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Monday, March 31, 2008

OBEY CAT

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Thoughts on the Eve of All Fools

Tomorrow is April Fools' Day. What hijinks will erupt on the Internet this year? And why did Barack Obama choose that day to come to Northeastern Pennsylvania?

Both candidates will actually be in Wilkes-Barre simultaneously tomorrow, unless I'm reading the schedules wrong.

My time online will be limited tomorrow, as I'll be taking in a performance of Twelfth Night at Luzerne County Community College (LCCC, also known as the University of Nanticoke.) Sheesh: Roméo Dallaire last Wednesday at my alma mater, the University of Scranton, Blue Sundaze at King's College last Thursday, now a little Shakespeare at LCCC! I just need to add events at Wilkes, Marywood, Misericordia, Penn State Lehman...wow, we have a lot of colleges hereabouts.

Had a snippet of a dream on Saturday, after nearly eight hours of sleep, and the beginnings of one this morning after six. No walking around in a hypnagogic state today, which is good. If I get to bed soon I may get SEVEN! WHOLE! HOURS! of sleep. We'll see what dreams may come.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

This just in: Barack Obama coming to Wilkes-Barre and Scranton

The latest from Matthew Lehrich.

Unfortunately, these are all scheduled during the workday. As a working man who punches in and out of work each day, I can't just take a day off whenever I want. The two political events I have been to have both been held after working hours. Others I have had to miss because they were scheduled during the workday. So it looks like I'll have to take a pass on these, too. If anyone else can make it, I encourage you to go! And then tell me all about it.

"Road to Change" Goes Through Wilkes-Barre, Scranton

From: pa-reporters-bounces@ideasthatwin.net on behalf of Matthew Lehrich (mlehrich@barackobama.com)
Sent: Sun 3/30/08 2:38 PM

“Road to Change” Goes Through Wilkes-Barre, Scranton

Bus tour will feature stops across Keystone state to continue dialogue with voters

**Please note new logistical details for Allentown**

PHILADELPHIA, PA—Senator Barack Obama’s “Road to Change” bus tour across Pennsylvania will continue Monday with a town hall meeting in Lancaster and a rally in Allentown. On Tuesday, Senator Obama will head to northeastern Pennsylvania for town hall meetings in Wilkes-Barre and then Scranton.

Over the course of the bus tour, Obama will continue his dialogue with voters about the need to change Washington in order to tackle challenges like creating jobs, improving our schools and making health care available to every American.

Further details of the trip will be announced as they become available.


Monday, March 31
Lancaster, PA -> Allentown, PA


Lancaster, PA
“ROAD TO CHANGE” TOWN HALL MEETING WITH BARACK OBAMA
Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology
John Barley Multi-Purpose Activity Center
750 East King Street
Lancaster, PA 17602


Media Pre-Set: 5:30 AM-6:00 AM (Equipment must be dropped at the site by 6:00 AM; media will not have access to the site from 6:00 AM to 7:30 AM.)
Media Access: 7:30 AM
Doors Open: 8:00 AM
Program Begins: 10:00 AM

Throw: 50 ft.
Cable Run: 600 ft.
Live Truck Parking: South lot behind John Barley Multi-Purpose Activity Center.
Limited workspace is available.

Media Coverage: The event is open to the press. For credentials, please visit
www.barackobama.com/mediarsvp.

Contact for logistical and planning purposes only: Peter Weeks, 515-418-2402.

The event is free and open to the public. Tickets are required. Seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Unfortunately the event is at capacity and tickets are no longer available for this event.

***For security reasons, do not bring bags. Please limit personal belongings. No signs or banners permitted.***

Allentown, PA
“ROAD TO CHANGE” RALLY WITH BARACK OBAMA
Muhlenberg CollegeMemorial Hall in the Life Sport BuildingLiberty Street at 24th Street Allentown, PA


Pre-set: 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM (Equipment must be dropped at the site by 2:00PM; media will not have access to the their equipment from 2:00PM to 3:30PM)
Media Access: 3:30 PM
Doors open to public: 3:50 PM
Program: 5:50 PM

Throw: 50 feet
Cable run: 250 feet
Live media truck parking: south side of Liberty Street, in front of the North West doors; trucks must be parked and cabled in by 2 PM Media Entrance: North West doors on Liberty Street (if you are looking at main entrance, to the right of it)
Wireless Internet is available on site.
Workspace is limited on site.

The event is free and open to the public but tickets are required. To pick up a ticket please visit one of our ticket distribution locations listed below:

Ticket Distribution Locations:
Allentown Office
1233 W Linden St (Old Verizon Building)
Allentown, PA
Saturday, March 29 from 7PM to 9PM
Sunday, March 30 from 9AM to 9PM

Bethlehem Office
531 Main St
Bethlehem, PA
610-882-0242
Saturday, March 29 from 7PM to 9PM
Sunday, March 30 from 9AM to 9PM

Easton office (Courthouse row area)
742 Washington St
Easton, PA
Sunday, March 30 from 10AM to 5PM
Monday, March 31 from 10AM to 5PM

Media Coverage: The event is open to the press. For credentials, please visit
www.barackobama.com/mediarsvp.

***For security reasons, do not bring bags. Please limit personal belongings. No signs or banners permitted.***
Contact for logistical and planning purposes only please contact Jen Arnold at 608-217-8517.


TUESDAY, APRIL 1
Wilkes-Barre, PA -> Scranton, PA


Wilkes-Barre, PA
“ROAD TO CHANGE” TOWN HALL WITH BARACK OBAMA
Arnaud C. Marts Center
Wilkes University
274 S. Franklin Street
Wilkes-Barre, PA


Pre-set: 7:00 AM to 8:00 AM (Equipment must be dropped at the site by 8:00AM; media will not have access to their equipment from 8:00AM to 9:15AM)
Media Access: 9:15 AM
Public Doors Open: 9:45 AM
Program: 11:45 AM

Throw: 50 feet
Cable Run: 250 feet
Live truck parking: South lot adjacent to ; trucks MUST be parked and cabled in by 8 AM
Wireless Internet is available on site.
Workspace is available on site.

The event is free and open to the public but tickets are required. To pick up a ticket please visit one of our ticket distribution locations listed below:

Ticket Distribution Locations:
OFA Wilkes-Barre office
41 S. Main St.
Wilkes-Barre 18701
P: 570-825-6794
Sunday, March 30 from 12PM to 9PM
Monday, March 31 from 9AM to 9PM

Media Coverage: The event is open to the press. For credentials, please visit
www.barackobama.com/mediarsvp.

***For security reasons, do not bring bags. Please limit personal belongings. No signs or banners permitted.***

Contact for logistical and planning purposes only please contact Jen Arnold at 608-217-8517.

Scranton, PA
“ROAD TO CHANGE” TOWN HALL WITH BARACK OBAMA
Dunmore Community Center Gymnasium
1414 Monroe
Scranton, PA 18509

Doors Open: 1:30PM

The event is free and open to the public but tickets are required. To pick up a ticket please visit one of our ticket distribution locations listed below:

Ticket Distribution Locations:
North NEPA Obama HQ
114 Wyoming Ave.
Scranton, PA, 18503
P: 570-877-3855
Sunday, March 30 from 1PM to 10PM
Monday, March 31 from 9AM to 10PM

Milford Obama Volunteer Office
201 West Harford St.
(across the street from the Post Office)
Milford, PA, 18337
P: 570-540-0640
Sunday, March 30 from 1PM to 5PM
Monday, March 31 from 10AM to 5PM

Media Coverage: The event is open to the press. For credentials, please visit
www.barackobama.com/mediarsvp.

***For security reasons, do not bring bags. Please limit personal belongings. No signs or banners permitted.***

Further details to be announced as they become available.


###

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 30, 2008
Contact: Obama Press Office, 215-564-6874

Saturday, March 29, 2008

"Surrender!", they whined

With less than four weeks to go before the potentially pivotal Pennsylvania Primary, Barack Obama has announced that he will grace the state with his presence. On a bus tour.

Perhaps he simply intends to wave as the bus drives by. As the state has so far served as little more than a prop for Obama photo ops, a lot of us have been wondering if he's simply given up on Pennsylvania.

"Giving Up" seems to be a theme in the Obama strategy - or, at least, trying to convince the other guy to give up. The cry for Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race is rising up again from the Obama camp. Why? Because she has a double-digit lead over him in the Pennsylvania polls? Because Clinton stands to win this state? Because Obama doesn't have what it takes for the long slog to the White House? Somehow I don't think asking your opponent to drop out of the race will be a very effective strategy in the General Election.

Maybe Obama will be able to pull a last-minute come-from-behind victory, of the sort Rudolph Giuliani hoped to achieve in Florida. But I think if he loses in Pennsylvania, there will be a lot of post-hoc explanations given, most of them portraying Pennsylvanians as a bunch of blue-collar red-neck racist simpletons who embrace the past and reject the future. But the simple fact is this: Clinton and her team have campaigned relentlessly in Pennsylvania. Obama has barely bothered to show up.

If Obama wins the nomination, I will vote for him for President, and I will support him in the race. Because I believe either Democrat is infinitely preferable to a Republican candidate who will do little more than continue the failed policies of the current occupant of the Office of the President.

***

The illusion of Obama as a paragon of virtue far above the taint of negative campaigning is easily dispelled simply by getting on one of his mailing lists. I did, though I'm not quite sure how I did it. The e-mails started arriving on March 16, two days after I wrote this post and - more suspiciously - five days after I signed up for a Hillary Clinton mailing list at the grand opening of her headquarters in Scranton. Strangely, I haven't received any mailings from Hillary's camp yet. Gee whillikers, it's almost as if the list that I signed up for was actually used by Obama's people instead of Clinton's! But that would be wrong, wouldn't it?

On March 16 I received two e-mails from an Obama operative named Matthew Lehrich. The first e-mail informed me of a conference call I could "Dial-In" on (which I believe means "listen in on") at 1:00 - forty minutes after the e-mail arrived. I received a second e-mail later that day, then five more the next day, a single one on March 18 - and then the floodgates opened up. Six on 3/19, 5 on 3/20, 6 on 3/21, none on 3/23 or 3/24 (I guess they took the Easter weekend off), 9 on 3/24, 6 on 3/25, 9 on 3/26, 8 on 3/27, and 8 on 3/28. I've only received a single e-mail today. I've also been receiving e-mails from Sean Smith, another Obama person - two on 3/25 and one on 3/27.

I will admit that I haven't read all of these e-mails. Hell, I'm behind on responding to messages from my friends, so I can't really hope to keep up with floods of unsolicited e-mails from mailing lists I never signed up for. But just reviewing the subject lines indicates that twenty-two of these messages were primarily intended as anti-Clinton missives, not pro-Obama or anti-McCain.

Obama is also quite skilled at "playing the race card", as they say, but in a manner akin to that of Gambit, or Ricky Jay. (And if you actually needed to use either of those links to see who I was referring to, your education is sorely wanting - and I am happy to have broadened your horizons a bit.) He can play a race card by telling you he won't be playing a race card by telling you about how the other team's people have been playing race cards. That's pretty good, and darned convoluted.

Mark Cour of Wilkes-Barre Online had a chance to directly compare the Clinton and Obama camps during a recent quest for campaign buttons. The bottom line: he got some buttons from the Clinton people, but they tried to snag him into volunteering. The Obama people, however, would not give him buttons unless he made a cash "donation" - as a matter of policy. (He left without buttons.) But he tells the story much better than that. You can read about his adventure here.

Obama isn't head and shoulders above Clinton. As a friend once told me her sainted mother used to say, "One is as much in the muck as the other is in the mire." But, as was the case with that Saint of the Right, Ronald Reagan, it isn't sticking to one of them.

So far I've been leaning toward Clinton as the Democratic nominee. I didn't expect that when this game started out. Obama seemed like all charisma and somewhat refined (not exactly raw) talent, while Clinton seemed to have (as I once stated) the charisma of a jar of pickles. That opinion started to change when I actually saw (well, heard, through a P.A. system) Hillary speak in Scranton. It changed even more when I saw her bother to come and say hi to a few hundred people who didn't make it in to her speech, after having just spoken to a crowd of 3500 cheering supporters. When Chelsea came to town the very next day - bonus. And then Hillary again at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Scranton, and then Bill in Wilkes-Barre. If you're willing to put that much effort into an area that all the pundits and pollsters say you've already got in your pocket, I'm impressed.

Obama, on the other hand, hasn't bothered much with campaigning in Pennsylvania. He's put more effort into other states with Primaries several weeks after Pennsylvania's.

Yet there is still an irrational hatred of all things Clinton in some quarters, matched by an equally irrational love for all things Obama. Not to say that there aren't things to dislike and/or love about both of the candidates, and plenty of people who dislike and love them with just cause. But I'm talking about the irrational manias that grip some people on both of these counts. And the inverse is less true - those who have an irrational love for Hillary Clinton and those who have an irrational hatred for Barack Obama are far fewer in number, or at least far less vocal.

So, having said all that, maybe Obama would be the better choice for the Democratic nominee.

This Primary is turning out to be a test of character, and strategy, and skill, and endurance. All of those things will be required of one of these candidates as President. How they acquit themselves now will give us clues as to how they will perform once elected.

If they get elected. If the supporters of whichever candidate does not win the party nomination do not decide to simply storm off and sulk on election day - or worse, choose to play spoiler by voting for McCain.

So: don't do that. And Obama supporters: please quit your whining about how Hillary should just drop out of the race. It ain't over until it's over. And we Pennsylvanians haven't had our say yet.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Buy your books from Ashley at anotherlifebooks!

Ashley from Ink On Paper has opened up an online used book store called anotherlifebooks. Gently used books at deep discount prices! Eventually she plans on expanding her online presence to include rare and antique books, and comic books and magazines. You can read all about it in this post.

Stop on by anotherlifebooks and see what Ashley has to offer. And be sure to visit the store (using the convenient link located on the sidebar under my GoodReads list) often, as her inventory is sure to be changing as Ashley buys and sells more books!

I do not sleep to dream

I linked to the Fiona Apple song a while ago (that video looks like it's been removed, but here's a link to a non-embeddable high-quality version), but I just realized today that I don't remember having any dreams lately. I go to bed lying on my right side, turn out the light, turn over onto my left side, and slip into unconsciousness. Five to six hours later, the opening notes of Lauren's song "45" (or, more often, the sound of the CD player spinning to life) wake me, two minutes before a much ruder alarm on my other clock radio sounds.

(Oh, how dumb of me. I keep forgetting about the magic of teh inter-tubes. Here's Lauren's video for "45":)


Not too long ago I was having some vivid and bizarre dreams. Not anymore. I remember nothing lately. Now, this either means that I am sleeping so soundly that I am not having those little moments of waking up that allow you to remember your dreams, or I am never entering the REM stage of sleep associated with dreams.

Whatever the cause, I am spending much of my days exhausted and on the edge of a hypnagogic state, which is really not a good thing when you're driving nearly seventy miles a day or sitting in hours of meetings or alone at a desk trying to extract some patterns out of an immense data flow. The first day I made the transition from my previous job - which required me to be on my feet and moving for twelve hours, sometimes without a break, in a bright and noisy and highly stimulating environment - to my more sedate and sedentary task of data collection and analysis in a fairly isolated office environment, my immediate reaction was to nearly nod off, despite the fact that the workday was only three hours old at the time. Perhaps the Seasonal Affective Disorder which had been held off by working in a whitespace has decided to hit me extra hard? Or perhaps the lack of stimulation - the sights, sounds, smells, and major and minor tasks associated with working on the production floor - has caused my body to lapse into torpor?

And is this state related to my newly-realized dreamlessness? And, if it is, is one the cause of the other? And if so, then which is the cause and which is the effect?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Blue Sundaze playing TONIGHT!

Short notice, I know, but I just found out about this last night: Blue Sundaze will be playing at the King's College chapel in Wilkes-Barre tonight from 9 to 10 PM!

I'll be there - it's just a few miles from here, and will actually be the shortest distance I've ever travelled for one of their shows. It will be a brief show, but the first one I've seen since December 2005. If you can make it, it's sure to be a great time, and definitely not a big chunk of time out of your evening!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The General and the Colonel

Just got back from the University of Scranton, where I took in a presentation by Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire. He was the U.N. commander in Rwanda in the days leading up to and during the mass genocide of Tutsis by the Hutu majority in 1994. He wrote the memoir Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda. I first heard of him by way of this interview with Terry Gross on the NPR program Fresh Air.

Once I'm done processing everything I've just heard, and maybe have read my signed copy of his book, I'll be able to write a full entry on him. But not tonight.

It's always weird going back to the University. Things are vastly different, but some things seem very much the same. (The lack of parking, for example; signs pointing to "VISITOR PARKING" lead to lots guarded by signs that say "PERMIT PARKING ONLY". I was able to find a metered parking space, an hour after the metered fee had gone out of effect.) Faces are mostly unfamiliar, but there are always a few professors here and there that I recognize.

The Houlihan-McLean Center, where the presentation was held, was for a long time a majestic church of one of the heathen schismatic denominations. The University purchased it years ago and turned it into a performance center for its Jesuit-trained students. But the space has retained much of its churchly character: seating is in pews, the front of the hall has a raised platform more resembling the altar area of a church than a stage for performances, and the entire front end of the building is dominated by a massive pipe organ that I don't remember being there the last time I saw a play there - Lysistrata, maybe, or She Stoops to Conquer.

I picked a pew close to the front, three rows back and off to the right, where I would have a good view of both the speaker and the screen his presentation would be projected onto. I looked around a bit but didn't see any familiar faces. After a while the room began to fill up and I spotted one of my old Philosophy professors, Hal Baillie, now Provost and Vice-President for Academic Affairs. I caught his eye and he came over to chat for a minute. But by then General Dallaire was already setting up, and Dr. Baillie had official greeting duties to attend to.

I looked around some more and saw a few familiar professors here and there. One, E. Springs Steele, didn't appear to have changed at all since I graduated nearly 20 years ago. (Dr. Baillie is looking trimmer and a bit grayer. Dr. Steele has avoided the latter issue by having consistently been bald for at least the past 23 years.) Then a tiny old man made his way into the pew in front of me and sat down next to two women who were perhaps midway between his age and mine.

I couldn't believe my eyes. Could it be...?

"Zim!" cried one of the women. The three of them engaged in some friendly banter.

It was! Zim. Zim Lawhon. Colonel Zim Lawhon. The Registrar!

Colonel Lawhon was ancient when I started at the University back in 1985. Though what was ancient back then to a 17-year-old, I'm not sure; 70's, maybe, I think. Maybe younger. But he was also a legend. Tough and gruff, tiny and friendly, with a quick smile and a twinkle in his eye. Some people demand respect, others command it; he compelled it. There was something about him that just made you say "Sir."

There is something I have wanted to ask Colonel Lawhon for years. I tried looking him up online a while ago, but couldn't find much that was current, and I think I assumed he was dead. And there he was, sitting in front of me and a few inches to my left.

I waited for a natural break in the conversation before I took a chance at rudely interjecting myself into his sphere of consciousness. "Colonel Lawhon," I said, gently but firmly. He turned slightly, showing a face weathered by many years. I introduced myself by name and class year, and he shook my hand and greeted me warmly. "Colonel Lawhon, there is a question I have wanted to ask you for over ten years."

"Go ahead!" he said.

"Did you, by any chance, ever know the writer Robert Heinlein?"

It seemed like a silly question as soon as it came out. But any U of S alum who has read Heinlein's classic Starship Troopers would have taken note of the character Sergeant Zim and would have probably wondered the same thing.

No. It turns out he hadn't. But Colonel Lawhon pointed out that Zim was also his father's name, and his grandfather's, and both of them had been military men; both were Army, and Heinlein was Navy; though that, and Heinlein's early medical discharge, would not have precluded him from knowing of people in other branches of the military.

I thanked him, and again told him how happy I was to see him after so many years, and by then it was nearly time for General Dallaire to take the stage. We shook hands once again and then settled back to hear what the General had to say.

But whatever was to follow, seeing Colonel Zim Lawhon once again had made my evening!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

PA Attorney General warns of tax refund scams

Because I am lazy and tired, I am just going to post something that Michelle sent to me yesterday.

The original version of this can be found here. Once again I am seeking the answer to one of life's great questions: how the hell did the Pennsylvania Attorney General score a website called attorneygeneral.gov?

Consumer Advisory: Attorney General Corbett cautions PA consumers about tax refund scams

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Tom Corbett today urged consumers to be watchful for email messages or telephone calls from scam artists requesting personal information in order to “process” your tax refund. The email messages or callers often claim to be from the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Social Security Administration or other government agency.

“Con artists have always been very good at using current events to make their scams more convincing,” Corbett said. “Proposals by federal and state lawmakers to provide extra tax refunds to consumers as a way of stimulating the economy are the subject of daily news reports across the country and identity thieves are using these stories as a disguise for their scams.”

Corbett explained that the refund-related scams typically ask consumers to provide their social security number, bank account information, birth date, address and other personal information in order to “verify” or submit a claim for additional federal or state tax refunds.

“Scam artists can quickly generate email messages or links to bogus websites that mimic authentic government or business sites, complete with logos, images and other information that consumers would expect to find on ‘official’ sites,” Corbett said. “Additionally, scam callers often use carefully crafted scripts which are designed to convince consumers that they are being contacted by a legitimate agency.”

Corbett noted that federal and state agencies do not request personal information – such as social security numbers or bank account information – by telephone or email, and do not process refund requests in this manner.

“By now, most consumers have heard discussion about the plans to distribute additional tax refunds, but many still do not understand how the process will work,” Corbett said. “Scam artists are hoping to catch consumers off-guard, using the attraction of extra refunds along with the fear of ‘missing out’ to convince consumers to hand over their personal information without thinking.”

Corbett said scam emails and phone messages can come in many different forms, appearing to be from government agencies, banks, credit card companies or major businesses. In addition, con artists often use major news stories to lend credibility to their schemes, ranging from government programs and business mergers to holidays and natural disasters.

Corbett said that consumers should be wary of any call or email requesting personal information, especially when the message warns of dire consequences if consumers do not respond quickly. He also cautioned against using links or telephone numbers included in suspicious messages, explaining that those links or phone numbers may connect consumers to the scam artists rather than official agencies.

Corbett recommended that consumers avoid replying to possible scams. Instead, he encouraged consumers contact agencies, banks or businesses directly – using telephone numbers or addresses listed in published directories or other verified sources, such as toll-free numbers listed on official government forms, bank statements or credit card bills.

Consumers with questions or concerns about possible scams, or other consumer problems, can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-441-2555.

Consumer tips, scam alerts, background information and online complaint forms are also available on the Attorney General’s website: www.attorneygeneral.gov.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A black matter for the king

The 4000th combat death in Iraq is not necessarily more significant that the one that preceded it or the one that followed it. But today is the day that it is recognized, and parties on all sides have observed it.

More than 4000 of our brave men and women have died in combat in Iraq, and many more in non-combat incidents. Accidents, electrocutions, fraggings and suicides, all account for non-combat-related deaths. And many more soldiers are being sent home wounded, physically, mentally, often both at once, to seek treatment in a VA system that was already straining its limited resources before this war began.

Soon this will no longer be this Administration's problem. How will the next President deal with this situation?

Once again I am reminded of Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 4, Scene 1. This was the part covered on Star Trek: The Next Generation (in the episode "The Defector", one of my favorites), although they did a big jump cut from "'We died at such a place'" to Henry's response later on.

For those unfamiliar with this play, this is the scene where Henry V travels among his troops on the eve of the battle of Agincourt. He is in disguise, so nobody recognizes him - hey, you had to suspend disbelief a little even with Shakespeare. (Well, sometimes a lot.) Henry has come upon some soldiers and is testing their loyalty a bit by arguing back and forth about the king. In the end one of the soldiers challenges Henry to a duel after he - King Henry - has spoken against the king, and they agree to meet after the battle. Henry undoes Williams's argument with his next statement, which is after the part I have quoted, but you should keep in mind that Shakespeare was writing first and foremost for a royal audience, and would buff the royal ego any chance he got. Still, it is Williams's statement that sticks with you. With me, anyway.

KING HENRY V
I dare say you love him not so ill, to wish him here
alone, howsoever you speak this to feel other men's
minds: methinks I could not die any where so
contented as in the king's company; his cause being
just and his quarrel honourable.

WILLIAMS
That's more than we know.

BATES
Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we know
enough, if we know we are the kings subjects: if
his cause be wrong, our obedience to the king wipes
the crime of it out of us.

WILLIAMS
But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath
a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and
arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join
together at the latter day and cry all "We died at
such a place;" some swearing, some crying for a
surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind
them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their
children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die
well that die in a battle; for how can they
charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their
argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it
will be a black matter for the king that led them to
it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of
subjection.


And now, the Vice President, summing up the Administration's position on public opposition to the war in Iraq.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy first Sunday after the first Full Moon following the Vernal Equinox!

You would think that date of the highest Holy Day of the Christian calendar wouldn't be based on two astronomical phenomena, but you'd be wrong. The fact that the Full Moon followed the Equinox by just a few days explains why Easter is so very early this year.

Church was packed to the rafters, naturally. Some of the people were from out of town, visiting family for the holiday. But others were the standard Lily-and-Poinsettia Catholics, who find themselves inside a church twice a year.

Bah. I've got a blistering headache. It's been building for three days, but it's full-blown today. A handful of aspirins and a late breakfast took the edge off it, but it's still there.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

So let it be written, so let it be done

After spending several hours of mixing powdered sugar, cream cheese, and butter together with various inclusions, rolling them into vaguely egg-shaped balls, and them coating them in a combination of paraffin and chocolate chips melted in a double boiler, pausing only to run out to the store to buy more powdered sugar, and to set food out for the stray cats who ran up to (and, when I briefly opened the porch door, onto) my back porch when I came to set out the eggs to chill before their trip into the chocolate bath, all the while watching that magnificent classic of camp, Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments, it is remarkable how nothing hits the spot quite like a piece of celery.

I nearly lost it when, while carefully mixing cocoa into the cream cheese mixture to make my pseudotruffles (which are quite resplendent with their light coating of cocoa gently dusted onto their still-molten chocolate shells), I overheard Pharoah Sethi say to Nefretiri as they were playing a game of Jackals and Hounds, "Life is full of..." But then he went and finished the sentence with "surprises" rather than "little disappointments", so I'm back to scratching my head trying to figure out where I remember hearing that phrase expressed with an ironic twist for the first time.

So. I've been investing a lot of my online time into blogging, and not into other things. Some of those things - and people - I've been ignoring for far too long. I'm going to try to start making up for that, now.

Happy Easter!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Just in time for Easter

A Rock Too Heavy To Lift is almost completed. I had always intended this post to appear sometime during Lent. It's a reflection on Christianity in the vein of Theomeandering, but a little more challenging. It's a little - possibly a lot - heretical, and may easily get me disowned by both my atheist and my Christian friends. (I have both.)

I found myself writing an introduction to the post, almost an apology (in both the classical and contemporary sense) that was quickly threatening to become as long as the post itself. In the meantime I became aware of a situation that was getting my blood boiling. I decided that a cooling-off period was required for the post. I am not the sort to impetuously post in haste and then recant, redact, and delete later. I would much rather measure my words carefully, and only post things that I am willing to stand by in the future.*

The thing that's gotten my ire up is the situation with the Creationist propaganda film Expelled. The story behind this film is a long trail of deceit and treachery, which is unsurprising. Scientists willingly engaged in interviews for one movie, and then found their words edited and presented as "confrontations" in a completely different movie. I won't even try to explain everything here. I'll just give you jumping-off points to what I've read, and you can see for yourself.

Here is the post from last night that brought my attention to the current situation:

http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/2008/03/20/so-two-atheists-walk-into-a-movie-theater/

P.Z. Myers, scientist, blogger, and outspoken atheist, was denied admission to a showing of Expelled last night. (Denied, it turns out, by the producer himself - not by the theater owner or manager, who would have been within their rights to decide who could and could not be admitted onto private property.) Ironic in part because P.Z. Myers was one of the people interviewed for the film that was not originally Expelled, and in fact his name is used in the promotional material. And ironic further because P.Z. Myers was traveling in the company of another noted scientist and atheist - who was admitted into the theater. I'll let you read his own account to see who that was:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/03/expelled.php

Oh, hell. It was Richard Dawkins. I guess these Creationist clowns don't watch South Park.

Read here for more of this movie's outrageousness. And see here for a follow-up by P.Z. Myers, and here for a review from his daughter, who was allowed to attend.

Now, I always have to wonder: how much of this is just a clever publicity stunt? Much like Rush Limbaugh's "Operation Chaos", by engaging in behavior like this the movie producer has ensured that people will be talking about the incident - and the movie. The more people talk about this, the more attention it gets, and the more free publicity. Which is why I have at no point linked directly to either the Rush Limbaugh or Expelled sites. I will not feed traffic to them, to increase their hit-based advertising revenue. If you want to go to either of their sites, feel free, but I won't send you there.

*I am, however, perfectly willing to edit posts if I discover errors in grammar, spelling, style, or structure, such as the use of the word "later" to end two consecutive sentences.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Sowers of Discord

It's hard to write about something like this without giving it unwanted publicity. Rush Limbaugh - the fat-mouthed, smug, proud, arrogant, drug-addicted, hate-spewing jackass who has been the darling of the far Right and those who don't like to think very hard (the "Dittoheads", who simply agree with whatever the voice on the radio tells them), is trumpeting what he has termed "Operation Chaos." The objective is to get Republicans to change their registrations to Democratic, at least in the states that have yet to hold their Primaries, and then essentially stuff the ballot box (i.e., cast their faux-Democratic votes) for (to borrow a phrase from someone who I am not suggesting is participating in this endeavour, and whose recent change of heart I will take at face value until and unless there is evidence to the contrary) "the more defeatable candidate." Or maybe it's just to make sure that there is no clear winner going into the Democratic convention, ensuring a contentious and possibly divisive battle.

Or maybe there's some other reason behind it. I really didn't read up too much about it on Drugbaugh's site, because the foul stench there got to me before I could get very far. Besides, this is a relatively new keyboard and mouse, and I don't want to have to replace them after I vomit all over them. As always, Limbaugh's objectives are infinitely flexible, so he can maintain that whatever the outcome, it worked out according to his plan. (Most folks of his ilk make a lot of bold, brash statements and then spin them to mean whatever they want them to mean whenever they want them to mean it.)

Limbaugh is crap, and anyone who agrees with him unquestioningly is an idiot. Is his plan working? I don't know. Pennsylvania is seeing a record number of people switching their party affiliation to Democratic - hell, I'm one of them. Are some of them Republican loyalists who are playing their own game of "vote for the worst?" Definitely. Do most Republican converts fall into this category? I have no idea.

Will Limbaugh's plan fail? I am confident that Americans will not be stupid enough to fall for his crap. But on the other hand, I was confident that Americans would not be stupid enough to vote for George W. Bush in 2000, or in 2004. But many of them did.

Limbaugh is going to Hell, if Dante is to be believed. In Dante's Inferno an entire section of Hell set out for Sowers of Discord, which is pretty much what "Operation Chaos" seems to be all about.

Now, Bolge 9 of Circle 8 (the Circle of Fraud) may be the most obvious place to stick Rush Limbaugh at the moment, but Minos might have a hard time deciding how many times to wrap his tail around Limbaugh's bloated corpse. Circle 2, Lust? Circle 3, Gluttony? No, these were reserved for sins without malice, and Limbaugh can certainly not be described as "without malice." Circle 4, Avarice and Prodigality? Ehhh, not really.

No, Circle 8 seems to be Limbaugh's appropriate place. But there are so many neighborhoods - Bolges - where Limbaugh might be right at home. Besides Bolge 9, there is Bolge 8 - usually considered the home to "Evil Counselors", but according to the University of Texas site on Dante,

A more accurate description, consistent with both the contrapasso of the tongue-like flames and the Ulysses episode in Inferno 26 as well as with Guido's appearance in Inferno 27, might be the use of rhetoric--understood as eloquence* aimed at persuasion--by talented individuals for insidious ends. Rhetoric, according to a classical tradition familiar to Dante, is essential for civilized life when used wisely. However, eloquence without wisdom--far worse even than wisdom without eloquence*--is an evil that can "corrupt cities and undermine the lives of men" (Cicero, De inventione 1.2.3).

He might even find a home in Bolge 10, the realm of Falsifiers. His claim to citizenship would be valid in any of these sections of Hell, though there is something immensely satisfying in picturing Limbaugh in Bolge 9 with the other Sowers of Discord, waiting his turn to be disemboweled, beheaded, or otherwise maimed, then walking in a circular procession of the damned, gradually healing and recovering from his wounds, until at last he is whole again - just in time to once again feel the kiss of the dismembering blade and begin the long procession again.

No, not because of the graphic nature of this punishment. Dante had a seriously nasty and creative imagination, and all of his punishments are dramatic and memorable. No, what would make it especially delightful to see Rush Limbaugh consigned to Bolge 9 of Circle 8 of Hell would be who he would be keeping company with.

See, Dante had some fairly particular views as to who might be in Hell. Popes, monks, Greek heroes - all were to be found in Hell. It was Dante's party and he could invite whoever he liked, and decide for himself where to place them. And into Bolge 9 of Circle 8 Dante placed Mohammed himself, to be (as the Texas website puts it) "cleft from groin to chin" for all the trouble he had caused the Christian world. So not only would Rush Limbaugh spend eternity being punished for sowing discord with things like "Operation Chaos", he would be doing it in the eternal company of Mohammed. At least, if that's where Dante chose to put him.


UPDATE: Even if Limbaugh isn't going to Hell, he may be going to jail...in Ohio.

(Go here for the original story, or here for a reprint.)

See, all it takes to change party affiliation in Pennsylvania is a checkmark in a box on a relatively straightforward voter registration form. In Ohio, you are required to sign an oath swearing allegiance to the principles of the party you are registering for.

On Thursday, March 20, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the "Cuyahoga County Board of Election has launched an investigation that could lead to criminal charges against voters who maliciously switched parties for the March 4 presidential primary." According to the report, "One voter scribbled the following addendum to his pledge as a new Democrat: "For one day only."

"Such an admission amounts to voter fraud," the report continued, attributing that conclusion to BOE member Sandy McNair, a Democrat. The report said the four-member board - two Democrats and two Republicans - had yet to vote on whether it would issue subpoenas, although Ohio's secretary of state, Democrat Jennifer Brunner, is empowered to cast tie-breaking votes when the BOE is deadlocked.

...Michael Slater of Project Vote, a nonpartisan group that designs voter registration drives for low-income people, said GOP meddling in the Ohio Democratic Primary was a clear-cut example of fraudulent voting, which is how Republicans have defined the issue in recent years, as GOP advocates have urged state legislatures and Congress to adopt anti-fraud measures such as tougher voter ID laws.

"Here we have a real instance of spurring people on to engage in illegal election activities with a real intent to affect the outcome," Slater said. "That is voter fraud. People were encouraged to break the law. They had to declare allegiance to a political party and sign a document under penalty of perjury. Intent is what matters in voter fraud."

If the Dittoheads are engaging in voter fraud, then Evil Counselor and Sower of Discord Rush Limbaugh is engaging in suborning voter fraud. Republicans everywhere should be so proud of their little boy.


*Not that I'm accusing Limbaugh of eloquence.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Notes and stuff

Hrrrm. It's raining. Better get the pumps ready. This could get ugly. It's the last day of Winter.

Tomorrow is the first day of Spring. It's supposed to snow.

Unlike last year, there will be no pictures of the Last Moon of Winter, or before and after comparisons of my rosebush. No countdown on QVC, either. Well. maybe there will be, but I think the actual handoff happens at 1:48 AM, nearly five hours from now. A little late for me to be up on a work night. Besides, I may have to be up early tomorrow to run the furshlugginer pumps.

Bill Clinton was in Wilkes-Barre today. He was running late, which is not unusual for him. Once again the event was free and open to the public. I hope he didn't make Michelle late picking up her kids.

One caller to a local news station railed about how the newscasters keep referring to him as "President Clinton." "It's 'Ex-President Clinton' or 'Former President Clinton!'" she scolded. "He's not the President anymore!" Umm, sorry to tell ya, honey, but you're wrong. The proper term for a President is still "President", even after he (or she) no longer holds the office. (Though I am seeing many published instances of the use of "Former President." Looks like I'll have to dig up my Strunk and White. Fun fact: the proper form of address for a Diplomat is "Your Excellency." Ain't that a kick?)

Barack Obama continues to make himself scarce. Even yesterday's speech (which was either a historic piece of oratory, a necessary bit of damage control, or a desperate attempt to deflect criticism while avoiding the issues, depending on who you talk to) was a closed event, for invited guests only. At what point will Barack Obama actually begin campaigning in Pennsylvania?

Tomorrow I'm meeting some friends for dinner after work. Then I'm off for three days.

Thunder outside.

I'm tired. I think I'll go to bed soon.

Geez, I hope I don't have to pump.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke is dead

Wow. Another unwritten post already has to be revised.

http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/2008/03/18/arthur-c-clarke-1917-2008/

This is hardly unexpected. It was wonderful that he lived to see the year 2001, though 2001 did not turn out as he had imagined it.

He leaves behind an enormous legacy of work that has inspired and provided a foundation for countless others. As Lou Reed said last week of of Leonard Cohen, we were lucky to be alive at the same time as him.

The human touch

When Hillary Clinton came to Scranton last week she spoke at a high school gym that held 3500 people. It was an event that was open to the public, and tickets were not required. More than 4000 people showed up for the event, but when the gym was full, people were not turned away - despite what at least one local news station reported - but were instead redirected to the school's auditorium, where they - we - were able to hear Hillary Clinton speak to the crowd of 3500 people in the gym.

And when her speech was over, Hillary Clinton came to the auditorium to speak to us. It wasn't planned, judging by the frantic looks on the faces of her aides as they got things ready, it wasn't necessary, and it probably wasn't wise, from a security point of view. But she did it. And instead of being in a gym with 3499 others, I saw Hillary Clinton in a little auditorium with maybe 200 people in it. It was a nice touch.

Chelsea Clinton showed up the next day at her mother's Scranton headquarters. She spoke to a crowd of people in a room not much bigger than my kitchen, eloquently and without artifice. She took questions and answered them directly. And then she stuck around to sign autographs, take pictures*, shake hands, and talk to everyone.

Hillary Clinton was back in Scranton on Saturday for the Saint Patrick's Day parade. Marched the entire length of the parade, from what I hear. Again, she didn't have to do that, and it probably wasn't the wisest thing from a security point of view. But she did it. And people will remember that.

Tomorrow Bill Clinton will be in Wilkes-Barre as part of a whirlwind tour. He's speaking in Allentown, then an hour later he'll be in Wilkes-Barre, then an hour after that he'll be in Stroudsburg. Again, these events are free and open to the public.

Barack Obama was in Scranton yesterday for two events. These were both closed, private (but televised, or recorded for later broadcast) events, as have been several other campaign stops he's made in Pennsylvania. (Even at his Plainfield, Indiana rally at a high school gym, attendance was limited to 2000 ticket holders.) Obama's people brushed off the local media - at least one local newspaper reported a fairly brusque response to questions - and CNN host (and sometimes revealer and broadcaster of the identity of undercover intelligence operatives) Robert Novak complained that the campaigns are much friendlier to the local media than to their national counterparts.

I'm still waiting to be impressed by Barack Obama - not so much by the face he is placing on his campaign, but by his ability to relate to the voters. I am wondering if perhaps restricting access to the candidate is part of his campaign plan, so as to not dilute the product - to maintain the level of excitement and anticipation associated with the possibility of meeting him, rather than risk contempt bred by familiarity. Or maybe he is being protected from exposure to the populace at this trying, critical, and potentially dangerous time. Or maybe he's a snob who really doesn't want to be bothered by the proletariat - particularly by a bunch of coal miners, or their descendants.

I'm waiting Barack Obama to come back to this area. I'm waiting for the big Barack Obama rallies, which I picture as a cross between a Nuremberg Rally and a tent revival: a vast array of rank after rank of devoted followers, occasionally falling into a swoon or being possessed by the Holy Spirit. I want to breathe that air, hear that sound, absorb that energy. I know what a Hillary Clinton crowd feels like. Now I want to know what a Barack Obama crowd feels like. But so far that's not what I'm seeing, not what I'm getting.

I don't know what kind of show President Clinton will be putting on tomorrow, but I doubt that he will be as accessible as either Hillary or Chelsea. But as with both Hillary and Chelsea, the general public of Northeastern Pennsylvania will have a chance to see and hear him in person - which is more than can be said of Barack Obama so far.



*Two funny stories behind my picture with Chelsea Clinton. One: I exhausted my camera batteries as Chelsea entered the room, and I didn't have any spares. Fortunately they scraped together enough charge after a resting period to get me that picture with Chelsea. Two: The picture was taken by a very nice lady who was there with her daughter. But as is often the case, she was not able to figure out my camera immediately. So Chelsea and I held that pose, grinning side-by-side, for a good five seconds. "Did it go off?" the woman asked after her first attempt. "Not yet," I said through my frozen smile. Fortunately the batteries had enough juice for a second attempt.

Words have power

A few weeks ago Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama got into a tussle over actions vs. words, and Obama responded with a speech on the power of words - a speech which, you may recall, cribbed heavily from a speech by one of Obama's political friends, who maintained that his words were freely shared with the candidate.
"Don't tell me words don't matter! 'I have a dream.' Just words. 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.' Just words. 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself.' Just words, just speeches!"
"God damn America!" Just words?

Obama has taken steps to contain the damage with today's speech in Philadelphia, and others are using the "You just don't understand" response, stating that "God damn America!" has a specific theological meaning referring to divine condemnation of a nation for its sins and transgressions.

But words have power. Reverend Wright's intent - whatever it was - is eclipsed by how listeners interpret these words. And are they being heard out of context? Of course they are! How many people can cite the full context of "all men are created equal" or "I have a dream"? These words escape the confines of context and transform into memes, spreading from brain to brain like sparks through a parched forest. "God damn America!" is loose, too, and its sparks are causing a more damaging sort of fire.

Had the timing been a little different, had the Reverend Wright stuff hit the air more immediately after the "just words" kerfuffle, I would suspect a set-up designed to hoist Barack Obama with his own petard.* But now I suspect this is actually a tit-for-tat chess move in retaliation for the loss of Geraldine Ferarro from the Clinton campaign, for comments which were also taken out of context.

Which may be a good thing. Perhaps this winnowing process will actually strengthen both campaigns, and eliminate those weak spots in the armor that will certainly be exploited by the Republicans after the Democratic nominee is selected.

*It is telling that so many words and phrases can be given a racially offensive spin. "Others have been strung up for comments they made that were taken out of context" and "Reverend Wright's intent takes a back seat to how listeners interpret his words" were both edited out of this post as they were being written. "Hoist with his own petard" may seem to be a reference to lynchings, but is in fact a quote (well, a paraphrase) from Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act III, Scene 4, and actually refers to someone blowing himself up with his own bomb.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Help me with this quote

OK, this is in lieu of about a dozen other posts I don't have the energy for right now. It also lets me avoid writing a post that just says "I am tired" - or even worse, "I got nothin'."

It's a quote that came up in an IM conversation last night.
"Life is full of little disappointments."
It sounds pseudo-philosophical (and most of its appearances on the Internet are, in fact, pseudo-philosophical), but it was intended sarcastically - and I'm pretty sure it was intended sarcastically the first time I heard it. But where? It sounds like it could have come out of the mouth of a villain - or a super-villain - but which one? Casanova Frankenstein in Mystery Men? Jack Nicholson's Joker in Tim Burton's Batman? The arch-nemesis in the old Dungeons & Dragons-inspired TV show Wizards and Warriors?

The tone is mock-sympathetic and mock-wistful. It reminds me of Tony Shalhoub's "It's the little things" in Galaxy Quest (after he has successfully transported the Rock Monster into a chamber full of bad guys), and, for some reason, of Winona Ryder's "It's good to want things" in Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael (a movie I've never seen, but it was in the trailer, which I did see.)

It may not have even been in a movie. (I definitely didn't hear it in Against the Law, a movie I never even heard of until I tried looking this up.) Maybe it was in a book? Somewhere? Maybe? Anybody?


Posts you're missing out on:

Words have power
"Snakes on a Plane" and the 2008 elections
A Rock Too Heavy To Lift

I'm pretty sure I'll write each of those. But not tonight.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Podge and Rodge

People in America seem to think that Ireland is all drinkin' and feckin' and fightin' and "Top o' the mornin' to ya" and "Faith an' begorrah, they're tryin' to steal me Lucky Charms!" But it's not like that at all. (Except for the drinkin' and feckin' and fightin', which is all totally, totally true.)*

One of the things I discovered on my last trip to Ireland was an interview show featuring puppets Podge and Rodge. It's not available in the U.S., but like almost everything else at the moment, bits of it are available on YouTube.

Here's a little sketch where Podge and Rodge discover the online world. "Show me the filth!"


Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

*It is. Really.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Where's Barack?

Last Monday I ran into an old friend at work who is something of a political gadfly. In the past he has been an enthusiastic Bush supporter, having taken time off to meet him during his campaign stops in Northeastern Pennsylvania during the 2004 race. But over the past few years he has become disenchanted with the man he once supported, and now has changed sides to support Barack Obama.

I didn't know this yet when I mentioned to him that I would be going to see Hillary Clinton at her Scranton High School appearance later that day. I had half expected he might go, since he seems like the sort who can't stay away from any such event. But, no, he wasn't going. He did confide to me that he had heard a rumor that Barack Obama might be showing up at Scranton's Saint Patrick's Day Parade on the 15th.

Wow, I thought. That will turn what is already a traffic nightmare into something much worse. And then there are the security concerns...

That night Hillary Clinton confided to the gathered crowd that she would be appearing in the Scranton Saint Patrick's Day Parade.

Fight, fight! Drunken Hillary supporters meet with drunken Obama supporters and...

And nothing. Barack Obama didn't come to the Scranton Saint Patrick's Day Parade today. In fact, he isn't even in Pennsylvania today! So where is he?

Plainfield, Indiana.

Indiana holds its Primary May 2nd. Pennsylvania holds its Primary April 22nd.

Barack Obama does have some events scheduled for Pennsylvania coming up, including a few in Northeastern PA. But unlike Hillary's appearance last week, these are closed events, either being held for select groups or by invitation only. Even the Plainfield, Indiana event requires tickets for admission - and there is room for only 2000 at the venue, the Plainfield High School Gym. (Hillary Clinton drew at least twice that many attendees to the Scranton High School Gym, a venue that held 3500 people.)

Has Barack Obama given up on Pennsylvania already? Or has he decided to let the Clinton campaign play itself out here? Chelsea said that she would be in the area for two weeks, so perhaps after that date the Clinton campaign plans on sending its big names to start campaigning in the next states on the roster. Maybe he's waiting for them to move on before he moves in.

Still, it seems like Obama could be showing a little more interest in the people of Pennsylvania, especially if he wants the people of Pennsylvania to show more interest in him. I look forward to seeing him on his campaign stops in NEPA. But I fear that unless those stops are both open and accessible to the general public, I might not get a chance to see him.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Barack vs. Hillary, Clinton vs. Obama

Francisco de Goya, Fight With Clubs

A few months ago, nobody thought the Democratic Primary process would go on long enough to reach Pennsylvania with more than one viable candidate. Hillary Clinton, the anointed candidate of the party bosses, would certainly by now have ground all of her opponents under foot with the aid of the full strength of the Party machine behind her.

Or: Barack Obama, the popular and charismatic upstart from Illinois, would have ridden a swelling wave of popular support that would have led all of his Democratic rivals to throw in the towel and jump on the bandwagon.

Or: Hillary Clinton, the one candidate certain to energize the Clinton-haters of the far Right, would have been advised by Party leaders to withdraw from the campaign, lest she create a backlash that results in a greater Republican turnout that there would be without her.

Or: ...well, you get the point.

Political Vocabulary Words
for Research and Reflection:

demagogue
platitude
cult of personality
Pyrrhic victory

But here we are. Sort of.

Once again, Pennsylvania doesn't really count. At this point it is mathematically impossible for either candidate to win the nomination outright through victories in the remaining contests. So whoever wins Pennsylvania will only be incrementally closer to having locked up the nomination. They will also have to get the votes of a sufficient number of "Superdelegates" in order to secure a win.

And winning the nomination will not mean that the fight is over. No, events have taken an uglier turn than that. Hillary Clinton is attacking Barack Obama on his qualifications; Barack Obama is attacking Hillary Clinton on her character. The attacks are working, and voters are becoming disenchanted with both candidates.

There is a new sort of madness taking root. I have heard it from both sides of this internecine conflict, though more often, and more vehemently, from one side than the other. People have become so enamored with and dedicated to one or the other of the candidates that they are saying "If (Clinton)/(Obama) wins, I'm voting for McCain. Or I'm not voting at all!"

So what is is this? Stupidity? Insanity? Immaturity? Ignorance? Embracing the cult of personality so strongly that the person matters more than what they stand for? Maybe a "Well, if we're not gonna play the game my way, I'm gonna take my bat and my ball and go home" mentality? (For a fairly intense and well-referenced discussion on this topic, see this entry on Adam Felber's Fanatical Apathy.)

I suspect the shrivelled claw of Karl Rove in this, but that may just be a touch of paranoia.* But there's a very real chance that these threats may be more than just threats - that Democrats will once again find a way to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory and once again let the Republicans take the White House**, and maybe Congress in the bargain.

There's a hell of a lot at stake in this election. There was a hell of a lot at stake in the last two elections, but many people didn't see that as sufficient reason to vote for the Democrat- and look where two Bush administrations have brought us. Are you better off than you were eight years ago? Did this country run better with a Republican President and a Republican-controlled Congress?***

I will vote for the Democratic candidate, whomever that candidate may be. I will vote for the Democrat because I know that whichever candidate gets sworn in next January, they will not simply lead us further along the path that George W. Bush has sent us down. I will vote for the Democrat because I have listened to what both candidates have been saying, and I like them both. I wish I could vote for them both. And maybe, if one or the other is willing to swallow their pride and sign on as the other's running mate, maybe I will.

Both sides need to stop playing the politics of personal destruction that have long been the hallmarks of their ignoble opponents. Hillary Clinton and her people need to stop undermining Barack Obama, creating an argument that Obama is inferior to McCain. And Barack Obama and his people need to stop demonizing Hillary Clinton, need to stop making her out to be some sort of monster that she isn't.

And both Clinton and Obama need to rally their forces to pledge to give their support to the other candidate, when the time comes that one or the other of them is no longer in the running for the Presidency. If the people threatening to vote for McCain or not vote at all will not listen to either reason, moral suasion, or impassioned appeals to emotion, maybe they will listen to their chosen candidate.

This is too important to lose. Again. Eight years of a Republican at the helm steering the Ship of State into the rocks is long enough.

Be friends, you English fools, be friends: we have French quarrels enow, if you could tell how to reckon. - Henry V, Act 4, Scene 1


*That's the wonderful thing about being an evil genius: you can be in a million places at once, because people will suspect you of involvement in anything that bears any resemblance to anything you have ever done before. For all I know, Rove may be in the Marianas Islands with Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay, enjoying the company of underage laborers who have been forced into prostitution to pay for the abortions they were forced to undergo by their sweatshop bosses. Or he might just be lounging around in his underwear, watching his collection of Girls Gone Wild videos. Who can say?

**I have a confession to make: Unlike many members of his own party, I do not hate John McCain. I think he is a man of honor and principles, though I believe his principles have often been compromised on behalf of political necessity in the past - and will be again in the future, regardless of the outcome of this election. But I believe he is the wrong person to put in the White House next January. And, for all his qualifications and experience, Republicans felt he was the wrong person to put in the White House in previous elections. They determined he was less qualified than George W. Bush to be President in 2000 or 2004. Do we really want someone in office who has been determined by his own party to be inferior to the guy who has brought this country to where it is today?

***Oh, it ran smoother, I'll grant you that, when the Republican Congress only had to churn out legislation for their beloved leader to rubber-stamp, and could easily ignore any dissent from the Democrats in Congress. Why, you would never see this nonsense about FISA courts and concerns about "privacy" if the Republicans still held Congress!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Two more awards, and a song

I wanted to do a longish post on the whole Barack vs. Hillary thing, but Blogger is going down in a half hour and I don't have time. I'll try to do it tomorrow. So let me encapsulate it: Shakespeare, Henry V, Act IV, Scene 1. I don't know if the relevant line is contained in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode that excerpted this scene, so check out the Branagh version if you can, or just grab a copy or read it online. See if you can pick out what I'm referring to.

Whim has awarded me two awards in the past month, and I have failed to acknowledge them. Let me do that now.


Back on February 18 Whim passed this award along to me. It's very cool to know that I have made someone's day! I'm supposed to pass this award along to ten people, but I've been so slow to even accept it, you can count on me to be at least as slow to pass it on.


Today Whim informed me that she had presented me with this award. (The symbol means "heart" or "love" in l33tspeak.) (I had a longish bit here, but it wound up getting reduced to <3>. Now I can't remember what I wrote. But thank you, whim!)

I have to admit that I don't really "get" what awards are all about. When I first saw awards floating around the blogosphere, they were being presented by groups or organizations (or individuals posing as groups or organizations) and were often presented after a competition or a voting process. But now it seems that lots of people are making up awards and passing them around...which is totally, totally cool. I may actually do some myself. I have one in mind that would be awarded to a single person, and could be awarded by anyone to anyone at any time. But that may take time to cook up.

In the meantime I have another award that has no button: the "Blogs Worth Reading" award. That goes to all the blogs listed along my right-hand sidebar, which are there not because of some reciprocal-link agreement or anything like that, but because these are all blogs that I read, and I wanted a convenient way of getting to them. If I read them, they're worth reading.

And now the song:


"Elvis Presley and America" is from U2's The Unforgettable Fire, and was the last song on side 1 of the cassette if I recall correctly. It was a legendary song among U2 fans: the mumbled lyrics, the strangely familiar music, the non-repeating structure of the vocals. Stories and explanations sprang up around it, most of which turned out to be true, more or less. (The Wikipedia entry on this song has what I believe is the true story, though it omits the bit that I heard about Bono being drunk during the recording.) I spent a lot of time in college with fellow U2 fans trying to figure out just what the hell Bono was saying, and what it meant.

(The video, by the way, is made of edited, mixed, faded, desaturated, and grain-added clips from the film Solaris. If you haven't seen that movie, you should, and maybe you should get the book by Stanislaw Lem to try to figure out what the hell is going on. The video was created by the YouTube user handstoheart, and it's a really nice piece of work.)

I'm out of time. I'll close this post with lines from the song:

You're through with me
But I know that you'll be back
for more

See you when Blogger's back online!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hillary Clinton in Scranton, March 10 2008

I hadn't made my mind up to see Hillary Clinton in Scranton this past Monday until I was practically there. Arriving on Providence Avenue, I did a typical Left-Right mixup and headed the wrong way, only too late noticing the crowd of people behind me. I reoriented myself and drove past the crowd into a nearby complex and parked on some muddy grass. (HELPFUL HINT: If you have a front-wheel-drive car, and you have the option of parking part of your car on pavement and part on muddy grass, put the rear wheels on the muddy grass and the front wheels on the pavement. It will help when you decide to leave.)

The line was already very long when I got to the location at about 4:50. Doors had opened at 4:30, and people had probably started gathering a few hours before that. The gym where Hillary would be speaking could hold 3500 people. The line was moving in fits and starts and we made progress very very slowly.
The point where the line wrapped around itself. There were over 3500 people ahead of me.

Free Enterprise thrived along the line. Button vendors and T-shirt hawkers sold their ware up and down the line to a captive audience eager to buy.

It was at about this point that I noticed several rather...fancily dressed women walking towards the end of the line. Ever since Sex and the City hit the air, there has been considerable overlap between the worlds of high fashion and dressing like a prostitute. Earlier I had noticed a woman dressed like a Dominatrix on the way to meet a client: thigh-high leather boots, short skirt, black coat with the collar pulled up, sunglasses. But the women who approached us were dressed somewhat more...as they approached I noticed some things: The breadth of their shoulders. Their tallness. The huskiness of their voices.

Transvestites! I thought. (Or, as I would later learn they called themselves, "Homos for Hillary.") I turned to the guy behind me, who had also noticed them. "You usually have to go to Wal-Mart after 9:00 on a Saturday night to see that," I quipped. He laughed. (I wasn't joking. I was apparently at the Wal-Mart in Wilkes-Barre late one Saturday night - I forget why - during Transvestite Shopping Hours. The place seemed full of them, though it may have been just two.) I regret not getting a photo of them.

A lone Republican crying out in the wilderness. He's opposed to Universal Health Care, apparently. Stupid babies and old people, why should they get a break?
The Obamanites, a small but vocal group of Obama supporters who chose not to join the other pro-Obama individuals who were going in to hear what Hillary had to say. Barack Obama has not yet announced any plans to visit Northeastern Pennsylvania.

There was another group of protesters across the street from the line. At one point they had a bedsheet with the word "GOOGLE" followed by a good half a dozen terms, apparently a string that you're supposed to type in to go to proof positive that Hillary eats aborted babies for lunch or something like that. Actually, I have no idea what the sign said. By the time I got into position to snap a picture - the only way I could get the entire message - they had apparently gotten tired and dropped the banner. Honest, whatever they were pushing couldn't have been that popular or they wouldn't have needed so many terms. (Lately, instead of giving people my blog address, I just tell them to Google "headless rabbit." Another Monkey, the world's #1 source of news and information on headless rabbits!)

Later one of the protesters walked over to Obama Island carrying a small sign. "Does that say 'War 1955'?" the guy behind me asked. "What war would that be? Korea?"

The sign actually said "H.R. 1955". (I had to explain to him that "H.R." stands for "House Resolution".) This is also known as the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007. Now I'm wondering who these people were. Ron Paul is mentioned in the linked article. Could they have been Ron Paul supporters?

Six o'clock came and went and we were still well outside of the gym - closer, but outside. We were all very cold, and as the sun set behind Scranton High School I noted that we were all about to get a lot colder.

6:15 and Hillary had not yet taken the stage. This was a good thing. But around 6:30 a police officer came and told us that the gym was now full, and they were re-routing people to the school auditorium, where at best people would be able to watch Hillary on a TV. A trickle of people were now heading from the front of the gym to the auditorium.

A few seconds later the crowd began to buzz, and then break up. Either everyone was beginning to disperse, or...

Mad dash! Everyone was suddenly racing up a muddy hillside to the auditorium. The line had dissolved, and it was first-come, first served at the doors.

The auditorium filled up pretty quickly, with people of every race and gender identification. (I learned yesterday that the transvestites were there with us!) But, as we quickly learned, there was no TV screen there to watch Hillary's speech. At best we would hear it, over two Public Address speakers mounted above the stage.

And hear it we did. The audio was lousy, the introductions droned on, and no one outside the auditorium could see or hear us. But that didn't stop the crowd from cheering or clapping at appropriate times. One of the most popular items in both Hillary and Chelsea's speeches was a vow to end "the Unfunded Mandate known as 'No Child Left Behind'," one of the most far-reaching of the Bush Administration's many failures.

People eased out of their seats throughout the speech, which went on for a good while. Hillary opened with a good 10 minutes of local name-dropping ("I remember going to Tunkhannock for ice cream at the Shadowbrook! I just had white pizza in Old Forge!"), but in her case it was legit - she does in fact have family ties to this area (her father is buried in Scranton) and did in fact spend portions of her childhood here. Then she launched into a stump speech that was fairly light on specifics, save for a pledge to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq within 60 days of taking office. But for the most part, it was just cheerleading to an enthusiastic crowd - two crowds, if you counted us in the auditorium.

Towards the end of the speech, after many people had left, a teenage boy in a crumpled gray suit slipped onstage, made a pressing-down ("stay here") motion with his hands, and said something that only people at the front right of the audience could hear. One of them turned and shouted to the murmuring throng. "Stay here!" she yelled. "She's coming! Hillary's coming here!"

Suddenly the auditorium was alive again as people swarmed to fill the positions toward the front. The speech ended, and we waited.

And waited.

People came and went onstage. A microphone was set up. Several people who appeared to be aides, and probably not local - nobody wears long, dangly scarves around here - appeared onstage and seemed to take in the crowd. Several people entered the auditorium from the back and set up a "velvet rope" to define a do-not-cross zone.

At one point the boy in the gray suit peeked around the curtain, and the audience burst into applause and cheers. This became a running joke: every time he appeared the crowd erupted in cheers. Finally he walked across the stage and removed the microphone, stand and all. Huh?

And suddenly, she was there. Hillary Clinton herself. She didn't have to do this, of course. She had just spoken to a screaming, enthusiastic crowd of 3500 in the gym, and we had heard her. What did she have to gain by spending some extra time with a few hundred folks who weren't able to get in to the main show?

But she did. She spoke to us, just us, for a good ten minutes. That impressed me. Then she came down off the stage and into the crowd - I think she was on the other side of the rope - and shook hands and met with people for another good long while.

I found her surprisingly charismatic. While neither as eloquent nor as charming as her daughter, she was still much more pleasant than the monster she is being made out to be by her opponent's fervent followers. And she did stir up quite a bit of enthusiasm in the crowd, quite the opposite of the effect that I am hearing being described in other sources.

Finally it was over and the crowd dispersed. Everyone left and cheerfully trudged to their cars, glad to have seen Hillary Clinton in her first official campaign stop in Pennsylvania.

And yesterday I saw Chelsea. (Call me, kiddo.)

Now I'm looking forward to seeing Barack Obama. If he ever decides to visit Northeastern Pennsylvania.