Return to nonfamous.com index page

December 31, 2004

J20

The media so rarely picks up the huge protests that happen, so one can't help butwonder if they're an effective means for change. The reason I like to go to protest marches is to stand surrounded by those that share my politics and feel that I am not alone.

December 30, 2004

I can't find any accounts of Dino Rossi demanding a revote in the 2000 presidential election

But you would think he would have, since he's demanding one for the Washington State gubernatorial race that was so close. Even though there is a winner and all, and Gregoire won by a vote of the people and not a court appointment.

Quoth the loser: "I would not want to enter my governorship with so many people viewing my governorship as illegitimate."

I wonder if he would have said the same to W four years ago...

Stingy Bastards

Are We Stingy? Yes


Published: December 30, 2004
President Bush finally roused himself yesterday from his vacation in Crawford, Tex., to telephone his sympathy to the leaders of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia, and to speak publicly about the devastation of Sunday's tsunamis in Asia. He also hurried to put as much distance as possible between himself and America's initial measly aid offer of $15 million, and he took issue with an earlier statement by the United Nations' emergency relief coordinator, Jan Egeland, who had called the overall aid efforts by rich Western nations "stingy." "The person who made that statement was very misguided and ill informed," the president said.

According to the Washington Post: "Bush's first inauguration cost about $40 million. President Bill Clinton's second inauguration cost $29.6 million."
And then you look at the money that was donated after the attacks of Sept. 11th!

How embarressed am i for being an american right now? Have we become a nation that is so empathetic and self-serving that we find it more important to spend money on a presidential ceramony and not on human life?

We beg to differ. Mr. Egeland was right on target. We hope Secretary of State Colin Powell was privately embarrassed when, two days into a catastrophic disaster that hit 12 of the world's poorer countries and will cost billions of dollars to meliorate, he held a press conference to say that America, the world's richest nation, would contribute $15 million. That's less than half of what Republicans plan to spend on the Bush inaugural festivities.
The American aid figure for the current disaster is now $35 million, and we applaud Mr. Bush's turnaround. But $35 million remains a miserly drop in the bucket, and is in keeping with the pitiful amount of the United States budget that we allocate for nonmilitary foreign aid. According to a poll, most Americans believe the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on aid to poor countries; it actually spends well under a quarter of 1 percent.
Bush administration officials help create that perception gap. Fuming at the charge of stinginess, Mr. Powell pointed to disaster relief and said the United States "has given more aid in the last four years than any other nation or combination of nations in the world." But for development aid, America gave $16.2 billion in 2003; the European Union gave $37.1 billion. In 2002, those numbers were $13.2 billion for America, and $29.9 billion for Europe.
Making things worse, we often pledge more money than we actually deliver. Victims of the earthquake in Bam, Iran, a year ago are still living in tents because aid, including ours, has not materialized in the amounts pledged. And back in 2002, Mr. Bush announced his Millennium Challenge account to give African countries development assistance of up to $5 billion a year, but the account has yet to disperse a single dollar.
Mr. Bush said yesterday that the $35 million we've now pledged "is only the beginning" of the United States' recovery effort. Let's hope that is true, and that this time, our actions will match our promises.

USA Today: Treasonous rag

Editor and Publisher is the trade rag for the rag trade (you know, the newspaper business) and they are just a wee bit freaked out. It seems that USA Today founder Al Neuharth recently ran a remarkably un-shrill opinion piece in USAT suggesting that the US bring our troops home. "'Support Our Troops' is a wonderful patriotic slogan," wrote the 80-year-old WWII veteran. "But the best way to support troops thrust by unwise commanders in chief into ill-advised adventures like Vietnam and Iraq is to bring them home. Sooner rather than later. That should be our New Year's resolution."

E&P printed a column that mentioned--not endorsed--this relatively mild viewpoint... but from the letters they got you would think he had advocated running al Zarqawi for Senate from Illinois. Really, read their roundup of reader responses. They include such nuggets of patriotism as:


Joe McBride, Fort Dodge, Iowa: “Mr. Neuharth, thanks to you and your ignorance the terrorists are probably booking their flights to the U.S. now! If we pull out of Iraq with the job unfinished the terrorists will be bombing McDonalds, and blowing up malls and schools here, killing our innocent men, women and children.”

These terrorists, do you figure they use Expedia to book the flights?

Duggan Flanakin, Austin, Texas: “Neuharth should be tried for treason along with a lot of other blowhards who should be spending their energies condemning the barbarism of our enemies, the same people who destroyed the Twin Towers.“

This just in: The Iraqis did not blow up the Twin Towers! I say we get that put on a branding iron and track down the Red State idiots still pumping that lunacy and pop a helpful reminder right on their foreheads!

Boots Harvey, Brentwood, CA: “One must recall that Churchill had to put up with the likes of Lord Haw-Haw, William Joyce, and his propaganda during WWII. In the end William Joyce was executed for giving aid and comfort to the enemy during war time. Would that the same fate befall Al Neuharth!”

So... if Neuharth is giving "aid and comfort," where does that put us? Figure we have FBI files yet?


Mel Gibbs: “The Patriot Act will put both of you (Neuharth and Mitchell) on trial for treason and convict and execute both of you as traitors for running these stories in a time of war and it should be done on TV for other communist traitors like you two to know we mean business. This is war and you should be put in prison NOW for talking like this. Who the hell do you people think you are? You give aid and comfort to our enemies and aid them in murdering our proud soldiers. You people are a disgrace to America. Your families should be put in prison with you, then be made to leave and move to the Middle East ...This is a great Christian nation and god wants us to lead the world out of darkness with great leaders like President George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Communists like Al and Greg will soon be in prison and on death row for your ugly papers. We won the election and now you are mad. We own America and all the rights, you people are trash, go back to Russia and Africa and take your friends with before we put you on death row after a fair trial.”

Again with the "aid and comfort." A) Ownership society or not, you don't "own" rights. B) "Russia and Africa really says it all about this, doesn't it?

So: to recap. Opinion pieces: bad. Questioning war: evil. Wanting to bring home the troops: helping Osama blow up malls and McDonaldses. 80-year-old veterans who disagree with Resolute Leader: first against the wall when Bush really gets serious about terrorism.

This isn't like McCarthyism. It's worse. McCarthy was far, far to the right of all but the John Birch lunatics in the hinterlands. Some fair percentage of Bush's supporters are so far to the right of him that we should be really frightened. (Which of course we are.)

All in the Bag!!

OK, I am completely in a jealous rage this morning!! Until I got TIVO (OK, DVR but you get the idea) I didn’t get the whole hype…but now I do! And then there is NetFlicks, and I thought who cares I don’t watch that many movies anyway. And if I wanted beer or wine delivered to the house once a month, I would just go to the store: who can wait for mail delivery when you're thirsty?

BUT TODAY!!!?? I find out that not only can women get brand new designer bags delivered to the house, but they can change them as often as they change their minds (hehehe)….and I am one jealous Bee-Atch right now!

Forget Barbie, CC Royale is going to look great this season!

Good news (from Arkansas!)

An Arkansas judge has ruled unconstitutional a law that bars gay people from becoming foster parents. When is the last time you read words like this in the news?

"The testimony and evidence overwhelmingly showed that there was no rational relationship between the . . . blanket exclusion [of gays] and the health, safety and welfare of the foster children," [Judge] Fox wrote.

The whole article is below.

Arkansas Foster Child Law Stricken
Anti-Gay Provision Unconstitutional

By David Hammer
Associated Press
Thursday, December 30, 2004; Page A05

LITTLE ROCK, Dec. 29 -- An Arkansas judge Wednesday declared unconstitutional a state ban on placing foster children in any household with a gay member.

Ruling in a case brought by the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Timothy Fox said the state Child Welfare Agency Review Board had overstepped its authority by trying to regulate "public morality."

At issue was a 1999 board regulation that gays cannot become foster parents and that foster children cannot be placed in any home with a gay member under its roof.

The ACLU had argued that the regulation violates the equal-protection rights of gays. But the judge's ruling did not turn on that argument.

Instead, Fox noted that the Arkansas legislature gave the child welfare board the power to "promote the health, safety and welfare of children" but that the ban does not accomplish that. Rather, he said the regulation seeks to regulate "public morality" -- something the board was not given the authority to do.

"The testimony and evidence overwhelmingly showed that there was no rational relationship between the . . . blanket exclusion [of gays] and the health, safety and welfare of the foster children," Fox wrote.

Rita Sklar, director of the Arkansas chapter of the ACLU, expressed satisfaction with the ruling.

"He made extensive findings of fact and he accepted everything we entered into the record refuting the state's reasons for the regulation, including these ridiculous claims that gay people are more likely to do drugs or have diseases," Sklar said.

Arkansas allows gay men and lesbians to adopt children permanently, and its specific ban on fostering is unique.

A Florida ban on adoptions by homosexuals was recently upheld in a federal court and an appeal by the ACLU is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Utah and Mississippi also restrict gay adoptions. Mississippi prohibits gay couples from adopting, but not gay individuals. Utah's ban is a state law that bars any cohabiting couples who are unmarried -- gay or heterosexual -- from adopting or fostering.

Fox heard extensive testimony in the Arkansas case over the past year. Several board members testified that they had personal problems with the idea of gay men and lesbians engaging in sex.

Fox cited the testimony of sociologists and psychologists that gay people can be as loving and caring foster parents as heterosexuals and that the children of gay adoptive parents can be as well-adjusted as those raised by heterosexual couples.

When Kathy L. Hall, lawyer for the state board, argued at the end of the trial that social mores stand against homosexuals serving as parents, Fox noted that women were once prohibited from voting and racially mixed marriages were illegal in many states.

Hall could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Messages left at her office and on her cell phone were not immediately returned.

At the trial, she argued that foster children were under particular stress and in need of normalcy. She said the state needs to look out for the best interests of those children.

"It's one thing to hear about it [homosexuality] or see it on TV as opposed to knowing it's going on in the room next door," Hall said.

December 29, 2004

Could it happen here?

With the all the devastation around the Indian Ocean
the question immediately arises: could a tsunami strike here in the States, too?

The answer is yes -- bigtime. Should the unstable La Palma volcano in the Canaries erupt again -- as it does about once every 20 years -- half of the volcano might fall into the Atlantic, creating an enormous wave that would make the Boxing Day tsunami look like a ripple by comparison.

And lest you relax, the Pacific coast is hardly safe either. Seattle is protected from open-ocean tsunami by the Olympics, but an event on the Seattle fault which runs through the sound could even cause giant waves in Lake Washington, as happened 1000 years ago.

Enjoy your breakfast.

Personally, as with other massive cataclysmic events like supervolcanoes and asteroid strikes, I don't really see the point in worrying. The chances of such an event occurring in our lifetimes is pretty small, and besides, there's nothing you can do to prevent it even if it is about to happen soon. So what's the point in worrying?

December 28, 2004

43 things

Why 43? Find out here. I find the whole thing oddly compelling. You might too. It's still in beta, so I can't say how far you'll get, but check it out.

December 27, 2004

Blowing the Whistle

Sunday morning we went up the hill to have a little lunch and to hang out with some folks who own a restaurant up there. The husband has been friends with these folks, well, forever, the way you are friends with people in a small town where you all go to tiny high schools together. It’s a very traditional postcard kind of village. The staff dress the part in their lederhosen and dirndls. Oh, and the food is quite good, plus, the chef is really a nice guy, I like him.

We arrived shortly after church got out. The neighbors were hanging out, eating cookies and drinking beer and wine – all this before 11 am! – and chatting about pretty much nothing, like you do with your friends when you run in to them at your local coffee house. We were sitting at the ‘stammtisch’ – the table that’s set aside for regulars, having tea, and three guys from the other room sat down to join us.

I know one of the guys from way back when I first started coming to Austria. He asked me if I was still “working for Bill” – a position that has a cache here that it just doesn’t hold in Seattle. The talk turned to health insurance (Austria is beginning to privatize) and language, and as it does when you have an auslander in your midst, to travel.

The older guy across the table from me told me about how, during the early 60s, he’d lived in Australia. He had to return to Austria when he got news that his mother was quite ill, and shortly after he got back to Austria, she died. He never went back to Melbourne, where he’d lived as a young man. Finally, just a few years ago he made the trip.

He was shocked at what he saw. The place was overrun with Chinese. “The Australians, they haven’t got a chance. The Chinese are everywhere. I have to say, having gone back and seen what happened there, I am glad it turned out that I stayed here in Austria.”

I was struck speechless. I am seldom at a loss for words, but as I looked at this seemingly cultured ‘gentleman’ nursing a glass of red wine, a speaker of excellent English, and a world traveler, spewing racism, I didn’t know what to say. I stared at him, round eyed, before finding my voice.

There’s some statistic somewhere that states that one in four humans on the planet are Chinese. I don’t know if that’s true anymore, but I do know that since my brother married my sister-in-law in Beijing more than 15 years ago, one in four people in my family are Chinese. When you go after the Chinese, you go after my family. My nephew, a kid in big pants who works at an artisan bakery. My sister-in-law, who knitted the scarf tucked in the sleeve of my coat hanging just over there, on the coat rack.

When people ask me why I don’t move to Austria, these kinds of experiences are what I think about. Maybe I could rationalize that some old guy in an old village shouldn’t color my perception of what Austrians are like. When I get all worked up over stuff like this, the husband says I’m as likely to hear the same kind of crap out of a guy at the counter at a diner in Montana. Yeah, okay. But. I resent the fact that I’m the one that’s shocked while most folks preceive this kind of racism as harmless.

I have been watching, with great interest, the news about Turkey and the EU. I can’t believe the noncommittal “We agree to talk to you about it a lot later with no promises to let you join” stance that the EU has taken. A lot of the objections by EU member nations look like racism to me. Marauding hoards of Islamic peasants, stealing their jobs, sponging off welfare, locking up their women…I’m not saying that the Turks don’t have serious human rights issues, and good lord, if the EU takes on the problem of the Kurds, that’s one big can of worms. But the racist overtones are too loud to ignore – at least to my sensitive ears they are.

Maybe I need to get a thicker skin at times like this. But what I’d really like are better reflexes. It’s the shock that slows me down. I need to carry a whistle. That’s the thing about racism in Austria, and in Europe in general, in my experience. It’s not like it’s everywhere, it’s not like it's a stop on your itinerary. Thankfully, it's rare in my experience, and honestly, most Austrians are perfectly fine humans with open minds and hearts. But you know how when you go hiking in bear country, you’re supposed to be prepared? I never leave my house prepared to confront racists in Seattle. Here it’s a different story.

December 23, 2004

The blowjob that ate India

...or at least eBay's Indian subsidiary.

Tech execs here ought to think hard about the right's new push for tougher indecency laws in the states. A new law in India landed the CEO of the company in an infamous Indian jail, despite the company's rapid removal of the offending content. It's a strange story that is illustrative of the undertow created when technology, business, and sex intertwine. The UK Guardian hasthe whole story.

To the Indian schoolboy, it must have seemed like an ingenious if indelicate use of new technology.

But when the 17-year-old used his mobile phone camera to record his girlfriend giving him oral sex he could have had little idea of the far-reaching global consequences.

By yesterday, his ungentlemanly act had provoked a scandal that was dominating every Indian newspaper, the chief executive of a major company had been jailed, and a major diplomatic row was brewing between India and America, with Condoleezza Rice reported to be at the fore.

You forgot Poland!

The Poor Man quotes beloved-by-the-America-right Solidarity leader Lech Walesa saying something W would clearly much prefer us to forget:

"America failed its exam as a superpower," says Lech Walesa, the former Solidarity trade-union leader who became Poland's first post-Communist president. "They are a military and economic superpower but not morally or politically anymore. This is a tragedy for us." Mr. Walesa laments what he sees as America's squandered leadership because he thinks the EU isn't ready for prime time.... [C]an Europe offer itself and the wider world a vision to match, and perhaps one day even supplant, America's role as "leader of the free world"? ...

"We shed our blood for them but they don't treat us well," says Mr. Walesa, who visited the U.S. this fall to meet officials and politicians. He had no trouble getting a visa himself but made little headway in securing easy entry for his compatriots. "America doesn't like Poles; it only likes Walesa," he says.

December 22, 2004

What do Washington State and the Ukraine have in common?

They're both still getting out from under their elections! Okay, Washington State has no seedy poisoning accusations, but still.

I was stunned to see in the WaPo this morning that the spread has narrowed to ten votes - in Gregoire's favor!

I'll say it again: I never liked Christine Gregoire for governor. I thought she was in denial about the state of Washington's badly overdrawn infrastructure. I thought her stand against a state income tax while saying nothing against the regressive taxes that keep showing up on our ballots was short-sighted and pandering. And for no logical reason, it really got up my nose that she chose to market herself as 'Chris' Gregoire. What, we don't know she's a she? My vote was absolutely a vote against Dino Rossi.

But wow, what a lot of backbone Ms. Gregoire has shown in this race. I have nothing but respect for her tenacity. I don't know what's driving her, but I'm awe-struck by how much of it she seems to have.

"This wasn't about who wins the race," Gregoire said after the court ruling. "It's about protecting these voters' sacred right to have their legitimate votes counted." Hallelujah.

Ten votes. Never say your vote doesn't matter. Never.

December 21, 2004

You thought you had a bad day?

I'm filing this little tidbit from Engadget under "ha," but it's really note funny.

So the other day a UPS driver in New Hampshire was on his way to the Cheshire Medical Center in Keene to deliver some much-needed parts for a piece of medical equipment when he got into a crash. He suffered a head injury and was taken by ambulance to the very same hospital he was headed to, but they weren't able to do any of the tests they needed because the brain scan machine was broken--and the parts needed to fix it were sitting in his wrecked truck on the highway. If only there were some word to describe situations like these...

Read the whole story here.

December 18, 2004

Bread and Butter

Most Saturday mornings, Julius gets up early and runs in to Aigen to the bakery. He goes to buy kipferl, the crescent shape rolls that Austrians insist are the predecessor to the croissant. (This should not be confused with a vanillekipferl, which is a ground-nut-and-butter shortbread crescent shaped cookie.) Kipferl come with and without raisins. I’m not a fan of the kipferl, I find them to be a bit too plain, and Julius knows that, so for me he brings the brownest, grainiest rolls they’ve got on the shelf that morning. Yesterday he brought a couple of ‘fladen’ – oatmeal and multigrain flat bread about the size and shape of a Pop-Tart, and a couple of spelt ‘weckerl’ – square brown rolls that are dense and chewy.

We buy our regular loaf bread in Liezen. Julius favors the kornbeisser, a molasses colored loaf made from a finely milled dark grain, and I’m partial to the sonnenblumenbrot, the sunflower seed bread, a dense whole wheat loaf with a variety of whole grains mixed in. Or the kurbiskernbrot, the same thing, only with pumpkin seeds instead of sunflower. Occasionally, we’ll get a small brick of pumpernickel, which is nothing like pumpernickel from an American supermarket. Pumpernickel is moist, like cake, but also, sort of like a grain pudding. I like to warm it in the toaster for a few minutes before eating it with real butter.

If you want a more refined white bread, you can get a kipfel or a semmel (I think we’d call that a Kaiser roll). You can get a brioche (a braided egg bread like a challah) or a stritzel (the same, only sweeter, sometimes with raisins). You can also get a very good baguette. You can buy US style bread here, along with a "matching" sliced processed cheese – it’s sold in a red, white, and blue plastic wrapper with the words “American Toast!” emblazoned in Uncle Sam typeface across the front – but why would you?

There is one loaf of bread in Seattle that has made the cut for the discerning European bread eater. (FYI, it’s the Tall Grass Bakery rye. Tall Grass is in Ballard, but you can buy their bread at Rainbow and Madison Market on Cap Hill.) When you eat bread here in Austria, you understand why it’s so hard to find something that even comes close to good enough. Bread in Austria is Food, with a capital F. It’s not some spongy filler or a vehicle for a spread; it’s a Food with its own merits.

In the US, our standard source for bread is usually our local supermarket. Even if our market has a bakery, chances are they aren’t cranking out production style loaves of decent whole grain. You’ll get a baguette, with or without seeds, a sourdough, um, that’s usually about it. Maybe a ciabatta. We get the Italian style white breads. (Aside – the last time we visited our friend in Italy, she asked us to bring Austrian brown bread for her.) It’s because of this, the prevalence of over processed white breads, that bread has gotten such a bad rap. Maybe Dr. Atkins was right in suggesting that we give up carbs, but that’s because your standard American carb lacks substance.

The other day we were at the Merkur, a new chain supermarket that recently opened in Liezen. They have a bakery and they had just packed up a fresh batch of sonnenblumenbrot. When I picked it up, it was still warm. It held the warmth until we got it home and when I sliced the end off, sunflower seeds scattered across the bread board. I ate my fresh slice with a slab of butter. It was delicious and satisfying.

The Economic Bill of Rights

Here are some thoughts for George's second term.


It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people— whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth— is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.

This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights— among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our nation has grown in size and stature, however— as our industrial economy expanded— these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:


  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

  • The right of every family to a decent home;

  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

  • The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.

That's from FDR's State of the Union speech on 11 January 1944. Roosevelt saw security as including economic security.

December 17, 2004

Smart digi-Brit style mag

Into The Storm is hard to describe, but really good--part fashion mag, part cultural criticism... check it out.

Spellin'--it's hard. Hard work.

From Atrios, an image that really makes one confident that the Preznit is gonna overcome the "challanges" our economy faces.

r892719563.jpg

Grow the pie higher, idiots.

Bill O'Reilly: Lying, Splotchy Coward

Wonderful letter from David Brock of Media Matters to Bill O'Reilly, using his own words against him to call him a coward for not letting Brock come on his show. A classic.

December 16, 2004

Old School Jesus

Salzburg29.jpg

Taken in the Fransiscan Church in Salzburg. I have more pics of Salzburg here.

the search for the PERFECT Baby Jesus!

In the divine spirit of the ensuing holiday I decided to do a great search for the PERFECT baby Jesus for our manger. I didn’t want one too white, as we all know…. I certainly didn’t want to have one made of popsicle sticks as I thought it didn’t capture the true meaning that I was looking for this year! I looked for a Jesus Chew Toy, but found none (note to self: untapped market). I did find the Jesus Pacifier, but I thought that it was too ‘In Your Face” and not in the holiday color scheme.

But then, across me screen, the perfect Jesus for the Manger…now I just need to find an appropriate cradle….thinking….thinking…..but wait i found it, the real REAL one!

December 15, 2004

Wondertoonel

This bizarre collection of work is a must see. I've been looking at this guy's stuff on the Web for a while, and now, it's right in your backyard. Plus, you, underpaid artist cheapskate types, it's at the Frye and the Frye is FREE.

Go. Look. Wonder.

How the Grinch was Crucified

Well, we are getting closer and closer to the ever loving holiday of the Christ King’s Birthday, Glory Be! Pretty packages, and I mean PRETTY, are everywhere! Tiny Tots are working there fingers to bloody nubs so that we can have extra nice things under our tree. And I’ll be damned if the ozone didn’t spring another hole with the small depletion of forest that is now hanging on the front of my house!

But nothing brings a tear to my eye more than my favorite game of Dress Up Jesus, the Christ Mass version!! Nothing like a littler diversion from the office holiday party, have fun! Who’ Who’ Who’!

The Lap Pillow

Ah... so relaxing...





This lovely pillow is available with both a red and a black skirt for matching your decor or mood! Read about it or see the video. A lap that will not refuse to be rested upon!

December 14, 2004

Got Polka?

Honestly, no matter how much time I spend in Austria, there are some things I just will never understand.

You'll need sound for this.

Wal-Mart sued for selling the F-word

Walmart is being sued by a Maryland man for selling an Evanescence CD with a song containing the word "fuck" (read the lyrics). Wal-Mart, of course, has a policy of not selling offensive materials; this CD did not have the "Parental Advisory" sticker, and wouldn't have been sold under Wal-Mart's policy if it had. He's claiming $74,500 for every copy sold (apparently under the assumption that everyone is offended as he is, and that's exactly the monetary damage incurred for hearing one word in a 70-minute CD).

Despite the ludicrousness of the damages claimed, I hope this suit succeeds. Wal-Mart can't have it both ways. If you claim to be the moral arbiter of America, then you'd better do it right. Walmart gets all this middle-America kudos for not stocking titty magazines or outré books or CD's with dodgy lyrics, but there's also a cost to performing such censorship. Clearly they skimped on those costs in this case. If they've fucked up the censorship (pardon the language) then they ought to pay the price.

Hat tip: overlawyered.

December 13, 2004

Kim Jong Il must have W's military records

How else to explain this freakish item posted byAtrios

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A senior U.S. official said on Monday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is a "rational" leader who would be able to transform his impoverished Stalinist state once he resolves the nuclear standoff with the international community.

"Many accusations that he (Kim Jong-il) is some sort of crazy person are not correct," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly said in an exclusive interview with The Korea Times at his office in the State Department. He said Kim's leadership is one that is unique and rational.

On the other hand, maybe it's not news that W must respect Kim, much as he does Putin. "I took the measure of his craziness..." or some such tripe.

Just in time for Christmas

From Tom's Dispatch via Alternet is this year's shopping list, featuring The Gift of War.

Okay dads, we hear you! Sure, you want to steep junior in the military experience, but skip the dolls, right? Then you'll definitely want to invest in the Military Role Play Set from "Manley" (I kid you not). With recent top-brass pronouncements that U.S. forces are likely to be in Iraq for at least the next 5-10 years, you can't start too early acclimating junior to the desert-camo-colored play set that includes a helmet, knife, gas mask, and a few grenades. You know he'll grin when he pulls the pin!

Also, there's an unbelievably odd Hilary doll.

December 11, 2004

Target: ANWR

Since the news broke about the nominee Sect'y of Energy, I've been trying to find out who IS this guy, Sam Bodman. Because of the election and our collective frenzy over the erosion of our civil rights, it's easy to forget about what's happening with the environment while we're looking the other way.

We know the administration is dying to get in to ANWAR, just as as they'd been dying to get in to Iraq:

"We'll pursue more energy close to home in our own country and in our own hemisphere so that we're less dependent on energy from unstable parts of the world," Bush said.

His inexperience makes him look like just another Yes man in the agreeable Bush cabal. Dirt is hard to find on him, which will probably make him a shoe-in for approval. I did find this little bit from the Center for American Progress:

Samuel Bodman, III, deputy secretary of Commerce Bodman has led administration efforts to stall greenhouse gas controls from his position as chair of the federal Interagency Working Group on Climate Change Science and Technology, which took the lead in devising the administration’s “Climate Change Strategic Plan.” The National Academy of Sciences has criticized this plan for lacking tangible goals and agency responsibilities, and failing to build on prior science to assist policymakers. Previously, from 1988-2001,

Bodman was CEO/president of Cabot Corp., a major Boston based chemical producer. Cabot operates a “grandfathered” facility (built before 1972 and therefore allowed to evade major air pollution controls) that is one of the top polluters in Texas,10 and was cited in a 2002 United Nations report for illegally exploiting Congolese natural resources during the country’s civil war11 (charges Cabot denies). In October 2003, Bodman was nominated to be deputy secretary of the Treasury Department.

With the Republican majority sitting in the leg, ANWR is going to be a really hard one to save. It's time to start working those connections to constiutents with Republican reps. It's also time - again - to think about what you're driving and how often you're driving it. I'm a firm (and naiive) believer in voting with your gas tank.

Cost of Expressing True Love Rises 1.6%

It has been a good year for skilled workers in service industries—dancing ladies, leaping lords, piping pipers, and drumming drummers all saw an increase in their billable rates. However, the greatest cost in the gifts of the Twelve Days of Christmas lies—or perhaps lay—with the French hens, who have produced fewer hatchlings lately.

PNC Advisors put the cost of the 364 items (including repetitions) in the song at $66,334, up 1.6% from last year. This is a very modest increase over last year's, though I urge anyone considering the giving of this gift package to weigh the considerable housing and maintenance costs you would impose on the recipient and the reluctance of skilled laborers to perform menial farm work.

The frugal might consider unique purchases—no repetition—which would run $17,297, though I still challenge you to think about housing fifty people and 23 animals.

December 10, 2004

SS+K Television

Given that all of my clients will be laughing at me about this, I suppose there is no reason not to tell y'all about SS+K TV. It's my firm's approach to the annual Holiday Greetings arms race--how can we be even more creative than our competitors, and than ourselves last year?

This year, the answer lay in the idea of making employees abase themselves produce original holiday-themed content that will be streamed on the web all next week. The results will be, uh, creative. The cards listing everyone's "episode" just went out and I've been fielding vaguely mocking calls all day. I won't tell you exactly what I'm doing, but I will warn you that it involves jewelry, Spode plates, a Santa hat and my fabulous singing voice. And it makes me look like a pompous would-be hybrid of Alistair Cooke and Donnie Deutsch.

Tune in Friday, December 17, at 9:30 am PST. For you, the pain will only last a few minutes. But for me, the shame will be eternal. On the other hand, it can't be too much worse than Jeopardy!

Help "the most vile, despicable human beings in the country"

According to Field Marshall O'Reilly, that would beMedia Matters for America, the watchdog group founded by thoroughly repentant gay ex-Repthuglican David Brock. They need some help with their big year-end fundraising drive--with an endorsement like O'Reilly's, how could you say no?

For those of you who "circled the wagons" with us the Sunday after the election, this is where we sent the cash you donated. I figured that whatever your top issue is, it is severely impacted by the free pass the wing nuts get in the national media. MMFA takes the media to task and laboriously rights their many wrongs.

It's hard work. Hard. Pony up some Christmas cash, friends.

U.S. Says Terrorists Could Use Lasers

Yahoo! News - U.S. Says Terrorists Could Use Lasers

In related news, can someone throw me a fricking bone here? Oh, no-- a thrown bone might fricking collide with a jetliner. Or cause a release of red-hot magma.

If the terrorists really want to get ahead of the Bush Administration and totally cut out the middle man, maybe they should attack us with bad movie clichés and deprive the Badministration all of its best Orange Alert punchlines.

Body Armour for Everyone

This story isn't really that funny, but what IS funny is where I found it: at the top line of Google news. Now THAT'S funny.

December 09, 2004

If the good Lord smites this nation

...it will not be because of Janet Jackson's titties or David's and my wedding rings. It will be because we are a nation that allows things like this to happen:

U.S. veterans from the war in Iraq are beginning to show up at homeless shelters around the country, and advocates fear they are the leading edge of a new generation of homeless vets not seen since the Vietnam era.

"When we already have people from Iraq on the streets, my God," said Linda Boone, executive director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. "I have talked to enough (shelters) to know we are getting them. It is happening and this nation is not prepared for that."

"I drove off in my truck. I packed my stuff. I lived out of my truck for a while," Seabees Petty Officer Luis Arellano, 34, said in a telephone interview from a homeless shelter near March Air Force Base in California run by U.S.VETS, the largest organization in the country dedicated to helping homeless veterans.

Arellano said he lived out of his truck on and off for three months after returning from Iraq in September 2003. "One day you have a home and the next day you are on the streets," he said.

In Iraq, shrapnel nearly severed his left thumb. He still has trouble moving it and shrapnel "still comes out once in a while," Arellano said. He is left handed.

Arellano said he felt pushed out of the military too quickly after getting back from Iraq without medical attention he needed for his hand -- and as he would later learn, his mind.

"It was more of a rush. They put us in a warehouse for a while. They treated us like cattle," Arellano said about how the military treated him on his return to the United States.

Bush says he wants a "culture of life," but that really only means paying obeisance at the radical right's Temple of the Fetus. But does this culture value the lives of innocent Iraqis? Nah. The lives of the American kids sent to die wastefully in Samarra and Fallujah? Nope. The life of an honorable veteran who expects a modicum of physical and mental health care when he returns home from a place that closely resembles hell? Of course not.

No, the Republicans can only offer him an "ownership society" free of a social safety net, affordable health care, and of course "flip-flops." Thank goodness this soldier doesn't have to suffer under the spongy sole of a windsurfing war hero as Commander-in-Chief! Bless Jesus indeed. Amen and pass the tax cuts, brother!

And hey, did Petty Officer Arellano really exhaust the options available to him in this great Republican ownership society? Because in their America, if you surive the war and your medical bills but still can't make ends meet, there's always a 700% interest payday loan to help you back on your feet. (Jesus did say something about the moneychangers, didn't he? The Bible is quite a bit more explicit on the subject of usury than gay marriage!)

In my darker moods, I say: let the smiting begin. But it's Christmas, the time of year for Baby Jesus more than the Fire and Brimestone, "by these wounds," Jesus-is-coming-and-he's-pissed Jesus. But at this time of year when Christians symbolically invite Jesus to "be born in us today," one does worry about how such an Arrival would go down. All I can think of is my favorite latter-day Christmas carols by the band Low. From their song "If You were born today":

If you were born today We'd kill you by age eight Never get the chance to say:

Joy to the world and
Peace on the earth
Forgive them for they know not what they do

They really don't know, do they? Could the GOP really understand what they are doing to this country, its people, and its ideals? It is hard for me to muster forgiveness this season--altogether impossible, in fact, if I attribute their actions to malice rather than ignorance. So let us call it ignorance, and pray for them, and for wisdom.

I don't have all the answers, or frankly even much hope that there are answers. (Perhaps that explains the addiction to a blunted faith that has a pat response to every question.) But I do know that when I pray for joy to the world and peace on earth this season, I know that I have never wanted these things more in my life, or felt them to be farther away. Perhaps the smiting has already begun.

Blame Canada

Finally some good news to post! Canada's Supreme Court just ruled that same-sex marriages are allowed under the Canadien Constitution. Apparently their system is set-up differently than ours in several ways (that turn out to not matter because the Prime Minister and the legislature are behind federal legislation that would legalize same-sex marriages across the entire country) so this isn't the final step, but it is pretty darn close.

So, I hate to say it, but I can see why our friends would take this as a sign that crossing to the other side (of the border) is a good thing. Let's hear it for shopping with favorable exchange rates!

December 08, 2004

Will "sane republicans" ever introduce their money to their mouth?

That's the question Christopher Rice (Ann's son) asks in an open letter to Republican friends, as quoted on AMERICAblog"

Before gay marriage bans were passed in 11 states, my Republican friends had a simple message for me: "Don't panic. We hate those right-wing nut jobs as much as you do."

Now I have a message for them.

Prove it! Take back your party from the religious extremists who are doing so much to demonize the friends you're always willing to console. Stop posting maudlin, disingenuous e-mails on blogs about your deep regret over having to sacrifice your gay friends for more important issues....

There is one problem with this. It's a big one, so I have saved it for last. If you're successful in rescuing the Republican Party from the religious extremists who have held it hostage for almost two decades, you guys will have to say goodbye to a lot of cold, hard cash. I'll leave it to you folks to come up with a good term for a person who accepts money to betray his friends. (Try the Bible.)

Wow.

December 07, 2004

Kantormania!

I have a odd - yet I think understandable - obsession with "News of the Jews" when I'm here in Austria. It might be because it's Hannukah, or maybe it's just the melodramatic "Last of the Mohicans" mindset I get in to when I'm here in the village. I'm trying to find my people, don't you know.

At any rate, I ferret out the little bits and pieces of news related to the tribe. Sometimes it's an Austrian Jewish ex-pat artist, returned to Europe to have a retrospective. More often there's a story about another old Nazi that's been found or an discussion of anti-semitism. In rare cases, there's a recognition and celebration about a Jewish cultural icon.

‘‘Happy Birthday Salomon Sulzer,’’ it proclaims, in public celebration of the 200th birthday of one of the town’s most famous sons — a flamboyant 19th-century Jewish cantor. Born in 1804, Salomon Sulzer served for more than 60 years as the cantor of the main synagogue in Vienna. He revolutionized cantorial style and singing and left an impact on synagogue music that is still felt today.

Cantorial style? Even to me, this seems mighty obscure. Still, I'm always heartened but whatever oddball thing the Austrians choose to recognize about this formerly significant sector of their population. From the country that said "we don't have an anti-Semite problem because we have no Jews" (I will have to hunt for attribution on that) , this is an unusual and welcome tribute.

Travel trailer hoochie mamas

retroCRUSH presents a very humorous stroll down memory lane to a day when scary tramps vamped to sell campers. It was a more innocent time, before rednecks knew that scenes like these were proof of depraved moral values that would destroy the country. Ah, for the days when poor white evangelical men spent more time thinking about separating Daisy Duke from her notional virginity than they spent plotting the destruction of the last vestiges of the separation of church and state!

The suggestive suggest captions are a riot: "Why just look at the way my fingernails glide over these twin firm smooth propane tanks. They're just full of pressure and ready to explode, if they get too hot to handle, if you know what I mean!"
16.jpg

Enjoy!

December 06, 2004

Amen, Rich

Pat Tillman was a war hero. The fact that he was killed by friendly fire, and the government lied about it to make him a media hero doesn't change that.

At his funeral, his brother Rich said "Pat isn’t with God. He’s fucking dead. He wasn’t religious. So thank you for your thoughts, but he’s fucking dead." Amen, brother. Give me such heartfelt honesty rather than the faux-piousness of the media any day.

The Cockroaches of Christmas

A schabe is a cockroach. A strohschabe is a cockroach made of straw. Or perhaps one that lives in straw, I’m not sure. The arrival of the these creatures signifies that the Christmas season has begun, naturally. After all, when you think Christmas, you think cockroaches, right? Um, yeah.

We got to Krungl early enough to watch the Strohschabe get ready to go. But before they got dressed, there was exhibition whipping. Again, you think whipping, you think Christmas, right? Actually, it was pretty cool. The guys stand in a circle and do this percussive thing with the whips, the sound is loud and sharp and rhythmic. From what I could gather – and information is rather thin on the ground when your source is a lot of punsch and gluhwein slurping Austrians - their job is to clear the town of leftover bad spirits. I’m not sure if it’s the giant cockroach thing or the noise, but if a big old haystack swinging a whip comes after you, you hightail it out of the way, that’s for sure.

Anyway, once the whole whipping circle thing has concluded, the boys get suited up in their Strohschabe outfits. The whole bundle weighs about 25 kilos, it’s a packet to carry around, that’s for sure. There are two grass skirts and they’re topped by the headpiece with the massive antennae sticking out of them. Getting in to it is a project, it takes a handful of strapping farmers to enclose a willing victim in to the whole package.

In the Mitterndorf area and surrounds, the Strohschabe are part of the Krampusspiele. Folks have gone “Krampus” crazy in this part of the world. The Krampus (pronounced grampus) is a wooly monster with a somewhat satanic visage and great big horns. The Krampus run though town wielding broom sticks with which to whack the legs of passers-by. You can tell they’re coming because they’re wearing giant bells, but you can’t get away fast enough, and frankly, you’re transfixed by these creatures from Where the Wild Things Are. In our town of Aigen, the Krampusspiele is small, there are six or eight of these creatures accompanying St. Niklaus on his rounds, but up the road in Krungl, they were having a full on Krampusfest, with 30 or 40 of them running the streets, terrorizing little kids, mauling the adults, and generally creating a ruckus.

In addition to the Krampus and the Strohschab, there were a whole lot of supporting cast members including a bishop, a night watchman, a blacksmith, a handful of angels, Death, the Kaiser, the “half-goat” something that looked like a cross between a bear and a giraffe, and the aforementioned Strohschabe.

Here’s how the whole thing goes down. The nightwatchman blows his horn. Then there’s a procession through town of all the likely and unlikely characters accompanying St. Niklaus on his rounds. They’re followed by the total chaos of the Krampus rampage. Finally, after enough little kids have been traumatized with nightmares that will last the next ten years, the Strohschabe come through and clear the streets, swinging their whips as they go. Meanwhile, back at the inn, there’s a whole routine going on where St. Niklaus interrogates any kids left standing. He asks them if they’ve been good, they recite a little poem, and they get some small treat for their participation, oranges, peanuts, maybe some chocolates. We watched a bit of it through the gasthaus windows and headed home.

I still have a lot of unanswered questions about the whole thing. I know that a lot of it is leftover pagan tradition from a pre-Catholic Austria, but I still don’t understand what, exactly, a Strohschab is. Stand by, I’m looking in to it.

There's a photo album from the event here.

December 03, 2004

Zoom Quilt

Poeple have been talking about Flash as a new medium for artistic expression, but I've never seen anything that's truly new before. Now I have: The ZoomQuilt.

There's a lot of detail here, be sure to pause on your travels. I think it looks more interesting going out than going in for some reason.

December 02, 2004

Europe is different, sort of.

Day one on the continent finds me mulling over the definition of the term "theo-con." We all know what it means, but it's interesting to see how it's manifesting itself here as the EU hashes out their new constitution. Read all about here in the Guardian.

I'll have a lot more to say about this when I'm not so numbed by jetlag.

Lousiana, where "gay" is a bad word

And where, not altogether surprisingly, second-graders can't spell!

lafayette.JPG

Read the ridiculous story here.

Sadly, though, CBS and NBC apparently agree, even when it's a church group using the g-word. At least, when they use it to mean something other than "sinner."

Is this really happening in my country? Are those the sweet strains of "Advance Australia Fair" I hear???

December 01, 2004

Funding the Recount for Washington State Governor

Currently, Dino Rossi has a 42-vote lead over Christine Gregoire, and he was certified as governor elect today. With such a tiny margin, I think the state should automatically do another count, but for another to occur, the Washington State Democrats need to pay 25¢ per ballot for a manual recount. This could wind up costing $1 million, and the party needs to put up $750,000 by tomorrow, 2 December, to make the state get started.

I'd hate to see the party spend that kind of money only to have Rossi still win, and if Gregoire came out ahead, the Republicans would surely challenge that, so the final outcome is quite unknown. I'm in no hurry, though, to have Rossi as our governor. Hmm.

You can donate to make this happen. Both time and money are required.

National Review dings Bush on medical marijuana

In a first, I'm basing a post on a link from National Review Online that I actually agree with. When the NRO calls the Bush administration on its mad power grabs, you know it's bad.

From the earliest days of the Republic, the Supreme Court has emphasized that the Constitution creates a federal government of "limited and enumerated powers." There is no federal "police power" authorizing Congress to cure every injustice or right every wrong. Rather, the federal government was entrusted with those limited and discrete powers necessary for national cohesion. Matters of truly national import -- matters that cannot be handled by state and local governments acting alone or in concert -- are entrusted to the federal government. As made explicit in the Constitution's texts, all others powers remain in the hands of the states and the people.

Despite its apparent importance to drug warriors, Ashcroft v. Raich is not about medical marijuana or drug prohibition. Nor is it about the wisdom, or lack thereof, of allowing chronically ill individuals to smoke weed for medicinal purposes. Rather, it concerns the limits of federal power under the Constitution. Federalism does not play favorites. It limits the scope of federal power to pursue liberal and conservative ends alike. If a majority of the Court remembers this lesson, Angel Raich will get to keep her medicine. More important, the nation will keep the constitutional limits on federal power.

It's a very good article-- read it if you can avoid looking at the banner ads alongside it. Gads!

Micro Row-Long

Nov23Baby3001.JPG

Cutest. Fetus. Ever!

Seth and Marti were kind enough to send this along-- making it our very first ultrasound scan here at F.A.N.S. It's going to be hard to wait until April to meet little Ian or Piper! I hear they are taking suggestions for middle names, if you are so inclined.