Monday, June 27, 2011

Egyptian Current Party formed

Some of the younger members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egpyt have split off, forming a more central and liberal party which will advocate separation of religion from politics.

According to a Times article, the party platform is expected to embrace Islamic morals and culture without the enforcement of Islamic religious law.

This follows the ouster of Abdel Moneim Abou el-Fotouh after the liberal leader chose to run for president in defiance of Muslim Brotherhood's pledge not to run a presidential candidate in the first election.

These early signs of a burgeoning democracy are a whiff of fresh air. I'm becoming cautiously optimistic about this first election. I wonder how keen the military will be to share its power.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Weiner quits, but not with wife at his side.

Weiner finally decided to quit after hearing about it from everybody. His opponents, his own party members, his own constituents, probably his own family. About time he faced up to his mistakes. But notice who is missing in this now-familiar 'mea culpa' speech:

No wife, right? Well isn't that refreshing? Too many times in the past we have to see the humiliated wife 'standing by her man' as he admits to the world that he cheated on her. Remember these familiar faces?
Bill admitting to Monica, McGreevy admitting he's a 'gay American' and Spitzer admitting to using protitutes. The script has been used hundreds of times with "The Good Wife' standing there, showing support for her sleazy husband. I always wondered what these women were thinking as they stood there. They all seem to have the same expression on their faces.

Well, I'm glad to see that Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, wasn't present for this humiliation. According to a Times Article this is a mini trend that started with Jenny Sanford in 2009 and continued with Maria Shriver last month. Let's hope this trend continues and more of these men are left twisting in the wind.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Twelfth Excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

Kay thundered in on his charger, accompanied by three other men.
Gwilym awoke from his exhaustion to find the morning sun shining in his eyes. His skin was warm and he heard the chirping of birds accompanied by the murmuring of the early risers. The smell of cooking meat awoke his hunger. He glanced around the tower in astonishment until he remembered last night’s love-making session. Grainne was gone. He thought about how he should feel about her. ‘Did she take advantage of me? Maybe at first, but it was I who consummated the evening. Was there a spell involved? No, just the lust of two adults. Would Kaitlyn have approved? No. His sons? No. The villagers? Probably half and half. Well, no use thinking about it any longer. Beltane was over and Kay would arrive today to inspect the tower. Better check it out one last time.’ He pulled on his breeches and tunic and climbed back down the tower.

Kay thundered in on his charger, accompanied by three other men. Along with Fred, they inspected the tower from foundations to roof stone, asking many questions of Gwilym and seeming satisfied with all the answers. One was especially interested in the capstone and questioned him long on its origin. He actually seemed happy with the mystery of its appearance on the worksite. Another was fascinated with the building techniques Gwilym had used and spent time making intricate sketches of the tower details. Finally Kay sat with Gwilym and the third man to go over the expenses.
“You stayed on budget, then?” inquired Kay. Gwilym ran through all the figures and showed Kay that he was actually owed three days work from the men and he had 200 silver left that was to have paid the quarryman for the capstone.
“But you needed that extra somewhere else, right?” sneered Kay cynically.
Gwilym handed Kay a pouch full of silver. “This is all the extra silver, Sir Kay. It can be used on the next tower.”
Kay looked at Gwilym in astonishment. “You’re the first man who ever returned money to me. I usually get asked for a little more to finish off something they had to ‘pay out of pocket’. Are you honest, or a good money manager or both?”
“I try to be both, Sir. It’s the King’s money. I already took my wages.”
Kay opened the pouch and counted out 50 silver. “Here’s a bonus for your honesty. Now let’s talk of the next job. We’re building towers like this one all around the coasts. I’d like you to supervise. We start right away on the east coast since that is where we expect the Norsemen to attack next year. The pay will be the same with the chance of a much bigger bonus if you can do as well there as here. Will you take the job?”
“Is there no work closer to Huish, Sir Kay? My boys are barely two months old and cannot leave their wet-nurses.”
“They’re not needed on the job-sites. You’ll be traveling most of the time anyway so you might as well leave them here. Come back and see them next year when they are no longer squalling babes.”
Gwilym struggled for the right words. “It is important for me to be with them now. I can be free to help you in the autumn. But for the summer, I will stay in the village. Thank you very much for the offer, and for the compliment. I hope I can assist you some other way in the autumn.”
Kay looked incredulous. “You’re passing up a grand job. It won’t wait for you. I need to find another man to take the reins. Can you recommend your second to me?”
“Fred is a good man. He can be trusted to treat the men well and take care of the money. He will build you strong towers.”
Kay read between the lines and put in, “But he is no leader of men. They’ll walk all over him.”
“He needs some more seasoning. Take him with you and use him for some of the work. He’ll be ready for leadership in a year or two.”
“Come to Caerleon when you are ready, Gwilym. There will always be work for you somewhere in this kingdom.”

To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

(End of Chapter One. I'll start posting Chapter Two in two weeks. I have almost finished drafting the Eighth Chapter. Once I've drafted all twelve, I'll go back and rewrite. Any suggestions you have on improvements, please e-mail me and I'll add those I agree with to my extensive list of needed edits. . Thanks for your attention!)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

US Military using 'Internet in a Suitcase' to overthrow dictators

Clever, clever! Seizing the day, a US military project is placing 'Internet in a suitcase' in the hands of civilians living in brutal dictatorships in an attempt to aid them in their protest movements. With a combination of wireless laptops linked to secure cell phones, none of which are hooked to the government's systems, they are placing at the disposal of democracy-minded civilians, a way to communicate with each other that cannot be blocked by the host country. Here's how it works:

Read more details in the NY Times article. The military saw the advantage while in Afghanistan when they noticed that the Taliban would shut down the cell-phone system at night to run their own plans. They started placing cell-phone towers within their own protected bases to ensure that people could communicate.

This is a big step up from Voice of America where, instead of us beaming American propaganda across an Iron Curtain, we are leaking the Internet across these country borders to allow locals see what's happening here. Then they can organize their own protests using the existing social media without interference.

But will we deploy this within the brutal dictatorships that are our ostensible allies: Saudi Arabia and Bahrain?
Doubt it!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

John beats Marlee in Celebrity Apprentice

It was a great season of Celebrity Apprentice, with excellent workers mixed in with crazy people. I think Trump left bitches like Star Jones and NeNe and crazies like Garey Busey and LaToya in the show too long simply to help ratings and give us all someone to root against. But when it came to the finale, he chose the best of each team, Marlee Matlin and John Rich.

Marlee was the only level head on her team. Dionne Warwick was off in the spirit world, Hope, Niki and Latoya were complete airheads, NeNe was too busy yelling at everyone else, while Star Jones was backstabbing them and Lisa Rinna wimped out in the boardroom.
On the men's side David Cassidy and Jose Canseco were the wimps, Garey Busey, the nut, while the rest were pretty level headed. This gave them a huge advantage in the challenges with Lil John, Mark McGrath, Meatloaf and Richard Hatch providing a stable core for a series of wins. The other four had to leave the team because they were the leader when the men's team lost and took the hit or they were not strong enough in the boardroom.

As far as challenges went, the men did great, losing only when the women raised more money while screwing up the actual project. The pizza challenge was a complete mess, the women had huge lines at the door, they failed to deliver their pies and they even closed the store to paying customers because they couldn't serve them. But they won the challenge because they raised more money due to some big wallets on the phone. Same problem on the art sale, look at the women's team's lack of organization in getting their event off the ground:
But once again, due to big donor friends of Marlee, the women's team won again.

The final challenge was comprised of three parts: Design a new label for 7-Up, produce a video and host an event. Both did a good job on the redesigned label although I thought Rich's team could have used more green in the label. The commercials both had their moments, with Twisted Sister in Rich's and Geoffrey Holder in Marlee's. Both hit the decade they were to represent and were great choices.

The difference came at the event. Marlee's was flawless: Check it out:
John Rich's event had problems. People were greeted at the door with cheesy stuff and they forgot to even welcome in the VIPs, including Mr. Ego, Trump, himself! But that was nothing compared to the major SNAFU delivered by John Rich himself, introducing the whole crowd to Def Leppard when they were 20 minutes away from being ready. He left the crowd hanging for a long time before he thought to perform himself.

But it didn't matter in the end. As Mark McGrath pointed out, John Rich won for his body of work even if Marlee won this event.

And the winner is...

There were some good tear-jerking moments at the end that reminded me that the whole thing was about charity in the long run. Too bad Trump can't remember that the show isn't all about him.
Check out Marlee's trip to Africa to visit her charity in action:
And the song Marlee and John sing at the end. Do wait for the applause.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Weiner shows all but his wiener

Yet another leader thinks he's immune to proper behavior. This time its a Democratic congressman trying to get away with sending mostly naked pictures of himself to female admirers. What gives with these guys?

I believe that the higher up these men get, the more they think they can get away with anything. They harangue their peers in the house and suddenly think they're some kind of elite warrior class, entitled to whatever they want. Watch him below in full testosterone-charged battle.

Listen to the man's apology. Personally I think he's full of crap. Just because he wasn't caught having sex with these women doesn't mean these relationships were purely electronic. I bet he's been showing his wiener live as well as over the airwaves.

Frankly, I'm getting a little sick of it. Its bad enough when it happens in the private world, but these people have a serious job to do. Our country is being crushed by debt, is struggling with unemployment, is fighting a meaningless war (now that Bin Laden is dead) and is facing a Medicare and Social Security fiasco. How about keeping your wieners in your pants and doing your job for a couple of terms, guys? 
Weiner still wants to keep his job. So after his speech, he got into his car and drove home to his pregnant wife...Read below for more

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Eleventh Excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

He took her hand, stood and turned to stand at her side, looking out at the Beltane fires.

Bleddyn brought him his dinner but Gwilym forbade him climbing onto the roof. Gwilym sent him home after requesting Bleddyn to ask the girls if he and his brothers could stay there tonight.
From the roof he could see the farmers lighting the twin bonfires and driving the livestock between them, ensuring their fertility for the coming year. ‘Ah yes,’ he murmured to himself, ‘Beltane is here again.’
As night fell and his work continued, the villagers built up the fires and Gwilym saw the flames flickering as painted villagers danced around them and adventurous men leapt over them. The villagers were in various states of drunkenness and undress, and every so often would pair off and walk to the outskirts of the fields to couple. Gwilym smiled to himself, remembering his youth and the fun times he had spent at long-ago Beltane fires. He wondered if his boy’s foster mothers were there again this year. They were reputed to be great favorites at the feast. Both had come away from last year’s fires with a baby. All these thoughts were bringing his wife, Kaitlyn, to mind and he shifted uncomfortably from his lying position to relieve the pressure on his loins. He finished hammering in the last piece of river jade.
“Nice work Gwilym!” came the throaty voice of a maiden from the other side of the tower. “You’ve built a fine tower. And the capstone is beautiful."
Gwilym rolled onto his back and saw the form of a maiden, silhouetted by the moon. Moonlight shone through her long, curly hair and revealed the hour-glass shape of her body through the simple shift she wore. As she walked towards him, the moon shining through her shift made her appear naked. Her large, firm breasts bounced and her thigh muscles contracted and relaxed with each step of her bare feet. She stopped just above him and he could make out her profile in the moonlight. It was Grainne. She held out her hand to him, staring unabashedly as the swelling of his crotch.
He took her hand, stood and turned to stand at her side, looking out at the Beltane fires.
“The villagers are celebrating their fertility with gusto this year,” remarked Grainne.
“A lot of them have extra seed money because of the tower. They have a good chance of a fertile year coming up.”
“A tower such as this is a great fertility symbol itself. I was drawn to it by its shape,” Grainne said throatily. “And on top of this tower, who should I find but a towering man, full of life? The moon flows through me tonight, Gwilym.”
He turned away from her and stared out at the countryside. He thought of Kaitlyn and his boys. He had never strayed from Kaitlyn and he couldn’t sully the memory of the boys’ mother with a cheap encounter with a priestess of Avalon. No matter how tempting she was.

To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:
He felt her move behind him and her hands caressed his sides and then up his taut belly to his large chest. As her hands met in the middle, he felt her body press against him from behind, her large breasts squeezing against the small of his back, her knees against his calves. “It is Beltane, Gwilym, and I choose you as my lover tonight.”
She lowered her hands and he stood, accepting his fate but refusing to take an active part in it. She untied the drawstring of his breeches and drew them down his legs.
Gwilym turned to her then, no longer self-conscious of his swelling, and was surprised to see that she had taken off her shift and stood naked in the moonlight. She knelt then, and performed one of the priestess rites for which Avalon was famous. He moaned aloud in the remembered pleasure; how long had it been? Kaitlyn was dead these three months but she had been uncomfortable with the twins for two months before the birth also. Kaitlyn had been an adventurous lover, had readily accepted all of his suggestions and they had enjoyed a rich and varied love life. But this woman was trained in pleasuring a man and the skill she showed was making him lose his self-control.
He tried to concentrate on something else and noticed now that the moon was lighting up the rune marks on the stone, making the patterns glow in the shape of a lion. Then his eyes shut in a particularly pleasurable move from her.
Grainne lay down in the center of the rune, and Gwilym took hold of his fate and mounted her with passion. She gasped in pleasure as they coupled, long and hard in the light of the full moon. He used all the skills he had developed over the years of his travels to bring her to a long-lasting climax, and then he followed her shortly after with his own. As he looked up during his climax, he noticed that the area around the tower was obscured by a thin mist. ‘A little early for that’ he thought to himself as he felt himself fall asleep.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How much of a democracy is America after all?

One of the essences of a democracy is the philosophy of 'One Person, One Vote.' But in some American elections, that isn't the case. The Electoral College insures that some times, the winner of the popular vote doesn't win the presidency. Remember that one, Bob Dole? That system was worked out carefully by our founding fathers as a way to ensure that politicians wouldn't simply try to sway the big audiences at expense of the small. In those days, they didn't want Virginia to have undue influence over the nation but the same situation applies today. If the popular vote was all that mattered, presidential hopefuls would only campaign in states like New York, California and Texas, leaving the South Dakotas and Alaskas of this country unrepresented. Who would care about mining rights in Wyoming or fishing in Hawaii if these states couldn't deliver even 1% of the vote?

But that system isn't as bad as the primary voting situation. With states like New Hampshire and Iowa required by their state constitutions to hold the earliest primary and caucus, they hold tremendous sway over the platforms of presidential hopefuls who seek to emerge from the pack to become a front-runner. According to an article in yesterdays New York Times, people in these states have as much as eight times the influence of us poor folks in New Jersey and Oregon in influencing policy. Check out this map for details:

What effect does this have in real life? How about ethanol subsidies for one? The article also points out that since these states, plus the Super Tuesday states like South Carolina and North Dakota, have no large cities, this drives an anti-urban policy during the early stages of any election.

In the Senate, "the 12 million residents of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina have eight United States senators among them, while the 81 million residents of California, New York and Texas have only six." This is a big problem. This country, like the rest of the world, is becoming more and more urban but the urban areas are becoming less and less represented every year. "The country’s 25 largest areas are responsible for 52 percent of the country’s economic output, according to the Brookings Institution, and are home to 42 percent of the population."

So how do we solve this? I'm not an advocate of changing the bi-cameral nature of our congress. The checks and balances are already in place and working well. But the primary system has to change. David Leonhardt offers a suggestion that seems logical:
"A more democratic system would allow more voters to see the candidates up close for months at a time. The early states could rotate each year, so that all kinds — big states and small, younger and older, rural and urban — had a turn. In 2016, the first wave could include states that have voted near the end recently, like Indiana, North Carolina, Oregon and South Dakota."
Now that's a system I can stand behind. And as for those state constitutions requiring the earliest primary? No-one says we have to attend...