26 October 2008

Read the Nov/Dec 2008 issue of Archaeology

On a slightly less partisan note than my two other blogs today, I invite my readers to take a look at the Nov/Dec 2008 issue of Archaeology magazine (their website is here).

Now, any issue of Archaeology is interesting (almost by definition, in my opinion) but I particularly liked one in this month's issue about a 12,000-year-old complex of stone circles in Turkey that shows evidence of extensive and coordinated activity from hunter-gatherer societies 6 thousand years before the city of Ur arose on the plains of Sumer. It's tantalizing and frustrating evidence for a complex spiritual side to pre-urban civilization that we'll probably never understand. That and it also is evidence of just how much we'll never really know about our history, and why the people who think visitors from Zeta Reticuli or Atlanteans gave the Ancient World all of its technology will never go away.

There's another article in this issue about gladiators and their diet based on remains found in a cemetary at Ephesus (also in Turkey). Turns out, gladiators did not follow the Atkins diet plan - they ate lots of carbs and were definitely on the "beefy" side. On the plus side, however, they appear to have received the best in medical care: Bone fractures show very clean healing (unlike similar fractures found in the bones of the general population).

While I'm recommending stuff: If you're a fan of the B-movie horror genre, I recommend Dagon. Ostensibly it's based on H.P. Lovecraft's eponymous short story but it's more a retelling of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" by the same author (the Spanish village where it takes place is called "Imboca" > "Innsmouth"). It's well plotted, has a reasonably intelligent script, and isn't too gory.

And, of course, you should read the originals as Lovecraft wrote them.

Mr. Monika's 2008 Voter Guide (w/ especial emphasis on California)

The week after next, the country goes to the polls once again. More than ever, we really might be determining the fate of the world for a generation to come

Considering our batting record the last four election cycles (2000, 2002, 2004, 2006), I recommend prayer...lots of any benevolent deity you can think of. (Forgive me, I'm feeling particularly snarky at the moment. I'm actually quite optimistic about the long-term survival of the species, I just think the next few decades are going to be brutal. More brutal for us, anyway, it's always been brutal for far too many people in this world.)

But on to my recommendations for the interested. Except for the presidential vote, I'm afraid they're quite California-centric for the simple reason that I happen to live in the Golden State but as my "follower" is also a Californian, I don't feel too bad about that.

President/Vice President: Barack Obama/Joe Biden
  • All right, if I thought there was any chance for their victory, I'd be voting Green, McKinney/Clemente, but there isn't, and we need to so overwhelm the Republicans with numbers that there's no way they can steal the election again in any state. California is fortunate to have a decent secretary of state in Debra Bowen, who's done what she can to make sure the voting machines are on the up and up.
  • While I like Nader's positions on many of the issues, he would go down in history as one of our worst, least effective presidents solely based on his personality. The man is not a politician. And then there's the fact that he has even less chance of winning the White House than McKinney.
  • So I'm "stuck" with Obama, who (I think) would much rather rule as a second Clinton than a second Roosevelt. He's about as much a socialist as he is an Arab or a Muslim - i.e., he isn't! He's a centrist Democrat. I'm worried about his votes on the telecom immunity and bailout bills, and his eagerness to escalate the occupation of Afghanistan. I'm worried that he's so much a product of the last 30 years of neoliberal economics in this country that he'll be unable to experiment like FDR. But he's our best hope, so he's got my vote.

United States Representative: Hilda Solis

  • This district is so safe, the Republicans didn't even field a candidate. Solis is a mixed bag: Sometimes she votes with the angels; other times, with Satan. But the only way I can get somebody in the office with whom I'm in total agreement is to run myself, so I'll vote for her without serious problem.

Member of the State Assembly: Ed Hernandez

Judicial (for the Superior Courts):

  • Steven A. Simons (72nd)
  • Cynthia Loo (82nd)
  • Lori-Ann Jones (84th)
  • C. Edward Mack (94th)
  • Rocky L. Crabb (154th)

It's difficult to get information on these offices, though the Internet has made it far easier, assuming they have a website. My guiding philosophy is to read their blurbs if available and vote for anyone who isn't a prosecutor. Thus, Simons is a consumer-rights attorney, Loo is a court referee, Mack is a trial attorney, etc.

State Measures (propositions) (In California, it's far too easy to get a proposition on the ballot and, thus, we tend to legislate through them, taking Sacramento off the hook. And it doesn't help that these propositions are written by special interests and often in nearly opaque legalese or so poorly that they'll be litigated to death in the courts and never even have a chance to prove worthy or unworthy.)

1A - NO: This is a $9.95 billion bond measure that will (supposedly) fund high-speed rail lines. Now, I find the idea of high-speed rail very attractive but my problem is with the method of financing. If we want something or feel it's necessary to continued well-being, then we should be willing to pay for it up front. Despite the lessons of the Asian meltdown in 1987, the Mexican meltdown in 1995 and our meltdown in 2008, we are still operating under the insane assumption that we can simply continue to borrow money and pass off the costs to our descendants, and that we don't have to raise taxes (and make them more progressive, to boot). California is already under such a debt burden that we're constantly threatened with a lowering of our bond status, and the interest payments are becoming oppressive.

If we want high-speed rail, let's raise a tax somehow. Perhaps via gas sales, perhaps a sales tax, perhaps we'll have more funds if we simply close loopholes and spread the burden more fairly. And it doesn't have to be permanent - we tax for 5 years, and all the proceeds go to the rail fund. If we need more money, the legislature can revisit the issue at the end of 5 years. It's why I'm voting "yes" for Measure R below because it's funded via a 30-year, 1/2-cent sales tax.

2 - YES: This measure requires the animal-husbandry industry to humanely treat their animals. No brainer.

3 - NO: Another worthy cause (renovating children's hospitals). Another bond measure, though (only $980 million).

4- NO: Waiting period and parental notification of teen-age abortions.

5 - YES: I'm a bleeding-heart liberal who thinks our penal system would benefit from a concentration on redemption rather than retribution. Most assuredly isolate violent offenders and even nonviolent ones may deserve some prison time but when we strip a felon of every chance to redeem himself, why are we surprised that things don't get better?

I was pretty definite about my "yes" vote for this one but when I saw the "No on 5" commercial where Diane Feinstein endorsed their position then I knew I would be voting well. Another one of my voting tenets is that anything Feinstein is for, I'm against, and vice versa.

6 - NO: A bond measure ($965 million) to pay for more police. If we need more police, then we need to pay for them up front (see above).

7 - NO: This measure is supposed to force government and private utilities to be 50% renewable energy by 2025. Good "ends" but the "means" are suspect. I've read both sides' arguments and still don't know if this measure would do any good, so I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt to the environmental groups, most of whom don't support the proposition.

8 - NO: This vile measure would strike down the recent CA Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage possible (and possibly invalidating the marriage of a friend of mine) and enshrine it in our state constitution. Like 2, it's a no brainer.

9 - NO: For all their bleating about "the rule of law," I sometimes wonder if Republicans and your rank-and-file conservatives know what it means. This gem would allow victims' input during the entire criminal justice process - from bail to parole. Part of the appeal of the rule of law is that it's an impartial system - at least as impartial as anything can be - and I cannot countenance allowing the least impartial element of a crime to have any say over how the system treats the suspect (and felon, if convicted).

10 - NO: This is T. Boone Pickens attempt to get the state to subsidize his move into renewable energy (to the tune of $5 billion in bonds).

11 - NO: Here's another good end arrived at via suspect means. We desperately need to reform the way districts are apportioned but I don't trust Schwarzenegger.

12 - NO: A $900 million bond to subsidize homes and farms for veterans. Why can't we subsidize the homes and farms of nonvets? Don't they work just as hard? Don't they deserve the chance to make a decent living and dwell in a decent home?

It's nice that there are people willing to defend me if America suffers an invasion and that there are people willing to assist the National Guard and the fire department in case natural disasters get seriously out of hand but America hasn't needed defending since at least 1941, and the subsequent career of our military has been an unending march of imperial domination since then. Why should my hard-earned cash and that of my descendants go to support the legions of Caesar?

And while we're on the subject, why aren't firefighters included here? Doctors? Teachers? The latter three groups do far more to make this country a decent place to live than the military.

County Measures

R - YES: As I mentioned in my diatribe under Measure 1A, this measure to reduce traffic congestion and fund rail extensions is going to be paid for by a 30-year, 1/2-cent sales tax, and will be subject to public review and audits.

Community College Measures

RR - NO: A $353 million bond measure.

Municipal Water District: Andrew M. McIntyre

Well, that's it. If you're a Republican, stay home Nov. 4, it'll be for the best.

He's baaack!

After an extended absence, I have returned (hopefully my "follower" will be well pleased; I have a "follower" - I have to be careful I don't develop a messiah complex).

For my loyal fan, my absence was not the result of illness, vacation or any other cause than that I am fundamentally lazy. There's certainly enough "crap" going on right now to raise my ire.

For example, this so-called bailout of Wall Street. I was excited when the House quite properly voted the first incarnation down; but realized it was business as usual when they approved the Senate's version, which added $150 billion in pork and ill-considered incentives.

Had the loyal opposition any backbone or guiding philosophy other than getting re-elected, Congress would have shelved any comprehensive scheme to aid the economy until we knew who would be in the White House come January and what kind of majorities the Dems would enjoy in the House and Senate. In the interim, they could have put a moratorium on foreclosures and, perhaps, granted a small measure of funds to shore up the worst-off investment banks. The latter was floated by Schumer (I believe) but disappeared in the panicky frenzy to be seen as doing "something."

Instead, Congress handed the most incompetent, most corrupt, most power-hungry administration since the Reagans were reading their Tarot cards $700 billion and carte blanche to do anything it wanted with it.

Words continue to fail me.

Speaking of incompetence and corruption, I direct my reader to October 23's Tom Dispatch by Michael Schwartz, Iraq in Hell.