Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Great Escapes dogs, by God. So THAT'S how they did it! Thanks to my brother for this one.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bush's Legacy

Easily the worst president ever.

Media Rules for Dems & Reps

I'm not sure, but I think Hillary should be in the top picture and, judging by the way the media have been treating him, Obama might oughta be in the bottom picture.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Mark Morford - New York condoms, Texas dildos

I can't help it. I just love this guy.

New York condoms, Texas dildos
When sex toys are legal and contraceptives are free, are we not doomed?
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

Is it a good day in America? Is it a good time to be in this broke, disgraced, sexually bewildered country when the lumbering and lost state of Texas finally crawls, lurching and sputtering and blinking hard, into the 19th century as it finally, against its will, is forced by the courts to allow sex toys to be sold to adults, thus leaving only Alabama and a bit of Georgia to stare into the void of their own unused genitalia and scream in abject terror?

Is it, furthermore, a better and brighter day for all Americakind when the lumbering and lost Federal Communications Commission still wants to fine ABC Television $1.4 million for showing a glimpse of a naked female butt on an episode of the now-defunct "NYPD Blue" five years ago, even though all the little kids who were ostensibly traumatized by said ass are now about 12 years old and into ultraviolent video games and hooking up on MySpace and choking each other to death, and the FCC's move is not considered a distressing, dire prediction of oppressive things to come, but rather a forgettable trifle, a shrug, a silly little footnote?

Is it not, finally, good to know that you now can, when in New York City, stroll into any number of bars or fine urban locales and grab yourself a free, official NYC condom or five, and also a nice packet of lubricant, all on the city's dime?

And what's more, not only are they complimentary and available citywide, and not only is there an impressive accompanying ad campaign for the second year of the groundbreaking program (TV, print, subway billboards, Web site) hawking said latex fun-sheaths and encouraging you to "get some," but the packaging is actually created by a semi-famous industrial designer (Yves BĂ©har) and the campaign itself actually isn't insulting or shy or demeaning as it dares to suggest that young adult Americans might actually enjoy sex and therefore, oh my God, wouldn't it be fun to get some today? The horror.

I am here to say yes, yes indeed, it is all quite good, refreshing, even a little promising, even if you don't really notice, even if it all seems minor and insignificant, overshadowed by looming recessions and lost wars and the bleak, bleak, bleak BushCo End of Days.

See, there was a time, just a handful of miserable years ago, when it all felt dour and sad and pathetic, when John "anoint my feet in oil" Ashcroft ruled the porn-obsessed Justice Department and worthless abstinence education was being forced down the throat of the educational system and the fundamentalist Christians were stabbing at the culture like unhappy vultures tearing at a carcass.

It was a time when major media was eating its own tail in fear of getting fined for allowing the slightest illicit or sexually suggestive infraction, as Michael Powell's Bush-controlled FCC went on the warpath, behaving like some sort of gnarled sexually uptight Megatron who hated women and never masturbated, desperate to crack down on the slightest naughty infraction, from Bono saying "f-" at the Golden Globes to Howard Stern talking dirty to porn stars for the benefit of his audience of overweight frat guys and lonely cab drivers.
It was quite a ride. From Ashcroft covering the nipples of Lady Justice with heavy cloth to the massive, insane outcry against Janet Jackson, it all culminated in 2005, in the Republican-controlled Congress ramming through the inane Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, which increased tenfold the penalty the FCC could impose on broadcast media, to $325,000 per violation.
But now, oh, now how quaint it all seems, the Bush administration's dark and sexually repressive cloud actually proving to be nothing but a sticky mist, a passing pink puff of rancid gas, so many of the fundie Christians/congressmen proving to be secretly gay and the nation itself proving very quickly to be rather sick of the entire gaggle of Jesus-terrified henchmen.

What's more, the FCC's ominous threats suddenly feel moot and meaningless, especially given the upsurge of shows like "The L-Word" and "Californication" and "Tell Me You Love Me" and who the hell cares if they can show nipples and butts on network TV? The landscape is changing, far faster and more powerfully than any hypocritical conservative movement could ever comprehend, much less contain.

The signs are in place. The tone is shifting. Despite a misogynistic Supreme Court, despite the Christian right's desperate attempt to instill Taliban-grade prohibitions and constrictions around sex for the past seven years (well, more like 2,000 years. But that's another column), Texans can now buy dildos to go with their Sunday sodomy, condoms and lube are free all over New York City, abstinence education has proven to be a massive failure and the flatulent bout of Christian-led sexual hysteria has, at least for the moment, largely passed.

Oh, there will still be blips and triggers. There will still be Christian rock and "True Love Waits" and cute little Web sites extolling the virtues of teen virginity, of making nifty little pledges not to have sex until you're married and/or no longer a Republican or no longer absolutely horrified at the notion of your own vulva.

And yes, broadcast media will remain terribly uptight for a while longer. There will still be, for example, the producers of this year's bland-as-death Grammy Awards, who actually asked Amy Winehouse to please cover up the nipples on the bare-breasted pinup girl she has tattooed on her arm because some Americans might be confused and offended. (In response, Winehouse simply took some black eyeliner and drew a nice "bra" over the nipples, and middle America breathed a huge sigh of relief because oh my God, nipples. Our great national scourge.)

What's more, many issues remain volatile. The gay marriage war, for example, is far from over, though it now seems the most difficult battle has been won. The hull has been breached. The rainbow-colored cat is very much out of the bag. Wail as the fundamentalists might, the feeling now is that gay marriage — like women's suffrage, like interracial marriage, like the notion of a black or female president — is no longer a matter of if, only when.

This is the feeling. The straps are loosening. The legs are parting. The repressive sexual ideology of the right has, quite naturally, failed. So please, America, go buy your dildos in Texas and grab your free condoms in NYC, safe in the knowledge that the temperature of the national body, once frigid and clenched, appears to be warming up.

Can you feel it? Won't you do the right thing, and "get some" yourself?

Thoughts about this column? E-mail Mark.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I refuse

I refuse to be drawn into this increasingly venomous battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for President in 2008.

I simply hope that we as Democrats all remember that, before this campaign began, we were all on the same side, united against the insane Republicans. We cannot let this nomination battle turn us against one another, because the Republicans might just slip in the back door or our fractured house. There is so much more that unites us (as Democrats) than divides us.

So, I'm not going to comment much about this battle. End of comment.

Tale of Two Brains

Why? Because it's funny.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Bring on the flowers

Two weekends ago we planted a lot of vegetables. However, man - or woman - cannot live by vegetables alone. There must be flowers, so this past weekend it was the flowers turn.

The official "last freeze" date for Houston is February 14. That's the "official" date, of course, but we're going to trust it and plant our asses off.

The good thing about container gardening is that, if the weather turns really cold, you can (most likely) bring SOME of the most tender plants inside. IF you have enough room inside, that is, which is a little problem for us.

We are now up to about 40 active containers, and I'm not sure we'd have enough room inside for all of them. I guess we could spread them over the 3rd and 2nd floors, in a pinch.

Sunday was another glorious day in Houston. Clear. Low humidity. About 65 degrees. Took a long walk in the morning. Planted bulbs and flowers on the roof and in the front gardens.

The Meyer Lemon tree (on the roof) has the most awesome smelling flowers on it right now. I think each flower will grow into a lemon. The smell is like jasmine, only stronger and better.

Last year we got seven lemons off the tree, and if the flowers are any indication, we'll have twice that many this year.

Unfortunately, the recent cold weather killed off our Mizuna, although the Radicchio in the same pot is going gangbusters. And the Red Sails Lettuce is getting HUGE.

Sometimes I get very anal about things. I have created a notebook with a tab for every container. There are sections for Misc. Gardening things, sections for kitchen planting, a section for the front gardens, of which there are four: the NW, the SW, the NE and the SE gardens. And then inside the SE garden, there are three areas: the SESW, the SESE, and the SEN.

Yeah, I know. Overkill. But I like to be able to open the notebook and see a history of what we've done or tried to do in the green spaces. So shoot me.

Anyway, this weekend, on the roof, we put six flower seeds in one pot:

1) Vinca

2) Nasturtium

3) Petunia

4) Nicotiana

5) Cosmos

6) Dianthus

In another pot, I put only Nicotiana seeds. In another, only Dianthus seeds. In a third, only Nasturtium seeds. There must be flowers.

That did it for the roof.

On the ground, we put in several bulbs: Daffodils, Dutch Iris and Narcissus.

Since we had a bunch of seeds left over, we dropped in several of the seeds listed above in the NE, NW, and SW gardens.

We have pretty much decided to rip up ALL of our remaining grass in the SE area and put in gardens and plants instead. Our neighbors don't mind. Indeed, they planted some herbs in our NE garden, the one that nudges over into their property.

It's nice to have nice neighbors.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Update on the new Bush Library

Update on the new Bush Library

The George W Bush Presidential Library is now in the planning stages. You'll want to be the first at your corporation to make a contribution to this great man's legacy.

The Library will include:

The Hurricane Katrina Room, which is still under construction.

The Alberto Gonzales Room, where you can't remember anything.

The Texas Air National Guard Room, where you don't have to even show up.

The Walter Reed Hospital Room, where they don't let you in.

The Guantanamo Bay Room, where they don't let you out.

The Weapons of Mass Destruction Room (which no one has been able to find).

The Iraq War Room. After you complete your first tour, they 0make you to go back for a second, third, fourth, and sometimes fifth tour.

The Dick Cheney Room, in the famous undisclosed location, complete with shooting gallery.

Plans also include:

The K-Street Project Gift Shop - where you can buy
(or just steal) an election.

The Airport Men's Room, where you can meet some of your favorite Republican Senators.

Last, but not least, there will be an entire floor devoted to a 7/8 scale model of the President's ego.

To highlight the President's accomplishments, the museum will have an electron microscope to help you locate them. When asked, President Bush said that he didn't care so much about the individual exhibits as long as his museum was better than his father's.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Woman's Poem. A Man's Poem.

Before I lay me down to sleep,
I pray for a man, who's not a creep,
One who's handsome, smart and strong.
One who loves to listen long,
One who thinks before he speaks,
One who'll call, not wait for weeks.
I pray he's gainfully employed,
When I spend his cash, won't be annoyed.
Pulls out my chair and opens my door.
Massages my back and begs to do more.
Oh! Send me a man who'll make love to my mind,
Knows what to answer to "how big is my behind?"
I pray that this man will love me to no end,
And always be my very best friend.


I pray for a deaf-mute gymnist nymphomaniac with
huge boobs who owns a bar on a golf course,
and loves to send me fishing and drinking. This
doesn't rhyme and I don't give a shit

Olberman Special Comment

Another excellent "Special Comment" from Keith Olberman.

Toon Time

It's been a long time since the last Toon Time. Toon Past-Time. Remember now, if you click on any of the toons, a new window should open and it should make the toon bigger.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sex Toys in Texas Now Legal!

What year is this? 1908? 1808? It's taken this long for sexual aids and sex toys to become "legal" in Texas? Wow, aren't we on the cutting edge?! Is this really the land of the free and home of the brave? I truly wonder sometimes.

Houston sex-toy sellers hail federal court's ruling

35-year-old Texas law that banned the items overturned by appeals court
Houston Chronicle

Houston's adult bookstore backers Wednesday hailed a federal court's decision to overturn a 35-year-old state law that banned promotion or sale of sex toys. But the decision won't go into effect until the court issues its mandate in early March — long after the industry's lucrative pre-Valentine's Day season.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the law violates the privacy protections of the 14th Amendment.

What the judges wrote

"Just as in Lawrence, the state here wants to use its law to enforce a public moral code by restricting private intimate conduct," the judges wrote in the 2-1 ruling. "This case is not about public sex. It is not about controlling commerce in sex. It is about controlling what people do in the privacy of their own homes because the state is morally opposed to a certain type of of consensual private intimate conduct."

The judges alluded to Lawrence v. Texas, a Houston case that resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the state's sodomy law in 2003.

"I've been anticipating this for some time," said Ray Hill, consultant for a number of local adult bookstores. "The same justification has been used to reverse similar laws in other jurisdictions. As recently as last week a store was busted on Telephone Road. They confiscated dozens of items and carried the clerk off to jail."

Hill charged that the law has resulted in few local convictions, but has been used to "bully and intimidate minimum wage employees" who typically are arrested in police raids.

"This is a happy day for us," said Gino Barone, who owns Carmens Boutique and Videos, which has four Houston locations. "We found our customers want these items. Ladies, couples come to buy. The demand is so great. This law was so ridiculous. ... It's time we got the government out of their lives."

A Houston police spokesman said raids invariably were based on citizen complaints and took place only after a thorough documentation of alleged illegalities.

Barone said he sold the sex novelties despite the legal ban. "Our stores are loaded with them," he said. "They tried to act like this was some monster. This was only a toy."

Busy time of year

Barone said the days before Valentine's Day are among the busiest of the year.

This week's ruling grew out of a case in Austin pitting Reliable Consultants Inc., which owns adult outlets in Austin and San Antonio, against Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle. The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas earlier had upheld the law, which does not address possession of such items.

Tom Kelley, spokesman for the Texas Attorney General's Office, which intervened in the case on behalf of Earle, said a decision has not been made on whether to petition the New Orleans appeals court for a hearing before the full court.

Only Mississippi, Alabama and Virginia have obscene device laws similar to the one in Texas. Such laws in Louisiana, Kansas, Colorado and Georgia have been overturned by state or federal courts.

Mark Morford - The 20 Worst Valentine's Gifts

I'm feeling a little uninspired today, soooooo.....time to plagiarize! I mean, borrow!!

The 20 worst Valentine's gifts
Love means never accidentally running over her cat with a lawnmower. Also, avoid these
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I am, as always, here to help. This Valentine's Day, be sure to avoid these highly unpleasant gifts. Hey, you want to find love and have sex, right? I mean, someday? OK then.

1) Copy of $3.1 trillion Bush budget.Do not tell that special someone you love them by gutting arts funding in schools, mental health services, Medicare and Medicaid and programs that bring low-income kids to Washington as you create record deficits and humiliate the nation once again, all in an effort to offset a massive increase in Pentagon spending and to fight horrible, unwinnable wars and to appease your dad. Reminder: Dick Cheney reads this instead of Hustler.

2) Hello Kitty contact lenses.Suitable only for compulsive scab-pickers and those who willingly snort anything that comes from the paint-stripper aisle of the hardware store, and/or those who dream of what it will be like to one day live among the feral cats in Golden Gate Park, licking your rancid fur and humping park benches and moaning at the moon like Amy Winehouse at a court hearing. If you do stick these creepy suckers in your eyes, please walk casually into the psych ward of any decent hospital in the nation. They will admit you immediately.

3) 14-karat gold heart pendant with diamonds from Zales at the mall.I must've been about 15 or so, had an older girlfriend on whom I took a giant dangerous risk and spent a whopping $79 on one of these beauties, which was a ton of dough but who cares because dude I loved her and it had diamonds, I mean diamonds, so my love must've been serious, even though I was 15 and knew as much about romance and beautiful jewelry as a rock knows about spun sugar. "American Idol" contestants, small-town junior-high girls with names like Jen-Jen and Courtney who work the drive-through at KFC and the Bush twins simply love jewelry like this, right along with unicorns and pink wine and Colbie Caillat. Also worn by assorted meth addicts and soccer moms who married far too young and who still reminisce about being a second-string cheerleader in 1987. Also, monkeys.
4) Do-It-Yourself fiber-optic rose.When you're not merely a geek, but a geek who never, ever wants to have sex until you're at least 43 and finally move out of your mom's house and get yourself a hooker who, at your nervous behest, agrees to call you 'Sheila' in lusty whispered tones as you lick her red plastic Payless Shoe Source boots for $50 extra, you make yourself one of these beauties. And give it to your mom.

5) Maroon 5 iPod megamix.I occasionally bird-sit my ex-girlfriend's adorably cool African Grey parrot. One day, said bird was sitting atop her cage in my office happily primping her feathers and chirping merrily when I accidentally clicked on a sample tune from "It Won't Be Soon Before Long" on iTMS. The bird's head snapped up as if she'd been shot, she immediately stopped chirping and started shaking her head in quick violent spasms as if she were being swarmed by a million whiny invisible bees. Which, if you think about it, is exactly what was happening.

6) Russell Stover chocolates from Walgreens.What are you, 97 years old? And dead?

7) Real estate.I love you, baby, now let's get naked and talk about 5-1 hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages and CLTV ratios and extensive kitchen remodels and toxic basement mold and refinancing options and HOA dues and the subprime loan scandal and how 98 percent of lofts aren't really lofts and how if we buy this 800 square foot San Francisco condo for $1.3 million we will never eat at a decent restaurant or buy nice things ever again as long as we live. Smooches.

8) Adorable newborn kitten.Oh my God your girlfriend will so totally like, melt! And think it's so adorable and love you deeply and even perhaps orally for maybe like, five whole minutes! At which point all her love and attention and cooing sounds will turn to the cat, and for the next 17 years everything will take on a tangy, sour smell and patches of itchy rash will appear randomly all over your body and you will swear Mr. Snuffigans is sucking out your very soul as you sleep, and your girl will no longer want to do that really dirty thing with margarine and the strap-on and the video camera because the goddamn cat always seems to go into a hacking hair ball fit whenever you do and she gets, like, all worried, even though you are completely convinced the cat is totally faking it in a nefarious ploy to thwart your dreams as long as you live. Get a ficus.

9) Phlegm, in vial.

10) Hammer, used.

11) Emoticon, minced, in fish oil.

12) Malaria, long stemmed, in charming porcelain vase.

13) Bathtub full of broken glass, razor blades, bits of shredded Teddy bear, and 1,001 shiny new pennies.

14) Tub of dark energy.Clever. Unique. But then she opens the lid and in a fraction of a millisecond is rocketed 18 trillion light years out to deep space, accelerating at a faster and faster rate and no one really knows why as she instantly dissolves into a tiny puff of radiant ether. And then you're stuck with the goddamn cat.

15) Fistful of penguin.

16) Nitrogen dioxide/benzene as toxic airborne pollutant, 11.2 parts per million, framed 8x10 with non-glare acrylic and a 1-inch matte.

17) 1991 Geo Metro.You know those nasty intestinal parasites that, when you zoom in with a microscope, suddenly appear to have these gross little hairs all over their red bodies and tiny sucker mouths full of gnarled teeth that latch violently onto any living organ and feed on it until the organ is withered and useless, at which point the parasite flops off and slowly pushes its way though an open sore in your knee and oozes into the daylight and then attempts to rob a Dairy Queen in rural Idaho? The assistant manager drives this car.

18) American Chestnut blight.What, it's not enough that this insidious fungus has already wiped out the gorgeous chestnut tree from American forests over the past 30 years, and science has been entirely unable to stop it? Now you want to wrap it up in a pretty bow and give it to your girlfriend in a nice gift box and tell her it's from your heart? What the hell is wrong with you?

19) Facebook ninja.You are 16 years old. You plan on attending the University of Nowhere Special, majoring in Communications with a minor in Future Receptionist at Third Largest Insurance Company in Fort Wayne. You spend roughly 192 hours a day on Facebook and therefore think that cute bass player you macked on at that party after inhaling 12 Red Bull/Champagne shooters will think you're a super hottie if you send him something using the Facebook gift utility thing. You almost choose the teddy bear with the 'I Heart You' across its evil little chest, but then you got really wild and chose the neat little ninja icon because, well, what teenage bass player doesn't think ninjas are cool? It's, like, a law of the universe or something. Side note: You will be trampled to death by angry gerbils in a bizarre pet store incident in 2015.

20) Mitt Romney.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bush is the symptom; conservatism is the disease

This one is too good not to post. Oh where, oh where have the liberals gone? Oh where oh where can they be?

Bush is the Symptom - Conservatism is the Disease

As many of us have predicted, the Republican presidential candidates are in a knock-down, drag-out battle to claim the mantle of 'the most conservative ever'. McCain, indeed, is labeled by the other candidates as a 'liberal', the pinnacle of epithets. 'Pedophile' would not be a more derogatory, insulting term. You might as well call him a 'Satanist who bites the heads off of blastocysts' and get it over with.

Conservatives revere and revel in the label 'conservative' in a way that liberals ceased to do in the sixties, when conservatives began blaming liberalism for every evil under the sun. Before that, the majority of Americans self-identified as liberals; liberalism represented the things in society that Americans valued - equality, diversity, making sure that everyone had a chance at the "American Dream". The economic programs that gave us a middle class - strong unions, the GI Bill, Social Security, Medicare - are liberal programs. Liberals believe that you can't sacrifice people so that corporations can grow fat. Liberals know that the 'trickle down theory' is, as Dubya's father once rightly said, 'voodoo economics', and that the only boats that a 'rising tide lifts' are yachts. Liberals believe that we as a nation have a responsibility, not for, but to all of our citizens (there's a difference) and that government is not the enemy, but 'We the People'. It's not 'them', it's 'us'. But when conservatives, backed by the limitless coffers of Big Business Republican think-tanks who saw their vision of conservative financial and social dominance slipping away, decided to attack liberalism as the symbol of all that's wrong with America, liberals did not challenge this assertion and it became part of the national narrative without liberals quite knowing what happened.

So, while statistics show that the economy does better under Democratic leadership and worse under Republican leadership, conservatives brag about belonging to the party of 'fiscal responsibility.' While Republicans accuse Democrats of being 'soft on terror', their party and their President have increased and encouraged terrorism by attacking and occupying a sovereign nation without the resources to defend themselves, and created terrorism where there was none before. While Republicans consider themselves to be the party of Morality and accuse Democrats of having no values, in the most egregious examples of 'do as I say, not as I do', the overwhelming majority of sex and corruption scandals have involved Republicans, not Democrats. The party that supposedly believes in 'small government' inevitably bloats it to unprecedented numbers. The party that harps upon Personal Responsibility seems congenitally incapable of accepting responsibility for its failings, always blaming them on others.

Please note that I am not giving Dems a free pass here - no one can be in politics and keep their hands perfectly clean - no one. It's the way the system is set up. But the ones who claim to be more moral than everyone else because of their high religious principles and who are constantly pointing their fingers at others seem to be the ones that are doing every immoral thing they condemn others for.

And these are the people who are proudly claiming the mantle of conservatism.

For those conservatives who have reluctantly admitted that the Bush Administration has been, shall we say, less that stellar - is the reason for George W.'s failure as President simply that he is not conservative enough? Is that his problem? For the true believers, conservatism never fails - it is only failed.

Somehow, with a Republican president, complete Republican control of Congress, and a majority of conservative Supreme Court justices - as well as a religious right that has been calling the shots in Washington for almost eight years - conservatism has not been given a real chance!

Please pardon me if I'm not hopping on that particular bandwagon. Yes, the party with absolute control of everything, that left Democrats completely shut out and voiceless for six years and when they got the tiniest sliver of a majority back, filibusters them into irrelevance without a murmur of dissent - that party has not had a fair shot at giving conservatism a chance.

I beg to differ, comrades.

We have had the implementation of unfettered conservatism for the past twenty-five years. In my upcoming book the Price of Right I've set myself the task to make clear why it is not just George W. Bush that is the problem - it is the ideology of conservatism itself.

Bush is the symptom; conservatism is the disease.

Even as liberals debate conservatives, we cede them the ‘rightness’ of their basic tenets, which I think is a mistake. I hope to show that conservatism – both social and economic – is detrimental to a democratic society. By ‘conservatism’ I do not mean prudence and moderation - which is what many people take conservatism to mean – but the political and social meaning which includes the myth of the ‘free market’, the elimination of as much regulation and taxes as can be gotten away with, the myth that privatization is the best way to deal with society’s needs, and that government is in itself a bad thing. The (usually) unspoken corollary to this is the ‘Conservative Golden Rule’ – he who has the gold makes the rules. In other words, the people with money and power are the best and most deserving – simply because they have the money and power! This is a strongly-held belief of many people, but it is not acceptable to say in so many words, so there are many euphemisms to describe it - ‘meritocracy’, ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstraps’, ‘reverse discrimination’, and so on. Conservatism’s message is connected to some very powerful societal myths that resonate deeply in the subconscious mind, making it easier to believe in the myths than the facts.

But America as a nation was built on liberal and progressive values, rather than conservative ones. If by ‘conservative’ you mean the status quo – keeping things the way they are, rather than changing, then conservatives would be the Royalists and liberals would be the Revolutionaries. The United States of America was not founded by people who did as they were told by the authority in power – in this case George III, who considered his power directly God-given. In fact, every significant advance in this country for the betterment of its people – freedom for slaves, women’s rights, child-labor laws, civil rights, the American 20th-century middle class itself – came about as a result of liberal ideals and policies.

For much of the 20th century after World War II, American values were liberal values. The New Deal gave us the American Dream – a thriving middle class. But the paradigm began shifting in the sixties, when the plan to rebuild conservatism intersected with the disappointment of Vietnam, which put a damper on what it meant to be liberal. Powerful changes were beginning, but they were under the radar of American consciousness.

We began feeling the rumbles of this seismic shift in the late seventies, when Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority injected politics into religion, ushering in the so-called “Reagan Revolution”. The admixture of moral righteousness with conservative economic tenets begat a Republican mindset that allowed for little or no consideration of other points of view. With this new majority, conservatives could afford to ignore the bipartisanship which would normally force it to mitigate or dilute its objectives. The liberal view became, not just incorrect, but morally flawed as well in the eyes of this new political meld, the Christian conservatives. Each group had its own reasons for criticizing liberalism before, but, fused together as a political unit, the two groups reinforced each other’s beliefs synergistically. Traditional liberal values such as tolerance, diversity, empathy and compassion became evils to be rooted out instead of solutions to the ills of society.

This set of 'values' insists that "Government is the enemy and Big Business is your friend." They believe, incredibly, that tax cuts plus borrowing and spending equal prosperity! The sad truth is that our government (and the rest of the world) is run, not by Democrats, or even Republicans, but by multinational corporations. These corporations want Republicans in power because they fit the most easily into the authoritarian nature of conservatism, and are thus much easier to bend to their will.

I don't believe that most conservatives (our family and friends, many of whom are affected as adversely as the rest of us by unregulated, laissez-faire capitalism) understand what their policies really mean in terms of the economy, the so-called "War on Terror", jobs, education, health care, the deficit, civil liberties, and our relationships with the rest of the world. But, as most people know by now, the Republicans have been positioning themselves for this complete takeover of government for forty years. It has been carefully planned and massively funded. And the way they have captured the hearts and minds of the American fiscal and religious conservatives was not an accident. It has been done by playing into the deepest wants, needs, and fears of people who are the most comfortable with authoritarian structure. It has been done systematically through the use of language and framing, and using the same subliminal techniques that advertisers use when they want you to choose their product over a competitor's; not because of inherent differences between the products, but by applying motivational 'triggers' which have nothing to do with the product itself.

That's where the media comes in. The average American, who works harder and longer for less and less, sits down for an hour, exhausted, in front of the television set and takes it on faith that what he or she is seeing on the news is true. And when the narrative is skewed to promote the ideas that those in power wish to have the public believe, most people are not in a position to judge how much is true and how much is spin. The line between 'news' and 'commentary' has been completely blurred to boost advertising revenue, and the American people - you and I - are paying the price.

George W. Bush certainly is the worst president in American history, but he could not have achieved that distinction without the conservative philosophy that says "What's good for business is good for America." It is conservativism that has created the monster that is George W. Bush, not the other way around.

I believe it is time for liberals to call themselves liberals, and be proud of being liberal. It is time to stop ceding conservatives the moral high ground and start pointing out where conservatism itself has had a direct and destructive effect on the United States and the rest of the world.

Conservatism is inherently anti-democratic. Conservatives do not believe that all men (and women) are created equal. Conservatives believe that some people are more equal, more deserving, more entitled than others, and it's the fault of the 'others' if they are shut out.

Folks, the principles that our nation was founded on are the exact principles that conservatives oppose! We as liberals need to begin pointing that out. Nothing would make me happier than to see a Democratic candidate boast about what a liberal he or she was. That would give me hope for our country.

Remember - Bush is only the symptom - conservatism is the disease. Let's work togther for a cure.

John McCain version of "Yes We Can"

You saw the Obama "Yes We Can" video. (If not, click here.) Now watch the John McCain response.

If for some reason, the vid didn't "embed" right, click here to see the John McCain vid. You'll be glad you did.

Paul Krugman - Hate Springs Eternal

Hate Springs Eternal
Published: February 11, 2008

In 1956 Adlai Stevenson, running against Dwight Eisenhower, tried to make the political style of his opponent’s vice president, a man by the name of Richard Nixon, an issue. The nation, he warned, was in danger of becoming “a land of slander and scare; the land of sly innuendo, the poison pen, the anonymous phone call and hustling, pushing, shoving; the land of smash and grab and anything to win. This is Nixonland.”

The quote comes from “Nixonland,” a soon-to-be-published political history of the years from 1964 to 1972 written by Rick Perlstein, the author of “Before the Storm.” As Mr. Perlstein shows, Stevenson warned in vain: during those years America did indeed become the land of slander and scare, of the politics of hatred.

And it still is. In fact, these days even the Democratic Party seems to be turning into Nixonland.

The bitterness of the fight for the Democratic nomination is, on the face of it, bizarre. Both candidates still standing are smart and appealing. Both have progressive agendas (although I believe that Hillary Clinton is more serious about achieving universal health care, and that Barack Obama has staked out positions that will undermine his own efforts). Both have broad support among the party’s grass roots and are favorably viewed by Democratic voters.

Supporters of each candidate should have no trouble rallying behind the other if he or she gets the nod.

Why, then, is there so much venom out there?

I won’t try for fake evenhandedness here: most of the venom I see is coming from supporters of Mr. Obama, who want their hero or nobody. I’m not the first to point out that the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality. We’ve already had that from the Bush administration — remember Operation Flight Suit? We really don’t want to go there again.

What’s particularly saddening is the way many Obama supporters seem happy with the application of “Clinton rules” — the term a number of observers use for the way pundits and some news organizations treat any action or statement by the Clintons, no matter how innocuous, as proof of evil intent.

The prime example of Clinton rules in the 1990s was the way the press covered Whitewater. A small, failed land deal became the basis of a multiyear, multimillion-dollar investigation, which never found any evidence of wrongdoing on the Clintons’ part, yet the “scandal” became a symbol of the Clinton administration’s alleged corruption.

During the current campaign, Mrs. Clinton’s entirely reasonable remark that it took L.B.J.’s political courage and skills to bring Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to fruition was cast as some kind of outrageous denigration of Dr. King.

And the latest prominent example came when David Shuster of MSNBC, after pointing out that Chelsea Clinton was working for her mother’s campaign — as adult children of presidential aspirants often do — asked, “doesn’t it seem like Chelsea’s sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?” Mr. Shuster has been suspended, but as the Clinton campaign rightly points out, his remark was part of a broader pattern at the network.

I call it Clinton rules, but it’s a pattern that goes well beyond the Clintons. For example, Al Gore was subjected to Clinton rules during the 2000 campaign: anything he said, and some things he didn’t say (no, he never claimed to have invented the Internet), was held up as proof of his alleged character flaws.

For now, Clinton rules are working in Mr. Obama’s favor. But his supporters should not take comfort in that fact.

For one thing, Mrs. Clinton may yet be the nominee — and if Obama supporters care about anything beyond hero worship, they should want to see her win in November.

For another, if history is any guide, if Mr. Obama wins the nomination, he will quickly find himself being subjected to Clinton rules. Democrats always do.

But most of all, progressives should realize that Nixonland is not the country we want to be. Racism, misogyny and character assassination are all ways of distracting voters from the issues, and people who care about the issues have a shared interest in making the politics of hatred unacceptable.

One of the most hopeful moments of this presidential campaign came last month, when a number of Jewish leaders signed a letter condemning the smear campaign claiming that Mr. Obama was a secret Muslim. It’s a good guess that some of those leaders would prefer that Mr. Obama not become president; nonetheless, they understood that there are principles that matter more than short-term political advantage.

I’d like to see more moments like that, perhaps starting with strong assurances from both Democratic candidates that they respect their opponents and would support them in the general election.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Smart Car test drive

Ok, I'm hooked.

This past August, I put $99 down to reserve a Smart Car once they arrived in the US. This past weekend, the wife and I drove out to one of only two Smart dealerships in Houston and I test-drove one of the Passion Cabriolet's (the convertible).

I came away very impressed. The website is here.

The car felt surprisingly "heavy" and solid. It takes corners with no swerve or sway. I got up to 65 MPH on the freeway in no time. Ok, not as quickly as my Mustang GT convertible, but quickly enough.

One particularly "smart" feature I like is the ability to raise or lower the roof AT ANY SPEED. Indeed, at 60 MPH I did both, and it was no problem at all. If I'm driving with the top down in the Mustang and it starts to rain, I have to pull over, put the car in park, and then raise the roof. All that could take 30 seconds. Meanwhile, you're getting soaked.
In the Smart car, just keep going and raise the roof and it's done in about 5 seconds. Pretty smart. After all, it's a Mercedes. It's actually a joint venture between Mercedes-Benz and Swatch, a Swiss company. The Germans and Swiss do know a thing or two about engineering, n'est pas?

The car is very well appointed for a tiny car. Power windows, power doors, power mirrors, 6-CD changer, A/C, intermittent wipers, etc etc. About what you might expect from a luxury car, minus the rear-view camera and 45-way power seats. At highway speeds with the top up, the car was remarkably quiet. Again, it's a Mercedes.

I adapted to the "manual" transmission in no time. Instead of a clutch, you simply take your foot off the gas when you feel the car slowing down (telling you its time to change gears), then press the accelerator again, and the car changes gear. It took no time to get used to it. When slowing down, the car changes gears for you.

The mileage isn't as great as one might expect from a small car (40 mpg or so), and the engine is nothing too high-tech (gas-powered), but the emissions are very low, and the mileage will still be two to three times better than what I'm getting in the Mustang.

Looks like I'll be getting mine either late March or April. If you don't have a reservation in at this time, the wait could be up to a year to get one.
They have an option to buy extra panels, which means that you can change the color of the car when you want to. We're going to opt for that, and plan on entering the Art Car Parade, if not this year, then next. After all, it's a SmART Car.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Tomatoes, Peas, Beans and Cucumber, oh my!

Time for a gardening report. Overdue.

Last weekend, 2/3/08, we planted a number of seeds on the deck in new containers. If all goes well, and that's unlikely, we'll have a nice salad or ten in the weeks ahead.

We didn't get the deck until May of last year, so we missed a good chunk of the spring growing season in '07. And then, since it was our first attempt at container gardening, some of them didn't do so hot. Maybe it was too hot. It's a wierd micro-climate up there. But you learn, hopefully, from your experience, George W. Bush excepted, of course.

We had a veritable orgy of planting. Two types of tomatoes - Early Girl Hybrid and Health Kick Hybrid, both Ferry-Morse seeds. Early Girl is a full-sized tomato and the Health Kick is plum-sized. Both planted with a trellis built-in to the container. Last years tomato crop yielded a paltry, albeit very sweet, TWO cherry tomatoes. This year should be quite different. Con suerte.

Next up is another first-time attempt at a Salad Bush Hybrid Cucumber (Burpee Seed). Since we are container gardening, we are going for the "dwarf" or "bush" plants as much as possible. I wish there was another word for it besides "bush." George and his family have certainly poisoned the well of that word for many years to come, regardless of what the right-wing hatemongers have to say.

By the way, how did we get to such a place in this country where so many talk-radio hosts are right-wing fanatic haters that spew bile on a daily basis? They project a very ugly American face, to Americans and to the world. But, America's attitude usually seems to be, "Fuck the rest of the world," so maybe these people are actually more-representative of America than I am, a tolerant, open-minded liberal. I shudder to think. Practically every local market has haters of their very own, in addition to the nationally-syndicated radio hatermongers. And then you have the whole FOX network. What is this, a post about gardening?

We're also trying, for the first time, some Snap Pea Sugar Bon, another bush-type plant, and another Burpee seed. It doesn't need a trellis, allegedly, but we have a small cage to help it out anyway.

Next up is some Kale, "
Red Winter" variety, from Botanical Interests. We love to stir-fry Kale. I even created a recipe I call "Braisin' Kale," which is a marvelous side dish.

Can't forget the Fairy Tale Eggplant, another Burpee seed. This is another compact bush-type plant.

And finally, a pot of
Bush Bean Bush Blue Lake 47 (there it is AGAIN! TWICE!) Beans, a Burpee seed creation.

Three weekends ago we tried an experiment: two pots with two different types of plants sown INDOORS, and the same two different types of plants in two more containers that we sowed OUTDOORS. One is Pak Choi Joi Choi (Burpee) and the other Mesclun Mix, (Burpee, excuse me) which is a mix of two types of lettuce, one spinach, one mustard green and a beet, all together. And the indoor plants are totally kicking the asses off of the outdoor plants. Today we thinned the indoor 3" tall plants, but their outdoor cuzzins are still drawfs. The cold weather may have SOMEthing to do with that.

We have a nice crop of
Red Sails Lettuce held over from last year which is looking and tastes wonderful, and the Swiss Chard Bright Lights is finally coming on. I should take a pic and post it.

We're probably being far too ambitious in our planting. Who's got time for this shit? We've got politics to obsess over! And jobs. And lives. And it's a joy to work in the garden. You take your joy where you can get it.

Letterman Mocks Mitt Mercilessly

....and deservedly so. Please, just go away, Mittens, and take your "patriotic" war-fearing sons with you.

Now that Willard "Mitt" Romney has dropped out of the presidential race, no one will miss him more than David Letterman. He's been mocking Romney with wicked glee in recent weeks for his matinee-idol looks.

A few highlights: "He looks like the photo that comes with the frame … He looks like a tennis pro at a restricted country club.... He looks like the guy who tells you how to buy real estate with no money down ... He looks like the owner of the steakhouse who keeps interrupting dinner to find out how things are going … He looks like an American President in a Canadian movie ... He looks like the guy on the 'Just For Men' bottle ... Mitt looks like a guy who goes to the restroom when the check comes ... He looks like a guy who would run a seminar on condo flipping … He looks like he is the closer at a Cadillac dealership.... He looks like that guy on the golf course in the Levitra commercial."

Watch a video highlight reel, plus read more of Letterman's Mitticisms below...

"Mitt looks like a guy modeling briefs on a package of underwear … Mitt looks like a guy who said he met Marge on eHarmony … Mitt looks like a guy who goes to the restroom when the check comes … Mitt looks like a guy who tries to sign you up for Herbalife … Mitt looks like a Beverly Hills cop … He looks like a golf commentator fired for an off-the-cuff remark … Mitt looks like a guy who forgot to remove his teeth whitening strip … Mitt looks like the maitre d' who tells you your table's not ready."

"Don't worry about Mitt. He can always go back to playing Dr. Miles Windgate on General Hospital. ... Mitt looks like the guy your mother points to and says why can't you be more like him. ... He looks like a former Tarzan. ... Mitt looks like a Tom Cruise handler. ... Mitt looks like a tour guide at the Nixon Library. Mitt looks like the guy that shows you around Total Fitness. ... Mitt looks like the honorary mayor of Sherman Oaks. ... Mitt looks like the guy who shakes your hand too hard. ... Mitt looks like the guy who has a crease in his jeans."

"How about that Mitt Romney? ... He looks like the guy that would approve your check at a supermarket. ... He looks like the piano player at an upscale department store. ... He looks like a guy who winks when he shakes your hand. ... He looks like a guy who is married to an over the hill actress. ... He looks like a guy who would brag about his cholesterol. ... He looks like the owner of the steakhouse who keeps interrupting dinner to find out how things are going."

"Don't worry about Mitt, if this presidential thing doesn't work out he can always go back to playing Victor Newman on the 'Young and the Restless.' ... Mitt Romney doesn't look like a president, he looks like a ringmaster. … Mitt looks like a guy wearing a golf shirt in an Eddie Bauer catalogue. … He looks like the desk clerk at a Peninsula Hotel who tells you your room's not ready. … Mitt looks like the guy at a party who gives you his card. … He looks like a tennis pro at a restricted country club. … He looks like a jet blue pilot who comes out to greet the passengers during the delay. ... Mitt Romney looks like the guy who says to the contestant, 'We're out of time, can you come back tomorrow?'"

"The Florida retirees didn't go for that Mitt Romney, either. He reminded them of a guy who tries to get a hold of their nest egg. ... He reminded them of a guy who sells subdivisions in the Everglades. ... He reminded them of the guy who pitches overpriced cemetery plots. ... He reminded them of the pharmacist who doesn't accept their prescription plan."

"How about that Mitt Romney, am I right about this guy? ... I mean, he looks like the guy on TV selling life insurance, doesn't he? ... He looks like that guy on a Father's Day ad for Norelco. ... He looks like a guy on cable urging you to tap your home equity. ... He looks like an American President in a Canadian movie. ... He looks like the medical expert in a Victoria Principal infomercial. ... He looks like the spokesman for senior lending networks. ... He looks like the guy who promises accident victims he'll get the money they deserve. ... He looks like the guy on the 'Just For Men' bottle"
"How about that Mitt Romney, huh? I mean, this guy looks like he'd be selling fruit dehydrators on cable. ... He looks like the guy who tells you how to buy real estate with no money down. ... He looks like a cosmetic surgeon who gets ambushed on '60 Minutes.' ... He looks like the photo that comes with the frame. ... By the way, if Mitt Romney is elected, he'll be the first president ever sworn in on a copy of GQ."
"What about that Mitt Romney? He looks like a guy who would run a seminar on condo flipping. He looks like a weekend weather man, doesn't he? He looks like the neighbor who spends way too much time on his lawn"
"Mitt Romney looks like he is the closer at a Cadillac dealership. ... Mitt Romney looks like that guy on the golf course in the Levitra commercial."