Friday, November 28, 2008

2,700 Year Old Marijuana Found in Chinese Tomb


Guess I don't need to comment on this story about a"light haired, blue eyed Caucasian man, likely a shaman..." whose 2700 year old tomb, found in remote north west China, contained the world's oldest stash of cannabis which was clearly "...cultivated for psychoactive purposes." All of this was documented in a newly published paper by American neurologist Ethan B. Russo, a "...full-time consultant with GW Pharmaceuticals which makes Sativex, a cannabis based medicine approved in Canada for pain linked to MS and cancer."

What made me chuckle was that "The company operates a cannabis-testing laboratory at a secret location in southern England to monitor crop quality for producing Sativex, and allowed Russo use of the facility for tests on 11 grams of the tomb cannabis."

Guess you can't be too careful when cannabis is involved.

Ironworkers Ritural Touches the Heart

Call me sentimental but this story tugs at my heart strings. I've always respected ritual and this one in particular gets to me (click on the title above).

I think these guys are really smart and brave. Maybe it's because my Dad was a rigger. He worked for Armco Steel for 35 years and I remember his crew were really dedicated to him.

When Armco built a new blast furnace (after my Dad's death) and families were invited to tour it I met a supervisor who knew my Dad well. He took us around to see some of the equipment my Dad had designed and built, and talked about how Armco bought it's safety equipment readymade after Dad retired; there weren't any in-house riggers left who had his skills.

Many years later Armco Steel was bought out by the Japanese and it's now called AK Steel. Guess the changes just keep coming - Progress, they call it. Click on the title of this post to read the whole story.

Might this be a new job for Blackwater?


These pirates are really out of hand. Click on the title above to read the latest on this scary scene.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Army Uses Video Games in Suicide Prevention

I've just read a really encouraging article that originated with the Christian Science Monitor and was republished on Veterans for Common Sense's blog.

Apparently. "The Army is conducting new training, handing out "buddy cards" to alert soldiers to problems among their friends, and recently announced a new five-year study to be undertaken with the National Institute of Mental Health."

But what I find most interesting is a new interactive game called "Beyond the Front," a kind of modern-day morality play.

" Users of the interactive video watch a drama unfold on screen and then make decisions that affect the outcome for the characters. In one scenario, Norton receives a "Dear John" letter, and then a roadside bomb kills a buddy, setting off a chain of events that require players to make decisions for the main character. Players who repeatedly choose to reach out to fellow soldiers and family members within the scenario get a happy ending. Players who opt - in their character - not to tell anyone about their problems will steer the game to a sad end.

"Another scenario focuses on a soldier's role in preventing a buddy's suicide."

The article goes on, "The service plans to send out thousands of copies of the game - part of an Army suicide prevention program costing almost $1 million - to educate soldiers about the dangers of not seeking help when they most need it." Taxpayer dollars well spent, I'd say.

Click on the title to this post and read the entire article. I hope you'll take the opportunity to browse the Veterans for Common Sense website while you're there and learn how to support this worthy organization.


OK, so I'm joining the 21st Century

Hope you like my blog's new look.

I invite you to sign up as a follower: look for "Followers" in the left hand column and click on "follow this blog."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

When Are Your "Privately Held Religious Beliefs" Not So Private Anymore?

"When you donate $1500 to a political campaign to strip other people—people who are not your co-religionists—of their civil rights. "

Blogger Dan Savage expressed my sentiments on Proposition 8 perfectly.

"Richard Raddon is, or was, the director of the Los Angeles Film Festival. All hell broke loose after it emerged that Raddon, who is Mormon, had donated $1500 to the "Yes on 8" campaign. The LA Times:

"After Raddon's contribution was made public online, Film Independent was swamped with criticism from "No on 8" supporters both inside and outside the organization. Within days, Raddon offered to step down as festival director, but the board, which includes Don Cheadle, Forest Whitaker, Lionsgate President Tom Ortenberg and Fox Searchlight President Peter Rice, gave him a unanimous vote of confidence.

"Yet, the anti-Raddon bile continued to bubble in the blogosphere, and according to one Film Independent board member, "No on 8" supporters also berated Raddon personally via phone calls and e-mails. The recriminations ultimately proved too much, and when Raddon offered to resign again, this time the board accepted.

"Raddon released a statement that said, in part, "I have always held the belief that all people, no matter race, religion or sexual orientation, are entitled to equal rights." Except for when they're not—and Raddon also believes that the religious should wield a veto over other peoples' civil rights. He goes on to whine about being a "devout and faithful Mormon," and about how his contribution to "Yes on 8" was a "private matter." Uh... no. A donation to a political campaign is a public matter; and civil marriage rights for same-sex couples did not infringe upon the religious freedom of Mormons, devout or otherwise.

"Bill Condon, the gay guy who directed of Dreamgirls, attempted to get Raddon's back: "Someone has lost his job and possibly his livelihood because of privately held religious beliefs."

"No. No. No. Raddon lost his job due to criticism of his public political actions, not his private religious beliefs, and his public political actions were a part of the public record. If Raddon wanted to go to church and pray his little heart out against same-sex marriage, or proselytize on street corners against gay marriage, or counsel gay men to leave their husbands and marry nice Mormon girls instead, that could be viewed as an expression of his "privately held religious beliefs." Instead he helped fund a political campaign to strip a vulnerable minority group of its civil rights.

""Millions of Californians definitely lost their civil rights," says John Aravosis. "But I'm not hearing a lot of concern about any of those victims, only sympathy for their attacker. When you use the power of the state to rip away my civil rights, and force me to live by your 'values,' you are no longer practicing your religion. You're practicing politics."

"In the wake of Prop 8 millions of gays and lesbians all over the country have decided that we're no longer going to play by the old rules. We're not going to let people kick our teeth down our throats and then run and hide behind "Nothing personal—just my private religious beliefs!" That game's over."

And Dan speaks for me.When you contribute to a campaign to strip away my civil rights, "...and force me to live by your values, you are no longer practicing religion." You are practicing politics.

And frankly I'm none too happy about those Hollywood types who protect bigots' jobs. I'll remember the next time a movie with either Don Cheadle or Forest Whitaker comes out. And I'll watch for the next film out of the Lionsgate or Fox Searchlight studios. Don't expect me to pay good money to see them.

We've been Mr. and Ms. Nice Guy for too long. No More. If you want to impose your religious practices on me - That game's over!

Joe Klein at his Best. Bush's Last Days : The Lamest Duck!

"By mid-November, with the financial crisis growing worse by the day, it had become obvious that one President was no longer enough (at least not the President we had). So, in the days before Thanksgiving, Obama began to move — if not to take charge outright, then at least to preview what things will be like when he does take over in January....

That we have slightly more than one President for the moment is mostly a consequence of the extraordinary economic times. Even if George Washington were the incumbent, the markets would want to know what John Adams was planning to do after his Inauguration. And yet this final humiliation seems particularly appropriate for George W. Bush. At the end of a presidency of stupefying ineptitude, he has become the lamest of all possible ducks....

[H]is ridiculous, preening appearance in a flight suit on the deck of the aircraft carrier beneath the "Mission Accomplished" sign. The flight-suit image is one of the two defining moments of the Bush failure. The other is the photo of Bush staring out the window of Air Force One, helplessly viewing the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina. This is a presidency that has wobbled between those two poles — overweening arrogance and paralytic incompetence....

In the end, though, it will not be the creative paralysis that defines Bush. It will be his intellectual laziness, at home and abroad. Bush never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and regulation that was necessary to make markets work. He never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and equity that was necessary to maintain the strong middle class required for both prosperity and democracy. He never considered the complexities of the cultures he was invading. He never understood that faith, unaccompanied by rigorous skepticism, is a recipe for myopia and foolishness. He is less than President now, and that is appropriate. He was never very much of one."

He never understood that an ideologist surrounded by more of the same did not constitute a healthy atmosphere for vetting an issue. Nor did he ever understand that arriving at a conclusion via his "gut" and working backward to justify it was a recipe for disaster. Put simply, George W. Bush, whom I believe stole two elections, sat in the White House for eight years, and we're paying for it. I now believe that the pardon of Richard Nixon left the theory of a "unitary" presidency unchallenged for Richard Cheney to take up as a sword against our constitution. He literally appointed himself Vice President with a plan to expand this pernicious vision of a virtually unfettered chief executive.

I keep seeing that video of Nixon saying, "But you see if the President does it, it isn't illegal."

It's exactly why I've urged Speaker Pelosi to put the weight of the Speaker's Office behind an investigation of the illegal, unethical, and immoral activities of this administration; not via a "Blue Ribbon" 9/11 type commission but a real Congressional investigation that will exact accountability. Anything less threatens to leave a cancer on our government that will metastasize and lay in wait for a future charlatan to take advantage of.

I invite you to join me in this action.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Those Wacky Canadian Socialists!

Cynthia, a Canadian reader of Americablog recently wrote:

"I just thought I would write you and tell you what it is like as a Canadian with Health care. I am 53 yrs. old, female and I am a Registered ER nurse. I am married, with 2 grown children. For all my life, I have never known a time where I could not go to a Doctor, a hospital, or a clinic, or a specialist. I have never had to worry about paying up front.

"We do pay taxes, but then so do Americans and get no Health care for the taxes they pay. I have seen during my career, many Americans and illegals (we get them too!) come to Canada to get Health care. They think it is free, but far from it. They forget that we pay taxes for it. I have one good friend who was born in Detroit, and lived in Toronto, and then moved to Texas. While there, she got pregnant. She moved back to Canada to have the baby, as she told me she could not afford to have it in Texas. She still lives here now. Do I think I live in a Socialist country? Not anymore Socialist than the U.S. We are a democracy, just like the U.S., we have "Fat Cats" on Bay Street in Toronto just like your Wall Street. We have capitalism, just like the U.S., we have poor, middleclass, and rich, just like the U.S., I have heard so many republicans put down Canada and England's health care system, and say we are Socialist countries. Well, we are exactly like the U.S., except that we get Health Care for our tax dollars, whereas, the U.S. citizens get taxed, but no Health Care for that tax.

"I think every American should "rise up" and DEMAND a universal Health Care system. Why should Americans pay Insurance companies that more than not, find ways not to pay for a "sick" person. I find that disgusting! We all want to be healthy, and be able to go to a Doctor and a Hospital and receive care without going "Bankrupt", and it would even be better to pay a little more tax to the government than to pay taxes and Health care premiums to Insurance companies who are only in it for the money. So, no matter what they say about our Canadian Health Care system, I have to say, I feel great that if I have to pay taxes, at least I am getting something for the tax that I pay. No one in the U.S. should be without Health care, and no one should have to go bankrupt and worry if they can pay premiums. I do hope that President Obama ends up putting in a "Universal Health care program", I think it is every American's right!."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

So, what do we do with this piece of information? I plan to forward it to the President Elect and hope you will do likewise. Remember, it's our responsibility to communicate to our government what our priorities are.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I Have a Marriage Proposal

I'm tired of all the wrangling over prop 8 and don't want to face another long, costly initiative campaign so I propose that we eliminate marriage as a legal construct; that the state be authorized only to grant civil unions and that marriage be an optional, private, religious option. Or if people insist on the word marriage that there be two: civil marriage (legal) for everybody, and religious marriage (extra legal) for those with a religious affiliation.

Let me be clear. I'm suggesting that any two adults who wish to be married would be required to have a civil ceremony and those who have a religious affiliation could have an additional, private, religious ceremony.

Let's face it, religious people fear their churches will be forced to marry us so let's eliminate that as an issue by granting that religious marriage is a private, extra legal ceremony. We all know that the U.S. Supreme Court has granted churches the right to set their own rules so nobody should object.

Click on "comments" below and let me know what you think and if you agree with me, contact your state legislator and congress member and tell them.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Beautiful Poem

Rosa Parks sat, so that
Martin Luther King could walk, so that
Barack Obama could run, so that
America could fly
- Anonymous

I think this says it all.

If you are moved to respond to this sentiment please click on "comments" below and share your thoughts.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

We Did It!

After nearly eight years of the most radical, reactionary, government in our history, the USA has elected the most progressive president in its history.

Barack Obama is progressive and pragmatic, a conciliator, and a persuader. He values bottom-up economics, a strong infrastructure, a healthy environment, energy independence, healthcare for all, education , and perhaps most important: a strong defense and demilitarized international relations.

Although he inherits the most challenging economic situation our country has faced in 80 years he has the even temperament, intelligence, knowledge, and strength to bring us through it with minimal fallout.

Barack Obama values wise council and surrounds himself with it. He is a listener and he is decisive. President-Elect Obama has a plan; his skills as a community organizer will stand him in good stead. It is the singular skill that brought him to where he is today and we are fortunate that he brought our country along with him.

We have been told that his cabinet will look different from any before. It will contain no retreads, and will be the most diverse we've ever seen, including attention to age, color, gender, and political party. It will be populated with the most skilled people he can find; people who will hold the country's best interests uppermost in their minds; political patrimony will play no roll in President Obama's cabinet.

I did not think I would live to see this day; I am profoundly grateful for the wisdom of the American electorate.