Warning: Severe geeekiness. No really...

sandwichOkay, I know I've really exceeded my geek quotient when Karen comes downstairs, looks at the thing I'm chuckling over, and shakes her head in total, blank disbelief. "And this is funny...why?" Shrug. "If you're a Linux admin..."

Via XKCD (Want it on a T-shirt?)

Linc sinks Bolton; pisses off Bush

The questionably qualified recess appointment to the UN finally gave up the ghost, unable to advance from committee, largely at the hands of our own Lincoln Chafee. Even following his loss in November, Linc stuck to his principles and resisted the Administration's last-minute effort to ram Bolton through. Listen:

"I have long believed that the go-it-alone philosophy that has driven this administration’s approach to international relations has damaged our leadership position in the world. Mr. Bolton did not demonstrate the kind of collaborative approach that I believe will be called for if we are to restore the United States’ position as the strongest country in a peaceful world," Chafee said.

"This would be an appropriate time to choose a nominee who has a proven ability to work with both sides of the political aisle, a history of building strong international relationships and a reputation of respect for the institution of the United Nations."

Bush issued a statement today condemning Republicans, like Chafee, who opposed Bolton.

"They chose to obstruct his confirmation, even though he enjoys majority support in the Senate, and even though their tactics will disrupt our diplomatic work at a sensitive and important time," Bush said. "This stubborn obstructionism ill serves our country."
--Via Projo

Get that? You call for someone with "proven ability," "history," and "reputation," and the President calls you obstructionist.

I sincerely hope we get the chance to vote for Chafee again. He is not a "politician," but rather in the best tradition of "servant leader."

Portsmouth Caruolo suit filed

Just hit the ProJo newsblog. In a delicious synchronicity, the total of the B&E deficit plus the other expenses turned out to be $1.1 million. That made me laugh out loud. I bet Fitzmorris will pop an artery. They're going to get it all back, Larry. Prepare to cough up $180 in taxes. Have a nice day.

The requested funds include an estimated deficit in ordinary expenses of $770,167, as well as $125,000 to pay for an efficiency audit of the school system and a little more than $200,000 for legal fees connected with the lawsuit.
-- Via ProJo

Gore's smart, gutsy GQ interview

The whole interview is well worth reading, but there is a wonderful gem that captures the fire that Gore has shown in his stump speeches since his "defeat" in 2000. Responding to a question about the Bush administration [read: Bush, personally] ignoring the series of warnings about Usama bin Laden in the summer of 2001:

"And you know, I’m even reluctant to talk about it in these terms because it’s so easy for people to hear this or read this as sort of cheap political game-playing. I understand how it could sound that way. [Practically screaming now] But dammit, whatever happened to the concept of accountability for catastrophic failure? This administration has been by far the most incompetent, inept, and with more moral cowardice, and obsequiousness to their wealthy contributors, and obliviousness to the public interest of any administration in modern history, and probably in the entire history of the country!"
—From GQ Magazine

Sigh. RFK in 68, Gore in 2000. There are a couple of much happier alternate universes out there, somewhere...

PCC leader admits budget cuts too deep

"Top Chef" was a re-run last night, so Karen indulged my preoccupation with cable access and watched Monday's School Committee meeting again. And she caught something I missed: In Larry Fitzmorris's summary speech right before the Caruolo vote, where he's warning the SC not to usurp the electors, he talks about the deficit of "770K, which I think is more like half a million."

"Did he just say that?" Asked Karen. "He just admitted that they cut too much."

Yes, in the way that off-hand comments can inadvertently reveal the truth, Fitzmorris, by apparently agreeing that there was a 500K deficit was tacitly admitting that the PCC cuts at the Tent Meeting went too far.

Now I'm sure that Fitzmorris will deny that's what he meant, but here's the guy who said "The Tent Meeting was not the place to compromise" admitting that his proposed cuts are directly responsible for a 500K budget deficit.

If the PCC wants to talk about accountability, I can tell them where to start.

Portsmouth goes Caruolo

There is a wonderful, chilling scene in the movie "Dead Zone," where precognitive schoolteacher Johnny Smith touches a Presidential candidate and has a vision of a grim future nuclear holocaust. "The missiles are flying. Alleluia," says the gleefully insane Martin Sheen.

Despite my obvious elation at the party-line 4-3 vote taken by the School Committee tonight to engage attorney Steven M. Robinson and pursue a "Caruolo" action in Superior Court, I couldn't shake the feeling that the PCC has been waiting for just this moment, whipping its adherents into a fine frenzy, and that there are missiles aplenty just over the horizon.

They certainly had the PCC camp out in force at the meeting, well rehearsed in all their arguments:
-"If this was a business/I've run businesses for 40 years and let me tell you..."
-"This town is already divided too much."
-"Town Charter blah blah blah." [paraphrased]
-"How did you get us into this position without accountability?"
-"You need an audit of the entire process and the value to the community"
-"You threaten to sue the town because you lack the courage to comply with the voter-approved budget."

PCC leader Larry Fitzmorris summed it up nicely: "The decision to sue the people of Portsmouth is an attempt to subvert the decision of the people at the Town Meeting. The Charter reserved [the right to change the budget] to the meeting in August. Your vote is a statement that you don't accept that authority and that you are replacing the electors of Portsmouth."

Against all that rhetoric, let me cite the strongest evidence for the other side, advanced inadvertently by Jamie Heaney. In explaining his vote against going Caruolo, he said, "I ran on a platform of opposing Caruolo, and that's the way I'll vote."

What was probably not immediately obvious to Heaney is that the converse is also true -- the 4-3 majority of the School Committee is patently the will of Portsmouth, res ipso loquitur support for Caruolo, as Rob Schulte pointedly noted: "Or Carpender wouldn't be here."

And, lest we focus too much on just the laws the PCC happens to like, Mark Katzman reminded everyone, seeking a "Caruolo action is following the law just as much as the Tent Meeting."

The PCC can't have it both ways: you can't claim that the people spoke on August 19th, but not on November 7th. And you can't claim to defend the Town Charter and just ignore Rhode Island General Law.

Oh, but they will. They've threatened to sue the town, and now their bluff has been called. The missiles are flying. Alea iacta est.

Army Stoned! Another day, another recruiter sting...

Earlier this month, ABC7 NY did an undercover piece you can read here where they sent folks with hidden cameras into recruiting offices, and discovered the most marvelous things: the war is over, nobody is being sent over to Iraq anymore, and you have a higher chance of being killed ordering lunch at Subway.

As if that wasn't surreal enough, CBS4 Denver duplicated the scam, but pushed on the "moral waivers" that have been more generously granted to spur enlistment. And guess what? Criminal records for possession are no longer a problem. In fact, people get high in the Army, according to one recruiter: "I have smoked, but you can't smoke all the time or you will get busted."

How about being a gang member? "That, in and of itself, does not disqualify you." You'll be in good company:

"From 2004 to 2005, the number of recruits brought into the Army with serious criminal misconduct waiver jumped 54 percent, drug and alcohol waivers increased 13 percent and misdemeanor waivers increased 25 percent."

Of course, past performance is no guarantee of future behavior. In America, even a drunk driver can grow up to be President.

PHS Drama Club show roasts the "tax dictator"

PHS Drama ClubIt is said that satire is a mirror in which we see every face reflected but our own, but I don't see how anyone in the PCC could have missed the point of the Portsmouth HS Drama Club's production, "Oh no! Not my ___!" This was a highly enjoyable evening of theatre with passion, dark wit, and some really fine performances.

Lights up on the fictional town of Salisbury, which has decided to solve its financial problems by appointing a dictator. Played in delightful over-the-top style by Tyler Goodman, his first official act is to abolish all taxes, substituting usage fees for everyday activities like eating, peeing, thinking, and talking.

Naturally, those townspeople most prone to excess wind up getting nailed by the dictator's henchmen, who wander through scenes slapping Post-It tax bills on the unlucky. They congregate around Alyssa (Sara Fiore) -- who is getting taxed for repeated rationality -- hoping for an answer, but to no avail. "My bladder is the size of a cantaloupe," whines Brooke (Christie Perkins). "Guess I'll go home and eat a chair," mutters Blaine (Ken Hawes).

But not until Brooke is hauled off to jail for not paying her urination taxes do the townspeople rebel. By that time the town optimist (Charlotte Kinder) is sighing heavily, the talker (Kathryn Boland) has resorted to Charades, and foodie Blaine is literally out in the audience, chewing on seats.

The townspeople manage to confuse the tax collectors with beautifully executed nonsensical activities ("I don't know why you had me do it with a stick...but it's done.") and force their way into the dictator's lair to free the trapped Brooke.

Along the way there are delightful sharp-elbowed jabs at the tax rebels in general ("They are soulless creatures who don't care who they walk over as long as they're on top.") and the dictator in particular. Caught by his henchman in the downward dog, he hides behind his desk yelling, "I don't do yoga!" All this is accompanied by clever dialog and deft staging (in one delicious bit of business, the captured Brooke is made to pose, arms outstretched on a box in an evocation of Abu Ghraib).

And just in case you might have missed the authors' message, Alyssa confronts the dictator: "As a member of the community, you're responsible to support it."

Kudos to all the cast for both planning and execution of this collaboratively-written reductio ad absurdum, director Andrew Katzman's crisp direction, and choreographer Johanna Josefsson's nicely staged finale, an appropriately upbeat number called "Save Our Schools." Bravo, all.

Fearless in Ohio

Jennifer Brunner, the first woman ever to be elected Ohio Secretary of State, has a wonderful essay in HuffPo about how important that role is, how she dealt with the attack machine, and how she dealt with her fears:

I've faced and examined my fears and used them to better understand how I must live my life. I believe that as humans, we must love and care for one another and serve each other, and that this is our highest calling. When this is the focus, it becomes easier to examine fears and understand how they can deter us from our calling. It also becomes easier to examine our fears with objectivity and learn from them.

Like many others, I've overcome obstacles great and small, and have tried to use my experiences to encourage and help others to reach their full potential. I became a candidate for Secretary of State of Ohio, because I saw as a judge how public service allows a person to do much to help others, serving the best interests of family, faith and community. I learned early on that by speaking the truth and not being afraid to do the right thing or make the tough call--and working hard for what you believe in--you can achieve what you seek, in this particular case, preserving democracy in Ohio and for this country.
-- via the Huffington Post

Secretaries of State do matter. Especially in Ohio.

Jim Webb speaks truth to power (i.e., the WSJ)

Senator-elect Webb has a wonderful piece in today's Journal about the growing Eloi/Morlock bifurcation of America.

The most important--and unfortunately the least debated--issue in politics today is our society's steady drift toward a class-based system, the likes of which we have not seen since the 19th century. America's top tier has grown infinitely richer and more removed over the past 25 years. It is not unfair to say that they are literally living in a different country. Few among them send their children to public schools; fewer still send their loved ones to fight our wars. They own most of our stocks, making the stock market an unreliable indicator of the economic health of working people. The top 1% now takes in an astounding 16% of national income, up from 8% in 1980. The tax codes protect them, just as they protect corporate America, through a vast system of loopholes.

He goes on to paint the implications in terms his WSJ audience understands...

America's elites need to understand this reality in terms of their own self-interest. A recent survey in the Economist warned that globalization was affecting the U.S. differently than other "First World" nations, and that white-collar jobs were in as much danger as the blue-collar positions which have thus far been ravaged by outsourcing and illegal immigration. That survey then warned that "unless a solution is found to sluggish real wages and rising inequality, there is a serious risk of a protectionist backlash" in America that would take us away from what they view to be the "biggest economic stimulus in world history."
-- Via the Wall Street Journal

Read the whole thing, it's a tasty treat -- and a clear shot across the bow. As in environmental issues, the Democrats have a perspective to share on economics which comprises the true cost of insane microdomain free market choices.