Friday, November 30, 2007

Alive and Kicking Friday Random Ten

Here's a Fridy Random 10 just to let you know I'm still alive.

I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor - Arctic Monkeys
On the Street Where You Live - Rickie Lee Jones
Ode to Boy II - Allison Moyet
You Can't Lose a Broken Heart - kd lang and Tony Bennett
Shotgun - Southern Culture on the Skids
Red Staggerwing - Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris
Lemon N' Ice - Latin Playboys
Wings - Josh Ritter
How We Operate - Gomez
Sugarcube - Yo La Tengo

Saturday, November 17, 2007

John Hanna melts down in the happiest place on earth

I'm completely shocked at the turn of events at the California Democratic Party Executive Committee meeting in Anaheim today. The following is from Julia Rosen of the Courage Campaign, explaining what happened when she and Eden James carried a sign into the room that indicated the number of people (over 30K) who are demanding the censure of Dianne Feinstein over her recent voting record.
I entered the California Democratic Party Resolutions Committee meeting room with Eden James, Courage Campaign's Managing Director, bearing our sign and easel. We found a free space at the front of the room and set up the sign.

Almost immediately, Resolutions Chair John Hanna approached us, demanding that we remove the sign. Eden politely asked if there "was a rule" against signs in the meeting rooms. Hanna replied "yes."

Kathy Bowler, CDP Executive Director, then calmly approached me, stating that the sign should be removed because the room was getting full and she had staff she needed to get into the room.

John then grabbed ahold of one side of the sign, attempting to remove it from Eden's hands. Eden, maintaining his hold on to the other side, repeated the question to John about whether a rule existed against signs inside the meeting room. John said "yes"again and Eden asked to see the rule, saying that if there was an actual rule against signs inside the room -- he would respect it.

Increasingly angry, John threatened to call security. Eden, surprised, calmly responded that John "should go ahead if that's what you want to do."

Suddenly, Hanna then shoved his side of the sign and Eden at the same time, forcibly pushing Eden backwards. Eden held on. John shoved again, then pushed Eden's shoulder back with the palm of his hand.

Stunned, Eden let go of the sign as John ripped it from his hands and threw it to the floor. An unknown person then picked up the sign and sprinted it out of the room, taking it to the staff room (according to Kathy Bowler).

What the hell? There's just no excuse for that kind of behavior. In my experience, there are some people in positions of political power, no matter the party, who are very angered and threatened by the recent increase in citizen participation in our democracy. They love their activists, just as long as they toe the line and keep their opinions to themselves. When you step out of your proscribed boundaries, they flip out. They're control freaks, imo. This isn't the first excessively angry and inappropriate response to respectful and peaceful disagreement that I've seen. And despite what the punditocracy might think, it's not a battle between the "moderates" and the "far left". It's more of a conflict between the insiders and the outsiders who are knocking on the door, demanding to be allowed entry.

Chairman Art Torres gave a speech last night where he mentioned his opposition to the censure Feinstein resolution, but he was respectful and mentioned that dissent, discussion and differences play an important role in the Democratic Party. We're not Republicans, afterall. Maybe Hanna was in the men's room during that part, so here's the clip:

The attitude that would allow someone like John Hanna to behave the way he did gives me a sense of deja vu. You may or may not know that much of my activism since 2000 has been peace activism. Hanna's ugly, angry behavior is emblematic of the way anti-war activists have been treated for years now.

In the early years of George Bush's administration, nearly all of the peace activists I knew and worked with were average, middle class, mostly professional women. Navy wives. Brownie troop leaders. School teachers. Nurses. Lawyers. Government workers. Mostly well-educated moms and grandmas. Many of them were women who were Democrats, but not particularly politically active until they were roused to action by their fear of the consequences of Bush's actions and disgust with what was being done in our name around the world. Those years of being treated with disrespect and disdain, even by their nervous Democratic representatives, is a part of what radicalized some of them, and totally disengaged others from the Democrats. The Dem Party has pretty much lost many of the peace activists I know.

It's simply amazing to see the netroots being treated much the same way. Despite an enormous diversity of age, income, occupation and opinion, bloggers and online activists are marginalized as single-minded troublemakers with a megaphone, just like peace activists were marginalized as "dirty hippies" that shouldn't be taken seriously. That makes it oh-so-easy to disregard what they have to say. The reality is, just like those peace moms, the netroots represents a wide and diverse voice. If you're paying any attention you will find online, an amazing cross-section of engaged, concerned citizens who want to be a part of the political process. I've long been under the impression that when you're unhappy with the way things are going in a democracy, it's our duty and responsibility to speak up. (They used to teach that in America's public schools, ya know.) These are your constituents you're ignoring, Ms. Feinstein. These are advocates for your party that you're pushing around, Mr. Hanna. You may not agree with some of what they say, but it's your JOB to listen and to behave like a responsible, professional adult. Not hide in the back of the office from the peace activists as I've seen DiFi do, nor physically intimidate party activists that you find annoying, as John Hanna did today.

Personally, I'm extremely thankful we have this nifty new technology called the Internet that allows us to have a public sphere again! It gives us "outsiders" a fighting chance against the "insiders" who want to maintain the status quo, and just use their activists as the envelope-stuffing, fundraising arm of the party.

Good luck with that.

(edit) Eden has posted a diary at Calitics to let it be known that he and Hanna had a coversation after the resolutions committee meeting, and both private and public apologies were made. I'm glad to hear it.


Rick Jacobs has posted his comments on the impact of the resolution to censure at Courage Campaign. Censure Killed; Point Made.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Join the Iraq Moratorium

I hereby make a commitment that on the Third Friday of each and every month, I will break my daily routine and take some action, by myself or with others, to end the War in Iraq.

That's all. It's easy! You can sign the pledge too, but the most important part is that you do something. ANYTHING. Write a letter to the editor. Call your congresscritter. Put a sign on your lawn. Get artsy with your sidewalk chalk. Wear an anti-war pin. Protest.

Protesting, you say? Good choice! In San Diego you can join the Ocean Beach Grassroots Organization and San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice at the entrance to Ocean Beach at Nimitz and Sunset Cliffs from 4 - 5:30 pm on Friday November 16, 2007.

The Iraq Moratorium website has information about local protests and other actions you can join in your community.

Take your pick. The point is to get as many people as possible to take a minute or an hour out of their day and do something to demonstrate their opposition to the occupation of Iraq.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

More Power! Maybe.

An article in today's San Diego Union Tribune asks if the San Diego power grid was in peril during the October wildfires, and the answer seems to be a resounding yes. What a potential nightmare. Can you imagine the possibility for chaos if people were trying to evacuate, and there was no power?

Because it is a geographic cul-de-sac, and because SDG&E has chosen to rely heavily on imported electricity, San Diego County typically imports about half the power it uses along two major lines.

With one of those lines disabled within hours of the fires' start, and with the other threatened by blazes, utility officials were forced to consider the possibility that San Diego could become an electrical “island” – and would need local management of the newly isolated grid.

But key players in the local power grid say they had never simulated or practiced managing SDG&E's territory as an “island.”

The local utility has previously characterized San Diego's vulnerability to transmission disruptions as so severe that it proposes to build another major power line, the controversial $1.5 billion Sunrise Powerlink, which would cross many of the areas that burned in the wildfires.

It's also been reported that many of the fires probably began as a spark from high power lines that were whipped by unusually strong winds. I can't help but think of this as another strike against the Sunrise Powerlink project which Sempra is proposing to bring additional power to the San Diego region. More high power lines in fire zones? That not only creates additional fire risk, but the fire risk exacerbates the risk to the power supply that Sempra claims to be concerned about.

The article sure doesn't make it sound like bringing more power from outside the county is the answer to our long term energy needs. It's not economical. It's not environmentally smart. It's not a good choice in a fire zone. It's yet another reason to appreciate the proposal by the San Diego Smart Energy Solutions Campaign which provides a plan for developing alternative and traditional energy sources within the county.

Why should Democrats censure Dianne Feinstein?

This coming weekend, the California Democratic Party executive board will be meeting in Anaheim, and among the many items they'll be considering is a resolution to censure Senator Dianne Feinstein that was authored by California Democratic Party Progressive Caucus co-chair Mal Burnstein. I've copied the resolution below.

This resolution is currently supported by a coalition of grassroots and netroots organizations including Courage Campaign, Executive Board of the California Democratic Party Progressive Caucus, Progressive Democrats of America, East Bay for Democracy Democratic Club, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, San Diego Democracy for America, Sacramento for Democracy, and DFA-Orange County.

Some (my dad, for example. Hi dad!) ask why these groups would be initiating and supporting such an effort when there are so many Republicans that deserve a reprimand or worse. I have to say that from one perspective, that's an understandable question. However these are unusual times, and many Democratic activists are extremely and justifiably angry with her for a series of terrible moves in the Senate including, but not limited to, her assists to Mukasey and Southwick, as well as her claim that the telecoms should be granted immunity for violating the law and cooperating in surveillance without a warrant upon American citizens. As Glenn Greenwald recently said:
Feinstein is not merely voting reliably for the most extremist Bush policies, though she is doing that. Far more than that, she has become, time and again, the linchpin of Bush's ability to have his most radical policies approved by the Senate.

Let's just stick to the basic principles of the Democratic the Constitution, for starters. I grumbled when she voted to give Bush enhanced surveillance powers under FISA, I gritted my teeth when she voted for Southwick to take a seat on the Court of Appeals, and I growled (and uttered a few other choice words) when she played a significant role in elevating Mukasey to the position of US Attorney General. But her statement last week on the telecom bill was the last straw. The communications corporations know the law, and knew they were violating it. Even if they truly didn't know, wouldn't that signify criminal negligence? They SHOULD know better. What is Feinstein thinking? How can anyone who claims to be a Democrat chose blatant law breaking over the protections afforded by the US Constitution? Immunity would not only prevent lawsuits against the telecoms, but would allow the true extent of the administration's surveillance activities to remain below the radar and out of the public eye. Protecting lawbreakers, justifying illegal actions, and subverting our system of justice is inexcusable. What hypocracy it would be to condem this behavior by Republicans, while excusing it in a Democrat.

In my experience, progressive Democrats overwhelmingly agree that a huge part of the weakness and ineffectiveness of the Democratic Party in recent years has been because so many in the party have been so willing to "go along to get along" with Republican partisans that are just going to turn around and stab them in the back at the next convenient opportunity. Of course politics takes compromise, but it's no longer a true compromise when one side constantly defines the choices as my way or the highway. Feinstein has provided perfect example after perfect example of this destructive behavior, and continues it even now when the Democrats are the majority party. She has repeatedly taken stands in opposition to party principles, and has refused to listen to her constituents. Well, now it's time to hold her accountable.

Progressives in the netroots and the grassroots have long said we don't simply want Democrats in office. We want Democrats, with spine and integrity, that will walk the Democratic walk, and stand up for our values. Why should anything less be acceptable, and why would anyone be surprised when we demand our political representatives take a principled stand based on our system of laws and our commonly-held ethical standards? If we truly want a stronger Democratic Party and a return to strong democratic values, we must make these demands. How else can the people express displeasure with a sitting Senator that doesn't seem to have much regard for the opinions of the citizens of California, and who quite possibly won't face re-election? The most obvious option is to raise our collective voice, and use the tools of our democracy.

So here we are....


Whereas Senator Dianne Feinstein voted to support the nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey as United States Attorney General, thereby elevating to the highest position in law enforcement a man who refused to renounce the right of the President to resort to torture and who refused to recognize waterboarding as a form of torture, and by this action Senator Feinstein failed to oppose President Bush and failed to stand for the ideals of the Democratic Party, which abhors torture and stands firmly against its use by the United States at all times and places; and

Whereas Senator Feinstein voted to confirm Judge Leslie Southwick for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit despite his clear record of racism and gender discrimination, thus failing to stand firmly with the Democratic Party, which supports gender equality and opposes racism in any of its manifestations; and

Whereas these examples are far from the only instances where Senator Feinstein, after seeking and securing the support and endorsement of the California Democratic Party, has failed to support the policies and principles of our party;

Therefore be it resolved that the California Democratic Party expresses its disappointment at, and censure of, Senator Feinstein for ignoring Democratic principles and falling so far below the standard of what we expect of our elected officials.

Endorsed by the Courage Campaign, Executive Board of the California Democratic Party Progressive Caucus, Progressive Democrats of America, East Bay for Democracy Democratic Club, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, San Diego Democracy for America, Sacramento for Democracy, and DFA-Orange County (to add your organization to this endorsement list, please click here).

Visit the Courage Campaign to sign up to support the resolution to censure Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Secure Accurate Elections November Newsletter

The following is the November newsletter of Secure Accurate Elections, a Southern California based, election integrity advocacy group that I think does great work to ensure ethics and transparency in our election process. If you like what you see, you can sign up for their once a month newsletter right here.



A. Meetings With San Diego Registrar of Voters Deborah Seiler

On November 8,. 2007 SAE representatives met with Ms. Seiler to discuss how votes are purged from the active voter lists and how absentee ballots are handled by the Registrar of Voters Office. The notes from this meeting will be posted soon on our website and we will be sending out a separate email regarding this meeting.

Secure Accurate Elections has been part of a group of concerned citizens meeting with Deborah Seiler since June of this year. SAE has also meet with Ms. Seiler twice to discuss topics of concern to election integrity. Notes from SAE’s meeting with Deborah Seiler on June 29, 2007 are already posted at SAE.

B. BlackWater Coming to San Diego County? SAE Will Be Observing the Potrero /Blackwater Election

This December 11, there will be an all mail in recall election in Potrero, a tiny rural town east of San Diego. The recall calls for the removal of five members of the Potrero Planning Group who voted to approve a paramilitary training center operated by the private security firm Blackwater USA. There are about 450 votes in Potrero and the election will be all mail in and hand counted at the Registrar of Voters offices. Secure Accurate Elections will have representatives at the hand count which will take place on election night beginning at 8:00 pm. A second hand count will take place the next morning which will also be observed by members of SAE and other election integrity groups

C. Will Federal Legislation to Protect Voters Be In Place for 2008?

Secure Accurate Elections has a list of election integrity bills that are currently in various committees and have not been brought to the floor for a vote. Time is running out on any legislation that will affect the November 2008 election.

We urge everyone to look at the legislation listed at

Please sign the petition that says the House of Representative should Vote to Amend Holt's HR 811, or Vote No.

Sign a petition in support of Senator Obama’s bill S. 453 to prohibit deceptive practices in Federal elections.

For other petitions to sign see our website.

2. Controversial California Ballot Initiative Is Back (Like A Bad Meal, the Electoral College Initiative Signature Gathering is Back and What's Being Done About It!)

Remember the electoral college ballot initiative in California? The one that would change the state's method of allocating electoral votes from winner-take-all to a congressional district-based approach? It’s back!

There are paid signature gatherers out there thanks to the infusion of money by big donors such as Representative Darrell Issa. There are reports that some of these signature gatherers are misrepresenting the initiative using unscrupulous methods to get people to sign.

California Democrats have set up a hot line to call if you see anyone collecting signatures. They will send volunteers to the site to explain how this initiative will really affect California. The number to call is 916-442-5707.

Although SAE is a non-partisan group, we do believe in fairness and telling both sides of an argument. Therefore, we would encourage you to call and report the paid collecting of signatures for this initiative which we feel would put California at a disadvantage during presidential elections. Although some Republicans may think this will help get their candidate elected this November, they should remember that unfair practices may come back to haunt them should they ever be in the reverse position.

To quote the North County Times Editorial of November 6, 2007, “ California’s gerrymandered congressional districts are hardly the place one should start on a high road to electoral reform. Districts drawn by incumbent politicians to protect their constituencies are an affront to good governance, much less democracy, and the evidence is entrenched in Sacramento.

Even the North County Times Editorial staff think this is a bad idea. Deep pockets, shallow thinking

Read More:
Controversial California ballot initiative may still live

The dirty trick initiative appears to have some new life.

California Recall Financier Issa Backs Electoral Plan (Update1)

Issa boosts electoral measure

Legal Challenge On Electoral Change: Democrats Say Initiative Violates U.S. Constitution and Vow A Suit To Fight It.

The Story Behind the Revival of the California Electoral College Scheme and the Dots That Connect to the Giuliani Campaign.

A quiet but important initiative

3. New Senate Bill ( S. 2295) Strives to Protect American Voters)

Senator Bill Nelson of Florida introduced a bill on November 1, 2007. Nelson’s bill would require all voting machines to produce a voter-verified paper trail by next year’s presidential election and provides up to $1 billion for states to use for new voting equipment. The bill would phase out the use of touch-screen voting machines in federal elections by 2012.

Nelson’s bill would be the first to seek a ban on electronic touch screen voting machines in federal benedictions nationwide. More specifically, the bill says:

  • A voter-verified paper ballot must be produced for every vote cast, beginning with the November 2008 elections.
  • Direct recording electronic voting machines may not be used in federal elections, beginning in 2012.
  • Routine random audits must be conducted by hand count in 3 percent of the precincts in all federal elections.
  • An arms-length relationship is established between test labs and voting-machine vendors.

Read More:

Congress Gets New Election Bill To Ban Controversial Machines:

Bill To Ban DRE (Touch Screen) Voting Machines (

Nelson Bill

4. Fair Elections Action Week - Nov. 12-16

The Fair Elections Action Week is coming up! People who care about clean and fair elections are taking action now so that we can show Congress that Americans want an end to pay-to-play politics.

We are closer than ever to cleaning up Washington. The Fair Elections Now Act is gaining support in the Senate and we anticipate the introduction of the companion bill in the House to happen very soon! A voluntary system of public funding for congressional elections would allow members of Congress to serve without taking huge sums of special interest money. Elections should be about voters, not campaign cash.
Visit this website to see what you can do to help.

5. An Interesting Website To Check Out:

The National Campaign for Fair Elections is an Initiative of the Voting Rights Project of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The goal of the National Campaign is to foster a national movement committed to ensuring that all voters have an equal opportunity to cast a meaningful ballot. To that end, NCFFE leads Election Protection - the nation's largest non-partisan voter protection coalition including the Lawyers' Committee, the National Bar Association, the NAACP, and the People for the American Way Foundation. Through our hotline and a dedicated army of volunteers we help tens of thousands of voters access the polls and overcome the obstacles to the ballot box.
National Campaign Website

6. What! Diebold Admits to a Mistake? Diebold/Premier Admits Memory Card Failure On Popular Optical-Scan Voting.

BradBlog’s guest writer John Gideon of wrote that “Saturday's Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that Diebold Election Systems, now having renamed itself Premier Election Solutions, has admitted that some of its 25,000 optical scan voting machines used in Florida and elsewhere across the nation may have a problem that causes memory card failures during elections.”

Read More Here:
Diebold/Premier Admits Memory Card Failure On Popular Optical-Scan Voting Machines

Survey contradicts vote machine firm's failure rate claim

7. Support S. 453 - A Bill To Prohibit Deceptive Practices In Federal Elections By Senator Barack Obama.

This piece of legislation would prescribe criminal penalties for deceptive practices in federal elections. It makes a person who deliberately prevents another person from exercising the right to vote an essential element of the offence. The last action taken on this bill was on October 4, 2007 when it was placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar. Sign the National Campaign for Fair Elections petition to support the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act.

8. Measure That Would Prohibit 'Voter Supression' Tactics Introduced in Senate

A press release from Sen. John Kerry's (D-MA) office announcing the new bill is posted in full below. "The practice of 'caging' is reprehensible and has absolutely no place in our democracy," Kerry says in the statement. "Here in America, every citizen, regardless of race, gender, religion or sexual orientation has the right to cast his or her vote. These are the very foundations of our democracy and this bill will ensure that we protect fundamental freedoms for millions of voters across our country."

In addition to Kerry, the original co-sponsors of the legislation include Senators Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.)
Vote Caging Bill

9. Concern Over Elections Makes The Main Media

Here are some articles that appeared recently in main media magazines. The public is becoming more aware of the problems with electronic voting and the big money that has taken over our election system.

Dialing For Dollars (Newsweek)

Voting Out E-Voting Machines (Time)

10. Tyranny Of A Tiny Minority!

Using Census figures, Geoghegan discovers that the 11 percent of Americans living in the least populated states have enough Senate votes — 41 — to sustain a filibuster. Yes, 89 percent of the population may support a policy, but 11 percent of the population has the senators to block that policy's enactment. When you go further than Geoghegan and consider the election-focused mindset of politicians, you see the situation is even more absurd.

Read the article here.

Shame on you!

Beginning this year the California State Franchise Tax Board is publicly calling out the creme de la creme of the state's tax scofflaws.

I see a couple famous names there. I unsuccessfully scrutinized the list in hopes of a juicy political scoop, but it wasn't much of a shock to find OJ there. Maybe you'll have better luck finding a local scandal than I did.

It just makes sense for them to publish this info. We're living in the golden age of public shame. They'll be setting up the stocks in the public square any day now.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dahr Jamail in San Diego this Thursday

On Thursday November 15, 2007, at 7:00 pm, journalist and author Dahr Jamail will be speaking at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego 4190 Front Street, Hillcrest, San Diego (opposite UCSD Medical Center. Parking is limited but there is street parking within two blocks.) Donations are requested, but not required. Dahr's book "Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq" will be available for sale. This book signing and speaking engagement is a part of the UUC of San Diego's monthly series, Matters of Controversy. For more information call: 858-459-4650.

Presented by: The Peace and Democracy Action Group of the First UU Church, Activist San Diego, National Lawyers Guild, SD Veterans for Peace, SD Coalition for Peace & Justice, Progressive San Diego.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Digby vs The He-Man Women Haters Club

Darla Digby has recently been kicking down the clubhouse door over the sniggering, sophomoric sexism of the cable news talking heads when they're talking about Senator Clinton.

When women say they support Hillary it's because they are irrationally supporting someone because of their gender. When men say they won't support Hillary it's because "she gives off the feeling that she despises them." If you even bring up the fact that there are men out there who will refuse to vote for any woman, you attacked for allegedly saying that men aren't decent people. Heads I win, tails you lose.

Carlson believes that women shouldn't be allowed to vote if they like the idea that a woman may become president and vote for her partially on that basis, but it's not irrational for (white) men vote against a woman because they irrationally feel she "despises them.


Hillary is hovering around number four on my list of Democratic favorites, which breaks my heart because the idea of a women smashing that particular glass ceiling is something I truly hope to see in my lifetime. I believe she just might do it, and I'll vote for her if she is the nominee, but I realllllly wanted to love the first viable female candidate. Despite the fact that I don't feel the Hilary love, I absolutely hate listening to what passes for informed discourse whenever she's the subject of conversation. Why yes, it does make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
It's like having everyone assume that the "normal" state of being in this world is male and this strange idea of appealing to women is some sort of illegitimate pander to an extreme, fringe interest group.

Between the inherent sexism, the trivialization of her as a serious candidate, the constant media pandering to the lowest denominator, and Tucker Carlson's irrational castration anxiety, this is going to be a very long presidential campaign season.

In unrelated Hillary news, The Left Coaster has a very interesting report on her actual voting record. Eriposte compares her corporate contributions to her Progressive Punch scores which show she may not be as much of a "corporatist" as some might want you to believe. You can see for yourself if she walks the walk or not. I do still note her unfortunately low scores on war and peace, civil liberties, and human rights. Those issues are high on my scale of importance, which explains why she's low on my list of favs.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday Random Ten

I'm sharing my random ten in celebration of the fact that I brought my iPod back from the dead.

Sunday Shining - Finley Quaye
Viva Tirado - El Chicano
Monster Hospital - Metric
Everyday I Write the Book - Elvis Costello
Brass in Pocket - The Pretenders
Wonderful Remark- Van Morrison
When You Come - Crowded House
Don't Talk (Lay Your Head on My Shoulder) - The Beach Boys
Crazy Mary - Pearl Jam
Shine On You Crazy Diamond - Pink Floyd

That's kind of cool that it started and ended with something shiny. Not that I'm easily amused or anything.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Everybody Loves Dennis

Well, yeah. I know. Not everybody. But Rebecca Traister at Salon has a good point, and she is pretty damn funny too.

Dennis Kucinich is our man! If he can't do it, well, that's because we're all chickenshit and condemned to a future of our own making. Yay, Dennis!

It's true, and I suspect many of you think it to yourselves, perhaps even confess it sotto voce to your loved ones during each Democratic debate (especially the ones where he doesn't mention the UFO): If the Democratic base pulled levers for the candidate whose policies best reflected its own beliefs, Dennis Kucinich should win his party's nomination in a landslide.

OK, sure, his reign as mayor of Cleveland was a mess. He has never passed a piece of legislation. He loves to flash peace signs that provoke flashbacks of your crazy Aunt Martha's annual Woodstock slide show. The fact that when you try to picture him at any sort of summit, you quickly envision Nicolas Sarkozy stealing his lunch money leads you to suspect that he might be an ineffective player on the world stage. He is a vegan. He has been compelled by his sense of honesty, and his close personal friendship with Shirley MacLaine, to disclose his encounters with extraterrestrial life. Also, he really does bear an unfortunate resemblance to a leprechaun. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

In today's We're So Screwed News...

Spies for Hire

First it became a brand name in security for its work in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now it's taking on intelligence.

The Prince Group, the holding company that owns Blackwater Worldwide, has been building an operation that will sniff out intelligence about natural disasters, business-friendly governments, overseas regulations and global political developments for clients in industry and government.

The operation, Total Intelligence Solutions, has assembled a roster of former spooks - high-ranking figures from agencies such as the CIA and defense intelligence - that mirrors the slate of former military officials who run Blackwater. Its chairman is Cofer Black, the former head of counterterrorism at CIA known for his leading role in many of the agency's more controversial programs, including the rendition and interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects and the detention of some of them in secret prisons overseas.

Everything's privatized now, isn't it?


Friday, November 02, 2007

During the worst days of the recent Southern California fires...

...the Calitics community did a great job of providing news and constantly updated information, often from the front lines of the wildfires. As the immediate emergency has settled into recovery, there have been diaries about the need to properly fund public fire safety infrastructure to the ugly politics of disaster. All very well done. Thankfully, we can sit in our homes and have the luxury of thinking about the fires, and talking about the fires, and seeing the fires in the abstract, without having it immediately and directly impact our own lives. It becomes harder to think of it in the abstract once you hear the stories of people who were personally affected. Just like anything else in the news or the political arena, there are people behind the stories.

On Sunday October 21, soon after the Harris Ranch fire started in eastern San Diego County near Potrero, long-time east county residents Thomas and Dianne Varshock, and their 15 year old son Richard, prepared to evacuate their Tecate ranch. They loaded one vehicle with their belongings and their dogs, and Dianne drove west, away from the approaching firestorm. Tom and Richard stayed behind loading the other car, and hosing down their property in an effort to control the burn, but when Tom called for Richard to come to the car, there was no reply. As he was looking for his son, four firefighters arrived and the five of them began looking for Richard. He was soon found by one of the firefighters, but he was unconscious. Immediately, as they used their radio to call for help, a wall of superheated gases and flames blew over the ridge and onto the Varshock ranch, where it overtook them all. Amazingly, they were all rescued by helicopter, except for Tom who had become separated from the rest and perished in the flames. The firefighters and Richard were all critically injured, with severe burns to large percentages of their bodies and injury from smoke inhalation.

The Varshocks have suffered a tragic loss, and have a long and difficult road ahead. Richard has already had seven hours of surgery, and will have many years of difficult medical treatment in his future. Their health insurance is not expected to cover the costs of his care. They've lost their home, their business which was on the ranch, and most of their belongings, and there was no fire insurance since the 2003 Cedar Fires. Dianne will be unable to work for the foreseeable future while she cares for her son and her self. They had recently invested a significant amount of their savings into the ranch, and are now in an financially difficult position as that money will not be recouped through insurance. The family is in dire straits.

Tom was a high school wrestling coach and respected community member, and the Varshocks have many friends in Potrero and Tecate. I have heard nothing but heartfelt words for Tom, Dianne and Richard.

Gordon Hammers, chairman of the Potrero Community Planning Group and a close friend of Thomas Varshock, said father and son “were defending their home and trying to save it. The fire was moving so fast, they just got overwhelmed.”

“He was a sterling character,” Hammers said of Varshock.

Jan Hedlun, a former business partner of Varshock's, described him as an extremely intelligent geologist and expert in evaluating construction defects. “He was an entirely generous person with a family spirit” who donated his time to build a local library, she said.

Richard is a high school wrestler, and Tom was a coach, so the local wrestling community has chipped in and rented an apartment near the hospital for Dianne. Others in the community are pitching in to help. There are several ways you can help too.

Tax deductible donations for Richard's healthcare expenses can be made to:
Varshock Family Foundation
Post Office Box 3484
San Diego, CA 92163
Tax ID: 26-1307576

Non-Tax deductible gifts that may be used for living and personal expenses can be sent to:
Dianne Varshock
San Diego County Credit Union
312 West Main Street
El Cajon, CA 92020-3320

Burn Institute Fund
(credit cards accepted)
The Varshock Fund is designed to help Richard's family cover basic needs and assist with rehabilitation and specialized care. Call Diane Sparacino at the Burn Institute at 858-541-2277 or donate online at the Burn Institute or by mail to:

The Varshock Fund
A UCSD Burn Institute
8825 Aero Drive #200
San Diego, CA 92123-2269

My personal beliefs and my political beliefs come from the same place. I believe one of our primary duties on this earth to care for one another, cooperatively and as a community. Corny? Maybe, but I truly mean it. When a disaster of this magnitude occurs it's just so BIG that personal stories and struggles get lost or forgotten, and I don't like to see that happen. Just so it's clear, I don't know the family, but they're friends of friends and this is a devastating tragedy for many people in the Varshock's community, and in their circle of family and friends. From one community to another, I want to help.

Cross posted at Calitics