Monday, October 31, 2005

Trickster's Treats

It's Trick-or-Treat time in my municipality, and I sit here at home all alone while the spouse and young ones roam from door to door looting the neighborhood. I always get way too much candy. Is that a bad thing? Yes and no -- and I do not believe that I need to explain why.

My house is situated along a row of homes on a hillside. Most of the homes are 2-3 family apartments, and even some of the single family dwellings are rented. Most of my neighbors do not even seem to be at home for passing out candy. Again, this is something that can either be a good or a bad thing.

Because we are on a slope, and because most of the renters nearby do not have children, we do not pass out much candy. I've been giving out two pieces to each kid just so I don't get stuck with enough to last until Christmas. The real action takes place on the other side of the main drag, a block away from my street. The streets are flat, and children live everywhere. People on my street just aren't down with Halloween -- and those are the ones who are actually passing out candy. But across the asphalt divide lies a land of color, sound, and spectacle galore. If the wife gets back soon enough, I may take the older two over there for some more goodies.

Plus, I'd like to get out of the house, even for just a few minutes. That'll keep me from getting an early start on the leftovers.

Great googly-moogly, I can't believe I just live-blogged Trick-or-Treat.

Revisionist Musical History

Johann Sebastian Bach produced a ton of work during his lifetime, and I would have to say that he is among my favorite composers of the Baroque period. After 300 years, he is still making news. From the "Everything You Know Is Wrong" Dept.:

The Toccata and Fugue (in G Minor) probably was not written by Bach and almost certainly wasn't written for the organ.
This is not the most Earth-shattering item in the news this week, but it is one of the most difficult things for the lay music listener to comprehend. People who are barely aware that Bach ever existed are familiar with that piece of music. The evidence seems pretty clear to the experts that Bach never wrote the famous Toccata.

This is where I feel like emulating the scene in "Annie Hall" where Woody Allen pulls Marshall McLuhan into a line outside of a theater in order to settle a dispute over some of McLuhan's writings. Bach, and anyone who was alive at the time of composition, have been dead for about 300 years. We can't ask anyone what the truth is.

Unless, of course, you could call forth the ghost of Bach and conduct an interview with it -- which would be the most appropriate use of the Toccata and Fugue in a spooky setting EVER.

Back To The Old Drawing Board

Now that the Harriet Miers brain burp has passed, it's time for the White House to get serious about the upcoming vacancy that people have been talking about for months. This is good news for those on the Right who split over Miers:

President Bush appears poised to announce a new Supreme Court nomination today, moving quickly after a weekend of consultations to put forward a replacement for the ill-fated choice of Harriet Miers in hopes of recapturing political momentum, according to Republicans close to the White House.

Judging by the names the White House floated by political allies in recent days, Mr. Bush seems ready to pick a candidate with a long track record of conservative jurisprudence -- one who would mollify the Republican base, whose opposition to Ms. Miers' nomination helped scuttle it. Several GOP strategists said the most likely choice seemed to be federal appeals Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., with judges J. Michael Luttig and Alice M. Batchelder also in the running.


So now President Bush is going to do what he should have done over a month ago and pick a qualified judge for the Sandra Day O'Connor seat on the Supreme Court -- but look! There is dismay on the opposite side of the field.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said yesterday that he already has warned the White House that nominating Judge Alito -- who is often compared to Justice Antonin Scalia -- would "create a lot of problems."
Like what, Mr. Quickie-Marriage-Land Lefty? You mean he might actually adhere to the letter of the law as set out by the U.S. Constitution? And he might even notice that abortion has nothing to do with any right to privacy in the Bill of Rights? Those kinds of problems? Well, good then. Any problem for you is a solution for us. And vice-versa.

Senate Democrats, who largely kept quiet during the Miers nomination to enjoy the Republican civil war it spawned, signaled they would come off the sidelines in the case of a more vocal conservative nominee.

"If he wants to divert attention from all of his many problems, he can send us somebody that is going to create a lot of problems," Mr. Reid said on CNN. "I think this time he would be ill advised to do that. But the right wing, the radical right wing is pushing a lot of his buttons, and he may just go along with them."

The President's "many problems" would be the Miers nomination, the Iraq War body count, and the Scooter indictment. (If you believe in the President's elemental control powers, then the hurricanes may be added to the list.) The solution to those problems is not to lay down and take it from the Jackass Left. The solution is to work with your base of support and try to expand it. Senator Reid dismisses the Republican base as "the radical right wing". And perhaps we are. What's so wrong with that, Harry? Are you sure we didn't push a few of your buttons instead of the President's?

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a liberal member of the Judiciary Committee, held out the possibility of a filibuster, although he said it was too early to judge. "If it's going to be a nominee who is way, way out of the mainstream, who wants to use the courts to change America, something conservatives have always been against, at least in the past, there's the possibility of a filibuster," he said on "Face the Nation."
When a Democrat speaks on that show, it ought to be renamed "Buttocks the Nation", because most of these guys just go right out and start talking out of their asses. When a Dem uses expressions like "out of the mainstream" or "radical right wing", he/she/it is referring to those who look at the Constitution, rather than the Communist Manifesto, as the law of the land in America. If judges and justices appointed by Republicans "use the courts to change America", it's only because they are trying to undo all of the unconstitutional decisions made by leftist judges and justices over the past hundred years.

If Schumer wants a filibuster, well, let me just say that it's a shame that we don't have fistfights in the House and Senate like legislatures in other countries do. I'd like to see that change.

Finally, a caveat:
The fact that Bush aides were circulating those names over the weekend does not guarantee he will pick one of them.
In other words, don't uncork the champagne just yet.

Friday, October 28, 2005

All Belgians Are Not the Same

Bogus Doug's "war" on Belgians a few weeks ago quickly petered out, undoubtedly due to the oversimplicity of taking aim at such a "fish in a barrel" target as the fine folks living between France and the Netherlands. Besides, the Belgians do not need some American blogger to fight them. They have troubles of their own literally right at home:

Belgium's history of linguistic bickering between Flemings and Walloons entered a new phase this week when police arrested a Flemish woman for calling her Walloon husband lazy, Belgian media said Thursday.

The 48-year-old husband filed a complaint for racism against his spouse for scratching him and calling him "a lazy Walloon, a slave and an inferior creature," De Standaard daily said.

The 47-year-old woman will appear before a magistrate later Thursday to face charges of racism, the newspaper said.

Dutch-speaking Flemings and French-speaking Walloons are not only linguistically divided but also split socio-economically between a prosperous Flanders and a poorer Wallonia.

Racism? I didn't realize that Flemings and Walloons belonged to separate races. Or is that notion written into Belgian law? Just imagine a law like that here in America. My wife and I are pretty congruous as far as ethnicity goes, aside from some Welsh ancestry on her side. When I go home tonight, I might call her "a lazy Taffy, a slob and a low life" just to see if she charges me with racism.

In fact, I encourage all married men to try the same experiment with their spouses this weekend,

Attack of the Cybermen

Two news items this morning have grabbed my attention. We are coming closer and closer to turning Earth into the Borg Planet.

First, from Japan, an amazing technological breakthrough shocked the crap out of a journalistic guinea pig for the Associated Press:

Prepare to be remotely controlled. I was. Just imagine being rendered the rough equivalent of a radio-controlled toy car.
For the details of this shocking experience, click here.

Closer to home, researchers at Carnegie-Mellon University are working with German scientists from the Universit√ɤt Karlsruhe on a very special communications project. As the professor in charge says:
"In the future, we could implant the electrodes into your mouth and throat if you want and have your mouth become multilingual," Waibel said.
He even has a lovely assistant working with him. With a cybernetic tongue, she could tell a guy to buzz off in any language. If she had cybernetic ears to go with it, a man would not be able to get away with making lewd remarks no matter what language he spoke. She'd understand everything. Guys, this is a bad thing. We would be completely unarmed in the war between the sexes.

But that's okay. Someday we will all be remotely controlled cyborgs with total human language comprehension. You, too, will be assimilated.

The Fear Went As Quickly As It Came

So much for the black helicopters disguised as municipal choppers. Within a few minutes of my post last night, they went away. Obviously they were reading my blog and knew I was on to them. Fools! You can not stake out my domicile using cacophonous airborne methods of propulsion!

Seriously, I still don't know what was up with the helicopters. I saw two: One hovered in place while the other circled the vicinity. Was there a manhunt for an escaped fugitive in the area? I can find nothing in this morning's news about it.

If there was a manhunt, I am going to assume that they caught the guy and the chopper pilots went home happy. Or maybe they couldn't find him and the pilots went home for supper and a good night's sleep. There could be a villain hiding out in my garage!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

At Least They Aren't Black

There are at least two helicopters that have been buzzing around my neighborhood for the last half-hour or so. I have no idea what this is about. I've not hear any sirens, no calls for evacuations, or anything else worth noticing.

I am also at home all alone.

These helicopters have a few lights, so they aren't those black stealth helicopters that I've heard about. Good thing, because we're almost out of tinfoil.

I'll keep an eye out for news on what's going on because I've never been buzzed by copters at home before. Curious. Developing...

Blogfather? I Gotta Pick a Blogfather?

The other day I dropped by Doug's Blog Bogus Gold and found out about an interesting project that the Politburo Diktat is hosting. Since so many bloggers were inspired or encouraged by established bloggers to begin blogging, the term "blogfather" has come into popular use as a respectful way to describe one's guiding light into the blogosphere. I spent a year thinking about blogging before I took the plunge into Blogger. During that time, I read plenty of blogs and left comments here and there. I discovered Lileks first, but his style of writing convinced me that I would never be much of a writer. After all, he is a professional. I cannot honestly call him my blogfather.

Then, I discovered the other Twin Cities area writers who would become known as the Northern Alliance. These were primarily guys with day jobs, but who blogged as a hobby -- though some of them have since found ways to profit from it. With a little motivation, I thought, I could do that, too.

One blog that especially impressed me was Fraters Libertas. Not only did I become an avid reader, but I found time to fire off an email to the Elder every now and then. He apparently thought enough of what I had to say to post some of my correspondence. Cool! I was published in a blog. But it was someone else's blog. I needed a place of my own to hone my writing skills, which had grown dormant since graduating college fifteen years ago. Thus, back in January, after weeks of trying to decide what to name my blog, I debated Ohligarchy.

I never wanted to assign credit or blame for this blog on anyone else. But if I had to pick someone, it would definitely have to be Chad the Elder at Fraters. If he hadn't published me first, I might never have published myself. It seems that I am in good company: Craig Westover, alias "Captain Fishsticks", is also a "son" of Fraters Libertas.

So thanks to Chad, and here's a photo shout out to my blog-brother at the Saint Paul Pioneer Press:

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Editorial Bile

I made need more than a moist towelette to cleanse myself after reading a pair of typical op-ed pieces in this morning's Pittsburgh Moist-Towelette. Neither of them are worth excerpting, but both a worth a read if someone on the right wants a clear look into the mind of the opposition.

Frequent Bush administration critic and former Ambassador Dan Simpson enumerates, in Sisyphusian style, his top eleven reasons that America sucks. It starts out like a "Why Dan Hates George Bush" list, but peters out at the end, where he is reduced to going after the UN and the Pennsylvania legislature. I would have put those at the top of the list and ended it at two, but then I don't need to go around explaining veins popping out of my forehead like he does.

Mr. Simpson is now embarking upon a visit to Africa, where he has surely always felt more comfortable than in the United States. And where he is undoubtedly more capable of shaping public policy, too.

The other op/ed screed is a guest editorial by a local writer who has not yet given up her day job. Good for her. The start of the piece can be summed up thusly: "I really hate Republicans, but I am just sooo mad at the Democrats, too". And then she proceeds to go on and on about all of the things that the Dems can do to make the country a European-style Socialist superstate. Or, at the very least, a mega-DFL run Minnesota nation. Totalitarianism certainly does appeal to the little people.

High time, I think, for a good shower.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Confidence of a Winner

As a football Hall-of-Famer and wide receiver on the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers championship teams, Lynn Swann knows a thing or two about winning. He carries that positive attitude into the 2006 Pennsylvania race for Governor against both his Republican primary opponents and incumbent Democrat Ed Rendell. But can he win, for real? He certainly thinks so:

Former Steelers star Lynn Swann said Monday he is the Republican with the best chance of beating Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell in 2006.

As a campaign theme for taking on any incumbent, that's not new.

But the candid, off-the-cuff way Swann framed it brought howls of laughter and a round of applause during a Republican event in Pittsburgh.

Swann, 53, of Sewickley Heights, was asked by someone in the audience to explain the "major difference" between himself and Bill Scranton, 58, a former lieutenant governor from Lackawanna County. Scranton and Swann are considered the early front-runners among four Republicans seeking the nomination.

"The major difference?" Swann said. "I win."

Of the four Republican contenders, Swann has the most potential for crossover appeal just because he's a famous former pro football player. In American politics, celebrity matters. Jim Panyard, the last man to enter the race and who is least known to voters statewide, would be the best choice based on principles. "Conservative" doesn't count for much in a swing state like PA. State Senator Jeff Piccola is already established in Harrisburg, and I would prefer someone who is more of an outsider in the Governor's mansion. But I do confess to knowing less about Piccola than I do about the other candidates. Finally, there is the man who I believe is likely to win the nomination: former Lt. Gov. Bill Scranton. He has the same kind of experience and family background that made George W. Bush such an attractive candidate for the presidency five years ago. Keep in mind, though, that this is Spectervania. If an issue like abortion matters to PA voters, then Scranton will walk away with the nomination while the other three split the pro-life vote.

Speaking of issues, the most valid criticism of Lynn Swann is that he has not stepped forward to discuss his positions on anything -- until now:

Swann used the speech at the Rivers Club, Downtown, to lay out his campaign's first specific proposals regarding a potential Swann administration. They include a pledge to roll back tax increases passed under Rendell's watch and support of a constitutional amendment to restrict state government spending.

Alluding to his former role as chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness, Swann said: "If I'm governor of Pennsylvania, government is going on a diet."

Swann said he would push capping spending increases by tying them to the cost of living. Tighter spending controls could save the state more than $500 million annually, which would be used to offset about $500 million in tax cuts, Swann said.

Now you're talking! I may be leaning towards Panyard right now, but Swann has my ear. It's going to be a long eight months to the May primary.

Monday, October 24, 2005

What, Me Prolific?

For the three or four people who drop by here from time to time looking for something new to read, I would like to offer my humble apologies. I've not been posting as often as I was a month or two ago. It's not the weather, or lack of interest in current events, or anything in my personal life.

It's My Yahoo!

As long as I'm freeloading off of Google by using Blogger, I figured that I might as well shop around for more cool free stuff. So I signed up with Yahoo! Immensely cool. I finally know what to do with those mysterious RSS feeds that I keep encountering. And that, in turn, has helped me find other blogs to keep track of and perhaps add to my blog links someday.

When I get around to that, I am going to categorize my links. And hopefully post more often. Stay tuned.

Who Cares?

NZ Bear has called upon bloggers to make a simple statement concerning the nomination of Harriet Miers to the US Supreme Court. I wasn't impressed when the President announced the nomination, but I didn't really have much of a problem with it, either. Certainly not optimistic, but not pessimistic either. Call me cautious.

No, Miers does not have the same kind of experience that current justices have. Yes, she is a little too close to the President already than a lot of us are comfortable with. But she is a trained legal mind, and she is still the nominee. Either way, BFD.

In other words, I am neutral on the Miers nomination. Leaning towards oppose, but I just can't get all hot and bothered like some of my peers. I can understand their position, though. Check back in two days, maybe I will have changed my mind.

So Say We All

Via the Unofficial Battlestar Galactica Blog, a neat little 40 question quiz:

You scored as Commander William Adama. You have risen to your position by being damn good at what you do. Not only that, you have the deepest respect for the people under your command. You may be a little grumpy and unapproachable, but every commander needs to distance himself. Shame that you apply that to your children too.

Commander William Adama


81%

Dr Gaius Baltar


75%

Capt. Lee Adama (Apollo)


69%

Col. Saul Tigh


63%

Lt. Sharon Valerii (Boomer)


63%

CPO Galen Tyrol


63%

President Laura Roslin


63%

Tom Zarek


50%

Number 6


44%

Lt. Kara Thrace (Starbuck)


38%

What New Battlestar Galactica character are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

I never thought of myself as an Adama type before, but I can see where this is coming from. Colonel Tigh is a much more interesting character, but that doesn't mean I identify with him, either.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Everyone Misses Calvin & Hobbes

Calvin & Hobbes was one of the most innovative comic strips of its time. It's never easy for a cartoonist to portray a fresh perspective of childhood, but Bill Watterson managed to pull it off. He also pulled the plug ten years ago, and while it's sad that the strip disappeared when it did, we can be glad that Watterson did not allow his work to grow old and stale. In any event, the paperback collections of C&H still keep me entertained, and for that I'm glad. Watterson shared his talent with the world for a few years, then deservedly retired into private life.

Yet there are those who occasionally attempt, without success, to pry into his quiet life, and the anniversary of the strip's retirement is bringing out the media vultures once again.

These reporters are like the people back in the 1970s who kept asking when the Beatles would get back together. The only thing that stopped the speculation was the death of John Lennon. Calvin & Hobbes is over; learn to live with it. Don't keep hounding Bill Watterson to the grave.

His parents sure sound like polite, accommodating folks. They are a good line of defense against the media, killing them with kindness, I gather.

As nice as it would be to catch up with Bill Watterson, he isn't talking. He has a right to his privacy, and we should respect that. Calvin & Hobbes is his gift to us, and it will stay with us for as long as we want it to. We shouldn't ask him for anything more.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a little Calvin of my own to go look after.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Some Pittsburgh Steelers Fans Are Completely Asinine Idiots

"Football hooligans" is a familiar term used to describe uncouth, unruly, and often violent fans of the sport called "football" in Europe. A few fans of the sport called "football" in America aren't much better.

I don't follow football, and right now I am glad that I don't because I certainly wouldn't want to be associated with the sore losers who are ostensibly supporters of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team. Look at what they have been doing to Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox this week:

[Steelers guard Alan] Faneca recounted fan behavior on the heels of quarterback Tommy Maddox's yard being vandalized in the wake of Sunday's 23-17 overtime loss to Jacksonville at Heinz Field.

Maddox's grade-school children have since been teased while riding the bus, his agent, Vann McElroy, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Wednesday.

Maddox committed four turnovers, including a fumble and an interception that was returned for a touchdown in overtime. He was booed vociferously, but the abuse did not end there.

"I went up to Tommy and said, 'Is all this true?'" kicker Jeff Reed said, referring to the incidents at his home. "Tommy said, 'Yeah, it's pretty bad.' "

Football is a game. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don't. Sometimes one person makes a few mistakes that costs his team the game. You get over it. You try harder next time. And the fans who cheer you, who want you to win, should just look forward to the next game and hope things go better.

Not these Steelers fans. This kind of behavior is just despicable. What was so important about this football game that they needed to seek revenge against the player whom they hold most responsible for the team's loss? Is a Steelers victory the highest priority in your insignificant lives?

Anyone who answers "yes" to that question needs to take two steps back and leave the game. You're disqualified from the human race.

Oh, this crap didn't just start with Tommy Maddox, either:

Maddox, though, is not the first Steelers quarterback to endure the wrath of fan reaction. Fans cheered when Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw sustained an injury at Three Rivers Stadium in 1974. And Kordell Stewart had beer dumped on his head at Three Rivers, not to mention having his mailboxes knocked from the front of his residence on a regular basis.
And then there was the disgraceful USFL game back in 1984 in which Birmingham Stallions quarterback Cliff Stout, formerly of the Steelers, was pelted with snowballs by bloodthirsty Pittsburgh Maulers fans at Three Rivers Stadium. Did I say "Maulers fans"? No, they were Steelers fans who crashed the party.

A lot of people (myself included) complain about the outrageously high salaries paid to professional athletes nowadays. But let's face it -- that excess of money may be the only thing that makes this ill treatment worth putting up with/

Decline and Fall of the Grey Behemoth

Way back about 33 years ago when I was in Kindergarten, a series of large grey metal carts with short curtains mysteriously appeared in the hallway outside of my classroom. I knew little about them other than that they were needed for some kind of vague holiday called "Election Day". It wasn't much of a holiday for me because there were no decorations or cake or presents or anything fun about it, really. Election Day was just as cold, metallic and grey as the big metal carts that only adults were allowed to touch.

I also remember being aware that a man named Nixon was President of the United States before the grey carts appeared, and he was still President after they went away.

A few years later, my mother or father (but never both together) would take me into the carts to show me what was inside. They were some kind of machines with lots of little levers next to red letter "X"'s just behind the short curtain. Some of the levers had the names of strangers next to them. My mother or father would click a few levers, hit a red button, the curtain would open, and then we would have to leave.

I liked being inside of that machine. Some people go nuts in any kind of confined space, but I felt secure. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I have claustromania, but I definitely do not suffer from claustrophobia.

Over the two decades following my stint in Kindergarten, I learned the purpose of the grey curtained carts, and of the machines with the levers and the names and the red "X"'s. Twelve years after Kindergarten, I was allowed to go behind the curtain alone for the first time ever. I understood quite well what a voting machine was and how to cast my votes. I wasn't very clear on who to vote for, mainly because most of the names were still strangers to me, but there were plenty of people standing around outside of the polling place eagerly telling me who to vote for, and handing me cards with the names of the candidates in case I forgot who they were when I went behind the curtain.

I usually don't vote for the people named on the card, mainly because my mind is already made up before I go into the booth. Election Day campaign literature is for uninformed idiots.

By now I have been using the large grey metal carts to vote longer than I was relegated to watching my parents do it. I'm over the hump, you might say. Another Election Day is coming up next month, and its going to be the end of an era. Voting around here is going to change starting next Spring. For the first time in my life, the old faithful grey behemoths will be gone from our polling places:

Allegheny County officials are racing a deadline to replace the venerable lever-operated voting machines that will see their last general election next month.

Federal legislation impelled by the presidential cliffhanger of 2000 requires that approved voting machines be in place by next May's primary.

The controversy over hanging chads in Florida, and the resulting spotlight on the untidiness of voting procedures across the country, led Congress to mandate nationwide balloting standards designed to ensure accuracy, security and accessibility at polling places.

Stupid Florida! The state shaped like a thingy dangling off of southeastern America had to go and ruin it for the rest of us. I liked the old voting machines. They worked well. I never had a problem in twenty years of voting. We never had punch ballots with chads or some other primitive form of casting votes. We flicked switches, and that was it. But maybe it was time for a chance anyway. If those machines have been around since I was little, then maybe they are a bit long in the tooth to keep around.

Officials say the 850-pound curtained behemoths familiar to Allegheny County voters have years of life left in them. They were doomed, nonetheless, by the standards of the 2002 legislation, the Help America Vote Act. In replacing them, the county faces a multimillion-dollar decision that it hopes will govern its citizens' voting experiences for a generation.

At a meeting of the Allegheny County Board of Elections yesterday, officials expressed unease over some of the uncertainties surrounding that decision.

They are right to be concerned. What a stinking waste! "If it ain't broke don't fix it" obviously has no meaning to the federal government, possibly because the poor usage offends the snob lawyers who keep getting elected to Congress. They'd rather pass some feel-good legislation with a fruity title like "Help America Vote" that is going to eat a huge chunk out of the nation's tax revenues. And piss off local officials...and local voters. Of course the transition is going to be anything but smooth.

Allegheny County, like other election jurisdictions across the state and the nation, faces practical as well as legal deadlines. County officials must make their decision in time to ensure delivery of the equipment needed to replace the nearly 3,000 voting machines that have been used since the 1960s. The county will be placing its order at the same time as counties across the country.
I work at a job that involves ordering for a large institution. Some of my orders are for large quantities of furniture and equipment that cost thousands of dollars. I know for a fact that if something is in high demand and you need to have it in by a certain date, but everyone in the country is trying to order one at the same time as you, it's almost dead certain that it arrive before you need it. I hope the county places the order ASAP so that whatever these new machines are can be in place by next year's primary.

On the other hand, maybe not. Maybe I hope that the order comes in too late. I like the old grey metal carts.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Conflicting Views From the Middle East

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Middle East correspondent Betsy Hiel reports on regional reaction to the start of Saddam Hussein's trial today. Not surprisingly, views from around the Arab world are not exactly in harmony.

It seems that more than just a few folks -- outside of Iraq, of course -- are big time Saddam supporters. To them, the trial is part of American tyranny in the former Baathist state. Like this fellow:

Former Jordanian parliamentarian Leith Shubeilat, now a leader of the Islamist opposition, dismissed the trial as an American machination. "There is a general feeling of humiliation and that the United States ... is interfering in the affairs of the region." He believes Jordanians see it as "justice of the victors, not the Iraqis ... a political show."

"People are very resentful of America, and they are proud of the resistance in Iraq."

Well, then, Sunshine, why don't you and these "people" of whom you speak go over the border into Iraq and join the resistance if you're so damned proud? You'd be a welcome addition -- to the body count of dead terrorist arseholes.

Failing that, you can emigrate to America and run for office as a Democrat. That party would welcome you with open arms.

Of course, Saddam's Iraq was a friendly neighbor to Jordan, so you expect some pro-Saddam bias there. But what about the neighbors on the other side of Iraq'?

One place where Saddam's trial will be closely followed is Kuwait. Saddam invaded and ravaged that nation in 1990, before being ousted in 1991 by a U.S.-led coalition of Arab and European nations. Thousands of Kuwaitis disappeared during Iraq's occupation.

"The trial for us is justice, it is happening to a leader who was suppressing his people and committing international crimes," said Abdullah Sahar Mohammed, a professor of political science at Kuwait University.

"We have been waiting for this trial, and I hope that it will not be politicized, giving Saddam room to maneuver," he said. But he predicts some countries "like Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria don't want to see Saddam Hussein face this trial, so they will politicize the issue."

Yep, when you ask someone who has suffered under Saddam's tyranny, you get a whole different reaction, and a more informed one. When the professor says that the Kuwaitis have been waiting for the trial, you know that their wait has lasted a lot longer than the two years since America entered Iraq. Saddam should have been tried and executed fourteen years ago.

The four countries that Professor Mohammed mentions are just like Iraq was before the war (and still is today to some extent): they have a high concentration of Idiots Who Need To Be Eliminated From The Face Of The Earth. Iraq was the worst of the bunch, and their leadership needed to go first. I don't believe that there should be a timetable or an agenda for going into the other countries like we did in Iraq. Iraq is a test case, a chance to show how positive regime change can be for people in the Middle East.

So again, I ask of you other pro-Saddam elements from the neighboring Arab counties: Can you come to Iraq to fight the Americans? Please? So we can kill you? Just stand still and you won't feel a thing. Thank you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

As If It Wasn't Already Obvious...

Bill Scranton has officially entered the 2006 race for Governor of Pennsylvania. His positions on fiscal matters are very Republican Party, though he once again emerges as a pro-abortion rights candidate. This is disappointing, but par for the course for many Republicans running statewide in this commonwealth: witness Tom Ridge and Arlen Specter. The other candidates are pro-life. Even Lynn Swann, who doesn't seem to stand for anything yet, has advocated the pro-life position.

I wonder how many people saved their buttons and lawn signs from Scranton's 1986 campaign.

Here's a bit of trivia that points to the likelihood of an Ed Rendell reelection next year:

Mr. Scranton, 58, told the hometown crowd that his campaign would end "Pennsylvania's tradition of automatic re-election."

Since the Pennsylvania Constitution was changed to allow governors to serve second terms, every one, starting with Gov. Milton Shapp, a Democrat elected in 1970, has been re-elected, and each eight-year administration has been followed by one of the opposite party.

Mr. Scranton's father, William W. Scranton, was elected governor in 1962, at a time when the state's chief executives were still limited to a single term.

Whoever wins the Republican primary, let's hope that this "tradition" passes into history like the Presidential death curse. Remember how Ronald Reagan was supposed to die in office because he was elected in a year divisible by twenty? He didn't. I bet the Democrats hated that, just like they'll hate it if Rendell gets limited to one term.

Sometimes It's Okay

In my post from yesterday, I made the comment that "Anyone who snitches on their neighbors about something as silly as that deserves to burn in the deepest pit of hell." That was about reporting bad recyclers or non-recyclers to the authorities.

This is different.

It's okay to testify against a murderer. It's the moral thing to do. Are we clear on that?

Good. Thank you.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Recycling Is Junk

Does anyone actually remember the good old days when everything just went into garbage cans and tossed into the back of a big stinky truck? The big stinky truck is still around, of course, but the rules of the disposal game have gotten a bit more complex. Nowadays we have waste disposals in our kitchen sinks, and a lot of us have gotten away from garbage cans in favor of just tossing everything into plastic liners. Those are the things that can make garbage night less of a hassle.

On the other hand, there is the dreaded R word: Recycling. At my old residence, we were required to separate plastic from glass from aluminum from tin from paper. All in the name of progress. And everything had to be in clear plastic bags, at least three feet away from regular garbage. To what end was never clear to me, though it does make one suspect that hordes of policemen roamed the residential neighborhoods in the wee hours of the night checking to make sure that everyone had properly separated everything. What if we hadn't? Were they going to kick down our doors and arrest us? It sounds paranoid, but with new laws in effect you just can't be too careful. You also can't underestimate the fascistic tendencies of the environmentalism movement.

In the community where I have resided for the past ten years, the rules are a bit more lax. Recycling is mandatory, but the municipality provides each household with a bin in which to put recyclables -- and these do not need to be separated. It's nice. We, the citizens, do less work, and everyone benefits from renewing renewable resources. Right?

Not really. An article in this morning's Trib looks at recycling in Pittsburgh area communities and finds that this mandatory environmental friendliness has a price. Here's how one borough got out of the game, and how much it benefits by doing so:

As soon as Tarentum's population fell below the state threshold for providing curbside recycling, Borough Manager Jeff Thomas convinced council to do away with the curbside collection.

The borough still offers municipal recycling, but residents use bins near borough offices. In return, Tarentum saves about $25,000 annually in labor, maintenance and fuel.

"The curbside recycling program was just a nightmare," Thomas said. "When it first started, (legislators) said, 'You're going to make money out of this.' We were never making money. I don't know any (curbside) recycling program that makes money."

Twenty-five thousand dollars? We're looking at some serious jack here. I could pay off my mortgage with that amount. And all you need to do to get out of spending that kind of money on curbside pickup is to have your municipality's population drop below some state-mandated level? Balkanization can be a good thing.

The entire article is worth a read to see what kind of costs other communities are incurring for recycling, and just how difficult the entire process is for both residents and recycling companies. There is even a list of recycling tips at the end, which includes a bit of good news for me: Don't rinse recyclables! I've been doing that for years because my former municipality insisted that everything be clean for pickup. Now, apparently, the recyclers do that themselves.

There is also a stool pigeon hotline number, about which I have one thing to say: Don't be a jagoff. Anyone who snitches on their neighbors about something as silly as that deserves to burn in the deepest pit of hell.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

One More Candidacy Couldn't Hurt, Could It?

The field of Republicans looking to unseat Pennsylvania Governor "Fast Eddie" Rendell in next year's gubernatorial race has widened. Thus far we've been looking at William Scranton III, who was Lieutenant Governor twenty years ago; Senator Jeff Piccola, current Majority Whip in the State Senate; and Lynn Swann, a longtime Republican supporter who is best known for his days as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers' championship teams of the 1970s.

Now a new name with considerably less name recognition in Pennsylvania has entered the race: Jim Panyard. This morning I was handed some literature advertising his candidacy and I must say I was impressed. He is running on a conservative platform, and seems like a pull-no-punches kind of guy.

I would love to see someone like him being elected Governor, but I doubt he will make it past the primary. This is, after all, the state -- and the party -- that keeps returning Arlen Specter to the United States Senate. But if you want to see what a real conservative sounds like, be sure to check out the Panyard for Governor web site. It's a good guide for what our candidates ought to be saying in this race, and every race that matters.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

American Fuzzball

Peter Mayhew, best known as Chewbacca in four out of six Star Wars movies, is becoming an American citizen. From the BBC:

Peter Mayhew, 60, who played the hairy wookie in the original trilogy and this year's Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, will attend a ceremony on Monday.

Mayhew, who is married to a Texan, qualifies by having been a legal US resident for three years, the period needed for people who wed US citizens.

He said the US was "one of the most wonderful countries in the world".
No doubt about that. New citizens are always proud and happy, never short of platitudes when talking about their new home. Of course, one of the wonderful things about America is the right to hold and express one's own beliefs and feelings. Chewbacca does that right away:

"Whatever people say about America, it is still one of the most wonderful countries in the world, despite the politics, religion and everything else that goes on."
Time for some analysis here. He does not say that America is the most wonderful country, just one of the most wonderful countries. Okay. No problem there. So far so good.

But what's up with the "politics, religion and everything else" bit? Is he saying that America might actually qualify as the undisputed most wonderful country in the world, if certain political and religious elements did not exist here? Why do I get the feeling that I resemble that remark?

Based on my reading of his sentence, I would have to conclude that Chewbacca would prefer America to be a socialist atheocracy. I have to wonder: Is letting this guy become a citizen any different than letting an Islamist killer into the country?

Ah well. If he is going to be spending his life in the United States now, he can go hang out with Hollywood leftist pals like George Lucas and Harrison Ford. Misery loves company, as the saying goes. And I hope their ilk is miserable for many years to come.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Quote of the Day (From Yesterday)

Cathy In the Wright says:

If someone could harness young boy energy and turn it into a fuel source, we could tell the Saudis to kiss our ass tomorrow.
My sons are ages 8 and 6. If I could harness their energy, I could cancel both gas and electric for my house.

Follow the Bus Money

Don't buy the myth that gas prices are being raised just to benefit Halliburton. The money is going somewhere else:

With high gasoline prices making mass transit more attractive, weekday ridership on buses, trolleys, the Monongahela Incline and the ACCESS paratransit system rose by 5.6 percent last month over September 2004, the authority said yesterday.
Yes, it's our old friend, the Pork Authority of Allegheny County who is benefiting from the high cost of petroleum fuels.

It was the largest gain in 41 months and one of the largest here since the national fuel crises of the 1970s.

"More people are realizing the cost-efficiency of public transportation," Dennis Veraldi, Port Authority acting chief executive officer, said in a statement.

It wasn't cost-efficient when we could still buy gasoline at reasonable prices. Obviously the prices were artificially jacked up when the public transportation people got desperate for money. Not enough money from state, federal, and local funds? Concerns about another fare raise? No worries. Find a way to make it too expensive for people to drive to work everyday. Voila! Instant increase in ridership. More riders means more money. They'll get that garage paid for soon enough. Aren't conspiracy theories fun?
Most of the 64 park-n-ride lots with a total of 15,000 spaces have been getting more vehicles and, depending on location, have exceeded capacity.
See what I mean? It's insidious. And it's getting crowded, too:

[Some Pork Authority spokesman] said he issued the call for people to move to the rear of buses and trolleys when seating is not available to accommodate the maximum number of riders already jamming vehicles at rush hour on the busiest routes.

He said the Port Authority can't do more given its finances, temporarily buoyed by $45 million in federal highway money provided by Gov. Ed Rendell as an emergency subsidy.

So the recent hurricanes did what even Fast Eddie's slick trick couldn't accomplish, and now people are standing the whole length of the bus.

I'll be impressed when they start adding routes instead of eliminating them.

Birthplace of the Big Mac

The Big Mac sandwich served at McDonald's restaurants is perhaps the most famous specialty hamburger in culinary history. What a lot of people don't know is that, like me, the Big Mac is a native of southwestern Pennsylvania. And also like me, it is thirty-eight years old (but the sandwich has a fresher taste). If we hadn't come from different counties, we might have gone to school together.

The Tribune-Review has a nice article about a fourth grader and his recent interview with the inventor of the famed sandwich. There are some pretty interesting tidbits in there, such as the fact that the inventor is 87 years old, still owns several McDonald's restaurants, and eats in his restaurants frequently. And he continues to profit from his invention:

The boy wondered if the inventor made any money on Big Macs sold around the world.

"Oh yes," Delligatti said seriously. "I get a dollar apiece."

Delligatti! That's a nice Italian name. So there's something else that I have in common with the Big Mac: We are both Italian food.

I am going to have a seriously difficult time keeping out of the McDonald's down the street from my office at lunch time today.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Amish Horse Diapers

From the home state of the leader of the MAWB Squad, we find yet another example of creative anachronism:

LOYAL, Wis. (AP) -- Residents are raising a stink over the growing amount of manure left by Amish horses on buggy trips to this central Wisconsin community, officials say.
It could have happened in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa...plenty of states have Amish communities. Amish horse manure is everywhere. This just happens to be in Wisconsin.

Mayor Randy Anderson said the city handled the issue three years ago with a gentleman's agreement that horses would only use designated roads.

In exchange, the Amish would not be forced to fit their horses with diaper-like devices to catch the manure before it hits the pavement.

Oh please. Not some stupid "gentleman's agreement". Pass a diaper ordinance for horses. Your tourist trade will skyrocket. And all because of three words:

Amish Horse Diapers!

Say it with me: Amish Horse Diapers! Amish Horse Diapers! Amish Horse Diapers!

People from other countries will come to Loyal, Wisconsin, to see the AMISH HORSE DIAPERS.

Creative Anachronism

This is the year 2005. Steam trains are a thing of the past, relegated to museums and a few tourist routes in isolated areas. Diesel electric power has been the way to go for over fifty years now. The western U.S. is no longer an area of confrontation between cowboys and Indians. Train crews no longer need to worry about being attacked by bow-wielding aggressors.

Or do they?

MONTCLAIR, Calif. (AP) -- In a confrontation reminiscent of the Wild West, police shot and wounded a man who allegedly took over a freight train with a bow and arrow.

Juventino Vallejo-Camerena boarded the Union Pacific train Sunday night as it was stopped for a signal and threatened the engineer and conductor, the only people on board, police Capt. Keith Jones said.

Juventino...didn't he used to wrestle for WCW? That was a pretty bold move on his part. Then again, maybe not. Freight train crews always consist of two people. A few years ago, there was talk of reducing crews to one man since so much of the operation is automated these days, but the unions shot that proposal down. For safety's sake, a two-man crew is ideal. What if one of them has a heart attack, stroke, or seizure?

And even with a crew of two, there is a risk. They are small in number, and more than likely unarmed. One weapon, even something as rudimentary as a bow and arrow, could be enough to bring a train crew to its knees. What possible defense could the railroaders have against the sharp tip of an arrow?

The crew members escaped and disabled the train by turning off fuel switches, then used a cell phone to call police, Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis said.

"The employees did an outstanding job," Davis said. "Their instincts took over and they did the proper thing by disabling the train."

A cell phone! The 21st century all-purpose line of defense! Sure, turning off the train helped. But the cell phone got the thug shot by the cops.

What have we learned today, class?

Never go up against cell-phone wielding railroaders when all you've got is a bow and arrow.

Honest Journalism

Reg Henry of the Moist-Towelette makes an astonishing admission in his column this morning:

Why, it sort of reminds me of how I got my job, which, as you know, involves writing ridiculous opinions in the newspaper.
Less astonishing, and completely unsurprising, is the context of this admission. He attacks the Harriet Miers nomination by comparing it to...his newspaper career! In other worlds, it's another attempt at Bizarro World humor. Here's the link to the article if you're interested. You have been warned.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Scouting Outing (Boys)

Every now and then over the last couple of weeks, my wife would casually mention that I had a father-son campout coming up with Cub Scouts. No details. No where, when, how. Just what.

Finally, she started mentioning little details. Like "you need to buy a tent and sleeping bags". And the location -- in a nearby county park. Well, that's not bad at all. I stayed there a couple of times when I was a scout, but we had a lodge with bunk beds. No tents or sleeping bags required. Why is this different?

My wife explained two days before the campout that it was actually going to be at a county park in another county south of home. That added about 1/2 hour to the journey. But when? I had this vague recollection that it was going to be on a Friday night, just like my daughter's. Friday morning as I was getting ready to leave for work, my wife shows me the schedule. We had to be there by something like 4:30. That's good for the kids, since they had a half-day of school. But I was planning on being at work until 4 so I could spend time at the party of the co-worker who had just returned from Iraq. I didn't want to miss it completely, so I made plans to leave at 3. I hurried up, spent half an hour at the party, and got back to my office to close up for the weekend. Traffic is always heavy on Friday afternoon, otherwise I might have missed my bus. But it was late. And as a result, I was late coming home. Around 4 PM, my arrival prompted the wife to order my son to start getting packed. Whatever happened to "Be prepared"? She also had to look up and print out directions to the camp site.

By the time we left, it was after 5 PM. Next stop: Wal-Mart, the closest thing to an outdoors store en route. Sleeping bags? These two look pretty comfortable, and pretty cheap. Tent? Just a two-person tent should suffice. Grab a couple of torches (big boxy battery included) and we're all set.

By the time we got the stuff out to the car, dusk had set in and so had the rain. After about ten minutes of debate and discussion, I decided to go back home. We're late, we're missing stuff already, and we don't really need to stay overnight. There was much crying until I promised that we would camp outside sometime over the weekend, most likely out in the yard.

When we arrived back home, my wife informed me that she had gotten a call from one of the other Cub Scout mothers. The camp out is tomorrow, not tonight.

It's a good thing that I came home then. If I had gone all the way out to the campground and found no one else there, I would have come home spitting pure bile in the general direction of my wife. However, I was high and dry, and somewhat relieved, as I not only got to stay at home that night but also had a tent and sleeping bags for when we did go camping. Since I didn't want to completely disappoint the boy, that would be the next night, with the Cub Scouts.

So we left mostly prepared the next day at 3:30. It took us about 45 minutes to get there, but it was light out, there was no rain falling, and the campground was visible from the paved road. So far so good. Never having pitched a tent before, I paid close attention to the instructions while my son -- who should have been assisting me -- kept wandering off to play and mess around. He's not cut out for this any more than I was as a kid, so we mostly kept to ourselves the whole time, aside from Scout group activities. The tent was surprisingly easy to erect, and the boy even came back to help a little with the set up.

The opening ceremony was the only reminder that this pack consisted almost entirely of Roman Catholics, as the ceremony began with a prayer and lots of people crossing themselves while I stood off to the side with my hands in my pockets. You can't be too accommodating, after all. I did join in the Pledge of Allegiance, watched the kids have a massive tug of war bout, and heeded the call when the spaghetti was ready.

The rest of the night was very scouty indeed. A blazing campfire raged while the Bobcats were elevated to the rank of Wolf, as a phony Indian Chief administered a "potion" as part of the ceremony. It was vinegar and baking soda. My son said it tasted like Sprite. It must have made the 'smores that he had afterwards taste really good.

Speaking of 'smores, I let the kid make his own while I stood off on the sidelines. These gatherings are really for the boys, so I interfered with him as little as possible. My patience paid off, too. After the kids had their fill of marshmallows and campfires, they ran off to play Ghosts in the Graveyard. Most of the adults had wandered away, too. I stepped towards the fire and spotted a bag of marshmallows, some chocolate bars, and graham crackers lying around unused. Saturday night party in 'Smore City, baby!

Some folks also roasted wieners, and a dessert of apple and peach cobbler was planned for later in the evening. My son was too tired to stay up for it, so we retired to our tent. This is when cold harsh reality reared its ugly head. When you buy a two-person tent, you need to check the inner dimensions. If the tent is six feet at it longest extent, and you are a little more than six feet tall, you really ought to consider a larger tent. I didn't even notice. I spent the first 3-4 hours trying to get comfortable, angry at myself, angry at the world, and angry at the boots and backpacks that had more room than I did. There wasn't even space for me to get comfortable in my sleeping bag. The zipper was inaccessible. So by the time morning came, I was cold and more than a little wet. The rain fly didn't do its job. The only comfort was that I had a relatively short walk to the portable restroom facility. Ahhhhhh. If not for the smell, I would have slept in there.

Breakfast was pancakes and sausage. There was juice, too, which turned out to be orange Kool-Aid. (I knew Kool-Aid would come into it somehow.) I broke camp while the boy was hanging around the fire with other scouts, so after breakfast we were good to go. To my surprise, he told me when he was ready to go. Maybe he is going to inherit my aversion to group involvement in spite of his mother's machinations after all.

Next camping trip ought to be a family adventure. And we'd better do it soon, before the kids grow into surly teenagers who want to kill me.

Scouting Outing (Girls)

For about three or four years when I was a boy, I was a Cub Scout. And I hated it. More than anything, Cub Scouts helped reveal my misanthropic loner side. I have never been into group activities. I never liked class participation in school. I have never enjoyed being in the position of being judged by others. Cub Scouts were all of those things. Once I made it through my Webelos year, I dropped out. Never graduated to Boy Scouts. Why the hell was I a Cub Scout in the first place? If I recall correctly, there was one kid in my second grade class who sometimes wore this cool blue uniform and got to do some kind of undoubtedly interesting stuff after school on days when he wore it. How shallow of me. Having grown to hate it so much three years later, I decided never to have anything to do with scouts ever again. Whatever I might do, I would do on my own or at the head of a family. Speaking of which...I'm not sure that I am the head of a family. My wife has gotten my two older kids involved in Brownies and Cub Scouts, and didn't even consult me first. Good thing she didn't, because I would have said no. Especially since the groups that they are affiliated with are based way out in the suburbs, far from home, in a place where my wife feels comfortable and from which I am very far removed. It's not my community. It's not even my religion -- these packs/troops are based in a Catholic church. All of the other kids there are from Catholic families. It sounds like a premeditated effort to alienate my children from me. I wish that were the case. Instead, my wife tries to get me involved in this stuff any chance she can.

Lack of time, lack of interest, and lack of money prevent me from allowing her to shanghai me into most scouting activities. Somehow, over the last two weekends, I found myself wasting a considerable amount of gasoline, which I am almost at the point of not being able to afford, in order to get each of the two older kids to scout camps.

Friday before last, I came home from work with every intention of laying down and taking a nice long nap in order to get caught up on much lost sleep. Just as I am about to relax, my wife calls to tell me that I need to take my daughter to some girl scout camp in the next county somewhere north of Pittsburgh. And she needs to be there by 7 PM, which is unfortunate since the family will not be home until after 6:30 and it takes over an hour to get there. Plus, the directions were pretty vague.

So we leave at around 6:45 and head north on I-79. I knew exactly which exit to take, but things were rough from that point on. For one thing, we had to have the kid fed before we dropped her off. So take a ten minute break to get her a sandwich at Subway. And it was getting dark. Not just dusky dark, but oh-my-goodness-who-just-turned-out-the-lights dark. We drove past the turn-off from the main road twice. We went back to the town to ask for directions. Look for some kind of roadhouse. Nope. But there was a small sign! We just couldn't see it until we were right on top of it and had no time to turn. Finally, on the fourth attempt, we made it. In spite of pitch black darkness, the glare of oncoming high beams, and the Lilliputian nature of the directional sign, we made it. At this point it was well after 8 PM. All we had to do was make a couple of turns onto back country roads before having to negotiate our way along a narrow dirt road in the middle of the woods against oncoming traffic mostly consisting of SUVs. Just before the Girl Scout camp, we came to a fork in the road. My wife told me to go left. So I did. And I parked on the edge of a grassy cul de sac while my wife took the girl to the Brownie lodge.

My sons, who had fallen asleep in the warm moving car, suddenly woke up. Realizing that they were in the middle of darkened woods with no clue as to where they were or why, they started to cry. Loudly. And I started to yell. Even louder. I must have scared the living daylights out of those girls at the camp. Finally, after an inexplicable twenty minutes, my wife emerged from the darkness. I assigned her the responsibility of calming the children. And I became rather less than social on the return journey.

In fact, I became quite the grizzly bear after we got stuck in traffic on the interstate. Between the time we exited and the time we re-entered, a nighttime construction crew had gotten to work on the side of the highway that I had to drive on to get home. Not only did the two lanes of traffic on I-79 have to merge, but also two lanes of on-ramp traffic. Four lanes feeding into a bottleneck. Not happy was I.

Two days later, after church, we went back in broad daylight to get the little girl. The experience was a somewhat more pleasant one, as we could actually see where we were going, and I parked in a rather more civilized parking lot closer to the lodge instead of the circle of grass that caused my sons to shriek in horror two nights earlier.

Little did I know that I was going to have my own camping adventure just a few days later.

Unplanned Absence

Suddenly it occurs to me -- I haven't so much as attempted to compose a post for this blog since last Wednesday. Could it be that I have developed a life away from the internet? Nah. It's just a break.

So what have I been up to? Some marginally interesting stuff, actually. Friday afternoon I attended a surprise office party for a colleague who is in the Pennsylvania National Guard and has just returned from a two-year stint in Iraq. I was a little worried about going -- my workplace, when it gets political, tends to be very left of center, and brutishly so. It is an academic library, after all. What a relief it was to find that the party was all about celebrating the colleague's safe return home and politics never entered into it. That's the way it should be. So how did he feel about his experience? He had recently gotten married and purchased a house, and had absolutely no expectations of being sent overseas when the call to duty came. He appreciated all of the well-wishes and care packages that his co-workers sent to him. And what of Iraq itself? Again, no politics involved. Sure it was dangerous, but he kind of liked being over there. Plenty of amazing sites, and lots of history. He actually looks forward to the day when he can go back as a tourist. That may not happen in our lifetime, realistically, but it is a vision of hope.

Sunday morning I was eating a donut at church when a lady came up to me and asked if I had been losing weight. I responded that I hadn't noticed if I had, but since I was wearing my suit for the first time in months, the coat might be covering up a lot. Perhaps I should have said, "Yeah, I was losing weight, until I started eating this donut." But what do I know? I see myself every day and those kind of changes aren't all that apparent on a daily basis. Maybe I am losing weight, on account of the sunflower seed diet I've been on at work lately. Great way to make 99 cents last for an entire week. I'd be a whole lot more comfortable with myself minus a few rolls of tummy fat.

Interesting stuff happened between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning, but I will save that for another post. WARNING: This blog is going to have a whole lot less in common with Mitch and Foot, and be a whole lot more like Cathy. Current events have just gotten boring for me lately. If you want politics, go watch Doug yell at other bloggers.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Bringing the Eighteenth Century Into the Twenty-First

Speaking of some ponytail guy named George Washington...

Twice in my life have I visited Fort Necessity in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. The first time, I was around ten years old and accompanied my father and grandmother. All I remember from then is the colonial dude shooting his gun into the air. The second time was about nine years ago, when my oldest child was just a little baby. Not having a clear memory of my earlier visit, I was a little disappointed to find that I had driven across two counties with wife and tiny daughter to visit a circle of sticks in the middle of a mud pit.

Yes, there was a small blockhouse with a few artifacts in the middle of the circle of sticks in the middle of the mud pit. And of course there was an interpretive center. But we could have gotten as much out of an interpretive center at any number of similar reconstructions without getting any mud on our shoes. Most of the site consisted of walking trails through tall grass. This is not good when you are pushing a stroller designed for sidewalks.

Oh, and an old roadside inn along Route 40 (The National Road) nearby was similarly disappointing in that the bar was just a replica.

The truth dawned on me -- nothing had changed in twenty years. A decade after my last visit, however, things are looking up for the stick-adorned mudhole. A new, larger visitors center that's more like a museum than an overglorifed book shop? Opposing murals depicting opposing sides in the battle that took place there at Great Meadows? Life sized figures from history populating the displays? Looks like I will have to take my family, which has doubled in size since my last visit, back to Fort Necessity.

And, sadly, let them learn the unfortunate truth that not only did George Washington sleep there, but he lost the battle. To the friggin' French.

I wonder why you never see this battle as a footnote to #6 on that "cursory review of French military history" that's been making the rounds for the last three years.

Ma! Get My Shotgun!

Today I took the day off from work so I could be home to let the meter reader from the gas company into the house. The reading is long overdue; the reader comes around every two months, usually on a day when no one is home to receive him. Like in August, when the family was away on vacation. We have had warnings in the past that if the meter is not read within a certain period of time, our gas will be shut off. This may not be such a bad thing considering the sudden rise in heating costs this coming winter. Still, I like my house to be tolerably warm inside when there is frostbite weather outside, so I didn't want to let this day go by without an official notation of my household's natural gas usage.

Generally, I figure that the meter reading is trying to get things done in a hurry. He has a lot of ground to cover in the course of a day. He comes inside, gets the numbers, and goes.

One summer when I was a teenager, I let a meter reader into the house. She was not what I had expected. She was medium-short in height, nicely built, absolutely adorable, and kind of exotic compared to the women I was used to seeing in my area. When she arrived, I had just finished a two hour long workout with free weights in the garage, so I was already feeling pretty pumped up. To this day, I do not understand how I was able to accompany her down to the basement and back up to the front door without hitting on her. Maybe it had to do with the fact that I was about 16 and she was obviously a professional woman in her twenties. Whatever it was, I spent the rest of the day trying to think of ways that I could have convinced her to take a couple of hours out of her busy schedule and spend it with me. One doesn't get many meter readers that cause that kind of reaction.

Indeed, in the ensuing two decades, the few female meter readers that I encountered might as well have been men, they were so butch. Today's meter reader was just the opposite. I don't doubt his masculinity, but he had the longest danged ponytail I've seen since the Rat Tail walked the mean streets of Heidelberg. But whereas Rat Tail's hair was tied together near the ends, the meter reader's hair was tied at the back of his head. My six year old son described exactly what I was thinking: "He looks like a lady but he's a man." He also threw in "I hate strangers". I actually like strangers if they are doing something positive, like reading my gas meter for a utility company, but in a way I was glad that the kid was weirded out by this guy.

I have never had a ponytail. When my hair gets longer, it tends to curl naturally. In my younger days I sometimes wore it in a white boy 'fro, prompting people to ask if I had gotten a perm. Nope, I just washed it, rubbed the heck out of it with a towel until it was dry, and shook it. WHAM! Instant "perm". But I have never, ever, even for one moment, considered wearing my hair in a ponytail. That look is a little too hippie for me. And my son agrees.

Now I just need to figure out some way to explain to him the ponytails of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Can't have the kid growing up to think this country was founded by hippies, now, can I?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Judicial Obtusion

President Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to SCOTUS, according to the media, "sows chaos on left and right". Tell me about it. Reading the blogs yesterday, it felt like everyone in the entire country was wandering around dazed in a small room bumping into one another in mass confusion.

Senator Harry Reid likes the nomination, which proves that he can actually say something nice about President Bush once in his career. MoveOn dot org opposes it, but they generally oppose anything that a Republican President does on principle.

A long-familiar name turns up in coverage of the Right's reaction to the nomination:

"The movement is not united on her nomination," said Paul M. Weyrich, chairman of the conservative Free Congress Foundation. "There are people with specific objections; there are other people that are very disappointed. ... I think it will sort itself out, but I think the hearings are critical."
When I see a name like Paul Weyrich, the first thing I think is, "Is he still around?" Or maybe I'm getting him mixed up with Paul Laxalt. Either way, most of these "foundation" guys are way off my radar. When a newspaper article wants immediate reaction to a breaking story like this, I expect them to go straight to someone like Captain Ed, on whose blog I first learned about the Miers move. Nowadays I spend so much online time reading blogs that they have become my main source of news. And that's a good thing; there is no such thing as unbiased reporting, so I prefer reading analysis of the news to the news itself.

Meanwhile, the Vice-President showed up on talk shows like Rush Limbaugh. I remember what it was like twelve years ago when Rush basically was the conservative media. He never had guests on the show, preferring to deal with callers, but when Vice-President Quayle or President Bush (41) showed up in the studio, he just couldn't turn them down. And you could tell that whenever they did appear on Rush's show, they were doing so out of desperation. So Cheney's talk show appearances seem to indicate that the Bush (43) administration is trying hard to get its message across.

That message, simply put, is that Harriet Miers is the most qualified available candidate for the high court seat being vacated by Sandra Day O'Connor. But is she? To most casual observers, she is a complete cipher. She has zero experience as a judge. She has worked closely with President Bush for many years, which opens the administration up to charges of cronyism. That may be true. The best thing about this nomination is the way that it confuses the heck out of the Left, which was undoubtedly preparing massive campaigns against the more experienced judges whose names have been mentioned as SCOTUS candidates in recent months.

On the left, groups such as the Alliance for Justice and People for the American Way did not immediately oppose Ms. Miers but did raise questions about her qualifications and urged senators to scrutinize whatever record of her views can be discovered.
Whatever her qualifications, Harriet Miers is the President's nominee, and she deserves a public hearing to determine her suitability for the position. It's best to strike now while the Left is still confused; get the approval process over with as quickly as possible. As Darth Sidious says, "Do what must be done. Do not hesitate; show no mercy."

On the other hand, if Miers turns out to be a stealth Democrat who was appointed to fill some kind of silly female quota seat on the court, then President Bush can consider his political capital to be completely spent. As Darth Sidious would say, "You will pay the price for your lack of vision."

Monday, October 03, 2005

Dear Lord No

Every once in a while you come across something on the internet that just sends chills up and down your spine.

This post is one of them.

It's written and presented in a very tongue-in-cheek style...but that doesn't mean it's not true. I'm going to wait and see before I judge.

Money? Never Heard Of It

Last month, I received my annual raise at work. My employer gives cost-of-living raises, with slight adjustments on the basis of merit. Needless to say, my percentage was relatively high. That ought to make me feel comfortable, right? I can try paying down some of those credit card balances that I've been running up for the last few years.

Oh, crap. Maybe not. For years, I prided myself on paying off my balance each month. But family expenses and a career change got in the way of that.

So what else do I have to look forward to?

Chopping firewood and making everyone in the house wear two extra layers of clothing, I guess.
Why does my gas company have to be the one with the highest increase? I might end up sleeping out in the snow just to keep warm.

I don't know if I will ever make more than $30,000 a year, but at the rate things are going, I'll be worse off that when I was making less than $20,000.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Eat Me

In his first post in nine days, Honnistaibe links to a short, simple quiz determining what kind of food you are. Aibe is all snooty and French. I'm a little more interesting.


You Are Italian Food

Comforting yet overwhelming.
People love you, but sometimes you're just too much.

So true, so true. I am full of carbohydrates and really cheesy. What other kind of food could I possibly be? The best part is, I'm not even Italian. What would it take for me to test positive for German food?

Tilting At Steel Mills

This morning's Pittsburgh Moist-Towelette looks at the current status of the Republican Party in the City of Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, little has changed in the last seventy years. But they're taking a stab at a comeback:

Republicans last held elected office in the city during the Great Depression. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 5-1 in the city. Nonetheless, GOP mayoral nominee Joseph Weinroth and would-be councilmen Sam Berninger, Bob Hillen and Alan Perry are the biggest city ticket the party has offered in decades.
The Republican mayoral candidate in each election typically runs the most Quixotic campaign of all. The party's best chance to build a base lies in the City Council districts. Pick whatever district has the highest Republican registration, and put all of your efforts into making it your own. Do it one district at a time, and expect many years of work; you're not going to make up for seven decades of futility overnight.

And don't count on divine intervention, either:

William Cordero, of Brookline, has been a Republican stalwart and occasional candidate since the early 1950s. He can't remember a time when Republicans ran for four city offices.

Still, he's pessimistic. "I don't think that Jesus Christ could win on the Republican ticket in the city," he said.

That expression sounds tacky no matter what context it is used in, but in this case it's funny because it's true. And if the Devil ran as a Democrat against God, you'd soon see Satan holding court in the mayor's office.

As nice as it would be to see a Republican comeback in the city, I don't expect it to happen anytime soon. But if the party does it district by district, we may eventually see balance back in local big city politics.