Friday, February 29, 2008

Are comics really the only ones who get how serious this is?

I have always thought Ellen DeGeneres was incredibly funny and brave, not to mention just downright adorable. But now I am truly in awe of her for standing up for her principles. While the MSM ignores the story of the brutal killing of 15-year old Larry King, she takes time from her daytime t.v. show to talk to America.

Bottom line: "It's o.k. if you're gay." And please note, she gets a standing O at the end of the clip ...

Via Think Progress:

Why do we elect Senators. No, seriously, why?

The Washington Post did a little calculation recently of who's doing the voting in the Senate, and it ain't John McCain. The only Senator with a higher percentage of missed votes than McCain was the one who had a brain hemorrhage:

Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) 65.2%
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) 56.4%
Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) 39.8% (I so did not see that one coming!)
Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) 36.7%
Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) 35.4%
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) 28.5%
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) 28.3%

And the saddest statistic of all? Out of 100 Senators, only 11 have made 100% of the votes ....

And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile

Yes, my friends, it's time again for that semi-monthly post: And you may ask yourself — well ... how did I get here?

Every once in a while I like to take a look at the key words that led people to this blog. This month's favorite words were:

tap water jello
inquisition methods
"seducing the boys club"
coffee flavored condoms
naked violins
california polls overestimate obama

And I ask you: "Tap water jello"?

Even the kittez go for Obama

This has officially gone too far. Did you know that Obama even has an LOLCAT site? It's called Yes we can has ....

Of course, I also love this site:
I can has nomination?

Happy Leap Day!

It only comes around every 4 years, so let's make the most of it! I suggest using this extra day to make that phone call to a friend or loved one you never seem to get around to. (I know I have several on my list.)

And for a really nice little history on the calendar, visit The Writer's Almanac. Here's a start:
Today is Leap Day, the extra day that we tack on to February every four years to keep the calendar in time with the seasons. We do this because the Earth does not orbit the sun in a nice round 365 days, but rather in 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45 seconds.

The Egyptians were one of the first civilizations to develop a calendar with 12 months and 365 days. When Julius Caesar rose to power, the Romans were using a calendar that was so faulty they often had to add an extra 80 days to the year. In 46 B.C., after his affair with Cleopatra, Caesar chose to adopt the superior Egyptian calendar, and this became known as the Julian calendar. In the first version of the Julian calendar, February had 29 days most years and 30 days in leap years. Caesar named the month of July after himself, so when Augustus came to power, he decided he needed a month too. He named August after himself, but he had to steal a day from February in order to make August as long as July.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

This one's for Ann

They're everywhere ....

So, last night Partner comes home from shopping at Whole Foods, and she is in a state! Everyone there was so obnoxious, so pushy, so much in their own universe — so ... Barack!

I don't even know what that means. But I know immediately what she's talking about.

Obama in 2004: I'm not ready to be President

I don't know which is worse: either he lied, or he has let himself be talked into running for President. Either way, we're in trouble.

Continuing the discussion: Can a woman ever be President?

I find myself reflecting on Hillary Clinton and this campaign almost nonstop these days. I know part of me is preparing for her possible loss of the nomination, but it's beyond that. I mean, I have a long track record of supporting the underdog, so it's not like I'm not used to losing. I started out with Denis Kucinich, after all. And besides, I'm a Baltimore Orioles fan. Even the Boston Red Sox have won the World Series more recently than we have!

No, it's more about the way this potential loss is happening that's bothering me. And I know I'm not alone, because I keep finding essays by much better writers than me saying the same thing. For example, Ellen Goodman:
Something else happened along the way. If Hillary Clinton was the tough guy in the race, Barack Obama became the Oprah candidate. He was the quality circle man, the uniter-not-divider, the person who believes we can talk to anyone, even our enemies. He finely honed a language usually associated with women’s voices.

Today’s shelves are still full of titles—from “Seducing the Boys Club” to “The Girl’s Guide to Being a Boss (Without Being a Bitch)” to “Enlightened Power”—that tell us to act like a man or act like a woman. But in many ways, the transformative, inspirational, collaborative “female” style has become more attractive. Especially to a younger generation. And—here’s the rub—especially when it is modeled by a man.

We have ended up in a lopsided era of change. After all, how many of us wanted to see male leaders transformed from cowboys to conciliators? Now we see a woman running as the fighter and a man modeling a “woman’s way” of leading. We see a younger generation in particular inspired by ideas nurtured by women, as long as they are delivered in a baritone.

So, has the women’s movement made life easier? For another man?

And today that little harpie Maureen Dowd gives a perfect example of this in her New York Times OpEd:

Voters gravitate toward the presidential candidates who seem more comfortable in their skin. J.F.K. and Reagan seemed exceptionally comfortable. So did Bill Clinton and W., who both showed that comfort can be an illusion of sorts, masking deep insecurities.

The fact that Obama is exceptionally easy in his skin has made Hillary almost jump out of hers. She can’t turn on her own charm and wit because she can’t get beyond what she sees as the deep injustice of Obama not waiting his turn. Her sunshine-colored jackets on the trail hardly disguise the fact that she’s pea-green with envy.

On the one hand I feel I've written about this enough and it's time to move on to other subjects. But on the other hand, What the hell is going on with America?! We are dismissing the most qualified candidate in favor of one who has freely admitted that he's not ready to be president, because he can rock a stadium full of young people?

I feel like I'm watching a train wreck in slow motion and there's nothing I can do about it. I just want to shake America's collective shoulders and say "Wake up! Think about what you are doing!"

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The smartest girl in the room

For every 'presidential' and 'charismatic' bestowed on Barack Obama, there are 10 adjectives commentators have used to put down the way Hillary Clinton dresses, talks and emotes. Call this what it is – blatant sexism.
Hello, America? Our double standards and unfair treatment of female candidates is blatantly obvious to the rest of the world. The quote above is from the Canadian Globe and Mail. Here's more:
Guess what they call powerful and strong women who support Barack Obama? Obamazons. And what about powerful women who support Hillary Clinton? In Hillaryland, they're probably too damn tired, mystified and disappointed to care all that much about cutesy names.

There are certainly legitimate reasons not to like Ms. Clinton, but that doesn't explain the very different treatment she has received in the media. While grown media men and women have swooned over Mr. Obama, confessing that he is so charismatic he gives them goosebumps, Ms. Clinton has been mocked, trivialized and denigrated in a way that should give every woman pause.

Her laugh is a “cackle.” Her daughter Chelsea is being “pimped out.” She is only there because of her husband. She is “inauthentic” and manipulative, especially that time she cried in New Hampshire (and she didn't actually cry, by the way, even though anti-Clinton forces quickly had T-shirts made that said “Cry Baby” on them.)

When Ms. Clinton wasn't very occasionally showing her soft side, she was characterized as grating and aggressive. When she demonstrated how much she knew about so many issues, she was trying too hard to be “the smartest girl in the room.”

From the Independent UK:
Obama has done himself no good with his occasional forays into sexism, like his fraternity-jock remark at the New Hampshire debate, delivered with a cocky smirk, "You're likeable enough, Hillary," or his observation at Tulane that, "You challenge the status quo, and suddenly the claws come out".
From the Herald (UK):

It remains to be seen how much two other isms, sexism and racism, matter to American voters. Officially, race and gender are irrelevant; unofficially, many believe that each will count for a lot. It would be tragic if these factors, rather than competence and leadership quality, decided one of the most crucial presidential elections in American history.

And one final thought from from the Globe and Mail:

On one particularly bad day, The New York Times's Maureen Dowd weighed in with one comedian's joke about Mr. Obama winning every recent primary: “Hillary says it's not fair, because they're being held in February, and February is Black History Month. And unfortunately for Hillary, there's no White Bitch Month.”

Well, here's a thought: Perhaps every day is white bitch month for powerful women, and every ambitious and successful woman who is honest with herself and others knows this: As she gets up each morning and slaps on her knee-highs and her pantsuit and goes into the office to prove – yet again – that she is the smartest and most capable person there, she too can quickly engender the same kind of hate that Ms. Clinton has put up with on the campaign trail. Just by being herself.

Dept. of Shameless Promotion

I'm so proud — to think, my own nephew appeared on the same stage as Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers!

That's my nephew Danny Dan. (sorry, son. old habits die hard.)

What do you do with a drunken sailor?

Well, if you're Exxon Corporation, you put him behind the wheel of an oil tanker. It's been almost 20 years since the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the company has fought responsibility all the way to the Supreme Court. The Chicago Tribune reports:
It has been almost 20 years since the infamous Joseph Hazelwood and the Exxon Valdez loomed large in the nation's consciousness after the allegedly intoxicated captain beached the supertanker on the rocks of Prince William Sound in Alaska, dumping millions of gallons of oil into the sea.

But it's just this week that a case arising from the massive oil spill reaches the Supreme Court. You can blame the twisted path high-stakes civil litigation takes in this country or even an intransigent corporate defendant determined to protect its legal rights. But the residents who live around the sound say the case has dragged on far too long at the expense of too many of their own. And they blame Exxon Mobil for that.

But Exxon says it has paid enough—$3.5 billion in fines, civil damages and money to clean up the sound—to make further punishment unnecessary. And punishment is exactly the issue that comes before the court Wednesday.

Exxon is seeking to get out from under a $2.5 billion punitive damages award leveled in a class-action brought by thousands of fishermen and business owners who claimed their livelihood was irreparably damaged by the spill. The oil company maintains that the damages are unjust as a matter of maritime law. A jury originally smacked Exxon with a $5 billion award in 1994, and the company has been resisting paying it ever since.

It ultimately succeeded, on appeal, in getting it chopped in half. Exxon still disputes whether Hazelwood was drunk on the night of March 23, 1989, when he ordered the Valdez to turn to avoid floating ice, striking a huge reef and rupturing the ship's hull. Eleven million gallons of crude oil flowed into the sound, ultimately spreading across 600 miles of coastline. Thousands of marine mammals and fish were killed.
The Anchorage Daily News breaks it down by the disturbing numbers:
11 MILLION: Gallons of oil spilled into Prince William Sound from the Exxon Valdez in 1989.

470 MILES: How far the spilled oil drifted from Bligh Reef, to the village of Chignik on the Alaska Peninsula.

1,300 MILES: The miles of oiled shoreline, 200 of them heavily or moderately oiled.

$2.1 BILLION: The amount Exxon estimates it spent cleaning up after the tanker spill over the following four summers.

$1.045 BILLION: Amount Exxon paid in 1990s in criminal fines and civil settlements.

$2.5 BILLION: The punitive damages the federal appeals court awarded in 2006.

$2.271 BILLION: The accrued interest on the $2.5 billion punitive damages award.

$781 MILLION: The lawyers cut of the $4.8 million, assuming that figure stands.

$3.1 BILLION: The plaintiffs estimated share of the $4.8 billion.

$465 MILLION: The Cook Inlet drift fleet's estimated share of the $4.8 billion.

$800,000: Estimated average payout to a Cook Inlet drift permit holder.*

$92: The estimated share for the Peninsular Aleutians roe herring fishermen.

30,000: Number of plaintiffs.

8,000: Estimated number of plaintiffs who have died since the 1989 spill.

$40.6 BILLION: Exxon's estimated profit last year.

$7.6 BILLION: Estimated cash dividends Exxon paid to its shareholders last year.

* The amount each plaintiff would get depends on their catch history in the years before the spill.

Wednesday poetry break

I heard Garrison Keillor read this one today on The Writer's Almanac, and it took me back about 35 years. It's a charming poem; I hope you enjoy it.

Outside of Richmond, Virginia, Sunday

It's the kind of mid-January afternoon—
the sky as calm as an empty bed,
fields indulgent,
black Angus finally sitting down to chew—
that makes a girl ride her bike up and down the same muddy track of road
between the gray barn and the state highway
all afternoon, the black mutt
with the white patch like a slap on his rump
loping after the rear tire, so happy.
Right after Sunday dinner
until she can see the headlights out on the dark highway,
she rides as though she has an understanding with the track she's opened up in
the road,
with the two wheels that slide and stutter in the red mud
but don't run off from under her,
with the dog who knows to stay out of the way but to stay.
And even after the winter cold draws tears,
makes her nose run,
even after both sleeves are used up,
she thinks a life couldn't be any better than this.
And hers won't be,
and it will be very good.

— Deborah Slicer

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Oh, you know you've gotten this email before ...

Dear god, let me never be that aunt ....
E-Mail From Aunt Accidentally Opened

CHICAGO—An otherwise routine e-mail-checking session went wrong when college student Gwen Petersen, 20, accidentally opened a message sent by her Aunt Sophie in Michigan, sources reported Monday.

After correctly identifying the sender as, her mother's sister and a 57-year-old guidance counselor present at Petersen's birth, Petersen attempted to properly delete the unwanted correspondence as she had many times before. But one mistaken click of the mouse began an ordeal that would overtake Petersen's in-box for several minutes—thrusting the history major into an HTML-formatted world she "never intended to see."

The moment her computer's hourglass icon finished spinning, Petersen was subjected to a vast compendium of mass-circulated poetry, pet humor, and inspirational aphorisms with vague underlying religious motivations. Without needing to scroll down, Petersen further noted that the e-mail featured a background wallpaper of cartoon ducks, as well as numerous typographical errors and a large banner spelling out "You got 2 love this!" in a rainbow-colored, bouncing font.

The e-mail was also embedded with a midi version of the song "Wind Beneath My Wings."

Read the rest here, at The Onion.

Naked Violins?

Now that I have your attention, if you listened to Morning Edition on NPR today, you probably heard this story about Tasmin Little and The Naked Violin. It was a wonderful piece of positive news about someone who's trying to make the world a better place using her own unique talents.
Morning Edition, February 26, 2008 - Britain's top concert violinist released her latest album, The Naked Violin, free on the Internet in an effort to draw more people to classical music, she says. Tasmin Little will begin a national concert tour later this year — and the venues will be factories, airports and shopping malls. It's all part of her effort to try to get Bach and Mozart out of the cultural ghetto.
You can listen to the story from Morning Edition here, and you can download her CD The Naked Violin here. Then, take her "3-Step Challenge":
Listen to my spoken introduction and download my CD; Take some time to listen and get to know these pieces. Then write to me and tell me what you like (or don’t like) about each piece; and Go to a concert, buy a CD or write and tell me what barriers still remain to prevent you from wanting to do either!

Running on empty: In awe of sleep-deprived parents

I don't know how anyone does it — raise kids, that is. Any time I get the slightest taste of what it's like, I am in complete awe. Last night, for example. My dog was sick — not in any tragic way, but in a normal dog way. He probably ate something in the back yard, or drank water from the pond — who knows. Anyway it was enough to give him an upset stomach with a case of the runs all night.

Now, he's an incredibly good dog. He never once left a mess — instead, he woke me up to let me know he had to go out. A lot. In fact, it seemed that every time I fell into a deep sleep, he appeared at the side of the bed, panting in my face and pawing at the blanket. (I did hear him try it once or twice with my partner, but she's practically unconscious when she sleeps.)

Finally, about the 4th or 5th time this happened, I remembered in my sleepy stupor that the vet had told me once that you can give dogs a small amount of Pepto Bismal. So into the bathroom we went, and let me tell you, it's no easy task to give a spoonful of medicine to a 60 pound dog at 2:30 in the morning.

That did the trick and he was able to settle down. Of course, as soon as I started to fall asleep again, the cat began picking at closet door.

How do you do it?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Remembering Lawrence King

Two weeks ago, 15-year old Lawrence King walked into a computer lab at his junior high school and was shot in the back of the head. Lawrence was doing everything a 15-year old kid is supposed to be doing: he was going to school, he had a lot of friends. But there was something about Lawrence that his killer didn't like: Lawrence was gay.

Lawrence's killing didn't get much national press, but then gay killings rarely do. Society seems to think of the killing of gays and lesbians as something that happens in back alleys on the seedy side of town. But listen up, America, these are your schools, and these are your kids:
Brandon McInerney, 14, who attended E.O. Green with King, has been charged with premeditated murder and will be tried as an adult. He is being held in Ventura County Juvenile Hall in lieu of $770,000 bail. McInerney could face 50 years to life in prison if convicted. Prosecutors added a hate crime allegation that could bring an additional one to three years.
I encourage everyone to take a visit to The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Whether you are a parent, teacher, friend, or relative, you have an important part to play in ensuring that all of our children are safe. More from GLSEN:
Two of the top three reasons students say their peers are harassed in school are actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender expression, according to From Teasing to Torment: School Climate in America, a 2005 Harris Interactive report commissioned by GLSEN. The top reason is physical appearance.

In the 2005 National School Climate Survey, nearly a fifth (17.6%) of LGBT students reported being physically assaulted at school in the past school year because of their sexual orientation and over a tenth (11.8%) because of their gender expression.

Nearly two-thirds of LGBT students (64.3%) said they feel unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation and two-fifths (40.7%) because of their gender expression.

GLSEN also lists many of the remembrance vigils scheduled this week for Lawrence King. Over 1,000 supporters came out for a vigil in Oxnard, Calif., where Lawrence was murdered. Other vigils are planned in California, D.C., Iowa, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, and Washington.

If you can't make it to a vigil, please do whatever you can to stop the hate and intolerance that exists in America today -- for the Lawrences and the Brandons of the world. You might just save someone's life.

UPDATE: Here's a long, sad look into the buildup of this terrible tragedy.

From LA Times: Nearly 1,000 Oxnard youths and other supporters turned
out today for a peace march meant to pay tribute to Lawrence King.

Tina Fey on Hillary: Get on board people!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I ♥ Tina Fey!

But not so much NBC, who has now taken this clip off of YouTube, forcing us to watch this SNL clip from their site only, and sitting through ads. I only hope the writers are now getting some of this revenue!)

Ralph Nader: The Republican's BFF

Note to Ralph Nader: The presidential campaign has been going on for a while. Now is not the time to jump in with self-righteous claims of offering a viable third party candidacy.
Ralph Nader says he will run again as an independent for the US presidency.

Mr Nader was accused by many Democrats of handing the presidency to George W Bush in the November 2000 elections. He ran again unsuccessfully in 2004.

Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are vying for the Democratic ticket. Senator John McCain is almost certain to run for the Republicans.

Nearly three million Americans - more than 2% of the vote - backed Mr Nader when he stood as the Green Party candidate in the 2000 presidential election.

That election was so close that a small proportion of those votes - particularly in the key state of Florida - would have put Al Gore in the White House.
You remember Florida, don't you? So thank you, Mr. Nader, for 7 years of rule under George W. Bush. Will he hand it to John McCain next?