9.28.2006

Books { 'The God Delusion' by Richard Dawkins and 'Letter to a Christian Nation' by Sam Harris

I've recently picked up a few new books, and just finished reading two closely intertwined books on religion, atheism, faith, science, and reason. Both books are written by outspoken atheists. The first is "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins, who is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, not to mention probably the world's most outspoken proponent of both atheism and Darwinian evolution and natural selection. The second is "Letter to a Christian Nation" by Sam Harris, a doctoral candidate in neuroscience, and previous author of "The End of Faith". Both of these books are currently lingering in the top 10 ofAmazon.com's bookseller list.

These books have been written on nearly parallel tracks, and in fact reference each other, as well as at least one other book I picked up but have not yet read, "Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon" by American philosopher Daniel C. Dennett. Both Dawkins and Harris make similar arguments regarding the problems and perils of religious faith.

Dawkins makes a much more scholarly, scientific, and thorough approach, and clocking in at 406 pages, to Harris' 96 pages, one can see that these very similar books were intended for slightly different audiences. Dawkins begins with discussing respect, deserved and underserved, for religion. One of the central themes both authors have talked about is that in virtually all endeavors, we expect and respect things like evidence, conformity to reality, and verifiability. The major exception, they argue, is religion. Religion has been getting a pass where if it were any other subject, we would demand proof, especially in light of outrageous claims. We are told, from the earliest times, that religion is to be respected. That a person's belief should be respected, and that religion is sacred; that is that religion should not be questioned, or criticized, or taken to task when it is clearly spouting nonsense. Faith is to be cherished, and often in religion, where you have no proof that a thing is true, your faith in it, despite evidence to the contrary, is expected to be regarded as a noble virtue. Both conclude, as I would, that this is a very poor idea.

Dawkins goes into some of the current and historical arguments for belief in god, from Thomas Aquinas' 'proofs' to Pascal's Wager, to Bayesian probability arguments. He tears them pieces with wit, logic, and reasoning. He then goes into his argument why there almost certainly is no god. He lays the foundation of his own work and the work of biologists, physicists, and scientists: why our existance can only be adequately explained by naturalism, natural phenomena, and the long, slow ratcheting up of complexity through evolution and non-random natural selection, that 'the God hypothesis' (and it is a scientific hypothesis), is a failed one, and only evolution makes any sense at all given the massive amounts of evidence we've collected. He talks about his arguments with his longtime debater and fellow Darwinian, the late Stephen Jay Gould, who argued for NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria), in which Science and Religion have no overlap, and that both can quietly coexist without stepping on each other's toes. Dawkins clearly to my mind rips up this apologist nonsense, and shows there is a very real conflict, that faith and reason are mutually incompatible worldviews, and that to be intellectually honest you must choose.

Dawkins makes some conjecture as to the possible Darwinian reasons why religion might naturally arise, and his argument that our ability to conceive religion and faith are by-products of other structural and biological developments that have evolved over time, as our species grew out of previous forms, was quite interesting.

He addresses morality in the absence of faith, and that there are perfectly natural moral responses that come about without any supernatural belief, much less fear of punishment in a fictional afterlife. He points to the animal kingdom to show how moral and cooperative behavior comes about as adaptive and useful developments.

He does a short, if excellent critical analysis of the Bible (a more comprehensive treatment can be found here, and why much of the 'morality' discussed in the 'good book' is in fact horrid and repugnant. I agreed with his assessment in the beginning of the book, that

"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic,
racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomanical, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

He then goes to show that the New Testament is little better. He takes on the argument that several high profile atheists (and incorrectly claimed atheists) in history that have been bullies and butchers themselves. Finally, he
addresses, why it is that he seems so hostile to religious belief. He doesn't thrive on controversy, or try to be mean or seek conflict, but his arguments that religious beliefs are providing cover for violence and misery, subverting knowledge, science, reason, rationality are compelling, and I fully understand his controversial approach.

His conclusions that religious indoctrination of children is tantamount to mental child abuse is, in my opinion, uncomfortably spot-on. There have been a few outstanding arguments against faith and religious nonsense, and I would consider this book to instantly take a place among these arguments. Anyone attached to faith or religion, to a belief system they were raised with, which bears little resemblence to the real world, should challenge themselves to read this book.

Harris' book is a much shorter approach, containing many of the same arguments, but aimed at the fundamentalist Christian in America. I took it to be a kind of extended pamphlet meant to rouse the major points of argument against religious belief, but without the drier scholarship of Dawkin's book. Think of 'Letter to a Christian Nation' as a kind of Cliff's Notes take on the modern arguments against faith, and the dangers of religious dogma in the 21st Century. Both make persuasive arguments and points, but overall I preferred Dawkin's approach.

The sad fact is that I doubt seriously that many 'persons of faith' will read, much less allow these books to challenge their cherished belief systems. My experience is that most of the religiously devout are quite dogmatic and Pavlovian, that the memeplex of religion is a self-reinforcing and culturally-reinforced delusion, a metaphorical massive mental viral infection of false dogmas that are inocculated in the minds of children from the earliest days, taking advantage of their mind's plasticity and nature to accept whetever they are told as true, in thrall to Bronze and Iron Age nonsense, used to justify war, destruction, hatred, control, misogyny, and host of crimes too numerous to list. Add to this the increasing tendency toward seperatist culture by Chrisitan fundamentalists and evangelicals, and I doubt it will make their radar screens, except as an object of scorn.

I am living in a world where every day science and reason and knowledge are under attack from ignorance and irrationality. It has to stop. I have been told that I should accept religion, be tolerant of religion, and respect religion, even while religion is making me less safe, calling me the most hated religious minority (atheist), subverting knowledge, repressing women, sexuality, science, and destroying all the good and useful things in life. Respect is earned. Religious belief has done little to earn respect in the last thousand years, and it should not be beyond questioning, criticism, or verification with reality. If a few small details of the popular faiths were changed (change God to Zeus and Jesus to Poseidon and see how crazy religious texts sound), and put to you what your assessment of their belief was, you'd probably think most of the believers of the monotheistic Middle Eastern death cults were stark raving loons. It is time to stop tolerating attacks on reason and logic and rationality in the name of faith and tradition. It is time to draw a conversational line, because we can't afford this dangerous nonsense anymore. Its time to make reasoned and intelligent arguments against the dangers of faith. This is not hatred of the religious, this is tough love. A friend is someone who tells you the truth, even when it is uncomfortable. Going along with the lies of religious dogma isn't getting us anywhere. Most people have the capacity to think rationally, so we must speak against those false traditions and nonsense that is poisoning the minds of so many, many people.

I recommend both books for those looking for a framework of how to approach this. The world seems on the brink of a Christian vs. Muslim holy war, but the real philosophical conflict is reason and naturalism vs. faith and supernaturalism. Reason must win such a conflict, because millions will die and suffer if it does not, and at best we will reap ourselves a new dark age. Reason and science has expanded our knowledge of the universe in the last 200 years more than faith has done in the previous ten thousand. It has brought us abundant agriculture, computers, transportation, communications, mathematics, medicine, means to extend life, to eliminate harsh work, and to set ourselves free to live lives of quality and excellence. Your life is as rich as it is today because of these principles and methods. The supporters of reason and science are outnumbered ten to one, but this is perhaps the most important struggle the world has to face in the coming century. It is time for atheists and humanists to stop being quite so polite and to stand up for the principles of the enlightenment project, to organize, and not be silent any longer.

Fascism { The end of any lingering illusions that we are a just nation...

Military Commissions Act of 2006 - The Torture Bill

* Makes torture de facto legal.
* Suspends Habeus Corpus (unconstitutional), a bedrock of legal protection since the Magna Carta in the year 1215.
* Allows the President to interpret the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners to his liking.
* Eliminates judicial review of any of these abuses.
* Allows coerced evidence.
* Allows secret evidence to be used against someone.
* Indefinite detention without being charged with any crime.
* Applies to U.S. citizens. If the president says you are an enemy combatant, all your rights vanish under the guise of national security. He could send liberals who piss him off to Gitmo. This is basically a Sedition Act.
* Pardons Bush and his entire administration of war crimes they have comitted, including retroactively, since 2001-09-11

The House votes to adopt the Senate language of the bill tomorrow. It will almost certainly pass and be signed into law. Are these the acts of intelligent, balanced, and considered men and women? No. This is a work of utter treason. We failed to heed Nietzsche's warning.

Politics { The RNC at TC, part deux

Dear RNC and GOP,

Welcome to MN in 2008. We will gladly take your money. I understand you have a lot of it. You may also hear a lot of stirring speeches and welcoming words from your lackeys in this State. But try that hate filled, fear mongering that you did in 2004 in New York, and you will find us a very cold place indeed. That stuff may fly on the coasts but here in the land of 'Prarie Home Companion' we don't stand for it, sure we're passive-aggressive and won't say anything to your face, but that is when you need to start looking over your shoulder.

I was dreadfully disappointed in 2004 when I was unable to protest the visit of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney when they visited Rochester, something about only party faithful could attend the rallies of the 'elected' leaders of our country. But hopefully this will not be a problem in 2008 right? Your party can handle a little criticism and protesting right?

Looking forward to making your stay in MN as uncomfortable as possible.

Sincerely,

A Minnesota Liberal

9.27.2006

Science { The Living Cell

Fascinating video.

Politics { Damn, I hope we can spray for them...

RNC chooses the Twin Cities for the 2008 Convention.

http://feeds.dailykos.com/~r/dailykos/index/~3/28420656/913

This means I will probably now have a criminal record when I am arrested by the police for protesting the Convention.

I was hoping the DNC would get here first, or actually they can still come. We have more than enough room, and they should hold the conventions at the same time. That would be awesome.

It is going to take years to get the stink of that many Republicans in one place out of here. We're still cleaning after Bush and Cheney's visit in 2004.

Politics { Olberman is my new hero

Watch this video.

Edit: update, the transcript for those who cannot view QuickTime: (from crooksandliars )

And finally tonight, a Special Comment about President Clinton’s interview. The headlines about them are, of course, entirely wrong. It is not essential that a past President, bullied and sandbagged by a monkey posing as a newscaster, finally lashed back.

It is not important that the current President’s "portable public chorus" has described his predecessor’s tone as "crazed."

Our tone should be crazed. The nation’s freedoms are under assault by an administration whose policies can do us as much damage as Al-Qaeda; the nation’s "marketplace of ideas" is being poisoned, by a propaganda company so blatant that Tokyo Rose would’ve quit. Nonetheless.

The headline is this: Bill Clinton did what almost none of us have done, in five years. He has spoken the truth about 9/11, and the current presidential administration.

"At least I tried," he said of his own efforts to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden. "That’s the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They had eight months to try; they did not try. I tried."

Thus in his supposed emeritus years, has Mr. Clinton taken forceful and triumphant action for honesty, and for us; action as vital and as courageous as any of his presidency; action as startling and as liberating, as any, by anyone, in these last five long years.

The Bush Administration did not try to get Osama Bin Laden before 9/11.

The Bush Administration ignored all the evidence gathered by its predecessors.

The Bush Administration did not understand the Daily Briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S."

The Bush Administration… did… not… try.—

Moreover, for the last five years one month and two weeks, the current administration, and in particular the President, has been given the greatest "pass" for incompetence and malfeasance, in American history!

President Roosevelt was rightly blamed for ignoring the warning signs — some of them, 17 years old — before Pearl Harbor.

President Hoover was correctly blamed for — if not the Great Depression itself — then the disastrous economic steps he took in the immediate aftermath of the Stock Market Crash.

Even President Lincoln assumed some measure of responsibility for the Civil War — though talk of Southern secession had begun as early as 1832.

But not this President.

To hear him bleat and whine and bully at nearly every opportunity, one would think someone else had been President on September 11th, 2001 — or the nearly eight months that preceded it.

That hardly reflects the honesty nor manliness we expect of the Executive.

KO-Bush.jpg

But if his own fitness to serve is of no true concern to him, perhaps we should simply sigh and keep our fingers crossed, until a grown-up takes the job three Januarys from now.

Except… for this:

After five years of skirting even the most inarguable of facts — that he was President on 9/11 and he must bear some responsibility for his, and our, unreadiness, Mr. Bush has now moved, unmistakably and without conscience or shame, towards re-writing history, and attempting to make the responsibility, entirely Mr. Clinton’s.

Of course he is not honest enough to do that directly.

As with all the other nefariousness and slime of this, our worst presidency since James Buchanan, he is having it done for him, by proxy.

Thus, the sandbag effort by Fox News, Friday afternoon.

Consider the timing: The very same weekend the National Intelligence Estimate would be released and show the Iraq war to be the fraudulent failure it is — not a check on terror, but fertilizer for it!

The kind of proof of incompetence, for which the administration and its hyenas at Fox need to find a diversion, in a scapegoat.

It was the kind of cheap trick which would get a journalist fired — but a propagandist, promoted:

Promise to talk of charity and generosity; but instead launch into the lies and distortions with which the Authoritarians among us attack the virtuous and reward the useless.

And don’t even be professional enough to assume the responsibility for the slanders yourself; blame your audience for "e-mailing" you the question.

Mr. Clinton responded as you have seen.

He told the great truth un-told… about this administration’s negligence, perhaps criminal negligence, about Bin Laden.

He was brave.

Then again, Chris Wallace might be braver still. Had I — in one moment surrendered all my credibility as a journalist — and been irredeemably humiliated, as was he, I would have gone home and started a new career selling seeds by mail.

The smearing by proxy, of course, did not begin Friday afternoon.

Disney was first to sell-out its corporate reputation, with "The Path to 9/11."

Of that company’s crimes against truth one needs to say little. Simply put: someone there enabled an Authoritarian zealot to belch out Mr. Bush’s new and improved history.

The basic plot-line was this: because he was distracted by the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton failed to prevent 9/11.

The most curious and in some ways the most infuriating aspect of this slapdash theory, is that the Right Wingers who have advocated it — who try to sneak it into our collective consciousness through entertainment, or who sandbag Mr. Clinton with it at news interviews — have simply skipped past its most glaring flaw.

Had it been true that Clinton had been distracted from the hunt for Bin Laden in 1998 because of the Lewinsky nonsense — why did these same people not applaud him for having bombed Bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan and Sudan on August 20th of that year? For mentioning Bin Laden by name as he did so?

That day, Republican Senator Grams of Minnesota invoked the movie "Wag The Dog."

Republican Senator Coats of Indiana questioned Mr. Clinton’s judgment.

Republican Senator Ashcroft of Missouri — the future Attorney General — echoed Coats.

Even Republican Senator Arlen Specter questioned the timing.

And of course, were it true Clinton had been "distracted" by the Lewinsky witch-hunt — who on earth conducted the Lewinsky witch-hunt? Who turned the political discourse of this nation on its head for two years?

Who corrupted the political media?

Who made it impossible for us to even bring back on the air, the counter-terrorism analysts like Dr. Richard Haass, and James Dunegan, who had warned, at this very hour, on this very network, in early 1998, of cells from the Middle East who sought to attack us, here?

Who preempted them… in order to strangle us with the trivia that was… "All Monica All The Time"?

Who… distracted whom?

This is, of course, where — as is inevitable — Mr. Bush and his henchmen prove not quite as smart as they think they are.

The full responsibility for 9/11 is obviously shared by three administrations, possibly four.

But, Mr. Bush, if you are now trying to convince us by proxy that it’s all about the distractions of 1998 and 1999, then you will have to face a startling fact that your minions may have hidden from you.

The distractions of 1998 and 1999, Mr. Bush, were carefully manufactured, and lovingly executed, not by Bill Clinton… but by the same people who got you… elected President.

Thus instead of some commendable acknowledgment that you were even in office on 9/11 and the lost months before it… we have your sleazy and sloppy rewriting of history, designed by somebody who evidently redd the Orwell playbook too quickly.

Thus instead of some explanation for the inertia of your first eight months in office, we are told that you have kept us "safe" ever since — a statement that might range anywhere from Zero, to One Hundred Percent, true.

We have nothing but your word, and your word has long since ceased to mean anything.

And, of course, the one time you have ever given us specifics about what you have kept us safe from, Mr. Bush — you got the name of the supposedly targeted Tower in Los Angeles… wrong.

Thus was it left for the previous President to say what so many of us have felt; what so many of us have given you a pass for in the months and even the years after the attack:

You did not try.

You ignored the evidence gathered by your predecessor.

You ignored the evidence gathered by your own people.

Then, you blamed your predecessor.

That would be the textbook definition… Sir, of cowardice.

To enforce the lies of the present, it is necessary to erase the truths of the past.

That was one of the great mechanical realities Eric Blair — writing as George Orwell — gave us in the novel "1984."

The great philosophical reality he gave us, Mr. Bush, may sound as familiar to you, as it has lately begun to sound familiar to me.

"The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power…

"Power is not a means; it is an end.

"One does not establish a dictatorship to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.

"The object of persecution, is persecution. The object of torture, is torture. The object of power… is power."

Earlier last Friday afternoon, before the Fox ambush, speaking in the far different context of the closing session of his remarkable Global Initiative, Mr. Clinton quoted Abraham Lincoln’s State of the Union address from 1862.

"We must disenthrall ourselves."

Mr. Clinton did not quote the rest of Mr. Lincoln’s sentence. He might well have.

"We must disenthrall ourselves — and then… we shall save our country."

And so has Mr. Clinton helped us to disenthrall ourselves, and perhaps enabled us, even at this late and bleak date… to save… our… country.



The "free pass" has been withdrawn, Mr. Bush…

You did not act to prevent 9/11.

We do not know what you have done, to prevent another 9/11.

You have failed us — then leveraged that failure, to justify a purposeless war in Iraq which will have, all too soon, claimed more American lives than did 9/11.

You have failed us anew in Afghanistan.

And you have now tried to hide your failures, by blaming your predecessor.

And now you exploit your failure, to rationalize brazen torture — which doesn’t work anyway; which only condemns our soldiers to water-boarding; which only humiliates our country further in the world; and which no true American would ever condone, let alone advocate.And there it is, sir:

Are yours the actions of a true American?

I’m K.O., good night, and good luck.

Tech { Its 10am, do you know where your SysAdmin is? (part deux)

The upgrade saga continues. I think it is probably just me. After getting some sleep last night, and sleeping in way late due to a 4 hour power outage at 4am killing my alarm clock I have some fresh perspective. I followed the upgrade doc and it didn't work. I completely removed and reinstalled and it worked, sort of...I have a support call in to Symantec because post-install the vcs.war file, which is used by the internal cluster webserver is missing and I can't find documentation on how to regenerate or re-install it (anyone, if anyone does read this, and can help please leave a comment). If I had time here would be my next steps (but I don't have time, these systems go live Monday, and I still have to re-gen the shared zone and configure the user environments):

* re-jump the machines with a fresh Solaris 10 6/06 image
* install on the virgin image

I am scheduled to upgrade another host today at 11am. Hope it goes smoother.

9.26.2006

Tech { Its almost midnight, do you know where you SysAdmin is?

In his office upgrading a new production cluster to Veritas, I'm sorry Symantec Storage Foundation HA 5.0.

This is the first generation (along with NBU 6.0) that was developed post-merger. It doesn't totally suck, but it is bloated and top heavy. Minimal VxVM + VxFS install is almost 900MB add VCS into it and it is almost 1.2GB. Minimal 'required' (required by the docs, I am sure it can be trimmed, just too tired to look into it tonight) install if 41 packages. Installation of new client software (such as 'hagui' and 'vea') are required, at least with 4.1, I could use my 4.0 client to connect. Tons of 'security' features, that if they do as advertised are long overdue, however they require additional servers (Root Broker) and additional setup.

Like NBU 6.0 it feels like they are gearing this up with features that allow for centralized management via Command Central (another purchasable product).

In short Symanitas is pulling a classic Symantec where full functionality requires additional products.

The new GUI while a bit cleaner and shinier and very yellow, has some nice features (when you are working on multiple nodes, the active window only contains the host of your interest instead of all hosts you are logged into and it can be easily toggled). Back are also some features I've missed since the graphical days of VXVA, a volume view.

The upgrade from v4.1 did not go smoothly, the new version accepting, but then going flaky with the old cluster configs. I did a complete uninstall/re-install, this time bypassing the main 'installer' and installing VxFS, VxVM, VCS one at a time. The installers do not show you as much of what is going on as they used to, which is a negative and they do not let you selectively trim optional packages anymore, you 3 options, 1) Install what is required; 2) Install all of the packages for X; 3) Install the whole wad, everything plus every option. Ugh.

A tool that was easy to install, easy to configure, and easy to manage feels (final judgement is still out) like it was made unnecessarily complex. The old functionality and CLI are still there, but there is also a whole lot more, not all of it good.

Symantec, if I wanted VVR, I would install the package and license. If I wanted flashsnap, I will install the package and license. If I want I/O fencing, well you get the picture.

So now total installs if you do a full Solaris 10 + OEM install (which we do), minus Star Office, plus full SFHA install, you OS image is now close to 5GB. I know disk is cheap, but there is something to be said about less is more.

Horoscope { Fucking-A!

My horoscope for this week:

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Jeff Greenwald (www.ethicaltraveler.com) has traveled extensively all over the planet for the last quarter of a century. "Do the citizens of the world revile us Americans more each year?" I asked him. He said that while millions upon millions have come to despise the U.S. government, most don't actually hate us, the American people. That's because they know firsthand the corruption and tyranny of their own countries' politicians, and so they don't hold our awful government against us. Let this distinction serve as a guide for you, Virgo. The time is right for you to fight inept institutions and rotten traditions and bad ideas, but without hating anyone.


Bitching time for some player non-hating!

9.25.2006

Poem { Simple Love

gentle creature curled in my lap
you sleep so contented
so peaceful
you ask of me so little
food, shelter, love, and a warm safe place to sleep
I give to you my lap and warmth and comfort
you forgive
you do not judge
you help me focus on the now
to forgot, for a brief time the rest of the world
the struggle of life
for a brief period, I am calm

9.22.2006

Politcs { Hackergate? Come on people...

Hackergate

Refer to Godwin's Law. It seems like nowadays any political 'scandal' if left to run long enough, someone will called it 'something'-gate.

Creativity is dead.

PS: The Kennedy campagin is kind of like advertising. Stop watching/listening to it, and it will go away like the big giant scary billboards in that 'Treehouse of Terror' episode of the Simpsons.

PSS: I feel that the Klobuchar campagin acted responsibly, they went to the FBI first, fired the guitly party and once the investigation was no longer pending, released a statement to the press. The GOPs and the Bush Administration, as they like to point out oh so often, taught us that you can't comment on something if there is an ongoing investigation.

Casual Friday { White and Nerdy

Weird Al

9.19.2006

Video { Bush Rose Garden Meltdown

MSNBC Olbermann commentary on Bush's reaction to a question about Colin Powell's opposition to the Administration's stance on torture:

http://www.alternet.org/blogs/video/41824/

Please watch this video.

Here is Powell's letter to McCain that is referenced in the news piece. (Note this is a copy of the letter provided on CNN)

Distraction { ITLAPD

Avast ye scurvy bilge rats!

P.S.: Ninjas are better.

9.18.2006

Morals { There is no compromise for torture

We should not torture, period. End of story. I can't believe we are even having this dialogue.

WAKE THE FUCK UP AMERICA!

(before you get all up in my kool-aid note I said torture, interrogations are a necessary part of law enforcement, but there is a difference between asking questions and asking questions while pulling someone's fingernails out)

Politics { MN DFL needs to brace for another 4 years of Pawlenty

Dear MN DFL,

I write as a concerned citizen who has served in the ranks and carried the banner of your organization. Please note that while Mike Hatch has garned the victory in the MN Primary, and has a name recognition, he is perhaps ill suited to be governor, having better chops to be Attorney General, and in a race against Pawlenty he will have a tough run. The two candidates are too similar and represent the status quo. Please be prepared to write off the Govenor's race and focus on getting Amy Klobuchar elected to US Senate, and to insure that the DFL (or non-GOP) candidates gain control of the State House and maintain control of the State Senate. Since I feel it will be tough to win against Pawlenty (as it will be hard to bring anything bad against him since he has done nothing...for 4 years, and more if you count his service in the State House) you must ensure that his ineptness at leading us is kept in check and minimized if possible, with a solid front in the Legislature.

Mr. Hatch, if elected, please remember that 24% of us voted for Becky Lourey and you would do well to get her involved some how, she has great ideas as well as passion and energy.


PS - Olmsted County DFL, you should take a page from the Senate Districts in the Twin Cities on how to run a DFL caucus. I almost left the party after serving as a delegate in the congressional district caucus. You have some serious internal issues that need to be fixed.

References:

MN 2006 Primary Election Results

Musings { But seriously

I know I have spent the summer posting YouTube and dodging commentary on the big issues. But I needed a break to be self-absorbed. Now that the mid-term election is less than 2 months away, it is time to get serious. I fear if we do not enact appreciable change and shake up the composition of the Federal Congress, and to a lesser extent the MN State Legislature, we will have lost our last chance to save what is left of our way of life. If we do not enact turnover, and remove from power those that have willingly handed our future, our economy, and our personal liberties to this Imperialist Administration, we may never get a second chance (check various news agencies, the next two months promise to be a flurry of legislation legalizing the worst of what the Bush Administration and its cabal have committed, from illegal NSA wiretapping to torture of prisoners). I send this call for removal to any and all members of Congress who have not had a stand against this Administration, who tow the Administrations line without question, and remain silent while atrocities on a level never before seen in this country occur to its own people. The status quo must be broken.

I have had in the last week, many poignant discussions with people who are ideologically on the other end of the spectrum. We were able to agree on some issues (illegal wiretapping, DM&E, and education) and come to agreements of disagreement on others (like abortion, I understand their religious feelings on the subject while not agreeing with it, and they understand that my point is from a personal liberties stance and that legislation reduces a woman's freedom) without resorting to name calling, sound bytes of vitriolic hate or lasting anger towards each other. Why can't our elected officials do this? We are all in this together. Stop grandstanding and start fixing some of this before it is too late.

Vote in November. Vote change.

Round up of my hot-button issues:
* NSA wiretapping (stop it immediately)
* War in Iraq (we should get out and should never have been there in the first place)
* Presidential abuses of power (from signing statements to torture policy, ITMFA!)
* Bring up the entire administration in an international court on human rights violations, we push for this against other leaders of other countries, because we are currently the biggest and baddest doesn't mean we can be held accountable
* universal health care
* universal access to anyone who wants to go to college
* separation of church and state (we need it for a reason, politicians are free to worship as they see fit but leave the sermon at church and out of legislation)
* stop to corporate welfare
* harsher penalties to corporate violators (on anything from EPA regulations to SEC violations) such as the removal of corporate chart and forced disolvment for the worst violations
* removal of corporate donations to political entities (corporations are entities, not indvidual citizens, they should not have the same constituational protections)

Ah, that felt good.


My fellow Americans. As a young boy, I dreamed of being a baseball, but
tonight I say, we must move forward, not backward, upward not forward,
and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.

-- Kodos gives a speech, "Treehouse of Horror VII"

9.17.2006

Exposition { Lines of evidence

It was one of those jaw-dropping moments: she'd never heard of the Met. I was innocently kibitzing about a table of friends and strangers playing Trivial Pursuit when I discovered this small factoid. A classmate's college-educated finacee haplessly admitted she couldn't answer the question, especially since she'd never even heard of "what was that thing again?"

This is when it all became clear to me. I am a snob. I've suspected as much for awhile, but this was the confirmation. It isn't as though I have spent any time at the Met, and I'm certainly no musical cognoscenti, but please. Even my southern-born, stubbornly Midwestern soul was shocked. Doesn't everyone know this sort of thing? How do you live without this most basic knowledge?

What's more, I am an aging snob (the worst kind?). Suddenly, Philip Roth seems less needlessly pretentious. Camus can't speak to my heart anymore, but instead feels adolescent. My friends no longer drink up my beer, but help themselves to fine wine and liquers at my house (yet another reason to never stock chambord- I'd go broke). I don't understand the music/noise of younger labmates. I never even used to read the paper, but now find arguing politics with my beloved can be hot. I'm terrified that any day now I might start to find Prarie Home Companion funny and insightful. Let's not even talk about my new bifocals in their designer frames, or my incipient McSweeney's obsession.

My only consolation- scant comfort though it be- is that this transformation seems more or less universal among my acquaintances. What is it about years, or income, that makes us less tolerant of the hoi polloi? Are we all this much of a cultural stereotype?

9.14.2006

Metaphysical { This week's horoscope: Virgo

(from Free Will Astrology)

 VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): There was one main reason why America's founding fathers gave Thomas Jefferson, not Benjamin Franklin, the job of composing the Declaration of Independence in 1776. They were afraid that Franklin, a compulsive teaser and trickster, would slip jokes into the document. In my opinion, we Americans would have been better served if Franklin had been chosen and allowed to mess around. After all, even the most profound commitments and weighty situations benefit from the leavening power of humor. Keep that in mind during the oh-so-serious games that are ahead for you, Virgo.



Rock on!

9.12.2006

[Politics] Wrap-Up 2006 Minnesota Primary

So, no surprises, really, in any of the major races.

Hatch, Klobuchar, Ellison in the 5th.

Lourey gets about a quarter of the vote. It would have been nice if she could have pulled down 30-35% to put some pressure on Hatch not to take the liberal base for granted.

The Attorney General race is still out as of this writing, which is about what I expected. Looks like Lori Swanson may pull it out, unless Kelley can make up about 8,000 votes.

The Republicans pick who we knew they would.

I hope Keith Ellison can walk the walk and not just talk the talk. He'll be elected no matter what. Hmm. Jay Pond might be worth a look, but Ellison and Hatch will probably get my vote, despite my reservations.

Politics { I Voted, So Should You

Here is a link to the Secretary of State's polling place locator.

MN has a 1 party primary, so you can only vote for the candidates in a single party, but that is ok, it is more like removing the wheat from the chaff.

This is the first election in my new home district (1st) and eventhough I had checked the box to be registered when I changed my driver's license, I had to register at the polling place. It was quick and easy and the people were nice. The election judge supervising the new ballot reading machine was funny as he had little confidence in the new machine since he had been overseeing elections since well before my time (this gave me a little pause as I am skeptical of provisions of the Help America Vote Act which has required new electronic counting machines in all places in MN), but things appeared to go off without a hitch. I was the first new registered voter for my precinct and the 7th to cast a vote total since the polls opened at 7am.

I have continued to do my civic duty.

On a side note, I was very disappointed that Bush took the anniversary of 9/11 to stump for his war in Iraq as if the two had anything to do with each other. Thanks Mr. Bush for exploiting the loss we as a country have suffered.

9.11.2006

9/11 { remembrance of a Liberal

I remember 9/11. It was a beautiful September morning. Cool with a sharp azure blue sky. I was happy. I woke up, showered and went through the normal morning routine. The gears of the world and my life moved as normal. I turned on MPR and caught a newscast mid-stream, it didn't make any sense and I was only half-paying attention distracted by some thought. Then I heard that a plane flew into the World Trade Center. I stopped and thought, as many did that morning what a horrible accident. I drove to work listening to the confused news reports. When I arrived at work, they had rolled out a TV and set it to the news. While we watched a second plane hit the other tower. It was no longer random, we were under attack. I remember the fear, confusion, anger, apathy, sadness, and sympathy for those killed on myself and my co-workers. I remember the weeks following it, when we as a nation came together to help, much in the same way we as a nation pulled together for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. And by we I don't mean the government, I mean the citizens. The government after 9/11 saw an opportunity to co-opt power and shamelessly pursued its own agenda of empire building after making token efforts to retaliate. The 'War on Terror' started, but little did we know the terror would come from our government who has kept the American public in varying states of confusion and fear since that terrible day in September.

I suggest you read Joan Walsh's salon.com article 'What We Lost' as it sums up my feelings on this subject well and she is a far better writer than I.

I hope we the people can survive this.

9.10.2006

Politics { MN Primary Part Deux

[I misrepresented some information about Tim Walz based on an assumption I had after meeting him in person, it has been corrected and links to their websites added -ed]
Here is who I am supporting in the primary. I as well do not work for these campagins:

1st District:

Tina Liebling - State House of Representatives. She was elected 2 years ago and was one of the first to break the Republican stronghold on this region. She is intelligent and energetic and her ideas are good for this area and good for the State.

Tim Walz - Running against Gil Gutknect for US House. Gil is a Bush parrot. Tim has served in the National Guard in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He is a teacher. He is passionate about us as a people and our State. He is like what our politicians in MN used to be, honest, hard working, and blessed with independent thought.

State wide:

Amy Klobuchar - for US Senate, becuase I respect her and think she will be good in Washington. She is no Wellstone, but she is a start back in the right direction. Plus Mark Kennedy, despite his misleading campagin literature, is a Bush parrot (worse than Coleman) and he is NOT independent of his Republican overlords.

Becky Lourey - for Governor. I grew up in her home district. I remember when she broke the Republican incumbent. She is a firebrand of energy and ideas. She is hardcore Minnesotan who cares about the State and the state of the State. She will not do stupid things like impose tax cuts and freezes when we are in a recession and have desparate need of State infrastructure. She is staunchly anti-war, but she has sacrificed for the current crisis. Her son was killed in Iraq in the pointless war.

CubeZoo as a blog will not endorse any candidates officially, but its members are free to do so. The contributors are staunchly liberal and progressive, but we will also hold our elected leaders to task regardless of who they are or which party they belong to, I hope this fall is a political and ideological revolution where we can reinstate some sanity into the ever increasingly weak Congress at the local, state, and national levels. These people are giving away their powers to the executive branch, and with it ours as well. Stop the insanity. VOTE!

9.09.2006

[Politics] 2006 Minnesota State Primary

Tuesday September 12 is the statewide electoral primary in Minnesota. Here are my personal endorsements for office. Please note I am not a part of any of these campaigns, and these opinions are only my own:

U.S. SENATE - Amy Klobuchar

5th DISTRICT US CONGRESS - Mike Erlandson
(this was a tough one, and I honestly thought about no endorsement. I have met the candidates running and I think Mike Erlandson is the best choice. I was completely unimpressed by Keith Ellison, despite the fact that Ellison has more progressive cred, I never got the sense that he knew what he was talking about or had any solid ideas for fixing the many problems our government needs to fix. Mike seemed to have some genuine ideas of HOW, where as Ellison just spoke soundbites that were meant to resonate with liberals like myself. There are also worse things than having a Democrat in the Martin Sabo mold who is actually interested in fiscally sound policy.)

GOVERNOR - Becky Lourey
(I will not vote for Mike Hatch in the primary. He's just not the man I want to give my vote to. He's pissed off Democrats with his style, and I'm not sure it would work well as governor. The man is a tenacious attorney general, but for Governor I have to give my vote to Becky.)

ATTORNEY GENERAL - Steve Kelley

SECRETARY OF STATE - Mark Ritchie

STATE AUDITOR - Rebecca Otto

Please vote on Tuesday!

9.06.2006

Design { The Airport of the Future Past

The Institute for the Future has an interesting 1960s video about the future of air travel...its nothing like we have today, in this future air travel is cool, hip, sexy, and has lots and lots of egg shaped things.





(found at boingboing)

9.05.2006

R.I.P. { Steve Irwin

Steve Irwin, better known as the 'Crocodile Hunter' was killed last weekend by a string-ray, whose barb stabbed in the chest.