Friday, May 27, 2005

Friday Not-My-Pet Blogging Mark III

Have I been very serious lately, talking about how I support things that will take away personal earnings and lower current benefits, and how I think that's the best we can do, right now? Well cheer up, because this post is about travelling stuffed animals.
One bear went to Disney World in Orlando and another went to Disneyland in southern California. Not one but two bears attended Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville.
Nothing depressing about that! Unless you hate football, I guess.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Getting What I Want

OK, I've been reading Enlighten New Jersey. You might have guessed. It's important to me to see what people that I disagree with are saying, especially because I want to know *why* they believe what they do. Today they point to a piece on Michelle Malkin about Social Security.

I think that's the first time I've ever linked to Michelle Malkin!
BusinessWeek says Congress and the White House are inching toward a compromise on Social Security. Private accounts will not be part of the plan. Instead, the compromise would include (a) reducing the rate of growth in benefits paid to upper-income beneficiaries (as President Bush has suggested) and (b) sharply increasing taxes on upper-income taxpayers (i.e., those that earn more than $80,000 $90,000 per year).
BusinessWeek is less upset about it than Malkin is, by the way.

Anyway, this is pretty much exactly what I was hoping for. I think this will help. I think this will help, and this is what might happen. What's the catch?

Life is Inconvenient

I'm busy with work projects. If I get something up today, it will be late.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

NJ Conservatives

I had no idea how upset N.J. conservaitives were with the trends we have towards paying public employees comparatively well. I had no idea people were so very angry about the way that voting tends to support public social programs rather than leaving the burden of charity to private institutions.

I've been reading a lot of conservative NJ blogs the past couple of days. I see some things that I can get behind, but mostly I see opinions that I cannot at all comprehend. Today's most amusing remarks are located in the comments section of a PoliPundit post. Examples:
the Republican party in NJ is hopeless. America starts in Pa (and seems to be moving to Ohio)
Or my favorite:
The NE is kinda like France.
Hey, cool! After visiting Paris in high school, I've always thought that France was *beautiful*! When does Trenton's makeover get started?

A Precarious Balance

Foster peace efforts without giving up strategic military defense positions. This is the issue facing Israel today.

I truly believe that the current leadership does not want the fighting. I don't' know how much they're willing to concede, though. Both sides believe that they're entitled - by god, no less - to the same pieces of land, and that's what makes this "road map" to peace so difficult to travel. This morning I've read both the Reuters' version and the Ha'aretz version of the story on Abbas' visit to the states. The Ha'aretz version is more skewed towards Israeli interests, of course. While the Reuters' version speaks of how Israeli settlements in the West Bank harm the peace effort:
"Palestinians welcome the prospect of taking over Gaza but say that if Israel keeps larger tracts of the West Bank as the trade-off, it would be impossible to set up a viable, territorially contiguous state."
The Ha'aretz story speaks of how the settlements are indispensable in that effort:
Sharon, who received enthusiastic applause from the 4,000 delegates at the AIPAC conference, said the disengagement would enable Israel to ensure that the large settlement blocs in the West bank remained an inseparable part of Israel.
Israel does not feel secure in the idea that giving up large sections of land will make them *safer*. The Palestinian Authority does not feel that non-contiguous lands serve their purpose for a united homeland. Tricky issues, to say the least, and I haven't even thought about mentioning the religious stuff.

I can't say as I have any faith in our current administration's ability to help reach a compromise. Actually, I'm not sure I have faith in anyone's ability to work this miracle.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Wake-up Call - Think For Yourself!

Ever read something and feel like you're being slapped in the face? That's how I felt yesterday when I read "Enlighten-New Jersey" for the first time. It's not just that they're spouting pretty much the opposite of what all my opinions are, it's that they're being, well, snide about it. The overall tone is just so "if you disagree with us, you're stoooopid!" that I'm having a hard time making it through all the posts. Actually, now I feel really guilty about anything I've ever written with that tone.

I try to be fair, although I don't know why, since this is, after all, just a forum for my opinions, so I'll point out the fact that this site has *really* good writing. The style has impact, and keeps you reading through the end of the post. I don't think I do that as well as they do, actually. But the opinions! Woo! Harsh! I just wasn't expecting to see things like this from something with "New Jersey" in the name.

Let's take today's post for example. It's about the Corzine suggested health plan.
How dumb does Corzine think we are? Upfront indeed.
How dumb does he think we are? That is so not helpful. I posted a comment:
Nice tone. You guys do understand that "up front" means the *first* round of money, right? And I'm sure that you get that the $19.33 figure is what it takes to get the program started, not how much it will cost to run it.

Programs cost money. Taking care of people's health is worth it.
I think that this is a good time to repeat my constant line: "Programs cost money, and someone has to pay for them". Property taxes in NJ are too high? Cut programs. Programs aren't the problem, you say? Re-work the spending. My daddy used to tell me, "Tami, you know what the difference between Democrats and Republicans is? Democrats tax and spend, and Republicans borrow and spend".

Want to see what Corzine has proposed in his own words? Go ahead, read it yourself. See if there's an idea in there that you can't agree with.

On the Republican side of the house, go ahead and read Doug Forrester's proposed reduction of property taxes. See if you can find out exactly where the 30% will come from. Which state jobs are "unnecessary"? What are the differences between Democratic programs and Republican ones that indicate the "Democrats' spending addiction"? The explanations just aren't there. How am I supposed to make an informed decision if no one is informing me?

There's a quote on the top of the page at Enlighten NJ: "Knowledge will forever govern ignorance and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." I agree, people - arm yourselves.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

So Unsavory That I May Cry

Go read this over at Shakespeare's Sister. You'll be sorry, but not that you read it. It's about Neal Horsely, and what a sick (insert swear words here) he is.

Standing Up for Himself

Someone asked me how I felt about the Galloway statement delivered to the Senate the other day (as reported in The Times Online)

I'll put up two quotes which I think capture the tenor of the statement pretty accurately:
"Now you refer at length to a company names in these documents as Aredio Petroleum. I say to you under oath here today: I have never heard of this company, I have never met anyone from this company. This company has never paid a penny to me and I'll tell you something else: I can assure you that Aredio Petroleum has never paid a single penny to the Mariam Appeal Campaign. Not a thin dime. I don't know who Aredio Petroleum are, but I daresay if you were to ask them they would confirm that they have never met me or ever paid me a penny.

"Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.
So how do I feel about this? I feel appalled that this man should be publicly accused of being involved in the oil-for-food scandal. I feel astonished that it seems very clear that the only reason his name was brought into the investigation was to discredit a man who so obviously disagrees with U.S. policies and U.S. actions. I also feel quite delighted that he had the nerve, the confidence to stand up for himself and declare the truth as publicly as he could, instead of cowering in fear at the behemoth that is our country. Mostly, though, I'm angry, shamed, and surprised that this kind of smear attempt got so far that his public denial was necessary. Deep down I'm so naive.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Laying Blame

Via Atrios:

Perhaps we should stop blaming Newsweek.
General Myers also told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday that the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Carl Eichenberry, disagrees with the reports that protests in the city of Jalalabad were caused by anger over the alleged Koran incident.

"It is the judgment of our commander in Afghanistan, General Eichenberry, that in fact the violence that we saw in Jalalabad was not necessarily the result of the allegations about disrespect for the Koran, but more tied up in the political process and the reconciliation process that President Karzai and his cabinet are conducting in Afghanistan. He thought it was not at all tied to the article in the magazine," he explained.

Usually Wolcott Is So Amusing...

Normally, when I read James Wolcott, I find myself smiling, even laughing out loud. Even when dealing with very serious subjects, his wry wit finds its way into the conversation, leaving me in awe of his snarky skills. (Skillz?)

Today, though, his post on the US and the future of the UN is just so serious that I'm not smiling at all.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Hands Off, Indeed

Today, there is a rally in Trenton with the theme "Hands Off Our Benefits!" This is a rally to let NJ government officials know that state employees like teachers and policemen do not want their pension plans changed. Talk of "entitlements" is inflammatory, and people wish to make their point that they work hard, and the benefits they receive are what they were granted in contract negotiations. Teachers and police officers receiving pensions are not living off the fat of the land, they worked hard doing tough, important jobs, and a degree of security in their old age is something they earned, not something that New Jersey is providing them out of generosity.

In this article, Hopefuls call for pension reforms, William G. Dressel, executive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities is quoted as saying,
"In many cases, it's too late (for reform)," Dressel said. "The police and fire system is one of the richest that exists in the nation. The teachers system is one of the most generous. It's indicative of the powerful interest groups they represent."
Perhaps it is one of the richest in the nation. I don't' have that information available to me, so it's a bit hard for me to tell. But I wonder, is it second richest in the nation? Because according to the U.S. Government's Census Bureau, NJ is number 2 as far as average personal per-capita income goes. When you factor in that NJ is consistently in the top ten highest rated states for cost of living (actual rankings I found averaged out at number 5), it only makes sense that our pension plans are "rich". How much do you want to bet that the amount of money we give our state retirees is not ranked second? The biggest complaints about spending in New Jersey is about how property taxes pay for schools, so school spending obviously has to be cut to lower the taxes. You think of the fifty states we rank second in school spending? I assure you, we do NOT.

I have read what the politicians are saying about the pension reforms they wish to make, and all of them cite people who take part time government positions and "tack" together the pension plans available from these minimal-effort jobs into an amount of money that mimics what a full-time worker makes. You hear that someone worked 5 jobs that required 10 hours a week of their time put together, and that now they'll receive a pension of $60,00 a year, on *top* of any income they receive. No, I don't think that's fair. No one thinks that's fair. Surely, though, there's a way to take care of this that doesn't penalize other state workers? The talk is of eliminating the possibility of pensions for part-time positions. This sounds fair until you think about a fire fighter in a 35-hour-per-week part time position for 20 years. Or a person working as a classroom aide who is considered part time because that will never be "classified" as a full-time position. These are people's careers, and appropriate pensions should not be denied them.

We need to find another way to eliminate this problem, a way that doesn't punish the people who have been generous enough to spend their working years making the rest of our lives better and safer.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Properly Grateful

Today, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo has added me to their blogroll. Because I asked!

By the way - if you don't want to turn your brain to mush, never, ever, EVER visit Kitten War. It almost killed me.

Friday Not-My-Pet Blogging Mark II

I know that Ron and Jazz have done an admirable job of posting about the new rodent discovered in Laos, but in my opinion, they missed the most important line:
Dr. Timmins said he was not tempted to feast on a rock rat and never thought to ask what it tasted like. A trip to the market, he said, made it clear that "in Laos, pretty much everything gets eaten."

Luckily, I don't have any need to make this stuff up.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Blog I'm Watching

This guy really doesn't like being represented by Michael Ferguson.

No, not at all.

Go With the Flow

Since EVERYTHING I read today seems to be about sex, I thought I'd pose a question about the few-days-old story about Neal Horsley and his early-life mule girlfriends.

OK, so this man believes that everyone who grew up on a farm learned about sex by having it with animals. Does he mean girls, too, or do you think that girls aren't "people" to a man like that?

Performing sex acts on animals is not anything like engaging in a relationship with another consenting adult (or even another consenting teenager - there's nothing like that). Anyone who deigns to compare these two simply makes themselves look ridiculous - and kind of demented - in my mind.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

My Kind of Mouthpiece

Please, if you're not the type who's read this already, head over to Dear Abby for today's date, May 11th, 2005. She has a letter from someone who calls himself "Leonard in Lynchburg". I feel terrible quoting her column, I worry that I need permission but I simply must. I'll just take from the middle of Abby's reply:
"Homosexuality is simply a variant of sexual orientation. Those who claim it is "unnatural" should direct their attention to Dr. Joan Roughgarden, a biologist at Stanford University with a Ph.D. from Harvard, who states that more than 300 vertebrate species have been found to practice homosexuality. (A visit to any zoo might confirm it.)"
Abby, whom I often think of as an example of as pure Middle American Values-Oriented as you get, apparently thinks that scientific facts and tolerance are values. I applaud her.

More Cross Posting Goodness

A post I've put up at Running Scared:

Reading Terror ties at a Middle Eastern bank?, I am struck by both sides of the issue, yet again.

Side one: you should not help terrorists.
Side two: you should deposit money in bank accounts, if the correct deposit slip is used and you're a bank.

I think that a bank should do business as usual, and shouldn't be peering in to every transaction in every one of their customer's accounts by any means. As true as this is, though, it's also important that things like terrorist watch lists are recognized, and when someone opens a new account, references like that one should be checked. If a person is affiliated with a terrorist organization, an International bank should not be issuing them an account. I don't think that's an unreasonable request.

It's funny, my first thought when reading this was "It's a bank, it's supposed to move people's money around for them". As I read, though, I came to the above conclusion. Terrorist "watch lists" and "wanted lists" exist because people are breaking laws and hurting other people, and they're in place for the greater good. (I will not get into whether or not people who are on the lists belong there).

I do not know whether or not the Arab Bank has terrorist ties, they certainly protest loudly enough that they do not. I do believe that it is wrong of them to assist in moving money for people involved in terrorist acts, and I sincerely hope that their efforts to prevent this from happening in the future are successful

Face the Truth

Newsflash: Ancient Egyptian artists - not big liars!

CT scans reveal King Tut's face
"Archaeologists discover images are strikingly similar to ancient portraits"

I'm so relieved!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Humanitarianism and Realism

Not two words that you hear put together all the time, but I think that they work here.

I don't know if you've been over to The Huffington Post yet, but it's HUGE. There's post upon post upon post to read, and I don't know how one person could ever get through it all and get anything else done. So, it was no surprise to me that The Opinion Mill had found a post that I missed yesterday, by my own state's Senator, Jon Corzine. The Senator says:
But even if you put aside the moral case for ending genocide for a moment, consider our own interests in the matter. The failed state that is being created in the wake of this horrific crime will be a hotbed for global instability. I was there, and I saw what’s happening. As I stood in the refugee camps of Eastern Chad, into which hundreds of thousands of desperate people are pouring over the border, I realized how dangerous to America the situation has become. Not only is Darfur a lawless part of an unstable state, but the conflict there is destabilizing Chad.

The refugees, even when they are receiving food and shelter, have nothing to do. Resentment is building. And Eastern Chad, which has insufficient resources for its own population, cannot accommodate the refugees for long. We must stop this genocide, and we also must bring about a long-term political solution to this crisis. With two million people in refugee camps in Chad and camps for displaced persons in Darfur, we are creating the conditions for the collapse of law and order in an entire region and, potentially, for terrorism.
There you have it. An argument that we should help our keep our fellow man from getting slaughtered, if only to protect ourselves against future terrorist attacks. The only bigger motivator in today's world seems to be people's pocketbooks, and one can certainly argue that terrorism is costing the US more and more money every day.

When we headed over to Iraq with guns blazing I posted that I wondered why it was important to liberate those people, but not the ones in the Sudan who were being killed in frightening numbers for no reason at all. I still don't know why people wouldn't think this is important.

Monday, May 9, 2005

Going for the Sleaze Factor

Rather than blog about something lofty today, I thought I'd point out a newspaper article that I had the good fortune to stumble across. It's about a prostitution bust, and I think we all know that if you can talk about sex, you really should.

Prostitution is latest Morris target
We start out with this:
Authorities in Morris County arrested 18 people this weekend in a prostitution sting in Rockaway Township, part of a campaign to root out sex crimes, gambling and drugs, the county prosecutor said yesterday.
A little further on down the line, though, we get this:
Investigators chose Rockaway Township for its proximity to major highways such as Routes 80 and 46, not because the township is a center for prostitution, the prosecutor said.


Rockaway Township Mayor Louis Sceusi said he is pleased that local and county authorities worked together on the sting, but he emphasized that the township is not plagued by prostitution.
So these escort services weren't located in Morris County at all? I am disappointed. I was looking forward to reading about how crime-riddled one of the more affluent NJ counties was! Oh, well. At least I can take comfort that this is brought up far enough down in the article that a lot of people will miss it. My party conversation starter remains safe!

Another thing I'd like to point out about this article - it gives the names of the female NJ residents taken in to custody. Was that out of consideration for men who'd like to look them up in the future? I hope those ladies have unlisted numbers.

Odd thing #3 - two of the women listed are mentioned as "working in child care". I wonder if prostitution business is so slow that you need a second job.

Friday, May 6, 2005

Can Someone Explain This?

I'm sure there's a reason...

Can someone explain why part of my town is in this district?

Not my whole town, mind you, just a small part. Lumped in with other towns, a lot of which don't resemble us so much.

It's vexing.

Lazy Friday

Once again, I do not feel like thinking.

Instead, I shall point you to an amusing web page about pronouncing words.

Amusing to me, at least.

Thursday, May 5, 2005


Ooh! Jill's MAD! Spittin' Mad!
What part of "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" don't Americans understand? Or is this Administration SO vile and SO corrupt that Americans just don't care anymore?


People must learn to look at a situation from someone else's point of view, they simply must.

Vandals spray swastika, Sharon slur at entrance to Yad Vashem
Unknown men Thursday sprayed swastikas and graffiti reading "Sharon is continuing Hitler's way" on the road leading into the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, minutes before the opening of the central ceremony marking Holocaust Memorial Day.

Similar graffiti was also sprayed on the facade of the Central Zionist Archives building in the capital.

Housing Minister Yitzhak Herzog, who was taking part in the March of the Living between the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps vehemently condemned the graffiti.

"Only a sick mind can compare the prime minister to the Nazi enemy on Holocaust Memorial Day," Herzog said.
So true. Persecution is a terrible thing, and I understand that many feel that the Palestinians aren't getting a fair deal. Some even believe that they're being eliminated. And some believe that they're being treated too kindly, and that giving in to them - any concession at all - is comparable with the most tragic incident of slaughter in the 20th Century. This is simply not true. Fighting and death as a result of conflict has nothing to do with the wholesale rounding up of certain types of people, detaining them, putting them to death, and dumping them in mass graves. It's not the same as using their body fat for soap or their skin for lamp shades, or performing medical experiments on them "because they're not really people", anyway.

There are many terrible moments in history, and some can indeed be compared reasonably to the Holocaust. Sadly, it is not unique in it's horror. The current situation, however - policies enacted by Sharon - they are NOT of that level, and saying that they are is a tremendous show of disrespect for the human race.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Guilty by Association

Ah, hell.
Pentagon analyst charged with disclosing secrets
Lawrence Franklin surrendered to the FBI and faces charges of disclosing classified U.S. national defense information in 2003 to two individuals who sources said worked at the time at the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Fabulous. I cannot tell you how much I dislike it when Jews do bad things. It makes me fear for fresh outbreaks of anti-semitism. I know that as prejudices go, anti-semitism in New Jersey is fairly low-key, but I still get antsy.

I'm having one of those hippie-moments where I wish that everyone would always be viewed as an individual with individual traits instead of as part of a group with stereotypical ones. Ah, well, I have reality instead.

In case anyone wonders, I'm pro-Israel and anti-PAC.

I Just Really Liked the Headline

The Future Calls, and Mom Says Call Back
It is a scenario just plausible enough for Hollywood. After all, many patches of the country are now covered with Wi-Fi. And millions of people now use voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) to make cheap or free calls on the Internet. So, like two tastes that go great together, why not join Wi-Fi and VoIP? Why not turn a hand-held computer into a phone?

It's not really an eye-opening article or anything, in fact, it feels a lot like filler. Like I said, though, I love the headline.

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Three Minus Two

(cross-posted at Running Scared)

If you take away the better part of something, you only have a small part left. That's logic for you, right?
Pentagon Says Iraq Effort Limits Ability to Fight Other Conflicts
The officer, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, informed Congress in a classified report that major combat operations elsewhere in the world, should they be necessary, would probably be more protracted and produce higher American and foreign civilian casualties because of the commitment of Pentagon resources in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So, reading this, I understand that we have a lot of troops deployed already, and if something else should come up, we won't have as many soldiers to send to the new place. Does that mean we'd lose?
Despite the limitations, General Myers was unwavering in his assessment that American forces would win any major combat operation. The armed forces, he concluded, are "fully capable" of meeting all Washington's military objectives.
So we wouldn't lose? Even with a gazillion (approx 140,000) troops deployed in Iraq, we could still kick yet another country's ass?
Though the general wrote that the military forces "will succeed in any" major combat operation, he added that "they may be unable to meet expectations for speed or precision as detailed in our current plans."
Oh, now I get it - we can still kick their asses, but it would have to be slowly. Gotcha.

The article goes on to pretty much contradict itself and swear that we're not vulnerable. I do believe that we can defend ourselves, but let's face it, without a whole lot of gung-ho recruits, our imperialistic goals are over we won't be able to spread freedom as quickly as we'd like.

Monday, May 2, 2005

New Government, Same Old Violence

Well, they have a new government, but the violence in Iraq doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

Car bombs strike Baghdad, killing eight
Iraqis had hoped to be rewarded with stability and a decline in bloodshed on their streets after risking the threat of suicide bombings to vote in the historic election on Jan. 30.

But their bickering leaders took three months to form a government, and the guerrillas show no signs of weakening.

Iraqi officials estimate that attacks have killed about 100 people and wounded more than 150 since Thursday, when the first democratically elected government in 50 years was formed.
Wish it had helped, I really do.