Saturday, December 20, 2008

Milk: The Best Movie of 2008

It's possible I might see a better movie in the next two weeks, but I doubt it.

When history is known (like, say, with the upcoming WWII movie Valkyrie about a plot to assassinate Hitler), a movie can loose its dramatic tension since "we know what happens." A good director, screenwriter and cast can compensate by dynamic direction, an intelligent script and spot-on acting. Milk succeeds on all points. Director Gus Van Sant and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black have created a compelling movie. And Sean Penn gives the most joyful, winning performance I've ever seen from him.

Milk is the story of an unlikely political activist. Harvey Milk was a closeted gay guy in New York City until his very late 30s. The early scenes of Milk remind you what a bad old time the '50s and '60s were for gay men, with old footage of police raids on gay bars.

By the early '70s, Harvey had met Scott, a much younger man. They ran off to San Francisco together where they opened a camera store. They had a very affectionate relationship. If this movie had been about a heterosexual couple and not a homosexual couple, it would have been rated PG-13 instead of R. Still, I've heard reports of some audience members leaving during the early kissing scenes (there are some sex scenes, but they are extremely discreet). Why would you go to a movie about a gay man coming out of the closet if watching two men kissing was going to upset you? I didn't leave when the hate-mongers in the movie spewed homophobia; this is truly disgusting compared to two men (or two women) kissing.

As a business owner, Harvey understood the importance of being out and being organized. He became a frequently unsuccessful candidate for local office, while becoming more politically able and building a network of young men to support neighborhood causes. In these scenes, some of the actors are actually old friends of Harvey's from the '70s. In at least five different scenes, you see the writer Frank Robinson, a man who was Harvey's contemporary. While I wish they'd mentioned who Frank was, it was nice to see he was involved in the movie.

Harvey became an expert at working the crowd and working the press. While Scott had served as Harvey's campaign manager, he was disillusioned by politics and the pair split up. Harvey went on to win the 1977 election for city supervisor. Harvey became involved with a volatile Hispanic man named Jack, and became close friends with Cleve Jones.

Even though Harvey had a local victory, he got very involved fighting California's Proposition 6, a measure to fire gay teachers and their supporters. It was promoted by Anita Bryant (who only appears in this movie in old clips - a nice touch to reinforce how passe she should be) and John Briggs, a California state senator. After months of pushing, Harvey got to debate John several times. In the run-up to the statewide vote on Prop 6, Jack committed suicide which left Harvey fairly depressed. However, after pollsters and early results made it look like Prop 6 would pass, it wound up failing by a large margin.

While he was fighting against Prop 6, Harvey tried to cultivate positive relationships with the other city supervisors. The relationship between he and newly-elected conservative supervisor Dan White was fairly contentious. After months of not getting any legislation passed, Dan resigned from the city supervisors and tried to get his job back. When he didn't get it, he smuggled himself in the city office building, and assassinated both Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk.

The movie certainly captured the grief of San Francisco following these assassinations. But these impact of these murders went way beyond San Francisco. I was 21, married, and living in Pittsburgh when I heard about them. To this day, I can't watch that famous tape of Diane Feinstein informing the public of the murders without weeping. And I had the same reaction today, at the beginning and ending of Milk. But most of Milk is one of the most vivid recreations of the '70s I've ever seen, with a performance that should win Sean Penn his second Oscar (and, maybe an supporting actor Oscar nomination for James Franco's fine performance as Scott). Emile Hirsch was good as Cleve Jones, who later went on to be an AIDS activist and create the Names Project (the AIDS Quilt).

This movie must be seen by the people least likely to see it - the people who think things like Proposition 8 are a good idea. Consenting adults deserve to live their lives as they choose, without fear of retribution.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Vision for American Change

The Obama site has invited Americans to submit their vision for changing the country. Here's what I sent them:

The Obama campaign tapped into the power of distributing information and encouraging volunteerism by its great Web outreach. The Obama administration could do much more of the same.

There are people all over this country who would love to work for the Obama administration. We aren't interested in big jobs or living in Washington. We interesting in helping to coordinate federal resources and local needs. The Web can be a powerful tool in decentralizing and accomplishing more on the local level.

For many years, the Federal government has been portrayed as being completely out of touch with the varied types of communities across this country. To some degree, this has been true, in Republican as well as Democratic administrations. As President-elect Obama well knows, being a community organizer should be a high calling in this society.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Democracy Is a Great Thing!

After two federal elections with some questionable results, Americans showed yesterday that the more people who vote, the harder it is for the people engaged in vote suppression and vote fraud to get away with it. Yes, there were some problems, but the overwhelming number of voters and the people who worked the polls to defend the principle of "one person one vote" more than compensated for those problems.

Good luck, president-elect Obama and vice president-elect Biden!!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Congratulations, President-Elect Obama!

I'm very happy he's won.

I give Senator McCain credit - he gave a very fine concession speech.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Not Dead Yet - American Democracy

Keep it alive - if you are registered, vote tomorrow!

Don't stand for people engage in vote fraud, vote suppression or anything else that tries to screw with our democracy. The more people who vote, the harder it is to game the system.

If you see any problems, contact:

Election Protection -- 866-687-8683
Black Box Voting -- 206-335-7747


Your County's Election Board; you might take the time to look up this number before you go vote.

(If you put "voter fraud" into Google today, the Web site comes up as a paid ad, put if you put "report vote fraud" into Google, you get an Obama paid ad! *sigh*)

And may the best candidates win!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Report from Barack Obama's Pittsburgh Rally

I had the opportunity to volunteer for the Barack Obama rally in Pittsburgh on Monday. A local organizer connected me to Sally Matts, so we could commute together to Pittsburgh.

We took the 28X into town and got up to the Mellon Arena a little after 1. A long line had already formed:


Start of the line

Towards the end:

towards the end of the line

In the middle:

towards the middle of the line

The line extended for several blocks (up past St. Benedict the Moor church for the folks familiar with the area).

We waited around while the staff got the volunteers organized. That took a while. They wanted most of us to encourage the attendees to sign up to help Get Out the Vote over the weekend...but ran out of clipboards before Sally and I got them.

I've worked all kinds of events, and one thing that was really clear from this one is that there was inadequate signage. I walked around a little, and suggested to Sally that we invent a job for ourselves. We decided to escort handicapped attendees up to the handicapped entrance, which was on the far side of the Mellon Arena from the main street entrance. We talked to a staffer who agreed that was a good idea.

So we stood about midway up the hill to the Arena, where the entrance road and the parking lot meet. When we saw someone who seemed to be having trouble, we brought them up to the handicapped entrance.

This was tricky (of course). The sidewalk was blocked off in places, so we'd direct people in wheelchairs to the adjacent road. There were surprisingly few cuts through the curb for wheelchairs. The one closest to the handicapped entrance had a car parked in front if it illegally. Luckily, there was still enough space around the car that people in mobies could get back up onto the sidewalk.

And then, someone who was either with the fire department or the TSA (not sure which) parked in front of the illegally parked car in such a way that we could no longer get handicapped attendees up the ramp and back onto the sidewalk. I went to him and said, "Um, excuse me, sir? Could you push ahead a little so we could get people back on the sidewalk?"

He growled at me a little, and went off in search of the person who was parking illegally. Luckily, he found the person pretty fast, the person drove away, and the cops stuck a sawhorse in front of the ramp so no one could park in the way.

Sally got cold and went inside. I begged her to save me a seat and she did.

I managed to stay outside until about 4:30, when I got too cold and had to go in. The speeches were due to start at 5, but I figured Obama would be running late. I found another volunteer and got him to help bring handicapped attendees up to the special entrance.

I hit the bathroom, bought some "dinner" (hot dog and popcorn) and found Sally. She'd saved great seats not too far from the podium and off the floor in the staff area. The Arena seats 17,000 for hockey games. While there was a floor over the ice, there floor wasn't completely filled up by people (the press area was spacious and not filled). Not every fixed seat in the arena was filled either. I'd estimate there were between 14,000 and 15,000 in the arena, a good crowd given it was a weekday, the weather was cold, and we'd only heard about this on Friday.

The TV camera area was towards our right:

TV camera area

The floor and the podium were towards our left, just to the left of all those supporters who were standing:

the crowd across from us

The rally was due to start at 5. The weird thing was that the rally started at about 4:45. Rallies almost never start early. Governor Ed Rendell, Senator Bob Casey and local Congressional Representative Mike Doyle gave short speeches. Then there was nearly a half hour of recorded music (and I don't think the writers/performers have asked Obama not to use it, unlike some other campaigns I could mention).

Just before 5:30, Steeler president Dan Rooney came out to introduce Barack Obama. When Obama came onstage, the cheers were deafening. Rooney handed him a Steelers' jersey:

Barack Obama with Dan Rooney

Sally Matts foreground, Barack Obama background

Sally Matts foreground, Barack Obama background

I've heard Obama speak on TV a number of times. While he's often a little stiff, he speaks very intelligently, unlike your average politician. He sounds like he's thinking about what he's saying and not just repeating sound bites or blurting out something wildly inappropriate. It was definitely worthwhile to hear him speak in person. Yeah, there were bits and pieces of his standard stump speech and his Democratic National Convention speech, but he seems to adapt it slightly for his audience.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Obama's speech, which lasted about a half hour, hit all the right notes. People were still coming in, half-way through his speech. The audience was enthusiastic. There were only one or two hecklers. Everyone was welcome to this rally (no tickets, no vetting by local Democrats). The fact there were so few Republican intrusions was indicative of the fact that McCain/Palin don't have as much support in Pittsburgh as they'd like to pretend (when they were in Western Pennsylvania last week, McCain drew about 4,400 people and Palin about 2,000). The Democratic vote in and near the main cities usually exceeds the Republican vote in the rural parts of the state, and I hope this will be true this year.

It was a great rally!

My favorite sign:

We Want Change!

After his speech, Obama went down on the floor to shake hands. Sally and I decided we'd just as soon find the bus and get home, which we did.

I took a test this morning which I saw in adelheid-p's Live Journal.

You Should Be Allowed to Vote

You got 15/15 questions correct.

Generally speaking, you're very well informed.

If you vote this election, you'll know exactly who (and what) you'll be voting for.

You're likely to have strong opinions, and you have the facts to back them up.

There's only one more thing to say: VOTE!!!!!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Meme: So What Were You Writing About the Federal Election in 2004?

Every once in a while, I get a sense of "deja vu all over again" about the presidential election. So, I went back and read my November, 2004 blog entries (if you want to read them, remember, jump to the bottom of the file and work your way up).

Hmm, I was overconfident (briefly), but not so much that I didn't work on the campaign or vote.

The post-election analysis was interesting. Fewer people voted than Democrats counted on and the youth voting rate was no higher in 2004 than it had been in 2000. I sincerely hope both of those things will turn out differently this time.

So, here's an informal meme for you - if you wrote about the 2004 election online, link to it from your blog or LiveJournal or however you write on the Internet. What were you thinking then? What do you think now? What do you think will be different this time?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A "Pro-Jobs" Tax Ad - with Grover Norquist???

I saw one of those political ads (sponsored by "Americans for Tax Reform") that spoke darkly about "changing the tax structure will lose jobs."

The man narrating the ad was Grover Norquist.

That name was a blast from the past, where Norquist should stay. Norquist was the guy behind all those tax cuts Bush pushed back in 2001. In short, Norquist is the architect of the unprecedented deficit our government currently has.

Norquist is also the person who famously said:

My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.

So if you want to live in a third world country, by all means, support the current tax structure, or candidates who would blindly leap into more tax cuts.

It's amazing that this group can be a 501(c)3. While this group wasn't specifically mentioning any particular party or candidate, it's clear they think we're still overtaxed and are encouraging voters to vote against the tax rate increases a responsible government needs to institute. If we had a strong national infrastructure and no deficit, I might agree that Americans are overtaxed. But we have a crumbling infrastructure, inferior schools, extraordinarily uneven medical care and a massive deficit.

I don't think people making over $100,000 a year are being overtaxed. There's every evidence that they're not, thanks to nearly eight years of irresponsible Republican "leadership."

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Single Issue Folks Are At It Again...

With the economy tanking, the government bailing out Wall St and many other problems, some things never change. The anti-abortion fanatics are at it again, showing large, graphic posters on Route 60 in Robinson today and calling Obama a "baby killer."

Maybe those of us who against war should print up large graphic posters of the war dead, and talk about "killer" McCain?

While I believe strongly in the right of women to chose abortion or birth control, I'm not a single-issue voter so I do not use this a litmus test. I voted for Casey, despite the fact he does not agree with my views on abortion.

This country cannot afford another Republican administration. For people to claim that they are "pro-life," it's unbelievable that they can't be bothered to understand that the Republicans have been anything but.

Monday, October 06, 2008

McCain Graduated a class of 899...from Annapolis!

That's such an amazing statistic, I'm surprised no one has raised it before.

W. is reported to have graduated in the bottom 20th percentile from Yale.

Barack Obama graduated from Columbia and got his law degree from Harvard magna cum laude.

Let's have a smart president for a change!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Carl Sagan Predicted the Current State of America - in 1995

I was always a big fan of Carl Sagan's. The science blog The Intersection has reminded us that Carl Sagan predicted the current anti-science attitude of so many in America. If anyone in power had bothered to pay attention, we might not quite be in this state now:

Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.

Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan The Demon-Haunted World

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Another Problem with the Republican-Proposed Bailout - Who Pays???

"Notice how the taxation ring on the right is dark and quiet, even though the government needs the better part of an extra terabuck? I guess the theory is that reckless borrowing got us into this mess and reckless borrowing can get us out."

Blogger Mike Benveniste

Yeah, that's yet another problem with the Bush bailout, if not the biggest problem with it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Palin Supporters and Ongoing Theme of Constant Outrage Over NOTHING

I saw this headline at CNN today:

"Palin incest spoof on SNL draws fire"

but it was attached to a video and I didn't want to watch it. I finally found a printed article, to see if Palin supporters were really that stupid.

Yes, it turns out that some of them are. Perpetually outraged, because actually thinking about the ramifications of a satire is a bit beyond many of them.

I watched Saturday Night Live over the weekend, and saw the skit in question. It skewered journalists, not the Palins. The skit made the Palins look like victims of the media, and it made journalists look unbelievably stupid and vapid. The right wing should have been applauding it.

But no...

On the other hand, journalists have generally been bright enough to understand it was a satire, and haven't been so offended.

"Privatizing Gains, Socializing Losses..." Describing the US Financial Mess in Four Words

New York Times columnist Gretchen Morgenson was on NPR's "Fresh Air" today, and she succinctly summed up the problem with the bail-out Bush and buddies are pushing.

It's critical that the US not rush into fixing this problem. Our government needs to take a deep breath and ensure that as little federal money goes into this as possible and that safeguards are implemented rather than ignored.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tell Your Senator to Vote CAUTIOUSLY on Any Massive Financial Bailout

E-mail or call your senator today to ask for caution and oversight. Senator Dodd's plan is more in the right direction than the "no strings" plan the Republicans are pushing.

One person in government cannot control that kind of money. As we've seen over the last seven years by the Republicans, absolutely power corrupts absolutely. And money is power.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What Obama Needs to do...

Offer more plans for dealing with the financial mess the Republicans got us into. There were way too many cozy deals being made for financial institutions during the Bush/Cheney administration. Frankly, many of us believe that the bailouts will cover golden parachutes for upper management and nothing for the middle class people with investments.

Hit the Republicans and Palin for ignoring supeonas. A person who claims to be a reformer cannot ignore supeonas. Politicians keep behaving like they're above the law - Obama should hit this attitude often.

I still have a great deal of respect for Obama, but he needs to be a bit more forceful. It almost seemed like he peaked with his wonderful acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention and has been surprisingly quiet since then. America can't afford for him to be quiet.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Issues Do Matter - The Science 2008 Debate

In the middle of the first set of Palin bruhahas, Obama's office released information some of us were waiting for:

Barack Obama's answers to the top 14 science questions facing America

Granted, the media and many Americans have demonstrated they aren't as interested in the issues as they ought to be. I keep waiting for James Carville to pipe up "It's the economy, stupid," or someone (anyone) to notice our massive, massive deficit.

The Science 2008 Debate has been an attempt to get the candidates focused on issues that should be important to more Americans. Thanks to the Obama campaign for taking the time to look at these important issues.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Movie Review: Bottle Shock

Bottle Shock has the look and feel of a nicely-photographed, well-cast indy movie...for about half of the movie. The other half of the movie, unfortunately, thinks it is a Hollywood movie about '70s stoner-style kids, with a hacknied plot about an uptight father trying to straighten out his college-age son, and a potentially more interesting plot about a talented winemaker trying to break out on his own that gets lost in the shuffle.

Alan Rickman's part of the movie is much better than Bill Pullman/ChrisPine's part of the movie. Rickman plays a stodgy Brit living in Paris running a wine shop. He and American ex-patriot Dennis Farina sit and discuss wine. Rickman, not being French, is given no respect by the French wine critics. He and Farina come up with an idea (this being the summer of '76) to organize a blind taste test of American and French wines in honor of the American bicentennial.

In California wine country, Bill Pullman is running a failing vineyard. You know it's failing because he's had to go to the bank again for another loan on the place which already has multiple loans outstanding. His son, played by Chris Pine seems to help some with the business when he isn't busy having sex, surfing or smoking dope. He's friends with one of the vineyard employees, Freddy Rodriguez (who is terrific in a part that isn't fully developed). Rodriguez plays a whiz at identifying wine types and vintages in blind tastings. He is secretly working with his father to create their own wine.

They're joined by Rachel Taylor who, sadly, has little more to do in this movie than be eye candy. Eliza Dushku, practically the only other woman in the movie, plays a ballsy bar owner.

When Rickman goes to California in search of interesting wines to test, Pullman's wines are among the ones he tries and likes. While Rickman's character is a wine snob, and is convinced of the superiority of French wines, he clearly thinks the American wines have improved beyond that 70s favorite, Gallo Hearty Burgundy.

The middle of the movie gets very muddy; still has plenty of nice photography and shots of people enjoying wine on beautiful California hillsides. But the stoner son suddenly goes off and gets money from a relative and you don't know who she is until later in the movie. The stoner son and the eye candy jump from bed to bed without giving it a second thought (sure there was some of that in the '70s but...). The movie regains its focus and its humor when the stoner son helps the British wine snob get fellow travelers to hand carry two cases of wine so the wine won't be subject the rigors and cold of the plane's cargo hold.

Finally, the wine arrives safely in France, and the famous blind wine tasting, The Battle of Paris, begins. It's no surprise now, but two American wines take top honors which stuns the French. One of those wines is from the failing vineyard, so the father's business is saved.
The implication is, however, that the wine snob's business may have gone from slow to completely dead after the competition, for helping to show that French wines aren't necessarily the best.

I really wanted to like this movie, but I was somewhat disappointed. I like clever movies that don't rely on Hollywood tropes. Part of the point of a good indy movie is that it doesn't need every silly Hollywood convention. When the movie stayed true to the story of wine lovers and their various competitions, it was a much better movie. Rickman was very good, so it's worth going to see it if you're a fan of his.

While the production values were generally pretty good, and the costumes were always spot-on, sometimes the lighting, sound and editing were off. The movie also had an annoying number of things from the '80s showing up in the '70s, like "modern" wine labels, recycle deposit
information on wine bottles and UPC codes. But, the biggest problem with this movie is that it was trying to combine the charm of an indy movie with the plot devices of a Hollywood movie. Kind of like trying to blend cabernet and riesling grapes and wondering why that blend
doesn't work.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Near-Crime Story That's Very Funny

That sort of thing doesn't happen often enough.

I've had a very busy summer, dealing with some part-time jobs, some very busy volunteer work and something like a vacation. Things are calming way down. Now that Denvention is winding down, I don't plan to take a major role in convention work for a while. I'm not gafiating (I have two fairly simple jobs for Anticipation next year); I'm taking more of a sabbatical.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The "Would You Have Been A Nazi?" Meme

I liked the answer I got!

Many Americans comprehend the difference between disliking our government and caring about our country. In fact, since we care about America (and the Constitution), we strongly disagree with the current government.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Confluence, Pittsburgh's Science Fiction Convention, July 25-27, Joe Haldeman, Kathryn Cramer, Lord Landless

Confluence is a small, friendly science fiction convention with a terrific con suite, lots of discussion and music!

Our GoH is Joe Haldeman (yes, he will bring his guitar), the P. Schulyer Miller Critic Guest is Kathryn Cramer and the special music guest is Lord Landless. Other program participants and/or filk performers include: S. C. Butler, Ken Chiacchia, Lawrence C. Connolly, Juanita Coulson, Eric Leif Davin, Lawrence Dean, Susan Dexter, Andy Eigel, Marty Coady Fabish, Stephen C. Fisher, Pete Grubbs, Gay Haldeman, David Hartwell, William H. Keith, Jr, Fruma Klass, Geoffrey Landis, Timothy E. Liebe, Paul Melko, Judi Miller, James Morrow, Kathy Morrow, Charles Oberndorf, Naomi Pardue, Tamora Pierce, Silva, Bud Sparhawk, William Tenn, Diane Turnshek, Mary Turzillo, Dave Wells and Darren Ziege. Yes, Poexry is Friday night, and, on Saturday, our local players will be performing an original satire by Jim Morrow on Saturday night.

Our hotel is the Doubletree Pittsburgh Airport. It's close enough to the airport to be a free shuttle ride away, but not so close that airport noise will keep you up all weekend. Parking is free, and you can walk to a number of local restaurants. Our hotel block closes July 3.

Conflunce also features a large (and sold out) Dealers Room, Art Show and Video Program (the theme this year is "Comics and Graphic Novels to Movies"). We also run Autographings, Readings and Literary Beers, to give you the chance to see your favorite writer in a smaller setting.

Prereg closes July 3. One day memberships will be available at the door.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Possible Service Outtage

I'm in the process of moving to a slightly different domain hosting program at Pair. As a result, my mail and Website may flake out over the next day. I expect everything to be back to normal as the nameserver updates are propagated around.

If you need to reach my domains, try

Jim's mail service could also be disrupted as serves's mail.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Senator Kennedy and Dying in Old Age

I was reading an acquaintance's LJ, and found some "oh it's part of the Kennedy Curse" whinging about the Senator Kennedy's cancer diagnosis. A number of people agreed with with original posting.

I had to disagree:


OK, I'll say it - he's 76 years old.

That means he, like his mother and father before him, lived longer than average.

He's not part of any mythic "Kennedy curse" (though you could certainly make a case for some of his older siblings and two of his nephews).

He survived a plane crash in the mid-60s (with a broken back), a car crash in 1969 (that killed his companion) and more eating, drinking, and fooling around (when he was younger apparently) than most people.

If anything, he's been the luckiest Kennedy of them all.

Think about it - we all die. He's not 26 - he's 76.

Sorry, I've generally liked Teddy and voted for him at least once, but I'm not in denial about his age or condition physical condition.

Last I looked, dying in old age wasn't a curse.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sorry I Haven't Been Blogging Much Here

I've been busy with an interesting class (have a paper due this Thursday), following the local shooting of The Road, and, busiest of all, have been an extra in a 20-something comedy called She's Out of My League. I'll probably only have another day or two of extra shooting. As a longtime movie fan, it's been mostly a blast.

I will vote in the Pennsylvania primary on April 22. For the last year, I was planning to vote for Hillary Clinton. Now, I'm not so sure. It's not just her vote for the Iraq war, though that was one of the stupider thing she did. I just haven't liked the tone of her whole campaign over the last few months. Barack has about as much experience now as Bill Clinton did in 1992, and, somehow, that doesn't make him experienced enough to be president now?

I'd really like to see a woman in the White House. But I'd also like someone not so beholden to special interests, and someone who's an inspiring speaker (for a change!).

I'm definitely leaning more towards Barack Obama than I have been.

4/15/08: Change me to a definite Obama voter now. Clinton's campaign has gone negative in the kind of ad the Republicans used against Kerry. If she's going Republican, I'm voting for Obama.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Anti-Torture Blog Day

Any torture done in the name of the American government is a bad idea.

Only people who hate America would think torture was acceptable.

Only people completely unfamiliar with the Constitution would think it was a good idea.

It's common for the right wing to jump in and jabber on about how torture "keeps us safe." Right. If we're so safe, why are airports basically armed camps? Why are our borders being sealed against mostly economic refugees? Why are we bankrupting our country, both morally and economically?

If I have time tomorrow, I hope to go to the anti-war rally over in Oakland. I don't know if I'll be able to, but I'm going to try pretty damned hard.

During the Bush administration, I haven't been ashamed to be an American, as much as I've been ashamed that Bush, Cheney and their pals represent our country worldwide, and in the most negative fashion imaginable.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bach Choir of Pittsburgh Online Charity Auction Is Open

Auction closed, 3/12/08. Thanks if you participated!

If live in the Pittsburgh area, and you're into the Steelers, art, music, dinners out or days of beauty, the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh Charity Online Charity Auction has something for you.

Auction items include Steelers memorabilia and tickets, Pitt basketball tickets, a weekend condo rental at Hidden Valley, and a shopping spree at Lippencott Alpacas Farm Store.

The auction is open until March 12, 2008.

All proceeds benefit the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Support the Science2008 Presidential Debate, Set for April 18 in Philadelphia

I was an early supporter of ScienceDebate 2008, when it was just a twinkle in The Intersection's eye. While I'm not a scientist or a science blogger per-se, I've long been fascinated by science, blog about it occasionally, and find our country's slide towards the endarkenment quite depressing.

Through the hard work of Science Debate 2008, they've reserved space in Philadelphia and have invited the major presidential candidates. Great job, folks!

We don't know if any of the major candidates will show up, but we do know they've all been invited.

While "big voices" (like The New York Times) have urged this science debate, I felt more small voices would help too. So, I sent the following E-mail to Clinton and Obama today:

My E-mail to the Clinton Campaign:

Subject: I Sincerely Hope You Accept the Proposal to Participate in the ScienceDate2008

Your campaign was the first campaign to talk about the importance of good, unbiased science in government. Please help show America that you are willing to debate the important issues of science with Barack Obama (I'm not holding my breath that any Republican candidates will show up - we know how they feel about science!).


Laurie D. T. Mann
McDonald, PA

PS: I am pretty sure I will vote for you in the Pennsylvania primary which follows this debate, partially because you indicated earlier in your campaign that you were taking science seriously. I want to believe that you still do!


My E-mail to the Obama Campaign

Please Accept the Challenge to Debate Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia on April 18th on the Issues of Science

Your campaign hasn't talked too much about the importance of good, unbiased science in governmental-decision-making - Clinton's has. Please help show America that you are willing to debate the important issues of science with Hillary Clinton (I'm not holding my breath that any Republican candidates will show up - we know how they feel about science!).


Laurie D. T. Mann
McDonald, PA

PS: I am pretty sure I will vote for Hillary Clinton in the Pennsylvania primary which follows this debate, partially because she indicated early in her campaign that she was taking science seriously. While I'm glad your campaign has thought about global warming and the need for energy independence, we need a pro-science president. Frankly, most European countries, Japan and Brazil have more pro-science governments than America's current government.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Is Huckabee Nadering Romney?

It looks like!

Not that I'm a fan of any of them, but it is kind of funny.

Forbes Removes "Whistleblowers on Fraud Facing Penalties"

Now, I know Web sites, particularly magazine and newspaper Web sites, are run for profit and are under no obligation to keep all their content online.

That said, I think it's a huge mistake that Forbes magazine seems to have removed the famous "Whistleblowers on Fraud Facing Penalties" article, written by Deborah Hastings and published on 8/24/07. It was about the US government prosecuting US citizens who were trying to fight fraud in Iraq.

So I wrote to Forbes to complain:

To: Forbes Magazine
Subject: What Happened to the "Whistleblowers on Fraud Facing Penalties" by Deborah Hastings Article (date: 08/24/07)?

Why isn't it online anymore?

I thought that was one of the most important articles Forbes ever published, not to mention one of the most unlikely, given the conservative tilt of Forbes. I blogged about the article, and linked to it from my Web site.

So, I did a periodic link check and found the article cannot be found at the Forbes site. I think that's very unfortunate. It's too important to not keep it online in its entirety as a constant reminder of how far our country has sunk over the last 7 years.

Luckily, I downloaded a copy of it. I am tempted to post a different 20% of it every day on my Web site, so that the content can be retained on the Web and without violating your copyright.

Disgusted, but not surprised,

Laurie D. T. Mann
McDonald, PA

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Finally - Dim Sum in the Pittsburgh Area

2012 update - the dim sum place in Robinson Township died a few years back. I miss it. I'm not sure why this blog post gets so many visits. When we go to Washington, then we get decent dim sum! [[I can't recommend the York Buffet Sushi & Grill across from the Mall at Robinson. I've been there maybe three times, it has a few kinds of dim sum, everything there tends to taste stale.]]

I've had dim sum many times in Boston, New York and San Francisco since at least 1982. When I moved back to Pittsburgh in 1993, I kept waiting for a genuine dim sum restaurant with the carts to open up. I figured that since Pittsburgh was always at least ten years behind the times, maybe one would open up by 2000. I shouldn't have held my breath.

It's not that I haven't had good Chinese appetizers in Pittsburgh - I have. The China Palace in Shadyside has excellent appetizers. Ditto the New Dumpling House in Squirrel Hill, Spice Island Tea House in Oakland and Ya Fei in Robinson. We always meant to try the Hong Kong in Dormont, but as they only served dim sum one Sunday a month, it was easy to forget to go there. And while there seems to be a dim sum place in Allison Park, I've never been to Allison Park.

So I was delighted to stumble over the Golden Palace, 5920 Steubenville Pike (near Beaver Grade Rd. on the same side of the street) in Robinson Township (412-489-5398). It's in a former Chinese buffet restaurant that closed last year and has just reopened. While they don't serve buffet, it's no great loss. It has a pretty typical Chinese menu and it has dim sum every day. Not only dim sum, but dim sum from carts on the weekends! (The menu online is in Chinese, but they include photos of some items.)

It was pretty good. The menu isn't huge, but the steamed buns were excellent as were the shrimp dumplings and turnip cake. We didn't have any dessert, but the dessert cart had some good-looking custard tarts and sesame balls.

It's definitely worth the trip to Robinson Township to go to this restaurant. It's on the same side of the road as the Arby's and the Eat and Park. Maybe if they get more business, they'll add more kinds of dim sum!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Facts Don't Matter for Bush

As I've often said, I find the lack of respect for facts and reason by the current administration a real embarrassment for our country.

Here is a good example of Bush's not caring about the facts. It's a little thing; it's not about the lies he's told about Iraq or about public policy or what the Constitution says or John Kerry or anything else like that. This lie is about a painting that's hanging in the White House, given to him by supporters.

The Abridged Version of the Story

A Myth to Keep - the Full Version of the Story

Thanks to NPR for reporting this story yesterday!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In Honor of "Blog for Choice 2008"

Blog for Choice Day

I cannot think of a time when I wasn't pro-choice. Even in the '60s, when I was first learning about sex and birth control and abortion was generally illegal, having the option of an abortion in a doctor's office made sense. I couldn't understand the fuss then.

While I understand the fuss now, I do not agree with it.

Abortion rights, like other rights for women (did you know women voted legally in some areas of America in the 18th century?) always seem more tenuous. We have to continue to fight for the right for legal abortion. We have to fight for the right to get birth control, given some people's opposition to that. We need to fight for the right to an accurate, science-based education on issues of biology, sexuality and birth control. We need to elect individuals to government who comprehend the difference between science and religious-based propaganda.

While I do not believe that abortion is murder, if it is murder, it is murder in self-defense. We generally don't condemn people who kill in self-defense; to preserve one's own life. If you do believe abortion is murder, the answer is simple - don't have one. But I do not believe I have the right to make that choice for you, any more than I believe a government should make such a choice for me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Do You Want the Constitution Huckabeed?

On January 14, 2008, former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate said (and it's on tape even):

I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God. And that’s what we need to do is amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than trying to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.

Well, great. I don't want an American Ayatollah in office. We finally got rid of Santorum; we don't need another person that out-of-touch in high office. I want people in office who have a clue about what the Establishment Clause means...and what it doesn't mean.

Jefferson and Madison would be rolling over in their graves to hear an American presidential candidate talking that way. They fought against such nonsense their entire lives.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Congressional Office of Technology Assessment Is Still Dead

Back in the '70s, when folks in the government still paid attention to scientists, the Office of Technology Assessment was founded, to help provide scientific data for governmental decision-making. The office was closed down after the "Republican Revolution" of 1994, when Gringich et. al. took over.

Now that the Democrats have control of the Congress, I'd hoped we'd see some changes. Granted, making any changes in Washington tends to be a very slow process. But one positive change the Congress could make is to re-establish the Office of Technology Assessment, and start paying attention to science in decision-making, rather than politics.

The Science Progress blog had a useful reminder about this situation.

I wrote to Speaker Pelosi and my own Representative Tim Murphy. Murphy would probably be opposed to including more science advising in decision-making since Republicans seem to be most opposed to this concept.

Hilary Clinton's Much-Needed Shot in the Arm

I thought people who wrote Hilary Clinton's presidential race obituary after her loss in Iowa were overreacting. Turns out that I was right.

While people in the media keep harping on Clinton's unelectability, she's been ahead or even in many national, head-to-head polls against likely Repulican candidates. Many of us would love to see a woman president for a change.

The sexist jerks are out in full color (as usual). I've always thought she's a good candidate and would make a very good president. On the one hand, like most politicians, she's sold out to a degree, and Obama is a more inspiring speaker. Still, she's done a surprising amount of bipartisan work in Washington, during a time of severe partisanship. She's tenacious, and she very smart. I don't count her out.

I do have a concern over the idea that it's not a good thing to have the presidency change hands between two families for many years. On the other hand, while George H. W. Bush was kind of a middling president, his son W. has been an unmitigated disaster. Hard to tell if Hilary Clinton would be better or worse than Bill. She might be better - she had much more national political experience than Bill had when he ran.

So while the idea of an Obama or an Edwards presidency doesn't horrify me, I'd prefer Clinton. As I live in Pennsylvania, I don't know if I'll get the chance to vote for he in my primary. But, I hope I do!