Monday, December 15, 2008

Office Holiday Party From Hell

The holidays are stressful enough, even in the best economic times. This year, with the economy tanking in the third and fourth quarters, pink slips are just as likely to show up in your company distribution as a holiday card. With the down turn being so horrible in so many industries, we can probably be expecting to see a lot more stories like this:

A man has been charged with first-degree murder after a shooting at an office Christmas party in Vancouver Friday.

Police allege Eric Allen Kirkpatrick, 61, opened fire at the TallGrass Distribution Ltd Christmas party, killing Benjamin David Banky, 40.

Banky was the CEO of TallGrass Distribution Ltd., a natural health products company.

At least a dozen employees had been celebrating when the gunman, who had been recently laid off, entered the party and began firing a gun, according to Vancouver Police spokesperson Const. Tim Fanning.

Emphasis mine
CEOs and other "highly compensated" company officers, trying to glad-hand at the office or at parties while the average worker is wondering whether or not they'll be able to afford food for the holidays, much less gifts for their kids, are going to be natural targets for the least stable among us.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cannon Fodder

The actual term is archaic; it first described those front line soldiers, in the time of linear warfare, who marched straight into cannon fire during an attack. Unfortunately the phrase has never been given the time to truly fall into disuse. And BushCo. have done their best to make sure it didn't go out of style in their time.

That most dangerous and feared weapon of the insurgents in Iraq and now, more and more, Afghanistan is the IED - Improvised Explosive Device. Those soldiers caught in the blast of such a device - the ones not killed outright - are left with broken or missing limbs and faces and with permanent, debilitating brain injuries.

But BushCo. has repeatedly said - about many things - "we couldn't have known!" And, after all, you have to go to war with the military you have, right? But every time they've uttered those words, it's turned out to be a lie. This time is no different.

The Pentagon "was aware of the threat posed by mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) … and of the availability of mine resistant vehicles years before insurgent actions began in Iraq in 2003," says the 72-page report, which was reviewed by USA TODAY.


Marine Corps leaders "stopped processing" an urgent request in February 2005 for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles from combat commanders in Iraq's Anbar province after declaring that a more heavily armored version of existing Humvee vehicles was the "best available" option for protecting troops, the report says.
Why would Marine "leaders" stop processing such an urgent request from their comrades in the field? I've known lots of Marines and the only thing that would keep them from helping a fellow Marine is pressure from the top. Lots of pressure. Remember that BushCo. was still suffering under the delusion that they could prosecute two wars on the cheap and could "transform" the military into a lighter, more deployable force. I'm sure there was plenty of pressure to keep costs down and to keep materiel as light as possible. No matter the human cost.

Add this to the way-too-long list of stories you can tell your conservative friends who still believe the lie that Republicans "support the troops."

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Cluster Bomb Cluster F*ck

The U.S., once again, thumbs its nose at the international community (along with, surprise, Russia) by refusing to ratify or even attend talks on a treaty to prohibit the use of cluster bombs. To quote perhaps the most germaine line in the article:

But that kind of warfare has become obsolete, he (Ollie Pile, an operations manager with de-mining charity The Halo Trust) said, and cluster munitions have outlived their purpose.
As an ex-military officer, I remember planning for the use of these weapons; it was always against advancing massed infantry or armor or to take out an area target such as an airfield or munitions depot. At the time, I loved them because they did lots of damage with little risk to my troops. The problem is, that type of warfare is most likely extinct. And, like all man-made devices, there is a definite failure rate; leaving unexploded, but still quite live, munitions lying about for civilians to find...

I think it's time for us - with or without Russia - to join the rest of the civilized world and ban the use of these weapons. Perhaps President Obama will have different ideas on our place in the world in cases like these.

Monday, December 01, 2008

No One Could Have Predicted...

How many times did we hear that from BushCo. over the past eight years? Too many to count about too many things.

Here's another one to add to the list; seems that they were warned about the mortgage crisis and financial meltdown:

"Expect fallout, expect foreclosures, expect horror stories," California mortgage lender Paris Welch wrote to U.S. regulators in January 2006, about one year before the housing implosion cost her a job.
So they were warned, just like "Bin Laden determined to strike the U.S." and like Katrina storm damage warnings and like so many other disasters in waiting that BushCo. ignored.

So, what did they do?

Bowing to aggressive lobbying -- along with assurances from banks that the troubled mortgages were OK -- regulators delayed action for nearly one year. By the time new rules were released late in 2006, the toughest of the proposed provisions were gone and the meltdown was under way.
But of course there were consequences, right?

Many of the banks that fought to undermine the proposals by some regulators are now either out of business or accepting billions in federal aid to recover from a mortgage crisis they insisted would never come. Many executives remain in high-paying jobs, even after their assurances were proved false.
January 20 can't come fast enough.

Worst. President. Ever.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Purple Haze

Deregulation. Self-regulation. Cost-benefit analysis. Free market solutions. De-funding regulatory agencies. Non-enforcement of regulations.

This is what the GOP has pushed on the American people and BushCo., not content with the damage already done, is actively pushing this same agenda on the rest of the world. Fortunately he doesn't have much time left to wreak more havoc on the world.

But can this trend be reversed? Can we undo the damage done, not only to our government but to our planet?

Here's what completely unregulated, unchecked industry has wrought:

A noxious cocktail of soot, smog and toxic chemicals is blotting out the sun, fouling the lungs of millions of people and altering weather patterns in large parts of Asia, according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations.
We must have a more sane policy approach to our impact on the world. I hope that an Obama administration will be up to the task.

And I hope we are not too late.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lost in the Wilderness

It's where lots of pundits are saying the GOP will spend the next several years. And it wouldn't be a bad thing if that stretched into decades. But to me it's where I wish the media would leave Sarah Palin.


She cost McCain - if not the election - at least a lot of votes. She cost the GOP what little credibility they had left. And most of all - she's an idiot.

On Hardball last night, Chris Matthews asked a GOP guest, who had claimed Palin was ignorant of the world but not stupid, whether if you were still ignorant in your forties, weren't you, de facto, stupid? It was a brilliantly obvious question. The only answer to which is a resounding YES.

So please; I don't care if she's making moose chili back in Wasilla. I don't care about her ignorant, pregnant daughter or her pot-smoking future son-in-law and I most assuredly do not care about the first dude anymore. Her and the rest of the Wasilla Hillbillies have had their 15 minutes. In fact it was old after about five.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Now What?

We've won.

It feels great to say that! And it's wonderful thinking about the Obamas in the White House; the return of adults to government. But as tough as the last eight years of BushCo. have been, as rough as the campaigns were, the really hard work remains before us.

Being invlolved really made me feel empowered, like I have a stake in what's going to happen. But I know that can fade as the memory of making phone calls, and campaigning and blogging starts to fade. Everyone else involved likely feels the same. We've all proven that we like to be involved - that we WANT to be involved and it would be a great waste of a resource if an Obama administration leaves the blogosphere and the Netroots behind.

So while I will gladly continue to write about the good, the bad and the ugly of an Obama administration, I don't anticipate there being anywhere near the amount of "stuff" to complain about as during the last eight years. I want to stay involved. I want to help more.

I'm waiting for my invitation.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Discontinuity Function


It was worth waiting for!

Now the question that only the future can tell: What kind of change have we wrought?

Will this be incremental change; bending the arc of history ever so slightly in our continuing attempts to create a more perfect union? Or has this election been a true breach, a discontinuity, in the path our country will take into the future?

BushCo. and all of its hangers-on have left a horrid mess to be cleaned up. And, not happy with the wreckage so far, they continue to push for deregulation and other changes purposely made more difficult to reverse for the next administration. If President-Elect Obama can rally the country and - perhaps most importantly - Congress to his side, if - and this is the biggest if - he can make a true start on restoring the USA to a country of laws, if he can restore our Constitution, then perhaps this will become the Change we all hoped and worked for.

Those of us who helped, in big ways and small, cannot now abandon the cause. I hope that a newly inaugurated President Obama will reach out again to the army of volunteers that helped him get to the Oval Office and ask us to help. I stand ready to lend that helping hand. I'm sure all of us do.

Ready to move us into a future we can all be proud of.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Waiting for History

"No nine hour wait to vote here, dear."

That's how I was greeted this morning at my polling place. And while there were certainly more cars and people at the fire department in my little town than I ever remember seeing, there was no line to "pull the lever." So I walked right over to the machine - the old-fashioned, curtained, mechanical lever machine - closed the curtain, flicked the appropriate levers and walked out feeling very much like I was helping to make history. To change the path of history.

Now all we can do is wait.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Don't Hope. Don't Pray. Vote!

There are hopeful signs everywhere that things are about to change. Obama remains ahead by way more than the margin of error nationally. Pundits and poll watchers are already saying the "L" word.

But the past two Presidential Elections have proved nothing if not that the Republican machine - levers firmly in the grasp of the likes of Cheney, Rove and their PNAC friends - will do anything to maintain that grasp. This win needs to be a true blow-out, a real landslide. We have to show what a true mandate looks like. So that we can send the Republican reprobates, if not off to jail, then at least scuttling back under the rocks from which they came.

Don't hope. Hope without action is only wishful thinking.

Don't pray. If you believe, it certainly won't hurt anything on its own, but without action it's only wishful thinking.

Vote. It is only action that counts now.

And between now and the time you pull the lever or press the touch-screen or make your mark on the ballot, commit to action. Call to get out the vote. Tell your neighbor or coworkers to vote. Drive someone to the polls.

Only when the election is called, only when enough Electoral votes have been amassed, then - and only then - can you relax.

Friday, October 31, 2008

I'm Undecided About Undecideds

Who, in this age of instant and pervasive information, could really - honestly - be undecided about who to vote for this year?

Even Osama bin Laden knows enough about the candidates to have decided he likes the prospects of fighting us into bankruptcy better if McCain's in office. From his famous (apocryphal) cave in Pakistan he's been able to garner enough data to make a decision. So how is it that there are still Americans who are undecided?

I thought I had made up my mind that they must be idiots. Then I decided that maybe they are what they call "low-information voters." But I sort of figured that was just another name for an idiot.

Now I can't make up my mind. What do you think?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What Constitution?

Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann have gotten lots of mileage out of the fact that neither Sarah Palin nor McCain spokeswoman Nancy Pfotenhauer could state the Constitutional role of the Vice President. While this in itself is disturbing - if for no other reason than it's reasonable to expect an applicant for a job to at least know what that job entails.

But, really, we shouldn't be surprised.

Just think of all the other aspects of our Constitution and our laws that Republicans have ignored over the past eight years:

  1. Habeus Corpus? Check.
  2. Extra-legal prisons on foreign soil? Check.
  3. Trashing the Fourth Amendment? Check.
  4. Illegal war? Check.
  5. Lying to the American people? Check.
  6. Suppressing and/or stealing votes? Check.

Well, you get the idea.

So while I appreciate Matthews' and Olbermann's humor, I just can't be surprised anymore. I can only hope that we can win in November with a large enough margin to swamp any attempts at stealing another election and we can move on towards healing.

But - just because we can - add to the comments your favorite "extra-Constitutional" activities of the last eight years. Don't be shy, there are plenty to go around!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Reflections on Race

I have to admit that growing up my family was pretty racist - in that casual, always been like that way - and in many respects are still that way today. Perhaps not as baldly as I remember growing up, but it's still not unusual for my parents to use the "N-word." Having grown up in Florida during the 60's and 70's - I was born in 1961 - I picked up a fair bit of that mindset. There were racial fights in my high school even in my Senior year, 1979. I'll admit to using racial epithets back then.

Entering the Military Academy placed me in a completely different environment. Not only is the Academy in New York, far from the open bigotry of the South, but the Army had been integrated for decades by that time and I worked and studied side-by-side with people of all races and faiths. In fact, like generations of soldiers before me, I had to learn to trust the person next to me with my life - regardless of what they looked like. Unlike the African-American "acquaintances" I had in high school, I made my first black friends.

As you can probably guess, it was Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama that brought on these memories. For the most part, until this year, I had mostly been able to forget that our country still has large areas where racism - the kind I grew up with - still holds sway. I am occasionally reminded of it when I visit my hometown when one of my parents or one of their friends lets slip the N-word as though it were nothing. Living in New York it's sometimes easy to forget about all of that.

I had thought that America had moved past (most of) such a shameful past.

Obama's campaign has been many things to many people; hopeful, inspirational, exciting. But it has also been an uncomfortable reminder of things in our past. And such reminders can provoke many of the opposites of these admirable things. Unfortunately, those opposites have been on display this year and most especially in the past couple of weeks. Think of Michele Bachmann, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchannan, Palin's rally attendees; think of those who pass on the whisper campaign of racial and religious fear-of-other. Saddest of all, think of John McCain who lets all of this happen in his campaign, on his watch.

Perhaps the most important thing that an Obama win in two weeks could do is to move us closer to a time when we really have moved past such a shameful past. I now believe that it's been premature of commentators to say that we've come to a post-racial society. Maybe, we can actually - finally - get there.

I'm hopeful.

Monday, October 20, 2008

My Nerves Are Shot

I haven't bitten my nails since I was in grade school - but every debate, every new endorsement, every new pronouncement or new attack ad has me chewing my fingernails. Sure, we're ahead - but we thought Kerry had a lock on it in 2004.

Whatever McCain and the rest of the RNC has in store over the next couple of weeks I wish they'd just get it over with.

Anybody else feeling this way?

Friday, October 17, 2008

I Am a Liberal and a Democrat - But I'm Not Anti-American

If you watched Hardball tonight, perhaps you saw the segment with Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation and Republican Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. If you did and you're not as angry as I am, then you weren't paying attention.

Bachmann said that the press should "investigate" all the Democrats in Congress for being - and I shit you not - Anti-American. This was after a discussion of the tenuous connection between Barack Obama and William Ayers. She failed to appreciate the nuance that Obama was only eight years old when Ayers was a member of the Weather Underground or that when Obama was working with him he was a lauded member of the Chicago education system.

No, in the new Republican formulation - trotted out daily by the Caribou Barbie - any of us who disagree with the rabid Republican right are now Anti-American. Any of us who's business or charitable acquaintances were at some point in the past any less than pristine, Republicans are Anti-American. And a member of the US Senate has just said so.

Michele Bachmann, meet Joe McCarthy.

Bachmann, despite Vanden Heuvel's backing away from the word, is a fascist.

A New Phase to the Fulcrum?

When I signed in to Blogger this morning, I noted that my last post was almost exactly five months ago. What an incredible difference that relatively small amount of time can make.

"Way back then," the primaries hadn't completed, the current two candidates were still to be selected, the mix of hope, excitement and dread were nowhere to be seen.

I don't know where I will take this Blog going forward. I do know I have felt the itch to write again. I do know that we all are on the cusp of a new era in America. And that will bring new things to ponder and write about. So I will once again pick up my metaphorical pen and post here. Hopefully RSS feeds around the blogosphere will notify my former readers that I'm back.

Please drop me a message in the comments. I'll work to start getting around to all my friends' blogs.

Let's get this started again.

It feels great to be back!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Humans Deserve to Go Extinct

I've found that if I assume people are stupid - and then wait for them to prove me wrong in their particular case - I seldom have to be disappointed. When it comes to the environment, I'm almost never disappointed believing that people will do exactly the wrong thing.

It's so much more comfortable being lulled into somnolence by the mega-corporations who are blind to anything beyond the next fiscal quarter. It can frustrate even the most ardent environmentalist:

Brazil has been accused of turning its back on its duty to protect the Amazon after the resignation of its award-winning Environment Minister fuelled fresh fears over the fate of the forest. The departure of Marina Silva, who admitted she was losing the battle to get green voices heard amidst the rush for economic development, has been greeted with dismay by conservationists.
Brazil "owns" the largest areas of remaining rain forest in the world. Rain forest has been called the planet's lungs, producing a large fraction of the atmosphere's oxygen. Now its best - and perhaps only - advocate in Brazil's government is gone.

What's at stake?

The Amazon basin is home to one in 10 of the world's mammals and 15 per cent of its land-based plant species. It holds more than half of the world's fresh water and its vast forests act as the largest carbon sink on the planet, providing a vital check on the greenhouse effect.
Unfotunately, once again, I'm not disappointed.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What Have We Become?

For all our ultra-patriotic chest thumping, America has become the home of the afraid.

...the United States has injected hundreds of foreigners without their consent with dangerous mind-altering drugs for trips returning them to their home countries, according to government documents, medical records, and interviews with some of the actual people who were drugged.
These are not terrorists, and this is not part of the shameful practice of extraordinary rendition - these are just people that our immigration officials were deporting to their home countries. And if they didn't want to go - maybe because of the risk of punishment on return or because there was nothing to return to - what then?

...forced use of antipsychotic drugs, in people who have no history of mental illness, includ[ing] dozens of cases in which the "pre-flight cocktail," as a document calls it, had such a potent effect that federal guards needed a wheelchair to move the slumped deportee onto an airplane.
This is what fear has brought us to. Fear and the willful manipulation of that fear by BushCo. and all their collaborators.

Who will hold them - us - accountable?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Weather at the Tipping Point?

Coincidence is a strange thing.

Yesterday I read about - the website of well-known environmentalist Bill McKibben, who has said that 350ppm is the magic number of CO2 in the atmosphere; the tipping point of Global Warming. If you're in the know, you'll also realize that we are past that number.

Then today there's this story about the record number of tornadoes in the Mid-West so far this year and all the people they've killed.

Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar could wind up killing close to a quarter million.

Stephen J. Gould claimed that humans are pattern seeking primates, that our brains were built to find patterns and that could lead us astray when we try to force patterns on phenomena where there are none. If that is so, how can so many of our fellow travellers on this small planet not see a pattern that is so clearly there, one which scientists have very forcefully shown to be there?

Yes, coincidence is a very strange thing. But what about when it's not coincidence?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Circuit City the Next Wal-Mart?

This puts Circuit City in the same league as Wal-Mart:

Circuit City Stores' (CC) decision to lay off 3,400 employees in order to hire lower-paid replacements is raising questions about the impact of severe cost-cutting on employee morale.
Not to mention local economies all around the nation.

I've sent them an e-mail letting them know that I will no longer give them any of my business and will try to tell as many people as possible. If anyone still comes around here, please pass this on as well.

What we don't need right now is more uncertainty, more low paying jobs, more people unable to afford the basics.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

This is Why I Haven't Posted in So Long...

How long have we in the blogosphere been saying all of these things? We made all the connections, we checked all the facts against previous statements and came to the same conclusions.

Years ago.

And who listened?

We were preaching to the choir. The MSM - for the most part - continued to parrot BushCo. or to ignore the story completely. Giving us, instead, non-stop Britney and American Idol. Or Dr. Phil. Or whoever. The great unwashed masses continued to watch, to shop and to keep their heads firmly in the sand.

If a free (and effective) press is vital to an informed electorate, we are well and truly screwed.