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Saturday, April 30, 2005
On this day:

Thank God for Atheists

There's a bit of buzz going around about Richard Dawkins' interview in Salon. His are tough shoes to fill, being the Public Enemy Number 1 of insular, inbred, inebriated bible-belters everywhere. It is refreshing to hear someone speak out against the most harmful meme in history: Religion.

As I have always said, "More turkeys and baby evergreens have been murdered for Christmas than for any other reason."

A fundamental change is occurring in the evolution of society. I smell it in the wind. People and their ideas don't die without a fight, and the which the religious and political fundamentalists are attacking their detractors is reminiscent of the desperation of death throes. For some reason Bob Dylan lyrics are echoing in my head:

"A hard rain is gonna fall..."
"The times they are a-changin'..."

But I'm being optimistic again...

In Her Own Words

Jan Schakowsky voted against the budget. I feel she's not at the Capitol to make friends. Maybe she's there to work for her constituents. What a novel approach to 21st Century Government! While the boistrous Texans are trying to shred this thing we call The Constitution, there is someone in the background trying to duct tape the thing back together again.

Go, Jan!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005
On this day:

Oh. My. GOD!!!!!

A quick click over to Badtux brought this to my unbelieving eyes. If the name of the link doesn't raise your bile, click on it - the contents will induce vomiting and/or siezures.

The Correction and Salvation of Children

OK, I'm convinced. The world has gone mad. If I was a Christian I would say this: The Rapture has already happened, all the good people are gone, and we are living in the land of the DAMDED!!!!!

As a Buddhist, I should perhaps go offline now and meditate on the inherent goodness of people. There's nothing like a challenge with which to end one's day.

Fight of the Century? Yes, But Which One?

Now that our Favorite Shrubbery's 60-day reverse-hype-apolooza tour is almost over, the Senate Finance Committee is sharpening pencils, rhetoric, and any other sharp objects to hand in preparation of debating the "Privatizing of the American Future."(tm)

So far, I find a favorite quote from SFC Republican chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa:
"I'd rather bring something up in the committee and fail than tell my grandchildren I wasn't concerned at all about their Social Security benefits."
It sounds to me that he has "issues of conscience." It's good to note not all Republicans have undergone a conscience-ectomy.

In other news, the Great State Of Texas is affirming its Independence again by defying provisions set by No Child Left Behind - the only thing our Favorite Shrubbery has accomplished besides killing foreigners - by failing to limit the number of students with learning disabilities who can be exempted from regular standardized tests.
Last year, Washington said that only 1 percent of disabled students could be given easier alternative tests, but Texas officials allowed schools to administer the alternative examination to about 9 percent of its students.

As a result, hundreds of Texas schools' standardized test scores were higher last year than they would have otherwise been, allowing the schools to meet the federal achievement benchmark known as adequate yearly progress.

Ms. Spellings has not yet announced what sanction, if any, Texas will face for defying the federal law.

That law requires states to identify which schools have met its achievement benchmarks before the opening of fall classes each year, which in Texas last year occurred in mid-August.

But because of the dispute with Washington over the testing of disabled students, Texas did not identify the schools until September.
I would insert some snark about the water or air in Texas, but for this final tidbit from the Other Shrubbery in far-south Florida:

Now all good Floridians can "Stand your Ground" and use guns and other deadly force to defend yourselves in public places, thanks to a bill signed by Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday. I guess using Tasers on children was just a momentary sport, now - in an effort to compete with Disneyworld - citizens can now re-enact a real wild west shootout in any mall parking lot and interstate. This should be great for tourism!
Floridians already had the right to defend themselves against home intruders under what is known as the castle doctrine, but until now, they could not do so in public.

The National Rifle Association lobbied hard for the bill's passage, and Wayne LaPierre, the group's executive vice president, said it would use the victory to push for similar measures elsewhere. The bill's sponsor, Representative Dennis K. Baxley of Ocala, said it would curb violent crime and make citizens feel safer.

"It's a clear position that we will stand with victims of violent attacks when the law is in their favor," said Mr. Baxley, a Republican. "People want to know we stand on the side of victims of crime instead of the side of criminals."

Governor Bush, a Republican, said he supported the measure because when people faced life-threatening situations, "to have to retreat and put yourself in a very precarious position defies common sense."
I haven't been to Florida since the seventies - it must be really rough down there. I hear the snowbirds are an especially viscous waterfowl. Maybe those automobile make-over shops should open up franchises in the swamps and specialize in "Mad Max" type refinements for the well-to-do Floridian commuters - should save them all time.

Monday, April 25, 2005
On this day:

Shock And Awe

Tonight I wanted to write something about politics. I wanted to be able to write something thoughtful and unique about how the Republican House and Senate leaders are abusing power and restructuring our system of government for their needs. Tonight, above all, I wanted to provide some insight to these nervous times.

But I can’t. Instead I lean back in awed disbelief at the audacity of a vocal few, the barely suppressed hatred that is motivating powerful people, and the escalating volatility inherent in extreme political disposition. And our Administration is nothing if not extreme.

I ponder whether the Democratic position has not been extreme enough in the recent past to reap enough emotion from their backers. Even I, a firm proponent of social reform, feel they have been pedestrian in their position, churlish in their choler. Perhaps the time to play safe has ended.

Our self-righteous right-wing enjoys the passion of wrath. Perhaps it is this wrath which is the glue binding the extremists to the masses. Never underestimate hatred, it is a galvanizing force. Righteous hatred is worse, as it is fueled by willful blindness.

I ponder whether the Democratic party can wield such tools as deftly as the Religious Right. In contrast to the usual toolkit of reason and foresight, both are cold chisels to the pneumatic hammers of dogmatic self-righteousness. The crafting of an improved nation must be accomplished in less time, and the Political Left needs to upgrade their tools.

I know the Democratic Left to be right, just as I know in my heart the Republican Right is wrong. Tonight, however, I cannot put voice to my growing fears. I’m too shocked at our selfish leaders, too awed by their unmitigated audacity. Tonight, I just scratch my graying head and wonder.

Saturday, April 23, 2005
On this day:

The Invisible Holiday

This weekend marks a major holiday for our friends of Jewish Faith in America - Passover. During this week the Jewish people celebrate liberation from slavery at the hands of the Pharos, and the intercession by their God that formed the foundation of their religion. Yet the American media is silent. I compare this with the gratuitous greetings of wishing Jews a Happy Channukah during the Christian holy season. By contrast, Channukah is a celebration of a military history, and by the accounts of most of the Jew I know, a minor holiday. Passover is the real thing, yet our Christian culture doesn’t even acknowledge this. We’re still stuck onto the new popery and beating that story to death, although papal succession is something that happens every few decades. Freeing a people from slavery happens quite infrequently. It’s a big deal.

So what are the media talking about today? Popes, Iraq, Elian Gonzales, Star Wars fans... the usual drivel. Our Christian brethren don’t want to validate any other belief system by wishing friends and neighbors a happy holiday. Not publicly. Better they publicly snub the Jews than remember that Jesus was Jewish, remember that their faith and their holiest tome are inescapably Jewish in origin. If it wasn’t for Judaism, perhaps Jesus never would have been, perhaps the Christian concept of God would never have been. Perhaps the fundamentalists would be worshiping the storm gods instead.

Happy Passover to all my Jewish friends!


Fred Wilson at A VC initiates a discussion on a problem that I think will scale to endemic proportions: Rudeness - on the 'net and at a blog near you. Tris Hussley ponders this and expands with citations of further offences. The question: Why is the blogocube becoming less civil. I find the answer in one of Tris' examples from a comment section at Red Couch:

If the bloatosphere starts filling up with such uncreative, worthless, idiotic garbage as this "talking moose" blog, I'm leaving the Commodity Internet and moving over to Internet 2.

This is a new low in unimaginative, non-strategic pseudo-blogging.

So much for a company being candid and forming intimate conversations with an audience. Goodbye to Al Ries, Rosser Reeves, David Ogilvy, Seth Godin, Christopher Locke, and common sense.

Hello to insipid ghost blogging and a thick wall of darkeness separating company and customer, in the guise of a "talking moose".

Next time try a talking butt hole.

A later post by the same author:
Good comment orcmid. You still have some brains. God, the bloatosphere is starting to anger me, it's turning idiotic overnight.

It figures. Same thing happened to postal mail (junk mail), telephone (telemarketing), television (infomercials, soap operas, most sitcoms), electro-mail (spam)...see why I issue warnings?

These quotes, taken out of context, have no relevance. What emerges is the attitude. The context is a perceived lessening of the blog community, a fact made ironic by the complainer, who is himself guilty of lowering standards by posting with such attitude. What happened to the post, telephones, and the other medium mentioned above is a change in the medium caused by mass acceptance and integration into the mainstream. The net effect of doing such is "letting in the riffraff." As noted in another post of mine from today:
Any dolt with a working computer and an Internet connection can become a blog publisher in the 10 minutes it takes to sign up.
This gem was uttered from an article at Business Week. I cited this as condescension, but it appears there is some truth here. The dolts are getting bloggy, and there's nothing we can do to tame them or teach them manners. What happened to other medium is happening here: popularity is lowering the threshold, lowering standards of behavior as the "unwashed masses" fill the virtual spaces with their stink.

Bottom line: Americans are rude. They learn this from their TV's and they learn this from their experiences in consumerism, and - I say this with regret - they learn this from their parents. It's only to be expected that as the blogocube expands that civility will inevitably recede. Those few of us who have a common respect of the medium we share and respect of other blogsters are being overwhelmed by a mass market culture that doesn't give a damn about any of that.

This is Democracy in action.

Friday, April 22, 2005
On this day:

I Like Jan!

I've been out of town on business this week, hence the lack of postings. And last night Blogger was in the bathroom for the entire time I had to post, so... nothing!

Today I get an email from one of my favorite people I have never met - a politician! I voted for her and will do so again. Jan Schakowski, US Representative of Illinois' 9th District, is one tough lady, and I like that! Today she tells me how she is upholding my interests by voting down the Republican Polutocrat's pork-fest energy bill. She tells it straight, unlike most Democrats; the rest of my party-of-choice should show the same backbone she does.

I'm tired of the same, tired, loosing tactics the donkey brigade brays about. The single factor that got the elephant stampede started was unity. We need to find someone who is not afraid to take a stand, like Jan does, and propel that person forward by uniting behind him/her. This person doesn't have to be perfect - has any president been perfect? What this person needs is support; we gave Bill our support and he won two terms, we didn't unite against either Al or John and it shows.

I'm not saying Jan is this as-yet fictional figurehead: I'm saying that we need to see what she does right and adopt it for the entire Democratic party. Take a stand, make a stand and don't back down. Show America we mean what we say and that we really believe it, then follow through with appropriate action.

God knows if we leave our nation in the hands of the sanctimonious and self-righteous, American herself will suffer for it.

Sunday, April 17, 2005
On this day:

This Day in History; Then and Now

Remember the Bay of Pigs disaster? April 17, 1961; I was only two at the time, so I learned of this later. I bet most US schools don't teach kids about this. On that day, CIA backed Cuban "rebels" failed an attempt at ousting Fidel Castro's government. almost 1500 people were sacrificed toward this effort. What a waste.

Worse, exactly fourteen years later, the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia and began the systematic murder of almost 25% of the population. The NY Times has a guest-editorial from a survivor of the Khmer Rouge. Every American should read this as a real "reality-check."

Another interesting Op-ed piece comes from Nicholas D. Kristof, also of the NY Times. His point: that America has a long, glorious history of looking the other way as other counrties commit genocide.

Can this be human nature to turn ones back on attrocities whenever possible? As long as such mass crimes doesn't happen "in my back yard" can we continue to turn the volume up on the TV and ignore it? Thanks to a few pioneers like MTV, such willful ignorance is getting harder to do. Thanks to the democratization of information enabled by the internet, humanity is being forced to recognize the unalterable fact that it matters all to people what other countries do to their populations. We are all on this planet together, anything that happens on this earth happens "in my back yard."

Meanwhile, our Favorite Shrubbery and his cronies are busy suppressing information that may be "misconstrued" as providing a negative report card on the administration's policies regarding global terrorism. The State Department has decided to stop publishing its annual report on terrorism. Last year, interestingly enough, the number of terrorism reports were "undercounted" in the State Departments report. Hmm - I guess that wasn't enough, so this year the whole thing is being scrapped.

This won't work, of course. Many university-level Political Science departments and private institutions will amass their own data, and the internet will distribute it. The information is out there where anyone can find it. The era when governments can hide their closets full of skeletons is over. The people are connected, they are concerned, they are increasingly empowered by the internet to make their own decisions independent of the old-school media and its attendant, tightly controlled government spin. To try at this point to segregate informaion channels in an effort to control the internet is to hobble all institutions that rely on the internet as integral to their operations - can you think of just one organization that does not? The veil is lifted, the secrets are exposed; it's now time for our governments to become the honorable vehicles of public welfare that they were intended to be. The masses of internet users, the global interconnectivity of humanity will hold them accountable, forcing change at the speed of electrons.

Any politician that disregards the emerging voice of outrage that is facilitated by the 'net, strengthened by the online community, and aggregated into a new, global voice, does so at his/her own peril.

Saturday, April 16, 2005
On this day:

Olympic Blogging

Whoever this Atrios is, Blogstreet rates him number 1 on the 100 Most Important Blogs listing. Who knows how they figure that, but I'll agree. I'm beginning to have a real appreciation of the time involved in being a major warblogger. All this for the love of the sport - as we all know, there's almost no money in this.

Now there's an idea! Let's organize the Blogging Olympics. Line up sponsors from optical media companies, storage tech manufacturers, and ergonomic wireless keyboard companies. Events could be marathon posting (continual updating on a single post), a triathalon of research, self-editing, and word coinage, or a 50- 100- 200- and 400- word dashes. Track and field events would be replaced with mouse and cursor trials. I can just see the officials tossing a political stance in the air and 500 bloggers clambering to shoot hole in it with the highest accuracy. Judging would require the most advanced technology we can bring to bear.

And the after market endorsements - Andrew Sullivan as poster child for carpal tunnel creams, Jeff Jarvis and his amazing Post Editor, even Kos' InKredible Elephant Slayer (patent pending).
My feeble imagination can't do justice to the possibilities.

An olympic mind-set is just what we need to instill credability to this still-understood medium. Imagine the surprise on the faces of the MSM outsiders when the lists fill up with the miriad non-white-male bloggers that are out there; the asians, the black Americans, the women...

A picture is worth a thousand words; perhaps a few million words are worth a few pictures.

Friday, April 15, 2005
On this day:

Buddha vs. the Blogger

I like blogging. I like reading the thoughts of people I’ve never met and hearing their virtual voices. I like the intelligence, the rage, and the passion that others bring to their blogs and to their lives. I guess that makes me a voyeur.

I’ve only been doing this for a measure of weeks, but I’m amazed at how this latest of a long list of personal phases has changed my lifestyle and my perspective. I blog to practice my writing: in that sense, it doesn’t matter what the subject, only that the message is delivered in a manner that is pleasing to the reader. So I am here to practice, practice, and practice. I hope I persevere, I hope I can build an audience. Otherwise this is just so much mental masturbation – messy, that.

What is not obvious from reading my opinionated tripe – Oh! You’ve noticed – is I am Buddhist. Admittedly, I’m new at this Buddha thing, too; I took my refugee vows only two years ago. Being born into a moderately dysfunctional American family does not prepare one for the eventuality of believing in the inherent goodness of all humanity and the importance of cultivating compassion. I have come to this way of thinking reluctantly, but now that I am here, I value the lessons to be learned.

Notice the future tense; I have much yet to learn. As I reflect on the world as viewed through the news and the ‘net – a world I have tried most of my life to ignore – I find I have much to say about the mess we’re in. Does anyone care, who knows? But the potential of sharing my thoughts to even a small audience of fellow blogsters has expurgating qualities.

But there’s a conflict. My American vociferous values work well for the care and feeding of my web log, but not for the advancement of my chosen spiritual path. Snarking is antithetical to Buddhism. As I scrounge the ‘net for data that inspires my muse, I find my old habits of opinion and brashness take over – my muse is quite the bastard – and all I know of spiritual gentleness is abandoned.

Scanning the other Blogger-blogsters that show Buddhism as one of their interests has its surprises. Many have fallen off the wagon; some are just as opinionated as I. Some are strange to my view. None are Buddhist information blogs. There’s one Swami from Colorado who started a blog; it lasted for one post, over a year old now, and he hasn’t been back. I guess people who are really into the culture don’t blog, as they realize (as I do on some level) that all things are ephemeral and their time is better spent meditating. Perhaps they’re right.

So here I am: the Buddha wannabe and the writer wannabe at odds with each other – a crash of cultures and a clash of ideals. The challenge, if I choose to accept it, is to meld the two opposing forces into a new voice, a new impetus that may – if I do this well – propel me into the lists of old-fashioned spinal-bound authorship. Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 14, 2005
On this day:

Another Shameless Plug

A Matter of Moderation:

It seems there's a problen brewing in God's Country (home to the land of sky-blue waters). This is how they deal with things in the Northwoods.

Now, read my spin.

Boycott Wal-Mart!

I spent the better part of twenty years working in retail. During that time, I bounced from many product lines in many different types of stores. At the time, I was assured of being able to work almost anywhere, as the retail industry was just beginning to recognize the value of service in the trendy new super-stores. Most long-standing department stores have learned the hard-knocks lessons against employee lethargy. In those days, I knew that I could pull stakes and relocate anywhere in the country and get another retail job relatively easily. For the many people like me, who did not come from a moneyed family and are not blinded by money lust, whom have realistic expectations in life based on humble beginnings; a retail career is an honorable way to make a living.

The corporations were mostly fair about the issue of compensation. In consideration of the facts that a big box retail venture suffers from a high overhead, and the greatest strain on a company’s liquidity is employee benefits, I’ve always felt my employers to give me a fair deal. But I’ve always been a person who would trade a few bucks for relative job security.

But that was before Sam Walton. Sam changed the rules for retailers. Companies soon found out that they had to change along or die. According to a report by UC Berkeley:
“We estimate that Wal-Mart workers in California earn on an average 31 percent less than workers employed in large retail as a whole, receiving an average wage of $9.70 per hour compared to the $14.01 average hourly earnings for employees in large retail (firms with 1,000 or more employees). In addition, 23 percent fewer Wal-Mart workers are covered by employer-sponsored health insurance than large retail workers as a whole.

At these low-wages, many Wal-Mart workers rely on public safety net programs - such as food stamps, Medi-Cal, and subsidized housing – to make ends meet. The presence of Wal-Mart stores thus creates a hidden cost to the state’s taxpayers.”

Now you know how Wal-Mart can keep it’s prices so low: not only does it buy goods from countries like China and Indonesia that have few of our modern protections for the working class, but they are unfairly treating their employees here.

The Berkeley report goes on to detail how Wal-Mart, as the nations largest retailer has influenced the whole retail industry, by strategic placement of its “supercenters” in areas of traditional higher standards for wages. These mega-stores carry so many goods they are able to compete with a diverse group of competitors, from grocers and pharmacists to bookstore sand electronic and appliance stores to photography specialists. It’s been known for Wal-Mart to move into a smaller town and destroy the businesses of a whole mall full of shops. Even in larger cities, a neighboring Wal-Mart will skew the business climate to the detriment of the workers salaries and benefits. The conclusion of the Berkeley report explains the dynamic of what it terms “Wal-martization.”
“Wal-Mart workers’ reliance on public assistance due to substandard wages and benefits has become a form of indirect public subsidy to the company. In effect, Wal-Mart is shifting part of its labor costs onto the public. We estimate the cost of the subsidy to Wal-Mart in California for state taxpayers to be $86 million a year. Other retail firms that carry their own weight by providing self-sufficiency wages and employer-sponsored health insurance are placed at a competitive disadvantage, which can result in a downward cycle for wages and benefits across the industry. As we have shown, Wal-Mart’s long-term impact on compensation in the retail industry has the potential to place a significant strain on the states’ already heavily burdened social safety net. We estimate the cost if large retailers throughout the state adopted Wal-Mart’s wage and benefits standards to be an additional $410 million a year in public assistance expenses. The public cost of low-wage jobs should be taken into account by policy makers at all levels as they make decisions about the kinds of economic development we should encourage in California and in our communities.”

For further enlightenment, read: Wal-Mart and county-wide Poverty, sponsored by the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, as Penn State.

Clearly, this is not a problem confined to one sate or even to one country, as Canada is feeling the crunch of Wal-Mart’s aggressive parsimony. Sam Walton was a self-made billionaire, and to many that fact alone will deify him. His business legacy stands at odds with his proposed values. Perhaps this is an effect of the Law of Unintended Consequences; perhaps Sam just hardened as he aged, we’ll never know. By I feel it is in the country’s best interest and in the interest of our communities to “vote with our wallets” and boycott Wal-Mart and its destructive policies. In America there are no lack of stores to shop. One way or another, we pay for the goods we buy, the Berkeley report enumerated this nicely. Why not pay a slightly higher price to support all the retail workers who provide you with shopping therapy. After all, it’s pay now or pay later.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005
On this day:

Blogging break

I took a blogging holiday this evening as I performed my fatherly duty escorting my daughter to "Sports and Activities Night" at the high school she will start next fall. The schools motto of "Get Involved" smelled a little too much like propaganda to my jaded nostrils, but I have to say the North Shore schools today are lightyears ahead of the educational galaxy I knew in Chicago thirty years ago. Quick chats with other parents, a loose association glued by the bonds our children have formed, has got me thinking. As I watch the world spin apart, I still can't help thinking that America today is a better place for our kids than it used to be.

Yeah, I know I'm looking through tunnelvision at an affluent school in a predominantly white district, but the changes I see are growing. The most important changes are those of thought. Parents expect more from their kids; kids expect more from their parents, and if real love is there, everyone rises to the challenge. In this way the world has gotten better for all involved.

Lets hope it's enough.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005
On this day:

Oh! Canada:

I might move there yet! That is if they don’t close their border to Americans soon.

Our Northern Neighbors show up the good ol’ USA in the progression of the species by cutting a deal with major automakers aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2010. Why can’t we do this (rhetorical question)? Because we’re too busy making war and struggling to set up puppet governments in foreign deserts, selling out our future and the future of our children, ideological infighting, and – perhaps most telling – denying that our own scientists know what they’re about. Phew! So much to do! How can we possible do anything about cleaning up this planet, can’t we just hire people for that? Anyway, it’s more important for America to destroy the separation of church and state, and erode the careful balance of power between our three branches of government than it is to provide a clean, healthy planet for our children’s children’s children to live in.

Besides, where’s the profit in that?

Monday, April 11, 2005
On this day:

Mat's Dirty Little Secret

I just spent almost two hours lost in the blogocube. Whew! I came up for air after reading this article at 1115.org that backs up today's previous post. Is it a conspiracy?

You be the judge.

How Much does Your Esuvee Eat?

I'm not a fan of SUV's. The preponderance of Sport utility Vehicles on the roadways have, in my experience the following effects:
  1. Adding clutter to traffic, as each person now has a larger vehicle about their person, and car pools are no longer in fashion.
  2. Increasing the difficulty in the commute, as smaller vehicles cannot anticipate the traffic flow due to being unable to see around the SUV in front of them. The end result is more slamming of brakes, more erratic driving.
  3. Accelerated drain on the global oil supply. No car has the mileage it should, given today's technology, but the reason car makers have hyped SUV's in the first place is to circumvent government emission standard set up on the seventies. By creating a new class of vehicle, they effectively did an end run around the laws.
  4. Accelerated increase in pollution emissions. The faster we burn the fuel, the quicker we pollute and the sooner gas prices rise. We're at about $2.50 a gallon already, how much do you want to pay?
  5. Increased expense to the owner:
    1. The vehicles themselves cost more than a sedan of the same luxury class,
    2. More money will be spent on gas,
    3. Higher insurance costs,
    4. Higher city and state taxes for vehicle registration.
Now I find what I've suspected all along. Although SUV owners I know state that SUV's are safer to drove than smaller cars, they're wrong! If they were so safe, why is there a National SUV Safety Campaign initiative? The plot sickens, the members of the Illuminati laugh.

Sunday, April 10, 2005
On this day:

An Epidmic of Reasonable Proportions!

Jon Carroll of the SF Chronicle has his tongue so firmly inbedded in his cheek it ,well... it hurts to watch. Read Jon's Unitarian manifesto: We are the Unitarian Jihad. He claims he found this in his email. I claim it's good, clean fun!

My Unitarian Jihad Name is:

Brother Spikey Mace of Enlightened Compassion.

Get yours.

Shakespeare's Sister

Shakespeare's Sister gets worked up about the New American Fundamentalist Gestapo. Lets all go to the pulpit and practice Judge-icide!

Saturday, April 09, 2005
On this day:

Blue Rubberband Thoughts

What started as a posting about a Buddhist teaching dear to me ended up as a 1000+ word political rant - as if we haven't enought of those these days. I started writing about a wristband I wear, then I start ruminating about what I read on the 'net, and I had to write about that. I got bored for a whille, so I surfed the blogs, and as I read the warblogs left and right, I begin to despair, which brought me back to my original idea: It's all about compassion, empathy, and cultivating peace. And the fact that I have as long a way to go as anyone else, it would seem.

Read my Blue rubberband thoughts.

Memories of Atlanta, 1996

I remember the Atlanta Olympics of 1996. My family drove down from Chicago to stay with friends and experience the second week of festivities. On the Saturday we left, some nutcase bombed Olympic Park. We visited the park that Wednesday to find a cordoned area filled with flowers and tiny flags. People walked past dimming their enthusiasm momentarily, but not being cowed by the reminder of the world outside Olympic Fever.

I remember watching the Men’s Individual Archery event when an lesser known athlete from California, Justin Huish, took the gold in an formidable display of concentration and accuracy. When interviewed later about his feelings, he just said: “I’m stoked.” Awesome, dude!

We drove the 60 miles to Athens, Georgia to watch the rhythmic Gymnastics competition, an inspiring display of motion as art form, perfection of grace and the beauty and vitality of youth. Indeed, this is humanity at it’s finest. My daughter, then only five, picked the team in the pink outfits as her champions, I believe they were the Russians, who won the bronze - I may be mis-remembering. As we left the arena, the feeling of the crowd was subdued awe, as if we have experienced the unforgettable - and indeed we had. I recall thinking that such introverted emotions are often associated with firsthand experiences of violence and tragedy, but here we wrestled inwardly with fitting this emotion to a new type of experience: Beauty.

This speaks of the most enduring memory I have of the 1996 Games, a memory of solidarity. Wednesday night in Centennial Olympic Park my wife and I witnessed the biggest party I have ever seen. Despite the plethora of police and national guard troops peeking out from the downtown parking garages surrounding the perimeter of the Park, checking out our totes filled with snacks and water, despite the cordoned reminder of violence in our world, Olympic Park was a four-square-mile fete packed shoulder to shoulder with smiling, laughing, humanity. I mattered not that people couldn’t get anywhere through the crowd, we just formed trains of people slinking through the crowd, meandering in the general direction we wanted to go, others joining and breaking off like so many coal cars in a freight yard. All the while the party vibe was turned up to maximum. Astonished, I turned to my wife and said, ”There’s no attitude here.” Such a thing was beyond my experience.

These memories carry me through today; As I hear the dissonance of the American tapestry through political discourse, I can recall that individual humans are fundamentally good. When good people forget themselves and give their identities over to an idea or an organization, such inherent goodness can be leeched out by ideology or by a group-mind perspective. The result of forgetting our inherent goodness results in such acts as bombing Olympic Park. It results in war, genocide, even pollution. We are not our thoughts; We are not our ideologies. To identify ourselves as such diminishes what we are, limits the human potential each of us carries, and reduces the expression of the human spirit to cruelty, barbarism and hatred.

Thursday, April 07, 2005
On this day:


Thanks to playing around with FeedDemon, I found this article on globalization via A VC. This prompts me to write my take on the end of the white dominated world. Here's a wake-up call to all fundamentalists who think they can keep the world the same-old way forever: You can't!

It's ironic that the very forces (like greed) that cause Western companies to sell technology to so-called developing nations also cause the west to loose its grip on development. By empowering the youger nations of the world through the selling of technology, they quickly become our competitors. And there's a lot more of them who will gladly work for less money.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005
On this day:

Stealth Foods

Sugar-free chocolate. Decaf Coffee. Low-fat (anything edible). For decades the food industry has been telling us that we eat too much and exercise too little. The Food and Drug Administration has been our Little Big Brother, looking out for a populace that should know better, but does naughty things anyway.

So much for small government, so much for our ownership society.

Now, the plot thickens. Kraft foods, Coca-cola, Nestle, and Campbell's are working with biotech to engineer foods to fool us into thinking we're eating more of the naughty stuff we crave than we really are. By blocking taste receptors they can "enhance or replicate the taste of sugar, salt and monosodium glutamate, or MSG, in foods".
By adding one of Senomyx's flavorings to their products, manufacturers can, for instance, reduce the sugar in a cookie or salt in a can of soup by one-third to one-half while retaining the same sweetness or saltiness.

Unlike artificial sweeteners, Senomyx's chemical compounds will not be listed separately on ingredient labels. Instead, they will be lumped into a broad category - "artificial flavors" - already found on most packaged food labels.

"We're helping companies clean up their labels," said Senomyx's chief executive, Kent Snyder.
I like that. That's tantamount to saying: "We're not going to tell you what you're eating. It's supposed to be healthier, and that's why were doing it".

While food safety experts applaud efforts to reduce salt, MSG and sugar, they expressed concerns about the new chemicals, saying that more testing needed to be done before these were sold in food.

But Senomyx maintains that its new products are safe because they will be used in tiny quantities.
To put more words in the mouths of the experts: "We won't be labeling the food with a chemical notation or catchy "brand name," so don't expect to get all "phenylketonuric" on us! Thanks to the speed of new technology, Senomyx races past the archaic laws for ingestibles
Since Senomyx's flavor compounds will be used in small proportions (less than one part per million), the company is able to bypass the lengthy F.D.A. approval process required to get food additives on the market. Getting the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association status of generally recognized as safe, or GRAS, took Senomyx less than 18 months, including a 3-month safety study using rats. In contrast, the maker of the artificial sweetener sucralose spent 11 years winning F.D.A. approval and is required to list the ingredient on food labels.

How fun! this is the first step toward Soylent Green! Soon it won't matter what we're eating, it'll always taste like chicken! Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005
On this day:

And the Winner Is...

The Pulitzer Prizes were awarded today. For 89 years the legacy of John Pulitzer has kept an eye on society and a finger on the pulse of the world. Loose and hour in the timeline at Pulitzer.org, look for your next great read, check out this years winners, but especially, take the time to view photography by Deanne Fitzmaurice and of the Associated Press Staff.

Simply inspiring.

Monday, April 04, 2005
On this day:

The Toklat Family is My Family, Too.

Of all the news I’ve read this week, the killing of the Toklat wolves makes me the saddest. Not Terri, not the Pope - may they find rest at last - but the wolves; I feel their pain. The crux of irony is that the trappers, while acting fully within our feeble laws, are catching adult wolves. More common would be a trapper finding young, inexperienced animals, but in Denali National Park so many non-threatening tourists have passed through the park, that the adult wolves have become habituated toward their human cousins, only to be preyed upon by those few who make a profit by killing animals. Some would think at this point that the wolves so trapped are just stupid, but these beautiful examples of our planet’s bounty (or God’s skills, if you so desire) are just following their nature; betrayal is a foreign concept.

When will humanity remember that we too are mammals? When will we remember that killing other mammals is the same as killing our brothers?

Wait. We kill other humans, too – by the thousands. If we can’t kill them with superior weaponry, we starve and rape them, stealing their dignity, their livelihoods and their land. Obviously, as a species we have no respect for life. We feign respect for certain lives, perhaps, if there is a perceived political advantage. History evinces our lip service toward the life affirming tenets of religion; yet as a species we are hypocrites.

I, for one, believe in karma, it is nothing more that the law of causality, as in “what comes around goes around.” I watch from the sidelines, sharing in the collective guilt because I have my own family to feed, just like the wolves do. And like the wolves I watch as humanity builds an astronomical karmic debt, much like our current national debt in that the causes are similar and that the payments will occur for generations to come. This assumes that generations will come - if not perhaps then the debt will have been paid in full.

Sunday, April 03, 2005
On this day:

How I Spent My Sunday

I wrote a couple of political rants on My Other Blog. Made some minor tweaks to all three sites, including a picture of the family coat of arms on my bio page at the Tannish Page. This blogging lifestyle takes a lot of time!

Lovin' it!

Saturday, April 02, 2005
On this day:

Blogger's Block

A spill of mental blockage is filling my brain this week. Suffering from Blog Envy caused by reading a plethora of Really Excellent Blogs, my humble postings are blushing from their own temerity, reeling from the competition, from a lack of direction, and from the unavoidable fact of my meatspace needs needing attention. Life often interferes on having fun.

My hopes of blogging daily have evaporated in the light of life’s persistent intrusions. That’s OK. Better if I focus on quality (to the limit of my talents), which takes time. I’m starting an essay on religion - make that religious substitute - which I’m sure will offend someone; Agnosticism and Atheism are not exactly in vogue. When finished it will appear on the Tannish Page. I created a contact card last night – to call it a business card would be too pretentious – that is light-hearted and maybe a bit cutesy. Maybe I should adopt the little guy as a mascot, he reminds me of me in a way and he even holds his pencil in his left hand!

All of the above is to keep my idle mind busy while the blockage is cleared. I think I’ll go meditate, that should help.