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.

PCC: Wounded and dangerous

Just got back from a Portsmouth School Committee meeting where the PCC, dealt a setback in last week's elections, seemed as determined as ever to continue their assault on the school budget.

The main issue was a program audit. The Town Council voted to recommend the school committee conduct one, but subsequently determined that they didn't have the legal means to fund it. (According to the Town Charter, once the Tent Meeting happens, the Town Council cannot change the school committee's bottom line.)

So the school committee, logically, proposed earmarking that money in their budget. Red flags immediately went up, despite the motion being about "earmarking."

The school committee spent an hour dealing with vocal opposition from the 90% PCC audience, some of whom shouted from the back "Deficit spending!" (As if every day without a legal budget isn't already...) "We're passing motions...getting on the agenda, but nothing gets to the nut," said Superintendent Lusi, at one point, "This is where we are. Where do you want to go now?"

Eventually, they did at least pass the motion. But the PCC folks weren't happy with their pound of time. I saw a group of them up at the front of the room, accosting one of the failed Democratic candidates for the School Committee. "You're a bitch, you should go fuck yourself," said one PCC lady.

Some guy stepped in to intervene -- I heard words like "Council chambers, civil discourse" then the woman turned on him; face to face. "Why don't you get a job."

Guy looked to me like he had a job; late 40's, graying, nice slacks, carrying a notebook. Must have smelled her breath. "Why don't you go home and sober up," he said.

"You're the second person who said that to me," I heard her reply. Her husband wanted to take this guy's name, followed him all the way out to the front door, yelling at Jamie Heaney, the new guy on the School Committee, "Do you know who he is?"

I had to stop and thank Dr. Lusi for her restraint. I guess last week's election lulled me into a false sense of security. I should have realized that an animal -- or an organization -- is most dangerous when it is wounded.

Michael Moore's "Liberal's pledge to disheartened conservatives"

Worth taking a few minutes to read and sign Moore's pledge. It's not a "manifesto," it's not in-your-face, it's just a calm, clear articulation of what America voted for last week. Okay, so in the process, it highlights the differences between business as usual for the last few years and the new Congress, but that's only proper...

Dear Conservatives and Republicans,

I, and my fellow signatories, hereby make these promises to you:

1. We will always respect you for your conservative beliefs. We will never, ever, call you "unpatriotic" simply because you disagree with us. In fact, we encourage you to dissent and disagree with us.

2. We will let you marry whomever you want, even when some of us consider your behavior to be "different" or "immoral." Who you marry is none of our business. Love and be in love -- it's a wonderful gift.

3. We will not spend your grandchildren's money on our personal whims or to enrich our friends. It's your checkbook, too, and we will balance it for you.

4. When we soon bring our sons and daughters home from Iraq, we will bring your sons and daughters home, too. They deserve to live. We promise never to send your kids off to war based on either a mistake or a lie.
-- from A Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives

He was foretold by Dawkins and South Park..the FSM appears!

Via Wired

For fellow Pastafarians, this is truly a day of celebration. What more proof could one require?

Read more about His Noodly Appendage or check out the Original Divine Illumination courtesy the Kansas School Board.

Veterans Day; remembering heroes

November 11th is always a sad day when there's a war on. Portsmouth buried another hero Rhode Island National Guardsman, Michael Weidemann, just yesterday.

On Veterans Day, I think about my uncle Arthur, who never said much about his time in the silent service during WWII, except the occasional remark about sleeping in a bunk next to the torpedos. I tell our son Jack that story whenever we visit Battleship Cove.

Or my mom's first husband, Jack Milley, who won the Silver Star at the battle of Leyte Gulf and came back from the South Pacific sick. Married only a couple of years, my mom moved to NY to be with him in a Naval Hospital while he died.

Or my dad, who was 4F because of truly horrible varicose veins in his legs. He spent the war working in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and one of his proudest mementos (he was not a vain man, but he had framed this) was a certificate from the Navy congratulating him on his contribution to the war effort.

But this year, I'm thinking about all the folks -- the young and the not so young, men and women -- all far away from home in a dangerous place. And all the families who have had to endure the knock on the door. And the ones who live in fear of that, every day.

This is not a time for politics. This is a time to honor.

Brooklyn pizza

Having grown up around the corner from an extremely authentic Brooklyn pizza parlor, the kind of place that grew their own tomatoes in a little back yard garden, I will be interested to see how Dominos has implemented "Brooklyn-style pizza." The commercials certainly make some powerful claims.

They've also ticked off long-time Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz.

“It’s a multinational right-wing company, mass marketing the Brooklyn attitude with obsolete ethnic stereotypes, not to mention flimsy crusts,” he said through a spokesman. -- via the New York Times

And don't get me started on what Dunkin Donuts calls bagels...

Bush admits lying

This is not just a fib, or carefully crafted elision. This is the President of the United States admitting in today's press conference that he full-on lied about Donald Rumsfeld last week, purely for political purposes. I mean, he just flat-out says it:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Last week you told us that Secretary Rumsfeld will be staying on. Why is the timing right now for this, and how much does it have to do with the election results?

THE PRESIDENT: Right. No, you and Hunt and Keil came in the Oval Office, and Hunt asked me the question one week before the campaign, and basically it was, are you going to do something about Rumsfeld and the Vice President? And my answer was, they're going to stay on. And the reason why is I didn't want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign. And so the only way to answer that question and to get you on to another question was to give you that answer.
-- from the official White House transcript

Clearly, as Rush might say, he was off his medication today, just for effect.