Saturday, July 26, 2008

Obama Quest! McCain's Applesauce Avalanche!

It has indeed been a busy week for both Barack Obama and John McCain. Thankfully, John Stewart puts it all into perspective for us:

Friday, July 25, 2008

We know Barack Obama has one big fan in Germany

Appropriate touching:

Inappropriate touching:

Obama's Berlin speech: He's back on track

Skeptical and jaded as I am, I have to say that Barack Obama impressed me with his speech in Berlin. I felt as though he has regained some of those attributes that first attracted so many progressives. This is the Barack Obama who gives me hope for a better future for our planet. (This is also the Obama who said he would filibuster FISA.)

The Democratic party broke my heart this year, so I cannot say that I give myself up completely to Obama. But after watching this video, I have a little more faith in his ability to do the right thing if elected to the White House. I have always said that he is a powerful and charismatic speaker. And when he is not being pulled into scuffles over Rev. Wright, etc., he really can unite people. So here's hoping his loony unofficial advisers of all shapes and sizes stay out of this thing going into November. And, that whoever wrote this speech stays around.

Friday music video

Is there really ever such a thing as too much Emmylou? I think not. Especially when you add the Indigo Girls and Rebekah Johnson. So, get on the Midnight Train to Georgia, and enjoy!

I've got to go, I've got to go, I've got to go ....

Thursday, July 24, 2008

How much does Dana Perino make?

Today, as the new minimum wage goes into effect, you may wonder how much salary Dana "uh, 'Bay of Pigs,' you say?" Perino pulls down each year. You know, taxpayer money? Well good news --now you can find out! The White House has just released it's staff list, including salaries.

Dana Perino makes $172,000 per year.

Yeah. I know.

Another fun fact on the list is that the First Lady's speech writer makes more than the President's speech writer. It kind of explains a lot, actually.

Also, why are there two people with the title, "Director Response Policy"?

And the guy with this title must be very busy: "Special Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Senior Director for Bio Defense Policy."

But no busier than this guy: "Presidential Support Specialist."

Read it for yourself here.

Beijing Olympics and Human Rights: When worlds collide

2008 has turned into a year of real personal struggle, and I'm sure growth, for me. Throwing my support behind Hillary Clinton as I did late last fall and then watching the primary season unfold was really exhausting to me. Her treatment by both the media and my fellow progressives was often painful and insulting. And now I face the prospect of working to elect someone who I don't think will do as a good a job as Clinton would, just because the other guy is soooooo bad. Which he is, make no doubt.

And now, there's the Olympics.

Normally, I love to watch the Olympics. I remember as a kid eagerly awaiting the next one. I followed the careers of people like Mark Spitz, Olga Korbut,and Steve Prefontaine. In the winter, I watched Franz Klammer, Dorothy Hamill, and Rosi Mittermaier. You see, I was always just a meh athlete -- never the worst on the field, but admittedly rarely the best. My most successful athletic career was in Ultimate Frisbee, where my team was generally known for winning the party, if nothing else....

Sorry, I digress. My point is that for the armchair athlete like me, the Olympics are a time to really respect the awesome power of the human body, and to see people display amazing discipline and dedication to get to the event. But China is a big powerful nation with a serious problem with human rights. And so I am faced with yet another dilemma. To watch, or not to watch. I hate when I have to make a choice like this.

A personal boycott of the Olympics in order to make a point might make me feel "better" politically, make me feel that I'm not participating in something that is sponsored by a human rights violator. But the problem with that thinking is that the Olympics will go on whether I watch them or not. And my not watching is going to have nil effect on China's human rights record.

So I was happy to get the following email today from Amnesty International, which is both informative and helpful with suggestions for action:
China's leadership recently ordered local governments to go "all out" to prevent civilian protesters from tarnishing the Olympic Games in Beijing next month. Can you help Amnesty International go "all out" to focus world attention on the peaceful activists languishing in Chinese prisons by making a donation to our China Olympics Legacy Campaign today? Chen Guangcheng is one of the courageous activists Amnesty International is working to free. The blind human rights defender and legal advisor was arrested in 2005 for filing a lawsuit on behalf of thousands of women in Shandong Province who endured forced abortions and sterilizations to meet local birth quotas.

Chen's wife and lawyers were barred from appearing in court to defend him - and after a 1-day trial he received a 4-year prison sentence. Chen's situation remains grim, as he's reportedly been beaten in captivity. He won the Magsaysay award - described as Asia's Nobel Prize - in July 2007 for defending human rights. But Chinese authorities even prevented Chen's wife from traveling to the Philippines to accept the prize on his behalf.
The next few weeks are crucial for our China Olympics Legacy Campaign. With your tax-deductible gift today, we will:
  • Urge President Bush to call for the release of human rights defenders like Chen Guangcheng and others when he meets with Chinese officials during the opening of the Games

  • Provide American athletes with toolkits to help them speak up - if they choose - about Chinese prisoners of conscience and the government's human rights record

  • Encourage corporate sponsors such as Coca-Cola and McDonald's to use their influence to call for an end to the ongoing abuses
The world needs to know that China has fallen far short of the promise it made in its Olympic bid - to improve its human rights record in the lead-up to the Games.
So rather than boycott, I suggest we watch the Olympics and use this as an opportunity to highlight the situation in China. Talk to your friends and family about what's going on there. Call and write your Congress delegation. Make a stand for human rights. Contact Amnesty International today.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

And in other traffic-related news ... Robert Novak hits pedestrian, drives on

From ThinkProgress:

Politico reports that conservative pundit Robert Novak “was cited by police after he hit a pedestrian with his black Corvette in downtown Washington, D.C., Wednesday morning.” Novak initially “drove away from the scene,” but turned around when “a bicyclist stopped him and said, ‘You hit someone.’” Novak claimed: “I didn’t know I hit anybody.” But Washington DC’s local ABC affiliate interviewed the bicyclist who saw the incident. WJLA’s Susan Kennedy reported live from the scene:

I just spoke with the bicyclist about three minutes ago. He tells me that the pedestrian was actually splayed across the front of Novak’s convertible, and that there would be absolutely no way Novak would have not known that he had hit someone.

People, be careful out there! The pundits are on the loose!

Old fart alert!

I hate it when it is reinforced to me that I have become ... an old fart. Today's case in point, the headline:

10 ways to avoid a speeding ticket

Because of course my first thought is:

1) Don't speed
2) Don't speed
3) Don't speed

You get the idea.

It's probably also because I read a harrowing story over at PoliTits about DCup's nightmare commute home last night, where she witnessed -- and barely missed being an innocent victim of -- an insane driver, who was driving too fast, among other things. Sadly, another driver was not so lucky and was driven off the road onto the median across oncoming traffic and flipping twice.

DCup, my new hero, got the guy's plate number and called 911.

I drive an hour on the Interstate each way, and I see a lot of "near misses." So I don't really appreciate CNN suggesting that drivers should:

Try to stay in the middle of the pack
Don't speed when you are the only car on the road
Watch for cutouts and modulate your speed accordingly
Drive a nondescript vehicle

To avoid getting a speeding ticket. I mean really. How about just going the speed limit? Why wasn't that even on their list?

photo from

Sense of humor alert!

If you are easily offended, please just skip this post. Personally, I think the ability to laugh at oneself is an important attribute in this world. In fact, it's often the only way I can get through the day! And what I am, among other things, is white. White, white, white. So I find this web site extremely hilarious:

Stuff White People Like

For example, white people like New Balance shoes. Right? If you're white, you know you have a pair -- I have several.

And you know that white people like outdoor performance clothes:

The main reason why white people like these clothes is that it allows them to believe that at any moment they could find themselves with a Thule rack on top of their car headed to a national park. It could be 4:00 p.m. on a Saturday when they might get a call “hey man, you know what we need to do? Kayak then camping, right now. I’m on my way to get you, there is no time to change clothes.”

Though it is unlikely that they will receive this call, White people hate the idea of missing an opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities because they weren’t wearing the right clothes.

If you plan on spending part of your weekend with a white person, it is strongly recommended that you purchase a jacket or some sort of “high performance” t-shirt, which is like a regular shirt but just a lot more expensive.

Also, white people like having gay friends:

If white people could draft friends the way that the NFL drafts prospects it would go like this: black friends, gay friends, and then all other minorities would be drafted based on need and rarity to the region .....
When a straight person goes to a gay night club, they are reminded of how progressive and tolerant they are. If they are hit on by a member of the same sex, it provides them with a valuable story that they can use to prove to their other friends that they are more progressive and tolerant. "This guy/girl hit on me, I said I was ’straight but not narrow,’ and it was totally chill. Oh, you went to an Irish bar this weekend? That’s cool, I guess."
And you know we also like:

threatening to move to Canada
breakfast places

Oh, just check it out yourself.

Wednesday poetry break

Today's poem is by Miller Williams, a contemporary poet from Arkansas. Today's poet also comes with a fun fact: he's the father of one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Lucinda Williams.

If Ever There Was One

She could tell he loved her. He wanted her there
sitting in the front pew when he preached.
He liked to watch her putting up her hair
and ate whatever she cooked and never broached

the subject of the years before they met.
He was thoughtful always. He let her say
whether or not they did anything in bed
and tried to learn the games she tried to play.

She could tell how deep his feeling ran.
He liked to say her name and bought her stuff
for no good reason. He was a gentle man.
How few there are she knew well enough.

He sometimes reached to flick away a speck
of something on her clothes and didn’t drum
his fingers on the table when she spoke.
What would he do if he knew she had a dream

sometimes, slipping out of her nightgown—
if ever God forbid he really knew her—
to slip once out of the house and across town
and find someone to talk dirty to her.

— Miller Williams

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

FISA in 30 seconds or less

I posted this back in February, but it bears repeating:

Russ Feingold explains it all:

Newsweek stoops to new low, prints tabloid coverage of murdered 15-yr old Larry King's life

I was planning to write about the downright horrific journalism displayed by Newsweek this week in their story on Lawrence King, the 15-year old boy who was shot in school by a fellow classmate, but it turns out that Sara Whitman has already done an excellent post on this subject. So I'll let Sara's words tell the story:
I am stunned by an article put out by Newsweek, Young, Gay and Murdered. At best, it is poor journalism, at it's worst, it is a hate crime in itself, paving the way for a "gay panic" defense for the kid who pulled the trigger.

Remember? Larry King was killed? Shot point blank in the head?

Read the article and you'll be informed that in fact, Larry was the problem. He was always the problem. And while kids are experimenting with sexuality at younger and younger ages overall, being gay is dangerous. Heterosexual play is fine but, "Kids may want to express who they are, but they are playing grown-up without fully knowing what that means."

What does that mean?
Please read the rest of her post here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency"

Because sometimes there's more truth in humor than in "reporting":

Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency

From The Onion ....

Go visit Quaker Dave

Over at The Quaker Agitator, Quaker Dave republishes an important story from CommonDreams. If this paragraph doesn't upset you, nothing will:

In Washington, DC, on July 17, 2008, John and Linda Johnson, the parents of US Army Private First Class (PFC) Lavena Johnson met US Army criminal investigators concerning the classification of the death of their daughter who died three years ago on July 19, 2005 in Balad, Iraq. The Army labeled her death as a suicide despite evidence from materials the Army reluctantly provided to the parents that she was beaten, bitten, sexually assaulted, burned and shot. Despite numerous questions from Dr. Johnson about the Army’s investigation and determination of suicide, the Army stuck to its guns that Lavena Johnson committed suicide. After the briefing, the Johnson’s asked Congressman William Lacy Clay and Congresswoman Diane Watson to request House Oversight and Governmental Reform committee Chairman Henry Waxman to hold hearings that would require production of witnesses who will testify under oath to their knowledge of how Lavena died– an attempt to get information that the Army has so far failed to provide.

Check out the rest of the story here ....

Chipping away at your Constitutional rights -- all in the name of fighting "terrorism"

I'm starting to think "the terrorists" have won. Terror: intense, sharp, overmastering fear. And Terrorism: the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.

Fear and submission? Point in case, from the Baltimore Sun:
Spying uncovered
Documents show state police monitored peace, anti-death penalty groups

Undercover Maryland State Police officers repeatedly spied on peace activists and anti-death penalty groups in recent years and entered the names of some in a law-enforcement database of people thought to be terrorists or drug traffickers, newly released documents show.

The files, made public Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, depict a pattern of infiltration of the activists' organizations in 2005 and 2006. The activists contend that the authorities were trying to determine whether they posed a security threat to the United States. But none of the 43 pages of summaries and computer logs - some with agents' names and whole paragraphs blacked out - mention criminal or even potentially criminal acts, the legal standard for initiating such surveillance.
In other words, the State has become so afraid of "terrorism" that it has violated the law to spy on Americans who speak out against State sanctioned executions. Unless I missed something, we're still allowed to dissent? Remember, freedom of speech and all that? First Amendment?

The ACLU says it best:
"Everything noted in these logs is a lawful, First Amendment activity .... For undercover police officers to spend hundreds of hours entering information about lawful political protest activities into a criminal database is an unconscionable waste of taxpayer dollars and does nothing to make us safer from actual terrorists or drug dealers."
Because this is what the undercover agents found:
The only potentially unlawful activity mentioned anywhere in the documents, she said, were two instances of nonviolent civil disobedience. In one, activists refused to leave a guard station during a protest at the National Security Agency after bringing cookies and drinks for the guards, and in the other, they hatched a plan to place photographs of soldiers who died in Iraq on the fence surrounding the White House.
Do you still wonder why I'm so upset about Barack Obama's vote on FISA? These rights are worth protecting. If we don't speak up now, will we be be able to later?

UPDATE: From RawStory:
Kucinich to investigate police surveillance of protest groups

"[M]ost people would be upset to know that police were spying on lawful citizens and infiltrating peaceful organizations, rather than chasing down real criminals," said Kucinich in a press release delivered to RAW STORY. "At a minimum, such police spying is clearly a waste of taxpayer dollars and a diversion from the mission of protecting and serving the people.

"I want the subcommittee to determine how widespread these activities are and who ordered them," the Ohio Democrat and former presidential candidate said.
Things that frustrate me to no end: The short guy with big ears from Ohio loses out big time to the charming smooth-talker from Chicago. But who's got your back, folks?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Is God laughing at me? 'Cause I know she has a sense of humor ... but this is has got me perplexed

In the past few weeks, I have found a wonderful church where I feel welcome, only to find out that the Reverend is leaving at the end of this month. I'll continue to attend this church as it transitions, but I must tell you that a major reason for attending was this wonderful Rector. Case in point was today.

In this, her next to last (fancier people would say "penultimate") sermon, she spoke of reconciliation. Because you see, the senior Anglicans from around the world are meeting right now in England, but a number of them are in a tizzy because in 2003 the Episcopal church got all crazy and ordained an openly gay bishop. And the world ended. And they're upset. In fact, many senior Anglicans are boycotting the meeting. Some even want to split off from the church.

And in 2003, which was before I started attending this church, my Rector stood before her congregation and said "The Episcopal Church did the right thing." And a third of the congregation left for good. She's been slowly rebuilding the congregation ever since, and I guess it's often been a struggle. But as she's moving on, she left us this morning with this parable:
The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while he slept, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat. When the weeds appeared, the laborers asked the farmer "Do you want us to go and gather the weeds?" but the farmer says no, for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let them both grow together until the harvest."
Okay, so what you say. Unless that is, you happened to read the post on Friday over at FranIAm's place, which included this paragraph:
But the scripture is there and won't go away. In the face of all that, Jesus tells us a parable: "Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?" the laborers in the story ask the farmer about the bad seed "an enemy had sown." The answer, at a time of great change and deep reflection, ought perhaps to give us great pause: "No," the scripture answers, "because as you gather the weeds you might pull up some of the wheat along with them." We pulled up a lot of wheat with the excommunication of Martin Luther and the reformers, for instance, and have been trying to repair those exclusions ever since. Surely this is no time to start doing the same kind of thing again. Surely we have learned better by this time. Surely we don't want to do it to one nun whose only crime is a question and in whom the people see a minister of uncommon quality. Maybe we ought to "leave some chaff and grain to grow up together" for a while longer until we can see clearly which is which.
I often read Fran's blog, though I rarely comment. It's the kind of blog that makes me want to go think about what I want to say, and by that time, I've gotten distracted by something else. But the point is, she's made me think long and hard about issues of spirituality.

Yeah, she's good.

So anyway, I'm trying to let go of one of the few "truly" Christian people I've met in an awfully long time, and I'm trying to understand why other "Christians" feel threatened by a gay bishop in their church.

I'm trying to understand the parable of the weeds and the wheat in my life. So there's some food for thought on a Sunday night!

So, Sue J, what's going on?

We have hit the ground running since we got back from vacation. The top of Killington Mountain seems like a distant memory. *Loud sigh*

As you may remember, just before we left we had a bit of a plumbing catastrophe that we uncovered in our innocuous remodeling of the upstairs bathroom. Well, $500 later and three plumbing issues have been resolved. So yesterday Unnamed Partner and I finished laying down the subfloor and the backerboard. Thats sounds like so little work, but when you factor in the 98 degree heat outside and the fact that we just have window AC units, the number of times we had to go down to the basement for this tool or that, or carrying pieces of subfloor (plywood) and backerboard (which is really heavy) upstairs. (Oh yeah, and the requisite trip to Home Depot in the middle of everything.) We were so beat that we actually fell into bed before it was dark outside. And when I say we "fell into bed" it's not quite like the old days. We were both asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows.

If you want romance on a Saturday night, don't renovate a bathroom all day long.

But, I'm skipping over the fact that Unnamed Partner treated us to Indian carryout, and that I had my all time favorite comfort food, Chicken Korma, accompanied by a delicious Bass Ale. What is it about hard physical labor that makes good food and good beer taste all that much better?

I know this post sounds a bit random, but I guess I'm trying to explain why my recent posts have not been very substantive. I haven't been very good about scheduling my time lately, so emails have gone unanswered and posts just roll around in my head.

We're headed off to church in a few minutes, and I know I will have some things to write about when we get back. It's an Episcopal Church in our neighborhood that we started attending when Unnamed Partner's brother, known to the blog world as Scepter66, began to lose his battle with pancreatic cancer. The priest, a woman, came to visit him and we all just fell in love with her. Well, she's leaving this church this month and moving to Connecticut. And I just found out recently her history with this particular congregation before we started attending. Seems she stood up and publicly backed the Episcopal Church's decision to ordaining a gay man as bishop -- and a third of the congregation left. She's been trying to rebuild the congregation ever since.