Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Cities of the dead

Norte,the North Manila Cemetery is home to about 50,000 living residents in Manila's largest public burial ground. These impovershed residents happily share space with spirits and the dead.

For the living, Cities of the Dead are difficult: no running water or plumbing, no electricity. Buckets of human waste are dumped in the "streets." Still, it beats living in some of the itinerant slums, such as Tondo in Manila, where the destitute homeless live on top of a garbage dump run rampant with disease and crime.

In Cairo, more than 5 million living Egyptians live in Cities of the Dead. The historic belief in Egypt is that the cemeteries are an active part of the community and not exclusively for the dead. However, in contemporary Egypt, these cities are illegal. The living residents have no status.

Actually, Egyptians never call the sprawling cemetery at the eastern edge of Cairo 'City of the Dead.' Only Westerners do. Cairenes prefer to call it simply the arafa, the cemetery, and it is as much a part of the topography here as glass and steel skyscrapers are in Hong Kong. But what better name than City of the Dead to describe the four-mile-long walled necropolis that houses thousands of families and countless small businesses? Video stores, car repair shops and tile factories line the main arteries of the cemetery, and cramped buses deliver hoards of commuters at the end of each work day. Furniture makers ply their craft inside tombs and streams of uniformed children parade to and from school, stopping for a quick soccer game between the cenotaphs. The arafa is a necropolis turned metropolis, where the needs of the living have far outpaced the sanctity of the dead. Go with a local and see if he can talk to the swarms of children there and have one of them guide you to a house for a peek at the tombs behind the closed doors. Don't visit alone.

But back to Manila, and Norte. Year-round, Norte is a thriving city, teeming with commerce. There are makeshift neighborhood kiosks that sell noodles, rice and cellphone cards. Vendors wander the streets peddling ice cream and bottled soda.

The cemetery has its own taxi fleet: Drivers line up inside the main gate on motorized scooters, waiting to ferry commuters to their jobs as maids and restaurant workers. The cemetery is divided by class: Although no one pays rent, jobless squatters who do no work are at the bottom of the heap and are shunned. City Hall workers and policemen also live here.

In one exclusive area, paid caretakers of the gravesite of the family of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo — an immense pyramid flanked by marble sphinxes — enjoy air conditioning, cable television and a washer and dryer.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Hollywood March for Peace Oct. 28 - random images

I confess, we left before the end of the march. It was slated to begin at noon, and it started a little after 1 PM. Alicia had a gig in Ojai Saturday night, and I had to catch up with some other friends at about 4 PM, so we only marched for about half the route. Which means we didn't get to the CNN building, where there were about 5000 people gathered to listen to Cindy Sheehan, Ron Kovic, Arun Ghandi, and several others. We were not the only ones to leave early, but I still feel a tiny bit guilty. As part of the Code Pink women, we gathered signatures for the Give Peace a Chance petition, which you can also sign by clicking on the link.

It was an interesting mix. And it was a reminder to me about how scattered the left and liberal factions are. The focus of this march and rally was to get us out of Iraq now, to show clearly how this administration lied, lies and lies. But there were the militant Vegetarians who, megaphone in hand, told people that if you eat meat, you are supporting the war in Iraq. "Ghandi was a vegetarian" they said. Well, so was Hitler. Get your own damn march, and focus on what's important.

And there were the anti-Israel people. Posters said "US/Israel out of the Middle East." I tried to avoid standing anywhere near them. The current government of Israel is a pawn to Bushco; no doubt. But I no more want to see the destruction of Israel than I do the destruction of the USA. I do want to see our current administration impeached and imprisoned; and I want to see the same in Israel. But this march was about Iraq, about OUR nation's crimes.

Then there were the Topanga Canyon people. One guy was really cute, and we just chatted away over the Loose Change DVDs, how bizarre was that? But when the march actually began, their guy in charge kept telling our little group that we weren't marching correctly, we weren't in the right order, or something like that. So strange.

I got a bumper sticker for my car: War is over, if you want it. Peace.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Peace Parade in Hollywood today

We congregate at noon at Hollywood and Vine, or watch the live video/audio web stream from the heart of the movement at LIVE WEBSTREAM AT NOON: here if you are unable to attend.

Ghandi's grandson, Arun Ghandi, will lead the march. Please join us to celebrate the dawning of the new world peace movement, or at
least be with us in spirit by tuning in the web stream at the link above.

"Peace is essential. Whenever we can work for peace ...and plant the seeds in
the minds of people... we must do it" - ARUN GHANDI, 2006

72 year old Arun Ghandi will take the first step barefoot, on the centennial of his grandfather Mahatma Gandhi's first non-violent action. I will be there, along with Alicia.

Why now: Now's the time to be the change! The Southland, where Gandhi's ashes were actually laid to rest is the launching point of worldwide peace parades planned for Egypt, Canada, Italy, Austria, and Japan!


Harrison & Linda Blake - Executive Producers,
And co-sponsored by THE A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday grandbaby blogging

I have these wonderful photos of Bean trying on her halloween costume, she's going as a big chicken. She thinks that's funny.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Halliburton Solves Global Warming

Hat tip to Lulu Maude for pointing out Halliburton's brand new SurvivaBall. Designed to protect corporate managers from abrupt climate changes, these SurvivaBalls are essentially gated communities for one.

They were unveiled at the Catastrophic Loss Conference recently to thunderous applause. Vice President Dick Cheney will get one with a Vice Presidential Seal and a special compartment to hold his shotgun.

"Most scientists believe global warming is certain to cause an accelerating onslaught of hurricanes, floods, droughts, tornadoes, etc. and that a world-destroying disaster is increasingly possible. For example, Arctic melt has slowed the Gulf Stream by 30% in just the last decade; if the Gulf Stream stops, Europe will suddenly become just as cold as Alaska. Global heat and flooding events are also increasingly possible.

In order to head off such catastrophic scenarios, scientists agree we must reduce our carbon emissions by 70% within the next few years. Doing that would seriously undermine corporate profits, however, and so a more forward-thinking solution is needed."

The devices - looking like huge inflatable orbs - will include sophisticated communications systems, nutrient gathering capacities, onboard medical facilities, and a daunting defense infrastructure to ensure that the corporate mission will not go unfulfilled even when most human life is rendered impossible by catastrophes or the consequent epidemics and armed conflicts.

The SurvivaBall builds on Halliburton's reputation as a disaster and conflict industry innovator.

You can even hand out your business cards in a SurvivaBall Suit. They come in one size fits most, and only one color: WASP White.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Follow the Money

A US audit shows that 50% of the budgeted Iraq reconstruction funds are going to administrative costs. That means half the money budgeted is NOT going to reconstruction. "In one case, the report says, KBR Incorporated, a subsidiary of the giant U.S. corporation Halliburton billed the federal government $163 million for its overhead costs in Iraq - more than 55 percent of the amount budgeted ($296 million) for the full rebuilding project."

Halliburton stock gets an "outperform" rating, as estimates rise. Halliburton 3rd Quarter net income rose a whopping 22 percent. A light hurricane season helped Halliburton, but the real boost comes from Iraq, and the budget over-runs.
"Iraq was better than expected," said Jeff Tillery, an analyst with Pickering Energy Partners Inc. "Overall, there is nothing really to question or be skeptical about. I think the results are very good."

Vice President Dick Cheney (who used to run Halliburton) seems to agree. Last week he told Rush Limbaugh regarding the Iraqi government, "If you look at the general, overall situation, they're doing remarkably well." The vice president also acknowledged there's some concern because the war wasn't over "instantaneously." October, which isn't over yet, has had the highest number of US dead; we've been in Iraq just one month less than the entire time it took us to fight and win World War II, but overall, Iraq is doing remarkably well.

For whom, Mr. Cheney?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mid-Terms are two weeks away

Do you know how (or if) your vote will be tallied? A big hat tip to Tina for alerting us to this tidbit: Illinois Ballot Integrity Project hacks into Chicago voter database.

The IBIP is a not-for-profit, non-partisan civic organization dedicated to the correction of election system deficiencies and to ensuring fair, accurate, and completely transparent elections.

The Diebold machines operate on proprietary software which is easily hacked. In a paper last month, "Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting Machine," (available here) Princeton computer professor Edward W. Felten and two graduate students Ariel J. Feldman and J. Alex Halderman discussed a common Diebold machine. They showed that anyone who gets access to the machine and its memory card for literally a minute or two could easily install the group's invisible vote-stealing software on the machine. (Poll workers and others have unsupervised access for much longer periods.) Changing all logs, counters, and associated records to reflect the bogus vote count that it generates, the software installed by the infected memory card (similar to a floppy disk) would be undetectable. In fact, the software would delete itself at the end of Election Day.

Do NOT LET THIS STOP YOU FROM VOTING. Vote, and tell people how you vote.

Monday, October 23, 2006

As subtle as a sledgehammer

The Republicans have no class. Trailing in polls, party runs TV ad starring bin Laden. Not the first time terror threat used in bid to sway vote.

"They will not come to their senses unless the attacks fall on their heads and ... until the battle has moved inside America," bin Laden says, according to the script, lifted from a 2001 interview he gave to Al Jazeera.

The final frame appears to show a nuclear attack.

"These are the stakes," says the accompanying graphic.

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm more afraid of the proprietary software in the Diebold machines; I'm more afraid of my vote not counting, or not being counted at all; I'm more afraid of the Republicans stealing votes then I am of Osama bin Laden, who is probably dead anyway.

And, just to prove Sean Hannity to be the idiot he is, Democrats should get up off their asses and vote! Vote in record numbers. Vote early in states where it is allowed, or if you are traveling. Vote.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Guest posting at The Fat Lady Sings today

The Fat Lady Sings is laid up with a bad back, and has asked a few people to guest post in her absence. I'm honored to be among them. So, today's post is over there.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday grandbaby blogging

Musical baby loves all kinds of music. She loves classical: the opening track on a Baby Einstein CD is a medley from the opera "The Barber Of Seville", and as soon as she hears it, she starts dancing and laughing in time to the music. She loves rock. She loves jazz. She loves all things Sesame Street. But this is NOT her IPOD, it's daddy's.

And yesterday when we spoke on the phone, she listened intently as I sang "Itsy Bitsy Spider" - and when I finished, she said with great authority "AGIN". Oh, and her new favorite word is "THIS." The reason we got to speak on the phone yesterday is because my daughter and I were speaking, and Bean pointed to it and said "THIS."

She's running for President in 44 years.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Read this post

We stand at a distinct turning point, politically, ethically, morally, socially, environmentaly. I read a beautiful post at BluePRintX that Tony Bridge wrote specific to the environmental crisis that I urge everyone to read, and participate in.

He begins: "Imagine a world without hatred and fear. Imagine a world where people lived together, working for the common good, in tune with and respectful of the planet, aware of the amazing biosphere on which we stand and determined to allow it to continue, to allow it to support us."

And to this I say, unless we reverse the damage we are doing to our earth, there will be no earth to wage war over. The circle goes round and round, but eventually comes home to me. The journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.

What's next?

Henry David Thoreau, in his essay "On Civil Disobedience", wrote: "Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it."

Our current government does not command my respect. It commands my deep disdain, my rage, my shame. Thoreau was writing in protest of the US invasion of Mexico, but his words hold true today: "All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable. But almost all say that such is not the case now. But such was the case, they think, in the Revolution of '75. If one were to tell me that this was a bad government because it taxed certain foreign commodities brought to its ports, it is most probable that I should not make an ado about it, for I can do without them. All machines have their friction; and possibly this does enough good to counter-balance the evil. At any rate, it is a great evil to make a stir about it. But when the friction comes to have its machine, and oppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such a machine any longer. In other words, when a sixth of the population of a nation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves, and a whole country is unjustly overrun and conquered by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think that it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize. What makes this duty the more urgent is that fact that the country so overrun is not our own, but ours is the invading army." (emphasis mine.)

Why do we not perform acts of Civil Disobedience? Beyond Camp Casey, where are the sit-ins protesting the war? Other than Keith Olbermann I am hard-pressed to find a newsperson who actually dares to speak the truth on television. We blog. We write about this over and over, and sometimes I think we are preaching to the choir, and we need to take our message out to the streets. But not violently. Violence is an act of cowardice. It takes courage to say no, and to stand behind our beliefs. It takes real courage to risk everything for dignity and freedom in an enviroment that lionizes fear.

I am not a professional organizer; I am not a political pundit. I'm a travel agent. I show up to work, and I try to be pleasant, and I try to do a good job. But I am also a citizen, and have a responsibility to make sure I live in a world I can respect. If I cannot respect my home, I am certain the rest of the world holds us in disdain as well.

The Journey of Fear Itself

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I was out for an early pre-work walk. I lived next to LAX, and my path was adjacent to the runways. It was early, about 6 AM, a gorgeous day, and suddenly planes started to land coming in from the ocean. The flight pattern at LAX is this: Planes take off over the ocean, and land coming in toward the ocean. The only time this changes is because of severe weather.

I thought, "hmmm. Maybe a storm is coming in?"

And so I left for the office, stopping at the post office. For some reason, I didn't turn on NPR as I drove in. I just kept the radio off. The flags at the post office were at half staff. I walked in to purchase my stamps, and the clerk realized I was clueless. She told me that the World Trade Center had collapsed. For some reason I thought she meant the stock market, and she said no, that two planes had flown into both towers and the buildings collapsed in rubble. My knees buckled, legs became weak. And I had to get into the office, because I realized we would have clients stranded all over the South Pacific.

At 10:00 AM, we got a call from a friend at Qantas Airways: Laura Lee Morabito was supposed to have been on AA11, the first plane that hit the first tower. Her death was confirmed later that afternoon. Laura was a friend.

And while all this happened, George Walker Bush read "My Pet Goat" to school children. Even after he was informed by an aide that planes had been hijacked and used as bombs, he read to school children. Our nation was plunged into fear, and he calmly read to school children because fear is the weapon of choice for this administration.

Bush has used fear to support lies as he plunged us into war in Iraq, a war which has left more Iraqi civilians dead in three years than Saddam Hussein killed in 20. Bush has used fear to support his lies as he has determined that the Geneva Conventions don't apply to the United States. Bush has used fear to create the Military Commissions Act which he signed into law on Tuesday Oct. 17, 2006, a day which will live in infamy.

Our nation, consumed by fear, went to sleep on September 11, 2001. Fear exhausts the mind, the body, the soul. Fear tells people that they don't know enough to make sound decisions so they abdicate responsibility to those who are in authority. The problem is that this administration staged a coup in November 2000 when Florida was decided for Bush over questionable votes. This administration came into power over contested votes. Slowly, slowly, weilding the weapon of fear they have created a stranglehold on both the House and Senate; they have claimed "family values" as they behave like the thieves and terrorists they really are.

Last night, watching a clip of former President Bill Clinton, I was struck by how Presidential he still is. He said, and I paraphrase, that the problem with idiology is that there is no room for debate. When you have an idiology, you are "right" and the other guy is "wrong" and there is no room for an exchange of ideas, no room to grow, no room to compromise. Idiology is not healthy.

I believe that idiology is a form of mental illness; and mental illness speaks with an authority that sane voices do not share. Sanity sees shades of gray, and idiology and insanity only see black & white. And the idiology of THIS administration governs by fear, and with an iron fist.

October 17, 2006, Bush signed the Military Commissions Act and with that signature he shredded the Constitution. The Writ of Habeus Corpus was the foundation for all our freedom. The Writ of Habeus Corpus guaranteed the right of an accused to know what he or she is accused of, to a speedy trial, to representation by a lawyer. And now, now a person can be detained for no reason at all; without contact with others; without knowing what he or she is accused of doing.

And today we should all stand in fear of the dangerous, even criminal actions of the current administration. In less than 20 days there will be mid-term elections. I am fearful that they will be the last elections held in the United States before George W. Bush declares himself President for Life. Is that insane?

Review the last six years of his administration, review the slow shredding of our basic rights and freedoms. Then tell me he lacks the capacity to turn our nation into a dictatorship. Keith Olbermann, last night, said We have a long and painful history of ignoring the prophecy attributed to Benjamin Franklin that "those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

And I believe that the nation, asleep, has given up essential liberty. We now must bear the brunt of that weakness.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ex-House Clerk May Be a Key in Foley’s Case

This is a quiet job, usually. Jeff Trandahl, former clerk of the House of Representatives, was little known outside of Congress until recently. And on Thursday, Mr. Trandahl is scheduled to testify before the House Ethics Committee to either corroborate, or contradict, accusations that Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) knew about Foley's sexual advances toward underage pages at least three years ago.

It is said of Mr. Trandahl that he played by the rules. It is also said that he is quite adept at navigating the waters of an institution known for protecting its own. “When the rest of the trees blow down, Jeff Trandahl will be left standing up,” said Craig Shniderman, executive director of Food & Friends, who has known Mr. Trandahl for nearly a decade.

Mr. Trandahl is a gay Republican who also had a bird's eye view of what was happening in Congress. Republicans have long held a "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gays amongst them. Mr. Trandahl never dwelled on his sexuality. However, he also did not go to extreme lengths to conceal it, unlike Mr. Foley, who publicly acknowledged he is gay only after resigning this month.

Part of the Clerk's job is to oversee the Congressional page program, which meant that concerns about the page's welfare and conduct were routed to Trandahl. Every year, he sent some of them home for inappropriate behavior: drinking, smoking pot, or just misbehavior.

"Over the years, people who worked with him on the Hill said, Mr. Trandahl received periodic complaints that Mr. Foley was acting too friendly to the pages or interns.

The House ethics committee is trying to determine whether Mr. Trandahl simply passed along the information to Kirk Fordham, a longtime aide to Mr. Foley, or whether he alerted the speaker’s office that Mr. Foley’s overfriendly behavior had grown beyond idle gossip."

And Mr. Trandahl is not discussing the case until he testifies on Thursday.

Representative Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) says he alerted Trandahl about Foley's behavior five years ago. Last year, Trandahl and Representative John Shimkus (R-IL) confronted Foley over email messages Foley sent to a former page from Louisiana.

Somehow, I think that Denny Hastert is sweating bullets over Trandahl's testimony

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The long arm of Wally-World

Wal-Mart has a goal: global domination. Wal-Mart, currently the largest retailer in the United States, is about to acquire Taiwanese-owned Trust-Mart. With that purchase, Wal-Mart will be able to duplicate in China what they've done in the USA: exploit workers by cutting benefits. Wal-Mart's health insurance options for 2007, dubbed the "value plan" and the "freedom plan," feature deductibles reaching as high as $6,000 for family coverage under the "freedom plan" -- meaning that a Wal-Mart employee selecting that plan would have to fork over $6,000 before insurance started covering their family's medical bills. That's a lot of money for a cashier earning Wal-Mart wages, and it begs some serious questions about how a deductible that high can be met without going into debt.

And it will allow them to do in China what they do in the USA: exploit customers by doing away with layaway. The company cited falling demand and credit cards as reasons for ending the policy. Consumers apparently prefer the instant gratifcation plastic can give them to the patience that is required with layaway.

Wal-Mart wants instant gratification, too. It wants people to pay up and take their merchandise home.

Left out, says customer Laura Walsh of Luray, Va., are people who are trying to live within their means and avoid credit card debt.
"For being a responsible citizen, and paying for my goods ahead of time and not digging myself into debt, this is what I get," she said.

And the acquisition will let Wal-Mart do in China what it does in the USA: bust unions and destroy neighborhoods. "Wal-Mart told the world, the aldermen and the mayor that they weren't bringing supercenters to Chicago. . . . Now, big-box living ordinance goes away and, all the sudden, we're talking supercenters. Wal-Mart has a credibility issue with the public. They're saying one thing and doing another. They owe us an explanation about why they've changed their strategy," Gannon said.

Ron Powell, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 881, said allowing Wal-Mart to build supercenters would destroy good union jobs at other stores.

"Look at what's happened all over the country, especially in small towns. They put every other grocery stores out of business. Then, they start raising their prices," Powell said.

I wonder if the goods sold in China will say "Made in America?"

Monday, October 16, 2006

The highest form of flattery

Hats off to Frederick at MCCS1977 for the following, stolen verbatim:

There was a fever over the land. A fever of disgrace, of indignity, of hunger. We had a democracy, yes, but it was torn by elements within. Above all, there was fear. Fear of today, fear of tomorrow, fear of our neighbors, and fear of ourselves. Only when you understand that - can you understand what Hitler meant to us. Because he said to us: 'Lift your heads! Be proud to be German! There are devils among us. Communists, Liberals, Jews, Gypsies! Once these devils will be destroyed, your misery will be destroyed.' It was the old, old story of the sacrifical lamb. What about those of us who knew better? We who knew the words were lies and worse than lies? Why did we sit silent? Why did we take part? Because we loved our country! What difference does it make if a few political extremists lose their rights? What difference does it make if a few racial minorities lose their rights? It is only a passing phase. It is only a stage we are going through. It will be discarded sooner or later.

Monsters, INC.

I have Chicago Bears fever. Originally from Chicago, I admit being a Bears Fan. Chicago Cubs, too, but baseball season is over. Why do I mention football on a Monday? Because I just spent the weekend with several of my cousins, and my one cousin from San Francisco is a die hard San Francisco 49ers fan, and I get to lord it over her that my Bears are doing so well.

Other than that, I need to go back to the old Joni Mitchell song which says:

"Sitting in a park in Paris, France,
Reading the news and it sure looks bad
They won't give peace a chance,
It was just a dream some of us had"

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday grandbaby blogging

On Wednesday, I was on the phone with my daughter. Bean was in the background, chattering away. I asked daughter to put her on the phone. Beanie said nothing. So I sang "I'm a little teapot" to her. When finished, she said "Agin, agin, agin!" So I sang again. She said "Agin, agin, agin!" SO I sang a third time. Beanie put the phone down and clapped her hands.

It was the very first time she spoke on the phone!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ron Kovic, breaking the silence

Sumo has an amazing post about Ron Kovic. Kovic, born on July 4, 1946, was a gung-ho Marine, who became one of the most vocal anti-war activists during the Viet Nam War. His article, essential reading, begins with this quote: A time comes when silence is betrayal. -- Martin Luther King Jr., April 4, 1967

Kovic's article talks about the process of doubt for a soldier involved in an immoral war begins. The mental conditioning for a soldier is incredible. He writes:

You’ve been taught to follow orders, to obey and not question, to go along with the program and do exactly what you’re told. You learned that in boot camp. You learned that the very first day at Parris Island when the drill instructors started screaming at you. It is “Yes sir” and “No sir,” and nothing in between. There is the physical and verbal abuse, the vicious threats and constant harassment to keep you off balance. It is a powerful conditioning process, a process that began long ago, long before we signed those papers at the recruit stations in our hometowns, a process deeply ingrained in the American culture and psyche, and it has shaped and influenced us from our earliest childhood.

But somewhere, something happens, and the soldier says "No. No more. This is wrong." And here, at home, the people say "No more."

Yet Bush calls us unpatriotic for dissent. He does all he can to destroy our right to assemble; to protest; to speak out. He does all he can to silence conscience. I say no more. Read the article, and speak out.

Roundup of Breaking News

Today I will leave it to other bloggers to talk about war, sex scandals, and nukular weapons of mass destruction. Other bloggers can disect the intricacies of Foleygate. Today, I will focus on what's on the minds of millions of Americans:
Dr. McDreamy; TomKat; and Mel Gibson's bender-banter.

McDreamy and Burke scuffle on the Set. Yes, it's true. Patrick Dempsey and Isaiah Washington got into a fight over one of the more unattractive co-stars. The two men stood nose to nose (they used Scope) before Washington stormed off to his well-appointed trailer. Washington said "Our faces are too beautiful to actually hit each other." He's well-aware of what's paying HIS bills.

And Katie Holmes, engaged to Scientologist Tom Cruise, is starting to get cold feet. I wonder why? Anyway, she got a call from Cruise's former wife, actress & Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman. Nicole urged Katie to go through with the marriage, saying "Please, get him out of my hair, already. I'm married to a sane guy now, and I just can't be bothered anymore."

Everybody's favorite anti-Semite, Mel Gibson, hasn't had a drink in 65 days. Gosh, he must be one of those recovery saints, who after a month without booze say, "I used to be an asshole, but now I'm perfect." Mel has been assigned to AA by a judge, which means he needs to go to meetings and collect OTHER people's autographs. So maybe Mark Foley and Mel can work out an arrangement?

Okay, I am just feeling nothing but relief from knowing that these important issues are covered. This way, those Red-State Voters who unleashed the monsters who currently hold office in the USA on the rest of us can have something to care about. I realize I left out Vince & Jen, and Brangelina, but I can only take so much at a sitting.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Look what "Staying the Course" does for US

N. Korea Warns U.S. Pressure Would Be War Declaration

North Korea's government said further pressure from the U.S. after the communist state announced the test of a nuclear device would be tantamount to declaring war.

But we stay the course in Iraq, where War blamed for 655,000 Iraqi deaths. "Since March 2003, an additional 2.5 percent of Iraq's population have died above what would have occurred without conflict," according to the survey of Iraqi households, titled "The Human Cost of the War in Iraq."

Meanwhile, Senator John McCain blames Clinton for North Korea. Yeah, Clinton who had a dialogue going with North Korea (while Asea Brown Boveri, the company where Donald Rumsfeld was on the Board of Directors, built Nuclear Reactors in North Korea) - Clinton attempted to talk to North Korea. Rumsfeld helped ARM North Korea. Bush "ignored" North Korea, because they have no oil!

We are in Iraq, on a killing spree. We stay the course. Mel Gibson apologizes for his hateful behavior; Mark Foley apologizes for his criminal behavior - both chalk it up to being drunk. We are in Iraq, on a killing spree. Our planet is dying, because of Global Warming which insurance companies are jumping all over. But we stay the course. Our Bill of Rights is meaningless, only good for wrapping leftover fish, because Bush has killed the Writ of Habeas Corpus - but we stay the course.

I've been wondering about the increase in Space Tourism. Virgin Galactic is in negotiations with Lloyd's of London for flight insurance. This will cover risks to people and structures on the ground near the launch site. However, passengers on suborbital flights are expected to travel at their own risk, at least initially.

None of this deters Sir Richard. Even before the first launch, Branson has plans for orbital space tourism and proposes putting a hotel in space.

Not to be outdone, Space Adventures Ltd. has announced a project named Deep Space Expeditions Alpha to send people around the moon. A five-and-a-half day lunar flight could happen in 2008 or 2009 and cost about $100 million per person.

We are on a killing spree, we stay the course in Iraq. A fire at Baghdad ammo dump sets off series of blasts, which can't be good for anyone.

When our earthly home is ruined, Halliburton and Asea Brown Boveri will get all the contracts to build cities in space. On the moon, on Mars. Global expansion. Only the rich will be able to move. Only the very wealthy criminals in office will continue this destructive path.

I'm over it, folks. I want my country back.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Rumsfeld Connection to North Korea's Nuclear Missiles

From Jan. 17, 2003 Bush Seeks $3.5 Million for Group Building N. Korean Reactors.

That company? The company that got the contract to deliver equipment and services to build the two light water reactor stations was ABB (Asea Brown Boveri), which describes itself as, “a leader in power and automation technologies that enable utility and industry customers to improve performance while lowering environmental impact.” The contract was valued at $200 million and was signed in January 2000.

Donald Rumsfeld was an executive director of ABB from 2000 - 2001.

Follow the money.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Elephant vs. Mankind

In yesterday's New York Times Magazine there was an article called An Elephant Crackup? which talked about what is now being called Elephant Breakdown, a wide-spread increase in human/elephant conflict.

It appears that people are blaming the elephants for increasing violent behavior, which includes attacks on villages and individuals. "Still, it is not only the increasing number of these incidents that is causing alarm but also the singular perversity — for want of a less anthropocentric term — of recent elephant aggression. Since the early 1990’s, for example, young male elephants in Pilanesberg National Park and the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve in South Africa have been raping and killing rhinoceroses; this abnormal behavior, according to a 2001 study in the journal Pachyderm, has been reported in “a number of reserves” in the region. In July of last year, officials in Pilanesberg shot three young male elephants who were responsible for the killings of 63 rhinos, as well as attacks on people in safari vehicles. In Addo Elephant National Park, also in South Africa, up to 90 percent of male elephant deaths are now attributable to other male elephants, compared with a rate of 6 percent in more stable elephant communities."

What is causing this wholesale breakdown of elephant culture? Human encroachment of habitat; poaching and culling; human intervention which has so disrupted the natural elephant way of life. And human response? In India, people are being told to stop worshiping the elephant in order to avoid conflict when they go out and kill elephants.

"It has long been apparent that every large, land-based animal on this planet is ultimately fighting a losing battle with humankind. And yet entirely befitting of an animal with such a highly developed sensibility, a deep-rooted sense of family and, yes, such a good long-term memory, the elephant is not going out quietly. It is not leaving without making some kind of statement, one to which scientists from a variety of disciplines, including human psychology, are now beginning to pay close attention."

Elephants are profoundly social creatures. A family group is matriarchal; elephant young are raised by the birth mother; grandmothers; aunties; friends. When an elephant dies, the herd goes through intense mourning as it buries the body - during a weeklong vigil they cover the body with earth and brush. They visit the bones for years after, exhibiting love and care. They are aware of danger to one another, and they communicate danger over long distance. They remember.

But through systematic poaching, habitat destruction, culling, the numbers of older elephants has drastically fallen, leaving young elephants to fend for themselves. Calves are being born to younger, inexperienced elephants and the young males have fewer older bull elephants to keep them in check and teach them elephant behavior. These orphaned elephants have often witnessed the massacre of their elders. And we wonder at why they are reacting with aggression?

We can look to the elephant behavior for a prediction of what will happen over time in Iraq, in Afghanistan as we bring our brand of democracy to the world. We can look to the elephant behavior to predict what will happen to the AIDS orphans in South Africa.

"The elephants of decimated herds, especially orphans who’ve watched the death of their parents and elders from poaching and culling, exhibit behavior typically associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and other trauma-related disorders in humans: abnormal startle response, unpredictable asocial behavior, inattentive mothering and hyperaggression. Studies of the various assaults on the rhinos in South Africa, meanwhile, have determined that the perpetrators were in all cases adolescent males that had witnessed their families being shot down in cullings. It was common for these elephants to have been tethered to the bodies of their dead and dying relatives until they could be rounded up for translocation to, as Bradshaw and Schore describe them, “locales lacking traditional social hierarchy of older bulls and intact natal family structures.” " (emphasis mine.)

We bomb in Iraq. We create orphans. The children of decimated families will exhibit behavior typically associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. And violence begets violence.

Over the weekend, I saw The US Vs. John Lennon. It is a must-see. I end this post with a message from John & Yoko, which is as relevant today as it was during the Viet Nam War:

WAR IS OVER - if you want it

Junk mail solutions

When I got back from my travels, my mailbox was stuffed with more junk than it could handle. But today, today I find there are solutions. MrsGreenThumb has compiled a comprehensive strategy on how to get off the lists. Here is a sample:

Credit offers: The major credit agencies all sell aggregate credit information any bidder. Direct mail and credit companies generate mail based on demographics including zip code, income band and credit payment patterns. Stopping this is easy, you just need your address, former address within two years, and social security number. One call does it all for agencies Equifax, Trans Union, Experian and Innovis. Dial 1-888-5 OPT OUT (or 1-888-567-8688) 24 hours a day.

Catalogs:Call the company's 800 number and have the label handy.Write your instructions on the mailing label and fax it to the company. Mark "ATTN: customer service".

AOL (America On-Line): You could pave the nation with the free discs these people send out, call 1-800-605-4297 (24 hours a day) to get off the list. Tell them your first name is "current", last name "resident".

Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes: You can get the Clearinghouse to stop clogging your mailbox by contacting customer service at 1-800-645-9242 (8:30 am to 8:30 EST), sending a fax to 1-800-453-0272, mailing to 101 Channel Drive, Port Washington, NY 11050, or you can send email to pch@ant.net. PCH will remove any number of names from a specific address, but you have to list each name exactly and insist nicely.

American Family Sweepstakes: Ed McMahon and Dick Clark will stop telling you "You have definitely won 11 million dollars (maybe) " if you call them at 1-800-237-2400.

But visit her blog for the complete "how to" of opting out. It is brilliant, and I am forever grateful.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Friday grandbaby blogging (on Sunday)

Such a face. I want to eat her up!

Tormenting Doggie. She loves her doggie. She sings "doggie, doggie, day, doggie doggie day" every morning.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

ABC screws Hastert again

While Republicans hoped that "Give 'em hell" Denny's "Buck Stops Here" speech would end their slide into disaster, several newspapers published reports that corraborate that pesky ABC News story indicating that Hastert's office new about Mark Foley's "overly friendly" emails at least three years ago. And wouldn't you know it? Newsweek just ran a poll that shows that for the first time since 2001, people trust Democrats more than Republicans on moral issues.

Meanwhile, Hastert, seen here dressed in his best suit, was crushed by all the Republican candidates who'd cancelled appearances with him. His staff assured him that it has nothing to do with the outfit.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Hastert Vows to Overcome Scandal

Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) said Thursday that he expected to win re-election and run for speaker again. He found his way to the post eight years ago through back-room maneuvering, and by sitting on his opponents, while the party was in crisis. Several Republicans had awakened with the sick realization that they had a moron for a President, and while puking in restrooms in the Rayburn Building, Hastert found his way to the Speaker position.

Speaking to his constituants in Batavia, Illinois, Mr. Hastert vowed he would not become a casualty in the Foley Scandal. He said, "First, I'm not gay, so they can't pin that on me. Next, I'm too fat to get aroused, so I won't stalk any children." When a reporter pressed Hastert on the question of his resignation, Hastert mumbled, "Any time that a person has to, as a leader, be on the hot seat and he is a detriment to the party, you know, there ought to be a change. That's how I became speaker, because that idiot Robert Livingston got caught for screwing around." Livingston had been the party's first choice to replace Newt Gingrich as speaker, but he withdrew when it became public that he was having an extramarital affair.

Hastert used to hide behind his sponsor, the ever-so-slimy Tom Delay. Now Delay is gone, under indictment in Texas for campaign financing irregularities, and under investigation for being in bed with Jack Abramoff. Suddenly, Hastert is looming large, and the party thinks he might be a liability. Yesterday, in fact, he received the kiss of death through a phone call from Prezdint BumbleShrub, who said "Way to go, Denny. We love ya."

In an interview with Larry King of CNN, Mr. Bush said: "I’m very, very fond and think very highly of Hastert."

When Mr. King asked, "Don’t you think he should quit?" Mr. Bush responded, "Oh no. No, no, no. He takes all the heat off of me, and that makes me feel good."

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hastert apologizes but refuses to resign

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) apologizes for his expanding head, but refuses to resign. Rep. Hastert, chins wagging, said "Ultimately, Mark Foley was an idiot to use his computer, and I'm sorry I ever allowed him to do so. But the buck stops here. I take full responsibility for not crashing his hard drive."

The House ethics committee opened an expansive investigation into the unfolding page sex scandal Thursday, approving four dozen subpoenas for witnesses and documents. Hastert, frustrated that the Democrats and ABC News refuse to take responsibility for Foley's sexual activities, said "There is no way I will resign from my post." When asked if he was among the people supoenaed, Hastert blew a raspberry at the reporter. Breaking out in a flop sweat, Hastert said "I refuse to dignify that question with a response. Where's my lawyer?"

Foley, 52, stepped down after he was confronted with sexually explicit electronic messages he had sent teenage male pages. He has since entered an alcohol rehabilitation facility at an undisclosed location. Through his lawyer, he has said he is gay but denied any sexual contact with minors. Because he has admitted he is gay, he has been stripped of his Republican credentials and told he must enter rehab to become either straight, or be forced into becoming a liberal democrat. Gays are not allowed in the Republican party. Pedophiles ARE, of course, allowed, but not homosexuals.

Meet Sydney McGee

Sydney McGee is an award-winning art teacher in the Wilma Fisher Elementary School in Frisco, Texas. She has almost 30 years of experience educating children. Last April, she took her fifth-graders to the Dallas Museum of Art. She thought this would be a treat for the kids, to be exposed to one of the nation's finest museum collections of art. But horror of horrors, one of the students saw a nude sculpture. The following day, the principal of the school, Nancy Lawson, wagged her finger at McGee, scolding her for exposing the children to naked pictures. (Lawson had urged McGee to take the kids on a field trip in the first place.)

Guess what? McGee has been told her contract would not be renewed.

The Dallas Museum of Art has a world-class collection. McGee's focus was on the European Collection, a sample of which you can view here. Over a half million children have visited the museum, including students from other Frisco schools; over a ten year period, there has not been one complaint from a parent about children seeing "naked" pictures or sculpture.

"We're not talking about an exhibit of salacious, sexually charged photos by Robert Mapplethorpe or Richard Hamilton; the art in question includes such work as a marble torso of a Greek youth from around 300 B.C. and a sculpture by Auguste Rodin," writes Richard Roeper in today's Chicago Sun-Times.

But McGee is fired; the school district contends it is over lesson planning and other administrative gaffes. Meanwhile, Dennis Hastert (R-IL) blames Democrats and ABC News for fanning the flames over the sex scandal involving former Congressman Mark Foley and the teenage Congressional pages. Foley, a pedophile, is called a victim of his childhood, and an award-winning teacher is fired.

What is wrong with this picture?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

From the mind of John Yoo

"The military proceedings to determine if you're an enemy combatant usually don't require as much proof. You know, the point of the war is not to collect evidence and solve crimes. It's to fight and defeat the enemy. So I think this sort of flexible process reflects the demands and the nature of warfare." John Yoo, on NPR Oct. 3.

John Yoo is a scary guy. Christopher Shea, writing in The Boston Globe, Oct. 23, 2005 "IN JOHN YOO'S world, President Bush didn't need to ask Congress for permission to invade Iraq. And if the special forces captured a terrorist suspect who might know of an upcoming attack on the New York subway, Bush could order him placed on a torture rack-regardless of treaties the US has signed or whether Congress had passed laws banning torture." According to wikipedia's entry, Woo contributed to the PATRIOT Act and wrote controversial memos in which he advocated the possible legality of torture and that enemy combatants could be denied protection under the Geneva Convention as a means of diminishing legal challenges regarding war crimes.

Yoo is a brilliant man. His book, The Powers of War and Peace : The Constitution and Foreign Affairs after 9/11, has been critically acclaimed, and likened to Machiavelli's The Prince. He argues that Presidential war powers are above the law. In December, 2005 debate with Human Rights Activist Doug Cassel, Yoo advocated torture of children:

Cassel: If the President deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?
Yoo: No treaty.
Cassel: Also no law by Congress. That is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo.
Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.

Why would the President think it okay to torture children? Why would the President think it appropriate to torture anyone? Yoo is articulate, he's intelligent, and he's cold around the heart. Without any discernable soul.

Over the last two weeks in Chicago, I entered into conversations with like minded friends, some of whom attempted to compare this war to Viet Nam. There are such incredible differences I cannot begin to list them all.

Viet Nam, which I think of as Johnson's hubris, was such a different climate. Johnson, had it not been for his obsession with winning the war, would go down in history as a champion of civil rights, of education, of domestic policies that were good policies. But he had this fatal flaw, and it destroyed him and ripped us apart. Those of us in colleges across the country took to the streets, we protested in any way we could to get us out of Viet Nam. At the forefront of those protests were the students of University of California, Berkeley. Oh, wait a minute. That's where John Yoo teaches.

We are in a state of apathy that has ripped the soul from our nation. I want it back.