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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Smoke screen


Wasn't Obama's speech the other night wonderful. The very next day was anyone talking about anything he said? Nooooooo McCain has everyone buzzing about some dippy ex-beauty queen who's good at spouting the partly line: pro-life, pro-war, creationist, anti-environment, pro-screwthemiddleclass.

We did wake up to an Obama commercial with the old Sam Cooke song with the words "Don't know much about history, don't know much about biology..." with captions of all McCain's really stupid statements. It was priceless.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Convention

I remember watching the 1964 convention, the 1968, and all subsequent conventions. It used to be the only thing you could watch as there were only three networks and they had eight to ten hours of coverage per day. I remember the roll call votes with everyone getting a few seconds to promote their great state. All the speeches from people you had never heard of, but by the next convention were national leaders.
I know times have changed, that we now have thousands of different channels to choose from, but the coverage of the Democratic Convention this year has become little more than a sound bite. When the lone hour of primetime started tonight someone was giving a speech, a woman. I don't know who because you could only see her on the big screen behind Brian Williams who was saying something absolutely meaningless. I switched to PBS, they had people talking around a table, I tried CNN -- not even showing it, MSNBC had people talking. All that supposed coverage blocked over 90% of what you used to see, namely politicians most people had never heard of getting the chance to become known for future elections. It worked for both parties as a springboard for up and coming politicians. Now it's all about talking heads pushing their own agendas.
I kept asking myself while these guys and gals were talking almost non-stop about John McCain if they were aware that this was the Democratic Convention not the Republican Convention.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Early Birthday

It's still a few days until my birthday, but Mom took all of us out to dinner today. I chose a little Thai restaurant in the strip mall near where Mom lives. The food was plentiful and very good. While there Mom got a call from Penni. She's been in a hospice care center, but is expecting to go home tomorrow. To all of my readers if you haven't signed the guestbook at her caringbridge site please do so. It helps make her day when she receives loving messages.
On some good news my niece (Bruce's daughter) is expecting, Mom didn't say when she's due, but it's about time Bruce became a grandfather. I've got five years up on him in that department.
E gave me a miniature golf bag with a letter opener and pen & pencil set that look like clubs. It's nice.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Hamlet 2


Looked at the online New York Times today, like everyday, and they had a review of the movie Hamlet 2 which is being released today. I recognize a number of students dancing with the film's main actor in my school's gym. It was filmed here last school year, and for the most part was a very good experience for the school and community. The production made numerous improvements to our facilities, used our students as extras and were as unobtrusive as could be. The review of the movie is rather neutral, not praising, but not dissing too much either. For me when I get around to seeing it (don't go to the theaters much when in six months it'll be on satellite) the joy will be in seeing extras that are faceless and just background to everyone else, but they mean something to all those around here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympic thought

I was looking at the medal count as listed by Yahoo today. It showed the U. S. at 79 total medals, China as 76 and Russia at 42.
The thought that came to mind was that during the cold war it was always U.S. and Soviet Union leading the medal count. What happened to Russia?

Then I looked further down the list: Ukraine -- 17, Belarus -- 11, Kazakhstan -- 8, etc

If all the countries that were apart of the old Soviet Union are added together it comes out at a whopping total of 104.

 I guess as for the olympics it's a good thing those countries aren't all together anymore. Just a thought.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Validation

I've been telling my students for years that the reason we need to study history is to be able to understand the future. It's our crystal ball without the mumbo jumbo. I usually quote Confucius: "In order to divine the future one must first study the past."
Today I was reading the We're only human blog put out by Psychological Science Magazine. They had an article about researching why we need memory and what makes us or helps us remember things. In order to test for this aspect of the human psyche they based their experiment on this premise: The only value of remembering the past is in illuminating the present or predicting the future. 

I particularly found it interesting that long term memory (though they didn't call it that in this study) is tied into survival. When they tested survival memory against all the mnemonic techniques for remembering that survival prevailed.

Now if we could just get our students in school to realize that what they are learning is just as much about physical, political, and economic survival as say being able to throw a football, shoot a basketball or hit a baseball we might have more avid learners.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

First tournament


These were the three guys I was paired up with for the golf tournament today. They took pictures of all the teams on the first tee box. You can see the Eastern slope of Sandia Mountain in the background. Of all the golf courses I've played it has the most magnificent setting. The tournament was a four man scramble (you play from the best ball hit out of the four so it speeds up play). Out of 47 teams we came in dead last. We got $25 gift certificates at the course pro shop. I picked out two coffee mugs with the course logo on them. It might be a backhanded compliment, but hey at least it was something.
It was overall a really fun day, though it was hot and long.
There was also an auction with all kinds of donated stuff up for bid. I bid on a nice woven basket of African artwork. It was filled with a wooden beaded knecklace (gave it to Grinnygranny), bamboo windchimes hanging from a coconut, a zebra mask, a giraffe mask, two wooden spears (about two feet long), a copper wall plate with a lion on top of a gazelle in relief, wooden salad spoon and fork with giraffes on top and two small wooden spoons with giraffes on top, and a multi-colored linen sheet with braided ends. The masks and copper plate should look nice on the wall of my classroom. The other stuff will be nice to show, but the spears I'll have to leave home. I'll have to figure a way to put them up on the wall so the toddler can't get to them.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The American Show Trial

Another aspect of The Gulag Archipelago is how Stalin staged show trials. The one thing you can say about Stalin was that he could put on a show and get the results he wanted. No one was fooled, but he got the conviction he wanted on the charges that were brought.
Dubbya will have to go down as the most inept, bumbling, incompetent political leader of all time. He can't even stage a show trial and have it come out right. No wonder he hates Hollywood.
Yesterday there was the first verdict of a prisoner from the Gulag Guantanimo. Here is some of what Scott Horton says about it.

The six military panelists acquitted Hamdan on the major charges of conspiracy, which were the only charges originally brought against him. They convicted him of material support on the grounds that he was in fact bin Laden’s chauffeur.

It seems the ability to drive a car can now get you put in prison for life.

As Matt Waxman, who as a senior official in the Rumsfeld Pentagon helped craft this system, has acknowledged, there was another defendant in that courtroom standing alongside Salim Hamdan: it was the American justice system. Judgment will be taken by history, and the case was played to a global audience. The first returns are in, and they are not positive... Even before the verdict came in, observers around the world were focused on the Bush Administration’s own contempt for the military commissions process. It had announced that it was indifferent to the judgment of the commission—if Hamdan were acquitted, he could continue to be held for life, a Pentagon briefer acknowledged.

If this doesn't make it a show trial, what does?

The former chief Guant├ínamo prosecutor has now openly acknowledged that an independent, objective prosecutor never would have charged Salim Hamdan, because he was an absolute nobody... That such a loaded, rigged system actually produced an acquittal on the only serious charges is evidence of the breathtaking incompetence of the Bush strategists.

DUHHHH!!!

The military commissions exist to try war crimes. Conspiracy is a war crime...And he was acquitted on these charges... But in the second round, “material support” charges were added—a crime invented after the fact, in violation of basic legal and constitutional norms. Notwithstanding vacuous Congressional pronouncements, “material support” is not a war crime. For obvious reasons—if it were a war crime, then the laws of war would be criminalizing entire populations...In fact, the whole thrust of the laws of war is just the opposite: it seeks to protect the large bulk of the population which is not directly engaged in hostilities. David Glazier has written an impressive summary of the issue, but Judge Allred’s own opinionmakes the case against his ruling sustaining the charge–he is unable to cite anyprecedent or authority in support of the Administration’s say-so... 
I (Horton) agree that prosecutors offered reasonable evidence showing that Hamdan was involved in material support to Al Qaeda. But the fact remains that this is not a war crime. In fact, the law is very clear on this point. That means not that Hamdan is innocent, but that the charge should have been brought in another court, not before a military commission.

The news media being the overpaid lapdogs of this adminstsation are only reporting the conviction and conveniently overlooking the pillaging and plundering of American justice, prestige and honor.

As Russ states on almost all of his blog entries: "Stop the Madness!"

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Writer Who Made A Difference

















A great man passed away recently.

When I was in college taking Russian History the news was full of a Russian Pulitzer Prize winning author being allowed to emigrate to the U.S. and then releasing a book telling the world what it was like in the Soviet Union under Stalin. I still have my copy of that book. I've only read it once, but certain parts of it are still burned in my memory.
Stalin giving a speech to the Politburo (their Congress), when he finished everyone naturally gave him a standing ovation, then the NKVD (secret police) stepped onto the stage. Everyone stood clapping for hours until someone finally stopped. He was quickly arrested and sent to Siberia.
Solzhenitsyn began the book exploring the issue of blame. Who was to blame for the excesses, the pain, the lost lives, absence of liberty. He blamed the people, not the paranoid power drunk leaders. That it is up to the people to stand up for their rights.
Anyone who has read my blog for the last few years knows full well I haven't been silent concerning the abuses at Guantanimo, the loss of habeas corpus and my opinion of Bushco. I've quoted my brother who has been greatly vocal about the abuses of the Republicans and Moral Mafia. I've added links to Scott Horton and Harper's Magazine that have helped inform me concerning the legal excesses of our current justice dept, that would make Stalin and Beria feel warm and fuzzy.
In the last couple of weeks the one time war hero, congressional maverick has turned into a lap dog of the neocon constitutional demolition party. Megalomaniacs R Us didn't have to pass laws to silence the press, they bought it lock, stock, presses and studios. This election will determine if we are going to fight war in-perpetuity to make more money for the top 2% of our population. I'm counting on the people saying enough is enough and changing not just the executive, but cleaning out the legislative branch as well. Our courts and Civil Service will be infected for decades with the wild eyed true believers in the cult of personality that has bloomed around Bushco.

Then there is Mr. Hypocrite personified lecturing China on human rights yesterday. That also brought back something a college professor taught me over thirty years ago: "People don't listen to a speech, they listen to a speaker." 

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Vacation over

Tomorrow it's back to the classroom, getting it ready anyway, the students don't report until the 12th. Grinnygranny and I went up to Paako Ridge to golf again. We only did 14 holes before a thunder storm came by, but we were ready to head in anyway. That is one tough course. It's beautiful, but those greens are surrounded by deep bunkers and have the ridges and size of them make for some high putting numbers. I'll be back there Saturday in a tournament, but it will be a four man scramble which makes it a little easier. I just hope I get paired with some guys that are better than me.
Right after I posted about seeing Fireproof I turned on the satelite and right there on Stars was Facing The Giants. I set the DVR to record it and we just watched it. Really good movie, if your into football movies.
Need to get some sleep and head off to in-service meetings in the morning.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Enjoyable weekend

Went to the Minister's and Family retreat this weekend through Grinnygranny's work. The main speaker was Michael Catt, who is the pastor of the church that made the movie Facing The Giants. He showed his latest picture Fireproof that's not released yet (he passed out a promotion package to all the preachers for them to promote it. I haven't seen Facing the Giants yet so I can't comment on it. Fireproof, was amazingly good. It's about a couple that's been married seven years and decide to get divorced. Kirk Cameron plays the fireman husband that at the direction of his father tries to save the marriage. He's given a Love Dare book where he has to do one loving thing every day for forty days. The Love Dare book is scheduled to be released in book stores as a companion to the movie. The argument that ends with their decision to get a divorce is extremely realistic and intense and the wife's reaction to the daily love dare is humorous. There are some very intense fire rescue scenes, good advice from family and friends and bad advice. If this movie is promoted and distributed through churches it should do a lot of good. I'm not sure how well it would be accepted in regular distribution, but it was well worth watching. Now I'll have to find a copy of Facing the Giants.
The hotel we stayed at was another story. With nearly 500 in attendance three working elevators for 17 floors were not enough. On the last day one of the elevators got stuck fully loaded and it took an hour to get them out. You had to pay in order to have wireless internet in the room, no complimentary breakfast, and the ice machine was always empty.
The hotel that the convention used three years ago is under renovation and when they have the next retreat three years from now they'll most likely go back to the other one. I always thought this was one of the finest hotels in the city, but I'm not impressed right now.