Sunday, October 31, 2004

Viggo Mortensen Joined Michael Moore's Slacker Tour in Columbus Ohio on 10/30!

I am a huge fan of Viggo's, and a moderate fan of Michael's. I thought about seeing Michael when he was on tour in Pittsburgh a few weeks back, but he was in town during one of my trips out of town.

But here's a shot of Michael and Viggo in Columbus:

Photo from - Michael Moore and Viggo Mortensen

(*Sigh* and Columbus was only three hours away!)

After spending yesterday just hanging out, resting, and staying pretty glued to the Internet, today I was awake enough to rake my front yard and then go work for Kerry/Edwards. I leafleted a friendly Squirrel Hill neighborhood with Tracey, a woman who lives in DC but who's spending the next few days helping out in Pittsburgh. Then we walked from headquarters (with a third person, whose name was Cliff, I think) across town to Heinz field for a little visibility before the Steeler game. The weather was perfect for the walk, and we spent some time waving to the crowd.

Now, I'm home watching the Patriots playing the Steelers. Talk about your mixed feelings! I like the Steelers, but the Patriots are having a great year.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Don't Panic - Suicide Bombers, Anthrax and Other Fears of Modern Life

[[I wrote this in the fall of 2001, for obvious reasons, and want to republish it here because I think it's a useful essay to consider just before our upcoming election.]]

I haven't been fretting much more about life and death since September 11. Sure, I had a major anxiety attack after watching about 36 hours of TV news on the night of September 12. But that was to be expected. Since then, no. I've driven to New York, New England and Maryland without any more concern than usual. I've gone to work and opened my mail.

Perhaps it's because I'm naturally a little more cynical than most people. When the media spoke of September 11 as "the day we lost our innocence," I wanted to ask what alternate reality they had been a part of. Just in my lifetime (I'm 44 now), I've seen bigotry and terrorism and war and just plain bad accidents. I've experienced sexism and hate speech. America has had many bad days in my lifetime.

While I do not remember the exact date, that terrible day in November 1978 when nearly 900 American citizens murdered members of their own families then took their own lives on the command of "religious leader" Jim Jones particularly affected me. How can people follow the insane commands of any person? Very few people ran out of the jungle to the relative safety of a nearby town. Almost everyone who was told to poisoned their children and then, themselves. The ability for nearly 1,000 people to think for themselves was completely lacking.

Or the day of the Oklahoma City bombing. Initially, we all thought it was some sort of foreign terrorist. It was almost a worse thing to learn that it was a pair of Americans who murdered 168 other Americans in cold blood.

September 11 was a bad day, but much greater in scope.

I live in Pittsburgh, a city with more bridges than any other city in the world except for Venice. I've always been aware that bridges could collapse or tunnels could be blown up, yet I travel on them daily. I flew in early December, for the first time since July. I did fret a little more than during my last plane trip, but I expected the plane would not be hijacked and that I would get to my destination safely. And home again. And, I did. Statistics bore this out, even after this year.

My husband and I went to England, a country with a long history of living with small-scale terrorism. There are more video cameras about, but I did not notice many more police. Security in English airports was a little stricter than in American airports even before September 11. It was not a coincidence that none of the September 11 planes were international planes, despite the fact a plane flying to Europe would have had even more jet fuel than a plane flying to California.

I don't want to sound too much like a Pollyanna. I'm always aware of the terrible things that could happen, but I'll go along with living regardless. Life isn't about seeing how safe we can be, it's about having many different experiences, interacting with many different people and making contributions to society. Despite the horrible events of this year, statistically, we aren't that much less safe than we've ever been. Statistically, we aren't going to die from the acts of terrorists or from a war. We're way more likely to die in car accidents or from cancer or heart disease or AIDS.

These are the facts: Terrorists, whether they be foreign or domestic, do not have limitless resources. A number of their planned activities had been discovered and stopped before September 11 and continue to be discovered and stopped now. That doesn't mean they will never succeed again - it's likely that they will. It's unlikely that they will ever be able to hijack a plane and turn it into a flying bomb. But we might have small-scale suicide bombers like those in Israel. We may have more anthrax and other acts of bioterrorism. (Frankly, the anthrax letters and most of the threats look more like the acts of the American looney fringe than the Islamic looney fringe.) The looney fringe might even deploy "dirty bombs" (bombs made with nuclear by-products, but without enough enriched uranium to go critical), but getting a real nuclear weapon is unlikely (unless the government of Pakistan collapses).

Next fact: Lots of people get their kicks from making bomb (and now anthrax) threats. Bomb threats were very common in the '70s and early '80s and making threats have made massive comeback. None of the major terrorist incidents from the last few years had any real warnings. Frankly, I'm ignoring all threats as hot air.

Anthrax has people very upset, but I have to take the attitude of Dan Rather - if we let things like anthrax paralyze us, the terrorists, whether they be domestic or international, have won. Most of the people who got anthrax were mail handlers. Most of the people who died from anthrax had compromised immune systems. It's sad that anyone has gotten sick or died from bioterrorism, but, statistically, it's unlikely to happen to you, me or the vast majority of people alive today.

The level of fear is particularly troublesome when you consider how much the world has changed over the last hundred years. One hundred years ago, the life expectancy was not all that high; people died easily from TB, from childbirth, from viruses. Yet people still went out of their homes and went on with their lives. They explored all parts of the world without being guaranteed of their safety. We who have long lives and sanitary environments should not be so afraid of dying from a statistical unlikelihood like "murdered by terrorists."

I might be more fearful if I had lost a loved one on September 11. I heard the terrible news at work, and the Internet was so slow that virtually no news was available for an hour. Once I heard about the Pentagon, I thought of my brother who lives just down the street in Alexandria. It took nearly an hour to reach his answering machine, but even hearing his voice was reassuring. I was so shocked by the events of September 11 that it was literally days later that I remembered that, with all his business travel, he could have been on one of those planes.

I have many friends who live and work in Manhattan, but they work in publishing, within sight of the twin towers, but not in them. A handful of acquaintances have not been able to return to their apartments in lower Manhattan. Still, the closest call was an acquaintance from Massachusetts was due to fly out to California from Logan Airport to have a meeting that Tuesday morning. The man he was going to see called to postpone the meeting on Monday night. The flight he cancelled himself off of later crashed into the World Trade Center.

We felt extremely safe in Pittsburgh that September 11. No one would try to crash a plane in Pittsburgh, we all reasoned. But we had friends who called us to check in, having heard about the plane that crashed some 90 miles to the east.

I did panic briefly on September 11. I stayed at work but couldn't concentrate. My job was closed down at noon that day. I wanted to do something, but couldn't think of what to do. A friend sent around E-mail, urging people to go out and give blood. So that's what I did. Having something useful to do gave me a little better focus.

Short term panic in the midst of catastrophe is understandable. We're only human after all. But long-term panic isn't good, either for the individual or for the culture. We've got to do what we can to avoid cultural panic.

[[And, it probably goes without saying, that I think John Kerry can better help our country deal with societal panic than the Bush has.]]

Friday, October 29, 2004

"We Don't Know When the Explosives Were Removed"

On 10/28/2004, KSTP broadcast video that proved the explosives were at Al-Qaqaa and still under IAEA seal in early April 2003. Further, American soldiers were shown breaking the IAEA seal!!!! When confronted with these facts on the Today Show on 10/29/2004, former US ambassador to Iraq Paul Bremer stuck to the party line - "We don't know when the explosives were removed" and used his time on TV to attack John Kerry for daring to say that the American government botched this big time. Matt Lauer mentioned the original broadcast date at least three times, but Bremer completely ignored him and stayed in attack Kerry mode.

It's very ironic that this scandal is popping up at the same time as another scandal - the proof that Osama bin Laden is still very much alive. Yet another failure of the Bush administration.

I had a lovely time at the Pittsbugh blogfest last night. I had to leave in a hurry, but it was fun to meet more of the local bloggers. Sorry I didn't start my post that way - I guess I'm just in "attack Bush" mode these days!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Maybe Lunar Eclipses Are Good for the Red Sox

I'm pretty cynical about sports, especially about the Red Sox. I remember well the debacles of '67, '75, '78 and especially '86. I thought they were dead nearly two weeks ago, and I was wrong. Of course, being a Massachusetts native, I'm delighted to be wrong about the Sox - it's the eighth inning of game 4 and it looks like, barring some sort of unlikely event, the Red Sox will finally win a World Series!

Lunar Eclipse from Mount Lebanon, PA, October 28, 2004

Total Lunar Eclipse from Mount Lebanon, PA, October 28, 2004
Lunar Eclipse from Mount Lebanon, PA
October 28, 2004

Oh How I Hate to Live in a Swing State...

There's only so many times you can hit "Mute" when yet another lie-filled Bush ad shows up. Of course I'm still going to vote no matter how disgusted I am by Bush and buddies.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

On Travelling, Lawn Signs, Bumper Stickers and Political Advertising on Television

All things considered, I've done a lot of traveling this month and have been to four different states in different parts of the country:

Pennsylvania (I do live here, after all)
Massachusetts (family stuff, Central & Eastern MA, early October)
Florida (SF convention, Orlando & Cocoa Beach, mid-October)
California (tag-along on Jim's business trip, San Jose, Palo Alto, rural areas, late October)

Given the big election next week, it's been interesting to compare how visible politics are from state to state.

Things are crazy here in Pennsylvania. Lots of bumper stickers, lots of yard signs, lots of TV ads. We are, after all, a swing state. Further, Ohio is also a swing state, and West Virginia is close to being a swing state. There are lots of TV commercials for both candidates. The intensity is very high here. In the Pittsburgh area, more Kerry bumper stickers and yard signs, but this is to be expected. One interesting thing - I live in a Republican suburb, where most of the yard signs are overwhelming Republican ones. This year, the yard signs are nearly 40% for Kerry. Also interesting - a number of Republican households have yard signs for all the candidates but Bush. I don't think this is a case of sign-thievery, as these non-Bush Republican yards are often adjacent to Republican yards with a Bush sign.

A weird PS to Pennsylvania - I put a Teresa Heinz Kerry for First Lady bumper sticker on my car about two months ago. On Sunday, October 17, someone ripped half of that bumper sticker off my car, either when my husband was at a local Giant Eagle, or when the car was sitting in our driveway. I responded to this the only way I could - I popped another "Teresa..." bumper sticker in its place!

Massachusetts is mostly going for Kerry - it's a state where he has the "native son" lock. There were a fair number of TV commercials for both candidates on TV earlier in October, but that was probably mostly because many folks up in New Hampshire, which is something of a swing state, watch Boston television. There were lots of Kerry bumper stickers and a few Bush bumper stickers. There were almost no presidential lawn signs, though there were lots of lawn signs for local candidates.

The presidential election was surprisingly quiet in Florida a few weeks back, though that may have changed recently. While there were plenty of TV ads, there were almost no yard signs or bumper stickers. Locals said that due to all of the hurricane chaos, few people bothered with lawn signs. However, I saw a number of yard signs for local races, just no presidential lawn signs. And there were also few bumper stickers, which was particularly weird. (Here's the latest on Republican dirty tricks in the Florida election.)

California was interesting. I got back from California just this evening. On Saturday, we drove up to Palo Alto, and almost every house on the main street had Kerry and local Democratic candidate lawn signs. On Sunday, we drove out to Monterey, which was much more balanced with its lawn signs. On Monday, I drove in the more agricultural/rural areas and the signs were overwhelmingly Bush. On TV, I don't think I saw a single presidential ad (frankly, a welcome change from Pennsylvenia!) but I saw many TV ads about the many propositions Californians regularly vote on.

In short, it's hard to tell how things will wind up next week. Particularly given the way that some people are trying to discourage voting, it's all the more important for all registered voters to get out and vote!

Friday, October 22, 2004

Yet More Bush Lies and Misjudgements

I only have a few hundred megabytes of space on the Web, so I can't list them all.

However, I have been tracking some of them on one of my Web sites, The Facts Don't Matter. Here are two
Bush lies to be remember:

The Democrats Will Ruin Health Care...

Our current health care system is so incompetently-managed that millions of people who should get flu shots due to chronic illnesses won't be able to get them. Why? Because since most medicine is private, and there's no profit in flu shots. America outsourced its vaccine purchasing to a British company that, unfortunately, contaminated about half of this year's batch. So many Americans are getting their flu shots the same place where they're getting cheaper prescription drugs - Canada! - a country with national health insurance! In short, America's health care system is being partially propped up by a country with national health insurance!!

"I Am the Pro-Life President..."

Oh, really?

We've lost over 1,000 American soldiers, probably over 100 contractors, and several thousand Iraqis under our "pro-life" president.

But wait, there's more evidence that, like the term "hard work," Bush wouldn't know a "pro-life" policy if it hit him in the face.

Due to Bushanomics, millions of people have lost their jobs, had their wages cut and lost their health insurance. As a result, the abortion rate in America has gone up under Bush's administration.

The Bush boys, led by Karl Rove, have been at their usual negative advertising and dirty tricks. No matter what they do, so long as we all vote, we should emerge from this election in much better shape than we currently are.

And here's a very relevent quote from well-known capitalist and geek Andy Grove, the president of Intel:

When it comes to bioterror or epidemics,
"You look to government to protect you from that, and the government looks to the science and technology infrastructure.
This government can't even
prevent an ordinary failure of the business market for causing probably more
American deaths than terrorism. It is a manifestation of a government that
has no appreciation for science and technology."
-- quoted by USA Today, 10/20/2004

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

I May Have Severe Political Burn-out But Nothing Will Stop Me From Voting

I'm at the point where I tune out of commercials and I'm listening to classical music at work rather than NPR.

However, despite my exhaustion, I will vote, and I'll work some on election activities during the weekend before the election and maybe even on election day. This election is just too important to sit out (not that I ever have - I've voted in every presidential election since 1976).

We Kerry fans supporters some additional reason to feel pumped up - take a look at:, a fascinating site I'll check often over the next two weeks.

I haven't felt much like writing lately. I'd like to write something called "Massachusetts Liberal and Proud," because pretty disgusted by how the Bushies are trying to make that sound like saying you're a child molester or something. When we saw the recent Bushie commercial that claims Kerry is the most liberal Senator and the most liberal person to run for President, Jim immediately said, "Well, what about Franklin Delano Roosevelt?" Roosevelt was both our most liberal president ever, and probably the greatest president of the Twentieth Century. Maybe we need a really liberal president to help out country get over its Bushie-induced fear. Roosevelt said "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," and that was at a time this country was in even worse shape than it is now.

I made one last donation to the election by attending a really neat party on a sunny Sunday afternoon in one of the most fabulous houses in Pittsburgh, with the best personal wine cellar I have ever visited. Way cool!