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Showing posts from November, 2010

I see no excuse for this

There was a time when the leaking of secret government information served a useful and even noble purpose. I'm thinking in particular of the leaking of the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg , the purpose of which was to inform and educate the American people about what the government was doing in their name. It was to expose wrong-doing in the hopes that the people would put a stop to it. The event did have an effect on public opinion in those days. People were appalled that they had been so grossly lied to by their government and it helped to turn public opinion against the Vietnam War. That was back in the days of our innocence when we still were capable of being appalled. But frankly, in my opinion, Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks guy , is no Daniel Ellsberg, and no higher purpose is being served by his organization's incessant leaking of confidential information . The only goal seems to be the greater notoriety of WikiLeaks and the greater glorification (in certai

Silent Sunday: American Kestrel

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I love this story!

Remember Fred Phelps and his band of haters? In case you are fortunate enough to have forgotten him or to have never encountered him, he is a Primitive Baptist (primitive being the operative word) pastor of a socalled church in the Mid-West who takes a hardy band of his congregation members around the country to funerals of American military service personnel to stand and shout hateful things at the bereaved families of these people. They shout things such as "God hates fags!" and "This is God's punishment!" Their theology is that the deaths of American service members in combat are the judgment of God on this country because of our "tolerance" of homosexuality. They are quite possibly the lowest two-legged scum that exists on this planet, but because our First Amendment protects freedom of expression, they are allowed to shout their vile filth and make the worst day in some grieving parent's or spouse's life even worse. If you despise t

Where are the jobs?

The big news in the business world today is that American business had profits of an annualized rate of $1.66 TRILLION between July and September of this year. That is a record. Those are the biggest profits ever recorded by American businesses. And yet these same American businesses are constantly whining that the Obama Administration doesn't love them and that they have created an environment that is hostile to business. Personally, I wouldn't mind a share of that hostility! It was also announced today that the economy grew faster during that same period than was previously reported. The growth rate was 2.5% instead of 2%. That's nothing to shout about, but it is a clear indication that, thanks to government assistance that pulled it out of a deep, deep hole, the economy is moving in the right direction. We've now had five consecutive quarters when the GDP grew. So why hasn't this good news for business translated into more job creation? While some job

This is REALLY depressing!

I read Bob Herbert's latest column in The New York Times and now I'm so depressed that I just want to curl up into a tiny fetal ball and pull the covers over my head. The topic of this column - as are the topics of most of his columns - is the state of the country. He doesn't pull any punches regarding what he believes that state to be. "We're in denial about the extent of the rot in the system, and the effort that would be required to turn things around. It will likely take many years, perhaps a decade or more to get employment back to a level at which one could fairly say the economy is thriving." This is especially true since one of the major political parties in the country is not interested in governing or in trying to make things work better. Instead, they are betting everything on doing nothing and letting the country slide ever farther into decline and decay in the hope that that will limit President Obama to one term. That is their only conce

Silent Sunday: Juvenile Brown Pelican flying

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Harry Potter: The beginning of the end

My daughters have been big Harry Potter fans virtually from the publication of the first book. They grew up with Harry and, in a sense, I did, too. I read all the books and I've seen all the movies along the way so I was very interested in the opening today of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. Of course, I had to see the film and so did my daughters and so we went together to wallow in the Harry experience along with other besotted fans. We saw the movie at a mid-day showing at an IMAX theater, which was a bit overwhelming actually. The theater was perhaps two-thirds full, so crowds were not an issue as they will be for later showings. If you have followed the saga of Harry, then you know that this movie is based on the last book in the series, but only part of that book - thus the Part 1 of the title. The last book was the biggest and darkest of the series and trying to fit all of the action into one movie would have made for a very long movie. Besides, dividi

This law helps a lot of people. Let's repeal it!

A friend sent me a link to a conservative blog today. Out of politeness, I took a look at it and one of the first posts that I found was a diatribe against what she and her ilk are pleased to call "Obamacare". She ended her post by saying that the Republicans have two years to repeal this socialist monstrosity and the clock is ticking. Tick. Tick. Tick. She didn't address exactly how the Republicans are to do this. She and other people of her opinion and level of political sophistication seem to think that all John Boehner has to do is wave his magic wand like Harry Potter and everything will go back to the way it was. It will be as if the Health Care Reform Act never happened and that is what these people so desperately want. Yes, apparently they really do want the health insurance companies once again to be able to kick people off their insurance coverage when they get sick. They want the insurance companies to be able to deny coverage to people with pre-exis

Wordless Wednesday: Graham Thomas roses

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A different and more sensible approach to cutting the deficit

After the co-chairmen of the presidential commission on reducing the deficit came out with their draconian proposal last week, it was difficult to believe that anything sane and sensible would emerge from this ill-begotten group, but, in fact, today it did! Representative Jan Schakowsky (D, IL-09) is a member of the commission and today she released her own proposal to reduce the deficit. Here are her major points: * Ending various corporate tax breaks (132.2 billion in annual savings) * Reducing defense spending (110.7 billion in annual savings) * Taxing Capital Gains and dividends as ordinary income (88.1 billion) * Passing cap and trade (52 billion) * Passing a robust public option (10 billion) * Reducing agricultural subsidies (7.5 billion) In addition, she recommends several other smaller changes that would cut tens of billions from the federal budget deficit. Her plan also focuses on $200 billion in investment spending that would help get people back to work, the

What do Americans want?

The lame duck Congress is back in session this week, with the memory of the recent election still firmly in their collective memories and the punditocracy's 24/7 analysis of that election swirling in their heads. The pundits, though, really only listen to other pundits and they wind up parroting each other and their thoughts then become "common wisdom". In my opinion, the wisest and most perspicacious analysis of what the election means and what it shows that Americans want has come from blogger ginandtacos , from whom I quote freely here: "1. Social Security reform that guarantees my current level of benefits, alters someone else's, and cuts everyone's Social Security taxes to boot. 2. A world-class national infrastructure that can be built and maintained without tax dollars. 3. A balanced budget that doesn't sacrifice any of the government programs – especially the sacred military-industrial complex and the various old age benefits – that we like.

Silent Sunday: Future Monarchs

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The big tax kerfuffle

Congress comes back into session next week and among the first things to be considered will be whether to extend the so-called Bush tax cuts. The question before the House - and the Senate - will be whether to extend all the tax cuts past December 31, 2010, including the extra added reductions for the very rich who have taxable income of $250,000 or above, or whether to eliminate those extra reductions in taxes for the rich and just keep the middle-class tax cuts. As usual, the Republicans have drawn their line in the sand in defense of the very rich and are insisting that they will refuse to compromise on the issue. The Democrats want to continue the middle-class tax cuts and let those for the very rich expire, but the White House has been distressingly wishy-washy on the issue. I fail to see what is so difficult about this for the president and his staff. Mr. Obama has said that he wants to keep the middle-class cuts and that the additional cuts for the rich are just too expens

The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America by Donald & Lillian Stokes: A review

As an avid birder, I tend to believe that one cannot have too many bird field guides, so I'm always happy to welcome a new one to my overburdened bookshelves. In that spirit, I was very excited to receive my copy of The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America last week. The first thing that one notices about this new field guide is its cover which features the beautiful Painted Bunting on the front, surely one of the most colorful and striking birds on our continent. On the back is another, smaller, picture of a Pileated Woodpecker, the largest woodpecker known for certain to still exist in North America, and one of the more impressive birds to fill our skies. Then you pick the book up and the next thing you notice is that this is one heavy book! It weighs slightly more than three pounds. It's all those pictures, for this is a field guide that uses photographs to illustrate the bird species of North America. It features 854 species of birds, including all the res

Salute!

It's Veterans' Day. That means that our younger daughter is engaged in one of her favorite rituals with her dad - doing an all-day movie marathon of war movies. They do this every Veterans' Day. It's daddy/daughter bonding time. Recently my daughter did a story for the Houston Library about their ritual. In her entry, she posted a couple of pictures of her father as a very young, very skinny soldier attached to the 101st Airborne in Vietnam. If you follow one of the links she gave (Battle of Hamburger Hill), you can read an account that that young soldier wrote about that dreadful battle. You can also follow her links to see a list of favorite World War II movies. It's these movies that make up the bulk of their movie marathon and there are some really good ones there. As for me, I don't do war movies anymore. As a young girl, I used to watch them with my father, the World War II veteran, so history is repeating itself in our household. But then I gre

Would you trust your plumber to do your root canal?

While sitting in my dentist's chair today waiting for his recommendation on whether or not to proceed with a root canal, my mind wandered to something I had read in Skeptical Science earlier today. The blogger was discussing the tendency of some who have expertise in one area to assume that they are experts in other fields as well. Thus, you might have, to use one of his examples, a perfectly competent gardener who claims to be expert in ichthyology, even though he has never studied the biology of fish. This tendency seems very prevalent in the field of climate science. You have all kinds of people who may be knowledgeable in one field of study claiming expertise in regard to what the real climate scientists refer to as global climate change or anthropogenic (man-made) global warming. Most often, these people from other fields who bill themselves as experts on climate science are global climate change deniers. They are absolutely certain (or claim to be) that the whole th

Brazil takes another step into the future

The U.S.A. was not the only Western Hemisphere country to hold an election last week. Far to the south, the giant of South America, Brazil held its presidential election . Like Chile and Argentina before it, Brazilians elected a woman, Dilma Rousseff, to be their new chief executive. In this, of course, they are all three more advanced and forward-looking than the United States which has yet to give that position to a woman. Brazil is an interesting story. It is a country on the move and is beginning to make its mark on the world stage. Its president for eight years has been Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and he probably would have been elected again but he was barred by term limits from seeking the office. And so he personally chose Ms. Rousseff, who had served as his chief of staff and energy minister, as his successor. He campaigned tirelessly for her. Even so, she was not able to gain a clear victory in the first round of the election in which there were three candidates. In

The banana republic of North America

When I was growing up, the term "banana republic" was a pejorative used to deride certain Central and South American countries that had great inequalities in their societies and were constantly prey to having their governments overthrown, either from without or within. These days, most of those countries are making strides toward a more equal and just society. Their governments are elected by popular vote and, for the most part, they work toward improving the lives of their people rather than just enriching an oligarchy of corporate and military interests that spends its time raping the land and taking all the wealth without putting anything back. No, if you are looking for a banana republic today, you can look a lot closer to home. Like out your front door . In the United States today, 1 percent of the population takes home about 24 percent of the income. C.E.O.s of our largest companies earn more than 500 times what the average worker earns! During the period 1980 t

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart: A review

It was only a coincidence that I happened to be reading this book during this week of the election. Or was it? Perhaps it was kismet. Fated to be. Gary Shteyngart's latest novel, Super Sad True Love Story , is a dystopian novel set somewhere in the near future in America when society is falling apart and the Chinese are just about to foreclose. This is a society that is obsessed with the individual's credit ratings and with what the chemical analysis of the blood shows about one's health condition and long-term prospects. It's a society where extending life - it is hoped to eternity - is a worthy and sought-after goal. It is a society divided into HNWIs (High Net Worth Individuals) and LNWIs (Low Net Worth Individuals) and you don't want to be an LNWI. The main activity of the HNWIs is shopping. The main activity of LNWIs is trying to find what they need to stay alive. In this world, the United States is at war with Venezuela and there are National Guard checkpo

Did you hear the one about...

Did you hear about President Obama's $200 million a day trip to India ? Or is it, as Glenn Beck said, a $2 BILLION a day trip? Well, actually, of course, it is neither. It's another one of those stories, of which there seems to be an endless stream, that has been made up out of thin air by some right-wing nut and is then repeated 24/7 on the Fox "News" Network as if it were fact. Soon it becomes a part of the "truthiness" accepted by gullible people, and, the first thing you know, millions of people believe it and are repeating it as gospel! It never occurs to them to stop and think about the source of the story or to wonder about that astronomical figure. They heard it on Fox so it must be true. And that is exactly what is wrong with this country. People have lost the ability to reason and to think logically. They are fed a pablum of lies from a source in which they devoutly believe and they never question it. Consider the fact that the war in Afg

Thank you, Madame Speaker (with update)

Nancy Pelosi has been Speaker of the House for four years, the first woman to hold that position. During her tenure, she has arguably been one of the most effective Speakers ever to hold the position. She has maintained the discipline of the House and, more importantly, the discipline of her Democratic caucus, a process often compared to herding cats. When the economy of the country and the world tanked during the last years of the Bush administration, she worked with members of that administration, regardless of political differences, to stave off disaster. She helped get the Bush bank bailout package passed. For her efforts she was later vilified by Republicans and demonized as if she had been the author of that package, even though she got it passed at the behest of Bush and his Treasury officials. When the Democrats won big in 2008, she worked with the Democratic White House to get their agenda through Congress. She was remarkably successful, passing just about every initi

Wordless Wednesday: How do we interpret the tracks in the sand?

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VOTE!!!

IT'S ELECTION DAY. VOTE LIKE YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE DEPENDED ON IT! (Because it does, you know.)

Ignorance x Laziness x Hubris = Stupid Behavior

I have a lot of peeves. The older I get, the crankier I get, and I am frankly irritated beyond belief by some of the manners in today's world. Mostly having to do with cell phones. But there is one thing which probably irritates me more than almost anything else and so it earns the title of "pet peeve" and it is simply this: People who mispronounce the names of the countries of Iran and Iraq . You hear it from politicians, from "newscasters", from military personnel who have served in Iraq, from ordinary people in the street. Whenever they talk about either of the two countries, they will invariably refer to them as EYE-rack or EYE-ran. It grates on my ears and makes me grind my teeth. It makes me want to grab them by the shoulders and stare intently into their eyes and say sweetly, "It's EAR-rock," or "It's EAR-rahn." Really, what is so very hard about that? I believe that this ignorant behavior started as a deliberate