Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What would Valerie Plame be thankful for?

OK, so this has nothing to do with Valerie Plame, who happens to be a hot ex-secret agent who was outed for her husband's criticism of the Bush administration, but while thinking of a title for this post, it just popped into that dark, cobwebbed attic I call a mind.

With the mortgage market crumbling, the war in Iraq remaining a constant legacy that we entrust to new generations (along with the hefty multi-billion dollar price tag), and oil spills in the SF Bay Area, it can seem like there's a constant stream of negative shite being spewed upon us.

It's easy to feel desensitized to the daily announcements of trains running over people, people being killed in auto wrecks, soldiers dying because of 'roadside bombs' or some other variation of an IED, the Bush administration jacking itself off on the American people with Congress and the Senate mired in CYA initiatives with the pending 2008 election, Oprah's Leadership Academy's South African officials raping its educational wards, and other general macro downers.

But there are some items out there that are cautious positives, weighing against the tide of geo-political detritus. Sometimes they're harder to see because for some reason 'good things' don't always get the press they deserve or because sometimes they never make the news. I guess this post could be considered an all-purpose 'thanks' for Thanksgiving list.

Here are just a few...

Senator Obama running for President...hell, there are some great candidates out there, and I'm just glad we can change the course away from that of the Bush regime. 2008's candidates have the advantage (thank you President Clinton for not inhaling) of being more frank about their 'formative years'. While Bush never wanted to discuss how many lines he did, or how many whiskey sours he slurped off of the strippers at his ranch, Obama came right out and indicated that he's made some 'poor choices' in his youth. While he's mentioned this before in his memoir, let's face it, unless it's on TV or the internets, people might not be aware of it. It's good to see that we're no longer pulling the wool over our eyes and making our Presidents more than an man...or a woman (wink-wink Hillary).

Open source software. Saving money, now more than ever, is on everyone's mind, and if you're looking for ways to cut costs with regards to spending on productivity software use at home there are some amazing and completely free open source alternatives out there. CNet's Crave has 10 alternatives that are completely free and will most likely satisfy most non-intensive needs. These include an open source equivalent to MS Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access), Photoshop, CD/DVD burning software, audio conversion/authoring software, etc.

Stem cell developments. Scientists in Japan figured out a way to make skin cells develop into stem cells. This is amazing. While the current method isn't exactly perfect (10 out of 50,000 cells only seem to take the change, and so far the method causes cancer which isn't good), future research could make this a viable option for repairing a failing liver, heart tissue, brain cells, etc. Will religious zealots move to strike this research down calling it hubris and immoral, as the extension of this type of technology suggests that creation of life need not be achieved via the union of sperm and ova? Perhaps. But even Nancy Reagan got on the bandwagon when the Gipper was going. Of course, the Bush administration took credit for the recent success:
On Tuesday, senior aides to Mr. Bush said he drove the experiments by holding his moral ground.
“This is very much in accord with the president’s vision from the get-go,” said Karl Zinsmeister, a domestic policy adviser to Mr. Bush who kept the president apprised of the work. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that the president’s drawing of lines on cloning and embryo use was a positive factor in making this come to fruition.”
Come on! If Dubya gets to claim this, can Gore get the credibility that he did indeed invent the internet?

Khymer Rouge war crime trials. Ever see the 80s movie, The Killing Fields? Atrocities upon atrocities were committed by this political party in Cambodia, to which this movie attested. Recently, one of the party members, known as Duch, was on trial in his native country to account for his actions. What were they? The NY Times reports his actions thusly:
At least 14,000 people were tortured under Duch’s orders at Tuol Sleng prison, also known as S-21, and sent to the killing fields. Only a handful are known to have survived.
“Under his authority, countless abuses were committed, including mass murder, arbitrary detention and torture,” said a presiding judge, reading the indictment to the court.
He listed methods of torture that included beating, stabbing, suspension from ropes, removal of fingernails and drowning in pits filled with water.
Not one of the people for whose death he's responsible can be brought back, but he's being brought to justice, and I don't think Cambodians will be attempting to rewrite their equivalent of the War Crimes Act, recently attempted by our own favorite little war chimp.

So. Happy Turkey Day. Hug your loved ones, and if you don't have any go out and make some. At least Boba Fett had Han Solo...according to Robot Chicken, that is...(if you're getting this via RSS feed or in an email, you're not seeing this video - head over to the actual blog to view)

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