Monday, October 31, 2005

Scary Halloween Story

That's me. I'm the scary Halloween story. Frighteningly grouchy old woman that you wouldn't want to run into on a lighted front porch step. I've been out guarding my candy bowl with teeth glinting, a slight growl in my throat. "Candy, my pretty?" I say, then I yank the bowl away from the crying little Spiderman child. Moowwahahahaha!

Perhaps I exaggerate slightly. But I am annoyed on this All Hallow's Eve. Let me share it with you, thus making my burden lighter. First, I am annoyed by medium-sized wretches who come unclad (so to speak) to my home demanding treats. Look. Here's the deal: Trick or Treat. Translated, that is a contract meaning:

You, party of the first part, will show up at my (party of the second part) doorstep looking cute and/or scary (the heretoforementioned Trick).
You, party of the first part, will show up at my (party of the second part) doorstep politely asking for candy (the heretoforementioned Treat) .

You, party of the first part, will show up at my (party of the second part) doorstep and say "Thank you" or something similarly appropriate when I (party of the second part) drop any candy in your bag. Even if you don't like that particularly piece of candy. Because I (party of the second part) paid for it and it's a gift to you and damn it, don't look this gift horse in the mouth or I . . . get cranky.

In exchange, I, party of the second part, will open my door and greet you (party of the first part) in a friendly, nay convivial fashion. I, party of the second part, will exclaim glowingly about your costume the heretoforementioned
Trick), even if it sucks. And I, party of the second part, will drop a piece or two (if you're particularly cute, funny, scary or polite) of candy (the heretoforementioned Treat) into your greedy little hands.

Nowhere in that contract is there a word about giving candy away to middle-sized munchkins who come inappropriately dressed to my porch. I am not required, nor am I inclined, to give candy to children, teenagers or young adults who do not make at least a weak attempt at a costume. I, party of the first part, provide the
Treat. You, party of the second part, provide the Trick. And that trick is a costume, not the tricky fact that you, preteen uberhudlum, are getting away with candy for free by trick or treating without a costume.

Thing Two about which I am annoyed. This is a new and startlingly odd annoyance. This is the first year that I had
Adult Trick or Treaters. What I mean by that phrase is: An Adult, dressed in a costume, carrying a bag around and asking for treats for themselves, not a child at home in bed with pneumonia.

Now, personally, me? I'd
love to get a bag of candy for free. Particularly if it were free of calories. :-) But it does seem a touch, I dunno, inappropriate? out of place? immature? for adults to be out scrounging for candy among the three year olds. And I'm not talking about Just-Adults. Not talking about the 18 to 21 crowd. Still too old, but I'll feed them as long as they follow the contract as stated above. I'm talking Moms. And they were all Moms, come to think of it. I'm talking Moms walking their kids--and not so little kids--around the neighborhood.

What are these women thinking? If you want candy, hon, go to the store and buy a bag of Hershey Kisses and hide them in your pantry. That's the time-honored way a
Mom gets her candy fix. Not by carrying a pillow case around with her 10 year old. Sheesh.

Finally, I am faintly annoyed by the fact that the Fairies and Darth Vaders who visited my home this evening took all the good stuff and left me with nothing but Jaw Breakers. Is that some kind of sick joke or what? Old people have TMJ; they can't eat Jaw Breakers. Now I'm going to have to break into my stash of Hershey Kisses hidden in my pantry. Or steal some out of my daughter's pillow case. Certainly a more honorable solution than
Mom Trick or Treating!

Until tomorrow,

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Oh, please. Bush is "focused" after Skippy or Scooter or Buffy or whatever the hell preppy Aide to the President was fired. Oh, wait. Bush didn't actually fire I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Chief of Staff to the VP and Aide to the President, as he had vowed to earlier in his Reign. He let Scooter resign, instead.

But I digress. Unlike Bush would, because Bush is focused. Yes, he is focused on scooting right on past this scandal just as fast as his little workout-obsessed legs will carry him. The Presidential He-Man, Protector of America (can you hear me whistling "God Bless America" here?), is focused on, what else? "Protecting America".

As is so often the case, I am touched and moved by Dubya's concern for me and mine. Truly, I sleep better at night knowing that he is not paying a bit of attention to ole Scooter's problems and is, instead, focusing on killing Iraqis and making our nation a more Christian place to live. Finding just the right SCOTUS nominee that will be able to carry forward the Right values and beliefs. Continuing to watch over Homeland Security, as his administration as proven so able at thus far this term.

But wait, there's more that Bush had to say about Buffy. Er, Scooter. Scooter "
worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and sacrificed much in the service to this country". Yep. Ole Scooter is the sacrificial lamb for the Bush administration in Plamegate. The Bushies run such a tight ship that all Patrick Fitzgerald could get was Scooter.

Doesn't matter what Bush has to say about Scooter, though. Or going back to work. Because the Americans he's working tirelessly (sic) to protect aren't too happy with him. A 40% approval rating is not exactly something to cheer about. Even Republicans aren't pleased about the air of stank surrounding the Republicans right now. Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) said, "They wanted the president to restore honor and integrity to the White House. Whatever agenda the president wants to pursue, if he hasn't reestablished a strong ethical standard, he's going to fail. . . . Americans don't like to be lied to."

Not usually, no. We may have come to expect it from politicians. But we don't enjoy it. And we don't forget it. We won't forget that Plamegate is about a government faking a reason for starting a war. We won't forget that Plamegate is about a government turning on its own CIA operator and putting her in danger. We won't forget that Plamegate is two steps away from the President.

So scoot all you want, Mr. President. I'm counting on the American public having a bit longer memory than you want them to have. I'm hoping for a more educated and less trusting electorate next time around. And I'm hoping for an electorate who won't let some Bush-approved Republican scare-monger them into voting Republican out of fear.

Until tomorrow,

Friday, October 28, 2005


In Virginia, a pastor recently decided that one of his flock could not become an official member of that flock. He noted that this gentleman ("Adam") was overweight, had been for some time. He felt strongly that "Adam" could not join a United Methodist Church because part and parcel of joining this denomination is the repentance of sin. "Adam" would not repent his evil ways of overeating, and would not admit that his gluttony was even a sin. So "Adam" was refused membership.

I made this up. Can you imagine the uproar if this were true? And can you imagine how many millions of Christians would be ineligible for membership in their denominations if churches actually began deciding whether or not to admit people to membership based on their sin standing? Based on their willingness to renounce their wicked practices such as overeating or house pride or bad tempers?

Of course, it wouldn't be fair to only keep out those whose sins are readily apparent. So, to be fair, churches would have to do background checks. Will the adulterer be willing to say it's wrong and give up the affair? The lush his bottle? The slothful her heathenly housekeeping ways? And how, exactly, will we measure and quantify the sins of pride or envy?

OK. I didn't actually make up that story. But I changed one fact in it. In Virginia, a pastor decided that "Adam" could not join his United Methodist Church because he was gay, and unrepentant of that "sin". Let's pretend that I think being gay or, as Pastor Edward Johnson tried to frame it, having gay sex is a sin.

I don't. But let's pretend so I can argue fulminate and froth at the mouth longer. No, really, let's pretend because there's no point in arguing whether or not being gay is a sin. It's a belief issue, ultimately. But I think there's plenty of room to argue, and perhaps convincingly so, that picking on one sin (sic) is insulting, discriminatory, and against God's teaching.

How does Pastor Johnson have the gall, the unmitigated nerve to pick out this sin (sic) out of all other possible sins for enforcement? And then try to worm his way onto his high horse, high road, by saying (through his attorney) that "(he) was not drawing a line at a homosexual person, but at homosexual practice, which we think is an important distinction". Going for one of my favorite, most stomach-turning logics, Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin.

But I understand that many conservative Christians genuine believe that logic. So I'll give it to them. The logic that defies comprehension is the one that attacks one particular sin (sic), and one only, while leaving the multitude of other sins unexamined and unpunished. What makes this sin (sic) so much more bad than the others? I don't recall Jesus saying that this was the worst one or anything, in my years of church attendance.

Not having the best Bible recall, I googled "Jesus worst sin". I found a multitude of opinions on the topic. The worst sin is ingratitude, saying no to God, betrayal, even religious hypocrisy. Well, it seems like a large dose of religious hypocrisy to pick out one sin (sic) as the worst, refuse a soul admission to membership of a church on that basis, while ignoring all the other sins. And I assure you, Pastor Edward Johnson is ignoring all of those other sins. Because it would be a lot bigger news if he were refusing membership to the obese, the envious, and the ill-tempered than it is for a representative of the Christian church to once again slam its doors on a gay person.

The only good news regarding this situation is that the United Methodist Church has, for the moment, been placed on a unpaid leave by the denomination. But it is news right now because the Methodist hierarchy (high court) has listened to an appeal by Johnson and is awaiting news on its decision.

At the same time, it is also considering the situation of the Rev. Beth Stroud, a lesbian pastor who was defrocked for being an out gay pastor. This defrocking was reversed and is now on appeal before the high court.

From this WaPo article, apparently the UMC believes that gay people are valuable, but not valuable enough to serve as pastors. Nice. A little two-tiered system of worth. Reminds me a bit of nineteenth century attitude toward slavery. I hope (and pray) that the UMC will come to its senses and affirm the intrinsic worth of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation. At the very least, I pray that the UMC will affirm the intrinsic unfairness of a pastor who picks and chooses his sins (sic).

Until tomorrow,

Thursday, October 27, 2005

This and That

Of course I'm thinking about the Miers Fiasco and what it means for both Democrats and Republicans. Bush tried to paint it as a decision meant to protect the Constitutional separation of powers: No reading those private Presidential papers to get at the real Harriet Miers. Nah.

The Miers
nomination was about broadening the powers of the Executive Branch by inserting a Bush conservative lackey in SCOTUS. Then Senators wanted to use those "private" papers to examine Miers' interest in promoting and protecting the President at all costs and whether or not that interest would affect her ability to be an independent jurist. The Bush administration realized this whole nomination wasn't going to fly, having not properly licked the boots of the Extreme Right, and used the papers as an excuse to get out of it all.

Not sure what's going to happen next. Clearly Bush is out of political capital, not having had enough to push this candidate through. With nothing to spend, he's got two choices. He goes hard-core Extreme Right to win back that wing of the Republican Party, setting himself up for a pitched battle in the Senate. Or he chooses a mainstream Conservative that most of America can live with, assuring a win at the cost of a continued erosion of his Extreme Right base. has a piece exploring those options in depth. But I can't imagine that Bush allies are all that much help right now in exploring his options. Seems like they've all got their minds on other matters. Can you say "
indictment"? The morning news should be interesting, to say the least.

Speaking of the morning news, have to say mine was interrupted by the blechy (that would be the psycho-emotional technical term) news of record Exxon profits. And what does House Speaker Denny Hastert have to say about it?

"Oil and gas companies are enjoying record profits. That is fine. This is America. Our oil companies need to do more to inform the American people about what they are doing to bring down the cost of oil and natural gas. When are new refineries going to be built?"

I don't need more information, Denny. I need to know that the excess I'm paying at the pump isn't going to gougers salivating over this opportunity to line their pockets at my expense. And I want you to do something about it, since I don't have a lot of leverage in this area. In fact, I think that may be why people from Illinois sent you to the House, Denny. Use that leverage for something other than pork.

Interesting discussion of oil company gouging over at The Oil Drum (scroll down to the comments). The suggestion is made that those of us worried about the long term oil situation should not worry about massive oil company profits. Rather, we should focus on ways to reduce the amount of oil used by consumers. Americans made poorer by higher oil prices is actually useful in the long term as it makes us more open to true solutions to the oil crisis.

OK. I'm all for that. However, I think that we should be able to address both long and short term issues, even with the ridiculous American attention span. Fine, if you want to slap a tax on gas to make gasoline consumption hurt us enough to push toward alternatives. Fine, that is, if you use the tax to fund research toward those alternatives. But let's not make the rich richer in the process.

Back to SCOTUS just for a minute. The Extreme Right seems to have shot itself in the foot, having focused on the short-term issue of "Is Harriet Extreme Enough?" SCOTUS will consider three abortion cases this year. And our swing vote will be Sandra Day O'Connor, a known moderate (gasp), rather than Harriet Miers, a Bush lackey. That'll teach 'em to ignore Dubya's counsel and advice.

My counsel and advice to you this evening? Open your front door, yell "Go Sox", and lift a brewski in celebration for the Southsiders.

Until tomorrow,
Liz (wait 'til next year--then it's the Cubs' turn!)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Character flaw? Admirable quality?

Is stubbornness a character flaw or an admirable quality? I guess that depends on who possesses it and what they do with it. George Bush is proudly bullheaded when he takes a stance on particular issues. For example, the war in Iraq is necessary, and thus the sacrifice of human (2000 US citizens and over 27,000 Iraqi citizens) is necessary. No matter that many of those around him, including the military hierarchy, believe this was a battle lost before we started it.

Bush values stubbornness in part because he believes that changing ones mind is a sign of weakness. How do we know this? Remember his statement about Harriet Miers? He said "I know her well enough to be able to say she's not going to change . . . . Twenty years from now . . . . her philosophy won't change."

Bush views hanging on to stsances as a catankerous bulldog considers latching on to a meaty bone: intelligent and necessary to the cause. Even if that stance itself no longer makes sense as the war in Iraq seems nonsensical to so many of us now.

This viewpoint also explains his obstinate continuation of the obsequious Harriet Miers' nomination. The nomination is in the tank. Is his administration preparing a Plan B. His
response? "Harriet Miers is a fine person, and I expect her to have a good, fair hearing."

Bush's stubbornness is unregenerate, hopelessly reactionary in its mulishness. It ignores reality for looks, trading on the masquerade of a tough guy stance that hides intellectual and ethical weakness.

There was another stubborn public figure in the news today. One that makes strong-minded, determined behavior sparkle: Rosa Parks, bless her soul, died yesterday. Mrs Parks' determined refusal to relinquish her seat on the bus to a white man sparked the Civil Rights movement. Her courageous actions (and it was, indeed, courageous to stand up to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1950s) epitomize all that is good and right in hanging doggedly to a principle.

Mrs. Parks didn't merely act the part of a tough guy. She was the tough guy. She didn't hide from reality. She challenged it--and changed it, with the help of many, many others.

What is so sad about George Bush and his tenacious hold on various issues is the waste of energy and effort. Think of the good that can be done with the power of the Presidency. How could he have so squandered it? How does he sleep at night?

Had George Bush been a strong-minded, ethical person, rather than an unregenerate bulldog, think of the good that could have been done. Think of what Bush could have accomplished during his years in the White House (continuation of no national debt, better and more practical support for the poor, cleaner water and air, stronger national defense, to name a few).

Then look at what the unregenerate bulldog did accomplish (hired cronies that weakened our defense, stripped money from the poor while heavily lining the pockets of the rich, heaped billions of dollars of debt on our children, laid bare our environment to rich industrialists, to name a few).

And weep for what might have been,

Until tomorrow,

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Developmentally Delayed

My blogs are, that is. They aren't developing, to be precise.

Ladies and gentlemen, please stand by. Your blogger is experiencing cognitive difficulties due to a lack of oxygen in the brain. That would be lack of oxygen in my brain.

Perhaps I should back track. I am a woman. Hear me roar . . . . No, I am a woman. Which requires my body perform certain activities on a monthly basis. No, I speak not of sex, but of my menstrual cycle. Otherwise known as my period. Yes, queasy ones, now is when you should stop reading if you prefer to either pretend that this sort of thing doesn't happen, or simply prefer not to hear about it happening.

Because it's happening. Way too often. And way too. It's the way too part that's the problem. Lose blood. Lose iron. Lose oxygen. Lose brain. Probably a sweet mathematical equation to express it, were I capable of intellectual cogitation to determine it. But it's not happening right now.

Word loss. It's the first thing that goes on me when I'm anemic. I spend hours trying to describe a word. "It's the thing that's in front of a window, made of mesh, lets air in?" Ding ding ding ding, yes, screen! My crossword puzzles aren't a pretty sight right now.

Initiative also takes a dive. I'm not a procrastinator by nature, except with major household chores like regrouting the kitchen floor. But I can't seem to accomplish the briefest of to-do lists right now.

Logic? Also not so good. Sudoku? Gentle, I can manage. Diabolical? It's a bit masochistic on my part to even try them. I'll get to the last two quadrants and suddenly notice I have three 3s in one row. Like I said, not so good.

It's an odd kind of fatigue, being iron-deficient. My head is far more tired than the rest of my body. It's like a low-lying fog in reverse. I'm a skyscraper with my head stuck up in the rain clouds while my body thinks the weather is pretty good. Then, suddenly, it rains on all of me and I start shaking at the end of a workout.

So I'm off to the doctors again. Went through this last year at this time. Won't do the gory medical details. End result was a decision to avoid breaking and entering and just keep taking lots of iron. Seemed to work. Until I stopped taking lots of iron. Hmm. Even with my limited cognitive skills, I begin to see the problem . . . .

Anywho, there's my explanation for my inexplicable absence, for those inquiring minds among you who have wondered. Will try harder this week. :-)

Until tomorrow,

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Harriet, Harriet, Harriet

What are we going to do with you, Harriet? She's looking a bit squirrelly to me. After all the talk about her lack of intellectual prowess (particularly compared to John Roberts), wouldn't you think someone at the Bush administration, let alone Miers, would have vetted that completed Senate Committee questionnaire pretty darn carefully? Overstating the importance of various talks she gave, not listing all interviews given, misstating the issue with her license. Hardly seems the hallmark of a meticulous attorney, as she's been presented to us by the Rovian Republicans.

And what about the continuing issue of her seeming to tell senators one thing, then contradicting them? She tells Arlen that she supported Griswold, then tells reporters she doesn't. And Republican Specter proclaims he's now finished with discussions with her that are not on tape. That's a ringing endorsement from a Republican. And, as Kos says, seems like there's a whole lot of miscommunication by Ms. Miers.

Interesting. You'd think that this news of anti abortion activity would assuage the shakes of the conservative evangelical right. But Sam Brownback, Senate Republican who's been up in arms about her for a while, still says, "It is a piece of evidence," and not as indicative of her legal views as a judicial opinion or a law review article might have been (according to the NYTimes).

The newspaper reports provide little to reassure those who are concerned about her lack of constitutional experience. The answer to a questions asking for a detailed response regarding her work as an attorney in constitutional matters was vague to an extreme."I am called upon to advise the president and White House officials on presidential prerogatives, the separation of powers, executive authority and the constitutionality of proposed regulations and statutes."

Um. Okay. Would you care to expand on that just a bit? Maybe discuss which regulations the constitutionality of which she advise Bush on? Say a bit more about executive authority or the separation of powers?

Apparently not. Sounds like a continuation of the Rovian Republican plan to keep the paper trail as short as possible. Even during the nomination. If this truly is their plan, it is backfiring. When Republicans are this cranky about a Bush nominee, you know that Rove has screwed up. Perhaps he's a bit preoccupied at the moment with his machine falling apart left and right.

Perhaps he's been reading the New York Daily today, and is dismayed by the scoop there indicating his Boss (as in Dubya, as in the President who said he would fire anyone who leaked the CIA info)
knew Rove was the leak all along. Or maybe he's heard a little something about there being a warrant issued for former House Leader Tom Delay's arrest.

My nomination for the headline when Miers loses the nomination (by vote or crook)? Stealth Nominee Bombs.

Until tomorrow,

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Wasn't George HW Bush who used to talk about The Vision Thing? Do any of our leaders actually have The Vision Thing? Let's look and see, shall we boys and girls?

Got that leader in NOLA. Nagan begs his constituents to come home. Tells them to leave for Rita. Begs them to come home. Now tells them to get ready to leave for Wilma. What kind of far-sighted thinking is this? Is the leadership of this town so incredibly myopic that they couldn't foresee the possibility of more hurricanes? Why are we rushing to get people back into this town when hurricane season is still a blowing in the wind (pun intended)?

Clearly, there's a catch 22 in NOLA. They need workers to clean the place up so it's not so stinking putrid awful down there and folks can move back in. But it's so stinking putrid awful down there that only illegal immigrants from south of the border are working--and barely living--there.

Given all that, what's the point in rushing natives back in with hurricane season still on? No vision. No plan.

And, speaking of myopic, did the Rovian Republicans really think no one would notice Harriet Miers' lack of qualifications, both legal and conservative? What does that say about their estimation of the conservative evangelical right, that Rovian Republicans thought they could slip Harriet past everyone? Everyone has a paper trail, boys and girls. Sometimes, it just takes a few weeks to find the questionnaires. Or pull the notes from the Dobson interview out.

Speaking of blind as a bat without a map, did Ms. Miers really think she could get away with saying that no one knows what she'll do about Roe v Wade? Are there more than 1 or 2 politically interested, let alone politically active or employed, people in the United States that haven't expressed an opinion on the subject? Seems highly unlikely that she wouldn't have. And now we have the questionnaire to prove it.

So does this do her nomination good or ill? Maybe bolsters her with the conservatives. But she lied, pretty much. Might help her very damaged conservative street cred. But not much, me thinks. Hell, she can't even keep her own law license current. Who would trust her with our Constitution? Not looking too good, this Bush vision thing right now.

I don't see, using my own xray eyeballs, much chance that Bush will pull Miers' nomination. Husband was saying this evening that perhaps this was all an evil ploy: nominate someone who would not make it, then nominate someone with true conservative cred, on the theory that the progressives would have blown their wad on Miers' and have nothing left to fight with. That gives those Rovian Republicans credit for a great deal of vision.

Wouldn't put it past them. Doubt it, though. It would be a move of weakness, not strength. And Dubya is all about strength. Looking strong, even if he doesn't have a clue about how to truly be a strong person. Moral character. Ethical decisions. Honoring life. Not really a part of The Vision Thing.

What I hope I see is a Bush administration headed toward disaster, with an administration not merely tainted by scandal, but legally painted with it. Let's hope Fitzpatrick really has the dirt in the Plume/Wilson affair, dirt that will not come easily off those Rovian Republicans. Because there's nothing more demoralizing to public welfare than those who pretend to be pristine yet who are dirty to the core. That's something that I don't need xray vision to see. It's as plain as the Pinocchio nose on Scooter's face.

Until tomorrow,

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Fall. God, I love fall. Almost as much as I love summer. And winter. I'm pretty ecumenical when it comes to the seasons, I guess. There's something in each one for me. But autumn is so sweet.

I grew up in a small town in Michigan. Milford was surrounded by apple orchards. Now, most of the orchards are filled with subdivisions. But 30 years ago, it was a mile to the nearest stand selling the fruit of the season. Mostly we ate McIntosh back then. Crisp and a bit tart. Usually, there'd be a road trip to a full-service orchard, with warm donuts and fresh cider.

There was usually a bushel of apples in garage. I ate an amazing number each day, in my memory. Sitting in the cool afternoons, crunching sweetness while reading yet another book. I'm sure I went to school each day. Sure I had other things I was required to do. But what I most remember about fall as a child was eating apples and reading books. No wonder the memories are dear to me. :-)

Some years, now in my dotage, I manage to hit the local farmer's market for my apple stash. I feel environmental sound doing so, supporting local (relatively speaking) farmers. This year, we've had a lot of early morning soccer games. So my supplier has been Whole Foods. And they've had this fantastic pile of Honey Crisp apples for several weeks now. I can't stop eating them. They are the perfect apple. Crisp, so that the bite into the flesh is supported, but not too hard. Juicy. And just sweet. Not too sweet. But not tart, either. My mouth waters just typing about it.

Fall is good for soccer games, too. I hear people complain constantly about their kids' sports schedule. It's a pain, it takes up valuable time, it's boring. I just don't get that at all. Soccer is one game a week. One hour a game. No snoring aloud, as it's fast-paced. Everybody gets to play (AYSO league). Annie's coach is Roby, the same incredibly patient, knowledgeable, funny coach she's had for 4 or 5 years. I get to watch my teenage girl run, feel competent within her body, and chat with other parents while doing so. What's not to like?

OK. Rainy Saturday mornings. But other than that . . . !

I like fall cleanup. Nesting before winter. Cleaning windows. I need my glass clean before the snow falls, so that the red leaves drift by clearly, and the snow glitters in my windows. Also, dirty windows make me feel guilty each and every day. So clean ones make me feel useful and accomplished.

And I still rake my leaves. I did hire a lawn care company last year to do it. Carl had just had his heart attack, and it seemed a burden, somehow, that I couldn't manage. But I enjoy raking. I don't enjoy loud whiny motors on blowers. I don't enjoy breathing in gas fumes while listening to loud motors blowing. And I don't enjoy carrying heavy objects while breathing in gas fumes while listening to loud motors blowing. So I enjoy raking.

Beyond the ubiquitous Thanksgiving gratitude, fall seems a season for my gratitude. I dunno why. I'm thrilled to be cool and dry. Rainy October days are far better than steamy August evenings. It's good sleeping weather. Get to snuggle under the comforter again, thank goodness. All in all, I'm grateful to have leaves to rake, screens to put away, a house to live in, apples to eat.

Thankfully yours,

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Condi cares--and so do we. Don't we?

Condoleezza Rice was over in Pakistan just yesterday, doing what Republicans do best: talking nonsense. "I just want to tell the people of Pakistan, know that our thoughts are with you. That we will be with you not just today but also tomorrow as you try to rebuild," she said. Terribly reassuring, don't you think? Personally, were I a Pakistani with access to news regarding the miserable Katrina rebuilding screw up here, I'd run and hide from Condi and her ilk.

Mayor Nagin has been hitting the shelters, urging New Orleans to come on home. The wages are high (how'd that happen, with the presidential order to lower wages?) , the workers needed, the restaurants are open. Y'all come back now, ya hear? But where do are they supposed to go, Mayor? There's no place to live.

First, FEMA came up with the ridiculously short-sighted and ultimately unworkable $1 billion plan to house evacuees in trailers. Now, they are housing folks in hotels, to the tune of $8.3 million per day. PER DAY. The suggestion that FEMA instead house evacuees in already available empty apartments (said to be 1 million rental units available at half the rate currently being paid) seems to be going nowhere. The short-sighted focus is on meeting an October 15 deadline to move people out of shelter housing, rather than meeting an intelligent long-term goal of housing evacuees in a fiscally responsible manner.

But even if New Orleans could house those who want to come back (and most of the housing available is obvious NOT in NOLA), would you want to live in a place that has no municipal workers? The City of New Orleans has no money. No money, no garbage pick up. Garbage has been sitting out in NOLA for six weeks, ever since Katrina hit.

Apparently, the US Army Corp of Engineers has added garbage collection to its list of chores, and is trying to assist. But the garbage continues to pile up. Why is anyone urging residents to come home and clean up if cleaning up simply means dumping your garbage on the corner to create homes for rats?

Either this is all ass-backwards, or it's circular. Or maybe I'm too tired to understand. But to be able to run a city, you need workers. But you can't have workers if they have no place to live. And, if you have workers--residents--living in a city, you need an infrastructure to support those residents. But if you have no money, you have no infrastructure. If you have no infrastructure, you have no livable place to reside. Then you have no residents. No workers. And no city.

There's got to be a better way to organize the rehabilitation of NOLA. I'm less impressed with how FEMA, the city, and the state are running this than I was with the whole debacle six weeks ago. It all seems less crucial, as lives aren't directly on the line. Now, it's simply the life--or death--of a city that's at stake.

Until tomorrow,

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Can you compare disasters? Should you compare disasters? Well, one (me) has trouble not comparing, given how many natural disasters have been in the news in the past month or two. And comparing the recent earthquake in Asia to Katrina/Rita helps me understand the magnitude of the two events.

While initial reports suggested that we'd lost 10,000 Americans in the muck and floods of Katrina, the losses now are estimated at what, 1000? (Wiki says 1242, whatever that's worth.) The quake confirmed numbers continue to rise. Pakistan alone confirms 23,000 people dead as of today.
23,000. The numbers are unfathomable, though try we will to take them in.

The earthquake reports sound hauntingly familiar: "Most of the city's 600,000 residents have spent three cold nights with no shelter. Hundreds of casualties have been waiting in the open at a sports stadium which is being used to house the homeless and care for survivors. Food supplies have been running short and there are reports of looting in the city. Medecins Sans Frontiers are warning of a potential water-borne disease epidemic."

And the anger. Remember the anger of the evacuees in NOLA and environs? Well, they are also angry in Pakistan. I don't remember hearing of anger before during responses to natural disasters. I'm very curious, in a dispassionate, detached way, about the anger. Here in the US, the source of anger was pretty obvious: the Powers That Be sucked at caring for those that had already suffered great indignities, both physical and emotional.

That appears, at this point, to be the source of anger in Asia, as well. Slowness of response. Is this new? Or are we less tolerant of slow responses? Do the people in various parts of Asia believe that the slowness of response is due to their respective ethnicities or races? I get that impression, from this article. Clearly, I don't know enough about the area yet. BTW, I'm not asking in a pointed way, comparing to Katrina. I'm truly wondering.

Each new event that I truly immerse myself in, I am disappointed at how little I know of the world. Why is Kashmir cut in two pieces, one side governed by Pakistan, the other by India? I will find out.

The earthquake has affected an area 186 miles in radius. Katrina damaged an area measuring 90,000 square miles. Clearly, Katrina has affected more land. Is that more homes? It must be. It's not more people, though. Muzaffarabad, Kashmir is a more densely populated city than NOLA. The earthquake has killed 23,000 of its citizens, so far, compared to about 1000 in New Orleans. We were gripped by the potential lives lost in America. Yet the devastation to property has, coldly put, a more lasting effect. Doesn't it?

Too, with Katrina, the press coverage has been overwhelmingly focused on NOLA. Yet there has been devastation in an area 90,000 square miles. Way bigger than NOLA. The updates we receive now still haven't told me much about Biloxi, for example. Sitting in the 3rd poorest state in the nation. How do poor people recover from having their homes leveled? In East Biloxi, 70%+ homes were destroyed.

Coverage focuses on Muzaffarabad, largest city affected by the quake. But there are compelling BBC stories about smaller towns, too. Towns flattened, just as surely as Biloxi was, by different natural forces.

The earthquake appears to have killed far more children, in the first accounting, than Katrina. Apparently children were all in schools during the earthquake. Many of them were crushed in their school buildings. "The one thing that strikes you immediately - 80% of this village has been destroyed - is that there are no children. We've just been talking to some of the locals here and they've said most of them have died; they died in schools, and again, the bodies remain there."

Now I must go to bed to dream of children under school tin roofs. You can compare hells. But the comparison doesn't lessen or negate the pain and suffering involved in each. They are just different hells.

Until tomorrow,

Monday, October 10, 2005

Let sleeping babies lie . . .

The American Academy of Pediatrics released recommendations today designed to reduced baby deaths from SIDS. While they acknowledge that babies are safest and happiest when sleeping close to mom, they believe that babies are also safest when sucking on a pacifier and sleeping in a separate bed. "We think if more mothers stopped . . . taking their babies to bed with them and used pacifiers, we'd be doing a heck of a lot to get at this problem," said John Kattwinkel of the panel making this recommendation.

OK. Here's my bias up front and personal. I believe babies sleep best snuggled right up next to mom. That's where my babies slept. Kept them right near their food source (gotta love those breasts--milk warmed up to the proper temperature with no concerns about microwave burns). Kept them from working themselves into a frenzy before I could get to them. Kept them close enough so that I didn't have to get up in a fit of new mommy paranoia and check to see if they were breathing. And gave both of us more sleep and less wandering around the house at night.

There is plenty of research on this topic. Funny how much of it is supported by the crib industry. Also, much of it isn't terribly conclusive, as it doesn't seem to differentiate between babies who died to due drunk or stoned adults sleeping on them or stupid parents who share an unsafe bed with their baby and babies who sleep with thoughtful, sober parents. In a study that does differentiate, sharing a bed with your baby does not increase the likelihood of SIDS.

Most of the world's mothers have for most of time past slept with their babies. Why would this practice suddenly become incredibly dangerous? For heaven's sake. Use common sense, people. If you have a head board with slats spaced about the size of a baby's head, um, maybe your baby shouldn't sleep with you--or you need a new head board. If your husband--or you--sleep the sleep of the dead, perhaps you are not a good choice for sharing a bed with a 7lb baby. If you like a joint or a few glasses of wine before bed, probably sleeping with your baby isn't such a great idea. And if your baby can't even hold up her head yet, putting her to sleep on a big fluffy pillow? Not such a smart idea, eh?

And what's this about putting them to bed with a pacifier? Is this recommendation financed by the Pacifier Coalition or something? Let's see. Babies sleep best sucking on something. Hmm. What are they supposed to be sucking on? Hmmm. How about a thumb? Or Mom? And how can the AAP push breastfeeding so hard, even taking the position of breast is best for a year or more, yet recommend pacifiers, a known nipple confuser for babies?

We want to put so many things between us and our babies. Material goods that somehow add to our status or something, making us better parents because we can provide them for our little munchkins. Babies don't need to be carried everywhere in car seats. They need to be carried in your arms. Babies don't need special swings. They need to be rocked in your lap. Babies don't need bottles. They need your breasts. (Well, not yours, Fred.)

And babies don't need fancy cribs painted with intellect-building black and white designs that cost an arm and a leg. They need you.

Until tomorrow,

Saturday, October 08, 2005


I've been following this disturbing case for 24 hours now. Kept researching because I was sure there must be something I was missing, so that when I put my thoughts to paper (electronic screen via keyboard, to be more precise) it would actually make sense. But it doesn't make sense. Unless you value control over free speech.

Here are the basics. The Patriot Act allows the FBI to demand library records of anyone subject to an FBI terrorism investigation. To do so, the FBI issues a letter called a "National Security Letter" (NSL). The ability of the FBI to do so, without receiving further permission from any court of law, is being contested in a separate court case.

A little known add-on regarding the NSL is a gag order placed on recipient of that letter. That's right. If the FBI issues one of these NSLs demanding the library records of someone, the library is not allowed to tell anyone. Can't even say that the library has received such a letter, or what it's about. Shhhh.

The gag provision means that those who have received a NSL cannot participate in the ongoing discussion about renewing the Patriot Act and this provision, in particular. They cannot contribute their experiences as to the chilling effect this has on library patrons. They cannot join in on this debate that so directly affects them. Shhhh.

The ACLU is challenging this little add-on for "John Doe", based on 1st Amendment free speech restraint. District Court Judge Janet Hall agreed with the ACLU, and barred enforcement of the gag. On appeal, the Second Circuit blocked this, to have time to review the constitutional issues involved. The ACLU appealed to SCOTUS. The ACLU doesn't appear to respect Shhhhs.

Justice Ginsberg declined to change the block (lift the stay, loosen the corset). She said that the case was on a expedited schedule, there were Constitutional issues involved (thank goodness Harriet Miers won't be addressing them--couldn't be expedited then, now could it). She also said that, since "John Doe" has been identified in the press already, the American Library Association could speak for him/it, lessening the gag effect.

According to the NYTimes (nonSelect pricey article, thank goodness), "John Doe" is The Library Connection, located in Windsor, Connecticut. The Library Connection website says that it "is a non-profit cooperative of 26 public and Library Connection academic libraries which share an automated library system and . . . other technological innovations."

Court papers give quotes which confirm the toll such a gag order can take on the individuals involved in merely the receipt of an NSL or being placed under a gag order. Listen to an executive of the Library Connection:

"Because of the gag, I have had to make excuses to my family and friends when I speak with my lawyers in connection with this case. My son knows that something is going on that involves his father and law enforcement (and) he is afraid that I may be arrested."

So, why the gag provision? To keep things secret, of course. But what is the point of enforcing or staying the gag provision when the cat's already out of the bag? The harm caused by the gag is to those who are stuck observing the provision, the very entities and people who most need to speak out. Doesn't Congress need to hear from those who have been harmed by provisions that have been called harmless?

Ashcroft called the notion that these provisions would be used against libraries "baseless hysteria". And, during a discussion of removing the sunset on some of these provisions (phase out after certain periods of time), Representative Sensenbrenner (R-WI) stated that sunset provisions were no longer necessary because there was "no actual record of abuse and vigorous oversight."

Hard to create a record of abuse if those abused or vigorously, um, oversought cannot attest to it without being arrested, now isnt it?

Until tomorrow,

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The World is Going to Hell in a Handbasket: This Week's Edition

So. We've got this possible avian flu PANDEMIC problem. Not that I'm panicking, personally. I'm not the anxious, panicky type. I'm more the wildly terrified soul, myself. I repeat: PANDEMIC. And who's in charge of our national response to it? Why, cronies and idiots, of course?

Idiots. Perhaps that's a bit strong. How about ignorant fellows? The Health and Human Services Secretary, Michael Leavitt, said "The probability that we'll have a pandemic flu is unknown," Leavitt said at a Washington health technology conference. "I will tell you from all I hear from scientists and physicians it is relatively low, but it is not zero."

He must be talking to different scientists than the ones who are strongly concerned about the distinct possibility of a
PANDEMIC. The CDC, for instance, seems quite concerned about the possibility of a PANDEMIC. And Bush himself is urging drug manufacturers to make massive quantities of the vaccine.

OK. I know the bolding and capping of
PANDEMIC is probably becoming a bit annoying. But we're talking about a pandemic, for crying out loud. A pandemic that most of the scientific world seems to think is a probability rather than a possibility, yet our HHS Secretary says it's barely a possibility.

So I was concerned already about the HHS. Then I read this. Now I have the scary discomfort of knowing that not only is there an ignorant person running the HHS, but his undersecretary, who would be in charge of any national response to a pandemic, was a crony appointment whose major qualification was being an Amtrak lawyer. Well, his disaster work
there will certainly come in handy should Americans start dying in droves.

I supposed I should feel comforted by the work that's been done to revive the Spanish Flu virus

Probably not quite the checklist of which the scientists speak . . . .

And I jest about coughing up blood, but it's no joke. The 1918 Spanish flu apparently killed people by attacking the lungs deeply, essentially causing death by drowning after a remarkably short period of illness--less than 48 hours. Given that this 1918 virus is so similar to the current avian flu, I'd really like the Department of Health and Human Services to take it a bit more seriously.

And doesn't it make you nervous, knowing that this incredibly lethal 1918 virus has been recreated, albeit in Very Secure Laboratories? The US papers totally downplayed the security notion. But the English paper Guardian Unlimited headlined it. "Security fears as flu virus that killed 50 million is recreated" They quoted a US researcher as saying, "
in order to study it more closely to understand the avian flu. Apparently, being able to do so will give scientists some kind of checklist for the avian flu." Let's see. Makes people cough up blood? Check. Kills within 48 hours? Check." This will raise clear questions among some as to whether they have really created a biological weapon."

But perhaps this doesn't make you nervous. Perhaps what panics you is Karl Rove not being indicted after his testimony tomorrow. Or the oddly coincidental timing of Rove's testimony, the announcement of an NY subway threat, and Bush's terror speech. Or James Dobson claiming to have inside information that will probably elude the knowledge of the rest of the country on Harriet Miers. Or, last but not least, George Bush hearing the voice of God.

Calgon, take me away.

Until tomorrow,

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Paranoid or knowledgeable?

I'm feeling a bit like my son today. He's 17, and he tends to be a bit, um, catastrophically paranoid. He believes that the Republicans want to take over the world. Usually, I try to calm him, remind him that Democrats were in power just a few short years ago and, voters willing, will be again.

But I start to get a bit paranoid myself these days, with all the talk of our need to be rescued by the military. First, Bush floated an idea last week that the military should take a lead role in responding and managing natural disasters. It didn't get a whole lot of attention, though several Governors responded negatively to it. Senator Mary Landrieu suggested that "we do have a democracy and a citizenship that has elected mayors, county commissioners and governors particularly. I'm not sure the governors association or all the mayors in America would be willing to step aside."

Uh huh. Josh Marshall nailed the problems with this approach:

"You don't repair disorganized or incompetent government by granting it more power. You fix it by making it more organized and more competent. . . . The Army clearly has an important role to play in major domestic disasters. And they've been playing it in this case. But what broader role was required exactly? . . . The direction the president wants to go in is one in which, in emergencies, the federal government will have trouble moving water into or enabling transportation out of the disaster zone but will be well-equipped to declare martial law on a moment's notice."

So this week, Bush pushes the plan again. This time, he frames it around responding to a possible pandemic from the avian flu. Apparently, the federal government is about to announce a plan for dealing with a possible pandemic flu. Bush said he'd consider using the military to quarantine people if such an event occurred. He also put on the table the notion that National Guard troops should be under federal, not state, control in such situations. And he suggested that the president
be vested with the power to take such control.

Frightening. Please tell me that someone else finds this frightening, besides those of us out here in the liberal blogosphere. First the Patriot Act. Now this? A proposed solution that makes no sense, will not solve any problem other than the lack of power Dubya would like to hold but doesn't?

If you've read much about the avian flu, you know quarantine isn't an effective way to stop outbreaks. Great piece here with good ideas that don't involve the military for dealing with an outbreak. All quarantine would be good for is controlling the population. And surely that's not what Bush has in mind? Is it?

For more good information on the current avian flu (H5N1 virus), check my blog entry on the topic. If you do a search on the BBC news site, you'll come up with lots of relevant, Bush-free information on the topic, as well.

For information on Bush plans to take over the world, just keep reading and listening to the news with a discerning mind.

Until tomorrow,

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Press Conference

I was roller skiing while listening to Bush's press conference today. As a rule, I wouldn't recommend this practice, as I spent way too much time listening and pondering and not enough time looking out for sticks and stones. Fortunately, my hide is intact.

Not sure we can say the same for Bush. The press was certainly nicer to him than they've been to his spokesperson, Scott McClellan, of late. But at least they didn't only throw him puffball questions. There was some pressing going on. Some difficult questions asked. Of course, those questions weren't actually answered. For someone with the rep of not being terribly bright, Bush is intelligent enough to be an artful dodger of questions to which he does not want to give answers.

The most interesting question that he did answer, though, was: is Harriet Miers the most qualified person he could find for this position? Amazingly enough, he answered, "Yes, otherwise I would not have (named her)". Later, he said "I picked the best person I could find."

Wow, wow, wow. How could he give that answer with a straight face? Miers may well be a fine and impressive legal mind. Don't have evidence to demonstrate that yet, but for the purposes of this discussion, let's even assume it. But there is no evidence presented that even vaguely suggests she is the most qualified candidate of all those names bandied about.

Of course, maybe I'm missing the boat, here. The key word is qualified. What does Bush mean when he uses that word? When I hear that word used in discussions of a Supreme Court nomination, I think of qualities that would make a fine judge: keen intellect, creative thinker, collegial actions, and vast legal and Constitutional knowledge.

But George Bush apparently has a different viewpoint of qualified means in this setting. And he gave us ample examples of why he thinks Miers is the most qualified. The qualities he emphasizes and seeks in a judge or Justice are loyalty to himself (which he disguises as "character") and intellectual rigidity.

What do I mean by intellectual rigidity? At the press conference, Bush said "I know her well enough to be able to say she's not going to change. . . . Twenty years from now. . . . her philosophy won't change." If I were President, I would run from a candidate that I felt was incapable of such change. Philosophical change is evidence of growth. It's evidence of thoughtful consideration of the multifaceted truths in the game of life.

Is Miers' truly intellectually rigid? There's probably no way to know. But, lack of paper trail or no, we will find out something about her intellectual capacity come hearing time. And I think that's what the success or failure of her nomination hinges on: her performance at those hearings.

David Garrow contends that, while many Justices before Miers have had similarly sparse records, Miers will conceivable suffer most from the inevitable comparisons between her upcoming performance and Chief Justice John Roberts' hearing performances. Like him or not, embrace his judicial philosophy or not, his knowledge was vast, his intellect facile. Miers has some big footsteps to follow in if she wishes to prove she's up to the challenge of SCOTUS.

Until tomorrow,

Monday, October 03, 2005


Interesting nomination by Bush. He does love to throw curve balls when strikes are expected, doesn't he? Harriet Miers is not, on the surface, an obvious nomination. Hasn't publicly waved the conservative flag. Isn't a judge. On second look, she is an obvious Bush nomination, based on what we know Bush values. But let's look at what everyone else values, first.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has said it's great that she's a real lawyer with "practical experience" not some Constitution wonk. Isn't that the same argument used every time by conservatives want to avoid having the country run by people who are intelligent? Real life legal experience could certainly be important and germane to the work of SCOTUS. Yet I want someone ruling on Constitutional issues who actually has worked with the Constitution, someone who has, at the very least, argued before SCOTUS. I'm not initially enthused about some SMU yahoo who has excelled only at grabbing more money for corporations and covering Dubya's butt.

Besides, what exactly is Reid's game here? I supported her, I didn't support her. Huh? Was this just a fun flip flop for him? Hope so. How can any self-respecting Democrat (person?) with a brain support someone who said "the president was the most brilliant man (she) had ever met"?

So far, Bush's most important constituency, the far Right, are most unhappy with the nomination. Not conservative enough. Could actually be for gay rights regarding adoption . She just doesn't have good right karma. The call is, well, we've got to trust Bush, as he's never steered us wrong before. But I'm sure that's not exactly a comfortable place for them.

The Left is disgusted by the continued cronyism. Amazing, given Katrina that Bush sticks to what he knows and chooses based on who he knows. But it's worked for him for a term and a third now, so why should he change? SCOTUSblog points out that the US have been victim of the some of the least impressive Justices over the years through cronyism.

Several left bloggers say this nomination shows Bush's "weakness". He knows he can't manage a messy fight right now, given his lack of political capital post Katrina. But both the left and the right are missing the boat. Bush & Co have taken the temperature of the nation and proceeded accordingly. Yes, avoid a messy fight--don't nominate anyone who reeks of ultraconservatism. But more important, follow up the successful Roberts' nomination by a similar choice: someone with no paper trail that Bush knows very, very well. And make it a woman so he's got a ready defense for anyone who jumps on the crony bandwagon (you must be a misogynist to attack a woman, a pioneer in the legal community).

Senator Patrick Leahy made an extremely important point that the Salon War Room picked up. He said, "What I do know is that she has a reputation for being loyal to this president, whom she has a long history of serving as a close advisor and in working to advance his objectives. In an administration intent on accumulating executive power, Ms. Miers' views on and role in these issues will be important for the Senate to examine." Too bad he didn't spend enough time worrying about this issue with Chief Justice Roberts. Might have changed that yes vote to a no.

And may I just that, on an entirely superficial level, someone needs to give this woman a makeover. She's got enough eyeliner on to outfit an entire middle school. We're way past Southern belle and into mini-Goth mode.

Until tomorrow,

Saturday, October 01, 2005

What is wrong with Bill Bennett?

Bill Bennett, that bastion of morals and values. Surely he would not violate any of those values that he holds so dear. Is there truly anything wrong with what he said this week? What he said was

"But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky."

Of course liberal blogs are agog with outrage over this statement. And outraged over those that are not outraged. Should we be outraged? There's nothing wrong with Bennett's statement if you examine it based on the fact he sites. He is correct. At this point in our history, with our history of black slavery, white racism, and the excruciatingly slow exodus of African-Americans upward through the economic ladder, black abortion could well lead to a lower crime rate, as there is a higher rate of crime commission among blacks than white.

Outrage seems appropriate to me. Because what he said is wrong. It is morally wrong to equate the color of a person's skin with criminal intent, however hypothetical. It is wrong to suggest, even rhetorically, that killing off black babies will make the US better. It is wrong to use the African American race as an example in this way. It is misleading. It is mean.

Would it be more tolerable to use the words "white baby born in poverty" in place of "black baby"? I don't think so, though some have suggested that the real issue is being born in poverty and so this substitution would be ok. It still misses the point. Are poor people more likely to commit a crime? Empirically, yes. Does that empirical data indicate then that poor people are innately more inclined to crime?

Are they criminals because poor people are morally bankrupt? Or are they more likely to be criminals than the white middle class housewife writing this blog because poor people have lost hope and faith with the rest of the human race, don't see the world ever working in their favor, and just plain don't believe the system will ever work for them so why would they bother respecting it?

Statements like Bennett made are reprehensible because they equate people of color with crime, people of color with immorality. Even with all the backpedaling in his next sentences. And that statement violates my values, even if it doesn't violate Republican Bill's values. Values like fairness and honesty. Weren't those values that Bill Bennett espoused? Is it fair or honest to make an entirely misleading hypothetical?

Or how about kindness? Is it a kindness to African-Americans to use their color in a hypothetical that encourages erroneous judgments about race and morality? Seems unlikely. Seems like Bill forgot some of the values he wants all of us to learn. Maybe there's one more he needs to learn: atonement.

Until tomorrow,