Friday, October 31, 2008

Fun Friday

Thursday, October 30, 2008

McCainism: how to demagogue the Israel question

McCain has now poisoned the well to the point that it is considered treasonous to be in dialogue with Palestinian scholars and activists. Can't a person be a loyal friend to Israel and also be open to and curious about Palestinian perspectives?

Apparently not if you're McCain who seems to reject the idea of contact at any level with anyone outside the ever shrinking circle of friends of America in the Middle East. Worst of all is the obvious fact that McCain is demagoguing this issue. In 1996 in his capacity as director of the International Republican Institute, he directed a grant of nearly half a million dollars be sent to a Palestinian research organization co-founded by the selfsame Khalidi.

Obama was asked about his relationship with Khalidi in May at a town hall with Jewish voters.

“I do know him because I taught at the University of Chicago,” Obama said. “And he is a Palestinian. And I do know him and I have had conversations. He is not one of my advisors; he’s not one of my foreign policy people. His kids went to the Lab school where my kids go as well. He is a respected scholar, although he vehemently disagrees with a lot of Israel’s policy.”

“To pluck out one person who I know and who I’ve had a conversation with who has very different views than 900 of my friends and then to suggest that somehow that shows that maybe I’m not sufficiently pro-Israel, I think, is a very problematic stand to take,” Obama said. “so we got to be careful about guilt by association.”

Predictably, McCain frames this entire issue as evidence of a left wing media bias. Here's what he said.

"I’m not in the business about talking about media bias but what if there was a tape with John McCain with a neo-Nazi outfit being held by some media outlet. I think the treatment of the issue would be slightly different."

That's an interesting hypothetical given the fact that there is a tape of McCain with the Reverend John Hagee, an end-of-days whack job whose endorsement McCain actively solicited and whose contributions he accepted.

Then there's Ron Parsely who McCain called one of his "spiritual guides". Listen to this clip and ask yourself how in God's name can an American president who is guided by such a voice ever hope to win hearts and minds in the Arab world? Parsely doesn't make any pretense to wanting peace; he envisions war, spiritual and temporal war, holy war.

But here's the interesting thing...neither the media nor the Obama campaign have pressed on with the material in these video clips for public consumption since McCain "distanced himself" from these pastors. Isn't it interesting that the press and Obama take McCain at his word in this matter yet Obama does not get the same kind of treatment when he tries to do the same thing?
Liberal bias indeed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

name that socialist quiz

What famous socialists uttered these radical words? (Hint: the answers include neither one of the fraternal twins Obama or Karl the Marxist)

“we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.”

"Here’s what I really believe: That when you reach a certain level of comfort, there’s nothing wrong with paying somewhat more."

Answers here.

heads up

I was playing catch with Colm when I noticed that Sammy was tracking the ball too. Whatever Colm couldn't come up with on the fly or the first bounce, Sammy cleaned up on the pavement. Then it was game on trying to retrieve the ball from him. Sam's labrador genes are definitely not fully operational.

Obama and the Supreme Court

Here's a link to Obama's statement explaining his vote against confirming Supreme Court nominee Roberts in 2005. Notice the seriousness, the grasp of the issues, and notice his confession that he may be wrong, his grace in praising Roberts, as well as his defense of Democratic senators who voted for Roberts. It's all there: humility, competence, commitment to core values, and good will.

Defending Marriage

I'm with Andrew Sullivan on this one. What are people so frightened of?

If you're interested in seeing some pretty clever ads currently running in California about the ballot proposition to take away marriage rights from gay and lesbian Americans living in California click here.

Monday, October 27, 2008

rolling up to Halloween

Went to the pumpkin patch last weekend. This year's maze made out of stacked hay bales seemed taller and tippier, but no one was pinned under a collapsing wall of hay so all was well.

Back home, we set about carving pumpkins. We threw the innards in towards the chickens in the strawberry bed, probably not a good idea in retrospect (for the strawberry patch, I mean - the chickens were fine with it). Colm is lately sporting a new hat which he fancies as a cowboy hat. I think he's planning on going trick or treating as Hop-along-Cassidy, his grandad's favorite film character. I'm not sure about Tess yet. It wouldn't surprise me if she went as Hannah Montana.

Beth is thinking of being a witch.
As for me, I'll be disguised as Change himself. See my little pumpkin and you'll understand (click on photo for a larger version). K

Sunday, October 26, 2008

the cider heap

This morning I picked our apple trees clean, and then we drove out to our friends' place in Cove for a cider press and potluck gathering. There were a lot of us there and a lot of apples. We all took turns with the work and also around the potluck table which featured home made maple bars deep fried right there on the spot.

It was the kind of sunny fall day that makes you wonder how anyone could possibly live in a more beautiful corner of the earth. The kids ran about like banshees and exhausted themselves on the trampoline. Even our dog, Sammy, managed to win over the host dog, Jasper, a border collie who has in past visits literally taken a piece out of our pup's hide. In short, bliss was the prevailing mood.

The apples were sorted into sweet and tart groups and then pressed in equal measures together. The results were very satisfying to say the least. We brought home a couple of gallons. The press, a home made contraption that has been serving this annual ritual for over a decade had a problem with some bearings that needed to be repacked in grease....that cost us about an hour or so of daylight. When we finally left for home, they were stringing up lights to finish the work in the evening.

A day like this so imprinted by the feel, the shape and heft, the scent, the abundance, and the taste of apples led me several times to recall lines from Frost's poem "After Apple Picking". His persona in this poem is one of the farmer, not the hobbyist, hence his intense and obsessive concern with the harvest and his resigned almost fatalistic acknowledgment of the cider heap. I love this poem though unlike Frost's farmer, my dreams of apple picking are sweet and untroubled affairs.

After Apple Picking
by Robert Frost

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

our glimmering girl

there's a certain slant of light

When it comes the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath.

Emily Dickinson

Saturday, October 25, 2008

conservative scruples part 8

This post is for people who consider themselves independents.
Some people seem to be able to dismiss the endorsements of Colin Powell or Scott McClellan or Christopher Buckly for various reasons... personal motives, not really conservative, racial loyalty etc... But I dare you to dismiss these: Ken Adelman and Charles Fried .
Everyone I know, all my friends and family, we all confess to not really knowing what either candidate is really got going in his head or in his heart. We make our choices in good conscience; we try to be informed, but ultimately each of us takes a leap of faith when we cast a ballot.
With that in mind, I find it compelling when people like Adelman and Fried switch sides. Neither man is running for office; neither man stands to gain anything professionally from endorsing Obama, and both men are likely in for some rough treatment from conservatives like William Kristol at the NY Times or Rich Lowry at NRO.
Here are two men with impeccable and hard ribbed conservative credentials, men who have served conservative administrations with distinction over the years and who have both enjoyed privileged access to John McCain. Both men were once enthusiastic and front line supporters of McCain. Each man has now decided to vote for Obama. Read what they say and remember how each man has had a front row seat to the goings on in the McCain campaign.
I'm asking eveyone I know who hopes that a McCain vote is the right vote, don't examples like Adelman and Fried give you pause?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Getting out the Andy of Mayberry vote

Here's an endorsement that'll take you back.
See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

Sunday, October 19, 2008

boy and dog

Colm and I went to hit a few tennis balls yesterday. The kid has a real feel for whacking the ball. Afterwards we took one of the balls out in the field and had some fun with Sammy. Sammy has a feel for getting away.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

hard to make this stuff up

Especially when it's true. Here's an article about an official GOP flier that went out in the October newsletter to members of a Republican women's group in Riverside County, California. Take a look at the image a ten dollar food stamp bill bearing a caricature of Obama in a donkey suit, surrounded by watermelon, ribs, and fried chicken...unbelievable.
Did you ever wonder why you see so few black faces in the crowds at GOP events? Some black members of this same GOP group are feeling betrayed.

Sheila Raines, an African-American member of the club, was the first person to complain to Fedele about the newsletter. Raines, of San Bernardino, said she has worked hard to try to convince other minorities to join the Republican Party and now she feels betrayed.

"This is what keeps African-Americans from joining the Republican Party," she said. "I'm really hurt. I cried for 45 minutes."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I don't believe in an interventionist God

but a lot of folks Pastor Conrad of the Evangelical Free Church who gave this invocation at a McCain rally in Iowa today:

"I would also pray, Lord, that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their god — whether it's Hindu, Buddha, Allah — that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons," [Pastor] Conrad said.

"And Lord, I pray that you would guard your own reputation, because they're going to think that their god is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name with all that happens between now and Election Day,"

Things like this remind of Mark Twain's satiric story War Prayer. This story was written in 1904 in response to US involvement in the Phillipine-American War 1899-1902, but it was rejected for publication.
In the story a fiercely enthusiastic campaign to drum up public support for the war concludes with a Sunday worship service which extols the noble and patriotic crusade it's men are about to embark upon. The pastor delivers a long and fiery prayer. Towards the end of his prayer, a mysterious stranger interrupts the pastor, identifies himself as a messenger from God who has come to utter that part of the congregation's prayer which has not been spoken aloud in order to determine if the congregation does indeed wish that God grant that they have uttered. He proceeds to unpack their prayer for victory in stark terms. Here's the conclusion of his speech.
O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.
The story ends with a line that drips with sarcasm.
It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.
Be careful what you ask for,

Friday, October 10, 2008

conservative scruples part 8 Buckley for Obama

Christopher Buckley, a supporter of McCain as recently as one year ago, has endorsed Obama.
Read his essay here. It's thoughtful and refreshingly honest stuff.
Some of you may recognize the name; he is the son of the founder of the National Review, William F. Buckley Jr. Christopher Buckley is a writer by trade, his latest political satire is titled Supreme Courtship.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

conservative scruples part 7

Conservative columnist David Brooks spoke very candidly in an interview on Monday about the presidential and vice presidential candidates. While he praised her performance at the VP debate, he didn't mince words about Palin's qualifications. He described her a "fatal cancer to the Republican Party and he pointed out that she has far more in common with Bush than she does with McCain. His observations are thought provoking.
Read the article here.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

let them play hoops or hockey

Notice how McCain showers praise on Palin's reform record which includes securing federal funding for a 14 million dollar hockey rink in Wasilla when she was mayor (which ended up with 1.3 million dollars in cost overruns), and the Infrastructure to Nowhere when she was governor.

In last night's debate however McCain derides on at least three occasions what he calls a "3 million dollar overhead projector".

So what's up with this? Is this like the fabled 15 thousand dollar pentagon hammer? not hardly.
It's the projection system for the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, a site whose mission is to provide science education opportunities to children, many of whom are inner city youth. At the planetarium kids study the stars and other astronomical phenomena. The 40 year old projection system had begun to fail, leaving children in darkness during presentations.

In fairness to McCain, perhaps he doesn't know the difference between an overhead projector like the one in my classroom, and a projection system. On the other hand, maybe it's a cultural thing, and he prefers hockey to science.

Shameful isn't it? Spending taxpayer dollars on science education for city kids...let'em play hoops instead.

conservative scruples part 6

Here's a column from an endowed member of the NRA (apparently endowed signifies a grade higher than lifetime member). In his column, Richard Feldman points out the double standard which his organization has applied to the Obama compared to their position vis a vis McCain. Read the whole thing here.

There wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago

This morning when Beth went outside with the kids to bury Sugar, she found that one of our chickens, Feather, had been killed, probably by a raccoon. Feather had been in the habit of roosting up in the apple tree unlike the others who go inside the coop at night.
Colm looked at Feather and the grave I'd dug for Sugar and he said to Beth, "Mommy, why do our animals keep dying?"


The other night Tess and I were chatting. It was bedtime and she was unwinding slowly. It's always interesting to feel her go through this process of calming down. Physically she shifts about a lot. Restless, she kicks off covers; she waves her hands in the dark as if tracing figures in the air. Mentally she is just as active. Her eyes are wide, as if scanning some invisible screen hung from the ceiling. For me there is always a sense of anticipation, but it is a delicate matter. I'm tempted to ask her what she's thinking, how her day went, what she did at school, but experience has taught me that often it's best just to lie there with her and wait for words to come. They almost always do come.
"Yeah sweetie?"
"Why do people in those chairs have tubes in their noses?"
"What people?"
"In that place where we play in the front yard."
"The nursing home? Where the old people are?"
"Yeah, they are in chairs..."
"...and they have tubes in their noses. Why?"
"Well, those tubes carry oxygen into their lungs. They need them to breathe."
"They can't breathe or they'll die?"
"Their lungs maybe sick. Maybe the smoked too many cigarettes or something and now their lungs don't work anymore."
There's a pause. I think of my grandfather who died of emphysema. I tell Tess about how he too used to have tubes in his nose.
"Did he die?"
"Did the tubes fall out?"
"Then why did he die?"
"He just got sicker and weaker until he finally died."
"Is your grandma dead?"
"Yes. All of my grandparents are dead."
Another pause.
Then Tess says softly, "I'm afraid of dying."
"You're going to live a long time sweetie. Don't worry."
"I don't want to die."
"Everybody dies, but only after a time. You have lots of time."
"What were their names?"
"Whose names?"
"Your grandparents names."
"Jack and Betty, and Charlie and Merle." Tess is intrigued by the names. She repeats each one and asks me to explain whose side of the family each comes from.
"I like the name Betty."
"You would have liked Betty, and she would have loved you."
"But she died."
"She had a good life. She was happy that her children were grown up and happy and that her grandchildren were growing up too."
The unwinding seems finally to have occurred. Tess rests still beside me. She is quiet. Then I hear the intake of her breath as she yawns. As usually happens, I yawn too. We are on our way to sleep, each of us privy only to our own vagrant thoughts and encroaching dreams. A few moments later I lean over and kiss her head and say goodnight.
"Goodnight Daddy," she mumbles.
Last night, in the aftermath of Sugar's death, Tess is once again wrestling with the challenge of going to sleep. I've allowed our puppy to sleep on her bed instead of in his kennel just to give Tess some additional company. Sammy is more than happy with the arrangement. So is Tess who keeps one hand down where her fingers can twirl the hair on Sammy's ears.
Suddenly she says urgently, "Georgia doesn't know that Sugar died, and she liked Sugar."
Georgia is the daughter of friends from New York who visited us over a year ago. It was during their visit that Sugar first showed up on our back doorstep and sort of adopted us. Both families had fawned over him and began to brainstorm possible names.
"She will be sad," says Tess.
I stroke Sammy's head silently amazed at the range of Tess's musings.
"Sammy's going to miss Sugar too. They played together all the time."
Tess looks at me smiling. "Sammy? He doesn't know Sugar is dead. He doesn't even know what dead is."
"You think?"
"Yes. He's just thinking. I'm breathing. I'm alive." She giggles and ruffles his ears and coos his name. Sammy's tail flips a couple of times.
I lie there and breathe. It's good. It's good.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Our cat Sugar was mauled by a neighbor dog Thursday. He died that night. Tough day for the kids. Tough for us too. It's a good thing that we've got Sammy and Jasper (and the chickens) to take up the slack; it keeps the kids from focusing only on Sugar's death. We brought him home today. Both kids were very curious to see him. We're going to bury him under the walnut tree in the back yard.

I've never been attached to a cat before, but Sugar slipped into our lives in a very memorable way. He had a way of shadowing us when we went for walks; it wasn't walking with us so much as it was keeping track of us. Last Halloween he followed the kids trick or treating several blocks around our neighborhood. He also schooled our puppy Sammy on the martial arts.

We miss him a lot.

Monday, October 06, 2008

loose talk...the unmaking of a president

Listen to McCain's charming surrogates like McCain's brother referring to Obama voters in Virginia as communists, the Pennsylvania campaign chair who called Obama a terrorist's best friend, or the member of McCain's Virginia leadership team Bob May who thought it was funny to publish a column in which he said that Obama wanted to raise taxes to pay for free drugs for his inner city base. Clever and funny.
The venom creeps up the ladder too...Palin has now repeated the assertion that Obama is "palling around" with terrorists. She's played this bit to raucous responses like, "kill him!" and has never even blinked let alone rebuked anyone within earshot...
Then there's McCain tossing out red meat to his supporters, with quips like " who is he really?" "who is this guy who came from nowhere?"
McCain too seemed unperturbed by the snarling shout coming from the crowd, "he's a terrorist!"
Is it unmaverick like to rebuke such behavior? One gets the feeling that McCain would like people to hate Obama the way he seems to hate him.
Wouldn't it be poetic if someone took the McCain/Palin message to heart and grabbed a gun and defended their country by taking action against this American-hating menace?
If it were to happen, I'm sure that McCain would say that he was sorry. It's one of the things McCain does best.

oh, and just wondering...why is Hawaii nowhere while Alaska is somehow American?

The Resentments of Sarah Palin

Noam Scheiber has written a piece for The New Republic that you should read. It is a fascinating and in-depth look at Sarah Palin's political origins in Alaska. If you feel like you don't really understand where she's coming from, I urge you to read it. Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

finding the needle in the haystack

One of the hazards of reading widely in the blogosphere is that one is subjected to all sorts of claims of fact and truth. Making matters even more complex are the extremely powerful ways in which some of these claims are presented.
Take for example this video called "Burning Down the House" making the rounds on the internet. It is a ten minute parade of bold print assertions and file photos that are supposed to add up to an argument whose thesis is that the present financial meltdown has its origins in the Clinton administration with the Community Reinvestment Act and its pernicious effects on the free market. It further argues that valiant but unsuccessful Republican efforts to strengthen regulation of the subprime situation were thwarted by Democrats who were in the pocket of and beholden to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
It concludes with a series of conspiratorial offerings about Obama which have the effect of making him the personification of all that is responsible for the mess our country finds itself in. I confess that I found the video challenging on a visceral level (though too long), so much so that I did a little digging to see if I could in any way verify the soundness of its claims.
Interestingly, I found an analysis of this very argument in Business Week. You can read it here. I wonder though, given the opportunity to view the video, how many people take the trouble to find let alone read a piece like the one I linked to?
In today's media environment, people have lots of choices. One of the choices we have is to be infromed or not. It's really nobody else's fault if we are not.

lies, liars and statistics

It's hard to be a maverick with a record like this.

Also, Governor Palin seems to have fibbed again...this time on Darfur. She claimed in the debate that under her leadership, Alaska divested itself of economic and financial ties to Sudan in order not to benefit the genocidal leaders of that country. Nice story, too bad it's not accurate.
"The [Palin] administration killed our bill," said Alaska state representative Les Gara, D-Anchorage. Gara and state Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, co-sponsored a resolution early this year to force the Alaska Permanent Fund – a $40 billion investment fund, a portion of whose dividends are distributed annually to state residents – to divest millions of dollars in holdings tied to the Sudanese government.

Say it ain't so Sarah. Doggone it. Why do I get the feeling that when she winks at us, she's playing us for fools?

liberal scruples

Old categories are breaking down. Fiscal conservatives may have to find a new party.