October 31, 2002
Family In Town
My brother and his family have arrived from San Jose, so I'll be enjoying Hallowing, my fathers birthday, and all the joys of family life with them for the next week. They'll mainly be trying to stay warm.
Bloggers Are The Nicest People
I received the nicest email from J Bowen at No Watermellons Allowed after he wandered into the blog here and discovered we share geography. When I compare the email responses I've received from bloggers to big media people, the bloggers come out w a y ahead. So I'm adding a special St. Louis Blogs section to my links on the right, with J at the top of the list.
October 28, 2002
Paul Wellstone, RIP
Senator Wellstone's death is a tragedy, along with all those who died with him.
It's important for our country that its diverse viewpoints are represented, and Wellstone did an admirable job in representing a particular viewpoint. Not only does this keep the people who agree with this viewpoint engaged and involved in politics in a helpful way, it also means that there is a healthy competition in the marketplace of ideas. And that competition sharpens all the viewpoints there. You could argue, and I don't have time here to do it, that the monoculture of modern academics has caused its staggering decline and irrelevance.
I'm struck, though, by how the Democratic Party has replaced two of its senatorial candidates with old men who've been out of politics for years. Orin Judd pointed this out as an example of the Democrats stepping on blacks because in both instances capable up and coming black candidates were bypassed for has been whites. I'd just like to point out that it's not the sign of a healthy party that not it prefers candidates purely for name recognition. Both Lautenberg and Mondale are a couple of placeholders - two guys who's only point is to hold on the Senate for the Democrats. The Democratic Party seems to be the one standing athwart history yelling "Stop!" these days: they want no change in Social Security, no change to Welfare, no vouchers, no this, no that; what they want is more of the same spending. Are there any new ideas? Are there alternatives? Nope, it the same thing: if there's a problem, spend more money.
I'm glad they caught the snipers in Washington, D.C., but I'm having a hard time separating all the reporting from fiction. Apparently, everything we thought we knew before they were caught is wrong - it isn't a lone crazed white guy in a white van, but two black guys in a blue Caprice (OK, they were right about the guy part).
I have a lot of unanswered questions. Are they linked to Al Qaida, or are they just a couple of losers, or are those two things mutually exclusive? Were they terrorists, extortionists, robbers who morphed into mass murderers who morphed to serial killers and then decided to retire on 10 million dollars rather than kill people anymore? If they hadn't called people and told them about Montgomery, would they still be on the loose? Doesn't Tacoma have an ordinance about discharging a firearm within the city limits - a common one around here? I mean, these guys shoot up a stump every night for weeks on end, and nobody calls the cops? And does the INS ever bother to actually deport people anymore? I hope I get some answers, but I'm not holding my breath.
Civilization 3: A Glorious Use of Time
I lost a lot of time this weekend to Civilization III, which I got Friday for my birthday. Yep, 41 and still playing games. I was gaga over versions 1 and 2, although it was SimCity that convinced me to buy my first Mac. The Fruit of the Murphy Loins also like it, so now the squabbling over computer time, the whining about why they don't have their own computers, and complaint about the old computer not being able to run it have begun. The only game of mine I don't let them play is Diablo II because all the killing and sets are too graphic. So all three of us are building our civilizations to withstand the tests of time, and swapping tips, techniques, and info. It's another gardening game, but what a beautiful garden. Unlike a real garden, this game gives your brain a workout, not your back. When I think of how much time I've spent playing Sid Meier's games (Civilization 1-3, Colonization, Railroad Tycoon 1 & 2), I think "time well spent!" I've spent hours at a time telling myself and my wife "one more turn!" That's a phrase that should go on every gamer's tombstone.
October 25, 2002
Talent vs. Carnahan
Jim and Jean had a couple of debates this week - Jean wouldn't agree to any more, and its obvious why. She wouldn't even be an hors d'oeuvre for Russert. But that isn't a reason to not vote for her - she's really no worse than George W. Bush, and in some ways better. I'm sure she's a very nice person, I wouldn’t hesitate to let her watch my kids, and I have no doubts that she was a fine wife, mother, and teacher. But her only qualification was that she was married to a hack politician (that would be Mel Carnahan), and the only reason she's currently a senator is that her husband had the terrible misfortune to die too close to the election to have his name removed from the ballot, and the only reason to vote for her now is that she is a plain label, vanilla Democrat. She hews the party line in toto, and doesn't depart a hairsbreadth from it.
She hasn't a clue about Social Security - how it works or what it's problems are. But she does know the party doesn't want it changed in the slightest, except by another bi-partisan commission like those that have fixed it in the past. Of course she leaves out the part about how those commissions did it by cutting benefits and raising taxes (she's for not raising taxes and cutting benefits personally, but if the commission recommended it, well …), and how the one back in the eighties hit upon the novel idea of collecting more taxes for Social Security than needed, allowing the excess money to be spent as general revenue. But she doesn't want another hand picked commission to recommend privatization, like the last two bi-partisan commissions did, even the one hand picked by Clinton. Putting that surplus tax money in the hands of people as part of Social Security weakens it you see, while continuing to spend it on building another four lane highway in West Virginia, that strengthens Social Security. All she knows about Social Security is that the word "privatization" scares the old people, so the important thing is to be against that, make sure you associate that with your opponent, and pass the buck on how to fix Social Security's upcoming deficit.
In the first debate, Talent questioned her vote against the Department of Homeland Security (she supports one, just with union protection, unlike what the President wants). I don't recall much reaction at the time, but her campaign manager must have decided afterwards that it would be a good angle to complain that Talent had impugned her patriotism. (When a poll claimed her support among Missouri Men had dipped, she immediately had a skeet shooting photo-op and boasted of her firearms prowess to prove her manhood; poor Talent could only talk about how much he liked fishing). So now she's running ads calling Talent "despicable", wrapping herself in the flag - and I mean that literally, her add shows a rippling flag on the left half of the screen while she sits at her senatorial desk on the right and gazes with firm conviction into the distance towards the flag - and wagging her finger (kind of like another better known politician, although without the lip biting) at Talent at the next debate she's so mad now.
I plan on voting for Talent, even though I don't like the way he said "Missour-rah" and "gubmit" during the debate (got to keep that outstate base happy), or the way he runs from the word privatization with respect to social security, or the way he's claiming he'll be able to help education as a Senator . In a close election, he's pandering and playing it safe. Well, he is a politician, and if I wanted some nice old lady, I'd vote for Carnahan, who BTW isn't exactly going for a profile in courage herself, more like the same profile in focus group tested sound bite and attack ad. Instead, I'll plump for somebody who can think for himself, shares my values (and, I admit it, biases), and might make a difference beyond who controls the Senate - yeah, that's important too, but at least I'm getting two birds with my one vote.
Media Bias in Action
The debate over embryonic stem cell research came up in the Talent/Carnahan debate the other night. Just to get it out, I'm against abortion except to save the life of the mother and against destroying embryo's for research because I believe what starts at conception is a human being and thus worth protection; the only objection I have to reproductive cloning is that it currently represents non-consensual experimentation on a human. Anyway, what I'm trying to point out is how on the one hand, the media is all up in arms about how troglodyte pro-lifers are blocking embryonic stem cell research while far more sympathetic to efforts by a different group blocking the use of genetically modified foods. And yet on the one hand you have a principled objection about killing people (whether you agree or not, that's the objection) over research that would work better with adult stem cells both ethically and medically and which while promising hasn't actually moved beyond research, and on the other you a great deal of respect for an objection based on fear of technology over use of something that would have an immediate and obvious impact on reducing starvation and improving people's health through better diet. And that tells me where the sympathies of the people in the media are, and how important is to have diversity of opinion in the media to combat bias; relying on a near uniformly biased group to self-control their way to objectivity just doesn't work. Far better to have multiple sources provide multiple biases and viewpoints.
October 24, 2002
North Korea: Still Not Pardoned
AP reports that the five kidnapped Japanese will stay in Japan and not return to North Korea as originally planned. A member of the Japanese Government announced that they wouldn't be returning, and went on to say that it was indispensable and urgent that North Korea return the children of those kidnapped as well. The North Korean Foreign Ministry is apparently a bit miffed that the Japanese are taking them at their word (don't they know it's no good?) that the abductees and their children can return permanently to Japan if they choose. I hope Japan holds onto their outrage over the kidnapping long enough to reunite the families, and that Jimmy Carter doesn't butt his nose in.
Provisional Balloting Heats Up in Missouri
More sound and fury over provisional balloting. It amazes me how we don't devote the resources necessary to the most basic task of a democracy (please, nobody tell me we live in a republic, not a democracy) - to accurately and fairly vote. It's crazy the way we take voting for granted, as if it needs no money and no oversight. The St. Louis election board is notoriously awful - poorly maintained voter rolls, poor communications, and one year they even switched ballots between congressional districts. Quite frankly, they need all the help they can get, and we need to spend a little to make democracy work. When you realize how much money government at all levels handles, it makes sense to spend more than a pittance on one of the most basic functions of democracy - voting.
October 23, 2002
Home Improvement: First Hurdle
I had to say the construction project was going better than Dream House. Late this afternoon I got a call from my wife with the news that the Architect screwed up his dimensions - the addition was 16 inches too short and the interior wall would have a jog in it. Well, fortunately my wife noticed before they poured the concrete for the walls - just the footing is off. So now they’ll hand dig the footing and wall (in clay that is slightly harder than portland cement), repour the footing, and then pour the walls. They are also off by 8 inches away from the house, but I think we’ll just bank that for later consideration. Somehow, I have a feeling other things are going to come up.
Think we’ll know the outcomes of the election by the morning of Nov 6? Think again. There is a new thing under the sun, provisional ballots, which allow people to vote if they are not on the rolls on election day, with their status to be verified later. Missouri is just one of many states that offer it; next election all states will by federal statute. So the Talent vs. Carnahan race, which could swing the Senate to the Republicans the moment it’s certified, could take up to two weeks to have a winner determined. When you consider the polls for this race are close, and Talent lost his last election (for Governor) by only 20,000 votes, the decision really could hinge on the provisional ballots. Once again we will have teams poring over votes, deciding whether or not they count. And if the past is any guide, most of them will be from black urban voters. Won’t it be fun when the Sharpton circus comes to town with cries of disenfranchisement?
Home Improvement: And So It Begins
Thursday we got a good news/bad news call about our home improvement projects. The good news was, they moved up our start date to Friday for the room addition, the bad news was they moved back our bathroom start date by a week. So I took Friday off so I could move the plants that were where the addition was going, and to get ready for the cub scout pack campout the following day. The builders came by, looked around, said piece of cake, and left. A fire inspector came by and said we didn't have a fire district permit. When I called the builder they said we did. Don't you just love bureaucracy in action - I wonder how much I'm paying for filling out all the permit paperwork.
Monday, they showed up, marked the underground cable and electric lines with spray paint, and demolished half the deck - the foreman told my wife that while using screws instead of nail is what he would have done, it made tearing the deck apart much harder. Tuesday they showed up, knocked down more of my fence than they told me, tore out the rest of the deck, dug and poured the footings, and tore up far more of my back yard than I expected. The hard clay - we've had a very dry summer/fall this year - defeated the first backhoe, pulling it into the trench when they tried to dig the footings. They had to get a bigger one to haul the first one out and finish digging. They poured concrete in the afternoon, so now I have a rectangle of concrete in a field of dirt for a back yard.
They also accidentally cut the cable line. So they had to call the cable company, who came out amazingly fast (my wife figures they must have "pull"). When my wife found out, she told the foreman that she was upset because she was going to miss Trading Spaces. The foreman told her how much he loved the show and that he got to meet Ty when Trading Spaces was filming shows here recently.
As many as the screw ups were, it is going smoother than any of the episodes of Dream Home I've seen.
The Unishooter or the Beltway Blaster
It looks like Susana Cornett at Cut On the Bias was right about the unishooter or beltway blaster (your choice) based upon this article in the Washington Post. He's the rare guy who got away with a mass murder, serialized it, and now, like a typical American, wants to make money off it. We really, really need to catch this guy, or we're going to have copycats out the wazoo.
Biblical Burial Box?
An archeologist may have discovered the burial box of James, brother of Jesus, according to this AP story. An anonymous person bought it from an Arab antiquities dealer in Jerusalem 15 years ago, so not everyone's convinced its authentic, let alone being the burial box of James, brother of Jesus of Biblical fame. I think the market for fake relics would have dried up these days, but I'm told by a Jewish friend you can still buy fragments of the True Cross (and similar items) in Jerusalem, so what do I know.
Internet Bloodied But Unbowed
Monday afternoon, the internet came under attack according to this AP story. A person or persons unknown launched a coordinated denial of service attack against the 13 root DNS servers worldwide. When "defensive measures" were taken, the attack stopped. Fortunately, no one but the root server administrators noticed. The FBI is investigating. Is it Al-Qaida, a German hacking club, or a couple of bored teenagers in Encino? Who knows.
The problem is that the internet was designed to be a network between DOD computers that could survive nuclear attack, and security is consequently an afterthought because it was assumed based on the DOD having possession of the networked computers. This same assumption stayed with us when the internet was set up as a network between university computers. Now that any bozo can run an internet server from anywhere, we need a less trusting system.
October 20, 2002
Cub Scout Campout
This has been a busy weekend in the Murphy household. Kyle’s cub scout pack (of which I’m the cubmaster) had a camp out. It was a lot of work before hand, and a lot of work during. This is the first all pack camp out our pack has done that anyone can remember, and there were a lot of obstacles along the way, from having to change locations less than a month before hand, down to a traffic accident delaying a lot of the attendees. Being cubmaster has been taking up a lot of my time, and my wife isn’t too happy. She says that I put more time in than Kyle gets out. And that’s true. But there are other things we do, like Kyle’s soccer team, that I don’t put any time in (other than going to the games, which this year I enjoy). Does it all balance out? I think it does, but all of these volunteer organizations help make up the community, which is one of those things were the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I’m not one of those doom and gloomers who thinks that people don’t appreciate community like they once did; I think they still do, it may just be expressed in different ways, and with more sub-communities the building blocks have shrunk, but the edifice is larger. And really, would I rather be watching some TV crime show, when I can argue with eight people what side dishes we should serve with dinner?
October 17, 2002
North Korea, Newest Member Of The Nuclear Club
North Korea made the front page today with its admission that they ignored the 1994 agreement brokered by Jimmy Carter not to try to build a nuclear bomb in return for nuclear power and other aid. And they also let slip that they don't feel bound by the agreement anymore -- although they don't seem to ever have felt bound by it -- and they have a more powerful weapons, some exotic yet extra potent form of kimchi I suppose.
Telling us now is no accident. They're letting us know before we invade, or even threaten them - we can't be deterred if we don't know as pointed out in Dr. Strangelove - that they have nuclear and biological weapons. Either they have these weapons of mass destruction, or they're close to having them or they are simply bluffing. What country is willing to find out the hard way? The Carter legacy just continues to give and give.
October 16, 2002
Social Security Problems
The Social Security Trust Fund is going south because it is neither secure, a trust, or a fund. It is an accounting device, deliberately chosen to allow politicians to say one thing but do another.
Social security has always been funded on a pay as you go basis. The government levies an income tax on most people (there are those who are exempt because they are covered by other plans) and hides half of it by having the employer pay it. This money goes into the general fund with all the other tax dollars, and social security is paid to its recipients just like all the other stuff government spends money on.
There is no investment. There is no trust fund. All the money from the social security payroll tax is spent, and then the government writes an IOU to itself in the form of a bond.
The beauty of the system is that the same entity that agrees to pay the bond in order to meet its social security obligation is also the entity that determines its social security obligation. If the government decides it would rather cut benefits than default on the bonds, raise taxes, or borrow, then benefits are cut. Social security recipients have no legal claim on the money. It isn't theirs, and it isn't owed to them in any legally binding sense.
Contrast that with a pension fund. As the obligation is incurred by the company while the worker is employed, the company (legally) must set aside money to cover the payment in the future based on expected returns. The company holds the money in trust for its retirees, and the retirees do have a legal claim to the money and are legally owed the money. The trust money is invested so that it grows while the worker is employed and even after she starts drawing a pension.
The two systems are nothing alike. And no company can legally run a pension fund like the government runs social security.
The problem with any pay as you go system, like social security, is that you have to have enough people paying in so that they can support those who are receiving the money. And in a few short years, namely 2016, there won't be enough people paying in due to demographics. So at that point, we will turn to the Social Security Trust Fund, and instead of cold hard cash, we will find promises. And then our elected representatives will be forced to decide what mix of borrowing, tax increases, benefit reductions and other budget item reductions we will adopt to allow us to continue to pay Social Security.
And we will confront the exact same choice to the penny with our vaunted Social Security Trust Fund or without it. Having this fund does absolutely nothing for us but lull us into a false sense of security. You can't rob Peter to pay Paul if you're Peter.
If we took the excess social security taxes (to current social security obligations) and instead of the government spending it and giving itself an IOU, we legally transferred it to future recipients, to be actually invested, when 2016 rolls around and we open the lock box and find IOU's, we could reduce the money the government would have to scrounge (again by raising taxes, borrowing, or reducing benefits and other government services) by the amount of money that was transferred to the then future, now current, recipients, thus achieving what the Social Security Trust Fund and all that Lock Boxes in the world are designed to do but cannot do.
The Space Station, Globalization, and Baptist Ministers
It's sad, but the thrill of space exploration seems to have departed from the world. We're building a space station in cooperation with the Russians, astronauts are living there now, and, well, the response is ho hum. I hate to admit it, but when I read this article, I was surprised that the space station was crewed (OK, PC of me, but there it is). And the explosion of a Soyuz once would have been a big deal. When I was a kid, I remember watching the Apollo launches on TV in my elementary school gym. Now, I doubt my kids even know we have a space program. The crowd that once would have been happy that we're cooperating with the Russians on endeavors designed to help all humanity have moved on to protesting "globalization", whatever that is, or warning against the horrors of a new Vietnam with more fervor than a Baptist minister warning against the horrors of fire and brimstone, although in similar terms.
North Korea, Unpardonable Country
I'm surprised this story hasn't gotten more play in the US. In 1978, North Korea decided that they needed Japanese tutors for their spies, so they kidnapped Japanese off beaches in Japan and took them to North Korea. North Korea denied the kidnappings until Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi visited North Korea, whereupon Kim Jong Il admitted that they had kidnapped 13 Japanese, but 8 of them died. Officially, Japan says 15 people were kidnapped, but some relatives claim the number is more like 50 to 60. Five of the survivors are visiting Japan, but not with their children who remained in North Korea. North Korea says the children aren't hostages, oh my of course not, they just didn't want to leave their beloved homeland.
Prime Minister Koizumi said on national television "Certainly North Korea is an unpardonable country. It abducts, takes away and kills." Well, why should the North Korean government act any differently towards the Japanese people than its own? President Bush was right to call this regime evil - there's no other description that fits. Jimmy Carter, who didn't like President Bush's characterization, said of Kim Jong Il's daddy, Kim Il Sung, and the perpetrator of the abductions and murders, "I find him to be vigorous, intelligent, surprisingly well informed about the technical issues, and in charge of the decisions about this country” and “I don’t see that they [the North Koreans] are an outlaw nation.” Like a certain news channel, we report, you decide which president is right.
October 15, 2002
Trading Spaces, Again
Trading Spaces may have left town, but I can still see it every Saturday night, or via tape delay Sunday afternoon. This week’s episodes provided a double helping of Doug, with sides of Frank and Kia. Doug does great theme rooms that are often impractical. This time, both rooms were great, and practical too. In the White Room, the HOs (Home Owners) wanted a brighter living room. And boy, did they get one - everything, including the brick fireplace and ceiling fans, was painted white. Some artwork, a mirror, and brightly colored pillows on the new white sofas were the only non-white elements. I really liked the look, but I wouldn’t illuminate that room too strongly for fear of snow blindness.
The other room Doug turned a family room into a cozy lodge room. They Venetian plastered the walls, which we paid close attention to since we’re wanting to do it in our bathroom and stairway. When Doug asked the HOs helping him what they wanted to see in the room, they replied “Does it matter?” They’ve obviously seen Doug before. Later though, they kept complaining, especially about putting the top coat on the plaster. Doug finally told them that they could stop if they wanted, but he was putting the top coat on with or without them because he thought it was worth it. He also had Amy Wynn build this gorgeous rough hewn armoire (not four words I normally put together).
Frank took a cluttered, mish mash of a country room and turned it into a slightly less cluttered, mish mash of a country room with much nicer pieces. And Kia -- ugh! -- the HO’s (both sets even) had it right when they said it looked like a graveyard. She wanted a bed of flowers, so she covered an astroturf “coverlet” with cheap plastic flowers for the bed. The room was repainted in bright (some might say vibrant, I would say garish) colors, she threw in a swing and a brightly painted doll house, and managed to achieve a psychedelic graveyard, an effect not much in demand these days. The HO said she loved it (her friend was silent), showing that there is no accounting for taste.
The fate of Kia will tell us about the direction of Trading Spaces. She’s done two amazingly awful designs. If she stays on the show, the producers are indicating they want more train wrecks. If she leaves, it means they want design quality.
Washington University Law Students Belatedly Do The Right Thing
The Washington University Law School Student Government (SBA) decided to recognize a pro-life student group after voting just last week not to, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The Post has no trouble saying the ACLU "demanded" the SBA reverse itself, despite no mention of the dispute on their website, but couldn't bring itself to mention the name of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), which only provided support in the words of the Post, even though an earlier editorial had no such trouble, FIRE features the flap prominently on their website, FIRE has written the dean, and FIRE wrote a joint letter with the ACLU to the SBA asking them to change their position. Why do I still get the Post? My wife saves more with the coupons than a subscription costs, so I'm not allowed to cancel our subscription.
Well Meaning Coercion
John Leo has a good piece about well meaning coercion. Both ends of the political spectrum do it; each end feels justified when they do it, but put upon when done by the other side.
Use 1002 For Duct Tape
There are a lot of uses for duct tape, and every handyman keeps a roll. Now there's a new use for duct tape - wart removal. My first thought was the painful one of yanking the tape off quickly, but instead it's a long term process of applying the tape for six days, soaking in water, and then scraping with an emery board, and reapplying the tape. Now I wonder what led them to try this therapy in the first place. I'm more than academically interested as my son is getting a wart on his forehead that he's having issues with. We tried the dissolving kind of wart remover, but all I'll say about that is thankfully no scarring occurred but the wart came back. We've been putting a band aid over it, and I noticed the other night it looks different. So before we jump to duct tape -- I'm not sure it comes flesh colored -- we may just stick with a band aid.
Microsoft Pulls Switch Ad
The internet supposedly has this libertarian live-and-let-live sensibility to it. This is quite often true, but when it comes to what computer you use, that sensibility goes right out the window for a lot of people. Instead, use my choice or you’re an ignorant goober seems to be the sensibility. I happen to love Macintosh -- it has its weaknesses, and Windows and Linux have their strengths. If you make a different choice, I figure its right for you. Still, I do get a chuckle out of Microsoft, when I'm not getting steamed that is. Luckily, this time it's a chuckle. In keeping with Microsoft's long history of Apple flattery, they decided to imitate Apple's new Switch ads which feature real people who've switched from Windows to Macintosh. But they did it in Microsoft's typical ham-handed fashion. Eagle eyed members of the Slashdot community noticed that the picture of the woman in the ad was actually a stock photograph. AP then went further and tracked the woman down based upon information imbedded within the files that accompanied the ads, and discovered that's she's an employee of the PR firm that originated the ad. She insists she really did switch, but Microsoft pulled the ad. You might say that's the difference between Apple and Microsoft in a nutshell - Apple worries about the substance, Microsoft only the form. Sure, they could have found someone independent who switched and identified them, but all you really need is to claim someone did -- that's good enough.
October 14, 2002
Such A Long Wait, Such Lousy Magazines
I took my father to the hospital for an MRI this morning. For all the bustle and self-important people striding about, hospitals always seem to function on their own time -- a notch or two slower than the Post Office. After my daughter was in the hospital for her heart surgery, I’ve maintained that a day in the hospital is like a week of real time.
They told my father to be there at 7 AM. They didn’t start the process for him until 8:10 AM. His doctor had sent over forms ordering a brain scan, but supplied some other material indicating back scan. After they got that cleared up, another doctor came out to ask a question because he couldn’t read the ordering doctor’s handwriting. We couldn’t understand him (I thought his accent was Eastern European), but after my father went on at great length about why he was there, he seemed satisfied.
As soon as my father went off to change into that delightful hospital gown, they asked a couple of the other people waiting if they wanted to go to the MRI facility in another tower because they were backed up at this one. As far as I could tell, 10 minutes after starting, they were already 30 minutes behind schedule. That’s the medical profession for you. They’re going to be there all day, so you might as well be, too.
I see two problems with our health care system, and no, it’s not the lack of health insurance for a lot of people or the lack of a single payer. The first problem is the whole third party pay for health care. By and large, the patient isn’t the customer, the employer or the government is. This leads to the crap you have to put up with a patient -- the wasting of your time on a prodigious scale, the condescension, the constant questioning if the treatment is the best or just the cheapest. The other problem is that we don’t have enough doctors. I know it seems like a crazy complaint for someone who, if you couldn’t tell, doesn’t care for too many doctors. But the point is, part of the lack of competition is the undersupply of doctors. Have you ever heard of an out of work doctor? The supply is carefully controlled just so that never happens, and not for the patients’ benefit.
Anyway, that’s the sort of stuff that goes through your mind as you wait around all morning long.
October 12, 2002
The Glorious Blaze of Fall
The leaves started turning color this week. It started, as it usually does, with the hard maples, and has begun to spread to the dogwood. The sycamores are just looking sick, and the oaks haven't changed a bit. The weather this summer was hot and dry, and it seemed the longer summer went on, the hotter and dryer it got. I don't expect a great color this year; many of the trees have started dropping without even changing. But even a poor year is still beautiful, and for those of us who love fall, it really is one of the highlights of the season. I was amazed when I discovered that only in North America and East Asia due the trees change color in the fall; it was in a garden book that recommended not planting European trees if you wanted fall color because they didn't provide much of a display.
As long as I'm talking about gardening, I want to brag about my pumpkins. This year the vine that volunteered from last year's seeds was enormous and threatened to take over the front yard; the neighbors would discreetly enquire about it when we ran into them. I've gotten a big and little pumpkin off it already, and there's another one just starting to grow. Yeah, we're in touch with nature here at funmurphys.
October 11, 2002
Iraq, The Middle East's Center of Gravity
Congress voted to give President Bush the authority to use force against Iraq. One of the arguments against this was that Iraq isn't the worst or only bad country around. And there is some truth to that. Let's face it, most of the governments in the middle east outside Israel are dysfunctional. Four governments stand out - Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia as terrorist supporters and exporters.
Look at a map and you'll see why taking on Iraq first makes sense - it holds the central position of those countries. We've beaten Iraq in war recently, the terrain is ideal for our Armed Forces, and occupying Iraq puts US troops on the borders of all the bad apples of the Middle East. The toughest nut to crack militarily is Iran, but it's also the government that is least secure from internal revolt, so it doesn't make sense to attack them militarily first. An attack on Syria would likely cause them attack Israel to try to bring all the Arabs in on their side and its worth noting they have the best terrorist connections. Saudi Arabia is still nominally our ally, thus hardest to move against politically.
This isn't an argument for attacking Iraq in and of itself. This is an argument for attacking Iraq IF you plan on taking military action to deal with Arab terrorism.
Jimmy Carter Wins Nobel Peace Prize
Jimmy Carter won the Nobel peace prize today. His accomplishments are legendary: he brought Peace to the Middle East, brought democracy to Haiti, and brought North Korea back into the fold of enlighted rule.
The awards committee said giving the award to Carter was a criticism of current U.S. policy and "a kick in the leg" to those following the same line. Or it could be a shot in their own foot, as they continue to pick people who haven't done a thing for peace. At least Carter isn't a promoter of violence like Arafat or Le Duc Tho, a couple of Peace Prize winners. Instead, he helps evil flourish because he is unwilling to acknowledge and confront the evil (what they call an enabler in therapeutic circles).
I did note the article contains one error - it says he narrowly averted an invasion of Haiti in 1994; actually he was the bagman on a payoff to the thugs who then ran Haiti and ran from Haiti with millions of US dollars when they learned the 82nd airborne was on the way to remove them from power. The US still invaded Haiti, but it was unopposed.
One Definition of Chutzpah
There are a lot of definitions of chutzpah out there, but I'll take this one: To steal your neighbors goods, sell them at a three day yardsale, and provide receipts. The Rutland Herald provides the details; only I supply the Yiddish.
Tropico, A Computerized Garden of Delight
It's been awhile, but I played Tropico last night. It has a knack for getting me in trouble with the Other Fearless Leader, since I spend too much time playing it, or as the case was last night, I messed up taping Friends while playing. And my excuse, delivered in a lousy Spanish accent, that the people need their el presidente doesn't go over at all with her. At all. Tropico is a fun game where you are in charge of a small Caribbean island. You build the buildings, you set the wages, and you can ruthlessly suppress the people or get voted out of office (your choice!). Most people would call it a strategy/simulation game; I call it a game about gardening. To me, it's a sublimation of the gardening drive, as all the activity involved is best understood as gardening - designing, planting, weeding, watering, eliminating pests, and expanding your garden. There are a bunch of games like this, starting with Sim City, the granddaddy of simulation games, and including Warcraft, Master of Orion, or Age of Empires to name a few popular titles.
Survivor Thailand, Episode 4
Yea! - Ghandia got voted off. I thought she should have been the first. I follow the simple rule that if you screw up and cause the team to lose a challenge, you should be the one to go. Simple, safe, effective. In the first immunity challenge, her team had a lead going into the puzzle she had to solve. Well, she freaked, and Jed (Jed!) beat her easily, so in my simple world she should have walked the plank, not the preacher man. Who cares if he rubbed people the wrong way - the first part of survivor is all about winning the challenges, period. And Ghandia didn't just lose challenges, she was the center of dissention and divisiveness for her team, she was an "it's all about me" person. They had their chance two weeks ago, but they threw out throw up girl instead.
And the whole Ghandia/Ted controversy should have ended when she accepted his apology. If what he did was inexcusable, she should have said so, and if she had second thoughts later, she should have gone to Ted first about them. But no, she had to start playing the second phase of the game before the first was finished, and after accepting his apology, started stabbing him in the back with the girls. She turned it into girls vs. guys for their team.
So long Ghandia, and I'm sure you're team thanks your for all the help.
Washington University Law School Refuses Recognition of Pro-Life Group
Washington University Law School Student Government has decided, tolerant, open, loving people that they are, not to recognize a Law Student Pro-Life Group, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch. What's odd about this story is that I'm in agreement with the Law School Dean, and not the students, when he says, ""We appear to have stomped our foot down and said there's only one ideologically and politically appropriate way to behave." I guess the students have done a good job of picking up the reality, and not the rhetoric, of campus life. Apparently, recognition was denied because the group has a narrow political focus, and approving it would open the door to other groups with narrow political foci. Why this is bad, you'll have to ask the students. The paper notes that there are 29 recognized groups, ranging from legally themed groups to sports clubs to minority and religious groups, and what the Post so opaquely refers to as "proponents of gender and sexual equality". Is that a feminist organization, or a gay and lesbian one or both? Who knows, who cares, they are acceptable; pro-life isn't.
Isn't if funny, when the left today talks about the erosion of civil rights because of the war on terror without providing an example, they never mention that the one protest movement that is legally muzzled in this country is the pro-life movement, with restrictions on their speech based upon proximity to an abortion clinic?
October 10, 2002
France's Latest Contribution to Civilization
The Singapore Straits Times reports that France is going to test new technology that will control speeding by motorists. Onboard computers will use GPS to determine the proper speed limit, and if exceeded, will flash up a warning message, and then disable the fuel injectors until the car's speed falls below the limit.
Somehow I don't think this will catch on among us cowboy Americans. And it doesn't cover what I think are more important driving problems - lane weaving; tailgaiting; drinking and driving; falling asleep at the wheel; talking on the cell phone, engaging in personal grooming such as putting on makeup or shaving, or reading the paper while driving; or teaching other drivers a lesson by being a jerk back instead of providing a positive roll model.
Can you say Nanny State? I thought you could.
Better Never Than Late
Early last month when my wife wasn't working, the power went off during the day. Our electric company, Ameren-UE, said it was a pre-planned outage and that we should have been notified in advance. Well, we got our notification yesterday -- only a month late. Thanks for nothing, Ameren-UE. Can I pay the next bill a month late?
October 9, 2002
Trading Spaces - Doug Interview
The lameness continues. Doug Wilson was interviewed this morning on local radio station different from Frank. I didn’t get to hear too much of it, but they had listeners call in and ask questions. When I tuned in, the caller must have accused him of laziness, because he was talking about how the show is entertainment, and while all the staff are competent at what they do, you play a role on it. He said do your really think I sat around in that Adirondack chair for two days, telling the home owners what to do? He also said that he has to spend most of the first day winning the home owners over so that we can have lots of fun the second day. The hosts said they originally were supposed to have Paige Davis on, but that they were happy Doug made it because he was so much fun.
I also came across the safari room homeowner's site. Enjoy.
October 8, 2002
MSNBC's Lack of Ratings, or the Phil Effect
The LA times is reporting that MSNBC is thinking about how to restructure its lineup. Given how awful there ratings are, I'm not surprised. I do have to chuckle at this paragraph in the article:
"As for Phil Donahue, whose widely heralded return to television hasn't lifted the channel as much as had been hoped, he is expected to spend much more time in front of a studio audience, as he did in his long-running daytime talk show, starting later in the month."
I thought Donahue's ratings were so lousy, the ratings hadn't lifted at all, they'd sunk. And I suppose the studio audience is just a way to dilute Phil (which is the problem with the show), but what they need to put him in front of is a TV in his living room, and not in front of a camera in a studio, audience or no audience. Heck, you or I could get better ratings than Phil's getting, and I don't even know who you are.
Home Improvement, the Beginning
We went to the neighborhood trustee meeting last night to get architectural approval for our plans to add on to our house. I was worried because a few years ago, when the other fearless leader was a trustee, neighbors of ours had a hard time getting approval for the front porch they were adding. They kept getting asked to provide better drawings. So I was nervous, but we didn't have any problems. They looked our drawings over for a couple of minutes, asked a few questions, and signed the drawings. I guess the difference was, our neighbors kept submitting something they sketched up, and we gave them real architectural drawings, drawn up by an actual architect (and paid for with actual money, too).
The hardest part so far has been getting a contractor. In the spring, we wanted to get bids on the addition. So we contacted a couple of firms that people we know worked for. We got them to come out, and then we had a hard time getting bids out of them, and when they did, the bids were astronomical. The same neighbors who built their porch knew a guy who wanted to do our addition. He called a couple of times, begging us to let him come out and bid. So after getting the astronomical bids, we did. Then we had a hard time setting a date to talk to him, and after he came out and we told him what we wanted, we never heard back - even after repeated calling. So we gave up on the addition idea.
This summer, we decided that since we weren't going to do the addition, we'd redo the master bathroom. The shower was in bad shape, the tile floor was in bad shape, and the other fearless leader didn't like the countertop. So we began our search for a contractor. We were pleasantly surprised with the first one we tried. He was polite, showed up on time, returned phone calls, and gave us a bid in a reasonable amount of time. The only problem was, he did things a certain way, carried a certain grade of material, and that's the way he did things. We decided to check with another contractor to better explore our options, and he was equally pleasant to deal with. We went with the second guy because we could get what we wanted. When my wife was complaining to him about how lousy the contractors we've dealt with this year (to get the carpet installed we had to issue two ultimatums and listen to a sob story about the contractor going to the hospital with our measurements), he told her they did room additions on the side. He gave us a reasonable bid, he seemed to check out, so now we're having the addition and the bath done. Can you say debt? I thought you could.
I think I'm going to steer my kids away from white collar work, and try to get them to become tradesmen. If you are competent in your work, punctual, pleasant to deal with, and give the customer what they ask for, you can clean up. It's too late for me, but like all fathers, I want my children to have a better life.
Trading Spaces - Interview with Frank
How lame am I?
I'm so lame I call my wife from the gas station to tell her Frank is going to be on the radio in 20 minutes. I'm so lame I sit in my car listening to an interview with Frank Bielec in the parking lot at work. Frank is one of the designers on Trading Spaces, which is in town filming three episodes that should air in November. They filmed in O'Fallon, they are currently filming in Kirkwood (my hometown), and then they will film at Scott AFB (on the Illinois side of the river). Several weeks ago I was telling my mother about the show (my parents don't get cable) and she said a lady at her beauty salon was going to be on the show. At the time, I was yeah, right Mom. I still can't believe Kirkwood is going to be on the show (and I hate it when she's right). A coworker of my wife said she ran into Ty at Schnuck's (the number 1 grocery chain in St. Louis) over the weekend.
A local TV news channel even did a feature about the show - unfortunately I missed it. I didn't realize it, but they get a lot of fans hanging out during the show. Frank said they don't mind because they are quiet during the outdoor filming. According to the interviewer, Ty took his shirt off when filming in Kirkwood the other day and ladies poured out of their mini-vans for a closer look. Frank joked that while Ty only has six-pack abs, he has the whole case. When asked about his own house, Frank says his wife does all the decorating and that the walls are all white, or shades of white. He finds it very soothing. In response to a question about how to get on, Frank mentioned requirements about parking and electrical capacity etc. , and John Ulett said in that case the Unibomber shack wouldn't be on, to which Frank replied "I'd like to see what Doug would do with that!"
Shock Jock Fired!
Shock Jock Beau Duran was fired for his on air phone call to Flynn Kyle, the Arizona Republic reports. I don't know about you're neck of the woods, but around St. Louis it's big news.
Good for KUPD for doing the right thing. I know radio stations hire guys like Duran not to be thought provoking but simply provoking, but to America's credit we're not ready for someone to use the pain of loss of widows and orphans for amusement.
October 7, 2002
The Law Professors Statement on Iraq
I sometimes think I’m the only person who has a memory. I don’t just mean how some people borrow money from you and then act like it never happened. And I don’t mean how some people tell you on the eve of every war how it’s going to be a quagmire, and they act like they haven’t been wrong for the last, oh, five or six wars. Nope, what really bugs me is when people who consider themselves really smart tell me something that if I have any memory at all I’ll know makes them hypocrites. Consider if you will, the law professors statement on Iraq. In it, they make the rather grandiose statement that “A US War Against Iraq Will Violate US and International Law and Set a Dangerous Precedent For Violence That Will Endanger the American People.” Just how will this violate international law? Well, again I quote, “But the President ignores the fact that a US war, unleashed without the approval of the UN Security Council, against a country that has not attacked the United States, would itself be an unlawful act, in defiance of America’s treaty obligations, and a violation of US and international law.” Okay, I’m no lawyer, but last time I checked, we attacked Yugoslavia (Serbia) without UN approval, without congressional approval -- Clinton didn’t bother putting it to a vote, he just said NATO voted to attack, so bombs away -- and without Yugoslavia threatening the United States in any shape, way or form. Where were these concerned law professors then? Where were they for Panama, Grenada, and Haiti. I think they only protest when it’s a Republican president, but are silent when Democrats attack other countries without UN mandate, congressional mandate, or a threat to the security of the United States As far as setting a dangerous precedent -- too late.
You in the back are raising your hand in objection (or confusion) to my inclusion of Haiti - I’m talking about Clinton’s invasion, not anybody else’s. Maybe you forgot, but the 82nd airborne had actually taken off on their way to invade when the ruling junta took the money and ran -- reportedly because their spies told them it was coming. So Clinton was trying to invade but his credible threat of force coupled with a large pile of cash rendered the invasion moot. There’s a perfect example of the willingness to use force achieving something; it’s too bad that as it turned out new boss same as the old boss.
Another point cries out for rebuttal:”Lawless international violence only breeds more killing of innocent people. The massive civilian deaths, the scarred and maimed children, the ruined and starving peoples, whose suffering is inseparable from warfare, can only spawn new generations of embittered peoples, new hate-filled leaders, new enraged individuals, determined to answer violence with violence.” This view of war is so last century, but inaccurate even then. Stalemates lead to further violence as the two sides try again to win; big victories end the violence as the losers accommodate themselves to the once unaccommodatable. For instance, the Germans felt that WWI ended in a draw militarily, so they tried again in WWII. If you want to talk massive civilian deaths, ruined and starving people, that’s the Germans immediately following WWII. If you believed the professors, they should have gone a couple more rounds with the Democracies; instead, they haven’t gone to war since, and they want to sit the Iraq war out, too.
Would these professors have protested our response to Pearl Harbor? According to them, a military response would have only provoked the Japanese even more. They’re like the guy in the Life of Brian who tells the blasphemer to stop blaspheming as he is about to get stoned because he’s only going to make it worse for himself. “How can I make it any worse, you’re going to kill me!” the blasphemer replies.
There are valid reasons not to go to war against Iraq. But this is just grasping at straws; worse for the professors, what if the UN and Congress do authorize force against Iraq?
The World's Funniest Joke (Scientifically Proven!)
I could tell the joke, but then you'd laugh yourself to death. OK, that's a riff on a Monty Python routine, but seriously folks, a British (natch!) university decided to find the world's funniest joke. Laugh Lab set out to run a scientific experiment to find the world's funniest joke. According to The New Scientist, not only did they find the joke, they found out that the duck is the world's funniest animal. They also found that different countries had different senses of humor, and that Japan was a joke free zone. The winning joke, submitted by a psychologist in Manchester, England:
A couple of New Jersey hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn't seem to be breathing, his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps to the operator: "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator, in a calm soothing voice, says: "Just take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a shot is heard. The guy's voice comes back on the line. He says: "OK, now what?"
I'm sure those of you who’ve been paying attention immediately see how to make this joke funnier: change it to start "A couple of New Jersey duck hunters are …." Adding the world's funniest animal is bound to make the world's funniest joke even funnier.
A Rose Is A rose by Any Other Name, But
I have to add my voice to the chorus of those who don't like the word "homeland" in homeland defense. I'm, well, a little creeped out by it, as it reminds me of fatherland and motherland, the preferred formulations of fascists and communists. A quick diversion - I believe it was Jude Wanniski who originally described the Democrats as the mommy party and the Republicans as the daddy party based upon the characterisitics of mothers and fathers; does the use of father vs. mother with land indicate if the political group is a mommy group or a daddy group? End of diversion. But I think, creepiness aside, that it doesn't work too well for Americans because either we are recent enough Americans to still consider our "homeland" to be another country where our ancestors (or ourselves) were from, or we've been here so long we've forgotten all about the concept of homeland. America has always defined itself by ideas and opportunity, and not so much by territory, which isn't surprising given how often our geography has changed since the original thirteen colonies.
As long as I'm on the subject, let me just say that no matter what you call it, the real question is will a reorganization help or hurt efforts at homeland (ugh!) defense, and I for one don't think it will help. The turf battles will overwhelm any reform efforts, and we'll still be stuck with an enormous government bureaucracy. Better to find ten tigers to run the disparate parts than to lump it all together under Tom Ridge.
Sunday in the Park with George
OK, I took a little poetic license, as we weren't with George. But we were at a park this afternoon, enjoying the beauty of the day. My wife figured it would be nice to pick up some fast food for dinner and hit a park with the dog, so we did. We weren't as well prepared as another family that was there, with their table cloths and wicker hamper full of goodies, and us with just our sacks full of McDonalds, but even McDonalds tastes better al fresco. Trooper, our dog, was just happy as could be since he had a whole new set of plants to pee on. He rapidly reached the point where he would only squeeze out a drop before moving on, although he took just as long to sniff out just where he wanted to go. The Fruit of the Murphy Loins were happy to be able to frolic and gambol across the grassy field with the dog, enjoying the rare mix of sunshine and delightful temperature (rare for St. Louis, that is). The Murphy Fearless Leader even got into the act, running with the dog until they were both winded and tired. Fortunately, the sun was sinking even faster, thus providing a good reason to leave without any awkward embarrassment.
October 6, 2002
Good News, Bad News about the Rams
The Rams lost again today. It's just amazing how they went from outstanding to lousy in one offseason. Well, they turned lousy just in time for the Superbowl and they've stayed lousy ever since. At least we have the Cardinals to root for. I suppose the Rams being lousy isn't all bad -- now I'll have my Sunday afternoons back, not chained to the TV, watching the game.
We watched Trading Spaces last night - yeah, what an exciting life we lead. They were a couple of good episodes, and new too (that always helps in a TV show). In the first one Doug was Doug and had an over-the-top redesign of a small bedroom as "the Safari room" -- going for the feel of an tropical hut. Zebra striped walls, palm trees, bambo ceiling grid and headboard, and a scavanged wood table. When his team objected, Doug gave a vintage Doug response: why bother complaining when you are only going to lose the argument. At the reveal, the wife said she didn't know whether to kiss Doug, or hit him. Apparently, she made up her mind as they redid the room themselves pronto, removing all trace of Doug, and if you're quick you can go buy the stuff on ebay. Frank, however, wasn't Frank as he didn't do country and he didn't write anything on the walls. It was actually a pretty good job, with a very cool ceiling painted to look like a kid's imagination of the night sky. He even put up a new ceiling fan (replacing a bare bulb), and when Ty broke it with his drill, I was worried for Frank's blood pressure. Apparently Ty went a bought another with his own money to replace it.
The second episode had two great designs, one with the new designer Edward, and the other with old standby and fan favorite Vern. Edward turned a nightmarish floral master bedroom into a really great looking master bedroom, and putting beading up at the wall ceiling joint is now clearly an Edward custom. (I'd go on, but the redesign cannot adequately be described in words, by me at any rate. Not that it was indescribably good, just that I lack the proper vocabulary.) Not to be outdone, Vern redid a completely blah room into a fantastic boy's bedroom with the theme of planes, trains, and automobiles. He went with blue on blue colors, suspended a working railroad track and a motorcycle swing from the ceiling, added a working stoplight to the wall, stenciled and hung toy airplanes from the ceiling, and built a race car bed complete with matching bedding, and a storage bin in the shape of the hood of the car with working headlights and matching racing stripes. The room wasn't just outstanding for a kid -- grown men would kill for a bedroom like that (not that they would get it if they were married, though).
Shock Jock Gets Shocked
If you live in St. Louis or Phoenix, you've heard the story about how shock Jock Beau Duran called Daryl Kile's widow, Flynn, on the air and after telling her she looked hot, asked if she had a date for the game. Flynn mustered the class to say "Goodbye" before hanging up. Everybody and their brother has been apologizing for the incident, the St. Louis Post Dispatch ran a couple of letters of apology from Phoenicians, the radio station even put up lame apology on their web site.
While it's nice everyone in Phoenix felt the need to apologize, they didn't do anything wrong. We know it's the mutton headed jock who's to blame (along with the station manager), and that our own St. Louis idiot shock jocks would have done the same if only the Diamondbacks had a recent widow, or something similar. Let's face it, the race for morning radio ratings is a race to the bottom, although I'm not sure we're sinking any lower. Wasn't it Howard Stern, the king himself, who talked about how "hot" the "chicks" were fleeing the Columbine massacre? Isn't he making more money now than then? As long as the audience listens, we'll continue to hear it - whatever it is. And don't think radio is somehow different -- wasn't it Salon, bastion of everything good, that ran Forbidden Thoughts About 9/11, which was a catalogue (when including the follow up "The Readers Respond") of just about every tasteless, thoughtless, and heartless response - common denominator of shocking - to 9/11 that even Howard Stern wouldn't have aired?
According to this story, originally Doran wasn't going to be disciplined in any way, despite the uproar. But when a big advertiser, The Shane Co. ("now you have a friend in the diamond business"), yanked their advertising and demanded the station make public apologies in St. Louis, Beau was suspended for a week. Not much of a penalty, but you take what you can get. I never much cared for the Shane Co., but I have to applaud their action. Not enough to run out and buy some jewelry, but still I hope other advertisers consider what it is they sponsor. Maybe it will be a "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore." moment. Or not. It's a tricky job, balancing what some want to hear against what many don't. But if you're an advertiser, there's nothing wrong in saying: Say and do what you want, just not on my nickel.
We had our neighborhood block party Friday night. This was our sixth annual block party; our first one was in July, which given the heat and humidity in Saint Louis in July was a big mistake. Now its the first Friday in October, and you never know what the weather will be like. The weather this year was perfect -- cool and crisp -- and we had a great time eating, visiting, and admiring one of our neighbors new sports car. He's a bit old for a mid-life crisis, but better late than never, I always say. We like our neighborhood -- the builder left the original Oak-Hickory-Dogwood forest in the back yards, the houses aren't too close together, people are friendly and helpful, and there is a real sense of community.
Contrary to the urban myth of the awful suburbs, we're happy living here. We didn't flee the central city leaving it to decay - both my wife and I were born and raised in the suburbs, and have always lived in a suburb. Many urban advocates talk of central city in terms of small town life - Ray Suarez in his "The Old Neighborhood, What We Lost in the Great Suburban Migration" claims the virtues of urban living we're identical to a traditional vision of small town life - everybody knows you, you have to travel only a small distance to get everything you need, and a sense of community. I find those to be the same virtues of where I live, even though it's in the suburbs. Sure, there's parts of the city with "more action", but quite frankly I'm at a point in my life I've got more action than I can handle. Rather than denigrate suburban life, urban advocates would do better to improve modern urban life.
October 3, 2002
An Anti-War Protest
The anti-war crowd had a protest the other day. Their flyers said they planned on blocking the delivery of 500 million dollars worth of JDAMs and ALCMs. It was of course symbolic, for even if they had blocked the delivery that day, deliveries would have simply taken place the next. The flyer said that participants could simply be present in a non-violent sort of way, and that you could also get arrested, if you so desired. At the bottom was the time and date of the non-violence class protesters should attend.
The really weird thing (I have to respect people who want to peaceably assemble to make a political statement) is how choreographed the whole thing was. Boeing Security new days in advance when and where the demonstration would be, there were riot police (with two kinds of shields but just one kind of helmet), mounted police, K-9 police, so many police they needed 3 portapotties and hundreds of bottles of water. There were paddy wagons, school buses, squad cars, an ambulance, a wrecker, and a fire truck. The police were ready for anything. What they got was a small crowd making speeches, and then blocking the road when people wanted to get in or out. The protesters started late (1 PM was the start time), but the police came early and stayed late.
Last Friday, I took part in the Light the Night Walk for Leukemia. It raised $225,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society, and it too was a well behaved but far larger crowd. The police also were present, but just to block off the route of the walk, and no riot gear was in sight. My cub pack helped clean up afterward, but there wasn't much to do as there was practically no litter. I bring this up just because this is America, and the two events were different expressions of civic mindedness American style, part of the warp and woof of community. In different ways, they are why I love this country.
I'm Throwing My Hat Into The Ring
Now that the New Jersey Supreme Court has decided to man the barricades for voter choice against legislative restriction, I've decided I'm going to run for Senator from New Jersey. I know I didn't file in accordance with the law, obtain the necessary signatures, nor win a primary, but what the hell, neither did Frank Lautenberg (for this election). And if they even mention I'm from out of state, well, don't the voters of New Jersey deserve a choice? All those other mooks running for office are from in-state, and so lack diversity. All I have to do is go straight to the Supreme Court of New Jersey, and they'll put me on the ballot. If they did it for Frank, why not for me? And if they don't, I'll slip the NJ secretary of state a fifty, and if the Supreme Court can ignore, oops, I mean interpret, a law, why can't other state officials. Don't they have to interpret it when they execute it too?
Forrester is appealing to the United States Supreme Court as I write this, and I fully expect (based upon the Court's previous decision in a similar circumstance) that the USSC will ask the NJSC what part of "The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof" don't you understand?
But I think Forrester and the GOP would be better off with the NJSC decision as a bloody shirt. If left standing, it would energize GOP voters nationwide, not just in New Jersey, and would give Forrester an issue to run on. If overturned, it will have the opposite effect. However, given the importance of every Senate seat to its control after this election, I'm not surprised that they are standing up for the rule of law and clear gain for themselves.
Welcome to funmurphys, the Blog. I plan to write about whatever strikes my fancy, and I hope it might strike yours too. Adding another blog to the already huge blogosphere, especially when there are already so many good ones out there, is a daunting task. But I'm brewing my own heady mix of wit and wisdom, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.