Wednesday, September 30, 2009

That's our boy...

Here's our son Tommy, deployed in Iraq.

Needlessly to say, we are all waiting anxiously for his return, but being able to chat frequently with him over Skype makes the waiting a little easier.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Something apolitical

Our little Colombian rainbow boa is doing nicely on a steady diet of unsuspecting mice. We still haven't settled on a proper name for it, partly because we aren't yet sure whether it's a her or a him. But we enjoy her/his dazzling combination of iridescence and chocolaty brown. And every now and then we let it have some exercise climbing in our little oak tree.

Epicrates cenchria.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Now it's just Peter, Paul...

Mary Travers (1936-2009).

Yesterday Peter and Paul, and many others of us, lost Mary Travers to a long struggle with cancer.

I took our daughter Aimee to see the trio just a few years ago here in Jacksonville. They put on a great and moving program, despite the fact that Mary was already ill and had to sit in a chair most of the time. They sounded just like they did when I first heard them 40-odd years ago now.

It was the guitar playing on their renditions of Libba Cotten's "Freight Train" and Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" that first tickled my ear enough to make we want to play the guitar in that finger-picking style. But it was their songs for peace and justice that first got me thinking contrarian thoughts at a time when, with the Vietnam War still raging, if you were against it you were assumed to be some sort of "communist."

Here they do one of my favorite songs, perhaps one you haven't heard. Mary is not the prominent voice here, until she brings it all together at the end.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jimmy Carter: Speaking truth to stupid

Tuesday evening, in an interview with NBC's Brian Williams, former President Jimmy Carter stated what has been obvious to many of us since well before the election:

"I think that an overwhelming proportion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, he's African-American," Carter, 84, told NBC television.

"I live in the South, and I have seen the South come a long way," Carter added.

"But that racism inclination still exists, and I think it has bubbled up to the surface because of a belief among many white people, not just in the South but across the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country."

Of course, the right-wingnut apologists are all over this:

"It is an intimidation tactic. When you make that attack and call someone racist or homophobic it is a way to kind of silence them," said Brendan Steinhauser, grassroots coordinator for FreedomWorks which organized the first large-scale protest against Obama in Washington over the weekend.

"This movement is made up of people who oppose big government," said Steinhauser, describing the tens of thousands of protesters who converged on Washington.

Really? This is a hypothesis, which can be tested because we already have completed what social scientists call a natural experiment. The experiment consists of comparing what Obama's doing now with the eight years during which George W. Bush was expanding government control over all of us, creating whole new bureaucracies like the "Department of Homeland Security" (which has a nice 1930s Germany ring to it, don't you think?), and leading us into a pointless and incredibly expensive (the costs being both human and monetary) war in Iraq.

So, where were these people who claim to "oppose big government" back during those eight years? I'll tell you where they were, they were running around calling anyone who objected to Cheney and Bush's demented policies "anti-American" and "against the troops."

In this natural experiment, the main variable is: Bush and Cheney are "white"; Obama is "black." These people simply cannot stand the idea that an African-American is President and that he and his family are living in the White House. Their rhetoric shows this: "we want our country back" is one of their frequent themes, along with comparisons of Obama to Hitler, Stalin, monkeys, and apes. And there are even darker messages, such as "bury Obamacare with Kennedy" and people actually showing up at the President's speeches toting firearms.

Carter is right on, and this is a very dangerous pack of sociopaths.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obama's speech; thoughts on the morning after

President Obama is an excellent speaker, appearing all the more excellent after the eight years we had of George Bush's mind-numbing oral flatulence. But he did not say what some, at least, of us needed to hear: that access to health care should be considered a right, not a privilege, a right that should be enjoyed universally.

In fact, the President's only use of the word "universal" in the speech came in this sentence:
For some of Ted Kennedy's critics, his brand of liberalism represented an affront to American liberty. In their mind, his passion for universal health care was nothing more than a passion for big government.
The right to health care for all people is contained in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which Article 25 (1) states:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
Health care is, already, a universal human right. And yet, we here in the USA, mired as we are in a cultural system that glorifies independence training and hyper-individualism while at the same time vilifying any suggestion that it might be ok, even human, to depend on each other sometimes, can not say those words. And so, the plan to "reform" health care as outlined by the President, while certainly including some improvements, even major improvements, to what we have now, is missing the crucial step. That step is the elimination of the "health insurance" industry, the extraction of health care from the predatory capitalist "market" system altogether, so that health care becomes just as much a right as, say, public K-12 education.

To those imbeciles who scream "socialism" every time they hear a proposal like this, I can only wonder whether they would also prefer to get rid of the socialized law enforcement we already have, the socialized fire and rescue services, the socialized public libraries, and so on. And if they happen to be eligible for Medicare, one wonders if they also want to rid us of that socialistic program.

Meanwhile, our "tyrannical" neighbor to the South has this section in its constitution:
Article 50: Everyone has the right to health protection and care. The state guarantees this right;
  • by providing free medical and hospital care by means of the installations of the rural medical service network, polyclinics, hospitals, preventative and specialized treatment centers;
  • by providing free dental care;
  • by promoting the health publicity campaigns, health education, regular medical examinations, general vaccinations and other measures to prevent the outbreak of disease.
  • All the population cooperates in these activities and plans through the social and mass organizations.
That's right, this is from the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba. Maybe this is, ultimately, what it will take.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Obama's speech is on right now

OK, although I didn't plan to, I'm watching President Obama's speech before the joint session of Congress. The funny thing is watching the Democrats stand up to applaud when he makes an entirely reasonable point, such as insisting that Medicare will be protected against Republican privatization schemes on his "watch." The Republican nimrods just keep sitting, looking at each other exactly like a bunch of children who know they've been caught raiding the cookie jar. Morons. And the thing is, they're avoiding some good exercise which it looks like many of them could use...

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Nice picture

Daughter Aimee took this photo of some jellyfish at the Atlanta Aquarium the other day.