Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither, and lose both.
-- Benjamin Franklin


There are times when you wish you could blink, and thereby take a snapshot of your surroundings, your current situation. It would never work of course, even the best picture couldn’t capture the perspective, let alone the ambiance, the sounds, the feel, of where you are.

Right now I am content. I am sitting in front of a chessboard playing over a game between Pal Benko and Tigran Petrosian played in 1952. I look over and two dogs are curled up in opposite corners of the sofa, and another is on a dog bed by my side. Richard Shindell is playing on the stereo. It is one of those moments that I wish I could preserve forever, and pull it back whenever I need it.

I have a glass of scotch and water on the table, and I can’t think of anything I want more than sitting here as I am now. It’s not much, but it’s happy, and whole, and comfortable, and I wish it could last forever.

Today and Healthcare

The issue of healthcare is not academic and impersonal, it is individual and personal.

Today I attended the funeral of a promising young man, age 26, who took his own life. I asked his closest relative if he had been seeing anyone for his ongoing depression, and the response was “He couldn’t afford that, he had no insurance.” He had been working part-time while trying to put himself through college.

To each of you, individually, who has railed in the last year or so against providing the universal healthcare which is available in every other civilized country: You, individually and personally, are to some extent responsible for this young man’s death. You, individually and personally, hyave no right to call yourself a Christian, Jew,or whatever your religious affiliation; none of them condone this abandonment and disregard of the needy. You, individually and personally, are fundamentally evil. And I, individually, will never forgive any of you, individually and personally, for whatever your role was in this young man’s death. The next time this happens, and it will, may it be your son, daughter, brother or sister laying in that bathtub with the bullet throught their head.

Want to respond? Argue? defend your beliefs? Don’t bother. You have absolutely nothing relevant to say.

What do these 49 countries have in common:

  • Macau
  • Andorra
  • Japan
  • Singapore
  • San Marino
  • Hong Kong
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • France
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Guernsey
  • Israel
  • Iceland
  • Anguilla
  • Cayman Islands
  • Bermuda
  • New Zealand
  • Italy
  • Gibraltar
  • Monaco
  • Liechtenstein
  • Spain
  • Norway
  • Jersey
  • Greece
  • Austria
  • Faroe Islands
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Luxembourg
  • Germany
  • Belgium
  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon
  • Virgin Islands
  • United Kingdom
  • Finland
  • Jordan
  • Isle of Man
  • Korea, South
  • European Union
  • Puerto Rico
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Saint Helena
  • Cyprus
  • Denmark
  • Ireland
  • Portugal
  • Wallis and Futuna
  • Answer: According to the CIA World Factbook they all have a higher life expectancy at birth than the United States.

    By comparison, here are the top 25 countries by per capita spending on health care in US dollars:

    # 1 United States: 4,271
    # 2 Switzerland: 3,857
    # 3 Norway: 3,182
    # 4 Denmark: 2,785
    # 5 Luxembourg: 2,731
    # 6 Iceland: 2,701
    # 7 Germany: 2,697
    # 8 France: 2,288
    # 9 Japan: 2,243
    # 10 Netherlands: 2,173
    # 11 Sweden: 2,145
    # 12 Belgium: 2,137
    # 13 Austria: 2,121
    # 14 Canada: 1,939
    # 15 Australia: 1,714
    # 16 Finland: 1,704
    # 17 Italy: 1,676
    # 18 United Kingdom: 1,675
    # 19 Israel: 1,607
    # 20 Ireland: 1,569
    # 21 United Arab Emirates: 1,428
    # 22 New Zealand: 1,163
    # 23 Spain: 1,043
    # 24 Greece: 965
    # 25 Portugal: 859

    Glad we’re getting our money’s worth.

What an embarassment

If the national Republican Party had an iota of respectability left, they lost it last night.

When George Bush stood in front of congress and told blatant lies about Iraq, I do not recall a single democrat waving sheaves of paper at him. I do not recall a single democrat wearing protest signs around their necks.

And I certainly do not recall a single democrat heckling him during the speech as South Carolina’s Joe Wilson did last night when he shouted out “you lie!” Has anyone ever been that disrespectful during a presidential address to congress? The man has apologized and his apology has been accepted. Nonetheless, he has revealed his true character as well as his ignorance. Several groups have fact-checked the issue and the results are readily available. The president was correct, Joe Wilson was boorish, ignorant and flat-out wrong.

It was not just Joe Wilson who embarassed himself and his constituents. Every single republican who waved papers or wore a sign crossed the line between civility and rabid, uncouth demagoguery. Every single one of them should be ashamed, and if they had any self-respect left, should resign.

What is it about the national republican party that they cannot address any issue rationally and with sincere discussion? How is it that they can see the speck in any democrat’s eye, but ignore the log in their own? How is it that sanctimonious Mark Sanford, after globe-trotting on the states money to visit his mistress, and then accusing his own leutenant governor of being gay, not get ridden out of town on a rail by his “conservative” supporters, or at least thrown out of office?

I recall a movement a few years ago for all the self-righteous bible-thumping fundamentalist conservatives to move to South Carolina, where they could become a majority and run the state with their own little “christian” ayatolahs. I say, given the likes of Joe Wilson and Mark Sanford, let them. Then build that border fence they want so much around the entire state.

We’d all be much better off.

A zenlike quaker story.

This story has been going around in the quaker community on the web, as a message that was given in meeting in England not long ago.

My first reaction was mystification. Slowly, it has begun to speak to me:

A Quaker, a warthog and a palm tree walk into a pub. Looking up from behind the counter, the bartender shouts, “Hey, we don’t serve your kind here!”

The three look at each other.

The Quaker thinks, “What a pity and shame the injustice these two face in the world. I must organize a committee,” and the Quaker immediately leaves the pub.

The warthog snorts, “I have been kicked out of better holes than this one!” and warthog stomps out the door.

The palm tree, which comes from a long line of palm trees that have weathered great storms, bending to withstand mighty winds, settles itself there in the pub. It takes in carbon dioxide and puts out oxygen. It cleanses the dingy air and flourishes.

The reason behind Palin’s resignation.

The current game among political junkies, both conservative and liberal, seems to be guessing why Sarah Palin chose to resign.

I’ve read lots of theories, but I think they all miss the obvious answer. Of the twenty-two republican governors she has, for months, maintained her lead as ther most bat-shit crazy of all of them. She just couldn’t let her crown pass to Sanford of South Carolina without a fight. He called, she raised.

So, we have two of twenty-two vying for the most barking-mad, two fries short of a happy meal, smart as bait, whackjob republican governor. (leaving out Bobby “exorcisms ‘R Us Jindal, Ahnold “I’ve groped every living female AND run the biggest state in the union into the ground” Swarzheneggar as also rans, and Mike “God tells me everything, I don’t need to think” Huckleberry, who is disqualified). Two out of twenty-two is roughly nine percent, a higher percentage than the rate of ANY variety of mental illness in the general population.

The purpose of life

My sister had this quote on her facebook page. I want to preserve a reference to it here.

“I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honorable, to be compassionate. It is, after all, to matter: to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.”

– Leo Rosten

Conservatives and violence

I’m not sure how I feel about Facebook. sometimes it seems a tremendous tool to keep in touch with friends and family and to see what’s going on in their lives. Sometimes it’s flooded with minutia that no one else could possibly be interested in. What would possibly make them think we care?

Yesterday I de-friended (neat word, but how else to express it?) my own brother. Not because I don’t want to stay in touch, and not because he posts boring minutia. Instead, I grew weary of his constant conservative screed.

What pushed me over the edge was a post to the effect of (I’m paraphrasing, since I can no longer read it) “When did walking into a museum and shooting people become a right-wing action? I’ve been a conservative all my life and I guess I didn’t get the memo.


When Rush Limbaugh calls for riots at the Democratic convention. “That’s what we want.”, it might be a hint.

When Ann Coulter wishes Timothy McVeigh had blown up The New York Times instead, it might be a hint.

When a whipped-up anti-abortion crusader kills a doctor in church, it might be a hint.

When Wiley Drake, a minister, radio host, and former vice-president of the Southern Baptist Convention states that his prayers have been answered regarding Doctor Tiller, and now he’s praying for the death of President Obama, it might be a hint.

When Michelle Malkin’s site has “Rope. Tree. Journalist, Some Assembly required,” It might be a hint.

When Jim Adkinson shoots up a Unitarian Church in Knoxville killing two people, because he “Hates Liberals and Gays”, and his car is full of writings by Bill O’Reilly and Michael Savage, It might be a hint.

When Laura Ingraham comments on a black leader’s visit to the White House by saying: “I hope they nailed down all the valuables,
it might be a hint.

When Ann Coulter says: “We need somebody to put rat poison in Justice Stevens’ creme brulee.” She added, “That’s just a joke, for you in the media,” you might begin to get the idea.

When people at McCain/Palin rallies routinely shout “Treason.”, “Kill Him,” “Off with his head” you might get an idea. When the supposed leaders of the Republican party deliberately whip this up by accusing their opponent of being involved with terrorists, it might be more than a hint.

When Glenn Beck says “I say we nuke the bastards. In fact, it doesn’t have to be Iran; it can be everywhere, anyplace that disagrees with me,” you might begin to suspect they approve of violence.

When conservative radio Host (and frequent Sean Hannity guest) Hal Turner says: “It is our intent to foment direct action against these individuals personally. These beastly government officials should be made an example of as a warning to others in government: Obey the Constitution or die,” and “If any state attorney, police department or court thinks they’re going to get uppity with us about this, I suspect we have enough bullets to put them down, too,” you might read that as a call to violence.

When authors such as Michael Savage (whose book was found in the car of Jim Adkinson, above) try to whip up hatred with lines like: “You know, when I see a woman walking around with a burqa, I see a Nazi. That’s what I see — how do you like that? — a hateful Nazi who would like to cut your throat and kill your children. Don’t give me this crap that they’re doing it out of a sacred ritual or rite. It’s not required by the Quran that a woman walk around in a seventh-century drape. She’s doing it to spit in your face. She’s saying, “You white moron, you, I’m going to kill you if I can.” ” you might expect someone to react to it.

When these books are not treated as the insane ramblings of of a deranged individual, but instead make the best seller list for weeks at a time, you might wonder who is reading them. I suspect very few of them are liberals.

when around the country the rednecks starting stocking up on guns and ammunition because a black man has been elected president, you might suspect a trend.

My brother doesn’t need to get a memo.

He needs to get a clue.

A man is known by the company he keeps. That old saw is true not only for physical friends, but for those with whom you align morally and philosophically.

The paragon of conservatives is probably spinning in his grave.

Ronald Reagan championed, and signed, the UN Convention on torture:

Article 1.
1. For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
2. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.

Article 2.
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Given this, signed by the paragon of republican ideology, how are Cheney, Rumsfield, Gonzales and a host of other not war criminals?

And just as an added tidbit, remember section VI, Clause 2 of the US Constitution:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

Homer doesn’t know the fix is in…