Friday, September 30, 2005

Blasphemy Blogging

Some people just need to lighten up.
Sony pulls "Jesus" advert for PlayStation
ROME (Reuters) - Sony has apologized for an advertising campaign for its PlayStation game console which featured a young man wearing a crown of thorns with the slogan "Ten years of passion".

Some Catholics were outraged by the adverts, which ran in newspapers and magazines to celebrate the product's tenth anniversary.
...
Sony's ad is not the first to irk Catholics in recent months.

"There's no religion any more", read a slogan for IKEA in an advert to inform Italians, whose Church attendance is steadily falling, that its furniture stores were open on a Sunday.


Let it go, people. The truth is that for a whole lot of the world, there isn't any religion any more. But really, the whole dour thing - it's bad for you! Come on, we Jews can laugh at ourselves (Yes, I own his 1st album)! Join the fun! God loves everyone, right? Even the people who shop for furniture on Sundays.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

I Get Comments II

A few months ago, I wrote a piece about the murder of Jennifer Parks. My focus was on how I will never understand what happens in someone's mind that makes them think that it's OK to kill someone. Well, let me tell you, I get comments. New ones show up when the accused shows up in the news. At first, they started out as a discussion of whether or not the death penalty has any merit. Seeing as I don't actually know anyone involved in the story, that seemed fine to me, even when it got a little heated with people disagreeing. Next, though, came a personal plea to not judge:
I know this kid ... please stop talking about death penalties ... i think the police should investigate more .. john s a great person i know in your eyes he is just a killer ..... but i believe hes not //// a lot of people think hes just protecting someone else ....if u want keep him on lock but u should se how they got him.... they want to drive him crasy
I was sad for that person.

More recently, I received this message from someone who is obviously hurt by this situation, which I can see how it could be painful and confusing to a friend of the accused.
how can you people talk like that ? you think you know everything about him just because you reas it on the newspaper or watched on the tv . U have no idea . You guys just believe to one version . None of us are perfect , so we cannot judge anybody . He has a family and friends ,too. Damit ,he's just 18 years old!!! so know tell me what the hell you think about this guy who kill more 10 people , he was a nurse and just gave his patients drugs to kill them, as easy as that.U think he deserves death penalty ,too. What about the BTK guy? So please stop talking about anything if you really don't know a shit of this case .


To the first person, I apologize. You're right, I do not know any of the people involved. I cannot say, though, that I do not support the death penalty for someone who has killed another person, then dismembered them. I can say that I personally have no proof about who did this, despite the fact that his attorney has said he plans to use an insanity or diminished capacity defense, not "not guilty". Still, the thought that I should limit my conversations to theory rather than openly discuss news items, well, it's probably not going to happen. I'm sorry that you're upset, though, I'm sure it's a very hard thing to deal with.

The second person, well, I'm pretty sympathetic to her, too. Mostly because she's trying so hard to make it seem like if I don't write about condemning other killers that I condone their actions. To you I say: Yes. I support the death penalty in those cases, too. That nurse guy (Charles Cullen) is beyond insane, and so is the BTK killer. I cannot imagine that they can be made into useful members of society. This is my opinion, and I'm sorry that you don't agree.

Today, though, I got possibly the least eloquent or purposeful comment of my blogging "career". Today, someone thought that because I feel that it's wrong to kill people, then hack them to pieces and stuff the body in a trunk, that the best think to say to me would be "fuck you". Well, fuck you, too, Tom. I'm just a blogger with an opinion about a news story. Get a grip.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I Get Comments

I don't really get letters, like some people, but I do get comments. Some of them I feel should be posts of their own, like this one (a comment on my "I acknowledge that I'm lucky" post) regarding making poverty elimination a priority.

I often realize that I'm similarly lucky. But it's way too easy to get bogged down in the tiny problems we have instead of being thankful that our problems are really nothing compared to people who have to live from check to check and a big heating bill could make the difference between being able to pay the rent on time or not.

Even though I am not very economy-oriented, I do feel that poverty is the biggest problem in the country and the world. And it is solvable. I'm not suggesting redistribution of wealth in a socialist state. I'm suggesting that someone in government make poverty a priority already.

Even Clinton, for all the wonderful liberal agendas he pursued, never attacked poverty head-on. I can't understand why not. Let's invest heavily in job training, social and mental health services. Let's invest in drug and alcohol rehab. Let's make sure there are small business loans and councilors for people who want to break the cycle of poverty in the cities. Let's make it something that people are talking about.

The US has long been criticized for having such a huge disparity between the wealthy and poor, and it's just getting worse. It's unconscionable that we're becoming more and more affluent, yet leaving behind those that aren't on the bandwagon. Yes, there are some people that are to blame for their own failures. Yes, there are some people that will never be able to help themselves. But the majority of the poor in the US don't have to be poor, don't want to be poor, and don't need to be poor. They don't need to be stock brokers, either. But it would be better to use them for customer service instead of outsourcing to India. And it would be better that the intelligent and ambitious in the inner city have a better choice for entrepreneurship than becoming a drug dealer.

It isn't just the POTUS that should be doing this. Every mayor should be working on this. Every governor should be working on this. This winter has the potential to break a lot of families that are struggling. And it doesn't have to be that way.

I believe that ideas can be more important than food -- freedom more important than bread. I'm more interested in international politics than state politics. But the next time you answer a survey or get in a political discussion, consider the answer that poverty is actually the most pressing issue today. This issue is that big and its time has come.
Mark Wintle | Homepage | 09.27.05 - 1:21 pm | #

Solving the Democrat Problem

Remember last year when Jill was just damn tired of the Democrats never getting it together? Well, so is Tata.

I'm still sitting on the left, in the same place I always have, the place where education bills aren't boobie-trapped and workers matter and women matter and the poor matter and the minority opinion matters and equality matters and the environment matters and the common good matters. Hopefully someday we'll sit together again as friends.


Jazz, over at Running Scared, also sees problems, and has some suggestions.

These elections need to see Democrats (and their progressive supporters, grassroots workers and bloggers) focusing on state specific issues more than national touch-points.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Are You Kidding Me?!

Once again, an article's title pisses me off. Look at this title:

Israeli missiles hit Gaza

Now look at the first paragraph of the article:
GAZA (Reuters) -
Israel fired more missiles into Gaza on Tuesday and vowed no respite in an offensive to halt renewed cross-border rocket salvoes by Palestinian militants two weeks after its withdrawal from the territory.
Not prevent them, but halt them. So why does the article title sound like Israel fucking started it?

I Acknowledge That I'm Lucky

You know, I don't think about how lucky I am often enough, and I do think about it fairly often. But in today's world, when a growing number of Americans have less and less, I really do have enough.

I was reading the Middle Earth Journal. I try to keep up with it as much as I can, Ron in Portland was one of the very first people to comment on my blog that I didn't personally know, and he's got a special place in my heart because of it. Well, also because they were nice comments.

Anyway, there's a post up from yesterday by IceGuy called "The Other Gas Price Rise" that made me think about how lucky I am. See, natural gas prices are up almost 400% from just 2 winters ago - that's dizzying. And I knew that prices were going to jump impossibly this year - anyone who watches the news or reads the papers knows this. Now, my dad owns the house I live in, and pays the gas bill (very generous of him, really, I use more than he does, because I use the stove and oven, and he only ever uses the microwave). I asked him, "Dad, what are we going to do about the heating bill this winter"? I was thinking about setting the thermostat lower, getting an electric space heater to be used in the TV room if it got too drafty, mentally locating my warmest socks.

Dad asked, "What do you mean, 'what are we going to do'?"

"About the price of gas, Dad, the heating bill's going to go way up this winter."

"We're going to pay it," he said.

And I realized that Dad, through a combination of work and luck, has enough that he's not worried about the gas bill quadrupling. I expect that he'll complain when he actually sees the bill, but he'll be able to pay it without having to sacrifice. And I live in his house.

I am very lucky, and very grateful.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Carnival of the NJ Bloggers #19

I almost forgot! It's Carnival time!



This week's hostess is the always gracious Tata at Poor Impulse Control.

Reasonable Priced Reason

(Due to there only being one of me, this post is also found at Brilliant at Breakfast)

Last week I went to the NJ gubernatorial debate in Trenton. This week, for the amazingly low price of ten dollars, American, I got to go see the Dalai Lama. No, really.

As world leaders go, he was by far the neatest one I've ever seen. OK, I've seen exactly 2, having been at some giant speech where President Bush (Sr.) was when I was in college. Still, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that no way was Daddy Bush as cool as this guy.

He started his speech with self-effacing remarks. He told us that since the concepts of peace, war and reconciliation haven't changed, he really didn't have anything new to say. So, he said, if you're bored during the time that I'm speaking, I'm sorry. At least the weather is very pleasant, today, he said.

And then, he said the simple things that we were all there to hear him say. He said that all acts that come from compassion, those acts are peace. All acts that come from hatred, anger, jealousy - those are violence. And I understood what he meant.

He said that sometimes he thinks that Christians are better than Buddhists, because a Buddhist can choose to isolate himself from the world, rather than try to change it for the better, and still be a good Buddhist. He said that it did not offend him when someone referred to him as a good Christian.

At the end, he reminded us that if we had found his speech boring, well, it was over now, and we could go home. I now hope to one day be as cool as Tenzin Gyatzo, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Jazz at RS Scoops the MSM

I'm mightily proud of Jazz for taking an interest in a local (to him, at least) story and reporting on it first-hand instead of just scanning the newspapers, linking to an article, and adding 2 lines of snark. Sure, sometimes we (bloggers) all do that, but without individual insight, there's no reason to actually read a blog on a regular basis. I read people who make me think. I scan people who have what I think of as "a useful list of links". I'm not going to invest time in a site with no personality.

Jazz is one of the ones with personality. I don't always agree with him, but I always find that it's worth reading what he's written. And these days, he's taken an interest of the story of The St. Patrick's Day 4. They're a group of war protesters who had a hung jury in their original local trial, and the prosecutor, rather than try them again locally, handed the case over to the feds. There are people who think they belong in jail, and there are people who support them, and a lot of them are showing up at the court house in Binghamton where the trial is taking place. Yesterday, a gentleman arrived and performed a rather startling protest of his own. Because Jazz was there, he saw this first-hand, and has his own insights on the matter and the events surrounding it.
Here stands the police officer, on the steps of the Federal Courthouse in Binghamton, New York, keeping the public safely away from the blood spill with his dark glasses and his arms crossed. But look closely at his wrist. He's wearing what looks suspiciously like one of the small green wristbands worn by many of the peace activists who were there supporting the St. Patrick's Four. Doing his job, keeping the peace, but making his own quiet statement.
It's a good piece, I highly recommend reading his whole thread.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Unlikely Association

I can't say that I associate rubber duckies with helping out the Special Olympics, but I guess someone does. Certainly, I support the Special Olympics as a worthy cause, so if you're inclined, go ahead, sponsor a duck or two, or five.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Debatable

Well, I went to my first gubernatorial debate last night, and I'm really glad I got that chance. I had an odd attack of shyness, though, since I didn't know a soul, there (at least personally). Still, it was neat to see that a debate in person is almost exactly the same as a debate watched on TV. That'll make me less skeptical next time I watch one on TV.

I started out the night just taking notes on my surroundings - how it was almost a full house, but not quite, how someone actually uses the Nokia default ring, how lots and lots of people were eager to show each other that they were there, and how the roving reporter couldn't find anyone to interview that was undecided.

I accidentally sat on the (unofficial) Forrester side. I didn't even *think* about the idea that the Democrats would sit on the left, like it was a wedding or something.

For a view of a couple of Democratic sources that were liveblogging, you can go ahead an look here:
Media in Trouble

and here:
Corzine Connection

(Note about CC coverage - I have to say, I didn't notice any obvious difference in the numbers of the Corzine supporters VS the Forrester ones outside, but I *can* say that even though everyone appeared to be in a good mood and smiling, the Corzine supporters were WAY better behaved as far as not hindering traffic or acting like buffoons. At least for the few minutes I was there)

I've given you these links for a reason - I'm not going to do a question-by-question breakdown. What I am going to do is give you people impressions.

After the debate, I walked up to strangers and asked them what they thought. Despite my hot-pink kitten-decorated notebook, everyone was willing to talk to me. (all quotes except the swearing paraphrased)

My first "interview" was with a well-dressed couple that I guess to be in their 50's.
OTT: Did you enjoy the debate tonight?
WDC Woman: Forrester kicked his ASS all over the map! That was great! Everyone should see now that he's the better choice.
WDC Man: (blank look)
OTT: Thank you (smile).

Next - a woman in her 20's, dressed like a Target ad in a trumpet skirt, floral top, twill jacket, trendy hair.
OTT: Did you like the debate tonight?
20's girl: It was OK. It was my first one.
OTT: Do you mind if I ask who's side you're on?
20's Girl: Forrester. I came here with them, I'm an intern.
OTT: Oh! OK, thanks. (I was too surprised to ask anything else, she honestly looked uncomfortable to be talking about it)

Next - a pair of women in their late 40's or early 50's, suits with pants (as opposed to suits with skirts)
OTT: Did you ladies enjoy the debate, tonight?
Both - Yes, Oh, yes.
OTT: And who do you think won the debate?
Lady 1: Oh, Corzine did. I was for him when I came in here, and this didn't change my mind at all. He's the right choice.
Lady 2: Who are you going to vote for?
OTT: I admit, I'm for Corzine. I don't feel like a very objective reporter, now.

So there it is - I think that the debate was all but worthless in helping people make up their minds. And really, what's the largest number of undecideds that any poll has turned up -22%? I suppose if all 22% went for Forrester it could turn over the election, but I don't see it happening.

My observations on the debate:
I saw Forrester attacking, attacking, attacking like a dog with a bone, over items that Corzine supporters aren't likely to be fazed by. "He stood with McGreevey, he works with Norcross, He was mentored by Torricelli, he wanted to be partners with Kutcher". Guilt by association was the picture Forrester was painting, but guilt by actions is what the Republicans have to face up to. He conveniently has forgotten all the bad plans Republicans have subjected NJ to, in his closing statement, going so far as to try and associate himself with the only Repub I've ever respected out of Jersey - Tom Kean. "I'm a Tom Kean Republican" he said. My ass. Tom Kean wouldn't come out here with plans that no one can actually explain how much they;ll cost - plans that rely on the economy doing exact things at exact times. You can't assume shit like that, ever.

On the other hand, I saw Corzine stumbling over words. I saw him failing to be smooth like Dougie was. I saw him miss the chance to call on a couple of things that he could have, like that analysis by the state's bipartisan Office of Legislative Services that Forrester cited, he could have poked him hard about where that was available.

I saw both men make lame jokes about having breakfast with bears. No one liked those. At least both of them had reasonable opinions about the bear issue. Citing unsuccessful programs as the ones not to follow, or leaving it up to the Fishing & Game Council, neither one of these positions offended me the way the money talk does.

Speaking of offended - the Golan Cipel shot was *uncalled* for. It was stupid, but not as bad as some appointments that I'll not mention. Mostly because they have nothing to do with this, as McGreevey's bad decisions have nothing to do with Corzine. It was an unprincipled thing to say.

I also learned that Corzine favors a smoking ban in NJ. I was kind of dismayed at that. I think that people should have the right to poison their lungs if they want. My personal stand on this issue is that business should be allowed to be non-smoking, if that's what they think will be better for business. Telling a business that they can't allow smoking bothers me. And no, I'm not currently a smoker.

A ban on smoking indoors would affect lots and lots of people, but not as badly as promising to cut taxes that aren't levied by the state in the first place. By claiming to want to shore up everything and refusing to admit that any taxes might be raised, Forrester came off to me as a man who is either fooling himself, or trying to fool the public.

So that's what I came away from the debate with - an unchanged mind.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Holt Live Blogging

Congressman Rush Holt will be live blogging after tonight's debate at 9 pm HERE at the Corzine Connection blog.

Did I mention I was going to be there?

Apologies

I'm sorry I'm not updating, my real life is intruding in my writing time today, big time.

I am, however, very excited to report that I'll be going to the NJ gubernatorial debate tonight, so I'm sure I'll have a nice juicy post about that up tomorrow.

And I'm really glad you stopped by! Really!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Carnival of the NJ Bloggers #18

Well, Carnival 18 is up, and I know that it's a lot of work, and all, but I've got a couple of issues with it. I don't have a problem with the wacky Shakespearian style commentary, that's actually kind of cool. What I do have a problem with are the following

1) Tata's name is spelled Tara. Why?
2) Stephen Hart is missing. He asked why, I saw no answer last time I checked.
3) Suzette is missing. She asked why, and was told that he couldn't figure out a way to fit her into the dialogue. Now, as much as I admire how much work went into the dialogue, and all, it made getting through the carnival take a long time, and when the form compromises the function (people left out because they were hard to work in), maybe the form isn't a good idea.

I'm not trying to insult the kind host for the week - I know making a post like that takes a lot of time and effort - and certainly, I'm a bit nervous about the week that I've agreed to host in November. I'm just pointing out that maybe some ideas are a little *too* ambitious, is all.

Update 9/20/2005: OK, so now Stephen Hart's post is there, and Tata's name has been corrected, but what about Suzette? I love Suzette, man!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Good News

I cannot resist when there's actual good news to report:
Mass. lawmakers override veto of emergency contraception bill (via Atrios)
The Senate voted unanimously 37-0 to override the veto. In the House, the vote was 139-16 to override.
Good.
Opponents warned that hormones in the pills pose a health risk to some young girls and that direct pharmacy sales of the drug will promote promiscuous sex.
Oh, yeah, like without this, girls won't continue having sex. As if.

How about the concept that with this, young girls who never meant to get pregnant stand less of a chance of having an unplanned baby. Less of a chance of having to depend on the state to support her, because she has no skills, money or experience. How about the fact that there's less of a chance for unwanted children to be raised by a bitter single woman who takes out her frustrations on the person whose birth prevented her from achieving her own goals?

Let the woman who wants a child go have one, and let the woman who doesn't safely avoid it. Let's not pretend that people are actually going to practice abstinence, it's an insult to all of our intelligence.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Warning - Pure Opinion Follows

I am not surprised: Palestinian's Pullout Celebration Ends in Disorder.
NEVE DEKALIM, Gaza Strip (Reuters) - Gunmen firing in the air disrupted a Palestinian Authority rally celebrating Israel's pullout from Gaza and the gathering ended in chaos on Wednesday when traditional Muslims stoned the stage in protest.

Abbas, struggling to impose order to win backing for Palestinian statehood, canceled plans to address the rally, reflecting concern about militant rivals within his fractured Fatah movement and opposition Islamists led by Hamas.

A speech by an Abbas aide calling for an end to armed chaos was marred by Fatah gunmen parading across the stage and firing assault rifles in the air. This prompted Hamas activists to walk out from what had been billed as a show of Palestinian unity.

The rally ended in disorder when devoutly Muslim refugees dominating the crowd of several thousand stoned the stage in protest at a rap music band's failure to stick to nationalist songs. The performers fled, gunmen firing over their heads.
Kee-rist on a cracker. How in the world did these "Palestinians" as they call themselves, ever managed to get taken seriously as a group? If they're supposed to be a unified body, then they're a unified body that can't find its own ass with both hands.

You're supposed to break off into schizoid factions AFTER you have an established homeland, you morons.

Just an Essay

I'm disappointed and sad.

I knew that this administration was taking money from the poor and funneling it to the rich like a horrifying reverse Robin Hood. I knew that helpful organizations like FEMA and the Red Cross were being headed up by the kind of people who would rape their resources so that funds could be channeled to some purpose much less humanitarian and helpful, a purpose which I'm not sure I can confidently name, but sure feels like imperialistic war when I close my eyes.

I knew that the government vehicles to make this country a cool, modern, tolerant, safe place to live were all being underfunded and taken apart. Puppets were being put in charge, and Haliburton was getting all the new jobs ever created.

But I thought - I thought that in the event of an actual emergency, it wouldn't matter. I thought that people would realize the danger and rally anyway. The fact that the generators that ran the pumps failed and no one was there to fix them, paid or not, the fact that the flooding began and no one loaded up their SUVs with neighbors instead of belongings, the fact that people were in nursing homes asking when someone was coming to get them and NO ONE GOT THEIR ASSES DOWN THERE TO GET THEM, that's what brought me down.

Deep in my heart, I believed that people who didn't approve of the governmental pillage of the emergency services would step up and personally help people if they could. And some did - there was a guy who rented a whole bus and drove it down there himself at enormous personal cost, there are people who've been filling their pickups with supplies and running them past the police and into the hands of people who need them. And, of course, there's Sean Penn who took his famous butt down there in a leaky boat and pulled people off of roofs. There's the famous "looter" kid who took an abandoned bus and picked up everyone he could and headed for Houston.

It wasn't enough, though, it wasn't enough. Today I read an article about a flood that occurred a few years back before FEMA was all but crippled by mismanagement. It spoke of trucks equipped with satellite links to the internet for instant communications. It spoke of the National Guard standing ready for weeks before the flood. It talked of vehicles waiting to transport people to safety in an organized manner. We used to be able to handle things like this. No, a natural disaster is never good, never easy, but it doesn't have to be this bad.

It doesn't have to be this bad. The current administration running the country has made us less safe than we were, and the current administration is in place for the next 3 years. Now that we've lost a major city, what's next? A renewal of public, blatant racism? Loss of women's rights with the woman surrounding W telling us all that it's what we actually want? Another country with imperialistic goals actually invading the U.S. because it's suddenly occurred to them that we no longer have the troops or weapons to defend ourselves at home?

I'm disappointed, and sad.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

State Senate Shuffle

(cross-posted at Blanton's and Ashton's)

A post to the NJ Progressives email list today points at a Herb Jackson Story in the Bergen Record about appointing someone to the State Senate seat vacated by the retiring Byron Baer.

Now, I particularly like blogging about Herb Jackson stories, because I work with his brother. It's just an odd coincidence, but I make it a point to be as easily amused as possible.

Back to the point - Herb is talking about how usually, there's no fuss about a situation like this:
Usually, it's not even a question, because with most legislative vacancies, the party committee gets only one choice, and that's the person the party boss picked in advance.
This time, though, there's conflict!
The battle between Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg of Teaneck and Hackensack Police Chief Ken Zisa is really a battle between U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine, the Democratic nominee for governor, and Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joe Ferriero.

Corzine is using the fight to bolster his campaign pledge that he is "unbought and unbossed" as he tries to boss Bergen committee members into backing Weinberg, who has never been shy about criticizing Ferriero. She certainly didn't get any love for sponsoring the kind of pay-to-play bans known to make Ferriero throw furniture.

Corzine's active role in this fight is especially notable because of the contrast it sets with former Gov. James E. McGreevey, who caved to party bosses in similar fights.
Now, Herb goes on to make his point that perhaps the voters need to have a say in this. He says, "It's a thing called democracy." We don't actually live in a democracy, Herb, we live in a republic, and you know it. Your brother says that you had the same social studies teachers that he did until high school, so if he does, you do, too.

Let's leave that part behind and focus, instead, on what it means that Corzine is backing Weinberg. I *think* it means something positive to me. I mean, Weinberg, according to a post at Mydd, well, she's Progressive with a capital "P":
Weinberg, on the other hand, is known as an extremely progressive legislator with an independent streak. In 2003, New Jersey Monthly named her the "Most Liberal" member of state legislature, crediting her with "skill and tenacity in getting her party and her Assembly colleagues to go along with her causes," which include civil rights, women's rights, healthcare, and anti-poverty legislation. Steve Kornacki has written that Weinberg "has demonstrated a prickly independence that sometimes puts her at odds with party leaders." One of her allies, Mayor Michael Wildes of Englewood, is openly hostile to Ferriero, saying that he'd like to see District 37 become "independent of party bossism." According to the endorsement, Weinberg's progressive, independent record is what Corzine finds so compelling about her.


So Corzine is fighting the powers that be in the machine that is NJ politics? During an election? That sounds kind of gutsy to me! That sounds like it's not the same old thing!

I do support Corzine, I've said so many times, but I don't want to get my hopes up too high. Last time I felt this hopeful about a candidate for something, it was Clinton, and I think we all remember what we went through with that one.

I mean, holy frijoles, all the cover-ups in this world that actually hurt people, and they couldn't manage one about *that*?

I've digressed, again. My point, as it was, is that this appears to be heartening news for those of us who wish there to be less corruption in government. I mean, it's usually like Herb Jackson says,
"Party fund-raisers don't want real campaign finance reform; the public does."
Here's hoping that the public is making some gains, here.

Monday, September 12, 2005

I Know What *My* Answers Would Be...

Believe it or not, I stumbled across this via Malkin:
Judge Bork's Inkblot
1. The Ninth Amendment provides that "the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Do you believe that this language binds federal courts, or do you believe - as Robert Bork does - that it is an indecipherable "inkblot?" If the former, how are federal courts to determine what rights are retained by the people? On the other hand, if the Ninth Amendment does not create enforceable rights, what is it doing taking up one-tenth of the Bill of Rights?
I think this is important, if archaically worded. I interpret it as saying that my rights do not supersede the rights of others. That's what I make of that inkblot.

Carnival of the NJ Bloggers #17

17 is up, and there's a lovely accompanying musical score.

Check it out.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

September 11th, 2005

Well, I'm in my safe home, and I'm healthy, and I have some pretty good coffee.

I spent the morning watching Trading Spaces, talking on the phone to a friend, putting in a laundry, looking at some stunning pictures of New Orleans throughout the hurricane, and thinking about the person I knew best that died when the towers came down. She and I grew up together, we didn't really get along. I wasn't sorry that our lives had taken separate paths, but I am very, very sorry that her life ended the way that it did.

I have no answers, but I have people to talk to, chores to do, places to go. Life does indeed, go on.

Friday, September 9, 2005

Redundant, Again

If only I had known that the the Medium Lobster over at Fafblog had already said this, I wouldn't have had to go and type it up on my own. Dang.
More importantly, one must recognize that there are limits to what powers the federal government should exercise in a crisis. Yes, it is the right and duty of the president to override state drug policy, to determine who can or cannot marry, to indefinitely detain citizens without due process and to torture and kill prisoners as he sees fit, but disaster relief is a matter that should be left to the states. Yes, the images of the drowned, the diseased, and the desperately dying drove much of the country to outrage, but how much more outraged would America have been if FEMA had fed the Superdome refugees without the full oversight and authorization of the State of Louisiana? Had the president sent rescue helicopters to evacuate New Orleans the day the levees burst, he might have saved thousands of lives, but he would also have overstepped his authority - and if there's one thing George W. Bush refuses to countenance, it is abuse of power.

Red Tape Blocks My View

Political Issues Snarled Plans for Military Help After Hurricane
To seize control of the mission, Mr. Bush would have had to invoke the Insurrection Act, which allows the president in times of unrest to command active-duty forces into the states to perform law enforcement duties. But decision makers in Washington felt certain that Ms. Blanco would have resisted surrendering control, as Bush administration officials believe would have been required to deploy active-duty combat forces before law and order had been re-established.

While combat troops can conduct relief missions without the legal authority of the Insurrection Act, Pentagon and military officials say that no active-duty forces could have been sent into the chaos of New Orleans on Wednesday or Thursday without confronting law-and-order challenges.

But just as important to the administration were worries about the message that would have been sent by a president ousting a Southern governor of another party from command of her National Guard, according to administration, Pentagon and Justice Department officials.

"Can you imagine how it would have been perceived if a president of the United States of one party had pre-emptively taken from the female governor of another party the command and control of her forces, unless the security situation made it completely clear that she was unable to effectively execute her command authority and that lawlessness was the inevitable result?" asked one senior administration official, who spoke anonymously because the talks were confidential.

Officials in Louisiana agree that the governor would not have given up control over National Guard troops in her state as would have been required to send large numbers of active-duty soldiers into the area. But they also say they were desperate and would have welcomed assistance by active-duty soldiers.

"I need everything you have got," Ms. Blanco said she told Mr. Bush last Monday, after the storm hit.

In an interview, she acknowledged that she did not specify what sorts of soldiers. "Nobody told me that I had to request that," Ms. Blanco said. "I thought that I had requested everything they had. We were living in a war zone by then."


All I see is bureaucracy. There's something important to remember in an emergency - it's an emergency.

e·mer·gen·cy
n. pl. eƒ‚·merƒ‚·genƒ‚·cies

1. A serious situation or occurrence that happens unexpectedly and demands immediate action.

Immediate action



Why was there no one who was willing to say, "Stop talking and get a truck down there NOW!"? Emergency is the one word that means "Act as quickly as you can and worry about authority later. Lives are at stake".
I can't really see everything clearly for all the red tape in the way, but from here it's starting to look as if "bureaucracy" is just a synonym for "afraid to take responsibilty for anything".

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

I Don't Get It

OK, am I the only one who doesn't understand wanting to die where you are instead of trying to go somewhere else and stay alive? Is it because I'm too young? I'm reading this article, Police threaten forced evacuation, and I see lines like these:
But as in many aspects of the rescue effort, there was confusion about whether the government could or would force people from their homes.

"We personally will not force anyone out of their homes," said Art Jones, a senior official in the Louisiana Department of
Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. "It's very difficult to force an American out of their home."

State and local police, however, said force would be used if necessary.

"We'll do everything it takes to make this city safe. These people don't understand they're putting themselves in harm's way," said New Orleans Police Superintendent P. Edwin Compass.
Well, all right, I can see where that's a tough call. The city is now just a big pool of disease and chemicals, and sometimes, you have to make people move for their own good. Forcing people out of their homes, though, it's hard, on a human level. But then, I see the end of the article:
Martha Smith-Aguillard, 72, said she was brought against her will to an evacuation point at the city's wrecked convention center. Her foot was swollen after she trod on a rusty nail and she said she needed a tetanus shot.

Nonetheless, she refused to board a government helicopter.

"They manhandled me and paid no mind to what I said. I ain't never been in no helicopter in my life, or no airplane, and I'm 72, I ain't starting now," she said.

"I'm not going to get that tetanus shot, so I guess I'll just have to die," she said, adding, "We're all going to die and if I'm going to die, it's gonna be right here in New Orleans."
What is with that? She'd rather die than leave? Why?

I have this theory - that great art can only be created by true insanity. Now, New Orleans has always been a city of great art. Truly Great Art. Maybe, just maybe, it's because it's also the city of the Truly Crazy. Maybe it's only in a place where people would shoot at a rescue helicopter (why, because it was rescuing someone else?) that jazz could thrive so. Maybe it's only in a city where people whose homes are filling with water go out and steal TV's that death could become a great celebration, that colors could be so vivid, that people could be so happy and carefree despite what many have described as "the awful stink".

Maybe I'll never understand New Orleans because I'm not supposed to.

Shocking Disclosure

Sometimes, being technical *and* having the ability to write throws people off to the degree that they just can't handle it. Witness this story from Gizmodo, about almost getting thrown out for helping set up a computer network.

Hey, just to let some of you know - writing articles does *not* make you computer illiterate, and having a press pass does *not* mean that you're there to try an trip people up into disclosing problems with the volunteer effort for some expose. Yeesh.

Just to ruin it all for you, I'm going to share the shocking disclosure made at the end of the post:
HereƂ’s the big story from inside the FEMA room, though: There are people there, doing work to help other people, on computers.!
No secret is safe with me!

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

The Best Message Ever

You may have heard me comment that I don't appreciate the way our Commander in Chief speaks, nor do I particularly admire the work of his speechwriters. Today, in my inbox, an accident that thrilled me more than it should have:
-- President Bush:

Watch CNN or log on to http://CNN.com and watch FREE video. More Americans watch CNN. More Americans trust CNN.

Friday, September 2, 2005

Republicans, Charity

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but the whole Republican "small government" idea isn't supposed to be that no one gives to charity, right? It's just supposed to be that people give to charities privately, that helping people is organized through non-government groups and religious institutions, right?

So, if this is the case, if these Republicans who are running our country feel this way, here's what I want to know: How much are they giving, personally? Congress has approved a massive amount of money for relief, and that's great in my opinion, but the Republicans aren't supposed to think so.

I just went into my monthly budget and figured out what I can give up so I can shoot the Red Cross another donation. Because every time I see the news I find myself thinking that I haven't done enough, yet.

I hope our fine politicians who supposedly think that giving is personal are feeling the same way.

Thursday, September 1, 2005

Lazy Cheater

OK, I'm home sick, and I'm tired and lazy, but darn it, life keeps happening outside my walls. So, since I'm too lazy to write my own stuff, I will simply reprint something just emailed to me in its entirety (saying that it's not mine, and where I got it, of course). Here it is:

from http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/12528233.htm

Federal government wasn't ready for Katrina, disaster experts say



By Seth Borenstein

Knight Ridder Newspapers


WASHINGTON - The federal government so far has bungled the job of quickly helping the multitudes of hungry, thirsty and desperate victims of Hurricane Katrina, former top federal, state and local disaster chiefs said Wednesday.

The experts, including a former Bush administration disaster response manager, told Knight Ridder that the government wasn't prepared, scrimped on storm spending and shifted its attention from dealing with natural disasters to fighting the global war on terrorism.

The disaster preparedness agency at the center of the relief effort is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which was enveloped by the new Department of Homeland Security with a new mission aimed at responding to the attacks of al-Qaida.

"What you're seeing is revealing weaknesses in the state, local and federal levels," said Eric Tolbert, who until February was FEMA's disaster response chief. "All three levels have been weakened. They've been weakened by diversion into terrorism."

In interviews on Wednesday, several men and women who've led relief efforts for dozens of killer hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes over the years chastised current disaster leaders for forgetting the simple Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared.

Bush administration officials said they're proud of their efforts. Their first efforts emphasized rooftop rescues over providing food and water for already safe victims.

"We are extremely pleased with the response of every element of the federal government (and) all of our federal partners have made to this terrible tragedy," Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said during a news conference Wednesday in Washington.

The agency has more than 1,700 truckloads of water, meals, tents, generators and other supplies ready to go in, Chertoff said. Federal health officials have started setting up at least 40 medical shelters. The Coast Guard reports rescuing more than 1,200 people.

But residents, especially in Biloxi, Miss., said they aren't seeing the promised help, and Knight Ridder reporters along the Gulf Coast said they saw little visible federal relief efforts, other than search-and-rescue teams. Some help started arriving Wednesday by the truckloads, but not everywhere.

"We're not getting any help yet," said Biloxi Fire Department Battalion Chief Joe Boney. "We need water. We need ice. I've been told it's coming, but we've got people in shelters who haven't had a drink since the storm."

The slow response to Katrina and poor federal leadership is a replay of 1992's mishandling of Hurricane Andrew, said former FEMA chief of staff Jane Bullock, a 22-year veteran of the agency.

Bullock blamed inexperienced federal leadership. She noted that Chertoff and FEMA Director Michael Brown had no disaster experience before they were appointed to their jobs.

The slowness is all too familiar to Kate Hale. As Miami's disaster chief during Hurricane Andrew, Hale asked: "Where the hell's the cavalry?"

"I'm looking at people who are begging for ice and water and (a) presence," Hale said Wednesday. "I'm seeing the same sort of thing that horrified us after Hurricane Andrew. ... I realize they've got a huge job. Nobody understands better than I do what they're trying to respond to, but ..."

Budget cuts haven't made disaster preparedness any easier.

Last year, FEMA spent $250,000 to conduct an eight-day hurricane drill for a mock killer storm hitting New Orleans. Some 250 emergency officials attended. Many of the scenarios now playing out, including a helicopter evacuation of the Superdome, were discussed in that drill for a fictional storm named Pam.

This year, the group was to design a plan to fix such unresolved problems as evacuating sick and injured people from the Superdome and housing tens of thousands of stranded citizens.

Funding for that planning was cut, said Tolbert, the former FEMA disaster response director.

"A lot of good was done, but it just wasn't finished," said Tolbert, who was the disaster chief for the state of North Carolina. "I don't know if it would have saved more lives. It would have made the response faster. You might say it would have saved lives."

FEMA wasn't alone in cutting hurricane spending in New Orleans and the surrounding area.

Federal flood control spending for southeastern Louisiana has been chopped from $69 million in 2001 to $36.5 million in 2005, according to budget documents. Federal hurricane protection for the Lake Pontchartrain vicinity in the Army Corps of Engineers' budget dropped from $14.25 million in 2002 to $5.7 million this year. Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu requested $27 million this year.

Both the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper and a local business magazine reported that the effects of the budget cuts at the Army Corps of Engineers were severe.

In 2004, the Corps essentially stopped major work on the now-breached levee system that had protected New Orleans from flooding. It was the first such stoppage in 37 years, the Times-Picayune reported.

"It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay," Jefferson Parish emergency management chief Walter Maestri told the newspaper. "Nobody locally is happy that the levees can't be finished, and we are doing everything we can to make the case that this is a security issue for us."

The Army Corps' New Orleans office, facing a $71 million cut, also eliminated funds to pay for a study on how to protect the Crescent City from a Category 5 storm, New Orleans City Business reported in June.

Being prepared for a disaster is basic emergency management, disaster experts say.

For example, in the 1990s, in planning for a New Orleans nightmare scenario, the federal government figured it would pre-deploy nearby ships with pumps to remove water from the below-sea-level city and have hospital ships nearby, said James Lee Witt, who was FEMA director under President Clinton.

Federal officials said a hospital ship would leave from Baltimore on Friday.

"These things need to be planned and prepared for; it just doesn't look like it was," said Witt, a former Arkansas disaster chief who won bipartisan praise on Capitol Hill during his tenure.

FEMA said some of its response teams were prepared.

The agency had 18 search-and-rescue teams and 39 disaster medical teams positioned outside storm areas and moved them in when the hurricane died down.

Nonetheless, victims of this week's hurricane should have gotten more, said John Copenhaver, a former southeastern regional FEMA director.

"I would have difficulty explaining why there has not been a visible presence of ice, water, tarps - the kind of stuff that typically get delivered to hurricane areas," Copenhaver said.

A FEMA spokesman, James McIntyre, blamed the devastation in the region for slowing down relief efforts.

Roads were washed out and relief trucks were stopped by state police trying to keep people out of hazardous areas, he said.

That explanation didn't satisfy Joe Myers, Florida's former emergency management chief.

"I would think that yesterday they could have flown in," said Myers. "Everyone was flying in. Put it this way, FOX and CNN are there. If they can get there ..."

FEMA moved quickly with its search-and-rescue teams, which took precedence over delivering water and ice, McIntyre said.

"We're trying to save lives," McIntyre said. "The rescue teams are FEMA people. The medical assistance are FEMA people. Right now, getting people off roofs and keeping people from drowning are a priority."

Further complicating the relief effort in Louisiana is scandal within the state agency. Recently, three top officials of Louisiana's emergency management office were indicted in an investigation into the misuse of hurricane funds from last year's Ivan.

None of this matters to residents of the Gulf Coast.

"We're lost," said Steve Loper of Pascagoula, Miss. "We have no direction, no leadership. People are in bad trouble."


Alison Young, Ron Hutcheson and Tish Wells of the Knight Ridder Newspapers Washington Bureau, Pete Carey of the San Jose Mercury News and Scott Dodd of the Charlotte Observer contributed to this report.

More Stuff You Didn't Ask For

You know me and the quizzes.







Modern, Cool Nerd

60 % Nerd, 52% Geek, 21% Dork

For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.

A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.

A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.

You scored better than half in Nerd and Geek, earning you the title of: Modern, Cool Nerd.

Nerds didn't use to be cool, but in the 90's that all changed. It used
to be that, if you were a computer expert, you had to wear plaid or a
pocket protector or suspenders or something that announced to the world
that you couldn't quite fit in. Not anymore. Now, the intelligent and
geeky have eked out for themselves a modicum of respect at the very
least, and "geek is chic." The Modern, Cool Nerd is intelligent,
knowledgable and always the person to call in a crisis (needing
computer advice/an arcane bit of trivia knowledge). They are the one
you want as your lifeline in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (or the one
up there, winning the million bucks)!

THE NERD? GEEK? OR DORK? TEST




My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 52% on nerdiness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 68% on geekosity
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 26% on dork points



The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test written by donathos