Sunday, September 13, 2009


In the wake of Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst during Obama's address to Congress, there are calls for his censure, online petitions denouncing his actions, and probably much worse. (I liked this line from Tigerhawk:"What is it with guys named Joe Wilson? Do they all accuse presidents of lying?")

For some, Wilson's rudeness is THE sudden collapse of civility and manners. Our political discourse has now been plunged into some unprecedented sewer depths.


Look--Wilson's act was rude and certainly displayed a distinct lack of class. He apologized directly to the President, who accepted his apology without qualification. Apparently that's not enough for some. Wilson is a racist, they say. He proves Republicans are a**holes, they say. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer ( D-MD) said: “I have never in my 29 years heard an outburst of that nature with reference to a president of the United States speaking as a guest of the House and Senate.”

Really? Gonna have to get Hoyer some new Beltones. I found this over at a blog called Cranky Conservative. It's a youtube rundwon of various examples of "civility" that didn't seem to spark any outrage from the Left. Highlights from the list:

--Bush getting booed at the Obama inaugural
--Rep. Baron Hill from Indiana--"This is MY town hall meeting . . ." Yep--he's a Dem.
--Democrats booing--BOOING--Bush during the 2005 State of the Union address. Watch the clip--the noise is somewhat prolonged and widespread, in contrast to Wilson's rather limited outburst. Was Hoyer asleep or what?
--Gore's "How Dare They" speech to in 2004. ("How dare the incompetent and willful members of this Bush/Cheney Administration humiliate our nation and our people in the eyes of the world and in the conscience of our own people. How dare they subject us to such dishonor and disgrace. How dare they drag the good name of the United States of America through the mud of Saddam Hussein's torture prison.")
--Sen. Durbin comparing American soldiers to Nazis and to those who ran the Gulags.
--Sen. John Murtha saying that our troops killed "innocent civilians in cold blood."

And yet, the outrage, the spotlight is on Wilson for his rather rude remark. Don't get me wrong--Wilson was wrong in what he did. No matter what has passed for political discourse in the last 8 years should not give the Republicans a license to engage in the same tactics.

But if you are suddenly purple with indignation about the lack of civility, you are perhaps a little late to the game.

The headline for a recent article perhaps said it best:
Show me a country without lawyers, hobos, and fighting politicians and I'll show you a dictatorship.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Van Jones--gone but not forgotten

For those of you who have been reading the New York Times, or watching some of the network newscasts the last few days, you may not know who Van Jones is. Here's the tabulation of reporting as of September 4th, midday:
Total words about the Van Jones controversy in the New York Times: 0.
Total words about the Van Jones controversy in the Washington Post: 0.
Total words about the Van Jones controversy on NBC Nightly News: 0.
Total words about the Van Jones controversy on ABC World News: 0.
Total words about the Van Jones controversy on CBS Evening News: 0.

As one of Obama's czars, Jones was responsible for advising the president on how to increase the number of so-called "green" jobs in the workforce. His book The Green Collar Economy, received favorable reviews from Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, and Laurie David, among others. Sounds like the man for the job, eh?

Well-a few days ago he had to apologize for referring to Republicans as "assholes." Then, there was this quote from Mr. Jones:
"You've never seen a Columbine done by a black child. Never. They always say, 'We can't believe it happened here. We can't believe it's these suburban white kids.' It's only them. Now, a black kid might shoot another black kid. He's not going to shoot up the whole school."

Bizarre and misinformed at the same time. I'll skip over his radicalization that occurred after the L.A. riots ("I was a rowdy nationalist on April 28th, and then the [Rodney King] verdicts came down on April 29th," he said. "By August, I was a communist.").

What SHOULD have clinched it for a lot of people is the fact that Jones signed a petition demanding an investigation into whether or not 9/11 was an inside job. That's right--Jones is a Truther. Now, you can believe whatever you want these days--but there's something truly disorienting about an Administration official wallowing in such muddy waters. And the Truthers seem to be well represented among the Democrats. Here's Mark Steyn's take:
Is Van Jones a real Truther or a faux Truther? The White House position is that he’s the latter - hey, he just glanced at [the petition], saw it was some routine impeach-Bush-for-killing-thousands-of-his-fellow-Americans thing, and signed it without reading it; we’ve all been there, right?
Van Jones Trutherism, like Van Jones Communism and Van Jones Eco-Racism Theory, is a kind of decadence: If you really believed 9/11 was an inside job, you’d be in fear of your life. Instead, for a cutting-edge poseur like Jones, it’s a marketing niche, one that gives you a certain cachet with the right kind of people - like, apparently, Barack Obama.

Well, now he's resigned. Gone. The victim, as he puts it, of a vicious disinformation campaign (wait--which part wasn't true?).

Except for the fact that his resignation is a "loss for the country," according to Howard Dean, former Democratic party chairman.

A loss for the country.

Dean's sentiments are being echoed in a Newsweek article entitled "Why Green Czar Van Jones Didn't Have To Resign" and by Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club whose piece is complete with lynch mobs, right-wing operatives, charges of racism and tortured explanations of what Jones was really trying to say.

A loss for the country. Or, as Pope would say, "we let our cause, our president, and Van Jones down."

I'm sorry, but I find this kind of thinking truly frightening.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Health care reform? How about some Legal Reform?

If you believe people have a "right to health care," don't you also believe in the fact that we are all supposed to be equal under the law? Are you concerned about justice for the rich versus justice for the poor? Millions face jail time and financial ruin because they are unable to afford legal representation. Many of those who hire an attorney to successfully defend them are bankrupted in the process of paying back the legal fees.
Maybe the time has come for Legal Reform as suggested here. You just gotta love this stuff. Highlights include:
• Contingency fees will be discouraged, and eventually outlawed, over a five-year period. This will put legal rewards back into the pockets of the deserving—the public and the aggrieved parties. Slick lawyers taking their "cut" smacks of a bookie operation. Attorneys will be permitted to keep up to 3% in contingency cases, the remainder going into a pool for poor people.
• Legal "DRGs." Each potential legal situation will be assigned a relative value, and charges limited to this amount. Program participation and acceptance of this amount is mandatory, regardless of the number of hours spent on the matter. Government schedules of flat fees for each service, analogous to medicine's Diagnosis Related Groups (DRGs), will be issued. For example, any divorce will have a set fee of, say, $1,000, regardless of its simplicity or complexity. This will eliminate shady hourly billing. Niggling fees such as $2 per page photocopied or faxed would disappear. Who else nickels-and-dimes you while at the same time charging hundreds of dollars per hour? I'm surprised lawyers don't tack shipping and handling onto their bills.
• Discourage/eliminate specialization. Legal specialists with extra training and experience charge more money, contributing to increased costs of legal care, making it unaffordable for many. This reform will guarantee a selection of mediocre, unmotivated attorneys but should help slow rising legal costs. Big shot under indictment? Classified National Archives documents down your pants? Sitting president defending against impeachment? Have FBI agents found $90,000 in your freezer? Too bad. Under reform you too may have to go to the government legal shop for advice.
• Collect data about the supply of and demand for attorneys.Create a commission to study the diversity and geographic distribution of attorneys, with power to stipulate and enforce corrective actions to right imbalances. The more bureaucracy the better. One can never have too many eyes watching these sleazy sneaks.

It's a great read--too bad it will never come to fruition.
Please understand that I am not against health care reform. The system is strikingly flawed, both on the government-run side as well as the private sector. It needs a rather thorough cleansing. But hey--if we can do it to the doctors, why can't we do it to the lawyers? Or the plumbers? Or better yet--our elected representatives? Hell--they "do it" to us all the time . . .

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Weight loss and a vacation

Okay--getting ready to leave for vacation in a few hours. First, a thrilling drive across the wilds of East Texas to Houston, where we will establish base camp at the Sleep Inn near the local aerodrome. Tomorrow morning we will fly out to Belize City, then local natives will transport us to Caye Caulker. Yes indeed.

So--how's that diet thing going, you ask? Quite well. The toughest thing has been cutting back on the little snacks here and there throughout the day, but it hasn't been too bad. We've found some really good recipes in Cooking Light that are quite filling and you would never know you were eating something low calorie. I'm not as uncomfortably hungry as I thought I would be, but a little hungry all the same.

Grand total? In the last 3 weeks I have lost just under 17 lbs. WOOT! Still no where near where I want to be (about 180 lbs, which I haven't weighed in several years), but it's a start. Found some pants I haven't been able to fit in for a while, and I'm definitely more comfortable. So far, Emma hasn't threatened to buy me any more weight loss pills, so maybe I'm looking a little better too (at least my wonderful wife thinks so).

And now vacation is looming. I think I am motivated enough not to blow it all by stuffing myself, and I am actually looking forward to eating a lot of the local fresh fish and produce. So--we shall see.

See you next week!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Props for the Prez

I'm going to give credit where credit is due, and that includes President Obama.

At a summit of North American leaders, Obama slammed critics of his approach to the recent events in Honduras.
"The same critics who say the US has not intervened in Honduras are the same people who say we are always intervening and Yankees need to get out of Latin America," he said, accusing such opponents of "hypocrisy."

"You can't have it both ways,"

That is one of the most sensible things that has been said regarding Latin America in a long time. Even Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended Obama's approach:
"The United States is accused of meddling except when it's accused of not meddling," Harper said, praising the US "multilateral" role in efforts to reverse the coup and ease the Honduran crisis.

It is noticeable that Administration calls for Zelaya's restoration to power have been somewhat muted as of late, which I think is a good thing. From what I understand, Zelaya was a Chavez wannabe, and was in the process of suspending the Honduran constitution and having himself declared dictator for life, Venezuelan-style. The country has not been taken over by the army, and the National Congress is still in power, headed by Zelaya's lawfully elected successor. This is obviously not your typical banana-republic coup, and it is wise for the United States to maintain its distance.

Friday, August 14, 2009

"I'm a fan of disruptors . . . "

That was then, this is now.
Certainly we shouldn't question each others partiotism.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Global warming geniuses

I haven't posted much in this category in a while, but when I ran across this little item, I just couldn't let it go unnoticed.
Senator Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) - recently appointed to the Senate Energy Committee - made clear that fighting the climate crisis is her top priority. "Climate change is very real . . . Global warming creates volatility. I feel it when I'm flying. The storms are more volatile. We are paying the price in more hurricanes and tornadoes."

"I feel it when I'm flying." No--I'm not making this up.

The more the global warming crowd sounds like this, the more inane their whole position appears.

This reminds me of Henry Waxman's stunningly stupid statement:
“We’re seeing the reality of a lot of the North Pole starting to evaporate, and we could get to a tipping point. Because if it evaporates to a certain point – they have lanes now where ships can go that couldn’t ever sail through before. And if it gets to a point where it evaporates too much, there’s a lot of tundra that’s being held down by that ice cap..”

This might be the scariest statement on "science" ever uttered by a Congressman. And this guy is co-author of the Markey-Waxman cap-and-trade bill, which is headed to the Senate for a vote in a few weeks. Is this the kind of "scientific attitude" that we want to guide us? Feeling global warming in Seat 22A, and all that tundra underneath the Arctic ice cap . . .

Funny how you don't hear anything on this from all of those who decried the "Republican war on science."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

But she's not an elitist!

That's Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee taking a freakin' call on her phone--not just in the middle of a town hall meeting, but IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMEONE ASKING HER A QUESTION!!!!

I'm going to guess that she did not--I repeat, did not--take any calls when she spoke at the Michael Jackson memorial in L.A.

Just a little confused . . .

So, Obama's at the Town Hall meeting in New Hampshire, and is heard to say this:
“We have the AARP on board because they know this is a good deal for our seniors.”

At another point he said:
“Well, first of all, another myth that we've been hearing about is this notion that somehow we're going to be cutting your Medicare benefits. We are not. AARP would not be endorsing a bill if it was undermining Medicare, okay?”

Unfortunately, AARP is NOT endorsing this legislation.

Are your health care working?

During the same meeting, he attempted to speak (apparently without the teleprompter) about the efficiency of private vs. government enterprises:
"UPS and FedEx are doing just fine. It's the Post Office that's always having problems."

DUH! Really? That's the whole point!
How about that Post Office, anyways?:
On Friday, the New York Times Business Section actually called for the privatization of the post office amid staggering losses, and even said it was in “General Motors territory.” So while the President sells you on his “post office” of health care plans, here are some questions to consider:
1.) The U.S. Post Office is the only entity allowed by federal law to deliver first class mail to your mailbox. In fact, Fedex and UPS are strictly prohibited from delivering “non-urgent” letters. If the government can fairly compete and is setting fair rules, wouldn’t the post office be open to competition at your mailbox?
2.) If Americans were offered “free” postage paid for by massive government spending and tax hikes, would Fedex and UPS still exist?
3.) The Post Office is on track to lose a staggering $7 billion this year alone. How will a government-run health care plan manage taxpayer resources more efficiently?
4.) Postmaster General John Potter says he lacks the “tools” necessary to run the Post Office effectively like a business. Would a government-run health care system have the tools it needs to run as effectively as the private sector entities it is replacing?
5.) On the one hand, the President remarks how great his public health care plan will be. On the other hand, he notes it won’t be good enough to crowd out your private insurance, i.e. the Post Office comparison. So which is it Mr. President? Will it be so great that private insurance disappears or so awful that it isn’t worth creating in the first place?
6.) But the most important question is this: if you have an urgent piece of mail you need delivered, life or death, who are you going to call? Everyone saying the government…please raise your hands. (crickets)
The most frightening line from Joe Nocera’s New York Times piece is this: “As for Mr. Potter himself, while he may want more freedom to run the Postal Service like a real business, he, too, seemed surprisingly wedded to outmoded ideas about mail service in America. ‘This country needs to have and to protect universal service,’ he said.”
Protecting universal service at the expense of cost, innovation, and quality of care. Sound familiar?

There's a lot of noise out there about healthcare reform. No--there's no such thing as death panels--but hey--what did Obama say back in April?
President Barack Obama said his grandmother’s hip-replacement surgery during the final weeks of her life made him wonder whether expensive procedures for the terminally ill reflect a “sustainable model” for health care.

With a statement like that, why wouldn't people be misinterpreting various provisions of the bill?

Our country is in the very best of hands.

Monday, August 10, 2009

So, dissent isn' t the highest form of patriotism?

Mark Steyn has a great article about those evil, swastika-carrying astroturfers who are showing up at those town hall meetings.

“The right-wing extremist Republican base is back!” warns the Democratic National Committee. These right-wing extremists have been given their marching orders by their masters: They’ve been directed to show up at “thousands of events,” told to “organize,” “knock on doors” . . .

No, wait. My mistake. That’s the e-mail I got from Mitch Stewart, Director of “Organizing for America” at But that’s the good kind of “organizing.” Obama’s a community organizer. We’re the community. He organizes us. What part of that don’t you get?

Suddenly, you're saying "community organizer" like it's a bad thing.
. . . on Monday, the official White House website drew attention to the alarming amount of “disinformation about health insurance reform.” “These rumors often travel just below the surface,” warned Macon Phillips, Chief Commissar of the Hopenstasi . . . whoops, I mean White House Director of New Media, “via chain e-mails or through casual conversation.”

“Casual conversation,” eh? Why can’t these “dissenters” just be like normal people and read off the teleprompter?

“Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help,” continued Commissar Phillips. “If you get an email or see something on the web about health-insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to”Reporting dissent is the highest form of patriotism!

What the hell is wrong with these people? After 8 years of Cheney and Ashcroft and Gonzalez, your president is asking you to report on your neighbors. How absolutely quaint!

And this isn't about being against reform of our health care system--most Americans want health care reform. Just not this one.
If only we’d stuck to the president’s August timetable and passed a gazillion-page health-care reform entirely unread by the House of Representatives or the Senate (the world’s greatest deliberative body) in nothing flat, we’d now have all the time in the world to sit around having a “serious discussion” and “real debate” on whatever it was we just did to one-sixth of the economy. But a sick, deranged, un-American mob has put an end to all that moderate and reasonable steamrollering by showing up and yelling insane, out-of-control questions like, “Awfully sorry to bother you, your Most Excellent Senatorial Eminence, but I was wondering if you could tell me why you don’t read any of the laws you make before you make them into law?”

I suggest you read the whole thing.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Gaffemeister

A Joe Biden post.

As brilliant a politician as Obama seems to be (and I mean that sincerely), I can't imagine that even his most ardent supporters were thrilled with Biden as his VP choice. It was certainly not an example of thinking outside of the box. One would think that with his vast amount of knowledge, Biden would not be prone to the stumbles he has exhibited over the last six months.

And yet . . .

I mean, if you thought Bush was master and commander of the English language, or Dan Quayle was captain of the Good Ship Verbal Gaffe, then you must be cringing ever time the Veep opens his mouth, which appears devoid of any neural connection to his brain. As Jay Ambrose wrote in The Washington Times, "has anyone noticed Joe Biden is a persistent, unreformed, downright clownish bungler whose gaffes are simply too many and too wild to be considered perfectly excusable slips of the tongue?"

Some screamers from the campaign trail:

". . . tackle the number-one job facing the middle class, and it happens to be, as Barack says, a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S, jobs."

"A man I'm proud to call my friend. A man who will be the next President of the United States — Barack America!"

"When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, 'Look, here's what happened."

Perhaps we should excuse the last one, as recently Obama remarked to ABC News that "I'm always worried about using the word 'victory,' because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur."

More recently, using his amazing medical mind, Dr. Biden warned everyone about the dangers of public transportation during the recent swine flu outbreak. He also indelicately summed up the administration's approach to stimulus spending:

"People, when I say that, look at me and say, 'What are you talking about, Joe? You're telling me we have to go spend money to keep from going bankrupt?" he said at a stop in Virginia. "The answer is yes."

Gee--I wish I had known that a few years ago.

Now, Bigmouth Joe has insulted the Russians, which has never been a good play in the foreign relations playbook. It was bad enough when Hillary presented them with the "Reset button" (did she order that from the Spencer's Gifts catalog?), but Biden has taken it a step further. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Biden said Russia's economic difficulties are likely to make the Kremlin more willing to co-operate with the United States on a range of national security issues.
"I think we vastly underestimate the hand that we hold,""They have a shrinking population base, they have a withering economy, they have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years, they're in a situation where the world is changing before them and they're clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable," Biden said in the interview.It’s a very difficult thing to deal with, loss of empire," Biden added.

The Russian response was predictable. "Joe Biden unexpectedly returned to the rhetoric of the previous Bush administration," the newspaper Kommersant wrote. Moskovsky Komsomolets said Biden showed what the Obama administration really thinks about Russia. "We should respond to the Yankees in the same way," the newspaper wrote. "Any other language, unfortunately or fortunately, they do not understand."

Maybe there are significant problems in Russia demographically and economically. But the heart of what makes someone a diplomat, and the core of foreign diplomacy, is tactful candor. What Biden may have in candor (some might call it boorishness) he completely misses in tactfulness. Yet this is someone that Obama continues to tout as great asset to his administration.

And you thought misspelling "potatos" was bad . . .

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Two Cows

This is kind of one of those things floating around the internet that Michael Scott would forward to you in an e-mail. I actually think it's pretty funny.

You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.

You have two cows. You go on strike because you want three cows. The cows go on strike to keep out American hormone-fed milk and launch a stampede through a McDonalds franchise at Euro-Disney. The French Cow Liberation Front hacks into the Cheddar website with images of Roquefort and WAV files declaring "Vive la France!"

You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create clever cow cartoon images called Cowkimon and market them worldwide.

You have two cows. You read their DNA and figure out a way to create lean beef directly in a vat. You upload your cows. You debate endlessly on what to do with the originals cows, which are still alive and well, and are demanding bovine rights.

You have two cows. Both are mad.

You have two cows. You have 300 people milking them. You claim full employment, high bovine productivity, and arrest the newsman who reported the numbers.

You have two cows. The government takes them because they used to belong to white colonists. No one feeds them and they starve to death. Then you starve to death.

Below are the more traditional "two cows" explanation of political ideologies.

You have two cows. Your lord takes some of the milk.

Pure Socialism
You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else's cows. You have to take care of all the cows. The government gives you all the milk you need.

Real World Socialism
Your cows are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. You have to take care of the chickens the government took from the chicken farmers. The government gives you as much milk and eggs the regulations say you should need.

You have two cows. The government takes both, hires you to take care of them, and sells you the milk.

Pure Communism
You have two cows. Your neighbours help you take care of them, and you all share the milk.

Real World Communism
You share two cows with your neighbours. You and your neighbours bicker about who has the most "ability" and who has the most "need". Meanwhile, no one works, no one gets any milk, and the cows drop dead of starvation.

Russian Communism
You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the government takes all the milk. You steal back as much milk as you can and sell it on the black market.

Cambodian Communism
You have two cows. The government takes both and shoots you.

Cuban Communism:
You have two cows. They swim to Florida and become capitalists.

You have two cows. The government takes both and drafts you.

You have two cows. The government takes them and denies they ever existed. Milk is banned.

Pure Democracy
You have two cows. Your neighbours decide who gets the milk.

Representative Democracy
You have two cows. Your neighbours pick someone to tell you who gets the milk.

You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

A commenter over at Classical Values added this gem:
You have two cows. The larger of the two cows gives more milk but is determined to be a major producer of greenhouse gases.

The government takes that cow and gives you $4500 worth of other people's money toward the purchase of a smaller, hideously expensive but extremely tasteful and popular black Tajima-ushi cow, which produces less milk and requires daily brushing, purchased from a cattle rancher who recently marked up the cost of his product by roughly $4500.

The next day Youtube is hosting a video of your large cow being fed into a meat grinder tail first, surrounded by gibbering, giggling government sycophants. In certain circles, this is considered great justice.

Somehow, I understand the world a lot better now.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Weight loss

Look--I know I have been needing to lose weight. I mentioned a few posts back that I had started walking in the mornings. It still feels good--I seem to have a lot more energy during the day after I walk, and I was really expecting to see the scale respond in an appropriate way.

Well . . .

The other night Emma and I were watching TV, and an ad for Xenadrine or some other weight loss pill came on. I looked up to see Emma glancing from me to the TV; finally she said, "For Christmas, that's what I want to get you, so you can be skinny like the rest of us."

Yes indeed.

So--time to get real serious about this. It's a significant health issue for me. My dad died prematurely due to complications from diabetes and hypertension that he chose not to address while he could. That is not the road I want to go down.

Exercise is only half the equation--in addition to increasing the number of calories you burn, you also have to decrease the amount of calories you ingest; this is something I have not done.

I've lost weight before, most successfully by actually counting every calorie that I put in my mouth (you would have thought I was training to run a marathon before I started to cut back). I found that with a little effort, I was able to comfortably keep my daily calories in the 1200-1500 range, so that from about March to July of last year, I lost about 30 pounds. I want to repeat that feat. I'd like to lose about 60 pounds this time, with my goal at about 10 pounds per month.

So--today is day one. I've actually been pretty hungry today, mainly because I haven't been gobbling handfuls of peanuts and crackers and chips all through the day. Hunger is good. I had a simple salad for lunch, and I carefully counted and weighed my meatballs and spaghetti supper--it looked pitifully small, but I made it work. For the day, I stoppped at about 1100 calories, and I don't feel like it was too hard.

I will do this, if only to keep Emma from having to buy me Xenadrine for Christmas.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Defacing the Bible

In Glasgow, some 100 people gathered in front of the Gallery of Modern Art to protest the defacement of a Bible that was featured in a recent art exhibition.According to this article,

Artist Jane Clarke, a minister at the Metropolitan Community Church, asked visitors to annotate the Bible with stories and reflections, as a way of making it more inclusive. But visitors to the gallery took the invitation a bit further than she had anticipated.

"This is all sexist pish, so disregard it all," wrote one person, while another described the Bible as "the biggest lie in human history" and a third wrote: "Mick Jagger and David Bowie belong in here." On the first page of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, someone had written: "I am Bi, Female and Proud. I want no god who is disappointed in this."

"Writing our names in the margins of a Bible was to show how we have been marginalised by many Christian churches, and also our desire to be included in God's love.
"As a young Christian I was encouraged by my church to write my own insights in the margins of the Bible I used for my daily devotions -- this was an extension of that idea."

To be fair, the artist did express that she was "saddened that some people have chosen to write offensive messages." Still, it's hard to imagine her exhibiting the Koran to show how homosexuals or proud bi-females have been "marginalized" in Islam. Somehow that concept never entered her mind.

Why is that? Is it somehow "edgier" to dissect Christianity? Such a brave, envelope-pushing work, indeed.


I somehow doubt that we will see Christian riots, or fanatical crowds of Methodists rampaging through the streets of our major cities, or Baptists flying planes into skyscrapers.

And until we do, don't talk to me about the moral equivalence between Islam and Christianity.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One would have thought that as of January 20th, 2009, our country had entered a New Age of politics, led by President Obama--or certainly so it seemed if you went by most of the major news media outlets.

So, I am continually amazed at how well our new government does things now. How about that stimulus bill? something like 1400 pages, and of course no one knew what the hell was in it. Apparently the pending health care reform bill is the same way. And don't try and call it "government-run health care" or Congress will get mad at you.

Does anyone have anything to say about this? You know, like "we're trying to change things for the better?" Not exactly. Here's John Conyers, Democrat from Michigan:
“I love these members, they get up and say, ‘Read the bill,’” said Conyers. “What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?”


Obama promised in his campaign that his administration was going to be so transparent, and specifically, there would be 5 days of public display of any legislation before he signed it into law. This promise was quickly discarded early in his Administration.

Yet what did Obama once carp about the Bush presidency? Here he is on "Air America" (remember those guys?) with Randi Rhodes (another "whatever happened to her" entry--did she get mugged again, or what?) from November of 2004:
BARACK OBAMA: ...When you rush these budgets that are a foot high and nobody has any idea what's in them and nobody has read them.
RANDI RHODES: 14 pounds it was!
BARACK OBAMA: Yeah. And it gets rushed through without any clear deliberation or debate then these kinds of things happen. And I think that this is in some ways what happened to the Patriot Act. I mean you remember that there was no real debate about that. It was so quick after 9/11 that it was introduced that people felt very intimidated by the administration.

No word from the White House about this failed aspect of hope and change.

Probably too busy drinking beer with Skip Gates and that stupid rogue cop.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Prof. Gates

I wasn't going to touch this one at all, but now that the President has deemed it important enough to speak about, I'll throw in my two cents.

Briefly, Prof. Henry Gates is a well-known professor at Harvard, specializing in African-American studies. He was arrested at his home in Cambridge a few days ago when he was attempting to forcefully enter his own home and ended up in a scuffle with police. At least some of the media is reporting that Gates was arrested for breaking into his own home. There are questions being raised about racial profiling. And, of course, the charge of racism is being loudly trumpeted by Gates himself as well as many others. But is this an example of racism?

According to the police reports (which were mysteriously removed from The Boston Globe's website), police were called to Gates' house by a neighbor who witnessed two men trying to break in. As I mentioned, Gates had just returned from an out-of-town trip and found the door to his house was jammed and was forcing his way in with the aid of his driver. The police apparently arrived as he entered the house, and not being aware of his identity, demanded that he show his ID. Again according to the police report, Gates initially refused to show ID, and became increasingly agitated, yelling at the police and saying things like "This is what happens to a black man in America." He did show the police identification, but continued to shout at the officers. When he was asked to step outside on the porch, he continued to yell (now in front of a growing crowd of onlookers), and was arrested for disorderly conduct.

So where's the racism?

The police were called about a break-in in progress, and came upon Gates in his house. Not knowing who he was, they were right to demand his ID. I don't see how this is an example of profiling. How should the police have responded to an apparently increasingly agitated Gates? Everything I have been taught about dealing with the police suggests that this kind of behavior will not endear you to the officer on the scene, and this is often the charge that will be used to cuff you as one way to defuse the situation.

Of course, the Professor's version of the events is somewhat different than the officers--he claims that he was very cooperative, and that the officers refused to give him their names or badge numbers. This does not seem very plausible, given that uniformed officers most often have their names and badges prominently displayed, this being confirmed by the pictures of the officers arresting Gates on his porch; I can clearly see three badges in the picture.

My guess is that the true version of events lies much closer to the officer's version than to that of Gates'.

It is unfortunate that the charge of racism was almost immediately vomited all over the place. I mean, I thought racism was a redneck, fly-over red State kind of thing, and certainly not to be found in the progressive bounds of Cambridge, Massachusetts. People who are familiar with the officer so labeled are in disagreement with this rash assessment. I am not aware that his record indicates any kind of racist problems in the past. But perhaps because he is a cop who is white this is the default assumption.

I'm not sure why Obama decided to wade into all of this, which essentially amounts to a local police incident. His claim that the police "acted stupidly" is premature at best, given that not all of the facts appear to be in. From what I can read, the police acted quite appropriately, and without obvious bias.

I will admit that this whole thing could have been handled differently by all concerned--cops and professors both.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How old?

Much has been made recently of Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen, who was captured in a video clip quite adamantly stating that the Earth is only 6000 years old. She says it not once, but twice during the clip, so you can't attribute it to a slip of the tongue.

People can believe what they want, but I remain baffled by the Young Earth Creationists. There simply is no scientific basis for their claims; it flies in the face of most of what we know about the world and how it works. What is particularly galling is that she is talking about a uranium mine. Uranium-238, one of the more common isotopes of the metal, has a half-life of 4.47 billion years, which doesn't really fit with Sen. Allen's version of reality. I am surprised that the cognitive dissonance doesn't just make her little head explode.

Oh yes--she's a Republican. I'm not sure why there are so many of these folks in the GOP these days, but if this party is to survive, it's going to have to jettison this kind of anti-science thinking. Again, believe what you want, but when you interject these beliefs into a scientific discussion or a science class in school, you have crossed the line.

So, MSNBC trots out Ed Schultz, host of The Ed Show on its failing news channel. Maybe he's supposed to be the voice of reason as a counterpoint to Sen. Allen, but he's just as wrong as she is:
" . . . and it's through the radioactive decay of uranium that we know that the Earth is a billion years old.

Sorry, Ed, not even close. Try 4.5 billion years old. Don't send out someone to poke fun at the anti-science Republicans who doesn't even know the science themselves.

Psycho Talk indeed.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Truly Random Thoughts

A few personal notes:

Light blogging these days. I think the summer heat takes it out of me. Or maybe I'm just being lazy. Or maybe it's both.

Actually, I'm not as lazy as I have been. For the last 2 weeks, I have been getting up about 6:45 am and walking--briskly, I might add--a little over a mile through the streets of Rockettown. Well--as briskly as the temperature-humidity index will allow. One almost needs a pair of gills to gulp in the oversaturated air. It helps to wear a sweat shirt, too--I easily sweat off what I hope are some of the extra pounds I am carrying. What with this and the AbCircle Pro that Anya bought about the same time I started walking, I hope to be able to fit into one of those cool, Borat thong-things by August, so I can look hot on the beach at Caye Caulker. High five!

I have made some new book acquisitions recently. I am waiting to begin The Angel's Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I really liked his The Shadow Of The Wind, with its underlying old books and the surrealism of post-war Barcelona (dude, I so sound like an English major!!!), so I am hoping that the sophomore effort is worth it. Speaking of Spain, I am also dipping into Ghosts Of Spain, by Giles Tremlett. I have not really read much about modern Spain, and the time around the Spanish Civil War; it is fascinating to read how a country that once ruled most of the New World had, by the 19th century, been largely relegated to the sidelines of world politics, burdened by superstition and an incredible depth of poverty.

I also picked up two science fiction novels. The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers I acquired from some random review on the Web. An interesting time travel story, encompassing a dizzying collection of famous literary characters, it's a little too much all over the map for me, but I am almost done, so I will finish it out.

The other book is The City & The City, by China Mieville. It is truly interesting, and Mieville has a really great imagination, sharp and bizarre at the same time. I have only begun to read it, though; sometimes I read too many books at the same time, and my neurons get cross-wired with my glial cells.

We had a wonderful 4 day weekend here, including some rather impressive smoke bombs (these suckers blew smoke for like 3 or 4 minutes) and other assorted backyard detonations. We even had a nice trip to Lake St. John, courtesy of the Blackwells (thanks, Sarah and John). It's an old ox-bow lake, cut off from the Mississippi a long time ago, about 60 miles south of here. Nice boating and swimming and grilling.

July 1st means a lot of different things (as I blogged about last year). To me, it marks a kind of summer midpoint--the days are actually already getting shorter, the baseball All-Star break is just around the corner, and at least for the kids of Rockettown, school is only about six weeks away. Those prescient folks at WalMart were already setting up the back-to-school displays this weekend, hehehe. If I were a schoolkid, this premature display of your intentions, sir, would be an act tantamount to war.

Also--check out Eric's new art blog for Northeast Louisiana, artnela--I've linked it over there on the side. It is a great place to get some great writing about the arts in this area; I really admire Eric's personal blog, so you should check that out as well.

For those of you who haven't noticed, Anya has begun some new works in the last few weeks--I really like them, and I think you will too. She has some pictures posted on facebook and on her blog.

I am probably going to be tweaking the appearance around here a little, so you may notice a few changes (like this layout, for example).

Okay--enough rambling. Haven't forgotten about politics, nosirree, but with the McMahonFawcettJacksonMaysMalden demises piling up, perhaps a certain amount of reverence is called for, yes?

That was snarky sarcasm, in case you missed it . . .

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Obama is going to try and push through a universal healthcare bill. If it's anything like the stimulus bill, it will be another disaster. If I remember correctly, there were 1400 pages in that one, that essentially no one had a chance to read before voting on. Whatever happened to those promises of transparency and public review of pending legislation?

No one really knows whats in the President's healthcare proposal. Is he going to tax healthcare benefits? He slammed McCain for this idea during the campaign. How is it going to work? Who's going to pay for it? Are we going to model it along the lines of Medicare? Or is it the VA model? There's two wonderful examples of government efficiency for you.

Without a doubt, the system needs to be reworked from the ground up. I don't know of any good proposals out there right now. I do know that we should approach a government-run single payer model with extreme caution.

And then there's this:
President Obama struggled to explain today whether his health care reform proposals would force normal Americans to make sacrifices that wealthier, more powerful people — like the president himself — wouldn’t face. . . Devinsky asked the president pointedly if he would be willing to promise that he wouldn’t seek such extraordinary help for his wife or daughters if they became sick and the public plan he’s proposing limited the tests or treatment they can get. The president refused to make such a pledge, though he allowed that if “it’s my family member, if it’s my wife, if it’s my children, if it’s my grandmother, I always want them to get the very best care."

Apparently, government-run health care (like paying taxes) is only for little people.

Hope and change!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Measured response


Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I SO get it now.

Friday, June 5, 2009

WalMart makes you skinny

Oh man. There is a study coming out of UNC which seems to suggest that people with access to WalMart/Sam's /Costco may actually be skinnier than those who don't shop at such stores.

In this summary, the study (which was assessing links between obesity and discount retail stores) actually showed that access to WalMart was associated with a lower body-mass index and a lower probability of being obese. Further analysis which included other discount retail giants seemed to confirm the effect; interestingly enough, WalMart's positive effect on weight was most pronounced for women, the poor, African-Americans and people who live in urban areas. There was also a positive correlation between better eating habits and the presence of discount club stores.

There are a few explanations given by the study authors. First is the substitution effect, whereby a change in prices relative to one another leads to, for example, cheaper salad prices (as compared to chip prices).

Another suggested explanation is the income effect. "If Wal-Mart sells food at lower prices--even if our incomes don't change--every dollar can buy more. Therefore, we're richer."

Is this a definitive study? Nah--not by a long shot. I kind of think of it as one of those "caffeine studies"--you know, the ones that come out every few weeks that have caffeine intake first associated with heart disease, then lower blood pressure, then increased mental acuity, or a variety of conflicting and seemingly unassociated outcomes.

It is interesting that the "conventional wisdom" would have it that big bad WalMart makes poor people fat and sells "bad food." Why do we believe this? I don't know. It's a commonly held belief. WalMart is often portrayed as the big bad monster destroying local communities and devouring the people that live in them. I do know that I have been surprised by what I am able to buy at the WalMart here in Rockettown. It's not Whole Foods, but it's not hard to find a variety of healthy foods to eat.

You can choose to believe what you want about WalMart. But this study won't exactly back up your prejudices.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Terminate--with extreme prejudice . . .

. . . is the line spoken by the enigmatic gentleman in "Apocalypse Now," referring to the request to kill Col. Kurtz. Obviously it's meant to be an example of tortured government speak.

The good folks at Talking Points Memo are a little more blunt. In an article posted under the anonymous byline "The Insolent Braggart," the question is pointedly asked: At what point do we jail or execute global warming deniers?

I kid you not.

Unfortunately, clicking on the link will not bring up the article. Instead, you get a "File Not Found" listing. Maybe the good folks at TPM want the post to just go away. However, Climate Depot was able to get a screen capture and posted the screed in its entirety.

A snippet (edited for impoliteness):
So when the right wing f***tards have caused it to be too late to fix the problem, and we start seeing the devastating consequences and we start seeing end of the World type events - how will we punish those responsible. It will be too late. So shouldn't we start punishing them now?

Nice. Classy. Remember, this isn't a commenter from the extreme edge of the TPM universe, this is a published article.

And it's really not an extreme position, as The Insolent Braggart has a lot of company. From the Climate Depot article:
NASA's James Hansen has called for trials of climate skeptics in 2008 for "high crimes against humanity.” Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. lashed out at skeptics of 2007 declaring “This is treason. And we need to start treating them as traitors” In 2009, RFK, Jr. also called coal companies "criminal enterprises" and declared CEO's 'should be in jail... for all of eternity."

In 2006, the eco-magazine Grist called for Nuremberg-Style trials for skeptics. In 2008, Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki called for government leaders skeptical of global warming to be thrown “into jail.” In 2007, The Weather Channel's climate expert called for withholding certification of skeptical meteorologists.

They told me that if McCain were elected, people would be jailed for having opinions that the government didn't agree with . . .

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tiananemen Square

Tomorrow (June 4th) is the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. To re-cap, sensing the feelings of deep, radical change that were sweeping the Communist world in 1989, some 100,000 Chinese students gathered in Tiananmen Square in April of 1989, protesting for the continuation of market and political reforms that had been taking place under the leadership of Hu Yaobang, a pro-market, pro-democracy official who had just died. The protests widened across the country, but the gathering in Beijing captured world attention.

The Chinese government declared martial law, and made several attempts to send troops into the square, all of them met with resistance by both the students and the Beijing populace. Some of the most powerful images from Tiananmen Square include the Chinese goddess of democracy statue, and, of course, the lone man standing against the line of tanks. The video of him, repeatedly moving to line himself up with the tanks as they tried to drive around him is absolutely riveting. Finally, on the night of June 3-4, armored personnel carriers and armed troops surrounded and entered the square, firing and killing indiscriminately.

The estimate of the number of those killed is varied, as one might expect. The official Chinese government number is a paltry 241. More reliable estimates place the death toll any where from 1000 to 7000. The actual number, like the fate of that lone man, will never be known. However, we should bear in mind, as this article by Claudia Rosett states, "the high-end estimate of the number killed in the Tiananmen uprising is dwarfed many times over by the millions of Chinese who died under the horrific communist experiment of Chairman Mao: forcibly collectivized, rusticated, starved, executed outright or dispatched to the torments of China's prison camps, the laogai."

Some of the reactions to the massacre have been disturbing. Sen. Dianne Feinstein self-righteously compared the massacre to the shootings of 4 students at Kent State in 1970, a statement which is perhaps one of the most egregious examples of moral equivalency.Charles Freeman, who was recently tapped as President Obama's head of the National Council of Intelligence (nomination subsequently withdrawn), said in 2006 that the" truly unforgivable mistake" the Chinese authorities made at Tiananmen was not the brutal massacre of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators, but rather "the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud." The Chinese communists were not "rash," but rather "overly cautious." That's right--you're overly cautious if you shoot down peaceful demonstrators.

Recently Secretary of State Clinton went out of her way to let China know that the United States will not let human rights concerns hinder our cooperation with China. Maybe that's how diplomacy is supposed to work, maybe that's the kind of treacle that the State Department has to spit out in order for the world to keep turning. I hope not. What happened 20 years ago, where an oppressed populace stood up for democracy and freedom, is too important to forget.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Wise Latina

A couple of comments on this issue. First, it is pretty clear that Judge Sotomayor will be confirmed--the Dems have an overwhelming majority in the Senate; the GOP doesn't seem to have the cajones to really stand up and oppose her; and I don't really think there is a lot to be concerned about other than the obvious ideological differences.

Except for that question about racism.

Sotomayor finds herself under intensifying scrutiny for saying in 2001 that a female Hispanic judge would often reach a better decision than a white male judge. This statement came out in a speech at Berkeley (aka, "Moscow-by-the-sea") in 2001. Certainly, on the face of it, such a statement at the very least borders on racism. Is there a contextual component to what she said? Of course, but I'm not sure it makes a big difference.

To quote her more fully:
"Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences ... our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging ... I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage."

I can't really disagree with that--we are human, and we all have different life experiences, which affect how we view the world around us. They can be useful to us, and they can also be a terrible hindrance to us.

She goes on to wonder
" . . . whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society."

She then concludes with the controversial statement itself: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

That different people perceive these comments differently is perhaps evidence of Sotomayor's point. But it is one thing to make commonsensical observations about the difficulty of overcoming our personal prejudices; as a judge, however, I expect someone--man, woman, Latina, Asian--to not celebrate these differences, but to strive mightily to transcend them.

What exactly does "a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences" mean? Do all Latina women (isn't that a little redundant? are there any Latino women out there?) have the same rich experiences? Isn't this at the very least prejudicial?

As far as her "compelling" story goes, one commenter notes
The woman grew up in the capital of the world, went to two Ivy League schools, and was blessed by Providence with the precisely correct right race-gender two-fer for the moment. This is a story of privilege, dammit, not adversity. Show me a Montana girl of un-useful ethnicity who put herself through law school waiting tables, after being left with two young children when her Army husband was killed overseas, and I'll start oohing and aahing over her compelling story.

And it's not just angry white guys who have taken notice. Even Obama is concerned about Sotomayor's choice of words, stating to NBC news, "I'm sure she would have restated it."

Senator John Cornyn, who has criticized Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich for their recent comments on the controversy, had this to say:

“The American ideal is that justice should be colorblind. As we see people like Barack Obama achieve the highest office in the land and Judge Sotomayor’s own nomination to the highest court, I think it is harder and harder to see the justifications for race-conscious decisions across the board.”

Sounds pretty reasonable to me. And he didn't even have to think about his choice of words.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I ran across this over at small dead animals, a Canadian blog. It highlights the disturbing terminologies used by the MSM:

An Islamic thug screaming "death to Jews" in the streets of Sweden is a "youth" or an "activist". ('Cause some folks want us to be like Sweden.)

An Islamic thug screaming "death to Jews" from a podium at the United Nations is a "conservative". (I thought everyone loves us now.)

Sure--makes perfect sense to me.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Pelosi and 9/11

I saw this at Scrappleface:

(2009-05-15) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, under scrutiny for her changing accounts of when she knew about the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, said today that she was not informed until late 2003 that Muslim terrorists had used passenger jets to kill thousands of people in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

“One of my aides mentioned in passing that she had been to a CIA briefing months earlier about these techniques,” said Rep. Pelosi. “At the time, I thought the discussion was theoretical…that this was something that could happen. It wasn’t until October 2003 that I learned that these methods had actually been use on American soil.”

Crashing hijacked planes into buildings full of non-combatant civilians is one of several “enhanced immolation techniques” forbidden under U.S. and international law.

Rep. Pelosi, clearly rattled by reporters’ questions on the subject, first said she knew nothing about the 9/11 attacks, but later acknowledged that she was “too busy helping Democrats win a majority in Congress to get involved in the details of a matter that was being handled through appropriate channels.”

Okay, all kidding aside--was it just me, or did Pelosi look a little rattled at her news conference? There seems to be a constant re-jiggering of the details and a complete deflection of responsibility and knowledge. Did she know about waterboarding in September 2002? Or not until February of 2003?

If we take the second scenario (to which even she has admitted, I believe), then she will have known about waterboarding, i. e., "torture," for almost five years, without voicing any concerns until most recently.

I'm sorry--her level of indignation is a little impossible to believe.

Much less her story on what she knew and when she knew it. Where are Woodward and Bernstein when you really need them? Oh, that's right--they're digging up the dirt on Miss California.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Gay marriage opponent topless photos leaked.


Sorry--I couldn't resist.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Obama and Miss California

Lots of furor over Miss California's answer to Perez Hilton's question about gay marriage. It's interesting that Ms. Hilton confines his most vile comments to Miss California, completely overlooking the fact (as do many others) that Obama and VP Joe "What's that website number?" Biden have exactly the same opinion about the issue that Ms. Prejean does.

This article summed it up nicely. Here's Obama speaking with Rick Warren:

Rev. Warren: "Define marriage."

Sen. Obama: "I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian, it's also a sacred union. You know, God's in the mix."

Rev. Warren: "Would you support a constitutional amendment with that definition?"

Sen. Obama: "No, I would not."

Rev. Warren: "Why not?"

Sen. Obama: "Because historically, we have not defined marriage in our Constitution. ... I am not somebody who promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions."

As the article says, there is very little difference between Obama's statement and what Miss California had to say.

I think Ms. Prejean was by far the bravest of the two. "She was being questioned by a gay judge and a gay-friendly jury, after all. She surely knew that the response of her heart was not the answer this audience was looking for. Obama, on the other hand, was speaking before a largely conservative audience in an evangelical church when he endorsed the traditional view of marriage. How hard was that?"

I don't have a problem with gay marriage. Gay marriage doesn't threaten my marriage or my relationship. I think the best way to resolve this controversy is to get the government out of the marriage business altogether. Have everyone register their civil unions, and have these unions form the basis of any societal rights that marriage confers now. And if a church wants to "marry" someone officially, then that's great. I don't think any church should be forced to perform a marriage ceremony if it is against their own doctrine. That way, everyone is on an equal footing.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

One year anniversary

I just realized that this blog had just turned one. I began blogging last spring--April 13th to be exact. Whoo-hoo!

I'm not sure it has turned out exactly how I thought it would. The banner reads "Science, skepticism, some balanced woo-woo, a little politics, and hopefully, something to make people smile."


There wasn't a "little politics," now was there? I guess that was sort of impossible, given the fact that it was an election year. It gave me a place to rant, and a chance to believe that I can be cleverly snarky and witty and wise, so forgive my illusions of being the next Jonathan Swift. I also got to debate and "crush" in the comments section my favorite Anonymous brother and his radical agenda. Yeah, right.

I didn't post as much science as I thought, and I didn't go out and crusade against the woo. Crusade against the woo? I participated in a HOME DELIVERY, baby! That almost brands me as a tofu-chewing, mantra chanting member of the Deepak Chopra, brigade!

Actually, I've become a little disillusioned of the skeptical community. When I found out that the intertoobs had skeptic stuff on them, I was quite pleased. I quickly became disillusioned with Skeptico, and others, and in particular, BadAstronomy. The condescending tone, as well as the anti-religious attitude along with the vile political venom has been a complete turnoff for me. I came to those sites looking for some calm discussion about science topics and some debunking. I am now (thanks to those sites) more willing to examine different issues with an open mind.

That doesn't mean I believe that the Earth was created 6000 years ago, or that vaccines are BigPharma's attempt to hijack our immune system, or that crystal energy will heal the planet. I do believe that you can confront anti-science ideas and beliefs in a respectable way without implying that someone has a case of "teh stoopid," as some skeptical sites seem to think. You can win more respect for your side by not stooping to a lower level. Also, science is supposed to be essentially apolitical; I certainly don't need a dose of someone's "Bushitler" opinions on a chemistry blog or an astronomy site.

Being in recovery, I'm a bit more spiritual about things in my life, more so than I have ever been. Of course, my wife is the most spiritual person I have ever met in my whole life, so I often find myself standing back in amazement and just watching how she does things. I will spend the rest of my life learning from her.

Anyway---happy birthday, blog!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

CNN "reporter"

I saw mention of a CNN reporter who was apparently critical of a tea party rally in Chicago, but I skipped over the story, thinking so what. As I was passing the TV though, Fox was running the clip in question.

I looked closely, realizing that I recognized the "reporter." It's Susan Roesgen, who used to be an anchor in New Orleans in the '90's.

I actually had an interview with her when I worked in Metairie. She was doing a report on Norplant, a contraceptive device that had just been released. The personal injury lawyers had decided to take it down, so there was some controversy (not well-founded) about it's safety. If I remember correctly, Roesgen's channel ran a few pitiful stories about women claiming they had been injured. The station was looking for a GYN's perspective on the product, and somehow ended up calling on me.

Roesgen and a cameraman showed up in my office, and spent about 15-20 minutes asking me questions. I was honest and open, but could tell by her line of questioning that she was convinced that Norplant was a terrible product; at the end she seemed less than pleased with my answers. When the segment aired, those 15-20 minutes had been distilled down to less than 8 seconds. Much of what I thought was cogent and reasoned discussion was gone. When I last heard of her, she was leaving New Orleans for something on the National Geographic channel, a venture which didn't work out to well, I guess.

But there she is, "reporting" for CNN. You don't often see a "reporter" wagging her fingers in someone's face.

A few quick questions about the tea parties:
Were any cop cars turned over?
Any store front windows smashed?
Any garbage cans set afire?
Any gas canisters set off?
Any attacks on law enforcement?
Any Bush or Obama mannequins burned in effigy?

Whether you agree or disagree with the tea parties, as a "reporter" your personal feelings should not enter into your job. But now knowing who it is, I'm not surprised.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Well, my little Katya is 8 weeks old now. Emma and I went over to the clinic a few nights ago and weighed her--she's about 10 1/2 lbs now; it's an estimate since I think the Huggie was a bit, um, weighty.

Each day, she's a little different, a little more of an individual. She is still emitting all of the strange noises that I previously mentioned, perhaps with a few new ones thrown in. She is quite attached to her mother, especially now that she is completely aware of the fact that the large loud figure looming in her life does NOT know how to breast feed.

I love watching her. I love watching her curled up next to her mom when she sleeps--I could watch that for hours. When she gazes up at Anya while she is feeding, it is the perfect picture of adoration and awe. Of course, as soon as she detaches from the nipple, she gets this crazy, drunken, goofy grin on her face, which is actually quite appealing in its own way.

And she is smiling much more now, on a daily basis. She smiles at everyone--mom, sisters, even me. Of course, some of her smiles seem directed at random things in the room, like the wall, or the fan, or the corner of the door jamb. She smiles in her sleep, which is really amusing. What is she dreaming of? Milk? A lot of milk?

My mother was in town last weekend, and she really enjoys Katya. I think she could have held her for 72 hours. Some good grandma time--every kid needs that.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Global warming (updated)

I haven't posted too much recently on global warming, or Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), or as it is now known, climate change. But a few stories have popped up that deserve mention.

It was Earth Hour Saturday night. In case you missed it, you were supposed to turn off all your electricity for one hour from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm. This was a worldwide event, although I'm not sure how that was going to work. This was another one of those stunts that's supposed to somehow make us feel better about climate change without really making any impact on the actual problem. So--let's look around and see how things actually went.

The good folks at WattsUpWithThat link to some graphs of power consumption in California that show that the whole thing was a bust, at least in our most environmentally conscious state. As you can clearly see, there is no step down in power consumption, no decrease in the power load during the magical hour--none. The Saturday night graph is compared to the graph for Sunday night, and they are almost exactly the same.

But surely Al Gore participated in this altruistic exercise, right?
President of the Tennessee Center For Policy Research Drew Johnson took a Saturday drive by Al Gore’s during the time most environmentalists went dark:

I pulled up to Al’s house, located in the posh Belle Meade section of Nashville, at 8:48pm – right in the middle of Earth Hour. I found that the main spotlights that usually illuminate his 9,000 square foot mansion were dark, but several of the lights inside the house were on.
In fact, most of the windows were lit by the familiar blue-ish hue indicating that floor lamps and ceiling fixtures were off, but TV screens and computer monitors were hard at work. (In other words, his house looked the way most houses look about 1:45am when their inhabitants are distractedly watching “Cheaters” or “Chelsea Lately” reruns.)
The kicker, though, were the dozen or so floodlights grandly highlighting several trees and illuminating the driveway entrance of Gore’s mansion.

Gore responded this morning to these observations, claiming that his lights were definitely off, and proudly trumpeting the fact that his home is "powered by geothermal power." However, as one commenter noted, "Adding a geothermal system is roughly like spraying silicone on a rusty bicycle chain – both actions reduce the amount of energy needed to achieve your task, but it would be as wrong to call the bicycle “silicone powered” as it is to say his house is 'geothermal powered.'" As another commenter put it, "I thought the point of the event was to show support for energy-saving efforts, and thus “save the planet” efforts, by not using power for that hour? If that WAS the point, then Mr. Gore missed it."

But hey, who cares, right? Magical thinking is fun!

And finally, our neighbors in Fargo are suffering through some of the worst flooding in years. Guess what? Yep--it's all because of the pesky global warming! Obama even says so:
If you look at the flooding that's going on right now in North Dakota and you say to yourself, 'If you see an increase of two degrees, what does that do, in terms of the situation there?'" Obama told reporters at the White House Monday. "That indicates the degree to which we have to take this seriously.

Except for the FACT that there is no evidence that global warming/AGW/climate change has anything to do with the Fargo flooding. In fact, there is good evidence that record cold in the area has helped stave off an even worse disaster:
The river crested in Fargo at 40.82 feet (12.44 meters) shortly after midnight yesterday, never reaching the 42-foot forecast the weather service expected, which would have put it at the top of some city dikes. The crest broke the record of 40.1 feet set in April 1897.
The river was at 40.27 feet as of 4:15 a.m. local time this morning and was forecast to recede to 38.1 feet as of 1 a.m. on April 5, according to the National Weather Service.

Freezing Temperatures
Temperatures as cold as 7 degrees Fahrenheit froze water running into the river and are responsible for turning back the flood, said David Kellenbenz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, North Dakota, about 80 miles north of Fargo.

Hmmmmm . . .

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The New Religion

This picture was snapped in the children's section of a Borders bookstore in Dallas.

. . . and the children shall lead them . . .

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tea parties and Obama's grass roots appeal

I've noticed some snickering from some folks about the "tea parties" that have been a feature of the political landscape over the last few weeks. The MSM seems to have cast a blind eye on the whole phenomenon, with the rallies barely receiveing any coverage at all. The LA Times was recently taken to task for failing to report on a rally which drew some 15,000 people; they actually claimed it wasn't "newsworthy." Right.

Here’s a partial list of the cities that have seen Tea Party Protests rallies: Cincinnati, Nebraska, Tampa, Lexington, Ridgefield, Conn., Raleigh, Orlando, D.C., Staten Island, Pasadena, Boston, Rochester, N.Y., Jacksonville, Minnesota, Cleveland, Columbus, Mo., Little Rock, Ark., Philadelphia, Kansas City, Harrisburg, Green Bay, Salt Lake City, Fullertown, Boise, Monterey, Maui, Yonkers, Utah, Tucson, Phoenix, Hoboken and Chicago. I do believe there was even one down in Lafayette, LA. According to some sources, there are another 150 events planned in the coming weeks, many to coincide with April 15th.

Of course, none of this is "newsworthy." Especially if it doesn't advance the political narrative.

What a contrast, then, with Obama's attempt at grass roots organization. A few days ago, the President called for nationwide house parties this past weekend to build support for his economic stimulus plan. Apparently, not a lot of folks seem interested:
A McClatchy survey of sign-up rosters for a score of cities across the country revealed only 34 committed attendees in Tacoma, Wash., as of midafternoon Friday; in Fort Worth, Texas, only 54, and in Sacramento, Calif., just 78.

"Before the election, we would have had 500 to 800," said Kim Mack, 46, a Sacramento city-facility manager who's hosted house parties for political figures and causes since the mid-'90s.

Kinda shabby for a veteran community organizer, don't you think?

I haven't been able to find any real numbers for what happened at the house parties, but I did see that the ACORN sponsored AIG protests were a fizzle. At this Connecticut rally, only one bus full of protesters showed up, followed by some 20 vans of reporters.

And this is just priceless:
The protesters stopped at one point in an organic grocery store and were suprised to learn that many AIG execs were shoppers there, and that according to the store's proprietor, they were actually very nice people. The flummoxed protesters spent several minutes outside trying to figure out how such "evil" people could be nice to an organic grocer.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A long 4 years?

I wasn't going to post something new on politics today. I was even going to let the whole "Special Olympics" thing go--it was a stupid gaffe, but I don't think anyone believes that Obama is mean to cripples.

It is a question of balance, though. I use the word hypocrisy a lot, and I've come to realize that maybe that isn't what I'm getting angry about. There is hypocrisy everywhere, everyday, in everyone; it's part of our humanity, part of what makes us human.

Balance is a lot closer to what I'm trying to capture. Imagine if Bush had made the same comment that Obama did on Leno; how do you think the press would have reacted, and more importantly, for HOW LONG? Remember, this is the Hope and Change guy we are talking about; he was so much smarter and better than the others, so well-spoken. He was going to bring a fresh new face to our relations with our international friends and enemies.

The Anchoress says it best:
Can you IMAGINE what the press and the Dems would have done with the Irish PM Teleprompter gaffe (the press has helpfully embargoed the video, so Obama doesn’t have to see it playing 24/7, as Bush would have - had Bush so gaffed). Can you IMAGINE what the press and the Dems would have done if Bush had given the Prime Minister of Great Britain a lousy pack of 50 “Classic” DVD’s that didn’t work in the UK?

Yeah, I know--she's just an overweight, self-centered nag. Read the article--see what she has to say, and maybe try not to worry about her appearance.
I just heard about the region code gaffe with the British Prime Minister's DVD "gift:"
While not exactly a film buff, Gordon Brown was touched when Barack Obama gave him a set of 25 classic American movies – including Psycho, starring Anthony Perkins - on his recent visit to Washington.

Alas, when the PM settled down to begin watching them the other night, he found there was a problem.

The films only worked in DVD players made in North America and the words "wrong region" came up on his screen...

Is this really the guy everybody voted for?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Evil bonuses

According to ABC News, the good folks at AIG kept handing out the political donations, even after they received more than $85 billion in federal funds to keep from falling apart.

Of the top twelve recipients of AIG's political donations, only 4 were Republicans, including John McCain, who received almost $60,000. The top two recipients? Sen. Chris Dodd and Presidential candidate Barack Obama, who together received over $200,000, nearly 63% of what AIG gave to the top 5 people on the list.

No word yet on whether those listed are planning on returning the money.

In a related note, it appears that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, also beneficiaries of recent Federal bailout money, are planning retention bonuses for their own executives; in the case of Fannie Mae, this will be to the tune of some $611,000 each for 4 top managers.

The bonuses were authorized last year by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which seized control of Fannie and Freddie in September. The bonuses are more than double last year's, which ranged from $200,000 to $260,000.

It will be nice to see Barney Frank calling up these guys for a visit to his committee; maybe Jon Stewart can invite them to his show.

Think it'll happen?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Jon Stewart's insider info

Much being made of Jon Stewart's skewering of Jim Cramer recently on his show. Cramer's kind of lame, so I guess Stewart figured he would be an easy target to shoot at. I mean, it's not like there isn't any other political fodder out there for the comedians, right? Bumbling foreign policy, our economy is "fundamentally sound," picking every tax cheat they can find for top posts, charging war vets for their care, silly fights with right-wing talkshow hosts in the middle of the deepest economic crisis in 70-odd years, etc.

Well, Stewart apparently had a little help:

Jon Stewart, the scourge of Wall Street and bane of CNBC, may have had a secret weapon in his corner to help him prep for his grudge match with "Mad Money" host, Jim Cramer - his older brother.

As the Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, Stewart's brother, Larry Leibowitz, is head of US Markets & Global Technology at NYSE Euronext. (Stewart's given surname is also "Leibowitz," but he famously told "60 Minutes" that he changed it to "Stewart" because Leibowitz "sounded too Hollywood"). Larry has also held high positions at Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley.

A Page Six spy who recently shared an elevator ride at the NYSE with Leibowitz and Big Board CEO Duncan Niederauer says, "They both got off on the sixth floor, after Leibowitz had practically been doing everything but shine his shoes for the short ride up. What a routine they have. One brother pretends to kick Wall Street's butt by crucifying Cramer on his show, while the other brother is down on Wall Street kissing it."

'Cause, you know, cable television is the real malevolent power behind the financial crisis. Mustache-twisting CEOs use financial news programs to manufacture consent!

I mean, that would be like me having a left-wing brother who reads Firedoglake and Talking Points everyday and probably has Carville and Begala on speed dial and . . .

. . . oh wait--I do!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wanting the President to fail

Much has been made of Rush Limbaugh's "I want him to fail" statement that he made in regard to President Obama. The statements, which most agree have been taken out of context, have been the fodder for the "Rush is the Republican God" movement coming out of the White House, ably orchestrated by Rahm Emanuel, Paul Begala and the incredibly good-looking James Carville. Funny--I don't remember Rove or Cheney or the Bush White House ginning up talking points memos about Michael Moore. This is Milhousian, don't you think? But I digress.

It seems that Carville suffers from the same brand of "patriotism" that he accuses Rush of being infected with:

[on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001]Just minutes before learning of the terrorist attacks on America, Democratic strategist James Carville was hoping for President Bush to fail, telling a group of Washington reporters: “I certainly hope he doesn’t succeed.”

Carville was joined by Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, who seemed encouraged by a survey he had just completed that revealed public misgivings about the newly minted president.

“We rush into these focus groups with these doubts that people have about him, and I’m wanting them to turn against him,” Greenberg admitted.

The pollster added with a chuckle of disbelief: “They don’t want him to fail. I mean, they think it matters if the president of the United States fails.”

These remarks were quickly forgotten by the press due in large part to the terrorists attacks which subsequently dominated the news coverage. To be fair:
Minutes later, as news of the terrorist attacks reached the hotel conference room where the Democrats were having breakfast with the reporters, Carville announced: "Disregard everything we just said! This changes everything!"

You don't always see Jimmy backpedal like that, so I guess I'll give him some credit.

Surprising that these long ago quotes haven't received the play in the media that they deserve.

Friday, March 6, 2009

YO! It's the First Lady!

I had to look closely at this picture to figure it out.

No--I get the part about Michelle Obama spending some time volunteering at a soup kitchen.

But it's like she's mugging for the camera, posing for a photo . . .

. . . and she is! The "homeless" dude that she is plating up a lunch for is taking her picture--WITH HIS CELL PHONE!

If it weren't for soup kitchens, many Americans would go to bed tonight without their cell phones.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Things I am learning (or re-learning)

It's been an interesting 2 weeks since Catherine arrived. It has been 20 years since I have been involved in the life of a newborn. So, I am learning, or re-learning, some lessons about the care and feeding of a newborn human being. Such as . . .

1. Babies poop a lot. A whole lot. Much of Catherine's metabolic output goes to her converting breast milk into something mushy and yellow that my wife happily insists "smells like yogurt!" Ummmm, Dannon it is not.

2. I do not produce breast milk, no matter what Catherine seems to think.

3. Babies sleep a lot. I think that they withdraw sleep from their parents and use it to supplement their own. Anya and I are winding up like stumbling zombies by about 4 in the afternoon. And it is so cool to watch and listen to her sleep. The strangest noises are emitted--grunts, coos, sighs. Lately she's begun dreaming, I guess, based on the rapid eye movements she exhibits during her naps. Just what the heck does a newborn dream about anyway? I imagine her brain is exploring new connections, axons and dendrites reaching out everywhere, synapses firing and communicating.

4. Her siblings are quite protective of her. If I make any gentle jokes about Catherine, Emma immediately rises up to defend her. Even big sister Sarah calls daily--no longer to talk to me, of course, but to get a baby update.

Well, I'm sure there are plenty more lessons to come. I have come to realize that I am living in a house full of estrogen, which should make the upcoming years--interesting? Fun-filled? Prematurely graying?

And yet, I am more happier and relaxed than I have been in years. Thank you, to ALL of my wonderful family!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ooooh, Baby!

It's a girl! Catherine (Katya for short, Ekaterina pa russkie) weighed in at 7 lbs.11 oz.

What a weekend. Anya went to bed Friday night with a lot of back pain and cramping, and a little bloody show. We decided to check her Saturday morning; she was about 6 centimeters, which was kind of surprising, since in my experience with laboring patients, when you get to 6 centimeters, you are really and truly uncomfortable. But by Saturday morning, most everything had kind of settled down.

We decided to run a few errands, so it was off to Monroe. I kept wondering if we were going to catch a baby on the side of I-20. Anya somehow slowly waddled through Target and we got some last minute baby things (tub, bouncy seat). Back to the house and later to bed. I think she slept pretty well that night, although everything is beginning to blur a bit in my memory.

We got up Sunday, and just hung out lazily. We all got sleepy after lunch, and ended up drifting around the house. Emma and Eric went back to his place, and Nicole was parked on the computer playing an online Wizards game. I woke up about 3:30 pm, to find Anya in the tub, saying "I think I'm really in labor now."

Somehow, I felt calm--all the anxieties and fears that I had invested into this labor process just disappeared. I sat in a chair by the tub, and basically just watched my wife. I could tell she was uncomfortable, but after cracking a few lame jokes, I realized that it was just best for me to sit and be quietly supportive. Now in most deliveries I've done, I'm used to having a delivery table with all my instruments laid out for me. Here, in our bathroom, I've got 2 cord clamps from the delivery kit, and a couple of receiving blankets. That's it. I did use alcohol to sterilize some scissors to cut the cord. Kind of felt a little naked, you know?

So, I patiently watched my wife in second stage labor. Not a very useful feeling. After 1 or 2 pushes Anya moved around to squat in the tub. I knelt next to her as she pushed really hard; suddenly she stopped and said something like "I feel it." I looked down, and the top of the baby's head slid into view. We both reached down, and guided her out into the water, and then up onto Anya's chest, where the baby cried once and then settled down, squirming peacefully in my wife's arms.

I've probably delivered--I don't know--about 10,000 babies in my career. Some were more interesting, or terrifying, than others. But the intimacy and the emotional intensity of delivering Catherine, with Anya--that's not something that I can easily put into words. It was an incredible experience, to say the least.

I finally went out and got Nicole to come and see her new sister (she had been totally involved in casting spells the whole time); she was completely surprised. We called Eric and Emma to come. Emma was a little taken aback at first, but completely got into holding the baby, and making sure that she is comfortable. Eric took some great pictures, which we will try to get up online some where later today.

So--I assisted at a home water-birth. Yep. Me. Dr. Skeptic. I'll probably be cast out into the obstetrical darkness for this heresy. Heck--a few years ago, I would have excommunicated myself.

In fact--I was thinking about where my life has taken me the last few years. Exactly three years ago (if I am not mistaken) on February 15th, I was applying for a job at Barnes and Nobles. I was broke. Didn't have a house. Didn't really have a car. I had flushed my career away. My family relationships were broken. There was no way I could have possibly imagined that things would turn out the way they have.

If you would have told me, that I would be sitting here, in Rockettown, gazing at my beautiful wife and our beautiful daughter sitting on the couch in our living room, I would have just shook my head in disbelief. I do have so much to be grateful for.