Godless Mom in the Bible Belt

Friday, July 29, 2005

And now on a lighter note.

This is my very favorite joke. Warning, it's kind of R rated. (Or at least PG-13)

A penguin living at the San Diego Zoo decides that he is sick of looking at the same four walls everyday so he packs up his bags, throws his golf clubs in the trunk of his car and drives to Phoenix, AZ.

Just as he pulls into Phoenix his car starts sputtering and steaming so he quickly looks around and sees a garage by the side of the road. He slowly drives his ailing car into the garage, parks it and gets out to talk to the mechanic.

"Hello sir." The mechanic says with a smile. "What seems to be the problem?"

"I don't know." Replies the penguin. "It just started acting funny, it's overheating and the engine is making funny noises. Can you take a look at it?"

The mechanic nods his head. "Yes sir, I can take a look at it. It will take me a little while though, can you come back in an hour?"

The penguin agrees and leaves his car in the capable hands of the mechanic. He looks around and sees a strip mall on the other side of the street, so he waddles over to do some shopping. He spends some time at Old Navy and looks around Target. Then, feeling a little peckish he decides he wants a snack. He notices an ice cream stand at then end of the strip mall so he waddles over and buys a cone to eat while he walks back to the garage.

Now our friend penguin wasn't used to the heat in Phoenix so he didn't take the melt factor into account when he purchased his cone. Pretty soon the ice cream had melted all over his face, down his chin, all over his flippers...He was a mess!

He arrives at the garage just as the mechanic is finishing up with his car. The man approaches the penguin with a smile.

"Well sir, it looks like you blew a seal."

"Oh, no." Replies the penguin. "That's just ice cream."

I'll be away from the computer until Monday. I hope everyone has a great weekend!
posted by GodlessMom, 6:42 AM | link | 17 comments |

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Okay, I'll stop ranting now. Election 2004 part 4

Following the election last November the state of Ohio became the main focus of controversy. After the announcement of some seriously weird election results and reports of widespread problems Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik and Green Party candidate David Cobb quickly raised the money for a full recount in the state of Ohio. (1) John Kerry had already conceded the election to Bush and he took a pass on the whole recount thing despite the serious and credible evidence of fraud.

Now Ohio's recount laws are quite simple. "The board must randomly select whole precincts whose total equals at least 3% of the total vote, and must conduct a manual count. If the tabulator count does not match the hand count, and after rechecking the manual count the results are still not equal, all ballots must be hand counted. If the results of the tabulator count and the hand counted ballots are equal, the remainder of the ballots may be processed through the tabulator (for optical scan and punchcards)."

Enter the villain of the story, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. Remember Katherine Harris of Florida fame? Well SSDS...Same s*** different state. Blackwell was the not only the Chief Elections Officer of the state of Ohio but also the co-chair of the Bush re-election committee. Badnarik and Cobb requested that he recuse himself from the recount process due to conflict of interest. Of course he did not. Prior to the election Blackwell did everything in his power to suppress the vote. One of his big moves was to dis-allow any provisional ballots that were cast at the wrong precinct. This means that if grandma walked into the big gymnasium at the high school and accidentally went to the wrong table to vote she would be asked to fill out a provisional ballot. Her ballot would then be thrown out because, while she was at the right address, she went to the wrong table. Thank you Mr. Blackwell.

Well, Blackwell continued his maneuverings during the recount. You know the Ohio law that says the recount board must randomly select precincts? Well, they were NOT selected randomly. Mr. Blackwell also dragged his feet with the recount, doing everything in his power to keep it going long after the electors had already been sent to Washington. Voting tabulator machines were tampered with prior to the recount, official observors were not allowed to do their jobs and Cobb and Badnarik were forced to go to the courts time after time just to get the recount done. In the end the results were basically bullshit, Blackwell went through the motions but the numbers were tainted by his political machinations. The details of the Ohio recount are too extensive for a blog entry but you can read detailed accounts at the Cobb/LaMarche web site and in this article written by Cobb.

Fortunately there are politicians out there who were willing to put their careers and credibility on the line by confronting this issue. If you saw the movie Fahrenheit 9/11 you probably remember the scene at the beginning of the film where members of the Congressional Black caucus are trying to get just one senator to sign on to their objections to the certification of the Florida vote. It is a sad and embarrassing thing to watch. Well, in 2004 the ever stalwart John Conyers convinced Senator Barbara Boxer to object to the certification of the Ohio vote. (2) (3) For the first time since 1877 the counting of the electoral vote was put on hold to debate the legitimacy of the votes coming out of Ohio. No one expected the debate to change the results, the main goal of Boxer's objection was to bring attention to the massive problems associated with our current system. She was characterized in the media as being a whiny sore loser. The objection did some good however, legislation has been put forth for massive election reform. The problem is, the party who has benefited from the current flawed system is the party in power. They've got the whole If it ain't broke, don't fix it attitude going.

You'll notice that many of the references and charts that I've linked are from fringe and left wing sources (adding to the whole "Conspiracy Theory" mystic of this idea) Believe me, if I could reference the MSM on this one I definitely would but the supposed "watch dogs" of democracy left this entire story dangling in the wind with barely a whiff of mention. (4) Keith Olbermann was the only MSM reporter to even approach the subject (video clips.) I remember sitting at my computer last Christmas season following the hearings, watching the evidence unfold and pulling my hair out at the machinations of Blackwell wondering why in the hell the media wasn't screaming.

If the media is so damned liberal, why didn't we see this stuff ad nauseum following the election? The answer is simple. The media isn't liberal and frankly, I don't think it's conservative either. The media in the United States is like a toothless old lion who was castrated and left to bleed by the side of the road. It may have been great and powerful at one time but now the only thing they are capable of reporting on are the trials of Michael Jackson and the latest cute-girl murder. We can no longer rely on our nightly news to inform us of important events in the world, we are left to our own devices to find the truth behind the spin.

Look at the links I've presented here and follow your own nose, read what everyone has to say and look for the truth in the middle. I don't expect everyone to come to the same conclusion that I have reached but I think it is foolish to completely disregard the possibility. The technology exists to provide the entire country with fair, transparent and verifiable elections and it is in the best interest of ALL the citizens of the United States to push for reform that will bring that dream to reality. We cannot afford the luxury of blind belief in our system. We have been taught that we live in this perfect ideal of Democracy, that our system is beyond reproach, but that very belief is what will allow scoundrels to take advantage of the weakness in the system without suspicion ever being raised.

Here are a few more links that may be of interest.

Article from the March 2005 issue of Vanity Fair

Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio by John Conyers

Something's Fishy in Ohio by Jesse Jackson

Speech given by Barbara Boxer on election reform.

Wikipedia entry on the 2004 election controversy.

Reference: Election 2004 and Election Reform

Reference: Black Box Voting

Check out today's entry at Cyberpols. The August issue of Harper's Magazine will have an article relating to this subject.
posted by GodlessMom, 6:23 AM | link | 8 comments |

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Election 2004 Part 3. Something Smells.

There are basically two things that can be done if you intend to manipulate election results. First, you can to suppress the vote in areas that are likely to vote for your opponent. Second, you can manipulate the numbers once the vote is cast.

Totally Crunchy left a comment here Monday describing her experience regarding her status as a registered voter being questioned despite the fact that she had her voter registration card in hand at the time of the election. Unfortunately, Totally Crunchy's voting experience wasn't any more unique than my own. There are many examples of people experiencing the very same thing last November. Names were purged from rolls, inadequate numbers of machines were provided for precincts with large voting populations. Letters were sent out on official looking stationary to areas with a large number of low income or minority populations (largely Democratic) telling voters that due to larger than expected turnout, they would be voting on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. Groups proclaiming to be non-partisan would run voter registration drives and then destroy the papers of those who tried to register as Democrats. People (frequently minorities) were often challenged and intimidated at their polling places and were forced to wait in line for hours in order to cast their votes while their counterparts in the more wealthy areas of town were greeted with little or no challenges and short lines. (1)

Now, I'm not claiming that the GOP was the only one playing dirty in this election, I'm just claiming that they're better at it. The majority of voter suppression took place in low income and minority areas which have large numbers of registered Democrats.

You remember that amazing display of civil disobedience in Ukraine last year?(2) The citizens of that country knew their election had been stolen and they staged a massive yet peaceful protest that didn't end until the appropriate legal and political measures had been taken to restore the integrity of their government. One of the big waving red flags in that case was the huge discrepancy between the exit polls and the final reported results. Exit polls are traditionally a very reliable and accurate method of predicting the outcome of an election. Sure they are subject to certain inaccuracies due to sampling error and such, this is why they have that built in "margin of error", but overall exit polls give a pretty clear picture of the intentions of the voting public. These polls are even used by our own government when monitoring the outcome of elections in new Democracies to determine whether or not those elections are all above board.

During our last election the exit polls had Kerry winning. Many people went to bed that night fully expecting to wake up to Kerry as president. However, for some reason the exit polls did not agree with the final tally and that Wednesday morning offered a very different picture. Let's assume for a moment that something was wrong with the methods being employed by the exit pollsters. Why then did every "mistake" benefit Bush? (3) The group who conducted the polls released a report about their results. (4) Their reason for the difference in numbers is that apparently Kerry supporters are more likely to talk to exit pollsters than Bush supporters (yet they are unable to give any reason as to why that may be.) (5) Now, I don't know about you guys but I don't recall ever running into a Bush supporter who was shy about voicing their opinion. This explanation for the discrepancy in numbers just doesn't hold water for me. I could almost swallow their excuse if it weren't for the fact that in many states the points gained by Bush went far outside the margin of error.

You can read a detailed study of the exit poll discrepancies here or here. To be fair you can find a rebuttal to the reports here.

A chart showing the accuracy of the exit polls in states with paper trails can be seen here.

A chart showing the accuracy of the exit polls in states without paper trails can be seen here. (Both charts taken from Cyberpols archives.)

A lot of suspicion has been cast on the Op-Scan machines used in Florida. This page has charts showing the expected vote vs. The actual vote in counties where the Op-Scan machines were used and charts showing the expected vs. Actual votes in counties where the touch screen machines were used (Scroll down a bit.) You can see that the touch screen machines returned totals very much in line with what was expected, the Op-Scan machines on the other hand consistently recorded more votes for Bush than what had been estimated. Why would the expected votes be so accurate in touch screen precincts and so far off in Op-Scan precincts? Hmmm. Remember, Kerry led Bush by two points in the exit polls in Florida but lost the state by 5 points. That is a VERY wild swing.

Tomorrow I'll write about the absence of this information in the main stream media and the legal and political maneuverings following the election.
posted by GodlessMom, 5:46 AM | link | 11 comments |

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

My take on the 2004 election. Part two.

As I've stated before, I don't believe that Bush legitimately won either the 2000 or 2004 election. The 2000 election was decided by the Supreme Court. The 2004 election was decided through fraud, tampering, manipulation and intimidation.

Now, lest you think I've suddenly crossed the line into La La Land, let me assure you that I'm not the type to go looking for a conspiracy. I've said before that I'm not overly bright and I tend to be a bit slow on the uptake but what I lack in raw intellect I make up for in sheer tenacity and thirst for knowledge. After my experience at the voting booth during early voting last October that tenacity and thirst kicked into overdrive and I found myself questioning everything I had ever known about the democratic process in the United States.

After the debacle of the 2000 election and all the bullshit regarding pregnant and hanging chads the Help America Vote Act was passed in 2002. I believe it was passed with the best of intentions as a solution to the problems involved with the traditional ballots, but rather than fixing these problems it opened up a can of worms unlike any we've ever seen.

Now, there were problems all over the country on election day with the electronic voting machines. Issues like the one I encountered were labeled "Calibration error" and while this type of issue was frustrating and potentially damaging to election results it didn't even scratch the surface of the real problem. We've all heard about the case in Franklin County, Ohio where the machines gave Bush 4,258 votes even though only 638 people actually cast ballots. You've also probably heard about Broward County, Florida where due to a glitch in the machines, once the votes totaled more than 32,000, the silly things started counting backwards. These problems are only two examples of many irregularities that occurred with the electronic voting machines in November, 2004. There were cases of some votes being counted twice and the machines returning totals that exceeded the number of registered voters, the machines in some precincts would only register 300 votes and then would quit tallying, votes were lost when it turned out the machines didn't have the ability to store the amount of data needed to handle a national election. This happened all across the country in red and blue states alike.

There are two main problems with the machines. First, there is no paper trail. Once you've pushed that button to cast your vote, it is lost in a sea of data. The only way to do a recount is to run the same numbers through the same computer. A manual recount (traditionally the most labor intensive yet reliable method) is impossible. The second problem is the vulnerability of the data to manipulation. A group of professors and researchers from Johns Hopkins did a security analysis on the Diebold machines in May of 2004, this is a quote from their findings.

"Our analysis shows that this voting system is far below even the most minimal security standards applicable in other contexts. We identify several problems including unauthorized privilege escalation, incorrect use of cryptography, vulnerabilities to network threats, and poor software development processes. We show that voters, without any insider privileges, can cast unlimited votes without being detected by any mechanisms within the voting terminal software. Furthermore, we show that even the most serious of our outsider attacks could have been discovered and executed without access to the source code. In the face of such attacks, the usual worries about insider threats are not the only concerns; outsiders can do the damage. That said, we demonstrate that the insider threat is also quite considerable, showing that not only can an insider, such as a poll worker, modify the votes, but that insiders can also violate voter privacy and match votes with the voters who cast them."

It is easy to assume that in order to manipulate an election on a national level it would take so many people that the conspiracy would quickly fall apart as whistleblowers came forward. The problem with our new fangled electronic systems is that it would actually take very few people to manipulate the election results on a massive level. The fact that the electoral system puts the results in the hands of a few key "swing" states makes the election even easier to manipulate. Who cares about what happens in Idaho when all you have to do is concentrate your efforts on Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania?

Tomorrow I'll address the issues of voter suppression, anomalous results and exit polls.
posted by GodlessMom, 5:19 AM | link | 6 comments |

Friday, July 22, 2005

My take on the 2004 election. Part one.

I was going to try and do this in one post, but there is too much information to confine to one day so I'm going to break it up a bit. Please forgive me if I ramble, this is a subject I feel very strongly about so I am likely to give more information than is neccessary to make my point.

Texas has early voting, it traditionally starts 17 days before the actual election day. It is really cool, and one of the things I really like about Texas. Voting is one of those things that is difficult to do with a child in tow, especially on the traditional election day when the lines can be very long. Because of this, I decided to take advantage of the early voting offered by the state of Texas in hopes the lines would be shorter and Liz wouldn't get quite as restless.

After a two hour wait in line, it was finally my turn. I had spent the better part of the time while we waited in line impressing on Liz how important it was for Mommy to take part in the Democratic process, she was being very patient and calm. (Not easy for a 3 year old.) I approached the desk where they checked my voter registration card and they looked up my name in the book. I signed on the dotted line and was directed to a bank of machines to the left of the table. Now, this was the first time in my life I have ever experienced a voting process where those who were registered Democrats were directed to different booths than those who were registered as Republicans. I didn't think much of it. Although I have voted in Texas numerous times, this was the first Presidential election I had participated in in the state and I thought it was something particular to Texas.

The booth I was directed to contained an Eslate voting machine. I was first directed to cast my vote for President. I chose John Kerry. I was then asked to vote for the other positions up for election at the time. For the first time in my entire life I cast my vote for a straight Democratic ticket.

I was then asked to verify the votes I had cast. I reviewed the selections I had made and although all the Democratic candidates for the lesser positions had been checked, the machine registered my vote for president as going to George W. Bush! I was a little taken aback, but I laughed it off and again cast my vote for John Kerry. Again I was asked to verify my vote and AGAIN it marked my vote for president as going to George W. Bush!

At this point (after more that two hours) Liz was getting restless. She started to pull on the curtains of the booth and was trying to untie my shoe laces. I once again corrected the machine and marked my vote for John Kerry. This time when I was asked to verify the vote John Kerry came up as my choice for president. I cast my vote, and bundled up Liz and left the premisis before she decided to dismantle the entire bank of voting booths.

Now, I'm not the brightest bulb in the pack and I'm notoriously slow on the draw so it shouldn't suprise anyone that I didn't raise a stink when this happened to me. It was only later that day, after I began to think about the potential ramifications of such machine "malfunctions" that I began to get pissed off.

I started doing some research into the issue and was shocked by what I found. On election day I hopped on the internet and began logging on to the myriad of sites, both Democratic and Republican, which had been set up to monitor election irregularities. It was then that I first realized that my experience was not unique. In fact, it was being played out across the country.

Tomorrow I'll blog about what I found when I looked into electronic voting.
posted by GodlessMom, 7:43 PM | link | 19 comments |

Let's beat that dead horse!!

I'm convinced that there were some seriously shady deeds taking place during the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. I truly don't think that Bush legitimatly won either election. But that is not the debate for today. I merely mention my stand on this to provide some background for today's post.

A few months ago I rented the documentary Unprecidented, the 2000 Presidential Election. Scott and I were watching it when Scott noticed during a scene where the filmakers were discussing the fiasco recount process, that John Bolton was sitting in the background as a representative for Bush. Now John Bolton is kind of hard to miss. Milk White mustache and steel grey hair (rug), you don't see many people who look like that. So this got me to thinking, is Bush indebted to Bolton for something owing to that recount? Is the nomination of Bolton for UN ambassador a repayment of sorts?

And then yesterday I found this article in the Miami Herald (or you can read it here on Commondreams.org) regarding the new Supreme Court nominee John Roberts and the assistance he provided to team Bush in Florida during the 2000 election. Again my brain started going down the same path. Is this nomination to the Supreme Court a payback for services rendered during the 2000 election recount?

Now, I don't expect Bush to nominate someone I'd actually like and I certainly don't expect all judges to be without political opinions. I acknowledge that the law of our land permits Bush to make these choices on behalf of all of us and I can always hope that he would choose wisely. But with all the talk coming from conservatives about "activist judges" I have to wonder if the label only applies when the judge disagrees with the Right? Now, I would imagine that Roberts is a very ambitious man, anyone who makes it all the way to the Supreme Court would have to be. I would also expect that he was merely offering his opinions to the Bush administration during the election in order to draw attention to himself and further his own career. However, he willingly on his own dime, advised and sided with one political candidate over another during a period of extreme division. He wasn't defending our Constitution and the law of the land, he was defending and furthering the interests of the Republican party. Doesn't this qualify as activism? Now don't get me wrong, I'm not bagging on the man, I don't know enough about him yet to form an opinion one way or another. This article just set off the alarm bells in my head.

I'll be away from the computer for the weekend, enjoy!
posted by GodlessMom, 5:37 AM | link | 11 comments |

Thursday, July 21, 2005

One last beam up

James Doohan, "Scotty" of Star Trek fame, died yesterday at the age of 85 due to pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease.

Star Trek was the very first bit of science fiction that I ever fell in love with and Scotty was always my favorite character.

The thing I absolutely adored about the original Star Trek was how almost all the problems that plague us now as a species had been wiped away, allowing humanity to boldly go where no one had gone before. There was no racism or nationalism, no money or religion. People of all colors worked along side people from all countries and it was never an issue. I once heard a story that Nichelle Nichols, the beautiful actress who played Uhura, was fed up with being on Star Trek and had submitted her resignation. She withdrew it when Martin Luther King Jr. Himself asked her to stay on, saying that the role of a female black woman in a position of respect and power was too breakthrough to let go. This series was truly ahead of it's time.

If I had a dime for every time I have used the phrase "Beam me up Scotty" in my own life I'd be a very rich woman (I frequently feel the need to be "beamed up.") Whenever I feel stressed out or overworked I can hear Doohan's voice in the back of my mind saying in that Scottish burr "Captain, she's giving us all she can!" Thanks to a vivid imagination and many hours spent watching Star Trek, Scotty is one of the voices that live in my head. :)

So rest in peace Mr. Doohan and thank you so much for all the wonderful hours of entertainment.
posted by GodlessMom, 6:46 AM | link | 11 comments |

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Intelligence, Blessing or Burden?

"The world is made for those who are not cursed with self awareness."

Annie Savoy said that. Actually, Susan Sarandon said it when she played Annie Savoy in Bull Durham. But, fictional character or not, there is truth to the sentiment.

Some of the most intelligent people I've ever known have also been the most tortured souls. There was Harold, my high school friend who seemed to pick apart and analyze the details of even the most complex problems with absolute ease. He also had a well established drug addiction by the age of 16. Owen, who memorized the world atlas by the age of 10 and taught himself to speak Japanese. He has wandered the world, seemingly without purpose, gradually pulling away from friends and family. Then, there was Laura, a mathematical genius who adopted the Amish way of life even though she didn't personally know any Amish people. She took her own life at the age of 22.

At the opposite end of the scale are the people who go through life blissfully unaware of their own mediocrity. I worked with a doctor in Phoenix who was about as deep as the water hazard on a miniature golf course. I don't think she ever gave any thought to anything more complex than whether she could wear the pink shirt with the black pants. Her favorite singer was Madonna, her favorite sports team was the Phoenix Suns, her favorite food was pizza and her favorite dog breed was the cocker spaniel. She was the embodiment of the flavor vanilla and an extremely successful human being. She had a full social life, a satisfying love life,a fulfilling career and a healthy opinion about her own self worth. She was the most boring person I have ever known. At times I truly envied her.

Is the world made for those who are not cursed with self awareness? Are those who think more deeply also cursed with feeling more deeply? It seems to me that with the ability to see the complexity of a situation also comes the ability to see the hopelessness in any attempt to correct a massive injustice. Perhaps we have hit a dead end where intelligence is concerned. To a certain point it can be an advantage but there is a very thin line between advantage and burden.
posted by GodlessMom, 7:31 PM | link | 19 comments |

Don't worry, no spoilers.

I finished Harry Potter last night, it was my favorite book thus far.

I first discovered Mr. Potter when I was pregnant with Liz. I had heard of this new sensation that was sweeping the world but I figured I had more important things to read at the time (arrogance.) Once I discovered I was going to have a child in my life I decided I'd better take the time to reacquaint myself with various bits of kid's pop culture so I wouldn't be an entirely lame parent.

I picked up the first couple of Harry Potter books and grudgingly opened to the first page. Two days and two books later I was hooked. Ms. Rowling has created such a fun world and such interesting characters it is almost impossible to not immerse yourself completely.

I've thoroughly enjoyed the movies thus far too, my only problem being that now when I read the books I see Daniel Radcliffe's face instead of the Harry I originally imagined. But Daniel has a nice face (and I predict it will be an incredibly handsome face in adulthood) so I don't mind this small invasion of cinema into my book brain.

Brain candy? Yes. Very simple read? Yes. Totally worth the time and effort? Definitely!
posted by GodlessMom, 6:54 AM | link | 12 comments |

Monday, July 18, 2005

Happy Monday!

Have you ever been in such a relaxed, positive state of mind that all seems right with the world and your brain just decides to walk around in warm-fuzzy land? That is where I am today. Hmmm.

So, here are a few of the silly things flitting about my grey matter.

1. Liz has platinum blonde hair that falls to the middle of her back. It is truly remarkable hair. Liz also REALLY likes to swim and is actually getting quite good at it. I constantly have to battle green chlorine hair. Salt water systems are better for blonde people.

2. All of the purple martin babies in my backyard house have fledged. The house is empty now save for two sparrow families who are raising their second clutch of the season. I enjoy the sparrows but I really miss the martins. I hope they have a peaceful and successful trip to South America and I look forward to seeing them again in February. (Martins are monogamous and pair-bond for life, they always return to the same nesting site every year.)

3. Have you ever had one of those weird muscle twitching things where one small spot on your body decides to jump about in a random manner? Usually it is confined to an eyelid or other small body part. Well, for the last two days I've had that type of twitching going on in my lower abdominal muscles. This twitching feels so much like the first flutterings I felt when I was pregnant with Liz that I've been a little freaked out. When you're pregnant, the first time you feel that baby move inside you is one of the most surreal, cool things ever and I swear that these muscle twitches feel JUST LIKE THAT!!! Now, I'm not pregnant. I know this for a fact. And I'm especially not pregnant enough that I would be feeling a baby move inside me. I know it is just twitches but there is a part of me that wants to go to the store and buy an EPT just in case. Weird.

4. My post from last Thursday broke my all time record for number of comments! 38! Wow! I love reading all of your thoughts, thanks for taking the time to state your positions. Saurkraut, I'll read that book you recommended and I'll let you know what I think (it will have to wait until I finish Harry Potter though!)

I hope everyone has a great day!
posted by GodlessMom, 7:09 AM | link | 7 comments |

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Contempt of Intelligence and Suppression of Science

I occasionally listen to Rush Limbaugh. In an attempt to keep myself from falling into the trap of confirmation bias. I try really hard to seek out and understand the viewpoints of people who think differently than I do. Now, of course it is easier to read the writings and listen to the ramblings of people with whom I agree but I don't want to become so blind in my opinions that I fail to see the reasoning of those on the other side of the issues.

That being said, there is something about Rush Limbaugh that I just don't understand. Rush occasionally refers (with unabashed disdain) to what he calls "The Intelligencia." By this he means anyone who disagrees with him yet also happens to be an intelligent, educated person with well thought out views. He uses the term to cover university professors, government workers from past administrations and people who have well established areas of expertise in subjects pertaining to current events. If they disagree with his take on things, they get the label. Now, Mr. Limbaugh doesn't speak for everyone, but he does speak for the talk-radio listening crowd and I'm sure his attitude is contagious.

This attitude seems to go hand in hand with some of the current views on modern science. We have the folks who want to include "Intelligent Design Theory" in our science text books, the same folks who want to downplay or even eliminate evolution from the same texts. We have the Stem-Cell-Research-BAD folks, who drew a moral line in the sand and refuse to even consider the ramifications of their posturing. There are the jury-is-still-out attitudes about global warming and the recent revelations that government environmental reports have been edited by the Bush administration to downplay the relationship between our burning of fossil fuels and global warming.

I see a disturbing trend here, one that I feel could gnaw away at the future of my country. When intelligence is maligned and science shoved away in favor of ideology, where does that leave us? The days of our strength in manufacturing are far behind us and we can't expect to maintain our lofty standard of living in an economy where the only plentiful jobs are at McDonald's and the Hilton. We NEED to foster intelligence and encourage the pursuit of science. We need to fund research and participate in the advances made around the world.

If the United States doesn't do everything to try and remain at the cutting edge of new scientific advancements we will not be able to compete at a global level. In a culture where blind devotion to the government is encouraged and anyone who disagrees is labeled anti-American, the out-of-the-box thinking that characterizes true intelligence is suppressed and the curiosity which leads to new discovery is never allowed to blossom.

I will be away from the computer until Monday. I hope all of you have a wonderful weekend.
posted by GodlessMom, 5:59 AM | link | 41 comments |

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Company You Keep

My mom in all her infinite wisdom used to tell me when I was a child that I needed to choose my friends carefully. "People cannot judge you by your family members, because we have no control over who we are related to" she would say "But you will be judged by the company you choose to keep. Make certain that the those you choose to associate with are honorable people."

My mom's words keep going through my mind as I read the most recent news regarding Karl Rove and his role in the "outing" of CIA agent Valerie Plame. For those who haven't been following the story, Newsweek published an article this week that confirms Rove was the White House source who leaked the information about Valerie Plame being a CIA agent involved in covert operations dealing with WMD.

The right is jockeying for position saying Rove never actually mentioned Plame's name, that he mentioned her only by calling her "Wilson's wife." They are also trying to distance themselves from Wilson's entire fact finding trip saying they didn't have anything to do with sending him to Niger that it was Plame's idea all along. Okay, even assuming the above statements are true, tell me again how this information changes the magnitude of what he did?

Now, during the January 12 White House press briefing Scott McClellan was grilled by the journalists present about the Rove case. He threw up a wall stating that he couldn't talk about an ongoing investigation. Okay, that's fine. Scotty doesn't need to talk now. There will be plenty of time to talk later when the evidence is presented by special prosecutor Fitzgerald.

Until then I have to wonder, if we can be judged by the quality of those with whom we choose to associate what does the character of Rove say about those who claim him as their own fair-haired boy?
posted by GodlessMom, 5:37 AM | link | 11 comments |

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Freakin' Hinky Punks!

I must have been about nine or ten years old the first time I saw a Space Invaders machine. It was sitting next to the entrance in our neighborhood grocery store surrounded by at least a dozen teenagers. I can remember the sound effects that went with that game like I heard them yesterday and if I close my eyes I can still see those little primitive computer graphic aliens marching down the screen.

Space Invaders gave way to Astroids which in turn gave way to Pac Man and Tempest. I remember as a young teenager going into the arcades and leaning against the machines while I watched my friends play. The rooms were always filled with the electronic noise made by the machines and the cursing and pounding of the frustrated patrons. I enjoyed the games, but usually as a spectator. I didn't have a whole lot of spare change as a kid and I wasn't about to spend what I did have on a game that would last maybe 3 minutes.

The evolution of video games has been an incredible thing to watch. I am always amazed by the huge technological leaps that come with each new generation of games. Many of them are so realistic now that if I stare at the screen for too long I actually get motion sickness!

Scott has an XBox and I've enjoyed many a lazy hour watching him play some of the shoot 'em up, car chase games he enjoys. I still remain an observer, I'm content to sit on the sofa with a book or a magazine while he plays. However, Liz has recently gotten to the age where she is interested in developing her own XBox skills which means Mommy gets to fight the battles while Liz practices moving the characters about.

Over the weekend we rented Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and today Liz wanted me to play it while she watched. I spent the better part of an hour trying to defeat these silly ghosty things called Hinky Punks! I'm certain there were better ways for me to spend my time (loading the dishwasher for instance) but I couldn't bring myself to break away from the silly things. I kept thinking that if I just made all the right moves in all the right order I would be able to help Ron defeat the Hinky Punks and then help Harry rescue Neville from the ghoul.

Needless to say, Ron is still trapped with those damned Hinky Punks and I'm sitting here thinking about going upstairs and having another go at it! Freakin' Hinky Punks!
posted by GodlessMom, 6:21 AM | link | 9 comments |

Monday, July 11, 2005

Body Art

I have a tattoo. It is my own fun little secret, most people would never know it is there. I have it hidden away on a part of my body that isn't readily seen by the general public. Now, I can show someone this tattoo without compromising my dignity but I usually choose to keep it a secret.

I didn't get this little piece of body art when I was drunk in Mexico or after the nasty breakup of a fiery romance. I have no tales of impulsivity which later led to regret. I was 28 when I decided to take the plunge and I did so after years of thought and consideration.

Tattoos are kind of addictive. You know those people who walk around covered in art? I can totally understand how that could happen. One little picture leads to ideas of others. The pictures become your personal friends, each one tells the world a little bit about the you. I have decided to go the "less is more" route and keep my one little tattoo but I frequently give thought to how I might embellish it! (grin)

What cracks me up though is when you see someone covered in tattoos that seem to be stock pictures out of the sample books, the type of tattoos that walk around on the arms and backs of hundreds of other people. You know the ones, the tribal symbols at the base of a woman's back or the Chinese symbol for tranquility on a man's tricep, whatever happens to be in vogue at the time the wearer walks into the tattoo parlor. I often wonder how much thought went into such an adornment choice. It seems to me that if someone is going to cover a section of their own body with a permanent piece of art, it ought to reflect something very unique and personal about that individual. It should mean something to the person who wears it, you know?

So, here is mine. I know there have to be others out there with their own personal little pictures so if you're comfortable with the thought, maybe you'd like to show your's off too?

(The photo is actually much larger than the real thing!)
posted by GodlessMom, 5:36 AM | link | 19 comments |

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Buy Me Some Peanuts and CrackerJack

Friday night I experienced America at her best, I went to a baseball game.

Walking into Minute Maid Park is like taking a step into OZ. It is a temple built to the baseball gods, an Emerald City that sells hot dogs. The grass is green, the seats are green, even the girders in the retractable roof are green. The building feels like it is alive and the crowds that fill it's seats are the blood in it's veins and the breath in it's voice.

It was the Astros and the Dodgers, Roger Clemens was pitching. In front of me sat an elderly couple, both with hearing aides, both with binoculars. To my left sat a family of Dodgers fans, swallowed in a sea of Astros wear. Behind me four generations of the same family, each one with their own opinion on the calls made by the umpires.

The roof was closed because of the heat outside and I occasionally saw a pigeon or sparrow who had flown in while the roof was open and was waiting until it could once again taste freedom. The entire place smelled of stadium food; pretzels, hot dogs, nachos and beer, and people who would normally show dietary restraint were engaged in a no-holds-barred pig fest.

Thoughts of the London attacks were fresh in my mind as I surveyed the crowd. Here were Americans, packed together shoulder to shoulder. Every race on the planet was represented, every religion and political leaning were in attendance. Crunchy granola types smiled in conversation with Southern Baptist preachers, cowboys sat next to black youth in FUBU fashion and gold chains, there were smiles all around and a shared humor when souvenirs were thrown into the crowd and everyone would scramble for the cheesy t-shirts or the squishy Astros ball.

There we were, truly "One nation, indivisible." united in our love of baseball. At football games there is always a lot of beer and a focus on tailgating, in hockey there is the anticipation of violence which clouds the community, and basketball is just too damned loud. But baseball? It truly is America at her best, at her most united.

My thoughts couldn't help but return to another game I attended a few years ago. The nation had just changed dramatically and America was in shock but was the recipient of the love and compassion of the world. It was the first time we had ever taken Liz to a baseball game, she was six months old. It was the Astros and the Giants and Barry Bonds was on track to break the all time home run record. The game hadn't occurred on schedule, it had been postponed a few days. The date on my original ticket read September 11, 2001.

It seems that terrorism and baseball will forever be tied in my mind. Humanity at it's best and humanity at it's worst.

posted by GodlessMom, 8:23 PM | link | 13 comments |

Friday, July 08, 2005

Enough Already!

I am sick to death of extremists. I'm sick of Islamic extremists who throw acid in the faces of women and blow up buildings and subways. I'm sick of Christian extremists who try to force their ideologies on everyone and then set fire to abortion clinics. I'm sick of neocon extremists who want to rebuild the Middle East to benefit their own bottom line.

The biggest problem with the extremes in every group is that in the pursuit of their twisted goals they run over the vast majority of the population of our planet. Normal, reasonable, kind people who want nothing more than to live their lives in peace with their fellow man get caught in the crossfire.

Every beautiful thing done in the name of humanity as a whole, the Live8 concert, the Kyoto accord, the outpouring of sympathy for the tsunami victims is overshadowed by political maneuverings; the banal, chest-thumping political rhetoric and the righteous indignation of the extremists.

I don't always agree with people on the other side of the political spectrum but I know that we have common ground. I know that somehow, through discussion and compromise we can find solutions to our common problems and only then can reasonable people take the world back from these psychos.
posted by GodlessMom, 6:12 AM | link | 16 comments |

Thursday, July 07, 2005

It happens again

My heart and thoughts are with the people of the UK.
posted by GodlessMom, 7:55 AM | link | 6 comments |

City girls just seem to find out early, how to open doors with just a smile.

I think I was about seven years old when I started to put the power of femininity into play. In my second grade class there was a young man named Mark, everyone called him Doggie. Doggie sat in the desk behind me near the window in the back of our classroom. Because of the proximity of our desks, Doggie and I were frequently paired during class activities and we soon became fast friends. There was a difference in this friendship though, it was the first time I had ever had a friend with whom I wanted to spend time alone and it wasn't long before I realized that Doggie felt the same way. If I walked off alone during recess Doggie would soon follow, if I got up during class to sharpen my pencil Doggie would meet me at the back of the class and would sharpen the pencil for me. There was a headiness in the knowledge that without directly asking I could get him to do my bidding. There was no malice in the thought and no disrespect for Doggie, it was simply the discovery and acknowledgement of a previously unknown power.

Over the years I, like millions of other women before me, honed the skill and perfected it's use. A lingering gaze, a shy smile, the exaggerated sway of hips...Through trial and error I learned how to use my sexuality to my benefit.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not some femme fatale and I'm not what Hall and Oates would call a "Man eater." I'm just your average female who learned that in certain situations feminine wiles can come in handy. I think it is a perfectly natural and normal part of being female. In a world dominated by men, women have had to learn to press what advantages we do possess. Occasionally, when brawn is lacking and brains don't do the trick we can still manage to get our way through implied promise of things to come.

While I do feel this is a normal part of being female it is so sad and disastrous when the use of feminine wiles becomes an individual's modus operandi. There is nothing more pitiful than a woman who's entire idea of self worth is tied up in how well she can manipulate men. There is nothing more sad than a woman who's need for endless admiration prompts her to string men along, causing confusion and heartbreak.

There is one such woman who runs in my neighborhood social circles, she has gone through a string of men over the last four years with seemingly no regard to her two children. I often watch her in social situations and I can't help but wonder what went wrong. At what point did she start equating her own value with the attention she gets from men? At what point did men become so dehumanized in her mind that they ceased to be people with feelings and became a tool to use for her own advancement?

I wouldn't trade being female for anything. I love the softness and curves, the pretty scents and silky fabrics. I love the way my mind works when it is at it's most female. But human sexuality is a double edged sword and when it goes wrong, it goes wrong in a big way and usually ends up cutting the one who pretends to wield it.
posted by GodlessMom, 5:01 AM | link | 11 comments |

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Our Day Trip to Moody Gardens

Scott, Liz and I went to Galveston Island for a quick trip to Moody Gardens. It is a great place to take kids!

We started off going for an hour long ride on a paddle wheel boat called The Colonel. The breeze off the water made for a very pleasant ride, despite the 98 degree temperature. Scott snapped this picture of a seagull taking a bit of popcorn out of my hand mid-flight. This picture is taken facing east, so if you look really hard in the background you can see Mr. L. Iguana drinking a beer.

We snapped this picture on the way down to the island. Houston has a plethora of strip clubs, one of the more well-advertised clubs is Heartbreakers on I-45 between Houston and Galveston. Here is a picture of the sign outside the club, along with a bit of Bible Belt commentary on the billboard next door.

posted by GodlessMom, 8:20 AM | link | 11 comments |

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Things that go bump in the night.

I've been wondering something lately and since the regular readers of my brain spew are a very diverse group I'm hoping maybe I'll get some fun feedback on this one. By way of explanation though, I'm going to have to give you some background so you'll understand how I've arrived at this particular musing.

I have an extremely vivid imagination, and I don't mean in a good way. As a child I was frequently paralyzed by fear. The fears weren't logical. They were irrational, bone-deep fears of slimy things under the stairs and preternaturally strong decomposing aliens under the bed. I was terrified of opening closet doors for fear of disturbing the inhabitants within, I would never look at my reflection in the mirror in a darkened room for fear the image in the glass would come alive and crawl into my side of reality. The basement in our house was an extreme source of terror and the cellar under the front porch was even creepier than that.

These fears didn't abate when I was 10 or even 12. I avoided the basement and closets until I was at least 15 years old. At that point my mind had seriously started to reject all things illogical and unprovable and I became disgusted with the irrational fears that would take hold of me when I was alone in the dark. The fear was still very real but I had begun to look at it as a character flaw that I could correct rather than something I was destined to live with.

I had taken Psych 101 at a local college as part of the AP studies at my school and I had learned about desensitization techniques and how they are used to treat phobias. I decided that the best way to conquer my fear of monsters (for lack of a better term) was to face that fear head on and expose myself repeatedly to the things which frightened me most.

I read everything Stephen King had written and rented every scary video at Blockbuster. I moved my bedroom from the safety of the hallway upstairs into a corner room in the basement, next to the door into the sub-porch cellar. I would force myself to not only stare at my reflection in the mirror but reach out and touch that reflection and make faces at myself. I made a point of entering each and every closet in the house multiple times daily and would force myself to stand next to the bed after dark, despite that fact that my mind was certain there were oogy things living under there.

You know what? It worked. Within a few months I could comfortably call the basement my home. The mirror didn't bother me and closets were merely a place to keep clean clothes. I could stay up until midnight reading the latest Dean Koontz and I no longer had nightmares about Linda Blair in Exorcist.

Now, as an adult, I am no longer crippled by unreasonable fears. They are still there though, alive and kicking in the back of my brain. When I reach into a dark room to turn on the light, when I open the door to the attic or get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night I can feel those fears tickling my brain and playing with my adrenalin levels.

Now I hate irrational fears and illogical behavior, especially in myself. The fact that I have to consciously rein in these fears pisses me off in a very big way. But my anger does nothing to eliminate the fears. I have learned to deal with them, I no longer let them dictate my behavior but I detest the fact that they are there at all.

Now, my little Liz has virtually no irrational fears. Her imagination is easily as vivid as mine, but the creatures that inhabit her mind are friendly and benign. She has invented a creature to inhabit virtually every nook and cranny of our home, when you ask her about them she will go into long detail about what kind of food they like and which book is their favorite. Her monsters aren't evil and malevelant, her monsters are her imaginary buddies and she freely acknowledges the fact that they don't really exist.

So this is where my musings have lead me, and I know my sample size is way too small and this is a tremendous leap in logic so please don't chastize me about it...I'm just wondering here. Could there possibly be a connection between irrational fears and teaching a child to believe in a God? Do we unwittingly encourage fear in things that go bump in the night when we encourage belief in an all powerful diety that cannot be seen. When we teach our children that there is an unseen spirit who has control over our lives and who sits in judgement of our actions is it such a leap to think that these same children may take the "unseen spirit" thing and run with it?

Do my irrational fears have their root in the fact that my parents convinced me at a very young age that I was being watched and judged by something beyond rational explanation?
posted by GodlessMom, 6:14 AM | link | 16 comments |

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy 4th of July!

Hey everyone, I hope all of you have a great holiday. Enjoy the fireworks (but be careful) and pig out on BBQ!

My mom found this sweepstakes you can enter to win $50K in home improvement money. No purchase necessary, you have to enter by August 31, 2005. Here's the link.
posted by GodlessMom, 6:40 AM | link | 9 comments |

Sunday, July 03, 2005

What Goes Around. Edited to update links.

I guess with the Downing Street Memos circulating about and the questions regarding the initiation of the Iraq war once again on the minds of the general public, it was inevitable that the subject of Valerie Plame come up.

Remember Valerie Plame? She is the wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Wilson was given the responsibility of investigating whether Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Niger. She is also a CIA agent.

Wilson concluded that there was no way a uranium transaction could have occurred between Iraq and Niger, in fact he was able to prove it beyond a shadow of doubt. Yet the Bush administration chose to include this tidbit of false information in their speech to the UN regarding reasons to invade Iraq. Wilson, who has since become a serious critic of the White House called their bullshit.

Well, it wasn't long before Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame was "outted" by a anonymous White House source in a transparent pay-back slap-down to Mr. Wilson. Ms. Plame's name was spread around in the press on CNN, Time Magazine and The New York Times. A special prosecutor has been assigned to the case and as of this week (after quite a bit of legal wrangling) Time Magazine had to turn over the emails and notes of Matthew Cooper, the journalist who had contact with the anonymous White House source.

And what should those emails contain? Hmmm, correspondence with that prickly little teddy bear, Karl Rove.

Now, I'm not a news source and I don't have to back anything up with proof. I'm a housewife who blogs so I'm allowed to speculate. This Valerie Plame thing has Rove written all over it. The man has a long history of bending the rules to fit his agenda and skirting the law to the further his cause. He is a mean and nasty sonofabitch.

Now remember, this is the man who only last Wednesday belittled the Democrats because they called for moderation and restraint following the 9/11 attacks. I guess Rove would rather we all grab our shovels and rakes and start bashing in the heads of anyone who might oppose the US?

I will watch this development closely and if I am wrong here I will eat my words with chocolate sauce. But if I'm correct and Rove is responsible for outting Plame, endangering her fellow covert operatives, ruining whatever operations they were engaged in thereby endangering the security of our country and the countries of our allies? He is guilty of high treason and should rot in prison for the rest of his life.

Here is the link to the Newsweek article.

Here is the CNN website link.

And one from Editor and Publisher.
posted by GodlessMom, 12:24 PM | link | 9 comments |