Monday, December 31, 2007

UK: War is Over if You Want It

From the spirit of John Lennon comes an announcement that the War on Terror is over.
Sir Ken Macdonald said terrorist fanatics were not soldiers fighting a war but simply members of an aimless "death cult."

The Director of Public Prosecutions said: 'We resist the language of warfare, and I think the government has moved on this. It no longer uses this sort of language."

London is not a battlefield, he said.

"The people who were murdered on July 7 were not the victims of war. The men who killed them were not soldiers," Macdonald said. "They were fantasists, narcissists, murderers and criminals and need to be responded to in that way."

America, do you want it?

xkcd: Advice for Responsible Behavior

Alt: Never bring tequila to a key-signing party.

So, remember this tonight, and be a responsible drinker as you ring in the New Year. Or stay home and know you're safe like I'm probably going to wind up doing. Then you don't have to be responsible, right? Hmmm....

Obama Happenings

Iowa Watch Party at HQ
The first primary of the 2008 presidential election is kicking off this Thursday, January 3 in Iowa. Bring your family and friends, and join Barack Obama staff and supporters at the Utah Headquarters and watch history happen live!

We will be gathering starting at 6 PM, and we expect news of the election results to begin coming in at 7 PM and continue throughout the evening while we cheer Senator Obama on from here in Utah. We'e working on getting a staffer or two to call and tell us on speakerphone what is going on, and how much energy they are seeing.

Feel free to bring a snack or drinks to share, but please join us either way.

We'll be watching on the tv in the gathering area, as well as on the projector in the meeting room.

You can sign up here.

Elko, Nevada trip for Caucus
I'm coordinating trips for people who want to go to Elko, NV to volunteer the weekend of their caucus (January 19). Details can be found here. Make sure you give me your contact information, so I can help you find a carpool (or help carpoolers find you if you're driving), as well as work on housing.

Photo Shoot
We're planning on taking photos of Obama supporters here in Utah to send in to the campaign on the afternoon of January 1. We'll be using the "Utah for Obama" flag that Janet Lee made, and trying to make sure we give the photo a distinctive "Utah" theme, to show the support that we have here. If you'd like to be a part of this, please let me know, and I'll get you the details as soon as they are finalized. Also, if you have photos of any event that we've done and haven't sent them to me in the past, please email them directly to me. I'm including it in the collection of photos from the past year, and passing some of them on to Chicago, as well.

Here is a cartoon from Mark Rothacher from earlier this week:

Iowa Staffers Coming to Utah
You've probably heard the Iowa Staffers are coming here to Utah after this Thursday, to stay until our primary on February 5. We still don't have housing, though! If you've got an extra room that you'd be willing to let one of them use, please let Aaron know. I have a bed that I can let them use, if someone has a room with no bed. We will also have Nevada Staffers coming here after January 19. Every little bit helps, so if you've got something available for part of that time, but not all, please talk to Aaron at (801) 803-0647.

Register to Vote By Mail
January 7 is the deadline to visit Utah's Election web site, and download either the regular registration form or the vote by mail form and get it mailed in. You can also pick up copies at HQ.

Help at the Office
If you can come down to the office to help with phone calls or anything else that needs done, call Aaron at (801) 803-0647. He needs to make sure someone is there from 9 am to 9 pm daily through the primary. We're also still in need of a couple of computers.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Terrorists are Coming! The Terrorists are Coming!

According to Mark of Boing Boing, the TSA has discovered that lithium batteries are about to become more dangerous on January 1, 2008 than they have been in the past, but apparently only if they're spare. Installed batteries don't seem to pose much threat.

He posted a handy-dandy little chart to help you figure out what's ok, and what's not. If only he could sort out the logic.

Here's what the TSA has to say about batteries:
Lithium-ion batteries, often found in laptop computers, differ from primary lithium batteries, which are often used in cameras. Some newer AA-size batteries are also primary lithium.

While there is no explosion hazard associated with either kind of battery, the Federal Aviation Administration has studied fire hazards associated with both primary and lithium-ion cells, and their extensive research is publicly available. As a result of this research, the FAA no longer allows large, palletized shipments of these batteries to be transported as cargo on passenger aircraft.

The research also shows that an explosion will not result from shorting or damaging either lithium-ion or primary lithium batteries. Both are, however, extremely flammable. Primary lithium batteries cannot be extinguished with firefighting agents normally carried on aircraft, whereas lithium-ion batteries are easily extinguished by most common extinguishing agents, including those carried on board commercial aircraft.

TSA has and will continue to work closely with the FAA on potential aviation safety and security issues, and TSA security officers are thoroughly and continually trained to find explosive threats. TSA does not have plans to change security regulations for electronic devices powered by lithium batteries.

I'm not really certain what they're saying there - something about non-explosive lithium batteries having something to do with TSA explosive threats. Not that we really need to understand anything except...

The terrorists are coming! The terrorists are coming!

xkcd: Signs

Alt: Clearance for this Sign: 11 Feet

Today's comic calls for one of my favorite classic rock songs:

Some of my favorite signs:

And my favorite coffee shop sign:

The Election is Coming, Can You Help?

Next Thursday is Iowa's primary. I can't believe it's here already! Anyway, after that, Senator Obama's campaign will be sending a few staffers here to Utah from Iowa. And they are going to need housing until our primary on February 5.

After Nevada's primary on January 19th, there will be even more staffers who will need housing until February 5.

If you or anyone you know can help by providing housing for Iowa and/or Nevada Obama staffers please call Aaron at the Utah headquarters at (801) 803-0647. Housing would preferably be in the Salt Lake City area so that these staffers could get to and from the Obama Utah office on 900 West and about 1700 South with ease.

We also need help staffing Obama Headquarters from 9 am to 9 pm daily through the primary. Again, Aaron would be the person to call if you'd like to help.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve With xkcd

Alt: Family going to bed at 10 PM is so much worse than jet lag.

Many of you have probably given time, money and effort to help those in need over the last year, and because many of those people don't ever get a chance to say "thank you", please allow me. When I was little, about the time I was 8, my mother converted to become a Jehovah's Witness, so there were no more Christmases for me until I became an adult. However, one of the last Christmases we did celebrate, when I was 5 or 6, I remember that our Christmas food and gifts were given to us by some sort of charity. I have no idea what group it might have been through, but as an adult with children, I look back to that time, and I'm very appreciative of what those strangers did for my family. So, thank you to every one of you who have shared your good fortune and good will with children and families like mine was 25 years ago.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Or Happy Holidays for those of different belief. May peace be with each of you, your families and your communities.

God bless.

What Waterboarding Is Like - Firsthand

Scylla, of Straight Dope, decided to answer the question of "Is Waterboarding Torture?" for himself. Here's a hint of his description of what waterboarding is like:
Here's what happened:

The water fills the hole in the saran wrap so that there is either water or vaccum in your mouth. The water pours into your sinuses and throat. You struggle to expel water periodically by building enough pressure in your lungs. With the saran wrap though each time I expelled water, I was able to draw in less air. Finally the lungs can no longer expel water and you begin to draw it up into your respiratory tract.

It seems that there is a point that is hardwired in us. When we draw water into our respiratory tract to this point we are no longer in control. All hell breaks loose. Instinct tells us we are dying.

I have never been more panicked in my whole life. Once your lungs are empty and collapsed and they start to draw fluid it is simply all over. You [b]know[b] you are dead and it's too late. Involuntary and total panic.

There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. It would be like telling you not to blink while I stuck a hot needle in your eye.

At the time my lungs emptied and I began to draw water, I would have sold my children to escape. There was no choice, or chance, and willpower was not involved.

I never felt anything like it, and this was self-inflicted with a watering can, where I was in total control and never in any danger.

And I understood.

Waterboarding gets you to the point where you draw water up your respiratory tract triggering the drowning reflex. Once that happens, it's all over. No question.

Seriously, read the whole thing.

(h/t Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing)

All I Want For Christmas Is Not To Get Tased

If you're shopping with your own credit card, and a cop comes up and tries to arrest you for using a stolen credit card, do you think a reasonable response would be to put your hands in the air, while backing away and try to talk about it? C'mon, that' NOT a reason to tase someone!

These aren't isolated instances, anymore.

(h/t Sharon Weinberger of Wired Danger Blog)

Friday, December 21, 2007

xkcd and the Writer's Strike [Update 2]

Alt: "He's just jealous because everyone's up in the attic listening to Stephen Colbert."

This one just about killed me! Go Writer's Guild!

[Update] Craig41 of The Side Track tells us The Daily Show and Colbert Report will be back Jan. 7th, sort of.

[Update 2] Stephen Colbert has been chosen as the AP celebrity of the Year.
In receiving this award, I am pleased that I was chosen over two great spinners of fantasy — J.K. Rowling and Al Gore. It is truly an honor to be named the Associated Press’ Celebrity of the Year. Best of all, this makes me the official front-runner for next year’s Drug-Fueled Downward Spiral of the year. P.S. Look for my baby bump this spring!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Grand Opening - SLC HQ

I'm sorry I'm so late in writing this, but better late than never, right? Between the hustle and bustle of the season, having a sick child and then getting sick myself, this is my first chance.

These photos were from the Official Grand Opening of Obama HQ in Salt Lake City, Utah on December 8. We had over 200 people attend the event, even though we had a really bad snowstorm that morning. We signed up over 50 new volunteers. It was an amazing way to kick off the opening of the new office!  

Janet Lee made this wheel for people to spin to win prizes, such as bumper stickers.

Theo and Dianna spent 7 hours decorating these cookies!

Lots of us wrote why we support Senator Obama on this white board. It reads:
Why I Support Obama
An Optimistic Vision for America - Derek
Judgement / World View - Theo
Change for the better! - (Moni?)
Fresh Ideas -> Leadership, So Much More - (?) Nikki
Hope - Misty, Bill, Moni(?), Jenée
It's time for Barack Obama, and I believe in the Senator. Go Obama!
Integrity - Janet
No Health Mandate - J
Victory - Brett
New Direction
They say his lack of experience in Washington is a negative. I see it as a refreshing, positive sign. - Heloise (?)
Understanding of the people of the world. - Strider
Because he's cute and has funny ears. - Anonymous
Diplomacy - Kim
All of the above - Bill

Everyone that could crowded into the main reception hall while I spoke to them about why it is so important to volunteer time, and what kinds of ways they could help, and then Aaron elaborated on volunteering.

Aaron Wiley, Utah's Field Director, with Ivonna, our "Mamma for Obama" leader and her new baby.

One of three cakes we had for the reception. - Ready to Go!

One of three cakes we had for the reception. - Oops it should say Fired Up!

One of three cakes we had for the reception. - Obama '08

Much thanks to Nikki Norton for these photos! The rest of them are on Flickr. If you have more pictures, please let me know, or add them to the Flickr group! 

KSL covered the story, as did Channel 2.

If you haven't been down yet, stop by 1747 South 900 West, or call 801-88-Obama (801-886-2262) to let Aaron know you'd like to come down. And don't forget to volunteer to make phone calls! 

Action Alert: Wexler Wants (Cheney Impeachment) Hearings!

Congressman Robert Wexler wants impeachment hearings, and you can help him do it.
The charges are too serious to ignore. There is credible evidence that the Vice President abused the power of his office, and not only brought us into an unneccesary war but violated the civil liberties and privacy of American citizens. It is the constitutional duty of Congress to hold impeachment hearings.

Congressman Wexler is asking you to sign up to support impeachment. In the 5 days this has been up, it's gotten well over 100,000 signatures.

There's a lot of good information on that site, and I challenge anyone who does not sign on in support of impeaching Cheney to leave a comment telling why. Otherwise you better damn well sign it!

Think Progress has even more information, along with an audio interview with the Congressman.

Texas ... Puts Safety First ... In Evacuation?

According to the Wired News Danger Blog, Texas has come up with quite an interesting new evacuation plan.

Basically, in the event of an emergency requiring evacuation, people are going to have to submit to a background check before being rescued. This is so that sex offenders and those wanted by the police for whatever reason won't pose a risk to the rest of the evacuees. The Houston Chronicle has this quote:
"This will allow us to help them evacuate," Colley said of sex offenders and others wanted for crimes. "We're not going to leave anyone."

Oh, and "if you want" they'll give you an RFID tag to put on your wrist so you can be tracked. Now, you don't have to show identification to get on one of their evacuation buses, but you do have to give a name and they're allowed to ask you for ID. And the wrist bands are just to help you find your other family members once you've reached safety, that's all!

The Danger Room blog wraps up their story with this:
But, as evidenced in the comments section of the Chron’s story, privacy advocates are concerned. And what’s not explained is where all the sex-offenders and paroles end up? Their own facility? I’ll be communities are just lining up to host that type of “special needs” shelter.

Wow, I bet everyone in Texas feels so safe and reassured about their safety next time disaster strikes!

[Update]There's a movie they stole this idea from, but I can't think of what it is for the life of me. Anyone else?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Condolences to Dennis Kucinich

Condolences go out to Representative Kucinich on the loss of his brother, Perry.

Drunken Lemurs [Updated]

I had this posted in my office when it came out:

Just in case the image doesn't work... Dilbert is standing by a garbage man and asks him "Why does it seem as if most of the decisions in my workplace are made by a bunch of drunken lemurs?", to which the man replies "Decisions are made by the people who have the time, not people who have the talent". The final scene has Dilbert asking "Why are talented people so busy?" and gets the reply "They're fixing the problems made by people who have the time."

Apparently, the self-admitted Drunken Lemurs at the Catfish Bend Casino decided to lay a bunch of staff off, and one of their employees, David Steward, posted the cartoon on a bulletin board. These people with time, but no talent, were very offended at finding themselves represented in Dilbert, and fired Mr. Steward. It wound up in court, because they challenged his unemployment claim.

The judge, who apparently is not a Drunken Lemur, must have found this rather amusing, and sided with the employee.

Thankfully, my previous boss was not among the Drunken Lemurs crowd, because he found the comic amusing when I posted it at my cubicle.

[UPDATE] You may be interested in the moral of this story, as told by Dilbert author Scott Adams.

Political Holiday Ads

Huckabee's Christmas greeting really made me mad. It's expected that politicians will put out political ads at Christmas time. I didn't like Huckabee putting the subtle cross in the background of his video, and I really didn't like him denying it was there. Adding that to all of the ruined Christmas songs around, I haven't been too happy.

I'm one of those rare people who likes the season of Advent, loves to decorate and gives gifts because they make people smile and feel appreciated, instead of just because it's expected, and who thinks a lot about why I celebrate Christmas.

So, of course I'm an Obama fan, but if I'm going to have to watch a political Christmas ad, this is the kind I want to watch:

Of course, I haven't watched all of the politician's Christmas ads, but it would be really nice if there were more like this. He speaks to Christians and non-Christians (all novel!), and has a positive message that ties into both the holiday season and his campaign, without being obnoxious.

I-80 Reconstruction

The I-80 State Street to 1300 East project lies between my home and downtown. Here's what UDOT has to say about it:
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has completed the environmental study for I-80, from State Street to 1300 East, and the project is now moving forward with the design and construction phases.

As a part of this project, the following improvements will be constructed:

* Additional General Purpose Lane: Eastbound and Westbound
* Interchange Improvements at State Street, 700 East, and 1300 East
* Auxiliary Lane between Each Interchange: Eastbound and Westbound
* Retaining Walls to Reduce Right-of-Way Impacts
* Residential Noise/SoundWalls in Qualified Areas (for more information about residential noise walls, click here)
* New Concrete Pavement
* New Bridges at State Street (funding pending), 300 East, 500 East, 600 East, 700 East, 900 East, and Highland Drive

The following is an overview of the project’s construction schedule*:

Truck Detour Information
In order to reduce impacts along this narrow corridor of I-80, UDOT, in association with the Utah Trucking Association, is strongly advising all truck drivers to use alternate routes during construction. Please click here for a detour map.

Phase I: Begins late-August 2007
Temporarily widen the eastbound bridges and construct crossovers at each end of the project to accommodate 5 lanes of traffic (3 lanes /2 lanes).

Phase II: Begins December 8, 2007
Reconstruction of the westbound lanes.

Phase III: Begins Fall 2008
Reconstruction of the eastbound lanes.

Phase IV: Begins Summer 2009
Completion of the eastbound lanes

Interestingly, there's also this:
In order to accommodate traffic during construction, crews will temporarily widen the eastbound bridges and construct crossovers at each end of the project to accommodate 5 lanes of traffic (3 lanes / 2 lanes). This will allow for a reversible lane to be utilized during peak traffic hours. For a graphic showing how the reversible lanes will be used click here.

This means that they bought some fancy new machine that moves concrete barricades from one side of a lane to the other, in order to allow that lane to move to the east or west bound side, so that there's 2 lanes of traffic on one side, and 3 on the other, allowing them to accommodate rush hour a little better.

Sounds nifty!

And, really, it is. But, there's a problem. On mornings like this one, where it's raining, and the rain isn't quite sure if it wants to become snow, or not, the lane closest to the barricades is unusable.

Let's back up a moment. It's bad enough that when there is bad weather in Utah, the roads become much more dangerous than they have to be, because you can't see the lane markings, even when it's just rain. To add insult to injury, I-80 markings are barely visible in the daytime. So, add lots of rain to the morning commute before the sun has come up, and you cannot see the barricade, which you are expected to drive within 12 inches of.

So, you find yourself, much like I did this morning, driving in to work, minding your own business, and using the left lane (next to the barricade) because most people will need to exit from one of the right two lanes, so this one has fewer vehicles in it. Then, you come upon the barricades, just after having slowed to 55 MPH, and wonder why there's literally no one in your lane ahead of you, while the other two lanes are bumper to bumper. Within moments, you realize that it's because they've probably tried this lane, and found that it's suicide. Not only are the lane markers invisible, but you're pretty sure that the invisible barricades would cause some issues were you to guess wrong as to their location. You try to get over to the center lane, like the rest of humanity, only to find that it's impossible to squeeze between the tightly packed cars traveling 55 MPH. See? Suicide.

There are small reflectors on top of the barricades, but headlights do not hit them from the angle that they are on, so they don't help at all.

Combining this with the experience of having the construction workers put cones to mark traffic lanes recently, and occasionally slipping one out of the otherwise straight line and into your narrow lane, forcing you to choose between hitting the cone, possibly knocking yourself into the next lane of traffic, or just heading over there in the first place to avoid the cone. Nice choice, huh?

And then there's the fact that there is one stretch of eastbound lane that isn't wide enough for a semi-truck. Semis are advised to take alternates, but they don't have to. So, I'm traveling along in the right lane and a semi started to pass me on the left. I had a barricade on the right, so there was nowhere to go when I realized the semi was in my lane and coming closer. I'm literally not sure how he didn't hit us, I think he had to have grazed my mirror. My boyfriend said he saw the same thing I did, so I wasn't just being paranoid. I let off the gas, afraid that even a slight pull to either side from braking would be the last thing my Jeep ever did, and then when he finally passed I began to breathe again, as well as start screaming.

I quit driving in that lane going eastbound, and I make a point of not allowing semis to pass me on that road if I can at all help it. I didn't drive I-80 for at least a month, until I forgot one day and realized that the cones were not being moved daily anymore.

But, I can't really take an extra 30 minutes to get home, I don't have enough time as it is. So, I guess this will be a daily suicide routine until sometime after summer, 2009.

Or I can move. Now that's tempting.

Ezra Klein Gets Set Straight

There just aren't words for this photo, but it was the perfect one to accompany a recent blog by Ezra Klein about an email he received in response to his recent criticism of Barack Obama. This was his commentary about the email:
In response to my recent posts on the various candidates and their approaches towards actually achieving change, I received this e-mail from an Obama supporter last night and I think it's worth posting in full. As preliminary commentary, Obama's commitment to good government and the increased availability of public documents online doesn't have a whole lot of bearing on short-term legislative change, but it's important in the long-term, and it speaks well of Obama that he's been focusing on it.

Additionally, I'm hearing supporters of a lot of candidates point to campaign finance reform as a cure-all, the "open sesame" which will unlock Congress's support for a progressive agenda. Serious campaign finance reform, however, is as hard to pass as universal health care or climate change legislation, so it doesn't really obviate the question -- indeed, how you pass such a bill is the question. All that said, I think my correspondent makes some good points, and his argument is worth reading in full.

I think this is a definite must-read for anyone who thinks that "change" is a buzzword.

On a sidenote, Joe Crimmings Photography has some amazing campaign photos.

(h/t to Jason The of The Sidetrack for pointing me to the photo and article.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

If You Think Bush Doesn't Consider Himself King, Read This

The Bush administration told a federal judge it was not obligated to preserve videotapes of CIA interrogations of suspected terrorists and urged the court not to look into the tapes' destruction.

In court documents filed Friday night, government lawyers told U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy that demanding information about the tapes would interfere with current investigations by Congress and the Justice Department.

The former Governor of Texas telling a federal judge to back off, and what is going to get done about it?

Later in the MSNBC article...
The administration has taken a similar strategy in its dealings with Congress on the issue. On Friday, the Justice Department urged Congress to hold off on questioning witnesses and demanding documents because that evidence is part of a joint CIA-Justice Department investigation.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey also refused to give Congress details of the government's investigation into the matter Friday, saying doing so could raise questions about whether the inquiry was vulnerable to political pressure.

Excuse me, is his refusal not proving that HE is vulnerable to political pressure (like we didn't already know that)?

It blows my mind that this is going on, and no one seems to be paying attention, or care. Impeach his ass.

Burr: Clinton a Disaster for Democrats?

Thomas Burr's column today was titled "Could Clinton be disaster for Dems in West?"
Should Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton lead the Democratic Party's ticket next year, Western Democrats could face a lashing at the polls, one state party leader argues.

Wyoming Democratic Party Chairman John Millin says in a letter to The Denver Post that Clinton is a polarizing figure and could scare voters away.

"If Hillary Clinton is our party's nominee, every Democratic candidate in Wyoming will be painted with that same liberal, big government brush," writes Millin, who is backing Clinton rival Barack Obama. "We will also be the target of the locker room jokes that rightfully belong to Bill Clinton."

Millin, who said he was speaking for himself and not his state organization, calls his warning the "dirty little secret of the Democratic Party." Other Democratic leaders in the West distanced themselves from Millin on Friday.

Read the rest here.

The comments section has some heated debate going, and not as much immature commentary as you would expect on an article like this, though of course the Ron Paul freaks haven't made it there yet.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Elliot Hartstein, Mayor of Buffalo Grove, IL

I just received this email (reposted with permission) from Elliot Hartstein, the Mayor of Buffalo Grove, Illinois. I'm very impressed, and I think Buffalo Grove is lucky to have a mayor willing to knock on doors for something he believes in.
We as Americans are at a critical juncture in the history of our nation, We have been bogged down in an endless war which we embarked upon based on a shaky rationale in the first instance. On a daily basis we pick up our newspapers, and watch our TV sets to see partisan gridlock which inhibits getting results and getting the job done on issues ranging from health care to immigration to social security, energy, trade, education and so much more. The challenges facing us continue to mount, and as a grandfather looking at the smiling face of my grandson, I want to see real change now so that my grandchildren and their progeny can live and grow up in a nation that has its house in order. Never before has our nation been held in such low esteem in the eyes of the world. We need to regain the respect and stature as a world partner that can rally the nations of the world to stand together to prevent the spread of terrorism and regimes that threaten the world order and so we can cooperate and collaborate to meet the challenges that effect us all like global warming, world trade that will enhance strong economies throughout the globe and to provide for our collective security.

To meet these challenges head on,we need political leaders motivated by what is best for our nation and the next generation as opposed to positioning that will put their respective party's in good stead for the next election. Business as usual just does not get it done. Experience in the ways of Washington does not insure we will move forward but merely promotes the same old strategic positioning to try to tilt the balance of power. We cannot continue to fight the same old battles with each side of the aisle trying to demonstrate that their side somehow has the edge when it comes to patriotism ,family values,compassion,economic strength and security. There was a time in our history when the diversity and broad spectrum of approachs within each political party facilitated bipartisan cooperation that led to a cohesive approach to foreign policy and security and promoting what was in national interest as reflected in accomplishments like the momentous civil rights legislation. Since the Viet Nam war the last several decades has seen the emergence of more homogenous political parties that has led us to the partisan divisiveness and split we continue to see on the national scene. If we are to move forward, we need real change, We need leadership to facilitate change. We need leadership that is not wedded to the past nor invested in positioning for party advantage. We need leadership that understands and appreciates the diversity of the world order to place us in the position as a nation to influence others through persuasion and collaboration rather than a "my way or the high way approach" on the world stage.

Though there are many good and capable people seeking to lead our nation in the current presidential field, good and capable is not good enough. The times dictate that we need a special kind of leader who can bring us together to bridge the national divide and rally and excite the nation to come together to meet many of the special challenges that we face at this juncture. Barack Obama stands tall in the presidential field as that special kind of leader who is not only intelligent and capable but one who has demonstrated the ability to provide the kind of leadership we need at the helm of our nation. Barack has the uncanny ability to get people to work together and demonstrated that special skill when as a State Senator he got leaders on both sides of the aisle to work together to get health care for kids and ethics legislation adopted. Barack has the breadth of life experiences to understand and lead with respect and commitment for diverse needs and backgrounds of people throughout our nation and the world that comes from living and being exposed to diverse cultures in other parts of the world and being a community organizer that fought for closing the gaps for neighborhoods and workers in our cities. He has the ability to inspire, excite and generate enthusiasm and excitement for change that we have not seen since John F Kennedy invoked us to each ask ourselves what we can do for our country rather than ourselves. What you see in Barack is what you get. He is not a packaged and programmed candidate. He is the real thing and quite genuine. Barack does not feel compelled to tell people what they want to hear but tells what needs to be heard as when he spoke of fuel efficiency needs before auto workers or merit pay before teachers .Barack is not afraid to give details of stands he would take and encourage in grappling with major issues as when he made clear that he would support lifting the caps in social security that determine how much income should be subject to tax. Though he makes clear his willingness and commitment to use force as needed to maintain our security ,he makes clear his willingness to speak to our adversaries to explore diplomatic solutions. His commitment and understanding of our constitution as a former teacher of Constitutional law puts him in good stead to insure that under his leadership our government will not stray from fundamental basic constitutional rights and protections that are the bedrock of our American democracy and a beacon to the rest of the world . As a skilled orator he is one that will be able to use the bully pulpit to inspire and rally the nation. Barack's reflection of integrity and dedication to serving the public good transcends any disagreements one may have with him on a given issue. It is rare when someone comes onto the public scene who personifies those special and unique traits of a leader to is right for the times. Let us not miss the opportunity for us as citizens to each do our own part to insure that we elect a leader who will listen and lead , understand and unify and effectuate change for a brighter tomorrow throughout our nation.

That is why I have gone to Iowa on 3 weekends to knock on doors for Barack Obama.That is why I have made phone calls to find out what issues matter to people and to talk to them as to why they should caucus or vote for Barack. That is why I have held and gone to volunteer organizing meetings for Barack. That is why I have made financial contributions to the Obama campaign. That is why I have emailed and called others to join me in supporting Barack . That is why I have encouraged fellow mayors and other public officials to endorse Barack. That is why I go onto to keep up with what is happening on the campaign and to continue to find activities that will move the campaign forward. You too can make a difference for the future of our nation by getting involved in the Obama Campaign by finding similar ways to advance the Obama Campaign. With the Iowa caucus nearly upon us and other early primaries quickly approaching we are at a pivotal point in determining whether we have the opportunity to elect a unique leader like Barack Obama to ignite and excite and unify our nation for the changes we all expect for our families, neighbors and fellow Americans. Don't wait. Get involved and lend your support to Barack Obama today. The future of our nation is in our hands and we cannot afford to fail. Your prompt commitment of support and involvement will insure that when we wake up to read headlines of early Obama victories in Iowa and the other early primaries we will have laid the cornerstone paving the road towards a bright new future for our country. I welcome your thoughts on the campaign or questions about involvement by email to (first and last name)

Elliott Hartstein,
Mayor,Buffalo Grove,IL
908 Providence Lane
Buffalo Grove, IL 60089
Tel: 847 830-6474

Example of a Letter to the Senate, GOP Style

Dear United States Senate,

Please pass a bill that gives me immunity from breaking the law. Now -- and this is awkward -- I can't tell you which law I broke or when I first broke it, or the specifics of how I came to break that law. I can't tell you what the results of my breaking of the law have been, and I cannot tell you how long I have been breaking the law. I can, however, assure you that I broke whichever law I broke for a very good reason, which is that President George W. Bush told me to break it.

Read the rest of Hunter's letter.

GOP Wages Their Own War Against Christmas (with video)

I'm a rare person who enjoys Christmas music. But, most people I know already can't stand it. Which really leads me to wonder how the Republican National Senatorial Committee thinks that abusing "The Twelve Days of Christmas" with 50% outright lies and 50% twists on truth, with 100% horrid singers will help their cause.

(How many people actually get to the end of this? Do tell...)

For those of you who can't get to the end, or who choose to block out the horrific experience, here is what Christmas means to conservatives:
  • 12 senators failing
  • 11% approval
  • 10 paychecks burning
  • 90,000 freezing
  • no more secret ballots
  • 7000 billion in new spending
  • 6 troop funding cuts
  • Hillary's Woodstock museum
  • 4 bucks a gallon
  • Al Franken ranting
  • 2 liberal Udalls
  • A tax hike for every family

I really believe that they're waging their very own war on Christmas here. Because if Christmas is about politics and twisting things to get your way, I want nothing to do with it.

Happily, I have real Christmas carols on CD, and can go back to enjoying a traditional Christmas which is about Christ, and about family, and about love of fellow mankind.

(h/t Crooks and Liars)

Google For Government Live

From Barack Obama's official "My Policy Technology Blog":
The first step in creating our transparent and connected democracy went live this morning. Everyone needs to check out the new Google for Government site ( This site is the result of Obama-Coburn legislation and provides a searchable database of all federal spending. You can search either contracts or federal assistance and can search by recipients, congressional districts, types of products or services provided, type of competition, and a whole bunch of other criteria. The site also plans to have a wiki- forum for public comment.

I spent some time surfing around on the site this morning and it’s full of terrific data and amazingly user-friendly. In fact, it was kind of shocking that nothing similar had been available until now. Were I a reporter, I’d be having a field day. In the long line of open government attempts, this one is sure to be a milestone in using the internet to make government more transparent.

To cite just a few things I found with one or two clicks: unsurprisingly, the top four recipients of government largesse are military contractors; there have been $138 billion worth of no-bid contracts under Bush; and various agencies within the California education system dominate the top-tier of the government assistance list. But surely others will find more surprising and specific details with a little more poking around (and if anyone does find real eye-openers, please post them here so we can offer better examples of what the site can reveal).

The bottom line is that the tech plan is more than paper, it’s happening. It’s a good example to show others that this campaign doesn’t just talk the talk, it walks the walk.

Don't forget to note that, in the spirit of the Decider-In-Chief, there's a nice warning at the bottom of the page:
WARNING: This is a United States Federal Government computer system that is "FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY." This system is subject to monitoring. Therefore, no expectation of privacy is to be assumed. Individuals found performing unauthorized activities are subject to disciplinary action including criminal prosecution. Click here for more information.

This was also an effort of the Sunlight Foundation, who I adore just about as much as I adore Google.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Clinton to Obama: Still selling drugs? [Updated]

I normally try to avoid talking about Hillary Clinton's campaign, mostly because I have nothing good to say about her or her campaign. Today her campaign really crossed a line, though. The co-chairman of the Clinton campaign had this to say about Senator Obama's campaign:
Shaheen said Obama's candor on the subject would "open the door" to further questions. "It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?'" Shaheen said. "There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome."

Does he really think anyone is going to read about this and say to themselves "what a nice guy he is to be so worried about Obama"? Is he a Republican, that he thinks Americans aren't smart enough to see that he was being what's known as a "concern troll"?

Does Hillary really think that she can tell us that he wasn't authorized to make those comments will negate them? Her refusal to condemn the comments, and take appropriate action, says a lot about the kind of politics she wants to lead America in.

Get the whole story at DailyKos.

[Update] Shaheen has stepped down from the Clinton campaign.
I would like to reiterate that I deeply regret my comments yesterday and say again that they were in no way authorized by Senator Clinton or the Clinton campaign. Senator Clinton has been running a positive campaign focused on the issues that matter to America’s families. She is the best qualified to be the next President of the United States because she can lead starting on day one. I made a mistake and in light of what happened, I have made the personal decision that I will step down as the Co-Chair of the Hillary for President campaign. This election is too important and we must all get back to electing the best qualified candidate who has the record of making change happen in this country. That candidate is Hillary Clinton.

Wouldn't an apology from Hillary have been a better route?

xkcd: Nerd Sniping

Alt text: "I first saw this problem on the Google Labs Aptitude Test. A professor and I filled a blackboard without getting anywhere. Have fun."

Ahhh, Google. If I ever got a job there, I have no doubts that I'd stay until retirement. My ultimate employer. Their job ads, and interview process, are a bit on the alternative side of things. I do think I'm OCD enough to make it through the recruitment, but I'm not entirely certain that I know math well enough. Ah, well.

Thoughts on Google or your dream job? Do share!

Sad News, Though Terry Pratchett's Sense of Humor Not Affected

Terry Pratchett has wrote an open letter to his fans announcing that he has a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer's Disease.

I would have liked to keep this one quiet for a little while, but because of upcoming conventions and of course the need to keep my publishers informed, it seems to me unfair to withhold the news. I have been diagnosed with a very rare form of early
onset Alzheimer's, which lay behind this year's phantom "stroke".

We are taking it fairly philosophically down here and possibly with a mild optimism. For now work is continuing on the completion of Nation and the basic notes are already being laid down for Unseen Academicals. All other things being equal, I
expect to meet most current and, as far as possible, future commitments but will discuss things with the various organisers. Frankly, I would prefer it if people kept things cheerful, because I think there's time for at least a few more books yet :o)

Terry Pratchett

PS I would just like to draw attention to everyone reading the above that this should be interpreted as 'I am not dead'. I will, of course, be dead at some future point, as will everybody else. For me, this maybe further off than you think - it's too soon to tell. I know it's a very human thing to say "Is there anything I can do", but in this case I would only entertain offers from very high-end experts in brain chemistry.

I just finished reading Good Omens, The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch a few days ago, and the Discworld Books are among my favorite. If only I was a high-end expert in brain chemistry.

(h/t Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Volunteer for The US Marine Corps this Christmas - Marines Undermanned for Toys For Tots

Thanks to JM Bell for leading the effort to getting the word out about this.

The United States Marine Corps Reserve in Utah is in dire need of volunteers to help out with this year's annual US Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Campaign.

90% of the Marine force in Utah is busy this holiday season. 180 Marines currently deployed in Iraq and another 100 busy training for their 2008 deployment means that there are not enough Marines in Utah to pick up and distribute toys.

The Marines are very short staffed for the distribution weeks and need your help. They especially need some people that speak Spanish to assist with translation.

Round up your family and friends and join the US Marines for a grand holiday experience.

Please, cut and paste this post and email to anyone you know who can make the time to do a little with the men and women who do so much.


Laura Sexton

For readers in other states, visit Toys For and look for a volunteer opportunity near you.

Friday, December 07, 2007

xkcd: Startling!

"We actually reached the future about three years ago."

Sorry I haven't blogged as much as of late. I'm getting ready for the Open House tomorrow, and I'm also trying to get everything set up with the computers and phone banking center. Hopefully I'll have more time to bore you with my commentary next week.

If you want something a little more interesting to read, check out some thoughtful commentary on religious bigotry over at The Third Ave. Alternatively, if you don't think too hard about it, you might enjoy JM Bell's "Important Conversations about Important Topics - Dictator Bush".

Hope to see you tomorrow at the Open House!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The SAFE Act, or Why We Should Have Elected Pete Ashdown

According to CNET, the House passed a bill saying that anyone offering an open wireless connection must report illegal images - including "obscene" cartoons and drawings, with fines of up to $300,000.

Apparently, it was rushed through, and passed 409 to 2. It's reported to have been modified substantially from the original legislation, and is not available for public review. It's never had a hearing or a committee vote.

According to the CNET article:
This is what the SAFE Act requires: Anyone providing an "electronic communication service" or "remote computing service" to the public who learns about the transmission or storage of information about certain illegal activities or an illegal image must (a) register their name, mailing address, phone number, and fax number with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's "CyberTipline" and (b) "make a report" to the CyberTipline that (c) must include any information about the person or Internet address behind the suspect activity and (d) the illegal images themselves.

Hello? They're already required to report child porn. So, why the sneaky, rushed passing of this bill?

I'm as against the exploitation of children as anyone else. Personally, I wish they'd castrate offenders. And then maybe put them in front of a firing squad. Or send them to Gitmo.

But, the people that just rushed this through have no clue what this means to the businesses, and apparently don't care about the privacy implications. They jumped on it because they want to protect children, but they don't know what they're doing. They didn't examine it to see if it would actually do anything to protect children.

Of course, Pete Ashdown was running for Senate, and we have yet to see how the Senate will handle this. But, if the Senate does the same thing the House did, it's rather scary. If Pete was in office, he'd have the knowledge to stand up and make sure the bill gets examined before becoming law. Can you imagine Hatch's reaction? Maybe he'd have to add an amendment that says when the images are found, a device is transmitted via the airwaves and downloaded onto the person's hard drive, and then assembled via nanobots to then reach out of the computer and slap the offender. Or something equally as stupid.

Normally, I think that age and wisdom can be valuable assets in our lawmakers. But, if they are going to be reactionary in making laws about something they don't understand I think that they are not wise, but simply old.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Christmas Spirit

In 3 weeks, Christmas will have come and gone, and you'll be putting off taking down the Christmas tree. On at least I will. You're probably still trying to figure out some of your most important gifts to give loved ones.

In the midst of all this, take some time to appreciate what the Christmas season is all about. Whether you are religious or not, you probably celebrate Christmas. This holiday means different things to different people. But, what I've found to be true in nearly all cases, is that it's a time to be with family and friends, and to appreciate what you have.

For many, it's also a time to share what you have with those who have little or nothing. Charities seem to get the largest amounts at this time of the year. People give to Toys for Tots, the Food Bank, the Salvation Army, etc, etc. So, I thought I'd round up my favorite causes for anyone wanting a suggestion.

I'll start with a small charity that I hope becomes a big one. It's called the Bethlehem Christmas Project - bringing Israelis and Palestinians together. I've written about it before, and I think it's an amazing thing. Ali Elhajj, one of the founders, sends updates regularly via Facebook, and here's what I got today:
I’ve done some work to the project's website ( to make it easier to see the trailer and sign-up for updates from us. We’re going to be blogging daily from Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem, so I wanted to make it easy to get the latest news. If you look on the homepage you’ll see that I also added the latest blog entry there. I thought it would be a nice detail to make the site a little more user-friendly.

We’re heading to Bethlehem on Friday and life has been hectic! Jenni was out last night shopping and wrapping gifts until about 1am. As for me, I slept about 4.5 hours on Monday and worked on the site until about 1am.

Please pray for Jenni, Jonah and I this Friday. We have a 13 hour flight to Tel Aviv; and, if last year was any indicator, I’m sure I’ll be spending some time with Israeli security on the way in (I was born in Lebanon, so I get a little more scrutiny than most). It’s an inconvenience more than anything else. I just want to be able to make it to Bethlehem Bible College and sleep as soon as possible.

Hope you all like the site redesign. I will be writing more soon. By the way, since my first email, we've raised right aound $2000! Thanks for everyone who donated. We have about $2600 to go. I'll keep you all posted.

They have $2,600 to meet their goal. I hope maybe one or two of you will help.

Utah for Obama has placed bins at the new Obama SLC HQ offices to collect items for the Utah Food Bank and Volunteers of America, Utah.

Last year, the Utah Food Bank:
  • Collected and distributed over 18 million pounds of food
  • provided 261 agencies and programs with food
  • Met over 1.2 million emergency food requests
  • Completed 3,596 home repairs for low-income seniors
  • Helped 40 people with disabilities increase their independence

The goal of Volunteers of America, UT is to provide a continuum of services for individuals in need, to foster self-sufficiency and to provide opportunities for volunteer involvement. They:
  • Operate nine programs in Salt Lake, Davis, Tooele, San Juan, Carbon, Grand, and Emery Counties and serve more than 4,000 individuals each year.
  • Are an interdenominational Christian Church that serves people of all faiths and invite the people of all faiths to join in their work.
  • Operate programs in the areas of homeless outreach, substance abuse detoxification and treatment, housing case management and senior services.

If you are coming to the Obama SLC HQ Open House, and have donations for either of these two charities, you can drop them off there.

Of course, another one that's high on my list is the Care Packages for Utah Soldiers program. This ends December 10, so hurry if you're going to contribute! Their site says:
We will be putting together the soldiers’ boxes on Monday 12 November 2007. Volunteers are needed to assemble the care packages at Mesa Systems, Inc. from 9 am until we finish. Volunteers must be at least 13 years old, and should contact Jennie at 801-737-0680 of if they are interested in helping.

Make-A-Wish Foundation of Utah is another good one. It has enriched the lives of children with life-threatening medical conditions through its wish-granting work. It's not specifically Christmas related, but who could resist helping grant one of these wishes, no matter what time of the year? Their web site says:
Your group can add a new twist to a special event, whether a summer picnic or holiday party, by adopting a wish and adding new meaning to your celebration theme.

Upon special request we will be happy to send a representative to share with your organization the Make-A-Wish story you adopted.

The Greater Salt Lake American Red Cross is another place your gift of money or time would be well used.

Do you know of another charity or organization that belongs on this page? Let me know about it in the comments, please.

xkcd: Python

And the alt: I wrote 20 short programs in Python yesterday. It was wonderful. Perl, I'm leaving you.

This really reminds me of two times in my life. The first was when I started learning VB 6. I literally dreamt in code. So, everything in my dream was lines upon lines of code, creating the sky and doors and other people and our conversations. There are 10 types of people. Those who get what I just explained, and all the rest of you. For the rest of you, I'm sorry, words wouldn't do it justice.

More recently, I again dreamt in code. Only this time, I was working very hard on a project with a tight deadline. Oh, and now I actually know how to code, as opposed to the other time I described, where I was learning it. So, I ended up writing pretty much an entire day's worth of code in my dream, and when I woke up and realized it was a dream, I was slightly pissed. Just slightly. On the bright side, the dream was very clear and so when I got to work that day, I didn't have to figure out what I was going to code, the entire thing was fresh in my head and it was an easy day.

I would like to wrap this up with a caution: programming and any medicine cabinet item that alters your state of mind don't mix. But, damn, it's interesting code when you look at it later!

Gore Goes To Bali

I just got this in an email:
Photo of Al GoreDear friend,

In nine days I'm going to Bali, Indonesia to address the UN Climate Change Conference. In front of representatives from the world's countries, I will speak about the need for a visionary treaty to be completed, ratified and brought into effect everywhere in the world by 2010. I need you, your friends and family to sign this petition calling for a new, positive leadership role by our elected leaders. I will bring your signatures on stage with me as a clear demonstration of our resolve.

This petition shows our commitment to solutions to the climate crisis. Please add your voice today and urge your friends to add theirs. The time for action is now. Only together can we make the change.
Al Gore

Go sign the petition!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Participate in the FISA Flood

I just got this email from the ACLU. Join me in telling Harry Reid to do the right thing.
The Senate will soon vote on a bill to regulate the electronic eavesdropping on Americans. What we don't know is whether the Senate will be asked to take up a bill that was written closely with the Bush administration, or a more reasonable bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a choice to make. We need to tell him to make the right choice.

President Bush wants Congress to bury the truth by stopping pending lawsuits against phone companies that illegally handed over the phone calls and emails of Americans. Stopping lawsuits that could uncover the truth about illegal spying lets him off the hook. And it gives no incentives for companies to follow the law in the future. Tell Senator Reid to bring up reasonable bill that does not let lawbreakers off the hook, a bill that brings spying in line with the Constitution.

Tell Senator Reid to bring up a reasonable bill that does not let lawbreakers off the hook, and does not let the government seize your phone calls and emails without a warrant.

Senator Reid needs to hear from every American who wants him to stand up for our privacy and not let phone companies off the hook. You can take action by signing a petition to Senator Reid now.

Christmas Caroling?

My 7 and 9 year old sons are dying to go Christmas Caroling with a group. Do people even do that anymore? If you know of any (especially if they are going the weekend of the 14 and 15, or Christmas Eve) and would let my sons and I tag along, please let me know.