
1 cup sugar
1 tblsp cinnamon
1 tsp lemon finely shaved lemon zest
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup water
1/3 cup honey (US Grade A Fancy)
1 tblsp lemon juice
rough shaving lemon zest of 1 whole lemon
13"x9" baking pan

butter the bottom and sides of the baking pan
melt 2 sticks of butter on low heat
pre-heat oven to 325F

place 2 sheets of fillio in pan, brush melted butter on top sheet
place 2 sheets of fillio in pan, brush melted butter on top sheet
place 2 sheets of fillio in pan, brush melted butter on top sheet
cover top sheet with 1/2 of the crushed nuts and 1/2 of the sugar-cinnamon-lemon zest mixture
place 2 sheets of fillio in pan, brush melted butter on top sheet
place 2 sheets of fillio in pan, brush melted butter on top sheet
place 2 sheets of fillio in pan, brush melted butter on top sheet
cover top sheet with remaining crushed nuts and sugar mixture
place 2 sheets of fillio in pan, brush melted butter on top sheet
place 2 sheets of fillio in pan, brush melted butter on top sheet
place 2 sheets of fillio in pan, brush melted butter on top sheet
cover top sheet with remaining melted butter
cut into 2" diamonds or squares (won't be able to do this after baking as it will be too fragile)
place in oven at 325F for 30 minutes
reduce heat to 300F bake for 40-60 minutes or until top layer is a nice golden brown
20 minutes before you finish baking, make the sause:

place sugar, honey, water, lemon zest into a saucepan and bring to gentle boil, reduce heat and let simmer uncovered until baking is complete.

Remove pan from oven, while still hot, evenly pour the sauce over the top. Let cool for 4 hours or until you can't stand it anymore.

Mythos Lager (a greek imported Hellenic Lager, very light colored with mild taste, great for hot days)


[Food] A vaguely asian eat club

The glove slap had been issued: a classmate had the gall to express certain doubts about my culinary prowess. To such challenge, only one response would suffice. I made the menu in question, served it at a dinner party (to which said classmate was not invited) and presented him with the leftovers as proof. Problem solved: I'm the one with garlic press triumphantly aloft.

Spring rolls:
4 oz thin rice noodles
1 tb rice vinegar
1 tb soy sauce
2 tb toasted sesame oil
dash mirin
Basil, chopped
Mint, also chopped
1 Cucumber, in small chunks or batons
1 handful chopped scallions
shredded carrots
crushed peanuts
bean sprouts
spring roll wrappers

Cook and drain the noodles according to package directions, then season with the vinegar, soy and oil. Soak the wrappers in hot water, then arrange a generous pinch of noodles, herbs, cucumber, carrot, etc. as desired in the center of the wrapper. Fold over one half then roll it up neatly. Slice to serve.

Soba noodles:
1/3 cup white sesame seeds
8 oz soba noodles
2 tsp rice vinegar
5 tsp soy sauce
2-3 tsp honey (to taste)
2 tsp sesame oil
7 scallions
2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)

Cook the noodles per package instructions, making sure to wash them twice in cold water after cooking. Drain thoroughly and allow the noodles to cool. Mix the remaining ingredients and add to the noodles; serve lightly chilled or at room temperature.

Squash and bean salad:
2 med acorn squash
2 med zucchini
olive oil
1 pkg frozen snap peas
9 oz fresh green beans
salt and pepper
about 3 tsp lemon juice
dried basil


Quarter the acorn squash and chop the zucchini into bite-sized bits. Douse with the olive oil and roast in a 400-degree oven for 45 minutes, or until acorn squash is very tender. Peel the rind off the acorn squash and chop as needed for presentation. Cook the beans and peas briefly in boiling water- they should retain their snap. Let the squashes, peas and beans cool to room temp, then toss with the remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.

The 3 preceding recipes were originally devised in a rather more anglo-saxon palate by my favorite British chef, Nigella Lawson. I've taken a few liberties with her ideas to suit my midwestern tastes.

Meatful and meatless skewers:
2/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 c sesame oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2" ginger, finely grated
2 tb mirin
2 tb brown rice syrup
pinch red pepper

chicken breast, sliced into 1" cubes
Portabella mushrooms, cut into 2" pieces
Bell peppers, chopped into 1-2" pieces
Onion, coarsely chopped
Cherry tomatoes

Combine first 7 ingredients, and adjust the marinade to taste. Marinate the chicken for 2-24 hours; separately marinate the mushrooms for about 1 hour. Thread the marinated chicken onto skewers with the peppers and onion, using the tomatoes to the cap the ends of the skewers. Repeat with the mushrooms. Cook thoroughly on the grill.


[Politics] 2006 Minnesota State DFL Convention

Well, I'm back from my three days or so down in lovely Rochester. Thanks to GeistX and Nerdwife for letting me crash in their guest room. I'll be picking cat hair off my suits for a week, but friends and food and a feeling of homey-ness is far better than hotel life.

Day 1 started Friday morning. I was exhausted to say the least, having been up late Thursday night. It was going to be a long day. I'd also assumed that it was going to be a boring day for me, since I was only an alternate, but an individual who was the delegate was not going to make it to the convention at all, so I was upgraded to a full delegate status and I suddenly had something to do all weekend. The credentials committee really pooched the process for alternates. We couldn't get onto the floor to tell our delegation chairs we were there to be upgraded, and we couldn't get onto the floor without the badges the delegation chairs had. Delegates who arrived late had to wait in a similar fashion, some up to an hour.

The major business of day 1 was to vote on platform resolutions (important to me, since I like the party to stand for something and also because I had served on the State Platform Commission for a couple years a while back) and to endorse the candidate for U.S. Senate. Since it was a cakewalk for Amy Klobuchar, this was not too trying a day, aside from my major need of an antacid. It was a good full day of dealing with speeches and such, but not too stressful.

Day 2 was the biggie, the endorsement process for governor. I won't go into the details of the voting, which took 9 hours, but suffice to say I was a Becky Lourey supporter and after her withdrawl, I switched to Steve Kelley in hopes of defeating the endorsement of Mike Hatch. After it was clear that Mike Hatch would get the endorsement, our entire delegation of Kelley/Lourey supporters were looking like they were going to vote "No Endorsement" as a sign of protest, but Kelley withdrew before that vote. I left the hall in disgust, not even waiting to hear Mike Hatch's speech. I plan on voting for Lourey in the primary. I just don't want Mike Hatch in the governor's office, although if he wins the primary (and goodness knows he has a ton of money for the campaign) I'll support him in the general election. For those of you at the convention, I was the young man in the bowtie.

Day 3 was a breeze. Two quick non-contested seats (Rebecca Otto for State Auditor and Matt Entenza for Attorney General), the platform report (about what I expected), and a single vote in a contested election for Secretary of State. I supported Christian Sande, but I also knew he just didn't have the votes on the floor to get the endorsement, and the vote showed that clearly. Mark Ritchie took the endorsement after Sande conceded gracefully. He wasn't my preferred candidate, but he'll make a fine Sec State, and certainly better than Mary Kiffmeyer.

It was a long but neccesary three days of politiking at the 2006 Minnesota State DFL Convention. Overall I was pretty happy with the outcome, with the major exception of the gubernatorial endorsement.

More details of the convention on a by-the-minute basis can be read at Power Liberal, a fellow Democrat who was live blogging the convention.


[Bitch] I escalate my opinion of Ann Coulter


Ann Coulter, I do not truly 'hate' many people, but you've made the list (along with Karl Rove and the kid who used to pick on me in 7th grade, at least in his case we reconcilled at my 10 year class reunion). I hope you live a long lonely life and die forgotten and unloved.

Why do I feel this way? Because she is unapologetic about what she said about those who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks. Way to exploit them in the way you say in your book they exploited the situation. You have never had love or someone who loved you have you? I know you're a lawyer, but even lawyers often have a small tiny spark of humanity left. You have none.

[Health] AIDS 25 years later

I know this is a little late as the 25th anniversary was June 5th. I remember when we first heard about AIDS in school, the fear, the uncertainty, the ignorance. I remember learning that is was a 'gay' disease. Major national effort (and money) was put into research and a lot of drug and biotech advances were made, and some of them even for HIV/AIDS research. I remember the PSAs. A person with AIDS can now live longer than ever before, though some argue about the quality of life as the drug cocktails are very specific and expensive. If you are in other parts of the world your treatment can be cheaper (Brazil, Inida) or devestatingly expensive (most of Africa). Somewhere along the road we lost focus on this major health concern. I recall the false hopes of vaccines that were announced on more than one occasion, but did not pan out. Generations of people are still dying of this epidemic, because American has lost focus on it, does not mean that it is gone.

I wish I could do something. I donate to the AIDS Walk and other foundations, I help dispell the myth that AIDS is a 'gay' disease. It affects us all, we are on starship Earth together. I weep.


[Activism] DIY Impeachment

Freaking awesome!

Do-It-Yourself Impeachment...

Impeach for Peace, a Minnesota-based impeachment group, has researched a method for impeaching the president using a little known and rarely used part of the Rules of the House of Representatives ("Jefferson’s Manual"). This document actually empowers individual citizens to initiate the impeachment process themselves.

The "Jefferson's Manual" is an interpretive guide to parliamentary procedure, and is included (along with the Constitution) in the bound volumes of the Rules of the House of Representatives. The section covering impeachment lists the acceptable vehicles for bringing impeachment motions to the floor of the House.

Before the House Judiciary Committee can put together the Articles of Impeachment, someone must initiate the impeachment procedure. Most often, this occurs when members of the House pass a resolution. Another method outlined in the manual, however, is for individual citizens to submit a memorial for impeachment.

After learning this information, Minnesotan and Impeach for Peace member (Jodin Morey) found precedent in an 1826 memorial by Luke Edward Lawless which had been successful in initiating the impeachment of Federal Judge James H. Peck. Impeach for Peace then used this as a template for their "Do-It-Yourself Impeachment." Now any citizen can download the DIY Impeachment Memorial and submit it, making it possible for Americans to do what our representatives have been unwilling to do. The idea is for so many people to submit the Memorial that it cannot be ignored.

Feel free to download it, print out TWO copies, fill in your relevant information in the blanks (name, State, etc.), and send in two letters today (One to the Speaker of the House, and the other to John Conyers of the House Judiciary).

Hold on to the other copy of the two letters until October 12th when we're having everyone send them in.

That's right — to make a big impact, we're having everyone send it in on the same date. We hope to flood the Judiciary Committee and John Conyers office with sacks of mail and cause a newsworthy event to further pressure the Congress to act on the memorials. Although, it's important to keep in mind that in the 1826 precedent, impeachment resulted as a result of a single memorial. Yours might be the one.

[Something Completely Different] Hot Chicks in Leather


[People] Ann Coulter, crazy/mean and hurtful

She is, I wanted to also say 'BITCH' in the title, but I will try and stay semi-civil (hah!) read here.

She's not faking this, she is spouting this hate for propaganda and personal gain ($$$), and she says she believes it.

Excerpt from the interview about her new book 'Godless':

LAUER: Do you believe everything in the book or do you put some things in there just to cater to your base?

ANN: No, of course I believe everything.

Painful to watch. Everytime I watch an interview with her, or Bush or Cheney I feel things take a turn for the surreal.

Then again I can see why people like her can make money or even acknowledged, here is a blog in support of Coulter and her viewpoints.

At least there still is this site.

[Politics] Mark Kennedy and the line-item veto

Listening to MPR in the shower this morning (ooooh sexy!). The GOP in MN had its state convention last week, there was much chest thumping, much jingoism, much 'stay the course'blah blah blah. There were formal party endorsements, among them Mark Kennedy, who despite his recent spin-doctoring voted in line with the Administration's agenda 90+% of the time. In the piece they mention his many stances on issues:

* staying the course in Iraq
* push for more tax cuts (probably for his wealthy corporate overlords)
* line item veto for Bush


line-item veto for Bush? I seem to remember about 10 years ago when Clinton had line-item veto power, Congress got its undies in a knot. Oh wait that's right, the Congress back then was Republican majority and Clinton was a Democrat. I can't understand why line-item veto power for Bush is on the agenda again unless the Republicans are scared that they will be losing a majority in one or both Houses of Congress. I can see a lot legislation contray to what the Administration wants in that scenario and since Bush up until this point has not vetoed anything (but many many a 'signing statement', a little thing that allows the President to ignore pieces of law) may now want the power to veto out pieces of law he (or more likely Cheney) do not like. Speculation on my part yes, but it seems strange that discussion of line-item veto is coming up again.


[Activisim] Emergency Alert! Stop the SIRA bill!

Read this alert at the EFF immediately and call your Representative ASAP!!!! The SIRA bill is wrong.

The entertainment industry has sneaked language into an obscure copyright bill that could smash Internet fair use. The law implies that licenses from copyright holders are needed for every digital copy made in the transmission of digital media -- including cached copies on servers or on your hard drive, and even temporary copies in RAM. The wording is being debated in a House Judiciary subcommittee on Wednesday. Don't let the music industry turn your cache into their cash. Check below to see if your representative is on the right committee, and call them now!


[Work] File under "you learn something new everyday"

Adding a boat load of packages in Solaris is a lot easier when you know about the admin file, default is /var/sadm/install/admin/default and contains:

# Copyright 2003 Sun Microsystems, Inc. All rights reserved.
# Use is subject to license terms.
#ident "@(#)default 1.5 03/06/11 SMI"

chenge 'ask' to 'nocheck' and viola! Non-interactive package installs. Be warned though that it will not tell you interactively if things like dependencies are not met and it will not warn on setuid/gid settings, so know your dependencies and know what you are doing before you go forward.

To use the new admin file you can place it in /var/sadm/install/admin and call it anything but 'default'. pkgadd(1M) will look in this directory first for admin files, otherwise you can supply a full path name, example:

pkgadd -a nocheck -d . SMCgcc

[Counter-point] "Going Beyond God"

Here is a link to a salon.com article titled "Going Beyond God". I felt the need to post this since my recent posts have given the impression I am anti-religion. I am not anti-religion. I distrust organized religion, but I do not hate the people who have faith or believe in those religions. Do I feel they are misguided? Yes. Do I feel they do not see the whole picture, or choose not to see the whole picture? Yes. Am I wrong? Probably.

I feel that somewhere the organized religions got in the way of the meaning of God/the spirit/nirvana/Tao/The Great Kleenex/Etc. Spirituality became too stratified in doctrine, dogma, procedure, pomp and ceremony, especially the Christian faith of which I am most familiar.

In this interview, Karen Armstrong makes many salient points to which I very much agree, here are some excerpts from the interview:

Well, explain that. What is religion?

Religion is a search for transcendence. But transcendence isn't necessarily sited in an external god, which can be a very unspiritual, unreligious concept. The sages were all extremely concerned with transcendence, with going beyond the self and discovering a realm, a reality, that could not be defined in words. Buddhists talk about nirvana in very much the same terms as monotheists describe God.

That's fascinating. So in Buddhism, which is nontheistic, the message or the experience of nirvana is the same as the Christian God?

The experience is the same. The trouble is that we define our God too closely. In my book "A History of God," I pointed out that the most eminent Jewish, Christian and Muslim theologians all said you couldn't think about God as a simple personality, an external being. It was better to say that God did not exist because our notion of existence was far too limited to apply to God.

You're saying these ancient sages really didn't care about big metaphysical systems. They didn't care about theology.

No, none of them did. And neither did Jesus. Jesus did not spend a great deal of time discoursing about the trinity or original sin or the incarnation, which have preoccupied later Christians. He went around doing good and being compassionate. In the Quran, metaphysical speculation is regarded as self-indulgent guesswork. And it makes people, the Quran says, quarrelsome and stupidly sectarian. You can't prove these things one way or the other, so why quarrel about it? The Taoists said this kind of speculation where people pompously hold forth about their opinions was egotism. And when you're faced with the ineffable and the indescribable, they would say it's belittling to cut it down to size. Sometimes, I think the way monotheists talk about God is unreligious.

Unreligious? Like talk about a personal God?

Yes, people very often talk about him as a kind of acquaintance, whom they can second-guess. People will say God loves that, God wills that, and God despises the other. And very often, the opinions of the deity are made to coincide exactly with those of the speaker.

Yet we certainly see a personal God in various sacred texts. People aren't just making that up.

No, but the great theologians in Judaism, Christianity and Islam say you begin with the idea of a god who is personal. But God transcends personality as God transcends every other human characteristic, such as gender. If we get stuck there, this is very immature. Very often people hear about God at about the same time as they're learning about Santa Claus. And their ideas about Santa Claus mature and change in time, but their idea of God remains infantile.


I think these questions are tremendously important now because more and more people, especially those with a scientific bent, say we don't need religion anymore. Science has replaced religion. You know, religion used to explain all kinds of things about the world. But science for the most part does that now. And people who are not religious say they can be just as morally upright.

They can. I fully endorse that. I don't think you need to believe in an external god to obey the Golden Rule. In the Axial Age, when people started to concentrate too much on what they're transcending to -- that is, God -- and neglected what they're transcending from -- their greed, pompous egotism, cruelty -- then they lost the plot, religiously. That's why God is a difficult religious concept. I think God is often used by religious people to give egotism a sacred seal of divine approval, rather than to take you beyond the ego.

As for scientists, they can explain a tremendous amount. But they can't talk about meaning so much. If your child dies, or you witness a terrible natural catastrophe such as Hurricane Katrina, you want to have a scientific explanation of it. But that's not all human beings need. We are beings who fall very easily into despair because we're meaning-seeking creatures. And if things don't add up in some way, we can become crippled by our despondency.


Well, what do you say to the scientists, especially the Darwinists -- Richard Dawkins would be the obvious case -- who are quite angry about religion? They say religion is the root of much evil in the world. Wars are fought and fueled by religion. And now that we're in the 21st century, they say it's time that science replace religion.

I don't think it will. In the scientific age, we've seen a massive religious revival everywhere but Europe. And some of these people -- not all, by any means -- seem to be secular fundamentalists. They have as bigoted a view of religion as some religious fundamentalists have of secularism. We have too much dogmatism at the moment. Take Richard Dawkins, for example. He did a couple of religious programs that I was fortunate enough to miss. It was a very, very one-sided view.

Well, he hates religion.

Yeah, this is not what the Buddha would call skillful. If you're consumed by hatred -- Freud was rather the same -- then this is souring your personality and clouding your vision. What you need to do is to look appraisingly and calmly on other traditions. Because when you hate religion, it's also very easy to hate the people who practice it.


Because there are all kinds of inflammatory things that are said. For instance, many passages in both the Bible and the Quran exhort the faithful to kill the infidels. Sam Harris, in his book "The End of Faith," has seven very densely packed pages of nothing but quotations from the Quran with just this message. "God's curse be upon the infidels"; "slay them wherever you find them"; "fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it." And Sam Harris' point is that the Muslim suicide bombings are not the aberration of Islam. They are the message of Islam.

Well, that's simply not true. He's taken parts of those texts and omitted their conclusions, which say fighting is hateful for you. You have to do it if you're attacked, as Mohammed was being attacked at the time when that verse was revealed. But forgiveness is better for you. Peace is better. But when we're living in a violent society, our religion becomes violent, too. Religion gets sucked in and becomes part of the problem. But to isolate these texts as though they expressed the whole of the tradition is very mischievous and dangerous at this time when we are in danger of polarizing people on both sides. And this kind of inflammatory talk, say about Islam, is convincing Muslims all over the world who are not extremists that the West is incurably Islamophobic and will never respect their traditions. I think it's irresponsible at this time.

I think this point needs to be emphasised:

Well, he [Richard Dawkins -ed] hates religion.

Yeah, this is not what the Buddha would call skillful. If you're consumed by hatred -- Freud was rather the same -- then this is souring your personality and clouding your vision. What you need to do is to look appraisingly and calmly on other traditions. Because when you hate religion, it's also very easy to hate the people who practice it.

So readers (if there are any) please never think that I am not without my own form of spirituality, and I apologize if I appear like I am selecting out those of faith for persecution. I am not, and I do not hate you for your beliefs (despite what my passionate reactions may indicate) but I will not stand by while their actions promulgate a doctrine of prejudice, hatred, and oppression. Even if the actions of an individual do not reflect it, the actions of the whole of which they are a part can be damning.

[Politics] The Wedgie

As the political season heats up as fast as the weather this summer, the party in power once again is forcing 'wedge' issues as opposed to confronting and dealing with real issues. I speak of this to both parties as really unless some major shake ups happen we are merely chosing the lesser of two evils (I would choose Cthuluhu, but he's not running). The economy, despite what economic analsysts on news programs says, is in the dumps, and we have inflation looming heavy on the edge just out of view. The increase in gas prices are finally starting to have a ripple effect in the economy as the cost of basic and needed goods (such as food) increases. Interest rates have been on a steady rise resulting in increased debt load to most Americans as well as an increasingly rapid deflate in the housing bubble (it will only pop in a few places). Tax breaks to the richest 1/3 of the country is insuring that the poorer 2/3s is footing the bill for everything from our failing infrastructures to a War in Iraq that we (and the Iraqis) are totally screwed. We don't have infinite wealth (hell most Americans don't even have savings) and if China decides to divest its holdings in our monetary infrastructure then we will see a rapid downward spiral of our standard of living. We are and have been for some time living on borrowed time. But I digress and now return to my issues at hand, the 'wedge' issues, or I like to call them the over-emotional issues. Let me recap the three top ones:

1. Gay Marriage (the non-threat)
2. Flag-burning (yes, this has once again been resurected)
3. Reproductive Choice (this is in fact a very important issue as it affects our rights as citizens, but too often I have seen it abused as a wedge issue to distract from other more immediate and more pressing issues such as the loss of funding to public education, or rising poverty rates)

These issues are not as important as the current party in power wants you to believe. They are hot-button, FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) issues used to fire up people and whip them in a frothy frenzy so that they will be distracted from the real issues. I can see why people gravitate to these issues, it is easier to scapegoat and lash out in fear at these issues because most people think they understand them. This is the problem, people no longer understand the issues, nor do they want to try. Why? I think it is because once Americans started thinking about the real issues again we will see an unprecendented rise in depression (luckily we have drugs for this).

All is not lost, if you are in a discussion of politics with people this season and someone (especially a candidate), starts stumping these wedge issues, counter them with their thoughts on a real issue or two. Don't be a dink about it, do it to get them thinking about other things. Here are three good real issues, but from a local to a national level many, many, many, real and very important issues exist:

1. Medicare and the near future of health care in this country as the baby boomers retire, or just health care costs in general.
2. The economy and why most Americans have not seen the recovery, tax breaks in a time of 'war', corporate welfare, rising debt, the effect of rising gas prices, the trade imbalance.
3. The approaching energy crisis and what can be done in the form of truly renewal or bridge technologies to buffer the loss of fossil fuels (I think this will require a unified American effort on a scale larger than the Space Program to achieve).

Resist and counter. But be civil.


[Worst] Bumper sticker

There it was, yellow letters on a red strip. Give War a Chance. I couldn't believe what I had read, so I did some very skillful maneuvering to get a better look. How could anyone display a bumper sticker like that? Second look it still read, give war a chance.

I'm all for irony, camp, satire. In context I can easily see how that phrase would work, but on a bumper sticker? There is no set up. Plus it was a crappy teenager car driven by crappy teenagers.

I was really offended. And I can't remember the last time I felt this way.


[Politics] "War is Swell" OpEd piece on Salon

I recommend a read of Sydney Blumenthal's opinion piece on Salon.

Here is a teaser:

In the beginning, the elements of the war paradigm appeared to be expediencies, conceived as a series of emergency measures in the struggle against al-Qaida. But, in fact, their precepts were developed in law review articles before Sept. 11 by John Yoo, promoted to deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice, where Vice President Cheney's office assigned him to write key secret memos on torture, surveillance and executive power. Once Bush approved them, the clerisy of neoconservative lawyers, at least as tightly knit as Opus Dei, put them into effect. The war paradigm is Bush's "Da Vinci Code," the difference being that its high priests acknowledge in private that it is real.