Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday music video break

I'm about to head into a weekend of ... tiling! I need to take a break from the news of the day, so how about a little music from Paulo Nutini. He's adorable, has a great voice and ... wait for it ... he's Scottish!

Ah, if only everything could be solved with "New Shoes."

"Democracy must not come and go"

Dennis Kucinich continues his fight to hold the Bush Administration accountable for their actions, despite weak leadership from Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Kucinich introduced 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush, only to have it "sent to committee," which is the preferred legislative method for killing such legislation. Kucinich says he will re-introduce the articles soon as they are eligible.

Here's Kucinich in an interview with a reporter from the Washington Post:

House votes to provide $162 billion in war funding

It's obscene. Our elected officials in Washington continue to fund this illegal and immoral war, and make it harder for their colleagues to vote against it by tacking on completely un-related funding. From The Raw Story:
A much-delayed Iraq war funding bill sailed through the House on Thursday, along with a doubling of college aid for returning troops and help for the unemployed and Midwestern flood victims.

Republican allies of President Bush provided the winning margin in a 268-155 vote to provide $162 billion to fund U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan well into next year.

Democrats opposed to the war, however, succeeded in using the Iraq funding bill as an engine to drive past White House resistance a sweeping revision to GI Bill college benefits and a 13-week extension of unemployment checks for those whose benefits have run out.

The bill would bring to more than $650 billion the amount provided by Congress for the war in Iraq since it started five years ago. Nearly $200 billion in additional funding has gone to operations in Afghanistan, according to congressional analysts.

It also would give Bush's successor several months to set Iraq policy after taking office in January — and spares lawmakers the need to cast more war funding votes closer to Election Day.

That's my favorite line of the entire story.

Meanwhile, the death toll among both civilians and military continues to rise. In the past month, these Americans have died while carrying out George Bush's War:

Specialist Justin R. Mixon
Specialist Christopher D. McCarthy
Specialist Quincy J. Green
Private 1st Class Joshua E. Waltenbaugh
Sergeant Shane P. Duffy
Specialist Jonathan D. A. Emard
Sergeant Cody R. Legg
Sergeant 1st Class David R. Hurst
Staff Sergeant Tyler E. Pickett
Specialist Thomas F. Duncan III
Sergeant Steve A. McCoy
Sergeant 1st Class Gerard M. Reed
Lance Corporal Javier Perales Jr.
Lance Corporal Kelly E. C. Watters
Private Eugene D. M. Kanakaole
Sergeant John D. Aragon
Private 1st Class Jason Cox

Please click on their names to read more about them. The "US Deaths in Iraq" counter at the top of the page reads 4, 101. These are real people, not just a statistic. Please, never forget that.

And that photo at the top? That's Lance Corporal Kelly Watters, who died on June 11. He was 19 years old.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

While you wait ....

Hectic day today, so I'll leave you with this nice meeting of "my boys," Fritz the Dog and his BFF Earl.

As many of you remember, Earl the cat was taken in by Unnamed Partner and me a few months ago -- at which time Fritz seemed to feel he had found his new best buddy. Unfortunately, the other two cats of the house did not share Fritz's enthusiasm, so Earl moved on to live with Big Brother and the Parents. Earl is now living the life of Reilly doing quite well there. We went for a visit last weekend and it was nice to see that once a BFF, always a BFF!

Hopefully I'll be back before the day's up with another post I'm working on, but you know how jobs can be. Sometimes they really get in the way of things!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wednesday poetry break: DIY edition

A little over a week ago a simple repair job -- $5.00 replacement part from Homo Depot -- became a complete bathroom renovation. I'm a little stressed. Of course we're doing it all ourselves. (Well, with major help from big brother!) It's a learning opportunity. It's going to be rewarding when it's all done. And besides, says my friend Ingrid, "You thrive in chaos." Um ..... not!

So here's a little limerick (a much under appreciated style, if you ask me) in honor of our bathroom.

How awkward when playing with glue

How awkward when playing with glue
To suddenly find out that you
Have stuck nice and tight
Your left hand to your right
In a permanent how-do-you-do!

— Constance Levy

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Barack Obama: Sometimes he makes me feel all lightheaded. But not in a good way.

Before I get accused of hurting Democratic party unity, let me repeat that I will absolutely vote for Barack Obama in November. I mean, what else can I do?

But I still think he must be held accountable for his continued effort to please everyone on the issue of equal marriage for all. His die-hard supporters have always promoted him as a man of strong conviction, a man who will fight for what's right. So when I hear him in an interview like the one he did last night with Jake Tapper of ABC, I am disappointed. His verbal gymnastics as he tries to please everyone and offend no one, are just painful:
TAPPER: OK, last one, and that is same-sex marriage is now going on in California.

OBAMA: Right.

TAPPER: You oppose same-sex marriage.


TAPPER: Do you think that the fact that this is now going on in California, does that cause you to re-think your pledge to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act?

OBAMA: No. I still think that these are decisions that need to be made at a state and local level. I'm a strong supporter of civil unions. And I think that, you know, we're involved in a national conversation about this issue.

You know, I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, but I also think that same-sex partners should be able to visit each other in hospitals, they should be able to transfer property, they should be able to get the same federal rights and benefits that are conferred onto married couples.

And so, you know, as president, my job is to make sure that the federal government is not discriminating and that we maintain the federal government's historic role in not meddling with what states are doing when it comes to marriage law. That's what I'll do as president.

TAPPER: Does it bother you, what California's doing?


Please! Someone get me the Dramamine, 'cause all this back and forth is making me seasick!

The McCain energy plan: Drill, drill, and drill some more!

As Barack Obama gains the endorsement of Al Gore, John McCain announces his plan for solving our energy problem int he US: Lift those pesky offshore drilling moratoriums!
"We must embark on a national mission to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil. We have untapped oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States. But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. . . . It is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions."
As the Washington Post notes:
McCain's announcement is a reversal of the position he took in his 2000 presidential campaign and a break with environmental activists, even as he attempts to win the support of independents and moderate Democrats. Since becoming the presumptive GOP nominee in March, McCain has presented himself as a friend of the environment by touting his plans to combat global warming and his opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and in the Everglades.

Monday, June 16, 2008

It's Monday, I'm cranky, but it has to be said: Tim Russert was not a "great" journalist

So, I wasn't going to write anything about Tim Russert's recent death. Of course it's sad that he leaves behind a wife and son. It's always sad when people die. (Look at the "US Deaths in Iraq" counter to the right -- there's 4,099 US military families that are extremely sad right now.) If you've been reading this blog for long, you know that I didn't like Tim Russert very much. But we're not supposed to speak ill of the dead. So I won't. But I will speak ill of the media, in general.

Does anyone out there remember when the journalist was not the story? Once upon a time -- pre-Olbermann, pre-Matthews, pre -Russert -- journalists had one job: deliver the news. But somewhere along the way they became more important than the news itself. I suppose when we had multiple 24-hour "news" channels, and not enough actual "news" to fill them, the "journalists" started pontificating a little bit -- really just to fill the dead air. But then they started believing that the dead-air fill-talk was actually important or insightful.

Thus began the death of true journalism.

There's a few "old school" journalists out there: Bill Moyers, for example. But for the most part, our news is now delivered with a large dose of the journalists' personal opinion, given under the guise of "analysis." Combine an inflated sense of personal insight with celebrity status, and you have Tim Russert. I'm sorry. I had to say it. I will never forget that in Democratic presidential debates of October 2007, Russert finally asked a question of Dennis Kucinich -- the only candidate pushing for impeachment, the only candidate pushing for equal marriage -- but the question Russert asked Kucinich was whether he had seen a UFO.

Tim Russert was a leader in this movement away from true reporting. Again, I am saddened that he leaves behind a family. But the mooning of the media over the past 48 hours, as though Russert were some iconic über journalist, I don't buy it.

UPDATE: Again, I hate to be so cranky, but if we can all just take a deep breath and remember this article written last fall by Paul Waldman, senior fellow at Media Matters for America, you'll see it's not just me. In November 2007, Waldman wrote:
As much as any politician, Russert has constructed a persona for the benefit of the public, an identity meant to give him the authority that his actual work might not. Like most well-designed personas, it has a basis in truth but has been polished and honed to a fine sheen.

If nothing else, at least we're deep enough into the presidential campaign that we don't have to suffer through Russert's endless "Are you running for president? Are you? Are you?" quizzing of potential candidates. But that's what passes for being a "tough" interviewer these days: the pose of confrontation rather than genuinely challenging questions, the query designed to embarrass rather than enlighten, the worship of, rather than the challenge to, conventional wisdom.

The two parties' nominees will be decided three months from now, and we can be sure that in that time, at least one or two candidates will have their campaigns upended by the answer they gave to an absurd question, delivered by Tim Russert or someone like him, about what their favorite Bible verse is, or whom they want to win the Super Bowl, or what kind of beer they like. "Aha!" the reporters will shout, as though they actually unearthed something revealing on which the race for the presidency of the most powerful nation on earth should be decided. The one whose tiny little mind devised the question will be praised to the stars for his journalistic acumen.

And they'll continue to wonder why so many Americans are so cynical about our electoral process.

"Through My Eyes"

With the end of another school year, everyone's glad to have a break: students, teachers, parents, administrators. But some kids are glad to have made it through another year alive, and are already dreading the start of another school year filled with bullying next fall.

Most students who get bullied receive little or no help from the school. I taught middle school for 6 years, and I saw it -- a lot. I had zero tolerance for it in my classroom, but bullies are sneaky. They do their worst in the hallways, in the lunchroom, at recess. And when students ask for help from the school, they usually get very little support -- or sympathy -- from most school officials. A young man in West Islip, New York, has had enough of being bullied and has taken his case to teh Internets, creating a video titled "Through My Eyes." From ABC News:
Patrick Kohlmann, 13, said the violence got so bad, he was afraid to go to Udall Road Middle School.

"I'd be picked on, pushed and kicked," Kohlmann told "Good Morning America." "They said they wanted to kill me."

"I felt upset so I told my parents and the administrators at the school," Kohlmann said.

Despite the boy's pleas, administrators at the school did little to stop the attacks, Patrick and his mother, Beth Kohlmann, said.

"I've complained to [the school] numerous times and it's usually, 'Well, we'll look into that,'" Beth said at a recent news conference. "That's not an appropriate answer to have."

Frustrated with what he felt was inaction by the school's administrators, Patrick created a seven-minute video montage of photos and music, urging other teens to stop violent behavior. After he posted it on YouTube, it gained attention, attracting more than 15,000 viewers.

Patrick Kohlmann was scared. For more than a year at Udall Road Middle School in West Islip, the soft-spoken 13-year-old had been taunted and shoved, chased through the halls and slammed into lockers.

Then one day last month, Patrick says, one of his regular tormentors said, "I'm going to kill you tomorrow."

The next morning, Patrick's mother says, she warned the school's vice principal about the threat. That afternoon, Patrick says, the bully struck him on the head with a rock.

He suffered a concussion.


West Islip school district spokeswoman Nancy Lenz said yesterday the video will be shown to the faculty in the fall.