Thursday, January 21, 2010

Immoderate political rant

Alright. Usually I try to take a moderate approach to things, even though I'm generally left-leaning. My long earlier post about global warming for instance was about the science of it, not the politics. Be productive and understanding and such.

Today I will rant. I may even allow myself to curse.

Been a lousy few days for political and social issues. First up, thousands of people showed up at the Hawaii Legislature to protest a bill allowing same sex couples to form civil unions. Organized by one of these "family" organizations whose main purpose is to decide for others what families they are allowed to have. That family group is in turn composed mostly of various churches, catholic and evangelical. It's not even a damn marriage bill; it's a civil unions bill that allows people who love each other to get benefits and see each other in the hospital and such without carrying a lawyer with them. You know, to support and love one another. Apparently, this is evil and unacceptable. I literally flipped off the newspaper with the story.

I'm not really even Christian anymore, but I get the impression that these people have never really read the Gospels. Yes, I know you can find some comments from St. Paul and Leviticus against same sex relationships, but how much time did Jesus go around worrying about this issue? I love me some Leviticus, but if I'm going to be a Christian, I'm going to worry about what Christ said and did first. Priorities. I'm well aware that many churches do in fact do tons of stuff that relates to the life of Jesus. In high school, I worked in a soup kitchen in the basement of a Catholic Church. Catholic charities are everywhere and doing great things. Many evangelicals do the same thing.

But if you can only get thousands of people to show up for something one time in a year... Really? Same sex civil unions is it? Not the homeless. Not children on the street. Not abandoned seniors. You're going to set your foot down politically only one time and it's about keeping gay people from seeing each other in the hospital.

Supposedly, these thousands of people had signs saying "I vote" to show there would be political consequences. Well, you know what? I vote too. Not only will I vote against a politician who votes against this bill; I vote against churches who choose to use their political power to tell others what legal contracts they can sign. Jesus spent most of his time, as I recall, trying to bring others to God. Above all else, that's the most important thing. Well, you, idiotic "family" organization, are driving people like me away from God. I will never walk through your doors. If you think civil unions are bad, fine. But use your time and money on something that Christ would have spent his time on. Not on the three phrases you've latched onto in 800 pages of text.

Next up, Democrats lost a Senate seat. Whatever. I'm too angry to really worry about this one at the moment.

And then today the Supreme Court virtually declared that corporations are covered under the First Amendment. My understanding has always been that the First Amendment is about people. You know, American citizens, not pieces of paper. It's undoubtedly going to make the nation worse. No matter what political stance you have, well unless you are fascist, one of the greatest problems our government faces is corporate influence. Corporations and unions practically write the legislation already. The Dems were planning to give the unions an exemption on some health care taxes for no real reason, but only because they support the Democrats and so it's payback. The major 5 or so financial institutions largely control financial regulations. After all, the former head of Citibank is the one in the government handling these issues.

And for over 100 years, laws have been created to limit corporate influence on politics by banning them from political ads and campaigns and such, originating with Teddy Roosevelt (a Republican who mostly rocked, for the record). But today the Supreme Court threw out almost all of these restrictions. (Remember that the most recent round of restrictions was written by John McCain and Russ Feingold.) They still cannot directly fund a national party or a federal candidate, so that's good, but otherwise it appears they can say whatever they want whenever they want. Basically, the argument to strike the laws down is that they violate the First Amendment, but as I recall, the First Amendment guarantees rights to people, not pieces of legal paper.

This could be really, really bad. By giving free speech to major corporations, the potential effect is to render the free speech of actual physical people meaningless.

Remember that Goldman Sachs, for instance, gives out billions of dollars in bonuses in a single quarter. The entire Obama campaign for the Presidency, the richest in history, was like a billion or something. Chump change. McCain's was similar but a bit smaller as I recall. That's like one department's bonus at Goldman. Again, they can't directly fund the candidate, but they can do entire campaigns that just copy what the candidate they like says as long as they remain "independent".

Why in the world would a candidate give a damn about any random person's opinion, or even that of a billionaire like a Forbes or Soros who spends tens of millions, when they can get some company to make their campaign for them "independently"? It's a recipe for corruption.

But fine. Companies are people, too. If we ever shut one down, we should prosecute the culprits for murder. Whatever.

I think the only way to save ourselves is to make the participation of corporations in politics so damaging financially to them that few will want to. Therefore, a company can blow whatever money it wants to on an ad, but every 10 seconds a big title must appear in all caps saying,"

THIS AD ABOUT ISSUE X IS PAID FOR BY JOHNSON & JOHNSON. REMEMBER THAT. EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU BUY ONE OF OUR PRODUCTS YOU ARE FUNDING THIS AD CAMPAIGN. I HOPE YOU AGREE WITH US. IF YOU DO NOT, YOU ARE STILL FUNDING THIS.

And then there's a warning label on every product. Above "lunch" at McDonald's it says,

"BY BUYING LUNCH HERE, YOU ARE FUNDING OUR CAMPAIGN AGAINST SAFE FOOD REGULATIONS. ENJOY YOUR MEAL."

Maybe we could end up with political restaurant chains. If you are Democrat, you go eat at TGI Friday's and fund climate change campaigns. If you are Republican, you eat at Applebee's and fund restrictions on abortions.

Sounds like a great world and I know I'll enjoy every product I buy more knowing that each one has a direct political consequence. It also sounds wonderful for corporations. They used to only have to worry about finding the best salespeople or computer programmers or financial analysts. Now each one of those employees gets to worry about the company's political stances before choosing to join.

Eat up!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Be grateful, you wretch!

I imagine that all parents have their favorite threats. I guess they're not really threats as ways to point out that one's lousy life could be a lot lousier. When my sister, brother, or I refused to do something beneficial to us, such as tie our shoelaces or eat vegetables, my mother always threatened us with "you know, no one cares if you fall and break a leg at the orphanage" or "no one cares if you grow to be healthy and strong at the orphanage." We all naturally thought the orphanage must be a paradise. Much food has been eaten to the refrain about starving children in Ethiopia.

Yesterday when 6yo (new name for B) refused to do some simple chore such as taking his plate to the sink, N delightfully came up with "you know, some children have to work in coal mines."

That's awesome. The coal mine threat. Do your damned homework or you're going to be shipped to the coal mines and be forced to address me as "gov'ner".

So, stop putting off writing that next 1,000 words and be grateful, because, you know, some children have to work in coal mines.

Anyone care to share their favorite "be grateful, you wretch" line?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Christmas Pics

In this space I provide unto thee, dear ladies and gentlemen, a wondrous collection of life-like portraits electronik from yon month of December.

Cub Scout Pack before the Kaimuki Christmas Parade (I usually don't post pics that contain other kids, but, since we are always dressing up in uniforms to be in newspapers or on TV, I decided it was okay.)



Here we are, living it up at the 3 hour Cub Scout Christmas bonanza.



Every year, the City and County of Honolulu puts up their huge City Lights display. They pack City Hall, i.e., Honolulu Hale, with Christmas trees, plus lots of displays outside. Here we have some Menehune on a Xmas train.



Over Christmas, the mother-in-law, who's actually a very nice person whom I get along with well (and please notice the use of "whom"), visited for a week and a half. We took our semi-annual Christmas Eve around the island tour. Two years ago, we ate Christmas Eve dinner in some random park in the rain. This year, we first stopped at this beach, which might now be our favorite new beach.



You can see how slowly the beach slopes, making it perfect for little ones.





(For the Hawaii folk who might read, I have forgotten this park's name as I always do (ends with "kahana"). It's up past Ka'a'awa, and a good ways before Lihu'e. When you are driving around the windward side, you get to this sort of inlet, where the road has to go in and around, before heading back out again. It's on the Lihu'e side of that.)

(For the non-Hawaii folk, if you ever do visit Oahu, there are indeed peaceful beaches with only a handful of other people on them, but you have to drive far away from Waikiki. Basically, you will want to go up the Windward side, to the North Shore, but go West from Haleiwa instead of East to the famous surfing spots, or way up the leeward side.)

After lunch at this beach, as is Christmas tradition, it started to rain on us. I, however, was stubborn as a mule and forced everyone to continue up to a beginner's snorkeling beach at the Turtle Bay Resort and went snorkeling as it rained and the sun fell. However, I did manage to see some fish, including the legendary humuhumunukunukapua'a, wedgetail trigger fish, which is the state fish of Hawaii. This is not my pic, but here is a humuhumunukunukuapua'a.



I choose to imagine a team of them pulling a little Santa sleigh.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Fireworks

Every Friday night the Hilton Hawaiian resort does a 5-10 minute fireworks show. When I grew up the only fireworks show was shooting bottle rockets at your friend. Now I'm at a place with fireworks every night and a good 4-5 aerial shows in different places on the island on the 4th. On the 4th, you can sit at one fireworks show and watch 2 others going off in the distance.

Anyway, last October, N, B, and myself had fun with our new digital camera. It has a special "fireworks" setting which keeps the aperture open for a while to nice effect.
(pics here Facebook people)






It was also fun to play some. When the camera kept the shutter open, you could deliberately move it around to get some funky effects.





The above are things like the Hilton's large tower of rooms, a lamppost, a party in the distance.

I tried to draw with the moon here. This is the moon solo as I moved the camera around.



This is the little guy kinda fuzzy. If he was a phantom, maybe this is what he would be like:

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Puzzles for the ages

Paca to the 6yo: How was your first day of [After School Program]?
6yo: Well, I got into a little trouble.
Paca: Oh?
6yo: So I had to do a lot of thinking. It took several minutes and it was hard thinking. How do I solve this problem? To not get in trouble anymore?
Paca: How did you solve it?
6yo: Stay sitting.
Paca: Good solution.