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Archive for January, 2010

When I asked the question back on January 21 who would the Democrats nominate in 2012 since it was plausible that the party and the Left will have lost faith in the President, I posted that thought under my “Side B” category because I thought it was quite the unconventional thought.

So, either The Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King is a fan of my blog (a rating of “low” on the probability scale) or my idea wasn’t so wacky.

In the January 30, 2010 edition of the Post, King writes an op-ed piece entitled “Message to Obama: Look both ways” (Note: Link to artice may require registration).

In his piece, Mr. King writes:

A week ago, on Gordon Peterson’s ABC7 “Inside Washington” show, I surprised my fellow panelists by saying that if the economic slump drags on through the fall, if cuts in liberal domestic programs are seen as political sacrifices, and if Democrats take a beating at the polls in November, Barack Obama can expect to have a fight on his hands in 2012. And the challenge won’t come only in the general election. He might be faced with a challenger in the Democratic primary. (Emphasis mine)

Courtesy of the magic of downloadable transcripts from the “Inside Washington” show, here is what Mr. King said on the show from January 24, three days after I posted the same idea:

Here’s the thing to be concerned about: if the Democrats really do take it in the neck in November, then Barack Obama will probably face a challenge in the Democratic primary from the left

I am in no way suggesting that Mr. King stole my idea. I am writing to express my chagrin that what I thought originally was a wacky notion (albeit backed up with good reasoning and historical insight if I do say so myself), actually might not be all that wacky since another person thought it up.

Sigh – Back to the drawing board to come up with something even zanier (if that’s even possible on the Internet anymore).

But, (in my mind) I was first.

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According to the fine folks over at TreasuryDirect and their website entitled “The Debt to the Penny and Who Holds It“, the current federal debt, as of January 28, 2010 stands at our number for the day:

$12,274,431,428,037.28

That’s twelve trillion two hundred seventy-four billion, four hundred thirty-one million. four hundred twenty-eight thousand, and thirty-seven dollars (and twenty-eight cents).

Now, while numbers may not lie, the people who use them can certainly bend them to their will. As an example, the numbers concerning the federal debt can be skewed depending on your political views.

Debt Numbers Talking Points For Democrats:

When Bill Clinton took office, the debt (as of January 21, 1993) was $4.174 trillion. When he left office, the debt (as of January 22, 2001) was $5.728 trillion, which is an increase of $1.554 trillion or 37.2%

When George W. Bush took office, the debt was the same level as when Clinton left office ($5.728 trillion). When Bush left office, the debt (as of January 21, 2009) stood at $10.628 trillion, which is an increase of $4.9 trillion, or 85.5%

So much for the fiscal restraint of the Grand Old Party.

Debt Numbers Talking Points for Republicans:

When George W. Bush took office, the debt (as of January 22, 2001) was $5.728 trillion. After one year in office, the debt (as of January 22, 2002) was $5.924 trillion, which is an increase of (only) $196 billion, or 3.4%.

When Barack Obama took office, the debt (as of January 21, 2009) stood at $10.628 trillion. After one year in office, the debt (as of January 21, 2010) stood at $12.3 trillion, which is an increase of $1.672 trillion, or 15.7%

Just like those typical spend-and-spend liberals.

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If it is true, as the Savoyard philosopher Joseph de Maistre said, that a country gets the government it deserves, then I am curious to know why we deserve to be ruled by doddering out-of-touch old men.

Don’t misunderstand me – I have nothing against doddering out-of-touch old men. Our family adores our nutty Uncle Robert when he sits down some evenings to listen to FDR’s firesides chats in our living room….we just don’t let him plan our Thanksgiving dinner.

Yet, populations of voters across this land have no issue electing doddering out-of-touch old men to a variety of positions of power.

Sure, we all giggle to ourselves a little bit, roll our eyes, and think it’s cute when Senator turned presidential candidate Robert Dole, in 1996, referred to the Brooklyn Dodgers instead of the Los Angeles Dodgers or when Senator Harry Reid, just recently, uses the antiquated, and now offensive, term “Negro”.

Sure, we all get a huge laugh when Senator Ted Stevens referred to the Internet as a “series of tubes” or when Senator turned presidential candidate John McCain referred to using “a Google” to do research on his selection for the vice presidency.

Hmmm…all those examples are United States Senators…but I digress.

But is it really dangerous to have doddering out-of-touch old men crafting policy, sending younger men to war, and deciding your fate?

In a word…yes.

Because while the above examples can elicit chuckles, here is an example that gives me chills.

Near where I live in northern Virginia, Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio referred to a class of people as “it”. After voting “no” on a proposal to expand the county’s nondiscrimination policy so that sexual orientation could not be used as a reason to not hire an applicant, Delgaudio distributed an electronic newsletter that stated

The board voted six yes, Waters and Delgaudio “no”, with York abstaining, to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the hiring of employees which means if a man dressed as woman wants a job, you have to treat “it” the same as a normal person.

Supervisor Delgaudio is perfectly within his First Amendment rights to hold and express his view that transgendered people are not normal and, based on his use of the word “it”, not even human. However, the chills for me begin when a person who holds that world view can craft policy.

History is littered with the results of what happens when people in power can act on their prejudice that another group of people (usually a group not in power) is not human.

Ah, but there is more. To his prejudices, let’s add a tenuous grasp on logic. In defending his “no” vote, Supervisor Delgaudio wrote to The Loudoun-Times Mirror (January 20, 2010) where he opines:

If we allow Loudoun County to hire men who wear dresses, we may someday require men to wear dresses. The line has to be drawn somewhere.

Biased. Illogical. And the power to do something about it. Yes, it can be dangerous when doddering out-of-touch old men are elected.

Since political acronyms are trendy, I have this bit o’advice. Next time you’re at the polling place and you feel like voting for a Doddering Out-of-touch Old Man, you could be voting for DOOM.

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Casting the Net

From an earlier post, I mention my roommate from college, David G., and how I came to know who the members of his recent (last?) troika are. I am still mulling whether I should follow through with his wishes and actually do what he has asked of me, but that is a blog entry for another day.

While doing research on one member of his troika, American poet Sara Teasdale, I learned that today, January 29, marks the seventy-seventh anniversary of her death.

To learn more about this poet, and perhaps to understand David better, I bought a collection of Teasdale’s poetry, entitled (oddly enough), The Complete Poems, published by Buccaneer Books.

Turning to a random page, I come across this poem on page 126 from Part III of her 1920 work Flame and Shadow:

THE NET

I made you many and many a song,
Yet never one told all you are –
It was as though a net of words
Were flung to catch a star;

It was as though I curved my hand
And dipped sea-water eagerly,
Only to find it lost the blue
Dark splendor of the sea.

As a wannabe writer, I find a connection with this poem. No matter how good I feel about my choice of words and no matter how apt I feel my metaphors are, I never feel that I portray my subject perfectly. Even now, as I write this, I wonder if you the reader are receiving everything that I am trying to transmit. I sense the answer is no, but I keep trying.

However, as I tie this poem to the person who brought it to my attention, David, I come across a new interpretation. As a writer, no matter how good I feel about my choice of words and no matter how apt I feel my metaphors are, can I ever understand the essence of what I am writing about? As Teasdale feels her words are like cupping water in a hand only to lose it, does every writer have the feeling that there is always something hidden from their view? Can a writer’s subject, by its nature of being outside the writer, ever be fully known by the writer?

If a writer’s subject is, by its nature, partially hidden, does it follow that if Teasdale writes about herself, will there always be something about her hidden from her? Conversely, could a writer, by being the subject, know too much about the subject and all becomes visible and does it become too much?

As a possible answer to my own question, I mention that Teasdale committed suicide on this day in 1933.

When David wrote about himself, and I have the output, did he find “the blue / Dark splendor of the sea” within or was it all a “net of words” that failed in its purpose?

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My son, Cordelia

My wife is away on a business trip. During her past trips, our children have missed her so much that before this most recent outing of hers, we decided to buy two webcams – one for her laptop, and one for our home PC.

For six days (her trip is scheduled to last eleven days), we video-called each other and our three kids were able to talk with her and see her as well.

For today’s call, she did something different and asked each child if they missed her.

Our oldest son, Christopher, is eleven and has had enough experience with leading questions to know how to answer this query with what she wanted to hear. I knew that he and his younger brother did not miss her all that much because they had been able to see her every day and tell her everything about their day. It was almost like she was still at home – albeit in a little box on the computer monitor.

He answered with how much he missed her and couldn’t wait for her to be back.

Our youngest child, Ophelia, really did miss her mother (what did you expect…she’s five!) and told her so in her high-pitched slightly-lispy voice.

My wife was elated to hear how much she was missed.

Our middle child, nine-year old Jared, took his place in front of the webcam and was asked if he missed her.

He simply said, “No.”

“Not even a little bit?”, my wife asked back as the pixels from her webcam struggled to capture her crestfallen face.

“No,” Jared replied.

I was reminded of the scene in William Shakespeare’s King Lear where the King brings his three daughters together and asks them to tell him how much they love him. The two eldest, Goneril and Regan, butter up the old monarch with flowery speeches overflowing with protestations of love.

When Lear asks his youngest daughter, Cordelia, what more can she add to the words of her sisters, she simply replies “Nothing”.

She truly can add nothing to the over-the-top flattery of her siblings because, in her heart, she feels the love a daughter feels for her father. No more and no less.

A few lines later, Lear laments “So young, and so untender?” Cordelia responds with “So young, my lord, and true.”

I give my boy points for honesty.

When I spoke with her after the kids had said their good-byes and went off to play, my wife remarked, in a sarcastic tone, how nice it was to know that Jared didn’t even miss her anymore.

I explained about how he spoke the truth because, due to the webcam, it was as if she wasn’t really gone. I reminded her that if we had not bought the webcams, he would be missing her and would be miserable like he had been on all her other trips.

She understood and felt better about his honesty.

Thank goodness she didn’t have to stand in a storm with her Fool and yell “Blow, winds, and crack you cheeks!” before she understood that her middle child does miss and love her.

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For no other reason than because it serves as a useful introduction to this piece, the concept of “flashbulb memories” was brought up during a conversation with my co-workers. Flashbulb memories are those recollections that are created during a significant event, such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy or the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Most people who were around for those events can usually answer, and in great detail, the question that starts “Where were you when you heard that…”

Back in the recesses of my mind, during this co-worker conversation, I recalled a study that spoke of “phantom flashbulbs”, or false recollections of flashbulb memories.

Courtesy of Google, I did not have to rely on my memory for the study as a couple of keyboard strokes and mouse clicks brought me to the work in question, Affect and Accuracy in Recall: Studies of “flashbulb” memories, edited by Eugene Winograd and Ulric Neisser. Chapter 2 of this work deals with phantom flashbulbs concerning the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which took place twenty-four years ago today.

So let me ask my follow-up question, “Where were you when you heard that the Challenger had exploded?”

If you read Chapter 2, your answer is probably wrong.

For me, I do know where I was. How can I say this with such certainty where Winograd and Neisser would disagree? Because near those same boxes where I discovered my first attempts at ceditra (see yesterday’s post), I unearthed a box of my daily journals that I wrote when I was in high school, college, and beyond.

What follows are excerpts from my journal entry of January 28, 1986:

>>>>>>>>>>

Well, a national news event takes precedence over my normal life and what happened. At 8:40am, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 95 seconds into its launch. The external tank blew up and Challenger was disentagrated [sic] leaving no survivors. This was the flight that was supposed to have the first two citizens into space (the teacher and the engineer). I heard it first during our Civics final when Alex, listening to his Walkman, said, “The Shuttle blew up.” At first, we didn’t believe him, but then I listened to his radio, turned on the news, and they were broadcasting a report saying they were traveling 3x the speed of sound when it blew up and I was just shocked (that’s an understatement, but I don’t know how else to put it). When I got home, all 3 networks were on the air with special reports and when I saw the whole tape (regular speed) go on and then you see the small explosion and then the big fireball – you just can’t handle seeing that – seeing 7 lives snuffed out in an instant….19 years and 1 day ago was the Apollo 1 fire that killed 3 astronauts. Kinda weird. I hope this tragedy doesn’t set back NASA and the entire space program. Another photo that left me speechless was the picture of debris falling and splashing into the ocean…”

>>>>>>>>>>

Back to 2010 and I still have no idea why our Civics teacher allowed Alex to have a radio on during a final.

My rememberance this day to the crew of STS-51-L: Micheal Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, and Judith Resnik.

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My family and I recently moved and one of the benefits of painstakingly packing up a whole house and transporting the accumulated flotsam of a decade to another location is the possibility of unearthing a lost treasure.

As you can guess after such a labored opening sentence that just such an event like the one mentioned above happened to me. I found my first journal of ceditra writings.

When I was first introduced to the concept of ceditra (the term coined by the early 20th century Brazilian artist Abril Pajyaso to describe the process of creating any art through a random process), I was intrigued by its possibilities, but it would take some time for me to come up with my own method of creating a unique randomizing process to create art. I would work on this process off and on in between college classes and jobs, but, it would not be until the middle of 1998 until I felt my process was refined enough to give ceditra a run.

To abbreviate a verbose tale, I had created an extremely basic process of randomly choosing between four source materials (an almanac, a newspaper, the New Testament, and Tarot cards) and then selecting a type of writing style. Since then, I have further refined the process to the super-secret method it is today (patent pending; all rights reserved; your mileage may vary).

What follows is from June 22, 1998, my first attempt at ceditra.

>>>>>>>>>
Source: Page 972 of The World Almanac and the Book of Facts 1998:

In 1995, according to the folks at the US Department of Health and Services, about 9,011,000 people gave the reason of “depression” as to why they visited their physician. That was only 1.3% of all office visits, but with that in mind, here is my rather incomplete list of what depressed me:

  • I am not working at a radio station somewhere.
  • Local TV news is a jazzed-up report of who died.
  • TV imitates and rarely innovates.
  • I could cure AIDS and save four kids from a burning house and the Christian God would still send me to Hell.
  • Mauve gets little respect as a color.
  • Some athletes don’t grasp the concept of a binding contract AND don’t know how lucky they are.
  • Louis Woodward is free; Matthew Eappen is dead.
  • Judge Hillel Zobel ignored the will of the jury and set Woodward free.
  • Radio stations that don’t backsell.
  • People who dismiss soccer because it is trendy to do so.
  • Drunk drivers who walk away from the accidents they cause.
  • Our one-party money-run political system.
  • My sense of powerlessness to change things that need to change.
  • That race still matters.
  • Killing in God’s name.
  • I can’t beat the simplest computer chess game.
  • People who trust the Internet as a reliable news source.
  • September 1999 is closer than I think and I am not fully prepared.
  • The final work of Ben Spondar will not be published.
  • Marilyn vos Savant draws a paycheck.
  • Pete Rose is unrepentant.
  • The fact that I will be forgotten after I die.
  • People with power who abuse that power.
  • There’s never a police officer around except when I do something illegal.

>>>>>>>>>>>

Back to 2010 and the funny thing is that everything on that list still depresses me.

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