Thursday, July 30, 2009

This is for folk music fans who are 55+ years of age

Ok, I'm a year short, but I had a hip older brother who shared his music and music magazines. But if you're near this age and a real folk fan, you'll remember the huge controversy when Bob Dylan started using an electric guitar. Folkies saw it as a betrayal- I can't imagine a modern equivalent; society has changed. But I remember the incident described in this article ; but back then, only the first two of Dylan's three replies to the heckler shown below were reported.

Paul Krugman proves the worth of the Canadian healthcare system

Hat tip to Chicks On The Right

Do your local police have dashboard cams?

You'll want to make sure they do after seeing this video: Officers Seen on Dashcam Video Conspiring to Frame Driver for Cop-Caused Accident


Only once before have I posted something forwarded to me in email. I have only a few people who forward things to me in email, (No! This is not a request that you do so!), so I normally fear I'm showing something everyone has seen already... but this was cute enough to risk it:

True Friendship -- None of that Sissy stuff
Are you tired of those sissy 'friendship' poems that always sound good, But never actually come close to reality?
Well, here is a series of promises that actually speak of true friendship.
You will see no cute little smiley faces on this card -- Just the stone cold truth of our great friendship.
1.... When you are sad -- I will help you get drunk and plot revenge against the sorry bastard who made you sad.
2.. When you are blue -- I will try to dislodge whatever is choking you.
3.... When you smile -- I will know you are thinking of something that I would probably want to be involved in.
4.. When you are scared -- I will rag on you about it every chance I get until you're NOT.
5.. When you are worried -- I will tell you horrible stories about how much worse it could be until you quit whining..
6.. When you are confused -- I will try to use only little words.
7.. When you are sick -- Stay the hell away from me until you are well again. I don't want whatever you have...
8.. When you fall -- I will laugh at your clumsy ass, but I'll help you up.
9.. This is my oath.... I pledge it to the end. 'Why?' you may ask; because you are my friend.
Friendship is like wetting your pants, everyone can see it, but only you can feel the true warmth.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Episcopal Church repudiates Doctrine of Discovery

From Indian Country Today "ANAHEIM, Calif. – In a first-of-its-kind action in the Christian world, the national Episcopal Church has passed a landmark resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery and urging the U.S. government to endorse the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Organizers of the bill hope it will lead to the overturning of a 19th century U.S. Supreme Court ruling and Congress’ assumption of plenary power over Indian nations they say are illegitimate and immoral, and continue to strip American Indian nations of their inherent sovereignty."

The "Discovery Doctrine", also known as "The Doctrine of Christian Discovery", is a concept based on Papal Bulls from the 15th century giving Christian nations legal title to all parts of the world populated and governed by "saracens, pagans, and other enemies of Christ" This meant that land "discovered" by Christians belonged to the government of the discoverer, not the people who were already living there when it was "discovered". This doctrine was enshrined in US law by the Supreme Court decision Johnson v. M'Intosh . This decision is the legal basis for everything the US Government has done to Native Americans since 1923. An excellent article on the history of the Discovery Doctrine by Steve Newcomb can be found here

The Episcopal Church is to be commended for bringing this issue to public attention.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sensitivity or PC nonsense?

From the Times Online: "Avon and Somerset Constabulary has begun to equip its female officers with a uniform issue hijab to wear when they enter a mosque... The scheme is believed to be a first for the British police. The Metropolitan Police, the largest and most diverse UK force, said that it issued headscarves to its Muslim female officers but not to non-Muslim officers."

It would be easy enough to write this off as merely being ultra-PC; it wouldn't be the first time for this police force. "In 2006 the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset had to apologise after it emerged that the force had used positive discrimination to try to increase the number of female and ethnic minority officers, randomly excluding 186 white male applicants during a recruitment drive on the grounds that they were already over-represented." But that's a different order of issue; in job discrimination, even if it's "reverse", someone has been harmed. Even the advocates of reverse discrimination don't deny this; they merely think it's whitey's turn for a change. But no one is actually harmed by changing uniform headgear when indicated.

It can also be argued, however, that excessive accommodation is a concession of authority to a single religion. One could argue that providing a uniform hijab for Muslim officers is a reasonable concession to that officer, but requiring non-Muslim officers to wear one is not merely pandering to a single religion, but to one given wing at that- not all Muslim women wear hijabs. Wouldn't a requirement to wear one be the government taking sides in an internal dispute within Islam? What do you think?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Stick figures in peril

No, I don't mean a loose board on a fashion catwalk, I mean bizarre and confusing warning signs from around the world

The top 10 sexiest vampires

Nobody does more or better Top Lists than the Times Online, as evidenced by their latest- The top 10 sexiest vampires The Britishness of the author is clear, however- no American list would have missed Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Random news reactions

Michael Savage is a talk show host of the obnoxious variety- but even so, it came as a shock when British Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith publicly banned him from ever traveling to England. I'll let the Mail Online pick it up from there: "The Right-wing radio presenter, whose hardline views on Islam, rape and autism have caused outrage in the US but whose show, The Savage Nation, has eight million listeners, was identified in May by Ms Smith as one of 16 people barred due to their political views. Mr Savage, who had not even applied for entry to Britain, claimed his name had been 'plucked out of a hat' because he was 'controversial and white'. He has since served a £100,000 libel writ on Ms Smith, who announced his ban on television."
Typical right wingnut trying to play victim... except he was right! Memos obtained under the Freedom Of Information act show that the British government was worried about how it looked with all the banned lowlifes being Muslim: "We will want to ensure that the names disclosed reflect the broad range of cases and are not all Islamic extremists... with Weiner, (Savage's real name) I can understand that disclosure of the decision would help provide a balance of types of exclusion cases
"Obamacare" is really warmed-over "Hilary care". How do I know? First clue: if there hasn't been time to read the bill, I can't imagine there's been time to write it from scratch. Second clue: Even President Obama wasn't clear about all aspects of the bill in a press conference. Clincher: the bill makes special provisions for the retarded. Yes, it says "retarded" How many years has it been since anyone used the term "retarded"?

‘Triad’: Polyamorous Lifestyle of WA ‘Family’ Inspires Web Sitcom Wouldn't it be ironic if, because of shows like this, the public came to accept polyamorous relationships after we went to the trouble of ditching the entire UU Affiliates program to get rid of them because they were an embarrassment?

Women getting more beautiful, say scientists
"Evolution has led to women, but not men, getting progressively beautiful, according to scientists." Well, duh... men my age and older have been saying "High school girls didn't look like that when I was in high school!" for years. But I thought everyone knew human male evolution peaked out in 1955. And evolution of lower species has peaked out as well; after all, we have laws intended to never let any species of anything go extinct if we can help it- that must mean that no further evolution is needed or desired

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

By nerds, for nerds, about nerds

The scene: the first cup of coffee this morning; I was reading email, my beloved was playing Sims 3. "Uh oh," she says.


"There's a ghost in the house."

From the music coming from her computer, I realized she was speaking of the Sims game. "They have ghosts in Sims 3?" I asked.

"Yes," she answered, "They're black and white and shimmery."

"What's it doing," I asked, intrigued. I haven't played Sims, but I am a fan of ghost stories; I was imagining tales of virtual vengeance, or simulated, unrequited love.

"She's playing on the computer."

Monday, July 20, 2009

How government healthcare works

Here is a video on how the Canadian system- the one our proposals are based on- works. It's a 20 minute video, but worth the time to understand the system.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

An important technological milestone

Many people have noted that this is the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11- but there is another important anniversary this year, one that strikes every household in the civilized world: this is the 100th anniversary of The Toaster ! This milestone in civilization will be honored at this year's Comic-Con International by the introduction of the Darth Vader toaster "The device is clad in a black plastic mould that resembles Darth Vader's infamous mask. But that's not all. As it toasts your morning slice of bread, the gadget burns an image of the everyone's favourite Dark Lord of the Sith on to the side."

Laugh all you like- if I were 8 years old, I'd be making my parents' lives a living hell until I got one.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bad news for Apollo conspiracy fans

The new Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter , designed to provide high-resolution photos of the Lunar surface for the planned return to the Moon, has photographed the equipment and even some of the footprints left behind by the original landings forty years ago. The final stake through the heart of the we-never-landed-on-the-Moon-it-was-faked theory.

Of course, it never made a lick of sense anyway.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Anniversary of Trinity

If the radiance of a thousand suns
Were to burst at once into the sky,
That would be like the splendor of the Mighty One...
I am become Death,The shatterer of Worlds.
The Bhagavad-Gita

Today is the 64th anniversary of the first test of an atomic bomb, known as Trinity

Tax dollars spent at high end resorts

ABC TV Phoenix, AZ, uncovered yet another bankrupt company living off tax dollars holding a conference at a high dollar resort area. "PHOENIX ... motivational management conference held at a high-end Valley resort last week cost $700,000... Costs for the conference at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa included airfare, hotel entertainment, dancers, motivational speakers, and food... A spokesperson said the conference was essential, that teleconferencing was not an option, and that all 675 managers needed to meet in person... provided ABC15 with a list of courses provided at the conference, which included "Techniques to Empower You," "Mentoring the Generations," and "Emotional Intelligence."... But the information did not mention an after-hours casino trip, family members staying at the hotel, or the 20-minute dance party ABC15 observed."

So what company is being so extravagant during these hard times- some foreign owned multi-national bank, some crooked brokerage house? It's
The Social Security Administration This from a organization that said in May the program will start paying out more in benefits than it collects in taxes in 2016, and the program's trust fund will be depleted by 2037... of course, the 2016 date assumes that the stimulus has already worked, the recovery begun, and businesses will resume hiring next year so that tax collections will go up; otherwise, it will go into the red sooner- and the 2037 date assumes that people will continue to die off at the current rate, that there will be no increase in the average lifespan in the next quarter century, and that the economy will continue to grow at the rate of the Reagan/Bush/Clinton years for the entire time, else it goes bust much sooner; I have seen estimates, fairly conservative estimates, not worst case scenarios, that put the bankruptcy date closer to 2027. Just something to remember when the proponents of single-payer government healthcare tell you that half the costs will be paid for by the government's greater efficiencies.

Here's something else to remember- proponents of both government healthcare and a second bailout say that any untoward costs are temporary; that in the long run, it will save money. That may well be. But that was also the plan to deal with the SSI bankruptcy; the upside-down financial condition SSI will be in shortly is temporary, caused by the baby boomers retiring... as they die off and Gen X and Y become pillars of industry, earning the big bucks, it will be back in the black. The plan was to just borrow the money to pay SSI benefits until that happened. But the two rounds of bailouts- Bush's and Obama's- have consumed nearly all our credit margin; we came within an inch of having our bond rating devalued. It is just barely possible, if all goes well the next quarter century, if the economy booms, if there's not another Katrina or 911, if there's not another war, we can pay down enough debt to have the margin needed to cover the SSI shortages and avoid national bankruptcy. Every additional dollar we borrow for the next twenty years brings closer the certainty of the US imploding the way the Soviet Union did.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

UUA General Assembly 2009 Evaluation

I received a GA wrap-up email advertising DVDs of the GA, and requesting feedback. I will eventually fill out their official feedback form, but I'm going to do my own version here first, because I have a lot of problems with theirs, and because I learned a lot of things about attending a GA that I had never suspected.

Here's an example of a question I had problems with: "How would you rate General Assembly efforts to support greening, both in preparation for GA and at GA, including hotels, transportation, the convention center, handouts, etc.?" Now just how in the Hell could I evaluate that? I didn't survey all the hotels to see if they were compliant with all our rules. I don't know what past program formats were like, or how much paper and printing was or was not saved by this year's changes. I don't know how much effort was required to get the Salt Palace to agree to our green demands- for all I know, they were ahead of us in this regard, and we needed only countersign their existing procedures. Or maybe they were an environmental Hell that we reformed through much arm-twisting...again, how the Hell should I know?

A much better question was, "How well did GA succeed in addressing accessibility concerns?" And I'm shocked by my own answer: not very. It's an answer I wouldn't have given in any previous year, I'm sure, but recent experiences have greatly expanded my understanding of what "accessibility" means- it's a lot more than just "are the doors wide, and ramps available?"

Until recently, I would have divided the accessibility world into those in wheelchairs, and everyone else... but I've learned what a wide world "everyone else" is. Some of us (in my case because of recent illness) who walk just fine nonetheless have speed and stamina issues, and the Salt Palace is a huge place- so huge that the Palace employees routinely use electric scooters to get around. Add in lines at the restrooms, and it simply wasn't possible to get from plenary to some of the workshops in the time allotted. At every workshop there was a parade of late arrivers; many of us walking with sticks, many appearing fully able-bodied to the casual observer- but all of us unable to make the long trek in the time allowed. The same issue raised its head in registration- very long lines, with very few seats. For a number of back, hip, and knee problems, standing still is even more agonizing than walking; chairs should be provided any time one is expected to stand around for more than a few minutes. One last point along these lines: our hotel was so close that no shuttle service was provided... but "close" is a more relative term than I would have thought when I was younger. If you can trust my many years in Reserves and Boy Scouts for pacing off distances, it was 278 yards from the front door of the hotel to the front door of the Salt Palace. A meaningless distance for me normally- but in my depleted condition, a very uncomfortable walk at the end of a long day. I'll never take the independence of two feet for granted again- and I'll never plan an event without adequate benches and rest areas, either!

I learned that accessibility is more than travel, too. My eyesight isn't what it once was; I now need reading glasses. My eyes are still within "normal" for most purposes; I have no restrictions on my drivers license, for example... but I found many things at GA hard to read. PowerPoint presentations with low contrast color combinations should be avoided, as should arty fonts. If you want people to actually be able to read your posters and presentations, go with high contrast colors, plain, sans serif type fonts, sized to appear at least ten or twelve point at the maximum distance down the hall.

The survey asks about the cost of GA registration. Hey, it costs money to stage an event like that; as these things go, I didn't think the costs were outrageous. I'll tell you what IS outrageous, though- the cost of the DVDs of the GA! I can't even bring myself to type the words; I'll just cut and paste: "Best Value Bundle - complete audio plus worship video - $545" And that does NOT include the "UU University", sold separately: "This 2-disc DVD set includes four hours of the very best materials from UU University 2009 in Salt Lake City. Excerpts from over 50 hours of programming..." That's right, you get their pick of four hours out of the 50- for $45! $590 freaking dollars, and you still don't quite get everything... and they talk about oil companies gouging!

Let's see, they ask about the program book... fine, good job... orientation, quality of workshops, banner parade... all excellent... ease of making hotel reservations, fine. But about that hotel... the quoted rate was just under 2/3 of the actual cost. EVERYTHING was extra... just as an example, in the three weeks we spent on the road visiting family as well as GA, we had free internet everywhere, even in a log cabin- Hell, they have free wifi at the highway rest stops in Iowa! But not at this hotel- and they charged not just per room, but per computer! Not counting transportation, we spent more attending GA than on our last Paris vacation. Screw your "greening" rules- next time we'll get a hotel outside city limits and taxi in every day; it'll save hundreds.

They asked about UU University- I liked everything about it except for the speaker's conclusions. When the only living theologian who gets quoted is Bill Maher, I'm not likely to be happy about the content.

They ask for comments about this year's site. I must admit the choice baffled me. Salt Lake is not a central location; it is not convenient to anyone living outside Salt Lake. It's not cheap; it costs as much as cities that actually have cultural attractions. It's not full of historical meaning for UUs. Near as I can tell, the biggest thing it has going for it is that it's not Miami, so there's no Port Authority to cause ID controversies.

You know, guys, there are towns that are centrally located, that are transportation hubs, that specialize in conventions- towns like Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, St Louis, Nashville... towns that are used to running things like the Kentucky Derby, the 500, the Super Bowl; heck, here in Indy we can get 28,000 people to show up for a sci-fi convention. How about picking out of that pool for a while? Maybe save us a few bucks?