Not Cease from Exploration

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

My father, in an undated photograph taken at the Casey Inn, wearing his U.S. Army uniform.

My father was an SP2 and served in the medical corps during the Korean Conflict. In addition, my late uncle, Francis Xavier, served in the US Army Air Corps during World War II.

Both "Albert Boys" served their country with honor. My mother tells me that my father saw combat injuries that were nothing short of horrible during his service. It impacted him for the rest of his life.

Thank Someone Who Seved Today






Take the time today to thank someone who served...be they here or in the next life.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Game Changer

I was talking to a friend the other day about current events, and in the course of the discussion I mentioned that right now we have two events happening in the world...

...the situation in Korea
...the oil spill in the Gulf

I know the old saying about "may you live in interesting times" is mainly a curse, but whether we like it or not, these are certainly interesting.


Korea
As I write this, I don't see any reports in the news about significant troop movements in North Korea. That's a good sign, or is it? If the Kim dynasty in North Korea is getting ready to start a shooting war I don't know if they would make it so obvious. Let's hope I'm wrong. Regardless, this is a desperate country run by a desperate leader, armed (in theory) with nuclear weapons. Scary enough for you? Maybe the Chinese will put the screws to them and end this madness.

Look for North Korea to eventually back down with some prodding from China, with the South accepting something less than the apology they deserve.

Gulf Oil Spill
Since the 1930's the United States has been on an extended oil bender, and now I think the hangover is finally starting to kick in. As I write this the well is still spewing, and the damage to the environment is only just beginning. It's not just about oiled birds...it's about the destruction of an entire environment-based economy. Like shrimp? Buy'm now because they may be getting somewhat rare. Inconvenient for us, devastating for for the people that live there. Look for extended blame-storming, including the asinine assertion that this could have been avoided had we drilled closer to shore (as noted by Krauthammer and others). Why asinine? Several reasons including...

...the fact that both Democratic and Republican governors in coastal states have fought against off-shore drilling (negating this as being a Democrat-caused problem)

...a smaller spill closer to shore can do just as much damage as a larger spill further off-shore. Sure, it is easier to plug in shallow water, but it doesn't take much oil to destroy an estuary

...deep water wells are not a recent, knee-jerk reaction to political policy; oil companies drill where the oil is

Look for more blame-storming and incredible amounts of damage. Hopefully this will lead to a serious (finally) re-examination of America's energy policy. There are alternatives, but none are cheap. However we are learning that maybe cheap oil isn't really so "cheap" after all.

Rand Paul

I've had some distractions this week that kept me from raising the issue of Rand Paul's comments on race. This was widely reported, so I'm thinking anyone who really cares about the issues raised probably doesn't need to read another article about it, so no link from me. I did, however, want to make a point or two myself.

I enjoy reading the columns of Leonard Pitts, which appear every week in the Scranton Times (and I'm assuming the Citizen's Voice as well). His latest column discussed Rand Paul's comments about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. You can read the column HERE. As usual, Pitts goes to the heart of the issue, which is namely that Rand Paul put himself in this position; unlike Sarah Palin, I don't believe that the "evil media" somehow "forced" Rand Paul to make an ass out of himself. Doctor Paul seems a like a bright guy to me, far too bright to say something like this without actually knowing what he is saying. If you believe he is the victim of, as (former) Governor Palin says the "gotcha media", then he has no business in the U.S. Senate, for clearly he's not bright enough for the job. Nope, from my perspective he meant what he said.

Anyway, the crux of Dr Paul's argument was that the government shouldn't be telling private property owners what to do. On the surface that could sound reasonable, but when you take more than 30 seconds to think about it, most would come to a different conclusion. Specifically, I think in point of fact Dr. Paul probably has no problem with the government telling private property owners what to do sometimes. How could I say that? Ah, an example is in order.

Let's say for example that Dr Paul's neighbor decided to start a combination pig farm and methane plant. This neighbor owns the property, so why shouldn't he be able to do what he wanted on it without government interference? If Dr Paul's pleas to he neighbor to stop the pig farm/methane plant went unanswered, where would he go? Yes, you guessed it, to the government. Why? Because the government has established rules (zoning rules) saying that (for example) opening a pig farm/methane plant in a residential area isn't allowed. I bet in this example Dr Paul would be more than happy for that bit of government intervention, as would most people. Sometimes we need the government to help protect us from idiots.

Look, I want as little government as is necessary. But that's the point: sometimes government is necessary. It's necessary when an idiot neighbor wants to do something that could harm you or your property, and it's necessary when some racist swine would treat other human beings like they are sub-human simply because they look differently. What someone does in the privacy of their own home is none of my business, but the moment they do something that could effect me...or society at large...then it becomes something for our collective business. In our society, our "collective business" is reflected in the government.

In the final analysis...
  1. Racism isn't a blurry kind of issue; either you think it is wrong to discriminate against someone because of how they look or you don't. If it's wrong, then it should be stopped without exception.
  2. I don't know Rand Paul well enough to say whether or not he is a racist. He has, however, now defended racism. Forget the comments about deploring it; if you say that something shouldn't be done when a black person isn't allowed to eat at certain restaurant (for example), then you are as guilty of racism as the owner. It's that simple.
  3. Either you are smart enough to answer reporters questions without coming off like an ass or you are not. If the latter applies, then give up the future in the U.S. Senate.
Three words of advice for Dr Paul: Admit your mistake.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Remember

One of my favorite...and one of the most beautiful...songs ever.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Harry Nilsson...


Walk Like An Egyptian


Well I picked up my oldest daughter yesterday afternoon in Philadelphia, as she arrived from Cairo via Frankfurt. As I may have noted before, she spent May studying abroad in Egypt, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I am glad she got, even if her digestive system wasn't.

A few random thoughts that I culled from her experience:

Garbage - There is garbage everywhere in Egypt. She showed me a picture of this river that was literally blocked by a dam of garbage. There aren't garbage cans out in public; apparently if you have waste you just throw it outside. They were thrilled when they landed in Frankfurt and immediately saw a trashcan at the airport. Got to love that in-bred German sense of cleanliness.

Cats - In addition to garbage, there are cats everywhere. They just wander everywhere...hotels, mosques, shoppes, etc. It's kind of cool actually.

The Food - Just about everyone on their tour got almost immediately sick from the local food. It's much, much more spicy than we are used to. They were thrilled when they got to go to mall in Alexandria where there was a McDonald's. Apparently Chicken McNugget taste exactly the same everywhere in the world.

The Air - It's so thick and polluted that Cairo is covered in an almost constant haze. It's like LA on a bad day, all the time. It's a combination of everyone cooking with God knows what & all those crappy little weed-wacker engine powered cars that they drive over there.

They Love Americans - There seem to be rules for foreigners traveling in Egypt, most of which are waived if you are an American. Oh, and all Egyptians know who Obama is. He's more popular over there than he is here.

There is Real Poverty There - There are kids that go out and beg for tourist money as a kind of "job". It's incredibly sad. Want a picture taken with a cute local? That will be some pounds please.

It's Incredibly Cheap - She bought three pair of leather shoes for the equivalent of $50.

It's Secure - She was very, very impressed with how local police and security looked after tourists. They would literally get escorts where ever they went. And those dudes were well armed. Clearly, Egypt knows that they are just one incident away from killing the goose that laid the golden egg...tourism...so they take the security stuff seriously.

The Airport at Frankfurt is Very Secure - She referred to the well-armed German airport security as "the Gestapo". I asked her if she said that when she was there...she said no...I said "good idea...for some bizarre reason they don't think the NAZI references are very funny in Germany".


I told her that the whole experience should remind her of how truly blessed we are to live in this country. Yes, we have problems, but they pale in comparison to how other people are forced to live in certain parts of the world.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Last (Gay) Waltz

PREFACE
This is it...after this I am finished arguing on the Rockin Apologists blog that Gays are not mentally ill individuals who deserve to be discriminated against. While I love a good argument as much as the next guy, you do reach a point where it all becomes so very clear that no one is really listening, and in the final analysis I do this for fun...not to save souls, or spread the "my way or the highway" gospel. Plus, in my case, I can only devote so much of my free time (what little there is) to the whole blogging endeavor and I've missed out on other topics.

You can link to the discussion HERE. I'm just going to cut and paste the offending passages in this blog (in italic).

Enough excuses. This is my Last (Gay) Waltz.

*************

In (final) response to your comments JD...


Comment - Are you actually trying to equate "hair growth" with "average life expectancy" and "higher incidences of mental health disorders"? Simply stunning.

No JD, the part about "hair growth" was an attempt at humor. I believe that laughter is a gift from God. Try it. Besides, quoting testimonials about Gay conversion proves nothing...and more on testimonials in a few.


Comment - Then neither alcoholics nor adulterers should be either? I'm just trying to see if youre consistent in your rejection of Biblical claims or if you are just cherry-picking and choosing the Gospel you wish to live by.


If you mean by "rejection of Biblical claims" that I reject the notion that homosexuals should be put to death, then yes, you are correct. As for cherry-picking, I think you are just as guilty (the whole "this only applied before, but this applied now" stuff). As for the "Gospel I wish to live by" I suggest that if you are interested in knowing then I suggest you ask...otherwise your statement sounds like nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that I've pointed out inconsistencies in your arguments.


Comment - Youre only obfuscating the matter. The comparison here is between homosexuals and heterosexuals. Again, statisticaly speaking, is anything that I wrote above concerning comparisons with mental illness and life expectancies between the two groups inaccurate?

Me obfuscating? I think you are my friend, as Ive answered this before...but for the last time here goes...I have no doubt that homosexuals may suffer from a greater degree of mental illness. If all people who were left handed were told that they were engaged in left-handed sin...if there was a book that said that being left-handed was punishable by death...that being left-handed was wrong and needed to be cured...OF COURSE more left-handed people would suffer from various forms of mental illness. Now of course some homosexuals are well adjusted and some suffer from mental illness for reasons outside of their sexuality, but being a 3% minority where a portion of the remaining 97% believe that you are defective takes a toll.


Comment - And neither are car accidents and drowning incidences. None of which explains why homosexuals live considerably shorter lives than heterosexuals while having considerably higher rates of mental health issues. Would you care to either..

A) Disprove statistically that this is not the case? Or..
B) Care to speculate as to why this may be the case?

I already have...twice now.


Comment - Really? In what way? Is it the case that the countless testimonies from former homosexuals about completely changed lives that could be provided by such ministries are in some way "invalid"? If so, please explain why.

Testimonials???? TESTIMONIALS???? Are you serious???????????
There are entire areas of science and business where testimonials are not even allowed. Did you know that folks working in the securities industry are BARRED from using testimonials when dealing with customers? Do you think that testimonials are considered to be valid proof when a drug needs to be approved by the FDA? (Hint: No). What's more, for every "Exodus cured me" testimonial, do you not think that there are testimonials where someone says "Exodus is crap"? Please, save the testimonials for vitamin commercials and crap they sell on QVC, as the very concept doesn't belong in a serious discussion. It's the stuff of hucksters and used-car salesmen.


Comment - And who are they SGA? I don't think that even such a fringe group as the Westboro Baptist Church is calling for the stoning to death of gays. Even if they are, they have at most, what? 50-60 members?

The reference is to people that believe in a strict literal interpretation of the Bible. Call me a fool for logic, but if someone believes in a "strict literal interpretation of an error-free, divinely inspired word of God", then that seems to negate the actual interpretation of the Bible...why interpret something if it is error free? The very word "interpret" seems to imply that the Bible is somehow unclear or in need of clarification. In fact, if the passage in Leviticus doesn't apply now...and the Bible is 100% true...wouldn't the Bible come out and specifically say that some of it's teachings no longer apply? The fact is that the Bible has no such "no longer applies" passage...you made that part up JD. Making something up in the Bible runs counter to the belief systems of several mainstream demoninations, including...

Southern Baptists (From SBC.net): "It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy." [I don't see any "except for ____" in that statement.]

Assemblies of God (from Ag.net):
"The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct." [I don't see any "except for ____" in that statement.]

Foursquare Church (from foursquare.org ): "We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God: true, immutable, steadfast, and unchangeable" [Immutable means "unchangeable"...as in it was right during the time of Leviticus and it is right now.]

I could go on, but this is growing tiring; I will say though that I personally am fine with interpreting the Bible..even your interpreting the Bible. My point is though that not everyone else is...and I'm not referring the the Wackos of Westboro either. Ya can't have it both ways, claiming that the Bible is always true, but that it also needs to tweaked for modern times.


One final point: you claim that homosexuality is a mental illness. According to the authorities on mental illness, the American Psychiatric Association, it is not. In fact in December of 1973 they determined that it is not a
pathological psychiatric condition. Reference HERE.

Okay, that's it. I'm done. I know there are points remaining, but too bad. Pointing fingers at others...claiming that they are mentally ill...advocating that it's okay to discriminate against some...is simply wrong. If that's what you call my "Gospel", then so be it.

Okay, It's Gay Wednesday Too

Occasionally I write stuff as comments on other blogs that I want to capture here. Pasted below is a response to a comment written on the blog of the Rockin Apologist, saved for posterity (or for however long I choose to save it).

You can see the entire exchange HERE (with typos corrected).

**************

JD...

Wait a minute my friend...you are not snookering me into a debate about whether or not homosexuality is healthy, good, promotes healthy hair growth, etc. That has never been my intent. Nice try though. My point is people shouldn't be subject to blatant discrimination because they are gay. Want a list of all the "dangerous" behaviors that heterosexuals engage in that cause many of the same problems you ascribe to homosexuals? I can do it if you want.

That noted, time to clear up a few points:

First, physical violence and venereal diseases are not the exclusive property of the heterosexual community. For example, AIDS in Africa is spread mainly through heterosexual behavior. VD has been spread through heterosexual conduct since before our great, great, great grandfathers were born.

Second, a straight person referencing "Exodus International" as a valid source is like a gay person referencing "Queer Nation" as a valid source. I think both are equally full of crap. Quote an objective source or quote none at all, otherwise this becomes a silly debate alone the lines of "the Bible is true because the Bible says that it is true".

As for Leviticus, well I throw that one in there for all those who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. For the record, Leviticus doesn't have a disclaimer that says "Warning: this only applies to the ancient Israelite community". I know this because I read it...along with the other first five books of the Bible...word for word in high school religion class. Either you believe the Bible word for word, or you believe that it can be interpreted. If you believe the latter, well then your comment seems reasonable to me. If you believe the former, then I suggest you get ready for prison, as your god (small g on purpose) compels you to stone gay people to death (and in this country that is currently illegal).

Finally, I personally don't get the "being gay is a choice" mantra thrown out there by the Exodus people. I really don't. Want some "straight" (get it, straight as in not gay...) truth? The act of two men kissing disgusts me*...I find it revolting...and I am not alone in that regard. That very point though proves to me that it's NOT a choice for some, as who would choose to do that? Being depressed or suffering from some "mental illness" make you kiss a dude? I'm sorry, but there is NO amount of depression that could ever make me do that. The answer for me is simple: no one would choose it, instead you must be born with that predisposition.


(*) I mean no offense to anyone by that statement. In fact, I am sure that for some gay folks, the idea of a man and a women kissing is equally disgusting.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Okay, What's with all the Gay Stuff?

Two days now I've written about gay rights topics. What gives?

Well the first impetus has been a posting by a religiously conservative person I know called the Rockin Apologist. He has a particular knack for getting under my skin some days, but that's really a good thing. Nothing like a little mental challenge to get the neurons fired up. What's more, the author is a genuinely a good person. I don't agree with him (often), but he's a good person never the less.

Secondly, I was raised to believe that discriminating against others because of how they look, worship, or because of their sexuality is just plain wrong. My credo, if you will, is that people should be judged based upon their actions and their character. The notion that it's okay to deny someone a basic right...such as the ability to enter into a legally recognized contract with another person...simply because that person is attracted to someone of the same gender seems to me to be nothing more than blatant discrimination. It's simply wrong.

Finally, I am a firm believer that what I do...and what you do...in the privacy of our own homes is our own damn business. If I'm not breaking any laws, if I'm not harming anyone, if I'm not infringing upon your rights, then I say that the government should simply leave me alone. The same goes for you as well.

It's Gay Tuesday

Actually I wanted to continue a thought from last night, but I couldn't come up with anything to tie this and the other post together, hence "Gay Tuesday".

Anyway, here's the thought: I think that at the heart of the "gay debate" is whether or not people chose to be homosexual. Is it nature or nurture? Offering zero science on my part, I do have what I consider to be a strong theory, backed my own experience: it is nature. I don't think anyone can be "made" gay. Being extremely heterosexual myself, the thought of two men engaging in intimate acts does not excite me in the least...in fact, the opposite happens. Put another way, there is nothing anyone could ever do to make me want to engage in that kind of behavior, as it's strongly against my nature. But wait, if it's against my nature, then is it possible that it could be natural for someone else? My answer is simply yes.

This actually is a key question in the gay marriage debate, as someone would have you believe that this is all about a bunch of mal-adjusted folks who simply have a mental disorder that needs to be cured. When you take that argument away, namely that you assume that people don't always choose to the homosexual, then you are forced to look at the issue differently. At this point it's no longer a case of people behaving badly, but is instead a case of people acting in accordance with their nature. When people are acting in accordance with their nature, do we really think it's right to give them fewer rights than others?

Can some people choose to be gay? Actually (and at the risk of contradicting myself), I think the answer is yes...with a caveat. Some folks seem to be readily comfortable with members of either sex. Then again though for this to happen, you have to be comfortable in an intimate way with someone of the same sex, which means that the whole "nature" point comes up. My oldest daughters hates it when I say it this way, but I think that there is no such thing as bisexuality....you either have the capability to be with the same sex or you don't. The fact that you can switch genders doesn't change the fact that you could be homosexual at times. As that great philosopher Andrew "Dice" Clay once said, "You either ____ ____ or you do not ____ ____" (fill in your own blanks).

Bottom line to all of this? It's a tough world out there, even when you have a lot going for you. I say let people live the way they want to live, period.Two consenting adults can do whatever they want in my book, just don't make me watch, listen to or otherwise experience it. No harming children or animals either (both of which go for heterosexuals as well).

Monday, May 24, 2010

Leviticus 20:13

From the third book of the Bible, Chapter 20, verse 13:

"If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives."

Source: US Conference of Catholic Bishops New American Bible (on-line edition).

Why bring it up? Well there is a lot of talk about the issue of gay marriage these days, and while I'm not going to get into that full discussion now, I did want to set this out there as a kind of sign-post. For those who consider themselves to be Bible-believing Christians, I think this verse is pretty clear: male homosexuality is a crime punishable by death.

What do I think? Well let's just say that I think there are extremists on both sides, yet I will also note though that I've never read any homosexual cannon calling for the death of heterosexuals. If someone has one, let me know and I'll gladly post it here, for all three people to read.

Now for the record I don't believe that any religious body should be ever forced to recognize any marital union that runs counter to its belief system. To that end, Catholics shouldn't be forced to believe that Mormons are married for an eternity; Protestants should not be forced to accept the marriages of Moonies; Jews should not be forced to accept the plural marriages of Muslims. I am referring to the RELIGIOUS ACCEPTANCE of marriage though, not a binding, civil/legal contract that a governmental body regulates.

Me? I personally don't care if two men want to get married. I don't care if two women want to get married. Hell, Chaz Bono can marry whomever he/she wants (which is really confusing). Basically what they do has no impact on me. Unlike some, I don't believe that allowing civil unions somehow promotes homosexuality. Contrary to what some may believe, people are gay because they are gay, not because someone somehow managed to nefariously "covert" them. It's not contagious.

Does homosexuality offend you? Then I have a solution for you: Don't be gay. Otherwise, how about letting consenting adults enter into whatever legal arrangements they want?

In the "I'm Not Sorry I Did It...I'm Sorry I Got Caught" Department...

...we have the Duchess of York, "Fergie", getting caught on camera accepting money for access to Prince Andrew. Video from NBC HERE. Text story HERE.

Sleazy?
Tawdry?
Scummy?

I vote for "All of the above". Yeah, that's probably right. I do wonder though how many times this has happened before. On one part of the video you see her nervously smoking in the hotel room as she discusses her deal with the reporter. Yupp, really classy.

It is nice though to be somewhat voyeuristic about this, as at least it's not one of our politicians engaged in the act. Wait though, there is a big difference between an American politician and a member of the British Royal Family: our politicians actually do something for a living. You could argue that they do the wrong things or that they don't do enough things, but they do in fact work for a living. Put another way, they reap, but they also sow. Contrast that to the Royals, who reap, (...and reap, and reap, and reap) but who do not sow.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Road Apples, #65


Perfect Day...at it has been weather-wise. Not too hot, not too cold, and great light for taking pictures. I posted a few I took walking around Lake Scranton, including two of a fox (or maybe it was a coyote?) that I saw from about 100 feet away. In walking around the lake for years this is the first time I've seen a fox; at first I thought maybe he/she was rabid (since you normally don't see them), but the fact that it ran into the wood shortly after getting wind of me made me think that it was probably okay. Man, the crows were so loud around it...maybe they had nests that they felt were threatened. You can see the pictures on my Facebook profile.

On the Health Front...I continue to slowly recover from my nasty case of strep throat. Man, that one was tough; it was basically non-stop sore throat, and in hindsight I wonder I was able to adequately function. In the "things we should all be thankful for" department, I'm glad that we have modern medicine that can cure such things.

My Oldest Daughter Katrina...continues to somewhat struggle in Egypt. The good news is that she is coming home on Thursday, when I pick her up in Philadelphia. It will be good to have her home for a bit, that is until she heads back to Kutztown for the summer. Even if she disagrees I do think this has been a great experience for her. You can read all you want about what it means to live in a developing nation, but until you see the animals in the street and the kids begging for money it's all just words on a page. Also in the "things we should all be thankful for" department we need to remember just how great it is to live in this country.

In the "Gift for Me" Department...I bought the second edition of the Bloom County complete library on Saturday. I truly miss Bloom County. As I've mentioned here on a few occasions, Bloom County was sheer genius; I'd compare it in part to the work of people like Hunter S. Thompson and Warren Zevon. I know, it sounds a bit strange to compare a comic strip to a gonzo journalist and off-center rock icon, but that's how I see it. All three had this twisted sort of view on the universe, and all three routinely made me both laugh and think. Now to find a decent Bill the Cat tee shirt...

Firefox...Normally I am a ginormous (an actual word, by the way) fan of Firefox, but lately it's been crashing on me quite a bit. Twice today as a matter of fact, both times when dealing with images. Are the Internet gods trying to steer me towards Chrome? I already use that for some light browsing, so maybe I should consider using it as my main browser. For the record, it's my personal opinion that anyone who regularly uses Internet Explorer has rocks in his/her head.

Walmart...Is it me or is there a tattoo requirement for Walmart cashiers? Maybe it's like a prison kind of thing, you know like baggy pants.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

When the Rhetoric Does Justice

I've been reading just about everything I could get my eyes on relative to the Tom Corbett Twitter-gate fiasco, and I have to say that there is zero point zero chance the AG is going to walk away with this one unscathed. It was just simply a bone-headed maneuver, and you have to wonder why he pulled this stunt in the first place.

On so many different levels this whole stunt makes no sense.

Politically, you can probably hear the Onorato commercial now: "Tom Corbett, abusing his office by subpoenaing critics...". Now this might please his hard-core fans, but I can't see where it will endear him with the Sam Rorher/Tea Bag crowd, who in theory already don't trust government. The notion of a politician using the court system to intimidate critics should scare the pants off of your average gun-toting, Lilly-white, stars-n-bars waving tea-bagger.

Legally, the notion of anonymous Internet identities isn't exactly settled law to begin with. From what I understand, there isn't necessarily a right to Internet anonymity, but that seems more the case when an actual crime has been committed. When last I checked, criticizing a politician for his official actions isn't exactly legally actionable stuff.

Ethically, this is the kind of "skirting around the edges" stuff that makes young and old shake their heads in disgust. We pay this guy to fight crime, so why is he going after personal critics? In an age where the average politician is viewed in the same light as a used-car salesman in terms of ethics, why reinforce the notion via blatant scare tactics aimed squarely at critics?

Strategically, why do something that your followers...especially those who may blog themselves...would not be able to defend (let alone use offensively)? As noted above, I've read just about every blog I could find on this subject, and I can't find a single person who comes out and defends the AG's actions. At best the AG can hope that folks forget that it ever happened, which isn't very likely.

In the end, the Corbett campaign can hope that this sort of thing will only resonate with hard-core Internet types, news junkies and civil libertarians. Only time will tell if that's the case. One thing is for sure though: many will be watching.

It's Getting Better All The Time...

...well at least my throat is; I actually managed to sleep more or less non-stop from about midnight until about 7:30am this morning. That was seven hours of uninterrupted sleep....which hasn't happened since last Saturday night. Score!

Anyway, one of the benefits to not feeling well is that it helps you appreciate when you do feel well. I know, that sounds rather circular, but I definitely believe that it's true. Personally I am going to celebrate this notion by hitting the flea market at the old Sugarman's this morning. I probably won't buy anything, but I do like to just walk and look around. From there it will be some neglected yard work to fill out the afternoon.

Here's to enjoying the simple things in life. Oh, and for no reason what so ever, here's some Joni Mitchell ("I was a free man in Paris, I felt unfettered and alive..."):

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tom Corbett's Boner

It's being reported all over the place that Pennsylvania AG and candidate for governor Tom Corbett has taken to going after a blog & twitter accounts that have been critical of him. You can read the USA Today story HERE.

Now I don't believe in an unlimited right to free speech.

I am not a fan of anonymous cretins spreading innuendo.

I don't believe that anyone can slander anyone else they feel like without repercussion.

I do believe that even public figures should have some recourse when it comes being slandered.

HOWEVER, I've been reading the CassablancaPA blog for a while (I just added it to my blog roll), and it's very clear to me that no one is being slandered. What's happening is that AG Corbett's official actions are being called into question and, well, he doesn't like it. Too bad! This isn't a question of a blogger spreading rumors and innuendo about AG Corbett's personal life or his family. Not only is this blogger(s) exercising a right to free speech, this is an example of participation in the very democratic process that AG Corbett should be protecting as Pennsylvania's chief law enforcement officer.

Congratulations Mr Corbett, the primary is barely over and you have already proven yourself unworthy to hold the office you aspire to. Hell, you've proven yourself unworthy to hold your current office. Trust me: the political points you hope to score with this little stunt are not worth the down-pouring of crap that will rein upon you.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

On The Health Front

I've been fighting a running battle this week with what has turned out to be strep throat. So far I've been losing, but I'm hopeful that the tide is turning in my direction. This all started on Sunday when, after taking my mother shopping, I just felt quasi under the weather. That night I wasn't able to sleep longer than about an hour (or so) without waking up with a sore throat and a strong desire to pee. That scene has repeated itself every night this week so far, and quite frankly I'm exhausted.

Given how tired I am, it's surprising how well I've functioned. Ive managed to get in a light workout each day this week, and while I haven't been uber-productive, the only time I've been away from work was the hour I took to see the doctor on Wednesday. Tough guy? Hell no...more like stupid guy.

I think...make that "I hope"...I've turned the corner. While my throat and my ear still hurt, I have spats of bear ability. Maybe I'll be able to sleep most of the night without getting up repeatedly. The AdvilPM will help, but alone they just make me stumble when I get up in the middle of the night. What I need is just a lower level of throat pain.

Here's to golden slumbers. Hell, I'd settle for "tin" slumbers at this stage.

Election Results

Just a few random thoughts on the recent election results...

Dunmore - Well I'll be, elected officials (including mayor-for-life "Nibs") will actually have to do their jobs now and make some tough decisions. I'm referring, of course, to the fact that Dunmore voters, to the tune of about 80%, voted against giving the borough the ability to levy a special tax to help fund the fire department. Dunmore, like many people, lives beyond it's means, so it's only a matter of time before fiscal gravity kicks. This will get much worse before it gets better, but I have no doubt that in the long run this really will make Dunmore a better place.

John Blake - It seems to me that John Blake, nominee for the State Senate, really is just a proxy Bob Mellow. It also reaffirms in my mind that many folks in this area are still not willing to let go of the whole system of "governing/politics by favor" regime. Maybe I'm wrong...maybe Mr Blake isn't just Bob Mellow's hand-picked replacement...maybe he will be an independent voice for change in Harrisburg; regardless, it's pretty clear that this was the candidate that outgoing Senator Mellow wanted in his seat. That can't be good.

Ken Smith - Another example of how sometimes voters are stupid. Mr Smith has done many things that should have prevented his re-election, including not paying his taxes, not repaying loans, not pushing for reform in Harrisburg, etc., but yet he is most likely going to be re-elected in November. I'm thinking that Mr Smith should be sending out a thank-you card to Kevin Haggerty for making sure that the anti-incumbent vote was well split.

Jim Wansacz - It's time for Mr Wansacz to start using his State Representative seat to push for all those reforms he said were needed during the Senate primary. Man-up Mr Wansacz, man-up.

Chris Doherty - Here's to hoping that the Mayor's wander-lust has been satisfied and he will now concentrate on checking the over-reach of council president Janet Evans. Better yet, how about the two of them actually working together to make Scranton fiscally sound for the long term? That's a tough one for Mrs Evans and her city union backers, who want us all to believe that city personnel expenses can be increased while taxes are decreased. Regardless, welcome back to your job Chris.

Arlen Specter - I hope Arlen truly enjoys his retirement. As I've previously noted, I like Senator Specter, but it's time for a change. I would like to see something of a public apology from Senator Specter for the swift-boating of Joe Sestak...that would be classy thing to do.

Matt Drudge - Funny, but the Drudgereport didn't even mention the GOP's failure to immediately capture the former Rep. Murtha seat in western Pennsylvania. Gee, I wonder why? After all, Matt went to great pains to point out that President Obama was 0 for 4 in this primary. Could it be that the Drudgereport is biased? Nahhhh, and I have a very small nose too.

Pat Toomey - I will be interested to see what kind of campaign Mr Toomey runs. Pennsylvania is not a hard-right state. Even past GOP governors (Tom Ridge, Dick Thornburgh) were center-right, and the last hard-right state-wide politician, Rick Santorum, was thrown out on his high-horsed ass.

Joe Sestak - Can easily win in the fall. Two words of advice though: Harris Wofford. I could also say "Rick Santorum", but I've already used that reference once. Pennsylvania...outside of inner-city Philadelphia & (to a lessor extent Pittsburgh) is not a Liberal state, so it makes sense to let Toomey seem like the extremist in this campaign. Staying in the center, emphasizing a strong military career, painting a picture of Pat Toomey as someone who is out of touch with most voters all makes sense to me.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How I Voted...and Why

Governor - Dan Onorato
While I haven't followed this particular election veyr closely, Onorato seems impressive. He seems to have run a solid, seemingly error-free campaign. I also like the fact that he comes from outside the Harrisburg/Philly axis.

US Senate - Joe Sestak
Arlen Specter had my vote until he launched the the ad disrespecting the military service of Sestak. That kind of desperation is beneath a US Senator. Note that I do think Sestak has run a poor campaign to date; his Specter attack ad ("I wanted to be re-elected") bordered on sleazy. I do hope that whomever gets the nod is able to get their "stuff" together to defeat Pat Toomey, who I view as Santorum-light.

US Congress - Corey O'Brien
I do not think that Corey O'Brien is completely qualified to be a Congressman. However if the choice is between someone who is less than qualified and an ingrained politician who believes that he is entitled to his position in Congress...someone who both bad-mouths the financial services industry (in which I work BTW) while accepting campaign contributions from that same industry...then O'Brien's lack of qualifications suddenly becomes less of an issue.

State Represenative - Bob Lesh

Mr Lesh is one of the few candidates for any office that I have any kind of connection with; in this case he was a good friend of my late father-in-law. That isn't enough to in and of itself to get my vote, but coupled with a solid record on the School Board made this a no-brainer for me.

State Senate - Chris Phillips
I personally like Chris Doherty. He's done a good job as mayor of Scranton (note "good"...not "great") and he's a stand-up guy. All the more reason why I prefer to see him remain as mayor. He needs to finish his work in Scranton.

As for Chuck Volpe, well you can't both be cozy with the government & politicians AND also claim to be an outsider. Sorry Chuck, that just doesn't add up.

Jim Wansacz has used the insane system of reimbursements to buy property in Harrisburg. You can't abuse the system then simultaneously claim to want to reform it.

To be blunt, I will never vote for Joe Corcoran. The old-school, back-room politics that garnered Corcoran the Democratic endorsed status has no place in a modern society.

John Blake? All I know is this: He has been endorsed by Bob Mellow. Given that, why in the hell would I vote for him? That ringing endorsement by The Scranton Times? This is the same Scranton Times that only recently "discovered" that maybe Bob Mellow was potentially using his office for personal gain. Hello?

I like Chris Phillips. He fought the sale of the South Scranton Complex tooth and nail...and he did it respectfully. When all manner of assorted loons would use Scranton City Council meetings to grand-stand and make outrageous claims, Phillips...dressed in a dress shirt and tie...would come to the podium, armed with facts, and speak respectfully against the sale of the Complex. In Scranton, that kind of thing is impressive.

Lying Scum

My father, Richard Albert, was a veteran of the Korean Conflict. My mother always said that what he saw there (he was a medic, stationed in Japan) really had a negative impact on him for the rest of his life.

My uncle Frank served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II in the Pacific Theater. He was eventually honorably discharged with a partial disability.

My brother Chris is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, serving most of his tour at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in the medical corps, where he specialized in giving penicillin shots to Marines.

My mother-in-law's brother Bobby served two tours in Vietnam with the U.S. Army (in part so that his brothers would not have to serve).

Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut AG and Senate candidate, did not serve in the active duty military. He did, however, claim repeatedly that he did serve during Vietnam. In fact, he has routinely used his bogus service to score cheap political points over the years. Making matters worse? It appears that he went to great pains to avoid serving.

Come to your own conclusions about this one, but here's mine: Mr Blumenthal is a lying scumbag, possessing a Lexus mouth but a Kia moral checkbook. I actually put him a notch below noted chicken-hawks like Dan Quayle and Rush Limbaugh, as at least those idiots haven't lied about their lack of service.

Vote Today

Vote today, if for no other reason than the fact that so many have given their lives so that we could have this privilege.

Monday, May 17, 2010

For All You Members of the Meadow Party

Election (Random) Notes

To Brian Kelly, Steve Johnson & Others
Endorsement by the local "Tea Party" or "I heard about him at the Tea Party" will not help you, and in fact might hurt you. Sure, a small group of folks actively support the Tea Parties, but just as many think they are functional equivalents of Klan meetings & the vast majority of the rest could care less.

(Special) Note to Brian Kelly
Why are you a Democrat?

(Special) Note to Steve Johnson
Playing the hillbilly banjo music in the background of your commercial isn't cute...in fact what it brings to mind is the Beverley Hillbillies. What's more, as someone who regularly works with people from New Jersey and Connecticut, I'm constantly battling the image that Pennsylvanians are a bunch of back-water hicks...thanks for proving me wrong.

To John Blake
You actually think that ringing endorsements from Bob Mellow are a good idea? Seriously, what planet are you from? Have you been smoking ginsum weed?

To Jean Craige Pepper
Every time I see one of your signs I think that there is a produce stand up ahead. The non-functional "pickpepper" URL doesn't help.

To Chris Doherty
Having Bill Clinton endorse you is a novelty, and that's about it. Want to impress me? Get endorsed by Baba Booey. Now that's a robo call I'd be glad to get.

To Chuck Volpe
It's hard to campaign as an outsider when you do so much business with local municipalities and the state. People are dumb, but most aren't that stupid. Also, saying that you will not take a salary is somewhat negated as a positive precisely because you got rich from selling insurance to governments.

To Peg Luksik
Being right of Pat Toomey is like being right of Mussolini. In fact, I think that if you are any further right you'd end up actually being left.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Israel: All She Wants To Do Is Dance

I read somewhere that the Don Henley song "All She Wants To Do Is Dance" is about the state of Israel. Now to be fair I've read the lyrics over and I don't see the connection (other than the title perhaps), but it's a clever enough though to stick in my head. Anyway, this is a good an entree as any to one of the biggest paradoxes there is in the world on nuclear non-proliferation, namely the "giggle, giggle, I'm not going to tell" nuclear status of Israel.

What's the deal? The fact that Israel possesses nuclear weapons is hardly the best-kept secret in the world today. I know it, you know it, we all know it. But yet somehow Israel is allowed to continue on with the charade of not commenting on the issue. Seriously, why do we have such concern with just about every other country having nuclear weapons, but yet there is this passive, "wink, wink, nod, nod" attitude towards Israel?

Yes, I understand that Israel is a democracy. Yes, I understand that they are our friends. Yes, the Holocaust was a horrible event in human history, but so were the Killing Fields of Cambodia, yet that gets far less play. Anyway, I'm not debating about the right of Israel to exist; the nation does exist, so any discussions about whether it should are a waste of time. What I'm arguing here is the fact that we...as in you and I as U.S. taxpayers...financially support a nation that has undeclared weapons of mass destruction, stockpiled in a part of the world known for wars and instability. And this is somehow okay?

By the way, just how much do we...you and I...support Israel? According to the Washington Report of Middle Eastern Affairs, direct military aid to Israel in 2008 totaled just over $2.4 billion dollars (citation HERE). By way of comparison, the total Israeli military budget for 2008 was somewhere between $11 and $16 billion dollars in total (conflicting citations HERE and HERE). This translates to US taxpayers...you and I...paying for anywhere from15% to 22% of Israel's total military budget. That's significant stuff.

Bottom Line: Given the amount of direct military support that US taxpayers provide to Israel, perhaps it's about time that we demand they play by the same nuclear rules that we want everyone else to play by...namely disclosing the existence of these weapons and signing/complying with the the Nuclear N0n-Proliferation Treaty.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

From the Mailbox

I don't get much email in response to this blog, which is actually fine with me. I did, however, recently get a piece of "fan" mail. Here's the salient part:

"...Your writing sucks. Do you even edit your shit? No body cares about you or what you think. Do you know what the word trite means?..."


Sniff, sniff, well I guess I'm just going to stop writing then.

Just kidding.

I do admit to far too many typos. Part of that comes from the fact that I usually write stuff in the morning, before work, when I am fairly rushed. I know, that's not much of an excuse, but it's the best one I've got.

As for what I write being "trite", well that's probably true, at least from one perspective. However the perspective that matters most here is mine, and here I afford myself the luxury of writing about whatever comes to mind. Sometimes what I write is serious, sometimes it's stupid, mostly thought it entertains me.

"Entertains me". Yes, that's the goal here. I'm not out to change the world, I'm not out to change people's minds, and I'm certainly not trying to be profound. No, my target is much more basal: entertain myself. Now if someone else is mildly entertained...or even slightly interested...or even pissed off...at something I've noted, then all the better; "sauce for the goose" if you will.

"It's the Jews, Stupid" - Glenn Miller for U.S. Senate

Friday, May 14, 2010

Blogger Biographical Information

There was a comment on Gort's blog requesting that "guest bloggers" provide some biographical information (link HERE), which struck me as funny as the comment came from an anonymous poster. Regardless, it did get me thinking that perhaps I too should provide some biographical information.

So without any further delay, here are some biographical nuggets about yours truly (all true by the way):

- I have very big feet

- While standing 6'3" tall, I weighed 173lbs...at high school graduation

- I refuse to eat uncooked cheese

- I will not eat organ meat

- I quick-jumped my Social Studies teacher in the "Seniors vs Faculty" basketball game in 1982

- I can't see through both of my eyes at the same time

- Due to severe acid-reflux, I have to take Prilosec every single day

- I can't stand the smell of peanut butter, but I love the smell of roasting peanuts

- I've gone years without having an alcoholic drink (I only very, very rarely drink)

- I was an Altar Server for ten years

- The smell of sour kraut makes me gag

- I've never eaten clams

- I own a very rate stuffed "Bill the Cat" doll (from the comic strip Bloom County)

- I don't drink coffee, ever

- I learned how to type at about age 10, on an old manual typewriter

- Despite three years of Spanish, I can barely speak a word of the language

- I have zero musical ability, despite my best efforts to the contrary

- I am an enormous Howard Stern fan

- My appendix burst when I was 6 & I contracted peritonitis

- I once lived near Three Mile Island nuclear power plant

- I named my oldest daughter after a pop-rock band (Katrina and the Waves)

- I have a dental implant

- I require only about 5 hours of sleep a night

- I love First Person Shooter video games (I have an XBox, XBox 360 & PS2)

- I have the complete works of Emily Dickinson

- Hundreds of CDs and dozens of DVDs

- I don't really like dogs all the much

- I have bad depth perception

- My favorite food is pizza

- I once won a Blind Association poster contest

- My first car was a green 1974 Plymouth Duster

- I count calories in order to maintain my weight

- I can type about 60-70 words per minute

- I've had surgery twice on my eyes

- I will not eat pork (but I confess to having some bacon every once in a while)

- Despite questionable religious views, I always pray before undertaking a long drive

- I never never missed an election

- I suffer from IBS, which I control through a dietary fiber supplement

- I have a dozen books on astronomy

- I have three cats: Buttons, Oreo & Bella

- I wrote for my high school newspaper

- I know the lyrics to most of ABBA's greatest hits

- I exercise for 30+ minutes a day most days

- I've worked for the same company for over 21 years

- I've read about three novels in my entire life

- Hill Street Blues is my favorite TV show of all time

- I have a framed cut-away drawing of a Space: 1999 Eagle hanging in my home office

- My primary guilty pleasure is listening to Sirius Satellite radio

- I excel at trivia games

- My SAT scores were incredibly low

- As a child I wanted to be an architect

- I enjoy reading about religion...and I even have my own copy of The Book of Mormon

- One day I want to buy a classic VW Beetle

- I love doing electrical work, but I hate doing plumbing

- I take my mother shopping every Sunday, without fail

- I have 24 credits in college-level math & science (including Physics and Calculus)

- I enjoy public speaking

- I can't add or subtract in my head

- I love gadgets

- I enjoy planting flowers and doing yard-work

- I attended public grade school, a Catholic high school, and a public university

- I was half-way to becoming a Civil Engineer when I switched my major to Business Administration

- I almost never sleep past 7:30am, no matter what time I go to bed

- My hearing is slowly getting worse

- I will not eat sausage

- I was once the moderator for Gay Pride month event at work (...and I am 100% heterosexual)

- I think that Beavis & Butthead is under-rated and Seinfeld is over-rated

- I can do my own sewing

- I am a firm believer in personal responsibility

- I want to see Paul McCartney perform before he (or I) dies

- I grew up in a housing project

- I have a horrible singing voice


Now I'm sure I am forgetting a few dozen things, but I think the above paints something of a picture.

Sins of the Mother

This caught my eye in Tom Borthwick's NEPArtisan blog...Church School Bars Child of Lesbian. You can read another article about this HERE.

Now in fairness, I've heard of this kind of thing before. Yes, I think it was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and it centered around how (fictional) Klingon culture holds the children accountable for the "sins" of the parents.

Yeah, I get it that this is a private school and they can choose to allow (or not allow) admission to anyone they want. But seriously, isn't it the child here that is being punished? The Catholic Church can certainly disagree with the lifestyle of the parents, and what's more, they can teach this disagreement to the students that attend their schools. This might in fact make things very uncomfortable for a child with two same-sex parents, and I'd wonder why they would want to attend such a school anyway. That aside though, what the Church is actually doing here is denying something to a child because of something that the child has absolutely no control over, namely the actions of parents.

Now let me ask this question: has the Church also denied admission to Catholic schools the children of reputed or convicted mobsters? Is engaging in murder, theft, graft, prostitution, etc. considered a "worse" sin than homosexuality in the eyes of the Church?

I could rag on about tolerance, but instead I'm going to leave this simple thought from Saint Augustine as my closing:

"Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum"

...and I'm going to note here that the child in question is certainly NOT the sinner.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Milestones

Well I have reached something a milestone I guess.

The milestone? Well I have a daughter who is traveling to Egypt (leaving today) for a few weeks of over-seas study. I am actually thrilled for her, as this truly is a once-in-a-lifetime event. I know she will do well and I hope this opens up all kinds of possibilities for her.

How is this a milestone for me? Well I'm actually old enough to have a daughter traveling to Egypt. Man, when you look back to how you felt back in younger days, it's hard to imagine being old enough...and responsible enough...to be the parent of a young adult. Hell, I barely consider myself to be an adult sometimes, let alone a parent. Just how did this happen?

Anyway, here's to safe travels for my daughter Katrina and to milestones for middle-aged guys.



"Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans"
- John Lennon

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mental Health & Modern Society

I've been called "crazy" more than once in my life, but truth be told I'm actually fairly healthy when it comes to the mental front. I'm lucky in that regard, as that's not true for everyone these days. In fact, if you look at one indicator, namely the use of anti-depressant drugs, there has been something of a mental illness explosion in the United States.

Explosion? Well according the the Archives of General Psychiatry, the use of anti-depressant drugs has increased about 75% between 1996 and 2005 (citation here). There are other reference out there, but I add this one specific fact to simply add credence to the conventional wisdom that anyone sensitive to this issue knows to be true.

Why is this? Well I think there are several potential reasons for the "explosion", and while I'm not an expert on the research in this area, I do have some ideas:

Better Diagnosis - It could be that there is no more mental illness out there now than there has ever been, it's just that we are better these days at the diagnosis. Maybe in the past we just called it being "eccentric", or we didn't fully understand that the town drunk may have been someone with a mental illness who was just engaging in a form of self-medication.

More Options - Along with better diagnosis, there are also far more treatment options available these days. As I write this there is a commercial for Abilify on the television. When there are more options, people may be more willing to actually seek out treatment or continue treatment when some options fail. Treatment has become less invasive as well; the visuals of the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest have been replaced by a confidential doctor's office visit and a trip to CVS.

Pill Culture - With the successes out there in a variety of medical fields, I think our society is becoming accustomed to the notion that just about any problem can be cured with the right pill. Think about it for a moment: we now have pills that you can take to prevent pregnancy (birth control), we have pills that can lead to pregnancy (Viagra, etc.); we have pills that can cure infections and pills that can prevent infections. We want it all, and we want it to just take a visit to the 24 hour drug store and a glass of water.


Now recognizing mental illness as a medical condition that can be treated is a positive thing. The problem occurs though when our zest to recognize and treat runs into our lack of a societal attention span. We want to treat mental illness, but we want it done fast. We also want it done with a minimal effort. It's almost as if we somehow think that there should be a pill that turns the "sad" into the "happy". Maybe there should be, but then how could ever grow as individuals?

I've learned the most important lessons in my life in part by overcoming adversity. If I had a pill that would take the edge off of that adversity, would I truly be better off? Yes, sometimes adversity can get the better of you, but in my book that's okay as I've learned even more from my failures that I've learned from my victories.

I'm not advocating that medication has no place in the treatment of mental illness. Hell, I'm not nearly smart enough to being to even form that kind of argument, let alone actually believe it myself. Instead, I'm suggesting that medication is probably best thought of as being part of a treatment plan, not the treatment plan. That seems to run counter thought to what we want in this country.

Is it that we have a pharma-conspiracy bent on selling pills for profit at the expense of all else? I doubt it. Conspiracies require far too much effort to pull off.

Is it that we just suffer from a collective laziness when it comes to our mental health? Probably yes. There are parallels to our physical health here: we are getting heavier and there is a proliferation of "miracle diet drugs" out there that promise svelte-ness without the work. Sound familiar? Just take that pill and it will be all right.

In the end I've always believed that in life it's the journey that matter most...it's the "not ceasing from exploration" that makes this whole mess worth the effort. Yes, sometimes we may need a little help along the way, but there is a big difference between getting help and expecting a pill to solve a problem. There is no happy pill, and I'm actually glad that's the case.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ken Smith & Logic: Not Always A Good Mix

This is taken verbatim from an attack ad mailed by the Ken Smith campaign:

"Bob Lesh
As Scranton School Director, Bob Lesh has voted the last for years in a row to raise school taxes. The largest percentage of Scranton taxes goes to the Scranton School District.
(Scranton School Board Minutes 2002-2009)"

So the logic here is that Bob Lesh should be judged by his record as a School Board Director, which is fair. The problem is that Ken Smith doesn't actually show specific votes and the context under which those votes were taken. For example, how many of these instances were in response to State mandates (*cough* pension funding *cough*)? State mandates, you know those things that often generate from the Pennsylvania Legislature.

Speaking of the Pennsylvania Legislature, Ken Smith wants us to believe that Bob Lesh should also be judged by the performance of the governmental body he serves on, namely the Scranton School Board. Wait a minute though, if Bob Lesh is "guilty" by association with the Scranton School Board, then isn't Ken Smith even more guilty via his association with the Pennsylvania Legislature? Say what you want about the Scranton School District, but...

...the Directors haven't given themselves a midnight pay raise (they don't earn a salary)
...they always have budgets submitted on time
...they always have balanced budgets
...they don't provide for a blanket, no receipts/no questions asked expense reimbursement policy*

Now I wouldn't hold up the Scranton School Board as a model of efficient or effective governance. However compared to the Pennsylvania State Legislature, they end up looking like experts at governmental efficiency.

Word to Ken Smith: Got to be careful throwing those stones, especially when you are sitting inside your glass house.

(*) Note that I have personal experience with this particular point.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Elvis Fans Rejoyce


I've seen several reports that indicate Elvis Presley actually died from severe constipation, not drug abuse or a heart attack. Elvis fans are, I am sure rejoicing en-mass.

No, I really mean it: the King of Rock-n-Roll died because he was unable to have a healthy bowel movement. One of many articles referenced HERE.

We all know that having lots of fiber in your diet is good, but I wasn't aware that not have it could actually off you. Damn, I am glad that my daily regime includes a dietary fiber supplement.


**************

Side Note: this is the 600th posting to NCFE. Not sure it having a posting about constipation is really want I wanted to run at something of milestone, but what the hell...I work with what I've got.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Predictions

Now normally I don't do predictions. Not about the weather, not about sports, and especially not about politics. Why? Well I think part of it is that I'm pretty much as scientist at heart, and the "art" of prediction involves understanding variables. In the case of politics, there simply are too many variable, some of which are simply too difficult for me to understand. Yes, I am no Terry Madonna.

Anyway, Steve Urbanski was kind enough to ask for the following:

Democratic PA US Senate, Democratic PA Governor, Republican PA Governor, Democratic 11th Congressional, Republican 10th Congressional, Democratic PA 14th Senate, and Democratic 22nd Senate.

So I'm going to oblige, although I may also be cheating by posting this here (in addition to mailing them to him). Anyway, I'm sure I'll regret this...

Democratic PA US Senate: Arlen Specter
By a nose hair. Proof positive that, if you throw enough mud, some will eventually stick. Arlen should be ashamed of himself though over the swiftboating of Joe Sestak.

Democratic PA Governor: Dan Onorato
Why? Well why not. Honestly I haven't been following the race, so this is as much about who impresses me as it is anything else. Hoeffel does has the more "Dutchy" sounding name though, which may mean something in parts of the state.

Republican PA Governor: Tom Corbett
Regardless of the primary win, he will lose in the general election, although it will be much closer than if the GOP picks Sam Rohrer. Mr Rohrer doesn't get that there are many Pennsylvanians who aren't so impressed with the whole Tea Party thing. Hard-core social conservatives are not a majority of the voting population in Pennsylvania. Quick, name the last hard-core social conservative to serve as governor...trick question, I know.

Democratic 11th Congressional: Paul Kanjorski
Corey O'Brien as a candidate is more style than substance...half term county commissioner doesn't exactly qualify you for much of anything, other than maybe county commissioner. Kanjorski seems to be doing okay without actually having to work (or spend) all that much, which will help in the general election. Looks like Kanjorski will not be getting that Wall Street lobbyist job after all.

Republican 10th Congressional: Honestly, I haven't a clue.
Tom Marino should have this, well if it wasn't for the close ties to a certain well known local casino owner.

Democratic 14th Senate: Tom Leighton
I really don't follow things down in "the gulch" all that closely, but it seems to me that John Yudichak smells of per diem.

Democratic 22nd Senate: Chris Doherty
Not that I want Doherty to win (I'd prefer that he stay as Mayor of Scranton), but he's simply the best campaigner in this race. The other candidates...

...people don't understand the whole Chuck Volpe "you don't need to pay me" thing
...Wansacz smells of per diem
...Corcoran seems to think he doesn't need to campaign, as he is the "endorsed" candidate (he's wrong)
...no one outside of Olyphant (or some other 'burg "up the line") knows who Blake is
...and Phillips just isn't well enough known.

Note that while I don't endorse candidates, if I did I'd probably give the nod to Phillips, who is a bright, bright guy...he should win, although I don't think he will win.

Follow-Up Comment, Noted Environmentalist Rush Limbaugh

No sooner than I wrote the posting yesterday regarding Rush "I just make crap up" Limbaugh's rant about how environmentalists could have caused the oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico (evidence? why it happened near "Erf" day), then this comes out...


I know, I know, it's probably just a "drive by/liberal/elite media cover-up". Then again there are people who, to this very day, say the same thing about Limbaugh's stint in rehab for Oxycontin abuse.

Look for Limbaugh to recant his previous rant on Monday...right after Courtney Love announces that she is becoming a Nun, Rick Santorum announces he is gay and Ken Smith pays his taxes.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Noted Environmentalist Rush Limbaugh on the Gulf Oil Spill

Select quotes from Rush Limbaugh himself (from his own website, reference HERE) on the oil rig explosion and resulting disaster in the Gulf of Mexico:

"...Remember, this rig blew April 21st, which is one day prior to 'Erf' Day."

"...One oil rig blows up, and it proves that we can't dig, drill, find more oil"

"...The ocean will take care of this on its own if it was left alone and left out there"

"...It's natural. It's as natural as the ocean water is."


So what to conclude? Well according to Limbaugh...
  • There is a chance that environmentalists blew up the rig
  • The rig was blown up to prevent more drilling
  • Oil spills are no big deal because there is "natural seepage" all the time anyway
  • We don't need to take extraordinary measures to clean this up
Now unlike Limbaugh, I'm not an environmental expert, but I'm thinking that thousands of barrels of oil (oil that is normally thousands of feet under the sea floor) spilling into an ocean body isn't all that natural. Tell this one to the shrimpers who will be out of work for potentially a very, very long time.

Also, you will pardon me if I just say that the notion that environmentalist did this is a little out there...and that's being kind. I'd put this in the same class as "the Jews control the media". Oh, and what evidence does Limbaugh present to support his hypothesis? The same evidence he usually presents: None. He is basically just making this crap up.

Side note: I love the "coincidence" stuff. The rig blew up near "Erf" Day? Well guess what, I had corn the day before my daughter got a ticket on the turnpike. Coincidence? Hmmmmmm, maybe not.

Limbaugh is sick clown who simply makes crap up in order to sound controversial and keep his audience engaged. He's the Weekly World News for hard-core conservatives.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Excellent Article, Illegal Immigration

This is in the current edition of Business Week...

The Wailing Wall

...and something that I referenced in a posting comment. Well worth reading.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

When Facts Collide with Rhetoric (Scranton Style...It Ain't Pretty)

Interesting quote from Scranton City Council President Janet Evans that appeared in today's edition of The Scranton Times:

"Unfortunately, the (judge's) decision is rendered against not only city council but more importantly against the taxpayers of the city of Scranton,"

Mrs Evans is referring to victory by Mayor Doherty in the case of Scranton's city council trying to amend the 2010 budget. You can read the article HERE.

Really, so this was a judgment against the taxpayers of Scranton? Speaking as a taxpayer, I don't feel particularly slighted by Judge Mazzoni's decision. In fact, it evokes basically no reaction in me. Why? Well it has to do with a little thing called facts...you know, those pesky little things that sometimes get in the way of rhetoric. The facts I am referring to are:
  • This whole things is about a series of cuts that amounts to LESS THAN 1% of the city's budget.
  • Adding insult to injury, this minuscule amount of cutting didn't actually go towards reducing the overall budget; no, much of the money cut was actually going to be put back into the budget in the form of more clerical positions.
Yes, the cut was less than 1%, and the amount to be saved wasn't actually all a save...part was going to just be added back into the budget anyway. One of the additional clerical positions? Why a secretary for the city council secretary. Sweet.

You will pardon me if I find this whole thing a tab bit cynical.

Want some more subterfuge? Council's proposed changes reduced the salaries of administration officials, but it's not entirely clear how Mrs Evans arrived at the figures for the reduced pay. Did she look at salaries for similar positions in, say, Allentown, Reading, Wilkes-Barre and Erie? Or was this a case of just "cut $10,000 here, $15,000 there because I want to stick to to a political opponent"?

I'm actually for evaluating the salaries of administration employees. If a position in Scranton pays dramatically more than, say, a similar position in Reading, then maybe it should be reduced. All I want is a bit of logic to the process and proof that the cut is realistic. Oh, and having the cuts actually REDUCE THE CITY BUDGET BY A MEASURABLE AMOUNT would be nice as well.

One final point: health care costs went up an average of 8% last year, give or take a percentage or two. Mrs Evans and company are going to have to do some cutting alright for 2011, if only to make up for how much health care costs will go up for the city, which could be north of 10%. Mrs Evans could eliminate administration positions entirely and still not make up for just that increased cost. For someone who has accused the Mayor of playing fast and lose with the numbers, Mrs Evans isn't exactly inspiring confidence in her ability to act rationally. Rhetoric time is over and so are the political "gotcha" games.