Friday, November 30, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I am starting to get in the Christmas spirit. I have been thinking about Santa Claus and his reindeer.
How many reindeer pull Santa’s sleigh? Is it eight, as in Clement Moore’s poem, or nine as claimed by the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”? It can’t be both. The two accounts contradict each other. At least one of them has to be wrong.
But what if someone in the future only had access to the words of this poem and song in a printed form that did not make clear that they were fiction? What if all they had were the words of the poem and song themselves – no helpful library classification or other context? What internal clues within the text itself should clue the insightful reader how to classify these writings?
If the action was set in some fantasy place like Never-never land where people lived in tree houses or holes in the ground it would be easy to tell that it was fiction, but the action seem to be set in our world where people live in houses like ours, so that is no help. A good clue that should tell any intelligent reader that this is fiction is the supernatural feats Santa and his reindeer perform – flying and visiting every house in the world in a single night. Another clue to their fictional nature is the fact that the later account adds details to the story – an extra reindeer – without any explanation for why the first telling of the story was wrong about this. The author of the song felt free to modify the story told in the poem in a way that would render the first story false if it were viewed as history. That should alert any intelligent reader that the author of the song did not view the original story as history and did not expect her/his audience to view either the poem or song as literally true or historically accurate.
That all probably seems so obvious that you think it was hardly worth my time to type it. But you would be surprised how many people miss obvious points like this when dealing with religious documents from long ago.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Gamblers, no matter how old they are, may have to show their driver’s license and have it scanned before entering Illinois casinos under a new proposal.
The Illinois Gaming Board is considering the card-everyone idea as a way to catch people who have voluntarily agreed to be arrested if they board one of the state’s riverboat casinos
The article goes on to explain that once someone has banned themselves from the riverboat casinos it takes 5 years and a doctor's evaluation that they are no longer addicted to gambling to get their name removed from the lists.
I think this is an excellent idea. If it works out well how about extending it nationally to all forms of legal gambling? And if that works out how about extending it to sales of alcohol? Just think, once someone agrees that they are a problem drinker and promises to quit, you would get them to ban themselves from alcohol and then it would be a lot harder for them to fall off the wagon.
Everyone selling alcohol (by the bottle or by the drink) would have a driver's license scanner connected to a central database so fake driver's licenses used by underage kids would no longer work. Everyone who did not have a driver's license because they were illegal for any reason would not be able to drink. Everyone who was of age and legal and had never declared themselves a problem drinker would just have their driver's license scanned and they would be scarcely inconvienced. I think it is a great idea.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
For those of you who don't get what he is talking about -- don't worry about it. He's just defending our country.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Since today is Thanksgiving Day I thought I would talk about why I am thankful to live in the
The collapse of the
Polls show that about 70% of Americans think that the country is heading in the wrong direction. I am thankful that most Americans recognize the same problems I see and are prepared to do something about it. Happy Thanksgiving.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
At the breakfast table this morning I was reading Leonard Pitts’ column which was commenting on the lack of reaction to a woman who asked John McCain, “How do we beat the b___,” referring, of course, to Hillary Clinton. McCain laughed and said it was an excellent question. The column asks if the reaction would have been the same if Lieberman had been the front runner and a questioner referred to him as a Hebe, or Richardson as a spic, or Obama as a coon? Leonard Pitts had no doubt that McCain would not have thought those were ‘excellent’ questions.
I agreed completely with the point the column was making but my wife did not. She did not think that calling a woman a “b___” was comparable to calling a Jew a Hebe or a Hispanic a spic. She thought an equivalent insult was calling a man a bastard. Should the column have asked whether John McCain would have thought that “How do we beat the bastard,” referring to Obama or Edwards was an ‘excellent’question? What do you think?
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
DeLay told Yeas & Nays that Republicans in Congress are "looking for something to believe in" and "they're not getting it out of this Republican leadership. … The leadership just isn't getting it."
"They're looking for some backbone,"
Presumably demonstrating the kind of backbone he thinks Congressional Republicans need Tom Delay said of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, "I'd like to bitch-slap him."
According to an article in this morning’s New York Times as bad as Dafur is Somali is worse.
The worst humanitarian crisis in Africa may not be unfolding in Darfur, but here, along a 20-mile strip of busted-up asphalt, several top United Nations officials said.
Top United Nations officials who specialize in
Somaliasaid the country had higher malnutrition rates, more current bloodshed and fewer aid workers than Darfur, which is often publicized as the world’s most pressing humanitarian crisis and has taken clear priority in terms of getting peacekeepers and aid money.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Our freshman Congressman, Phil Hare of
“I’ve been working on trade issues for 17 years, and Rep. Hare, as a freshman, showed more leadership, more character and, frankly, more relentless insistence for what was good for his constituents ... than I’ve seen more multi-term members pull off,” said Lori Wallach, director of the Global Trade Watch Program at Public Citizen, which opposed the deal. “It was incredibly impressive.”
Sunday, November 18, 2007
It is not surprising that no one without a conservative ax to grind will touch this. The whole story is based solely on the thoroughly discredited word of one man, Robert Novak. In the same way that scientists usually just ignore crackpot theories rather than bothering to refute them, apparently real journalists are simply ignoring this story. I advise you to do the same.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Of course, some of you may be thinking that this rating means that I am not writing clearly and plainly enough, that I am going over most of my potential audience's heads and that may explain my low readership ratings and the fact that my blog has been judged to be worth only $564.54 based on the number of links to my blog from elsewhere on the web. I choose not to look at it that way.
Instead, displaying the attitude that has got me where I am today, I say that anyone who can't understand this blog needs to go back to school.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Friends of Mr. Dobbs say he is seriously contemplating a race for the first time, although it's still unlikely. They spin a scenario under which the acerbic commentator would parachute into the race if Michael Bloomberg, the
billionaire and favorite of East Coast elites, enters the field as an independent. With Hillary Clinton continuing to score badly in polls in the categories of honesty and integrity, and with the public's many doubts about Rudy Giuliani and other GOP contenders, Mr. Bloomberg may well see an opportunity to roil the political waters by entering the race late. If so, Mr. Dobbs then sees a niche for a "fourth-party" candidate who could paint the three other contenders as completely out of touch. New York
Thursday, November 15, 2007
In his column this morning David Broder opines that the relationship between Hillary and Bill Clinton poses unique challenges to the nation should Hillary be elected. He remembers his discomfort when Hillary was given a prominent role during Bill’s presidency:
When Bill Clinton was president, the large policy enterprise that was entrusted to the first lady -- health-care reform -- crashed in ruins. The causes were complex, and some of the burden falls on other people -- Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the interest groups and, yes, the press. But as one who reported and wrote in great detail and length about that whole enterprise, I can also tell you that the awkwardness of having an unelected but uniquely influential partner of the president in charge affected every step of the process, from the gestation of the plan to its final demise.
I don’t get it. How is having the president’s spouse in charge of some initiative any different than having any other equally unelected appointee or advisor, selected by the president, in charge? Condi Rice seems strangely, at least to me, close to President Bush. She is “an unelected but uniquely influential partner of the president.” Why is not David Broder disquieted by that situation? I have to suspect that David Broder’s feelings of “awkwardness” concerning Hillary Clinton have more to do with his political differences with her and his prejudices and hang-ups than with anything else.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Click on this link to go the website of an
This company came to my attention when I was banking on-line and perusing the charges to my and my wife’s credit cards for the past week. A charge of $420 was paid to Universal Hovercraft. I did not have a receipt for that and did not remember ordering anything from that company or my wife having told me she had ordered anything. So, I googled to find out more about the company and discovered their website. As you can see the website makes no mention of anything the company does or sells other than hovercrafts.
So I asked my wife a question I had never imagined I would ever ask, “Honey, did you buy a hovercraft this past week and not give me the receipt?”
She got somewhat alarmed. She has always had a fear that a thief would get our credit card information and suddenly charges for things we had not bought would appear on our credit card statements. The charge for the purchase of a personal hovercraft apparently struck her as the epitome of something we would not have purchased and so it seemed that all her fears were suddenly coming true.
Hours later, after she had calmed down, she remembered what she had charged to her credit card for $420. Our cleaning lady had been complaining that she had borrowed some money from one of those car title/payday loan places and, because of the high interest her balance had kept increasing faster than she could get it paid off. The balance had grown to $420. My wife went down there, whipped out her credit card, paid off the loan. She told our cleaning lady she could pay us back by cleaning our house and we would not be charging her any interest.
Well, it was a relief to know that this was a legitimate charge to our credit cards but why did it show up as a payment to Universal Hovercraft? I have given it some thought and I now have a theory. Whatever relationship there is between the car title/payday loan place and Universal Hovercraft was created, at least in part, in order to give cover to the customers and employees of the loan place who are ashamed of their association with the high-interest loan shop. Not having the name of a quicky-loan place on their credit card statements must prevent some embarrassment for some customers (although it only caused confusion for me.)
The more speculative part of my theory is that the relationship between the two businesses gives cover to the employees of the loan shop who don't want to admit their association with the car title/payday loan business. When asked what they do for a living they say they sell hovercrafts. When they are asked to come to their children's school to talk about what they do they bring catalogs of hovercrafts for the kids to oh and ahh over. That's just speculation on my part, of course.
Very few Americans have the opportunity to see international news the way millions of people in the
In the gym at the NATO base in
soldiers hit the treadmills every morning and gaze at TV screens broadcasting Al Jazeera’s English news channel. When Osama bin Laden makes news, as he did recently with a statement about Kabul, U.S. Iraq, ’s finest work out beneath the solemn gaze of their most wanted enemy. America
Back in the States about the only way you can watch it is if you are one of the 147,000 subscribers to Buckeye Cablesystem in
Allan Block, the chairman of Block Communications, which owns Buckeye, [says]: “It’s a good channel. Sir David Frost and David Marash are not terrorists. The attempt to blackball it is neo-McCarthyism.”
Block, like other cable providers, got protest letters from Accuracy in Media, a conservative watchdog. Cliff Kincaid, its editor, cites the case of Tayseer Allouni, a former
Afghanistancorrespondent jailed in for Al Qaeda links. This is evidence, he suggests, that “cable providers shouldn’t give them access.” Spain
How do you feel about conservatives like Cliff Kincaid threatening cable providers to prevent you from seeing Al Jazeera?
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Eight out of fifty states currently issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Does this fact encourage people in other countries to come here illegally?
So do the people who are arguing against driver’s license for illegal immigrants have any facts or hard evidence that issuing driver’s licenses is in fact an incentive to illegal behavior? My guess is that there are no such facts because no one decided to enter this country illegally based on any incentive other than the fact they could work here.
The illegal immigrant problem is huge, obviously, and there's no single solution. But there is one word that would get the ball rolling in the right direction and win a lot of voters' hearts: disincentivize. Stop making it so attractive to slip through, over and under the border.
As long as we offer jobs, medical treatment, drivers licenses and in-state tuition to those who come here illegally, why would any right-thinking, would-be immigrant take a number and wait his turn? Why not just throw in the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders and free tequila while we're at it?
Certainly, no serious person thinks we can round up 12 million people and deport them. But it would be refreshing if we began to take seriously what it means to be a citizen and stop making it so attractive to be a lawbreaker.
When Kathleen Parker admits we cannot deport them all and then talks in the next breath about “what it means to be a citizen” she is talking about a two-tiered class system in which we exploit the labor of the non-documented while denying them the benefits citizens and legal residents enjoy. This would have all the standard advantages for us that the upper classes enjoy in any class-based society – and all the disadvantages also. Does a permanent under-class of exploited workers with fewer rights and benefits than the rest of us fit your picture of what America is about?
Friday, November 09, 2007
Well, hold onto those thoughts because, if history is any guide, at some point in the not too distant future people are going to suggest that our troops could have prevailed in
Thursday, November 08, 2007
I guess I won't give up my day job.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God, was in the Quad Cities over the weekend to speak at the Quad Cities Progressive Action for the Common Good's Spiritual Progressives Conference. There is an excellent article in the River Cities’ Reader by Jeff Ignatius about Rabbi Lerner and what he had to say. For example, this is Rabbi Lerner’s take on the Congressional Democrat’s lack of commitment for ending the war in
Many Democrats, for example, believe in ending the war in
These "practical" Democrats have their priorities wrong, Lerner said. "The spiritual world view tells us to go for our highest values, and to let them shape our actions," he said, "not let your actions be shaped by what seems pragmatic at the moment. ... To believe in God is to believe that there is a force in the universe that makes possible the transformation of that which is to that which ought to be. To align yourself with that force is often to be aligned against being realistic."
Here is Rabbi Lerner’s advice for how to fight the war on terrorism.
"We have come to believe that the fundamental reality of the world is one in which people are out to get us and hurt us, and that the only way we can protect ourselves is to dominate others before they dominate us," he said.
In terms of a policy recommendation, Lerner said the
The effect would be "to dry up the cesspools of anger and hatred against the richest country in the world - us - and the resentment that people have about the way the United States has acted in the world, as a dominator," Lerner said. Extremist groups wouldn't be able to find recruits, he claimed.
When you give it a little thought it seems kind of strange that the religious right has convinced so many people that their values of homophobia, xenophobia, capital punishment and opposition to sex education and family planning are God’s values, when everyone knows that God’s foremost commandment is to treat others with kindness and compassion, feeding the hungry and housing the homeless. Although the news media refers to social conservatives as “values voters,” that is a misnomer since everyone votes their values. We progressives have values that are much better aligned with the fundamental teachings of all the world’s great religions than the mean-spirited, punitive world-view of the so-called religious right. It has only been our reluctance up until now to frame our arguments in religious terms that has allowed the conservatives to perpetuate the fraud that God is on their side.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Both incumbent State Senator Mike Jacobs and his challenger Paul Rumler spoke. Mike Jacobs emphasized the bills he had passed and the money he had brought home from
Pat Verschoore spoke briefly. He was relaxed because again he has no opposition. Both incumbent State Rep Mike Boland and his challenger Jerry Lack spoke. Both men have a long history of working for the people of north-western
Rock Island County Recorder of Deeds Pat Veronda, Rock Island County Auditor Diana Robinson and Circuit Clerk Lisa Bierman spoke next.
The last to speak were the three candidates for Rock Island County Coroner. Incumbent coroner Sharon Anderson is retiring after 20 years, so the race is wide open. The Democrats of Rock Island County will have to choose between Dr. Ronald B. Fiscella (a licensed physician and surgeon in the state of
Saturday, November 03, 2007
What would you say is the “defining issue of our time,” an action advocated by all the
Gail Collins, in her column in today’s New York Times alerted me to a right-wing delusion to which I had been paying little attention. Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is leading a charge to prevent the
What threats do you worry about – terrorism, global warming, expanding war in the Middle East, our huge national debt, our declining dollar, antibiotic-resistant infections, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes? According to Mike Huckabee and his fellow wing-nuts, a greater danger than all of those is the possibility that the
I guess that must be a signal that the right-wing has given up claiming that the Democratic candidates are not sufficiently alarmed about the threat posed by terrorism. How could they make that claim when they themselves rate the terrorism threat as less of a danger than that posed by the “Law of the Sea Treaty?”