Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Various & Sundry: in which quite a few people make very good points

Hello! I'm back. And we have much to discuss. But at the moment, here's a few odds and endy things I wanted to share.

What do you say to a person who asks if suicide is a legitimate option for someone "who genuinely is tired and doesn't want to continue"? I thought this was a terrific answer.

I've never really thought much one way or the other about Libertarianism, but Lance Mannion sure has and has the rant to prove it. "You don’t have to believe in no government," he writes, "but if you aren’t at least trying to take yourself off the grid and off the dole, then I’ve got to conclude that your professed libertarianism is just a high-fallutin’, long-winded, and, usually, very boring way to complain about your taxes." He may have a point.

I've started following the blog Our Valued Customers which reports on snippets of conversation from a comic book store.
He may have a point, too.

Ta-nehisi Coates also has a mighty good rant going with his post on The Selective Amnesia of Post-War Europe, which is not quite the stuck-in-the-past post you might think it is. (Or maybe I'm just particularly close to it, having recently finished the post-war-set Bernie Gunther mystery A Quiet Flame, which I'll get around to reviewing one of these days.) This was the key quote for me: "'The past' is whatever contributes to a society's moral debts. 'Heritage' is everything else." Say it with me now: He may have a point.

Although this article is ostensibly about the dangers of playing it safe, it's also an excellent example of keeping the long view in order to foster change in an organization. The writer, who encourages organizations to take risks, also (I think) learned the important lesson: Change happens in mysterious ways.

In a fit of self-promotion, and because I'm pleased with how it turned out, I'd like to pass on a blog post I wrote on 4 reasons youth hate confirmation classes. You'd hate them too.

Go, Red Sox! Check out this amazing Red Sox Bento Box lunch, with an apple carved into a baseball:

Finally, seeing as it's almost noon, I recommend the essay On Lying In Bed by G.K. Chesterton. Is it immoral to lie about in the morning? "Instead of being regarded, as it ought to be, as a matter of personal convenience and adjustment, it has come to be regarded by many as if it were a part of essential morals to get up early in the morning. It is upon the whole part of practical wisdom; but there is nothing good about it or bad about its opposite." He most certainly has a point.

And did I mention? Go Red Sox!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Various & Sundry: The arc of the moral universe and its fashion requirements

Yesterday, I watched Kris Perry and Sandra Stier get married at San Francisco City Hall, courtesy of a live feed online. Who'd'a'thunk it would have happened that fast after the Supreme Court decision on...Tuesday? Wednesday? I forget. So much has happened.

It's been a crazy week in many ways, made even more remarkable by the events that could be seen from a distance.

Not only did I get to watch two women get married 30 miles away, I also got to watch the most amazing political moment in Austin, Texas on Tuesday night. Did you hear about this? A Texas state legislator named Wendy Davis attempted a 13-hour-long filibuster to stop the passage of SB5, a bill that "would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and force many clinics that perform the procedure to upgrade their facilities and be classified as ambulatory surgical centers."
Also, doctors would be required to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles — a tall order in rural communities. If signed into law, the measures would have closed almost every abortion clinic in Texas, a state 773 miles wide and 790 miles long with 26 million people. A woman living along the Mexico border or in West Texas would have to drive hundreds of miles to obtain an abortion if the law passed. The law's provision that abortions be performed at surgical centers means only five of Texas' 42 abortion clinics are currently designated to remain in operation.
Tuesday evening as I watched events unfold on Twitter through the hashtag #standwithWendy, I found myself on the edge of my seat. Would she be able to continue the filibuster, without water, food, or a break for the restroom, until the session ended at midnight? Would legislators stop her filibuster on technicalities? And then, when they did, would other legislators be able to stall the action long enough to get to midnight. And then, when that wasn't enough, would the crowd in the rotunda be loud enough to drown out the call for a vote. And then, when the vote was taken, did it happen after midnight? And did they change the time stamp on the vote? It was amazing to watch. A-ma-zing.

And then the follow-up: the type of shoes she wore to stand for all that time has become a sensation. Check out the reviews on Amazon. Here's one:
If you are looking for a shoe that will never yield to the floor, pressure or good ol' fashioned boy's club bullying this is the shoe for you. It has been tested for hours, opportunities to yield to oppression were presented yet this shoe stayed firmly in place holding up half the sky for 13 hours. Highly recommended.
 In other fashion news, let us admire Ewan McGregor in his fabulous kilt as he receives the OBE.

That's quite lovely.

But back to the news. The satirical law website Lowering the Bar offers these Top Ten Notable Facts about the Gay Marriage Decisions. Did you know this was the "First use of phrase "legalistic argle-bargle" since 1824's Gibbons v. Ogden"? That's a primo completely made-up fact, right there.

You might also want to celebrate the end of the Supreme Court session with this fabulous T-shirt:

As I said, a crazy week. I didn't know the arc of the moral universe was going to be quite such a roller coaster. But carry on, people, a step at a time. Get comfy shoes if that's what it takes. And I am very thankful for the people who spend their life fighting the good fight. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Various & Sundry: Trying hard not to get depressed about things, Grace, and bacon.

It's the final day of the Saintly Kitsch round of Lent Madness and it looks like my man Luke is on to the Final Four, the first time I've had a saint I've written up go this far. Luke had some mighty fine kitsch, which inspired me to create this image.

Cuz that's how we roll round these parts. Booyah.

Let's see what else I've rounded up this week.

OK, I'm starting with the downers of democracy: what the HELL is going on with gun advocacy that, on the one hand says guns shouldn't be regulated so that women can protect themselves from being raped while on the other hand you can't demand that men surrender firearms in domestic abuse situations? IN THE SAME WEEK? Seriously, WHAT THE HELL?! OK, here's my opinion, which I think I've noted before: this has nothing to do with rights and everything to do with market share. This is about selling guns.

Meanwhile, a new gun regulation bill will be brought up in the Senate after the Easter recess "that seeks to enhance background checks for those who purchase guns, and to curb gun trafficking and increase money for school safety." So seriously people, now is the time to contact your representatives about gun control legislation. You need the link to your represetatives? Here you go.

You can also sign this petition to have the USDA set a recommended daily intake of bacon "so that all Americans can be guided on how best to participate in this amazing, nation building food." There are 98 signatures so far; only 99,902 left to go before the government responds!

In news from governments in a parallel universe, the Ministry of Magic brings you this Public Service Announcement:

Might be helpful in our world too. h/t Anibundel

In Race Telations, the historical perspectives edition, Ta-Nehisi Coates reviews Beryl Satter's book Family Properties, which looks at the policies that surrounded the development of the American urban ghetto, focusing on Chicago. Lest you think this is just an issue for poor blacks, he notes that "In the interest of racism, the American taxpayer ended up bankrolling a massive fraud perpetrated on black communities in Chicago."

And on the same topic, one of the most compelling obituaries I read this week was of Dr. Jerome Williams who worked to desegregate St. Louis. "It began in 1963 when Dr. Williams led protest marches of hundreds of fellow physicians as well as other black professionals who were tired of the two-tiered social system in Missouri’s largest city."
His efforts came at a cost. Already limited to practice in the two black hospitals in St. Louis where the state allocated less funds per patient than at white hospitals, he was then rejected from membership in the St. Louis Medical Society because of his role in the protests.
By the 1970s, Dr. Williams was named the first African American on the board of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, the State Healing Arts Board, and was selected as the first black president of the St. Louis Community College Board. In 1979, his daughter was the first black woman selected as a maid of honor in the Veiled Prophet Parade which was formally for whites only.
You've heard about the recalled yoga pants, right? The ones that were unfortunately more transparent than wearers bending over might wish? Well, Kevin Roose thinks the company that makes them, Lululemon, handled this recall all wrong.
Lululemon was famously founded on the ideals of Ayn Rand. You think Ayn would have apologized for some see-through Spandex? Hell no. She would have defended the integrity of those pants with her life. "An inventor is a man who asks 'Why?' of the universe and lets nothing stand between the answer and his mind," she wrote in Atlas Shrugged. 
A real Objectivist yoga company would have looked at that sentence, replaced "the answer" with "sheer-bottom yoga pants" and "his mind" with "record-breaking profits," and sold the damn things like hotcakes.
And last but certainly not least, I strongly encourage you to read this wonderful essay on The Lesson of Grace in Teaching by Francis Su, a professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd. It doesn't matter if you're a teacher or not. You need to know this lesson of grace that he shares so beautifully:

  • Your accomplishments are NOT what make you a worthy human being. 
  •  You learn this lesson when someone shows you GRACE: good things you didn't earn or deserve, but you're getting them anyway.
May you have a grace-filled weekend. No need to bend over backwards.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Various & Sundry: What I read when I should have been writing the first round Lent Madness bios

I finally turned in the last of my Lent Madness first-round bios today. All that writing this week meant...a whole lot of web surfing. Here's some of the stuff that distracted me I think you will find interesting.

Let's start with the important stuff: Camel hit by car on Bailey Road in Concord. Yes, California. Yes, a real camel. As you see. I'm happy to report the camel is apparently fine.
"He's fine, he's hot and his adrenaline's pumping, but he's fine," Ferrante [who owns the trailer] said. "I have never done this before, so I can put (rescuing a camel) on my resume."
I'm sure that will impress at the next job interview. No report on the state of the minivan that hit the camel. Hope they weren't headed somewhere important because that's a tale that would not pass muster.

Also important: celebrating 80 years of marriage, as this couple did last November. John (101) and Ann (97)  Betar defied their parents' wishes to get married in 1932. They are being honored by Worldwide Marriage Encounter. "It's quite an honor," John told the Daily News, "but I don't know what it's for."

Nancy Kho wonders about what we lose when we don't need to wonder about anything any more. She asks, "will our future problem solvers – aka the kid sitting at her homework desk right now Googling 'Ideas for experiments for science fair' - have enough experience at Not Knowing to do the job? At understanding that feeling completely unmoored and fumbling around in the dark may be exactly what’s needed to find a tricky or non-obvious answer to a hard problem?" Gosh, I don't know. Where can I find the answer?

PeaceBang had two terrific posts this week. The first, in response to those people coming to the church for financial assistance because they don't want to be dependent on Government, is a real barn-burner. And the second, as Laura Ingalls Wilder endures the current blizzard in New England, is hilarious.
Mary and I are thinking that maybe Ma forgot to refill her prescription for anxiety medication but we are obediently stripping the beds. Where will we find dry hay for fresh ticking? The roads are bad, so a trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond is out of the question.
Andrew Sullivan has some thoughts about how to create actual change  and small business owner Beth Schillaci invites others to embrace your smallness.

I've started following Solemn Hulk on Twitter. He's still considering his Lenten vows.

Me too, Hulk. I hear ya.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"This is not the petition response you're looking for"

First of all, I declare death to the Sunday Funnies feature here at the Infusion for 2013. I'll keep posting stuff I think is funny on Sundays, but the whole "Sunday Funnies" title was making me tired.

Anyway...I loved the White House's response to the online petition (signed by a good 34,000 people) asking the Obama Administration to, and I quote, "Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016."

Here is the official response:

In case that text is a little too small, here it is:

Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016.
This Isn't the Petition Response You're Looking For
By Paul Shawcross

The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn't on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:

  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

However, look carefully (here's how) and you'll notice something already floating in the sky -- that's no Moon, it's a Space Station! Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that's helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations. The Space Station has six astronauts -- American, Russian, and Canadian -- living in it right now, conducting research, learning how to live and work in space over long periods of time, routinely welcoming visiting spacecraft and repairing onboard garbage mashers, etc. We've also got two robot science labs -- one wielding a laser -- roving around Mars, looking at whether life ever existed on the Red Planet.

Keep in mind, space is no longer just government-only. Private American companies, through NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO), are ferrying cargo -- and soon, crew -- to space for NASA, and are pursuing human missions to the Moon this decade.

Even though the United States doesn't have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we've got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we're building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun. We are discovering hundreds of new planets in other star systems and building a much more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that will see back to the early days of the universe.

We don't have a Death Star, but we do have floating robot assistants on the Space Station, a President who knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is supporting research on building Luke's arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers.

We are living in the future! Enjoy it. Or better yet, help build it by pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field. The President has held the first-ever White House science fairs and Astronomy Night on the South Lawn because he knows these domains are critical to our country's future, and to ensuring the United States continues leading the world in doing big things.

If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star's power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.

Paul Shawcross is Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget

It is a relief to know that this Administration does not support blowing up planets.

h/t BuzzFeed

Friday, January 11, 2013

Various & Sundry: Starting with National Hot Tea Month and ending with sloths

Let's see what's been piling up during the week that I'm bursting to share with one and all.

First things first: January is National Hot Tea Month. Well, to be honest, every month is National Hot Tea Month, as far as I'm concerned, so I don't have any special celebrations planned. I did think that these tea pods were pretty cute, though.

See how the tag is a little origami boat so it floats on the tea water?
What? Too precious for you? Fine.

How about a website that helps you plan your living wills and stuff? That real enough for you? It's called Get Your Shit Together.

I don't have all my shit together, but I did get my flu shot today, thanks in part to this old post of mine about passing the peace without spreading the flu. I kept noticing it coming up in the stats as people look for what to do in the midst of the flu outbreak. I've added a brief update, based on the comments that were made. I wish there were a perfect solution - or no flu.

After going to the meeting on Wednesday about how Washington plans to reduce gun violence, I was drawn to two articles focused on the NRA: this article traces the fairly recent history of the NRA's connection to fighting for the interests of the firearm industry as opposed to gun owners; while this article suggests the White House may just ignore the NRA. I'd be fine with that.

Lance Mannion has been writing Miserable Thoughts about Les Mis and tying them to our contemporary culture, politics, and religion. I thought his post about the character of the Bishop of Digne was particularly spectacular. Truly, I hope you'll read it. Here's how it ends:
Conservative Christian leaders are quick to tell us that every hurricane, terrorist attack, and school shooting is an angry God’s will. He’s punishing us for abortion, feminism, secularism, “the homosexual agenda,” etc. But he never punishes us for our greed and our lack of charity. We’re punished for allowing gay couples to get married but not for letting children go hungry and old people freeze or swelter to death or sick people to go without medicine or a doctor’s care.

God is always punishing us for not being mean enough to each other and ourselves and never for not doing a good enough job of loving one another.
I'd never heard it put that way. His Fifth Miserable Thought on Jalvert the Republican (French, not American) is also fantastic.

This long reflection on how we need to ask ourselves questions when we consume media was eye-opening to me. I had never thought of the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast as an abuse-apologist narrative. Now, I will not be able to see it as anything but.
I get that it’s hard to see something you love get lambasted, or tarred with a brush you’d rather not think about, or called bad names. I get that it feels like things are being ruined, like people are looking for things to hate, like people are taking things too seriously.

But consuming media critically is a skill, and in an age where media is more prevalent than ever before, it’s a skill worth having. It’s a skill worth having because you are going to continue to be exposed to media, and it is going to continue to attempt to manipulate you. It’s a skill worth having because it makes it less difficult to see people talking shit about things you like, not more. It’s a skill worth having because some of the shit being taught en masse by media is horrible scary damaging shit, and maybe you don’t think you’ve learned that horrible scary damaging shit, and maybe you don’t think you’re susceptible to that horrible scary damaging shit, and honestly? Maybe you haven’t. Maybe you’re not. I don’t know you. But I know that a classroom full of average southern Ohio state school students went silent in horror at the full realization of what Beauty and the Beast teaches kids too young to know better.
On a lighter note, I admire the chutzpah of the man who claimed he was driving legally in the carpool lane with two people because he had Articles of Incorporation in the passenger seat. Corporations are people, my friends.

And finally, because it's been a long week, slow down with some true facts about sloths.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Various & Sundry: Gnawing on Leftover Knee-Jerk Reactions

Gromit had a good Thanksgiving.
Hello! Have a good Thanksgiving, everyone in the U.S. or American citizens celebrating abroad? How about Black Friday? Or otherwise, a good end of the week? Well, good. I've got a few leftovers all ready for you to take home and eat later. Ready?

If you're in a profession that requires fundraising, here's information that might help you as we enter the race to the end of tax deductible donation season: 5 things charities do that turn off young donors. And, I might add, middle aged donors as well.

While we're on the subject of donations: get that Donate button up on your website!

After posting my very vague thoughts on Black Friday yesterday, I found these articles that challenge my assumptions about the evils of WalMart. (h/t @PeterSuderman on Twitter who wrote Why Black Friday is My Favorite Holiday, also enlightening.)

Meanwhile, to appeal to the lefty-ness part of my nature, I thought this post on the Propaganda of Shared Sacrifice was powerful; and though I haven't finished watching it yet, this conversation between Infusion fave Ta-Nehisi Coates and Chris Hayes about Chris' book The Twilight of the Elites is extremely interesting. I'm going to have to add this book to my reading list.

And to finish up this compilation of Challenges to My Knee-Jerk Reactions, I loved this website for Radi-Aid: Africa for Norway. Set up by various aid organizations in Norway, the website asks, "Imagine if every person in Africa saw the “Africa for Norway”-video, and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway?"

What indeed? Watch the video and see what you think:

Friday, October 26, 2012

Two open letters on the topic of politicians and rape

As you no doubt know, the issue of rape and of pregnancies resulting from rape have been in the news. I've seen two truly excellent and thoughtful responses to this issue and I didn't want them to get lost in a Various and Sundry post.

These are both in the form of open letters to politicians, and both begin by warning that these are likely to be triggers for anyone who has experienced sexual violence. With those caveats in mind, I highly encourage you to read both of these:

The first, from the perspective of a rape survivor and theologian, is a compelling piece illustrating how politicians on both sides of the political spectrum are not helping the conversation and especially are not helping anyone who has experienced rape. I was especially impressed by the tone of the comments following the post. 

The second is an amazing satirical piece written from the point of view of a rapist. Trust me, it's worth a read.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Various & Sundry: Politics, Fabulous Women, and Snark

I have an ambitious Saturday to-do list, so let's get the important stuff out of the way: this week's compendium of stuff I found interesting, curated for your pleasure and edification.

I didn't watch the debate on Wednesday. Neither did Lance Mannion, which didn't stop him from posting something that I think captures the essence of the debate. Meanwhile, Brenda Peterson wrote why Romney's performance was a turn-off for women.

And the take-away image is of Big Bird getting the axe; in response, anibundel has "rounded up Exhibits ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ (that’s pronounced “ab-key-deaf-gher-jeckle-mer-nop-qur-stuv-werx-yvs”, for the uninitiated) as to why Sesame Street is one of the greatest programs on television for children." Starting with Big Bird learning about the death of Mr. Hooper.

Hope you had your Cool Touch (TM) Kleenex handy. And if you have time, check out her wonderful compendium of Sesame Street videos.

A couple of bloggers review the Letter from 2012 in Obama's America that Focus on the Family wrote before the 2008 election -- a letter that describes the world of October 2012 in a way that, shall we say, is apocalyptically wrong. They were 0.5 for 34, getting half of one prediction right for correctly seeing that Obama would repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. A great insight:
Re-reading the Focus letter four years later, what strikes me most — besides how utterly wrong they are about everything — is how parochial their imagination is when attempting to envision a political dystopia. The horrors they predict are almost all narrowly targeted at and tailored toward them. I’ve read a ton of dystopian stories, good and bad, and this is the most cluelessly self-absorbed vision of its kind that I’ve ever seen.
For a final note in our political coverage, Patton Oswalt wonders what would happen if everyone voted. Wonderful post about, you know, participating.

In the Fabulous Women's Obituaries department, two great ones this week: first up, Lavender "Pinkie" Barnes, champion table tennis player, palm reader, and advertising copywriter ("Veet. It's always summer under your arms.")

Then there's the amazing Vanya Kewley, an utterly fearless documentarian.
"She worked from Chile to Saudi Arabia, via Vietnam, producing early profiles of controversial international leaders such as Colonel Gaddafi (Soldier for Islam) and General Ojukwu (The Man Who Made Biafra). Though she stood just over 5ft, dictators held no terrors for her.  
"She was beaten and imprisoned in Uganda when her crew were mistaken for mercenaries; clubbed unconscious when living on famine rations among the Ananaya “freedom fighters” in South Sudan; and threatened with death by North Korean soldiers."
The next paragraph then describes how she deserted a tour group to trek 4,000 miles through Tibet with a hand-held camera. Formidable would be the word that comes to mind.

Meanwhile, closer to home, Tim Schenck reminds us that October is Pastor Appreciation Month. He offers a few suggestions of what pastors might appreciate being appreciated with. As he notes,
Most pastors don’t have nearly enough crosses in their lives. Usually only fifteen or so hung up in their offices plus countless others in their homes. What they really need is one more with “Pastor” written across it to remind them of Christ’s self-giving sacrifice on Cavalry.
You know what else coincides with Pastor Appreciation Month? #snarktoberfest.

You know what else was being celebrated on Twitter? The social event of the year: the My Little Pony wedding, aka #mlpwedding. Well, all right, it happened a while back. But Nancy Davis Kho and Wendi Aarons are just getting around to apologizing to Hasbro for their inappropriate tweets.
For instance, we realize now that tweets like “CARAMEL IS ONLY MARRYING KNIGHT SHADE FOR THE GREEN CARD! #MLPWedding” and “WHEN PLASTIC HORSES CAN MARRY PLASTIC HORSES, MAN MARRYING DOG FOLLOWS RIGHT BEHIND! #FamilyValues #MLPWedding” forced you, a non-partisan toy company, into debates on illegal immigration and same sex marriage that you had probably hoped to avoid when you planned your wholesome My Little Pony Twitter Party. We thought Nancy’s contribution of “THANK YOU #VERMONT! NOW DESERT ROSE AND DAISYJO CAN MAKE IT LEGAL! #MLPWedding” added balance to the discussion, but we see now that it falls into this category as well.
I'm not sure they sound truly sorry. They still want to know why the couple registered for a whip.

Having been led from their letter to Wendi's open letter to the brand manager for Always Maxi-pads, and on to the rest of McSweeney's Internet Tendency, it is also all their fault that I am ending with this completely profane article that I am compelled to include for its timeliness and best use of seasonal vegetables. Because it's decorative gourd season, motherfuckers. And I've got things to do.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Various & Sundry, too random to categorize

Sorry I'm so late! Today, I was working on the revisions for Confirm not Conform Adult and came across this great TED talk of Karen Armstrong explaining the Charter for Compassion. There are worse ways to spend 20 minutes.

Anyway...let's see what else I've got here. It's fairly minimal this week. I guess I've been doing other things.

I have found a new blogger that I like a lot: one Lance Mannion by name. This week he had an interesting post proposing that "the object of liberalism is to create more conservatives." It's a fascinating argument, which you'll just have to read for yourself. I'm still pondering how this actually works in real life.

In election news, I was very glad to see Greg Sargent ask Can we please talk about torture?
The executive order banning torture was the very first one signed by Obama, to improve America’s image abroad, explicitly repudiating a major policy of his GOP predecessor. The Romney camp is internally debating whether to rescind that order, which would represent a return to those policies. There are only five weeks until the election, and we still don’t know what Romney will do on an issue with far reaching moral and international implications.
I'll be watching to see if this comes up at any of the presidential debates.

One of the people who played a role in the Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act died this week. Jennifer Jaff, who had Crohn's Disease and was an advocate for the chronically ill, wrote an amicus brief in one of the cases brought to the court, arguing against insurance policies denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.
After the Supreme Court ruling, Ms. Jaff told The Hartford Courant: “I live and breathe chronic-illness law, and in my estimation this is the most important civil rights advance for people with chronic illnesses ever. There can never be equality if we can’t get health insurance.”
I can't imagine what it must have felt like to her to see that law upheld before she died. She was 55.

On a completely different note, Peacebang offers some helpful suggestions for cultivating a personal sense of style, something I'm working on. Here's the essence:
Style can be beautiful, pretty, dramatic, shocking, erotic, and many other things. Whatever it is, it is mindful. It is intentional. It is knowing. The stylish person knows a few things: 
1. What they love.
2. What kind of impact they want to create with their apparel, accessories and personal grooming.
3. How to use fashion to communicate their inner vision of who they are.
She then goes on to give some exercises to help you do just that.

Here's someone with a definite personal sense of style. Well, point of view, at any rate.

And with that, I hope you have a lovely weekend.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Various & Sundry: In which I first vent about then calm myself about Mitt Romney

Boy, did Mittens get on my nerves this week. Of course, I'm not the only one, and lots of people had lots of insightful things to say about the leaked Boca Raton fundraiser video, in case anyone is still obsessing interested. Here are some of the things that I thought captured well my feelings of utter disgust some salient points.

Charlie Pierce writes, "when the One Great Scorer comes to write against Romney's name, he's going to be stumped as to whether the man was a bigger jerk than he was an incompetent. There won't be enough whiskey in heaven for the OGS to resolve this, so he'll just fill in the box marked "Both" and move right along."

Jonathan Chait writes, "the video exposes an authentic Romney as a far more sinister character than I had imagined. Here is the sneering plutocrat, fully in thrall to a series of pernicious myths that are at the heart of the mania that has seized his party."

And Ezra Klein writes, "The working poor haven’t abdicated responsibility for their lives. They’re drowning in it."

In the "rather laugh than cry" column, Hitler has a few words to say about the video leak, and John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman profile Empathy Magazine's 2012 Man of the Year award winner in this week's The Bugle podcast.

In the more cheerful world of obituary news, this week we mark the lives of Sister Mary Rose McGeady who resuscitated Covenant House, an organization that helps homeless youth; Joshua Morse III, the dean who integrated Ole Miss law school--in 1963; and Jerome Horwitz who created the AIDS medication AZT, and didn't get a penny for it. Makers not takers, all.

Oh, did I say that out loud?

Deep cleansing breaths.

And if there's one thing that will give me some perspective and empathy, it is reading this beautiful letter by Ted Hughes to his son about the suffering of the child within.
Usually, that child is a wretchedly isolated undeveloped little being. It’s been protected by the efficient armour, it’s never participated in life, it’s never been exposed to living and to managing the person’s affairs, it’s never been given responsibility for taking the brunt. And it’s never properly lived. That’s how it is in almost everybody. And that little creature is sitting there, behind the armour, peering through the slits. And in its own self, it is still unprotected, incapable, inexperienced. Every single person is vulnerable to unexpected defeat in this inmost emotional self.
Followed by The Maccabeats who have taught me everything I now know about Rosh Hashanah. Be sure to check out the lyrics on their YouTube channel.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Various & Sundry: The Political Edition

I'll be doing 2 V&S posts today (depending on how much work I get done--it may be tomorrow for the second one). Here for you political junkies are the various posts I've seen during the political conventions that I thought were most interesting.

First of all, if you've ever wondered what it was like to be on one of those Sunday morning political shows, you should read Dan Drezner's Diary of a Wimpy Sunday Morning Pundit. Actually, you should read it anyway because it is hilarious.

Responding to the Republican National Convention, Lance Mannion writes about a Nation of little would-be Mitts on the make and Ta-Nehisi Coates sees something different in the chair that Clint Eastwood addressed.

Responding to the Democratic National Convention, aribundel shares How to Wear Pink High Heels.

Responding to how people respond, Scientific American looks at the Unconscious Reactions that Separate Liberals and Conservatives.

And finally, in case you missed it last night, The Onion shares highlights of President Obama's speech. Screenshot below:

Isn't that what you heard?

Friday, August 31, 2012

#shrugging Reading Atlas Shrugged with the RNC

I watched the Republican National Convention through the filters of Twitter and blogs, and then I read a little of Atlas Shrugged. And I have to say, it was illuminating to juxtapose the two.

Here's the thing: reading Atlas Shrugged has helped me understand why Obama's line "You didn't build that" touches a very raw nerve in the Republican party. At least in this first part of the book, our heroine Dagny Taggart's whole goal is to build something--a railroad--that everyone around her is trying to stop her from building. And though I find the descriptions of her single-handedly building a railroad with apparently unlimited financial resources on an impossible schedule completely preposterous, the point Rand makes is that you can build it; it's just that the government won't let you.

Last night, I got to the point where the John Galt line has been completed and will run for the first time (chapter 8, if you're wondering). Here's the line that leapt out at me:

"[T]he sight of an achievement was the greatest gift a human being could offer another."

The greatest gift! No wonder the convention highlighted the theme.

More thoughts on this as I continue, but Shrugged has been worth reading so far just for that.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Various & Sundry: Annoyances and Olympians

I have about an hour or so before the Olympic Opening Ceremony to fling a whole bunch of mostly non-Olympic-related links and stuff at you. Let's get cracking!

Top of the list: The charming Tim Schenck has started yet another new blog project with 10 Things That Annoy Me, a satisfying little offering to which you can add your own list of 10. Mine is here. It was frighteningly easy to develop.

You know what annoys some people? The notion that "they didn't build that." I liked this article by David Frum about why this rankles people so much. His conclusion:
the president is still delivering the shocking news, as unwelcome today as it was when first propounded, that:
the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
To be sure, other politicians have declared that "life is unfair." But that instruction is usually directed to society's losers. Obama is—almost uniquely—directing the message to society's winners, including the very grand winner who will soon be nominated to run for president against him. They're not used to it, and they don't like it, not one bit.
Meanwhile, to protest the Boy Scouts of America's continued policy of excluding gays from its ranks, a number of Eagle Scouts have started returning their medals along with letters of protest. You can read many of them here. And here's one example:

Meanwhile, PeaceBang delivered a barn-burner of a rant on her blog about the completely erroneous assumptions we make when newcomers appear in our churches of a Sunday morning. Here is a sampling:
People do not attend a church service because they are interested in joining a church. They attend a church service because they are looking for something deep. They are seeking. They are searching. They are in need.  [jump]
I believe that if today’s seekers do not immediately experience a church community as a group of people who take spiritual questions seriously, they will not return. And why should they? Because we’re cool? Because we march in the right parades and support social justice causes? Because we agree with them that the Catholic Church/Bible Belt is hopelessly corrupt, and we’re willing to stand around and mock the religious right in the most spiteful language at our gatherings?
Oh, preach on, sister! And she does. I hope you churchy types will take the time to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest that one as well as the follow-up.

Finally, to bring us back to the real reason we are here today: The Olympics obituaries, I loved this one about Olympic swimmer, Ann Curtis, "who was widely regarded as one of the greatest female swimmers, winning 2 Olympic gold medals in 1948 [in London!] and 34 United States championships, died on June 26 at her home in San Rafael, Calif. She was 86."

Hers is a great story of hard work, overcoming adversity, and going against common wisdom. She also displayed a touching, almost ridiculous, modesty about her achievements. Her children only learned that she had been in the Olympics from other people. She and her husband managed a swimming pool in San Rafael until she was in her '70's. She kept swimming, as you might guess, but perhaps not as much as you think. The obit ends,
At 50, Curtis won five gold medals in the United States masters championships. She seemed unimpressed.

“My times were terrible,” she said. “I did a complete turnaround and took up tennis.”
I suspect she was good at tennis too.

And now: Let the games begin!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

On today's Supreme Court Ruling

When I heard the Supreme Court ruling, I said, "Holy crap!" When I heard that it was Chief Justice Roberts who had written the majority opinion, I said, "Hooooooly crap!" Strong language, I know, but that's the way I talk when I'm home alone.

Here's what was going on in my head between exclamation craps:

One day prior to Holy Craps #1 and #2: Boy, was I annoyed with all the speculation and predictions on Twitter, blogs, and in the news. Why make yourself look foolish like that? Why not just wait and see what actually happens? Well, I know why: because simply saying, "We'll find out tomorrow" isn't nearly as much fun (and won't get nearly as many hits) as wild speculation. I ignored the stores, but the speculative headlines still seeped into my brain and ratcheted up my anxiety--and I was only a half-hearted watcher!

Immediately prior to Holy Crap #1: I was sure the Affordable Care Act was a dead duck. Certain. Given what I'd heard of the arguments in March, and (especially) given all the predictions of the court watchers, I didn't think this thing had a chance.

Holy Crap #1: As I saw the NY Times headline, Health Care Law Stands, I couldn't believe how relieved I felt. Even though I didn't do a thing to get the ACA enacted, I found myself relaxing, and so happy that I didn't have to fight that battle again. As if I had done anything about it the first time. Would I have preferred a single payer system? I guess. But I'd rather have this in place than nothing. I'm just so glad for those folks who are no longer burdened by the fear of being unable to get health care.

Hoooooooly Crap #2: I saw the subhead to the same story, Roberts is Part of Majority Upholding Mandate and a jumble of things happened at once. First of all, I felt tremendously guilty for pigeonholing Chief Justice Roberts, assuming "He is a conservative; he will do X." This was an excellent reminder to me that people are individuals not types. I had been prejudiced and partial and I feel bad about that.

Secondly, oh boy (and I don't mean that in a gleeful way), what is this going to mean for the election this fall? I'll be curious to see how this all plays out.

In the car later, listening to the various reports, I have to say that I'm very pleased with the reasoning behind the ruling, insofar as I understand it. It seems fair, reasonable, and (dare I say) conservative. It makes me rest easier, thinking that important decisions such as this will be considered in a way that (to me at least) reads as prudent.

Also: I don't know what the heck I'm talking about.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Whatever happened to Kony 2012?

Remember #Kony2012 that I got into such a snit about last month? Well, April 20 is the date for their Cover the Night action thingey so I was kind of curious what was up.

I was very happy to stumble across Un-Cover the Night, a Tumblr that includes a lot of great background information in an info kit, a petition to President Obama to withdraw military support from Uganda instead of increasing it, and a petition to Invisible Children to present a more complete picture of the situation in Uganda and stop using Ugandans for their own commercial ends.

As with #Kony2012, I encourage you to ask questions of these approaches and the information you have been given and then take the action that seems best to you given what you have learned.

I'll be curious what happens tomorrow night.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

World In Prayer prayers

As I mentioned in the post below, this was my week to write the World in Prayer prayers.  As it happens, it seems as though the only news story I didn't include was the story about Pope Benedict in Cuba.  

The Palm Sunday connection gave a great framework for writing these, for which I'm grateful.  I'm a little worried that it got rather pro-democracy-heavy in the middle, there.  But I'm pleased with the ending.

World News This Week in Prayer

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace on earth and in the highest heaven.

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

We greet Jesus who enters boldly into our world, as we call out:

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We lay before Jesus the pain and suffering of this world. We pray for those who seek peace and those who face war; for those who need healing and those who are ill; for those who provide for us and those in need. We lay our concerns and burdens down before Jesus as we remember the world in prayer.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We pray for Spain where union workers called for a general strike to protest government labor reforms. On Thursday, 58 people were detained and 9 injured in confrontations between protesters and police.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We pray for Kenya where the discovery of a major oil deposit creates hope for new wealth and fear of exploitation. We pray for Sudan and South Sudan as the African Union works to prevent renewed skirmishes over oil fields near their borders.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We pray for the United States where the Supreme Court held hearings on the nation's new health care law and will determine its constitutionality. We pray for all those who are without access to health care.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We pray for the Middle East as the Arab League Summit meets in Iraq. We pray for Syria where continued violence confounds the United Nation's plan for peace.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We pray for Senegal where incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade conceded defeat to opposition candidate Mackey Sall in a peaceful run-off election. And we pray for Mali where a recent coup has created confusion.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We pray for Myanmar where elections will be held on April 1. We pray for Aung San Suu Kyi, running for a seat in Parliament, who has suspended her campaign after falling ill.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We pray for Afghanistan where Taliban fighters have attacked a NATO supply convoy and 37 people were reported killed. We pray for women in Afghanistan imprisoned for so-called "moral crimes" such as running away from an abusive marriage. We pray for those seeking their release.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We pray for refugees and those who seek refuge. We pray for the over 400,000 people who sought asylum in 2011 as they fled their homelands of Afghanistan, China, Iraq, and elsewhere; and we pray for South Africa, the United States, and other nations that receive their requests for assistance.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We pray for those whose labor helps us live. We pray for farm workers as the United States marks the second annual Cesar Chavez Day on March 31. We give thanks for the pioneers of the Farm Worker Movement who were inducted into U.S. Department of Labor Hall of Fame this week.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

We give thanks for the wonders of the universe and acknowledge our place in it. We gaze with awe at a new photograph of the Milky Way, revealing the details of a billion stars. And we pray for our environment as scientists discover that commonly used pesticides have severely impacted the bee population.

Hosanna, Lord. Help us, we pray.

Help us, O Lord, to walk in your steps, to follow your way, to teach with your wisdom, to speak with your courage, to love with your compassion, and to be faithful to the end. We follow you on this way of the cross as we hope to join with you in your glorious resurrection.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Various & Sundry, February 24

It's been a couple of weeks, but I'll try to keep it succinct.  Let's start with getting ourselves settled with a nice cup of tea, preferably made with a Tea Monkey Infuser.

Although as I pointed out to the blogger, Lahikmajoe, there's something a little disturbing about the fact that you put a monkey in water and the water turns brown.  Still mighty cute, though.  Looks like he's soaking in a hot tub.  And turning it brown.

At any rate, once you've got your Golden Monkey tea, you're ready to check out the Tea and Biscuit Dunking Guide (also available as a high-resolution PDF) that tells you exactly how many seconds to leave each kind of cookie in your tea (when served between 150-160 degrees F) to prevent sogginess or the dreaded floppage!

Now that you're settled in, I've got a bunch of interesting stuff for you to read.

On the subject of writing, Ta-Nehisi Coates does it again with this meditation on U.S. Grant's memoirs, the skill of clarity, and how writing "has no real respect for credentialism," that "intelligence is so messy, that it would show itself in people we disdain or think we know."

On the subject of popular culture, Tom & Lorenzo had an inspired rant about the latest episode of Glee and the increasing victimization of its gay characters.
"Remember, my brothers? Remember that ten-year period when the mass media definition of “gay man” was “noble, diseased victim?” Is this new trope of gays as noble, weepy, child victims really a step in the right direction? Because just as in the eighties and nineties, when the majority of gay men were not dying of AIDS; the majority of young gay people today are doing relatively okay for themselves."
It's a very interesting perspective.

Also an interesting perspective on the political front from Dan Drezner on "Why I like power-hungry bureaucrats more than whistle-blowers." I don't see it as an either/or, but it's certainly thought-provoking. And a great headline, eh?

PeaceBang relates a powerful anecdote to relate from a WeightWatchers meeting. As a person (trying to) give up shame--not for Lent, but forever--this had a lot of resonance for me. At what point does our motivation devolve into shaming ourselves? And what can we do about it?

Finally, on the romance front, the Futility Closet shows us how it's done with this unique wedding proposal from Evelyn Waugh.  Excerpt:  "I am restless & moody and misanthropic & lazy & have no money except what I earn and if I got ill you would starve. In fact it’s a lousy proposition. On the other hand I think I could do a Grant and reform & become quite strict about not getting drunk and I am pretty sure I should be faithful." Who would even think of refusing?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Funnies, January 29

We're in the mood for a little poetry here at the Infusion, starting with this from Nate Silver's blog tracking the numbers in the presidential primaries:

You can find pretty much every species of poll in Florida right now.

There are polls where voters checked a box. There are polls that were reported on Fox.

There are polls that called the voter’s house. There are polls where voters clicked a mouse.

Though the numbers were here and there, the outcome was the same everywhere.

Unless there is a major glitch, Mitt Romney will beat Newt Gingrich.
Well, we'll see on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the blogosphere, Tim Schenck, Lent Madness Uberlord, has written The Annual Meeting Haiku:
Budget blah, blah, blah
Something about Jesus Christ
Please up your pledges.
Think he's been to one or two? Naaaah.