Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday Summer Rock Show

The day after the 1982 graduation ceremonies at Waverly High School - the day I became a senior - a friend of mine had a "Got To Hell, World, I'm A Senior" party at his house. A bunch of us got together, swam in the pool (most of us were also on the varsity swim team), and basically got up to all sorts of doings most of the day. It basically set the tone for the next 12 months of my life; if anyone else had as serious a case of the I'm-a-senior-so--screw-you's than I did, I didn't know him. That same summer, along with the abysmal "Eye of the Tiger", this song was everywhere, and while I don't like it all that much, it still reminds me of that party, that summer, and that sense of being on top of the world.

Eric Boehlert Asks The Question

"Who care what Newt Gingrich thinks?"

Duncan calls him "Disgraced Former Speaker", which is far more accurate.

As soon as there's an answer that makes sense, I'll get back to you.

Congress Doesn't Act, Then Whines

This story shows up one of the deep flaws of our current situation.
Dozens of lawmakers are challenging the authority of President Obama's auto task force, saying its swift restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler is unjust to investors, dealers and others.


"We are asking President Obama to call 'time out' on his automobile task force," said Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-Ohio).

LaTourette was one of 36 lawmakers, mostly Republican, who reminded Obama in a letter a day earlier that Chrysler's bailout in 1979 was executed by Congress, not the White House. The lawmakers called for the return of Congress's "legislative prerogatives before it further disrupts the lives of people who work at Chrysler or live in communities that depend on it."


The Obama administration inherited the auto crisis from former president George W. Bush after Congress last December failed to enact legislation to aid the automakers. Some of the lawmakers now crying foul have opposed government intervention from the very beginning.(emphasis added)

They have no ideas, no plan, nothing. The President does, and is acting to balance all sorts of interests - including the national interest - and these do-nothing dodos are complaining about it.

They should have sucked it up and acted. There may be nothing that states the President has the power to act as he has done. Yet, there is nothing that denies him the authority, either. Furthermore, there is plenty of precedent - that whole Great Depression thing - for the Executive Branch to act in the vacuum created by legislative immobility.

I work in a Chrysler town. The plant in Belvidere just laid off 1,000 workers and is down to one shift - an expensive proposition for a huge manufacturing plant, allowing all that machinery to sit idle for sixteen hours a day. Yet, it hangs on still. Any plan, no matter how much it offends the sensibilities of these mediocrities in Congress, that keeps those doors open and paying people, is fine by me.

I have no idea whether or not the auto industry will, or should, survive. My initial thoughts, last fall, were the whole thing should crumble and maybe, just maybe, if we had a chance to rebuild from the wreckage, our auto industry might end up better managed, more profitable, and more creative in its approach to designing and building cars (Aztec, anyone?). Part of the reason for restructuring is to allow this to happen by regulatory fiat; the inertia of the auto companies is famous, and part of the reason for the dismal failure. As stakeholders in the ultimate success of GM and Chrysler, the Executive has the duty to insist changes be made that make the companies not just survive, but become profitable entities again. For members of Congress who sat around whining, "What can we do? The market is in charge?", last fall to puff up their pigeon-chests now and insist that President Obama do nothing that might actually help these companies is not just political hypocrisy. It's short-sighted, stupid, and small-minded.

I do so hope President Obama tells them, in the politest political lingo, to STFU unless they have actual ideas.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

On Love

I don't know that I've ever mused about this subject explicitly. How odd.

It's the most powerful, most unknowable, most dangerous human state. Love brings life. Love can kill. We are at our weakest and our strongest when we surrender to its lure. We should be on guard against all the trips and traps that lie down this path: that we can ever know what it is; that we can master it, rather than be mastered by it; that it is nothing more than a feeling; that the exquisite pain and promise are not always one and the same thing.

To love is to allow oneself the privilege of being as fragile as spin glass. We take the risk of stripping ourselves bare before another, giving them free reign in our lives. We can have no secrets, no walled-off areas, no restrictions. Herein lies both the joy and the gravest danger. The hole in our hearts when a loved-one leaves, or passes is the price we pay for allowing ourselves to be fully human.

Yet, all these words are nothing but sounds, meaningless in the face of the reality that is love as it is live out between two people. One can say so much, yet it all falls away in the silence that can bond two people. There is no "reason" for love; there is no explanation, no logic, no QED. It just is. If it's real, it never ends. Nothing - certainly not death, let alone physical separation, or such paltry emotions as anger, betrayal, resentment - can stop it from still sitting there, bleeding its life into our lives, keeping us going form one moment to the next when all we wish to do is stop the pain. We deny the pain as the lie to protect ourselves from the reality that the pain, like the love that is its source, is unquenchable. To live that pain is to embrace not the final word, but certainly the most impossible part of love.

Yet, there is more to love than this. The danger it poses - the threat to our own sense of ourselves, our equanimity, to our very lives - is every bit as real as the joy that comes from those fleeting eternal moments. To love is to live under the constant threat that it will ask of us more than we are prepared to give. To love is to live with the threat of change - real change - hanging over us.

Surrender is the only real option. Whether we stand before the throne of God, or looking in the eye of the one person who knows us better than we know ourselves, love steals choice from us, leaving us with only one recourse. There aren't enough tears of joy in the world for that moment, when we realize that, regardless of all our flaws, the pain, the pettiness and disappointment - not only who we are, but who we can be, is good enough.

A Talking Dick

The former Vice President offered more evidence in his war crimes/crimes against humanity today. At one time, the only American I wanted to sit in a dock at an International legal tribunal was Henry Kissinger. Thanks to eight years of Bush, the list has grown.

What an awful human being. What a horrible executive. No shame. No remorse.

If I were his lawyer, I'd advise him to STFU for a little while, because at some point, lawyers are going to take over.

Fear-mongering, small-minded, mediocrity. Ugh.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Darwinius masillae

Her name is Ida. She was a juvenile monkey, living 47 million years ago, who ended up dying, poor thing, her body settling on a lake bed. Lucky for her eons-distant ancestors, the entire outline of her body was preserved, so we could get a rough idea of what she looked like. Here she is.

At Science Blogs, PZ Myers writes the following on the discovery:
People have been using remarkable hyperbole when discussing Darwinius. She's going to affect paleontology "like an asteroid falling down to earth"; she's the "Mona Lisa" of fossils; she answers all of Darwin's questions about transitional fossils; she's "something that the world has never seen before"; "a revolutionary scientific find that will change everything". Well, OK. I was impressed enough that I immediately made Ida my desktop wallpaper, so I'm not trying to diminish the importance of the find. But let's not forget that there are lots of transitional forms found all the time. She's unique as a representative of a new species, but she isn't at all unique as a representative of the complex history of life on earth.

Just to be clear, what's important about this particular find isn't the whole "missing link" business; it isn't how detailed and complete her preservation has been. What's important is, quite simply, her age. This pushes back the existence of monkeys and millions of years. Little Ida may have had a short life, but her near-perfect preservation has allowed her to live on, telling all sorts of stories, and raising all sorts of possibilities, as we ponder her early existence.

Any creationist who posts a comment will be laughed at, but not deleted.

What If They Find The Key? (UPDATE)

The Republican reaction to the potential closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station is creating the wondrous spectacle of Republican politicians insisting our prisons aren't a safe place to put criminals. What makes this hysterically funny is that, for years, the Republicans have wanted to put prisoners away to keep America safe. The idea that our prisons are, suddenly, not a safe place to put criminals makes part of their public policy a joke, whether past or present, take your pick.

Now, today, the Senate voted to refuse to fund the closing of Gitmo, which makes absolutely no sense at all. What the hell is Gitmo but . . . a prison? I'm waiting, patiently or otherwise, for someone to explain to me, in a way that makes sense, why prison is alright for Charles Manson, Richard Rodriguez (the Night Stalker killer), and (until they were executed) Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacey, oh and of course Khalid Sheik Mohammed and the perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings and the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. But the mostly innocent folks picked up off battlefields and plopped for years, effectively incommunicado in Cuba - nope, too dangerous.

Our politicians are silly, inconsequential folk who make no sense.

UPDATE: According to this post at TPM, the fault for this lies at the feet of the Obama White House.
On his first day in office, President Obama signed an executive order calling for the detention facility to be shuttered within a year. Four months later, strategists and Hill staffers say the White House didn't follow through. According to one strategist who advises Democrats on this issue, "things kind of got lost a little in the period between when the executive order was signed and today. There wasn't much direction from the White House to Capitol Hill. There was a breakdown between the White House and Congress."

What happened next will come as no surprise to students of Washington politics. Republicans rushed to fill the ensuing leadership void, and high-jacked the issue entirely. They have insisted for months now that closing the Guantanamo prison is the first step in a process that will result in terrorists walking American streets, and Democrats have met those charges with silence.(emphasis added)

First of all, what do you say to such profoundly stupid things as this? Now, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Democrats are running scared from crap like this; they got in the habit over the years, and rather than point and laugh, they puffed up their pigeon-chests and said, "You know, you're right! They might just stroll in to a 7-11 in my state and order a slushy!".

More revealing than the idea that the Republicans managed to play this issue so well in the absence of intelligent Democratic support and public relations, is the idea that the Senate Democrats got their tender feelings hurt by the White House.
a bigger problem, according to several sources, has been the White House's failure, for months, to co-ordinate strategy and messaging on the issue with Congress, where the bulk of opposition to the plan lies.

"Congress, on the legislative calendar, got ahead of Obama on this," says Ken Gude, who focuses on Guantanamo as associate director for the Center for American Progress."They've established their task forces they're working on their own timeline and the timelines didn't match."

According to Gude, "it's the kind of problem you have when you have two different tracks moving, but not at the same rate."

So, the White House is trying to figure out how to do this correctly, and in the meantime, the Senate, rather than wait, decided to vote on the issue. It seems to me they could have, and probably should have, waited. Getting their panties in a bunch, thanks to the typical Republican oogedy-boogedy, they ran away from Obama's plan, ironically casting the entire Federal Bureau of Prisons as some kind of sieve through which all these "terrorists" will soon pass, raping our men and killing our women, or something like that.

The performance of a few Democratic Senators today in defending both our Federal penal system, and the President's plan was a bit too little and too late. Too bad.

Summer Cruising Song, '09

The Allman Brother's Fillmore Concert CD. Bruce Srpingsteen's Born to Run. Joe Satriani's "Summer Song". All great songs to accompany a good long drive. I once drove from DC to my folks in a borrowed BMW - if you're gonna do something, do it in style, I always say - that had a five-disc CD player in the trunk (it was 1991, people, this was fancy!). The first two discs was an early, unremastered copy of the Allman Bros. Fillmore recordings. Carried me past Gettysburg, almost to Harrisburg.

I've discovered blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa, and all I can say is, listening to this puts me in the mood for a nice, long road trip somewhere on a sunny day, windows rolled down. This is totally self-indulgent, but if you have anything you like listening to, especially as you're dead-heading down a long stretch of blacktop - maybe through Slapout, say - you can add it in comments. Who knows, I might even add it to my car playlist.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pointing And Laughing And Asking A Question

(h/t Matt)

ER points and laughs. Via Conor Friedersdorf, I have a question while I point and laugh:
How can [people] simultaneously insist that a country governed by [Pres. Obama] is well served by an executive branch given expansive powers during war time? How can they insist that he’ll end freedom in America, and defend the idea of warrantless wiretapping? Is it credible to argue that he is a radical opportunist who seeks the prosecution of political opponents, and that he should have the power to order waterboarding, “walling,” and other brutal interrogation tactics? It’s as if one moment they’re comparing him to Joseph Stalin, and the next they’re demanding that he wield all the power they helped afford him by arguing for its righteousness during the Bush era.

One quote one hears - and I don't remember who said it, or if it is even a real quote - about "genius" is the ability to hold two diametrically opposed ideas in one's head simultaneously. Thus, Mark, Marshall, Neil, Ozzie - the whole gang - a bunch of real geniuses.

Or the whole pack of them are dumber than carpet tacks.

Monday, May 18, 2009


I was told by a church member yesterday that Lisa might ask me to preach one Sunday this summer.

On music.

Believe it or not, I actually have a topic in my head already, and some ideas about how I might go about doing it.

Lisa hasn't asked me. Maybe I shouldn't jump the gun.

I worry when I preach.

So should everyone else.

Music For Your Monday

I was out stimulating the economy Friday evening, spending some hard-earned income at Best Buy, and I ran across a live DVD of David Gilmour. I must pronounce myself disappointed, because over half the program was a rehash of Pink Floyd tunes. Now, I won't begrudge Gilmour his desire to attract an audience by playing stuff they might just want to hear. Yet, Gilmour has a pretty impressive solo repertoire, stretching back to the 1970's. During Floyd's hiatus between Animals and The Wall, he gathered his old, pre-Floyd bandmates (one of whom had since become the bassist for Foreigner) and released a wonderful solo album. Then, after the band disintegrated thanks to Roger Waters' massive ego and the awful The Final Cut, he released About Face. In 1984, after releasing the second album, he toured, and filmed a concert at London's Hammersmith theater, a film broadcast on MTV back when it actually played music.

This first song - the film is missing, but the audio is from the show - is from Gilmour's first solo recording, a song written and performed with the ubiquitous Roy Harper. This is "Short and Sweet":

On About Face, he co-wrote two songs with Pete Townshend. This is "All Lovers Are Deranged":

The last cut on his first solo album, "I Can't Breathe Anymore", is very ominous, yet also mysterious. Always a good combination. Here's a rare performance video recorded in the late 1970's:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Trouble Makers And Pests

The President gave the commencement address yesterday at Notre Dame University. Much of the media hype about this has focused attention on the differing views on abortion rights held by, on the one hand, the President, and the other, the Roman Catholic Church. There have been many outspoken critics of ND's decision to invite the President; strangely enough, however, a student protest prayer vigil held the night before commencement was attended by about 150 students. None of those arrested outside the grounds of the campus (there were no protests on campus) were members of ND's faculty or staff, but included Obama's opponent for the Senate seat in IL, Alan Keyes, and Norma McCovey, the "Roe" of Rove v Wade infamy, now a pro-life advocate.

By way of contrast, there were roughly 12,000 people in attendance at the commencement ceremonies, with only 20 to 30 graduating seniors refusing to attend.

So, the entire controversy was, for the most part, fake. There was no groundswell against the President speaking at Notre Dame. Those who spoke out most loudly and most often, and ended up being arrested, weren't even members of the Notre Dame community. They were trouble makers, publicity whores, and - compared to the size of the overall university population - such a small minority as to be insignificant.

Virtual Tin Cup

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