November 30, 2008


Today I discovered another cool thing about living on the Southern California coast: Space Shuttle sonic booms!

Space Shuttle Endeavour was due to land at its usual location at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida this morning, but, due to bad weather, the Shuttle was re-routed to its backup landing area at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California's Mojave Desert.

With little notice, I tuned into CNN to see Endeavour descending from the sky. Then, at 1:20 p.m. local time, I heard a loud double boom! At that moment, the official NASA announcer being broadcast on CNN stated “two sonic booms signaling a landing at the California coast.” Apparently, Endeavour flew in from the Pacific Ocean, and created the sonic booms as it decelerated through the sound barrier at about the time it crossed over land, somewhere above my home.

I was very excited to witness this meeting of natural science and human technology in action today, and I know I'm not the only one.

(photo from

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November 23, 2008

The Boob That Won't Die

America arguably faces its greatest collection of challenges since World War II -- an economy sliding past recession and into depression, two wars, and a climate crisis, for starters. You would think that George W. Bush and his administration would be spending their final weeks working hard to avert disaster at home and abroad. But instead, the Bush administration is focused on boobs on the boob tube. Five months after a federal appeals court overturned the Federal Communications Commission's $550,000 fine against CBS for airing the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" boob incident during the 2004 Super Bowl, Bush has ordered the FCC to appeal the court's ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

I predicted this Supreme Court appeal five months ago, but that was before the economic meltdown that began in mid-September. It's pathetic that, with just weeks remaining in his presidency, Bush is instead focused on boobs, and throwing away America's legacy and resources to kowtow to the right wing and big business instead of trying to help this country avoid catastrophe. Unfortunately, such misplaced focus is no longer shocking to me, or, I suspect, to the rest of America.

Given the recent election results, I can only say to Republicans, how's that working for you? Perhaps the best answer came from the Republicans' own Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky: "Our members, in one way, are kind of relieved by the departure of an administration that became unpopular and made it very difficult for us to compete."

The word "boob" seems appropriate to describe the situation, in more ways than one.

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November 15, 2008

Ground Zero in California's Cultural War

Today the news from California is all about The Fires! The Fires!, but there's something much larger, akin to a major earthquake, a massive fire, and a giant gathering snowball all put together, taking place here. Many Californians are taking to the streets and organizing boycotts to protest the recent passage of Proposition (Prop) 8, a statewide ballot initiative which changed California's Constitution by taking away the right of same-sex couples to marry. The scope of the fight over Prop 8 could well approach that of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and could dwarf anything most bloggers have seen in their lifetimes.

I want to focus on what I consider Ground Zero in the Prop 8 war, a historic restaurant in Los Angeles called the El Coyote Mexican Cafe. One of the El Coyote's managers and part owners, Marjorie Christoffersen, is a Mormon. Her Mormon Church was massively involved in the campaign to pass Prop 8, providing millions of dollars to the Yes on Prop 8 folks and asking the members of its congregation to do the same. So Marjorie answered her church's call and donated $100 to the anti-gay marriage cause.

When word got out about Marjorie's contribution, all hell broke loose. Protesters have been picketing and boycotting El Coyote. They even went to the Yelp restaurant review site and have been giving El Coyote the lowest rating of one star. Local blogs are on fire. It got so bad that Marjorie had to host an open breakfast with the community, where she tearfully, yet unsuccessfully, tried to explain herself. Then Marjorie caved and made an offsetting contribution to the anti-Prop 8 effort. Apparently, Marjorie has left town and is having a breakdown somewhere. But it may be too late for the El Coyote. Unless people flock to the El Coyote in support of Marjorie or Prop 8, the El Coyote could suffer permanent damage to its business.

My thoughts about California's Prop 8 cultural war are the following:

1. As a history major, I learned that "revolutions of rising expectations," which occur when the government takes away a right that people already have, can be much more powerful than when the fight is over whether to grant a new right in the first place. That's part of what is fueling the battle over Prop 8 in California.

2. How pathetic is it that churchgoers like Marjorie lose their minds when their church asks or tells them to do something? How awful is it that churches are pressuring their congregations to give money for political causes, especially when some members are then caught between their conscience and their church? For that matter, why are churches involving themselves so heavily in political matters? What happened to America's separation of church and state? Hasn't the Mormon Church just disqualified itself for tax-exempt status?

3. While protests and boycotts can be very effective tools, and while I'd be plenty upset if I found out that the money I spent at a business establishment was used in a campaign to take away my rights, it's important to pick one's battles and choose one's targets wisely. I don't get the protesters' obsession with El Coyote, given Marjorie's modest $100 contribution involved there. Other individuals and businesses donated hundreds and thousands of times this amount to Yes on Prop 8.

4. Would state-sanctioned civil unions for same-sex couples, with the same rights as a marriage (inherit money, jointly own property, hospital visitation, insurance benefits, etc.), but without the label "marriage," be a compromise that everyone could live with? I suppose that, if I wanted to marry someone and was told that I could not do so for whatever reason, I'd be incensed, and might find the offer of civil unions to be half a loaf. I might just fight for it all.

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November 05, 2008

Why John McCain Lost in a Landslide

I wrote a long post explaining why John McCain lost so badly, and then Blogger deleted it when I clicked "Preview," even though I had saved the post dozens of times as I wrote it. Of course, it was a brilliant post, but no way am I going to do it over. Suffice it to say that, even in this tough year for Republicans, McCain should have done better, but he made poor choices, from simply demonizing Barack Obama instead of propounding a positive vision, to choosing the wildly unqualified Sarah Palin and appealing only to the narrow Republican base, to acting erratically in the face of a severe economic crisis.

It will be tempting for Republicans to excuse McCain's loss as inevitable in a year when Republican President George Bush is so unpopular and the economy has crashed. But John McCain bears responsibility for his bad choices, and Republicans in Congress, and the Republican Party as a whole, will pay a high price as a result.

I also need to add that this election wasn't about "the black." The MSM are trying to make it all about the black, by interviewing black pundits about how they feel about electing a black President, and focusing on crowd reaction shots of teary-eyed black people from last night. This election wasn't a social experiment. Obama is as white as he is black. I can be just as proud of Obama for being white as blacks can be for his being black. What the media just don't get is that Americans were sick and tired of being screwed by George Bush and Dick Cheney in every way for eight years, they have seen everything go sour, and they felt that Obama had the best plans to solve our problems and the better judgment and temperament to implement those plans. The MSM's relentless focus on carving up the country into convenient demographic groups, and on "the black President" who overcame racism to get elected, is itself a form of racism that will only divide us further at a time when we need to unite.

As for me, at least I don't have to move out of the country, but I think it's time to migrate to WordPress.

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