Monday, October 31, 2011

Human Population Hits 7 Billion - Bachmann Says Aliens Will Cower

Photo from Reuters/Denis Sinyakov
The earth's population will reach 7 billion today according to United Nations.

Not surprisingly, this announcement was met with anxiety and discouraging pronouncements from demographics experts and environmental activists who espoused concerns about scarcity of resources and human living conditions.

Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann subsequently commented on the population announcement saying this doesn't have to all be "so doom and gloom." Said Bachmann...

"While these namby-pamby science types greet the news of precious 'baby seven billion' with their usual wailing and moaning about silly things like water supply, food production, and medical care, I prefer to see the positive side. With 7 billion earthlings, the aliens will cower. There's no way they'll invade us now."

As it turns out, Bachmann was making (yet another) ill-timed and tasteless attempt at humor. She quickly put out a media statement clarifying her position.

"My earlier statements about population were an attempt to make light of this very serious situation. I assumed you all knew I was kidding when I mentioned an alien invasion. We all know God would never let that happen."

Can you believe she said that? I hope not, since I made it all up.

Happy Halloween :)

Perry Attacks Gay Marriage Law in New Hampshire

Rick Perry has called for the repeal of a New Hampshire law passed in 2009 that legalized gay marriage. During a New Hampshire campaign stop on Friday, Perry applauded the efforts of a small group of Republican legislators who are working to repeal the state law, despite the fact that 62% of the state's citizens support the law.

This exemplifies the kind of desperation politics that cost the Republicans the White House in 2008. When the solutions posed to address the nation's real issues ring hollow with a majority of voters, far right candidates fall back on anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-immigrant hate messages in an attempt to rally their conservative base.

This strategy will garner headlines and it may raise a candidate's profile with the fringe, but it solves nothing and ultimately loses elections. Keep up the good work, Mr. Perry, and don't worry, Texas will take you back when it's all over.

Daily Zen - Monday, October 31

Look under foot. You are always nearer to the divine and the true sources of your power than you think.
                    - John Burroughs

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dear Bank of America - It's Too Late Baby

Bank of America HQ
Charlotte, NC
Dear Bank of America,

You are some piece of work. 

A month ago I wrote and published our public break-up letter, and now that you realize what you've lost, you're ready to come crawling back. I read that you decided the whole debit card usage fee was a bad idea, so you're willing to give me lots of ways to avoid it. 

Pathetic. There was a time when I might have come back for some gimmick like that, but now I know you'll only screw me some other way. 

You'll never change. It's these kinds of stunts that made me feel cheap and used when I was with you. I could never give you everything you wanted, and you never cared about what I wanted. You never even asked me. You couldn't maintain a decent banking relationship with Warren Buffet (and everyone knows how willing he is to give it up). 

Nice try BOA, but it's too little, too late babe. Besides, I'm actually seeing a couple of credit unions now. It's kind of nice to see banks that aren't out there on every street corner, whoring it up. They aren't as flashy as you; they're kind of like diamonds in the rough. But they seem to appreciate me, and at least they give me a little respect when I come around.

Anyway, good luck finding another guy (that is, if you can find someone you haven't already screwed).


PS: The shape of your corporate headquarters building kind of says it all.

It's My Fault (San Andreas, That Is)

A few days I blogged about the four minor earthquakes we experienced here in Northern California over a seven-day span. These temblors were mild, registering between a magnitude 3.0-4.0 on the Richter scale, which is not particularly earth-shattering (pun-intended). For most of us in the Bay Area, the impact of a 3.5 quake is that you hear a short low rumbling sound, or maybe your kitchen window rattles for a second. Truthfully, I am often blissfully unaware of quakes of this magnitude, until I hear about them on the local evening news or read about them online. Still, four tremors in a week is enough to make a fellow curious.

I did some reading to find out what significance geologists ascribe to this rapid series of mini-quakes, and from what I can tell, the scientific conclusions are akin to, "who the hell really knows." They could be foreshocks, minor tremors that precede seriously bad evening news broadcasts ("it was a rough commute on Highway 101 this afternoon as the entire road liquified and fell into a gaping hole in the earth"), but more likely, it's just routine shifting of tectonic plates - the geologic equivalent of the earth having a yawn and a scratch.

I can accept a little ambiguity. We are talking about the earth's crust, after all, which was formed by complex geologic pressures and events that took place over billions of years (or nearly 5,000 evangelical years). If we need a few thousand more generations of scientists to really nail this down, then so be it.  

My earthquake research led me to discover more about the San Andreas Fault, the 800 mile long crack in the earth's surface that runs through California, and the place where two of the earth's giant tectonic plates meet, and then proceed to occasionally tussle a bit. When these two plates rub elbows, there is enormous friction and an energy release in the vicinity of the fault line, which sometimes causes your hummels and tchotchkes to shimmy a little, and other times causes tall buildings and double-decker bridges to collapse.
The San Andreas Fault serves as a perforated line that runs north-south through California, wherein the state can conveniently be torn in two with the western half then free to drift out into the Pacific Ocean. Most of us who ever lived outside of California have made that joke, but most of us didn't subsequently end up moving ironically into the heart of the land of tectonic wonders.

The Shallow End - Bad Lip Reading with Herman Cain

Maybe I'm the only one (okay, with 100K YouTube views I'm probably not) but I can't get enough of the Bad Lip Reading videos. My favorite lines from this clip:

"Breathe on, biscuits ain't for jam."

"Women have a special feeling though, they got extra fatal lady shimmer, of no maximum strength."

Viewing Tip: Click the title bar at the top of the clip to view in a larger window.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Week in Review - October 29, 2011

Here are links to a few of the fun and interesting things you might have missed on my blog this week.

The OWS (Occupy Wall Street) movement dominated the news, as several local governments, most notoriously the city of Oakland, began to oust the occupiers. We did a little soul searching and explored the fine line between the rights and responsibilities of protesters and those they oppose. OWS wants a fair distribution of wealth, and to make sure we understand how America’s wealth is determined, we shared a five-minute video that explains GDP calculation. (Does your box of Raisin Bran count? Your mortgage? Your movie ticket?)

Imagination played a large role in politics this week. On Monday we looked at what we wish President Obama would say on the re-election campaign trail. On the Republican side, Rick Perry pretended to know something about taxes, although he could not fake being worth a damn at debating. Recognizing the staleness of the debate format, we fantasized about an alternative contest moderated by Florence Henderson, where each candidate is handed a wailing infant to calm (President Obama showed off his baby handling skills this week in San Francisco). Lastly, from the world of imaginary politics, we published a fantasy letter to the wealthiest 1% of Americans from middle-class Republicans.

With Halloween just days away, we had to have some frights and scares. Experiencing four earthquakes in Northern California was a bit unnerving, while watching a video of the un-tattooing of ink-covered Zombie Boy was wicked cool.  We also featured some phenomenal, albeit untraditional, pumpkin carvings. If you’re too cool for Halloween (I know I am), you might instead enjoy the chill jazz beats of upright bass player Ben Williams.

As always, thanks for reading.

Weekend Zen, October 29-30

There is only one world, the world pressing against you this minute.

                   - Storm Jameson

Friday, October 28, 2011

Four Earthquakes in One Week? C'mon Man.

Courtesy David K. Lynch (
The Occupy movement isn't the only thing rattling Northern California this week. Four times in the last week the San Francisco Bay Area experienced mild earthquake tremors between magnitude 3.0 and 4.0.

From our condo in San Carlos, I didn't feel the earth shift for any of these mini-quakes, but once or twice in recent months I have experienced the feel of a modest tremor. The first time I thought a giant diesel semi truck had parked in front of our condo and left its engine idling incredibly high. The next time it sounded like the upstairs neighbors decided for some reason to slam the front door three times in rapid succession before rolling a giant filing cabinet across a tile floor.

As a relatively new Californian, I was surprised to find these modest tremors are not uncommon at all, and initially, I found them to be sort of novel and exciting. Lately though, they've been coming more often and closer together. Like contractions. And we all know how messy that ends up.

I was beginning to wonder what all this means. Is this all precursor to a bonafide building crusher? Is the rapture really coming soon? If the 49ers actually lose only one game all year, will the earth open up and swallow the bay area before the playoffs?

Science seems to be no help in unraveling the mysteries of the earthquake. It turns out that issues of geology are not so easily understood nor are they predictably resolved in a matter of weeks or months, over even decades and centuries. Scientists will ultimately be able to better predict the timing of major earthquakes, but they will need just a couple more millennia of study before clear patterns emerge.

In the meantime, out here on the left coast, we're simply forging bravely ahead with our daily business of protesting things, legalizing marijuana, and other stuff like that. All the while, in light of a possible devastating quake, we make sure to conduct occasional reviews of our building evacuation plans, and we keep large sturdy tables around so we have some place to scamper if need be.

Rest assured, here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we remain shaken, but not stirred.

A Fun and Simple Video Explains GDP

Everyone has heard of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Many of us know that GDP growth is "the" key indicator of a nation's economic health. But how many of us really know how GDP is calculated?

Adam Davidson of NPR's Planet Money produced a short easy-to-understand video linked in this Slate article that explains GDP. It's painless and you'll be done in five minutes (and it's so interesting that it only feels like 4 minutes and 30 seconds).

Daily Zen - Friday, October 28

To see clearly is poetry, philosophy, and religion, all in one.
                             -  John Ruskin

Thursday, October 27, 2011

If Perry Skips Debates, He Should Go Home

Perry and Romney getting touchy during a debate.
Texas Governor Rick Perry may not have time to attend all the upcoming Republican presidential debates. With eight debates completed and twelve more planned, Perry's campaign team said that the number of debates is taking away valuable on-the-ground face time with voters in key early primary states.

What they didn't say is that Perry's debate performance has completely sucked and that he ultimately ends up losing more ground than he gains through the debate process. 

I don't think all Americans feel this way, but I need a President who doesn't run from intellectual discourse. Study hard, show up, and represent Mr. Perry, and if your limited intellect and fragile ego can't handle the scrutiny, then you should pack up and go home.

Of course, if the Republicans would just adopt my idea of having a baby-calming contest in place of the debates, this could all be avoided.

The Fine Line of "Occupy" Protests

"Occupy" Protesters' Encampment in Oakland
I believe in the First Amendment. I believe in Free Speech. I believe in the right to assemble and protest. I believe that corporate greed has taken short-term gains that put a long-term hurt on the American economy, and on the American middle class. I believe we must do something to ensure we don't let an unchecked financial sector continue to wreck our nation. I believe an effective protest movement must make people uncomfortable and cause inconvenience.


I believe state and local governments are charged with keeping the peace and ensuring public safety. I believe the Occupy movement lacks the kind of structure and leadership that might make it more palatable to cities and to the general public. I believe Occupy protesters have a mixed bag of motivations, and while many are genuinely committed to an important cause, others are simply seizing a convenient moment to be public fuck-abouts. I believe protests don't have to have unsafe and unsanitary conditions to be effective.

In light of the news that cities around the nation are losing patience and beginning to crack down on Occupy protester encampments, I find myself with surprisingly mixed emotions. Despite the fact that I fully agree with the overall message of the movement, I would not likely choose to participate in the style of protests I see portrayed in cities around the country. I want to participate but I'm not sure how. I think if this movement is going to have a worthwhile impact, then it is incumbent on the Occupy "leaders" to find a way to inspire more ordinary middle class people to join them, and the movement must develop meaningful ways for those of us who are not able or willing to camp in public spaces to contribute.

What about you?

Daily Zen - Thursday, October 27

Student: I am very discouraged. What should I do?
Master: Encourage others.

                   - Zen Proverb

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Baby Calming Contest Should Replace Debates

President Obama with baby at SFO
President Obama landed at San Francisco International Airport on Tuesday, and he swung into action immediately.

Upon seeing a crying 6 month-old baby, the President approached the mother, took the baby into his arms, and bounced and cooed little Josie until she calmed down.

Consider the skills the Commander-in-Chief demonstrated in this unscheduled event:

- Proactive and effective problem-solving
- Skilled and confident decision-making
- Maintaining calm in the face of a crisis

And most importantly...

- Coddling (a critical skill for interacting with egomaniacal congressional leaders)

As I read about this innocent little incident on the tarmac, I began to imagine how the field of Republican Presidential candidates would have handled the situation. 

I propose that in place of the current candidate debates, with their well-defined procedural rules and canned questions, we simply line the candidates up along the stage and hand each of them a wailing infant. The whole event could be televised and moderated by Florence Henderson.

[Insert dream sequence music and wavy transition images.]

Florence: Governor Romney, please take your baby.
Romney: I'd rather not go first. I prefer to just sit back and wait until the other candidates screw things up with their babies.

Florence: Mr. Cain?
Cain [holds baby high up over his head]: 9-9-9, little one. 9-9-9. Well, if you're hungry and you have no money, it's your own damn fault, you lazy ass baby.

Florence: Mr. Perry...your baby.
Perry [ignores baby]: Do you see how reluctant Mitt is to take on a crying baby? You know, when he was governor of Massachusetts he handled babies just like Obama did. In Texas, our babies don't cry.

Florence: Mrs. Bachmann. You're up.
Bachmann [holds baby frighteningly close to her bosom and whispers]: It's okay, little one. My husband and I hate homosexuals too, littering up our streets like garbage. No worries, God'll get 'em.

Florence: Ummm...thank you for that Mrs. Bachmann. Mr. Paul, your turn. Never mind, no one cares.
Paul: .......

Florence: Mr. Gingrich?
Gingrich [sets baby on podium]: I understand the American people are tired of big government. We need a mature proven leader. We must address our massive deficit, unemployment, and our serious foreign policy issues. [looks at crying baby] Okay, let me be totally honest with you, this whole "president" thing just seemed like something to do. I like talking, but I never really liked babies.

Florence: Mr. Santorum, it's your baby.
Santorum [holds baby under one arm]: Well, I have to agree with Mrs. Bachmann. Homosexual babies must be stopped. These tiny gay Americans are ruining the fabric of family life, with their sissy moaning and their queer slobber. Does this suit make me look gay?

Florence: It's just a baby, Mr. Santorum. But, thank you, I guess. Let's move on, finally, to Ambassador Jon Huntsman. Or do you prefer Governor Huntsman?
Huntsman [smiles and holds quiet sleeping baby in his arms]: Shhhh. You just have to use your head and keep the noise down. 

Florence: Congratulations Mr. Huntsman. Well done, and well said. I hope America is watching and listening. Thank you and goodnight.

Daily Zen - Wednesday, October 26

True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.

                        - Socrates

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Letter to the Wealthiest Americans

Dear Super Rich,

Whew! You can officially relax. Rumors of wealth re-distribution have been greatly exaggerated.

According to a new study released by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the top 1% of American income earners accounted for 8% of our total national income in 1979, and thirty years later, you account for 17% of our total wages. Congratulations, you've more than doubled your share of our nation's wealth. 

Oh, and don't worry about the next four years. We're working on some proposals that will make sure your future income tax rate is officially lowered. I know you're already able to work the system and you hardly pay taxes any way, but with our new "flat tax" plans, you won't have to waste your precious time and money hiring accountants to cheat the system for you. 

Now then, lay your weary heads down on your golden pillows and get some rest. You've earned it.

Middle Class Republicans

Romney Polls 4 Points Behind Cain

Interesting analysis from the NY Times of why Mitt Romney, who now trails just behind Herman Cain in the polls, has the pizza guy right where he wants him.

His strategy of playing it cool and acting front-runnery has served him well so far, and now he just has to weather the Herma-Cain.

Perry's Flat Tax and Economic Plan Simplified

Rick Perry's "postcard" tax return
 (Photo by Mary Ann Chastain/AP)
Presidential candidate Rick Perry unveiled his plan for righting the American economic ship in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece published Tuesday.

In the article which he authored, Perry offered his vision for simplifying the tax code and shrinking government toward the end goal of boosting the economy and balancing the budget.

Not to be out-marketed by rising Republican star Herman Cain and his 9-9-9 Tax Plan, Perry named his economic package the slightly less catchy Cut, Balance, and Grow Plan.

The three pillars of Perry's plan, cut taxes and spending, balance the budget, and grow the economy offer nothing new on the surface, but the devil is always in the details. Sadly, when you dig into the details of Perry's plan on his campaign website (which I already did to save you the suffering), what you don't find is anything new. What you find instead is an endless scroll of self-evident charts and graphs that are at best irrelevant (five different pie charts and a bar graphs to illustrate that the tax code is burdensome seems like overkill), and at worst misleading (a chart labeled "Swimming in Debt" shows we have the highest debt-to-GDP ratio since World War II, but fails to explain how this resulted largely from the Bush administration's refusal to raise taxes while waging two wars).

Daily Zen - Tuesday, October 25

I claim to be no more than the average person with less than average ability. Any man or woman can achieve what I have, if he or she would make the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith.

                          - Gandhi

Monday, October 24, 2011

Turn Up the Sound - Ben Williams on Bass

Ben Williams, Jazz Bass Player
A few months ago I published a blog post entitled My Blog Kicks NPR's Wimpy Ass. While still ultimately true (I would sucker punch those little bitch radio stations), I have to admit that this wicked cool jazz clip from NPR Music's "Tiny Desk Concerts" blew me away.

Ben Williams first saw an upright bass in the office of Representative John Conyers (D - Michigan) when he was six years-old. The rest, as they say, is history.

Check out this impromptu performance by Ben Williams and his band.  Both songs they performed for NPR are deliciously smooth and oh-so-sweet. This kind of jazz makes me want to hang out in a dark corner of a smoky lounge, drinking straight bourbon from a dirty highball glass (although, sitting in a swivel office chair at my writing desk and listening through my headphones - drinking vodka and grapefruit from a milk glass - worked out just fine). Enjoy!

Turn of Phrase - An Imagined Obama Campaign Speech

"I've achieved significant foreign policy successes while still cooperating with our allies in NATO and Northeast Asia. Just imagine what I could get done if the Republicans were as willing to compromise as, say, France."

- From blogger Daniel Drezner, who imagined an Obama campaign speech that praises his foreign policy wins and challenges Republican obstructionism.

With progress on jobs and GDP growth coming slowly, the question is will anyone care about the President's significant foreign policy accomplishments or will we see a repeat of the Clinton-Bush Sr "it's the economy stupid" moment?

Daily Zen - Monday, October 24

Meet this transient world with neither grasping nor fear; trust the unfolding of life, and you will attain true serenity.

                         - Bhagavad Gita

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Unbelievable Pumpkin Carvings

In kindergarten, I drew dogs that looked like stick cows. In middle school, I sketched misshaped hearts and oblong peace signs in my journal. My talent as a visual artist has grown little since then.

Consequently, I'm prone to being easily impressed by the artistic skills of others. These carvings by Ray Villafane are truly amazing though. Masterpieces in pumpkin.

Do you suppose he shellacs them so they don't get all mushy and rotten?

Don't Judge a Zombie Boy by Its Cover

This video kicks butt on several levels. It's ultimately just an ad for DermaBlend body makeup, but the concept is unique, the transformation of uber-tattooed "zombie boy" is unreal, and I appreciate the overriding "don't judge" message.

Viewing Tip: Click on the title bar at the top of the clip to open the video in a larger YouTube window.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Week in Review - October 22, 2011

Here are links to a few of the fun and interesting things you might have missed on my blog this week.

The American press didn’t report much about the death of 15 year-old Jamie Hubley, a bullied gay Canadian teen who committed suicide this week. As with the story of Jamey Rodemeyer who took his life last month, this tragic news must be shared to spur us all to take action. The new Mr. Spock, Zachary Quinto, took action by coming out publicly as gay, and I tried to do my part this week by showing up at Apple headquarters to counter-protest the Westboro Baptist picketers

While Congress accomplished nothing on the job front, I proposed a new job creation model centered on the burgeoning real-life superhero movement (more jobs, fewer villains – what could be better). Also from the world of fantasy, Michele Bachmann continued her quest for the presidency, despite the mass resignation of her entire New Hampshire campaign staff. It’s hardly any fun to clown on Bachmann now, so the folks at Bad-Lip-Reading turned to Mitt Romney for the latest hilarious BLR clip.  

Former SF mayor Willie Brown suggested a Romney/Cain ticket would be no laughing matter, while Al Sharpton had me ROFL with his Daily Show comments on Cain. On the other side of the aisle, I drew a comparison between the re-election woes of both President Obama and his predecessor – sorry guys, no one cares what didn’t happen on your watch.

Judgment Day - Part Deux came and went and still no rapture, although all hell did break loose in Ohio, where dozens of wild animals were freed from their cages. Oh there is one more thing. In case you’ve been living in a cave, or a whole in the ground, which is apparently not the best place to hide, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi was captured and killed. There is opportunity in the Middle East, but I’m recommending the U.S. tread lightly. 

As always, thanks for reading.

Herman Cain Is Anti-Abortion but Pro-Choice

Having watched this interview segment three times, I am still confused by Herman Cain's position on abortion.

In the interview, the Republican presidential candidate says there are "no circumstances" under which abortion is acceptable. Then, when pushed on the questions of incest/rape, he characterizes abortion as a very personal decision, "a choice that the family or the mother has to make..." He takes it one step further saying, "whatever they decide they decide."

Cain declares himself to be completely opposed to abortion and says the procedure should be illegal, and then he answers a follow-up question with an eloquent pro-choice statement. We're all used to politicians contradicting themselves, but it's not often that we see it so well done in a single news clip.

Weekend Zen, October 22-23

If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should see sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.

         - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bachmann Campaign Staffers Give Up in NH

The six or so folks who comprised Michele Bachmann's New Hampshire campaign staff have resigned en masse. Now, if we can only get Michele to follow suit.  

Doesn't she know there are things she could still be screwing up in the House of Representatives?

Of course the bigger question is when will she resign from her congressional seat so she can have time to write a book about her journey, moderate a Fox News show, begin collecting mammoth speaking engagement fees, and start preparing to pretend to run for office in 2016?

Obama Faces Same Re-Election Hurdles as W

An Andrew Sullivan Dish reader provides a good summary of the President's accomplishments. As I reviewed the list, it occurred to me that President Obama and former President Bush face some of the same challenges in seeking re-election.

President Obama's greatest accomplishment is avoiding the total collapse of our economy, which he did in large part by pumping gargantuan sums of money into key U.S. industries. Consequently, we incurred the loss of American confidence and amassed an incomprehensible amount of national debt.

President Bush's greatest accomplishment is avoiding another devastating international terror attack in the post-9/11 years, which he did in large part by waging war(s) in the Middle East. Consequently, we suffered the loss of thousands of lives and amassed an incomprehensible amount of national debt.

Bush was confronted by an all-consuming terror attack and security crisis just a few months into office. Obama was confronted with the threat of an impending economic disaster and financial crisis. Both presidencies are largely defined by the perceived success, or lack thereof, in managing through these crises, and in both cases, Americans underestimate the enormous good that was achieved.

Daily Zen - Friday, October 21

Do not be afraid to take a chance on peace, to teach peace, to live peace. Peace will be the last word of history.

                        - John Paul II

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Reverend Al Sharpton Discusses Herman Cain on Daily Show

A must-see clip from the Daily Show. The right reverend Al's words and tone when discussing Herman Cain's presidential bid...priceless.

Economy = Hard, Debt = Easy

America's economy is far more complex than most of us will ever truly comprehend. Consider the impact of and the relationships between the national debt, the dollar, job creation, big oil, Wall Street, banking and finance, the Fed, the housing market, consumer spending, manufacturing, foreign markets, free trade, technology, infrastructure, tax revenue, and on and on and on.

America's national debt crisis, the first element I listed above, actually can be simplified though. This graphic, which was recently getting passed around on Facebook (thanks Carrie Clement!), does the trick nicely. It clearly illustrates the ridiculousness of our current national debt situation, and it lends itself nicely to the McKown Formula for Solving Any Budgetary Crisis - make more, spend less.

Gaddafi Reported Arrested, Killed

Former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi
Giant news from the Arab world this morning as reports claim that Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi has been captured and killed by rebel forces in his hometown of Sirte. Reuters, the BBC, and other international news outlets are reporting Gaddafi's death, although it has not been confirmed by U.S. news agencies or by the American government. A gruesome cell phone photo that is reported to be the corpse of the Libyan dictator has been broadcast on MSNBC and other networks.

With Gaddafi having been in power over 40 years (since the Nixon administration to put it into context), his imminent demise poses large questions about what happens next in Libya.

As the Arab Spring continues in to fall, Libya is just the latest Arab nation making headlines as civil unrest spreads across the Middle East and Northern Africa. Since last December, we have seen political revolutions resulting in the ousting of longtime dictatorial leaders in Tunisia, Egypt , and Libya, and we have witnessed uprisings and civil protests in Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, and other Arab states.

The fire of rebellion spreading through the Arab world is exciting, and the idea that real organic democracy (not the Bush-imposed brand used in Iraq) may take hold in these nations inspires hope. With these revolutions though also comes uncertainty, and a pressing need for cautious and balanced American diplomacy and leadership (this is not time for walking tall and carrying a big stick).

As we celebrate the downfall of cruel and tyrannical dictators, we should all, regardless of political affiliation, hope our leaders are capable of thoughtfully positioning the U.S. favorably in great Arab unknown. The Arab Spring presents historical opportunities for our nation to forge new positive relationships in the Arab world. Our leaders must exercise enormous care to make sure we take an appropriate role in these events that allows us to leverage these opportunities to make new friends, or at least to avoid making new enemies.

Daily Zen - Thursday, October 20

We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather around us, that they may see their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer perhaps even a fiercer life because of our quiet.

                        - William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

National Book Award Nomination Given in Error

Whatever you screwed up at work today - it wasn't likely as bad as this. The National Book Foundation mistakenly announced last week that Lauren Myracle's young adult book Shine was nominated as a National Book Award finalist, when they actually meant to nominate the title Chime by Franny Billingsley.

When notified about the mistake, author Lauren Myracle responded by removing herself from the running for the prestigious award and recommending an appropriate apologetic gesture from the NBF.

Because Shine is a young adult novel about a girl whose gay best friend is the victim of a hate crime, Myracle suggested the NBF make a donation to the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

The National Book Foundation took the suggestion and donated $5,000.

Thanks to the graciousness of Lauren Myracle this is a win-win-win. Her book gets deserved publicity, the integrity of the National Book Award is maintained, and a worthwhile cause receives a check for $5,000.

Lions, Tigers, Bears Loose in Ohio

A dead lion near Zanesville, OH
This is horrific. How does a man who was just released from federal prison last month end up owning dozens of exotic critters and housing them on his "animal farm"?

The man, Terry Thompson, has committed suicide, but before doing so, he released all the animals including 18 tigers, 17 lions, and 8 bears, into the Ohio countryside. The animals had to be hunted and killed by authorities.

A wolf and monkey are still at large. Go, little monkey, go!

Westboro Baptist Protests at Apple HQ

A counter-protester with a direct approach.
Photo: Taken at Cupertino High School
Members of the Westboro Baptist Church protested at a local high school and outside the corporate headquarters of Apple, Inc. in Cupertino, CA this morning.

According to the group's website (, the protest was scheduled to last from 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. and intended to coincide with a planned memorial service for Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Surprisingly, and to my disappointment, when I arrived on the scene at 9:30 a.m., the pathetic handful of placard-wielding hatemongers had already dispersed.

I was sorry not to meet the WBC face-to-face, though if I had, I'm not sure how I would have addressed them. In recent days, I contemplated the most effective options for confronting WBC protesters - Logical argument or religious debate? Creating my own hateful placards and yelling angry obscenities? Gentle but firm nudging with the front bumper of my car? All tempting approaches to be sure.

I ultimately concluded that there is no way to confront the WBC and win. Because of their demented belief that they are literally the chosen few, handpicked by their God to deliver his hate-filled message, they cannot be reasoned with, persuaded, or even insulted. The only way to defeat the WBC is to refuse to confront them, to dismiss them and wait patiently for them to die off one by one. Recognizing that ignoring them is likely the best tactic, I realize that just by showing up and paying attention to them, I conceded defeat. So be it.

Counter-protester with a religious appeal.
I came to meet the WBC here in Cupertino, if for no other reason than to let them know that they cannot go about their business of hating people unopposed.

As it turns out, there were dozens of counter-protesters who felt the same way.

The less than ten WBC members who flew in from Topeka were greeted by counter-protesters who outnumbered them about 10 to 1.

Straight-forward, I suppose.
I interacted with the counter-protesters, many of whom mingled a while even after the WBC left.

Some of them were gay, some not. Some were college-age folks (whose placards took an antagonizing approach equal to that of the WBC), and others were like me, middle-aged and more subdued.

All of us showed up for one ultimate reason though - to let the members of the Westboro Baptist Church know that they don't speak for us, or for our God, whatever we conceive him to be.

In the end I failed to meet the devil today. I was a few minutes late, and the devil apparently had a plane to catch. I did make some new friends though, and in the paraphrased words of my friend Jane, despite occasional evidence to the contrary, I got firsthand confirmation that there are still more "nice people than f*cking idiots" in the world.

My new counter-protester friends Cara and Coco.

Daily Zen - Wednesday, October 19

To live here and now you must train yourself: in the seen there will be just the seen, in the heard just the heard, in the thought just the thought. That is the end of sorrow.
                             - Buddha

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Phoenix Jones - Superhero, Job Creator

This morning I read about a man who was arrested in Seattle for hosing down a group of clubgoers with pepper spray. The daily news is rife with stories of random acts of violence, but this story is special. The pepper spray perpetrator was Benjamin Fodor, aka Phoenix Jones - the most prominent member of the Rain City Superhero Movement.

Phoenix Jones, real life superhero
Phoenix Jones is in Seattle, but real life superheroes are cropping up across America quicker than Wall Street occupiers. I had no idea there were any modern day superheroes, much less a superhero movement, but apparently there is one and it's growing. Witnessing the rise of groups like the Rain City Superheroes, some see a movement, but with my keen mind for business and economics, I see an industry. And where there is industry, there are jobs. To hell with the American Jobs Act. I suggest Congress and White House crank up the full power of the American political machine in support of the new era of the superhero. In doing so, we will rid our streets of those bothersome overly-ambitious clown-faced criminal elements, and more importantly, there will be jobs.

We'll need more superheroes of course. Lots of them. With just a black mask and a matching muscle suit, Phoenix Jones has shown us that the superhero dream is alive and well, and within the grasp of any man or woman who can wield a can of pepper spray. Caped crusaders are the backbone of the superhero business, and this industry can only grow if we foster a wide variety of innovative and entrepreneurial crime-fighters. 

Where there are superheroes, there must be sidekicks. For those who possess a passion for crime fighting but are unsure of their own individual butt-kicking skills, the sidekick role may be perfect. There is plenty of room in this burgeoning new industry for the ride-along type. Everyone can't be in the limelight, right? Someone has to gas up the turbo car and re-stock the utility belts. Let the superhero have the glory - we all know he couldn't do it without a solid sidekick.

Daily Zen - Tuesday, October 18

Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.
                   - Charles Spurgeon

Monday, October 17, 2011

Jamie Hubley - Another Gay Teen Suicide

Jamie Hubley, Ottawa Canada, 1996-2011
I wish I didn't have to write this post, and I'm sorry you have to read it.

I wish I had just finished reading more online about the economy or the rapture or baseball.

I even wish this was another painful follow-up post about Jamey Rodemeyer, the bullied gay teen who committed suicide last month. It's not.

I wish damaged human beings with complex problems received only love and support, instead of bigger and higher hurdles than they already have.

But wishes like these don't come true.

Jamie Hubley was a 15 year-old gay teen from Canada, the son of a city councilor, who committed suicide this past weekend. He was an avid blogger, he was an excellent figure skater, he was passionate about music. He was a boy.

According to the few news reports I have seen, Jamie was a deeply troubled young man who suffered from severe depression. Like Jamey Rodemeyer, he chose to document his sadness online. His Tumblr blog entitled You can't break...When you're already broken is fraught with the kind of uber-dramatic words and images you might expect from a boy who is crying out for help. It is difficult to read and not appropriate for everyone. Jamie did receive help from his parents, doctors, and counselors, but as with Jamey Rodemeyer, the struggle to go on living was simply too great in the end.

In a heart-wrenching written statement, Jamie's father acknowledged the many overwhelming challenges his son faced, and while perhaps not the only reason for Jamie's decision to commit suicide, being bullied as a gay teen was a factor. Jamie's father also said this:

"Over the years I have tried to help a lot of people and I was very proud that my beautiful boy was also learning the joy that comes from helping others. I need time to deal with the pain of not being able to save my precious boy and will speak more on his life and these issues later."

Jamie's father's full statement is eloquent and beautifully written. I hope you'll take a few minutes to read and reflect on it. There is nothing else I can find to say about this.

Pray the Devil Back to Hell - PBS, October 18

Leymah Gbowee recently won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in helping to end years of bloody civil war in her native Liberia. Gbowee is the central character in the award-winning documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, which makes its U.S. broadcast television premiere on Tuesday, October 18 on the PBS' series Women, War, and Peace.

You might remember Gbowee from a post about Barnes and Noble exec Len Riggio's insistence on funding her book tour.

Congress Stalls Jobs Act, Offers Nothing New

Senators Harry Reid (D) and Mitch McConnell (R)
Photo: Sam Stein/Huffington Post
In the wake of Republican procedural maneuvers that blocked the President's full American Jobs Act last week, Senate Democrats are planning to take a more piecemeal approach to job creation. I'm skeptical they can do even that, but it's fine with me - just show you can all work together to get something done.

Like most Americans, I'm growing increasingly frustrated with Congress' failure to make progress. Democrats have proven themselves to be unable to gain Republican support for their ideas through either persuasion, political outflanking, or sheer muscle, and Republicans continue to suffer from a perpetual dearth of new and decent ideas of their own.

While standing in staunch opposition to the jobs bill proposed by the White House, Congressional Republicans have proposed little to spur job creation and economic growth beyond removing regulations from various industries (which worked out well in the financial sector, right?), repealing Obamacare (which didn't come into law until after the economy was well down the road to hell), and drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge (regardless of the economic impact, Republicans seem bent on defiling this piece of wilderness).

Beyond the halls of Congress, Republican presidential candidates have busied themselves re-packaging the same failed economic policies that led us to the promise land we enjoy today. Texas Governor Rick Perry wants to resurrect the "drill baby, drill"mentality and he has done some funny math (according to Republican journalist David Frum) to try and substantiate the validity of this approach. Meanwhile, Herman Cain is breaking no new ground with his 9-9-9 tax plan which offers the same old Republican recipe of robbing from the middle class to protect the top 10%.

My advice to all of them is the same now as it was when the President first proposed his jobs bill in early September - get busy conducting the nation's critically important business or get ready to be swept out of the way in November 2012.

Turn of Phrase - Mr. Spock on Society and Gayness

"We're terrified of facing ourselves, we're terrified of what we'll find and so, instead we seem to waste time and energy with small-mindedness and intolerance, and with bigotry and with hatred and with fear."

- From actor Zachary Quinto as he considered the societal disparity between the legalization of gay marriage in New York and the suicide of gay teen Jamey Rodemeyer. Quinto, who played Mr. Spock in the last Star Trek film, recently identified himself publicly as gay.

Red Sox Admit to Beer Drinking During Games

Two great American pastimes. 
In A League of Their Own, Tom Hanks famously said, "there's no crying in baseball," but apparently there is beer drinking.

Recent reports claim that Boston Red Sox starting pitchers drank beer, ate fried chicken, and played video games in the clubhouse during games they were not scheduled to pitch. Red Sox starter Jon Lester substantiated the reports, though he claims the behavior was unrelated to the Red Sox monumental September collapse.

I'm doubt this questionable way of passing time during games directly influenced the outcome of any particular contests (it's not likely that a pitcher took the mound with a four beer buzz and a belly full of the Colonel's original recipe), but come on. Baseball is a professional team sport, and this behavior is neither professional nor focused on what is best for the team.

Besides, fighting tedium during the ridiculously long regular baseball season by drinking beer, eating unhealthily, and checking your handheld electronic devices non-stop is what fans do at game, not players.