31 October 2005

Congressman Rush Holt on honesty

    It's a form of lying that gets in the way of good government.
      Rep. Rush Holt(D - NJ)

Yesterday I attended a house party hosted by DBK and attended by Congressman Rush Holt. It was a live blogging event, and his comments can be seen on Bluejersey.net. In discussing the Plame case and the GOP approach to Katrina aid, he offered some great insights into the Republican's brand of truth, both nationally and here in NJ.

It was also a pleasure to sit and listen to him speak. Let me just say that I really wish he was my Congressman.

30 October 2005

Low flow

    It's not just a good idea. It's the law.
      Seatbelt law advertisement

Yesterday I finally got rid of the last old toilet from our house. Yeah, let me just point out that this post is mostly about toilets. Consider yourself warned. So, as I was saying.... We'd already replaced two other toilets when we redid those bathrooms. The remaining bathroom hasn't been redone yet, and as much as we'd like to, it's going to be awhile.

The old toilet started leaking, so I considered replacing the innards. Instead we went ahead and bought a new one. It is amazing when you comare a low-flow toilet to an older one. The old tanks are HUGE. On each flush that tank almost empties itself. The new tank is much smaller, and empties only half-way when you flush. I don't know why I didn't replace it years ago.

Yet I still find many people coveting their old toilets. The arguments are usually the same, and center on the premise that 1.6 gallons is just not enough to dispose of their waste. Like a soccer mom with a Hummer, they want the biggest they can get and think anything smaller won't do it. Well, I'm here to tell you that these toilets work great. Rob could come over with 5 lbs. of carrots and I wouldn't worry. More scietific studies of back me up on this.

We have a much more efficient and effective product now, and it doesn't cost any more than the old version. I don't think low-flow toilets would work as well as they do if their use was not required by law. This strikes me as a great example of why we should have real energy efficiency requirements. Sometimes you need mandates like this to spur development of more efficient products.

So next time you hear someone saying we can't have significant improvements in, say, automobile fuel economy, just think of that great low-flow john. And if you still have one of those old 3-4 gpf toilets, it's time to ditch that clunker and go for something new and efficient.

26 October 2005

Anna Quindlen on Iraq

    In Vietnam we didn't have the lessons of Vietnam to guide us. In Iraq we did have those lessons. The tragedy is that we didn't pay attention to them.
      David Halberstam
      as quoted by Anna Quindlen

Every so often, I read a column whose author puts into words everything I want to say, and does so infinitely better than I ever could. More than once the columnist has been Anna Quindlen, and this week's The Last Word is one of those columns.

22 October 2005

Impartiality is in the Eye of the Beholder

    I will not let a prosecutor who pursues his political enemies by abusing the law and manufacturing baseless charges wreck our justice system.
      U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas

Pop quiz: who is Robert Fiske? He was the first Special Prosecutor investigating Whitewater. Despite being a Republican, he was criticized by the right who felt he not impartial, because Attorney General Janet Reno appointed him. When the new special prosecutor law went info effect, a three judge panel chose someone they were much happier with: Kennith Starr. That panel, by the was, was chosen by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William H. Rehnquist, and was itself staunchly Republican.

Starr's politics were much further to the right than those of Fiske. Nonetheless, he was hailed by Republicans as the truly impartial prosecutor they wanted. They routinely dismissed arguments from the Democrats that Starr was abusing his position to engage in the politics of political destruction. Those arguments may sound familiar to you.

Republicans are now leveling these same criticisms againt Prosecutor Ronnie Earle and Judge Bob Perkins. They argue that Democratic party affiliation is enough to bias them against DeLay. The same people that thought only the stanchest Republicans are impartial enough to prosecute a Democrat think that any and every Democrat is too biased to prosecute a Republican.

It's almost like they don't care about justice and are only interested in staying in power.

20 October 2005

Listenning Center: The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell

    This is a true story. You can tell because it makes your stomach turn.
      John Crawford
      The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell

A comment on Audible.com said the following of John Crawford's The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell:

To me it was very depressing and negative. I understand that war is not fun and games but the author was so negative that is was miserable to listen to. I quit about half way.

This is somewhat ironic. A little after the point this person quit, Crawford writes that no one in America is interested in stories like the ones he tells - they just want the CNN version. The commenter is right, though. This book is very depressing and negative. As the author points out, that's how you know it's true.

The book tells the story John Crawford's tour in Iraq. Newly married and one semester shy of graduation, his National Guard unit was activated. The chapters, each an almost self-contained short story, capture the fear, boredom, dark humor, pain, and horror that Crawford went through. It proceeds quickly, almost rapid-fire, switching from one emotion to another at a moments notice. It is also a very gripping story that you will find it hard to walk away from. The audio production I listenned to was very well done.

As a literary work, it is not without flaws. Publishers Weekly notes this saying, "Crawford dresses up his story in strained metaphors and tired clich├ęs...." The review goes on to say that, "Despite its pretensions, Crawford's story is not the classic foot soldier's memoir and should provide enough gristle to please military memoir fans." I think they miss the point and underestimate the audience. This isn't just a book for war-story buffs. The book is a very real account of the war in Iraq that will hold anyone's attention.

The story paints a picture our leaders would rather we not see, like the flag draped coffins that come home every week. But, just like those coffins, this story embodies the cold reality which every American should understand intimately before endorsing this war. Even now, I think too many are like the person commenting on Audible, unwilling to face up to the ugly truth of it all. When I finished listenning, I drove on in silence for another twenty minutes feeling hollow and numb.

I recommend this book to everyone, and hope it makes them feel the same.

14 October 2005

I'm saying it again

    Oh one more time (just one more time)
    Say it one more time right now (just one more time)
    Say it one more time now (just one more time)
      Ray Charles

Have you seen the new about the northeast rains? It's been day after day of dark and dreary rain and clouds.

Oh yeah, by the way, we're generating 300 watts of electricity at this very moment. Keep your damn refineries.

The Politics of Terror

    Coincidence? You be the judge.

Have I mentioned lately how much I like Keith Olbermann? He's one of the best commentators on the air right now. If you need more evidence of this, check out The Nexus of Politics and Terror, where Keith walks through a seriese of "terror events" and the corresponding political crises of the Bush administration. Read the blog post. Watch the video.

11 October 2005

What is truth? A Roman Catholic Perspective

    "You are a king, then!" said Pilate.
    Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
    "What is truth?" Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, "I find no basis for a charge against him."
      John 18:37-38 (New International Version)

A teaching document published by the Roman Catholic Church instructs the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not completely accurate, as reported in this article. “We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in The Gift of Scripture. Wow, they almost sound like Episcopalians or Lutherans.

One part of me wants to start bashing the Roman Catholic Church with questions like:

  • Well, if these parts aren't accurate, who’s to say other parts aren't?
  • What about all those religious texts you chose to not put in the Bible?
  • If this stuff has no historical basis, what about priests getting married or gay marriage?

But another part of me wants to avoid the cheap shots. I have disagreed so often with the Catholic Church, but I have on occasion respected the stand they take on issues like capital punishment. At a time when the radical religious right, with the backing of the president, seeks to challenge science itself, the Catholic Church stood up on the side of knowledge.

I still disagree strongly, vehemently, with their stand on issues like marriage and gay rights. But at least I don't have to argue with them about scientific fact.

They've come a long way since Galileo.

08 October 2005

Good morning America how are you?

    I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done
      "City of New Orleans"
      by Steve Goodman

Amtrak resumed rail service to New Orleans today. Two trains are back running.

The first is the City of New Orleans, which runs between New Orleans and Chicago, and was made famous by the Steve Goodman song of the same.

The second is more special to me, though. It's the Crescent. One cold February afternoon at the Trenton station, some thirty hours after getting married, Sharon and I boarded the Crescent to take us to our honeymoon in New Orleans. The stay in New Orleans was wonderful, and as wonderful was the trip there on the Crescent. Sometimes, in NY Penn station, I hear them announce the departure of the Crescent, and I smile at the memories of some of the best days of my life.

I'm glad it's going again.

Oil refineries. Yeah, that's what we need.

    If we're looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn't test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.
      P.J. O'Rourke

I am so disgusted I don't know where to start. Yesterday, by a narrow margine, the House of Representatives approved a GOP-backed energy bill that encourages construction of new oil refineries.

This right here is about the eighth or ninth sentence I've stared and then erased. I don't know where to start. I need to get children's teeth brushed, so I'll cut to the chase and vent, in no particular order:

  • Okay, if you had actually set some real fuel efficiency standards four years ago, we wouldn't need new refineries, dumbasses.
  • When you say five minute vote, try to mean it. Otherwise, just be honest and let everyone know up front that voting will remain open until you get your way.
  • Maybe you missed the news reports about oil companies' profits. They're big, really big. They don't need taxpayers subsidizing them. I mean, what kind of major fuck-you is it to rape the American people by price-gouging them, then take a their tax money to help produce more gas to hike the price on?
  • New refineries won't alleviate fuel shortages for years. How about some fuel efficiency standards? They'll take just as long to implement as building refineries. Oh, yeah, right, sorry, I'm using logic here.
  • What the fuck? More refineries? That's the big plan?
  • Okay, we get it, you're evil. We get it. Can you move on now?
  • Arrrrrgh!

Unfortunately, I don't feel any better....

Oh yeah, one more thing. Today the weather has been dark and dreary and raining. Nonetheless, our solar panels were still generating 300 watts of electricity. It's not huge, but come on. Have you seen the weather in NJ? And we're still producing. Don't you think the better long term strategy would be to throw that money at renewable energy? It's got to be better than funding oil, the source of most of our energy problems.

Oh, yeah, sorry. Logic again. My bad.

There is no "Joy"

    But what part is the joy?
      My oldest

This morning we were discussing candy, as Halloween is approaching and there will be a large influx. My daughter asked this question about Almond Joy.

Good question. The answer? There is none. Almond Joy sucks. It's the second worst candy bar in the world. I mean, come on, what does it have to offer? Aside from the almond, what does it have? A thin layer of chocolate that is sub-par at best. Under that, a big glob of shredded coconut whose consistency makes you wonder if you're supposed to eat it or put it between your cheek and gum like chaw. Bleah!

Who on earth came up with that? The only good thing is the almond, which is why it's the second worst candy bar. The same culinary sado-masochists who came up with Almond Joy also created Mounds, a candy bar devoid of any redeeming quality at all.

05 October 2005

The Maxwell Edison Story

    It's a fun song, but it's kinda sick because Maxwell keeps on killing everyone.
      George Harrison
    If it's good enough to take to your psychiatrist, it's good enough to make a song of.
      Paul McCartney

I quoted The Beatles song "Maxell's Silver Hammer" in my post about Delay. I got a comment I initially thought was just more blog-spam. It turned out to be someone who'd made a Flash animation video of the song.

It's good - check it out (but not with kids around).

Update: It turns out dave decay posted the link. Thanks!

Undermining the institution of marriage

    This is New Jersey, where people of the staunchest faith are people who want equality for all.
      Steven Goldstein, of Garden State Equality

I felt the need to comment on this article by Tom Hester in yesterday's edition of The Times of Trenton.

At a rally against gay-marriage, Len Deo called attempts to legalize gay marriage an "assault" designed to "undermine the most basic institution of our culture, marriage, which is the bedrock of a stable society." Deo is president of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, yet another organization whose positive name masks their exclusionary politics. I wonder what it says about society then, if 50% of marriages fail, but I'll hold that thought for a moment. I have to ask, does Deo truly believe that there is a cabal of homosexuals intent on destroying our way of life? Yeah, he probably does, which makes it all the more sad.

Rev. David Ireland could be making a case for gay marriage when he said, "Marriage has deeply rooted civil and societal benefits that have been recognized by government spanning hundreds of generations...." He is absolutely right about that, so wouldn't it be in society's interest to extend marriage rights to all of society? Ireland doesn't think so, as he continued his comment by saying marriage "should not be redefined from a political, judicial or social perspective in this generation." If not in this generation, then when?

Clearly he believes it should be never, as he also said that the clergy in the rally will "never recognize same-sex marriages in New Jersey or agree to perform them in our churches." As religious institutions protected by the First Amendment, they are free to define marriage as it applies to their own religious beliefs. Certainly laws or court rulings granting marriage rights to gays would not mean all religious institutions have to perform these marriages. Right now clergy refuse to perform many heterosexual marriages, as is the case with Roman Catholic clergy declining to marry people who have been married previously.

In all, I think the protestors' arguments demonstrate why the right to marry should be extended to gay couples. Their arguments find their basis in views on morality that are rooted in the creed and dogma of their respective religions. The same First Amendment that allows religious institutions their own beliefs on marriage prevents them from imposing those beliefs on society as a whole. Hester's article also shows not all religious leaders share Ireland's opinions. Rev. Charles J. Stephens notes that his church, the Unitarian Universalist Church at Washington Crossing, has includes gay couples in strong relationships that are "role models for a lot of the younger heterosexual couples."

There is an important point there. I think the larger issue with the institution of marriage is its 50% failure rate. People enter into marriages they shouldn't, while marriages that might endure fall apart. Instead of focusing on how to build lasting marriages between the right people, the rally attendees want to prevent a class of people from getting married in the first place. As Rev. Stephens' congregation demonstrates, the example of these couples' commitment and dedication to one another strengthens relationships as a whole. Depriving these committed couples of the right to marry is what truly undermines the institution of marriage.