Monday, July 30, 2007

Chief Justice Roberts Hospitalized After Seizure

Chief Justice John Roberts has been hospitalized after having a seizure. According to this report, he was taken to a hospital in Maine, near his summer home, after a seizure caused him to fall. He had minor scrapes and cuts and is expected to be released after an overnight stay.

According to AOL News' "The Daily Pulse":

"It's my understanding he's fully recovered, said Christopher Burke, a spokesman for Penobscot Bay Medical Center, where Roberts was taken.

Roberts, 52, was taken by ambulance to the medical center, where he underwent a "thorough neurological evaluation, which revealed no cause for concern," Arberg said in a statement.

Roberts had a similar episode in 1993, she said.

Doctors called Monday's incident "a benign idiopathic seizure," Arberg said. The White House described the January 1993 episode as an "isolated, idiosyncratic seizure.

"A benign seizure means that doctors performed an MRI and other tests to conclude there was no tumor, stroke or other explanation.

In addition, doctors would have quickly ruled out simple explanations such as dehydration or low blood sugar.

By definition, someone who has had more than one seizure without any other cause is determined to have epilepsy, said Dr. Marc Schlosberg, a neurologist at Washington Hospital Center, who is not involved in the Roberts' case.

Whether Roberts will need anti-seizure medications to prevent another is something he and his doctor will have to decide.

Although Roberts has had other seizures, in 2001 Roberts described his health as "excellent" according to Senate Judiciary Committee records.

Friday, July 27, 2007

WeeWaw News Is Back Up at a New Site

Just updating the link. It's a great site that focuses on bringing positive stories to the blogosphere.

To be honest, it's usually the last site I visit, especially at night. I don't like to shut my computer down and go to bed mad. What happens is my mind churns with all the snappy comebacks and snarky posts I could put up to answer whomever I disagree with. I'd rather have the last thought in my mind be some piece of good news that inspires me.

William listens to his better angels in searching for the stories he puts on his blog. Thank you, William, for reminding us that they exist.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tag - I'm It!

Ok, I’ve been tagged by Bawana. So, according to the rules of the game, I’ve got to tell you eight things about myself that you might not know – that will be fun! At least one or two may be doozies.

And I’ve got to tag eight more people. That may be harder. I don’t know everybody who’s been tagged already but I’ll give it a shot. If you've already been tagged, sorry and just ignore.

First the eight things.
  1. I collect teddy bears and have over a hundred of them spilling into every room in my house including my downstairs bathroom.

  2. I also collect Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad lore with their Chessie logo, which is the sleeping kitten.

  3. Back in the late 1970s, I gave up a job on a suburban newspaper to live in New York City and write about the Greenwich Village/Lower East Side music scene for alternative newspapers.

  4. While doing that I interviewed, and became friendly with, Kinky Friedman, who recently ran for governor of Texas; and Chinga Chavin, who recorded the Country Porn album (my articles were PG-Rated). I don't have a link to those articles but I still have my clippings.

  5. Although I came from a very musical family, I can't carry a tune and have a terrible singing voice.

  6. I used to act in straight dramas and comedies (anything non-musical) in high school and college and I wrote poetry that I performed as a one-woman show.

  7. I am terrified to fly but I do it anyway.

  8. I was once a Young Republican for one day. A friend of mine needed a vote in a convention and she paid for my membership. We won!

    Now my tags – you’re it:



Kestrel 9000

Terry Rhea




Squeaky Wheel

Yeah, the last one is actually in Ohio now. And somebody else may have tagged him. But it's the least I can do to annoy him :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Chocolate as Health Food

Ok, I'll admit that I actually believe the perfect health food is cheesecake, especially if you glop some strawberries on it. I maintain that it's the perfect balance of high quality protein and good carbs. The graham cracker crust provides fiber and strawberries give you Vitamin C and they are an anti-oxidant.

So, that might be pushing it a bit.

But all kidding aside, I've seen in Prevention Magazine and various other sources that dark, semi-sweet chocolate - the kind adults like - really does have as many anti-oxidants as green tea or red wine. Nutritionists are claiming it's good for the heart.

Well, I was walking down the candy aisle at CVS during my lunch hour and lo and behold, there's now a whole section of dark chocolate. All of their labels announce the percentage of cocoa they contain. Ghiradelli has 65%. One of them has a full 85%. I guess it's the cocoa that makes them so healthy. I bought the CocoaVia, which is the chocolate that Prevention had mentioned. It's a dark, bittersweet candy that has the added advantage of having 25% of the daily minimum requirement for calcium, and it's only 100 calories.

So, now when I have my glass of red wine with dinner and top it off with a candy bar for desert, I can feel very virtuous.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

New To the Blog Roll

I've been meaning to do this for some time but fiddling around with the blog, as opposed to writing and spouting my own opinions, is not always my favorite thing. But Blogger has made it much easier to add new links to the sidebar.

I'd like to welcome a really great progressive Democratic blog to my site, although they are far from new and most of you probably already read them. They should have been here long ago.

I'm proud to have the VB Dems listed on my blogroll.

Labor Night at the Ballpark Part II

There's the picture from last Friday's first annual Labor Night with the Nationals, which raised over $5,600 for the AFL-CIO's Community Services Board.

L-R: Kathy McKirchy, Executive Director of the CSA; Screech; Josh Williams, President of the Washington, DC Metropolitan Central Labor Council; proud union member's wife; Dan Duncan, President of the Northern Virginia Central Labor Council.

The only thing I'lll add is that unlike Zimmerman, we all knew how many outs there were:)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Political and Blogging Rules for the Road

Vivian Paige posted the following rules for enjoying politics, which sound suspiciously like civility and good ethics, something both political activists and bloggers could use. They come from Bob Gibson over at the Daily Progress.

H/T to Waldo too for finding it first over at the Daily Progress.

No. 1: Look for the good in people. There’s usually something you can find.
No. 2: Killing with kindness is much more effective than killing with invective.
No. 3: Agree with people when you can. Common ground often is easier to find than one might think.
No. 4: Tell people when they make a good point. One’s position often is made stronger when acknowledging the strength of another’s position.
No. 5: Politely remind someone of his own previous words when they buttress your current position and he is in conflict with his current position. Nothing disarms a speaker quite as effectively as a polite demonstration of his former wisdom after some people have hastily abandoned it.
No. 6: Use YouTube to creatively and amusingly demonstrate No. 5 as Fairfax County blogger Kenton Ngo did. The teen-ager shows House of Delegates floor remarks of the Northern Virginia delegates who sponsored the original "abusive driver" legislation explaining how it applies to certain misdemeanor driving offenses and how it does not apply to drivers from other states.
No. 7: Stick to the facts as you understand them when trying to make a point. Ask people to explain the facts and go to the source when you do not fully understand them.
No. 8: Watch and listen to people sincerely. Try to understand their motivations and backgrounds in the light in which they see and feel them.
No. 9: Leave your prejudices at the door, or at least be aware of how they limit and shape you.
No. 10: Give people the benefit of the doubt, at least until they act so egregiously that they must forfeit that right.
No. 11: Enjoy the humor of every situation without demeaning or injuring those responsible for it when they do not intentionally cause it.
No. 12: Take yourself less seriously. The sun and the earth do not revolve around you or anyone you know.
No. 13: Take any elected official less seriously, as too many people take them too seriously and this tends to rub off on them.
No. 14: Smile and enjoy the company of serious people.
No. 15: Decide whether you favor the Old Testament admonition, "An eye for an eye and an impeachment for an impeachment," or the New Testament teaching to "Love thy neighbor as thyself."
No. 16: Insert a positive thought into any negative conversation.
No. 17: Apologize sincerely for foot-in-mouth transgressions and for unintended slights.
No. 18: Read, listen and watch before speaking, remembering that God gave us all two ears, one mouth and one YouTube.
No. 19: Remember at all times that no Democrat, no Republican, no independent and no Libertarian has a corner on the truth.
No 20: Try to put things into perspective, be aware of the past and rest assured things could always get worse.

I'm printing this out and posting it right by my computer as a reminder. Again, thanks Mr. Gibson, Vivian and Waldo.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Labor Night at the Ballpark

Last night I had the thrill of my life – something that I’ll probably never get to do again. I was out on the field of a major league baseball team, hanging out on the sidelines watching Screech, the Nationals’ mascot, observing some of the ballplayers’ wives as they were interviewed on TV, and seeing the singer who was going to open the game with the National Anthem prepare for her big moment.

It was the First Annual Labor Night with the Nats, co-sponsored by the Northern Virginia Central Labor Council and the Washington DC Metropolitan Central Labor Council.

So, on a balmy July evening, I got to see my husband, Dan, who is president of the NoVa CLC; Josh Williams, his counterpart on the DC-Metropolitan CLC; and Kathleen McKirchy, Executive Director of the Metropolitan DC AFL-CIO Community Services Agency as all three were awarded the Nationals’ Team Spirit Award. It’s why we were all out on the field.

In addition, somebody from the Ironworkers local threw out the first pitch. And any union local that sold 50 tickets got to see their name on the scoreboard.

The First Annual Labor Night with the Nats was one of the biggest ticket sales programs for the Nationals, with tickets costing six dollars and one dollar of each ticket sale earmarked for donation to the Community Services Agency. That amounted to $5,600 for the charitable arm of the DC Metropolitan Central Labor Council. Union members who attended were also urged to bring unwrapped toys to be donated to Toys for Tots at the game.

I hope to be able to post some pictures of this in a few days.

Then, we joined about 5,600 union fans as they munched on hot dogs, drank beer and cheered on their favorite team. I spotted Delegate Adam Ebbin and Brian Moran shaking hands, chatting with union members and their families and enjoying the game.

In fact, I was sitting next to Brian, in the nose-bleed section, and talking with him when we stopped mid-conversation because it looked like the Nats would turn around a 3 to 1 defeat in the 8th inning. But after a heart-stopping rally, with a man on 1st and another on 3rd, the Nats blew it with a dumb mistake. Unfortunately, Ryan Zimmerman lost count of how many outs the team had and thus assured that the game would end in defeat.

Here’s a sad description from the WaPo of what happened:
Thinking there were two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, Ryan Zimmerman took off from second base as soon as the ball connected with Austin Kearns's bat. The Washington Nationalswere down by two runs and Ronnie Belliard already was on third. Representing the tying run on a night when runs were precious commodities, Zimmerman knew he could make it home, assuming the ball fell safely.

The ball, though, was caught by Colorado Rockies second baseman Kazuo Matsui. The play would not have been noteworthy but for the fact there was only one out, not two. Matsui fired the ball to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, and Zimmerman was doubled off to end the inning.

"It was a bad mistake," Zimmerman said. "You can't do anything about it now, but you can't let that stuff happen."
Well, there will be other games. And other labor nights. But on a beautiful mid-summer night a large group of labor folks got to contribute to charity and enjoy a ball game with their families. And they got to see their unions’ names in lights on the scoreboard.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Late Friday Afternoon Musings on a Slow July Day

Have you ever Googled an old friend? Somebody you lost touch with many years ago?

I have several friends like that, people I knew from college days who, like me, wanted to be writers or actors. I’ve always been curious about what happened to them and did they ever achieve their dreams.

It’s gotten easier to research and find the people from our past. I’m not always sure that’s a good thing. What about the girlfriend that doesn’t want to be found by a once over-ardent suitor? Or the guy who didn’t call the next day like he promised? It’s now easier than ever to bring immeasurable embarrassment and discomfort to those from our past who maybe should stay in the past.

Nevertheless, I was curious, on a slow summer day at work, so I began to Google names from my own past. For the most part, I have no plans to actually contact any of these people, though if I did, at least, I could say I was on good terms with all of them when I last saw them. And I was never romantically involved with any of them. They were good friends and people I worked with on creative projects. One was an editor of the same college newspaper that I worked on, also as an editor. Another was somebody with whom I wrote poetry, which we turned into one-man shows. That person, Chuck Stead, first got the idea. So much of his poetry was themed and one poem segued into another in a way that could be turned into a one-act, one man performance. He gathered a few like-minded friends whose work seemed to do the same thing. I was one of them, and so we performed together for a time. He even used several of my pieces in something he created, with others acting out my words.

Being an author and sitting anonymously in the audience was actually scarier than being on stage – and I always had wrenching stage fright, which was why I gave up acting in the end.

But at least as an actor people who might not have loved my work were usually tactful and polite in my presence. When they sat behind me in a darkened theater and heard some shocking line that came from my pen, I saw their unvarnished reactions and they were unedited by tact or politeness because they had no idea that I was the perpetrator of their shock. Pretty scary!

Chuck was the guy who made me take those risks.

And I know he’s continued to work in the genre he created and has stayed true to his roots as a Ramapo Mountain storyteller. I didn’t know, until I read about him, that he also is an adjunct professor who teaches environmental sciences and works with some fairly technical aspects of environmentalism. Back when I knew him, I knew the artist and had no idea he had a solid grasp of, or interest in, hard sciences.

There are other people I’ve Googled because I know they do things that put them in the public eye.

And it’s fun to see what those from our pasts have accomplished. No need to actually contact most of them. There’s just a secret satisfaction in knowing that old friends have done well. I’m happy for those who achieved their aspirations – if not their original dreams of glory, at least dreams that are close enough to it for it to still be satisfying to them. But of all the people I’ve looked up on the Net, Chuck is the one who has stayed truest to his vision even while expanding into things unknown. He’s the one I’ll contact, if only to let him know that he now has a link on a Virginia blog. I think it will tickle him.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

When Great Minds Think Alike

First of all, the great mind belongs to Jim Wallis, not me. Wallis, the founder of Sojourners, is a political activist and an Evangelical minister (he’s a Plymouth Brethren). He posted this piece on the Sojourner Website on July 18. He has long been one of my favorite authors, political activists, and religious leaders. He has, in fact, been a huge influence on my own political and religious thought.

What strikes me is that both he and I made the exact same connection between these two New York Times articles. Since these NYT articles appeared on two different days, that connection wasn’t necessarily obvious to a casual reader. I also have to add that I think his post was better written than mine. It was more concise and more focused.

And the fact that he also picked up on it gives me validation that we may be on to something here. Just a thought.

Another Panda Fan

Since I’m personally a huge fan of Tai Shan, the National Zoo’s panda, I’ m linking to William at Weewaw, who obliviously is a fan of Yin, the red panda at the Virginia Zoo. He has a great post about this wiley escape artist. If you want to feel good, go read.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Welcome to the Blogosphere, WeeWaw!

H/t to Vivian, Lowell, and Jim for finding this first.

William Saxman, who is eleven years old, just started a blog, WeeWaw. Yup, they are getting younger all the time. If the last name sounds familiar, his dad is Chris Saxman, one of the classiest people in politics, and William already appears to be taking the high road in blogging. He’s dedicating his blog to reporting on all the positive news. Here's the money quote:
Today I started a blog because I was sick and tired of seeing al the negative news on TV, the newspaper and the internet.

I think all the negative and bad news really makes people unhappy.

So, I will focus on all the good things that are going on because I believe that many good things are going on out there but we never get to see them because that is not what makes headlines.
Welcome to the blogosphere, William. I’m also putting you on my blogroll!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Riding the Crest of Economic Populism

There were a couple of interesting articles in the New York Times, one yesterday, July 16, and one the day before, which provide a study in contrasts.

The first piece, by Louis Utichelli, focused on the new gilded age and the wealthy tycoons, who have been riding the crest of a wave of fabulous wealth and increasing wage inequality the likes of which haven’t been seen since the 1920s.

And if you listen to some of these newly minted moguls, they compare themselves proudly to the robber barons and captains of industry from that era. Here’s what Sanford Weill, founder of Citigroup had to say.

“People can look at the last 25 years and say this is an incredibly unique period of time,” Mr. Weill said. “We didn’t rely on somebody else to build what we built, and we shouldn’t rely on somebody else to provide all the services our society needs.”
And other tycoons back up his assessment and rate themselves as uniquely deserving of extravagant compensation while the wages of their employees remain flat.

Other very wealthy men in the new Gilded Age talk of themselves as having a flair for business not unlike Derek Jeter“unique talent” for baseball, as Leo J. Hindery Jr. put it. “I think there are people, including myself at certain times in my career,” Mr. Hindery said, “who because of their uniqueness warrant whatever the market will bear.”

He counts himself as a talented entrepreneur, having assembled from scratch a cable television sports network, the YES Network, that he sold in 1999 for $200 million. “Jeter makes an unbelievable amount of money,” said Mr. Hindery, who now manages a private equity fund, “but you look at him and you say, ‘Wow, I cannot find another ballplayer with that same set of skills.’ ”
You can almost see and hear the old Saturday Night Live character, the Church Lady, with her crooked smirk, saying, “Well, isn’t that special? We really like ourselves don’t we?”

Pride may goeth before a fall. But skepticism springs eternal at such arrogance and bragging.

Indeed other, equally successful businessmen aren’t buying these self-laudatory assessments of these tycoons with over inflated egos.

A handful of critics among the new elite, or close to it, are scornful of such self-appraisal. “I don’t see a relationship between the extremes of income now and the performance of the economy,” Paul A. Volcker, a former Federal Reserve Board chairman, said in an interview, challenging the contentions of the very rich that they are, more than others, the driving force of a robust economy.

The great fortunes today are largely a result of the long bull market in stocks, Mr. Volcker said. Without rising stock prices, stock options would not have become a major source of riches for financiers and chief executives. Stock prices rise for a lot of reasons, Mr. Volcker said, including ones that have nothing to do with the actions of these people.

“The market did not go up because businessmen got so much smarter,” he said, adding that the 1950s and 1960s, which the new tycoons denigrate as bureaucratic and uninspiring, “were very good economic times and no one was making what they are making now.”

James D. Sinegal, chief executive of Costco, the discount retailer, echoes that sentiment. “Obscene salaries send the wrong message through a company,” he said. “The message is that all brilliance emanates from the top; that the worker on the floor of the store or the factory is insignificant.”

A legendary chief executive from an earlier era is similarly critical. He is Robert L. Crandall, 71, who as president and then chairman and chief executive, led American Airlines through the early years of deregulation and pioneered the development of the hub-and-spoke system for managing airline routes. He retired in 1997, never having made more than $5 million a year, in the days before upper-end incomes really took off.

He is speaking out now, he said, because he no longer has to worry that his “radical views” might damage the reputation of American or that of the companies he served until recently as a director. The nation’s corporate chiefs would be living far less affluent lives, Mr. Crandall said, if fate had put them in, say, Uzbekistan instead of the United States, “where they are the beneficiaries of a market system that rewards a few people in extraordinary ways and leaves others behind.”

“The way our society equalizes incomes,” he argued, “is through much higher taxes than we have today. There is no other way.”

It actually sounds like these older and more down to earth business executives are saying those emperors have no clothes. Or at least they are far less deserving than they think. They've probably sold their boards of directors and stockholders a bill of goods and rigged the market for CEOs in their own favor.

There's another key point that emerges from Louis Utichelle's article.

First, in the 50s and 60s when corporate chiefs didn’t make nearly as much money, the economy was just as robust and so was the economic condition of the average worker. The compensation gap wasn’t as steep and Americans enjoyed a record level of genuine prosperity and financial security that has been unmatched in any other era before or since. Here’s the telling quote (emphasis is mine)

The new tycoons describe a history that gives them a heroic role. The American economy, they acknowledge, did grow more rapidly on average in the decades immediately after World War II than it is growing today. Incomes rose faster than inflation for most Americans and the spread between rich and poor was much less. But the United States was far and away the dominant economy, and government played a strong supporting role
In addition to the historical fact that the economy was actually better when there was less of a gap between the compensation of the top executives and the average worker, the sheer audacity of these vainglorious men’s’ claims that they are somehow so special that they are entitled to the obscene amounts of wealth they are accumulating at both the expense of their workers and their investors does not hold up to the light of examination.

Indeed, just as in the last Gilded Age, the intense concentration of wealth in the hand of a few and the reckless investment risks that they took was the leading edge of disaster.

Such talk alarms Arthur Levitt Jr., a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who started on Wall Street years ago as a partner with Mr. Weill in a stock brokerage firm...

...Mr. Levitt is skeptical. “I view a gilded age as an age in which warning flags are flying and are seen by very few people,” he said, referring to the potential for a Wall Street firm to fail or markets to crash in a world of too much deregulation. “I think this is a time of great prosperity and a time of great danger.”
The simple truth is that all this excess, both the arrogance of these corporate chiefs and the concentration of wealth at the top, benefits neither workers nor investors. It sets up the economy for too great a risk for investors and leads to an extreme class system with a few very wealthy CEOs teetering at the top of a narrow pyramid and too many people sinking from the middle class back into poverty at the broad bottom with not much in between.

The small wealthy class at the pinnacle and a large underclass of underemployed impoverished workers also sets the stage for a destabilized society with a higher crime rate, greater drug and alcohol abuse, child and spouse abuse, and the disintegration of the family. Can we as a society really afford the fall out from the harsh new economy of the Second Gilded Age? Go back and study the novels of Dickens and others to find out what social conditions were really like in Victorian England and America at that time.

Alcoholism, prostitution, lack of stable family was the norm for the working class. Family life, as we know it now, was practically non-existent among the blue collar workers in the an urban environment. It was only with the advent of the middle class that we truly got a large number of people in stable nuclear families, which we now take for granted.

We should be going forward, not sliding back.

But I think a backlash is coming. There is a groundswell of discontent rising from an increasingly anxious middle class, and Democrats are more and more attuned to it.

And that brings me to the second New York Times piece. According to yesterday’s article, Nancy Pelosi has given Democrats their marching orders. As Robin Toner reported, Pelosi gave this blunt assessment, "The American people want to know what we’re doing about their economic security.” So Congress will be taking up economic issues including the negative effects of free trade and globalization on workers and communities.
On Capitol Hill and on the presidential campaign trail, Democrats are increasingly moving toward a full-throated populist critique of the current economy.

Clearly influenced by some of their most successful candidates in last year’s Congressional elections, Democrats are talking more and more about the anemic growth in American wages and the negative effects of trade and a globalized economy on American jobs and communities. They deplore what they call a growing gap between the middle class, which is struggling to adjust to a changing job market, and the affluent elites who have prospered in the new economy. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, calls it “trickle-down economics without the trickle.”

But the latest populist resurgence is deeply rooted in a view that current economic conditions are difficult and deteriorating for many people, analysts say, and it is now framing debates over tax policy, education, trade, energy and health care. Last week, Senate Democrats held hearings on proposals to raise taxes on some of the highest fliers on Wall Street, the people at the top of private equity and hedge fund firms.
An interesting counterpoint to the laissez faire capitalists and anything goes free traders who would drag the middle class backwards for the sake of their own greed.

I think the party that says "enough" to the corporate greed that is bleeding the middle class dry - both investors and workers - will be the one that dominates the elections. The party that speaks to the concerns of the average voter will ride the wave of economic populism into the new century and, hopefully, return us to the prosperity of the fifties and sixties when unions were stronger, corporations felt a sense of loyalty to their workers, and ordinary people were able to sleep securely at night, knowing they and their families were covered by adequate health insurance, they could save for their children's educations and still have enoug left over to retire with dignity and be independent in their last years. Modest ambitions, compared to the robber barons of the new gilded age.

But perhaps that's why we've got to challenge the greedy whose emphasis is on robber, not just baron.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Window Snapped Shut

The one thing you can say about Pope Benedict XVI is that he is an equal opportunity offender. Last year, he managed to inflame relations with Muslims by quoting 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel Paleologos II from a debate he had with an educated Persian Muslim. Pope Benedict quoted the emperor as saying:

'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."'

At that time, Evangelicals and conservative Protestants, along with their traditionalist Catholic allies, cheered the pope.

Perhaps they’d like to rethink some of their alliances now that they know what this conservative pope and those traditionalist Catholics really think of them and their religion.

On July 10, the pope declared that other denominations could not be considered churches but ecclesiastical communities. Protestant denominations responded with statements of protest. But basically all the pope did was restate what Domine Iesus had said in 2000. Pope John Paul II signed that document but it was Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, the current Pope Benedict XVI, who wrote it. In Domine Iesus, Protestant denominations were called defective.

This latest slap at Protestant churches came a week after Benedict decided that churches could, at the request of individual parishes, reinstitute the old Latin Mass, which has a passage praying for the conversion of the Jews and saying that they fail to understand the Christian truth. This obviously has put a strain on his relationship with the world-wide Jewish community.

Back in 2000, the current pope also managed to simultaneously insult Jews and Protestants. Then, the issuance of Domine Iesus was proceeded by a storm of controversy surrounding the beatification of Pope Pius IX. He was beatified at the same time that the beloved Pope John XXIII, the initiator of Vatican II, was raised to the status of Blessed, the step before canonization.

Pope John XXIII was fondly remembered, not just by Catholics, but also by people of good will in all faiths, for convening Vatican II with the hope that it would “open a window and let in the fresh air of the Holy Spirit to blow where it will.” In contrast, Pope Pius IX proudly declared himself “the Scourge of Liberalism.”

Vatican watchers believed that pairing the two beatification ceremonies, in 2000, was a way to placate Catholic traditionalists, who have always had trouble accepting much of Vatican II’s liberalizing effects, especially its commitment to ecumenicism.

Pope Pius, however, was about the worst choice for beatification unless you were trying to pick a fight with all but the most conservative Catholics and send everybody else a message that they were no longer welcome in the Catholic Church. It was also a great way to send a message that dialogue with Jews was no longer valued. And Domine Iesus sealed the deal that traditionalist Catholics really felt the same about alliances with Protestants.

Let me tell you why Pope Pius IX was so controversial. Even in his own time, the mid-1800s, he was a divisive figure. But it didn’t start out that way.

He was originally the choice of liberals and moderates from the College of the Cardinals at the papal conclave to replace the arch-conservative Pope Gregory XVI. Pius started out sympathetic to liberalizing trends in Italy and the Church but grew increasingly more conservative after he was deposed from the Papal States in Italy’s revolutions of 1848, which unified that country and turned it into a secular republic.

Pope Pius’s relations with the Jewish community also were ambiguous. Before he was briefly exiled from Rome, he opened the Jewish ghetto, allowed wealthy Jews to move out of it, and repealed laws that forced Jews to attend church four times a year and listen to sermons urging them to convert. He also repealed laws that blocked Jews from entering certain professions. But Jewish testimony remained inadmissible in a court of law, which meant that even if Jews were the victims of a crime, they couldn’t testify against their attackers.

Then after returning to Rome in 1850, he re-instituted the ghetto and many of the harsh laws against the Jews. But the worst transgression against the Jewish community was the kidnapping of a young boy, Edgardo Mortara, which occurred in 1858.

An illiterate young housemaid informally baptized Edgardo Mortara when the child was very ill. The maid, fearing that the boy would die and go to hell, baptized him without the consent of his parents. Indeed, the parents did not even know it. The maid eventually told the story to a priest who reported it to the Inquisition. The Vatican Swiss Guard seized the child and the Pope declared that because he was a Catholic, his Jewish parents could not raise him to be a proper Christian. The parents argued that the child was too young to give informed consent so the baptism should not be considered valid and binding. Indeed, dignitaries and prominent figures from around the world, including Emperor Franz Josef of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, and Napoleon III of France, protested to the pope.

By 1864, Pope Pius IX was firmly opposed to liberalism, democracy, secularism, freedom of religion, and even rationalism. He convened the First Vatican Council, where he decreed the doctrine of Papal Infallibility and the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

Although Pope Pius IX was controversial in life, during a turbulent time in Italy’s – and all of Europe’s – history, few sensible people would fault the modern Catholic Church for its excesses of intolerance in an earlier age when such intolerance was common to most faith traditions.

But the beatification of Pope Pius IX in 2000 brought renewed turmoil and protests from liberal Catholics, from Jewish groups world wide, and from descendants of the Mortara family, who still live in Rome.

Coupled with the issuance of Domine Iesus, a week later, this wasn’t the Church’s finest hour. But it was also no coincidence. Just as it is no coincidence that once again a statement insulting Protestant denominations is paired with a return to the Latin rite, which includes prayers for the conversion of Jews and a reiteration of the belief that Jews are blind to the truth of Christian belief.

Pope Benedict’s fingerprints are all over these couplets, both those of this past week and those of 2000. The Roman Catholic Church is on a retrograde path back into the past at a time when it is losing influence in the West and in Latin America. And that is it’s right, sad as it is to watch.

But don’t look for better interdenominational relationships, greater tolerance, more open ecumenical dialogue, or progressivism any time soon. The few stalwart liberals are gradually dying out, and the window that Pope John XXIII had opened to let in the renewing Holy Spirit has been firmly snapped shut by Benedict.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Down for the Count

Some sad news for me. I am deeply disappointed that I will not be able to go to the Blogs United in Hampton Roads Conference after all. I was really looking forward to it. But I had something of a dental emergency and had to cancel at the last minute. But before I go into that, there is something that I want to make very clear.

Because of all the controversy that has been stirred up recently, the first thing I want to restate is that I support this conference and Jim Hoeft with all my heart. I think he has done a wonderful job of putting this event together. And I am deeply disappointed that I am going to have to miss it and miss meeting some great bloggers from across Virginia.
Unfortunately, my simple little root canal ended up with complications, not the least of which is a very painful case of TMJ, which is getting worse not better.

Before I go any further, I also want everybody to understand that this is unusual. Please, please don’t use me as an example if you are scared of root canal. I was frightened of it for a long time too. The actual procedure IS NOT PAINFUL! I would go through it again without hesitation if I needed it.

My dental problems are longstanding and well documented on this blog. I have a history of tooth grinding, also called bruxism, and TMJ. Bruxism can be caused by stress, but just as often it has physiological causes due to a problem with a person's bite.

And my root canal took two and a half hours – most of them run about an hour to an hour and a half. It took four shots to numb me. They had to take numerous X-rays because the canals were so deep and they also were curved. During this entire time, my mouth had to remain wide open so my jaw muscles were overstretched. That’s in addition to the normal strain I put on my jaw by grinding my teeth all night in my sleep (most bruxism occurs during sleep and those who have the problem aren't even aware they are doing it until their dentist sees the problems - but if you even suspect you grind, tell your dentist and get a dental guard to protect your teeth).

As my dentist said afterward, “you are special.” It wasn’t a compliment. It was a complaint – this procedure exhausted him too.

Anyway, I am so sorry and disappointed that I will not be down at Newport News with all of you bloggers and electeds.

I have to add that two of the classiest electeds are Delegates Kris Amundsen and Chris Saxman, both of whom immediately wrote me back when I emailed to let the others know I wasn’t coming. And Chris Saxman also sent me an e-card that made me laugh just before I left for my dental appointment (they say timing is everything). These are all great people on a human-to-human level. It’s why bloggers conferences and bi-partisan events are so important.

I think it’s possible for us to disagree, fight hard, and then all have a beer together afterward, as Squeaky Wheel, from Bearing Drift, has pointed out. It’s how we should be conducting ourselves. Before we are Democrats and Republicans, we are Virginians, and also Americans. We also are all human beings. There should be more that unites us than divides us in the longer run. This is something that I want to think more about and I’ll probably be writing more about it too.

However, don’t expect me to go soft on Republicans at election time because of it ;)

Meanwhile, to all who will be there, have a great time and lift a glass of whatever your favorite beverage is for me!

Monday, July 09, 2007

There Ain't No Cure for the Summer Time Blues

You know, the lazy woman’s way around actually writing a post is to throw up a picture. Unfortunately, I don’t take pictures so I have to rely on somebody to send them to me, usually a few days after an event. And so, I’ve got my July 4 picture today. It’s me, Dan and the Governor.

It was taken at the Northern Virginia Central Labor Council July 4th cookout at the CLC headquarters in Annandale.

Governor Tim Kaine made a brief stop to meet with labor folks and say a few words to them. Some of the other electeds and candidates whom I saw there included: Kris Amundsen, Creigh Deeds, Brian Moran, Dick Saslaw, Gerry Connolly, Dave Marsden, Cathy Hudgens, Janet Olezak, and Liz Griffin. There were many, many more people there and I hope those I missed accept my apologies, but I didn’t spend a whole lot of time working the crowd because a friend of mine was also there and it was her first time at a public event since her chemo ended. There are priorities and sitting and chatting with her was one of them. So, I spotted whomever I spotted and my profound apologies to those I missed.

If this event wasn’t announced anywhere, there’s also a reason for that. It was for labor people, the rank and file who don’t go to Jefferson Jackson dinners, don’t plunk down $200 a pop and don’t normally get to meet their elected officials or the candidates for whom they will vote. This was their chance to meet and greet dignitaries.

Anyway, there I am, muscling in on a picture with the president of the NoVa Central Labor Council. Seems like the poor guy can’t go anywhere without this crazy, female blogger hanger on horning in on the picture.

It’s hard for Dan. For years, he was the guy who took the pictures and hid behind the camera. He prided himself on being the background guy and he admitted that he hates having to be in the photos. But as president, he can’t hide behind the lens and be the mad flasher any more. Somebody else gets to do that.

Meanwhile, I’ve been wondering why I’m so lacking in any motivation to actually write. It’s not like I have writer’s block. I have the ideas. There are a million things I could write about, things I normally care passionately about. Anybody who reads a newspaper and scans the blogs could come up with plenty of topics to comment on. That’s not the problem.

I just don’t want to.

Then tonight riding home from a quick dinner at Glory Days, some jazz was playing on the car radio. Somebody was noodling a sax. Now saxophone music can be searingly hot, like when Clarence Clemmons plays it, or cool, sweet and mellow. It’s an amazingly versatile instrument. And in this particular set the music evoked a cool, tall gin and tonic on a steamy summer night. Three a.m. in lower Manhattan, just at closing time in the old Village Vanguard on MacDougal Street, in the fifties, just like an old time movie.

And I realized it was the heat, the summer, the ennui of the first heat wave of summer in an urban environment.

By the way, for the next six Mondays don’t count on me to write anything – I’ll be watching the ESPN mini-series “The Bronx is Burning” about the New York Yankees, Billy Martin, George Steinbrenner, and Reggie Jackson.

So, lift a glass for me until a cool spell comes through.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Some Things Are Universally True

Don Worthington, a reporter with the Fayetteville Observer, just kicked off a new blog for his newspaper. It’s called Inside Politics. Worthington has reported on politics, among other topics, for newspapers as far flung as Rhode Island, Alexandria, Louisiana, and the Fairfax Connection papers. He’s also an Annandale native. In the spirit of full disclosure, he’s also my husband’s college roommate and was a groomsman at my wedding.

Besides all that, his first post has this piece of universally good advice for candidates.

As the time to file for Fayetteville City Council races nears, I'm reminded of a young Boston College student who ran for the Cambridge City Council. He campaigned hard, but lost by 160 votes. He started asking his neighbors if they had voted him. He had cut their grass, shoveled their snow. Surely, they had voted him. "No," said neighbor Elizabeth O'Brien, "People like to be asked." Thomas Phillip O'Neill, Jr. -- nicknamed Tip after a popular baseball player -- never forgot that lesson. He never lost another election. People like to be asked.
And he has even better advice for voters.

Candidates will proclaim they are running to give something back to Fayetteville. That they want to improve the area's quality of life, that they want to make things better. It's time to demand more substance from those who want to lead.
I've never met a candidate who wasn't for good schools, a crime-free neighborhood and good jobs. We need to ask them how they want to achieve those goals.

Go read the rest of his first post and let’s begin setting the bar higher in Virginia too. We need more specifics and less platitudes. Sure we want better schools, smart growth, and less road congestion, but how are we really going to get it? And how much money is it really going to cost us? And how much will it cost us not to do it?

We’re all in favor of mom and apple pie. But tell me specifically what ingredients are you putting in that pie before I buy it from you.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy July 4!

Update: I can't believe I didn't title this. Oh well, I'll just blame my lapse on the residual effects of the root canal yesterday! Meanwhile, why are you still here reading blogs - go enjoy a beautiful day and celebrate our Independence!

This op-ed piece by Washington Post columnist, Michael Gerson, expresses beautifully the ideals that American progressives hold about the American Dream:

In the Fourth of July, 1829, William Lloyd Garrison-- who looked like a shop clerk and set rhetorical fires like an arsonist -- took the pulpit at the Park Street Church in Boston. Rather than celebrate, he said, Americans should "spike every cannon and haul down every banner" because of the "glaring contradiction" between the Declaration of Independence and the practice of slavery. The grievances of slaves, he argued, made the grievances of the American colonists look like trivial whining. "I am ashamed of my country," he concluded. "I am sick of our unmeaning declamation in praise of liberty and equality; of our hypocritical cant about the unalienable rights of man." ...

...Even across the centuries, his gall is startling. But Garrison laid bare the central contradiction of the American experiment: that the land of the free was actually a prison for millions of its inhabitants...

...Which is why some of us love this holiday so much. It is the day when cynicism is silent. It is the day when Americans recall that "all men are created equal" somehow applies to the Mexican migrant and the Iraqi shopkeeper and the inner-city teenager. And it is the day we honor those who take this fact seriously. Those in our military who fight for the liberty of strangers are noble. Those dissidents who risk much in Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea and China are heroic. Those who work against poverty and injustice in America are patriots -- because patriotism does not require us to live in denial, only to live in hope.

In America we respect, defend and obey the Constitution -- but we change it when it is inconsistent with our ideals. Those ideals are defined by the Declaration of Independence. We have not always lived up to them. But we would not change them for anything on Earth.”

Bolding for emphasis is mine. This is rhetoric any progressive could have written and any modern day conservative would have panned as “bleeding heart liberalism at its worst.”

Yet, ironically, it comes from the man who was Bush’s chief speechwriter and still is a principled conservative. Where did all their idealism go?

Anyway, there are some principles we all hold dear in America. And this is the time, however temporary, to remember what binds us together rather than what separates us.

Happy Independence Day!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

New Link and a Shameless Plug

I've just put up a link to The Women's Post. If you go over there and look closely at their list of contributors, you will see that I am now one of them. Vivian Paige very kindly invited me to write for them.

I will be putting up a post there soon. Right now, though, I'm going to go recover from a two hour root canal. It actually wasn't so bad thanks to Novacaine. Unfortunately, the Novacaine is now wearing off and I have a headache from holding my mouth open most of the entire time. It gives all new meaning to the term "flap your jaw."

Right now I'm going to rest mine.

Monday, July 02, 2007

I'm PG-13

Online Dating

It's because I had the word guns 4 times and hurt 4 times. Neither was probably in the same post. Or maybe I wrote getting shot by a gun hurts. Who knows?

Let me see, Ann Coulter is G and I'm PG 13.

I remember when Tipper Gore started a group called the Parents Music Resource Center that wanted to get record companies to rate albums so that parents would have a better idea of what their kids were listening to.

It caused quite a controversy back in the late 80s. I personally opposed it because anything that came from Washington, DC would smack of censorship and would have a chilling influence on artistic freedom. And I noticed that it applied to rock music but nobody was going after all those great country western songs about drinking, riding trains, cheating husbands, cheating wives and sitting in jail for murder.

Anyway, Donny Osmond weighed into the controversy by pointing out that any album labeled G would probably not sell very well. A G-rated pop album would have the kiss of death on it faster than an NC-17 rating. So Osmond declared, "you will never see a G rated Donny Osmond album."

Ok, that kind of makes you want to barf. But just the same, I'd rather be a racy PG-13. And thanks to writing about the Second Amendment and guns, I am.

Go figure.