Monday, December 13, 2010

Global Climate Change

I just had a conversation. Well it wasn't really a conversation, it was more like I listened and couldn't get in a word edgewise. Hence the blog post. Maybe here is a better place for dialog.

The global climate change debate seem to distill down to two major camps, one says climate change is an issue that we should be worried about, and the other says it's a big hoax. Now I'm not a climate scientist, and I don't play one on TV, so personally I have no way of knowing what is true and what isn't. I don't have the time or the background (or the desire) to research this, and even if I did I don't have the base knowledge to make a reasonable judgment on the veracity of the science. I just don't. But that's nothing new, there are MANY topics that I can't understand. So I have to figure out some way of verifying the data, even when I can't understand it. I have to use some sort of logic that can help me make sense of it all.

One way to do this is by using a SME (Subject Matter Expert). We rely on SME's all the time at work. I don't need to know about Drupal, I rely on our SME to set it up so I can use it. To me, it's the same with climate change, I need a SME I can rely on.

But according to what I read, there is great debate on who is or is not a SME, and whether or not we can trust the information coming from them. Again, I can't understand the data, so maybe a SME isn't going to help me here.

So the next thing I weigh are the pros and cons. In this scenario I don't have to know if global climate change is real or a hoax, I just need to figure out the consequences of both positions. This is how it looks to me:

Scenario One: Climate change is real and the are significant consequences to our planet if we don't begin to reign in emissions.

Scenario Two: Climate change is a big hoax and we don't have to do anything. The planet is going through it's typical weather changes, and the spikes in temp are just normal variations.

The people pushing scenario One tell us that we need to spend money and cut emissions. They say this will slow and maybe even reverse climate change. If they are wrong we will spend money we didn't need to spend and slow economic growth. However at the same time we'll make our planet less polluted.

In scenario Two, we don't need to do anything. This will save us money and keep economic growth strong.

As far as I can tell, this is the basic argument. One side says spend money and limit growth to prevent a catastrophe. The other says save money and keep growth, there's no big problem. So if One is correct, the worst case scenario is that we could really screw up our planet. If Two is correct, the worst case scenario is that we spend money that we didn't need to spend and slow economic growth. But we do get a less polluted planet. Right?

Now here's how I make my choices in life. I'm a firm believer in the old adage, "Hope for the best, but plan for the worst." Ask my kids. LOL They know these are words Mom lives by. So using my logic it seems to me that we should be treating climate change as a real threat, because the consequences of being wrong are so much worse if climate change is real and we don't do anything, than if climate change is a hoax.

What am I missing?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stealing the American Dream

***If you're reading this on facebook click "View Original Post" to see the whole thing***

Hi all

I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve become a Netflix junky. Yes, I admit it. I’m sure there’s a 12 step program out there somewhere that I should join, but until then I’m just enjoying the ride.

I’ve become obsessed with a TV show that aired in 2007 called “The Riches.” It’s subversive and dark and I’m amazed that it ever got made. It did get canceled before they could tie it all up, so if you decide to watch it based on my recommendation; know ahead of time there is no real ending. The show was killed midstream, so if you like your plots neat and complete you’ll be disappointed. Though it is unfinished, it is still a brilliant work. The fact that it ends without finalizing everything is really ok, because the ride is worth it; even if you don’t get to see where it was going.

The other caveat is that it is done within the framework of a television drama. So there are elements that go over the top and stretch your belief, but these are minor quibbles and don’t really detract from the underlying message.

Let me tell you about the show. I’ll use broad brush strokes and try not to give away too much. I hate reviews that tell you EVERYTHING that happens, I’ll let you enjoy discovering the details. So with all that out of the way…

“The Riches” follows the lives of a family of American “gypsies”, called Travelers. Travelers are con artists who lie, cheat and bullshit their way through life. They con and steal from everyday citizens, who they refer to as “buffers.” This family of Travelers are Wayne and Dahlia Malloy and their three children. Through a misadventure, they assume the lives of a wealthy family: Doug and Cherien Rich. They “steal” the American Dream. This sets up the premise of the show, which documents the lengths the family goes to hold on to what they’ve gotten. How far will they go, and how will this lifestyle change them are questions that get answered in each subsequent episode.

In the pilot, the oldest boy is afraid to sleep in their new house because he is worried it will “steal their souls.” As the show progresses it seems that this new lifestyle HAS stolen their souls. But of course what has really happened is that they have given up their souls to be what they are not. Wayne says, speaking of himself, “The difference between who he was and who he wanted to be was maybe more than he could bear.” What a terrible dilemma. This longing to be more is the heart of the American Dream, but not everyone can realize their dreams.

At its best, the American Dream pushes us to achieve and strive. We humans seem wired with the need to grow. I think it’s in our evolutionary DNA, and it’s how our species has thrived. But the flip-side of success is failure. Not everyone has the opportunity or the talent to get what they want, not everyone succeeds. The darkness of the American Dream is redefining failure as a fatal flaw inside the person. This side of the American Dream re-contextualizes lack of success as personal defect and renders those who fall short as lesser humans.

Dahlia, Wayne’s wife, is introduced to us as she is leaving prison to rejoin their family after a 2 year absence. Over the first few episodes we discover that she blames Wayne for her incarceration because he was “addicted to the rush.” She implies that it’s the thrill of deceiving people, and taking it farther and farther that drives Wayne and he admits this is true. We also learn that Dahlia has developed a drug addiction while in jail. It first this seems to be a major plot point, but I think this is a little misdirection on the part of the storytellers: Dahlia has the obvious addiction problem, but it’s Wayne’s compulsions that drive the story.

“Connor, I’m a fraud.” At a low point, a point where he’s feeling he just can’t keep up with the hoax he is perpetuating on those around him, Wayne speaks these words to an acquaintance not in on the scam. His eyes widen when he realizes that he has spoken from the heart, and you can feel the tension that comes from this admission. You can also see the longing in Wayne to stop the deception. There are moments when every one of us feels like a fraud. Maybe we failed to live up to an expectation from someone we love; maybe we failed to live up to our own expectations of ourselves. In those moments we too wonder if we aren’t fooling everyone, perhaps even ourselves, about our own self-worth. At that moment Wayne tries to put an end to the deceit.

But Connor misinterprets him. Like a scene from “Being There,” the classic Peter Sellers film, Connor thinks Wayne is speaking metaphorically and so he commiserates and tells Wayne, “We’re ALL frauds,” and the moment passes.

Then Wayne gets the ultimate rush. He does succeed. He fools everyone into thinking he is something he is not, and just like a gambling addiction is fed when the jackpot is hit, Wayne’s ego gets fed and now he just wants more.

Through the first season, the family lies to the world, but not (so much) to each other. The foreshadowing of Wayne’s “addiction to the rush,” begins to develop into a major issue for the family at the start of the second season. Wayne deceives his family, because he doesn’t want to give up being Doug Rich. He has wrapped his identity and self-worth into the charade. The consequences of his deception are severe. Wayne begins to lose all sense of what’s important to him and his family in his desire to keep this new persona.

“Everyone wants more.” It’s a tag line that you will hear repeated in the show. It’s also a fitting coda to the show. Everyone wants more; the question is how far are they willing to go to get it?

It’s the magic of “The Riches” for me. Any work of art should make us think about themes and archetypes of our shared humanity. It doesn’t have to be great art, it can be flawed and incomplete, but if it gives you pause, and makes you think then it fulfills the description of art.

One last thing, please don’t get the impression that this program is unrelentingly dark and depressing. Just as a painter relieves the darkness with light, The Riches leavens the drama with doses of humor and love. The scenes between Wayne and Dahlia, played by Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver are a case study in humanity. Their love for each other comes through even as they fail each other.

Watch the pilot, even if you decide not to watch any further, it’s well worth your time.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

At The Movies...Game 6

We started Netflix this month. I'm ambivalent about it. But I'm finding some older movies that I never knew about, and a few are real gems. I watched one last night that was really good, it's called Game 6. The movie uses the allegory of a sports fan following their team (with all the emotional ups and downs that entails) as a metaphor for life.

The main character, played brilliantly by Micheal Keaton, is a playwright whose new play is opening the same night his team is playing game 6 of the World Series. But this is just the overt plot...the subplot is all about how we handle our successes and our failures. And how easy it can be to sabotage the brightest moments in our life because of our own personal demons.

This is a thoroughly human film, that while sometimes dark, never gives up on our capacity for optimism. You don't have to be a sports fan to like it, but sports fans get the added layer of recognition for a kindred soul in Keaton. Robert Downey Jr. plays the much feared and hated theater critic whose opinion will make or break Keaton. It's a fun quirky role (he seems especially gifted at those) that adds a nice bit of the absurd into the mix, because life is also absurd, isn't it?

I despise movie reviews that reveal too much, so I'm not going to give away any more. But if you like intelligent, well-written, well acted movies that give you layers of things to enjoy, this could be a real treat. I'd recommend it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Insuring Everyone

The measure that's in the new health care law that has my family most excited is the part that bars insurance companies from excluding people who have pre-existing conditions. If you are unlucky enough to have a major health care issue then you know exactly what I mean. Until the new health care bill was passed, if your insurance company wanted to drop you, or not insure you because you had, say cancer, they could do this. You cannot imagine how much fear and stress this causes in a family: without health insurance you are completely vulnerable to your disease.

In order to get insurance companies to support this measure the Democrats and Obama added wording to the bill to require that everyone purchase health insurance. Because this part could be devastating to working families they put in subsidies to help people buy insurance if it wasn’t affordable.

This second part is what makes the first part possible. If you don’t have to have health insurance many people will do without until they need it. If you require insurance companies to cover everyone, then the only people who buy insurance will be people who are sick and this will bankrupt the system. So you require everyone to buy in and you require that insurance companies must insure everyone. These two parts must be in place for this to work.

At yesterday’s “Value Voters” conference Republican Mike Huckabee said this:

"And a lot of this, it sounds so good, and it's such a warm message to say we're not gonna deny anyone from a preexisting condition. Look, I think that sounds terrific, but I want to ask you something from a common sense perspective. Suppose we applied that principle that you can just come along with whatever condition you have and we're gonna cover you at the same cost we're covering everybody else 'cause we wanna be fair. Okay, fine. Then let's do that with our property insurance. And you can call your insurance agent and say, 'I'd like to buy some insurance for my house.' He'd say, 'Tell me about your house.' 'Well sir, it burned down yesterday, but I'd like to insure it today.' And he'll say 'I'm sorry, but we can't insure it after it's already burned.' Well, no preexisting conditions.

"How would you like to be able to call your insurance agent for your car and say 'I want you to insure my car.' 'Well tell me about your car.' 'Well it was a pretty nice vehicle until my sixteen year-old boy wrecked it yesterday. [He] totaled the thing out but I'd like to get it insurance so we can get it replaced.' Now how much would a policy cost if it covered everything? About as much as it's gonna cost for health care in this country."

He is distorting and outright lying about what this bill does. He's saying that people will be able to "burn down their house," (in other words, get sick) and still be able to buy insurance. How AWFUL! If you get sick, you are bad and wrong and shouldn't expect the insurance companies to cover you! But this is a lie, the bill doesn't let people do this, and Mike Huckabee knows it.

The Republicans rail against requiring people to buy health insurance, and they rail against forcing insurance companies to sell insurance to everyone, because they hate the health care bill. But they shouldn't be able to distort what the bill actually does just because they don't like it.

Without these two laws we are back to the situation that Bill and I know so well: when you desperately need health insurance you may NOT BE ABLE TO GET IT. I don't want to go back to that, do you?

The Republicans were wrong on the bill during the debate and they are wrong now to want to repeal this act. Millions of citizens will benefit, and the worry and stress on families will be less when they know they can continue to keep their loved ones insured.

Value Voters! Yeah, right. Promoting families! Yeah right. Those are values that require more than just words. Anyone can say they love Mom and Apple Pie, but when it actually require action these people are absent.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Harvey Milk

In light of the California Prop 8 ruling I re-watched the documentary on the life of Harvey Milk, not the Sean Penn movie.

If you haven't seen it before, or if it's been a long time, take 90 minutes and watch it. It's a great reminder of how far we've come as a society and how far gay rights have progressed.

When the Prop 8 ruling came down I remember thinking to myself how someone like Milk, if you could magically transplant them to today, would have reacted? What would they think about the place where we've come? Attitudes and values have changed so much for us to get to this place with gay marriage. Not that I'm naive enough to think that there aren't those who want to go back, to put gays back in the closet or worse, but for the majority of us who think that gay rights is the same as African-American rights, is the same as human-rights, we've come so far in our country and I'm proud of us.

I just read a book called "The Lacuna" where the main character is gay and it's set in the 1950's. He has NO place to go. Coming out isn't even an option. His gayness is the only reason needed to hate him and fear him. But today, thanks to people like Harvey Milk, that is no longer the case.

I think too, that part of what has gotten us here is that we all have children, friends, family-members or co-workers who are gay. And what was once fearful and other is now common and day to day..and finally simply someone just like us. It's hard to hate your own child, it's hard to hate someone you deal with every day at the office. And it's especially hard when they seem to have the same sort of lives and loves, fears and hopes that we all share. We are humans and so are they, whether we want to see it or not.

To hate minorities of any kind, be it color or sexual orientation, country of origin, or whatever...when you fall into those positions you demean the whole of humanity.

We have to treat all people with dignity because that is the way we ensure a world worth living in.

More on Prop 8

Here are two articles from Time that really say a lot about the arc of this historic case. The first was written before Judge Walker ruled. It says that no matter what the outcome this case has changed assumptions:

But the trial, win or lose, has put on the dock a series of basic assumptions about what living in America should be like for millions of its citizens. For decades, governments at every level have created one set of rules for heterosexuals in America, and another set for its gays and lesbians. What the challenge to Prop 8 — California's 2008 vote to change its constitution to ban gay marriage — is all about is gathering hard evidence about the roots of that uneven playing field.

The second examines the outcome.

I thought both were well written and worth reading.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Prop 8 ruling

I just read the ruling against Prop 8. Some of the ruling was based on the idea that gender roles have changed. The judge said that since marriage is no longer based on unchangeable, rigid gender roles (men provide and rule, women raise kids) that it was not possible to based marriage on antiquated ideas of gender.

"The evidence shows that the movement of marriage away from a gendered institution and toward an institution free from state-mandated gender roles reflects an evolution in the understanding of gender rather than a change in marriage. The exclusion [of gays from marriage] exists as an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage. That time has passed."
So if you live in a country like Saudi Arabia you could legitimately argue against gay marriage since there men and women have totally different defined and unchanging roles. But we live in a free and open society, not bound by rigid stereotyping of gender so it's impossible to find gay marriage wrong. In other words, since the roles of men and women in our society are NOT based on gender: stay-at-home Dads, working Moms, there is no way to base "marriage" on gender.

He also based it on the Constitutional argument that a majority cannot subjugate a minority just based on numbers. The judge said that you can't base laws on majority opposition unless that opposition was based on FACTS. The framers were wise to realize that just because "everyone knows" something, it doesn't mean it's true. Since the lawyers arguing for Prop 8 never proved that gay marriage was harmful based on scientific research, their views were only opinions and in the court of law only facts based on solid research count.

The entire ruling is really worth reading.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Extension Ladders and Chainsaws don't mix.

****Facebook users click on View Original Post below to see all***

We have a rule at our house. It’s a rule that came from a series of mishaps that are funny in retrospect, but could have easily been catastrophic.

Our rule is: Chainsaws and extension ladders don’t mix.

Now I realize that there is an entire category of people for whom chainsaws and extension ladders are an integral part of their job description, but that doesn’t describe me or my husband.

It started on the day we decided that the large limb that stretched horizontally across our driveway was a potential hazard. (We had no idea how true this was, just not in the way we’d imagined it) The limb was a good 25 inches around and stretched out 60 feet from the trunk of the tree. It was about 25 feet off the ground.

My husband was the proud owner of a new chainsaw. He’d spent the past few weeks chewing up logs on our property and he was ready for a fresh challenge. He got the ladder out of the garage and laid it against the branch. The ladder was just high enough to reach and extend 6 inches or so above. He climbed up and down a couple of times to test it and it seemed stable. Now he wasn’t stupid enough to saw the wrong side off: we’ve seen enough cartoon characters to NEVER make that mistake. No, the mistake we made was subtler.

Do you see the problem? Neither did we.

With me watching from behind at a safe distance, my husband took his chainsaw up the ladder and began to cut the branch. He cut below, then finished cutting through on the top. The branch fell to the ground…

…and the limb the ladder was leaning against trembled, then it LIFTED 6 INCHES. The decrease in weight making it much lighter than it had been before. The top of the ladder was now BARELY making contact with the branch. My husband descended as fast as he could and made it safely to the ground before the ladder slid under the limb and crashed to the ground.
We both looked at each other in shock. He was trembling and so was I. That had been a REALLY close call. We took some breaths and laughed nervously about how dumb we’d been not to foresee the problem.

But after a bit we relaxed and began to talk of what to do about the remaining part of the limb. Husband says that he’s up for putting the ladder DIRECTLY on the trunk of the tree and then cutting off the limb from there, obviously we cannot lean the ladder on the branch again. So he positions the ladder (which had survived the drop unharmed) and he begins to cut through the limb…

…and I watch as the limb begins to fall, but then catches on a remaining part and swings like a pendulum and CRASHES into the middle of the ladder. Both our hearts stop, though I’m sure his worse than mine since he’s the one standing on it, 25 feet above the ground.

The ladder bends. It bends A LOT.

But it holds.

Again husband makes a flying dash down and gets to the ground.

And this is how we decided to enact the rule: Extension ladders cannot be used with chainsaws.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. --US Constitution

Anyone who tries to say that the Constitution doesn't promote the separation of church and state hasn't read it. The founding fathers were extremely wary of including religion in the laws of our country having seen the troubles that came from government trying to legally enforce a religion on its people.

We're fighting against religious extremism in the form of fundamentalist Muslims, why would we want to promote the exact same sort of Christian fundamentalism in our own country? A secular government is the only way to protect the religious freedom of ALL citizens. Political leaders who try and tell people that this is a Christian nation completely miss that if the government were to promote Christianity it would put government in the religion business. For a group who says that they don't trust government this is pretty ridiculous: you don't trust government to get anything right, yet you want government in charge of promoting religion.

I've also noticed that those who want government to promote religion always assume it will be THEIR religion that will be promoted.

"History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. --Thomas Jefferson

"The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man." --Thomas Jefferson

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Pope placed known criminal predators in charge of children. He should resign.

The culture was different back in the 60's, but it has never been permissible to molest children. In two cases we know about the current Pope placed known criminal predators in charge of children. It is unconscionable.

It should be just as important to the Catholic Church to guard the kids already under their care as it is to champion the rights of those who aren’t yet born. What is wrong with these men? How can they not understand the crime that was committed?

The Pope should resign.

Monday, March 22, 2010

What's in the health care bill?

Here are some links for more information about the health care bill ->

I found this chart online and I think it's really useful to show you who gets what:,0,7818440.graphic

This is from speaker Pelosi's website, so I assume it's prolly got a fair share of rah rah rah, but it does seem to be a very comprehensive guide:

Here's a bit of info on the exchanges from Ezra Klein's blog:

Speaking of Klein, he's got a series of posts explaining the bill all tagged with "explaining health-care reform." You can find his intro column here:

The bottom line is that this bill is far less than many of us wanted. I badly wanted the Medicare age to be dropped to 55. Hell, I'd like to see Medicare for all-also known as Socialized Medicine, but it wasn't going to happen. But, as so many have said, it's a start. It will help those most in need and begin (hopefully) to change the health insurance dynamic in this country from one of have vs have not, to a more equitable program.

My other frustration with the bill is process related, since Republicans decided to oppose the bill unilaterally, we didn't get any benefit from an honest give and take discussion between conservatives, liberals and moderates. Instead we got screams about killing Grandma, Death Panels and Socialist Tyranny. It's funny (sad) that this is the sort of bill that past Republican politicians could have written. It's damn near Mitt Romney's Massachusetts health care plan, and similar to what Nixon proposed back in the 70's. But now Republican leaders are beholden to their extreme right wing so this pretty moderate plan is demonized.

In the end, it will help those who really need it and keep the insurance companies from denying people coverage. Those are two very worthwhile goals.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Silence gives assent

Where are the leaders of the Republican party when their supporters are shouting racist slurs? They are silent.

The Tea Partiers are not a spontaneous uprising of disaffected citizens who are angry about bailouts. This is the base of the modern Republican party, and they are the same kind of people who were co-opted by the Republican "Southern Strategy" so many years ago.

The leadership of the Republican party can not condemn them because they NEED them to win their elections. They continue to dance with racists and bigots because that's who brought them to where they are today.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fingernail Art

Not politics.
Not food.
Not children.


I'm having way too much fun with fingernail art.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Why I don't watch the Sunday "news" shows

This week John McCain won't be on the Sunday talk shows...I'm shocked. But guess who will be?

Tom DeLay. Tom DeLay, likely the most unethical scum who has ever been majority leader in the Senate. Why, of all the people to have on, would you book Tom DeLay? Our press corp is really a mess.
Another interesting post, this one on health care. Since I can't seem to send a link through Facebook I'll just paste it in.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Innocence in Journalism

Jay Rosen has a fascinating new blog post, about how journalists leave out reality when writing, and how that's harming their profession and resulting in less information for their readers.

It's really worth checking out.