Friday, March 14, 2008

Are these guys supposed to be funny? 'Cause I'm not laughing ....

It's been barely a month since 15-year old Lawrence King was shot in the head for being gay. Now, it's been a very long time since I stayed up for the Late Night Talk Shows, but I know they are still stomping grounds for "edgy" and "provocative" comics. Unfortunately, they're also still full of morons: in this case, Conan O'Brien and his guest Harland Williams. The hatefulness and stupidity of their "joke" is all the more obvious when contrasted with Ellen Degeneres' comments in the video below.

h/t to Sara at Suburban Lesbian Housewife for this one. As she says:
Call NBC. Contact the Conan O'Brien show.

Better yet? Send 25 bucks to GLAAD.

And the next time you hear a gay joke? Put in the word "nigger" and see if it flies.

It won't.

It isn't funny.

It's good to be king! Ozone for everyone!

Lest you think George W. Bush is filling all his time these days planning daughter Jenna's wedding, think again. In the latest of a string of embarrassing events seemingly designed to do nothing more than keep him in the news (tap dancing, singing, saying the economy's getting stronger, saying "those soldiers sure are lucky to be on the romantic front lines of war!"), President Bush is now smogging up our parks and forestland:
The Environmental Protection Agency weakened one part of its new limits on smog-forming ozone after an unusual last-minute intervention by President Bush, according to documents released by the EPA. EPA officials initially tried to set a lower seasonal limit on ozone to protect wildlife, parks and farmland, as required under the law. While their proposal was less restrictive than what the EPA's scientific advisers had proposed, Bush overruled EPA officials and on Tuesday ordered the agency to increase the limit, according to the documents.
Because he knows what is scientifically appropriate. Ha ha ha ha ha!

Seriously, is his plan to just completely run this country into the ground before he leaves office? It's not enough that he has sent thousands of American military personnel to their death, quadrupled the deficit, and made us a pariah in the international community -- now he has to destroy the very air that we breath?

The president's order prompted a scramble by administration officials to rewrite the regulations to avoid a conflict with past EPA statements on the harm caused by ozone.

Solicitor General Paul D. Clement warned administration officials late Tuesday night that the rules contradicted the EPA's past submissions to the Supreme Court, according to sources familiar with the conversation. As a consequence, administration lawyers hustled to craft new legal justifications for the weakened standard.

The dispute involved one of two distinct parts of the EPA's ozone restrictions: the "public welfare" standard, which is designed to protect against long-term harm from high ozone levels. The other part is known as the "public health" standard, which sets a legal limit on how high ozone levels can be at any one time. The two standards were set at the same level Wednesday, but until Bush asked for a change, the EPA had planned to set the "public welfare" standard at a lower level.

My favorite reasoning from the Bush Administration is this:

... Susan E. Dudley urged the EPA to consider the effects of cutting ozone further on "economic values and on personal comfort and well-being..."
But even better is the EPA's response:
[T]he EPA's Marcus Peacock responded in a March 7 memo: "EPA is not aware of any information that ozone has beneficial effects on economic values or on personal comfort and well being."

The best candidate for President

Has not forgotten what is most important:

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Seriously, why can't we all just get along?

Obama, Clinton, McCain supporters — I don't know who's the rat, who's the cat, or who's the dog. Actually, yes I do. But in the spirit of keeping the peace, I'll keep my opinions on that matter to myself ....

While you were sleeping ...

Let's take a break from the food fight that is the campaigns of Obama and Clinton. Here are some other new stories that are much more important, and frankly, much more interesting, as well:

TruthOut: Bush to Sidestep Congress on Iraq Pact

U.S. News & World Report: 6 Signs the US may be headed for war with Iran

AfterDowningStreet: College Students, Veterans, Old Folks Shut Down Capitol Hill

ThinkProgress: EPA officials ‘have ceased their efforts’ on CO2.

The Bilerico Project: Kate Clinton on "Vatican Upgrade 8.0"

In These Times: Recruiting Spies in the Peace Corps

Guardian UK: Dollar's Tumble Rattles Markets

By popular demand: Little Gray

A few people have asked me for an update on the foster kitty that we took in. Well, here he is! We've dubbed him "Little Gray," and he's a real sweetheart. I think my brother is going to take him in. Don't you think my brother should take him in? Please tell my brother he should take him in!

Now, I did try to get a picture of Little Gray looking right at the camera, but there are two reasons why that doesn't work. First of all, it turns out he's a bit of a ham, and when he sees the camera pointed at him he immediately rushes toward me and I miss the shot.

Secondly, the reason he is usually looking away from the camera — as in the photo to the right, for example — is that he is keeping a close eye on his adoring fan, Fritz:

The good news is that if Big Brother takes in Little Gray, Fritz will still get to visit him. Yay for my Big Brother! Yay for Fritz! Yay for Little Gray?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Searching for signs of intelligent life in the Blogosphere

Reading blogs can be an odd thing. I mean, you can basically read a blog for one of two reasons: (1) to learn about what other people are thinking, or (2) to have your own beliefs reinforced by reading the words of people who think just like you do. I used to think that most of us were reading for option #1, that is, to find out other people's ideas and points of view.

Man, was I wrong!

This campaign has really brought out the lowest common denominator in both the Clinton and Obama supporters. I freely admit that I support Clinton at this point, warts and all. She was not my first choice (Kucinich), but in my humble opinion she's the best choice at this point. But I welcome an intelligent challenge from Obama supporters. An excellent blog for this is Mauigirl's Meanderings. Mauigirl and most of her readers are solid Obama supporters, yet I find their ideas intelligent, well-supported, and I also feel they are open to hearing what I have to say as a Clinton supporter. When I read their comments, I feel a little better about possibly having Obama on the ticket in November, because I feel that we have the same basic values even though we have different opinions.

But then there are the "progressive" blogs -- places like americablog, Huffington Post, Raw Story, Crooks and Liars. I won't link to them here because, frankly, they're not worth the trouble anymore. Go there and read one of the 99% of the stories which are now nothing more than criticisms of Clinton, and here's what you'll read in the comment section: "Hillary Clinton is a big fat poopy head."

Except that it will be much nastier, and it will be full of typos -- or in all CAPS.

These are the blogs that used to cover issues like impeachment, the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, global warming, hunger, AIDS. Now all they cover is "Why isn't Hillary Clinton denouncing Eliot Spitzer?" Only, the commenters aren't saying it quite so ... um ... articulately.

Folks, it's got to stop. We've got two well-qualified people running for the Democratic nomination, and the election of either one of them will truly be a major advancement for our nation. Are we really unable to have a grown-up discussion about their stands on the issues? Have we really turned into Beavis and Butthead? Because while we fight like a bunch of schoolyard bratts, the Republicans are watching, taking notes, and raising money.

Wednesday poetry break

I can't believe I almost forgot for two weeks in a row to post the Wednesday poetry break! Fortunately I found this charming poem by Jane Kenyon at The Writer's Almanac. Enjoy!

I. At The Store

Clumps of daffodils along the storefront
bend low this morning, late snow
pushing their bright heads down.
The flag snaps and tugs at the pole
beside the door.

The old freezer, full of Maine blueberries
and breaded scallops, mumbles along.
A box of fresh bananas on the floor,
luminous and exotic...
I take what I need from the narrow aisles.

Cousins arrive like themes and variations.
Ansel leans on the counter,
remembering other late spring snows,
the blue snow of '32:
Yes, it was, it was blue.
Forrest comes and goes quickly
with a length of stovepipe, telling
about the neighbors' chimney fire.

The store is a bandstand. All our voices
sound from it, making the same motley
American music Ives heard;
this piece starting quietly,
with the repeated clink of a flagpole
pulley in the doorway of a country store.

— Jane Kenyon

What does one wear to the Shame Parade?

As usual, John Stewart and the Daily Show crew get it, much more so than the MSM:

Is this Liberal America's nasty little secret: We're still bigots?

I guess none of us were prepared for the intense examination of prejudice in America that this Democratic primary has brought with it. We have such an ugly history of being one of the last civilized nations to allow slavery, and then even when that was abolished we continued to have legal (and socially accepted) discrimination against women and people of color for several more generations. My mother — not some ancient ancestor — had very few places she could lunch with her best friend in Washington DC in the early 1950s: her friend was black, my mother is white. But in DC now? Neighborhoods are mixed, the faces in the restaurants are mixed. People of all shapes and colors intermingle daily.

So it has come as a shock that in this supposedly enlightened time in which we live, blatant discrimination still exists. Look, I'm not naive. I grew up in 1960s Virginia and have spent a lot of time in the South. And I'm a professional woman who also happens to be gay. So I know discrimination exists in America, 'k?

What I didn't know, however, was how much discrimination exists within the progressive, liberal population of this country.

With our choices narrowed down to 2 candidates, it's as if some in the Democratic party feel free to criticize and attack at the most vile and base level. And yes, it's happening with both Obama and Clinton supporters.

We seem to have a perfect storm for our underlying prejudices to be exposed. At the same time that we have a public forum as powerful as the internet, we also have the incredibly emotional and historical firsts of a person of color and a woman within reach of the White House. It has all come together to produce a sense of righteousness and anonymity among some bloggers and commentors, who say things online that I cannot believe they would say in person.

I keep thinking back to an online discussion I had a few months ago with an Obama-supporting blogger who had criticized Hillary Clinton. I took issue with his comments about her "cackle" and her appearance in general. I said look, criticize her policies all you want, but these are extremely sexist comments you're making. He was furious. He said that he is a "bigger feminist than Alan Alda" and how dare I call him "sexist." We went back and forth a bit before I realized what the problem was.

This blogger — and many many others just like him on both sides of this campaign — have a disconnect between what they say and what they value. In this case, I took a step back, and said look, I'm not calling you sexist. I'm saying the words you use are sexist. He still resisted, taking this as a personal attack. So I gave him this example: if I say a phrase, and a person of color tells me they find it racist, do I say "no it's not — I'm not racist!" or do I say, "I'm sorry, I didn't know. Can you tell me why that is racist?"

When I was a corporate trainer, I taught a course on diversity. The bottom line in that course was, view your interactions with other people as a learning opportunity. Ask questions. Ask for clarification. But don't get defensive.

This campaign season has certainly tested my abilities to stay calm, and in the end I decided to simply avoid certain blogs that seem to have gone off the deep end in their attacks of Hillary Clinton. When I try to point out how a comment is sexist, I'm labeled "a Clinton operative" or my comment is simply ignored. I see no point in reading comments posted by people with closed minds. It defeats the whole purpose of having a comments section.

While many fellow Democrats are worried about "the party" coming together once a nominee is chosen, I will be honest with you: I am much more worried about my fellow Democrats themselves and the state of our country. The insidious discrimination and prejudices of so many liberals may well be much harder to fight than even the legally segregated lunch counters my mother and her friends faced.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

War is not the Answer

From the Friends Committee on National Legislation website. Photo by Kati Short.

Thinking outside the [American] box

You may have noticed that I'm taking a break today from writing about the primaries. What is there to say? Mississippi has a large African American Democratic population, and Barack Obama is well ahead in the polls. We'll just wait and see what happens today.

I'd rather tell you about a new website that I stumbled upon, called Voices without Votes. It's a joint project of Reuters news service and Global Voices, and it is basically a portal to blogs around the world writing about American politics. No matter who is elected to the White House next fall, they will have a tall order in front of them to repair the damage down to our international reputation. Make no doubt about it: the rest of the world is watching this election cycle, anxious to see just how idiotic the American people can be. Remember their disbelief when "we" re-elected G.W.?

Bloggers from Haiti, Peru, China, Iran, Bangladesh, Canada, Iraq, Egypt, Somalia, Yemen, Azerbaijan, Australia, Colombia, Venezuela. The world is watching ... and waiting.

UPDATE: Another great website that was down for a while but is now back up and even better than before is Hometown Baghdad. If you're not familiar with it, I encourage you to check it out to see what life is like in Baghdad today. Especially since March 19 will mark six years since the the war in Iraq began.

Can you please NOT stand by your man for once?

Note to Mrs. Spitzer, Vitter, Craig, Clinton, etc., etc., and all the "Stand by Your Man" political wives: How about you refuse to be a part of their hypocrisy? How about you say,"No, I won't stand there next to you while you apologize for catting around in brothels/ men's rooms/ wherever. Maybe you could learn something by watching this video of a Chinese newscaster with a cheating husband. She refused to leave the podium during a pre-Olympics hoopla event, instead publicly calling out her husband and the others on stage for their part in this charade.

Of course, this being China, she is now in prison and certainly will be there until after the Olympics. But Human Rights don't seem to be much of a concern for Americans anymore... goes with the general atmosphere of hypocrisy, I suppose.

Mom was right: You should eat all your vegetables

I was asked recently how my effort to go High Fructose Corn Syrup-free is going, and the answer is, well, not so good. The problem is that it really is in just about every packaged food you buy. You see, when someone brings in Krispy Kreme donuts to the office I might say, well, I'm sure there's HFCS in here, but I'll have one and that's it. I grew up on Krispy Kreme, and I just can't resist sometimes. So then I feel all healthy because I have my Lean Cuisine frozen lunch. But as I casually read the ingredients on the side of the box, I see what?! It contains HFCS?!

The bottom line is, if it's in a bottle, box, or can, read the ingredients very carefully. It really is everywhere, not just in sodas. From tomato soup to oil and vinegar salad dressing, chances are HFCS's in there.

But there's hope! Spring will be here soon, and and that means so will fresh fruits and vegetables! We are lucky enough to have the room for a decent sized vegetable garden in our yard. But if you can't have a garden, you may want to look into Community Supported Agriculture:
It costs money to run a farm. Farmers need cash to buy seeds, babies, fertilizer, compost; fix equipment, pay employees, pay the mortgage, etc., long before they will sell a single lettuce leaf or lamb. These investments are risky, in a way, because if there is a crop failure, the farmer can't recoup through sales, and risks going into debt or going broke. Community-supported agriculture is one solution to this inherent problem. In a CSA, consumers provide farmers with operating capital, in essence buying their food ahead of time and taking the risk of crop failure along with the grower.

How might this work in your actual life? This month, you would look around at your local food co-op, or online, and discover a few CSA farms in your area. Get their publicity materials, which could be a website or a small flyer. The materials will give a cost, an amount of food, and a description of the system by which you will get the food. For example, for $450 you might get a "full share" at a vegetable farm, enough veggies to feed a family of four on a regular basis. For a little less money, some farms will let you buy a half share, which is handy if you're a single person or smaller household. You would pay that money now -- this is the farmer's operating capital, up front. On a regular schedule -- say, every Wednesday from May to October -- the farm will harvest a box full of various veggies for every member, including you, and leave it at a drop site, which might be a house in your neighborhood, or a local store, or a farmers' market.
You can look for a CSA in your area here. That's good eats!

Dept. of Government Efficiency

Perhaps you've been living under a rock. That's about the only place you could have been to avoid hearing the news that Congress approved a tax rebate to "jump start" the economy. But the Internal Revenue Service wants to be extra sure you know that you have a check coming. 'Cause, you know, if you didn't expect it, you might not spend it. Cha!

WASHINGTON -- At a cost of nearly $42 million, the IRS wants you to know: Your check is almost in the mail.

The Internal Revenue Service is spending the money on letters to alert taxpayers to expect rebate checks as part of the economic stimulus plan.

The notices are going out this month to an estimated 130 million households who filed returns for the 2006 tax year, at a cost $41.8 million, IRS spokesman John Lipold confirmed.

I'm sorry -- did I miss something? We have an extra $42 million sitting around for postage?

Keith Hennessey, director of the president's National Economic Council, said the letters are being sent to explain how the tax rebates will work.

Here's an idea: how about the letter goes with the tax rebate. You know, use one stamp instead of two.

At a time when most of us are desperately trying to find ways to tighten our belts wherever we can, this display of waste is just truly unbelievable. Rome had Nero fiddling. We have George Bush dancing. Good lord.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Maryland resident? Get busy!

From Equality Maryland:
Last week, the Healthcare Facility Visitation and Medical Decisions bill (SB 566) passed the Maryland Senate Finance Committee with a 9-2 vote. The full Senate will vote on this important bill this week and they need to hear from you. Our opponents have been sending them messages with absurd hypothetical scenarios designed to scare them into voting against the bill. Now it's your turn to be a voice of reason.

This measure would extend 11 protections to unmarried partners in times of sickness, aging and death. They include the right to visit one another in the hospital, the right to make medical and funeral decisions in the absence of an advance directive for one another, and the right to share a room in a nursing home. A similar bill was passed in 2005 but was vetoed by former Gov. Ehrlich.
Send a letter to your state senators and make sure this bill reaches Governor O'Malley's desk!

And now for something completely different ... Scrabulous

That's right, Scrabulous. Because this is the type of cutting edge information I know you look for, JelloHeads.

Hasbro and Mattel are currently embroiled in a legal battle with the makers of an online version of Scrabble. This version was created by two brothers in India who were frustrated when the online version they were playing began charging users. So, they created their own game and called it Scrabulous, described by the UK Guardian as a "brilliant but not entirely legal Scrabble rip-off."

The game has been wildly popular on Facebook (yeah, I know, I don't go there, either), but Hasbro and Mattel have threatened legal action if it's not removed. Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting on a rumor that the brothers are open to selling Scrabulous -- for a few tens of millions of dollars.

Scrabulous fans are outraged at this controversy. So much so that they've continued the string of rip-offs with this take on Fergie's "Glamorous." Enjoy! (BTW, this video is SFW, but just...)

Reality check: Who will gain enough electoral votes to win back the White House?

According to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (a Clinton supporter), it's Clinton:

Countering Tom Daschle's "50-state plan" for an Obama victory, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell tells NBC's Tim Russert that Senator Clinton is the candidate that can bring in the electoral votes needed to put a Democrat in the White House in 2009, based on the states the two have already won in the primaries.

Clinton has won the most support using the electoral college as a guide, says Rendell, with Clinton garnering about 260 electoral votes' worth of state victories, versus Obama's roughly 190.

Clinton is strongest in the four states Democrats "must win;" Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Michigan; in order to win the presidency, says Rendell. Senator Clinton has taken three of those states, with Pennsylvania, he predicts, to follow.

"Look," continues the Governor, "it's great that Barack Obama's doing wonderfully well in Wyoming, and Utah, and places like that, but there's no chance we're going to carry those states."

Clinton and Obama: The message vs. the messenger

Last night we had dinner with a friend who is an ardent Obama supporter. We had a great discussion on politics in general, but I was struck by one aspect of our discussion. Knowing that Unnamed Partner and I are Clinton supporters, our friend asked "why?" Fair enough. I said that although I don't think Hillary Clinton is perfect, I think she is the best qualified candidate out there right now.

Now if our friend is reading this, I hope she doesn't mind that I'm writing about my reflections on our conversation. But driving home, I found that I was struck by how defensive it seemed she became when I said that I thought Clinton was better qualified. I found myself repeating to her that yes, I think Obama is extremely bright, yes, he has great ideas, but I just don't think he has the skills yet to be president. But it seemed that our friend viewed this as an attack on Obama.

Then, this morning I was going to write about Hillary Clinton's speech in Wyoming where she talked about her green energy initiative. I decided to look at each of their energy plans by researching their websites (see, I do research -- it's not all off the top of my head!). And I found a very interesting difference -- not in substance, but in delivery.

Clinton's plan is presented thusly:
Hillary's plan to promote energy independence, address global warming, and transform our economy includes:
  • A new cap-and-trade program that auctions 100 percent of permits alongside investments to move us on the path towards energy independence;
  • An aggressive comprehensive energy efficiency agenda to reduce electricity consumption 20 percent from projected levels by 2020 by changing the way utilities do business, catalyzing a green building industry, enacting strict appliance efficiency standards, and phasing out incandescent light bulbs;
  • A $50 billion Strategic Energy Fund, paid for in part by oil companies, to fund investments in alternative energy. The SEF will finance one-third of the $150 billon ten-year investment in a new energy future contained in this plan;
Whereas Obama's plan says this:
  • Obama will develop domestic incentives that reward forest owners, farmers, and ranchers when they plant trees, restore grasslands, or undertake farming practices that capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
  • Obama will double science and research funding for clean energy projects including those that make use of our biomass, solar and wind resources.
  • Obama will establish a federal investment program to help manufacturing centers modernize and Americans learn the new skills they need to produce green products.
Do you notice the subtle difference? "Clinton's plan includes ..." versus "Obama will ...." Without parsing sentences here, I think there is a striking difference between the way these plans are presented to their supporters. And I think it explains Obama's appeal to many young people and others who feel disgusted with politics. Obama will do this? Great! I was not aware that the president had the authority to do any of these things on his/her own, but Obama will do it!

If you compare their two plans, there is very little difference in substance. The difference in the presentation of their ideas is, I believe, an indication of -- again, my main problem with him as a candidate -- their experience. Hillary Clinton would not say "I will establish ...." because she knows she must work with Congress to get any initiative done. Barack Obama says "I will establish ..." because he knows that will excite the American people.

Once again, it comes down to delivery -- even on their websites. I encourage anyone who is still on the fence about these two candidates to think about how they present their case. Who seems to have a better handle on getting things done in Washington? I think Hillary Clinton has the clear advantage in this vital skill, no matter how well Barack Obama packages his message. I'll repeat: I think Barack Obama is extremely smart, and I think he has great ideas. My concern with him as president is that I worry that maybe his greatest skill at this point is his ability to sell his ideas. Once we buy them, then what?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Who elected the pundits?

I'm so tired of reading and watching all of these political "experts" telling me what's going to happen in this campaign. They don't know. And the American people have done a wonderful job of proving them wrong.

After all, it was the pundits in the press who announced that Hillary Clinton was the "inevitable" Democratic candidate -- she never said that. But then suddenly Obama was "unstoppable" -- only to be stopped in Ohio and Texas. The theory I personally despise states that women ('cause you know we're all the same) will be so upset/betrayed/angry if Obama gets the nomination that we will either (a) vote for McCain, or (b) not vote at all. Of course neither of those things are true in this household, nor I'm sure, are they true across the country. That's just ridiculous, and insulting.

The last great theory I heard was that massive numbers of influential African Americans who had supported Clinton were suddenly "defecting" to the Obama camp. Except, no they're not. Today's Washington Post reports on Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who is endorsing Hillary Clinton:
Nutter's endorsement of Clinton in December seemed inconsequential at the time. After all, no one in the political world believed the race would last beyond Feb. 5, Super Tuesday.

But, as the race has gone on (and on), Pennsylvania has become more and more relevant, and Nutter has emerged as a far more central figure in the ongoing debate over whether black elected officials should line up behind Obama and his potentially history-making candidacy.

Asked how much pressure he has come under to reconsider his endorsement of Clinton, Nutter responds curtly "none" before noting: "I don't know if anyone is asking Senator Kennedy or Senator Kerry, who happen to be white, whether they are getting any pressure from their constituents for their endorsement of Senator Obama."
So, dear pundits, please quit trying to second-guess the American people. We'll only prove you wrong.