Monday, December 27, 2010

Yule Tree

Took down the Yule Tree today.  Messy job, but somebody had to do it.


                            Season's Spirit

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Time for an e-mail interview, Ma’am?

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If Time didn’t foresee the fallout from this boondoggle, it deserves the loss of respect it will surely get from this.

“This” is an item in by Alex Pareene.

Time gave she-who-will-not-be-named a cover and an interview conducted by e-mail?!?!

Trust, but verify.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Would you buy a used car from…

Mitch McConnell?

If you would, why?

In a New York Times article discussing the President’s concession to the Senatorial Republicans’ holding middle class tax cuts hostage, McConnell is quoted as saying nice things about Mr. Obama’s “openness to preventing tax hikes.”

The package will reportedly cost $900 billion dollars which will have to be borrowed.  At some point the $900 billion will have to be repaid—with  interest.  That’ll push the total cost of this package quite near the trillion dollar mark. 

Does McConnell think the re-payment will be made without raising taxes?

“Borrow and spend” makes much less sense than “tax and spend.”

Nothing implies a failure of the American education system more than the fact that the Republicans continue to get the public to vote against its own best interest.

Trust, but verify.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010


How’s this, Dear Gentle Reader(s), for frustration:  the U.S. Senate is on track to fail to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the 111th Congress.

What has the lip service of the President done to prevent this?  Not much.

It would be nice if Senator Reid would give something other than a sleep-inducing speech about Republican intransigence.  It would also be nice if chocolate covered cherries grew on trees. 

No single-payer health plan.  No movement towards more favorable policies for the middle class. 

Surviving the 8 years of G.W. (Bring on the torturers!) Bush’s administration wasn’t pleasant.  It was probably a good exercise for 10 years of Republican obsequiousness to the super wealthy (Obama’s last two and Romney’s eight) which are about to descend upon us.

22 months of frustration.


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Monday, November 22, 2010

Get Real

All this brouhaha, Dear Gentle Reader(s), about pat downs and scanners at the airports makes one wonder.

Do we really want the perceived enemy to know exactly what to expect at the security points in our airports?  Do we want him or her to know not to expect to have a full body scan or to know there will be a pat down which won’t disturb “junk”?

If someone is so convinced of the rightness of their cause that they will recruit pregnant women to carry out a suicide mission, do we think they won’t somehow ask, or trick, grandma to carry some explosives onto a plane? 

How often do we read of some unfortunate soul who kills a child of their own to save the child from an unhappy life?  Do we think that religious fanatics are less capable of such an atrocity?

If it keeps the potential bomber guessing, then whatever the Department of Homeland Security comes up with is pretty much fine with me.

Don’t give murders a road map.

Trust, but verify.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

An omitted step

Thomas Friedman, Dear Gentle Reader(s), is a provocative writer.  One can’t help but think while reading his columns, agreeing and/or disagreeing.  Today’s on-line column edition, “Long Live Lady Luck,” is a prime example.

Friedman writes about how lucky we, in the U.S., were to have escaped 5 efforts to bring, once again, death to our shores via Al Qaeda plotting.  He also writes about what we should do to stop “the savage madness .”  As usual with most of the writing found in similar arguments, Friedman chooses not to address the subject of Koranic interpretation which is used for justification for this “madness.”

Friedman writes,

When Muslim jihadists are ready to just gun down or blow up unarmed men, women and children in the midst of prayer — Muslim or Christian — it means there are no moral, cultural or religious restraints left on the Islamic fringe. It’s anything goes. And it’s becoming routine.

Then he discusses moral and cultural restraints, but not religious.

Christians believe that Jesus came to reform the Abrahamic religion of the day.  Perhaps that underlying belief makes it easier for Christians and some Jews to “modernize” their religions than it is for moderate Muslims to do the same for theirs.

Religious writings were written for a specific people at a specific time, dealing with specific problems.  We choose to believe that those writings are applicable to our own day, but to insist that the intervening years of development of human understanding of the human condition count for nothing could well be as blasphemous and arrogant an insistence as anything ever. 

Change is part of The Plan.

Writing is, in essence, metaphor.

We should remember that, we should teach that—especially if we want to address all the ways to end the “madness.”

Trust, but verify.

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Monday, November 1, 2010

A quick question

It’ll never catch on, Dear, Gentle Reader(s), but what do you think would be the result if, at every Congressional committee hearing which allowed, or requested, non-Federal government testimony, to have the very first question for each testifier be, “How much money, and to whom, have you contributed to a Federal election campaign, either at the general election level or the primary election level, in the past five years?”

That would be one way to keep track of monies expended in political campaigns, as well as to whom it was directed.

Cui bono—who benefits?  Until we know that, we don’t know enough.

Trust, but verify.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

DWF (Driving while floating)

Perhaps it’s different for others, but from my personal experience, driving home after  a couple of tokes at a friend’s house some 35 years ago was a slow-motion experience.  I found myself stopping for stop signs in the middle of the block, and deciding to move forward after much deliberation of the pros and coms with myself.

And I know it was slow-motion because it took me 20 minutes to make the 5 minute drive—there’s almost no place in Gainesville, Florida (Go Gators!), that’s more than 5 minutes away from any place else.  (Of course, I haven’t been back in 35 years.)

When I taught speech to police and sheriff officers in Columbia, Tennessee, they would often joke about the local “hippies” who were blocking traffic on local roads with their road scorching speeds of 25 miles per hour.

When people show you a picture of a smashed-up car and speak of the dangers of driving under the influence of weed, look askance.  That car could well have been hit by an alcoholic-influenced driver—which trumps a marijuana-influenced driver.

Cui Bono--Follow the money, Dear, Gentle Reader(s), it will tell you who will benefit with the continued “drug wars.”

Trust, but verify.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

ALEC—and Arizona and Prisons

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There’s a new corporation acronym on the block, and it’s not a comic actor, by a long shot.  Meet ALEC, Dear Gentle Reader(s), and be afraid.  Be very afraid.  (Good tie-in for Halloween, eh wot?)

Here’s a rather chilling excerpt from NPR’s website:

NPR spent the past several months analyzing hundreds of pages of campaign finance reports, lobbying documents and corporate records. What they show is a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry.

According to NPR, the genesis of Arizona’s immigrant law, SB1070 occurred last December at a conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council—ALEC.  An Arizona pol was at the conference, and the rest of the story we all well know.

Admittedly, Capitalism has brought us to a very good life, but every once in a while we surely have to wonder about making profit off of the misery of those who are less fortunate.

Or not?

Trust, but verify.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reading Comprehension Test

Wow!  Here’s a headline from The New York Times: Democrats Retain Edge in Spending on Campaigns; and this one is from the website Politico: Dems getting outspent? Not so fast.

So, the Democrats are outspending the Republicans?  Isn’t that counter-intuitive to what we’re hearing about all those millions being spent on negative ads against Democratic candidates?

Well, yes and no.

The stories go on to say that the Democratic Party has more money than the Republican Party. 

Really, though, what would be the point of the Republicans trying to gather money when there are others, secret others, doing the work for them?

And why would anyone who wants to keep their wealth bother to contribute large sums to “regulated” political fund raisers when they can get a possibly bigger bang for their buck by giving without having to admit publicly their largesse?

There can be little comfort for Democratic candidates with the headlines this morning.

Ah, Mr. Justice Kennedy.  What have you wrought?  (And how long will it be before you admit your error in judgment?)

So, what have we learned today, Dear Gentle Reader(s)?  Read beyond headlines; sometimes they don’t accurately reflect the whole story.

Trust, but verify.

p.s. Gold Star to those who can spot the spelling error at the Politico website!

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Words have meaning…Continued

And the Juan Williams confab continues.

In a post today, Andrew Sullivan writes…”He said it was legitimate to feel fear when someone in Muslim garb is on a plane.” 

Not quite.  Williams said, “…when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

Now, DGR(s), is fear, which Sullivan used, equal to worried or to nervous?

If Williams had refused to get on the plane with those dressed “in Muslim garb,” then it could be argued that the two words he used are, indeed, equivalent; but he doesn’t indicate in the interview with O’Reilly that he canceled his trip.  The presumption must be that he rode along with those in the “garb,” albeit a touch fidgety.

So, how about Sullivan’s position?  Was Williams really legitimizing fear of Muslims?

One would be hard pressed to think so.

It’s easy to be nervous around anyone who sports religious symbolism in their garb or accessories.  I’m nervous around guys walking around with crosses in their lapels, but I don’t fear them.  I certainly am more aware of what they do when they’re near.

Their presence is always a good time to

Trust, but verify.

(I stand by my support of NPR; their decision was based on their standards about differentiating between reporters and commenters.)

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Um…Say what? (Or, do words have meaning?)

Dear, Sweet Juan Williams has found a new permanent home, and good luck to him.

His firing from NPR, and subsequent commentary about that firing, however, raises an old question: do words have meaning?

For instance, when Williams worked for NPR, as little as three days ago, he was a “reporter.”  Now, Michelle Malkin, in a column published in, begins with “commentator Juan Williams.”

And that, Dear Gentle Reader,* is the problem.

In NPR’s eyes, Williams’ “I get nervous” moved him into the category of commentator and out of the category of reporter.

Reporters need to be as objective as possible so that those of us relying on them have the sense that facts are being offered for our edification and consideration.

Otherwise we have entertainment, but not material with which we can make informed decisions.

Listening to some clips of Williams on O’Reilly’s show last night (Sorry, no citation available at this time), one might think Williams was ready for the change in title.

NPR had good reason to let Mr. Williams move on to more lucrative pastures (a lot more money is made bloviating than reporting…alas).

Ladies and Gentlemen, we present the erstwhile reporter, Juan Williams.

Trust, but verify.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010


The current brouhaha about Juan Williams’ nervousness in an airport is generating a little heat. 

While we bruit about various rationales supporting or decrying the fact that Williams lost his NPR job, how about if we take a longer view?

Do you suppose the average Iraqi or Afghani, walking down the street is or is not nervous these days?  Talk about nervousness!

Frankly, I think three or four skinheads are scary…three or four black guys with “dreads” are scary…biker girls are scary.

It’s a scary world out there.

Trust, but verify.  And keep a sharp eye out.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Well, yeah, Eddie, but…

Eddie Long, a Bishop, has denied charges of sexual misconduct with young men of his congregation.

You might have seen television coverage of his denial from the pulpit yesterday. 

Here is the gist of it:

I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man, but I am not the man being portrayed on television That’s not me. That is not me.

I am not going to try this case in the media, it will be tried in the court of justice and decided in the court of justice. Please hear this: I’ve been accused. I’m under attack. I want you to know as I said earlier I am not a perfect man. … But this thing I’m going to fight. I feel like David against Goliath, but I’ve got five rocks and I haven’t thrown one yet.

Notice Long doesn’t deny the charges.  He’s going to fight them, but he doesn’t deny them.

Long has made a lot of money preaching against gay rights.  What does that tell you?

Long needs to remember the Biblical admonition: For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?

Trust, but verify.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

A block to inevitability?

Andrew Sullivan linked this from a posting by Walter Shapiro:

…the Republican National Committee recently voted to switch to proportional representation (the system that was used by the Democrats during the protracted Obama-versus-Hillary Clinton battle) for all primaries held during the first two months of the 2012 season. What that means is that it will very difficult for a divisive candidate like Palin to sweep the table before the party establishment (buffeted though it may have been recently) can regroup.

Could it be the first salvo (albeit a quiet salvo, who knew about this?) in the Republican establishment’s skirmish with La Palin?

Trust, but verify.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Who leaves out?

Over at the Los Angeles Times, Robin Abcarian has a column entitled “For Muslims, Koran is ‘light from God to humanity.’”

Abcarian gives the standard info about how the Koran is too often misunderstood by non-Muslims.  Interesting, as far as it goes; but the article ends with a bit of obliviousness.

One Akbar S. Ahmed is quoted by Abcarian:

"The Koran is often criticized in the West by people pulling out one verse or another to establish its violent nature," said Ahmed. "They will say the Koran says 'Fight the Jews and Christians and Muslim renegades,' but they leave out the next line — 'But make peace because God prefers peace….' "

What Ahmed didn’t admit, or Abcarian didn’t include, is that those Islamist murderers who kill far more fellow muslims than they do any other religionists and non-extremists, seem to “leave out the next line” far more often.

Get it together, Akbar.

Trust, but verify.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Um…sure about that, Ruth?

Ruth Marcus, astute columnist for The Washington Post and occasional participant on The News Hour, came up with a “Huh?” moment in her Labor Day posting in the Post.

In an otherwise dead-on as usual piece on Palin, Marcus writes, “No male politician accused a female reporter of being hormonal or frigid.”

That sentence ought to be easily disproved.  Perhaps it can’t be, but I would be mightily surprised.

If not accusing, at least wondering by men about various female biological functions and influences is so ubiquitous in our culture that it’s hard to conceive that somehow female reporters are exempt, by anyone.

Apologizing in advance if I leapt too soon, Here’s to you Ms Marcus.

Trust, but verify.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

The occasional pearl

While slogging through the muckroom email the other day, I happened onto a column written by Diana West.  Ms West has on occasion written some columns with which I totally agree, and some which are not so compelling.

This week’s column, available at her website here, caught my eye because of its underlying subject, the so called, and mis-named, Ground Zero Mosque.  (The project has been re-named by its proponents as Park 51.)  What follows is a lesson in the advantages of close reading and accuracy in citation.

At one point West writes,

The crucial fact is, whether we are brutalized by acts of jihad or confused by acts of dawa (proselytizing), their goal is identical: more Islamic law. And this end will always justify the means as seen, for example, back in 2005 when hundreds of acclaimed Islamic clerics and heads of state gathered in Amman, Jordan. There, quite anti-climactically, they issued the "Amman Message" that declares that no Muslim who adheres to a recognized school of Islam may be labeled an apostate. Subtext: Not even Osama bin Laden could be, in effect, ex-communicated or otherwise blackballed or removed from good standing by these Islamic authorities. One of the 552 signatories was Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.  [Rauf is the imam of the Park 51 project.]

The problem with the quote is that a reading of the Amman Message doesn’t support West’s claim.

An inquiring email to West produced a prompt response:

Here you go:

(1) Whosoever is an adherent to one of the four Sunni schools (Mathahib) of Islamic jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i and Hanbali), the two Shi’i schools of Islamic jurisprudence (Ja`fari and Zaydi), the Ibadi school of Islamic jurisprudence and the Thahiri school of Islamic jurisprudence, is a Muslim. Declaring that person an apostate is impossible and impermissible. Verily his (or her) blood, honour, and property are inviolable. Moreover, in accordance with the Shaykh Al-Azhar’s fatwa, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare whosoever subscribes to the Ash`ari creed or whoever practices real Tasawwuf (Sufism) an apostate. Likewise, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare whosoever subscribes to true Salafi thought an apostate.
            Equally, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare as apostates any group of Muslims who believes in God, Glorified and Exalted be He, and His Messenger (may peace and blessings be upon him) and the pillars of faith, and acknowledges the five pillars of Islam, and does not deny any necessarily self-evident tenet of religion.

West’s opening link brings up a discussion section of the Amman Message, which, indeed, does support her claim.  There’s a problem.  The supporting material does not appear in the Amman Message itself.  On the site’s home page is a link to “”Three Points of the Amman Message,” where you will find her source.

The Message itself does, however, contain this: 

…the origin of divine religions is one, and Muslims believe in all Messengers of God and do not differentiate between any of them. Denying the message of any one of them is a deviation from Islam. That is because the origin of divine religions is one, and Muslims believe in all Messengers of God and do not differentiate between any of them. Denying the message of any one of them is a deviation from Islam" which is in the original document.  [emphasis added]

  Maybe the sentence “Denying the message of any one of them is a deviation from Islam” could be interpreted as the basis for the Point West quoted. 

Religious writing is often ambiguous.  Personal essays should be less so. 

There’s a lot to be learned.  While West is correct in that there are questions to be asked about claims for tolerance, there are also questions to be asked about where the answers might be found.

There are many references in the Amman Message to the evils of extremism, but “Denying the message of any one of…” could very well negate the effect of those references.

I owe Ms West a debt.  Had she been more precise in her column, I wouldn’t have gone to such lengths to check her facts; and I wouldn’t have read, albeit cursorily, the Amman Message, some parts of which are disturbing to my Western mind.

Trust, but verify.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Sometimes, it’s just tooooo easy…

Every once in a while, the right wingers say things which make everyone else stop in amazement.  We blink, we shake our heads in amazement, we smile in amusement.

The Huffington Post blog presents us with one such moment.  In case you’re not on Huff Post’s email list, I offer you:  Bill O’Reilly Blasts Kim Kardashian for Justin Bieber Pics.

Delightful quotes:

"I think it's gross," Margaret Hoover said on "The O'Reilly Factor" Friday night. "It's like a pre-pubescent 16-year-old having an affair with a celebutante!"

When Fox Business contributor Rebecca Diamond said the photo shoot was "every 16-year-old male's dream," O'Reilly took exception.

"I wanted to be a baseball player [when I was 16]. I didn't want to hang around with Kim Kardashian," he said. "I had a baseball bat and a glove and ice skates! That's what I was doing.

Who’s Margaret Hoover?  What world did she inhabit as a 16-year-old?  Did she consider herself “pre-pubescent”?  Honestly.

Oh, maybe Bill-o remembers himself as pre-pubescent; you know, a 10-year-old who’d rather play with a bat than with icky girls.  Though, there is the phallic element to a bat; a confused 16-year-old?

You know, I don’t believe a word of it.  I think they’re just trying to stir some…stuff.  Surely given the opportunity, especially with his harassment history, 16-year-old Bill-o might’ve behaved differently than the 60 plus year-old nascent senior citizen remembers.

Bill-o just needed to fill air time.

Trust, but verify.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Debit Cards and Big Bank Profits

They want your money, but you already knew that, didn’t you, Dear Gentle Reader(s)?

David Lazarus, in today’s Los Angeles Times, limns the latest in the on-going struggle between banks and their customers, between getting and keeping, so to speak.

It seems Wells Fargo and Bank of America, Citibank, and Chase debit your checking account in the order of high-to-low amounts rather than chronological entries.  This means you’d better keep a very close eye on your checking account, or you could face stiff penalties if you keep most of your money in savings rather than savings.

Wells Fargo just got fined for doing that in a questionable way.  W-F plans to appeal.  According to Lazarus, the others don’t have any plans to change the practice.

Why people use debit cards is beyond me, but if you like it, make sure you’re keeping close track of balances.  And remember, that big mortgage payment will hit the balance before the $5 for cleaning.  And the cleaning could end up costing $40.

Lazarus points out that this practice is not yet included in the new banking rules.  He suggests lawmakers look into it now.  If you agree, get out out the pen and paper and send in those cards and letters, boys and girls. 

Trust, but verify.  And write your Congressperson.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Zero Tolerance

At last!  Someone’s said it:  “…zero tolerance is a dodge. It's a way of shedding the responsibility to weigh all dimensions of a decision in the real world, not according to some rigid rule.”

Thanks to Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times for finally putting that out for all to see.

Zero tolerance is a foolishness from which we should be liberated.  Assess facts; make an informed decision; and the rest of us should trust the decision-makers, after, of course verifying.

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

There’s a price to be paid…

When one encounters “error 80072efe,” and it isn’t pretty.

It first showed up, Dear Gentle Reader(s), sometime after June 22, 2010.  That’s the last time Windows Update was able to access the machine.  And the last time I had true peace of mind.  (By this morning it was pieces of mind—scattered hither and yon.)

For more than a month I ignored it.  But it didn’t go away on its own.  Then I contacted a local fix-it, but he didn’t seem eager to get into detail, not, especially for $25.00 an hour. 

Then I went online and bought a program which would solve the 80072efe problem “in two minutes.”  $58.00 later the little snip was still hanging around, gloating behind his blue error 80072efe.  #@!^&!

Another local fix-it, at $95.00 an hour was engaged.  He left, a little defeated, telling me the best solution might be to wipe the hard drive clean and start over.  He was here for 2 hours but only charged me $50.00 “for diagnosis.”  (The first note of some small success!)

Ensued were two weeks with e-mail exchanges between myself and two technicians working for Microsoft.  They were very pleasant.  Good English.  Seemed knowledgeable.  No luck with their suggestions.

Question:  If one Googles (or Bings?) “error 80072efe,” one gets “About 24,900 results (0.25 seconds)” dating back to “ Last post: Jan 26, 2008;”  wouldn’t one think that Microsoft would have come up with a solution for this “error?” 

Well, they haven’t.

On to the local Office Max with a little consulting with some quite young and knowledgeable computer-types to buy an update.  The end is in sight!


Not content with merely wiping the hard drive clean, since one is going to all that trouble, one might as well upgrade from Vista to Windows 7.  “Hurry!  Hurry! Hurry!  Step Right Up, Folks!  Getcher easy-to-install programs Right Here!  Hurry!  Hurry!  That’s it, Ol’ Geezer!  Step Right Up!”

24 hours later, the deed is done.  Not without mishaps.

It seems not only must the hard drive be wiped clean, it must also be re-installed before Windows 7 can be overlaid.  That means hours of downloads to bring Vista up to speed.  Over and over the Windows 7 installation failed because of the lack of “Vista Service Pack 1.” 

You can’t find a download of Vista Service Pack 1.  Well, not true, entirely.  There is a download of Vista Service Pack 1 available, but “Do not download this for one machine only.”

Wouldn’t you think (note how frustrating this is—not using “one” anymore) that Microsoft would have thought all this out prior to shipping out copies of Windows 7?  They knew Vista Service Pack 1 is essential to a Vista upgrade to Windows 7.  They had to know it; they told me on the disk it had to be in the machine. 

Why didn’t they put it in the program in the first place?  Or at least have the program send out one of their little virtual messengers to get it during the process?

But they didn’t.  And SP1 (it somewhere lost Vista) finally showed up.  And the download/installation of Windows went on apace. 

So far so good.

Peace of mind is restored.

I hope.

Trust, DGR(s), but Verify.

--especially anything Microsoft tells you.

P.S. If you see “error 80072efe,” immediately buy a new machine. 


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Monday, July 19, 2010

Wanted: Spell Check for frmr gov, near veep

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Of all the gaffes, this is the best one in years:

Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate

The idea of a new verb, to refudiate, might be a good one. 

Let’s hope the Republican electorate puts it to good use in the near future.

Trust, but verify.  (And Spell Check can help with that—although maybe Facebook doesn’t have that app.)

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

La papiere grizzly…WTF?!?

Much, Dear Gentle Reader(s), is being made of S. Palin’s recent “Mama Grizzly” speech, with emphasis being given to the number of people who have watched portions, at least, of the speech.

Some 368,000 of us have tuned into the You Tube, it seems.  However, only some 33,000 have watched from the vantage of her Facebook page.

I watched, I confess, out of a sense of knowing the “enemy.”

Everlasting shame on John McCain and William Kristol for unleashing this political nightmare on the United States of America.

(And everlasting shame on the educational system, of which I played a part for 35 years, for not preparing the American public’s ability to spot dubious logic.)

Trust, but Verify.

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

She’s a-comin’ round the mount’n

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Anybody notice how.., um…white…the Palin Grizzlies ad is?  (It’s easy to spot only 1 woman of color.  How many can you find?)

And the GOPers wonder why the ethnic demographics are going against them.

It’s time to be thoughtful, folks; not emotional.

Trust, but verify.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thank you, the Atlantic and…

…intrepid reporter Conor Friedersdorf for publishing and holding an interview with Mark Oppenheimer which contains this gem:

The most common flaws in religion reporting are the same as common flaws in all reporting: lack of skepticism, taking the speakers' words for it. We always have to be skeptical, even of monks and priests and imams and rabbis. And we have to remember that power corrupts, so the people we are likely to revere may be the most likely to fail us.

Was ever published a better rationale for the phrase

Trust, but verify?

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010


The kerfuffle about General McChrystal has hit the editorial and op-ed pages of The New York Times.  The paper’s editorial staff, Maureen Dowd, Thomas Friedman, and Max Boot (Max Boot?!?) all hold forth today, June 23, 2010.

All have interesting points, and they vary.

It’s a little amusing to note that there is a little blurb at the end of Boot’s commentary.  It reads: “Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is writing a history of guerrilla warfare and terrorism.”

Mr. Boot once wrote regularly for the Los Angeles Times.  He’s a conservative.  To learn that he’s writing “a history,” and remembering recent revisionist practices of certain members of the right wing (not Mr. Boot himself), causes one immediately to think, “Well, I hope he’s not re-writing the history.”  You know, in case “revisionism” is catching.

Trust, but verify.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

If…(and a big “if” at that)

…when all is said and done and “gay marriage” is a norm for the United States, will people see that their religious leaders snookered them for a long time about gays and lesbians?

And when the non-gays realize the snookering occurred, will they then begin to ask, “What else have they been lying about?”  Resurrection, Virgin birth, rewards in Paradise, Chosen People, Nirvana?

Could that be the end of religious corruption as we have come to know it in the 21st century?

Trust, but verify.

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Monday, June 14, 2010


Here, dear Gentle Reader(s), is a quote from The New York Times’ Ross Douthat:  “the peculiar left-wing misogyny that greeted Palin’s candidacy.”

Misogyny greeted Palin’s candidacy?  Really?  How?  When?  Wasn’t Palin’s introduction back in August, 2008, a “Wow!” moment?  Didn’t she walk up those steps full of confidence and energy, ready to take on the job?  Yes. 

True, just a couple of weeks later, when the true Palin readiness to step into the Oval Office became more apparent (she wasn’t), the shine of her candidacy began to fade, but was that misogyny?

How was it misogyny that the first true blow to Palin’s luster come with the Katie Couric interview?  That was a female journalist asking, appropriately, somewhat substantive questions of the candidate, and the candidate was woefully unprepared to provide answers. 

That’s not misogyny, that’s preparation—and lack of preparation.

Douthat, sadly, has fallen into the pattern of the naysayers of “conservatism” of the early 21st century:  History doesn’t quite fit?  Re-write it.

Trust, but verify.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Education Reform—the missing element

Alas, Dear Gentle Reader(s), the search for a meaningful education reform program continues, unabated, without a reference to the most meaningful relationship in the equation—parental guidance.

For example, in the latest edition of The Atlantic, July/August 2010, David Brooks on page 41 pens that the “core issue” is “the relationship between teacher and student.  It is mushy to say so, but people learn from people they love.”  Brooks goes on for three more paragraphs, but not once is there a mention of parents.  Do children not love their parents?

Bash unions and their allegedly self-protecting rules all you want; pour money into the system; fire every school superintendent; replace all school boards with correct-thinking people; turn every building and campus into a charter school; nothing will bring results without a concurrent program to involve the parents in a more meaningful way than merely suggesting unplugging televisions, game systems, and cell phones.

In my 35 years of teaching, all of the better students, regardless of GPAs, had a firm and involved hand at home.  All of them.  The less-than-better students and I struggled as best we could, with varying results.

When it comes to education reform, check that the package offered has a parental involvement program.  If not, don’t support it.  It won’t work.

Trust, but verify.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

SCOTUS—syn. Scrotum; tea-bag

According to The New York Times, the Roberts’ Gang has once again screwed the middle and lower classes’ abilities to run for office.

The Scrotum Roberts court has struck down the Arizona law intended to level the financial playing field for candidates for office.

This means that the Carly Fiorinas of Arizona have a free hand to buy elected offices, thus freezing moderate Republicans out of the field.

SCROTUMSCOTUS has taken similar steps recently.  The Times editorial lays them out for you. 

Check it out, and support Mr. Obama’s choices for the Federal court system.

Trust, but verify.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Good start, but too few…

Again, Dear Gentle Reader(s), there’s some interesting news out of CENTCOM

It seems that last month some religious leaders in Riyadh, a Council of Senior Scholars, issued a fatwah (“A fatwa is a religious opinion, issued by an Islamic scholar concerning Islamic law.”) which “specifically condemns and outlaws the financing of terrorism as a violation of Islamic law.”

It’s about time that the Saudis issued such a condemnation.  A Google search reveals many citations regarding fatwahs issued against terrorism, but those coming out of Saudia Arabia have been too few and too far between.

Now, if the governments of that part of the world would only take steps to make these fatwahs effective.

Until then, we have no recourse other than to

Trust, but verify.

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Friday, April 2, 2010

A problem of 24 hour instant information on the internet availability

Chairman Admiral Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the latest to fall victim to a 24-hour news cycle. 

On April 1, 2010, US Centcom’s newsletter sends out a story with this headline:  “Mullen: U.S.-Afghan partnership stronger than ever.”

On April 2, The New York Times reports that on April 1 Afghan President Karzai gave a blistering speech against, among other entities, The United States.

A selected Karzai quote with commentary:  “In this situation there is a thin curtain between invasion and cooperation-assistance,” said Mr. Karzai, adding that if the perception spread that Western forces were invaders and the Afghan government their mercenaries, the insurgency “could become a national resistance.”

A comment, and embedded explanation, from former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Galbreith:  “Mr. Galbraith, who was dismissed by the United Nations after the disputed election, called Mr. Karzai’s speech ‘so absurd that I considered it an April Fools’ Day joke.’ He also said Mr. Karzai’s speech ‘underscores how totally unreliable this guy is as an ally.’

So Admiral Mullen’s comment:  “…never has our partnership … been stronger, or the challenges we face, clearer” seems a bit injudicious, given the speed with which events alter realities in this electronic age.

‘Tis a mess.

Trust, but verify.   (But how?)

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The more we know…

…the better it sounds.

The Health Care Reform bill signed into law this morning has some features which have not been given much airing.  Ezra Klein, over at a Washington Post blog, offers this:

“Transparency and the health-care reform bill”  …hospitals will have to post prices. Insurance products will be presented with standardized information, consumer ratings and quality measures. The payments physicians take from drug and device companies will be in a public database. There will be independent funding for research on the relative effectiveness of different treatments. Some of these changes are small and some are big, but put together, the system is going to become a lot more visible in the coming years.

This is what the Republicans, such as my own Representative Bono (BoNO), find to be “socialism?”  They say “NO” to this transparency?

Trust, but verify.

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Not asking…

Today’s question, Dear Gentle Reader(s), is why doesn’t anyone from the cadre of supporters of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” bother asking a basic question.

For example, in today’s The New York Times, one Merrill A. McPeak pens a few thoughts under the headline “Don’t Change ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’”  The former Air Force Chief of Staff rests his case on this sentence:

Seventeen years ago, the chiefs — all four of us, plus the chairman and vice chairman — concluded that allowing open homosexuality in the ranks would probably damage the cohesiveness of our combat units.

Then he proceeds to argue against several other elements in the current discussion—rights, costs, etc.

What he doesn’t do is offer any evidence to bolster his “probably damage cohesiveness” statement.

As a matter of fact, his only other approach to this issue is found in the opening of the third subsequent paragraph,

Perhaps young American men and women will fight better when openly gay soldiers are included in the ranks, though I’ve heard no one make this claim.

McPeak should ask why no one makes this claim.  Perhaps it’s because the answer is self-evident based on the experiences of three of our most steadfast allies, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom, all of which have no policies which discriminate against sexual orientation in their armed forces.

McPeak uses probably and perhaps, but not whether.  He ought to ask whether unit cohesion would be damaged or not.  So far our allies haven’t halted their programs; that ought to indicate a bit of evidence.

The answer is there, General.  But you have to ask the question—if you’re truly interested.

Trust, but verify.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Quo Vadis, Washington Post?

The Washington Post has come under fire lately for taking on a bit of a rightward bias on its editorial pages.  In an on-line, unsigned editorial one might find some fairly damning evidence to support that charge.  In it, the Post defends the recent decision of the Office of Professional Responsibility in the Justice Department to say “tsk-tsk” to the Yoo, Bybee infamous torture memos.

No punishment for torture memos' authors, but no exoneration, either” might sound well-reasoned, for a short piece, in the mind of a neo-con or tea bagging partisan, but it ought to raise an eyebrow or two with almost everyone else.

You might, Dear Gentle Reader(s), read the editorial for yourself.  I just want to quote from the final sentence in which the WaPo writer stated these “…lawyers provided cover for reprehensible and abusive techniques that stained the country's reputation and diminished its moral standing in the world.”

The Nuremberg trials settled what should be done to such lawyers under those circumstances, didn’t it?  Perhaps not, suggests this editorial.

Should we follow the lead of The Washington Post in this case?

Trust, but verify.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

More than combat

Technorati Tags:

Centcom, Dear Gentle Reader(s), does more than engage with enemy combatants.  It also assists other governments in quite esoteric assignments.

Recently a Navy dive team was sent to Lebanon to assist in recovering the wreckage of an Ethiopian air liner which crashed recently.

Read about it here.

Support the troops everywhere.

Trust, but verify.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Gates in Paris—Iran nukes

Centcom reports on Defense Secretary’s trip to Paris where he continues to raise warnings over Iran’s nuclear research activities.  His trip has been pretty much under the MSM radar, although some mention can be found on the blogosphere.  Our problem, Dear Gentle Reader(s), is trying to ferret out the relevant info.

Centcom quotes Gates: “I think that everybody’s interest is in seeing this issue resolve without resorting to conflict. But it makes it all the more important. We have to face the reality that if Iran continues and develops nuclear weapons it almost certainly will provoke proliferation in the Middle East. That’s a huge danger.”

It certainly is.

The question remains, how do we address the problem?

Trust, but verify.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Uh Oh

Alas, Dear Gentle Reader(s), the Iranian nuclear situation is raising its very ugly head in new quarters; that is discomfiting.

The US Centcom website reports on a recent meeting with Defense Secretary Gates and the Turkish Chief of General Staff in which Gates raises the issue of Iranian intransigency on curbing their nuclear ambitions.  Gates warns, “Iran is in violation of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, and I think there is a very great worry that if Iran … proceeds with this program unconstrained, there is a very real danger of proliferation here in the region that would make it even more unstable and more unsafe for everyone."  He adds, “the response [of other governments] has been quite disappointing [to Obama administration warnings].”

Turkey is our linchpin ally in the area. 

Be alert.  Be informed.

Trust, but verify.

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Saturday, January 9, 2010


Ah, Dear Gentle Reader(s), the foray into commercialization was short.
The folks, ever eager to improve their product, make it easy to add ads (!) to your blog.  Simply click the "Monetize" button in the settings section.  So, why not try it?  Pick up a few sheckles along the way towards universal education and edification.
Then one looks at the ads by Google.
Eeek!  In a blog about reforming Islam there appear ads inviting you, DGR(s), to visit websites of what appears to be Christianist churches!
Oh, dear.
The good folk at blogger, though, makes it just as easy to unMonetize, with another click of the button.
Ads gone.
The world is safe.
Trust, but verify.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

It’s a slow start, but…

There is finally public movement towards engaging the moderate Muslim community in the struggle against Islamic extremists. 

Over at The Daily Beast, Leslie H. Gelb has an excellent commentary, “Only Muslims Can Stop Muslim Terror.”

And there’s also this Religion and Ethics Newsweekly website which contains a partial transcript from one of their sessions with one Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles.

Here are some quotes from the discussion between Bob Abernethy and Mr. Al-Marayati:

AL-MARAYATI: There’s a rise of the mob mentality. You read the comments on a number of stories, you get the emails, you get the phone calls, and I feel, unfortunately, that the level of hostility against Islam and Muslims is at an all-time high, and I’m very concerned.

ABERNETHY: Many Americans think that Muslims leaders in this country and in the Middle East should be doing a lot more to combat and condemn the interpretation of Islam that is so popular among many young radical extremists. Do you agree with that?

AL-MARAYATI: Well, I think that we as Muslims have done a lot in terms of the message against extremism. Our problem is that we have not been able to develop an effective way to get the message out. We don’t have the capacity in terms of public relations, if you will, in terms of making our message of moderation more newsworthy than the sensationalist message of extremism.

ABERNETHY: Do you think there is a role for the Unites States government in combating the ideology of radical Islam?

AL-MARAYATI: The Unites States government will not be able to defeat ideology of radicalism. It needs the Muslim American community in partnership, for those people unfortunately who are being recruited by extremists, they don’t regard the United States government as an authority, but they regard Muslim leaders as authorities. So it is our task, Muslims, who will help win the victory against radicalism and extremism.

It would’ve been nice if the Muslim Public Affairs Council in L.A. had been more forthcoming with their efforts.  But now that the information is in the open, it’s time for all of us to assist them as much as we are able.

(And, yes, we can continue to fight our own extremists in Judaic and Christian theology.)

We cannot win this war against religious fundamental extremists without the help of moderates.

Trust, but verify.

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