June 23, 2008

The Big Cack-A-Roo

George Carlin is really fucking dead. No shit.

Of course, there are those who maintain that he died years ago, and there are times when I've watched his later work that I almost agreed. But let's not get into criticism. If he can't get a break in his obituary, where the fuck can he?

Like many of us "of a certain age," Carlin opened my eyes to free-speech issues with his "7 words you can't say on television."

The first time I ever heard his work, my friend Tom brought over his album "On The Road." And I was hooked.

"Oh, by the way, you're all going to die. I didn't meant to remind you of it, but it is on your schedule!

"When I die, I don't want to go through that funeral shit. Hey, you become more popular than you've ever been your whole life. People say the nicest things about you. They make shit up if they have to: 'He was an asshole - but a well-meaning asshole!'

"I don't want to be buried when I die. And I don't want to be cremated either. I want to be BLOWN UP!"

"I say, if you're going to die, die big. Entertain those you leave behind. "

Here's a later clip of George on death and dying:

June 20, 2008

There's a movement?

I've spoken out against the stupidity of bottled water. I've followed up with studies.

But according the Miami Herald, there's now an anti-bottled water campaign.
The city of Miami has joined the fray, ordering officials in March to stop spending city money on bottled water in under two-liter containers.
You heard it here, first.

June 15, 2008

Saturday Night's All Right

They say a picture is worth a thousand words:

Yes, I did all the things that make life worth living; hung out with good people, drank, ate, and took pictures.

We met at Tobacco Road around 6pm. Actually Tere arrived at 6pm, and I arrived about 6:20. And everyone else came in as their lives permitted. We sat at the bar, noshing on cheese fries and potato wedges and the sparsest nachos plate I've ever seen. Tasty, but not the big pile of chips with stuff dribbled on it that I expected.

We'd been planning to sit out back in the fresh air, but the patio doesn't open until 10:00. We sat inside for a little while, but it just wasn't working out for us. Eventually Scott and Yvette scouted it out, and we grabbed some tables in the back, running in and out from the bar for food and drinks as needed. Which apparently pissed off the patio staff when they arrived four hours later, because when I tried to order drinks from the now-open bar, the bartender growled at me.
"Yer sittin' at all those tables, aintcha? So go sit, and the waitress will get yer drinks."
No problem by me, but being the only customers back there, you'd have thought that she'd have come over on her own power and asked if we needed more drinks, but she didn't. And even having sat through the exchange with the bartender, it still took her ten minutes to take our order. And she never did come back to see if we needed more drinks.

Along with the first (and only) drink order, Alex put in a food order, which came out in reasonable time. By this time, there were bloggers at a corner booth, bloggers at tables pulled together, and bloggers standing around various corners of the bar. Which sounds like a lot of bloggers, but we were really only about nine or ten. Yvette and I are chatting with Alex while he's eating his dinner, when a waiter (or busboy, I'm not really sure) came over.
"You guys have to move into that booth there; we have a big party coming in."
Alex wasn't halfway through his meal, and anyway, WE were a big group. Sure, we were momentarily scattered, but the table we were at held cameras and purses and drinks. It's a good thing you don't go to the Tobacco Road for the service, isn't it?

The kid was a total asshole about it. But Alex finished his dinner, and we consolidated to the corner booth, and the "big party" got their tables. The bartender eventually made nice with us, but we never did see the waitress again.

The "big group" turned out to be cool: a group of skate boarders, they get together once a month or so to - get this - skate on I-95. Yeah, INTERSTATE 95, the highway.

They come down, and skate the ramps at the end of the highway. They wait until after-hours, and they are respectful of property and traffic laws, so the cops apparently never hassle them. They do their thing, then hit Tobacco Road before scattering to their homes.

They were grooving on showing us their boards, and explaining the finer points of speed boarding, and riding the concrete waves. They invited Yvette to come along some night and chronicle their rides, and even gave her a quick lesson.

All in all, a nice evening out. And because we didn't have an attentive waitress, I woke up without a hangover!

June 11, 2008

Abuse of Power: NY Attorny General Andrew Cuomo

One thing you can say about Andy Cuomo; he's not too bright.

Andy is the Attorney General for New York, and he's on a crusade. Remember how well the Crusades went? Andy doesn't.

To be fair, his cause is just; he's fighting child pornography. Any child pornography is too much; I don't think any basically decent person thinks otherwise. No, the problem is not the cause.

It's the method. He's chosen unwisely.

But first, Black Adder! (It's relevant, I promise you!)

Edmund Blackadder has a problem: he lives in Elizabethan England, and he's fallen in love with his house boy, Bob. They burned homosexuals back in the day. Young Bob is an androgynous beauty, as quick of wit as he is pleasing to the eye. He is also actually a young woman, Kate.

Bob's, er, Kate's father, desperate for money, was going to pimp her out as a prostitute since that was the only profession open to a woman of ignoble birth. No dowry, so now one will marry her, so he's ready to pack her off to the nearest brothel. Kate has her own ideas, and disguises herself as a boy and gets a job as Blackadder's valey...and you see where we are. There's a mutual attraction, but Blackadder thinks she's a boy, which means that someone will have to burned at the stake.

As desperate as any Republican up for election this year, Blackadder seeks the council of the Wise Old Woman:

I love that Blackadder!

Andy Cuomo wants to do something about child pornography that will get him noticed. Why? He wants to be GOVERNER, of course.

As I said earlier, the problem isn't the goal, it's the method. He's forcing several ISPs to cut off access to Usenet, the oldest and most venerable part of the internet.

I have to give you some boring history; if you know what Usenet is, feel free to skip ahead.

Usenet is basically a network of message servers. It was the first interconnected network of unrelated computers, and was the skeleton the rest of the Internet built on. It's like our limbic system; a primitive network buried under layers and layers of newer, faster, and sleeker networks. Most ISPs still offer direct access to Usenet; you access by using a newsgroup reader and accessing your ISP's NNTP server.

It's not unlike email, but instead of messages going to the mailboxes of individual users, the messages are posted to a "group." For example, if you're interested in genealogy, there are hundreds of groups dedicated to it: genealogy, genealogy methods, genealogy for specific countries, etc.

And there are also HIERARCHIES of groups; for example, if you are approaching genealogy from a social history point of view, you might belong to soc.hist.genealogy, or soc.genealogy. If you're french, the group might be fr.soc.genealogy. Perhaps your interest is in genealogy software, in which case you'd be subscribed to comp.genealogy.

These hierarchies go back to when Usenet was mainly used by Universities and scientists. But sometimes a group didn't fit into a hierarchy, or the constraints of soc.genealogy (or whatever) was too stuffy and formal. Or maybe you wanted to create a new group, but the universities didn't see the need, or felt it was frivolous.

Thus was born the ALT hierarchies. All you had to do was get your server's administrator to create a group on your own Usenet server to create an alt group; the others would automatically pick it up. And a lot of administrators cut that step; if you posted to an alt group that didn't exist, the server would create automatically create it.

There are a lot of alt groups. Hundreds of thousands of them. And of course, it didn't take long for porn to find its way to the Usenet "alt." hierarchy. There are thousands of groups that start "alt.sex.*" or "alt.pornography.*"

Sadly, 88 of those groups are dedicated in one way or another to child pornography.

Usenet is designed to survive a global nuclear war; there is no centralization. Once a group is created any number of servers around the planet host it. And every server hooks up to every other server, in endlessly random rotations. Messages aren't routed to any particular server or user; it's posted to the GROUP. Each time a server connects, it compares lists of newsgroups. They each add groups from the other until they match. Then they compare messages within the groups, and exchange messages until those match on both servers. Then they let go and connect to other servers, and start over again.

Investigators can't track Usenet messages like email. And you can't really tell who downloaded messages from a particular group; you could watch one server, but that won't help because there thousands of servers all over the planet.

So Andy Cuomo's idea is to shut down Usenet. Or at least, forbid you from accessing it.

He's chosen the wise old woman's third plan; instead of punishing the guilty, punish everyone else.

The ISPs in question CAN simply block those specific 88 groups from their servers. Oh yes, each server adminstrator can determine what groups it wants on its servers, and block those groups.

Instead, Time-Warner is going to shut down its NNTP server completely. It doesn't seem that they are going to adjust its fees to reflect the lost service. Sprint and Verizon aren't ditching it entirely; they've decided to block the entire alt hierarchy. That's nearly a third of the newsgroups; and the 2/3 that's left services every other country on the planet; most of them are not in English. They don't want to take the chance of being accused of not trying to stop kiddie porn, even though they probably know that their impact on child pornography will be exactly nil.

It's going to cost tens of millions of innocent people access to a portion of the Internet. And the sad part is that it doesn't actually get rid of those 88 newsgroups, or prevent anyone from accessing them. While Cuomo can run roughshod over the 1st Amendment to stop US providers from having newsgroup servers, there's nothing to stop pedophiles from paying for access to an independent usenet server, and access their filth that way.

Right now, there are Republicans out there getting read to shout "Hey, if the PEDOPHILES can pay for access, that means everyone else can, too!"

That's true. But why should I be forced to do it so that Andy Cuomo can pretend to fix a problem? Why punish the innocent? Some of us have been involved in newsgroups for decades; we have friends that we've never met on these groups. I confer with people in my business all over the globe via usenet: our free exchange of ideas have helped all of us create new solutions to problems. I've learned new approached to my hobbies, and I've even found distant cousins.

No, he's not actually doing a damned thing about stopping child porn, all he's done is created an excuse for your ISP to reduce your service without reducing its fees. He's forcing tens of thousands of users to cough up more money to regain the service Cuomo so cavalierly is about to steal.

The US Constitution exists to protect us from tyrannical jerks like New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Maybe I'm being too hasty.....


June 9, 2008

Am I a Liberal? Offical Results

This is no surprise to me at all. I've been saying this for years.

Your Political Profile:

Overall: 60% Conservative, 40% Liberal

Social Issues: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Fiscal Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal

Ethics: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal

Defense and Crime: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

A Debate with a Conservative: A Towel gets Thrown

I suspect that there won't be more debate until my uncle has a real keyboard to work with.

 I can't keep this going on a Blackberry.
I don't expect you to. I'm surprised you've done this much.

Bush cut taxes and stopped the economy from tanking.  That's simple.  
If it's true, it can be proven. No rush. Wait till you get home to your computer so you can do a proper job of it. It's not something you can do from memory. I've been checking my facts on the internet as I write, and I'm sure you'll want to do the same.

There was nothing else he could in the short term he had and the revenue rose. He effected TAX LOAD the only way he could.  You say History always repeats itself. Well, you're right.  Get ready, if Obama wins your taxes are going up. 
I've got news for you; taxes are going up either way. My taxes went up under Bush. They went up during his father's administration (did you know that I voted for Bush I?). They went up under Reagan. they didn't go up much under Clinton, and the dollar bought more. Sure, they'll go up under Obama. I expect them to go up under McCain, too. We've got a huge deficit, bigger debt, and a war that "may last a hundred years" to pay for. Taxes are going up, up, up.

What's the dollar going to do? Its value went down under Bush. Tell you what, benefit of the doubt: "It went down while Bush was in office." That way we can pretend that the fact that it went up during the Clinton administration had nothing to do with Clinton, either.

Sorry, but for you to even try to equate Obama's patriotism with McCain's is an insult 
I didn't try to equate. You picked a poor standard to measure by; the stupid pin. All I have done is point out that measuring patriotism by whether or not one wears a flag is stupid.

and the music was plain enough for everybody else there to hear it.  
You haven't listened to the tape, have you? Of course not, not over your Blackberry. But do it when you get the chance. Full disclosure is only fair.

It may have only been once but it happened.  I NEVER SAID HE NEVER SALUTES THE FLAG. 
Actually, you said exactly that. Let me refresh your memory:

"He doesn't even salute the flag during the National Anthem."

Your exact words, copied and pasted from your earlier message. Not "he didn't do it that one time," or "how about that time he didn't." but "he doesn't even do" it. That's an absolute declarative: "he does not salute the flag."
If you're going to quote me then get it right.
I always get your quotes right. I post like this so you can see that I am responding directly to what you said. I promise only to respond to what you actually write. I trust you to do the same.

I don't care what Obama's old bosses say about him now that he is a Presidential Candidate.  Who wouldn't say, "We knew him when he was doing great work at our firm."

I just can't get it all on a Blackberry, you go ahead vote for that mediocre politician from Illinois.

You know, I'll bet I can find a letter somewhere expressing the exact same sentiments about Abraham Lincoln. Oh, how about this:
Outgoing President James Buchanan thought that Lincoln could not heal the rift between the two regions, declaring 'I am the last President of the United States.'

We will never agree on this.  Your debate is based on what you want to hear.  
"Ring ring! Hello, Kettle? Pot Calling!" I can make exactly the same observation about your side of the debate. And it would be exactly as accurate.

Your teacher was probably a great teacher.  Sorry, I didn't mean disrespect.  He was a teacher and a decorated soldier.  So was PA Representative Murtha.
Murtha still is a decorated veteran, last time I checked.

If McCain wins, we will have a good man for President. But so far, I also believe that is true of Obama. Don't worry, I really don't ignore facts, and if something comes up that causes me to doubt Obama, I will take that into account on Election Day.

You might have more success arguing the benefits of McCain rather than the shortcomings of Obama.

A Debate with a Conservative: Rebut the Rebuttal

My uncle responds to my earlier email. He's on vacation in England, and he's not really equipped for this discussion:
Chris, you're kidding.  I'm typing on my Blackberry with "one hand tied behind my back."

Hey, this was YOUR idea. You wanted debate, you got debate.

1.  Never said you were a Dem.  You just use there talking points.  They are meaningless, but do support your position -- none.

Which talking points are those? If you're going to accuse me of something, be specific.

2.  You brought Clinton up.  Not I.  You said the press dumped on him.  I say that's a lie.  The press loved him, still does.
I said the conservatives dumped on him; they did, and they still do. Tiresome. Why elect a president who is so reviled by a large constituency that they spend enormous amounts of energy overcoming the opposition. Time for someone who can work well across party lines.

3.  McCain wears the flag every time he raises his arms -- he can't.  But that was a little dig that you take exception too.  You sure made a lot out of it.  
I seem to recall saying that I don't question McCain's patriotism. You made wearing a flag pin synonymous with patriotism, I didn't. But if wearing the pin is what counts, then you have to acknowledge that your candidate also fails that test.

McCain can't raise his arms above his shoulders, but he manages to get his tie on. If he can do that, he could wear a pin. But he doesn't wear a pin. And I suspect it's because like myself, and like Obama, McCain believes that patriotism isn't about putting the flag on your chest.

McCain is a patriot who doesn't wear a pin; ergo, a pin isn't necessary to be a patriot.

Obama refuses to wear one -- said so. 
And I refused to put a flag on my car following 9/11 for much the same reason. I won't fault him for it, because his views on it mirror my own. My patriotism is measured by how I live my life, not a meaningless display of the flag.

He doesn't even salute the flag during the National Anthem.  Big thing? Not too big, unless you want to swear to protect and defend.
Let's be truthfull: he didn't salute it at ONE EVENT.

Have you seen the video of that event? It's up at snopes.com. Indeed, he didn't place his hand over his heart. But listening to the recording, I had a hard time believing it was the National Anthem being sung. Just awful. Honestly, I initially couldn't tell it was the Star Spangled Banner. BTW, the flag code also requires facing the flag, something none of the candidates did at this particular event.

But Snopes also points out that it's ONE event, and there are hundreds of photos and videos taken before and after this one event where Obama holds his hand over his heart during the Anthem.

You will have to do better than ONE instance, on one hot summer day. Show me that he NEVER salutes the flag, ever, and then you will have a compelling argument.

4. He might be a great lawyer -- I doubt it, though.  His own staff hasn't said anything like that.  They keep bringing up his work in the Hood.  Good for him.  Let him keep doing that.  He was a small-time Lawyer in a big firm.  I would have left to join the legislature too.
Did you know that initially, his firm expected that he would remain on payroll and work part time during his tenure on the state legislature? But on the second day he was in office, he called the senior partner and resigned, saying that being a state rep would be "a full time job."

BTW, he took a pay cut to be a legislator. That's why most state legislators keep their "day jobs."

5.  The Illinois Legislature where he worked "with lots of other legislators" to do some good.  Never said he didn't work well with a crowd.

6. Retired police: this was merely a labor-union cuddle event. He wouldn't work for my right to keep and bear arms. No, he wouldn't or didn't.
Actually, as a retired veteran, he did work specifically for your right to keep and bear arms in this case. Read the bill.

He didn't work for MINE. OTOH, I really don't think that a lot of my neighbors should be trusted with military or near-military grade firearms. These maniacs down here tend to fire guns in the air for holiday celebrations.

7.  Politicians don't cut taxes.  By the way, Stewart was a liberal Dem just trying to turn your brain into mush. 
I didn't know that you met Lt. John Stewart, US Army, Ret. And to make any realistic statement about him, you would have to have met him. Anything less would be dishonest.

Hit by machine gun fire 27 times during the Battle of Normandy, he was a decorated war hero. He didn't talk much about it; the only words he ever said to the class about it came in response to a question about his artificial limb: "Lost it in the Big One." He was out on a medical leave of absence my sophomore year: shrapnel had worked its way towards his heart and he underwent major surgery that took the better part of a year to recover from.

He might have been a liberal Democrat; it never came up in conversation: but he certainly wasn't turning our minds to mush. He was making us use them.

The first day of class, he informed us that if we did all our homework, got 100% on every test, if we got every answer right, we would achieve a grade of "C" in his class. "Because passing the tests and getting the assignments correct is what's expected of you, and that is 'average.' If you want an A or a B in MY class, you will have to give me more than I expect of you, you will have to go above and beyond the assigned studies. Otherwise, you get nothing more than a 'C.'"

"Turning our brains to mush?" Is that your idea of "honest debate?" If you want to refute his point, show me that TAX LOAD has gone down at any point in history. Pointing to a tax-cut won't do it. You have to show me that not only did that tax get cut, but that no other sources of revenue were raised to make up the difference.

And good luck with that. That was one of my extra-credit activities; I was going to prove the arrogant sonofabitch wrong. I could not, because it turns out he was right. Every time a tax gets cut, other taxes and fees get bumped up to make up the difference.

He was preparing you so you would just accept higher taxes.  Bush cut taxes and saved the economy and fought his whole tenure to get them made permanent...they should stay in place. It's dems who won't let tax cuts stay in place -- DEMS.  
The tax cuts are irrelevant. They are a fiction. You're wasting your time looking at tax cuts, but then, that's their purpose. You should be looking at the TAX LOAD. And that has not gone down anytime in history. Every time a tax gets cut, a fee goes up, or is created outright. Sometimes we lose sight of it, because the adjustment happens at the state or local level. But it is there.

By the way, McCain thought of the gas tax thing first.  
Hardly something to brag about.

You have know idea what will happen to the price of gas neither do the talking heads on CNN.

"No idea?" I have an excellent idea of what will happen. In fact, I will go so far as to tell you exactly what WILL happen. If gas prices dip, what will happen will be the same thing that has happened every single time gas prices have dipped: people will buy more gas until the reserves shrink and drive up the price again.

History ALWAYS repeats itself.

8.  Thanks for the list.  It is impressive.  Some of them were the law in other states and Obama was not the leader in any of them. Heck they film interviews on CSI and Law and Order. 
CSI and LAW & ORDER are fictional, and not actually very accurate. I have a friend who works for the DA's office in Miami. He laughs at LAW & ORDER. "Funny stuff!" he says.

That they may have been the law in other states isn't actually relevant. He got it passed in his. He found a problem, proposed a solution, and saw it through into law. Few freshmen legislatures manage that even once. He did it several times.

Some required more government spending thus higher taxes or the attempt to raise them.   One limited a person's ability to have his or her voice heard.  I don't like the McCain/Feingold thing either.  They both paved the way for the 501s or whatever the number is.
So score one against McCain, then. Or did you want to only apply things one way?
In ten years Obama might be okay.  He need to run something, like a state or a company or a military unit. Hillary even said he wasn't qualified.
Yeah, because the politician running against him is a great source for honest appraisal. History is against you on this one, Uncle Stew. Abe Lincoln didn't run a state or a military unit, either, and he did just fine. Ask Newt Gingrich about that; he's on the record.

Chris.  None of this makes any difference.  Every time he opens his mouth another program is planned, another tax is added to the list and our National Security is compromised.
"National Security?" Try yelling "BOOGEYMAN," it will be about as frightening to me. Seriously, Bush has run up the biggest deficit in history, and you're going to scare me with hypothetical taxes by Obama?

Bush has run up the biggest deficit since Ronald Reagan. Bush's predecessor will face a 400 billion dollar deficit. When Clinton left office, he left Bush a 122 billion dollar budget surplus.

"National Security." Puh-leeze. Bush has left us with an exposed flank by engaging the tar-baby known as Iraq; we're losing progress in Afghanistan as the Taliban quietly recovers, and what resources has Bush left us to deal the actual threats of Iran, and Korea? And our presumptive allies, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, face turmoil within from radicals who are sympathetic to Al Quaida and the Taliban and Hamass.

Anyway, thanks. That little note of yours about screening out name calling. Real cute, I guess you turn off Radio America too.  Oh wait.  They failed already.
I think you mean "Talk America," and no, I never listened to those left-wing nutcases. They were no better than Hannity, Coulter, and Limbaugh, and the rest of the right-wingnuts.

No, Chris, you may say you aren't a democrat, but you are a democrat or at least a liberal.
At some point, you will have to draw up a list of what makes one a "liberal." I know for a fact that I am not a Democrat.

And if you DO make up a list, leave off crap like "mush-head" and "hates freedom."

Not bad for one thumb on a Blackberry.  The rest of your message never got through.

Cheers, from Alderley Edge. We're coming back down at the end of August. Need to be in another movie.
There are still a few shooting.


Who Spent the Money? Souto Did. Moss Did.

Where did all the money from the 1/2 cent tax go? It was supposed to expand mass transit.

But now we're facing budget cuts and routes being shut down.


One of those routes is Route 82. It wasn't added as the result of studies showing it was needed. It wasn't the result of taxpayers clamoring for service along that corridor.

No, Javier Souto demanded the route. When the transit authority tried to close down the money-wasting route, Souto stopped them.
''They're killing bus routes!'' said Souto, who voted against the sales tax in 2002. "That's not what the people voted for! If you expand, you don't kill what you have. You expand.''
-- Miami Herald
I just want to make sure you understand this: Souto didn't want to pay for the expansion in the first place, and then demanded the addition of a route that didn't service the community. And when it was discovered that no one was riding this route, he overrode a decision to axe it.

So we've spent $1,080 a day for the last two years, servicing about 35 riders at a cost per passenger of $30. That's 13 times what's spent elsewhere around the county. That's your money, wasted by order of Javier Souto.

The problem with Miami-Dade County is the Miami-Dade County Commission. They micro-manage. They interfere. The spend your money like drunken sailors on leave. They bicker. They demand. They spend more money.

Mr. Souto, we didn't ask for random expansion; that's stupid. We want better service. We want routes that get us from where we are to where we want to go. You don't do that by dictating a bus "here" or "there." And if you're too stupid to see that, you're too stupid to sit on the Commission. Take a hike.


But while Souto thoughtlessly threw your money away, Commissioner Dennis Moss demanded that the Transit Authority violate county law. He forced through a bus line to a trailer park outside the Urban Development Boundary. The County had established that bus service would only be available inside the Boundary.
"These are working-class people out there saying, 'You passed this tax. You're running service, 24-hour service, all over the county. Where's our service? How about us?'"'
-- Miami Herald
How about you? You chose to live outside the UDB. You could have chosen to live inside it. Even I don't think we should run buses everywhere. That's crazy.

But in spite of Ross's claim that there was demand, these working-class people never rode the bus. An empty bus would make the trip every 20 minutes. Way to go, Dennis. We could have done something useful with that money, but you threw it way. $2000 a day, for over a year, gone forever.

Tired of your money disappearing? Tired of waste? Don't return anyone to the Miami Dade County Commission. Time to start from scratch.

Could we really do any worse?

A Debate with a Conservative

A few days ago, my uncle sent me commentary that ran afoul of my message filters. In this vigorous election season, I get tired of all the political hackery spread thick as spam, so I have filters that catch certain keywords and send them back to the sender with a note explaining why they're getting the message back.

My uncle sent me a note with the subject line "Hitlery Clinton," so it bounced back to him. He felt that I was dodging the issue.

So I responded to him, and then decided that it was worthy of posting.

... You are resorting to the same inane arguments* as most dems.

Please, I'm not a democrat. My views on political parties match those of George Washington: they do more harm than good by polarizing the electorate.

  Clinton, btw, was the sweetheart of the press.  Don't go down that path.  

As I mentioned, no sweetheart of mine.

Okay you like Obama,  what has he done, ever, to protect and defend the Constitution, ever.  Hell, oops one of your words, I mean heck he won't even wear a flag in his lapel -- he decided against that. 
One is not a patriot because one sticks a pin on their lapel, or ties a flag to their car. In the days following 9/11, people started waving flags, putting them on their cars, and pinning them on their chests. It was easier than actually DOING something. It's easy to slap on a flag and pound your chest shouting "PATRIOT!" But that's not patriotism. Patriotism is defined by action, not decoration.

BTW, Obama's not the only one who doesn't sport a flag pin:

There are thousands of pictures of John McCain not wearing a flag pin. I don't question his patriotism.

Let's say we stop talking about who does or doesn't wear a flag? It's a complete waste of time, and proves nothing.

As for defending the Constitution; Obama spent nine years doing just that at Miner Barnhill & Galland, before being elected to the Illinois legislature, where he continued defending the constitution.

And while he is a Democrat, and Democrats support gun control, he broke ranks with the gun control lobby. Why? Because he supported legislation letting retired police officers and retired military carry concealed weapons. I call that "defending the Second Amendment of the Constitution."

Chris, you can't see the forest for the "hope a black man wins" trees.  
I'm not voting for a black man. I'm voting for a smart and honest man.

A few weeks ago, both Clinton and McCain sought to curry public favor by promising to suspend the gasoline tax for the summer. Way back in civics class, Mr. Stewart taught us something that has been proven true again and again and again; anytime a politician promises to lower taxes, they're lying.

Add to this the fact that repealing the gas tax wouldn't automatically lower the price of gasoline; most analysts agree that fuel companies would simply let prices stand and pocket the difference. And even if they did lower it a little, that would spark more consumption leading to lower supplies resulting in higher costs again.

Only one candidate was honest enough to say that he wouldn't do it. Only one took the time to consider the potential outcomes, and explain it to the voters. And that's the guy I'm voting for. The honest one.

That is all that got him where he is.  Clinton was rigth, "If it weren't for his race no one would rver have heard of him.  Two years at the federal level.

"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)

'Nuff said.

He has nothing, done nothing. Crap what a waste of debate.  You still haven't offered one good word.

"Done nothing?" Sorry, that's not quite true. In fact, it's an outright lie. Obama has been quite busy in the last 8 years or so.

Here's a partial list for you:
  • After a number of inmates on death row were found innocent, Senator Obama worked with law enforcement officials to require the videotaping of interrogations and confessions in all capital cases.
  • His first law was passed with Republican Tom Coburn, a measure to rebuild trust in government by allowing every American to go online and see how and where every dime of their tax dollars is spent.
  • Obama created the Illinois Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income working families in 2000 and successfully sponsored a measure to make the credit permanent in 2003. The law offered about $105 million in tax relief over three years.
  • Obama joined forces with former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon (D-IL) to pass the toughest campaign finance law in Illinois history. The legislation banned the personal use of campaign money by Illinois legislators and banned gifts from lobbyists. Before the law was passed, one organization ranked Illinois worst among 50 states for its campaign finance regulations.
  • As a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, Senator Obama has fought to help Illinois veterans get the disability pay they were promised, while working to prepare the VA for the return of the thousands of veterans who will need care after Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • He traveled to Russia with Republican Dick Lugar to begin a new generation of non-proliferation efforts designed to find and secure deadly weapons around the world.
  • Obama has been a leading advocate for protecting the right to vote, helping to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act and leading the opposition against discriminatory barriers to voting.
  • In the U.S. Senate, Obama introduced the STOP FRAUD Act to increase penalties for mortgage fraud and provide more protections for low-income homebuyers, well before the current subprime crisis began.
  • Obama sponsored legislation to combat predatory payday loans, and he also was credited with lobbied the state to more closely regulate some of the most egregious predatory lending practices.
  • Obama introduced the Patriot Employer Act of 2007 to provide a tax credit to companies that maintain or increase the number of full-time workers in America relative to those outside the US; maintain their corporate headquarters in America; pay decent wages; prepare workers for retirement; provide health insurance; and support employees who serve in the military.
  • Obama worked to pass a number of laws in Illinois and Washington to improve the health of women. His accomplishments include creating a task force on cervical cancer, providing greater access to breast and cervical cancer screenings, and helping improve prenatal and premature birth services.
  • Obama has introduced and helped pass bipartisan legislation to limit the abuse of no-bid federal contracts.
  • Obama and Senator Feingold (D-WI) took on both parties and proposed ethics legislation that was described as the "gold standard" for reform. It was because of their leadership that ending subsidized corporate jet travel, mandating disclosure of lobbyists' bundling of contributions, and enacting strong new restrictions of lobbyist-sponsored trips became part of the final ethics bill that was signed into law.
He reached across the aisle, to work with the other party on these laws. If you don't have consensus, you don't get good law. Most of Bush's decisions since becoming President seemed designed to alienate Democrats; scholars consider him the most partisan President in US history. And look at how divided the country has become as a result. That's not leadership.

Speaking of Bush, he also only held one public office before becoming President. Prior to that, he worked in the private sector, where most of his business ventures lost money. Arbusto lingered as a tax shelter, and Spectrum 7 went belly-up. Harken didn't fail, but the SEC was pretty sure that there was insider trading going on there, but wasn't able to build a case. The Rangers franchise did make money - much of it tax dollars from the state of Texas. Bush eventually sold his share of the team at a profit, but he couldn't have done it without corporate welfare. God Bless America!

Obama actually has more experience than either Abraham Lincoln or Woodrow Wilson did before their elections. Lincoln had one term in the House, but managed to lead us through the Civil War. Wilson did not have any national experience at all, but gave us the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission, and the 40 hour work week.

Speaking of accomplishments, McCain leads the current session of Congress in missed votes, having missed 60.5% of the votes. Obama is third, at 42.1%. Tim Johnson is 2nd, but the man had a brain hemorrhage and spent several months recuperating. You'd think that McCain, having secured his nomination early, would have had more time than Obama to do the job he was elected to.

No name calling, no lies; just the facts.

Cheers from Miami.

* The "inane arguments?" I said that debate didn't start with calling people names like "Hitlery," I wouldn't vote for Clinton because I'm tired of the right-wing yammering about Clintons, and that McCain wasn't as offensive a choice as Bush was. Are these really Democratic talking points? I certainly don't find them "inane."

June 8, 2008

Following up on Wendy Portillo

When Wendy Portillo asked Alex Barton's classmates to pass judgment on the autistic boy, she had no clue that she was unleashing a firestorm. Some would say that she simply had no clue.

Comments made on various websites fell into two large camps, with a minority camp attempting to find a middle ground.

The largest camp: Wendy Portillo should be run out of town on a rail, or at the very least fired and barred from teaching.

The second camp, smaller but vitriolic, claims that the teacher is a hero for taking a stand against the practice of placing autistic and special needs children in with the mainstream population.

The smallest camp holds that we should wait until "all the facts are in." This position is best represented by Anthony Westbury, Associate Editor of TC Palm, the service that broke the story.
"I don't know the answers to any of these questions, and (I suspect) nordo you. Perhaps we should put this witch hunt on hold until we do."
He glosses over the fact that his news room posted enough facts for some conclusions to be drawn. The breaking story reported that the police had confirmed the basic facts in the case: the teacher did stand Alex in front of his classmate, she did ask them to tell him why they didn't like him, she did ask them to vote on whether or not he should stay, and she did honor that vote by sending him to the nurse's office for the rest of the day.

In fact, in the same edition he wrote his editorial, TC Palm not only published a story specifically describing how the central facts of the story were confirmed, they also provided a link to the police report.
“Portillo said she explained to them that the students in class were all her priority and she would protect them like a ‘bear defending her cubs,’” the report said.
-- TC Palm, May 29, 2008
Read that statement again: a kindergarten teacher is telling her class that one of their classmates is something they need to be protected from. She's just declared a student to be of less worth than the body as a whole. She cast him out.

And what activity was young Mr. Barton engaged in that made him a menace to his fellow students?
"Throwing crayons on the floor. Kicking a table. Hiding under desks."
-- TC Palm, June 1, 2008
Remember that Alex Barton is five years old, and that he is developmentally challenged. And Wendy Portillo knew this. She knew that he was undergoing evaluation for autism, and she knew that autistic children are neurologically different than the rest of her students. She was part of the discussions being held to create an education plan for Alex.

Personally, I find it irrelevant that Alex has autism. To me that simply makes it worse. You see, I've been Alex Barton. I was a kid who was on the outside at school. Kids liked picking on me; I was small, and easily upset. It was relentless.

In fourth grade, one of our classmates was Frank Charvet. He was French, and physically larger than the rest of us. He wasn't fat, he was just big. I think he was actually older than the rest of the class, but placed with us because that's the level of English he spoke.

The other kids discovered that Frank was desperate to fit in; he would do anything to fit in. So a group of kids decided that Frank should beat the crap out of me if he wanted to be their friend. They grabbed me at recess and dragged me around the side of the building. Even then there weren't enough teachers to monitor the students.

It wasn't much of a fight: Frank was twice my size. He probably didn't want to beat me up; he didn't punch me or hit me, he tossed me around a little bit, threw me to the ground, and jumped on me. I was scrambling, trying to get out from underneath him, and he sat on my back an pinned me in place. He started bouncing on me, and he was laughing, and the other kids were cheering him on, and I was scared shitless.

So I bit him. It was the only thing I could do. I couldn't lift him, I couldn't hit him( and when I could it didn't hurt him.) So I did the only thing I could I grabbed his leg and bit him has hard as I could.

That got him off of me, and ended the fight.

The bite, of course, required a visit to the nurse, and wasn't something Frank could hide from his parents.

But I was the one who was punished. I was the one who was forced to stand in front of the class. It didn't matter that Frank was twice my size, that I was scraped up and had tears in my clothes. "You shouldn't have bitten Frank," said Mrs. Adkins. When I pointed out that I wa pinned, she only repeated "You should have found another way."

I had to write a letter of apology to Frank and his parents. My mother, told that I either wrote the letter or I got suspended, caved in without much of a fight. Maybe she did fight it, I don't really know. What I do know is that I wrote the fucking letter, and had to face the class, and had listen to that lying piece of shit Frank tell me why I was a bad person.

I will be honest with you; it's colored my perception of the school system in the US, and not in a favorable way. Scarred? You bet I've got scars. And I learned that teachers not only can't be trusted, not only won't help you, but that they will turn against you. I learned that there is no justice available to students. Teachers not only don't know everything, but they usually get it wrong. Thanks, Mrs. Atkins.

And it's why I have no problem sacrificing one Wendy Portillo to save one Alex Barton.

This is why I think that Wendy Portillo should be fired:
  • Wendy Portillo taught Alex that the world hates him. Remember, he's five, and he can't see the larger world like you or I. He has just been shown that nearly every one in his world thinks he's disgusting.
  • Wendy Portillo taught the rest of her class that you must fear that which is different; and that you deal with developmentally challenged people by passing judgment on them and banishing them from your society so that you don't have to deal with them.
  • She had the chance to teach her students about how some people are born different, and that just because they are different doesn't mean that they are bad or evil. Instead, she chose to reinforce ignorance and prejudice.

This brings us to the very vocal group of bigots who believe that children who don't match their view of normalcy should be cast out of society and relegated to special institutions where "normal people" won't have to put up with them.

The central question is why anyone would put challenged kids in with typically developed kids; wouldn't they be better off with other challenged kids?

The thing is that autistic kids CAN learn, and they DO learn. Their brains don't make the same connections as you or I, or doesn't make them the same way, but like any human being, they will emulate the examples that surround them. Place an autistic child with typically developed children, and they eventually shape their behavior to reflect the behaviors that they see. Place them with other autistic children, they only become "more" autistic.

And the other reason is that there are a lot of autistic children; one in every 150 children has it.

The exceptionally ignorant argue that the disease is diagnosed in order to excuse poor behavior. The reality is that it's a difficult disease to diagnose even now, and it was harder to identify the farther back you go. The incidence of the disease hasn't climbed; the incidence of diagnosis has. There have always been one in 150 kids suffering the disease. We just didn't know what it was back then, and we did simply write them off as "bad" or "retarded" or "mentally deficient."

Should her school have done more? Possibly. But remember, Morningside Elementary was working on a study program for Alex; it's not like he was just dumped in her class. There were meetings, and consultations with therapists.

We do need to do more to ensure that autistic children can fit into mainstream classrooms without disrupting the education process for the other children. We need to educate our teachers better, and that means paying them more. Teachers shape our future; they should be among the best paid people in a given community. The current pay scales and education processes only ensure that "those who can't do, teach."

Our children deserve better. They deserve teacher who care about all the students.

Wendy Portillo has shown that she does not.

June 2, 2008

US Automakers and the GOP: Dumb and Dumber

The banner on the New York Times article is a statement of the obvious:

The Huge Hybrid: a New Twist on S.U.V.’s Finds Few Takers

You'd thing that taking a bloated gas guzzler and making it more efficient would be a good thing. And it would be, if these oversized junkers were being brought up to a reasonable consumption rate of other automobiles.

But in fact, GM and Chrysler are only moving the line from "terrible" to "very bad."

I'm not surprised that GM could believe that 20 mpg is good mileage; it's disappointing that Chrysler is no better.

American Automakers started screwing over the American public when it started building these behemoths. While the Big Three disingenuously claim they were simply selling the public what it wanted, the fact is that GM and Chrysler and Ford initially started building them because they were exempt from the federal fuel consumption and emission standards imposed on passenger cars.

SUVs were exempted because they were a small, niche market. But automakers realized that if they pushed SUVs over passenger cars, the profit margins would be higher because of the lower standards for SUVs.

Now we're all paying the price; gas is over four dollars a gallon.

We faced fuel shortages in the 1970s. We had become dependent on foreign suppliers to run our country; foreign fuel powers not only our cars and trucks, it powers our trains, our navy's ships, and even our power plants.

30 years ago, initiatives were proposed to reduce our dependence on foreign fuel; our cars and trucks were to become more fuel efficient. Electrical plants would find alternative power sources. Homes would be built to make use of the sun's energy, and to maximize the use of commercial power.

But then Ronald Reagan came into power, and those initiatives went out the window.

"Trains are not any more energy efficient than the average automobile, with both getting about 48 passenger miles to the gallon."
--Ronald Reagan, quoted in the Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1980. (The U.S. Department of Transportation calculated that a 14-car train traveling at 80 miles per hour got 400 passenger miles to the gallon. A 1980 auto carrying an average of 2.2 people got 42.6 passenger miles to the gallon.)

Reagan's policies regarding energy consumption were dreadful. Because he didn't bother to acquaint himself with the facts, he kept working against our nation's best interests in regard to to its energy programs.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again. The U.S. Geological Survey has told me that the proven potential for oil in Alaska alone is greater than the proven reserves in Saudi Arabia."
--Ronald Reagan, quoted in the Detroit Free Press, March 23, 1980. (According to the USGS, the Saudi reserves of 165.5 billion barrels are 17 times the proven reserves--9.2 billion barrels--in Alaska.)

A lot of subsequent GOP proposals have revolved around simply drilling into untapped reserves located in national wildlife preserves. Instead of taking a hard line on making better use of the fuel we have, Republicans believe it's better to destroy what little original biosphere we have left to squeeze out a few more gallons of gasoline.
"We should have been exploring for oil and gas in ANWR. But, no, we madethe decision and our Congress kept preventing us from opening up new areas to explore in environmentally friendly ways and now we're becoming, as a result, more and more dependent on foreign sources of oil."
--George W. Bush, quoted by Reuters News on April 29, 2008. ( The Energy Information Administration, estimated that if Congress had cleared Bush's ANWR drilling plan the oil would have been available to refiners in 2011, but only at a small volume of 40,000 barrels a day -- a drop in the bucket compared with the 20.6 million barrels the U.S. consumes daily.)

But views of the GOP regarding the value of drilling is contrary to reality. The largest untapped oil field in the continental US is the Bakken Formation. The USGS believes that there is between three and four and a half billion barrels of oil there. Sounds like a lot of oil, doesn't it? For some countries, it certainly would be. But that represents at most a seven month supply for the US at current rates of consumption.

If we're going to risk destroying habitat for oil, shouldn't it be for more than a few month's grace to drive oversized trucks or run our air conditioners? Would you cut off your arm, even if it wouldn't save your life?
"The disparity between increasing production and declining reserves can have only one outcome: a practical supply limit will be reached and future supply to meet conventional oil demand will not be available."
--U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Petroleum Reserves, Office of Naval Petroleum and Oil Shale Reserves, March 2004
The automakers have painted themselves - and us - into a corner by investing so heavily into the production of vehicles that are destroying any hope of energy independence in the US. They should be dumping the SUV program almost entirely, and should be doing what they should have been doing for the last 30 years; improving fuel efficiency from one year to the next. Cars produced in the 1980s had better fuel economy than the junk being pushed on us by Detroit today. Had the Big Three maintained the principles laid out by Jimmy Carter in 1977, we'd be getting 50 miles to the gallon by now.

And if the GOP hadn't shirked its responsibilities to the public, we'd have useful mass transit in all our urban cores, and wind farms in every state.

We were once on the way to being the most technologically advanced nation on the planet; the policies of our politicians over the last three decades have reduced us to desperate parasites.

Thanks, Republican Party! Thanks, US Automakers!