May 28, 2008

Michelle Malkin;Yanking Your Chains.

Up until now, I've pretty much ignored Michelle Malkin. I know who she is, but I don't read her column. I basically consider her to be just-another-right-wing-shill, and thus not worthy of my attention.

Malkin sold her soul pretty early on to become one of the chorus of GOP pundits. Instead of aspiring to great things, she spends her time denigrating anyone who disagrees with the Conservative point of view.

In case you've spent your life perusing REAL journalism and somehow missed the witless wonder of Malkin, she's the one who wrote an entire book defending the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent during WWII. Most people recognize that this was an egregious breech of civil rights, but not Michelle! Eager to suck up to the Republican power structure, she worked diligently to defend one of America's greatest moral lapses in history in order to help the current Administration defend its similar campaign to harass people of Mid-eastern descent in the name of national security.*

She's a piece of work, ain't she?

Now, Michelle "the Moron" Malkin has found a NEW threat to America.

A Rachel Ray commercial for Dunkin' Donuts.

So what's so dangerous about it? Is it because of Rachel Ray? Has Tony Bourdain been right all along.

No, it's not Rachel Ray.

Is it the coffee? Is it because caffeine is really drug?

No, it's not the coffee.

Is it the CHERRY BLOSSOMS? George Washington chopped down a cherry tree - are they the danger?

No, it's not the blossoms of the cherry trees.

It's her scarf.

Michelle Malkin believes that Rachel Ray's scarf poses a clear and imminent danger to our national security.

Really! In her own words:
So it was with some dismay that I learned last week that Dunkin' Donuts spokeswoman Rachael Ray, the ubiquitous TV hostess, posed for one of the company's ads in what appeared to be a black-and-white keffiyeh.

The keffiyeh, for the clueless, is the traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad.
Or, it could just be a scarf.

She describes it as "hate couture." The woman needs serious psychiatric help.

The real problem with Malkin's misguided rant is that she's lying when she says that Rachel Ray is wearing one. "Kaffiyeh" isn't simply arab for "scarf", and not every scarf is or can be made into a kaffiyeh.

According to Webster's Online Dictionary:
kaf·fi·yeh: an Arab headdress consisting of a square of cloth folded to form a triangle and held on by a cord
The item of clothing worn by Rachel Ray does not match this description at all; it's not folded into a triangle, it's not held on by a cord, and it's not even on her head.

What Rachel Ray is wearing is a simple, good old American SCARF.

This is a SCARF

This is a KAFFIYEH.

Oh, about this young lady wearing a kaffiyeh? I found her at According to their home page: "Israel Military Products are suppliers to the Israel Defense Forces soldiers."

Malkin: "The scarves are staples at anti-Israel rallies"
Nothing more anti-Israel than one of Israel's own military suppliers, I guess.

Women have been wearing scarves like the one Ray is sporting for decades. It's a fashion accessory. It has nothing to do with Yassir Arafat, and it's certainly not "hate couture."

Here's Bea Arthur, in her old TV show MAUDE, from the 1970s. Maude wore scarves all the time.

Stevie Nicks had a wardrobe that was practically all scarves! It was part of her "gypsy" look.

Another 70's TV icon was Rhoda Morgenstern, from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. She was invariably draped in a scarf of some description.

The Gawker has been following this issue, and found this photo of Senator McCain's daughter Meghan sporting a scarf.

According to Malkin, these images will inspire you to commit acts of violence. It's nonsense, of course. Utter tripe. There is no movement to spread violent revolution using fashion accessories.

Not that there hasn't been clothing designed to honor terrorists; we've all seen the ubiquitous Che Guevara t-shirt. Che was unquestionably a terrorist.

People have been wearing Che Guevera t-shirts for forty years, and not one act of terrorism has been linked to the shirt, or anyone wearing it.

In our entire history, no article of fashion has led to acts of terror or violence. Outside the occasional Yankees fan wearing their teams' logo in Boston, of course.

Michelle Malkin has lied to the American public, and to her readers (for lack of a better word). This isn't about "hate speech," or supporting terrorism, or keeping America safe.

This is about Michelle Malkin getting attention. This is about her using her bully pulpit to manipulate others for her own entertainment. She isn't making the world a better place, or watching out for your best interests; she's just yanking your chains.

And you let her do it.

Shame on you!

*Before you go and accuse me of aiding and abetting terrorists, I just want to point out that prior to September 11, 2001, the deadliest act of terrorism on American soil was perpetrated by white Christian men. If we're going to find terrorists, we need a better tool than race. I will also point out that had we funded our own laws regarding passenger lists, the hijackings that led to the acts of terrorism could not have occurred.

Wow. Just...Wow.

It's not like it's something we didn't know. It's not like it hasn't been obvious to anyone with half a brain.

The Bush White House lies. A lot. About everything.

But now we have an official source for this; Bush's former White House Press Secretary, Scott McClellan.

He's written a book about his time working in the White House: “What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.”

From the New York Times story:
President Bush “convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment,” and has engaged in “self-deception” to justify his political ends, Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary, writes in a critical new memoir about his years in the West Wing.

In addition, Mr. McClellan writes, the decision to invade Iraq was a “serious strategic blunder,” and yet, in his view, it was not the biggest mistake the Bush White House made. That, he says, was “a decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed.”
Excerpts from the CNN story :
...Scott McClellan writes on Iraq that Bush "and his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war."

McClellan wrote that he believes he told untruths on Bush's behalf in the case of CIA agent Valerie Plame, whose identity was leaked to the media.

"I had allowed myself to be deceived into unknowingly passing along a falsehood," he wrote. "It would ultimately prove fatal to my ability to serve the president effectively."

McClellan wrote he didn't realize what he said was untrue until reporters began digging up details of the case almost two years later.

I hate to say I told you so, but "I told you so."

May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Tribute

I actually did a genealogy piece for my Memorial Day Tribute. So it's posted on my sparsely populated genealogy blog.

The Band of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry.

Wendy Portillo: Scum of the Earth (updated 5/27 5:30pm)

Getting along in school can be difficult; kids can be very cruel. Children divide themselves into cliques, and those who don't fit in are the target of verbal and even physical abuse. It's even harder when a child is markedly 'different' in some identifiable manner.

5 year old Alex Bartonis being evaluated for Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism.

Common symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome include social problems, vulnerability to sensory overload, awkward posture, and a tendency to take many figures of speech literally.

Alex is - or rather was - in Wendy Portillo's kindergarten class at Morningside Elementary School. Like many AS sufferers, he has problems getting along in classroom environments, and often has disciplinary issues. He spends a lot of time in the principal's office. His parents have had many meetings with the principal, and with Ms. Portillo. They were working to create an educational plan to address his difficulties.

That's why what happened to Alex is so shocking. According to the Palm Beach Post:
A 5-year-old kindergartner was "voted out of" his classroom at Morningside Elementary on Wednesday when his teacher asked his classmates to take a vote on whether they wanted him in class, police say.

"The teacher decided to bring him in front of the class and let the other kids tell him what they didn't like about him, kind of ridiculed him," said officer Michelle Steele, spokeswoman for the Port St. Lucie police.

After all his classmates stood and told him why they didn't like him, or why he was a bad person, he was sent to spend the rest of the day in the school nurse's office. That's where he was when his mother came to pick him up after school, and that's when she first heard about Portillo's actions.

Portillo has confirmed these events, but won't comment on them.

Alex has something to say, and he keeps repeating it over and over: "I'm not special, I'm not special, I'm not special..."

His mother says he hasn't been back to school; he starts screaming when they approach the school.

As abhorrent as this clear-cut case of abuse is, it's apparently not actually against the law. Police won't be pursuing charges. And that is criminal.

It's not just that she has scarred a five year old boy for life: it's the lesson that she has taught her other students. She was taught them to be intolerant. She has taught 16 children that the way to deal with people who are different than you is to gang up on them, say terrible things about them, and then drive them out of your society.

5 year old Alex isn't a bad person; he suffers a debilitating disease. Portillo, on the other hand, really is a bad person.

Portillo should be forced to stand up in front of all of us, so we can show her what it feels like to have the vitriol dumped on her. We can tell her how we feel about her, and tell her why she's a bad person.

And then she should be voted out of the Education field. We can't vote her out of the country, of course; we have laws that protect individuals from the "tyranny of the majority."

Just as she was supposed to protect Alex Barton.

Wendy, you truly are scum.


No word on weather Wendy still has a job, but there are some other links:

WPTV channel 5's story

TCPalm's original article that broke the story.

An excellent blog that outlines the Florida laws and regulations Portillo has likely violated. (Thanks to Alex at Miami & Beyond for the link)

Another blog, this one with all the contact info for the school.

An excellent analysis at the Daily Kos, from someone who's been there.
Wendy Portillo's crime was not that she had a student with whom she could not cope. That is no crime. It was not punishing him for his behavior. That is no crime. It was foregoing the clearly enumerated process in order to take matters into her own hands and incite her students to subject a young boy to the schoolyard equivalent of a jeering mob.

Wendy "Lady of the Flies" Portillo has been removed from her classroom, but hasn't yet been fired.

The St. Lucie School Board released the following statement, according to WPTV News:
"The St. Lucie County School District received a complaint about a kindergarten teacher, and is investigating the incident to determine if there is any violation of policies, procedures or ethics. The teacher has been reassigned outside of the classroom at the district offices until further action is determined."
The Board had better be very transparent and open about its investigation; the world is watching, and we shouldn't have to wonder if our children are safe from their teachers.

May 25, 2008

No, my weekend wasn't all that bad.

I got a late start on Saturday; I had an early call in Fort Lauderdale, and just couldn't get out of the house. But it was a holiday weekend, and for once there was no construction on I-95, but I still had a half hour to make a 40 minute commute to make it to work.

I was stressing, not in a big way, but you know how it is. DANG! Caught the light!

As I'm sitting at the light, waiting to make my left turn, I notice the pickup truck stopped on the other side of the street. He's got his blinkers on, and he's standing on the sidewalk on his cell. I figure he's broke down, calling a tow truck. I follow his gaze beyond his truck, to the boat that was...almost...behind it. What the?!?

I finally pieced together what I was looking at; his boat and trailer had slipped off the ball hitch, jumped the curb and crashed into the bushes along State Road 84. And worse: the boat had slid off the front of the trailer a good five feet! And the trailer seemd to be gently twisted. What a mess! That's going to be some unpleasant work.

And just as I was thinking 'at least I'm having a better day than he is,' an oncoming pickup truck slammed on its brakes to avoid rear-ending the stopped truck. And he might have made it if the truck behind him hadn't plowed into him full-bore. Not only did the little black pickup get pushed into the back of the first truck, and not only did the impact crumple up the rear of that little truck and send it careening ten yards down the road into the median, the third truck plowed into the first stopped truck and bent its rear end almost as badly as the Ford had its front end twisted into a fun, new, un-truck-like shape.

Now he's REALLY having a bad day!!

I finally get to work, only to find that we're missing come critical gear. The vendor doesn't open for two more hours. Two hours of the client and crew asking if the gear is coming. Is it coming? When is it coming? Is it here?

Ten O'clock. They answer. Yes, they have it, no, they can't deliver it. So I jump in my car and drive across town to pick it up. The temperature gauge starts climbing and a red light comes on. CRAP! But once I pick up speed, the needle swings back and the light goes out. I think I'll make it.

I get the gear. I check under the hood while I'm parked; nothing is steaming, but I don't want to open the radiator while the car is hot. So I get in and drive. I'll shut down at traffic lights. I'll think cool thoughts. I'll make it, and after work I can top off the radiator.

So I'm still in a gently stressful way when I get stopped at a light. I shut down, and wait for the light to change. Waiting, stressing, tapping the wheel, waiting....and an oncoming SUV doesn't stop for the light and hits a car crossing the road broadside: WHOMP!!!!

OK, that doesn't do justice to the sound; it was a lot, well, bigger. If the Incredible Hulk had picked up an SUV and used it to swat a Hyundai out of the ballpark, this was what it would sound like. The entire side of the car, all its windows, the front end of the truck, and more airbags than I could count, all going off in a thunderclap of automotive violence.

He hit that car so hard that it actually did a 540 degree spin - that sedan spun one and a half times, and came to rest pointing the opposite direction! All the forward momentum of that SUV was transferred into that poor little car.

So I was running more or less late all day long, was missing equipment, and my car is overheating. But all things considered, I had a pretty good weekend.

May 23, 2008

Today's Election News Explained for Your Convenience.

Minister: Split with McCain 'best for both of us'
(CNN) - Texas televangelist John Hagee said Friday that his political divorce from Sen. John McCain is "best for both of us" and urged reporters to return to "the pressing issues of the day."
For McCain:
It will permit him to campaign without people being forced to consider the kind of right-wing nutjobs he counts as friends, and free him to hypocritically needle Obama about his association with a vile left-wing fruitcake.
For Hagee:
He can return to spouting inane and hateful sermons without being reviled in the international press as the dour and hateful libelous clown that he is.
McCain: Obama criticisms are 'cheap shots'
(CNN) -- John McCain on Thursday called Barack Obama's attitude toward veterans benefits "a convenient campaign pledge" and wrote off the Illinois senator's criticisms of him as "cheap shots."

After Obama criticized McCain's opposition to expanding the GI Bill, McCain issued a statement accusing Obama of using "the Senate floor to take cheap shots at an opponent and easy advantage of an issue he has less than zero understanding of."

Obama said he thinks the expansion of the GI Bill would "strengthen our military and improve the number of people who are interested in volunteering to serve."McCain supports enacting legislation to expand education benefits for veterans, but he, as well as President Bush and much of the military brass, oppose this specific measure because they worry it will deplete retention rates among those currently serving in the military at a time when recruitment efforts are already struggling.

McCain thinks our soldiers serve us best getting blown to bits on the front line in a country full of people who hate our guts for having the audacity to force them to govern themselves in a manner of our choosing.

McCain in 'excellent health,' doctor says
"(CNN) -- A team of doctors from the Mayo Clinic declared Friday that there appears to be no physical reason why Sen. John McCain, the 71-year-old presumed Republican presidential candidate, could not carry out the duties of the office."

The doctors described a number of health issues faced by McCain, many of them typical for a man of his age but at least one of them
potentially serious."

"McCain has had four malignant melanomas removed. Three of them -- on his left shoulder, left arm and left nasal wall -- were limited to the top skin layer and were not invasive. They were removed in 1993, 2000 and 2002, and all were declared Stage 0, of little long-term concern."

"McCain takes a daily aspirin to prevent formation of blood clots; an occasional Zyrtec, an antihistamine used for nasal allergies; and the sleep agent Ambien CR for treatment of insomnia when he travels."

"He also takes a multi-vitamin tablet."


He's in excellent health for a man who has been cheating death again and again and again. But he's a 71 year old man, and when his apparent vigor goes, it's gonna take off like a prom dress. After all, he's not Captain Scarlet.

This has been a public service provided by Man, Or Maniac?

May 20, 2008

Theory of Evolution: Proven! (Again!)

One of the main arguments against Darwin's Theory of Evolution is the mistaken belief that it has not or can not be proven in our lifetime. Those morons Intelligent Design proponents claim that evolution "can't be proven" because "it happens slowly, over many years." Since we can't watch it, we can't prove it; or so the argument goes

But in fact, we can watch evolution in action. That's because the correct metric isn't a clock-tick or a calendar, but successive generations. Life forms with shorter life spans can evolve into new forms in just a few years. And numerous life forms have evolved as we watched.

National Geographic reports on just such a case; the three-spine stickleback.

Scientists have been studying Lake Washington in Washington Stage since the 1950's. They weren't studying the lake to prove Darwin's Theory, they were studying the effect of pollution on the lake. The State was pumping 76 million gallons of sewage into the lake each day.

When the scientists began studying the lake, it was a cesspool. It was hard to see through the murky waters, and the bottom was covered in a slimy ooze. The tiny stickleback managed to survive in the filth; it hid from predators by sinking into the muck on the lake bed.

They stopped the sewage, and filtered the water, and scoured the lake bed clean over the last 40 years. And scientists monitored the lake's health, taking samples of all the life found in it, including the stickleback.

When the lake was a murky disaster, predators like trout couldn't see the stickleback; and if it felt threatend, it "disappeared" into the ooze. But once the waters cleared up, suddenly it could be seen by trout, and there was no place to hide.

So the species evolved heavier scales to protect them from the sharp teeth of predators. The change from one form to the other is documented.

In the first photo, you can see the beige flesh of the stickleback; in the second, you can see the protective plates it evolved, colored pink.

It's the same process that has rendered many anti-biotics powerless in just a few years; bacteria live their lives in hours, giving them thousands of generations to evolve protection against penicillin and other drugs.

Evolution is a proven fact, and anyone who tells you different is lying.

Photograph courtesy Katie Peichel/Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

May 18, 2008

McCain undone..By McCain!

Thanks to Alex.

Sun-Sentinel: weak on local geography

When I clicked on the "Regional/Florida" link in today's Sun-Sentinel website, I noticed this entry for Miami-Dade County:

But no matter how you look at the map, Key West still isn't anywhere near Miami-Dade County.

As you can see from this readily available map, Key West is Monroe County, and is over a hundred miles from the Miami-Dade County Line.

If they can't get such a simple fact straight, why would anyone believe them about more complicated stories?

John Boehner; the Bonehead from Ohio

I was watching ABC's "This Week" this morning, and watched John Boehner demonstrate why we need to route the Republicans this year.

"Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it."
George Santayana

When asked if the Republicans running for office needed to distance themselves from George Bush's disastrous administration, Boehner stated "...elections are about the future, not the past."

Wow. Talk about denial.

Boehner's missing a very important fact: your future is built on your past.

The Republican Party isn't making any promises it hasn't been making for years; lowering taxes, fighting government waste, securing our borders, and so on. Stephanopolous pointed this out to Boehner. His weak response:

“There’s no question that the environment for Republicans is a difficult one. What I’ve been preaching to my colleagues now for over a year is that we have to be the agents of change. We have to prove to the American people we can deliver the change that they want and change they deserve. And whether the issue is the rising cost of health care, rising cost of gasoline prices, food prices, we have an agenda that will deliver that change that Americans want. And all they’ve gotten from the Democrats were a lot of broken promises.”

Notice how he glosses over the fact that the Republicans have also built up a long list of broken promises. Boehner's Congress raised its own pay while refusing to raise minimum wager, failed to reduce Congressional waste, fraud, and abuse, failed to impose budgetary restraint on itself. And the list goes on and on and on. John Boehner has no moral high ground to stand on.

Americans have lost faith in the GOP for exactly the kind of statements Boehner made this morning. The GOP has made many, many, many mistakes. Disastrous mistakes. To be fair, so have the Democrats. Everyone makes mistakes.

You deal with mistakes by acknowledging them, taking responsibility for your actions, and them taking measures to correct them. You can't do any of that by ignoring your past.

Reading Boehner's voting record, I can see why he doesn't want us to examine the past. He's voted against most major bills that would have brought relief to the middle class. He's also the clown who actually started passing out checks from tobacco industry lobbyists to House members while they were voting on tobacco subsidies. Fellow Republican Rep. Linda Smith of Washington was moved to say "if it's not illegal, it should be."*

Here are some of his statements from the show:

Fuel Crisis

"...we can produce an energy policy that will bring down gas prices."
If this is true, why haven't the Republicans pursued it in the last twenty five years? We've known that fossil fuel supplies are limited since the 1970's. And who fought imposing fuel efficiency on automakers? The GOP. Who fought imposing the same fuel consumption requirements on SUV's as passenger cars? The GOP. Who cut funding for research into alternative fuels? The GOP.

Why don't we have wind farms, or solar panels on every roof in the country? Because the GOP didn't want you to have them, period. It's only now, twenty years too late, that the GOP admits we need to look to alternatives to fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

He did get called out by George when he referred to the increase in gasoline as the "Pelosi Premium," referring not to any specific action on her part but simply that it increased that much while she was in office. "Well," interjected George, "that could just as easily be called the 'Bush Premium,' couldn't it?"

"Democrats, they have done nothing to help us produce more energy here at home," he retorted.
Of course, it must be pointed out that Bush cut funding into clean energy research. He has cut such funding every year since taking office. So much for the Republican commitment to increasing clean energy.

Just another reason Boehner doesn't want you looking at the past: it shows that their actions illustrate that they are flat out lying to the American Public now.

" We stood up on principle to do the right things for the right reasons, make sure that we insure poor children first."
Which, I suppose, is why he voted against the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007. Twice.

He claims that this was because:
" what the Democrats wanted to do was to cover adults, wanted to cover illegal immigrants"
But the truth isn't quite what he claimed it was:
"This bill enables states to enroll 3.9 million children who would otherwise be uninsured. Coverage for dental and mental health care is guaranteed for the first time. While the bill makes it easier to enroll pregnant women in SCHIP, it phases out coverage for low-income parents who are currently covered in some states. The bill provides federal incentives for states to make intensive efforts to enroll more of the lowest-income uninsured children in Medicaid."*
It appears that the "adults" that the Democrats wanted to cover were pregnant women. If CHILDREN are covered, and we agree that they should be, why would we not take care of them prior to birth? We can only do that by taking care of the mother, who is carrying the infant. Giving birth to a healthy baby is markedly cheaper than trying to take care of an infant suffering from lack of pre-natal care.

Boehner also claims that he voted against this bill because Democrats:
"...wanted to raise taxes to pay for all of this."
Which is actually true. He just neglects to mention which taxes:
"The increased funding is paid for by a 61-cent increase in cigarette taxes and other tobacco taxes. The program is not open to undocumented immigrants."*
Oh, hey, that last bit flatly contradicts Boehner's assertion that the Democrats were trying to get coverage for illegal aliens.

On Taking Responsibility

ulos also questioned Boehner about what the GOP was going to do about Representative Vito Fossella. Arrested for drunk driving in Virginia, the New York Republican was bailed out by a Lt. Col. Laura Fay, of Alexandria, Virginia. Fay, who also goes by the name Laura Shoaf, lives about 3 miles from where Boehner was arrested.

She's also the mother of Fossella's three-year old daughter. Which must be devastating news to Fossella's wife, Mary Pat, with whom Fossella has three children.

Fossella is clearly guilty of violating several laws; Stephanopolous asked if the GOP had asked Vito to step down. Boehner, predictably, dodged the issue.

"This is a personal matter," he intoned, "between Rep. Fossella and his wife."

Had he spoken with Fossella? Yes, he did. Did you ask him to step down. "
This is a very personal issue and I think it's really between Vito, his wife and family, and his constituents," Did Boehner have an opinion? "I'm sure that they'll resolve it in a way that's satisfactory for them and for us."

Boehner wouldn't admit to an opinion, wouldn't define the matter as a moral lapse, and flatly said that he wasn't demanding any course of action from Fossella, or event setting a deadline towards making a decision. Sounds like his views on Iraq, doesn't it?

So to summarize Boehner's interview:
  • The Republican Party will not take any responsibility for its past actions.
  • The Republican Party denies responsibility for its past failures.
  • The Republican Party will lie about why it voted against expanded health care for children in low income families.
  • The Republican Party will not hold its elected officials to a basic standard of ethics, nor force them to be accountable to the Party for their lapses.
Mr. Boehner wants us to forget that he and his party has continually lied to us, and broken virtually every promise that the Party - and Boehner personally - has ever made to the American public.

No, Mr. Boehner, this election should judge the Republican Party- and you - on its past; and I think your record, and the recent actions of the Grand Old Party, will be found wanting.


Let's face it, this movie has gotten less than stellar reviews; it's been called a flop, and some people even claim that the Wachowski Brothers have lost their touch.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong wrong.

The Wachowski Brothers got it exactly right: this is exactly what a movie based on SPEED RACER should be.

The story, the actors, the design team - they captured the very essence of the anime that hooked me as a kid.

Some reviewers complained about the blaringly bright palette used by the design team; the Racer home is a blaze with color, in endlessly distracting patterns. But it took me right back to my sofa, back in the mid-60's. Suddenly, I was six years old again. 40 years melted away as I bounced on the seat with anticipation. I cheered when Speed gets through with the Mach 5. I laughed as I saw the villians get what they deserved. I groaned as Sprytle and Chim-chim got themselves into another mess trying to feed their greedy hunger for candy.

This is the real thing; a highly-stylized world that isn't anything like ours, and yet mirrors parts of it. Inspector Detector seems to have been pulled out of an early James Bond movie, and the Mach 5 has more gizmos than any bond film. This is the grandchild of Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang. THIS is why we love Speed Racer.

Now, I won't say that the movie is perfect; nothing ever is. I did feel that the grand prix racing sequences at the end were some of the weakest scenes in the movie. Racing is not about speed as much as it is control, and the Mach 5 is shown spinning wildly out of control through most of the race, although somehow it always manages to be at the right place at the right time.

But believe it or not, Speed Racer has never been about racing. Sure, there's a race in every episode. But those episodes were not about the race, they were about what it takes to win the race. And that's not having a fast car and a lead foot: you succeed only with the support of your family and friends. A cheater may win an occasional race, but they will never be a winner.

While the Mach 5 is fast, and its gizmos clever, Speed must figure out the best way to employ speed and guile. He has to consider possibilities. And he must have help. In this movie, as in the series, the importance of family is the most important trait of all. He only triumphs when he lets his family and friends help him. Singly, Team Racer has its flaws; together, they are unstoppable.

As in the series, the family is shattered when oldest brother Rex Racer leaves the family racing team to strike out on his own; an angry Pops Racer roars "If you walk through that door, don't ever come back!" But Rex is determined to be his own man, and walks out into the obligatory dark and stormy night.

Rex does not come back: his family watches in horror as his car is consumed in a fireball during a road rally race.

Ten years later, Speed is offered a chance on a larger, better-funded racing team. As Speed leaves the house to give his answer to the sponsor, Pops again meets a son walking out the door, but this time he reflects on the past. "Son, I didn't lose Rex on that race track ten years ago; I lost him right here."

He tells Speed how proud he is of him, and that whatever he chooses, the door will always be open. He has found the true place in his sons' lives. It was a great performance by John Goodman. Susan Sarandon as Mom Racer is the great peace-maker, who recognizes her son's talent and defends it tooth and nail and feeds it plenty of PB&J sandwiches.

And I have to say, Christina Ricci simply blew me away. I've been a fan for years, but I kept forgetting that we were watching the girl who played Wednesday Adams up there on the screen. She's always done great work, but this is the first time I have only seen the character she is portraying.

Her Trixie is just as bright a ball of positive energy as her animated counterpart. It's difficult to play such a positive character without coming off as, well, cartoonish, but Ricci pulls it off masterfully. As portrayed by Ricci, Trixie is absolutely devoted to Speed, but isn't some simple-minded seat-cover. She's smarter than he his, and strong enough to keep up with him. This Trixie is no damsel in distress; she's a liberated woman of the twenty-first century.

And frankly, she's never looked hotter.

If you liked Speed Racer, if you're a fan of anime, you should see this movie, and see it on the big screen. Screw the critics. They obviously weren't there on the couch in front of the TV taking on the Monster Car.

May 13, 2008

Who can bring us "Change?"

Having addressed the reasons I specifically chose to support Obama over Clinton, it's time to take a wider view of all the candidates. Or at least, The Big Three.

In my own "coming out" piece, I cite Obama's lack of experience in Washington as an inhibiting factor in supporting him. A lot of people cite it when talking about why they aren't supporting him, or haven't decided which Democratic candidate they'll be supporting. Let's examine that in more detail.

"Well, Abraham Lincoln served two years in the U.S. House, and seemed to do all right"
(Newt Gingrich, Meet The Press 12/17/07)

"Lack of experience" isn't accurate when describing Obama; he is currently serving as a Senator, after all; That immediately gives him more experience than the current office-holder, George W. Bush; Bush's only experience was in state politics, as governor of Texas. Probably not a good example, seeing how badly he's screwed the country - and the world - during his tenure. But if you think Bush was worth supporting, or even somehow have come to the conclusion that he's not a completely incompetent fuck-up a good leader, then you can't use lack of experience as a metric.

Woodrow Wilson is another President who had no background in national politics before being elected to the most national office of all. Wilson gave us the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission, and the eight-hour work day.

And as Newt Gingrich points out, Abraham Lincoln only served two years in the less prestigious House of Representatives.

So there's no valid argument against supporting Senator Obama based on his length of public service.

Before serving as a US Senator, Barack Obama served in the Illinois legislature for most of a decade. And what kind of laws did he pass? The state's first major ethics law in 25 years, for starters. He also helped to pass laws protecting citizens' rights during police investigations - laws that protect the suspect AND the police officer. He also helped to create an earned-income tax credit.* So much for claiming he's a "tax and spend" candidate.

So Senator Obama has a track record for working with others and building consensus to accomplish goals.

Senator Clinton's record is actually much slimmer in terms of actual terms in office, but she was in private practice as a lawyer for years. And as Bill Clinton's First Lady to his Arkansas Governership as well as his Presidency, she is certainly aware of the problems facing the occupant of the Oval Office. But even so, she has less experience in public office than Obama, and that is simply a fact.

And let's face facts: there is a sizable conservative faction that loathe both Clintons. This excessively vocal minority continually poisoned public opinion during the Clinton Presidency, and has continued to spew invective over anyone associated with the Clintons. While they really don't represent any rational view and don't hold any real political power, these rabid radicals have grit enough to affect the workings of our government. Haven't we had enough of them yet? Let's starve them of the focus on the Clintons. If nothing else, it will force them to create a new tissue of lies to foist on our leadership, and that will slow them down a little.

So why not McCain? He's a decorated war hero, he has also fought corruption in public office and pushed for ethics law reforms. And let's face it, if you ask liberals which Republican they'd be most likely to support, it's McCain. He's certainly far more Centrist than the current administration. And no one can argue that he lacks experience in national - and international - politics.

John McCain has been in Washington DC since 1982. He has spent 26 years creating the country as we now experience it. I'm not saying that this is the country he intended to create, I'm not saying he doesn't want to make things better, but the fact is that he is part of the machine that brought us here. He was elected to the US Senate based on an agenda to reduce federal spending and lower taxes. I ask you this; in the last 26 years, have you seen any evidence that we've reduced federal spending? Are your taxes lower?

How about lobbyists? McCain was re-elected in 2004 because he was going to close the loopholes that give lobbyists so much access to Congress. Have you seen any evidence that Lobbyists have less influence?

And as for Hillary Clinton; if we're going to say that her lesser experience in public office is mitigated by her long-term connection to her husband's extensive career in public service, then she, too, helped to lead us to where we stand right now. If she's claiming that her attachment to the Old Guard and its successes lends her credibility, then she must also take responsibility for its failings.

Neither McCain nor Clinton can deliver "Change." They are part of the thing we need to change from. Their experience dictates that they can not be instruments of change in our national political fabric because they ARE our political fabric.

If you really want a change, there's really only one choice.

May 11, 2008

Politicians, Promises, and Proper Choices

Way back when, there used to be a course called "Civics." That was before my time. At Thomas S. Wootton High School, in Maryland, outside Washington DC during the Carter Administration, the class was called "Government," and its teacher was Mr. Stewart.

Mr. Stewart was right out of a Robert Heinlein novel; he was a decorated veteran who lost an arm during "The Big One." He didn't discuss it with us, but my dad learned that he had been hit 27 times by machine gun fire. He had a mechanical arm that ended not in a hook, but a rubber hand. He used it mostly for effect, occasionally adjusting it so he could glare at us from the front of the room with crossed arms. And he had opinions; he wasn't afraid to tell you his point of view, or to contradict "common knowledge." His job wasn't just to teach us how Government worked, but how we were supposed to make it work.

THE LESSON: Politicians and their Promises

"Any politician who tells you they will lower taxes," he declared, "is lying to you. Period. Taxes have never been lowered in all of human history, and anyone who tells you different is also lying."

The son of the Congressman from a southern state raised his hand. "But Mr. Stewart, I know that they just passed a law that lowered the tax on (whatever the heck it was). My dad voted on it."

"Did they really?" Mr. Stewart set his arm so he could clasp it behind his back as he paced around the classroom. "I'm sure it LOOKS like they did. But read through it, and you'll find that they replace the lost revenue with usage fees. And guess what? Now you're paying more."

With click and a twist, he crossed his arms again. "That's how it works; they tell you they'll lower a tax on, say, gasoline. Then they add a surcharge that the distributor has to pay to cover inspections costs, and that cost is passed on to you. Or they create a new tax on something else. You're duped into thinking that you're paying less because it doesn't show up as a tax on gasoline, but it's only been hidden somewhere else. Your tax load will never, ever go down."

He repositions his arm, hooking the rubber thumb into his trouser pocket while he paces. "The thing is, the government has to pay for its services; there are things that only it can do: national defense, law enforcement, regulation of weights and measures, and so on. And there are things we have chosen for government to take care of: education, social welfare, and environmental regulation."

"Take the highway system, for example. We discovered the need for an interstate highway during World War 2. But it needs to be maintained. Let's say we decide to cut taxes, and actually for once the taxes get lowered. Now there's less money to do things. What gets cut? Maintenance. Maybe not completely, but let's say we spread the work out. Instead of re-surfacing every 10 years, we do it every 25. That's less jobs for road builders, asphalt suppliers, and so on. More people on unemployment. But the roads end up being in worse shape, so you wind up paying more to bring them back to a safe condition. Now it's an emergency instead of maintenance. Now it has to be replaced, and before you can replace it, you have to remove it. So now we're spending three or four times what we would have paid for upkeep in the first place, and our taxes have to go up to cover it."

"So lowering taxes is simply not a realistic approach. So, who can tell me why anyone would promise to do something they can't possibly do? I'll tell you."

"To get elected. Plain and simple. They tell us what we want to hear. Politicians are counting on you to not examine the facts to discover the truth; they rely on your ignorance."

He shrugs his shoulder to unlock the joint, and folds his arm back up to glower at us from the front of the room. "And that's why we're here; so you can learn to see the truth. Politicians lie to get elected. It's up to us to learn how to see the lie. The only way to get honest leadership is to make sure you don't elect the people lying to you. So when a politician promises to lower or abolish taxes, you know that they are lying to you. Vote for the other guy if you want honesty."

"And if you vote for the guy who is blatantly lying to you, you deserve the government you get."


Over the years, I have seen this lesson proven again and again; George H.W. Bush promises to veto a tax increase, and doesn't. Florida lowers taxes on some things, only to raise them on others. Taxes get abolished, and are replaced by "fees" or "licenses" that cost more than the taxes did.

And in the rare case where a tax is lowered and the revenue isn't replaced, we end up having to re-instate them later at a much higher rate to repair the resultant damage. We pay more in taxes now than in any point in our history - even while Bush's so-called tax cuts were in effect.

So here we are, over a quarter century past Mr. Stewart's lecture. Now, as then, we face rising fuel costs due to problems in the Middle East (another lesson we didn't learn).

With three real candidates vying for position, two of them have chosen to lie to us.

Hillary Clinton and John McCain both state that they will push to suspend the Federal Tax on gasoline this summer, so that the cost of gas will come down for consumers. But as numerous sources point out, there's no guarantee that suspending the tax will lower the cost to consumers; it's far more likely that gas distributors will pocket all or part of the difference to make up for the drop in sales they've experienced as people cut back on their driving.

And even if distributors do pass on the entire savings, those taxes are supposed to pay for things; road repair and maintanence, for instance. Mr. Stewart's own prophetic example. Have we forgotten the people who were killed in the Minnesota bridge collapse so quickly? And there are hundreds of roads and bridges in need of immediate repair to make them safe, and thousands more that are degrading.

And even if anyone really thinks that allowing our roads to fall into ruin is a good idea, there's still the matter of the ever-increasing deficit. We're already billions of dollars in the red; we can not afford to run that debt up further.

The time to fight rising fuel costs was 20 years ago; that boat sailed when the Reagan Republicans decided that setting better fuel economy standards wasn't a worthwhile endeavor. It's rather sad and pathetic that the average vehicle was more fuel efficient 15 years ago than they are today.

As Mr. Stewart pointed out to us all those years ago, the promise to lower the tax is a false one; it won't lower your costs, and it will likely hurt the country.


So here we are, two politicians vying to be the Democratic candidate for President who will run against Republican John McCain.

Until now, I've been vacillating. If I could choose anyone in the world to be President, it would be Joe Biden. But he's been out of the running for months now. Obama is inspiring, but doesn't have a lot of experience. Clinton has the experience, but radical conservatives hate her guts and shouldn't we be done with Presidents who polarize us to that degree? But we did well under the last Clinton adminstration, but she supported the war in Iraq.

Barack or Hillary. Hillary or Barack. I couldn't decide.

And then Clinton promised something no one can deliver, and Obama pointed out the truth.

So the choice is now obvious. "When a politician promises to lower taxes, they are lying." I can vote for the liar, or I can vote for the one who isn't lying to me.

I'm voting for Barack Obama.

May 7, 2008

On Political Power, Clout, and Compromise

When George Herbert Walker Bush was running for President, he made a promise that swept him into office:
And I'm the one who will not raise taxes. My opponent now says he'll raise them as a last resort, or a third resort. But when a politician talks like that, you know that's one resort he'll be checking into. My opponent, my opponent won't rule out raising taxes. But I will. And the Congress will push me to raise taxes and I'll say no. And they'll push, and I'll say no, and they'll push again, and I'll say, to them, ‘Read my lips: no new taxes.’

Of course, he did sign the largest tax increase in US history up to that time. It cost him much support during his administration, and utterly destroyed any chance at a second term in office.

Arguments have been made that he had to sign the bill into law in order to hold onto his political clout; after all, it was clear that Congress had the votes to override a veto. Presidents whose veto gets overridden, we are told, loses political power.

But the man made a promise, and the bottom line is he broke his promise. And people who break promises don't deserve any support from anybody.

Why am I bringing this up? Isn't this water under the bridge? No, not in light of recent events.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez made a promise to the people of Miami-Dade County. He promised that he would fight urban sprawl and stand against the corruption of out-of-control developers. And he faced his greatest test so far with the incredibly stupid request to move the UDB (Urban Development Boundary) farther west.

Despite the fact that State and County regulatory agencies recommended against the move, and a lack of support in the community, the clowns in our county commission voted to do it anyway. Alvarez warned that he would veto the move, and the overwhelming majority of jackals on the commission retorted that they would overrided.

They voted for the move. Alvarez vetoed it, and the Commission, unfettered by intelligence, common sense, or decency, overturned it.

Some might argue that this cost Alvarez some political capital; they would be wrong. The fact that Alvarez kept his word knowing that he would ultimately lose the battle only underscores the strength of his integrity and the courage of his convictions. When you give your word unequivocally, you can not compromise.

Plus, when the Commission is forced to spend tens of millions of dollars defending the lawsuits that are being filed as I write this, the guy who tried to stop them is going to be the one standing on the moral high ground.

Mayor Alvarez is absolutely correct when says that this defeat is Miami-Dade County's. And as long as Joe Martinez, Natacha Seijas, Audrey Edmonson, Rebeca Sosa, Dorrin Rolle, Bruno Barreiro, Barbara Jordan and Javier Souto continue to sit on the Commission, we will continue to be the losers.

Lowe's List of Cockroaches: Their Board

I listed the scumbags on our own Miami-Dade County Commission, it's only fair to spotlight the cockroaches that will be destroying our drinking supply and savaging the Everglades.

The Directors of Lowe's:

David W. Bernauer
Leonard L. Berry
Peter C. Browning
Dawn E. Hudson
Robert A. Ingram
Robert L. Johnson
Marshall O. Larsen
Richard K. Lochridge
Robert A. Niblock
Stephen F. Page
O. Temple Sloan, Jr.

Be sure to tell them how feel: you can use this form.

Lowe's and the Miami-Dade Commission Fuck Us Over.

That's right. Lowe's and the Miami-Dade County Commission decided that access to paint and pesticides is more important than your drinking water.

In the coming years, as the cost of our drinking water skyrockets and half the plants and the animal species in the Everglade dissappear forever, remember that the loss was gifted to you by Lowe's and the following morally bankrupt commissioners:

Joe Martinez, Natacha Seijas, Audrey Edmonson, Rebeca Sosa, Dorrin Rolle, Bruno Barreiro, Barbara Jordan and Javier Souto.

Not one regulatory supported this decision, and most spoke out against it; it's bad for the environment, it's bad for our drinking water supply, it's bad for traffic, it's bad for the tax base, it's simply bad.

Can anyone seriously doubt that these nine scumbags weren't paid off? I hope someone's probing their financial records; we deserve to know what our future sold for.

May 4, 2008

To Heck with SunFest: the Real Deal is in Fort Lauderdale.

I lived in West Palm Beach for many years. SunFest was still free, back then. It was still the friendly little jazz festival along the lake, something special for the people of Palm Beach County. It was a way to say farewell to the tourist season, a chance to take in one last break in the sun before summer kicks in. That's gone the way of a dollar a gallon gas and fifty cent coffee.

Now you pay to walk the streets your tax dollars built; I shudder when I consider parking fees. It's a boon to restaurants and hotels, but the theaters take a hit, and what kind of cultural event closes down the library for a week? Sure, there are big-name acts, but when did Sheryl Crow or Little Feat become jazz acts? Not much jazz left at what's become a slick and profitable operation. A few years back, the management sued a local artist because he painted a picture of the event and had the audacity to call it "SunFest." No, the friendly little festival is now a cold, greedy money machine.

Screw 'em. We don't need them. There's a real jazz festival every month along the river in Fort Lauderdale; not only is it FREE, not only can you bring your DOG, you can set up tarps and have a picnic while the jazz drifts past you, born on the same breezes carrying the smells of fresh food.

I'm talking about the SunTrust Sunday Jazz Brunch in Fort Lauderdale. That's right, the first Sunday of every month, you can hear some of the best LOCAL jazz bands in South Florida. No pop-music shills, here.

I took some pictures of this Sunday's event; and I promise you, I didn't get it all. Here are the highlights, and more can be found on Flickr

Nicole Henry talks with the band
Nicole Henry

Camped out on the Plaza to listen to Nicole Henry

Time For Jazz!!

Jazz on the River
Everyone loves jazz on the river

Dancing to Jazz Music
I do mean everyone.

Watching the boats go by

The Porcelain Quartet
The Porcelain Quartet in the Broward Center's Peck Courtyard.

Jazz, Picnic Brunch, and Boats
Yes, you can really take your boat to Sunday Jazz Brunch.

Jazz Brunch under the trees
Plenty of shade in the Historic Village

May 2, 2008

ADDRESS UNKNOWN: the book, the reading, the message.

Several people have asked how the reading went; I meant to post right after the event but
came home to an internet outage :-(

It went very well. Attendance was small; but with so many other events scheduled for Holocaust Remembrance Day, that is not unexpected. But those who came were very attentive, and quickly became enthralled as the story unfolded.


The book was ADDRESS UNKNOWN, by Kathrine Kressman Taylor. It was first published 70 years ago, just before the United States entered the Second World War, and is set just a few years earlier. It had been due for release in Holland in 1940, but the invasion by Germany resulted in the destruction of all copies printed there. The book would not be seen in Europe until 2001.

It was reissued in 1995, and has since been printed in multiple languages and adapted to the stage. The stage version has been playing in Israel since 2002.


It's a compelling story: two German expatriates, Max and Martin, come together in America following the end World War 1. They become business partners, and then they become close friends; Max is regarded as an uncle by Martin's children. And the fact that Max is a Jew is never mentioned at all; he's just one of the family.

But Martin has never really acclimated to the United States. The food, the culture; he's always felt like an outsider. In 1932, he decides to take his family back to Germany. The gallery he started with Max is a success; even in the depths of the Depression they are making a good living. So Martin leaves Max to run their business, and he goes home to Germany.

Germany has not done very well since losing WW1. Middle-class back in California, he's considered a millionaire in Munich. Martin not only buys the house of his dreams, it's a veritable mansion. The mayor is a guest in his home, and the neighbors urge him to run for office.

The friends write each other frequently; Max is having success with the gallery, and Martin is elected to an office. Max asks about this new politician, Adolph Hitler. Martin isn't sure about him: he describes Hitler's followers as "rabble," and worries that liberal Old Guard won't be able to remove him if Hitler proves undesirable.

As Max becomes concerned about the tide of events, Martin not only is swept up in them, but embraces the New Order.

Eventually, their friendship ends, in a most disastrous manner. Betrayal and revenge; a tale of two friends becomes a tragedy; everyone loses. Some lose more than others.


I read the piece with the store manager, Michael Karpus. It only took us a few minutes to sort out who was reading whom, and to determine the structure of the reading. He read Max, who starts and ends the story, and I played Martin, who undergoes a transformation from a lovable liberal to a jackbooted thug. Michael had more to read, but I had more German to garble, so it worked out.

This is the first performance I have given since 1994. While it may not have been the best of my life, I felt that I had a good grasp on the material, and the audience responded quite nicely. My voice was probably an octave higher than I'd intended; not much relaxation to be had in rush hour traffic! A stumble on a word or a trip on the stilted grammar here or there, but overall, it was a good performance. I will look back on it with pride. I'd like another crack at it, at some point. It's a great piece, and I think I can do more with it.

My partner, Michael, was not a professional actor, but he read strongly and with confidence. He really hit his stride the last few pages, when the tenor of Max's letters change; Michael reflected the shift in tone masterfully.

We were very well received; one woman was talking about presenting a reading to her synagogue, and everyone bought some copies to send to friends. The sponsor was effusive, and my partner was delighted to have strong foil.


Everyone should read this book. It should be required reading in all of our schools. It's short; it took us under an hour to read it aloud. It will literally fit in a pocket - I carried it in a trouser pocket all day. The language isn't difficult.

And we shouldn't write it off as "just another book about the holocaust" or "one more book about how evil the Nazis were." This book isn't a relic of the past. Its events are not some dreary history.

This seventy year old story is one of the most chillingly relevant things I've read in the last year.

Martin, an admitted liberal at the start of the book, embraces the radical conservatism of the National Socialist Party. Max begs him to remember his earlier nature, and the ideals he used to hold dear. But Martin responds with a rabid diatribe: and its content could mirror any staunch Republican today:
"A liberal is a man who does not believe in doing anything. He is a talker about the rights of man, but just a talker. He likes to make a big noise about freedom of speech, and what is freedom of speech? Just the chance to sit firmly on the backside and say that whatever is being done is wrong! What is so futile as the liberal?"

"He calls this 'the long view,' but it is merely a bad scare that he will have to do something himself. He loves words and high-sounding precepts but he is useless to the men who make the world what it is. These are the only important men; the doers. And here in Germany, a doer has arisen. A vital man is changing things."
"I do not question the ends of our action. It is not necessary. I know it is good because it is so vital. Men are not drawn into bad things with so much joy and eagerness."
These words fit very easily into the mouths of a Rush Limbaugh or an Ann Coulter; the words wouldn't seem alien attributed to Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld or even George W himself. Seventy years ago, they belonged to the Nazis.

Wouldn't Abraham Lincoln be proud?

Kathrine Kressman Taylor, (c) 1938
Washington Square Press
published by Pocket Books

May 1, 2008

Rare Public Appearance

It's late notice, but I've been asked to fill in for Ken Clement at a reading! I will be reading from ADDRESS UNKNOWN at the Books & Books store in Bal Harbor Shoppes. Ken performed the role of Martin Hulse at GableStage a couple of years ago, sharing the stage with Avi Hoffman as Max Eisenstein. Conflicts in Ken's rehearsal schedule forced him to drop out, but events transpired to put me back in front of an audience.

The reading takes place today, May1st, 6pmat Books & Books, 9700 Collins Avenue, Bal Harbour. The store is located on the second level, near Sak's Fifth Avenue. For info, call 305.864.4241

(this is a mirror of the post at South Florida Theater Scene).