- Just say, "Happy New Year" so your blog isn't dead.
- Sharon GR
Happy New Year!
Hey, look at me. I'm posting! How about that. Boy, I wish I had something to say besides, "Hey, look at me, I'm posting!" Well, it's a start. Here's what's new:
That's all I can think of now. I'll try for something more involved later.
All ATMs have a paper trail. Most electronic voting machines don't. Is your vote less important than a bank's money? I don't think so.
Much more info here.
MSNBC reports that Jose Padilla has finally been charged. This after he was held without charge for over three years as an "enemy combatant". It is interesting to note that the charges, conspiring to “murder, maim and kidnap” people overseas, have nothing to do with the alleged "dirty bomb" plot that was the much touted basis for holding him in the first place.
All inidications are that the Bush Administration did not want to see the case go to the Supreme Court. Gee, I wonder why.
Another year, another Holiday Ale. This past Saturday we brewed the latest in a distinguished series of holiday beers (and one holiday cyser). This year's offering has amber malts and honey flavored with ginger, orange peel, and French Strisselspalt hops and fermented with Belgian Wit Ale yeast. The yeast is an odd choice, seeing as we have not wheat malt. The hops are also a first for us.
It occurs to me that this beer would probably piss off the radical right on several levels. To begin with, we're using French hops. That alone qualifies us as enemy sympathizers. Then there's the name. In their usual if-your-not-with-us-you're-against-us manner, the RRR will attack you if you don't say "Merry Christmas." Here is but one example. Well, screw you guys. We celebrate Christmas, but this is our Holiday Ale. Don't worry though, we won't offer you a glass.
In any event, I'm looking forward to the final product. We've also got a Pilsner that'll be in bottle soon too. There's nothing quite like popping the cap of a bottle of beer you made yourself. Mmmmm. Beer.
Two prominent Republicans are looking for some post-election payback.
Pat Robertson wants Dover, PA voters to know they're on God's shitlist. According to Robertson:
[If] there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected him from your city. The 700 Club.
And don't wonder why hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for his help because he might not be there.
Meanwhile, Bill O'Reilly gave terrorists the okay to bomb San Fancisco. In response to a ballot measure urging local high schools and colleges to bar military recruiters, O'Reilly said:
And if al-Qaida comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.
Don't go looking for these quotes on O'Reilly's site, of course. They're conspicuously absent.
I'm psyched! It was a great election day. I feel really good about this win. And this morning, when I was just getting about of bed, the Governor Elect was at Metropark meeting commuters.
As reported by Lauging at the Pieces, Corzine wasn't the only winner. Tim Kaine won in Virginia, and, closer to home, Jun Choi squeaked it out in Edison. And I just found out from Sharon that our 12th district managed to hang on to Michael J. Panter, though we lost Dr. Robert Morgan.
Rob also cheered the defeat of eight Dover school board creationists by Democrats in favor of teaching science. The Center of NJ Life reports that, although there's good news in Dover, another creationism vote didn't go so well. The Kansas State Board of Ed. thinks science shouldn't be limited to natural explanations. Insert you Wizard of Oz jokes here.
In California, voters rejected Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger propositions to limit the use of their member dues for political purposes, cap state spending, redraw legislative districts and restrict public school teacher tenure.
Where was George Bush during all this? In Virginia, his last minute campaign stop for Jerry Killgore did nothing to prevent a solid win Kaine. In new Jersey, he was last person the Forrester campaign wanted to see. Forrester was repeatedly hammered for his support of Bush. Those coattails are looking a little frayed.
We needed this win. I'm savoring the moment, but I'm looking ahead. We need to be energized for 2006. It will be a tough fight, and we'll need to work hard. For the sake of our country, we need to take back the House and take back the Senate.
The trend starts now!
Get out and vote. That's what I have to say here. Get out and vote. The only people responsible for voter apathy and low turnout are the ones who don't vote. Short of a medical emergency, there is no excuse for not voting. I don't care who you vote for, just vote.
I traded comments with Rob, debating his reasons for choosing Matt Thieke. Liberal as I may be, I cannot support Matt Thieke because his platform lacks detail, and I don't think he ever explained how he'll accomplish what he proposes. Rob felt that Corzine didn't need to attack Forrester as much as he did. I thought Corzine attacks were justified as they stuck to the issues. But I support Rob's choice because he made it.
I think Sluggo is misguided when he says he is willing to let pass the personal attacks by the Forrester campaign. In comments to Rob's post, he said he would be casting his vote "holding their nose." I cannot disagree more with his choice and rationale. I think Forrester will be bad for New Jersey in more ways than I have room explain here. But Sluggo has made one decision I support wholeheartedly: he is voting.
Over at BlueJersey, DBK makes his case. If I had any doubts about Corzine, they'd be gone after reading his. I was at his house when Rush Holt explained why Corzine is the right choice. I believe in Corzine too. He also voted for Whitman, an admission he notes might make his fellow Democrats angry. I, for one, am not. Why? He voted.
I voted today, and I did so with pride. I chose Jon Corzine for governor, a candidate I for whom I have great confidence and high hopes. I think he's going to win, and I will be really bitter if he doesn't. But I'll have fulfilled the most important obligations of every citizen. I will have voted.
Addendum: Xpatriated Texan posted a comment I wanted to put here. Of voting he said, "it isn't just your duty - it should be your pleasure and your honor." He couldn't be more right, and it was indeed an honor. It always is.
Let's consider how the candidates have reacted to comments made by Joanne Corzine about her former spouse. I read the following three articles:
Here are some snippets:
Corzine yesterday would not discuss the breakdown of his marriage, news the couple's three children will undoubtedly be glad to hear.
"I don't really think I can say much beyond the breakup of a marriage," Corzine said. "It involves two parties and children are involved and obviously it is filled with pain for everyone, including, by the way, my former wife."
[Corzine] said the "breakup of a marriage can ... sometimes color how people might speak to issues. I totally disagree with the premises of them. That's the opinion that my former wife holds and she has a right to speak up."
-Whelan and Margolin
But Forrester distinguished between those sentiments and the comments about Corzine letting his family down. Asked directly about that quote by a reporter, Forrester said, "I think that's private life."
He also ruled out using it in a television ad, saying: "Private life is just too complicated and I don't believe that it is appropriate to be brought into the political domain."
-Whelan and Margolin
The 15-second ad features a quote published in Wednesday's New York Times from Joanne Corzine, who divorced U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine two years ago after he had an affair with the president of the largest state employees union chapter.
"When I saw the ad where (Forrester's wife, Andrea) said, `Doug never let his family down, and he won't let New Jersey down,' all I could think was that Jon did let his family down, and he'll probably let New Jersey down too," the New York Times reported.
That afternoon, Forrester stood on the Morristown green and made it official -- he promised he would not use that quote.
But strange things happen to candidates who are staring at defeat. What was a bright moral line suddenly become hazy.
Within 24 hours, Forrester broke his word. The campaign released a TV commercial that featured the very quote he promised not to use.
Doug Forrester is trying to use Joanne Corzine's quotes to call into question Jon Corzine's character. In doing so, he as sunk to a new low, breaking his own promises along the way.
I think it's clear who the more trustworthy candidate is.
For more on this issue:
Joanne Corzine had some unflattering remarks about her ex-husband that were published in the today's Star Ledger. No surprisingly, the Forrester campaign quickly latched on to her comments. It seems more than a little desparate to me
Is a candidate's ex-wife really a source you should be touting? Is anyone surprised that Joanne Corzine has a negative opinion of her ex-husband? In a 2003 statement she blamed politics in part for their break-up. Why wouldn't she say he compromised his political ideals? She's been hearing about his ex-girlfriend and the loan he forgave couldn't have helped. She specifically mentions the ad Andrea Forrester praising her husband. Of course she thinks Jon Corzine let his family down.
For the record, in Corzine has always said the divorce was his fault, but the Republicans don't like to mention that because it demostrates honesty and personal responsibility. Forrester went on record holding her comments up as more proof, "that Jon Corzine is wedded to the political bosses." (Clever little play on words there, Doug.)
Why would I expect anything else from Forrester. After all, his is the same campaign proclaiming that "Even Kids Don't Trust Corzine." I guess they've decided eight-year-old Gavin Rozzi speaks for every kid in NJ. That's one of the front-page items on the Forrester web site, by the way. Man, they really are desperate.
Several years ago I was at a friends holiday party playing Celebrities. For those who are unfamiliar, it is a game where everyone writes down names of celebrities on slips of paper which are then drawn at random by teams of two, with one player giving hints so that the other says the celebrity's name. The celebrity can be anyone famous, real of fictional.
One celebrity that showed up was Ookla the Mok. Do you know who that is? Ookla was the traveling companion of Thundarr the Barbarian, an early-80s Saturday morning sci-fi cartoon. The show ran only two seasons, and was one of my favorites. The Ookla entry wasn't mine, though I was one of only two people that even knew who Ookla was. There was some question as to whether he was really a celebrity.
Well, the guys at HomestarRunner.com know who Ookla is. Check out this year's Halloween Toon. Each year, the characters costumes are a collection pop-culture references, famous and obscure. And Ookla is there.
Yesterday I attended a house party hosted by DBK and attended by Congressman Rush Holt. It was a live blogging event, and his comments can be seen on Bluejersey.net. In discussing the Plame case and the GOP approach to Katrina aid, he offered some great insights into the Republican's brand of truth, both nationally and here in NJ.
It was also a pleasure to sit and listen to him speak. Let me just say that I really wish he was my Congressman.
Yesterday I finally got rid of the last old toilet from our house. Yeah, let me just point out that this post is mostly about toilets. Consider yourself warned. So, as I was saying.... We'd already replaced two other toilets when we redid those bathrooms. The remaining bathroom hasn't been redone yet, and as much as we'd like to, it's going to be awhile.
The old toilet started leaking, so I considered replacing the innards. Instead we went ahead and bought a new one. It is amazing when you comare a low-flow toilet to an older one. The old tanks are HUGE. On each flush that tank almost empties itself. The new tank is much smaller, and empties only half-way when you flush. I don't know why I didn't replace it years ago.
Yet I still find many people coveting their old toilets. The arguments are usually the same, and center on the premise that 1.6 gallons is just not enough to dispose of their waste. Like a soccer mom with a Hummer, they want the biggest they can get and think anything smaller won't do it. Well, I'm here to tell you that these toilets work great. Rob could come over with 5 lbs. of carrots and I wouldn't worry. More scietific studies of back me up on this.
We have a much more efficient and effective product now, and it doesn't cost any more than the old version. I don't think low-flow toilets would work as well as they do if their use was not required by law. This strikes me as a great example of why we should have real energy efficiency requirements. Sometimes you need mandates like this to spur development of more efficient products.
So next time you hear someone saying we can't have significant improvements in, say, automobile fuel economy, just think of that great low-flow john. And if you still have one of those old 3-4 gpf toilets, it's time to ditch that clunker and go for something new and efficient.
Every so often, I read a column whose author puts into words everything I want to say, and does so infinitely better than I ever could. More than once the columnist has been Anna Quindlen, and this week's The Last Word is one of those columns.
Pop quiz: who is Robert Fiske? He was the first Special Prosecutor investigating Whitewater. Despite being a Republican, he was criticized by the right who felt he not impartial, because Attorney General Janet Reno appointed him. When the new special prosecutor law went info effect, a three judge panel chose someone they were much happier with: Kennith Starr. That panel, by the was, was chosen by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William H. Rehnquist, and was itself staunchly Republican.
Starr's politics were much further to the right than those of Fiske. Nonetheless, he was hailed by Republicans as the truly impartial prosecutor they wanted. They routinely dismissed arguments from the Democrats that Starr was abusing his position to engage in the politics of political destruction. Those arguments may sound familiar to you.
Republicans are now leveling these same criticisms againt Prosecutor Ronnie Earle and Judge Bob Perkins. They argue that Democratic party affiliation is enough to bias them against DeLay. The same people that thought only the stanchest Republicans are impartial enough to prosecute a Democrat think that any and every Democrat is too biased to prosecute a Republican.
It's almost like they don't care about justice and are only interested in staying in power.
A comment on Audible.com said the following of John Crawford's The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell:
To me it was very depressing and negative. I understand that war is not fun and games but the author was so negative that is was miserable to listen to. I quit about half way.
This is somewhat ironic. A little after the point this person quit, Crawford writes that no one in America is interested in stories like the ones he tells - they just want the CNN version. The commenter is right, though. This book is very depressing and negative. As the author points out, that's how you know it's true.
The book tells the story John Crawford's tour in Iraq. Newly married and one semester shy of graduation, his National Guard unit was activated. The chapters, each an almost self-contained short story, capture the fear, boredom, dark humor, pain, and horror that Crawford went through. It proceeds quickly, almost rapid-fire, switching from one emotion to another at a moments notice. It is also a very gripping story that you will find it hard to walk away from. The audio production I listenned to was very well done.
As a literary work, it is not without flaws. Publishers Weekly notes this saying, "Crawford dresses up his story in strained metaphors and tired clichés...." The review goes on to say that, "Despite its pretensions, Crawford's story is not the classic foot soldier's memoir and should provide enough gristle to please military memoir fans." I think they miss the point and underestimate the audience. This isn't just a book for war-story buffs. The book is a very real account of the war in Iraq that will hold anyone's attention.
The story paints a picture our leaders would rather we not see, like the flag draped coffins that come home every week. But, just like those coffins, this story embodies the cold reality which every American should understand intimately before endorsing this war. Even now, I think too many are like the person commenting on Audible, unwilling to face up to the ugly truth of it all. When I finished listenning, I drove on in silence for another twenty minutes feeling hollow and numb.
I recommend this book to everyone, and hope it makes them feel the same.
Have you seen the new about the northeast rains? It's been day after day of dark and dreary rain and clouds.
Oh yeah, by the way, we're generating 300 watts of electricity at this very moment. Keep your damn refineries.
Have I mentioned lately how much I like Keith Olbermann? He's one of the best commentators on the air right now. If you need more evidence of this, check out The Nexus of Politics and Terror, where Keith walks through a seriese of "terror events" and the corresponding political crises of the Bush administration. Read the blog post. Watch the video.
A teaching document published by the Roman Catholic Church instructs the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not completely accurate, as reported in this article. “We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in The Gift of Scripture. Wow, they almost sound like Episcopalians or Lutherans.
One part of me wants to start bashing the Roman Catholic Church with questions like:
But another part of me wants to avoid the cheap shots. I have disagreed so often with the Catholic Church, but I have on occasion respected the stand they take on issues like capital punishment. At a time when the radical religious right, with the backing of the president, seeks to challenge science itself, the Catholic Church stood up on the side of knowledge.
I still disagree strongly, vehemently, with their stand on issues like marriage and gay rights. But at least I don't have to argue with them about scientific fact.
They've come a long way since Galileo.
Amtrak resumed rail service to New Orleans today. Two trains are back running.
The first is the City of New Orleans, which runs between New Orleans and Chicago, and was made famous by the Steve Goodman song of the same.
The second is more special to me, though. It's the Crescent. One cold February afternoon at the Trenton station, some thirty hours after getting married, Sharon and I boarded the Crescent to take us to our honeymoon in New Orleans. The stay in New Orleans was wonderful, and as wonderful was the trip there on the Crescent. Sometimes, in NY Penn station, I hear them announce the departure of the Crescent, and I smile at the memories of some of the best days of my life.
I'm glad it's going again.
I am so disgusted I don't know where to start. Yesterday, by a narrow margine, the House of Representatives approved a GOP-backed energy bill that encourages construction of new oil refineries.
This right here is about the eighth or ninth sentence I've stared and then erased. I don't know where to start. I need to get children's teeth brushed, so I'll cut to the chase and vent, in no particular order:
Unfortunately, I don't feel any better....
Oh yeah, one more thing. Today the weather has been dark and dreary and raining. Nonetheless, our solar panels were still generating 300 watts of electricity. It's not huge, but come on. Have you seen the weather in NJ? And we're still producing. Don't you think the better long term strategy would be to throw that money at renewable energy? It's got to be better than funding oil, the source of most of our energy problems.
Oh, yeah, sorry. Logic again. My bad.
This morning we were discussing candy, as Halloween is approaching and there will be a large influx. My daughter asked this question about Almond Joy.
Good question. The answer? There is none. Almond Joy sucks. It's the second worst candy bar in the world. I mean, come on, what does it have to offer? Aside from the almond, what does it have? A thin layer of chocolate that is sub-par at best. Under that, a big glob of shredded coconut whose consistency makes you wonder if you're supposed to eat it or put it between your cheek and gum like chaw. Bleah!
Who on earth came up with that? The only good thing is the almond, which is why it's the second worst candy bar. The same culinary sado-masochists who came up with Almond Joy also created Mounds, a candy bar devoid of any redeeming quality at all.
I quoted The Beatles song "Maxell's Silver Hammer" in my post about Delay. I got a comment I initially thought was just more blog-spam. It turned out to be someone who'd made a Flash animation video of the song.
It's good - check it out (but not with kids around).
Update: It turns out dave decay posted the link. Thanks!
I felt the need to comment on this article by Tom Hester in yesterday's edition of The Times of Trenton.
At a rally against gay-marriage, Len Deo called attempts to legalize gay marriage an "assault" designed to "undermine the most basic institution of our culture, marriage, which is the bedrock of a stable society." Deo is president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, yet another organization whose positive name masks their exclusionary politics. I wonder what it says about society then, if 50% of marriages fail, but I'll hold that thought for a moment. I have to ask, does Deo truly believe that there is a cabal of homosexuals intent on destroying our way of life? Yeah, he probably does, which makes it all the more sad.
Rev. David Ireland could be making a case for gay marriage when he said, "Marriage has deeply rooted civil and societal benefits that have been recognized by government spanning hundreds of generations...." He is absolutely right about that, so wouldn't it be in society's interest to extend marriage rights to all of society? Ireland doesn't think so, as he continued his comment by saying marriage "should not be redefined from a political, judicial or social perspective in this generation." If not in this generation, then when?
Clearly he believes it should be never, as he also said that the clergy in the rally will "never recognize same-sex marriages in New Jersey or agree to perform them in our churches." As religious institutions protected by the First Amendment, they are free to define marriage as it applies to their own religious beliefs. Certainly laws or court rulings granting marriage rights to gays would not mean all religious institutions have to perform these marriages. Right now clergy refuse to perform many heterosexual marriages, as is the case with Roman Catholic clergy declining to marry people who have been married previously.
In all, I think the protestors' arguments demonstrate why the right to marry should be extended to gay couples. Their arguments find their basis in views on morality that are rooted in the creed and dogma of their respective religions. The same First Amendment that allows religious institutions their own beliefs on marriage prevents them from imposing those beliefs on society as a whole. Hester's article also shows not all religious leaders share Ireland's opinions. Rev. Charles J. Stephens notes that his church, the Unitarian Universalist Church at Washington Crossing, has includes gay couples in strong relationships that are "role models for a lot of the younger heterosexual couples."
There is an important point there. I think the larger issue with the institution of marriage is its 50% failure rate. People enter into marriages they shouldn't, while marriages that might endure fall apart. Instead of focusing on how to build lasting marriages between the right people, the rally attendees want to prevent a class of people from getting married in the first place. As Rev. Stephens' congregation demonstrates, the example of these couples' commitment and dedication to one another strengthens relationships as a whole. Depriving these committed couples of the right to marry is what truly undermines the institution of marriage.
Don Adams died yesterday at the age of 81. We remember him, of course, as Maxwell Smart. You might not know that he was also the voice of Coach Comet in the Rankin/Bass production of Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He is listed in this role on IMDB, though he was not credited.
It seems people have been wondering if he is indeed the voice of Comet, as search criteria like '"Don Adams" Rudolph Comet' are topping the list of search terms reported by BlogPatrol, leading people to my earlier post about the program.
One thing I didn't know about Don Adams was that he was a Marine in WWII who fought in Guadalcanal and survived deadly blackwater fever. When he returned to the States, he became a drill instructor. Now that would have been something worth seeing.
Well, I've finally finished the series I began more than a month ago, and I can go ahead and state that I am a Unitarian Universalist.
In the end, I didn't really lose my religion. I still don't know what I believe, and I don't know what religious truth is. But I found a place where I am welcome in my search.
One of many traditions at our New Years parties was brought to us by our friend Beth. Sometime after midnight everyone thinks of something they want to give up or let go in the coming year. They write it down on slips of paper which are then gathered in pan and burned. Beth usually brings magician's flash paper, so they go up rather dramatically. For the past three years, I had written down God, religion, or both.
One year, in a conversation loosened by alcohol, I explained what I had written and why. The details of the discussion are (understandably) a little vague now, but when it was over I had decided to visit a Unitarian Universalist church and our friend Rob said he'd go with me.
I had begun poking around the UU website looking for alternatives to the Episcopal religion that I was having so many issues with. Dennis, my older daughter's godfather and a great friend, had once told me about Unitarian Universalism. What immediately attracted me was the lack of creed or dogma that defines what to believe. Instead, there is a set of guiding principals that define how one should act. In the Episcopal Church, my problem was never with how we were supposed to act. My problem was always with what we were supposed to believe.
So Rob and I went to the UU service. In many ways, it was very similar; there were hymns, a sermon, and readings. In many ways it was very different; the readings were from Hindu sacred texts, and I had never sung "Food, Glorious Food" from Oliver! in church before. The service was about consumption, our need to consume, and the responsibility to use our resources wisely, hence the choice of music. Afterward we attended a discussion meant to introduce Unitarian Universalism to newcomers. I thought this might be what I wanted to do, but it would take another two years to do it.
I kept going to the UU church's web site, mulling the idea of making the switch as I struggled with leaving the Episcopal church. Yet when I finally left, I held off. We spent a lot of time talking about if we shoud go, how we should go, when we should go, and so on. It would be tough entering a new church where everything was different and we knew no one. We also didn't know if this was something the kids really wanted. Finally we asked them, and they said they wanted to try it out. So we did.
I'm happy to say we've been going for several months now. It was difficult at first, but we've gotten beyond the intial awkwardness. We went to the picnic and the fall Harvest Dinner. We now know a few people, and the kids have made a few friends.
I think the girls are happy with our decision. Sharon and I concluded that it was important for them to have a religious education. The more we learn about the religious education program, the more certain we are that this is what we wanted. The goal is to give them the knowledge and tools to make informed decisions about what they believe. It was interesting to see how many other parents were looking for the same thing we were.
For me, I finally find myself looking forward to church again. There have certainly been some interesting services. I like to tell the story of the pagan cakes and ale ceremony. The service explored the importance of meals in various religions, then focused on the pagan ritual. We all participated in the meal, which included real ale from a local brewpub. Cracking open a growler in church was yet another first for me. Most of the services are less exotic, but no less worthwhile. In a few weeks, I'll be attending a meeting after services to discuss membership.
Here's a quick roundup of some recent stories on Iraq:
That full moon we just had was the Harvest Moon, so named because its light afforded farmers a few more hours to harvest their crops. This year's was special because it was in the same place as it was 50 years ago when captured on film as the famous "Autumn Moon" by Ansel Adams. Astronomers figured out the precise time and date of the original image, then predicted it's return (the story).
The Harvest moon is not the only named moon. Most people know the Blue Moon, the uncommon second full moon of a calendar month. Actually, there are traditional English names for the full moon of every month. Native Americans had their own names, as did other cultures. Here's a list from the Farmer's Almanac (via Wikipedia).
|Month||English||Native American||Other Names|
|January||Moon After Yule||Wolf Moon||Old Moon|
|February||Wolf Moon||Snow Moon||Hunger Moon|
|March||Lenten Moon||Worm Moon||Crow Moon, Crust Moon, Sugar Moon, Sap Moon|
|April||Egg Moon||Pink Moon||Sprouting Grass Moon, Fish Moon|
|May||Milk Moon||Flower Moon||Corn Planting Moon|
|June||Flower Moon||Strawberry Moon||Rose Moon, Hot Moon|
|July||Hay Moon||Buck Moon||Thunder Moon|
|August||Grain Moon||Sturgeon Moon||Red Moon, Green Corn Moon|
|September||Fruit Moon||Harvest Moon||Corn Moon, Barley Moon|
|October||Harvest Moon||Hunter's Moon||Travel Moon, Dying Grass Moon|
|November||Hunter's Moon||Beaver Moon||Frost Moon|
|December||Moon Before Yule||Cold Moon||Long Nights Moon|
Until I read Eleanor Clift's recent commentary, Bush Repackaged, I hadn't heard that Karl Rove was in the hospital with kidney stones during the height of Hurricane Katrina. Clift suggests that this explains Bush's poor response to the disaster early on, and his subsequent retooling.
The main focus of the commentary, however, is the implications of the Bush administration's reconstruction plan. Thusfar, I am mainly appalled at Bush's assertions that the $200 billion bill could be paid for with spending cuts. I saw the plan itself mostly as damage control. Having read the Clift commentary, I realize it is much more. "To hear Bush talk," she says, "we're about to witness a Republican utopia in the hurricane zone."
Citing the Republican's current weakness in the polls, Clift describes this as "a pivotal moment in politics with a president severely compromised and the country poised to embrace a contrary view of government that rejects the Darwinian capitalism of the Reagan-Bush era." But if that is to happen, Democrats will need to offer real alternatives that voters can embrace. It is not enough, she says, "to stand aside and wait for the GOP to implode." Unfortunately, her assessment of the Democrat response is less than optimistic.
Meanwhile, the Bush camp has already moved beyond damage control. In their eyes, Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath is an opportunity to further their conservative agenda, just like the 9/11 attacks. To be sure, the absencee of an aggressor makes it more difficult for Bush to rally the country behind him, and his early inaction hurt his credibility seriously. But that is in the past, and voters have short memories.
With Rove back, they're working full-time to turn things around. If they do, the post-Katrina reconstruction could be a final crowning achievement of a Bush presidency, strengthening the neo-con's hold on the Republican party, and government as a whole. They are certainly doing all the right things to make that future a reality.
In a recent post I linked to a stick figure animation of Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice" video. I started poking around that site, looking at the other animations. Nothing is nearly as complex, but there are a bunch of really cool animated GIFs. Here are some of my favorites (links all open in the same window):
If you haven't played with Google Earth, and you have an hour to kill, check it out. It's the coolest!
P.S. If you've read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, Google Earth will look familiar.
P.P.S. If you haven't read it, you should.
I have often joked that it would be easier if I was Catholic. I have so many issues with the social and political stance of the Roman Catholic church that I would have no qualms leaving. The same would be true if I were Southern Baptist or Evangelical. I would have left those churches on principle alone, without ever considering the deeper aspects of religious truth.
The Episcopal Church is different. It's an open and liberal Christian community. Both men and women can be priests, and they can marry. They welcome practicing homosexuals, ordain them, and make them bishops. To be sure, not all Episcopalians were in favor of this. Acceptance and ordination of gays, ordination of women, even modern language in the Book of Common Prayer all came with controversy and threatened schism. Yet the church has weathered these storms without halting its progress towards openness and acceptance.
After reading that last paragraph, you might be wondering why in the world I wanted to leave. Indeed, I was always proud of the Episcopal church and its progressive stand on social issues. So what was the problem? As I became more involved as an acolyte and vestry member, I was increasingly called upon to profess my faith. I was asked to mentor a young adult preparing for confirmation. I attended retreats with the vestry. I spoke in front of the parish about stewardship.
In all these situations, I always became uncomfortable discussing my personal relationship with God and Christ. That's actually an understatement. I began to resent being put in the position at all. I was skeptical when people sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit. The last thing I wanted to hear was someone's story of how God spoke to them. In vestry we often prayed for guidance before discussing an issue or voting, and I hated it when our decisions took on extra weight because they were made with God's guidance.
It was a while before I realized why it bothered me so much. The answer difficult to face, but it was simple. I just didn't believe it. When someone sensed the Holy Spirit in our midst, I thought they were just excited. I thought the silent prayer in vestry helped people clear their heads, not tune into God. It seems obvious to me after the fact, but it was hard to accept. I would have to accept it, though. As I discussed in Part II, having children pressed the issue as much as anything. I needed to be honest with them.
I resolved to leave the Episcopal church. It was a slow process. Sharon and the kids stopped attending first. I continued to attend vestry meetings, and went to church when I was scheduled to acolyte. Eventually my rector figured out something was up and asked me about it. I think he was worried that I was having trouble at home or something. We discussed my doubts and concerns, but did not come to any resolution.
I stopped going to church altogether when I was done with vestry. The last service I attended was the Sunday of the Annual Meeting, officially my last day on vestry. I had still not explained about my decision to my rector. Nonetheless, I think he sensed it was my last day there. I keep meaning to write him and let him know how I'm doing, but I haven't yet. That last thing I did was congratulate one of the new vestry members. She was my age, and had been there as long as I had. I left with a strange mixture of regret and relief. I miss that church, but I think I made the right choice.
For the next several months, we didn't go to church at all. However, it didn't stay that way. That story, in what should be the last installment of this series, Part IV.
Keith Olbermann is keeping his critical eye focused on the Bush administration with his latest blog post on "Duct Tape Man" David Paulison, who told Americans every home should stock up on duct tape and plastic sheeting.
Meanwhile, the failure wants to reassure America that no taxes will be required to pay for Gulf Coast reconstruction. "You bet it will cost money," he said, "but I’m confident we can handle it."
Well, that makes me feel better. George W. Bush is confident that we can handle it. His assessments have been so dead on in the past. He went on to tell us that, "It’s going to cost whatever it’s going to cost," demostrating his unique insight into the situation. In case you're wondering, you can also expect recontruction to take as long as it takes and fix whatever it fixes.
By the way, how are we going to pay for this? The same way we'll pay for everything, Pinky, spending cuts. Ahhh, panacea of the borrow-and-spend republicans. All spending can be paid for with spending cuts. Who needs that pesky math, anyway.
Don't worry though, Bush assures us that they'll be "wise about the money we spend."
I'm not even going to bother with that one. If you want, you can read the MSNBC article on Bush's little fantasy world.
By the way, they also have this article on the who-knew-what-when question, where they note that:
Bush told ABC on Sep. 1 that “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.” In its storm warnings, the hurricane center never used the word breached.” But a day before Katrina came ashore Aug. 29, the agency warned in capital letters: “SOME LEVEES IN THE GREATER NEW ORLEANS AREA COULD BE OVERTOPPED.”
National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield also gave daily pre-storm videoconference briefings to federal officials in Washington, warning them of a nightmare scenario of New Orleans’ levees not holding, winds smashing windows in high-rise buildings and flooding wiping out large swaths of the Gulf Coast.
A photo on the White House Web site shows Bush in Crawford, Texas, watching Mayfield give a briefing on Aug. 28, a day before Katrina smashed ashore with 145-mph winds.
Likewise, you can't always tell a web site by its domain name. Case in point:
Go on, check it out. Thanks to Snopes for this one.
Update: I'm two-for-two on posting screw-ups. The site should end in ".org" not ".com" as it did earlier.
This AP article reports an interesting challange of abstinence-only sex-education programs. The Information Quality Act allows affected persons to seek correction of erroneous and ineffective information disseminated by federal agencies. I think erroneous and ineffective pretty much describes absitnece-only.
Update: Duh. I forgot to link to the actual news story. It's there now (the first one).
I was listenning to some Fatboy Slim, and it got me looking for the classic video for "Weapon of Choice" that stars Christopher Walken. I found it.
I also found a stick figure version.
Once again, Keith Olbermann shows why his is my favorite news blog with this post about the "city" of Lousiana.
Update: Thanks to Shakespeare's Sister, I found video of the commentary that is worth watching. This version is in Windows Media format, but the sound is low. This version is much better, but you need Quicktime.
One of the readings in church this past Sunday was Be Cool to the Pizza Dude, an essay by Sarah Adams for the NPR "This I Believe" series. It's a quick read, and worth it.
A stinging criticism of the Bush administration was offered by Michael Moore in this open letter to President Bush. As Moore is wont to do, the letter is heavy on sarcasm and, IMHO, tries too hard to blame Bush.
In particular, Moore goes after cuts in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' budget. To be sure, Bush's cuts have been the largest to date, but previous administrations from both parties had already cut plenty. FactCheck.org has an analysis of this issue, and the jury is still out.
More accurate and appropriate criticism was offered by Eleanor Clift in this commentary about the Bush administration's leadership (and lack thereof) in the days leading up to and immediately following Huricane Katrina striking the Gulf Coast.
For its part, the White House addressed these criticisms by doing what it does best: pointing fingers and shifting blame.
I spent a week down the shore in Seaside Park two weeks ago. I'm only just getting to blogging it now. We spent one day at the Funtown Amusement Pier. We rode many rides, including ferris wheel, bumper cars, Mighty Mouse, and the Tower of Fear, a ride that rockets you to 225' the air, then drops you. None of these rides, not even the Tower, tested my stamina like the Spider.
My youngest needed an adult to accomany her, so I went on. The ride went on forever. We were on it so long, my daughter annouced that she was bored. I wish. When we were done, I felt as if it literally sucked the life of me, like Count Rugen's machine in The Princess Bride.
The Spider is one of several amusement park rides designed by Lee Eyerly. Eyerly was initially building flight training devices, but found a better market for them as amusement park rides. The Spider is one of his later inventions. The key to the Spider's evil is that the ride operator has full control of the ride's movement. Instead of the push-and-go green start button we are see on newer rides, the spider has two levers that control the speed and tilt of the ride. It's like a demented video game for the ride operator's own twisted enjoyment.
Not a stunning endorsement of the Spider, eh? Well, that was only the second time I've ridden an an Eyerly Spider in my life. The first time I was eight or so. I remember the unpredictable twisting motion had me sliding up the back of the chair. I thought I was going to be flung out at any moment. That ride went on forever too.
Wherever Lee Eyerly is now, I hope he's happy.
As I watch the residents struggle to survive, I cannot conceive of their suffering. As I sit comfortably at my desk in my air-conditioned office, I cannot imagine what it is like to have witnessed the devastation firsthand. I cannot fathom what trials lie ahead. Yet this disaster still touches me in a personal way.
New Orleans will always be a special place for me. When planning our honeymoon, Sharon and I had two criteria. It had to be warmer than New Jersey in February and there had to be a train that went there. That's how we ended up spending an unforgettable honeymoon in New Orleans. Eleven years later we still remember all the little details of the places we saw, the music we heard, and the wonderful food we ate. The city is like a dear friend.
I've been at a bit of a loss as to what to say about this. Anything I have to offer seems insignificant or trite. But I'll take this moment to join the Hurricane Katrina: Blog for Relief Weekend and ask anyone reading this to help out this dear friend of mine, and its neighbors, in their time of need. But then, you probably already have.
What a difference a couple days make. Summer is back home. She looks much better, and she's adapting to the one leg. She still gets tired very quickly, but she keeps making progress. We went on a walk and she made it two houses up the street.
Today the Washington Post reported that fifteen Uighurs, Chinese Muslims, remain imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay even though the pentagon says they should be released. A lawyer for two of the prisoners noted that one of his clients was schackled to the floor in a windowless box.
Information about how they ended up in Guantanamo is limited, but at least some of them were in Afghanistan and Pakistan after fleeing persecution in China. Ironically, they looked to the United States as a beacon of hope. So much for that.
Particularly disturbing is that we let Chinese officials to interrogate them. One of the detainees claimed that Guantanamo personal helped the interrogator photograph him, despite his attempts to resist.
I'm not in much of a mood to post anything. If you've read Sharon's post, you've heard about Summer. She's our wonderful greyhound who just lost her leg, probably has cancer, and is back in the veterinary hospital because of complications from the amputation. She's is a wonderful pet, and it breaks my heart to see her like this. If you have a retired racing greyhound, keep an eye out for this. If they seem extra sensitive, it may be a sign.
I wish she was home now, but she's in really good hands. She was home for a day, and she was already hopping up steps going on walks. She wants to be home and we miss her.
On Blanton's and Ashton's - Article. II. Section. 4., G. D. Frogsdong posted this comparison of lead stories from the campaign sites of Jon Corzine and Doug Forrester. I went to each site so see for myself. Here's what I found:
Basically, Corzine's page is focusing on what he plan's to do while Forrester's page is focusing on what's wrong with Corzine. The lead-off story is particularly nasty, as Frogsdong points out. If you go to the Corzine "reading room" section and compare it to the Forrester "newsroom" you'll find a similar trend.
I remember the post election analysis of the 2000 Senate race where Hillary Clinton handily beat Rick Lazio in what was supposed to be a close race. Pundits pointed to Lazio's focus on attacking Clinton, while saying little about what he himself would do if elected. Their point was that you can't win an election simply by saying that you're not the other guy. Many have argued that this was one of the problems with Kerry's failed 2004 Presidential bid.
It looks like Forrester is getting desperate here, but the "Corzine Sucks, Vote Forrester" campaign strategy is sure to fail.
I just took this 3-D humor test. Check it out, it's fun. (Thanks to Jeri for the link). Here is my result:
You like things edgy, subtle, and smart. I guess that means you're probably an intellectual, but don't take that to mean pretentious. You realize 'dumb' can be witty--after all isn't that the Simpsons' philosophy?--but rudeness for its own sake, 'gross-out' humor and most other things found in a fraternity leave you totally flat.
I guess you just have a more cerebral approach than most. You have the perfect mindset for a joke writer or staff writer.
Your sense of humor takes the most thought to appreciate, but it's also the best, in my opinion.
PEOPLE LIKE YOU: Jon Stewart - Woody Allen - Ricky Gervais
When it's just you, it's a lot easier to leave certain questions and doubts unaddressed. Sharon often asked me what I believe, in part because she wanted to understand how important church was to me. My answers were always wandering and noncommittal. It turns out, that's the way my beliefs are too. My approach to religion echoed Franklin's sentiments. I had no issues with what my religion said about how people should act. But God, Jesus his divine son, the Resurection, the Holy Spirt? Well, let's just say I had my doubts.
Surprisingly, this was not a big deal when it was just me. I could go to church and interpret what I heard and what was taught. I would listen with an intellectual ear to the analysis of a Bible passage. I discussed the intent of the author and the audience they were writing too. I would filter doctrine through my own interpretations. In short, as an adult, it was okay if I didn't buy into everything. It got harder with children.
I went to an all male Catholic high school. One thing I will always remember from religion class is the way we were taught that everything in the Bible is true. It was explained that parts of the Bible are not historically accurate, yet they always contains spiritual truth. I tried this concept on my kids, but it didn't really fly. For someone their age, it's either real or not, fact or fiction, true or false. At church, each week, my kids were being taught a version of reality that wasn't mine.
That was probably the turning point for me. It's interesting, looking back on it now. I never confronted my own doubts until my religion was being taught to my children. If I was going to be honest with them, I had to decide where I stood. However, once I did, I realized I couldn't stay where I was. With much difficulty, we decided to leave our church. The question was, how? And, what next?
This will be continued in Part III.
This is part of a series that begins here.
For those who don't know, I was born an raised Episcopalian. My family was very active in the church. We attended regularly. I went to church school each week. I was an acolyte, I was in the youth group, I even gave the sermon on Youth Sunday. While in college, I attended a small Lutheran Sunday worship group. I really liked intimate atmosphere of it, and the service is very similar to the Episcopal one. After college, I went back to my family's church, and when Sharon and I were married, it was there.
Our attendancence lapsed somewhat, until the children were born. I had always expected them to be baptized, so they were and we started attending as a family. The girls started going to church school like I did. I went back to serving as an acolyte. Being an acolyte had become very comfortable and familiar to me. The church was, as I'd been going there for for nearly twenty years.
Then I was asked and agreed to run for vestry, the governing body of the parish. Actually I was agreeing to serve on vestry as the elections are rarely contested. It was kind of surprise to be asked, and a little flattering at the time. I'd later learn that they had a lot of trouble finding people who said yes. It's a three year commitment, and managing resources and budget, difficult in any organization, is very challenging in a church.
Yet overall, I was finding it a rewarding experience. I remember when my parents were on vestry. I'd tell them about what was happenning and they'd tell me about what it was like for them. It was sort of like a coming of age for me.
I was a very active adult member of the church I grew up in. But there were issues I would need to face soon.
This is continued in Part II.
Awhile back in a post about God in government, I alluded to some conclusions I'd come to with respect to religion. In a comment, Rob asked about this, and I promised to post about it later. It's been on my mind a lot. I began a post on this last night, but I'm realizing there is a lot I want to write. Instead of one huge post, I decided present it as a series. It is a very personal topic, so forgive me if it seems a little self indulgent.
Anyway, I've now posted Part I.
Today I took the day off and the whole family went to the The Adventure Aquarium in Camden. To get there, parked in Bordentown and took the River Line. It's a nice ride, cheap, and convenient to the aquarium. We had a great day. They've added a lot to the aquarium (from what I understand - this was my first time). We like the sharks best. Then we headed back to Bordentown. The return trip back was much more interesting.
When we boarded, a nice gentlemen who also got on asked if we liked the aquarium. This was clearly his regular train home, and he told us the crowd gets on at Walter Rand station. Before we got there, he was joined by another man who got on at the next station. They talked a bit and you could see they ride together frequently. I picked up from their conversation that the second guy is a prosecutor, probably for Camden County. Then we got to Walter Rand and the man was right. Everyone got on.
It got interesting when a group of guys took the seats across the aisle from the prosecutor, and in front of us. They were having a long conversation about prison. Specifically, they were comparing and contrasting. I learned that Camden county is the worst, in their opinion. You don't want to be there. Mercer and Burlington are nicer. They'd been around. Apparently the only thing everyone talks about is women. There was also some doubt expressed as the true nature of their fellow inmates' convictions. (Their language was far more colorful.)
The good part was when they moved on from prisons and began critiquing county prosecutors. Again, Camden came out low on their list. Some things are universal, I guess. I could see the prosecutor across from them sitting Thinker-style while he worked on his laptop. He had his hand half-in front of his mouth, and I swear he was stifling a laugh. There was an interesting story of one guy's plea bargain session where he kept asking for a trial until he talked them down to "3, out in 1." In general, they had a low opinion of the prosecutors they faced.
Judges, however, faired better. In fact, they felt that, despite being a hard ass, one particular judge was fair. They were all in agreement on this. Judges, you see, are like gods. They have the power. The governor, too. Oh, and the mayor. Well, Doug Palmer, anyway.
There were other discussion topics. It was interesting to hear their take on the manslaughter conviction of wealthy CEO Jonathan Nyce for the killing of his wife. It was depressing to hear about they guy's girlfriend and kid, and the job he lost due to his felony conviction. There was also the story about shooting a neighbor's pit bull. It turns out that one bullet wasn't enough. After being shot in the chest, it kept coming because, "those dogs are tough."
So there you have it. A convicted felon telling a story about shooting a neighbor's dog while sitting next to a county prosecutor.
Self-serving Valerie Plame recklessly hands an overseas assignment to her hubby, left-wing nut Joe Wilson. Joe is supposed to look into the yellow-cake deal, but he's a liberal peace-nik who doesn't want a war, even in Iraq where there is a clear and present danger. He also wants John Kerry to win, so he can get a job in the new administration. So he tries to sabotage the case for war by offering up a flawed report designed only to serve his own agenda.It's a great story. It side-steps the legal fallout and re-casts Rove as the selfless patriot. As a bonus, it implies that Saddam really was trying to buy yellow-cake after all. New life for the WMD justification.
Enter patriot Karl Rove. He sees through Joe's plan, and he's willing to stop Wilson no matter what the cost. Selflessing putting himself in legal peril, Rove does the only thing he can: he exposes the secret backroom dealings of Plame and Wilson. Sure, it could be against the law, but our national security comes first.
Oh my god. Can you believe it. What is this world coming to? I am sooooo surprised.Karl Rove, huh? Who would have thunk? Well, anyone with five or more neurons, but why care? Rove can relax, secure in the knowledge that he's more likely to be ridden to victory in the Kentucky Derby than face prosecution.