Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Do I hear a faint cry of "abomination" from Denton?  To which I say, their humiliation only lasted long enough to take the pictures.  And doesn't Myrddin look absolutely miserable?  I think he might have been shaking the entire time it took us to get Rowan dressed.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Marriage is ...

Some folks sacred cow.

Once upon a time, I was of the opinion that civil unions were the answer. Require that all "marriages" be civil unions first and make religious ceremonies an option. That way, everyone would get the legal benefits and religious organizations would get the right to restrict the definition of marriage in any way they felt was within the tenants of their faith.

But then a strange thing happened. In June of this year, Rev. Martin Dudley of St. Bartholomew the Great in London performed a blessing of a civil union for two fellow Anglican priests, the Rev. Peter Cowell and the Rev. Dr. David Lord.

Lots was going on at the time in the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion with the Lambeth Conference approaching and the topic of homosexuals in the clergy a hot button topic that was driving the Communion towards a show down among conservatives and liberals. There were calls for Rev. Dudley to be excommunicated or, at the very least, fired from his post. Turns out that as Freeholder of St Bartholomew's it would be nearly impossible to oust him. While reading the coverage, I followed a link to the Order of Service for the blessing. As I read it, I came to the realization that this was a marriage ceremony, no matter what Dudley might call it. It was deeply moving to me and made me realize that marriage- that religious ceremony- was what these two men wanted and what they deserved. It struck me that it made no sense to deny a believing Christian the right to participate in the ritual of marriage to bless their relationship just because the two parties happened to be of the same sex.

I thought of two of my former Girl Scouts. What right did I have to tell one that because he was transgendered or the other that because she was a lesbian that neither of them could get married? Would their relationships be any less worthy of God's blessing just because they didn't fit the "norm"?

If Civil Unions are the necessary legal step to recognize all homosexual relationships in a legal sense, then Marriage is the next step. It would proclaim to all that every relationship, no matter the party's sexuality, is sacred.

Proposition 8 is on the ballot in California and hopes to limit the rights of homosexuals by defining marriage as between a man and a woman. There are many articles and blogs on both sides. But a few stand out. John Koch talks bout his personal experience with his boss and the lessons he has learned from her that have made him a better parent. He poses the unsettling question that if gay marriage is outlawed in California, will gay couples then have to fear that the state will take their children? John Seery's argument that Christ's Sermon on the Mount is a call to read the Old Testament, and that particular thorny passage in Leviticus, in a broader sense with less emphasis on the letter of the law is particularly appropriate.

We need to move past our fear of the outsider in this country and accept that there are many variations upon mankind. One is no more better than the other. This applies to sexuality, to politics, to nations and races. Let us hope that we can at last shed the shackles of our own prejudice and begin to see our fellow man as human beings, each worthy of God's love.

Hard Times? What Hard Times?

Exxon Mobile has shattered its own mind boggling record and posted profits of $14.83 BILLION for 3Q08! After you deduct $170 million in punitive damages from the Valdez spill and $1.62 billion from the sale of a natural gas transportation business, that's still $13.38 BILLION in profit.

They benefited mightily from the inflated crude prices that reached $147.27 a barrel at one point. One can only hope that the current price of crude, around $68 a barrel, will bring their profits down a little. I have no problem with them making money. I have real issues with them making obscene amounts of money while the rest of us struggle to heat our homes and put gas in the car.

And speaking of the Valdez, Exxon fought punitive damages all the way to the Supreme Court. The original judgment was for $5 billion, at the time, one year's profit for the company. After various appeals dropped the price to $2.5 billion, in June of this year, nearly two decades after the accident, the Supreme Court vacated that judgment, saying those costs were excessive and set the punitive damages at $500 million. So, Exxon's still paying off their final judgment, a measly $170 million at a time. That's 1% of their profit this last quarter. Must be a real hardship for them. They recouped nearly all the $2 billion they spent in cleanup and settlements from various lawsuits from insurance related to the loss of the tanker. Am I the only one who thinks this is crazy?

So, Exxon pulls in billions in profit but still can't pay off $500 million in damages in a single payment. What, are they worried the check will bounce?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I know who I want to be when I grow up...

I want to be Helen Philpott of MargaretandHelen.  If you haven't read this blog yet, please do.  Helen is 82, lives in Texas and voted for Obama.  She's proof that Texans aren't all Republican.  Some of us are not afraid to tell the world what we think of George Bush, John McCain and Sarah Palin.

One more blog to read on a daily basis...

Good Folk. Salt of the Earth. Morons.

Well, the wing nuts are at it again. I thought saying Obama was in league with the devil was as wacky as they could get, but apparently, sadly, I was wrong. Dennis Prager, syndicated radio talk show host, has proclaimed that equality is...wait for it...not an American value at all. It's European.

That's right folks. Equality is a European ideal put forth in the French Revolution (don't you now, the Repubs hate the Frogs). Our revolution was based on Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. No equality in there.

Never mind that the preamble to the Declaration of Independence mentions equality or that the Constitution mentions it as well. Clearly, Mr. Prager believes that equality is some war cry of the Left (those evil people out to make us all Socialists) and as such not something that should be held in high regard.

Don't believe me when I say someone would actually get up and say these things? Or that whack jobs (not just a description of Sarah Palin) would cheer him?

Watch this:

Wow. This drivel needs to be made known so that Americans can really appreciate the desperate need to get idiots like this out of the halls of government, off the airwaves and relegated to some mediocre backwater.

While news of this sort makes my blood boil, I got a real kick out of hearing some idiot in Tennessee has named his baby girl Sarah McCain Palin Ciptak. The best part is he didn't ask his wife. Reportedly, she was not amused.

Yea Team! With wing nuts like this on the job, Obama will win in a landslide.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Oh. My. God.

I cannot believe what I just read. Apparently, James Pinkerton of Fox News believes that the reason that the McCain-Palin ticket is so far behind is that Obama is in league with the devil.

Yes, that's right. Barack Obama has been endorsed by Satan. I encourage you to read the entire article and don't forget the comments. Those are the best part.

Seems like someone named Saul Alinksky once wrote a book called "Rules for Radicals" and in that book was the following dedication: "Lest we forget at least an over the shoulder acknowledgement of the very first radical, from all our legends, mythology, and history … the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom—Lucifer.”

Alinksky, according to Pinkerton, "who died in 1972, was a sort of godfather to all the activist groups that emerged in the 60s and 70s, the most famous (or, if you prefer, notorious) of which today is ACORN." Because of this tie to ACORN, Pinkerton claims that Obama has ties to Alinksy. Obama has called his time as a community organizer as the best education of his life. Since we all know community organizers use all those radical tactics that Alinsky supposedly taught them, Obama is clearly influenced by a Satanist and if McCain would only tell the American people about this, we would all awaken from our kool-aid induced euphoria and realize the truth. Namely, the fact that Obama is the Anti Christ.

Wow, the wingnuts are truly grasping at straws. But don't take my word for it. Read it for yourself. Really. I insist.

And don't forget, Fox News is Fair and Balanced. ('Cause they tell us so).

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I'm the Black Sheep. Baaa.

It's true.  I am the black sheep of the family.  Every family has one.  The person who doesn't fit in with the rest of the clan, who is a screw-up or gasp! Democrat.

I have two nieces who live in Austin, a mere 20 or so miles down the road from the 'burbs where I live.  They don't call me, don't facebook me, nothing.  One doesn't even include me in her Family Tree app on Facebook.  

Now I learn that one of them is moving back to Savannah.  How did I find this out?  I saw her status on Facebook mention something about moving and looked at her profile.  There I found pictures of a going away party at a local Austin landmark and pictures of her, my other niece and my sister from Houston.  Today I checked and saw a comment she made to a friend that said she was moving back to Savannah today.

I have received no phone calls, no invitations, no wall postings, nothing. Neither have my girls. I am such a persona non grata that my own family chooses to leave me out of the loop.  If I were to say anything to them, they would be surprised that I was offended, tell me something along the lines of "it never occurred to us that you'd want to come". 

My eldest would tell me I am as much to blame for the situation since I don't contact them either.  I have on occasion facebooked both of them.  We even had lunch together once, though it was over a year ago.  I called my sister to see if she was leaving before Ike hit.  The last time my sister called me was when our older sister was dying in 2001.  

I don't try very hard to contact my niece in Austin because we almost always end up arguing.  She's staunchly conservative and thinks me an idiot for not agreeing with her.  In fairness, I think the same thing of her, at times.  The niece that is leaving however, I have had no such tumultuous relationship with.  She moved to Austin after graduating college thinking to attend UT for her Masters.  That never came about but she seemed to enjoy it here.  

I'd say that it's just because they're busy with their lives but I think it goes deeper.  I have done something, said something, over the years that have made me invisible.  My sister and her family are big UT fans, season tickets and the whole nine yards.  They're up here every fall for virtually every home game and have done so for years.  I've lived in the Austin area for 27 years.  In that time, they have visited me twice.  Both times where when my daughters had open heart surgery in 1990.  I've lived in the same house in Round Rock for nearly 15 years.  They've never seen it.  But they have visited my brother-in-law's sister when she lived in Round Rock.  

My daughters think all I need to do is pick up the phone and call my sister and all will be well.  They don't understand that I have tried before to no avail to repair this relationship.  Through letters and emails I've reached out at various times and tried to connect.  Nothing.  It's hard to sustain a one-sided relationship.  I've given up.

Despite the fact that I know all this to be true, it still hurts when I discover it all over again.

Like Rats Fleeing a Sinking Ship...

Another Republican has switched sides to endorse Barack Obama. But this isn't just anyone. This is someone who, until very recently, worked for the McCain campaign. Charles Fried, Solicitor General under Ronald Reagan, has not just endorsed Obama, he has already voted for him. Fried has additionally requested that the McCain campaign remove his name from several campaign committees that he has served on since he "felt it wrong to appear to be recommending to others a vote that I was not prepared to cast myself". (H/T to TPM).  Fried also stated that the primary reason for his vote for Obama was McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as running mate.

This is a mantra heard again and again by Republicans who are endorsing Obama.  They believe that the choice of Palin has been a colossal mistake that cannot be overlooked.  There's a growing buzz out here in the blogosphere that Palin is starting to distant herself from McCain, or conversely that McCain is doing the distancing.  Whichever is true, speculation grows.  There is talk that Palin has stopped listening to McCain advisors.  Other speculate that McCain is regretting his choice of Palin and looking to blame her for his problems.  

There are growing lists of Republicans endorsing Obama.  And these are only the folks who make the headlines.  What of the moderate Republicans out there in our great nation who hoped for a candidate that would revitalize their party and bring back balance?  Are they switching to Obama?  There will be no clear way to tell until November 5.  

But let us hope as the boat that is the McCain campaign flounders on the shoals, that more and more thinking people come to the same conclusion that Charles Fried did.

Obama/Biden '08

I've seen a lot of things...

but this takes the cake.  

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

Wow. Opie, thank you.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Is This The End?

I'd love to say it's something new to see a story move from outrage to suspicion in the space of a single working day, but I'd be lying. Today we were presented with the story of Ashley Todd. This morning she was the victim of a brutal assault that seemed politically motivated. This afternoon we learn that the Pittsburgh police believe she made the whole thing up.

So, she goes from being the victim of a robbery and political attack to the perpetrator of a race-baiting hoax. Wow. Way to drum up sympathy for your guy, Ashley. And to add insult to injury, she's from Texas. Good news is, she's an Aggie. ; )

The best part is that the VP of Fox News put in his two cents and proclaimed this would be the end of John McCain's campaign if it was proven false. We can only hope.

Text v. Morse Code

Who do you think will win?

Not who you thought, huh?

Pass it on

Okay, maybe I'm a bit behind the times but I just watched this video and thought it needed to be shared again.

It's a message worth repeating.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cause for hope.

Check out this video.

I think there are more people like this than all the crazies on both sides put together. Let's hope they vote in droves.

Check out this website to see more.

The times, they are a changin'

It's been said that this presidential campaign is historic. It is, in many ways. We have the potential to elect either the first African-American president or first female Vice President. Obama has raised more money than any other candidate in history. And the list goes on.

But I think there is something more subtle afoot that is just as historic. Once upon a time, candidates could do or say pretty much whatever they wanted. They could withhold information and not expect to be called on it. The information we got on the candidates came from their campaigns and the media. Today, that is changing.

In this age of viral emails, internet blogging, YouTube and instant fact checking, the rules are changing. No more can a candidate speak falsehoods and not expect to be called on it. Speeches made at campaign stops are videotaped and uploaded onto YouTube and reach an audience far beyond those faithful souls in attendance. TV interviews are replayed endlessly on the internet. Bloggers can check facts and let everyone know that someone's lying.

All of this is, in my opinion, great. McCain is losing in no small part because he and his campaign don't understand the new reality. Unfortunately, it also means that lies and innuendo and smear campaigns can be used as well.

McCain has never said that Obama is Muslim. But thousands of people believe he is. They've seen this falsehood spread through emails and blogs and even reported on by the main stream media.

This campaign has been ugly. In some part by the candidates themselves but also by their supporters. Polite discourse is dead and gone. The extremists on both sides feel empowered to post articles and comments on websites, make flair on Facebook and post video on YouTube to prove their point no matter how offensive or hurtful it may be.

I for one don't want to go back. But we need to agree to disagree without resorting to verbal violence. Certainly, the more moderate among us need to speak louder.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The South Will Rise Again

I was born in Texas and have lived here my whole life. I live in a Red State and vote as an Independent, which means in my case, I vote for whomever I think is the best candidate whether he be Republican or Democrat. While my voting record trends towards the Democrats, I have and will continue to vote for Republicans when they represent the best candidate. In Texas, a lot of the time that means they're running against a Libertarian, but I've voted for their candidates, too, on occasion. On principal, I won't waste my vote by voting for someone who is unopposed. If the other side can't generate a candidate, they don't really need my vote to get into office.

I mention all this because, too many times, Red States and Texas in particular, are portrayed as speaking with one voice and that voice can be an embarrassment to those of us who don't fit into the political mainstream that surrounds us. In recent news, Red Staters in Ohio have been caught on tape and shown to be some downright scary people. Don't believe me? Take a look at this:

It makes me ashamed to be from a Red State and to know that there are still folks like this out there. Let me just be as clear as I know how to be:


They do not represent everyone in a Red State any more than I do. It's this kind of people, whom McCain calls his "base", that make the US seem like a monster to so many around the world. It's because of people like these that I wish Texas was NOT winner-take-all state. That a vote for Barack Obama here in Texas (he will most likely take Travis county) would send him a portion of our 34 Electoral College votes. What better way to show to the rest of the country and the world that not everyone in Texas likes Bush and his Rethuglians?

Alas, this will not happen. But I can dream of a day when Texas is purple and hopefully, one day Blue.

corrections made 10/24. Videotape is of Ohio which is clearly not a Southern state but was, until recent polls, definitely Red

The Moon

Remember that big shiny thing up in the sky? Americans once went to the moon. I am just barely old enough to remember the moon landing in July 1969. I was 5. My grandfather watched the moon landing in our hotel room in Wyoming where we were on vacation. The rest of my family was more interested in visiting Jackson Hole and the tourist attractions, but I remember my grandfather sitting in front of the TV entranced with the grainy pictures coming from so far away. He was born just before the turn of the century, 20th that is, and this event had to be like some far fetched fantasy come to life.

Now, we've left that all behind. Our space agency is so inept that in a few years, we will no longer be able to send a man into space and our portion of the International Space Station will be lost to us. We'll have to beg rides from the Russians.

Or maybe we can ask India. On Wednesday, India will launch its first mission to the moon. They plan on sending an unmanned craft to orbit the moon for 2 years. They join China and Japan in sending missions to the moon.

While these missions are unmanned, they point the way to a greater exploration of the moon and the eventual return of man. There is much to be gained from the exploration and exploitation of the moon. India hopes to find Helium 3, an isotope that holds the potential to become a new source of energy through nuclear fusion.

Not only is India sending up this probe to the moon, they have sent 10 satellites into orbit from a single rocket and are well on there way to making their space agency a money making venture. There are of course those critics who wonder how India can afford to put so much time and money into space when so many of their people live in such abject poverty. The answer given in the article above is a poor one. Corruption may play its part but the idea of going into space once held such allure for the world that they watched in awe as Americans and Russians rode high explosives into the sky in search of glory. What the world needs to realize is that the journey is worth the effort and the sacrifice in more ways than can easily be counted.

What did we gain by going to the moon? Lots of things. Knowledge, for one. Pride. One can reasonably argue that the space race catapulted the study of circuitry and computers so far ahead of the pace it was on that the things we take for granted now would not be here.

Why go back? There's a long list of reasons. First and foremost in my mind, and remember I grew up under Reagan and the shadow of nuclear annihilation, is the moon can be a safety valve, a safe haven and a place to shelter the human race. It will not be easy. It will not be pretty. But there is much to gain. A foothold off our planet. Clear skies to view the universe with. Minerals to mine. A base station towards exploring the rest of the solar system.

Should we go back? Absolutely. NASA says they want to go back by 2020. China, Japan and India may beat them to it.

But will we? I cannot answer that question. I only hope that I am not my grandfather when we do.