Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This Man Is Not the Texas That I Know

I have posted several times now about Rick Perry, and I feel that I need to try to explain in more why I find his candidacy for the presidency particularly disturbing and threatening to the values and principles that I and many others hold as important.

I grew up in Texas, specifically in Lubbock, a medium-sized city surrounded by seemingly endless miles of cotton fields, out on the high plains of the northwest part of the state, approximately at the base of the Texas panhandle. I lived in Lubbock from the age of eight until I started college in San Antonio, and after that off-and-on until I finally moved for good to Charlotte, North Carolina at age 33, in 1997.

As I was growing up in the 1970s, I was very much aware that I lived in a conservative area, where Protestant Christianity was the dominant faith and "old-fashioned family values" ruled... probably all the more acutely aware being raised with my sister by a single mother who is an atheist and a liberal democrat. While there were certainly times, particularly in elementary school, when I felt somewhat out of place and self-conscious, I can honesty say that rarely if ever was I genuinely threatened or excluded because of my family's structure, attitudes, or beliefs. Looking back, I have to say that with few exceptions, the prevailing philosophy that I recall in Lubbock was one of political conservatism with regard to fiscal or economic issues, and a general "mind your own business" attitude toward most social issues. The social climate was certainly not one of genuine openness or tolerance, but on the other hand I recall few instances of true hatred, intolerance or bigotry. It's possible I could be wrong about this--time and distance can affect our memories and perceptions--but this is how I remember it.

I know that the description I've given must sound like damningly faint praise, and there are certainly reasons why I am glad I'm not living out the rest of my life in West Texas. But the point is that the toxic aura of radical intolerance and bigotry that I see surrounding Governor Perry is something truly ominous, much different from the more dignified conservatism that I remember from my time in Texas. When I see a man with Perry's popularity, who promotes policies and attitudes that directly exclude and demean anybody who does not share the governor's religious beliefs; who deliberately denigrates science and knowledge when it conflicts with his narrow interpretation of Biblical "truth" and suggests that the children of his state be indoctrinated with his beliefs; who pursues policies that are actively hostile and destructive to the health and well being of the people of his state and beyond... I find it abhorrent that this man might have the chance to do to the United States and the world, what he has already done to his, and my, home state.

Apparently Rick Perry Hasn't Been Praying Hard Enough

More than 90 percent of the state of Texas is under either "extreme" or "exceptional" drought conditions. A wildfire currently burning west of Dallas has destroyed twenty homes and forced evacuation of over a hundred others.

I thought that prayer rally in Houston earlier this month was supposed to take care of all this.

Seriously, I'm starting to wonder if the Texas drought is God's punishment on the state for inflicting Rick Perry on the world.

Monday, August 29, 2011


The past is a lying ghost,
the future, a taunting ghost,

and the present, afraid of ghosts, cowers trembling behind bushes
and rocks, sneaks around the corner, and slips silently away, escaping notice.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Squirrel Article

This is a really nice informational article about squirrels and their nests and young. I sure would like to have a nice cozy drey to curl up in sometimes. Here's a picture to illustrate what the article's author says about the mother squirrel carrying the babies.

The World I Know

Collective soul. This is one of my favorite songs, and probably my favorite music video ever. It's hard to watch this without getting choked up, and I definitely can relate to how the guy in this video feels. And I love that moment toward the end, when the pigeon lands on the guy's arm and suddenly the color comes back into his life. When he gets that sort of stunned expression on his face as he looks at the pigeon I get kind of nervous because maybe he forgot that he's standing of the edge of that roof.

I really miss the old MTV that showed music videos (get it? MTV? as in... Music TV?). I always kind of liked that device in a lot of the music videos where as the story of the video played out, the singer would just sort of show up in the background, like on this video where he's sitting on the bus that the protagonist is on.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I Only Wish I Could Have This Kind of Courage

Syrian political cartoonist Ali Ferzat was pulled off the street yesterday by government thugs and forced into a van. The hooligans worked Ferzat over, taking special care to break both of his hands, the tools of his trade, and then dumped him in the road, all because Ferzat has had the courage to criticize the corrupt and repressive regimes that rule Syria and other Middle-Eastern countries.

Here are a few of Ferzat's political cartoons. The captions under the cartoons are mine.
This is a drawing of Syrian President Assad, painting the tracks for the train of public protest that will ultimately run him over

This is a universal truth that is self-explanatory

I assume that this is, again, Syrian president Assad.

And here is a self-portrait that Ferzat created in his hospital room after, refusing to give in to the Syrian government's state terrorism:

One More Bob the Squirrel

I just had to share one more Bob the Squirrel comic. I could swear this same squirrel was sitting on my shoulder the whole time I was in graduate school working on my anthropology degree:

A Comic Strip Squirrel!

I had been unaware of Bob the Squirrel until this morning, but after spending some time on the web site, I can definitely recommend it! After all, any comic strip with an author who describes himself as "just a dude with a pen and a squirrel on his shoulder" can't help but be awesome!

Be careful about making rash statements about things that you assume could never really happen, because they can

I can still remember when I was a child, sometime in the 1970s, my mother, a lifelong liberal and sometime socialist, saying with confidence that if Ronald Reagan was ever elected president, we would move out of the country.

He was, of course, and we didn't. The point is not that she was not prepared to back up her words, but that at the time that she spoke them, the election of Reagan, a former actor and right-wing extremist, seemed, to her at least, to be at most a remote possibility.

It is unsettling to say the least that in retrospect, and compared to the current gang of Republican presidential hopefuls, Reagan seems almost a benign centrist. The spectacle of Democrats invoking President Reagan earlier this summer during the debt ceiling debate shows just how much more extreme the GOP "mainstream" has become.

So it's even more unsettling that after months of apparent apathy, the Republican masses, those who will be voting next year in the primaries, are now growing comfortable with, and even enthusiastic about, their slate of candidates. This contrasts with the latest opinion poll results for President Obama, in which his ratings are at an all-time low, with even his leadership ratings, formerly a strong area for the President, dropping below fifty percent.

These numbers can and will change over time, of course, and a lot can happen in the next year running up to the election. But in my opinion, the left wing of the Democratic Party should at least seriously think about the possibility of fielding a challenger to Barack Obama in the primaries. Obama has failed to adequately set himself apart from the Republicans in Congress, compromising and capitulating at almost every step. It is not surprising that his leadership numbers have dropped. If he emerges from next year's primary season appearing crippled, and the Republicans have nominated a strong candidate, such as extremest right-winger Rick Perry... the Democrats are going to wish that they had considered a candidate who could establish an equally strong, forceful contrast.

Texas Tragedies

As I have noted before on this blog, I grew up in Texas, and after reaching adulthood I lived there on and off until I was 33 years old. I grew up in Lubbock, out on the flat high plains of West Texas, where if you drive just a few miles out of the city you can get an uninterrupted 360 degree view of the horizon. I spent my undergraduate years in San Antonio, in south Texas, where I enjoyed the Mexican culture and food, and trips with my friends to the border towns and the state parks of the central Texas hill country. It has been well over a decade since I last moved away from the state for the last time, it is extremely unlikely that I will ever live there again, and to be honest I have no desire to move back. However, I have very good memories of the part of my life that I spent there, and I know that Texas is and always will be a huge part of who I am, ultra-liberal politics and all.

This is why it is so hard to read the news that comes out of Texas these days. Governor Rick Perry, who could be our next President, is possibly the most loathsome political figure that I have seen in my lifetime. More so than his predecessor, in my opinion. More so than Bachmann or Palin, if only because more people seem to take him seriously. This is a governor of the second biggest state in the union who seemingly every day, with every utterance that he makes, spews contempt of science and learning, of anybody or anything that differs from his narrow fundamentalist view of the world, who surrounds himself with radical religious rightists who resemble more than anything the Taliban... just replace the word "Islam" with "Christian."

On another front, the state's environment, wildlife and agricultural industry is being decimated by the most severe drought in recorded history. I heard this story on NPR this morning while I was waiting for Starbucks to open. The bats that the article mentions are an iconic symbol of the city of Austin; the huge colony that nests under the Congress Avenue bridge can be seen every evening at dusk during the summer swarming out for their nighttime feeding. The loss of any wildlife population is a tragedy, but if this bat colony dies out it would also kill off part of the soul of an awesome city.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How To Talk To Climate Skeptics (and maybe get somewhere)

This is an outstanding interview by the British newspaper the Guardian, with Texas Tech University climate researcher Katharine Hayhoe. Dr. Hayhoe is not only a respected climate scientist who studies and frequently speaks out on global warming, but is also a member of the evangelical Christian community, a community that has unfortunately not been won over to the reality of anthropogenic climate change. Dr. Hayhoe has worked both to spread the word on the necessity of dealing with the causes of global warming, and to bridge the gap between the evangelical community and climate science. One notable quote from this interview:
The reason I do climate science is because it has a very practical application: We have a very narrow window of time to do something meaningful about this issue, and that window is closing. Every year we go without a binding climate policy to reduce our emissions shrinks the chance we have of hitting lower emissions targets. So we're taking away our choices. By not making a choice, we're forcing ourselves into the higher scenarios.
If there were more scientists like Dr. Hayhoe, who recognize the necessity of meeting with evangelicals on their terms and working to educate them on the reality of climate change, this could go a long way toward  building a real and necessary consensus on the issue.

The Latest From the Republican Competition To Determine Who Is the Least Informed

It's really getting scary when Mitt Romney is going out of his way to disavow his past, relatively moderate, statements on the need to address global warming, and convince voters that he is just as backwards and ignorant about global climate change as Rick Perry. Romney is, after all, the guy who not so long ago was being cast as the more sensible alternative to the pack of extremists that makes up most of the Republican field.

Among Romney's recent statements: "What I'm not willing to do is spend trillions of dollars on something I don't know the answer to." I can understand Mitt's reluctance to risk having any of his tax money spent to deal with such a mysterious issue, given the painful extended period of unemployment that he's going through. But if he is really struggling with doubts about the reality of climate change, maybe he should consult with some of the 97 to 98 percent of climate scientists who confirm that anthropogenic climate change is, in fact a reality.

I apologize in advance for this...

OK, so if I'm at Target looking for advice on laxatives, then which whisperer would I want to speak to?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rick Perry Has a Substantial Lead in Republican Primary Polls

What I find most scary about these poll results, and what the NY Times analysis does not go into, is that Rick Perry is a highly skilled campaigner. Even though so many of his statements sound justifiably absurd to those of us on the left (that is, the correct) side of the spectrum, Perry is an expert at pulling the exact strings of his constituency that need to be pulled to ensure his success. There is a reason that this guy, who was a D student in college, who thinks that creationism is taught alongside evolution in his state's public schools against the ruling of the US Supreme Court, who believes global warming is a hoax perpetrated by climate scientists and that prayer is an instrument of public policy, has been elected governor of one of the largest states in the US three times, and in his entire political career has never lost an election.

In spite his seeming penchant for idiotic gaffes and errors, Perry is no idiot. The political left and center will take him lightly at our own risk.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I'm not sure whether to laugh or throw up...

Kellogg Co. is suing a Mayan cultural defense nonprofit group, the Maya Archaeology Initiative (MAI), over the nonprofit's use of a logo featuring an image of a toucan. The suit states that Kellogg is concerned that the group's use of the toucan logo might create "customer confusion." MAI uses a somewhat abstract but still realistic and dignified representation of the colorful bird, which is native to the Mayan homeland area in southern Mexico and Central America. Kellogg uses the character Toucan Sam, an absurd-looking cartoon, to represent it's heavily sweetened children's breakfast cereal Froot Loops.

Just for clarification, here is the MAI logo:

Here is Toucan Sam:

You can, of course, see why Kellogg feels that there might be a problem. After all, after viewing the two images side-by-side, I have the sudden urge to never eat another bite of any Kellogg's product as long as I live.

Excellent Source for Progressive Talking Points

Blogger The New Deal has put together an outstanding collection of links to fact sources of interest to progressives on various subjects. And this is only part 1. I'm definitely looking forward to part 2. This is one to bookmark!

Rick Perry, (Unintentional) Global Warming Advocate

According to Ezra Klein's blog post, with his recent statement questioning the validity of climate change research it appears that Governor Perry has unleashed a wave of fact-checking that has confirmed just how shaky the ground is that the global warming deniers stand on. Among other things, the resulting publicity seems to be helping environmental advocates move past the imaginary "climategate" scandal from a couple of years back, which deniers have harped on as supposed evidence that global warming is some kind of partisan fraud.

So I just want to say, thanks, Governor Perry.

Introducing the newly (self)appointed Presidential literary adviser, Tevi Troy

I've never heard of this guy (probably no surprise), but here he is making the astonishing case that the President is not allowed to read fiction because it sends the message that he is "out of touch with reality."


It gets better. Here is Troy's analysis of a couple of Obama's selections:
Beyond the issue of fiction vs. nonfiction, there is also the question of genre.The Bayou Trilogy has received excellent reviews, but it is a mystery series. While there is nothing wrong with that per se, not every presidential reading selection is worth revealing to the public. Bill Clinton, for example, used to love mysteries, but he did not advertise the titles of what he once called “my little cheap thrills outlet.” Room is another well-received novel, but it is about a mother and child trapped in an 11-by-11-foot room. This claustrophobic adventure does not strike me as the right choice for someone trying to escape the perception that he is trapped in a White House bubble.
The Grossman novel, which is about an Israeli woman who hikes to avoid hearing bad news about her soldier son, could create complications for Obama on the Israel front. Grossman is a well-known critic of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, so reading this novel will likely not assuage those concerned about Obama’s views on the Middle East.
Troy goes on to note the preponderance of  "liberal" authors on Obama's reading list, to criticize the President for purchasing his books at a Martha's Vineyard bookstore that features mostly "liberal" selections, and to suggest that the POTUS is "intellectually incurious."

My first reaction to Obama's reading list is that I might want to check out some of those titles. Room in particular is said to be excellent, one of the best-reviewed novels of the past year. More to the point, I think the fact that the President enjoys reading for the sake of enjoyment, whatever the genre or "message" sent by the specific titles, sends an excellent message. I don't see anything particularly controversial or edgy in the list of titles presented, and I might think even more positively of the selection if there had been.

If anyone seems "intellectually incurious" here, it is Tevi Troy, for asserting that Obama's summer vacation reading list should be vetted to make sure it sends the correct "message." Maybe Mr. Troy could pick out some nice westerns for the Pres, or a Tom Clancy novel?

Of course, if Obama really wants to read some fiction that would help him to escape reality, he could always just go here, or here.

Voodoo Queen

Here is a better quality image of Karen's newly completed painting that I posted the other day.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Truth-O-Meter

I put a new gadget on the right column of this page, the Truth-O-Meter, from the website Operated by the St. Petersburg Times, this is a non-partisan--seriously, if you don't believe it, go check it out--fact-checking website that verifies the "truthiness" of claims by politicians and government officials of both parties and all political persuasions. I consider it essential because not only do I want to see incorrect information from the right exposed, I also want to verify the truth of any statements or claims by those on the left before I go repeating them.

The truth will set you free.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


And here are a couple of photos of Karen's bearded dragon, Skittles.

Awesome Painting!

This is the painting that my wife Karen just finished!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Kind of Inequality that Boggles the Mind

I ran across this article from the non-partisan PolitiFact website today through a tweet by Michael Moore.

There is more wealth in the hands of just 400 Americans than in is possessed by half of the people in the United States.

That is over 150 million Americans who combined are not as wealthy as the combined richest 400.

Take a minute and think about the difference between 400 and 150,000,000.

Here are the figures from the Politifact article, which fact-checked Moore's claim:
In 2010, the combined net worth of the 400 richest Americans was $1.37 trillion. The combined net worth of the bottom sixty percent (note: that's actually substantially more than the half of Americans that Moore cited) was approximately $1.26 trillion.

Yes, this is a capitalist economy, for better or worse. But this degree of concentration of most of the wealth in the hands of so few is something that I find obscene. What possible benefit can result from such a staggering accumulation of wealth by those few people? How many luxury homes and yachts and other material goods does any one person or family need to be satisfied, while they ignore the millions of families who are desperately scraping just to get food on the table and to keep a roof over their heads?

This is why I always get a sick feeling when I hear the right vowing that they will never accept a tax increase on the wealthy. This is why I am disgusted that so many Americans who are not wealthy, who not only do not benefit but who are tragically harmed by the policies of the Republican party, have been brainwashed into thinking that the Tea Party and the extreme right represent their interests.

Those of us on the left who believe that something needs to be done to change this drastic inequality are branded as unpatriotic and socialist by the radical right.

I believe that advocating and speaking up for changing what is wrong in this country is the most patriotic action that you can take. Michael Moore, for one, is a patriot, for speaking up against this kind of injustice.

And if wanting to see some of that wealth redistributed so that the poorest, most disadvantaged Americans can have the security that they need to work to improve their lives, instead of being forced to choose between just plain survival or, worse, giving up... if that makes me a socialist, then I will be a proud socialist.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Just because you are a Republican doesn't necessarily mean you are an unprincipled idiot

Some time back I noted CNN columnist David Frum's commentary on the debt "crisis" as evidence that there are some decent folks in the Republican party.

Now Republican presidential candidate and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman shows some real courage, setting himself apart from his colleagues with this tweet from yesterday:

To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.

No, Mr. Huntsman, you are not crazy. Misguided on most issues, maybe, but at least you call it as you see it. And you have a sense of humor too, judging from this follow-up tweet:

I wonder if a tweet where I admit how much I like Captain Beefheart will make the followers skyrocket even more!

Rick Perry, Man of Science

More on Governor Perry's anti-science biases, this time denying the overwhelming evidence of human-created global climate change, from the Texas Tribune.

Quote from Rick Perry: "I do believe that the issue of global warming has been politicized. I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects."

I have never understood the insistence of climate change deniers that scientists are manipulating data and falsifying evidence in favor of global warming for some sort of unspecified personal financial gain. It is clear that those who have the most to gain are the corporations that are the source of global warming pollutants, and their stockholders, whose interests lie in maintaining the status quo.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The existence of Rick Perry alone is enough evidence to discredit the theory of "Intelligent Design"

Rick Perry calls evolution a "theory that's out there." He also apparently is not aware of the 1987 Supreme Court ruling that prohibits teaching of creationism in public schools, even in Texas.

For the record, evolution is a fact. It is supported by over 200 years of careful observation of the geological and biological evidence, by thousands of scientists. The word "theory" does not belong in front of the word evolution.  We don't speak of the "theory" that the earth and other planets revolve around the sun, or the "theory" that matter is made up of atoms, or the "theory" that the heart pumps blood through the circulatory system. Evolution is as well established a fact as all of these other "theories."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hedgehog Needed!

Arianna Huffington says that this country needs a hedgehog... and not a "fanatical, delusional hedgehog like those currently leading the Republican party." Well, I think to compare the Republicans to hedgehogs of any kind is to insult hedgehogs everywhere.

And unfortunately, as Ms. Huffington says, Barack Obama has been anything but a hedgehog.

This is, of course, all the excuse I needed to find a cute hedgehog picture:

I'm eating so I can grow big and strong, because
my country needs me!

Squirrel Pictures

I had a short walk in Freedom Park in Charlotte this morning. I took a few pictures of a couple of squirrels, none of which came out really great... they wouldn't hold still long enough for me to get close. Here are a couple that didn't look too bad:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Googlemaps Streetview of My High School

I was sitting here in Starbucks wasting time and checking out the Google Maps Street View image of my high school--Monterey High School, Lubbock TX--and... I don't know why it just strikes me as kind of weird that the Street View camera car went by there just as school was letting out and caught a bunch of kids standing around outside the building. It would have been funny if they had caught a group of stoners hanging out smoking in the alley across the street (just pan to the right two clicks and you'll see the alley I'm talking about).

My homeroom was just inside those doors and then up the stairs on the right to the second floor. The homeroom teacher's name was Mrs. Futch. She was a fundamentalist Christian, and one time she showed the class some movie about the rapture that was supposed to scare all of us who hadn't already done so into accepting Jesus as our savior (yes, this is a public school, but remember, it's a public school in TEXAS). This was in the early '80s, before those Left Behind books came out, but in the movie all of the Christians were raptured away, and the ones who were still there had to get this computer code tattooed on them, and then one of the characters figured out that the code really was computer language for "666".

That's about all I remember about the movie.

Oh yeah. Mrs. Futch taught Religious Studies.

Rick Perry is the Scariest Person in America, Part 2

Threatening violence against Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Of course, Perry is the same guy who was threatening to have Texas secede not too long ago.

And as Paul Krugman points out, um, wasn't Bernanke a Bush appointee?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Who are the most credible advocates for raising taxes on the super-rich?

The super-rich, of course.

Warren Buffett, one of the most ethical human beings in America, argues in the New York Times for a tax increase on himself and his peers. It's a shame that most of those at the top of the income bracket don't share Buffett's sense of philanthropy and social responsibility.

Best line from the article:
These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fun Loving Nuns

While Kaleb was at work yesterday, I browsed for a little while at Barnes and Noble, where I saw the first entry in the weird calendar competition for 2012:

The Perilous Life of the Unemployed, Part 3: Bureaucracy

I went to file my weekly unemployment certification this morning, which has been a routine Sunday ritual for the past year, and got the following message:

Our records indicate that your benefit year has expired. If you need further information, contact your local Employment Security Commission office.

Wow! Thanks for the advance warning, guys!
I had no advance knowledge that there even was such a thing as a "benefit year." I was (acutely) aware that yesterday was the one-year anniversary of my unceremoniously being let go by my employer, who I had been working for for over twelve years. I had very deliberately ignored this anniversary because I did not want to dwell on it and make myself miserable.

Anyway, having done a little research, I now learn that I have to have my benefits claim reinstated and that there will be a week delay in getting this week's payment, so... no money this week! No problem, it's not like we have bills to pay or anything.

Does it not occur to anyone that this could cause some problems for people? That maybe if this is really necessary, they could at least give some advance warning and explanation? That the most complex, arcane processes might not always be the best? That people and families are at the receiving end of these procedures?

I understand that there must be reasons for this, that it's not unreasonable to have a review of benefits eligibility after the end of a year... the point is... Give us a heads-up so that we will know that this is coming and can plan ahead!

And in the back of my mind (but not very far back) is the question of what other surprises will be waiting for me when I go to the unemployment office tomorrow to get this all worked out. And yes, I will be paying them a visit. There's no way in Hades that I'm going to trust this to a phone call.

I have been trying to get in the habit of just stepping back from things like this, closing my eyes for a few minutes, and focusing on my breathing. Practicing some mindfulness meditation. So that I won't get overwhelmed by frustration at times like this. It helps if I can just get myself into the right frame of mind. We will get through this.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Rick Perry Is the Scariest Person in America

Texas Governor Rick Perry announced his candidacy for president today.

This recent article from the Texas Tribune describes the circle of radical ultra-fundamentalist Christians who are among Perry's closest supporters and advisers. This group calls itself the New Apostolic Reformation, and they make many of the more familiar far-right Christian fundamentalist groups look almost moderate. They have openly stated their goal to infiltrate government and other social institutions, so that they can impose their radical agenda on the United States. Members believe that they are prophets who have a direct line to God, and have identified Rick Perry as God's choice for the next POTUS.

Having read this article, the prospect of a Rick Perry presidency should be terrifying to anyone who is not a radical conservative Christian, anyone who is Muslim, gay or lesbian, atheist or agnostic, who believes in cultural, intellectual or artistic freedom, who believes that the Bible, as narrowly interpreted by the New Apostolic Reformation, is not the ultimate inerrant rule book for how a country should be run. If you think I'm exaggerating, consider that one of the prominent founding members of this movement, Lou Engle, actually went to Uganda recently to assist those in the government of that country trying to pass a law that would impose the death penalty for homosexuality.

Even many established fundamentalist churches in the US have distanced themselves from this group. The Assemblies of God, a large Pentecostal church, said that the New Apostolic Reformation's creed is a “'deviant teaching' that could rapidly 'become dictatorial, presumptuous, and carnal.'”

I only hope that the larger media sources will pick up on this story. Rick Perry seems committed to working with this extremist group. He is a skilled, intelligent politician who has occupied the highest office in one of the biggest states in the country for more than a decade. It would be a terrible mistake for the left not to take his candidacy for president seriously.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Buddha Quote of the Day

I have added a daily quote from the Buddha near the bottom of this page.

I am a little bit annoyed that the daily quote comes with an advertisement, but I have taken the liberty of adjusting the height of the box containing the quote so that it is narrow enough to require the viewer to manually scroll down to see the ad. I will look around to see if I can find a daily Buddha quote that does not come with an ad.

OK, Maybe They Are Just Friends

Here's another view of the Bert and Ernie "controversy." They're straight because they are fictional characters, and the writers say they're straight. This is actually a pretty persuasive argument which makes the point that pressuring the puppet pair to marry just feeds homophobia by categorizing B&E according to gay stereotypes.

My Lama Is Better Than Your Lama

The Chinese government is delusional if it thinks that the Tibetan Buddhist community will ever accept its handpicked Panchen Lama, who arrived at the Labrang Monastery in Xiahe to a forced show of feigned enthusiasm by the thousand monks in residence.

The real Panchen Lama, who is the second ranking reincarnate Lama in Tibetan Buddhism, disappeared shortly after being named by the Dalai Lama in 1995, having likely disposed of by the Chinese government. Whether he was relocated, killed, or still languishes in a prison somewhere is unknown.

The installation of the Chinese designated Panchen Lama at Labrang Monastery is likely a "dress rehearsal" for the death of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, when China will likely override the wishes of the Tibetan people and their government in exile, and cynically claim its own authority to select the next Dalai Lama, who they intend to control as a puppet of Beijing.

China has for years gone through the motions of allowing the practice of Buddhism by the Tibetan people, while in truth maintaining strict authority of the operation of temples and monasteries, closing and destroying most while allowing the continued existence of only a few which they force to pledge loyalty to Beijing, and which are run more for display to tourists and international observers than to function for the spiritual and cultural benefit of the Tibetan people.

No, Mr. Romney, corporations are not people!

In fact, this is the main reason that corporations exist, so that individuals do not have to bear the full risk and expense of a business or public enterprise. In modern America, corporations have vast numbers of people who work for the corporation, and vast amounts of wealth from profits that the majority of those workers will never share in. If you honestly think that corporations are people, this fantasy may be the result of the fact that you are one of those few elites who actually control and benefit from that wealth. This just shows how out of touch you are with real life.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A REAL Jobs-Creating Bill

Representative Jan Schakowsky (D, Ill.) has introduced the Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act, which is exactly the kind of progressive legislation that the country needs right now. Jobs will not be created by the radical right's strategy of cutting taxes to the wealthy and to corporations on the assumption that the extra money will be used to stimulate the economy and to hire new workers. Tax breaks to the wealthy does nothing but make the rich richer and increase the gap between the rich and the poor. The only way that a significant number of new jobs will be created is through the direct creation of jobs by the government.

The Secret Double Lives of the Muppets

I guess this was inevitable. With the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York, an online petitioner is now gathering signatures to encourage Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street to come out of the closet and formalize their relationship by getting married.

I, like so many other people, have wondered about this for a long time. I even remember when my son Kaleb was about six years old, on the way to school one morning he asked me, "if Bert and Ernie aren't brothers, why do they sleep in the same room?" I think I awkwardly muttered something to the effect that they were saving money on rent.

For the record, it wouldn't bother me at all if B&E did get married. It would be great for a beloved and respected kids' show like Sesame Street to have such a funny and friendly gay couple in their cast of characters, as a positive role model and lesson in tolerance for children. This would be perfectly consistent with the other messages of tolerance and equality that the show promotes. And I think the producers of Sesame Street, if they chose to make this move, could be counted on to handle this transition with appropriate sensitivity.

On the other hand, as the statement from the show's producers says, they are just puppets.

This article is a couple of years old, but its take on this "issue" is hilarious.

Jobs Protest!

Yesterday Karen and I took part in a protest demonstration organized by, at the office of Representative Sue Myrick (R, NC). The theme of the protest was "Jobs, Not Cuts." The protesters were not allowed to gather in the parking lot of Myrick's office, which is in an upscale neighborhood, across the street from Southpark Mall, so we lined the street with our signs to get the attention of passing traffic. Many of the people in the passing cars honked their approval and agreement with our messages. Myrick did not deem it worth the effort or time to address the demonstrators' concerns, despite a visit to her office by a representative of the protesters. And, sadly, despite numerous calls to the local TV stations, the media did not send anyone to cover the event. I guess the concerns and frustrations of the jobless are not considered worthy of their attention.

It felt good to get out and take part in an action like this. One of the best ways to deal with the depression of being jobless and feeling invisible is to do something to make your voice heard.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Depressing Economic News Article of the Day

Leo Hindery, Jr., in the Huffington Post, reveals for us just how drastically the "official" unemployment underestimates the true scope of the joblessness crisis in the United States.

I'm afraid things ain't getting any better, not for a while anyway.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dumb and Dumber

Fellow blogger James Q. has this take on the release of Rick Perry's college transcript, and comes to the disturbing conclusion, after comparing the university careers of the last to Texas Governors, that yes, amazingly, Perry is even stupider than his predecessor George W (view Perry's actual transcript here).

Perry graduated from Texas A&M with an astoundingly abysmal 1.9 grade point average. For the record, I didn't even think it was possible to graduate from a major university with a GPA that low. And for an aspiring world leader, the C in US History and the D in basic economics are, well, less than encouraging. And I'm not sure what to make of the D in the strangely named course "Writing for Professional Men."

I'm assuming that the Governor got better marks in his Sunday school Bible classes, although then again, Perry's prayers for rain haven't worked out too well.

Fresh Local Produce!

Near the grocery store where my son works, in south Charlotte, there is a little produce stand called Providence Produce Market. It's in the parking lot of a convenience store/Shell station at the corner of Providence Road and Ballantyne Commons Parkway (or maybe the convenience store is in the produce stand's parking lot). They sell primarily locally grown produce with awesome quality and incredible prices. I stopped by this morning and picked up a couple of HUGE red bell peppers. These are probably almost twice the size that you usually see in the grocery stores for around $2.50, and here they were just 99 cents each.

Also, a special surprise treat, they had fresh locally grown figs for 99 cents per pound. For the two giant red bell peppers, two sweet yellow onions, five fresh figs, and three large cubanelle peppers, I paid a total of $5.37. You can't beat that with a stick!

Now Shell can do for Alaska what it's already done for Nigeria

Anyone who is comfortable with Washington's decision to okay Shell's plan to drill for oil off the coast of Alaska should check out what has resulted from some of their past drilling.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

If everything in the Bible is absolute truth, then who was Mrs. Cain?

A great article in the Huffington Post on why Christians should not try to take the Bible as literal truth.

My two cents:
There are a number of things that have always bothered me about mainstream Christiani­ty, principle among which are

1) it starts with the assumption that we are all inherently bad (original sin);

2) it places priority on things that other people said about Jesus (bodily resurrecti­on, died for our sins, etc.) over the things that Jesus himself taught (the values of forgiveness, compassion, humility, service, mercy, etc.); and

3) the whole idea that salvation is reserved solely for those who believe in and profess faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16, etc).

Each of these issues is perpetuate­d, I think, by an insistence on a "literal" reading of the Bible. I also think that literalism places far too much pressure on the Bible, asking more of the book than what the authors could ever have intended. Jesus (and King David, and Solomon, and other Biblical figures and authors) had a great wealth of wisdom to teach us, but so much of it is tragically lost on fundamenta­list Christians who try to force the Bible into their concepts of absolute truth.

It's the Jobs, Stupid!

Three articles that make the argument that the real crisis in America is unemployment, and that drastic action needs to be taken to address this crisis (a point which seems so obvious that I almost feel stupid typing it).

Paul Krugman in the NY Times and Stephen Foley (whose article is aptly titled "America Has Just Abandoned the Unemployed") in the London paper The Independent both argue for intervention by the Federal Reserve, as well as direct job creation programs by Washington.

And a more personal piece from NPR addresses the diminishing prospects that face the increasingly discouraged long-term unemployed workers. Many are giving up hope and dropping out of the labor force altogether, which no doubt is partially responsible for the slight drop in the unemployment rate last month, while other jobless workers are forced to lower their expectations for adequate pay, benefits, and working conditions.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

RIP Jack Dale

I spent many winter evenings as a child in my bedroom in Lubbock, TX listening to the radio broadcasts of Texas Tech basketball games called by Jack Dale. I think the mark of a great radio sports announcer is that when listening to the game, it doesn't matter that you are not seeing the action, because the description lets you see the game in your own imagination. Back in the 1970s and '80s, in the days before ESPN and 300 channels of cable TV, most of the games were not available on television, but with Jack Dale at courtside, it didn't matter one bit. When the game was over, I felt every bit like I had been there watching in person. To this day, I don't think I've heard a sports play-by-play announcer who added to my appreciation of a game the way he did.

Jack Dale passed away last week at the age of 79. I have no doubt that for the rest of my life, when I think about Texas Tech basketball, I will hear his voice in my head shouting "he jumps, shoots, and scores!"

My wife Karen's message to Senator Sanders urging him to run for President in 2012

"While other politicians are throwing smoke screens disguised as debt ceiling issues you are speaking the truth to the American people. My husband has been out of work for over eleven months, and we’re not amused by their circus act. Thank you for fighting for the disenfranchised citizens of our country. Please consider running so we can have a real choice in the next election."

Again, the petition website is here.

Sure, it was going to happen sooner or later, I guess

Stopped at Harris Teeter to pick up some groceries this afternoon, and, unasked, the cashier gave me the five percent senior citizen discount. Which raises the question... WTF! I'm 47 years old! Do I really look like I should be getting this discount? Of course, I wasn't about to complain and lose the $1.37 off of the $27.00 or so worth of groceries. Maybe I should start requesting the discount every time?

By the way, Harris Teeter is a great grocery store chain. And I'm not just saying that because my son works there.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Petition asking Senator Bernie Sanders to run for President in 2012

You can sign here.

My comment that I left on the petition: Senator Sanders, we need a progressive voice in the upcoming election. I am 47 years old, have been unemployed for over eleven months, and believe that there is nobody who I can vote for that represents my interests or those of other working Americans. Please consider running so that we can have a real choice and a real dialogue in this campaign.

Some great squirrel photos and video, courtesy of CNN

Here ya go.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

One of the Greatest Commentaries I Have Ever Heard

I wish there was some way that I could make every American watch this commentary by Keith Olbermann.

Please click and watch and listen.