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Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.

 

RIP Ted Kennedy

I am so terribly sad about Ted Kennedy's death from brain cancer.

I have a friend who can't forgive Ted for Chappaquiddick.

To me, Chappaquiddick is something that happened before I was born. Ted Kennedy, who had two brothers ASSASSINATED, developed an alcohol problem and had a tragic car accident because of it? Color me shocked... shocked, I tell you.

Believe me, if Kate was killed in a stupid, tragic alcohol/drug-related car accident, I'd be upset. I'd be REALLY upset. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the guy involved in the accident was "devil incarnate" or an "irredeemable bastard." My position is that Ted Kennedy has done enough for the United States of America to redeem himself on that. He cleaned up, eventually, and frankly, until you or I have TWO brothers BRUTALLY MURDERED, I refuse to pretend to pass judgment.

Ted Kennedy reflected and supported my values in Congress. We needed him and he took up that burden for us. I know "conservatives" hate him, I know there are people who can't get over his liberal politics or his privilege or his flaws. I'm unconcerned by those issues where he is concerned. To me, he will always be "The Lion of the Senate." I can say without any cynicism or sarcasm, I appreciate the role he played in passing important legislation such as the COBRA Act, the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Ryan White AIDS Care Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the Mental Health Parity Act in 1996 and 2008, the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

Rest, Ted. So sorry to hear that your life has been cut short, because despite your long career I do believe that you had much more to give and many more crazy Republican crap to defend us from. I hope someone will give us their all the way you did, I long to find some progressive who was raised to believe in the obligation we all have to service. But as far as I'm concerned, you've paid your debt through public service. I intend no disrespect to Mary Jo Kopechne by this.

Thank you, Ted.

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I used to be a blogger

There was a time when I happily blogged about things and shared rants, recipes and random trivia with people through the internet. After taking a long break and trying to get back to it, I'm not having much luck.

There was a time when I would have written up a passionate rant trying to convince people to join me in this or that fight against injustice. Today I'm keeping that kind of thing more to myself, I guess. However, Colin McComb's recent link to a Bill Moyers interview with Wendall Potter (a former health insurance exec at Cigna) did manage to get the ol' blood pumping again enough to at least post a link here as well. Americans, read this and demand change! Non-Americans, read this and fight tooth and nail to keep it from happening where you live. Don't just excerpt, go slog through the full transcript.

WENDELL POTTER: The industry has always tried to make Americans think that government-run systems are the worst thing that could possibly happen to them, that if you even consider that, you're heading down on the slippery slope towards socialism. So they have used scare tactics for years and years and years, to keep that from happening. If there were a broader program like our Medicare program, it could potentially reduce the profits of these big companies. So that is their biggest concern.

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Handy Tax Rate Chart


Handy Tax Rate Chart
Originally uploaded by Nikchick.
Republicans and the news media are freaking the hell out about Obama's plan for a tax adjustment. It's the end of the world as we know it! He's a socialist! He's bent on redistributing wealth, taking "everything" from the poor, hard-working wealthy. It's going to ruin capitalism, forever!

Excuse me if I don't join in the mass hysteria. Don't make me go all Ross Perot with the pointer, people. Look at the graph.

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QFT

I hope to have some time for proper blogging over the weekend, but meanwhile: QUOTED FOR TRUTH

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A Question of Service

After the recent election, I posted this:

So. Obama has challenged us. The American people cannot just vote and call it good. We need to "summon a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice...a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility."

What is your service? What is your sacrifice? What are you going to let your sense of patriotism serve? What are you going to be responsible for?


I got few replies and many of them were pretty frivolous. Jonathan Alter is asking a similar question over at Newsweek. I hope he gets a better answer.

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Obama Landslide

Obama Flag


This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.
It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.


So. Obama has challenged us. The American people cannot just vote and call it good. We need to "summon a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice...a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility."

What is your service? What is your sacrifice? What are you going to let your sense of patriotism serve? What are you going to be responsible for?

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More Politics

So I haven't had a lot of time to blog but I figure if I'm putting in 18 hour days I can allow myself a little blog time without feeling too guilty.

After work today I finally got started on my attic ladder project. I made the family eat leftovers (even poor Chris, who is feeling sick)and worked on the installation of the attic ladder (including lengthening the attic entrance, installing the actual ladder, hand sawing the plywood "door" (which I had to build myself as it wasn't included in the ladder package), and cleaning up my mess. I wasn't able to get the "door" installed because it got to be midnight and Kate needed to go to sleep (fair enough!) do the rest will have to wait until tomorrow but after that I should have both a functional ladder and a functional and weather-proofed "door" to my attic. There's a lot of unfinished space up there but luckily for us the builder left an 8 x 10 space with proper flooring at least so we can get started.

Anyway....

While I was working I could hear the TV on and kept hearing political news. I find the state of politics either baffling or enraging at the moment. How the hell did we get from Obama's comments to" Joe the Plumber" (that icon of virtue) to "Obama is a Socialist" who wants to steal your money and "redistribute" it to "the poor" (which means those undeserving brown-skinned welfare queens)? I mean, seriously, can you spare 5 minutes and LISTEN to Obama's actual response before jumping on the "OMG, he's a COMMIE" bandwagon?

Meanwhile Washington State ballots have been delivered to all of us "absentee" (aka Vote By Mail) voters and I've filled in everything but a couple of initiatives and King County Amendments which I haven't researched properly yet. For me, for all intents and purposes, the election is over. I've blackened the circles for my choice for President on down. My mind is made up, my alliances are determined. Even so, I'm still thinking politics for the next week. There are campaigns I've been following that I don't have a vote in but would like to see turn just the same. A few of those have to do with Washington state or Minnesota (land that I love).

In Washington, I've been following the Darcy Burner (with her Computer Science degree from Harvard, with an Economic minor... how perfect for our region?!) since the last election cycle where she lost a close race to douchebag Dave Reichert who played up his Green River Killer capture credentials (and, apparently, he played up his "degree" from Concordia) to win a tight race last time around. I'm all about getting Darcy Burner into Congress even though I can't vote for her directly. I've contributed to her campaign a few times now and I sincerely hope she wins this time. All of Washington will be better off under her representation.

I also have to admit that I have a strange attraction to the Minnesota races. My Scandinavian heart belongs to Minnesota even if I don't live there anymore. I was SO PROUD of Paul Wellstone(from my high school home town of Northfield whose denizens are featured in many of Paul's early ads), whose first speech on the floor of the Senate was against the First Iraq War. Minnesota is often painted as this provincial backwater, a place where people know about cows and fishing, perhaps mining or corn, but not a whole lot else. Bah, I say! Minnesota gives us the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party which "has its roots in third-party protest movements" as the DFL site says. Minnesotans not only gave us Paul Wellstone, but Keith Ellison (the first Muslim elected to Congress), Governor and former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura, and, most embarrassingly Michelle Bachman. Minnesotans shouldn't be counted out! I'm watching the Bachman and Ellison re-election campaigns (and seriously pulling for El Tinklenberg). Minnesota could also give us Ashwin Madia, son of Indian immigrants who went to the University of Minnesota, NYU Law School, and served as a United States Marine in Iraq.

I've now pushed myself to a 20-hour day that included manual labor (and I've got the sore muscles and bruises to prove it) so I'm going to wrap this up but I'll go to sleep tonight hoping that next week will finally see an end to our long, dark Bush/Cheney-fueled nightmare. Help us out, won't you?


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Divisiveness: not just for politics anymore

Pramas recently updated his blog with some commentary on divisive politics ( Real Americans ) that pretty much exactly matches what I would have to say on the topic. I've just had no time to post recently I was just going to do a simple "Me too" and link to it but something else caught my attention just now and I am so disgusted I have to say something.

From the Gen Con and Origins Charity Auctions report site:

On Saturday, August 15th, 2008 at 6:00 PM, the Gen Con Live Game Auction hosted their traditional charity auction. This year, the event was in honor of Gary Gygax. Originally the charity chosen for GenCon was Gary's favorite charity, the Christian Children's Fund. Unfortunately, when they found out that the money they would get came partially from sales of Dungeons and Dragons they decided not to be the sponsored charity.

The charity auction at Gen Con 2008 raised almost $18,000 that could have gone to making a "lasting difference in the lives of children in need"! To quote from the "donate now" page of the Christian Children's Fund (emphasis theirs):

Your donation to Christian Children's Fund will make a lasting difference in the lives of children in need. Your generosity provides crucial assistance for children around the world —children who face hunger, disease, violence, natural disasters and extreme poverty.

Your support is urgently needed, and Christian Children's Fund is committed to your privacy and security. We will not sell, trade or rent any personal information you provide.

Get that: your support is URGENTLY NEEDED. Unless you're a gamer. Unless you play Dungeons & Dragons, whose creator chose this as his favored charity. Christian Children's Fund claims elsewhere on their website that they believe "that all of our actions must be guided by the utmost integrity and transparency" (again, emphasis theirs). Utmost integrity? Better children starve and suffer than take money from generous, charitable gamers? Who makes that decision (and how can they live with themselves)?!

Much of the readership of this blog comes from the gamer community. We know we're not a threat to society, we know that gaming is just one aspect of our lives (be it our work, our hobby, or both) and that being a gamer and being a moral, decent, (yes, even religious... even, <gasp> Christian) person are not mutually exclusive yet gamers continue to be portrayed as mentally unstable freaks or dangerous devil worshipers (whichever is most in vogue at the moment).

To veer off into politics just for a second (hang with me), recently Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for president. I'm linking to a part of the transcript that my friend JD over at FoldedSpace posted the other day.


I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I've noticed that in talking about these divisions I sometimes run into people who think it's not really a big deal, that it's all blown out of proportion because of the current political races or that these Us vs. Them views are confined to isolated corners of Appalachia and not of real consequence.

Unfortunately, I don't think we've really put these divisions to rest at all. The fact that it was so easy to get crowds riled up and screaming out that Obama is a "terrorist" or a "Muslim" (or just the shameful way "Muslim" has become a pejorative the likes of which would never be so publicly tolerated if aimed at any other religious or ethnic group) shows us just how close to the surface these things are, often existing with as little justification or defensible rationale as Christian Children's Fund's decision not to accept the charitable donation from Gen Con. Blacks vs. Asians. Whites vs. Hispanics. Christians vs. Muslims. Heterosexuals vs. homosexuals. "Coastal elites" vs. "Joe Six-Pack".

I think everyone needs to remember the lesson of the Star-Bellied Sneetches.




via videosift.com





via videosift.com

Aaaand, I'm spent.

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Hint to voters: GOP means REPUBLICAN

I cannot believe this needs to be said but apparently it does.

REPUBLICANS in Washington state do not want to run for political office as REPUBLICANS these days. I've noticed this in ads and signs this campaign season, "Vote for Jon Doe, GOP" but not, never, "REPUBLICAN" anywhere to be seen. Dino Rossi, the bitter, bitter REPUBLICAN loser of the last gubernatorial election in Washington is the most prominent example of this but he's by no means alone. Hell, to listen to Sarah Palin in the VP debates the other night you wouldn't know that the REPUBLICANS have been in control of anything since Clinton. But back to Rossi...

Dino Rossi is a REPUBLICAN and has identified as a REPUBLICAN in every other election he's ever participated in. This year, he's "prefers GOP Party" and it's causing confusion. State Democrats lost their bid to force Rossi to identify himself as a REPUBLICAN on this year's ballots, despite the court acknowledging that the trick "could very well engender voter confusion and make a substantial difference in the result of the election," according to Washington State Democratic Party Chair Dwight Pelz. The Seattle Times' chief political reporter David Postman noted that a poll back in June found that about 25% of Washingtonians didn't understand that GOP means REPUBLICAN. Appallingly, 7% thought that the REPUBLICAN candidate was the Democratic candidate. Even Rossi's own lawyer admits that 18% of the REPUBLICANS in the survey didn't realize that GOP means REPUBLICAN.

This is no accident, it's 100% cynical ploy. Not only that, it's Rossi's plan to obfuscate his REPUBLICAN credentials is succeeding. Christine Gregoire leads the REPUBLICAN Dino Rossi 51% to 41%, but only leads 48% to 44% when REPUBLICAN Dino Rossi merely says that he "prefers the GOP party".

It's underhanded, it's insulting, and it's completely typical. Don't be fooled, Washington voters! GOP means REPUBLICAN. Dino Rossi is a REPUBLICAN, as is every other "prefers GOP party" candidate. Vote for them if you like REPUBLICANS but I think they should at least have the balls to admit fair and square that they're REPUBLICANS.

Not to mention that it's really stupid and redundant to try to claim there's a "Grand Old Party" Party. If you're going to spell out the "Party" you should have to spell out the rest... only no one would know what the hell a "Grand Old" Party was, would they? Argh.

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Family Weekend

Saturday I awoke feeling much more human, especially after getting myself up to normal Seattle-style caffeine levels for the first time in a week. Mmm, delicious coffee. I'm still not exactly a coffee snob but if I had to drink Applebees' coffee on a regular basis I would just quit and switch to tea.

Chris spent the day investigating some game stores and miniatures rules with Rick so I alternately worked oncatching up on Green Ronin stuff and doing fun or interesting things with Kate. One of the things we did was head down to the Sound Transit Safety Fair, where Martin Luther King Jr. Way was closed off for a few hours and there were safety and information booths, bands and student performers, and speakers as well as a light rail car parked in Othello Station and open to the public to roam through. I took many photos with my phone but haven't begun to mess with them to see if they turned out, let alone if I can get them off my camera. I spent much of my time at the street fair talking talking to State Rep. Zack Hudgins who was on hand because transportation is one of his key concerns in the legislature. I took the opportunity to ask Rep. Hudgins if it was likely that we were going to see relief from the "rental" tax on car-sharing programs like Flexcar and Zipcar and he admitted that no, especially with the projected budget deficits the legislature was not going to be in a position to offer any tax exemptions, and went on to explain that before the state budget situation he wasn't in favor of lifting the tax. While I was disappointed that the situation isn't going to be resolved in the way that I'd like, I'm all too aware of the forces that pull our representatives in government one way and another and I accept that they often have to jockey for position and influence, anticipate the ways in which well intended legislation can be abused, and keep an eye on several competing interests at once. Goodness knows, I'm certainly not cut out for politics. Hudgins was quite open and spent an age talking to me about all sorts of things: light rail and car-sharing, Proposition One (the new transit vote) this fall, lead testing (he was aware of the "lead in the pipes" issue that broke here at New Holly), the increase in crime, violence, gang activity, and drugs here in the south end combined with the lack of services and how that's impacting the community spirit in New Holly and the neighbors who are going to be surrounding Othello Station when the light rail finally starts running. I found him open and honest and willing to go into as much detail as I cared to hear (he apologized a couple of times, saying he didn't want to be a "wonk" when he felt he was getting too deeply into detail but I assured him that I was really enjoying it). Didn't always have the answers I wanted to hear but it was always stuff in the realm of disappointing but not outrageous.

Chris came home from his gaming sojourn just in time for me to run off to the store to pick up a few things and then Kate and I were out for the rest of the night on a babysitting favor. We got to spend time with a sweet little girl of nearly seven months old who reminds me SO much of Kate as a baby. I could go on and on about the ways in which I see these children as being similar but mostly I was pleased that my baby-minding skills aren't too rusty. She went to bed like a dream (which I was pleased to reassure my friends when they called in for a "Nervous Parents" check-in) and made one tiny squeak over the monitor when she turned over or hiccuped or something. Kate really wants to start babysitting herself and I thought it would be fun and interesting for her to see a little bit of what it takes while there's an adult at hand and, indeed, she was interested and happy to be along. Extra bonus, my friends repaid my favor with ice cream! Not just any ice cream, but Molly Moon's Salted Caramel which my whole family just loooooves.

Today was a casual day of catching up on computer work combined with cleaning and purging around the house. I currently have three big garbage bags of clothes and shoes to go out to donation, boxes of books to go out, and we noticed that one of the shelves in the office is sagging precariously under its load of books and games so those are getting a good culling as well. I feel like I got a good deal accomplished without knocking myself out completely and heading back into the land of the permanently exhausted. Also got some homemade dinner (baked "manicotti" made with no-boil lasagna sheets, from a recipe I saw on America's Test Kitchen) which was awfully nice and got thumbs up from the whole family to boot.

Tomorrow it's a date with our nutritionist and then I go in for a battery of allergy tests. I'm tired of the low-level allergy symptoms I suffer with constantly and my sinuses have definitely become a huge problem this year that has dragged on. Time to take more action.

Finally, I also heard from my mom again about my grandma. Grandma waqs moved out of ICU, which is absolutely cause for celebration. She had her first round of dialysis and that has also seemed to improve her recovery as the pain killers and anesthesia that were lingering in her system are now (finally) being processed out. She's still very weak but got up for a short walk (to the door of her room and back) which she was utterly unable to even consider on my last day in Arizona. Thanks again to everyone who has been keeping her in their thoughts, prayers, and well wishes. I'm cautiously optimistic that she'll see a better recovery from here.

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Cribbing from JFK

Forty-eight years ago, John F. Kennedy gave a speech. I was recently struck by how appropriate it remains. Cribbing from this original speech, here's how I think the speech would go today, if he were, say, endorsing Barack Obama:

September 14 12, 1960 2008

What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label "Liberal?" If by "Liberal" they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer's dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of "Liberal." But if by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."

But first, I would like to say what I understand the word "Liberal" to mean and explain in the process why I consider myself to be a "Liberal," and what it means in the presidential election of 1960 2008.

In short, having set forth my view -- I hope for all time -- two nights ago in Houston, on the proper relationship between church and state, I want to take the opportunity to set forth my views on the proper relationship between the state and the citizen. This is my political credo:

I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith. For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man's ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.

I believe also in the United States of America, in the promise that it contains and has contained throughout our history of producing a society so abundant and creative and so free and responsible that it cannot only fulfill the aspirations of its citizens, but serve equally well as a beacon for all mankind. I do not believe in a superstate. I see no magic in tax dollars which are sent to Washington and then returned. I abhor the waste and incompetence of large-scale federal bureaucracies in this administration as well as in others. I do not favor state compulsion when voluntary individual effort can do the job and do it well. But I believe in a government which acts, which exercises its full powers and full responsibilities. Government is an art and a precious obligation; and when it has a job to do, I believe it should do it. And this requires not only great ends but that we propose concrete means of achieving them.

Our responsibility is not discharged by announcement of virtuous ends. Our responsibility is to achieve these objectives with social invention, with political skill, and executive vigor. I believe for these reasons that liberalism is our best and only hope in the world today. For the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society. Its strength is drawn from the will of free people committed to great ends and peacefully striving to meet them. Only liberalism, in short, can repair our national power, restore our national purpose, and liberate our national energies. And the only basic issue in the 1960 2008 campaign is whether our government will fall in a conservative rut and die there, or whether we will move ahead in the liberal spirit of daring, of breaking new ground, of doing in our generation what Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson and Rev. Martin Luther King did in their time of influence and responsibility.

Our liberalism has its roots in our diverse origins. Most of us are descended from that segment of the American population which was once called an immigrant minority. Today, along with our children and grandchildren, we do not feel minor. We feel proud of our origins and we are not second to any group in our sense of national purpose. For many years New York represented the new frontier to all those who came from the ends of the earth to find new opportunity and new freedom, generations of men and women who fled from the despotism of the czars, the horrors of the Nazis, the tyranny of hunger, who came here to the new frontier in the State of New York. These men and women, a living cross section of American history, indeed, a cross section of the entire world's history of pain and hope, made of this city not only a new world of opportunity, but a new world of the spirit as well.

Tonight we salute Governor and Senator Herbert Lehman Barack Obama as a symbol of that spirit, and as a reminder that the fight for full constitutional rights for all Americans is a fight that must be carried on in 1961 2009.

Many of these same immigrant families produced the pioneers and builders of the American labor movement. They are the men who sweated in our shops, who struggled to create a union, and who were driven by longing for education for their children and for the children's development. They went to night schools; they built their own future, their union's future, and their country's future, brick by brick, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, and now in their children's time, suburb by suburb.

Tonight we salute George Meany community organizers like Obama as a symbols of that struggle and as a reminder that the fight to eliminate poverty and human exploitation is a fight that goes on in our day. But in 1960 2008 the cause of liberalism cannot content itself with carrying on the fight for human justice and economic liberalism here at home. Since this administrations first response to the attacks of 9/11, For here and around the world the fear of war and terrorism hangs over us every morning and every night. It lies, expressed or silent, in the minds of every American. We cannot banish it by repeating that we are economically first or that we are militarily first, for saying so doesn't make it so. More will be needed than goodwill missions unilateral military actions or talking back to Soviet Russian politicians or increasing the tempo of the arms race War on Terror. More will be needed than good intentions, for we know where that paving leads.

In Winston Churchill's Bill Clinton's words, "We cannot escape our dangers by recoiling from them. We dare not pretend such dangers do not exist. People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power."

And tonight we salute Adlai Stevenson Senator Joe Biden as an eloquent spokesman for the effort to achieve an intelligent foreign policy. Our opponents would like the people to believe that in a time of danger it would be hazardous to change the administration that has brought us to this time of danger. I think it would be hazardous not to change. I think it would be hazardous to continue four more years of stagnation corruption and indifference incompetence here at home and abroad, of starving the underpinnings of our national power, including not only our defense but our image abroad as a friend.

This is an important election -- in many ways as important as any this century -- and I think that the Democratic Party and the Liberal Party here in New York, and those who believe in progress all over the United States, should be associated with us in this great effort. The reason that Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson had influence abroad, and the United States in their time had it, was because they moved this country here at home, because they stood for something here in the United States, for expanding the benefits of our society to our own people, and the people around the world looked to us as a symbol of hope.

I think it is our task to re-create the same atmosphere in our own time. Our national elections have often proved to be the turning point in the course of our country. I am proposing that 1960 2008 be another turning point in the history of the great Republic.

Some pundits are saying it's 1928 1980 all over again. I say it's 1932 all over again. I say this is the great opportunity that we will have in our time to move our people and this country and the people of the free world beyond the new frontiers of the 1960s 21st century.

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Warning: Politics Ahead

I did not intend to rant about politics on 9/11 but it just worked out that way. In fact, as disgusted and fed up as I am with many political things, I feel my fury to bother writing about my feelings ebbing away before I begin much of the time. However, I've talked to many people recently who have said things to me like "Politics just isn't my thing" or "I'm trying not to pay attention to the election" and it makes me seethe.

John McCain's ads are LIES.




I feel like echoing passionate, freaky little Dennis Kucinich: WAKE UP, AMERICA!

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My Stealth Political Bid






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Darcy Burner

For those of you not in Washington State, you may not be aware of Darcy Burner, who is running for the United States Congress here. She ran in 2006 and was narrowly defeated. She announced last year that she intended to run again and has been mounting an impressive campaign already.

Yesterday her home and possessions were completely destroyed by fire. The local news captured the fire and the aftermath:



I've been very impressed with Darcy Burner. She's not running in my district but I feel we definitely need more people like her representing us in Washington DC. She calls herself a "practical progressive" and says that she follows five principles (principles that are squarely in line with my own):
  • Government should treat everyone fairly.
  • Hard work should be rewarded.
  • Government should stay out of people's private lives.
  • We should keep our promises.
  • We should leave our children a better world than the one we found.


Burner is also the force behind A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq which has been endorsed by 58 congressional candidates and four high-ranking military experts, including a former Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan Administration and a Brigadier General who is a specialist in counterinsurgency and nation-building.

It would be a shame if this devastating experience in her personal life sets back her campaign. Yesterday I made a donation to her campaign to help keep her on track while she takes time off to see to her family's needs. If you're of a progressive bent and like what Darcy Burner stands for now is an excellent time to consider a contribution to her campaign.

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Why Obama works for me

In just a few short months, the Republican Party will arrive in St. Paul with a very different agenda. They will come here to nominate John McCain, a man who has served this country heroically.

I honor that service, and I respect his many accomplishments, even if he chooses to deny mine. My differences with him are not personal; they are with the policies he has proposed in this campaign.



He can, and will, work with people that I would have written off long ago. He does not have the black and white, friend versus enemy mindset that I am somewhat ashamed to admit I carry with me. I have a very hard time saying "Well, you did behave despicably when you tried to get me fired/ sabotaged my career/ broke into my e-mail/ betrayed a decade of friendship but I can recognize that you area a very talented/ otherwise honorable/ hard worker/ clever and insightful person who still has much to contribute." Once I've been burned, once you've shown me the ugliest aspects of your nature, it blots out most everything else for me. While I'm relatively comfortable with that as a personal philosophy, I recognize that it's a terrible trait for a national leader. Obama gracefully steers clear of that trap and I have profound respect for his ability to do so.

I had some vigorous discussion last night with a couple of saddened Clinton supporters. The Clinton campaign really turned me off in the last few months, where before I was much more neutral about Clinton and willing to throw in with her if she won the nomination. The question was raised about getting her into the VP slot to "unify the party" and whether that was even possible. Some at the table felt it was obvious that Obama and Clinton don't like each other. Others felt that liking each other isn't necessary (see Kennedy/LBJ). Were I in Obama's shoes, I would not be able to put aside my suspicions and lingering bitterness about the primary campaign. Thankfully, Obama is in Obama's shoes. I really do think he can work with Clinton going forward in any number of ways. Whether he and his people decide Clinton as VP is the best way or not, I believe he can and will take that positive attitude and move ahead with it.

With that in mind, I'm going to try to set aside my own bitterness where some people area concerned (both in the political arena and in my own life). Last night I was reminded, while talking to old friends about even older game industry grudges with a guy who screwed a swath of people across the game industry before flaming out spectacularly, that it's okay to let it go. As I said to my friend, "Well, if you're not pissed at him and you're one of the guys he actively screwed over the most, who am I to be mad?" If Obama isn't going to be bitter and vengeful about the attacks on his character and the way he's treated on the national stage by would-be-friends and certain foes, I'm pretty sure I can get over it, too.

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Quoted for Truth

 
 

Obama on SNL

So I love this "only a black actor can portray Obama on SNL" thing. Fucking race issues, I hate 'em. The guy's half white but he's B L A C K as far as people are concerned, end of story.

Combined with the ridiculousness of the assholes who are obsessing over his middle name and the utter non-story that is the picture of him (gasp) visiting another country and (double gasp) dressing in traditional garb (I guess it's only ok when Presidental wives do it) and I'll pull a reverse Michelle Obama and say that it's shit like this that makes me ashamed of my country.

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Caucus

I caucused for Obama today. Our meeting place was the local public school a few blocks from our house and as we went out onto the street we could see dozens of people converging on the school. Waiting at the stoplight with a crowd, we could hear people talking about hos they'd never been to a caucus before, how exciting it was to see so many people out, that kind of thing. Obama supporters were out in droves.

When my precinct went off to debate we were so large a group we had to be shuffled off into a spare classroom. We had almost 80 voters and there many small children in the room who came along with their parents. Some of the hard core political activists from the neighborhood, who go to all the community meetings for anything, were saying that the last caucus they managed to get about 15 people to show up. After a couple of false starts and many impassioned speeches in favor of candidates, we ended up with 56 votes for Obama, 19 for Clinton, 1 for Gravel (as some sort of weird protest vote?) and two undecided. I stayed around for the whole thing, intending to offer myself as a delegate but the next two meetings I would have to attend as a delegate conflict with planned trips (like GTS) and I couldn't in good conscience sign up knowing I couldn't attend.

I'd like to say it was exciting. I guess it was, in a way, but the whole thing was also crowded, noisy, a little disorganized and confusing (especially with so many voters in our area for whom English is not a first language). There was also the bizarre opening with the Pledge of Allegiance, the mandatory reading of the Democratic Party's official statements and pleas for donations, and the outrageous claim that "the Republicans have filibustered" a record number of bills since the Dems gained majority. That last claim really bugged me, because I know it was meant to fire up the crowd to be active in Democratic election campaigns this year but I think it was really dishonest. The Republicans in Congress haven't actually filibustered, the Democrats have handed them those "victories" by agreeing to roll over and give up on anything that didn't have 60 votes. Sorry, but I hold the Democratic leadership responsible for that! Republicans threatening a filibuster? Make them DO IT. Bet your life there wouldn't have been 90+ bills "defeated" if they'd actually had to pull off a filibuster each time! Hell, these were the guys who so strenuously complained about having to put in a five day work week when the Dems took over!

Ahem. Anyway. About the caucus.

In theory you could debate issues and try to convince people to switch to your candidate at the caucus, but what I saw was that people came out because they already knew who they were going to support and they were not interested in being swayed. The undecided chick in our room said she'd heard nothing at this meeting that would have helped her decide on a candidate, despite people wasting about an hour trying to persuade others to their side. What I did see was an overwhelming turnout in favor or Obama. Several of the Clinton voters who spoke up for her prefaced their support by saying their choice was very close; one woman was leaning Obama but voted Clinton to "keep the national dialog going" and Clinton's one strong supporter in the room is someone who knew her personally and has worked closely with her in charity work over the last 40 years. Obama supporters were gleeful, excited, engaged, energized. Many of them had been at yesterday's rally. The Obama people ran out of stickers/buttons/literature to hand out to attendees before things even got started. The experience was interesting, though I have to admit that I would much prefer to just mark a ballot and be done with it.

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Obama in Seattle

Obama is appearing at Key Arena tomorrow. I would really love to go but Chris and I have an important appointment that conflicts with the timing.

I will be caucusing this weekend. I guess that will have to do.

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Important

I'm still feeling particularly shitty and I'm disinclined to blog at the moment, but here's an important message anyway.



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Cry Me A River

Apparently Glenn Beck has learned a thing or two about "the real meaning of compassion" recently. Thanks to what he refers to as a "botched surgery" and "moments that could have come out of the movie Saw". His tearful, rambling video confessional aired on YouTube and is a pretty much just a teaser for his return to broadcasting (Tune in Monday!).



I don't wish ill on the man. I'm truly sorry to hear that he had a hellacious surgery experience. It happens to people and it's awful! Shit, my friend Sean just posted about how he woke up twice during recent surgery AND might be screwed for insurance to boot. There are numerous reasons why people think the U.S. health care system is fucked up... and why you'll find the US ranked 37th, just above Slovenia by the World Health Organization.

Even not wishing ill on the man, I can't say that I'm finding more than the bare minimum of compassion for him on this issue. I mean, not even six months ago he went on this screed on the quality of health care in the United States (and how evil Michael Moore and the evil Socialists were, essentially, rigging things to unfairly paint US health care in a bad light):



As I watch this I am reminded of the other times Glenn Beck has come to my attention. This is the man who said to Minnesota's Muslim congressman "What I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies." This is the guy who characterized the people losing their homes in California's wildfires as "a handful of people who hate America." It's hard, it's really hard, to get all choked up for a guy who can't have compassion for others until something horrible happens to him.

It's a ridiculous Republican stereotype and Beck is only further reinforcing it. Drug addicts are baaaad, until it's one of theirs. Gays are scary, until it's their child. Abortion is evil, until it's their daughter. The government is broken, until they're the ones who need help. Anyone who doesn't agree is a pinko Commie Socialist America-hater who brought their misfortunes on themselves and deserves what they get. Right?

I'd love to hear that Beck really did have an awakening of conscience. I want to believe him when he says about compassion, "I know what it means, I think I can define it now." I'll wait and see what he has to say on Monday.

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The Burden of Our Wars

I've seen this story posted in a few places now:

Wounded Soldier: Military Wants Part Of Bonus Back

That's right: if you get a bonus for extending your tour in a war zone and become permanently disabled before you fulfill the tour, you Pentagon wants their money back!

This is just one example of this kind of thing. Luckily it's a really enraging example which got people up in arms so changes might be made. Our Glorious Leader has reminded us on many, many occasions that HE is the commander-in-chief. He bears the ultimate responsibility, he who struts the "unitary executive" must also bear responsibility for this, for the treatment of our veterans under his care, for the demands of irresponsible administration policies that at best allow and at worst demand these actions. Make no mistake, there's been plenty of this kind of shit happening in other ways before this: National Guard Troops Denied Benefits (orders written for 729 days... 730 days would have meant paying educational benefits) or Soldiers Denied PTSD Benefits ("...Yet after they returned from Iraq wounded and sought treatment, each was diagnosed with a pre-existing personality disorder, then denied benefits...").

I'm GLAD the crooks who are corrupting the system and laying even more of the burden for this war on the backs for our citizens and soldiers are getting caught but I also have no doubt that we're barely scratching the surface of the true scandal.

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Pick Your Candidate

According to the poll on this site my ideal candidate for president is Mike Gravel, with whom I have "no disagreements". Interesting. I saw him on the Colbert Report and thought he seemed, well, old. Well meaning enough, on "my side" of some issues in a kind of broad sense but a little weird and wobbly, like someone's not-quite-doddering-but-you-can-sense-it-coming grandpa. Would he call the Internet a "series of tubes"? I don't know, maybe not... but he didn't give me that gut feeling of certainty that he wouldn't. Is it shallow to admit that I need the comfort of at least a little slickness and charisma? Not insincere slickness, not snake oil salesman stuff, but a person with the ability to speak in a difficult or even hostile environment and not come off as petulant, smarmy, or bumbling.

Some of the major candidates scored surprisingly low for me, probably because I feel strongly about certain issues that they're only offering tepid support for (if any support at all). Those candidates don't necessarily share my strong convictions but they do have those personal qualities (such as charisma) that aren't measured in a strictly by-the-numbers poll like this one.

Who is your ideal candidate according to this poll? Is it the same person you've been thinking you supported?

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Violence Against Stick Figures!

News at 11.

Or, in the local metropolitan paper, in this case the Minneapolis-St. Paul-area Pioneer Press.
Back in February I posted about John's interest in the politics of his hometown of Maplewood, Minnesota. I've worked for, with, and around John Nephew for what amounts to my entire career in gaming, going all the way back to our days at Lion Rampant and the founding of Atlas Games. When James Wallis was shopping around his Once Upon a Time game and looking for a publisher who would both "get it" and treat him fairly, I took him by the hand and said, "There's someone you have to meet." The news article lists Once Upon a Time as Atlas Games' best seller almost fifteen years later, so I guess that worked out okay.

John is running for city council in Maplewood and someone has decided that the "truth" about John must come out (you game-playing readers surely see where this is going): he publishes "violent" games like Let's Kill (a card game for adults 18 and over where stick figures are killing each other with outlandish "weapons" like sporks and weed whackers) and "corrupt" games like Corruption.

Violence against stick figures?! Oh, what about the children? Who will think of the children?!

John's political opponents managed to fire up a Maplewood resident and touchy-feely school teacher ("author of 'The Kindness Curriculum'") who, predictably was "absolutely appalled" and worries "about the effect this game will have on people's minds" because it's "pure violence" and "horrific" and "absolutely creepy" and "offensive". The Pioneer Press article notes a flier blasting Nephew for marketing violent and dark games and purporting to be from Maplewood Voters Coalition was distributed to some homes. The group has denied responsibility and requested a police investigation. Police confirm a probe is under way. John was actually endorsed by the Maplewood Voters Coalition back in August.

I enjoy the image of John striking fear in his opposition through his well-reasoned and factual campaign to the point that they resort to tactics like this. Naked political distraction.

I spent 20 formative years in Minnesota and watching this Maplewood City Council fight play out is a little slice of home for me. Maplewood is finding out what John's colleagues in the game industry have known for quite some time: John's one sharp cookie and if you want to take him on you'd better be sharper and better prepared, which is easier said than done. I have every confidence he's going to win this election despite these shenanigans.

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How Minnesotan

As people may have heard, my home state has garnered a bit of attention for being the place where Senator Larry Craig was arrested and plead guilty to disorderly conduct in an airport bathroom. Senator Craig has denied that he was in the restroom trolling for sexual encounters between flights but he's not the first to be caught in a "wide stance" in that particular restroom.

My position on the whole thing is that I don't care about Larry Craig's sexuality. Not a bit. But I do care about risky behaviors like clandestine meet-ups in public places, especially public restrooms that are open to children. Get a room, you know? In the same way that I object to the kids "hooking up" in the park right under my kitchen window, I would ask the Senator and his friends to find somewhere more appropriate to do whatever it is they want to do.

It's been reported that the airport is changing the design of some of the barrier between stalls in the restrooms where the most of this "disorderly conduct" is taking place, at substantial cost. I laughed when I read the summation from the airport spokesman because it's so Minnesotan:

"It is unfortunate to look at having to spend $1 million on something that wouldn't be necessary if people simply behaved themselves," he said.

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Flexcar Tax Update

As I'm sure most who read this blog know already, I'm an opinionated woman. I have a bit of a knack for complaint letters in particular, to the point that some of my friends will refer to "pulling a Nicole" or ask for my advice when writing such letters for themselves. (And, to be fair, I do try to share positive experiences and send a little love around when things go right...it's not all complaints!) I do not hesitate to write my representatives about issues of law and governance, I'm not shy about communicating with companies I'm going business with about my experiences and expectations. I hadn't known about the Washington state tax on Flexcar for a day before I'd written to my state representatives, the Seattle Mayor's office, and the Office of Sustainability and Environment.

Last week I heard back from the OSE:
Thanks for your email about this. We appreciate all you're doing to protect the environment.

This is definitely an important issue, but one that is governed at the state level. We understand that the Governor is planning to work with the department implementing this tax (which says it has to by law) to see what can be done to change it. If that is unsuccessful, then there are plans to introduce legislation that would change the law to accommodate programs such as FlexCar.

We have passed your message on to staff in the Office of Intergovermental Relations, which works closely with state-level policymakers.

Thanks again for letting us know about this.

Sincerely,

Jeanie Boawn, Admin. Staff Analyst


Tonight I heard back from my state senator, Margarita Prentice:
Dear Nicole:

Just a quick note to thank you for your e-mail message. I'm pleased to report the Governor's office, the Department of Revenue and others are working on language that will address the differences between a rental car company and a "flexcar" program. It's very tedious and technical but my hands-on source expressed optimism this will be concluded before the implementation date.

Thanks, again, for taking the time to write. I appreciate your information and the opportunity to provide an update.

Sincerely,
Margarita Prentice
State Senator ~ 11th Legislative District
Chair, Ways and Means Committee


I have no gut feeling for how many other people may have called or written these same people looking for answers to the Flexcar problem, or any number of other issues, or where a Flexcar tax lands in the scale of things they're trying to juggle. I am very glad that there seems to be enough political will to make the changes necessary to reverse a short-sighted policy that undermines the good progressive programs like Flexcar offer our region. I hope Senator Prentice is correct that the changes can be in place before the tax would be applied.

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Nine Eleven

2001 was a year of stress, soul-searching, and transition for me. I'd been a homeowner for less than a year and was planning my second wedding to take place across the country at a place I'd never even visited. I'd made two heart-wrenching and somewhat emotionally traumatic job shifts between February and September. The Hasbro buyout of Wizards of the Coast had caused a lot of upheaval in Chris's office where there had been a large layoff right before Christmas 2000 and another in May 2001. Morale was so bad the Hasbro home office was having teleconferences to put the company "on fun alert" in an effort to reassure demoralized employees who worried (rightly, it turned out) that more waves of layoffs were going to hit. We'd had an earthquake in February but it was the emotional aftershocks that reverberated through my life that year.

By the second week of September my little girl had started Kindergarten and my Massachusetts wedding was two weeks away. My job stresses were behind me and I was delving into full-time work on Green Ronin, done with summer convention travel and with plenty of time before Christmas season releases. I woke up the morning of September 11 between 6:30am and 6:45am Seattle time and went into the office to check my e-mail for last minute wedding-related communications from my mother-in-law to be. AOL's splash page was a photograph of the burning towers. I remember running into the other room and saying "Oh my god, Chris, turn on the tv. New York's been bombed!" I choke up even thinking of it now, the fear for our New York friends, the fear of everything then unknown, the disbelief, the futile hope, the sorrow for the victims.

I do not pretend that my west coast fear and grief is at all comparable to anyone more directly affected by the events of the day. Even so, I can no longer separate my feelings about the tragedy from the rest of the stress and anxiety and general upheaval of that year. My wedding was overshadowed by the resulting national feeling of anxiety, underscored by having to travel through the very airport that the hijackers departed from. My memories of my daughter's Kindergarten days are intertwined with memories of school district evacuation plan memos and anthrax scares.

Six years gone, approaching my happy sixth anniversary, sending my contented daughter off to start middle school, I still dread the anniversary of 9/11. I dread it now for the perversion it's become. I dread it for the relentless way it's tied to the debacle in Iraq, right down to the entirely non-coincidental timing of Gen. Petraeus' political theater before Congress today. I dread it because it breaks my heart to remember all worldwide goodwill we squandered, because it marks the moment our country lost so much more than we thought we did.

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Flex-SCREWED

Flexcar is being forced by the Washington Department of Revenue to charge its members "rental car tax" beginning October 1. Upon hearing this yesterday I immediately wrote to my state senator, my state representatives (although Zack Hudgins should be ashamed to represent residents of Seattle without providing an e-mail contact or a phone number where constituents can leave voice mail for him! Join the 21st century, Rep. Hudgins!), and appealed to the City of Seattle through their Office of Sustainability and Environment to apply the necessary political pressure and exempt Flexcar from this tax.

My view is that Flexcar and other car-sharing services are not "car rental" businesses in the traditional sense. Car sharing programs are overwhelmingly used by local residents. Flexcar provides a community service and should be encouraged by state and local government that proports to be interested in conservation, reducing traffic congestion, or making Seattle "a model of healthy, ecologically sustainable urban living." Back in April, King County Executive Ron Sims said "...we believe itís important that people take public transportation, and as neighborhoods densify, that there actually be at times cars available for those unique times, when you canít take the bus to a doctor appointment, or a dental appointment...". Instead, car sharing participants are disincentivized from participating by the application of an 18.7% tax! Outrageous and completely wrongheaded.

This tax will add $75 a month to my typical Flexcar bill. The result will be that I will be less likely to use Flexcar and more and more tempted to just go back to car ownership. How many of the other 20,000 Flexcar users in the Seattle area are going to face a similar decision? This is not the direction the State and local politicians claim they want things to be moving and should be vigorously opposed.

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Liberalism

Drove to Portland and back today. On the way home, right around Centralia, this pick up truck blew past me going over 80 (while the driver talked on his cell phone) and ruthlessly tailgated the car in front of him for 10 or 20 miles. The entire rear window of his pick up was take up by lettering that read:

Liberalism is
Self-indulgent Bigoted Racist
Illogical TREASON Intolerant
Socialist Fascist Spiritual deception
DOMESTIC TERRORISM


I've heard the "Liberals are racists" thing (for believing that minorities need "help" overcoming bigotry and injustices perpetrated by the majority), I've seen the "Liberals aren't good Christians" thing (which I'm guessing is the root of the 'spiritual deception' line) and there are certainly liberals who are Socialists (which seems to be code for 'Commie pinko', which these guys can't throw around anymore). But Liberalism is TREASON? Liberalism is FASCIST? Liberalism is DOMESTIC TERRORISM? Please.

I drove along behind this guy for a while after he got stuck in traffic and dangerously tailgated the people in front of him. I wondered what kind of person is driven to use his free speech in such a way. I wondered if he really believes Liberalism is treason? Would he look at me on the street and think I should die for being a "domestic terrorist" because I believe in things like socialized medicine? I wondered what I would do if his tailgating, speeding and distracted cell-phone-enabled driving caused a freeway accident... would the innocent liberals he'd blown past (like the angry guy in the Prius who rolled down his window to flip Mr. Pick Up off) stop to help him in spite of his loudly proclaimed hatred of them? I supposed I would help him as much as I would help anyone but I did entertain a small fantasy of pulling him out from the self-inflicted wreckage, making sure he was cared for and waving him off in his ambulance with "By the way, I'm a liberal!"

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Friends Have Noticed

Friends have noticed that I've been extremely lax in the Food Porn category this month. Part of it is that I've been trying a bunch of new recipes that have, well, sucked. They've not been any fun to talk about, even to show off some spectacular failures.

Part of it is that I'm politically inflamed right now and I'm aware that no one really wants to hear endless screeds from me on how immoral, corrupt, undemocratic, dangerous, fascist, unforgivable and otherwise unredeemable I find the current regime. One minute it's inflamation over Bush planning to veto a rare bi-partisan plan to fund health care for poor children (S-CHIP) because the Paranoid-in-Chief considers taking care of poor children part of a nefarious plan:"I wouldn't call it a plot, just a strategy to get more people to be a part of a federalization of health care". The next minute I'm inflamed over Fox's completely batshit insane characterization of Mr. Rogers as the "evil, evil man" who has "destroyed a generation" by telling pre-school kids they're special and worthy of love and respect for just being human beings. I can't believe these attitudes exist in American society. I can't wrap my head around what kind of twisted people think it's justifiable to deny innocent (but POOR!) children access to health care or who could characterize Mr. Rogers (MR. FUCKING ROGERS!) as an "evil, evil man." He was a goddamn Methodist Presbyterian minister, you supposedly-Christian-loving assholes!! ARGH!!

So. I'm not posting about the things I love because the things I can't abide are busy punching me in the guts. Sorry about that.

I'll try to get back to the happy photos of fluffy, cute bunnies and write-ups of the extravagant foods I've enjoyed soon.

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Foul Mood

Folks may have noticed I'm not exactly Miss Chattypants right now. I'll be making up for that right now.

I'm alternating between this impenetrable ennui and an honest to god "Bring the Revolution, I'm ready to tear shit up!" anger like a wolverine with a rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. I'm not just "blog about it" mad, I'm bring-the-house-down mad. I'm furious that a man who, as governor of Texas, allowed 152 people to be put to death without intervening and who wrote in his autobiography that it was not his job to "replace the verdict of a jury" has the unmitigated gall to commute Libby's entire sentence because "The verdict was wrong, harsh and vindictive."

I've spent the last several days writing in places where I hope it will do more good. Letters to the editor, letters to my congressional representatives. I wrote to the members of the House Judiciary Committee over the holiday, begging them to take seriously calls to impeach these scoundrels.

I've seen many people complaining of "outrage fatigue" and I feel it too. I keep struggling against it because that's what they want, these people who think they're too good for the laws that govern the rest of us... they want us to feel fatigued, to give up fighting against their dirty tricks and end-runs around the Constitution. Throwing my hands up and giving in because I'm tired gives them what they want. I can't bear it.

It's a harsh coincidence for me that this most recent display of asshole behavior from the President falls across both Independence Day and the Origins convention. You might ask what the hell the Origins convention has to do with malfeasance in the White House, and I would freely admit it's probably only meaningful to me and perhaps a handful of other people who were part of the so-called "mostly bloodless coup" of GAMA three years ago. The unfortunate timing of having Origins going on right now has served to stir up all those feelings from that horrible year, the vicious personal attacks launched by the so-called "Fair, Firm, and Friendly" faction, the way they campaigned on a platform of outrage and howls for "transparency" and then before they'd even been in power a week showed their true colors by making staff changes in secret and without even courtesy consultations with long-serving volunteers, admissions that new board members were secretly accessing the private communications of the prior GAMA board members. After storming in, preventing the platform of necessary changes, and perverting the process to their own ends, they have all left to go on their merry ways... selling real estate, "consulting" in non-gaming business ventures, retiring from the game industry in various states of disgrace after being used by their faction cohorts. Just like George Bush, just like Cheney, they have their post-election lives all planned out and leave behind a trail of honest, hard-working, decent people who got in their way. Finally, after their little power play had played out, after they slandered and threatened and harassed the people deemed to be "against them" the real work of cleaning up the things that needed to be cleaned up three years ago has fallen back on the shoulders of the few remaining people who still care enough to serve. Finally, after they grew bored enough to stop screwing up the works, GAMA has implemented the by laws changes that the organization so desperately needed.

GAMA's bitter political history is like the national fight in miniature. The people who so viciously ripped down the board of four years ago gave up when they found out that it really was just a bunch of hard work and not some sort of gravy train where we were all enjoying perks and kickbacks. The White House behaves in the same shameful manner and I see the people of the country growing weary of the fight, confused about what the fight is even about. Unfortunately, the people lined up to support Bush/Cheney (unlike those who supported Dancey/Stever) find the arrangement very, very profitable. There are plenty of perks, plenty of kickbacks, plenty of no-bid contracts and "friendly" legislation that make it worth their while to keep running this country into the ground... as long as it puts money in their pockets, as long as they know they've got a Get Out of Jail Free card, they're not going to get bored and go off to run a strip club in Vegas instead. That's why I'm worked up and why I can't give in to the outrage fatigue.

I can, however, take a breather from the outrage which is exactly what I intend to do tonight. First, a little Live Free or Die Hard to blow some shit up real good and make the bad guys PAY. Then off to the Can Can for some Heavenly Spies and as many Bella Rouges as I can down before closing time.

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Independence Day

I wrote this up yesterday in between sessions of faxing Congress. I couldn't get it to post before heading out for the day, so you're all treated to my Independence Day thoughts a day later.

The preamble to the Bill of Rights begins:

THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.

First Amendment
: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Second Amendment: A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Third Amendment
: No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Fourth Amendment: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Fifth Amendment
: No person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Sixth Amendment: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

Seventh Amendment: In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Eighth Amendment: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Ninth Amendment: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Tenth Amendment
: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Today as we celebrate our public holiday, our national day of pride and independence, I look at the Bil of Rights. Are we truly living in the spirit of this document?

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Impeach

Seen at the journal of the Cherry Blossom King and copied whole here because I so thoroughly agree.

"In the [Constitutional] convention George Mason argued that the President might use his pardoning power to 'pardon crimes which were advised by himself' or, before indictment or conviction, 'to stop inquiry and prevent detection.' James Madison responded:

"[I]f the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds [to] believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty..."

Source.

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Thoughtful discourse is futile

A consumer group called Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has contacted the FTC to try and get stricter rules put in place for advertising to children. Specifically, they're concerned about toys, books, and television spots placed in front of kids as young as pre-schoolers as part of a marketing push for the new Transformers movie, which is rated PG-13. A link to this was posted to an e-mail list I'm on and the resulting discussion has generated hundreds of messages.

A lot of the discussion around the group seems to be a largely bickering and judgment about who is right and who is wrong in the debate, which commenter is pro-censorship, anti-government, pro-nanny state, anti-free speech, anti-corporation, anti-child, or pro-regulation. I think it would be a lot more productive and instructive to start by acknowledging that people like those in the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood group exist. From there I'd hope we could have a discussion about ways to handle changing community standards and those motivated groups willing to push for legislation that could adversely impact what folks like myself want to do with our products.

Trying to apply some of what's been discussed more directly to the game industry, I would use my own company as an example. Green Ronin will be putting out a new roleplaying game line based on George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire novel series next year. This novel series is definitely something I'd consider mature in nature. There are a lot of things going on in those books that even I, lax and permissive parent that I am, would object to my 11 year old being exposed to (the incest storyline in particular crosses my "inappropriate" line for her).

So. How does Green Ronin handle the license?

Certainly we're not planning any books for grade schoolers or Happy Meal toy promotions for our products but how about running demo games at the big cons? Even if our demo games stay far, far away from any incest storylines and focus on a much more narrow sliver of the world (the King is holding a festival, or has died without an heir or some other "safe" and relatively PG-rated theme), I think it's still a legitimate question to consider whether we should be "advertising" the IP to kids who we KNOW the full material would be inappropriate for. Do we limit the "clean" product of the demo game by saying it's for teens and up? Do we let anyone play the demo version, knowing that what you're presenting at the con was "safe" (just as the actual Transformers robot toy itself may be physically safe for toddlers) even if the larger product most definitely wouldn't be? Some would not give it a second thought but I've certainly thought about it.

There was a time when it was A-OK to have candy cigarettes or cartoon characters advertising cigarettes during prime time television. Cigarettes are still legal but exposure to them has been restricted because of evidence that they really were harmful and public opinion demanded that change. We're seeing the same thing with advertising sugary cereals and high-fat fast foods. As the public becomes concerned about childhood obesity, they're also changing what is considered acceptable in advertising those products to children. There's enough concern that McDonald's now goes out of its way to have its colorful clown mascot skateboarding, bicycling, and eating yogurt and fruit in the ads aimed at kids, instead of advertising those cheesy burgers and America's Favorite French fries as he did in my youth. Ronald McDonald now has his own website (Ronald.com) which actually says in the upper left corner of the screen, "Hey kids. This is advertising." Other industries are trying to get ahead of this stuff. In contrast, far too much of the so-called discussion that has spawned about it amongst game industry pundits seems to be focused on calling names and declaring their moral superiority and outrage at this would-be attack on their free speech.

There's certainly a lot of concern among the public about exposure to sex and violence, even lacking the dramatic proof of harm cigarettes and high-fat, processed foods are burdened with. I would rather be prudent and consider these issues in advance than defensively respond after the fact to the group or legislation they could spawn.

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Perjury: Then and Now

In Republican Lamar Smith's opening statements during the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, he mouthed the following:

Both historical precedent and current practice support the conclusion that perjury is a high crime and misdemeanor. The Constitution applies that same phrase both to the president and to all civil officers of the United States. Several federal judges have been impeached and removed from office for perjury; that is why the president can be too. Also, bribery and perjury are equivalent means of interfering with the justice system. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines include bribery and perjury in the same guideline.

Some of the president's defenders would like to change the subject and talk about anybody else but the president, and about anything else except the allegations of lying under oath, obstruction of justice, and abuse of office. Such efforts are an affront to all who value truth over tactics, substance over spin, principles over politics.


It's the letter of the law, folks. Lying under oath, obstruction of justice, and abuse of office! Those are serious crimes that interfere with our whole system of justice. Clinton lied about a sexual affair, he lied about embarrassing and intensely personal issues but there's no excuse for lying under oath.

Of course, now that the Democratic majority is trying to get to the bottom of a bunch of scandals and cover-ups, trying to reconcile testimony from people whose so-called "misstatements" and convenient bouts of forgetfulness are seemingly at odds with other sworn testimony... well, now we're not talking about any "real wrongdoing" says Lamar. It's all just an unfair three-month-long witch hunt (as opposed to the years-long Whitewater waste of money and the oh-so-juicy Lewinski investigation?). Wouldn't want to look into any innocent "misstatements" that might uncover a pattern of outright lies that lead right back to the White House, that would make things awkward.

Not only am I appalled that anyone who participated in the Clinton impeachment can say with a straight face that investigating inconsistencies in testimony before congress is unnecessary, I'm offended that it's even possible to have such statements taken remotely seriously! I want MORE investigations! I want to root out all the corrupt, partisan, democracy-eroding sons of bitches. All of them. ALL of them! Dems, Repubs, Liebermans, I don't care. NO pardon for Scooter Libby! NO pass for Alberto Gonzales just because he claims he "can't recall"! Haul that asshole Rumsfeld back before Congress and investigate the charges that he knowingly LIED in his testimony about Abu Ghraib, as Major General Antonio M. Taguba and Seymour M. Hersh claim. Don't try crying to me about "abuse of office" or undermining the justice system if you're going to give this stuff a pass!

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Corn

Pramas has been known to refer to me as his "corn-fed Midwestern girl" (which I suppose is better than "girl from the depths of the fly-over") and it's true, I spent a good portion of my youth in corn country and bought many an ear of sweet corn that had been picked that day and was being bagged up at ten cents an ear from the back of a farmer's truck (parked down by the Muni). I, like many of my peers, had a summer gig detasseling corn before I was old enough to hold a more traditional job.

Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma does an admirable job of laying out exactly what's up with corn production in the United States, how it started, how it was shaped by government policy, where we are now. Pollan also has a few essays on his website that reveal a bit more about what's become the "industrial corn complex". The United States produces over 40% of the world's corn. Our domestic budget includes $9 Billion in corn subsidies and we institute a tariff of $.54 a gallon on foreign ethanol.

Why did High Fructose Corn Syrup replace other sweeteners? Surplus corn. What are livestock eating instead of grazing on grasses the way ruminants should? Surplus corn. Growing corn is so important to American agribusiness that corn was among the first genetically altered foods and big companies that I associate with chemicals (Dow? Dupont?) have patents on their particular corn's DNA. Multinational conglomerates like Archer Daniels Midland benefit from massive subsidies and government incentives. Individual small farmers, not so much. Shoot, it's even being proposed that America's foreign aid to Malawi (a country that is awash in corn that it grows but can't sell) take the form of America's surplus corn.

In the same way that we're feeling the pinch where our cities have been designed around the premise of cheap gas and unrestricted automobile mobility, we're feeling the impact of agriculture and a food supply based on the premise of cheap, plentiful corn. Those same gas prices that are hurting folks directly at the gas pump are driving up the cost of corn, as producers struggle to produce more ethanol and other biofuel options. There are a bunch of people who are convinced that corn ethanol is a bad idea and are preparing for a replay of the 1980s farm crisis.

I don't know how America's corn crisis is going to play out. Congress has a chance to affect the direction of things with the 2007 Farm Bill. I do find that these sorts of questions, these large and troubling problems, continue to reinforce my focus on local, sustainable, environmentally responsible, ethically produced foods. I shopped the farmer's market yesterday and picked up the third of my weekly deliveries from our CSA today. I had a bunch of baby turnips for dinner tonight: delicious, local, fresh and nothing I would normally bother to eat. Those turnips (and their accompanying greens) helped me reach my food goals today in spectacular fashion! I hit my fiber goal, my calcium goal, and made it halfway to my iron intake goal (which, now that I'm coming closer to my fiber goal on a regular basis, is my biggest challenge area). Right now, I feel like that's about as much as I can focus on.

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Wow

MSNBC is running a poll.

Do you believe President Bush's actions justify impeachment?

With over 471,000 people responding at the time of this blog post, I have to admit I'm surprised at the results.

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