The Watering Hole, Thursday, March 15th, 2012: Who Said What?

You never know what you’re going to find at Foreign Policy magazine online. Recent issues contained two items which I decided to use for today’s offering: one somewhat humorous, one not so much.

The ‘somewhat humorous’ one is a fairly new feature at FP, entitled “Who Said It?” This particular version is “Grand Ayatollah or Grand Old Party?”, by Reza Aslan, who opens the article with:

“One is a religious fanatic railing against secularism, the role of women in the workplace, and the evils of higher education, as he seeks to impose his draconian moral values upon the state. The other is the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Rick Santorum

Grand Ayatollah Khamenei of Iran

Aslan’s quiz lists nine quotes, asking “Who Said It?”, Santorum or Khamenei. The answer is given on the next page within the article, where the subsequent quote is then listed. See how you do in this quiz!

The second article, the ‘not so humorous’ one, is by Stephen M. Walt, and lists the “Top Ten Media Failures in the Iran War Debate.” A few key observations by Mr. Walt, although by no means the most important or insightful ones in his article, include:

“…when prominent media organizations keep publishing alarmist pieces about how war is imminent, likely, inevitable, etc., this may convince the public that it is going to happen sooner or later and it discourages people from looking for better alternatives.”

and

“A recurring feature of Iran war coverage has been tendency to refer to Iran’s “nuclear weapons program” as if its existence were an established fact. U.S. intelligence services still believe that Iran does not have an active program, and the IAEA has also declined to render that judgment either.”

Mr. Walt’s article is yet another illustration of the deficiencies of today’s ‘mainstream media’, which has, for quite some time, deplorably failed to serve or inform the public. :(

This is our daily open thread — so, what’s on your mind?

The Watering Hole, Thursday, March 8th, 2012: Angry or Mellow?

Mellow Sunlight--photo by Jane E. Schneider Mellow Sunlight – Photo by Jane E. Schneider

I had a choice between writing an angry post about Rand Paul’s “Personhood” petition (which was sent out by Newsmax.com–BTW, I love the tease for one of their stories, “Gillespie to Newsmax: Conservatives Eventually Will Embrace Romney”), or putting up a nice, mellow, golden-sunlit photo. I’m too tired to write an angry post, so here’s my more mellow offering for today.

This is our daily open thread — so, what’s on your mind?

The Watering Hole, Thursday, March 1st, 2012: And Your Advice is Worth???

I like to check out Foreign Policy Magazine online now and again for different stories and viewpoints. You can imagine my surprise today when I saw an article titled “How to Beat Obama”, written by…wait for it…Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie. Yes, Karl Rove, despite being wrong nearly as often as William Kristol, still thinks that his advice would be helpful to the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee. Check out some of the pearls of wisdom Karl and Ed are offering:

“In an American election focused on a lousy economy and high unemployment, conventional wisdom holds that foreign policy is one of Barack Obama’s few strong suits. But the president is strikingly vulnerable in this area. The Republican who leads the GOP ticket can attack him on what Obama mistakenly thinks is his major strength by translating the center-right critique of his foreign policy into campaign themes and action. Here’s how to beat him.

First, the Republican nominee should adopt a confident, nationalist tone emphasizing American exceptionalism, expressing pride in the United States as a force for good in the world, and advocating for an America that is once again respected (and, in some quarters, feared) as the preeminent global power. Obama acts as if he sees the United States as a flawed giant, a mistake that voters already perceive. After all, this is the president who said, “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Voters also sense he is content to manage America’s decline to a status where the United States is just one country among many.”

Ah, yes, the “American Exceptionalism” cliche – Americans are somehow inherently better than the rest of the world, and we damn well don’t need to pay attention to any of those lesser people in all of those other crappy countries. America is a flawless giant, dammit, and just look at how perceptive American voters are, too!

“The Republican nominee should use the president’s own words and actions to portray him as naive and weak on foreign affairs. Obama’s failed promises, missed opportunities, and erratic shifts suggest he is out of touch and in over his head.”

Karl, do you remember anything of the presidency of George W. Bush, or have you simply blocked it all out?

“The Republican candidate must address at least four vital areas. The most important is the struggle that will define this century’s arc: radical Islamic terrorism. He should make the case that victory must be America’s national goal, not merely seeking to “delegitimize the use of terrorism and to isolate those who carry it out,” as Obama’s May 2010 National Security Strategy put it. As in the Cold War, victory will require sustained U.S. involvement and a willingness to deploy all tools of influence — from diplomacy to economic ties, from intelligence efforts to military action.”

I thought that this 2012 election was all about JOBS, JOBS, JOBS – oh, wait, that was the 2010 mid-terms, or…well some election was/is supposed to be about JOBS…I think.

“Second, the Republican candidate must condemn the president’s precipitous drawdown in Afghanistan and his deep, dangerous defense-budget cuts. Both are viewed skeptically by the military: The former emboldens America’s adversaries and discourages its allies; the latter is of deep concern to veterans and other Americans who doubt Obama’s commitment to the military.”

Jeebus knows that we don’t want to “precipitously” leave Afghanistan after, what, only eleven years or so? And didn’t I hear that President Obama has actually increased the defense budget?

“During the 2008 campaign, he also argued that Iran was a “tiny” country that didn’t “pose a serious threat.” How foolish that now seems.”

“In part because of how he has mishandled the Iranian threat, Obama has lost much political and financial support in the American Jewish community. His approach to Israel must be presented as similarly weak and untrustworthy. The Republican candidate must make clear the existential threat to Israel from a nuclear-armed Iran…”

We certainly wouldn’t want Israel to defend itself all alone, with only a few hundred nuclear weapons, against a possible/future/maybe-nuclear-armed Iran, now would we?

Obama recognizes that he’s seen as “cold and aloof,” and the Republican nominee should hammer this point home. The president has few real friends abroad (excepting, of course, Islamist Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as he told Time magazine’s Fareed Zakaria). The Republican nominee should criticize Obama for not understanding that the U.S. president’s personal engagement is essential for effective global leadership. Obama’s lack of regular close contact with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, which has destroyed relationships with America’s erstwhile allies, is simply the most jarring, inexplicable example of this president’s hands-off approach.

If the Republican candidate turns out to be Mitt Romney, our allies (and enemies, too!) will be SO overwhelmed by the “warm and fuzzies.” So, President Obama hasn’t been calling al-Maliki and Karzai as much as Rove and Gillespie think he should? What are they, Obama’s mother?

“Because the fall campaign must be devoted to promoting the Republican message on jobs and the economy, the GOP nominee must share his big foreign-policy vision no later than early summer.”

“The fourth line of attack must be about America’s fragile economy and how to restore it. Many voters think Obama’s stewardship of the economy has been inconsistent and even counterproductive.”

Of course, talking about jobs and the economy can wait until the fall – it gives the Republican nominee that much more time to think of something other than “cut taxes and regulations for corporations” and “make the Bush tax cuts permanent.”

“Undoubtedly, Obama will attempt to preempt criticism of his foreign policy by repeating endlessly that Osama bin Laden was killed on his watch. By campaign’s end, some voters will wonder whether the president personally delivered the kill shot.”

Yes, undoubtedly, ’cause that’s what Rove and Gillespie would do – it would definitely convince “some voters”, i.e., FuxNews-watchers.

“Absent a major international crisis, this election will be largely about jobs, spending, health care, and energy. Voters do, however, want a president who leads on the world stage and a commander in chief who projects strength, not weakness.”

What the…”absent a major international crisis”? Such as, Karl?

“A November 2011 survey conducted by Resurgent Republic showed that 50 percent of voters (as well as 54 percent of self-identified independents) think America’s standing in the world is worse under Obama, while only 21 percent believe it is better. This represents a sharp drop from April 2010, when 50 percent of voters (and 49 percent of independents) believed Obama had improved America’s standing.

That’s because Obama has failed to become a strong international leader, and the Republican nominee must reinforce this message — one most Americans already believe. Foreign policy is a weakness for this president, not a strength.”

Hey, guess who’s a Board Member at Resurgent Republic? Why, good old Ed Gillespie!

Hmmm, I don’t think that your advice is so hot, Karl (and Ed.) Maybe they should read another article at Foreign Policy magazine that refutes their arguments.

Regardless of whether or not Rove and Gillespie’s advice is useful, I don’t think that either of the current ‘leaders’ for the Republican nomination would be capable of following it.

This is our daily open thread – feel free to opine on this or any other topic.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, February 23rd, 2012: I Have a Thesis. And It’s Mine.

Governor Bob McDonnell (R-Virginia) is currently in the process of reviewing the Commonwealth’s restrictive new “personhood” law prior to potentially signing it into law. This is the bill (SB484) that contains the “informed consent” language, which (translated from the legalese) “[R]equires that, as a component of informed consent to an abortion, to determine gestation age, every pregnant female shall undergo ultrasound imaging and be given an opportunity to view the ultrasound image of her fetus prior to the abortion.” I’m sure that pregnant women of Virginia will be ever-so-thankful if Bob grants them a free poke-and-a-prod prior to having an abortion. (Yes, that was snark.)

You may remember Bob McDonnell as the newly-minted and previously unknown Governor who provided the Republican rebuttal to President Obama’s first State of the Union speech. (Or you may not – he was not impressive.)

Well before Bob McDonnell acquired the power to possibly make a lot of women more unhappy than they already are, he had ditched his job and decided to attend Regents University. His recently resurrected 1989 thesis, titled “The Republican Party’s Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issue of the Decade”, is a frightening vision indeed. I’ll just give you the introductory “Abstract”, and let you read the entire work for yourselves:

“The traditional family is the cornerstone upon which Western civilization has been built, but changes in demographics, ideology, and political philosophy during this century have resulted in the decline in the strength of the family institution. The model relationship among church, state, and family, based on history, law, and scripture, is presented as a framework in which legitimate public policy decisions must be made to facilitate family restoration.

“Fundamental Republican Party principles concerning the family and the role of government are articulated, and recent federal legislative initiatives are analyzed for consistency. Political factors affecting family policy development are examined to determine why Republicans are not more successful. The paper concludes that Republicans must stay consistently committed to their principles, communicate more effectively with the American public, and take bold action to restore the family to a position of strength in modern society.”

Between the Abstract and the Introduction, McDonnell includes a quote from, inevitably, Saint Ronnie Reagan.

(Sigh) I’ll leave you to it, then.

This is our Open Thread: have at it, folks.

Oh, and my apologies to John Cleese’s character Ann Elk and her theory.

Sunday Roast, February 19th, 2012: I Couldn’t Have Ranted Better Myself

Our old friend Jurassic Pork posted a fantastic rant at his blog, as a response to the following GOProud tweet:

JP’s post, if it were a TV show, would be rated “TV-M: L/S” – “contains adult language and sexual situations” – but here’s a bit of his lead-in to probably the single most comprehensive commentary EVER concerning gay Republicans:

“GOProud, the conservative gay rights organization…decided at their soiree today in between privately making fun of the busboy uniforms and hotel decor, that we and not the right they try to represent are the enemy, the “we” being “teh Left.”

Read the rest here – this one is a keeper.

GOProud's Headquarters ("Not meant to be a factual Statement")

This is our Open Thread: feel free to discuss this issue, or whatever else is on your mind.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, February 16th, 2012: PARAPROSDOKIANS

While there are many websites with various illustrations of “paraprosdokians” (from two Greek words translated as “against expectation”), most of these are from an email that a colleague forwarded. I added a few extras from some of the sites that I visited. Enjoy!

PARAPROSDOKIANS: (Winston Churchill loved them.)

Here is the definition [although, when googling this, one site said that the word is not in the Oxford English Dictionary]:
Figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected; frequently used in a humorous situation.” “Where there’s a will, I want to be in it,” is a type of paraprosdokian. [Sounds like the basis of most stand-up routines by comedians, doesn't it?]

1. Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on my list.

3. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

4. If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.

5. We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

6. War does not determine who is right – only who is left.

7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

8. Evening news is where they begin with ‘Good Evening,’ and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.

9. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

10. A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.

11. I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just wanted paychecks.

12. Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says, ‘In case of emergency, notify:’ I put ‘DOCTOR.’

13. I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

14. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.

15. Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.

16. A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.

17. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

18. Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.

19. There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away.

20. I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not so sure.

21. You’re never too old to learn something stupid.

22. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

23. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

24. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

25. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

26. Where there’s a will, there are relatives.

27. The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

28. A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it.

29. I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.

30. Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others — whenever they go.

31. Some people are like Slinkies … not really good for anything, but you can’t help smiling when you see one tumble down the stairs.

32. Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.

33. Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.

34. A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.

35. Hospitality: making your guests feel like they’re at home, even if you wish they were.

And, of course, one of Wayne’s favorite jokes:

“I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.”

For more great one-liners, along with attributions for some of the above, check the following websites: “My Literary Quest”; Bestuff; and Wikipedia.

This is our Open Thread: have fun with it, or discuss whatever’s on your mind.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, February 9th: Holy Wholly Crap

I used to be a Roman Catholic, so I know the rules. One of those rules, aka the Ten Commandments, is “Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor” – in other words, don’t lie about someone. My parents and my Catholic school teachers taught me that lying about anything was wrong. Apparently Rick Santorum’s parents and teachers didn’t teach him that particular lesson.

Jane as a Catholic schoolgirl--the blonde with the gloves, middle row, left

After surprisingly winning the non-binding caucuses in Missouri, Colorado and Minnesota on Tuesday night, Rick Santorum gave a victory speech in which he broke that rule so often, it’s a wonder that his Old-Testament god did not strike him down where he stood, or at least turn him into a pillar of salt. Here’s the transcript of his speech (thanks to The Washington Post.) I removed the beginning where he thanked god, his wife, etc., etc. – no need to make everyone suffer through that, the rest of it is sickening enough:

Your votes today were not just heard loud and wide across the states of Missouri and Minnesota, but they were heard loud and louder all across this country, and particularly in a place that I suspect may be in Massachusetts. They were heard particularly loud tonight. Tonight was not just a victory for us, but tonight was a victory for the voices of our party, conservatives and Tea Party people, who are out there every single day in the vineyards building the conservative movement in this country, building the base of the Republican Party, and building a voice for freedom in this land. Thank you.

Okay, snide little poke at Romney, not too nasty yet. I don’t know what the “vineyards” reference is – are there vineyards in those three states? (shrug) We’ll move along…

There’s probably another person who maybe — maybe is listening to your cheers here tonight, also, and that might be at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. You better start listening to the voice of the people.

You mean the voice of the people who elected Barack Obama to the Presidency?

But then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t listening. Why would you think he would be listening now? Has he ever listened to the voice of America before?

Yes, Rick, President Obama HAS listened to the “voice of America before” – not always, but quite a bit. Maybe you’re thinking of Speaker Boehner, Rick, and the rest of the Republicans (particularly in the House)?

He’s someone who — well, let’s just go look at the record. If you look at when it came to the — the Wall Street bailouts, did the president of the United States listen to you when it came to bailing out the big banks?

I don’t know what “record” Rick’s looking at, because the historical record says that former President George W. Bush bailed out the big banks. So, that’s a lie, which makes the credibility of your premise quite suspect already.

Why? Because he thought he just knew better. He and his friends on Wall Street knew better than what was — what was good for this country. When it came to the problems that were being confronted on Obamacare, when the health care system in this country, did President Obama, when he was pushing forward his radical health care ideas, listen to the American people?

Well, Bush probably never “thought he just knew better”, but he did what his handlers told him to do. Playing along with Santorum’s mistaken premise that the bailouts were Obama’s doing, does he really believe that he knows what’s in Obama’s mind? Regarding the “Obamacare” line, I have to admit that President Obama didn’t listen to his base (or his past self) regarding universal, single-payer, government-run healthcare, but Obama certainly listened to what the Republicans insisted upon in his Affordable Care Act. Aren’t the Republicans the people whom you believe Obama should be listening to, Rick?

Why? Because he thinks he knows better how to run your lives and manage your health care.

As opposed to the Republicans thinking they know better how to run women’s lives and manage women’s health care? As opposed to YOU, Rick, thinking that you know better how to run homosexual citizens’ lives? And again, Rick, do you presume to know what President Obama is thinking?

When it comes to the environment, did the president of the United States listen to the American people, or did he push a radical cap- and-trade agenda that would crush the energy and manufacturing sector of the economy? Did he listen to you? No, because he thinks he knows better.

I guess that Rick is ignorant of the fact that many states, right here in the U.S. of A., already have had a cap-and-trade system in place for several years, starting before Obama became President.

Ladies and gentlemen, we need a president who listens to the American people. When the majority of Americans oppose these radical ideas and they speak loudly against them, we need a president who listens to them.

When a Republican President is in the White House, does he ever listen to “the majority of Americans” when they oppose ANY radical ideas and speak loudly against them? I keep thinking of how, when a Republican is elected to the Presidency, they always say that they have a “mandate from the people” to do whatever that particular administration proposes. I can’t remember ANY Democratic President who ever mentioned that phrase.

“Here’s the problem. The problem is, in this Republican field, you have been listening. Tonight, the voters of America, the voters here in Missouri, the voters in Minnesota — and I’m hopeful the voters in Colorado, right? I hope you have been listening to our message, because if you’ve — you listen to our message, and you found out that on those issues — health care, the environment, cap-and-trade, and on the Wall Street bailouts, Mitt Romney has the same positions as Barack Obama and, in fact, would not be the best person to get up and fight for your voices for freedom in America.”

Okay, this is just babbling.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t stand here to claim to be the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. I stand here to be the conservative alternative to Barack Obama. Tonight — tonight, we had — tonight, we had an opportunity to see what a campaign looks like when one candidate isn’t outspent 5 or 10 to 1 by negative ads impugning their integrity and distorting their record. This is a more accurate representation, frankly, of what the fall race will look like. Governor Romney’s greatest attribute is, well, I’ve got the most money and the best organization. Well, he’s not going to have the most money and the best organization in the fall, is he?”

We DID have the opportunity to see YOU, Rick impugning President Obama’s integrity and distorting his record. And the answer to your last question is, most likely, YES, Romney will still have the most money and the best organization in the fall. There’s a lot more states still to go, Rick, and winning Iowa by a nose, plus Tuesday’s three non-binding state caucuses, ain’t gonna make you the Republican nominee.

“No, we’re going to have to have someone who has other attributes to commend himself to the people of America, someone — someone who can get up and make sharp contrasts with President Obama, someone who can point to the failed record of this administration and say that Barack Obama needs to be replaced in the Oval Office.”

Sharp contrasts, yes – such as the intelligence, character, tolerance and empathy of President Obama, versus the closedmindedness, holier-than-thou intolerance and religious-crusade mindset of you, Rick.

“People — people have asked me, you know, what is — what is the secret? Why are you doing so well? Is it your jobs message? And, yes, we have a great jobs message, talking about everywhere we go and particularly here in the industrial heartland of Missouri, where they still make things here in Missouri, by the way. It’s a message of — as the Wall Street Journal called our economic plan, supply-side economics for the working man, is resonating in Minnesota and here in Missouri and across this country. And you see that, when you have a Republican out there talking about growth — talking about growth for everybody, right… … that Americans respond, because I do care about not 99 percent or 95 percent. I care about the very rich and the very poor. I care about 100 percent of America.”

“Supply-side economics for the working man”?? To quote Rocky the Flying Squirrel, “that trick NEVER works.” Let me presume to read YOUR mind for a change, Rick: you don’t care a whit for any of the poor or the rest of the 99%, and you only care about the very rich because those are the ones funding your campaign to be the President of the Divided Theocracy of America, Inc.

“The real message — the message that we’ve been taking across this country and here in Missouri is a message of what’s at stake in this election. This is the most important election in your lifetime. This is an election — we’ve seen it so evident just here in the last week. This is an election fundamentally about the kind of country you’re going to hand off to your children and grandchildren, whether they are going to have the level of freedom and opportunity that you have.”

The level of freedom and opportunity that we currently have is already less than that enjoyed by our own parents. Our children and grandchildren definitely will not have that level of freedom and opportunity if a Republican is elected to the Presidency in November, particularly a Republican with a single-minded religious agenda.

And we have a president of the United States, as I mentioned, who’s someone who believes he knows better, that we need to accumulate more power in Washington, D.C., for the elite in our country, to be able to govern you because you are incapable of liberty, that you are incapable of freedom. That’s what this president believes.

Who are these “elite in our country”? The 1%, who are courted so ardently by Republicans? And please, please, will someone explain once and for all what the hell the Republicans are talking about when they throw out buzzwords like “freedom” and “liberty”? Freedom and liberty to do WHAT?

And I — and Americans understand that there is a great, great deal at stake. If this president is re-elected and if we don’t have a nominee that can make this case and not be compromised on the biggest issues of the day, but can make the case to the American public that this is about the founder’s freedom, this is about a country that believes in God-given rights, and a Constitution that is limited to protect those rights. The president does not believe that. The president over the last few years has tried to tell you that he, in fact, the government can give you rights, the government can take care of you and provide for you. They can give you the right to health care, like in Obamacare.

No god gave me any rights. My rights, and yours, too, Rick, come from being, through no act of any god, born in the United States of America;
whose founders, through the Constitution, defined those rights and gave them to all citizens.

Rick, President Obama is a Constitutional lawyer, so I think that he’s a lot more knowledgeable than you are about the founders and our rights. And if you don’t believe that ALL of us have the right to health care, even if we can’t afford to pay for it, then you are a poor excuse for a human being AND a Christian.

But look what happens when the government gives you rights. When the government gives you rights, unlike when God gives you rights, the government can take them away. When government gives you rights, the government can tell you how to exercise those rights.

Your alleged god limits your rights and tells you what you can and cannot do; therefore, you already have fewer rights than those that our government grants the rest of us.

And we saw that just in the last week, with a group of people, a small group of people, just Catholics in the United States of America who were told you have a right to health care, but you will have the health care that we tell you, you have to give your people, whether it is against the teachings of your church or not. I never thought as a first-generation American, whose parents and grandparents loved freedom and came here because they didn’t want the government telling them what to believe and how to believe it, that we had a First Amendment that actually stood for freedom of conscience, that we’d have a president of the United States who would roll over that and impose his secular values on the people of this country.

Whoa, boy, let’s not confuse “freedom of religion” with any bs about “freedom of conscience.” ALL presidents, not just your bogeyman President Obama, “impose” the “secular values” of the Constitution – you know, the basis on which our government was founded. And, if hell freezes over and you, Rick, became President, you would be bound by sworn oath to protect and defend those secular values.

And it’s worse than that. When one of the Catholic bishops tried to communicate that through Army chaplains, the Obama administration said, no, you can’t do that, no, because your language is seditious, and they made them change the language of a letter from a bishop to his people.

The Catholic bishops’ views do not represent the views of every Catholic in the United States, Rick, and neither do yours. Maybe you should check out the group Catholics United, for another viewpoint.

Ladies and gentlemen, freedom is at stake in this election. We need to be the voice for freedom. And that founding document, the Declaration of Independence, at the end of that document, those founders signed their names. But the last clause of that document said we pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. Ladies and gentlemen, every generation of Americans doesn’t create freedom, but they have, in many respects, a harder job. They have to maintain freedom. Your charge tonight — your charge tonight here in Missouri — because we’re not done yet with you here in Missouri. You’ve got a caucus coming up next month — is to go out and pledge, pledge — no, not your lives. Maybe your fortune. RickSantorum.com is the website.

You’re already planning to take away certain freedoms from gays and women, Rick, how is that ‘maintaining’ freedom? And I’m sure that the people in Missouri are glad that you’re not asking for their lives, just their ‘fortunes.’

But your honor, the honor that you stand on, on the backs and the shoulders of your ancestors. The people here in St. Louis, the people here in Missouri, the people across this country who sacrificed for this country, for the freedoms we have. America’s honor, your honor is at stake. Go out and preserve the greatest country in the history of the world. Thank you all, and God bless.

“America’s honor” was already blasted into smithereens by the previous Republican President, and, right now, there’s not a whole hell of a lot of our former greatness to be preserved. Psst, Rick – I think you left out a word after “God bless” – you know, “America.”

Okay, I’ve kept most of my temper while typing this. As this is our Open Thread, feel free to lose yours, or to discuss anything else that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, February 2nd: Don’t Frack with New York!

When I was young, my parents managed to scrape together enough money to take us on a week’s vacation nearly every summer, usually to somewhere within reasonable driving distance from our home in southeastern New York. Several of these vacations were in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, but some of our other trips were to the Catskill Mountains, a much shorter drive away. While I have only vague memories of a small rustic cabin shadowed by huge pine trees, the highlight of our trips to the Catskills, for me, was a visit to Catskill Game Farm. The game farm was a small zoo, complete with lions, llamas, monkeys, English fallow deer, giraffes, zebras, sheep, goats, etc. Being very small, my favorite part of the visit was feeding the deer and goats. One could buy a handful of feed from a dispenser, and immediately be surrounded by a small herd.

Mum, Jane, and siblings Bobby and Anne with a friendly goat at Catskill Game Farm


Although our visits to the Catskills centered primarily around the Game Farm (which, sadly, closed down in 2006 after 73 years of entertaining families), the Catskill Park itself offers a whole lot more. The entire park consists of 700,000 acres, about 300,000 of which is the publicly-owned Catskill Forest Preserve. The Preserve was established in 1885, starting with 34,000 acres. Situated just to the west of the Hudson River, its rounded, heavily-forested mountains, valleys, waterfalls and streams provide a home to black bears, bobcats, bald eagles and other wildlife. The park’s large landscapes and small, secluded ecosystems are a photographer’s dream. Its reservoirs and streams provide much of the drinking water for New York City.

Unfortunately, with its proximity to the Marcellus Shale, this pristine area is now under threat of being tainted by proposed fracking activity. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has put out an alert to try to stop New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and the NYSDEC from allowing fracking in the Catskill area. The public comment period on the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) expired on January 12th, but there is still time to sign the NRDC’s petition to save yet another irreplaceable national jewel from being ruined. This is an area that is near and dear to me personally. and I hope that you’ll all add your signatures for this worthwhile cause.

UPDATE: Apparently only New York State residents can sign the petition, but perhaps an email to Governor Cuomo might help, for those of you who also treasure the Catskills.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to present your thoughts on any topic that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, January 26th: From Little to Big–Mouse’s Story

When Mouse first showed up at our back door, she was a pudgy miniature of her dad, Smokey. (Forgive the quality of the photo, I didn’t want to open the door and scare her.)

Smokey and Mouse


Mouse and her brother, Butterball (aka “Balls”), were inseparable, especially since they were constantly left to their own devices by their mentally-challenged mom, Mamacita.

Mouse and Butterball


Mamacita, in her brief "lucid" period, chooses a toy from the basket


Although both Mama and Balls were social enough with me, Mouse would never let me near her. She had her brother for company, plenty of food, and that was enough for her. Then Balls disappeared, and, sadly, Wayne and I found him dead, near the intersection of our road and the main road. We could only surmise that Balls had followed one of the older males in his ’rounds’, because otherwise he rarely strayed far from our yard. We were devastated, but at least we knew what had happened to him. Mouse, of course, was also devastated, and would sit at the end of the deck, day after day, watching down the yard for Balls to come back. It was heartbreaking to see.

Mouse keeps watch (here accompanied by the local groundhog)


Mouse still would not let me touch her, and, eventually, became pregnant.

Mouse, pregnant, still keeping her distance


She was such a little thing still, and when she went into labor, she had a terrible time. She was in a doghouse that we had set up outside the back door, and I stayed with her for hours while she strained to give birth. Exhausted, she finally allowed me to touch her for the first time, as I wrapped her up, put her in a box, and Wayne and I proceeded to rush her to the emergency vet. In the car, I sat in the back seat lightly petting her, and she purred up at me as if she finally understood that we were trying to help her. At the vet’s, a brief examination revealed the problem: a single kitten was stuck, too big for Mouse to push out, and already dead. Wayne held Mouse still while the vet proceeded to extricate the poor kitten, and was rewarded for his assistance by Mouse biting him deeply on his hand (he forgave her.)

Naturally we kept her in the house to recuperate, and, after that, Mouse became “mommy’s little girl”, insisting on being on or next to me as much as possible. She turned into a loving little sweetie whose favorite thing was to “wash mommy”, licking my hands until she felt that they were good and clean (and red and sore!)

Mouse dozes behind my 'spot' on the couch


While she stayed smaller than most cats throughout the rest of her life, she did fill out quite a bit, eventually turning into a classic Kliban cat.

Mouse lolls on the bed, tongue out and ready to give mommy a 'bath'


A few weeks before my mum’s final birthday, in October of 2004, Mouse was diagnosed with an illness for which nothing could be done, and I stayed with my little girl as she was put to sleep. I miss her deeply still, and will never forget her constant companionship and affection.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, January 12th: Caption Contest!

photo by Emily Sechny

My caption choice: ULTIMATE COW-TIPPING

photo by Emily Sechny

My caption choice: OH, THE BOVINITY!

Our niece, Emily, took these shots (along with other wonderful pictures) at a balloon festival, while vacationing out West in October with her boyfriend Mike.

This is our daily open thread — Have fun with it!

The Watering Hole, Thursday, January 5th: Take a Break

After the Iowa caucuses, I need to bring my blood pressure back down, and I know that we could all stand a break from politics and troubles.  So I propose that we slow down for a few minutes and enjoy some flowers.

There, now don’t you feel a little better?

This is our daily Open Thread, what’s on your mind?

The Watering Hole, Thursday, December 22nd: How ‘Bout If We DON’T Bomb Iran

From John McCain’s “Bomb, bomb Iran” (literal) song-and-dance in the 2008 Presidential campaign, through all but one of the current survivors of the Republican Presidential candidates’ gauntlet of debates, Republicans seem to feel that the ultimate answer to any question about Iran is “regime change.” Of course! Look at how well that…er, uh…worked…for us…sigh.

This near-solidarity amongst Republicans begs a couple of questions:

1. Are they crazy?
2. Do they remember anything about Iraq?
3. Are they just trying to demonstrate their ‘testicular fortitude”? Or, in Michele Bachmann’s case, ‘Thatchers’?
4. Are they more afraid of what Iran might do if it acquires a nuke, or of what Israel might do if Iran acquires a nuke?
5. Are they trying to tie up the Jewish vote well in advance?
6. Are they crazy?

As always, Ron Paul is the exception to the “regime change” rule, ergo the war-happy wing of the Republicans cannot back him. The rest of the candidates vary somewhat in their eagerness to resort to what should be the last resort, but they are united in their opposition to Ron Paul’s more isolationist views.

For a more tempered point of view, I found that one or two articles from Foreign Policy magazine served to talk me down for now, at least…but I’m sure that it’s only a temporary surcease from the bombardment of all-too-familiar, “deja-vu-all-over-again” arguments for “regime change” (and all that that implies) in Iran.

I’m as tired of the candidates’ posturing about Iran as I am of the candidates and the endless ‘debates.’

So, on a lighter note, here’s an odd story from one of our local online news headlines. I found the first sentence in the last paragraph hilarious.

This is our daily Open Thread. Join us and discuss..

The Watering Hole, Thursday, December 15th: Newt Gingrich + Citizens United = $$$$

While researching bizarre quotes/items about Newt Gingrich for the last few days, I ran across a reference to “Newt Gingrich to Star in Citizens United Movie about ‘American Exceptionalism’…”, which caused me to do a double-take. Newt Gingrich and that ‘Citizens United”?

Am I the last person in the world to know that Newt and Callista Gingrich have been ‘starring‘ in some of Citizens United productions, which claim to be “documentaries”, such as “We Have the Power“, and were working on a new “documentary” earlier this year? The “Cast” list for “We Have the Power” certainly has some familiar conservative names on it, and the “Credits” list shows the Executive Producers as: Newt Gingrich, Callista Gingrich, Lawrence Kadish and David N. Bossie. Lawrence Kadish provided (see this Alternet article from 2002**) some of the financial backing for Frank Gaffney’s CSP. David N. Bossie is the President and Chairman of the Board of Citizens United.
(**Check out the names/agencies interconnected in the article–keep in mind that this is from 2002.)

I did not know any of this – where have I been?

Small wonder, though, as Newt has been quoted in the past, when discussing campaign finance reform, as stating “The problem isn’t too little money in political campaigns, but not enough.” Then there’s this one: “The idea that a congressman would be tainted by accepting money from private industry or private sources is essentially a socialist argument.” The combined implication of ‘a congressman is above such temptations’ and ‘anyone who thinks otherwise is a socialist’ is so very Newt-y. Gingrich has always been about selling ideas, and, unfortunately, there have always been buyers.

Right now, some lawmakers are working to overturn the SCOTUS “Citizens United” decision; for instance, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT, is proposing a constitutional amendment. However, we need faster action if the flood of money sweeping away our democracy is to be dammed.

This is our open thread — so talk about this or anything else that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, December 8th: There’s Someplace Like Home?

Kepler-22b

Kepler-22-b - "Goldilocks" Planet? (Artist's rendering provided by NASA)

Nasa’s Kepler telescope, whose specific mission is to explore strange new worlds – er, uh, to seek out possible Earth-like planets, has already discovered more than 1000 new exoplanets (outside of our solar system.) One planet, which made news earlier this year, was dubbed “Tatooine”, as it revolves around twin suns. The Planet Habitability Laboratory has an online catalogue of such discoveries, and a current update now lists Kepler-22-b, featured as part of the First Kepler Scientific Conference.

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the popular astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, had met the team of NASA scientists at Ames Research Center earlier this week. In an interview with The Weather Channel, Dr. Tyson stated that Kepler-22-b “is the first Earth-like planet in a Goldilocks zone around a sun-like star. This one hits a check in every box.” Exciting news, indeed. Unfortunately, Kepler-22-b is 600 light-years from Earth, and as Dr. Tyson says, “The fastest spacecraft we have ever launched would take 50,000 years to get to Kepler-22b.”  When asked in The Weather Channel interview, “Given the population explosion and impact on the environment, would inhabiting another planet give humankind a chance to start over?“, Dr. Tyson responded:

“After we mess up this planet go move to another one? If you had the power to move to another planet then you’ve got the power to fix your own planet. I’m much more in favor of thinking of other planets as a place to expand to, not a place to escape to because we’ve trashed Earth…don’t think of it as an escape hatch.”

Damn! I was really hoping that the science of cryogenics might advance enough within my lifetime that I could be frozen, then sent to Kepler-22-b and thawed in order to request political asylum from any ‘overlords’ there may be on this possible new home.

Sunday Roast, December 4th: Spreading Ignorance Via Email

As I mentioned in my Thursday post, here is the second right-wing e-mail my friend sent me. As you can see, it’s short on facts and long on opinion, but this is what passes for an intellectual argument on the right.

An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama’s socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.

The professor then said, “OK”, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama’s plan…All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will do better than anyone else…(substituting grades for dollars – something closer to home and more readily understood by all).

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.

As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

To their great surprise, ALL FAILED, and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed…Could not be any simpler than that.

Pass this on…remember there IS a test coming up…the 2012 Elections!

These are possibly the 5 best sentences you’ll ever read and all applicable to this experiment:

1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2. What one person received without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, this is the beginning of the end of any nation.

Can you think of a reason for not sharing this? Neither could I.

Actually, I could think of a few reasons for not sharing this. For starters, it never happened. It’s the kind of thing Jon Kyl would use to defend his position on the Senate floor, after which he would claim it was “Not intended to be a factual statement.” If a teacher ever tried to grade a class in this way, he or she would be fired.

Second, the right likes to call anything short of unregulated Capitalism “Socialism.” If they were paying attention, they would know that some of President Obama’s policies have contributed to the income disparity in this country.

Lastly, I really wish right-wingers would try to use common sense and fact-check these kinds of e-mails before sending them off to everyone they know.

So, what else can you find wrong with this e-mail? Or you can talk about anything else you want.

This is our open thread — Discuss!

The Watering Hole, Thursday, December 1st: A Picture Worth Nothing

I’ve never been terribly tolerant of people who refuse to use their brains, but these days what little tolerance I had is now being stretched to the breaking point.  At work, of course, most of us deal with teh stupid at some point or other throughout their day, and, since my job entails speaking with lots of different types of customers all over the country, encounters are inevitable.  And driving, even short trips, has its own special brand of stupid laying in wait to ambush and aggravate the unsuspecting commuter.

However, the latest assault of teh stupid that really started the anger ball rolling with me came via two conservative propaganda emails that a good friend sent to me and several other people.  Now, my friend is conservative and we both know enough not to discuss politics together for more than five minutes, so I was a bit blindsided by the two emails.

The first one, titled “A Picture Worth a Trillion Dollars“, had this photo, with a “letter” starting with “My Dear Friends:  This is what goes on in Washington DC all the time.  House Minority Leader pictured standing, far right, speaks while colleagues play solitaire as the House convened to vote on a new budget.

Alleged House Meeting

Alleged House Meeting

Now, my first thought was “I don’t recognize anyone in this picture, and if that’s House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi with the microphone, then I’m the Queen of the Faeries.”  The email continued,

The guy sitting in the row in front of these two….he’s on Facebook, and the guy behind Hennessy [emphasis is mine] is checking out the baseball scores.  These are the folks that couldn’t get the budget out by Oct. 1, and are about to control your health care, cap and trade, and the list goes on and on… Should we buy them larger screen computers – or – a ticket home, permanently?  This is one of their 3-DAY WORK WEEKS that we all pay for (salary is about $179,000 per year).”

It went on to list the salaries of the President, the “House/Senate members”, the Speaker of the House, and “Majority and Minority leaders”, adding after each that the salaries listed were “FOR LIFE!” It finished with “I think we found where the [budget] cuts should be made! If you agree… Pass it on!”

The first thing that I did was to take a stab at finding this “Hennessy” guy, so I plugged in “Representative Hennessy” into the Googles, and came up with this from the Hartford Courant, about the State of Connecticut State Representative Jack Hennessy. So just to start off, the photo had absolutely nothing to do with “…what goes on in Washington DC…” It took all of about 15 minutes to fact-check the rest of the purported ‘facts’, including comparing the Congressional work-week.of the 2011 session vs the 2009 Congress; the salaries mentioned (some were incorrect) and debunking the “FOR LIFE!” crap, particularly in the case of the President of the United States (the “Former Presidents Act” states that ‘each former president is paid a lifetime, taxable pension that is equal to the annual rate of basic pay for the head of an executive federal department – $199,700 in 2011.’)
On the other hand, it took me several days to decide whether or not I should send a response to the whole email group to whom my friend sent it, or just to my friend, or to not respond at all.  I finally decided to respond just to my friend, so I annotated her email to me and provided links and quotes.  Her response?

“Thanks for fact checking….I personally don’t believe that anyone is Washington DC is doing a good job for the hard working tax payers of the good old US of A and I do believe that our tax dollars are being wasted on the people who have been elected. I know you are a stickler for “accuracy” in whatever is sent by email but the jest [sic] of the email, in my humble opinion as slanted as it may be, was that the Senate, Congress, President, Legislators, etc, etc, are playing games with our welfare & our money. So, if some of the people are mislabled, well I’m sorry but one has to look at the state of our country and wonder “WHY” and also wonder “what are they doing for us & our well being”?”

AAARRGGHH!  While she’s right in some respects, the whole point of my response, that she dismissed in its entirety, was the thought with which I ended my email to her:  “I think that the 2012 elections are important enough that people ought to get real information about current events and politics, and most of the time that real information is not found in chain emails.”

The second conservative propaganda email deserves its own post, which will follow in a few days.

This is our open thread – have at it!

Thanksgiving – Thursday, November 24th: Pass the Pepper, Please?

Too Much Pepper?

If you like your turkey (or your face) extra-spicy, you can probably hire Lt. Pike to come by your house with fresh pepper spray.  I, for one, will stick with just fresh-ground pepper.

On a more serious note, I’d like to say how thankful I am, on this Thanksgiving day and every day, to have such a wonderful family.  I’m speaking of my Zoo family.  Faceless and far apart, nevertheless you are always here to share laughter, sadness, joy, outrage, ideas, photographs, or just a simple electronic hug when needed.  I have learned so much from all of you, and you have had a profound effect on my life.  To my fellow Critters and our many frequent and always-welcome guests, I thank you all for being who you are, and I’m thankful to be part of such a talented, intelligent, and loving family.

Wherever you are today, I wish you all a wonderful day, with good people around you and good food in front of you.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

This is our open thread.  What are YOU thankful for?

The Watering Hole, Thursday, November 17th: Bad Moms! Bad!

Last week, my friend Maria, with whom I work, forwarded me an email that she received from a “friend.”  Maria explained that she had mentioned to this “friend” that her son, Matt, had recently gone down to the Occupy Wall Street protest and had protested along with them, including joining in with a drum circle.  Maria’s “friend” was appalled by this information, and, the following day, sent her an email which is apparently making its rounds on the internets, with the subject line being “I think she nailed it.”  It consisted of a column by someone named Marybeth Hicks, who evidently has her own website, http://www.marybethhicks.com, and who has also written a book entitled “Don’t Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid: Confronting the Left’s Assault on Our Families, Faith and Freedom”  Yeah, right.   I will not quote the entire column, but the overall gist of it was that the mothers of the OWS protesters had not taught their children properly, so Ms. Hicks would do so in the mothers’ stead.  Here’s some examples of what OWS protesters’ moms, in Ms. Hicks’ opinion, should have taught their kids:

“Call it an occupational hazard, but I can’t look at the Occupy Wall
Street protesters without thinking, “Who parented these people?”
As a culture columnist, I’ve commented on the social and political
ramifications of the “movement” – now known as “OWS” – whose fairyland agenda can be summarized by one of their placards: “Everything for everybody.”

“Thanks to their pipe-dream platform, it’s clear there are people with serious designs on “transformational” change in America who are using the protesters like bedsprings in a brothel.”

Nice how Ms. Hicks takes the example of one particular “placard” (sorry, but when I hear someone use the word “placard”, I just assume that that person is ancient as hell – as a Mets fan, I automatically think of Casey Stengel talking about the annual Banner Day at Shea.)  And, since the main complaint of most right-wingers regarding OWS is that they do NOT have a clear platform, pipe-dream or not, I have no idea how Ms. Hick finds it “clear” that there’s a sleazy conspiracy afoot.

“* Life isn’t fair. The concept of justice – that everyone should be treated fairly – is a worthy and worthwhile moral imperative on which our nation was founded. But justice and economic equality are not the same. Or, as Mick Jagger said, “You can’t always get what you want.”

Apparently Ms. Hicks is unaware of the next line in the song, “But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need“, so she probably would not comprehend that the OWS protesters are out there trying to get what they need, i.e., opportunities for decent jobs, reasonably affordable healthcare, etc.

“When you demonstrate to eliminate student loan debt, you are advocating precisely the lack of integrity you decry in others. Loans are made based on solemn promises to repay them. No one forces you to borrow money; you are free to choose educational pursuits that don’t require loans, or to seek technical or vocational training that allows you to support yourself and your ongoing educational goals. Also, for the record, being a college student is not a state of victimization. It’s a privilege that billions of young people around the globe would die for – literally.”

In other words, keep to your station in life, kids.  And, for the record, Ms. Hicks, at least millions of young people around the world live in countries which, through their taxation system, DO provide free university educations – and the students don’t have to die for the “privilege”!

“…while making a mad dash from my cab to the door of my hotel to avoid you [the OWS protesters], I saw what isn’t evident in the newsreel footage of your demonstrations: Most of you are doing this only for attention and fun. Serious people in a sober pursuit of social and political change don’t dance jigs down Sixth Avenue like attendees of a Renaissance festival. You look foolish, you smell gross, you are clearly high and you don’t seem to realize that all around you are people who deem you irrelevant.”

“Newsreel footage”?  Again, just how old is this Hicks woman?  And just what evidence does this woman have that the demonstrators were “clearly high”?  What Ms. Hicks also does not understand is that all of those protesters, if they were aware of Ms. Hicks at all, would immediately deem HER irrelevant.  And, finally:

“* There are reasons you haven’t found jobs. The truth? Your tattooed necks, gauged ears, facial piercings and dirty dreadlocks are off-putting. Nonconformity for the sake of nonconformity isn’t a virtue. Occupy reality: Only 4 percent of college graduates are out of work. If you are among that 4 percent, find a mirror and face the problem. It’s not them. It’s you.”

Yes, of course, Ms. Hicks, all of the OWS protesters and their counterparts across the country and around the world have tattoos, body piercing and dirty dreadlocks.  And, for the record, at least 9.1 percent of college graduates cannot find jobs, and the problem is NOT them, IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID.  Ms. Hicks is the one who needs to “occupy reality.”

My friend Maria responded politely to her “friend” that her son, a post-graduate student in mathematics now studying for his doctorate, has neither tattoos nor piercings, nor does he sport dirty dreadlocks.  I wonder if she’ll hear from her “friend” again.  Heh.


Watering Hole, Thursday, November 10th: Swearing At Off the Republican Debates

Despite concerns for my mental health, I’ve watched most of the endless-seeming Republican debates so far. I skipped last night’s, but I did catch some of the “highlights.” I have now been forced to come to the conclusion that Republicans must hate “government” with such a fervent passion that they are willing to field this pathetic and un-Presidential selection of candidates.

Herman Cain…Mitt Romney…Rick Perry…Newt Gingrich…Michele Bachmann…Rick Santorum…Jon Huntsman…Ron Paul

Herman Cain: Buffoonish snake-oil salesman with delusions of grandeur

Mitt Romney: Easily replaced by a life-sized cardboard picture of himself

Rick Perry: Ignorant alpha male with disturbing personality twists

Newt Gingrich: “Republican hypocrisy” poster-boy desperately fighting off irrelevancy

Michele Bachmann: Blank, shiny eyes are windows into her empty soul

Rick Santorum: A man enthralled by his religious views and fantasies

Jon Huntsman: Underneath the sanity, a willingness to woo the crazies

Ron Paul: Old man yells at government

There are far too many reasons why none of the above is capable of leading, arguably, the most influential country on the planet. The Republicans must know this, yet still expect American citizens to take this lineup seriously.

I find this both disturbing and insulting. Disturbing, because the power and money behind the Republican scenes will do everything they can to get one of these clowns into the White House. Insulting, because, as an American citizen, I believe that the President of the United States should be someone worthy of representing this great country; someone who is a true leader, not a puppet; someone who, by his or her innate character and integrity, reflects what America should be, once was, and can, hopefully, be again.

I will no longer lend any credence to these “candidates” by watching the upcoming Republican debates. Besides, I need to hold on to at least some of my sanity.

This is our open thread. I’ve offered my opinion, what do YOU think?

The Earliest Nor’Easter EVER: Before and After

Two weeks ago, the Northeast was enjoying a fairly normal, if a bit rainy, autumn. Temperatures were mild and the foliage season went as usual, if somewhat dampened.

Before

Then the earliest Nor’easter ever hit.

After

The storm reached our village around noon on Saturday, October 29th, starting with innocuous-looking, barely visible flakes. Despite the moisture of the ground, they began to stick pretty quickly: to the ground, to the trees, to the wires overhead. We lost power just about 4:00pm – luckily, I was able to immediately light the gas stove and, with enough daylight left for me to see in the kitchen, I threw together a lamb stew. While that was cooking, the destruction began outside. The first ‘victims’ were the bird-feeders, about 15 feet off the deck. Wayne managed to dig one out and hung it on the surviving shepherd’s hook.

When Tree Limbs Attack

When Tree Limbs Attack

When the long, windy night – filled with the sounds of snapping limbs, cascading snow, and the thudding and scraping of branches on the roof – was over, the house was surrounded by a forest of branches.

Surrounded

Surrounded

We were lucky: the roof was intact, the deck was unharmed, and no windows were broken. Unfortunately, there are thousands of homes and businesses without power even now. NYSEG and other utility trucks, along with local and NYSDOT highway crews, have been out in force all week, but there is still an incredible amount of tree damage and debris left to be cleared.

Update: Of course, the snow can transform a still-unfinished garden into something a bit more wondrous-looking:

Garden Gate

Sunday Roast, November 6th, 2011: Current and Past Perspectives

The Marx Brothers

The Marx Brothers


The Opinion page of last week’s edition (October 28th) of our local paper, The Pawling Press, offered some interesting perspectives on today’s political scene:

First: the liberal columnist, Frank Matheis, used a song from the Marx Brothers’ Horse Feathers to describe today’s GOP:

“I don’t know what they have to say,
It makes no difference anyway.
Whatever it is, I’m against it.
No matter what it is or who
commenced it,
I’m against it.

“Your proposition may be good,
But let’s have one thing understood,
Whatever it is, I’m against it.
And even when you’ve changed it or
condensed it,
I’m against it.”

Next: the conservative columnist, Paul Keyishian, discussed “The fundamental role of government in a democracy”, putting forth his views on the differences between liberals’ and conservatives’ ideas of the role of the federal government, vis a vis what he called “legislative intervention.” (Note to self: remind Paul Keyishian that the current political battle going on is NOT between liberals and conservatives.) Here’s his closing summary:

“To put it succinctly, you might say that when liberals examine the federal government, they see an indispensable instrument of progressive sociopolitical legislation. When conservatives examine that same government, they see an inordinately costly and needlessly bureaucratic institution. And it’s incumbent upon us, individually and collectively, to ultimately decide which (if either) side is actually correct.”

Lastly: The Pawling Press has been running a weekly column called “Emphasis – U.S.A.”, which brings us “reflections from the archives of Robert McCormick, a noted NBC Washington correspondent…” (Note: I have tried to google Robert McCormick, but found little. However, the time frame here is during the formation of civil rights legislation.) The title of this “reflection” was “Southern Senators don’t debate, they heckle and bite.” I particularly liked this quote:

“The Southerners are always undiluted poison in a debate, and they are even more deadly in an argument over civil rights.”

McCormick then goes on to tell about a dispute between Senator Same Ervin (R-NC) and Senator Jacob Javitz (R-NY), over certain figures in the Civil Rights Commission’s findings. Ervin uses “a very old story that is current down [his] way about a Southern Mountaineer…”: Ervin’s story ends with “..Here are the figures; you know that figures don’t lie”, to which the ‘Southern Mountaineer’ replies, “I know figures don’t lie, but liars sure do figures”, to dismiss the Civil Rights Commission’s statistics. Sounds like Southern Senators haven’t changed much over the last several decades.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to present your thoughts on any topic that comes to mind.

The Watering Hole, Thursday, October 27th: …and in other news…

After mulling over topics for today’s post, I decided to just present a mixed bag of ‘things that caught my eye on the internets during the past few days.’ The articles range from serious to tongue-in-cheek to outright ridiculous. The following are from Foreign Policy Magazine online and from Newsmax.

From FP: The title of Ryan Caldwell’s article, “An Islamist, a Liberal, and a Former Regime Loyalist Walk into a Cafe”, snagged my attention. The article gave an interesting presentation of the post-Gaddafi views of three Libyans of different stripes working together. Also, for some reason I found it just wondrous that the interview was done via Skype, from Caldwell’s home in California to a cafe in Benghazi. Plus I learned that ‘celebratory gunfire’ is called rasaas al-farah, which means, literally, “bullets of joy.”

From FP: In “Dumb Power: Republicans Introduce the “What Wouldn’t Jesus Do?” Foreign Policy”, David Rothkopf gives his reaction to the Republican debate on foreign policy.

From Newsmax: In the Newsmax “Breaking News” email, this article was billed as “Thomas Sowell: Herman Cain Is Real Black, Obama Not Typical“. The article includes such tidbits as:

“His prescription for fixing the economy: “I would love to have a constitutional amendment that says politicians are not allowed to intervene in the economy under any circumstances. I think there would be a boom following that.””

From Newsmax: The title of “Hensarling: Supercommittee Need Not Cut Entitlements” sounds hopeful, doesn’t it? Sure…read the whole article: Hensarling, the Republican co-chair of this “Supercommittee”, has some strange ideas. Here’s one:

“I would like to pick up the Internal Revenue Code by its roots and throw it into the nearest trash can. Having said that, realistically, that’s probably a bridge too far for this committee,”


From Newsmax
: And finally, Frank Gaffney being Frank Gaffney:

“Frank Gaffney warned in an exclusive Newsmax.TV interview: “I’m afraid there’s a war coming, a very serious, perhaps cataclysmic regional war,” he said. “It will be presumably over, at least in part, the future existence of the state of Israel. It may involve all of its neighbors, as they have in the past, attacking Israel to try, as they say, to drive the Jews into the sea.””

Enjoy!

This is our Open Thread. I’m sure you can find something to say about any one of the above, so Speak Up!

Sunday Roast, October 23rd, 2011: Do Moderates Really Exist?

Eisenhower and Kennedy

Published in the Pawling Press, Pawling, NY, Friday, October 14th, 2011, under the title “If Moderates Ruled…” by Jane Schneider

Note: I wrote the following in response to an opinion piece by the Pawling Press‘s conservative columnist, Mr. Paul Keyishian. Mr. Keyishian’s piece was entitled “When Moderates Ruled the Country”; it should be available in full at http://www.pawlingpress.com next week.

“I agree wholeheartedly with Paul Keyishian’s piece in the October 7th edition of the Pawling Press, wherein Mr. Keyishian discusses the presidencies of Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, and the positive effects that these administrations’ moderate and forward-thinking policies had on our country. It was an era when science and technology leapt forward, an era when national goals and ambitious aims were lauded, encouraged, and became part of our national identity.

As Mr. Keyishian said, President Eisenhower “had the foresight to anticipate the need for the interstate highway system…”, “And to help stimulate the national economy, while simultaneously assisting those in need, Eisenhower wisely continued the most necessary and efficient New Deal policies of FDR.” About President John F. Kennedy, Mr. Keyishian said, “President Kennedy generally supported policies that were sensible, pragmatic, and humane. His dedication to social justice was exemplified by his support of the civil rights movement, creation of the Peace Corps, and promotion of various programs to assist the underprivileged and oppressed.”

Again, the point of Mr. Keyishian’s piece was that America, under these two moderate, more-or-less centrist, presidencies prospered and became an example to the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, in today’s political terms, these types of programs and policies are now considered to be left-wing, liberal ideals, and are now vilified by politicians and pundits as ‘socialist.’ It appears that the extreme right-wing minority of the conservatives in power has exerted such a gravitational pull that all political ideologies have shifted rightward, out of their natural orbit around the center. For instance, as a liberal, I know that President Obama is centrist, or perhaps marginally left-of-center, yet he is labeled as a liberal (or much, much worse) by pundits. What is terribly sad and foreboding is that such a centrist cannot even propose a national aim or goal, such as investing in the country’s future by becoming a world leader in green technology, without being shouted down – inaccurately – as a socialist. Do the shouters and pundits not remember what, in retrospect, felt like the glory days of America as a world leader and pioneer in technology, particularly space technology? Do they not realize that, if this country is to continue to be a world leader and aspire to such glory again, we must have national goals and dreams that transcend party politics and petty, mundane squabbles?

And do they also not realize that, in those exciting, inspiring years under two moderate Presidents, tax rates for the wealthy soared as high as 90%? Eisenhower and Kennedy did not borrow money to achieve their lofty goals, they used tax revenues to do so. So why is anyone balking today about increasing taxes on the wealthy by a mere 4% or 5% (letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire, bringing their rates back to the 39.6%, I believe, under Clinton), when so much needs achieving in today’s United States, and should not be achieved by borrowing more money? A nation so beset by petty and divisive politics desperately needs a national goal, one that will not only inspire Americans, but that will provide jobs, a cleaner environment, less dependency on fossil fuels (thereby reducing certain national security issues), and will instill the American feeling of pride in being part of something that will benefit ourselves and future generations. As the poet Robert Browning put it, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp — or what’s a heaven for?”

Where are the moderate, far-seeing, pragmatic public servants in today’s political arena? I fear that they are all but extinct.”

Jane E. Schneider

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to present your thoughts on any topic that comes to mind.

Watering Hole, Friday, October 21st: O-C-C-U-P-Y W-A-L-L S-T-R-E-E-T

As I believe I’ve mentioned before, the one redeeming feature in “The New York Post” is the puzzle page, particularly the word game in which you’re given a particular word and have to make as many five-letter words as possible out of that word.  The rules are simple:  no proper nouns, no plurals ending in ‘s’, no foreign words.  For my own amusement, I often play this game with a word or phrase of my own choosing.

The other day I sat down and started playing around with the phrase “OCCUPY WALL STREET.”  As I started jotting down five-letter words, I noticed that many of the words were pertinent to the actual OCCUPY WALL STREET movement.  Obviously, many were not, but there seemed to be a striking number which were applicable to the protests.  I’ve listed all of the words that I came up with, in vaguely alphabetical order, below the fold.  If anyone comes up with a word that I missed, please let me know and I’ll add it. Continue reading