Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Drifting Towards Oblivion

Righty rhetoric profiteers (Fox/Limbaugh/Palin, Inc.) may have successfully whipped a fourth of the country into a lather, but what are Republican senators thinking when they blast the hard fought civil rights progress championed by Thurgood Marshall? Recent developments continue to illustrate the shameless depths to which some in the GOP have sunk, perhaps most clearly exemplified by the recent Texas Republican Platform. Reading this thing is like stepping back into the 1860 Confederacy.

ADA – We support amendment of the Americans with Disabilities Act to exclude from its definition those persons with infectious diseases, substance addiction, learning disabilities, behavior disorders, homosexual practices and mental stress, thereby reducing abuse of the Act.

Huh? What exactly does ADA do for "the gay"? What, pray tell, is mental stress in this context? Yes, let's make sure we exclude infectious diseases. What did the ADA do for you the last time you had the flu? How much abuse is REALLY occurring? This isn't about saving money or reducing fraud. This is about being mean.

Classroom Discipline –We recommend that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems. We urge the Legislature, Governor, Commissioner of Education and State Board of Education to remind administrators and school boards that corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas.

Who says beating kids is effective? Research has shown that spanking is harmful and difficult to control. What parents want school teachers to beat their kids? Oh wait. No one will hit their kids. It's the bad kids, them colored varmints, that need a good whipping. Of course the studies show a large white/non-white disparity between children who get hit. Like I said, 1860.

We believe Congress should repeal the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.

Do these people know why that act was passed? We don't want our savings protected? We trust that private and utterly unregulated banks will protect us?

In addition to the sheer insanity in Texas, (they also want to withdraw from the United Nations), we have jaw dropping hypocrisy in the face of the oil spill. Immediately after demanding that BP release all of its information regarding oil spill claims, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed a bill requiring his office to release its information on the spill. So what exactly would Bobby like to hide and why? And Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, after weeks of declaring the worst damage was caused not by oil, but by all of the media attention, is now screaming about the oil. He didn't know it was coming?

The party of "Drill Baby Drill!" has its pants around its ankles, and if its ideas for solutions consist of the likes of repealing civil rights, instead of solving anything, it's just flashing its butt ugly arse.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Medical Pay Day Loan

(Friendly's Cheese Burger Melt) The original title of this post was "Poisoning America" but I wanted to add the economic distinction. Too much sodium increases the risk for stroke, coronary heart disease, heart failure, and renal dis­ease. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommends that middle-aged and older adults, and all blacks should limit intake to 1,500 mg/day of sodium.. That's about 70% of the U.S. adult population. For the other 30% (i.e. the young) the recommended limit is 2,300 mg/day of sodium. A recent CDC study suggests that less than 10% of Americans meet this dietary limit.

I'm not talking about calories and the rampant obesity epidemic, but I'll include the recommended calorie intakes (2400 for men and 1850 for women) and list calories in the numbers below. My emphasis here is on sodium. The low estimate is that excessive sodium kills Americans at a rate of two 911 bombings a month. The obesity numbers are worse.

(KFC Double Down) The list below provides the portion size in grams, the calories, and the sodium content in milligrams. Remember, daily sodium intake should not exceed 1500 mg for all but the young.

Arby's Medium Roast Beef-210-450-1380
Arby's Medium Beef&Cheddar-251-530-1640
Taco Bell Double Decker Taco-156-330-820
Taco Bell Mexican Pizza-213-514-1030
Wendy's Double w/cheese-337-750-1370
Wendy's Regular Fries-142-410-370
McDonald's Big Mac-214-540-1040
McDonald's Regular Fries-117-380-270
Burger King Whopper-290-670-1020
Burger King Medium Fries-116-440-670
KFC Chicken Breast-176-510-1010
KFC Double Down-253-540-1380
Pizza Hut 14 inch pepperoni (3 slices)-384-1140-2520

If you think it's only fast food, think again. In fact, it gets worse. The above are almost little league compared to restaurants like Denny's or Friendly's, which serve meals almost designed to kill.

Denny's Grand Slamwich-1320 calories-3070 mg
Denny's Spicy Buffalo Chicken Melt-870 calories-3820 mg
Denny's Cheesy Three Burger-1930 calories-4120 mg
Friendly's Grilled Cheese Burger Melt-1500 calories-2380 mg
Friendly's Zesty Questo Burger Melt-1380 calories-2410 mg
Friendly's Sirloin Steak Tips-1140 calories-3350 mg
Friendly's Clamboat Basket-1710 calories-3340 mg
Friendly's Waffle Fries-570 calories-1840 mg

Oh, but it gets so much better if you go to a more respectable place:
Olive Garden's Chicken and Gnocchi Veronese-1030 calories-2580 mg
Macaroni Grill's Chicken Scaloppine-910 calories-3030 mg
Red Lobster's Maui Luau Shrimp and Salmon-760 calories-2640 mg
Red Lobster's Wood-Grilled Lobster, Shrimp and Scallops-500 calories-3220 mg
Outback's 10-oz Ribeye-787 calories-2389 mg
Outback's Baby Back Ribs-2013 calories-2600 mg

I could make this list a lot longer, and if you think I'm cherry picking anomalies, then by all means examine the data yourself.

So if you stop into Friendly's and have the Cheese Burger Melt with the fries, that's 2070 calories and 4220 mg of sodium in a single meal, the medical equivalent of a pay day loan and another shining example of the optimal solutions produced by the magic hand of the free market, the same delightful mechanism that gave us pay day loans, the credit swap meltdown, and a clean, clear Gulf of Mexico kept safe by responsible corporations committed to safety. Friendly's, AIG, BP, and United Health Care are the same wolf wearing different shades of sheep. With this shade, the fattening of the flock IS the slaughter. Free market economics rest upon the assumption of informed consumers.

Of course the people eating this food know what they're doing. Is it an exaggeration to say we are being poisoned? Perhaps, but how much of an exaggeration? Seriously.

Addiction is rampant in this conversation.

Arby's Nutrition Burger King Nutrition Denny's Nutrition Friendly's Nutrition McDonald's Nutrition KFC Nutrition Taco Bell Nutrition Wendy's Nutrition

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hitler Understands Cloth

The following video produced by the Tucson Weekly is positively hysterical. Thanks to the Tucson Choices blog for calling it to my attention. I broke out laughing on numerous occasions. This is a scream.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Neda: An Iranian Martyr

The BBC documentary on the tragic murder of Neda Agha-Soltan was broadcast on HBO this evening and is also available on youtube in six 10-minute parts that say a lot.

Watching Neda die will remain one of my most unforgettable experiences.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Brilliance On Tea

Philosophy professor J.M. Bernstein has perhaps the most brilliant and clear insight to date into the forces truly driving the Tea Party movement. His telling NY Times piece truly takes one's grasp of the current developments to the next level, explaining the foundation underneath all of the hatred and racism we see on the waving signs.

When tea baggers howl about wanting their “country” back, they are in fact crying for a return to the illusion that they are self-sufficient and in control of their destinies, an illusion shattered by a wave of catastrophes for the most part enabled by deregulation and the sheer incompetence of the most disastrous presidential administration in US history, that of George W. Bush. From 911 to Enron to Katrina to the financial nightmare, and now, a black president!, they are getting that it matters, and that they are not in control.

Tea baggers long to return to the illusion that they are self-sufficient,that left to themselves without interference, they would enjoy safety and prosperity where food is fit to eat, water fit to drink, air fit to breathe, medicine safe to take. Children educate themselves and people are poor because they're lazy. Roads and bridges self-build and self-maintain, and since crime doesn't pay there won't be any. Don't let a nasty oil spill in the gulf get in the way of your “common sense” (i.e. superficial and empty) conservatism that screams for a balanced budget without raising taxes or cutting Medicare, Social Security, or defense budgets.

The illusion of rugged independence has been sheer fantasy for decades. Without bogging down in details, the natural progression of the pertinent relationship here is from dependence to independence to interdependence. We have been in the final stage for over a century. Independence is an illusion enjoyed by those with the good fortune to have been born into wealth and privilege, never laid off, never hit by medical catastrophe, never put out of business, never... must be nice. Inside of this fantasy, they say they want smaller government, but even from this la la land the position is a lie. In truth they want plenty of government so long as it's helping them. The health care bill is socialism, but don't touch MY medicare.

The picture will continue to grow clearer. Interestingly if not ironically, diversity has perhaps emerged as a "tell" in the interdependence conversation. While the statistics have yet to catch up in the workplace, women now outperform men in higher education (some fields excepted) and nothing suggests this will change. The sun is setting on the "boy" in “white boy day” and dusk is fast approaching on "white."

Rand Paul and Sharron Angle do not represent the future direction of the country. They represent the scream against the death of an illusion. Both candidates will be defeated in November, and as Florida starts drowning in oil this summer, look for tea's Rubio to fall as well against Governor Crist.

Bernstein notes, "In truth, there is nothing that the Tea Party movement wants; terrifyingly, it wants nothing."

From Mark Lilla's The Tea Party Jacobians: It appeals to petulant individuals convinced that they can do everything themselves if they are only left alone, and that others are conspiring to keep them from doing just that. This is the one threat that will bring Americans into the streets.

Welcome to the politics of the libertarian mob.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Weekend in Paradise

As already posted, the daughter just obtained her undergraduate degree at Stanford University. What a priceless weekend, from Philosophy Professor Debra Satz's thought provoking class day lecture on the ethical ambivalence of market forces (Want a lower interest rate? Sign over your kidney as collateral.) to Sunday's moving commencement speech by Susan E. Rice, US Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

I had read but mostly forgotten the NY Times article about the daughter's residence, Synergy. While I waited downstairs for her to get ready for dinner, some students in the next room were gathered around a piano. A particularly compelling song started, and I had to approach them to ask its title. As I entered the room, I saw that one of the ladies was wearing a pair of sneakers and nothing else. Their eyes were on my eyes. Knowing I would be examined for Neanderthal reactions, I allowed myself to see her as I would see anyone (neither staring nor averting). I addressed all of them, “Do any of you know what song this is?”

They smiled. A young man fired up his iPhone, "I know it's from Amelie" and started looking for a link to snag the precise title.
"The movie?"
"That's all I need. Thanks so much."

The weekend took me back to my first college graduation and the exhilaration it produced. What an emotional experience, tasting and smelling the thrill and wide open space before one's child while being reminded that one once had that space, the operative word - had.

I'm skipping a lot. That said, in a certain respect, the song was perfect and will forever remind me of three days in June, 2010.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Graduation in Palo Alto

Greetings from downtown Palo Alto, where your humble blogger enjoyed delightful food (Red Curry Beef at Siam Royal) and shops including Mac's Smoke Shop, live music on the corner of University and Emerson next to the Digital DNA Sculpture, and a priceless three hour conversation with the delightful daughter, who graduates from Stanford University this weekend. Even more than San Diego, and differently but equal to Seattle, Palo Alto features a remarkably aware and educated population with no shortage of diversity or cerebral horsepower, a correlation I have noted on many occasions.

The daughter's genius boyfriend joined us for lunch. He won't talk about it, but she told me how last year he hacked into the database of a local prestigious network, and while inflicting no damage hijacked all of their machines and printed benign messages on their screens. He let them learn who he was, and after some conversation, they offered him a part time job for the duration of his time in Palo Alto. Well versed in Buddhism although he does not formally practice, he heads to the east coast this fall to start on his doctorate (Mathematics). The daughter, somewhat to the chagrin of dad (wanted Bloomington), returns to Tucson (yes, Tucson) to start hers in Sociology.

Her interests are remarkably similar to mine, which is what made the conversation so rich. We discussed consciousness at a depth I rarely get to experience, including distinctions regarding levels of awareness. At least in my experience, a “for real” talk like that (as opposed to a new age enthusiast offering his take on Peaceful Warrior) is very difficult to find. The key is “for real” and must involve actual experience resulting from effort. I can't tell you how moved I am that my kid is exploring this terrain. The bulk of the conversation involved the application of sociology to education. She was the instructor.

The Stanford campus is as close to heaven as I have ever experienced. In another priceless moment, I got to hang out at the Synergy House while the daughter packed up in preparation for the move (to the soundtrack from The Graduate). Her roommate, an international relations graduate from the Orient, and I discussed comparative cultures and the way religion influences the political perspective of a nation, in particular the difference between the Dharmic and Abrahamic frameworks. Does it get any better than having terrific conversations with freshly developed young minds while your graduating daughter packs up her things to Simon & Garfunkel? In my real life (The current fiasco is a practice life – at least I learned a lot, had a great kid, and got a full time slot on a campus with a part time faculty gig.), I want to be a professor at Stanford. Almost any field would be all right (except Chemistry, poetry, or anything involving a foreign language).

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Homophobe Secret

I know a man who is eighty years old and positively vitriolic when it comes to gay males. In an amazing demonstration of the power of denial, he remains unaware of what everyone around him can plainly see but would never confront him for fear of what it would do. He's gay. For many years I believed he really did know (how could he NOT know?), but after some brutally humbling experiences of my own regarding denial (hint - used to be married), I now see how this can happen. I know personally that it is possible to repress and refuse to acknowledge an unwanted data stream bubbling up from below.

Acceptance of different sexual preferences will continue to grow along with our understanding of human sexuality. For example, we now know that although the boundaries are blurry, in general 4% of men and 2% of women are born genetically disposed to prefer their own gender. Acceptance is sinking into the mainstream. A recent Gallop poll shows that we may indeed finally be reaching the tipping point. In 2001, the poll asked whether gay / lesbian relations were morally acceptable or morally wrong, with results of 40% acceptable and 53% wrong. In the years since, a solid trend shows the numbers switching places, with the latest showing 52% acceptable and 43% wrong.

Far more striking, and resulting in a New York Times piece, are the demographics of this shift. Comparing against 2006 instead of 2001 shows the dramatic acceleration of this trend. From 2006 to 2010, responses expressing "morally acceptable" from Men 18-49 shot from 42% to 62%, and even Men 50+ climbed from 33% to 42%. Over 50 males accepting that gay is okay? The ladies on the other hand, while less opposed in 2006 (49%), have barely budged in the last four years, now at 51%.

Like the Catholic priests who take a vow of abstinence and then molest boys, the 80 year old gay homophobe doth protest too much. In what occurs to me as painfully obvious, when an individual is seething about a particular behavior, that says a lot. If a man starts an organization committed to legislation that outlaws sex dolls, we know what's in his secret room. Consider staunch anti-gay crusader Larry Craig (caught pursuing gay sex), anti-child pornography crusader Mark Foley (caught sexting teenage pages), anti-gay evangelist Ted Haggard (paid prostitute for narcotics and gay sex), Family Research Council's rabid anti-gay operative George Rekers (vacationed with young male prostitute obtained on Rentboy.com), top gay persecuting Congressman Ed Schrock (caught using dating service for casual gay sex). Now straight people have their versions with Sanford, Ensign, Gingrich (Gingrich was actively having an affair when he called on Clinton to resign). Clinton strayed, but he didn't run the National Society for the Protection of Staff Interns. John Edwards didn't run the Association for the Promotion of Marital Integrity.

What I am distinguishing is a specific behavior that is rampant among homophobes. Why would a person have such a fervent opinion about such a personal matter regarding other people? The reference to the Bible is a lie. First, they are homophobes. Then they use the Bible to support their position. The Bible forbids a lot of things, but they skip over the Ten Commandments to focus on sexual preference, about which Christ said nothing. As the trend of acceptance continues, it will increasingly be the case that the remaining homophobes hate homosexuality not on moral grounds, but because they are afraid of it, and we know why they're afraid.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Questioning Cloth

I no longer pay much attention to matters Tucson, but someone sent an email calling my attention to a 6/2/2010 Rob O'Dell piece about the Mayor's cancellation of a meeting between the city council and the newly formed Rio Nuevo board. The Mayor is quoted as saying, "I've been through joint meetings before, they're complicated and they're expensive."

Oh, god. Yeah, that's why he canceled the meeting. Apparently he even suggested numbers for the cost at $10,000 to $20,000. I can't make stuff like this up. Suggesting the meeting would run 20 grand is Three Stooges slapstick in a conversation devoted to funneling triple digit millions to Garfield Traub for stuffing the coffers of Larry/Dan Consulting, Inc. The city council and Rio Nuevo have nothing to discuss, nothing at all.

The meeting was canceled because certain folks are terrified of the questions City Councilman Steve Kozachik is asking about due diligence and what is entirely anathema to the Cloth, REALITY. So this hotel will have what occupancy at what rates? What data provide how much confidence in light of the immigration ruckus?

Word is that Kozachik is also scratching his head at the rest of the Clothiverse, daring to ponder matters like:

Did TREO actually produce a result, any result at all, ever?
What does DTP actually provide for the city?
Uh, MTCVB gets paid how much? To do what?

I don't know Steve, but if he is anything like me, I can just imagine what he's going through. I will never forget those meetings where suits talked about ropes to Sweden, positioning regional attributes, community fabric, and leveraging the college, mountains and mountains of rhetoric and presentations and plans and blueprints THAT PRODUCE NOTHING. After awhile it became clear that in Tucson public officials and the multimillion dollar Clothiverse do nothing for local economic development and simply take credit for what does occur in spite of their charade.

Spill a Most Apt Metaphor

(Yes, that is a bird.) We now know what happens when arrogance, ignorance and incompetence (Bush) is mixed with arrogance and soulless, insatiable greed (Cheney). Bush doesn't even get that he did anything wrong and this week declared, almost with an air of pride, that he knowingly approved waterboarding detainees and would do it again, even though we now know it yielded no useful information. Bush was always an idiot, but after eight years with Cheney, all remnants of conscience have been eradicated.

Sarah Palin is now declaring that when she cheered, “Drill, Baby, Drill!” she only meant drilling on land and is in fact AGAINST off shore drilling. We're supposed to forget that in July 2008 with great fanfare in a presidential election she convinced McCain to support it and loudly called for lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling. In October 2008 she said it was nonsensical to leave any domestic supply untapped. More and still more. She cheered for Obama when he announced his support for limited offshore drilling. It gets better. Palin asserts that offshore drilling is necessary because of "extreme greenies." Environmentalists are the root cause of offshore oil rigs.

My favorite this week is the serious suggestion that we close off the well with a nuclear warhead. Yes, let's put a nuclear bomb at the bottom of 100 million gallons of oil and blow the stuff to Atlanta. Can you imagine? Let's scatter insanely radioactive stuff like Strontium 90 (toxic as hell) all over the gulf and produce gigantic tsunamis that slam the entire coastline.

We elected Al Gore in 2000, but the usurpers put stupid in the White House, the kind of stupid that lasts and spreads. If you think education is expensive....

I knew Bush/Cheney would be a disaster, but they infinitely exceeded my worst fears, inflicting disaster after disaster after disaster. This spill is a most apt metaphor for the Bush presidency. Arrogant and ignorant overpaid goons put other people's lives, livelihoods, and money at great risk for their own gains. They bungle everything and everyone else suffers the result. We are about to witness an environmental holocaust.


Thursday, June 03, 2010

Carnival of Souls

Shot for a song by relatively unknown director Herk Harvey and featuring totally unknown actors, Carnival of Souls (1962) is a strangely compelling film that at first comes across as a mediocre B-flick. However, it plants seeds that produce an entirely different result, and despite some of the awkward acting and a few marginal scenes, this is no B-movie. There is a reason this film acquired a cult following and is frequently shown and discussed in university film courses. Very short at only 76 minutes, the story follows a woman who crawls out of a river after the car she is in crashes from a bridge and falls into the water below.

Skipping the plot, the film features a granularity that puts the audience right into 1962. You see the traffic, the car dashboard and radio, the advertising, and the background in a way that truly paints an atmosphere you can almost smell.

Things are not what they seem for this oddly cool yet drawn church organist who, in the most compelling scene of the work, falls into a sort of trance while playing the organ, the music drifting from standard church fare into notes and energies that are anything but. (The music required the use of a theater organ instead of a church organ.) Her hands and fingers, as well as her bare feet, acquire an escalating energy that does not belong in church, and hearing her, the minister rushes in to interrupt, deeply disturbed and shaken. Clearly under duress, he terminates her on the spot. What is that energy and where is it coming from?

She leaves, and we soon learn about the carnival that has been haunting her since she crashed into that river.