Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More Seriously Cool Footage from the ISS

The "Southern Lights" as seen from the International Space Station

Friday, September 23, 2011

When Bigoted Hypocrisy Replaces Sanity and Patriotism ... Welcome to the GOP

Last night was  one more  of  the  seemingly endless  Republican  "Presidential Candidate Debates".  A sad pathetic effort  to  make people think  that  the  2012 election campaign is somehow  in full swing in September of  2011.

I didn't watch the latest American Taliban bitch-fest.   For one,  I would have had to stay up until 4 am here in London to  catch it live.   For another it was on FOX News,  and  if  given the choice of  undergoing a combination  root canal - colostomy  or  watching Fox News?  Pass the Novocaine.

So  I missed  what  was the  defining  moment for the modern Republican Party.   It was the moment where all the  slogans, all the speeches,  all the  remaining trappings  of  any resemblance to a legitimate political party  seeking to offer  an alternative  electoral  choice to the American People,  finally  fell away.  Revealing for  the entire world  what is left;   Rancid,  ugly  hate filled  hypocrisy.

The  modern day Republican Party, which has made it's living off of claiming  to  "support the troops"  more than anyone else, showed the world  just what  a warped twisted lie all that patriotic posturing really is.

From The Hill
Some members of the GOP debate audience booed a gay soldier who asked via video whether the Republican candidates would reinstitute the recently repealed "Don't ask, don't tell" policy of banning openly gay soldiers.

After Stephen Hill, who is serving in the Army in Iraq, asked his question, a handful of members of the audience booed loudly. None of the Republican candidates responded to the audience's reaction. Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) answered that "Any type of sexual activity has no place in the military" and that he would return to the policy of requiring gays and lesbians to stay silent on their sexuality or get thrown out of the military. His response garnered loud applause.

Here it is...

I have said it before. The Republican Party of 2011 has nothing that they can ask the American People to vote FOR. Their policies are designed to direct all resources and opportunity to only the top one tenth of one percent of Americans.   Anyone who doesn't fall into that category of the uber-wealthy is in the mind of the GOP,  insignificant and disposable. 
Dying as result of poverty is to the GOP, a natural cause. Anything government does to help anyone outside that one tenth of one percent, is "Socialism!!", and President Obama is some Indonesian-Kenyan-Marxist-Leninist-Islamic Manchurian Candidate, planted in Hawaii decades ago as part of some long term plot to destroy America. 
All that doesn't really play well on a bumper sticker. So the GOP knows their only hope is to give America something to vote AGAINST. To do that you need voters to be two things, angry and afraid.   So the plan for 2012 is simple,  get Americans angry at the scary Black man in the White House,  and get them afraid of....?

Well, let's see. The GOP can't campaign against Women, Blacks and Jews anymore, (at least not openly, Pat Buchanan apparently didn't get that memo.) Telling Americans they need to hate Hispanics has turned out to be a losing electoral strategy thanks to America's shifting demographics, and the "Islamo-facist" boogie man lost it's punch when it became clear most of the post 9-11 terror alerts were based far more on George W. Bush's poll numbers, than any actual intelligence.   So who's left?

Oh yeah... The Gays. When the GOP is too crazy for life long Republicans like Senator Alan Simpson, you know the Republican Party has jumped the shark.

In 2011, the Republican faithful will jeer and boo at an American soldier, serving his country and risking his life in a war zone because it fits the narrative of who their party has told them they should fear and hate.

This is not about "Don't Ask Don't Tell", or even about what the assorted Republican candidates think about LGBT rights. It is about living up to words they spout so freely, professing their admiration and support for those brave men and women who risk their lives serving our nation in the military. 

We now know what all those bold "we support the troops more than you...", words were... A lie.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Another Teen in America is bullied to death...

Jamey Rodemeyer needed help. At 14, he was grappling with adolescent demons that could torment grown men. And when he was online, he wrote about it.

"I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens," he wrote Sept. 9. "What do I have to do so people will listen to me?"

Just over one week later, Jamey was found dead outside his home of an apparent suicide.In the months prior, he routinely blogged about school bullying and thoughts of suicide in between upbeat posts about his pop star idol Lady Gaga and the ordinary types of teen rants typical for kids his age.   On Sept. 8, he wrote: "No one in my school cares about preventing suicide, while you're the ones calling me [gay slur] and tearing me down."

He put up a separate post that day letting everyone know it was National Suicide Prevention Week.  On Saturday night, he posted a lyric from Lady Gaga's song "The Queen" on his Facebook page: "Don't forget me when I come crying to heaven's door."

Then around 1:30 a.m. Sunday, Jamey posted two final messages to his main public Tumblr blog. One said he really wanted to see his great-grandmother, who had recently died, and one offered thanks to Lady Gaga.

That was his last entry.

Jamey did have bad days. Issues of bullying and even suicide talk were not new to many of Jamey's family or friends. They were common topics for him and seemed to ramp up to an extreme level when other students started making taunts with gay references to Jamey about 12 months ago on his Formspring account, which permits anonymous posts.


Another read: "I wouldn't care if you died. No one would. So just do it :) It would make everyone WAY more happier!"


Earlier this year Jamie had created and posted a video for Dan Savage's "It Gets Better Project"

It's hard to know exactly what to say when something this horrible  this  preventable happens.  What is clear is Jamey's school and teachers  failed him.  Failed him with  fatal  consequences.   I could  write  for pages and pages about how  so many self-proclaimed  "Family Values Conservatives"  have Jamey's  blood on their hands today.

I could  go on and on about how the  dehumanizing  rhetoric  of  hate groups  like "Focus on the Family" and  the  "American Family Association"  directly contributed to this young man's  tragic  death.   I could write for  days on end  about how the quest by  hate mongers and bigots like  Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santorum to  prevent  anti bullying  programs in our schools  is killing  our  kids....

But no amount of words on a screen or a page will  bring this  remarkable  young man back,  it won't  bring back any of the  lives that have been lost  to hate .  So  I will simply say,  those who hounded this  young man and others like him to their deaths, are the farthest thing  from Christian.  They are  evil itself,  and I have no doubt that they will rot and burn in hell.  With all their  hate which  they are so sure  will  buy their way  into heaven,  they will instead, find  themselves standing  before  God, who will look away and say:  "I do not  know you ..."

The  streets of heaven are too crowded with  Angels  tonight.     I am sorry  Jamey.   America  failed you .  Rest in peace.

Left Behind - from "Spring Awakening"

You fold his hands and smooth his tie, you gently lift his chin.
Were you really so blind, and unkind to him?
Can't help the itch to touch, to kiss, to hold him once again.
Now to close his eyes--never open them....

A shadow passed, a shadow passed, yearning, yearning
For the fool it called a home.

All things he never did are left behind.
All the things his mama wished he'd bear in mind,
And all his dad had hoped he'd know.

The talks you never had, the saturdays you never spent.
All the 'grown-up' places you never went.
And all of the crying you wouldn't understand.
You just let him cry, 'make a man out of him.'

A shadow passed, a shadow passed, yearning, yearning
For a fool it called a home.

All things he ever wished are left behind.
All the things his mama did to make him mind,
And how his dad had hoped he'd grow.

All things he ever lived are left behind.
All the fears that ever flickered through his mind.
All the sadness that he'd come to own.

A shadow passed, a shadow passed, yearning, yearning
For the fool it called a home.

And it whistles through the ghosts still left behind.
It whistles through the ghosts still left behind.
Whistles through the ghosts still left behind.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Seriously Cool....

A time-lapse of images  taken from the International Space Station  gives us a space-eye view of what it  is like to fly around the Earth

This movie begins over the Pacific Ocean and continues over North and South America before entering daylight near Antarctica. Visible cities, countries and landmarks include (in order) Vancouver Island, Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Fransisco, Los Angeles. Phoenix. Multiple cities in Texas, New Mexico and Mexico. Mexico City, the Gulf of Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, Lightning in the Pacific Ocean, Guatemala, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and the Amazon. Also visible is the earths ionosphere (thin yellow line) and the stars of our galaxy. Raw data was downloaded from;

The Gateway To Astronaut Photography of Earth
" ".

Virtualdub was used to create the final movie.

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is officially repealed.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering a September Morning...

The  media, and  the blogposphere   has  been  full of  all sorts of  remembrances and  commentary  around  today's ten year  anniversary of the attacks on  September 11, 2001.

To be honest  I  was trying to  avoid the  topic.  Not  out of  any  sense  of personal pain,  but  more out of respect,  for  those people I know who were far closer to  the events of that day than I was.

My experience  that day was a surreal one.    I had  gotten up  very early and  caught a flight  from  Chicago Midway to  Houston.  I was heading there for work.   It was about  20 minutes into the flight,  the  seat belt sign had just turned off,  and  people where  shifting about, getting  comfortable.   I had just  pulled out my laptop to work on  the presentation I was going to be giving  later that day.  Suddenly the  seat belt sign came back on,  and the  crew announced  that  everyone  was to return to their seats and  prepare for landing,  the flight would be returning  to Chicago.

The  Pilot then came on the  speaker system to say that there was nothing wrong with the plane,  and  we were returning  to Chicago because the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)  had ordered  the flight to return to "clear air traffic".  He said that was all the information they had, and he apologized for the inconvenience. 

Everyone on the plane  thought the same thing.  (Not terrorism.)   Chicago Midway had upgraded to a new  Air Traffic Control System  earlier in the Summer and  a few weeks prior,   there had been a series of  glitches  that had delayed several flights.  Everyone  groaned,  made  comments about  "Government  Efficiency"  assuming   it was yet another  problem with  Midway's system that  was going to  mess up our day.

A assumption that  was  bolstered  by the fact that  we were not  returning to   Midway but rather  we were diverted to  Chicago's  O'Hare  International Airport.

The  woman  sitting next to me was happy about this  thinking  at least  it might be easier to get on the next flight out to Houston.   I nodded,  and said  "I hope so",  thinking of how I might salvage  the rest of my schedule  that day  and  make my afternoon meetings on time.

It took us  about  30 minutes  of circling over  O'Hare  before  we could land. Sitting in a window seat  I  watched as  the line of planes  waiting to land  stretched  to the far  horizon  and  oddly enough, no planes were  taking off.   I commented on this  to the  woman  next to me, and  she  said "wow Midway's  systems  must be really  screwed up!"  I laughed  and  said  that  what we get  for Ronald Reagan having fired all the  good Air Traffic Controllers.  She laughed and said she had forgotten about that.

We landed and had to wait  an additional  20 minutes  to get a gate.  but  finally  pulled up to  a jetway , and we all  lumbered off the plane into the gate area   I was getting annoyed because people were not  clearing the area  in front of the door  but were  all standing  around the  televisions  that were  tuned to CNN Airport.   I was  about to say a loud  "excuse me!"  when I happened to look up at the  TV  and saw CNN replay  footage from ABC  of  the  second plane  hitting  the  World Trade Center.

 CNN then cut to  live shot  of  a column  of  smoke and ash where  the World Trade Center Towers were supposed to be, but weren't.    I called my office and my boss told me not to come in,  The area in downtown Chicago  around the Sears Tower was being  evacuated.   I called my parents and  let them know I was not  in Houston,  got on the  CTA  Blue Line and  went home.

The rest of that day  I did what most Americans did,  watched  the news,  and when the images became  overwhelming,   I put on my roller blades and went blading  along the  Lake Michigan shoreline.

It was  brilliant  sunny day.   One of those  late Summer,  early  Fall days  that  you get  in Chicago that  make you appreciate what  a beautiful city it is.   As  I stopped at  Oak Street Beach and  admired  the  downtown Chicago skyline,  I didn't  think that  somehow the  "world had changed".  But rather  I found myself  thinking how  the United States now had finally,  sadly,  had joined  the rest of the world.

Before that that morning, Terrorism was  something that happened  in other places,   Israel, Lebanon  London, Belfast , places far away.  Even the first  World Trade Center bombing  for many people, didn't seem like international terrorism.   After all, the  people responsible were caught when they  tried to get the deposit back on the  rental van they had used.   (How sinister could people that  dumb be?)  

That is  what changed I think,  it  was the moment  America lost the  illusion that  somehow our  two oceans  would keep us safe  from global  terrorism.

For friends of mine who lived in  New York on that day,  I understand  that  this week is  a much different  experience for them.   A good friend of mine is  a New York City Police Officer  who  lost an arm in the attack that day.   Another friend of mine worked  for an investment bank housed in the  North Tower,  she had a doctors appointment so she didn't go into work  that morning.   For her, today  is a reminder of  the  15 friends and co-workers  who she lost  that day.  

For the numerous  friends of mine who have served,   and currently serve in both  Afghanistan  and  Iraq with the American and British Armed Forces, they deal with the effects September 11, 2001  on a far different level  than  most people ever will.

So this evening, I will attend  the 9-11 memorial  service here in London,  at  Westminster Abbey.   Where people will remember the events of that day,  pray  for  those  who were lost, and  show solidarity and support for friends  for whom this  anniversary is far more  personal than political.

God Bless America,   God bless us all.

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Sound of Silence....

Hey there  folks...

Yes I am  still  alive and kicking.   I know,  I   have not posted in a while. Sorry about that.   I don't really have a good excuse other than  "well, I've been busy...ya' know?"   Which really isn't  all that good of a reason.    Truth be told,  after watching  the start of the  U.S.  2012 Presidential election  campaign kick off  last month,  with the  Iowa straw poll.  I wanted to blog about it,  but every time I would try  to write something,  I'd just get annoyed and develop a headache. 

Why?  Because,  as the 2012 campaign begins,  it looks like  United States  is once again poised to prove our stupidity  to the rest of the world.  

The current  crop of  Republican GOP  candidates are at best,  mindless dolts who honestly think destroying  the  middle class,  and turning America into a third world nation of  a few have-it-all's and a mass of  have-not's is a good idea.   Or,  they  are  at worst, Anti-American right wing theocratic wingnuts,   who truly  hate our freedoms as much as any Islamic extremist  ever did.   At this point, it is honestly hard to tell which is the case.   

The most  recent Republican to throw his ten gallon hat into the ring is current  Texas Governor, Rick Perry.   Who, among other things,  thinks creationism should replace teaching evolution in schools, and thinks that  God is telling him  to run  for President. 

People over here on this side of the Atlantic  ask me if  the  Republican Party could be even remotely serious about nominating "another one".  Meaning another Texas Governor with a frail grasp on reality and a penchant for confusing the voices in his head  with divine instruction.  I'd like to  assure them that  America is not THAT stupid, but  the most recent  CNN Republican presidential poll, suggests that at least, on the  Republican side, America may be just that stupid...

According to a CNN poll released this week, Perry has a commanding lead among Republican voters nationally.

The rest of the crop of  GOP candidates is just as much  fun.  You have  former Pennsylvania  Senator Rick Santorum, and  Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachman.  Both of whom think the greatest  crisis facing America,  is all those Gay couples getting married.   According to both  Santorum and Bachman, recent moves towards  marriage equality in the U.S. are responsible for;  (among other things...)  Unemployment,  the recent earthquake that rattled the American East Coast,  Hurricane Irene, and  bad weather in general.  

Not to be left out,  Perry, along with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney; ( who up until  Rick Perry joined the field, was himself the GOP front runner).  Quickly signed on to a "pledge" by the right wing hate group  "The National Organization for Marriage",  basically  promising to ban all civil rights  for LGBT Americans,  and make fighting for those rights a crime. 

If that isn't enough fun and frolic for you ,  according to the  entire GOP field,  ALL forms of government regulation are  bad.. very very bad.    Especially anything that  regulates  what corporations can do to their employees,  their customers or the environment.   Oh, and  anything that protects workers,  consumers or  the environment is now  referred to as  "job killing"  in all GOP/Fox News talking points.

Along those same lines.   Anyone who is in the top one-tenth of one percent in terms of income in the United States,  according to the GOP should not have to pay taxes. 
The reason being , the uber-wealthy are  all magical  "job creators".  And paying taxes  might hurt their feelings, and then they wouldn't  create all those  wonderful jobs that  they  did during the Bush years thanks to those magical tax cuts...  Oh, wait,  I guess that  didn't  actually happen.  

Not ones to be  held back by facts, the  GOP candidates are once again  preaching  the gospel  of  "trickle down economics".   If we just give more money to those who already have  lots of money,  then  it will all somehow trickle down to everyone else.   (Remember that one from the Reagan years? )

 But  according to the GOP, we can't  require the "job creators" to use all that money to create jobs,  because that would be unfair.  So  when the top one-tenth of one percent  takes all that money and  just pockets it,  creating no jobs whatsoever,  folks like Perry and Ron Paul will insist it's not really their fault,  it's (wait for it... )  according to  GOP hopefuls,   all that Government Regulation that  has gotten in the way. 
These people are seriously insane.   So if the current  2012 GOP field is  so  utterly  wacktacular,  why am I worried?  Simple,   I am worried because  the American electorate  has a ridiculously short attention span and a  track record voting against  their own best interests.   

Add to that,  the painful truth that  President Obama's first term  has been one long experiment in  poltical  weakness.   

The Republican Party discovered early on, the sad and very inconvenient truth that  President Obama, is a good man, an intelligent man, who is very weak.   President Obama is not a Leader, he is a negotiator, and not a very good one. On issue after issue, from Health Care Reform, to Wall Street Reform, Congressional Republicans, found that President Obama, would accept a really bad agreement, if they simply threatened to leave him with  no agreement at all.

As a result, the GOP learned very quickly , that it was all too easy to back the President into a corner, where his natural urge to "find common ground", meant he would abandon his stated principles and simply give in.  All the while making very eloquent statements about the value of bi-partisanship.  

So now  we have the beginning of  the 2012 election campaign where President Obama's one major accomplishment,  health insurance reform, is in fact a motivating issue for Republicans,  who are now campaigning on  the "I promise to repeal Obama-care" bandwagon.   

Obama-Biden 2012, will be a tough sell to many Americans, who vote based on one question and one question only;  "Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?"   The answer for far too many Americans is sadly,  no.   

It doesn't  bode well, when the only real answer the Obama Administration has come up with so far to that stark reality,  is to say;  "But...think how much WORSE it COULD have been if we hadn't been here!" 

It's like telling someone who is unemployed, "Hey!  At least you don't have malaria!"   Factually true, but unhelpful.

My fear is President Obama will simply campaign like  he did in 2008,  and the American electorate will do exactly what  he told them to do back then...   Vote for change.