Monday, December 31, 2007

The Plot Thickens - 3rd Party Candidacy a Real Possibility

I heard the news on the radio that Michael Bloomberg, among others, has announced a meeting scheduled next week among influential Democrats and Republicans to discuss ending the partisan politics in Washington, and possibly deciding to back a third-party candidate.

The Washington Post has a detailed article on the upcoming meeting, which was announced before the Iowa caucuses in order to avoid the appearance of the meeting being a reaction to any one candidate.

According to the Post,

"Those who will be at the Jan. 7 session at the University of Oklahoma say that if the likely nominees of the two parties do not pledge to "go beyond tokenism" in building an administration that seeks national consensus, they will be prepared to back Bloomberg or someone else in a third-party campaign for president."

The group includes influential Democrats such as former senators Sam Nunn (Georgia), Charles S. Robb (Virginia) and David L. Boren (Oklahoma). Among the Republican organizers are Senator Chuck Hagel (Nebraska), former party chairman Bill Brock, former senator John Danforth (Missouri) and former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman.

Whitman served as head of the EPA under Bush but resigned in 2003 "to spend more time with her family" - however, many surmised she had serious differences with the Bush administration in regard to its environmental policies.

According to the Post,

"Boren, who will host the meeting at the university, where he is president, said: 'It is not a gathering to urge any one person to run for president or to say there necessarily ought to be an independent option. But if we don't see a refocusing of the campaign on a bipartisan approach, I would feel I would want to encourage an independent candidacy.'"

So far the only candidate advocating for any degree of bipartisanship is Barack Obama.

If the group does decide to run a 3rd-party candidate, it is likely they would have the financial - and political - wherewithal to pull it off.

"Others who have indicated that they plan to attend the one-day session include William S. Cohen, a former Republican senator from Maine and defense secretary in the Clinton administration; Alan Dixon, a former Democratic senator from Illinois; Bob Graham, a former Democratic senator from Florida; Jim Leach, a former Republican congressman from Iowa; Susan Eisenhower, a political consultant and granddaughter of former president Dwight D. Eisenhower; David Abshire, president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency; and Edward Perkins, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations."

If they do choose to run a candidate, it is likely to be Mr. Bloomberg, given that he has been expanding his role in recent months to travel the country and comment on matters outside the New York City political area.

The group seems to be really serious about this effort.

"A letter from Nunn and Boren sent to those attending the Jan. 7 session said that 'our political system is, at the least, badly bent and many are concluding that it is broken at a time where America must lead boldly at home and abroad. Partisan polarization is preventing us from uniting to meet the challenges that we must face if we are to prevent further erosion in America's power of leadership and example.'

At the session, Boren said, participants will try to draft a statement on such issues as the need to "rebuild and reconfigure our military forces," nuclear proliferation and terrorism, and restoring U.S. credibility in the world.

'Today, we are a house divided,' the letter said. 'We believe that the next president must be able to call for a unity of effort by choosing the best talent available -- without regard to political party -- to help lead our nation.'"


For those of us who have been sitting back watching the circus that our political process has become, the endless campaign that began nearly two years before the election, the countless repetitive debates on both sides, this prospect may actually add a lot of excitement and enthusiasm to the upcoming election.

It is not too late for a new candidate to emerge, one that appeals to the vast middle portion of the electorate, that is repulsed by the Republicans' appeals to the basest instincts of our nature (racism, anti-immigration, fear) but is not quite ready for the most radical liberal ideas either.

The important thing is for that candidate to be serious, not just act as a spoiler. Someone like Bloomberg could be that candidate, given the vast financial resources he can muster, as well as the connections he has forged in both parties.

If nothing else, it will at least make the coming year interesting!

UPDATE:

Just to be clear, I am not in support of Bloomberg running - a third party candidacy by Bloomberg would hurt the Democrats more than the Republicans, and if he acts only as a spoiler, this could be a disaster; President Huckabee, anyone? :-(

From what I know about Bloomberg, I don't think he'd run if he'd only be a spoiler - I think he'd only do it if he thought he could win. But of course that might not be good either, depending on what his policies would be. We'll have to wait and see what happens...he may just be trying to shake things up; he may even be sincere about wanting bipartisanship in government. I realize sincerity is not in plentiful supply in our political system but you never know.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The 7 Untrue Facts Meme: By Diva!

DCup's pussies over at Politits have tagged Diva for the 7 Untrue Facts Meme! So without any further ado, I'm turning this post over to Diva!



Hi everyone! In case anyone sees this who doesn't already know me, I'm Mauigirl's American Pit Bull Terrier, Diva! I'll start off by telling you a little about myself.

I don't remember much about my puppyhood but I remember being kept in a cage somewhere and eventually having puppies of my own. Sometime after that I ended up on the streets in the middle of New York City with nowhere to go. I was picked up and brought to New York City Animal Care & Control.

And then my life changed around. Some nice people from the
Animal Farm Foundation came to visit and picked me out of a whole bunch of other pit bull terriers to be rescued. It must've been because of the way I wag my tail at everyone when I meet them!

Lots of stuff happened after I went there. They gave me a new name, Lady Godiva (because of my chocolate brown coat!) but they called me Diva, which really fit my personality so much better.

I met lots of other pit bulls and we all had fun running and playing in the big fenced-in areas at the Animal Farm. And then I hurt my knee and they had both of my knees fixed so I'd be able to still run and play. After that I got to live with the manager of the Animal Farm and her dogs and cats for awhile, which was a lot of fun too!

Then, Mauigirl and her husband, who became my Mommy and Daddy, came and took me home with them and I've lived with them ever since. It's great being the only dog in the house! I pretty much tell them what to do and they do it, which is as it should be for a diva. But I know when I should behave myself too.

They have a cat named Baxter who's a lot of fun to chase. I know I'm not supposed to chase him but he always runs - and how can I resist? But at night I have this sneaking suspicion he sleeps on the bed with the rest of us while I'm too sound asleep to notice.

Anyway, DCup's pussies have tagged me for this meme (Mommy says a meme is something where everybody answers the same questions so I think I understand what to do).

This is a kind of different meme because I'm supposed to tell you "7 untrue facts" about myself. That should be really easy for a pit bull, because there are a lot of untrue facts about my breed out there. In fact, you could call them "myths." So I'm going to use this opportunity to dispel some of those myths for you!

7 "Untrue Facts" About Me and My Breed

(1) I make a great watchdog or guard dog! Um, actually, not so much. I am way too friendly to be a watchdog or guard dog. In fact, if someone comes into the house I am most apt to greet them with a frantically wagging tail and show them where the silver is. I'm not even so good at alerting Mommy and Daddy to someone trying to get in. It depends on if I'm sleeping or not. If I'm sleeping I don't wake up for anything, not even the mailman. If I'm awake and someone rings the bell, I will bark. But if I'm asleep, forget it.

Of course, if people know I live here it may discourage them from trying to break in since my breed has this reputation of being a guard dog. And that's OK with Mommy and Daddy.

(2) I have locking jaws and once I latch on to something I will never let it go. This is really silly since there is no such thing as a dog with "locking jaws." As for the holding-on thing, yes, I love to play tug-of-war and I do hold on as long as I can. But the nice people at the Animal Farm trained me to let go immediately if someone says "Out!" And I'm very proud of how good I am at it! All pit bulls are very trainable because we are so eager to please our owners.

(3) I can't be trusted and will "turn on" people with no provocation. This is one of the worst myths about my breed. In actuality, we pit bulls are very predictable in our interactions with people and aim to please them. My ancestors were bred to fight other dogs, not people. In fact, our masters had to be able to handle us in the ring when we were in the middle of fighting.

There is this thing called a Temperament Test that dog trainers give dogs to see if they react appropriately in various situations. American Pit Bull Terriers actually pass this test at a rate similar to most other well-loved breeds, including Golden Retrievers or Springer Spaniels, and better than Collies. Over 84% of us pass the test. (I, of course, aced it!)

I've even passed a more stringent test, called the
Canine Good Citizen Test. That's because the Animal Farm wants to be sure all the pit bulls they adopt out to people are "ambassadors for the breed" and help dispel some of the bad reputation our breed has. I think I fit the bill perfectly, if I say so myself!

(4) We're always aggressive to other dogs. Not so. The American Pit Bull Terrier has historically been used in dog fighting, and as a result, some members of my breed are aggressive to other dogs by nature. However, many of us get along great with other dogs.

Personally, I never start a fight. I know I could win so I'm pretty confident of myself when I'm walking along with Mommy or Daddy; I don't need to lower myself to start things with other dogs.

I get along great with the dogs in the yards next to mine; we sniff through the fence and play. One time I got into my friend Nikko's yard and we had a great time playing. Nikko is a little Cockapoo and he is kind of in love with me so this was a great thrill for him, I guess! And yesterday I had a great time playing with our neighbor's Rottweiler, whom we ran into in the park. I think he's a little in love with me too. Of course, as a Diva, all the boys love me. (But I'm just a tease - I've been spayed.)

I have another friend who lives in the house on the corner. She is a girl but she is very friendly and we get along really well too. So it's not just the boys I like!

Mommy and Daddy do have to keep me on my leash at all times when we're walking, as all dog owners should. If we dogs aren't on our leashes, we could get hit by cars, or run away. And our Mommies and Daddies can't control us if we're not on a leash. What if another dog picks a fight?

And I admit, if another dog does say something nasty to me first, I can get mad. I'm not a pushover, after all. I'm very sensitive to people saying things about my mother. So even with dogs I know, it's best if Mommy or Daddy supervises our play if we're playing in our own fenced-in yard.

Also, it is not a good idea to let me run loose in dog parks with strange dogs. Even if the other dog starts something, it is always the pit bull that will be blamed for it. We have enough problems with the media! Our owners shouldn't put us in situations where we might get into trouble.

But remember: Dog aggression has nothing to do with people aggression. Even my pit bull friends who don't get along with other dogs can be great with people of all ages, even babies and children, and many, like me, even get along with cats or other small animals.

(5) We don't feel pain. This is really silly, isn't it? Of course we feel pain! But some people claim that because we pit bulls are so tough from being used in dogfighting that we have an abnormally high ability to withstand pain. This is totally untrue and anyone would know it if they saw how I react when there's something wrong with my toes!

For instance, I was walking on the beach one day and I got some salty sand in a little crack in my paw pad. Boy, did that hurt. I kept having to sit down and chew on my toes and lick them. Mommy and Daddy got all worried but were relieved to see it was just sand. They washed my foot and it was all better after that.

(6) We attack more people than any other breed. This is not true. The statistics on dog bites are poorly kept and not scientifically accurate. My Mommy is what she calls a "market researcher" and she says that just recording the number of bites by breed is not the right way to measure something like this. It needs to be measured based on how many of our breed are out there! Of course if we pit bulls are one of the most popular breeds at any one time, we'll account for a larger number of bites. But for the number of us there are, this may be a very low number.

Another way you could look at it is, instead of "what percent of dog bites were by pit bulls," ask, "what percent of pit bulls bite?" These are two very different things, and the latter number would be a very low percentage, and probably similar to any other breed of dog.

Another problem is, she says it's not a "representative sample" that they are basing the statistics on. This means you need to be sure that the statistics are representative of the total picture, not just based on police reports or newspaper articles.

Back in the 70's Mommy remembers it was German Shepherds that had the bad reputation - and my other friends, the Dobermans. And that was because there were a lot of them around!

Unfortunately a lot of the so-called statistics compiled on this subject are done based on reports by the media. Mommy says you fellow bloggers know that the MSM is responsible for a lot of disinformation and this is no exception.

If a little kid gets attacked by the family Golden Retriever or Labrador, that's not a news story. But make it a "pit bull" and boy does that story have legs! So the media are much more apt to report on incidents involving MY breed than other breeds. And mixed breed dogs that even somewhat look like me, even if they are NO relation of mine, end up being called "pit bulls" as well. So beware of the statistics you may see.

Unfortunately, some places in this country and in other countries use these false statistics to say that my breed is inherently dangerous and should be banned or highly restricted. This is called "breed specific legislation" or BSL, and it is just a form of dog racism, as far as I'm concerned!

Here's what the
ASPCA has to say about breed-specific legislation and the statistics behind it:

"...the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) did not support the breed-specific approach. They cited, among other problems, the inaccuracy of dog bite data and the difficulty in identifying dog breeds (especially true of mixed breeds). They also noted the likelihood that as certain breeds are regulated, those who exploit dogs by making them aggressive will merely turn to other, unregulated breeds.

Significantly, the CDC also noted how many other factors beyond breed may affect a dog’s tendency toward aggression—things such as heredity, sex, early experience, reproductive status and socialization and training.

These last two concerns seem well-founded given that more than 70 percent of all dog bite cases involve unneutered male dogs, and that an unneutered male dog is 2.6 times more likely to bite than is a neutered dog. In addition, a chained or tethered dog is 2.8 times more likely to bite than a dog who is not chained or tethered. Further, 97 percent of dogs involved in fatal dog attacks in 2006 were not spayed/neutered; 78 percent were maintained not as pets but rather for guarding, image enhancement, fighting or breeding; and 84 percent were maintained by reckless owners—abused or neglected, not humanely controlled or contained, or allowed to interact with children unsupervised.

Perhaps the most unintended yet harmful consequence of breed-specific laws is their tendency to compromise rather than enhance public safety. When limited animal control resources are used to regulate or ban a certain breed of dog, without regard to behavior, the focus is shifted away from routine, effective enforcement of laws that have the best chance of making our communities safer: dog license laws, leash laws, animal fighting laws, anti-tethering laws, laws facilitating spaying and neutering and laws that require all dog owners to control their dogs, regardless of breed."


The main thing to remember is, just don't leave any dog unsupervised, especially with little kids, and be a responsible pet owner! And you'll have no problems.

Let's see, one more "untrue fact" to debunk. What shall I pick? How about:

(7) Red or blue nose dogs are: a special type of Pit Bull/rare/worth more than black nose dogs. Being a red-nose myself, I like to think this is true. But apparently the experts say it isn't. We're just like any other example of our breed. Pit bulls come in all colors, from pure white to black and white, brindle, or shades of grey or red, like me.

I have to say, when we run into people in the park, lots of them ask if I'm a "Red Nose," and whether I could be bred with their dog. Mommy always answers that I'm not that kind of girl, as I've been spayed. Sometimes she also tells them they shouldn't be breeding their dog because there are already too many of us pit bulls around for the homes available.

I hope you enjoyed my "7 Untrue Facts" about me and my breed, and that you found it educational! I'm turning the blog back over to Mommy now. Have a good day!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Very Trolly Holiday

As promised, I'm posting the pictures of the trolls festooned around our living room. In this picture you can see them on top of the revolving bookcase and the neighboring table.

Here they congregate on the radiator cover, next to my great-grandmother on my father's side (in picture to left).

Here they gather on another side table, up against a picture of me as a baby in several poses. (DH rescued this treasure from my mother's house when she was moving and decided it belonged in the living room. I am not sure).

And here they are, in all their glory, on the piano. Most of the ones in this group are the oldest trolls I have. I began collecting them when I was 9 years old, back in the early 60's. The one with orange hair, in the middle, in the second row from the bottom, is Samantha - my first troll.

And here is the Nativity Scene. "Joseph" and "Mary" are in the middle (blue hair and white hair), and "Baby Jesus" lies in front of them. They are surrounded by an eclectic mix of animal trolls (to the right), trolls dressed as animals or reindeer, trolls dressed as angels (front left in red and white), trolls dressed as Santa or elves, and more. There are also some other non-troll animals surrounding the scene.


And, just because it's time for a picture of Diva, here she is - wrapped in her blanket, lying on our bed and ready to go to sleep. The blanket is actually the colors of the flag, which is faintly sacreligious, I realize, but someone gave it to us, and Diva loves the fleece. So it belongs to her. Being a short-haired dog she needs to keep warm at night! And after all, she is an American Pit Bull Terrier, so maybe it is appropriate after all!

Post-Christmas haiku:
Friends and family,
Together at Christmastime
What more could you want?

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Christmas Meme

I've been tagged by Nick of This Is It with the Christmas Meme. So, here we go:

The rules: Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog. Share Christmas facts about yourself. Tag random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

1. Wrapping or gift bags? A little of both. If it's something difficult to wrap I'll usually use a gift bag; if it's something easy like a shirt box or a book, I wrap it. No ribbons, only stick-on bows.

2. Real or artificial tree? Real - always. Our family always had a real tree when I was growing up, and now that I'm an adult I have kept to the tradition; however, I have stopped getting a full size tree and instead put up one that is about 3-1/2 to 4 feet high - much faster to put up, and faster to take down on that dour, depressing day when it finally has to go. I would never dare get an artificial tree because then nothing would force me to take it down (such as dropping needles or becoming a total fire hazard) and it might just stay up till Memorial Day. Or maybe I would just leave it up all year. I get lazy.

3. When do you put up the tree? It varies depending on what day of the week Christmas happens to be. I try to get it up a good 10 days ahead of time. However, this year it went up on December 23! The latest we ever put up a tree was the first year I was dating my husband; we got one on Christmas Eve and put it up at his apartment.

4. When do you take the tree down? January 6, which is Twelfth Night. This was always the tradition for our family. However, during the days after New Year's Day and the following weekend, the tree is always a forlorn reminder of the now-past holidays, and I am relieved to take it down when I finally get around to it.

5. Do you like eggnog? I adore really good eggnog. With dark rum in it. Unfortunately I quit drinking alcohol almost three years ago, so can no longer have the rum.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Books, especially the year I was 12 - lots of books by Jack London and Albert Payson Terhune, about dogs.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes, probably the most unique version of the Nativity that you've seen. I make one with my trolls. There are two trolls that play the part of Mary and Joseph, and one that happens to be lying down so he's the baby, and then I have a cow, a bull, two horses, and an elephant (all trolls) looking on. Also a couple of trolls that are dressed as angels.

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? There are no bad gifts.

9. Mail or e-mail Christmas cards? Mail. I send out about 50. I've made it easier the last few years by using printed labels for the envelopes and I do a Christmas letter now for the few people that I need to send a yearly update to. I used to hand write a personal note on those cards but my writing is so bad now it was impossible. But I still write something personal at the bottom of the letter.

10. Favorite Christmas movie? A Christmas Carol. The one that was made for TV in the 1980's with George C. Scott as Scrooge. I used to like the Alistair Sim version but now prefer this one.

11. When do you start shopping for Christmas? I only buy on-line for Christmas now; in fact, I started shopping on-line about 10 years ago at least. I refuse to go anywhere near a mall within the month before Christmas. We don't have that many gifts to buy anymore anyway so it's not as big a deal as it used to be.

12. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? I don't really have any one traditional thing that's my favorite. One family tradition is to always have the Christmas pudding with "hard sauce" (so called because of the brandy in it, I assume).

13. Clear lights or colored on the tree? I was brought up with colored lights on the tree; then when we bought our house, we went to a more Victorian looking tree with white lights. But sometimes I get in the mood for the colored ones. This year I have colored lights and gold garland on the tree.

14. Favorite Christmas song? I have many favorite songs. My favorite album of Christmas songs is "The Bells of Dublin" by The Chieftains. I love the song "The St. Stephen's Day Murders," which is rather a dark tale.

15. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Stay home in our neighborhood. The last few years we have begun a new tradition of having Christmas dinner with both our friends and family together. Since our closest friends all have relatively few family members in the immediate area, it is fun to combine all the families and eat together. We end up with between 12 and 15 people, and everyone pitches in and brings something.

16. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Let's see...on Dancer, on Dasher, on Blitzen...No. I can't remember them all. And don't ask about the 7 Dwarfs either.

17. Angel on the tree top or a star? Brought up with a star, but now put an angel on top (DH comes from a family that does the angel).

18. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning? Morning. When I was little I was allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve.

19. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Only one? I could list many. But I guess the worst thing is not being able to go into New York City because the traffic and crowds are impossible this whole month.

20. Do you decorate your tree in any specific theme or color? No. For a couple of years I got into putting red velvet bows on the tree, and then stopped that. I like seeing a mixture of all different things on the tree.

21. What do you leave for Santa? I don't remember ever having that tradition in our family; we didn't leave Santa a snack. I'm surprised he ever left me anything.

22. Least favorite holiday song? "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth."

23. Favorite ornament? A red glass ball with the furry face, paws and tail of a squirrel attached to it. I used to have a pet squirrel so I'm very fond of squirrels.

24. Family tradition? Just before Christmas, perhaps it was Christmas Eve, our family would just go riding around the various nearby neighborhoods and look at all the pretty lights on the houses.

25. Ever been to Midnight Mass or late-night Christmas Eve services?
Yes. The Congregational church I went to when I was growing up always had an 11 p.m. candlelight service on Christmas Eve that we would go to. And then after DH and I got married we used to go to Midnight Mass at the nearby Catholic church for quite awhile. For the past 8 or 9 years we haven't been going, but tonight my mom asked me to take her and my aunt over to her church at 5 p.m., as they had a candlelight carol service. It was a lovely service and I'm glad I went; having it at 5 p.m. was more convenient than the late night hour.

So that's it! I am not going to tag anyone because I know that everyone is going to be way too busy on Christmas Day to be doing Christmas memes on their blogs. But if anyone wants to do this meme, please feel free!

***

I am finally ready for Christmas. I got my 50 cards mailed out on Sunday, and I managed to get a tree yesterday at a place that was selling trees, wreaths, and other Christmas paraphernalia; they didn't have little trees but offered to chop the top off one of the big trees, which was very nice of them! And they only charged me $25. Sometimes it pays to wait till the last minute.

Today my friend's daughter came over and we put up all my trolls in the living room. They are festooned all over the piano, and on every available surface in the living room. I'll try to post some pictures in the next couple of days!

Merry Christmas to everyone and I hope you're enjoying your holidays!

A haiku for the day:

Christmas Eve is here
The tree is finally up
And so are the trolls!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Haikus for the Holidays

Thanks to FranIAm for reminding me of my haiku tradition started in November. Since this weekend is very busy, this is an ideal time to revive the art of the haiku for today's blog post!

So here goes:

Fifty Christmas cards
Ready to put in the mail
But they have no stamps.

No Christmas tree up
Just three days before Christmas
How late is too late?

Back in the old days
How did I ever find time
To shop at real stores?

When shopping on-line
I can get everything done
Sitting at a desk.

Gift cards are easy
I bought some at Stop 'n Shop
Starbucks and Visa.

There's lots left to do
The weekend's not over yet
There's time to buy more.

What about dinner?
We're not cooking, thank goodness
We're going to friends.


To be continued....

Friday, December 21, 2007

Best Dressed Holiday Homes!

I have been missing in action since Tuesday because on Wednesday evening I came down with the Dread 24-Hour Virus. I think my parents used to call this the "grippe." Starts with stomach (we won't go there...) and then the next day you lie in bed all day, unable to move, unable even to blog, while you shiver and ache. And then presto! Exactly 24 hours later, you feel normal again.

At any rate, I'm back, not quite as good as ever, but close, and on a lighter note I thought I'd post a link to the Best Dressed Holiday Homes from This Old House.

Hat tip to Baristanet for bringing this fun contest to my attention!

This collection of pictures includes traditional exteriors and interiors, as well as "over-the-top" displays that have everything but the kitchen sink in them and have lights that go on and off in time to music. (See the overall editors' choice and the other two video entries). Be patient, the video ones do have ads first, but they're short.

I remember when I was much younger there used to be one of these "over-the-top" houses in Little Falls, New Jersey, that people would come from miles around to look at. It had lights on every conceivable surface, reindeer and sleigh on the roof, and the garage was opened up as Santa's Workshop with moving figures of Santa, Mrs. Santa, and the Elves. Going to see this house was part of our family Christmas tradition!

More recently, there used to be a house that overlooked the Garden State Parkway that was lit up with literally millions of little white lights - it actually stopped traffic on the Parkway as people slowed down to look at it.

It's nice to see that, although those two examples of wondrous excess are sadly gone, there are still others out there following the tradition of American Over-the-Topness. (New word I just made up).

I know that it may be politically incorrect to applaud people for wasting electricity on such a grand scale. But I have to admire anyone who has the energy, determination and know-how to put up displays like this.

Me, I haven't even gotten around to putting up a tree yet this year! And the extent of our outdoor decorations is a wreath on our door.

Whatever the extent of your decorating, I hope you're enjoying the holiday season in your own way! Me, I'll be putting up my collection of trolls around the living room this weekend. We all have our traditions!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

No More Death Penalty in New Jersey

It's official. Yesterday Governor Corzine signed the legislation outlawing the death penalty in my state of New Jersey, which now joins 13 other states (and the District of Columbia) in not having the death penalty on the books.

According to the Star Ledger,

"New Jersey became the first state to repeal its capital punishment law since the U.S. Supreme Court, which had struck down the death penalty in 1972, allowed its reinstatement in 1976." (New Jersey had reinstated it in 1982).

Of course, the death penalty in New Jersey was "de jure" only - no one had actually been executed here since 1963. But outlawing the death penalty shows a dedication to the moral principle that the state should not be in the business of killing people.

I realize not everyone agrees with this decision. Many people who are in favor of the death penalty cite situations where a heinous crime has been committed: Child abuse and murder; rape, abduction, torture, etc. "Surely," they say, "these people MUST deserve the death penalty?"

Yes, I know it feels right to put these people to death. It is natural to want revenge for such terrible crimes. But for those of us who oppose the death penalty, that is not the point. Two wrongs do not make a right. Just because these people murdered does not mean the State should be murdering in revenge.

"What about the victims' families," they then ask. "For their sake, these people should be killed."

Sure, if someone had killed or tortured one of my loved ones, I'd want them killed. Heck, I'd like to see animal abusers killed! But am I right to want them killed? No. It's not my right to have someone killed. Besides, would this act bring back the dead? No.

Others say "Why should we taxpayers pay for keeping these criminals alive in jail for the next 30 or 40 years?"

Although there are many opinions about this, it is clear that with our current system, trying to put someone to death costs a lot more than life in prison without parole. Some will say that is because we "coddle" the murderers too much by allowing "too many" appeals. I say that if there is any doubt about someone's guilt, they deserve all the appeals they can get.

Some people say that the death penalty should exist to keep people from committing such terrible crimes.

But it has been shown time and again that the death penalty is not a deterrent to those who commit capital offenses. Many of these people have subnormal IQs, have had horrible upbringings that have left them mentally warped, or are born sociopaths and would not have changed their actions no matter what punishment were threatened.

Beyond the moral - or religious - sense that some of us have, that we do not have the right to put someone to death ("Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord"), there are two other big reasons not to support the death penalty: inequity and mistakes.

The poor and minorities are much more apt to be given a capital sentence than others. They can't afford good lawyers and they are more apt to be convicted than other more fortunate people.

As a result, there are likely to be many people who are put on death row mistakenly, when they didn't even do the crime. And if the death penalty is carried out, these mistakes are irreversible. Please see The Innocence Project website for more information.

I applaud my state for reversing this inhumane and immoral penalty.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Vicious Cycle of Consumerism

DH and I got talking about the craziness of modern life and how in the old days only one person had to work in a household. (As usual we were bemoaning our busy lives and wishing for more time to get things done at home and just relax).

So we started listing out what people MUST have nowadays that not only weren't necessities when we were growing up, but were nonexistent. So we came up with this list, which I'm sure is incomplete:

- Cell phones
- Cell phone service (which is incremental to existing land-line service which most people still keep)
- Cable TV service (when our old 3 channel system was free over the air)
- Computer
- Internet service
- Stereo system, CD player (instead of a "record player")

And of course, when we were really young, people didn't have clothes dryers either. They hung the clothes out on the line.

And, as a result of all the additional appliances, we use more electricity, which costs more, and then we need more money to pay for it.

Thus the vicious cycle starts. You need two salaries to pay for the additional necessities of life...and make more money...and then start thinking maybe it would be a nice idea to buy a bigger house, since after all, you're both working and you deserve it.

Thus was born the idea of a "starter house."

Back in the day, people bought a house, and lived in it until they died or retired and went to Florida. For instance, my in-laws are celebrating 50 years in their small, 1957 split-level house. It's a nice little house, with three small bedrooms, 1-1/2 baths, and a nice yard. They only had one child, my husband, so there was no need for a bigger house. They have lived very happily in it for lo these 50 years.

But nowadays, if a couple had owned a house like this for a few years, they would soon be "trading up" to a bigger house. A better house. A house with 3 full baths, a 3-car garage, 4 or 5 bedrooms, a "great room," and more. "Good enough" is never good enough anymore.

Another side effect of needing two salaries and having both spouses work, means there is no time to do all the things my father-in-law always did for himself, and my mother-in-law always did, since she stayed at home. Thus, today's two-salary families also need:

- Multiple cars (one for each spouse, and perhaps for the oldest teen child, who of course HAS to have a car...lord forbid they walk anywhere these days).
- Cleaning service
- Paying to have the car washed (my father-in-law always did it himself, in the driveway).
- Lawn service
- Dog walker (since no one is home during the day to let Fido out or take him for a walk)
- Child care
- Dishwasher (who has time to do the dishes when there are two people working till 7 p.m.?)

Which results in still more money being spent, on electricity, gas, and services that people in the old days did for themselves.

Other things people pay for now that they didn't do then include:

- Hiring tutors for the kids' SATs
- Multiple TVs so each kid has his or her own set;
- Multiple computers so each kid has his or her own.
- Video game systems, video games

When I was young, toys were basic - they didn't come with electronic components and they were not all that expensive.
Chatty Cathy was about as high-tech as we got. And of course, we had Betsy Wetsy and Tiny Tears, dolls that used water to make them more "realistic."

I had those dolls, plus Lincoln Logs and wooden blocks. And I remember being thrilled getting new books to read at Christmas.

Are kids nowadays happier than we were then, with all of these state-of-the-art toys? I don't think so.

Coincidentally, I found
Loren of "In a Dark Time...The Eye Begins to See" discussed the same issue a couple of days ago, and included additional insight I'd like to share with you. From "In a Dark Time":

"Klodt’s chapter “The Leisure of Abundance” sounded strangely reminiscent of a conversation another birder and I had at Nisqually the last time I was there, two old guys wondering why cheaper goods didn’t result in people having to work less. After all, when I was young, way back in the old days, the dream was that modern machinery would free man from having to work, or at least work so hard or so long.

As Klodt points out, this dream has largely been sacrificed in the name of consumption:

'To be sure, the emphasis on efficiency in the workplace has resulted in tremendous increases in productivity. Yet productivity gains have not been translated into increased leisure but have instead gone into increased consumption. In her excellent book, The Overworked American, Juliet Schor notes that if Americans today enjoyed the same standard of living they had in 1948, they could work every other year or take six months off. Today we have a variety of “labor-saving” devices and entertainments unknown to earlier generations. In 1948, Americans didn’t own dishwashers, home air conditioners, microwaves, or automatic dryers. They didn’t have televisions, computers, compact disc players, or VCRs. Fewer Americans owned their own homes, and the typical single-family dwelling was smaller (roughly the size of today’s three-car garage). Yet we could well ask if the material: things and comforts we have gained in the last fifty years are worth six months of the year, or half of the time of our lives.

At the very least, we should ask how things might be different if we had opted for more free time rather than greater consumption. It is pretty clear what things we wouldn’t have, but what would we have that we don’t have now? Would marital relationships be stronger? Would our children be better cared for and feel more secure? Would we have greater opportunities to express ourselves creatively? Would communities profit from increased participation in their social, cultural, and political life? Would we feel relaxed and enjoy the simple things of life more fully? Would we be friendlier and take more interest in our neighbors? Would we be healthier in body mind and spirit?'


Obviously, all we can do is speculate about what might be if we weren’t driven to consume so much, but what better time to think about our values than amidst the Christmas season which increasingly seems dedicated to Mammon rather than to Christ?"

I urge you to go to Loren's site and read the rest of this excellent post on this subject.

Of course, I am part of the problem; it would be hypocritical to say otherwise. Would I give up my computer and Internet access? Would I want to go back to only 3 television channels and forego watching "The Daily Show" or HGTV? Of course not. Consumerism is an addiction; once you start buying more, you can't stop.

But when we went to the Adirondacks a couple of months ago and were generally out of the reach of the phone and the Internet and had no television, it was very peaceful, very relaxing. And it makes me realize most of the stress we have today is something we have bought and paid for, and continue to pay for, every time we lament our lack of free time.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tagapalooza, Part 3a continued from Phydeaux!

This all started with Splotchy, who started a viral story that is being passed around among the bloggers in this little corner of the world and beyond, I'm sure.

One strain of the virus reached Phydeaux, and he has kindly picked me as the tag-ee (should it be taggee?) to write the next installment.

*****
I woke up hungry. I pulled my bedroom curtain to the side and looked out on a hazy morning. I dragged myself into the kitchen, in search of something to eat. I reached for a jar of applesauce sitting next to the sink, and found it very cold to the touch. I opened the jar and realized it was frozen. (Splotchy)

I was used to the house being quite cold in the mornings, as the night log usually burns out around one AM when I am dreaming cozily under my covers, not normally waking to put a new one on until morning. I was surprised because on the rare occasions that it actually had reached sub-freezing temperatures in the house, I had awakened in the night to restart the fire. I would have been worried about the pipes before P-Day, but there hadn’t been running water in two years and that was one of the few advantages to being dependent on rainwater, no pipes. (Freida Bee)

The nightmares began during the following spring. The apple trees came to life in my dreams. At first the trees spoke and I thought they were amusing. That changed when the messages arrived. Lately, their anger was directed at me. (mathman6293)

I turned and stared out the kitchen window, past the frosty-lidded cistern to the orchard beyond. My trees, my beautiful fruit trees, stood leafless and dark. I wished with all my heart that this was just a normal winter thing, but it wasn’t.

“Why are you blaming me, guys? You know I love you. You watched me go out and vote that last time, in the ice-storm. It’s not like I didn’t try!”

I turned with a sigh and went to the phone to give Zaius a call. Perhaps The Good Doctor had made some incremental progress on his Long-Shot-Theory. (TCR)

Couldn’t reach him or anyone by phone. Line’s dead, as dead as everything else it seemed and so i thumped down right where i stood hugging the ratty blanket i had wrapped about myself a little tighter and let the air in my lungs out in a moist little puff of despair. (Sherry)

A while passed before I shook myself out of my retreat. I stood slowly, trying to be strong, think positive, find a way to make frozen lemonade out of these frozen lemons.

Then I remembered that it was Tuesday, the day that The Core had agreed to meet at the big firepit over at Phy’s place. It was one of the last safe havens for those of us who still believed we could reverse the changes.

This was going to be a long day, and perhaps an even longer night. I dressed warmly and headed out into the cold. (TCR)

Malcolm and MacBeth, my two wolfhounds, bounded up as I crossed the yard to the barn and, noticing the provisions I was carrying, ran ahead to nudge open Scout's stall. I kicked the snow off of my boots as I entered the barn. Scout seemed as eager for a journey as the hounds, and waited impatiently as I saddled him and stowed the food and other supplies in the saddlebags.

I threw down some extra hay from the loft for the cows, some extra scratch for the chickens, then pulled myself up on Scout's back and set off down the old road towards the meeting. I stopped briefly at the Anderson place to ask them to keep an eye on my place while I was gone, and told them I'd be back in a day or two. (Phydeaux)

Scout broke into a trot as we reached the main road. I pulled back on the reins and slowed him down a bit, as the old asphalt pavement was crumbling and full of potholes, and I didn't want him to catch his hoof in one of them and go down.

Malcolm and MacBeth ran back and forth, following trails of scent on the ground and looking for rabbits as we continued onward.

Hours passed and we finally arrived; the firepit was burning brightly in the back yard of the house, warding off the cold and dark of the July twilight. (Mauigirl).

OK, now who is next who hasn't already done this?

I pick...

Mary Ellen of The Divine Democrat. Mary Ellen, if you decline, please send it on to someone else! Let's keep it going until it reaches its conclusion!

****

Thursday, December 13, 2007

New Post on Medicana: Prostate Cancer

A very good friend of ours was just diagnosed with prostate cancer through a routine PSA test. Luckily, it is at an early stage, and his prognosis is excellent.

As a result of his diagnosis, and that of another very good friend about three years ago (he's doing fine), I decided to do my next post for Medicana on prostate cancer, for those who want to know more about this very common cancer in men. So go check it out - and men, don't forget to get your PSA tests!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

He Said What???

From Liberal Values. (my comments in red):

The Dumbest Things President Bush Said in 2007

10. “And there is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I’m sorry it’s the case, and I’ll work hard to try to elevate it.” –interview on National Public Radio, Jan. 29, 2007 (Yes, Dubya, you sure did! Well done!)

9. “I fully understand those who say you can’t win this thing militarily. That’s exactly what the United States military says, that you can’t win this military.” –on the need for political progress in Iraq, Washington, D.C., Oct. 17, 2007 (Nope, can't win this military, it's not a prize in a contest)

8. “One of my concerns is that the health care not be as good as it can possibly be.” –on military benefits, Tipp City, Ohio, April 19, 2007 (Working hard on that, are you? I think you succeeded. The health care is certainly not as good as it can possibly be.)

7. “Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your introduction. Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit.” –addressing Australian Prime Minister John Howard at the APEC Summit. Later, in the same speech: “As John Howard accurately noted when he went to thank the Austrian troops there last year…” –referring to Australian troops as “Austrian troops,” Sept. 7, 2007 (Uh, where am I again???)

6. “My relationship with this good man is where I’ve been focused, and that’s where my concentration is. And I don’t regret any other aspect of it. And so I — we filled a lot of space together.” –on British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Washington, D.C., May 17, 2007 (Yep, filled it right up. With hot air).

5. “You helped our nation celebrate its bicentennial in 17 — 1976.” –to Queen Elizabeth, Washington, D.C., May 7, 2007 (Watch video clip) (Hey c'mon, she's not THAT old)

4. “The question is, who ought to make that decision? The Congress or the commanders? And as you know, my position is clear — I’m a Commander Guy.” –deciding he is no longer just “The Decider,” Washington, D.C., May 2, 2007 (Sure is. Wants to be Fuhrer)

3. “Information is moving — you know, nightly news is one way, of course, but it’s also moving through the blogosphere and through the Internets.” –Washington, D.C., May 2, 2007 (Is he serious? Internets? Sounds like LOLBush)

2. “There are some similarities, of course (between Iraq and Vietnam). Death is terrible.” –Tipp City, Ohio, April 19, 2007 (Stating the obvious...but aren't there a few other similarities? Can you spell "quagmire"?)

1. “As yesterday’s positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured.” –on the No Child Left Behind Act, Washington, D.C., Sept. 26, 2007 (But you don't)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"This is a Christian Country."

These words, or similar ones, have been used frequently during this too-long election season; even John McCain recently said that the country was founded on Christian principles, justly earning criticism from non-Christian groups.

Unfortunately, these words were also used during the commission of what was apparently a hate crime on the Avenue Q subway in Brooklyn, NY over the weekend.

According to reports, four passengers were beaten after exchanging Hanukkah greetings on the train, with the attackers blaming them for the death of Jesus Christ and saying “This is a Christian country.”

This is what happens when the media and the politicians bring religion into the public arena instead of keeping it in the personal realm where it belongs. It makes the country safe for bigotry. Why, in the 21st century, do we still have Jews being beaten just for being Jews? Because there are a passel of politicians out there pandering to the far right Christian movement, and falling all over one another to prove they are the most Christian of the bunch.

Jesus himself said that his kingdom is not of this world. Why, then, do so many in politics want to make it part of this world?

My guess is it’s a distraction from the real issues, issues that Jesus, were he here today, would have been addressing with gusto: poverty, disease, misery, war. Oh no, that’s too much trouble. Let’s just have a pissing match about who is more Christian instead!

I hate to break it to those who profess this is a Christian nation, but it isn’t. The Constitution doesn’t mention it, and there is actually a document, the Treaty of Tripoli, that spells this out explicitly.

“…a little known but legal document written in the late 1700s explicitly reveals the secular nature of the United States to a foreign nation. Officially called the "Treaty of peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary," most refer to it as simply the Treaty of Tripoli. In Article 11, it states:

'As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.' "

If there is any doubt about what the Founders meant by the First Amendment, they followed up on its meaning in their correspondence and autobiographies (from the same link):

"Thomas Jefferson interpreted the 1st Amendment in his famous letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in January 1, 1802:

'I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State.'

Some Religious activists try to extricate the concept of separation between church and State by claiming that those words do not occur in the Constitution. Indeed they do not, but neither does it exactly say "freedom of religion," yet the First Amendment implies both.

As Thomas Jefferson wrote in his Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom:

'Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.'

James Madison, perhaps the greatest supporter for separation of church and State, and whom many refer to as the father of the Constitution, also held similar views which he expressed in his letter to Edward Livingston, 10 July 1822:

'And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.' "

So there you have it, in their own words. I am so sick of the politicians pandering to the “Christian” right and perpetuating the myth that we are a nation founded on any kind of religion.

When will a politician have the nerve to stand up and say "I will not discuss my personal beliefs as religion has no bearing on the ability to govern." Probably when pigs fly, or when the polls show that the American public is now sick of this hypocrisy.

UPDATE:

Just read an excellent post on the Daily Kos which covers a lot of similar themes: Check out With God On Our Side. (Hat Tip to Balls and Walnuts for pointing out this post.)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Shifting Priorities

David Brooks has an interesting column in Tuesday's New York Times. His contention is that, with the new NIE assessment that Iran is not currently a nuclear threat, and the calmer atmosphere in Iraq recently, that the war and terrorism may no longer be the key issues concerning voters. As a result, domestic issues should come to the forefront, a situation that may favor Huckabee and Obama over Rudy and Hillary, in Mr. Brooks' opinion.

"When Wall Street Journal/NBC pollsters asked voters what qualities they were looking for in the next leader, their top three choices were: the ability to work well with leaders of other countries; having strong moral and family values; bringing unity to the country."

He goes on to explain why this favors Obama and Huckabee:

"It’s clear that voters are not only exhausted by the war, they are exhausted by the war over the war. On the Democratic side, Obama captured the mood exactly with his Jefferson-Jackson Day speech of a few weeks ago. In that speech, he asked voters to reject fear, partisanship and textbook politics. He asked them to vote instead on the basis of their aspirations for a new era of national unity. As a result, Obama has pulled ahead in Iowa and approached parity in New Hampshire.

The tragedy of the Republican race is that Mitt Romney and Giuliani, who could have offered a new kind of Republicanism, opted to run as conventional Bush-era Republicans. Now Huckabee has emerged as the fresh alternative. Huckabee is socially conservative, but not a partisan culture warrior. He’s a pragmatic gubernatorial Republican, not a rigid creature of the beltway interest groups."

The latest New York Times/CBS poll shows that none of the Republican candidates are viewed favorably by a majority of Republican voters, and most voters have not made up their mind yet. Huckabee has come from nowhere to now be in close contention with Rudy Guiliani and Mitt Romney.

Among Democrats, however, Hillary Clinton is still strong nationally, with Obama and Edwards seen as less electable, and according to this poll, Clinton is seen as more able to unite the country, contrary to the opinion cited in Mr. Brooks' column.

The NY Times poll also does not support the idea that Iraq is not still highly important:

"More people cite the Iraq war as the most important issue facing the country than cite any other matter, and though 38 percent say the dispatch of extra troops to Iraq this year is working, a majority continue to say that undertaking the war was a mistake."

The economy is another key issue for voters and most feel the country is going in the wrong direction.

So what's going to happen in 2008? We just don't know. Voters are obviously divided on their priorities and anything can still happen to shift them one way or another between now and election day.

One thing that may seem comforting to Democrats: Democratic voters tend to view the Democratic candidates more favorably than the Republican voters do theirs.

"Mrs. Clinton is viewed favorably by 68 percent of Democrats, followed by Mr. Obama, viewed favorably by 54 percent. Mr. Edwards is viewed favorably by 36 percent.

On the Republican side, in contrast, Mr. Giuliani is viewed favorably most frequently, and that is by only 41 percent. Senator John McCain is viewed favorably by 37 percent, and Mr. Romney by 36 percent. Mr. Huckabee is viewed favorably by 30 percent, and 60 percent say they do not know enough about him to offer an opinion, suggesting that he may be vulnerable to the kind of attacks that his opponents have already been mounting against him.

Seventy-six percent of Republican respondents say they could still change their minds about whom to support, compared with 23 percent who say their decision is firm. Among Democrats, 59 percent say they may change their minds, as against 40 percent who say they have made their decision."


No matter what happens, it looks like it's going to be a long year.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

For Educational Purposes Only

Fran of FranIam has tagged me with this meme and I'm now getting around to posting my response!

Here's how it works. You must write about 5 classes you would like to take if you could make up your own curriculum. AND- and this is important, ONE of them must come from your tagger's list.

So here goes. First of all, I am going to take the first one from Fran's list:

How To Read 283 Blogs A Day, Plus Write One Clever Post Daily (or semi-daily anyway), In 24 Minutes or Less

"This 12 week course will be time well spent for the busy blogger." Like Fran, I find it a big challenge to read all the great blogs I have become addicted to in the limited amount of time available to me. I try to scatter myself randomly among them and hope that I manage to catch up with all of them in due time. But one of the biggest time-wasters, working, takes up most of my day, and it is hard to find the time to both read blogs and write in one.

Once I pass this course I look forward to adding still more must-read blogs to my blogroll and reading all of them every day! It is a course no one should miss.

OK, one down and four to go. Let's see...

How to Watch George W. Bush Make a Speech Without Screaming at the Television:














This isn't so much a course as a therapy session. It's a one-day event at which you are given tips on how to survive a speech or news conference given by Dubya without having a conniption. You will be taught how to dim your eyesight so as not to see his trademark smirk (very dark glasses). You will be taught to put earplugs in your ears so as not to hear him mangle the English language and lie about whatever his lie of the day may be. Medication will be dispersed to participants (Xanax or an equal generic substitute) to be taken before attempting to watch the next speech. And, as a last resort, you will be given a remote control and taught how to turn off the television in case none of the above work and you feel a scream coming on.

Remedial Blogging Skills

This 6-week course will provide those with limited understanding of the more arcane aspects of computer use with a good foundation to continue expanding their skill set in this arena. Not sure how to upload a picture onto the sidebar of your blog? Finding it hard to understand all the blogging-related technicalities? (Example: What is U-Comment, I-follow? Take this course and you will know!)

Herding Cats I

We all know cats are notoriously hard to train. However, some people manage to do it, so we know it's possible! This 8-week course will teach you how to get your cat to come when called, stop scratching the sofa, stop sitting in front of the computer screen when you're trying to blog, and not use the dog's bed as a litter box when his own box is dirty. The advanced course (only available for those who have taken Herding Cats I) will teach more complex tasks such as getting your cat to fetch you a beer. Cat not provided; please bring your own.

How to Walk Your Dog Without Going Outside


Tired of taking Fido on those long walks in the depths of the winter? Then this course will solve your problem. Did you know your dog can be taught to do his or her business on command? If not, then you must take this one-day course. Learn how to instruct your hound to go out into the yard and do what he needs to do and come back, all without leaving the comfort of your back door!

If you have a fenced-in yard, you only need these foolproof methods that are taught in this class. If you don't, then you will also need a 26-foot retractable leash. You can then stand there and let your pooch unwind that leash to its full 26 feet and accomplish his task - at a comfortable distance while you stand within the back door. Again, dog not provided, bring your own.

(This is actually true, e-mail me for tips! Most dog-lovers probably know this already!)

How to Survive the Holidays Without Going Crazy

If you lack that holiday spirit and just want the holidays to be OVER, already, this course is for you. Held on two consecutive weekends in October, you will learn the following skills:

- How to convince your family that none of you really need to have any gifts since you already have more things than you'll ever need and buy everything you want throughout the year anyway.





- How to get away with just buying a token Christmas tree and avoiding the big "decorate the tree and have a big fight while you're trying to put up the lights" syndrome.







- How to buy your entire Christmas or Hannukkah (or holiday of your choice) dinner at a local gourmet grocery store and just heat it up instead of cooking all that stuff for the family from scratch. Also - store bought Christmas cookies! They're available at your bakery!






- The wonders of gift bags for those few gifts you absolutely have to buy - who needs all that wrapping paper and tape?






- How to decorate the outside of your house in 5 minutes (Hint: Wreaths. They're easy, they're classic - and classy.) Alternatively: Leave the lights up all year. Turn them on on December 1st.






- The last lesson - "How to Give to Charity." Learn the skills of opening your checkbook and writing out checks to people less fortunate than you. It will bring back that holiday spirit in no time.







(And if you still don't have holiday spirit you can always listen to The 12 Pains of Christmas to feel you're not alone).

So that's it! And who will be next? I hate to tag too so I'll just pick a few folks and if you want to do it you can, if not, you don't need to feel obligated. And anyone else who wants to do it who isn't tagged, go for it!

Makanani
Phydeaux
Nick at This is It
POP at Morning Martini

Have fun!

For Those in Daily Show Withdrawal

You may already know this, but I just discovered it: Comedy Central has started a new website exclusively for The Daily Show.

If you get on the site you can watch clips from all the shows back into the distant past. This is a real bonanza for me, because, I confess, I came late to The Daily Show. I have a lot of catching up to do.

Believe it or not, DH and I didn't have cable TV until 2004. So, although I had heard about this "Daily Show" that all the young people in Gen X and Gen Y (and whatever you want to call that really new generation that's just getting going) got all their news from, I had never seen it. Not once.

But once we finally gave in and got cable (for the internet access more than the television aspect of the service), The Daily Show was one of the first shows I looked for - and was immediately hooked.

So, after three years of devotedly watching Jon Stewart, you can imagine how I'm feeling during the writer's strike. It is frustrating to hear the news stories come and go, which range from outrageous to ironic to ridiculous, and know that The Daily Show will not be skewering these events on its nightly program. I can only imagine the satire that might have occurred under other circumstances, and bemoan the loss of the brilliance that will never be seen.

I am hoping the strike will be over soon. But in the meantime, check out the link and slake your thirst for Daily Show satire with some old clips. It may be enough to hold you over; and at least it should help.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Credibility Just Keeps Getting Worse

According to the New York Times, back in 2005 the C.I.A. destroyed two videotapes of interrogations of Al Qaeda suspects:

"The Central Intelligence Agency in 2005 destroyed at least two videotapes documenting the interrogation of two Al Qaeda operatives in the agency’s custody, a step it took in the midst of Congressional and legal scrutiny about the C.I.A’s secret detention program, according to current and former government officials.

The videotapes showed agency operatives in 2002 subjecting terror suspects — including Abu Zubaydah, the first detainee in C.I.A. custody — to severe interrogation techniques."


The C.I.A. explained this act by saying that the tapes posed a "serious security risk" to the C.I.A. operatives in the tapes and their families, as Al Qaeda might have tried to retaliate against them if they were able to identify them. (They did not explain why they couldn't have blocked out the faces of those involved, which would have addressed that risk).

The C.I.A. apparently lied when asked about the existence of any tapes:

"The recordings were not provided to a federal court hearing the case of the terror suspect Zacarias Moussaoui or to the Sept. 11 commission, which had made formal requests to the C.I.A. for transcripts and any other documentary evidence taken from interrogations of agency prisoners.

C.I.A. lawyers told federal prosecutors in 2003 and 2005, who relayed the information to a federal court in the Moussaoui case, that the C.I.A. did not possess recordings of interrogations sought by the judge in the case."
(emphasis added).

According to a legal expert, the destruction of the tapes and the cover-up of their existence should have legal consequences:

"John Radsan, who worked as a C.I.A. lawyer from 2002 to 2004 and is now a professor at William Mitchell College of Law, said the destruction of the tapes could carry serious legal penalties.

'If anybody at the C.I.A. hid anything important from the Justice Department, he or she should be prosecuted under the false statement statute,' he said."

It has been reported that the suspect in the tape, Abu Zubaydah, endured a number of nasty physical interrogation methods, including the controversial waterboarding technique, which involves near-suffocation.

Even C.I.A. officers admit that the release of videos would "provoke a strong reaction," which may explain why the C.I.A. wasn't too keen on anyone seeing them.

“People know what happened, but to see it in living color would have far greater power,” a former intelligence official said.

Lying and torture are both bad. Lying about torture is worse.

My question is, do you think anyone in Congress or the Justice Department will do anything about this? Or will they just let it slide, as they have everything else this administration and its cronies have done?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Comedy of Errors

Well, maybe comedy is the wrong word. "An Annoyance of Errors" might be a better way to put it. This is the story of my afternoon taking my mom to the doctor's.

First of all, in order to get my mother to the doctor by 3:00 p.m. I was supposed to leave work at 2:00 p.m. I had a meeting right before that which I couldn't miss, but I figured I'd cut out afterward and skip the next meeting, which started at 2:00.

It was a long day, with a lot going on. My 1:00 p.m. meeting ended and, on automatic pilot, I went on to the next meeting. Suddenly, halfway through the meeting it dawned on me that I was attending the meeting I had planned to skip in order to go get my mother! I immediately rushed out of the meeting, spouting apologies, and called my mother on the way out the door and told her to tell the doctor we'd be late.

We arrived at the doctor's office and sat in the crowded, tiny waiting room. I had my mom sit over in a corner with some space between her and the rest of the other elderly people. (At 3:30 in the afternoon I guess only elderly people are hanging out at the doctor's office).

My mother started coughing and all the other people looked at us apprehensively. You could practically see them trying not to breathe. At that point the receptionist invited us in to see the doctor and they all looked relieved.

The doctor examined my mom and said she has bronchitis, and started writing out prescriptions. One for an antibiotic, one for a cough medication and one for an inhaler to help clear her airways. As he was filling them out, I mentioned that my mother is sensitive to Dextromethorphan, the drug that puts the "DM" in Robitussin DM. My mother then mentioned she can't take most decongestants as they make her heart race.

We left the doctor's office armed with our three prescriptions and went on to CVS to drop them off while we went grocery shopping. After the grocery shopping, we went back to the drug store and I left Mom in the car while I went in to pick up the prescriptions.






Of course there was a line of people waiting for their prescriptions. CVS was running behind and no one's prescriptions were ready. The line was not moving. I was behind a young guy with a toddler (a small, germ-laden toddler). Another woman was coughing and sniffling while waiting for her prescription. I had been in a doctor's office full of sick people. I felt a need for Purell.











Finally it was my turn to get the prescriptions...which of course weren't ready. So I waited a little and then the woman behind the counter, who was foreign and didn't speak English well, brought me the three prescriptions. She pointed at the paperwork for one of them and said "Did you expect this?" I had no idea what she meant so I said yes, thinking she meant the drug itself. But then after she rang up the bill it was $192! I said "Is that right? What cost so much?" She pointed to $155 on the receipt and said "This is why I asked you if you expected it," and it turned out to be the cost of the inhaler the doctor had prescribed! I questioned it, but it was correct, so what could I do but pay it?

When we got back to my mother's, I got her to take her antibiotics right away and then we tried to do the inhaler, which is some kind of inhalable corticosteroid. It is very complicated. It comes in the form of a disk, which has to be twisted to reveal the part that the patient is supposed to inhale out of, and there is a lever that has to be moved to provide the exact dosage.

So I did all that ahead of time so my mom would only have to inhale. I had her exhale once and then try to inhale this stuff. She didn't manage to get a good grip on it with her lips and when she inhaled she didn't feel anything. I don't think she got a bit of the stuff, but the instructions said not to do it twice because it's dangerous to inhale extra.

So, for $155 we got a useless, complicated thing that my mother will probably never get any use out of. (Pardon the dangling participle, but I'm not about to say "out of which she will never get any use.")

OK, on to the next debacle. My mother went to take the cough medication, which was in pill form. She discovered there was exactly one pill in the container! And yet she was supposed to take it every twelve hours. So I called up CVS and they said "Oh, we were out of stock on it, that's why you only have one. The girl should have told you." Great. So I asked if they could call it in to another CVS and they agreed to do that.

But in the meantime, I took a better look at the drug container and realized the cough medication was called Tusso-DM. DM always means Dextromethorphan. So I looked it up on the Internet (I knew I gave my mother my old computer for a reason!) and found out that not only did the stuff have Dextromethorphan in it but it also had a decongestant!

So the doctor totally ignored what we were saying and prescribed something that includes both of the ingredients that don't agree with my mother. Luckily I had gotten her a cough medication over the counter on Saturday so I told her to just keep taking that.

So that is the story of my afternoon. It made me really wish we still lived in a world where doctors made house calls and brought the medicine with them.













(Photo credit: http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/7aa/7aa102.htm)

The good news is, my mother is now feeling better. And maybe we can donate the $155 inhaler to charity. Think I can write it off on my income taxes?

And, thanks for everyone's concern and good wishes for my mother.

Today's haiku:

Doctors and drug stores
Antibiotics and pills
Now Mom is OK.

If It Bothers Me, I'll Blog About It

My mother just called me to tell me she's sick. It's 10:30 at night and I had had a really long, tiring day and was looking forward to a peaceful evening reading (or blogging!) in bed, when the phone rang.

My mother had a cold when I saw her on Saturday but it didn't seem bad; now she tells me she has a bad cough and she isn't feeling at all well.

Mauigirl: Should I take you to the Emergency Room?
Mother: Oh no, I don't want you to do that.
Mauigirl: Maybe I should call an ambulance.
Mother: Oh no, not that.
Mauigirl: What then?
Mother: Can you take me to my doctor tomorrow?
Mauigirl: (thinking of the back-to-back meetings on her schedule) Um, let me check my schedule...yes, after 2:00 I could take you.

So the upshot of it is I'm going to call my mother's doctor first thing in the morning and get her an appointment for about 2:30 p.m.

My mom is 89 and she had pneumonia last year, so I don't want to take any chances. She had a pneumonia shot this past year which is supposed to last several years, so I'm hoping that isn't what she has this time...but she could have bronchitis or something and need antibiotics. She is always so healthy - and so stoical in her New England way - that for her to admit there is anything wrong is a bad sign.

My mother always has a talent for doing things like this...she waits to tell me things until it's too late to do anything about them until the following day. I know she holds off on telling me things because she doesn't want to worry me or bother me at work, but sometimes that makes it worse.

So now I'll worry all night about her, and will continue to worry until I get her to the doctor.

I guess I should look on the bright side; now I can focus on worrying about my mother instead of the fifteen other things that were bothering me before this came up.

Today's Haiku:

It's always something
The job, the pets, the parents
Life is getting hard.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Jon Stewart from 1996 - Same Issues as Today



I came across this on the Blogrush site.

It's an old stand-up appearance by Jon Stewart back in 1996 from a performance in Miami. He talks about bombing other countries, the United States being 15th in education, and leadership - all still pertinent today.

At the end he implores politicians: "You want to be President? Be BETTER than us! Lead us!" If only...

The scary thing (other than the fact we're even worse off now than in 1996) is how young Jon Stewart looks back then!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Good News from New Orleans

I was reading yesterday's "Escapes" section in the New York Times this morning and saw a very encouraging article about the revitalization of New Orleans.

The article stated that not only are the usual tourist areas attracting a lot of out-of-town visitors, but that new, vibrant sites are being created.

"There are several new galleries, some wailing new music clubs and more than a dozen new restaurants - always a big draw in New Orleans. Even in parts of the city still in recovery there are new showcases for chefs, artists and musicians who continue to find that New Orleans inspires them in a way no other place can."

A new neighborhood, "The Musicians' Village," has been created with the help of Habitat for Humanity, an effort that was spearheaded by Louisiana natives Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr.

The purpose of the village is to provide housing for displaced musicians, and create a "community within a community" that focuses on music. Eventually it will include the "Ellis Marsalis Center for Music," an additional attraction for the area.

Another interesting site, on Chartres Street, is the Williams Research Center. In existence since 1996, the center, which holds a large collection of historical documents, recently built a new facility on the site of an old hotel. The building is a recreation of the hotel, which was built in the late 19th century. In excavating for the building, layers of archeological artificats were uncovered, including some that may date to the old brothel (destroyed by fire in 1822), the "House of the Rising Sun," celebrated in the old folksong that the Animals made famous. (Go to link to hear and see them perform it).

There is also a new "St. Claude Arts District" springing up in an area that is still in need of renovation, a harbinger of yet another recovery taking place.

In addition there are numerous new restaurants that all sound fantastic, serving New Orleans cuisine that may be literally to die for (how about "duck debris" po-boys - made from the scrapings from the pot the duck was roasted in - imagine the amount of fat in that? But I bet it's delicious!).

The response (or lack thereof) by the Federal Government at the time of the Katrina disaster was horrendous. But it is probably best that the actual restoration and rehabilitation of the city is being conducted by grass roots efforts, by the artists, chefs and residents of New Orleans, who will work to retain the character of this unique city.

Imagine how the Federal Government might have conducted a rebuilding effort here: massive destruction of neighborhoods, replacement with cookie-cutter, ugly public housing projects, no thought to historic preservation or character.

I think, in the end, New Orleans will be back as good, or better, than ever. And I'm heartily glad of it. Now if only they can ensure that all those who were left homeless and scattered around the country could be returned to their true home in the Crescent City, it would be ideal.

Today's Haiku:

New Orleans coming back
Po-boys, beignets and music
Jazz songs fill the streets
.